Thursday, June 28, 2012

In Death Series Reading Challenge June 2012

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE and join the fun! 

Did you read any In Death series books this month? 

Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. If you made a post on your blog, whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily. You can also just use the link to your goodreads or other virtual bookshelf as well.

None from me this month.

I've had Strangers in Death on my nightstand for weeks now and just haven't felt like picking it up. I enjoy these books very much, but I find I have to be in the right mood to want to read them. Like most In Death readers, I've gotten this far in the series because of the characters. It's like catching up with a friend.. sometimes the time between visits is long, but once we get together it's like we never parted. I know once I decide to start reading Strangers in Death, I'll get pulled in to the story and enjoy it. And then wonder why I was pushing it off for so long.

What drives you to pick up the next book in this series? 

Library Loot LIV

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! 

I had a happy library looting the other day. As if there's any other kind...

The Witness by Nora Roberts
I've been waiting weeks and weeks and weeks and I finally got the call. It's my turn to read The Witness by Nora Roberts. I'm so excited. Funny thing is, I haven't really read a whole lot of Ms. Roberts' romances, yet she is still my most read author on goodreads. [Go to My Books in your profile then scroll down. On the left sidebar there is a link to your most read authors under tools]. She is my #1 most read author as J.D. Robb [30 books so far] and tied for #7 as Nora Roberts [9 books so far]. Anyway, The Witness is Nora Roberts' most recent release and her 200th full length novel! So impressive! More importantly, it has been getting really wonderful reviews, so I'm really looking forward to it. I'm going to start reading it as soon as I finish my current read. Probably by the weekend.

I also picked up two FABULOUS cookbooks from the new release shelf at my library. I've already thumbed through both of these and I love them.

The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman
Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
 Oh! And from last week, which I didn't get around to posting, I borrowed this:

Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD 
Published by Rodale books [<<--love them], this book is very, very informative on the startling connections between the excess of wheat in the typical American diet and belly fat! Lose the wheat, lose the weight. From what I've read so far, and based on my experience having gone gluten free for three weeks .. I believe it.

What are you reading right now?

Monday, June 25, 2012

REVIEW: Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty

Published 2007 by Spice
TBR Challenge June 2012

This is my June TBR Challenge review, which was due last Wednesday. I lost track of time a bit this month and was still in the middle of reading my pick when TBR Day rolled around. At least I followed through, finished and reviewed the book.

The theme for this month's TBR Challenge was to read a western from your TBR pile. I had all of two western romances on my TBR pile.. Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman and Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty. I chose Caine's Reckoning because I remember reading so many rave reviews for this one when it first came out, which is how it found its way to my TBR pile in the first place.

This TBR Challenge is hosted by Wendy the SuperLibrarian. To learn more about the challenge and visit the links to other TBR reviews this month search the hash tag #tbrchallenge on twitter.

Caine's Reckoning is the first book in the western historical romance series, Hell's Eight. The series follows eight men who have banded together after having suffered terrible atrocities and losses as young adults. Now Texas Rangers, the men are their own family now and together and raise horses on their territory known as Hell's Eight. Each book in the series tells the story of one the men as he finds love and a happy ending.

Caine's Reckoning takes place in Texas in 1858--a harsh time in western history when tensions were high between white men and Native Americans and each often befell horrific atrocities at the other's hands. It was also a dangerous time for women, in general, especially if she didn't have a man to protect her. This story begins with Caine and two of his men coming to the rescue of women who were kidnapped from their families. One of the women is fighting with all her might against her captors and her ferocity catches Caine's attention. When the men return the women to town, it becomes obvious that this fierce young woman, Desi, has been essentially kept against her will by her apparent guardian. In an effort to protect her, Caine marries Desi and takes her to Hell's Eight territory where she can heal and perhaps find peace living on the ranch.

Desi is a beautiful, fragile looking woman but a courageous survivor of abuse and rape, with a fierce desire to live free. She has survived terrible atrocities in the last year, including the deaths of her parents and brother and the separation from her twin sister Ari. Desi's story is revealed slowly throughout the book as she begins to open up and trust Caine. She is challenged in many ways and grows tremendously while under his protection. She learns the truth about tender, caring relations between a man and a woman in a consensual relationship and her sense of self worth is rebuilt. In the meantime, Desi's evil and abusive guardian makes several attempts to get her back, placing her life and the lives of Hell's Eight on the line, which adds to the intensity and sense of adventure of the story.

I enjoyed reading Caine's Reckoning very much. The plot is intense and gritty and Desi is an admirable heroine. She suffered so much in the last year of her life before she was rescued by Caine and I wanted first and foremost for her to find the safe, loving environment that she needed to heal and find peace and acceptance. I finished the story knowing she was going to be more than just okay, but very deeply and well loved. She deserves nothing less.

From the very first page, I knew Caine and all of the men of Hell's Eight were the type of men who would protect Desi or any woman who needed it at any cost. They're extremely protective and aggressive, but also have very tender sides. I sometimes felt, however that Caine was a bit too aggressive with Desi. The sex in this book is more erotic than in most mainstream romances, which is fine and what I was expecting, but some of the scenes just seemed like too much too soon given the circumstances of Desi's past. Never did I think Caine wanted to hurt or traumatize Desi further and in fact, his desire to protect her was very sincere and prominent. Yet there were several instances when I felt he was not respectful enough of her need for space and to take things slowly. He eventually figured it out, though, and let things progress at Desi's pace, but still, I found it hard to believe that after just a few weeks under Caine's protections and affections that she would have been so receptive to some of the eroticism he was introducing in their bed.

Overall, Caine's Reckoning is a really good story. It's a gritty erotic western historical romance chock full of love, passion, gentle humor and some gun fighting action. While I'm not particularly motivated to read the entire series, I am interested in reading book four in this series, Tracker's Sin. It's the story of Tracker, one of Hell's Eight, who promised Desi that he would find and rescue her twin sister, Ari.

Wishing we could award half star ratings on goodreads, I give Caine's Reckoning 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Arugula & Garlic Scape Pesto

I've been looking for recipe ideas for arugula and garlic scapes over the last couple of days since I brought home both in our co-op box on Thursday. I typically prepare arugula raw in salads or sauté it with garlic and olive oil. Garlic scapes** we get in our box once a year around now and I usually just use it in sautéed vegetables. I wanted to try something new but needed some inspiration. 

garlic scapes
**garlic scapes are the flowering stalk tops of hardneck garlic plants. They are cut off during the growing period just before this 'flower' starts to develop into seeds or tiny bulbs. This helps force the plant to put its energy into growing plump garlic bulb in the soil.

Then on Friday I saw a tweet with a picture from the executive chef of a fabulous local restaurant [and she's following me! *tickled pink*] as she was preparing to roast garlic scapes for a homemade butter to be used in the restaurant. Doesn't that sound divine?!! Not very practical for me to make a pound of garlic scape infused butter, so I asked her for garlic scape suggestions and she replied, "Pesto hummus pasta dishes mussels clams anything u would use reg garlic for!" 

I loved the pesto and hummus ideas, so I decided to give both a try this weekend. First up was the pesto last night. I experimented with what I had in my veggie box and made an arugula-garlic scape pesto that turned out well. Very well if you love garlic. Here's my recipe:

Arugula & Garlic-scape Pesto 

This pesto is a lovely spring green color and smells like fragrant spring greens. I tossed the pesto with some fresh cooked pasta and a bit of reserved cooking liquid from the pasta. I served it with simple pan seared shrimp seasoned with spices and tomato chunks sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. It was a lovely dinner. :) 

1 bunch arugula 
4 garlic scapes
1/2 cup whole almonds
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt

1. Thoroughly wash and drain or spin arugula and set aside. For instructions on washing greens, see my note at the bottom of this post. 

2. Add four garlic scapes cut into rough 1/2" pieces and 1/2 cup whole almonds into the bowl of a food processor and process until finely minced. 

3. Add the arugula to the food processor bowl, tearing large leaves as you go along. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and start processing the greens with the garlic and almonds. If necessary, stop the processor and mix up the ingredients with a spatula to help the process.
4. Add more olive oil to the pesto, 1 tablespoon at a time followed by 30 seconds to 1 minute of processing, until the pesto is well processed. The pesto will swirl around in the processor bowl and look uniform in color and texture when enough olive oil has been added. 
Note: I think I used about 4-5 tablespoons total when making this recipe. 2 tablespoons in step 3 and then 2-3 tablespoons more in step 4. 

5. Use this pesto as you would a basil pesto.. as a base on Homemade Pizza or tossed with pasta and served with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. If using on pasta, it's always a good idea to reserve some of the cooking liquid from the pot of boiling pasta to thin the pesto a bit so it evenly coats the pasta. Add in small increments so you don't completely water down the pesto. 

Kitchen Tip: Washing Greens

  1. Invest in a good salad spinner. I love the OXO salad spinner and use mine almost every day. My first OXO salad spinner lasted me 10 years before the spinner component in the top stopped working. I bought my second one about a year ago.
  2. Add cool water to the salad spinner bowl and add greens. Do not cut or tear leaves until the end.. good things will leach out of your greens into the water. Keep them in the leaves as much as possible so they get into your body and don't get dumped down the drain! 
  3. Gently swish the leaves around a bit and then let them sit in the water a few minutes. This gives sand and dirt time to settle to the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes little bitty bugs float to the top, especially if you are using organic greens [<--I recommend you do]. 
  4. If you have little bitty bugs floating on top, gently press the greens into the water a bit and carefully tilt the bowl into the sink so some of the water drains off and carries the bugs into the sink. Drain only a bit of the water, not a lot. 
  5. Carefully lift greens out of the water by the handful and put them in the basket or strainer of the spinner, which you are holding over the sink. 
  6. When all of the greens are in the basket or strainer, set aside. 
  7. Dump water from bowl into sink. 
  8. Repeat steps 2 through 7 until water in bowl is clear of any sand, dirt, grit or bugs. 
  9. When your greens are clean, put basket back into spinner bowl, add top and spin to remove as much water as you can. 
  10. If you are not using a spinner, use paper towels to gently dry the greens as much as you can. 
  11. NOW you can tear, chop, chiffonade and basically cut up your greens in the way you want for your recipe. 

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Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Kitchen Garden Wish List

I still haven't been blogging or blog hopping very much lately and I miss it! I have been using some 'me time' to read and play around on twitter and Instagram, but it doesn't have the same level of engagement as blogging. I know I keep saying this, but I hope to catch up with all of you very soon. In the meantime, please tell me what's new and what's been keeping YOU busy lately?

My plan was to have a post up last month last week this week about my newly established, finished vegetable garden but alas, I'm still not finished! ArGh! I'm easily two months behind schedule, but that's okay. At least I'm finally getting somewhere with it and I will be growing things in there very soon. Hopefully I'll be able to harvest tomatoes before the fall frost. Ha ha I'm kidding. It shouldn't be that late. ; )

I'm going to save a lot of my thoughts and ideas about establishing a new vegetable garden for its own post when my garden is finished and I can post before, after and in between photos. In the meantime, I'll talk about my kitchen garden wish list. I'm not going to be able to plant all of my wish list this year and maybe not even ever if I don't have the space, but I've been thinking about what I'd like to grow. In the years that I had a vegetable garden [in the space which our four year old home addition now occupies], I learned a lot about what I can and can't grow easily, if it's worth it to grown my own of certain items, and so on. I've also been thinking lately about what we like to eat in my family that we do not get often enough in our organic co-op. Why work hard to grow stuff I already get from local farmers. Better to focus my efforts on the things I want more of for my family. Makes sense, right?

My kitchen garden wish list:
sugar snap peas
beets [ever since I discovered how lovely raw beets are in salad!]
herbs [especially basil and cilantro]
tomatoes [heirlooms]
zucchini [for baby squash with blossoms attached]

I already have a rhubarb plant in a pot that I bought years ago and never planted in a permanent spot. It's truly amazing the plant is still alive. I can't wait to see how it responds when I finally plant it in a happy spot. I also have some perennial herbs growing in various places in my landscaping that I'd like to replant into the new kitchen garden area so everything is more accessible. I have mint, chocolate mint, oregano, chives, garlic chives [also called Chinese chives, I think], thyme and the tiniest potted French tarragon plant that really needs its own spot in the soil to thrive.

Asparagus takes a lot of space and time to get established and you need a lot to provide a respectable harvest for a family of five, so I don't know if it's practical for a small garden. Same goes for strawberries. I tried blueberry bushes many years ago, but it was a major battle with the birds for a small handful of berries. It just so happens that deer and rabbits like to eat the tender branches in the winter and one year they pruned my little bushes down to the ground. That didn't turn out so well. Perhaps raspberry bushes are less appealing to them and I can give them a try.

What edibles are on your kitchen garden wish list?

In other vegetable news, the local growing season is taking off around here and it shows in my latest co-op box:
Organic goodness in yesterday's co-op box
Look at all those greens! Two HUGE bunches of Red Russian kale, garlic scapes**, two bunches of arugula, red leaf lettuce, broccoli and dill. We also got Yukon gold potatoes and from CA-- oranges, carrots, and nectarines; a tomato, bananas and NJ blueberries!

**garlic scapes are the flowering stalk tops of hardneck garlic plants. They are cut off during the growing period just before this 'flower' starts to develop into seeds or tiny bulbs. This helps force the plant to put its energy into growing plump garlic bulb in the soil.

In what ways would you eat and or cook this organic goodness? I'm especially looking for inspiration with the arugula and garlic scapes.

The weather this weekend is going to be divine here in my neighborhood and I've got lots of healthy plans on my calendar: A 35 mile bike ride Saturday morning, a visit to a local farmer's market right after with my cycling partner, juicing some of these glorious vegetables at another friend's house later and then finishing up my new kitchen garden the rest of the weekend. I'll be sure to squeeze in some time with the family, watch a bit of Euro 2012 football and probably a midday nap in there somewhere, too! (I love those)... ^_^

What are some of your plans this weekend? Whatever you're up to... hope it's fabulous. xo

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Library Loot LIII ... and a BEA Story

BEA 2012 Story. 

Around this time last year, I wrote a Library Loot & BEA story post about how I went into the city one evening during the Book Expo of America (BEA) to meet book blogging friend Michelle [Red Headed Book Child] for dinner. While I was walking to the Javits Center from Penn Station one day in June 2011, I unexpectedly bummed into the marvelous dynamic duo Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers on the streets of New York [We had met online in 2008 and in person in 2010]. Granted they were attending BEA but still ... what are the odds of being on the same street, the same side of the street at the same time, right?

This year I went into the city on Tuesday evening to meet up with some wonderful book blogging friends who were attending BEA 2012. While I was walking to the Javits Center, I thought it be funny if I bumped into Ana and Thea on the sidewalk again. But really... what are the odds of that? Well. I was about to cross 11th Avenue at 34th and you're not going to believe it, but I bumped into Thea! Wow. Two years in a row. Can that even be called a coincidence?!!!

In the Javits Center I met up with Kristen [] and Janice [Janicu's Book Blog] and then was joined by Kate [Babbling about Books and More] and Ana [The Book Smugglers] all of whom I've met before. I also met with Leanna Renee Hieber, author and friend of Kate, and for the first time, I met Jessica [Read React Review], who I admire very much. After hanging out for a while over a snack and some iced coffee, Kristen and Janice left for a sci/fi event at the New York Public Library, Ana left to met Thea for a party, and Kate, Leanna, Jessica and I went out to dinner and chatted some more. Of course we chatted about the expo and books and a whole bunch of other stuff. Such a nice evening and I was home just after 9:30pm! Example #16 why I love where I live. :)

Where you at BEA? Did you like it?

Library Loot: 

Here's a look at my latest library loot.

First is a recently released cookbook that I borrowed as soon as it came in, The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. I had to return it already because it's only a 14 day book and there is a hold list for it, but I did jot down a frew recipes and I'm either going to borrow it again or just buy it for myself! I love this book!

Yesterday I came home with this pile of books:

 from left to right: 

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides for London and Scotland. 
I also looked for one for Iceland at two of my local libraries and didn't find one. Can you guess where we're going on vacation this summer? So excited!!!

V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Graphic novel.
This one consistently pops up on the top of goodreads Listopia lists for the best graphic novels, so I thought I'd check it out. I have not seen the movie either so I'm very curious.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
This version is published by HarperTeen imprint of Harper Collins Publishing and comes across as an appealing way to introduce Shakespeare to teen readers who perhaps shy away from the classics or books that are considered "stuffy." It has some Extra sections--including a love quiz at the end. Pretty cute. I'm reading this for my Once Upon a Time challenge.

Bean by Bean: a cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon.
I saw this cookbook reviewed by Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking months ago, and she really liked it. I already flipped through it and found some great information on cooking with beans and many delicious sounding recipes. Soups, stews, salads and even sweets from many diverse ethnic cuisines. I want to try so many of them!

It just so happened that the library was having another used book sale and I showed immense restraint and only came home with three books!

Blood and Gold by Anne Rice.
A few years ago I bought nearly the entire set of Vampire Chronicles books at the used book sale for maybe $5. My friend Mariana gave me a few that I didn't have a year or so after that and now I found one more! When I first started reading romance, I devoured a lot of paranormal vampire romance and thought this would be a neat collection to have, even though I know it's not romance. I don't know if I'll ever read them, but I like having them on my bookshelf.

The Edinburgh Dead by Brian Ruckley
This book caught my eye because of the title. Since we will be visiting Edinburgh on vacation this summer, I thought why not read this book that takes place there before I go! It will be perfect for the Book Pilgrimage Challenge I am participating in. The one I didn't tell you about yet! Oops.

On first glance, I thought this book was an historical murder mystery, but upon a closer look, I see it is published by Orbit books. Which means fantasy! Now I'm thinking it's an historical murder mystery fantasy novel. I'm very intrigued!

His At Night by Sherry Thomas
When I asked Jessica on Tuesday night who some of her favorite authors are, historical romance writer Sherry Thomas was one she mentioned. While I do have one or two of Thomas' books on my TBR pile somewhere, I still haven't read any of her works. So when the yellow-gold cover of His At Night jumped out at me at the used book sale yesterday, I took it as a sign and snatched it up!

What books do you have out from the library right now?

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at ???

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Neverwhere Read Along: PART III

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Chapter 13 - The End.

First a quick thanks to my Neverwhere friends who took the time to come by and read my discussion questions last week. Secondly, my apologies for not having gotten around to visiting all of your posts in return. I had a busy week that cut into my blogging time. It's a poor excuse, but it is mine. I promise to be better this week.

This entry concludes the three part read along hosted by Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings. Instead of discussion questions this week, Carl has invited readers to discuss their overall thoughts on the book and anything specific that stood out to them in the final section. To read other readers' concluding remarks on Neverwhere, visit this week's read along link-up at Stainless Steel Droppings.


As I mentioned in my Part I discussion post of Neverwhere, when I sat down to read this book for the read along, I was enjoying it so much that I couldn't put it down at the designated chapters and so I read the whole book before week one was even upon us. I highly recommend it. There was one thing that really bugged me in last third of the book that I felt never got explained or didn't quite make sense to me that I address in this post. Before that, however, I want to first mention all the scenes and elements that I loved about this section of the book.

Angel Islington. An angel! He It came across so calm and pure ... knowledgeable and powerful. And it was the bad guy! I was duped, people. I didn't consider Islington to be the villain and was a bit shocked to learn that Islington was in fact the one who hired Croup and Vandemar to kill Door's family and go after Door. Shocked and concerned for our band of friends who clearly thought the same as I did--that Islington would help Door find out who killed her family and why and help Richard get his life back in London Above. How would they ever survive his lair?

The Marquis de Carabas. By now we know he's not as shady a character as we feared in the beginning of the book. Yes, he's still very mysterious, but thankfully we've established he's trustworthy. I was immensely pleased to also learn in this last section of the book that he's very, very clever [he knew enough to give the box to Old Bailey earlier so that he could save his life!] and rather heroic. He doesn't give up on Door or Richard and he sees them through to the end. Thank you Marquis. :)

Hunter. Oh Hunter. I really felt sorry for her. Her drive to conquer the Beast was SO strong that it blinded her to the possibility that maybe there's more to life than being THE ONE. She was willing to pay any price to be the one to kill the Beast, including betraying innocent people who grew to be her friends! It was at least satisfying to know that she regretted her choices. I'm just sad she learned her lesson a little too late.

Door. Oddly I don't really have much to say about Door. She is a key character [pun intended!!] who really holds the story together and keeps it moving, and I liked her very much in this book. She's determined, independent, kind hearted and she knows when to ask for help. I would read another book about her if Gaiman ever wrote one.

Richard. Forever humble and loyal he's the nice guy who always finishes last and I wouldn't want him any other way. I want to say that Richard's journey in London Below with Door, de Carabas, Hunter, Anaesthesia and even Old Bailey changed him.. but I don't think change is the right word. He's still the same guy only now his eyes are open, he's a bit more confident [except perhaps where high heights are involved.. ], and I picture him standing a little bit taller than he used to. I also like to think that now when he smiles ... it just feels right.

My favorite scenes in this last section of reading were when Richard was absolutely terrified of crossing the plank to the Underside and Door and Hunter needed to coax him across the chasm. I don't know why this short scene stands out for me. Perhaps just because Richard's terror felt very real to me. I also liked the series of scenes after this in the Labyrinth--the Marquis saving Richard from Lamia, Hunter's betrayal is revealed, the face off with the Beast, Hunter's death scene and of course when Richard, the Marquis and Door survive Islington and his cronies! The best part, though, was the very last scene when Richard was pounding on the outline of a door he made in a brick wall and the Marquis opened it and casually asked, "Well? Are you coming?" And Richard went home to London Below. I just love a happy ending. :)

So what didn't I like? I got hung up on Islington's motives and actions in the last third of the book. Maybe I just missed something important, but from what I understand, Islington had been locked away in his vault because he is an angel who went bad, the height of his badness perhaps the fall of Atlantis. He wants to be freed and to do so he needs a key and an opener--someone who can use the key. Someone like Door and her family who have the very unique talent for opening any lock or door. Islington offered a deal to Door's father: if Door's father opened the door for Islington setting him free, he would help Door's father in his political efforts to unite London Below. Door's father refused and so Islington ordered him and his whole family killed. But why kill the entire family? Why kill the only people who could free him and give him what he so desperately wanted? This makes no sense to me.

The only thing I can think of is that Islington ordered Croup and Vandemar to hunt and kill Door's family and then Door [she wasn't home at the time of the murders] out of pure rage? You'd think an angel who has survived this long would have the patience and evil cunning to devise a plan that would force the hand of any member of Door's family after proving his ruthlessness by killing the father. Or at the start, why not kidnap the whole family as leverage and then make Door's father choose between his family's lives or setting Islington free?

In a desperate moment, Islington even tried to sway Door by suggesting he didn't kill her sister and had her hidden away somewhere [Was her body ever found at the murder scene?]. Why didn't he do that in the very first place and then use the sister to get Door to set him free? I'm thinking that would have put Door in an awfully tight spot and she might have just done anything to get her sister back. Instead he tries to have her killed then changes his mind when he thinks she could get the key?

What do you think? Did Islington's poor motivations and weak actions bother you at all? Am I over thinking this?

Overall a great story that would appeal to fans of urban style fantasy and humble quests. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I'll be traveling to London this summer with my family and of course, using the tube. Rest assured I will be remember to "Mind the gap!" at every instance and will be looking for hidden doors, empty train cars and any signs of our friends. While in London Above I'll keep my eye out for a man dressed in feathers and keep my ears tuned for news on where I might find the Floating Market...

Monday, June 4, 2012

My May Adventures

If you stopped by looking for my Neverwhere Read Along discussion, I'll be posting that tomorrow.

It's June! June! Three more weeks of school and then summer! This is such a busy time of year around here. I'm sure it's the same for all of you as well.

I posted earlier this month about my youngest daughter's dance recital--such fun! She's also been busy with girl scouts as her Cadette troop is working towards their Silver Award. I am starting to feel tapped out as a leader, so I'll be glad to have a bit of a break from it over the summer.

My oldest has been busy, too. Mostly with schoolwork and a very busy social life. Last week we attended a small Academic Awards ceremony at the high school at which she received an award from Brandeis University for outstanding academic achievement and civic service. She also recently completed a wonderful project for her high school orchestra for which she filmed, photographed and edited a video about the impact of water on our community that accompanied the orchestra's performance of a beautiful piece by Philip Glass. The video was projected on a large screen behind the orchestra. It was quite moving.. especially given the devastating effects Hurricane Irene had on our community last August.

Lots of proud moments in May! While I couldn't possibly top the accomplishments of my kids, I may as well tell you what I've been up to last month. ; )

In fitness: 
I easily met my 100 fitness mile goal for May with a total of 120 miles. Interestingly, I took quite a few rest days this month, but apparently I made up for it on the days that I did workout, especially in cycling. Most of my rides these days are 30-40 miles which is at least 2 hours on the bike. On Memorial Day, my cycling partner and I clocked just under 4 hours to bike 59.4 miles---my new longest distance in a single ride.

I mentioned last month [in April] that I wanted to increase strength training and aside from my Monday powercuts class and maybe 15 minutes of abs, light weights at the end of kickbox class and a bonus TRX class, I haven't been doing any other strength training. I need to work on increasing that. Here's a look at what I did in May:

Run 23.07 miles :     ~241 minutes
Bike 170.54 miles :   ~705 minutes
Kickbox & Abs : 300 minutes
Spin & Abs :       150 minutes
Strength training:        240 minutes
TOTAL:   1636 minutes     or     27 hours 16 minutes

What did you do to keep moving last month?
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In books: 
I read eight books in May and from quite a few different genres, too. I'm pretty happy about that.

Non-fiction ...... 1
     [Health & fitness]

Romance .............. 2
Crime fiction ....... 1
Young Adult ....;;.. 1
Fiction .................. 1
Fantasy ................ 2

1. Creation in Death by J.D. Robb
2. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
3. Saving Grace by Julie Garwood
4. If I Die by Rachel Vincent
5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
6. Food Rules by Michael Pollan
7. Cold Magic by Kate Elliot
8. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I have to say that I loved all of these books and would recommend each and every one. If I HAD to pick favorites? Hmm... The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan is a wonderful novella and the first in a new series. I have a review partially written that I hope to finish, but know that I did love it. It's Kindle lendable, too, so let me know if you're interested in borrowing it. I think I can lend it out at least twice.

Saving Grace by Julie Garwood. A timeless medieval romance and a favorite among so many romance readers. You can read my review HERE.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell is a really solid, engaging read, too. A lot of readers classify it as romance, but it's not exactly. It's more general fiction with romantic elements. Not quite chick-lit either because most of the book is really about the male protagonist, so it's really more dude-lit which is a brand new sub-genre coined by Brie from Romance Around the Corner. You heard it first from her, folks. Remember that when dude-lit goes rampant. ;o)

Gigi likes Cold Magic by Kate Elliot!
Honorable mention goes to Cold Magic by Kate Elliot. I originally shelved this book in young adult, but it really straddles into adult fantasy fiction. The protagonists are not minors at nineteen years old and older and in fact at the marriageable age. The setting is Victorian-England-esque alternate history with a steampunk component. A lot of fascinating people--powerful mages, princes, spiritwalkers and others-- cultures, histories and politics between peoples and three main characters whose fates get personally entangled with each other and those of power. There is a lot of information to digest in this book, but the story premise, setting and characters were so interesting that it was so worth reading. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in this trilogy, Cold Fire. The concluding book in the trilogy, Cold Steel comes out in 2013.

What interesting books did you read in May?
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A bouquet of African Roses
In photography:
My Project 366 is now a Project 362. Yes, I missed another TWO days in May. Ugh. Oh well. I decided to have a little bit of fun this month by participating in the photo a day challenge hosted by blogger fatmumslim who blogs at Fat Mum Slim. There's a daily prompt every day for the month and users post their photos on instagram, twitter, facebook, a blog, flickr or pinterest using the hash tag #photoadayJune. Fun!

As always, you can follow my photography challenges on

Are you on instagram? Friend me!

In the garden: 
The deer are in my yard almost every night munching on anything and everything green. I know what they're all saying..
"Hey, have you been to that organic salad bar down the street yet? It's amazing! They've got a wide variety of plants to choose from, loaded with tender shoots, plump flower buds, and lush leaves. Not only is it 100% organic but it's all you can eat AND open 24/7!" 
Nice. I woke up one day last week to discover they ate most of the tops off my budding purple coneflower plants last week. This means my coneflowers will be blooming late and won't be so lush this year. Again. I know they have to eat, too, but sheesh, I sure wish they knew how to show a bit of restraint so I could enjoy a few flowers. I have an inkling that the day lilies are on this week's menu. I haven't seen a day lily flower bloom in my yard for a couple of years now. But really, what are you going to do? They're only doing what they're supposed to do, right?

I started converting that section of my perennial flower bed into a new vegetable garden, but I haven't yet finished. In fact, that's on my to-do list for this week. A friend of mine gave me several pots of tomato seedlings that sprouted up in her garden from the seeds of last year's dropped fruit and I've got to get them in the ground soon. I'm already a couple of weeks late. A few of them even have flowers already. Oh how I love the promise of homegrown tomatoes! I'm not sure what else I want to try to grow this year. At this point, I'll be happy just to have a nice harvest of herbs and tomatoes.

Are you growing an edibles in your yard?

Thanks for reading about my month! Wishing you a joyous June! xo

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Lime Curd {from homegrown limes!}

A few weeks ago my husband was in Texas visiting two aunts and an uncle while also participating in the MS 150 cycling event. Knowing how much I love gardens, he was texting me photos of his aunt and uncle's modest but prolific backyard garden. Not only was I envious of their prolific garden, but they were growing all sorts of edibles that can't survive the climate in my zone 6 backyard--lemons and limes, for example. Imagine walking into your backyard and to pick a lemon off a tree to squeeze into whatever dish you're preparing right at that moment!

To my delight and great fortune, my husband's aunt and uncle sent him home with a big ziploc bag full of adorable baby limes. They look like lemons on the outside and like juicy miniature oranges on the inside, but I've been assured they are indeed limes. I have no other choice but to believe them despite what my eyes tell me.. because what do I know of backyard varieties of homegrown citrus fruit? Besides, the fragrance and taste is closer to supermarket limes than to either lemons or oranges. So limes they are!

I wanted to do something special with this bounty of limes and aside from homemade margaritas, which I would be the only one in my house enjoying, I decided on lime curd. Most people are familiar with lemon curd, but if you don't know what curd is, it's essentially a citrus custard without the cream. The final product has a creamy consistency and sweet tart. Think of a lemon filling in a layer cake.

I came up with this recipe after looking up lime curd recipes online. I essentially compared the butter-juice-sugar-egg proportions from other recipes and then kind of made up my own based on the amount of lime juice I ended up with from my limes, wanting to reducing the amount of butter called for in most recipes, and wanting to use egg yolks as opposed to whole eggs in my recipe since I had several egg yolks in my fridge already after needing egg whites for other recipes last week and I know omitting the whites will result in a richer, creamier curd than if the whites were added as well.

Lime Curd 
5 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces 
1 cup lime juice 
1 cup sugar 
5 egg yolks 
pinch of salt

test for proper
  • Juice the limes and then strain through a sieve to remove any seeds and pulp. 
  • Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed, non reactive pan on medium low heat. 
  • Add the sugar, lime juice, egg yolks and pinch of salt, whisking mixture until smooth. 
  • Heat mixture over medium low heat, stirring frequently with the whisk or a spoon until mixture thickens, about 10-15 minutes. The lime curd should be thick enough that when you put a bit on a plate and run your finger through it, there is a path left that does not fill back in with curd. Like in the photo on right photo.. 
  • Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes then transfer into a clean glass jar. 
  • Cover surface of curd with parchment paper to keep a skin from forming as it cools. Or if you're like me, forget the parchment paper and just peel the skin off (and eat it!) before using the curd.

Makes 1 3/4 cups.
Store lime curd in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks--if it lasts that long!

So what do you do with lime curd? Here are some ideas:

  • make a yogurt parfait with alternating layers of plain, nonfat yogurt and lime curd, topped with diced kiwi, pineapple, strawberry or blueberries 
  • spoon it on biscuits or scones make a trifle with cubes of pound cake, lime curd and top with berries and whipped cream. 
  • Cut a pound cake in half horizontally, spoon lime curd onto bottom layer and top with the other half of pound cake. Top with whipped cream and blueberries for a special dessert. 
  • Line a tart pan with a graham cracker crust, fill with lime curd and top with sliced fresh fruit for a delicious fruit tart dessert. 
  • Prepare a lightly sweetened pie crust in a pie pan, fill with lime curd and top with fresh whipped cream for an instant lime tart. 
  • Spoon out the top of mini corn or blueberry muffins with a melon baller and fill with lime curd. 
  • Add small layers of crushed graham crackers and spoonfuls of lime curd to homemade vanilla frozen yogurt in a freezer safe container for a lime tart frozen yogurt! 

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Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post.