Thursday, March 25, 2021

Weekend in Denver, March 2020

Weekend in Denver, March 2020

This was the last trip we took before staying home for this last year.  Even though we are still at home, we are tentatively planning trips again so I am optimistically posting.

We  chose this cute little downtown classic hotel.  The spa was extensive and delightful.  It covered 2 floors and I was able to get a combo massage and mud bath.  Gotta love the patterns in the hotel, like this carpet.

Modified Greek key around the edges.

The hotel partners with the restaurant next door and we got the cutest Caesar salad

and breakfast sandwich.

An excellent evening of festive food and friends.

The next day we checked out the local parks.
This area is full of people who do tons of hiking and there are tons of parks to accommodate everyone.  There is a path up through the trees to reach the top of that rock.

Starting at the bottom is intimidating.

This is the river as seen from the road.

As seen from halfway up.

And as seen from the top!

All of the hiking was great-lots of little points of interest.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Books and Chocolate: October 2020 - January 2021

I did not read as many books as I had planned on, but way more than I would have guessed, given the circumstances of 2020!

-by Becky Chambers
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet:  Fantastic!!  Space fantasy / sci-fi.  The super fun type.  Way stranger aliens than most in the genre and yet it is a ton about the relationships, with people that you like.  Can't wait for the next one!

-by Ibram X Kendi
How to be Anti-racist:  Very of the moment.  It is a great mix of the deeply personal version of his life and an academic writing style that makes the reading super fast.  I am already on board and didn't feel like it gave me enough specific tools on how to be anti-racist.  But it did help clarify some language for me, definitely recommend.

Celebrated the end of 2020 with a giant box of Jacques Torres chocolate.  Everything was fantastic.  The cocoa has solid bits that melt slowly.  

-by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society:  Read a review that talked about how this kids book eerily fits in with 2020 in America.  They were not wrong!  And a pretty fun read, not interesting enough for me to read more in the series. Elementary reader

-by SJ Kincaid
Diabolic:  Nothing surprising in the plot, all newness is in the POV.  Kept me reading, but not sure I need the rest of the series.  If you want the more adult version, try Gideon the 9th.

-by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright
Twins:  Graphic novel on par with fact they have a nod to Smile in the book.  Super cute, about twins becoming their own person.  Would totally read more from Varian, love the art style of Shannon.

-by Nicola Yoon
Everything Everything:  Reminds me of John Green.  YA. I would read more, even though I can't remember the details.

-by Amy Timberlake
Skunk and Badger:  Elementary reader.  Super cute.  About learning to be friends with someone with different points of view.

-by Ann Patchet
Small Wonders:  Last time I had to put this in the 'didn't finish' pile.  But it came back into my queue! I loved so much about this book...but hated the ending!  It leaves some threads open and gives most people their happy-ish ending.  But there is one child and I'm not sure if the intent is that his ending is happy or not.  I was distressed, but the book is memorable.

-by Darcie Little Badger
Elatsoe:  Teens solving a murder, with a good bit of supernatural.  Middle reader.

-by Kelly Yang
Front Desk:  Child of immigrant parents who are running a motel.  Super fun, based on her life.  Middle reader.

-by Allie Brosch
Solutions and Other Problems:  Few things can make me laugh as hard as Allie's blog and first book, Hyperbole and a Half.  This is not quite as good, and it goes a bit more adult.  

-by Natalie Zina Walschots
Hench:  What if your life was working for a Villain?  You would have a different view of Super heros for sure.  Tight writing, just enough story to move forward and great characters.  I hope she writes more.

-by Martha Wells
All Systems Red:  First in the Murderbot Diaries.  Sentient robot or augmented human...our protagonist is right in the middle.  Love the novella format.

Didn't finish
-by Eric Gansworth
Apple:  This might not be the best first book to read as it is autobiography.  Poetry adjacent.  I read about 1/3.  Might read more if I didn't feel like I have sooooo many in my tbr pile.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

What I've been watching, second half of 2020, and Halloween pumpkins

Our 2020 pumpkins

In the vein of film class we watched some Werner Herzog from the library collection. 

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe:  This is exactly as described!  I love that it is from the 60s (70s?) and I recognize and go to some of the places.

Aguirre, Wrath of God:  Early Werner Herzog  This is weird and a classic.  Glad I saw it, but don't need to see it again.

For Halloween we carve pumpkins to remember some of those who died during the year.  On 2020 Sean Connery died on October 31!  I threw together a martini glass, for James Bond.  

On YouTube

Jelle's Marble Races, especially the Olympics:  All on YouTube, so much fun!!  I don't watch many sports and haven't been missing them, but loved these!


Space Force:  hmm, not good, not the worst.  Seems like it couldn't decide if it was funny or heart-warming.  They are making a second season?  Not really there for it.

What We Do In the Shadows:  So good!  The humor might not be for everyone, but gave us a couple of catchphrases we use over and over.

Avatar the Last Airbender:  A re-watch for us, obviously excellent.

The Queen's Gambit:  Loved it!  Family friendly-ish but not overly sweet, a nice ending, sharp and focused.  Well balanced mix of good times/concerns.  Good characters (Jolene!!)

Mystic Pop Up Bar:  It grew on me!  More of a long arc than I expected.  Korean with subtitles.  The pacing and topics are a little different than what I am used to, but that makes it more interesting.

The Goes Wrong Show:  British physical humor and puns.  These folks made a play (The Play That Goes Wrong) that we saw on Broadway and loved so this was a natural for us.  Comedic timing is excellent.  And if you stop to think about how much extra work it is to make the things go wrong at the right time it is impressive.

Chadwick Bosman

Great British Baking Show:  Of course this is excellent.  So good that I watch each new episode as it is released rather than waiting to binge.  (Still warming up to Noel and Matt, oh well)

Nailed It!:  Perfect pairing with fancy baking show.  This one I dole out slowly and carefully.  I love Nicole and Jacques so much! 

Floor is Lava!:  Pretty good.  Hilarious concept, how much you like it depends on the team, so up and down.

Gary Busey, Pet Judge:  Didn't watch the whole series, but worth it to see one episode.

Devs:  I popped in and out while E- watched the whole thing.  Mostly ok, I liked all the local flavor, but had a hard time not seeing Ron Swanson

We Are The Champions:  So good!!!


Back to the Future trilogy:  Classic!  First movie is good, other two are exactly what you expect.

The Lighthouse:  Creepy, isolated lighthouse keepers go crazy.  Artsy, well acted, but never need to watch it again.

Cabin in the Woods:  A great re-watch!!  The one you can never explain because it would give away too much!  Just watch it!

Some early Avengers:  We watched a couple of the Captain America stories, comfort food for the eye.

Coherence:  Spooky sci-fi.

Parasite:  Yup, great film, disturbing and genius.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Books June - September 2020 and Spock asleep

I had this great plan to read so many more books this year and was optimistic that I might need a book post every month-HAH!  Still, I did mange to finish more than zero, some I really liked!

I'm leaning in hard to the cat pictures.  This series is all photos of Spock sleeping

-by Stuart Turton
7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle:  Love this!!  Agatha Christie meets time travel.  (I bought this book in Denver in March 2020, just before getting on a train that was our last trip before shut down)

-by Terry Pratchett
Monstrous Regiment:  Great story in the Discworld.  It can be read totally independent of any other books.  Might even be my favorite so far.

-by Madeline Miller
Circe:  Loved this.  A retelling of the classic Greek stories but from a minor character.  

-by Suzanne Collins
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes:  Loved this.  When it first came out I remember people being upset that it is a sympathetic showing of Snow, but I like the complications.

-by Kate Di Camillo
Flora and Ulysses:  Love this writer, cute story about the love between a girl and her super intelligent squirrel.  Elementary age readers.

-by The 14th Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
The book of Joy:  Excellent for people looking for this type of book.  Uplifting and confounding at the same time.  Best read a little at a time because it is kind of the same message over and over. 

Snakes spiders and sharks:  The nephew got into dangerous animals for a bit and so I read up on these in order to prepare to talk to him.  The electronic library has a great selection.

-by Nnedi  Okorafor:  She is on my list to read, tried a couple
Binti:  Fantastic!  Short sci-fi story.  The cover is amazing.  No reason to not read it.
La Guardia: Graphic novel.  Not as good as the the short story, but pretty fun.

-by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic:  About the creative life.  A fast read, not much stuck with me, but at another time it might be helpful.

-by Lisa Mosconi
The XX Brain: How women's brains are not men's brains and there is not enough research on the effect of hormones on all brains.  I thought I would take more notes than I did.  Not really anything I didn't know before.  There are some nice exercises for folks who want to take a look at their overall risk.  Great topic, but it felt like too many of the answers were "We are working on it, maybe we will understand in a decade or so."

-by Graeme Simsion
The Rosie Result:  Last in the trilogy!  Not nearly as funny as the first two, but a satisfying tie up of all the loose ends.  No reason not to read it if you read the first two.

He likes sleeping on the crinkly cardboard packing material

Books I abandoned:  2020. I've had a hard time finishing things and decided that was okay!  Maybe even good.  My list of books I want to read is in the hundreds, so I don't have a chance at finishing them all. 

-by Helen Hunting
Meet Cute:  I liked something else by her, but I started this and after 15 minutes couldn't even.  Maybe another year.

The shelf is not quite wide enough for the bed, awww.

-by Renee Ahdieh
The Wrath & the Dawn:  On my list of retellings, this is of Arabian nights.  I got maybe a quarter of the way into it and it just wasn't drawing me in.  So many people like this, maybe I had too high expectations.

-by Claire North
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August:  Time travel books....I have read a lot of them lately and this one was not the best for me.  Maybe if I hadn't just finished the 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

-by Nnedi  Okorafor
Akata Witch:  First in a trilogy and I might go back to finish it.  Will see if it stays in my mind.

-by Ann Patchet
State of Wonder:  Really good!  I just got started late and others were waiting for it, so I went back to the library.  I put in a hold and will finish the last chapter.  Fantastic mix of biotech and the Amazon.

-by Johnathan Metzl
Dying of Whiteness:  I like the concept that he focuses on specific issues in specific states.  Brings in lots of evidence, but I'm not learning enough about the why of the individuals.  But I didn't finish it in the 3 weeks, so maybe not for me.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Grape Pie for Thanksgiving 2020

We love hosting a giant Thanksgiving table.  This year is different of course, but the importance of pie remains the same!  Ideally there should be 1/3 to 1/2 pie per person.  I start eating pie for breakfast while getting everything else cooked.  I like to have a piece with every helping of leftovers.  It doesn't have to be a full size slice of pie, sometimes just a taste is better than a full piece.  I like it when everyone gets to take some pie home.  Pie is important :)

The most important pie is the grape pie.

Classics like pumpkin are important, but so are 'not pie', like the apple dessert cake thing.

Pie glorious pie!

To make a grape pie, 
separate the skins from the innards.

Cook the innards, send through a strainer, throw out the seeds.

Mix the skins with the cooked innards.  Add sugar, lemon juice and a thickener.  I tried clear jel this year which gives that particular gloopy texture, but also lets you preserve it, like jam or jelly.  The proportions were a little tricky, but I like it better than cornstarch.  

This year we experimented with alternatives to full on pie.  

Hand pies:

Slice the crusts off sandwich bread, flatten with a rolling pin. Add filling to one slice, dampen the edges, cover with a second slice, and seal the two pieces together with a fork.  Flip it over and seal the edges from the other side.  These can be deep-fried in shallow oil or cooked in the oven (350°F for 15 min).  

I turned the crusts into croutons that were fantastic

Not super professional looking, but darn tasty.  Especially with some peanut butter on the side.

Tiny pies in muffin tins:  

A pat-in-the-pan crust is a great alternative to a roll-out crust.  This is from a 1950’s Better Homes and Garden. If you don’t care about a flaky crust and just want the pie, this is the best! 

For 3 muffin tins:

  • Mix 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon sugar and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl.  

  • Add 2 tablespoons milk to ⅓ cup vegetable oil and mix with a fork to emulsify.  Add to the dry mix slowly; you may not need all the liquid.  Stir until all the flour is moist and it clumps together to the consistency of play-doh.  

  • Press into the muffin tin, add grape pie filling, and sprinkle any left-over crust onto the filling.  

  • Bake at 350°F for 20 min.

The milk falls under the oil.

This is my first chemistry memory-an emulsion!

The crust is pretty crumbly and you just have to go for it.  All delicious all the time!