Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Salon is Wrapping Up the Readathon

The first time I got to use my reading nook for the Readathon!

Currently reading:

Same as last week, pretty much, except I finally finished The Art Forger on audio and started Still Life by Louise Penny. I'm not sure this is the greatest book to listen to–there are a ton of characters and the narrator puts no effort into giving them their own "voice." I keep getting to confused as to who is whom.

Posted:

I wrote a review. I did not post it.

Movies watched:

sriracha doc
Sriracha, directed by Griffin Hammond

A short documentary about the famous hot sauce. Warning: you will want to have some sriracha after you watch this. It was pretty informative; I'd always thought of sriracha as an Asian import, but it was actually invented in California by a Chinese man who immigrated from Vietnam, and his story is pretty incredible.

Worth watching and the perfect length for what it is.

the katering show
The Katering Show, starring Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan

Okay, not a movie, but I had to include it. This is a webseries that satirizes reality cooking shows and it is hilaaaaarious. Definitely recommend it to all foodies!

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Wrap-Up

Whelp, the Readathon was yesterday and TBH I didn't get that much reading done. Let's move on to the closing meme:


1) Which hour was most daunting for you?

Honestly, it seemed like every hour was daunting this time around.

2) Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I think Craig Johnson is good choice if you like mysteries. His books feel very past-paced.

3) Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?

No?

4) What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I thought the Facebook page was great. Lots of activity and conversation.

5) How many books did you read?

ZERO.

6) What were the names of the books you read?

Not applicable.

7) Which book did you enjoy most?

nada

8) Which did you enjoy least?

wall punch

9) How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will if I can!

And final stats:

Read: About an hour of Still Life and 40 pages of As the Crow Flies.

Ate: A breakfast burrito, one coffee, three glasses of diluted apple cider vinegar, a "sausage sandwich" with green chiles, one cupcake, one vanilla milkshake, a turkey burger, and one snack of bread and cheese.

Non-bookish Activities: Watched ATK, went to lunch, did a wine tasting, and watched SNL and The Da Vinci Code.

Bonus:

Does expensive alcohol make a better cocktail? According to this highly scientific tasting, sometimes yes, but better to save your money.



Have a great week!





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Saturday, April 23, 2016

24 Readathon Today!

readathon

Hello my little cabbages! Today is Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon. As usual I got a late start, but I'm awake now and ready to get started.

The Dewey Ladies have some questions for us to begin, and I'll be updating this post with my progress as the day goes on. Chat with y'all soon!

Readathon Opening Meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Colorado

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I don't really plan to start a new book. If I do I guess maybe The Invisible Library. But I'd really like to finish my current Craig Johnson read.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I didn't plan any snacks. #fail

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm currently mildly obsessed with apple cider vinegar as cura-all for everything.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my bazillionth Readathon. Kidding. I don't remember how many Readathons it's been, but I think I've only missed four since it started. ANYWAY. One thing I'm doing differently this time is only having the one Readathon post to update throughout the day. Usually I do at least three, but now that cheering has moved to Twitter this way seemed more efficient.

Mid-Event Survey:

(Side note: So, does this mean the Readathon starts at 5am my time? I can't image getting up at 5am to read. Going to sleep at 5am after reading all night, sure. (And this is why I always sleep in.))

1. What are you reading right now?

As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson

2. How many books have you read so far?

None. Nada. Null. Niet.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Hmm, I guess dinner. I'm pretty hungry.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

I did! My aunt came over just after I finished my initial Readathon post this morning. We chatted for a few hours and then went to lunch, so I couldn't start reading until mid-afternoon.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I'm really enjoying the Facebook group.

And some stats just for my own edification:

Read: Listened to about an hour of Still Life by Louise Penny while I was working up the motivation to get out of bed and performing my morning ablutions.

Read a whole 37 pages in As the Crow Flies. Whoa! I am really ripping through those pages!

Ate: A breakfast burrito and coffee; one glass of diluted apple cider vinegar.

A "sausage sandwich" with green chiles, one cupcake, one vanilla milkshake, and another glass of diluted ACV.

Non-bookish activities: Watched America's Test Kitchen, petted doggies.

Lunch.

Disappointed by: The weather. I was super psyched to sit outside in the sun, but it's all cloudy and yucky out. Maybe the sun will peek out later.

The sun did come out briefly, but I was only able to sit outside for about 30 minutes before the wind picked up and it started raining. WHOMP WHOMP.



I will be updating on Twitter and Instagram as the day goes on, also. Happy Readathon, everyone!






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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Snapshot is trying NOT to be a criminal

Sofie's new hobby is imitating art historical monuments. Today we're practicing The Sphinx.

Currently reading:

As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson

How to Steal the Mona Lisa by Taylor B-something (too lazy to look it up): So far no one has responded positively to my, "Have you ever thought of doing something crazy, like stealing a priceless work of art?" query.

The Art Forger by BA Shapiro: OMG just end already.


Movies watched:

criminal movie
Criminal, starring Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, and Tommy Lee Jones

After Ryan Reynolds is killed by a baddie, the CIA needs to find out where he stashed some techie dude. They *could* just figure it out with logic and footwork, but instead they decide to go with the much cheaper and simpler option of implanting Reynold's memories into someone else's brain using a highly experimental procedure previously only tested on rats. Bonus: the someone else is a psychotic inmate who makes Charles Manson look normal. Let this guy loose in London and watch the hilarious social contretemps, not to mention widespread property damage and bodily injury, ensue!

LULZ I have no idea how so many great actors were roped into this movie, but they weren't enough to save it. I do have to give Costner props for his performance, but the plot was too silly to be believed, and there were soooo many things that simply did not make sense. Not to mention this movie had a split personality, trying to be Le Carré and The Avengers all at the same time (I swear to god I thought Elsa was the Black Widow for 80% of the film). My personal favorite was the final line: "I'm not just going to let him go, I'm going to hire him!" HAHAHA, so I'm supposed to believe that the Jenga Tower of yes men known as the US Federal Government is going to hire an unpredictable ex-con just because he's suddenly sentimental?

hahaha no


This week in heidenkindom:

A slower week than the previous few, so I've been doing what the freelance writing websites refer to as "reinvesting in my knowledge base." I completed the knife skills course and I learned a lot! It was awesome, I definitely recommend it. Then I started a wine course that I heard about from Beth Fish Reads, called The Everyday Guide to Wine. It's a video course that's normally really expensive, but I realized I could stream it on Hoopla for free! That means all I have to pay for is the wine. I'm on lesson four and so far it's also been super informative.

Bonus:

dewey's 24 hour readathon

Next week is the 24-Hour Readathon. Yeah!!! Make sure you sign up and join in.





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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Snapshot

Sofielicious (so delicious)
Currently reading:

The Art Forger by BA Shapiro: Some pretty dodgy history going on in this book.

The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip: I'm only a chapter in, but so far I am not impressed. At all.

How to Steal the Mona Lisa and Six Other World-Famous Treasures by Taylor Bayouth: If this is humor, it's pretty dry.

Posted:

My recommendations on where to start with Agatha Christie. I don't actually consider myself a "fan" of Christie's (I mean, I can appreciate her writing and see why she was so popular, but I'm not going to go out of my way to read her entire oeuvre any time soon), but that's why I think these books are perfect for Christie newbies: they're solid, entertaining reads no matter what kind of books you enjoy.

Movies watched:

Pet sitting this past week, so lots of movies!

spinning plates doc
Spinning Plates, directed by Joseph Levy

This documentary looks at three different restaurants and their owners: the haute cuisine Alinea in Chicago; classic diner Breitbach's Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa; and Mexican family restaurant La Cocina de Gabby in Tucson, Arizona.

Honestly, I thought this doc was pretty boring. The only restaurant I had any interest in was Alinea, just because the food was so weird. Stopped watching about a half hour in.

tracks movie
Tracks, starring Mia Wasikowska

Based on the National Geographic story and memoir of Robyn Davidson, who in 1977 got it into her head that she was going to go on a walkabout across the Australian desert with her dog and three (four?) camels. It took a bit of time for this movie to get going, but once it did it totally sucked me in. I also really enjoyed Adam Driver's character, I'm not sure exactly why, and loved the scenery of the Outback.

That said, I'm still pretty bitter about the dog death.

crimson peak
Crimson Peak, starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain

A part of me wanted to see this because of Hiddles McGriddles, the living embodiment of Prince Charming. But another part of me didn't want to see it because the plot summary made me come down with a massive case of eye roll. However, Anachronist convinced me it might not be so bad, so I decided to give it a try.

I have to say, I LOVED this movie! Yes, the plot is your typical, cheesy Gothic fare, but in the hands of excellent actors, directed by Guillermo del Toro, and with insanely gorgeous sets and cinematography, it's elevated into something spectacular and super entertaining. It reminded me of Hitchcock's Rebecca, it was such a deliciously perfect balance of fairy tale and horror. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie and would watch it again in a heartbeat. Highly recommend!

when marnie was there
When Marnie Was There, Studio Ghibli

Anna, in grips of the terrible twelves (something I can sympathize with), is sent to a tiny seaside town to visit some distant relatives. There she becomes fascinated by an abandoned mansion on the edge of a marsh. But is it really abandoned? Because Anna makes friends with Marnie, who claims to live there and only appears at night. Hm...

I mostly enjoyed this movie. There were two things I thought were very successful: one, I liked how Anna looked asexual, almost boyish, and only ever hovered at the edge of appearing "girly." It underscored how she was hovering between childhood and womanhood, and gave her relationship with Marnie an interesting nuance. I also enjoyed how the story was a classic YA Gothic, yet set in contemporary Japan.

That said, I could have done without the wrap-up at the very end, which felt way too convenient and unnecessary. Overall still a movie worth checking out though, I think.

frequently asked questions about time travel
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, starring Chris O'Dowd, Marc Wootton, and Dean Lennox Kelly

After getting fired from his stupid job at an amusement park, Ray goes to the pub with friends to get pissed. There he meets a young woman who claims to be a time traveler. He thinks his friends are putting one on him, but then strange things start to happen after a trip to the loo and they begin believe time travel might be possible after all.

Uhg. Why did I waste an hour and a half watching this? I enjoyed parts of this movie, especially the sci-fi references, but it never came together enough to manage even stupid entertainment value. If given the choice between Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and this movie, I'd say go with Bill and Ted's.

This week in heidenkindom:

The past few weeks have been crazy busy, because everything always happens at once. Just some highlights:

  • Pet sitting
  • Hair appointment (I shave the sides of my head. It's kind of hard to see, but I really like it.)
  • Working at the store
  • Tons of things to write
  • Took a moped out for a test drive because my tax refund came in. Was all set to buy, but then...
  • My Mac finally kicked the bucket for good this time and I had to spend all the money I was going to use to buy a moped to purchase a new computer, instead. I still haven't been able to boot up the old Mac to the point where I can erase the hard drive. I'm thinking of applying a chainsaw to it.
  • Knife skills class!
 I also finished a pretty good historical mystery this week called Lady in the Smoke. It had some problems, but for the most part it was enjoyable.

Bonus:

chase me giveaway

The Book Bloggers International community newsletter is running a giveaway for Laura Florand's new novel, Chase Me, through April. I loved this book and think you should all read it! Just click on link in the newsletter to enter.







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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Snapshot for Easter

Spring in the Rockies. Isn't it lovely and green? HAHAHA

Currently Reading:

Waiting Game by Sheri Cobb South: Just get together already you two! Sheesh!

The Art Forger by BA Shapiro: Only about a half hour into the audiobook so far.

Posted:

My day in the life for 2016, and a Weekend Cooking post on making bread with starter instead of commercial yeast.

oprah likes bread
Oprah really likes her bread.

Movies watched:

Just a couple of rewatches this week.

my big fat greek wedding
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, starring Nia Vardalos and John Corbett

A little dated (e.g., there are these new things called computers that might help our business!), but still hilarious. Corbett's character is like the most understanding man in the history of the world.

10 commandments movie poster
The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner

It's been a while since I watched this. Kind of a weird movie, yeah? It's so stylized. In nearly every scene, the actors stop and pose as if they're modeling for a series of Old Testament illustrations. Bad ones. From the Baroque period. Definitely a film from another time, and that time does not feel like the 1950s.

This week in heidenkindom:

A pretty busy week. Not only was I making bread, but a ton of writing assignments came in with short deadlines and I also decided I needed to do a bunch of stuff I've been putting off, like shop around for new auto insurance and check my credit report. Real fun. Still haven't made that eye doctor appointment, though!

Bonus:

I think this post by Andi of Estella's Revenge on "whole assing" the important stuff is worth reading and considering. I probably half-ass more stuff than I should. One thing I definitely don't half-ass is food, but I'm not sure what this provides me in terms of monetary or emotional compensation.



Have a great week, everyone!





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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Weekend Cooking: Making Bread from Starter

bread made from starter instead of yeast

One of the things I learned from the Netflix series Cooked is that bread was not originally made with little packets of dried up yeast you buy in a grocery store and mix with warm water. I know, DUH. I may have wondered what people did before yeast packets, but I didn't wonder hard enough to look it up.

Anyway, before handy dandy little yeast packets, people made bread with starter–basically water and flower allowed to sit until yeast and bacteria started to grow. A little of the starter was then used to leaven, or puff up, the bread.

Why is this important? Because starter leavens bread more slowly than commercial yeast, giving the glutens in bread time to ferment and break down. Some think that the reason so many people have problems with gluten now is because commercial yeast doesn't break it down enough to be easily digestible.

Before watching Cooked, I had been thinking about getting back into the bread baking game, for the simple reason that the closest place to buy decent bread around here is an hour's drive away. However, I wasn't sure I could call my previous adventures in bread baking "decent." While they were mostly edible, the loaves of bread I made were invariably salty and dense, with a clump of dough in the middle that was honestly fairly unappetizing. Add to that the fact that I'd have to: 1. go to the grocery store and buy yeast; and 2. dig my pizza stone out of storage, and surprise surprise I never got around to baking bread.

BUT. Making bread from starter doesn't require buying yeast, or any other special ingredients. And it's healthier for you! So I decided to try making completely all-natural bread with starter.

oprah bread


I bought sourdough culture from Cultures for Health via Amazon (about $13 for one packet–a bargain when you consider that, if you take care of your starter, you'll never have to buy another culture again), but you can skip this step and just use flour and water.

The Cultures for Health starter came with directions for both activating the starter and baking sourdough, but they were a little confusing, so I was not feeling confident when it came time to bake my bread. I eventually decided to go with this recipe from The Kitchn, because it said I could just use a colander and not have to buy a proofing basket.

The Kitchn's recipe is much more complicated than the one from Cultures for Health. It's not difficult in terms of technicality or physicality, but it is time consuming. I basically felt like I was babysitting this bread dough for two days. If you do decide to go with this recipe, make sure you have two whole days blocked off for it, because you will need it.

all this for a loaf of bread


That said, as a reward I got the best loaf of bread I had ever baked in my life! It tasted like something a legit professional baker had made. The crust was crispy as all get out, the dough was super holey and spongy, but not too wet (although maybe a little wetter than it should have been–I erred on the side of damp dough since I live at high altitudes), and the flavor was superb.

So, the tl;dr version:

Pluses of making bread with starter

  • Healthier
  • Cheaper
  • More delicious
  • No kneading–With starter bread, kneading isn't necessary because so much gluten is built up through the starter. All you have to do is stretch out the dough a half dozen times and you're more or less done.
  • I want to say it's more fun?


Minuses of making bread with starter

  • TONS of time and attention.
  • Messiness–At one point my dad said to me, "That's a *EXPLETIVE* *EXPLETIVE* mess," and he wasn't wrong, friends. Starter has the consistency of wallpaper paste, so just imagine it getting... well, anywhere. Now imagine it exploding out of its container and running all over the counter.
  • If you're not already a well-equipped baker, you might have to buy some stuff like glass jars big enough to hold your starter, big bowls, a measuring scale, and a Dutch oven-type pot.


Conclusion
At the end of this process/experiment, do I think making bread this way is worth it? YES! However, given the energy required, it's not for everyone. I have the luxury of working from home most days, so it's not that hard for me to pop into the kitchen every thirty minutes to stretch dough. Even given that I probably won't bake bread any more frequently than once a week.

People who bake bread at home do it more as a hobby, out of a love for baking, than for economical reasons. If you're one of those people, I would definitely recommend looking into getting your own starter. There's certainly a learning curve, but it will improve your bread baking game by 1000%.


weekend cooking button

Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads. To learn more and find links to other recipes and foodie posts, click here.



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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Beginner Bread Baker

a day in the life button

Trish from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting A Day in the Life once again! This is basically where you take one day in your life and share it with the world. To find out more, check out Trish's post here. You can also read my Day in the Life from 2015 here.

I decided to record yesterday, March 22nd. Mainly because it would be difficult to write about today since it isn't over yet.



9:30am-ish–Wake up. Check Accuweather, Twitter, Facebook, and email. Email contains a stressful response from a client and I resolve to never check email before coffee again.

9:45-10:15–Drink a liter of lemon water while reading in bed.

10:15–Get up. The dogs are very happy to see me! CUDDLES ALL AROUND YOU GUYS.

Cuties


10:30-11–Brush my teeth, put in my contacts, moisturize, etc. etc.

11-11:30–Eat yogurt and drink coffee while watching America's Test Kitchen. Check to see what's on TV tonight... not much.

11:30–Pad back into the kitchen to check on my bread dough, which is rising in the fridge overnight. Someone has stacked other food on top of my bread!!! How can you have bread rising if there's stuff on top of it?!? I draw a grumpy cat on a sticky note to express my feels, but it winds up looking more like a dashing cat with a top hat. Oh well.

11:45–Check email, renew library books.

12:30–Goof around playing with the dogs some more. Mix up some apple cider vinegar rinse for my hair.

1pm–Shower time! Yesterday I got a new showerhead in the mail and this is the first time I get to try it out. It looks like this:

showerhead


I did not like the previous showerhead because reasons. I am, admittedly, very picky about my showers. But I am very pleased with the water pressure in the new one. A++

1:15–More moisturizing (I live in a dry climate, people). Get dressed while listening to And Then There Were None on audiobook.

1:20-2pm–Pretty sure I did something in this time frame, but IDK what. I might have been trying to keep my mom from murdering the wireless printer.

2pm-ish–It's time for the bread to go in the oven! I set it to preheat and put a big pot in there (I'm following this recipe from The Kitchn).

Oh! I remember what I was doing before the bread now: looking up restaurants in Los Angeles to go to for my birthday. There are so many choices. Right now I have it narrowed down to three: SAAM in The Bazaar, The Little Door, and possibly The Stinking Rose.

2:15–Anyway, while I was in the shower, the gun shop owner texted me to let me know we got a website order I need to process. I get on the store's laptop to work on that and check the store's Facebook page, etc.

2:30-ish–My mom does not think the pot I picked out is appropriate for the oven. Have I mentioned that it took me literally two whole days to get to the point where the bread is ready to bake, not counting the week and a half I spent creating a starter? I do not want to be foiled in my quest this close to the finish line.

Fortunately, my mom's able to find a metal roasting pot (I don't know what these things are called; it's not a Dutch oven) from another century at the very very very back of the cabinet. Day: saved. I put it in the oven to warm up.

3:30ish–Done with the gun store work, so I switch gears and computers and get to work on the final draft of a blog post for Quirk Books while jumping up occasionally to check on the bread.

Another thing I bought this week, after YEARS of spiraling into rages trying to use Pages, is Microsoft Word. I don't love MS Word, but, to quote IAM JSON from Dear Author:

(AM I REALLY SAYING THIS???) it could be worse.

He's right, it could be Pages.

This is the first day I've had a chance to use Word, and I already feel like it's made my job 80% easier. Best $100 I've ever spent.

4:45–Submit post. Writing is the easy part; it's gathering together the pictures and citing everything that takes up the most time.

While I'm busy doing that, I forget to check the bread. OOooopsie. Run to the kitchen, where a slightly singed scent is wafting from the oven. Fortunately the bread is just a tad blackened and not burned. I take it out of the pot and set it to cool on a wire rack.

4:46-4:49–Waiting.

cookie monster waiting gif


4:50–Too hungry. Cut off slice of bread.

homemade sourdough bread


4:55–This is the greatest loaf of bread I've ever baked in my life! The crust is crackly, the inside is spongy and flavorful... Totally worth all the effort.

5pm–Back to work on artist profiles.

5:30pm–Realize I forgot to make an eye doctor appointment for the 57th day in a row.

6:30–Basically have all my work for the day finished. Toodle around on Facebook while looking up gifs.

7pm–Turn the computer off, grab my iPad and Kindle, and move out to the kitchen to mix a cocktail before settling on the couch.



7:30–Dinner! I use the bread to sop up the sauce from the chicken piccata, and it is delicious. Even my dad says all the work was worth it.

8-8:30–Do the dishes and mix another cocktail. Settle down with my iPad to peruse da blahgs.

9pm–Watch The Voice. Adam is so hot Tori Kelly can't stop flirting with him, not that I blame her.

9:45–Look up Sean Combs on Wikipedia. He dated Jennifer Lopez?!

10pm–Take out my contacts, get into PJs and do my nightly yoga while listening to more of And Then There Were None.

10:45pm–Tom Hiddleston on Kimmel. Hiddles McGriddles!

tom hiddleston boom pregnant
Ha! An oldie but a goodie.

11pm on–Not sure what we watched during this time. Maybe Full Frontal and The Daily Show?

1am–Bed time! I brush my teeth and give the dogs a cookie before going into my room and settling on my chaise lounge to read until I fall asleep.



This was a pretty unusual day in that I was so busy with bread baking, but otherwise it's pretty typical. I usually work somewhere between 11:30/12 until 7. I also just realized I skipped lunch! Yikes.

Thanks for hosting again, Trish. I can't wait to see what other people's days looked like.




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