Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nine Kinds of Naked

Nine Kinds of Naked Nine Kinds of Naked by Tony Vigorito

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Holy. Crap. This book was ridiculous. Ridiculously wonderful, but still. Maybe I should have let it settle a little before reviewing it, but. Wow.

Magical, mystical, wonderful. Weird, delightful. Crazy. Surreal. Too real. Insane and too sane. Fun.

That enough adjectives?

But seriously - could Tony Vigorito be any more the literary heir of Tom Robbins? The playful alliteration, mystical rambling dialogue, earthiness...

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some Sofia cuteness

I moved the kitchen chairs into the living room to clean the floors today. Sofia took the opportunity to set up a "classroom" and lead her stuffed animals in the ABC song.

A little later, she was drawing on the magnet doodle pad thing. This is "when mommy got married. There's pigtails!"

And next was her picture of a pig. Didn't really explain this one. It has a nose ring?

(She insisted I take pictures of her drawings...)

An Irreverent Curiosity

An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town by David Farley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed An Irreverent Curiosity as much for the description of the author trying to fit into small-town Italian life as for the search for Christ's foreskin. David Farley covers relic worship, Catholic history and the Vatican library, but mostly the small town of Calcata that he's just moved to. While the search for the "Church's strangest relic" isn't ultimately fruitful, his time in "Italy's oddest town" makes for great reading.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Confections 1 - Golden Eggs

Recently I read an advance reader copy of Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. I mentioned that it was one of the few books that include recipes that I've ever read where I literally wanted to make every one of them. Feeling like I needed to do some baking recently, I decided to do just that. This is the first.

Golden Eggs are a very rich yellow cake batter, baked in egg molds (or in my case, muffin pans) then dredged in butter and cinnamon/sugar. I'm not going to type out the recipes here, you'll need to get her book eventually for that.

Here's a batch ready to go in:

I did one batch in a silicone muffin pan, the other in metal. Had much better luck getting the silicone batch to release. FWIW.

The recipe said this made about 12 "eggs." I think I could have got 30+ out of it, and these are pretty big muffins. Also - possibly because of their size, I had them in the oven for almost 10 minutes past the 15 called for.

After dredging:

Had to let them cool a bit before dredging - and be really careful not to drop them in the melted butter!

Ready for the close-up?

Mmmm... decadent.


Fool: A Novel Fool: A Novel by Christopher Moore

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It took me forever to maintain enough interest to get through Christopher Moore's latest here. I'm just not an appreciator of Shakespeare, and this whole thing was a comedic Shakespeare riff. I could see Moore's humor shining through, but the whole time I know I was missing bits because I didn't know the back story, and that diminished my enjoyment of it. I know - it's my own fault...

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Au Revoir To All That

Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France by Michael Steinberger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
With erudite yet readable prose, Michael Steinberger chronicles the demise of the food culture of France. Bureaucracy, fast food, outside influences all come to bear on the issue. He doesn't offer a solution, but reveals a glimmer of hope in a young generation of chefs who are embracing the values of their forbears while looking to the future...

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Bookshelf

I'd been meaning to clean up our bookshelf for awhile, and a conversation at a dinner party a couple weeks ago provided the motivation to get started on it.

These are shelves that Mich built in to the room, providing us specific places for books, CDs and ohter stuff. I think she did an awesome job, but the mess of stuff on the shelves wasn't showcasing them well.

It had been organized generally by author, with an oversized collection and a couple other types of books split out. I decided to pull the fiction separate from the non-fiction, and make displays of my three main collections - Bond books, Tolkien, and Terry Pratchett's Discworld.

Here's an overview of the new shelf. Click through (from the link, not the photo) to Flickr and hover for notes:

The Bond collection:

The Tolkien collection:

And the Pratchett collection:

My collection of weird books:

And up on top of the shelf, our collection of trivia games:

(Sigh.) I love having books in order...

The Magicians

The Magicians: A Novel The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A boy learns that magic is real, heads of to wizard university, and eventually makes his way to a mythical land to have adventures. Sound familiar? Lew Grossman finds a way to make it feel fresh and realistic, while creating an homage to Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling and others.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Birthday party

Julien's 8th birthday is today, and we celebrated yesterday with a nice little pool party. Just a few pictures -

A whole mess o'kids in the pool:

Blowing out candles:

The sliced Neapolitan birthday cake:

And some wild-eyed present-opening fun:

Happy Birthday Julien!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, Book 1) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It had been a while since I'd read the Hitchhiker's Guide, but I had a couple of hours to kill at the DMV and found a copy in my glove box. It was all I remember.

I'm at a loss to explain Douglas Adams's particular genius, so I'm going to simply quote from near the end of this book, a passage that sets up the second book in the trilogy, The Restaurant at the end of the Universe:

"The history of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.

For instance, the first phase is characterized by the phrase 'How can we eat?' the second by the question 'Why do we eat' and the third by the question 'Where should we have lunch?'"


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Friday, July 17, 2009

Something Missing

Something Missing: A Novel Something Missing: A Novel by Matthew Dicks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An excellent little book about a burglar who, in order to avoid detection, only takes things that he's sure people won't miss. As he learns about the lives of the people he steals from (his "clients"), he begins to care about them, and eventually becomes more involved in them than is good for business. Very cool book.

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Serve The People

Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China by Jen Lin-Liu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Jen Lin-Liu learns Chinese cooking from the inside out. As a food writer in Beijing, she decides to take cooking classes, and this snowballs into a desire to learn about all the cuisines of China. And there sure was a lot to learn...

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Confections of a Closet Master Baker

Confections of a Closet Master Baker Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book wasn't what I expected.

I was expecting a self-absorbed, boutique-ey book about someone who fancied themselves a baker.

Instead I was plunged into Gesine Bullock-Prado's memoir of her exodus from the shallow Hollywood world she had found herself in, to a self-created temple of baking delight in Montpelier, Vermont.

This is DEEP baking. Her grasp of why baking matters, what in means to the baker and the consumer, is breathtaking. There is sadness, joy, excitement, boredom,and life here. There are crazy coffee shop regulars and beloved dogs. There is family, roommates, hospital stays and holiday meals. There are trips to bakeries in Vienna and the morning ritual at home. And there are recipes.

It's a measure of how I feel about this book that I seriously want to make all the recipes in it. (Usually recipes in books aren't very tempting to me.) While there are a few people I'd like to pass this on to, they're not going to see it - I've got some baking to do...

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Just realized I had got the title of this wrong. Confections, not confessions. My father the wordplay artist will be disappointed.

Friday, July 10, 2009

An Edible History of Humanity

An Edible History of Humanity An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a great concept for a book: how the search for and production of food has influenced the world's history. Tom Standage does a thorough job of tracing the ways in which humans have been shaped by what we eat. I'll admit, I wasn't gripped by his writing style, but the material was interesting enough for me to wade through it.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
A fascinating and exciting book about the life and disappearance of Percy Fawcett, an early 20th century British explorer who specialized in the Amazon area. Author David Grann weaves stories of Fawcett's life and travels with his own experiences in tracing the mystery of Fawcett's disappearance in the jungle in 1925.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Case of the Missing Servant

The Case of the Missing Servant: Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator The Case of the Missing Servant: Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator by Tarquin Hall

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
It takes a special mystery to catch my attention, but I fell in love with Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri. An excellently written whodunit, with colloquial Indian dialog - it had accents dancing around in my head all week. Very fun.

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Friday, July 3, 2009


This just made my day. Wikipedia actually has a disambiguation page for the word "disambiguation." Awesome.