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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hoka! Hoka! Hoka! by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickenson

Hoka! Hoka! Hoka!Hoka! Hoka! Hoka! by Poul Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads:  One Hoka is a threat to human sanity. Two Hokas are a menace to civilization. And three Hokas . . . Heaven help the galaxy, in this hilarious science fiction adventure from two of the best writers in the genre.
Not much to comment on this one. A purely campy book in which small teddy bear-like creatures completely emulate whatever they happened to recently read or see in a movie. Earth has assigned Alexsander Jones as plenipotentary of the planet Toka, an overseer of sorts to the Hoka. The book is comprised of novelettes following Alexander Jones adventures: Western, Space Patrol, Pirates, French Legionnaire, to name a few. This is not a book to be taken seriously. A good book for traveling or waiting around for appointments - you can pick it up and put it down without too much thought.

Recommended if you like a little scifi fluff, skip it if you can name the monster in episode #33 of Star Trek.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 27, 2012

Recipe Review from 8/20/12

A beautiful fall week up here!  Couldn't ask for nicer weather, really.  Cool crisp evenings and mornings, pleasantly warm days.  Love it! 

I had two late nights in town this past week which necessitated having leftovers on hand for the Husband.  The Southwestern Lasagna Torta was the perfect dish.  And a couple of simple summer dishes rounded out the meal plan. 

Stay tuned for Labor Day adventures - I'll be on my way back from Worldcon in Chicago!

Southwestern Lasagna Torta  (Ckng Lght BB, Rachel Ray Every Day)
Needed something that would cover leftovers for a couple of days, and this showed up on the Ckng Lght BB.  I had quite a few of the ingredients in the pantry already, so easy enough to grab the rest during the grocery run.  Two notes - I used peas and a mixed veggie mix (carrots, peas, corn and green beans) because I wanted to use up two partial bags.  IF you want less heat or no heat, use one can of chopped green chilies instead of the pickled jalapenos.  Whoo! Pickled jalapenos pack a bit of heat!   

I served with some homemade corn chips (didn't burn them! Hooray!) and leftover refried beans baked and topped with cheddar cheese. 

Recipe By : Rachel Ray 2011
Serving Size : 6

2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb. ground pork
1 packet taco seasoning
2 cups prepared salsa
8 corn tortillas (6 inch), cut crosswise in quarters
10 oz. frozen peas, thawed  (or a bag of corn, peas, carrots and green beans) 
1 3/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup refried beans
1/3 cup drained sliced pickled jalapeño chiles  (OR for LESS heat/NO heat, use one can of chopped green chilies)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro  skipped. 

Directions:1.In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat; add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the pork  and break it up with a wooden spoon; cook, stirring occasionally, until no
longer pink, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the taco seasoning with 1/2 cup water and simmer, stirring, until saucy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

2.Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly grease a round 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Add 1/2 cup salsa to the bottom of the pan and tilt to coat. Arrange a third of the tortilla pieces on top, overlapping slightly to make an even layer. Top with half of the meat mixture and half of the peas, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Add another layer of tortilla pieces, 1/2 cup salsa and the refried beans; sprinkle with the jalapeños and 1/3 cup cheese. Layer with the remaining tortilla pieces, meat mixture and peas;
sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese.

3.Cover the pan snugly with foil, set on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Uncover the pan, sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup cheese on top and bake until bubbling, about 8 minutes. Tent with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Uncover and top with the sour cream and cilantro.

Grilled Vegetable Pizza (CkngLght Aug, 2012)
 In this super easy pizza, the stars are the veggies topped with a bit of Fontina cheese and a good EVOO. You can make your own pizza crust if you have time, or buy a pre-made one of your choice.  Veggies are up to you and of course, so is the cheese when it comes down to it.  As usual, I modified the recipe... 

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps 
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices  (1 used one small homegrown eggplant)
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges (root end intact)
  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 ounces refrigerated fresh pizza dough  (I made my own crust)
  • 4 ounces shredded fontina cheese (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    1. Preheat grill to high heat.
    2. Remove brown gills from undersides of mushrooms with a spoon; discard. Combine mushrooms, garlic, bell pepper, zucchini, onion, and oil in a bowl; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange vegetables on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 8 minutes or just until tender. Slice mushrooms.   I skipped.  Seemed putzy. 
    3. Roll dough into a 12-inch oval on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on grill rack; grill 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.
    4. Sprinkle cheese over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edges. Arrange vegetable mixture over cheese. Grill pizza 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle pizza with basil leaves and red pepper; cut into 8 slices.

    My directions/notes: I premade my crust.  Let rise, then rolled out and placed on a flat cookies sheet dusted with cornmeal.  I spread about 2tsp grated garlic over the crust then topped with extra virgin olive oil.  I pre-grilled for 10 minutes.  Then topped with the thinly sliced eggplant, sliced cremini mushrooms, and red pepper.  Sprinkle grated cheese over, grill until crust is lightly browned and cheese melted.  It was about 15 or 20 minutes on my grill at 400*. 

    Whole Wheat Spagetti with Kale and Poached Eggs  (Ckng Lght, Sept 2012)
    This recipe seems a bit daunting at first, you've got bread crumb toasting (which you can easily skip and sub shredded Parmesan instead), you've got to boil spaghetti, poach eggs, and saute onions and kale.   Instead of heating up the house with the oven, I toasted the breadcrumbs on the stove with a bit of butter and set aside.  Onions and kale were sauteed and directed, and eggs were poached in the spaghetti water after the spaghetti was done.  I also halved the recipe.  I figured this would be better fresh rather than as leftovers and it would be easy enough to duplicate again.  Overall?  This was good

    Tuscan kale, sometimes labeled cavalo nero or lacinato or black kale, has dark leaves that are richly flavored. If you can't find Tuscan kale, you can use regular curly kale. Or try Swiss chard instead and cut the cooking time for the greens in half.

    photo from
    1 (2-ounce) piece whole-wheat baguette, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cups sliced onion (about 1 medium)
  • 14 cups stemmed, coarsely chopped Tuscan kale (about 18 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

    1. Preheat oven to 400°.

    2. Place bread in a food processor; pulse until 1 cup fine breadcrumbs form. Combine breadcrumbs and 2 teaspoons oil on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally.

    3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 8 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Gradually add kale, stirring to wilt after each addition. Stir in 1/2 cup water, red pepper, and garlic. Reduce heat to medium; cook, uncovered, 12 minutes or until kale is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt. Keep warm.

    4. Bring a large pot of water and 2 teaspoons salt to a simmer. Working with one at a time, crack each egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Gently slide eggs into water; cook 3 minutes or until whites are just set. Carefully remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon; set aside. Remove any remaining egg solids from water with a slotted spoon, and discard.

    5. Bring water to a boil. Add pasta; cook 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and place in a large bowl. Grate 1 ounce cheese. Add cheese, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and black pepper to pasta; toss to coat. Place about 3/4 cup kale in bottom of each of 4 shallow bowls. Top each serving with about 1 cup pasta mixture, 1 egg, and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs. Shave remaining 1 ounce cheese over servings.

    Friday, August 24, 2012

    Lost Fleet: Courageous by Jack Campbell

    Courageous (The Lost Fleet, #3)Courageous by Jack Campbell

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Book 3 in the Lost Fleet Series.

    From  Badly damaged and low on supplies, the Alliance Fleet is raiding Syndic mines for raw materials-and Captain "Black Jack" Geary hopes they can continue to remain one step ahead of their enemies. But the Syndics are the least of Geary's worries when he learns of the existence of aliens with the power to annihilate the human race.

    Not much to say on this one: the lost Alliance Fleet continues its desperate bid to return to Alliance territory without being decimated by the Syndics on the way. Our good Commander Geary continues to suspect there is an alien entity manipulating both sides. There is continued infighting from Captian’s who chafe under Geary command structure and vocally oppose his methods of fighting. Geary is perplexed, hounded and ultimately bedded by the icy cold Rione, while Captain Desjani worships the ground “Black Jack Geary” walks on. Both women provide ammo for Geary’s dissenters.

    My biggest complaint with this installment resides with Rione, who continually badgers Geary about being something he’s not - a larger than life, power hungry, war mongering Hero. And when she finds out her Husband, presumed dead, is actually not, but basically on the far side of the solar system, she declares herself ‘unhonorable in the memory of her true love’ and takes it out on Geary. This would have ranked higher (four stars) if it hadn’t been for the character of Rione.

    Still, an enjoyable if somewhat drawn out space opera.

    View all my reviews

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Nebula Awards 2012 ed by James Patrick Kelley

    This is August's Scifi Bookgroup Selection - we pretty much read it automatically every year and have since 2002.

    Stories Included:
    Ponies - Kij Johnson    nasty little girls and fitting in
    Sultan of the Clouds - Geoff Landiss      terraforming
    Map of Seventeen - Chris Barzak      growing up
    I Awoke and Found Me Here on This Cold Hills Side  - James Triptree, Jr      society/aliens
    Pishaach - Sweta Narayan   being the outsider even when on the inside
    Blackout/All Clear (excerpt) - Connie Willis    I won't touch this one. 
    Arvies - Adam Troy-Castro to describe? The depths to which society has sunk;  satisfing the desires of a few at the expense of others humanity
    How Interesting: A Tiny Man  - Harlan Ellison    society can't mind it's own business anymore; mutliple endings.
    Jaguar House in Shadow - Alliete de Bodard  
    The Green Book  - Amal El-Mohtar   facinating 
    And I Shall Wear Midnight (excerpt) - Terry Pratchett    Tiffany Aching series

    The downside with this years selection - I had read about 1/3 of the stories last year as part of the Hugo Nominee packet. 
    The upside with this years selection - I had read about 1/3 of the stories already! 

    What is fascinating to me is the use of a novelette or short story format as social commentary.  It might be about current of modern day topics such as Ponies and how nasty little girls can be.  (Hey, I'm a girl - I could totally relate.)  Or Harlan Ellison's How Interesting: A Tiny Man with societies penchant for sticking our noses into everything these days and slapping it up on the web.  

    And more frequently, about where society might be headed, as in Arvies by Adam Troy-Castro. 

    A novel length isn't quite capable of that impact necessary to get a social message across in my opinion.  There are too many other factors that need to be plugged into a novel and the message is too easily buried.  Not to say those novels aren't being written (Kim Stanley Robinson comes to mind), or have been written (Fahrenheit 451) but it's a harder length to work with. 

    So overall, I thought the Nebula Awards 2012  was a pretty good selection.   Recommended. 

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Recipe Review from 8/13/12

    A moderately busy week that required a bit of pre-cooking.  We had a Twins game on Wednesday, and with the drive that makes a full day for us.  Husband had Reserve over the weekend, and I committed myself to the Bayfront Art Festival as a representative for the yoga studio. 

    Still slowly plugging away on catching up on  weeding the garden.   The vegetable beds are done, but the flower beds are in need of a complete overhaul. Between the yarrow (nasty evil! it is, nasty!) the cone flowers (who would've thunk that cone flowers could get so...overwhelming?) and the frikin' grass, at least three beds need to be dug out and redone.  And we need to order some more wood chips for our garden paths.  Landscape fabric is showing through.

    Fit in another mid-week Twins game.  Dodged the raindrops - rained on the way down and on the way back, but not during the game.  Twins lost, but I finished knitting one market bag, started another, and got half of my bookgroup book read.  Good day if you ask me! 

    Some decent recipes below.  The Caramelized Onion and Zucchini Quiche was outstanding.  Highly recommend that one.

    Barley Salad with Parsley and Walnuts  (Found on Ckng Lght BB)
    Needed something for lunches.  Wanted to try and use some pantry items.  This fit the bill.  I had barley, walnuts, parsley (garden!)...and planned ahead to have some leftover grilled chicken that I could toss in for some protein.  I also added some wheat berries (LOVE them).  I did not have ricotta salata, put tossed some shredded asiago/parmesan on top. 

    Active Time: 40 minutes

    SERVES: 6
    Barley is versatile enough to be served warm or at room temperature, as in this terrific salad with walnuts, parsley and salty bits of ricotta salata cheese in a lemon-garlic vinaigrette. It can be served as a main course or as a side for grilled chicken or pork.

    * 1 1/4 cups pearled barley (9 ounces)
    * 1 cup walnut halves (4 ounces)
    * 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    * 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    * 1 garlic clove, minced
    * 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
    * Salt and freshly ground pepper
    * 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves --- some said use a bit less
    * 4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (about 1 cup)

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the barley over high heat until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the barley and rinse under cold water to cool thoroughly. Drain again, shaking out the excess water.

    2. Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Coarsely chop the nuts.

    3. In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, garlic and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Add the barley, parsley and ricotta salata and toss gently. Add the toasted walnuts, toss again and serve.

    MAKE AHEAD The salad can be refrigerated overnight.

    From Food and Wine Mag, May 2008

    Zucchini and Caramelized Onion Quiche  (Ckng Lght, Aug 2012)
    Okay, the recipe below is with my changes.  If you want the original recipe, follow the link.  With that said, this was really good.  I would make this again in a heartbeat, maybe even following the recipe a bit more closely.   If you need to be GF, use cornstarch instead of flour as thickener, and skip the crust completely.  Basically you make it a fritatta. 

    I didn't have a zucchini like I thought I did, but I had a small yellow squash.  I had some portobello mushroom caps in the fridge and I can't resist a mushroom/egg combination.  I like my quiche more on the eggy side, so I increased the eggs from 3 to 4 and decreased the milk to 3/4 cups.  This makes great leftovers - serve with a side of asparagus, or a side salad to round out the meal. 

    Silky caramelized onions, which you can cook on the weekend, flavor this beautifully simple dish.

    picture from

  • 1/2 (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 cup (or one small) yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • 1 small portobello mushroom cap, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced and caramelized
  • 3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • large eggs
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1. Preheat oven to 425°.

    2. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Fit dough into a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fold edges under; flute. Line dough with foil; arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove weights and foil; bake an additional 2 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

    3. While oven is warming and pie crust waiting to bake, heat 1 tbsp oil and 1/2 tbsp butter in a large skillet.  Add thinly sliced onions, cover and cook over medium heat.  Stir occasionally to encourage browning.  I like to add a tich of salt and a tich of sugar to encourage sweating and sweetening.  When a beautiful golden brown or caramel brown, remove from heat and set aside.

    4. Reduce oven temperature to 375°.

    4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl. Add squash and mushroom.. Sauté 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Cool slightly.

    5. Arrange caramelized onions over bottom of crust; top with zucchini mixture. Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, milk, flour, pepper, eggs, and cheese in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Pour milk mixture over zucchini mixture. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams

    Angel StationAngel Station by Walter Jon Williams

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    From Orphans born in the depths of space, they were engineered to range the galaxy in search of fortune. Misfits and outlaws, they defied the huge interstellar cartels that ruled space, always one jump ahead of the authorities.  Ubu Roy was the strong young bossrider of the starship Runaway, who held all of history in his remarkable memory. Beautiful Maria was an ace star shooter and cybernetic witch, who could bend spacetime to find the perfect singularity

    July 2012 bookgroup selection.

    I initially read this about 1990, while I was in college, probably suffering though some math or calculus class. I remembered enjoying it. Fast forward 23 years, add in the world of social networking, and it came to my attention that this might be worth a second read. I have to say it was, and I know I got more out of the universe portrayed in the book now than when I first read it. A little life experience can do that.

    We have the economics of space life, where it’s every trader for himself and family. Where one bad run can end one’s livelihood and indenture that spacer and spacers family to planet life or indentured to one of the big Companies.

    We have first contact. Not between governments, but between the little guys. Both sides want to make a buck and keep doing what they want to be doing.

    We have cool aliens. I like a book with interesting aliens.

    We have rivalry between the traders themselves as they fight tooth and nail to keep doing what they are doing. And what happens when one trader ultimately succeeds in doing what the rest have been striving for.

    We have some good science fiction with the singularity jumps and the shooters who navigate space. We have an electronic witch, able to manipulate electrons, but not always good enough to stay out of trouble.

    So, ultimately, I thought this was a pretty darn good read the second time round.

    View all my reviews

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Recipe Review from 8/6/12

    Pretty mellow week all the way around.  We fit in two bike rides that enabled me to hit my personal goal for the year of 500 miles.  Woot!  Not sure I'll reach my personal best of 700, but we'll see what the latter end of the biking season brings. 

    Got to see the little nieces this past weekend too.  Cute as little bugs and sassy like their Mum. 

    Got a busy week coming up.  A Twins game on Wednesday and I'm assisting at the Yoga Studio's booth at the Bayfront Art Fair.  Keep your fingers crossed for good weather for both events! 

    Moroccan Beef Patties With Couscous (Ckng Lght BB) 
    I had some organic ground pork in the freezer and thought this would be the perfect dish for it.  I did cut back on the spices since it's easy to overwhelm the flavor of pork.  This was a really good and easy dish.  My only change would be to grill the patties next time.  The couscous you see in the picture is Israeli couscous - my go-to now.  The little stuff drives me nuts. 

    1 1/2 cups couscous
    Freshly ground pepper
    1 pound lean ground beef
    2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon paprika
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

    1.In a small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups salted water to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover and remove from the heat. After 5 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork; season with pepper. Cover to keep warm.

    2.In a bowl, combine the beef, garlic, onion, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons parsley and 1 teaspoon salt. Form into 8 patties.

    3.Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef patties and cook for about 3 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Fluff the couscous again with a fork, transfer to a platter and top with the beef patties and the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley.

    Source: Rachael Ray 10/06

    Chicken Kebabs with Creamy Pesto (Ckng Lght, Sept 2010)
    This wasn't what I intened to make.  Far from it.  My plan was to have Curried Chicken Kebabs and a Mediterranean style meal.  That went out the window when I realized (upon opening the fridge door actually) that I had no chili paste.  We moved to plan two, which became this meal.   You might be like, 'Seriously? You need a recipe for kebabs?'  Well, what I need a recipe for is the marinade.  This one fit the bill perfectly.  Just a light flavoring complimented by the grill, with some pesto on the side.

    So lets talk about my pesto.  I planted a variety seed pack  of basil this year.  Was certain the seeds didn't survive The Flood of July.  But Lo!  I had basil!  Needed some pesto for this recipe, knew I had some basil in the garden, and headed on out.  What I discovered was I had a plethora of lemon  basil.  How 'bout that? So lemon basil pesto it was, which complimented the dish below beautifully.

    Served with some grilled asparagus and red onion, with some leftover  garlic sourdough breadbowl from Red Lobster.  Yum!

  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind  
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 (1-inch) pieces yellow bell pepper
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon commercial [or homemade] pesto

  • 1. Preheat broiler or grill.

    2. Combine rind, 1 tablespoon juice, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper. Toss with bell pepper, tomatoes, chicken, and onion. Thread vegetables and chicken onto 4 (12-inch) skewers. Place skewers on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 12 minutes or until chicken is done, turning occasionally.  OR grill for about 12-15 minutes or until chicken is done. 

    3. Combine 1 teaspoon juice, yogurt, sour cream, and pesto. (I skipped this part and just served the pesto on the side)

    Serve sauce with kebabs.

    Friday, August 10, 2012

    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    From  Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

    Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television "family." But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear, and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

    When Mildred attempts suicide, and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.

    First published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 is a classic novel set in the future when books forbidden by a totalitarian regime are burned. The hero, a book burner, suddenly discovers that books are flesh and blood ideas that cry out silently when put to the torch. -- from the Publisher
    Read as audiobook. Narrator was the author himself.

    A classic which I had not yet read, and with the passing of the author this year, decided it was time to correct this oversight.

    Written in 1953, I thought this aged fairly well - which can be problematic for books that address the future, and now that future is here. 60 years forward is not an insignificant time span, really. Society has witnessed the burning of books several times: Hitler in WWII, Russia burned books, we’ve seen books burned in even more modern times across the globe, even here in the states. Library’s will dictate what they will and won’t carry on the shelves because books still carry the stigma of being dangerous, with the ability to corrupt peoples thoughts and minds.

    I thought it was interesting to have turned the fireman into a policeman of sorts. A future society’s morality police. No longer there to protect and serve, only to protect from the insidiousness of what books can do.

    Perhaps Bradbury’s future wasn’t all that far off in his depiction of ‘Wall TV’s’; one, two or three panels in a room immersing the characters in whatever TV program the government wants them to watch or interact with. There are some pretty massive plasma TV's on the market.  And aside from the governmental control dipicted in the book, today’s society is pretty immersed 24/7 in the world of electronic newsfeeds, social networking and games.

    Would I have gotten as much out of this if I had read it 20 years ago? Hard to say. I’m glad to have added this to my ‘read’ list. Recommended.

    View all my reviews

    Wednesday, August 8, 2012

    Recipe Review from 7/30/12

    I had two new recipes planned for last week, and ended up shuffling things around a bit to fit them in.  The Husband and I invited the Parents out on Sunday for an impromptu bonfire with brats and smores.  Couldn't have asked for a more beautiful evening.  On Monday the Husband had after work plans and by the time I got home from my evening yoga class, I was too tired to make dinner just for myself, plus I had a bucket of cherries that needed to be pitted and frozen.  Leftovers from brat night (tubs of pasta salad and potato salad) were a decent stand in for dinner and then it was an audiobook and cherry pitting for me.

    Rest of the week was a mix of getting caught up in the garden, laundry, and relaxing.  Weeding has been much neglected.  On the upside, big weeds are easy to pull.  Most of the time.  There are a couple that really don't like to come out of the ground.   

    Both recipes below are great for using some garden produce, that CSA basket or a trip to the farmers market.  Enjoy!

    Mexican Chicken Pasta Salad  (Ckng Lght BB)
    This was really good!  You can save significant time by prepping the chicken ahead of time or by using rotisserie.  You can also cook the pasta ahead of time.  If you don't, no prob.  Prep the veggies while waiting for pasta water to boil and pasta to cook.  Assemble and chill.  Or not.  Mine went straight from assembly to eating.  Don't hesitate to add the green chilies.  I found them to be mild enough that they added flavor, but no heat.  Same with the Chili Powder, providing you have the mild kind that is.  Corn chips or cornbread would make a nice side. 

    Cool, refreshing salad with a Mexican flavor. This can be served as a side dish or entree. (Prep time includes 1 hour refrigeration time)

    8 oz penne pasta (2 cups uncooked)
    2 cooked chicken breasts, diced (about 2 cups)
    1 (8 3/4 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained   (I used frozen and thawed it)
    1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced
    1-2 stalk celery, sliced thin
    1 medium sweet red pepper, sliced
    1 medium green yellow pepper, sliced (optional)
    4 green onions, sliced  (skipped)
    1 (4-7 ounce) can green chilies
    1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)  (whoops! froze my cheese...)
    2 cups lettuce, chopped
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro   (skipped)

    3/4 cup mayonnaise
    1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
    2 Tbs ReaLime juice
    2 tsp sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    3/4 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp chili powder

    1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse, and set aside.
    2. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl.
    3. Combine all dressing ingredients; stir thoroughly.
    4. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat.
    5. Chill 1 hour, then serve.

    Servings: 6
    Note: Instead of mixing lettuce into salad, you can layer it on top to keep it from wilting.

    Nicoise Salad (Whole Foods Co-op flyer)
    This salad is great for it's simplicity and heartiness, perfect for these really warm days.  If you do a bit of prep ahead of time, dinner is on the table even faster.  There are plenty of variations on this, and different dressings and ingredients, but I liked this one.  I did the dressing Option 1 first time I served it, and dressing Option 2 the second time.  This does serve four exactly.  Serve with some crusty bread to mop up the dressing at the end.

    1 lb fresh salmon   (or, 1 7oz pkg of vacuum packed tuna)
    pinch of salt, pepper and garlic powder for seasoning salmon
    1 tbsp olive oil
    3/4 lb red potatoes (or baby fingerling's)
    3/4 lb green beans, trimmed
    4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered or sliced
    1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
    1/2 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
    1/2 lb fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges   (I used grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered)
    1 head of romaine lettuce or lettuce of choice

    Dressing option 1: 
    2 cloves garlic, minced,
    1 tbsp Dijon mustard
    1 tbsp cider vinegar
    zest of one lemon
    4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
    dash of Worcestershire sauce
    salt and pepper to taste

    Dressing option 2: I prefer Extra Virgin Olive oil and some kind of vinegar (red wine, white wine, white balsamic, a Riesling wine vinegar, etc)  just drizzled over my salad.  Nothing to mix. 

    1) If using salmon, season fish with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake or grill salmon at 350* until done (time will depend upon your filet).  Set aside to cool and break into large pieces.

    2) While salmon is cooking, boil potatoes in a large pot of salted water for 13-15 minutes or until just tender.  Remove from water but save water.  Bring back to a boil, add the green beans and cook for three minutes.  Remove from heat, drain and immerse in cold water to cool.  Drain and set aside.

    3)  Arrange large handful of lettuce on plate or in large bowls.  Arrange remaining ingredients on top of lettuce.  Serve with dressing. 

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Mesabi Trail Ride 2012

    Saturday found the Husband and I getting up pretty darn early to get to Virginia, MN, to catch a shuttle to Grand Rapids, MN, for the 2012 Great River Energy Mesabi Trail Ride.  This was my third time doing this organized ride, the Husband's 2nd.  And for the first time, they were offering a metric century route of 64 miles...which, I clocked at 68 miles when I dismounted at the car at the finish line.  Someone should check their GPS...  Not that I'm complaining too much.  It's more miles toward my yearly total after all! 

    It was with some trepidation that our bus traversed along Hwy 169 this morning.  Low, pedulant clouds, heavy humidity and at one point a downpour had the group wondering if it was going to be a long wet trail.  We were all proven wrong (other than a wet trail) and nary a drop fell for the rest of the ride.

    This is a well  organized bike ride.  The route is clearly marked. The volunteers are wonderful and great at getting folks across road crossings safely.  The food at the numerous rest stops is very tasty - locally baked cookies, fresh fruit, and variety of chips (good for salt intake).  And, from the four accidents we saw this year, everyone was super about making sure the person was taken care of until medical help arrived. 

    Hawkins Mine Pit Overlook in Nashwauk -
    First Mine in Itasca County operated from 1902-1962
    and shipped 25,000,000 tons of iron.
    picture from

    Yup.  Four accidents that we saw (previous years I only saw one, and his ego and bike were the only casualties there).  Guy number one didn't even make it 2 miles outside of Grand Rapids when his tires must have slipped on the wet pavement and down he went.  Ambulance took him away.  Broken or sprained ankle we suspect.  Guy number two was sitting with a towel to his face, while his buddy and a volunteer waited for medical assistance - he face planted.  Going to fast.  Guy number three must have disregarded the volunteer warning people to SLOW DOWN - 90* turn ahead! AND the big sign that emphasized that and fired himself into the weeds.  Luckily no trees.  Ambulance took him away.  Not sure how guy number four bit it.  But The Husband overheard he went over his handlebars. 

    However, the Husband and I finished with no problems other than tired legs and slightly sore tushies.  My final statistics: Weather was overcast for first 2 hours, partly cloudy for 1, and sunny for last two. Temperatures ranged from about 70-75* with a nice tailwind.

    4h 32m ride time
    average speed 15.0
    total ride time 5 hours
    (10 minutes at each rest stop which is what you want.  Enough time to stretch, eat, and pee.) 

    The route has changed from year to year;  I look forward to seeing what they chose to do next year!

    Old tailing piles outside of Hibbing
    picture from

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn (Mitch Rapp #3)

    Transfer of Power (Mitch Rapp, #3)Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    .  From  #1 "New York Times "bestselling author Vince Flynn delivers a heart-pounding novel that poses an alarming and timely question right out of today's headlines: What if America's most powerful leader was also its prime target?
    On a busy Washington morning, the stately calm of the White House is shattered in a deadly terrorist attack on the executive mansion. The president is evacuated to an underground bunker, but not before nearly one hundred hostages are taken. Mitch Rapp, the CIA's top counterterrorism operative sent in to take control of the crisis, determines that the president is not as safe as Washington's power elite had thought. Indeed, Rapp has made a chilling discovery that could rock Washington to its core: someone within his own government wants his rescue attempt to fail.

    This came to my attention recently and wanting something different to read, decided to give it a whirl. I did not  realize it was chronologically book #3, I thought it was book #1 and originally it was in publication order.

    Initially I wasn't certain I would like a modern day political/espionage/fictional thriller, but by about chapter three I was hooked. This starts out fast and doesn't slow down. The pacing of the book was excellent. Having been in the military, I can totally relate to the power plays amongst the different agencies. I appreciated how Rapp would work independently yet knew when to back off and take orders even if he disagreed with them. I appreciated how his co-hort, Milt Adam's, also knew when to take instruction and to follow those instructions.

    My only peeve with the book (otherwise it would have been a 5-star rating), was the budding romance with Miss Anna Reily. puh-leze! I'm going to miss-quote slightly here because I was listening to this on audiobook, but the author had our dashing hero gazing into the 'emerald eyes' of the 'stunningly beautiful' (she was mostly nekkid!) just saved from certain rape and death heroine. At one point he was 'speechless from her beauty'. About that point I was hoping the terrorist would just blow everyone up right then and there. Mega cliché.

    The author did redeem himself later by avoiding further clichés of having our perturbed heroine ignoring orders and running around on her own, which I fully expected to happen. Much appreciated that it didn’t.

    Recommended if you like modern day/political thriller/military/espionage type books.

    View all my reviews

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