Saturday, 30 April 2011

Zebra Cake - No Zebra required

We were having guests last Friday and I needed something with chocolate.  My girlfriend Janet adores chocolate.  We had already finished the huge bag of Lindt truffles, so what's a girl to do.  Make them eat cake.  Browsing through one of my favourites Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman, I spied her recipe for a white and chocolate cake called "Zebra Cake".  Click on the book title for my earlier review.  Perfect.  Making the batter is no different from any other basic cake.  Once the white batter is complete, measure out about 1/3 of it to a separate bowl and add 2 tbsp of dutch process cocoa, this makes a darker batter.  Then fill the pan alternating dark and light. 

Once you have used up all your batter, oven time.  Note, It did take me about 15 -20 minute to get the batter in the pan.  My batter seemed way too thick so it was very slow to spread.

Ready to Serve.

Very Yummy and it looks special without doing anything else.  My guests were impressed. Though they were almost arguing with me on how I put the batter in the pan.  They thought I must have done something very tricky.  A quick google search will turn up all sorts of recipes for this cake.  I don't have permission from the publisher to share the one I used.

For more foodie fun, hop on over to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking meme.  I always am entertained and educated when I visit.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Reading books on my Blackberry Playbook

I plan to add updates to this post as further information comes my way.

Update: January 18, 2012 - Linda at living, quilting and stuff has posted a pattern for sewing a cover for your Playbook.

Update: November 22, 2011
As I am writing this update, I am installing Kobo update 1.3.1.  I then turned the wifi off, turned it back on and am watching my books update.  Looks like everything will be there and all is happy.  Thanks to all those at Kobo who have been working so hard to fix this problem.
Update: November 12, 2011
Kobo acknowledges that there is a problem at their end and that they are working on the problem night and day seeking to resolve.  Playbook issues are not yet corrected.  In the meantime, they are not responding to error reports, though they do say that they will respond to them all in the future.  The only place that I could find information was on their Facebook page.  Kobo Support Facebook.

Update: November 11, 2011
Kobo App won't refresh/update, the little circle just sits there and spins.  On November 6, 2011, I bought a book from Kobo while using my desktop computer.  I find it easier to browse on my desktop as the search function is more robust than the one in the Playbook app.  I then picked up my Playbook, opened the Kobo app and tried to refresh.  After about ten minutes of waiting for the book to load, I put it down and went on with other business.  It was about two hours later that I went back to my Playbook and noticed that the book still hadn't loaded.  No worries, things happen.  I closed the app, re-opened it and started it to refresh again.  Since it still didn't work, I went back to my desktop and sent a comment to Kobo asking them to remove the book as I wasn't able to download it.  I got back an automatic response with a ticket number.  That is the last I have heard from them.  I did not get a response within the 24-48 hour window that they promised.  I sent another report, no response.  On the 9th I sent another comment quoting the previous ticket number and still no response.

Searching around online brought my the information I needed.  Kobo is having a problem.  It is not my Playbook. 

What to do?  Do not delete the Kobo app and reload it.  This will temporarily remove all your books and since the app is not working, you will not be able to refresh and return your books.  You can still read books that are already on your Playbook.  Close the app and re-open, do not try to refresh, just select the book you want to read.  If it does not open, then turn off the wi-fi and try again, it should work this time.  Just remember to turn the wi-fi back on after you finish reading.  You will probably experience problems with dogears at this time.  I can read books, but the dogears that I make aren't saved.

Original Post:

Like many voracious readers, I have been eying the ebook readers.  My plan had been to win one, but alas, that just wasn't happening.  I had started visiting shops and really checking them out.  I wanted something that was robust and would stand up to lots of use and some banging around.  Since I follow several book industry publications, I wanted a unit that would also be up to handling future books.  Right now the books are black and white copies of the text, but what about the future,  I can't imagine them staying that way.  I envision that they will have links embedded so that I will be able to see that meal that is being described, or the haunted mansion with the creaking doors that the naive girl has just entered.  I had also read about the interactive magazine subscriptions that are available.  I wanted colour, I wanted to flip a page with my finger, and I wanted to be able to upgrade the software instead of having to run out and buy a newer unit.

I hadn't found that product yet, so imagine my surprise when hubby came home last Tuesday with a Blackberry Playbook for me.  Never expected that one.  Rather surprising actually.  We live minutes from a number of RIM (Research in Motion, the maker of the Blackberrys) buildings.  We know many people who work there, yet we don't have Blackberry phones.  Would this work for me as an ereader?  I started to play with it.

I came loaded with a number of apps including Kobo, which is the ereader that is aligned with
I clicked on that app and proceeded to shop.  I easily downloaded a couple of free books and started reading.

I sat reading in a chair, standing by the table, lying on the sofa, lying propped in bed with no hands on the unit.  I read in the car, I read in the car in the dark. I even sat at my desktop computer with the Playbook propped on my lap and super multi tasked.  It worked well in each situation.
I've included four photos showing the different configurations for reading.  I haven't tried the night reading yet.  It does look better than the photo as the white lettering doesn't really glow as in the photo.

My favourite at the moment is the traditional format shown in the third photo, though it's easy to change to the others, you just turn the unit.

What I am missing is Adobe Digital.  That's the reader that I can get review ebooks from NetGalley.  This was one of my main reasons for wanting an ebook reader. Adobe is working on this app and hope to have it ready by the summer.  I did call the Playbook help line and spoke to a very helpful lady in South Carolina (funny I had to get help from a local company from so far away).  She helped me with a few things and doubled checked about the Adobe Digital.  I then checked with Overdrive Media.  That's the software that my library uses for their audio book downloads.  You can currently download to your Blackberry Phone, but that app will not work with the Playbook.
There are plans to make an app for this unit.

What did I read?  Kiss Me Deadly by Michele Hauf.  It is a free download from Harlequin.  They currently are offering fifteen of their books for free download.

I've read a few paranormal romances previously and this ranked up at the top.  It was a well thought out story and kept me interested throughout all my reader manoeuvring and testing.

Witch meets Vampire.  A centuries old deadly rivalry.  Now add in the Devil and his secret schemes and you have some serious chemistry happening.

Thanks to Michele Hauf for the cover photo.

I am now onto my second ebook, The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1 by PJ Haarsma and still enjoying this new age reading process.

May 1, 2011 - I learned something new today.  How to delete a book from the Kobo app.  Open the app, then locate the book you want to delete.  Touch the bookcover image with your finger and hold it there for a few seconds.  A box will appear and you then selection the option to delete the book.  Confirm your decision and the book will be deleted.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Cold Panes of Surfaces by Chris Banks

I get most of my book suggestions from industry newsletters or by reading reviews on other book blogs.  This one came via my son.  He came home from school excited one day and told me that I just had to go and buy this book of poetry called Bonfires.  He had been studying poetry in English class and it turned out that his teacher had published some of them in a collection.  Off we went to the local independent store.  Couldn't find the suggested edition, and bought his second book instead.  Here I am with Chris Banks' book in hand and my son every day asking whether I have started reading.  Well, it is National Poetry Month, I decided I would jump right in.

I haven't read a poetry book in decades and thus had to sit and reflect on how to go about reading these little nuggets of , well, what are they.  Here's what I came up with.

Reading poems is like eating pierogis.  They appear soft and smooth on the surface, but you can't see what's inside.  It's going to be a surprise.  You can guess what's in there, but you can't be sure.   Next you can choose to slather on all sorts of expectations such as sour cream and fried onions.  That's like having expectations that the poem with be all sappy with lovey dovey stuff or that it will be hard to understand.  You can eat just one and savour it, or you can munch down on a bowlful and go back for more.

In the end, your hunger gets to you, and you just have to dig in.

That's what I did, one or two poems at a time for the most part, though a few days I was gluttonous and ate a whole bowlful. I was pleasantly surprised.  Some of the poems, I was able to find their flavour right away, others I had to take a second or third bite.  There was one poem I just had to keep going back to.  "Wrecking Ball" is about teenage suicide.  Mr. Banks is a high school teacher;  I never before considered how such an incident could impact on the teachers.

In the poem "The Sky is Falling" the reader is asked to consider experiencing something you had never even heard of for the very first time.  Something way outside your realm of ever considering possible.

I was intrigued by several poems that reached out to historic figures.  General Maresuke Nogi and the poet Ikkyu and both new names to me, but I found I couldn't leave them in the poem, I had to search them out and learn more.

I haven't quite finished reading this collection, but I will be coming back to it time and again for a taste or two.

I am hoping in the next week or two to host an interview or guest post with Mr. Banks.

I hope that those readers who read some poetry this past month will share their experiences by leaving a comment.  Tell me about  your favourite poet or poem or leave a link to your poetry review.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Stones for my Father by Trilby Kent

Children are the most resilient.  They can turn an untenable situation into a positive action.  Adults tend to be so set in their ways that they are unable to see any other option but to continue doing what they were doing.  Corlie Roux was put in a situation of adapt or die.  At twelve years old, she knew there was so much more to life than she had seen so far.  Growing up in 1890's South Africa with her Boer family was hard.  Her father died when she was 9 and she now lived with her ever resentful mother and two younger brothers, whom she doted on.  Now the war had reached their doorstep and they had to flee.

This was not the end of Corlie's trials. She watched as her lifelong playmate and soul mate Sipho (was he a Zulu?) was torn away from his family and destined for a cruel fate.  When her mother dealt the final blow, it was questionable whether Corlie could survive.

I have read very few books set in Africa and even fewer set in South Africa.  All the ones that I have read have a grittiness to them.  In this case, the two sets of immigrants, the British and the Boers are battling for control of a land that was not theirs to start with.  The children are caught in the midst.  It was clear to me through the whole story that these same children, Corlie and Sipho were the ones best suited to survive.  They were willing to work together and ignore their differences of colour and religion. 

This story captivated me.  I didn't want to put it down once I started to read.  Corlie seemed such a good girl.  She did all the tasks her mother set to her even when she knew that they would not be appreciated.  She craved the love that her mother withheld from her yet lavished on her brothers.  While she did get affection from Sipho's mother, it wasn't what she yearned for.  It was when she met Corporal Malachi Byrne that she finally found a sense of appreciation.   I liked how Ms. Kent built up the relationship between the two of them.  They didn't speak the same language, but through their actions they were able to become friends.  To me, that is a true testament of trust.  Even though they had limited history together, they were able to sense the need and the honesty of the other. 

I felt that this story contains enough historical fact to be a good introduction to that period in history.  It would be a good launching point for further research at the grade school level.  I will be passing this along to my daughter to read.

Tundra Books is hosting a  5 day blog tour of Stones for My Father by Trilby Kent.  Be sure to visit their blog for links to all the stops on the tour. 

Trilby Kent's blog.

Five copies of Stones for my Father will by given away on Goodreads.  You must be a member of Goodreads to enter, membership is free.  Canada and US only.  Contest closed May 1, 2011.

To learn more about the vervet that Corlie and Gert befriend, check out this Wikipedia article
Biltong, a dried, cured meat, is described in this article
A short history of the Canadian involvement in this second Boer War.

Thank-you to Tundra Books for my review copy and for the use of the cover photo.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Needlework Tuesday - Sob Sob, nothing to report

Oh dear, I really don't have much to report at all this week.  I started out great with some embroidery and then it kind of fizzled.  I started checking stores for one of those lamps with a magnifying lens.  Thought it might make it easier to see the threads for the embroidery.  Well, I did find a few ranging in price from a mere $15. all up to $200. plus.  eeks.  I just want to do a wee bit of stitching.  So, I will keep my eyes open and check further, but won't get all hung up on a lamp.  Not as though I would use it every day or something.

Then last Tuesday hubby came home with a Blackberry Playbook for me.  He knew I had been searching for an ebook reader.  I was kind of disappointed with what I had looked at so far.  They seemed to be already behind the times.  I wanted something that would be able to hold it's own as the ebooks evolve.  I just know they can't stay at they are, mere imitations of printed books.  That doesn't hold much attraction beyond the novelty.  They have to be ready for the merging of Internet and print.  I want to immediately be able to look at the location the author is describing, I want to see a picture of the food that the chef in the story just pulled out of the oven etc.  That rather distracted me from my stitching.  Later in the week I plan to post a review of the first book I read on my Playbook and comments on reading on this device.

I do have some additional submissions for the quilt and will be working on getting them on fabric, adding borders and embellishments this week.  I should have some good pictures by next Tuesday.

Hope that you all had a more productive week in the stitching department.  Leave me a comment and link of what you have been up to and I'll gladly share it with my needlework visitors.

Tami at Just One More Thing has a gorgeous quilt that she has pulled out of storage and is going to finish up.  You really must visit with her and view this project.

There are fun things happening over at Lit and Laundry.  A new reindeer oranament has been started and you really must check out the comments on  Knit Your Own Royal Wedding.  A very fanciful book.

Grandma Coco at The Kingdom of Coco is making good progress on her knitting themed quilt.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Royal Wedding Mania and Contests

Are you up on all your Royal Wedding dates and times.  Do you have your outfit picked and your food and friends arranged for a group viewing.

I admit that I did get up early and watch Princess Diana and Prince Charles wed.  I am not so on top of things this time.  But I can still catch up.  I'll be visiting with Sourcebooks at their British Babes Book Brigade and learning.
They will be featuring over a dozen British women authors this week.  Some I have read and many who are new to me.  I've shown a few of their book covers below.  There are many more featured at the above link.
Sourcebooks is also giving away prizes every day this week on the British Babes Book Bridgade Facebook page..
3 winners will be randomly picked each day:

- The 1st place winner will get a William & Kate wedding memento (it is top secret for now (just like Kate’s dress J) but check the page out on Monday to find out – oh and they are all different so there will be a different memento each day). Along with that they also get their choice of three books from any of our British Book Babes.

- The 2nd place winner will have their choice of any two books from any of our British Book Babes.
- The 3rd place winner will have their choice of one book from any of our British Book Babes.

Sourcebooks has also offered me two books by Georgette Heyer to give away on my blog.  To enter, you must leave a comment telling me either about your plans to watch the wedding on friday, or about your favourite British female author.   This contest will remain open until Saturday at least.    Contest open to Canadian and United States readers.  Be sure that I have a means of contacting you.

Note: there will be two winners of one book each.  Choice of book is up to Sourcebooks.

Thank-you to Sourcebooks for all the cover photos.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Wake by Lisa McMann

I had requested this one from my library for my daughter to listen to.  When she didn't load it onto her ipod, I decided that I would listen to it instead.  Good choice.  This story had me caught from the start and didn't let me go.

Since she was young, high school student Janie has been drawn into others dreams.  She doesn't want to be there, but she has no choice.  It's not something that happens only when she is asleep, but also when she is wide awake.  Janie must find some way of dealing with this if she is to lead any sort of normal life.

Cabel seems to be offering her helping hand, but he has enough problems of his own.  Everyone knows that he has trouble with the law and Janie definitely doesn't want to be involved with that.

I totally enjoyed this story.  At first I didn't understand where these flashbacks of Janie as a young girl were going, but that was cleared up pretty quickly.  We learn very little about Janie's mother, other than she drinks, in fact she drinks a lot.  I wonder whether her mother also is drawn into other people's dreams and that she uses the alcohol to blot them out.  Perhaps I'll learn more in the next book. 

This is the first part in a three book series.  Fade and Gone and the following titles.  I have already requested Fade from my library, again as an audio book.

The audio version that I listened to is  unabridged and runs for 4 hours 24 minutes.  It was read by Ellen Grafton.

Additional Books in the Wake Series:


Author Lisa McMann's website

Thanks to Brilliance Audio for the bookcover image.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Sourcebook Casablanca - chance to win a Nook Color

The kind people at Sourcebook, who supply me with some of my review books, have asked me to pass along information of their newest 'bookclub'.  You can read all the details below and find out how to enter the draw for a free Nook Color.

I am pleased to introduce CasaVIP, A romance community and newsletter that gives you exclusive access to our “Casa”—where we’re always having a party! Get ready for early excerpts, author features, contests, and discounts that will only be available to YOU!

Anyone who signs up for our newsletter will automatically be entered to win a Nook Color—so spread the word! Once we make it to 1,000 members, we will give the Nook away to our lucky winner chosen at random. And just for signing up, you will receive a code to download a free eBook of Romeo, Romeo by Robin Kaye. So spread the word—the sooner we reach 1,000 members, the sooner one of you might win your very own Nook Color!

Be sure to check out and @SourcebooksCasa on Twitter for the latest updates on our new releases, what’s happening on the Casablanca Authors Blog, and of course exclusives only available to our friends that come Party at Our Casa! The site is still in the early stages, so expect things to be updated in the coming weeks. We’ll be having a birthday party on May 2, so be on the lookout for more information, and the official party invite!

In honor of CasaVIP, we have discounted the price of 10 of our most beloved historical romances to $2.99. I’ve listed them below, but you can find them all here, along with the sign up for CasaVIP:


 Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale

Trevelyan and Callie are childhood sweethearts with a taste for adventure, until the fateful day her father discovers them embracing in the carriage house and, in a furious frenzy, drives Trevelyan away in disgrace. Nine long, lonely years later, Trevelyan returns. Callie discovers that he can still make her blood race and fill her life with excitement, but he can't give her the one thing she wants more than anything—himself.

For Trevelyan, Callie is a spark of light in a world of darkness and deceit. Before he can bear to say his last goodbyes, he's determined to sweep her into one last, fateful adventure, just for the two of them.

 Devil’s Desire by Laurie McBain

They called him the devil…

With his seductive golden eyes and sin-black hair, it’s no wonder Lord Alex Trevegne has earned himself the sinister title—not to mention his reputation as one of the most notorious rakes in England.

And she’s the only one who can conquer him…

When fate throws Alex and Elysia into a scandalous situation, Alex suddenly finds it surprisingly difficult to tear himself away from her.
As an unexpected passion blossoms between them, Elysia begins to wonder if after a lifetime of heartache she’s finally found heaven in the arms of the devil.

 Highland Rebel by Judith James

Amidst the upheaval of Cromwell's Britain, Jamie Sinclair's wit and military prowess have served him well. Leading a troop in Scotland, he impetuously marries a captured maiden, saving her from a grim fate.

A Highlands heiress to title and fortune, Catherine Drummond is not the woman Jamie believes her to be. When her people effect her rescue, and he cannot annul the marriage, Jamie goes to recapture his hellcat of a new wife...

In a world where family and creed cannot be trusted, where faith fuels intolerance and war, Catherine and Jamie test the bounds of loyalty, friendship, and trust...
 Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson

A fascinating and exasperating young lady…

The Marquess of Darkefell has enough to worry about with a bloodthirsty wild beast rampaging the countryside and sinister family secrets to protect. Then Lady Anne Addison arrives, with unquenchable curiosity and intelligence that drive him to distraction…

An infuriatingly unyielding man…

Lady Anne finds the marquess darkly handsome, seductive, and forceful, with a ruthless magnetism that challenges and stimulates her. But he seems determined to keep secrets that may threaten both herself and her helpless friend…

Thrown together in a time of crisis, with a murderer on the loose, the marquess picks an absolutely dreadful moment and the worst possible way to declare his intentions…

The Lady Flees Her Lord by Michele Ann Young

She's desperate for peace and safety...

Lucinda, Lady Denbigh, is running from a husband who physically and emotionally abuses her because she is unfashionably plump and has failed to produce an heir. Posing as a widow, she seeks refuge in the quiet countryside...

He's returned from the wars, wounded and tormented...

Lord Hugo Wanstead, with a wound that won't heal, and his mother's and Spanish wife's deaths on his conscience, finds his estate impoverished, his sleep torn by nightmares, and brandy his only solace. When he meets Lucinda, he finds her beautiful - body and soul - and thinks she just might give him something to live for ...

Together they can begin to heal, but not until she is free from her violent past...

 The Making of a Gentleman by Shana Galen

Twelve years in prison has stripped him of his humanity…

Armand, Comte de Valère has lost the ability to interact with polite society, until his family hires him a beautiful tutor, and he starts to come alive again…

Saving him is her only chance to escape a terrible fate…
Felicity Bennett vows she’ll do whatever it takes to help Armand fight back the demons that have held him captive for so long…

With Felicity’s help, Armand begins to heal, until a buried secret threatens to destroy their growing passion…

 Never a Bride by Amelia Grey
Her name is on everyone’s lips…

When he left for America six years ago, the handsome Viscount Stonehurst never suspected that he would return home to England to find his lovely fiancée embroiled in the scandal of the decade. The woman he planned on making his wife has been kissing every man in London…except him!

But scandal doesn’t matter in search of the truth…

Engaged and then abandoned, Mirabella Wittingham is determined to find the man who drove her cousin to suicide, even if it means ruining her reputation and disgracing herself in the process…When her plans go awry, Mirabella has no choice but to turn to her long-lost fiancé for help. But can she trust the man who deserted her so many years ago, or is he destined to fail her yet again?

To Conquer a Highlander by Mary Wine

A fierce Highland laird ready to kill for king and country…

When Torin McLeren discovers his neighbor’s plot against his king, he takes their daughter as his prisoner, thereby stopping her father’s plot from going forward. But that leaves him with a woman under his roof whom he can’t ignore, and not just because she’s his enemy’s daughter…

A woman who’s as much trouble as she is temptation…

Shannon McBoyd decides to use her captor to experience passion for the first time, and then to destroy him. But her plan goes awry because once she has lured Torin into her bed, she no longer wants to hurt the one man who seems to value and understand her…

Even if her father will kill him—and her—when he discovers what they’ve done...

 To Conquer Mr. Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

What if…

Instead of disappearing from Elizabeth Bennet’s life after she refused his offer of marriage, Mr. Darcy had stayed and tried to change her mind?

What if…

Lizzy, as she gets to know Darcy, finds him undeniably attractive and her impulses win out over her sense of propriety?

What if…

Madly in love and mutually on fire, their passion anticipates their wedding?

In To Conquer Mr. Darcy, instead of avoiding Elizabeth after his ill-fated marriage proposal, Mr. Darcy follows her back to Hertfordshire to prove to her he is a changed man and worthy of her love. And little by little, Elizabeth begins to find the man she thought she despised, irresistible…

The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers

No man can tame her, and only a renegade outlaw would dare to try…

Lady Rowena Dangerfield, wild, headstrong, and scandalously independent, travels from exotic India to the splendor of London to the savage New Mexico frontier hoping to meet her long-lost father and start a new life. She arrives to find herself in the middle of a long-standing feud.

Nothing will stop him from taking what he wants…

Lucas Cord, a handsome half-Apache outlaw, is a rebel renegade feared throughout the territories. When he encounters the beautiful stranger, unlike any woman he's ever known before, he knows instantly that he'll have to win her for his own. Together they will experience a rampaging passion as wild and hot as the Southwestern winds.

Recipe Thursday - Grocery Store Rant

I'm getting on my not so little soap box . 

What is it with grocery stores.  They know you have to keep coming back for food; you can't live without it, yet they seem to go out of their way to make it the least tolerable experience possible.  I spend over $8000.00 a year there, but am treated as though I am only buying a penny candy.  I expect to be cheerfully acknowledged and my patronage appreciated.    As the consumer we are continually told that our buying dollar has power, but I feel as though I am being sneered at by the big grocery stores.

Why are they continually re-organizing their stores. First, they discontinue good brand names and replace them with inferior store brands.   Arg, I can never find anything and it takes me ages to shop for the next few weeks after every re-design.  Oh sure, some great marketing person decided that by re-arranging, the shoppers would really have to look for the products that they want and that in the process they would spy other products on the shelf that they didn't know they wanted to purchase and that they would then spend more money.  Ha, I walk out in disgust with even less.

Why are the soup flavours not stocked in alphabetical order.  Again, they want us, the shopper, to have to look at many different varieties before finding the one we want with the expectation that we'll pick out a few extra.  I don't know how many times I have walked away shaking my head with no soup in my cart.  And I'm not the only one, I have spoken with others in front of the soup display who have done the same thing.

If you are lucky enough to find the spot where your wanted grocery item is supposed to be shelved, there's a fair chance that it's not even in stock.  How can this be.  The major local chain here build a massive warehouse a short distance away yet many of my usual items are rarely to be found on the shelf.  They admit they have supply chain problems, but that the warehouse will fix that.  It's been four years at least since it was built, why are these problems still happening.

The checkout.  This is the final chance to make a great impression on the shopper, yet it has been a 'fail' far too often.  One trip I bought a mere 8 or 9 items.  When I looked at my receipt at home, over half of them had been charged incorrectly.  I had to make a trip back to store to get a large refund.  Being disgusted I went online to the customer survey.  Surprise, surprise, the survey had not one question about the checkout experience.  Remember, that's the part where I give the store tons of money.  I called the follow-up number, of course they were gone for the day and invited me to call back.  What, it was only 4:30 pm.

The absolute final insult to the shopper is having to put money into the lock on the shopping cart to release it from all the other carts.  Did the store forget that I spend over $8000.00 a year at their shop.  They don't trust me with their shopping cart.  What, am I going to steal it.  No, I just want to buy food.  I don't tend to repeat shop at stores that insult me by requiring me to remember to carry coins to release a cart.  I will use the little hand basket and buy only a few light items and then I will choose to shop somewhere else that respects me. 

It's my choice where I shop, and if a store doesn't respect me and my $8000.00 shopping budget, then I'm not going to share it with them. 

Now don't get me started on stores that have an online division that charge you an extra service charge for shopping online.  Needless to say I no longer shop with that store and they have lost a regular customer of 25 years.

Join in the culinary inspired fun of Weekend Cooking which is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Needlework Tuesday - Embroidered Scribbles

 Thanks for joining me for my regular Needlework Tuesday post.  I have spent much of the past week carefully embroidering squares for the Scribbling Women quilt.  There is nothing difficult about this embroidery; I just need to keep each stitch small in order to keep the detail of the letters.

In this first photo, I made Isabella's signature in a bit smaller size of font.
 From the book Scribbling Women I learned that Sei Shonagon often made lists.  Of course that meant that I had to make a list for this quilt. I tried using a nice orange for the embroidery, but it looked rather washed out on this beige fabric.  I changed to the brown and am much happier.  The capital letters at the beginning of each point will be embroidered with one strand of brown and one of that lovely metallic I showed you last week. 
I found this package of beads in the grocery store of all places.  The purple is just the right shade to all a little surprise on the quilt.

I sent letters to several more women this week, inviting them to participate in this virtual quilt bee.  It is encouraging when I receive a response, particularly when it's of the positive nature.  A few ladies have told me they are working on their contribution and I am excitedly waiting to see what they pen.  You all will be the first people I share these contributions with. 

I still have space for a few more writings to round out this project. I'll be back next week with another update.

You are invited to join me here for Needlework Tuesday.  Sharing your projects with others is a great way to encourage you to keep at your needlework.  Knowing that my many online friends are coming back the next week to view my progress, keeps me stitching .

Tami at Just One More Thing has posted some pics of the wonderful Christmas stockings she has cross-stitched.  Great progress on the next one for her grandson.

Marie at Daisy's Book Journal was moving items to higher ground in preparation for possible flooding when she re-discovered a box of 'crafts'.  She reveals these colourful items in her post.

Rikki over at Rikki's Teleidoscope has been working on her stole.  She has posted pictures showing the wonderful variations in the colour of the yarn.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Demon Princess: Reign Check by Michelle Rowen

I needed a break from some of the heavier books that I have been reading, so I wandered over to daughter's new bookshelf to see what she might have finished.  She handed me a copy of Demon Princess.  She had received this review copy from Penguin and apparently I hadn't held up my share of the bargain, she would review books on her blog, but I needed to review some of the same books on my blog.
This is definitely a YA novel, but it has enough depth to the main characters to keep an older reader involved. 

It was just one week since sixteen year old Nikki had found out that she was a demon and that her father is the demon king of the Shadowlands.  This means that Nikki is a princess.  Not the kind of pressure that a high school girl needs.  Thankfully she has a wonderful friend Melinda at her side.  To complicate matters, Rhys, the king of the Faery realm, has just enrolled at her school.  Even though she already has a boyfriend, who lives in her father's kingdom, Nikki is oddly attracted to Rhys yet loathes him at the same time.

I enjoyed this story from the first pages.  I didn't feel confused by not having read the first book in the series: Demon Princess: Reign or Shine, though I do want to go and purchase it for my daughter (I won't be allowed to read it until she has done so).  Nikki and Melinda come across as true friends.   Melinda is part of the 'in' crowd, but she doesn't dump Nikki when urged to do so by the rest of that crowd.  All the interaction between Rhys and Nikki comes with double meanings.  While they know that each of them live in two different worlds, no one else at the school does.  What a challenge to keep stories straight for them. 

I am not sure that I trust Michael, the boyfriend from the Shadowlands.  He's a shadow and we don't really learn much about them.  He is also distrustful of Rhys's intentions and keeps an eye on him.  yes, jealousy even in the otherworld.  At this time I am leaning toward Team Rhys.

A number of questions are answered by the close of this book, but there a few biggies left dangling.  There must be a third book in the works.  Visit author Michelle Rowen's website and her blog for hints.  I haven't found them yet, but then I haven't read all her recent posts.
Thanks to Penguin Books for mydaughter's review copy and for the second cover image.  I love this second cover image.  The glittery red heart is very appealing.


Saturday, 16 April 2011

Postcards from Penguin

This is the coolest none book book that I've bought in  a long time.  You see, it's not really a book, though it does have a cover that opens  and an ISBN 978-0-141-04466-8 on the back.    In fact, this nifty little box contains the images of 100 book covers published by Penguin in the past 75 years.  Wow, a whole library in a small packet.

Inside the cover is a short message of how Penguin books came into being.  It tells the story of Allen Lane who was looking for a good book to read on the train.  He felt that a good book should be affordable, but should also look good and distinctive. The final line of the message says: "Sometimes, you definitely should judge a book by its cover." 

Below I have posted pics of a few of the postcards that jumped out at me.  I can't wait to start sending these out to my bookish friends.  Don't you just wish that one of these would land in your mail box.  Leave a comment and you never know, maybe one will.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Where to put those Books

Hubby and I have been married for almost twenty-four years and have bought books continuously since then.  Years ago we agreed that while we might set budgets for other purchases, books would never be held to a limit.  Well, as you can imagine, over two dozen years, that can cause some accumulations.  Odd thing is that we didn't buy any shelves to house them.  We had two old shelves in the basement to contain his books, all double stacked, and that was it.

If you were to visit my house you would have found stacks of books lining the baseboards, piles on the end table and a coffee table that was stacked solid about six books deep.

We had purchases one small shelf for son several years ago.  That's it.  In January I decided that February would be shelf buying month. That led to many shopping trips.  We knew that we needed something that could bear the weight of fully stacked shelves.  None of this decorator stuff where you put a few books on and then leave the rest of the space for pretty vases and goo gaas.  We went to the usual mass furniture stores, but they left us cold.  We didn't want laminate product, having experienced their sags before.

I found this nice one for daughter a Pier 1 Imports.  Its the Anywhere Folding Shelf. 
 It's some sort of painted fibre board product.  We wanted her's to be lighter weight and easily portable, keeping in mind that she'll be thinking of University before we know it.

This shelf was filled instantly.  It's already double stacked and she has dozen more books still on the floor and on her desk.

Note that most of these books have not been read.
 This solid wood beauty is in our front living room.  We went local and found it in Elmira, Ontario.  We were all set to relent and buy a laminate one in desperation, then spied this hiding behind an armchair.  Changed our mind instantly.  The tag on the back of the shelf showed that it had been a custom order.  I guess someone changed their mind. 

This took care of the coffee table and few others.

Note, only a few of these books have been read.
We were still in difficulty.  Our bedroom was lined with books on the floor and the dog kept tipping the ordered stacks over.  This was serious.  We found what we liked at the St. Jacobs Furnishing Company.  We custom ordered so that we could push the two shelves side by side.  They are made from a wormy maple.  Both of us were surprised that they were ready in about three weeks and at a very affordable price.

This took care of the bedroom and the rest of the books in the kitchen, almost.

So, on this shelf, mine are the five on the left and the bottom two on the right.   Hardly any of these books have been read.  The top left shelf are books that I have either won or have accepted for reviews.

We are still looking for a narrow shelf for the dining room that will house some cookbooks and then another for the tv room.  Not sure whether that one will be a complete entertainment unit type, or just for books. 

whew, that was a lot of work.  Now to find that missing box of books in the basement that's been hiding for fifteen years.

Thanks to Marie at Daisy's Book Journal for insisting that I share my new shelves with you.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Needlework Tuesday - Still Scribbling on Fabric

I'm working on some of the nitty gritty handwork for the Scribbling women quilt.  I have selected two quotes from the book and am working at embroidering them.  I could have printed them on to fabric, but I want to keep that for contributions from other women.  I also felt that artistically it would be boring if all the text on the quilt was printed. I don't do a lot of embroidery, but I do find it relaxing.  I can either watch tv or listen to an audio book at the same time. 

On Sunday I took a small road trip with my daughter and two of her girl friends.  Our main destination was the Lindt out let.  Since the chocolates didn't last very long once we got home, I have repurposed this clear plastic box to carry my embroidery threads for this project.  The one that is laying on the fabric  is a really cool 12 strand metallic.  DMC colour number E130.  It will be wonderful to add some glitter and highlights.

I have had a few more women come on board this project with offers of their own 'scribbling', though still space for more.

Are you a needleworker?  You are invited to join here with me and my friends and share your project. Let me know what you're up to and I'll add your link.

You really want to pop on over to Lit and Laundry to check out the wonderful wips (works  in progress).  Another woman after my own heart; why have one project on the go when you can a half dozen.

Tami at Just One More Thing is joing for the first time as well.  She has posted about her plans to get back to her needlework projects which she admits have lain untouched for far too long. 

Visit both these ladies and leave them a message of encouragement.

Back to my stitching.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Recipe Thursday: 300 Best Taco Recipes by Kelley Cleary Coffeen

After more than forty years of eating the same old sandwiches, I was ready for a change.  When I saw that Kelley Cleary Coffeen had out a new cookbook, 300 Best Taco Recipes: From tantalizing tacos to authentic tortillas, sauces, cocktails & salsas, I thought that I might have found my solution.  It didn't take much to convince my family to join me for a March Break Taco extravaganza in our kitchen.  For the next two weeks, we ate a new variety of taco almost every day.
When my daughter had her birthday party, guess what we served?  Tacos of course.  They were a hit.

This cookbook has a dish for almost every type of eater including vegetarians, gluten and lactose intolerant people.  We chose to use flour tortillas for all our dishes, though corn tortillas are suggested many times, as well, recipes are included so that you can make both type of tortillas on your own.  If you prefer not to use the wrap, most dishes would work well served on a bed of greens.
The introductory section of the book includes a history of tacos, followed by a details discussion of many of the ingredients and equipment used in making tacos, both authentic Mexican as well as American versions.   The list of Ten Tips for Perfect Tacos was very helpful, including tip #6 - Don't Overstuff.  I'm still working at properly identifying my chiles.  A few times I bought sweet chiles thinking I was getting some heat.  I do wish that Ms. Coffeen has included a colour picture to help with identification.  Grocery store staff may be helpful, but they don't all know their chiles, as I found out.

The remainder of the book is divided by main ingredient: Chicken and Turkey, Beef, Pork and Lamb, Fish and Seafood, Vegetarian, Salsas, Relishes and Sauces, Dessert Tacos, and Cocktails.  Each recipe includes all the information you need to make that dish.  Most also include tips regarding the dish such as how to speed up preparation by purchasing a pre-cooked chicken, buying extra meat and after cooking store it in pre-measured amounts in the freezer.  I found that these recipes are quite forgiving, in that you can easily substitute ingredients if you are unable to find the one requested.  We did use some store bought salsa as it was winter here and fresh tomatoes were quite expensive.  The fresh made salsa was much superior in every way; taste, texture, aroma, everything.  As I mentioned, we used store bought flour tortillas with each recipe, and they were wonderful.  I don't deep fry, so we didn't try any of those recipes, though I will admit, many of them sounded delicious.

If your only exposure to tacos has been those spicy ground beef, topped with shredded lettuce, bland salsa and shredded cheddar cheese that are available at fast food venues and from those boxed kits, then you are in for a tasty adventure.  For the most part, these recipes are quick and easy to make and you'll have dinner on the table in no time.  Don't be surprised when there are no leftovers.

Following are the recipes that we enjoyed.  We also made the Huevos Rancheros soft taco, but the picture was not very good.  As a dish, it was heavenly.  No more wimpy bacon and eggs for me, I want my egg wrapped in a soft tortillas with mild green salsa and a good handful of shredded cheddar cheese.

Chicken Stir-Fry Taco with Spicy Asian Sauce 

This was the first dish we tried.  It turned out perfectly.  An Asian inspired stir-fry with a tortilla instead of a bed of rice.  We used the extra sauce the next day on rice noodles. 
Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Crumbled Blue Cheese 

Definitely one of the most adventurous dishes.  This is the first time I have shredded chicken.  Let it cool a bit before you attempt this as it's rather hot on the fingers.  It really did taste just like chicken wings.  Use your favourite wing sauce.  The first taco I made I put chunks of blue cheese on top.  This was a bit too concentrated of flavour.  The next time I spread the cheese on the side of the tortillas and then 'built' my taco.  Much better.
Roasted Turkey, Avocado, Swiss and Sprout Tacos

 I didn't happen to have any leftover roast turkey, but a poached breast worked out well.  This was heavenly.  We added a bit of mild green salsa on top.
Machaca Soft Tacos

 This dish would traditionally be made with dried meat that is reconstituted.  Kelley has simplified the process by using shredded beef.  This was our least favourite dish, though I think that had a lot to do with using the wrong chiles. Should have been spicier.
Grilled Fajita Steak and Shrimp Tacos

 This dish wins hands down for being simple to make and extremely tasty.  I've not had shrimp and steak together previously and I sure have been missing out of something special.  It was worth clearing a foot of snow off the top of the barbecue.  A copy of the recipe for this dish will be found further down in this post.
Chorizo and Potato Tacos

I'll admit to being skeptical about this dish.  I didn't find chorizo in my store and ended up with spicy Italian sausage.  This was so amazingly simple to make. We chose to top ours with Chile Cream Sauce.  My daughter had a few teen friends over and they devoured all within minutes.
Catfish Tacos with Chile Cream Sauce

I bought my catfish already seasoned (tequila lime) and was ready to cook within minutes of arriving home from groceries.   To speed up preparation, we used a store bought salad mix and chopped it up a bit.

The Chile Cream sauce was simple to make and tasted great.  It also worked as a dip for cut vegetable and for potato chips.
Grilled Eggplant and Red Pepper Tacos

This may look sparse on the open tortilla, but eggplant is surprisingly filling. My kids weren't impressed with this dish, though hubby and I had no trouble finishing all that was left.  Next time I would use more roasted red pepper than was called for.
This photo shows the eggplant tacos once they have been folded shut and toasted in a frying pan.   We liked the suggestion of buttering the outside of the tortilla before putting it in the frying pan.
Calabacitas Tacos

This is an adaptation of a traditional corn and squash casserole.  Summer squash wasn't available so we doubled the amount of zucchini as suggested.  This was topped by Pico De Gallo, a wonderful  fresh tomato salsa.
Decadent Chocolate Taco Chips

It was had to decide which dessert to try.  They all sounded so good.  I decided simple would win out. 
Caramel, pecans and chocolate over toasted tortillas.  They lasted just long enough to take photos.

I hope that I have tempted you to give 300 Best Taco Recipes a try.  As I was writing this review, I had to take a break and make just one more recipe, Mexican Hash Tacos.  Another hit. 

Grilled Fajita Steak and Shrimp Tacos

Makes 12 tacos
surf ’n’ turf taco. Tender shrimp sautéed with sweet peppers and onions complement the grilled beefy taste of this taco. Cooked shrimp speeds up the prep time.


Instead of grilling the steak, place it on a broiler pan and broil 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) away from the heat or sear in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Preheat greased barbecue grill to medium-high (see Variation)

1 lb beef skirt steak 500 g
2 tbsp olive oil, divided 30 mL
Kosher salt
12 medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped
1 onion, sliced into 1⁄4-inch (0.5 cm) thick rings
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 orange bell pepper, julienned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 6- to 8-inch (15 to 20 cm) corn or 8 flour tortillas

2 limes, cut into 6 wedges

1. Brush meat with 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil. Season with salt to taste. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak, until medium-rare and well browned on surface. Let stand for 5 minutes. Thinly slice meat across the grain.

2. In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) of oil over medium heat. Sauté shrimp, onion, red and orange bell peppers and salt and pepper to taste until peppers are tender-crisp, vegetables are slightly charred and shrimp is heated through, 10 to 12 minutes.

3. To build tacos, skillet warm tortillas (page 15). Divide meat and shrimp mixture equally among tortillas and fold tortillas in half. Serve with lime wedges.

Excerpted from 300 Best Taco Recipes by Kelley Cleary Coffeen © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Thank-you to Robert Rose for my review copy.

Looking for more foodie fun, visit Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.