Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Book Reviews: "The Catcher in the Rye," "The Sun Also Rises," and "Elantris"

My Rating System: *OK, **Good, ***Great

The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
Rating: **+

I'd started this book once before and for whatever reason put it aside. After reading this I have no idea why I would have done such a thing! I had no idea what Catcher in the Rye was about before I started reading this... I only knew it was a 'classic.' The book is about a kid who gets kicked out of college and is worried about going back home to face his parents.

Oddly enough... not a whole lot happens in this book. You ever see "The Breakfast Club?" It's kinda like that. A lot of talking and character development... not a whole lot of action, but it works. And it's enjoyable. I found another classic I actually liked!

by Ernest Hemingway
Rating: **

I must have been in the mood for classics this month, what can I say? So this is another book that I knew was a classic yet I had no idea what it was about. And again it was another book with a lot of talking and character development, but not a whole lot of action. I know in my previous post with the cow picture it sounded as though maybe I didn't like this book. I gave the synopsis of it being about "drunk people going to bull fights." Which is true. But there was also a lot of food and traveling involved. As well as a little bit of fly fishing.

So I actually really liked this book. Yes, the characters were a bunch of alcoholics, but somehow it was able to hold my attention. I thought all the characters were mildly insane, but that's what makes it fun! "A Farewell to Arms" will probably find a spot in my reading line-up shortly.

by Brandon Sanderson

As part of my reading goal this year, I've tried to keep the genre of books somewhat varied. I had never read a fantasy book before and thought maybe I should give it a shot. My wonderful mother-in-law Mama Hanson, and niece Arielle, both read Elantris a while back, so that's why I chose it.

Elantris is about a city called Elantris which was at one point a place of intense beauty and life. It was where the god-like Elantrians, normal people who had been transformed and now had special powers of healing, creation, etc., lived. But then one day some power transformed all the Elantrians from "gods" into the literal walking dead. The Elantrians were then shunned and locked up in Elantris, and any who were unlucky enough to be transformed into Elantrians after this day were thrown into the city, forgotten as if they never existed.

Elantris started out well, but lost a little steam here and there in the middle sections... mainly when there was a lot of talking and meetings and such going on. But, as the story went on I got more and more sucked into it. This was a long one... not sure how many pages (around 500 I think?), but there were 24 CDs... so it took me over a month to get through it. The narrator was pretty good and there were a lot of twists and mysteries throughout, so it made for a good audiobook. I wouldn't say the writing was anything spectacular, but it was enjoyable. Enjoyable enough at least to make me start reading another fantasy series... The Wheel of Time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Can Vouch for That

So Seth asked me this morning what I was writing about this time and I told him it was another post about my favorite things. He promptly raised his arms over his head complete with 'jazz hands' and yelled in his best Oprah voice:



Ok on with the goods....

L'Oreal HiP Color Truth Cream Eyeliner- I bought this stuff last Christmas to use as a dark base under my eyeshadow for a party. While it worked well, for some reason I never thought to use it as intended until recently. I have used eyeliner pencils in the past, but like all my other eye makeup, it tends to melt off during the day because of my oily skin. So I got this out again the other day and tried it and it was awesome! In fact, Seth asked me if I'd done something different with my makeup when I got home from work that day because he said I "looked really good." When a dude notices your makeup is different, you know it must be good, right?

Now, this eyeliner does come with its own brush, but I thought it was a little stabby and a bit too skinny, so I just used an eyeliner brush I already had. A little goes a long way, so I just barely dab the end of the brush in the pot. It does dry fast so it's not super forgiving of mistakes, but I got the hang of it after a couple tries. After each use I wipe the brush off on a piece of tissue to get rid of any extra pigment because otherwise it will dry on your brush and make it stiff.

I just bought the black eyeliner, but they have several other colors available including midnight blue, brown, turquoise, and purple. I really love L'Oreal makeup overall... they generally have good quality products. And they have several products available in their HiP line now... including eyeshadows of which I recently bought several. We'll see how it goes with those...

Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment- I'd been using some prescription topical ointment for my skin which was working pretty good, but then I ran out of stuff and didn't want to go back to the dermatologist to get a new prescription. I noticed even while using the prescription stuff I'd gotten some little bumps on my forehead that wouldn't go away. Long story short as soon as I started using this stuff, the bumps went away. And I could actually see an overall improvement in my skin which NEVER happens with anything I buy. My skin is smoother and more evenly toned. Anyway, I put this on my whole face every morning and I really love it. It's keeping me away from the dermatologist so that's even better!

Unicorn 6" Keytop Peppermill- My life changed the day I started using fresh ground pepper in my cooking. Ok, not really, but I refuse to use the pre-ground stuff in my food now. Mainly because it has no taste. So I've had a small salt and pepper set that I've used forever, and it's great and all, but the peppermill is way too small. This means that it takes forever to grind any significant amount of pepper and it also means I have to refill the thing every two days. So trying to find a better solution, I bought a pepperball. I thought it would be more convenient for cooking to have a one hand operation. It was the worst purchase I've made for a long time. It took probably three times longer to grind any amount of pepper and it made my hand tired. Plus I could never get the slot open to refill it (after I actually FOUND the refill slot). So the pepperball got relegated to the camping supplies.

So this year for my birthday Seth's awesome brother and sis-in-law, Scott & Amanda, gave me a gift certificate to Amazon. I used the opportunity to spend the money on something I wouldn't normally justify and bought a nice peppermill. I was really tempted by the Unicorn Magnum Plus 9 Inch Peppermill just because of the name alone. But, ultimately I thought it would be a bit too large (you can get too big you know) and would tip over more easily on the stovetop where I normally keep my peppermill. I was about to get the 6" Unicorn Magnum Peppermill, but then I saw they had a 6" Keytop Peppermill and I ultimately chose that one as it looked easier to turn (even though I wanted one called Magnum).

I have been using this peppermill for a couple months now and it's awesome! It's very easy to refill, holds a lot of peppercorns, grinds quickly, and has a very solid build. I can't say how it compares to the regular Magnum design, but I would buy the keytop version again given the choice, mainly because it seems like it would be easier to turn if your hands were slippery or something. So, if you've got an extra $30 laying around and need a really good peppermill, give this little guy a shot... or go straight for the 9" Magnum... I'm sure you wouldn't be disappointed by that either...

Frabill Wood Handle Rubber Landing Net- My first landing net was your standard nylon netting cheap landing net. Problem is, I'm a two-fly kind of girl. This meant whenever I actually used my landing net, I'd end up with my flies tangled up in the nylon and 10 minutes of fighting to get them out. I rarely ever used my landing net unless I had to because it seemed to be more of a hindrance than anything. Then I saw the new-fangled rubber netting landing nets and began coveting immediately.  However the ones I saw were all about $100, which was a little out of my price range.

Then one day Seth and I were at Angler's Den, a local fly shop, and noticed they had these Frabill rubber landing nets for only $30! So, we bought 2, one for each of us. And it's been one of the best things we've ever bought. I love using my landing net now. It makes landing fish so much easier and I can quickly remove hooks and release fish. No more tangles. Plus this net is nice and deep so there's more room for larger fish (because that's all we catch...). I was a little worried that the quality of the Frabill nets would be crappy because they were so much cheaper than the other rubber nets we'd seen, but so far they've proved to be durable and are just as good as they were the day we bought them. If you're still using one of those old style nylon nets, I highly recommend switching over to one of these babies. You won't regret it!

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-W290 12.1MP Digital Camera- So this is sort of an endorsement for Sony Cyber-Shot cameras in general, but this is the current camera I have from them. I had an older model which finally gave up the ghost a year after being dropped in the dirt (thanks a lot Seth!... just kidding), so Seth bought me this camera as a replacement this last Christmas. I am not normally inclined to haul a camera everywhere, mainly because they're too cumbersome. The thing I like about this camera is it's so slim and small that I can slip it in my back pocket or in my purse and it doesn't take up much room at all. Which means I bring it everywhere and actually USE it!

This camera has a lot of great features and it's really easy to use. You can put it on an auto setting which does a pretty good job of selecting an option for your situation whether you're taking a close-up picture, a landscape, or a portrait. But, there's also a lot of manual selections as well if you want to do that instead. After owning the camera for a little while I found some extra options on there, one of which was a pleasant surprise... it had a 'food' setting! I use this one ALL the time and it works really well. The camera has a great zoom range and a large viewing screen and it also comes with a rechargeable battery which is awesome. Plus at 12.1 MP, the quality of pictures are amazing. I can't believe some of the pictures I've gotten with this thing!

This camera also has a video camera setting which is fine... nothing too amazing, but better than nothing. The only bad thing about the video setting is that you can't zoom, so you have to physically move around if you want to change the view. I don't use the video setting that often but I've been fairly pleased with it the times I have used it. So if you're in the market for a good digital camera, try this one out. It's not exactly cheap, but sometimes it's worth it to spend a little extra for added quality. It's definitely one of my favorite things.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Today's Special: Ranch-Parmesan Chicken, Korean Chicken & Peanut Noodles, Crap in Rolls, Beef Stroganoff, and BLTs

Ranch-Parmesan Chicken- New Recipe. I made this on the spur of the moment because I hadn't gone to the grocery store yet. It turned out surprisingly good. Not healthy in the slightest, but good!

Korean Roast Chicken (new recipe) with Peanut-Ginger Noodles (repeat)- The Korean chicken turned out surprisingly well. I actually used boneless skinless thighs and it worked just fine. It did reduce the cooking time to 45 minutes. I'd probably let these marinate longer if I were to make them again. And the noodles? What can I say? This is my favorite peanut sauce/noodle recipe I've tried. And it's super easy.

Crap in Rolls- Old family favorite. OK so there's a story to this one. These things are actually called "Chicken Rolls." We pronounce it more like "crap'n-rolls." My now brother-in-law JR was coming over for his first Sunday dinner at the Holley home. When asked what we were having, Corinne said something like, "I don't know... crap in rolls or something." And he still came over. Bachelors sure are desperate for a home cooked meal. Don't worry, they're better than they sound. And my mom still gets pissed off when we called them Crap in Rolls.

Crap in Rolls

2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1/4 tsp lemon pepper
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 can mushrooms
1 stalk celery, diced
2 tbsp. butter, melted
2 cups breadcrumbs
2 cans Refrigerated Crescent Roll dough (16 rolls)

1 can Cream of Chicken Soup

Combine chicken, lemon pepper, cream cheese, mushrooms, and celery. Roll out dough. Spoon mixture onto dough (about 1 rounded tablespoon each), roll up, and seal. Dip in melted butter and then into bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

To make sauce combine cream of chicken soup with enough milk to thin to desired consistency and heat. Spoon over hot rolls.

Makes 16 rolls.

Beef Stroganoff- Repeat. Comfort food at its best. I always add mushrooms to the meat/onions when they're sauteing.

BLTs- Repeat. So I'm pretty sure the name is self-explanatory of the recipe for this one. Unless you want to get all technical and say it doesn't include the mayo or bread. But come on. If you don't know how to make a BLT, there's no help for you. Quit now.

The Colonel

Totally met Colonel Sanders today. He was even more awesome than I imagined.

Side Note: So you know when you write out a word so many times it starts to look wrong? That's what happened when I typed out 'Colonel'... so I looked it up just to be sure. This was one of the definitions:

"Older Use . (in the South) a title of respect prefixed to the name of distinguished elderly men. "

 So THAT explains it. I always thought it was dumb for a Colonel to wear a white suit in a war. I mean, HELLO... you're not really blending in. Unless it's winter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

He Must Have Known I Just Finished "The Sun Also Rises"

I went fishing up on the Weber again this weekend and besides the one massive fish I caught that got away (I'm serious... it really happened!), this cow was the only other thing worth noting. Or maybe it was a bull. I think it was a bull actually. But that's neither here nor there. The point is, he was staring at me so I took his picture. And I made sure to wave at him too. I didn't want him to think I was a snob.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mountain Men, Firemen, and Fishermen... How Could This Possibly Be Bad?

How do I even begin to tell this story? I guess I'll start at the beginning...

Seth and I drove up to Wyoming last weekend intent on attending the Fort Bridger Mountain Man Rendezvous and doing some fly fishing on the famous surrounding waters.

We arrived at Fort Bridger around noon and wandered the grounds... admiring and being appalled by some of the people who decided to dress the part. For the record, I don't think loin cloths were standard apparel for old fat hairy guys. But I digress.

The best part of the rendezvous was watching the Native American dancers.

We were a little disappointed that there were no grilled turkey legs to chomp on. But maybe they only have those at Renaissance Festivals...

After the rendezvous we ended up driving through Kemerer to the Ham's Fork. Along the way we noticed what looked like a forest fire.

Turned out to be controlled burns by the local forest service/fire department. But here's the part that's cool. They had a couple different ways of starting the fires... neither of which were anything like what I'd imagined.

First we saw this helicopter flying around with a torch that would drop little fire balls...

Then further down the road we saw this "fire truck" and the guys had a fire hose that sprayed fire! (click on the picture to see a better view). How awesome is that?

So it was pretty busy up in the canyon along the Ham's Fork so we ended up camping way up past the fires, which was a good thing. Luckily we were trying out our minimalist camping (hot dogs for dinner, cereal for breakfast, and sleeping in the car) so we didn't have to set up much.

It was around 6:00pm when we finally got to our camping spot so we decided to hurry and make use of our $14 fishing day license before it was too dark. Seth always fishes faster than I do so he moved pretty quickly upstream and I slowly followed.

I wasn't catching anything at first because I kept hitting all the holes Seth had already disturbed, so I decided to catch up and leap frog him.

So I came to this deeper hole and needed to cross over the stream. I wasn't quite sure how deep the hole was so I squatted down and stuck my right leg in the water to see if I could touch bottom. All of a sudden I slipped and fell into chest deep water... my right leg touched the bottom of the stream but my left leg stayed up on the bank, bent weird and way out of my normal flexibility range.

At first my left leg felt relatively ok. It hadn't hurt much and I could still walk on it, so I continued making my way up to Seth. After catching up to him, we started back down the river to eat dinner. I ended up catching a couple nice fish out of the hole I fell in so I felt much better.

After eating dinner and sitting around for a while I stood up. Man did it hurt! My knee had tightened up a lot and it was really painful. That night only proved worse as I struggled to keep my leg from moving while sleeping in the back of the Xterra.

The next morning I was sure I'd sprained my knee. But, we paid for not one, but two days of fishing in Wyoming and I wasn't about to waste my $14 license! So, we drove back down the canyon below Kemerer Reservoir and spent the morning fishing a small stretch of the river.

Seth hooked into a couple huge fish using a streamer... man was I jealous!

I saw the biggest hatch I've ever seen that morning... the air was thick with mayflies. There were so many that at times we couldn't see because they were flying into our faces when the wind blew. Unfortunately the fish weren't rising for them.

This little guy landed on my jacket. The species of mayflies were pretty mixed, but most of them were BWOs and PMDs (at least I think so... my eye isn't fully trained yet).

So that was our first fishing trip to Wyoming. Definitely a little bit of a let-down not being able to wade and such with my dumb knee, but hopefully we'll get back there soon and try it out again.

At least I got to see a lot of firemen...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

And Then on the Third Day Which Was Technically Like the Seventh Day...

And thus there were a few days in amongst which the Holley family was separated into their own units and carried on in various activities. Some did play, others toiled, but then after some time went by they rejoined in one last celebration...

And there was much moisture received and they were grateful.

After which they were they even more joyous for the receipt of their ice cream. Which was as manna from the heavens.

Thus ended the Holley family summer vacation.

And it was good.

Monday, September 6, 2010

And on the Second Half of the Second Day...

And on the second half of the second day we did thus travel far to view the hidden secrets of the universe... some did call it Buckskin Gulch. And it was good.

And thus ended the second day.
(It was a long one.)

And On the Second Day...

And on the morning of the second day of the Holley family summer trip we did travel to the desert. The Coral Pink Sand Dunes to be exact....

And thus we did see angels...

And curious wonders of nature...

And Corinne... who apparently has a hard time spelling her name...

There were bonds of friendship created across generations (or at least a couple years anyway)...

And fallen (or scooting) souls waiting for their turn to...

...view the miraculous creations of God's hand.
(Oh yeah... that's some nice creating right there.)

And thus ended the first half of the second day.