Veggie lentil lasagne

7 08 2016

Heavy meat day yesterday, so trying something ‘lighter’ today: veggie lentil lasagne, with roasted vegetables:

Cut up some eggplant, zucchini, red chili pepper and onion into small pieces and roast for about 30 minutes:

Make the tomato/lentil sauce. There are some fresh tomatoes, carrots, garlic cloves in here. Add lentils, tomato purée or tomato paste, fresh basil and pepper.

Prepare spinach and ricotta filling (which is basically an egg, ricotta, dried oregano and pepper):

Bring everything together. Start with the tomato/lentil sauce and work your way up with lasagne, roasted vegetables, spinach etc.

Add some mozarella, parmesan and cherry tomatoes:


In the oven for about half and hour or so:





I forgot a picture with some more fresh basil to serve the whole thing.

Tastes even better probably with fresh lasagne, but I didn’t feel like doing that today. Still very good.

The 15 of 2015

23 12 2015

I didn’t read much this year. For the first time in 5 years I didn’t reach my Goodreads Reading Challenge. I know, fuck goodreads a2015-04-01 16.00.31nd reading challenges, but I like to keep track of my reading and setting a challenge on Goodreads is the easiest way for me to do this. So, not a lot of quality reading time this year and even less time to keep up this blog of course.

Despite all that, here are my favorite 15 books of 2015 in alphabetical order (by author’s last name):

  • Mosquitoland (David Arnold): I’m a sucker for road trip books.
  • Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates): if you haven’t read this, why the hell not?
  • Zita the Spacegirl (Ben Hatke): kid and me loved this series.
  • The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (Ben Hatke): 3rd of the trilogy and very sad to reach the end of the series. We have now begun reading Cleopatra in Space and the Amulet series together.
  • I Crawl Through It (A.S. King): bold, beautiful and completely wacky, but very readable.
  • The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch: At the Edge of Empire (Daniel Kraus): I am still reading this, but it’s so good it would be on this list anyway
  • Perfectly Good White Boy (Carrie Mesrobian): not the first book I read of Mesrobian (that was Sex and Violence), but this is my favorite of hers.
  • Cut Both Ways (Carrie Mesrobian): Carrie is my new fake girlfriend.
  • I’ll Give You the Sun (Jandy Nelson): a good (yet predictable in hindsight) Printz winner. That being said, I really loved this book.
  • Challenger Deep (Neal Shusterman): hard man, very hard, but so good. I hope this gets some Printz love.
  • The Alex Crow (Andrew Smith): So pertinent. And also read this here.
  • Stand Off (Andrew Smith): Do I need to explain? Really? Do I? Okay: the Abernathy. Plus: Middle Grade spin off?
  • Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel): thank you, Janna Rosenkranz for the tip.
  • We All Looked Up (Tommy Wallach): Some good old fashioned apocalyptic fun. Brilliant!
  • The Martian (Andy Weir): never has a science-y book been more fun.




First books of summer

3 07 2015

June has been a good month in terms of pages read. I’ve also been reading quite diversely and I managed to get in some Middle Grade too. Also, I haven’t read anything atrociously bad in June, so that’s a definite plus.

The good:Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Press play (by Eric Devine): An honest and raw story with a good voice, but the book was too long for me. (***)

How it went down (by Kekla Magoon): an all too pertinent book in this day and age, giving us a myriad of voices after the shooting of a black teen when all hell breaks loose. It was good to show us all these different voices, although some of them were interchangeable, and I would have slimmed it down some. (*** ½)

Five, six, seven, Nate! (by Tim Federle): It’s Nate. It has Libby (not enough!). It’s Tim Federle. That’s enough to bring a smile to my face. So much fun again, although it doesn’t surpass Better Nate than Ever. (*** ½)

Since you’ve been gone (by Morgan Matson): I have a thing for Morgan Matson’s books (especially at the start of summer. I always want ice cream after a Morgan Matson book, and I don’t even like ice cream, go figure!). Like her other books, this one too is very entertaining, although also a tad too long (a recurring thing in this month’s reading). (*** ½)

Anything could happen (by Will Walton): I may… have had higher expectations for this debut novel. Still liked it, though. All in all a really decent debut novel about personal growth. (***)

booksiesMore happy than not (by Adam Silvera): Not a perfect book, but a really solid debut. Despite the ‘happy’ in the title, it’s not a ‘happy’ book, of course. I usually like those sorts of books a lot, and I did ‘like’ this one too. I felt, though, that besides the character of Aaron, the other characters were ‘lacking’ a lot. At the same time I realize that that is because of the very specific point of view in this book…a bit of a Catch 22 sort of thing. Probably a 3.5 star book for me: it has an interesting spin on the self-discovery story, which is something that’s been done in films a few times (sort of, at least: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is mentioned in the blurb, but there’s also Memento). (*** ½)

The very good:

One thing stolen (by Beth Kephart): Just like Challenger Deep this book is actually a real struggle to get through. Not because the book is a bad one, far from it (but I can see why this book might not be everyone’s type of book). But because of the emotional depth which is – in this case – so reflected in the narrative voice. Nadia’s illness is woven into every aspect of this book. It’s hard to read. It’s different. But really honest and powerful too. (****)

Kinda like brothers (by Coe Booth): I don’t read a lot of Middle Grade, but this book shows I should read more of it. It’s so honest and unpretentious. Not simple, though. Also, this book worked like a magnet for some of the kids in my classes, and they’re not MG, so the appeal is very wide here. (****)

The return of Zita the Spacegirl (by Ben Hatke): That’s it. Kid and I are through the series. We’ve both loved this ride so much. I think we’re going to start over tonight J (****)

The so-so:

To all the boys I’ve loved before (by Jenny Han): If you think of Lara Jean as 13 rather than 16 then this book makes a lot of sense. It’s light and fluffy and somewhat overindulgent but I can definitely see an audience for this. (***)

Paper Airplanes (by Dawn O’Porter): 4-star beginning but so rushed in the second half. Too much in too few pages: bad families, bad friendships, good friendships, anorexia, school problems…. There’s too much going on so not everything is well developed. Ended very messy too. Adding all of it up and it’s closer to 2.5-3 stars for me. (** ½)

The brain-bending* awesome: Perfectly Good Whiteboy

Carrie Mesrobian is my New Fake Girlfriend.

Perfectly good white boy: This book especially is pretty fucking awesome. It’s easily the most addictive book I’ve read in years. It’s like a drug: you know it’s bad for you, but you can’t stop, you have to stop, you don’t want to stop. You won’t stop. I knew only a few pages in, it would be a winner and boy was I right. There’s no other writer who does sad characters better than Carrie Mesrobian. (*****)

Cut both ways: It was about half way through that I realized that this is probably the saddest fucking book I’ve read in a long long time. Carrie Mesrobian gets into the head of a character and owns that character. She makes you get into the head of that character and feel what that character feels, and Will? Well, he’s a sad sad trainwreck of a boy. So sad.
I like how the author’s note at the end says that we need to work for a world where it’s easier for kids like him. (****)

Can you please write more books, Carrie Mesrobian? Thanks.

* Brain-bending is my new favorite adjective.

March-May Reads

25 05 2015

Books I read from March to May 2015:

Graphic novels2015-03-05 16.53.46

March Book Two ( by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell): more behind the scenes of the Civil Rights Movement with Congressman John Lewis. A must read for everyone. Huge hit with my students too. (****)

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (by Ben Hatke): the kid and I read a couple of pages of this every night. We love Strong Strong and One J We are currently on the last Zita book… (****)

This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki: beautiful artwork, very evocative. The whole work oozes nostalgia. I loved this one, but I think it might be more of a critics’ favorite than a kids’ favorite. (****)


IMG_20150509_153050[1]Rethinking Normal: a Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill and Some Assembly Required: The not so secret life of a transgender teen by Arin Andrews are the memoirs of two transgender teens who were also in a relationship for a while. It reads pretty much like a teen would write it, which definitely adds to the authenticity. But obviously these two memoirs are pivotal in understanding what transgender teens go through. Both books were featured in my Awareness Week display at school and checked out in no time. (both ***)

No choirboy: murder, violence, and teenagers on death row by Susan Kuklin. This book is raw and sad. How could it not? No sensationalizing, just harsh truth. (****)

Books in a series

Half Bad by Sally Green: first in a series of books about ‘witches’… not at all like Harry Potter, though. It has been a while since I have liked a “fantasy” thing, but it is basically adventure with witches but done well. A bit of a slump about 2/3 in, but still very worthwhile. Definitely a series to continue. (*** ½ )

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson: 3rd in the Shades of London series. This one is better that The Madness Underneath, but still not as good as the stellar first book The Name of the Star. I do hope there will be a rocking conclusion of this series in book 4, though. (*** ½ )

Isla and the Happily Ever After: I have a soft spot for Stephanie Perkins since I saw her at Politics and Prose in Washington. Bonus is that she does contemporary romance really really well. Give me a Perkins and a Dessen and I’m a happy camper J. Isla and the Happily Ever After has the added bonus of giving us more glimpses of the characters of the other books. (***)


The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos: there are not enough music-related YA books. So if you pick this one up, make sure to pick up Yvonne Prinz’s The Vinyl Princess! These books make a great pairing. (***)

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin: Besides the fact that I could not stand the character (or the way she was being presented by all of the players in the story ) of Addison Stone – at all – this book is really well done: a faux-memoir, complete with photos and artwork and disclaimers etc. I really did look up if there was an ‘Addison Stone’ after a chapter or so 😉 (*** ½ )IMG_20150525_110557[1]

When I was the greatest and The boy in the black suit, both by Jason Reynolds. I am not a fan of the writing. In When I was the greatest, the narration was a bit too one-dimensional for my liking. And The Boy in the Black Suit just confirmed that Reynolds’ style isn’t my style. Both books were well-liked by kids in my class, though. (both **)

And we stay by Jenny Hubbard: A character’s poetry just always distracts me in a book (that’s a me-thing), even if there’s an Emily Dickinson theme throughout the story. The story of grief, recovery and friendship is great though. Hubbard’s style is very recognizable. I always like it when I can pick out a writer’s words from just a few lines. (*** ½ )

Invincible by Amy Reed. Amy Reed’s books are a hit with my teen girls. Beautiful and Crazy have a very high circulation and I am sure that it’ll be the same for Invincible. As for me, certain things are ‘believable’ – like how quickly Evie gets addicted and the behavior she displayed after the “miraculous” recovery – but other things were just too rushed. I don’t really think the Marcus character was necessary either. I would have liked to have seen more of the parents, sister and Kasey tIMG_20150525_110925[1]oo. This reads like a train, though, but I wasn’t wholly convinced. I do have to say that I was a bit disappointed to hear that this is not a standalone… (**)

Press Play by Eric Devine: this made me think of Joshua Cohen’s Leverage a lot. They’re both set a sports context, there are some brutal things going on ‘behind the scenes’ (here’s it’s the hazing and lacrosse, in Cohen’s books is bullying – and much worse – and football) and there really are no compromises in this book. It’s extremely honest and raw, and there’s a good voice, but the book is too long for me. (***)

How it went down by Kekla Magoon: This is such a pertinent story at this moment in time. Sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white. No one seems to know exactly what was going on and everything has the need to share what they thing went down (there are more than 15 different ‘voices’ in the book). As I said, this book is every so important right now, but as a book, I felt it could have been ‘tighter’: some voices are indistinguishable, which (again) drags out the story a little bit. (***)

Top picks

The next two – although also standalones – deserve their own category:2015-04-01 16.00.31

We all looked up by Tommy Wallach: It’s not often I read a blurb and then read the book and I feel the blurb is *exactly* what the book is like, but in this case it is: “This Generation’s The Stand… at once troubling, uplifting, scary and heart-wrenching.”
Also, The Stand was one of my favorite books when I was the age of the characters in this book and often when a books is likened to The Stand, it ends up being a disappointment afterwards, or worse the book is dragged out over 2 or 3 or more books. But We All Looked Up definitely wasn’t a disappointment: a good story, great characters, drive, action, feelings, totally unpretentious writing… a “real book”, you know… Loved it! (*****)

I’ll give you the sun by Jandy Nelson made me miss my metro stop. That’s always a good thing… The writing is gorgeous, there was a great interplay between the words and the artwork (I read the UK edition). This definitely deserved all the accolades it got. It also got a (quick) translation to Dutch, but it doesn’t have any artwork, which is a pity. (*****)

On the surface We all looked up and I’ll give you the sun have nothing whatsoever in common, but they both made me fall in love with reading all over again. Both of these books have the capacity of making you forget about time and the world around you. The reading pleasure was high for me in these two books. And isn’t that why we read: to feel?



#KeepYAWeird – On being angry

12 03 2015

Today I am angry. I know the world doesn’t care about me being angry. I know the internet doesn’t give a fuck about me being angry. And even (the anti-)social media Twitter and Facebook don’t give a shit about my outrage. But today I am angry and also sad.

I am often angry, though. When my computer doesn’t do what I want it to do, I feel like throwing it out of the window (but I don’t). When people don’t meet the deadlines I set out for them, I feel like sending them angry emails about their lack of commitment (but I don’t). When I enter a dirty as hell classroom once again and I have to pick up dirty tissues from the floor, I feel like kicking the colleagues who were too lax to tell their students there are fucking bins (3 even) in my classroom. When I see a guy smoking inside the metro and slurring obscene things at people, I am angry and I want to yell at him so he gets rid of the lit cigarette because we’re under the ground and there’s no air in the metro as it is and could he just shut the fuck up (but I don’t). When I see how certain parents say awful things to their kid in a supermarket or scold him/her, out in the street when all the kid is doing is being a kid, I feel like telling the parents they should have never have become parents in the first place (but I don’t). When I read yet another article about inequality between men and women I feel like tearing up the newspaper or hitting the screen of my laptop (but I don’t).

So basically I am angry on average 5 times a day and usually I am quite good at containing – but maybe not hiding – that anger, but today is different. I don’t want to contain or hide the sadness and the outrage I feel for how I had to wake up this morning. Seeing that one of my favorite authors – Andrew Smith – is completely gone from “social media” – Twitter and Facebook – is just… #weird in all the wrong ways, and beyond comprehension.gj1

Yesterday, Andrew Smith was in the middle of a Twitter shitstorm, a shitstorm that started because of the way one or two people read a certain sentence in a certain interview in a certain way. One interview, one sentence, one reading and next you get a shitstorm about how Andrew Smith is a sexist and mob mentality ensues. WTF?

So I am angry. This is not the first time that a man’s integrity is questioned by people who don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. Not only does an attack like this (because that’s what it is, it was an attack, whatever people might be saying to the contrary) show that apparently people can’t distinguish between “characters in a book”, “the author as public persona” and “a living and breathing human being”. A writer doesn’t necessarily believe or support every little thing every character in every one of his books ever says. But what’s said in the book by certain characters is even beyond the point in this whole thing.

What is the point, is that under the pretense of so-called righteousness and the right to criticism on “social” media certain people think it is okay to pretend to understand and know what another person thinks and feels, and worse: that it doesn’t matter. What is the claim to righteousness here, you ask? It’s “feminism”, or rather a certain interpretation of feminism. But what happened yesterday, that was *not* feminism: feminism is not hating and/or attacking what (white) men say and do*. Feminism is not using a person’s family to prove a point. Feminism is about: all things considered, people are equal. And the way Andrew Smith was treated was not as an equal.

I could go one step further and state that when women only write female protagonists they are not being told off or attacked for only writing about girls or women. And actually, thinking like that gives feminism a bad and dirty name and helps no one at all. No one. So I don’t want to take that step.

If you ask me what the first word is that comes to mind when I hear the name ‘Andrew Smith’, it most definitely is not ‘sexist’. It is talented. It is unique. It is honest. That’s 3 words, I know.

Andrew Smith is also an incredibly kind man. You know what type of guy he is? He’s the type who despite a mad busy schedule, takes time to meet up with people and to sit down with them, have lunch with them and have a great conversation with them half across the world . He’s the type of person who takes on crazy projects with people at the other end of the world because it would be a great thing for the kids in his (and my) class. He doesn’t do this for himself, but for other people.

So yeah, I am angry today. And very sad. And I miss ‘seeing’ Drew. So today I’m re-reading The Alex Crow. #KeepYAWeird

Andrew Smith signing books

Andrew Smith signing books

*it is honestly not the first time that a well known popular male write got flack like this for writing (mostly) male protagonists, by the way.

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