Monday, November 30, 2009

Musing Mondays...Ho, Ho, Ho!

Let's check out this week's question from Rebecca at Just one more page...

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading/blogging during the holidays…

How does your reading (or your blogging) fare in the holiday months? Do you read more or less? Do you have to actively make time to read?

Allow me to let you in on a secret. Now, don't well anyone! Ok, you are sworn to secrecy, right?
Here it is...I do a lot of my reading and a fair bit of blog post writing at work.

We have discussed my odd work schedule before- 12 hour shifts, either 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., alternating between the two every few days, seven days a week. So I am at work on alternative weekends. I am there at 1..2...3...4 o'clock in the morning on a regular basis. And even diligently doing my job, there is, shall we say, a bit of down time in those long nights, just watching over things. That is my best reading time. No distractions, quiet...very, very quiet. I can't access my blog from work, and don't really want to, but I can still write something from my blog, save it to a flash drive and then post it at home. But honestly, I prefer to use it for reading. If I get interrupted by work related matters, and I will, it is easier to go back to a book then to try and get my mind back to something I was writing.

So, if I use my regular days off between now and Christmas to do the things that I need to do to prepare for the holiday season...and the list is well as silly things like laundry and raking those darn leaves that are seeming to continually reappear, and I use my regular 'quiet time' at work to read, I shouldn't be and further behind in my reading than I am now. Which is not saying a lot.

Now if I could just figure out a way to hang lights and put up my tree while I am at work, I would be all set!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weekend Cooking...savory Pumpkin Soup

Today, for our weekly Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, I am going to share with you one of my very favorite recipes in the world. It is easy, quick and totally delicious, three excellent characteristics of a recipe in my book.

Now I must warn not be turned off by the pumpkin. This recipe was found by my SIL years ago on the back of the Libby pumpkin can, and there in lies the one thing that may keep people from trying this soup. Pumpkin. So, let me be clear. We are NOT talking about anything resembling the flavors of pumpkin pie or anything sweet, or cinnamon-like here. No, no. This is a savory soup, with the curry and coriander, with a bit of heat from the red pepper. But it is a heat you can adjust to your taste. The 1/8 teaspoon in the recipe is, I think, a good start for the first time you make it.

And if my experience is telling, it will not be the last time you make it. Rare is the person who does not like this soup when they taste it. I can almost guarantee people you serve this to will be clamoring for the recipe...just don't mention the word pumpkin until after they taste it.

Pumpkin Soup

1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
4 (or 8 ..but I like garlic) cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground coriander (best buy whole and grind it fresh)
1/8 tsp. red pepper, or to taste.
3 cups chicken stock (canned is fine)
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (or canned evaporated skim milk for a lower fat alternative)
16 oz. canned plain pumpkin

Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add spices and cook over low heat 1-2 minutes. Add stock and boil gently 15-20 minutes. Add pumpkin and 1/2 and 1/2 and cook 5 minutes at low heat..
Put in blender in small batches (be careful blending hot things…put a dishtowel over the lid and hold as you slowly blend) and blend until smooth. Reheat and serve with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped scallions.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

And while you are hopefully enjoying a nice dinner with friends and family, what you need to make the day just perfect is a song, so, for your listening pleasure...

A short ode to pumpkin pie...

my thanks to Boing Boing for pointing this one out!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

a review of "No Wind of Blame"

No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer
(Sourcebooks, ISBN 978-1-4-22-1801-9)

During her lifetime, Heyer was better known for her Regency romances than her mysteries and that may still be true today. But if you are a fan of clever stories, with excellent dialogue and an amusing cast of characters in an English country house setting and have not checked out the dozen or so of her mysteries, you really owe it to yourself to do so. And happily, you have the very nice editions, reissued by Sourcebooks, to make it an even more attractive prospect.

In No Wind of Blame, we are in the English countryside of the late 1930's, in the lovely estate of Ermyntrude Carter. Ermyntrude was on the stage as a young woman and inherited the impressive house and her fortune from her first, beloved husband. Sadly, her second marriage, to the ner'do-well Wally, is not quite so beneficial. It seems he has found a number of seedy ways to spend her money, including gambling, wine, women and song and maybe a shady business dealing or two. His activities have drawn the displeasure of many in the neighboring community beside his wife. Those that care for Ermyntrude, including her daughter from her first marriage, Vicky, several admirers, including a very questionable Russian prince and even Mary, Wally's cousin and ward have their issue with Wally. And that just scrapes the surface of the suspects. Yes, suspects, because Wally will be shot to death as he crosses the estate and so starts the mystery, a mystery full of twist and turns, red herrings galore, a big and lively cast of characters and a nice dash or two of romance to top it all off before coming to a logical and satisfactory conclusion.

Certainly Heyer's books will remind you of Agatha Christie's to a degree, although I don't honestly remember Christie being quite so funny. Heyer is often very amusing and her excellent dialogue is really the high point of the book. At times, granted, it can make for some rather slow going because you really have to pay attention to what is being said, but you will be rewarded if you do. I will also warn you that the first quarter of so of the book may seem rather slow, because it takes a fair bit of talking to acquaint us with a rather large cast, most of whom will soon be suspects. But once poor Wally gets himself killed, things start to pick up, especially with the arrival of the witty Inspector Hemingway from Scotland Yard.

I also must mention, as I do with all the Sourcebooks editions, that I just love the look and feel of these books. I am not usually a big fan of paperbacks but these are an exception. Attractive covers and a clean, nice feel making for a pleasant reading experience, not something to be ignored.

If you are a mystery fan, especially of the witty, clever English country house sort, you do really owe it to yourself to check out No Wind of Blame. As Dorothy L. Sayers, quoted on the back cover of the book says,
“Miss Heyer's characters and dialogue are an abiding delight to me...I have seldom met people to whom I have taken so violent a fancy from the word 'Go”.”

My thanks to Danielle of Sourcebooks for this copy.

Wordless Wednesday...Santa!

Well, we all know that Thursday, Thanksgiving, the real Santa will be in NYC, in the Macy's Parade. Then he will be off to the North Pole to get to work with the elves, making toys. But where does he spend his summers? Well, I know! Because I saw him there, in North Pole Alaska!

...for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Thinger...SantaThing is Coming to Town!

Yep, it's Bandit Tuesday and we have a very exciting picture of a Bandit outing (or so he says...) but first, let's check out out Tuesday Thinger question from Wendi's Book Corner.

It is about Library Thing's SantaThing. What is that you ask? Well...
What: Pay $25 to participate, and get up to $20 in books from your Secret Santa (the difference goes toward shipping)
When: Sign up between now and December 1st (that is NEXT week!) at 4 PM EST
Who: It is open to more countries this year (see full list), and you can sign up a non-LT member to receive books as well.
How: Become a Secret Santa, get a name/profile from LT, pick out books based on their library and/or wishes, then LT will place the orders and take care of shipping! ... wait for your package to arrive from your Secret Santa.

Questions: Have you ever participated in SantaThing (it is in its third year)? If so, what did you like? Dislike? Are you planning to participate this year?
It sounds like a nice idea, and many people on LT go on about how much they enjoyed it last year and how much fun it is No, I don't think I will be taking part.
First of all, as I mentioned before, while I love Christmas, I find it very stressful. Granted it does not take much any more to make me very stressed. Less and less all the time in fact. But when I get stress my back tightens up and there have been years that by Christmas I am almost unable to walk. So, I don't really need anymore stress.

And, for me, picking a present for someone is stressful. Granted, Lt makes it very easy. You can look at the person's library, see what they have, what they don't, recommendations based on books they have. You might have a book that you loved recently and if they do not have it is their library, you are all set. But still, it is one more thing to do and I don't really need another thing to do. I already have a Big List of Things That Ned To Be Done that I am not doing, thank you very much.

But it is a nice idea...

Speaking of things to do, Bandit is home from the Sunshine State for the holiday and I must go see him. He is so cute... :-)
Here is a picture of him of one of the favorite autumn past times of many (yours truly not included). You will take note that he is a gator fan...for some reason. I also suspect Bandit may have gotten his paws on a copy of Photoshop.

Go Gators!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Musing Monday...School Days, Dear Old Golden Rule Days...

School days, school days,
Dear old golden rule days.
Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic,
Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick.

This week's questions is inspired by the fact that our host, Rebecca from Just one more page, is starting a new teaching job, so she is taking us back to our school days...

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about your bookshelf…
What books did you read while in school? Were there any that you particular liked, or even hated? Did any become lifelong favourites?

Now, in my defense, let me begins my saying that my school days were decades..several decades...ago. So my memory is a wee bit hazy. I am not at all sure of what I was reading in grammar school. I know I was reading. I remember all those trips to the library, one of my fav-or-ite places in the world,as I have recounted here before. But what books, what sorts of books, I really don't remember. What I do know is that I seem to have bypassed many of the books that are considered children's classics.

On the other hand, I do know that I developed a insatiable taste for mysteries. I know that before I was in high school I was working my way through Agatha Christie, Nero Wolf and the Complete Sherlock Holmes. That is a predilection that continues to this day. Push come to shove, my go to comfort books are mysteries, from English cozies to serial killers on the loose and everything in between.

Now it was in high school that I think I was first introduced to the classics and those books that many consider essential reading for a well read person. We studied them in school and we had to read them in the summer. The summer reading list...and I don't mean the two or three books that I have seen at some schools these days. I mean a list..maybe a dozen books per summer in my memory. Gosh, I wish I had those lists now.

I don't remember hating any of them. So I'm not sure if I really did not hate any, or I actually just don't remember. ;-)
But as to books I loved, oh, that is another story! I know for a fact one of them was To Kill a Mockingbird, still one of my favorite books of all time. Then there was Edith Hamilton's Mythology, a book that, for some reason, I now have three copies of. Another was The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton, one that is on my all time best list. And of course Catcher In The Rye the book that set me off on a brief Salinger obsession. Not serial killer Catcher In the Rye reader obsession. Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An them all
And Lord of The Rings...not sure that one was required and in fact, I think it is too long to have been on the list, but I know I read it for the first time in high school ..and then set off on a little Tolkien obsession. The Hobbit, Leaf by Niggle, Smith of Wootton Major, Farmer Giles of Ham, I read them all. You might notice a pattern to my reading habits. When I found an author I liked, I read as much of their work that I could find. But that was in the golden years, when I didn't have other distractions like earning a living and mowing the grass. I don't have time to be quite as obsessed these days.

I did a lot of reading in high school.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend Cooking...a Review of "Get Cooking"

For this week's Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, let's look at a new cookbook...

Get Cooking by Mollie Katzen
(HarperStudio, ISBN 978-0061732430)

What to do if you find yourself, all grown up, standing in your kitchen, a place you don't know too well or use very often. You would like to be able to cook, perhaps invite people to eat, and have it involve something beside takeout or pizza. But really, you have no idea how to deal with a recipe and a microplane grater looks like something in your dad's garage. Or what do you do if you know someone like that? Well, one thing you might very well consider is getting them a copy of the famed Mollie Katzen's, she of Moosewood Cookbook fame, new cookbook, Get Cooking.
"We've kind of become a nation of nutrient and flavor- challenged food voyeurs. Let's change that. I'm here to help.
For starts, I'm exceedingly happy to present you with 150 delicious, doable recipes that even the most inexperienced person can walk into any kitchen right now and make for dinner tonight. The "cuisine" is what I like to call "Big Tent." accommodating a broad base of tastes and needs, vegetarian and meat loving and everything in between...You'll find them to be boldly seasoned-there's absolutely no need for "beginning" to mean "bland"- with lots of ethnic influences and flavors to keep things interesting."
She starts with the basics- how to equip a kitchen, stock a pantry and prep your veggies. You might think everyone knows how to chop an onion or deal with a head of garlic...except if you have never done it. Or if you have been doing it

Then we get to the recipes, broken down into Soups and Salads, Pastas, Vegetarian Entrées, Burgers, Fish, Chicken & Meat, Potatoes, Vegetable Sides, Party Snacks and of course, Desserts! Now Katzen may consider these basic, but they are certain not ordinary or dull. There is a basic chicken soup, yes, but there is also a Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup and a North African Red Lentil Soup. There is Spaghetti and Meatballs and Mac and Cheese but also Pasta with Tuna, White Beans, and Artichoke Hearts. And those burgers include a basic hamburger, but also tuna, salmon and a Spice-Crusted Tofu Cutlet while the vegetarian entrees include Baked Stuffed Potatoes but also Thai Green Curry with Coconut Milk, Vegetables, and Tofu. This is not necessarily your grandmother starter cookbook.

Each recipe has a photograph, all taken by Katzen, clear instructions and a list of not difficult to find ingredients. They seem to be recipes that even the most inexperienced cook could follow with good results. Many recipes have added little sections on particular challenges that might come along like how to toast nuts or what to do with those chicken giblets. You don't just throw them out, do you? But each recipe also includes what may be my favorite part of the book, a "Get Creative" column, which suggests how to take the recipe to the next level with a few additions, a few substitutions or a twist here and there.

If you know someone that needs that starter cookbook, maybe a young person off to college, someone setting up there first apartment or someone whose use of takeout menus is leading them to bankruptcy, this would make a fine gift. And I admit I found more than a few things in here I will be trying out in the near future...hmmmm...Intensely Chocolate Brownies...yum.

My thanks to HarperStudio for the ARC of this book!

Friday, November 20, 2009

One, Two, Three...Jump!

As we get older...and if you ain't dead, you're getting older... we reach a point where we start to worry about having strong bones. We don't want to be the old lady in the commercial who has fallen and can't get up, laying there with a broken hip. But how is the best way to do that? Do you have to join a gym, lift weights, walk for miles? As usual, just when you thing you know, the experts change their mind,. Vigorous walking, load bearing exercise...well maybe, maybe not. Seems some exercise helps and some does not. But according to an article in the NY Times, there is a simple, fast and totally free way that will work.
"...the current state-of-the-science message about exercise and bone building may be that, silly as it sounds, the best exercise is to simply jump up and down, for as long as the downstairs neighbor will tolerate. In studies in Japan, having mice jump up and land 40 times during a week increased their bone density significantly after 24 weeks, a gain they maintained by hopping up and down only about 20 or 30 times each week after that.

If hopping seems an undignified exercise regimen, bear in mind that it has one additional benefit: It tends to aid in balance, which may be as important as bone strength in keeping fractures at bay. Most of the time, Dr. Barry says, “fragile bones don’t matter, from a clinical standpoint, if you don’t fall down.”"
Free, quick, easy! You can't beat that and maybe you won't end up with a broken hip!
Although I do wonder how they got those mice to jump up and down.
Maybe they used this, the perfect song! "Round and round, up and down...One, two, three, kick... One, two, three, jump!"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

a review of "I Hadn't Meant To Tell You This" and "Lena"

I Hadn't Meant To Tell You This
Jacqueline Woodson
(G.P.Putnam's and Sons, ISBN 0-399-24499-9)

Jacqueline Woodson
(G.P.Putnam's and Sons, ISBN 0-399-24469-7)

There are a number of things I love about the blogging world. One of them is being introduced to books that, in all likelihood, I would never have happened upon otherwise. I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This is the perfect example of this. First I read about it on My Friend Amy, where she reports how she cried through most of the book. Then I read the excellent review of it on Maw Books Blog and was finally convinced that I had to get my hands on a copy by the write up by Sandy at You've Gotta Read This!. She is correct. You do have to read this if you want to read a really fine book.

I can't say that I had ever heard of the award winning author, Jacqueline Woodson, before, and what a loss that was to me, because to put it quite simply, she is a beautiful writer. When they talk about someone's writing being poetic, it is this sort of writing that they are thinking of. Short, direct, not an extra, unneeded word to tell a sad, heartbreaking, uplifting, moving story. A story that I promise will stay with you.

Marie is a young black girl, living a comfortable life in Chauncey, an almost all black suburb of Athens, Ohio. Her father is a college professor, she lives in a very nice home and wants for very little of a material nature. Lena, the new girl at school, is from a very different world. She is poor and dirty, in hand me down clothes...what everyone, including Marie's father, calls 'poor white trash'. They seem like unlikely friends, in a town where the races do not often mix, except that they have one very powerful thing in common. Both are motherless. Marie's mother left her and her father, suffering from some mental issues, in an attempt to travel the world and 'find herself'. Lena's mother died of cancer, leaving Lena and her younger sister in the care of her less than suitable father.

They each also share a secret, one small, one very large.
"I knew what Lena was getting at. I had read about stuff like this. But it couldn't happen to anybody I knew. It happened to sad, foreign girls in Third World countries. To girls living in crowded apartments. Or in the South. What was it doing here in Chauncey, Ohio? How could it happen to Lena, the girl I was walking home from school with? The girl how sat next to me in homeroom? Lena with her ragged clothes and crooked half smile. With her hard, sad eyes. friend."
Now I really don't want to give a spoiler, but think as I might, I can think of no way not to and tell you about the second book, Lena. See, it is the action at the end of the first book that makes the second necessary. Lena has sworn Marie to secrecy about what is going on, fearing, with cause, that she will be separated from her sister if the authorities find out. But she also decided that things have gotten to a point where she must take action and the action she takes at the end of the book is to set out on the road with her little sister, in search of her mother's family down south.

And I must say, at the end of reading I Hadn't Meant To Tell You This I was very upset. I could not get the idea of these two young girls on the road, all alone, and the dangers they might face, out of my mind. Yes, logically I know that they are characters in a book, but my concern is a testament to how very real Woodson is able to make these girls. And it seems I was not the only one. As Woodson writes on her website, she receive so many letters and e-mails, wanting to know what happens to the sisters, that she wrote the sequel Lena, to bring the story to a conclusion. A very worth conclusion in my opinion and I would recommend you read the two books together. Don't blame me if you read the first and do not have the second one on hand to see what happens.

Where I Hadn't Meant To Tell You This is written from Marie's point of view, Lena tells her own story in the second. While Amy may have cried her way through the first book, and I will agree it is sad and upsetting, at times I found Lena totally heartbreaking. Every time a car stopped to give the girls a ride, I was afraid. As Lena looks back on her young life, her memories of her mother, of what life became after her mother died, of her fear for her sister, it was so sad, so real. When she shares her dreams of a world filled with clean clothes and bubble baths, hot chocolate and a full stomach and most of all, a safe home...well, I admit I was a puddle.

These are classified as YA books, but I can assure you that adults will in no way find them wanting. They are stories that make us question our ideas about race, about family, about friendship. They are very sad at times and tackle some difficult topics but ultimately that speak to the power of friendship and the power of people who are good at heart to make a difference. Lena, with all the difficulties she has faced, has not lost all hope, as Marie tells her father...
"You know what Lena says, Daddy?"
"She says we're all just people here."
A tiny crease formed between his eyebrows. "I'm glad she can still believe that."
And hopefully so will you when you read these two very fine, enjoyable little books.
I borrowed both of these books from my local library, but I have realized that I will need to buy my own copies, because they are books that I will want to read again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday- Japanese Maple

I had to take these pictures in the rain, since the peak of the tree's autumn color came the same day as a Nor'easter that will soon blow every one of those leaves off. And I assure you that color is untouched...except by God.

...for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday Thinger...Just When You Thought It Could Get No Better.

Before we get to the best part of Bandit Day..Tuesday to the rest of the world...let's check out this week's question for Tuesday Thinger, hosted by Wendi of Wendi's Book Corner!

"The programmers over at Library Thing have worked hard for over two months to create a new feature that will help us users of the site to see where the books we are looking up are available... more details here. This is easy... you go to a book page, and there is a new link on the right hand side under the "Quick Links" section called "Get this book.""

Questions: Have you explored this great new feature? Can you think of any times this would be handy to use? Were any of the Local (bookstores or libraries) resources surprising? How did the Swap sites seem? Think you will use this feature in the future?

Now, you may be aware that I am fond of the Library Thing web site. Lots of useful book information, lots of fun book stuff for a book lover. But I must say, I think the programmers at LT have outdone themselves this time. This new feature Get This Book is just outstanding!

You have heard about a book somewhere. You have gone to LT to read about the book, to check out the ratings and reviews, because we all know the ratings and reviews there might be a bit more objective than at any Unnamed Retail Web Site Whose Name Begins With The Letter A But Will Remain Unnamed Because They See All and Know All.
It is a book that you must have. Now the choices begin.

Is it available in paperback..or audio? How about used copies? How about e-books...does the Evil Kindle have it or maybe the Sony Reader. And bottom line, what will it cost you? But, are you going to buy it? Or maybe you should borrow it from the library, or perhaps see if it is available at one of the swab sites at which you have points. Wow, so many options. How are you going to sort them all out? What to do....what to do!? Who will help you check out the options and make it all a bit easier?

Well, the new Library Thing feature, Get This Book, has it all, and on one convenient page!!
Editions available, your local bookstores and what they should have on hand, your local libraries and likely editions they will have. Look at that...a link right to my county library. A link to my local Big Book Store's website with hours and phone number and all. Audio versions, e-books, price comparisons, new, used. I must say...I am impressed.

Personally, it is all excellent and very useful, but I really love having the swap site information right there. I have mentioned it before, but I have not have the greatest success with BookMooch. No problem mooching books out...big problem find books I want to mooch in that are available. At least now I can see what the mooch situation is before I head over to BookMooch to have my heart broken yet again. It also has me thinking I maybe need to check out some of the other swap sites. I had no idea so many actually existed. Any of you, my dear readers, that have had good experiences with any of them?

Every week, we discuss another great feature of Library Thing. All in the attempt to entice you into the Library Thing fold. [[insert evil laugh here >:-) ]]
But really folks, if you don't belong to the site (free for listing the first 200 books, $25 for a lifetime membership and the ability to list an unlimited number of books in your library) or have not been active, and you are a book lover, someone in the market for books on an occasional, or constant, basis, you do really need to check out this feature. I am sure you will soon be one of us....[[insert evil laugh here, one more time! >:-) ]]

Speaking of one of us, let's see what our wee buddy Bandit is doing this week. Oh my, looks like he is dreaming of his very favorite food...PIZZA!
Oh, ok little Bandit, let's call the pizza man!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Musing Monday...Have you Been Naughty or Nice?

Time to check out this week's question from Just one more page...

With the holiday season now upon us, have you left any hints – subtle or otherwise – for books family and friends might buy you for Christmas? Do you like to receive books, or do you prefer certificates so you can choose your own?

Oh, the dreaded gift buying season.
Without question, Christmas would be my very favorite time of year..except for the dreaded gift buying. I have no problem receiving gifts...I don't mind spending the money to buy gifts for others...I just never know what to buy! I see gift buying as sort of the ultimate proof of how well you know someone and on that I always come up short. And I know that I always will since I have a problem even deciding what to buy for myself. as the philosophers say "First, Know Thyself..."

So, why I find it very hard to buy any gift, to buy a book for a gift takes it to a whole other level. Books are very personal, what we like and dislike. I have, on rare occasion given books in the past and it has not always gone well. I have a book, one of my favorite books in the world and I gave it to a friend years ago. Not only did she not think it was the best book every written, she saw it in a way that was totally alien to my experience of it. That gave my book giving instinct pause.

And unless some one is kind enough for leave a nice wish list somewhere, hopefully printed out nice and neat and casually left "accidentally" somewhere, that is a very dangerous gift to get right. Not to mention the fact that it is very difficult to know what the receiver may have already read or own. Just in case anyone is in the dilemma as pertains to me...remember My Beloved Library Thing. Since I only started it a year or two ago it does not contain every book I have read but it does contain every book I have read in the last couple of years and every book that I own. And since I may well have forgotten most books I read before that, you would be pretty safe. An advantage of the vagary of advancing years...

But on the other hand, gift cards are just a wee bit impersonal. I will admit that I love to get them! Taking the card and going to the bookstore, spending hours looking around to make my decision, have a nice tea and a is just a lovely added part of the gift. But somehow, I don't like to give them. I feel I have given in, taking the easy way out of the gift giving test....even if the receiver loves it! After all, the point of gift giving is all about me...right?

Yes, I know, it makes no sense...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend Cooking- The Black and White Cookie

For this week's Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, let's check out another sweet treat. If you are not now, nor have ever been, a resident of the New York City area, or perhaps certain parts of New England, you may not be familiar with the confection that is the Black and White Cookie! Oh, what a loss that is, because the Black and White cookie is a fine thing, the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of milk or a hot cup of tea. To quote Wikipedia,
"A black and white cookie is a soft, sponge cake-like shortbread which is iced on one half with vanilla fondant, and on the other half by dark chocolate fondant. The black and white cookie is often seen as a peculiarly "New York" snack."
Yes, really more cake-like in their consistency than what we usually think of as a cookie, they are something for which at time I get a hankering. Yet, they are not something I ever tried to make myself, instead hoping to stumble upon a bakery that makes them. Which is pretty hopeless unless I take a trip an hour or so north, closer to the Big Apple.

beside the issue of finding one to eat, there also arises the issue of how to eat them. Sort of like the Oreo, there are several ways to approach them. Eat all the chocolate side first, eat all the white side first, all follow the official Seinfeld way!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A review of "Tell No One"

Tell No One by Harlan Coben
(Dell, ISBN 978-00440-24590-2)
"For Dr. David Beck, the loss was shattering. And every day for the past eight years, he has relived the horror of what happened. The gleaming lake. The pale moonlight. The piercing screams. The night his wife was taken. The last night he saw her alive."
Eight years ago, Dr. David Beck seemed to have it all. Most of all, the love of his life, his wife Elizabeth. They had know each other since they were children and at the age of 12 had shared their first kiss and carved their initials in a tree at the lake front summer camp of David's grandfather. Every year since, they returned to that tree for their "kiss time" anniversary. Or they had until that night eight years ago, when they were attacked at the lake, David knocked unconscious and Elizabeth dragged away to her death at the hands of a serial killer, KillRoy.

Or was she?

On the anniversary of her murder, David receives an e-mail, making a reference to something only he and Elizabeth would understand. But how could it be? Her body was found, her killer is in jail. Is this some horrible joke? Is he going mad, wishing to believe something that is impossible or could, somehow, Elizabeth possibly be alive. He is warned to tell no one. Can he trust anyone to help him find the truth? The police, the FBI, his best friend since college, Shauna...will asking for their help put Elizabeth in more danger if she is alive and what price is David willing to pay to find out the truth of what happen that night.

This is the first one of Coben's books that I have read and a fine introduction to his work it is. It is a well written, fast paced thriller with enough action and twists and turns to keep you interested from the first page to the satisfying conclusion. And he also treats us to a good cast of characters to accompany us on the journey, characters that are never one dimension. There are good cops and bad, fine upstanding citizens that may have some very nasty secrets and even our "hero" David may have a few skeletons of his own that he would rather keep unknown. But the price of truth may have a very high cost that will play out until the very last page.
Overall, a satisfying, entertaining thriller that will certainly have me checking out some others of Mr. Coben books. Tell No One is a stand alone mystery but I am also anxious to check out his Myron Bolitar series, for which he is perhaps best known.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday- Philadelphia Flower Show 2009

...something for a chilly, rainy day.

...for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Thinger and a Terrible Tiger! Grrrrrrrr...

It's Bandit Day....and Tuesday, so let's see what question Wendi from Wendi's Book Corner has for us this week.

Welcome to another week of Tuesday Thingers! We always love to hear from regular participants as well as new people.
Tonight's Thinger is quick and simple (I hope!). As I was looking over LT features and tabs, I realized that I didn't know where people were connecting to the site from, when they were doing it, and why!

Questions: Do you connect to Library Thing from home, work, mobile, other? When do you find yourself on Library Thing (throughout the day, evenings, etc)? Why do you primarily connect to LT?

I almost always connect to Library Thing from home. My cell phone is...just a phone. And I don't really want to push things and check in from work. Afterall, I have all my e-mail to read then!

Any time is the best time to check out Library Thing! I don't have a particular time that I go to LT, because odd shift worker that I am, I don't have a particular time I do anything, including necessities like sleeping and such.
But as to how I use it, usually I use LT as a research tool. As Wendi mentioned in her answer, I will frequently go to Library Thing to check the ratings and reviews on a book I see some out there on the World Wide Web. I also usually check out the author's page while I am there, to see else he or she wrote, if it is part of a series, what books they wrote are the most popular among LT members. I also like to check the books can get a lot of information about what a book is about from how it is tagged.

Of course, I also drop in to Library Thing, maybe weekly, to add any new books that have come my way. Library books, borrowed books, bought books...or otherly acquired books. I really try to be careful about doing that because for me, keeping track of my books has always been my primary LT use. If I don't keep on top of that, a book will sneal into my life unrecorded and then chaos will take over the world. Like one of those movies where aliens take over the world and start blowing stuff up. One unrecorded book is enough to set it all in motion. I just know it!
Yes, just a little OCDish maybe.

And then there are the groups. I do read some of the threads on there, especially the Green Dragon forum, always one of the most popular posted to group on Library Thing. Silly threads, serious threads, all sort of discussions. Once I would read the threads fairly thoroughly and post the occasional comment, but since starting my wee blog, I find I don't really have the time to spend there that I once did. As much as I love Library Thing, and you know I do, there are other demands on ones time. I still scan the thread titles and will read one that sounds very interesting...but there is only so much time in the day.

But there is always time for Bandit!! Now last week we had a problem with Little Bandit showing off his naughty bits, so let's see if we can find something that does not need editing this week.
Awww...that is better. Little Bandit playing with his little tiger toy. That doggie loves his toys....and I love him! Smile Bandit. You look very serious! ;-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Musing Monday...and The Case of Incredible Shrinking Bookcase

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post, as always from the inquiring mind of Rebecca at Just one more page, is about your bookshelf…
Does your house have a communal bookshelf? If not, is your bookshelf centrally located so everyone has access to it?

Well, since I am the only person in the house, yes, I would consider my bookcases communal. Everyone that lives here in the domicile of caite, The Hovel, has total access 24/7/365 to all books. Of course, I do also allow my imaginary kitty, Kitty, full use of all my books, but she does not appear to be a reader. Which is probably all for the best.

Bookshelves are a nice thing in theory, but often inadequate in practice. I don't blame the bookshelves. I don't blame the books. I blame me.
I have said it before, but I really do need to get my books under control. Some time ago, I bought nice new bookcases for my family room (can it be a 'family' room if you live alone?) and took the opportunity to organize all my books, joining Library Thing at the same time. All neat and organized, all so very, very nice. That lasted a few weeks. It was a special time.

Things starting getting out of control when I started blogging. I started requesting and receiving ARCs, winning the odd contest, took authors and publicists up on their offers of books here and there. But things were still pretty much ok. Then I started reading more of my fellow bloggers, reading their reviews of books and authors I had never heard of before, reading more book periodicals online and being compelled by uncontrollable forces to search out copies of too, too many of these recommended books. I discovered the world of used books online. That was the beginning of the end.

Bookshelves gave way to overcrowded bookshelves.
Overcrowded bookshelves gave way to book piles.
A TBR pile, an ARC pile, a library book pile, read/reviewed book piles, a to-be- reviewed book pile, a received-but-yet-to-be-entered-in-Library Thing-then-to-join-the-TBR-pile-pile...
All also communally located. In fact, too communally located, in that I see them all the time. Which is the problem.

Granted, book piles are nicer than other sorts of piles, like piles of dirty dishes or piles of old newspapers, but they are piles nevertheless. I am heartened by seeing the photos and hearing the discussions of other bloggers with similar overstuffed bookcases evolving into numerous book piles. Heartened until I actually look at mine again. I have said that I find my TBR pile to be comforting, the idea that if I could not get my hands on another book, I would have enough on hand to last me for several years. That is true and it does give me a warm and fuzzy feeling...I just need to find a place to actually put them, but unless I do some creative thinking, I am out of shelf space.

Now, there is actually the options of getting rid of some of these books.
Maybe stop acquiring any new ones.
But the seems just a little extreme, doesn't it?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekend Cooking...You Can Never Have Too Much Chocolate

Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads "is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs."

Today I am going to share a recipe I recently saw on Giada De Laurentiis's show on Food TV. I made it with a few changed after I read the reviews of the recipe on the Food TV site, and it had three great things about it. It is easy. It is delicious. It is chocolate!!

She baked her's in a pie plate..I poured mine into one of those pre-made chocolate pie crusts, in this case an Oreo brand one, because easier is better and more chocolate is better. I added the cocoa powder..because more chocolate is again better! And I added a touch of salt because all baked things need a touch of salt to bring out the flavor. I also added the coffee powder, an idea I got from the Barefoot Contessa, who claims a little coffee really brings out the chocolate flavor, without giving a coffee taste. Since I had no hazelnuts but did have pecans in the freezer, pecans it was!

It looks, once baked, like a brownie pie, but actually has a softer, lighter texture. Giada uses a food processor but you can also make it in a blender and it only takes a couple of minutes to put together.

Hazelnut and Chocolate Pie:
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, skinned and toasted
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more to dust the pie dish
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 stick butter, cut into 3/4-inch pieces, at room temperature, plus more to grease the pie dish
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/s teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 1-2 TBS cocoa power
Vanilla Cream:
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Position an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Put 1/2 of the chocolate chips, hazelnuts, and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the hazelnuts are coarsely chopped. Pour the hazelnut mixture into a small bowl and set aside. Combine remaining chocolate chips and sugar in the food processor. Blend until the mixture is finely ground. With the machine running, gradually add the hot water until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, butter, vanilla, salt, coffee, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Pulse until mixture is blended. Return the hazelnut mixture to the food processor and pulse just to incorporate. Pour the mixture into a buttered and floured 9-inch pie dish or the pre-made chocolate crumb crust.
Bake for 35 minutes.

Place the pie on a cooling rack and cool for 1 hour. (Top may crack during cooling.) Refrigerate for 2 hours. (Pie can be made 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator). Allow the pie to return to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

To make the Vanilla Cream:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Continue to beat until cream holds stiff peaks.
To serve: Cut the pie into slices and dollop with the Vanilla Cream.

Of course, you could serve it with ice cream instead of the whipped cream..or even plain. Not that I suggest that!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Perfect Christmas Gift...or a Total Waste of Money?

Okay, here is something I totally do not get. A dedicated tweeting device. Yes, you can have unlimited mobile tweeting...and nothing else.
According to the folks at CNet News"The idea behind TwitterPeek is simple. After buying the device, users need only to input their Twitter credentials to get going. The gadget lets them tweet, reply, retweet, send direct messages, and download followers. It supports one account at a time. Users can also view TwitPics by clicking the "view content" option from the TwitterPeek menu. The company claims its battery lasts three to four days with average usage.

Included in the price of TwitterPeek is a service plan."
For the modest sum of $199 you can have this device and a lifetime of mobile tweets it seems.
Or you can just tweet from your Blackberry, or iPhone or various mobile devices that do other stuff as well, right? Not sure that I see the need for this device, but if you are a serious, serious twitter fan you might...I guess.

So anyone going to get one for yourself or a special someone that is Twitter obsessed? Personally, I think I will pass it up. Especially since I am not the biggest Twitter user out there.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

a review of "Red Bones" by Ann Cleeves

Red Bones: A Thriller by Ann Cleeves
(Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312384340)

Red Bones is the third in Ann Cleeves's Shetland Quartet, following two I have reviewed before, White Nights and Raven Black, and a worthy followup it is indeed.

Raven Black was set in the snowy, cold winter of the Shetlands, White Nights in the long, bright, endless days of summer and this time we visit the islands in the spring, days of blossoming flowers, the birth of tiny lambs and death...always, as befits a good mystery, death.

Many of our cast of characters from the previous books are here again, especially the quiet, thoughtful Detective Jimmy Perez and his now girlfriend Fran Hunter. But one minor character from the previous books plays a more prominent role in this story, Perez's rather lackadaisical colleague, policeman Sandy Wilson. Sandy is home, visiting his family on the neighboring island of Whalsay, when there is what appear to be a terrible accident and an elderly woman, Sandy's own grandmother, is found dead. But as usual, Perez is not totally satisfied that everything is what it at first appears and when a second women dies, suspicions only multiply.

What appears to be a quiet, hardworking community reveals itself to actually be a place where feuds and bitterness and secrets go back generations and, in the present, are just below the surface, threatening to break out and injure those all around. Sandy, because of his unique connections to the island, is in a unique position to look into what is going on in Whalsay. Even given his less than stellar policing past, he is given this opportunity by Perez to help in the investigation and to prove himself. Sandy is anxious to do so, to excel in the eyes of his mentor, but soon realizes that to do so may be to expose some wrongdoing among his very closest friends and family. Sometimes the secrets just have to come to an end.

Red Bones, named for the find of some archaeologists working at a dig on the island, is another well written, entertaining mystery from the pen of Ms. Cleeves. I love the setting in the Shetlands, this time the even more remote Whalsay, with the croft houses, fishing ships, the fields dotted with spring lambs and the sea, the ever present sea. The plot is smart and interesting and once more Cleeves excels at giving us some great characters including, this time, Sandy. It is great to see him start to realize some of his shortcomings, both personal and professional and attempt to improve on them both and it is amusing to see Perez's pride as he starts to see Sandy become a better detective, even if it will have a personal cost.

Another winner from Cleeves and I must say, I anxiously await the fourth and final book in the series. According to her web site, the book, due out in February of next year, will be called Blue Lightning, after a phrase from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:

"For my part I have walk'd about the streets,
Submitting me unto the perilous night,
And, thus unbraced, Casca, as you see,
Have bared my bosom to the thunder-stone;
And when the cross blue lightning seem'd to open
The breast of heaven, I did present myself
Even in the aim and very flash of it."

It is certainly on my wish list! It seems there will even be a lighthouse!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Mt. McKinley, Denali National Park, Alaska

...for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What's The "Buzz" About Library Thing?

It's Tuesday, my favorite day of the week because Tuesday is Bandit Day...oh, and yes, of course it is Tuesday Thinger Day too. So let's check out what little know Library Thing fact Wendi at Wendi's Book Corner has found for us this week.

Questions: Were you aware that Library Thing had a Buzz page? Were you surprised by anything you saw or read on the Buzz page?

So what is the Buzz?? Again, to quote Wendi...
"This week we are looking at Buzz! That's right! Library Thing has a page to share what people are saying about Library Thing. The best part? They have areas for quotes from sites (including Wendi's Book Corner and a few others I'll bet you'll recognize), What Librarians are Saying, Prizes and Awards, Should It Be Illegal?, quotes from mainstream media, and even Tweets! So, take a peek and see what people are saying. :)"
No, I had no idea they had this Buzz other people, sites, have Buzz pages too? Is this some sort of common thing here on the World Wide Web that I am unaware of. I must admit there are many thing I am unaware of, so I would not be surprised.

Now let me just say something about Library Thing. You, my dear readers, know how much I LOVE Library Thing. I am a fan. I admit it. But....I will say that finding your way around the site is sometimes not the easiest thing. I followed Wendi's link and there was the Buzz page. But then I went on the site directly and could not, for the life of me, find it. I imagine there may be many pages on LT that I am unaware of because I don't know where the heck they are!

We will see if that quote makes it to the Buzz

I particularly like the "Well, *I* like the name..." and the "Should it be Illegal?" sections. A quote that really spoke to me is
"Introducing me to something like this is like setting an alcoholic adrift on a sea of vodka, in a leaky boat." ibts
So true 'ibts', so true.
It is a very big page, with many, many quotes. Some a bit odd, some in strange foreign languages. Some from names I recognized, many from ones that I do not. Which says a few things.
There are a lot of people out there in CyberLand. A lot.
Everything you say in Cyberland floats out there, forever and ever.
You never know who is reading what you say in CyberLand. So be careful. ;-)

So I looked and looked for a quote from caite on the Buzz page. If there is no quote, caite, the biggest fan that there is of LT after all, is going to pack up her LT toys and never mention it's name here again. Finally, I used the little "find" thingie and yes, there is a caite quote on the Buzz page. Not two like, just one... ;-)
"So I am happy to see I can use Library Thing once again for my one stop book needs."
Yep...truer words were never said!
Well, except that Bandit is my very favorite puppy in the whole world, so let's get our weekly Bandit fix! Bandit! Where are your pants!? There are Bandit bits all out in the open!

edited, because this is a family friendly site! lol

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Vant To Be Alone...But Not For Musing Monday

Let's start our week by checking out what the Musing Monday question is this week from
Just One More Page...

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about social reading…

How much of your reading do you share with others (outside of blogging?) Do you belong to a book or library club? Do you trade books with friends? Do you tell others what you’re reading?

Outside of blogging? Well, not much. Which sort of explains the blogging, as I think it does for a number of book bloggers. I know I have the article saved somewhere, but the figures about the number of Americans who take part in recreational reading are sad. So, really, unless you are lucky, most of the people you know will not share your obsession interest. I don't really think most of the people I know have any interest in what I am reading. Actually, many people, in my experience find reading...not to mention blogging about reading...rather odd.

I have one co-worker who is a big reader and we do exchange some books, but our tastes are rather different. Now, I do have family members that read and to a degree we trade books. My aunt is a big reader and I give her niece, Bandit's mom, is a reader but is far away in the Sunshine State. But when she is home we have exchanged some books and I recently sent her the new Spark book that I had read, since she is a fan.

Then there is my sister-in-law. She is a huge reader. Once upon a time, we exchanged many books. But..then she bought a Kindle. Yes, she went to the Dark Side. And as I may have mentioned, one of my BIG issues with e-readers is the inability to loan out your books in some way. I had a brief hope that was going to change with the B&N nook...but it seems that is not really true. One loan for 14 days of each book...forever. Just Silly.

A book club sounds like a lovely idea. I am not sure it would be in reality, but in my imagination, it seems nice. I picture civilized discussions over tea and scones. Or beer and onion dip. Hot chocolate and cookies. There would have to be snacks I think.
But I have never sought one out. I am not really sure where one would find a book club in the area...a note on the bulletin board at the library? Does my library have some sort of club? I don't really know. And I guess I don't really seek it out because, blogging aside, I have always thought of reading as a rather solitary occupation.
Just me and my mind and my imaginary friends, the characters created by my heroes, authors. At heart, I am a solitary soul...just me, a big pile of books and my imaginary kitty Kitty. Who does not read.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Weekend Cooking...Time to Start Getting Ready For Christmas.

In honor of the first "Weekend Cooking", a new feature created by Beth Fish Reads, let me mention my current food project. "Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."

November is upon us, and as befits my heritage, and my sweet tooth, it is time to make the Christmas Cake! Yes, there are still a couple of months until the Big Day, but the cake must mature. Wrapped up, put in an airtight container, and every once in a while, basted with a wee dram of fine Irish whiskey. Just to keep it moist, of course. It is a fruitcake, made with the best quality dried fruits, and then 'iced' before serving with a layer of marzipan, that is almond paste and sugar, and then finally, the pretty royal icing. And often decorated with a nice ribbon, like the one I made a couple of years ago, in the photo above. BTW, that ribbon is marzipan. I mention it just because it is the best one I ever made I think.

Now, for a more humorous take on the Christmas cake, a song...


As I sat in my window last evening,
The letterman brought it to me
A little gilt-edged invitation sayin'
"Gilhooley come over to tea"
I knew that the Fogarties sent it.
So I went just for old friendships sake.
The first think they gave me to tackle
Was a slice of Miss Fogarty's cake.

chorus: There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
That could kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty's Christmas cake.

Miss Mulligan wanted to try it,
But really it wasn't no use
For we worked in it over an hour
And we couldn't get none of it loose
Till Murphy came in with a hatchet
And Kelly came in with a saw
That cake was enough be the powers above
For to paralyze any man's jaws

Miss Fogarty proud as a peacock,
Kept smiling and blinking away
Till she flipped over Flanagans brogans
And she spilt the homebrew in her tay
Aye Gilhooley she says you're not eatin,
Try a little bit more for me sake
And no Miss Fogarty says I,
For I've had quite enough of your cake.

Maloney was took with the colic,
O'Donald's a pain in his head
Mc'Naughton lay down on the sofa,
And he swore that he wished he was dead
Miss Bailey went into hysterics
And there she did wriggle and shake
And everyone swore they were poisoned
Just from eating Miss Fogarty's cake!

...and if you must just hear the tune, and you must, here is a lovely YouTube version!