Archive for January, 2013

readwritecook’s CBR5# Review #1: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

beautiful mystery

I am very fond of Louise Penny’s writing and I sometimes wouldn’t mind moving to Three Pines.  The idealic fictional town in Quebec that serves as the backdrop for most of the novels in the Armand Gamache Mystery series. The town and its colorful group of artists and unique individuals provide more than enough side stories and additional detail to fill out the central mystery in these novels. And that is where my biggest disappointment comes in with this latest novel in the series.  The town is one of the central characters and it is absent here.

Armand Gamache is Chief Inspector of the Surete de Quebec and his job typically takes him to Three Pines but not in The Beautiful Mystery. Instead, he is called up into the deep forests of northern Quebec to investigate a murder that has taken place in a secret congregation of monks. These monks have been living unknown for thousands of years but have recently become notorious as a recording of their musical Gregorian chants was released. One of the  congregation-the  choirmaster- has been murdered and Gamache is called in to find the killer.

One of Penny’s trademarks is her beautiful use of language and it is evident here but the beauty of the writing couldn’t fully overcome the lack of action and slow pace to keep my interest. While I understand Penny’s intention to mirror the slow and measured pace of the monastery with her words, I still found it to be frustratingly slow.  Pages and pages are dedicated to the discussion and attempt to understand the purpose and meaning of the Gregorian chant. At the same time, Penny brings in one of the ongoing storylines regarding Gamach and his tenuous relationship with his superior. While this story progresses more than in other novels, I was left wishing that more details were revealed. The resolution at the end felt inadequate and frustrating.

I give The Beautiful Mystery three stars. It’s hard not to compare it to Penny’s other Gamache mysteries. I would give most of them a four star rating. While her use of language and ability to tell the story is still intact, I just wish there had been a significant supporting story to give this tale a bit more to keep my interest.


Mom’s Amped Up Pesto

pestoWith the new year, I’ve been trying to think of easy ways to get more veggies into our diet. I’m sure many moms out there have employed tricks of the trade to hide vegetables in their children’s favorite dishes. This was by far my most successful experiment. It was fast and I was able to use it in two different dishes this past week. It has a fresh lemony taste that my daughter loved!

  • 2 cups frozen broccoli (feel free to use fresh, I used frozen to save time)
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/4 cup parmesan
  • zest of one large lemon
  • juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • 1/2 cup store bought prepared pesto
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Boil the broccoli until no longer frozen, approximately 2 minutes. Combine broccoli, spinach, parmesan,  lemon zest and prepared pesto in a food processor and process until a paste forms. Add salt and pepper and stream in olive oil until the paste thins a bit. Add in the lemon juice and blend some more. The pesto should now be a bit thinner than the store bought pesto. Test to see if more salt or pepper is needed.

I tossed the pesto with fusilli noodles one night (with zuchinni and tomatoes for the adults) and then used the pesto as the sauce for our home made pizzas another night. My finicky 8 year old loved it both ways!

2013: Reading, Writing, and Cooking Again

I wasn’t much for resolutions in 2012, but I’m back in 2013! I’ve decided upon a number of new goals. I’ve signed up for two reading challenges (Cannonball Read V and a Genre Challenge for the UK book club on Goodreads) and created a cooking challenge of my own based on the Fresh 20 and my own desire to try new cuisines in 2013.

I am in the process of updating this blog as I haven’t posted in over a year, so bear with me. I’ve blocked time on my calendar dedicated to keeping this up to date. Here we go!

Cannonball Read V (
The full Cannonball Read V is a challenge to read 52 books in the span of a year. The awesome and touching history of the challenge and more details can be found here: As this is my first year, I’m looking to complete the half Cannonball (26) in 2013.

Goodreads UK Book Club – Genre Challenge 2013
New genre each month is voted on by participants. January is historical and I’m going to read The English Monster by Lloyd Shepherd when I’ve finished with The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. Review to follow soon.

Writing is what I do in my professional life—technical writing, marketing writing, and documentation project management—but yet I maintain a number of writing projects on the side. My goal here is to dedicated some of my free time to these projects each week. Also, this blog qualifies as part of my personal writing goal as well.

I signed up for an online cooking subscription called The Fresh 20. Each week, they provide a menu with an accompanying shopping list for 5 quick and healthy meals. My goal is to use at least 2 menus from the site each month. I’ll be posting notes and reviews from my experience and my family’s reaction to the meals.

Also, I’ve decide to assign each month of 2013 with a different type of cuisine and then prepare at least 4 meals that month based on that cuisine. January is Asian cuisine month.

I’m looking forward to keeping up with my 2013 goals and to sharing my experiences with all of you.


read, write, and cook blog

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Cannonball Read V

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.