Monday, December 31, 2012

Musing Monday...Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Well, last Monday of the year, but unlike last week we have a Musing Monday question up, from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading. Actually, it is several question and we get to pick the one we want. Well, I am going to pick two..
  • Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). 
  •  Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
It seems that many folks on the World Wide Web are making end of the year lists and the Bookish Blogland is no difference.
Favorite books, most hated books, etc..
I don't really do lists, but that does not stop me from reading them. Add in the ability to buy a book instantly with this crazy internet thing and e-books and I got me a book!
Because you know, I am in desperate need of more books to read.

Still, for a really great book I will take the plunge.
This one I read about on Sandy's blog at You've Gotta Read This, in her Best Fiction of 2012. It is called Beautiful Ruins and it is by Jess Walters. Sounded like a winner.
But though I downloaded it days ago, and started reading it right away and I am liking it very much, I have only read about 1/3 of the book so far.
I blame work...and the holiday season, but most of all I blame the fact that it is an e-book.
Out of sight, out of mind.

If you have been reading here long enough you may remember my love/hate relationship with e-books. I love that you can have hundreds of books on your device, your one little device.
I love that you can download a book in a few seconds.
I hate that you can have hundreds of books on your little device and that you can download one in a few seconds.

OK, this one is an exception. I know that I will like this book. I am liking it a lot so far. But, at times I am swayed by a great review and download a little too fast, without considering if it is something I will really like. And then there is the major issue for me with these devices and their little e-books.
Out of sight, out of mind.
I buy a book and there it sits on my device, forgotten.
If it is not a 'real' book, sitting on my bedside table, sitting by my recliner in the family room, there is a good chance I will forget about it in favor of the ones in those actual physical piles.
And because with my e-book devices cover closed I can't hear the waiting books calling out to me like I can from the ones sitting in their little piles....
"Read me, please read me!!"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Our Mexican Christmas

I believe I mentioned that this year we were going a little non-traditional for our Christmas dinner. No turkey, no goose. No rib roast, no tenderloin. No, this year we were going MEXICAN!!
Feliz Navidad!!

Of course, it seems that in Mexico, turkey is actually very popular for Christmas, but we were going a different way!

We started with some excellent guacamole make by the Sil, with Trader Joe's tortilla chips. She makes the BEST!

Then on to the main dishes. I made black beans, with some onions and garlic and chilies and some rice with a tomato, pepper, onion and garlic puree as half the needed liquid and chicken stock for the rest. Delicious.

I made tamales, green chili chicken tamales, which I think turned out quite well and were not as intimidating as I expected. Very moist, very tender. Will be making more tamales in the future.

The Niece made Chicken Enchiladas, again, excellent.
Cheesy goodness and very creamy. Maybe she will give us the recipe

There were Salsa Verde, a mango salsa and a regular salsa.

And an interesting corn salad, Esquites, made with charred corn, lime juice, cotija cheese..some jalapeño and cilantro. Maybe I will make that again and give you the recipe, since it seems I forgot to take a photo.

But my favorite dish was the Slow Cooked Pork.
It was tender and tasty, perfect to wrap up in a nice warm tortilla, with some salsa and topped with some Queso Fresco.

I made the recipe up, taking a few ideas from here, a few from there..

Mexican Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

You start with a pork shoulder, about 5 pounds or so.
Cut it into big chunks, about 4 inches, removing any large pieces of fat and bones.
Cut small slits in each piece and add slivers of garlic to each slit, using maybe 5-6 cloves of garlic, cut into slivers, in total.
Dust pieces generously with Adobe spice mix, put in a gallon zip lock bag and let sit in the frig overnight or several hours.

When the meat has marinated, preheat a couple of tbs. spoons of oil in a heavy pan and brown the pieces of meat, until well browned, about 5 minutes per side.
When they are all browned, deglaze the browning pan with 1 cup of chicken stock and add the brown bits and stock to the slow cooker.
Add 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (to taste. they are spicy) and one 4 oz. can of diced green chilies to the slow cooker and then, as you brown each piece, add it on top of the peppers.

Cook on high for about 1/2 hour an then lower to low and cook a total of 8 hours. When done, remove from slower cooker and let cool a bit. When cool, shred the pork, removing and fat that remains.
Take the liquid in the slow cooker and defat. But the shredded meant in an over proof pan, about 9x13, pour on 1 cup of the defatted cooking liquid and put into a 400 degree oven until the top of the meant get brown and crispy and most of the liquid is absorbed.

OH MY, SO tender!!  Juicy, yet crispy.
You could take the basic method and add some changes. Use different spices, some cumin or chili powder, a different liquid to deglaze, like orange juice of wine. You could add diced tomatoes and/or onions...although it was delicious just as it was.
But the basic slow cooking and especially, I think,  the browning, with the liquid to keep it moist, to finish it off is the key.

Delicious in a tortilla, a taco or a sandwich...or just over some rice. 


This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review of "I Could Pee on This" [98]

I Could Pee on This- And Other Poems by Cats 
by Francesco Merciuliano 
Chronicle Books, ISBN 978-1452110585
August 15, 2012, 112 pages

I am not the greatest fan of poetry, but this book just spoke to my heart.
Really, how could anyone resist to be moved by one like this...

I Lick Your Nose 

I lick your nose 
I lick your nose again 
I drag my claws down your eyelids 
Oh, you're up? Feed me 

Wow, it is like the author of that knows Larry and me.
Although Larry has taken to punching me in the face with his furry little paws about 4 a.m. instead of dragging his claws down my eyelids.
Maybe because he does not have claws.
Or how about this one...

Kubla Kat 

On the edge of a laughing teacup 
Did Kubla Kat decree 
That the corn fritter festooned with medals 
Shall make the brownies free 
And so the walls turned to water 
To let our sorrows drown 
As the chairs burned themselves for warmth 
So they need not face the clown 
Then the spoons burst into song 
And all the forks they understood 
As I stared at my now talking claws 
Because this catnip is just that good 

Maybe that is why Larry is so enjoying his Christmas gift, a big catnip toy.

If you own a cat, or just know someone who owns a cat or just love cats but are too smart to actually get one, this is a book that I think you will enjoy.
And perhaps make you laugh a bit.
Or a great deal.

Because the truth is often very funny, isn't it, when it comes to our furry friends.
The book is divided into four parts, Family, Work, Play and Existence, each full of the cutest little works of cat verse that will have you meowing...I mean laughing. Yet not only is it funny, it's observations about life with a cat ring very, very true. If you have a cat, you will see yourself and you furry friend in these pages. I dare you to read this little book and look at your cat and not wonder exactly what he or she is thinking.
Especially about you.
Then there are the dozens of cute kitty photos, so sweet, even if none of those cats is as handsome as Larry.

We really must thank Mr. Marciuliano for collecting these poems from the multitude of feline authors included. It can not have been easy. Although I must say it is odd that he does not include the names of the authors of each poem. Who wrote "I Lick Your Nose"? Was it Fluffy or Whiskers, Molly or Maisy? This is a little troubling.

Still, for cat lovers among you..or as a gift for a person owned by a cat, which is how I got my copy..this is a book that I can, with great amusement, recommend.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...The Nativity

Merry Christmas...
and here are a few seasonal works of art from Rome and Florence, 
Venice and the Amafi Coast. 


  always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, December 24, 2012

No Musing Happy Christmas Eve!

There is no Musing question today..
seems MizB at Should Be Reading is taking a well deserved holiday break this week and I am too busy (or lazy) to come up with a question,
so I will just pass along

a Happy Christmas Eve post from the Boys!

Smile Benny, 
Smile Bandit,
Smile Donner and Blitzen!!
Santa is on his way!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Pate Maison

OK, this one will have the vegans and vegetarians around here running.
Today I am making Pate Maison...or Chicken Liver Pate.
I will admit, I am not a fan of liver per se.
In fact, I have never eaten plain liver, liver and onions and such.

I blame it on an early childhood experience. I was just a wee Caite, staying at my grandparents apartment in Atlantic City. My dear grandfather, jokester that he was, gave wee Caite a bit of liver (he was a fan) and told the sweet child that it was steak.
I took one bite, spit it out, threw it at him and yelled "Bad steak!!"

Or so I am told.

Still, I do like chicken liver pate.
And it is so reasonable priced to make. Look at that. Less than a dollar for a pound of livers, twice what I need!
There used to be a store nearby that sold a very nice one, but while the store is there, no lovely pate anymore.

But years ago, I was in Ireland, at my cousin Anne's house in Dublin having dinner and as an appetizer she served a homemade Pate Maison. Excellent!

Or so I was told.

See, her husband Pat took it upon himself to educate me in the venerable beverage of Port...he had a large number of bottles on hand...and the whole evening is just a little blurry in my mind. But I did get the recipe.
And it is here...somewhere...I think.

OK, I lost it.

So, I went on line and found this one, which is now my go-to recipe. It is from Ballymaloe House, a lovely country house hotel and restaurant in the southwest of Ireland. Ballymaloe is the home of Myrtle Allen, the author of a number of cookbooks and her daughter in law Darina Allen, also the author of many cookbooks and sort of the cooking Martha Stewart of Irish food

Ballymaloe Chicken Liver Pate 
Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.

This recipe has certainly stood the test of time; it has been our pâté maison at Ballymaloe since the opening of the restaurant in 1965.  It is served in many different ways: its success depends upon being generous with good Irish butter.
  • 225g (8oz) fresh organic chicken livers
  • 1 large clove garlic,crushed 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or brandy 
  • 200-300g (8-10 oz) butter (depending on how strong the chicken livers are) 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 
  • freshly ground pepper 
  • clarified butter to seal the top

Wash the livers and remove any membrane or green tinged bits. Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams, add in the onions and arlic and cook a minute, then add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat about 3-4 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone.   Put the livers through a sieve or into a food processor.  De-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame, add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves and then scrape off with a spatula and add to the livers.  Puree for a few seconds.  Allow to cool.
Add 225g (8oz) butter and fresh thyme leaves. Puree until smooth.  Season carefully, taste and add more butter, cut into cubes if necessary.

This pate should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Put into pots or into one large terrine. Knock out any air bubbles.
Clarify some butter and run a little over the top of the pate to seal.
Serve with hot toast or crusty bread.   This pate will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator. It is essential to cover chicken liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the pate will oxidize and become bitter in taste and grey in colour.

Grey food, not so good. No.
Now, as usual, my changes.
I did not have the Irish butter, although we can get it in the supermarkets here, so I use regular butter. And I used less butter than she did, more like 6 Tbs. But that is a matter of taste. I was also not going to clarify any butter, so again I just used regular melted butter.
I added the onions. And 2 cloves of garlic instead of her one.
And I add sherry, instead of the brandy she uses. I personally like the little sweetness the sweet sherry adds.
Perhaps not to everyone taste, but me and mine , or at least me and my sister-in-law, will be enjoying it this holiday season!

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review of "The Intercept' [97]

The Intercept: A Jeremy Fisk Novel  
by Dick Wolf
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0062064837
December 26, 2012, 400 Pages

In our post 9/11 world, taking a trip in an airliner is not what it once was and the level of passenger alertness is much different than it was in the past. So when a young man on a flight into NYC jumps up with a knife and grabs a stewardess by the throat in an attempt to hijack the plane, it is the passengers who jump into action, 5 of them taking him down with little harm down.
And becoming, along with the stewardess, instant celebrities, The Six.

But for Jeremy Fisk it is all just a little off, a little too simple, a plot uncharacteristic of what we know about terrorist's plans after the death of Bin Laden. As head of NYC's Intelligence Division, a very well-funded anti-terror group modeled on the CIA, his job is to think outside the box, look for shadows where no one else sees them. Could the attempted hijacking have just been a distraction for something much bigger, a case of sleight of hand? Could this just have been one small part in a much more complicated and much more horrible plot of death and destruction on this Fourth of July weekend in the Big Apple?

I do read the occasional thriller, but they are not my go-to genre.
Still, when I read that Dick Wolf, the man behind my beloved Law an Order TV series was writing a book, I knew I would be reading it.
And I was not disappointed.

This is a well written, fast paced book with enough twists and turns to keep you up late, flipping those pages. But best of all it is a smart book! Oh, how I love a smart book.
The characters, all the characters, are smart, not one clue going unfollowed. How I hate a book where I have to shout at the pages about some glaring omission on the part of my book mates. Especailly since they never seem to hear me!
Not at all necessary in this case, happily.

There are many twist and turns but every one of them is logical and makes total sense. This book often reads like a screenplay (please do NOT cast Tom Cruise as Fisk..please) which is hardly surprising considering the authors past. That is not a bad thing. In fact, it leads to excellent dialogue and some great secondary characters, not least of which is Fisk's girlfriend Detective Krina Gersten.

I believe I read that this is the first book in a planned series and when the next one comes out, I will be in line to get a copy. There is no greater praise that I can give a book but that I am anxious to read the next one.
If you or a loved one is a thriller fan, I think this is one that you will thoroughly enjoy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...One More Day in Venice

Dawn..from my hotel room

Board a water bus..

Should we buy a, I think not..

..or explore the canals?

And finish the day in St. Mark's Square, with the obligatory pigeon shot. always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Musing Monday...Brideshead Unvisited

Are you ready for Christmas, those of you that celebrate this most lovely of holidays?
Well, you only have about a week! Yes, it is Monday, just a week from Christmas Eve and also time to check out
this week's Musing Monday, as always from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading....

This week’s musing – courtesy of - asks… 
 Is there a particular book that is your nemesis–the book you’re determined to one day finish?

I would not say so much a nemesis, which of course has a negative connotation ..
Did you know, by the way, that Nemesis was said to be the mother of Helen of Troy, who hatched from a goose egg? Yes, an egg. Odd stuff, that mythology.

But back to the book... I can't say that I have a book I think of as my White Whale, some book I must, but can't conquer.
Perhaps when I was younger, there were books I thought that I should read, but hadn't. Perhaps even started and did not like. But these days, I will fall back on the MM idea from last week again. I am not if not repetitious.
Life is too short to be reading books that you are not enjoying.

Now honestly, it is my experience that many of the so-called classics are actually quite enjoyable books. Especially if you are not 14 years old and being forced to read them in school. I think sometimes we may be sort of scared of them and be should not be.
But if you start it and don't like it, it is not a problem. No harm, no foul. Just move along.

Yet, there is one book that I do have some sort of an of issue with.  
Brideshead Revisted.  
Offically, Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder by Evelyn Waugh.

It is suppose to be a really good book. I guess I saw one of the TV takes on it and know the general story. Just that fact that there have been several TV and movie versions of the book speaks to it being a good story, doesn't it?
I think I read the first few pages at one point. But I have never finished it. Or actually really started it, really got into the story. I am not sure why.
And let, I owe it a great debt.

It was because of Brideshead Revisted and the discovery some years ago that I actually owned two copies of the exact same, very nice hardcover edition of the book that prompted me to go in search of some way to catalog my books and get some sort of order with my library. Which, in turn, led me to the wonderful Library Thing site, which in a way set off my illustrious blogging career.
OK, maybe not that illustrious.
Or a career.

But someday I will actually read that darn book!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weekend Cooking..It's Almost Christmas!!

Did you miss me last week?
It was, I believe, the first time I did not post a Weekend Cooking post.
But things just got away from me. Even though I had several days off on vacation, what with the buying and wrapping and changing lightbulbs in the outdoor decorations, I ran out of time. And then there was the fact that I cooked nothing. Not a thing.

And this week is not much better.
At least I finally got the Christmas cake started. Lots of fruit, fresh and dried.
A drop of rum...that bottle started full. 



It sits now, not looking too attractive..aging.
Then It will get it's marzipan and royal icing finish and lovely it will look.


..and after. Ok, this one was a few years ago...
I should be baking cookies. But I have not. Instead, I bought several pounds of 'cemetery' cookies. Why do I call them that? Well, you see, my parents and my Sil's father and grandparents are buried in the same cemetery in North Jersey, in the town of East Hanover. So every year, I fill my car with evergreen grave blankets and make the trek north. That can be chilly work, but years ago we found this nice Italian bakery not too far away.


A beverage...a snack...


..and several boxes of delicious treats to bring home.


And look, a stollen! 
Bandit loves stollen! 


But I will probably still make a few cookies. If only to use these cute little cutters I bought the same day at IKEA. Look, there are little elves and a reindeer, a sled and a big elf shoe. 
Gingerbread or sugar?


And then one last stop.
At Trader Joe's.
Sadly, we do not have one down here. And I heard they have this really good frozen roasted corn that I am going to use to make a Mexican corn salad.

See, we are having a Mexican Food Christmas. No turkey for us, no rib roast. Not a goose in sight. Nope, it will be enchiladas and tamales and black beans and a slow roasted pork roast served with tortillas and all the fixing. 
And don't forget the guacamole!

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review of "Dreamland" [96]

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep 
by David K. Randall
W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 978-0393080209
August 13, 2012, 304 pages

Am I the only person that finds sleeping really strange?
Really, think about it.

For hours every day, you intentionally go into a state where you are unconscious, unaware of what is going on around you. For part of the time, REM sleep, you are actually paralyzed. And you do this every day, for almost a third of your life.
It is such a large part of our life, yet even today, sleep remains largely a mystery, until recently, largely unstudied.

 I will admit, with my work schedule, shifting from sleeping day to nights and back again on a weekly basis, I am probably a little more interested in the whole subject of sleep that many people. Having done this for decades, I consider myself a bit of an expert. And from personal experiences I have learned a great deal about the subject. But if you read this book, I think your eyes too will be opened to just how important sleep is.

Did you know that if you stopped sleeping totally, you would die. Yes, die. Or did you know that sleeping affects every aspect of your body, how our brain works, our mood, our physical well being, down to how our cells regenerate? Anyone with children knows they sleep differently than adults, but you will find out that it may just be impossible, and totally natural, to get that teenager up early in the morning. Are you aware that men and women sleep differently..and if truth be told really would be best served if they did not actually sleep in the same bed.
"In Dreamland, Randall explores the research that is investigating those dark hours that make up nearly a third of our lives. Taking readers from military battlefields to children’s bedrooms, Dreamland shows that sleep isn't as simple as it seems. Why did the results of one sleep study change the bookmakers’ odds for certain Monday Night Football games? Do women sleep differently than men? And if you happen to kill someone while you are sleepwalking, does that count as murder?

This book is a tour of the often odd, sometimes disturbing, and always fascinating things that go on in the peculiar world of sleep. You’ll never look at your pillow the same way again."
Let's talk about that pillow, and the temperature of the room and whether our mattress makes a different in the quality of are sleep. There is a fair bit of practical information in this book that may help those who have sleep issues, from what is the best way to deal with insomnia, to is it possible to do something to get a baby to sleep through the night. But maybe the strongest part of the book is the chance to gain just a bit of very interesting knowledge about the discoveries on this very important subject, a subject that affects every single one of us. And they all are fairly recent discoveries, since the study of sleep really only took off in the 1950's with the discovery of the stages of sleep, including REM sleep.

That is maybe the most important idea that you can take away from this book, just how vital getting a good night's sleep is. It is maybe the most important thing we can do for our happiness and good health and yet is one that many of us totally ignore. In fact, many people take some pride in the idea that they don't need to sleep much..and may be doing themselves a good deal of harm in the bargain. Everything from Monday Night Football to the outcome of wars, to our health may be dependent on how well and how much we sleep.

Honestly, this could have been a very boring book. What saves it is that Mr. Randall is often a quite funny man. And he is someone who shares his own rather scary sleep issues. This guy has some skin in the game! But then, since we spend almost a third of our life asleep..or we should! is a very important subject for all of us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Murano and Burano

Today we are going to catch the water bus from Venice and head to Murano, known for beautiful glass and Burano, known for it's lace. 

The cemetery island of San Michele

Murano, famous for it's glass

A little purchase the Bro and Sil made.

..back on the water bus to Burano, famous for lacemaking.

the colorful houses of Burano

The Leaning tower of Burano, the Campanile of the Church of San Martino always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.