Monday, May 26, 2014

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started reading the book, I didn't know anything about it nor what to expect, I did though know that a lot of people enjoyed it and found it a marvellous book.
This was a book that I didn't want to put down. Each page of the book was like a magnet, keeping me there and making me curious to know how things would develop.
There is though quite an introduction to the serious "action" and that is a tiny bit too slow - but possibly, necessary to give a lot of background information about the three main characters and the people they are involved with.
The rythm changes when all the secrets, stories and the day-to-day life are finally getting unveiled and one is wondering what is going to be the big thing the three women will share together and what really is going to happen to everyone.
There is an attempt to connect the story with historical events - which gives a robust context to the plot, but could have possibly be presented in a better way. I love the way the 60s are told with the details of how everyone is living. One gets also to understand a bit how that generation has been growing up and influenced.
The final chapters of the book are the best: one does understand more and more of the situation, feels deeply connected to the "heroines" and wants of course an happy ending. It is a beautiful story where certain boundaries of the time are broken but it is also sad and enlightning because I would have not expected things to be in this way, in that period of time.
I found though that the final could have been better. There are some few open points and all the tension is resolved in a bit ridicolous way. Despite this, the narrative is great: the story is told sequentially connecting the three women's point of view while it goes hand in hand, almost in parallel with the story that the women will put together.
I am not curious to watch the movie and hope it has not destroyed the atmosphere of the book!

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Southern Fried Chicken with Sweet Potatoes mash

After watching too many seasons of Masterchef US, it is natural to want to try some dish that is mentioned 700 times.
We are no pro, so our first attempt here has been a basic recipe, which turned out to be incredibly easy and good for frying also vegetables.


  • 2,5 kg of chicken in pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
  • 0,3 l of milk
  • 0,5 l of flour
  • 0,6 l of vegetable oil

The batter
 Mix milk and eggs in a bowl by whisking them properly.
The magic bag used to put the flour on the chicken
 Combine in a plastic bag the flour, salt and pepper. In some recipe there are often added paprika or pepper as well, but not in this basic one.

The chicken is ready to be fried
 First we dip the chicken in the milk mixture and we shake the excess off. Then we shake the chicken inside the bag so that it gets covered by the flour. We take the chicken out of the bag and we fry it at 170 degrees, for about 10 minutes. Smaller pieces can get cooked in a shorter time.
Fried chicken
 Move to paper towels to drain the oil and serve!

Ingredients for the potatoes mash

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 0,15 l milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Sweet potatoes to be peeled
Dice the potatoes, after peeling them. Put them in a large pot, covered with water and bring them to boil. Let them cook for 15 minutes, or about the time they are tender.
Drain the water.
Add all the other ingredients and mash to a smooth mix.

Sweet Potatoes Mesh

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Measure of the Magic, by Terry Brooks

The Measure of the Magic (Legends of Shannara, #2)The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the necessary chapter that concludes the chapter of the "Legends of Shannara". It is interesting that the word Shannara is used to define the saga, when nothing explicit is said about it, so it is a bit unclear which is the connection with that - it is surely clear that this is a sequel to the last trilogy, where the worl is on the verge of being devastated by humanity and not only.
Finally, after a book of preparation, there is some action and some magic. Finally, some of the elements that constitute a red thread for the Shannara stories are appearing and marking the territory (Silver River King, for example).
The characters are now all of a sudden developing, forced by the circumstances to mature and take risks. But I do still find them weak and possibly forged based on similar characters of the same saga. I can't recall exactly who they are reminding me of, but they are not bringing any tone of originality in a story that is already lacking that characteristic.
It is then obvious that this part of the story has been written just as a link between the apocalypse and the Shannara fantasy starting setting and it is a pity, since it could have been used for bringing light into the genesis of that world.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

The birthday party for the three years

Isabella has been keeping mentioning having her birthday party as soon as the Christmas festivities were over. For four months, she has gone on and on about her friends coming over and receiving presents.
Yes, she got the sweet taste for opening packages with Christmas. And when Oscar arrived, she has been lucky enough to get small presents as well.
So, in our house, it has been Christmas for about 4 months :D

For her party, we tried to fix sunny and warm weather, all her friends coming over, a lot of food that anyway she would not eat and candies hidden in a pirate bag. What she loved most was the pirate bag (which will probably become a tradition, since she has already decided that when Oscar grows up he will have a birthday party and the bag will return) and having all her friends, farmor and farfar over.

I didn't know what happened to me. I wanted to do something simple and I ended up preparing so much fingerfood that laste for one week. I had in mind to prepare what can't be bought here in Sweden: the classical "children (and not only) party food" that is served in Italy. Mini pizzette, other salty finger food, and the milk buns. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to succeed with the latter: the taste was ok, but they were slightly compact.
With this, there was also a lot of fruit. I was hoping that Isabella would at least be eating that!
The buffet
Ingredients for about 21 pizzette

  • 1 roll of puff pastry (230 gr)
  • 100 gr of tomato sauce
  • 5 anchovies filet
  • 100 gr of mozzarella 
  • 1 egg
  • some oregano
With a glass, I cut the shape of the pizzette in the puff pastry. I take each pizzetta and put it on an oven plate covered with baking paper. 
I whisk the egg and I brush the pizzette with it. Then I put on top the tomato sauce (for best result I prepare the tomato sauce by warming it up for about 15 minutes with a bit of olive oil and salt/papper and a basil leaf) staying away from the edge. I put a little bit of mozzarella, a small bit of anchovies (not too much or it will be too salty) and I add a bit of oregano on top. 
One could have some other cheese instead of the mozzarella and surely, top it with anything else. For the kids and the vegetarian friends, we used olives instead of the anchovies.
Put them in a warm oven at 200 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.

Frankfurter in puff pastry
Ingredients for 12 frankfurters
  • 12 frankfurter (of about 25gr)
  • 1 yolk
  • 1 spoon of milk
  • 1 roll of puff pastry (230 gr)
This is a very simple recipe but if the pastry keeps its consistency can be very tasty. One could also dip the frankfurters in ketchup or mustard.
I cut in stripes the puff pastry. I roll each frankfurter with the stripes. I whisk the yolk and then add the milk. I brush each frankfurter with the yolk. 
They need to be cooked in the oven at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes.

I will skip writing the milk buns recipe until I will actually manage to do it properly :-)

We had also three cakes for celebrating her. I did two of them. One is the classical "cold cheesecake" that I do for her birthday, another one was a nutella enriched pie, which usually turns out pretty good, but was a bit strangely cook at this occasion.
We asked our friend Ullis to bake a cake for Isabella and it turned out to be one of the best cakes we ever had! 
Ullis' cake for Isabella
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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Bearers of the Black Staff, by Terry Brooks

Bearers of the Black Staff (Legends of Shannara, #1)Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I wouldn't have been reading previous Terry Brooks' books, I would be very confused when reading this one. It would have been even worse if I would have skipped the trilogy that came just before this. The story takes place 500 years after that and it is mainly an introduction to the action, which hopefully will occur in the second book of the Legends of Shannara.
The plot is not that different from the one of any Shannara related book, so it lacks some original element that would make it more interesting.
I miss also strong and lively characters: these ones seem to be some shaded copy or mix of already known Shannara characters.
What I did mind the most, though, has been the lack of charm and atmosphere, which has made at least the first Shannara books a success.
Ok, this is supposed to be a story leading to that world, but so far it looks like it is a repetition with trivial and predictable elements.

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