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!

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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!