31 October 2005

Reads & Listens, October 2005

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterspoon
I was doing fine until Silver left the lighthouse and then the story became too confusing/too stream of consciousness for my taste. Up to that point, I was in love with this book. The use of language and imagery was quite astonishing and I couldn't stop reading

Friday by Robert Heinlein
I've avoided Heinlein since I tried (unsuccessfully) to read Stranger in a Strange Land way back in high school. I picked up Friday, because it was mentioned in an essay in the New York Times Review of Books ("Heinlein's Female Troubles" 10/2/05) as one of those books that make feminists call Heinlein bad names. Having read it, I can sort-of see why. I don't think Friday's reaction to the rape was that problematic considering who and what Friday was supposed to be (but my reading didn't suggest she enjoyed it). Nor did I think there was all that much sex going on (lots of innuendo, but not a enough of the jiggity-jiggity). And it was nice that Friday was not white (tho' you wouldn't know from the cover art) or particularly hetero. But, the characters were pretty thinly written and the plot just meandered from point to point without any real direction and, yes, her marrying one of her rapists (long after the rape) did strike me as ... prettyfuckinginsane unlikely, at best. But the playing house with her girlfriend bit? That charmed the pants of me. Guess I'm just an old fashioned girl. Or just plain batshit.

Divided Crown by Isabel Glass
This is the sequel to Daughter of Exile (which I have not read), but it stands pretty well on its own, anyway, so do read it even if you can't find Daughter of Exile (or can't be bothered with chronology). Anyway: A spoilt and weak-willed teenager inherits the crown of Karededin. He is manipulated by unscrupulous parties, makes some really bad decisions, and causes many people to die. Happily, the witch Angarred and her husband, Mathewar, Master of the College of Magicians, are around to thwart him.

Thud! by Terry Pratchett
With the anniversary of Koom Valley coming up the dwarfs and the trolls are getting edgy. Then one of the dwarf extremists ends up dead and it looks like a troll did it. Only Sam Vimes and his trusty Watch can uncover the truth and save the day! Also included excerpts from Where's My Cow? (coming soon to a library near you) -- "It goes HRUUUGH! It is a hippopotamus! That is not my cow!"

Knitting by Ann Bartlett
Contains some truly lovely images, but the story itself is rather blah and knitting still seems like a lot of window dressing despite the author's attempts to the contrary.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Oh, lovely. Just a lovely little book. I adored The Goose Girl and have been waiting for this, Hale's third novel, with rather desperate anticipation. I was not disappointed in the least. (I did suss out who would marry the prince long before the end, but that didn't ruin a thing).

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Dad's a god. He "died." You didn't like him much, but now you feel a little bad about it. You discover you have a brother you don't remember. He screws your girl and messes up your life. You make a foolish agreement with some crazy bird woman so she will torment him for you. Merriment ensues. The End.

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
The first Aurora "Roe" Teagarden mystery. I've enjoyed Harris's Southern Vampire series quite a lot and this came highly recommended by another librarian. It was okay. I tired quickly of the whole "librarian = unattractive" schtick (even if it was all in Roe's head), but did enjoy her juggling of two men.

Truth-Teller's Tale by Sharon Shinn
A companion to The Safe-Keeper's Secret. "Mirror twins" Eleda and Adele discover that they are a Truth-Teller and a Safe-Keeper. While their talents show quite early in life, they have few problems dealing with the repercussions until they are seventeen and their lives change irrevocably. Ultimately, an amusing little book with a satisfying ending.

Testing Miss Toogood by Stella Cameron
Fleur, the daughter of a parson, needs to make a good match to improve her family's lot and guarantee her sisters marrying well (there are five of them so we can probably expect five more books). At his mother's request, Lord Dominic Elliot agrees to squire this country mouse around and, of course, they fall in love. Of course, true love's road never runs smooth in the romance novels and the couple travails and unnecessary plot meanderings to overcome before their happily ever after Oh, and there's some "excited virgin" sex and some (thanks to two evil throw-away characters) rather alarming s&m style sex. (After the dreaded aunts were mentioned, I remembered having read Cameron's A Useful Affair and not being impressed with it, either).

Beyond the Deepwoods (The Edge Chronicles, Book One) written by Paul Stewart & illus. by Chris Riddell
First book in the series. Thirteen-year-old Twig is informed he is not a wood troll at all and that the sky pirates have taken an unhealthy interest in him. Sent to safety, he instead wanders off the known path and so begins a series of (mostly unpleasant) adventures in the Deepwoods. Visually stunning book -- Riddell's illustrations are just perfect and the binding makes the book quite lovely to hold. The story is pretty good, too, despite some tendencies to annoy.

Circle of the Moon by Barbara Hambly
Sequel to Sisters of the Raven (a novel I enjoyed very much), but you don't have to have read the first to "get" the second. The Raven Sisters are busy trying to master their powers while political shenanigans and scary shit out of legends threaten to destroy everything. Gender issues, magic, ethical use of power, politics ... it's pretty thoughty stuff.

Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Companion to The Goose Girl, this is the story of Enna and fire. While the story is a little slow to start and the ending is a little too pat, this is still a pretty good book.

Food for Thought: The Complete Book of Concepts for Growing Minds by Saxton Freymann & Joost Elffers
Because a world without eggplant penguins isn't worth living in.

29 October 2005

Whale of a Good Time @ The Mohegan Sun

The Husband has been driving me hither and yon so that I might collect more Whale Trail photos before it was too late. The whales are only on display through the end of October and I am nowhere near collecting all fifty of them. Granted, a whole bunch are out of state, but even some of the local ones are missing from my collection.

I have, I think, twenty-seven whales photographed. I've seen a couple more than that, but they proved impossible to photograph well -- which just annoys me. There seems to be no requirements as to how whales are displayed. Some sites do a really nice jobs, putting their whales smack out in the sunshine with some nice landscaping around them. However, too many sites just seem to stuff their whales in any odd corner and tracking down the whales takes more effort than it ought to.

One of my favorite whales is "Gunche" over at the Mohegan Sun. On Friday, The Husband drove me up there on Friday so that I might photograph it and that we might also get some Krispy Kremes. The whale was the excuse, I think, but the donuts were the true motivator. We didn't know where the whale was, so had to ask many staff persons where to find it and none of them really had any idea what we were talking about. One blue jacket said they didn't have a whale. Someone else tried to direct us to some whale themed gambling game. Happily, we finally found another blue jacket who knew what we were talking about and we managed to get some decent pictures of der walfisch.

Since we were there at supper time, we did stay to eat at the buffet. Haven't eaten there in a while, but the food was as I remembered. Mostly standard buffet line stuff -- lowest common denominator cuisine -- but the salad bar had a couple interesting things. There were two seasonal salads, in particular, which impressed me. The first was made of whole roasted baby beets, toasted pecans, and dried cranberries tossed in a nice marinade and the second was made of sweet potatoes, golden raisins, and dried cranberries tossed in a light herb-y dressing. Both equally nummy.

Then we went and bought some Krispy Kremes! Yay!

21 October 2005

Butternut Squash & Apples All Lovely in My Tummy

Did not make pie. Could not make pie without pie crust. Well, not a real pie. Could have made some kind of Bisquick "Impossible" pie, but that's not "pie" pie. Could have made my own crust, yes, but didn't have time what with the mowing of the lawn, the raking of the nuts, and the frantic cleaning of the house after The Husband invited The Parents over for supper. We did not actually cook for them -- took them to the rib place -- but the house had to attain a certain level of cleanliness pretty damned quick, because The Parents were going to want to visit after eating and my mother was bound to make some gentle comment about how busy I must be and how dusty my drapes are ...


I did make a nice apple and butternut squash bake that was all yummy-yummy. The recipe was off the back of a wrapper and, of course, I threw said wrapper away in my mad dash to tidy the house. However, it was a pretty basic recipe and I'm pretty sure it went something like:
Peel, core, and slice a couple apples (mine are small so I used three) and toss with a pound of bite-size squash chunks in a greased 13x9 baker. Mash ¼ cup butter (I brought mine up to room temp, because warmer seemed easier to mash than colder), ¼-ish tsp. of nutmeg and cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, and ½ cup brown sugar (I used ¼ cup of white). Sprinkle mix over top of squash/apple combo and cover. Bake at 350° for 50-ish minutes.
While lovely in my tummy, this dish came out less chunky then I had anticipated. As I stirred it round the casserole after cooking, the apples almost completely dissolved and most of the squash looked on a more "mashed squash" consistency. Next time, I might leave the squash in bigger pieces and chunk, rather than slice, the apple.

Still, the squish bake was really excellent with baked chicken breast and also very fine on its own for lunch the next day.

Anyway, I have pie crust now. Pie crust that now comes with its own spice sachet, creepily enough. Because there are people in the world who don't keep cinnamon and nutmeg in their pantries? Barbarians! You do not deserve pie!

(And, I'm pretty sure, the pie crust fanatics feel the same way about me).

14 October 2005

I Like Pie

It's supposed to stop raining this weekend and it had better or, by god, I'm going to have to give someone a talking to.

It would help if the cats, understanding that I know the weather is shit and that I know they don't want to go outside, would stop both surreptitiously (Hawaii) and flagrantly (Hedwig) throwing up. Why now? Is it some kind of rain born panic driving them to barf up chunks of dried kittie kibble? Or is it some kind of contest of will? Something like: "Oh, you think you have their attention what with surreptitiously barfing on the stove? Hah! I'll vomit across the living room while they try to throw me out the door, you fucker!"

Made pie. Pie is good. We like pie. Almost as much as the moon (but not as much as a spoon). Used the recipe on the side of the pie crust box (Pillsbury's "Perfect Apple Pie") and it came out pretty damned perfect. Sweet, but not cloying. Moist, but not oozing. Yum.

13 October 2005

But Can She Bake a Cake?

I am not much of a baker of cakes. I am all about the eating of the cakes, yes, but I am not at all about the baking thereof. Oh, I can follow back-of-the-box instructions with the best of them and have even been known to take liberties with said recipes to good effect. But stand me at the kitchen counter with a "from scratch" recipe and I will fail. The cake will be too heavy. Weirdly chewy. Raw yet crispified.

Certainly, the apple bundt I made earlier this week was all those things -- despite following the recipe to the letter. Ought it not have been the most perfect cake ever rather than the sorry piece of ass it so resembled?

The problem is I bought a tote of apples at the farm stand and need to use them. I was planning on sharing apple bundts with work and my parents, but am too pissed off to try the recipe again lest the results be even less wonderful. Yet I still have many pounds of apples. While I have used three in the slow cooker sauerkraut and pork "stew" earlier in the week and will use another three with tonight's roasted butternut squash ... so many apples! But it would have been impossible not to buy them! Glowing ruby and garnet in their rustle-y brown sack, taunting me with their unblemished skins, and intoxicating me with their heady scent! So delicious! So desirable!

Farm stands. Never a safe place for me.

Fine. I will bake a pie. I do pretty good with the pies. Some people ever speak of my strawberry-rhubarb pie with longing. I just wish I knew why I can't do cakes from scratch. I mean, I can make pie crust from scratch quite well (just usually can't be bothered when doctored ready-made can taste as good) so why can't I make a cake from scratch?

And all this because I didn't take Home Ec. as an elective in high school. No, too busy doing the college track thing to learn how to budget household finances or bake a cake. Explains a heck of a lot, really.