03 April 2020

Off the Shelf; or What's New in My Corner of the World #10

What's new at Beth Fish ReadsHi guys! Just a quick check-in today to say that all is fine in the BFR household. I know I have barely posted anything recently, and I wanted to pop in to give you all an update.

Work and play. Traditionally, mid-February to mid-April is my really busy time with work. In other years, I've managed to both work and blog, but this year, with all that is going on in my life and in the world, I had to let something slide for a little bit. For 2020, that meant not blogging.

Like everyone, we've been practicing social distancing and haven't left the house much at all. Mr. BFR has taken a few bike rides, and I've done a little walking. Other than that, we've kept to ourselves except for an occasional grocery run.

Reading. I haven't had the concentration to read much in print/digital, though I've listened to eight. audiobooks over the last month or so. I hope to write a quick post about my thoughts soon . . . maybe this coming Monday. I spent an hour or so last night organizing my April-release books. There are some good titles coming out right now, and I'm looking forward to sharing my top picks with you.

Watching. If you get Hulu, you really should give Little Fires Everywhere a try. The series is based on Celeste Ng's book, which was a powerful read. The show is really well done and worth your time. We're also watching Outlander and lots of news.

Other things. We were very lucky to have sold my mother's house in the current climate. Just by chance in early March we heard about someone who was interested in a house in my mom's neighborhood, and we were able to have a showing before the house went on the market. We did the usual haggling and came to an agreed-on price. Contracts have been signed, and the house passed inspection. The entire place must be cleaned out by mid-May, which means I'll have to take another trip to Ohio during these trying times. I'll be driving, and I hope to have little or no contact with anyone until I get to the house. I'm even bringing food with me so I don't have to shop there.

I hope you all are staying home and staying healthy. For those of you with children, I wish you the best with homeschooling. On Wednesday of next week, over at the AudioFile Magazine blog, I'm recommending some good nonfiction that can be used with school units for teens and older learners. I'll have some middle grade suggestions here on Beth Fish Reads sometime in April.

I'll be back tomorrow with a Weekend Cooking post. Until then, wash your hands & don't touch your face. 

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28 March 2020

Weekend Cooking: Eating Out of the Pantry and Freezer

Beth Fish Reads: Weekend CookingHello, my friends! If you normally read my blog during the week as well as on Saturdays, you'll see I didn't post this week. All is fine here. It's just that I'm in my super-duper busy editing season plus still dealing with settling my mother's estate and selling her house and (of course) trying to follow the news and recommendations for COVID-19. Phew! What a super-ridiculous time we're living in!

Here are some random notes about up-coming Weekend Cooking posts. I know I will soon have another batch of cookbooks from Abrams. I'm not sure when I'll have more cookbooks from Voracious. I'm currently trying to use what's in the house, and we're avoiding the grocery store. Cooking is . . . interesting!

Beth Fish Reads: Weekend CookingLast week's menu included the wonderful beef stew from Michael Ruhlman's Braise cookbook, which I wrote about in early January. The recipe can be found on that post. When I bought the chuck roast for the stew I made in January, Wegman's had a deal on a two-pack, so I froze one roast and used that this week. Because this is social distancing time, I didn't want to "waste" 2 cups of wine on the stew, so I used homemade frozen beef broth instead. I have to say that the stew was just as wonderful this time around, so if you're doling out your wine or just never have wine in the house, don't hesitate to make Ruhlman's Ida's Beef Stew. Our stew did have potatoes in it, but they didn't show up in my photo.

The one thing I totally forgot to buy when I was stocking up for COVID-19 was yeast! ARGH--I'm so incredibly mad at myself. It's nowhere to be found these days. Much more scarce than paper towels, and my favorite brand is on back order for up to a month. I do have enough, I think, but I decided to make a King Arthur Flour rye soda bread for that stew dinner, so I could conserve my yeast stash. The recipe comes from one their cookbooks, and I couldn't find it on their website. If you want me to post the recipe, let me know.

Beth Fish Reads: Weekend CookingWe also had a tuna quinoa chickpea salad from The Spruce Eats. The link will take you to the recipe and the scan is also from their website. This was really good and made one dinner and one lunch for the two of us. We're currently a little squeamish about eating greens that aren't cooked, but we seem to have survived the salad anyway. I'm guessing this would be a great make-ahead lunch salad for when life gets back to some kind of normal.

Other dinners were beans and rice and soup with tortellini and frozen veggies. Tomorrow night's dinner is a surprise for Mr. BFR: we're going to have a snack night! I bought some cheeses, crackers, hard salamis, sardines, and olives. I think we're going to break out the playing cards and play some gin while we snack and sip wine and forget about the troubles of the world -- even if it's just for a couple of hours.

Beth Fish Reads: Weekend CookingFinally, in the necessity is the mother of invention category, I discovered a new quarantcocktail: rye with limoncello. Here the idea was to conserve our fresh lemons and our wine stash. We wanted a drink but didn't want to crack open a wine bottle and didn't want to waste a lemon on a few slices. Thus a cocktail was born. It's really good--or at least it's good in the present climate. I'm happy and Mr. BFR is happy, and that's all that counts!

And I lied when I said "finally" in the last paragraph. The real finally is to alert you some Penguin Random House live events that include a peek into cookbook authors' and chefs' kitchens to learn a new recipe and get a few cooking and kitchen tips. You can find the full schedule of bookish and cooking Instagram and Facebook events by checking out Virtual Events. The current schedule is for March, and you can watch past events. I really liked the video with Melissa Clark.

Here's to another successful week of cooking under these strange circumstances.

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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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21 March 2020

Weekend Cooking: Taco Chronicles (Netflix Documentary)

Review of Taco Chronicles from NetflixHow has your week gone? We've been holding up quite well, and I'm enjoying the challenge of making nutritious and delicious meals from the pantry and freezer, while being conscious of the need to use my food wisely.

This last week's dinners were lentil soup with spinach, chicken grain bowls, pork stir-fry, and broccoli mac and cheese. Our freezer is full of vegetables, fruits, and meats as well as homemade sauces I made last summer. Our pantry contains flour, beans, rice, dried fruit, oatmeal, and a variety of oils and vinegars.

Even if we work our way through the fresh food in the refrigerator, we'll still have plenty to keep the wolf from the door.

As many of you are, I'm sure, we're watching a ton of news. Last night, though, I needed a break and found Taco Chronicles on Netflix. This is a six-part documentary about different styles of tacos found throughout Mexico. The Netflix original series is in Spanish, but there are English subtitles.

Each episode is only about a half hour and focuses on one region of Mexico and one style of taco. I watched the first two -- "Pastor" and "Carnitas" -- and here are my thoughts.

Review of Taco Chronicles from NetflixFrom a viewer's perspective: Taco Chronicles will absolutely make you crave tacos and perhaps a trip to Mexico. We meet restaurant and food stand owners and see them dishing up delicious-looking tacos to their customers. We also learn a little bit about the history of each type of taco and get a peek at how they are made.

We're not, however, given recipes or instructions for reproducing the tacos from the featured cooks. Note too that, though we visit a number of taco stands and restaurants in each episode, Taco Chronicles doesn't provide many details for planning your next vacation. The episodes I watched were enjoyable, and I definitely learned something, but I wasn't tempted to immediately binge-watch the rest of the series.

From a filming perspective: To my unprofessional eyes, Taco Chronicles was well edited and nicely filmed. The food shots are lovely, and the people we meet are definitely passionate about their tacos.

Recommendation: If you have some time to kill and a Netflix subscription, give Taco Chronicles a shot. Just go in with the idea that the series is more a celebration of all things taco than it is travel guide, restaurant review, or cooking show.

Here's the trailer. Note that Netflix provides English subtitles but I was unable to find an embeddable trailer that included those subtitles.


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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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17 March 2020

Today's Read: And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton

review of And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie ThorntonAre you old enough to remember the Kennedy administration or to remember what you were doing when you learned President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated? I'm old enough, and I remember. Even if you weren't yet born in fall 1963, I'm sure you have an inkling about the Kennedy mystique and the aura surrounding Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. If you're still not sure, think: Princess Di.

Although I'm not Kennedy obsessed, I'm endlessly curious about Jackie O. How did this smart, stylish, and capable woman end up with two husbands who hardly supported her independence? Maybe this novel will give me some insights. Here's how it opens, on the morning of November 22, 1963:

The pink pillbox hat and Chanel-inspired bouclé suit awaited her on the bed.

The shouts of “Jack-ie!” still rang in her ears, and her headache had scarcely dulled after yesterday’s constant cascade of blinding flashbulbs. Yet she’d braved the crowds as she had so many other times over the past ten years, and with her husband’s reelection campaign looming, her false smile was guaranteed to become a permanent fixture in the months to come.

So she tugged the watermelon wool skirt over her silk slip and buttoned the jacket’s gold buttons, the deafening roar of applause from downstairs causing the walls to tremble, while John F. Kennedy shook voters’ hands and kissed their chubby-cheeked babies in the ballroom below.

A few more minutes alone, she thought to herself. Just a few more minutes.

There were never enough minutes. And there was never, ever enough time alone.
And They Called It Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton (Berkley, March 10, ARC)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: second half of the 20th century; United States and abroad
  • Circumstances: This is a well-researched fictionalized account of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's life as told through her voice. We learn about her relationships with her birth family, the Kennedy clan, her children, and the Onassis family. We are given a deeper look into the choices she made and the consequences of those choices. At the end of the novel, we see her emerge from her battles as an independent woman with a job she was about to fully own.
  • Genre & themes: historical fiction; family; independence; women's issues; a snapshot of a different generation
  • Gleaned from reviews: well-written, well-researched, insightful (starred review from Publisher's Weekly)
  • Why I want to read this: Besides needing to escape 2020? As I said earlier, I have a fascination with Jackie O and -- though on far, far ends of the editorial spectrum -- we share a career. :)
  • Extras: readers can download a book club kit, which includes a menu as well as discussion questions; an author's note clarifies Thornton's choices for how she told the story; the book includes a bibliography and an author interview.
  • Audiobook: Read by Cassandra Campbell (Penguin Audio: 17 hr, 2 min)
  • Acknowledgments: Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of Stephanie Marie Thornton's And They Called It Camelot.

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14 March 2020

Weekend Cooking: Prepping for COVID-19

Weekend Cooking with Beth Fish ReadsHappy Pi/Pie day! I hope at least a few of you share a yummy pie recipe in celebration.

I spent last week working on clearing out my mother's house. We still have a lot to do, but we made great progress. Unfortunately, not much cooking or reading happened last week. When I wasn't sorting papers or running things to Goodwill, I was working at my paying jobs.

My brothers and I had take-out every night. Ugh. I'm so ready for home-cooked food that isn't loaded with salt.

When I got back to Pennsylvania, I realized the BFR household was woefully behind in stashing food away in case of self-quarantine or other COVID-19 emergency. I made a list and sent Mr. BFR out into the world to do what he could.

Have you stocked up on food in case your area is put on restricted movement? If so, what did you get?

Weekend Cooking with Beth Fish ReadsWe didn't go crazy buying up everything we could think of. I'm not a food hoarder, but I always have some canned tomato products, tuna, sardines, and lots of dried beans and legumes. I also have meat in the freezer, and ingredients for baking.

What I was concerned about was fruit and vegetables, which we generally buy fresh. Thus the frozen food aisle was the focus of our concentration. We picked up a variety of frozen veggies and fruit. We also bought an extra dozen eggs, some grains, and two bags of coffee.

I may be naive, but I sincerely doubt that we'll be without food completely. In any case, I'm not very worried about starving. As long as I have my coffee, I'll be a happy camper. And if worse comes to worse, I can always turn to my tea stash.

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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2020. All rights reserved.

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