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text 2017-11-06 19:17
16 Tasks for the Festive Season - Task 11 - Donghzi Festival

Yes! I was waiting on this one! I have been to Hong Kong and on my goodness! I fell in love. Do you know how good Chinese food is that is not made in America where apparently everything is always a little bland?

 

I was traveling with people from State and USAID a few years ago (yeah, this is not me giving you a clue about who I work for by the way :-) I worked for neither of these agencies at the time and remember thinking how welcoming these people were and how much fun I had traveling with them. They were also both foodies. I was in kind of in love with the male counterpart on this trip cause he was hot, loved food, and kept telling me I needed to eat more and would dump food on my plate.  

 

I never had dim sum before in my life and to get to point and eat and drink tea and just stuff myself silly with food was fantastic. 

 

I wish I had taken some pictures to share, I had some in an old photo album, but must have lost them in a move. I looked last night since I wanted to post. 

 

So what is dim sum you are asking?

 

Dim sum /ˈdimˈsʌm/ (Chinese: 點心; pinyin: diǎnxīn; Cantonese Yale: dímsām) is a style of Chinese cuisine (particularly Cantonese but also other varieties) prepared as small bite-sized portions of food served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Dim sum dishes are usually served with tea, and together form a full tea brunch. Dim sum traditionally are served as fully cooked, ready-to-serve dishes. In Cantonese teahouses, carts with dim sum will be served around the restaurant for diners to order from without leaving their seats. The Cantonese tradition of having endless cups of tea and dim sum is also called Yum Cha (飲茶), which means "drink tea" in Cantonese.

 

Steamed buns:

 

Char siu bao.jpg

 

Chinese Steamed Buns with Barbecued Pork Filling

 

1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons shortening or vegetable oil

1/2 cup boiling water

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 green onion, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 pound Asian barbequed pork, cubed

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

 

Place the warm water in a large bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Stir in 1 cup of the flour, and mix thoroughly. Cover with a cloth, and let stand until bubbles appear, about 20 minutes.

 

Dissolve sugar and shortening in boiling water, and allow to cool to lukewarm. Stir into the yeast mixture along with the remaining flour. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.

 

Coat a large bowl with sesame oil, and place the dough inside. Turn over to coat, and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

 

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add green onions and garlic, and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add pork, and fry for a minute, then stir in the soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar.

 

Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water, then stir the mixture into the pork. Cook, stirring constantly until the pork is coated with a thickened glaze. Remove to a bowl, and allow to cool.


Remove the dough from the bowl, and roll it out into one long log.

 

Slice the log into 1 inch pieces. Flatten each piece into a 3 inch circle using the palm of your hand or a rolling pin.

 

Place 2 tablespoons of the pork filling onto the center of each circle, and gather up the edges around the filling and pinch together to close the bun.

 

Place each bun seam side down onto a square of aluminum foil. Cover with a towel, and let rise for about 1 hour.

Bring a couple inches of water to boil in a wok. Place a few buns at a time in a steamer, such as a bamboo steamer for a wok, or a fitted steam tray.

 

Cover, and steam buns over briskly boiling water for 10 minutes. Repeat with remaining buns.

 

Tasks for Dōngzhì Festival: If you like Chinese food, tell us your favorite dish – otherwise, tell us your favorite desert. (Recipes, as always, welcome.)

 

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text 2017-10-22 18:49
The Third Annual Merrimack Valley Book Festival!

 

I once again attended this festival, (and have every year for three years now), and had a BLAST! With my friend Andi, we head in wanting to buy ALL THE BOOKS, and this year, I think we succeeded! Well, maybe not ALL the books, but we made a good dent. 

I was able to get all of these and have them signed!

 

 

I met many authors, like Brian Keene and Mary SanGiovanni! 

 

 

 

I got to see author Paul Tremblay, dressed as a cucumber. 

 

 

 

And I got to meet Joe Hill again. 

 

Overall, it was a pretty great weekend! Hopefully I can get all these books read so I can load up again next year! Thanks to everyone that puts on this festival! We had a grand time!

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text 2017-08-24 15:59
Reading progress update: I've read 38%.
Blue Fire - Phyllis A. Whitney

So, first of all, I just want to point out with pride that I managed to add this edition of the book to the database.

 

We have the lovely, innocent young woman. We have the handsome, stalwart, reticent hero. We have the exotic international setting - in this case, Capetown, South Africa. We have a missing jewel. We have the heroine flashing memories of blue fire and a mysterious sense of dread! And, we have a suitably sinister fellow wandering about interfering.

 

Must be a mid-20th century gothic romance.

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text 2017-08-21 00:04
Edinburgh - Bookfest Mini-haul

As I know that some of you are awaiting an update from Edinburgh, I've spent much of yesterday and most of today at the Book Festival - because Simon Callow and Ali Smith. OK, mostly because of Ali Smith. You all know I love Ali Smith, so I don't need to go into that again. Except, that I will do exactly that ... but in a separate post.

 

Anyway, for those of you rolling their eyes already at my fangirling over Ms Smith, below is a picture of my (very restrained) efforts at the Book Festival this weekend. They are all signed by the authors, tho, so extra credit for that. (Tho, Thin Air and Unspeakable I managed to just pick up - no queueing for autographs.)

 

 

 

And, ahem, "Autumn" is a fantastic book. I've read it when it was released last year, but got it as a kindle version (because who can really wait for their favourite author's work to arrive by post?!). This new little treasure is just so I can love looking at it on my shelf at home.

 

"Unspeakable" looked really interesting: It is a novel based on a real event: the last person in Britain to be tried and executed for blasphemy. It is set right here in Edinburgh.

 

"Thin Air" is one I have read lots of reviews (rather mixed) about. It also is a ghost story, which means that I will have to re-shuffle my Halloween Bingo plans already. But as one of the local(ish) bards has proclaimed "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men 
Gang aft agley,"

 

Lastly, who can resist Simon Callow? This looked really interesting and Callow's talk at the Fest yesterday just meant I wanted to know more about Wagner. So, friends, prepare yourselves for some upcoming posts that may feature some pompous and extravagant musical accompaniments. :)

 

Other noteworthy sightings were Tracey Chevalier and Roger McGough, but I didn't get to see either of their events. :( I was booked to see a discussion with Jackie Kay and Margo Jefferson, but Ms Kay was not able to attend at the last minute.

Still, it has been a great trip. (Even for meeting Ms Smith again...but you might have already guessed that, right?).

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-08-20 19:02
The Pathologically Insecure Mr. Ripley
The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

This was both my first introduction to Tom Ripley, and my first introduction to Patricia Highsmith. I was somewhat aware of the story before I started the book, although I'd neither seen the movie nor read any of the Ripley novels. I knew going in that Tom Ripley was a sociopath and a murderer.

 

What I didn't realize was that this book was a "retelling" (of sorts) of The Ambassadors by Henry James. Highsmith reveals this early, with overt references to the James novel. Mr. Greenleaf, father of Dickie Greenleaf, makes the fatal error of commissioning Tom Ripley to go to Italy and retrieve his son from the dissipated life of an American ex pat. Sadly for both Dickie and his father, Dickie is a man of independent means, so he cannot be forced him by turning off the money spigot. 

 

Italy in the 1950's was, apparently, a relatively inexpensive place for a young man of some means and no ambition to while away his days as a dabbler. Dickie Greenleaf has a talent for leisure, if no talent for painting.

 

 

Image result for italy in the 1950's

 

Italy in the 1950's.

 


Image result for italy in the 1950's

 

Como, 1954

 

Tom Ripley, on the other hand, had a talent for mimicry, and little else. I had expected him to be charismatic, but, as it turns out, he was just a nonentity. Whatever personality he possessed came only from an alcohol-induced haze. Because of this, he was pathologically insecure. 

 

One of the things that struck me about Highsmith's writing is how visceral her description of the act of murder was. With the exception of murder by firearm, murder is a taxing physical act. Highsmith doesn't just "tell" the reader about the murder. She shows the reader the heat, the blood, the exhaustion, and the terror that is experienced by her characters. It is brutal and revolting.

 

From there, things really just disintegrate. Tom Ripley seems to operate on a knife's edge between merely disturbed and completely unhinged. His internal dialogue is often incredibly creepy.

 

Alone again, Tom returned to his private reveries. He ought to open a bank account for Tom Ripley, he thought, and from time to time put a hundred dollars or so into it. Dickie Greenleaf had two banks, one in Naples and one in New York, with about five thousand dollars in each account. He might open the Ripley account with a couple of thousand, and put into it the hundred and fifty thousand lire from the Mongibello furniture. After all, he had two people to take care of.

 

 

 

His psyche seems to be fragile.

 

He definitely wanted to see Greece. He wanted to see Greece as Dickie Greenleaf with Dickie’s money, Dickie’s clothes, Dickie’s way of behaving with strangers. But would it happen that he couldn’t see Greece as Dickie Greenleaf? Would one thing after another come up to thwart him—murder, suspicion, people? He hadn’t wanted to murder, it had been a necessity. The idea of going to Greece, trudging over the Acropolis as Tom Ripley, American tourist, held no charm for him at all. He would as soon not go.

 

Like Broken Tune, I'm of two minds about Ripley's great escape. On the one hand, I certainly don't sympathize with Tom Ripley and I wasn't rooting for him. On the other hand, it was interesting to watch his mind work, and I can see how he could have fooled the Italian authorities in 1955.

 

Based on this book, I slot Highsmith into the category of Shirley Jackson - incredibly talented woman who writes disturbed characters disturbingly well. I am wondering if anyone has read Ripley Underground, or any of the other Ripley follow-ups. I'm considering it for Halloween Bingo! 

 

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