Thursday, December 28, 2017

East of Eden

Set in the olden times in Salinas Valley California, I just can't feel sorry for someone that owns acreage and acreage of the some of the most gorgeous real estate in the county. "But, my cows are skinny." Boo-hoo. You have a sunshine, an ocean and wildflowers, c'mon man!  Now you could just open up a hotel with daily yoga and make-your-own grain bowls. Actually, they still grow stuff in this valley and are still obsessed with whether it will rain this year or not. Like, rain at all. That seems so weird to me but I live under a great big cloud for five months of the year. Literally and metaphorically. 

East of Eden, set in the Salinas Valley (that's where Steinbeck grew up) is about some Lannister style narcissistic sociopaths. But not everyone is evil, just a couple of them. When I was a kid there was a three episode miniseries of the book and I remember watching just enough to determine that Jane Seymour is evil and no altruistic Dr. Quinn or magic crepey neck cream is going to dissuade me from that notion. I'm sure there are kids now that will never ever trust Lena Headey ever again. I know, kids shouldn't watch Game of Thrones but I would bet some of them did like I watched things that were inappropriate for me. Honestly, the most traumatic thing I even watched on TV was Little House on the Prairie when Albert's girlfriend Sylvia got raped by a clown, gets pregnant, gets called a whore, gets attacked again and dies. Yes, that was an episode. I didn't leave the house for like two years. 

East of Eden is about a couple of families over a period of years so it has this epic family drama feel that is appealing. If you haven't read it, it's worth a read, the drama of the storytelling is not dated (it's excellent) but of course it has some racist language and of course sexist stuff.  Shoot, you watch a comedy special filmed last year and it seems weird.  I'm like, who thinks that stuff is funny anymore? Times have changed so quickly. Anyway, the book is still good and the audio version is excellent if you are into that kind of stuff.

One prominent liquor in the book is Ng Ka Py, a Chinese medicinal liquor which I assume you don't have in the house.  Also, I did some research and it sounds super gross. Lets go with something whiskey and kind of sweet instead. Brown Sugar Cinnamon Bourbon Cocktail:  Make a simple syrup with brown sugar instead of white--also infuse or add some vanilla and a cinnamon stick.  Add two tablespoons of this syrup, one and a half ounces of bourbon to glass with ice and stir vigorously, add a few dashes of orange bitters and garnish with a cinnamon stick.  You can rim the glass with brown sugar if you want but that seems excessive for our hard working frontier folks. 


There are handful of celebrities I would love to have as my friend. Steven Colbert, Tina Fey and John Hodgman...well, he's right up there. Super smart and funny I guess is the common denominator and he doesn't disappoint in this short memoir. He's not the type to regale you with his college sexual conquests, text you a stupid sexist joke, or expect you to know who won the football game. No, he would expect you though to know that Han shot first, which actor was the best Dr. Who, and what the Black Lotus card does. (I only know one of these three--I've never seen Dr. Who but I love the theme music for some reason). Now that I think about it, while I'd like to be his friend he'd, your knowledge is so bereft of the essential basics, we cannot be friends. We can be passing acquaintances at best....Good day to you madam.

Vacationland is the most organized funny memoir I've ever read.  Of course, he studied literary criticism at Yale. No, that is not a joke.  He does make light of how ridiculous that is though.  The whole book is self-aware enough that having two vacation homes as his biggest problem is pretty ridiculous. Warning, if you are a Trumper, you will not like this book as he is very liberal.  I'm sure you'll find that shocking. I feel like everything is so politicized now, even comedy.  I saw a comedian that never does political jokes make a feeble attempt and it was so painful.  It was like watching a mud-skipper emerge from the water and think...technically I can breathe air...but this feels wrong somehow. Oh, and it was.

This book made a short list for best humor book and won someone's list, like Barnes and Noble or someone.  But Vacationland and Theft by Finding are both great. I needed two great humor books in one year.  Hey authors, feel free to make three in 2018, we can handle it. Not only can we handle it...we need it.

John Hodgman is a drinker.  And he loves a martini.  He hates fudge with a burning passion but loves a cocktail.  Here is a variation on a gin martini that I've never tried but it sounds pretty good. This makes 4 small drinks or three larger drinks:  8 ounces of good gin, a 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth, a 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth. Shake and strain into your glasses and garnish with either an olive or a lemon twist. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale

Have you ever heard of a hype man?  In hip-hop or rap there is a bonus guy who sings and/or raps and he "supports" the main rapper with exclamations of exuberance. I don't go to many hip hop shows but recently I saw this DJ who acted like a hype man.  He was a small pale man named Peabody.  His "hyping" included head-banging and raising his arms in front of an Apple computer.  Occasionally he would say "I'm DJ Peabody!"  It's important that you get a good feel for Peabody's voice. Pinch your nose and slowly say PEABODY. Yes, now you have it. So The Bear and the Nightingale has been hyped. But you know, it's good so it's worth hyping.

Katherine Arden is very young and gradated from Middlebury in 2011. HEY, I'M DJ MIDDLEBURY! Yeah...GET IT!  If someone says they went to Middlebury I assume they are either terribly rich, fantastically smart but probably both. They don't need hype men. We are not going to hate on Katherine because we wish her the best so she can keep writing. This book is the first in a trilogy but it does not end on a cliffhanger. Yea! It is based on Russian fairy-tales and set in the Russian middle-ages, but it is also a modern thinking fantasy novel.  It is missing that whole "the witch gets baked in a pot pie" kind of thing.  It's more of a the witch is empowered enough to have her successful Web Series optioned.  Sure she needs the influence of some very powerful men but, c'mon that's just real life. I mean, Amy Poehler can't champion everything.

This is set in a Russian winter so you will feel cold just reading it. I'm convinced I won't feel warm until May at the earliest. It's at least a two kitty lap novel.  Maybe I have a charismatic cat with another cat that acts like a hype man but that's not entirely accurate.  Although I do think a cute name for a cat would be Peabody.

Here's a Toddy variation that sounds delicious: Toby's Toddy: 1 ounce cognac, 1 ounce aged rum, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 ounce simple syrup and 5 dashes of bitters.  Add ingredients to three ounces of boiling water in a mug. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a lemon wheel studded with cloves.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Under the Skin

🎶 Under the skin...under the skin, darling it's better, under the dermis, take it from me...🎶. Now you have that song stuck in your head for the next 2 to 3 years. C'mon, things could be worse. Under the skin is hard to review without spoiling it--which I won't.  I'm going to call it thriller, ok?  I don't even know.  It's thought provoking and entertaining. That's pretty much all I want in a book anyway.

They also made a movie which came out about three years ago but you didn't see it. It has Scarlett Johansson but it was filmed in Scotland. We had to put the subtitles on so it might have been a good thing we missed it in the theater. By the way, the movie is completely different than the book.  It's really good but weird as hell. It's like Jonathan Glazer channeled Stanley Kubrick at a avant-garde theater class. Fine, it also involves lots and lots of nudity ok?    

In the book, our main character picks up hitchhikers. Luckily they changed that for the movie because when is the last time you saw a hitchhiker? Like 3 years ago? Just when you get that song stuck out of your head you'll see one. The book is short and a little scary but it's good. This is my third Michel Faber book and I've enjoyed all three. I wish he was slightly more prolific. I think Stephen King has a new book coming out. No matter when you read this post that will still be a relevant tidbit of news. Maybe Michel Faber should go to the Stephen King School for Prolific Profundity.

Without spoiling the plot... trust me, a harvest based drink is appropriate. Even though this was set in Scotland this one is called English Harvest. I'm sure in Great Britain those are not even remotely the same thing but to Americans....well, close enough. One ounce dry gin, 3/4 ounce apple brandy, 3/4 ounce dry vermouth, 3/4 ounce unfiltered apple juice, 1/4 ounce orgeat (almond flavored syrup), 3 dashes bitters.  Add ingredients to a cocktail shakers with ice. Shake and strain into a coupe or other classy cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel.  


Monday, November 13, 2017

The Shadow Land

Where are the Vampires? That is all I remember about Elizabeth Kostova's book The Historian. I was working at a bookstore at the time and that book was crazy hyped. She got over a million dollars for the book and she was a first time author. Apparently they thought it would be the next The Da Vinci Code and I'm not even going to parse out what's wrong with that. It turns out it was ok, its been a while and if I remember there were real vampires but it turns out that were a part of a multi-level marketing scheme. Like Amway for Vampires. BUT YOU GET DISTRIBUTOR DISCOUNT! I might be remembering it wrong.

The Shadow Land has no vampires. There are a few hints of the supernatural but it's really a frame story set in Bulgaria with a World War II story tucked inside. It reminds me a lot of Invisible Bridge, so you know it's going to be fun in the sun. That's a bit of sarcasm because this story is not fun in the sun. Is more like cruel in the pool. In Communist Bulgaria story reads you. I don't even know what that means. It's a good book but not amazing. Our frame story protagonist grows up in a quasi-hippy academic household in the Blue Ridge mountains where they were slightly broke but there was an abundance of homemade cookies. That sounds so nice I think that will be included in my happy places. Do you remember "Binders full of Women"? Well, I have a mental binder full of dappled sunlit cottages with drinks and baked goods. Mental happy places come up in this book. Our guy's happy place involves Vivaldi and I'm like...I guess....needs more muffins, but whatever. 

Set in Bulgaria, at one point in this book they drink rakia, because that's what you do. This cocktail is called a Serbian 77. Considering these two countries fought against each other at one point that seems wrong but maybe after 130 years its been long enough. 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup or elder-flower liqueur, 1 ounce kinsman rakia and 3 ounces of champagne or Prosecco.  Combine everything but the Prosecco in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a coupe or large flute and top with the Prosecco.  Garnish with a lemon peel.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Theft by Finding

You guys know what you're getting yourselves into right? Theft by Finding is a collection of David Sedaris' diaries from 1977-2002. This should not be your introduction to his work and the first few years are kind of grim. In fact, there are a number of sad stories in this book but he is great at his wry, funny way to look at life--I mean, really he's made a whole career out of it.  

If you were disappointed in the last book this is much more of his classic style, pared down but spot on.  It inspired me to keep my own thoughts for a bit. Here is my diary entry "Sedaris-style": I think my back pain is something called “computer back.” You would think you could come up with a better title.  I like the good old days when aliments had names like Dowager’s Hump. It's  descriptive, vaguely classy and slightly insulting.  

Here's another one: I got a haircut and noticed that when I style it myself it looks a whole lot like Evie’s. Evie is my friend Terry’s daughter. She’s a cute girl, don't get me wrong, but unfortunately she’s a first grader. To make matters worse, this was Evie’s haircut last year.   

Well, that's my pale imitation of what this book is like. The book gets much more fun when he's just starting to get successful but still desperate enough to take that Macy's elf job. I admire the fact that he's been so diligent all of these years.  He spent nearly all of his nights at IHOP drinking coffee and writing. I kept a diary for about three weeks but the people at work are mind-numbingly boring.  Overheard at my job: "You know what my kid likes to take in his lunch? Lunchables." Here's another one: "You know, I kind of like that Joel Osteen." Kill me now. 

It feels funny adding a drink as David had a drinking problem (drugs too) and gave it up some time ago. But we drink in moderation and live our boring lives so we should be good right? Sure we are. Here's a fall cocktail called Stone Wall.  Muddle in a shaker an inch of sliced fresh ginger with one and half teaspoons of simple syrup.  Add one and half ounces of aged rum, and one and half ounces of apple cider.  Fill the shaker with ice and shake and strain.  Pour into a rocks glass with ice and top with an ounce and half of ginger beer.  Garnish with a lime wedge and apple wedge.        

Monday, October 16, 2017

Gilded Cage

Fantus interupptus: a fantasy series that consists of multiple books that end with a cliffhanger....oh, AND the other books haven't been published yet. C'mon man!  Gilded Cage is a very British fantasy/dystopian novel. Very British. Set an alternative reality Great Britain, the gentry are rich, powerful and magical. The commoners are not magical and have to do ten mandatory years of slavery at some point.  You read that right--slavery.  Of course, with our slow wage growth and health care costs we all have to do about 40 years ho-ho!

There is a political element and a magical element and British-y things. This book is not say... China Mieville's The City and the City sophisticated style political intrigue. (That is one of those books I like more in retrospect).  I live on the border or two cities and it's getting weird. The other day they paved half the street and stopped because the other half is in the "poor city." As if you couldn't guess, I live in the poor city as a commoner. Maybe my city spends all of it's money on matcha powder and succulents like I do. I don't think they do but I WISH. I'm sorry your house is on fire but here is a matcha latte. I'd be like, oh--free latte!

All of the magical gentry are evil except for a few good ones and maybe some marginal ones. They are pretty and have cool houses and can erase your memories if they do something weird to you. Kind a like erasing a bad Tweet I guess. I'm pretty sure that is what my cats do to me when I sleep.  They raise a tiny paw and point it at my head then command me to forget that they have raked their razor claws across my back in my sleep. I wake up like: What's this? with no recollection. I'm going to blame them for all of my random aches and pains. Like if my knee hurts, could it be from doing martial arts for eighteen years? No, it's the cats, it's always the cats and their hypnosis. Anyway, I kind of liked this book, it's not heavy, very YA but I don't know, kind of cool if you aren't expecting Tolkien or anything. (pro tip: you should not expect Tolkien any time you read...unless it's Tolkien, or course).

The gentry in book wear high fashion clothes so why not drink with this drink called High Fashion? (it also seems both delicious and British-y): 2 ounces Plymouth Gin, 1&1/4 ounces elder flower liqueur like St. Germain, 1&1/4 ounces grapefruit juice, 2 dashes of rhubarb bitters.  Shake with ice, strain and garnish with a grapefruit peel.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Atlas Obscura

This book is like an adult picture book. Wait, that sounds wrong. Coffee table book?  Is that still a thing? I have an ottoman.  Not an Ottoman, that would be weird.  Speaking of weird, you may like this book, it's like an encyclopedia of the strange and wonderful things all over the world and the very thing I would have been obsessed with in the fifth grade.  I read The Guinness Book of World Records over and over. I had a big hardback edition with all of the pictures of crazy long mustaches, fat twins on motorcycles, and pictures of gold nuggets, weird seeds and diamonds of all sorts. Among an informal survey of fellow nerds, I was not the only one.

If a typical news day includes both Taylor Swift and Ivanka Trump, you want, no you need, a sense of wonder. Well, that's what Atlas Obscura is for. This catalogs the weird, creepy and funky stuff you may have missed.  Maybe you've even been to one or two of these, fancy pants. I've heard of several of them but most of it is new to me--but that's the whole point!  Did you know some British physician made a bizarre weather predictor trying to use leeches?  It's called the tempest prognosticator, it's actually a beautiful object, doesn't work of course, but it's pretty awesome. (I like the idea that it does work and all the meteorologists secretly have leeches at the station). I don't care about old cold war silos and "museums" which are really just hoarders who collected a bunch of crap but there is plenty in this book that is just cool.  If you don't think so then you are just dead inside. I'm 74th Level Ennui Master and I still found plenty of wonderment.  You should read a couple of pages right before you go to a party just in case you have a boring emergency.  Everyone there will think you are weird and a massive nerd but it would be better than talking for hours about their job, or baseball, or the weather this weekend, or the new truck they just bought or that they think they are getting a cold. Be less boring! Read this book.

I heard maple is the new pumpkin for fall. Be trendy and drink this cocktail called Thyme Will Tell (sigh): 2 ounces of bourbon, 1/2 ounce maple syrup, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, spring of thyme.  Muddle the thyme and stir ingredients and serve on the rocks.  Garnish with a lemon peel.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Archivist Wasp

Sullen, defiant warriors that are ruggedly independent yet secretly compassionate, compelled to aid the helpless, and topple the totalitarian system.....sound familiar? Well, that's because that's the plot of every single young adult dystopian novel. Step one, make their names a little weird, step two have them be reluctant but devastating warriors, step three have at least one character who is a loner and finds a kindred soul. are done! Congrats you have written your novel!  If you like this take, you should follow Dana Schwartz's Dystopian YA Novel Twitter feed. It is so dead-on it will kind of ruin you.  Honestly, it is truly a bright spot on the grim landscape that is social media these days.

So, I really wanted to like this book by Nicole Kornher-Stace. I promised myself after reading All Our Wrong Todays that I must read more women authors. Then I tried reading Margret Atwood's newish book and I hated it and stopped. Then I read this book and was underwhelmed. Dang it!  I need some prescription Ursula Le Guin STAT. She's still alive I just checked. She is very old but they are making a TV series about The Left Hand of Darkness. Winter is coming....and it's not leaving...ever.  

Wasp, our main character--ah ha! Is a fierce but reluctant gladiator-type warrior ah-ha! that fights humans once a year and ghosts all of the other days of the year. She meets a very special ghost and they go off to have an adventure. There are a several cool ideas in here but it was just so all over the place. While I love a good plot this is mostly plot. For as exciting as it is, I kept putting it down, and for a book like this, that's not good. Some people like it though.

Ok, I know that wasps don't make honey--apparently they will steal it and eat the larva too--but why don't you read this with a honey based cocktail--mostly because it sounds delicious.
Bricks and Ivy: 3 slices of cucumber, muddled, 1 and 1/2 ounces of lime vodka (I would bet you could use regular vodka), 1/2 ounce St. Germain, 1/2 ounce honey simple syrup (one to one ratio) and 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice. Shake the ingredients and strain into a rocks glass topped with ice and garnish with a cucumber.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Anna Karenina

The themes of Anna Karenina are addressed in most of Beyonce's songs. The women aren't quite as empowered, true, but its all about "relationship drama" including but not limited too: baby daddies, someone not putting a ring on it, affairs, people talking crap behind your back and money problems (both too much and not enough). Admittedly, Beyonce doesn't go into a discussion of peasant farming, duck hunting, the Serbian conflict or complicated provincial elections. That's the bonus part for you. The rest is like an classy Jerry Springer episode.

I don't think Tolstoy was known for his feminist views because the poor women in this book...I mean, sad horns. Apparently it was very easy to "lose" your looks. How, you ask? Oh, like getting pregnant, turning thirty or having a cold.  If they only had plastic surgeons they would have started The Real Housewives of Moscow. This is fascinating to read, as these people who are as rich and educated as they are still act like idiots. For example: He's going to leave me I just know it. Why is he acting like that? He must have another woman.  He is repulsed by me. This kind of good can come of it.  As Beyonce says "What's worse, lookin' jealous or crazy? In this book, why not both?

I was intimidated about reading Tolstoy but it really reads like a typical Victorian novel except for the fact that its Russian. I didn't hate it, but instead of the good guys and bad guys of Dickens everyone is just kind of a turd in their own way. I think we are supposed to like one of the main characters as he is our proxy for the author, but I wasn't so crazy about him either. I probably would have thought Tolstoy was a turd in real life too.    

Drink this with a summer Russian Beyonce drink: Rooftop Lemonade: 2 ounces of vodka, 3 ounces of fresh squeezed lemonade, shake in a shaker, strain and add into a Collins glass with cucumber slices and ice.      

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Drawing of the Dark

The Drawing of the Dark sounds like an epic metal band album. Surprise!, it's not about soul sucking harbingers of death but it's about beer!  Well, there are some soul sucker types and I think the grim reaper makes a cameo, but! This, I believe, was Tim Power's first novel and it's really weird for a first novel.  And while it's subtly funny, there are no dad jokes. I think the main issue with dad jokes is that they have this lazy dumb guy element. But what if you had an erudite professor-type dad? Would his dad jokes look like this? Son: "What do you call those 'why did the chicken cross the road type jokes'? Dad: (sigh) Pedestrian. Here's another one: What do you call an expensive Irish car and drives all over the place?  A Rolls Joyce.

Speaking of obscure references, The Drawing of the Dark is a fantasy set in the medieval times during the Ottoman Empire v. Western Empire times. There are references to all kinds of references. Many of which I am only vaguely aware. I think there are serious gaps in my education. I had to look a few things up and even then I missed so many I'm sure. Dave's grandpa was a college professor. The answer to every trivia question is Bucephalus. I did not have a professor dad.  He was more the type to know all the names of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

For his earliest novel, it is ambitious, not in length but in content. It has many many fight scenes. I enjoyed it but I loved Anubis Gates. That is a tough act to follow, except this is written first, but you know what I mean. And yes, magical dark beer is a plot point. Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you that the wizard smokes a dried out snake. That sounds so cool--the smoke coming out of his mouth. Apparently it these snakes had a mild euphoric effect as if you didn't look cool enough smoking a snake.

Of course you have to drink this with a dark beer.  I was lucky enough to visit Ballast Point on my birthday and had a brunch sampler with this Coconut Victory at Sea Imperial Porter.  It has a very strong coconut and fairly strong coffee flavor so you are warned.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Three Body Problem

First, let me warn you that this is the first novel in a trilogy and second, this is a translation from Mandarin and they keep the names--yeah last name first too. (This makes it not impossible to read but adds a degree of difficulty like doing the pike position in Olympic diving). Third, this is a hard science book so unless you took astrophysics in college you are going to need every Nova, both versions of Cosmos and at least a cursory knowledge of Alf. I could barely keep up. It is also very possible that I am quite stupid. The other night I tried to swallow four pills and once and managed to get water up my nose via the sinuses by flicking my head back in a spastic way. Genius at work.

I was surprised about some of the themes in the book and why this book wasn't banned in China. The afterward actually says this novel is not meant to be a criticism of contemporary society....I mean please. This became a best-seller and soon to be movie, so good job dude. I guess that is all it takes--everything is cool guys, the world is a crap-fest including the past cruelty of the Chinese Government--I mean, fiction right? You shelve this in the fiction section. SCIENCE FICTION. This gets shelved next to those idiots like Ursula LeGuin and Arthur C. Clarke.

So a weird little book--creative but science-y but maybe a translation issue there are some super cool concepts but Cixin Liu kind of takes the fun out of most of them. You get dessert! Hurrah! It's Mint Flavored Frozen Yogurt. Man, ok...I mean, I guess so....hand it over.

Why not read this with an Asian inspired cocktail?  Red Lotus: 1 1/2 oz vodka, 1 1/2 ounces lychee liqueur, 1 ounce cranberry juice. Put the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice shake well, strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass with ice.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Pushing Iron and Pulling Steel--wait, is it Pulling Iron or Pushing Steel? The magical fight scenes in Mistborn feel like a Crossfit Workout of the Day. They are both confusing and they might cause an aneurysm. Don't sue me bro. Joke. Crossfit is notoriously litigious. (I'm gonna file this lawsuit then blast my lats). Anyway, in Mistborn, the magical folks, you guessed it the Mistborn, drink a vial of metal and burn a specific metal in their tummies for a a specific magical power like ability to hear better, strength etc. How can they tell their stomachs to "burn" just one of the metals?  I can't even tell mine to break down corn.

This is my favorite Brandon Sanderson book but likely my last. I've read one and half of his other books. Half, more like one-third, but I was still 250 pages in--his books are big, really big. This one is the most classic epic fantasy style. Many people LOVE this book. I liked it and enjoyed it but there is something about his style that I don't love. It leans a little YA, plus, there are a lot of fight scenes and it's confusing ...did he crawl up that wall like a spider monkey or did he use that guy's belt buckle like a turbo booster rocket to fly into the air.  It's hard to say. Mistborn! (shakes fist). There are no sex scenes as Sanderson is a pretty strict Mormon. I do think there was a subtle reference to the temple garments--aka Mormon underwear. Our young Mistborn teenager named Vin takes off her dress and she has something awfully close to this on underneath. I'm fascinated by the underwear. Apparently so is everyone else. Secret underwear! I guess most underwear is a secret. Unless you are Kendall Jenner.

There are thieving clubs and even a character named Clubs so why not drink a Club Cocktail: 2 ounces of brandy, 1/2 ounce of maraschino liquor, 1/2 ounce pineapple juice, 2 dashes of Peychaud's bitters. Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel and strawberry.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Notes From a Small Island

I picked this book up again because I am obsessed with The Great British Baking Show (aka The Great British Bake Off). OBSESSED. I read the first part of Notes from a Small Island years ago but either lost the book, gave it away or returned it. I do remember him describing this man as having a name like Bertrand Pantyshields and I enjoyed that. I enjoyed that quite a bit. Dave insists I am an Anglophile but I'm not weird about it. (except the baking show--totally weird about it). This is Bill Bryson's book about Great Britain just before he leaves for America. He's back by the way. It's a kind of love letter but he points out some flaws too. Mostly about crappy architecture, weird landlords,train issues and the weather.  That weather would make me kind of sad. Or addicted to caffeine. Wait, that is already me.

It's a cute little book that still holds up, I think, he gets a little old-man fussy, which is odd considering he wrote this before he was an old man but he was getting a head start on his curmudgeonly ways. He said that the Brits are some of the happiest people because they do not seek pleasure constantly like Americans but take great comfort in small indulgences. They also have a motto: "Mustn't grumble." Which is adorable. Maybe Bill was just showing his American side when he was complaining. I am an American and Gen-X. Grumbling is all I've got.

I do get excited about someone randomly handing me a cup of tea and a biscuit (cookie) so there is hope for me yet. I am more than half British you know, well, it goes back a way, and there were many generations of hillbilly in between, but there is British way back there. I think the dude's name was Elias or Elijah and he was probably some religious weirdo. Why would you leave a perfectly good country to come to a freaky colony where you could easily die? Jesus. Anyway, it's a cute little book if you've never read it and are interested in small-town England. I'm interested in British small town baked goods. GBBO for life!

Summer at Wimbeldon is all about a Pimm's Cup.  Here is a variation on the classic recipe--this one is light enough for an American summer (it gets hotter here grumble grumble): 2 ounces Pimm's #1, 1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/4 ounce simple syrup. Add these to a Collins glass and stir. Add ice, top with soda water and two dashes of Angostura bitters, stir gently to mix.  Garnish with a cucumber slice, citrus wheel, berries or mint.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Furiously Happy

If a David Sedaris book is a burlesque show of the funny voyeuristic view of his life, then Jenny Lawson's new memoir is an all-nude pole dance. Furiously Happy contains further adventures of Jenny's life including her struggles with anxiety and depression. She also has some other issues like Trichotillomania. Dang you spell check--that is a real thing!  If you have a funny geeky friend and you don't mind her oversharing ways then you might like this. (I mind a little). This is not that thoughtful writing from Sedaris or Bill Bryson, Jenny is much more like a funny Twitter friend. In fact, she is a Twitter friend. Well, myself and about 40,000 other people. I had a joke she liked I guess. It did involve nunchucks.

I think most people know someone with anxiety or depression. Or both. Or OCD.  I am thinking Rafael Nadal has OCD, and that underwear pick is tic. (I noticed the TV directors don't show him from behind anymore which is kind a shame). She describes her struggles well, which is a good deed, but there is something a little creepy about all the oversharing. Of course, now with social media, narcissism is the new norm. This is funny narcissism with capes. She's the type of geek that refuses to answer door when someone knocks but would show up to Dragon Con wearing nothing but Wonder-Woman body paint. You know, normal....I guess.

If you liked her first book then you should give this a try.  I think the format is better for her and you've lowered your expectations on anything resembling a linear narrative. There is a part of me that feels sorry for her because when you are depressed and such it must be hard to create and edit your writing so a lot of the "so-so" stuff stays. Like a crappy Twitter joke. Then she starts talking about her new house and pool and then I felt significantly less sorry for her. She's making money on the kind of content most of my friends are giving away for free. I guess that is the difference between a professional pole dancer and a skank.  If you haven't guessed by now, I'm going to include myself as a skank. Dang you spell check -- a skank is a real thing!

Here is something you can sip by your new pool with an opossum (opossums are regularly featured in Jenny's stories): I'm trying to be more open minded about mint so here goes--Strawberry Mojito: 1 ounce fresh lime juice, one ounce simple syrup, a generous pinch of fresh mint, three to four strawberries, 2 ounces of light rum and about 3-4 ounces of soda water.  Muddle the fruit, simple syrup and mint in the bottom of a glass.  Then, stir in the rum and lime juice.  Finally put some ice cubes and top with soda water.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cutting for Stone

This is one of those big sweeping novels that covers historical events, includes a coming of age novel-within-a-novel, and everything you ever wanted to know about fistulas. DO NOT GOOGLE FISTULAS. Cutting for Stone is a narrative that has a little of everything and a lot of surgery.  If you are very squeamish about medical stuff --skip this.

Set in Ethiopia, the State Department says maybe you shouldn't go to North Africa these days, or Central Africa, or parts of West Africa. The State Department suggests...why not Canada? They seem nice. I've been to Canada many times....someone was rude to us in Montreal...oh, maybe I should have gone to the American consulate. It did involve pastries.

One of the best things about being an avid reader is I get to learn about things like Ethiopia because my knowledge of the country was...not great. The first time I'd heard of Haile Selassie was a joke during the movie Trading Places. I did know that Ethiopians think they have the Ark of the Covenant (for reals). In Raiders they were digging in Egypt. There is a rumor the Well of Souls is in Jerusalem. The State Department doesn't want you going in any of those places....wait, I'm seeing a pattern. Now I'm seeing Rex Tillerson's face melting careful Dude!

This is well written and I suspect that Abraham Verghase is one of those people that can do anything he sets his mind to do. He's still a doctor and professor of medicine and yet this was a best-seller. High achiever much?  In my mind, if I've made homemade croutons I'm Elon Musk. Anyway, this is a fine "modern day classic" type novel but it's not short so keep that in mind.

I'm thinking Africa gets pretty hot.  Also, I think Ethiopian food can be really hot. This seems like it would cool you off as it gets super hot this summer!  This one is not for the dieters. Dang it! That's me! --but I think might be worth it. Coconut Margarita:  1& 1/2 ounces reposodo tequila, 1/2 ounce Cointreau, 1 ounce coconut cream, 1 ounce coconut milk, 1/2 ounce lime juice, a splash of half and half and splash of simple syrup. Shake and strain  into a glass and serve on the rocks with a lime wedge.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sins of Empire

Whenever I don't like a book that other people like I'm I crazy? Maybe I'm old?  Then I think, that's silly, I'm already old and crazy.  Actually that doesn't normally bother me with books the "norms" like, but a fantasy book?  Well, there is SO MUCH fantasy out there now and it is getting very "niche" which is fine, totally fine, I kind of hope I find my perfect niche. I'm just going to call it my white whale niche.  I guess I like intelligent fantasy that gives you a sense of wonder with extra snacking. You know, Hobbit priorities.

If you like Brandon Sanderson and are a Civil War buff this book may be for you. Brian McClellan is literally a former student of Brandon Sanderson so I'm not kidding. He also went to Orson Scott Card's literary bootcamp.  I'm not sure what they teach at said bootcamp but I'd be nervous about any break-out section entitled "Never Adam and Steve" or "Women and other Mythical Creatures in Stories." Anyway, while there is magic and intrigue in this book, it has a plethora of fight and battle sequences.  At one point there is a blunderbuss appearance.  I would never trust a gun that has a synonym for mistake in it's name, but that's just me.  People on Goodreads love this book but he already has a fan base. It's a taste thing. I love coconut but not Alfredo sauce. It's just that this was my Olive Garden's Alfredo extravaganza.

Brian McClellan has an unintentionally funny bio.  He lives in Cleveland and enjoys making homemade jam and playing video games.  Dude, you are a 31 year old full time fantasy writer living in Cleveland.  We know you like video games.  Next your going to tell me you enjoy pizza and beer perhaps? You've got to come up with some cooler things on your bio.  Learn to play guitar or try martial arts.  Don't tell us the embarrassing things like Brian is currently constructing his own duct tape tuxedo and is trying to make "grey tie" a thing.  Or Brian enjoys trying to train his cat to walk on a leash.  I feel like walking a cat is some sort of metaphor for life.  I need to make Thirsty Narrator boot camp with a breakout session: "Quit Dragging your Cat" and "Waiting for Your Cat to Explore that Tree."

One of the main characters is the book is named Lady Flint. This drink is called the Lady Sybil (I think this a Downton Abbey reference) anyway, I have a fondness for champagne cocktails so here's another one.  1 ounce gin, 3/4 ounce St. Germain liquor. Put these two ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a champagne flute.  Top with champagne.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Skintight gold pants and men's mesh shirts are "business-wear" in Ubik. That is my favorite part of this book. Ubik is a part serious, part goofy sci-fi book. Everyone is writing "serious" sci-fi these days. Some of it has math problems. C'mon!  Many of the modern day writers are consulting with real astrophysicists so that their plots seem believable. Listen, writers of the are "world building" do whatever you want!  That's the whole point of being a professional writer.  If you care about what other people think go back to selling insurance with co-workers that think that Dylan's second place result in the semi-regional baseball tournament is news. Oh and did I tell you, I think Dylan's over his strawberry allergy. He ate some strawberry ice cream and only one eye closed up. I mean, if that's not progress I don't know what is.

I really think Philip K. Dick did not consult any astrophysicists.  I doubt PKD cared about anyone else's opinion, he had some mental problems, was married 5 times, but he was also one of those people who think that our existence is based on human perception.  He don't need no stinkin' laws of physics!  Also, in the 60's he didn't have to worry about some comic book guy dude tweeting about how one cannot suspend death by living in a deep freeze half-life. Not a care was given! He should have cared when he spontaneously lost his eyesight....yeah, that didn't end well.  

If you think suspended animation, men wearing chaps and see-though shirts is all you are getting with Ubik, well I have some news for you, that is just one many things going on, I'm not even sure there is a decent linear plot. There is also some quirky predictions about the future that are kind of apropos.  Everything is a fee based, you have to pay your refrigerator to open it and pay your door to leave your apartment. That door is a little smart aleck too.  

Note, I would not read this as your first introduction to PKD. If you like his stuff this book is almost a sample of his weird cogitations.

There is a little joke in here about beer made in Cleveland. And in 1969 that would have seemed strange but Cleveland, technically Stongsville, has one fabulous brewery called Brew Kettle. I love their West Coast style IPA called White Rajah but I'm thinking that they make some other fine beers, if that's not your thing. They have a beer called the Four C's that uses four types of hops, two of which are on my WARNING MAY SMELL LIKE CAT PEE PROCEED WITH CAUTION so I'll skip that one, maybe just a sample.  Anyway, Brew Kettle is super delicious so that joke no longer holds up. The smart aleck door--still funny.  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

House of Mirth

You would think with a title like House of Mirth there would be some laughs in this book. I know this was published in 1905 and some contemporary cultural references would not translate.  You know, like watching the really old MST3K episodes. Huh, a Jessica Hahn reference.....ok, ok that takes me back. No, if there is humor in this, it's lost on me.  No one even slips on a banana peel.  That is a timeless gag. Australopithecus was laughing about banana peels.

House of Mirth is a Victorian type novel about a young pretty lady who is kind of broke.  Her main option, what she was brought up to do, was marry rich.  Now she could just become a pharmaceutical rep. Even if you don't marry--it's good money! No problem. Back then, less of an option.

There is some weird things in here about men that are still relevant. Any gift given by a man always has strings attached. Sex strings. Sex Strings would make a good name for a punk band album. The Concrete Pacifier's seminal album Sex Strings.

Edith Wharton grew up crazy rich so she knows what she is talking about with her fancy parties.  She also married rich but the husband had severe depression.  They didn't have Prozac in the olden times so that would have stunk. I guess you could have hired one of those Freudian psychologists that would have blamed his mother and too many phallic references in his childhood nursery.  A lot of good that would have done. Now you're lucky if you get a therapist to text you: eggplant, eggplant, sad face. ðŸ†ðŸ†ðŸ˜¢

This book is well written and not as long as some Victorian novels but this one is only for Dickens-type fans interested in turn of the century sexual politics and high society's complicated milieu.  I know that is all of you so don't rush the bookstore all at once.

Let's pretend we are rich even if we are eating peanut butter on spoons.  A cucumber, basil, lime gimlet seems like it would hit the spot this time of year.  1&1/2 ounces of vodka, 2 slices of cucumber, 2 small basil leaves, 1 ounce of lemonade and 1/4 ounce lime juice. Muddle the basil and cucumber add the rest of the ingredients with ice.  Shake well and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with a lime wedge or cucumber wheel. I'm planting my basil in batches this year so it doesn't come in all at once.  I call that the pestolence. (forgive my pun--I hate myself).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Book Thief

Is there a book version of "Oscar bait?" Well, if there is one, this one has that quality. Nazis. Adorable children. Jews in basements. Death and destruction. The Book Thief is about a little girl, adopted by loving parents in a poor neighborhood outside of Munich. The parents, even though they curse like sailors for some reason, are secretly awesome and hate the Nazis! They aren't totally anti-Semitic!  The Grim Reaper is our narrator so that's in there. Anyway, despite these issues, it's a pretty good book. I can see where someone would LOVE it. But I don't like a book that's too emotionally heavy handed and this one walks a knife-edge.

I recently watched the movie Grave of the Fireflies which has some marked similarities to this book. That animated movie is about orphaned Japanese kids during the war. This book isn't quite that sad.  On the Moh's scale of sadness this is more like an amethyst level of sadness.  Both that movie and this book make you hungry. I am now on a diet. Thanks a lot war-time starvation stories....nom, better eat these cookies, nom, never know when a bomb will hit, cream, nom, good, nom, better eat that pizza, nom, I mean children are starving, nom....well, you get the picture. If any enemy ever had to try to starve Americans into submission....well, good luck, because my back fat alone could keep me alive for months. It's very patriotic of me to be starvation resistant. I'm a true American hero. So many of us are.

With rationing and all there is not a whole lot of drinking going on except our girl gets a taste of champagne one day: Drink with this champagne cocktail called the Parasol: 1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc, 1/2 ounce St. Germain, 1/2 ounce honey syrup (like simple syrup but honey), 3/4 ounce lemon juice. Add these to a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a champagne flute.  Top with three ounces of champagne. Be glad you don't have to scramble into a neighborhood shelter. The neighbors' terror-farts alone would kill me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spouted Kitchen & Bowl+Spoon

Sara Forte’s Sprouted Kitchen features healthy food, which is beautifully photographed and the food actually tastes good.  Oh, by the way, there is a price to pay.  Not a money price, no, but something just as precious….your blood. Wait, no, it’s your time.  

Want to make some of the best veggie burgers you have ever eaten?  You can, but you should have started them yesterday.  You might be able to make them for dinner if you start making them as you chew your last bite of your lunch. This story really happened: I was going to make the burgers for Sunday dinner but I made some homemade powerbars first.  (That was a mistake). Then I started the burgers, but it was getting so late I had to make sandwiches for dinner.  Essentially, I had to make base camp and go for the summit the next day.  I wanted to cry.  Admittedly, I may have had low-blood sugar, PMS or was exhausted—possibly all three. Anyway, on Monday I almost cried again because I realized these were delicious.  And that was bittersweet because I realized that I needed to make them again. Argggh.

Bowl+Spoon is the Sprouted Kitchen's follow up book. Sara is a blogger so "the Sprouted Kitchen" is her brand, I haven't been on it lately because they had a baby and it's 60% baby...I'm like I CAME HERE FOR FOOD NOT BABY.  Bowl+Spoon is kind of dumb name for a cookbook.  Food+Mouth? Now this came out right during the whole everything's a bowl thing. You want to hate them don't you? So precious, California hipster, millennials, mostly vegetarian, pics of a pretty young family eating outside like they don't have occasional diarrhea like the rest of us. Is there anything else I tell you that can make you a hater? Well, jokes on you because this is delicious too. Damn you millennial hipster! If you like grains + greens and delicious sauces pick this one up.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All Our Wrong Todays

This is book equivalent of Starship's We Built this City....just because some people liked that song doesn't mean it was meant for human ears. No. This is a spectacular example of the kind of stuff you would get in a creative writing class the first semester in your MFA program. He needed a trusted adviser to tell him, "Elan, this draft makes makes you seem like a arrogant buffoon. Or baboon, whatever, I'm an adjunct and I'm late for my shift at The Gap so I don't have time for this nonsense."

This is a time travel book that is about 20% time travel plot and 80% sexual politics. You know what I want in a time travel book? 100% time travel plot and 0% sexual politics. Our first narrator is an ultra-whiny young adult in the future we should be in....I'm going to call it the non-Kanye 2016. In his 2016 there really are hover cars, world peace and advanced technology. He travels in time, does the classic "made a mistake altering the future" and that is why we have a Kayne world. We aren't supposed to have Kayne at all. Apparently we can't avoid the rampant narcissism ether way.

I did learn a new writer's word just now.  It's called lamp-shading. This is when a writer admits that it may be difficult for the reader to willfully suspend their disbelief.  In All Our Wrong Todays our narrator not only mentions that time travel seems improbable but also he says things like "well, I'm not very good at writing." He also says, "I might be a little sexist." I guess we are supposed to give him a pass because he admits these things? Ah, hells, no. For our protagonist to say he's a little sexist is like Bill Gates whispering to Melinda in the middle of the night... "Hey, Melinda, Melinda....I think I might be rich."

The women aren't treated well in this book. Our narrator has four distinct personalities, one or two of which are rapists. One "less evil" personality got a girl pregnant (her fault) so she kills herself (of course). I eye-rolled so much during this book that my contacts almost flew out of my head. Our narrator tries to redeem himself in the end but I'm like...I don't like you, I don't like anything about you, you sir, are a jerk. There are people that enjoyed this book but I couldn't get past the misogyny and weird writing style. If you like it, ok, enjoy your Kanye universe because I'm opting out.

I don't think you are reading this book but you are going to have some kind of fabulous drink. Bloomsbury Fizz: 1&1/4 ounces Gin, 1/3 ounce lemon juice, 1/3 ounce simple syrup, 1/4 ounce raspberry puree, one egg white, mix all the ingredients in a shaker with ice, strain into a highball glass with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a fresh raspberry or two. You can omit the egg white if you are afraid of it (my mom was a total freak about salmonella when I was a kid and I was deprived of raw cookie dough--note to self--bring this up in therapy next month) but it won't have the proper fizz froth.  If you make two drinks one egg white is plenty for both drinks.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dark Matter

What if Dolph Lundgren had chosen to do his Fulbright scholarship at MIT in chemical engineering instead of moving to NYC with Grace Jones? Have you ever thought about that? Maybe we would have a cure for cancer but not Showdown in Little Tokyo? Before you answer that, remember Drogo from Rocky IV is the one that says..."I will break you." So, I mean, I think the answer is pretty clear.

Dark Matter is a sci-fi book of what-ifs.  What if I hadn't married my spouse, taken that job, gone the that school, taken that route to work?  Definitely, a first world problem. I doubt if some poor guy in Bangladesh living in tin shack collecting honey from trees in tiger country is thinking...."You know, I wonder if should have taken that movie role...but you know....I just didn't think a movie about a boy wizard would be that successful."

There is a little theoretical physics, specifically quantum mechanics, in this book which is the nice thing about theory--we don't know....I mean, it could happen.  There is one logical flaw that was a bit irritating but necessary for the plot I suppose, but this book doesn't overwhelm you with science or give you math problems like The Martian AND not one boob joke in this book. Not one. So this was not written for precocious 14 year old boys. This book is pretty short, and a bit of a page turner and it is soon to be movie (Blake Crouch is a screenwriter anyway).  I liked it I thought it was entertaining but I know someone who thought it was meh, and I thought...that's a reasonable view too.  

Ok this cocktail has nothing to do with the book, but it's spring and I want to drink this so why not? Tequila Honeysuckle: 2 ounces blanco tequila, 3/4 ounce honey syrup (this is just simple syrup but with honey instead of sugar) and 3/4 ounce lime juice. Combine in a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lime slice.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ghost Talkers

Life is stressful enough so maybe you want a mystery that has a supernatural element but maybe you don't want any heavy lifting? I'm not going to judge you. They say you should try to get out of your "bubble" these days. Lately, I've been like, I've heard your viewpoints and it's making me want more of a bubble. I'm ready for a "boy in plastic bubble John Travolta" type of existence. Give me a never exhausting supply of coffee and books and I'm all set. Plus I can fart with impunity.

Ghost Talkers is a lot like a Maisie Dobbs' mystery but with magic. I think the Masie Dobbs series is a little more sophisticated and this is more action-based. It's nothing special but if its a chilly spring day and you want to get away for a while with a cup of coffee and a cookie, it's better than a kick in the teeth. What an endorsement!

I guess you could say this is a female empowerment book but also not really. Our protagonist, Ginger, is constantly getting harassed by men (on "our side" of the war) or they are just outright trying to physically attack her. She shoots one dude but she has to have a man take over her body via channeling so that she can actually pull the trigger. Crap. So that was disappointing. She is the hero but ... poop.

Ginger is an American but half British--something like that so why not drink an American Cup which is an American version of the Pimm's Cup?: 1&1/2 ounces of sweet vermouth, 1/2 ounce of gin, 1/2 ounce of bourbon, 2 dashes of orange bitters. Muddle a lemon orange and lime slice, shake the remaining ingredients and strain and pour into a Collin's glass (or any tall glass).  Top with the best ginger beer you can find.  I would bet this tastes good with that cookie I'm dreaming about.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Night Film

I've been watching a lot of 80's movies lately. That was before the actors got all ripped with personal trainers and on-site nutritionists. Both the men and women were as slim as sticks. Their diets must have been cigarettes dipped in liquid cocaine. Everyone wears high-waisted jeans which, even before the use of spandex, seemed particularly good for kicking. Bras were optional. It's been fun.

If you are Stanley Kubrick fan or a horror movie aficionado then Night Film will be a more enriching experience. Wow, that sounds super snobby. I've been watching William Defoe getting kicked in the nuts so take that advice with a grain of salt. This has been optioned to be a film but hasn't been made yet....or ever. Hey, the movie option paycheck gets cashed either way.

Marisha Pessl gets a lot of hype. I had an attitude about her first book: "let's hate this over-hyped book with some unusual writing conventions." But actually it was pretty compelling.  Night Film also has a "multi-media" arrangement, i.e. fake newspaper clippings, which honestly doesn't add a thing.  Let's get a young model to pose as a crime victim. Bad idea. But, don't let that stop you. As far as thrillers go, this one is much better than average, it's smarter. Not Godel, Escher Bach smarter, let's not go nuts here....just not for idiots. Luckily this skips the now trite supermodel pretty sociopath femme fatale. Can't the killer have a weird mole or a lazy eye at least?

Why not drink a Blood Orange cocktail to go with this horror themed mystery? Vibrant Sunrise: 1/3 of a blood orange muddled, 2 oz of a London dry gin, 1 oz. lemon juice, 1 oz. lime juice, dash of agave syrup, (they want a cayenne and salt for rimming the glass--proceed with caution), muddle the blood orange in a shaker with the gin, juices and agave and ice. Shake and pour over ice and garnish with a blood orange wheel.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

When the universe was created there was only NyQuil. Then DayQuil. They both love each other but they are enemies. They have children called 'Enedryl, Zicam and my favorite, 'Tussin. This is close enough to the mythology in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.


The world worships DayQuil (I mean you have to go back to work sometime) but our hero is both scared of but secretly falls for NyQuil.  Duh, we all love NyQuil the best, even if that's reckless. He might be bad for us. When you love NyQuil you do crazy things like email your boss in Esperanza or buying three pounds of goji berries on the Internet.

I didn't really enjoy this book.  The mortals in this book are pretty despicable and then our hero Yiene...I just can't relate.  She makes decisions solely based on her id.  She has a "temper" and there is some really crappy sex scenes/romance with a "bad boy." (could be someone that tried to kill her 100 pages previously) but it's fine. Everything is fine. So exciting. Sigh. I guess it's a spoiler to tell you she has sex with NyQuil.....which everyone knows you are SUPPOSED to quit after seven days.

I think having a god for a boyfriend would be problematic. I mean, he probably still farts in his sleep and will make you drop what you are doing because he can't find his me-damn socks! Anyway, this book wasn't my thing. I have heard her more recent series is better but I'm too dubious to give her a second chance, there being a lot of fantasy out there to read and all.

Hey if you haven't guessed it I was sick when I read this. I did make this is amazing cocktail right before I got sick. Cognac French 75 (which I made with Brandy) 1 and 1/2 ounces cognac or brandy, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice.  Put these in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass.  Top with champagne (I used prosecco).  Super yummy.

Monday, February 13, 2017

River of Doubt

I think it's safe to say that Theodore Roosevelt was our "toughest" President.  I don't mean his military or economic policies no, I mean the man got shot during a campaign speech and finished it bleeding through his shirt. No big deal. What the actual Eff.  Maniac.  He liked having wilderness adventures when he felt stressed. When he tried to run as a third party candidate in 1912 he lost.  So what to do...what to do....I know, go on a Amazon river adventure that was insanely dangerous. Good plan.

I'm good now on Amazon adventures. (I read The Lost City of Z about 5 years ago).  I have learned most everything in the Amazon can kill you and probably will. Parasites, bot-flies, piranhas, rotten feet, rapids, indigenous people who will kill you (but might not bother that day), alligators and snakes. Plus malaria and those crazy frogs.  It may be worse than Australia. Pretty much you're going to die.  It's still spooky there. Do you want dengue fever? No, well, it's too late you've got it now. The only thing that won't kill you are these cute little sloths.

By the way, Roosevelt's party would have eaten this little guy if they could see them. But in the wild sloths are covered with green algae which makes them camouflaged. Anyway, they had some scary adventures and people died.  River of Doubt is well researched and written, even if there are parts that a little slow.  At one point I had to tell myself to PADDLE PADDLE to get through to the next part.

Still, I can't see any of our ex-Presidents doing something like this adventure.  Even "nice-guy" Jimmy Carter: "I've looked at a lot of these monkeys with lust.  I've committed adultery in my heart many many times." George W Bush, "Mission Accomplished." Um, sir we haven't even left the Dallas Ft. Worth airport. No, they don't make um like Theodore Roosevelt anymore. (psst...I'm glad he wasn't my Dad though...maniac).

There was a couple of bottles of scotch on the trip which had to be rationed.  Why not read this book with a Smoking Pistol (seems appropriate) from Imbibe Magazine:  3/4 oz scotch, 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth, 1/2 oz. Rye, 1/4 ounce Armagnac,  a bar-spoon of Benedictine,  2 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters, 1 dash of Angostura bitters.  Put these ingredients in a mixing glass and stir until chilled. Twist a lemon peel over the top of the drink and discard.  Be glad you don't have malaria.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Master and Margarita

This book is bananas. I mean that in the most affectionate and complimentary way. Most importantly it has a talking cat. Written in the 30's but not published until the 60's because apparently it was too subversive for Stalin's Russia. To me, it doesn't overtly seem politically problematic but it is nuts. It is not a spoiler to tell you The Devil is a character. He's not even in the top five in the list of the book's most interesting characters.

While this is considered a classic, it reads like a modern comedy/farce/magical realism I don't even know what.  I've worked in a couple of bookstores and I don't know where I'd put this--maybe "Staff Picks." Just read it. Naked ladies, vodka, "magic" tricks, Pontius Pilate and a man-pig (plus a talking cat who is awesome). What more do you want?

I was watching my neighbor clean the dog turds out of his backyard this morning.  That is how winter feels to me. Dog turd clean-up.  You could use a sense of wonder these days. This book is good for that. It does have a lot of confusing Russian names so be warned. Other than that (Italian chef kiss).

Like any good Russian novel we need a strong vodka drink.  Caipiroska: Slice a whole lime and put this into a cocktail shaker or large mixing glass.  Muddle the slices (don't go too crazy) in one tablespoon of sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and add 1/4 cup of vodka. Fill an old fashioned glass with cracked ice. Pour the whole vodka lime mixture over the ice, then back into mixing glass then back into the glass. Enjoy with your cat. What elegance!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Old Kingdom-Abhorsen series

🎶Oh, those golden hands oh, those golden hands.🎶 Back in the day "golden" was code for sugar. It was nice when they were honest. SUPER SUGAR CRISP.  I know what I'm getting. Now those would be called All Natural Sun-kissed Wheat Nibs. Author Garth Nix lives in Sydney which I believe is Australia's Gold Coast. Which we all know is the Sugar Coast. I can't decide if that sounds delicious or terribly dangerous. I guess it could be both if you have the diabetes.

This series, Goldenhand is book 5, has necromancy, lots of magic, a dangerous library and most importantly a talking cat. The talking cat is kind of a snarky ass.  I mean that's not exactly a stretch for some cats. I say that as a crazy cat lady and cat lover. Aren't you worried the cat is going to eat your face off when you die? No, I'm worried she's going to eat my face off while I'm alive. If it's past 6:00 a.m. this is a justifiable fear. Runs across my body.  Knock glasses off nightstand.  For a while she was doing a tether-ball tournament with the metal lamp pull. Ding ding ding ding ding......then a "I win" if I acknowledge I am awake. (cat squints eyes).

This series is marketed toward teens or older children but don't let that stop you from reading these books. There is also a talking dog, semi-sentient airplanes, dead creatures. I mean, it's a nice fantasy series, like maybe you need something to take your mind off serious matters. Not sickly sweet like those old Golden Grahams.  I did like those back in the day though. I will admit it. Diabetes.

You could drink this with a Gold Rush (one of my favorite cocktails of all time) or this golden colored cocktail (which we won't tell anyone--is low cal) Rosemary Grapefruit Cocktail (makes two) One large ruby red grapefruit, a sprig of rosemary, 1/2 cup grapefruit La Croix,3 ounces vodka, four dashes of grapefruit bitters (optional).  Juice the grapefruit and muddle the sprig of rosemary pour the juice in two glasses with the bitters. Add 1/4 cup of the sparkling water and an ounce and half of vodka to each glass. You can garnish with a rosemary sprig and/or a grapefruit slice. As is, this is only 129 calories.  This sounds very tart to me so you could add a little simple syrup but obviously this will add to the calories.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Who Fears Death?

This is a messed up book. Set in the post-apocalyptic Africa things are not cool. Actually things are not all that cool now. This book is pretty dark with "adult themes" and not in a good way. In fact there are so many creepy things in here they are like a who's who of comedy killers. Unless you're Louis C.K. it's pretty hard to joke about child soldiers, genocide and female genital circumcision. I mean, that is above my pay grade, for real.  At least in this book's future there are bad wizards and good wizards. Ok, ok....that we can work with....

I really wanted to like this book because it's from a different perspective and new author. The first part is a typical hero myth even if it's super creepy but I was ok. Our girl wizard is named Onyesanwu, who is destined to be a hero....except in the second half of the book she grows up to be kind of a jerk. I have no idea if the author wants us to like her or not. Her boyfriend is a jerk, her friends at times are jerks, her teacher is a Super jerk, the guessed it...jerks. She meets some nice sand people who put up with her diva behavior. For example, Onye doesn't want eat some food offered to her because it got "mixed together" so her boyfriend gets her some more...I'm like you are in travelling for months in a desert and these nice people are giving you food--witch, please.

The plot goes all over the place at the end with a bizarre ending so I'm not sure I can recommend this book. I noticed that she let Patrick Rothfuss read an early draft and I found that amusing because his hero In the Name of the Wind is also kind of a jerk (I liked his story and his hero better but he refuses to finish the trilogy--sigh). Apparently I like my heroes to be simple hobbit-like folk, you know we're going to save the world but there is no need to: A) not to be civilized and B) stop and have nice snacks.

This is the perfect name of a cocktail to go with this book--Blood and Sand Cocktail: Fill a cocktail shaker with 3/4 ounce of the following 4 ingredients: Scotch, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and orange juice. Shake and strain and pour into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel.