27 April 2011

Review: Burn Down The Sky



The Book:

Earth is sun-scorched and the world is riddled by a plague known as the Wiccan virus. A group known as the Hands of God hires roving bands of marauders to hunt down girls on the cusp of womanhood for their own needs.  The horrors the young girls deal with are something no parent wants to face.  When Jessie's camp is attacked and her youngest daughter is taken, this mother will stop at nothing to get her child back.

25 April 2011

My Week in the Kitchen

aka my vacation week.

I did bake a lot this past week, having the time and inclination to do it. In between taking care of niblets and cleaning and work emails and a half-day conference - but it was an Unconference, so that doesn't count as work, right?

Monday Night: Dark Chocolate Cake with Coffee Frosting





It was a cake night again! My girlfriend and I are in search of the perfect, well, acceptable, any kind of cake. We had made a chocolate cake from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook the previous week. It was okay, but needed more chocolate taste. This time I pulled out The Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. I have collected these books since I was in college and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest was en vogue. We went with the recipe for Dark Chocolate Layer Cake, making it in a 13 x 9 in. pan instead of two layers. I also took executive privilege of making the Coffee Frosting outlined with the recipe.



It has coffee in it.And Kahlua. Also coffee. Did I mention it has coffee? Did I also mention I was drinking the leftover coffee while baking?



Anyways, the cake came out thinner than you would expect. However the frosting was amazing and taste testers the next day proclaimed it delicious.

Tuesday: Pizza and Buffalo Chicken Dip

I make my own pizza dough, as discussed in a previous post. I also make my own pizza sauce. I think this summer I will look to make my own tomato paste so I do not have to keep buying cans of it. Why you ask? Check out this, or this. Not that I am dead yet from the exposure, but it is one more thing I would like to start relying less on. Edit: I found some tomato paste in jars! Just went to my local natural foods store and found jarred tomato paste from bionaturae.

I have bags of pizza dough in the freezer from previous exploits and the sauce is easy to whip up in about ten minutes. For the sauce, I adapted a pizza sauce recipe from Cat Cora on the Food Network site. I tend to not measure the water and oil anymore. I like a thicker sauce so I just whisk the liquids into the paste until it is the consistency I like, then add whatever dried herbs I feel like that day. Toppings range from pepperoni to caramelized onions to spinach to artichokes to fresh basil, and on and on. These two were simple: one pepperoni, one spinach.

I also had a hankering for some buffalo chicken dip. I was introduced to this by my friend Amy (@calzone on Twitter) at one of our first parties and fell in love with it. I finally pried from her hands asked for the recipe, got some tortilla chips and dug in.




Wednesday Night: Quiche

Quiche is one of those things that my niblets will actually eat. Although I made plans to bake it for dinner, time got away from us and while we had a "Fridge Night" for dinner I went ahead and baked it for the next couple of days. It always seems to be better the next day. Many times I will make a broccoli quiche (especially when the vegetarian gf is over) but with leftover ham from my parents' Easter dinner, this was ham and swiss.



I have The Quiche Cookbook, which has been traveling along with me for over a decade now. I think I acquired it during my years employed at Waldenbooks. I have not yet tried to make pie crust, however I am enjoying the Trader Joe's frozen crusts. You can actually see the shortening in it, which is a plus. Really.

Sadly because of my electric oven and its tendency to heat about 25 degrees higher than set temperature, I burned the crust edges. It was a little overbaked but received with accolades from the niblets. They don't know any better at this point.

Thursday: Olive Oil Bread






I like artisan breads, although trying to buy it in the store makes my wallet cry. So, I have dogeared my copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - a no-knead, store-in-the-fridge dough that is very handy. Making up to four loaves from one batch, it can last two to three weeks in my house. I have been going to the traditional Boule recipe most of the time, but lately have been making the Olive Oil dough. I have mixed some rosemary into the dough before baking, which is delicious, but it is just as good plain.

Friday: Spinach Lasagna

My church was hosting a Seder potluck on Saturday and I needed a dish I could bring that would satisfy a range of appetites. Lucky for me another friend of mine had a lasagna recipe that fit the bill. The recipe itself is a meat lasagna, but wanting to please my vegetarian friends this has been adapted to have spinach instead of meat. We were able to make it Friday night and I baked it before we left on Saturday.

Since the dish was cleaned out before all the participants had gotten to the line (and obviously before I took a picture of it), I think it was a success!

Sunday: Scallion Pancakes and Fried Rice

After a long day of book shopping and coloring eggs, I was craving scallion pancakes. Fellow Team Unicorn member and librarian Anna has a great recipe for scallion pancakes on her blog, taken from Ming Tsai's recipe. The niblets don't like them, thinking scallions are too spicy.



All the more for me!


However, we also did a batch of fried rice to tide them over. A big pot of rice sauteed with a couple of fried eggs (we fry the eggs separately, then slice them up and add them back in), whatever vegetables you have (this batch had carrots, onions, broccoli and mushrooms) plus soy sauce makes for a great dinner.



In My Mailbox (8)

Welcome to post number eight of In My Mailbox. In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren to highlight books received for review, won or purchased. Titles link to Goodreads, authors to their website or page.

Normally I do not do these posts weekly, however this past week I happened to go on a couple jaunts that ended with a few piles of books that I wanted to share.

For Review:





A friend sent me a link to Julie Hyzy's blog where she was promoting her next book in the Manor House Mystery series, Grace, Interrupted. Offering a book for a review, and being a BIG fan of her White House Chef Mysteries, I threw my email into the giveaway pot. While I did not end up getting a copy of that book, Julie was gracious enough to offer her first in the same series, Grace Under Pressure, along with a couple bookmarks.  Did I mention she autographed the book too?

Purchased:

So, as I mentioned I happen to be on a used bookstore kick. Now that I have started collecting series that I want to own and keep, while the pretty shiny new books are wonderful, there is something about browsing used books and finding those little gems. Sometimes it happens to be a cover design you really like, or that middle book that somehow went out of print and lo and behold, there it is! My travels this past week took me not only to Red Fox Books in NY (as noted from my earlier post) but this day to Grey Matter Books and Troubador Books in Hadley, plus Cherry Picked Books in Easthampton. Originally scoured because Cherry Picked was supposedly going out of business, the owner informed us that he was in fact staying open. Yay for that!

(Turns out I ended up at another used bookstore on Sunday (The Book Bear) but I will leave that post - and those piles of books *cough* for another post.)

Group #1 - Fantasy



The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce.
Furies of Calderon, Academ's Fury and Cursor's Fury by Jim Butcher.

Group #2 - Mystery



Blood Orange Brewing and Dragonwell Dead by Laura Childs.
The Poyson Garden and The Tidal Poole by Karen Harper.
Queen's Ransom by Fiona Buckley.

Group #3 - Lesbian Mystery & Fiction



Vital Lies, A Killing Cure and The Iron Girl by Ellen Hart.
Liberty Square, Sleeping Bones, Amateur City, Murder at the Nightwood Bar and The Beverly Malibu (in an omnibus) by Katherine V. Forrest.
Bad Moon Rising by Barbara Johnson.
18th & Castro by Karin Kallmaker.

Group #4 - Non-Fiction



Culpepper's Color Herbal edited by David Potterson.

Well, I guess this is not really a pile, as I couldn't find any gardening or cooking that I truly wanted (this time). I remember this book from my days working at Waldenbooks. It was always on the shelf.

I am well on my way to getting complete collections of many of the series titles I was able to acquire. However, I admit to having started some new ones too.

Happy reading!

20 April 2011

Kindle Library Lending: What Don't We Know?

Today Amazon announced the creation of the Kindle Library Lending. Partnering with OverDrive, patrons that have Kindles, or Kindle applications on their computer, phone, or device, will be able to check out titles from participating libraries. You can find the announcements from both Amazon and OverDrive on their websites.

As a librarian who oversees our consortium's OverDrive catalog, I found out the pertinent details for me and my libraries:

  • The Kindle Library Lending will go through the OverDrive "Virtual Branch" - aka our Digital Catalog.
  • All of our previously purchased titles will be available to Kindle customers.
  • Titles will be directly loaded to Kindles and readable there or on the Kindle apps.
  • Kindle users will be able to highlight and make margin notes, just like on purchased Kindle titles, but those won't be seen by any other patron that downloads the title. Also, if they purchase a copy of the title, or check it out again through the library, any notes will be available again.
I don't own a Kindle (but hey, any excuse for more gadgets!) so I am not up on the Whispersync technology that is referred to in Amazon's article. However, what this does tell me is that obviously Amazon stores customer info somewhere on their servers when they own a Kindle to make this stuff work. How does this apply to patron information? Is there anything that can be scooped up from the API that Amazon will get hold of? My guess is "No", but I don't know what will happen with the ebook-turned-Kindle-format-delivered-from-library-to-device.

So, let's go point by point:
  • I am glad that there will be one interface to deliver the materials. Different devices or not, the digital catalog is where we direct patrons. It is important to libraries to still have some branding in regards to that. Not that the multi-step checkout procedure doesn't have its downsides for sure, but maybe this will kickoff some more improvements with the OverDrive interfaces. 
  • We will not be purchasing an Amazon format ebook. The EPUBs (and PDFs?) already acquired will now have the capability to be read on a Kindle, besides the other devices already compatible.
  • What I am gleaning from the statement from OverDrive is that when an ebook is checked out, there will be a "Deliver to Kindle" link. Wireless download capability is great instead of sideloading, and not having to purchase an additional format will help. There are questions from the other side of the fence though, which I will get to in a bit.
  • The additional features available to Kindle users is a definite boon in their favor. I know I was extremely distressed when PDF titles I have loaded to my NookColor do not remember the last page read. 
There are lots of articles by great librarians and library advocates in regards to this issue. Many of them are asking the questions I have:
It was Hadro's piece that made me start on this post. I think "deluge" is an apt word to describe what will see when this becomes available.

I want to look at the bottom line - they say we will not have to buy another format, that all of the ebooks available and purchased will be deliverable to Kindles. The question is - how, exactly? Who is underwriting the cost of these additional formats? Whether libraries have to license them outright or not, it is still another format. OverDrive also stipulates that "the Kindle Library Lending program will support publishers' existing lending models."

To me, this means HarperCollins titles are still off the table (my consortium is not purchasing them at this time) and Macmillan and Simon & Schuster will not appear in digital format for our patrons any time soon. This also means that the "one-patron/one-copy" model will still be in effect, with that many more patrons with Kindles vying for the copies available and racking the holds ratios back up to the record highs we saw in January. We are going to have to buy more copies; with library budgets as strained as they are, I foresee longer wait times and more choices to be made about how to reallocate budgets by format.

But that is okay, right? Amazon knows that their Kindle customers (as they are always referenced in the articles by Amazon and OverDrive, not "library patrons") can shoot right over to the website and get that title if they don't want to wait that long. It is why they are Kindle customers after all.

This is going to be a topic of conversation for a while, especially as more specific information comes to light. We don't know exactly how it will all work or when we are going to get this, but I am cautiously optimistic this will be of benefit to everyone involved.

Note: I don't speak for my libraries on my blog and all opinions expressed here in this post are my own. I am on vacation, people, I shouldn't have to talk shop anyways!

Review: Twilight's Dawn by Anne Bishop

Warning: Some spoilers for this book and previous ones in the series.

The Book:

Head back to the Realms of the Black Jewels and become immersed once again in the world of the Blood.  Four novellas take moments of time through the lives of Janelle, Daemon, Lucivar, Surreal and Saetan as they continue to live their extraordinary, ordinary lives.

The Yarn:

For anyone who has read Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series, these four stories are amazingly heart-wrenching. Each book takes a period of time among the previous books, and while the cast of characters remains the same, what happens is enough to shake the Realms.

19 April 2011

Upstate

This past weekend the niblets and I traveled up to my parents' home in upstate New York. Our normal Easter holiday is usually spent looking for eggs around my mom's childhood home with all the cousins, however with it being so late this year we decided a shorter trip was in order.



My parents' house is backed by woods and you never know what you will see wander through their backyard. There have been deer and turkeys. This weekend, a pair of mallard ducks made use of the large puddles still left from the melting snow.



While Grandma took the children shopping for some spring clothes on Sunday, I decided to go out to visit my family graves. My grandparents and uncle are buried here. I grew up in a multi-generational household, and for several years as a child I lived in a house with my parents, sister, grandparents and uncle. From my grandfather comes my love of baking and gardening, my uncle loved to cook also. There is something about graveyards that bring a quiet peace, for those few moments.



I also was in search of a used bookstore. While Saratoga boasted one, I decided to stay a little closer to home. I couldn't find one that carried just used books, but I did track down a nice little independent with a used section. Red Fox Books would have been a great place to have had while growing up. While I drooled over the gardening and homesteading books they had on display (Do I really need a book on raising goats? Umm..) I did find a couple titles of interest in the "Recycled Books" area.



I have been wanting to read Room by Emma Donoghue for a while, and Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer by Tim Stark has been on my "To Buy" list also. Thanks to Red Fox Books for giving patrons a place to find both new and used titles. I will definitely be back.


So I decided to wander the streets a bit, remembering things from my younger years. The bookstore is on the same triangle as the library. While there is a tiny library in the village near where I grew up, Crandall Library was the library I spent many weekends checking out children's books from the upstairs room. I didn't understand Dewey as a kid, but I knew in which bookcases the titles I wanted to read were located. 

This is the library I frequented through high school, both for homework and for pleasure. This was the library that I borrowed the Library of Congress Subject Heading guides from to do cataloging homework while pursuing my Master's in Library Science. This is where I wanted to work, if my journey had allowed me to stay near my hometown.





They went through a major renovation a couple years ago to add the new glass-walled additions. I didn't have a chance to go inside (too early on Sunday) but hope to another visit.





I also stopped in the village to see the Centennial fountain. This fountain was constructed during the years I actually worked for the municipality, and it was partially funded with dedicated bricks and pavers surrounding it. I have two, one for my kids and one for my grandfather.

Now I am back in MA, with a laundry list of things to do over the break. Laundry is on that list...somewhere...

18 April 2011

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren to highlight books received for review, purchased or otherwise received. Titles link to Goodreads, authors to their website or blog.

I really wasn't sure if I was going to have a post for the last two weeks. It has been pretty busy-crazy for me at work making headway on the new design for the public catalog my network will have later this year. Add to that the fact I will be traveling this weekend to see my family, I haven't had time to go to the library or a bookstore at all.

That hurts. Truly, it does.

However, when I arrived home on Friday afternoon, I discovered a package on my doorstep. Inside it was this:



I have been waiting anxiously for Sheepish when I discovered that Catherine Friend was publishing it in May. Her first book about her farming exploits, Hit By a Farm, is a favorite of mine. Many thanks to Da Capo Press for providing this copy for me to review.

I am on vacation this week, so I hope to be able to not only catch up on some reading but also some book shopping! Well, in between the work and a presentation to prepare and gardening and niblet-chasing and chores and...

I think I will be ready for a vacation from my vacation!

13 April 2011

Spirit Dances by C.E. Murphy

The Book:

Joanne Walker is surviving. After almost being killed by a cannabalistic serial killer to dealing with a domestic homicide, she faces the challenge of attending a Native-American dance concert with her boss, Captain Michael Morrison. It's a transformative experience - and one that causes Joanne to turn into a coyote. Add to this a mystic killer, disappearing homeless and a possible supernatural creature that shouldn't exist, Joanne must go to the edge of mastering her shamanic abilities before someone else dies.

11 April 2011

And we have germination!


Aren't they cute when they are little?



I have been waiting anxiously for my plants to grow, and the seeds have finally started to show their leaves. The basil and broccoli were the last to poke through the soil. Many of the paper pots were double-seeded to ensure germination, but I still ended up with a couple that had nothing come up.

                                             

With the beans getting tall enough to start to shade the others, I knew that some rearranging was in order. I decided to place my spinach and kale seedlings out yesterday. I may be tempting fate, but I think that the other seedlings need more light and warmth and the space than these seeds do. So outside I went on Sunday - I would have on Saturday but was fighting off a fever - and planted whatever seeds I had that could be started before last frost.



I own a couple of hand tools and my favorite one to use is this Oriental Garden Tool I received as a Christmas gift a couple years ago. It helped me rip a lot of roots that have meandered their way through my garden beds, cultivate the soil and the tip is narrow enough to cut a shallow planting row for seeds. Even though it is shaped as a right-handed tool, I have adapted pretty well to using it in my left hand.





So into the garden went my little spinach and kale seedlings, along with a second row each of the seeds. Add to that a row of bok choi, rainbow chard and carrots, and I was pretty happy with this start.



I also used my other cultivator to loosen the soil in my flower bed on the side of the house. I pulled up the dead foxglove and cape daisy plants. I guess I will see if they reseeded themselves back into the bed, but I am not sure. However I did seed some more bachelor's buttons and poppies.

It feels good to see these signs of spring!

08 April 2011

With My Own Two Hands (Part Two)

As I stated in last week's blog post, I was in a "get my hands dirty" mood. Plus I have seen enough people talking about their seed starting that I figured I should get my...er, pots...in gear and get planting.

I finally dragged my grow light out of the basement. This is a small, table-top set up which holds two trays of seeds. Usually that is plenty, as I only have two 8 x 4 ft. beds for vegetables. However, one day I plan to have a set up like this or this

Some of the seeds I have, bok choi, chard and carrots, will be directly sowed in a couple of weeks. They can go in before last frost date, which is April 26 this year, but I am certainly starting late this year indoors. The last couple years I had issues with some plants getting rootbound in the trays, so I would rather start and transplant them a little later than I have before.


Because of the rootbound problems I had with some plants I decided to forgo the cell trays I had been using the last couple of years and pull out my PotMaker finally. You could really use a can to do this, but I like the wood and smaller shape. After creating the pots I ended up with 39 newspaper pots, which will be plenty. I did decide to put my tomatoes in 3 inch peat pots, so they had more room to grow. All of these have the advantage of being able to be transplanted directly into the ground, although I will be slicing up the peat pots to make sure the roots can get through.





So the newspaper pots went into the drip trays and they are low enough for the plastic cover to go over them. This cover will help increase humidity and warmth until the seeds germinate. I do lift the covers each day so they can get fresh air, and I am planning on using a small fan once they are big enough to keep air circulation flowing in this corner of the kitchen. I have had damping off issues with some seeds, but the fan should help with that.





I have started three types of tomatoes: Bonny Best, Orange-Banana and Grace Lehman's. I have one pan which is three rows of Siberian Kale and four rows of Spinach Gigante. The other pan is basil, zucchini, bush beans and broccoli.  I also have bachelor buttons and poppies to go out in the flower bed, but those can be directly sowed in a couple more weeks.

To help with keeping track of what I am doing, I am enlisting Folia this year, a garden tracker that will allow me to input my seeds and help track when I should plant, transplant and harvest. This is a free site, although the features I am using are for a paid membership. It is also wonderful to see what other people in my planting zone (5b) are doing now before the last frost date. If you are on Folia, come find me!

06 April 2011

Review: The Knitting Diaries by Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery, Christina Skye

The Book:

Three authors come together to bring stories of love and knitting: Debbie Macomber tells the tale of a girl and her mom and their special list of twenty wishes, but what about Ellen's desire for The Twenty-First Wish?  Coming Unraveled by Susan Mallery has one young woman's dreams of Broadway dashed and her return home is marred by a mistrustful friend of her grandmother.  In Return to Summer Island, Christina Skye shows how one woman that while a horrible accident may have taken away one piece of her, she can draw another path for herself, in life and in love.

05 April 2011

Check In

Back in January I gave myself a list of goals for the year. Now that we are three months into 2011, I thought I would check in and see where I am at so far.

Books:

  • Read 100 books:  Ok, according to my Goodreads Reading Challenge, I have read 39 books so far! I think I have impressed myself. 
  • Review at least 2x a month:  As of today I have done 22 reviews this year. I am very happy with that. I have not been reviewing as actively as I started, but I have rechallenged myself to at least once a week reviews (check them out on Wednesdays). 
  • Try Audiobooks: I have only done one audiobook so far, The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky. I did start The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, but had trouble following it. I don't think it was any issue of the book or narration, however I think my brain likes to picture plot during fiction, while it can process non-fiction titles on the go? I have three more to go, so time to find another for the commutes I have coming up this month.

Yarn:

  • Finish Four Projects:  I finished the Starburst Hat last month, and currently have two projects on needles. 
  • Sort my Stash:  Still thinking about that empty room in my house, but haven't gotten anywhere on this yet.
  • Get It All on Ravelry: Well, see above excuse.

Ink:
  • Get Tattoo: Haven't done this yet, but I have the design, just need the time. 
Other Pursuits:
  • Grow My Garden: Seed starting has begun! Posts about this topic are coming this week.
  • Preserve More: This is kind of a timing issue, however I have realized I am out of strawberry jam and have several quarts of strawberries in the freezer.
  • Take Space: My Maine retreat is already booked - in fact, I am one of the co-facilitators! If you are looking for a place in August to come play, relax and just be "In The Company of Women", check out our Ferry Beach conference
How are your personal goals for the year?

04 April 2011

In My Mailbox (6)

It's Monday In My Mailbox!

Actually, you could hand-deliver it wrapped in a bow and I still wouldn't want a Monday, yet I get one every week.

Ok, back to work...In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren to highlight books received for review, purchased or otherwise received. Titles link to Goodreads, authors to their website or page.

For Review:

A edict was put out across the internet for new reviewers at The Lesbrary, and I was happy to answer the call! I will be doing monthly guest reviews there starting later this month. I also picked up a couple titles through NetGalley.




Turning Point and Turn For Home by Lara Zielinsky. A love story and its sequel. Two actresses discover their feelings for each other.

The Knitter's Life List: 1001Knitting Adventures to Fill a Lifetime by Gwen W. Steege (Storey, September).  I don't know if I will even accomplish 1001 projects in my life, but this looks like it will be fun and inspirational.

Slow Gardening: A No-Stress Philosophy For All Senses and Seasons by Felder Rushing (Chelsea Green, July). I tend to want results fast in my garden, so the thought of finding a slower and more mindful path to gardening is intriguing.

In The Mail:

I didn't get anything in the mail, but my daughter did. She participated in a publisher survey about teen reads and book trailers. For doing that, they sent her a book!


That Summer by Sarah Dessen. I may have to sneak this off my girl's shelf in the middle of the night.

Purchased:

A last minute stop at the local big bookstore (plus a coupon in my inbox) netted me this title:



Urban Homesteading by Kelly Coyne and Eric Knutzen. One of the first titles I ever saw about this topic will now grace my bookshelves.

From the Library:






Captive Spirit and Captive Heart by Anna Windsor. These are #4 and #6 of the Dark Crescent Sisterhood series (Yes, I am reading out of order again.) Great urban fantasies about women with elemental powers.

Crown of Crystal Flame by C.L. Wilson. I read the first four of the Tairen Soul series fast when they came out, so having such a long time to the last book was a hard wait.

Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich. I am debating if I want to plant berry bushes in my yard, so I hope this is a good resource.

Are you into some good books this week?