29 February 2012

What I am reading: February 2012

  1. I have an extra day this month, so let's see if I can read a little more! The beginning of this month started off a little more seriously, as one of the local books clubs read In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson. Since the book has been sitting on my shelves for a year (since I got it at Larsen's Book Expo breakfast last year), I thought it was time to get it read so that I could actually discuss it in an organized fashion. I have quite a library of books dealing with the National Socialist period and I find myself incapable of dealing with them, so they sit there, unread. Having a group to read it for, got me to actually read what had sounded very interesting as Larsen discussed it. It was a tremendously well-researched book and I now have a list of original sources that I will buy next time I am in the US (where they are, unlike in the UK, available in English translation). I very much recommend this (lightly) novelized history of Ambassador William Dodd's time, with his wife and children, in Berlin in 1933. I am very glad that a group meeting made me read this book, though I was very disappointed in the book group. I have been spoiled by my current book group, where one does not show up if one has not read the book and is not prepared to discuss it (intelligently). This group read a book with numerous footnotes, based on fact, and half could not recall the book (if they had read it) while the others hadn't bothered to actually read the footnotes and the extremely interesting detail in them. Book: 4 stars. Book group: not worth joining. Here's the NYT review.
  2. Thornyhold ( 1988/2011) by Mary Stewart: I remember reading this when it first came out, unlike so many others that I discovered in the library. It reminded me, just a bit, of Stewart's The Little Broomstick. Gillian (and I love and have always loved that name) comes to Thornyhold at just the right moment. A charming but slight romance, with only a bit of suspense, no real mystery.
  3. The Ivy Tree (1961/2011)by Mary Stewart: One of her very best. Multiple mentions and quotes from Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar. Was this book the reason I read all of Tey's work (well worth reading, available in the public domain in Canada)? Set in Roman Wall country (and apposite, since I just saw The Eagle, based on Sutcliffe's The Eagle of the 9th), the plot had much in common with Brat Farrar: missing heir, inheritance plots, doubles. Exciting, well-written, always beautifully descriptive prose.
  4. The Gabriel Hounds (1967/2011) by Mary Stewart: How strange to be reading this now, with it's patriarchal English overtones, as Christy Mansel hires drivers in "the Lebanon" and people visit from Homs. What a civilized world, to a certain extent, it was then. (Although the colonialist attitude, the use of a pejorative racial epithet when the heroine was drugged, the noblesse oblige/White Man's Burden- I saw these. I also saw the heroine recognizing these behaviors, apologizing for them, and attempting to overcome them.) Christy attempts to visit her eccentric Aunt (shades of Lady Hester Stanhope) but her Aunt is strangely changed (like Red Riding Hood's grandmother). Her cousin (a double cousin with a bit of foreshadowing of the "communication" of Stewart's later Touch not the Cat) is in Beirut and becomes involved. As usual, wonderful descriptive narration, with the palace being almost its own character.
  5. deja dead (1998/2011) by Kathy Reichs: While still taking advantage of the German's co-worker hand-carrying my UK orders, I picked up a 10-pack of Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan novels. I was a late comer to enjoying these, having liked the TV show first, then reading a single Tempe novel given to me by a repatriating expat (and enjoying it) and then seeing Reichs speak here at the Literature festival. These are exactly the type of book that I would prefer to buy on an e-reader, but the cost of doing so is so much greater than my buying these 10 books, that I felt myself bound to not waste the money on buying them electronically. What a silly business model the publishers have chosen. This is the first Tempe Brennan book and a blasting introduction to the characters and places (especially Montreal) that are part of the series.
  6. death du jour (1999/2011) by Kathy Reichs: A little slow. A cult, a dead nun up for beatification, several threads, her sister Harry, and repartee with Andrew Ryan. Worth reading just to have the relationship stuff doesn, but not as good as the rest.
  7. fatal voyage (2001/2011)by Kathy Reichs: Secondary plot is the male clubs that our wealthy and connected belong to and how they control knowledge of what goes on in them. Primary plot references the Hell Fire club with a sub-text of cannibalism.
  8. grave secrets (2002/2011)by Kathy Reichs: Secondary plot revolves around the Guatemalan "disappeared", a subject with which Kathy Reichs is intimately acquainted through her work. Tempe's relationship with Ryan continues to evolve: she starts to think that dating him may be possible.
  9. bare bones (2003/2011)by Kathy Reichs: the secondary plot revolves around the illegal trade in endangered animals. I'm very sad to say that I know that it has only gotten worse since this novel was written.
  10. cross bones (2006/2011)by Kathy Reichs: the first Temperance Brennan/Kathy Reichs that I read.
  11. Betrayer (Foreigner #12- 2011)by C.J.Cherryh: I love Cherryh. I got confused when ordering this, as Amazon.de has put the cover blurb for 13 on this (12). and I ordered them both. Luckily, I was one behind and enjoyed reading this with the happy expectation of the next hitting my door in a week. This is a transitional book: the next will have everyone in place for the solidification of Tabini's power as the Machigi allies with the Grandmother of the East (the aiji dowager) and the world is, basically, finally unified. I'd really love to read these all again, as one big fat book: it's distressing that more than half of them are packed away in the US. I wish I could get them as one gigantic e-download without having to pay full price all over again:-(.

10 February 2012

Carrot- Ginger- Miso Soup

When I made the Carrot-Ginger- Indian Spice soup, I said that I would circle back after trying a Carrot-Ginger-Miso soup that I had seen. And so I have.

I started with this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and changed it up a bit by looking at this from Chef's Blade, which was taken from the Candle Café Cookbook. And some of it (like the celery and lack of sesame) is because I just like it that way
(I actually think that celery, carrots, onions and garlic are the holy quartet, and should always be sauteed in olive oil together).

Carrot Ginger Miso Soup

olive oil
lots of Carrots (I used about 1.5 kg/3= lbs, cut in coins)
2 onions (diced)
6-8 stalks celery, diced.
3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced
lots of sliced, peeled ginger root (I used two thumbs worth)
red miso, 1/2 cup (or less to taste)
4-6 cups water
scallions to garnish

I heated the oil in a small stock pot, then sauteed the onions for 5 minutes, after which I added the garlic and sauteed. Then I added the carrots and celery and sauteed for another 10 minutes, stirring occassionally until softening up a bit. I added the ginger and salt and pepper (starting with 1 T salt/pepper) while sauteeing. Then I added the water (started with 4 cups) and covered the pot and let it simmer for 30 minutes, checking to see that the water was sufficient. If the carrots feel done at this point, pull out the stab-mixer and start pureeing. I needed to add 1 cup water while doing this. Then grab the miso (I started with 1/4 cup), mix it up with a fork in a bowl with a cup of hot water (I used the waterboiler) and add it to the soup and mix in. While tasting, I wound up adding 1/4 cup more (to make a total of 1/2 cup). Let it simmer a bit more, add salt and pepper to taste (it's probably salty enough from the miso) and serve with chopped scallions if you like.

Takes about 30 minutes total. You can use vegetable stock in addition to the water if desired (I was out). The spouse ate it all- he liked it more than I and I was eating the vegetarian chili while he was making his very happy way through this over the next several days. He votes this his favorite soup so far.

08 February 2012

Trivial Pursuits

People who know me would rate me as a low-maintenance sort of person.

I own a lipstick (and use it occasionally), but my other make-up has all gone so far out of date as to be unusable (in fact, I discarded the majority of it a few declutters ago). I still have perfume from the 80's (truly, I still have perfume that my grandmother left me, but I only smell it every now and then).

I have been complimented on my earrings, to receive a look of shock when I happily point out the little Mickey Mouses (hypo-allergenic from Disneyworld) and often grab my daughters' medical plastic earrings. I have had my hair cut three times in the 4.5 years we have lived in Germany and had not had a manicure in the last five (my feeling- why bother when my hands are always washing something and the nails crack from use?). However, after I had a manicure in Florida, using the new, UV-cured nail polish, I liked having a manicure that didn't crack in the first day so much, that I found a place here in Berlin that did the same thing (although with a far smaller selection of colors. This was the most interesting that I could find and this manicure lasted 40 days: with it, I achieved the longest nails I have ever had. And I think that I will continue to do it: when amortized over 4 weeks, it's actually quite reasonable. And I have been enjoying having normal length nails.