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2009 in Books

December 27, 2009 9 comments

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This wasn’t my best year for reading books, I will admit. I had an early surge but after February it all went a bit downhill, and now towards the end of the year I have had to push myself through a couple of books that are really good but that I seem to lack the discipline to finish. I’m looking forward to fixing that in 2010.

I ended up reading a lot more non-fiction than fiction this year, interestingly enough. The fiction I did read this year, however, was fantastic and truly rewarding.

This list includes books, roleplaying games and graphic novels.

Read more…

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Project Roundup (Oct. 7, 09)

Project Roundup (Sept. 6, 09)

September 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Project RoundupI’m starting a new feature on my blog called the Project Roundup.

I keep a handful of blogs on different subjects. Before, I would have them syndicate that content here into this blog as a way of making Highmoon’s Pondering an all-things-me clearing house. Problem is, I find that tactic ends up diluting this blog’s content. The Roundup is a way of keeping this blog a central info place for all the stuff I’m doing without the clutter of syndicated posts.

The Project Roundup will be done on a weekly to bi-weekly basis, depending on how much content there is on the other blogs.

Highmoon Games

The Gamer Traveler

Miami Metblog

Slow Bike Miami

Japanese Cooking Invades Our Kitchen

January 16, 2009 2 comments

Last week my wife sent me a link to a blog called Lunch in a Box, dedicated to bento lunches. Bento, a word I recognize from going to Japanese restaurants, turns out to be this whole philosophy about lunch, how to pack it, and what to eat. Since my wife takes lunch to work everyday, she fell in love with the idea of it. Thanks to Ichiban Kan, we ordered her a bento set and during the weekend, we set out to explore Miami’s Oriental markets.

After a day out and about, we got back home with all this:

Recipe 070

When in Seattle, we picked up at Uwajimaya a sushi rice mold, not understanding that all the other funky molds we saw were for this, to create fun-shaped rice balls for a bento lunch. The next day I made two batches of sushi rice and made a few onigiri, or stuffed rice balls (and by balls, I mean shapes, even triangles) with tuna or umeboshi (a plum jam). They were fantastic! That night we also had sushi for dinner, and we made our own miso soup as well.

Recipe 071

After filling ourselves with rolls and onigiri, I used the rest of the rice to make about 15 more onigiri, which I froze for lunches later in the week.

Yesterday my wife’s bento box arrived via UPS and today we packed our first bento lunch. It’s going to take some mental adjustment to the (visually) small portions, but it looks like a great way to eat well and correctly, plus it’s fun. I’m gonna get a bento myself as well and talk more later about making onigiri and packing a bento box (though by all means check out Lunch in a Box for far better advice than I could give).

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Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce

September 19, 2008 1 comment

I normally… wait, scratch that. I never write about food; I leave that to my wife (who’s slowly putting together a cook book), and to my friends Patricia DiGiacomo-Eddy (who does Seattlelites good with CookLocal.com and as the Seattle Cook Local Examiner) and Chris Perrin (doing it Vegan in Kansas City at Blog Well Done). I don’t know why, however, when I decided what I was going to cook last night for dinner, I would take pictures and then blog about it. I guess I’m just trying to exercise different writing muscles. I don’t know I’ll do it again, but for now here we go!

 

Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce

I got this recipe from the book Intercourses, a cookbook featuring recipes using a number of aphrodisiac ingredients, like honey, avocado, black beans(!) and rosemary. The dish is creamy and sumptuous, and simply one of our favorite recipes. I’ve made it a number of times and always by the book, though over the last few months I have begun to make variations depending on whim or an idea I may have had on how to tweak it. The version below is my current de-facto version of the recipe. The addition of the chicken adds much-needed protein to the dish, not to mention that it goes very well with the rosemary.

When I make this at home, I make a Kosher & vegetarian version. All the ingredients are easily available in Kosher-certified versions in any supermarket. The Parmesan cheese can be found at a specialty Kosher store. As far as the chicken, I use Morningstar Farms Chik’n Strips because it is both vegetarian and Kosher, though there are other brands of fakey chicken you can use as well.

The recipe is for 2 people. The version in the photos was doubled, however, since we had a guest for dinner. 

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 pound penne pasta
  • 3/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/8 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 pound boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions 

  1. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions. In the meantime, in a large non-stick skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. In an another non-stick skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Once hot, add the chopped rosemary to the large skillet and sautee over low heat for 3 minutes. Add a few leaves of rosemary to the oil on the second skillet, then add the chicken strips, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, then set aside. If you want, you can also cut the strips into smaller cubes. 
  3. Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce - Step 1

  4. Add the tomato paste to the chopped rosemary, stirring to mix. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. 
  5. Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce - Step 3 

  6. Add the cream and Parmesan cheese to the tomato paste. Mix well. 
  7. Add the cooked pasta and the chicken, then stir thoroughly, making sure everything gets covered in the cream tomato sauce.
  8. Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce - Step 5 

  9. Serve. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Adding extra freshly grated Parmesan has been known to make people like the cook even more. 

Pasta with Rosemary Cream Sauce

There it is, a very simple dish ready in about 20-30 minutes, including prep time. It is equally good for an out-of-the-ordinary dinner as for a romantic dinner for two. Be aware that this dish is addictive, especially if you decide that you like things a bit more creamy and/or cheesy (and I do). If you’d like to try a quick variant, I recommend using Kerrygold Dubliner cheese instead of Parmesan. Dubliner is also a hard and slightly salty cheese, but it is far creamier than Parmesan and it just makes the whole dish taste even better, which is actually saying a lot.

Enjoy!
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[Book Review] Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 
rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is easy to see why Lahiri won critical acclaim and the Pulitzer Prize with Interpreter of Maladies: these are stories that resound with emotional punch, unhindered by gimmicky prose or twisted plot devices, laser-focused explorations of the human condition. Though Bengali immigrants are Lahiri’s predominant type of characters, we also get a couple of stories set in India, where we get to see a glimpse of the society the other characters have emmigrated from. This is the kind of book that anyone can read and get lost in, and in fact, everyone should.

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[Book Review] The Namesake

The Namesake The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 
rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic novel by a talented writer. To me a good book is characterized by two things: it makes me want to read more from that author, and it makes me want to write as well, reminds me of the magic of the written word. The Namesake accomplishes both.

Anyone who is an immigrant, or can still identify with their immigrant heritage, is sure to connect with the story of the Gangulis, whether they are the immigrants themselves or the first generation of Whatever-American. Lahiri’s simple prose gets to the emotional point of each sentence without making it sappy or heavyhanded; you truly come to care for each member of the family and their own struggle, and especially for Gogol, whom you learn his past and present and surrounding circumstances straight from their own point of view. There is no gimmick here, no surprise revelation, no conspiracy of any sort, just a straightforward story of lives lived between two sides of one self, and the reprecussions of lives split in two, whether the parts are old/young, male/female, Bengali/American, past/future.

After reading The Namesake there is no doubt left why Lahiri is hailed as one of the best new writers in modern American literature, why we suddenly care so much about the lives and dreams of the Bengali-Americans that inhabit her stories: in many ways, they are us, and we are them, and Lahiri is slowly showing that truth one brilliant book at a time.

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[WttE] Minotaur Vanquished, Quest Fulfilled

November 20, 2007 Leave a comment

Earlier today my Play-By-eMail D&D group finished Halls of the Minotaur, the opening adventure in our Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign, West to the Empire. After 4 days adventuring, and pulling a dungeon crawl first for me: actually getting out of the dungeon to regroup and going back to the village to resupply, today we finally arrived at the chamber of the minotaur lord, Toth-ror. It was frightening and dangerous, but we won the initiative, and we delivered righteous justice upon this scourge of the weak. It was especially poignant for me, since I am playing a character who was the squire of a knight killed by the minotaur, so that allowed me to put in some roleplaying bits that helped me develop this once-pregen stock character into my personal avatar in the game.

Kudos go to Mark Gedak for running an awesome game, a game that understood the medium in which it was developing, and took advantage of those, a game that was as much good ole dungeon crawl as it was a challenging excercise in cooperation and focus. Thanks go to my fellow players also for an excellent time and for the effort put in the game as well as in developing your characters (even if the road you took for development makes me groan from time to time).

We will be putting together adventure journals of this adventure, and I’ll be sure to share it here as well.

Now, more adventure awaits, and I am ready for it.

[NaNoWriMo 07] And we’re off!

November 1, 2007 Leave a comment

50,000 words, here I come!

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Wii!!!

October 26, 2007 Leave a comment

So I gathered all the Best Buy gift cards I got for my birthday, plus some cash I also got as a gift, and put in the difference myself, and I went to Best Buy last Friday and got myself a Nintendo Wii as a birthday gift. I was there around midday, which was good because they got less than 20 in the restock and they just would not survive the weekend.

I played with a Wii when I went to PR a few weeks back and LOVED it! The interactivity fostered by the remotes and the games was just fantastic and I felt about a video game console like I had not felt since my last system, the original Nintendo Entertainment System. What’s even cooler is that my wife also likes the Wii, and we’ve been playing together a lot, which is just great, as she is just not a gamer and normally could care less about video games. Right now we have Wii Sports and Wii Play, and we have lots of fun with those, though she has already been checking out the games for the system and calling out a few favorites (Boogie, we’re looking your way), while I have my own, of course.

It’s a very neat system, and the fact that it is welcoming enough that a self-proclaimed video game “hatah” can sit down to play and enjoy it thoroughly is a testament to the design philosophy that shaped this console. Awesome work, Nintendo. Now send those two dudes from the commercial so they can bring me a new game.

And to all the Wii haters, I will let this speak for those of us who love it.

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