Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Curious Incident of the Grown Up & the Knit Animal Cap

I've been noticing a trend that I'm even hesitant to comment on, for fear of sounding entirely ageist, snarky and judgmental. But after witnessing a woman of a certain age in a violently yellow duck knit cap...I just need to take a stand. If you live in a place where there is, you know, winter, you've probably borne witness to this trend: knit animal caps on grown ups. I did a little light reading. Okay, fine, I could only find one article online.

I don't get the appeal. So maybe someone can explain to me how this trend has grown, seemingly just this year. Is it something fun to knit? A rebellion against regular knit caps? Crazy hats have always been around in the great northlands. Prior to this trend, I associated knit caps that mimic animals or food to be generally a kid-based trend. As in babies. In fact, recently seeing a weensy infant size version of this made me decide to post. It also works well on tots and tweens. It is a look delightfully rocked by young Molly Hayes in the great graphic series, Runaways.

(Via Comic Vine, where you can learn more about Molly Hayes and her awesome fellow Runaways)

See? Totally works on her! BECAUSE SHE IS A CHILD. As the authors of the Molly Hayes Comic Vine post tell us, "Molly is rarely seen without some kind of head wear, she usually wears some sort of beanie or headband. The hats and headbands are usually are usually childish (but still adorable) and look like some sort of animal." AHA. Yes, comic book nerds. These animal hats are rather childish though adorable, aren't they?

A sidebar curious thought to ponder: did Molly Hayes kick-start this trend? Get it? (No? Look at the picture again.) It's a good thing I find myself witty, huh?

But now picture the same cap on the head of say, Hillary Clinton (forget about the mack truck, baby ducks, and break dancer pose. Unless you want to picture the Secretary of State breakdancing w/baby ducks). Doesn't it seem kind of weird? And don't I sound horribly ageist and judgmental? But compare with a visual:

Ultimately, I believe the rule of cute applies here. Things that are cute on a baby? Generally not cute on an adult. Things that are cute on kids and even younger teens? Ditto. However, things that look cute on a grown up?  Three times as cute on a kid.  It is totally unfair, you cute kids.  There is just something about these caps that makes me feel a little uncomfortable, possibly even a little creeped out when I spot one on the head of an individual over the age of say, 16 (but I will give an until 18 window). But it's up you, cap wearers. Hey, totally your prerogative. They are a happy change from the usual winter dreary caps. You wear that smiling animal on your head with pride. But my ultimate verdict? I think I will leave the anthropomorphic outerwear to be modeled by kids.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's a hard knock life for a Printz winner

Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi
New York: Little Brown & Company, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-316-05621-2

Nailer is a ship breaker living and working on the beach of an unrecognizable but easily plausible future New Orleans, ravaged by global warming and the intense weather it brings. He spends his days struggling to stay alive while scavenging inside old tankers, and his nights struggling to stay alive and avoid his drug-addicted and abusive father. In this hard-knock world, getting ahead is nearly impossible to imagine, and finding your "Lucky Strike," or ticket out of the misery, is what everyone dreams of. But after a massive hurricane, Nailer is seemingly struck with luck when he stumbles upon an extremely expensive yacht shipwrecked on the beach. When he finds a wealthy girl hovering on the brink of death inside though, the tides turn. Is it a lucky find? Should he leave her to die, scavenge what he can, and not look back? Or should he leave the boat and save her? Ship Breaker explores the gravity, responsibility, morality, and ethics of decision making, trust, and love. The chapters are filled with life or death chases, near escapes, moments of great valiance and greed, and choices that are not always easy. Baciagalupi's writing is not elegant, but it is serviceable and engaging, and his characters reveal themselves to be working for good or evil on their own terms. Uniquely, all protagonists are minorities. Due to the gruesome end several characters meet at the hands of others, this book is recommended for mature 7th graders through 10th grade.

It's likely that I'm probably bitter that Patrick Ness won no major American prizes for his incredible The Chaos Walking series. But here's where I throw a little truthiness at you. I liked this book. I bought it for my library. I think the adventure will appeal. But I don't think this book is a Printz winner. Not by a long shot. At times I had trouble picking it up, not because I wasn't enjoying it (I was!), or because it was boring (definitely NOT boring!) or too gruesome (frankly, the murder here is...PG.). In fact, I'm not entirely sure why I wasn't hook-line-sinkered, because I usually love me a good adventure/chase. I did enjoy realizing that nobody was Whitey McWhite, unlike the vast majority of YA available. And frankly, it's not that this book or the writing is bad. It just doesn't sing for me or strike me as an original, new concept, like the vast majority of Printz winners. As I said in the review above, the writing is serviceable. But it ain't pretty. And the concepts while deep and provocative, are nothing new.

Don't get me wrong - I don't need to LOVE a Printz winner. But I do think I should at least understand why a winner was deserving. There are so many books that cover all the issues of questioning, burgeoning morality, sense of right verses wrong, trust, family, love, etc. so so SO much more elegantly and eloquently. There just were a few too many shortcomings for me. And to boot, some questions are left unanswered, possibly leaving room for a sequel or same world story. For example, there is no explanation why Tool is free-thinking, yet the other half-men are not. What's up with that? At the end of the day, I will not hesitate in recommending this to my patrons as a great read. But frankly? A Printz winner?

In completely unrelated news, I didn't realize that ship breaking is actually a job. And it apparently sucks just as much as it does in the book. I discovered this video when I googled the book title. Join me in feeling rather glum about this.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recipe 52: Spicy Peanut Soup

Like a bottle of Heinz Ketchup has 52 ingredients, my boy Blue will have 52 recipes. Thus begins the 52 Le Creuset Challenge! Recipe 52 (whatever, whatever, I do what I want, like count down!) was the recipe that started it all. And I'll have you know, it was delish. It comes to me from The Soup Bible, a gem published by Barnes & Noble and edited by Debra Mayhew (ISBN: 978-0-7607-9045-8), but was further edited por moi for reasons like "Oh shizer, I just walked to the grocery store in a blizzard* and forgot to get the corn I set out to get in the first place." This soup is bangtastic, all warm from both the warmth AND the spice, and filled with way more veggies than you originally think. Prep takes a while, but the soup itself cooks pretty quickly.

picy Peanut Soup
Allegedly serves six....but it's really more like eight.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large minced onion
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 large red bell peppers, minced (and obvi seeded)
1.5 cups minced carrots
1.5 cups finely chopped potatoes
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 cups/32 oz vegetable stock
6-8 Tbsp crunchy natural peanut butter**
1 can whole corn kernels (or one cup frozen)***
salt & fresh pepper

1. Heat the oil over medium-high.
2. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, until onions are soft.
3. Add the cayenne and stir for about a minute.
4. Add the vegetables through celery and stir. Cook for around 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the stock, peanut butter, and corn. Stir until the peanut butter incorporates.
6. Season the soup and bring it to a boil.
7. Lower the heat to a medium, bringing the soup to a simmer. Cover.
8. Cook for around 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Adjust spices as you see fit!
9. The soup bible recommends serving this dish with crushed, unsalted, roasted peanuts as a garnish. I recommend just eating it. It's a souper supper.

*I'm not making up a fake blizzard to garner your moste skeptical sympathy points. True story, there was a blizzard. True story, the snow was up to my knees. But true story, I did not walk uphill both ways, Old Timer.
**I wound up using closer to 8 because my original 5 were the remainder of my jar of Teddies. Being au-natural, the oils were mostly gone and it was a tad dry. Thusly, I added about 2-3 more heaping Tbsp's from my fresh jar.
***Being a toolbox, I forgot to get the corn (like I said earlier). I used a can of sweet corn I got at the drug store. I let it soak and rinsed it several times in the hopes that it would strip some of the sugars away. I'm pretty sure this did nothing, and it was really good point? Up to you.

52 Le Creuset (Un amour interdit!)

Several years ago, I entered a long term, committed relationship. My love is Dutch by way of France. Our love is hot, heavy, and durable. We first met online, but things got serious when we bumped into each other at the mall. "Oh heyyyy hot stuff," said I. Things escalated quickly thereafter. We took the plunge on Christmas morning 2008 in a frenzy of gift bows and wrapping paper, and we've never looked back.

I think you're ready to be introduced to my boy, Blue:

You're my boy, Blue!

Earlier this week, cooped up and feeling craftsy during my snow day, an idea of sheer genius struck me like the hammer of Thor. What if Blue and I were to take our love to new levels of heat and passion? What if we were to do it on the stovetop AND in the oven? What if we were to do it 52 times in one calendar year? Would our love grow? Would we try all new recipes for culinary and gastronomic love? Would food porn ensue?
Yes, to all of the above. I will use Blue 52 times to make 52 different recipes. IN ONE YEAR.** Bring it!

Thus begins the 52 Le Creuset challenge.

*It sounds like a fancy restaurant, right? Except it is not! Tricked you! You have my guarantee that many of these recipes will, in fact, be totally less than classy (ie. lots o'cheese, and a strong chance of booze).
** Rules: Each recipe counts only once; there must be 52 total recipes, but they do not need to occur once a week; recipes may use both stovetop and oven; recipes will be both vegetarian and filled with meat and cheese; even failure recipes will count; both Blue and his little brother (kind of like Barbie and Scooter) count; year and challenge end at midnight 12/31/2011 (obvi) EST.
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