Sunday, February 27, 2022

Boozy Coffee? Yes, Please.

 Do you like coffee?  Do you like booze?  Then you are sure to like Kahlua.  Today (Feb. 27th) is National Kahlua Day!

Kahlua makes a lot of delicious cocktails.  Below is a list of a few that I have tried.  There are a lot more.  Maybe by next National Kahlua Day I will have tried enough new ones to make another list.  But I highly suggest you Google Kahlua cocktails and try some others. 

White Russian - With vodka to amp up the alcohol and heavy cream this is a creamy coffee delight.


Black Russian - If you take the cream out of a White Russian you get a Black Russian.  Good, but I like the dessert feel the cream gives.  

Sombrero - If you take the vodka out of a White Russian you get a Sombrero.  Also good.  But I like the extra punch of the vodka.  So, of the three I like the White Russian best.  But if I am missing an ingredient, I enjoy any of the three.

Mudslide - When you add Irish Cream to a White Russian you get a Mudslide.  Who doesn't like Irish Cream?  Adds more alcohol and makes it even sweeter.


- A bourbon/Kahula cocktail with some orange bitters.  The three flavors go very well together.  I like the deeper flavor the Kahlua give to the bourbon.  If you like Old Fashioneds and coffee you will like this.

Root Beer - Kahlua, cola and Galliano.  I don't know how, but they mix into a drink that taste very much like root beer.  Yummy, if you like root beer.

B52 - Either a shot or a drink.  It is supposed to be a layered drink but I can never get that to work so I just mixed it all up.  I think orange and coffee go well together so I like the Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec) Kahlua combination.

Toasted Almond Drink - Almond and coffee?  Good idea.  The almond comes from amaretto, so it is a rather sweet drink but I like that sort of thing.

coffee martini
Coffee Martini - Of course coffee and Kahlua is a very natural combination.  Even with the Irish Cream the black coffee stops this from being very sweet.  It is an alcoholic iced coffee with cream and sugar.

Cherry Coffee Cola - Who knew that Kahula and cola would go so well together?
  A cherry cola with a twist.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Pinocchio Turns 82

Today (Feb. 23) is the anniversary of the release of Pinocchio way back in 1940.  Who doesn't know the story of the wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy and his adorable cricket conscience?  To celebrate I watched the newer live action version released in 2019.

Pinocchio starring Roberto Benigni and Federico Ielapi

Let's face it, Pinocchio is an odd story.  A wooden puppet comes to life, has a cricket tell him what to do, turns into a donkey and all sorts of other weird things.  And I think it seems even stranger when it is not animated.  They do a good job making Pinocchio look wooden but then with the real eyes he is kind of spooky.  The Talking Cricket (he doesn't have another name in this film) is creepy too.  And I don't even want to talk about the salmon with the human eyes.  The big features of the Disney movie (I have not read the book so I don't know how it compares to that) are all there.  The donkey business, the fairy, the whale, the cricket, running off and meeting a fox.  His growing nose does make a brief appearance but it is not a major part of the film.  Pinocchio is not a very likeable character and you have to wonder why everyone keeps saving him from himself.  But you do want him to be saved, not for his own sake, but for Geppetto's, who is a likeable character and loves his little wooden boy.  The make-up and effects are good, if creepy sometimes.  But I can't say I actually enjoyed the film.  But I can't really blame the film.  I think it is the story I don't care for.  Pinocchio runs around getting into trouble in a bunch of random situations that are just a hodgepodge of nonsense really.  Which is what the Disney film is too.  So it was my fault for watching it in the first place when I didn't really get the other movie either.  I don't think the characters are as loveable in this movie as the Disney one but the stories are very similar, although I think this one is slightly darker.  If you are a big fan of Disney's Pinocchio than I think this will appeal to you.  

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Song for a Whale Review (World Whale Day)

Today is World Whale Day.  I read this book so I could post a review for this day.  It was the first time I had heard of 52 Blue.  A whale that sings at a different frequency than most whales.  This book is based on that whale.

Song For a Whale by Lynne Kelly

(from the back of the book) Twelve-year-old Iris has never let her deafness slow her down.  A whiz at fixing electronics, she's always felt at home in the world of wires and vacuum tubes.

School, on the other hand, isn't quite as simple.  She's the only Deaf student in her classes, and between her frustrating English teacher Ms. Conn and her overly helpful classmate Nina.  Iris can't seem to catch a break.

But during science class, Iris learns about Blue 55, the loneliest whale in the world.  Saddened by the animal's inability to speak to other whales, Iris uses her tech skills to come up with a plan to communicate with Blue 55.

One small problem: the whale is swimming off the coast of Alaska, nearly three thousand miles from her Texas home.  But nothing will stop Iris, and with her Deaf grandmother by her side, she sets out on a road trip to meet Blue 55 and make sure he's finally heard.

This is about a whale, but it is more about the girl who is chasing the whale.  Iris, being the only deaf girl in her school, feels like no one understands her.  When she learns about a whale who seems to have the same problem, she immediately feels a kinship with him.  The book follows her quest to let this whale know someone is listening to him.  The quest was made harder because she speaks a different language than everyone else.  The way she relates to the hearing world and how they relate to her was interesting to see.  Expressions are different in sign language, her teacher was upset because a poem she wrote didn't rhyme but to her it did.  So even though she had a translator communication was not always easy.  I never thought of sign language that way before.  I liked how Kelly used the whale's story to tell Iris's.  You could feel Iris's frustration with not belonging and not being understood, even when those who loved her tried their best.  It is a wonderful look at a girl learning how to make her own space in a world that doesn't seem to have a space for her.  And the people that love her learning how to let her.  

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Pangolins Didn't Do it! (It's Not My Fault Review)

 Every year the third Saturday in February is World Pangolin Day.  The poor pangolin has been hunted for meat and for his scales (he is the only scaled mammal) which some people think have medicinal uses and he was even blamed (but later exonerated) for being the one who passed COVID from bats to humans.  Pangolins have had it rough.  

In It's Not My Fault: A Pangolin's Manifesto by Rachel Shaw one pangolin wants you to hear his side of the story.

The book starts out by mentioning how the pangolin was linked to COVID and how he was hunted and explains that that is why he spends so much time at home.  With simple and adorable illustrations you get to see how this pangolin spends his time.  Reading and drawing and tending his plants.  Along the way he gives the reader advice.  Simple things he thinks would be good to do like, being kind to others, spending time in nature, or exercising.  The reader is also supplied with facts about pangolins.  Did you know that they can close their ears and nostrils so ants can't climb in?  This would be a great introduction to pangolins because there is a surprising amount of information here for so short a book.  It is a cute story that brings the plight of pangolins into the light and at the same time will make you smile.  

Friday, February 18, 2022

The Friday 56




* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

This week my book is It's Not My Fault: A Pangolin's Manifesto by Rachel Shaw.  It was a theory that pangolins passed COVID from bats to humans.  This pangolin wants you to know that it is not true.  I will post a review tomorrow on World Pangolin Day.  

My Friday 56:

If you don't have bubbles, try mud.  Pangolins don't need an expensive spa day - a roll in mud cools them down and helps remove parasites.

It's a cute book that is a good introduction to pangolins if you want to learn about them.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Want to make your own gin?

It is well known to my friends and family that I like a good cocktail.  So for Christmas my sister gave me a Do Your Gin kit.  It turns out you can make your own gin at home.  All you need is a neutral alcohol and juniper berries.

The kit comes with two 350 ml bottles, a funnel, two filters, a collection of botanicals including juniper berries, instructions, a few recipes and a description of the botanicals.  The bottles have a label on them where you can check off the ingredients you have added but I reused the bottles for several gins so that wouldn't have made sense for me.

They suggest vodka as the neutral alcohol I used Skyy because it is decent vodka at a decent price.  And it is the one I could money back for from my Ibotta app. 

The instructions are kind of vague so some of it was a bit of guessing.  I filled the bottle right up to the bottom of the neck.  Which worked fine for the first two gins but on my third (in which I added bits of fresh ginger) I realized that I should have taken into account the displacement the ingredients would create.  I had to pour a little vodka out to fit my flavorings in.

first gin

I didn't follow any of the recipes.  For my first gin I used one test tube of juniper berries.  The instructions say that if you crush the berries they will release more flavor.  Since it was my first try I didn't know how much flavor they would release anyway so I hedged my bets and crushed half of them.  I let it sit on the shelf for 24 hours then I added about a teaspoon of the pink pepper.  I crushed half of that too.  Then it sat on the shelf for another 24 hours.  The instructions say you can drink it after the 48 hours but suggests that you leave it in the fridge for another 12.  So I put it in the fridge for the last 12 hours.  Then I used funnel and the filter to pour it into the other bottle.  It was not clean like gin usually is because the natural colors of the herbals remain in the gin.  There was a strong juniper flavor but not enough to overpower the pepper.  I liked it.  The pepper added a nice spice that went well with
the juniper.

third gin

I have made two more gins since.  Using the same timings on all three.  The second I used the same amount of juniper but didn't crush any and then added about half of the hibiscus flower.  I liked the juniper better this way.  The hibiscus made it a beautiful red color and gave it a lovely floral (but not perfumey) flavor.  It was something I would sip on.  The third was the same juniper as the second and then I went completely off script and added about a tablespoon of fresh ginger bits and about half a teaspoon of orange peel.  Once again you could taste all the flavors added and I ended up with a gin I was happy to sip on.

The only ingredient that didn't come from the kit was the ginger.  You get three test tubes of juniper berries so I have to buy more now if I want to make more gin.  (I looked and it is available on Amazon.) It only comes with two filters so for my third gin I got little coffee filters and they worked just fine.  And I still have a lot of different flavors to try.

I would not have thought of doing it on my own but now that I have gotten the idea from the kit I think I will continue to experiment with it.  It is a lot of fun trying new flavors.

The kit cost $59.90.  It was a really nice and well appreciated gift.  But.  There are a lot of botanicals that I don't know I will ever use.  And you can use any resealable bottle (well, pair of bottles) and get a funnel anywhere.  I think it makes a good gift but if you are interested in trying out your own gin making you can probably get all the things you need for less than the $60 asking price of this kit.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Angry, Angry Hippos (American Hippo Review)

 It's World Hippo Day! (Feb. 15, 2022) I like hippos but, from a distance.  Hippos seem to be angry creatures who kill an average of 500 people a year.  I don't want to meet a hippo.  I will be content to read about hippos.

And there were some seriously angry hippos in American Hippo.

American Hippo by Sarah Gailey

American Hippo is a collection of two novellas and two short stories about an alternate America where hippos were imported as a food source during a meat shortage.  (This was an actually proposal at one point.  Thankfully it didn't go anywhere.)  But the hippos escaped and now they rule the swamp that used to be the Mississippi River.

This is a western with hippos.  Instead of riding horses across the plains they are riding hippos in the marshes and swamps.  Who wouldn't want to read that?  I think it is a very interesting concept and makes for some fun reading.  There is a lot going on so there never a lull in the action.  There is revenge, a love story, assassins, treachery, evil plots.  The fast pace makes this a quick read.  And even though there is a lot going on it is very much about the characters: their personal relationships, their past traumas, what brought them to the place they are now.  You get to know these people to some extent, some you hate some you like and some you are not sure how you feel about them, but you are not ambivalent about them.  I did find it a little annoying that everyone magically knew to call one of the characters 'they' instead of him without anything being said.  It's an alternate history story so I don't mind that using they as a personal pronoun is a thing in the book when it wasn't at the time the book takes place.  Neither were hippos.  But how did everyone just know?  It's not a big thing but I thought it was odd.  Other than that small point I found this an exciting, imaginative, entertaining adventure that I really enjoyed reading.  The second novella picks up right were the first one leaves off and the two short stories explain how some of the things in the novella came about.  So even though the book is technically a collection of four titles it is all one story.  This is the first book by Sarah Gailey that I have read, and it makes me want to read more.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Friday 56




* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is Song For a Whale by Lynne Kelly.  It is about a deaf girl, Iris, who finds out there is a whale that sings at a different frequency than other whales so they can't understand them.  She understands how that feels and wants to find a way to let Blue 55 know someone hears him.

My Friday 56:

Sometimes he's quiet for weeks at a time, and we worry that he's given up (or that he's no longer alive), but then he starts singing again.  It seems he keeps trying to communicate, but there's nothing out there that understands his songs,

That sounds really very sad.  And Blue 55 is based on a real whale.  So there really is a whale out there that basically speaks a different language than other whales.  Poor guy.  

Thursday, February 10, 2022

What do you do with an umbrella? (The Thingamabob Review)

It's National Umbrella Day!  How do you celebrate such a day?  I don't really know.  It isn't even raining.  So I thought I would read this picture book about an elephant who finds an umbrella but doesn't know what it is.  It seemed as good a way as any.

The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na

An elephant finds a thingamabob and tries all sorts of uses for it to figure out what it is.

When an elephant happens upon a thingamabob (or an umbrella as we would call it) he tries everything to figure out what it is.  He tries to fly with it, sail with it and hide behind it but nothing works until it starts to rain.  I think it would make a great read aloud book because I can see kids telling the silly elephant that he has got it wrong and answering him when he asks what his thingamabob could possibly be.  I love the fun, whimsical illustrations and they add a great deal of humor to this story of curiosity and discovery.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

What the heck is Galliano?

 I like to try new cocktails and will sometimes pick one at random to try on the weekend.  Sometimes it is one that I have heard of before but never really knew what was in it.  This time it was the Harvey Wallbanger.  That's how I ended up with a bottle of Galliano.  

I had never heard of Galliano so when I went to the liquor store I had no idea what I was looking for.  But there it was on the shelf with the other liquors that really don't have a category, like Kahlua and amaretto and schnapps.  There was just the one type there, I later learned that Galliano has several different types.  I got the Autentico.  Just by happenstance.  (All the recipes that follow use Autentico.)

Galliano comes in this ridiculously tall bottle.  I felt a little silly bringing it up to the counter.  But I was determined.  So...

I get it home and take a taste.  First thing I notice is that it is hard to control the pour because the balance of the bottle is weird and when all the liquid shifts it tips more than you expect.  You have to learn where to hold the bottle so you can control it.  It is sweet and the predominant flavor is anise.  It is not something I would want to sip on all by itself.  But I found out it makes some great cocktails.  (And some not so great cocktails.)  And at 84.6 proof it is no lightweight.  

Harvey Wallbanger
So it all started with the Harvey Wallbanger.  It is orange juice, vodka and Galliano.  Unfortunately I didn't really like it.  The oj and Galliano didn't seem to blend well.  But it is a well known cocktail so maybe I'm crazy.

One that worked out better was Root Beer.  It has Kahlua and cola in it and somehow taste very much like root beer.  If you like root beer you will like this one.

The Barracuda has kind of a lot of ingredients with rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, and champagne on
top of the Galliano.  I think the slightly sweeter pineapple is a better mix with the Galliano and the champagne gives it a nice fizz.  

The Freddy Fudpucker is another orange juice concoction but this one has tequila.  This isn't one I'm likely to repeat either but I liked it better than the Harvey Wallbanger.  I think the strong flavor of tequila was a benefit over the neutral vodka.

Livorno Cup

The Gin and Galliano Sour is pretty straight forward.  You get exactly what you expect.  The ratio between the gin and Galliano is heavily weighted toward the gin.  I think if you like gin you will like this.

The Livorno Cup is another one that has a longer list of ingredients.  With gin, vermouth, lime juice, and ginger beer I really didn't know what to expect with the combination.  The balance is nice though.  You have the sweet Galliano and the bitter vermouth, the herbal gin that goes well with the anise from the Galliano and the ginger beer adds that slight bite while blending everything together and giving it a nice fizz.  

If you like bourbon you will like the Galliano Old Fashioned.  It tastes very much like a regular Old Fashioned with just a hint of the sweet anise in the background.

The Yellow Bird was one of my favorites.   Rum and Triple Sec to go with the Galliano with a touch of lime.  The sweet Triple Sec is a nice compliment to the Galliano.  

Beckoning Lady

The Beckoning Lady proves that passion fruit juice makes great cocktails.  And tequila with a nice fruit juice is always a good option.

Golden Cadillac

The Golden Dream is another orange juice one.  I like this one.  I guess it isn't the orange juice I don't like so much but it needs something else in the mix.  With cream and triple sec it turns into a creamy creamsicle treat.

The Golden Cadillac is another creamy treat.  And with the addition of creme de cacao it reminds me a little of Irish Cream.  

Friday, February 4, 2022

The Friday 56




* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is American Hippo by Sarah Gailey.  Did you ever wonder what would happen if America imported hippos as a food source?  Well, wonder no more.  American Hippo can answer the question for you.  

Page 56 is the end of a chapter so there wasn't much to choose from but...

My Friday 56:

Cal stared after him, clutching the purple napkin to what was left of his ear.  After a minute or two, he swore under his breath.

Obviously a hippo did not do that to him.  If a hippo got a hold of someone they would lose a lot more than an ear.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Icarus at the Edge of Time Review


Icarus at the Edge of Time by Brian Greene


(from the back of the book)

Icarus at the Edge of Time is a futuristic reimagining of the classic Greek myth.  This time, rather than wax wings and a journey near the Sun, a boy ventures through deep space and challenges the awesome power of black holes.  The fable dramatizes the startling implications of what is perhaps Einstein's greatest insight 


Yes, this is a board book.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t for adults.  In fact the story would be lost on a child of the age you think of when you think of board books.  It is an imaginative retelling of the myth of Icarus, updated to a science fiction story but holding true to the ideas of the original.  In this short story Greene manages to create a foreboding feeling as the son disregards his father’s warning and flies off to explore a black hole and his father’s helplessness because there is nothing he can do.  It also explains the science behind the link between time and gravity to some extent.  Not an in depth look to be sure but a good first look at the concept.  It also has beautiful photos from the Hubble telescope.  Some of them are obscured by the representation of the black hole but don’t worry there are thumbnails of them all in the back so you can see them all in their entirety.  Since I have an interest in Greek myth and science I found the combination a wonderful idea and I’m glad I stumbled onto this one.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Happy Serpent Day (Verdi Review)

Today is National Serpent Day.  (Yes, there is a day for just about everything.  Except succotash.  I'm thinking of trying to create one.)  And what better way to celebrate then reading about our fine scaled friends.

Verdi by Janell Cannon

Verdi is about a young python.  He is bright yellow with sporty stripes, and he likes it that way.  He does not want to grow up and be green and slow like all the other pythons

Verdi is full of beautiful, lush, vibrant illustrations.  It tells a story of a baby python.  He and all his siblings are born yellow and his mother's wish for them all is that they grow up big and green.  But Verdi doesn't want that.  He thinks the green pythons are boring and lazy and does not want to be like them.  Verdi is afraid of change.  He does not want to grow up because he thinks he will not be him anymore.  But the story is about Verdi learning that change isn't necessarily bad and who you are remains the same.  It is a story about not being afraid of change or growing up, about not assuming your ideas and choices are always the best, about learning that (sometimes at least) your elders might actually know something you don't.  It is beautifully told in a quiet voice so you are hearing the message without realizing there is a message.  Children will learn the lessons but think they are just listening to a sweet story about a loveably baby python.