Friday, April 26, 2013

friday loves (in which I prove what a nerd I really am)

As I listen to Rush Limbaugh and bask in the warm air coming in my windows, I realised I have quite the collection of links to share with you. This is a wishlist kind of post, so yeah.

I'm looking for a swimsuit for the summer, and while I love most of the swimsuits on ModCloth, I found these two adorable swimsuits from Black Milk Clothing. Since I can't seem to get nicely proportioned photos on here, one of them is R2-D2 and the other is Alice in Wonderland. I've been sort of in love with the Star Wars one for a few years now, but the Alice one is so neat, too! I'll probably end up going with one from ModCloth since I can't decide...

This Book of Sith I also would love to have, because Star Wars, duh. And I have The Jedi Path already. Maybe this will be a lightning deal on May the 4th like the Jedi one was last year. I'll be watching!

I haven't had a new funky beach towel in probably ten years. We do have some very nice ones, but I need a geeky one just because. And what would be better than a TARDIS towel??? That's right, nothing. Well, except the real TARDIS with the Tenth Doctor inside.

Have a fantastic weekend, and allons-y!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

fresh homemade pasta

I have been intending to make homemade fresh pasta for some time now. Unfortunately, I do not have a pasta machine, which is the main reason I have been putting it off. Today, though, I was thumbing through The Silver Spoon: Pasta, an Italian cookbook given to us as a wedding gift, and decided tonight was the night. The original recipe I was going to use from the book called for two kinds of flour that I don't have, so I abandoned that track and went in search of a simple "how to" online. What I found was a tutorial on a blog that will probably now be one of my absolute favourites, mostly because I adore Italian cooking.

The Italian Dish has a great post about making fresh pasta, along with a short video. The nice thing about making pasta is that it's not quite an exact recipe, which makes it perfect for me. Basically, it's a ratio of flour and eggs, plus a little water if needed. And there is the possibility of adding other flavours, like tomato or spinach. I decided to make the tomato-flavoured pasta because I had leftover tomato paste from the other day.
See, flour and eggs. And a food processor because that was less messy than mixing by hand.

I'm rather proud of my dough.

Look at the ickle noodles!


As you can probably see from the photos, the noodles aren't uniform and are rather thick. As a result, they had the texture of over-cooked pasta, but they still tasted excellent with the sauteed veggies (green and red bell pepper and shallots) and homemade meatballs. This meal went really well with a glass of red wine.

addicted to life

Hi, my name is Beth and I am addicted to life.
And books, Doctor Who, and geek/nerd culture...)

But seriously.

New experiences.
I eat them up.
Sometimes quite literally, as new experiences often come in the form of food.

This week I have been in the process of creating a goal list for my life. There are so many skills I wish to learn, so many places I wish to see (i.e. the entire world), so many foods I wish to taste and/or make. And when there are only 24 hours in a day, at least a few of which I ought to spend sleeping, I become easily frustrated with myself.

But then I remember that I can always begin my goal list closer to home. I have a kitchen; cooking new foods isn't an unattainable goal! Actually, I cook new foods with regularity, interspersed with old favourites to keep Nate happy. Though he has liked everything I make. (I think that's a win for my cooking skills as a wife. ^_^)

Plus, there is so much to explore in this corner of Wisconsin. Granted, at this point in time, it's difficult and occasionally impossible to make plans for us. Nate works a lot and his schedule is erratic at best. All a part of the job. And now that I have gotten a part-time position at one of the local grocery stores, our schedules may conflict. I'm praying hard that this doesn't happen since we see little enough of each other as it is.

Anyway, I digress.

Life. I've heard it said that life is what we make it. And I suppose that rings true.

In the meantime, I shall continue to write my goal list and dream.
And, you know, clean the house so that it's not in shambles when I start work next week.

blessings amidst the clutter

Ah, blogging.
It's fantastic and sometimes not.
It can generate jealous and envy quicker than you can snap a finger.
(Pinterest has a way of doing that, too!)

Not that I am super prone to feelings of envy, but they can sneak up on me.
All of a sudden I look around my tiny and always cluttered home and sigh.
Why don't I have a beautiful kitchen?
Why can't the walls be free of scratches from previous owners?
Why this?
Why that?

But really, it's not such a big deal. Yeah, it may take me almost the whole week to clean up after our friends visit on the weekends (just in time for them to show up again, haha), but we spent that time with our friends. It's not our things that matter.

Obviously, I take pride in a clean house and yard and stuff.
But if when I wake up in the morning I give thanks to the Lord for all I have been given, clutter included, then I remember I am blessed.

Though you're still not seeing photos of the house on here when it's a wreck.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peaches for Father Francis

Also published as Peaches for Monsieur le Cure

 Yet another book that was not on my planned reading list but that called my name quite insistently when I saw it at the library...sigh. But in my defense, this is the third book in a trilogy (possibly series?) by Joanne Harris that I absolutely adore. The first two, Chocolat and The Girl With No Shadow (also published as The Lollipop Shoes), I didn't blog about on here, but I fell in love with Harris' lyrical style of writing. Until last summer when I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I had not seen such beautiful writing, at least not that I can remember. (No, Lord of the Rings doesn't count. That's in a class all its own.)

And before anyone gets upset that I love these books so much, since the main character identifies as a sort of witch, these are magical realism. They aren't real. Yes, set in the real world, alongside Christianity and (in this third book) Islam, but the point in this story isn't the religion. There.


First, a little background on the main character, Vianne Rocher. She is a woman who moves with the wind, never staying in one place for very long. Her mother never had a husband, so Vianne doesn't either. She does, however, have a child. Anouk is a small eight year old girl when she and her mother first blow into the tiny town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes in the south of France. Her particular magic is making chocolates, and knowing everyone's favourites. Of course, she blows into the tiny conservative town as Lent begins. So, the priest is at odds with her for the entirety of Chocolat. Also in Chocolat Vianne finally allows herself to fall in love, with a river-gypsy with long red hair named Roux (played by Johnny Depp in the movie...mmm.). She does leave the town at the end of the book, with Anouk in tow. In the second book, they find themselves in Paris, with another tiny child, Rosette. The second book has Vianne facing off against a rather wicked foe, a woman who has no shadow, and who is entirely too charming to be true. Turns out she is the stealer of hearts. Roux returns in The Girl With No Shadow as well, which creates another dynamic when he realizes Rosette is his child. (At least if I recall correctly!) Now, as Peaches for Father Francis begins, Vianne has received a letter from Lansquenet, a letter that was written by a dear friend who died when she was there last, eight years ago. The old woman seemed to know that someday, the town would be in trouble and Vianne would be needed again.


This time, the priest, Father Francis Reynaud, is in trouble. And when he sees Vianne, he is surprised, but eventually he accepts her help. The tiny church has been taken over by a hip, new priest, who thinks PowerPoint, guitar, and plastic seating are what the church needs. (UGH.) On the other side of the river, in the area known as Les Marauds, there is yet another problem: a community of Muslims has been growing exponentially, even to the point of building a small mosque. The people were peaceful, and mingled with the townspeople, until a man named Karim Bencharki showed up. Then, the people became hostile and closed up. The women and girls began wearing their headscarves, which they never had before. Father Francis, afraid for his community, and the suspected starter of a fire at Vianne's old chocolaterie that had been turned into a Muslim girls' school, is pretty much at his wits' end. Even the townspeople have mostly turned against him.

So, clearly, much has happened since Vianne Rocher closed up her chocolaterie and left Lansquenet. But, in typical Vianne fashion, she quickly gets to know a few of the people of Les Marauds, though of course she doesn't offer them chocolates right away, since they are in the midst of Ramadan. She does discover that Father Francis is not guilty, and that there is something much deeper going on in the Muslim community that has nothing to do with Lansquenet, but everything to do with their own religion.


My favourite part about these books is that Harris writes about food so well. She can write about something I've never tasted nor even seen and I feel like I can smell it and my mouth waters. Her being French might have something to do with it! These books are also responsible for my new-found obsession with making excellent chocolates (which I haven't gotten around to yet...). And like I said earlier, these books are magical realism, but they really focus more on the people. I know true Islam is not peaceful, and I'm not sure if Harris intended to illustrate that, but she does, in a way, at least in its treatment of women. And though Father Francis is a pretty good example of the Catholic Church's works-centered theology, there's a small bit of truth shining through. And yes, Vianne is a witch, but you know what? She is a helper of the downtrodden, and she exposes things that are best not left in the dark. Does that make sense? Generally, I don't like people, but when you have a tiny community tearing itself apart in the name of religion, well, it makes for an excellent, feel-good story. And if all you take away from the book (or this review) is that small acts of kindness can have a huge impact, then my job is done. :)


Just read the books. Yes, from a Christian point of view, there are many problematic situations, but gosh, it's a book. And quite frankly, these are more decently and modestly written than most other adult novels I've read.

five things friday no. 4

1. Apparently it's been a month since I wrote a Friday post. Oops.

2. My favourite television show is Doctor Who, hands down. My emotions are always extreme when there's anything Doctor-related around. It's a bit insane, but oh well.

3. We've been getting so much rain this week. I'm a little nervous about my tulips.

4. My superhero film collection is sadly lacking. It's basically...The Avengers. And maybe a couple others that I can't remember at the moment.

5. I'm the youngest in my workout group at the gym, but the other ladies are awesome and the workouts are tough but actually kind of enjoyable. Never thought I'd say that.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

curry is my favourite

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the taste of curry. At least since I was about seven or eight years old. I seem to recall eating it for the first time as a leftover because we were in a hurry to get to church on Christmas Eve for the children's service. I could be completely wrong about that and have two memories mixed up in my head, but at any rate, curry is my favourite. My mom makes an excellent chicken curry that I have made a few times, but never without her supervision. It's just one of those things I can't separate from my family. One of these days, I will make it here for Nate and me.

Tonight, though, I decided to try another chicken curry recipe I came across in the Taste of Home Cookbook. I don't use this cookbook much, but there are a few gems in it. One of them being the recipe I am about to share with you; it is super easy and can easily be made in 30 minutes if you have all your ingredients right at hand. This recipe calls for canned coconut milk and spinach, two things I thought I might never get Nate to consume. Not that I'm a huge fan of coconut milk either, but I do love spinach.

This curry is kind of incredible. Or at least I thought so. And Nate ate two full plates! With rice! Yeah, I was more than a little excited about that. Like I said, curry is my favourite. I don't know what I would do if he didn't like it, too.


curry chicken (adapted from the Taste of Home Cookbook) 

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup chopped tomato

Sprinkle chicken with curry, salt, and pepper. In a large skillet, saute chicken and onion in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Stir coconut milk and tomato paste into the chicken mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add spinach and tomato; cook 2-3 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted.
Serve with white rice.

Notes: The original recipe called for canola oil, but since I don't use that, I substituted olive oil. I also didn't really measure my spices, but that's obviously up to you! And I added one extra spice into the sauce; Berbere Seasoning from Penzeys Spices, which is super spicy but with only 1 tsp it added the perfect kick.

apple-almond teacakes with vanilla cream

Other than Monday, this week has been rain. I don't have another word for it. Water, water everywhere. So anyway. All this rain put me in a baking mood, but I didn't get around to actually baking until today. And then of course when I decided I wanted to bake something, I was out of eggs, so had to run to the store, etc.

What to bake, though? Cupcakes were what I was most craving. So I planned to make a recipe out of this book (which is a totally different cover than mine...hmm):


When the subtitle says infinite, it's not kidding. This book is so cool and I can't believe this is the first time I've actually baked any cupcakes from it. The issue was usually that I didn't have the right type of sugar, but I fixed that last week while grocery shopping, so....

I knew I wanted apple and almond flavors together, which was convenient because there is a recipe in this book for just that! So I started mixing the batter and went in search of a muffin pan (already had the cupcake liners out). Somehow I don't own a muffin pan. Well, that was frustrating. But I did unearth my heart-shaped doughnut pan. Ah well, better than nothing. So I made baked doughnuts which actually turned into little cakes with a heart-shaped depression in the center because I filled the pan too high. But I didn't care because once topped with oodles of freshly whipped cream with vanilla and sugar, the cakes were delicious. Oh, and they totally didn't look like hearts anymore....

Yeah, I already ate three of them.
And finished the leftover cream.


Apple-almond cupcakes (adapted from 10,000 Cupcakes by Susanna Tee)

1 apple
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 extra large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners. Peel, core, and finely chop the apple. Combine butter, sugar, and almond extract in a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs carefully and whisk well. Sift in the flour and baking powder; fold in. Stir in the apple. (Don't use an electric mixer for the apple!!) Spoon into the liners and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla cream

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp superfine sugar

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk together until the cream is thick and holds its shape. Use to cover 12 cupcakes, either with a pastry bag and tip or just using a knife.

Monday, April 15, 2013

has spring arrived at last?

Happy Monday! And Tax Day!

On second thought, that's not very happy for most people. And even though I don't work outside the home right now, I hate Mondays as much as everyone else. Partly as a leftover feeling from my college days.

But this morning I took my coffee outside on the deck and almost started crying because it feels so beautiful outside. It even smells like spring. At last. The sun is shining, the river is flowing, and my tulips are poking out of the ground. I noticed my tulips last week and got so excited, but now I'm ecstatic because the weather is lovely. I'm crossing my fingers that it stays that way.

This is a short post to welcome spring officially (I hope!), and to let you all know that I now have a camera!! One of my dearest friends was so kind to sell her old one to me at a discount price. It's not new, but it works perfectly, and besides it is new to me! I haven't taken many photos yet, and the ones I have taken are of my cats and my feet, but perhaps I'll have some photos of the yard to share in the near future. :)

Now, rather than going to the gym to workout this morning, I am going to put on my gardening hat and muck boots and get some yardwork done!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Salt: A World History

You know, it's really frustrating when the internet decides not to work pretty much all week. Especially when I'm knocked out with a terrible cold and don't feel well enough to do much. Oh well. At least I finally got a chance to sit down and finish Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It took me a long time to read this 450 page book, though it was fascinating and always held my interest. I guess one can only read so much about salt in one sitting, no matter how engrossing.

I've discovered that my favorite type of nonfiction is about food. I may have said this before, can't remember. But anyway. I had been intending to read this book about salt pretty much since it was published. Actually, that's a lie, because it was published in 2002, which was around the time that I wouldn't even look at a nonfiction book. I think I discovered this book about four years ago, though being in college at the time deterred me from picking up any extra reading. To make a long story short, I came across it earlier this year on the shelf at my library and decided to check it out. I believe I had to return it once, but I checked it out again and finally cracked it open. I'm quite glad I did.

You'd think the history of salt would be pretty mundane. But no. Salt was crucial to preserving food for so long that it became a central part of civilizations and wars. The Chinese were mining/making salt long before the rest of the world. Though, didn't they do almost everything before the rest of the world? The Chinese are a fascinating culture, not least because they've lasted for so long. But I digress.

This book takes you on a journey from sea to underground mine and back again. You see, there are two basic kinds of salt, sea salt and rock salt. Of course, from those two basic kinds you get many types. I sort of wish Kurlansky had included a master list of all types of salt from the various saltmaking regions of the world, but that's just me; I'm a list fanatic. The fact remains that people fought wars over salt, various salted fish, and the best salt-producing locations. You see, as recently as two hundred years ago, salting was one of the foremost methods of preserving food, whether by pickling or by packing in barrels of salt. It was absolutely necessary.


Kurlansky does a wonderful job of telling the history of the world through the eyes of salt. He doesn't have a great organizing system in regards to his writing, though. Yes, each chapter trots through history in a chronological manner, but he repeated himself a lot and jumped from culture to culture rather quickly. But aside from that, this book is fantastic and will give you a brand new appreciation for the only rock we eat. Four stars, and I hope to read his other books, which include Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and The Basque History of the World.

google +

On this rainy (what?? it's not snowing? I think this is a miracle...) morning, I finally gave in and joined Google +. I figured this made sense, since the Google Reader is apparently shutting down in July or thereabouts. So I've been enjoying myself and exploring the various communities. It's cool, finding so many people who are interested in some of the same things that I am.

I apologize for the lack of posts on all my blogs. I'm sort of trying to consolidate them into one blog, which could get interesting. And this week our internet has been cutting out a lot during the day. Makes it really hard to keep up with my social media!! But I got a lot of other things done, despite having a horrid cold.

Easter was wonderful, as always. Nate actually had the entire weekend off, which never happens. We both were at all four of the Easter services at our church, since I'm in choir and he played his trombone. We were exhausted by the end of it, but what a glorious celebration of the resurrection of our Savior!

This week I joined a "boot camp" at the gym, which was probably the worst week for me to join, since I got a cold and then my body was uber weak...yeah, not a good recipe for intense workouts. Ah well, it's actually kinda fun. I like challenging myself! I've always kept my mind in shape, but not really my body, so now's the time to do that. Besides, warmer weather is coming, and hiking days are just around the corner! I hope....

Umm, what else...nothing really has been happening in my life. I applied for a job at Target, so we'll see how that turns out! Since I prefer shopping there to shopping at Wal-Mart (honestly, who doesn't?), it'd be nice to have a discount.

So I guess I didn't win the camera in the giveaway that I entered. Sadly. I usually have good luck with giveaways, but not this time. :( But that's okay. Sort of.