Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reading list, 2008

I read about 45 books in 2008. I've listed them below but I'll write about a few of my favorites

Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner

Touching. Beautifully written. This is a journey of discovery that takes place in Japan during the late 1960s. The author did an excellent job with the English dialogue of the native Japanese speakers. There is a romance, a little bit about Vietnam but more about World War II and a lot about mother-daughter relationships. In some ways it reminds me of The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, I think more because of the use of language than the subject matter however both books have are journey's of discovery and mother-daughter relationships

From your lips
I came to understand
The language of plum wine

Rashi's Daughters: Book I Joheved by Maggie Anton

This is book one of a trilogy about the three daughters of Rabbi Saolomon ben Isaac, also known as Rashi. 

Rashi's Daughters takes places in Troyes France during the 11th Century.   Joheved is the eldest of Rashi's three children.  In addition to running a yeshiva, Rashi and his family have a winemaking business which provides and interesting backdrop for the book.

Despite the widely held view that women should not learn Talmud, Rashi begins secretly teaching Talmud to his daughters.  For me, the books is about life in medieval France and women's education.  The characters were memoriable and the time period was well-researched. 

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake is the story of a first generation Indian-American and how he relates to his heritage and family. The Ganguli family emgrated from Calcutta to Massechuesettes where their son Gogol is born.  The story is about how Gogol's parents adjust to America and now Gogol and his sister feel about being American and making trips to see their extended family in Calcutta.

The book is beautifully written and it is certainly one of the best books that I read this year.

Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards

This book begins when Susan responds to a call to help the local SPCA rehabilitate an abused horse.  This horse, Lay Me Down, joins Susan's other two horses.  This bittersweet book is a memoir of the journey of Susan's self-discovery.  Susan and Lay Me Down are soul mates and they both open up a lot.  As someone who has adopted a rescue dog, I attest to the fact that you can learn a lot from a rescued animal, be it a dog or a horse.

One thing about the book that others might not find as compelling is that it takes place in  Dutchess county New York.  Since I lived in Wappinger Falls for a few years, I kept on recognizing place names in the book and I thought that was kind of fun.

Chosen by a Horse is a can’t-put-it-down book.

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

This books was just fun.  Maybe not the best written book that I read in 2008 or  the most literary but is extremely entertaining and fun and I'm glad that I read it.

This modern-day fairy tale involves a post-graduation -- well, other than that pesky thesis -- trip to London to see a love interest:

Oh my God, that can't be him, can it? No, of course it's not. Why would he be wearing a jacket like that? Why would ANYONE be wearing a jacket like that? Unless they're being ironic. Or Michael Jackson, of course. He is the only man I could think of who would wear red leather with epaulets. Who isn't a professional breakdancer. That CAN'T be him. 

Oh, please God, don't let that be him....

... and a detour to the south of France.

The List
  1. Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
  2. Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner
  3. The Seamstress by Sara Tuvel Bernstein
  4. Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
  5. Secrets of a Shoe Addict by Beth Harbison
  6. Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot
  7. Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancasater
  8. Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson
  9. The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal
  10. The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
  11. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
  12. August by Gerard Woodward
  13. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
  14. She Went All The Way? by Meg Cabot
  15. The Best Day of Someone Else's Life by Kerry Reichs
  16. Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky
  17. Un-Bridaled by Eileen Rendahl
  18. Big Boned by Meg Cabot
  19. Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella
  20. Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella
  21. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
  22. Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot
  23. Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh
  24. Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot
  25. Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot
  26. The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham
  27. The Pact by Jodi Piclout
  28. Shoe Addicts Anonymous by Beth Harbison
  29. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  30. No Angel by Penny Vincenzi
  31. Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult
  32. Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
  33. Rashi's Daughers: Book I Joheved by Maggie Anton
  34. Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot
  35. The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal
  36. Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult
  37. The Liar's Diary by Patry Francis
  38. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
  39. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
  40. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
  41. The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
  42. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
  43. Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
  44. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
  45. Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Treats for holiday helpers

Hannah and Emma have provided a lot of assistance this holiday season. They have been very patient and they have dealt with human oddities such as bringing a tree into the house and dancing to Last Christmas by Wham! (see player below) They deserved their own special treats and today I baked some treats for our holiday helpers.

Above: The final product. A selection of treats on a plate after baking.

Apple-Oatmeal-Honey treats

1 apple, cored and diced (small dice)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon carob powder
1 cup rolled oats
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour, divided
1/4 cup carob powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine apple, apple sauce, honey, water, cinnamon, carob and rolled oats in a large bowl. Gradually sift in 1 1/2 cups of the flour until dough becomes very stiff.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup carob powder in a pie plate and combine. Shape the dough into walnut-size balls and roll in the flour/carob mixture to coat. Place on a baking sheet and flatten with the flat bottom of a measuring cup or spatula. If the dough sticks a little as you lift off, dip the bottom in the flour/carob mixture before pressing the next treat into a flattened disk.
Above: After flattening the treats out into disks, before baking.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven, flip treats over and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Turn oven off and let treats remain in oven for 2 or overnight.

Hannah and Emma both thought that these treats were delicious. They give the recipe two paws up!

Yield: About 40 treats

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Grinchy Grinching

Every family has one -- a Grinch -- someone who puts a damper on the holidays. Dr. Seuss' famous poem, first published in 1957, starts:

Every Who
Down in Who-ville
Liked Christmas a lot...

But the Grinch,
Who lived just North of Who-ville,
Did NOT!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

I completely understand that everyone is not the same and that some people find the holidays to be overwhelming. For other people the holidays bring back unwanted memories.

Our family Grinch hates the holidays, does not want a tree, complains, pouts, says that he will not participate and yet shows up every year around Thanksgiving and stays until New Years. Like Dr. Seuss' Grinch, our soupuss only shows up in Who-ville on holidays. Dr. Seuss' Grinch appears on Halloween in Halloween is Grinch Night. Like the storybook Grinch, our Grinch treats loyal companions like Max as an irritation that must be tolerated.

Some think that the storybook Grinch is envious of the Who's happiness.

Seuss saw the Grinch as a hero, though, saying, "Can't they understand that the Grinch in my story is the Hero of Christmas? Sure... he starts out as a villain, but it's not how you start out that counts. It's what you are at the finish."

The jury is still out on the heroism of our family Grinch.

As the Whos say in Welcome Christmas:

Welcome Christmas
While we stand
Heart to heart
And hand in hand

Grinchly links:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Santa, No longer a Secret

Hannah and Emma say, "Thank you Santa Paws!"

Hannah would like to say a special thank to our canine-l Secret Santa for the Crunchy Peanut Butter Maple NuHemp Munchies. She was somewhat distracted by the yummy smell and attempted to have an unauthorized pre-dinner snack but was unable to open the box before it was moved it to safety for later distribution. She also loves her Dr. Noys Squirrel toy, immediately recoginizing it as hers! Hannah has also discovered the wooly green Frisbee. It is prefect for her!

Emma says thank you for the Greenies treats and salmon treats. She is busy testing the new tennis balls. DH and I love the purse and think that it is very Legally Blonde and Emma appropriate. If you recall, Emma is an Elle Woods wannabe at times.

Santa Paws also brought some gifts for the humans in residence here -- a golden retriever ornament, a Labrador retriever ornament and a retriever themed car coaster. Santa must have been paying attention to my Starbucks addiction!

Secret Santa is a canine-l tradition.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008


For the past several years, DH and I have gone a little bit crazy with gift baskets of homemade candy.  DH likes to bring these treats into work and give them to his friends.

When discussing plans for this year's annual sugarfest, DH selected this weekend. We went over the recipes of what was needed for the baskets and DH said that we needed to have spice cookies and spritz cookies too. I won't even discuss how much sugar we went through this weekend.  Please note that these cookies were made with the understanding that I am not serving two week old cookies for Christmas. 

I got the recipe from my mom who I think got if from a Wisconsin Electric Company recipe book in about 1970.

Cream Cheese Spritz
2 1/2
cream cheese
egg yolk

Sift flour, salt and cinnamon onto baking parchment. Cream cream cheese and butter. Beat in 1 cup sugar. Blend well. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Stir in sifted ingredients a little at a time. Chill dough until firm. Put in press and mold on cold, ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with colored sugars.

Bake at 335F for 12-13 minutes or until edges are brown.

First Turkeys, then Reindeer

After participating in a turkey trot 8k on Thanksgiving, I decided to run in a Reindeer Romp 5k this weekend. It was a Girls on the Run event with close to 1,200 participants.

Girls on the Run, or GOTR, is program that uses running to teach 8-12 year old girls about self esteem and healthy lifestyles. The event consisted of both regular runners and girls participating in the GOTR program running with their mentors.

All of the fast people must have been somewhere else. I was surprised to finish 3rd in my age group. I'm not fast. I was tickled to finish third -- and yes, there were more than three entrants in my age group!

This event was well done and I had a nice time. I would do it again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Coffeehouse Coffee Cake

About once a month I have a baking night where I make something nice for DH. I really enjoy baking so this is a treat for me too. I love the way it makes the house smell and licking the bowl isn't too tough to handle either!

This month's selection was coffee cake with a generous amount of crumb topping. We settled on Enlightened Starbucks Coffeecake. I followed the recipe as published with the exception of making the crumb topping in the food processor and making it in an 8x8 pan since I don't have an 9x9 pan.

I am happy to report that DH gave this recipe his seal of approval.