Month: October 2008

Cookie Monsters

The original recipe used pecans, but we could not find a good source of them in the short time so we used a mix of walnuts and home roasted peanuts. For the fat, we used canola oil. It worked pretty well.

Project 209/365 - Peanut Crisper

Pecan/Nut Crispers
Adapted from archaic Better Homes and Garden cookbook, taken from a friend who owns said cookbook.

1/2 cup butter, margarine, or oil
6 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup white flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup chopped pecans (a little more okay)
1 tablespoon of orange juice (optional)

1. Mix the butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla together.
2. In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt together. Slowly mix the dry mixture into the wet. Finally, add the pecans and fold into batter.
3. Spoon onto baking sheet. These cookies are on the smaller side.
4. Bake at 375’F for 10 minutes.

This is my first restaurant review on the blog. I have always wanted to try this out, and now I’ve moved to London where there are restaurants aplenty and a large possible population to go to them. A few warnings first: I can be a harsh towards eating places. It is not so much that I am picky of food, but I did not grow up going out a lot. While it is not that I do not like that others cook for me, I prefer home cooking (not necessarily my own). Secondly, family members and I have all worked in the restaurant industry, and while I love food, the experience with the business aspect of it makes me wary and also knowledgeable about what goes on behind the scenes. While I can be sympathetic to servers having been one before, I also know of servers who have gone the extra mile. I rarely have restaurants I go back to; it takes a lot for a restaurant to become my regular or favourite. Finally, this feature will not be as frequent due to this and other reasons, and since I am new at this (and harsh), bare with me. This is why this restaurant has no photo. I will also try to review more casual eateries and cafes.

2A Kensington Park Road
London W11 3BU
Tube: Notting Hill Gate
Tel 020 7243 1800

The Date & Cost: Sunday 19 Oct 2008 / £45 for 4

Food & Drink: Malay Chinese restaurant. I had the Penang Char Kway Teow (a signature dish apparently) which is wok fried rice noodles with prawns, beansprouts, egg, fish cake, soy sauce, chive and chili paste. The others had dumplings, a curry noodle dish, the beef, and another dish noodle I don’t quite remember. Two had drinks. We all had tap water too.

Setting: Probably the best thing about this place is the architecture and design. Their website has maps of the curved dining rooms on two levels. We were seated on the first floor, and it is decorated modernly with minimalistic touches. It did not look cold, and while we were there at night, it was still bright. I did like the decor and look of the place.

Service: Our waitress had a hard time understanding my choice of Penang even when I pointed to it and said the menu number. She forgot someone’s diet coke. They gave me less change than I asked for. Service in Europe is not the same as in North America so I have to have even lower expectations here now. Service was not horrific or anything to rave about. Service charge was not included in our bill so tip accordingly.

Story: This was the first real restaurant I actually ate out in England. One of my American classmates lives near by, and after some wine (from Nicolas) and cheese (we had some damn good English sheep milk cheese), we headed out for dinner around 8ish. We basically walked around and found this place decently priced considering the area and also spacious and well lit. Our other options in the area included asian fusion, pizza, and of course, pubs. The food was not that bad and we all liked it fine. My dish could have been done far worse, but was not terribly filling at £7.80. Also, while the menu has many spicy options, I am finding that spice in this country is not really spice at all.

Overall: Considering the other things in this area that we saw, this is a pretty good option. It may be a bit trendy, but food is decent considering the price range (also good for the area). I like the decor most of all though, and people who enjoy well and intriguingly decorated restaurants will enjoy the curved dining room which is a bit small, but interesting and well lit.

Got this idea from Literary Feline during her recent contest: “Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like–sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that’s just me.

I actually thought I would have more, but here are some literary couples I like:

  • Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
  • Jane Eyre & Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre
  • Lyra & Will from His Dark Materials
  • Lucy Honeychurch & George Emerson from A Room With A View
  • Griffin & Sabine from the Griffin & Sabine series
  • Cal & Abra from East of Eden (not really a couple in the book but still)
  • Bridget Jones & Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones’ Diary
  • Anne Eliot & Capt. Wentworth from Persuasion
  • Tereza & Tomas (&Sabina) from The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • …and Sherlock Holmes & Dr. John Watson (oh come on, if not, they should be!)

Project 219/365 - Borough Market Goods

Completed Challenges this month

  • Non-Fiction Five Challenge (9 of 5) – Aristocrats. The summer is my most prolific reading month, and I read the most nonfiction during this time as well. I think I read more nonfiction this summer than I have ever.

Current Challenges

Personal Challenges

  • 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – 87 (95 with removed books) because I switched over to the new 2008 edition of the book list, but I am still going to track from both lists since I’ve done so well so far.
  • TBR Books I Own Pile – 3: The Two Towers, Return of the King, Possession

Completed Challenges

This 1990 Booker Prize winner was second only to LOTR on the poll of what books I should take. It seemed to be popular with the visitors and I can understand why. I read this during my unfortunate delay before departure. It was absorbing and while a bit legthy at over 500 paperback pages, enjoyable. It is complex, literary, stylistically varied, and meta. There are various writing styles employed from poetry, critical academia, memoir writing, fairtales, to epistolary writing. While I found the ending just a tad too maudlin and the modern characters Maud and Roland not as well drawn out as Ash and Christabel, I liked the book overall. Byatt obviously took care in tracing the mystery aspect, and it is certainly not a conventional romance (or romances). It has many themes and interesting implements. It has academics writing not about poets, but also other academics. There’s a definite sense of meta literary and commentary beneath the surface. The idea of not only romantic possession, but that which possesses us from the long gone writers. It reminds me of Shakespeare academia and the sheer obssession academics have about him whoever he may be. Just a little thing could just how history views people and how we are enthralled, or “possessed” with the dead and ideas from and of them. I am glad to own this novel as I find that it will be immensely rereadable.

My first Sunday Salon in almost a month! Sadly, I think there will be fewer in the future. Last week, I made my big move to London, and while I have some things settled, I am still getting accustomed to my new lifestyle which involves less of my hobbies such as reading.

Currently, my ongoing book is Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I started it at the airport, and I have hardly touched it since. It was one of the books that I took with me. In the end, I decided on these others as well: Don Quixote by Cervantes (the big work to take), Plays by Anton Chekhov (needed a smaller book in addition to the others), The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (popular on the poll), Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (popular on the poll and about London). I also took my copy of Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik as I want to reread it before going to Paris at some point. I obviously regret not taking more, but my luggage had to hauled by me alone. I doubt I’ll even find much time to read in the year that I am here. The most popular books on the poll, Lord of the Rings and Possession were both read by me before I left during my delay. The latter’s review will be up tomorrow.

Later this week, I will start posting about London a bit more with photos. I’ve been to a couple places this week, and today, I am visiting a classmate in her home in Hollan Park, near Notting Hill.

Before I do that, I’m going to catch up on school reading and maybe a chapter or two of S&S. I’ve seen the movie twice and the new adaptation too; I feel as if I know the plot thoroughly. It’s also nice to read Austen. I feel her prose is like a conversation between her and you, very subtle, soft, but wry and shrewd too. I’ve owned the book for 8 years and have not started it until now. I have a horrible habit of getting new books and not reading them for years. The library has a priority, but I do not have a London library card yet (will probably get one next month) so I will stick to the books I have brought over.

Next week, I hope to have read more of S&S. I really do not know when I will be finished it. I will try to make time for relaxation again. Have a good everyone!

Literary Links:

Inspired Reading – Book recs from graphic designers.

NPR has a list of the Best Foreign Books You’ve Never Heard Of.

The 10 Most Disturbing Novels – These do sound disturbing, but I am intrigued by some.

30 Simple Ways to Get Your Child Ready to Read – I am not a parent, but these are really smart tips for early literacy.

Criggo – A blog that actually features bad grammar, writing style, and syntax from real newspapers.

BBC News has an on who is the new Nobel Prize for Literature Laureate JMZ Le Clezio.

Project 203/365 - Sandy's Leg Warmers

My friend wanted some legwarmers, and these are simple, but still appealing. It’s just k1p1 all the way through. She is very tiny and I only cast on 40 sts, but I could have CO 42 for her. She chose the colours. I knit these two at a time on one circular. I learned that technique for the Tangled Yoke Cardigan (which is on hold indefinitely), and it is pretty neat. The book says this is a four hour project, but it really is not. Though, still quick and mindless, good for gift giving.

Project 191/365 - Starter Warmers

Sandy’s Legwarmers, started September 20th, 2008 finished September 27th, 2008 Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Super-Easy Legwarmers by Joelle Hoverson in Last Minute Knitted Gifts Ravelry Pattern Page
Made for: Sandy
Size: Small
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool Merino (100g/223 yards) in Paprika and Harvest – less than one skein each
Needles: #7/4.5mm 40″ circs
Modifications: No yarn doubling, cast on 40.
Cost of Project: $14 for yarn
Would I knit it again? Maybe, but yarn doubled with mohair as intended.

This is actually a review of 2/3 of The Two Towers and all of The Return of the King. I read Fellowship of the Ring seven or eight years ago; I remember liking it overall, and I probably did like it more than the second part. I started The Two Towers after FOTR, but I never finished it managing only one third of it six years ago. I liked The Hobbit when I read it a decade ago. There is a notable difference in how Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and LOTR though. Having seen the movies since I read the first part of the trilogy, I imagined the characters and visuals in my mind were that of the movie including all the actors. This does not happen often but since I saw all three of the movies; they can leave an impression and I think the movies were well adapted. Actually, the books made me want to watch the movies again.

In TTT and ROTK, I found the Gandalf, Aragorn and Co. sections moving more quickly than the Frodo and Sam one. I like Sam, but there seemed to be less stuff happening when it was that particular quest. I found myself more engaged in the plot of those characters. I once read that Tolkien was quite religious and the trilogy has much Christian imagery specifically, Catholic bend to it. I saw this in the reverence the characters have for Galadriel, often referred to as the Lady, striking a resemblance to Mary, mother of God. This adds another interesting layer to the books  as I am someone who does not mind religious imagery if the book is meritiorous.

Overall, I am rather indifferent to this trilogy; I do not dislike it, but I do not love it. I think it definitely has its merits from the sheer fantasty epicness and commitment to adventure and ground breaking world creation. I am just not in love with this series as others are and it was slow reading for some parts of the trilogy. After all, I did put it on hold for six years at one point. Having said that, I can understand why it is so well loved.

Aristocrats (02 09 08) – REVIEW
In Bruges (05 09 08) – REVIEW
Thumbsucker (06 09 08) – The cast for this is very interesting and probably the best part of the film. Tilda Swinton downplays her ethereality to be nurse and mother married to L&O: CI’s Vincent D’Onofrio. Vince Vaughn appears as debate teacher who wears big glasses and ugly sweater vests. Benjamin Bratt appears as cokehead TV star and is involved in the nastiest scene of the film. Finally, Keanu Reeves plays an eccentric, sometimes New Age orthodontist (very apt). The plot was alright, and it was sweet not anything spectacular. A likable coming of age story.
The Ladykillers (06 09 08) – Alec Guinness is creepy in this film. He seemed positively vampiric. I don’t know when I’ll get over his crazy teeth and manner. It was a decent plot and acting, but I do not think I really get entertained by these comedies very much, especially since I recently saw In Bruges.
Last Orders (08 09 08) – REVIEW
St. Trinian’s (13 09 08) – I assume I did not hear a lot about this movie because it seems to have gotten mixed reviews. It really was not that bad. Some of the comedy was a little too slapsticky to me I must admit: the humping dog, the pranks, etc. Some people would find Rupert Everett in drag for the whole movie tacky; I ran with it especially since Colin Firth plays opposite. With Russell Brand and the appearance of Stephen Fry. A few others I recognized include Fenella Woolgar, Amara Karan (The Darjeeling Limited), Talulah Riley, new Bond girl Gemme Arterton, and Mischa Barton which was kind of random, but appropriate and tolerable in this circumstance. Back to the Firth thing, it is cheap, but I loved all the meta Pride and Prejudice jokes they put in.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (14 09 08) – This is actually my first Judd Apatow related movie. While it was not too bad, I’m not running to see any other Apatow related movies soon. I liked Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis in this. Russell Brand stole every scene he was in. Jason Segel’s script and part were not too bad either, but I can really do without seeing his penis so many times in a movie. Okay overall.
The Bank Job (14 09 08) – My sixth British movie of the month! This was another really good one. It’s a clever and well acted heist movie set in the 1970s. I have no idea how true it is, probably not a lot, but the 70s art direction is nice and stuble enough. Refreshing from watching all the heist movies now with high tech gadgets. I’ve liked Jason Statham since I saw the Guy Ritchie films, and this is probably his best work since then. Really good heist movie.
Thank you for smoking (14 09 08) – Finally I saw this after it being in my movie queue for awhile. This was also my third film of the day because I have been knitting sleeves. Aaron Eckhart is very good in this; I hope he lands more good roles like this. Good cast and smart, satirical script.
Sex and the City (18 09 08) – I never followed the show; I’ve seen only a couple of episodes. I saw the extended cut version of the movie; I found the movie overall okay. I will say the best part is the eye candy for the fashion. I wanted half the stuff in the movie. The New York urban porn was nice too; something about snowing in NYC looks really good in film. One can definitely see why it’s like a cult show that they made into a movie; I like how it does explore the dynamic between female friends. Nothing too bad in the acting front really.
Lost in Austen – Fun.
The Family Stone (27 09 08) – This did nothing for me. I did not really feel for any of the characters, and the script just seemed to force all these family poignant moments. I like Rachel McAdams, but her character was annoying. I did not care for the relationship swapping halfway through. All “funny” moments were in the trailer. I guess I like some of the actors; Paul Schneider’s bit part was nice. I seem to watching lots of his films lately.
The Butterfly Effect (28 09 08) – Apparently, the critics hated this movie, but it made a lot of money. I can see how it has a wide appeal because I kind of liked it myself. Mainly due to my fascination with alternate universes, time travel, and chaos theory. The script is not that badly written, and I do like Ashton Kutcher more after seeing this. Not necessarily as a great actor, but the movie makes him look better than he usually does. Callum Keith Rennie even makes an appearance albeit for one scene. I would not watch this movie again though; it just seemed too violent for me. Quentin Tarantino movies are violent, but they are also funny. This movie had no funny moments and was quite sad and creepy for a lot of it. It was intense overall. For a moment towards the end, I thought they were going to go Hollywood and have a trite ending, but respect to the movie makers for having the ending live up to movie’s plot.
Iron Man (30 09 08) – Fun. I have been looking forward to this as I love a good summer blockbuster/ super hero movie. I have had a soft spot for RDJ for years. Someone said that he deserved this role, and honestly, he does. He’s this gem of an actor, and I’m glad he has finally found a vehicle and more opportunities to showcase his awesomeness. I like this cast. I hardly recognized Jeff Bridges in this role, and I like Terence Howard in anything. Coming off of Sliding Doors (below) and the grounded character of Pepper Potts, I did like Paltrow in this role as well. With her Spain travelogue show, I think I have to admit that I like the formerly known as fishstick. Even Paul Bettany’s voice is in this movie. Knowing that a lot of the dialogue was improvised makes me love this film even more. Looking forward to the sequels.

Total: 14.

Rewatched Movies:
Sliding Doors (15 09 08) – There are few movies I like to rewatch, and this is actually the first time I have rewatched this one. It won’t be the last time though; I have been thinking about this movie for awhile now. It came ten years ago; it’s very late 90s. The movie even features Dido’s “Thank you” which is a song that I liked way back then too. I have never been a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow, but this is the only one of her movies that I absolutely love her in. I can’t imagine the film without her, and her faux Britishness seems the most sincere here. I love the concept of this story, and the ending is bitter at first, but then very lovely overall. I hope one day I get chatted up on the tube by a guy like John Hannah’s character. Seriously, how did he go from this to being Brendan Fraser’s sidekick in the Mummy movies? He and Rachel Weisz were the only reasons I saw the first and second Mummy movies; they were pretty fun movies overall too, but even John Hannah can’t make me see the third Mummy movie. I digress though. I think Hannah is seriously underrated as an actor and a leading man as a result of how much I love this film. It’s very London and British, has an unconventional premise, and a really good romance. Now that I finally got a copy, I can be sad, be happy, and hope for a down to earth and funny guy like James.