Sunday, June 29, 2008

They'd be so much happier if they had fruit tarts.

the summer of the re-reads continues. sitting on my bedside table is the first two books of George R R Martin's Song of Ice & Fire series. I'm half way through the first one. maybe by the time i finish all four (again!), the fifth will be out? yeah right!

Reading A Game of Thrones for the second time, i'm picking up on all the dropped hints, the quick mentions, Old's Nan's stories. . . everything i missed the first time, because i didn't realize in an 800 page book, George R R Martin doesn't waste a single word.

- a single sentence describing some physical characteristics of Jon Snow's mother
- Ned Stark's comment about "Arya growing up to marry a King and be a Queen" (he says something like that
- a quick introduction to Gendry
- the thin line between "ward" and "hostage"
- all the subtly brilliant foreshadowing.

So sure, I know what's going to happen at the end of this novel, I know what's going to happen at the end of all four novels in the series. But the characters have no idea what's coming. The Stark children, so innocent, their parents have done a wonderful job of keeping them away from the corruptions of the King's court, the concerns of knights and lords. The Stark children haven't a clue what the real world is. they have no idea the pain and suffering in store for them. they might see it as pain and suffering, but isn't that just a form of growing up?

on a happier note, my house is exploding with fruit. Everything in the produce dept at the grocery store looked so good, i couldn't help myself from buying as much as possible. The next morning, i made the mistake of going to the farmers market, where nearly everything looked even better. peaches, cherries, snow peas. . . what am i going to do with all this food? Ok, other than the snow peas, can you say "Fruit Tart"!

you'll need:
3 cups sliced fruit (take skins off, remove pits or seeds)
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
Pie/Pastry Dough (that recipe is enough for two pie crusts - so, cut it in half, or make two fruit tarts.)

preheat oven to 400.
prepare the dough, and roll out to just larger than a dinner plate, and transfer to a greased cookie sheet. don't roll it out too thin!! mix fruit, suage, and cornstarch in a bowl, and using a slotted spoon, put the fruit mixture in the center of your dough, spreading it to about 2" from the edge. if it's mounded in the center, that's OK. fold the edges of your tart up, covering a little of the fruit. if the dough doesn't want to stay where you put it, "glue" it in place with some cold water and pressure. bake for 20-25 minutes until edges are browned and fruit is bubbly. cool completely before serving, to set the juices. if desired, warm slightly before serving, and sprinke with confectioners sugar.

if you are feeling really ambitious, you can make little shapes and designs with your fruit. but ambitious kicked me in the butt the other day, so i think i'm just going to dump it all in. then i'll test it on my co-workers.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

your fan-girl-ness is showing.

It's been a week. I devoured Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora. It was ambrosia and I felt like I hadn't eaten in a week. Any concerned I had that I wouldn't like it as much the second time around evaporated, when I felt myself becoming a Locke Lamora fangirl. Again. Even worse than the first time.

I may never again have the opportunity to use the word “immature” as a compliment. All those things written on little scraps of paper than authors through into the wastebin because “you can't do that in a book”, well, Lynch does it. And then he does it again. With flair. And sarcasm. And language that would make Gordon Ramsey blush.

What have we learned?
If you don't like swearing, don't read this book.
If you want a book where people follow the rules, don't read this book.
If you want a book with a good moral message and a happy ending, don't read this book.

If you want dirty cutthroats, and even dirtier cut-purses, women who will break your heart right before they break your knee caps, man eating sharks, handsome liars with swords and lying priests with hatchets, naïve nobles, gangster kings, cringe worthy torture (at least twice!) the best friends a boy could ask for, and characters who could give Jack Sparrow lessons on the art of the one liner, you might want to read this book.

And did I mention, there is a sequel? Apparently more of the above, plus pirates.

I can't help but envision James McAvoy (who i'm totally in love with) in the movie version.

My husband just picked it up. I hope he doesn't laugh at my fangirlness.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

mostly keeping my promise

OK, so i've mostly been keeping my promise to myself to spend the summer reading things i KNOW will make me happy, because i've read them before, and enjoyed them before.

on the happy side of that equation is Steven Brust's The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars, which nearly has me in tears by the end. and after finishing this novel, i tearfully say to my aspiring writer other half "keep writing baby! i'll support us!" (it's easier to say these days, as I finally have a decent paying job). really, Steven Brust is a master writer, and it doesn't seem like anyone knows who he is! i flipped through some reviews of The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars on Amazon, seems like people either loved it or hated it. I think that people who didn't like it had already made up their minds about what they were looking for before they even started reading it. it's not that kind of book.

additional weight is given to the happy side of the entertaining book equation, because today i picked up my very own, paper back copy of Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora. and you know what? it's just as fun, snarky, and irreverant as it was the first time through. Makes me want to move to rural Minnesota (or wherever Lynch lives), to see what kind of pranks he plays on people. i get the impression that the phrase said most often in the company of Mr. Lynch is "grow up already!" coming from someone who earlier today was playing muppets with oven mits in Bed Bath and Beyond (and getting laughed at by the store manager), my response is "don't you dare, ever grow up, Mr. Lynch. and if you need some inspiration to quite your day job and write full time, just read some Steven Brust!".

now, for the not so happy end of my equation. i couldn't help myself. the book said "Steampunk". and it had the coolest steely blue pipy picture on the cover. i couldn't help myself, really, it's not my fault. seriously! scroll down and look at the picture! you know you can resist that kind of gothy, steampunky awesomeness! i bought the Steampunk anthology, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer (and you know how much i love Jeff Vandermeer!). i'm about halfway through, and i gotta say, i'm pretty lukewarm on most of the entries. why is it that genre anthologies always suck so hard?

not too much food news. my husband made the most incredible pizza i've ever had. i think the trick was we cooked up some turkey sausage, and then fried onions in the sausage grease. omg, heaven! most of the rest of my cooking recently has involved tossing a bunch of stuff in a skillet, and hoping for the best. maybe with all these good books, will come some good cooking.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Summer of re-reads, and death comes on dark wings.

i've been in a bit of a book funk lately. Reading stuff that people have recommended to me, or books that had a lot of hype, or scanning the "New Releases" at the library for anything with an "SF" label on the spine, often reading whatever comes my way, and feeling somewhat obligated to get some enjoyment out of it.

suffice to say, lots of books have gone back to the library unfinished. i feel surrounded by not mediocrity, per say, but just books i didn't enjoy. and that's not a good feeling.

it's time to rekindle my love of good writing, fun adventures, and lovable characters by going back to my favorites. this is going to be the summer of the re-read.

in no particular order, my summer read list starts with:
Dream of the Dragon Pool, by Albert Dalia
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
The Sun, the Moon, and The Stars, by Steven Brust
The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
Whitechapel Gods, by S.M Peters
The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers
Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
Frank Herbert's Dune series - starting with book 2, because i've read the first book about 100 times.
Some good old Robert Heinlein, maybe Friday, or Stranger in a Strange Land

that should keep me busy for a few weeks, and by then, hopefully I'll be out of my funk.

what's this i say, about death, and dark wings? i live in a fairly suburban area, with plenty of wildlife and college students. the crickets start up around 7pm. and while this can be a nice, calming sound, by 4am (i'm a crazy light sleeper), i kinda wish the crickets would just shut up already. and by then, the birds have started, and soon it's time for me to get up anyways. short of getting some ambien, it was time to do something about those darn crickets.

can you say bird seed?

and i dumped a whole bunch right by where i always hear the crickets.

damn right death comes on dark wings.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tasty Mud

or maybe it looks more like tasty compost? or something you'd repave a road with? But it sure is a)easy to make b)super tasty, and c)good for you. it's just not going to win any awards for presentation, that's for sure.

adapted from a recipe in Jacqueline Clark's Mediterranean cookbook. I'll admit, when i first got this cookbook, it intimidated me. but just start with an easy recipe, and go from there! Piece of pie! Ok, so Clark calls this Egyptian Rice, which is a much prettier name than Tasty Mud. Also, her photo looked much prettier than what i ended up with.

1 cup brown/green lentils
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, one diced, once thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rice
1 and 1/4 cup water
1 tsp cinammon
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
salt & pepper
parsley to garnish (optional)

put lentils in a sauce pan with enough water to cover by about an inch. bring a boil, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until they are tender. pour the lentils in a bowl, and remove any excess liquid. heat the olive oil in the pan, add the diced onion, cook till soft. near the end of the cooking, put the garlic in. add the lentils back in, with all the spices and some salt & pepper. stir in the rice, and water. bring to a boil, cover and simmer until rice is cooked, stirring occasionally. in a small frying pan, fry the sliced onions in some olive oil till very dark. pour the lentil/rice mixture into a serving bowl, put the fried onion slices on top, and garnish with parsley.

Serves four.

i took leftovers to work, somewhat worried that the cinnamony-lentilly scent could put some people off. . .and as soon as i took my bowl out of the microwave, two people immediatly said "that smells really good! What is it!" and it did smell good! And it tasted even better! and part of the magic of lentils is they keep you filling full all afternoon.

minimal book news, i'm still getting used to being home from work at a normal time. I did keep a promise to myself, and got James Fenimore Coopers The Last of the Mohicans from the library. Although slow so far, it's a pleasant read. it's been years since i read a classic, it'll do me some good.