Stuff and Nonsense: 2019


9.11.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Lichens & Old Wood

There's beauty in lichen colonies on an old fence rail.

9.04.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Sea Holly (Eryngium)

Love the toothed leaves and long-lasting, teasel-like blossoms of the sea holly.

9.03.2019

Mom's Zucchini Bread


It is that special time of year, when an overwhelmed gardener's thoughts turn toward zucchini bread. I am not even growing zucchini this year and I still have too much. Thankfully, there's always Mom's zucchini bread recipe to fall back on. My mother baked this spicy zucchini and walnut bread for as long as I can remember. Dad and I love it for breakfast, but it also makes a great mid-afternoon snack. The bread bakes up light and fluffy on the inside while the outside is delightfully crunchy. Below is an image of the recipe she wrote down for me a few years ago and I've followed that with the tweaked version I made this weekend.



I was careful not to fiddle with the original recipe too much, because I still needed it to be Mom's bread. If I don't want to bake Mom's bread, well, there are eleventy million zucchini bread recipes on the internet -- I don't need to go inventing my own. Basically, I:

  • Didn't peel the zucchini
  • Toasted the nuts
  • Added more ginger
  • "Fancied up" the flour
  • Baked it in a bundt pan
  • Glazed it

While I don't usually glaze my quick breads, I was taking this bundt to work and felt like going the extra mile. The glaze is dairy-free, consisting of powdered sugar, water, Mexican vanilla extract, and ground cinnamon. Then I threw some organic flowers on, because I'm a show-off.


Mom's Zucchini Bread

Yield: 1 6-cup bundt

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple flour blend [Nature's Earthly Choice]
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F°. Grease and flour a 6-cup bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until foamy then stir into the large bowl until just moistened.
  4. Gently fold in the zucchini and walnuts.
  5. Bake in the 350F° for an hour or until done.
  6. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

I came across the apple flour blend in the clearance bin at Shoprite and it really intrigued me, so I had to buy it. It bakes well, doesn't taste like apples, and has quite a lot of iron -- something I am low on -- but, honestly, it's just not wow enough that I feel a need to pay full price for it. Tl;dr: feel free to use all white wheat or all-purpose.

8.28.2019

8.21.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Cosmos bipinnatus

White cosmos blooming in the dill and fennel bed.
Like those two herbs, cosmos also attract pollinators.

8.19.2019

Hooked on You


While Anna's life is a busy one, she feels a bit bored with it. On her daughter's advice she decides to take up a new hobby and begins attending a group crochet class at a local craft shop. There she finds herself feeling all sorts of confusing things about the shop owner, Ollie. Ollie is aware of Anna's feelings, but not looking for a relationship, tries to be her friend. This works, for a time, but their unrequited mutual attraction is always quietly simmering in the background and ... well, you can guess.

Hooked On You is a sweet, slow burning romance as much about friendship and family as it is about love. While the chemistry is great and the sex scenes have a tender honesty about them that made me a bit swoony, it's the little kisses, glances, and touches shared between Anna and Ollie that made my heart grow two sizes. Matthews has written her protagonists as real, ordinary people who care deeply about each other and show it, not in grand gestures, but with small, every day intimacies that in the end mean so much more.

I love that Anna and Ollie are in their 50s with ex-husbands and adult children. I don't see a lot of that in romance and it felt refreshing to see older women with full, established lives falling in love. Anna and Ollie's relationship does not exist in a bubble, but touches the lives of everyone around them, reinforcing existing family bonds and forging new connections with others.

Imho, if you are looking for a tender feel-good romance, give Hooked On You a read.

Hooked on You by Jenn Matthews. Ylva Publishing, 2019. Kindle edition.

8.18.2019

I ♥ Cooking Clubs: Mexican


Made "Taco Pizzas" from Ellie Krieger's Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less this weekend for I ♥ Cooking Clubs' Monthly Cuisine Spotlight: Mexican. I've been following IHCC over the summer, always meaning to participate, but never quite organized enough when it came down to it.

As promised, these messy and delicious taco pizzas were both quick and easy. The recipe seems very versatile, too, and it would be easy to fancy the tacos up with additional toppings like cilantro, chopped fresh tomatoes, avocado, and the like.

My only disappointment was that the beans were a bit bland -- next time, I would increase the amount of seasonings or just use some of Amy's low-sodium refried black beans (Krieger does say you can use tinned beans and/or pre-shredded cheese to save even more time).

These tacos would be easy to prep ahead, by making the beans and meat ahead of time, so you only need assemble the tacos and bake them whenever you are ready for supper. Maybe a fun way to do a family taco bar?

I borrowed the print edition of Ellie Krieger's Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less from my library, but the ebook is also available via Hoopla. Either way, the book is worth checking out. Fast, healthy, and flavorful recipes ready in 30 minutes or less? You can't go wrong with Weeknight Wonders.]

Taco Pizzas, pages 166-168.

8.15.2019

Last Year We Were In Maine #TBT

Throwback to this time last year when we were in Maine, eating ice cream twice a day and repeatedly forgetting to apply sunscreen.



8.07.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Doggo

Wee fluffy doggo I met at the farmers market.

7.31.2019

7.25.2019

My Brother's Husband, Volume 1


My Brother's Husband is a sweet, tender manga about family, parenthood, love, and loss. Brothers Yaichi and Ryoji had grown apart as adults, with Ryoji eventually emigrating to Canada and marrying Mike. Some time later, Ryoji dies and big, burly, bearish Mike travels to Japan to visit Yaichi and his daughter.

Initially Yaichi's homophobia causes him to struggle with fulfilling his host and familial obligations to Mike, but gradually -- as he sees how warmly and kindly everyone else responds to Mike, how much his daughter Kana loves her new Canadian uncle, and how much Mike is clearly grieving for his husband -- Yaichi's heart opens and he becomes less prejudiced. His transformation is not flawless, but deeply human.

So there's all that heavy-sounding plot going on and yet it is lightly and gently told. There's a great deal to empathize with, as well as some amusing light-hearted moments, cross-cultural teasing, and a sweet domesticity to the whole thing. I greatly enjoyed My Brother's Husband, Volume 1 and I look forward to reading the Volume 2. I only wish there was a Volume 3 ...

My Brother's Husband, Volume 1 written by Gengorah Tagame w/ trans. by Anne Ishii. Pantheon Books, 2017.

7.19.2019

Gresczyk Farms' 2019 CSA


Every Friday in the summer I stop at the Southington Farmers Market and pick up my CSA partial share from Gresczyk Farms. Sometimes I take a leisurely stroll around the market, stopping for empanadas or roasted garlic three-grain bread or even more vegetables, but usually I'm tired out and just grab my share and run. It's a pity, because the Southington Farmers Market is really a nice little market with a good variety of eats and other products. There's usually music of some kind and everyone is just so friendly.


And you're thinking "That's all well and good, but what the heck is a CSA?" CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and the idea is that a farm can sell shares of its anticipated crops to people within the local community. Those people, in turn, receive a weekly box of what the farm grows in exchange for advance payment (and, in some cases, a set amount of volunteer hours on the farm). Some farms include items like jam, pickles, bread, meat, cheese, eggs, wine, etc in their shares. Gresczyk Farms offers eggs -- my partial share provides me with a half dozen most weeks and I don't expect to buy any eggs for the rest of the summer.


Most CSAs offer early bird subscriber discounts and I subscribed to Gresczyk Farms CSA program back in January at a 5% discount. This is my second year with Gresczyk Farms and I imagine I'll stick with them next year. The farm offers a flexible pick-up schedule, allows me to skip weeks or reschedule my pickup day without penalty, and (this is important) allows me to swap parts of my share if there's something I don't want that week. Last week, for example, I was offered cilantro, but as I didn't have any immediate plans for cilantro that weekend, I swapped it for the price equivalent in beets. I also receive an email from the farm every Thursday night with a detailed list of what my partial share will contain and suggestions for using those items which certainly helps when it comes to menu planning.


If you want to try find a CSA near you, LocalHarvest maintains a great index!

7.17.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Coreopsis

Happy yellow Tickseed (Coreopsis) blooming in the afternoon shade.

7.16.2019

Homemade Raspberry Jam


Buoyed by my success making strawberry jam, I turned my hand to raspberry. I followed the recipe for reduced sugar berry jam (raspberry or blackberry) in the booklet that came with my Ball freshTECH Automatic Home Canning System. According to Ball, the recipes included with the canning system were specifically formulated for it and should be foolproof. I'm new enough to canning that I'm happy to stick to official recipes and not experiment.

The only difference I could see between the traditional and low-sugar recipe was that the low-sugar recipe only used three cups of sugar, while the traditional used five. The amounts of berries and pectin were exactly the same. They both included the option of using a half teaspoon of butter, which I took because folkloric Internet wisdom told me it would stop the jam from foaming. While the jam did not foam, I am not sure that had anything to do with the addition of butter and will simply have to make more jams to test the butter's efficacy.

I don't mean this post to be an ad for the freshTECH canning system, but I do love mine a lot. Having grown up with stove top hot water canning, I like how little energy and effort the canning system requires. The house doesn't heat up or become muggy, I don't worry that things are not at the right temperature, or not at the right temperature long enough, and it uses much less water than the stove top canner. Most importantly: Every. Single. Jar. Sealed.

But, hey, if you're already using a big enamel stove top hot water canner and are comfortable with that method, then stick to it. Especially if you like to preserve large batches. The freshTECH can process three quart jars, four pint jars, or six half pints, which is fine for a small household, but I know some of us like to put up jams by the dozen. Mom, certainly, would not have wasted her time on such small batches.


(Also, the $299 list price is ridiculous. I was lucky enough to buy mine last autumn on clearance BJ's Wholesale Club for around $80. For an $80 appliance, it is an excellent value. If you're interested in buying one, I'd recommend using a price tracker and holding out until you find one priced around $100 or less).

The reduced-sugar raspberry jam is completely yum. Just sweet enough, boldly raspberry, nicely thickened but not gloppy. Pretty damn fine for my first raspberry jam. I've been spooning it into plain Greek yoghurt and granola for a simple, flavorful breakfast. It's also nice on a turkey sandwich with baby spinach, red onion, and spicy brown mustard. And, of course, there's always peanut butter and jam crackers.

7.12.2019

Kit Kat and Lucy: The Country Cats Who Changed a City Girl's World


Read by the author, Kit Kat and Lucy: The Country Cats Who Changed a City Girl's World is a thoughtful account of how two cats helped a readjusting country "girl" (she’s in her 40s when the book starts) come to grips with her anxieties and sense of isolation brought on by returning to rural Michigan after years in San Francisco. The book is as much about her life and experiences as it is about the cats and might appeal to anyone looking for a cat-centric, feel good, vaguely spiritual memoir.

Pros: I found Kit Kat and Lucy to be a pleasant listen, but not necessarily a compelling one. As a certified cat lady I found many similarities between Kit Kat and Lucy and cats I have known. I especially liked that DuPont’s stories span the cat's entire lives, not shunning the bittersweet moments at the end.

Cons: The audio book could not hold my attention. I found the story slow going at points and DuPont's reading was not as emotive as I'd have liked.

Kit Kat and Lucy: The Country Cats Who Changed a City Girl's World by Lonnie Hull DuPont (ChristianAudio, 2016)

7.10.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Rudbeckia hirta

Always cheerful black-eyed Susan, a low-care plant
beneficial to bees, butterflies, and birds

7.03.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Vessel

Vessel, a massive ouroboros of stairs in Hudson Yards, NYC.

7.02.2019

Around Connecticut: Raspberry Picking at Lyman Orchards



Early last Saturday morning, before the sun burned off the clouds and the temperatures hit stayintheairconditioning numbers, I went raspberry picking. At Lyman Orchards, again, because I couldn't find another farm with raspberries ready to pick. The spring was, for the most part, rainy and cool which slowed the growth of some crops. In some ways this is a boon -- while Lyman's strawberries have come and gone, my CSA which is 40-ish miles north, has just begun picking. But if you want to go raspberry picking right now, there isn't much choice in farms.


While Lyman Orchards is a large farm -- 1,100 acres -- staff does a great job with directional signage and I've had no problem finding the fields I needed. The strawberry fields were quite close to the entrance to South Road, but the raspberries were a bit further afield on Powder Hill Road and that was fine as it was a beautiful morning, I was in no rush, and the additional distance gave me more things to look at -- many fruit trees, netted bushes that might have been blueberry, a pond, etc.

Parking is available in a dirt lot located to the left of the raspberry fields and visitors can pick up containers or trays at the little red shed located between the parking lot and the field. For the 2019 season, Lyman Orchards' raspberries are $5.65 per pound. The small green containers are free and the large trays are $1.75, but (as with the strawberries), the tray is free if you pick 10 pounds or more. Visitors are welcome to bring their own containers and I brought a duct tape reinforced box lid which the staff member at the shack weighed and noted before I began picking.

The rows were well groomed and orderly with lots of straw thrown down on the ground between them, which turned out to be a godsend as I spent most of my picking time on the ground, looking up through the raspberries leaves at all the beautiful deep-red clusters of berries waiting to be picked. Many people around me were going along, picking whatever they could see at the top, but I just found it a lot faster and easier to pick from the middle and bottom.

I picked five pounds in just over an hour, by which time the sun had come out and begun baking my brain. I paid up, drove home, and made jam.

More about jam later.

7.01.2019

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer


Depend upon it, you are just the sort of girl a man would be glad to have for his sister! You don't even know how to swoon, and I daresay if you tried you would make wretched work of it, for all you have is common sense, and of what use is that, pray?

Gervase Frant, the seventh Earl of St. Erth, has returned home from the Napoleonic wars to lukewarm welcome. His stepfamily resents him for getting in the way of a fortune and title which they deserved far more than he. Why, they wonder, couldn't Gervase have been a good sport and died on campaign? The nerve of the man! Only Cousin Theo and Miss Morville, a guest of his stepmother, seem pleased to see him.

And then a series of strange incidents and unfortunate accidents beset the Earl. Is it all just coincidence or is someone trying to get him out of the way ...

Oh, how I enjoyed The Quiet Gentleman! It's not a traditional Heyer romance -- indeed, the primary romance is so subtle as to be barely there -- but it makes for a rollicking good mystery. The characters and dialog were so well written that, while I detested Dowager Lady St Erth, still I took a great deal of pleasure from her barbs. And, even though this is a mystery, there is a lot of humor and wit afoot.

One of my favorite scenes is in Chapter 10, when Miss Morville is walking through the wood at twilight and hears the thud of horse's hooves. The scene could easily go Gothick, but Heyer pushes it in the opposite direction:

The woods were full of shadows, and already a little chilly, after the setting of the sun, but Miss Morville, neither so fashionable as to disdain wearing a warm pelisse, nor so delicate as to be unable to walk at a brisk pace, suffered no discomfort. She did not even imagine, when some small animal stirred in the undergrowth, that she was being followed; and was so insensible as to remain impervious to the alarm which might have been caused by the sudden scutter of a rabbit across the path ... The thud of a horse's hooves came to her ears, which led her to suppose, not that a desperate, and probably masked, brigand approached, but that the Earl, having parted from the Grampounds, was on his way back to the Castle.

Mind you, the poor girl was raised in an intellectual household and cannot be expected to demonstrate proper feminine sensibility!

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer (Harlequin Books, 2006)

6.30.2019

Around Connecticut: POA Summer Social Cat Café

Spent a few hours today cuddling strange cats at the Protectors of Animals' Summer Social Cat Café in East Hartford. The Protectors of Animals is a no-kill, non-profit animal shelter and rescue that has provided safe refuge to homeless and abandoned cats and dogs in Connecticut since 1975. The POA  hosts cat cafés several times a year as a fundraiser and they all have different themes. This one was brunch-y with mimosas, quiche, and some kind of ridiculously delish chocolate and peanut butter bark, among other things.

And there were cats. So many cats. Shy cats. Friendly cats. Big cats. Little cats. Young cats. Old cats. Cats who hunted the red dot. Cats who preferred feathers on a stick. Cats who just wanted to sleep. Cats who wanted to climb on all the things. Anyway, I petted many kitties and took a few of the ones I spent the most time with.

Marigold

Justine

Monkey

Alex

Olivia

The Husband spent a lot of time fawning over two adorable stripy kittens, but everyone loves kittens and they will easily find permanent homes. It's the shyer, older cats I worry about. Riley, for instance, is an intensely shy and gentle FIV positive senior cat. She was either a stray or a dump and has had some dental issues. Will someone look at her and see the sweetheart she is?

If you are inclined to become a cat's person, Protectors of Animal has many available for adoption and is open to the public Saturdays from 10:30 AM to 4 PM.

6.27.2019

Strawberry, Jam, & Cream Cake


After I'd made two batches of jam and two loaves of strawberry nut bread, I still had four pounds of perfectly ripe strawberries left. I turned some into strawberry vinegar and then decided the rest should be eaten with cake. I mean, cake is always a good solution to the "problem" of too much fruit.


I admit I used a white cake mix as my basis for this cake, preparing it as directed on the box except I used sparkling wine in place of the water/milk. Why sparkling wine? I wanted to be fancy? Also, I thought the carbonation might help the cake bake up light and fluffy. I couldn't taste or smell the wine after the cake had baked and, while it was light and fluffy, cakes from mixes generally are.


Strawberry, Jam, & Cream Cake

Yield: 6 generous servings

Ingredients

  • white cake layers, prepared from mix
  • really good strawberry jam
  • extremely fresh, ripe strawberries
  • freshly whipped cream

Instructions

  1. After cake has cooled, stack layers and cut into six wedges for a total of 12 pieces of cake.
  2. Whenever you are ready to eat the cake, spread a cake piece with strawberry jam, then top jam with chopped strawberries, and spread with freshly whipped cream.
  3. Top with another piece of cake, add more whipped cream, and garnish with additional chopped strawberries.
  4. Repeat as necessary until everyone has had enough cake.

I would pick more strawberries just to make this cake again.

6.26.2019

6.22.2019

Strawberry Picking, Memories Old & New

My Dad and I used to go strawberry picking every June, returning home with large baskets full of strawberries Mom would turn into jam, shortcake, and bread. I had a love-hate relationship with strawberry picking. I loved strawberries and all the things my mother would make from them, but I hated being out in the fields at the crack of dawn when they were still a bit misty and the mosquitoes were waiting. However, there was usually a sweet spot when the mist and mosquitoes left, but it had not gotten so warm my sweat attracted the horseflies. Then I loved picking and raced to see it I could fill my basket faster than Dad could fill his.


Once I went away to college I wasn't home for strawberry picking and it was all up to Dad. My parents found other things to do on June weekends and, eventually, strawberry picking stopped altogether. My mother put up fewer and fewer preserves and pickles and, while she still had all her canning accoutrements when she died, aside from a batch of pickled green tomatoes, she hadn't put up anything in a decade or more.

And yet when I think about my mom lately, my heart is full of memories of preserving and pickling. The humid kitchen heavy with the scent of hot jam which no amount of window-opening or fan use would shift. The kitchen counter covered with towels and quilted glass canning jars glowing like gems. The taste of still-warm strawberry jam on a slice of buttered white bread. And much later, in the autumn, the top shelf of the fridge door lined with a row of half-pint jam jars and quarts of pickles.


As I can't seem to stop thinking about jam making, I visited Lyman Orchards last week and, after an hour or so, picked almost thirteen pounds of strawberries. I could have picked faster, but the field was full of excited young families and adorable elderly ladies and it was pleasant to pick slowly among them.

Thirteen pounds of berries is quite a lot of berries and, as I'd picked the reddest, ripest fruit I could see, I was quite anxious to get them home once I filled cardboard flat. I was quite concerned about jam making, because it had always struck me as such a huge production that could so easily run amok. The jam might not set. The lids might not seal. I could bollocks the whole thing up.


But I didn't. I made two batches of strawberry jam -- one a traditional high sugar recipe and the other a reduced-sugar vanilla bean infused one -- from the instruction materials that came with the Ball freshTECH Automatic Home Canning System I'd purchased on clearance from BJ's Wholesale Club back in January at a delightful discount. Everything came together flawlessly with minimal fuss. The jam set. The lids sealed. I am now filled with confidence and want to jam all the things.

I used Mom's half pint jars and when I look at my jams, glowing ruby in the light from the kitchen window, I feel pride of accomplishment as well as a sense of continuity and permanence. While these are not my mother's jams, I imagine her twenties teaching herself to can and preserve, worrying about whether her jam would set or the lids would seal, and I think we share this.

6.19.2019

6.16.2019

My Best Banana Bread


I had a bunch of brown bananas in the freezer and felt like baking banana bread, but wanted to mix it up a bit so I turned to King Arthur Flour's Banana Bread Interactive Recipe Generator. I'd used the generator before, with good results, and expected the same again.

I was wrong. Instead of good bread, the generated recipe yield the best banana bread I have ever baked.

After I ate three slices with sweet creamery butter and tea for supper, I sliced the rest and took it to work the next day. My coworkers fell upon it like wolves upon a wee, tender lambie and it was gone by the end of my shift. Even those who told me they disliked many of the ingredients I'd used or just hated banana bread in general, definitely found this bread moreish.


It's a sturdy loaf with tender crumb and a perfect balance of flavors. The banana and spices complement each other well, the cranberries add a bit of tartness to counteract all the sweet, the nuts add body, and the crystallized ginger bits are a little spicy flavor bombs. I have zero regrets about eating three slices for supper and I'm thinking it might make excellent french toast ...


My Best Banana Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mashed banana
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup chopped toasted pecans
  • ⅓ cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp coarse-grained, sparkling white sugar
  • ⅓ cup chopped toasted pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the mashed banana with all of the remaining ingredients except any mix-ins (chips, nuts, seeds, etc.) Beat the batter thoroughly, until everything is well combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat briefly to incorporate any sticky residue. Stir in the mix-ins.
  3. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle over the remaining teaspoon cinnamon, two tablespoons sparkling sugar, and third cup pecans over the batter.
  4. Bake the bread for about 60 to 75 minutes, until the bread feels set on the top, and a thin sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.
  5. Remove the bread from the oven. Cool it in the pan for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.
  6. Store leftover bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

6.12.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Gray Treefrog

Found this gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) hanging out on the patio.

6.07.2019

Arabella by Georgette Heyer


He said there was a great deal of nonsense in such books, and that the moral tone was sadly lacking.

Arabella, the eldest daughter of an impoverished country vicar, is on her way to London to make her debut (and secure a good marriage which will guarantee comfortable futures for her younger siblings) under the auspices of her godmother when her carriage breaks down in the rain. Forced to take shelter at a nearby estate, she is treated coldly by its owner -- that most sought-after of bachelors, Robert Beaumaris. Outraged by his presumption that she is just another conniving miss out to trap him into marriage, Arabella sets herself up as an heiress without peer. Arabella has quite a lot of fun telling whoppers about herself … until she arrives in London and it becomes clear that her lies have arrived ahead of her!

You will not be surprised to discover that I really enjoyed Arabella. The principle characters were well written (and frequently hilarious), the story chugged along at a good pace with lots of witty dialogue and entertaining interludes, and Heyer’s use of historical setting and detail is always so much delicious icing on the cake.

I must admit, though, that as much as I loved the dialogue between Arabella and Beaumaris, it was Beaumaris’s conversations with Ulysses (the mongrel dog Arabella persuades him to shelter) that stole the show:

Mr. Beaumaris released Ulysses, who shook himself, sighed his satisfaction, and looked up for approbation. ‘Yes, you will, I perceive, ruin me yet, ‘ said Mr. Beaumaris severely. ‘If I am any judge of character, you picked your language up in the back-slums, and have probably been the associate of dustmen, coal-heavers, bruisers. And other such low persons! You are quite unfit for polite circles.’

Ulysses lolled his tongue out, and grinned cheerfully.

‘At the same time,’ said Mr. Beaumaris, relenting, ‘I daresay you would have made mincemeat out of that creature, and I must own that I am not entirely out of sympathy with you. But poor Poodle will certainly cut me for a week at least.’

Arabella by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2009)

6.06.2019

Cooking From Nancy Cho's The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers


I borrowed Nancy Cho's The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers from my library recently and was so completely smitten with it that I purchased a copy of my own. It's just a wonderful cookbook -- beginner-friendly with accessible recipes and (reasonably) easy to find ingredients. Allergy information (gluten/soy/dairy/nut) is included with each recipe as well as a graphic denoting the country of origin (everywhere from China to Sri Lanka). My only complaint is there aren't enough photos! Each chapter begins with a beautiful photograph, but that's it. If you want to know what a dish should look like, you'll have to google ... or check out the author's Instagram.

Vietnamese Beef Stew

So far, I have made the "Vietnamese Beef Stew," "Spicy Lemongrass Chicken," "Braised Short Ribs," and "Spicy Radish Salad" with consistently delicious results. The Husband, who can be rather choosy when it comes seasonings, enjoyed everything but the (rather fiery) radish salad and that was fine, as I'd made it mostly for myself! As there are only two of us, each recipe made leftovers, but those kept well and we definitely looked forward to eating them.

Braised Short Ribs

I strongly recommend The Easy Asian Cookbook for Slow Cookers if you want to make more Asian-flavored dishes, but have felt intimidated in the past or simply want to get away from the same old slow cooker recipes.

Spicy Lemongrass Chicken

6.05.2019

#WordlessWednesday: Silent Agitator

"Silent Agitator," clock sculpture by Ruth Ewan located on the High Line near 24th Street.