Sacred Music Friday: Holy God we Praise Your Name

First Plymouth Church, Lincoln Nebraska

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology coverNorse Mythology
Neil Gaiman
W. W. Norton & Company (February 7, 2017), 304 pages
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $12.59

I only recently became familiar with Neil Gaiman, but he has been around for quite some time and is a prolific author. He has written science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, as well as the text for comic books and graphic novels.

This book is right in his wheelhouse. He does a marvelous job of retelling the Norse myths. He stays very close to the original stories as best as I can tell, but he also throws in some contemporary wit and idioms which is a bit jarring, but really quite fun. Gaiman has a marvelous, flowing writing style which makes the myths in this edition a delight to read.

If you enjoy mythology you will appreciate this book.

easy fried shrimp

Terry and I saw this recipe for easy fried shrimp and tartar sauce on our favorite Food Network program, The Kitchen. Terry was very keen to make it, so she did on a recent Saturday. At least she made the shrimp part. Terry doesn’t like the tartar sauce and the idea of making one’s own tartar sauce seemed kind of pointless to me. Store bought tartar sauce is tried & true, and you know exactly what to expect.

easy fried shrimpThe batter calls for white rice flour and beer. This was really tasty and light. We both loved it. It could have used a little more kick, however and next time Terry will add Cajun seasoning.

If you cook this on the stove top make sure to turn on the exhaust fan. If you cook it in a free-standing fryer be sure to put it near the stove and turn on the exhaust fan, as we didn’t. The smell will linger, as we discovered.

Terry served the shrimp with a Mexican rice mix. It was an ideal Saturday night dinner.

random thoughts

Good, bad, and grateful. Some random thoughts.

  • KTLA logoThe sale of Tribune Media to Sinclair Broadcasting has been called off. Tribune pulled out of the deal. This is a Good Thing. Sinclair is an evil, right-wing company that makes local station news anchors read their far-right commentaries on the air. Our own local Channel 5, KTLA, is part of Tribune. They do a great job with local news and Terry and I watch the KTLA Morning News every weekday morning. I was dreading the thought of KTLA becoming part of Sinclair. That won’t happen. Very good news. (And, by the way, the Los Angeles Times is doing a quality job under its new local ownership.)
  • Two very large fires in the region were both deliberately set by wackos. How sad and depressing is that.
  • We lost one of our strongest members at Menifee Toastmasters. Christina was a relatively new member, but she brought some great leadership skills to the group. When we needed a Sargent-at-Arms she stepped up. When we needed a treasurer she stepped up again. She is moving to Orange County. We will miss her.
  • I turn 65 today. I was going to write about that, but I don’t have a lot to say. I am grateful to now be eligible for Medicare and see a big reduction in my insurance premiums. Especially since I am dealing with a serious but manageable medical issue. I’m not ready to write about that now. Perhaps at some point.

In the words of the great Linda Ellerbee, “And so it goes.”

slow cooker chicken and garbanzo bean tagine

I was looking for an easy slow cooker recipe for a hot weeknight and I found this recipe for chicken and chickpea tagine.

chicken and chickpea tagineI ignored all of the instructions about browning in the skillet first. I simply threw everything into the crock pot, using all the spices specified in the recipe: freshly ground black pepper, minced onion,  fresh garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, ginger, and crushed red pepper. The recipe called for chicken broth, but I thought there would be enough liquid with the canned garbanzo beans, and that turned out to be the case. I used boneless leg meat rather than bone-in chicken thighs. I cooked the mixture for seven hours, half of that time on high.

The result was quite delicious, with a distinctly Middle Eastern taste.

Sacred Music Friday: This Marriage

It’s been a while since I’ve shared something by VOCES8. Enjoy!

Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine

Searching for Stars coverSearching for Stars on an Island in Maine
Alan Lightman
Pantheon (March 27, 2018), 240 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon hardcover $16.04

I nearly purchased this book a while back, but let myself be put off by an Amazon customer review. Bad decision. After reading the review in the New York Times Book Review I knew I needed to read it. I was not disappointed.

Alan Lightman is a theoretical physicist who has written a number of popular books. He is very effective at writing intelligently for a wide audience.

Lightman covers a lot of territory in this book. His main theme is appreciating the order and wonder in the universe while maintaining his perspective as a scientist. He writes about hummingbirds, ants, and the Big Bang. He has studied Buddhism and read St. Augustine, yet he is an atheist who does not believe in an afterlife. He does, however, place a great deal of value in the beauty and wonder of the world as we know it. His description of spending several minutes watching ants and other insects on one square inch of land is marvelous.

Lightman’s current position is professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT. I do believe that is an ideal role for him.

apricot glazed grilled chicken

apricot-glazed grilled chickenThis recipe for apricot-glazed grilled chicken is incredibly simple and very, very tasty.

The recipe calls for a glaze of apricot preserves, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and garlic. It says to coat the chicken with salt and pepper. I believe I forgot the garlic and I added the pepper to the glaze. No salt.

The recipe specified bone-in thighs and drumsticks. I used tenders because I had them on hand.

It turned out really, really well.

The Written World

The Written Word coverThe Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization
Martin Puchner
Random House (October 24, 2017), 458 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon hardcover $17.90

Martin Puchner is a professor at Harvard and the editor of the Norton Anthology of World Literature. He knows a thing or two about the written word, or as he calls it, world.

In this book he writes both about the influence that the written word has had over the millennia and about the specific places where those influences arose. When he writes about The Iliad the describes his visit to Troy. When he writes about the revolutionary impact that Gutenberg had with the development of movable type he describes his visit to Mainz, Germany where Gutenberg did his work. When he discusses the work of Derek Walcott he actually visits the elderly author, since deceased, on the West Indies island of Saint Lucia. I’m not sure how Puchner obtained his travel budget, but he got around.

Snark aside, however, this is an engaging book. One of the great things about it is that he does not limit himself to the Western literary canon, though that gets plenty of attention. Puchner writes about the Tale of Genji in Japan, the independent literary tradition of the native peoples in Central America, and the oral tradition in West Africa.

This is interesting material and engaging reading.

slow cooker sweet-and-sour chicken

I really liked the looks of this recipe when I saw it in the August 2018 Cooking Light, so I tried it as soon as I had the opportunity,

sweet-and-sour chickenIt includes bell pepper, carrot, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and sambal olek, which the recipe says is ground fresh chili paste. I used sriracha, which I think was close enough. At the end you mix pineapple juice and cornstarch and add that.

It tasted quite good. The dish had a sauce rather than a glaze (this is a slow cooker recipe, after all), but it was very close to what you would expect with sweet-and-sour chicken. The recipe said to sprinkle it with sesame seeds. I totally forgot that, but will make a point of doing so next time.