A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Practical" Cookbook??

I like cooking when I'm in the mood, but I have more recipe books than I need.  I came upon this one on the shelf, and started thumbing through it.

The title is Practical One Pot.  To me, a practical recipe is relatively simple, with relatively few ingredients, most of which are common and not hugely expensive.  Synonyms and related words of practical, according to Merriam Webster:  functional, useful, down-to-earth, reachable.

Well, nearly all the recipes in Practical One Pot have really long lists of uncommon and expensive ingredients.  Most of the recipes are also exotic.  I like international food and new tastes, and when I try a new recipe, its often foreign, but the cookbook isn't called Exotic One Pot, and it's very misleading.  After wondering about the disproportionate number of curry recipes, I looked at the title page.  Sure enough, it was published originally in the UK, which explains some of this bias toward Indian food and seafood.  But again, it's not advertised that way.  I hate bait and switch.

Example list of ingredients for ONE recipe (Spanish Fish Stew)
-2 common vegetables
-4 common spices and seasonings (if you substitute dried parsley for fresh)
-white bread (so far so good.  But wait)
-toasted almonds
-Cooked Lobster
-Live mussels, scrubbed, with beards removed
-Live clams, scrubbed

Who on earth has all of these seafoods at one time?  It claims the prep time is only 30 minutes, but I guess that's for people who know how properly scrub mussels and clams and prepare langoustine and squid and lobster.  For those of us in landlocked parts of America, that's likely not us.    

Other recipe highlights include Shellfish in Red Curry Sauce (lemongrass, fresh gingerroot, coconut milk, Thai red curry paste, fish sauce, jumbo shrimp, cilantro, etc).  and Winter Vegetable Pot Pie (nothing too strange except the rutabaga, but 23 ingredients)

Other ingredients required:  lots of coconut milk and cream, garam masala, okra, saffron threads, preserved lemon (where you put lemon with a bunch of salt and extra liquid and leave for 1 month), black bean sauce, various liquors, kafir lime leaves, shrimp paste, galangal (I had to look that one up), dry-cured black olives, various curry pastes, green cardamom, chapattis, yerba santa, no-soak dried apricots (are those different than regular dried apricots?), superfine sugar, pomegranate juice, lamb boullion.

Don't get me wrong:  a lot of these recipes are really intriguing.  But they're all SO complex it's ridiculous for anyone who is not an amateur chef.    

A few parting stats:

Out of 27 recipes, number with "curry" in the name, or with significant curry spices:  7 (26%)

Protein breakdown:
Vegetarian:  4
Pork:  3
Beef:  4
Chicken:  5
Lamb:  3
Seafood/fish:  8  (30%)

Number of times I've personally cooked lamb:  0
Number of times I've personally cooked any seafood besides fish fillets:  3 or 4

Pros:  there are some interesting recipes, and they might be fairly authentic.  It also includes nutritional information and little food facts.  The pictures are beautiful and the instructions are good.  If you love cooking complex dishes with exotic ingredients, this book is for you.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Czech Republic vs Arizona Round 2

The Current Temperature and Forecast in Glendale, Arizona today--APRIL 11!!!

The Current Temperature and Forecast in Prague, Czech Republic.
The current temp isn't fair, since it's near the hottest part of the day in Arizona and the middle of the night in the Czech Republic, but compare the forecasts.

And the point goes to....you decide.

I know that a lot of the world is recovering from winter, and hating the cold, but my point still goes to the Czech Republic.  Ninety-four (thirty-four Celsius) isn't so bad in the summer.  But April 11 shouldn't be summer.  What other people may consider "spring," I think of as the season of "dreading summer."  

However, everyone's different.  I saw someone walking down the street in a sweatshirt today, in 94 degrees.

I live in the wrong place.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Grammar and Mechanics for Writers #1--Commas between adjectives

Commas between two adjectives


Choose the right punctuation.

1)         a. She wore tall, leather boots.
            b. She wore tall leather boots.
2)         a. I want a talented, compassionate boss.
            b. I want a talented compassionate boss.
3)         a. Jack bought a new, electric razor.
            b. Jack bought a new electric razor.

Think you've got them? Click HERE for the answers. If you answered right with no problem, move on to the next chapter. If you got one wrong, read on.

When you have two adjectives in a row, sometimes you put a comma between and sometimes you don't. The fancy grammar explanation has to do with whether the adjectives are coordinate or non-coordinate, and their underlying semantic categories, but you don't really need to know all that. All you need is the rule of thumb.

Rule of Thumb:
If you can REVERSE the two words or put AND between them, and it still sounds okay, you need the comma (to show that the adjectives are equal).

If you can't reverse or put AND, you shouldn't put a comma.

Example 1:
The slippery, slimy frog (good)
The slimy, slippery frog (good)
The slippery and slimy frog (good)
You need a comma between

Example 2;
The big foreign car (good)
The foreign big car (sounds weird and unnatural)
The big and foreign car (sounds a little weird)
Don't put a comma

NOTE: If you've done the tests and it's still not clear (maybe one test sounds a little awkward, but not totally wrong), it can probably go either way, depending on what you want to emphasize. Just make the call and then don't worry too much about it.

For more advanced examples, click HERE.


For each sentence, insert or delete commas between adjectives as necessary.

1) I hated the stupid iron bars on the windows.
2) She worked twelve hours a day in a cold wet cave.
3) He sang to his laughing, gurgling baby.
4) They ate delicious, ham sandwiches in a bright airy diner.
5) The sleek, silk dress must have cost a fortune.
6) The fluffy purring kitten softened his hard unyielding heart.
7) We suffered through the long boring meeting.
8) They all understood the complicated, geometry problem.
9) No one wanted to old, beat-up, lawn chair.
10) Samantha's wide, happy smile shone like the warm summer sun.

Practice ANSWERS
1) I hated the stupid iron bars on the windows. (Correct as is)
2) She worked twelve hours a day in a cold, wet cave.
3) He sang to his laughing, gurgling baby. (Correct as is)
4) They ate delicious ham sandwiches in a bright, airy diner.
5) The sleek silk dress must have cost a fortune. (If it were "silky," you'd put a comma)
6) The fluffy, purring kitten softened his hard, unyielding heart.
7) We suffered through the long, boring meeting.
8) They all understood the complicated geometry problem.
9) No one wanted to old, beat-up lawn chair. (the comma between "old" and "beat-up" is correct, but you can't reverse "beat-up" and "lawn" (The lawn, beat-up chair), so you don't need a comma there.  See "More Advanced Examples.")
10) Samantha's wide happy smile shone like the warm, summer sun. (Correct as is)

How did you do? If you need more help, try:

Monday, April 7, 2014


I love Goodreads.  It's a book community that has a lot of cool features.

-You can read and write book reviews, like on Amazon, but unlike Amazon, you can choose to simply rate a book (give it a certain number of stars) without having to write a full review.
-The system will then recommend books for you.
-You can compare your books with friends or people you meet in the forums.  If you've read the same books, they show your ratings side by side, and give you an overall percentage of compatibility.  Very interesting.
-The forums discuss books, writing, movies, language, and all sorts of things (though it's true that some books get reduced to things like "camp Edward" or "camp Jacob" discussions).
-You can take fun book quizzes (or write book quizzes)
-You can vote on lists of books
-You can join book clubs and do reading challenges
-You can enter to win free books in the giveaways
-If you're an author, you can promote your book or join review groups to get those all-important reviews.
-If you're a voracious reader, you can join review groups for free e-book copies of books to review.  
-You can reaffirm your faith in the fact that people are still reading.

If you aren't a member, think about joining.  It's free and fun.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beaver Creek, Arizona

Last week I went camping again near Camp Verde, AZ.  Last time I hiked the West Clear Creek trail.  This time I hiked the Bell trail along Beaver Creek.  Clear water, falling water in the creek, red rocks...beautiful.  If you go, be sure to stray off the trail as often as possible when you see little footpaths going down toward the creek.  Those are the prettiest places.

Here are some pics:
Rushing creeks:  one of my favorite things in the whole world

A tiny waterfall, Beaver Creek

Just about to eat my smooshed sack lunch,
flanked by two little waterfalls and red rock cliffs.
Talk about a 5-star restaurant.  

Bell Trail, near Camp Verde, Arizona

A series of clear pools cascading into each other.
You couldn't have built anything this beautiful.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Online Plot Generator

Looking for an idea for a story...or just a good laugh?  Try this hilarious plot generator: from plot-generator.org.uk.

Despite the Mad-Libs style of the plots and blurbs, you can learn from their narrative structure.

Here's one it just generated for me:

Argona Gelli, the Orc
    - a VERY FAKE fantasy novel
by Nora Rider

In a castle there lived a headless, impatient orc named Argona Gelli. Not a dark mystic, powerful castle, filled with rubies and a violent smell, nor yet an enchanted, royal, obedient castle with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was an orc-castle, and that means comfort.

One day, after a troubling visit from the unicorn Finden Bendley, Argona leaves her castle and sets out in search of three hairy book of spells. A quest undertaken in the company of magic hunters, goblins and silver elves.

In the search for the unicorn-guarded book of spells, Argona Gelli surprises even herself with her locksmithing and skill as a baker.

During her travels, Argona rescues a crown, an heirloom belonging to Finden. But when Finden refuses to try searching, their friendship is over.

However, Finden is wounded at the Battle of Blood River and the two reconcile just before Argona engages in some serious searching.

Argona accepts one of the three hairy book of spells and returns home to her castle a very wealthy orc.

Don't worry.  My actual writing is a little more coherent.  :)  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Czech Republic vs Arizona Round 1

in the Czech Republic

Near Vsetin, Czech Republic

Near Vsetin, Czech Republic

Near Liptal, Czech Republic

Near Liptal, Czech Republic

in the Arizona
Poppies and wildflowers in my yard

Oak Flat, Arizona

Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Point goes to...
You decide.