Email me at thekeytothegate@gmail.com

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weekend Cooking with Fancy Pantry


I spent all of last weekend in the kitchen doing some canning and a little baking. I only began learning the canning process last year and while it can be time consuming, I was surprised at how relatively easy it is to preserve summer's fruits and vegetables to enjoy all year long. I canned Peach Jam with Rum from a recipe contained in Fancy Pantry by Helen Witty (1986). This book appears to currently be out of print but you can still find copies available to purchase online. I first learned of this book from reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance which I loved and return to often. Fancy Pantry is full of simple gourmet chutneys, sauces, jams and more designed to offer a little luxury to your meal or afternoon snack.

Here is the recipe for Peach or Nectarine Jam with Brown Sugar & Rum from Fancy Pantry:

6 cups coarsely chopped peeled firm-ripe peaches or nectarines (about 4 pounds)
2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
6 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup dark rum, preferably Jamaican
2 cups granulated sugar

1. Combine the peaches with the brown sugar and lemon juice and about half of the rum in a large bowl and stir the mixture well. Cover it and let it sit overnight.
2. Pour the peach mixture into a preserving pan. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pan, reduce the heat, and cook the mixture until the peach chunks are beginning to be translucent., 15 to 20 minutes; stir it several times. If the jam becomes too thick before the fruit clarifies, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. Add the granulated sugar and cook the jam rapidly, stirring almost constantly, until a spoonful placed on a chilled saucer and refrigerated for a few moments wrinkles instead of running when the saucer is tilted sharply. (Remove the pot from the heat while testing.) Stir in the remaining rum and cook the jam for 2 minutes, stirring.
3. Ladle the boiling-hot jam into hot, clean pint or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Seal the jars with clean two-part canning lids according to manufacturer's directions and process for 15 minutes (for either size jar) in a boiling-water bath. Cool, label, and store the jars. Jam is ready to use immediately.  

Happy Reading!
Rebecca
This post is linked up to Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mission to Paris- A Review


I recently finished Mission to Paris by Alan Furst. His other books include: Night Soldiers, Dark Star, The Polish Officer, The World at Night, Red Gold, Kingdom of Shadows, Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage, The Foreign Correspondent, The Spies of Warsaw, and Spies of the Balkans.

This was my first foray into the spy thriller genre so I felt a little out of my element in the beginning of the novel. However, as the characters developed, I found myself intrigued by the play of events and curious to see how the lead character, movie actor Fredrich Stahl, fairs in his dealings with the politics behind the film industry during a crucial time in the world's history.

There are a lot of characters that come into play throughout the novel and I wanted to know more of their background. There could be so many spinoffs where these characters have the potential to carry their own storylines in future novels. They each possessed their own secrets that don't fully come to light in Mission to Paris.

The city of Paris is almost a character itself, always luring you in with her seduction- elegant hotels, quaint bistros, and the sophistication of its fashionably clad inhabitants.

Initially, Stahl appears to be an egocentric celebrity but as he is forced to play the game by the Nazi's rules, the reader discovers that he is greatly sensitive to the cultural issues that were weighing so heavily on Europe at that time and he answers to his conscious. I enjoyed Mission to Paris. It was a nice change to step out of my reading comfort zone and discover a more masculine style of writing.

I received Mission to Paris from Random House Reader's Circle.


Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Random House Book Description
     It is the late summer of 1938, Europe is about to explode, the Hollywood film star Fredric Stahl is on his way to Paris to make a movie for Paramount France. The Nazis know he's coming- a secret bureau within the Reich Foreign Ministry has for years been waging political  warfare against France, using bribery, intimidation, and corrupt newspapers to weaken French morale and degrade France's will to defend herself.
     For their purposes, Fredrich Stahl is a perfect agent of influence, and they attack him. What they don't know is that Stahl is horrified by the Nazi war on Jews and intellectuals, has become a part of an informal spy service being run out the American embassy in Paris.
     From Alan Furst, the bestselling author often praised as the best spy novelist ever, comes a novel that will have you reading "just one more page" until you're done. Mission to Paris includes beautifully drawn scenes of romance and intimacy, and the novel is alive with extraordinary characters: the German Baroness von Reschke, a famous hostess deeply involved in Nazi clandestine oeprations; the assassins Herbert and Lothar; the Russion film actress Olga Orlova; the Hungarian diplomat and spy Count Janos Polanyi; along with the French cast of Stahl's movie, German film producers, and the magnetic women in Stahl's life, the socialite Kiki de Saint-Ange and the emigre Renate Steiner.
     But always at the center of the novel is the city of Paris, the heart and soul of Europe- its alleys and bistros, hotels grand and anonymous, and the Parisians, living every night as though it was their last. As always, Alan Furst brings to life both a dark time in history and the passion of the human hearts that fought to survive it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

June 25

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Currently Reading: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver


This little bench has become my favorite reading spot this summer. I am going to take my time reading Prodigal Summer and enjoy the beautiful weather we have been having in Huntington, W.Va. Many readers from last week's meme commented on how much they liked this book so I chose to read it next.


My view from my bench is my new teacup birdfeeder. It is the perfect setting for Prodigal Summer. I hope each of you are enjoying the season.

I just finished reading: Mission to Paris by Alan Furst and hope to have the review posted soon.

New Giveaway


Enter to win a copy of Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier, author of The Girl With the Pearl Earring. I picked this copy up at my local library's recent used book sale because I know it has been popular and appealed to many readers. Library book sales are a great way to pick up many titles at great prices.

To enter, simply leave me a comment by June 30, 2012 and let me know if would like to be entered.

Thanks again for visiting The Key to the Gate!

Happy Reading!
Rebecca



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reading Groups: The Beginning of Beautiful Friendships


When you commit to becoming a part of a reading group/book club, you may find that active participation can be time-consuming. There is the time spent reading the selected book and author biographies, staying in touch with members and updating your group's social media pages, the actual meetings for discussion, as well as researching books for future selections.

During this process, you will spend a fair amount of time with the individuals that comprise your group. First, recognize that this is potentially quality time. And for many members who may be bogged down with work, parenting, household chores, volunteer projects, and many other responsibilities- this may be the only time they have to dedicate for themselves.

Through reading, you discover new cultures, religions and viewpoints, continually enhancing your own life and self-development. As part of a group, you experience this growth and change together, which can create a unique bond among your members. As you become more comfortable with the others, you may find yourself beginning to share details of your own life and difficulties you are facing.

Although reading is the anchor that centers the group, socializing is an important aspect of meetings. Once you learn more about each member, you will have a better understanding of his/her viewpoint on the reading material.

With the continued success of your group, members will likely encounter a range of life experiences- graduations, births, career or occupation changes, and even suffering the loss of loved ones. One of the many benefits of being a part of a group is that you will not face these moments alone. Hopefully with time, you will not only call your fellow book club members "readers" but also "friends."

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


June 18

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.


Currently Reading
Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

I was excited to win this title from Random House Reader's Circle. I typically don't select mystery/ spy thrillers to read so this one is a chance for me to step into a new genre. I will share a review as soon as I finish. I've been slacking on my reading this past week and look forward to seeing what each of you are reading for some inspiration. If you have never checked out Random House Reader's Circle, you should! It's a good resource for discussion guides and also provides an outlet for readers to contact published authors for potential chats.

Coming Up
The additional books I hope to complete this summer include:
The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
A Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante by Lily Tuck
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor


New Giveaway


Enter to win a copy of "Burning Bright" by Tracy Chevalier, author of The Girl With the Pearl Earring. I picked this copy up at my local library's recent used book sale because I know it has been popular and appealed to many readers. Library book sales are a great way to stock up on many titles at great prices.

To enter, simply leave me a comment on any of my posts (old or new) between now and June 30, 2012.

Thanks again for visiting The Key to the Gate!

Happy Reading!
Rebecca











Saturday, June 16, 2012

Israela Winner and a New Giveaway!

Congratulations to Heather @ Based on a True Story for winning the set of four Israela by Batya Casper books for her book group!

New Giveaway


Enter to win a copy of "Burning Bright" by Tracy Chevalier, author of The Girl With the Pearl Earring. I picked this copy up at my local library's recent used book sale because I know it has been popular and appealed to many readers. Library book sales are a great way to pick up many titles at great prices.

To enter, simply leave me a comment on any of my posts (old or new) between now and June 30, 2012.

Thanks again for visiting The Key to the Gate!

Happy Reading!
Rebecca



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Cookbook Staycation


You can create a fulfilling staycation this summer simply by curling up with a great cookbook. I enjoy cooking. But I love cookbooks. Cooking by Hand by Paul Bertolli (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2003) is an excellent book to get you started on your culinary journey. Bertolli, executive chef and co-owner of Oliveto Restaurant, will serve you well as a resourceful and inspirational guide. Although this book does not contain photographs to accompany each recipe, the reader will not be disappointed with Bertolli's descriptive stories of his experience with food and gourmet cuisine.

"...I learned to wait patiently for the fruit of our sour orange tree to deliver on the promise of its exquisitely scented spring blossoms. I watched its color change through the summer and autumn from lime green to pale yellow, until the chill of December finally transformed its fruit to a deep persimmon. Tight-skinned and unapproachable for months, the oranges were now easy to peel; their flavor was intensely sweet and tangy at the same time. They seemed to taste of all the light they'd ever absorbed." (Introduction xi)


Cooking by Hand offers many traditional Italian recipes, but the emphasis is to discover the creative process required for mastering memorable dishes- a technique that takes the cook beyond the mechanisms of following measured-out instructions. Through his detailed guidance for selecting the perfect ingredients, determining an item's ripeness, or properly preparing meat, Bertolli creates a literary image of the dish that would make it almost too beautiful to eat. Cooking by Hand is a cookbook for the cook or reader interested in learning to appreciate the effort that goes into the creation of a delicious meal, even the most simplistic in form. This is a book of words you devour as much as the dishes.


However, if you are a cook or reader dependent on visuals. "The Food of Italy, France, Spain, India (and more)" series by Bay Books are the cookbooks for you. These books feature full-color, large-scale photographs of each recipe showcased and also provide climate and cultural information from each region of the country.

From The Food of Italy (Bay Books)

After spending time on the pages of these gorgeous cookbooks, you will feel as though you have traveled abroad and will be inspired to spend the rest of your staycation in the kitchen sharing your journey with family and friends through your culinary endeavors.

Bon App├ętit!
Rebecca

    

Monday, June 11, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

"It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next. This is my first time participating in this meme and I am excited to see what everyone else is reading!

Currently Reading:

A member of my book club selected "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James as our group's current read. This book has received massive media exposure due to its graphic content targeted toward female readers. I'd love to hear what others thought of this book.

Up Next:

I recently won a copy of this novel from Random House Reader's Circle and am looking forward to delving into it. Here is a brief description from Good Reads:
It is the late summer of 1938, Europe is about to explode, the Hollywood film star Fredric Stahl is on his way to Paris to make a movie for Paramount France. The Nazis know he’s coming—a secret bureau within the Reich Foreign Ministry has for years been waging political warfare against France, using bribery, intimidation, and corrupt newspapers to weaken French morale and degrade France’s will to defend herself. For their purposes, Fredric Stahl is a perfect agent of influence, and they attack him. What they don’t know is that Stahl, horrified by the Nazi war on Jews and intellectuals, has become part of an informal spy service being run out of the American embassy in Paris.

There is still time to enter to win four copies of "Israela" for your reading group!


Simply leave a comment on this post with a link back to your blog or website or email thekeytothegate@gmail.com so that I have your contact information if selected. The deadline to enter is June 15, 2011.

Visit my previous posts "Israela Book Discussion and Giveaway" and  "Israela: An Interview with the Author" to learn more about this wonderful book!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hemingway & Gellhorn- A Look at the Life of a Writer

Photo taken at Ernest Hemingway's writing studio at Hemingway House in Key West, Fla.
HBO recently released its new film Hemingway & Gellhorn, which is directed by Phillip Kaufman and provides a look into the lives of Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, journalist Martha Gellhorn. Starring Clive Owen as Hemingway and Nicole Kidman as Gellhorn, the film follows the literary pair throughout their relationship, including through Spain during the Spanish Civil War and later China, where Gellhorn continued her work for Collier's magazine as a war correspondent. Throughout the movie, we are given a look at the life of writers as they struggle to find inspiration and accept the critiques and reviews that come with publishing their works. Hemingway credits Gellhorn for inspiring him to write For Whom the Bell Tolls, a Pulitzer Prize nominated novel. Writers and readers alike will be intrigued by the images into Hemingway's personal life and the tumultuous relationship of these two two successful writers.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Fla. This house was his home from 1931 to 1939 and is well worth the visit if you are in the Keys for a glimpse inside Hemingway's writing studio featured in the pictures in this post.

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

Hemingway's writing studio at Hemingway House in Key West, Fla.
Hemingway's writing studio at Hemingway House in Key West, Fla.
Cats on the grounds of Hemingway House at Key West, Fla.
   

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Life of Pi


"The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn't that make life a story?"   ~Pi Patel

Recently, I compiled a list of books in my "To Be Read" stack and shared these on Pinterest. It was this book, Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Harcourt, Inc., 2001) that generated the most comments- all favorable. After finishing this book, I can understand how it would resonate with so many. 

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Book Description (www.amazon.com)
The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes. The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional--but is it more true?



There are thousands of reviews of Life of Pi circulating on the Internet, in journals and numerous literary publications, so I will not even attempt to dissect my thoughts on the text or author's intent here. I do highly recommend this very well-written and thought-provoking novel to any reader interested in not only a good story to lose your own troubles and worries in but also to discover more about your own spiritual journey. I must admit I was not prepared for the riveting ending that leaves the reader to determine his/her own faith in both the story and the story teller. Throughout the novel, Pi is continually searching for understanding- in religion, science, environment, social order, and life. Yet, in the end, it is the very things that he cannot explain that hold the most meaning.

Have you read Life of Pi? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Reading!
Rebecca

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