Speaking Jose…


Time to do some reading – Two Book Picks
February 24, 2009, 4:18 am
Filed under: Books | Tags: , , ,

Finally hit Spring Break from the MBA classes! It’s been kind of a rough semester so far, papers due every week for Service Marketing class and a huge report for Strategy class. Now that I have a couple of weeks off, I’m going to catch up with some good books that my sister-in-law, Amie, recommended over the Holidays.

The Lightning Thief is the first book in a series by Rick Riordan that follows the adventure of Percy Jackson and his friends in a world were Gods (the old school types – Poseidon, Zeus, etc) and Magic are real. It’s fun,light reading with a good pace, which is perfect for when you want to entertain yourself with a good story without having to follow complicated story-lines or plot developments (except you may have to recall some of the Greek or Roman mythology you learned in school). I will pass on the same warning that Amie gave me, the first book has story elements very similar to Harry Potter and you may find that a little distracting or off-putting. The good news is that this becomes less the case as you work through the rest of the books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and the character development from one book to the next is well done. I am through the third book in the series so far (The Titans Curse) and hope to get through book five by the time break is over!

Additionally, I wanted to recommend another book in case you were looking for a heavy duty, involved book to help past the time as you wait for Spring to actually show up (hey it snowed in Detroit this past Saturday, so Spring can’t get here soon enough). Coincidentally enough, it also has a tie to mythology, but is not about a young boy and quests for glory. It’s a story about a world where people and the government have given up the drive to better themselves and have instead chosen to wallow in mediocrity. A world where achievement is not applauded, but is scorned as a being unfair. A world where the empire one builds can be taken away and redistributed to others in the name of “fairness”. What happens when the driving force behind the the economic and creative engine of our country disappear? What happens if Atlas Shrugged? I read this book last year and it has truly left an impression on the way I look at my life and the world around us. Now, fair warning, this is not an easy read and it will take some time to go through the story. Still, as you follow the story and find the answer to the infamous question “Who is John Galt?” I hope that you will see the same thing I saw in this story; that mankind was meant to struggle and fight for its achievements, for that is what makes us unique. It is a timeless story by Ayn Rand and one that I think is very important to read considering the current political and economical climate.

Enjoy the books and I hope to write more soon!

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Vampire Cupcakes!
November 20, 2008, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Books, Food, Movies | Tags: , , , ,

 

Update: Kristen originally found these delicious treats on the Baking Bites blog.

Kristen made some great cupcakes for last Halloween and I wanted to share the recipe with you for the next time you are looking for a scary treat (or you’re getting amped for the release of the movie based on your favorite vampire novel).

Kristen's vampire cupcakes

Kristens Cupcakes

Kristen’s Vampire Cupcakes

Step 1. Make cupcakes using your favorite yellow cake mix, brand doesn’s matter, but just make sure you use a regular size muffin or cupcake pan. Dont try to use white cake mix for the recipe, the filling later on will just turn the cupcake to a pinkish hue and the effect is lost.

Step 2. Make the “blood” by pureeing cherry pie filling until its relatively smooth and liquid with no lumps (like real blood).

Step 3. Once the cupcakes are made and cooled, cut a piece out of the top of the cup cake that is about half the height of the cupcake. The piece that comes out should almost look like circular muffin top with a cone attached at the bottom, think cartoonish diamond shape if it helps.

Step 4. Spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the pie filling into the cavity in the cupcake. You may have to experiment and have a couple of test pieces to determine the relation between how big a piece you cut out in Step 3 versus the amount of liquid added.  The goal should be that a person biting in should get a good taste of the filling but not be wiping away their chin from the excess.  After adding the filling, replace the top on the cupcake.

Step 5. Time to frost! White or light colored frosting works best to show off the blood in Step 7, but feel free to use any flavor you like (we used cream cheese frosting on the ones in the picture). To frost, first put a thin layer on the cupcake around where the cut line from Step 3 is, this will help cover up the edge when completing the frosting. After the thin layer evens out the edge you can finish frosting the cupcake by piping it on the cupcake or just using a flat knife. 

Step 6. To make the fang marks there are a couple of techniques, but again, feel free to experiment to find a method you like (plus it means you can eat the “test cupcakes” in the name of science!). For ours we tries using a straw to cut out the hole (insert the straw into the cupcake and pull out), but while it made a good size hole, the cake got stuck in the straw and was difficult to get out. In the end we used a clean mean thermometer to poke into the cupcake and then mode the hole bigger by moving it around in a circular motion to expand the hole. Make sure you make the fang marks about an inch apart to look realistic.

Step 7. The final and most fun step is to add the “dripping blood” to the fang holes and the top of the cupcake. We used a straw to help us fill the fang holes (an eye dropper works well here too) and then used a toothpick to make the little blood trail.

Step 8. Eat and Enjoy!

Variation on this theme: Make the cupcakes with chocolate cake mix and chocolate frosting to make a Blackula Cupcake. Another thought was to add a white chocolate chip in with the filling for a cupcake to act as lost vampire tooth.



Revisiting some of my favorites…
June 20, 2008, 3:33 am
Filed under: Books, Movies | Tags: , , , ,

Since Battlestar is on break until god knows when, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favorite books and movies over the Summer. Its great because I get to enjoy some of my favorite things, but also because sometimes I find or realize something that I didn’t during a previous viewing/reading.  Yesterday, I finished reading Naked by David Sedaris and tonight I am going to start Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy.  I’m a huge Clancy fan and Red Storm does a great job of playing “What if?” with a NATO vs. Warsaw Pact battle. I also had the computer game when I was in 6th grade and at the time thought that games could not get any cooler. 

As for movies, tonight I saw Blade Runner for the 15th time. This time it was the 2007 Final Cut Edition,which as far as I can tell added a few more scenes than before, and I still don’t understand how people can say that Deckard is a replicant.  Ridley Scott does a good job painting a sort of negative utopian future in a way that sci-fi fans will eat up and leave  everyone else scratching their heads.  

At my brother’s urging, earlier this year, I got the audiobook of the short story that the movie is adapted from, “Do Andriods Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick. The story is a little more darker and dreary than the movie, but is a great science fiction story and in some areas surpasses the movie.