Book Review | ‘Three Cups of Tea’

Guest post
As Kim mentioned in January, one of my goals in 2011 is to read more. To spend more time reading, relaxing, reflecting, and absorbing. And a little less time being busy, staying on top of my email, and checking things off my to do lists.

First book of 2011: Three Cups of Tea
My parents gave me Three Cups of Tea this past Christmas. I had heard a lot about this book—it was on the New York Times Best-Seller List, Oprah’s book club, etc.—and I was expecting it to be a pretty good read. What I was not expecting was that it would be a great read. And as with most things, I was a little late to the party. (My music collection is comprised mostly of artists that have been dead for 30 years). 

The book begins with a mountain climber (author Greg Mortenson) whose failed attempt to climb the second highest mountain in the world, Pakistan’s K2, left him exhausted and on the wrong path down the mountain. Mortenson finds himself completely lost and in a remote village far from where he was supposed to be. 

After the villagers nurse him back to a state of strength, he spends some time getting to know the people and their customs. He is shocked and saddened to see that the village’s “school” is actually just a group of children sitting outdoors in a circle doing math problems with sticks in the dirt. No teacher. The teacher comes only two days a week. 

The author returns home determined to raise money to build a school for these children before settling back to his “normal” life. He quickly realizes he’ll never return to life as he knew it. A one-project mission turns into a life-long passion to educate the impoverished children of northern Pakistan, promote peace, and empower women. Mortenson realizes that education is the key to keeping vulnerable Pakistani youth from being enticed by the money and promises of a rapidly growing, but little-known (at that time) organization called the Taliban. 

It is Mortenson’s epic struggles and death-defying adventures that captivated me. The book had me hooked and on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. I can vouch for Kim’s patience after enduring countless episodes of me excitedly telling her what I had just read in the latest chapter. As you might imagine, an American man building schools in the Mid East can create quite a stir. But Mortenson’s compassion, respect, and willingness to be open-minded and a servant to those he barely knew was truly inspirational. If you combine all of this with memorable and relevant U.S. history it creates a suspenseful and captivating quick read. 

I recently found out that the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has made this book mandatory reading for all of his senior officers in the U.S. military. The impact Greg Mortenson has made on both small villages and world politics is truly remarkable. While I fully expect everything in the book to be true, if only 10% of what he wrote is factual, it's still one of the most amazing stories I have ever read. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy. And lastly, if your Christmas or birthday present from me this year is a donation to his organization, don’t be surprised! 

Stay tuned for next month’s book: Tasting Beer!

Hopefully this weekend…

I’ll finish uploading pictures from our recent trip to California.


Adorable Cookies

If Andrew and I were able, we would totally be having a Mardi Gras party to celebrate Fat Tuesday—the feast before the beginning of Lent. We thought in honor of our year of holidays it would be fun, but then realized we aren’t available Tuesday.

I saw some adorable ideas online, so in case you’re interested in carrying the torch, here is a tutorial to make some adorable cookies and some downloadable print outs for your party.

We would definitely be making the mask cookies, although I realize they wouldn’t be nearly as pretty. Decorating with icing is hard. We learned that lesson with our Christmas tree cookies. It’s okay though, we’ll just have to keep practicing:)

photo source

Soup Recipe

Andrew made some rockin' soup last week. The recipe looks a little crazy (evaporated milk, bbq sauce, etc.), but it turned out great. All the interesting ingredients came together to create a unique flavor and great consistency. It was the first soup we’ve ever made from scratch to have a thick and creamy consistency. It's usually difficult to produce thick soup at home, but this recipe nailed it! I think it had something to do with the evaporated milk, but I may be wrong.

We followed the recipe to the T with the exception of using a green pepper instead of a red one and we cooked chicken breasts instead of using a rotisserie chicken.

Smoky Roasted Chicken and Corn Chowder
Prep/Total Time: 30 min.

Source: Taste of Home Healthy Cooking Feb-March 2009 Issue


  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14 1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes, well drained
  • 1 (14 3/4 oz) can cream-style corn
  • 2 cups roasted chicken breast, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hickory flavored barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)



  1. Cook chopped bacon in a large, non-stick soup pot over medium-high heat until lightly browned but not crisp. Stir in onions, celery, red pepper, and garlic. Cook and stir until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add thyme and flour. Mix well. Stir in broth and evaporated milk. Bring mixture to a gentle boil and stir continuously until soup thickens slightly.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.