Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Peripheral by William Gibson

The PeripheralThe Peripheral by William Gibson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Where Flynne and her brother, Burton, live, jobs outside the drug business are rare. Fortunately, Burton has his veteran’s benefits, for neural damage he suffered from implants during his time in the USMC’s elite Haptic Recon force. Then one night Burton has to go out, but there’s a job he’s supposed to do—a job Flynne didn’t know he had. Beta-testing part of a new game, he tells her. The job seems to be simple: work a perimeter around the image of a tower building. Little buglike things turn up. He’s supposed to get in their way, edge them back. That’s all there is to it. He’s offering Flynne a good price to take over for him. What she sees, though, isn’t what Burton told her to expect. It might be a game, but it might also be murder.

Read this for September's book group meeting.  Read as an audio book.

This starts slow, builds a bit of speed, then you find yourself reaching for the book because you have to know what happens next.  Peripheral is by no means a thriller.  There isn't much in the way of action.  No explosions (well, one that happens "off page"), fiery wrecks, high speed chases.  If you can get through the first 100 pages or so, it becomes engaging.  And I like engaging.

I think I've noted this on other recent Gibson reviews - the dialog and sentence structure can be disconcerting to almost unsettling.  Short, choppy, succinct to the point of bluntness.  It's almost a language of texting and tweeting.  It's not far from how people actually talk, but in book form it's almost odd.  Like the author forgot to put some extra stuff in...but he didn't. He put in exactly how much the book needed.  

The book group noted they struggled with some of the terminology - haptics, the michicoids (spelling?), klepts, battle-ready solicitors, the viz, hate Kegels, autonomic bleedover, continua enthusiasts, drop bears, neo-primitivist curators, quasi-biological megavolume carbon collectors, heritage diseases, directed swarm weapons, and a synthetic bullshit implant.   I thought each one was explained exactly where and how it needed to be explained, and the new "language" added just the right touch to create the setting without having to explain an entire world setting. 

What also interested me was the alternate timelines and when the Future contacted the Past, their paths diverged, that the Future was no longer the Past's future, but now a stub, or, alternate timeline.  That also conveniently does take away the whole "stepping on a butterfly" business or "if a man goes back and kills his father, how is he born?" conundrum. 


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Monday, September 28, 2015

Recipe Review week of 9/21/2015

Happy Monday! 

It was a weekend playing and doing house stuff.   Saturday the Folks, Andy-dog and I went to Jay Cooke St. Park and enjoyed a slightly damp and foggy 5.5 mile walk in the woods.  Leaves are barely turning, grass is still green, and the air smelled so good!   The Thompson Dam must have been open because the water was simply roaring downstream.  Very impressive. 

Fog was lifting but still pretty dense as we finished.  Duluth can be like that - anything along the lake and up the St. Louis River is sometimes socked in with fog for days. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (L) Brats and baked beans   (S)  leftover barley risotto
Mon (yoga)  leftover brats
Tues -  Stuffed Poblanos  didn't get made
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) chili, cornbread (from a box) and pumpkin pie
Fri - leftovers
Sat - TBD

KFC Barbeque Baked Beans (  gluten free
A co-worker brought this to our Country Fried Chicken Potluck back in June and I loved it! I finally got the recipe and immediately made it...with a few changes.  I used dried beans I had pre-cooked.  Because I tossed the cooking liquid I added two cup water.  Two cups would have been better - made for a slightly saucier dish.

Per my co-workers recommendation, I doubled the bacon and onions.  

I forgot to add the vinegar - because I was using dried beans, I wanted to make sure they didn't turn out tough or chewy and was going to add at the end  Oops. 

While easy and delicious, this could use a bit of background heat - just a splash tho!  I also think some bourbon added before baking would be really good - maybe 1/8 of a cup so it doesn't end up booze-y?    Many ways this could be played with.  Enjoy! 

2 15oz cans small white beans, undrained
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tsp minced onion (I used about 1/2 cup)
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (I used four slices)
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp salt
dash pepper
dash garlic powder

1) Preheat oven to 350*
2) Pour entire contents of 15oz cans of beans into covered casserole dish.
3) Combine water and cornstarch, mixing until cornstarch is dissolved.  Stir mixture into beans.
4) Add remaining ingredients to beans, stir, and cover.
5) Bake for 90 minutes or until sauce thickens.  Stir every thirty minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.   

Red Pepper, Corn, and Black Bean Chowder (Ckng Lght June 2015)  vegetarian option, gluten free
This was super easy to assemble, especially since I "broiled" the peppers on the grill while cooking dinner.  Then I was able to let them steam as I ate.  Rest came together in no time at all, and my lunch was ready for the week!   Flavors on this are bright, with a hint of heat from the chipolte.  Use less chipolte if you don't care for zing.  I made this as directed, skipping the garnishes since I was transporting in a lunch box.  Made four lunches. 

1 cup chopped onion
photo from
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 broiled red bell peppers, skins removed
2 cups unsalted chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh corn kernels
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons plain 2% Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons cilantro
4 lime wedges 

Sauté onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat 3 minutes. Place onion mixture, broiled bell peppers, chicken stock, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and chipotle chile in a blender; blend until smooth. Return to pan. Stir in beans; simmer 10 minutes over medium heat. Stir in corn kernels and salt. Place 1 cup soup in each of 4 bowls; top with 2 tablespoons plain 2% Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon cilantro, and 1 lime wedge.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chicken update!

Lookit this! 

One of our Ameracauna's (aka the "Bernadettes") has started laying!  I knew we were getting close and it's finally happened.  The Husband said he found the egg under the four nest boxes he created, which doesn't surprise me, really.  It's a nice cozy cubby. 

Egg in the middle is from the Ameracauna.  First eggs are always so little! 

Supposedly, when one begins to lay, the rest will quickly start as well.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Recipe Review Week of 9/14/2015

Summer is slowly winding down up here in the Northland - weather has been absolutely fantastic this fall.  Continued warm temps of 60* to 73*, some moderate rain showers passing through to help with fall recharge and keep the grass nice and green (much to the Husband's irritation).  Fall flowers are still blooming and just a hint of color is starting to show in the leaves.  Great time to take an hour or two and enjoy sitting out on the porch for weekend and some evening meals.

Which brings me round to last weeks meal plan, which imploded in a spectacular fashion all because of one oops on my part, which I will discuss in a moment.   Cooler temps also means bread baking has started again; at least that was successful.

Our main flock of chickens hasn't started laying yet, though everyone keeps telling me they will do so "any day now".   What the main flock of chickens has decided to do, is start going over the 6' high fence.  So far we've shooed back in one Amy and Red, on separate days.  Goofy birds.  They get out, then they want back in.

So here are the new recipes:

Cuban Bread (New Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton)
If you enjoy baking bread, this is an awesome book.  It has become my go-to.  With one exception, the recipes turn out consistently good bread.  Clayton offers three ways to assemble in any recipe: by hand, stand mixer, or food processor.  I do by hand and by stand mixer.  

This is a very simple bread to assemble and bake.  It makes two loaves - one for freezing and one for immediate eating.  Because it doesn't have any fat in it (shortening/butter/oil) it is not a long lasting bread and best eaten right away.  This makes great toast, and would probably make awesome French toast as well. 

Herbed Wheat Berry and Roasted Tomato Salad with Grilled Chipolte Chicken Breasts (Ckng Lght, Aug 2015)
COLOSSAL fail, which was ENTIRELY my fault.  Allow me to explain:   

I love wheat berries, and when I saw this recipe I was thrilled!  Dinner one night, then lunches the rest of the week.  I thought I would be efficient and slow cook my wheat berries to save me some time.  Smart, right?  Exccepppt...what I tossed into the slow cooker wasn't exactly wheat berries.  It was barley.

Oops.  I quick rummaged around my freezer looking for those darn wheat berries.  Nary a berry to be found.  I must have used them up prior to The Remodel and not yet replaced.

But!  Barley can be subbed for wheat berries, so I proceeded forth.

Annndd forgot that water and cooking time needed to be adjusted.  I ended up with the plumpest barley I have ever seen!  It was a bit like plump mush.  Oy.

I plowed ahead, dubbing this barly "risotto".   It...kinda worked.  Not my best meal, but not so bad to be tossed.

But, that wasn't the end.  I forgot to buy the chipolte in adobo for the chicken.  So those just got grilled plain.

And so I ate the barley "risotto" for the rest of the week for lunches.  It was decent - not something I care to repeat, but decent and filling.

I'm not going to type out the recipe because it is fuggly long.  Cooking Light hasn't yet posted the August recipes to the website - which is odd for them.  I'll try to remember to come back and link.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Remodel Update - September

And Lo!  It has come to pass that the kitchen remodel is officially complete!   Last week the contractor came and installed the final components:  the back splash, one drawer, and replaced one drawer face.

I am doing a happy dance!

Unfortunately, it does not mean I'm completely moved back in and everything is in it's place... I'm getting close, but still not quite there.  In fact, I was reflecting (cursing) this morning over one of my cabinets with all the tupperware, the blender, the food processor, the strainers was all higgle-de piggle-de and everything was falling out.  Yeah, a bit of organization yet awaits.

I will also admit, I think picking out the back splash was probably the most difficult part of the whole remodel.  It was hard to find something that complimented the counter top.  I don't know how many times I was at the tile place, picking out yet another sample to haul home and prop up in various places under different lighting conditions.

In the end, the Husband and I settled on a cream colored subway tile with just a hint of variation.  I really love how everything came together!  

Before I put everything back on the counters.

Different lighting
Close up!
And that, is a wrap.  If I remember - and if the kitchen is clean enough - I will post a couple pics of the completed project. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Live Wire by Harlan Coben (Myron Bolitar #10)

Live Wire (Myron Bolitar, #10)Live Wire by Harlan Coben

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  Harlan Coben published his first Myron Bolitar thriller, Deal Breaker, in 1995, introducing a hero that would captivate millions. Over the years we have watched Myron walk a tight rope between sports agent, friend, problem solver and private eye, his big heart quick to defend his client's interests so fiercely that he can't help but jump in to save them, no matter the cost.

When former tennis star Suzze T and her rock star husband, Lex, encounter an anonymous Facebook post questioning the paternity of their unborn child, Lex runs off, and Suzze - at eight months pregnant - asks Myron to save her marriage, and perhaps her husband's life. But when he finds Lex, he also finds someone he wasn't looking for: his sister-in-law, Kitty, who along with Myron's brother abandoned the Bolitar family long ago.

As Myron races to locate his missing brother while their father clings to life, he must face the lies that led to the estrangement - including the ones told by Myron himself. If we thought we knew Myron Bolitar, Coben now proves we didn't. An electric, stay-up-all night thriller that unfolds at a breakneck pace, Live Wire proves that Harlan Coben still has the ability to shock us anew. 

Read as an audiobook.

To say this volume was fast paced would be an understatement.   It was a whirlwind of characters, emotional roller coasters and twisted mystery.  Almost...dare I say it...too much so?  I also found this book had darker undercurrents than previous books, which added to the overall intensity.

My main complaint with the last several books, and this has become a cumulative complaint, is Myron's obsession with his parents growing old.  It's as if his character simply cannot accept change: he didn't want his parents to move to Florida, he doesn't want the neighborhood to change, he wants what his parents had in the 2.5 kids, white picket fence and barbecues in the back yard.  A nostalgia for something seen through his younger, more innocent and unsullied eyes.

On the other hand, I appreciate the human aspect to the story.  It adds realism to a book when characters grow, change, and reveal things other characters (and the reader) didn't know.  It adds and emotional depth and interest.

Point in this book - when Myron finally confronts his 15 year old nephew and sister-in-law.   Myron puts his foot down and tells the 15 year old, "I am the adult here, you are not."  This was a side of Myron we hadn't seen before, that I don't think Myron had seen before.  This was new. This was good.

And of course, all the usual suspects are back:  Big Cindi, Win, Esperanza, Ellie and Al.   We have the emotional tug of war from his parents, from Esperanza, from the sister in law Kitty, from his long standing former pro-tennis stars, from Win. Gird thyself, the punches come from unexpected places.

Recommended if you've read the first 9 in the series.  Not a stand alone book. 

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Oregon 2015

I'm back!  Again! 

Labor Day weekend found me once again in Corvallis, OR, visiting my sister Karen, the Nephew and her Husband.    Weather remained coolish overall, which I was not prepared for.  Warmest it got was the day before I left, a mere 75*.   After I left, Corvallis was expecting 90*.   I Just missed the heat, darn it!

Mt. Hood
The itinerary:
Thursday - arrived in Portland at 1030a.  My sister and her Husband picked me up and we went to three yarn stores:  Happy Knits, Close Knits,  and Yarntastic,  a fabulous Italian restaurant called Luce, and Willamette Valley Vineyard winery south of Portland.  

Ripe grapes at Willamette Valley Vineyards
Friday - Karen and I headed out and went to Oregon Knitting Company Domaine Drouhin Winery, and Red Ridge Farms - an olive oil grove north of Corvallis (south of Portland) in the Dundee region.  Fabulous!  Later I went for a walk with the nephew in the neighborhood - needed to stretch the out a bit and look at the mountains. 

Red Ridge Olive Oils/Nursery/Winery
Saturday - we had a morning appointment for pedicures, then we picked up two of Karen's co-workers and Karen's MIL and went to a winery south of Corvallis called Brigadoon.  We enjoyed several glasses of wine while overlooking the vineyard and surrounding hills, and noshing on chocolate dipped strawberries, small pastries, savory shortbread cookies, and stuffed mushrooms.  The food was unexpected and a pleasant surprise.  Later I went for an evening walk with the nephew in the neighborhood. 

Sunday - a quiet morning knitting, a bit of gardening in the Sister's community garden plot, and a stop at Stash yarn store in Corvallis.  I had been doing a CKAL with them as part of the Stephen/Steven B Colorplay Tour so I had to show off my nearly finished project.  I say nearly finished because I had about 1 hour of bind off left!

Me at Stash!
Later we were invited downstairs for dinner at Karen's in-law's apartment (which is the one right below theirs).  And, again, went for an evening walk with the nephew in the neighborhood. 

Monday - watched my sister clean house (she was joking that she was almost ready for my visit!). then we grabbed the nephew, MIL and all went for a longer walk in a nearby nature area.  Afterwards, we hung out at the apartment, and I went for an evening walk with the nephew in the neighborhood.  Packed.

Tuesday - Up at 3a to catch a 4a shuttle back to Portland.   Had plenty of time to get a good breakfast - I got to watch the sun rise over the mountains while enjoying some blueberry pancakes.  Back on the ground in Minneapolis at 200p.  On the road by 230p.  Met The Husband in Hinkley for an early dinner (he was down there for a meeting so it worked out perfectly).  Home by 630p to unpack and catch up a bit. 

Trips are done for the year, which is okay by me!  Time to catch up on house and yard projects, do some fall biking, hiking, and sitting on the porch.