Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pin It, Do It: Tile Coasters

Coasters by Jenny
For the third installment of the Pin It, Do It challenge, I decided to make a set of coasters.

I found this tutorial awhile back, and planned to make a set of coasters for my sister's birthday in August. She's moving out of the house soon, and somehow I don't think coasters are on the top of an 18 year old's list of things to buy. However, since they were going to be a present, I thought it would be a good idea to do a trial run.

The original instructions called for a coating of polycrylic, but the clerk at the craft store said that Mod Podge was basically the same thing, and I didn't see the point in buying both products. If after using these for a bit it turns out the Mod Podge isn't holding up, then I'll use the polycylic next time. Hence the purpose of a trial run.

My supplies
I used scrapbook paper with old typewriter keys on it. I love the colors, and how it looks old-fashioned-writer-ish. I'm sure old book pages or illustrations would look really nice, too.

I think I covered the tiles with four coats of Mod Podge. They look nice, but they don't have that "covered in a thick layer of acrylic" look. I think it's fine, but I can see how a thicker coating would be nice, too. I guess I could give them another coat or two of Mod Podge, but I'm not really that concerned.

When I put on the felt "feet" I super glued them even though they had sticky backs. I just didn't want them falling off and then having to replace them. This way they should stay on a while longer.

Here's the finished project :
 I can't wait until they're completely cured so I can snuggle up and set my cup of tea on them while I read an old book. Thanks, Trish, for pushing me to be all crafty. This was really fun!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books Written In The Past 10 Years That
I Hope People Are Still Reading In 30 Years
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the lovely bloggers over at
The Broke and the Bookish

I thought this was going to be a difficult topic for me, because many of my favorite books were written more than ten years ago. I'm not the book blogger that has my hands on all the latest releases - or early releases! I often wait until a book's been vetted and has a good chance of standing the test of time. However, once I got started I realized it wasn't as challenging as I first thought. Keeping track of my recent reads on goodreads is coming in mighty handy!

Mr. Fox, Helen Oyeyemi. (my review) I just love well written books that are multilayered and smartly deal with important issues. Yay feminism!

Feminism for Real, Edited by Jessica Yee. (my review) Actually, I hope people won't need to be reading this book in thirty years, but considering the chances are slim, I'm glad to know this little volume is out there, ready to inspire, educate, and challenge its readers.

A Happy Man, Hansjorg Schertenlieb. (my review) The hope for what life could be like, maybe, one day.

A Mercy, Toni Morrison. (my review) A beautifully written novel imagining the birthing pangs of this country, and the lives of some of those who suffered greatly as it was brought into being.

Visitation, Jenny Erpenbeck. (my review). I love small books that pack a big punch, and there's so much to discuss in this book about place and time and war.

The Taste of Salt, Martha Southgate. (my review) An update on the everyday American family novel, with characters dealing with their problems and struggles.

The North of God, Steve Stern. (my review) Alternately hilarious and horrifying, it is a tribute to the power and limitation of storytelling.

Never Let Me Go, Kazou Ishiguro. It's like the Twilight Zone of Novels - you know something's not right, but it takes a while to figure out exactly what it is.
Calabash depicting Ezili Danto,
by Andre Pierre. Credit

The Salt Roads, Nalo Hopkinson. (my review) This novel consists of three main narratives that are connected via the experiences of the goddess Ezili. Each story line focuses on a black woman living in a different place and time. 

Out Stealing Horses, Per Peterson. Cold reaches of Norway, an old man returning to his family's summer house, mysterious abandonments to work through - my kind of book. Here's the NY Times review.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pin It, Do It: Cheddar Pecan Crisps

I've been wanting to join the Weekend Cooking fun, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, for a while now, but never had anything that fit the theme. Thanks to this edition of the Pin It, Do It Challenge, I do! Go check out this week's other Weekend Cooking participants here.


I had high hopes of writing about a delicious cocktail, named after serious drinker Ernest Hemingway. I figured if he drank a bunch of them, they had to be pretty decent. Unfortunately, the Hemingway Daiquiri calls for maraschino liquor, which is proving nearly impossible to find. My local liquor store said they'd order some, but when I called back to see if it had come in, they told me they were unable to find any. I tried ordering it online, but I can't find anyone that will ship it to me.

When I find the elusive ingredient - and I WILL - I'll be sure to let you know. I hope they're good, because otherwise I'll be using the stuff to make homemade maraschino cherries, which actually do look pretty lovely.

Instead, I've made Cheddar-Pecan Crisps (pin here). Last year, I read A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan. I was impressed by her willingness to put in the work and learn how to cook some of her favorite foods. Ever since, I've been wanting to try some of her recipes. These crisps aren't her creation, but she wrote about them on her blog, which is still actively chronicling her journey with food.

Crisp batter, photo by me.
As I'm writing this, the first batch of crisps is bubbling in the oven. They smell like HEAVEN.

The details of the recipe are a bit
lacking - it looks like maybe they were cut off. I've put them in a 350 degree oven and set the timer at 20 minutes. That seems to be working.

The batter is very thick - I ended up mixing it with my hands, as my poor little electric mixer just wasn't cutting it. Ahh, to dream of a kitchen with counters and storage and a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Someday.

My crisps didn't come out exactly like the picture. Here's the first batch, fresh out of the oven:
Crisps, again, photo by me.
 I am curious to so if I could track down the complete recipe somewhere. Maybe I was missing a step, or not doing something completely right. Also, they aren't nearly as cheesy as I expected, especially based on how they smelled when they were baking. They taste like savory tea biscuits. Good, but nothing I'd probably make again.

Lu-Lien Tan does have other recipes I want to try. Her family recipe pineapple tarts sound amazing, and served as the inspiration for her cooking project. The recipe makes A TON of tarts, though, so maybe I should wait until I've got the above-mentioned counter space :-)

If you could make a recipe based on a literary inspiration, what would it be? Or maybe you have already - tell me about it!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rover: A Classic Play

Oroonoko, The Rover
and Other Works
The Rover
Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn was quite the interesting individual. She was a spy for the Charles II, but when he wouldn't pay her, she turned to writing to make a living. One of her best known works is the play The Rover. The play is set in Carnival time in  Naples, Italy, in the mid 1600's.

The plot is pretty simple. Guys and gals were masks, there's flirtation and confusion, and perhaps some falling in love. Simple, see?

I chose to read The Rover for the 2012 Back to the Classics Challenge for the "Classic Play" category. I'm really glad for the push to read this, as I'm not someone who reads a lot of dramatic works. I think the key to my enjoyment here was that I just read slowly and tried to "see" the play being acted out in my mind's eye.

I say "enjoyment" because I did enjoy this, but I'm not raving over it. Here are some pros and cons (minor spoilers ahead):

The Stuff I Didn't Like So Much:

Rape-y dudes:
"I begin to suspect something; and 'twould anger us vilely to be trussed up for a rape upon a maid of quality, when we only believe we ruffle a harlot." 
Eww. Especially when they're "rewarded" in the end. Yes, I know the attitudes are largely a reflection of the times. I don't care.

I wish there was a bit more going on than just a bunch of people running around in masks, getting confused about who everyone else was and trying to sleep with one another. This is probably an unfair criticism, because for what it was it was a fun read. The silly plot does make it approachable, even when it is difficult to keep all the characters straight.

The Stuff I Liked:

It opens with women alone on stage! And one of them, supposedly destined to spend the rest of her life in a nunnery, is wanting to find someone to get it on with (did I mention I like rebellious women?)

It's funny! Even though this is an old play, it's easy to pick up on the witty dialogue.

Want more like this? Try:
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare. It's got that "magical" quality, the idea that women's choices are limited to a suitable marriage or life as a nun.
  • People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks. One of the sections deals with Venice in the 1600s, during Carnival time. Very cool picture of that time and place.
  • The Importance of Being Ernest, Oscar Wilde. Another fun, funny, approachable play that everyone should read. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Second Selection from a Year of Feminist Classics

The Book of the City of Ladies
The Book of the City of Ladies
Christine de Pizan

I know I'm posting my thoughts on this book well after the other Year of Feminist Classics readers. I really struggled to finish this, and have further struggled with writing up a review of it.

No doubt, this is an important text. It's certainly "pro-woman" in the sense that de Pizan is defending women from pretty vile attacks by other writers. However, I'm thankful that feminism has come a long way since the 1400s.

For example, there's a heavy emphasis on virginity and equating "virtue" with virginity. At the same time, there is an implicit recognition that young people, regardless of gender, are typically sexual beings. See the following passage:

"This lady (Minerva) was not only extraordinarily intelligent but also supremely chaste, remaining a virgin all her life. It was because of her exemplary chastity that the poets claimed in their fables that she struggled long and hard with Vulcan, the god of fire, but finally overcame and defeated him. This story can be interpreted to mean that she conquered the passions and desires of the flesh which so vigorously assail the body when one is young."

There were times when her arguments sounded depressingly familiar:

"Yet there are still those men who go around claiming that women know nothing of any worth. It's also a common way to mock someone for saying something foolish by telling them they're thinking like a woman."
Poster from 2012 movie Think Like a Man

How much has society really progressed when in 2012 we have a movie based on Steve Harvey's book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man?

Why is "woman" still a slur? Why are women still considered less-than? It's disheartening at times to really think about these issues.

While The Book of the City of Ladies may be interested in dismantling gender based privilege (although that's certainly debatable), it is very interested in propping up other systems of oppression, such as heterosexism, classism, racism, Christian privilege, gender essentialism - you get the idea. Only certain women should get the benefit of the doubt, should be considered as fully human as their male counterparts.

The last portion of the book was particularly difficult to complete. It's basically a list of a bunch of early female Christian martyrs who died horrifically. Far from serving as example of how to live my life as a proper woman, it made me thankful that my family left Catholicism shortly after I was born, so these stories didn't give me nightmares when I was a young child!

At the end of the day, I'm glad I read this. It's probably the oldest book I've ever read in it's entirety, so that's something :-) Just not exactly a "fun" read.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Salon: Rainy Day Reading

This weekend was supposed to be really nice, but instead, there are storm cells on the horizon, threatening rain on and off. My sister in law and her family came over to go to the beach and then do a bit of grilling, but the drizzling has sent me inside. I got in about 10 minutes of reading The Rover, by Aphra Behn, before it got too wet and I had to limp (I've got a sprained ankle) to cover to protect the book (& yes, myself). My little nephew was teasing me, saying "What? Are you scared of water? All rain is is water!"

He's still out there with the rest of them who aren't scared of a little water falling from the sky. There's no lightening to be seen, so they'll probably play around for a little bit and see if the weather clears up.

Meanwhile, I'm back inside, on the couch, drink in hand, ice pack on ankle, ready to dive back into The Rover. It's my pick for the Play category of the Back to the Classics Challenge. I'm a bit behind on this challenge. I've read two books, but have only reviewed one. There are nine categories, so I'll have 6 to go after my current read. I should be able to finish it pretty quickly, as it's not that long. With my sprained ankle, I'll have an excuse to lay around and read a bit without the hubby giving me too much grief. Silver linings!

Oh - I've been meaning to publicly thank the lovely Marilyn at Me, You, and Books, for graciously sending me some interesting additions to my bookshelves:

No would would guess I'm interested in feminism, right?

I've been wanting to read The Beauty Myth for a long time, even though I think Naomi Wolf's politics have strayed from her previous feminist roots. See here and here for some examples.

The other titles, for those who can't read them in the picture, are The Tyranny of the Majority, Lani Guinier; What is Feminism, Edited by Juliet Mitchell and Ann Oakley; and Feminism and Science, by Evelyn Fox Keller and Helen E. Longino. I'm tentatively planning a women and science reading event for later this year, so the last book will certainly come in handy for that.

Thank you, Marilyn!

How is your Sunday going?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Mastiff, Tamora Pierce
Beka Cooper, Book Three
Tamora Pierce

Mastiff forms the conclusion of the Beka Cooper series, set in Tamora Pierce's Tortall universe.

In Mastiff, Beka, along with her human partner, Mattes Tunstall, her scent hound Achoo, and her feline/constellation companion Pounce, are sent on a top secret mission on which the fate of the kingdom hangs. They team up with some new characters as well as old friends, including lady knight Sabine of Macayhill. The possibility that anyone is a traitor looms heavily over the group. This is the mission that proves Beka is a full-blown Dog, far from her young Puppy days, and able to take on whatever challenge awaits her.

The social justice themes in Mastiff are more prominent than they were in the first two Beka Cooper books. Beka tackles slavery and classism head on. She also struggles with the reality that her job means turning people over to the government to face capital punishment, making her feel like the murderers she's trained to take down. Sexism and gender essentialism continue to flourish through the Goddess Mother cult. Lady Sabine reveals that she's faced violent opposition along her journey to become a well-respected female knight.

Mastiff  is the perfect conclusion to a great trilogy, and an end to this era in Tortall.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pin It, Do It, Take 1

This is my first entry into May's Pin It, Do It Challenge, hosted by Trish over at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity.

Here was my inspiration:
Pin; Source
Of course, there were no instructions. Boo. So, I went hunting on youtube, and, voila! I quickly found a corner bookmark tutorial:

After a bit of tinkering, I'm pretty happy with the end result. I bought both solid and patterned paper, so I plan on making a few more. They'd make cute little gifts. My secretary likes to read, and I bet she'd get a kick out of one of these cuties.

My monster's a bit more sleepy looking than scary looking, but I like him!


Be sure to check out what the other participants have been up to with Trish's Challenge Progress Post!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April in Review

I refused to end April without finishing two books that I'll been struggling far too long to finish - Maps, Nuruddin Farah and The Book of the City of Ladies, Christine de Pizan. Well, I'm happy to report:
Both of those books count towards challenges I've joined for the year, which is an added bonus.

I participated in Dewey's Readathon, although I didn't read for anywhere close to the full 24 hours. The experience did help me read of total of 7 books for the month, which is more than I'd been reading for the previous couple months. My event wrap-up post is here: Readathon Wrap Up

April also brought my birthday, along with the best birthday present ever, a convertible! (not brand new, but new to me - yes, the hubby spoils me!) Oh - and I did this little thing called GETTING SWORN IN AS A LAWYER!!!! Now if my job will actually start paying me...

My April breakdown:
7 books total
6 fiction                86%
1 nonfiction          14%
6 female authors  86%
2 translated           29%

How was your April reading?