Friday, April 30, 2010

Recipe: Chicken Capri

This is a quick favorite recipe that with the tomatoes and mozzarella brings to mind the flavors of Italy.

Recipe: Chicken Capri
Adapted from the South Beach Diet Cookbook

  • 1 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 14.5 oz can of petite cut diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 350F. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with garlic powder. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes per side. Place the chicken breasts, side by side, in a large baking dish (I like to use a 9 X 13 glass pan).

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta with the oregano, salt and pepper until blended. Spoon 1/4 of the cheese mixture onto each chicken breast and 1/4 of the tomatoes on top of the cheese mix. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top generously. Bake for 20 minutes or until the largest breast can be cut in half and have no pink in the center.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Food Revolution

No Review today since I'm busy working my way through David Weber's A Mighty Fortress; giant, intricate and mind-blowingly detailed latest book.

However, an interesting thing came my way via the Twitterverse:

It's a petition to improve school food and the general health of children at school. (Given the quality and offerings of school food, it could use the help!)

The site itself contains recipes, 12 Food Values that should be easy to adopt, and a whole list of links to support the cause. All this is being organized by Jamie Oliver of the UK's The Naked Chef, a cooking show that lasted three seasons.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crazy Cool Music Video!

OK Go's This Too Shall Pass

I'm still not sure about the quality of the song because I don't actually remember hearing it but the video itself is totally awesome and definitely distracting!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Please note that if you haven’t read the other books some of the review may contain vague spoilers.

This one was Book 9 of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. In this book, the Were-animals join the vampires in coming out of hiding, Sookie gets in deeper with her Grandfather Niall and the politics of the Fairies, and Jason Stackhouse is once again a suspect for murder, this time the victim is his unfaithful wife.

Dead and Gone was a quick and easy read, though this book was a bit less fun than some of the other books from the same series because it was darker with its focus on the Fairy War. The direction that the romance between Eric and Sookie was interesting, however Sookie’s reaction though mostly effective lasted overlong and took on a whining undertone for me. I appreciated that she did I thought that the final fight scene was well-written and it and the final chapter wrapped most things up quite nicely. The loose end that is left is clearly a tie-in to the next book (or at the very least a thread left for a future book) which I will look forward to reading, when it comes out in paperback.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Do You Like Your Steampunk?

O.M. Grey (omgrey) on Twitter posted a link to this fantastic Steampunk prosthetic leg:

Skimming the comments, someone brought up that something they didn't get about Steampunk was the tendency towards the non-functional.

"Steampunk tends to be pure aesthetic value under a thin veil of pseudo-technology. It's sort of contradictory in its nature. A love of old style technology while lacking it completely (for the most part).
Again, I understand the point you're making. It's for looks only, I get it. Still, again, if that were my interest I'd probably insist my stuff works (perhaps like that one fellow who makes steampunk style computer keyboards. Style that actually DOES something at the same time.)"

This started me thinking about the nature of Steampunk. Is Steampunk just for show? How much of Steampunk styling is purely aesthetic? Due to the Do-It-Yourself and individual nature of Steampunk, the answer probably varies completely from person to person. Personally, I do find myself drawn more to the functional aspects of Steampunk. Here are some examples of Steampunk gear that have caught my eye recently:

Photoshoot with the Prosthetic Leg

More Goodies from the Same Artist (Mostly Non-functional pieces but still very cool.)

Computer Case - The flicker link is to an album with a full variety of shots including close-ups and in progress shots.

Steampunk Guitar- The site linked to is the project page with step by step photographs. Very neat!

Victorian Organ Command Desk- The link has a few more close up shots that make it clear that this is pretty much the coolest desk ever.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Sample of my Favorite Dance Styles

There are some dance styles that I mention fairly often because I go out dancing a lot and take workshops to get better.

Lindy Hop is a fun energetic dance that encourages improvisation and musicality. It's commonly danced to Jazz music of all types.

Here's a video clip from two of my favorite pro dancers, Laura Keat and Nick Williams:

Balboa is related to Lindy Hop and evolved out of the need to dance in smaller, tighter spaces when dancing became more popular in the 1930's and 1940's.

Here's an older clip from local dancer and owner of the Vancouver, WA Swing Dance, Russ Bruner and partner, Susan Kane:

Blues is a new favorite of mine and is done to a different variety of music. The emphasis in Blues is less on the steps and more on the movement, the music and the connection with your partner.

Here's a selection featuring a variety of Blues styles:

Events Coming up in Portland:
Thursday April 29th: Pete Krebs Playing Live at the PPAA hosted by Portland Lindy Society
Saturday May 1st: May Day Spring Time Swing Celebration (A.K.A the One Year Anniversary) at the Vancouver Ballroom
Saturday May 22nd: Pajama Jam at the Tango Berretin hosted by Syncopated Rhythms
Wednesday-Thursday May 26-27th: Harlem Hotshots Workshops Followed by Social Dancing at Scottish Rite and Paradise Studios hosted by Stumptown Dance

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reflection: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds is a classic science fiction novel that is one scientist’s account of the Martian invasion of Earth that began in his home county and the events that followed. Even though, The War of the Worlds was written and set at the end of the 19th century it maintains a timeless nature. I think that part of what give The War of the Worlds its timeless nature is that Wells focuses less on the technological aspects of the story and more on the human emotional reactions to the crisis. The nature of humanity is one that never changes whether the humans in question are driving horses and carriages or cars.

Some of the philosophical issues presented by Wells are particularly fascinating. The Martians themselves are presented as a representation of a fully intellectualized species. The Martians have evolved into just large brains and hand-like tentacles and create machines to accomplish each purpose. At one point, using the Martians as a case study, Wells seems to warn against over reliance on machines.

I found this book to be thoroughly engrossing. It was an interesting look into the beginnings of the modern science fiction genre.

As an additional bit of interest, check out the 1938 radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds that aired the day before Halloween and caused mass panic.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Recipe: Salted Caramel Turtle Triangles

This was a lovely sugary treat that was fun and easy to make. It can be a bit messy and gooey so I would recommend that you serve it chilled.

Salted Caramel Turtle Triangles
(Adapted from Betty Crocker: Cupcakes, Cakes and More April/May 2010)

Cookie Base:
1 Pouch/box Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons water
1 egg
Caramel Topping:
4 tablespoons butter
1 bag (14 oz) caramels
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional 1/2 teaspoon for top of bars
1/3 cup chopped Macadamia nuts

1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray 9x13-inch glass pan with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl stir together the cookie mix with butter, oil, water and egg using the proportions given on the box. (The given proportions are for the Betty Crocker cookie mix.) Bake 11-15 minutes or until set in the center and the edges start to pull away from the pan.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, caramels, and cream, stirring frequently until the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and the 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

4. Spread the caramel over the cookie base evenly and sprinkle with the Macadamia nuts. Let cool completely. Sprinkle top of caramel with salt before serving. To serve, cut into 4 rows by 6 rows and cut eat square diagonally into triangles. Store in the refrigerator.

As a option: Substitute Pecans for the Macadamia nuts. The original recipe called for pecans but I prefer the texture and flavor of Macadamia nuts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: Changeless by Gail Carriger

Changeless is the sequel to Soulless, and it maintains the same fun, and witty air of its predecessor. Changeless features Alexia as a married woman dealing with a strange phenomenon that has the supernatural community in a tizzy as Ghosts are spontaneously exorcised, Vampires are living and breathing, and Werewolves have only their human form. As part of the small advisory council to the Queen, Alexia decides to look into the matter for herself, which takes her and an uncontrollably growing entourage on marvelous adventures involving: Werewolves in Kilts, Inappropriate Emotional Attachments, and travel via Airship.

I definitely enjoyed reading Changeless. Changeless introduces some new and fascinating characters especially Madame Lefoux, French milliner and inventor, also the creator of The Parasol, a wonder of modern technology if slightly less fashionable than preferable. Madame Lefoux while having an integral role in the investigation of also makes for some awkward scenes in which the Frenchwoman flirts with Alexia and results in mixed feelings. With the addition of more characters and Alexia’s venture out of London, some of my favorite characters from Soulless were given far less attention than I would like: In particular, Professor Lyall and Lord Akeldama. It was however, fascinating to get a more in depth look at one of Alexia’s sisters, Felicity, and her dear friend Ivy, even though by the end of the novel I was ready to dump both of them in a lake because I can only take so much empty frivolity. Alexia’s relationship with her husband, Lord Maccon still has the same passion that characterized their relationship and if anything has become more tempestuous now that they are married.

In Changeless, Gail Carriger’s Steampunk influences are seen in full force with Dirigibles, Communicators and Gadget Laden Parasols. I loved the scenes on the dirigible especially the fight scene! Changeless also revealed a bit more of what it means for Alexia to be a preternatural and not all of the revelations are precisely positive or easy. It was also a nice touch to introduce figures from Lord Maccon’s past and to see the shift in perspective that it granted Alexia. I thought that the conclusion of Changeless was well wrought with enough loose threads to keep my interest piqued even without the massive cliffhanger. In the end, Changeless only succeeded whetting my taste for more of the same and I’ll definitely be looking forward to the release of Blameless in September.

For a detailed diagram of Alexia's Parasol, check out this Blog Post by Gail Carriger.

Restaurant Rave: Petite Provence on Division

Petite Provence
4834 Division St
Portland, OR 97206

This was my first time eating at this restaurant and I was positively charmed. The atmosphere was open and inviting. The seating area was nicely decorated in dark blue and yellow with clean lines. The tables were a hair close together for walking comfortably between them but they were far enough apart that you could hold your own conversation just fine.

The service was excellent and prompt. We were greeted at the door and quickly seated. Our orders were taken in a timely fashion though we were given plenty of time to converse and deliberate on the menu. The wait staff was equally attentive during our meal, checking in and refilling water glasses regularly. As someone who primarily drinks water in restaurants, it is a blessing to find places that don't give you a glass of water and forget you exist.

The food was fancy sandwich fare. My order of a Chipotle Chicken Sandwich was simply superb. One of the highlights were the caramelized onions, yum! Another plus in my book were the side options offered: potato salad, fresh fruit, or side salad. I love restaurants that don't offer french fries, and the fruit was a major bonus!

On the other side of the doorway from the seating area was a cafe and bakery. Before we left, I made sure to peek in at the dessert and tasty treats. There were some truly lovely French pastries that I will have to find a time to sample because they looked that fantastic. I will definitely be eating there again!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Look at My Books

Here's a glimpse of my "to read" pile for you:
I will definitely admit to cleaning it up quite a bit before taking a picture since it used to be an undignified heap.

Represented here are a variety of genres:
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Mystery
  • Religious Fiction
  • Religious Non-Fiction
  • Classic Literature
  • Philosophy
Currently Reading:
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Up Next:
A Mighty Fortress by David Weber

For Dinner:

Review: Spellwright by Blake Charlton

Spellwright is part of a new generation of epic fantasy novels. Charlton painstakingly crafts a world with a fresh inventive magic system, a myriad of languages, and a prophecy that every faction is interpreting for their own purposes. Nicodemus is a cacographer and the apprentice to a great wizard. His cacography is the magical equivalent of dyslexia and motivates him to search for the solution to his difficulties with magic.

I found this novel to have a slow start which is common with novels that require lots of background and world-building, however it took awhile into the book to really build that connection with the characters. I will definitely say though, that once I reached a certain point Spellwright transformed into one of those books that you can’t put down even though you should have gone to bed two hours ago. I definitely enjoyed the innovative approach to the magic system and how language influenced the spell work. I’m definitely intrigued by Language Prime and I can’t wait to see how it continues to change and effect Nicodemus in the books to come.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Early Forays into Steampunk

Given my personal reading, movie and television interests, it was probably inevitable that I would someday discover the World of Steampunk.

I’ve been hovering on the edge of Steampunk for awhile following the adventures of an Old Friend, but I didn’t really get what it was all about.

Recently though a strange series of events involving Twitter, newly published High Fantasy Author and medical student, Blake Charlton, and obsessive link clicking I discovered the blog of Gail Carriger, Steampunk Author and fashionista. I originally drawn in by her post on Book Readings/Signings and
The Importance of Proper Dress (Meant for Conventions, mixers and the like but is good advice in general), and moved on to read more (and buy her books, Soulless and Changeless). She also had a very helpful page on her website that answered most of my questions about Steampunk, including the ones I didn't know enough to have yet. Linked here for anyone who wants to know more. I will finish off my fangirling of Gail Carriger with one last link to a blog post that I found very interesting and well thought out: What Makes Steampunk Sexy?

My last bit of Steampunk goodness to share, for now, is a link to a lovely Short Film shared with me by my friend, Patrick: "The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello".

The stunning first lines: "One degree is not a large distance. On a compass it is scarcely the thickness of a fingernail. But in certain conditions, one degree can be a very large distance. Enough to unmake a man."

Today's Experimental Hairstyle

As someone tired of the same basic bun or ponytail, I've been on the search for new and interesting updos and I've come to the conclusion that I'd have to come up my own new way to put up my hair. Here are the result's of today's experimentation with creating my own updo.
The Materials:
- Several small rubber bands
- Styling section clips (not part of the final hairstyle)
- 2 Hair combs
- ~20 Bobby pins

The results:
An artistic style featuring 6-7 braids of various directions, thicknesses, and styles, and a messy french twist. My hair remained securely styled through a hour of the big apple, a prolonged encounter with a gentleman's hat and two hours of swing dancing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Recipe: Amish Friendship Bread Starter and Bread

This recipe is an old favorite that takes me back to my sophomore year in college where we had loaves of Friendship bread around the house regularly.

This starter makes use of the natural yeasts that remain in the flour and the kitchen. You can tell that you have a successful starter after the first twenty-four hours when there should be bubbles from the yeast's metabolic processes. The hardest part of this recipe for me is remembering to stir the starter.

Amish Friendship Bread Starter and Bread



  • 3 cups Milk (Divided)
  • 3 cups Flour (Divided)
  • 3 cups Sugar (Divided)


Day 1: Combine 1 cup Flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk in a 1 gallon plastic bag or a non-metal container of a similar size.

Day 2: Mash/Stir the Starter

Day 3: Mash/Stir the Starter

Day 4: Mash/Stir the Starter

Day 5: Stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk.

Day 6: Mash/Stir the Starter

Day 7: Mash/Stir the Starter

Day 8: Mash/Stir the Starter

Day 9: Mash/Stir the Starter

Day 10: Stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk. Measure out 4 or 5 – 1 cup portions of starter into 1 gallon Ziploc bags. Use 1 portion to make bread for yourself, 1 portion to start the cycle over at Day 1, and freeze or give away the rest of the portions. Frozen starter will take at least 3 hours at room temperature to thaw before using.



  • 1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 2 (9x5 inch) loaf pans.

2. In a large bowl, combine the Amish bread starter with oil, eggs, 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix well. Pour into prepared loaf pans.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Newly Acquired Books!

Having just had my birthday, I recently acquired quite a few new books both as gifts and on my own spending efforts. I didn't need to go out and purchase anymore books given the status and size of my to-be-read pile but I couldn't resist!

A Mighty Fortress by David Weber, (Safehold #4) released as Hardcover April 13, 2010

Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice by Mike and Denae Yankoski, released as Paperback January 1, 2010

Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks, (Night Angel Trilogy #3) released as Paperback December 1, 2010

Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich, (Stephanie Plum #10) released as Paperback June 21, 2005

Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb, (Liveship Traders #1) released as Paperback February 2, 1999

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris, (Sookie Stackhouse #9) released as Paperback April 6, 2010

I can't wait to get started reading these books! I'm definitely excited to get down to some serious reading this weekend!

Currently Reading: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: I Loved Jesus in the Night: Teresa of Calcutta – A Secret Revealed by Paul Murray

This book was one of my rare forays into the realm of non-fiction. It was an interesting look into the spiritual struggles of the well-known religious figure, Mother Teresa. I found the description of her feelings of being abandoned by God and how she dealt with those feelings to be really inspiring. The excerpts from letters written by Mother Teresa herself were really interesting to read and gave a better picture of who she was as a complete person. It was certainly inspiring to read about how Mother Teresa dealt with her own Dark Night of the Soul and what form that took for her.

“Remember that the passion of Christ ends always in the joy of Resurrection, so when you feel in your own heart the suffering of Christ, remember the Resurrection has to come, the joy of Easter has to dawn. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ!” - Teresa of Calcutta

Unfortunately, I found the writing style of the author to be one that didn’t mesh well with my reading style. One of the biggest issues I had with the book was that it wasn’t until halfway through that Murray established that his intimate knowledge of Mother Teresa’s struggles came from his time as the Father Confessor at the convent. I had a hard time getting through the book but overall I don’t regret the time that I spent reading it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Post Mar 25-31

So this week was pretty busy and I've pretty much just been reading in 30 minute increments before bed.

Currently Reading:

Spellwright by Blake Charlton

So far, I love it. The magic system is a unique work of art. All I can say is that he better write the sequel quickly.

I Loved Jesus in the Night: Teresa of Calcutta by Paul Murray

I'm finding the insights into Mother Teresa's life and faith fascinating but I don't really enjoy his writing style at all.

I picked up a copy of Changeless by Gail Carriger and I can't wait to get started reading!