Review: The Way of Kings

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I chose to read the longest book I had set aside for this year in the shortest month.  By doing so it was my hope that to prove to myself that I can read anything in a month.  So I chose to start The Way of Kings on February 1st, and I blew my goal out of the water.  Despite it being 1252 pages long and spending many weekdays not reading, I still finished in 18 days.  Now I can be very confident in my ability to read a book a month for the rest of the year.

The Way of Kings is one of the most in depth fantasy books I’ve ever read.  It’s fantastic!  The flora and fauna are unique and different from the world we know.  The magic operates on the residual energy of storms… and the story lines follow people as they rise to power or are brought low by slavery and defeat.  Brandon Sanderson clearly hit gold with this novel.

I have only two complaints with the book.  First, the info dumps in the book are useful for explaining a great many things that don’t exist in our world.  And while that’s good, they are too frequent.  In general, I find that I’m the only one that is bothered by this.  But to me, what it feels like is this book is written as a history of another world and things are said in that history that only make sense in this world.

It makes sense when you’re telling a story to describe and unfamiliar place or custom to the person you’re telling the story to, in order to give it context.  But when you’re telling a story to a world that already knows that custom you won’t explain that the world has that custom.  In fantasy all too often they explain customs knowing that the reader has not context for it, and it’s noble that they’d want us to grasp that as we wrestle with their story, but the mode in which they explain it is often, unintentionally, condescending.  Where they actually writing the history for their world they wouldn’t explain some of the things they do.  They’d let us pick it up in context and connect the dots for ourselves throughout the story.  Brandon Sanderson is more guilty of this than other fantasy authors I’ve read.  He explains one creature in his book saying: “it’s like a dog” but there’s no evidence that there are any dogs in the world at all.  So for it me, it came off like cheap writing and sometimes condescending.

Second, The Way of Kings is book one of a trilogy and it leaves off with cliff hanger.  I hate cliff hangers.

Despite those two complaints, I still give this book full marks.  It’s masterfully written.  Yes, there are parts that could be improved upon, but overall the story is intricately woven and full of twists and turns that make it one of the best stories I’ve ever read.

Next Up: The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Building a Backpack Part III

My buckles finally came in and so I was able to go out and get the strapping material I needed to make the compression straps.  I took some time this last weekend to sew the straps in and sew up the bottom of the bag.  I used an X Box pattern to secure the straps (not pictured), but hid that under the bottom layer of fabric in an attempt to keep the outside of the bag looking more pristine.

The next steps for this project are to create 4 more external pockets (two on the front, 1 on each side), secure the bottom portion of the backpack straps to the sides, sew up the sides, turn the back right side out, make backpack straps and secure them, and finish making the compression straps.  I’m planning on making the backpack cover a double layer of canvas to give it some weight and durability.  So I’ll need to cut and sew that in, but that can be one of the final things I do.

Recipe: Arroz con Pollo

Steph and I are terrible at keeping an organized recipe catalog in our home.   Oh, we have plenty of cook books and fantastic recipes, but when we find one we like, we often forget to keep a record of it in a safe place.  So in an effort to keep a record of the best recipe’s we’ve discovered, I’m going to write them into my blog.  That means you get to benefit!

One of the best dishes I’ve surprised Steph with is Arroz con Pollo.  And while the original recipe I found is good, it has some short comings, like not making enough seasoning for the chicken and a tendency for the rice to come out undercooked if you don’t do things perfectly.   I’ve modified the recipe a bit and you can find it below.  For purists, a link to the original recipe can be found at the end.

Arroz con Pollo is a dish of Spanish heritage.  As such you’ll find it full of delicious flavoring!  I was amazed when I made this the first time, the flavor was so amazing and the effort it took was pretty minimal (by most people’s standards).  It’s hard to beat an easy recipe with delicious flavoring and good portion sizes!  I hope you’ll give this recipe a try and report back on the success of any modifications you try.

Now, I’m about to share one of our favorite recipes with you, but before I do, let me give you a challenge.  See this picture:

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These are all the spices in our kitchen that we don’t seem to use.  I’d like to go through these this year, but I need help!  What can we possibly make with these ingredients that will be delectable to our palates?  The spices in this picture are:

Herbs de Providence, Saffron, Mild Curry Powder, Cardamom, Cayenne (this one is a mistake, we go through it just fine), Whole Nutmeg, Turmeric, Coriander, Curry (yes two bottles of curry, you can see we’ve made curry twice in our marriage…) Harrissa, Garden Salad, Ground Nutmeg, Ground Ginger, and Ground Coriander.

Do these ingredients spark your imagination or reverberate your memories?  Shoot us a recipe in the comments below!

Arroz con Pollo

Details

Time – 90 minutes

Skill – None

Servings – about 4

Cost – $10 or less (unless you don’t have any spices, in which case I pity your kitchen.)

Ingredients

Chicken Rub

4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon dried cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

 

8 serving sized pieces of chicken – skinless

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion diced

2 bell peppers diced (choose your favorite colors!)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (skip this if using bouillon cubs for the stock)

1 1/2 cups rice

2 cloves garlic finely diced

1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup tomato sauce

 

Directions

I’m a big fan of Mise en Place.  I can’t make a meal without getting all the steps done ahead of time.  If you’re like me it helps to break down those steps first and organize them on the counter.  Steph makes fun of me for how bad my Mise en Place needs are.  So many of you more skilled cooks might ignore the ordering of this, but I find it helps me a great deal to know that everything is ready long before I need it to be.

Mix chicken rub ingredients and spread on plate.

Dice all fruits and vegetables and set aside.

Place rice and garlic in a container to the side.

Begin dissolving your bouillon cubes in water or if using a real stock, measure out the appropriate amount and add in the teaspoon of salt.  If using bouillon cubes for the stock, don’t add additional salt.  Combine the water, stock, and tomato sauce in a medium bowl.

Pat the chicken dry and then thoroughly coat with rub.  Heat the oil in a 12-inch high-sided skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking.  The skillet size is important as all the ingredients will be placed in the skillet covered.  Add the chicken to the pan and brown on all sides ~ 3 – 6 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate, using tongs.  Reduce heat to medium high and add the fruits, vegetables, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet.  Cook while stirring, until soft ~ 7 minutes.  Add the rice and garlic cooking until rice begins to turn gold in color ~ 60 seconds.  Add the water/stock mixture to the skillet and stir to make sure the rice is covered in liquid.  Nestle the chicken in the rice, adding any juices from the plate.  Bring the rice to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until the chicken is cooked through, the rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed ~ 35 minutes.  It’s important to not remove the cover during this portion or the rice won’t cook through.  Let the skillet stand covered for 10 minutes before serving.

Find the original recipe here.

Review: Who Moved the Stone?

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The last few weeks have been crazy busy.  I haven’t had much time to blog, but I impressed myself with finishing another book at the end of January.  That means I read 4 books in as many weeks.  This latest one was called Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morison.

Frank Morison was a journalist during the late 1800s.  He was a naturalist who wanted to disprove the resurrection.  So he some time looking into the historical record using his journalist training to discern what really happened.  He writes about his take on the week leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion and ends a week after.

Morison dissects the psychological ramifications of the events, the way stories tend to be told and develop, and the historical facts of how the religions and governmental bodies of the day worked and where this story deviated from they way they were supposed to operate.

Morison moves through these points with remarkable depth and clarity.  Some of the things he points to I had never thought of despite these events being a matter I’ve pondered for ages.  I’m not sure my words can possible due Morison justice.  He went into such remarkable depth in his study that I’m not sure it could be said that anyone else’s study compares.

If you have ever pondered these events and wonder what actually happened during the week before and after Jesus’s death, you owe it to yourself to read this book.  It’s $11 retail or free at your local library.  And with its brevity you can easily read it in a week.

Now Reading: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson