30 July 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Daisy Fleabane

Daisy fleabane of the aster family. Too pretty to weed out of the raspberry bed.

29 July 2014

Something From The Cupboards: Crunchy Salmon Cakes

I did a bunch of shopping over the weekend, but all of it was for work, so there wasn't much left in the fridge by the time Sunday night came around. Happily, there was salmon and panko in the cupboards and I threw together a quick batch of crunchy salmon cakes and a rather tasty lemon-dill sauce.


To make the patties, I combined two six-ounce cans Wild Alaska pink salmon, well drained and flaked, with two eggs, two pressed cloves of garlic, black pepper, salt, dill, parsley, and a scant half cup crushed garlic-and-herb croutons. I molded the salmon mixture into palm-sized patties and then coated them with panko before cooking them in hot olive oil for about 5 minutes per side.

The sauce was a simple combination of a half cup of Hellmann's light mayonnaise, lemon juice, pressed garlic, dill, and black pepper. The sauce was decidedly garlicky and I worried The Husband would find it a bit too zesty for his delicate palate, but he really liked it!

Top 10 Tuesday: Authors I Own The Most


We're counting our books and listing our most-owned authors for this week's Top Ten Tuesday. Because I am lazy, I only included authors of fiction and nonfiction books. The graphic fiction lives in a different part of the house and I simply couldn't be arsed to count twice. Were it not for my laziness, I'm sure the list would look quite different -- although Terry Pratchett would remain firmly at the head of the list!

  1. Terry Pratchett (47)
  2. Thomas Hardy (15)
  3. Ursula K. Le Guin (15)
  4. Patricia McKillip (13)
  5. Sheri S. Tepper (13)
  6. L.M. Montgomery (12)
  7. Charles Dickens (12)
  8. Chrisopher Moore (11)
  9. Bill Bryson (9)
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien (8)

So, I think it's pretty clear I enjoy fantasy.

Also, how did I not know about Gollancz's The Discworld Collector’s Library? All those beautiful new hardback editions! *Swoons*


As much as I love the Discworld books, I've always regretted the lack of cohesion to my collection -- a mishmash of random Josh Kirby-illustrated UK mass market paperbacks and Paul Kidby, etc US trades/hardcovers. I like my series to be very matchy-matchy, you know.

27 July 2014

I Wield The Barbecue Tongs

It seems like grilling is generally seen as a very masculine thing, but The Husband didn't grow up with grilling as any kind of male cultural or culinary marker and, after years of inflicting the grill upon my love, I've begun grilling everything myself. Really, what was I thinking all those years thrusting a completely shite gender norm upon him? Stick him in front of the grill with a plate of raw marinated chicken and he'll just magically know what to do because of two X chromosomes and long-term exposure to American sitcoms?

Nope, nope.
But, you know, I've found I really enjoy grilling. Indeed, it is completely awesome! Preheat the grill, give the hot grates a quick scrub with the wire brushy, rub the clean(er) grates with a bit of canola oil, slap the meat on, set the timer, go away and make salad, come back, flip the meat, set the timer again, go away and work on the salad some more, come back, etc until all raw ingredients have become food. There's just something incredibly satisfying about it all.

26 July 2014

Oscar Wilde & A Death of No Importance


Oscar Wilde & A Death of No Importance is the first book in The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries series by Gyles Brandreth and was my library's July book discussion selection. I've always been tremendously fond of Oscar Wilde and a novel in which he stars as an amateur detective sounded like just my cup of tea.

It was ... okay. The period detail is well done with a good feel for London at the end of the Victorian Age. The scandalous hints of sexual impropriety are treated delicately and appropriately for the time (even if it is a bit frustrating for the modern day reader). Meeting fictional versions of Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Sherard was vastly entertaining. Wilde, a little less so. I enjoyed him very much as a character when he was being Oscar Wilde the Poet, Playwright, and Epigrammatist. But Oscar Wilde as Sherlock Holmes was a disappointment.

When Oscar is acting as Holmes, we are treated to stereotypical scenes of Holmesian brilliance. You know, the scene where we encounter a new character and Holmes immediately starts saying brilliant things he should have no way of knowing about the person? Often it has little to do with the overarching story and everything to do with showing of Holmes' scintillating deductive skills. There's nothing wrong with a scene like that, if it is carefully and sparingly used, but there's too much of it in Oscar Wilde & A Death of No Importance and it often seems to come out of the blue. Switch off Wilde. Switch on Holmes. Switch off Holmes. Switch on Wilde.

Also, as the clues Wilde-Holmes bases his deductions on in such scenes are frequently not made evident to the reader it makes it impossible for the reader make similar deductions. It forces reading to become a very passive experience -- with the reader just along for the ride -- and I am an active reader. My brain is constantly firing away, trying to figure out character motives and plot direction well ahead of whatever and/or whenever the narrator may chose to tell me. Riding along on Sherlock Holmes' or Oscar Wildes' coattails is just downright frustrating. It makes me say nasty things like "Oh, no, here come's another Mr. Clever Dick moment."

And yet, for all the clever dick moments, neither the motive behind and nor the means of murder were particularly clever or believable. There was also a definite squick factor to the murder's aftermath that jarred with the delicate way Wilde and friends' sexual improprieties were handled.

Will I read more in this series? No. Am I full of regret for having read it? No. Three out of five vermillion-coloured ties.

Oscar Wilde & A Death of No Importance by Gyles Brandreth (Simon & Schuster, 2007)

25 July 2014

Saying Thanks With Pie


My father did some work for us recently and I promised him payment in cash and pie. While he ultimately refused the cash, he was happy to receive a pie. Because this pie was meant for Dad and only Dad, I knew I wanted to make a banana cream pie as he loves bananas, but my mom is allergic and unable to bake him one. There are, frankly, too many recipes for banana cream pie loose in the world but I finally settled on Taste of Home's recipe for "Blueberry Banana Cream Pie." For me, blueberries and banana go well together as the tart brightness of the berries balances the sweet creaminess of the banana. Also, my dad loves blueberries!

The pie was quite easy to make, but I had to go and complicate it by opting to use a "real" pie crust (a Marie Callender frozen deep-dish crust) rather than the vanilla wafers called for as I thought wafers would make it too much like a deep-dish pudding and less like the pie I wanted it to be. Also, I chose to ignore the filling amounts called for in the recipe and use the amounts recommended by the commenters ... creating much more filling than would fit in my deep-dish crust!

Happily, Dad loved the pie and I will have to make it again. Next time, I will use a single 8-oz package of cream cheese instead of the 2 8-oz commenters recommended or the 2 6-oz called for in the recipe to see if that creates a slightly more stable filling (mine was mostly-firm-but-slightly-goopy) and maybe add a little lime zest. Or I might just try Taste of Home's "Creamy Banana-Berry Pie" with crushed pecans rolled into the crust!

23 July 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Raspberries

"In July, the pink raspberries, all in brambles in the woods and growing up our front porch,
turned black and tart." -- Jane Hamilton, A Map of the World

More Beanz!

My bush green beans are quite ... prolific ... this year and I'm having a little trouble keeping up! Usually, by the middle of July, the plants have fallen prey to some hungry critter or been crispified by drought and bean production is over. This summer ... well, I'm pretty sure my cats have zeroed out my neighborhood's rabbit population and, thanks to cooler than normal temps and some decent rain, my bean and chard bed is a dense jungle! I'm not bothered that the chard is getting monstrous (it will be good whenever I harvest it) but leave beans too long and they go all woody and "untasty."

Over the weekend, I made a bean and tuna salad using one of Plated's recipes but subbed with my own green beans instead of their haricot vert as those were brownish and unappetizing looking. Anyway, the salad was dead easy to throw together -- just blanched beans, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, parsley, dill, shallot, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, dijon, sea salt, and black pepper -- and I'll definitely make it again with more garden beans and cherry tomatoes (if, by happy coincidence the beans are still bearing when the tomatoes ripen).


The bean salad was meant to be served with oil-poached tuna, but I chose to poach my tuna in low-sodium fat-free chicken broth because the Plated recipe called for poaching the tuna in 1½ cup extra virgin olive oil and my parsimonious brain was like "Dude! That's $7 worth of oil! Duuuude! And you only keep two tablespoons! The rest gets thrown away?! WTF?" Anyway, the salad was fine served with broth-poached tuna as I ended up flaking the tuna and tossing everything together to make two meals for work.


I also made an easy minestrone with green beans, garden basil, canned tomatoes, and a farmers market zucchini I had kind-of forgotten about in the back of the crisper. It came out pretty well for something that was just "Well, I'll saute some onion and garlic and carrots and celery and then add some chopped green beans and broth and herbs and zucchini and tomatoes and salt and pepper and just keep fiddling until it tastes right."

22 July 2014

Top 10 Tuesday: Characters I Want With Me On A Deserted Island


This week, for Top Ten Tuesday, we're talking about the ten characters we would want with us on a deserted island. Most of my characters were selected based on their usefulness so they tend to be a bunch of hardy survivors who would (hopefully) find a deserted island No Big Deal. I have no idea whether they'd all get along with each other or if my island would quickly go all Lord of the Flies. Also, I seem to have presumed my deserted island will be no ordinary Deserted Island, but be more an Island of Mystery full of "monsters, mad scientists, castaways, ancient temples and other mysterious phenomena."
  1. Billie Wind from Jean Craighead George’s The Talking Earth. She survives (and thrives) alone in the Everglades.
  2. Ged from Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series. He can talk to dragons, has spent a lot of time alone at sea, and has survived an awful lot of unpleasantness. Also, you know, MAGIC.
  3. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Well, she kept surviving the Hunger Games!
  4. Princess Cimorene from Patricia Wrede’s Dealing With Dragons. Knows fencing, magic, cooking, Latin, and other useful things. Generally very capable and aware of her own worth.
  5. Rincewind from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. He has a knack for staying alive. Also, he is usually accompanied by the Luggage, an ambulatory bag of holding strong on defense and good at laundry.
  6. Sabriel from Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series. She fights monsters and saves the world. Also, handy to have around when dealing with the dead.
  7. Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings. He’s nice, is good at cooking and gardening, and has a way with spiders.
  8. The Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales. She knows how to take care of herself, has a vast repertoire of dirty jokes, and tells a good story.
  9. William, the father in Johann Wyss' Swiss Family Robinson. He knows everything about everything and helps his family carve a little civilization out of the wilderness.
That's only nine, so here's a mostly-relevant comic I found on Pinterest:

20 July 2014

Shackleton: Antarctic Journey


Shackleton: Antarctic Journey was an excellent, albeit slim, introduction to Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914-1917 trans-Antarctica expedition. Rather than telling the story step-by-step over hundreds of pages, Bertozzi has chosen to tell the story through a series of short scenes which stress not the patriotic majesty of the expedition but rather the smaller, more intimate personal stories -- forced to abandon ship, they discard their scientific equipment (too heavy to carry), but keep a banjo; one of the crew members goes bicycling among the penguins; they kvetch about rations, etc -- that create a sympathy for and interest in the crew, that a broader story might not.

What I still find fascinating was that, despite the hardships and travails, no-one from the Endurance was lost on the expedition! Yes, the expedition utterly failed to attain its goal of traversing Antarctica, but everyone came back alive. That is no small thing. And, it was quite depressing, upon reading the afterward, to then discover that several of the men returned home only to be killed in World War I. (Also, I now require a companion graphic for the relief ship, the Aurora, because Shackleton barely touches on them but the Afterward suggests they had a wretched time of it, too).

If you're looking for a meaty work full of biography and background, Shackleton isn't it. And that's fine, because there are already lots of Big Books on Shackleton to choose from. It's an excellent introduction and will, no doubt, lead many curious readers on to larger works. Certainly, if I'd read this when I was twelve, I would probably have cleaned my school library out of books on Shackleton and Antarctic explorations.

Shackleton: Antarctic Journey written & illus. by Nick Bertozzi (First Second, 2014)

Around Connecticut: Connecticut Food Truck Festival

The first Connecticut Food Truck Festival was held at the North Haven Fairgrounds this weekend and it was ... an experience. We ate some tasty things and really enjoyed the idea of the festival. Fifty-ish food trucks all in one place with the money raised meant to feed the hungry! How could we not love that?

Delicious Chicago-style "hot white" (full pork dog imported from Rochester, NY)
without relish at Zawack Shack. Hands down, the best thing we ate.

We arrived just before noon on Saturday (the gates opened at 11) and the parking area was already quite full. There was one ticket station open at the entrance and the line to reach it looped all the way back to the rear of the fairgrounds. There were rumors tickets might soon be available at a side gate, but who wanted to risk forming a line to nowhere? Anyway, standing in a long line for good grub is part of any food festival experience (presuming you are an "average person" and not, say, my physically disabled mother for whom this festival would have been impossible) and should not be a big deal ... except when that line overlaps with the line of traffic driving through the fairground to get to the parking area! From a public safety point of view, it was a terrible idea. Maybe, if there had been more staff directing cars and people, it would have seemed safer?

Also, just getting into the fairgrounds was an adventure. We came off the highway, so needed to take a left turn into the fairgrounds. Against traffic. With no stop light or police officer directing traffic, it was a dicey situation as the two lanes of oncoming traffic had no reason to ever slow or stop. Obviously, some of the cars in the oncoming lanes were also trying to get into the fairgrounds and it was all just a clusterfuck.

Wild boar burger from Aurora's Gypsy Cafe topped with house-made pesto (kale, spinach,
sage, cranberry, walnut, garlic, herbs), Havarti, roasted peppers and onions, lettuce and tomato.
Very lean, but well-seasoned, and juicy from all the toppings.

And that was before noon. It was much worse when we left -- no-one directing exiting traffic, cars parked on the shoulders of roads, traffic backed up everywhere -- and people were still trying to get in! Madness. On the highway, we could see traffic backed up well past the exit ramp and I felt really bad for the people stuck in those vehicles. Also a bit smug, because we were leaving and our bellies were full of good grub.

ANYWAY. We got through the line, we paid for our tickets ($5 per person! A steal!), we ate food, and it was good. Some of the lines were just insane, so there were trucks we simply never got to, and that made me a little sad as I'd had my heart set on a baked potato. But it also thrilled me a little, because I've always thought America needs a spudulike and, if people are willing to stand in line for forty-minutes in July for a baked potato, well, that only proves my point.

Pulled pork on a soft roll with cheezy mac at Big Country's BBQ. The pork was very tender and juicy
without being saucy, but it needed heat. The mac was just meh.
We added hot sauce but couldn't taste it. Very sad.

What did we eat? Well, less than you'd think. The agreement was to only order things we'd both eat so we could share and thereby, theoretically, eat a greater variety of food. Unfortunately, the drink tent was back by the entrance and running back and forth for bottles of water was just annoying -- one person stands in line while another person gets water certainly works, but wasn't how I'd planned on spending the day.

So we were thirsty quite a lot of the time -- even with peach lemonade from Aurora's Gypsy Cafe and mango lemonade from Amor Food Truck -- and that thirst made us less hungry. After a few hours, it was just "Fuck this, I need an ice pop and chair" (we'd completely misunderstood what "we have rented seating for 400 at a time" meant) and we ended up at Lyman Orchards. Saw some waterfowl, stocked up on fruit and cold drinks, then went home to nap and dream about all the food we hadn't tried.

So, would we go back in 2015? Yes, because the food was tasty and the idea is a good one. But I'd arrive for 10:30, bring our collapsible chairs, and smuggle in a bunch of water bottles.

Tasty donuts from Orangeside are a perfectly reasonable excuse to visit New Haven soon.

18 July 2014

Nightwood


She was gracious and yet fading, like an old statue in a garden, that symbolizes the weather through which it has endured and it not so much the work of man as the work of wind and rain and the herd of the seasons, and though formed in man's image is a figure of doom.

A preface by Jeanette Winterson! An introduction by T.S. Eliot! I approached Nightwood with high hopes ... and they were cruelly dashed against a wall of dull and impenetrable text. The novel begins with the birth of Felix, jumps ahead thirty-odd years, introduces us to circus people, introduces us to the "doctor," and then (finally! on page 38!) we meet Robin Vote. But do we? The obfuscated prose is so dominated by Felix and the "doctor" that I was unsure how to "read" Robin except as a nervy woman who should never have married or, heaven help them all, had a baby.

And then we meet Nora ... and I just gave up. Skipped ahead to the last two chapters, mumbled "what?" a lot to myself, and put the novel aside.

Basically, I'm just smart enough to know I'm not smart enough to appreciate Nightwood. I'm sure, for the right reader, it's phenomenal. However, it left me feeling as if I'd spent the evening battering my head against a wall.

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (New Directions, 2006)

17 July 2014

Improv Challenge: Popcorn & Peanuts

I had a lot of fun with this month's Improv Challenge ingredients. Neither popcorn nor nuts are something I eat much of anymore as they can cause terrible gastric distress. But I love how they smell and taste and the textures ... sigh. So I set out to make something I could eat that would still meet the Challenge's requirements.


Why not, I thought, literally make popcorn chicken? Served with some kind of spicy peanut butter-based sauce, like the kind you get with chicken satay? Not wanting to spend a lot of time at the grocery store, buying ingredients I might not use again, I stuck to what I already had on hand, using the ingredient lists for Annie Chung's Thai Peanut Sauce and House of Tsang's Bangkok Peanut Sauce as a guide for my sauce.
Popcorn Chicken With Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce
Serves 2 or 3 depending on appetite and sides.

Ingredients
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
3.3 oz bag microwavable plain salted popcorn, popped
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp cornstarch
½ tsp plus ½ tsp sriracha sauce [Huy Fong Foods]
3 Tbsp creamy peanut butter [Jif Natural]
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos [Coconut Secret]
2 Tbsp lime juice
Peanut oil, for frying [Whole Foods Roasted Peanut Oil]

Directions
Whisk together the peanut butter, coconut aminos, honey, lime juice and ½ tsp sriracha until well combined. Set aside until needed.

Put the popcorn in a food processor and pulverize until fine. Shake through a sieve to remove any unpopped kernels ("widows") or bits of hull. Dump sieved popcorn into a pie plate or bowl. It will be very fluffy.



Whisk the egg whites, cornstarch, and remaining ½ tsp sriracha together in a shallow bowl or pie plate.


Dip the chicken strips first into the cornstarch mixture and then into the popcorn, smooshing the popcorn bits quite firmly into the chicken to help them stick. Set chicken on a wire rack over a jelly roll pan and pop in the fridge for about 30 minutes. (I first read about "resting" the breaded uncooked chicken in an issue of Cuisine at Home and I find the breading does seem to stick better).


Heat enough peanut oil to just cover the surface of a large frying pan. Once hot, cook the chicken strips in batches for 3-4 min on each side or until beautifully golden and cooked through (use a splatter guard, if you have one, because this gets messy). Allow cooked pieces to drain on rack (not the rack that was covered it raw chicken!) as you cook the others.




Serve with spicy peanut butter sauce.
The chicken comes out very light and super crispy -- as if I'd used panko instead of popcorn -- and reminds me a bit of chicken katsu. While there isn't a lot of popcorn or peanut flavor to the chicken strips, it pairs very well with the yummy peanut sauce. Oh, the sauce! All sweet and savory at once, I want to dip so many other things in it. Like crunchy steamed broccoli or bell pepper strips ... or just a finger!


16 July 2014

Wordless Wednesdays: Pea Blossoms




Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight
With wings of gentle flusho'er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things
To bind them all about with tiny rings.

15 July 2014

Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite TV Shows Based On Books


This week, for Top Ten Tuesday, we're getting away from books to talk about our favorite movies or TV shows! I decided to go with my top ten favorite detective shows inspired by or based upon novels! I want to be clear that I've read very few of the novels these series are based upon and those that I have read bear little in common with the novels ... still entertaining, though.
  1. Agatha Christie's Marple (Joan Hickson will always be my Miss Marple)
  2. Agatha Christie's Poirot (David Suchet!)
  3. Campion (Can't watch this without going "Oh, look! It's Tristan from ACG&S!")
  4. Case Histories (Jason Isaacs maps very closely to the Jackson Brodie in my head)
  5. Dirk Gently (A worthy adaptation of my favorite Douglas Adam novels)
  6. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (Wahoo, Season 3 is go!)
  7. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Why is there not more of this fabulous series?)
  8. Rizzoli & Isles (When it's good, it's a lot of fun and when it's bad, it's still pretty okay)
  9. Vera (I want to be Vera when I grow up ... which is an awful idea, really)
  10. Wallander (I have a love/hate relationship with both the books and the TV series)
And a random cartoon about book-to-film adaptations:


It's why no adaptation of Jane Eyre will ever be good enough for me. Of course, with Jane they tend not only to remove chunks of the original content, but then they add some new, unnecessary content in its place. Bah.

Maplelicious Chops With Chard

These chops soaked overnight in a marinade is based on a recipe I found in a recent issue of Taste of Home. I wasn't smart enough to copy down the recipe (or take a snap with my phone), but I remembered it was a simple mix of equal parts maple syrup and balsamic vinegar plus some salt and pepper. I used four tablespoons each maple syrup and fig balsamic vinegar plus one teaspoon sea salt and a half teaspoon sriracha. I used four thick six-ounce chops and they took about twenty minutes to grill, flipping twice -- first at eight minutes and then at sixteen minutes.


I had forgotten to hold back any marinade to baste the chops as they grilled, but still found the flavor to be quite good -- a little sweet, a little spicy, and plenty porky. As per the marinating tips at AmazingRibs.com, I had scored one side of the chops in a crisscross pattern before plopping them in the marinade and I do think that helped. The cuts increase the chops' surface area and help the marinade penetrate deeper into the tissue.

Apparently, I don't own any plain balsamic vinegar and it was toss up between the fig and blackberry. (I actually own four bottles of flavored balsamic vinegars, but neither the peach nor the coconut white balsamic seemed remotely appropriate). Fig won the toss, but I'll definitely try this marinade again with the blackberry balsamic, holding back some of the marinade to baste the scored chops!


The chard was simple. Just heat a little broth, onion, and garlic in a pan until the alliums are fragrant. Add as much cleaned chopped chard to your pan as will fit and cook it, stirring regularly, until wilted. Toss with your balsamic vinegar of choice (fig, again) and a little sriracha. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Eat. My intention was to make enough chard to have leftovers to take to work ... but I gobbled it all up with the chops, instead. Good thing the garden is full of chard!

13 July 2014

Snappy Peas

I've harvested over a pound of snap peas! Yes, there would have been more than that, but many peas were diverted to my mouth on their way to my garden basket. Is there anything better then snap peas straight from the vine?


As The Husband is no fan of snap peas, I decided to cook mine in a way I'd most enjoy and then take them along to work for a few meals. Yes, snap peas perfectly lovely raw, but there's a limit to how hard I want to push my digestive system and, as I am quite capable of eating all the snap peas in one day, it seemed a Very Good Idea to cook them.
Easy Microwaved Peas and Onions

Ingredients
1 lb 6 oz snap peas, stemmed, stringed, and well rinsed but not dried
½ red onion, very thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Plop peas and onions in a large bowl. Cover with cling wrap. Microwave for three minutes. Stir 'round. Re-cover and microwave for two minutes more. Stir 'round, again. Season with salt and pepper. Eat immediately or allow to cool and package for the next day.
Peas were still a bit snappy at the 5 minute mark, but I was fine with that since they would cook more in the work microwave when I reheated them with Sunday's leftover chop.

09 July 2014

Picnic Season! Hooray!

We had our Independence Day picnic on Saturday which turned out to be The Best Idea Ever as it rained (and thundered and lightning-ed) most of Friday. I hung out around the house, making food for Saturday, and catching up on my Giant Pile of Library Books. (If I'm not "supposed to" put twenty books on hold, then the system shouldn't let me put twenty items on hold ... it's not as if I am capable of practicing restraint in the presence of free books, after all).


When I was planning the menu for our picnic, I knew I wanted old-fashioned, traditional picnic foods. No yogurt for mayonnaise. No quinoa for pasta. So I made three salads that, if they weren't quite my aunts' or grandmothers' picnic salads, were pretty darn close. And it only took 1½ jars of Hellmann's Light Mayonnaise to accomplish this. And I thought "Oh, my cake, we have no green vegetables! I should marinate some cucumbers or something!" and then I thought about all the things I could be doing if I stopped cooking ... and I went off and did them and there were no green vegetables.

Wait! We had sliced cucumbers and peppers with onion dip! Those are vegetables! And cucumbers are green! Huzzah!


The potato and pasta salad recipes I used were both from Mr. Food because I still have a soft spot for the man, having spent many childhood summers watching his short cooking segments during the noon news, and his picnic salad recipes are pretty darn traditional.

"Basic Macaroni Salad" -- elbow macaroni, hard-cooked eggs, celery, red onion, mayonnaise, garlic powder, salt, black pepper. The pasta salad was fine. Just your basic no-frills deli pasta salad. Utterly innocous. I would probably make it again, as it kept well in the fridge, but would add some flaked canned tuna and thawed frozen peas and serve it over shredded lettuce as a light lunch or supper.

"Presto Potato Salad" -- potatoes, mayonnaise, hard-boiled eggs, red onion, celery, prepared yellow mustard, salt, black pepper, white vinegar, sweet relish, paprika. I bought a bottle of French's Classic Yellow Mustard specifically for this recipe as we don't usually consume yellow mustard. I did not expect the mustard to pack much of a kick and thus was completely taken aback by The Husband's reaction to his first forkful. As he said, the mustard's heat it was "a bit of a surprise!" But it was also delicious and he ate quite a lot of potato salad over the following days, so I take that as a sign to make this potato salad again.


The cole slaw I made -- my very first mayonnaise-based slaw, by the way -- was a hodgepodge of recipes I cobbled together based on memories of my mother's coleslaw and my own taste preferences:
1 cup light mayonnaise
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp ground celery seed [Penzeys Ground Indian Celery Seed]
1 tsp ground mustard [Penzeys Regular Canadian Mustard Powder]
½ tsp paprika [Penzeys Hungarian Half-Sharp Paprika]
1 teaspoon salt
½ tsp pepper
14 oz bag shredded coleslaw mix
It was a bit spicy! Perhaps, too spicy? My mother, who generally enjoys spicy dishes, actually had to stop eating it for a bit and switch over to the potato salad! And that in itself was amusing, because the potato salad had a bit of a kick! Not really sure about the coleslaw -- beside being too spicy for my mother, it was a little too mayonnaise-y for me. Reducing the mayonnaise and cutting it with some buttermilk might fix that.

Wordless Wednesday: Sleepy Kitties

At this moment, right here, right now, the cushion is big enough for two.

08 July 2014

Top 10 Tuesday: Blogging Confessions


This week, Top Ten Tuesday puts us in confession! Here are my blogging confessions (in no particular order):
  1. I feel guilty re-reading books I've loved because I feel like I should be keeping up with the new releases and talking about an old book I've read repeatedly (and probably already blogged about) doesn't bring anything new to the table. Unless I want this to be the All Things Awesome About Laura Ingalls and Anne Shirley blog.
  2. I feel I should respond to comments right away and when I don't the GUILT IS TERRIBLE. It's like a thank you card I forgot to send my grandma.
  3. I feel I should take blogging seriously and work to attract more followers and yet I can't be arsed because the "real bloggidyness" of sponsorship, giveaways, follow-backs, and unending self-promotion seems annoying as all get out.
  4. I often feel inadequate as a book blogger because I don't read nearly as many books as other bloggers seem to. I'm averaging a book a week (which would mean a post a week if I could get my act together) and I see bloggers posting 3-4 reviews a week! How?
  5. I actively avoid blogging about The Book Everyone Is Blogging About, because I am intimidated by the sheer glut of reviews. Surely, I can bring nothing new to the TFIOS party.
  6. I wish I could blog more about the non-bookish parts of my life, but I worry it would either bore the socks off you or you would use the information I share to find my house and steal all my books (or both, I guess ... you could be so bored by me that you decide I don't deserve all my books?).
  7. I'm constantly embarrassed by the grammar and spelling mistakes I find in published posts (especially considering the number of times I re-read each post before publishing).

07 July 2014

Greenie-Bean-Beanz


Almost two pounds of green beans! So excited! What should I make first?

03 July 2014

Japanese Sweets from Okashi Connection

We've dabbled with various subscription boxes over the past year and so it should probably be no surprise that The Husband recently signed up for the monthly box from Okashi Connection. For twenty-two dollars a month (that includes shipping) we get an assortment of Japanese candies, including seasonal and limited run products, shipped straight from Japan. It took about two weeks for our box to travel from Japan to Connecticut and I must have driven The Husband crazy, pestering him with "Did you get the mail today? Did we get our box?" every day until it arrived.


If I'd done a video of the unboxing, you would have seen us both taking things from the box while saying stunningly witty things like "Ohhh, what's this? This looks interesting. It's all in Japanese, though. I guess it's some kind of candy. Well, it has to be." And that's why there's no video. Also, we're lazy.


Happily, each box comes with a key -- just go to the "members only" sections of the Okashi Connection site and enter each month's password to find out what you've got.

Tohato Mixed Berry Caramel Corn
I love popcorn, but it's not something I should eat. This caramel corn is much more like cheese curls in appearance and texture and should prove no problem to my GI tract. I may end up testing this theory by eating the whole bag, as the puffs are hard to put down -- they smell like raspberry sherbet and candyfloss and taste ... well, they taste even better than the raspberry KitKat and I thought the KitKat was pretty darn tasty.

Kirby Mix & Match Gum
Bubble gum balls. Chew different flavors together to create combinations like "fruit salad" and "oh, by cake, that was a terrible idea."

Matcha (Green Tea) Cream Collon
Crisp biscuit straws filled with matcha-flavored creme. A very adult biscuit. Barely sweet. Almost like eating a savory Piroutte wafer cookie.

Choco Lotta Pie no Mi
Bite-sized flaky pastry hexagons filled with chocolate cream that reminded me a little bit of Nutella. The picture on the box indicates these bites are supposed to be pretty thick and flaky, but mine seem to have been bashed around quit a lot and most of their layers had flaked off.

Coris Fue Ramune Whistle Candy
They look like Life Savers mints, but taste a little like those Ramune ("marble") sodas you can get at some sushi places. They came with a small toy -- like Cracker Jack or Kinder Surprise -- and are pretty okay. Innocuous.

Nestle KitKat Otona no Amasa Raspberry
The internetz tells me these are "adult sweetness" ie less sweet than regular KitKats. Tasted exactly like freeze-dried raspberries (which no bad thing). Ours was horribly misshapen from having melted in transit, but still tasted yum, so a pretty okay experience overall.

Matcha (Green Tea) Flavor Fujiya Country Ma'am Cookies
Holy crap, these are delicious. The outside is crisp and a little crumbly while the inside is soft and dense like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Buttery and chocolaty with a gentle, but lingering green tea note. Dainty enough you don't feel greedy for eating two.

Ume (Sour Plum) Bubble Gum
Sweet-tart and very juicy gum balls. Unfortunately, the flavor doesn't last. First it's "Hello! PLUM!," then it's "meh. gum."

Camembert and Mozzarella Premium Umaibo
Tube of puffed corn flavored with cheese. A lot like eating an enormous gourmet cheese curl. Grown-up junk food.

Puffed Rice (Pongashi?) Ninjin
Plastic carrot filled with popped rice. There really isn't much to say about this. They're crunchy and slightly sweet. I want to put them in a bowl with milk and eat them for breakfast. The carrot bag is cute.

Cider Gumi
Very soft bottle-shaped gummies covered in granulated sugar. Tastes a little like blue fruit punch. Good, but confusing as it tastes nothing like cider.

Over all, I think The Husband did good. There's lots of different flavors and textures here and I've definitely found a few new favorites. I'm more impressed more by the dessert-y or snack-type things than I am by the candies, but I'm not usually big on candy, anyway.

02 July 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Rose

I'm always jealous of my mom's success with roses.

01 July 2014

Top 10 Tuesday: Classics I Want to Read


For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, I'm talking about the ten queer classics I most mean to read, plus a few "more mainstream" classics for diversity's sake. I read a lot of queer lit in college, but as I aged I seemed to grow away from it and, aside from big names like Alison Bechdel and Sarah Waters, don't read nearly as much.

I guess I could see that as a "good" thing -- I took what I needed from queer lit and moved on, as I have moved on with other genres (genre is not the right word and, hopefully, you know what I mean) -- but sometimes I think I simply allowed myself to be carried along by the tide of "mainstream" lit because it still feels easier for me, even in 2014, to talk or write about mainstream lit.

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
England between the world wars. A sixteen-year-old orphan moves to London to live with her half-brother and falls in love her sister-in-law's friend.

Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule
1960s Nevada. An English Professor arrives in Reno to establish a six-week residency necessary in order to obtain a divorce and falls in love with a change operator at a local casino.

Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins
1870s England. "Simple" girl falls for a fortune hunter and becomes a victim of terrible cruelty and neglect. Fictionalized account of a real murder.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
1930s England. Journal of teenager recounting her life as part of a genteel-but-impoverished English family living in a decaying castle. (Am I the only person who hasn't read this book?).

Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
1940s France. A prisoner recounts the story of Divine, a drag queen with an interesting assortment of friends, including a murderer. The author was in prison when he wrote the story so there is speculation he is the narrator.

Patience and Sarah by Alma Routsong
1800s New England. Two Connecticut women, one wealthy and the other decidedly not, fall in love, muck things up, and then set up house together in a "Boston marriage."

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
1890s England. Man sells his soul so that the beautiful portrait of him will age and fade while he does not. Man then mucks up relationship with the woman who loves him and enters a downward spiral of vice.

Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
1960s-1980s New York. A Jewish girl with gender identity issues finds her home life more and more stifling, ultimately running away to Buffalo … and then on to New York. I've owned a copy of this novel for a few years now and I've really wanted to read it, but it strikes me as the kind of book I would need to block a weekend out to read and then recover from.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
1900s New York. Coming-of-age story of the daughter of poor immigrants. (Again, am I the only person who hasn't read this book? I've avoided reading it for fear it will be excessively sentimental).

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
1850s England. Murder, intrigue, madness, mistaken identity, white mice, and bonbons. Who could resist?