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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge Accepted

Back in mid-July, I discovered the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge. I was intrigued by the variety it offered, so I decided to plunge in. For convenience, I decided that any book I had read that month or which I read for the rest of the year was eligible.

A lot of people complain that fifty-two books – one a week, on average – is too many. (There are fifty entries, but one is "a trilogy," bringing the total to fifty-two.) But I routinely read over a hundred books in a year, so I figured I could do it. Half a year, less than half my usual total.

Without further ado, the list . . .

Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge

A book with more than 500 pages

A classic romance

A book that became a movie
The Hunger Games (Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

A book published this year
Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson (release date is 10/2015)

A book with a number in the title

A book written by somebody under 30

A book with nonhuman characters
Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman (08/15)

A funny book
Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (08/15)

A book by a female author

A mystery or thriller
On What Grounds

A book with a one-word title
Sold by Patricia McCormick

A book of short stories

A book set in a different country

A nonfiction book
Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar (in progress)

A popular author's first book
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

A book a friend recommended

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (09/15)

A book based on a true story

A book at the bottom of your to-read list

A book your mom loves

A book that scares you

A book more than 100 years old

A book based entirely on its cover
The Art of Fermentation (in progress)

A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't*

A memoir
A Long Way Home (07/2015)

A book you can finish in a day
Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress by Shelley Mazzanoble (08/15)

A book with antonyms in the title
Live Free or Die (Troy Rising #1) by John Ringo (07/2015)

A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit (Venice!)

A book that came out the year you were born

A book with bad reviews

A trilogy
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn: Well of Ascension
Mistborn: Hero of Ages

A book from your childhood

A book with a love triangle
Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins (07/2015)

A book set in the future

A book set in high school

A book with a color in the title

A book that made you cry
Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins (07/2015)

A book with magic

A graphic novel

A book by an author you've never read before

A book you own but have never read

A book that takes place in your hometown

A book that was originally written in a different language 

A book set during Christmas
An Undead Christmas

A book written by an author with your same initials

A play

A banned book
Pillars of the Earth by

A book based on or turned into a TV show

A book you started but never finished
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Rich Mullins

Unassigned Books

(to be added once I tally them)

*I never, ever shirked a reading assignment in high school or college; in fact, I always went above and beyond. For this entry, I choose to read a book that is recommended now but which I've never read.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A More Indian Masala Chai

Photo by nehasingh7 on Flickr.com
I've written before about my love of masala chai. I've been completely addicted for nearly fifteen years! For most of that time, I've been using basically the same recipe, the one I adapted from The New Guide to Spices.

But in November 2011, I had the privilege of visiting India with a nonprofit group. I had chai twice a day—more if someone in one of the villages made us some! And let me tell you, it puts the bagged stuff to shame; even my homemade masala chai was kind of sad by comparison!

I spent my first two days home trying to return to Eastern Daylight Time, but after that I began a quest. I was going to make masala chai that wouldn't put me to shame if served to my Indian friends! I read recipe after recipe, watched a few videos, and finally concluded that I was doing it all wrong.

See, in India, they don't brew tea with spices and then add some milk at the end. No, Indian masala chai should be made with a mixture of milk and water, with the tea added for the last few minutes. Traditionally, the ground spice blend and sweetener are added to the liquid and heated until the milk begins to steam. THEN you add the tea, turn the heat to low, and allow it to steep.

In the end, I'm quite happy with my recipe. It's not perfect, and I certainly can't call it "authentic," but the taste really says "India." Plus, it sure makes my husband happy!


Tea Masala Spice Blend
All measurements by volume
  • 3 parts ground cinnamon
  • 2 parts ground cardamom
  • 2 parts ground ginger
  • 1 part grated nutmeg
  • 1 part ground allspice
  • 1 part ground cloves

Light and heat cause spices to degrade in flavor and quality! Store tightly sealed in a dark, cool place.


Masala Chai
Serves 2
  • 1.5 cups milk*
  • 1.5 cups water
  • .75 tsp tea masala blend
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp loose black tea*

Combine milk, water, and spices in a saucepan.
Heat on medium high until small bubbles form around the edges.
Turn the heat to low.
Add sugar and tea; stir well.
Cover and allow to steep for six minutes.
Strain and serve.


*A few notes on ingredients . . .
I use whole milk. Until my husband tried non-homogenized whole milk, he never liked milk. Now he does! Plus, I think the chai tastes much closer to what I had in India—creamier and richer.

As for the tea, masala chai needs something flavorful. My favorite is Taj Mahal from Brooke Bond, which was recommended to me by my interpreter and the grocery store owner in Kakinada, India. My Indian friends from church prefer Lipton Yellow Label. I have some at home right now (the international supermarket and both Indian grocery stores near me were out!), and it's good, too. But even grocery store loose black tea (or a good bagged tea) is better than pre-bagged chai, or (heaven forbid!) chai from packaged concentrate.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

An Unexpected Fan of Harry Potter

As has been established, I'm a geek. I love scifi, fantasy, science, gaming, reading, gadgets, and even (gasp!) math. (I used to do geometry proofs for fun, but that's not really the point . . . )

One of my fandoms is the Harry Potter universe, written by J.K. Rowlings. Now, I was a latecomer to this one. I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone years and years ago, but wasn't impressed. So I never read any further.

Then I met Roswenthe (as she's sometimes known online), and we quickly became close friends. Except she's a huge HP fan, and so are almost all our mutual friends, especially those on our forum, TechnoChicks! So after being left out of about a zillion conversations (online and offline) in anticipation of book seven, I gave in and decided to give Harry Potter another chance.

 I checked out book one and read it again; still just okay. Then I read book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and decided it was actually pretty good. So I read book three. Then book four. Book five. Book six . . . at least I didn't have to wait for Deathly Hallows! (I devoured it at light speed, though I hated to finish it.)

As you can no doubt guess, I had become invested in the story. I cared about the Rowling's characters; they are well-written, demonstrating real depth and complexity. The plot is well-developed, providing surprises while still meeting the need for a story you can follow.  I was infuriated by the injustices. I wanted good to triumph over evil.

And in the end, that's what got me. I am a sucker for the epic battle of good versus evil, righting injustices, making the world a better place. And on that score, J.K. Rowling delivers.