Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Dreyer's English

Just what you've asked for...another book about grammar and spelling!  Hear me out, this book is hilarious. Please get an audio version because his dry humor puts some Brits to shame. You might want to get a written version because the end of the book is about commonly misspelled words and it sounds like a demented spelling bee. I imagine this is what went on at a Princeton party before the quarantine. "Spell supercilious on the first try or do a shot." Who am I kidding, those kids were doing lines of crushed Adderall.

It's as snarky as you would expect but it some ways the book is liberating because those old-school rules that you assume are canonical? Well, maybe they aren't? I'm still not a fan of when someone responds in a text with "K" instead of okay or even ok. I mean, am I not worth that one extra keystroke? You've reduced me to a one-keystroke friend.  Dreyer's English is geared more for people that write for a living. But then don't most of us write for living? You shouldn't send your boss an e-mail that says: "You need report and I good lady make report sometime." Now that I write that I kind of think that would be an awesome email.

It's hard to drink and write. And its really hard to drink and read but this cocktail seems sophisticated for Mr. Dreyer.  It's a variation of the Manhattan. Red Hook Cocktail: 2 ounces rye whiskey, 1/2 ounce Punt e mes (that's an Italian vermouth), 1/2 ounce Maraschino liquor. Add to a mixing glass and stir with ice.  Strain and garnish with a maraschino cherry. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

White Fragility

Hopefully you've heard of this book, but if not it is a fantastic introduction to systemic racism and white privilege. I think every human should read this book. Yes, even those of you that are "woke." Especially those of you that are woke. Even woke people sometimes need a cup of coffee. I know I did. Dave and I read this together over Christmas and before the virus we were telling everyone to read it--in person--which was interesting.  Something the author mentions in the beginning is how defensive people can be about resisting reading it or educating yourself. I had no idea how unintentionally comical those defenses would sound. Dave highly recommended this to someone and she said and I quote, "Well, I live in Harlem." Then she said, "Well, you don't have a stepson that is a quarter black." Dave almost did a spit take. It was more cringe inducing that something Larry David could write.

The author is a white woman that does diversity training and in some ways it does read a little like a power-point presentation. But that's okay because it works in this book. This is not theoretical, but it is full of examples of things white people can do, practical things, we can do to make a difference. She also admits that she still makes an occasional mistake even though she has been making a conscious effort to check her privilege long before the term woke existed. I've had to cut out a few friends that did not share my values. I must admit that was for selfish reasons.  Constantly "playing nice" to someone who lacks empathy is freaking exhausting. My next project is to call out family and co-workers (harder to cut them out) when they say something racist and it's hard but we have to do it. Nothing is going change if we don't. Please read this book or something like it. Whatever excuse you have not to is not good enough anymore.

Read this book with a little white wine. Get it? You do. We picked some up in upper Michigan, which, by the way, is super-duper white and it honestly was kind of weird but it's beautiful up there nonetheless. Our favorite winery was Left Foot Charley and we bought a bottle of Kerner which is grown in cool climates.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Ninth House

What if the Yale secret societies really did like secret stuff?  You know instead of Skull and Bones teaching you about having an offshore tax account for when you have a multinational corporation.  Like magic stuff.  Well, Leigh Bardugo, who is a Yalie herself, took a break from YA (her YA is excellent and I don't love YA as a rule) to write this adult fantasy-thriller. It is adult and a tad disturbing but the trauma has context and doesn't seem gratuitous. There have been some trigger warnings surrounding this book which are--legit.

Ninth House is kind of like what if Harry Potter was a heroin addict in LA and lived more under a bridge that under the stairs? Then he gets sent to Yale because they need someone who can speak parseltongue but he's a she and more like a non-guitar playing Joan Jett. That's the basic premise.

Awesome book but it loses a couple of points in that there are a lot of flashback scenes which is the hot thing these days (heavy sigh). Just have the character slowly reveal their past but in this chronological time for Pete's sake.  I tried to read Erin Morgenstern's new book The Starless Sea and I had to tap out. I'm like how many books am I reading in the same book? It was like a video game with side quests I swear. Despite some flaws Ninth House is solid and one of he few books I really thought about after a read it for like a whole month.  It's a chungus so it should keep you busy.

While I know I've posted the recipe before I'm going for simple cocktails while we are in quarantine. Dark and Stormy: 3 ounces aged rum, 3-4 ounces of good ginger beer (Q brand makes a can that is perfect to split--you can buy it at Kroger), 1/2 ounce lime juice.  Rocks glass and some ice, pour ingredients and give it a light stir. Nice for the porch and judging the neighbor's dogs.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1-5)

I think its weird that for some many of a comfort read involves a murder mystery. Weird right? This cozy mystery series fits the bill.  Especially if you like super sassy (and horny) lady Victorian detectives. Veronica Speedwell is like if Mary Poppins could kick your butt.  I always thought she might be able to anyway.  Anyway, there's a hot dude too and they do like the whole sexual tension thing like in X-Files, the Office...most shows. It's a winning formula.

While these are murder mysteries they always end up in some perilous plot and they have to use their wits and martial arts skills to survive.  It's set in Victorian England and while she's accurate if there is a speedboat, well, it's been invented by the year this takes place, its still full of cultural anachronisms like Veronica has modern social values. It's better this way, trust me. You don't want to read the adventures of some weird racist/colonialist detective. Well, I just did the whole Sherlock cannon and while it is still amazing....it sometimes gets a little racist. (pulls collar uncomfortably).

This series doesn't take itself too seriously and its doesn't completely insult your intelligence which is a lot to ask. All five books are solid so just enjoy it.

She whips out this South American drink from her flask called aguardiente. There are great many variations now... and fun fact--they use liquor sales of it in Columbia to fund health care. Genius! Sadly I don't have any but I do have some white rum which I think is, right now, good enough. El Presidente: 1 & 1/2 ounces of white rum, 3/4 ounce of dry vermouth, 1/2 ounce of orange liquor like cointreau, and a dash of grenadine if you have it. Pour all in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and put in a coupe glass with an orange peel.

Friday, April 3, 2020


Wakenhyrst is newish (2019) gothic thriller set in Edwardian England that should get more hype. Elements of this book are based on different true stories and that makes it extra spooky. Set just before WWI it makes you appreciate living in our current times. Yes, pandemic and all! Plus, both the war and the Spanish Flu is just around the corner for them too. I never understood why people think the past or traveling in time is so great. I'm like, they didn't even have maxi-pads with wings back then. 

Set in a manor house on the moor and fens (I had to look up what a fen is --it's like a marsh) with religion, superstition, some gas-lighting, outsider art, murder and a fantastically realistic villain. And a bird. The bird is not the villain. I do know people that don't like birds and I think I get it. When the starlings come to our feeder I become irrationally angry. They are like the bullies of the bird world. #BeBest I overheard them trying to tell the other birds that if they just wear a scarf they can't get the bird flu. 

Get yourself a cup of builder's tea on one of the "third winter" days (that follows false spring around here) and read this. If it a spring day--for real--then a Gin & Tonic would not be out of place. I used to guess on the gin but I've found that measuring the alcohol makes for a better drink. I know, I'm not fun. Experiment with different tonics I like Fevertree and Q, but anything will do during quarantine. I am not a fan of diet tonic as I think it ruins it and you are not saving that many calories. Also, buy limes in bags! A little fresh lime juice in your gin and tonic, a squeeze over Mexican or add to an Asian inspired peanut sauce. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

My Sister, the Serial Killer

Do you need quarantine reads?  Having a pandemic for a Gen Xer is like a Calvinist falling down the stairs. So that finally happened.

Some people want light reads but My Sister, the Serial Killer is engrossing--its like a thriller without twists.  They say is a dark comedy but it's more like absurd moments. The author is Nigerian-British and everyone knows that for the Brits someone falling down the stairs is the main criterion for a comedy. This one has an elevator scene so obviously its not a comedy. It is known.

This short read also is a fantastic audio book. It is a kind of punchy confessional so it totally works. I like to take long walks in the neighborhood listening to audio so I'll include more recommendations. I was a ahead of the game on this whole social distancing. Also, I'm part British so I never wanted people to get too close anyway. For some reason, I'm not a fan of as much physical comedy as the Brits but I'm not above an excellent fart joke. That's the German side I'm thinking.

I have my own confessional in that I have absolutely laid waste to my liquor cabinet during quarantine. So I've been more creative. It turns out that you make a good Old Fashioned Cocktail out of relatively cheap bourbon. Very counterintuitive. The cheap bourbon should be decent but you don't need your Woodford Reserve if it runs out (or you are broke). "New Fashioned Cocktail": pour 2 &1/2 ounces "decent" bourbon (I've been using Very Old Barton), a small squirt of agave nectar, a few drops of orange bitters in a rocks glass over ice.  Stir and add a little orange peel or a cherry. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

The World That We Knew

What if The Terminator was sent to Nazi occupied France to protect his future creator's great grandma from being sent to Auschwitz? That sounds awesome. It's not exactly the plot of this book but also not a bad idea? There is hint of that idea in this book so I think you should read it. Alice Hoffman is more known for "magical realism" than writing Terminator fan fiction but this book is worth reading anyway.

It's hard to pull off a Nazi book that doesn't get dangerously close to manipulatively sentimental. While this one doesn't cross it it still has this IMPORTANT BOOK vibe. It's hard to pull off magical realism with Nazis but she nails it. I wouldn't be surprised if this gets opted for a movie. 

If my movie was made I think Gal Gadot would be a good Nazi defeating terminator. I like the idea of corny anachronistic lines like, "Hey Goring, this is from Miss Israel 2004." (Puts on sunglasses--blows him away with a rocket launcher). "How about a shrimp on the Klaus Barbie..." (blasts him with a flamethrower). 

There is no terminator but you should read this book anyway. It's mostly kids scared of getting caught by Nazis and the people that help them. She weaves real historical facts in the story so you'll learn things. There is one eye rolling scene but nobody's perfect. Well, except Gal Gadot.

It's a wartime novel so we can always use a little Penicillin (also bees are a plot point believe it or not): 2 ounces of scotch, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, 3/4 ounce honey simple syrup, 1/4 ounce smoky Islay scotch, 2-3 coin size slices of fresh ginger. Muddle the ginger and add the rest into a cocktail shaker with ice except for the smoky scotch. Shake and strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a toothpick with a speared piece of candied ginger.