Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is For... Zoya

Good Evening Humble Readers...

(Just a heads up... for some reason Blogger still doesn't like it when I capitalize the letter z.  Very frustrating.)

Today is the final day for the A to z Challenge, and I'm happy to say that I actually didn't have a hard time coming up with a fictional character to share with you.  Her name is zoya.

I honestly don't remember a lot about her.  She is the title character in a Danielle Steele novel I read many many many years ago.  I remember that it an 'Anastasia' story, and zoya was believed to be the only surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas II.  I remember there were scenes in Russia, Paris, and New York.  But, that's really all I recall of the story.

What makes her so memorable for me was when and where I encountered her story.  I was 15 years old, and in Germany as an exchange student.  I'm not sure what I was thinking, but for someone who needs to have books around just for comfort, I only packed two novels for the entire three month trip.  At this point in my life, two novels might have been enough, but not back then. 

I had read and reread the two I had about three times, when my exchange partner's older sister, who had just gotten back from a trip to the US and had brought this novel back with her (along with a few Agatha Christies).  I devoured it.  It was the first time I had read a Steele novel, and the romance appealed to me.  I'm really not a fan of her work now, but back then, it was so nice and comforting to find something I enjoyed and could actually read. 

What book or author has surprised you most?  Was it one that you were shocked to find that you liked it?  Or was it a favourite author who disappointed you?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ginevra @ 16 & 17 Months

Happy Sunday Humble Readers...

I hope you have all had a wonderful weekend.  Things here are quiet now, but it was another busy day of cooking and crib assembling at the hobbit-hole.  I confess that I didn't make it to church this morning because I hardly slept at all last night due to back pain, and also that I didn't get around to making one of my intended freezer recipes.  So... I have 28 dinners (enough for my Beloved, Ginny, and I) and 23 individual breakfasts (breakfast burritos... the recipe said to bag them in twos, but they were on the small side and my Beloved and I are big eaters, so I packed them in threes).  The crib is 2/3 done. 


Again, it's hard to believe that we're at the end of another month and that means that Ginny is another month older.  Actually, it's been two months since I last did an update due to some technical difficulties last month. 

It's hard to know where to start, she's grown and changed so much in the last couple of months.  She's gained a full pound over the last month, and I'm sure she's grown an inch or so.  I notice it mostly when she's in her high chair... she's so much taller than she was in January. 

She's very into cause and effect right now.  Taking things 'out' and putting them 'back'.  Open and closed is also very intriguing to her.  This causes some frustration when she does things like throw her stuffies out of her playpen or crib.  Ginny loves her shape sorter toy and her talking picnic basket.  And of course her stuffies... heaven help us if her stuffies (like her dogs Stanley and Rover, Mama Bear, and Pooh bear) are out of her reach.  She's slowly (and I do mean slowly) learning to help pick up her toys at night.  Since I repaired her baby blanket she's back to carrying it around, wearing it like a shawl, and playing peekaboo from under it. 

Her vocabulary has shown a fair bit of improvement when I consider the last couple of months.  She babbles constantly, and she's using a lot more words with purpose.  And she knows and understands so many more words than she says.  She knows quite a few body parts, and can recognize them on others too (when we ask her where her nose is, she points to hers and then to my Beloved's and mine).  Ginny also knows a lot of animal sounds (dogs, sheep, owls, chickens, cows She has a few words that we know are her own personal language (gie = glasses).  But she readily says Daddy, Mum, ball, num-nums (food), cup, tree, car, go-go-go (for leaving the house), go-ffff (goldfish crackers), hiya (on the phone), bear (anything with fur and four legs), baby, snow, hair, nose, toes, ticka-ticka (tickles),

She loves to dance, and bounce (particularly on the couch, which gives Mummy heart palpitations).  She's deals with her tumbles and oopsies well, only fussing when she gets a bit of a scare.  She can climb up on the couch with ease now, and has figured out how to get into the glider rocker as well.  With the way she climbs on the furniture, I won't be surprised if she's climbing out of her crib in the next couple of months.

Ginny still hates wearing socks and shoes, but then she comes by that naturally (Mummy hates them too).  When she's in the car, we always hear that rip of velcro and we know that her shoes have come off.  She's also discovered the wonders of nudity.  Particularly if we are slow to get her up in the morning.  If she's in a sleeper with snaps, that thing is off in a heartbeat, and recently she's learned how to get rid of her diaper as well.  It means that we're doing a bit more laundry these days. 

She's currently fascinated by babies.  She, of course, doesn't understand that there's a baby inside Mummy's belly, but she's very aware of babies and toddlers around her when we are out and about.  When she comes to my NSTs, she seems to be calmed by the sound of the Halfling's heartbeat.  I'm very interested to see how the adjustment period goes when the Halfling comes home with us.

Ginny loves Curious George and the Cat in the Hat, although Sesame Street is only good if Elmo is on the screen.  She loves dance music, and she also really likes Jennifer Hudson. 

She eats like a little horse, but without a doubt, chicken fried rice is her favourite thing.  I have to make sure to make it in big batches because she always has two helpings when I make it.  She's had pizza (homemade), perogies, Mexican food, curry, hot dogs, and french fries.  I'm ashamed to admit that she's had her first McNugget, but thankfully that didn't go over so well.  She does like fries, tho, especially with ketchup.  She loves grapes and bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, goldfish crackers, and cheese. 

Sleep, at night, is mostly a breeze.  She might fuss a bit when she goes down, but she sleeps almost every night from 8pm through until at least 7am.  Sometimes, Ginny will wake up around midnight crying, but if we leave her be she can soothe herself back to sleep, usually in a few minutes.  Napping, on the other hand, is hit and miss.  She still needs a good four hours of sleep during the day, but some days that's one long nap, and other days it's a couple of shorter naps. 

All in all, Ginevra's a busy wee girl.  I am still astounded to look back at pictures of her from this time last year and to see how much she's grown and developed.  (As you can tell by some of the pics, she's a little ham when the camera comes out.) 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is For... Yertle the Turtle (And a Few Updates)

Howdy Humble Readers...

Oy... what a day we've had around the hobbit-hole.  (But more on that later)

It's hard to believe, but we are approaching the end of the A to z Challenge.  When I signed up for this challenge, I really only wanted something to help distract me through the last few weeks of this pregnancy, but I have found that I have not only enjoyed the process, but have rekindled a desire to read some old favourites.  I'm hoping that some day soon I might find the focus that I've lost and be able to read at something close to the speed I used to. 

Today, being all about the letter Y, I have to talk about Yertle the Turtle.  I was hoping to incorporate some Seuss characters in this list, but it hasn't happened until now.  And oddly enough, Yertle has never been one of my favourite Seuss books (The Dr. Seuss Sleep Book holds that honour).  But, because of some recent happenings in the news, I have to write about Yertle. 

You see, the teachers unions in BC (the province to the west of us) have been battling for a new contract and have been holding some rotating work stoppages.  Now teachers in some areas have been using a quote from Yertle to promote their cause.  "I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights"  The quote seems appropos for those in the midst of a labour dispute. 

But why this has made news is because some school districts have an issue with teachers using this quote on buttons and bumper stickers that are visible to students.  They say that they don't want the students drawn into the politics of the situation. 

Personally, I wonder what world the school districts live in where they think that the students aren't fully aware of what's going on.  But, I'm not sure that teachers should be bringing the dispute into the classroom (wearing buttons with the quote).

Do you have an opinion about this?  And whether you do or not, what's your favourite Seuss book?

Ok, back to 'oy'.  We were up and out of the house by 9:30 this morning.  We hit Costco first, and because it was still early, it was a breeze to get in and out of there (even though the bill at the end was ouchy).  After a quick stop at home to dump things in the fridge and freezer, we then headed to our regular grocery store, and spent another ridiculous amount of money.  Really, for the amount of money we spend on groceries, shouldn't someone come home with us to put them all away?

After lunch we went to work on repackaging the bulk packages of meat and I started my freezer cooking.  I made 2 meatloaves (is that really a word?), 5 meals worth of meatballs, 2 meals of Garlic Balsamic Pork, and 4 meals worth of Lazy Cabbage Roll Casserole.  I also started on three other recipes that I will be finishing tomorrow.  And I made dinner, and I did almost all my dishes from my crazy kitchen mess.  I had to stop just shy of doing it all because my back started to rebel, in a very big way. 

I also finished knitting the Halfling's baby blanket, and my Beloved got a start on putting together the Halfling's crib. 

It's been one heck of a day.  But even though my back is screaming at me, and I may not be up to going to church tomorrow morning, I'm happy with what we accomplished today.  By the end of tomorrow I will have 30 dinner meals and 30+ breakfasts.  I won't have to cook for a whole month!!!  (Okay, I'll probably do a bit of cooking, but it's reassuring to know that I will have easy options)

Remember those wonderful burns I got on my hand back on Easter Sunday?  Well, they've healed up nicely, but now I'm in that nasty gross reptile stage... my hand is peeling like crazy.  Ick!

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is For... Xenophilius!

Humble Readers...

I am a very pooped hobbit.  And I have a big day of grocery shopping and cooking for the freezer ahead of me tomorrow, so my A - z challenge post is going to be on the weak side.

Xenophilius Lovegood.

From Harry Potter.  Luna's dad.  Publisher of the Quibbler.  A little nuts in the head.  But in a good way. 

'Nuff said. 

Any thoughts?  :)

Foodie Friday: Yorkshire Puddings

Greetings Humble Readers...

It's another grey and wet day here on the flatland, but thankfully the predicted snow hasn't materialized (altho apparently it did in the Big City To The North).  I'm currently waiting on the carpet cleaning guys to get here, so I thought I would take advantage of the fact that I haven't had to unplug the modem yet and tell you about a Sunday night staple around the hobbit-hole. 

Humble Readers, even gestational diabetes can't separate this hobbit from her yorkshire puddings.  Sunday dinner in the cold months (which is about 9 months of the year around here) is not complete without the yorkshire puds.  If I'm making gravy, I'm making yorkies.  It's a given (except Thanksgiving and Christmas, but that's only because I have a gazillion other things I'm making). 

I think in the US you might call these popovers.  But whatever you call them, when they are on your plate beside a piece of roasted chicken or a couple of slices of roast beef, and they're covered in gravy... they are fluffy bits of heaven.  Once you've mastered the basic recipe, you can add all sorts of yummy options like herbs, spices and/or cheese. 

And the great thing is, the recipe is sooooo simple, you can't possibly mess it up.  There are a few key things to remember, but really, anybody can make these lovely little babies. 

Yorkshire Puddings

3 lg eggs, room temp *
1 cup milk, room temp *
1 cup all-purpose flour **
1 tsp salt
Oil (traditional recipes call for beef drippings, but I use olive oil)

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to combine and beat eggs and milk, until frothy.  Add flour and salt, and beat until smooth.  (If you are adding any extras, this is when you would do it... I like thyme for chicken, basil for beef, parmasean cheese for whatever, and I ALWAYS add a touch of ground black pepper)  Let the batter rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, but an hour is better.  Preheat your oven to 425F.  Put about a teaspoon of oil in each cup of a 12 cup muffin tin, or two teaspoons in each of a 6 cup yorkie/popover pan.  Take the extra minute to use a pastry brush to spread the oil over the surface of the cups.  Heat the pan in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the oil starts to smoke a little.  Remove the pan from the oven and equally divide the batter between all 12 or 6 cups.  Do this quickly, and put the pan back in the oven.  If you are using a 12 cup muffin tin, check on them after about 20 minutes.  Otherwise, do not open the oven for 30 minutes. 

When they come out, they will look like this...  golden, puffy, and hollow.

Serve them right away, with your favourite gravy.  They don't reheat well, but really, you won't have any left over to reheat.  I promise.

* I leave them out on the counter for the afternoon.  I can't tell you why this is important, but I know when I haven't done this, the yorkies don't get the height.
** Spoon flour into your measuring cup, don't scoop it.  I know that sounds dumb, but trust me!

One of my happy memories from my bio-family was yorkies with roast beef on Sunday nights.  Instead of dousing them in gravy, I would stuff them full of roast beef, gravy, potatoes and veggies, and then eat them like a savoury twinkie.  Yummm! 

One other tip.  When you put the pan in the oven, put it in on top of a lined (with foil or parchment) baking tray.  Otherwise you'll end up needing to clean your oven, because the oil from the pan will overflow a bit. 

I hope you give these a try if you've never made them.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is For... William

Greetings Humble Readers...

I hope you're all doing well today.  Things here on the flatland are wet and rainy, but that's not so bad.  They're predicting snow for tomorrow which is bothersome on many levels, but I'm praying that it's the true end of winter.  When I was walking home from my NST appointment the other day I definitely saw crocus and tulip greens poking through in some of the neighbourhood gardens, so that means that spring will have to come eventually, right?

We're getting close to the end of the A to z challenge, and the closer to the end we get, the harder it is becoming for me to find fictional characters to talk about.  But thankfully, today wasn't so tough.  I want to tell you about my favourite victorian-era Canadian detective... William Murdoch (not to be confused with the captain of the Titanic by the same name). 
William Murdoch is a detective associated with the Toronto Constabulary in the 1890s.  He's remarkably well read, scientifically minded man, with a analytical bent that would do the most Grissom-like CSI proud.  His trusty sidekick, Constable Crabtree is a great foil to Murdoch's seriousness. 

I confess that I do tend to get aspects of Murdoch from the books by Maureen Jennings a little confused with the Murdoch from the tv show, as I started watching the show before I ever read any of the books.  The tv version does seem to play up the primitive forensics a heck of a lot more than the books do, but the books add a fascinating internal perspective on the workings of Murdoch's mind. 

I love the victorian setting, the forward thinking characters who are still bound within the cultural confines of their time, and the fact that it is a Canadian series that celebrates what Canada was in that time and place. 

Who's your favourite fictional detective?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is For... Violet

Howdy Humble Readers!

After getting only half of my to do list done today, I'm off to go do some crafting with some friends.  I really am not letting myself feel bad about not getting to cleaning the bathroom today (it will still be there tomorrow) or working on Ginny's babybook (it will be there tomorrow, too).  I have finally decided what I'm going to do with Ginny's toys, and that was half of the issue there.  Tomorrow, it will be put in place!

But, before I head off to my friend Sira's place for some grown up girl talk, I need to tell you about my V fictional character.  Again, I've struggled with coming up with someone.  I could have gone with multiple Harry Potter characters (Voldemort, Viktor Krum, Vincent Crabbe), but they didn't inspire me.  I've never identified with Veronica from the Archie comics.  I even considered Virgil Tibbs from In The Heat Of The Night, but I had to read that one in 8th grade, and I hated it. 

So what is a girl to do? 

She cops out, that's what. 

Today, I give you Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham.  The best of the best edwardian bad-asses.  (For those of you who haven't watched Downton Abbey, why the hell not???? It's only the best show ever!)
Only Maggie Smith could do this role justice!
I love how Violet preserves this aura of decorum and propriety, when really she's just a mean old biddy who isn't afraid to speak her mind.  She's the queen of the one-liner, and she can put the most uppity politician or military man in his place.  She's fiercely protective of her family, even when she's tearing them a new one in private. 

I adore the balance between Violet and Cousin Isobel (Matthew's mother).  They constantly are doing battle, and you really never know who's going to win. 

She's a biotch and makes no bones about it.  She says the things we all wish we could get away with saying. 

Who's your favourite fictional biotch?


Good Morning Humble Readers...

Sometimes God knows just what we need. 

I was having a sort of off morning.  Some of my bigger fears for the Halfling were bubbling to the surface this morning and I was just feeling very anxious about everything.  I actually had a bit of a cry while I was in the shower this morning (wretched pregnancy hormones). 

But then, while I was feeding Ginny breakfast, I was given a huge gift. 

Some of you may recall that I have been concerned about Ginny's lack of vocabulary.  She knows what a lot of things are (we say the word and she points), but she hasn't actually said a whole lot of words.  One of the biggest absences in her vocabulary, the one word I have been longing for her to say, is Mum.  She's used the 'mum' syllable in her babbles for quite some time, but she's never used it with purpose. 

This morning she did. 

She reached out her hand and patted my (ginormous) belly, looked me straight in the eye, and said "Mum". 

And then she patted my arm and said it again. 

Like I said, sometimes God knows just what we need.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is For... Umbridge

Howdy Humble Readers...

Have you ever encountered a fictitous villain that you have loved beyond all reason?  Someone who is the very embodiment of evil, and yet you just can't help but smile as you read about them? 

For me, that character is UMBRIDGE! 

The first time I read Order of the Pheonix, I was disappointed.  I was reading it primarily for Harry, and Harry came off as a whining, petulant little punk on first blush.  But on subsequent readings, I became infatuated with Delores Umbridge. 

In my opinion, she is the best kind of villain.  Someone who isn't overtly evil, and yet is so sick and twisted that you can't doubt that there is some sort of blackness in their soul. 

As Sirius reminds Harry, "... the world isn't divided into good people and Death Eaters."  In so many stories, the villains and heroes are very one dimensional.  Black hats and white hats.  But with Umbridge, you get someone who is diametrically opposed to the bad guys, and yet is so against the actions of the good guys that you have to wonder about what her motivations truly are.  She's not evil to the core like Voldemort, but she's beyond a royal pain in the ass. 

Her pink bows, her plates with the kittens on them, the doilies, and her educational decrees... they all make my skin crawl.  In the most delicious way possible. 

What villain do you love to hate?

Week 36: Busy Mommy, Busy Halfling

Greetings Humble Readers...

Happy Tuesday!  Ginny and I have just gotten home from the hospital where I had my weekly NST and confab with Dr. W.  It went pretty well, other than the Halfling choosing to be difficult to pin down for monitoring, and my bp being a little higher than we would all like to see (145/67).  Dr. W has adjusted my hbp meds again, but not as high as what Dr. B had them through the fall.  After being difficult to find at the beginning of the test, the Halfling was rockin' and rollin'... heart rate bouncing between 170-180. 

I also had a conversation with the pre-admissions nurse about what to expect for my time in the hospital.  A few things have changed since last time, like my Beloved can have a camera in the OR for during delivery and they've changed a few protocols for post-op pain management (rectal suppositories... yippee). 

Unfortunately, Ginny chose to wake up at 6am today (two hours earilier than normal) so she was a bit of a bear during the whole appointment.  But the nurses were understanding, and helped me out while I was strapped to the monitor. 
Other than all that, things around the hobbit-hole are good.  No recurrence of the craziness next door.  To do list is coming along nicely... I fixed Ginny's baby blanket yesterday, and I'm going to spend some time tonight working on the Halfling's blanket (about 2/3 done).  Carpet cleaners are coming on Friday... Other than a bizarre pizza dough malfunction last night, things are just tickity-boo, as my bio-dad would say. 

On to this week's update...

How far along? 36w0d (OMG... two weeks left!)

Maternity clothes? I actually think I have found a use for these worn out maternity t-shirts that I've been wearing.  I found a fun tutorial on making t-shirt shag rugs on Pinterest and I think I'm going to give it a shot, some time maybe next fall.  I've also decided that when I transition into my nursing bras in a couple weeks, I'm going to throw out all my regular bras.  That way I will be forced to go for a fitting and buy some new ones!

Body Oddities? All the usual stuff, plus serious hot flashes, intense hip pain, and some real contractions when I've been on my feet for too long.

Sleep? A few good nights a week, a few bad. 

Intense Dreams? HOLY CRAP... this week has been insane!  Quasi-naughty dreams about Maks from Dancing With The Stars, bizarre dreams about disgusting vericose veins, and don't even get me started on the dreams that news story about the baby born with 6 legs inspired.

Best moment this week? Finishing the spring cleaning.

Worst moment? Lots and lots of hip pain.  So bad that it wakes me up in the night.  I'm trying to take it easier now that the spring cleaning is done.

Movement? Still frequent enough for me not to worry, but definitely less often now that things are getting a little crowded in there.

Food cravings/aversions? I'm hungry all the time, but I can't eat much at one time without feeling nauseated.  This has been causing a few problems with my blood sugars (extreme lows), so I've been having to tweak my insulin down a few notches every day.  And yes, I still want Milanos and/or apple pie filling (ice cold). 

Rings? Off.  I've been retaining a fair bit of water this week.  I think I've probably passed my top weight when I was carrying Ginny.  Still less than 10 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight.

Gender? Still thinking that the Halfling is a girl.  We'll know soon.

Medical Concerns? Gestational Diabetes (insulin 5x a day), High blood pressure (100mg of lobetalol 2x a day), continuing heartburn (60mg of pantaloc), low lying placenta, low iron

What I miss? walking rather than waddling, iced coffee

What I look forward to?  doing my freezer cooking this weekend, crafting with some friends tomorrow night

Emotional State? I can't wait for this crazy pregnant biotch who's taken up residence in my head to take a flying leap.  My poor Beloved never knows when I'm going to snap.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is For... Taliesin

Holy Hotness Humble Readers!

It's not even the end of April yet, and we hit 27C (close to 80F, I think) today!  That is insane for the northern flatland!  What's even crazier is that on Friday, we are supposed to be back down to 4C (mid 30s, I think) with rain and snow.  Ugh!  What is going on?

Anywho... we're up to the letter T in the A to z Challenge.  Today I give you Taliesin, a main character in the first book of Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle.   I've actually been wanting to talk about this series of novels from the beginning of this whole challenge. 

I fell in love with this series when I was in college.  A friend and I discovered we shared a love of historical/fantasy novels, and this was tops on his list.  The series, in the broadest terms, is the story of King Arthur.  But it is so much more than that. 

The first book, in which we meet Taliesin, actually begins in Wales and in Atlantis.  It follows the stories of two very different people who are destined to come together... Taliesin and Charis. 

From the beginning of his life, Taliesin is considered unlucky.  But fate steps in and the road of his life changes course dramatically.  While he is, by birth, a prince, it isn't until some extraordinary events take place that he is brought into the fold of the druids. 

At the same time, Charis, a young princess in Atlantis, is oblivious to the war that is looming on her country's horizon.  The civil war changes her world entirely.  The death of her mother during an attack drives a wedge between Charis and her father, and soon she leaves the home she loves to live in the temple as a bull-dancer. 

When disaster strikes Atlantis, Charis narrowly escapes the devestation with her father and half-sister, Morgian (Morgan La Fey, Morgana).  They, and the few ships of survivors, make their way first to France, and then ultimately to the south coast of England, where they settle and become known as the Fair Folk. 

Charis and Taliesin's destiny's become entwined when, in true fairy tale form, boy meets girl and they fall in love.  After facing many challenges, they are able to marry, and they have a son, Myrddin (Merlin).  Always jealous of her half-sister, Morgian decides to exact her vengance by taking the one thing she can... Taliesin. 

I love Taliesin because he's certain, even from a young age, that although many around him consider him unlucky at best, and useless at worst, he knows that there is more that he has to offer to his people and the larger world around him.  He knows that he has a role to play. 

I wish I had that kind of certainty...

I also highly recommend books two and three in the series (Merlin and Arthur).  Merlin, especially, is fairly dark, but with a purpose.  There are two other books in the series (Pendragon and Grail) but Lawhead came back and wrote them a fair bit after the first three, and there is something lacking in them.  In my opinion, the series ends just fine at the end of Arthur. 

Has there ever been a series which you thought the author strung along just a bit to long? I can think of a few, mostly in the fantasy genre. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hobbit-ish Potpurri: Sunday Night Random Ramblings

Greetings Humble Readers...

It is an absolutely beautiful Sunday evening here on the flatland.  Sunny, warm, a slight breeze, and peaceful (at least it is now... more on that later).  Seriously... I'm thrilled with how gorgeous it is outside right now.  It feels much more like June than April.  It's days like this that get me through the frustration of spring set backs (ie - snow in April).

Today I went on what will probably be my last solo non-medical outing until this Halfling makes his or her appearance.  I had some shopping to do (a few random things from a discount store and some summer clothes for Ginny) and I needed some conversation other than my Beloved and my wee sweet girl.  Shopping went well, except that I bought two shirts that I thought were t-shirts and they turned out to be long-sleeved.  I even splurged and bought myself a non-fat, sugar-free chocolate and cherry frozen yoghurt.  Then I went over to my old bookstore and visited a few people and looked for a baby book for the Halfling.  It was a nice outing, but by the end I was pretty worn out. 

While I was out, my wonderful Beloved was at home finishing the spring cleaning.  There are a few little things that need to be finished, but I am thrilled to be able to say that it's FINALLY done for another year.  I'm so relieved to have that off my mind. 

There was a fair bit of excitement in the vicinity of our hobbit hole this afternoon.  I've told you about our neighbours (directly next door to our condo... we have to walk past their front door to get down to the sidewalk) before.  I have had to call the RCMP on them a few times when the shouting and screaming has gotten to a scary level.  Just before Christmas, the guy was taken away in handcuffs.  We didn't see him for a couple of months, but then he was back.  They have actually been fairly quiet over there until recently, when they fired back up.  As I was leaving this afternoon, I heard them arguing.  While I was gone, things got really bad. 

When I got home, the parents of the girl who lives next door were here, and her brother was carrying her out to the car.  The guy was standing on the stairs screaming at her and her family.  Apparently, the cops had just left, after giving buddy-boy a time frame in which to be out of the house.  I waited until he went out to the parking lot before I decided to try to enter my house.  Things were quiet for a while, and then buddy-boy was back, banging on the door and shouting that if someone didn't let him in, he was going to bust the door down.  Thankfully the cops returned right in the middle of this (doing a follow up) and they escorted him off the property.  I sincerely hope this is the last we see of him.  I despise feeling like it's unsafe for me to go in or out of my own house.

Other than prepping for the Halfling's arrival, our lives have begun to center around one thing.  The hockey playoffs.  My Beloved's favourite team has long been out of the running, but there are still two Canadian teams with a bit of a shot, and so hockey rules around here.  I know many much more knowledgeable commentators have said it, but of all the hockey I have watched in my life (and remember, I AM CANADIAN), I have never seen such violence in the game.  It makes me sad.  I hope that the powers that be are able to bring it back in line. 

That's about it from the hobbit-hole.  What was happening around your part of the world today?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is For... Sachi (& Some Potpurri)

Happy Saturday, Humble Readers...

Have I ever told you that although I want to travel the world, I'm not particularly interested in visiting Asia?  It's not that I have something against the continent... quite honestly, I know it's because I am afraid.  The culture is so different, so outside my comfort zone.  (And yet, I long to go to Africa.  I never claimed to be sensible.)

But I never tire of reading novels set in Asia.  For today's A to z Challenge post, I want to tell you about Sachi.  She is the main character in Lesley Downer's first novel, The Last Concubine

Set in the last days of medieval Japan, Sachi's story takes her from rural anonymity, to the heights of the royal court.  When a royal princess passes through Sachi's village, she chooses the pretty eleven year old to accompany her back to the Women's Palace in Edo. 

Soon, Sachi is in the middle of all the court intrigues and jealousies.  What else do you imagine happens living in a place with hundreds of women and only one man? 

Sachi is eventually chosen as a concubine for the young Shogun.  And just when her life appears to be secure and comfortable, all hell breaks loose.  The arrival of the first western sailors, and the beginning of a revolutionary civil war, bring about the downfall of the royal house, and the end of the Shogun era. 

I love Sachi because she is continually adapting to her surroundings.  She is taken from the life she knows in the mountains and succeeds in the contentious world of the imperial court.  When life at court is no longer safe, she takes a few trusted friends with her, and escapes back to the world she was forced to leave behind.  She doesn't weep or mope or whine.  She does what needs doing, and she stays focused. 

We are so close to having our spring cleaning done, it's driving me mad.  It has never ever taken this long to spring clean the house.  Granted we didn't do a real thorough clean last year, but this has been going on and on.  All we have left is the living room (walls, baseboards, windows, and furniture) and the walls in our entryway.  That's it.  But after spending three hours working on our master bedroom (including purging and reorganizing my crafting trunk... I threw out a disturbing number of half-finished cross-stitch projects, that I hadn't worked on in more than 5 years), I was just completely worn out.  We WILL finish the remainder tomorrow after church, and after I run a couple of errands.  So much for going to the park tomorrow afternoon.  Oh well. 

I think I may be having actual contractions, rather than Braxton Hicks.  They don't go away when I rest, and they are actually a bit uncomfortable.  Nothing consistent, and not terribly intense, but still they are different from my usual BH. 

Is it totally bizarre that all I really want to eat is ice cold apple pie filling?  Seriously, I want a can of apple pie filling that's been in my fridge for a couple of days.  Cherry pie filling would be a good second. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is For... Recorder

Howdy Humble Readers...

First up, please scroll down and check out my groovy recipe for oven roasted marinara.  I'm really very proud of it.  I think it's one of my best.  Oh, and a heads up... I'm working on a recipe to send in to a contest.  I've never entered a recipe into a contest before, and I'm a bit nervous about it.  Hopefully, I'll be able to share the results of my experimentation with you all next week. 

So, today we're at the letter R.  This one certainly wasn't as tough as the last couple of A to z Challenge posts have been.  I knew, pretty much right away who I wanted to talk about.  He is an angel, and his name is Recorder. 
Recorder is the narrator of one of my favourite series in the realm of Christian fiction.  For a long long time, the term 'Christian fiction' implied a certain saccharine fluff, usually associated with a cleaner, more innocent Little House on the Prairie (yes, that is sarcasm my friends).  There were a few notable exceptions in the midst of all the lightness and happy endings, and Gene Edwards' Chronicles of the Door (sometimes also referred to as the Chronicles of Heaven) is one. 

The series is comprised of five books, each centering on a key event in the Biblical narrative (The Beginning - creation, The Escape - the exodus from Egypt, The Birth - the birth of Christ, The Triumph - the ressurection, The Return - the end of time), all told from the perspective of the angels.  Recorder is given the task of recording all that he sees. 

What I love most about this series, and about Recorder, is the very different perspective that is taken on stories that I have known intimately almost all my life.  Seriously, this series of books changed my understanding of linear time, of eternity, and of God's omnipotence.  They are simple little books, and each can be read in a couple of hours.  But their footprint lingers for ages. 

Has there ever been a novel that has had a direct impact on how you view the world?  Changed a paradigm? 

Foodie Friday: Hobbit-ish Oven Roasted Marinara

Hey Humble Readers...

I almost forgot that it was Friday!  And that would totally suck because I have what I happen to think is a great recipe for you all today. 

A couple of years ago, I started messing around with making my own spaghetti sauce.  My family has never been the kind of people to use pre-made jarred sauce (and please don't get me started on the concept of meat sauces in a jar or can... *shudder* ...which is odd because I'm fine with most canned soups.  I never claimed to be sane).  My mom always used the plainest tomato sauce and then doctored it up with veggies, meat, and spices.  I started out in that frame of mind, but then slowly started expanding on it, and this is what I use now. 

This recipe freezes amazingly well, which is why I make it in big batches.  Also, in my mind, pasta should be a relatively easy meal, and having to fuss with a major sauce every time I want pasta is just NOT cool in my book. 

Fair warning, it will feel like you are dirtying every single dish in your kitchen to make this, but it's soooo worth it.  And I know, it seems labour intensive, but it's really not that hard.  Trust me.  Have I ever steered you wrong? 

I use grape or cherry tomatoes for this most of the time because they usually taste better than hot-house tomatoes in the off season, and they roast up faster.  I also like that the skins are more delicate and that you don't need to peel them.

Hobbit-ish Oven Roasted Marinara

4 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1 lg yellow onion (or 3 med), chopped into wedges or large chunks
3 lg bulbs of garlic
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
3 lg cans diced tomatoes
2 cans tomato paste
Fresh Basil
Bay leaves
Dried Thyme
Dried Oregano
Fennel Seed
Red Pepper Flakes

Preheat oven to 425F.  Cut the tops off the bulbs of garlic, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Wrap the garlic in foil, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour (I sometimes do this the night before).  Remove from oven and allow to cool until you can handle them. 

On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper*, arrange grape tomatoes in a single layer.  On a second lined rimmed baking sheet, arrange onion in a single layer.  Drizzle both trays with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toss gently with your fingers to make sure everything is coated.  Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  You may want to turn the broiler on for the last 5 minutes or so, to get those nicely charred bits of tomato skin.  Yum!  You will know that the veggies are ready when the tomato skins have burst and they have released a lot of their juice.

While the tomatoes and onions are roasting up, squeeze the roasted garlic bulbs into your food processor or blender (so that the cloves slide out of their skin).  You want all of that sweet garlicky goodness in there! 

When tomatoes and onions are done roasting, add them to the food processor as well, along with any juices.  Depending on the size of your processor, you might need to do this in two batches.  Pulse your food processor several times to semi-puree the veggies.  I like my sauce to be a bit on the chunky side, so I don't let the processor go for too long at a time. 

Pour tomato/onion/garlic combo into your slow cooker or a large stock pot.  Add in the cans of diced tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir to thoroughly combine.

Season with herbs to your taste.  I like a LOT of basil, so I use a whole bunch of chopped fresh basil leaves.  I also use a couple of dried bay leaves (make sure to take them out later), a generous palmful each of dried thyme and oregano, half a palmful of fennel seed, and some red pepper flakes.  You can also add some salt and pepper at this point if you like.

I cook this on low in my slow cooker for 6-8 hours, stirring occassionally. Allow to cool completely.  Transfer to freezer storage bags and freeze for up to 6 months.  (I have several bags of this in my freezer right now.)
This was taken at about 5 hours into cooking.
 The sauce thickens up as it cooks and cools
This recipe usually makes enough for three large freezer bags, each bag being enough sauce for two meals and some leftovers for my Beloved, Ginny, and I.  When you use the sauce, you can add more to it if you like... I saute up some diced celery, button mushrooms, and green bell peppers (things that don't freeze all that well), and brown up some lean ground beef, italian sausage, or chicken breast pieces. 

*You want to line your baking sheets because the acid in the tomatoes WILL pit your baking sheets and make them challenging to clean.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is For... Q (And a Request For Input)

Hey Humble Readers...

Today was not nearly as productive as I would have liked.  I only got half of my to do list for the day done... and none of the big stuff.  *sigh*  I ended up sleeping for the entire two and a half hours that Ginny napped this morning.  I guess I've been pushing it a bit hard. 

So, we're up to Q in the A to z Challenge... and I wracked my brain.  Surely to goodness I have read sometime, somewhere a book with a character with a name that starts with Q, but I am totally at a loss. 

And so I am copping out.  Instead of a 'book' fictional character, I'm going to use a tv/movie fictional character.  And really there is only one Q...

But I'm sure if you've never watched any of the newer Star Trek permutations, then you probably don't know who I'm talking about.  He is, quite possibly, my favourite Star Trek character of all time.  And yes, his name is Q.

Actually, he is one of many Qs.  He, and all the others like him called Q, are omnipotent, godlike, and,  for lack of a better term, are all shit-disturbers.  They like to create trouble and see how lesser beings deal with it.  Think Loki, combined with Puck, with the arrogance of Zeus thrown in for good measure. 

As I said, a shit-disturber of the highest order.  He would infuriate and confound the straight-laced captains and their crews.  But he always managed to get them to think outside the box... to look at a situation in a different way.  He's funny, so long as you're not his current target, and, at the same time, empowering. 

I need some input.  I made a commitment to myself this year that we would eat meat-free at least once a week.  So far, it's been pretty simple.  Pastas, soups, enchiladas... I can make all of those well, and I'm happy with them. 

But I'm bored.  And throw in the fact that spring is here... I want something new.  Something different. 

For those of you who do the meat-free thing more regularly, what other kinds of things do you cook in the warmer months?  My Beloved and I aren't big into tofu, we are more like your typical prairie meat and potatoes type of people. 

I want something that tastes good, that's satisfying, and that doesn't cost more than meat to make.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is For... ???

Hey Humble Readers...

I think I have officially hit the wall.  I CANNOT decide on a fictional character who's name starts with P.  I can think of several... but none of them are providing the appropriate level of inspiration for me to write about.  *sigh*

Paddington Bear
Pippin (oops, already talked about him)
Peter Parker
Peter Pevinsie
countless Princesses (all those historical novels)

Okay, so maybe not several, but a few. 

Can you think of any great "P" fictional characters? 

Quick update... had my consult with the anesthesiologist today.  He confirmed that we are indeed only doing a spinal (not an epidural, tho).  We talked about how things went last time, and possible things to expect this time... the heaviness in the chest, difficulty taking a deep breath, etc.  We also talked about my insulin for the day before the surgery.  I'm to cut my evening dose in half and then not take any in the morning.  I am allowed to have clear fluids in the morning if I feel like I'm having a sugar low. 

And as another aside... I think I might be getting to that point where my insulin needs are leveling off.  I've had an increase in sugar lows over the last few days.  I think I may need to dial back my mealtime insulin a bit. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is For... Olwen

Howdy Again Humble Readers...

Today's been another busy day around the hobbit-hole.  I FINALLY tackled the linen closet (it wasn't as bad as I thought it was) and cleaned the oven.  I also made arrangements for our carpets to be cleaned next week and called my sister to wish her a happy birthday.  I have some paperwork for church that I need to do tonight, but other than that, I'm planning on just doing some knitting and relaxing. 

We're up to the letter O for the A to z Challenge, and again I was able to find a fictional character who I haven't thought about in many many years. 

Her name is Olwen.

I need to give you some backstory.  One of my bio-dad's younger sisters used to be a reporter in the Big City to the North, and she had a chance to interview the author when I was just a little girl.  Auntie K got a copy of Monica Hughes' most recent (at that time) book, The Keeper Of The Isis Light, autographed for me.  It sat on my self for several years, until I grew into it and into science fiction. 

Isis is a planet with an outpost manned by Guardian and Olwen, a 16 year old Earth-girl.  One day a colonist ship from Earth arrives, and Olwen is very curious about the people who are so like her.  As the colonists work to settle in the valley below the Isis Light (a communication outpost which allows for messages to be sent to and from Earth) on the mountain, Guardian finally allows Olwen to go down to meet them.  One thing that he insists on, though, is that she wear a protective suit that covers her from head to toe.  She had never been exposed to the germs and toxins of Earth and has no immunities to them. 

Olwen meets a colonist boy, Mark, and over time they grow quite attached to each other.  Mark confesses his love for Olwen, and she decides that it's time for her to leave the care of Guardian and move down into the valley.  Mark climbs up the mountain to the cave where Olwen lives and sees her for the first time without her protective suit.  The sight startles him so much that he falls and is seriously injured. 

It is then that Olwen discovers that, although she was born to human parents, Guardian has altered her appearance to help her survive on Isis, particularly high up in the mountains.  He has genetically modified her skin, her eyes and her features so that she's not negatively affected by the ultraviolet rays from Ra, the sun in Isis' solar system.  She looks grotesque to Mark and the other colonists. 

Olwen, horrified with the realization that she doesn't look like everyone else, decides that she's going to go and live away from the valley, with her 'dog' (he's really some sort of reptile/dragon type of thing) named "Hobbit" (how cool is that???).  Just as she's ready to leave forever, catastrophy strikes and the colony is jeopardized.  Olwen is the only one who is capable, because of her genetic modifications, of saving them. 

Typical of young adult fiction, particularly from the 80s, the moral of the story is beaten over your head... appearances aren't everything, don't judge a book by its cover, looks aren't everything, etc. 

But this is the first sci-fi book that I ever read, and for that reason alone, I loved it.  Throw in the fact that I was perpetually the new kid at school, and I completely identified with Olwen... wanting to fit in but knowing that you're different. 

Do you read sci-fi?  If you do, what flavour of sci-fi do you like? 

Week 35: Tackling To Dos & TMI

Howdy Humble Readers...

So I have a new example of how OCD/anal retentive I am.  I have always been BIG on lists.  I love crossing things off my lists when I've completed them.  It's an addiction.  Combine this tendancy with the nesting instinct in late pregnancy... you get insanity.  I now have a spot on my computer where I have a list for every day of the week.   I've been making a lot of progress on my 'massive to do list' (check out the tab at the top) and I've been getting regular stuff done too.  It makes me feel really good, even though it's exhausting.  My goal is to have all the big stuff/baby prep done by May 1st, so that I have a little over a week to rest and relax before d-day. 

One thing that has made all this work a bit challenging this week is something I never ever thought I would be talking about.  (For those of you who are squeamish, I recommend skipping this paragraph... fair warning)  Keeping in mind that being an IFer has ingrained a psychotic need to check the tp for blood all the time, I got a bit of a scare yesterday morning.  There was blood, bright red.  After doing some investigating, I discovered that it wasn't coming from anywhere internal.  Nope... I have a vericose vein on my lady parts.  And apparently I wiped too hard and caused it to rupture a little.  It explains some of the discomfort I have had in my pelvic region (but really, everything in that area aches these days), and thankfully it was the only instance of bleeding. 

Of course I did some research, and while not 100% normal, it is common.  Hemmoroids are fairly commonplace during pregnancy, and they are just vericose veins that are 'back there'.  It should clear itself up sometime after the baby is born, but of course I'm going to talk to Dr. W about it at my next appointment.  But it's just plain ol' disturbing, nonetheless.

Anywho... On to this week's update...

How far along? 35w0d (holy crap... only 3 weeks left)

Maternity clothes? Heck ya.  I'm actually looking forward to being able to wear some of my regular clothes soon.

Body Oddities? VERY dry skin, alternating constipation and IBS flares, back ache, cracking joints, super sore & slightly leaky boobs, dry/itchy eyes, leg cramps, round ligament pain, tingly fingertips, tired, gassy, Braxton Hicks, tendinitis in my thumbs, hot flashes,water retention, skin tags, NEW THIS WEEK - *cough* vericose veins

Sleep? Not bad.  Hip pain wakes me up usually between 3-4am, but I'm often able to doze off again after walking around the house for a bit

Intense Dreams? I've watched too many documentaries this past week about Titanic.  It figured into a number of dreams, although thankfully none of them were too scary

Best moment this week? Our anniversary celebration.  The carraige ride.

Worst moment? A couple of really jarring hip cracks when I stand up have freaked me out.

Movement? Still very frequent.  The worst is when he/she decides to do the funky chicken while I'm dealing with Braxton Hicks. 

Food cravings/aversions? The craving for OJ stuck around throughout the whole duration of the cold I had last week, but seems to have eased now.  Now I just want chocolate.  And sushi.  And real iced tea.

Rings? Off.  I actually haven't tried putting them on recently.  While my weight is down a couple of pounds from a couple of weeks ago, I am up about 5 pounds over my pre pregnancy weight. 

Gender? Still thinking that the Halfling is a girl.

Medical Concerns? Gestational Diabetes (insulin 5x a day), High blood pressure (50mg of lobetalol 3x a day), continuing heartburn (60mg of pantaloc), low lying placenta, low iron

What I miss? being able to walk without pain, being able to get on the floor and play with Ginny

What I look forward to?  not having to poke/jab myself multiple times a day, meeting this little person

Emotional State? easily frustrated and worn out, but excited.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is For... Naduah!

Howdy Humble Readers...

It's been a very productive day here at the hobbit-hole.  I managed to get my big batch of marinara made (recipe will be featured in my next Foodie Friday post) and made a large shepherd's pie.  Plus, I made chicken souvlaki pitas with greek salad and homemade tzatziki for dinner.  I also dealt with a lot of little things around the house, including some laundry and playtime with a very active toddler.  The only thing on my to do list that I didn't get done today was cleaning the bathroom.  But it will still be there tomorrow.

And now, I'm exhausted.  :)
Today's A to z post is brought to you by the letter N... and my fictional character for you today isn't so fictional.  Fictionalized is probably a better term. 

I read about Naduah for the first time when I was 13 years old.  It was the first time I read what I considered a 'grown up' book.  My bio-mom was always into anything about native North American culture, and Ride the Wind was right up her alley.  I picked it up one day when I didn't have a book of my own handy, and was sucked in. 

Naduah (means 'keeps warm with us') was born Cynthia Ann Parker, and was kidnapped from her family's fort in north-central Texas by the Comanche in the spring of 1836, when she was about nine years old.  She was ultimately adopted by a childless couple (and this aspect of the story took on a whole new meaning for me when I read it again a couple of years ago), and raised as one of the People. 

The story follows her as she grows up, and eventually falls in love with the very man who kidnapped her.  She married him, he became the chief of his own tribe, and they had three children, one of whom was Quannah, the last free chief of the Comanche people. 

Then, after almost 25 years of living as a Comanche, she is 'rescued' and returned to her Parker relatives.  She tries repeatedly to escape back to her Comanche family, but ultimately she dies, mourning the People she loved.

All of the above is historical fact but around the facts, the author, Lucia St. Clare Robson, weaves such an incredible story of what makes a family, love, and the end of an era.   It is a story I have to have in my rotation every few years.  When I first read it, almost 25 years ago, I loved the romance of it... but now, as an adult, and as someone who has had to take a hard look at what actually defines a family, I love the relationships between Naduah and her adopted family.  Her relationships, particularly with her mother and grandmother, show that you don't need to have DNA in common to be a family. 

Is there a book from your younger years that has come to mean more to you now as an adult?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hobbit-ish Potpurri: Anniversary Happenings, et al

Hey Humble Readers...

Yesterday was a crazy busy day around the hobbit-hole.  Add to the usual Saturday busy-ness (grocery shopping, tidying up the house, etc), it was our 5th anniversary.  It was certainly a different kind of day than the day we were married... it was blustery and snowy here yesterday, but five years ago in K-town we had a pretty nice day.  Nice enough to have pictures taken outside.  Like this one...

Anyway, my Beloved planned our anniversary celebration and he did a great job!  He booked a 'date night' at Heriage Ranch here in town.  We had a beautiful one hour carraige ride, all snuggled up under cozy blankets.  We got to see a family of deer through the trees, and even though it was chilly, we had a wonderful time.  I just wish we would have remembered to take some pictures. 

After the carraige ride, we were shown into a private dining room and he had pre-ordered our meal, so it just started coming.  A small antipasto platter, followed by tossed salads (I had a house made maple vinagrette... YUM!).  Then the BEST steak I have ever eaten (seriously Humble Readers... OMG!  It melted!), served with grilled asparagus, a baked potato, and garlic bread.  And yes, I was a bad girl and had dessert, too... chocolate peanut butter pie.  Because the package deal that my Beloved chose included alcohol, and we skipped that (obviously... I'm so looking forward to my first glass of wine when we go to K-town this summer!), the restaurant gave us two free movie passes. 

My Beloved is an incredible blessing in my life.  I know I have said it before, but he makes me a better person every day simply by being by my side.  There aren't enough words in the English language to express how much I love him, and how honoured I am that he chose me to share his life. 

Also on the schedule yesterday was a big event at our church.  We, as a congregation, have been without a regular pastor for more than two years.  After a very long and drawn out call process, we chose a new pastor and he accepted the call.  He's only just recently graduated from seminary, and yesterday we had the privilege of being present at his ordination (when he officially 'becomes' a pastor).  It was a very moving service.  I wasn't the only one in tears when his wife and daughter (8 years old, she was also the crucifer for the service... she looked so proud carrying in the cross ahead of the procession of clergy) presented him with his stole.  I wish we could have stayed for the reception after, but we had to get home to meet the sitter and head out for our evening. 

I had an NST this morning, so when my Beloved headed off to church, Ginny and I headed down the street to the hospital.  Everything went really well... blood pressure 132/69, Halfling's heartrate in the upper 150s, lots of movement, no contractions to speak of.  Ginny was a perfect angel the whole time, eating her goldfish crackers and charming the nurses.  The only downside was when Dr. W asked about my bloodsugars, and I confessed that I was a bad girl yesterday.  She gave me a dirty look and reminded me about watching my weight gain (I'm down 2 pounds by the way). 

Tomorrow is a big cooking day.  I'm planning on making a big batch of marinara and a couple of shepherd's pies to freeze.  I've got a list of things that I want to make and freeze in the next weeks, and I need to get cracking on them.  Time is running out!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is For... Mateo

Good Evening Humble Readers...

Currently, I'm a curled up on the couch, under my fleecy blanket, and watching a movie about the Titanic.  And, I must confess that I'm in a bit of a food coma.  My Beloved and I just got home from our anniversary dinner (I will tell you all about it tomorrow) and I am ridiculously full.  All I could really use at this moment would be a nice cup of chai... if only I could have some.

I'm feeling so dopey, that I don't know if tonight's post is going to make much sense.  Please bear with me.  :)

Tonight I'm going to take a little bit of a different tack on things.  I want to tell you about a character in a new-to-me series that I am reading right now, The Edge of the World by Kevin Anderson (the first in the Terra Incognita series).  I haven't finished reading the book, so I'm not 100% certain that I will feel this way at the end, but right now I'm thoroughly enjoying him.  His name is Mateo. 
The main premise of the book is that there are two distinct cultures living in a precarious peace... at least at the beginning.  The two cultures are connected through a historical religious link, but when their shared holy city burns to the ground, the Aidenists and the Urecari are left blaming each other.  In very short order, a holy war breaks out. 

Mateo, at the start of the book, is an orphan who is a ward of the King of Terra (the Aidenists).  He is best friends with King Korastine's daughter, Anjine, and the two of them have a terrible habit of sneaking off and getting into trouble together. 

When the war breaks out, Mateo realizes that the time has come for him to put aside childish things and take his place in the Terran military.  At this point he is just beginning to realize the feelings he has for Princess Anjine are more than just friendship.  But of course, he is being shipped off for training to face before facing a fierce enemy. 

It's not so much the budding romance that I am drawn to, as much as it is the growth of young Mateo's character.  The scene when he comes to the realization that he must grow up was very moving. 

Like I said, I don't know where this book is going to end up, but for the moment I'm enjoying it. 

What are you reading right now?

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is For... Lily

Greetings again, Humble Readers...

I'm back, this time with my A-z Challenge post.  (If you've got a second, scroll on down and check out this week's Foodie Friday post.  Bang Bang Chicken... yummy!)

We are currently up to the letter L in the A-z Challenge, and I have to say I have really been enjoying finding new blogs, and meeting new authors.  Even though I have struggled on occasion to come up with posts that meet my self-imposed criteria, posting about my favourite fictional characters, I'm still having a lot of fun.  I have spent a lot of time combing through my bookshelves and searching the internet for books that I have loved but long forgotten.  There are so many books that I want to go back and reread now. 

Today I want to tell you about a young Chinese girl named Lily from the book Snow Flower & the Secret Fan by Lisa See.  Set in 19th century rural China, her story begins when she is seven years old and is approaching the age at which her feet would be bound. 
I love books that teach me things about history, about cultures, all while telling me a good story.  In this story, Lily and her laotong Snow Flower are matched to be united in a relationship closer than sisters, closer than husband and wife.  They are girls who are matched to be lifelong, even eternal, companions, beginning with when they would bind their feet in preparation for marraige. 

Their story isn't a happy one, for the most part, but through all the pain... from successful and failed marraiges to the loss of children, from the rise and fall of their families to the trek through the mountains to flee the Taiping Rebellion... these two girls/women are joined by love, by hate, and ultimately by friendship. 

Lily isn't an admirable character through most of the story.  She's actually a bit of a biotch.  She is damaged.  But she is redeemable. 

Do you like historical fiction or are you more of a present day kind of person?  Or do you prefer stories set in the future?

Just one other thing I wanted to note today... big news in the world of books!  I'm sure most of you have heard, but J. K. Rowling's first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, is set to be released on September 27th!!  I'm super excited!

Foodie Friday: Bang Bang Chicken

Hey Humble Readers...

How are things in your part of the world?  Any big plans for the weekend?  Tomorrow is our 5th wedding anniversary, and I'm excited about what my Beloved has planned.  I had to get him to tell me what the surprise was because I needed to know how to dress for the evening.  I'll tell you all about it on Sunday. 

But in the mean time, here's this week's recipe fun. 

I found this recipe, where else?  On Pinterest...  I had seen it on a couple of tv cooking shows and had been hesitant to try it, but I wanted to add a new dish to my 'asian-ish' repertoire, so I gave it a shot.  The first time, I confess, I messed up the sauce (read tsp as tbsp... big difference, especially when dealing with sriracha).  But the second time my Beloved and I really enjoyed it.  It's a little bit labour intensive, but well worth it.  This recipe is adapted from Table For Two
Bang Bang Chicken
(serves 2 as a main course or a few people as an appetizer)

2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs, boneless & skinless, cubed
3/4 cup bread crumbs (panko or regular... whatever you've got will work)
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup mayo
3-5 tsp Sriracha (depending on how spicy you want it... start at three and work up)
1 tsp sugar (I used Spl.enda successfully)
1 tsp rice vinegar
Vegetable Oil (for frying)

Set up a breading station, with flour in one dish, bread crumbs in one dish, and the egg and milk in another. Add salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and basil to the breadcrumbs and mix to combine.  Bread chicken cubes by first dredging in flour, then in egg/milk mixture, then in breadcrumbs.   For best results, allow the chicken to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes after breading. 

In a bowl, combine mayo, Sriracha, sugar, and rice vinegar.  Adjust to taste. 

Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan).  When oil is hot, slowly and carefully begin to add the chicken to the pan.  Don't overcrowd the pan.  Flip chicken as it browns to golden (it should only take a minute or two per side).  Remove chicken to a paper towel lined plate to drain, and fry remaining chicken. 

Transfer chicken to a large bowl (think mixing bowl).  Pour sauce over chicken and toss gently to coat. 

I served it with homemade chicken fried rice (which is Ginny's new favourite food) and steamed veggies.  Yum!  Oh, and you can also make this recipe with shrimp if you like. 

I'm off to go dust the living room, and try desparately to come up with my L character for my A - z Challenge post. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is For... Katie

Howdy Humble Readers...
I hope this evening finds you all well.  Things here on the flatland are exceptionally wet... but hey, at least for the moment it's not snow, so I'm content.  (The wet white stuff is supposed to make another appearance tonight and possibly tomorrow, to the tune of 15-ish centimeters.  Ugh)

Today's A - z Challenge post is being brought to you by the letter K.  And my fictional character for today is someone who may be a little on the obscure side. 

I want to tell you about Katie Welkie.  Katie is The Girl With The Silver Eyes.    I first encountered Katie when I was in fourth or fifth grade.  She came into my life through one of those Scholastic book flyers that get sent home from time to time when you're in elementary school.  I chose her out of the flyer because I thought the girl on the cover actually looked a bit like me (big glasses, poker-straight dishwater brown hair, totally out of style clothes... nothing like the girl on the newest cover I found on Amazon). 

And from the first time I read the story, I was hooked.  A young girl who had been raised by her grandmother has to move in with her mother when said grandmother dies.  A new place to live, a new school to try to fit into, and all while trying to come to terms with and hide her very special talent... she can move things with her mind!  She could turn pages in her books with out using her hand (and she read almost as much as I did at the time), she could push her glasses up her nose just by thinking about it (something I tried and tried to do), and she could avoid getting hit by stray balls on the playground by making them veer past her. 

She knows she's different, and she knows that she needs to find out why.  She embarks on an adventure through her mother's past, to find out if there are others like her. 

I loved her determination, the sense of us-versus-them that she shares with her friend Jackson, and her out-right nerdiness.  She made my life and my personality okay. 

This book was magic for me.  It made who I was, as a nerd and a bookworm, normal.  I mean come on, a story about a girl who hides within the confines of a book to escape a world that doesn't seem to understand her?  That was my life... 

I really wish I still had a copy of this. 

What was your favourite book when you were ten years old?  Do you still have it?  When was the last time you read it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is For... Jacob (and A Little Bit of Miscellany)

Hey Humble Readers...

First up, hells no, I don't mean THAT Jacob. 

I mean Jacob Jankowski... from Water For Elephants.  Once again, this was a book that I put off reading.  I had many customers come into the bookstore where I worked and rave about it.  Many of my staff loved it as well, and that just put it into the "It-Can't-Be-That-Good" category for me.  It wasn't until I saw the trailer for the movie that I became interested, and I fell in love with the story.  Sadly, I never did get around to seeing the film. 

At the beginning of the book Jacob, a young veterinary medicine student at the beginning of the Great Depression, discovers that his family is destitute after being forced to mortgage their home to pay for his Ivy League education.  This discovery, made at the time of his father's death, causes Jacob to have a bit of a break-down.  He runs away from his troubles and, after jumping a train, ends up joining a circus. 

The insight into circus culture (like the differences between freaks and geeks) was intriguing, but I admit I most loved the love story.  I'm a sucker for a well-written star-crossed lovers story.  And it really did seem that Jacob and Marlena were doomed to forever be apart. 

What is your favourite love story?


A couple of other things...

I saw Dr. W today and all is well.  Blood pressure good, weight gain good, Halfling's heartrate good.  I did ask for clarification about why I'm having to meet with the anesthesiologist next week, and because my c-section is a scheduled surgery and because I am a large person (with a short neck) it is standard operating procedure.  The anesthesiologist just wants to take a look at me to make some preliminary notes and plans.  It DOESN'T mean that I will be put under general anesthetic (which was a huge relief for me), just wanting to be prepared. 

The crud that I caught from my Beloved is killing me.  I am such a wimp when I'm sick.  I'm just praying it doesn't become a cough. 

My hand is healing very nicely.  The blisters have all dried up, and while it's still challenging to grip things like my hairbrush or a knife, things are improving steadily.

And lastly, Ginny figured out finger painting today.  While in her crib.  With the contents of her diaper.  *Ergh*  I know all kids do at some point, but it's still just gross.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is For... Iza

Good Evening Humble Readers...

So, if you stopped by earlier and read my pregnancy update, you may recall that I mentioned that I thought I might be getting a cold.  Well, there's no might about it.  I am indeed suffering from some sort of sinus crud.  My Beloved had one last week, and I was hoping that I dodged the bullet, but no such luck.
Anyway... onto today's A to z Challenge post.  And it took me took me quite a while to come up with a fictional character who starts with I.  I had been staring at my bookshelves for quite a while before I came across my Earth's Children series and I remembered...


Iza is a primary character in the Clan of the Cave Bear.  She is a member of a tribe of Neanderthals, and she is the pre-eminant medicine woman for all the Clan.  After their cave is destroyed by an earthquake, the tribe is looking for a new home, and Iza comes across an orphaned girl of the Others (Cro-magnon).  The child, Ayla, is adopted as one of the Clan and eventually trained by Iza to beome a medicine woman. 

Iza is different from the rest of her people.  She has a sense of compassion that overrides their cultural and developmental limitations.  While it would never have occurred to others in the tribe to want to care for this orphaned child, she saw the girl's pain and her need for care and protection. 

As Ayla grows, it becomes clear to Iza that the child must eventually leave the Clan and find her own people.  She tries to prepare her for the inevitable day when she will have to make her way on her own. 

I love Iza's compassion, her forward thinking, and the mother's heart that guides her decisions. 

What fictional mothers do you admire?