Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Eye of the Tiger

Buffy: I'm just worried this whole session's gonna turn into some training montage from an 80's movie.
Giles: Ah. Well, if we hear any inspirational power chords, we'll just lie down until they go away.

I've got to get back to my healthy eating. Possibly even counting my Weight Watchers points. Definitely measuring things instead of just dumping oil in the pan. It is my hope that Lilah will wean someday, preferably soon, and I am already giving her far fewer of my calories. I slipped into sloppy eating habits, and I really can't explain how or why, because I actually like whole grains, lean protein sources, fruits, and vegetables, and I feel better when that's mostly what I'm eating (along with a healthy dose of dark chocolate). But I've been tired due to lack of sleep (Lilah, for the love of Pete, you have got to start sleeping through the night consistently!) and feeling discouraged about not getting much done on the writing front, and I tend to seek comfort food. Plus, my days of daily exercise videos are over since I have to scramble to get things done during the precious Nap Time, though Lilah and I have been going on walks. Added to that that I've been able to add in dairy, which I'm eating way too much of, and I have to Do Something so my weight doesn't slide back up to where it was a year ago. I haven't done much damage (three pounds can be removed easily in a week), but it's time for an intervention. I know it's a smidge late for New Year's resolutions, but whatever. Expect to hear reports of healthier meals here, and I'll share any good light recipes I come across (or invent). Anyone want to join me?

Knitting: Continuing the Tiger theme...

Hee hee. I love the stripes. Too cute. This is going just fine. I got the short-row toe (finally!) and I'm knitting away. I'm doing a 5-stitch repeat pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, but instead of a foofier pattern, I'm doing a 4/1 rib (they're for Matt, and even the Beaded Rib is a bit foofy for him). I noticed many rows in that I should have done a purl row before the pattern begins to make for a symmetrical pattern, but since I don't want to undo all that work, I'm pretending it was an artistic choice. Just go with it. Still no modeled pics of SKB. I haven't forgotten--it's just been tough with juggling the one car, Matt at work during most daylight hours, and Lilah unsupportive of any activity that doesn't focus all attention on her.

Writing: I've been at least opening my novel file every day, and I get a few words here and there. I've gone on to page 2, so that's good, I guess. At this rate, I'll be done in 2012. I've been thinking about it A LOT lately, though, so my hope is that my brain is working out the kinks and it'll be easy to write.

Reading: Lots of reviews!

Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke: I thought it was an excellent entry in a cozy series. Besides the murder mystery, there were several fun subplots: What's behind Moishe's odd behavior? What is Hannah's mother's Secret Project? Will Hannah choose Norman or Mike or even Ross, who still sends her gifts? Will Hannah enter the 21st century world of cell phones and computers with internet access? Some amazon reviewers complain that Hannah's dithering over the men in her life is annoying, that it's unbelievable that she resists computers and cell phones, that the mystery doesn't happen until past 100 pages in. But to me, the fun of this series is small-town life in Lake Eden, Hannah's family, and Hannah's life, and those things don't bother me that much. This is a really fun cozy series. And oh yeah, there's a murder, and that part of the story was well-done, too. There are a few cookie recipes I think I'll be trying, though I'm not really a casserole (hot-dish) fan, so that's about it. Update: I made the Peach Bread recipe, but put the batter into 18 muffin cups. Yummmmmmmm! These are good, even with canned peaches. Peachy and almondy and light (tasting, that is--the fat content is scary).

Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement: This is the improbably named Blaize Clement's first Dixie Hemingway mystery. This was surprisingly dark and complex for a cozy mystery series. Dixie was a sheriff's deputy on Siesta Key (off the Sarasota coast) until the deaths of her husband and daughter sent her over the edge. She regrouped and started a pet-sitting business. When she finds a dead man in a client's home, she's sucked back into the world of investigation, both as a suspect and a person with some inside scoop. I thought Clement pulled off the edgier heroine in a cozy setting quite well. The lifestyle and characters are Siesta Key were an interesting setting, Dixie is sympathetic, and the mystery complex and satisfying. There was one Clue (that's a capital C, as in "Scooby Doo, you've found a Clue!"), let's call it a MacGuffin, that Dixie comes across without recognizing its significance. That's fine, but as it became increasingly clear that the MacGuffin was really important, it started driving me a little crazy that Dixie wasn't picking up on it. However, since she had quite a bit going on and I was paying more attention to details as a reader, I tried to let it go. At any rate, I thought this was a fun, really well-written mystery, and I'll be picking up #2 in the series! I'd recommend it to cozy mystery fans who are open to a little bit edgier book, and even to private detective-type novel fans who aren't usually into cozies.

What Looks Like Crazy by Charlotte Hughes was a fun diversion, and a great break from the intensity of the Lippman novel. Hughes is co-author with Janet Evanovich on the Full House series, which I've enjoyed (though not as much as the Stephanie Plum books). When I see a no-name sharing author credit with a bestseller, my jaded opinion is usually that the no-name did all the work and the big name is there to sell books. It doesn't really matter, because I like Charlotte Hughes' writing, and if it hadn't been for Evanovich, this book likely wouldn't exist. Comparisons between this new series and Stephanie Plum are inevitable, but I didn't think this was a knockoff. Kate is a funny, smart, neurotic psychologist with relationship issues. In her job, she encounters plenty of "nutcases," as her wealthy receptionist Mona calls them, and they bring lots of fun to the mix. Kate's mother and aunt own a junk shop (from which Kate's condo is decorated) and they bring another element of fun. Kate's two exes bring in the obligatory romantic element. Hughes is a little drier in her wit, less laugh-out-loud and farcical, but it's a different kind of funny, not a lack of funny, if that makes sense. I think this is a good beach read, and I look forward to the next one.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman: This was a gripping, well-paced mystery (I hesitate to call it a thriller since no one is really in danger) that begins when a woman is apprehended leaving a car accident. She alludes to the Bethany sisters (whose disappearance thirty years before was never solved) but clams up without sharing her identity. She eventually claims to be one of the sisters, and the book is extremely well-paced, using flashbacks to explore the parents and sisters at various points during the thirty year gap. The current characters, a social worker and two cops, one who retired after the Bethany case (and to a lesser extent, an attorney) are well-fleshed out and the impact of the disappearance on their lives is believable. It was hard to put this book down. I really wanted to know who this woman was and what happened to the girls. I recommend this to anyone who's a fan of suspense.

Cooking: I tackled Garlic Soba Noodles from 101 Cookbooks, a healthier take on the comfort food dish of Noodles With Garlic and Parmesan. I tend to make what I call Buttery Noodles (a big duh here if you can't figure out what's in that) when I'm stressed or under the weather, and this sounded great. I thought it was a good update, but probably not a dish I'll make again. Truth is, the parmesan-crusted tofu didn't really "crust" for me--some of the topping fell off on the cookie sheet, and I'm not sure I care for crusted tofu anyway. And it made too many dirty dishes and had too many steps for me for real comfort food. Oh, and they were out of chard at the store, so I got kale. I was excited, because I can't tell you how many times I've bought kale with the best intentions, only to let it rot in the crisper. Because frankly, kale scares me. And it turns out I really don't like it! And now I have half a bunch I still have to use. Ugh. Anyway, I may try my buttery noodles with soba in the future, as I love soba and had really only used them in Asian dishes.

I made Pasta Geronimo and Black Bean Enchiladas (recipes in index at left), and both were lovely. Lilah loved both, too. I'm really enjoying this time before she becomes a picky toddler who eats only chicken nuggets and PB&J. Someone tell me it's possible she won't get picky? Sigh. I know it's coming. I wanted to update Pasta Geronimo for spring by using asparagus instead of eggplant, and maybe some of those cute baby squash, but Matt looked so disappointed that I made it as written, except for adding half a pound of iffy mushrooms, quartered, that were going to be thrown out otherwise. Matt tends to request dishes that I've made and then expect me to make them the same way, since it was good the previous time. I tend to use recipes as springboards and am inspired to tweak almost constantly. But he was right, Pasta Geronimo was nice. I have a short attention span when it comes to cooking, I guess.

We have another bake sale for our Playground Committee, so I've made biscotti. Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti from 101 Cookbooks and Cappuccino BIscotti from this cute little cookbook. Both are lovely. I was skeptical that the whole-grain Almond Chocolate Chip would taste too "healthy" but they were deliciously nutty and the chocolate sort of covers up the healthiness. I used millet flour instead of oat flour since that's what I had on hand, otherwise I made no changes. Very nice recipe. Her cookbook,. Super Natural Cooking has a variation on this recipe. The Cafe Nervosa recipe made nice, crisp biscotti and the combination of chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon smelled heavenly during baking.

I also made scones. A Maple-Nut Scone based on the Starbucks pastry (yum, my favorite!) and Cherry-Corn Scones from The Cheese Board Collective. I followed the cherry scone recipe almost exactly, except I got 20 scones instead of 14. The Maple Nut one I decided to follow the modifications mentioned in one of the comments, plus I doubled the recipe. I used 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups white, added an extra 1/4 cup of cream and 2 cups pecans, and used maple syrup instead of water for the glaze. I didn't have maple extract, so didn't use it. The glaze was so sweet, it made my teeth hurt, but I thought these were pretty darn good, very similar to the Starbucks version. The Cherry Corn ones tasted, well, like sweet cornbread with cherries. I think I like traditional scones more, but these were nice in their own way.

I made the Peach Bread from Key Lime Pie Murder into 18 regular-sized muffins, and I was delighted with the result. I also made Cherry Muffins from the Cafe Nervosa Cookbook, but used dried cranberries (way cheaper) and orange juice and zest instead of lemon and doubled the recipe for 12 jumbo muffins. Mmmmm.


YarnThrower said...

I think it is especially hard to eat properly (and not too much) when I am at home for most of the day -- it is tempting to grab something every time I walk through the kitchen. Count me "in" for the healthy eating challenge! I have been really trying to limit my saturated fat intake to less than 20 grams per day, and incorporate more fruits and vegetables...

Stefaneener said...

I find that not eating what the kids have left on their plates is a discipline that helps (you're probably not so into that stage yet) but eating less all over is something I have to work at. Good for you for noticing. Maybe the spring weather will help -- I know it's easier to hibernate and eat a lot when it's cold.

Nice socks : ) You really do a lot -- and eventually, they all sleep, but some later than others, thank you, Thing 1 for the four lovely years of broken sleep. . . hang in there.

Kate said...

You don't like kale? You can't have had it the right way. Try this:
(I don't know how to make that into a real link)

String Bean said...

Is Lilah teething? Or is she just upset that reaching puberty is going to take so long?

I love those socks! I've always wanted a skein of that since my Chinese horoscope animal is a tiger (rawr). My birthday is on the 27th of August... but you already know that. ;)

Mmm, Pasta Geronimo! Did you grind his bones to make your bread, too? What are you going to use his fur for?