10 September 2011

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy - Abigail Reynolds

Summary: Elizabeth marries Darcy despite her dislike of him because she's caught in a kiss that she didn't expect at Rosings Park. 

Comments: Boy, I had a hard time with this book. In the end, I liked it a lot and I'm not an easy person to convience, but it took a a little time. The whole idea that Elizabeth Bennett would marry Darcy when she didn't even like him seems such a strange premiss to me, but I guess the social conventions of the time dictated it. The fact that Darcy wouldn't realize that she was marrying him under durress - is he really that blind, but then again, men are dense - I mean even today.  That said, I let those things go and still had one other issue with the story. The miscommunication and mistakes and bad feelings of the characters take the majority of the book. I kept thinking, stop already with the troubles between Darcy and Elizabeth. This is mostly my personality because I like happy endings (and this one was), but it took some work to get there. I'm a sap, I realize it. But there it is.
I enjoyed some of the minor characters quite a bit. Bingley and Georgianna, were delightful. Bingley actually gets angry at Darcy, which is something I never thought I would see. But it was justified and refreshing. I have to admit, I could do without the detailed description of sex, but I don't care for that in any book. Just not my thing. While elements of the story, for example Elizabeth learning to ride, were engaging and believable, I think ultimately I never was able to divest myself of the idea of the marriage being wrong that caused real disquiet while reading.

07 September 2011

The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

Summary: Penelope Deveraux never imagined she'd be spirited off to India to give the scandal of her hasty marriage time to die down. As Lady Frederick Staines, Penelope plunges into the elaborate court intrigues of the Nizam of Hyderabad, where no one is quite what he seems. In a strange and exotic country where a dangerous spy called the Marigold leaves venomous cobras as his calling card, there is only one person she can trust.
Captain Alex Reid has better things to do than play nursemaid to a pair of aristocrats. Unfortunately, Penelope seems to have the uncanny ability to draw out the deadly plans of the Marigold and put herself in harm's way. With danger looming from local warlords, treacherous court officials, and French spies, Alex realizes that an alliance with Lady Staines may be the only thing standing in the way of a plot designed to rock the very foundations of the British Empire. (source: book cover)

Commentary: I enjoyed this installment of the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. Penelope is a bit like me, the cynic, the critical one, the tom boy even perhaps. She's the only one of Ms. Willig's female characters that could handle the trip to, and living in, India. The rest are way too girly for this. As mentioned previously, Penelope gets herself trapped in a marriage that leaves her with less than the best prospects. Freddy Staines, really, ah, that's too bad (Call me "old thing" one more time and I'll...). Thankfully, based on the plot line we know his number will come up. 
Alex Reid, on the other hand, is a hero's hero. If Penelope can trust him enough to figure out what is going on. And what is going on? Not sure at the beginning, because there are too many members of the Hellfire Club involved and suspicious dealings with the locals that don't seem to be above board. And, Alex's boss has married a local woman which brings him - and Alex - into question with British officers. Penelope suspects Alex of just about everything. Probably over reaching at that point, but being new to the area, who is to say. 
Eloise and Colin seem to still be managing their lives together - so far. Somehow, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop in their relationship. Perhaps it's too much Bridget Jones' Diary in me, but ... I'm cautious.  Not sure, but, this was an excellent story. Liked the cover of this book the best some how. Lovely really. 

04 September 2011

Carrot Cake

One of the Boy's favorite cakes is Carrot Cake. I've been making it from the same recipe for what seems like eons. For his 18th birthday I made this favorite. I thought I'd try cupcakes, but ended up being a little behind in the schedule so, it's a cake instead of cupcakes. It will still taste amazing, as it always does, but I really did want to try cupcakes. I'll put that in the file for the future.
The recipe I received from a friend, so I don't know its origins (this was back way before I started to care about that kind of thing, so I apologize in advance). I have made a few changes to the methodolgy and a small change in ingredients. That said, this is an amazing recipe for Carrot Cake. I've  put half recipe ingredients in parentheses because often I don't do the full two layer cake, but just one for a quick cake.

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (1 1/4)
2 tsp. baking soda (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. salt (1/2 tsp.)
2 tsp. cinnamon (1 tsp.)
Mix these all together in a bowl and have ready when the time comes. Easy.
1 1/2 cups of butter, unsalted (3/4 cup)
1 cup granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed (1/2 cup)
2 tsp. vanilla (1 tsp.)
3 eggs (1 egg)
Put butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until all incorporated. Add vanilla and mix in. Add each egg, one at a time and mix until incorporated. Now you're ready for the flour mixture. Add it in heaping spoonfulls, but make sure it is mixed in before adding more. Stop the mixing and scrape the bowl often to not have bits of flour in the bottom of the mixing bowl.
2 1/2 cups of carrot, grated on the large hole of box grater (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup raisins (1/2 cup)
1 cup nuts, chopped I'm a fan of walnuts, but this is optional esp. if you're allergic. (1/2 cup)
Toss all this in the batter and mix, on low, until combined. Divide mixture into two 9" cake pans that have been sprayed w/Baker's secret (great stuff, that). Bake for approximately 30 mintues, rotate and bake for 25 or so more - checking towards the end. Use the toothpick test to verify doneness. Let cook on a rack while you consider the frosting (do I sound like AB?).
2 8 oz. bars cream cheese, softened (8 oz.)
1/2 cup butter, unsalted, softened (1/4 cup)
juice from one large lemon, strained (wing it, whatever tastes good)
2 tsp. vanilla (1 tsp.)
3 cups powdered sugar give or take (1 1/2 give or take)
Mix cream cheese and butter together, add everything else (and lemon zest if you like) and mix slowly until the sugar is incorporated.
Once cake is cool, frost as you see fit. Pretty simple as things go, but w/a decent amount of prep and around an hour in the oven this isn't something you rush. But it's well worth the time you put in. Enjoy.