Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekend Cooking March 26 - PW's Chicken Pot Pie




Weekend Cooking is hosted at Beth Fish Reads

I'm slowly making my way through Pioneer Woman's Cookbook...and am still really happy with all the results.
I'm back this week with another Pioneer Woman recipe...Chicken Pot Pie...I've made lots of variations of chicken pot pie...from the boxed kind that bakes for 40 minutes to the VegAll/cream of chicken kind...PW's version is a little more time consuming but is worth the difference in taste. 


I start off with the freshest chicken I can find where we live...we actually know the Sandersons and they stand behind their product. 



I do not very often buy a whole cut up chicken, but PW said it was a good idea to use both light and dark meat for this recipe.






Then I scour my sink with soft scrub and bleach...I'm a germ freak when it comes to raw meat :(






While the chicken was cooking, I chopped up my vegetables...no Veg-All in this recipe.
Yes, I really did chop up every little bitty piece of onion, celery and carrots for this pie :)





I separated the chicken from the broth...





and of course, separated bite sized pieces of chicken from the bones.






I saute'd the onion, carrots, celery and frozen peas in butter for just a few minutes.





added the chicken...and stirred...





...then added flour and stirred again. 
At this point I let the mixture so far cook for just a few minutes before adding any other ingredients.





I used 2 cups of the chicken broth saved from boiling the chicken and one boullion cube.





and then 1/4 cup white wine...
and yes, yes, yes, of course I had a sip ;)








1 cup of heavy cream is the last ingredient before the final cookdown for 4 minutes.




Thyme, salt and pepper meld all those tastes together...





before pouring the mixture into a baking dish...






Now, PW went into a lot of detail about how to make crust...and I did my best...but as you can see in the picture above...mine wasn't too pretty :)
It still tasted fine...but definitely needs work in the attractiveness category.

The specific ingredients are follows:

3 celery stalks
3 medium carrots, peeled
1 large yellow onion
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 cups cooked chicken (light and dark pieces)
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 chicken boullion cube
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp salt
black pepper

PW also has a Turkey Pot Pie recipe on her blog that is identical to this one, except, of course, it uses turkey.

Enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Blogger Hop - March 25


The Book Bloggger Hop is hosted by Jennifer @ Crazy for Books and is a fun way to explore all the other book blogs out there.

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!


This week's question:

"If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?"


My Answer:

This question was a no-brainer for me.  You don't know peace and tranquility until you've read Jan Karon's Mitford series.  Father Tim and the people of Mitford deal with everyday life and even chaotic events with realism, hope and honesty.  I LOVE this series.  As a matter of fact, this week's question/answer has made me think it might be time for a re-read :)
Please hoppers, follow Jennifer's guidelines.  She works so hard each week to provide a space for us to visit each other.  It seems from her note this week that a few folks are using the hop to advertise rather than visit.  For heaven sake, people.  Advertising is fine if that's what you want to do...but do it in the appropriate hop...sheesh.

THANK YOU, JENNIFER FOR YOUR HARD WORK AND DEDICATION TO ONE OF THE FUNNEST HOPS IN THE BLOGGING WORLD!!



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Audiobook Review - South of Broad

Golden Lines (sorta):

"I felt like a booger on a kleenex as I crossed the room"

(***please see my audiobook dislike below)

(not so) Short and Sweet Summary:

After finding his brother Steven dead from slitting his wrist and neck in the bathtub, Leo King, the narrator of South of Broad, spends the rest of his life putting the pieces back together, struggling, in and out of trouble and dangerous situations, both legal and psychological, from his young teenage years at Penninsula High School in the historical city of Charleston and into his adult life over the next 2-3 decades. 

Among others Leo's story includes:

 his mother Dr. Lindsey King, devout Catholic, former nun, a James Joyce scholar and principal of Penninsula High School who makes her son learn 5 new vocabulary words each and every day;

his science teacher father, intelligent, calm, collected and a realist, head over heels in love with Leo's mother and the peacekeeper between his wife and son;

 Chad Worthington X, arrogant member of old Charleston society, an ass on the football field and in the halls of Penninsula High as well as in his own home within Charleston elite society at the Battery in the beginning of the story and an ass in his high end law office as a rich cheating husband by the end of the story;

Frazier Worthington, Chad's sister who doesn't quite fit the Charleston society feminine expectations, a star athlete known statewide for her abilities as well as her honest but quiet personality;

Molly Huggee, another member of the Charleston elite, who spends most of her life wavering back and forth between what she thinks she's supposed to be and what she thinks she wants to be, Chad's girlfriend in the beginning and his unhappy, whiny wife at the end;

Trevor and Sheba Powe, flamboyant twins, whose mother is an alcoholic running from a psychotic, abusive husband; they join the group their last year in high school and leave Charleston as soon as they can...Trevor to San Francisco where he can openly be himself, a promiscuous gay man, and Sheba to Hollywood where she becomes a star.

Niles and Starla, two orphans from the Appalachians, rescued by Leo; both eventually marry other members of the group, but only one of them will survive the trauma they lived through before Leo found them tied to a chair.

Betty, a young African American orphan, sent to Penninsula with Niles and Starla to assimilate with other groups of kids before turning 18 and being sent out on her own.

Ike Jefferson, son of the first black head football coach at Penninsula, mistrustful of Leo at first, but honest, tough, and determined to break through the racial barriers of Charleston.
Through these relationships, collective and individual, Leo will make sense of the world...and finally come to grips with the fact that we are all just hanging on, taking life one day at a time and rolling with its violent punches.
My Initial Reaction

I don't think I've ever been so relieved for a story to end.  By the time the action picks up high speed in South of Broad, I was so exhausted that I was holding on by a thread during the chapters in the last section of the book...
Leo's story reminded me a lot of The Big Chill...group of friends growing together from high school into adulthood, some in more positive directions than others...South of Broad covers more time in detail than The Big Chill with other individual stories weaving in and out and breaking up the sequence at times.  The characters are rich...and complicated at the same time.  The reader either loves them or hates them...and at times will be disappointed, even with characters he/she loves.

What I Liked:

You can't help but like Leo.  How in the world he manages toughing it out through his brother's death, his mother's stubbornness, his wife's craziness and holds all his friends together amid complete total chaos at the same time is beyond me. 

Conroy's descriptions are vivid.
Conroy spends a lot of time describing the surroundings...and vivid descriptions are absolutely imperative when your characters age 30 years and travel from Charleston, SC to San Francisco, CA, particularly in the Tenderloin during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980's. 

After the whirlwind that is Leo's story, the ending is right. There is only so much one person can stand...the final straw for Leo was also the final straw for me as well, and it would have been unbelievable for Leo to absorb the last surprise without some fallout.  I personally wanted to vomit in my car.

Throughout everything that happens to Leo, I never felt sorry for him; Leo never wanted sympathy...he was a character who pulled himself up by the bootstraps and dusted his behind off time and time again and became a stronger person each time he made it through the storm...literally and figuratively.

What I Didn't Like:

The plot of this story doesn't even really begin until Chpt 3.  I would have read this book much faster had I been reading it instead of listening to it...but I probably would have missed some of the intracacies that are characteristics of Conroy's writing.  There were times when I was gritting my teeth.

The story was exhausting - it is packed...not just with Leo's issues but the issues of all his friends.  It was exhausting to write this review because of how much goes on in this story, including but not limited to:
racism, southern stereotypes, juvenile system, psychological disorders, Catholicism, homosexuality, pedophilia, alcoholism, classism, journalism, hurricanes, psycho killers and on and on and on...

lots of language...because I was listening in the car I had to make sure I was alone in the car...the language was appropriate for the story but it was very crude language...not just the usual shit, damn or hell...but words that will make you cringe...especially if you're listening to it.   Sorry, Mom, this one is not for you.
Sequence breaks - I can usually deal with this kind of thing...but it happened TOO MUCH with South of Broad.  When Leo and his friends are in San Francisco trying to find Trevor, they literally have to rescue him...right in the middle of the rescue, Conroy stops and tells another story of when they were all younger...yes, the story is relevant but geez...these breaks began to get on my nerves...especially when they were long and drawn out breaks.

What I Didn't Like Specifically about the Audiobook

The reader of this book, Mark Deakins, is not a Southerner. His accent reminds me of those old Civil War movies where non-Southern people try to pretend to be Southern.

If I hadn't been in my car traveling 1 1/2 hrs to and from the airport, I probably would have popped this baby right out of the CD player from the first word.

It's very difficult to pick out golden lines when you're listening to a story...I write/annotate/journal as I read which is probably against the law while a person is driving (if not, it should be). I don't decide on my Golden Line until I'm completely done and then I pick out the sentences that I think paint a picture with words of what can be expected in the story. The only reason I even remembered the Golden Line I used in this review was because I typed it up as soon as I started the audiobook...the quote comes at the very beginning when Leo is walking across the dining room of the country club to meet his parents as they discuss with two families of upper crust Charlestonian society how best to handle their own children's transfer to Penninsula High after a minor drug related incident. Leo is describing how purposely conspicuous he feels as a non-member of the club.
I'd say a booger is pretty conspicuous...I just never really thought about it :p

Overall:

This story is one of resiliance.  It is a story about what happens when life kicks us in the face again and again and again.  Leo's story is one of family...his biological family as well as those he brings into his inner circles and loved as much as, if not sometimes more than actual family members...and all the complications those relationships bring with them.

Did I love this book? no
Am I glad I read it? yes

If you like books set in Charleston, SC, San Francisco, CA, the Citadel, newspaper rooms, educational settings and stories about survival that include some places where you almost want to put your head between your knees and catch your breath, you should read this book.  If you are easily offended or don't want visuals of young men dying from AIDS, child abuse, incest, etc, you don't want to go here.

Am I going to read another Conroy?  YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!



Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless (Almost) Wednesday - Daddy's Girl


 

The Head of My Household and our firstborn...
I love the way they're looking at each other :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Ten Bookish Peeves


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

I tried my best to make this list as un-snarky as possible...but it just kept getting snarkier and snarkier...I guess that's the point though since we're writing about bookish pet peeves this week...
Here we go..


1.  Bookstore people who don't read and/or simply don't have a clue.  One would think that bookstore managers would want people on the floor who could actually help customers...that doesn't seem to be the case in many of the bigger chain stores especially.  I usually don't even ask for help anymore...I just browse around on my own till I find what I'm looking for.






2.  Commenters who put the same comment on every single bloggers' blog - I see this sometimes when I participate in blog hops...and it drives me nuts!!! WHY??  If you don't have something original to say to that person, then why the heck are you commenting???  Did you even read that person's post?  Probably not.






3.  Random troll people who post comments just to aggravate people - These people obviously have far too much time on their hands.  If you hate us (women, book bloggers, etc) so much, then why are you creeping a woman book bloggers blog...and creeping her out to boot :p   I'd like to give him a stack of papers to grade...







4.  Mass market paperbacks - I'm old.  The print is too small.  I just can't do it...I don't like the way they feel in my hands :(






5.  Audiobook readers with fake Southern accents *shivers* - I'm not trying to present myself as the end all be all knower of authentic Southern accents...and within the South there are many different Southern accents (notice how I'm capitalizing the word South every time I use it, even though I know it shouldn't always be capitalized).  If you are a publisher looking for someone to read a book and that book that takes place in Charleston, SC and all of the characters are Charlestonians, please, for heaven's sake and mine, find someone who's at least BEEN to Charleston to read it.








6.  English teachers who encourage their students to read SparkNotes instead of the original book or who equate teaching literature with watching movies.  I completely understand the pressures that public school teachers feel right now to pass their students and to somehow educate students despite all the ridiculous other mess they have to accomplish...I understand feeling like you're bending over backwards to educate folks but to also feel like nobody really cares and that politicians are just flappin' their jaws...
BUT
when you "sign up" to become a teacher, you "sign up" to teach. 
If you ain't gonna teach, then please get out of our profession and quit making the rest of us look like the slacker that you are.









7.  Students who are sitting in my college composition classes and tell me that the last book they read was Green Eggs and Ham.  The students are not my bookish peeve...the fact that they've managed to GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL and have never read a book...some of them with AP and Gifted English classes on their transcripts.  Don't even get me started.







8.  Literary snobs - those who think everybody is not worthy of reading literature and that only certain books are worth reading.  Being an English teacher I think I can say that there are a lot of us who act just like this.  People, gimme a break here.  At this point, I don't care if the public is reading The Enquirer...at least they're reading SOMETHING! Give it a rest, people. 
Can't we just all get along??






9.  Audiobooks can't be annotated.  I'm an annotator/journaler.  I like to write in my books or copy quotes down for future reference...and I like to do it right then...as soon as I see it.  Can't do that with an audiobook...what am I going to highlight, star, asterisk, or make notes on?  And, with an audiobook the only time I'm listening is when I'm driving...not exactly prime time for annotating, even if it was possible :(







10.  Movies made from books.  There are a few exceptions here...but most of the time I hate them.  My brain decides while I'm reading who the characters are, what they sound like, their personalities etc.  Then Hollywood comes along and changes all that.  The exceptions are usually exceptions because the author has maintained a pretty strong sense of control over the movie or has had a hand in the screenplay.  I realize that I'm in the minority here and that this is probably more a character flaw of mine rather than the movies...but so be it.





I feel better now...:)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mini Book Review - Hard Eight (Stephanie Plum #8)



Golden Lines:
"You know you can stay here."
"And endanger you?"
"I'm used to being endangered."
This was true.  But this was also the basis for almost every argument we had.  And it was the primary reason for our breakup.  That and my inability to commit.  Morelli didn't want a bounty hunter wife.  He didn't want the mother of his children regularly dodging bullets.  I guess I can't blame him.

Summary:

Evelyn and 7 year old Annie Sodor are missing. They are running from Evelyn's ex-husband Steven and his boss/business partner, the dangerous and crazy mob boss Eddie Abruzzi.  Abruzzi has an obsession with war games...an obsession he transfers to real life.  His men, dressed as Bill Clinton, a bear, a rabbit, and Richard Nixon, begin stalking Stephanie.  Abruzzi wants to find Evelyn before Stephanie does; Evelyn has something Abruzzi wants.  In a race against time Stephanie has to turn to Ranger for help, and Ranger cashes in Stephanie's debt.  Even though they are broken up, Morelli is still in and out of Stephanie's life, showing up when cars blow up, a bag of snakes is left on Stephanie's doorknob, spiders the size of dinner plates are left in her car, "death cooties" attack Stephanie's couch, to name just a few of the unbelievable dilemmas Stephanie manages to get herself into.  It will take a face to face showdown with Abruzzi to solve this one...and help from both men in her life.

My Thoughts:

There is nothing new in the Stephanie Plum formula...plenty of action and plenty of characters to keep up with.   The main goal, finding Evelyn and Annie, is interspersed with other FTA's, namely Andy Bender, to keep the rent paid.  This was one of my least favorites...I'm a Morelli gal...Stephanie isn't with Morelli in this book and just has to give Ranger a try.  While I can completely understand that, I couldn't help but feel bad for Stephanie when the "deed" was done.   And, maybe Stephanie had to find out the hard way that Ranger wasn't Morelli?? 
The killer in the bunny suit reminded me of an episode of the sitcom, The Jeffersons, when George and Weezie are taken hostage by a robber bunny after a Halloween party.  Spooky.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Salon - I'm a ReadAlong Freak


Hello.
My name is Patti.
And I'm a ReadAlong-aholic.
There.  I've admitted it.
1st step to recovery.

Have I mentioned that I love ReadAlongs?????  As much as I love blogging, reviewing, reading other reviews, comments and commenting, the ReadAlong is a guarantee that there's somebody else out there reading the same thing I am at the same time...and that we'll meet back together at some pre-assigned time to talk about it.
I just love that!!!
I do not need to recover from the ReadAlong format itself...I need to recover from how many of the damn things I sign myself up for :/

I read a tweet of a fellow blogger's yesterday...she was upset about a different issue, but she said "as much as I love blogging, why can't I just be chill about it!?" 
That's exactly my problem with ReadAlongs...When a ReadAlong opportunity comes along, I act as if it's the last time anybody anywhere is going to read that particular book...and if I don't join in, I'll never get another opportunity to read that book nor talk with others about it.
Sheesh.
And yes, I've always had this kind of personality.  I am a talker...a socializer...and I don't have any secrets...my friend Missie says, "Why should I read your blog? I hear all your stories first thing every morning after we arrive to work?" :/

The problem with signing up for so many ReadAlongs is that I forget.  Then, the hosting blogger posts the 1st assigned posting and I'm scrambling around to catch up.  Or, I have a harried couple of days where I'm not reading and commenting much and don't realize I'm behind until 3-4 weeks in...that's really frustrating.  Or, the worst thing of all, not realizing I'm behind until the final post goes up...that's when I really feed like a slacker.
:(

Right now I'm reading The United States of Arugula, Affinity, Villette, A Doll's HouseWar and Peace and Jane Eyre as a part of ReadAlongs.  Those are the only ones I can remember anyway.  The only one I'm sitting pretty in is Jane Eyre...because it just started.  I'm not behind on Affinity yet because it doesn't start until next Monday.  I'm behind on the rest of them.
Oy.

I have noticed some trends about myself though...and I'm going to use these emerging trends to redirect myself a little (sorry, but the PhD thing is a curse I can't shake).
I do much better with slow ReadAlongs...the ones where we read slowly and stop at certain points to wait on anyone else who's reading.  I'm a stewer and a thinker as much as a socializer so that gives me time to pause and savor what I've read so far.  For some reason I haven't been tempted to read ahead yet.  I know that other bloggers don't like the slow pace of some ReadAlongs because of a need to keep reading.  I actually enjoy a little break and may fly through another quick read in between...again, just personal preference.   Before I started blogging about books I was a monogamous reader...one book at a time.  I actually was blown away by all the book bloggers who talked about the bookS they were reading at the same time...now I do it too.   Especially with a dense piece of literature, a little break between courses to cleanse the palate is sometimes a very good thing.

I also tend to stay on track with my reading when I have a schedule for myself.
Duh.
Even with reading multiple books, I have to have some kind of structure...not a suffocating kind of structure...but I NEED little gates around myself to keep me from being distracted by other shiny things.  I WANT to read all the books out there and to read them and discuss them with others...I ENJOY that part of my life...so I have to make that part of life a priority...but at the same time not another responsibility.  Does that make sense?  Probably not.
Over the last couple of days I've added my ReadAlong commitments to my day planner...with everything else that happens in my life... I put the ReadAlong discussion dates on the monthly pages of my day planner so I can see how those planned discussions work with the rest of my schedule.  I can use that schedule to keep up but also to decide realistically if I should commit myself to another ReadAlong I'm contemplating.  For example, if a ReadAlong discussion is scheduled to occur on my firstborn's graduation day in May, I won't sign up for it because I probably won't be forming coherent sentences that day much less thinking straight...I'm sure I will be a blubbering mess.
Anyway, you get the picture.

I have high hopes for my new plan; we'll see how it works. 
Until next Sunday...
:)