Thursday, November 19, 2020

Supernatural 15x20 "Carry On" - The Series Finale

Supernatural 15x20 "Carry On" - The Series Finale

That's a wrap on Supernatural, a show I watched from the pilot episode when it very first aired, and hung on to all the way through the end. It was a bumpy road at times, and the last years tend to blend together compared to the earlier seasons. I stopped recapping every episode in the middle of season fourteen, and you could say why would you stop so close to the end? It wasn't the same for me anymore, to be honest. And I was tired of being kind of negative toward something that I really did love. 

But I did continue to watch, and as last week's penultimate episode ended, I wondered just what could be in store for this series finale. Last week felt like a finale already! They defeated GAHHG (Great Almighty He Him God for those who haven't been to this blog in awhile (or ever), that's what I nicknamed God because I much preferred Chuck when he was just Chuck), they could live their lives! Isn't that what it was all about? But while certainly that may have been a satisfying finale in a way, this one was much more, because it really hit you with that emotional gut punch.

The Winchesters die. For real this time, no take backsies. And they get to die in just the ways they always wanted - Dean in a blaze of glory, fighting some vampires, hunting with his brother, doing what he always thought he was best at (though we know he was good at more than just hunting - okay I meant that earnestly but it sounds naughty and, well hey, Dean would appreciate that too), and Sam having a family, growing old. It's not clear if Sam continued hunting, though with his son's devil's trap tattoo peaking out on his arm there at the end, there was at least some hunting business going on throughout his life.

Probably the two toughest episodes to write in a TV series are the pilot and the series finale. A lot rides on those two episodes, and to me, still sitting here with tears in my eyes as I write this, I think they accomplished a satisfying, emotional, and somewhat unexpected end to this long-running series. And for that, I say thank you and, like the episode title says, Carry On.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Book Review: The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

Book Review: The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta
The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

Published: April 2, 2019

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 288

Synopsis: "You look the type to break your father’s heart.''
"Yeah, but he broke mine first."

When Rosie Gennaro first meets Jimmy Hailler, she has walked away from life in Sydney, leaving behind the place on Dalhousie that her father, Seb, painstakingly rebuilt for his family but never saw completed. Two years later, Rosie returns to the house and living there is Martha, whom Seb Gennaro married less than a year after the death of Rosie’s mother. Martha is struggling to fulfill Seb’s dream, while Rosie is coming to terms with new responsibilities. And so begins a stand-off between two women who refuse to move out of the home they both lay claim to.

As the battle lines are drawn, Jimmy Hailler re-enters Rosie’s life. Having always watched other families from the perimeters, he’s now grappling, heartbreakingly, with forming one of his own . . .

An unforgettable story about losing love and finding love; about the interconnectedness of lives and the true nature of belonging.

Thoughts: I'm a big fan of Melina Marchetta's books, at least all of the ones I have read so far, which is about seven now. What's great about her is that she doesn't let herself be pigeonholed into one genre. Yes, she has a fantasy series, and yes she's written a thriller mystery. Here, she's getting back to what she started out with, which is more of a focus on a family, or how a group of people end up becoming a family. And am I fan of this one as well? Yep. 

The Place on Dalhousie focuses on three different main characters - Rosie, Martha, and Jimmy. Though it's told in third person, each chapter is specifically from one point of view. While often in these books, I tend to be looking forward to certain characters' chapters over others, that rarely happened here. Each of our three leads has a story to tell, and somewhere to grow. Though I wouldn't say they necessarily have clear-cut goals of "I must do this," they do have wants and needs that are explored throughout, and that was enough to keep the story moving toward a satisfying conclusion.

The book is a quick read, and if you're not feeling emotional by the end when certain revelations come about, then I don't know what to say.  But wait.... 

I've just now read that it's a sequel of sorts to two of Marchetta's other books, Saving Francesca, and The Piper's Son. I absolutely loved The Piper's Son, and Saving Francesca has been on my list for a while now, so apparently I'm going to have to read that post haste. If I had known, I probably would have liked it even more with the glimpses into these other character's lives I'd already met throughout. And I would have been able to get ahold of the other characters much quicker as well having already been familiar with them. What a dummy. You're supposed to read them in the order of Francesca, then Piper's, then this one. Well. I guess that goes to show that you definitely don't have to have read any of the previous books to enjoy each one of these!

Rating: 4/5

Buy on Amazon 

What I'm Reading Next: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

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Thursday, October 29, 2020

Butterscotch Cream Pie

Recipe for Butterscotch Cream Pie by freshfromthe.com
Fall is a time to go rustic, don't you think? And what better way to go rustic than with a pie! To be honest, I'd never really heard of Butterscotch Cream Pie before I stumbled upon this recipe recently, but once I did I thought it sounded delicious. Why are we not making more cream pies these days? To be fair, when you think fall, you don't really think cream pie, but when you think summer, you don't necessarily think butterscotch either, so this might be just the ticket to cross that divide.
Recipe for Butterscotch Cream Pie by freshfromthe.com
Making any pie for me can be pretty annoying, though. I'm just not one with the pie crust, you guys. If it's your simple ground up crackers crust, great, but when it's this type of situation where I have to chill and roll and chill and blind bake and all that jazz, it always feels rather daunting. I need a better rolling pin, that's number one, and maybe it wouldn't be so bad. And, if I'm being honest, this crust did break on me when it blind baked. Does that matter in the end? Not really. Because you make the filling separately and it's already semi-set when you put it into the pie, it doesn't seep through, so it was really no big deal. And, it must be admitted that a traditional pie crust holds up a lot longer than a graham cracker one, which loses its crunch and crispness very quickly.
Recipe for Butterscotch Cream Pie by freshfromthe.comDoes this pie scream butterscotch at you? No. It's a delicate flavor, and if I didn't tell you it was butterscotch ahead of time, you'd probably just think it was some kind of sugary cream pie. And you wouldn't be wrong. Essentially what you're making here is a pastry cream filling with a whipped cream topping. Ain't nothing wrong with that, friends. 

Write recipe photo description here

A rustic and delicately delicious cream pie.

Ingredients:
    Graham Cracker Coated Pie Shell
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 3.5 full crackers ground up)
  • Butterscotch Cream Filling
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Whipped Cream Topping
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions:
  1. For the Crust: Mix flour, salt, and sugar in food processor fitted with the steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little of the flour. Cut butter into flour with five one-second pulses. Add shortening; continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter bits no larger than a small pea, about four more one-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the water over mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold water into flour mixture, then repeatedly press down on dough mixture with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together, adding up to 1 tablespoon more water if dough will not come together. Shape dough into ball with hands, then flatten into 4-inch wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes before rolling.
  3. Generously sprinkle 18-inch work area with 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs. Remove dough from wrapping and place in center of work area. Scatter a few more crumbs over disk top. Roll dough from center to edges to make 9-inch disk, rotating a quarter turn after each stroke and sprinkling additional crumbs underneath and on top, as necessary, to heavily coat dough. Flip dough and continue to roll, without rotating, into 13-inch disk just under 1/8-inch thick.
  4. Fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of 9-inch Pyrex pie pan. Unfold dough to cover pan completely, with excess dough draped over pan lip. Trim and flute crust.
  5. Refrigerate dough until firm, about 30 minutes. Prick shell at 1/2-inch intervals to keep dough from ballooning during baking (illustration 5). Press a doubled 12-inch square of aluminum foil inside pie shell. Prick foil to prevent further ballooning. Refrigerate to let dough relax, at least 30 minutes longer. Note: I used parchment paper with pie weights instead of pricked aluminum foil.
  6. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake, checking occasionally for ballooning, until crust is firmly set, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, remove foil, and continue to bake until crust is crisp and golden brown in color, about 10 to 15 minutes longer. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
  7. For the Filling: Dissolve cornstarch and salt in evaporated milk; whisk in egg yolks and set aside.
  8. Meanwhile, heat butter and brown sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat until candy thermometer registers 220 degrees, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in whole milk. Once sugar dissolves, gradually whisk in cornstarch mixture. Continue cooking until mixture comes to boil; cook 1 minute longer. Turn off heat, then stir in vanilla. Pour filling into shallow pan (another pie pan works well). Put plastic wrap directly over filling surface to prevent skin from forming; cool until warm, 20 to 30 minutes. Pour filling into pie shell and, once again, place sheet of plastic wrap over filling surface. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 3 hours.
  9. Whip cream to soft peaks. Add confectioner's sugar and vanilla; continue to whip to barely stiff peaks. Spread over filling and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe from Cook's Country

Recipe for Butterscotch Cream Pie by freshfromthe.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Book Review: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Book Review: Auxiliary: London 2039 by Jon Richter
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Published: August 4, 2015

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction

Pages: 468

Synopsis: This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze -- the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years -- collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Thoughts: The Fifth Season takes place on a kind of alternate Earth where there is one large continent called The Stillness, on which after an unspecified amount of time, something called a "Fifth Season" happens. Essentially the Fifth Season is some catastrophic event that basically causes huge climate change around the world, often in the form of a huge volcano erupting, or big earthquakes, that sort of thing. What makes this fantasy and not strictly science fiction, however, is that there are certain people within the world called orogenes that are able to control Earthly elements, quelling or creating earthquakes... okay look, there's a lot more going on than that, but that gives you a general idea that's a little more descriptive than the synopsis.

So! There's a reason that this book won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2016. You might wonder when you first start reading it if the hype is worth it, but keep going. As with many books where you are being introduced to a new world, it takes a little bit of time to really get into it. The structure of the book itself is interesting, I honestly don't really want to say much more than that to give anything away, but it had me wondering about certain things (yes, I am being vague on purpose), which kept me going past any parts that were a little slow in the beginning. 

What I often like about fantasy and science fiction, and what is also present here, is that the stories, while having fantastical elements that obviously do not happen in our world, they are often surrounded by social and societal issues that are very relevant to our own experience, thus making the story connect more. Climate change, other-ness, family, all surrounded by an underlying mystery and people with interesting powers. If you like fantasy and science fiction at all, I would definitely recommend you check this out. I'm certainly going to be reading the rest of the series, and luckily it's all already published, so there doesn't have to be any waiting around unless it's my choice to do so.

Rating: 4.5/5

Buy on Amazon 

What I'm Reading Next: The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars by freshfromthe.com
October is here! It's time to bust out your orange Kitchenaid mixer (for real though, does anyone own an orange Kitchenaid mixer?!), get yourself some canned pumpkin, whip up some pumpkin pie spice (or buy it), and get to town on your favorite pumpkin recipes. I have made quite a few different pumpkin recipes over the years, with some of my favorite go-tos of the season including the classic Pumpkin Pie Cake, to the Pumpkin Coffee Cake, to some Soft Pumpkin Cookies, but I think this new one is a great addition to the repeat repertoire.

Today, we have Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars. To be honest, they taste very similar to your typical pumpkin pie, with just a slightly extra tang from the cream cheese that also gives it a very luscious creamy texture that is in many ways better than a typical pumpkin pie. 
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars by freshfromthe.com
And, if you know me, you know I love something that doesn't require me to make a pie dough. I don't know what it is about your traditional pie dough, but anytime I think about making one, I am like "ugh." This may be to do with the fact that I don't own a very good rolling pin, so it always feels like a major hassle to roll out a pie dough to the proper thickness. So, these? Require no rolling. It has a nice, simple graham cracker crust that you liven up with some ground ginger that will smell way more potent before baking than it actually turns out. 
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars by freshfromthe.com
As a heads up, this recipe does require some things to be softened or at room temperature. What I recommend is to take out your cream cheese and your eggs right when you're going to start up everything. As there are some substantial cooling times, your cream cheese and eggs will be ready once your pumpkin mixture and your crust have cooled. 

But what are you waiting for? If you like pumpkin pie, and you like cheesecake, this recipe is right up your alley!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

A little something different than your typical pumpkin pie in easy-to-make bar form.

Ingredients:
  • 1 (15 ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • and so on...
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) and 1 1/3 cups (9 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
Instructions:
  1. Combine pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, until it is reduced to approximately 1 1/2 cups. Cool for 1 hour.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 325F. Either grease your pan, or make a foil sling, place it in your pan, and grease that. I never do the foil sling as I'm not taking these out to serve individually.
  3. Process graham crackers, 1/4 cup sugar, and ginger in food processor to fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Add butter and pulse until combined, about 5 pulses. Dump mixture into your prepared pan and press down into an even layer. Bake for 15-18 minutes until just starting to brown. Let crust cool completely on wire rack.
  4. Beat your cream cheese and remaining sugar on medium-low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, vanilla, and pumpkin mixture and beat until combined. Increase speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Pour over the cooled crust and spread into an even layer. Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is set, 45-50 minutes. Let cheese cake cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap (or the lid if you have one for your pan), and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours. If using the foil overhang, life cheesecake out of the pan and slice into 24 pieces.
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars by freshfromthe.com

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