Cultivating a Love of Reading in Kids. Top 5 Ways to Raise a Reader.

and The Unintentional Nerdification of Mine.

I want to put this out there: before I ever had children, I declared they would have interests separate from mine. They could choose or not choose their own fascinations and whimsy, hobbies and daily activities. I would boldly embrace whatever they chose to love, be it sports or crochet or animal husbandry–I was ready.

Yes, that pug will make a fine husband!

However, apparently environment and eagerness and the total geeking out of the parents has more influence than one might have expected when one was 23-24.

Apparently, osmosis is totally a thing. Unlike fetch, which is still not a thing.

My son, aka “The Captain,” is a 7 year old nerd. Completely and totally, and he came by it honestly. His favorite movie–right now, because it is ever in flux–is Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. He will enthusiastically reenact entire chunks of it for you.

You may be cool, but you’ll never be “Elf riding a gigantic buck through gold helmets” cool.

His favorite book is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He loves all things comic books. He hates most sports but loves running around pretending to be a warrior dwarf from Dragon Age. *and I mean RUN. Boy is like greased lightning and pure kinetic energy. Sitting still for long is not happening.

Still pissed I was willing to sacrifice you for Dragon treasure? Guess I deserved that.

Originally, we thought my daughter was going to be much more traditional. To a point, she is. She loves Barbie and princesses and probably wants a pony for her birthday. She’s also obsessed with Wonder Woman and Supergirl and Ironman and her favorite…

She’s also REALLY into steampunk, lately. She is into SP because I am an idiot and recently read to her Her Majesty’s Explorer: a Steampunk bedtime story NOW she wants to be a steampunk iron butterfly princess for Halloween. DO I LOOK CRAFTY TO YOU?! No. No I do not. I can’t even operate a bedazzler and I was a dresser for a drag queen for years. I fail. Also, WTF is an iron butterfly princess? DOES IT TRAVEL BY AIRSHIP OR GEAR WINGS?!?! There are too many possibilities. 

In spite of the fact that I have unintentionally nerd herded the fuck out of my offspring. I am so proud of how much they both love the written word. My son has severe ADHD, so while he can read hours of comic books, he likes to “read” tons of audiobooks while, you know, acting them out–as you do. My daughter, however, can sit on my lap whilst I read to her, or listen to audiobooks for…well, until I’m really tired of doing every voice ever.

No one ever told me that having children would keep my vocal acting skills so fresh. BONUS!

I’ll admit, the voices do vivify the activity of reading, but the real joy is in the moment of togetherness.

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents

Harvard, Yale, Brown, Colgate, and Columbia Teacher’s College have all done studies about the importance of cultivating a love of reading early on in life. Children who read and are read to perform better in the classroom, on tests, and as far into the future as their professional careers. It’s essential to grow a love of reading in children, so that the joy continues when it’s not always fun. (Like when your English teacher assigns Ulysses because he hates you…and life…puppies…rainbows…happiness.)

How did I do it?

Top 5 Ways to Raise a Reader. (1)

  1. Access, Access, Access. 

    I get it. Hardcover books are $$$. Board books are $$$. I get that. But access to books is crucial. There are some GREAT resources for inexpensive or free books on the net and locally. is probably my favorite. You can buy books in groups for pennies. Local used bookshops are also a great, and fun resource. Strangely enough, stoop sales and yard sales have rewarded me with some of the best finds I’ve read, and by authors I’d never heard of. Never discount library sales!! The books are often equipped with library binding, and that is nothing to sneeze at. *Not to mention just taking stacks out on loan.* Scribd, a monthly service, and Kindle free time also have hundreds of thousands of children’s ebooks available.

  2. Model the behavior yourself. 

    It’s hard to raise a reader if you’re not a reader. I always tell people that if you think you aren’t a reader, that just means you haven’t found the right book. I will always be grateful to my family for not only getting me to the library and bookstore, but for being readers themselves. My MawMaw had a basket of books beside her sitting chair–always. The beach is a place I remember watching my family hang out under the umbrella reading until dusk. The Plain Dealer was delivered at 5am every day. Children of readers read.

  3. Talk to your children about their books. 

    This not only reinforces the lessons learned in the books, and their comprehension of them, it also serves to stir up excitement over their next read.

  4. Take them to the library. 

    This may seem obvious, but I’m not just talking about going to check books out. Most libraries have reading groups, activities surrounding literature, movies, etc. They’re a great resource.

  5. Create a routine. 

    Which, contrary to popular belief, does not have to be at bedtime. My kids will PESTER THE EVER LOVING EFF OUT OF ME if I agree to read before bed. One book becomes eleventy. We read right before lunch or just after school. It’s a nice way to kick back, relax, get some serious snuggling, and learn. I cannot overstate the snuggling. My seven year old is growing out of it, so I have to squeeze in all the snuggles I can.

Most importantly, don’t make it stressful or punitive. It’s not “if you don’t behave, you’ll turn off YouTube and READ!!” That’s never going to work. Reading needs to be a choice and a gift.

Now, what recipe could possibly go with this?

One my kids chose, of course.

Their favorite.

Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream Vegan No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream


Vegan No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: freeze overnight

Keywords: vegan ice-cream


  • the cream from two cans of coconut cream with no additives
  • 3 cups unsweetened cashew milk
  • 4 tbsp instant espresso
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar


heat the milk and cream on medium a stove until just starting to simmer

whisk in espresso and sugar until dissolved

add salt and vanilla

pour into a 2 quart container and freeze overnight.

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Top 10 PNR/UF Books for Badass Bitches

This post was actually really difficult for me. For years, I read almost nothing (outside reading for school) that wasn’t paranormal romance or urban fantasy.  I have read so much of it. Hundreds of books, dozens of series, and so many authors.

For me, PNR/UF was an escape from everything. It was an escape from the pressures of school, work, parenthood, marriage. Paranormal romance was a flight on pages, taking me far from the mundane concerns of everyday life. I could fall into the smoky worlds of vampires, demons, werewolves, and witches. It was all so far removed from the perfidy of academia that it truly relaxed me.

It didn’t hurt that they were full of super hot guys and kickass women.

However, it didn’t take many books to figure out that much of the same crap that is so pervasive in everyday life, is also pervasive in PNR/UF. There is a lot of dubious consent. There is a lot “men-only heroes.” There are plenty of women who just cannot get it together to save themselves.

Much of it reads like the dirty fantasy of a Fox and Friends host.

But there is so much more. Women who rescue not only themselves, but the WORLD. Strong women who aren’t afraid of being labeled as “troublesome” or “bossy.” Women who aren’t afraid to be sexually open and *gasp* demanding.

Women and men who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable before one another, wearing their hearts on their sleeves and bleeding for those they love. Women who are standing up for the little guy, taking no shit, giving no fucks, and being a general badass bitch.

Therefore, I put together a top ten list.

Top 10 PNR/UF books for badass bitches.

Top 10 PNR/UF for Badass Bitches


Again, in no particular order.


What goes better with badass bitches than gin? NOTHING.

The Matchatini


The Matchatini

The Matchatini The Matchatini



The Matchatini

by Cat Bowen

Prep Time: 20 minutes (making simple syru

Keywords: beverage

Ingredients (Enough syrup for MANY drinks,)

    for the syrup

    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • juice of half of one large lime or one small lime
    • 1/2 tsp matcha powder or 3 GOOD tea bags

    for the cocktail

    • 4 oz GOOD gin
    • soda water


    • frozen blueberries
    • limes
    • lime leaves if you’re fancy


    if you’re using matcha

    add all syrup ingredients into a saucepan,


    cook on medium until everything is dissolved–about 5 minutes

    let cool 10-15 minutes

    if you’re using green tea bags

    bring the water to a simmer

    simmer green tea bags in water 5 minutes

    remove bags

    add sugar and lime

    cook on medium until everything is dissolved–about 5 minutes

    let cool 10-15 minutes

    Avengers, Assemble

    add 4 oz gin

    1 1/2 oz matcha syrup

    5-6 ice cubes to a cocktail shaker

    shake VIGOROUSLY. LIKE YOU MEAN IT. 20 seconds

    strain over two glasses

    top with soda

    add straw and garnish

    imbibe responsibly.

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    Get Series(ous). #12

    This get series(ous) is entirely someone else’s fault. I won’t name names or point fingers, but I will give clues.


    and this:

    Who should read this series?

    Today’s Get Series(ous). is for readers who want to fall over laughing in public places. This reader loves PNR, but he or she is freaking tired of the “fated mate” bullshit. No one smells someone once and immediately decides they must do the deed and be bonded forever, and that’s perfectly ok because, fate, right? Not dubious consent at all!!

    No, this person wants the build. Two people meet, they may or may not like each other at first, they fight it, there’s a tug-and-pull, the inevitable tug-and-rub, and then a tugging at the strings of the heart.

    This person probably likes Anchorman and Drunk History. 

    When asked “Team Jacob or Team Edward?” he or she responds: “fuck them, I’m Team Scott Howard.

    They have gone to more than one karaoke bar, and know all the words to either:


    They like romance and the, you know,

    But they’re in it for the story.

    He or she prefers the tenth and eleventh Doctors to the ninth or twelfth. (sidenote: why is “twelfth” so fucking impossible to spell? I feel as though, phonetically, it’s “twelth.”)

    He or she probably likes to bake, and probably use a lot of butter or vegan buttery substitute.

    So, what’s the series?

    The Pride series by Shelly Laurenston!

    From the first book:

    Christmas Pride

    How come all the good-looking ones are insane?
    That’s what runs through NYPD cop Desiree “Dez” MacDermot’s mind the minute she hooks up again with her childhood buddy, Mace Llewellyn. It isn’t just the way he stares at her with those too-sexy gold eyes―as if he could devour her on the spot. Or the six-four, built-like-a-Navy Seal bod-o-death. It isn’t even that he sniffs her neck and purrs, making her entire body tingle. It’s more about that disconcerting, shifting-from-man-to-lion thing that unhinges her…and makes her want more.

    Mace likes making Dez crazy. In fact, he likes her any way he can get her―in bed, on the desk, here, now, again. Together, they’d always been trouble, but Dez has no idea just how good trouble can feel…

    Shaw’s Tail

    Brendon Shaw, hotel owner and lion shifter, has seen better days. He’s been beaten, had a gun to the back of his head, and had to be rescued by a Pack of shape-shifting wolves. He didn’t think he’d survive the night, much less find the woman of his dreams. And he never thought the woman of his dreams would have a Tennessee accent and wear cowboy boots. Once he sets his sights on her, the predator in him is ready to pounce and never let go.

    Ronnie Lee Reed is ready to change her life, and New York City is the place where any girl―even one who runs with a Pack―can redefine herself. First order of business: find a mate, settle down, and stop using men for sex. Even big, gorgeous, lion-shifting, oh-my-what-big-um-paws-you-have men. Then again…

    Why I love it:

    Honestly? It makes me laugh. Every page makes me laugh. The characters are warm and hilarious, and over the top in their antics. Imagine a bunch of actors or comediennes hang out all of the time, and they may or may not sometimes become wolves, polar bears, or polarcats. Resembling the saber tooths of yore.

    The entire ensemble makes me smile.

    This is a series of books to read to really escape. Leave your shit at the door, and fall into their packs.

    Gwen and Lock

    They’re campy and wonderful, and exactly what The Doctor ordered. Maybe she could write a royal spin-off series?

    The characters genuinely seem to love one another, and it makes the reader love them as well. Shelly Laurenston’s characters are some of the funniest and big-hearted characters in PNR. Readers become attached to their antics and their dialogue from page one of book one, and are well attached even nine books later.

    Four Star Series.

    The Recipe Inspired by the Series?

    It was a no-brainer. In the installment The Mane Squeeze, the grizzly-shifter, Lachlan, is obsessed with honey buns. I am also. But some vegans don’t eat honey, and it can be $$$ to use in large quantities. But DATES? They’re very much LIKE honey, and a bag of dried dates is around $2.50. Less if you buy in bulk.

    Also, this recipe is THE EASIEST RECIPE EVER. It requires no more skill than opening a tube and turning on a food processor. It’s that easy. Did you know Pillsbury Grands Crescent Rolls are vegan? They are. There are FIVE ingredients in this recipe. FIVE.

    Vegan Honey Buns

    vegan honey buns

    vegan honey buns vegan honey buns vegan honey buns

    EASY Vegan Honey Buns

    by Cat Bowen

    Prep Time: 5 minutes

    Cook Time: 20 minutes

    Keywords: bake breakfast bread dessert side snack vegan kosher nut-free

    Ingredients (8 rolls)

    • 1 tube Pillsbury Grands Crescent Rolls
    • 8 oz dried, pitted dates
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp vegan buttery spread, soft


    preheat oven to 375F

    roll out the crescent rolls on a floured surface

    pinch together triangles so that you have ONE big rectangle

    spread 1/2 cup of butter evenly over the surface

    for the filling

    heat milk until just under scalding

    place dates in blender or food processor (pro is easier)

    add milk and cinnamon

    blend or process until smooth

    spread over croissant dough

    roll up

    cut in half, half, and half again, 8 pieces

    place in greased, small pie tin

    bake for 15 minutes

    top with tin foil

    bake 5 more minutes

    remove and spread 2 tbsp more buttery spread on top of buns


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    Top 10 Books for Badass Bitches.

    Ronda Rousey

    Awesome, right?

    In case you don’t know who she is, she is the UFC bantamweight champion and current Espy holder of Fighter of the Year.  She’s also received a crap ton of twitter trolling and nasties in the press because she fails to be definable. She is a kick-ass judo fighter, an outspoken feminist, and–a “girly girl.” She’s often seen on the red carpet or in magazines in full hair and makeup, looking as much like a top Hollywood actress as a cage fighter, and that dichotomy seems to piss off the establishment.

    (note: the establishment looks a lot like this, only you should imagine roughly 100% more dudes who live in their parents’s basement who have strong relationships with the dominant muscles in their forearms.)

    He-Man Woman Haters Club GOP 2016


    The establishment likes well-defined labels and categories in which they can place women. (Human incubator, tax write-off, focus for unspent rage, bagel bites baker.) Women like Rousey defy their carefully constructed gender binaries, and her ability to commodify that unique talent, has placed her in the unenviable position as a lightning rod for their ire.

    The comments I read on twitter set a fire ablaze beneath me. It’s 2015, and the GOP is talking about SHUTTING DOWN THE GOVERNMENT to defund family planning/female independence services. More women are hassled on twitter Redditors are creating new misogynistic subreddits faster than Reddit can collapse them.

    What the fuck?

    Thankfully, there is a movement. A movement toward body acceptance, professional mentoring, the “ungendering” of toys; of committing to raising our girls so that they are not caught up in the same cycles we are strung up in now. The movement is  also teaching our boys that women are more than pretty baby makers. We’re fierce, intelligent creatures with whom ONE DOES NOT FUCK.

    I’m doing my part. I’m educating my children that women are just as capable, intelligent, and willful as men. But that’s not always enough.

    It takes a village–and sometimes–a library.

    I made a list. It’s all essential reading in my opinion, and it swells my soul with pride for the double ecks chromosome bearers.

    The Top 10 Books for Badass Bitches.

    top ten books for badass bitches


    In no particular order:

    You may think this post wouldn’t get a recipe. Guess what? My MawMaw is A #1 badass bitch in my opinion, and bitch can bake.

    So can I.

    Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Napoleon

    *it has crispy bits. You’re welcome.

    vegan peanut butter cup napoleon


    Vegan Peanut Butter Cup Napoleon

    by Cat Bowen

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook Time: 5 minutes

    Keywords: bake vegan mousse


      for the mousse

      • the separated cream from one can of full-fat, no emulsifiers added, coconut milk. (refrigerate over night, pour off liquid.)
      • 3/4 cup of Jif Natural Peanut Butter
      • 1/2 cup sugar
      • 1 tsp vanilla extract
      • 1/3 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder

      for the layers

      • 12-15 round vegan wonton skins
      • cooking spray


      • vegan peanut butter cups for topping.


      for the layers

      preheat oven to 375F

      spray both sides of the wonton skins lightly with cooking spray

      arrange in a single layer on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet

      bake 5 minutes or until edges are brown and crisp

      for the mousse

      whip the coconut cream in a mixer on high

      slowly add in peanut butter and vanilla

      sift in the cocoa powder a bit at a time, mix well

      add sugar LAST, mix lightly


      place a wonton on a plate

      spoon or pipe 3-4 tbsp of mousse per layer, repeat.

      top with pb cup.


      ALTERNATIVELY, keep components separate and mousse refrigerated until time to put together.

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