30 November 2007

I Do Love Me Some Pie

Since I wasn't hosting Thanksgiving this year, I brought the pies. I made three pies -- two with Splenda and one with white sugar. Originally, I wasn't going to bring pies. I was going to bring Betty Crocker's Praline-Pumpkin Cake, but then I was told I would bring pie. Pie is a traditional Thanksgiving food, you see, and Traditions Must Be Observed.


Not as that bringing pie is any hardship, you know. I do love me some pie ...

"Mixed Berry Pie"
From the Crisco website. Made this pie using two 1-lb bags of thawed frozen mixed berries (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries) and a box of refrigerated pie crust. Brushed the top crust with a little beaten egg prior to baking to give the crust a little shine (I really need to work on my crimping technique, though).

My husband is a great fan of mixed berry pies and he thinks this one is a repeater. Actually, everyone seemed to really like it and there wasn't much to bring home. The pie was very fragrant and flavorful, but not too sweet and we could still taste the individual berries.

Crisco Mixed Berry Pie

"Chocolate Cream Pie"
Recipe from the Splenda website. Except for the substitution of 1% milk for 2%, I followed the recipe exactly. All the diabetics and chocolate-loving non-diabetics raved about it and took seconds and, as with the berry pie, there wasn't much to bring home.

I used my Pampered Chef easy Accent Decorator Gun to make the Cool Whip peaks and it worked really well considering I use it four times a year on average (usually for deviled eggs).

Splenda Chocolate Cream Pie

"The Great Pumpkin Pumpkin Pie"
Also from the Splenda website. I followed the recipe exactly when I made this pie and it was surprisingly good. The filling was very spicy and firm, but not dry, and with an excellent mouth feel. A really nice breakfast pie, I kid you not. Yes, there is a little brown sugar in this pie so it is not technically sugar-free, but close enough for government work.

25 November 2007

I ♥ Madeleine Brent

Someone posted up to Fiction-L looking for a novel about a British orphan girl in China around the time of the Boxer Rebellion ...
Patron recalls a memorable line about heroine being asked if she like cats, and saying that she finds 'they don't yeild [sic] as much meat as rabbits.'

She thinks the same author also wrote another Victorian romance about a circus (the memorable line she recalled from this was the girl worried about becoming 'fat, white and spotty.'
Now, I quite liked the line about cats (who wouldn't?) and the very idea of a Victorian circus romance tickled me so I set out to find a copy of Moonraker’s Bride as soon as possible. Much to my pleasure, I discovered nine copies in my system. Put in my interlibrary loan request and less than a week later Moonraker’s Bride was mine ...

What a wonderful book full of daring-do, romance, and humor! Some parts Bronte, some parts Dickens, and all parts fantastic. I devoured it and went looking for more information about my new crush, Madeline Brent. Searching Gale’s Biography Resource Center, I found several profiles for Madeleine Brent and was amused to discover that “she” was actually a “he” -- Peter O’Donnell. While most of the profiles focused on O’Donnell’s work as the creator of Modesty Blaise, the profile in Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers provided a quite fantastic analysis of Brent’s works. I was particularly taken with the description of Brent’s heroines which seems totally spot-on when I think of Lucy Warring -- an intelligent, compassionate, and gutsy woman completely unaware that there's anything unusual about her:
Brent's heroines, though modest and self-effacing, are role-models of feminine virtues: daring, determined, resourceful, and spirited but also patient, persistent, and enduring. They have left behind (or never had) the trappings of ‘proper' upbringing, see the world with alien eyes, and in fact learn to look with humour on Victorian hypocrisies and proprieties, particularly pretences that ladies are not sexual creatures with hearts and minds. They are honest and warm-hearted, trading innocence and naiveté for the experienced wisdom of heartbreak. They patiently endure social restraints, but yield to their instinct for right: befriending servants and social outcasts, saving children from hunger, cold, abuse and war. They speak honestly without forethought, but glare like alley cats when angered.

Because of their blunt honesty, grim realism and alien experiences, people dismiss them as liars, but the advice of older males proves invaluable. With time, their virtues are rewarded, their place in society confirmed. Jani, for instance, the heroine of Merlin's Keep, though raised as a half-caste orphan in Tibet, turns out to be a deposed Indian princess, whose parents were murdered for their fabled jewels, and other Brent heroines prove heiresses as well.
While Wikipedia was no real use (Madeleine Brent as footnote), I did find a rather nice webpage titled "Who Was Madeline Brent?" which helps to explain why Peter O’Donnell started writing under a pseudonym. I am amused that O’Donnell was not initially enthusiastic about writing Gothic novels, because he did such a fine job with Moonraker’s Bride (his 2nd gothic) and I hear nothing but praise for his first Gothic, Tregaron’s Daughter.

I’m really looking forward to reading more Brent. I think my selection will be Stormswift in which “Jemimah Lawley, the wealthy heiress of an English estate, sees her parents slaughtered by Afghan soldiers; sold to Hindu traders, then to a mad Kafiristan ruler, she becomes slave to a captured Italian doctor.” What fun!


"Madeleine Brent." Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers, 3rd ed. St. James Press, 1994. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC

17 November 2007


You know what's fun? Waking up an hour before the alarm is due to go off and just sort-of fidgeting about for half an hour before you give up and stagger to the bathroom and while dozing on the toilet you realize the smell is not coming from you but rather from the enormous runny shit some cat took on the shag bathmat so you scrape off as much of it as you can and toss the mat in the wash and then toss every cat you can find outside into the deep dark cold because they are horrible horrible creatures and by then you are wide awake and feeling faintly sick but that is okay because you need to be up in about five minutes anyway and then you remember that today is your day off and you have no need to be awake but you are utterly and completely awake so you write out a week's worth of menus plus grocery list and plan out which pies your are bringing to Thanksgiving plus grocery list and then you realize you can still smell the smell you smelt in the bathroom and you look and you do not find any more but you know it must be there and ...

Come to think of it, none of that was any fun. Well, menu planning was all right as it allowed me to browse the branch's copy of Pillsbury's Good for You! Fast & Healthy Family Favorites (Wiley: 2006) and tick off things on my freezer's content sheet.

Yes, I made a list of all the things in the downstairs freezer. I have a habit of forgetting what's down there and then discovering I own five pounds of frozen peas and a whole lot of mysterious (unlabeled) soup containers. Too many peas aren't a problem as I am quite liberal when I add frozen vegetables into casseroles, soups, and stews and they will get used up -- as long as I continue to remember they exist. The mystery soups are a bit more problematic (I swear I've been labeling all the soups), because I might thaw it expecting Cabbage & Vegetable only to discover it is Mexican Beef & Vegetable. Not a terrible problem, but a trifle irritating.

Another reason for knowing the contents of the freezer, is that I'd like to empty it out. Not particularly soon, really, but it would be good to work toward empty. We are (probably) putting our house up for sale in the spring and we're moving too far away to schlep a freezer full of frozen stuff. Anyway, the basement freezer came with the house and we may just leave it. It works fine, but I don't really want to deal with moving it.

Yes, I know. Fixating on the freezer isn't a useful thing to do. Yet, this is how I cope with change. I break down whatever change is coming into tiny steps (like emptying out the freezer) and, by the time I've done a bunch of tiny steps, I have gotten on board with whatever it is that has happened/is happening and I can look at The Big Picture without flinching (too much).

11 November 2007

Another Birthday

I took Monday of last weekend so I could have a three day birthday celebration, but really it works out to almost two weeks of celebration. I thought, when one became a fully fledged adult, one's birthday celebrations became briefer and more paltry affairs. And yet, for me, birthdays seem better now that I am an adult. Less intense, maybe, but better. Rather than one big day with cake and ice cream and presents and too many people it becomes nearly two weeks of cards and mysterious parcels and restaurants and shopping and just a few special people.

The week before my birthday, The Best Friend sent me a parcel from the wilds of N'Hampsha which freely admit to tearing open immediately upon returning home from work. The Husband suggests I have no self control. I say, there was no note saying I shouldn't open it. The box was full, as always, with all sorts of yummy goodness and practical objects like delicious lavender flax bars and environmentally friendly cleaning stuff. The Husband, exasperated by my lack of restraint (he would have waited for the proper day if it had been his birthday parcel?), also gave me a present ...

Five Mo's Bacon Bar by Vosges Haut Chocolat!

Ever since I read about these a few months ago, I have been dying to try them. They are so delicious. The chocolate is smooth and deep. As it melts on my tongue, it releases a slight smoky flavor and then the salt crystals embedded in the chocolate begin to dissolve and, oh my, chocolate and salt is an amazing combination. Finally, when I chew, there is the bacon -- more texture than taste, but still unmistakably crisped cooked bacon. Not Bacos bacon bits, mind you. This is very much real Sunday Breakfast crumbled bacon ...

*Sigh* It is impossible to accurately describe the sheer pleasure this chocolate gives me. You must try it for yourself.

You know what a really great evening is? Guitar Hero III on the Wii, bacon chocolate in your mouth, and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon at your elbow. I kid you not, an evening like that is a small kind piece of heaven. A heaven I can look forward to most nights as GH3 was one of my other birthday presents (w00t). Not surprisingly, I am pretty terrible at it, but may someday be ... less terrible. And there is always bacon chocolate to console me.

Anyway, enough about the mouth-watering chocolate! The Husband also gave me on really snazzy jewelry box which makes my jewelry collection suddenly look a whole lot smaller (yet more expensive). My parents had bought me a jewelry box at Ames over fifteen years ago and I'd been making do with it, because it's just one of those things I use everyday, but don't really see. Suddenly, I have velvet lined drawers and separators and pockets and crap and I wonder how I got along without them.

Of course, there was lots of birthday food. We went out for dinner with my parent's to Modesto's. The food was good, but not as exceptional as I had remembered (we had eaten there once before). The Mexican I ate with The Husband certainly was, however, quite good.

We tried SolToro, the new Mexican eatery (apparently owned by Michael Jordan) at the Mohegan Sun. The guacamole put The Husband over the moon -- the guacamole was made from scratch at our table and the taste was really quite amazing. Clean and bright with none of the murkiness I associate with guacamole. And the duck carnitas ... they gave the bacon chocolate bars a run for their money as Most Delicious Thing I Have Ever Eaten.

So,a perfect night would be: guacamole with house made corn chips, duck carnitas, bacon chocolate, and Guitar Hero III. Must start planning.