My adventures in pregnancy, motherhood and beyond

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Exorcist (Spoiler Alert!)

Not the most timely book review, but then I didn't watch the movie until last fall. Finally strapped some steel to my backbone and was disappointed to find the movie more creepy/disturbing than actually scary. Some parts were gross (the vomit), but more often than not it was sexually disturbing.

The book was not so different. It wasn't so much scary as weird. It explained a little more than the movie did, as is often the case with books. The beginning in Iraq wasn't such a non-sequitur and Merrin's previous experience with the demon was touched upon, which I don't remember in the movie. However, there were a lot of questions that were NOT answered by the book, and I truly hate loose ends like that. Some were minor, like the fact that Karras died before he could deliver Kinderman's message to Engstrom about Elvira. Now I'm wondering if Engstrom ever found out that his daughter was getting help, and how his wife dealt with the news. The more important questions dealt with the demon itself: what demon was it? The book alludes to a mesopotamian wind demon named Pazuzu, but also makes reference to Legion, the demon driven into the pigs in the New Testament. It is also never explained how or why the demon chose/met/became aware of Regan, whom it posseses. The biggest question that is the most aggravating to me is that when Karras originally interviews the demon, he asks it if it would die if Regan (the host) died and the demon replies that it would not. However, when the demon posseses Karras and he throws himself out the window, the demon disappears from the story, supposedly having suffered the demise Karras inflicted upon himself and his possessor.

Despite the questions that were left unanswered the story of the book was interesting. Though I thought the writing was quite choppy and confusing. I found the first 50 pages or so extremely tedious to get through. Not only was nothing happening in the story, but the writing itself made the story hard to follow. The mother's character, Chris MacNail, seemed to be especially hard to follow at the beginning. Here's an example of her thoughts as written by Blatty: "Hi, little wonderful girl next door! Can I speak to your husband? Your lover? Your pimp? Oh, your pimp's in the poorhouse? Avon calling! She stuck out her tongue at herself. Then sagged. Ah, Christ, what a life! She picked up her wig box, slouched downstairs and walked out to the piquant tree-lined street." (Page 17-18) Her entire reverie made no sense whatsoever, and had nothing to do with what was going on in the story: she was getting ready to leave for filming and made a silly face in the mirror.

Either way, by the time I realized what it was about the writing (I always believe in giving books anywhere from 50-100 pages to capture my interest), I was too invested in the story to not find out how it ended in the book. It was a pretty good story, but with the confusing writing and the unanswered questions, I'd say that if you want to know the story, watch the movie. Don't waste more time than necessary for a book with loose ends and confusing writing, no matter how good the story.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Turkey-It's What's for Dinner

Well, now. As you may or may not know, I'm not exactly an Iron Chef. My forays into the culinary world are quite recent, and as much as I enjoy cooking, it's not always relaxing. My main concern is the mess left behind. Well, last night we filled up the dishwasher and used at least 3 different pans, but it was totally worth it.

I've been collecting recipes I want to try for a while, and decided this weekend that Monday would be the perfect night to try Real Simple's crispy turkey cutlets. I'll go through the recipe, but if you want to follow it on your own, you can find it here along with the recipe for green bean salad, which we decided to forego. We bough a pound of turkey cutlets from Albertson's and made sure that we had everything we needed this weekend. All that was left to do was put the dinner together.

Garlic mashed potatoes courtesy of James
We started with mashed potatoes. We had potatoes left over from our pasty experiment, so we decided to use the rest of our Idaho golden potatoes to make some garlic mashed potatoes. Peel and chop potatoes, boil, strain, return to pot. Add milk and a clove of minced up garlic, then mash up in the pot (Note: if you have Teflon coated pots and pans, do not use a metal masher--I see a trip to the store in our future...). We added a bit too much milk, but the potatoes were still the most delicious tasting potatoes ever. Mmmm.

Before cooking, after dredging
Then we moved on to the turkey. Like our favourite chicken-fried steak recipe, you season the turkey (you'll need double the amount listed to season both sides), then dredge in flour, lightly beaten egg, and then instead of flour again, dredge in bread crumbs. We just used Progresso's bread crumbs, since they were on sale. This added a nice crunch to the cutlets. Here's what the cutlets look like before cooking <--.
A little too browned, but still yummy
We filled a pan with 3 Tbsp of olive oil, and James began frying the cutlets. The recipes recommends using medium-high heat, but we have a bizarre stove, so medium was good for us. Our stove is also on a slant, which means all the oil runs to one side, but James is an amazing cook and manages to deal with it perfectly well. Fry the cutlets approximately 2-3 minutes on each side (3-4 for us) until they're golden-brown on each side. Now, we put them on a baking sheet and kept them warm in the oven. This wouldn't have been a problem, but we had the oven at 275 degrees (you'll see why later) which ended up drying up the cutlets. If you need to keep them warm, but the oven on the lowest setting. Or even better, plan your gravy in advance, before the cutlets are cooked.

If you know me, you know that I love gravy. And I mean, LOVE. So we decided to try to make our own gravy. James has pulled off lemon-butter sauces off the top of his head, so I thought that just giving him the basic ingredient list would be fine. Keep the oil that's left in the pan after frying, add butter, milk and flour. Add the flour SLOWLY!! Otherwise, you'll end up with our problem, and have huge globs of flour, instead of a smooth gravy. Sine turkey doesn't add a lot of flavour, and bread crumbs don't leave as much on the pan as a last dredge of flour does, you'll need to add some chicken broth or stock. My recommendation is to actually follow a recipe instead of making it up. We did not add chicken broth, and had clumps of flour. Ours also tasted like flour-y milk, so we tossed it out and James headed to Ralph's to buy some canned gravy. Not exactly the best, but better than nothing.
So yummy!

After all this time, the potatoes were a bit milky and the turkey was dry around the edges. However, in the middle it was both moist and crispy on the outside. It was an absolutely delicious dinner, and worth all the trouble of cleaning up. If you don't want gravy or have a gravy plan in advance, this would be a five star dinner. Even with the problems we had, James and I both gave it four stars. We both want to try this recipe again, making a few changes and both of us cooking (James acted as a sous-chef and I sat out and just directed since I had a killer headache).

A homemade snack, to-go
While everything else was happening, I took the pumpkin seeds from our jack-o-lantern yesterday and washed them off--warm water in a large bowl, then a colander with a large hole. I went online to find the best way to roast pumpkin seeds and found a site called the Pumpkin Patch. It recommended roasting them on a cookie sheet at 275 degrees (see, it all makes sense) for anywhere from 10-20 minutes. I wanted to season them with something other than salt, so I decided to try something new. I put them back into the bowl I washed them in (sans the water), added some olive oil, lemon pepper, salt and just a touch of garlic. I mixed it all up, and spread the seed out on parchment paper that I put on top of the cookie sheet (saves you a lot of clean up). I roasted them for the recommended time, though I think a little longer might have been better. They're delicious! Makes sure you really spread them out, since where a few were piled up, they didn't roast as well, but if you like a lemon-y smokey taste, these little snacks are great! Yum!

All in all, a great night, and four stars out of five for the recipes, with the few changes we recommend!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Author Review: Rick Riordan

I will be as audacious as to say that Rick Riordan is the next J. K. Rowling; in fact, he may even be a better writer than her. His books are aimed at a young adult audience, but the way that Riordan mixes mythology and history into his stories is amazing, and provides a fun platform for those interested in different, modern takes on mythology, as well as a platform for things to study about the old mythology.

Courtesy of
I started with The Red Pyramid, which is the first book in the Kane Chronicles. This book focuses on Egyptian mythology. Since I've been obsessed with Egyptology since I first learned what Egypt is and what an archaeologist is, I was very interested in this book when I saw it at Barnes and Noble. I was a little wary though; wasn't this a book for kids? I enjoy reading, but I want a complex storyline, even if the prose isn't incredibly advanced. I had nothing to worry about. I don't want to give away the story, but a brother and sister find out that they are actually Egyptian demi-gods, and it's a tale of their self-discovery in that respect, and a quest to save their father. It is the first in a series, and I can't wait for when Riordan releases the next in this series.

Courtesy of

I then devoured the Percy Jackson series. This is Riordan's best known series, and the first installment has even been turned into a movie. In The Lightning Thief, a young Percy Jackson (13, I believe), is suddenly attacked by monsters, including a fury and a minotaur. He then discovers that he is a son of a Greek god (I won't say who) and that the only safe place for him is a place called Camp Half-Blood, where he finds he is not the only demi-god in the world. The next 4 books (making a total of 5) deal with the coming battle between the gods and Kronos, an evil titan. If you know anything about Greek mythology (think back to 7th grade!) you will enjoy seeing the modern versions of well-loved myths. The books are a quick read once you're into them; I averaged one book a day for the last 4 books. However, the story is gripping, the writing is witty and you just cannot put these books down!

Courtesy of

I waited, quite (im)patiently, for the next book, The Lost Hero. This book is a continuation of sorts of the Percy Jackson series, and the first book in Riordan's new Heroes of Olympus series. I got the sneak peek on my nook, which pretty much drove me nuts, til the book was released on Oct 12. It opens with a young man (about 16) waking up on a school bus, holding hands with a girl, and having no memory of anything, even his name. This first book chronicles Jason's journey, with his two friends Piper and Leo, and we run into familiar faces from the Percy Jackson series. Again, I don't want to give away too much, but I adored this book! One of the reasons I loved it was that the characters ended up in my hometown of Walnut Creek, CA and a battle took place on Mt. Diablo, so it was familiar territory toward the end. It was marvelously written, and left me craving the next installment, as it left a few plotlines definitely NOT tied up nicely.

If you enjoy a fun read that's also educational (in a totally non-boring way), pick up any of the Riordan books. I would recommend starting with the Lightning Thief or the Red Pyramid, since Heroes of Olympus involves characters from the Percy Jackson series. Maybe you'll become an older (demographic of 12 yr olds) Riordan fan, like myself.

Cornish Pasties

If you've never had a pasty (rhymes with "nasty"), you have been missing out! These delicious culinary creations come from the British isles and were said to have come about as a hearty lunch for miners, with the crust giving them something to hold on to. I first read about these in a Cat by Lillian Jackson Braun and was lucky enough to stuff myself with them when I stud]ied abroad in Ireland. Most countries have some version of a meat and pastry dish, be is pasties, Jamaican patties or meat pies. All of them I have tried so far are delicious. Since I can't find pre-made pasties or anything similar here in California, James and I decided to make them this Sunday night.

My first attempt at Cornish Pasties (yum!)

We started by looking up a traditional recipe on and decided on the Emeril Lagasse recipe, which seemed to be the most traditional one. Here's the link to the recipe so you can try it yourselves:

We started with the dough around 3 in the afternoon. It wasn't too difficult. I didn't have a sifter, so I used a berry colander to sift through the flour, salt and sugar, and it worked like a charm! I "cut" the shortening into the dry ingredients with my fingers, which was messy, but fun. Basically, you mix it until it looks like big crumbly dough. After you add the egg and water, you can truly start to knead it, and it begins to look like a typical dough. We wrapped it in plastic wrap, put it on a plate and left it in the fridge for a few hours. If there are little white dots all over your dough when you pull it out of the fridge, don't worry, it's perfectly fine.

Frank, our jack-o-lantern
We decided to eat early, so James started dicing up the carrots and potatoes. While the recipe calls for 1/4" cubes, we cut them pretty small, and James managed to practically liquify the onion in the food processor. We mixed all of that with about .67 lbs of cubed chuck steak, salt and pepper. While James worked on that, I pulled out the dough and floured it very well (it is sticky!) and rolled it out. I used one of our saucers to cut out 6 rounds. I had to reroll the scraps a few times to get all 6 rounds, but I still have some dough left over. I then beat an egg and grabbed our silicone barbecuing brush (I wish I had a pastry brush). I took each round, brushed egg along half of the outside rim and then put a little handful of the meat mixture inside the center of the round, and off to one side. Then I folded the pastry in half and pinched the ends together. I continued this until all of the pasties were on a baking sheet. We brushed the tops with the egg, put little slices in the top of the pasties to prevent explosions and stuck them in the oven. We turned our temperature down a bit since our oven is crazy hot, but after about 35 minutes (during which we carved a jack-o-lantern) we had absolutely delicious pasties.

James and I each ate two pasties, meaning we have two left over, one of which was finished as my lunch. The only thing about the pasties is that they did not have a lot of seasoning or flavour to the meat in them. A little bit of garlic, or a marinade or a bit of searing would have helped a lot. So now that we have a basic recipe, we can play around with both seasonings and filling!

Pumpkin Spice cookies with cream cheese frosting