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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Abbadon's Gate by James S.A. Corey (Expanse #3)

Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

Read for October's book group meeting.

Abbadon's Gate picks up right where Caliban's War ends, give or take a chapter, and our regular gang of four is front and center once again. To say this read like an action movie would be a bit of an understatement. It was non-stop action from the first Splat! which, after a while, became tiresome actually.

This is, at it's core, classic space opera. We have the Unknown in the protomolecule - what are it's motives? What is it going to do next? We have OPA vs Earth vs Mars politics. We have personal vendetta and revenge for destroying a family name. We have individuals trying to move beyond the politics moving ships and motives above them as they work for the greater good of the people trapped in this quagmire. The we have the question of God and God's role with man in space. It's a lot of stuff, our good author's didn't pull any punches in this installment - people got hurt and people died. Some dead people came back.

As I noted above, my main complaint was the non-stop action. Toward the end I found myself skimming ahead to find out what happened without having to slog through another characters point of view during a battle scene. I just wanted to shout enough already!

Ultimately not quite as enjoyable as Caliban's War, but still engaging enough that I have book four already purchased.

Recommended if you've read the first two. New to the series? Start with Leviathan's Wake.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Recipe Review from 10/19/2015

Another busy week in my world - I taught and additional two yoga classes and subbed spin class.  Friday I met with a yoga acquaintance and we tried a self-directed TRX/Yoga fusion class.   Loads of fun!  I wasn't sore like I am after a TRX/kettlebell class, but I still felt our workout.  Go us!

Saturday was the local Engineering Battalion's Military Ball.  This was the Husbands last unit before he retired out of the service.  It was enjoyable and...different. Kinda a cross between a somber formal event, a wedding, and a fraternity party.  Like I said, different.   I will sum up and say I'm glad I only spent $24 on my formal gown. 

The Meal Plan:
Sun (B)  Rye Flour Pancakes (L) leftover or sausage and cheese during football (S) Spaghetti Squash with Goat Cheese and Bacon
Mon (yoga)  Leftover
Tues (yoga) Leftovers
Wed (appt) Mac and Cheese
Thurs (yoga) Leftovers
Fri - Leftovers
Sat (L) leftovers  (S) Military Ball

Lunches - Chicken Chili, Fritos, yogurt, apples, luna bars

White Bean Chicken Chili with Butternut Squash (from via Pinterest)  gluten free
This is super easy to assemble and make.  The two things that will take the most time are prepping the squash and the chicken.  I had only one substitution - I used chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts.  I've come round to the opinion that thighs are just more flavorful than breasts and taste better in most recipes.
photo from
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups butternut squash, diced
  • 2 15.8 ounce cans cannellini or white northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup roasted hatch chiles, or 1 4-ounce can of diced green chiles
  • 1 32 ounce can of chicken broth
  • 1½ cups tortilla chips, coarsely crushed  (**gluten free)
  • ½ cup Monterey jack cheese
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  1. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, stirring frequently. Add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Add the butternut squash, beans, chiles and chicken broth. Stir in the tortilla chips, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until the squash is tender and chicken is cooked through.
  2. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Monterey jack cheese and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips on the side.

 Rye Flour Pancakes (Cooking San Francisco website)
The Husband found this recipe for Pancake Sunday as part of my effort to find different pancake or waffle recipes.  I became tired of the same Better Homes and Garden recipe that is, lets face it, our standard go-to.  The Husband likes to experiment with different flour's and this fit the bill.

I really liked these - the  nutty flour flavors really prevail in this dish.  I think the berries (had we remembered them) would have added a nice counterpoint of sweetness.  I can see these making a regular appearance in our pancake rotation. 

photo from
1 cup ground rye flour1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (plus more if needed to thin the batter)
1 tablespoon butter, melted, plus more for coating frying pan
1 cup blueberries, washed and dried  (we forgot the berries...)

1. Sift the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk and butter. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.

2. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Melt a small slice of butter in the pan and swirl to coat bottom of the pan. Scoop four (or however many fit in the pan) 1/4 cup portions of batter into pan.

4. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with honey or maple syrup.
Serves: 4

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach, Bacon and Goat Cheese  (from via Pinterest) gluten free
For a simple dish, this was very tasty.  The bacon and maple syrup a salty/sweet counterpoint to the tangy goat cheese.  I would definitely make this again.  

With that being said, I didn't cook my squash as directed below.  I chopped off the ends, halved the squash, removed the seeds and guts, and placed on a rack, inside down and baked at 350* for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Time is size dependent.  Then I pulled out the "strings" and set aside until I was ready for the rest. 

photo from
1 medium spaghetti squash 1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 slices bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 5-ounce bag baby spinach
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2 . Cut about half an inch off of the top and bottom of the spaghetti squash, and discard those pieces. Cut the squash crosswise into rings about 1-inch thick, and run your knife around the inside of the rings to cut the seeds out. Drizzle the olive oil over the baking sheet, then spread the squash rings over it, moving them around a little so that the undersides are evenly coated with a little bit of oil. Season with salt and pepper, then flip the rings over and season again.

3. Roast in the preheated oven until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes. When the squash is done, set it aside on the counter while you cook the bacon and spinach. It’ll be easier to handle if you let it cool for 10 minutes before taking it apart.

4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the bacon slices. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, just until the very edges of the bacon start to brown slightly, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook until the bacon is crispy and the fat has rendered out, about 5 more minutes.

5. When the bacon is done, turn the heat up to medium and add the red wine vinegar while stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet. This will deglaze your pan, so that all of the caramelized bits of bacon end up in your food and not stuck to the bottom of your pan. After about 20 seconds, turn the heat back down to low and add the maple syrup. Stir everything together just to combine, then add the spinach, one handful at a time, stirring after every addition so that the spinach wilts and there’s room in your skillet for more. When all of the spinach is wilted, turn the burner off under the skillet and let everything sit in there while you finish the squash.

6. Peel the skin away from the squash, then use a fork or your hands to pull the strands apart, adding them to the skillet as you go. When all of the squash is in the skillet, add the goat cheese and toss everything together just to combine.

7. Divide between two plates and serve immediately.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Deceiver by CJ Cherryh (Foreigner #11)

Deceiver (Foreigner, #11)Deceiver by C.J. Cherryh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Jacket Blurb: The civil war among the alien atevi has ended and Tabini-aiji, the ruler of the Western Association, has returned to power. Bren Cameron, Tabini's human paidhi, decides to return to his recovered home on the coast, but when Tabini's son Cajeiri flees his responsibilities to join Bren, Tabini sends the boy's great-grandmother, Ilisidi, to find him.

Najida, Bren's coastal home, is no longer the safe haven it once was. For a neighbor's estate—the ancestral home of Lord Geigi, a close associate of Bren's—has been left without strong leadership. Lord Geigi now resides on the atevi space station, and in his absence, rebel clans have infiltrated his home. When these rebels attack Bren's home, the paidhi has no choice but to recall Lord Geigi from space. With Lord Geigi, Ilisidi, Bren, and Cajeiri all under one roof, they pose an irresistible target for the enemy. Can these four powerful individuals overcome their adversaries and end this guerilla war that is the last vestige of revolution?

The long-running Foreigner series can also be enjoyed by more casual genre readers in sub-trilogy installments. Deceiver is the 11th Foreigner novel. It is also the 2nd book in the fourth sub-trilogy.

As with the rest of the Foreigner books, this one picks up immediately after Conspirator (#10). Ilisidi, Bren, and Cajeiri, Banichi, and Jago, and their respective ashids are still at Najida, Bren's coastal estate, waiting to welcome Lord Geigi from the space station and to start cleaning up the mess Geigi's nephew has made of things politically in the region.

But the more they uncover from the nephews transgressions, the more of a snakes nest they find. When Toby is shot and Barb kidnapped, Ilisidi sends Bren to the thickest snake nest of all, the enemy camp run by the young and ambitious Maschigi.

This was fast paced despite the large info dumps on the enemy's clan and historical conflicts. I thought Cajeiri came into his own in this book, where he was more of a participant than someone everyone was running after. The closer look at Atevi man'chi as viewed through Cajeiri and his newly assigned bodyguards was interesting.

There are layers and layers of political intrigue in this one. Just when I thought I had something figured out, the author would drop the neatest little info bomb and take things in a different direction.

Ultimately, what can I say other than I absolutely loved this installment? Recommended if you've read the first 10 in the series.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Recipe Review from 10/12/2015

A busy, busy week for me that had me leading seven yoga classes (four is my usual) and dashing to a handful of appointments at odd times.  By the time Friday rolled around and I had wrapped up my final yoga class at 630p, I was a bit brain fried which accounts for the pasty and pizza at the end of the week. I just wanted hot food on the table with minimal fuss. 

Which led into a mostly uneventful weekend - we had the Parents out to officially celebrate a completed remodel by having dinner in our new space (worked wonderfully!).  We went for a walk down to Grand Lake, had a small bonefire, and dinner was a slow-cooked bone-in pork roast with roasted butternut squash, potatoes and pearl onions and warm cornbread.  Dessert was a slow cooked Apple Crisp.  Perfect for a chilly fall dinner!

The Meal Plan:
Sun - leftovers both meals
Mon (yoga)  leftovers
Tues (yoga/appt) leftovers
Wed (appt)  pasty with mushroom gravy
Thurs (yoga)  take n bake pizza!
Fri (yoga) pasty with mushroom gravy
Sat - (L) leftover burritos  (S) slow-cooked bone-in pork roast with roasted butternut squash, potatoes and pearl onions and warm cornbread.

Lunches - Black Bean Burritos, yogurt, luna bars, carrots and apples. 

Slow Cooker Black Bean Burritos (Vegan in the Freezer via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free
The Husband requested bean burritos for lunches and I wanted a change from our usual barley, black bean and corn mixture.  This one came up on Pinterest and I had most of the ingredients on hand.

I will note, right off the bat, that you need to cook this on high otherwise your brown rice will take forever to cook through. Alternative - use minute rice.  Works like a charm every time.

These were tasty and filling.  I just topped with cheddar cheese for ease of re-heating, but you could do whatever tastes best to you.  Made enough for lunches for 6 days, keeping in mind that I had larger and more beans than called for.

photo from Vegan in the Freezer blog

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) of Diced Tomatoes or about 5 fresh tomatoes to measure about 28 ounces
2 Tablespoons Taco Seasoning  (I used Penzey's)
2 cans (14.5 to 15 ounces each) Black Beans, drained and rinsed**
(**I used dried red lima beans from the Tohono Chul Indians in Arizona, pre-soaked accordingly)
1 cup uncooked Brown Rice
1/2 cup canned whole kernel corn (drained and rinsed, or 1 ear of fresh corn or frozen corn
2 cups vegetable broth
10 whole wheat tortillas
1/4 cup of your Favorite Salsa (I omitted and just used to top the finished burrito)

In your slow cooker add the tomatoes, salsa, beans, rice, corn, taco seasoning and broth.

Stir and cover.

Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours. 

The rice will [should be] be tender and most of the liquid will be absorbed.   If rice isn't cooking, crank up the heat on the slow cooker OR, substitute minute rice for regular before starting recipe.

Lay out your tortillas and place about 1/3 to 1/2 (very large burrito) cup on each tortilla.
Spread down through the center, then roll up the tortilla along the long edge.

Stack up and serve with more salsa, avocado or guacamole and black olives.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Overlook by Michael Connelly (Bosch #13)

The Overlook (Harry Bosch, #13)The Overlook by Michael Connelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb:  In his first case since he left the LAPD's Open Unsolved Unit for the prestigious Homicide Special squad, Harry Bosch is called out to investigate a murder that may have chilling consequences for national security. A doctor with access to a dangerous radioactive substance is found murdered in the trunk of his car. Retracing his steps, Harry learns that a large quantity of radioactive cesium was stolen shortly before the doctor's death. With the cesium in unknown hands, Harry fears the murder could be part of a terrorist plot to poison a major American city.

Soon, Bosch is in a race against time, not only against the culprits, but also against the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI (in the form of Harry's one-time lover Rachel Walling), who are convinced that this case is too important for the likes of the LAPD. It is Bosch's job to prove all of them wrong.

Read as an audio book.  This was a very quick and engaging "read".  Perfect for travel, your commute, or the beach.

Harry is out of Open Unsolved, assigned now to Homicide and paired with a new, much younger partner.  Harry's former partner, Kiz Rider, is back in administration. Not even halfway through the book, his partner is shunted to the side as Harry runs around with FBI agent Rachel Walling.  Harry still harbors feelings for Rachel, though why she would reciprocate any thing toward a bossy git I have no idea. 

At least in this book relationships were only mentioned, and we didn't have the usual tumbling into bed. 

Mere pages into the book, Harry's making arbitrary judgement calls - his partner wishes to go by the name of Iggy, short for Ignacius, but Harry feels it is an undignified name and refuses call him "Iggy".  This, from the guy who's full name is Hieronymus and goes by Harry, in a police department rife with nicknames.

And, like the Chief of Police so aptly put it, Harry is like a bull in a china shop.  I do get so tired of the detective against the world trope, the "only Harry knows best" attitude.  It would be nice if he just once worked with people rather than assuming everyone is against him.

The Overlook moves along at a brisk pace with an almost explosive ending.  Recommended if you've read the first twelve books in the series.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Meet the Flock

So you've been following our adventures with chickens, and I realized that more "formal" introductions have not yet been made.  In part because we've/I've been fuggly busy this summer.  In part, because chickens are hard to photograph!   Small, fast, curious, easily spooked...yeah, that combination doesn't make for good pictures.  Little buggers seem to always be moving. 

But the Husband managed to capture a good photo of Red and keep my phone intact! 

Red, an Ameracauna.  Head Honcho. 
Red is our rooster.  So far he seems to be a pretty decent fellow personality wise.  One behavior the Husband has noticed is Red is the first one out of the coop in the morning.  He struts around the run for about five or ten minutes checking things out.  If a hen comes out before he gives the a-okay! signal he will chase her back into the coop.   Nobody is allowed out until he says so! 

The Husband will on occasion feed the flock out of his hand.  He'll have some older raspberries, will put one in his hand, and as the flock gathers Red will make his way to the front.  There is clucking and bucking, Red will take the berry, buck! buck! to the gals and drop it on the ground.  One hen will pick it up and go eat her berry.   Red will repeat this several times.  It's pretty wild to watch. 

Red is one of two birds who doesn't take any guff from the Pryia's.  There is one Bernadette who stands her ground, but the rest of the flock steps aside for the Gang of Three. 

The Chicken Jungle Gym - in run composting system and dust bath.

Up next...whomever I can photograph decently! 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Recipe Review from 10/5/2015

A much less busy week this time.  The Husband was off in St. Croix Falls for four days for a work meeting, which left me to my own devices and I tried to do as little as possible!  Mostly succeeded - only additional thing I crammed in was an oil change and mouse nest extraction for my car.  Mechanics were quite impressed at the size of the nest that mouse managed to build the weekend I was in Oregon! might also have been the week I was in Spokane.  My car was parked in a garage that week too.

And for my efforts of doing less, I managed to catch "The Cold" that was either migrating around the office or the Husband so thoughtfully shared.  On what was a perfect Fall weekend, I was down for the count and became one with the couch.  Suck-o-rama.  On the positive side, the TV is working again and I got to watch some football and a cooking show on Create (PBS).  

The (small) Meal Plan:
Mon - Thurs - leftover butnut enchiladas
Fri -leftover curry
Sat - out? 

Lunches - Chicken Curry in a Hurry (America's Test Kitchen) 

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Waffles  (Chocolate and Carrots blog via Pinterest)
These were the start of my new Pancake Sunday Challenge - to make a different pancake or waffle recipe instead of repeating the same three recipes.  Since this is the first weekend in October, and really the kick-off to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  

My batter came out rather thick, and I suspect it was due in part to the coconut milk I used.  I like the stuff from a can, and the brand I prefer is delightfully thick, but perhaps too thick for this recipe.  I did thin with the last of the regular milk I had on hand.

I don't use white whole wheat flour, so I went with half WW and half AP.  If you don't have WW White Flour on hand, you can use all white and just add a bit more to compensate.

The recipe called for a Belgian waffle maker, but I used a regular waffle iron with no problems.

These were lovely with real maple syrup and a bit of butter.  Happy October!
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour  (I used 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup white)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon  (I used 1 tsp Penzey's)
    Photo from Chocolate and Carrots Blog
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk  (I used coconut milk)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15 ounce can) can pumpkin purée
  1. Preheat waffle maker.
  2. Mix first 4 (dry) ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the (wet) ingredients.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients (keeps the flour from going everywhere) and mix.
  5. Spray the waffle maker with cooking oil spray and cook according to your manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. Put the waffles in the preheated 250° oven to keep warm while you cook the others. (If you have any leftover, freeze them for a midweek breakfast without the hassle!)

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Enchiladas (from Julia'sAlbum via Pinterest)  vegetarian, gluten free

This was a tiny bit labor intensive in the veggie prep department, but once it's in the oven, clean-up, table setting, and wine drinking can all happen with time to spare (or writing out the review on the blog).

My other complaint was with how the recipe was posted to Julia's blog - it was picture and direction excessive, which totally threw me off.   I didn't know where I was doing what, and during prep, I realized I had completely missed the bit to saute the veggies.  Then I missed the bit where I was supposed to spread a portion of the enchilada sauce over the layers and not just over the top. Urk.

In essence - roast the squash, saute veggies, layer everything equally including the enchilada sauce.  Cover and bake.  There.  Simplified.

This made a 9x13 pan for me.  Or, two dinners for two, and five solo dinners.  Leftovers were just as tasty when reheated.
  • 4-5 cups butternut squash, cubed (store-bought, or make your own - see recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • Vegetable mixture:
    Photo from Julia's Album blog.
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped into cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper , chopped into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, or more
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, or more
  • salt
  • 1 can corn, rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Ingredient for assembling the casserole:
  • 1 cup salsa (to go on the bottom of the casserole dish)
  • 12 corn tortillas, 6 inch diameter (4 corn tortillas per each of 3 layers)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sour cream (1/2 cup sour cream for each of 3 layers)
  • 1 cup enchilada sauce (if you're gluten free, make sure to buy the sauce without gluten!)
  • 1 and 1/2 and 1/4 cups Mozzarella cheese (1/2 cup mozzarella cheese for each layer plus extra on top)]
Roasted butternut squash:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Peel the squash and slice it into 3/4 inch cubes. You will only need about 1/2 of the medium size squash. Toss the squash cubes in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and generously sprinkle with salt.
  3. Put butternut squash on the greased baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, until soft. Flip the squash cubes over midway through baking. Let it cool slightly.
  4. Roasting vegetables on the stove top: 
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, chopped green bell pepper, and chopped red bell pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon chili powder, and roast the vegetables in olive oil and spices on high heat until charred just a bit. Mid-way through, add corn, then rinsed and drained black beans. Add roasted butternut squash. Season with 1/4 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon salt and taste. Add more salt if needed. Add more chili powder or cumin, than indicated in the recipe, if needed.
Assembling the casserole (Notes and directions are entirely the authors, from Julia's Album):
  1. I used a casserole dish 11 inches long x 8.5 inches wide x 3 inches deep. Add 1 cup of salsa to the bottom of this 3 inch deep casserole dish and spread to coat the bottom evenly. Top with 4 tortillas, overlapping to cover the bottom of the casserole dish.
  2. Spread 1/3 of the vegetable mixture over the tortillas. Top with 1/2 cup sour cream, dropping it in small dollops all over, then carefully spreading it over the veggies. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese. Top with 4 tortillas.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the vegetable mixture over the tortillas. Top with 1/2 cup sour cream, dropping it in small dollops all over, then spreading it carefully over the veggies. Pour 1/2 cup enchilada sauce evenly all over, at the same time spreading sour cream evenly all over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese. Top with 4 tortillas.
  4. Spread 1/3 of the vegetable mixture over the tortillas. Top with 1/2 cup sour cream, dropping it in small dollops all over, then spreading it carefully. Pour 1/2 cup enchilada sauce evenly all over, spreading sour cream evenly all over. Sprinkle with 1/2 and 1/4 cups Mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil.
  5. Bake at 375 F for 25 minutes covered, then remove foil, and bake for 10 more minutes uncovered.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith (#12)

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No.1 Ladies Detective Agency #12)The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb - At a remote cattle post south of Gaborone two cows have been killed, and Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s No. 1 Lady Detective, is hired by fearful client, himself a suspect. She and secretary Grace Makutsi, wooed by Phuti Radiphuti, both see her old white van. Mr J.L.B. Matekoni’s apprentice runs away under pressure to wed. Violet Sephotho runs for the Botswana Parliament.

A pleasant enough read, engaging, full of those little Mma Ramotswe tidbits about life and the pursuit of happiness, while making due with what one has rather than envying what a neighbor has.  This story was, in some aspect, about secrets people keep and the lies people tell others and the lies they tell themselves. 

In this book, Mma Makutsi is on the cusp of her wedding.  She finds, buys, and then ruins a beautiful and expensive pair of shoes.   Does she tell her fiance about how she ruined an expensive pair of shoes?   Charlie the apprentice is accused of neglecting the mother of his twins.  Mma Ramotswe's client is baffled and angry over the death of two cattle.  As she investigates, she finds an ill-used housekeeper, her young son is the the cow-herd boy, and her client in a long standing argument with the neighbor over a broken fence and straying cattle.  A most perplexing conundrum.  

Within all of this Mma Ramotswe's beloved white van reappears in Gaborone - Mma Ramotswe begins to plot how to get her white van back, even if it means trading the newer van for the older.

The individual plots were well woven and intertwined in this book, and the chapters flowed seamlessly from one to the other.  An easy read, perfect for an afternoon at the beach or on the couch during a rainy day. 

Recommended if you've read the previous books in the series.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Recipe Review from 9/28/15

It's been a very eventful week!

Sunday we began the integration process with the chickens - with the cooler temps in the evening, it was time to combine the Priya's with our main flock.  You can't just toss in new chickens in an established flock, because it will turn ugly.  We used two large dog crates end to end and made a temporary "run" inside the larger run.  Even with this fights broke out.  After three days we opened the dog crate and stepped back.  There was still some squabbling, but an uneasy truce was established.  Even toward the end of the week, most of the main flock is intimidated by our Priya Gang, and a couple of the Priya's insist on roosting on the fence.  The Husband plucks them off and puts them in the coop after dark.  

Monday night was book group, where we learned two of our small group will be skydiving this weekend and we grew by one new member!

Tuesday and Wednesday I was in the field doing site assessments by Virginia and Ely.  I could not have asked for more perfect sites or weather - a couple of great fall days to be outside!

Off the Echo Trail, north of Ely

Wednesday evening we had dinner with Mr. Walter Jon Williams, an internationally known scifi writer! A series of blog posts brought Mr. Williams to Duluth, and we met at Fitgers Brewhouse for a pleasant dinner and socializing.

Thursday and Friday were normal, with yoga and errands respectively.

Saturday found us up the North Shore for a guided hike on the Superior Hiking trail.  We hiked from Beaver Bay to Silver Bay, a segment I have done several times but is a perfect length for this time of year and manageable for my Ben-dog. Surprisingly, the colors have barely changed - just a hint of yellows and reds. 

And then we have The Meal Plan:
Sat (B) Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes for National Pancake Day!
Sun (L)  Leftovers   (S) Stuffed Roasted Poblanos
Mon (Yoga/Bkgrp/Legion)  out
Tues - leftovers
Wed - dinner out!
Thurs - Coq Au Vin (Ckgn Lght 2003)
Fri - leftovers
Sat - (L)  on the trail  (S) potluck dinner

Lunches (mine)  - slow cooked split pea soup

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes (Ckng Lght, Mar 2002)  vegetarian
Buttermilk pancakes made with part whole wheat flour.  I did sub one mashed banana for the oil, because I love banana in my pancakes.  For an added "griddle" taste, use a bit of bacon fat to season the pan with before cooking.  These were, simply put,  awesome! 

photo from

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I subbed one mashed banana for the oil)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons butter 

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine buttermilk, oil, egg, and egg white, stirring with a whisk; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Heat a nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Spoon about 1/4 cup batter per pancake onto griddle. Turn pancakes over when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Serve with syrup and butter.

Bean and Cheese Stuffed Poblanos (Ckng Lght Aug 2015)  gluten free, vegetarian
Cooking Light still has not added the August recipes to it's website.  So this is typed out with my notes added.  

These come together fairly quickly - even more so if you opt to use pre-shredded cheese.   What I did note is you can't turn a skewered stuffed pepper on the grill, because its top shrinks and the stuffing falls out when you try to move it.  I had run out of skewers and did my final pepper in aluminum foil, and it was the easiest of all to work with.   OR - use two skewers per pepper to firmly secure the top.

I liked the flavor of these, they were simple, and perfect for grilling. 

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2/3 cup chopped celery
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
3.5 oz shredded cheddar cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1 (15oz) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
6-8 medium poblano peppers or Anaheim chilies (about 2 lbs)
1 tbsp canola oil
4 lime wedges (optional)

1. Preheat grill to high heat.
2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Remove tops from poblanos (keeping stem and top as intact as possible) Reserve top and set aside.  Scoop out seeds; discard.
3.  Place as much stuffing into each pepper as it will comfortably hold.  Replace tops and secure with a 4" skewer.  Brush peppers evenly with oil.  **My notes - skip skewers and wrap each pepper securely in aluminum foil.
4.  Place peppers on grill rack; grill 12 minutes or until lightly charred, turning once after 6 minutes.  Place stuffed peppers on a platter, remove skewers, and serve with lime wedges.  

Quick Coq au Vin  (Ckng Lght, March 2002) 
The Husband prepped this for us for dinner, and I will be the first one to say, I did not make this a "quick" version.  We used one of our chickens from this past summer, so they were bone on and with skin.  I/we skipped the Canadian bacon, and just used some rendered bacon fat for flavoring.  If you don't care for the taste of red wine, either cut back to 1/2 cup (increasing the broth) or omit and use more broth with some gravy/bouillon flavoring.

If I had thought ahead, I would have had some boiled red potatoes to go with this to sop up the extra gravy. 

photo from
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups quartered cremini mushrooms
2 cups (1/4-inch-thick) slices carrot
1/3 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices Canadian bacon
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste 

Combine flour, thyme, and salt in a zip-top plastic bag; add chicken. Seal and shake to coat. Remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess flour.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 8 minutes or until browned, turning frequently. Remove chicken from pan.

Add mushrooms, carrot, and bacon to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in wine, broth, and tomato paste; cook 9 minutes. Return chicken to pan; cook 8 minutes or until chicken is done.

Slow Cooked Split Pea Soup  (Ckng Lght, Oct 2015)  gluten free
I am not usually a fan of split pea soup.  I have no idea why and there is a good chance I was getting this mixed up with some other soup-flavor in my head.  But, this was a slow cooked dish, with ingredients I like, so I decided to go for it.  I'm glad I did!  Easy, made plenty for the week, and tastes great.  This easily makes 8-10 servings.

**I did note, after a couple days in the fridge, this thickened considerably.  A splash of water before reheating helps thin the soup back out.

1 lb dried green split peas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups (about two medium sized) yukon gold potatoes, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 large bay leaf
2 lbs smoked ham hocks
6 cups water
salt, pepper to taste
optional - light sour cream for topping

Layer as listed in a LARGE (6qt) slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Remove and discard bay leaf.
Remove ham hock and let cool.  Remove fat and skin from bones, keeping meat. Set meat aside.
Using an immersion blender, blend vegetable mixture.   Shred meat and return to vegetable mixture. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Peripheral by William Gibson

The PeripheralThe Peripheral by William Gibson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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


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