Stuff and Nonsense: January 2015


Nostalgic Eggie in the Hole

When I was just a little thing, way back in first or second grade, my mother would occasionally make me an "eggie in the hole" for breakfast. I thought it was the most awesome breakfast in the world -- uniformly golden, buttery, crunchy bread with an egg (hard-cooked, because runny yolks were EWWW) perfectly centered in the middle. I adored it.

This morning I woke up positively craving an egg-in-the-hole. It's been years since I made one and, while mine couldn't compete with those of my nostalgia-tinted childhood memories, it was still pretty darn fine. And I made sure the yolk was all soft and runny, because I now know runny yolks to be totally YUM.

Amusingly, egg-in-the-hole was the perfect way to use up the under-baked middle of a loaf of bread I'm made earlier in the week. The circular cut-out for the egg neatly removed the under-done bit and I was left with what looked like a perfect bake.


Batwoman: Elegy

Obviously, reading this after Hydrology took some of the mystery away! However, Elegy is still a rocking good read with a Batwoman I could believe in. Seriously, as far as superhero origin stories go, this Batwoman's is both seriously compelling and completely believable. The art, with its fabulous splash panels and the bat-shaped frames remains intoxicating. Some of the scenes did seem unnecessarily crowded with detail -- but, then, Elegy has a lot of story to tell and every detail counts.

Unfortunately Alice, the high madame of the Religion of Crime, was a bit of a wash as an villain. While beautifully drawn and an interesting twist on Lewis Carroll's character, she still felt a little underdeveloped. Where did she come from? How did she become the high madame? Why all this now? Even the identity reveal at the end of her story didn't help. (And, unfortunately, none of those questions were answered in Hydrology either -- indeed it dealt only with new villains).

I have Batwoman Vol. 2: To Drown the World on hold at the library and I don't really expect it will provide any answers regarding Alice as, I understand, it continues with La Llorona and the crime syndicate Medusa. While Hydrology showed the "ghost" of Alice in a few scenes, she wasn't part of the story. Bah. I the story will eventually cycle back to Alice, but who knows? Sometimes, when I'm reading long-running superhero franchises, I feel like I'm drowning in fragments of story.

Batwoman: Elegy written by Greg Rucka & illus. by J.H. Williams III (DC Comics, 2010)


Lark Rising

Lark Rising was a real pleasure to read (and look at -- Marcela Bolivar's jacket is just lovely). The world Waugh has created is an interesting one and I quite like that she managed to fill it with rich, lyric detail while at the same time not being very explain-y. It allowed me figure out some things about Lark's world on my own as I read along and that's always excellent. Certainly, I want to spend a lot more time in Castle Tarnec with Nayla and Ilone.

To me, Lark Carewe made an admirable heroine. She not particularly brave or strong or adventurous, but she accepts it is her burden to leave her village and find help for her village. Lark doesn't always understand what's going on and is sometimes afraid, but she does her best to do good by other people. (I mean, yes, she was so surprisingly and obviously wrong in her interpretations of the visions she had about Gharain, but bad story does happen to good characters. Also, I've read a lot of books while Lark's never been in one before. She doesn't know how her story is supposed to go).

Lark Rising is the first book is a four-part series, Guardians of Tarnec. The forthcoming second book, Silver Eve, is about Lark's sister Evie and set in a different (not-Tarnec) part of the world. Unfortunately, I didn't find Evie all that interesting in Lark Rising and I'm not sure I want to tackle new characters and geography so much as fangirl all over Tarnec Castle with characters I've already met.

Lark Rising by Sandra Waugh (Random House, 2014)


Batwoman, Volume 1: Hydrology

Because everything I had read indicated Hydrology was the start of a new series, I expected a fresh start with Batwoman -- that I could just slide right into her universe without knowing anything about her. And I was wrong. It may be new writers and a new arc, but it follows so closely upon the heels of Rucka and Williams' Batwoman: Elegy that I really should have read Elegy first. (I didn't, though. I plowed through Hydrology and then, confused, googled a Batwoman chronology).

Don't get me wrong -- Hydrology tells a rollicking good story and its Batwoman is an excellently wrought one. I just feel I would have taken even more from it if I knew more about Batwoman's back story -- especially the reason for her estrangement from her father and her relationship with Alice, the high madame of the Religion of Crime, which I only found out about after reading Elegy. Suddenly, a bunch of panels made perfect sense, whereas on the first reading they just seemed overly ... artsy? (The art is fabulous, by the way, with lots of macabre and supernatural elements splashed across the pages).

So what I'm saying is read Elegy first, if you haven't already, and then go forth with Hydrology and its companions. I guarantee a good time.

Batwoman, Volume 1: Hydrology by by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman (DC Comics, 2012)


Easy Turkey Cutlet Parmesan

Another easy Pantry Challenge supper! Turkey Parmesan(ish) -- using turkey cutlets from the freezer, leftover tomato sauce, and a bunch of veggies that were starting to look the worse for wear. Delicious and easy, it would definitely be worth making again.

Turkey Cutlet Parmesan

Yield: 2


  • 1 oz liquid egg whites
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1 oz shredded Parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 4 turkey cutlets
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce


  • To a shallow bowl or pie plate, add the egg whites. To another shallow bowl or pie plate, add the panko, Parmesan, and seasoning blend.
  • Dip cutlets into the egg whites, allow to drip off a bit, then dip into the panko mix.
  • Bake cutlets at 450F° for about 15 minutes.
  • While the cutlets bake, sautéed diced zucchini and onions in a little olive oil until the onion is golden, then add tomato sauce, and leave to simmer until the cutlets are done.
  • Serve sauce over cutlets.

Victorian Bingo Challenge 2015

Becky from Becky's Book Reviews is hosting the 2015 Victorian Bingo Challenge and, when I realized the wealth of unread Victorian novels haunting my bookshelves, I knew I had to sign up. Also it just feels deliciously subversive to play bingo with Victorian literature. Gonna stamp all over Dickens and Trollope!

Basic summary of the 2015 Victorian Bingo Challenge:
  • The goal is to get a "Bingo"(horizontal, vertical, diagonal, four corners and center square). This will require a minimum of five books.
  • One book per square. For example: Oliver Twist can count for "Book with a name as the title" or "Charles Dickens" or "Book published 1837-1940" or "Book published in serial format" or "Book over 400 pages" or "Book that has been adapted into a movie" or "Book set in England." But obviously, it can only count once.

I see five "easy" ways of scoring Bingo (mostly) using books I already own:

  • 1840s: Mary Barton (1848)
  • Male author: Thomas Hardy (The Mayor of Casterbridge or A Pair of Blue Eyes)
  • Female author: Charlotte or Anne Bronte (Villette or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall)
  • Name as the title: Shirley or Ruth
  • Serial: Great Expectations

  • 1840s: Mary Barton (1848)
  • 1850s: Ruth (1853)
  • 1860s: Lady Audley's Secret (1862)
  • 1870s: A Pair of Blue Eyes (1871)
  • 1880s: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)

  • Serial: Great Expectations
  • Dickens: The Pickwick Papers
  • Trollope: Sir Harry Hotspur
  • Collins: Man and Wife
  • 1880s: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)

  • 1840s: Mary Barton (1848)
  • 1837-1840: The Phantom Ship (1839)
  • England: Nearly any book I've already listed in a different bingo configuration
  • Marriage: Reuben Sachs
  • 1890s: The War of the Worlds (1898)

  • 1840s: Mary Barton (1848)
  • Serial: Great Expectations
  • 1860s: Lady Audley's Secret (1862)
  • 1890s: The War of the Worlds (1898)
  • 1880s: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)


Wordless Wednesday: Cats & Cushions

Shadow and her cushion.

Hedwig and her cushions.

Fast Breakfast Egg & Vegetable Bowls

I'm trying to add more servings of veg to EVERYTHING so rather than my usual breakfast of a microwaved egg on a mini bagel, I've been making these bowls of goodness.

Just toss a handful of baby spinach, some chopped grape tomatoes, onion, and peppers into a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Add 1 egg and 1 oz egg whites, stir, and microwave for another minute. Add a slice of cheese (gruyere or muenster as I use up the leftovers from work's infamous grilled cheese party) -- the heat from the egg and the bowl will melt the cheese.

Pretty much any fresh or frozen vegetables you have on hand will work, of course, and you don't have to add the cheese ... but why wouldn't you want a bit of hot melty cheese on a bleak don't-make-me-adult January morning?


Top 10 Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie, where we can make up our own topic or pick one we missed. I've decided to go out on a limb and confess all the terrible dark bookish secrets that lurk in my heart ... or something like that!

  1. Generally speaking, I don’t like used books. I don’t like the smell or the “gently worn” covers. I just don’t see the charm. Maybe it was the time spent working in a large used bookstore, but used books just make me go ick. I feel the same way about anything that came from a yard sale. (I do like “really old” used books from the 1800s, provided they don’t smell).
  2. I have probably (mentally) murdered more than a hundred people for interrupting me while at a “good part.” CAN’T YOU SEE I’M READING?!
  3. I own a number of perfectly lovely bookmarks and yet my go-to bookmarks are store receipts, the really important sticky-note I must not misplace, and (unused) facial tissue. Also, since The Husband came back from Brno, Czech koruna (1.00 CZK= 0.05 USD).
  4. I sometimes renew books waaay past their renewal limit (never if they have holds -- I’m not a monster, after all). Mostly this happens because I have lost track of where the book is. Is it in the pile in my bedroom? The dining room? The kitchen? The living room? The coat closet where things are shoved when the cleaner turns up?
  5. My house contains a multitude of books. I have read a mere fraction of them. Sometimes I feel bad about that, but mostly I’m too busy admiring all the books I don’t yet own.
  6. My Kindle is where books go to be forgot. Seriously, I am very good at downloading things and very bad at remembering to read them.
  7. There is no room in my house I haven’t read in. Yes, that includes the basement and bathrooms.


Back to the Classics Challenge 2015

I'm doing the No Book Buying Challenge 2005 and it occurred to me that I own so many classics signing up for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge 2015 at Books & Chocolates seemed like a no brainer.

Basic summary of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015:

  • All books must be read in 2015. Books started prior to January 1, 2015 are not eligible. Reviews must be linked by December 31, 2015.
  • All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; therefore, 1965 is the cutoff date. The only exception is books published posthumously, but written before 1965.
  • E-books and audiobooks are eligible! Books may also count for other challenges you may be working on.
  • Books may NOT cross over categories within this challenge. You may NOT count the same book twice for different categories in this challenge. One book per category -- otherwise, they won't count.
  • Signups must be completed BEFORE MARCH 31, 2015.

There are twelve categories to the challenge, of which I'm striving to complete nine reading books I already own:

1. A 19th Century Classic -- any book published between 1800 and 1899. Shirley (1849) by Charlotte Brontë.

2. A 20th Century Classic -- any book published between 1900 and 1965. Man Who Was Thursday (1908) by G.K. Chesterton.

3. A Classic by a Woman Author. Mill on the Floss (1860) by George Eliot.

5. A Very Long Classic Novel -- a single work of 500 pages or longer. Great Expectations (1861 as a three volume book) by Charles Dickens.

6. A Classic Novella -- any work shorter than 250 pages. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) by Truman Capote.

7. A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title. Silas Marner (1861) by George Eliot.

9. A Forgotten Classic. The Vet's Daughter (1959) by Barbara Comyns or Cassandra at the Wedding (1962) by Dorothy Baker

10. A Nonfiction Classic. The Enormous Room (1922) by E.E. Cummings -- I've seen this listed as both a memoir and an autobiographical novel, so further research is needed.

11. A Classic Children's Book. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903) by Kate Douglas Wiggin.

I may, of course, change my mind about any one or even all of these titles!


Improv Challenge: Pork & Rice

Baby, it's cold outside! And blustery! And greygreyGREY. What better time of year for a big spicy pot of carbs and meat? I kept thinking I had more time for January's Improv Challenge (pork and rice), than I did ... and then it was Tuesday and I realized I'd been so obsessed with Good Cheap Eats' pantry challenge and reading library books that I'd completely forgotten about the Improv. I knew no-one would hold it against me if I skipped January, but I felt that the ingredients were so basic I should be able to come up with something.

(On the plus side, except for the chorizo, all the other ingredients were already in-house. So, yay for that!)

I used Supremo fresh Mexican chorizo for this recipe, because I knew I wanted loose meat and not chunks of cured/dried sausage and that was all my grocery store had for fresh. It's packaged in inedible plastic casings and I just cut off the ends and squeezed the meat out like toothpaste. That sounds kind-of disgusting, I know, but it cooked up delicious.

Chorizo Rice & Bean Pot

Serves: 6


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 14 oz fresh Mexican chorizo [Supremo]
  • 1 cup medium grain white rice [Goya]
  • 14½ oz can no salt added diced fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained [Muir Glen]
  • 1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth [Pacific Organic]
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 14½ oz can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, and chorizo, bashing the meat with a spoon to break it up as it cooks, until onion is tender and chorizo is cooked and crumbled (about 8 -10 minutes).
  2. Drain off most of the fat, leaving approximately 1 tablespoon behind. Stir in rice and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and broth. Bring pot to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in beans and corn. Cook 10 minutes more or until heated through. Season to taste.
I didn't add any seasoning to this -- not even salt and pepper -- because I found the chorizo added enough flavor on its own, but YMMV. Also, while we ate this dish in bowls with a little salsa and sour cream on top and found it good, it was even better the next day mixed with a little cheese and used as filling for burritos.


Wordless Wednesday: Back on the Horse

Thought I'd ease back into jigsaws with something gentle since that 1000-piece B&W Escher
(which we never finished) nearly put me off them forever.

Easy Sunday Supper: Pan-Fried Boneless Pork Chops

We were quite the lazybones this weekend and, despite vague intentions to the contrary, never left the house. Instead, we lolled about the living room, reading books, and catching up with CrashCourse videos. Happily, I'm in the midst of a pantry challenge so felt super industrious and organized when I pulled every meal out of the freezer or pantry without having to think (much) about how I could cook and not stop reading Shirley. (Usually, I just say to myself "Book is too good! We don't need to eat yet! One more chapter! Two! Three! Oh, no! It's seven o'clock! Someone, order pizza!").

Anyway, these chops were dead easy and reminded me that I should make pork chops more often. They're a thing I ate quite often as a child, but never really think about when I'm menu planning. The Husband eschews ham and bacon, true, but has no issue with chops or roast so I cannot blame the omission on him.

Pan-Fried Boneless Pork Chops

Serves: 4 (or 2 + leftovers)


  • 4 boneless pork loin chops, each about ¾-inch thick
  • ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp dried marjoram
  • ¼ tsp rubbed sage
  • ⅛ tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil


  1. Place flour, thyme, marjoram, sage, and pepper in a pie plate or similarly shallow dish. Dredge pork in flour mixture, turning to coat; shake off excess and discard.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and cook for 10 minutes or until done, turning pork once. Remove pork from skillet.
We ate these chops with "Outback Steakhouse Mac-A-Roo 'N Cheese" (I used half-and-half and added a bit of smoked paprika) and a simple salad of chopped cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and vinaigrette.

Pantry challenge ingredients: chops, Velveeta, penne
Glad to see eaten before they went squishy: cucumbers and tomatoes


Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Books I Meant to Read

I meant to read all these books in 2014 … As usual, good intentions but no follow through. What can I say? The world is full of books and I am easily attracted to anything that isn’t on a list I’ve made!
  1. Defy by Sara B. Larson (forgot)
  2. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (forgot)
  3. Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda (forgot)
  4. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun (forgot)
  5. The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian (friend told me it the plot was confusing with unlikeable protagonists so I put it off)
  6. No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale (forgot)
  7. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (coworker kind-of put me off this one when she said it was twice as long as it needs to be)
  8. Red Rising: Book I of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown (haven’t felt ready to start a new scifi trilogy)
  9. Salvage by Alexandra Duncan (forgot)
  10. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (forgot)


Holding Up The Books

I've been rearranging our books. The graphics had occupied our living room shelves since we moved in, but while the collection had continued to expand, the amount of shelf space had (coincidentally) shrunk and now we have far more books than space.

Meanwhile, we've been buying less and less nonfiction with each passing year as The Husband only reads poker books and pretty much everything I want to read (excluding some queer and feminist history) is available though my library consortium or state-wide interlibrary loan system. So the nonfiction shelves had lots of empty space.

Nonfiction in their new home with enough room for expansion (& Swarovski)

The answer was obvious, no? Swap the collections -- graphics moved into the library/den and nonfiction moved into the living room. Everyone ended up with just the right amount of space. Huzzah. (And the swap only took something like six months of thinking about plus two days to actually move materials).

Graphics in their new home with plenty of width, but maybe not enough height?

And it works. Mostly. Except the graphics kept falling over because they needed bookends. Our fiction and nonfiction collections are held up by fairly sturdy low-profile black wire bookends, but I knew those weren't going to hold up the graphics. I needed something sturdy and heavy ... something like a brick.

Exactly like a brick.

Enter Lindsay and Michelle of The Gnaked Gnome, crafters of beautiful decorated brick bookends. I bought two ready-made bookends -- Wonder Woman and Iron Man -- plus custom bookends of Aquaman and She-Hulk. I cannot tell you how much I adore these bookends. Being brick, they're extremely sturdy and there's simply no way -- except, maybe, with help from a cat -- my books aren't going to stay upright. Each brick is fully decorated with no exposed bits, which means I can rotate them around as a please to show off, say, the spine or back cover when I tire of the front. Not that I'm ever going to tire of them, mind you.

(I do have to wonder what the postie thought as she schlepped the box of bookends up the driveway to my door ... "gosh! This thing is heavy as a box of bricks!")


#ShelfLove No Book Buying Challenge: Behold, the TBR Pile of DOOOM!

The 2015 No Book Buying Challenge officially kicked off on January 1, so here's a photo of some of the unread books littering my home that I hope to tackle during this challenge.

Please note it includes a whole bunch of books The Husband decided to give me for Christmas even though I told him he should stop buying me books as I never get around to reading them because THE LIBRARY IS FULL OF BOOKS and I spend five days a week at the library so, you know, there are a lot of opportunities for library materials to com home with me. And. They. Do.

Also, The  Husband has a terrible habit of buying me quirky or good-for-me nonfiction books I don't know I want. But I love him and he does put up with my ridiculous anxieties about everything in the universe, so ... I will read his books. So help me.

Anyway, my TBR:

These are not all the unread books in my house, but the idea of photographing them all was a wee bit overwhelming. So the ones in the photo are just the ones I'm most likely to read for this challenge. I actually have enough unread "classics" in my house that I should probably sign on for the Victorian Bingo or Back to the Classics challenge! But that would probably be over committing myself!


Pantry Challenge: Weekly Meal Round-Up

Thought I'd do a round-up of Pantry Challenge meals I've made this week! Done really well so far, I think, but the first week is always the easiest as I'm still excited by the challenge and my kitchen seems full of possibility. I don't think The Husband is really aware that there's a pantry challenge going on in our house as it's not impacted the way he eat at all. Again, this was the first week and there's lots of groceries to play with. Week 3 might be a harder sell. (Also, wow, we own a surprising amount of convenience foods. I think I buy the stuff because I'm feeling lazy and then I'm too ashamed to use it so it just lingers in the kitchen).

Supper of "Chicken-Black Bean Casserole" using all sorts of stuff from the freezer and pantry -- Tyson Grilled & Ready frozen chicken breast strips, Trader Joe's salsa verde, Trader Joe's fire-roasted corn, black beans, cheddar, Penzeys Arizona Dreaming, tortilla strips.

While we both enjoyed eating the casserole, we also found it kind-of incomplete -- The Husband thought it was like deconstructed chicken nachos and needed chips for dipping while I felt it needed a bed of rice.

Lunch of nacho cheese fishies (pantry), broccoli (freezer), and breaded chicken chunks (freezer). Not very grownup, but yummy and quite comforting on a bitterly cold and grey work day.

Chicken cacciatore(ish) in my slow cooker. Frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts (freezer), pepper strips (freezer), onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, pizza sauce, noodles (pantrypantrypantry). The noodles were odd "artisan" tubular spiral pasta I'd bought a year ago on clearance at Williams-Sonoma and then found we didn't really like them. Well, they're gone now!

Simply Enjoy Chicken Wellington Pastry Bites from the freezer with a simple cucumber salad (chopped cucumbers, red onion, and grape tomatoes tossed with champagne vinaigrette) made for a nice light lunch:

Supper of Trader Joe's Braised Beef Roast with Demi Glace (freezer) and parmesan butter fishies (pantry) with corn niblets in butter sauce (freezer):

Work lunches of leftover beef and noodles with spinach and a bit of Christmas chocolate:



Soppy, is the collected comics of Philippa Rice, is ostensibly based on her real life relationship with her boyfriend, but is really a sweetly silly collection of the quiet day-to-day events that shape everyone's relationships.

Really, it's kind of book you want to read whilst cuddling on the couch with your best beloved so you can, laughingly, point out all the panels that are clearly stolen from your own shared lives. And this is a true today, after fifteen years of marriage, as it would have been when I was "just" dating The Husband. There's an undeniable timeless universality to the comics.

And here's a video of Philippa Rice demonstrating how she drew the art for Soppy:

Soppy: A Love Story by Philippa Rice (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014)


Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore(ish)

Slow cooker chicken cacciatore(ish) over noodles. Everything but the mushrooms from the freezer or pantry, hurrah. (And it tasted pretty good, too!)

Ingredients: Frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts, pepper and onion strips, sliced mushrooms, Italian seasoning, pizza sauce, glug of red wine, noodles.

I don't like to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker as I think they tend to come out overdone and mealy-textured. Cooking them from frozen seems to help somewhat, what they're still a bit mealy. They're probably work okay in less time-intensive slow cooker recipes, but I leave the house at 8 and don't return home again until 5:30 and so whatever I'm slow cooking will cook most of that time (my slow cooker has a "keep warm" setting that works for up to two hours and I try to take advantage of that).

Boneless skinless chicken thighs ... now those were made for slow cooking! But breasts were what I had in the freezer and so that is what I used. The sauce was very rich and flavorful, anyway, and helped disguise chicken somewhat.

We ate the chicken over these funky tubular corkscrew "artisan" noodles I'd bought on clearance at Williams-Sonoma last winter. I'd yet to find a dish they go particularly well with and had just taken to ignoring them. Happily, they are all gone now and I can stop feeling guilty about preferring boring ol' grocery store penne to them.

Wordless Wednesday: Big Cup of Chocolatey Happiness

Sometimes happiness is found in a big mug of cocoa :)


Top 10 Tuesday: 2015 Debuts

Another Top Ten Tuesday! Hooray! We're talking about our most anticipated debut novels of 2015. New books by new authors. Fantastic.

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis. (Jan)
Millie Bird, seven years old and ever hopeful, always wears red gumboots to match her curly hair. Her struggling mother, grieving the death of Millie’s father, leaves her in the big ladies’ underwear department of a local store and never returns.

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey. (Jan)
Irrepressible Biddy Leigh, under-cook at the foreboding Mawton Hall, only wants to marry her childhood sweetheart and set up her own tavern. But when her elderly master marries the young Lady Carinna, Biddy is unwittingly swept up in a world of scheming, secrets and lies.

Find Me by Laura van den Berg. (Feb)
Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh. (Feb)
The narrator of My Sunshine Away tells the story of the summer of 1989, when he was a fourteen-year-old boy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in love with the girl across the street, Lindy Simpson. Lindy was the girl with the golden hair and perfect legs, who rode her bicycle to track practice every afternoon, leaving a trail of beguiled boys in her wake. Yet one late summer eve, a crime shattered everyone’s illusion of the supposed idyllic neighborhood, and nothing was ever the same again.

The Only Ones by Carola Dibbell. (Mar)
Inez wanders a post-pandemic world, strangely immune to disease, making her living by volunteering as a test subject. She is hired to provide genetic material to a grief-stricken, affluent mother, who lost all four of her daughters within four short weeks. This experimental genetic work is policed by a hazy network of governmental ethics committees, and threatened by the Knights of Life, religious zealots who raze the rural farms where much of this experimentation is done.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. (Mar)
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician--not an easy thing if you're a girl, and harder still if you're Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush.

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe. (Mar)
Born into a posh family, ten-year old Lizzie Vogel has lived a charmed life thus far, with a big sister who knows everything, a cute baby brother, and a full-time housekeeper who bakes jam tarts. But when, in 1970, Lizzie's father abandons her mother and packs his ex-family off to the tiny village of Flatstone, life for the Vogels veers catastrophically off-course.

The Revelation of Beatrice Darby by Jean Copeland. (Apr)
How much courage does it take to be yourself? In a decade when good girls conform to strict family and social expectations, Beatrice Darby is about to find out. After a harmless admiration for her older boss, sophisticated Abby Gill, blossoms into a full-blown crush, Beatrice is startled to discover why she’s never felt like other girls.


Pantry/Whole Kitchen Challenge

I've been doing a little bit of a freezer challenge since Christmas. Really, it's a whole kitchen kind-of challenge as I try to make better use of what I have on hand before I head off to the grocery store, but the still-over-crowded freezer is what kicked it all off. Happily, Jessica at Good Cheap Eats is hosting another Pantry Challenge through the month of January and I was pleased to join on, rather than go my own way with zero accountability owed to anyone but myself.

As always, when I do a kitchen challenge, I made a Google Doc of the contents of my freezer. And pantry. And the basement shelves full of Amazon Subscribe and Save orders. And what I ended up with was a massive list of Much Too Muchness. Obviously, it's good to have an emergency supply of nonperishables. And there's nothing wrong with stocking up on favorites when the price is good. But that's not really what's going on here.

What I have, is a collection of thoroughly random groceries. Some bought in a spirit of adventure and can-do-ness, because I keep forgetting I am actually a lazy and thoroughly unadventurous cook 85% of the time. Others bought in a fit of Pinspiration, when I thought "Why yes! Making Preposterously Complicated Seafood Recipe on a weeknight would be just the thing!"

So, I have lists. And I have thoughts. And I'm going to whittle my collection of random down to something more manageable. And I'm still going grocery shopping, of course! It's "just" a matter of going to the list before shopping, deciding what ingredient I want to use, and then building a meal around it. Essentially, it's all about getting back to weekly menu planning. And buying less random. And remembering that we already own four unopened packages of HobNobs and don't need any more.


The Black Path

While I read The Blood Spilt, I kept hoping Rebecka would give up any thought of going back to the law firm (and Måns -- even though I really wanted her to be someone's beloved) and end up working with police inspector Anna-Maria Mella as a (financial) crime fighting super woman.

And ... that's kind of what happens in The Black Path. Also, for the first time in the series, Rebecka doesn't get beat to hell. Indeed, you might say her story has a happy ending!

Which makes me suspicious. Rebecka allowed to heal from old wounds? Grasping at romance with both hands? What are you up to, Larsson? I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Which is not to say The Black Path is without violence. The last few chapters practically run red with blood and the murder that kicks off the novel is no mild thing. But no religious people or pets were killed. So, hurrah? Instead we have a story about creepy upper class people getting up to shenanigans to maintain their class, penniless upstarts getting rich, unhappy marriages, the human consequences of colonialism, international political conspiracies, addiction, fraud, love, lust, and murder. It's delicious.

The Black Path written by Åsa Larsson & trans by Marlaine Delargy (Bantam Dell, 2008)