The Red and the Black by Stendahl

It took me forever, but I did it! The Red and the Black is quite the book to read. It’s not necessarily the size of the novel, but its content and plot that was fairly heavy.The novel’s main character is Julien Sorel and the plot covers his life from when he is a servant to him becoming a well-to-do man of society in France. Julien also has many “conquests” along the way which are mostly what the novel discusses, in addition to his social climbing.

Julien began his life as a peasant working for his terrible father. In his spare time, he reads and learns as much as he can. As such, de Renal, a heavyweight in the town’s hierarchy, hires Julien as the tutor for his children. de Renal’s wife falls in love with Julien. Julien makes her a happier woman, if you get what I mean, and in return, she teaches Julien all about society and social queues. Things happen and Julien is forced to attend a seminary and excels at the seminary, however priests are supposed to be humble and not look for success, which of course, Julien does. In seminary, Julien is hired to go to Paris to run a parish. Before he leaves he wants to say goodbye to de Renal and gets caught by her husband who ends up shooting at him. Needless to say, Julien leaves town immediately.

Book II begins with Julien in Paris and being hired by a high aristocrat, de la Mole. de la Mole gives Julien lots of duties to aid him in his finances, and also de la Mole’s daughter, Mathilde, takes a liking to Julien. Julien travels to a variety of places for de la Mole, and is very hesitant at getting involved with Mathilde, but still does. Mathilde becomes pregnant, and while her father is very angry, he quickly calms down and agrees that Julien and Mathilde will go off to the country to have their baby. Before they can leave, a letter from Renal comes and says that Julien is an opportunist and uses women to climb the social strata. Julien attempts to kill Renal but only harms her. He is caught and imprisoned and at his trial pleads guilty to climbing the social latter, but is found guilty and sentenced to death.

I thoroughly enjoyed Book I of this novel. Stendahl is a masterful story teller who paints a vivid picture of Julien’s life and the hardships that he faced. He rapidly develops a plot line in which a chapter is 3 pages long so the story develops rather quickly. This is sometimes challenging to read for all of a sudden a main character is in another country and the reader is confused as to why or how they got there. Book I really delves in Julien as a child and how his attributes of always needing to succeed in intelligence came about. Moreover, when Julien found Renal and felt impassioned to her, it was almost like a first infatuation for him.

Book II on the other hand dragged on, a lot. It was very hard to follow and there were so many social queues that I didn’t understand until multiple pages later or at all. I also got a little annoyed with Julien for he never decided on what he wanted. He did want to be a highly regarded aristocrat, but regarding love, he never really made a decision toward Mathilde. It was almost as if she was there, she was pretty, and he was bored so he asked himself “why not?” Julien became an aggravating character in Book II, where he was annoying in Book I, Book II exacerbated Julien’s need for stroking something he never got during childhood.

All in all, I can cross this novel off of my list and it was a good read. But I’m not quite sure how it got to be a classic. Regardless, I enjoyed it and it had a good and captivating plot line. Go read it if you have weeks to devote to it!

Advertisements

Pumpkin Cranberry Granola Bars

As I said in a previous post, it being fall comes the surplus of everything pumpkin flavored. This is a bad thing? No, No, this is a delicious part of the year! I found a site that had 20 items to make with pumpkin. With the glory of pumpkin pie and bars and other yumminess, I found a recipe for granola bars. So good! The only problem was that these bars were not crunchy, like classic granola bars. They were a bit soggy, so add a bit more granola than what this recipe calls for.

Ingredients: oats, brown sugar, eggs, milk, pumpkin puree, cranberries, cinnamon, salt

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, add two eggs, 1 cup of milk, and 1 cup of pumpkin puree. Combine thoroughly.DSCN3056
  2. Place 1 cup of brown sugar in the liquid ingredients.DSCN3057
  3. Add 1 tsp cinnamon and a bit of salt.DSCN3058
  4. Chop the cranberries in half. DSCN3059
  5. Add 2 cups of oats to the wet ingredients.
  6. Fold in the cranberries and mix thoroughly.
  7. Place in a baking dish.DSCN3060
  8. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until cooked all the way through.
  9. Cut into little bars and refrigerate.DSCN3062

Pumpkin Enchiladas

Ok, it sounds gross. The first thing my mom said when I told her what I was making she yelled through the phone “EW!” But, hey, it’s pumpkin time of year so why not try to incorporate it into some new recipes, such as enchiladas. The nice thing with this recipe is that it uses a very toned down version of pumpkin flavoring. Pumpkin puree is combined with salsa to make the enchilada sauce. The salsa downplays the pumpkiny flavor and makes it legit enchiladas (but mild, not spicy like classical red enchilada sauce). I thought this recipe was going to be just ok, yet it turned out pretty dang good! Hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients: zucchini, can of pumpkin puree, red bell pepper, one red onion, large jar of salsa (mild or hot), white corn tortillas, low fat mexican cheese, can of black beans, and can of corn

Directions:

  1. Slice the zucchini and bell pepper. I cut the zucc in half long way then slices. The bell pepper was in small matchsticks. Dice the red onion into small but not fine pieces. DSCN3050 DSCN3049
  2. In a medium pot, place a bit of olive oil. Heat and cook the onions. After 5 min, add the zucchini and bell peppers and cook until brown.DSCN3051
  3. While the veggies are cooking, in a small bowl combine the whole pumpkin puree can with salsa. Add enough salsa that it’s a loose mixture and tastes delish to you. DSCN3054
  4. Spray a large pyrex dish with Pam and place a bit of salsa at the bottom.DSCN3053
  5. Cover with tortillas and place more sauce on top of tortillas.
  6. Put cheese on the sauce. Then cover with half of the cans of corn and black beans.DSCN3055
  7. Place half of the veggie mixed onto the mix. Cover with tortillas.
  8. Repeat sauce, beans, corn, and veggies. Cover with tortillas and the last bit of sauce. Finally cheese.
  9. Cover the dish with foil.
  10. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.
  11. Enjoy!!! DSCN3061

Reign Season Two: Netflix

Not only am I a huge fan of historical fiction novels, but if done properly, I’m in love with TV series as well. Showtime did an excellent rendition of Henry VIII’s life when he was crowned King to the day he died and all of the political intrigue (oh, and six wives) that intersected his life during that time span. Recently, the CW copied Showtime’s “The Tudors,” and made a show called “Reign” and its season two was added to Netflix recently. Queue even more drama, more political intrigue, and Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth.

Season One of “Reign” concerned Mary Queen of Scots rise to power as wife to France’s Prince Frances. It ended with Frances becoming King and Mary Queen of France and Scotland. Season Two picked up right where season one ended and progressed with the same drama and issues. This season, however, involved more of the issues plaguing France during this time period and the stresses that Frances, Mary, and Catherine de Medici faced. The writers did take a little more fictional interpretation of Mary and Frances’ lives and built relationships around them with people that I’m not so sure were actually existent in that time period. Whatever, it made for good TV.

There are two parts that Season two proved to be much more enjoyable: Narcisse and the three ladies that surround Mary (Lola, Greer, and Kenna). First, these three ladies stopped acting like teenagers and started really acting like adults. Lola had Frances’ baby boy so she had to start acting like a mother. Greer married a Count and had to become a wife, and then was exiled and had to make something of herself without a husband. Kenna married Bash and obviously had to be a wife at Court. All three of these ladies were not looking for husbands any more. They had to grow up and I really enjoyed watching them stop acting like starry-eyed youths, but in fact women who had to be assertive and not walked all over. The second part of this season that I thoroughly enjoyed with Narcisse. An older Lord who was used to getting his way, was blackmailing King Frances and causing a strain on Frances and Mary’s relationship. Then he was outsmarted by Frances and lost everything. This man though could not be torn down. He joined forces with Catherine and began reclaiming his power as a mighty Lord. He also though was constantly fighting with himself on who was the true Narcisse, evil and power hungry OR a kind gentleman? A great character addition to the season and I hope to see him in the third season!!

Season Two was great in the usual sense that costumes were AMAZING and sets were pretty realistic for the times. The only thing that I didn’t like was the fictional premises of the plot(s). Mary had a weird relationship with Prince Conde that turned from friendship to a relationship to friendship to a relationship. I just wanted to say “stop with the BS.” Frances was a weenie during this time for he just let Mary do the nasty with Conde and turned a blind eye. Um, no, you shouldn’t let your wife sleep with another man and KNOW it. Also, towards the end of the season, there was some odd things happening with Bash and magic. It wasn’t really well-developed and lacked being a serious addition to the plot. It was almost as if the writers just wanted to add a plot line with Bash without actually developing something good. Pretty weak.

All in all, if you just watch Season two for the costumes, I think that’s well-worth your time in watching all 22 episodes of the season. The women all have beautiful dresses and just wait until the final 10 minutes when Queen Elizabeth comes on set with an amazing red dress. OMG, I died, for not only are they bringing Elizabeth to the show, but they are bringing the costumes that accompany her! All in all, just queue the season up on your Netflix account; trust me, it’s worth your time!

Whole Wheat Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

I love me some poppy seed muffins! So good! Poppy seeds = my favorite. Pair them with lemon = Favoritest! Most whole wheat recipes tend to be dry, but this one actually was pretty good and soft. I think it was the vanilla yogurt I added. So good! Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients: egg, whole wheat flour, lemon, white sugar, butter, poppy seeds, vanilla yogurt, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Directions:

  1. 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup of poppy seeds, 1/4 tsp of baking soda, and 1 tsp of baking powder. Mix these in a large bowl. DSCN3036
  2. Melt 5 tbsp of butter. Mix with 1 cup of vanilla yogurt and 1 egg. Combine well in a separate bowl from the flour bowl. DSCN3039
  3. In a third bowl, take 1 cup of white sugar and mix with the lemon zest of one lemon. Mix the sugar and zest together until the sugar is yellow. Don’t discard the lemon. DSCN3038 DSCN3037
  4. Place the lemon juice in the bowl with the yogurt and egg.
  5. Add the yogurt mix to the flour bowl. DSCN3040
  6. Add the sugar to the mix. DSCN3041
  7. Stir together well. It will be thick so be warned! Place in muffin cups 3/4 of the way up. DSCN3042 DSCN3043
  8. Heat the oven to 375F.
  9. Cook muffins for 20 minutes or until a tooth pick goes through cleanly.
  10. Enjoy! DSCN3045

American Horror Story: Freak Show

When I heard that the new American Horror Story (AHS) season would be a “freak show” I was a little unnerved. Asylum was creepy (one of the basic premises of AHS) and Coven was pretty original in considering the school for witches theme. I honestly thought that Ryan Murphy was feeding into the “freakdom” that were all of the freaks who were cast on the show. But, while that was not the case, AHS Freak Show was a really great season.

I recently read a TV review in which the reviewer said that AHS has peaks and troughs throughout the season. This is very true of the three past seasons of AHS, but I think Freak Show had more peaks or, to be more accurate, plateaued had the peak with relatively few dips in which the plot line slowed. The premise of Freak Show is based in 1950s Florida, where a woman, Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange), runs and is the headliner for her Freak Show. The cast is similar to Asylum and Coven, but has a lot more cast for there are all of the Freaks. The main character of than Elsa are: Sarah Paulson (two-headed girl), Emma Roberts (Fortune teller), Evan Peters (Lobster boy), Angela Bassett (three-boobed woman), and Kathy Bates (bearded lady). These are the individuals with the most screen time, and they were fantastic.

There are two additional sub-plots of Freak Show: crazy spoiled child who turns into a killer and a low-down dirty team who gets paid to add specimens to a freak museum. Unfortunately, while the actors were amazing and really portrayed the characters in awesome ways, I felt like the sub-plots detract from the whole premise of the Freak Show. There was a lot of material on freak show that could have been delved into that wasn’t touched. I found the historical perspective of all of the freaks very interesting: how they got to be the way they are, where were they born, and how did Elsa help them. The one character that was really well-developed was Pepper. And watch where she ends up!!!

The whole season of Freak Show was really very interesting and I enjoyed each episode. Especially that this season was full of strong female characters. If any theme could be extracted from this season, it would have to be: Women save the day. All of the women freaks band together, multiple times, and help each other survive the cruel world that they live in.

I really have no negative thoughts or cons to watching the season. I wasn’t a particular fan of Sarah Paulson’s characters, the two-headed girl, but that was because they were too ignorant for me. The creepy clown was also not exactly the most fun to watch. But, after hearing his story, my heart did break a little so I understood what he was doing and why. Other than that, it was great!

There’s 15 episodes, shorter than a traditional TV season, and they all run about 50 minutes, a bit longer than a traditional TV show episode. The scenes and costumes are amazing, and the plot is pretty creative. The new episodes are on Netflix so binge watch to your hearts desire!