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Monday, August 31, 2009

Recipe Review from 8/09

Needless to say, my recipe reviews have all but fallen by the wayside! It's hard to post about new recipes when all I've been eating are salads because the lettuce and Swiss chard are ready to harvest now!

So it's been variations on a Cobb Salad, a Blueberry and Spicy Pecan Salad with Maple dressing, and the Falafel recipe below.

But one cannot live on salads alone in my opinion! So here's a couple recipes I've made in between.

Grilled Veggie Pasta (Penzeys Spices, Harvest 2009)
Recipe can be found here: Penzeys Spices

This is one of those "use what you have on hand" recipes. Grill the veggies, toss with the pasta, sprinkle with vinegar before serving. Seriously, summer vegetables just don't get any better than this.

Falafel with Tomato Salad (Fine Cooking, Aug/Sept 09, pg 90)
Recipe can be found here: Fine Cooking

I somehow ended up with four cans of chickpeas in my cupboard (not that that's a bad thing) and after making regular hummus and a red pepper hummus, I was looking for something different. I happened to pick up a copy of Fine Cooking and there was a recipe for falafel. Perfect!

I did a few modifications - I served the patties over a salad instead of stuffing into pitas. And the "coarsely chop" ended up being a bit more pureed so they were more cookie dough consistency than crumbly. Which was fine.

I also made a simple tadziki sauce of yogurt, cucumbers and some Greek seasoning (from Penzeys). These modifications were enough that I got four servings out of this dish.

Fish Tacos (based off of two recipes from Culinary in the Country Blog)

Fish part came from here: Spicy Fish Tacos with Chipolte Sauce

And the filling part came sort-of from here: Fish Tacos with Broccoli Slaw

Instead of broccoli slaw, I used regular cabbage. My fish was halibut, and I cut it into nuggets and breaded it before baking. I thought the breading came out rather dry, and I've had that problem before with certain breading, so overall, these were just okay. I'd like to try fish tacos again using the shrimp taco recipe from a month ago.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Knitting Update! Classy Slip-up Socks

I actually finished these socks about three weeks ago, the day before I headed out for Montreal, and I didn’t have a chance to snap a picture before I left.

I LOVED this pattern! It is Classy Slip-up Socks from Knit Socks!. A basic pattern of 4 repeating rounds that was easy enough to memorize. My co-worker, from whom I received the pattern (it was part of a bimonthly sock session), knocked out three pairs in the time it took me to work my way through one. We both did socks with pretty pattern yarn, but this pattern would be great in a solid as well.

With this pair, I also taught myself how to do the magic loop! I quite like the technique, but I haven’t completely moved away from dps yet. Jury’s still out, so to speak.

Yarn: Cascade Yarn Heritage Paints (1 skein)
Needles: #2 dps
Cast on 64 sts for a size 7-8 1/2 maybe 9.

More pictures posted on my Ravelry page.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

In Morality for Beautiful Girls, Precious Ramotswe, founder and owner of the only detective agency in Botswana, Africa, continues her private investigating work while coping with concerns that her business is not lucrative enough and Mr J.L.B. Matekoni ‘s (her fiancée) health concerns.

With the help of Mma Maktoni , who is now promoted to assistant detective AND newly promoted assistant manager of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors , they divide and conquer the tasks before them; Mma Ramotswe investigates the alleged poisoning of the brother of an important “Government Man”; while Mma Maktoni accepts a case to investigate the moral character of the four finalists of the Miss Beauty and Integrity Contest, the winner of which will almost certainly be a contestant for the title of Miss Botswana.

Once again, I loved the backdrop of Africa; the imagery is just enough that I can imagine being there myself: the hot noon-day sun, the white sky, the crawlies that can get in your shoes, and the dry dust. This time though, I did not care as much for the story line with Mr. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni. His ‘sudden’ illness of depression came across as out of character after the first two books. In addition, the two adopted children were hardly mentioned at all except in passing as, “Mma Rose was feeding them and they were enrolled in school.” Again, after the build up in the previous book, this seemed now to be an irrelevant point and I found that disappointing.

Still, my complaints are not enough to prevent me from reading the next in the series: The Kalahari Typing School for Men.

I recommend this book if you like Africa and enjoy a pleasant, leisurely read. A good beach book.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Worldcon: Anticipation! Hugo Awards 2009

The highlight of my Worldcon: Anticipation! adventures is the Hugo Award Ceremony on Sunday night. This year I was only able to finish reading the novel catagory nominees, just too much going on to get to the short stories.

Best Novel
* The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Anatham by Neal Stephenson
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

Best Novella
* “The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)

Best Novelette
* “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)

Best Short Story
* “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)

Personally, I had mixed feelings about the results. Neil Gaiman is a fabulous author, but the book is a young adult ghost story. I felt it was one of those years where the book won on a popularity vote, not because it represented science fiction literature. But so it goes.

If you are interested in the rest of the categories, which include best dramatic presentation long and short form, best artist, best fan artist, best fan magazine and others, please check out this website: Hugo Awards

Friday, August 21, 2009

Worldcon: Anticipation! Montreal, Quebec 2009

The whole reason I was in Montreal was for the 67th World Science Fiction Convention. This was my forth "Worldcon"; Chicago in 2000, Boston in 2004, Denver in 2008 and Montreal in 2009. I think I'm addicted...

So WHAT is a World Science Fiction Convention? you ask? Is it Star Trek? Do you dress up?

The World Science Fiction Convention, also known as “Worldcon” is a gathering of like minded science fiction and fantasy folks who want to talk about science fiction and fantasy. Star Trek does come up in conversation (last year there was one whole panel on the art of Star Trek through set designs) but it’s much much more than that. Some folks dress up, especially on Saturday which is the day they hold the Masquerade competition, but most don’t. That includes me.

I like to go to a variety of panels, usually the ones that discuss upcoming books, art or science. Here’s a list of what I attended this year; most panels were pretty good, I only left one early on and the rest I stayed till the end. What I’m learning is the Science panels are usually the best bet, in part due to the professionalism of the presenter and they frequently have a neat slide show.

Handicapping the Hugo Awards: The Novels A discussion on the five Hugo Nominees in the Novel category.

That was the Naughties, that was Notable books from 2000-2009

Opening Ceremonies

Voluntary Canadian Writers Writers who have emigrated to Canada and now reside there

Second Time Around don’t remember what this was…

Joe and Gay Haldeman Interview each other

Food: Ancient, Modern, Near and Far A look at food in writing. Noting that there are two things writers get wrong in their writing: food {rituals} and music.

Oh, Canada! More writers from Canada, which I left early…dull dull dull

Classics is Science Fiction Somewhat of a discussion on what a classic is and that old does not always equal classic and popular definitely does not equal classic.

French Books we Should be Reading go try Elizabeth Vonaburg!

Mars Explorations with the Canadian Space Agency

Great New Canadian SF&F Writers

The Singluarity: O RLY?

SF&F Art in the Future What is the future of genre art as we move to E-Books?

How to Forecast the Weather new technology

Piloted Missions to Near Earth Objects sending a manned mission to an near asteroid by 2025

Colored glass on the convention center

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Montreal, Quebec: The Historical District (part four)

It was when I was waiting for the tour of the basilica to start that I noticed a sign out front by the gift shop advertising a walking tour of the historical district of Montreal. It wasn’t something you pre-paid for, but just showed up at the appropriate language time (ie French, English or Spanish). As I didn’t know what my Convention schedule was for the remainder of the day, I decided to go back to the Convention for a while and see what developed. As luck would have it, scheduling worked out and I scampered back up the hill for a tour.

I’m sooo glad I did! I had no idea what an incredibly rich historical area this was. The tour was an hour and a half-ish, but we went back in time to the late 1600’s early 1700’s. We started with the founding of the church on the current site of the Notre Dame Basilica (there were three other churches on the site before the current structure was completed in the 1800’s).

The tour guide then showed us the progression of Montreal’s standing as a center of finance through the architecture of the financial district. We walked down through the warehouse district which back in the 1700s and 1800s was more adjacent to the waterfront than it is today.

(Montreal's narrowest street)

We saw the influence of the French, British and subsequent buildings in the warehouse district.

Alas, my cameras batteries died when we got to the courthouses…

Later I went back and found the segment of the original wall that used to surround the City of Ville-Marie (now Montreal).

Walking tours are a great way to see a snapshot of a place if you've only got a little bit of time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Montreal, Quebec: Notre Dame Basilica (part three)

The World Science Fiction Convention: Anticipation! started on Thursday and I went to panels Thursday evening, Friday, a smattering on Saturday and most of Sunday. Saturday was supposed to be the nicest day of the week and it seemed to be a good morning to do some touristy stuff.

After breakfast we scampered across the way to check out the inside of the Notre Dame Basilica. My friend stayed only a while to before returning to the Convention while I opted to stick around for the “tour”. The tour was really a half hour talk about the history of the church from both the main sanctuary and then the small chapel behind the main altar.

I am glad we went when we did, as they close the church to tours on Saturdays for weddings, and the guide said there were at least five that day that she was aware of. The main chapel has a three year waiting list and costs $15,000.00. The small chapel in the back costs significantly less, but my understanding was the waiting list was still three years. The standing joke in Montreal is to set your wedding date then go find your man.

As I cannot spell any of the French names surrounding the history of this beautiful structure, I’ve found this reference from the Basillica’s website for your enjoyment and the pictures are mine.

From chapel to church
Dedicated to Our Lady the Blessed Virgin – “Notre Dame” – the small original chapel was operated at first by the Jesuits. Then came the Sulpician Fathers, who in 1657 undertook construction of a larger church. The Sulpician François Dollier de Casson was its architect, and the present-day Notre-Dame Street served as the original site. Its construction, in Baroque style was completed between 1672 and 1683.

A larger church is planned
By 1800, Dollier’s church had become too small, and the Fabrique decided to build the church we know today. To design the new church, the building council engaged the services of the New York architect James O’Donnell – himself an Irish Protestant by origin. O’Donnell and the Fabrique opted for the Gothic Revival style then in vogue in England and the United States. The main construction work took place between 1824 and 1829.

O’Donnell did not live to see his work completed. He died in Montreal in 1830. Just prior to his death, he had converted to Catholicism, and was buried in the new church’s crypt, where his grave is marked by a plaque.
Montreal’s twin towers

The old church set back from the road was demolished in the summer of 1830, except for its bell tower, which survived until 1843, when Notre-Dame Basilica’s twin towers were completed by the architect John Ostell. The western tower, nicknamed La Persévérance (Perseverance) and finished in 1841, houses the great bell christened “Jean-Baptiste,” weighing 11 tons (11,000 kilograms or 24,000 pounds). The eastern tower, nicknamed La Tempérance (Temperance), was completed in 1843 and houses a carillon of 10 bells.

A new chapel
In 1889, Curé Léon-Alfred Sentenne commissioned the architects Perreault and Mesnard to build a chapel that would accommodate ceremonies for smaller congregations, such as marriages and funerals. Named the Chapel of Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) and consecrated on December 8, 1891, the date of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, it was built in Gothic Revival style with a wealth of sculptural motifs.

(clickity clickity to make it bigger)

Fire ravages the chapel
Unfortunately, a fire seriously damaged the chapel on December 7, 1978. Reconstruction was undertaken by the architectural firm of Jodin, Lamarre, Pratte and Associates, whose plan suggested rebuilding the first two levels to be identical to the original chapel, with skilled carpenters, sculptors and woodworkers using traditional methods. The vault was built in a modern style allowing for natural lighting. The new chapel was opened in 1982.

Picture of the new chapel and the bronze relief behind the altar.

Original church decor
Stylistically, the church’s look indoors in its early years was very different from its present appearance. The wall at the end of the sanctuary lay flat and was lit by a large window, in the traditional manner of English Gothic churches. Six paintings taken from the old church were hung on this wall. For economy’s sake, the old church’s high altar was moved into the new sanctuary. This altar stands today on the west wall of the side chapel dedicated to Saint Marguerite d’Youville. In the nave, the columns were painted to give a realistic impression of veined marble. This work was executed by an Italian artist from New York, Angelo Pienovi.

Sainte-Chapelle in Paris inspires a new look
Between 1870 and 1900, the second phase of decoration of the church was the work of Curé Victor Rousselot and Victor Bourgeau, Quebec’s most active architect of that era. While travelling in France, Rousselot had been deeply impressed by the style and symbolism of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, which he proposed as a source of inspiration for Bourgeau. The blue and gold colours chosen, the gilded leaves in the vaulting and on the columns are especially reminiscent of the Sainte-Chapelle. This polychrome decoration consists entirely of sculpted wood.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Jardin bontaique de Montreal (part two)

Thursday morning found my friend and I on the way to the Jardin bontaique de Montreal or the Montreal Botanical Gardens.

It is described thusly: “With its collection of 22,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 exhibition greenhouses, some thirty thematic gardens, and teams of researchers and activities staff, the Montréal Botanical Garden ranks as one of the world's largest and most spectacular botanical gardens.“ We did hear that it is second in size only to the Queen of England’s Botanical Garden.

Simply stunning is another way of describing the grounds, with its many faceted gardens such as an aquatic garden, the edible garden, the poisonous garden, Japanese garden, and Chinese Garden to name a few and the Exhibition Greenhouses were amazing in size and variety.

The grounds also offer select views of the 1976 Olympic Park and Tower. There is some very interesting history behind the tower – I did not realize that the tower was not completed in time for the Olympics and that the dome which it supports has been a financial disaster for the city of Montreal.

But this is supposed to be about the splendor of the gardens, not a post about failed architecture! Please enjoy the following pictures from the Jardin bontaique de Montreal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Worldcon: Anticipation! Montreal, Canada (Part One)

I have had one whirlwind of a year vacation wise! In April it was Edisto Island, SC; June found me in Austin, TX; and this past week was a road trip to Montreal, Quebec, for the World Science Fiction Convention!

Yes, I am a geek…

I hardly know where to start, there is so much I want to convey! But really, it all started back in January, when my friend e-mailed me and asked if I was interested in going again this year. The convention was in Denver, CO, last year and I had a good time, but this year plane tickets were extremely prohibitive and there was no way I was going to pay $800 to fly.

But driving on the other hand, appeared to be doable from my corner of the world. Just pop across the top of Wisconsin and Michigan, and drive across southern Canada. Discussion ensued and lo! A Road Trip happened!

Tues and Wed of last week were driving days. Tuesday ended up being a verrryyy long day due to a couple miscalculations – a little thing such as a time change, and a some what larger conundrum of the endless road construction (the kind where you are sitting with your car turned off waiting for oncoming traffic to clear) and dropping down to Lake Michigan on the wrong road. All these factors managed to put us quite a bit off schedule and so we didn’t arrive at our evening destination of Sudbury Canada until nearly midnight...and then we got lost...and had to ask for directions...

Ahh, yes, the joys of roading it!

But by Wednesday afternoon (in rush hour traffic) we arrived in Montreal.
Our hotel was the Holiday Inn Express right next to the convention center - Palais de Conreis - and I thought it couldn’t have been a better spot! Chinatown anyone? Historical district? Oh, a veritable culinary and historical delight for me.

On Thursday, we made our way out to the botanical gardens before the convention really got going, which I will post more about in the next day or so. This garden deserves more than just a paragraph! Thursday evening we picked up our convention passes and attended a couple of panels and the opening ceremonies.

Friday was a whole convention day with forays out for meals. The hard part was narrowing down where we wanted to eat.

Saturday we went to Notre Dame Basillica. My friend opted not to stick around for the tour and went back to the convention. I stayed for the tour which gave a great overview of the history of Montreal and the Basillica. Later in the day I went back for the guided walking tour of the Historical District and later that evening we went back for dinner in the same area. Saturday evening concluded with an International Fireworks Show put on by the South African contingent. We were able to watch from the roof top of the convention center. Pretty neat.

Historic Montreal with the towers of the Basillica in the background.

Sunday morning had us back in the historic district enjoying breakfast outdoors before heading back to our final day at the Convention. Sunday evening concluded with a interesting meal in China town and the culmination of the week with the Hugo Ceremonies.

Monday and Tuesday were again travel days. During the course of this whole trip we crossed three states, two provinces, and saw three great lakes all while driving nearly half a continent. Cool, eh?

No wonder I’m pooped!

In coming posts:
The Hugo Award results
The Montreal Botanical Gardens
And photo’s from Montreal’s Historical District

Monday, August 10, 2009

Endymion by Dan Simmons

This is my science fiction book group selection for August. I actually read it back in 2000 after I read Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion, which still rank in my top 10 best science fiction books.

Because I'm posting this before our meeting, I won't give anything away and to simplify matters further, I've copied the blurb from the back of the book:

Endymion, onetime shepherd and convicted murderer, is chosen as a pawn in a cosmic game whose outcome will determine the fate of humanity. Selected as a bodyguard to the next messiah, Endymion will cross time, space, and the very fabric of reality as her protector, lover, and finally disciple. At the same time, the enigmatic Shrike - part monster, part killing machine, part avenging angel - has also followed the girl into the 32nd century. Yet it is Endymion who has been chosen to rescue Aenea, against all odds. How will her message change the universe - if she is willing to speak it...and if humankind is prepared to hear it?

What the blurb doesn't mention is the presence of the Church, who is desperate to catch and destroy young Aenea. Captian-Father De Soya is chosen to seek out and detain at first, then later to destroy Aenea. It is against this huge galactic organization that Raul must protect his young charge.

This book was just as good as the first time I read it...though it probably helped that I had forgotten most of it so it was almost like reading it as new. Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexsander McCall Smith

This is book two in the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series where we are further drawn into Precious Ramotswe's world in Botswana, Africa. Interwoven are her new engagement to Rra J.L.B. Matekoni, the owner of Tolkweng Road Speedy Motors, adopted children, unfaithful wives, and devious maids. The way Smith interweaves all the tales I think is just as interesting as the stories themselves. The book isn't broken into story x followed by story y, but each flows through and amongst the others to form a delightful stream of tales.

But what I enjoy most about these books is the background of Africa itself, with it's wide skies, dusty heat and immense landscape.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Recipe Review from 7/31/09

It's been a busy week for me (aren't they all?) and I fit in one new recipe:

Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta (EatingWell Jul/Aug 09) 4.0
This was very good, quick and easy to make, which is what I needed on a Friday night. I cut back slightly on all the ingredients as I didn't need six servings, but yet wanted some leftovers.

You might note in the picture the eggplant is not peeled. I find I prefer my eggplant peeled as more often than not the peel is bitter even after cooking. At first I thought the green olive might be odd, but for some reason it added a nice brininess to the dish that complemented the eggplant nicely. I would make this again.

Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta

Diced eggplant turns tender and tasty sautéed with garlic and olive oil. Toss with fresh plum tomatoes, green olives and capers and you have a simple light summer sauce. We like it over angel hair pasta, but any type of pasta will work. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a mixed green salad.

Makes 4-6 servings
TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup chopped pitted green olives
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
12 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or basil

1. Put a pot of water on to boil.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes, olives, vinegar, capers, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper (if using) and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes more.
3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water until just tender, about 6 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and divide the pasta among 6 shallow bowls. Spoon the sauce over the pasta and sprinkle parsley (or basil) on top.

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