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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Closers by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #11)

The Closers (Harry Bosch, #11)The Closers by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  He walked away from the job three years ago. But Harry Bosch cannot resist the call to join the elite Open/Unsolved Unit. His mission: solve murders whose investigations were flawed, stalled, or abandoned to L.A.'s tides of crime. With some people openly rooting for his failure, Harry catches the case of a teenager dragged off to her death on Oat Mountain, and traces the DNA on the murder weapon to a small-time criminal. But something bigger and darker beckons, and Harry must battle to fit all the pieces together. Shaking cages and rattling ghosts, he will push the rules to the limit--and expose the kind of truth that shatters lives, ends careers, and keeps the dead whispering in the night...

Read as an audio book.

This has been one of the more engaging and interesting Harry Bosch books in my opinion.

Bosch is back on the police force after an almost three year "retirement".  First day on the job he's already being threatened by Irving, has alienated his former partner J. Edgar, and is given an open-unsolved case that becomes anything but straight forward.  Working with Kiz Rider - his other former partner - they begin to backtrack into a 20 year old case that has a missing evidence box, signs of police management interference, a mother that hasn't been able to let go and a father fallen to the streets, and has hate crime written all over it.

I like cold cases because we get to see the detectives doing detective work; I don't have these interludes where I have to "listen" to the antagonists next move, where I know what the bad guy is doing but the detective is off chasing a red herring.  Not saying that red herrings don't happen in cold case mysteries, they just tend to be less obvious.  Mostly.

I also liked that Bosch - again - wasn't a complete ass.  He is working with his partner, not in a vacuum of ego.  Both contribute to the work and thus, the story.  There was a tendency for the character of Kiz to defer to Bosch, where I think by this time she should be a dominate personality on her own.  Bosch is still struggling with his issues, but they didn't detract from the plot as they did in past books. 

My one main complaint with this book is I pegged the killer right off the bat - as in the first several chapters.  I don't know if the clues were that obvious, or I picked up something in the narration, but from there it was a matter of waiting to see if I was correct.  And I was.

Recommended if you've read the first ten in the series.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Recipe Review from 6/15/2015

We continue to slowly put our house back together after moving back in a couple weekends ago.  The treasure hunt continues for packed away kitchen items and I seem to have misplaced a set of bathroom towels.  How in the world I did that I can't fathom, but they remain resolutely missing.

This weekend we finished painting the living room, a dreaded task that once tackled only took a couple of hours.  Living room drapes are washed and with a quick iron or steaming can be put back up.  Washed the living room floor to get the last of the construction dust and our couch came back in!  YAY! 

It's been a while since I've had a recipe review, but after several weeks, we have a couple!  Nothing even remotely fancy, but it's a start. 

The Meal Plan
Sun - (L) leftover brats and potato salad  (S) out for supper
Mon (Yoga) grilled cheese with pesto
Tues (out for breakfast) slow cooked Indian butter chicken (previously reviewed here.
Wed - leftovers
Thurs (yoga) - leftovers
Fri (out for lunch)  grilled cheese

Lunches  Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Veggie wraps with pita chips, fruit, yogurt and luna bars.

Fancy Grilled Cheese
This was inspired from the Kraft Family Reunion we attended exactly a year ago in Stockton Illinois.  I would not have thought to pair grilled cheese with pesto until someone put one in my hand.  If I recall, they did a seven cheese blend - I did two-three.  This is very versatile - pick cheeses you like.  Add a slice of pepper jack for more zing, or roasted red pepper for more of an Italian flair.  I served these along side salads. 

sandwich slices of Gouda, Havarti, and American cheese
whole grain bread of choice

Assemble 2-3 slices of cheese on bread, grill on the stove, eat!

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Veggie wraps (Cooking Light, July 2015)  vegetarian
A bit of a "why didn't I think of this" and "I've done something similar before..." recipe.   Usually I would make my own hummus, but because I'm still searching for kitchen stuff, I opted for store bought.  Light, tasty, refreshing break from sandwiches.   Lunches really don't get much simpler than this.

1 1/2 cups roasted red pepper hummus
4 (8") flour tortilla's of choice
2 cups spinach and baby kale blend
1 large red, orange or yellow bell pepper
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
fresh ground black pepper.

Assemble on tortilla, roll-up, eat. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shadows Falls by Simon R. Green

Shadows FallShadows Fall by Simon R. Green

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  A town of amazing magicks, where the real and the imagined live side by side, where the Faerie of legend know the automatons of the future. Time sees all here - but even he cannot escape the prophecy of James Hart's return. Casting his own ominous veil, the man without a past can only mean the death of Shadows Fall...

If you've read the Nightside novels, then you will have a passing familiarity with Shadows Falls from the same world.  But that familiarity will end about there - you know about Shadows Falls, but not really.  Not until you've read this book.

Where Nightside is everything dark, Shadows Falls is everything else.  Shadows Falls is its own place and time.  It has its own rules. Shadows Falls is a conglomeration of times and places held together by Old Father Time's say-so, rules are enforced by a creepy scarecrow named Jack Fetch, Eric the sheriff, and the Mayor Rhea.   The problem is, Old Father Time is afraid, and so is Shadows Falls.

I enjoyed the world building, the cast of characters was different and delightful, the quirks that make everything tick and tock are quirky and different.  Where I struggled with the book was in the author's repetition.  I often felt like I was reading the same paragraphs over and over and over, the sentences  phrased a tiny bit differently (or the same), and after a while that becomes really annoying.  Not only am I being told how things are different, then I'm shown, and then I'm told again.  I consider myself a fairly astute reader, I can figure things out without being bashed over the head.

Plot wise, moderately predictable.  No huge Ah HA's leaping off the page.  Without giving any spoilers, the ending dragged on, reading more like a bad action film with bombs, flames, guns and explosions then took an exit ramp right into Disneyland.  Not my favorite.

While the book has it's issues, overall Shadows Falls is a story that gently pulls the reader along for a lovely little boat ride as long as you don't expect a lot. Perfect for mindless vacation reading.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chickens and Coop Update

Chicks are now are 6 weeks old and they are starting to look like adult birds.  Still a ways to go yet, but colors are there.

Another mile stone reached this weekend - the run is officially fenced in and the birds did a bit of exploring outside.  The Husband needs to beef up a couple of spots with some hardware cloth, which he was doing on Monday.   This double fencing will serve multiple purposes: to protected against predators, to keep birds from going under the fence, and to keep the dogs out.   Ben in particular is quite transfixed by this peeping cheeping activity. 

"Hey! Lookit this!"

"You go first."  "No, I go first!" "Hmm...what's this?"   (The Bernadette's are the curious chicks)

Group decision, just shove someone out the door.  Just happened to be one of the Burnadette's.

The Bernadette's have flown the coop!  It took about 15 minutes for the rest to follow suit.

A Sheldon (Australorp breed)

Bernadette front left, Penny center, Bernadette right

Penny's (Golden Laced Wyandottes)

Coop run on the side (painting still in progress)

Inside the run (again, painting still a work in progress)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Remodel Update Week #11

We moved back into the house a week ago - the chickens were getting too big for the brooder in my folks garage and my folks were expecting non-family over night company, so it was time.  Our house wasn't quite ready for us - cabinets were just going in, we had no sink nor kitchen plumbing.  The bathroom plumbing (as recently revealed through updates) can't handle washing dirty dishes so we've been "camping". 

I unearthed my electric kettle (I gotta have my breakfast tea) so breakfast has been instant oatmeal and fruit.  Suppers have been grab 'n go from the co-op or pre-made kebabs from the meat market.

By the end of the week we were back in business with a temporary sink and plywood counter tops. I even got my house water filter installed.  Yay! 

So progress is slowing a bit as we move toward completion - counter top people are coming on Thursday to measure (they are driving up from the Twin Cities!), once counters are installed then the Contractor can finish the back splash and trim work. We are also waiting on the glass for the one cabinet we left "open". 

All of this adds up to spending the weekend unpacking kitchen stuff.  It's been like one great big treasure hunt with the grand question of "where in the world did I put....?"   Everything needs to be washed as it's put away.  There is so much construction dust in the basement that eventually I'll need to clean down there as well.  But for now, it can hold.

Recipe reviews should resume shortly.

Sorry for "messiness" - like I said, still unpacking!  
Blue line above sink is how high back splash is going to go.

Messy messy...but gives you an idea of what we're doing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem (Three-Body, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:
Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

Hugo Nominee 2015. 

I'm not sure what I think of this book.  There were parts that I found interesting, and there were parts that had me wanting to put the book down and go read something else.  Plot and premise are heavy on the science, and I will fully admit I glossed over those parts.  I like some science in my science fiction, but when it starts reading like a college physic's book, I'm done. 

In a nutshell, the book follows the life of Ye Wenjie, an engineer, from the time of the Cultural Revolution through modern day and into her revelation at the end.   Her story alternates with Wang Miao, a nanotechologist  who's being driven mad by a countdown only he can see.  He's brought into an elite group, with a terrible secret, and a questionable outcome.   Wang is introduced to a Virtual Reality game called the Three Body Problem, where Wang realizes that there is more going on than being 'just a game'.   

The overall premise of the book was interesting, the concepts were well thought out and deftly woven, reading about a society that is not mine was fascinating, and I really appreciated the ending.  If you watch Chinese movies, you'll know what I mean. 

But I thought the plot became bogged down in the science which, again, huge detraction, despite that the book is about science.  I shouldn't want to put down a book, the book should keep me coming back for more.  This one had me struggling. 

Recommended with reservations.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Remodel Update Week #10

As of Sunday evening, we are back in the house!  We currently have no furniture downstairs, no kitchen sink (thus no running water downstairs), but we do have a working stove and fridge.  I hauled down a small desk and found two chairs to make do this morning.

Puppies have a rug and their puppy pillow.  Meals are going to be pretty darn simple for a while - instant oatmeal, sandwiches, and things that I can pick up (like a rotisserie chicken) or grill.  I don't know where my silverware is, any of my cooking utensils, serving platters, etc.  Well, I know where they are (upstairs spare room) but I don't know where in the overall pile of stuff. 

And did I mention I don't have a sink?  We can't wash our dishes in the tub due to the plumbing - food stuff would just gum up the upstairs pipes.  So, we will be keeping meals simple for a while longer.

A variety of pictures from different angles.  

Using current fridge until we know exactly how big the space will be.  Then will get a new one.

Look!  We now have a range hood!  Yay!

Pantry doors (L) and basement door (R)

Empty space is where sink will eventually go.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

NYPD Red by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

NYPD Red (NYPD Red, #1)NYPD Red by James Patterson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  It's the start of Hollywood on Hudson, and New York City is swept up in the glamour. Every night, the red carpet rolls out for movie stars arriving at premieres in limos; the most exclusive restaurants close for private parties for wealthy producers and preeminent directors; and thousands of fans gather with the paparazzi, hoping to catch a glimpse of the most famous and beautiful faces in the world. With this many celebrities in town, special task force NYPD Red is on high alert-and they can't afford to make a single mistake.

Then a world-renowned producer fatally collapses at his power breakfast, and top NYPD Red Detective Zach Jordan is the first one on the scene. Zach works with his beautiful new partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald-who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend-to discover who the murderer might be. But this is only the beginning: the most brutal, public, and horrifyingly spectacular crimes they've ever encountered are about to send all of New York into chaos, putting NYPD Red on the ropes.

Zach and Kylie know there's no way of telling what a killer this deranged will do next. With the whole world watching, they have to find a way to stop a psychopath who has scripted his finale down to the last explosive detail.

This was recommended by friend Tess and this did not disappoint.  Read as an audiobook.

I really enjoyed this book - it's not overly long (only 6 disks) and the plot moves smartly along.  The book avoids numerous annoying tropes such as:  protagonist sleeping with his female cohort (he had dated her prior to book starting and she's now happily married) and said protagonist needing to rescue his female cohort (well...there was a tiny bit of this during the climatic conclusion).

The audiobook used the talents of two narrators - one for the "good guys" and one for the "bad guys".  The talent they picked for this complemented each other in diction and intonation and made for smooth transitions and a very enjoyable read.  Usually I don't like knowing what the bad guy is up to, but in this book, it worked and I give some of the credit to the narrators.

I also enjoyed the psychological aspects of this book - the reader is shown with a deft hand just how disturbed the antagonist is.  Use of gross and graphic scenes wasn't necessary as the writers gradually spooled out bits of information over the course of the book.

The book also stepped away from the "lone detective" and "renegade cop" trope that dominates mysteries and thrillers.  The one time in the book when our protagonists forgo talking to their supervisor, the Chief acknowledges the situation, and chews them out later as the situation warranted.  I liked that. It worked, it's how it should work.

Overall, recommended.  I'll be reading the next in the series.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Remodel Update Week #9; Chickens and Coop

Double posting here.

Trim is in, kitchen door is in, pantry door is in.  It's looking great!  The best news is, cabinets should be picked up TODAY!   YAAAYYY!

The Husband snapped a couple of pictures - wasn't the best light, our walls are not red.

I'm glad I decided to put in new doors.  These look so much better than the old ones.

Trim around the window is what we are admiring. 

Plan as of this morning is we are going to move back in this coming weekend.  Baby chickens have outgrown their space in my Folk's garage and we need to get them into the coop. 

And, here are some pictures of the coop as of  Monday:

The Husband will be closing off the last wall today now that he's done working on the bulk of the inside and bringing things through. 

We lost another chicken this week - one of the Bernadette's didn't make it.  She was the runt of the group, we think she caught a yeast infection, and between being the smallest and getting pushed out of the way all the time the fungal infection did her in.   We still have 24 chickens remaining.  So yeah, best we get them into some larger accommodations.   

Monday, June 1, 2015

Recipe Review from 5/25/2015

A bit of a whirlwind week - Sister and family came up for a visit, so there was a bit of room shuffling at the parents house to accommodate her family of four (parents and kiddos) and my little family of four (parents and furry four-legged children).  As a courtesy to allergies, a 3 year old and a 1 year old, my little family moved out into the camping trailer.  Poor dogs were so confused! 

And we also did the Inflatable Insane 5k over the weekend.  Were we insane to sign up for this?  Totally!  But hey, good to do something outside of one comfort level and how many times as an adult do you get to go play on BIG bouncy houses? Not very often I bet. It was an absolute blast!  We were part of Team Vinyl Burn.   Check out our day of fun:

I also fit in a couple of new recipes: 

Shrimp Arrabbiata (Ckng Lght May 2015) gluten free option
I have to admit I made this recipe pretty much as written.  I did substitute a can of stewed tomatoes for the 2 cups crushed and it worked out fine.  I liked the chunkier tomatoes in fact.  This was well received for dinner - but in our house tomatoes and pasta is always a winner.  Add in shrimp?  Oh yeah...   Drop the crushed red pepper completely for small or sensitive tastebuds.  Bump it up if you have any hot heads.  I used a heaping 1/4 tsp and it was about perfect for this group.  This made enough for four adults.  Recommended. 

photo from
8 ounces uncooked campanelle (bell flower-shaped pasta) or rigatoni
12 ounces peeled and deveined extra-large shrimp
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced 
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced 
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta. Cook according to package directions; drain.
2. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; cook 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and crushed red pepper; cook 3 minutes or until vegetables are slightly softened, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in shrimp and cheese; cook 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in basil and lemon juice. Place about 1 cup pasta in each of 4 bowls; divide shrimp mixture evenly over pasta.

Egg and Avocado Open Faced Sandwiches (Ckng Lght June 2015)
To say this was easy is an understatement.  To quote Homer Simson, "Doh!" Why didn't I think of this?    Eggs would be good poached, fried or scrambled.  Would be good with salsa or siracha as a sauce, or leave it off.  In other words, this was just good. Very well received. Recommended if you need a quick and light meal.

4 eggs
4 slices multi-grain bread (softer variety is better)
1 avocado, mashed (I added a splash of lime)
1 small pkg alfalfa sprouts
salsa of choice

Fry eggs to desired doneness.  Toast toast.  Spread mashed avocado on toast, top with sprouts, egg and salsa.  EAT! 

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