Category Archives: books

Sunday Soup

Usually I’m the one checking out cookbooks but a couple of months ago YA asked me to request two for her.   (Don’t ask me why she didn’t request them herself…. I know she has a library card and an online account.)  Both were “Half Baked” titles by Tieghan Gerard – not vegetarian but more veggie recipes than your usual cookbook.

The first one finally showed up last week; both books had a lengthy waiting list.  After YA went through it and marked a few recipes to copy, I figured I should look through it as well.  One of the recipes that caught my eye was the Cauliflower Pale Ale Soup so on Saturday I shopped for the ingredients and yesterday morning, I headed into the kitchen to prepare it.  I had to change it up a bit to make it vegetarian and also because I didn’t have pale ale and didn’t want to buy six bottles/cans.

Ingredients

5 slices of vegetarian bacon, chopped
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 ½ tsp. paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 c. vegetarian broth
1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped (6 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 tsp. dried thyme
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper
1 12-oz. bottle hard cider
½ c. milk (I used skim)
2 Tbsp. butter
Shredded cheddar cheese

How To

  • Saute the bacon in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Move bacon to a separate bowl and toss with the rosemary, ½ tsp. paprika and the pinch of cayenne.
  • Add the remaining 3 Tbsp. of oil to the pan. Saute the onion and celery until soft.
  • Add ½ c. broth, cauliflower, garlic, thyme, 1 tsp. paprika, pinch of red pepper flakes, salt & pepper to taste. Stir for a bit then add the rest of the broth and the cider.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until cauliflower is tender.
  • Blend the soup (either in blender or using immersion blender).
  • Serve with the veggie bacon bits and cheddar cheese.

It was yummy; YA and I both enjoyed it for lunch.  Between the two of us, there are about 15 recipes we’ve marked with little post-it notes so I’m thinking this might end up being a cookbook we decide to purchase.  Guess I’d better start looking through my current cookbook stash to see which one will have to go!!

Do you often cook with liquor?

Scared Silly

Scared the bleep out of myself last week.  Just running a couple of errands including a trip to the library for a drop-off and a pick-up.  At this time of year I usually wear a sweatshirt for errands, leaving the coat at home.  After all, just going from house to car, car to library, etc.  A creature of habit, I normally lock the car then put the keys in the pocket of my sweatshirt. 

When I came out of the library I reached into my pocket and… no keys.  I dug down in the pocket then re-traced my steps, thinking that maybe I set them down on the shelf when I was pulling out my holds.  Nope.  Walked back outside to the drop-off box to see if I dropped them there.  Nope.  Stood next to my car for a few minutes (of course, this was a day it was drizzling/sleeting a bit) trying to visualize if I’d had my keys in my hand when I put the book through the drop-off slot.  I didn’t think so.   I headed back into the library to see if maybe in the short time I’d been inside, someone had found the keys and turned them into a librarian.  At least I had my phone and YA was working at home that day so she could have brought me the spare key, but I was already starting to feel the loss of the keychain which my father gave me decades ago. 

As I was about to open the library door, my hand brushed against my pant leg.  The keys were in the pocket of my sweatpants!  It’s still a little unbelievable to me.  I only have two pairs of sweatpants that even have pockets so I never think about having pockets.  I can’t imagine WHY I put the keys in the pants’ pocket instead of the sweatshirt.  But I was unbelievably relieved to find them, not have to embarrass myself in front of the library staff and especially not in front of YA!

Tell me about a time you’ve scared the bejeepers out of yourself?

Over and Over Again

As you all know, I listen to books on CD in the car (and occasionally I drag them into the house as well), audiobooks on my laptop and old-fashioned regular books!   I “curate” my library account so that I don’t have too many things from the library at once and am always happy to find a book that comes in multiple formats.  The format I am still unwilling to embrace is kindle.

A couple of weeks ago the book She Who Became the Sun sparked my interest, so I looked it up and it came in audiobook format.  Since I was getting close to done with my current audiobook and only had one other “up to bat”, I asked for it.  Loaded it and then yesterday morning, hit “Play”. 

I knew in the first minute that I had read this book before.  I was sure of it.  The title resonated but I had assumed it was because She Who Became the Sun is exactly the kind of title that intrigues me.  I looked it up on my spreadsheet and I did indeed read it in 2017!  I can tell you only the vaguest of plot outlines now that I realize I’ve read it, but it’s VERY vague.  I thought about reading it again but decided if I can hardly remember that I’ve read it, much less remember the plot, I’ll move on.  Not quite as bad as having started Devil in the White City THREE times but at least in that scenario I never read the whole book (I always bale when the maggot scene happens in the first chapter). 

Do you ever go to the fridge repeatedly, hoping to find something new there?

Project Hail Mary

I don’t to think of myself as any author’s shill but…..

Spent pretty much all of three days doing not much besides reading Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.  I’d say I couldn’t put it down but was listening to it on CD so not physically holding it.  I don’t want to give much of a recap because there are about a million spoiler alerts but suffice it to say, here is a list of why you might like it if:

  • You liked The Martian
  • You like science fiction
  • You like stories about space
  • You like science explained in a way you can understand it
  • You like humor mixed in with your science
  • You like a main character who is flawed but still very likeable
  • You like books that draw direct comparisons to current issues without bludgeoning you with them
  • You like stories that draw out a little of your emotion

I sent an email to Andy Weir telling him how much I liked it (and he emailed me back within a couple of hours!).  If there were an Andy Weir Fan Club, I suppose I would now officially be a member.  With today’s social media, are there even fan clubs anymore?

What’s the last book you couldn’t put down?

Decisions Decisions

As you all know I love cookbooks.  And you all also know that I have too many – neither my wallet nor my shelves can handle my just willy-nilly buying of any and all cookbook that look interesting.  But a quick perusal doesn’t cut the mustard either – you need to go though a cookbook thoroughly to know if it earns the right to displace another cookbook on my shelves.

The way I deal with this is to check out prospective cookbooks from the library.  Then I can leisurely go through them, look at the recipes, ingredients, level of difficulty, etc.  If a lot of recipes look interesting and I can envision cooking from the book, then I have to decide if it’s enough to replace an existing cookbook on my shelves.  If there are only a couple of recipes, I copy them and add them to my big binder.

When I was in Tucson, we visited a few places that had cookbooks on display.  One was an amazing cooking shop in the arts colony of Tubac.  We spent quite a bit of time there as Susan was texting photos of various tea towels to a friend who was in the market.  This shop had A LOT of tea towels; it would have been very easy to over-indulge.  Wandering through a cooking shop is not a punishment for me and I came across a handful of cookbooks that looked interesting.  I took photos and then when I got home I requested them from the library.  Three are in transit, so hopefully in the next few days I can relax with some hot tea or cocoa and go through them to my hearts’ content.

How do you decide which books to buy and which to not buy (or borrow)?

Oma and Opa

Starting Sunday, it will be a wild ride at our house. Our son and his wife are flying to Savannah, GA so our son can attend the American Counseling Association conference and they can both have a much deserved vacation. Our grandson, who will be 5 in April, was going to spend the week with his maternal grandparents in Mankato. They are a lovely retired couple, both educators, some years older than me and Husband. We are Oma and Opa. They are Grandma and Papa.

Last weekend Papa fell and broke his upper arm bone. It is painful. He and Grandma are disappointed that their combined health issues make it impossible for them to look after our grandson, so we agreed to take him for the week. Son will drive him to Fargo from Brookings, SD on Sunday, I will pick him up in Fargo on Sunday and drive back here with him.

Opa and I plan to tag team child care next week in terms of work. I will work mornings. Opa will watch Grandson, and then we will switch, and Opa will work afternoons and I will watch Grandson. Opa loves to swim and will take him to the swimming pools at our local recreation center. We also have story time at the local library, lots of books in our home, and Oma’s play therapy room at work where any 4 year old would think he was in heaven. We will have to integrate Grandson and our spoiled dog. I expect to be exhausted, but happy, by the end of the week.

Imagine an almost 5 year old boy was coming to stay with you for a week. What would you do with him? What are you favorite grandparent memories?

The Game’s Afoot!

Since I can’t stay away from anything sherlockian, you all know that I would eventually end up at the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition at the Minnesota Historical Society.

There are four parts of the exhibit.  The first section is more or less straight up museum.  Photos, documents and memorabilia.  The doctor that inspired Doyle to write his stories, medical instruments from the time, London – even handwritten pages of Doyle’s work (there were several hundred of these initially offered for sale during his lifetime). 

The second section was several kiosks discussing different areas of interest of the time: botany, printing, telegraphy and a few others.  Most of the kiosks had an interactive feature – my friend Sara sent me a telegraph saying she was enjoying the afternoon with me.  I enjoyed doing a rubbing of a newspaper article and finding the hidden message.

The third section was a re-creation of 221B Baker Street.  You had to walk through and then there was a list of items that hopefully you had noticed.  I had noticed 12 out of 16… took a bit to find to find the last four.  Sara and I “helped” each other finish here.

The last section was a crime scene that we needed to solve.  This was the hard part of the exhibit – ballistics trajectory, chemistry on a seed pod found at the scene, blood splatter evidence, drag marks in the sand… it was fun but even if you figured out every part of the crime scene correctly, there was no way you were going to solve it as it was presented at the end. 

The exit of the exhibit was filled with photos and memorabilia from television and movies – I had to admit to Sara how many of the various films I had actually seen – including the 1922 John Barrymore version.

So I’m highly recommending the exhibit if you’re in the Twin Cities. (Although there is a lot of interactive pieces, if you’re taking a kid, you won’t be able to step back and leave them alone – it’s more on the level of a locked room mystery game if you’ve ever been in one of those.)

Do you have a favorite fictional character?

How Cozy

Normally I don’t pick up the BookPage supplement that the library sets out every month.  More ideas about what to read are NOT necessary in my life.  I have lists and lists.  People suggest books to me all the time.  This isn’t a problem, it just means I don’t need to go looking. 

Last week, while the kitchen project was happening, I spend all day every day sitting on the sofa, so that I could be available if needed.  I wrote blogs for the trail, looked at Facebook, read a lot.  When I picked up a couple of books from the library, I grabbed not just the regular supplement but also a “Looking Forward to 2023” special edition as well.  Seemed like a good project for a week of sofa-surfing.

It was surprising to come across a page devoted to “Cozy Mysteries”.  Believe it or not, I have never heard this phrase before, although in reading through the blurbs, I knew immediately what they were talking about. Protagonist (99.9% women), mostly small town settings, a murder that only the protagonist can solve. I spent over a year reading tons and tons of cozy mysteries; I couldn’t get enough.  I’m not sure what was driving this but after about a year, the desire to read more of them simply vanished.  But I never realized that these stories had garnered a genre all to themselves.

When I was in the bookstore, it was pretty straightforward.  Fiction, nonfiction, children’s.  Fiction was split into fiction, science fiction, romance and mystery.  Non-fiction was historical, self-help, cooking, biography/memoir.

Now we have debut fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, dystopian fiction, mystery, cozy mystery, horror, thriller, literary fiction (this one slays me), young adult, graphic novels, biography, autobiography, memoir, true crime.  I could actually keep going but….

I guess all this micro-categorization can be helpful to folks when they are looking for something to read but since I tend to read across a lot of genres, it doesn’t matter so much to me.  I do still read an occasional cozy mystery; I can’t stay away from Susan Wittig Albert.  Knowing that this kind of work now has a name of its own name seems charming.

Anything in your life that you like to micro-manage?

Hello, Old Friend

Earlier this week, before the blizzard hit, UPS delivered an Amazon order. In the past week, we have had mail and other deliveries only once because of the storms. I got 20 pairs of new socks (Kyrill is a thief who has stolen and chewed lots of my socks) and a two volume set of Julia Child’s Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. It is the third set of these books I have owned.

The first set was the original 1961 version. I got those in the early 1970’s when I was in Middle School. I remember pouring over those books with fascination and wonder. I loved watching her on PBS. I tried several recipes with great success and a fair number of flops. Julia had this weird way of measuring flour in the first edition, instructing her readers to sift flour directly into the measuring cups. By the 1983 soft cover version that I acquired shortly after acquiring Husband, you scooped and leveled your flour, since flour no longer needed such sifting.

A couple of weeks ago, Husband expressed great frustration with the condition of the books. We mainly use Julia for a reference, but also have some favorite recipes. Pages have been loose for years, and some are missing, and the books are held together with rubber bands. I found a very reasonably priced boxed set of the hardcover 40th Anniversary edition published in 2001. Getting the boxed set was so fun, like welcoming an old friend home.

What books would you replace if you could? What are your favorite memories of Julia? Ever had a pet that stole things?

Bah Humbug Day!

“He lived in chambers that had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again.”

One of my favorite metaphors from one of my favorite books – A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Most years I try to re-read this little classic some time in December.  It’s a quick, satisfying read – a great story of redemption if ever there was one!

Yesterday was the anniversary of the publication (1843).  For the first time in my memory, I had an absolute day of leisure.  Past years I either had to work or I was deep into party prep; with the party behind me (it was wonderful!) and new to my retirement, this year is different.  I decided to celebrate by watching every movie of A Christmas Carol that I like (there are more than you can imagine and I don’t like them all).

I didn’t plan my viewing schedule ahead of time… just went with the mood of the moment whenever one ended and it was time to select the next.  Started with the Reginal Owen/Gene Lockhart version then headed into the Alistair Sim version.  Needed a little lighter fare after that so did Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.  George C Scott was next followed by Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  Patrick Stewart was next, then Scrooged with Albert Finney, rounded off by The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. 

Thought about American Christmas Carol with Henry Winkler but just wasn’t up for it after 10 hours of Charles Dickens.  I don’t know if I’ll celebrate this way next year but it was a relaxing and enjoyable day for me.

If you had a free day to celebrate/commemorate something, what would it be?  And how would you like to celebrate?