Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This Dusty Bookshelf: Wake by Anna Hope


This is a first for me guys. Today, I'm participating in a blog tour! Essentially, that just means that there are 5 of us bloggers talking about one book this week. And this book? It's a good one to be talking about. Check out what they have to say about this book too!

Wake
by Anna Hope

Evelyn. Sister. Fiancee.

Ava. Mother. Wife.

Hettie. Sister. Lover.

Wake is the story of these three women as they adjust to a new reality in the days leading up to Armistice Day. In one way or another, these women are struggling to come to terms with the brokenness of the men in their lives and the effect it has had on their relationships.

Hope frames this story with a definition:

Wake: 1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep 2) Ritual for the dead 3) Consequence or aftermath.

Each one applies. Each definition adds another layer to the story. Each deepens the reader's understanding of the affect of World War I on Britain, of the men who fought, and of the women to whom they returned home. 

I loved this novel. Hope uses simple language, but strings the words together beautifully to create very thoughtful imagery and a lively view of post-war Britain. Interspersed with the story of her three main characters, Hope tells the story of the Unknown Warrior, beautifully and delicately honouring the memorial that meant so much to a country still reeling in the wake of war.

But the thing I loved the most was the way she used the relationship between men and women to tell the story. Sure, there's plot, but the story doesn't work without these relationships. Within each of these relationships - mother, sister, lover - Hope weaves her chosen theme: reawakening to love, honouring those relationships lost, and learning to live with the consequences of those relationships, broken as they may be. 

I feel like I haven't read many novels set during or around World War I. World War II seems to grab the imagination far more readily than the war that caused it to begin with. But this one gave me an appreciation for that time period, for the sacrifices made by whole countries, for the devastation war left behind.

Definitely pick this one up. 

Disclosure: Randomhouse of Canada sent me a copy of this book for review purposes. These thoughts are all my own.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Attic of Awesome: Nearly There

This is a picture of Kingsley licking himself in a way that should never be caught on camera.


More importantly, this is a picture of our very nearly finished attic!

My parents came to visit, and, while my mom (and aunt) and I headed out into the cold to tour Toronto and its many yarn stores, my dad and the Husband stayed home and laid flooring. I love it.

We chose to go with a different wood than the bamboo floors we installed on the main floor. When we bought our bamboo flooring almost two years ago, we got an incredible deal on it, an incredible deal that no longer existed. Not having the same flooring on the second floor was absolutely OK with me. As much as I love the dark floors downstairs, I have always found them to be just a little too dark. They're impossible to keep clean, showing every single paw print and dog hair in stark contrast. Most of the time, we give up on our floors and live with the imperfection, but every so often, those dark floors get under my skin.

So, upstairs, we went with a dark floor again, but this one has a lot more variation, a strong warm grain that I hope will hide things a little better, or, at the very least, stay looking clean for more than five minutes after a washing.


We've been living up here for a few weeks now. It's taken a little adjustment, to be honest. The bathroom seems so far away, no longer across the hall from our room. This room is also at the front of the house, so it never gets as dark as our back bedroom, what with streetlights shining through the windows. I'm on the hunt for perfectly dark black-out curtains. I grew up in the country, after all, where light pollution doesn't much exist.

But, none-the-less, it's cozy. It's the warmest room in the house, and the radiators aren't even hooked up yet. There's plenty of space, and the dogs have each figured out their own sleeping spots around us.


What do we have left to do up here? The list keeps getting shorter and shorter.

  • Install radiators. With off switches. According to code, we need them. According to the sweat I wake up in at 1:30am, we most certainly do not.
  • Paint. I'm completely stuck on colours and even how to paint. Knee walls and sloping ceilings the same colour or different? Accent walls? Stripes or wallpaper?
  • Install trim. Including closet doors. Not sure yet what we're doing with this. Byfold doors cut in half, perhaps?
  • Finish stairs. We're hiring this one out. We've built solid rough stairs, and will be hiring a local company to 'refinish' them with proper wood nosings, risers, and bannisters.
  • Build and drywall closet under the stairs.
Seems manageable to finish in the next few months, right?

Monday, February 3, 2014

This Dusty Kitchen: Best Lasagna Ever

Claiming that this is the best lasagna ever is dangerous, I know. I'm sure everyone has their own best-lasagna-ever recipe. This one just happens to be mine.



This is how I found it:

Late in 2013, we got our attic spray foamed. You may remember - we spent two nights in a dog-friendly hotel in order to keep the dogs and the newly forming pack of cells growing inside me safe from the potentially harmful fumes. For 24 hours, I had access to cable television, something we've never bothered with in our house, opting for the commercial-free bliss of Netflix instead.

I binged on the Food Network. Oh, did I binge. It was delightful.

The show was Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry. I was fascinated by the presence of sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and zucchini. Lots of veggies, without compromising the flavour, perhaps?

(Despite what the Food Network claims, even though this may be a lighter lasagna than most, it's still lasagna, in it's cheesy, pasta-y goodness. By no means would I call this 'diet' food, or even, necessarily 'healthy' food. Though, it's not really bad for you either, unless you eat the whole casserole dish.)

I've made it twice now, not quite following the recipe to the T either time, but both times, it's come out delightful, nearly perfect. This is how a recipe becomes the best ever: little tweaks to fit to personal preference, elevating a recipe to the household hall of fame. I don't think I'll ever use another recipe for lasagna again.



This Dusty Kitchen's Favourite Lasagna Recipe
adapted from Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry

In a bowl, pour boiling water over

5 sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)

and leave to soak.

Cook up

9 lasagna noodles, preferably whole wheat.

In a large sauce pan or pot, heat

2 teaspoons olive oil.

Add, and cook until translucent,

1 ½ cups chopped red onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Add and cook until no longer pink

2 pounds extra-lean beef

Add and cook briefly,

1 cup packed grated unpeeled zucchini

then add

2 cans of your favourite marinara sauce. 
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Chop the soaked sun-dried tomatoes and add them to the sauce.

In a bowl, mix together

2 cups light ricotta cheese
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1 package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and chopped, or one bag of fresh spinach, wilted slightly on the stove
1 egg

And, don't forget to shred

As much marble cheese, or another cheese of your choice, as needed. How much will depend on how cheesy you want it.

Now, comes the layering! This is a good time to preheat your oven to 375*.

Start with a small amount of meat sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish to prevent sticking. Lay three cooked lasagna noodles over the sauce. Over the noodles, spoon approximately 1/3 of the meat sauce, then sprinkle with as much cheese as you like. Lay three more lasagna noodles down. Spoon approximately 1/3 of the meat sauce on the noodles. Spoon all the ricotta mix over the meat sauce. Lay down three more lasagna noodles. Spoon the remaining meat sauce over the noodles, then cover with as much sprinkled cheese as desired.

So, just to reiterate, you're going to layer like this:

  • Meat sauce
  • Noodles
  • Meat sauce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Noodles
  • Meat sauce
  • Ricotta mix
  • Noodles
  • Meat sauce
  • Shredded cheese

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the casserole, and bake for a final 10 minutes. Let the lasagna sit on your stove, torturing you with its hunger-inducing smell for 10 minutes before serving up.