Since I review a lot of cookbooks, I thought you might appreciate this one. I got a bit into the whole Modernist Cooking idea this year, just because food science is pretty neat and lets you do cool things. I reviewed Modernist Cuisine earlier, and will be reviewing Modernist Cuisine at Home (the version for home cooks) once we get to play with it a bit (I got it for my husband for an early Christmas present). So far it looks excellent, including lists of useful equipment and ingredients for the modernist cook. Anyway, to that end, here’s the authors’ list of some of the equipment you might want: Top 5 Modernist Cuisine at Home Tools. Note that the most important ones are a pair of highly accurate kitchen scales, one accurate to the tenth of a gram, and one accurate to the hundredth of a gram. The article includes both high-end and less expensive versions of those and more:
Their article includes a whipping siphon in the top five, but in the book’s listing it’s #7, after a kitchen blowtorch, so I’m inclined to recommend getting the other stuff first. Obviously this stuff adds up fast, particularly if you want to cook sous vide. There are a couple of options. For one, some sous vide can be accomplished without the fancy equipment. I’ve seen the Modernist Cuisine authors present online ideas using ziploc bags and such for lower-temperature applications. Or you can do what we’re planning on doing: spread out your purchases over a bunch of holidays (Christmas! Birthday! Anniversary! Now you don’t have to think of gifts for the next whole year or more!). Depending on what we end up getting, eventually I plan to review some of the equipment, as well as, of course, the “at home” book, once we’ve had the chance to put it through its paces.
Edwina Ladoux is losing her home—and truth be told, it’s been in ruins ever since the Civil War paid an all-too-personal visit. On impulse she sets herself up as a mail-order bride, hoping that starting over in Heartbreak Creek, Colorado, will make everything all right again. She sets off with her half-sister, Prudence, not expecting huge, taciturn Declan Brodie, a widowed rancher who was himself expecting a sturdy farm wife who could mother his four children, not a temperamental Southern girl who can’t even cook.
With some (okay, a lot) of help from Prudence, and her own fiery temper and steel backbone, Ed slowly adjusts to ranch life and even riding herd on a bunch of unruly kids—until an Indian attack leaves the ranch in ruins. Ed finds that just as things are getting dangerous, she’s ready to fight for her new family—and it’ll take all her fire and steel to hold onto what she’s gained.
I love to make beaded bookmarks (and hair sticks, but the former is more relevant here)! Below are photos of a few of my favorites, including the ones with the gorgeous glittering oval Swarovski crystals; the photos link directly to the items in my Bonanza booth. They make excellent holiday gifts for your favorite readers!
Pros: Fantastic little floor-scrubber; just make sure to vacuum or sweep first, use often, and clean the scrubber plates frequently Cons: Takes practice to line up the virtual wall just right Rating: 4 out of 5
Between my tendonitis and my husband’s work schedule, it’s hard to keep the house as clean as we’d like. Not too long ago, my awesome mother got us a Scooba 230 + Essentials Kit, one of iRobot’s floor washing robots. The essentials kit, by the way, includes a second virtual wall (takes two D batteries; keeps your robot from passing through a doorway so you can limit what it cleans) and several extra bottom plates (the part that includes the scrubbing brushes and squeegee).
You charge up the Scooba, slip on the bottom plate, open up both the fill and empty ports (so the inner bag that holds the water can expand as much as possible), pour in a small amount of non-toxic enzyme cleaner (the Scooba comes with several sample packets, but you’ll want to buy a couple of bottles from iRobot). Fill with warm (not hot) water, close both ports, put the Scooba in the middle of the floor to be cleaned, press the power button, and press the ‘clean’ button. Note that the first time I used the Scooba it gave me an error message indicating that it hadn’t been filled with water and solution even though it had; the fix for this is to give is a good shake to prime the pumps.
Lorraine Berry owns the Pennyroyal Saloon and Hotel, and she’s worried about her little town of Bitter Springs, Wyoming. So worried that she’s sent word to a gunslinger, offering to hire him to come protect the town from a ruthless local rancher.
Kellen Coltrane is having a comfortable train ride when a mysterious encounter sends him on a detour to Bitter Springs to carry out a dying man’s last wish. Once he meets Lorraine, he finds himself swept up in the town’s troubles and pretending to be something he isn’t. And as he learns more about Lorraine, he finds himself wanting to be more than just her protector.
The Lost Night (A Rainshadow Novel) is by Jayne Ann Krentz, writing as Jayne Castle. It’s an odd book, set in a world called Harmony, peopled with folks who have odd and unusual abilities, containing such creatures as dust bunnies (they seem to make very devoted companions)—among more dangerous things. Yet it’s surprisingly modern-day in its setting despite that, complete with roads, cottages, and even SUVs. (I gather there are other Harmony novels, but I found this one stood alone surprisingly well.)
Rachel Blake has the ability to detect the auras of dangerous psychic criminals, but she’s retreated from the world and moved to the peaceful Rainshadow Island, where she operates a bookstore and cafe. Nevertheless, things aren’t quite right for her—she’s missing a night in her memory, and has no idea where she was or what she was doing during that time.
Harry Sebastian has arrived on the island to investigate strange and possibly dangerous developments in the alien wood known as the Preserve. He’s drawn to Rachel on a personal level, but he thinks he also needs her help to figure out what’s going on. And she just might be the one person who can balance Harry’s own dark gift…
In case it’s been a while: I do a “non-review” when I couldn’t finish a book. I won’t rate it on Amazon or GoodReads, but I don’t mind telling you here why I chose not to finish. If there’s one thing I’ve found over the years, it’s that there are too many good books to waste my time finishing a book that I can’t get into.
Janet Chapman’s Courting Carolina is a “Spellbound Falls” romance. It seems to be billed as one of those books that’s set in the same world as an author’s previous books, but that’s supposed to stand alone relatively well. Or at least, that’s the impression I got from the cover. Certainly we’re seeing more and more of this lately—we’re getting more series of indeterminate length, often with smaller print runs, meaning that you can’t assume a reader will have read all previous books when they pick up a new one (particularly if you’re hoping to pick up new readers as you go along). At any rate, my impression was definitely wrong. While the story itself sort of stands alone (at least for the first 100 pages, which is what I read before stopping), the world does not. Sure, you can tell there’s some paranormal to the world as you read, but it hits a point where the author is just dumping in mention of weird thing after weird thing, late enough in the game that it feels like an out-of-nowhere genre shift. (Even the back-of-the-book text, if you aren’t familiar with the series, gives no real indication that this is a paranormal romance, other than the “Spellbound Falls” moniker.)
I imagine that if you’ve had time to adjust to all of the weirdness in this author’s universe over the course of the previous three books this might seem fine (although its apparent absence for the first part of the book might feel a bit odd). However, when a seemingly low-magic universe suddenly becomes an incredibly high-magic universe partway into the book, it’s jarring.
It didn’t help that I really didn’t find the lead characters to be all that involving, and the chemistry between them didn’t grab me.
I tried to keep reading. Really I did. But when I kept finding myself picking up other books—any other books—rather than finishing this one, I knew it was time to stop. It wasn’t a terrible book; it just wasn’t interesting.
Pros: Tense, action-filled adventure with plenty of twists and inventive assassinations; interesting new characters introduced into the series Cons: Too much explaining; cartoonish villains; insufficient romantic chemistry Rating: 3 out of 5
The GhostWalkers seem to have an unknown ally on their side—several informants and pawns working for Whitney, their worst enemy, have died in mysterious “accidents”. A slip and fall; a car crash; a fatal anaphylactic reaction. The only thing these incidents have in common is Sheila, the go-between Whitney sends to pay off his informants, and the fact that each person’s payoff has disappeared from the scene within moments of the death. Sheila fears that one more slip-up and Whitney will blame her.
A new mission is about to be handed down to the GhostWalkers—one that will ultimately sacrifice one of their own, Sam Johnson, so that Whitney can get his hands on a rare component for a weapon he’s building. Only the presence of a traitor among those few who know about them could explain what’s going on.
The GhostWalkers want a spy satellite to help keep them informed and safe. There’s only one company that makes the best of the best in the satellite industry: Samurai Telecommunications. And the three people who run the company—two men, one woman, all adopted by the same man—insist on personally meeting anyone who buys their satellites. This means they’ll be entering the GhostWalkers’ sanctuary at a time when the GhostWalkers fear that Whitney would do anything to kidnap the several children within the compound.