Non-Fiction Reading Challenge

I love reading non-fiction. I also love the library.

My city has a particularly good public library system, and not far from me is one of the most beautiful libraries I have ever seen (not including, of course, the public library in Manhattan that has been featured in several films with its giant lion statues.)

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Photo from the MetroLibrary site. The interior is even cooler.

I end up at the library frequently because a) I love working on my freelance writing projects in a quiet place that isn’t my apartment, and b) I can’t really afford to go out and buy books more than once or twice a year. It’s just not in the budget.

The non-fiction section at Northwest is one of my favorite places to wander, and I usually end up picking up at least one (if not more) books from this section each time I visit. Continue reading

Sunday Review: Rock N Soul

Rock N Soul by Lauren Sattersby (2016)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when I saw the really nifty cover where it was sitting with the new acquisitions books at the library. It was pretty hefty, but I was immediately intrigued by both the cover and the description, so I figured it would be a good read while on my vacation.

Oh boy was it.

I super loved this book just in general, so I’ll try to piece together exactly why for you here. In the usual format.

Summary

Tyler Lindsey is a bell boy with a mediocre life. Then, he finds rock star Chris Raiden dead from a heroin overdose in his hotel room. He thinks losing his girlfriend and having a few nightmares is the end of the ordeal, until he finds Chris’s ring under the sink and the dead rock star suddenly appears again. Now, he has to help the ghost move on or be stuck with him forever. As they progress on their journey, Tyler starts to wonder if maybe forever would be so bad after all. Continue reading

Sunday Review: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

I have a tendency to skim through the lists on Amazon’s prime instant streaming when I’m bored. I add tons of things to the watchlist that I know in all honesty I will probably never watch, at least not before they stop being available on prime instant.

As it happens, I’ve started whittling down the list. Today, I watched Seven Psychopaths. I vaguely remembered seeing a preview for this movie a while back before it hit theaters in 2012, but I didn’t really think much of it beyond “Oh look, Christopher Walken.” Actually, until I checked it out on IMDB, I didn’t even realize it had come out that long ago.

Well, there is definitely Christopher Walken portraying a character that I really loved, but there’s also a lot more. So, here’s 5 things I liked and 1 thing I didn’t. Continue reading

Road Tripping: San Marcos/Gruene

One of the main things that I wanted to check out while I was in Texas was the Texas State University campus at San Marcos.

I’ve been seriously considering grad school, and TSU has a program in Technical Communication. I figured if I could visit the campus, maybe it would give me a better idea if I could actually see myself going to school there.

So, my aunt and I took a day trip to San Marcos with plans to stop in Gruene on our way back. Continue reading

Foodie Fun: Stuffed Jalapenos wrapped in BACON

For Father’s Day, my aunt made jalapenos stuffed with sharp cheddar and wrapped in bacon. They were tiny little things, but they were delicious!

So, of course, being the impulse buyer that I am, when I came home from vacation and went produce shopping, I had to pick up the pack of 6 mammoth jalapenos for 86 cents at Aldi. I both love and hate Aldi, but that’s a story for another time.

So here’s tiny little me with six giant jalapenos.

Okay, so I only made 3 of them, and then I still couldn’t eat it all. I don’t know that I want to try reheating them…

Anyway, on to the part you’re actually here for. Continue reading

Road Tripping: Going it Alone

I have wanted to take a solo road trip for over a year.

Last summer I planned to go to Montreal for Le festival de la bière. None of my friends could go or had passports, so it looked like the perfect opportunity to do this thing that I’d wanted to do for ages.

Instead, I went to New York with my ex.

Now, it was a great trip. I got to see a band that I loved in college play their last show, and I got to catch up with two old roommates and meet a new friend. I finally saw the Museum of Modern Art (free Fridays!) and the Central Park Zoo. I got to visit a Hare Krishna festival in Washington Square Park (which was already one of my favorite places in Manhattan).

That’s just the things I did in New York. There was a lot more on the way there and back.

Central Park, Manhattan, NY

Central Park. One of my favorite places in the world. (Full disclosure: this photo is actually from a few years ago when I lived on Long Island rather than from the trip I’m talking about. Hence the leafless trees.)

Having someone with me was nice. Sure, he was my ex that I was sort of seeing again, and we broke up for the final time shortly after the trip, but he was still a close friend, so it was definitely not all bad. And it was nice to have somebody to switch off with so we could cover more miles.

Still, I wanted to travel somewhere alone: Just me and the open road.

I finally did it, and here are some of the best things about that trip. Continue reading

Solo Road Tripping: Encouragement and A Cautionary Tale

Yesterday evening I made it home from a week-long vacation in Lakehills, Texas, which is around 35 miles northwest of San Antonio. Throughout the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting about specific things that I did and saw, but today I want to talk about something that happened on my way home.

I wasn’t going to mention it at all originally–mostly because I don’t want my family who reads my blog to freak out–but as I’ve thought on it more, I think there’s actually some really valuable information in this story for women who travel alone or really go anywhere alone period.

That’s very relevant to me because I’m such a huge advocate of doing things alone. It’s the reason I was so excited for this road trip where I drove 500 miles both ways by myself.

So, as noted in the subtitle, this is a cautionary tale, but I in no way want this to discourage anyone from taking a road trip by themselves. Continue reading

Summer Chicken Salad and Dirty Vinaigrette

Salut, mes amis! I have returned. At least for this post. I’m no longer making predictions about when or if I will post because… well, PSTD is a b*tch, and over the past few months it has been more of a struggle to deal with than it had been for a few years.

But, I think I might be finally getting a handle on that. Maybe. I hope.

Anyway, no matter what the future may bring. While I’m able to, here’s a fun little thing that I’ve been eating for the past three days. It’s great for summer, seems to be fairly healthy (not that I bothered actually checking, but hey it’s Salad), and it’s freaking deliciously cheap and easy.

Also, I’d like to note that I’m calling it “dirty vinaigrette” because 1) it looks black, and 2) pretty sure people don’t usually mix two types of vinegar for these things, but I’m doing it anyway.

So yeah, this is not visually appealing, but it tastes awesome. Kind of par for the course with my cooking to be honest. I would lose at Chopped just because my presentation is bollocks. (And other reasons, but one’s enough for now). Continue reading

Sunday Review: Writing Jane Austen

Every now and then I find a book that makes me decide I should just keep reading it until I’m finished. Writing Jane Austen (2010) by Elizabeth Aston didn’t start out that way, but somewhere around chapter 16, I stopped disliking the main character quite as much and the story felt like it was actually going somewhere. Actually, that kind of reminds me of the first time I read Mansfield Park.

Anyway, I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book-despite the fact that I read the last half of its 300 pages without stopping-but let’s get to it.

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At least it has a cool cover.

Continue reading

Foodie Fun: Brie Soup

I recently learned that I can’t walk out of a grocery store without buying some sort of cheese. The last time I went, I ended up with an 8 oz wheel of Brie. Now I love Brie, especially on crackers. But even I get tired of cheese and crackers. So, I hopped on AllRecipes to see what else I could do with it. Apparently plenty, but the one that caught my eye was Brie soup. Yum.

But as I was cooking the recipe (for three servings instead of six) I found myself doing something unusual. I was arguing with the recipe. Things were getting hostile. Continue reading

Sunday Review: The Boy (2016)

I saw The Boy (2016, directed by William Brent Bell) on its opening night. I haven’t been to a first night run of a film since The Woman in Black when I was at Stony Brook. It’s an interesting experience. The theater was packed, and I loved the communal feeling of sitting in a giant room with all these people hearing when they were scared or amused.

the boy poster

This poster is actually really unexciting

Summation

An American young woman named Greta (Lauren Cohan) travels to England to be a nanny in order to escape a dark past. What that dark past entails isn’t really a spoiler to me, but some of you might think it is so I’ll let you guess. She’s get to the house, and surprise! The boy is actually a creepy porcelain doll that the elderly couple treat as a real child. The couple immediately leaves for a long overdue vacation so the new nanny is alone with the doll in a giant house far from any neighbors or town. Oh, and the cute grocery man (Rupert Evans) comes by once a week to flirt, I mean deliver food. Continue reading

Foodie Fun: La Tarte aux Pécans

I recently made a pecan pie for the first time while making a video for my French YouTube channel ElleParle. It was difficult. But, the pie turned out pretty spectacular.

The video is kind of fun, and it has metric conversions for the recipe. But here’s my take on the recipe (based on a recipe from my one and only cookbook: Betty Crocker):

Pecan Pie

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Yumminess

Press-in-the-Pan Oil Pastry Crust (no rolling required!)

Things to Use

  • 1 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp cold water

Things to Do

  1. Stir together flour, salt, and a vegetable oil with a wooden spoon. The wooden spoon is very important. It makes everything taste better. At least in your imagination.
  2. Intend to sprinkle cold water 1 tbsp at a time, but end up just pouring it all in.
  3. Toss with a fork. Giggle at the absurdity. Seriously, I can’t even tell you why that bit is important, but it said it in the book and when I do things for the first time, I try to follow instructions.
  4. Gather pastry into a ball and press into the pie plate/pan. Flute edges if you have enough for that sort of thing. I didn’t.

Filling

Things to Use

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 tbsp!)
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tbsp water*
  • 1/2 cup of honey*
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup pecan halves

Things to Do

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Beat 2/3 cup sugar, butter, sugar+water, honey, salt, and eggs. I just typed that all out so I’m leaving it, but basically: put everything but the pecans in a bowl and beat with a whisk. No electric mixer required or desired.
  3. Stir in pecans.
  4. Pour in pie plate without spilling all over the counter.
  5. Bake 40-45 minutes. It’s OK if the top looks a bit extra crispy.

*The original recipe calls for 1 cup of corn syrup instead of these ingredients. Personally, I don’t keep corn syrup on hand. I love substitutions.

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Happy pie-baking!

Sunday Review: The Thief of Always

This is book number #2 for John Guillen’s reading challenge: A book written the year you were born. I was born in the early days of 1992. I wanted to find a book that was actually published on my birthday, but Google was less than helpful.

Someone should really create a website that lists books with their full publication dates in an easily searchable format. Or maybe there wouldn’t really be a demand for that. It would be nice if Goodreads had this feature.

Anyway, I gave up on that idea and instead found a list of books published in 1992, and I chose The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, largely because the cover looked interesting, the author’s name sounded vaguely familiar, and it was available at my local library.

Random chance served me well here because I loved the book. Continue reading

Foodie Fun: Tomato Basil, Sort of

Tonight, I have a recipe for you that can be made in the time it takes to listen to one side of April Wine’s Animal Grace on vinyl. That may sound oddly specific while also not giving you any indication as to the actual amount of time it takes, and it is both! I love how attentive you are 🙂

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Animal Grace by April Wine

So tonight I made a pseudo-tomato basil sauce with rigatoni, or something kind of like rigatoni. It was off-brand pasta so I think it was technically called “round tubes” or something to that effect. Continue reading

Sunday Review: The Eyre Affair

Jasper Fforde is easily in my top authors. Shades of Grey, The Big Over Easy, and of course, the Thursday Next series are all amazing works with levels of both creativity and writing that are nearly unparalleled in my reading experience.

But enough gushing for the moment. Let’s talk about The Eyre Affair (2001).

This is the first of the Thursday Next series, though I think it was the fourth book that I actually read. I went through the series a bit out of order as I actually had some trouble finding this one.

Of course, when I did find it, the copy I bought used had been marked up. I don’t mind people writing in the margins, sometimes it’s fun and insightful. Like YouTube comments. However, also like YouTube comments, sometimes it’s just destructive, and that was the case here.

Basically, the previous owner went through and marked out very heavily, in ink, all of the curse words. And as one of the villain characters is named Jack Schitt, I’m sure you can see how this dislike of cursing wreaked havoc on my copy of the book.

RANT

click here for the video

Anyway, rant over.

Summation

Thursday Next works for Special Operations (SpecOps) in the LiteraTec division where they patrol basically everything to do with literature. And, in this alternate version of Britain in the 1980s, literature is a very big deal. There are whole, sometimes militant, societies dedicated to particular authors, poets, or even specific works. The debate over who actually wrote the Shakespeare plays runs throughout the novel as well as many other literary allusions.

Thursday is up against Acheron Hades, a thoroughly evil man who has stolen her uncle and his ingenious invention, the Prose Portal, which allows people from the real world to travel into a book world and vice versa.

General Thoughts

It was really interesting to see how it all started as I originally jumped in at about book four, when Thursday is already regularly traveling into the Book World without the use of her uncle’s invention. The world feels real and fully-formed; even the occasional expositional dialogue feels completely natural.

There are too many things that rock about this book so I’ll just throw out five things that I love:

  1. Performance of Richard III that reminds me of Rocky Horror with the audience reactions.
  2. Bookworms emit extra apostrophes, prepositions, and capitals that actually affect the text of the book.
  3. Landon Park-Laine is the most understanding man on the planet, even when he doesn’t understand a single thing that’s happening.
  4. All of the characters are quirky and quite possibly mad, but it seems to work for them. I never have trouble believing that Uncle Mycroft is a genius who creates impossible contraptions daily or that Thursday’s unnamed father has a face that can stop a clock. Even the walk-on characters are fascinating.
  5. Thursday Next is a fabulous main character. Her fatal flaw is her inability to ignore a crisis situation. She has a hero complex, but she hates being recognized for her heroism. Other than that, she is a tough as nails but still sometimes emotionally vulnerable character. She is vastly intelligent and fiercely opinionated.

And one thing that irked me:

  1. What happened to Spike? Thursday fights off a vampire with him, they have a moment, and then he never reappears in the book. And I don’t remember if he shows up again in later books, though I hope so because I really liked him here.

En fin

I highly recommend checking out the Thursday Next series if you like offbeat fantasy and literary jokes.

I’m counting this as my first book towards John Guillen’s Reading Challenge. Check out the list here. I love challenges like this because I’m always glad to give my reading some direction.

I’ll peg this one as “A book set in another country.”