December, 2016

  1. elderflower champagne cocktail

    December 31, 2016 by Angie

    Happy New Year! Bye bye, 2016!

    Robbie, Sookie, and I are ringing in the new year at home where we can bark at the fireworks. I fell in love with St. Germain and champagne cocktails on our vacation to California in 2014. Today I got a bottle of St. Germain and whipped up a single serving of this elderflower champagne cocktail from the Kitchn.

    elderflower champagne cocktail

    Here is the single serving recipe, in case your significant other won’t drink champagne cocktails either ūüôā

    1. In a wine glass, add ice cubes.
    2. Add 100 mL of champagne, prosecco, cava, whatever you got. I used a new to me prosecco called Bolla.
    3. Add just shy of an ounce of elderflower liqueur, like St. Germain.
    4. Add 1.5 ounces of club soda.
    5. Stir to mix.
    6. Throw in small slices of strawberry. Garnish with a strawberry if you’re feeling festive.

    Happy New Year!


  2. 2016 books

    December 31, 2016 by Angie

    I broke my record for books read in a year. Twenty five was the most since I started keeping track in 2007. This year I made it to 27! I realize many people consistently read much more than that, but for me it’s a biggish deal.

    I joined a book club, I read some of these books for work, and I started receiving eBook ARCs this year from NetGalley and Edelweiss. All of that brought more books to me than usual but I’m still apt to fall asleep if I’m not standing up so my reading time is still limited. I read and reviewed cookbooks, pattern books, and travel books on Goodreads this year but did not include those in my count.

    2016 Reading Challenge

    2016 Reading Challenge
    angeleen has
    completed her goal of reading
    15 books in
    2016!
    hide

    My favorite: Idaho by Emily Ruskovich – expected publication date is February 16, 2017

    Five star winners:¬†The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro,¬†Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat,¬†Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and¬†Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

    My least favorite: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    The longest: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy at 433 pages

    The oldest: also Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy originally published in 1874

    Nonfiction: 5 (I’m counting a memoir.)

    Fiction: 22

    Here is the list in the order I read them. I’ve included reviews for some and ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 stars for all.

    1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood – 2 stars

    I should probably give this a 2.5. I read the first novella which eventually became part of this book. I just was not feeling it. I’m very sorry, Margaret. I still love you.

    2. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – work – 3 stars

    3. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger – 4 stars

    4. Rising Strong by Brene Brown – book club – 3 stars

    5. MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition by The Modern Language Association of America – work – ? stars

    I realize this is a style manual, but I read it six times this summer and fall so it makes the list!

    6. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – 5 stars

    7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 4 stars

    8. Tampa by Alissa Nutting – book club – 3 stars

    9. The Vegetarian by Han King – 4 stars

    10. Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts: Lesson Plans for Librarians by Patricia Bravender – work –¬†4 stars

    11. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 2 stars

    12. The Girls by Emma Cline – 3 stars

    It is a decent book, but the level of hype surrounding it is unwarranted. My favorite part is the way the author understands young women and puts that understanding into words via the thoughts of the main character. I especially liked her thoughts about the girlfriend who is abandoned at the house she’s staying at in real time (when she’s an older woman). For a book about a murderous cult, there was very little happening.

    13. Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat¬†– work – 5 stars

    I’m not much of a memoirs person, but I really enjoyed this book. Danticat’s writing style makes the book flow more like a really touching, fictional story than an autobiography. I knew shockingly little about Haiti before reading this and, while I’m sure I still know basically nothing, I know more than I did and am eager to learn more.

    14. The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck – book club – 3 stars

    The pet names and “conversations” with the groceries drove me crazy. It’s Steinbeck so it was occasionally very good. I felt that the story was too drawn out. I don’t understand why the main character needed not one, not two, but three get rich quick schemes. I get that Steinbeck was saying something about materialism and morality and I appreciate that. I feel he could have said it much more succinctly. If you want a moral lesson, I recommend reading The End of the Affair by Graham Greene instead.

    15. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant Рbook club Р4 stars

    16. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch РNetGalley Р5 stars

    I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

    I really liked this book! I’m not much of a science fiction or mystery reader, but this book features my favorite aspects of the best books/films/shows of those genres with great, “literary fiction”-style writing.

    Dark Matter is a book I couldn’t put down. I raced to the end. Once or twice, I thought I guessed the ending, but I believe Crouch wants readers to realize certain plot twists just before they are presented outright. There were more coming, so the book stayed intense and unpredictable. The physics and philosophy sprinkled throughout intrigued me and taught me some things I didn’t know. I enjoyed the questions this novel asks us to ask ourselves, particularly about identity and choices.

    Recommended for fans of not-so-cozy mysteries (a la Gone Girl), spooky/cerebral science fiction, and shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror.

    17. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach – book club – 3 stars

    18. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison РNetGalley Р4 stars

    I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is a thought-provoking, post-apocalyptic, page turner for the rest of us! In the tradition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this is the end of the world from a female perspective. Just about every kind of person was represented by a complete character in this book: a gay couple, a bisexual woman, a sex worker, some LDS church members, young women, young men, people who decided to fight for their lives and people who chose to die. At no point did the book feel like a diverse checklist. Every character felt real and helped the plot along. If you like post-apocalyptic fiction like Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven then The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is for you.

    19. The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff Рwork Р2 stars

    20. Bird Box by Josh Malerman – 4 stars

    21. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – 4 stars

    22. Idaho by Emily Ruskovich – NetGalley –¬†5 stars

    I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    I read more books than usual this year and Idaho is possibly the best of them all. I love Emily Ruskovich’s writing. She wove music, and one song in particular, throughout the entire book without it ever being cheesy or cumbersome. The song held the non-linear story together as we learned details out of order from a number of characters. I love that it’s a mystery and a love story. It shows characters capable of extreme violence and cruelty but also uncommon compassion and kindness. I think it’s really unique that one chapter was dedicated to a bloodhound’s experience while searching for the missing daughter.

    Idaho is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I’m glad I didn’t skip this one and hope Emily Ruskovich’s future works are this great.

    23. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – 4 stars

    24. The Mortifications by Derek Palacio – NetGalley – 3 stars

    The characters have a lot of strongly held convictions that change too often and are too ambiguous for strongly held convictions. I enjoyed reading the book for the most part, but nothing really happened and I never became invested in any of the characters.

    25. The Futures by Anna Pitoniak РNetGalley Р3 stars

    I enjoyed this book, although it was very predictable. I graduated in 2008 like most of the characters in the book. It was a hard time to enter the real workforce. I liked the way Anna Pitoniak expressed, through the main female character, Julia, how difficult that time in life can be. The path to success is pretty clear up until graduation when things get confusing and young people are very much on their own to find work and their adult identities. The period just after graduation can be rough, even for the wealthy apparently. Much of the book is building up to a major event that I saw coming a mile away. As soon as I got the male characters’ absurdly white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant names (Jake Fletcher, Evan Peck, Adam McCard) sorted out, I knew what was going to happen. The predictability and then the slow build to a not-much-of-anything ending make this book just okay in my opinion.

    26. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – 3 stars

    27. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout – 3 stars


  3. vegan zucchini meatballs

    December 19, 2016 by Angie

    I love a fake meatball. Ever since Nate’s Meatless Meatballs became impossible to purchase without insane shipping costs, I’ve been searching for a suitable alternative. I’ve previously made some pretty great TVP-based “meatballs”. Alas, TVP is also nearly impossible to buy where I live now. I found this recipe for vegan zucchini “meatballs” on Pinterest from the blog Making Thyme for Health.

    Vegan Zucchini ‘Meatballs’

    They were pretty easy to make – easier than the TVP version. They did not bake all the way through in the middle, but I adjusted the recipe below with suggestions I think will correct that problem. I added more spices than called for in the original recipe. The taste and texture were really good. The only downside to this recipe is the cleanup. It was so heinous that Robbie asked me to never make it again ūüôĀ I suppose I will have to save this recipe for a day when I have the time to cook and do the dishes so, like never, basically. Huge shout out to my dish doing husband who makes cooking possible.

    a saucy "meatball"

    Ingredients

    1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    2 tbsp minced garlic
    1/2 c rolled oats
    1/2 tbsp dried basil
    1/2 tbsp dried oregano
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 tbsp nutritional yeast
    juice of 1/2 lemon
    1 1/4 c shredded zucchini
    one jar of spaghetti sauce
    pasta of your choice, cooked as directed on the package (Robbie had fettuccine and I had zucchini noodles.)

    vegan zucchini meatballs with zucchini noodles

    Instructions

    1. Use a food processor with the shredding blade attached to shred the zucchini. I used almost two large-ish zucchini. Measure it out to be sure you have at least 1 and a 1/4 cups of shredded zucchini. Set aside.
    2. Remove the shredding blade and use the food processor to blend the drained and rinsed chickpeas, minced garlic and oats. I used pulse for 5 seconds three of four times to get everything finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
    3. Add the basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and nutritional yeast to the chickpea mixture. Stir to combine with a spoon.
    4. Add the shredded zucchini and lemon juice. Stir to combine again.
    5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
    6. Form the mixture into balls and place them, spaced apart, on the lined cookie sheet. I believe I had enough for 15 balls at about a rounded tablespoon each. Bake for 15 minutes then turn them over and bake for another 15 minutes.
    7. While the “meatballs” are baking, prepare the pasta and heat the spaghetti sauce.

  4. Sharpie mugs

    December 17, 2016 by Angie

    I like to make little gifts for my college library co-workers and hand them out before our winter break. Last year I made soy candles. This year I made decorated coffee mugs. I made 17 mugs with either the first letter of their first name, a reindeer, or a Christmas tree.


    Materials

    • The cheapest, crappiest, plainest mugs you can find – you want mugs with no coating on them so the cheaper the better. I got mine at Dollar Tree.
    • Oil-based Sharpie markers (I used a gold marker and a silver one.)
    • Stickers, or sticker paper and a printer
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Q-tips

     


    Instructions

    1. Wash the mug. It doesn’t hurt to clean the surface you’ll be decorating with rubbing alcohol. Let it dry completely.

    2. Apply a sticker centered in the area you want to decorate. I used some alphabet stickers intended for scrapbooking. For the rest of the designs, I found images I liked online, slapped them into a Word document, and printed them on sticker paper. Print them in grayscale to save some ink because you’re throwing them out in the end anyway. Cut the designs out of the sticker paper carefully. You want to choose designs that work well as silhouettes. I used a solid tree shape and a reindeer head.

    3. Start using one of the markers to make dots all around the design. You want to outline the design so the shape is clear. I started by going around the design with one marker and then slowly spread out from there making the dots more sparse. Switch to the other marker and do the same.

    4. Wait until the marker has dried – probably two hours. Carefully peel off the stickers. At this point, you can use rubbing alcohol and Q-tips to fix any mistakes. Some of the dots got under my stickers which messed up the appearance of the shape. I was able to erase those with rubbing alcohol. Add any new marker dots you feel you need.

    5. Let the design dry for 24 hours.

    6. Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours.


  5. spinach artichoke dip

    December 14, 2016 by Angie

    I’ve tried several spinach dip/spinach artichoke dip recipes. This one is the go-to. It’s never too soggy, too tart, or too rich. It’s a Cooking Light recipe so it’s a little less terrible for us than some other recipes out there. It also doesn’t call for any mayonnaise (blah!) which means it’s the cheesy, delicious kind of spinach dip rather than the far inferior, mayo-based variety.

    I used this Cooking Light recipe posted on myrecipes.com with slight variations.

    Ingredients

    1 8 oz package of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
    1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
    4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
    14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
    2 8 oz blocks light cream cheese, softened
    10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
    crackers or chips for serving

     

    spinach artichoke dip on a triscuit
    Enjoying some of my spinach artichoke dip at the campus potluck

    Instructions

    1. Open the package of spinach and place the frozen spinach in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes. Flip and microwave for two more minutes. After that, I stirred the spinach around to expose the frozen bits and microwaved for one more minute.

    2.Put the cream cheese blocks out on the counter to soften them.

    3. Construct a spinach draining apparatus. I put a double layer of paper towels in a colander over a plate and poured the thawed spinach in there. I put another layer of paper towels over that and squished the water out. I had to change the paper towels again. You want to be sure the spinach is drained really well.

    4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    5. Drain the artichoke hearts. I again placed a double layer of paper towels on a plate (RIP trees), picked the artichoke hearts out of the can and placed them there, then topped with another layer of paper towels. Press them paper towels to get the water out. Chop the artichoke hearts into small pieces.

    6. Mix 1.5 cups of the shredded Mozzarella, the sour cream, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, the black pepper, the minced garlic, and the cream cheese blocks together in a large bowl.

    7. Add in the spinach and the artichoke hearts. Stir everything together until it’s a beautiful dip.

    8. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees on the middle rack or until it starts to get bubbly.

    9. Serve with crackers or chips. I like Triscuits!

    pan of spinach artichoke dip

    The whole pan of dip – I bakcd it at home but forgot to get a photo. This is after warming it in the microwave at work.