Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review: Obedience by Will Lavender

From the back of the book: When the students in Winchester University's Logic and Reasoning 204 arrive for their first day of class, they are greeted not with a syllabus or texts, but with a startling assignment from Professor Williams: Find a hypothetical missing girl named Polly. If after being given a series of clues and details the class has not found her before the end of the term in six weeks, she will be murdered.

At first the students are as intrigued by the premise of their puzzle as they are wary of the strange and slightly creepy Professor Williams. But as they delve deeper into the mystery, the boundary between the classroom and the real world is blurred and the students wonder if it is their own lives they are being asked to save.

Thank you to whichever book blogger(s) posted about this book. It is from one of the genres I enjoy most - psychological thrillers. Things are not what they seem, there are twists in the plot throughout the book, and the ending is a surprise that I hadn't predicted. There are some loose ends and details that are less than believable, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a quick reading, suspenseful story.

In other reading news...I finished The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield last weekend. I will refrain from creating the possibly 250,000th book blogger post about it, and simply say that I really liked it. It truly speaks to the heart of a book lover through Margaret and ends in a perfect but not totally predictable way.

I'm hoping to make a dent in my non-fiction TBR pile soon. However, the knowledge that I will begin graduate classes again in September is motivation to suck up all the fiction I can in the next couple months.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Buried in Dishes

I have been doing so much cooking lately that our sink is never empty. This is likely also due to my extreme aversion to doing dishes by hand. I'd rather leave the sink full while the dishwasher finishes another batch than do those that didn't fit in the dishwasher by hand.

Despite an epically failed recipe tonight, I did have great success with my adaptation of Patriotic Frozen Delight from Taste of Home. Here's my version:

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk (non-fat)
2 cups (16 ounces) lemon yogurt
2 cups miniature marshmallows...or a little more :-)
1+ cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions: In a bowl, combine milk, lemon juice and peel. Stir in yogurt, marshmallows and pecans. Spread half into an ungreased 11-in. x 7-in. dish. Sprinkle with half of the strawberries and blueberries. Cover with the remaining yogurt mixture; top with remaining berries. Cover and freeze. Remove from the freezer 15-20 minutes before serving. Yield: 12 servings.

The originally recipe called for pecans, which are not a desireable ingredient in Mr. Taste Tester's world. So, I left them out. Next time I would experiment by replacing them with crunched up pretzels.

Either way, this one will make it to the recipe box as a keeper.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Proud as a Peacock

It's finished! And I am a terrible photographer...but you get the idea. Someday this one will probably be a wall hanging with a coordinating blue fabric edge. For now it will sit in my slowly growing pile of completed projects that need finishing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

From the back of the book (for those few, who like me, had been oblivious to this book until recently): "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past the beeches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at the immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten…her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant – the sinister Mrs. Danvers – still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca…for the secrets of Manderley.

Before reading numerous glowing reviews on a variety of blogs, I had never heard of this book. Shocking! In discussing it with a co-worker who just happened to be reading it too, she compared it to a soap opera in the form of a classic novel. I finally started reading my bookmooched copy during Memorial Day weekend. I loved it as much as all the reviewers said they did!

I believe what captured me from early on was the development of the narrator. (How observant I am to just have realized we never learn her first name.) The reader really gets to know her, as we are privy to her innermost thoughts. And, despite being published in 1938, the inner world of our narrator illustrates enduring themes of the human tradition – love, insecurity, maturing from adolescence to adulthood, and self-perception. In addition, the narrator’s internal processing of certain events mirrored mine in an uncanny way. The first time I noticed this was as the narrator was preparing to leave Monte Carlo (early in the book):

"Packing up. The nagging worry of departure….I am aware of sadness, of a sense of loss. Here, I say, we have lived, we have been happy. This has been ours, however brief the time. Though two nights only have been spent beneath a roof, yet we leave something of ourselves behind. Nothing material, not a hair-pin on a dressing-table, not an empty bottle of aspirin tablets, not a handkerchief beneath a pillow, but something indefinable, a moment of our lives, a thought, a mood."

And I always thought I had a uniquely sentimental view of good-byes.

I look forward to reading more of Daphne du Maurier’s work in the future.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Time Flies When Your Cookin'

Ok, so if I were doing that much cooking over the past month, I would have enough meals in the freezer to last the summer. May was a busy month with a drive out to Pennsylvania and a wedding to attend in northern Minnesota. So, blogging took a backseat.

I actually did make two very successful new-to-me recipes during the last couple weeks that we also a big hit with Hermie's Dad. Someday I will actually remember to take pictures of these things.

Easy Baked Fish Fillets
Adapted from

1.5 lbs grouper or other white fish fillets
Cooking spray
1 tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice (I used lime, but will do lemon next time.)
1 tbsp light mayo
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
½ cup panko crumbs
1.5 tbsp butter, melted
parmesan herb sprinkles

Preheat oven to 425.

Place fish in an 11x7 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine lime/lemon juice, mayo, garlic powder, and pepper in a small bowl, and spread over fish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and paremsan herb mix; drizzle with butter. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Three Berry Chicken Salad with Thyme, Tarragon and Toasted Pinenuts
Adapted from The Skinny Gourmet

2 - 12.5 oz cans of chicken breast
¼ cup toasted pinenuts
1 package Welch’s dried fruit blend (cherries, blueberries, cranberries, golden raisins)
½ cup light mayo
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp dried tarragon
¾ tsp cumin
¾ tsp dried oregano
½ cup celery, finely chopped
1/8 cup sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
1 granny smith apple, finely chopped

Put chicken in a bowl. Add celery and onion.

Toast pinenuts in a sauté pan over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Toast until they are deep golden brown and fragrant. Add to chicken.

In a second bowl, combine remaining ingredients, except apples. (Using a second bowl helps ensure that the seasonings are thoroughly combined before adding to the chicken mixture.)

Add Apples to the mayo mixture, stirring to coat thoroughly.

Combine chicken mixture and the mayo mixture, stirring to mix well.

I will note that I somewhat defiled Erin's chicken salad recipe with the use of canned chicken. I'm sure her version has a much more sophisticated taste using roasted chicken, but I will definitely make my lazy cook's version again.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Did Agatha Christie Have Dementia?

As a counselor to family caregivers, many of whom care for a loved one with dementia, this article caught my attention today. How fitting that I had just finished my Agatha Christie book review a few minutes before. (That particular book was first published in 1950 – when Christie was 60.) Commentors on the article had mixed opinions about the validity of the study, but based on my experiences so far and other research I’ve read, I wouldn’t write it off as nonsense.

Review: A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

Synopsis from You are cordially invited to a murder. A personal ad in the newspaper inviting strangers to participate in an evening of murder mystery fun and games at the home of Letitia Blacklock is an invitation that Miss Jane Marple cannot pass up. A good thing, too, because when the lights are dimmed real gunshots ring out, killing a young boy. Now it’s time for a new, much more serious game of “whodunit.”

Since watching the movie version of Murder at the Vicarage this winter, I have wanted to read some Agatha Christie. I randomly picked A Murder is Announced because it would satisfy two reading challenges at once. The premise sounded good, but I was underwhelmed.

What I have determined is that Agatha Christie books should probably be read in large chunks over a short time span. I read much of this one in little pieces. There were many characters with fairly shallow development, and I found them hard to keep straight when only reading a few pages at a time. I read the last 50 pages at one time, and enjoyed it more. Maybe that was also because I was learning how the crime really occurred.

That said, I am interested to read more Agatha Christie. Based on this experience, her books are focused on the architecture of the crime versus the characters involved. And, her crimes really are well thought out. She also creates humorous traits in her characters that gave me a chuckle from time to time. A lady in this book was named Murgatroyd. Everytime I read her name I heard Snagglepuss, of Laff-A-Lymipcs fame, saying “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” Ok, not the humor Christie intended with that one, but still entertaining to me.