Saturday, March 31, 2012

Game Review: Professor Layton and the Last Specter

Professor Layton and the Last Specter is the very last Layton game on the Nintendo DS. It's technically a prequel to the other three that have already come out, but practically speaking that doesn't really make much difference.

Just like the rest of the Layton games, Last Specter starts with Layton finding out about some mysterious happening that requires his attention (in this case, a mysterious specter that is destroying the town of Misthallery at night). His assistant Emmy (and soon after the story begins, Luke from previous games as well) join him in solving puzzles along the way as they get to the bottom of the overarching mystery.

I'm sorry, Layton, but this specter does not look at all like it should if your solution was accurate.

First and foremost, I want to say that the overarching plot is just as nonsensical as the rest of the series. Totally ridiculous. However, that's not really why I play these games, so though I made fun of it liberally, I still enjoyed the rest of the game (mostly).

Last Specter has 170 puzzles in total (155 in game and 15 in the bonus content), and that's the real reason to play the game. For the most part, the offerings in this installment were pretty well balanced. There were a few I got stuck on (mostly the slider type puzzles, as pictured below - definitely my least favorite puzzle type), but I felt like it did a good job at providing clever and logical puzzles. If you do get stuck, there are 300 hint coins hidden throughout the game that you can use to unlock up to 4 hints per puzzle. (Or there's the internet.) Sadly, I only found 290 of them, but I opted not to go back and search for the rest for the sake of my sanity.

I hate this type of puzzle.

The minigames were about like always - hit or miss. I liked the fish one a lot, the train one was okay, and the puppet one was stupid (but really easy). Completing these minigames unlocks even more puzzles in the bonus content section after you beat the game. 

New to the series was the addition of an entirely separate game - London Life, a game reminiscent of Animal Crossing. You are a citizen of London and you can go around doing jobs to earn money, buying stuff to trick out your living quarters, and running errands for people. Though fairly simplistic, it's a fun addition. Unfortunately, there's only one save file allowed, so if your spouse wants to play too you have to share a game.

Not too graphically intense, but it has a certain charm to it.

All in all, Last Specter is a solid installment of the series. If you end up giving it a shot, ignore the ridiculous plot and have fun feeling smart every time you figure out a particularly tricky puzzle. And remember - every puzzle has an answer!

Book Review: Intergalactic Medicine Show Awards Anthology Vol 1

I picked up the InterGalactic Medicine Show Awards Anthology, Vol. I  off of Amazon last weekend when it was free and read it this weekend. I didn't really have any expectations going in, given that it was a) free and b) short fiction (which I'm normally rather picky about), so I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that it maintained a high caliber of talent throughout. I found pretty much all of the stories to be enjoyable, interesting, and accessible, which was a refreshing change for an anthology of SF/F short fiction.

I feel like I should write more about each individual story, but I'm super tired right now, so that's not going to happen. I apologize.

I did want to say one thing though. Maybe I'll be blasphemed until the end of time for saying this, but I enjoyed Peter S. Beagle's Trinity County, CA contribution about 100 times more than The Last Unicorn (which I read for book group last year). Take that how you will. I personally didn't care for The Last Unicorn, but if you did, I hope that makes you want to read this anthology even more.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What to do if your car is exceedingly nondescript

When we got married, Nathan had a dark purple Saturn. It wasn't a flashy purple, but it was still distinctive enough to find in a parking lot without too much trouble. Unfortunately, it also had the habit of breaking every 3 months like clockwork, so we sold it last year and bought a Toyota instead. It's a very nice Toyota, not at all prone to expensive car repairs (knock on wood), but it is silver. Just like a billion other cars. So how do you make your car distinctive without it looking stupid? 

Yep. That's right. A Hyrule decal. Geeky, yet still subtle enough to be awesome even if you've never played a Zelda game.

I might crochet something to put in the back window too, but I can't decide what. Suggestions welcome in the comments.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Picture Time

And now, for your viewing pleasure, two pictures of my newest niece (5 days old in the pictures).

The shoes fit (but not for long)

Proof that Grandma can take pictures.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ten Things to Smile About

Oh dang. March is almost over. Good thing the weather finally decided to cooperate a little!

1. Two of my nephews got baptized.
2. I found that awesome chicken taquitos recipe. Someday when I feel really ambitious (and have freezer space), I will make a bunch and freeze them for quick meals.

3. I finished the baby Converse shoes that I've been wanting to crochet for months and months.
I did finally finish the ends of the laces too so they are short and won't fray.

4. Pie!

5. Getting Professor Layton and the Last Specter... and Kirby's Epic Yarn.
6. Reading lots of excellent books.
7. My new niece!
8. My mom is here to visit.
9. Starting to make steampunk goggles with Amy.
10. And as part of that, scouring DI for purses with really excellent buckles with Amy. Price limit: $2 per purse. We were successful! (And also really cheap!)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Random Stuff.

I delivered the baby Converse shoes upstairs today. I will post pictures of them on baby S. when I can. Presuming they fit...

We're slowly but surely recovering from the flu. We started coming down with it Friday night, so it shot our whole weekend. (I didn't even go outside once, which makes me sad because apparently the weather was really nice.) We took today off work too; aside from still being really tired, I didn't want to infect my team. I'll probably take my chances tomorrow... based on how my brother's family is faring, I don't think I can realistically expect the cough to go away anytime soon, and I'm doing well enough that I don't really want to take another day off.

The worst thing about being sick is that entropy seems to dramatically increase. Dirty Kleenex that hate being confined to the trash, sink overflowing, clutter everywhere... It's strange how messy everything can get when all you do is sit on the couch. At least I managed to do a load of laundry and make something in the crock pot yesterday. With any luck, I'll get some of the dishes done tonight too!

Nathan got me a Hyrule decal to go on the back of our car. We haven't put it on yet, but when we do I'll show you a picture of that too. :)

I've nearly finished Professor Layton and the Last Specter, so expect a review of that shortly. Then I'll finish Dragon Quest V, then maybe I can move on to the rest of the games in my DS backlog... I've managed to burn through most of my available reading material too, so a trip to the library may be in order shortly as well.

Other than that, not much to report. Look for 10 things to smile about tomorrow!

Book Review: Silas Marner

Okay, I know this is probably blasphemy to many of you. But most of the "classics" I read are not all that enjoyable to me. Maybe it's because I read an awful lot of fantasy published in the last 15 years; maybe it's because I read too much "fluff" and not enough of this true literature. Whatever the case, I often find it very, very tedious to trudge through the old classics.

So you can imagine I was not very excited when my book group chose Silas Marner by George Eliot for our book this month. On the plus side, it's out of copyright so I got a free copy off Amazon to read on my Kindle. But I rather struggled to want to read it. (I have not read anything else by George Eliot, for the record.)

On the plus side, I found the main characters to be well rounded, and the plot (though simple) was still interesting. On the flip side, the prose killed me. (I think this is my trouble with most older classics. Jane Austen excluded; I do enjoy reading her writing.) Often I would skim for 3 pages while we got some tedious conversation that was completely unrelated to the plot, only there to set a certain mood, or a long-winded description of a character entering the scenes for the first time. Then we'd get back to the plot, and I'd settle in actually reading again. The pacing picked up a bit more the second half of the book, which was appreciated, but the first half just dragged for me because of the roundabout way of introducing settings, characters, etc. (I truly think this book, had it been published recently, would have been cut from its current 288 pages down to novella length, or at least in half.)

Now that I've thoroughly alienated all of my readers who love George Eliot or other classics from the same time period... I'm truly curious on your thoughts as to why I find older literature so much more difficult to read. Is it just me, or was the writing back then significantly more obtuse and overly flowery? Do I find the dissonance so striking because of what genre I choose to read now, or is most modern literature regardless of genre that different from the 1800s? It seems fairly obvious to me that trends in publishing and writing would change over time, just like language does, but sometimes I feel lacking for not "appreciating the classics" like I'm supposed to. Is that merely a byproduct or lingering aftereffect of my education?

Sorry if I'm getting too philosophical here. But really, if you have any thoughts on the subject, I'd love to hear them in the comments.

On a lighter note, if you would like to win some free Indie games, enter my husband's contest on his blog here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Review: City of Dragons

I caught the flu from upstairs, so I did a lot of sitting on the couch today. A lot. But on the plus side, I finished another book, and made some significant progress on a DS game. And we found a sub for our Primary class tomorrow, so we can expect a repeat performance of couch sitting instead of infecting our class with the plague.

Anyway, my excellent brother lent me City of Dragons: Volume Three of the Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb from the library after he finished it Thursday, so I started it yesterday and burned through the rest of it today in between bouts of coughing and taking naps.


This is the sequel to previously reviewed Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven, so if you want to read it you should probably read the other two first. And lest you get hoodwinked by the previously established norm of Hobb writing only trilogies, this one is actually a quartet. Or trilogy in disguise, if you prefer, since I believe the first two books were originally one book that got split.

City of Dragons picks up almost immediately after Dragon Haven leaves off in true Hobb style. I don't want to say too much about the plot since that would be difficult without making it full of spoilers, but if you've read the first two, you know that this story has a really, really slow burn. The whole first two books seemed a long setup for the story, and while they were interesting, they felt like the beginning of a story. In City of Dragons, all that waiting and buildup finally starts paying off. The dragons from the first two books start developing more personality and ability beyond being whiny and useless (yay!), and many of the main characters grow quite a bit as well. 

We have a few more viewpoints added in to the story at this point, giving it added depth and complexity and showing how much this story actually encompasses. We learn more about the motivations behind some characters that have been mostly off stage before this, and even though they're still despicable human beings they still manage to beg a drop of sympathy from the reader. 

Once again Hobb proves her ability to tell sprawling, complex tales that are much bigger than they initially appear. Though Fitz's and the Fool's stories (from the Farseer trilogy and The Tawny Man trilogy) will always be my favorite, I thoroughly enjoyed this latest installment in the same world. I'm sad that I have to wait til next year for book 4... this will be the first series in this world that I have to wait to read the ending of. (The first three trilogies she wrote were already completed when my brothers introduced them to me.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Hint of Things to Come

Last weekend, my friend Amy came over and began a new steampunky project with me and Nathan: steampunk goggles! We're not done yet, but I wanted to give a little teaser of how they're turning out so far. (Partly because I'm really proud of them, and partly because I'm too tired to think of anything to write.)

Three pairs of eyepieces

A closeup of one pair of eyepieces

I'm pretty pleased so far, and keep an eye out for the finished project in the next few weeks! (We have to finish it in the next month or so, before Amy moves far away...)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Game Review: Kirby's Epic Yarn

We borrowed a Wii (one of the few video game consoles we don't own) from a friend a week or two ago specifically to play Kirby's Epic Yarn - a whimsical Kirby spin-off set in a world entirely made out of yarn. It sounded right up my ally, given my propensity for crochet.

As a quick note before I start off, Kirby's Epic Yarn shares few similarities to other Kirby games, so don't be put off if you haven't played others in the series. I haven't either, and I didn't feel left out or lost at all. 

As previously stated, this game is set in yarn world - Kirby is made out of yarn too, and his abilities reflect that. He is able to change shape depending on the circumstances (submarine in water, car for a speed boost, parachute when falling), which adds a lot of variety to the worlds. Bonus levels and certain stages of regular levels transform him into special shapes, like UFOs or dolphins. These were some of my favorite parts. The developers did a great job integrating lots of variety into the game play in this regard, adding enough to mix things up periodically without overdoing it.

Kirby's Epic Yarn 3326452 
Dolphin Kirby swimming through rings

Kirby's main ability in his regular form (besides jumping, of course) is whipping out a yarn lasso of sorts. This lasso can be used to rope enemies (resulting in them falling into bits of yarn) or interact with buttons or patches in the world, either to allow you to get somewhere you couldn't otherwise, or reveal secret collectibles in the level. I felt like the developers did a good job integrating this mechanic as well. 

Kirby pulling a button to stop the lava bursts.

Speaking of collectibles, this game has its fair share. Each level has two pieces of furniture for your kickin' house (which you can trick out in between levels if you so desire) and one CD that unlocks music from the game. Every level has a plethora of beads (dropped by enemies, hidden in hard to reach locations, and just sitting out for the taking) that if you collect enough give you bronze, silver, or gold medals at the end of the level. Additionally, throughout each level there are extra collectible pieces to a spin wheel that let you have a chance of getting extra beads at the end of the level, which is nice if you're prone to screwing up over and over again.

 Spin wheel with two of the three pieces from the level.

The beads and medals don't actually matter a whole lot except on the boss battles, where if you get enough gems you get an extra patch to unlock two bonus levels in each world. Other than that, the only purpose they serve is to act as currency for an in-game shop to buy more stuff for Kirby's house. Still, it's very satisfying to get gold medals.

I played through this whole game co-op, which alternated between being helpful an frustrating. Each player takes up his/her own space, so you can imagine there are plenty of opportunities to bump each other off the edge. Both players also share beads, so when one person screws up and dies, you're both punished. Still, there were also plenty of times where we'd give each other a boost to get to a particularly tricky part of the map for a precious collectible. I enjoyed playing with my husband, but I think he sometimes got frustrated when I got hung up on some of the platforming. :) All levels are beatable single player regardless.

This boss was particularly obnoxious co-op. 

Difficulty-wise, this game isn't really that hard. Both the art-style and difficulty lead me to believe it was developed to be kid-friendly. True, it takes a bit of skill to gold medal every level and get all the collectibles, but strictly as far as beating it goes, I think most kids ages 8+ (maybe even younger) could get through the majority of the levels without too much trouble. It has liberal checkpoints if you die, the only penalty being that you lose most of your beads, and the enemies don't instantly kill you if you touch them (a nice change). Instead, they cause you to spill a lot of your beads if you come in contact with their attack, which you can then recover if you're quick (there's about a 15 second window before they start disappearing). Kirby can roll up enemy yarn remains with his lasso too and use the resulting yarn ball as a weapon to chuck at other enemies. If you play co-op, you can also roll up your partner in a yarn ball and toss it at enemies to attack them.

Pictured: submarine Kirby holding a yarn ball, preparing to chuck it at some poor defenseless fish.

This game is not without its flaws (mostly in the co-op), but overall it's a fun game and worth the $20 we paid for it. I probably wouldn't pay more than that, since it is pretty short, but if you have kids and/or are looking for an easy, whimsical Wii game, it's worth playing through.

A little hint of news for those who are waiting.

I'm not announcing anything official. But my sister-in-law is carefully avoiding being induced tomorrow morning by getting a bit of a head start. So if there's new baby news soon, don't be shocked. (I'm not terribly surprised myself. I predicted 9pm tonight, and she left for the hospital at about 10pm.)

In other news, young T (who is infamous upstairs for not wanting to go to bed) went down like a dream for me when I was in charge of the tail end of bedtime. I tucked him in twice, and he was out like a light. I like to think I'm special, but I hear that he does that for babysitters too, so it probably has more to do with the fact that I'm not mom or dad.

Not having any kids of my own, I don't think of myself as an expert on child development by a long shot. However, I fin it fascinating to watch children develop between 1-3 years of age. I feel like they change dramatically even in one week - learning how to walk, how to run, how to talk, how to communicate effectively (not always the same thing as talking), how to do so many things just by watching you do them (good or bad). Every so often I go upstairs and out of the blue, my 2 year old nephew suddenly looks so much more grown up. He tells me all about how ducks go quack, and "reads" books he has memorized, and tells me to come over here so he can show me something. He chatters away non-stop and even in the last week or two has become much more understandable. (Interestingly, I have heard that he hardly says a peep in Nursery on Sundays.) I remember about a year and a half ago coming upstairs and he was walking all on his own - and I thought, he couldn't do that three days ago! It boggles my mind. I know children grow and change and learn every day, and if we're lucky it doesn't stop even when they're adults. But for some reason, that particular developmental stage always seemed to encompass the most dramatic changes. It's fun to watch.

Anyway. Enough of my ramblings. Time for some pie and sleep.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What Do I Do All Day?

About a week ago, one of the bloggers I follow did a blow by blow of her day and invited anyone who wanted to do so as well to give it a shot. So here we have it.

6:20am. First alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:35am.  Second alarm goes off. Reluctantly roll out of bed.

6:40-7:30am. Get ready for the day - shower, get dressed, etc.

7:30-7:40am. Make breakfast and lunches; dash out the door.

7:40-8am. Drive to work.

8-9am. Answer emails at work.

9-11:30am. Take phone calls at work and write answers to more emails in between calls. Yay call center jobs.

11:30am-1:20pm. It got crazy busy and I pretty much had no downtime between calls this entire time. I tried not to get annoyed (and mostly succeeded) when my lunch was delayed 20 minutes due to a very long call. It was a good call though, with a very pleasant and reasonable woman, so I didn't mind.

1:20-2:20pm. Ate lunch, read some of Silas Marner, and tried not to fall asleep at my desk. You could say I'm not much of a fan of Silas Marner so far... my overall impression (I'm not even a quarter of the way through it) is that he uses a lot of words to say very little. The parts where we get plot are interesting enough. It's just the pages in between that get a little... tedious. But I am reading it for book club and will reserve final judgement until I finish it.

2:20-3:15pm. More calls. Not so busy now, which is nice. I finish the final touches on four emails that are waiting to go out.

3:15-3:30pm. Break time! I spend it... sending those emails. I hate it when I get interrupted with a call in the middle of sending an email with lots of attachments. I also read a bit more of Silas Marner.

3:30-5pm. More calls, but again it stays pretty slow. But of course I get a call at 4:58pm - I hope it's short, since I was held late yesterday by a very very long call until 5:30 (it started at 4, which may be a new record for me). Whew, it is a short one this time. I still get done right at 5. Freedom!

5-5:20pm. Drive home. Husband and I take turns venting about work on the way home (we work in the same building, different departments) and get it all out of our system by the time we walk in the door.

5:20-5:50pm. Impatiently wait for my frozen pizza to cook for dinner.

5:50-6pm. Down my pizza in the car while we drive to the temple.

6pm-8:30pm. Attend the temple for some spiritual rejuvenation. We went with Nathan's brother, who is leaving on his mission in about 2 months to Ukraine.

8:30-9pm. Stopped to pick up some milk on the way home... and wound up with ice cream too. Perfect, now we have all the ingredients for milkshakes! How convenient!

9-9:15pm. Desperately rearranged the freezer to fit the ice cream in. We decided what to have for dinner tomorrow while I was at it - Chicken Parmesan. (Mostly because I couldn't fit the ice cream and all the chicken in the freezer.)

9:15-10:15pm. Checked my email and got caught up on facebook/twitter/google reader/etc. I didn't find anything particularly noteworthy linked on twitter today, but yesterday I found a few interesting articles on the benefits of reading fiction and unexpected findings from psychological studies.

10:15-10:40pm. Wrote this blog post.

Next up is getting ready for bed and maybe playing some Plants vs. Zombies on the iPod touch. Speaking of which, it's on sale in the Amazon app store for only $.99 (follow the link above), so for all you Android people, jump on that!

And that's my day. Pretty typical overall, though my evenings are more often filled with exciting things like sitting on the couch and thinking about cleaning the kitchen, or playing co-op games with my husband, or reading a good book. I think I'm okay with that for now.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Partials

I've been seeing a lot of hype lately about Partials by Dan Wells, and given how much I loved his I Am Not a Serial Killer trilogy, it's no surprise that we bought it on Kindle. (Did you see the book trailer? Amazing.) (Also: Yes, yes, I know I'm about 2 weeks late on this review.)


So, big question: does it live up to all the hype?

Kind of yes, kind of no. I loved the basic premise, and I thought a lot of the plot twists were awesome, but I also had some issues with a few of the key plot points.

Partials is set in post-apocalyptic Rhode Island. The back story is that there was giant war, and humans engineered partials (part human, part robot, essentially) to fight for them. After the war was over, the partials rebelled against being given crap jobs and getting shafted right and left, so they rebelled. Things got a little out of control, and most of the human population was wiped out with a virus. Of the 40k people left alive, not one of them is capable of producing a child that lives more than 4 days. Long, slow death sentence to the human race.

Like I said, it's a really cool premise, and it leads to some interesting questions about personal survival vs. survival of the human race, putting your own wants/needs first vs. putting the needs of the society's survival first, governmental control "for the good of the human race" vs. personal freedom, etc. There's no clear cut right or wrong answers, and I liked the fact that Wells did not try to make it black and white.

My biggest issue with the novel is that out of all the people in charge, scientists and politicians both, the only idea they can think of to fix their problems is to have as many babies as possible. All women are required to get pregnant as soon as they turn 18 when the book begins. Now, I can see how this may be a viable strategy at first. And I can definitely see why politicians would cling to it long after it is abundantly clear that it's not accomplishing anything (and even when the law's mere existence is tearing apart the society).

What I can't understand is why none of the adult scientists we encounter can accept that this is a complete waste of time and resources. It takes our main character all of two seconds into the book to recognize what a stupid idea it is. My opinion of the head researcher guy plummeted rapidly when he did not at least acknowledge that something different needed to be tried. He, of all people, should have known better. This could have been addressed more satisfactorily by exploring some psychological differences in how plague babies viewed the world vs. those who were adults when the virus swept through and killed most of mankind, and we did get a bit of that, but not enough to overcome my initial reaction that all the adults were idiots. (To be fair, that's a lot to ask for in one book, but still. Why are they so dense?)

That was really the thing that bugged me most. The novel has a bit of a slow burn at first, but at around the halfway mark it takes off and never looks back. It has tons of cool plot twists (including the kind where you look back and it all fits perfectly but you never suspected as you read the bits leading up to the twist) in addition to presenting ethical dilemmas without easy answers. The science-y bits made sense too (at one point I wondered how the fetuses made it to full term only to catch the virus immediately after birth if the virus was present in everyone's blood, and it was addressed literally within a page of my wondering).

Overall, a great read, and I have high hopes that the sequels will be even better. We've caught glimpses at a complex world outside of Rhode Island, and I'm excited to see more of it - and I don't doubt there is much more than has even been hinted at so far.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I joined Pinterest a few weeks ago at the invitation of my cousin. Despite it being insanely popular among my demographic, I'm as of yet still undecided about how I like it.

- Pro: It's very useful at keeping track of things that I want to remember.
- Con (ish): I'm not sure how much more effective it is at doing so compared to bookmarking it in my browser.
- Pro: It shows pictures of the thing you pinned to remind you what it is and maybe help motivate you to make use of it.
- Con: You can't pin something unless it has a picture/video.
- Pro: Lots of people are using it, so you have a lot of source material to find new things of interest without searching the whole internet.
- Con: There's still a lot of stuff to sift through that doesn't necessarily interest me.
- Pro: I can customize my front page to only show boards I am interested in following.
- Con: A lot of pinned stuff is things other people haven't tried yet but want to someday. This means it is untested in my book. I often prefer sites like with lots of reviews I can read.
- Pro: It is sometimes useful in helping to inspire me to try new recipes.
- Con: Sometimes I go look at the Food and Drink board and all I find are banana desserts (gross) or "unbelievably easy" dishes that use refrigerated biscuits or other foods that are equally unlikely to make their way to my pantry).

So far it seems about a 50-50 split. I'll probably use it to some extent, mostly for recipes I think. (You can't have too many places to look for recipes, in my opinion.) I have for crochet ideas, and for book lists, but maybe I'll branch out a bit an use Pinterest for those too later. For now though, I can see the appeal, but it's not drawing me in as much as I expected.

Pi Day - Pie Crust Tutorial

To finish off the week, I thought I'd do a quick tutorial about how to make pie crust. I took some pictures, but I was by myself so I didn't get as many as I would have liked... hopefully it's enough. Amounts of ingredients are doubled if doing a 2 crust pie.

How to make pie crust: a tutorial

1. Make sure your shortening is refrigerated. Cold shortening works much better in pie crust than room temperature shortening. You will need 1/3 c. + 1 Tbs. for a 1 crust pie.

2. Get about a cup of cold water and put it in the freezer to make it even colder. (You don't want it to freeze, but I usually leave mine in there about 5-10 minutes.) You probably won't use the whole cup - in fact, you almost certainly won't. But it's far more annoying to have too little than too much.

3. Mix 1 c. flour and 1 tsp salt (for 1 crust pie) in a medium size bowl.

4. Cut the shortening into the flour/salt mixture. You want it to be in about pea-size chunks when you're done, like so:
Please excuse the slight blurriness (again). I was using my ancient camera.

5. Take your water out of the freezer. Pour about 2 Tbs in and toss mixture gently with a fork. You want to have a light touch or your pie crust will get tough. Add 1-2 Tbs more water and toss again. You will notice the mixture starting to form clumps.

6. This is where it gets tricky. When it is about half clumped together (maybe a bit more), it's very important that you don't add too much water. At this point, I will generally dip my fingers in the water and flick drops into the dry patches of the mixture. (If you have a spray bottle, that works well too.) I will also start tossing it and gathering it with my hands instead of the fork.

When you can gently press it into a ball and it sticks together pretty well but doesn't stick a lot to your hands, you have enough water. (If you add too much, your dough will be sticky and really hard to roll out; this causes much grief in later steps.) The amount of water you will need varies depending on the weather, humidity, and where you are located.

It's okay if you have a few crumbs left over. It's better to leave them than try to get them to stick when they don't want to at this point. This is for a 2 crust pie, hence 2 balls of dough.

7. Prepare a lightly floured surface. I use cheesecloth sprinkled liberally with flour for easier cleanup, but some people prefer a pastry mat or even just their clean counter.

8. Press your ball of dough to gently flatten it, and sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the flattened disc to prevent sticking. (Note: if making a 2 crust pie, cover the bowl with your other pie crust dough ball with a slightly damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out.)

9. Gently begin rolling out your pie crust. It works best if you use outward strokes with the rolling pin, not back and forth. In order to have the best chance at making the final product circular, I will roll out radially in 8 directions, like so:
Yep. I made that in Paint. It was that or take a picture of it drawn on a Post-It Note.

Here's what it should look like half rolled out. Use a little flour as needed to prevent sticking.

10. When you think it's nearly the right size, flip your pie plate upside down and hold it above your pie crust. This gives you an excellent idea of whether it is big enough. Your crust should be about half an inch to an inch bigger than the pie plate diameter when you hold it like this.

And here it is all rolled out.

11. Gently lift the edge of your pie crust. If your dough wasn't too sticky, and you floured your working surface well, this part is easy. Otherwise... good luck. Very carefully, fold your pie crust into quarters.

If it's sticky, use a bit of flour to make sure it doesn't stick to itself. And whatever you do, don't press down on it! 

12. Gently (again) transfer it to your waiting pie plate. Carefully unfold it halfway, adjusting its position as needed so that all sides will have enough extra crust to form the fluted edge.

Do you see how there's a good inch or so draping over the side? That's what you want - you can always cut off the excess, but it's really hard to patch in when there's not enough.

13. Unfold it the rest of the way. Carefully lift the excess around the edges and lower a bit more crust into the pie plate so that the crust follows the contours of the pie plate.

It will probably never be exactly perfect, but this one turned out pretty close.

14. If making a 1 crust pie, cut off any excess dough that is draping more than about 1 inch off of the edge. Gently fold under the 1 inch extra dough and make a lip of sorts around the edge of the pie plate.

15. Pinch the dough with your thumb and forefinger or whatever method you prefer to make a pretty edge with the extra crust you just folded under.

16. If baking an empty pie shell, poke it all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing up in the oven. Bake at 450 F for 8-10 min or until edges begin to brown slightly. Otherwise, pour in your filling and bake according to the recipe's directions!


14. If making a 2 crust pie, cover the crust with a slightly dampened towel or paper towel to keep it from drying out while you make your pie filling and roll out the top crust.

15. When you are ready to put on the top crust (whether lattice or full), gently lay it over the top of the pie. Moisten the edges of the bottom crust to help the top crust stick to it. Fold the bottom crust up and over the top crust (you may need to trim the top crust so it is slightly smaller than the bottom's excess crust for this to work well). Crimp the resulting edge with your finger and thumb.

Aaaaand Nathan got home so we actually get a good quality picture. 
See how the edges are crimped to make them look prettier? You will also want to cut holes in the top to let steam vent out if you do a full top crust.

16. Bake according to the recipe's directions. Pies with 2 crusts are more prone to overflowing (though this depends a lot on the recipe), so if you think it might then put a pan on the lower rack in the oven to catch drips.

And there you have it! Pie crust made easy. Please let me know in the comments if there's anything that doesn't make sense.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pi Day - Cherry Pie

I used to hate cherry pie. But one year, Nathan requested that I try it for Thanksgiving, and I found this recipe on and I realized what I really hate is canned cherry pie filling. And so I present to you...

Cherry Pie


Pie crust - 2 crusts
- 2 c flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 2/3 c + 2 Tbs Crisco or shortening
- cold water

Cherry Pie filling

- 2 pounds sour cherries, pitted (I usually use frozen pre-pitted ones)
- 1 1/8 cups white sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.)  

2. Prepare the bottom crust of one pie. Use the same directions as for the 1 crust pie, except at the end gather it into two balls instead of 1. Roll out one of the balls for the bottom crust (the other is for the top crust).

3. In a saucepan, combine cherries, sugar and cornstarch. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.* Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the juices thicken and become translucent.

4. While cherry filling is simmering, roll out top crust on a well floured surface.

5. Remove filling from heat and stir in the butter and almond extract. Mix thoroughly and pour into pie shell.

6. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Alternately, you can do a lattice top if you prefer.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

*If using frozen cherries, this step will take a while.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Giveaway Winner!

Our giveaway winner is....

Mary P!

Congratulations, Mary P! Please email me your mushroom color preference and address, and I will send some goodies your way. :) Email address is rajsugarfoot (at)

Thank you to everyone else who participated; I loved reading all your comments and suggestions!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pi Day - Apple Pie

And now for round two, my mom's recipe for apple pie! This recipe bakes up into a beautiful pie that is just the right amount of sweet without being overpowering.

Apple Pie


Pie crust - 2 crusts
- 2 c flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 2/3 c + 2 Tbs Crisco or shortening
- cold water

Apple Pie filling
- 4-6 firm, tart apples (Granny Smith, McIntosh, etc.), peeled and sliced
- 3/4 C. sugar
- 1/4 C. flour
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or a little more)
- dash of salt
- 2 Tb. butter


1. Preheat oven to 375 F (for glass pans) or 400 F (for metal pans).

2. Prepare the bottom crust of one pie. Use the same directions as for the 1 crust pie, except at the end gather it into two balls instead of 1. Roll out one of the balls for the bottom crust (the other is for the top crust).

3. Prepare the apples; mix the dry ingredients and toss with the apple slices.  Put the coated apples in the pie pan lined with bottom crust.*

4. Dot the butter over the top.  Roll out the top crust; moisten the edge of the bottom crust with a little water on your fingertips; put on the top crust.  Trim edges; crimp.  Cut some holes in the top crust to let steam escape.  (Make it pretty!!) If your top crust doesn't roll out well enough to do one big sheet, you can also do a lattice top, which is more forgiving of the falling-apart pieces.

5. Bake 40-50 min. at 375 to 400 degrees (depending on your oven; I like 375 for glass pans).  Pie should be golden brown and smell delicious. Great hot or cold.

*It may look like a LOT of apples, but as it bakes they reduce in size by about half. I fill my pie shell pretty full so that my finished pie is still quite substantial.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pi Day - Country Fruit Pie

In honor of pi day (tomorrow, 3/14), I have decided to post some of my favorite pie recipes for your pleasure. In the past I've already posted about pumpkin, coconut cream, and key lime pie, so I'll skip those ones, but let's be honest here, there are LOTS of other kinds of pie out there. So let's start off with a classic passed down from my grandmother, ideal for fresh blueberries, peaches, mixed berries, or any other soft fruit that sounds promising to you. (I usually use blueberries or frozen mixed berries if the season's all wrong for fresh berries.)

Country Fruit Pie

Pie crust:
- 1c. flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 c + 1 Tbsp Crisco
- Cold water (the colder the better, as long as it's not ice)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix flour and salt.  Cut in Crisco/shortening until it is in pea-size pieces. (A pastry blender works well for this, but if you don't have one you can use two table knives.)  Add cold water a Tbsp or two at a time, mixing gently with a fork.  Keep adding water until dough begins to form a ball*.  Finish molding it into a ball with your hands.  Do NOT over-mix.**

Roll out the crust on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and cut off any excess pastry hanging over the edge.  If desired, make a pretty edge by pinching the crust around the rim of the pie plate between your thumb and first finger.

Put 2 pints blueberries/mixed berries or 5-6 sliced fresh peaches in the unbaked 9 inch pie shell.

- 2/3 cup sugar
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup evaporated milk

Pour over fruit; bake 40-45 min at 400 degrees F.

* How much water you add will change depending on the humidity and temperature outside. 
** Making pie crust is a delicate art, and it's pretty easy to screw up. Take comfort in the fact that you will get better with practice. I found it easier to do it after watching someone do it.

Stay tuned for more great pie recipes throughout the week!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: The Rook

I've been hearing good things about The Rook by Daniel O'Malley lately. My brother obtained a copy from the local library and liked it, and I heard from someone in writing group that it was good as well. The premise as posited on The Big Idea (on John Scalzi's blog) sounded interesting: a highly placed member of the supernatural arm of the British government gets amnesia. What happens to the woman who wakes up in her body?

Let's just start off with a fact, shall we? I picked this book up yesterday afternoon... and finished it around midnight. It's long, but I could not put it down. Consequently, we ate a late lunch, and then I read until I finished it, and then we ate some dinner and went to bed. Totally worth it.

Our main character, Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) has some supernatural powers, and she is also frighteningly good at administration. Match made in heaven: she has a high administrative office in the Chequy, an organization in Britain devoted to handling supernatural... issues. Unfortunately, she makes some enemies in the organization that lead to her losing her memories completely. That's where the book starts. New Myfanwy now has to use her brains, powers, and the very thorough notes left by her predecessor to track down her enemies and find the source of corruption in the Chequy. Or she could run away and start a safe new life. But that wouldn't make for much of a book, now would it?

Though this book has a large cast of side characters, I felt like O'Malley did an excellent job at giving them enough depth without spending too much time on each one. Old Myfanwy's notes on her colleagues work very well to help pull this off. Whenever another colleague entered the scene for some substantial interaction with Myfanwy, she would frantically consult her binder and review the summary of that individual so that she (and we) knew who they were. While this tactic could fall flat on its face, the summaries are interesting enough in their own right to keep the story moving forward, even though they interrupt the plot. There was only one character who felt a little disappointing to me (no spoilers) and that was mostly because Myfanwy didn't get much chance to interact with her (since she was not a coworker), so the interactions we do see all play a fairly large role in progressing the plot. Given Myfanwy's alarming number of crises that arise at work, this is not surprising, but it is worth noting.

I felt like The Rook struck just the right chord with its mix of mystery, urban fantasy (or is it scifi?), and political intrigue. The story was complex and compelling, and the pacing (both of plot and of world building) was quite good. I was perpetually learning more about the world and Myfanwy's abilities while unraveling the source of corruption in the court, and the balance worked really well for me. 

I can tell already this is one of my favorite books of the year. If any of the above piques your interest, go read it right now. I even liked it enough that I forgive it for giving me extremely bizarre dreams about politically ambitious chess pieces. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hawaiian Haystacks

I really like recipes that a) taste good leftover, b) are easy to make, and c) are versatile. Enter: Hawaiian Haystacks. From scratch. The easy way to make this is to throw some chicken in with some cream of chicken soup and serve it over rice. But... honestly, canned cream of chicken soup kind of makes me icked out a bit. (Maybe it's because I buy the off-brand stuff that retains its can shape when you dump it out.) So you get this recipe instead. Lucky you!

Cream of Chicken Soup (makes about 3 cups, or 2 cans)


1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (or less; taste to test)
1/4 teaspoon parsley
dash of paprika
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour


1. In medium-sized saucepan, boil chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two (longer if using fresh onions or garlic).
2. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour. Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking briskly until mixture boils and thickens (this should only take about 5 min at most).

This can be frozen in 1½ c amounts if you make it ahead of time.
Recipe obtained from here

Hawaiian Haystacks


1 cooked chicken cut in bite sized pieces (I use 3 large chicken breasts)
2 cans cream of chicken soup (see above recipe)
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter


Mix all ingredients in a pot until thick and bubbly. I usually cook the chicken ahead of time and dump it in after everything else is mixed together. I also normally make the cream of chicken soup right before I make this, but you can make it ahead of time if desired. You will probably need to add salt to taste, but I normally don't bother and just add some when I eat it.

Serve over rice and Chinese noodles, then top with any combination of the following (see, versatility at its finest, perfect for picky children):

grated cheese
sliced almonds or cashews 
shredded coconut
chopped tomatoes
crushed or chunk pineapple
green pepper
green onions
bacon bits
and anything else you want.

I'm not really sure how many servings it makes, but probably 8-10 at least. A LOT. We ate it every night for a week.

I personally prefer a combination of chicken goop, cheese, cashews, coconut, and pineapple chunks on my crunchy noodles and rice, but to each their own. It makes great leftovers (though I highly recommend adding the crunchy noodles and cashews right before you eat it or they get soggy) and also works well for parties, since it feeds a lot and you can assign people to bring toppings if it's potluck. 


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Review: Crossed

I finished reading Crossed by Allie Condie a few days ago - the sequel to Matched which made such a big splash a while back. I enjoyed Matched (though I had a few reservations about it - mainly I found it hard to believe that she would give up a life with her childhood sweetheart to chase after someone she barely knew, but that's neither here nor there), so I was excited to read the sequel.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Crossed. I read it in two days and was annoyed when my lunch break ended with only 50 pages or so left (always a good sign). The plot twists were interesting, and it was cool to see more of the world outside the Society's perfectly controlled cities. The characters (Ky and Cassia particularly) were developed to a higher degree, and we got to learn more of Ky's backstory (and a bit of Xander's too).

It suffers a bit from being the middle book in a trilogy though. Without giving any spoilers, a lot happens but I finished it and felt like the overarching plot hadn't actually progressed a whole lot. Maybe the third book will prove me wrong, but it ended and I felt like the characters were still in the exact same situation as before. I can recognize why this is, but I can't explain it in any detail without HUGE SPOILERS so I'll refrain. Here's my attempt at explaining it in no detail at all: I felt like Condie's choice of where to end the book played a big role in why I was left with that sense of non-progression. If she had ended it just a bit sooner, or tweaked it a little, I would have found it a more satisfying ending.

Now for some miscellaneous thoughts. I'm pretty sure Ky is the sanest one out of our batch of main characters. I was glad that Condie didn't feel the need to raise the stakes of Cassia's love triangle by having Ky pressure her into anything more than kissing. (I do find it a little amusing that neither one of them even considers sex an option, but then I guess I can chalk that up to their upbringing in the Society.) I hope we see a lot more of Xander in book 3, because in this love triangle business Ky hasn't really had much competition, and even though I really like his character, I am still a little hung up on the issue that I had in Matched mentioned above.

Anyway, despite all my little nitpicks, I did like the book and thought it was worth reading.

Have any of you read it? What did you think?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Baby Shoes

At long last, it is time to unveil the latest crochet project...

Crocheted baby Converse shoes!

In honor of my brother and sister-in-law's newest addition (who could realistically arrive any day now), I decided to finally try this pattern. (You'll probably need a ravelry account to download the pattern; it's not posted online anywhere that I know of.) It was a bit trickier than I am used to - well, okay, not really trickier, but it's very different crocheting shoes than it is plushies. For some reason shoes are more daunting. But I'm pretty happy with how they turned out, overall. I left off the little star medallion on the sides because when I tried it, I didn't like how it looked (even though the pictures online make it look really awesome), but other than that I followed the pattern almost exactly.

The real question is: how long will they actually fit the baby once s/he arrives?

Thursday, March 8, 2012


This is my 100th post. And you know what that means....

Giveaway time! 

Here's the deal. I couldn't decide what to give away. I took a poll a while ago and it was a pretty even split across the board between something crocheted, something baked, and a book. So rather than crochet a book and then bake it... I'm going to give away a sweet little package of three unrelated things! (Or shall I say, seemingly unrelated. Since they do all have my interest in common.) 

Item 1:
One of these little guys! Winner can choose the color of the top and spots and I will customize it (as long as I already have those colors - and I do have a LOT of colors). The eyes will be closer together too. Every time I see this one I think his eyes are too far apart.

Item 2:
One copy of N.K. Jemisin's Hugo nominated book The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I read this last year and really enjoyed it, and I think you will too.

Item 3: 
One dozen non-blurry chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips. If you live outside of Utah, I cannot guarantee their freshness, but I will bake them within 24 hours of mailing them. 

There. Hopefully that appeals to most of my audience...

Now for the rules. US only (not that I think I have any readers outside of the US, but you never know - and now I really don't since I've gone and alienated them). To enter, leave a comment naming a book or game or link to a recipe you enjoyed recently. If you tweet about this post or share it on Facebook, you can earn up to one extra entry, but let me know in your comment if you did (and mention me in your post to make it easy on me - I'm @WombatWife on Twitter). Lastly, the giveaway closes in ONE WEEK because that puts us right on the ides of March. So comments close March 15th at 9pm MST and I'll post the winner that night in a new post. Winner will be chosen by a random method not yet determined.

And now... I think I should probably consider eating something besides toast for dinner. Yes, it's been one of those evenings.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

White Chip Chocolate Cookies

I like cookies. But I am also pretty particular about my cookies, and I get bored with chocolate chip if I make them too often. So sometimes I branch out a bit. Snickerdoodles. Lemon crinkles. Heath bit cookies. You get the idea. Well, today's offering is these little beauties.

Sorry for the blurriness... I'd take another one but I ate them all.

Chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips. I make them small - about 2 inches in diameter - so that I can eat a lot of them. One thing to be careful of with this recipe - don't over-bake them or they'll get much too hard! If you aren't sure if they are done, break one in half and check the middle. They should have cracks on the top when you pull them out of the oven. I did make a few minor ingredient changes based off of the comments given on, so my version does not exactly match the link.

White Chip Chocolate Cookies


- 1 cup butter, softened (I usually just microwave it for 30 seconds or so in a glass dish)
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 2/3 cups white chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Fold in the white chocolate chips. (The dough will be pretty stiff at this point.) Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are set. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Also, for those of you wondering what the mango lassi recipe was from Indian food extravaganza, it was this one. (I didn't make it though, so I can't really take any credit for how good it was.) And here's a picture to send you off.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chicken Taquitos

I tried a new recipe for dinner tonight, and there was much rejoicing in the house! But I'd better start from the beginning. Almost a week ago, my cousin invited me to try Pinterest (which until that point I had resisted on the theory that I had plenty of other ways to waste my time online already). I still haven't used it a ton, but I did pin some recipes that looked tasty and not too tricky. Today's recipe comes from there: chicken taquitos.

I ended up being able to fit about 8 on a cookie sheet.

They turned out delightfully crispy!

I've coped the recipe (with my notes added in) below.

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Yield: 12 taquitos (I only assembled 8 so far but it looks like it will make more like 16-20)

- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup green salsa (I used store bought mild green salsa since I'm a wimp with spicy stuff)
- 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice from half a lime) (I actually used a whole lime, but it wasn't a very juicy one.)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used about 1/4 tsp garlic power)
- 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro (I skipped this ingredient because I forgot to buy some) (UPDATE: I made this again and it's even better with cilantro)
- 2 Tbsp sliced green onions (I used about 2 tsp dried onion)
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
- 1 cup shredded Mexican flavored cheese
- small flour or corn tortillas (I used 8 inch flour tortillas)
- kosher salt
- cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, ground cumin, chili powder, onion powder and garlic. Once combined, stir in the cilantro and green onions. Add the chicken and cheese; mix thoroughly.
(If you decided to prep this in advance, refrigerate the mixture at this point until ready to continue.)
Working with a few tortillas at a time, heat them in the microwave between two paper towels until they are soft enough to roll (about 20 – 30 seconds).
Spoon 2-3 Tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto the lower third of a tortilla. Roll the tortilla as tightly as you can.
Place the rolled tortilla seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas until the mixture is gone.  Make sure the taquitos are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.
Serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.
**To freeze:  Before baking, flash freeze the taquitos in a single layer on a baking sheet then place in a labeled freezer bag and store up to 3 months.  To bake a frozen taquito (no need to thaw first): Preheat oven to 425˚F and bake for 20 minutes.  (Flash Freeze means freezing the taquitos in a single layer for 15-20 minutes (until hardened) so that when you add them to the freezer bag, they will not all stick together).


I made my filling goop in advance, and my tortillas were room temperature so I didn't need to microwave them at all. They turned out very tasty, despite some of the filling oozing out each end. I served them with sour cream. The sprinkling of salt on top is definitely important - there's no salt added to the goop, so that sprinkling really adds a lot to enhance the flavor overall. Despite my initial nervousness at the recipe containing salsa and chili powder, it was not at all spicy, just very flavorful. 

I'm definitely going to try out the flash freeze method because these are really easy to make ahead of time, and also a really easy dinner if they're waiting in the freezer. And we all know how much I like easy, quick dinners. :) Seriously though, if you make the goop ahead of time, it only takes maybe 10 minutes to assemble these. My oven hadn't even finished preheating before I was done.

We each ate three and were stuffed, so this recipe will easily feed at least 4 people, maybe more (depending on the people). 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Potatoes Supreme

My mom had a certain potato dish she always made for special events (mostly holidays and big family dinners). She got it from my Dad's mom, who got it from... somewhere. My recipe genealogy doesn't go that far back. :P It goes very well with ham, and, in fact, my sister-in-law will often put chopped leftover ham in the potatoes directly for added convenience.

And now, enough chatter. May I present....

Potatoes Supreme


- 1 can cream of celery soup (if you don't like the store bought kind, I like this recipe for homemade cream soups)
- 3/4 can water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 Tbs chopped onion
- 3/4  grated cheese
- 7-8 medium potatoes
- 1/2 grated cheese
- ham (optional)


Peel potatoes and slice thinly. Mix cream of celery soup, water, salt, pepper, onion, and 3/4 c cheese (and ham, if desired); layer in a casserole dish with potatoes. Make 5-6 layers, covering all potato slices. Top with 1/2 c. grated cheese. Cover and bake at 350 F for 2 1/2-3 hours. Uncover for the last 15-20 min.

Serve with: ham/turkey/etc, crusty bread, and vegetables of your choice.

I have actually only made this myself once (several years ago), but my brother gave me some of their leftovers from yesterday and it reminded me how good it was. You can even try increasing the amount of sauce if you'd like; the leftovers tend to suck it all up so there's not as much on day 2 or 3 (though it still tastes delicious).

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chicken Curry and Naan

For writing group tonight, we workshopped Nathan's latest book. And what better way to celebrate than with delicious food? We made a fabulous spread centering around chicken curry and naan bread (with a potato side dish, mango lassi for drinks, and two kinds of rice).

The remains of the naan bread.

Writing group: 1, Curry: 0. So delicious.

And now, for the recipes:

Indian Chicken Curry*


- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
- 1/2 cup tomato juice
- 2 cups cooked rice


In medium saucepan cook onion and celery in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour and curry powder. Add chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in cooked chicken and tomato juice; heath through. If desired, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over hot rice. Makes 4 servings.
*I got this recipe from a friend, so I'm not sure where it originated. If you know, tell me in the comments!



- 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (I used a bit more than 1/2 Tbs)
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
- 1/4 cup butter, melted


In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough.  (If you add too much flour, it makes it hard to roll out later.  Plan on it still being a little bit sticky.) Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.

Punch down dough, and knead in garlic  (I skip the garlic). Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.

At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. (I use a lot of cooking spray to make sure it doesn't stick on anything.) Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. (If you don't want really buttery naan, just don't brush with butter... I promise they are good either way and I acutally preferred them when I didn't brush with butter, just used a bit of cooking spray as needed.)  Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.
*recipe from here.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Baptism (and some other stuff)

Today my nephew was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (I actually had another nephew baptized yesterday too, but I wasn't able to attend that one, unfortunately.)

Nathan gave the talk, and I got to play the piano. I approve of this division of labor, since Nathan is much better at giving simultaneously funny, interesting, and spiritual talks than I am. My niece gave the other talk, grandmas from both sides gave the prayers, and all the kids from my brother's family did a special musical number. It was a beautiful meeting and a wonderful experience overall, and I feel blessed to have been asked to contribute my talents to help invite the Spirit.

Afterwards I was able to spend most of the remaining day with my parents, whom I have not seen in so long - since Christmas, in fact. :P And I'll see my mom again in a few weeks when she comes to help with the new baby upstairs. It's fun to be able to see them often, even though they don't live in the same state. (And I know it's kind of a fluke that they are visiting 3 times in 4 months; that's not really typical.)

In other news, I have some fun recipes that I'll be posting in the next week or so, and I also have a substantial backlog of books that I'm hoping to get to this week. (My brother gave me four that he got from the library, so I'd better crank through them this week before they're due back. I also have Partials to read by Dan Wells, and that's just the beginning.) So I'll probably be doing some book reviews coming up too. I'm slowly working my way through Dragon Quest V: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride, but I'm only 16 hours in so I might have a ways to go on that one before you get a review. But so far, I really like it. Lastly, I'm rapidly approaching my 100th post (it should be on Thursday, if I remember correctly) so don't forget to check back then for something awesome (that has not yet been determined).

I hope you are all having an excellent weekend!