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Friday, May 27, 2011

Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman

This is book two in the Navjho series with Lt. Joe Leaphorn.

From The state police and FBI are baffled when an old man and a teenaged girl are brutally murdered. The blind Navajo Listening Woman speaks of ghosts and witches. But Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn knows his people and begins an investigation that leads to the most violent confrontation of his career.

Lt. Leaphorn is methodical, fitting what he knows of his people to the situation and the landscape in which they live.  There are subtleties and nuances to living amongst the Navajo that outsiders just won't understand, but are integral to the way the crimes are committed and solved.

My complaint with this one was (understanding that I am still probably the last person to read this series) Lt. Leaphorn spent most of his time being chased around the landscape.  I found that to be a bit tiresome after a while.  I really can't expound more on this thought because it does become part of the 'who done it', which, really, was rather brilliant. 

My other complaint, which has nothing to do with the book, was the audio CD's which I was listening to (from the library), were so scratched on the last disk that it left me hanging with ten minutes left in the book!  Nothing quite so frustrating as to have a murder-mystery leave you hanging because of a malfunction.  Had to check out the book to find out the final details. 

Otherwise, recommended!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remake by Conie Willis

This was May's Bookgroup selection and a 1996 Hugo Nominee. 

From It's the Hollywood of the future, where moviemaking's been computerized and live-action films are a thing of the past. It's a Hollywood where Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe are starring together in A Star Is Born, and if you don't like the ending, you can change it with the stroke of a key.

A Hollywood of warmbodies and sim-sex, of drugs and special effects, where anything is possible. Except for what one starry-eyed young woman wants to do: dance in the movies. It's an impossible dream, but Alis is not willing to give up. With a little magic and a lot of luck, she just might get her happy ending after all.

This book was a bit different from Willis's other books I've read (The Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Passage).  There was less of the frantic running around in circles that seems to characterize most of her books and more of an actual give and take of characters and an interesting plot that drew me to the end. 

The blurb makes it sound as if the book was written in Alis's POV.  It was actually from [          ] POV.  [        ] is a tech-geek, who is hired by ILMGM to "remake" movies.   As with most of Hollywood, he spends the bulk of his time hacking and slashing the movies to cut out cigarettes, booze and sad endings, but comes unglued when introduced to a young woman who wants to do more than have her image digitally plastered on the screen.   He initially doesn't understand her drive, her passion, but when he starts seeing her in movies that re-imaging shouldn't have been possible in, his perspective begins to change.

This was a stronger book than I thought it would be.  Of the 5 nominees for 1996, I have now read three of them.  I may go read The Time Ships, but probably won't touch Sawyer.  I simply just don't care for his books (I've read three and bounced off of all of them). 

1996 Hugo Nominees:
•The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson [Bantam Spectra, 1995]  (WINNER)

•The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter [HarperPrism, 1995]

•Brightness Reef by David Brin [Bantam Spectra, 1995]

•The Terminal Experiment (alt: Hobson’s Choice) by Robert J. Sawyer [HarperPrism, 1995; Analog mid-Dec 1994,Jan,Feb,Mar 1995]

•Remake by Connie Willis [Bantam Spectra, 1995]

Monday, May 23, 2011

Recipe Review 5/23/11 and Introduction

You think *your're* not certain about this...
It's been an unusual weekend in our household.  Participated in a three family garage sale on Saturday - my first in, oh, 25 years?  It was cold, then it rained and got colder, and windy and foggy, but yet it went okay.  And after the sale was done, I popped up to Animal Allies and picked up this fellow:

Andy comes to us via Animal Allies. He appears to be a Springer-Retriever mix, about three years old, and has a grown weight of about 43lbs. The shelter said Andy was picked up as a stray "up north" - it's uncertain if he was dumped or if he got away, he was found without a collar.


I think I would like to run over there.....

Andy is very people friendly, loves to be petted, likes to be very near his people when inside, and has a sweet personality. At three, he is a teenager, and we will need to strengthen some basic obedience training. He's has already been introduced to Our House Rules and Routine, which will need some reinforcement for a while. Nothing too bad so far - furniture is off limits in our house, not jumping on people (he's polite about it, but still a no-no), and not charging out the door. We don't know if he was "a runner" so he will be kept on-leash at all times until he has mastered "come" and if we know he can stick around the yard. Thank heaven's it's summertime! Easier to work on training without freezing our butts off.
Really, over there looks so very cool.
So why Andy? House seemed kinda empty without a second dog, personality seems to fit with our pack, right size, and he was nothing like Kia. It will be different to have a young pup in the house again!


Made a couple new recipes this past week:

Tequila Glazed Chicken Thighs (Ckng Lght, June 2011) - Outstanding!
I actually had a picture of this one and forgot to upload it! Drat and bother!  Oh well.  I ended up making these twice because I had to buy such a large package (3lbs) of chicken thighs.  I prefer boneless/skinless for ease of preparation and eating.  And, if one doesn't use baking soda in place of cornstarch you don't get a massive volcano effect from your pot....  Glaze makes a lot which was the impetus for making this recipe two nights in a row.  No complaints tho, they are that good.  I served them with the Cabbage Slaw recipe that follows - a tangy, crunchy compliment to the spicy chicken. 

If you would rather not use tequila, you can substitute 1/3 cup pineapple juice. Start the grilling over direct heat to get good grill marks and charred bits, and then move to indirect heat to gently finish the cooking.

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
6 bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), skinned

3/4 cup pineapple juice
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1/3 cup tequila
1/4 cup honey

2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water

2 teaspoons grated lime rind
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat using both burners. After preheating, turn the left burner off (leave the right burner on).

2. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; rub evenly over chicken.

3. Bring the pineapple juice, tequila, and honey to a boil in a small saucepan; cook until reduced to 3/4 cup (about 10 minutes). Combine cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water in a small bowl, and stir well. Add cornstarch mixture to juice mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in lime rind, 3 tablespoons lime juice, and red pepper.

4. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray over right burner (direct heat). Cover and grill for 5 minutes on each side, basting occasionally with juice mixture. Move the chicken to grill rack over left burner (indirect heat). Cover and grill an additional 5 minutes on each side or until done, basting occasionally.

Cabbage Slaw  (Ckng Lght, June 2011)
photo from
This was a great way to use up half a head of cabbage in the fridge.  Good flavor - tangy and bright with a hint of lime.  Hmm, just needs a margarita to top it off!  I skipped the mint because I'm not real wild about mint flavor and I don't want to spend $2.50 on a package of it.

4 cups shredded cabbage

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced radishes
1/2 cup diagonally cut green onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1. Combine first 5 ingredients; toss. Sprinkle with mint, salt, and pepper

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs (Mercy #4)

Bone Crossed (Mercedes Thompson, #4)Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #4 in the Mercedes Thompson (aka Mercy) series. **May contain spoilers**

Okay, so just how much crap does one character need thrown at them to maintain a semblance of reality? This book takes place one week after her traumatic assault in Book #3 Iron Kissed. One week. Really, we couldn’t have put some space in between events here? The book begins with Stefan suddenly popping into existence in her house, tortured, starved and mutilated with the warning that Marsilla, head of the local seethe, has declared her life and those around Mercy forfeit. Everyone decides Mercy should get out of town for a while, an lo! an “old friend” shows up on Mercy’s dilapidated doorstep asking for help with a ghost.

Off to Seattle Mercy goes, only to run afoul of The Monster Vampire, Blackburn. Stefan, in order to save her, makes her one of his by swapping blood.

Mercy comes back to TriCities because Marsilla has agreed to negotiate ala trial style with the werewolves and Mercy must take the Chair to help prove/disprove Stefan’s innocence in a plot against Marcilla.

Mercy and Adam seal their mate bond and pack bond in a spectacular style that involves much fainting.

Mercy is kidnapped by The Monster and must rescue not only herself, but her friend’s family from the vampire, two vampire ghosts and one fae.

And let’s not forget she’s still having panic attacks.

Sheesh. Why don’t’ we just turn Mercy into a vampire/shapewalker/werewolf/fae and be done with it. Then all our paranormal folks can live in peace because she won’t be a threat to anyone because she’s bonded with everyone.

Other than that, the book is a decent quick read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Immoral by Brian Freeman

This is Book #1 by Brian Freeman.

I prefer my mysteries on audiobook and I stumbled across this one about the same time the author was in town promoting his most recent release (I wasn’t able to attend, darn it!). What grabbed my attention was not only was it set in Duluth, but also in Las Vegas. Very cool.

Premise of the book from Lieutenant Jonathan Stride is suffering from an ugly case of déjà vu. For the second time in a year, a beautiful teenage girl has disappeared off the streets of Duluth, Minnesota - gone without a trace, like a bitter gust off Lake Superior. The two victims couldn't be more different.

First it was Kerry McGrath, bubbly, sweet sixteen. And now Rachel Deese, strange, sexually charged, a wild child. The media hounds Stride to catch a serial killer, and as the search carries him from the icy stillness of the northern woods to the erotic heat of Las Vegas, he must decide which facts are real and which are illusions.

And Stride finds his own life changed forever by the secrets he uncovers. Secrets that stretch across time in a web of lies, death, and illicit desire. Secrets that are chillingly immoral.

I really enjoyed this book with three exceptions (there shouldn’t be any spoilers here):
1) At the beginning of the book, the main character throws a pack of cigarettes into the canal, and thus, into the lake. WTF? Seriously? Littering Lake Superior? Not cool.

2) At the beginning of the book, two teens take a ride on the Lift Bridge, the bridge that connects mainland MN to Park Point, the peninsula that juts out along the tip of Lake Superior. The bridge lifts to permit the ships access into the harbor. Ahh, no. People are not allowed to ride the lift bridge. Das ist Forbotten. Period. They have cameras to prevent that sort of thing. Have for years and years – even encompassing the timeframe in which this book is set.

3) We have a killing in the courthouse. A stabbing. Copious amounts of blood everywhere. Spooting across the room and pooling on the floor. It is my understanding (I’ve been to enough ‘medical’ panels at conventions to understand that the chances of stabbing someone in the chest, in the heart is not only incredibly unlikely, but very difficult.) So, without giving too much of this scene away, implausible.

The rest of the book was outstanding. Go read it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recipe Review from 5/9/11

Simple week – started out with some leftover fish from the previous week. And we ended up getting a Take-n-bake from one of our favorite Pizza places (Do North Pizza in Hermantown). Lots of leftovers there – Husband happily had cold pizza for lunch for a couple days. Then made the dish below which I thought was outstanding not only in the flavors, but ease of prep. We ended the week with some homemade pizza and then dinner out on Saturday night to Mexico Lindo in Fitger’s restaurant to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Roasted Asparagus and Tomato Penne Salad with Goat Cheese  (Ckng Lght, May 2011)
I thought this was simple to prepare and tasted great! Start the water boiling at the same time you preheat the oven. I just roasted the veggies for the same time it took the pasta to cook. I skipped the arugula and did spinach instead (already had a tub in the fridge). Rather than toss warm pasta with the spinach and have everything wilt, I served the pasta mixture over a bed of spinach. This made enough for two dinners and one lunch. I think this may go in my summer salad rotation.

• Yeild: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups pasta mixture and 2 tablespoons cheese)
• Total time: 35 minutes

Serve immediately or cover and chill for 2 hours for a cold pasta salad.
• 2 cups uncooked penne or mostaccioli (tube-shaped pasta)
• 12 asparagus spears
• 12 cherry tomatoes
• 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

• 1 tablespoon minced shallots
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
• 1 1/2 teaspoons honey

• 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
• 2 cups baby arugula
• 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain and set aside.

3. Place asparagus and tomatoes on a jelly-roll pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Toss gently to coat; arrange asparagus and tomato mixture in a single layer. Bake at 400° for 6 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Remove asparagus from pan. Place pan back in oven, and bake tomatoes an additional 4 minutes. Remove tomatoes from pan; let asparagus and tomatoes stand 10 minutes. Cut asparagus into 1-inch lengths; halve tomatoes.

4. Combine shallots and the next 4 ingredients (through honey) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add remaining 3 tablespoons oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

5. Place pasta, asparagus, tomato, olives, and arugula in a large bowl; toss. Drizzle juice mixture over pasta mixture; toss. Sprinkle with cheese.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Knitting Update - April Finishes

I finished these a week or so ago.  They are a 'by request' item for a friend of a friend: a young gal who is currently undergoing cancer treatment.  I made this pattern last Nov/Dec on my trip to Mexico and really enjoyed it (see here.). 

Pattern: Seedy Squares from Big Book of Socks by Kathleen Taylor
Yarn:  KnitPicks Stroll in Summer Blooms Tonal
#1 circulars
CO 60 sts

Leaf-Lace Hat - 101 One Skein Wonders

#5 needles (I went up one size from the recommended)
Jitterbug yarn - I used less than the 50g called for. Probably closer to 35g (I forgot to weigh the hat). 
Another fun pattern, but really need to watch those stitches!  Pictured is the second go at this hat - first time ended up being off by one stitch and it threw off the decreases.  A very quick weekend project.  This went to a friend for her (belated) birthday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Recipe Review from 4/26/11

If you’ve seen the previous post you'll figure out that we had quite the roller-coaster week emotionally.  I’m amazed that I still managed to make a couple-three new dishes AND do some baking. I think the baking was a stress response.  I haven’t baked in ages and suddenly I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies (first batched turned out to be chocolate chip biscotti – go figure) and muffins.

Salmon with Blistered Tomatoes  (Ckng Lght, May 2011)
This called for artic char; like where the heck am I going to get artic char in Northern MN? Decided to sub salmon instead. Had a filet of that in the freezer. I’m not certain about the 3 pints of cherry tomatoes this called for – I used two (regular red cherry tomatoes) and it was more than plenty. I also let some of them pop so it was a saucy mixture that went over the fish. The sauce also tasted better the next day. My other addition/substitution was I used parsley instead of basil (I have a problem with spending $2.50 on a tiny package of basil), and I added some small capers. The flavors below just called for some tangy capers.

• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 4 (6-ounce) arctic char fillets
• 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
• 4 garlic cloves, halved
• 3 pints multicolored cherry tomatoes  (I used 2 pints of regular)
• 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
• 2 shallots, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle fillets with ½ teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add fillets, flesh side down, to pan, and sauté for 2 minutes. Place pan in oven; cook at 400° for 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.

3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic, and cook 2 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes to pan; sauté for 2 minutes or until skins blister, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat. Sprinkle tomato mixture with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, basil, and shallots; toss to combine. Serve with fish.

Shrimp Cobb Salad  (Ckng Lght, May 2011)
This didn’t come together as quickly as I had thought it would, even with the Husband helping. That may be because I decided to oven bake the bacon (my new favorite method of cooking bacon) and then I tossed the shrimp in and baked them for just a few minutes as well. We skipped the carrots and used some leftover broccoli slaw instead. I halved the recipe so it only made enough for two of us for one dinner. Bright flavors; best for a warm summer evening with some warmed sour dough bread to accompany.

• 4 slices center-cut bacon
photo from
• 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• Cooking spray

• 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
• 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon whole-grain Dijon mustard

• 1 (10-ounce) package romaine salad
• 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
• 1 cup shredded carrots (about 2 carrots)   (I used broccoli slaw)
• 1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
• 1 ripe peeled avocado, cut into 8 wedges

1. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; cut in half crosswise. Wipe pan clean with paper towels. Increase heat to medium-high. Sprinkle shrimp with paprika and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shrimp to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt; toss to coat.

2. While the shrimp cooks, combine remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, juice, oil, and mustard in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add lettuce; toss to coat.

3. Arrange about 1 1/2 cups lettuce mixture on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with about 6 shrimp, 1/2 cup tomatoes, 1/4 cup carrot, 1/4 cup corn, 2 avocado wedges, and 2 bacon pieces.

Pasta Puttanesca  (Ckng Lght, May 2011)

My version didn’t quite look like the picture when done, but really, it’s just pasta in a red sauce. I did forget my red pepper flakes and I could tell immediately - this was on the bland side for our tastes. Points though for ease of prep.

• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
photo from
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 3 anchovy fillets
• 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
• 3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
• 1 tablespoon drained capers
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

• 6 quarts water
• 8 ounces uncooked fettuccine

• 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add anchovies; mash in pan to form a paste. Stir in tomatoes and next 4 ingredients (through pepper); cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil. Add pasta; cook 8 minutes or until almost al dente. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Add pasta and reserved pasta water to tomato mixture; increase heat to medium-high. Cook 5 minutes or until pasta is al dente, tossing to combine. Spoon 1 1/2 cups pasta into each of 4 bowls. Drizzle each serving with 3/4 teaspoon oil; sprinkle with cheese.

Chai Pistachio Muffins  (Ckng Lght, May 2011)
Baking urge kicked in with these. They are an uncomplicated recipe – only special ingredient one needs is a couple chai spice tea bags. I had some on hand from making chai biscotti so it was great to be able to use them for something else. I skipped the pistachio’s and glaze on top, instead, topping mine with some coconut while baking. The Husband’s were left plain. I really liked the flavor of these – chai like without being overly spicy. Recommended for rainy days.

• 7 9/10 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)

Photo from
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 chai blend tea bags, opened

• 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
• 1/4 cup butter, melted
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• Cooking spray

• 1/3 cup shelled dry-roasted pistachios, chopped
• 1/2 cup powdered sugar
• 1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut open tea bags; add tea to flour mixture, stirring well. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and egg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

3. Place 12 muffin-cup liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle nuts evenly over batter. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

In Memoriam: Kia 1999-2011

Kia-pup came into our lives in November, 1999, a month after we were married.  She was from an accidental litter of 13 puppies (yikes!) and one of 5 females.  The Husband picked her because she just curled into his arms and chest like she was meant to be there.  And so she came home with us.

Kia was my first dog.  It was a learning experience for both of us!  I didn't do obedience school, but read and read and read and then attempted to execute.  My training wasn't perfect, but we came to a good understanding about who was Alpha in the house and what was expected. 

Hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail
 When she was three, we introduced her to her "brother" Ben.  After a rough month, we found out Kia had no thyroid function and was generally not feeling very well.  That certainly explained A LOT!  Three months later, while not the bestest of friends, she became more amiable to our fourth pack member. 

She was always a sweet, sweet pup; full of vim and vigor, loved her tennis ball (any ball really, but tennis balls were her favorite), hiking, walks...umm, walkies were probably somewhat reluctant because she didn't like her head harness.  She loved chasing thrown rocks on the shores of Lake Superior.  Kia didn't like to get her paws wet or dirty, loved to terrorize chipmunks and squirrels, pick raspberries and peas in the garden, and visit with my Mom and Dad - her 'extended pack'. 

I spy with my little eye something I would really like

Kia Boating
She was a small lab, chocolate and brown coat with blond highlights behind her ears.  She had little white patches between the pads of her feet that flashed when she walked.  Kia's ears and neck were the softest bits - just like an Angora bunny soft.   Her eyes a beautiful brown and so expressive!  Her tail should have been classified as a deadly weapon. 
Cody, Kia and Ben out for a snowshoe on Split Rock River
Frequent tummy rubs were the order of the day, and hip massages a close second.  She was my morning alarm clock, making sure I was up! up! up! and moving about. 

She loved her 'treats': bananas, carrots, strawberries, celery, green beans, brussel sprout stalks, peas, bacon grease dribbled on the kibble, cottage cheese, yogurt, and velveeta cheese.  Well, what can I say, she was a lab, she loved everything, but those were were favorites.

Kia's passing was sudden and unexpected - metastasized cancer in the abdomen and treatment options were limited to making her comfortable.  This was complicated by a partially collapsed lung and fluid in her lung and abdominal cavity.

Hiking in Grand Marais with the Parents

I hope the bright soul known as Kia has a fortuitous rebirth.  She was such a bright and happy pookie.  She will be sadly missed.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermere

Also known as Kate and Ceceila #3.   Young Adult, Fantasy series.

From The epistolary cousins of Sorcery and Cecelia and The Grand Tour are back! Ten years have passed, and sweetly bumbling Kate and headstrong Cecy have settled into their marriages with Thomas and James. While all seems quiet on the domestic front, trouble is percolating in early-19th-century England. The advent of railways has brought with it unexpected complications: In addition to smoke-belching engines and clattering passenger cars, these mechanical intruders have destabilized the entire ancient realm of underground magic, endangering the entire British Isles. As in previous books, authors Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer convey both realism and superrealism in their quaint missives. A treat that must be sampled.

As noted above, this is a continuation in the adventures of Kate and Cecilia, now grown with children. Cecy and her husband are summoned to go find a missing surveyor, and leave their children in the hands of Kate and her spouse. What Cecy and her husband find is more than just missing person. There is strong magic afoot! Kate and Cecilia continue to correspond by letter, each letter a chapter from that characters perspective.  We have some correspondence between James and Thomas, but it really didn't seem to add anything to the story other than remind the reader that they were still there.

As a Young Adult book, this is an enjoyable sequel to the first two books, but it really is not as strong as its predecessors were from a ‘grown-ups’ point of view. It also seemed to lack some of the charm from the first story and felt a bit forced in places.

If you have youngsters who enjoyed Harry Potter and the like, and if you have pre-teen girls or tween girls who liked Harry Potter, then they might enjoy this series.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Recipe Review - end April

Been an interesting week weather wise; we've bounced between 60* and sun, and 30* and snow.  In between, rain.  I think I saw a headline in our local paper that called this season "sprinter" not spring, not winter but a strange combo of both.  All I know is it been interfering with my ability to get out on my bike! 

Also makes recipe planning interesting - do I plan for cool weather meals, or something lighter for a warm evening?  Well, since it is currently 30* as I type this with 20mph winds, we're going to stick with cold weather meals...
Ancho Chicken Tacos (Ckng Lght, May 2011)
These were simple and quick to pull together. I subbed broccoli slaw for the angel hair slaw because I have never seen such a product on my LGS shelves and I think broccoli has a bit more umph vitamin-wise.  I also used chicken thighs instead of breasts, cheaper and the thighs have a tich more iron (my last blood donation had me borderline for iron! That was as shocker.).  Avocado sauce was a nice change of pace from traditional salsa.  I made up my favorite cornbread recipe as a side (from Cooks Illustrated). These would be great done on the grill for a hot summer day with a frosty beer or margarita to accompany them. 

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 tacos)

Time: 20 minutes
photo from

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips
3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Cooking spray
1/8 teaspoon grated lime rind
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
1/2 ripe peeled avocado, diced
2 cups packaged angel hair slaw
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

1. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with chile powder, garlic salt, and cumin. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove chicken from pan.

2. Combine rind, 1 tablespoon juice, and next 3 ingredients (through avocado) in a blender or food processor; process until smooth.

3. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon juice, slaw, onions, cilantro, oil, and salt, tossing to coat.

4. Heat tortillas according to directions. Divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas. Top each tortilla with about 1 tablespoon avocado mixture and 1/4 cup slaw mixture.

Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing  (Ckng Lght, May 2011)
As this recipe notes, it is indeed quick and easy.  Also note, the dressing is spicy and may not be suitable for little tastebuds (or Norwegian tastebuds...)!  ;)  If need to feed some kiddies, either tone down the chili powders or omit altogether.   I upped the corn and added some cooked salmon I had on hand for a bit of extra protein.  Salmon is purely optional, but did add a nice bit of flavor and color.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 3/4 cups orzo mixture, 2 avocado wedges, 3/4 teaspoon cilantro, and 3/4 teaspoon parsley)

Total: 30 minutes

Photo from
1 cup uncooked orzo
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed and drained
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 green onions, sliced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons light sour cream
2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 peeled avocado, cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse; drain well. Place orzo, corn, and next 3 ingredients (through beans) in a large bowl; toss.

2. Combine buttermilk, 2 tablespoons cilantro, and next 8 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle over orzo mixture; toss. Top with avocado; garnish with remaining cilantro and parsley.

Creamy Chicken Salad (Ckng Lght, May 2011)
This dish became lunches for the week.  Super simple to toss together - I ignored the whole "poaching" bit (it's fine, I'm sure) because I was baking something in the oven and just tossed the chicken in at the same time.  Rotisserie chicken would also work fine.  Flavor is good, I liked the dried cranberries with the celery, though I think the Husband found it a bit odd.  I also omitted the almonds since these were getting made into sandwiches instead of salads.  Made 8 lunches as sandwiches. 
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2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup sweetened dried cranberries
7 tablespoons (about 2 ounces) coarsely chopped smoked almonds
6 cups mixed salad greens

1. Fill a Dutch oven two-thirds full of water; bring to a boil.

2. Wrap each chicken breast half completely and tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap. Add the chicken to boiling water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°. Remove from pan, and let stand for 5 minutes. Unwrap chicken and shred; refrigerate for 30 minutes or until cold.

(1a)  Or bake for 20 minutes. Let cool. Shred. 

3. Combine mayonnaise and the next 7 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until combined. Add chicken, 1/3 cup celery, cranberries, and almonds; toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve over salad greens.

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