Progress.

Step 1a: Audition for the Amazing Race.

Done.

ETA: Yes, we really did. We missed the date to make and mail in your own audition video, but there was an open casting call here, so my mom and I went. I feel like I should clarify: I don’t watch the Amazing Race. I hate reality programming – they bring out the worst in people and that’s not what I want to see for entertainment. But. My mom loves the Amazing Race, so I said I’d go with her to the audition. Then I came up with my five-year plan as a justification for why I was doing it. And I suppose if someone wants to pay for me to travel around the world and maybe, just maybe, throw in a million dollars, who am I sto say no?

Plus she said if we win, we’ll split it 60-40. πŸ˜‰

My five year plan…

…in nine (or ten) easy steps.

Plan A:

  1. Win the Amazing Race with my mom. Split the $1,000,000 60-40 (her idea as I would be participating slightly against my will…).
  2. Get a boob job (nothing drastic, just a bit of a pick-me-up [pun…intended?]).
  3. Buy a lovely little flat in London.
  4. Find a lovely British man to marry me so I can get a visa and live in said lovely little flat in London.
  5. Hilarity ensues.
  6. Joke’s on us as we end up falling in love for real.
  7. I land a $1,000,000 3-book contract with Arthur Levine.
  8. What the hell, bring about world peace and stop global warming.
  9. The entire world lives happily ever after.

I think that sounds doable, how about you? Of course, it all hinges on not only being picked to go on the Amazing Race, but winning it.

Or does it…

Plan B:

  1. Get on the Amazing Race, but get eliminated after a few weeks.
  2. Get asked on Oprah because of my incredible charm and charisma.
  3. She pays for my boob job (and for the audience, too ‘Everybody’s getting boooooooob jooooooobs!’ And then her helpers come out with trays of implants for everyone and we bring tears to the eyes of the nation.)
  4. She has David Tennant marry me so I can get a visa and we just live at his place. I think that’s a good compromise here.
  5. Hilarity ensues.
  6. Why did David Tennant cross the road? So we could fall in love for reals.
  7. Cue $1,000,000 3-book deal with Arthur Levine.
  8. Blah, blah, blah, bring about world peace and end global warming.
  9. I go back on Oprah for a ‘What’s happened since we saw her last?’ episode. Once again, we bring tears to the eyes of the nation.
  10. The entire world lives happily ever after.

So there’s one more step to that one. I think I can handle it.

There. I feel better already now that I have a plan.

πŸ˜‰

Fiction

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers

Bet you thought I’d forgotten how to read! Well, I haven’t. I’ve just been reading this book for the last month. But last night, I finally finished it!

If you like Jasper Fforde, you might like this one. It has the same sort of wordplay and cleverness about books and things, but I can’t decide if it takes it too far or not. Some of the things in it seem almost too twee. For example, there are little creatures called Booklings which our hero, Optimus Yarnspinner, encounters during his wanderings in the bookfilled catacolms beneath the city of Bookholm. They are named after Zamonia’s famous authors and they spend their lives memorizing their author’s works. They have names like Aleisha Wimperslake, Wamilli Swordthrow, Rasco Elwid, Doylan Cone, and Elo Slooty, who wrote a gargantuan novel that everybody’s said they read, but nobody has actually finished. Get it?

I have to say that I did find all the jumbles a bit distracting, but that’s mostly because I couldn’t figure them all out. Some are jumbled first name and last name, some are jumbled all together, and some I was pretty sure weren’t actually jumbles at all, but it bothered me because I couldn’t be sure. If anyone can tell me who Perla la Gadeon and Inka Almira Rierre are, I’d be ever so grateful!

There are Bookhunters who collect valuable books that are not only things like signed copies or first editions, but books that are actually alive. Things like that.

There is also a fellow called the Shadow King who is every bit as ominous as he sounds, but not at all what you’d expect.

The story is very windy (as in circuitous, not blustery) and Yarnspinner has a multitude of adventures, but at the end, for some bizarre reason, it feels as though not very much has happened. The translator’s note (not from the German to English, but from Zamonian to, well, German, I suppose) says that this is just an excerpt of the first two chapters of Yarnspinner’s 10,000 page masterpiece and somehow Moers has gotten it to feel that way – like it’s a tiny, tiny part of a much bigger story – something that’s not really important when taken in its larger context (a 10,000 page novel), but seems quite overwhelming when it’s singled out as a special detail.

As a sidenote, I’m a little worried that I may have stumbled into the most recent volume in a series because when I went to Amazon to get the picture to post here, the entry said City of Dreaming Books (Zamonia 3). None of the other books seem to say (Zamonia 1 or 2), but the subtitles or series numbers don’t consistently show up on Amazon (oh my, is that another jumble there, do you think? It’s not exact, but it’s so close and its a place full of books…I hadn’t even noticed!), I’ve found.

My rating: B+

A veritable cornucopia of baked goods!

So, as predicted last time I posted, I have been busy, compulsively baking. In addition to the apple cider doughnuts, the rum pumpkin chiffon pie, and the pecan pie, we now also have:

This

which became these

Brandied cranberry white chocolate chip cookies from here. The Internet said I could actually have white chocolate as it’s not chocolate at all, really, and does not contain caffeine. I decided to take a chance since, unlike regular chocolate with carob, there does not seem to be a good substitution for white chocolate. So far, so good! So far.

There are also some really lovely pumpkin bars that went from this

to these

courtesy of Paula Deen. Really good.

There are also some gingerbread cookies from Moosewood’s dessert cookbook. There would have been pictures, I promise. I had intended to use my dinosaur cookie cutters (which I love!) and thought I might create some tableaus a la Ray Harryhausen, but, alas, I forgot them and had to just use the ones my mom had. Then I thought I might use some of the more bizarre ones to create an all gingerbread scene from Lassie (‘What’s that, girl? Timmy’s fallen down the old well?’) but…I ran out of energy.

But I promise the next time I make a batch of gingerbread dinosaurs, there will be a stegosaurus/tyrannosaurus rex death match for you. πŸ˜‰

Gobble, gobble!

It’s the second biggest eating day here in the States…did you really think you’d get away without a giant food post? πŸ˜‰

Mom and I cooked…well, basically all day. First, I got up this morning before everybody else and made another batch of the apple cider doughnuts.

I used the recipe for the icing that came along with the pumpkin cookies this time since that was more the consistency I was hoping for and didn’t get with the doughnut one. I substituted apple cider for the milk in keeping with the theme and it seemed to work fine. I couldn’t really taste the difference, but at least I could say that I was clever!

And then, into the kitchen where we turned out:

(left to right, top to bottom): rolls (from a box), green beans with ginger and garlic from the NYTimes Thanksgiving special insert (halved), cranberry orange relish, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes from Simply Recipes, mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup and chipotles also from the NYTimes, rum pumpkin chiffon pie, rum whipped cream, and pecan pie.

Whew!

But there was also a tasty little fellow called a Turkey Kiss (rum, triple sec, cranberry juice, and a couple of maraschino cherries bouncing around in the bottom of the glass) which helped to ease the cooking stress.

Oh, yeah, and there was also a turkey breast, but Mom took care of that since it was just for her and Dad. A long day, but a very productive one, if I do say so myself. And I feel I may just be on my way to no longer being able to say that I can’t cook… πŸ˜‰

Tomorrow it’s baking – I’m thinking gingerbread cookies (from Moosewood – yum!) and brandied cranberry and white chocolate chip cookies. So odds are there’ll be another food post soon!

Where are the tissues?

I knew it was coming, but oh, Doctor!

*sob*

Well, on to series 3. Freema Agyeman has big shoes to fill, but perhaps the prospect of John Simm will help to ease the pain…

ETA: Oooh, do not like Martha. Wish Rose would come back… I think the Master doesn’t show up until quite late in the series (oh, and Captain Jack, too – yay!), so I shall just have to be a brave viewer and do my best to tolerate Martha for now.

Proof!

Arthur saw something this morning.

What he saw…

Aaaaand here he is mocking my gardening attempts by insolently munching on a tomato:

Little bastard.

And now off to put together a menu for Thanksgiving! And despite the close proximity of these two topics, I promise that squirrel will NOT be featured.

Probably not, anyway. πŸ˜‰

Just in case you were wondering…

Remember this? Well, I think Mother Nature won…

And actually, so did the bastard squirrel.

So basically, I just lost. But I don’t feel so bad about the squirrel eating that tomato because at least someone got to enjoy Lazarus’ bounty.

Although I don’t know why the squirrel continually feels the need to mock me by eating only part of whatever he’s stolen and then just leaving the rest out where I can see…

My souvenir

So my parents went to Hawaii and Oregon and they brought me back…

…a madeleine pan. Which is something I have been longing for ever since I saw this recipe on 101 Cookbooks. So here we go!

First, I browned the butter which was a new experience for me. It was a little worrying with its sizzling away on the stove – I kept worrying it was burning. And then it got all frothy and I knew it was supposed to turn brown, but I couldn’t see it through the foam, so eventually I just turned off the heat and I lucked out.

It looks a little horrible – I don’t know what those brown sludgy bits left behind on top of the strainer are and probably I don’t want to know – but it smelled lovely. Sort of caramely and nutty and warm. Yum! Then I decided I’d show off my Pink Lady in action while I whipped up the eggs:

Isn’t it perfect? I adore it. After mixing everything together, the batter was very light and airy and fluffy – sort of like a cake batter, I think, although I’m not very good at making cakes yet, so who really knows? Into the oven at 350 degrees for 14 minutes and this

became these

I had never had a Madeleine before (doesn’t Proust eat them? Somebody literary does, at any rate.), but they are very nice. Sort of spongy and eggy and light and lemony with a little bit of a crunchy crust to them when they’re straight out of the oven, but still very delicate. I feel classy just knowing they’re sitting in my kitchen. Like I ought to be serving them with a full-on silver tea service or something.

Actually I feel as though I should be served them. Preferably by a handsome butler-type with white gloves.

But that’s just me. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, they are a success!

Now it is late and I am off to bed. And I promise there will at some point be things other than baking on here once again – I’ve just been in a domestic, baking mood lately, I guess…

And this is why I shouldn’t be allowed out in public…

When I got home from work today I decided to walk over to the downtown shops to look for a birthday present for someone (my original plan fell through and now it’s going to have to be a belated birthday gift – le sigh). It was chillier out than I realised, so as I was walking, I buttoned up my coat.

Found some very cute things at a new shop (to me) called Bella Home. It’s lovely – like the home section of Anthropologie in a cute, cute, cute space full of hardwood floors, pocket doors, and exposed brick walls (so much love!), but, alas, with prices to match, so I had to shop very carefully. Then on to Art Mart where I found a few more things to be the final touches. The clerk who checked me out was a very cute guy (tall? check. lanky? check. scruffy hair? check.), so I’m trying to flirt.

Okay, I have to stop there and clarify – when I say I was trying to flirt, imagine the most subtle, subtle form of flirting and then increase the subtlety by a power of 10. Not usually very effective. I will simply have to go shop there lots and then hopefully my subtle, subtle flirting will build up and in, like 10 years, he’ll realise ‘Oh, she wants me to ask her out.’ But, as you will see, his next step will undoubtedly be to run in the opposite direction!

So I’m trying to flirt. I leave the store. Leave the mall and I’m walking back to my apartment building. Something’s wrong with the collar of my coat. I look down and there’s a button there that’s not been buttoned.

What’s wrong with that, you say?

Well, it’s not that I just didn’t button my top button, I’ve buttoned my coat wrong. So I’ve been walking around, feeling very Metropolitan for walking to the shops and making these chic/swank purchases WITH MY COAT BUTTONED ALL LOPSIDEY!

Maybe he will think that I am uber-stylish and that it was a super-fashionable, asymmetrical coat.

Or maybe he will think that I am just some crazy girl who can’t do up her buttons properly.

Oh, I am full of the lame.

But that’s why you all adore me, I’m sure. πŸ˜‰

I’m back, baby!

After a leisurely two weeks keeping country hours in a remote village (such as it is), I have returned to the city (such as it is). I’m settled back in my teeny, tiny flat with a lovely meal of panang curry and Thai custard from the restaurant just down the street and two hours of Thursday night comedies ahead of me.

But.

I thought I’d introduce you to the herd I was looking after while in the country. Mine:

This is Arthur. He is very cute (as you can see) and he likes to bite (which is cute when he does it).

This is Josephine. She is also very cute. Despite this photo apparently to the contrary, she has a disproportionately tiny head with tiny, tiny ears. She is also rather needy and likes to sneeze in my face.

My parents’:

This is Millie. She’s very cute, too. Very dignified (even for a cat). She’s also very, very small. Nearly Keyboard-size, I would say, Stephanie.

And this…

…is Mr. Darcy. He is an aloof bastard. Which is fitting, I suppose. Secretly, I suspect it’s because he’s not very bright, but my parents refuse to admit that I am right. Had I seen him for a bit longer before I picked out his name, I would have called him ‘Jeremiah’ because he looks like a bullfrog. Again, my parents refuse to admit that I am right.

And those are the hordes!

A quick quiz!

Well, I lied. I did not stay in bed with the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack (Harkness, not Sparrow). I made the mistake of coming downstairs so I could watch the Food Network. Once there, I suddenly thought ‘You know what I want?’

And here’s your quiz (I’m posting these backwards chronologically-speaking so as to try and limit the amount of cheating!):

This is what I started with…

That’s sugar in one and milk in the other.

This is a mixture of sugar, vanilla, and eggs.

What did I end up with?

Another hint.

This is my attempt at demonstrating the progression from white sugar to caramel. Probably would have worked better if I had a photographer assistant, but there you go. Also, I think I should have ended with a slightly lighter, more golden-brown caramel, but I ran out of patience which I blame on the fact that my parents have an electric stove while I have become rather attached, despite the element of danger (or perhaps because of it!) to cooking on a gas stove.

Ta da! Caramel!

Amazing.

Know what I made yet?

The answer!

So I poured the caramel into the ramekins, boiled the milk and stirred it into the egg mixture, and then poured that (and I’ll be honest, there was a bit of swearing and mopping up during this stage) into the ramekins on top of the caramel. Then I poured boiling water into the pan around the ramekins (more swearing involved) and…into the oven it all went!

And, 40 minutes later…ta da!

Flan! But I know what you’re really thinking…was it any good?

Yes. Yes, it was. πŸ˜‰

Here’s the recipe I used – Flan Mexican. I chose it because it had the simplest ingredients – most of the other ones I found called for sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, which I didn’t have on hand. Tasted like flan to me – I imagine the more complicated recipes (ingredient-wise) might yield a more sturdy flan – that’s all I can think of otherwise I don’t know why you wouldn’t just use plain old milk (and mine was 1% – I didn’t know if it would have enough fat in it to work, but it did…). Also, I halved it and it came out just right for six small ramekins.

p.s. – Here’s what they don’t show you on the Food Network:

But it was worth it. Plus, there’s a dishwasher here, so that makes my job a little bit easier. And the caramel ended up being quite easy to clean up – I was worried for a bit, given the state of the bottom of the pan, but it came off!

And now back to the good Doctor.