Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canada Day cake

When we were first dating, I decided to do a party for my husband for Canada Day.  Having only been up here once at that point, I really had no idea what was considered "traditional" Canadian food.  I made poutine, tourtiere, and a few other things.  Needless to say, since I hadn't actually had any of those foods, they didn't turn out too well.

I decided to make a cake for my husband and father in law for Canada Day.  With some of the free time I have had I have been practicing my cake decorating.  Last year, before moving to Canada, I took two of the Wilton classes and really enjoyed them.  I didn't have time to take the last two classes, but I did buy the books for them.  This cake is my second cake done with fondant.  I have tried fondant before a few times but it hadn't worked out for one reason or another.  I thought this time it looked pretty good.  This is marshmallow fondant which tastes a lot better than the packaged stuff.  It's just really sweet, so you wouldn't want to eat a lot of it. 

Cake Journal has a recipe for marshmallow fondant and really good step by step directions with pictures.

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all the Canadians out there.  I thought it would be fun to participate in the Canada Day blog party.  I hope to have fun and meet new people!
My name is Amanda and I currently live in Montreal with my husband Nic who is originally from here.  I am from Florida and met my husband in high school.  We both went to Florida State University and after graduation, he decided he wanted to move back up here.  I figured I owed him one since he moved to Florida to be with me.  We have lived here for almost a year and I love it so far.  It has taken a bit of time for me to get used to such a big city since I have always lived in small towns.

I am just getting started on my blog.  Mostly it will be about books, with a little cooking/baking, and knitting thrown in.  There will probably also be quite a few pictures and stories of my cat, Newton, since he is so cute and funny. Not that I am partial or anything.

Half Year Round Up

I have seen several blogs do a round up since we are now half way through 2010.  Last year was the first year I kept track of what and how many books I read. My goal last year was 100, and I met that goal with 102.  This year I decided to up my goal a little bit with 125.  However, I did not know that I would have the plethora of free time that I have had the last few months.  So far this year I have read 90 books.  Since I am so close to my goal, I am going to up it to 150.  Here is my top 10 list of books read this year.  Note: I have read a few series and am counting the series as 1 book.  My list is in no particular order.

1.  The Hunger Games series- Suzanne Collins
2. The Gemma Doyle series- Libba Bray
3. The Lost City of Z- David Grann
4. The Help- Kathryn Stockett
5. Pillars of the Earth- Ken Follett
6. When She Flew- Jennie Shortridge
7. Year of the Flood- Margaret Atwood
8. Portrait of an Unkown Woman- Vanora Bennett
9. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming- Joshilyn Jackson
10. The Heretic's Daughter- Kathleen Kent

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett

Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A NovelPortrait of an Unknown Woman

From Amazon:
The year is 1526. Hans Holbein the Younger is at the beginning of his remarkable career when he travels to England under the patronage of Sir Thomas More. His arrival brings the Renaissance in painting from Europe to Britain. As a guest in the splendid More household in Chelsea, Holbein begins to paint their first family portrait. Little could he know that in a few short years, the family, Tudor society and England itself would have changed beyond recognition. The great household of the courtier and scholar, Sir Thomas More, was famous for its liveliness and learning. More had taken under his patronage distinguished astrologers, artists, politicians and men of religion, as well as wards of court, protégés and many others. Two people visiting the great house find themselves irresistibly drawn to Meg Giggs, one of More's foster daughters. One of them is John Clement - dark, tall, elegant - an erstwhile tutor, now practising to become a medical doctor; a man of compelling presence and mysterious background. The other is Holbein himself - warm, ebullient, radical and foreign - sent by the great Erasmus to paint the More family portraits. Meg will find herself powerfully drawn to these two wildly contrasting men. She will love one, and marry the other. The two Holbein family portraits frame this remarkable story with its background of love, family, and of religious and political turmoil. Vanora Bennett has created an exceptionally rich novel, presenting the atmosphere of this Tudor household as rarely achieved.

My review:
I am not sure where I got this book from, but I am really glad I did.  I probably got it from a used bookstore.  Although an accomplished journalist, Portrait of an Unknown Woman is Vanora Bennett's first work of fiction.  It is exceptionally good for a debut.  Some plot points in the beginning are predictable, but towards the middle and end there are some pleasant and surprising twists.  The characters are well developed and likable.  That is one thing that I love about bigger books (this one is just over 500 pages), there is more room for character development.  Bennett's writing is somewhat reminiscent of Philippa Gregory.  The comparison between these two authors is unavoidable mostly because this book covers roughly the same time period as Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl.  I think I liked Portrait of an Unknown Woman slightly better than Gregory's books, mainly because it concentrates less on the love affairs of the characters.  I like how Bennett focused on the creation of the painting, the relationship between Meg and her adopted father Thomas More, and the politics of the time.  I am really glad that I didn't overlook this book and that I finally picked it up from my bookshelf.  I will definitely read more of Bennett's work.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: Handful of Dust

Handful of Dust (Std)Handful of DustA Handful of Dust (Everyman's Library)

From Amazon:
Tony Last is an aristocrat whose attachment to an ideal feudal past is so profound that he is blind to his wife Brenda's boredom with the stately rhythms of country life. While he earnestly plays the lord of the manor in his ghastly Victorian Gothic pile, she sets herself up in a London flat and pursues an affair with the social-climbing idler John Beaver. In the first half of the novel Waugh fearlessly anatomizes the lifestyles of the rich and shameless. Everyone moves through an endless cycle of parties and country-house weekends, being scrupulously polite in public and utterly horrid in private. Sex is something one does to relieve the boredom, and Brenda's affair provides a welcome subject for conversation.
Tony's indifference and Brenda's selfishness give their relationship a sort of equilibrium until tragedy forces them to face facts. The collapse of their relationship accelerates, and in the famous final section of the book Tony seeks solace in a foolhardy search for El Dorado, throwing himself on the mercy of a jungle only slightly more savage than the one he leaves behind in England. For all its biting wit, A Handful of Dust paints a bleak picture of the English upper classes, reaching beyond satire toward a very modern sense of despair. In Waugh's world, culture, breeding, and the trappings of civilization only provide more subtle means of destruction.

My Review:
I had read several of Evelyn Waugh's books before and really enjoyed them.  Sidenote: I had always thought the author was a woman because of the name Evelyn.  I own several of his books and decided that I would start reading them.  The characters in Handful of Dust were not particularly likable, which usually turns me off of a book, but not so in this case.  John Beaver just annoyed me, and Brenda is selfish  and thinks of nothing but herself.  Her husband I just felt sorry for.  When her husband discovers her affair, he takes off on an adventure and leaves her to fend for herself, with no money.  I thought Brenda very much deserved this.  I was disappointed by the ending.  I very much enjoyed the rest of the book and will continue to read Waugh's other books.

1% Well Read Challenge

I have decided to participate in the 1% Well Read Challenge.  You can sign up and find the list of books here.   I have currently read 99 books on the list which I think is pretty good.  Here is the list of books I currently own and am going to read:

1. Moby Dick
2. Half of a Yellow Sun- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
3. Everything is Illuminated- Jonathan Safran Foer
4. The Corrections- Jonathan Franzen
5. Atonement- Ian McEwan
6. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay- Michael Chabon
7. White Teeth- Zadie Smith
8. Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
9. American Pastoral- Philip Roth
10. Alias Grace- Margaret Atwood
11. American Psycho- Bret Easton Ellis
12. Possession- A.S. Byatt
13. Cat's Eye- Margaret Atwood
14. Midnight's Children- Salman Rushdie
15. The Crying of Lot 49- Thomas Pynchon

Friday, June 25, 2010

On My Wishlist- June 26

On My Wishlist is a weekly meme hosted at Book Chick City.

Remarkable Creatures

From Amazon:

Tracy Chevalier's new novel depicts people who believe that God created human beings just a few thousand years ago.  Chevalier digs back to the English town of Lyme Regis in the early 19th century.  Two hundred miles north, a toddler named Charles Darwin will someday evolve into the world's most controversial scientist, but for now most everybody agrees with Bishop Ussher's conclusion that Earth was created on the night before Oct. 23, 4004 B.C. Until a poor little girl starts finding monster skeletons embedded in Lyme's coastal cliffs. That's enough to rattle anybody's prehensile tail.

Sh*t My Dad Says

I absolutely love the twitter page that inspired this book. I also can't wait for the tv show.

Canada Day Blog Party

I am excited to be participating in the Canada Day Blog Party hosted by CanadianMomBlogger.  Go over to her site to read the rules.  One lucky blogger will win a $100 gift card!

Book Blogger Hop


In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new book-related blogs that we may be missing out on!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!  So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list below!!

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun!  This is a weekly event!  And stop back throughout the weekend to see all the new blogs that are added!  We get over 200 links every week!!

Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know!  Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added!  And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

National Holiday of Quebec (La Fête nationale du Québec)

Today is the National Holiday of Quebec.  As I have lived here less than a year, this is my first time celebrating this holiday.  In Canada there is also Canada Day, which is celebrated on July 1st, but in Quebec this holiday is a lot bigger than Canada Day. 

From wikipedia:
The National Holiday of Quebec (French: La Fête nationale du Québec) is the national holiday of the Canadian province of Quebec. A paid statutory public holiday covered under the Act Respecting Labour Standards, it is celebrated annually on June 24, St. John the Baptist Day.
In Quebec, the festivities occur on June 23 and June 24 and since 1978 are publicly financed and organized by a National Holiday Organizing Committee (Comité organisateur de la fête nationale). June 24 continues to be celebrated as a festival of French Canadian culture in other provinces and in the United States.

Summer Book Challenge

I belong to an online forum that does seasonal book challenges.  These challenges are a fun way to expand reading choices.  Here are the categories for the summer book challenge and what I plan on reading for each one.

5 points
Book set in a place you never want to visit- City of Beasts

Book about girlfriends- Nights of Rain and Stars

Book with one word title- Possession

Book set in a major city- Age of Innocence

Mystery or Thriller- Daughters of Juarez

 Book set at the ocean- Moby Dick

Romance novel- Death of the Heart

Dystopian/Utopian- Oryx and Crake

Book read on a picnic blanket or with a picnic word in the title- The Sheltering Sky

Book you haven't read yet by a favorite author- Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood

10 Points
Book with a black cover- Darkness at Noon

Historical Non-fiction- Black Dahlia

Book where the main characters do an outside activity- Cold Mountain

Book where the title or author's name starts with "J", "A", or "S" (using "A" as an article does not count)- Anthem

Book with a Native American character or written by a Native American

Memoir, Biography, or Autobiography- 101 Days

Book for adults by an author who also writes for children- The Opposite of Fate

Book written in diary form- Kidnapped

Book about flying or travelling- Charlotte Grey

Book about an execution or someone who was executed- First They Killed My Father

15 Points

Book with a ghost or a character with psychic powers- Ruined

Read a book and watch the movie/tv show- Deep End of the Ocean

Book by an author whose name you can't pronounce- Out of Africa

Book about finances or a main character who has your dream career- The Art Thief

Book of the month for July, August, and September and participate in discussion
Virgin Suicides

Book about the paranormal- Let the Right One In

Book with a cover that makes you laugh or a humor book- I Like You

Book recommended by a book blogger during the challenge - post a link to the blogger's review

Book you keep looking at and putting down - post about why you are a drawn to it and why you haven't read it yet- Atonement

Book by an author who has only released one book at the time of the challenge - post about whether or not you'll read more by the author - Those Who Save Us

25 Points

Read a book and then contact the author via email or snail mail.  Try to get a reply by asking questions/telling author how you felt about the book.  You can also go to a book signing and talk to the author there. 

Read 2 books, both written by immigrants into the US from different countries, where immigration is a subject of the book (i.e. one of the characters is an immigrant). Comment on difference of experiences that immigrants from different countries have in the US.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Since my semester ended at the end of April I have had a lot of time to read. That is a good thing, and at first I was really excited. But now I am bored because I have nothing to do. I moved to Canada almost a year ago with my husband. I am technically still a student and am here on a student visa. I cannot get a job off campus until I get an off campus work permit. But I cannot work on campus either because right now I am between schools. I went to one school for two semesters, but am no longer considered a student there because I am not registered. I start my master's program in library science at McGill in September, but since I am not registered there, I am not considered a McGill student either. I applied for an off campus work permit almost 2 months ago and have not gotten it yet. It is just so frustrating! I am bored being at home all day long with just my cat for company. I would like to get a job so that we can move into our own apartment, since right now we are living with my husband's dad. Also, most of the job postings I have looked at require that you be bilingual. I am trying to learn French, but it is hard! I am also lonely because I don't know anybody up here but my husband. I tried making friends in school, but I am really shy. Everything just piled together has been making me feel down lately.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: The Lord of the Rings

My husband is a big Lord of the Rings fan and he convinced me to read them. Usually I am not a big fan of science fiction or action books, but I liked this series okay. I started with The Hobbit. It is by far the easiest book to read, as it was written more for kids. I really liked The Hobbit and it got me excited to read the rest of the series. I read The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers a few months ago, and by then I was burnt out on the series. Last week I came across the third book and decided to finish the series. The first book was pretty good, but I did not like it as much as I liked The Hobbit. The second book was pretty boring. I happened to have the whole series on audio book and I listened to most of the second book. I found that listening to it was a good way to get through it. Normally I don't finish a book if I am not enjoying it, but I wanted to see how the series ended. The Return of the King, the third book, was okay, and better than the second one. I really loved how Tolkien created this whole world and different races. I can see how people can get so into these books. I did enjoy them, but parts of them were a struggle to get through. I did like them better than most other science fiction books I have read. Plus, now that I've read them, the hubby and I can watch the movies.