31 December 2009

Books Read in 2009

Well, my reading goal for 2009 was to read 25 books. Not a lot, but in 2008 I didn't read very much at all, so it felt doable. And it was! I read 44 books total. (Why didn't I finish just one more? I'm only 70 or so pages from the end of one of my current reads.)

Books Read, January through December, 2009
01 – J13 - Weather Makers, Tim Flannery, Review
02 – J15 - The Tales of Beedle the Bard, JK Rowling, Review
03 – J20 - Criminal Minds: Finishing School, Max Allen Collins, Review
04 – J21 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Review
05 – J27 - A Spot of Bother, Mark Haddon, Review
06 – F11 - Divisidero, Michael Ondaatje, Review
07 – F14 - Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday, Garth Nix
08 – F22 - Keys to the Kingdom: Grim Tuesday, Garth Nix
09 - M08 - The Supernaturalist, Eoin Colfer, Review
10 – M15 - Keys to the Kingdom: Drowned Wednesday, Garth Nix
11 – M23 - Keys to the Kingdom: Sir Thursday, Garth Nix
12 – M29 - Keys to the Kingdom: Lady Friday, Garth Nix
13 – A05 - Keys to the Kingdom: Superior Saturday, Garth Nix
14 – A12 - God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Christopher Hitchens, Review
15 – M04 - Spook Country, William Gibson, Review
16 – M08 - City of Thieves, David Benioff
17 – M28 -The In-Between World of Vikram Lall, MG Vassanji, Review
18 – J03 - The Accidental, Ali Smith, Review
19 - J05 - Skim, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, Review
20 – J12 - The Mysterious Benedict Society,Trenton Lee Stewart, Review
21 – J19 - The Man who Forgot How to Read, Howard Engel, Review
22 – J25 - Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan, Review
23 – J02 - Born on a Blue Day, Daniel Tammet, Review
24 – J04 - Adverbs, Daniel Handler, Review
25 – J07 - jPod, Douglas Coupland, Review
26 – J12 - When You Are Engulfed in Flames, David Sedaris, Review
27 – J22 - Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, Review
28 – J27 - Interworld, Neil Gamain & Michael Reaves, Review
29 – J28 - The Flying Troutmans, Miriam Toews, Review
30 – A03 - Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card, Review
31 – A04 - The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill, Review
32 – A12 - M is for Magic, Neil Gaiman, Review
33 – A14 - Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card, Review
34 – S16 - Little, Big, John Crowley
35 – S23 - The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
36 – O16 - Ghost Story, Peter Straub, Review
37 – O20 - Chasing Vermeer, Blue Balliett
38 – O27 - Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
39 – N12 - Pattern Recognition, William Gibson, Review
40 – N22 - At Last There is Nothing Left to Say, Matthew Good
41 – N27 - The Chrysalids, John Wyndham, Review
42 – D02 - Elizabeth Rex, Timothy Findley
43 – D04 - You Are What You Eat, Gillian McKeith
44 – D10 - Dark Entries, Ian Rankin

Various bits and pieces about what I read below the cut...

24 December 2009

Recipe: Piroshky

My sister and I made piroshky today. It's a Russian sort of stuffed meat bun. I think there are as many ways to make piroshky as there are people in Russia, but my brother-in-law's method includes meat, cabbage, and of course dill.

Here's a kind of sort of recipe and a how-to.

23 December 2009

Recipe: Pfefferneuse

These aren't quite as dry/hard as most commercial pfefferneuse I've had, but they're still drier than I'd prefer. (I like soft cookies best.) The flavour is pretty amazing though. Well, if you like spice cookies. And I do. Yum.

Cookies for Christmas

Hey look! I made cookies yesterday.

I don't know what inspired me to bake the day after getting my H1N1 shot because OW my arm hurts but I guess I just had too much to do. Today is officially Blame the H1N1 Shot Day. As in: "I'd love to help unload the dishwasher, but I can't really lift my arm up right now. Sorry!"

In any case, I made four kinds of cookies yesterday - shortbread cookies (left), soft chocolate cookies (middle), pistachio orange cookies (right), and pfefferneuse, which are hiding under the pistachio cookies.

Everything kind of went a little bit wrong yesterday - we didn't have any eggs (my sister and her husband made piroshky the day before, messed up the dough and had to start over, using up double the eggs they'd planned), I forgot to buy pistachios, I used wheat flour instead of white (I'm sorry, but health be damned: I'd rather my christmas cookies have as little nutritive value as possible, if it means they taste like they're meant to) on two of the batches of cookies, I snapped a wooden spoon in half mixing the pfefferneuse dough. Our oven is cooking 50 degrees hot. Ugh.

Anyway, the two cookies with whole wheat flour taste okay, but are a touch drier than they should be. I maybe should have added a bit more liquid or else just taken them out of the oven a little earlier, but they don't taste too far off the mark. Or not so far off that I wouldn't give them away. The pistachio cookies are a bit too salty. They're meant to be kind of salty-sweet like a chocolate dipped pretzel, but they're just a touch too hardcore salty. Sigh.

Everything else is basically as they should be. Thank goodness, because I gave these three small boxes to one friend, a bigger box to my boss, and tomorrow I'm leaving another bigger box for my various managers and whoever comes into their office. I didn't want to buy more useless trinkets for people, so, you know. Food.

Anyway, if anyone wants recipes, leave a comment. They're all already typed up, which means they're all pretty easy to reproduce here. I won't even blame it on H1N1 shots if it takes me a while, it'd just be outright laziness.

17 December 2009

Lemon Chickpea Lentil Soup

It's been quite a while since I've felt like talking about food. Since I've felt like COOKING food for that matter. I think in the last several months, I've only made two things I've thought were worth a damn. This is one of them.

It's not so cold now, but we had a really cold cold-snap last week and I kept thinking about soup and how it was soup weather and then my iPod would be on shuffle and Almost a Full Moon would come up: "Let's make some soup cause the weather is turning cold/ Let's stir it together til we are both grey and old / Let's stir it together til it tells us stories of its own / Let's make some soup cause the weather is turning cold..."

I kept trying to make this soup - "Lemon Chickpea Lentil Soup" from Dreena Burton's eat, drink & be vegan (her blog can be found here) - but then I'd realize my lemons were gone too old or I'd not got any celery or I had no onion or some combination of the three. Like a perfect storm, I managed all the ingredients today.

With quilting, I sometimes feel like a project isn't really a project until I've bled over it. Well, I bled over this soup project. Several months ago I bought myself an immersion blender and I've never used it in all that time, so I finally dug it out, and nicked my index finger but good while giving it its first wipe down. That sucker is sharp.

In any case, this soup was a really delicious combination of red lentils, chickpeas, vegetables - Burton suggests either zucchini or tomatoes, but I had both so I used both - and a really warm fall-flavour of cumin, mustard seed, paprika, and some other herbs. The soup is finished with fresh-squeezed lemon, which I'd thought might kind of lighten it out of the fall-flavours zone, but it really just brightened and sort of intensified the flavours already in the soup. Seriously delicious. I'd love to post the recipe, but I couldn't find it online. Alas.

I think anyone who has filtered through the food parts of this blog very much can certainly tell that I'm as far from vegan as it gets, but I do like to cook vegetarian meals at least a few times a week so I'm forever buying vegetarian or vegan cookbooks. I mostly cook the recipes with beans in them because I'm still terrified of tofu, but there might be one or two recipes in this cookbook that I may, maybe, if I can talk myself into it, try. We'll see.

In any case, this is a pretty nice cookbook. (It's doing duty as a coaster under my bowl in the photo.) There are several recipes I'd like to try (even excluding the possibly-maybe tofu recipes). If I have any complaint, it's that there just aren't enough pictures. I love a cookbook with a lot of pictures - I like to know what I'm getting into. In any case, even if I don't try anything else, it's almost worth the purchase price just for this soup - really delicious stuff.

28 November 2009

Review: Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

It's been quite a long while now since I read Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, but since I've still got a couple books left in this universe to read: here's a quick blurb.

Opening paragraph:
Speaker for the Dead travels far into the future of Ender Wiggin's life. No longer the boy found in Ender's Game, Ender is a man who travels from one colony to another speaking on behalf of the dead. Ender's book "The Hive Queen and the Hegemon", which told the story of the buggers and their destruction, eventually became the basis of his profession: telling the story, both good and bad, of a life. Ender is called to a planet with a known intelligent alien life, piggies, to speak the death of Pipo, a xenologer who studies the piggies and has been brutally killed by them. En route to the planet, he is called again to speak the death of yet another murdered xenologer, Pipo's son Libo, and that of the husband, Marcos, of the planet's only xenobiologist, Novinha, who had worked closely with both Pipo and Libo. Ender arrives to find Novinha an embittered and detached adult who is terrified of the secrets Ender might reveal in speaking the deaths of the three men. Naturally, Ender shakes things up for the entire community, first by showing up at all and then by revealing so much that has been kept secret.

27 November 2009

Review: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham is a post-apocalyptic novel describing a society some thousand years into a future where some catastrophic event, called Tribulation by survivors in Labrador, has laid waste to most of the world, rendering much of North America uninhabitable or gone wild with mutated plants and animals. Animals and plants with mutations are destroyed; mutated people are either killed or rendered sterile and left to fend for themselves in the Fringes, an area bordering the Badlands where mutations are more common than true images.

David Strorm is son of his community's most zealous supporter of the fight to maintain purity; he is also one of a handful of telepathic children in the area. Realizing that they too are mutations, the children fight to keep their secret, but David's sister, more strongly telepathic than any of the others, is incapable of controlling her abilities and inadvertently reveals the secrets of the entire group.

Opening paragraph:
When I was quite small I would sometimes dream of a city – which was strange because it began before I even knew what a city was. But this city, clustered on the curve of a big blue bay, would come into my mind. I could see the streets, and the buildings that lined them, the waterfront, even boats in the harbour; yet, waking, I had never seen the sea, or a boat…
I really enjoyed this book. I have a thing for novels about dystopian futures and also for science fiction that clearly relates to the real world.

15 November 2009

Review: M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic was a disappointment. I hate to say that because I love Gaiman and don't want to feel that way. And generally his books are so good that when I feel kind of iffy about something, I feel like it must be my fault rather than his. How could it be my fault when an author's book doesn't live up to my expectations? Well, in this case, I didn't notice that it was a compilation of eleven stories, of which I'd already read (and in most cases, owned!) nine.

Opening paragraph from "The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds":
I sat in my office, nursing a glass of hooch and idly cleaning my automatic. Outside the rain fell steadily, like it seems to do most of the time in our fair city, whatever the tourist board says. Heck, I didn't care. I'm not on the tourist board. I'm a private dick, and one of the best, although you wouldn't have known it; the office was crumbling, the rent was unpaid, and the hooch was my last.
The idea of M is for Magic was to select and group together stories that might appeal to children. Some stories are meant to be scary, others funny. There is poetry and prose, genres children might enjoy but never have encountered (for example, the noir styled "The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds").