NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…

…OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…

Now for the tricky part – I don’t want to know who’s next until the regeneration’s happened. Wish me luck staying spoiler-free for THAT!

…OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! D:

ETA: Yes, I know that rumor has gone round that Eddie Izzard might be 11. In which case I would actually die of AWESOME POISONING. But I do not allow myself to get my hopes up!

October Daring Bakers Challenge!

I was looking forward to this month’s challenge, but it wasn’t without a bit of trepidation. I…do not have the best of luck when it comes to pizza dough – I’ve tried it in the Kitchen Aid, I’ve tried it in the food processor with the regular blade, and I’ve tried it in the food processor with the dough blade and it’s never very pretty. I think pizza dough is difficult to render inedible – even I have not managed that yet – but it’s never been easy. It always ends up horribly crumbly and then I argue with it and add water and knead it and swear at it and eventually we come to a bit of an agreement in which no one is killed and in the end we both count it a vague success.

So this time I tried it just using my brute strength…and then I argued with it and added a bit more water and kneaded it and swore at it and here’s what we came up with!

The Dough

The dough actually turned out very well – I was worried that it wasn’t going to be soft and sticky enough to actually throw because it was a tad on the tough side when I put it into the fridge at the end of Day 1, but after it had rested at room temperature for two hours on Day 2, it was lovely and soft and perfect for tossing.

The Tossing of the Dough

It actually went pretty well, I think – and super-quick! Much easier than rolling it out. (Apologies for the bad quality, but trust me, this is still better than an attempt at a still photo would have been.)

The Pizzas

I halved the recipe – in case my pizza dough curse struck again, I didn’t want to have wasted 4 1/2 cups of flour – which gave me enough for three pizzas:

Pizza 1 – Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola

This is the pizza I was telling you about earlier. It is, frankly, amazing – the gorgonzola is lovely and salty and the squash is sweet but spicy with the hot red pepper flakes and the mozarella just fills in the blanks.

Pizza 2 – Boozy Peach

This was an improvised dessert pizza. I used the cream cheese base from this pizza and the leftover peach filling I had from the Bourbon Southern Comfort Peach Hand Pies that I made earlier. The cream cheese mixture nearly overflowed the pizza dough, but that was easily solved with foil. I let that bake until it was set, then added the peach mixture and baked it…a while longer, I don’t really know.

This pizza may be one of the ugliest things I’ve ever made, but it sure is tasty – it’s a little heavy on the cream cheese, but I’d say that’s more in its favor than not.

Pizza 3 – Pizza Margherita

This? Was SUPER-DUPER-YUMMY! This was the only one of the three that I actually baked at the high temperature called for in the dough’s recipe (500 degrees) – the other two I did according to the instructions for the toppings, but I figured the mozzarella, tomato, and basil that I used here were sturdy enough to handle the very high temperatures.

And I’m sooooo glad I did. The other two were good, but this is outstanding! The pizza base is crispy, but fluffy and sort of sweet – something I didn’t notice in the other two, even the sweet dessert pizza. And the sauce is really good, too – it’s not called Exquisite Pizza Sauce for nothing – and easy, too – it’s just combining ingredients, no cooking required.

All in all, a very successful Daring Bakers Challenge! (Click on the Daring Bakers logo at the top to see what everyone else came up with.)

YA Fiction

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Okay, seriously. People in the YA book world have been talking about this book for months, ever since the ARCs went out. And when I say ‘talking’ I actually mean ‘raving.’ So I was anxious to get my hands on it as soon as it came out.

And maybe it was the fantastic build-up it got, but I found myself a little bit disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, I thought it was a good book and well-written, and I would definitely recommend it to people, but I just didn’t get what was so special about it that it would send people into paroxysms of praise. (For me, that would be Keturah and Lord Death.)

It has an interesting premise – Gracelings are people gifted with special talents that can range from the ordinary (the ability to juggle anything) to the slightly scary (the ability to kill anybody) and can be spotted by their mismatched eyes. The story centers around Katsa (not entirely likable) who has a killing Grace and Po who has a, well, I don’t want to give it away, but he has a Grace and is eminently likable up until the last quarter of the book, I thought. But from there, it’s just the standard fantasy/quest plot.

So, yes. Good book, entertaining book, well-written book. I will admit that I couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it during the car ride up to Chicago yesterday. But genre-changing book? Not particularly.

My rating: B+

Happy Day-After-Maddie Day!

Know what yesterday was? IT WAS MADONNA DAY!

And, lo, it was AWESOME! In the diva tradition, she didn’t end up starting until almost 9 o’clock for an 8 o’clock show, but she played for nearly two hours straight and it was amazing. Highlights included a pop-punk version of Borderline which was super-fun, La Isla Bonita reinterpreted as a Gypsy hoedown which was super-fantastique, and Like a Prayer which was ramped up into a SOOPER-DOOPER DANCE REMIX OF AWESOMENESS.

The woman works hard, that’s for sure – she wasn’t off stage very often and she was always moving when she was onstage. I get a little nervous for her when she picks up her guitar because she looks at her hands a lot and I always picture her concentrating very hard and thinking ‘Okay, lobster claw, bear paw, rabbit’s foot…’ a la Phoebe. Plus, it’s Madonna. She rocks whether or not she can play the guitar.

So, in conclusion, SUPER AWESOME.* I wore my Madonna t-shirt to work today to celebrate and didn’t notice until I got there that she’s basically in her underwear on it (it’s the far left pose in the picture above) and I was like ‘Hmm, I know it’s very casual around here, but that may not be office-appropriate.’ But I don’t care. I wore it today and I will wear it again. So that’s Madonna, U2, and Kylie crossed off the list, leaving Radiohead, Bjork, and Muse at the top.

*But, and don’t tell anyone I said this, I think Kylie did it better. Shhh!

Nonfiction

Few Eggs and No Oranges: A Diary Showing How Unimportant People in London and Birmingham Lived Through the War Years, 1940-1945 by Vere Hodgson

It’s quite a subtitle, but then, it’s quite a book. There are lots of books out there about the Blitz, but this one kept coming up as the one to read for a view of civilian life in London (and Birmingham) at the time. And I can see why – although there are still great, huge gaps in my knowledge of the Blitz and this book didn’t necessary help to fill them, I think I got a really good day-to-day view of what it was like. I mean, not that reading a book means I know what it was like or what it would be like, but I think I have a better idea now.

It was simply amazing to read about Vere’s experiences. I knew the Blitz was bad, but I had no idea – it went on fairly steadily from 1940 to 1945 and within those five years there were month-long periods during which every night there would be raids that would go on for hours. The entire country was basically going on little to no sleep for five years. And you never knew when or where they’d turn up – there are many times when Vere signs off her diary saying ‘We’ll see if I’m here tomorrow or if they’ve gotten me.’ Plus it sounded like they were expecting to actually be invaded at any moment. I had no idea how close Britain came – and yet somehow they managed to keep their spirits up. Vere and her friends would go to the cinema or to a new play (she went to see The Passing of the Third Floor Back!) or have winter fundraising events or she’d take the train to visit her family in Birmingham. This makes for oddly surreal diary entries – things like how there was an air raid the night before and then she went to see the Citizen Kane or something.

So I still have much more about the Blitz to read, but Vere’s writing is engaging and practical and provides a new perspective (and tone).

My rating: A

Also, this book is rather hard to find, but I managed to track down a first edition on one of the used book websites and look at the book plate one of the previous owners left in it:

It’s like we were meant for each other!

IR Fiction

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

So in preparation for The Graveyard Book* which absolutely everyone is talking about (and has been for months, it seems), I finally, finally read Coraline. I think I’m probably the last person with an interest in children’s literature to have done so, but there you are.

Anyway, I read it last night (I don’t often read novellas, but they do provide a great sense of accomplishment, don’t they?) which was probably not the best time to be reading a Neil Gaiman book. I’m not sure I’m as rapturous a fan as most Neil Gaiman readers are, but the man definitely does eerie extraordinarily well. It’s very spooky and also sort of fable-y, too, but mostly I think I appreciated it not so much for the story as for the ambience that Gaiman creates within his fairly limited world here. There’s little explanation of how things are happening which I found a bit frustrating, but sometimes that sort of thing has to be sacrificed for the mood – I mean, the unknown is always more frightening.

I’m not sure how I’d recommend it, though, its length and the language makes it seem as though it’s aimed at younger readers, but I think it would be too scary and a little too…intangible for them. So even though it’s usually shelved in the Independent Reader age group (though it was in YA at the shop I bought it from), I think it’s definitely meant for older readers.

My rating: B

*It’s out already, but the bookshop I went to didn’t have any copies in stock, so I haven’t managed to get a hold of it yet.

New TV: Thursday

Kath & Kim (7:30 CST, NBC)

I went into this fully prepared to hate it, to consider it merely a way of wasting the half-hour between My Name Is Earl and The Office. I’d seen a couple episodes of the original on the plane to Australia a couple of years ago and didn’t really get it (even though you gotta love any show Kylie was a guest on, right?), plus it definitely annoys me that we can’t have any original television in this country. *cough*Life on Mars*cough* What do we pay those writers who went on strike for? I guess what annoys me most is that the majority of the imported shows are nowhere near as good as their original counterparts (The Office is really the only exception I can think of at the moment). Plus, even though I want to like Molly Shannon, she usually ends up just making me uncomfortable.

But I didn’t hate it. I’m not going to commit and say that I actually liked it, but Molly Shannon and Selma Blair were likable enough that I didn’t actively want to gouge out my eyes.

My rating: I’ll give it a chance as long as it lasts – which I don’t honestly expect will be very long.

Food ahoy!

I hosted an Office marathon last weekend and made a bunch of food, but forgot to post about it until now – it’s been a super-super-busy week. One of the things I made turned out to be really yummy, one is good but still not quite the right recipe, and one was a bit of a letdown. The real star of the day ended up being the Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza that Jillian brought – SUPER-yummy!

My contributions began with yet another try at the elusive strawberry-balsamic cupcakes. This time, I tried using the Vanilla Vanilla cupcake from Magnolia but substituted my strawberry-balsamic syrup in place of the milk (well, most of the milk, in my case). Not bad, though definitely bring them to a comfortable room temperature before serving, but still not quite what I’m aiming for.

Which brings me to my bit of a letdown (I want to end the post on a positive note). I was very excited to try Tartelette’s Saffron Pumpkin Macarons because the earlier ones I’d made had been so super-sweet as to be almost unbearable (but on the good side of unbearable). Plus? Saffron. I think I would have liked these if I’d been able to get a few more workable ones. I used the very pretty templates from MooseAbout here which very thoughtfully say ‘Remove BEFORE baking.’ Which I promptly forgot to do. Nothing caught fire, thank goodness, but I think this made them more sticky as they kept falling apart when I tried to remove them from the parchment paper. The pumpkin filling is not sweet at all – there’s no sugar, just pumpkin and cream cheese – which is not the best thing I’ve ever eaten on its own – but sandwiched between the uber-sweetness of the meringue cookies, it’s actually just right.

But the best of my contributions was the Bourbon Peach Hand Pies from, where else? Smitten Kitchen. Mine were actually Southern Comfort Peach Hand Pies (surprise, surprise!), but they were still very good. And she’s not kidding when she says that the pie dough is somehow more like a laminated dough with lots of buttery layers. Mine didn’t come together quite as easily as I was hoping, but I was a little short on the lemon juice and ended up just adding some sweetened lime juice that I happened to have on hand for margaritas and it ended up working just fine. I think next time I’d roll it out even thinner than I managed this time so as to have a higher peach:dough ratio, but I like my desserts on the bready side, so I wasn’t disappointed for my sake, just a bit self-conscious when offering them to others.

Plus, you can totally eat them for breakfast – it’s fruit! Oh, come on, humor me. I ate three of these in one day (two of them for breakfast), so I have to justify it somehow! 😉

The plot thickens…

I forgot! I came home on Friday during the presidential debates last week and Shouty was busy yelling at his television. Mostly things like ‘You’re a liar!’ ‘You just want foreign oil, stop lying!’ and the ever-popular ‘Shut up!’

It was amusing. And depressing, I suppose, but it’s nice that he’s passionate enough about politics (and I think I agree with him) to actually shout at the television about it.

ETA: I really need a ‘Neighbors’ tag, don’t I?

New TV: Wednesday

Pushing Daisies (7:00pm CST, ABC)

It’s still beautiful and brightly colored and twee and I want to wear everything Anna Friel wears  – hats! crinolines! – and I love to marvel at how short Kristin Chenoweth is and how lovely and skinny and tall Lee Pace is and I love to listen to Jim Dale narrate.

I think I would watch this show even if I hated it just so I could look at it. And listen to it. But I don’t hate it – I love it!

And you should to.

My rating: It’s the perfect TV confection and a perfect way to fill a Wednesday evening.

ETA: I love Danny Wallace and I liked Yes Man, but I find myself disappointed that it’s being made into a movie. Even though I will probably go see it.