Tag Archives: Books

New Food Friday Flash – Irish Soda Bread

15 May

I have been on the hunt for an easy to make, quick, delicious bread recipe since the year of the flood. I think I found it! This is not the usual recipe for Irish Soda Bread. Most recipes I’ve seen contain raisins. This one is raisin free. If I want bread with raisins then I’ll also want cinnamon in it. Then it wouldn’t be Irish Soda Bread, it would be Cinnamon Raisin Bread. I also have a recipe for Irish Soda bread using yeast. This is not that recipe. I started making this bread at 8:00 pm one night when I craved bread. It was on a cooling rack at 9:00 pm. That’s what I’m talking about and that is why this month’s New Food Friday Flash focuses on Irish Soda Bread.

 

The story: I was searching the book shelves at my library for baking books and came across a book by the famous chef, James Beard. When I tried to check it out using the computer checkout station, I couldn’t find the library number on the book. I asked the librarian about it and she said it was an old book so the number would be on the inside cover instead of on the outside of the book. Sure enough, it was inside. I hesitated for a moment when she said “old book” but I thought I’d check it out anyway. Boy, am I glad I did!

 

James Beard’s “Beard on Bread” is a treasure trove of bread recipes. I’ve made two of his breads so far and both were very delicious. The Irish Soda Bread caught my eye because it had no yeast or raisins in the ingredients and when I scanned the recipe, it said to knead for 2-3 minutes. There is no waiting for the dough to rise. His ingredients list did not include any sugar but his directions said to add the sugar! Aaargh! I thought, too many obstacles! This recipe can’t be any good! There is no waiting for the dough to rise? There is no 10-minute kneading as I am used to? Should I add some sugar? Should I leave the sugar out? But I was desperate for a piece of bread! Desperate I tell you. I left the sugar out even though my other Irish Soda Bread recipes contained sugar in the ingredients list. It would only go to my waistline anyway.

 

Here is the recipe:

3 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 ½ to 2 cups buttermilk

 

Beard also included another version of this recipe using all white flour instead of whole wheat flour. I used half white bread flour and half white all-purpose flour. If you use all white, decrease the baking soda to ¾ teaspoon.

 

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly then add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, similar to biscuit dough but firm enough to hold its shape. Knead 2-3 minutes on a floured board. Form into a round loaf and place in a well-buttered 8-inch cake pan or a well-buttered cookie sheet. Cut a cross sign on the top of the loaf with a very sharp, floured knife. As it was baking, it rose and kept rising! It was beautiful bread, decorative because of the necessity to cut a cross on the top with a sharp knife before putting it in my convection toaster oven. It browns nicely in 35 – 40 minutes at 375° in your oven.

Irish Soda Bread in one hour!

Does this bread look like Santa Clause or it is just me?

 

Beard says to cut the bread in paper thin slices. I like it thin, I like it fat, I like it any which way but loose. He likes it buttered. Its great buttered but it is also good with blackberry spreadable fruit. It is very good as garlic toast (slathered in butter, topped with Italian herbs and garlic salt). It would also be good as sandwich bread. You have to try this bread. It’s good for novice bakers, old-hand bakers, what the heck, a kid could make it.

 

It keeps well in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. One-hour bread. I think I died and went to heaven!

Irish Soda Bread T-stand

Yipee! I love this bread!

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The Return – an Audio Book Review

10 Jan Library Books (sxc.hu - alko)

I’ve been listening to and writing reviews for audio books for 3 1/2 years now. Two of my favorite fiction audio books were The Swan Thieves, a storyline that visits France, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo immersing the listener in Sweden. The Return has become my third favorite audio book. It takes place in Mexico and Viet Nam. The common thread for me in these audio books is the different cultures. I am a culture aficionado.

I’m surprised author, Michael Gruber, isn’t as popular as John Grisham or Michael Connolly – authors whose names are household words. The Return is beautifully written and exceptionally performed by Jonathan Davis. It is a story with characters of depth. I demand better writing from myself when I listen to Gruber’s words.

The story begins in New York. The main character, Richard Marder, (sounds like martyr for a good reason and is addressed in the book) learns at the beginning of this tale that he has a brain aneurysm and could die at any time. It is inoperable. The only people who know this are Marder, his doctor, and you, the listener. His friends and family suspect that something is wrong, but they probably can’t be sure because he spent time in the Viet Nam war and they might attribute his behavior to those days even though any aftereffects never showed up before. Unbeknownst to them, he is now having flashbacks to those days, blaming their arrival on the thing in his brain he’s dubbed, “Mr. Thing.” Actually, there are two storylines; one going forward and one going back. The one going back are to his days in Viet Nam with his crazy buddy Patrick Skelly, and to his marital days with his now deceased Mexican wife, Chóle, the light of his life. Marder’s son blames him for her suicide; they are estranged. Marder also blames himself.

This sounds like a depressing story, but only at first glance. It’s inspirational, sometimes philosophical, with threads of religion, and at times, laugh out loud funny. Marder’s daughter, Carmel, provides some of the hilarity. She and Marder are close. She is also close to Skelly, who was a sort of substitute father while she was growing up, teaching her survival techniques that he learned in his career, taking her fishing, teaching her how to fight, how to shoot, skin, and cook deer, rabbit, and more. Marder, on the other hand, took care of the bedtime stories. Perhaps his busy schedule as a book editor of some note didn’t allow him the time to spend with her. Yes, Marder is cultured and well spoken, the opposite of Skelly who is loud mouthed, uncouth, frequently getting into drunken brawls and then rescued through a phone call to Marder, typically at 3:00 am.

Although seemingly different as day and night, they have some similarities. Neither man has money worries. Marder is rich thanks to the Apple stock he bought when it first came out. This is just another well-kept secret. He is a man full of secrets. So is Skelly, who claims to be a “security agent.” He is evasive about his work. They both have a fondness for guns.

Since much of the story takes place in Mexico, be prepared to hear many melodious names of cities there, lilting phrases, and names of the many characters, who take part in Marder’s extraordinary plan to defend his newly bought home, spread on a 277-acre island, from the drug lords who want to take it away from him. They want to develop the land with a casino. Marder has other ideas. He is impervious to the dangers. After all, what does he have to lose?

Jonathan Davis pronounces all the Spanish words and names impeccably. Is it any wonder since Davis was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico? I did a little research to find that out because I was dying to know, as I am enthralled with his voice. He transitions from male to female voices smoothly and believably. Normally, I would not want to read or listen to a book about the Viet Nam war and I’m not that crazy about wars with drug lords. However, this story is so much more. For example, Peppa Espinoza, the news reporter, and Carmel are strong, female characters. Bravery, intelligence, and perseverance are not limited to the men.

I did not know what the story was about when I pulled the audio book off the shelf. I was interested in it because of the reader, Jonathan Davis. I came upon his name while listening to another audio book called Twisted Tree. It too, is a good audio book but is very dark and as you might guess, twisted, with perverted characters. I decided not to review it on my blog because the topic was too smarmy. The chapters in Twisted Tree are read by a variety of excellent performers; I did not know which one was Davis. All I knew was that his voice reminded me of Robert Redford. I knew it wasn’t Redford, but there is so much about Davis’ voice that has the same sound with a similar delivery: professional, cool, and speech that is somewhat clipped at times. On the other hand, that describes the Marder character. Anyway, who can resist Redford? Long story short, I tracked down Davis performing Gruber’s book, The Return. Why they picked such a bland title for such a meaty book is beyond me.

Therefore, ladies, for your listening pleasure, by all means, get The Return! There is romance, many forms of love, a hot, steamy bedroom scene, picturesque vistas, a multitude of well-described visual images, and some unforgettable dialog. In addition, men, there is action, arms, heroism, pretty girls, and adventure to knock your socks off. If you haven’t guessed by now, it is a thought-provoking story. It’s the kind of audio book that you won’t want to turn off so be prepared to let the bills slide, the housework go to hell, and the phone messages to go unanswered. Enjoy 17 ½ hours of this thriller on 14 CDs. You will never guess how it ends. Meanwhile, I will be searching for another audio book by the Gruber/Davis duo. Hasta luego!

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Projects to Get You Off the Grid – REVIEW

12 Oct Flying books

As a homeowner and vegetable gardener, I have an interest in greenhouses and cold frames. I wanted to know more about them, so I picked up a copy of Projects to Get You Off the Grid edited by Noah Weinstein, copyrighted in 2013, which had a photo of a do-it-yourself greenhouse on the cover along with photos of do-it-yourself chicken coops, solar panels, and more. These projects are all from Instructables.com, the most project-sharing community on the Internet. Instructables has over 80,000 projects covering all subjects.

 

I was blown away by the ingenuity of the authors of these projects. Each project is written and photographed by the builder of the project. Here is a list of the projects in the book, some of which are authored by women:

 

  • Backyard chicken Coop
  • Clipping chicken wings
  • Chicken tractor for the city dweller
  • Chicken barrow
  • Wine barrel rain water collector
  • Roughneck (plastic trash can) rain barrel
  • Green solar-powered water barrel
  • Rainwater collection and distribution system
  • 1000 watt wind turbine
  • Wind turbine
  • Chispito wind generator
  • Thermoelectric lamp
  • 60 watt solar panel
  • Solar power system
  • PV solar panels
  • Solar lawn mower
  • Solar-powered fountain/herb garden
  • Solar PV tracker
  • Greenhouse from old windows
  • Bioreactor from recycled water bottles

 

Most projects have several entries. So, for example, there are four different rain barrel projects in this book, each one more elaborate than the next. Unfortunately for me, there was only one greenhouse project. Still, these do-it-yourself experts’ stories can give you great ideas! The editor suggests you visit the Instructables’ online page where you will find more images, links, multimedia attachments, and downloadable material to help you. Other available volumes are: Extraordinary Projects for Ordinary People and How to Do Absolutely Everything.

 

Projects to Get You Off the Grid is nothing if not fascinating! The do-it-yourselfers write about their mistakes too so that you don’t make the same ones. They list the tools and materials you need for each project. Some also show them in a photo or diagram. Some of these projects took the authors several years to build because they scavenged for discarded and scrapped materials! This was the case for the greenhouse.

 

I just love people who use their ingenuity to create something useful or to solve a problem. Anyone who has success with projects like these has a feeling of satisfaction and pride. Each completed project is a good self-esteem booster. And anything that boosts your self esteem is good for your health.

 

***** 5 stars

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Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook – The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home – REVIEW

9 Oct Cleaning

Martha Stewart never does anything half way. The Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook – The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home was started by Martha but it apparently took on a life of its own. So she formed a team of people who helped her with  researching and adding their own homekeeping experiences to produce the ultimate of all homekeeping handbooks.

 

The copyright of the handbook is 2006, so as you might guess, there are a few tips that are outdated. There are 744 pages which makes it a hefty book and I guarantee that you will learn a few things reading it! It’s a very readable book.

 

Martha and her team divided the book in an interesting way. From page 31 to page 477 it’s broken down room by room. The rooms are as follows:

 

Kitchen

Dining room

Living room

Home office

Library

Entryways, stairs, and hallways

Bedroom

Bathroom

Closets

Laundry room

Utility spaces

Outdoor spaces

 

So, if you only want information on everything kitchen, you could browse the kitchen chapter.

 

She doesn’t stop at room domesticity. The next section covers Throughout The House which is further divided by Routine cleaning such as dusting, sweeping, mopping, etc. then Periodic Maintenance such as Floors and Floor Coverings, Ceilings, Walls and Woodwork, etc.

 

If that wasn’t enough, the next section covers Comfort and Safety. This includes Lighting, Electricity, Pest Control, Water systems, Home security, and more.

 

The next section covers Moving. After that is a section called Materials Guide. That would be diamonds, lucite, pewter, taxidermy, tortoiseshell, terra cotta, vinyl records…she didn’t leave any stone unturned. She didn’t include stones per se, but she did include onyx which well, actually is a stone!

 

Finally, she included a Reference section.

 

Martha is nothing if not thorough and I think that’s one of the things I like about her. I also like that you can rely on her advice. She has some amazing tips and hints that I’ve never heard of. For example, it is best to store paint cans upside down (after sealing them carefully) so that the paint will form an airtight seal around the lid. I was very interested in her paint insights since I have been doing painting projects around my house recently. So far I’ve painted a coat closet and the trim around my garage door and back door. I’d like to do a lot more but if I start thinking about it, I’ll feel overwhelmed!

 

There are many photos in Martha’s handbook and she is not shy in showing photos of her own brand such as Martha Stewart latex paint. All photos are in black and white and are of high quality.

 

You can find the most basic help such as How to Wash Dishes by Hand, or Sewing on a Button to more complex help such as How to Fix a Compression Faucet or How to Replace a Wall Switch. Anything electrical has always been something I’ve shied away from but with Martha’s step by step instruction…I might be tempted!

 

My only criticism of this book is her “cleaning calendar.” If I cleaned all the things she suggests you clean daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally, I would probably die of exhaustion and would never need to exercise! Maybe these are the things I should be doing when I wake up at 3:00 am and can’t get back to sleep! That would be the only way I could fit in all the cleaning. Other than that, I highly recommend Martha’s handbook. It would make a great gift at a bridal shower or for a young person getting their first apartment if you don’t mind spending $45.00.

5 stars *****

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End of Support for XP so I’m Canceling my ISP on April 8

24 Mar System Failure (sxc.hu DGBurns)

Sometimes it’s good to get things off your chest and to assert yourself. It’s good for your health and as we all know, my blog is about good health. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Here’s the story.

Those of you with Windows XP know that Microsoft is ending its support on April 8.  As I have mulled over this event since their announcement, I decided that I did not want to upgrade my desktop computer to Windows 7 or 8 in order to avoid malware and viruses and other clouds of doom. And I resent the fact that it is expected of me.

So, in my way of protest, I have scheduled to cancel my Internet Service as of April 8, the same day Microsoft is ending XP support. What gives? I am so glad you asked.

1. I resent being led around by the nose by the Microsoft conglomerate needing to line their pockets by forcing consumers to buy new software when XP has been doing a good job for us. Better than Vista, better than Windows 8. Nobody liked either one.

2. I scoff at their cavalier throw-away attitude and lack of concern for the environment because rather than upgrade, many people will decide to buy new computers with Windows 8 loaded on it and not load software on their old computer all day long.

3. I’m mad at programmers and software developers for not creating better products that could last longer. Yes, I want computer products to last longer so that we don’t have landfills overflowing with discarded computers that take years and years to break down and then pollute the land and the air while doing so. Read more about computer pollution here.

4. I’m ticked off at AT&T my ISP (Internet Service Provider). I try to avoid calling them because I know that every time I do, it means a long conversation where they try to get you to buy something or add something and you can’t get done what you need to get done until they let out all the stops and wear you down! Other people must have complained about this issue because this time I was asked if I would allow the representative to explain other product options. I told her no. I asked if I decided to get DSL again in the future would I be able to. She said no.  She said she would explain why but since I already told her I did not want her to explain, that she would not be able to tell me. Oh boo-hoo my heart is broken! Then she said, to cover her *ss, you’ve probably gotten notices in the mail about these new products or options or whatever she called them. Yeah, like every week! They never stop coming. And the funny thing is that it is about $15 more than what I’m paying now so why would I want it? But I didn’t say that. I was nice. Speak softly and carry a big stick is my motto.

Then she tried to get me to agree to call waiting and some other service because it would be a package deal. Oh boy, a package deal! Would it save me money this special package deal? Heck no, it costs more than what I’m paying now. Thanks but no thanks.

Then at the end of the conversation she said if I change my mind, they could re-instate my DSL service. Huh? Didn’t she just tell me I couldn’t have DSL anymore if I cancelled it?

So what does this mean for us? For you, me,  my blog and my posts?

I went to my local library branch today and inquired about using their computers. Since I have a library card, I am allowed 1 hour at a time. If I need more time, I can sign up on their computer for another hour. My library is about 2-3 minutes from my house. At 2:30 pm today, all their computers were in use. I’ll have to get there earlier.

At this point I don’t know if using the library computers will work for me. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. As of now, I’m not canceling my New Food Friday posts. If worse comes to worse, I’ll just do them as time permits instead of the 3rd Friday of the month.

The last time I checked, there were still over 400 million XP users out there who hadn’t upgraded to Windows 7 or 8.  For a different point of view about the XP issue, read this.

When I had Window’s ’95 on my old laptop computer, I ended up having to upgrade to Window’s ’98. When I did so, my $200 audio system did not function correctly with it anymore. To this day, I’m still tinkering with it, trying to “fix” it. If I upgrade to Windows 7 or 8, on my desktop computer, my Italian language software programs will not work, nor will my printer and who knows what else. I can probably get an upgraded driver for my printer but it will be difficult if not impossible to do anything about my language CDs. I use them around Christmas time to send letters written in Italian to my relatives in Italy. I refuse to buy new language CDs when I’m happy with what I’ve got.

Upgrading XP boils down to spending a lot of time correcting computer issues, searching for solutions and being chained to my desk a little longer. I’ve already written a post about how sitting at your desk is not good for your health. If you haven’t read it, check it out here.

After all the record snow we had here in Indy this winter, 55″ (and counting) when we usually have between 19″-23″ depending on which news program you follow, I am itching to get out in the sunshine! I don’t want to spend more time on my computer, I want to spend less time!

Well, some of my prayers have been answered. A website, epinions.com,  that I had written reviews for the last six years, has shut down. Kaput, The End, No More. I typically spent 3 hours writing each review. I’ve written over 400 reviews. To read them, click REVIEWS at the top of the page. While this turn of events frees up my time, it also lightens my pocketbook because I was paid for these reviews. Some of these reviews were of books.

I’ve recently gotten in the habit of listening to audiobooks. I love them! But now I have no outlet to write about them. Unless I do it here.  The way I see it, listening to audiobooks or reading printed books is good for your health because they are entertaining, often educational, can increase your vocabulary, and darn it, I say they’re good for your health! So, while I haven’t decided completely, I’m leaning towards adding book reviews to this blog.

Final words. A few people got rich crying out, “A computer on every desk!” We followed these commands like lambs to the slaughter. Have they (computers) really saved us time? How many times has someone misread your email so that you had to write another email explaining your original email? How many times have you hit the delete key for the Spam you got and then had to go into your Trash folder because you (or  software) accidentally deleted an email that you wanted to keep? How much time have you spent online trying to find a free anti-virus program that didn’t eat up all your resources and slow down your computer to a crawl? How many times have you gotten the “Unresponsive script” warning and it hung up your computer? How many times has malware or a virus screwed up your computer because your anti-virus software didn’t catch it? How many times….fill in the blank with your own time-consuming computer issue. Enough already!

I know. Normally I’m a quiet girl but when I get a bee in my bonnet, look out! The wheels are in motion, my mind is made up. Upgrade be damned! AT&T call yourself and hang up. Power to the people!

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