Friday, November 30, 2007

Oops I Did It Again...

I ordered more books from Bookcloseouts. Here they are:

Reading Groups by Jenny Hartley was recommend by Simon a few months back. There are some nice reading lists in the back.

The Widow's War by Sally Gunning was recommend by Gentle Reader.

The Viceroy's Daughters by Anne de Courcy and Ladies and Not-So-Gentle Women by Alfred Allan Lewis are nice big biographies of women - I love these sorts of books.

Title Deeds by Liza Campbell - I read about this book last fall in Vogue - and again this fall by its US title.

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes is a novel about Australian women traveling to the UK to reunite with the UK born husbands.

Here are my latest mooches and used book purchases:

The Brimstone Wedding and The House of Stairs are my 2 latest Barbara Vine acquisitions.

Celia by E.H. Young is the book on these piles I'm most excited about. It's been eluding me until now.

The Optomist's Daughter by Eudora Welty - another Virago

Masie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear - There was a meme a while back and one of the questions was 'What character in fiction would you want to be?' So many people answered Maisie Dobbs and I just knew I needed to find out what all the fuss was about.

The Matriarchs edited by Susan Mitchell is a compilation of twelve Australian women's thoughts on their lives. I think I'm the only person on Librarything with this one!

City of Dreadful Delight by Judith R. Walkowitz - The subtitle is Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London. It looks very scholarly.

A Meal to Please the Masses

It's rare to prepare a meal that everyone is equally excited about. Last night I prepared Broccoli with Wonderful Peanut Sauce from Mollie Katzen's new cookbook The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. I figured that if you were dipping broccoli into peanut sauce, you might as well dip the rest of your dinner, too, so I prepared broiled chicken marinated in lime juice, olive oil, and cumin, and quinoa mixed with lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, and soy sauce.

(Changes I made to the peanut sauce recipe include: using a bit less water, 2 whole cloves of garlic, and more soy sauce than called for.)


I've been feeling quite smug for the past week that I hadn't picked up the cold my family has been sporting but my luck has ran out. I'm still in the beginning stages with my headache and swollen throat, soon to be followed by the stuffy nose and cough. And there's so much to do. Anyhow, I'm skipping the gym today and throwing myself at the couch to watch Perfume, a movie based on a very strange and creepy book. I read the book a few years ago and Danielle has reminded me that I must watch the film.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Roasted Vegetables, Anyone?

Roasted vegetables are one of my favorite things to make and eat. They are easy to prepare and the flavors are terrific. Here are some green and wax beans I roasted this past Summer.

I'll roast just about any vegetable. Some of my favorites are:

Green and Wax Beans
Root Vegetables
Winter Squash

I love them all but I think roasted broccoli is probably the biggest surprise taste-wise on this list. Even the stalks taste good this way.

I prepare all my roasted vegetables pretty much the same way. I toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper right on the baking sheet and put them into the oven. The best temperature for my oven for roasting is around 400-425 degrees. If I happen to have something else in the oven that needs a lower temperature, I just count on a longer cooking time, though I do think the oven needs to be at least 375 degrees. I usually check them for doneness after about 15 minutes. I like the vegetables to get pretty brown so I just keep checking and tasting until they're just the way I like them.

My current favorite roasted vegetable dish is carrots and parsnips with honey. I cut both into sticks. They seem to cook a bit faster this way and you get the greatest amount of browning.

I roast them as described above until they are almost finished. I then put some honey, and a bit of salt if the veggies need some, into the microwave and warm. I then pull the veggies out of the oven and toss with the honey. The pan goes back into the oven for five more minutes. Delicious!

In other news.............

It is winter here! Yesterday morning the our indoor/outdoor electronic thermometer showed 4 degrees. I actually checked 2 other sources to make sure that was correct! It is a shock to the system, but luckily I have my new down coat, which I have named The I'll Never Be Cold Again Coat - and I wasn't.


I've been watching some episodes of The Duchess of Duke Street on Netflix instant watch. I enjoyed the first five episodes and on the sixth, the show was really not about Louisa Trotter at all. It seemed much more like a weekly show with storylines that were independent of one another that happened to take place in Louisa Trotter's hotel. Is this the case with the rest of the show? I enjoy the parts with Louisa the most and felt a bit let down.


I have to have my picture taken tonight for our church directory and I'm NOT looking forward to it. I really hate having my picture taken. My husband and daughter are hugely photogenic and have great smiles and new haircuts. I suggested that the two of them represent all of us, but my husband didn't go for that idea. Oh, well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Dark Adapted Eye

A Dark Adapted Eye is the second book I've read by Barbara Vine. I owe a big thank you to the bloggers who have written about her books because I'm sure I would never have picked them up otherwise. I cannot tell you how many people have commented on the fact that the book I've been carrying around (different cover than shown) does not look like something I would typically read - and they are right. Vine's books look like typical murder mysteries but they are really so much more.

A Dark Adapted Eye is the story of Vera Hillyard, as told by her niece Faith. We know from the outset that Vera has been hung for murder around 1950, yet we do not know who she killed or why. A reporter in the present day is doing research for a book and causes Faith to revisit her memories of the time. Faith's reminisces begin when she was a young girl, visiting her Aunt in the country, and the story continues in this vein as Faith becomes older and watches the actions of her elders. This book is very domestic, very much a family drama that happens to have a tragic murder tied to it. Vines drops little hints and comments that we don't understand until later on. I find her such a clever writer and find it hard to believe how prolific she is. I enjoyed this book, and while I didn't love the ending, I would still consider it a very good read.

Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell, and when I wrote about Asta's Book I had wondered what the differences were in the books written under each name. The copy of Dark Adapted Eye that I have contains a letter from Rendell on this very subject. She writes that she has been called both Ruth and Barbara for her entire life and they are two different facets of her personality. Barbara has a softer voice which is more intuitive and is the more feminine part of her personality. I have a few other Vine books waiting in the wings and look forward to them.

I am currently reading:

The Apple of My Eye by Helene Hanff

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West for Karen's new bookgroup. I just started this last night.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - I just picked this up again last week. I'm having a bit of trouble with it...Margaret Hale has been visiting Bessy and Nicolas Higgins quite a bit and the parts with the Higgins' speaking is written in colloquial English (is that the proper word?). I don't know why, perhaps because I'm reading at night and I'm tired but these parts make me feel so tense because I have to work so hard to understand what's being said. A minor gripe, really, but it's keeping me from wanting to pick up the book again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy 6th Birthday Baby Girl!

Apparently the dream dinner of a six year old, well my six year old anyway, consists of:

macaroni and cheese
hot dogs
a baguette with butter
raw baby carrots

All followed by a chocolate frosted doughnut. Ugh. Unfortunately I worked all weekend, so wasn't able to make a special meal (I did make the cake last week, after all). In any case, she was pleased with the meal she chose.

Book talk soon, I promise.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Ahhhh. They butterfly party went well, overall and I think everyone had a good time. I am saying, though, that this was my last big birthday party at home. It was a little crazy and my daughter tends to have her bossy hat on at our home which made for some tense moments for me.

Now I can get back to blogging about books. I have managed to finish two, the first was The Island by Victoria Hislop. In the first part of The Island, a young woman, Alexis, travels to Crete with her boyfriend and intends - with her mother's blessing - to learn about her family's history. This introduction is just a vehicle the author uses to tell the main portion of the story which is that of a family living in a small Cretan village around the time of WW2 across the water from Spinalonga, a leper colony.

This book is primarily a family saga which is a genre I always enjoy. I appreciated learning more about leprosy and leper colonies, what life was like for the lepers, and about how treatment became available. It was interesting to search online after reading this book and see photographs (as above) of the island of Spinalonga. I wasn't crazy about the beginning and ending of the book , that is to say, the parts about present-day Alexis and her boyfriend troubles. But, overall, I enjoyed this book and found it to be entertaining. It wasn't a particularly taxing read which is just what I needed at the time.

The second book I finished is The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff. This book is the journal Hanff writes during her visit to London which was a lifelong dream. I was surprised to notice that when I read the first page of this book Hanff leaves New York for London on the exact day I was born - year and all. It was certainly fun to see that in print. For everyone who remarked how much they enjoyed 84, Charing Cross Road - well I just know you'd love this book. It's just a delight - charming, lovely, funny and warm. Hanff is treated like a princess in London - hence the title. I don't like to give too much away so that you can enjoy it yourself.

We are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving in a few days. We're having dinner with friends since we have to stay in town - I have to work all weekend. I'll be preparing cranberry-orange sauce, a sweet potato dish with a praline topping (it could really be called dessert), and a green bean dish with mushrooms and shallots. I'll also bring bread, a relish tray, and cocktails - passion fruit bellinis. What will you be making for the holiday, if you celebrate it?

I suspect I won't be back until after until then, enjoy the holiday.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Fumblings

Whew. If there was an award for Mom of the day, I'd be in the running today. I have baked a butterfly cake (from scratch) complete with three colors of frosting, tied many tiny butterflies to lengths of curling ribbon and attached them to my chandelier, soon I'll go sell books at the aforementioned book sale, followed by dinner and more preparations for tomorrow's party.


Bookclub was held at my house last night when we discussed Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I was somewhat surprised by the reaction: 3 people liked it, 2 "did not like it and would not recommend it", and 1 thought it was 'okay'. Hmmm. We had a good discussion nonetheless and voted on what we'll read in 2008. I'm fairly pleased with the list. I didn't feel the suggestions this year were the greatest...and other people must have felt the same because we added three titles spontaneously that no one had suggested. One was my husband's idea. Here is the list - the titles I've already read are bolded.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
There are No Children Here by Alex Kottowitz
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I was a little disappointed but not surprised that no one voted for Half of a Yellow Sun.


I was very envious recently when so many UK blog writers wrote their thoughts on the new version of Room With a View shown on television. My clever friend from work who is also a fan of all things 'period' found it online, I won't spell it out for fear of it being removed but the initials of the place are Y** T***. You can watch it in 10 segments. I liked it.....but I have loved the original 1985 film for years and have watched it many times - though not recently. The new film didn't live up to the old version for me, so I'm going to re watch it- the old version - and see if it lives up to its place in my memory.


Nutmeg asked me in a comment to list Nigella's books from favorite to least favorite. Here goes:

1. How to Eat - for reading pleasure and recipes
2. How to Be a Domestic Goddess - about baking - same thoughts as number one
3. Nigella Bites - I love the TV show this book was based on and have some favorite recipes from it- chocolate cake anyone?
4. Feast - I haven't cooked much from this but it's a terrific read.
5. Forever Summer - Similar in style to Nigella Bites (that is to say, less wordy - which is my favorite thing about Nigella - her writing). There are a couple recipes I make regularly.
6. Nigella Express - I don't see myself using this much. This is also less wordy that her previous books.

I would suggest How to Eat or HTBADG to start with. I think those really represent how Nigella cooks and much of the rest is a bit diluted - in my opinion.

Have a lovely weekend - after the party I'll be making my shopping list for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gingerbread....and other stuff

Well, it looks like I really struck gold by mentioning 84, Charing Cross Road! Thanks so much to everyone for mentioning how much they enjoyed it and for suggesting additional reading and watching. I picked up Hanff's sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street from the library today and will hopefully report back on it soon.
I helped set up the Scholastic Book Fair yesterday at my daughter's elementary school - I was surprised by how much fun it was! I got to live out my fantasy of working in a bookstore for a little while - unpacking boxes, setting up displays, figuring out where books should go - what fun!

I've been tagged for a fun meme by Lisamm at Books on the Brain. Here are the directions:

Open up the book you’re currently reading to page 161 and read the sixth sentence on the page, then think of 5 bloggers to tag.

I currently doing some light reading (The Island by Victoria Hislop), and the sixth sentence on page 161 is:

Levels of starvation in Crete were, by now, reaching such high levels that it was not unheard of for local people to accept what was know as the 'Deutsche drachma' for a tip-off about the whereabouts of resistance fighters.

Well. That doesn't sound very light, does it? If you would like to do this please do, and let me know. I love knowing what people are reading.

Today I baked Nigella's Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing from How to be a Domestic Goddess.

I have made this recipe several times and it's always been successful and received rave reviews. The only change I've made is in the icing.....when I've mixed it as directed it's been more of a glaze and there has not been enough. I generally sift a pile of confectioner's sugar (1 1/2 to 2 cups) then add most of the juice of a lemon - stir in warm water until you have a thick, white spreadable paste (it resembles glue).

I love making gingerbread in the fall but it makes so much that I like to make it for a crowd - that's where tonight's bookclub meeting comes in handy. Are there any recipes you look forward to making each fall (or any other season for that matter)? I'm thinking of recipes that are not generally repeated often, just made year after year.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Meanderings

I want to apologize for the many responses to comments I need to make, the many posts I need to read, and the lack of posts I've meant to write...

I've just finished a three day weekend (no school on Friday) with an out of town husband and a little person attached to me for most of the time. She seems to sense when things are different, that is, when one of us is not just at work but is actually away - and really wants to be near the person with her. Which is lovely, really, but there's not much reading or blogging or anything else to be done when that happens. All in all we had a very nice weekend, played with some preschool friends we haven't seen since kindergarten began, saw an unexpectedly funny move (Bee Movie) - the reviews were terrible, and purchased some Christmas decorations.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed this week. I have some volunteer work to do at the elementary school that I signed up for a while back - helping with the Scholastic Book Sale - perfect job for me you know, school conferences, I'm hosting bookclub this Thursday which means cleaning and baking, and a party for 11 5-6 year olds on Saturday - more cleaning, baking and decorating. I'll be relieved when Saturday evening arrives.

I've actually finished two books recently, the second one quite short. The first was Case Histories by Kate Atkinson which my bookclub will be discussing here on Thursday evening. This was actually a re-read for me and I think I enjoyed it this time just as much as I enjoyed it the first time. The novel opens by describing three separate and seemingly unrelated crimes. Jackson Brodie, private investigator, becomes involved with all three incidents and the people involved in each one. This is a mystery, but a very literary mystery. I think I enjoyed this book more than Atkinson's follow-up, One Good Turn, which also features Jackson Brodie.

The second book I read arrived on Saturday compliments of a swap. I started paging through it and before I knew it I'd read the entire book in about an hour. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is an utterly charming book and I'm so glad I read it. I'm not sure what precipitated my reading it - perhaps it was Karen's post last week regarding books of letters. In any case, it was educational, informative, funny, and really, just what I needed. I realize that I simply cannot fully comprehend the situation in the UK in the years following WW2. Of course, I've read that the situation was bad and that rationing went on for years, but I found this line stunning:

'Brian told me you are all rationed to 2 ounces of meat per family per week and one egg per person per month.'

Goodness. In any case, I am so looking forward to Hanff's follow-up, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street which is on its way to me from the library.

Ever since I told Nan about Bloglines, I've had nothing but trouble with it. Each post I look at reappears as a new one - I can't make anything go away! Is anyone else having this problem?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

There's a catch...

Ohhhh, lovely new (to me) books! And the best part? I didn't pay for any of them. It's true, they are all mooches and swaps and the only brand new one was obtained with a gift card.

Let's see what we have...

The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine - I really enjoyed Asta's Book and have been investigating Vine's backlist to see what I might enjoy. This looks enticing and I should have a few more Vine books on the way soon.

Lot's of great Virago finds...

Cecilia by Fanny Burney - This is huge! I'm thinking this was not the best format for this book to be published's rather awkward.

The Way Things Are by Delafield - This is about the doubts a 34 year old woman has about her marriage - are they really 'happily married'?

Crewe Train by Rose Macaulay

Deerbrook by Harriet Martineau - The author was a friend of Charlotte Bronte. The plot sounds reminiscent of an Austen book.

An Omlette anda Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David - I'm looking forward getting to know the work of this classic food writer.

Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson - This book is beautifully published but I can already tell it won't be one of my favorites of hers. I think what I like most about Nigella is her writing and this book has a bit less of that - in the interest of being Express, of course.

I emailed a publisher about an author's visit to my city and he sent me a great link to a site that lists what authors will be in your area. Genius! And from signing up, it looks as thought this might be international. I haven't seen anything in particular I'd like to see, but I'm going to keep checking.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Air We Breathe

I was lucky enough to win a copy of Andrea Barrett's The Air We Breathe from Library Thing's Early Reviewer program. This novel takes place in upstate New York in 1916 in a village called Tamarack Lake - a place primarily populated by sufferers of tuberculosis. The wealthy stay in private cute cottages, the less fortunate are wards of the state and thus live in the public sanatorium. There is a war going on across the ocean and the residents of this community wonder and wait to find out if the United States will become involved. Barrett takes her time with this story, introducing us to each character in turn, so that the reader might get to know each one as an individual - how they came to be in this place, and their hopes and dreams. Leo Marberg is the main character in this tale, a young Russian immigrant who speaks multiple languages and was trained as a chemist in the old country; he has not yet fulfilled his dreams in this new world. Eudora and Naomi are girls from the village with differing ideas of how to get what they want from this life. Miles Fairchild is a wealthy owner of a concrete company as well as a patient; he tries to use his time productively. This is the story of how these people and others become entwined in one another's lives, of the love quadrangle that results, and ultimately the disaster that occurs.

I really, really enjoyed reading this book. I thought Andrea Barrett's characterization was brilliant, I felt as thought I knew each person in the story. She uses a unique perspective in telling this story - it is told in the collective "We" and represents the other patients at the sanatorium, the ones not directly involved in the action. I particularly enjoyed learning about early x-ray technology as well as how tuberculosis was treated in these times with no appropriate medications. Overall, I would recommend this book. I understand that there are characters in this book that have also appeared in her other books so this might be of particular interest to those who have read Barrett's other work.

In other news.....I saw flurries when I was out driving a little bit ago. Snow flurries! Eeek!

Also...Lotus has been kind enough to give me a lovely award, the Schmooze award.

This award is for the bloggers who “effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship.”

I would like to pass this award on to the following people - and as always - no need to do anything. Pass it on if you wish, or just enjoy - it's up to you.

Geranium Cat
Gentle Reader

I'd like to give it to all of you who've welcomed me so kindly here and made me feel at home.

Of course I give this award in particular to Lotus, who completely epitomizes the meaning of the Schmooze award, in my opinion.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Have you ever made....Quinoa?

The first time I ever ate quinoa, it was in one of those prepacked box dishes. We didn't like it very much and I didn't really think about eating it again. In the past few years, in the interest of variety and trying to feed my family well, I began thinking again of whole grains. Last winter I bought Lorna Sass's cookbook Whole Grains, Every Day, Every Way and have found it to be a wealth of information. She includes basic cooking instructions for so many grains ( as well as more involved and interesting recipes) and that is where my basic recipe came from.

Even though I have lots of interesting recipes that call for quinoa, I haven't gotten too fancy with it, mainly because I've found it to be a quick weeknight meal addition. One way we've eaten is in place of rice with a stir fry. Basically, you just boil water and add the quinoa to it. Apparently you're supposed to rinse it, which I've never done, but now you know. I use about 1 cup dried for the 3 of us and there is usually a bit left over. I start checking the quinoa for doneness after about 15 minutes, and have found it generally takes 15-20 minutes to cook. You'll see a tiny white ring pull away from the grain and it will be chewy.

The main way we like to eat quinoa and the way we had it last night is as follows.

Cook as directed above, drain and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, a bit of grated Parmesan and toasted pine nuts. I like to use a fork to mix it all together so it doesn't get too clumpy. I think a bit of grated lemon rind would be a nice addition. My almost 6 year old eats this, mainly because she loves pine nuts - I don't dare leave them out.

I thought I'd add a bit of color to this post with this purple broccoli.

It's not local, I found it at Whole Foods and couldn't resist. It has a much more broccoli-ish flavor than the usual grocery store variety. The purple parts turned dark green upon cooking, but left purple water marks on our plates.

I'll be working this weekend (sigh), but since I'm making lasagna tonight for dinner, at least I'll have good meals while I'm there.