Monday, January 13, 2014

Books I Read in 2013

It looks like it’s time for my annual post! Yep, my book list. I was going to skip it, since I track what I read on Pinterest. But I found myself missing the recap of what I liked best and worst and what my general reading trend was for the year. I didn’t end up with as many titles this year as in years past, but I felt more engaged with my reading than I did last year. I also didn’t concern myself with not finishing book club titles if I didn’t feel like it, managing to get through just 5 of the 11. (As usual, I put book club selections in italics.) Red Earth, White Earth was my favorite of these, following two childhood best friends, one Ojibwe and one white, through change and turmoil in northern Minnesota. Only 8 of my books in 2013 were graphic novels, but that still puts me above my average rate of 16.9% per year. Batman: The Court of Owls is a marvelous new addition to the character’s story, filled with a broad range of current and past sidekicks and villains, as well as introducing a formidable new foe.

I read just one audio book and it really stuck with me: The Night Circus. I really want to read it with my eyes and see if I find it as affecting as it did reading it with my ears. Regardless, it was a fascinating way to read a new book. Previously I’ve only done audio for books I’ve actually read before, and just want a new experience while revisiting their worlds (Harry Potter and Harry Dresden). The best YA was The Bone Season. It was unlike your typical strong teenage female heroine finding her place in the world and proving her worth to herself and those around her. Though it was that, too! Yet it was also a dark, creepy and evil Hogwarts and an alternate history. I only read a handful of non-fiction in 2013 but it was all excellent. In the Heart of the Sea was a detailed analysis of the history, culture, and events that went into a terrible sea tragedy that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted was a detailed analysis of the history, culture, and events that went into the making of the Mary Tyler Moore show.

1 Bone: Eyes of the Storm Jeff Smith
2 Lost in Time Melissa de la Cruz
3 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
4 The Curse of Four Caitlin Kittredge
5 Reached Ally Condie
6 Bone: The Dragonslayer Jeff Smith
7 A Clash of Kings George R.R. Martin
8 Frost Burned Patricia Briggs
9 An Apple for the Creature Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
10 The Tragedy of Arthur Arthur Phillips
11 Serpent's Kiss Melissa de la Cruz
12 Bone: Rock Jaw Master of the Eastern Border Jeff Smith
13 The Night Circus Erin Morgenstern
14 Caddie Woodlawn Carol Ryrie Brink
15 Kiss and Spell Shanna Swendson
16 A Fantasy Medley 2 Edited by Yanni Kuznia
17 Batman: The Court of Owls Scott Snyder
18 Dead Ever After Charlaine Harris
19 His Majesty's Dragon Naomi Novik
20 House of Secrets Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini
21 In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex Nathaniel Philbrick
22 Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor Rosina Harrison
23 Rogue Touch Christine Woodward
24 A Hard Day's Knight Simon R. Green
25 Divergent Veronica Roth
26 Batman: The City of Owls Scott Snyder
27 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
28 Winds of Salem Melissa de la Cruz
29 Chimes at Midnight Seanan McGuire
30 Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
31 Red Earth White Earth Will Weaver
32 The Cuckoo's Calling Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
33 The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
34 Legends I Edited by Robert Silverberg
35 Insurgent Veronica Roth
36 Inferno Dan Brown
37 Eat More Vegetables: Making the Most of Your Seasonal Produce Tricia Cornell
38 Allegiant Veronica Roth
39 Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic Alison Bechdel
40 After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse Charlaine Harris
41 The Bone Season Samantha Shannon
42 A Kiss of Shadows Laurell K. Hamilton
43 The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit Octavia Spencer

Friday, January 04, 2013

Books Read in 2012

So I completely fell off the blog bandwagon. I just don’t have the time to keep up with it. Pinterest is way more my speed these days. But I still felt compelled to post my 2012 reading list. It’s quite a lot shorter than in years past. Partly that’s due to my commute. But largely it’s been due to my complete lack of desire to read. I’m not sure what happened. No inspiration? Caught up on the paranormal series I started? Getting an ipad for Mother’s Day and the ensuing addiction to stupid app games? Whatever the reason, I also fell off the reading bandwagon.

As I said in my end of year meme on LJ, my reading this year has not been very highbrow. At all. In fact, I quit or just plain skipped over half of the book club selections for the year. (The ones I did read are in italics below.) Instead, I read an awful lot of semi-trashy, comedic celebrity memoirs. Tons of supernatural mystery serieses. And a handful of graphic novels. My favorite would have be my re-read of The Hobbit, which I read to the kids at bedtime over the summer, so we’d be ready when the movie came out. The story that sticks with me the most is WOOL, by Hugh Howey, because it was such a unique format and chillingly realistic dystopian future. The book that was most enlightening was Suffering Succotash, by Stephanie Lucianovic, because it opened my eyes about my son’s picky eating and helped me to not sweat it.

1 Make the Bread, Buy the Butter Jennifer Reese
2 Le Freak: An Upside Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny Nile Rodgers
3 One Salt Sea Seanan McGuire
4 Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) Mindy Kaling
5 Moon Called Patricia Briggs
6 Crossed Ally Condie
7 Farscape: Compulsions Keith R.A. DeCandido
8 Blood Bound Patricia Briggs
9 A Game of Thrones George R.R. Martin
10 Iron Kissed Patricia Briggs
11 Mercy Thompson: Homecoming Patricia Briggs & David Lawrence
12 Fired Up Jayne Ann Krentz
13 Bone Crossed Patricia Briggs
14 The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane Katherine Howe
15 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
16 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 7 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
17 The Unnatural Inquirer Simon R. Green
18 Silver Borne Patricia Briggs
19 Cold Comfort Farm Stella Gibbons
20 Down These Strange Streets George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
21 River Marked Patricia Briggs
22 Just Another Judgement Day Simon R. Green
23 The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes Neil Gaiman
24 Fair Game Patricia Briggs
25 Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster Kristen Johnston
26 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
27 All There Is: Love Stories From StoryCorps Edited by Dave Isay
28 The Hob's Bargain Patricia Briggs
29 Growgirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot Heather Donahue
30 A Kiss Before the Apocalypse Thomas E. Sniegoski
31 Magic Burns Ilona Andrews
32 Deadlocked Charlaine Harris
33 The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
34 Suffering Succotasch: A Picky Eater's Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic
35 Dancing on the Head of a Pin Thomas E. Sniegoski
36 The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny Simon R. Green
37 Much Ado About Magic Shanna Swendson
38 Shadow of Night Deborah Harkness
39 Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales Ali Wentworth
40 WOOL Hugh Howey
41 Blood Lite III: Aftertaste Edited by Kevin J. Anderson
42 No Quest for the Wicked Shanna Swendson
43 Most Talkative: Stories From the Front Lines of Pop Culture Andy Cohen
44 Hex Appeal Edited by P.N. Elrod
45 Bone: Out From Boneville Jeff Smith
46 Where Angels Fear to Tread Thomas E. Sniegoski
47 Ashes of Honor Seanan McGuire
48 Bone: The Great Cow Race Jeff Smith
49 Cold Days Jim Butcher
50 You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations Michael Ian Black
51 Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron Jonathan Strahan

Monday, March 19, 2012

5:15pm 2/29/12 in flight

Tuesday we had to set out alarms for the first time to get a cab over to the Conrad. Of course the night before we had massive drama. Dad couldn’t get the pilot lit and we had to call in an emergency furnace tech.

We got on a bus tour to go visit El Yunque National Forest. It was really a four seat van and it was jam packed. We drove to the park and stopped in four locations. The first was the visitor’s center, which Mr. b and I skipped and did the short walking trail instead. We saw giant snails on the path. Then we stopped at the Yokahú lookout tower. It’s a recreation of the old Spanish tower. Mr. b loved the breeze at the top. You could see the coast and Calebra island. Next we went to a big picnic area that used to also be a swimming hole. They closed the baño grande in the 70s because of accidents. There was a cool series of small falls as one of the many creeks flowed through the area. Finally we stopped for a photo op at the waterfall pictures on all the travel ads: La Coca. It was a sheer drop and it was lovely.

We got back to the Condado about 1pm and decided to stay on that side. We walked down to the driver-recommended place for lunch, Casa Lola. It was far fancier than we were in the mood for but we stayed and it turned out to be exactly perfect.
Then we walked back to La Concha to change into our swimsuits and scam use of their beach and pool. The surf was really high so I didn’t even bother going into the water. Mr. b body surfed and got beaten by the waves for a while. Once we had enough we tried out the infinity pool. I had never been in one before. It was cool. Mr. b went to get us some drinks but they were too expensive, even for tourist hotel standards, so we packed up and moved down the beach. We ended up at the Atlantic Beach Club, which looked totally sketchy but ended up being exactly where we needed to be. We had some drinks and stared at the ocean.

When we got back to the apartment we did some packing and worked on finishing our bottle of Don Q. We went back to Patio de Sam and got dinner. Plantain and sweet potato chips and the best mofongo ever. Plus delicious mojitos. We hung out in the Plaza de Ponce for a while before heading back home.

After some TV Mr. b wanted to go back out and try the upstairs bar that was projecting a light show onto the plaza. I love the place. It felt like a St. Paul dive, with pool tables and everything. We got to chatting with the bartender, Eduardo, and his lady friend, Marie. He was supposed to make her dinner but had to work so she was hanging out. Eduardo is originally from Cuba and is an archaeologist, working in Ponce on the south of the island. We all got along great and then a couple of Argentine navy men came in. The quiet one had to get up and be on duty in the morning but Ignacio was ready to have fun. I left at 1:30 to go to bed, right as Mr. b was buying him a shot for his birthday the day before. I woke up about 3 and went back down there in my jammies to fetch him. Ignacio came home with us to exchange names to keep in touch on facebook. I want to try to locate Eduardo, too.

We got up early this morning and picked at our leftovers for breakfast. Security at the San Juan airport was ridiculous. They were clearly on island time and didn’t care. We spent over an hour on the taxiway at JFK but are in the air now. The drink cart is two rows away.

9:15pm 2/27/12 San Juan

I did end up joining Mr. b across the street once he got back from the casino. He won $100 on blackjack and was double hammered. We went to bed shortly after. I slept in the loft.

We both couldn’t get moving this morning. Mr. b went out for some rellenos de papas for breakfast and then we just sat around for a while. We decided to walk the whole way to the locals’ beach, which is closer than the tourist one but still about 2 miles away. We took our time strolling and it was actually a lovely walk. The beach had tons of teenagers and some families. There was a lot of rocks as a breakwater so it was calm instead of wavy.

After we were done with the beach we walked over the bridge to the tourist side. We stopped for lunch at a Mexican place that had windows opened up right on the surf. There was a tide pool below with crabs walking around. The waitress climbed out and threw hunks of bread. The water churned where the fish swarmed to eat it.

We didn’t do much this evening. Naps back at the apartment. Then some souvenir shopping for the kids. We got a small bite for dinner but I couldn’t finish my soup. I burned the tops of my feet today. They’re definitely going to peel.

9:30pm 2/26/12 San Juan

We did go out again last night after 8 or 8:30. We walked down to the harbor and through the crowds of tourists. We hung out for a while at the plaza closest to us and bought some snacks. Then we ended up just hanging out and watching a marathon of American Chopper.

This morning we walked to the corner and got breakfast at La Tortuga. As is apparently typical around here, it was slow but delicious. Then we walked to the harbor and waited for the ferry.

The ferry took us across to Cataño where we boarded a van to the Bacardi distillery. The tour wasn’t really that special but it was free and we found a nice couple to hang out with. They also provide drink tickets for 2 drinks, which were of course delicious but weak.

We took a minivan cab back to the ferry but wanted to stay on that side of the harbor for a while. The driver said the hamburger place right where he dropped us off was great. The owner looked Jamaican but was Puertorriqueño. We hung out there for hours, drinking Cuba Libres, eating hamburgers, and talking to locals. It was a great spot.

We had to wait forever to get the next ferry. We checked out the huge cruise ships and the pirate ship (used in the Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty) and stopped in for another drink near the tourist harbor. Then we found ourselves at the foot of San Cristobal so decided to check out the fort. We went through it quite fast; it was closing in less than an hour. The dungeon was the coolest part. There were some amazing views into the old city.

We made our way home and have been relaxing, drinking rum and watching TV. Right now Mr. b is out on a supply run. The SuperMax is closed. I’m watching the Oscars. There’s a music video shoot down the block.

5:00pm 2/25/12 San Juan

A little over 24 hours ago, Mr. b got a job offer.

We left the apartment after breakfast yesterday and headed to the right out our door. We headed through a plaza and found ourselves at the edge of a great swath of green grass next to an old fort wall. Everywhere we looked were school kids, wearing field trip t-shirts, flying kites. We passed through the school groups and entered the first for on the island, El Morro.

The fort was huge and super cool. Kirk would love it. We took lots of pictures of the most piratey spots for him. After we were forted out, we started back through the grassy area, this time making towards the channel instead of the ocean. We followed along the inner wall and came upon the San Juan Gate. We rested in the shade of an awesome old tree with roots hanging down from its branches.

Mr. b wanted to get over to where the cruise ships come in. It took a few tries but we eventually found ourselves in an area that looked very much like Navy Pier. I was exhausted so we went into the first place for lunch: Señor Frogs.

After we ate we headed back home for naps. That’s when Mr. b got the call with the offer. We were obviously very excited and got ready to splurge on dinner. We dressed up and went across the street to Barú. It was delicious and expensive.
We were so full and tired we contemplated calling it a night. But we rallied about 10pm and headed down the block to Patio de Sam and had a few rounds, listening to the local guitar player.

This morning we had appointments for pedicures at 10am. We took a cab to the spa and discovered it as the wrong one. But they could get us in and when they called their sister location to cancel us, found out they only had on scheduled!

Mr. b won $25 at the hotel casino while my toenail polish was drying so we got fancy drinks at the hotel bar. Another cab ride took us to a pizza chain that was supposed to have great gluten free. They had none. So we started wandering. We found the beach but not the exact perfect patio bar Mr. b was hoping for. My feet were killing me. Finally we went into a local place called Café del Angel. Service was TERRIBLE. We didn’t get served for nearly an hour. They were very apologetic, gave us a free round of drinks, and when the food finally came, it was totally worth it.

We hung out in the La Concha hotel lobby for a while before heading out to the beach. Mr. b played in the water longer than I did of course. We just layed in the beach chairs and relaxed. We tried to find another beach but my feet couldn’t take it anymore. We ducked into another hotel bar for a break and then took a cab home.
We’re probably just going to cook at home tonight rather than going out for dinner again.

10:30am 2/24/12 San Juan

We had 3 flights yesterday; Mpls to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, Miami to San Juan. We finally got into a taxi about 11pm. There was a medical emergency on the third flight. They even asked for a doctor over the PA!

We’re staying in an apartment on Calle San Sebastien in the Old City. The streets are cobble stone and narrow. It reminds me of the old cities of Antibes or Monaco.

Last night we walked to the SuperMax for groceries. Mr. b made a pitcher of rum punch by chopping up some mango, grapefruit, papaya, and limes and pouring in rum. I haven’t tried it yet. He kept going out last night and it was creeping me out to be here alone. The door locks by key on both sides so I had no way out.

This morning it’s raining lightly. I made some eggs with chorizo and queso blanco and had them with tortillas.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Books Read in 2011

I used to keep my book list in a Word doc. Earlier last year I transferred the whole thing to Excel. I guess it finally hit me that this many years’ of books needed to be in a better format. It’s been fun to be able to filter the list and I’ve even created a couple of flags for myself. But how did 2011 stack up? Actually not too shabby! I’m down a few from 2010’s record high but I’m surprised I still hit such a big number. I started a new job in September, requiring me to drive to work instead of take the bus, and that’s seriously depleted my reading time. I guess it helps when I’m rarely tackling such dense tomes that require a month to slog through…

I killed some time last week with an end of year meme over on my LiveJournal. One of the questions was “What was the best book you read?” I can never just pick one. I reread Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle, which is a personal favorite and something I think any ancient history nerd should read. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi was recommended for fans of the Hunger Games and was a fun and exciting young adult story, set in a ruined near future, an original story not requiring vampires or sequels. Matched by Ally Condie was a chilling young adult story that I found to be extremely prescient and could easily see that world happening if we keep on our current path. I recommended that one frequently. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – finally! A supernatural tale written for adults that don’t want stupid love triangles *or* explicit sex! And I fell in love with three new serieses: the Trylle trilogy by Amanda Hocking, the Alpha and Omega spin-off series by Patricia Briggs, and the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire.

I also read a lot of non-fiction. I’m not sure if it was intentional but I definitely fell into the habit of checking out odd memoirs that caught my eye when I read reviews of them. These ranged from celebrities with interesting lives to regular people with interesting lives. Stuntman! by Hal Needham is a must for any fan of Burt Reynolds and American on Purpose is perfect for fans of comedy, Anglophiles, and punk rockers. I think Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio was probably the best of the non-famous people memoirs, and I didn’t even know most of the subjects he dished about while discussing how he essentially invented the modern concierge industry.

Book club had mostly good to excellent selections this year (in italics below), although I did give up on the November pick, Assassination Vacation, despite liking the subject matter because I was completely put off by the author’s voice. My favorites were the Steinbeck, the Gaiman, and the Greene titles. I can’t count the most excellent Down and Out in Paris and London because that was actually for 2009 and it just took me that long to get around to buying a copy and finishing it! I also read my usual dozen and a half or so graphic novels. The standouts there were Batwoman: Elegy, truly an amazing tale and incredible artwork, and The Griff, a unique riff on the apocalypse, told by Christopher Moore.

I don’t think I have any book related resolutions again. Last year I said I was going to sew more. That did not happen. At all. This year I’m going to try to bake something every week. I’m still getting a handle on gluten free eating and baking is definitely the area I’ve been most scared of. I’ve had some successes and some failures and mostly just middle of the road good-enough results. So even if it’s just a mix of gf Brownies from a box, I’m going to bake. And I’m going to get back my confidence. And buy xanthum gum and figure out what the hell it does.

1 Celestial Matters Richard Garfinkle
2 Palo Alto James Franco
3 Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell
4 The Hound of the Baskervilles Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
5 Batwoman: Elegy Greg Rucka & J. H. Williams III
6 I Am Number Four Pittacus Lore
7 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 3 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
8 Ship Breaker Paolo Bacigalupi
9 Star Island Carl Hiassen
10 About a Boy Nick Hornby
11 Children of God Go Bowling Shannon Olson
12 Magic Bites Ilona Andrews
13 Bloody Valentine Melissa de la Cruz
14 Matched Ally Condie
15 The Help Kathryn Stockett
16 Something From the Nightside Simon R. Green
17 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 7 Twilight Brad Meltzer & Georges Jeanty
18 Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files Storm Front Vol. 2 Maelstrom Mark Powers & Ardian Syaf
19 Agents of Light and Darkness Simon R. Green
20 Nightingale's Lament Simon R. Green
21 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 4 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
22 East of Eden John Steinbeck
23 Angel: After the Fall Vol. 1 Brian Lynch & Franco Urru
24 Hex and the City Simon R. Green
25 Huntress Christine Warren, Marjorie M. Liu, Caitlin Kittredge, Jenna Maclaine
26 Concierge Confidential Michael Fazio
27 Farscape: Scorpius Vol 1 Let Sleeping Dogs Lie David Alan Mack & Mike Ruiz
28 The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists Gideon Defoe
29 Street Magic Caitlin Kittredge
30 Battle Royale Vol. 1 Koushun Takami & Masayuki Taguchi
31 Demon Bound Caitlin Kittredge
32 Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story Harvey Pekar
33 Paths Not Taken Simon R. Green
34 Mister Wonderful Daniel Clowes
35 Dead Reckoning Charlaine Harris
36 Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth Simon R. Green
37 On the Edge Richard Hammond
38 The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Alan Bradley
39 Bone Gods Caitlin Kittredge
40 The Girls are Coming Peggie Carlson
41 Hit List Laurell K. Hamilton
42 Switched Amanda Hocking
43 The Wreck of the Waleship Essex Owen Chase
44 Torn Amanda Hocking
45 A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness
46 Ascend Amanda Hocking
47 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 5 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
48 Stuntman! My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life Hal Needham
49 Hell to Pay Simon R. Green
50 The Graveyard Book Neil Gaiman
51 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 8 Last Gleaming Joss Whedon & Georges Jeanty
52 Ghost Story Jim Butcher
53 Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale Joss and Zack Whedon & Chris Samnee
54 Naked City: Tales of Urban Fantasy Edited by Ellen Datlow
55 Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil Deborah Rodriguez
56 The Witches of East End Melissa de la Cruz
57 The City of Ember Jeannne DePrau
58 The Member of the Wedding Carson McCullers
59 The People of Sparks Jeannne DePrau
60 Home Improvement: Undead Edition Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
61 American on Purpose Craig Ferguson
62 The Prophet of Yonwood Jeannne DePrau
63 On the Prowl Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, Sunny
64 Cry Wolf Patricia Briggs
65 The Diamond of Darkhold Jeannne DePrau
66 Hunting Ground Patricia Briggs
67 The Florist's Daughter Patricia Hampl
68 Cowboys & Aliens Fred Van Lente
69 Hexed Ilona Andrews, Yasmine Galenorn, Allyson James, Jeanne C. Stein
70 Nerd Do Well Simon Pegg
71 The Sookie Stackhouse Companion Charlaine Harris
72 Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 6 Hiro Arikawa & Kiiro Yumi
73 Travels with My Aunt Graham Greene
74 Devil's Business Caitlin Kittredge
75 Rosemary and Rue Seanan McGuire
76 Farscape: Tangled Roots Keith R.A. DeCandido
77 A Local Habitation Seanan McGuire
78 Farscape: Red Sky at Morning Keith R.A. DeCandido
79 The Grace of Silence Michele Norris
80 An Artificial Night Seanan McGuire
81 The Griff Christopher Moore & Ian Corson
82 Late Eclipses Seanan McGuire

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Halloween 2011

It was a very piratey year! Three in our own trick-or-treating party plus the neighbor kid and at least a dozen other random people out that night.

Kirk was Captain Jack Sparrow.

Cousin A2 was Elizabeth Swann.

Mama was Anamaria. And Ronnie was Princess Leia. (Who of course likes pirates and scoundels.)

Mr. b really got into character as gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

He was quoting Fear and Loathing lines all night.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Quest for Bread

Here are some things I’ve learned about gluten-free products:

  • Pasta - I like the quinoa and corn better than the rice-based noodles. Ancient Harvest spaghetti is my favorite so far. They don’t have too many shapes so I haven’t been able to try the other varieties. I have elbow noodles in my cupboard but haven’t used them yet. The next best is Annie’s macaroni and cheese. It’s nearly as good as regular boxed mac-n-cheese, despite being rice-based noodles. They’re much larger in size than the typical blue box but they taste great and hold their texture as leftovers. My least favorite is Tinkyada. Maybe it’s just their asinine “energy-saving” cooking method (boil for 2 minutes then let sit, covered, for 20) but the texture was awful, they fell apart when mixed with other ingredients, they were mushy in the casserole, and worse as leftovers. We threw out half a pan.

  • Snacks & Desserts - I haven’t actually tried that many crackers. The Glutino table crackers are underwhelming so I’ve been sticking with Nut Thins. I genuinely like them and I keep trying new flavors. They’re really great with spreadable cheeses like port wine and cream cheese. Tortilla chips are of course a standard, as they have been all along. Frito Lay has a marvelous list of all their GF snacks, which include Cheetos! Unfortunately not Nacho Cheese Doritos; Cool Ranch just aren’t as good. I’ve also tried a few different bars. Bakery on Main has some nice granola bars and I like that you can actually buy a whole box. KIND bars and Lärabars are individual only. I was underwhelmed with the one flavor of KIND bar I’ve tried but plan to sample others. So far I like the chocolate coconut Lärabar best but it’s only the second flavor I’ve gotten around to sampling. I made some homemade Monster Cookies using a recipe from General Mills’ They used a box mix for Betty Crocker GF chocolate chip cookies. The finished product was OK, not great. They were actually better the second day but then got quite dry as they aged. I do like the idea of using more baking mixes though, instead of having to have 80 different weird flours on hand. A co-worker brought in a French Meadow GF brownie and a GF chocolate chip cookie for me earlier this week. They were both good but the cookie was actually pretty great. I’ve also had the local co-op’s GF brownie, which I liked though it was day old and so a bit stale.

  • Breakfast - Mostly I’ve been eating Corn Chex or Rice Chex. Or combining them into the same bowl for “Crispix”. I’ve tried one actual GF cereal, Sunrise Harvest, and it was good but weird. There were like six different shapes of things in there so it was like eating suicide cereal. Seriously. Like if someone poured Kix and Rice Krispies and Wheaties and Grape Nuts and Special K into the same bowl and mixed it all together. Odd. I’ve also gone through a box of Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal. I tried the variety pack which had apple-cinnamon, maple-raisin, and maple-banana. The maple-banana is best. But I would like to find just regular instant oats. Like a big container that I can choose how much to pour and flavor myself instead of the packets. I’m also curious about the quinoa flakes (like Malt-o-Meal?) but haven’t tried them yet. I have some actual quinoa that I used to make a delicious pilaf the other night. I think I have a recipe to make a hearty breakfast bowl with quinoa that I’ll have to dig up. I’ve also been buying Amy’s frozen GF burritos, which are awesome, and having those for brekkie. But that gets spendy.

  • Pizza - Pizza has been tricky. Mr. b found an Amy’s frozen rice crust pizza and it was awful. The flavor was ok I guess but the texture was all kinds of wrong. We threw out the leftovers. Since that disaster, I tried an Udi’s frozen pizza crust. It was great. Good texture, good flavor, and really only a little bit more effort to have to spread my own sauce and toppings. It was a two-pack so I’ve got a second one to decorate. They’re fairly small crusts though so I can eat like 2/3 myself. Something for a night when the kids are having Spaghettios. We had a pizza lunch at work the other day and the admin was kind enough to order several GF along with the massive order she called in from Pizza Luce. It was great. I even got to snatch the leftovers so I’ve had some leftover pizza for breakfast. There are a couple of other pizza joints I want to try that have GF crusts. It’s nice living in such a hippie organic bean sprout city because there really are a lot of restaurant options. I just need to remember all the places we used to go back in the 90s…

  • Bread - This is the biggie. I haven’t found anything that’s *that* good yet. Udi’s plain bagels were fine. They weren’t great but they were acceptable. I’m a bagel snob and nothing is ever going to compare to Bruegger’s for me so I just have to accept that. Udi’s were as good as non-Bruegger’s and that’s as good as it’s going to get. I also tried some brown rice tortillas. They were pretty passable as naan for scooping up Indian food. But they didn’t wrap well for burritos. I haven’t tried them as quesadillas yet but my fingers are crossed. Corn tortillas, though good for pretty much anything (seriously, I eat most leftovers in them; you can make anything into a taco), just don’t work for quesadillas. Regular bread though, haven’t hit on it yet. First I tried a loaf of Schär. The first two sandwiches I made for Mr. b and I – grilled ham and cheese – were excellent. But small. The loaf is little. But after it was frozen and I had to defrost in the microwave I was completely disillusioned. I choked down my grilled cheese and figured I’d have to try another brand. So next up was French Meadow. They’re local and their tag line is that it’s so good you won’t miss the wheat. Bullshit. I missed the wheat. It was not good. I choked down the tuna melt but was very unhappy. Then I decided to try toasting the old frozen Schär in the oven. It’s a bit weird and slow but it was good! I had it with cream cheese and it was better than the bagel. I tried the same oven technique with the French Meadow and again, it totally worked! My salami and provolone sandwich was dry but delicious. So I guess toasting is the key. I still want to try Udi’s and see if that’s universal but I suspect it is. I covet the soft pillowy direct-from-the bag slices when I make the kids’ PBJs. And croissants. I haven’t even attempted a hunt for GF croissants.
  • Friday, July 22, 2011

    It's Genetic

    Good News Everyone! Kirk and Veronica do NOT have celiac disease.

    I took them in last week to have blood taken for testing. Since it's genetic, they say that anyone with a confirmed-by-endoscopy diagnosis (me!) should have their first degree relatives tested. My parents and my siblings will have to take care of themselves. My kids are cleared. And they were so well-behaved at the lab that they got taken off grounding for the running away from home incident.

    It’s a big relief to know they don’t have it. I mean, I know it must be easier to deal with than parents of young kids that aren’t actually celiac themselves. I already am learning the ways of gluten-free living. But this way they don’t have to worry about getting contaminated out there in the world, at daycare or school or birthday parties or hell, even taking samples in the grocery store. It’s just simpler. And I was worried. Not about Kirk. I was quite confident he’d be cleared. But Ronnie’s always had a poopie butt. She has blows outs even still and her poo just isn’t as solidified as her brother’s was coming into potty training age. So it’s good to know that’s just her system, and not an underlying issue.

    My mom and I wonder if perhaps her father didn’t have celiac. He died when I was less than a year old so I don’t have any memory of him. But Mom says that Grandpa was always, her entire life, experimenting with his diet to try to solve his constant digestive issues. And since gluten wasn’t determined as the cause of celiac disease until WWII, and even then it wasn’t common knowledge outside of specialists in Europe, I can see it being highly unlikely that he would have stumbled upon eliminating wheat from his diet as a cure. I must admit, it’s kind of neat having a speculative link to a man I’ll never know.