Tuesday, December 31, 2013

112 pages in, and then tossed

For Some reason.. my formatting today seems to be for the birds.  I am not sure if I am willing to spend a lot of time on this post to correct why the spacing turned out so bizarre.  Slightly ironic I must say, given how I felt about this book.  It isn't often that I start a book and don't finish it.  What started off as a lovely morning in bed today, ended up with me pretty much tossing this book.  Since it was endorsed by a funny political author (Terry Fallis), I had high hopes for some guffaws.
Not so much.  I did read some reviews of this book and other people find it funny. Yes, I get that it is a satire on the state of Canadian politics in 2008 but it just did not do it for me.  It is a fast read, and would not have taken up a lot of my time.. but I got to page 112, scanned through the rest of the book, and felt like I given the book more than ample time to get better, and it didn't. 
Adios terrible book, you just are not funny. 
Since I spent the morning returning a few odds and sods, I returned one of my two copies of the coolest astronaut ever's book (soon to be reviewed I am sure) for some new books.  I won't say what else I snuck in to return but I walked out with three new books - Olive Kitteridge, The Weird Sisters, and The Peach Keeper.   A good decision in my mind, as I walked out of the bookstore, smelling the books and running my hand down the pages.  Without a doubt, reading is one of my favourite past times.  I don't think I am destined to own an e-reader.  It just isn't the same.
Speaking of which - today I am watching the first Harry Potter movie with my oldest.  We finished reading the book, and now it is time to watch the movie.  To say he is excited, is an understatement.  He has always enjoyed reading, but watching him engage with this book has been literally - magic.  Yes, those novels get dark soon, but I can see us reading the first three this year... and we will see about the final 4.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Perfect timing for a bittersweet read like this....

This was a great read to finish 2013 with.  This was more like I wish The Lace Readers by Brunonia Barry would have been like.  A little mystical around the edges, a story about people.  At times there could be more details, but I like that some of the details were wispy and scant. 

This is a book about a brokenhearted young lady named Kate that flees from Seattle for a tour of Ireland to find herself.  She finds herself in a small Irish town (Glenmara) and finds a new place for herself among the women who make lace.  There are coincidences that bring people together - but isn't that life - all about being in the right place at the right time?  I love the story about the lace, and how the lace making was taught through generations, and how the lace could tell a story.  It has made me rethink having my mom teach me how to make lace - although that will mean learning how to crochet, and for that, I am truly skeptical.

This was a lovely quick read.  A story full of promise, and a little bit of fancy. 

Sinful Quinoa Chocolate Cake

I lurve this cake.

I also lurve that it is gluten free, and not made with quinoa flour.  If you are looking to try something new that will literally blow you away, try this recipe.

My lovely Auntie makes this for us, and it has been amazing every single time.  I love her much, and with this cake, I think I love her even more!!! I love that everyone can eat it, and that it is made with whole quinoa and not quinoa flour (which is worth it's weight in gold).

Moist Chocolate {Quinoa} Cake

originally from Quinoa 365

Made from quinoa and more like a brownie, this cake is gluten-free and completely delicious.

There are a few variations on how to frost and how to make a ganache for the middle, I will leave that part up to your desire.  


  • 2/3 c. (150 ml) white or golden quinoa
  • 1 1/3 c. (340 ml) water
  • 1/3 c. (90 ml) milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. (170 g) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 c. (375 ml) white or cane sugar
  • 1 c. (250 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. (7.5 ml) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) salt


  • 1
  • 2
    Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow the quinoa to cool.
  • 3
    Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease two 8-inch (20-cm) round or square cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  • 4
    Combine the milk, eggs and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Add 2 cups (500 ml) of cooked quinoa and the butter and blend until smooth.
  • 5
    Whisk together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add the contents of the blender and mix well.
  • 6
    Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake on the centre oven rack for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  • 7
    Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the pan before serving. Frost if desired. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month. Serves 8 to 16.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Decent foray into a distant past...

It felt like it took me a while to read this book.  It could be that the month of December is blowing by so quickly, that it just felt like this was the one place that the pages were not turning all that quickly because I have been tired at night.

Total aside, it is strange, the boys are sleeping in this morning.  They have been waking up between 5 and 6 am, so this is a rare treat!!

This was a good book.  It didn't captivate me as much as I though it would, and maybe that was why it didn't.  For me, it didn't really start to speed up until the end.  That being said, I enjoyed how the story between Mehrunnisa and Salim developed over time, and the insight in to the past and a different culture.  The differences between the men's and women's realms is also fascinating.  The story continues in further books, and if a copy lands on my desk, I will read it.  I guess in many ways this book almost felt like a prequel to the real story, taking a lot of time to lay down the plot and the history.  Reading the next book of how the Emperor and Empress rule, and the intricacies of each would likely capture me a little more.  I am not trying to take away from this book, just some books you start and you are caught up in a tide that is stronger than yourself, drawn to turn each page quicker than the last.  I enjoyed this book throughout, and it was at the end it all of a sudden seemed over too soon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A hit and a miss…

This was one of those books that falls under "and now for something completely different".

This was an interesting book about something I didn't know anything about - the 'Mud Angels' that arrived in Florence after the Arno flooded in 1966.  This book is about Italy, book conservation, with a light dusting a lust.  From the title, you would expect a sensual novel, but that was not this novel.

I can't say that Hellenga nailed the female narrative, and I found it a bit offsetting at times how he shifted his narrative voice. but there were some elements that I also really enjoyed about this book.  Hence, the title of this post.

This is the story of a 29 year old book conservator who finds her way to Florence to ultimately have her life's big adventure. There she meets a few paramours, and embarks on a bit of a journey of self discovery.  For a relatively short, and small book (the book is an off size itself), this wasn't a quick read.  There were times I wasn't pulled along by the current of the narrative, and last night, I think I was on a mission to get going and move on to my next book.  Funny how that happens sometimes.  I think a personal goal would be to read 40 books this year.  I think 2 more and I am there… Which also pushed me to get through that last 150 pages last night.  Speaking of which - sleep, who needs sleep?  Did I mention that in the last few weeks I have had a hard time settling down and getting to bed at a decent time?  It is almost like the days are so crammed that I am enjoying the silence at night and pursing weird things like lego, knitting, and reading.  From the sight of my kitchen this morning, perhaps some of that time should have been dedicated to cleaning it.

There were a few passages that were pretty well crafted though.. such as this one:  "Have you ever read a great novel, or listened to a great symphony, or stood in front of some great work of art, and felt - absolutely nothing?  You try to open yourself to the text, the music, the painting, but you have no power to respond.  Nothing moves you.   You are turned to stone.  You feel guilty.  You blame yourself, but you also wonder if maybe there's nothing there, and that people only pretend to enjoy Dante's Paradisio or Beethoven's Eroica, or Botticelli's Primavera because they get good marks in Culture 101 for doing so.  And then, when you least expect it, when you've closed the book, walked out of the concert hall or the museum, it hits you.  Something hits you, comes at you from an odd angle."  Interesting thought.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mission complete - a new hat

Done.  I was hoping to have it finished before the snow started on Sunday night.. but apparently there are limits as to what a person can accomplish during their waking hours.

So, I finally finished it tonight.  I shouldn't complain, I think all told it took me less than two weeks to make (especially considering how much free time I normally have).  This is a great pattern.  I will make it again, and if I use the same type of wool, I will use the man's pattern instead of the women's pattern to give it a little more width.  This one stretches out fine, but it could be a tad bit bigger (I am also a tight knitter).  All in all, I love the hat and I found the free pattern (Thanks Needyl aka Shana) when I was trolling for a cable knit hat to knit myself up.  I haven't attempted knitting like this since the last hat I made, and I missed it.  I actually learned a few new things in the process, and recalled how much I enjoy watching a piece like this evolve under my fingers.

Speaking of my last hat, I am not sure if I ever whinged about the fact that I lost the hat on campus, when I was picking up the kids from day care.  The other day, I saw my hat on someone else!  I was happy to see it didn't go to waste - like this, it was a handmade, woollen hat and I am glad to see someone else obviously saw some value in it rather than it just getting pitched aside.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Success or fail, you tell me.

So, there are two elements at work here.

We have an Elf, his name is Goomba. Brandon is slightly embarrassed by his name because he arrived in our house when he was 3, or maybe 4.  It seems the years are starting to blur together.  This year, our Elf has been inspired by the Dinosaurs that went viral (check out the article about the parents that set up their kids dinosaurs in different play settings) and by other Elves that have been up to some fun in the 24 nights they get to visit the homes of their kids.

It appears that Goomba made a slight spelling mistake.  Poor Bradon. Perhaps Goomba should not  have arrived back without sleep.  *AHEM*.  Perhaps Connor will become Conner at some point this month?  Time will tell.  Maybe next year instead of trying to do NABLOPOMO, I will attempt to blog a month of the shenanigans our Elf gets up to.

The other element is the LEGO.  Apparently I have been a wee bit obsessed with lego in the last week. It has been quite pathetic actually.  There  have been several nights that everyone is in bed and I am up, playing with lego.  I am not sure if "playing" is the right way to describe what I have been up to.  It could also be classified as organizing all the builds that have been dumped together and who knows what we have, and maybe with Christmas coming, we should really figure it out.  I also think it was oddly therapeutic.  The last few weeks, hell, year, have been interesting for me at work.  I am glad that I switched roles in the last year, however, I think it will be time to try out some different areas of Student Services in the coming year for a CHANGE.  I like what I do… but I think have hit the wall in terms of what I can do within my department. I have been told a few different ways that if I want more, it isn't going to happen in the current context, and I only need to hear and feel it so many times before I am willing and open to take a look around.  I think all that transpired around this awareness was a little unsettling, and I must say, was an eye opening experience.  In the last decade, I have looked for mentors, and frankly, the people I would call mentors have not been the people I thought they would be.  Isn't that life though… always full of surprises.  I think this was also the appeal of lego.  I was creating something from a plan, and it was just nice to follow well crafted directions for a change.  My biggest challenge with our lego is finding all the pieces.  It is weird, I seem to be finding pieces in the oddest places, and at weird times.  The lego builds have been a soothing counterbalance to work.

Talk about a circle - I started with a picture of Goomba with the kids, a little about lego, contemplate work and not truly being all that satisfied about what going back to my old job holds to looking back up  at the picture of my kids.  It puts it all in to perspective.  It will be interesting to see what 2014 holds.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A second book that lived up to the first...

This was a great book.  Both books that I have read by this author are something different entirely.  The characters are memorable, the stories take place in small town America, and they are truly stories about average, every day folks going about their business.

I will admit, the title drew me in.  After the title, it was remembering "Where the Heart is" and it being a crazy book in which the lead character had a baby in a Walmart and the friends they gathered around them spoke true about what a good person could be (regardless of creed, colour, orientation…).

This was another quick read, and one that I  enjoyed.   I am not even sure where to start in terms of describing how this book pulled me in, and to provide a snappy plot summary.  Ultimately this book is about a car hop diner in Oklahoma and the unlikely cast of characters it draws in - from the paraplegic owner, to the run away daughter, to the Vietnamese man that arrives and never leaves.  This is a story about people, and relationships, and at it's core, community.

I love having a huge pile of books to read on my shelf… I get to walk up and see what one strikes my fancy next!