19 July 2017

Wordless Wednesday 455

At the Creek, 2017


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17 July 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: The Pre-Vacation Edition

2 short book reviewsLast week was busy, busy with work because this week I've escaped with some girlfriends to attend the lace guild's annual convention. I signed up late for classes, so instead of studying bobbin lace, this year  I'll be taking two classes in knitted lace. I love to knit, so this is hardly a hardship.

I suspect I won't get much reading done this week, but I know I'll have a ton of fun. Meanwhile, Mr. BFR will pick up all the slack on the reading front. He'll have the house to himself, and I bet a book will be his week-long dinner companion.

On the Blog This Week: Because I'll be away from computer, and I've decided not to pack my laptop, this will be a light week both in posting and visiting other blogs. I have today's post, a photo on Wednesday, and, of course, a Weekend Cooking post. I hope to share photos of my knitting on Twitter, Instagram, or Litsy ... see you next week.

What I Read Last Week

Review: Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel KhongGoodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (Henry Holt, July 11): After 30-year-old Ruth Young's fiance dumps her, she makes the trip from San Francisco to LA to spend Christmas with her family. Although she knew her father had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, this was the first time she witnessed the symptoms. Still grieving her own lost relationship, she moves home to help her mother. Written in a kind of journal or diary style, the novel looks at how a young adult changes from being from her parents' child to her parents' caregiver. It also explores the transition of finally seeing one's parents as complete human beings, with all their flaws. I enjoyed the novel because of the themes of family and facing difficult changes, but I didn't love the novel as much as I had hoped. I didn't connect strongly to Ruth, maybe because we are very different people. I did, however, appreciate the compassion and humor of Khong's approach to a heartbreaking disease. (Thanks to Henry Holt for providing the review copy.)

Review: The Wildling Sisters by Eve ChaseThe Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase (Putnam, July 25): Set on a small estate in the Cotswolds, this dual time-period novel with Gothic undertones is bound to be one of my favorites of the year. The novel involves two sets of sisters, secrets, troubles, grief, and family, and I really liked the way the events of summer of 1959 had repercussions in contemporary times. I loved both story lines, that of the Wilde sisters in the past and that of the Tucker family in the present, and how the reputation of the house, once made, was very difficult to shake. The unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio, 10 hr, 46 min) was read by Clare Corbett and Emilia Fox, each of whom performed one of the time periods. Sometimes it's jarring to switch back and forth between narrators, but Corbett's and Fox's performances blended nicely. Each built the tension and left room for me to form my own opinions about the characters and plot lines. Highly recommended audiobook. (Thanks to Penguin Audio for providing the review copy.)

What I'm Reading Now
  • The Goddesses by Swan Huntley: A family relocates to Hawaii to get a fresh start. Nancy signs up for yoga lessons, meeting Ana, who soon becomes her all-consuming best friend. I'm only halfway through, but I sense that some bad things are going to happen. There're some odd disruptions to the story, but I'm going to reserve judgment until I finish the book, hoping that it will all make sense later. The audiobook is read by Hillary Huber.
  • One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus: I haven't yet started this twisty thriller, but I have high hopes. I've packed it for the knitting trip, though I'm not sure I'll have any time to read.
  • A Paris All Your Own edited by Elanor Brown: I've downloaded this audiobook in case I finish The Goddesses during the week. I hope I enjoy this collection of essay written by women authors who have had connections to the City of Lights. This is a multi-narrator audibook.

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15 July 2017

Weekend Cooking: Will It Skillet? by Daniel Schumski

Review: Will It Skillet? by Daniel ShumskiI love my cast iron skillets and use them almost daily. Yes, I said skillets, I have six or seven and have thought about buying at least two more. Despite being an experienced iron cooker, I knew I had to have a copy of Will It Skillet? by Daniel Shumski.

If you're new cast iron, you'll be happy to know that Shumski starts by introducing cast iron skillets and providing sage advice on seasoning, cleaning, and restoring pans. Note too that the recipes in Will It Skillet? are for 10-inch skillets, measured from outside rim to outside rim.

As you'll learn after looking through the book, some of the dishes can, of course, be made in any skillet (paella, charred tomato salsa), but most of the recipes take advantage of cast iron's ability to withstand high temperatures and move from stovetop to oven to table (carnitas, savory stratas).

A couple of things I always make in my cast iron pans are roasted veggies (check out the "Snacks, Dips, & Sides" chapter) and roasted chicken (not in the cookbook). Will It Skillet? also includes several recipes for bread and bread dishes, another great use of your cast iron cookware. Don't forget to look through the breakfast chapter for egg dishes, pancakes, and even a giant muffin.

Review: Will It Skillet? by Daniel ShumskiAlthough I often forget cast iron works well for desserts (see all the photos and scans!), Shumski did not. The dessert chapter contains recipes for puddings, cakes, and more.

More than just providing recipes, Will It Skillet? offers tips for success and fun cast iron facts as well as variations for many of the dishes. More important, the recipes are easy, use common ingredients, and are absolutely family friendly. Finally, because this is a Workman book, you know the photos are beautiful, the design is attractive, and the recipes are well edited.

In the introduction, Shumski notes that this cookbook is "more a beginning than an end" and is meant to get you started with using cast iron in your kitchen. I'm a seasoned (ha!) cast iron cooker but still found plenty of new information and recipe inspiration. I recommend Danial Shumski's Will It Skillet? for everyone who loves, or wants to love, cooking and baking in cast iron skillets. For more experienced cooks, like me, the cookbook provides not only solid recipes but also fresh ideas. For newbies, the book serves as a complete guide to getting the most out of your cast iron cookware.

Peaches are just coming into season in central Pennsylvania, and the cast iron peach cobbler in Will It Skillet? was calling to me. I'm a little biscuit challenged, so my topping doesn't look very biscuit-like, but it sure was yummy. Note that I didn't peel my peaches.

Peach Cobbler
Serves 8

  • Review: Will It Skillet? by Daniel Shumski3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups peeled and sliced peaches (about 6 medium peaches, cut into eigths)
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpouse flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut inot small chunks
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 375F with one rack in the middle.

2. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup of the sugar, the cornstarch, and the cinnamon. In a medium-size bowl, pour the sugar mixure over the peaches and toss the peaches to distribute the sugar mixture evenly. Spread the peaches on the bottom of the skillet.

3. In a medium-size bowl or a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Stir with a fork or puse several times to combine.

4. Add the butter and rub it into the flour, working the lumps of butter between your fingers until only very small bits of butter remain. If using a food processor, add the butter and pulse 10 times.

5. Using a fork, stir in the egg and vanilla unti the mixture is dampened and about the consistency of thick cake batter.

6. Drop the mixture onto the fruit about 1 tablespoon at a time, being sure to cover the fruit. The mounds should touch one another but might still leave bits of fruit exposed.

7. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until just starting to brown, about 40 minutes.

8. Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool until warm but not hot, about 30 minutes. Leftovers can be stored for 1 day at room temperature in the skillet, covered loosely with plastic wrap. Portions can be frozen in overed containers for up to 3 months.

NOTE: The photo of the peach cobbler is my own. The other photo was scanned from the cookbook. The recipe and photo were used here in the context of a review; all rights remain with the original copyright holders. I bought this book.

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14 July 2017

Review: Manchester by the Sea (Movie)

Manchester by the Sea: movie reviewI avoided watching the much-praised film Manchester by the Sea (written and directed by Kenneth Logan) for a number of reasons, but recently decided it was time to see what all the buzz was about.

When Lee, a broken man (played by Casey Affleck), returns to his home town to put his late brother's affairs in order, he learns he has been named the sole guardian of his nephew, Patrick (played by Lucas Hedges). This is a heartbreaking movie of a family beset by tragedy and troubles.

The acting, especially the performances by Affleck and Hedges, is fantastic. They push their characters' conflicts and emotions front and center, making it almost impossible for the viewer to turn away from the screen. The filming too is beautifully done, evoking the dark themes of the movie and providing a look into life in an East Coast sea town.

Manchester by the Sea is deserving of its many awards and nominations, but I'm recommending it with reservations. It's a difficult movie to watch, with little relief from the overriding sadness. It explores grief, forgiveness, broken relationships, and loss of self-confidence/-respect. Often times we moviegoers hope for great leaps of character growth or tidy, happy resolution of difficult issues. This film won't give you that.

In fact, my first reaction to the ending was, "What? That's it? No!" But like all good stories, Manchester by the Sea wouldn't leave my head. The more I thought about the final scenes, the more I began to understand what happened to Lee and Patrick during the months they lived together. This is one of those slow-burning films that you'll mull over for days.

If you can handle a movie that focuses on loss, disconnection, and loneliness, then put Manchester by the Sea in your queue. You might want to watch this one with a buddy.

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12 July 2017

Wordless Wednesday 454

Garden Visitor, 2017


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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2017. All rights reserved.

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