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Anita Winds Down

Serpentine by Laurell K. Hamilton.  What can I say about it? It is an excellent book. This is the latest story in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. This is #26…which just is incredible! It made me think back to how much growth the title character, Anita, has gone through since book 1. This is in part because the book is very introspective. The character is in therapy and working on her impulsiveness, especially her destructive impulsiveness. Since she rarely does anything alone, a lot of her honeys are also in therapy and it is nice because they are all a little damaged (ok, a lot) and they are working on themselves and their relationships. I like that aspect because while most people just think therapy is for huge problems in a relationship, Anita helps to show that it is also a good thing to help you work on yourself, which can really help out your relationships.

I really enjoyed this book because it was a little slower paced and managed to focus on the main set of characters. The premise is that Anita and crew go to Edward/Ted’s wedding. Of course they manage to put their foot right in some supernatural nastiness. Does it ruin the whole wedding? Olaf makes an appearance, we see Micah being less than perfect (finally!), and learn a little more about all the other Horsemen. I admit that Anita really does get a cast of thousands at times, so a smaller locale outside the circus made me a little happier. Overall I now am excited for another one and will go reread at least the last 10 books!

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So I received a bounty of ingredients from a friend recently, they work for a kitchen that was closing for a couple of weeks and they cleaned out their walk-in and just gave away the fresh food, as they would be bad before the kitchen reopened. So I am staring at a fridge full of heavy whipping cream, green onions, pears, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, and sour cream. What to do, what to do?

Sour cream is easy, goes in baking, mexican food, dips, etc. Everything else posed challenges to use up before it went south. Here’s my adventure in Pears.

I have about 20 bosc pears. They are old enough to not look super pretty, but for the most part firm and crisp. In searching for inspiration, I came across “pear butter”. As I am a fan of apple butter (growing up in New England it was very common), I’d thought I’d give pear butter a try.  I ended up using this recipe that allowed me to use the crockpot. Summers are hot, and turning on the stove for a few hours needs to be avoided, as paying for the heating of the stove and the cooling of the house simultaneously makes me feel a little ill.

I followed the recipe, except I used allspice instead of pumpkin pie spice and used less sugar.  I know it makes me weird, but I don’t really like the pumpkin pie spice blend outside of pumpkin pie.  It is soo distinctive in my head that it makes it immediately jump to pumpkin pie, which isn’t what I was going for here. The sugar was really reduced to 1 cup. I just wanted the pear-ness of it all to come out, and I know that pear can be a delicate flavor. Also, shout-out to the author of the recipe , Tammi (I assume), she handled the haters on her comment page with a patience and civility I don’t think I could match.

Score: Used up 10-11 pears, had a delicious and easy result!

After everything was cooled down, it was absolutely enchanting! But I still had pears left, so the saga continued.

The second pear recipe was a Pear Custard Pie. So easy and it worked well! Served as breakfast all week. The real star of this recipe is that you don’t have to do a crust! The custard really does firm up and take care of itself. Also I love cooking in cast-iron, so this combined two things I like! As I pretty much can’t follow a recipe exactly, I did add 1/2-1 more pear than the recipe required (I have a lot to use up!), but the custard did still nicely balance it all out.

Score: 4 more pears down, leaving me with 5.

The last recipe I found to use is a pear bread. I figured, well you can flavor those fruit breads with anything, so why not? I ended up using a recipe for Cardamom Pear Bread  because that sounds absolutely yummy. And the picture (posted for your pleasure) just looks awesome.

Cardamom Pear Bread with Almond Glaze is the perfect quick bread to make for brunch or a holiday breakfast! The flavors of warm, citrusy cardamom, juicy pears and a sweet almond glaze will have you grabbing a second slice! | www.reciperunner.com

So the recipe doesn’t actually call for much pear usage (1 cup), but the pears had been sitting for a spell and by the time I peeled and cut off all the bits I didn’t like, it used up most of the remainder. The 1.5 left were just kinda too soft (I hate mealy pears), so no big loss. This recipe I followed, but more like followed the spirit of. Now, I will caution you, if you are not an experienced baker, follow recipes! I have been baking since I was about 4-5 and so I frequently know the consistency of batters I’m going for, what can and cannot be substituted with impunity, and how to compensate for more/less of certain ingredients.  I substituted all-purpose bleached flour (King Arthur) for the whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 cup sugar for the 1/3 cup honey, 1 egg and a little meringue powder for the 1 egg+1 egg white suggested, and cut my pears up into slivers instead of shredding them.  I also used some homemade lemoncello for the pear juice, as my fresh pears didn’t have juice and I don’t keep juice in the house.

My batter was a little thicker/tighter than I knew it needed to be. But I planned for that. I put 1/2 the batter into the pan, spread it well, then added about 1/4 cup of my pear jam. Swirled that around with a spoon, keeping away from the edges, then added the remainder of the batter, leveled it out, then added a few more spoonfuls (so exact, I know) to the top and swirled some more!

The bread cooked the same amount of time listed in the recipe and is moist and delicious. There was a little leakage of butter out here and there, but a quick run around the edges of the pan with a butter knife while it was still hot seemed to take care of it sticking to the sides. I didn’t line my pan with parchment, because I don’t like to and my loaf pan is non-stick, so I’ve never had problems with it sticking to the pan. If you are worried, add the parchment.

That’s it! All done with pears. Let’s see what I do with the rest of it! Or really hope what I do with the rest of it is interesting enough to warrant a post!

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Stygian wait

I was fortunate enough to get to read an excerpt from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s new novel “Stygian”. Like all of her Dark Hunter novels, it completely drew me in from the first page and I completely forgot that it was an excerpt. Now I read the entire thing in a single sitting and when it was abruptly over (end of excerpt) I was a little shocked. Completely my fault though. It was great.

I really enjoy how engrossing Sherrilyn’s novels are. I love the Dark Hunter universe and I have enjoyed that her stories are casting a wider net rather than just humans that become Dark Hunters. She has created an evocative and complex back story that is really fun to read. My favorite part about this book is that is gives us a perspective on character’s we’ve met but never really understood what is going on with them. I like that she doesn’t paint her characters as purely black and white. The shades of grey are where we related (I feel) and she does such an effortless job of getting you to empathize with her characters and you end up falling into her stories. What wonderful rich world(s) she has created, and this new release promises to be more of the same!

I can’t wait for the publish date and now the waiting may be the hardest part!!

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An Odd One

I just read the novel “The Oddling Prince” by Nancy Springer and overall I was a little disappointed. I read the synopsis and was pretty excited about the story to come. I didn’t really enjoy it. The language of the book felt inconsistent and a little archaic which pulled me out of the fantasy world frequently and made it hard to flow.

The story takes place in a land where a king falls ill on a hunting trip and comes home to die. A mysterious figure saves him in the night. This mysterious figure saves him by removing a ring from his finger. When all is revealed, the mysterious figure is actually the King’s son with the Elvish Queen. Since he has a son and wife already, the King is rather put out and since he doesn’t remember raising and training this second son (due to Elvish magic making him forget), he pretty much eschews this new boy. Luckily for the Elvish son, Albaric, the king’s human son, Aric, forges an instant bond with his brother and they proceed to have an adventure together for the rest of the novel.

I felt that the relationship between the brothers was just out of place. Not that they couldn’t have one, or that it had to be negative, but we have this teenage boy who immediately bonds with this stranger and for the rest of the novel has these insights and realizations about this other boy which essentially propel the story along. Not really believable for me. I think also there are some serious “hints” about myth and other stories that aren’t really explained which left me feeling the story was a little incomplete.

After I finished the book I went and read some reviews who just were completely 5 star reviews to see if I was missing something.  People were comparing her past work to some of Fantasy’s Greats and so I then had to search what else she had produced. Most of her work I’d not heard of, then I got to a short story she wrote in 1986, “The Boy Who Plaited Manes”. This was one of my favorite fantasy short stories because it was the perfect blend of eldritch elven behavior and the comparative stupidity of man (as a race).  Not sure if this means I’ll go search out her stuff or if I’m content thinking of her as a short story novelist. But it is something to consider.

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The Devil of a Duke

The Devil of a Duke by Madeline Hunter was a really fun and engrossing read. I read most of it in a single sitting. I have quite a few of her  books that I enjoy rereading from the early 2000’s.  I am excited to read another one of hers. I realize she’s been producing since then, but I kinda fell off. I guess I have a lot to catch up on!

As for this novel, the only drawback was I think the male lead kinda just realized his love and went on…usually I love it when they pretty much get hit on the head with it and then have to re-evaluate their views on lots of things about their lives. This character just was like “oh, ok, I love her, that’s neat”. But on the plus side, I feel like this character actually started their own personal journey before this book so his world view was already changing and introducing love wasn’t that far out there for them.

Fun writing and the main character is awfully fun and endearing. I also enjoyed that in the vein of regency romance novels, she wasn’t super traditional. She also has a clan of not quite traditional ladies which makes me enjoy it more. But the fact that her entire worth isn’t tied up with what’s in between her legs or her parentage is a refreshing change.


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Power of Plants

The first half of this book really lay out terminology and what all the various words on products mean.  It de-mystifies the list of ingredients on the back label.  They discuss the differences in processing plants (cold-pressed, enfleurage) and even goes in depth about the layers of your skin, what they do, and what you may wish to achieve by making your own beauty products. Their essential oil section is inspired. They go through what part of the plant is used for normal oil production, method of extraction, and therapeutic actions. They cover similar categories for wax, butters, clays, exfoliants, oils, etc. Pretty much a dictionary for anything you’d want to put into your products (that’s natural).

The second half of this book is the recipes. It covers cleansers, masks, scrubs, moisturizers, and treatments. It is a really fun and inspired book that really gives all the information about questions I’ve asked, and then even delves into questions I never thought to ask. The recipes are fun, but I will say this is an educational read and I may never even get into the making! But a fun read.

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Improperly Presented

There’s this fun modernization of many “traditional” crafts going on. Knitting/crocheting are getting fun, hip, modern, patterns and are being celebrated on the fashion runway.  Doilies are being used in pottery as accent pieces.  Cross stitch has become subversive.  Haley Pierson Cox has followed in the fun footsteps of “Subversive Cross Stitch” by creating her own book “Improper Cross Stitch”. I can’t really review the book because the publisher decided to only show one out of every 8 or 9 pages. So I can see I am missing most of the book, but have only a few images of finished cross stitch to see how this person designs.  No charts (which really separate out if I want to even buy a cross stitch book) and not even images of each item in the table of contents. So I have a recipe book of pictures. No super useful. As such I can only review the little bit of information I actually received.

The intro and finishing sections were pretty basic and exactly good for a beginner. Otherwise it is the same stuff you find by typing in “cross stitch” in a search engine, but compiled into a book. The images I could see look fun and pertinent, but probably could use a little more finishing to make them really shine and elevate them into a more professional stance. There is a “Cat Lady” image that makes it really hard to tell that they are cats exactly, this would be easily remedied with some back stitching and outlining. But it seems good for a beginner who hasn’t cross stitched before.