Saturday, February 28, 2009


It's storming like whoa outside, so I'm about to shut down the computer and spend the day reading. Before I go, though, here are two fun new memes I found. Please to enjoy!

And what did YOU do today, dear?
I yelled at a phone in your bathroom because the voices told me to!
(visit Florinda to get in on the fun)

Make your own album cover!
Here's mine:

BWE tells you how.

Comment and share yours!

Free Comic Books!

Tying in with the release of Sword of My Mouth, Jim Monroe is offering his graphic novel Therefore Repent as a free download:
What if the religious right… are actually right?

Without warning, multitudes of Christians float bodily up into the sky.

For the immoral majority, life goes on pretty much as usual.

Except that after the Rapture, magic works — for those willing to risk demonic mutations.

And an angelic army appears to have been deployed to mop up the sinners.

But through it all, outsiders Raven and Mummy face the possibility of a bigger problem than the end of the world: the end of their relationship.
And Marvel has a preview of the first five pages of the new Pride and Prejudice comic book (!!!!) available for your viewing pleasure here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wow, that was fast!

Guess what came in the mail today....

My Coraline prize pack! I got:

* a t-shirt
* the Coraline movie tie-in video game for Wii (which I'll be playing this weekend, AFTER I finish all my grading)
* a pack of the 26 alphabet cards
* a set of 4 buttons (the kind you wear, not the kind you sew on your eyes)
* a copy of the Coraline: The Movie Collector's Edition (my 3rd version of the book)
* a bookmark featuring Coraline and the Other Mother
* a pen featuring the ghost girls
and my personal favorite...

* a key! No, seriously, after I started reading about these keys being found in big cities like Chicago, NYC, and San Fransisco, I became obsessed with finding one myself. Unfortunately, they never showed up in Atlanta. I know. I checked. A lot. And now I have my own!

Thanks to Back Seat Producers for this amazing giveaway!

Recipe Tuesday: Artichoke Dip and Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Since I missed last week, I'm making it up to you by posting TWO recipes this week. Both were big hits at the Valentine's Day party I co-hosted this year.

Artichoke Dip

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chiles, drained
1 garlic clove, minced

Preheat your oven to 350. Mix all the ingredients together until well blended. Spoon into a 9-inch pie plate or quiche dish. Bake 20-25 minutes, until brownish on top and bubbling on the sides. Serve with crackers, pretzels, or sliced veggies.

Chocolate Cherry Cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 (10 oz.) jar maraschino cherries (about 36)*
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Take the butter out of the fridge about 30 minutes before starting this recipe to bring it to room temperature. DO NOT MICROWAVE IT TO SOFTEN IT. Preheat oven to 350. Combine the flour and cocoa powder in a small bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until softened. Add the sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and beat until the mixture is combined. Beat in the egg and vanilla, and gradually beat in the flour/cocoa mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Use your thumb to create a dip in the center of the balls. Drain the cherries, reserving the juice, and place one cherry (minus the stem) in the center of each cookie.

For frosting, combine chocolate and condensed milk in a bowl, then microwave until melted, stirring occasionally. Stir in 4 tsp. of the reversed cherry juice. Spoon about 1 tsp. of frosting over the cherries. Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool on baking sheet for at least 1 minute.

I wish I had taken pictures of these, but trust me, they're delicious! The cookies are a little messy (that cocoa powder can really fly!), so you might want to use a food processor instead of a mixer. Enjoy!

* According to the recipe book, this recipe supposedly requires 48 cherries and makes 48 cookies, but I couldn't get that many out of the batter.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Besotted by B's

Care assigned me the letter B in the alphabet meme. Here are ten of my favorite B-words:

Caspian Beach ساحل خزر
Originally uploaded by >TOORAJ

1. The Beach! Any beach, really, but I'm partial to Hilton Head Island, SC (my family vacations there every year) and Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL (where my mom grew up and the majority of her family still lives).

2. B Bands. The Beatles, Boston, bis (RIP), bicycle, Ben Folds (Five), The B-52's...

3. Boston terriers. Generally speaking, I love all dogs. Yes, even the two that bit me on the face when I was little - OUCH! But when I finally have a house and fenced-in back yard of my own, I really want to get one of these. They're so cute! And smart and lively to boot.

4. Baking. I love making cookies, cakes, cupcakes, etc. It's relaxing. And yummy!

5. Backrubs. Speaking of relaxing...who doesn't love a good rub down now and then? One of my friends went through training to become a message therapist a few years ago, and I loved being her guinea pig.

6. Book-related websites. BookCrossing, BookMooch, LibraryThing, GoodReads...I use and love them all.

7. Bernal, Gael Garcia. One of my favorite actors. I loved him Amores perros, Y yu mama tambien, and El Crimen de padre Amaro. I have yet to see The Science of Sleep, but I'm sure it's wonderful, too.

8. Bubble wrap. Is there anything as satisfying as receiving something in the mail and then spending the next ten minutes blissfully popping all the bubble wrap it came in? I think not.

9. Buffy - the movie ("Pike isn't a name; it's a fish.") and the TV series ("Well, I like you. You're nice, and you're funny, and you don't smoke. Yeah, okay, werewolf, but that's not all the time. I mean, three days out of the month I'm not much fun to be around either."). I still listen to the "Once More, With Feeling" soundtrack almost every day. It must be bunnies!

10. B&Bs. When I went to the UK, my tour group stayed in a variety of Bed & Breakfasts. They're cozy, the people who run them are friendly, and you're guaranteed a great breakfast when you wake up. The place we stayed in Monmouthshire (Wales) even had cats that slept in the bed with you!

I realize this meme has probably run its course by now, but if you'd like to play along, leave a comment and I'll give you a letter.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blog Improvement Project Task 4: Blog Basics

The 4th task for the Blog Improvement Project is:
Over the next two weeks, take on as many of these tasks as you like. I know they are pretty general, but every blog is different and so what you might want to do with these particular pieces is up to you.

* Write (or update) your “About Me” Page — Make sure you can see your About Me from the main page of your blog because someone just arriving at the site should be able to easily see a little information about you

* Update your contact information

* Add some sort of picture of yourself (if you’re comfortable with that)

* Update your Blogroll — Blogging Startup has a good series on blogrolls starting with “Does My Blog Need A Blogroll?” — check out some of the other entries, they’re pretty short and interesting

* Create a link to your Archives on your front page (there are a lot of widgets for this, or you can find other ways to do it — either way, it’s important to do so people who want your archives can find them to get a sense of what they can expect from your blog)

* Add a link (or make sure a link is there) so readers can subscribe to your blog via RSS

* Get to work on other basic blog maintenance you’ve been meaning to do
I'll be working on these for the next two weeks and linking back to the results here. I definitely need an "About Me" post, and I wouldn't mind putting a picture of myself on here. My blogroll was recently updated, but I might prune it a bit. I already have a link to my archives in the sidebar, and adding an RSS link shouldn't be too hard...

Blog Improvement Project Task 3: Blog Post Bingo

The 3rd task for the Blog Improvement Project was:
Blog Post Bingo!

* Take a look at the 10 types of blog post below. Over the next two weeks, try to write as many of these different kinds of posts as you can.

1. A Link Post - share a series of links your readers might find interesting
2. A Short Post - less than 200 words
3. A List Post - simple as it sounds, a list of some sort
4. An Opinion Post - take an event, news, or another blog post and share your opinion on it
5. A Poll or Question Post - post a poll or ask your readers a specific question for feedback
6. A How-To Post - You’re an expert in something; big or small, share how to do it
7. A Long Post - more than 700 words
8. A Review Post - self-explanatory, I think :)
9. A Definition Post - show your expertise about a topic related to your blog
10. FREE SPACE - a type of post of your choice (that is not the same as one of the previous posts)
I missed out on this one, but it sounds like fun. I'm going to try to write one of each of these in the next few weeks. I'll post the links to them here.

Coraline goodies

I just received an e-mail informing me that I won a Coraline prize pack from Back Seat Producers! I entered approximately eleventy-billion of these giveaways, so this v. v. exciting. Hooray! :)

The Sunday Salon - 22 February 2009: Playing catch-up

Good morning, fellow Saloners! Things I've done over the past two weeks that have kept me from blogging regularly:

* Finished a shawl I was crocheting for my mom's birthday next month.

* Finished reading Rock Bottom, read The Tenth Circle, and started reading Matrimony.

* Received two books in the mail: Cassandra and Jane (thanks to J. Kaye for the giveaway!) and I Put a Spell on You (by my high school friend and amazing YA writer Adam Selzer). I can't wait to read these two.

* Taught my students about poetry. Some of them enjoyed it, some didn't. I had arranged for a rapper to come talk to them about rhythm, assonance, consonance, etc, but we had a few tornadoes coming through the area the night before and he couldn't make it.

* Remember that Austenland giveaway I had several weeks back? Well, I only had two people enter, so I decided to give both of them a book. Congrats to Chayenne and liane66!

* I also had an opportunity to watch the amazing Pierre Bensusan perform Friday night. He was voted the world's greatest guitarist last year, and after watching him, I can understand why:

Now I'm off to do some more reading and writing. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Garlic Ginger Scallops and Shrimp

Today's recipe is another one from my good ol' diet cookbook. This recipe makes one serving, so if you're feeding more than one, make sure you double/triple/quadruple the recipe.

Garlic Ginger Scallops and Shrimp

1 tsp oil
6 oz scallops
2 oz shrimp
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 Tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

Heat a nonstick skillet and add the oil, scallops, and shrimp. Turn once and add the remaining ingredients. It won't take long for the scallops and shrimp to cook - the shrimp will curl and turn pink, and the scallops will become opaque. Don't overcook them, as it will make them rubbery and gross.

Serve with brown rice and steamed zucchini. If you don't have fresh ginger, you can use powdered - it tastes delicious regardless.

Care's been posting weekly recipes, too, so make sure you stop by her blog for more cooking ideas. Happy eating!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Look what I got this week!
The Rose That Grew From Concrete and the Dive trilogy were actually purchased at my local Waldenbooks (Rose for my poetry unit, and Dive because it was 90% off for all three books). I got Sag Harbor as part of the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club; it sounds like a great book and I can't wait to get started on it. The 13 Clocks I actually ordered LAST YEAR and it just now arrived. I'm reading it as part of the Dream King Challenge.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Single-Serving Salmon Burger

I started a diet about a week and a half ago, and at last weigh-in I've lost 6 pounds. It's not a lot, but it's something. This is one of my favorite new recipes from my diet cookbook. The recipe is for one burger, but I made 6 at the same time and popped the extras in the freezer. I'm not entirely sure how safe that is, but I'm down to my last two burgers and I haven't gotten sick yet. :)

Single-Serving Salmon Burger

4 oz canned salmon
2 Tbs egg substitute
1 Tbs spicy mustard
1 Tbs fat-free mayo
1 tsp lemon juice
1 saltine cracker, crumbled

Gently mix the ingredients together and shape into a patty. Spray skillet with cooking spray (or use 1 tsp oil) and cook the patty, turning once, until browned on both sides. I had trouble getting mine to hold their shape; the book suggests popping them in the freezer for a few minutes to help them firm up, but that didn't work for me. No worries, though - I'm sure the shapeless amorphous blob has the same flavor as the perfectly round burger patty.

I like mine on whole wheat bread, with spinach. It may not look terribly appetizing, but it's darn tasty!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Weekly Geeks: Passions

This week's Weekly Geeks challenge is:
#1. What are you passionate about besides reading and blogging? For example, are you crafty (knitting, woodworking, scrapbooking, model building)? Do you cook? Into gaming (computer or board)? Sports (player or spectator)? Photography? Maybe you like geocaching, rock climbing? Or love attending events like renaissance fairs, concerts? Music? Dancing? You get the idea.

Tell us why you're passionate about it. Post photos of what you've made or of yourself doing whatever it is you love doing.

#2. Get us involved. Link to tutorials, recipes, Youtube videos, websites, fan sites, etc, anything that will help us learn more about your interest or how to do your hobby. Maybe you'd like to link to another hobbyist whose work you admire or tell us about a book or magazine related to your interest.

#3. Visit other Weekly Geeks. Link in your post to other Geeks who've peaked your interest in their passion. Or maybe you might find a fellow afincionado among us, link to them.
I have quite a few interests that I'm passionate about, other than reading and blogging. I enjoy a good video game: I have a Wii, DS, GameBoy Color, PS1, PS2, and Sega Genesis. I'm currently playing Final Fantasy XII on the PS1, Okami on the Wii, Kingdom Hearts on the PS2, and bunch of random strategy, puzzle, action-adventure, and RPGs on the other systems.

Some video game sites of interest (to me, and hopefully to you):
GameFaqs - a great place to go for walkthrus and cheat codes. I post (very infrequently) as jessidee on the boards.
Penny Arcade - a hilarious comic series geared to gamers
Kotaku - a blog about games with great reviews

My next big passion is crafts. I scrapbook, cross stitch, knit, and crochet. I post my completed and works-in-progress on Ravelry - my username is jessidee on there, too, if anyone would like to friend me. Which brings me to...

The Dewey's Book Reading Challenge Knit-a-long Mini-Challenge! Whew, that's a long name. Anyway, here are the projects that I've started this year in honor of Dewey:

This is a hat-in-progress. It will eventually have i-cords and kitty ears. :) I'm excited about this one, because it's my first time using double-ended needles and knitting in the round. I had to frog it a few times, but it's coming along nicely now.

This is a shawl I'm crocheting by request for my mom.

And here are a few works-in-progress that are still hanging around from last year:

This is an amiguri (crocheted stuffed animal) lion that I'm making for my friend Casey. She's a big Harry Potter fan, and she wanted a "Gryffindor Lion." I've actually gotten more done since I took this picture, but I still haven't gotten it all put together.

This is a star-shaped baby blanket I started crocheting when I found out that one of my coworkers was pregnant. She's already had the baby, so I decided that who ever is closest to giving birth by the time I actually finish, gets it. I'm usually not this bad about completing projects, but I keep putting this one down in favor of other projects.

My flickr account is exclusively devoted to my knit-and-crochet projects (and my yarn!), because that's the photo organizer that Ravelry uses. Other fun crafty sites:

Cthulhu Crochet and Cousins and Geek Central Station both feature geeky amigurumi projects, usually with patterns or links for purchasing. I especially love the Firefly-related posts.
Modern Cottage - recipes (another one of my passions!) and general craftiness
Not Martha - as in Stewart. But I like their ideas and tips much better.
The Mario Scarf Blog - If you haven't heard of Cassie Smith, you really need to check this out. She's knitting the first world of Mario as one long, continuous scarf. It's pretty much the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

So, what are your passions? I'll be visiting other WGs and posting about what I discover throughout the week

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Books Read in January

To give y'all an idea of how far behind I am in my reading-and-reviewing schedule, here are (in no particular order) the books that I actually read in January:

The Last Days of Dogtown, Anita Diamant (started in December, but finished in January)
Jane Austen in Scarsdale, Paula Marantz Cohen
Audrey, Wait!, Robin Benway
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, Girls in Pants, and Forever in Blue, Ann Brashares
Aquamarine, Alice Hoffman
Bingo Brown's Guide to Romance, Betsy Byars
Taffy Sinclair Strikes Again, Taffy Sinclair, Queen of the Soaps, Taffy Sinclair and the Romance Machine Disaster, Taffy Sinclair, Baby Ashley, and Me, Taffy Sinclair and the Secret Admirer Epidemic, The Truth About Taffy Sinclair, Betsy Haynes

Here are the short stories I've read and not reviewed:

"Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket," Jack Finney
"Everyday Use," Alice Walker
"The Pedestrian," Ray Bradbury
"The Storyteller," Saki
"Lamb to the Slaughter," Roald Dahl
"The Masque of the Red Death," Edgar Allan Poe

I also re-read one book that I've already reviewed:

Enthusiasm, Polly Shulman (Yep, it was so good, I actually read it again three months later - seriously, if you love Austen, you need to get yourself a copy!)

I'm currently reading:

What Would Audrey Do?, Pamela Keogh
Rock Bottom, Michael Shilling
Song for the Blue Ocean, Carl Safina

So...clearly, I am off to a good start re: the YA Reading Challenge (12!), I just need to get off my duff and actually review 'em.

And would you believe I still have books from last year that I haven't reviewed yet? They are:

An Abundance of Katherines, John Green
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Ann Brashares
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: The Graphic Novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, et al

Sigh. On the plus side, a lot of these are challenge books, so the sooner I get them reviewed, the better I'll feel.

Sunday Salon 01 February 2009: Mini-Review and a giveaway

Happy February, Sunday Saloners! Hope everyone has had a great week. I'm just excited because the reviews I set to auto-post while I was at school actually worked! I really liked being able to post that way, because it saves me time during the week. I also liked the doing the mini-reviews rather than full ones. I think I'll start doing mini-reviews for all the books I read, and save full reviews for challenge reviews. Maybe.

Here's a mini-review I didn't get to this week: Austenland, by Shannon Hale
I'm not familiar with Hale's other books (The Princess Academy series and other YA fiction); I picked this up because I lurve Jane Austen and I had read some good reviews of it. Austenland is about a young woman named Jane who is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, and with Mr. Darcy specifically. An older relative (great-grandmother, great-aunt, something like that) finds out about this obsession and bequeaths her a trip to a P&P-style amusement park, with costumes, balls, and accents instead of roller coasters.

I think I liked the idea of this book more than the actual execution of it. Who wouldn't want to completely immerse themselves in Austen's world, even for just a few days? It'd be like living in the 1900 House. But, you know, a century earlier. Anyway, I had a few minor quibbles with this book. First of all, why does a woman in her 30s treat her copy of the BBC P&P DVD like porn? There's no need to hide it in a plant - plenty of people read (and watch) Austen and they don't feel ashamed of it. And secondly, I don't think Jane is actually obsessed with Austen. She's obsessed with Darcy, and that's a big difference. That being said, though, this isn't a bad book. It's short and fluffy. There's even a big twist in the end that really surprised me. Darcy fanatics will love it; Austenites will probably deem it "cute" and move along.

Here's the giveaway part. I somehow ended up with two copies. I've loaned one out to friends, and the other I'm going to give to one of you! If you'd like to be entered in the drawing, leave a comment answering the following question: If you could be magically transported into any book in the world (a la Inkheart or Thursday Next), which would it be and why? I'll have a drawing next Sunday and announce the winner then. Good luck!