Thursday, March 20, 2014

Flaming Bananas

When we were growing up, my parents threw a lot of dinner parties.  My dad would spend hours making special mix tapes for the reel-to-reel player, usually with a lot of Al Green on them, and my mom would dress up in these fabulous form-fitting pantsuits*.  Our cupboards were full of artsy plates, hand-crafted ramekins, individual bread boards, mini paella pots, and tons of Marimekko placemats for setting the dining table.  Her speciality, though, was making the meal itself an event.

Her secret weapon?

The electric frying pan**.

The guests would be seated in their own polyester finery, and mom would emerge from the kitchen with a tray and the pan.  She'd plug it in, drop in a stick of butter, and the show would begin.

Smiling as she added the brown sugar, bouffant hair not moving an inch, all conversation among the group would grind to a halt.  The smell was intoxicating.

The perfectly sliced bananas tumbled in. Around went the wooden spoon, then she'd pick up the canister of fireplace matches.  Fireplace matches!!!

My sister and I peeked from the kitchen, shivering with repressed excitement, knowing what was coming.

The bottle of rum was opened with a flourish.  The lights dimmed.  Then came the unmistakable sound of a single long match being struck.  All eyes upon her.

Woosh!  The pan erupted in gorgeous blue and orange flames.  Mouths dropped.

She fearlessly stirred on, chatting amiably as though this was nothing special.  Just an ordinary night.

An ordinary night with my magical, marvelous mom.

She died three years ago today, so this will never be an ordinary time for me.
In her honor, dear guests, may I treat you to some flaming bananas?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sowing my wild Irish oats

As a middle aged suburban parent, my wild oat sowing days are (mostly) over*, so I am forced to live vicariously through the shenanigans** of others.

McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oats

Like, say, Olivia Pope on Thursday nights***.  


Mortifyingly hysterical.  And I'm still going to tune in this week.  Evil mom is back!

Here's a way to sow oats that is significantly less mockable, just as addictive, and much more nourishing.

Overnight Irish Oatmeal

It won't make you laugh so hard that you begin wheezing and snorting****, but it should put a big smile on the face of anyone who loves a bowl of creamy hot cereal for breakfast.

Especially when they find out it gets made overnight by magical leprechauns.*****

Friday, March 14, 2014

This should be a real post

But it's not. Instead, it's my contribution to That should be a word*

I did manage to push this recipe for Meyer Lemon Buttermilk Pie through at last. After all, nothing gets the system going again like a good pie recipe, right?**

Lemon Buttermilk Pie from Bon Appetit

Especially one where I don't have to say much.
Bon Appetit wrote about it first.***

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dusting Off the Nightstand

Books and more books!

That woebegone "On my nightstand" section of the sidebar over there has been completely pathetic for about a year now. Stale doesn't even begin to describe it.

Here are some possible explanations:

A)  I didn't cry at the end of The Fault in Our Stars*, and was afraid I might be shunned as a result.  Better to appear slow and possibly too emotionally wrecked to go on.
B)  I no longer have a nightstand.
C)  I read loads of fantastic books, then suddenly became very territorial about the whole thing.
D)  I thought people would prefer knowing how to make brownies and cheese dip, so I blew off the book reports.

The answer is, D), and a little bit of A)**.

But, on this very rainy afternoon, with the comforting drip drip drip of water leaking from flaking ceilings into various metal bowls on the floor, the slamming of the kids' doors as they hole up in their rooms with flickering laptop screens held seven inches from their faces, the odor of wet dog wafting around, and my husband stomping through the house grumbling about why everyone just leaves their shoes all over the place for him to trip on***,  it seems like the perfect time to bury myself in a good, catch up, book post.

Books I've Loved 
(all of these have been added to The Nightstand section of The Shop, with more specific "Why you might love it, too" notes)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane  - Neil Gaiman
Magical, lovely, and delightfully creepy. Gaiman at his best.

The History of Love - Nicole Krauss
I wanted to applaud at the end, and literally gasped at times as the threads came together.  One of the best "interwoven stories" novels I've read.

The Financial Lives of the Poets and Beautiful Ruins - both by Jess Walter
Very different books.  Financial Lives is a terrific black comedy, Beautiful Ruins an homage to the power of place and how art tells stories.  Loved them both.

Hands down the most endearing book I read all year.  You won't forget it.

The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman
A baby washes up on the rocks of a lighthouse isle.  Can there be any harm in keeping her? Why, yes.

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
A lonely couple in the wilderness of a century ago seems to will a child out of the storm.  Is she real?

The Dog Stars - Peter Heller
Like The Road, but with a dog and an airplane.  And bizarre neighbors.

Amazing on Audible

Heft - Liz Moore
One of the most unlikely protagonists ever, Arthur is housebound, obese, painfully shy, and in dire need of connection to the human race.  So of course, there's a teenager and a temp. Unforgettable. Perfectly written and read.  Listen to it now!

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker
A gorgeous, unexpected love story. I could not stop listening to this tale of the struggle of two mythical beings who both emigrate, unwillingly, to NYC.

What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty
By turns hilarious and deeply sad,  this is a story of a woman who wakes up to discover she can't remember the past 10 years of her life.  The bad news is, most people seem to really dislike her.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Matthew Quick
A gripping, moving and oddly charming tale of a teen bent on self-destructing before the day is over.  Great YA fiction that doesn't involve archery of any kind.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - Maria Semple
Laugh out loud funny, skewering everything in its sight (and there's a LOT to skewer) as a daughter hunts for her AWOL mom through found emails, receipts and other scraps of her life.

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancy
Like The Passage, but with really evil Aliens instead of Vampire Zombies.  Thrilling indeed.

11/22/63 - Stephen King
Enthralling from the get-go, with the premise of traveling through time to stop Kennedy's assassination. Oddly, that's the least of what happens.

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
All the tears I didn't shed for Hazel fell out of me with this one. Formulaic all the way, but I didn't care.

NOS4A2 - Joe Hill
When the devil is riding around with personalized plates,  kidnapping kids to steal their souls and trap them in Christmasland, you know bad things are bound to follow.  Highly entertaining, with great characters and plot twists.

Worth Picking Up, But Not Quite As Good as The Other Ones
(any why I dinged them a bit)
Life after Life (imaginative writing in a very creative form, but a little hard to follow)
The Goldfinch (great characters, but way too long, and not as "weighty" as it wants to be)
Claire of the Sea Life (truly lyrical, but a little thin in the end)
Someone (I liked The Golem and the Jinni much better, and the books reminded me of each other)
The Fault in Our Stars (I loved it at first, but was ambivalent mid-way through)
The Dinner (truly creepy, but cold)

Books Lots of Other People Liked But I Didn't
  (and why you can skip these, IMHO)
The Orphan Master's Son (an indulgent slog with a few moments of brilliance.  Mostly in the beginning.)
Magnificence (It's bad when the house full of taxidermy is the most exciting character)
Arcadia (The best part was the groovy cover)
Swamplandia! (Maybe I'm just not the abandoned alligator park type?)
Wild (enough with your toes, Cheryl!)
How I Live Now (Ends with mass slaughter in a barnyard, then a convenient flight back to NY. Right.)
Last Summer of the Camperdowns (One of those annoying books where nobody behaves logically, so of course things work out badly)
The Marriage Plot (Hated everyone in it)
Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (Dreary)
The Interestings (Not)

What's On The Nightstand Now
The slate for the 2014 Tournament of Books has been announced, and I've loaded up on a few of the contenders.  I'm liking How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia at the moment, and can't wait to start these next few:

How about you?  Read any great books lately? Or, I should just stick with the brownies and do this again when it rains in LA next year...

* My daughter, on the other hand, wept buckets.
** I'm actually 100% sure people care more about the brownies and cheese dip.  And, for the record, I did get choked up during lots of these other books, so I'm not completely heartless.  Maybe I'll bawl when the movie comes out.
*** Guilty.