Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Working on my lists...

It's the time of year for Best of 2011 lists. And I'm hard at work on mine for the store. I won't have a chance to post here until 2012, but here's a teaser:
"'Miss Congeniality' crossed with Lord of the Flies, with a healthy dose of fierce feminism."
Any guesses which one that is?
While you eagerly await my list, I also offer up links to some other year-end lists:

Happy reading! Did anything just move to the top of your pile?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad chronologically

Back in July, my book group discussed A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I think the acclaim (NYT Top 10 book, Pulitzer Prize winner) left me a little disappointed-- I liked the depth, mystery, and gothic feel of Egan's The Keep more-- but we still had a wonderful discussion of this fascinating novel.
Is it a novel? In some ways, I preferred to think of it as an album, where each chapter is like a song: you can read them in pretty much any order, but the author/editor (like the musician/producer) decides on a set order for presentation and what they think will be maximum effect.
I also heard about the app for the book, which intrigued me. I decided to get all nerdy and figure out the timeline of the novel on my own. I found some other chronologies online (like this from readywhenyouarecb.blogspot), but here's mine, with my time cues included:

Chapter 4: Safari
Rolph= 11 (Rhea's age, Bennie's too)
Lou in late 30s

Chapter 3: Ask Me If I Care
Rhea (and Rolph)= 17

Chapter 11: Goodbye, My Love
Sasha= 19 (ran away at 17)

Chapter 10: Out of Body
Sasha= 22
~1993 (Bill Clinton reference)

Chapter 6: X's and O's
Chris= 3 months old

Chapter 9: Forty-Minute Lunch
Kitty= 19
Jules is starting 5 year prison term

Chapter 7: A to B
Chris= 7 years old
Jules is back from 5 years in prison

Chapter 5: You (Plural)
"Twenty years have passed" (1999?)
Rhea/ Jacqueline= 43-- would indicate 2005, 26 years after Chapter 3

Chapter 2: The Gold Cure
Chris= 9
Bennie= 44
It's 5 years after 9/11, so 2006.
Sasha is still working for Bennie

Chapter 1: Found Objects
Sasha= 35 (post-Bennie)
Alex= ~24/ 28

Chapter 8: Selling the General
Kitty= 28 (9 years after Chapter 9)
Lulu= 9

Chapter 12: Great Rock and Roll Pauses
Alison= 12 (at least 13 years after Chapter 1)
This is the only one dated, but purposely ambiguous (p. 235)-- why?

Chapter 13: Pure Langauge
15 years after Chapter 1 (p. 317)
Lulu= "early 20s"
Bennie= "pushing 60"

Does anyone have any other ideas?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vegan confessions

I'm baking old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies with butter and eggs, and I can't remember the last time my kitchen smelled so good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Music to listen to while you read "Ready Player One"

One of my favorite books of the summer so far is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a book I've described to people as a scifi book version of "The Goonies" filled with video games and tons of 80s trivia...
If you know me, you know I love me some Goonies, but add references to "LadyHawke" and just about every TV show I watched in my formative years, THEN layer on the quest and romance, and you'll understand why I had so much fun reading this.
The other night, we were listening to a mix of music from the computer, and I heard the perfect song to read Ready Player One to: "Tuff Enuff?" by ShitRobot. No big surprise that I adore anything by anyone who would call themselves ShitRobot, but their songs make the perfect soundtrack to a supergeeky, superfun novel! Makes me want to put on a vintage Atari t-shirt and boogie around the house.
(Check out "losing my patience" on their site, too... awesome.)
Nerdy side note: 1985 was a good year for movies... Back to the Future, Weird Science, LadyHawke, Goonies, Legend, Teen Wolf, Better Off Dead, Clue, Fletch, Young Sherlock Holmes, and Real Genius all came out in 1985 according to imbd. Holy ShitRobot!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Packing tips

A request from a friend: How to pack efficiently for a long trip/ lots of different occasions?

I have a few tricks:

1) Only pack multi-purpose items. Shoes are my hardest thing: What woman can pack just two pairs of shoes for three weddings, five countries, sight-seeing, beaches, and hiking? Not me. But I can do it with four pairs: One pair of silver wedges to go with everything very dressy (weddings), one pair of athletic sandals for sight-seeing, one pair of sneakers for hiking and biking and those days when I just need support, and one pair of silver flip-flops for the beach or casual days/nights. Despite my large feet, all these shoes pack almost-flat. I could have done without the flip-flops, but they take up such little room, I put them in.

Then I make sure all my clothes can mix and match together. Some special pieces, like a bridesmaid dress, won't be remixed, but I can wear it at different events since the weddings are with mostly different people; I can wear it for a semi-formal party, for example.

2). Yes, roll. I do roll things up in my suitcase. It makes them smaller, less wrinkle-prone, and easier to squeeze in so I can see my options without unpacking the whole darn suitcase. (Although the shoes are in a layer underneath against the ribs of the suitcase, so I do need to poke around a bit.)

See that? Formal dresses roll, too!

3). Only pack pieces that are easy to wash. Everything that goes in the suitcase (except the bridesmaid dress) can be washed at a laundromat, and most of it in the sink. Maybe TMI, but I have a few pairs of amazing underwear from Ex Officio means that I only have to pack 1 pair for every 2 or 3 days I am away. (They wash out in the sink with travel packs of detergent or soap or shampoo, if you're desperate, and they air dry within an hour in most climates.)

4). Choose outerwear that can be dressed up or down. I have an amazing little travel raincoat with trenchcoat styling that packs up tiny, but I can't find a comparable one anywhere online. However, something like this Missoula Jacket from or this packable raincoat from TravelSmith would fit the bill.

5). Bring a tiny travel umbrella. Just in case! It fits in a small space but will keep you dry. It also doubles as a sunshade.

6). Carry one purse that will work for everything. I have a chicobag that fits in my daily purse so I can have bonus carrying capacity if I need it (book for the beach, picnic goodies, etc), but I found a fun yet utilitarian purse that I won't feel ridiculous taking to a club, a wedding, or a museum. It fits my sunglasses, my hat, my wallet, my phone, my camera, sunscreen, and a notebook or small guidebook. (For the more formal weddings, I probably will just have my suit-wearing husband carry my necessities.) My one-and-only purse had to be cross-body, with a zip top, an interior zip pocket for my wallet, and enought organizing pockets inside. Maybe my fashion sense is just wacky enough, but just bringing one purse sure simplifies!

7). Find a suitcase that works for you. I love my Samsonite carryon that I got years ago. One side has mesh zip closure where you're supposed to put the garment bag, but I love lining up my fancier things in there in rolled layers instead and zipping it up until I need them.

For a four-week trip, I packed: 3 casual cotton sundresses, 4 tops (short sleeve or sleeveless), 1 lightweight tunic/ coverup, 1 maxidress, 3 tank tops, 4 pairs of shoes, 3 formal dresses (for 3 weddings, 3 rehearsal dinners, and a wedding party), two flowy scarves that can be used as wraps or sarongs as well as a pop of color to tie an outfit together, 3 bras, 5 pairs of underwear, 1 nightshirt (which can work as a dress or beach coverup in a pinch), 1 pair of workout shorts, 4 pairs of compression socks (medical necessity), 1 cardigan, 1 teeny tiny rain trench, 1 pair of washable linen pants, 1 khaki short skirt, and 1 rollable big sunhat.

But don't ask me how many books we packed... I may be efficient with clothing, but I do always have several books as well as an ereader!

What are your tips for packing?

Friday, June 10, 2011

I'm in the Seattle Times!

Thanks, Twirl Cafe, for inviting the photographer from the Seattle Times during Storytime with Queen Anne Books. I read/sang "If You're Happy and You Know It" published by Barefoot Books, so I took off my shoes to really get in the mood. The great crowd of people little and big helped out by singing along and doing all the moves with me. My favorite was "tap your nose" (which turned into fleeting, sanctioned nose-picks for some-- my kind of kids).

Here's the link to the picture, since I'm posting from a device that won't let me capture photos--

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Putting Makeup on Dead People"

That title got your attention, right? Mine, too, but maybe not for the same reasons (unless you are my sister!) You see, our maternal grandfather owned and ran a funeral home, and our uncle now owns and runs it, so a book about a teenager who wants to be a mortician is right up my alley.

True tale:
Before my grandparents went out for a big night on the town while my mom was growing up, my grandmother would lie down on the kitchen table so my grandfather could apply her party makeup. He couldn't do it unless she was very still and prone (a.k.a. pretending to be dead). So I knew I had to read Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi from the title alone.

Here's why YOU have to read this book, too (whether your my sister or anyone else):

This is a hilarious, beautiful, meaningful coming of age story. The main character, Donna, lost her father several years ago. Her brother has been away at college, her mother doesn't understand her, and she feels invisible at school. During her senior year, she realizes that the only place she really feels comfortable, the only place she really connects with people, is at the local funeral home. So she approaches the owners and asks what it takes to be a mortician.

One of the brothers who runs the funeral home explains that the main qualification for the job is "loving the whole person." This really resonated with me. It's a perfect lesson for a teenage girl who is trying to learn to love herself, but it's also such a comforting thought to anyone who is grieving. You can interpret the whole person as the good and the bad, the living and the dead. It reminds me of a meaningful zen story Richard Farr told me about Buddhist appreciation: that when we love someone, we love them partly for their beautiful fragility, that when we love someone completely, we love who they are, who they were, and who they will (or will not) be, like appreciating the teacup as something crafted by someone, as a lovely object to hold, and as something which will break some day and no longer exist except in our memories. (Apologies to everyone for my mangling in the retelling.)

That went on a long tangent, but suffice to say that this book has it all: Donna's hilarious and honest voice, tender flashbacks, wacky relatives, pagan rituals, great friendships, and even sexy romances! It's a teen read, but I think it would also make a good summer read for adults.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer reading recommendations for middle schoolers

This week I had the great pleasure of speaking about some of my favorite books to try to help the middle school students at St. Anne School get even more excited about summer vacation. I know some of the students there-- and I know they are voracious readers. (Shout out to Max M. and Sam M., if you ever find this blog!) The challenge for me was to find a mix of books that would be pure pleasure, appropriate for really smart middle schoolers, sophisticated enough for the students but not horrifying to the parents.

To start off, I asked how many had read The Hunger Games. As I suspected, the majority raised their hands. So my first grouping of books was for readers who loved that series. They're dystopian books with plenty of action but also heart-pounding relationships.

Enclave by Anne Aguirre
Divergent by Veronica Roth
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
Dark Life by Kat Falls

Then I said, "If you like all that and a side of fantasy..."
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Eon by Alison Goodman
Mistwood by Leah Cypess (especially if readers liked Graceling)
(bonus: all these books already have sequels published!)

Next, I asked who was traveling internationally over the summer. I suggested that one way to travel the world without needing a passport or having to pack was to pick up some realistic books about other cultures:

To Timbuktu by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg (nine countries including Morocco, China, and Mali)
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy (Afghanistan)
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay (London, the Philippines)

If, like me, you like a clever con:
Heist Society by Ally Carter (I tried to convince them that, despite the cover, it's fiendishly clever fun that boys-- especially ones who've seen Leverage-- would love, too. I don't know if I convinced...)

If you like historical fiction with loads of action (and some big, out-there twists):

And finally, a straight historical fiction novel that was so vivid I felt like I was near the front of the Crimean War with Florence Nightingale:
The Shadow of the Lamp by Suzanne Dunlap

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Double-post action

Want to try my latest vegan stew? The recipe's at our book blog: It's like I'm a guest blogger for myself, sometimes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Edamame wasabi rice stew

This was today's lunch (yesterday's dinner). Seattle spring has been quite drizzly and chilly so far. I was a homebody hard at work on our book yesterday, so I made this hearty soup with a zing out of ingredients I already had in the house. It felt a little like stone soup, but tasted great.

4 cloves of garlic
and half a red onion, diced fine
got sauteed in a splash of sesame oil to start this one off.

Then I added thin slices of 4 crimini mushrooms, halved.

I added 4 cups of water,
a dried morel mushroom I found kicking around in my pantry (chopped up into little pieces).

Once that came to a boil, I added all the leftover
white and brown rice we had from takeout (about one cup) and kept boiling for about 5 minutes. I turned down to low heat.

Then I added
the soy sauce from two little packets
that came with our takeout the other night, plus a dash more salt.

Tossed in approximately
15 snow peas
sliced so they looked almost like green onion rounds if you squint.

To finish it up, after the rice was all soft and the broth looked thick and milky, I turned off the heat and added
1 tsp of wasabi powder and
1 cup of frozen edamame (not the in-the-pod kind!!).

Stirred it around, let those edamame cook.

Before I ladled into out, I put a few pieces of dried nori (the kind I bought euphemistcally calls itself "sea vegetable"-- which I guess seaweed is, but...) in the bottom of each bowl.

We had it with a spinach salad and from-the-freezer vegetarian gyoza for a big, satisfying dinner.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant

I've been remiss in posting about what I've been reading. I've been busy getting the site set up for the book I'm writing with Linda Lewis Keeney, One Brave Thing a Day. (Shameless plug, I know, but I'm full of arugula!)

Here's to getting back on track with updating my current reads, though. A few days ago I finished the advance copy of the latest history by Jennet Conant (The Irregulars)-- A Covert Affair: The Adventures of Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS.

It was a great read. How could I not love a book that quotes this letter from Julia to Paul when he was being investigated by the HUAC?

"You are finer, better, more lovable, more attractive, deeper, nicer, nobler, cleverer, stronger, and more wonderful [than other men]... I am so damned lucky even to know you, much less (or more) to be married to you." (pp 20-1)

Conant does a great job of revealing bits about these now-familiar dears. What the title doesn't adequately convey is that the Childs are only about 1/3 of the book, though. The other 2/3 are dedicated to their OSS colleagues and their adventures in the Pacific during and after WWII and the horrors of McCarthyism after the war.

This was a fun-to-read history that taught me loads about the OSS, the politics in the Pacific Theater, and the Red Scare.

Buckwheat noodles with lentils, mushrooms, and arugula

That was lunch. Leftovers from dinner. I tasted better than it looks, I think, but I have decided to try to include photos whenever possible, just to give an idea of the end result.

This was a triumph. Again, Jordy declared it "one of my favorite vegan dishes." (But then as he said today at breakfast, "Anytime you want to cook, I want to eat." I think that's more a statement of his support and appreciation than proof that he doesn't love good food, though.)

If I had been smart, I would have started by cooking the lentils. Instead, I microwaved them vite! vite! in the microwave partway through the preparation of the sauce since I hadn't thought to include them until then.

Be wiser than me.

Start with a cup of lentils. Boil according to directions. (I like them best cooked on the stove in an actual pot, not boiled over in the microwave, but if you need to, microwaving in a pinch works in about 5 minutes.)

I started with/ you can move on to sauteeing

garlic, chopped (about 5 cloves) in olive oil with
3 shallots, chopped

Then I added
10 crimini mushrooms, sliced fine and cooked until they were soft.

Threw in
a handful of chopped pecans
a dash of oregano
a pinch of rosemary
a dash of salt and pepper.

Then I boiled up buckwheat soba noodles. I usually use these in Asian-inspired meals, but I thought, "Why the heck not?" Mine cooked in 6 minutes.

the juice from two wedges of lemon into your sauce.

Toss three handfuls of arugula into the sauce. Stir. Turn off heat. Stir a little more.

Then stir the buckwheat noodles and the sauce together. Ta-da! Done.

Today proved it also works well microwaved the next day. Toss in some more fresh arugula on day 2 if you have it; greens are good for you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Moroccan lentil stew (aka yuppie hobo stew)

Moroccan lentil stew for St. Patrick's Day sounds very wrong, but it actually goes well with Guinness...

Moroccan lentil stew (aka yuppie hobo stew)
a splash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 small potatoes, chopped
2 carrots, cut in rounds
about 5 cups of water
1 can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
one cup of crimson lentils
cumin (about four hearty shakes)
cinnamon (one little shake)
ground cloves (a teensy shake)
one dried bay leaf

Sautee the onion and garlic over low heat. Then add the the potatoes, carrots, and water. Bring to a boil. Add tomatoes and simmer for at least 20 minutes over low heat. Then add the lentils and spices. Let simmer for as long as you want-- the longer you simmer, the heartier your stew.

This recipe was inspired by a customer who came in looking for simple recipes. He said, "I want a cookbook that tells me how to make a goulash. Or a hobo stew. That's all I want." I couldn't find that on my shelves, but I did write out this recipe but simpler for him to try at home--using plain canned tomatoes, no cinnamon, not even any cumin, just salt and pepper, and chopped celery at the water stage to add some flavor. (I had to explain what lentils were. I showed him a photo online and explained that they're small and flat, "about the size of my little pinkie nail." Mr. Hobo Stew thought this was one of the funniest things he'd heard all day.)

So here is my yuppie hobo stew! I don't really know what a hobo stew is, but I figure it has to be cheap and simple, it has to stick to the ribs, it is cooked all in one pot, and it must be easy to eat even without teeth, since hobos don't get to brush, floss, or see the dentist regularly.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kale soup

Here's a warming recipe to get you through to spring...

garlic (5 cloves, chopped)
onions (1, chopped)
mushrooms (I used about 8 crimini, chopped)
carrot (I used a half, cut into a rounds)
black-eyed peas (I soaked a 1/3 cup overnight)
kale (1 bunch, pulled into leeetle pieces)
peas (about 1/3 cup frozen)
2 small red potatoes, chopped into hunks
fennel seed (1/4 tsp)
6 cloves
3 bay leaves
salt & pepper

The key to this soup was the long simmer. I sauteed the garlic, onions, and mushrooms. Then I added the soaked black-eyed peas and enough water to cover them by about two inches. Then I simmered for about 2 hours. I added the kale, carrot, potato, fennel seed, cloves, bay leaves, and salt, then simmered for another hour. I added the peas and the pepper during the last half hour.

Jordy said this soup reminded him of one he had in the South of France called "boiled water." I was trying to do a vegan version of the Portuguese chorizo and kale soup they served at a diner in Rhode Island, but I guess that was a stretch.

This was a great recipe for replenishing after a stomach bug. It goes very well with Saltines.

The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers

If you're a fan of "Miller's Crossing" and liked "The Brothers Bloom," you must read the latest Thomas Mullen novel, out recently in paperback.
The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers is a very entertaining 1930s gangster book with an alluring element of magical realism.
I picked this up on total impulse, despite my HUUUUUGGGGE pile of things I had to read, and I have zero regrets.
Carpe diem! I encourage you to read your next book just because... It's very liberating and satisfying, kind of like playing hooky to go do something really educational.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Butterscotch chocolate chip oat bread

These measurements are all rough... sorry, I've been creative in the kitchen lately, which means that I say, "Oh, what if I added this? Hmm, too dry... Maybe a splash of this?"

If you do nothing else with this recipe, use it as inspiration to be bold! What's the worst that can happen when you bake with butterscotch and chocolate chips?

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 big smooshed very ripe banana
1/8 cup shredded coconut (the sweet kind)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
vanilla almond milk and frangelico until the batter resembled cookie dough consistency (about 1/4 cup almond milk and a big glug of frangelico)
about 1/8 cup each of butterscotch* and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Mix it all up, put it in a greased loaf pan, and cook at 350 for about 45-55 minutes, until it's brown and crispy on top, not TOO smooshy inside.

*I looked closer and realized that the butterscotch chips I have (Nestle) have dairy in them. Since I'm only veganesque, this works for me. But if you have a dairy allergy, leave these out. Maybe substitute more chocolate chips or some chopped pecans?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt

Today's fun teen read surprise:
Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt-- and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell by Crickett Rumley.

Sakes alive, this chatty, sassy first-person narrative about an Alabama teen-come-home who finds herself a part of the esteemed tradition of Magnolia Maids is a hoot! Jane escaped from the humid, close world of Bienville (and away from painful memories of her mom's death), but after she gets kicked out of the latest boarding school, it's back to the land of sweet tea, gossip, big hair, and frenemies like you wouldn't believe.

The novel will be a paperback original coming out from Egmont USA in June. It is a perfect beach/bus/hammock read.

In the meantime, if this sounds good, be sure to check out my friend Kim's hilarious blog: Stuff Southern People Like.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mexican casserole

Vegan potluck. For omnivores. Bonus: It's gluten free, too!

~12 corn tortillas
1 bigass can of vegetarian refried beans (or two normal-sized ones)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 anaheim pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, cut into rounds, then quarter slices
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 butternut squash, chopped (or 1 bag of frozen chunks)
1-3 cups of spinach, depending on how much you like
1 can of tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
1 small can of fire-roasted chopped chiles
1 tsp of vinegar
chile powder

Make this in a big lasagna pan. Think of it like a Mexican lasagna comfort food, but instead of pasta you have corn tortillas. I folded mine and broke them in half to make them easier to fit (flat edges to line up).

I did one layer of tortillas, then topped with a layer of refried beans. Sprinkled the beans lightly with chile powder.

Next layer of tortillas... Top with fajita veggies. I cooked the green and anaheim peppers, the onions, and the zucchini over high heat in a pan until the onions just got a tinge of crisp brown, like a sizzlin' fajita. Spread these evenly over the tortillas.

Next layer of tortillas... First, spread a thin layer of sauce-- can of tomato paste, water, vinegar, canned chiles, chile powder, salsa-- over the tortillas. Top with squash and spinach mixture. I used a bag of frozen squash hunks from the grocery store (so easy) and about six handfuls of spinach. I put the squash and three handfuls with garlic, chile powder, and cumin in a bowl, then microwaved for a minute and half. Stirred, added the rest of the spinach. Nuked for another minute and a half. Stirred. Smooshed the squash. Added some salt and pepper. Dropped clumps of the mix onto the layer of tortillas and spread it around.

Next layer of tortillas. Now mix the remaining beans and remaining sauce together to make a nice thick tomato-y bean-y sauce. Spread over the top of the last layer of tortillas. If you're feeling exciting, add thin slivers of onion or something else vegetal to decorate. (Frozen corn could work.)

Cover your masterpiece with tin foil. You can let it sit like this for hours. (Good for make-ahead!) If you don't have enough room in your fridge because you used a giant lasagna pan and have all sorts of other crap in your fridge, don't fret-- IT'S VEGAN. You're not going to get food poisoning from leaving it out on a cool counter for a few hours. (If it's going to be more than that, make room in the fridge. You should probably clean out your fridge anyway, right?)

Before you serve, cook covered for about 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

For fancy-schmanciness, you can top with slivers of avocado and a sprinkling of cilantro when you serve. If, like me, you get to the party and forget that you have an avocado in your purse, just relax, enjoy the night, and remember to take the avocado out of your purse when you get home.

I wish I'd taken a picture of this. And the "yum" faces as people tried it. Even non-vegans went back for seconds at our party.

(If you're not vegan, this would probably be awesome with the lightest sprinkle of cheddar or cojito cheese. But save yourself money and hassle-- just skip the cheese.)

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Saturday's Book Mixer discussion was fantastic. I loved A Single Man, and I loved hearing all the other readers' different interpretations of it. There was spirited but respectful disagreement on the ending, the character's intentions, and major plot points. Most of us loved it, some were not quite as infatuated, but I think we all came away with great appreciation for the novel and the participants in the discussion.
About three quarters of the way through the book, I went to my fantastic local, indie video store (shout out to Video Isle and Alex, who makes movie magic happen!) and rented the movie. Yowzah. It was a very different story, but I thought the atmosphere and questions raised were in keeping with the spirit of the book. How does one take a very internal novel and make an Oscar-winning movie from it? Yup, you may need to add some big drama, change who's had affairs and why, substitute two adorable dogs for a garage-ful or animals, and attach geniuses like Colin Firth and Julianne Moore to the project. I have to say THANK YOU TOM FORD-- the changes added even more to my thoughts about the novel, and we had that much more to talk about! We discussed for two hours and could have kept going.
I highly recommend A Single Man for book clubs. If you can make everyone watch the movie, do that, too.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Turmeric ginger carrot and garbanzo soup

Inspired by Liz of DishingWell's recent shout out to turmeric and its healthful properties, I served a tasty bright orange soup tonight. (A jolt of color that was very welcome after a very rainy day.)

Turmeric Ginger Carrot and Garbanzo Soup
1/2 onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
small hunk of ginger root, peeled and cut in slivers
1 package of peeled baby carrots
water (about 4 cups)
turmeric (about 1 tsp?)
cumin (about the same)
ground cardamom (about 1/4 tsp)
a handful of frozen peas

I sauteed the onions, garlic, and shallots in a pan with a touch of canola oil.
Then I added the rest of the ingredients (except the peas, salt, pepper) and simmered it up for a while. ("A while" translates to an hour plus-- I kind of lost track of time, but it was the time it took to read about 1/3 of the upcoming teen novel The Implosion of Aggie Winchester by Laura Zielin-- a fun goth girl/bass master prom romp.)

I added some salt and pepper. I checked to make sure all the sweet potato and carrots were smooshy. Then I used my wonder immersion blender-- but left a few hunks in the now brilliant orange bisque-like soup.

Then I added a handful of frozen peas because I wanted the color contrast of the bright green against the intense orange.

I served it with mini-ciabatta rolls stuffed with spinach leaves (tucked in while the rolls were still hot, so it wilted nicely) and slices of avocado with just a hint of salt.

(To be honest, I also gave us each a little serving of Jordy's leftover Mexican Mac & Cheese from dinner at the 5 Spot's vegetarian Wednesday last night, too. But if you were being all vegan-strict, you wouldn't have that in the house anyway, right?)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dear Michael Pollan

Dear Michael Pollan (of Food Rules and other food introspection fame),
I was hungry enough to eat an apple.
But I chose vegan gingerbread cake with chocolate chips instead.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Escarole: the party dress of veggies

At the grocery store the other day, escarole caught my eye. Amidst the tough-skinned cukes, the crocodile-like texture of the hearty kale, and the rubbery solidity of cabbages, escarole looked like a party dress. It was white with green edges-- like piping! It had frills! I had no idea how to cook it, but I knew I wanted to eat it.

(Crazy blogger aside: Talented people would certainly make a gorgeous dress out of escarole. Have you seen what they can do with toilet paper?)

I braised it up. We ate the whole bunch in one sitting.

How to cook party dress escarole:

Heat oil, diced garlic, and chili flakes in a pan.
Rinse your pretty escarole well. Slice into strips. (Some will be frillier than others.) It's ok if some of the stems get in there.
Add your escarole strips to the hot pan. Let it cook down for a few minutes. Your escarole will start to wilt. It won't be as spring-green. Do not be sad! It will taste better this way.
Add water, salt, a teaspoon of sugar, and some thin slivers of lemon. Turn down the heat. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
Keep peeking. Stir. Don't let it burn! Add more water if you need. Sample it. Add more of whatever you want. (Sequins? No, they don't taste good. Maybe just more pepper.)

I'm smitten with escarole. It felt like comfort food, but I'm pretty sure it had some good nutrients, even after I cooked the hell out of it.

Friday, January 7, 2011

PNBA Awards are announced!

I can finally stop keeping secrets!
The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association 2011 Book Awards are out!

The winners are:

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr
River House by Sarahlee Lawrence
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

and a lifetime achievement award to Nancy Pearl.

What a great list, and what a fun process!

Here is the official list, with commentary:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy New Year!

For the first time in several years, I return from the holiday shenanigans without the urgent need for self-imposed detox. I'm crediting my quasi-veganism!

While a great new year's resolution would be to add to this blog more, I'm going to go easy on myself. Writing for the store's newsletter,, the neighborhood blog, the book, and my new pet project (shh, it's secret so far!)-- that's all keeping me pretty busy.

But I will continue to post here when I can, with food and book updates.

For your list-browsing pleasure, I do herewith include a link to my Top Ten of 2010 list:
Adult books (You know, for grown-ups! Get your mind out of the gutter!)

As of this post, my commentary is not yet up, but I'm sure my dedicated coworker Lil and I will get to that soon!