Wrap Up: July 2017

Books Read

I’m pretty sure this list is only substantive because most of these are graphic novels. All the same, I’m playing a bit of catchup on my lack of reading and reviewing, and this is the result.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier || Skinwalker by Faith Hunter || Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor || The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1 || The Arabian Nights translated by Richard F. Burton || The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2 || The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3 || Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge || The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4

Currently Reading

The List by Patricia Forde || Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor || The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 5 || Monstress, Vol. 2 by Marjorie Liu

Writing

While I didn’t take part in Camp NaNoWriMo, writing has been a major part of July, and will likely be a major part of August as well. I’m probably going to slow down on the writing department come September once more, but for now, I’m taking what I get!

Movies and Television

The Beautician and the Beast – Don’t ask.

Dirty Dancing – It was the summer of ’63 when I started watching–okay, no. I’m not THAT old, but I love this movie.

Independence Day – Totally my July 4 movie tradition. Every single year.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – I’m still torn up about this movie.

The Martian – Totally watched this again because my bestie was missing such a great movie.

Wonder Woman – See, THIS is a girl power superhero movie without all the unsubtle “yay female superheroes all females rock omg this is a message I’m going to keep bringing up over and over again every other sentence” that the Supergirl show has (more below).

Better Call Saul, Season 2 – Ughhhh so good. And Netflix, I’m waiting for Season 3 plsthx!

Inside British Vogue – I like fashion documentaries, but the documentarian annoyed me. Your job is to DOCUMENT, not fucking give input about things you know nothing about. Ugh.

Arrow, Season 3 – Well, damn. I went back to finishing this season and things completely goes down at the end of the season. The happyish ending tho, lmao. Yeah, okay. Not gonna last long in CW, nope.

Flash, Season 1 – I was pretty much going back and forth on my Arrow-Flash binges. But holy hell, Flash got INCREDIBLY good.

Supergirl, Season 1 – I legit just watched the first episode yesterday. Then I had to google “Does Supergirl get better later on” because honestly, that pilot wasn’t so great. I love the idea of female superheroes, but please stop throwing feminist morals at my face every other scene in the episode. ESPECIALLY since the rest of the time seemed dedicated to comparing said female superhero to the more superior male cousin that is Superman. I just…STAHP PLEASE. Just give me action and some sort of plot. But again. This was just my first impression of the pilot. Apparently it does get better around episode 6/7, so I might hang on.

Video Games

Hah. There’s been only one video game that I’ve been preoccupied with all month. And that’s Mass Effect: Andromeda. I actually finished it last week, so of course the next thing I did was boot up a new Mass Effect trilogy playthrough. Yeah. I am obsessive, but I can’t help myself!

I’m still trying to figure out how much I like ME: Andromeda, to be honest. It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the original trilogy, but at the same time, I’m judging the a game that’s solely an INTRODUCTORY game, so I can’t get angry about it. I am a little disappointed in the romance arcs. None of them seemed very interesting. But then again, I wasn’t gungho on the romance in ME1 either. So yeah. I hope the second installation–if there ever IS one–gets the same treatment as ME2, because that’s when everything gets turned around.

Fooding

It says something about my lack of work when I spend most of my days actually baking. Or eating.

Macarons || Ube birthday cake || Spiced ginger treacle cake || Hummus || Marble and almond brownies || Sushi || Peach upside down cake || Japanese pork combo at Mitsuwa

Miscellany

I’ve mostly been on vacation over the month of July. On top of that, I had a birthday pass me by, which meant I got to splurge on random things, hah!

Managed to get Shakespeare in the Park tickets for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was FANTASTIC.

I’ve been sufficiently pool-ready the past few weeks, so obviously that’s where I’ve been during my weekends. There was also a summer fair at the Meadowlands, and I couldn’t pass it up because I so wanted to get on a Ferris wheel. I LOVE FERRIS WHEELS.

Other than that, same old, same old.

Nerdy News

Gotham goes Gaslight in a Batman steampunk animated movie. Not gonna lie, I’ve been so waiting for them to do this. I haven’t read the Elseworlds series that this animated movie is going to be based on, but I’ve actually seen a demo of Gotham by Gaslight as a video game, and I’ve been craving steampunk Bats since.

Honestly cannot wait for Good Omens to come out. It’s going to be a blast to see Crowley and Aziraphale on the screen and not just on the page.

Joker as a good guy is like watching Lex Luthor become President of the United States and still being a thorn on Superman’s side. It’s GREAT. Now, once this is released completely, can we have an animated movie based off this series with Mark Hamill reprising his Joker role? CAN WE PLEASE?

Alright, I admit I’m sliding this article in solely for the purpose of being able to mention AIRSHIPS in this post. Because the possibility of rebuilding airships just made my steampunk writing self all excited and giddy.

The next Wonder Woman movie is taking place in the ’80s. Which is pretty cool, though I wonder how they’ll explain WWII, because that’s practically a gigantic war in between her origin movie and the Cold War. [SPOILER] Also, I don’t know why people find it a good idea to bring Chris Pine back. That just lessens the impact of his actions in the previous movie. Just saying. [/SPOILER]

Not sure how I feel having seen the A Wrinkle in Time trailer. On the one hand, it looks pretty cool and action-packed. On the other, AWiT is one of my favorite childhood SFF books, and if they eff this up, I’m going to be INCONSOLABLE.

One of the most exciting trailers that got released at SDCC was definitely Ready Player One. Because holy hell, the stacked buildings looked exactly like the illustration in the book. And omg SO many Easter Eggs in that trailer. I can only imagine how many more are in the actual movie.

And yay more Agatha Christie movies! I always love watching these.

Still not holding my breath, but I suppose this is good news to the G.R.R. Martin and A Song of Ice and Fire fans. I haven’t read the fifth book yet, so…

And the new Doctor is…oh come on. That was practically everywhere when it was finally released. Here’s to Jodie Whittaker for taking the balls by the horn! (Hah!)

I hope you guys had a great July, too!

Food and Fandom: Beauty’s Spiced Treacle Cake

I could go on and on about why I chose to do another Beauty-related goodie, but this one is actually inspired by something that McKinley wrote in the pages. I couldn’t really find the passage again, but I’m telling you, the book mentioned spiced treacle cake, and I totally hopped up on the idea!

Beauty by Robin McKinley is a straightforward retelling of an iconic fairy tale. One of the things that I remembered from the book was a scene where Beauty wakes up in the morning thinking of hot chocolate and toast. And later on, she ruminates on the types of foods she’d been having while in Beast’s castle, and Beauty eventually decides that one of her favorites is a spiced treacle cake. Often she would ask for it, and there was an adorable scene where she even feeds the Beast a piece because she wanted him to try it!

So I went on a search for a spiced treacle cake.

Ginger Spiced Treacle Traybake

I actually gleaned this recipe from Fold in the Flour, though the original recipe is very much thanks to Mary Berry. I mention this because I had become addicted to The Great British Bake Off and after seeing that this was a recipe she had, I wanted to try it!

I will say that Mary Berry knows her shit, and honestly, even with the changes I made, it was still delicious and spiced and utterly gingery!

I’ve converted the ingredients into American measurements the best way I can. Also, these are the ingredients of changes I made as well, so if you want to follow the recipe to its totality, there’s plenty of places where this recipe can be found (including the Fold in the Flour link).

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup muscovado sugar (I used dark brown)
  • 2/3 cup molasses (I substituted with maple syrup, but you can use honey or some other syrup that has a thicker consistency)
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp milk
  • 3 bulbs stem ginger (I used 1 Tbsp ginger powder because I couldn’t find stem ginger in the groceries)

Glaze

  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tsp ginger powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • water (as needed)
  • chopped candy ginger (as needed)

Making the Cake

Mix the sugar and butter until smooth and creamy, add eggs one by one. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

Bake cake in 9 x 13 inch tray for 35 minutes at 350 F. Set aside to cool and make the glaze.

Prepare glaze. Mix the dry ingredients and add water as needed, up until the consistency is what you want to pour onto the cake.

Sprinkle chopped ginger candy on top for decoration.

Verdict: Not everyone is a big fan of ginger or spiced cake, so this was not exactly the household favorite. The changes I made also made the cake not so treacly, but eh, I’m not a big fan of molasses, so that definitely cut down on the stickiness and the density. of the cake itself.

However, as a ginger-lover, I didn’t mind this so much, and it was like eating a super delicious sponge with candied ginger!

Of Peaches and Upside Down Cakes

I seem to be talking about food a lot.

But to be fair, I’m on vacation and when I’m on vacation, I tend to cook and bake a lot more than when I work. It’s definitely a combination of having the time and not spending money on transport (ergo, spending that saved-up money on ingredients!).

This week, my household got bombarded with peaches. After relishing in it with some Fourth of July jello, we still wound up with too many peaches and not enough motivation to want to eat them all the time. I love my fair share of fruits, but even I can’t bring myself to stuff my face with peaches.

Up until I decided I’d bake it into a cake.

So this is what I did.

Peach Upside Down Cake

Confession, I’ve never done an upside down cake before. Well, most of the time I don’t do repeats of what I bake unless it’s one of the more popular bakes (like salted caramel or Irish car-bomb cupcakes…or toffee). But this was the first time that I’ve worked with fruit in my baking period, so it was interesting.

I got the recipe from Flavorite and didn’t really deviate from the recipe except for the sugar. One thing I will note is that I didn’t have brown sugar on hand, so I ended up using granulated sugar instead. The only thing I would have changed was the amount of batter and the lack of crispness at the top. There was too little batter to the amount of peaches I used, and the top was sweet, but had a weird peachy-gooey texture I wasn’t a fan of.

But at that point I’m just being nitpicky, because the cake pretty much disappeared within the day. So I guess it was more than just “really good”?

(At some point I’ll go back to doing book reviews, I swear!)

Food and Fandom: Beauty’s Rose Apple Tarts

Oh baking. How I’ve missed thee! The idea actually came to mind because in under two weeks, my friend Meg and I will be releasing our first ever episode of Fableulous Retellings Podcast. Our first theme, surprise surprise, is the tale of Beauty and the Beast!

I had a few options regarding this story, and likely I will do a couple more between podcast episodes. To start it off, though, I was a bit inspired by the whole rose concept. In the original story–and most of the retellings afterward–Beauty often asks for a rose for her father to bring back from his trip. For the most part, he does, and for some reason, the Beast is none too happy with this poor old man pilfering from his rosebushes. I guess beasts don’t suffer thieves, either!

In any case, the rose is important, as is the garden, and even Disney got up on that in their version of BatB.

SO. Onto my baked good.

I thought about trying a rose-flavored macaron but I would have been at a loss, because I haven’t actually learned to make macarons! (All in good time…). So I browsed and I realized, oooh, an apple tart sounds yum!

Rose Apple Tarts

The original recipe I got from Preppy Kitchen, though I will admit that other than the apple seasoning, I didn’t really follow the rest of the ingredients. I couldn’t remember where I got the pastry shell recipe, however, but I do recall using powdered/confectionery sugar instead of regular sugar, just for a sweeter taste. And with tarts, you want something on the sweet side to balance out the sour that’ll be coming from the baked fruit.

The other thing I would say about making and shaping this tart shell is that it would be a good idea to have kidney beans or beads to keep the tart’s shell in place. I had neither, so it was much harder to stuff the apples in and shape them as roses afterward. The other suggestion is not to blind bake the shell and put the apples in immediately. Blind baking wasn’t really necessary for me, especially since I wasn’t making a huge tart shell, but little itty bitty ones.

I used my mini cupcake pan for such an occasion.

I also don’t have a tart pan, so this was definitely me improvising by using one of my cookie cutters to cut out pieces of dough and placing it in my cupcake pan. They shaped up rather well!

Probably the hardest part, however, was slicing the apples in very, very thin layers. In retrospect, I should have used the potato peeler, because slicing things very thinly with a knife took way too long. And most of the slices were still not thin enough! Maybe I just need a bit more practice.

Not that anyone’s complaining. Most of these tarts disappeared the moment they came out of the oven.

Wrap Up: May and June 2017

This is going to double up as both a May and June wrap-up post because I completely procrastinated writing up a May 2017 wrap-up. Which is weird, because a lot of things did happen in May and it wasn’t as if I was out of pictures or anything. June was just as busy, from BookCon to Mystery Room to end-of-the-school-year summer shenanigans. Fun stuff!

This will be a little more abridged than usual, and I’ll focus on all the pics! Also because writing is nonexistent, lol!

Books Read

You’d think I’d have double the amount of books read, but that doesn’t seem to be the case! I tried at least!

Beauty by Robin McKinley || A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas || Fables, Vol. 20, Camelot by Bill Willingham || The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England by Margaret C. Sullivan || Fables, Vol. 19, Snow White by Bill Willingham || Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Books Reading

Portal of a Thousand Worlds by Dave Duncan || Skinwalker by Faith Hunter || Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Movies and Television

Glazing over these, but some very good movies I watched in May and June! A Monster Calls was as sad as I expected it to be, though to be honest I hadn’t cried up until the stupid effing end. I highly recommend Big Fish & Begonia, which is a movie created by Studio Mir, also those responsible for animating the latter seasons of The Legend of Korra. You can tell, because the animation is AMAZING. I need not tell you how badass Wonder Woman was. Almost everyone and their mother loved the movie. My mother included.

I finished Into the Badlands and feel just a little bit emptier inside. Which is probably why I started rewatching Death Note (the anime, mmkthanks). Also, started the second season of Better Call Saul. Can’t wait to see what he and Mike are up to!

A Monster Calls || London Has Fallen || Big Fish & Begonia || Lucky Number Slevin || Wonder Woman || American Gods || Into the Badlands || Death Note || Better Call Saul

Video Games

I will admit I didn’t do much video gaming between late May and early June, so I was pretty much stuck with the same one for ages. Then…school was out and I went straight to finishing Final Fantasy XV and finally purchasing myself a copy of Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Final Fantasy XV – The ending was both epic and anger-inducing. I was annoyed at how sad the ending made me feel. Screw you, Square-Enix!

Heavy Rain – Honestly, I started this game because I get a kick out of the beginning. It was really just something to play while I segued to…

Mass Effect: Andromeda – Well, it isn’t the original Mass Effect trilogy, let me tell you. And yes, it has mixed reviews and did badly in light of it all because of the fact that it couldn’t hold a candle to its predecessors. Big whoop. Did people forget how tedious ME1 was?! Honestly, ME: Andromeda feels like ME1, in that there’s a lot of introduction to be had, and so far, the game plot is going slow. I’m also a little annoyed that my Pathfinder is way too nice. Honestly, WHERE ARE THE MEAN CHOICES?! Why can’t I friggin’ punch the reporters?! That said, I am loving that they brought back the Mako–I mean…well, they brought the Nomad in. And um, turians. Yes. I love turians. Vetra is MY GIRL. I may want to romance her if Jaal or Liam fall through…

Fooding

Yes, yes. There was a lot of food involved throughout the past two months. So much food. Most of them weren’t even baked by me. Oh, no. All the baking happened near the end of the month, when I actually had free time to think about what I wanted to bake! All the same, I practically ate my way through New York (and New Jersey) in May and June.

Lychee and raspberry crepe || Fish n’ chips || Hummus || Chicken kebab || Homemade ramen || Bacon poutine || Popbar || Cannoli

Chocolate “spaghetti” || Tsunami at Dallas BBQ || Chocolate chip cookies || Mac n’ cheese || Farmer’s market pizza || Assorted dips || Matcha froyo || French toast with bananas and coffee ice cream

Rose apple tarts || Duck bao || Chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting || Twisted potato with cajun and sweet and sour seasoning || Gongjee Village meal || Shepherd’s pie || Pineapple juice with agave || Unicorn taiyaki

Miscellany

Let’s talk about podcasts for a moment here.

My friend Meg @ La Foi Aveugle went into a podcasting venture some months back, and she was kind enough to invite me to two of her episodes (which aired at the end of may, beginning of June) of her first podcast, Judging Book Covers. As part of my being in the episode, I got to choose a book to make the host and a second guest read, and in turn, the second guest will choose a book to make me read. We ended up with Silk by Caitlin Kiernan for one episode and Boneshaker by Cherie Priest in another. Guess which one I’d picked? Hehe.

Speaking of podcasts, the same Meg also came up to me to ask if I’d be interested in doing a fairy tale retelling podcast. OF COURSE I SAID YES. So Fableulous Retellings Podcast was born! Here we will be talking about various retellings of the original versions of fairy tales. Our first fairy tale is “La Belle et la Bete,” or “Beauty and the Beast.” Our website is still a work in progress, but you can like and follow us on Facebook for updates. First episode to come out Tuesday, July 18!