Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hermits: Two Ways

Chances are if you live outside of the northeast corner of the United States, you may never have experienced the singular delight that is the hermit.  What's that you say?  A hermit?  You mean dudes who live in the woods alone? Oh no, all two of you dear readers.  Not only do I suspect those dudes may not be delightful, but I also frown on cannibalism.  I'm talking about the second definition of hermit in the Merriam Webster Dictionary, and the first definition of favorite cookie in my heart:

Merriam Webster

I double dog dare you to use beadsman in a sentence.  I mean, what's not to love about a spiced molasses cookie (unless you like neither spice nor molasses, in which case: look away, you're not about to like what's about to happen below).  

I digress though, which is a shame because I could talk for days about how much I've loved hermits since childhood (New England grocery stores do a pretty good one, for the record) and how I decided that I needed to learn how to make my own, motivated in part by being trapped inside during the Big Snow from basically January to March of 2015.  There was much research that happened; I consulted the Internet via the Googles and Pinterest, my cookbook cache (Joy of Cooking, New Best Recipe) and cobbled together something that I determined on my first try would be my only try going forward...until just this weekend when I got it into my head that adding candied ginger in lieu of raisins would be either a terrible idea or a highly delicious idea.  

Spoiler alert: it's a highly delicious idea.  Because it is the time of year when we survive on a diet comprised primarily of sugar, tidings and yule, washed down with nog, and also giving, I give to you, all two readers, the best ever hermit recipe (but yeah...I'm a librarian who teaches your kids to think good, so consider the source bias, duh), times two! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mushroom Barley Soup

It's almost the season that shall not be named...but for now, we get to enjoy the best parts of fall: cool nights and mornings, excuses to wear sweaters and cute boots, eat warm or warming things, and drink wine.  This recipe allows all three of the last three things to happen simultaneously, weather and attire is up to you though!

Also - you can probably make this vegetarian, but may need to do some body building in the soup to replace it...maybe a Tbsp tomato paste or miso? Maybe both?
Mushroom Barley Soup
Mushroom Barley Soup
Serves 4-6
Mushroom Barley Soup

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

All that glitters is gold...or cholera: Walk on Earth a Stranger, by Rae Carson

Walk on Earth a Stranger
Rae Carson
Harper Collins, 2015
ISBN: 978-0062242914

Lee Westfall is relatively content in her life in a Georgia homestead with her mother and ailing father, though she does wish they could use the windfall from her secret ability to sense gold to improve things without major ramifications.  Major ramifications take that choice away from her when she returns home from school one day to find her parents murdered and their hidden gold findings missing.  With nothing to hold her back, her best friend Jefferson, a half Cherokee boy urges her to run away west with him in pursuit of the gold that is there for the taking in California.  Lee is reluctant, and Jeff sets off with the promise that he’ll wait as long as he can in Independence, MO for her if she decides to join. When her uncle turns up at the funeral covered in gold dust that only Lee can sense and tells her he has plans for her it is abundantly clear to Lee that he is behind her parents deaths.  Lee realizes her best option is to follow Jeff west, disguises herself as a boy, and begins the formidable, perilous and adventure filled journey west - to Jeff, gold, and away from her uncle and past.  Along the way she, along with the millions who also made the historic journey, will encounter no less than bandits, buffalo, brutality, racial tensions, starvation, exposure, medical emergencies, all while trying to stay alive and hide her identity and talent.  This is a nonstop historical fiction with a touch of whimsy and a promise of future romance, and it is wholly engrossingly fabulous!  With realistic characters in realistic yet hard to fathom from a contemporary standpoint, it is a strong recommendation for all libraries serving teen patrons or with adults who love YA.  Basically, unless you have no money, buy this book.     

Perhaps the most articulate way to say this is that some books can be hugely absorbing, and I found that to be the case with this one.  But a better way to say it is this: a book has not hit my squee button like this in quite some time - like May, when I read the Royal We (or actually probably also Uprooted).  

Monday, November 2, 2015

Case of the Terribles: Fall Flavors

I'd like to invite all y'all to join my rally cry against the orange tinged dark arts I've been spotting in grocery stores, food aisles, running supplements, and most offensively and horrifyingly, my parents refrigerator.  Hear my rally cry against the indencency of pumpkin spicing, maple baconing, or caramel appleing everything! Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a strategically placed piece of pumpkin bread or maple syrup pour (right in my mouth hole area), but things have been getting out of hand, food producers of North America.  When the irreproachable and humble workhouses that are English muffins take on a pumpkin spice hue, I have to wonder: can no food product go unsullied?!

Hear my rally cry against the indecency of pumpkin spice everything: nooooo mooooooooooooooore!  (And especially no more pumpkin beer in July. JUST NO.)

 Please note the relative health of all these things is overwhelmingly, impressively, and staggeringly healthy.  

Here be the grossest things I've found in the wild this fall season:

Maple. Bacon. Energy. Gel.
 Because energy gel wasn't gross enough, we flavored it like sweet meat.  
I'm no wizard, but I predict this will go over real well at mile 15.

Monday, October 26, 2015

These Shallow Graves, by Jennifer Donnelly: when good girls go jouralist

These Shallow Graves
Jennifer Donnelly
Delacorte, 2015
NetGalley advance digital copy

In picking this book up, I will admit to hoping it would be a book with a mix of costume drama, drama, some historically inappropriate heat, a smidge of feminsim, smoldering gazes, more costumes, and a dramatic plot twist or fifteen.  Basically, I was hoping for the Luxe meets House of Mirth meets Newsies meets sexy gilded age crime thriller murder fun times.  Or something like that.  I mean, doesn’t the publisher summary lead you to believe this?

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly. Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort shot himself while cleaning his pistol. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was a partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun. The more Jo hears about her father’s death, the more something feels wrong. Suicide is the only logical explanation, and of course people have started talking, but Jo’s father would never have resorted to that. And then she meets Eddie—a young, smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. But now it might be too late to stop. The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and this time the truth is the dirtiest part of all.  (Random House summary on NetGalley)

DUM DEE DUM DUM DUMMMMMM.  (Mathnet theme music, anyone?)

I probbbbably read toooo much into this, led by my hope for a delightfully costumed scandal novel I could rip through.   I’ll cop to believing (or hoping) this would be darker, more serious, and more mature, so I was a bit perturbed to discover the treacle in my treacle tart a bit sweeter and perhaps corn syrupy than I'd hoped for.  However, I when I got around to rearranging my expectations, I found that  I was enjoying myself enjoying this turn of the century book on society, news, and unexpectedly, forensic science. Yes, forensic science. Which was actually a pleasant albeit gross surprise. was definitely not totally historically accurate on that count, nor were the dialogue or actions of the primary characters.  This is a really fun, exciting, feminist story - perhaps a bit more than would have been realistic, but feminist, nonetheless.  The writing, dialogue and pace can be choppy, and at times the historian inside was rolling her eyes at those points, but overall, it's a really fun story, with likable characters, interesting social commentary, and lots of smoldering intrigue. In fact, weirdly, I’d actually rate the Luxe, despite the obvious wayyy over the top sexytimes as slightly more historically appropriate.  But whatever.  If you want a smutty costume drama book, read the Luxe.  Good for fans of Newsies, or those still recovering from the devastation of the House of Mirth who hoped against logic it would end differently!  I’m wondering if some recently published titles (like Sarah Donati’s The Gilded Hour) might scratch the itch I was looking to scratch when I picked this one in August!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Pollo Viejo (Ropa Vieja w/Chicken)

Sometimes, I really like Cuban food.  Scratch the sometimes, and sub in the word always, come to think. It is salty, and savory, and oh-so-soul warming.  And I was in the mood to warm my soul via my belly, and decided to do a little experimenting.  Ropa vieja, you see, is usually made with beef.    I, however, was craving chicken and also olives, which are fairly common ingredients in a lot of Latin cooking (note: TexMex? Not authentic.  Sorry, team). know what happened if you took middle school Spanish and/or live in the Americas, because this one is called Pollo Viejo.  

I made this recipe early in the summer, and am revisiting it now that there is a certain chill in the air and that I want to be hovering over a stove again!  It makes a lot.  A lot a lot.  Invite your entire village a lot. And as with most stewy bean or meat dishes, I think it tastes better on day two. I served it with some rice on the side, and will probably up the olives when I make it again.  The only thing missing was a mojito or glass of sangria, but I think you can fix that one to taste, right?  

Pollo Viejo (Ropa Vieja w/Chicken)
Serves a village raising a child (just one)

Pollo Vieja (Ropa Vieja w/chicken)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Case of the Terribles: Twilight Reimagined

Just the other day I was wondering what happened to Stephenie Meyer, whose decision to spell her first name thusly is at best in and of itself a case of the terribles, and at worst, possibly a crime against humanity.  Turns out she's been super busy, breaking new and important ground.  As in, she rewrote Twilight, but just swapped the genders of her protagonists, in a new book titled Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined.

Apparently it's supposed to make us rethink gender roles.  The bravery. The creativity. The sensitivity. The courage.

I can't even...

This is real.  This is happening.  

Look at this display vulnerable masculinity, you guys.  You know he's strong but kind, and willing to fall for a lady vamp who sneaks in and watches him sleep, just from those manicured nails.  This sensitive human dude could squash that apple just like a lady vamps heart if he wanted.  But he won't. Because love.

(But seriously - will there be a vampire baby and werewolf love triangle? I have standards, Stephenie.) 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ain't no dragin' in Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

New York: Del Rey, 2015
ASIN: B00KUQIU7O (read on Kindle)

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon.
I’ll cop to why I read this: I skimmed the summary, read the words “dragon” “girls he takes" and “human sacrifice” and was all, Ooooh. But it also sounded like Dealing with Dragons -- naturally I was in!  I was hoping for a cozy magical book of cozy magic and some adventure.  This is also why I’ve taken the lazy route and used the publisher review instead of writing my own.  I’m not 100% a bad reader...but maybe 80%, because I clearly stopped reading in depth after the first part sentence and missed the second part of the description, in which it clearly states that the dragon is not actually a real dragon:

Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.” 
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose. (Publisher text)
WHATEVER. But omg you guys -- forgive Naomi Novik her lack of dragon.   Also me, for not being able to read, because it clearly states several times that there are no real dragons to be had.  I’m realizing I may not be what your English teach referred to as a reliable narrator (reader), but give me a second chance, mmmkay?  You’d hate to miss out on this one.

This book is so not even just that jacket flap...that’s just like the first three chapters of many chapters, and then it is all that and a bag of freshly baked hot biscuits.  I know, because I actually paid attention (after realizing I wasn’t, obvi).  It goes well beyond what is advertised and proved quite the fairy-tale adventure!  This book is so. so. awesome. I was not anticipating it, and it took me completely by surprise.   It’s not at all the book you think you’re going to read when you start off, but it is the fantasy novel I’ve been wanting to read for a while but hadn’t found until halfway through the book.  Another way to say that is that I was sad because it ended, and that’s a sign of a good book to me.  Another another way to say it is that it is magical, and I was enchanted (womp womp).  By now, you should know me well enough by now to not expect better than bad puns of me when I’m really delighted by something...

There’s a heck of a lot of character growth, a lot of empowerment, a lot of magic, but of a practical sort (nature! cleaning! also fashion!), zero actual dragons (stop rubbing it in those of you who can read good), some steamy scenes, action, adventure, romance, nature, empowerment, etc.  Basically, it’s like Graceling meets Fantasia meets a Grimm fairy tale in rural peasant-y Russia or somewhere Eastern European with just a slight touch of Dealing with Dragons.  It may make you want to try borscht (note: I still haven’t ever tried borscht).  Is this one for kids, as I initially thought it might be, given that I thought it would be like Dealing with Dragons? Probably not anyone younger than 15 or 16  if you’re not cool with them reading a sexy sex scene.  I’d say it’s probably mostly cool for mature teens, who will probably love this, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.  But if that worries you, you’ve been warned!  The rest of you pervs can read up (kidding - you real pervs are reading Outlander.  And loving it!).  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Case of the Terribles: Do You Want to Play with my Balls edition

Some of us are never mature enough to discuss the word balls without giggling, because we're secretly 12 year old boys.  This one is for us, team - all us otherwise functional adults who snicker at immature things.  But if you're say, more into proving yourself better than/more right/a fair judge of everything everyone else does/a paragon of righteous morality, this is also for you, and just in time for Banned Books Week!  Bossy Internet Morality Police (BIMPs), mount up!

Behold a new book "for children":

Naturally, BIMPs are having a rightous pout about this, while the rest of us super (im)mature types perhaps weren't naive enough to think this was actually for real a book for children.  I mean, please read the back of the jacket.

If you BIMPs are still upset, I suggest you read a peaceful children's book and take a nap until you can talk in an inside voice and stop embarrassing yourself and your childhood librarian on those comment streams.  

Well played, brothers Cifaldi!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Warm Dijon and Balsamic Lentil Salad with Soft Eggs

It is the first day of fall.  Rejoice! Even though fall is probably my favoritest season, I'm usually a bit more put out by the end of summer, but I had an admittedly odd one and am very much looking forward to this fall and seasonal changes and getting back to running around outside to enjoy the crisp air!  Also, Thanksgiving.  But I'm getting ahead of myself with that.  September is a great time of year because there is still so much wonderful, fresh, delicious summery produce, but there is a little chill to the air that makes me want to eat warming foods again.  

I have a great recipe for a lentil farro salad I have yet to post, but that's a really summery meal, what with cukes and cherry tomatoes and basil and like...served chilled and all.  It's not what I want on a night when you can feel the changing seasons and suddenly find yourself thinking about warm cider donuts, crisp apples, knee high brown boots, and drapey sweaters instead of cranking up the AC for the first time in months. I had all the ingredients for my cold lentil farro dish, but just wasn't in the mood, and decided to switch it up and go for a warm one, with a little balsamic and a nice soft egg.  It uses a lot of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, some dijon, and a lot of patience not to sample it all before you serve it.  I think it's a good way to ease yourself from one season to the next!

Warm Dijon and Balsamic Lentil Salad with Soft Eggs
Serves 4-6
Warm Dijon and Balsamic Lentil Salad

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Case of the Terribles: choose your own pants adventure

JCrew has been on fire with the fug, or so their sales seem to indicate.  This both delights me (because you know how I love a case of the terribles), and terrifies me, because ugh, get it together, your clothes are in sizes and shapes that fit me wellllll you guysssssss.

However, let's delight in a case of terribles.  Say you hypothetically have a cool $500 to burn, and also terrible taste. Probably you have a small white dog with a taste for human flesh.  Maybe you're an oil baron's lesser valued third wife. Say you want to stand out because that first wife has been a total bitch about shared jet time recently and also totally stole your appointment at the spa.   Choose your own adventure:


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Crown jewel of summer 2015: The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

The Royal We

As we say in Boston, it is wicked hot this week, and there are roughly five minutes of summer left, so it seems timely to sneak in the ultimate summer reading book in right under the wire, right?  Ladies and...okay, mostly ladies, please meet The Royal We.  That I loved this book should come as no surprise to those of you who either know me or who have been paying attention.  I’m deeply committed to the guilty pleasure found in bad movies, so when The Prince and Me came out some 13 years ago, I’d say I was predisposed to love it - and that was before I became a librarian. There’s a stacks smooch scene, duh. (See also: lawn mower racing, 796.1)  

Chances are if you identified as female or were really into fashion, weddings, royalty, Britannia, and so on in 2011, you probably got up hella early (in my time zone or west o’me) and had tea and scones as you watched the entire royal wedding, all before heading into work where it was discussed and dissected in great detail, allllll day, amongst any and all women, young, older, younger, and older. It led to many a rolled eye amongst the male population at my American high school (but they totally loved the pictures of Pippa’s bum, just admit it, dudes).  If you were in the UK, you were probably three champagne toasts in by the time I was vigorously debating lace detailing and flower girls with no less than three fifteen year old girls in braces, two secretaries and science teachers, an English teacher, and a custodian.  It was a great unifier, so I hope you’re taking note, North and South Korea.

Remember how fun that was, you guys?  We attended a wedding that we really didn’t, of a couple we all totally know but don’t, and then we broke it all down like sportscasters.  SO FUN.  Wills, Kate, Harry, Pippa, Pippa’s bum...I mean.  Come on.  The gossip game, like Kate’s hair, was on point, and the fairy tale aspect off the chain (trees in the cathedral! trees in the cathedral!).  It was glorious.  

And then we went on with our lives, unless say, your life involves a weekly post on royals ‘round the world on your terrific, funny, and highly readable blog, Go Fug Yourself.  If you’re those ladies, you got busy writing about all the things we mere bush league players speculated about from the day the princes suddenly emerged from the palace ovens as total biscuits (scones?) and locked down their places in the glossy pages of teen magazines (you guys remember those glossy hand-held things we had when the Internet was potty training, right?).  

Behold, the best book to happen to your travel bag, at least in 2015:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Adjust your joysticks, fanboys: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Fanboys of the world, I’d say this one is for you, but chances are you’re rolling your eyes at that belated statement, given that the United States movie rights for this one were obtained for the low price of 7 million dollars and it’s got some newb of a director called Spielberg attached.  That’s right - JUST the rights for the US.  For the rest of us less...say, fervent nerds, behold a book we can read and enjoy instead of fighting crowds at Comicon (#neverwilliever), or reading a Bill Gates/Steve Jobs romance fan fiction (if this exists and you find it for me, I will buy you a pizza.  Seriously.  That will be your Easter Egg).  That is also to say, I, an avowed video game h8r enjoyed it, and suspect many of you nerds/geeks on all ends of the spectrum (like to fervent to obsessive) who enjoy fun adventure books will too (but I didn’t think there were enough BSG or Goonies references, so WHAT UP, Mr. Cline?  Sloth love Chunk.).  

It is 2044, and the world is a dystopia meets technerd utopia. The climate and world, physically and politically, are a big ole mess; people live in urban squalor, and more or less everyone spends all day plugged into a virtual world called the Oasis in some capacity: schools, business, government, entertainment, banking and commerce (I’m assuming Bitcoins finally took off), etc. - it all happens 24/7 in the Oasis,  an immersive virtual reality accessed via some recognizable yet futuristic technology: visors, consoles, gaming systems, sensor suits, etc.  When Oasis cofounder and owner, the eccentric 80’s enthusiast, recluse, and billionaire James Halliday dies, he leaves behind a will in video form stipulating that he has created a treasure hunt and hidden virtual three keys inside the Oasis that unlock an Easter Egg: ownership of his entire fortune and his owning stake in the Oasis. Wade Watts, a (virtual) high school senior, and millions of others around the virtual and physical world become obsessed with finding it.  Wade, or Parzival, as his avatar is known online, however, is the first person to find a key.  The virtual world begins to bleed even more into the physical world, and danger becomes more than a virtual reality. Wade soon finds himself in deeper than he ever could have imagined.  

There are too many ways to count the 80’s pop culture references, and there is enough adventure, fun, nerd romance, nostalgia, and moments of distorted looking glass recognition in this bizzarely plausible future; it’s much more Wall-E than Gattica, if you will.  It’s super fun, period, but I admit to suspecting you’ll find it more fun if you’re over 28ish and have a functional memory of the 80’s.  It’s enjoyable too if you like dystopias, techy sci-fi, Xbox, World of Warcraft (give these little Minecrafters 10 years and they’ll be on board, Mr. Cline), want an Ender’s Game readalike but aren’t a homophobe, and are roughly 13 and up (there’s some naughty words, I think, if you care about that).  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Are you not entertained by Court of Fives?: Court of Fives, by Kate Elliot

Court of Fives

Jessamy dreams of the Court of Fives, an American Gladiator-esque competition in her Roman-esque world.  The masked game offers her a chance to shed the dual identity she bears in anonymity and receive accolades based on skill alone.  Jess is the daughter of an aristocratic general and a commoner; her dark skin marks her as different, and few in the aristocratic Patron class accept her family.  When Jes lets Kalliarkos, the Patron nephew of a scheming lord, beat her on the Court to avoid being unmasked, he finds her and they strike up an unlikely and societally unappreciated friendship.  However, Jes’ world is upended and her family torn apart when Kal’s powerful uncle turns her father into a pawn in his game. Jess must choose whether or not to risk her own dreams to save her family as the game becomes her reality.

I was handed this book last fall by the lovely Jenny Choy at Little Brown, who game me a tour of their beautiful (then) new space and handed me this book with a knowing “I think you’ll like this one.”  Well guess what, Jenny?  You were right.  I didn’t get the chance to pick it up for a while (and even longer to write this), but when the snows finally rolled in I had at, and yep - totally dug this book!  

The world Kate Elliot created feels historical, perhaps Greek or Roman, with the gladiator fightclubdeathmatch part replaced with the American Gladiatoresque challenge/race in an arena/coliseum.  The racial and class issues are as historic as they are timely. Moreover, they are given due diligence without becoming righteously preachy or superseding the other aspects of character development and allow for good parallels to be drawn.  Teachers, this could be an easy way to crack open a conversation about diversity in this world and our own with 7-9th graders.  Jes isn’t just biracial, she’s stuck between two social classes, a young woman discovering herself, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an athlete, and she is capable of love and struggles with forgiveness and hard decisions.   She’s a multifaceted character in a complex world. She’s wholly human and one I think many young people of many colors and social classes might find appealing. Maybe they’ll have themselves an adventure and a think while reading Court of Fives (until you trick them into #hardtalks and ruin it you teachers, gawd)!

I recommend this for fans of the Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, or like...Lindsey Davis books (I haven’t read any, but they’re classical, right?!).  This is probably best for ages 12 and up.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Green Beans ala Carter

You be aware that President Jimmy Carter, he of the peanut farming and Iran hostage crisis, and a heck of a lot of good deeds done around the world (there's that small honor of a Nobel Peace prize or something), announced just a few days ago that he has cancer.  
I'm saddened to hear that and hope he has good people around him and that recovery is in the cards so he can keep doing said good deed around the world. Who can't get behind a guy who belongs to a gang of geriatrics called the Elders? Those punks push world peace, you guys!  

I made this green bean dish a few weeks ago for my Presidential themed potluck, where I also made Michelle Obama's Minty Spring Pea Salad. Green beans, it turns out, were noted in a few places as one of Carter's favorite foods. Factoring in the peanut farming was easy enough, and voila! Green beans ala Carter.

Green Beans ala Carter

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Iced Coconut Latte

Do you enjoy fancy coffee beverages?  Do you sometimes feel as though a pirate may jump around the corner, cackling maniacally when you go to pay for it at the coffee shop or when you decide to buy a pre-made one at the store because the price is usually around eight dollars, one kidney, and the naming rights to your children?  As much fun as it would be to name a kid after a coffee beverage (“This is my baby, Non-fat Flat White Smith”), it’s also kind of ridonkulous to me that sometimes I pay like three to five bucks for a drink I could in some cases make on my own dayum time if I weren’t say...lazy.  I started to wonder if I could sort of make a coffee drink like one I’ve always really liked, Vita Coco’s Original Cafe Latte.  It’s available at that link but also available in most grocery stores in MA, and usually costs around $2.50-$3.00.  If you do that once, fine, but it’s not the most generous of pours, and that it can add up fast if say, you want two to fifteen of them a month.  Was there a way to make this at home, using say, the coffee and coconut and milk I already had?  I do enjoy a nice cold-brew made in a French press overnight in the summer, and it struck me that the easiest thing in the world would be to cold-brew my coffee using coconut juice instead of water.
Iced Coconut Latte

SCIENCE. Or something.   I’m clearly writing about this because it worked. Be cool, guys -- this discovery is about as important as when Ben Franklin, my favorite nudist, decided to take his tenders and also key on a kite out into a lightning storm to see what would happen.  I’ve never been accused of being a mathlete, but I think if you make a big batch of this, it’ll wind up saving you a bit over time (guesstimating that coffee is $9-12/lb, a 12 oz can of coconut juice can be purchased for $1 and up, and milk is...probably in your fridge already).  Also, there is no price for feeling smug, and you can get that too if you make this instead of buying it.  

Sidebar: Please note that I did not call this Thai.  Because seriously, why do we call everything with coconut Thai?  Do they even grow coffee in Thailand?  Coconuts grow like...anywhere near the equator.  Wouldn’t something like a coconut coffee drink be better served by calling it Mexican (just behind Thailand on the list of top coconut production in the world), or Brazilian (top producer of coffee in the world, also on the coconut list?) or even like...Indian. Get some Indian-Brazilian-Mexican Iced Coconut Coffee drink here right now! Not everything Mexican includes chile, dudes.  MIKE DROP.

Iced Coconut Latte
(Single serving)
Iced Coconut Latte
2 Tbsp ground coffee (heaping Tbsp for richer coffee flavor)
1 12 oz can coconut juice
¼ cup milk
ice, ice, baby
French Press

  1. Pour coffee and coconut juice into a French press, but don’t press yet. Place in fridge and let chill 6-8 hours.
  2. Press.  
  3. Pour into a large cup and add milk and ice.  
  4. If you feel fancy, add a straw.  
  5. Enjoy.  

You can make cold-press coffee even if you don’t have a French press!  Just let the mixture sit in a jar overnight, and then pour it through a coffee cone filter.
I wound up adding just a touch more milk to mine, because I prefer non-fat milk.  I suspect with a higher fat percentage the creaminess will work with the ¼ cup pour, but you get your calcium on any which way you want it!  
You could probably also use almond, soy or other milk substitute, but I’d warn you to be careful that the coconut already has a lot of sugar; you should probably use an unsweetened milk substitute unless you like feeling your teeth actively rotting.  
You may have a bit too much coconut juice for the size of the French press.  Just freeze any extra and make a coconut ice cube to use when you serve this!  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Once upon an island: A Brief History of Montmaray, by Michelle Cooper

Once upon a time in a land far away, but not too far way if you’re English or coastally European, there was an independent kingdom named Montmaray.  Once a tiny island principality, the population has dropped to roughly a dozen, including the ruling family, the FitzOsbournes, comprised of our narrator, orphaned sixteen-year-old Sophie, her slightly ferral little sister, her cousin who records the history of the island, and her uncle, the king, who would have been declared legally insane long ago had they wanted to let that cat out of the bag.  The rest of the island’s shrinking population is a scattershot of loyal villagers.  Island life is rough - subsistence based and supplemented by a few ships that pass in a year - and hardly what you would picture for royalty, yet the FitzOsbournes make due.  They love their island dearly, crumbling castle and all, and often rely upon their rich aunt who provides for Sophie’s brother (the crown prince), who lives off-island to attend Eton.  The year, however, is 1936, and nations considerably larger than their own are beginning to test the waters; international politics becomes a hot topic amongst the Montmaravians and their loyal servants, one of whom may or may not be the apple of Sophie’s eye.  When a group of German “archaeologists” lands on shore, the FitzOsbournes are suddenly thrown into the deep end.  

This book has a slow start and potentially misleading cover (what is this, Wuthering Heights? Dracula? Lord Byron, are you there?) but an exceptionally strong finish!  I believe enchanted would be a word I would use to describe what this book did to me.  I read it in the spring solely because it’s on my (official) summer reading list, and I had contemplated recommending we cut it.  I’m so, so glad I gave it a chance, because I really loved it!  It has it all: castles, accents (I imagine, but whatever), intrigue, history, romance, danger, and yes...sequels that I’m dying to pick up!  We don’t have to walk away from these lovable, quirky characters! I give this two finger and two toe thumbs up, and recommend it for all school/YA library collections, along with those of the female persuasion aged 12 and up (there’s some medical violence that could be upsetting to younger readers but it’s otherwise cool), but dudes who maybe watch Downton, you should check this out too!  

Friday, July 31, 2015

Readalikes: Girl on the Train, The Fixer, Daughter of Deep Silence

Amigos, I'm trying something new today.  Here are three books I've read this summer that struck me as easy readalike suggestions.  All would be excellent beach books, but only one smells like a fish.  Are any of them school-summer reading list worthy?  No.  Do you care?  No.  They're beach bag worthy, and that's all you need, besides sunblock, a cold beverage, and a beach.  And probably a beach bag to put them in.  

Here are your readalikes, friends:

  • Girl on the Train vs. Gone Girl  
  • The Fixer vs. Scandal
  • Daughter of Deep Silence vs. Revenge

Read on for reviews:
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