Thursday, 30 September 2010

Recipe Thursday - New Zealand style Pumpkin Soup

My Friend Amy is hosting her 2nd Annual Fall Recipe Exchange.  You are invited to visit Amy's blog and click away for a wonderful selection of fall recipes.  Hope that you enjoy the menu and try some of them yourself.
It's autumn and pumpkins are available.  Not those huge ones that you carve up for Jack o Lanterns, but those small, flavourful ones that are meant for pie.  Well, they are also perfect for soup.  As I have mentioned previously, my niece is visiting from New Zealand and pumpkin soup is as common there as chicken noodle soup is here.  In the middle of September her friend, also from New Zealand, came to visit with her for a week.  As a treat they made us traditional pumpkin soup.  I wasn't involved in the cooking, though I did help with the peeling of the pumpkin.  I will try and write a recipe,  but I'm told it's just one of those dishes that you know how to make, that no one uses and actual recipe.

New Zealand Style Pumpkin Soup
2 smallish pie pumpkins
4 medium potatos peeled and diced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup oil
4 cups chicken broth
2 onions, diced
2 stalks celery (optional)
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
dash of nutmeg (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the pumpkins.  Wash to remove all traces of dirt.  Cut the pumpkin and half and scoop out the seeds and most of the stringy stuff.  It doesn't matter is you get all the strings, they add flavour.  Slice the halfs into 3/4 inch strips.  Very carefully use a sharp knife to cut the peel off the pumpkin.  You will need about 1 1/2 pumpkins depending on the size of your soup pot.  The extra  slices of unpeeled pumpkin we put in a pan with oil, salt, pepper, curry powder and cumin and roasted in the oven at 425 F till soft, stirring them occasionally. 

Back to the soup.  Once the pumpkin is peeled, dice it into 3/4 inch pieces.  Place in a large soup pot.  Add the diced onion, diced potatos, butter and oil.  Add the celery and garlic if using.  Turn the heat to medium and stir frequently till the pumpkin is cooked and soft.  This will take a half hour or longer.  The pumpkin will release a fair amount of liquid while cooking.  You might have to add more oil if the pumpkin sticks.

Add the spices, chicken stock and additional water.  You can adjust the amount after you have pureed the vegetables.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Now it is time to puree.  You can use a blender, though we used an immersion blender.  Those are awesome.  Once it is blended you can add water to thin if needed.   It is quite a thick soup.  We served the soup with a dollop of sour cream.  you could also sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese, fresh bacon bits.  It's a very flavourful soup. 

The girls did such a wonderful job on the soup that I wanted to treat them to something uniquely Canadian.  I made them a pan of Nanaimo Bars.  They were a hit.  For those who haven't tried these delectable bars, they are a three layer confection.  The bottom layer is chocolate, graham wafer, coconut and walnuts.  The middle is a custard and the topping is more chocolate.  You can find the recipe for Nanaimo Bars at the Kraft website.  Be sure to prepare your pan properly with either foil or layers of saran wrap or you will have difficulty getting the bars out.

On Saturday you can join with Candace at Beth Fish Reads for "Weekend Cooking".  Add a link to your food related post, whether it be a recipe, restaurant review, or other food related post. 

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by e.l. konigsburg

Margaret's parents are in Peru for the summer and her beloved Uncles Alex and Morris have declined to let her visit with them for the vacation, so she picks a summer camp to attend.  Unfortunately she doesn't like it there one bit and refuses to participate in any of the activities. 

That being said, this story really isn't about that summer camp, it's about adults and what they want to do and why they want to do it.  It's also about why it takes a child to point out the error of their ways.  Margaret is that child and it's up to her to find a way to save the original towers that have been constructed in her uncles' back yard. 

I loved every minute of this story, particularly the conversations between Margaret and Mrs. Kaplan, the camp director.  I also enjoyed the contrasts between the stuffy Mrs. Kaplan and her more free living son Jake.  My favourite passage in the book is one where Jake is talking about what the towers mean to him:
"They are telling me a story.  A story full of sense and nonsense.  They are saying that if life has a structure, a staff, a sensible scaffold, we hang our nonsense on it.  And they are saying that broken parts add color and music to the staff of life.  And they also say that when you know that your framework has been built right and strong, it's all right to add color to it, too.  The towers are saying, there is no why - only a why-not."
Wikipedia link for E. L. Konigsburg

I learned about this book from Sherrie at Just Books when she reviewed it in August 2010.

Read my review of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler also by E. L. Konigsburg

Needlework Tuesday - Authors who Quilt

Yesterday evening was our first meeting of the season for the Elmira NeedleSisters Quilt Guild.  We were fortunate to have  Barbara Haworth-Attard (left) and Judy Ann Sadler (right) as our guests.  They are authors, crafters, quilters, and designers.

Both ladies are published authors and that is how they met.  Since then they have worked together designing a variety of quilts and wall hangings.  They share in the designing, though Barbara credits Judy Ann with the writing of the wonderfully clear directions that accompany each pattern.

After listening to these women, even for a short time, it became obvious that they are passionate about what they do, whether it be writing or designing.  Their excitement for their work is contagious.  I won't say that they whipped the audience into a crafting frenzy, but as close as they all could get without having their supplies at hand.

Judy has written twenty craft books, many of which are available through Kids Can Press.

Barbara is the author of at least fourteen novels, , many of which have won a variety of literary awards.  Visit GoodReads for a complete listing of her books.

It was a delight to view in person many of the quilts that these talented ladies have designed.  To actually see and touch a quilt that is featured on the cover of a pattern is a special treat for me. Like many of the other members of my guild, I couldn't resist the lure of seeing these quilts up close and of purchasing a book or pattern.  I decided that since it was guild night and not reading night, I would buy a pattern.  I choose one of the skinnies called "Batty!".  To view their patterns, visit  their website babs 'n' jas designs.

If you want to try one of their newest patterns, then rush out and purchase the Fall 2010 issue of A Needle Pulling Thread.

Photo of Barbara and Judy Ann used with their permission.

Can't get enough crafting? Read my review of Waking Up in the Land of Glitter by Kathy Cano-Murillo.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Word on the Street - Kitchener, Ontario

 Word on the Street is a book lovers wonderland.  This weekend venues were held in a number of cities across Canada.  I was fortunate that one site, Kitchener is a very short drive for me.

I was mostly attracted to the readings by authors Louise Penny and Terry Fallis.
Louise Penny

most recent novel: Bury Your Dead
Prior to reading from her newest novel, the sixth in the series, Louise related a story of when she finished writing her first book.  Being  excited, she wanted to share the great news.  She went to her local book store and told the sales lady that she had finished her first book.  The clerk then congratulated her and then asked if she wanted to purchase another book.
Her books are set in the picturesque location of Three Pines, in rural Quebec.  Louise says that she created this town as her 'safe place'.  Problem with this is that aside from a character being murdered there, that would mean that there would also be a murderer in town.  To stop the town from being totally de-populated she decided that every other book would have any murder occur out of town.  Thank goodness, I liked Three Pines when I first met it in Still Life.

Ms. Penny then told us a bit about her thoughts on her readers.  She doesn't spoon feed them.  She lets them work out the unwritten details.  The reader is smart enough to fill in the bloody/gory details of a murder, and likewise they know that the characters in the books have sex  without being specifically told.  I like it that an author is giving me credit for filling in the blanks of the characters that I have been getting to know. 

Louise's most recent book, Bury Your Dead is sent in Quebec City, Quebec and has Chief Inspector Gamache visiting world famous sites such as the Chateau Frontenac and the Plains of Abraham

most recent novel: The High Road

This photo was taken moments before Mr. Fallis took to the podium.

It seems that we were quite lucky to have Mr. Fallis as one of the speakers that day.  He has been on a whirlwind of speaking engagements and family commitments.  Last week he had several readings in Waterloo County as his book The Best Laid Plans had been selected as their One Book One Community read.  Just that morning he had been in Tampa, Florida for a family event and had flown back to meet with us, and then was immediately on his way to Toronto, Ontario so that he could read at the "Word on the Street" event there.  With all the adulation of the past week, you could safely say that Mr. Fallis is our own literary rock star.
After a few introductory comments to set the scene, Terry read us a passage from chapter six where Angus has decided to run again for parliament and he is in 'make-up' and the stylists are attempting to deal with his most unruly hair.  By the end of the first sentence, he had the audience roaring with laughter.  I thought some of them were going to split their sides.  The description of Angus's hair escaping it's lacquered confines almost had me in tears of laughter.  I am looking forward to reading and laughing my way through this newest book.

Read my review of his first book The Best Laid Plans.

Paulina and Kate from Two Canadian Readers were also at this Festival, you can click here to read their comments.

Read what Amy from Amy Reads had to say about Word on the Street Halifax.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Contest: win Why AC/DC Matters by Anthony Bozza

You have until midnight on September 29, 2010 to enter to win a copy of Why AC/DC Matters by Anthony Bozza.
Check my earlier posting for entry details and leave a comment at that post as your entry.  Be sure to tell me your favourite AC/DC song.  All readers of this blog are invited to enter.  There aren't a lot of entries as of writing this, so you have a good chance of winning.

I've turned off comments for this reminder, so be sure to leave a comment at the original post.

Oh you chickens...

Yesterday I attented an open house at Factory 163 in Stratford, Ontario.  This is an inspirational place for the artistic community to gather/work/exchange ideas and display their work at Gallery 96.  One of the featured events was a showing and talk about raising poultry.  This was hosted by my friend Janet, also the director of Factory 163.  Below are pictures of some of the fowl she brought with her yesterday.

Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Eden Mills Writers Festival: Author Readings

It was a gorgeous day on Sunday.  Sunny with the occasional cloud which made it difficult to take photos.  Since the authors wanted to be able to see the words on the the pages of their books, many of them wore sunglasses.  I tried best I could with my photos, but I am definitely an amateur.  Hope you enjoy them anyways. 

As I mentioned previously, there were several venues with authors reading at the same time, so I couldn't possibly listen in on all of them.  Mostly I stuck with my daughter and went where she wanted.  YA authors, and they were fantastic.  I wanted to rush out and buy a whole stack of books, unfortunately reality reared it head....

most recent novel: The Monkeyface Chronicles

Mr. Scarsbrook read from a chapter titled "The Meaning of No".  That passage is one in which the bullied characters turn the tables on the bullies and 'get them back'.  Excellent.  I love the character names in this book.  They are so imaginative and will greatly appeal to the teen reader.

At the conclusion of his reading, he related a tale concerning a chapter of this book.  He had wanted to include a chapter that contained a hint of some big event yet to occur.  Just before sending the manuscript off to his publisher he decided to delete the chapter.  Of course when his publisher replied to him about the book, he liked everything but made the suggestion that he include a chapter that would hint at something important that would be happening later in the story.  The audience loved this reminiscence.

writes both YA and adult novels
most recent YA novel: Doom Lake Holiday

Mythology finds it's way into most of Mr. Henighan's YA novels.  When asked why he writes YA, he replied that he has a passion to do so, and that as a child he loved reading, was always looking forward to what would happen on the next page.  He says that he writes for himself, to re-live events and experiences from his life.  Most of his books are about boys who don't have a good relationship with their fathers.  The aim being for reconciliation.
He then read a passage from Doom Lake Holiday  that was of a scary dream sequence that occurred after the main character awoke at the most dire time of 3am. Along with the rest of the audience, I was in rapt attention and needed to hear more, but then his time was up and Richard was finished his reading.

My daughter was thrilled to introduce R. J..  In fact, she was so excited that she even got into character and dressed as the faery Thorn.

most recent novel: Wayfarer

R. J. walked up to the microphone and immediately started reading from the opening chapter of Wayfarer.  She was reading so enthusiastically that the audience was carried along the story for the next ten minutes and was left practically begging for more.  For the final minutes she read a passage from further in the book when we meet Timothy, one of the human characters.

Read my earlier post of meeting R. J. at the Turning Pages A Literary Festival

most recent YA novel: Would You
most recent children's book: Which Way

Inspired by family stories, Marthe wrote the YA novel Would You.  This book takes it's name from the kids/teen challenge game where one player asks the next "Would you rather ...?" and then names two difficult choices which the other player must chose from. 

She then read from the prologue of her earlier work Mable Riley, a character which is based on diaries found in her grandmother's attic.

I was so engrossed in what Marthe was saying/reading, that I forgot to take a picture of her but was able to crop this pic from the background of and earlier author.  Sorry Marthe.

most recent book: Motorcycles and Sweetgrass
I know that you can hardly see Drew in this picture but this was such a nice venue that I wanted to give you a view of this nature amphitheatre.  Next photo, I have cropped so you can actually see him.

I arrived late for this reading and missed Mr. Taylor's opening remarks.  He read from the opening chapters of his newest book Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, followed by the very funny chapter that introduces 'the racoons' and the Otter Lake Debating Society.  For further information regarding this book, read my earlier review.

Dede Crane

most recent book: Poster Boy
themes: carcinogens, appreciation of the world the way it already is.

The main character is 16 year old Gray.  Dede found it a challenge to write in the first person, firstly as a boy and then as a teen.  From the passage that she read to the audience, I felt that she was very successfull.  OK, What is it with the Chuck Norris jokes? 

John Ibbitson

most recent novel: The Landing
This book is set in the Muskokas where John grew up.  He told us that he always wanted to set a book there.  Years ago, while sitting in a bar in Manhattan he conceived of the idea but that it was years before he did anything further with it..  The main character is Ben Mercer, who is 15, and the book is set during the Depression. 
He then made an interesting comment on his thoughts of writing.  That when you are writing a book you're not really writing it, that you're listening very carefully to what your character have to say. 

He then read a passage from when Ben was 4 and went  with his parent to listen to an orchestra.  The descriptions that were used made it feel as though I was there with him that very first time and listening and exploring  along with him.

most recent book: Plain Kate
Erin told us that this was the first reading of this book that she had done for non-professionals (ie: librarians and such).  The book  is  filled with magic and witches.  There is a great interview with Erin by Mandy at Edge of Seventeen blog.

Amy at Amy Reads has posted her review of Plain Kate.
Darla at Books & Other Thoughts loved this book.

most recent book: The Boy Sherlock Holmes: The Secret Fiend

Mr. Peacock is a man of many talents.  He confided that he has actually learned many of the skills that his character undertake in the course of his books.  While he has learned tight rope walking and sumo wrestling, he declined to demonstrate for us.  His Boy Sherlock Holmes series is set in Victorian England during the time of Jack the Ripper.  Instead of reading from his most recent book, he read from Eye of the Crow, the first in that series.  Shane read a passage of how the young Sherlock became involved in solving his first mystery.  Sherlock was just on the verge of a discovery when the author snapped the book closed and left us hanging.  Oh great, another book series to add to my rapidly growing wish list.

most recent novel: Crime Machine
Mr. Giles read from the opening pages, a passage where a yet unknown man falls through the ice at a crime scene.  Turns out to be FBI agent Mendalson.  The description of the ice and his saving is terrific.  Even though it was sunny and warm outside, I could almost imagine that I was there.  I really need to get caught up on this series so I can read further and find out how this case goes.

most recent novel: Never Look Away

Mr. Barclay started out by telling us that he had been advised many times, that when doing a reading you should never read from an upcoming book.  That you must read from something that the listeners can purchase right away.  So he followed this advice and read from Never Look Away.  I will quote exactly what he read:  "I'm scared. Ethan said."  Then he quickly snapped the book shut and continued to inform us that he would instead read the prologue of his upcoming book The Accident.  After hearing those next passages I wanted to run to my bookstore and put in my pre-order.

most recent book: Bad Boy (19th book in the Inspector Banks series)

This book occurs over the course of two or three days.  It mostly focuses on Banks' daughter Tracy.  I would tell you more about this book, but I was so captived by the story, that I totally forgot to make any notes.  I am amazed that I haven't read any of Mr. Robinson's books.  I have added Gallows View, the first Inspector Banks book to my 'soon to be read' list.

I hope that you have enjoyed my photos and comments of the authors that I listened to during the course of the day.  Some are fantastic readers, others not so, but one thing they all have in common is that they are terrific writers.  I look forward to reading many of their books in the coming months.

For additional photos of the day, visit the Eden Mills Writer's Festival Facebook page and click on Photos.

Please leave a comment with your favourite books by any or all of these authors.  I'd love suggestions of which of there other books you enjoyed.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Evernnight by Claudia Gray

Bianca has moved from the only home she knows and now lives with her teacher parents at Evernight Academy.  Something feels very wrong to her and she just doesn't want to be there another minute.  While trying to run away, she literally runs into fellow student Lucas Ross. 

This is one of those books that immediately gets right into the meat of the story.  I can't say any more about it without giving away plot.  Right from the first page I couldn't put this book down.  I want more.  Fortunately for me, author Claudia Gray (Amy Vincent in the non-book world) has written several more books in this series.

I liked the characters of Bianca and Lucas.  She appears to have lead a sheltered life, but knows things that most 'normal' teens wouldn't.  Lucas is much more worldly and has been exposed to much beyond his years.  That doesn't mean that they don't see that special something in the other person.  As for what that could possibly be, you'll have to read to find out.  I'll give you a wee hint and say that this is not your typical vampire story. 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Eden Mills Writers' Festival - Publisher's Way

What a terrific event.  Dozens of authors wandering the streets of Eden Mills, the idyllic setting of the 22nd Eden Mills Writers' Festival.  I couldn't imagine a more appropriate setting to peacefully sit and listen to some of favourite authors and some that are bound to become favourites as soon as I get my hands on their books.  In all I listened to thirteen authors read selected passages from their works.  What a pleasure. 

If you haven't attended the festival, I need to set the scene.  There is one road that passes through the village and it was closed off at both ends.  There were plenty of volunteers to help with parking and to get you where you wanted to be.  Thanks go to almost every resident of the town and of the local Armed Forces Regiment.  Several families opened their yards to visitors and hosted the 'reading stages'.  Visitors were encouraged to bring their own chairs/blankets/ and water bottles (the event is trying to be as green as possible).

Authors were grouped into: Adult, Young Adult and Children's authors.  I'll tell you more about the authors in an upcoming post.

Along the main street of the village was the 'Publishers Way.  This was populated by a variety of author's tables, publishing companies, and The Book Shelf, one of the sponsors of the event.

I took pictures of most of the booths, though I did miss a few and I didn't get all the names.  If you attended and can fill the blanks, please leave a comment with details and I'll gladly add them.

unknown 1
Margaret High
Margaret creates inspirational and personalized poetry.  Her book of poetry is titled Heartstrings.
Heather Wright ( front table)
Writing Fiction: A Hands-On-Guide for Teens

Books launched at the Festival (back table)
So, you want to go Carbon Neutral: It takes a Village! by Linda Sword, Illustrated by Linda Hendry
Artist and Author Rene Meshake
I purchased his book Blueberry Rapids and will review it in the next week or two.
Couldn't resist buying one of his t-shirts for hubby.
Doggfucius by L.H. Chang and Vesna Dokmanvic
These books are designed to entertain children while teaching them the Chinese language.  The dog characters in these books are adorable.  I expect that these books would quickly become a child's favourites so that they could see these cute dogs.
A wide range of children's books (newborn - 11years) covering a huge range of topics.
This is a six book series written by author Krista Michelle Breen about an Appaloosa horse. 

Our Mission

"Room to Read seeks to transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Working in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments, we develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and support girls to complete secondary school with the relevant life skills to succeed in school and beyond. "  (copied from the Room To Read website)

Books by author Stephen B. Pearl (left end of table), that's his wife Joy.

Stephen writes in a number of genre including :paranormal romance and erotica, science fiction, post apocalyptic, science fiction, environmental fiction, fantasy, modern fantasy.  Visit his website to read sample chapters of his works.  I read the opening chapter of his first book, Tinker's Plague, and it promises to be a riveting read.  I sat at my computer breathless.  (note to self and my readers, I need to get this book.)


 Comedy writer Ira Nayman is pictured to the right.  This is one very prolific writer who loves to share his work.  I visited his web page and spent the better part of an hour clicking and reading.  There is so much there that it would take me weeks to read it all.  A good place to start would be to visit his archives and chose Book Fifteen - ARNS (Alternate Reality News Service) and My Toronto or My Toronto, Book 2.
Hope that you have enjoyed browsing the Publishers Way with me.  Next time I attend the festival I am going to have my note book in hand and spend more time speaking with all the authors and vendors, and I'll have to make up a card with my blog name and address to share with them.

Needlework Tuesday

Last week I showed the three blocks that I had pieced using the Propeller pattern from Marti Michell.  I worked on making additional blocks quite diligently.  I pressed the blocks and realized that one block was a duplicate.  Search high and low for more oriental fabrics and pieced a tenth block.  Put them on the wall and one stuck out like a sore thumb.  It was too dark.  Another search and luckily found another fabric and pieced block eleven.  (Remember, most of my sewing room is packed in boxes in the basement and not easily searched).  The photo on the left shows the nine acceptable blocks.  The other two will be used to make a small gift bag.

The blocks together measure approximately 18" square.  Needs a narrow dark border and then maybe a 3" print border.  Will have to shop to find fabrics that work.

I did a bit of work on the snowflake afghan and ran out of the variegated blue.  Either I lost a ball somewhere or the pattern is wrong.  I searched all over the house and camper and not an errant ball to be found.  Returned to the shop I bought the yarn, and they have de-listed it and the rest went on clearance and are long gone.  I checked several other shops in the adjoining towns and none of them carried Red Heart Super Saver in variegated.  arg.  I called my sister in London, Ontario and she went to her store and luckily found and bought me two balls.  I'll see her in the next few weeks and will get to work on my project again.  Yippee.  I will weigh the afghan and do the calculations and let you know whether an additional ball is really needed.  This is such a nice pattern that I will probably want to do it again.

The other week I did a post all about coffee and the paraphernalia cluttering my counter that allows me my morning joe. (click the above link if you somehow missed that post)  Surprise, surprise when my monthly shipment of fq's arrived.  Ten coffee prints.

These lovely fabrics are from several different companies including: "Java Beans" from Benartex, Wilmington Prints, and "Cafe Bistro" from Benartex.  Not all my pieces have the printed selvedge.  I received my fabrics from Sew Sisters Quilt shop and the selection is from "The Bargain Lover" club.

I'm sure with 2 1/2 metres of co-ordinated fabrics I'll be able to make a lovely wall hanging or lap quilt.

Join me again next week to read updates of my current projects or any new needle related projects that I may have started.  Leave a comment about your current project or a link to your weekly update.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Scarlet Plague by Jack London - audiobook

This book is set in 2072, sixty years after the scarlet plague has ravaged the world's population.  The remnant survivors struggle to live and increase their numbers.  James Howard Smith is the last plague survivor.  Through the course of this story he tries to impress upon his grandchildren and other listeners, that it is important that they learn about and remember the past.  That they need to know more about their world than the basic skills of survival.

I really enjoyed this story, though at the beginning I found it a bit difficult to figure out what was going on. Will definitely be looking for a paper copy of this one.

I downloaded this  free audio book from LibreVox.  click here to download The Scarlet Plague.

This book was read by James Christopher.  It was originally published in 1912 in London Magazine.

To learn more about Jack London and to read my earlie review of The Call of the Wild, click here.

September 21, 2010 - Sorry, I forgot to tell you that Miri from Milk and Honey Quilts recommended this audio book.  Click the link to her site and read the excellent review and comments about Jack London.

The 10 Essential Classics: Redux - Penguin Group (USA)

Penguin Group is celebrate their 75th Anniversary. They compiled a list of the top 10 Must Read Classics.

The Inferno
Oedipus Rex
the Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice     - read years ago, though worth a re-read
Jane Eyre   - read years ago, also worth a re-read
Of Mice and Men    -  read decades ago and can't remember much

Readers disagreed with the list, so Penguin is giving readers a chance to vote for their own top 10 List.

Click the link below to see the 100 books on the long list, vote for you favourite 10 and be entered to win cool bookish prizes.

The 10 Essential Classics: Redux - Penguin Group (USA)

Be sure to leave a comment telling me your favourite Penguin Classic.

I am tossed up between Twelve Angry Men and The Picture of Dorian Gray.