Month: March 2016

This was the right spring time book for an Easter read. I’ve seen more than one adaptation of this book on TV and movies. I also think I read at the very least an adapted version of this as a kid.

I liked the transformation of spoiled and sour Mary into a kinder and more robust one. I was less interested in Colin and the move shifts more to him in the latter half. Dickon is a funny character too. I do genuinely like the kindness of the characters that Burnett writes about it here and in A Little Princess.

What I liked most about this book was that my hard cover was big and had lovely illustrations by Inga Moore. I think that was a big part of why I enjoyed the story as much as I did. As a child, I loved a similar style book of Peter Pan. It really makes a worthwhile reading experience when children’s books are presented this way.

Read March 27, 2016.


In 2012, I created my own sourdough starter from scratch. It used organic flours (rye, kamut, whole wheat, spelt) and distilled water. I kept the sourdough alive and tried to make sourdough bread half a dozen times. However, it was only mildly successful one time when I made a Olive Sourdough Fougasse. I basically gave up on sourdough until recently. It’s been a personal challenge for me as a baker. I put the sourdough starter in the fridge and would occasionally feed it, but it has lived in hibernation since 2013. In fact, I had a bit of a hard time reviving it when I took out for this experiment.

Currently, I feed my sourdough mostly with a mix of AP, whole wheat, and rye flours. I find rye flour really makes an active starter. I will also the starter with kamut or spelt if I have it on hand. I use distilled water some of the time, but I have been mixing it with cool boiled tap water. Luckily, I have access to one of the best municipal water systems in Canada.

A couple of months ago, a neighbor and I became friendly over our mutual love of food. She shared with me this no knead sourdough recipe from the Clever Carrot. She also gave me a loaf to try. The whole no-knead process and the many tips (love the water glass float taste) convinced me to try the recipe.

Why do I love sourdough? I do love the tangy taste of it. Second, it lasts longer than standard bread loaves. I do not consume a lot of bread. I make bread because I love to bake it, but rarely do I ever crave it. I am not a carbs person so a loaf of bread takes me a awhile consume. A standard 1kg loaf like the one below will take me on average 4-6 days. Loaves from commercial yeast including the other No Knead bread recipe I use get dry and hard within two days. This is why I always have to freeze those loaves, but with sourdough, they remain mostly soft in room temperature for days. I love that. Finally, I do believe sourdough is easier to digest and probably better for you.

Note: I use Canadian All Purpose flour which has higher gluten levels than standard American or British AP flours. I almost always used AP flour over bread flour for bread including all my previous Jim Lahey No Knead bread attempts. I bought bread flour for this experiment though. In the end, I feel AP is enough.

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When this book was first released last October, reviewers noted how dark it was. Indeed, this book is very heavy in tone and creepyness. Much more so than the previous two books. Even though the second book had its strange oddities too. I found some of the chapters from the perspective of the villain hard to get through. Still, I finished this book in two evenings so it was not that bad.

The other minor quibble I have with this book is the relationship between Robin and Cormoran. The constant push and pull between them is getting tiring. It is not say that I either do or do not want them together, but the constant speculation in the book from all sorts of characters is overdone now. Secondly, I am finding Robin is a bit too perfect. There is even a line in this book that says “everyone likes Robin” especially animals. I like Robin too and I guess her biggest flaw is her taste in men.

I continue to love many of the supporting or tertiary characters. In this book, I like the new side characters such as Wardle and Shanker. Rowling does have a way with dialogue and quick backstory that reveals a lot about the characters. I like all of Cormoran’s associates except I do not care (and do not think we are suppose to care) for his female romantic partners.

I have notied that Rowling’s writing has improved too overall over the years. I like her descriptions even more. One of the women in this book “had a look of a Bruegel peasant, with her rounded cheeks, prominent chin and wide nose.” She also continues to be verbose. In this novel, some words that I rarely use, but would like to: chicanery, holdall, pierrot, and perpatetic. I am glad she is writing for adults.

Finally, one thing I love about this series is how the setting is a supporting character in itself. I know Rowling does not live in London, but she writes it extremely well especially the current modern London. I had to laugh out loud because my alma matter is mentioned and couple of scenes in the book are set in the area.

The following excerpt is one of my favourites of the city that I’ve read recently:

Nobody who had not lived there would ever understand that London was a country unto itself. They might resent it for the fact that it held more power and money than any other British city, but they could not understand that poverty carried its own flavor there, where everything cost more, where the relentless distinctions between those who had succeeded and those who had not were constantly, painfully visible. The distance between Elin’s vanilla-coloumned flat in Clarence Terrace and the filthy Whitechapel squat where his mother had died could not be measured in mere miles. They were separated by infinite disparities, by the lotteries of birth and chance, by faults of judgment and lucky breaks. (p. 214)

The line about poverty and the relentless distinctions are very true to London. To any big city? Yes, but to a city in a country where classism still has history, the side by side of the haves and have-nots is both viscereal and subtle.

Reading this book has made me look forward to the TV adaptation that will be forthcoming. I wonder who will be cast and how and when they get the right tone for the show.

I have a knack for reading these novels during the season they are set. During this one, Easter weekend came and went too.

I enjoy reading these books, but I do know that there are issues with the style of the plotting and some other character issues. Still, I can not deny that I enjoy Rowling as a writer and have seen I was a kid. In a couple of years, I’ll have said that I’ve been reading this woman’s books for twenty years Keep at it, Ms Rowling.

Read March 21-22, 2016.

No-Knead Bread

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This a follow up review to one I made when I first read this book in 2014. However, I had not made anything from this book.

I still find it useful even though the costs and availability do not apply to my country or growing season. However, I really enjoyed reading about Reese’s experiments. She offers some very basic and classic recipes (pasta making, sauces, etc.) to some less typical ones (salted pork, cured salmon).

Furthermore, the author is basically one of us. Most of the recipes in this book come from other cookbooks she’s owned or read. She tested their recipes. I really like that aspect of it.

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This manga took me a bit too long to read because I find it hard to watch Emma be so very wrong in visual form. There is a lot second hand embarrassment knowing how blind Emma is through most of this book with respect to the characters. It is understandable given her background, but it’s still hard to read through in comic form.

It is a fun manga adaptation as with the Pride and Prejudice one. If you enjoy both Austen and manga, then this a nice way to pass the time.

I would like to still say that the best Emma adaptation is BBC’s 2009 version.

Read February 18 – March 2, 2016.

Movies In Theatres

The Monkey 2 in 3D (16 02 2016) – My Dad wanted to see this when he heard it was screening in our town. He and I have not seen a movie since the 1990s. We went on the night after a snow storm had dropped 50cm. The cinema was not empty, but our theatre only had three other people in it which I had foreseen, snow storm or no. I don’t like 3D and it did not add much to this movie either. It was an OK movie. The stories are from my own childhood and so interpretation has varied. I found the monkey character slightly too muscular oddly enough. I guess I’m use to the leaner renditions of the monkey. Gong Li was very pretty.

Movies at Home

Out of Sight (03 02 2016) – Why can’t JLo be in good things like this anymore? The chemistry she had with George Clooney in this was stellar. I am surprised they haven’t been paired together again. Great cast all around and plain ol’ fun. I’d definitely rewatch most of it except Don Cheadle’s gang parts.

Mr. Robot (Feb 3-5, 2016) – I had heard a lot about this show when it was airing last summer, and I kept seeing Rami Malek photos. He is photogenic and has a certain quality about him. There is something mesmerizing about him. He’s amazing in this and deserved all the praise. I really hope he gets more high profile roles. The soundtrack is one of the best I’ve heard from a TV show. Let’s get with the Positives: Rami’s acting; the music; the female characters and their interactions with one another; interesting shooting style; a couple of twists; Tyrell and Joanna for the most part and general creepiness. Christian Slater is decent, not fantastic. Writing is fine. Not-So-Good: Angela’s storyline; drug dealer storyline; how Tyrell and Joanna’a storyline ended, and the finale was a bit anticlimactic. It was a good show and very addictive. I adore Rami, but I don’t necessarily feel this should be watched by everyone. Watching the show makes you very paranoid though. It is very creepy.

The Good Wife (Feb 9-19 , 2016) – See here.

The Duchess of Duke Street (Feb 18-27, 2016) – A 1970s period piece show I knew almost nothing about before I started it. This is an enjoyable show. The protagonist Louisa Trotter (née Leyton) can be an abrasive and blunt character, but somehow Gemma Jones gives her enough pathos, charisma, and vulnerability to make you root for her every time. I admired the character actually. I think the show was best when it was focused on Louisa’s life especially the romance and relationship with Charlie. I loved how the show was able to convey their relationship over years and the impact they had on one another. There was that one strange episode which was basically Jane Eyre, but otherwise, I adored this show. I wish I had someone to share it with.