Thursday, 28 October 2010

Recipe Thursday - Beef and Lentils

As the weather turns chillier I find that I want comfort foods.  That generally means one dish cooking.  This crook pot meal is almost one dish.  You do need to brown the beef before putting it on to simmer.  It first attracted me because of it's unusual ingredients, now I keep coming back to it because my family likes it.

Beef and Lentils

28 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
19 oz can of lentils, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3 tbsp barbecue sauce
2 1/2 tbsp sweet or regular chili sauce
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

2 tsp cooking oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
finely chopped fresh parsely optional

Combine first 10 ingredients in 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker. 

Heat the cooking oil in large frying pan on medium.  Add ground beef.  Scrabmle-fry for 5 to 10 minutes until no longer pink.  Drain.

Sprinkle flour over beef.  Heat and stir on medium for 1 minute.  Slowly add broth , stirring constantly and scraping any brown bits from bottom of pan.  Add to tomato mixture.  Stir well. Cover. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.  Remove and discard bay leaf.

Add parsley.  Stir well.  Serves 6.  Eat as is or serve over rice.

"Weekend Cooking" is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  You are invited to join in the fun by visiting and reading the various food related posts.  You can also enter a link to your recent food related post.  Be sure to visit this week and learn about Beth's Halloween post about the giant fruit bats.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 | Books | Siberian Education by Nicolai Lilin, Translated by Jonathan Hunt

While visiting at today I came across this recently released non-fiction book, Siberian Education by Nicolai Lilin. It deals with life in Siberia as well as the roll of tattoos in their culture. I don't have a copy of this book at present, but will be adding it to my wish list. Books Siberian Education by Nicolai Lilin, Translated by Jonathan Hunt

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

HIghland Hellcat by Mary Wine

I was having one of those drab days and I didn't really know what to do to lift my mood.  Then I spotted a copy of Highland Hellcat .  I thought to myself that a man in a kilt and a little romance might be just the remedy I needed.

"Come, my beauty, we shall see if we can impress anyone tonight with our skill."

What a leading first line.  Author Mary Wine had my attention.  I was envisioning a darkly handsome highlander whispering those words to a bevy of buxom barmaids.  Not to be, these were the very words of Brina Chattan, soon to be nun, the third daughter of Robert Chattan, Laird of Chattan Castle. As I continued to read I became intrigued by this young woman who had grown up knowing that she was to become a nun and was destined to become the mother superior.  Yes, Brina is a strong willed, and very capable young woman, but what's she doing in a romance.  I kept reading and very quickly the plot started to unveil some unseemly events involving one of her elder sisters. 

From this point on I couldn't read fast enough.  I had an inkling of an impending change in Brina's future, but couldn't guess how it was going to come about.  Then I met Connor Lindsey, Laird of Clan Lindsay, and promised Brina's sister Deirdre in marriage.  I felt a sympathy for Connor from the moment he was introduced.  I was firmly on his side and knew that he would do what ever was required to avenge his honour and that of his clan.  

 Brina and Connor were both characters with strong personalities that would lead to clashes and adventure, perfect for what I needed from this book.  I wasn't disappointed.   There were several unexpected twists and turns in the plot that kept this book from being predictable.  At those points I couldn't figure out how Ms. Wine was going to get the story back on track, but she would add another twist and bound off in yet another direction.  Turned out that this book was the perfect foil to my mood.  If you're like me an you enjoy a good romance involving men in kilts, then Highland Hellcat is a wonderful choice.

Visit Mary Wine's website.

Thank-you to Sourcebook Inc for my review copy.

Needlework Tuesday - Afghan update

I practically shrieked the other day when I realized how much I still have to stitch on this afghan before Christmas.  eeks.  It now stands at 22 inches and needs to get to 60 before finishing off.  Oh my.  I made a concentrated effort to stitch every morning while watching a TV program recorded the previous evening and I made good progress.  Now to keep it up for six more weeks.  I added one new colour, a medium tan, just because I saw the yarn on sale and decided it would work.

I do have to take a slight break from knitting and help my niece with her Halloween costume.  She had great fun making the accessory pieces on Sunday, but there is a bit that needs machine stitching.  Next week I'll have pictures to share, until then, it's under wraps.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Unbound: A True Story of War, Love, and Survival by Dean King

Step by step, one day at a time, the Red Army marched west and north  4000 miles across the breadth of China.  It was October 1934 and the Communist Red Army pulled up stakes in Jingxi province to flee the advancing Nationalist forces.

Prior to reading this book I knew almost nothing about the early twentieth century history of China.  Mr. King includes a section on the rise of the Communist party and details on the role of women in Chinese society of that time.  Women were treated as slaves, farm labour and when of age to marry as a source of male offspring.  They were also subject to the debilitating practice of foot binding.  In 1928 at the Sixth Chinese Communist Party Congress  the potential of women within society was 'embraced' by the party.  They realized that women were a vast untapped resource. That they were capable of being educated and carrying out the same roles as men.   

As the communist members moved through out the country side, many women saw the opportunity to lead the lives that they have envisioned for themselves and they immediately enlisted.  A core group of thirty of these women fled with 86 000 men of the Red Army.  They played key rolls in organizing the medical core (carrying stretchers, caring for the wounded), obtaining supplies, recruiting, etc.  At least several of these women had bound feet and spent many agonizing months letting their feet out with the hope they would heal and they would be better able to keep up with their comrades.

I was fascinated by this book.  At first I found it difficult to follow as there were so many place names and people name that were unfamiliar to me that it was hard to keep it all straight in my mind.  After a while it did get easier as I recognized the individuals and worked out the pronunciations.  They story it's self is very clearly written and easy to follow.  The hardships that all the marchers endured was not so easy.  I shivered as I read the passages where the scantily clothed soldiers climbed over sky-high mountains.  When they huddled together under tattered blankets during driving rain and hail storms.  I cringed when the women clawed through manure to pick out the undigested grains so they would have something to eat.

There is so much fact packed into this book that it took me quite a while to read, about three weeks in fact.  I don't begrudge a minute of that time.  I learned a lot about courage and fortitude.  Many of the women could have elected to stay behind at any time.  Many were even offered that choice.  It appears to me that it was a better choice to stay with the army and it's hardships than it was to return to their homes where many of them were treated worse than slaves.

I highly recommend this book for any with an interest in history or in women's liberation.  While it is a long and fact filled book, it is well worth the effort.

Dean King's website.  Be sure to watch the video trailer of the book.

Thank-you to Hachette Book Group for my review copy.

To learn more about foot binding read Foot Binding by Jeanine Holman.

Notable reviews:
The Black Sheep Dances

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Weekend Cooking: How to Feed 1800 hungry Runners

"Weekend Cooking" is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Join other foodies for their food related posts.  You are invited to add a link to your current recipe, cookbook, restaurant, movie or other related review.

As I have mentioned previously, my neighbour hosts a number of running races throughout the year. . Last Sunday was a biggie, "The Oktoberfest" with over 1800 runners.  Participants could chose either a 5k or 10k route.  Note that the families of the runners are also welcome to join in the post run snacks, meaning that we are feeding much more than 2000 people.

At the end of the race they are offered 'refreshments': fresh fruit, bagels, hot dogs, sausage, pizza and soup.  The pizza is courtesy of Little Caesar's Pizza and the mullugtwany soup was donated by Classic Indian Cuisine, both of Waterloo, Ontario.

The following photos were taken minutes before the runners finished and came inside to eat.

 A double food line starts at this point.  Note that we have tableclothes even though they are plastic.  The floor is covered in plywood as there is still ice in the arena.

 The bananas are cut into three pieces before serving.
 Bagels are under plastic to keep them fresh.  We had to slice seven huge boxes of them.
 You can see the many dozens cases of pizza boxes under the tables in this and the preceeding photo.
 At least 2400 hotdog rolls.
 Freshly bbq'd hotdogs (1500?) and 800 sausages.
 500 litres of soup.

Orange gatorade, 1000's of cups.

It was an exhausting couple of hours, but lots of fun.  I did mange two bowls of soup and took home my cinnamon raisin bagel.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

book cover
Flavia de Luces is the most interesting eleven year old that I have met in quite some time.  Not only is she fascinated by poisons, so even uses them on her unsuspecting sisters.   Love that special lipstick she makes for her eldest sister. 

Now Flavia is not the only intriguing person in her household.  Her mother Harriet is missing and presumed dead for many years.  Dogger, Arthur Wellesley Dogger, is currently the gardener, but has performed a number of roles in the manner over the years.  He continues to suffer flashbacks to the war.  I also find Mrs. Mullet the cook unusual.  She puts up with all the oddities of the family and never comments.  I hope to see more of her in a future book.  Finally, there is her father.  He has quite the wide and varied background which is very slowly and deliberately revealed to us, but only in the slimmest of details.

I thorough loved this book.  Were I a young teen I would have re-read it a half dozen times by now.  The characters are so real that I immediately wanted to love or hate them or totally ignore them as irrelevant to me.  The setting is so well described that I could imagine myself pedalling down the lane alongside of Flavia.

I highly recommend this novel to all, regardless of age, who enjoy a good mystery.  I am looking forward to The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag, the next adventure in this series.

For further information about Flavia and Mr. Bradley, visit Flavia's site and join her fan club.

Thanks to RandomHouse Canada for the cover photo and Bio of Alan Bradley.

After reading Petty Witter's review at Pen and Paper, I requested this book from my library.

Also reviewed at:Dorte at DJ's krimiblog
 Martha at Hey, I want to read That

The Flavia de Luce stories:

1  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
2 The  Weed that Strings the Hangman`s Bag
3  A Red Herring Without Mustard
4  I am Half-Sick of Shadows
5  Speaking fron among the Bones
5.5 The Curious case of the Copper Corpse 
6  The Dead in their Vaulted Arches
7 The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

The Canadian Book ChallengeThis is my 4th book for the 4th Canadian Book Challenge hosted by John at The Book Mine Set.  There is still time to join.  Read 13 books by Canadian authors and blog about the book.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Needlework Tuesday - Scarf Wrap-up

 I was sitting on the sofa this past weekend and lamenting that I had too many needlework projects on the go.  I knew that I didn't have all that much to go on the blue scarf and I decided right then and there that I would pick it up and knit until that ball was finished and then the scarf would be done.  Well, I finished that ball and spied a tiny ball that would add a few more rows, so I added it and then knit that bit up.  I immediately worked in the ends, and voila, it's finished.  This is my niece Michelle modelling it for you.  She is getting all excited about her first winter in Canada and is stalking up on scarves and winter gear.  I don't know yet if she is going to claim this one, or whether she has her eye on one in the following photo.
Believe it or not, my daughter is lying on the sofa with all those scarves tied around her.  There are eleven scarves tied around her.  I knit nine of them, Michelle knit the one nearest the right and there is one sewn chenille one, second from right.  Now I really must stop with the knitting of scarves.  I have lots for giving away.  What I need to do is start knitting some Christmas stockings.   I guess you'll have to come back next week to see what I decide to do.

PS, yes I did untie my daughter.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of The Printed Page and is now on tour. Avis of She Reads and Reads is hosting for the month of October.  This will be my first time joining in the fun.  The picture above is a row from a quilt that I started ages ago.  The mailbox will eventually have some tiny parcels sticking out.

My mailbox has been a happy place lately; one book Friday and two today.

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future by George Beard and Harold Hutchins.  I won this in a contest hosted  by Mel at He Followed Me Home and sponsored by Scholastic.
from the back cover: Suckas Beware!!! Meet Ook and Gluk, the coolest caveboys to step out of the Stone Age!  It's 500,001 BC, and Ook and Gluk's happy hometown of Caveland, Ohio, is under attack.  The world's most evil corporation from the future has invaded the past, and the boys and their little dinosaur pal, Lily, are in big trouble!  When a mysterious time portal takes them to the year 2222, they find a wise new friend.  But will they find the secret to saving the day?
The Frenzy by Francesca Lia Block.  I won this in a contest hosted by author Claudia Gray.
from the back cover: Love is a werewolf, influenced by the moon and terror, and always about to change.  Something terrifying happened to Liv when she was thirteen.  Something that changed everything, that made her...different.  Now the only time she truly feels like herself is when she's with her boyfriend, Corey, and in the woods that surround her town.  But danger lurks in the woods, too-and secrets Liv cannot begin to imagine. 
Therapy: A Novel by Harrie Rose.  I won this in a contest sponsored by Nurture Your Books.
from the back cover:  Written in a vivid first-person narrative that sweeps the reader along, this bold novel introduces Barbara, a 52-year-old woman who has it all. So why is she sunk in an abyss of depression? Her therapist, 17 years her junior, reawakens feelings she thought she’d never again have. Does he share those feelings or is her merely doing therapy? As he embarks on an incredible journey of self-awareness, uncovering lies she lived by, Barbara’s world opens up like the flowers she enjoys looking after in her garden. Caught up in a revealing, wonderfully feminine embrace, this faux memoir hits a chord with anyone who wonders if life has anything more t o give once your hair needs its monthly dose of colour and gravity takes its toll on your body. It’s not just a novel about getting old. Nor is it just a novel about women. Its theme is the universal one of how we see ourselves and what will bring us real happiness.

Versatile Blogger Award

Thank-you to Shan from Curled Up with a Good Book and a Cup of Tea for granting me "The Versatile Blogger" Award.   I very much appreciate this award.  I have received a few such in the past and I apologize if I didn't accept.  I get so carried away at times that I forget to pass it along.  I will try my best to nominate some of the many bloggers that I visit with on a regular basis.  
The conditions of this award are that all recipients must:

1. Thank and link back to the person that gave this award
2. Write 7 things about yourself
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked to let them know about the award

Seven Things About Myself:

1 I spent a year as a teenager living on the small Caribbean Island of St. Vincent.
2 I live with depression and find that reading, quilting and blogging help keep it from getting in the way.
3 I ran the Calgary half marathon in 2008 with my sister Nancy.
4 I have a teaching certificate but never sought a job as a teacher.
5 I'm obsessed with New Zealand.
6 The 'Dear Jane Quilt' inspired me to write a novel, yet to be edited and published.
7 My family says I have no sense of humour.  I can't watch comedy on TV, yet have read and reviewed several humour books and found all of them hilarious.

I would like to pass this award on to the following bloggers:
Scott at Blue Nickel Studios
Bejewelled Quilts by Barb
Kristi at Books and Needlepoint
Kathy at Cottage Garden Quilter
From Russia with Love
Happy Cottage Quilter
Wendy from It is What it Is
Kathy at Kathy's Quilts
Linda at Living, Quilting and Stuff
Elly at Mad for Patchwork
Miri at Milk and Honey Quilts
(M)ary at Ox
Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages
Carmie of The Single Nester
Lady Penguin at The Day Before Tomorrow

Should you chose to visit these bloggers, leave them a comment and let them know that "Heather sent me".

Friday, 15 October 2010

First Nations/Aboriginal Fridays - Blueberry Rapids by Rene Andre Meshake

This is the story of Giniw, who one day is asked by his Okomissan, grandmother, to go blueberry collecting.  This is a treat for him and he hurries to get ready.  He doesn't listen to his grandmother when she tells him not to bring is drawing supplies.

The ancestors at Blueberry Rapids determine that Giniw needs to be taught a lesson in truth and they present him with the opportunity.  Fortunately he listens to them and learns his lesson.  He then thanks them by making a drawing on a riverside stone.

I was fortunate to meet Mr. Meshake at the Eden Mills Writer's Festival.  He had a table along 'Publisher's Way' and featured both his writings and art work.  I purchased a copy of Blueberry Rapids at that time.

This is a lovely book that any child would be happy to read, particularly if it was with a grandparent.  Adults reading it will fall in love with the gorgeous artwork by Mr. Meshake.

It was impossible to chose my favourite picture in the book.  The one at left is from the part of the story where Giniw and his Okomissan are drinking their tea and he thinks he hears voices that is not the sound of the wind in the tree.  I think he was hearing the voices of his ancestors that are depicted in this painting.

There is a glossary of Ojibwe/English words at the back of the book.

I also bought a t-shirt with an image of 'The Mother Bear'  by Rene.  It immediately became my hubby's favourite shirt. 

Be sure to visit Rene Meshake's website to learn more about his art work and his other writings.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Recipe Thursday - How to Make Perfect Rice Every Time

One day my rice would be soggy, the next lumpy and gluey.  Uck, I was close to giving up and going to instant when a friend told me her mother-in-law's secret: lots of water.

First of all, don't skimp on the rice.  Buy the best you can afford.  Basmati No. 817 has been my choice for over ten years.  Occasionally I can get it at the grocery story though usually we go to a small Indian Grocery Store.

Lots of water.  I cook my rice in a medium size pot that holds about seven cups of water.  Bring the water to a full boil.  Measure about  1 1/2 cups of rice grains into a fine mesh strainer and rinse for about one minute under running water till the water runs clear.  This will help ensure that your rice is not sticky.

Carefully pour the wet rice into the boiling water.  Set your timer for 5 minutes.  Give it a quick stir and then let the water come back to a boil.  After 5 minutes, stir the rice once more so that it's not sticking to the bottom.  Turn the heat off and set the lid on the pot but leave it slightly ajar so it won't seal shut as the temperature cools.  Now set the timer for 15 minutes.  Leave the rice undisturbed for that whole time. 

When the timer rings lift the lid and look in the pot, the rice should be mounded up in the water.  Carefully pour the rice and water into a colander that you have set into the sink.   You can test the rice to ensure softness, but you don't want it to sit in the hot water too long or it will become mushy.  Shake the colander to remove excess water and return the rice to the pot to keep warm until needed.

Your rice will be perfect everytime.  No need to buy that expensive 'converted rice'.  Extra cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator.  To reheat you can either steam it or put in a glass bowl  with a tablespoon of water in the microwave.  Heat for 30 seconds at a time until warm enough.  Do not leave cooked rice on the counter overnight as micro-organisms can start to grow and turn the rice bad and make you sick.

What am I cooking?  I have two new cookbooks that I am testing recipes from.

I have received a copy of Robin Hood Baking from Robert Rose.  I have made a few recipes to date and have quite a few more marked.  My family is loving this.

From my library I have a copy of Jamie's Food Revolution.  It is based on his Ministry of Food campaign and show from Rotherham, England.  by chance I happened to catch the first episode of this series this morning.  Wow, the guy had his work cut out for him.  I then paged through the book and am looking forward to giving these recipes a try.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Winner of AC/DC book

I drew the winner of the Why AC/DC Matter by Anthony Bozza today.  I wrote out a list of all the valid entries in the order of their comments on the original post.  I then when to RANDOM.ORG and entered the number of entries and the winner was entry number 1.

True Random Number Generator

Min: 1
Max: 21
Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Winner is Nazmis from Turkey.

You have 3 days to contact me with you mailing address.  I have sent a private email with this information.

Thanks to all who entered.  Thanks to HarperCollins for the prize book.  Check back for my next contest (yet undecided what it will be).

Needlework Tuesday - Bags for Fencing Equipment

Last week I received the fencing equipment that I needed  including my sous plastron (half jacket) and jacket.  Yippee.  The only item I'm missing is my lame (overjacket for electric scoring).  With all this gear to carry back and forth I needed a large bag.  Of course I could have bought one, but that wouldn't be satisfactory to a sewer.  I would search each seam and piece of fabric used to determine whether it was of any value. arg.  Better to make one myself.  Time was an issue, so I needed something quickly; I can always sew a second bag later at my leisure (okay, don't start laughing).  I chose a pattern by M'liss Rae Hawley from her book Fat Quarter Quilts.

It's called "The Fat Quarter Bag" and uses six fat quarters for the outside.  I happened to have a rather large piece of upholstery fabric and used the same fabric for both the outside and the lining.  Worked out well, nice sturdy fabric and I didn't have to buy anything.

After I finished the main bag I used the left overs to make some small one for accessory items.   Now for a bit of a fencing lesson.  For scoring one method is to use a sword with a plunger tip that uses a small electrical current.  When the tip is depressed, the circuit completes the a light goes 'on' on the score board.  This requires a wire from the sword to the score board.  It's called a 'body wire' as it runs from near the handle of the sword, under the jacket and out at the waist and connects with a coiled wire to the scoring equipment.  Not wanting to have this wire get tangled in the larger bag I made a small drawstring bag.  It actually has a divider in the middle as a fencer is required to have a spare wire at all time in the event of a problem with the first. 

For those familiar with fencing, you know that the clothing is all white.  Last think I want to do is throw my running shoes on top of my jacket, thus I made another bag for the shoes.  On the back of the bag I made a large pocket to accomodate a note book.

The small bag pattern is adapted from the Kit Bag pattern found on the Mennonite Central Committee website.

Hop on over to Lit and Laundry to see what's been "Finished for Friday".  Some great halloween crafts are on display.

Friday, 8 October 2010

First Nations/Aboriginal Friday - Extra Indians by Eric Gansworth

Vietnam veteran Tommy Jack McMorsey is working as a truck driver when he happens into an odd situation.  A Japanese tourist is searching in the snow behind a truck stop for the missing ransom money from the fictional movie Fargo.  Tommy Jack doesn't feel right about leaving her there; he asks her if she wants to ride along with him.  Later she goes out into the winter night, lies down in the snow and dies in her sleep.

The ensuing police investigation and media interest sets Tommy Jack on a very public reflective journey.  His memories of Vietnam, those of his best friend Fred Howkowski and his son, and also of his lover Shirley Mounter are all brought into view.  Wounds long buried are unearthed and thrust into daylight.

I have to say right up front that I loved this book.  Every minute of it.  I read it as an ebook sitting at my desktop computer.  Not a comfortable way to read, but I couldn't stop once I started this book.  I would much rather have had a paperback as I wanted to carry it around with me, and hold it close.  I wanted to trace the cover images with my finger and re-read passages, particularly those about the Fireball game and those times Tommy Jack spent with Shirley.

Why did I love it?  It seemed to me that it was such a real set of circumstances that  they could have happened to a neighbour or friend.  I can't imagine being torn from your comfy home life and dropped literally into a war zone.  The friendship that Tommy Jack formed with Fred was the type of friendship that would last forever.  Even thirty years after Fred's passing, Tommy Jack still referred to him as his best friend.  Even writing this I am tearing up.  I know how it feels to lose your best friend, gone physically but never gone from your heart. Those are memories your hold onto, you cherish much as Tommy Jack has.  There is also the love affair between Tommy Jack and Shirley.  A war time love born out of desperation, anything to help him survive in the jungle, but which developed into something real and lasting once they met in person.  It is also an un-resolved love that's been put on hold for decades.

I selected this book mostly based on the information that the author Eric Gansworth is a First Nations Author.  He is a member of the Onondaga Nation.  I started searching out and reading book by First Nations authors over two years ago as part of a Canadian Reading Challenge.  I truly enjoyed reading the books I found and have continued to search out more such authors.  Mr. Gansworth is an author who's works I look forward to reading more of.

Thanks to NetGalley and Milkweed  Editions  for this ebook.

Eric Gansworth's website
Cover photo from

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Recipe Thursday - Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are one of those baked goods that I tend to fall back on when I want to make a treat but don't want to worry about finding unusual ingredients, or worry whether anyone in the family will eat it when it comes out of the oven.  A great stand by.

I was at the Lindt outlet store recently and they had bags of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate chips.  I had not tried them and was wondering if the little bit more cost was worth it.    On a taste test of the chipits alone, yes, but what about when baked.   The chips them shelves are more like a slightly flattened disk  and they are larger than I expected.  It was the taste that made the difference.  Excellent.  I will definitely be purchasing these again.

I used the recipe on the back of the package.  You can click here to print from the Ghirardelli website, or you can copy and print it from this post.  There are lots of other recipes at the site as well as information about cooking with chocolate.

The Ultimate Chocolate Cookies

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 bag (326 grams) Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Heat oven to 375 F.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In large bowl cream butter with two sugars, eggs and vanilla.  Gradually stir flour mixture into creamed mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Shape 1 inch dough balls on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 9 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool 2 minutes , then remove to rack.  Makes about 4 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies.

I tried rolling the dough into balls, but it was so warm and sticky that I used two spoons to drop blobs onto the pan.  You could chill the dough if you want balls and nice round cookies.  I chose to use walnuts since I had them on hand.

I really did make more than the five cookies shown in the top photo....

"Weekend Cooking" is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  Visit to read an assortment of Food Related Posts. You are invited to add a link to your recent foodie post.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Needlework Tuesday - Two Scarves

I know I said I wasn't knitting any more scarves, well, ignore that.  I started two more last week.
Years ago (really over two decades ago) I bought this blue speckled yarn by Papillon.It was a fluffy skein of 250 grams and it was supposed to be enough to knit a pullover sweater.  Great, as a university student, that was about the limit of my spending money for the term.  I happily knit away.  The body, the one sleeve and then the next.  oops, only enough yarn for half of the second sleeve.  I checked my measurements and the tension, perfect.  arg, now what do I do?  I couldn't afford a second kit.  So I unknit and the balls of yarn sat for twenty years. 
I found them when cleaning my sewing room and figured a scarf would be good.  It's not about two feet long and I'll keep going until long enough or I get bored.

My niece started a new scarf this week.  I thought I would join her and use the same pattern.  We could encourage each other.  This one is fingering weight wool.  Mine is being made with some self patterning sock yarn (shown).  She is using a black with the occasional red speckle.  There is a second step, but you'll have to wait a few weeks for that as well as the link to the pattern. 

As a family we went on an outing last week to the Toronto Zoo.  Great place regardless of age.  My niece wanted to get her first glimpse of a polar bear.  At the gift shop I was surprised to find wool for sale.  Turns out it is hand spun camel wool.  What a great orange.  I couldn't pass it up.   One skein is 150-200 yards weighing 5-6 ozs.
I have no idea what I'll make with it, but that doesn't matter.  This wool is being sold as a fund raiser to help support snow leopard conservation activites.  Be sure to visit the Snow Leopard Trust to find out how to help with these conservation efforts and how it helps nomadic herding women and their families.

This wool and other items can be purchased through zoos, museums and wool shops throughout Canada and the United States.  Click here for a list.

Monday, 4 October 2010

What an Oprah Pick Means

I was reading over at  The Savvy Reader a terrific post regarding Oprah's lastest book pick.  Last week the office staff at a HarperCollins office were crowded into a lounge to watch her and find out which book would be announced. 

As you probably know by now Freedom by Jonathon Frazen was selected.  Browse inside Freedom

At the end of that post, Jason asked whether this announcement by Oprah affects your choice in reading this book.

I checked in my Read, Remember, Recommend journal and found the list of approximately sixty books that Oprah has previously recommended.  Of those listed I have read two.  I have a further three marked off as wanting to read.  Clearly I don't use Oprah as a source for suggesting books to me.  In fact, I would say that I tend to avoid book pushed by celebrities.  I don't say this is a good approach, but that's how it happens with me.  I might be missing out on some good reads. 

On reflection, I'd say that I don't want to get sucked into buying an overly hyped book.  Imagine you are a reviewer and you read this current book and hate it, would you post and honest review or would you go with the flow not wanting to rock the boat?

Did you purchase this book solely on Oprah's recommendation?  What did you think of it?  Are you planning to read it?  buy it? borrow it from your library?

Be sure to leave a comment as I am curious if I am standing alone in my reluctance.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

First published in 1851, Moby Dick is still finding it's way on to recommended reading lists.   If you are like I was, you haven't read the book but have seen bits of cartoons and perhaps a movie on tv and think that it's the story of Captain Ahab and his quest to kill the white sperm whale Moby Dick.  Well, in part it is, but it's so much more.  It is practically an encyclopedia of whale lore such as it was known in the mid nineteenth century. 

At first I was confused and wondering why Mr. Melville always seemed to be going off on a tangent and losing the thread of the story.  Actually, as it turns out, all those tangents are the story.  The whale himself, is only a part of the larger picture.  One section goes on at length on the taxonomy of whales.  While it was somewhat interesting, after ten or fifteen minutes I was starting to lose track of what was going on and how it could possibly pertain to catching that one, white whale.   After speaking with a literature student, I learned that this book had been written chapter by chapter and was printed in a weekly paper.  Mr. Melville would have been paid by the page, so it was in his best interest to be wordy.  I don't know if this is true, but that would explain some of the choices of what to include in the book.

There were a few passages that I particularly enjoyed.  One of them, chapter 85 discusses the purpose of the blow hole.  Considering that this book was written 150 years ago, I felt that the author presented quite detailed information.    This was  a very lengthy audio book (some 23 hours) and much of it was rather a blur to me.  It perked up considerably at the start of hour 22.  This moving passage was set the night before the white whale was spotted and the final chase begun and Captain Ahab is on the deck with his first mate.  He actually questions whether it is crazy to expend so much effort to capture one whale and whether he should have been spending his time at home with his wife and child.  Very insightful.  From this passage on, I had finally found the book that I had sought to read.  It was exciting and had me hanging on the edge of my seat (so to speak).

Would I recommend this book to other readers.  For a young reader, no way.  Get him or her the new graphic novel that coming out,  or a short abridged one.  This version would seem like punishment.  If  you are a purist and like lots of detail, then yes, this could be the book for you.  Don't expect to push on through it in a few days, you'll need the time to digest the many different topics that Mr. Melville discusses.  If you plan to read the original text, then be sure to visit the Life and Works of Herman Melville website.  They have lots of background information there that will help you get the most out of your reading time. (link is posted below).

I listened to the un-abridged audio version of this book.  Read by Adams Morgan and recorded by Blackstone Audio in 2000.  This version does not appear in there current  product catalogue.

 Sperm whale photo from Greenpeace Canada website.

Further information about Herman Melville can be found at The Life and Works of Herman Melville.
Visit the Berkshire Historical Society at Herman Melville's Arrowhead.
For further information about the sperm whale, visit the Oceanic Research Group.

This is my fifteenth book that I have read for the Read, Remember, Recommend Challenge being hosted by Bibliobabe.  There is still time to join in the reading fun.