Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Regular resolutions, a new twist, a new author and cookbooks!

Besides the annual themed resolutions, here at the SpSq household we make more pedestrian resolutions each year: lose weight, read books, eat whole grains and so forth.  For 2013 The Mister has resolved to cook more from our extensive cookbook collection.  We are going to hold him accountable, which I read every year is essential for successful resolutions, because he is going to publicly post the results here on Sparkling Squirrel
Welcome to The Mister (code name coderprof)!
The reading public anxiously awaits reports of your culinary adventures (and I like eating the food myself).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

There must be acid in the air

I'm trying to wrap up acid year (you might recall these resolutions are on a lunar cycle, even though I have already started the new one) and acid ideas just keep popping up.
My brother and sister-in-law gave us more fermentation books for Christmas, I opened a (non-acid) new cookbook yesterday and the page fell to recipes for pickled carrots and kimchee and flipping through today's mail led me to a bon appetit article on making one's own vinegar with this conclusion:
Making vinegar reminds us of a love affair.  As in all great romances, you must pay attention to its needs, take care of it, and have patience as it ages and transforms into something beautiful.* 
Vinegar and love affairs: there is clearly still acid left for me to explore.
*Hamilton and Hirsheimer (2013) "Sour Grapes" bon appetit. February 2013.  p. 62.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Without any acid

Who is Santa's helper?
Another elf
Before sledding

Before sledding

Among some of their favorite people
I'm not adding any tart to these sweet photos.  Sorry if that screws up the balance of the blog.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"They'll be scary ghost stories"

I read two ghost stories last week (Author's note:  last week was Dec. 20 as of when I was first typing this).  Like most Americans, I don't think that Christmas is the season of ghost stories (see discussion in the comments of Wuthering Expectations here about cultural seasonality of ghost stories) so every time I sing along with Andy Williams  I wonder about the scary ghost stories I should expect along with "kids jingle belling" and "marshmallows for roasting" (at Christmastime?  Really?) during this most wonderful time of the year.  I also don't particularly like ghost stories, so I was surprised to find myself reading two of them in the week before Christmas.
A Christmas Carol, is, of course THE Christmas ghost story.  I had not read the original before and was pleased to find that it is fabulous.  Readers who find Victorian novelists in general, and Dickens in particular, to be cumbersome and intimidating, aren't thinking of the opening of A Christmas Carol:
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. . . .
Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade.
Haven't you wondered what is dead about a door nail?

Dickens includes delectable (and unintimidating) descriptions of the produce and sweets.  The action moves at a good clip.  And while some readers might find it manipulative, I find it an indicator of good writing that tiny Tim's death made me cry because of the the way it changed his father's gait; even though I knew that Scrooge would reform and Tim would not die in the actual, rather than potential, future. 
If you've read A Christmas Carol recently, I'd love to discuss it with you, and it you haven't, you really should (although if I were you I'd wait another year because there is something special about reading it at the right time of the year).  Let me know.
As for the other ghost story: it was Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time, and it stunned me.  Crusie writes some of my favorite romantic comedies (I love lit professor Rohan Maitzen's explanation of why she enjoyed some of Crusie's novels despite not being a "romance reader").  All of them include quirky characters, who are rarely conventionally beautiful, living in Ohio.  Some of the more recent ones include some mystery or crime investigation, which is always secondary to the relationships.  None of the others have included ghosts.
Maybe This Time included hints of ghosts from the beginning, but I kept waiting for the big reveal.  As the action proceeded I became increasingly afraid that Crusie would totally Scoobie Do it: we'd suddenly realize it was just projectors, mirrors and an overuse of salvia, but equally worried with the alternative: that the ghosts in the story are really ghosts.  About ten pages from the end (despite the ghosts, it is a fun, fast read), I looked up and told The Mister, "There are ghosts in my book."  I couldn't quite believe it.  The Mister guessed I had to be talking about A Christmas Carol because the library romantic comedy I was holding in my hand clearly didn't have ghosts.  But it did.
As I look into it, I learn that Maybe This Time is based on The Turn of the Screw but, as I have never read any Henry James, I was completely unaware.  MTT would probably be a fun read for the person who is a fan of Henry James the way I am a fan of Jane Austen:  enjoying both the original and the sometimes silly derivatives.

Books, kids, flowers, recipes and vinegar all to come soon.  Stay tuned to Sparkling Squirrel!