Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs-Some Kick-Ass Heroines (and pretty cool heroes, too)

I am late to the urban fantasy genre. I discovered it with Aaronvich's fabulous series  but haven't delved much further. Because I had several plane flights last summer, I was looking for something fast-paced and intense. The kind of book I don't normally read at home because it's too violent or disturbing-perfect for creating the illusion I am not really stuck on a plane for x number of hours.

I took a library book to Guam but didn't read it until the return trip. I was actually sorry the leg from Guam to Japan was not longer because I wanted to finish the book. What was the book? Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews. This is the first in a series about Kate Daniels. 

When I got home, I checked out the first book in the series but I couldn't read it. The action was too intense for bedtime reading. Fortunately, I had another trip, this one to Florida. Land of hurricanes and Zika. An intense book was required to override my anxiety. 

I read Magic Bites on the plane but found myself alone in my hotel still pretty anxious by the tasks ahead of me. Off to the Barnes and Noble. I love Barnes and Noble in Fort Lauderdale. They have been my rock over the past several years. They are open until 10 pm. 

I bought the next Kate Daniels book and read the blurbs. One recommendation said "if you liked this book try Patricia Briggs." So I did. I bought book one, Moon Called. Read it in a day. Went back to B & N. Bought books two and three. Read them in two days. My goodness, these books are addicting.  

The run down:

Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

Kate was raised to be a killer by her foster father. She very efficient. But he did something wrong because she also has a strong moral compass. Dystopian Atlanta, where magic has disrupted the regular world and there are different factions of magical creatures battling for turf. Kate works for the Mercenary Guild to fight the creatures who are out of control. 

She runs afoul of the Beast Lord, leader of  the city's werecreatures. (weremongooses! or is it mongeese) Sparks fly. The romance takes several books to fully ripen. Talk about foreplay!

 I love the snarky tone of the characters and the world Andrews has created.

Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Mercy is a werecoyote mechanic raised by werewolves. Bad things happen, Very, very bad things. Kate deals with them and her over-bearing neighbor who just happens to be leader of the local werewolf pack. Did I mention this was a romance as well?

I love Kate's voice and world view. The books are bloody, be prepared, but fast-paced and the characters are endearing. As with the Kate Daniels books, the romance develops slowly over several books. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Rather Wonderful Series-C.A. Belmond

A rather wonderful series about a young woman who longs for the romance of an earlier time, say the 1920s or perhaps 30s, when elegance reigned in fashion, villas, and cars.  Think Nick and Nora, Tommy and Tuppence, Grant and Hepburn tooling around the Rivera in an impossibly cute car (is the Dragonetta based on the Morgan?)

Penny Nichols, historical researcher, is about to set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Intrigue, inheritance and dashing men. This series is delightful. I consumed them one after another.

Someone recommended them on the posiegetscozy blog to take on a train trip. I wish I was taking such a journey. I would pack them to read all over again.

In order:
A Rather Lovely Inheritance
A Rather Curious Engagement
A Rather Charming Invitation
A Rather Remarkable Homecoming

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book Review and a Recipe-Wild About Shortbread

I heard a review of Wild when it came out, thought, That sounds interesting, and forgot about it. When it was made into a movie, I remembered I wanted to read it. Forgot about it again. Recently, I found it on the library shelf.  No avoiding it now.

Cheryl Strayed had an extreme reaction to her mother's death. She set out on a self-destructive path through multiple sex partners and drug use, destroying her marriage in the process.

Making this trip was her way of trying to reconnect with a younger version of herself to save herself. It's amazing she made it through because despite her preparation she was not ready for the rigors she faced.

She faced physical hardship and some dicey situations. She confronted her internal demons and enjoyed the camaraderie of other hikers.

It made me nostalgic for my backpacking days along the Upper Kern River in California. The Pacific Crest Trail passes close to where I camped. Even when I was in my twenties I don't think I would have attempted something like this. Aching shoulders and sore feet for a week is one thing. Having to wrap your blistered, bleeding feet in duct tape and losing toenails is quite another.

This is a great armchair adventure best undertaken with something tasty (not nasty freeze-dried food) and a cup of tea.

Lemon shortbread

1¼ cups unbleached flour ( I like King Arthur. I think it tastes better.)
¼ cup sugar
dash of salt
1 stick butter
grated rind of 1 lemon ( I always buy organic when I use rind.)
1-2 tsp. of lemon juice as needed.

I used a food processor to mix.

Pulse flour, sugar and salt to combine.

Cut butter into 8 pats and drop into flour mixture.

Pulse until mixture looks like large crumbs.

Add lemon juice 1 tsp. at a time just until mixture stays together when you squeeze a bit.

Scrape dough onto a sheet of wax paper and form dough into a log 1½ inches in diameter.

Slice into rounds ¼ inch thick and place rounds on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at °350. Check after 20 minutes. Edges should be light golden brown.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Cederberg Tea House-A South African Flavour

As pleasant as high tea at Queen Mary was, I found myself longing for a casual tea room where you didn't have to make a reservation. An everyday place.

Tea rooms were all the rage for a while. There aren't as many now. I guess their moment has passed.

Hello Google.

I found the Cederberg Tea House on Queen Anne. A South African tea house. Hmm, that could be sort of British.

And it is. They have tea sandwiches and baked-to-order scones and tea in a pot. I ordered the scones. They were delicious, though I would classify them as American biscuits.  I expect scones to have a crunchier crust but keep in mind that would be American scones. I am no expert on English scones.

They also have rooibos and bunny chow. I'll pass on the rooibos, which is a tisane as Poirot would say, and not a tea. But I can't wait to try the bunny chow.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Tea rooms

Queen Mary window

Afternoon tea is so delightful. I used to ferret out tea rooms around Seattle. For a time they were all the rage. Whenever we traveled, I'd look up tea rooms to visit. I always wanted the English afternoon high tea. Bring on that food.

Recently, my daughter and I went to the Grand Dame of Seattle tea rooms, Queen Mary Tea Room. When she was little, it was a popular birthday spot. We hadn't been in years.

Sorbet first course

Crumpets, quiche, scone, sausage roll.

Little cups of carrot soup, apricot tea loaf, fruit

The waitress asked if we had any food restrictions and we said no. I wasn't thinking about fruit until I saw the plate. Sure enough, under the apples and berries lay some kiwi. After getting a scratchy tongue and throat the last time I had it, I avoid kiwi.

Cucumber sandwiches, quinoa pastry, salmon mousse on toast, two kinds of cookies.

 It is still impossibly cute. Linen napkins and floral teacups. The food was scrumptious. Through the window, we saw the shifting weather from warm sun to pouring rain. We had a lovely afternoon.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review-The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

I love mysteries set in other times and places, but I feel a bit strange when I see an appealing mystery set in India or South Africa or Botswana see that the author is not from that country or culture. Yes, artists and writers make stuff up, but still. Some of them have a tone of "look how endearingly cute the natives are." When I saw the name on this mystery, I thought "Oh good, written by someone who is Indian." Well, sort of. His cultural background is Indian but he is really a Brit. Suspend disappointment and go.

Inspector Chopra is retiring from the police department. He doesn't want to but he's reached retirement age. Then his dying uncle bequeaths him a baby elephant. This does not make him popular with his wife or the condo board.

In the mean time, he makes a promise to someone to investigate the apparent suicide of their son. He finds inconsistencies but is warned away from the case because it's a suicide and it's his last day. Of course he can't let it go.

I enjoyed the feel of Mumbai and a baby elephant as a detective side-kick is unusual but it works. I look forward to the next one.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Murchies Teas


I have loved Murchie's, especially No. 22, since the 90s when we went to Canada at least once a year. Then I went off that flavor. My mother moved here and became frail. 9/11 happened and we didn't go to Canada for several years.

We went in 2013 and I bought a medium size Brown Betty teapot and loose tea. I liked No. 22 again. Great, until I ran out.  Back to generic Trader Joe teabags or English teabags from the British Pantry in Redmond.

I recently found a small glass tea pot that was perfect for just two cups and realized that loose tea tastes so much better. Of course, before I've posted this I broke the glass lid so I am using my Brown Betty for morning tea and you know what? It is just fine for one person.

I still had a tea problem. I priced loose tea at the Queen Mary shop, my goodness the prices! I'd always thought ordering from Canada would be expensive. With the current exchange rate it's much cheaper to buy from them and have it shipped than to buy locally.

I ordered No. 22, Scottish Breakfast, and Canadian Breakfast. It came in two days, really quickly for crossing borders but not surprising if you think geographically because Vancouver is only 3 hours away.

No 11.-Gunpowder, Keemun, Jasmine, Ceylon. Such a combination of flavors. A little smoky, a hint of flower

Scottish Breakfast-Assam, Ceylon, Yunnan

Canadian Breakfast-Ceylon, Keemun with maple flavoring.  The aroma is lovely although it does make me hungry for pancakes and bacon!

 I like No. 22 for breakfast alternating with Scottish Breakfast and Canadian Breakfast for afternoon tea with a lightly sweet something.

I may be ordering all my tea from Murchie's as long as the exchange rate is favorable. The common thread is Keemun and Ceylon. Next time I think I'll order those as single flavors and see what it is I like about them.