Posts by Sharlene

Reader. Book blogger. Parent. Eater of foods aplenty. Tea drinker. Crocheter

It’s Monday (March 1, 2021)

Last week…

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We had Singapore-style chicken rice. That chilli is especially good. Spicy and not sweet.

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I tried out my new loaf tin and it’s a bit longer and narrower than I’m used to (it’s a Pullman tin) so I had to split my tangzhong bread into smaller sections. Also, made a Nutella babka with the tangzhong.

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Also, made a sourdough. So we’re stocked up on bread this week!

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Also, I don’t always order from Weee! (they’re an online-only Asian grocery that really took off with the pandemic) as sometimes I pop into the Asian supermarket (luckily we have a few nearby). But I feel like the produce from Weee is often fresher than some in the supermarket. And the price is good, comparable (maybe slightly cheaper?) to the supermarket. I ordered baby bokchoy, broccoli, cauliflower, Persian cucumbers, cilantro, green onion, carrots, Asian pear, as well as frozen dumplings (this pork, scallop and shrimp ones are my favourite), and tried a pork snack that tastes quite a bit like bakkwa (a kind of sweet/salty grilled pork that’s popular in Singapore).

Currently…

Reading:

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – edited by Ellen Oh

Milk Fed – Melissa Broder

Watching:

Listening:

I just downloaded a new audiobook but haven’t started it yet.

Eating and drinking: I made steel cut oatmeal with cranberries for breakfast on Sunday and have leftovers.

Cooking:

I feel like I’m in a bit of a cooking rut….I’ll have to go and find some inspiration online or something!

Maybe I’ll try to cook some char kway teow (a Singapore-style fried noodle dish). I have to cook up some asparagus so maybe I’ll grill it and also throw in some chicken drumsticks for an easy oven dish.

Last week:

I read:

Bone in the Throat – Anthony Bourdain

Show Me A Sign – Ann Clare LeZotte

The Promised Neverland Vol 1 – Kalu Shirai

I posted:

Library Loot (February 24 to March 2)

Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud #TopTenTuesday

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

Library Loot (February 24 to March 2)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy Wednesday! Claire has the link-up this week. 

Woman of the Ashes by Mia Couto, translated by David Brookshaw

The first in a trilogy about the last emperor of southern Mozambique by one of Africa’s most important writers

Southern Mozambique, 1894. Sergeant Germano de Melo is posted to the village of Nkokolani to oversee the Portuguese conquest of territory claimed by Ngungunyane, the last of the leaders of the state of Gaza, the second-largest empire led by an African. Ngungunyane has raised an army to resist colonial rule and with his warriors is slowly approaching the border village. Desperate for help, Germano enlists Imani, a fifteen-year-old girl, to act as his interpreter. She belongs to the VaChopi tribe, one of the few who dared side with the Portuguese. But while one of her brothers fights for the Crown of Portugal, the other has chosen the African emperor. Standing astride two kingdoms, Imani is drawn to Germano, just as he is drawn to her. But she knows that in a country haunted by violence, the only way out for a woman is to go unnoticed, as if made of shadows or ashes.

Alternating between the voices of Imani and Germano, Mia Couto’s Woman of the Ashes combines vivid folkloric prose with extensive historical research to give a spellbinding and unsettling account of war-torn Mozambique at the end of the nineteenth century.

The Promised Neverland Vol 1 – Kalu Shirai

Life at Grace Field House has been good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious foods and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems…

Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. Good food, clean clothes and the perfect environment to learn—what more could an orphan ask for? One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing.

Admittedly I DNF Broder’s The Pisces but I’m going to give this one a try!

Milk Fed – Melissa Broder

A scathingly funny, wildly erotic, and fiercely imaginative story about food, sex, and god from the acclaimed author of The Pisces and So Sad Today.

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.

Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.

Pairing superlative emotional insight with unabashed vivid fantasy, Broder tells a tale of appetites: physical hunger, sexual desire, spiritual longing, and the ways that we as humans can compartmentalize these so often interdependent instincts. Milk Fed is a tender and riotously funny meditation on love, certitude, and the question of what we are all being fed, from one of our major writers on the psyche—both sacred and profane.

What did you get from your library this week?

Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

I very rarely read funny books, I realised, as I was looking at my list of books read. I have to go quite far back to find them. And so I’ve ended up with a mix of comics and memoirs by comedians.

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The Phoebe and Her Unicorn series by Dana Simpson (#13 is to be published later in April) is always a delight.

Hawkeye: Kate Bishop series by Kelly Thompson

Nancy: A Comic Collection by Olivia James

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series by Ryan North

Discworld by Terry Pratchett (I am particularly fond of Mort and Hogfather – Death is my favourite character)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Yes Please by Amy Poehler (especially if you listen to the audiobook with its cameos)

You Can’t Touch My Hair And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

It’s Monday (February 22, 2021)

 

While most of the country was under some crazy weather (hope you are ok where you are!), California was in its usual winter climate, except it’s once again a very dry winter, and it doesn’t look like we will be getting any rain this week either. 

We didn’t do much this week. Tennis class, band class (virtual), piano class (also virtual). 

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We went to a new-to-us park as well as a little Japanese pop-up store/takeout

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Currently…

Reading:

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Watching:

I finally watched The Queen’s Gambit! I don’t play chess and that’s probably why it didn’t interest me, but when I watched the first episode, I was hooked!

I’m curious about the book now, partly because I read this New Yorker article. 

Listening:

Eating and drinking:

Had some Nian Gao dipped in egg and panfried for breakfast. The Lunar New Year celebrations last for 15 days and so the 15th day is the 26th. So hey, Nian Gao for breakfast still works!

 

Last week:

I read:

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Lumberjanes Vol 16 – Shannon Watters

The Shadow King – Maaza Mengiste

The Heart of the Beast – Dean Motter, Judith Dupre

I posted:

Judith by Noel Streatfeild

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Library Loot (February 17 to 23)

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

Judith by Noel Streatfeild

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I loved Streatfeild’s “shoes” books for many years. We had a copy of Ballet Shoes and it was a book I reread many times (and still reread today). We also had Apple Bough (known as Traveling Shoes), Curtain Up (also known as Theatre Shoes), White Boots (also known as Skating Shoes). My favourite was always Ballet Shoes though!

While Streatfeild has written other books, I had not ventured past those books I had grown up with.

But once again, a reading challenge has pushed me to reading different things. This year I am hoping to do much better when it comes to the Back to the Classics challenge. One of the challenges was to read a “new-to-you classic by a favorite author”, and so who better to read than Noel Streatfeild?

The appeal of her books was typically that it was comforting yet also quaint. The families all tend to have problems with money and their parents tend to be a bit vague, so a Nana-like guardian figure always manages to wrangle things and keep the household together. But there’s always talent. Whether it be for ballet or ice-skating or dancing or acting.

So it was with these themes in mind that I started reading Judith. And aha, there’s the absent father, the vague mother who in this case is particularly cold and ignores her child. Judith is pretty much a child emotionally abandoned by her mother. She so longs for Mother’s attention which never happens, and which brings Judith and her governess Miss Simpson (or Simpsy as Judith calls her) together. The three of them seem to travel around Europe quite a bit, apparently because “Mother hated many things, amongst them cold weather, seeing the same dreary faces too often, publishers’ cocktail parties, and “your Father’s family.””

So the kind guardian figure in this book is Miss Simpson. She’s respectable and trustworthy (important characteristics for Mother) but also loving and kind towards her charge. In her own way, she takes the sting out of Mother’s criticism of Judith, rephrasing Mother’s orders in a nicer way, such as Judith’s being sent out for a walk as being indoors won’t give Judith a nice complexion.

Mother’s family looks down on Judith’s father’s family. Her father lives in the US with his new wife (there is a divorced couple in a Streatfeild book!). But the big news is that he will be in England for his sister Charlotte’s wedding. And Judith is to be a bridesmaid.

“Judith collected kind words and kind looks dropped by Mother. As she grew older she exaggerated these looks and words and on them built day-dreams.”

Essentially, Judith is about a young girl (we first meet her at age 12) who’s constantly let down by her family. Because of her circumstances, she doesn’t know how to interact with children of her age, like her cousins when she finally meets them. And what makes it worse is that the adults often use her as entertainment, due to her talent for imitating people.

And the thing is, she is not a likeable character. She is meant to be pitied. She’s clingy and needy and naive. So this wasn’t exactly the delightful Streatfeild read I was expecting. It didn’t leave me with that warm-hearted feeling of her children’s books. But well, I shouldn’t have been expecting a children’s book type read, should I?

In terms of a read, this wasn’t exactly the easiest, because although parts of it were amusing, there were few characters that were likeable or charming. And you desperately want someone to just be there for her (there are some glimmers of hope). I’m looking forward to reading more of Streafeild’s books as there are quite a few that are available as ebooks from my library. Now that I’ve had a taste of her non-Shoes books, I feel like I’m better suited to try more.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

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It is interesting to read this book today. A book I have heard about, had a relative idea of its plot, read of the many times it was banned, including an attempt in 2000 at one California high school (one parent was quoted as saying: “It teaches how very easy it is to smother somebody…I don’t want to put these kinds of images in children’s minds. They’re going to think that when they get mad at their parents, they can just ax them out.” (This makes me wonder what kind of TV shows they watch in their household.)

In 2013, it was banned from production by an Alaskan theatre company for a different reason – because it’s racist and misogynistic.

So why did I read this book this year? Partly because of Nurse Ratched, the Netflix TV series. I happened to watch the first episode the other day and thought, ok I better read the original book first! And also, a comment from Jen at Introverted Reader on my blog post about Sayaka Murata’s Earthlings. She mentioned The Combine in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, similar to how the characters in Earthlings talk about The Factory.

Kesey worked as a night aide on a psychiatric ward in the Menlo Park Veteran’s Hospital and it was his experiences as well as his experience with drug use (he was in an Army-sponsored hallucinogenic drug experiment) resulted in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s funny to read of how Menlo Park and Palo Alto used to be places where experiments in LSD and other psychedelic drugs were carried out – not exactly the image that I associate with it at all today.

First off, I’m going to admit that this is not really a review. Just some random thoughts as I was reading this book. It’s incredibly hard to review a book that plenty of people have read – and some, even thoroughly studied. But well, since this is for a reading challenge, some thoughts must be put down, and a blog post to be uploaded. So here it is.

I’ve not seen the movie version yet (but I guess I ought to now that I’ve read the book), but I definitely had Jack Nicholson’s image in my head when reading about McMurphy, the trickster, the rebel, the one who champions the underdog. Yet while he’s meant to be seen as the tragic hero, he’s also the guy who decided to go to the psych ward instead of serving a prison sentence.

I constantly felt uncomfortable reading this. It was controversial for its time but it still makes for an uncomfortable edgy read even today. It’s full of themes such as individuality and power through the constant struggle between Nurse Ratched who’s trying to maintain the status quo and McMurphy who keeps trying to break it. But I kept wondering why it is a woman who is the tyrant, the cold heartless character. The doctor (of course, a man) is on the other hand, easily manipulated by McMurphy. Also, I kept pronouncing her name (in my head, that is) as “wretched”. The other women characters (except for another nurse I think) are prostitutes…

“What she dreams of there in the centre of those wires is a world of precision efficiency and tidiness like a pocket watch with a glass back, a place where the schedule is unbreakable and all the patients who aren’t Outside, obedient under her beam, are wheelchair Chronics with catheter tubes run direct from every pantleg to the sewer under the floor.”

Then there’s Chief Bromden, a large Native American who pretends to be deaf and mute. And how it wasn’t just that he started acting that way, but that people started acting like he was “too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all”. It’s a clever tactic, using this narrator (although reading it today makes me go ‘ugh’ about a white man writing the part of a Native American), as he is always in the hallways sweeping, and since everyone presumes he’s deaf and mute, they talk freely around him. Also, I’m never quite certain if what he’s talking about is a hallucination or real life. With regards to minority characters, I’m frustrated with the use of “boys” when it comes to the Black men who work at the ward. The patients are referred to as “men” though.

I don’t know how to sum up my feelings about this book. I’m glad I read it, for at least now I know more about it. It was an uneasy read not just in terms of what feelings it’s supposed to churn up (down with the man! for one thing) but it was also a book full of stereotyped minorities, as well as women who are either there to be used or to belittle the men of the ward.

Library Loot (February 17 to 23)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy Wednesday! Share your Library Loot in the link-up or comment below!

 

For the Read Harder Challenge -Read an SFF anthology edited by a person of color

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman

Star-crossed lovers, meddling immortals, feigned identities, battles of wits, and dire warnings. These are the stuff of fairy tale, myth, and folklore that have drawn us in for centuries.

Fifteen bestselling and acclaimed authors reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia in short stories that are by turns enchanting, heartbreaking, romantic, and passionate.

Compiled by We Need Diverse Books’s Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, the authors included in this exquisite collection are: Renee Ahdieh, Sona Charaipotra, Preeti Chhibber, Roshani Chokshi, Aliette de Bodard, Melissa de la Cruz, Julie Kagawa, Rahul Kanakia, Lori M. Lee, E. C. Myers, Cindy Pon, Aisha Saeed, Shveta Thakrar, and Alyssa Wong.

A mountain loses her heart. Two sisters transform into birds to escape captivity. A young man learns the true meaning of sacrifice. A young woman takes up her mother’s mantle and leads the dead to their final resting place. From fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge, these stories will beguile readers from start to finish. For fans of Neil Gaiman’s Unnatural Creatures and Ameriie’s New York Times–bestselling Because You Love to Hate Me.

For the Read Harder challenge – Read an own voices book about disability

Show Me a Sign – Ann Clare LeZotte

Deaf author and librarian Ann Clare LeZotte weaves an Own Voices story inspired by the true history of a thriving deaf community on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 19th century.
Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there – including Mary – are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage.

But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary’s brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a “live specimen” in a cruel experiment. Her struggle to save herself is at the core of this novel.

 

This one isn’t for any challenge but I happened to see it when browsing the Libby catalogue. 

Bone in the Throat – Anthony Bourdain

A wildly funny, irreverent tale of murder, mayhem, and the mob.

When up-and-coming chef Tommy Pagana settles for a less than glamorous stint at his uncle’s restaurant in Manhattan’s Little Italy, he unwittingly finds himself a partner in big-time crime. And when the mob decides to use the kitchen for a murder, nothing Tommy learned in cooking school has prepared him for what happens next. With the FBI on one side and his eccentric wise guy superiors on the other, Tommy has to struggle to do right by his conscience and avoid getting killed in the meantime…

Stuffed with charming characters and peppered with Bourdain’s wry humor, Bone in the Throat is one satisfying feast of a novel.

 

The kids’ loot:

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What did you get from your library this week?

 

Purple covers #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

Purple, Yellow, and/or Green Book Covers

I decided to go with purple books from my TBR list and soon realised that a lot of the books on my Goodreads TBR list are NOT purple (haha!). Instead there were quite a few green covers. But I wanted to make sure I got 10 purple(ish) books!

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The Distant Marvels – Chantel Acevedo

The Kindness of Enemies – Leila Aboulela

Vaclav & Lena – Hayley Tanner

Crosstalk – Connie Willis

Broken Glass Park – Alina Bronsky

The Shadowed Sun – N.K. Jemisin

The Thing about Thugs – Tabish Khair

Mary Lavelle – Kate O’Brien

Love in a Headscarf – Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

Beyond: the Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology – edited by Sfé R. Monster, Taneka Stotts


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

It’s Monday (February 15, 2021)

Happy Year of the Ox!

Here are some things we did last week…

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Made a Niu (ox) year sourdough

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We had our reunion dinner (just the four of us) of hotpot on New Year’s Eve, as is the tradition.

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I made a little Koya (BT21) for a friend’s birthday

Currently…

Reading:

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Watching:

Still watching The Magicians

Listening:

Nothing at the moment

Eating:

Sourdough bread for breakfast with a slice of brie

Cooking:

Some noodles, maybe a stew in the slow cooker.

Last week:

I read:

Huh, I’m not sure if I finished anything last week! It was a busy week with spring cleaning and stuff. I’m also in the middle of several books that aren’t the easiest to read….

I posted:

Lunar New Year Nian Gao 年糕 #WeekendCooking

Library Loot (February 10 to 16)

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

Lunar New Year Nian Gao 年糕 #WeekendCooking

Happy Lunar New Year! Today (Saturday) is the second day of the Year of the Ox.

Nian Gao 年糕 is a traditional Lunar New Year treat. It’s something I’ve eaten as a kid growing up in Singapore but it was not something we made at home. But I loved eating it! If you’ve never eaten nian gao before, it’s a sweet sticky cake of sorts made with sugar, water and glutinous rice flour.

I don’t eat it on its own but instead, I slice it up, and dip it in egg and pan fry it. Panfrying it with egg softens the Nian Gao a bit and the warm sticky eggy cake is delicious.

I think there are several different interpretations between the meaning of the cake. I remember reading about how it’s offered to the Kitchen God, and the sticky cake will prevent him from saying bad things about the family to the Jade Emperor. The word 年(Nian) meaning “year” sounds the same as the word 粘 (Nian) which means “sticky”.

Also, 糕 (gao) means “cake” but also is the same sound as 高 which means higher, so 年高 means a higher (better) year.

This year, the fourth grader had an assignment, which was to make a Lunar New Year dish. Some of the other examples included dumplings, steamed fish, tangyuan. But he wanted to go with the Nian Gao. I looked up the recipe, (and also another and yet another ) and realised that it’s actually quite doable. It’s made up of a few main ingredients and needs to be steamed. Traditionally (at least in Singapore), it’s wrapped in banana leaves, but I didn’t have any (although I have seen them in the Asian supermarkets here). Instead I just oiled my cake tin well.

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So since this was the kid’s assignment, he was in charge of pretty much all of it. I pretty much only helped him with the steaming part as it’s tricky putting the tin into a pot of boiling water! Oh I also did help a bit when he had to simmer the water and sugar together on the stove, just to make sure the water stayed simmering and not boiling, and helped him to figure out if the sugar was dissolved properly.

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The really traditional way of making Nian Gao seems to involve some 10 to 12 hours of steaming in order to get the sugar to caramelise! There are quite a few different variations in the making of Nian Gao. This recipe from What to Cook Today also gives directions for making it in the Instant Pot and the slow cooker. I went with the regular steaming method, with a pot of water, a little metal stand to prop my cake tin, and a piece of aluminium foil to stop the drips of moisture from the lid getting into the Nian Gao.

I decided to follow the instructions of this recipe from Woks of Life, which said to test the cake with a toothpick and if it comes out clean, it’s done. It turned out quite nicely.

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Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs