Monday, November 30, 2009


    Before our friend, Issa, relocate to Dubai, he used to be the authority on middle eastern cuisine to my family and he would make us the best Baklava.  Now that Issa is not here to supply us with Baklava, i have to make it myself.  There are so many versions and recipes and i decided to try this recipe from - Courtesy of Chef Dino Lubbat, Dinotto Ristorante, Chicago.  This recipe produced a very good baklava and definitely a keeper. 


    1 1/2 pounds walnuts, chopped (i used an assortment of pistachio, walnuts and almonds)
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    Zest of 1 lemon
    40 sheets Athens® Fillo Dough (9" x 14"), thawed
    Cooking Spray (i used 1 cup of melted butter)


    In a medium bowl, combine walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and lemon zest.

    Lightly spray a 9" x 13" baking pan with cooking spray.

    Place 20 sheets of fillo on the bottom of the pan, lightly spraying each sheet with cooking spray as you place in the pan.

    Cover with 1/2 of the walnut(nuts) mixture.

    Layer 5 more fillo sheets on top, lightly spraying each sheet.

    Spread the remaining half of the walnut(nuts) mixture over the fillo and cover with another 15 lightly sprayed fillo sheets.

    With a sharp knife, score fillo into 1 1/2" diamonds or squares. Lightly spray the top with cooking spray so it bakes golden brown.(i sprinkle very lightly with water to prevent curling)

    Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown.

    Cool slightly and pour warm syrup (recipe below) evenly over baklava. (i mix 1 cup honey, 2 cups corn syrup and 1 tbsp orange blossom water and pour over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven)

    Cool completely, cut and serve.


    •Use butter flavored cooking spray, if desired.

    •Instead of cooking spray, brush fillo with 1 cup melted butter, if desired.

    •Serve à la mode with a scoop of ice cream, or drizzle with chocolate sauce.

    Yield: 30 to 40 small pieces



    2 cups sugar
    2 cups water
    1 cup honey
    1 lemon peel
    Bring all ingredients to a boil.

    Simmer for 10 minutes.

    Strain and cool slightly.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tradition! Tradition!

    by Jo Robertson

    Yesterday we attended a triple baptism. Two of our grandchildren and one of their cousins was being baptized and combined their ceremonies. The entire affair got me thinking about traditions and the things we do as families, communities, or friends to bind us together – the ties that bind, so to speak.

    This, of course, was a religious ceremony, but our traditions don’t have to revolve around religion. Many traditions are tied to family. I've always considered my family my Higher Power. Around sixty people attended the baptism, all but a few of
    them family members, and although it was quite chaotic, it was also a lot of fun.

    One little boy tried to stick his hands in the baptismal font. Babies cried throughout, except for our Emma of course, who behaved perfectly. The piano was notoriously louder than the singers. And all the food at the reception was gone by the time the adults got there! Must’ve been the “other families'” grandchildren.

    My son-in-law’s family goes bowling every Thanksgiving Day and they use this opportunity to take an annual family picture since Mark’s sister is a professional photographer and they’re all together. Many of my friends hassle the nightmare that is Black Friday.

    You’ve noticed that here in the Lair, we’ve begun to have our own traditions. We celebrate our anniversaries quite uproariously with Sven, the Roman boys, and the Golden Rooster all playing prominent parts. We have a Christmas countdown. Even our invitation to guesting authors is a tradition we enjoy and hope our readers do too.

    In The Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye says “And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: TRADITION!"

    What do you readers do to “keep your balance," especially during the hectic holidays? Do you have rituals, ceremonies or traditions that keep you centered during the year?

    Or do you have a favorite holiday recipe you’d like to share with us? Below is one of my favorites for using the left-over turkey and dressing (if you have any!). Thanks to my sis who passed it on to me. Enjoy!


    3 cups cooked turkey (or chicken)
    1 can cream of chicken soup
    1 can cream of celery soup
    1 cup sour cream

    Layer diced turkey in 9x13 pan. Mix soups and sour cream. Spread over turkey. Sprinkle 1 package herb-seasoned stuffing mix over and pour 2 cups chicken broth as needed over dressing. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 30 minutes and 5 minutes more uncovered.
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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Sharing

    by Susan Sey

    So I hosted Thanksgiving this year, although I don't know if "hosted" is the right word. We didn't have anybody over but ourselves. My family gathered in Michigan where my parents live, my husband's family gathered in California where his brother and his family are based. But we stayed home. All by ourselves.

    I'll have been married ten years this coming summer, and it's taken us the full ten to get the hang of this sharing the holidays business. It's no easy thing. You want to respect each other's family traditions while making the space to create your own traditions. Throw in kids, pets, in-laws, limited vacation time and several hundred miles and you've got a real quandry.

    At first we simply switched sides every year. If his family got Christmas, my family got Thanksgiving. The next year we flip-flopped. But we live twelve hours from my folks, and six from his. Then we had a baby. Then we had two. When #2 was born I called a halt to holiday travel. I said, "We love you but we are not leaving this house for the holidays anymore. You are all welcome to come here, I will love having you. But I will not take this show on the road."

    I stuck to my guns on it, too, and people understood. They weren't happy but they got it. Babies aren't easy-going travelling companions, and they require a lot of stuff. A lot of routine. A lot of tending. All easier done where all the equipment is near at hand.

    Then my husband's parents had their 40th wedding anniversary, and all they wanted for a present was a Christmas with everybody together. So we packed up the kiddoes, got on a plane and spent the holidays in California. And it was wonderful.

    The baby was a year old, on her feet and tremendously cute. Her cousins fawned over her and we had a lovely time. I thought, "Goodness, why was I so dead set on never doing this again?"

    And since we'd just done one Christmas in California, it was only fair to do the next one in Michigan. So we loaded up the old station wagon and hit the road. We made it to Chicago before my oldest's notoriously touchy stomach decided to act up. I sat backwards in the front seat holding a well-used barf bowl all the way to Detroit, and I remembered why travelling with kids can be problematic.

    I thought to myself, "Next year is an At Home Year." And thus my current philosophy was born. One year for his family--they get to pick whether they want Thanksgiving or Christmas & we show up wherever they say with smiles on our faces. The next year for my family, same deal. But the third year? The third year we stay home. Anybody who wants to join us is welcome but we are not budging.

    This--as you may have guessed--is an At Home Year.

    We've had an incredibly good time. A nice, leisurely dinner on Thanksgiving. A brisk hike along a deer-tracked foot path afterwards. Pie and tea in front of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. We laid around like slugs the day after, and the day after that we hosted a Post-Thanksgiving Left-Overs Potluck for other folks who were sans family for the holiday. We all got together, shared food and conversation, and enjoyed being home.

    And part of that enjoyment is from just being here, where we live, cementing friendships with people we like. But another part of it is knowing that next year, we'll go to our family and be with them. We'll demonstrate our love for them by taking this travelling circus on the road, and sharing their traditions, their homes, their food. And we'll be delighted to do it.

    What about you? How do you share the holidays? Have you ever spent a holiday alone? What are your traditions? Your family's traditions? What did you take from your childhood, and what did you leave behind? How do you balance your family's traditions with your spouse's/partner's?Source URL:
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Friday, November 27, 2009

Wild Heart Booty

    by Nancy

    Today's guest, Lori Brighton, is giving away three copies of her fabulous debut, Wild Heart!

    The winners are:

    Louisa Cornell

    Congratulations! Please email contact information to Lori via the link on her website. Thanks to everyone who stopped in today.Source URL:
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bandit Booty and Trivia Answers

    A big thank-you to everyone who stopped in and kept me company today. Y'all are the best!

    First the trivia answers: As Pissenlit noted, the Silver Surfer's real name is Norrin Radd.

    His beloved was Shalla Bal.

    Agricola aquam portat = The farmer carries water. (Agricola = farmer; aquam = object form of water , and I can't remember the name for that form; portat = he carries).

    And now, for the booty--I also found a Courtney Milan/Tessa Dare sampler I picked up somewhere and had never unboxed. So the winners are:

    A sampler of SFF novels goes to Pissenlit, and one to Keira.

    The historical sampler goes to Jane.

    Winners can email snail mail info to me me via the link at the top of the blog. Please be sure to put my name and Thanksgiving in the subject line.

    Congratulations to the winners and thanks again to everyone who stopped by.Source URL:
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Agent Provocateur New Comic Book Features Venus Fly Trap and More!

    fashion news,lingerie

    The second comic book of Agent Provocateur are out in the market. If you have seen some of the super heroines in the first comic book, you'll meet other super heroines in the second one. Venus Flytrap, Miss Pony Tail and The Red Baroness wear their Agent Provocateur's lingerie outfits in reality.

    fashion news,lingerie
    fashion news,lingerie
    fashion news,lingerie

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New Moon Stars at Entertainment Weekly December 2009 Issue

    Your favorite New Moon characters will be on the cover of Entertainment Weekly's December 2009 issue. Edward Cullen, Bella Swan and Jacob Black will recruit you as their allies. Which team are you in? Team Edward, Team Bella or Team Jacob?

    fashion magazinefashion magazine,twilighttwilight,fashion magazine

    Check the rest of the entry for bigger images!

    fashion magazine
    fashion magazine,twilight
    twilight,fashion magazine
    Source: Just Jared
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Michelle Obama Wears Naeem Khan Dress at State Dinner

    michelle obama
    First lady Michelle Obama channeled her fashion side during the first state dinner of U.S. Pres. Barack Obama. She pulled a strapless, silver-sequined, cream-colored gown by Naeem Khan, an Indian-American designer. The gown was accentuated with beads that form an abstract floral pattern. Michelle completed her fabulous look with a stack of bangle bracelets and dangling earrings.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ashley Greene In Bottega Veneta's Red Resort 2010 Collection

    twilight,celebrity fashion styletwilight,celebrity fashion style

    Ashley Greene who plays the character of Alice Cullen in the Twilight Saga: New Moon, guested at David Letterman Show. She appeared in red striped suit number from the Resort 2010 collection.

    Photo Source: &
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Michael Kors Will Open A New Store In Germany

    Micahel Kors Germany Store

    It's official! Michael Kors will be opening his first ever store in Germany this coming February. The 2,400-square-foot boutique will display accessories such as eyewear, handbag and watches, fragrances as well as clothes for his own line.

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Over the River and Through the Wood ...

    To Grandmother’s house we go,
    The horse knows the way

    To carry the sleigh,
    Through the white and drifted snow.

    Everyone's singing along, right? Right! We all know this song!

    But seriously, who in the world goes to their grandmother's house in a horse-drawn sleigh?

    When my brothers and I were young and first heard the "Over the River" song, we wondered why the words didn’t mention the part where we drove through that long, dark tunnel under the airport. So we made up our own lyrics.

    Hop on the freeway
    And drive through the tunnel
    To grandmother's house we go,
    Dad knows the way
    In our Chevrolet,
    And into the city we go.

    Yes, that's more like it!

    And snow? We didn't know anyone who drove through snow. No comprende! We grew up in Southern California, near the beach. I didn’t see snow until I was … well, much older.

    My dear husband, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, still teases me about the first time I saw snow falling. It was my first trip to his hometown and looking out the airplane window, I saw all this sparkly, shiny, colorful fairy dust flying in the air. It was beautiful! I asked him what it was, and he laughed and said, "That's snow." ("You idiot." No, he didn't add that part, but believe me, it was clearly implied in his tone.) I insisted that what we were looking at couldn't be snow. "No, it's too sparkly. It looks like fairy dust to me," I said.

    You'll all be happy to know that I successfully repressed the memory of his response.

    So ... Where are you going for the holiday? How are you getting there? Will there be snow?

    Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!
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Yeah, to scare people. You know, war paint.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Open Season on Authors?

    Ahoy, there! Please welcome talented thriller author Michelle Gagnon back to the lair. She's here today to express her feelings about the topic of literary piracy. Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts, Michelle! We're happy to have you as a guest again.

    I received a Google alert last week for a website called, "" I clicked on it, and lo and behold, it led to a file sharing site. And there were all three of my books, in their entirety, available for free download. Including THE GATEKEEPER, which was just released two weeks ago.

    Obviously this is not a rarity, I know plenty of other authors who have been the victims of piracy. And to the site's credit, as soon as my publisher's legal department contacted them, the files were removed. But still--who knows how many free copies were downloaded during the few days that the files were posted? Ebook downloads still constitute a small portion of overall sales--but did the free files make a dent in my Kindle and/or Sony Reader sales? Impossible to say.

    The publishing industry is entering a new phase. They're now confronting issues that the music industry has been wrestling with for the past decade. Year after year, total music sales have declined, and industry insiders attribute much of that loss to the continued popularity of pirated songs. According to a report issued in January by the IFPI <> , fully ninety-five percent of all online music downloads were unauthorized.

    The statistics are much lower for pirated books, but it's only going to get worse. As eBook readers come down in price, chances are they'll become as ubiquitous as iPods. And when that happens, this type of piracy will become more and more prevalent.

    Most authors who renewed contracts in the year since the financial meltdown saw their advances slashed by thirty percent or more. Combine piracy with the impact of the book price wars <> , and it'll become nearly impossible for most writers to eke out a living from their work.

    Last week Declan Burke <> posted a poignant message about why he's decided it's no longer feasible to pursue a career as a writer. Unfortunately, there's a chance that more and more authors will be forced into making the same decision. Our own John Ramsey Miller recently posted <> about the difficulties writers face today, and how it only seems to be getting harder.

    Some people argue that self-publishing ebooks will fill this void. To be honest, I have my doubts. First of all, the benefit of an advance is that it enables an author to pay the bills while writing the book. You also receive editorial assistance, marketing help, and distribution. I can say for a fact that without that editorial help, all of my books would have suffered. Sure, I could hire an outside editor--but that would involve more money out of pocket. Throw in cover design, formatting, marketing materials...and my ebook would enter the marketplace down a few thousand dollars. So I'd need to earn at least that to see a profit.

    And if the marketplace is flooded with self-published books (which is already happening), how does an author stand out among the crowd? Even if you manage to claw out a niche for yourself, how do you sell enough books to earn a living? I know authors who are garnering a few thousand dollars a year from their ebooks, but that's clearly not enough to survive on. And it's only going to become more difficult.

    Sorry to be all doom and gloom, but the truth was that seeing my work posted for free struck me as a harbinger of worse things to come. I spent a year of my life on each of those books. If you factor in the total hours worked on them, I earned less than minimum wage for their creation. And now someone was giving them away, completely disregarding all of that effort. Someone was basically saying that they were worthless, so people might as well have them for free.

    I realize that "Rachell" probably didn't have all this in mind when she converted the files so they could be shared. But think of it this way. You can't leave a restaurant without paying for a meal, otherwise the next time you go, the restaurant will likely have closed since they couldn't pay their bills. A good meal costs money to produce; so does a good book. If you don't pay for things, down the road they won't be there for you. So if you love books, and want to continue enjoying the same wide selection down the line, for God's sake buy them. If you want to read them for free, get a library card. Anything else just makes you a thief, and in the end you'll be stuck eating mac and cheese.

    Michelle, thanks for sharing your views on this thought-provoking issue. It'll be interesting to see how everything unfolds in the months to come.

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Twilight Saga: New Moon Movie Fashion Guide

    Bella's Birthday Dress
    The green dress that was supposed to be given by Alice for Bella's birthday was designed by Tish Monaghan. Bella's look was also completed with an old navy sweater.

    Bella Swan's Everyday Fashion
    For regular days, Bella Swan wore pieces from Band of Outsiders, J Brand and lot of sneakers from Nike, Keds and Converse.

    Alice Cullen Fashionable Look
    The Cullen's most fashionista member, Alice, sported crimson-hued Gala gloves and accessories from Banana Republic, Ray-Ban and Lacoste.
    Twilight Saga New Moon Movie Fashion Guide

    Jacob Black's Tranformation
    Jacob wore tailored t-shirts and shoes with lifts to emphasize his body and weight.

    Jane wore custom-made black cloaks.
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Nyonya Otak Otak

    Making this dish is not a problem, the biggest problem is getting the leaves - duan kaduk. Daun kaduk, or wild pepper (Piper sarmentosum), is the glossy heart-shaped leaf of a creeper that is often featured in Nyonya cooking. In Hokkien, the name is pronounced as lun kaduk, these leaves  provide the texture and aroma that is so essential to this dish, without it the taste will be vastly different.  I have wanted to make otak otak but if daun kaduk is not available, i will not waste my time to adulterate.  My chance at last arrived when my dear friend, Peng, who is in Colorado Springs, found the leaves in her asian store.  With all the ingredients complete, graciously contributed by Catherine, another dear friend who also share the same passion in cooking as Peng does.. we made some in Peng's house.  Thank you Catherine and Peng.   I can't remember when was the last time i had otak otak and when i opened up a freshly steamed parcel, the aroma jolted my "otak"(in Malay is brain) into rememberance of a good thing.

    There are different forms of otak-otak originating from different regions. Nyonya otak-otak is of Peranakan origins from Penang, it is wrapped in banana leaves in a parcel and steamed. However, otak-otak from the south of Malaysia and from Singapore is wrapped up as a thin slice using banana or coconut leaf and grilled over a charcoal fire.


    1 lb fish fillet preferably white fish - slice into thin slices
    5 kaffir lime leaves - spines removed and finely shredded
    1 large tumeric leaves - spines removed and finely shredded
    30 leaves - daun kaduk(the more leaves the better) - spines removed
    1/2 cup thick coconut cream
    3 large eggs
    1 egg yolk
    1 tbsp cornflour
    1 tbsp rice flour
    1 tbsp fish sauce
    Salt, sugar and pepper to taste

    Banana leaves - cleaned, cut into 8" x 8" squares and boiled, wipe dry.


    1 x 1/2 inch galangal
    2 stalks lemon grass - white part only
    5 pieces candlenut/buah keras
    1 tbsp shrimp paste/belacan granules
    5 pieces fresh red chillies - cut into small pieces
    5 pieces/3 ozs shallots - washed and peeled
    5 cloves garlic - peeled
    1/4 - 1/2 oz tumeric powder or 1 x 2 inch fresh tumeric
    10 pieces dried chillies, cut into small pieces, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
    3 fl ozs cooking oil for frying


    Prepare the Rempah.

    Grate galangal and lemon grass with a microplane zester.

    In the food processor, grind the rest of the ingredients except the cooking oil, into a fine paste.(If using the blender, put all the ingredients in including the oil and blend to very fine.)

    Pour blended ingredients into a microwable bowl and microwave on high for 5 minutes, stir and continue to cook on high 2 minutes at a time, until oil surfaces and paste is fragrant and almost dry.

    Prepare the mousse:

    Pat the fish dry and cut it into 2-inch slices.

    Beat slightly eggs and egg yolk with fish sauce, salt, sugar, white pepper.

    Mix cornflour and rice with the coconut milk.

    In a large bowl, put in the sliced fish, eggs, coconut mixture.and cooled rempah. Mix well to combine.
    Lastly add in the shredded kaffir lime  and tumeric leaves.
    .To make otak otak parcels:

     For each parcel, , use a square of banana leaf and lay 3 - 4 leaves daun kaduk in the center.  Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the fish mixture on top of daun kaduk.

    Fold the banana leaf into half and hold on to the center.  Fold up the right side to the center and open up the leaf to form the parcel edge.  Repeat with the left side and using a staple or toothpick, secure the parcel.

    Repeat making the parcels until all the fish mousse is done.

    Put the parcel to steam for about 10 minutes.

    Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.


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