Friday, February 26, 2010

PB & J Friendship Charms

I saw a PB & J Friendship Charm tutorial over at One Pretty Thing and I decided to give it a go since I was bored and I'm a sucker for whimsical jewelry projects.


I do wish I had used a regular brown clay instead of the chocolate color, but that's what was included in the pack I bought (for $9.99). I'm gonna give it another go since the first time is always where you realize you should have done something different, but other then that I think they're cute.

If you're interested you can find step by step directions here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Music Thursday

New music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are.

These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

Crush On You by Lil Cease & Lil Kim:



Say Hi To Your Mom by Laundry:



Can You Tell by Ra Ra Riot:



Stickshifts and Safetybelts by Cake:



In The Sun by Joseph Arthur:



5 Years Time by Noah and the Whale:



Favorite artist of the week: Laura Marling

New Romantic:



The Wrote and the Writ:



Ghosts:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Veracity

Title: Veracity
Author: Laura Bynum
Genre: Dystopian

Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: January 2010
Hardcover: 376 pages

Stand Alone or series: Stand alone

Summary: (from Goodreads)
Harper Adams was six years old in 2012 when an act of viral terrorism wiped out one-half of the country's population. Out of the ashes rose a new government, the Confederation of the Willing, dedicated to maintaining order at any cost. The populace is controlled via government-sanctioned sex and drugs, a brutal police force known as the Blue Coats, and a device called the slate, a mandatory implant that monitors every word a person speaks. To utter a Red-Listed, forbidden word is to risk physical punishment or even death.

But there are those who resist. Guided by the fabled "Book of Noah," they are determined to shake the people from their apathy and ignorance, and are prepared to start a war in the name of freedom. The newest member of this resistance is Harper -- a woman driven by memories of a daughter lost, a daughter whose very name was erased by the Red List. And she possesses a power that could make her the underground warriors' ultimate weapon -- or the instrument of their destruction.

In the tradition of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Laura Bynum has written an astonishing debut novel about a chilling, all-too-plausible future in which speech is a weapon and security comes at the highest price of all.
Review:

I have said before that I really like dystopian fiction. There is just something moving about a story that involves surviving rather then just living. Most dystopian books I’ve read have either high amounts of technology or none at all (though this isn’t always the case obviously). While books like The Inferior are appealing in their own way, there is something kind of creepy with technology driven dystopias. Maybe it’s just because I can actually envision the futures of the characters in these stories easier then I can others.

This book reminded me a lot of 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale, but instead of genetic or reproductive control the government controls speech. As the summary says, the world suffers through a deadly pandemic in 2012 and a totalitarian government comes into being as the only way to restore law and order. (If you’ve ever read or seen V for Vendetta then you can pretty much guess how well that plays out for the citizens of America.) The main way the government, called the Confederation, keeps track of its citizens is through “slates” that are implanted in every man, woman, and child. The slate is essentially a biomechanical implant that monitors every word spoken, or about to be spoken, and has the ability to shock whoever attempts to say a forbidden word. Words like “courage,” “poem,” “ego,” “freedom,” and “democracy” have been red-listed and are punishable by death.

Now whenever you have a totalitarian state there has to be a strong force to keep people in line (especially when the line is so very thin and crooked). In this story, that force is called the Blue Guard and they’re authorized by the state to rape, torture, and kill as they deem necessary. These guards have almost free rein to stop and harass anyone they want and most of them are complete psychos.

The main character of the story is Harper Adams. She was six when the world was made into something dominating and violent. She has no family except her daughter and since she is a “sentient,” someone who can see auras, she’s been forced to work for the Confederation since she was 18. This story is really about Harper’s struggle to find something better for her daughter and a way for her to find redemption for the work she’s been forced to do for the Confederation.

Beyond that I don’t want to give too much away. My only gripe with the book is the way the ending was so uneventful. Things happened much too easily and felt too disjointed for my taste. This might be because the story was written in first person, but I still found myself confused as to what was actually happening. In the end though, I still adored this book.

Like I said, this story is told in first person and has the same kind of apathetic tone as The Handmaid’s Tale. This story also goes back and forth between the present day and past memories. Even though this can be kind of annoying when authors use too heavy a hand in this regard, I thought the memories suited the story perfectly. I also really enjoyed the use of the definitions at the beginning of each chapter. Like with The Adoration of Jenna Fox, I thought it added an authenticity to the story.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

From chapter 1:
AUGUST 4, 2045, EARLY AFTERNOON.

The deeper I get into the prairie, the more I realize that what I’ve been told about the wastelands is false. The trees here are green. The crops, tall and heavy with corn. There are no black clouds threatening to drip acid onto my car, no checkpoints full of frothing police ready to execute every onerous code they see fit. I haven’t seen a Blue Coat since Wernthal. God willing, it will stay that way.

An old farmer is hitchwalking down a line of corn. I see him in my rearview mirror as a blotch of spoiled yellow. This is how our world considers the inhabitants of this land. Spoiled and decrepit, not useful. But neither are they considered clever enough to pose a threat. So they enjoy the otherwise restricted bounty of nature. A wide-open sky. Grass. Neon-free, unfettered space. I envy them this, but only so much. We live in different prisons, but in prisons nonetheless. Theirs is made up of memories of the beforetime. Mine, of concrete walls and security checkpoints, of no birdsong and no breeze.

Fewer line boards are posted alongside the roads out here. Just one every few dozen miles instead of the standard one per block. Posters of non-sexually attractive housewives blink as I drive by. Stay Happy, at mile marker 1. Stay Healthy, at mile 32. Remember the Pandemic. Mile marker 78.

Used to be something different. Honor Those Who’ve Fallen, to communicate the whole of it. But the word honor got too many people thinking. The concept sparked a small fire in those of us not quite doused out, and we began to discuss the dishonorable things required of all citizens living here, things that didn’t get printed on line boards. And so in small, quiet ceremony, in the ripping down of a hundred thousand posters, honor had the honor of being our first Red Listed word. We woke the next morning to Safety First and We Don’t Want to Go Back to the Way Things Were, Do We?

The countryside is more beautiful than I remember, even like this. Bales of trash instead of baled-up hay. Abandoned farmhouses dotting the land like weeping sores. I can’t stand to see their burnt or age-worn structures, or their insides seeping out onto the unmowed lawns. I was born in the country, as were my best memories. I won’t desecrate them by noticing these shells of civilization zipping past my car windows. In fact, I’ll go faster. It’s unlikely Blue Coats will pick me up on the way to my break site anyway. They won’t be out patrolling in the heat, in the wastelands where nothing happens. They’ll come later when the Fatherboard sees I’ve gone rogue. It will be the most excitement they’ve had in months.

Maybe they won’t be carrying guns. Not all Blue Coats get them. Most guns are reserved for the brigade lined up outside the National House like dominoes. Tin soldiers in tidy rows, they flash weaponry used to guard President and his cabinet of Ministers. Keep people from considering assassination, keep those who try anyway from achieving their goal. Guns also go to police assigned to specific jobs. Hunting down runners and the quick dispatch of terrorists.

Aside from this ignoble guard, the largely gun-free system has flourished. Fists, elbows, knees, mouths, teeth, the fleshy weapons carried by men, the ones used to inflict more intimate punishments — these broadcast an absolute and terrifying power the business end of a pistol doesn’t match. When a Blue Coat exacts a punishment, scars are left and people see them.

I try not to think about the Blue Coats and what may happen to me if I’m caught. At least I will have finally stood up.
Verdict:

I loved it. It was everything I could hope for out of a story. Sad and touching yet sweet and happy. It was great.

Rating: 9 - Damn near perfection

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

7 Up Pound Cake

I feel like I’m becoming a peddler for Cook’s Illustrated, but I can’t help that everything I’ve made so far has been amazing. This cake is so freggin delicious I ate almost the whole thing myself over the course of three days. I should feel a little ashamed for admitting that, but I don’t. This cake is just that good.

This is the first cake I’ve ever made with soda in it and I got to admit I was a little apprehensive. It turned out I shouldn’t have been. The cake had a very nice lemon lime flavor, while also being buttery, without being overpowering and the soda gave the cake a nice crumb. This recipe is also super easy since it uses the food processor and only has 9 ingredients.



7 Up Pound Cake

Ingredients:

Cake
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup 7 Up, room temperature (needs to be fresh and not flat)
1 tablespoon grated zest 2 tablespoons juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
3 1/4 cups cake flour

Glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour 12 cup non-stick tube pan (you can also use bundt pan which is what I did). Process sugar, eggs, 7 Up, lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, and salt in food processor until smooth. With machine running, slowly pour in butter and process until incorporated. Transfer to large bowl. Add flour in three additions, whisking until combined.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Gently tap pan on counter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet to cool completely, about 2 hours.

Glaze: Whisk confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and lime juice in bowl until smooth. Pour glaze over cooled cake. Let glaze set 10 minutes. Serve. Cake can be wrapped in plastic and held at room temperature for 3 days.

Tuesday Tumblr

Just a roundup of things I've recently hearted on Tumblr:



I do not take credit for any of these graphics or photos.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Roast Lemon Chicken

This lemon chicken recipe is hands down the best I've ever made. In fact, I don't think I'll ever even look at another recipe again. The chicken was flavorful and lemony while still being juicy and delicious. The skin of the chicken was also perfectly cooked (even though I actually don't like eating the skin) and the sauce was super tasty on the potatoes I made (which were crash hot potatoes). Some rolls would have made this dinner even better, but I had some deflation issues I'd rather not talk about...



This recipe is from Cook's Illustrated and further proves that their recipes are spot on. I bought a cut up chicken instead of using a whole one and it worked out fine. I plan on making this with just breasts the next time I have people over for dinner.

Note: The recipe states you shouldn't use a flimsy throwaway roasting pan since it might overcook the chicken and make the sauce evaporate. A non-stick roasting pan is also a big no-no since the pan may react to all the acidity in the lemons.

Roast Lemon Chicken

Ingredients:

½ cup salt
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 (3 ½ to 4 pound) whole chicken, back bone removed, and butterflied
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice from 3 lemons
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

1.Dissolve ½ cup salt and ½ cup sugar in 2 quarts cold water in a large container. Submerge the chicken in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2.Adjust an oven rack to the middle lower position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels. Combine zest and remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Rub 2 tablespoons under the skin of the chicken (breasts, thighs, and legs). Season the chicken with salt and pepper and transfer to the roasting pan.

3.Whisk broth, 1 cup of water, lemon juice, and remaining zest in a 4 quart measuring cup, and then pour into the roasting pan. (The liquid should just reach the skin of the thighs. If not, add enough water so that id does.) Roast until the skin is golden brown and the thickest part of the breast registers 160-165 degrees and the thickest part of the thighs register 175 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 40-45 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes.

4.Pour the liquid from the pan, along with any accumulated chicken juices, into a saucepan (you should have about 1 ½ cups). Skim the fat, then cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Whisk the cornstarch with the remaining 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl until no lumps remain, then whisk into the saucepan. Simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.Carve the chicken and serve with the sauce.

Sit back and enjoy.

-Cake in the background of the pic can be found here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Music Thursday

New music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

Nine Black Poppies by The Mountain Goats:



The singer's voice kind of reminds me of Bob Dylan. I love Bob Dylan.

Kid Gloves by Doomtree:



My Delirium by Ladyhawke:



Drop The World by Lil Wayne ft Eminem:



Art-I-Ficial by X-Ray Specs:



Artist of the week: The Flobots

MayDay:



Handlebars:



Stand Up:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Tumblr

Just a roundup of things I've recently hearted on Tumblr:


I do not take credit for any of these graphics or photos.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Strange and Magnificent

I would love to have this hanging in my house:


To bad I don't have $75 dollars to drop (and for a print), but maybe I'll get lucky and this will get printed as a card though. (I've found that buying cards is an affordable way to get peices from pieces from artists I love.)

-Strange and Magnificent print can be found here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Jennifer's Body

Jennifer's Body is a movie about a newly possessed cheerleader who turns into a crazy killer and starts offing her male classmates.

From IMDB:
Nerdy, reserved bookworm Needy and arrogant, conceited cheerleader Jennifer are best friends, though they share little in common. They share even less in common when Jennifer mysteriously gains an appetite for human blood after a disastrous fire at a local bar. As Needy's male classmates are steadily killed off in gruesome attacks, the young girl must uncover the truth behind her friend's transformation and find a way to stop the bloodthirsty rampage before it reaches her own boyfriend Chip.



When I first read all the hype surrounding Jennifer's Body I got to admit I was a little nervous to see it for myself. (Even though I'm easily entertained, sometimes the humorless feminist in me rears its head and makes it quite difficult for me to enjoy a movie.) But I got to say that I simply adored this movie.

I really freakin loved it.

What I like most about Jennifer's Body is the way you get exactly what you think you're gonna get. You want to watch a horror film that changes the way people will look at the genre forever? Then this is not the film for you. But if you want to watch an entertaining movie full of witty dialogue that realistically portrays the confusing and often love/hate friendships of high school girls then you are in for a treat. This movie is so good it even made me love Megan Fox (and that is a feat people).


One the biggest complaints that I've read about this movie is the slang heavy dialogue. A lot of people have even pegged the slang as "Cody-isms" but I thought the slang was one of best parts of this movie. Yeah a lot of it was unrealistic but a lot of it are things people I know actually say. It makes me wonder if these same people felt the same way about Juno or if it's this movie in particular that bothers them. Either way I enjoyed it and thought it added a cheeky atmosphere to the movie.