Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The End

Despite having mixed feelings about the first two books in the series, I stuck with Stieg Larsson's trilogy and finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. In the end, I'm glad I read all three, if only to be part of the Harry Potter-for-adults-craze that's going on with these books. Let's just hope they never turn these into a theme park.

It's not that these are terrible books. The characters are interesting and the story is really engaging at times. The biggest downfall is that the author tends to write in excruciating detail, and you have to slog through all of that before you get to the parts where the story really picks up. I could have done without the pages and pages that describe the history of the Swedish secret police. And for that matter, I really don't need a clothing description for every single character that passes across the page, especially when they're all in fairly generic "black trousers and light sweaters". These are okay books that could potentially be really, really good if they were edited down a little.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lime Obsession

This summer, fresh lime juice has become my new favorite thing. Nothing tastes or smells better. Lately I've been squeezing some into every glass of water I drink.

I've also tried out this really cool pitcher. It has a hollow tube on one side that you fill with fresh limes so they infuse the water with flavor. (Lemons and, surprisingly, strawberries, also work well.) It's a healthy, refreshing, and yummy treat.

Equally good, but less healthy, was the delicious mojito that I had recently at La Boca Chica, my new favorite Mexican restaurant on the Lower East Side. It was packed with limes and mint leaves- so good! It only increased my lime obsession and inspired me to indulge in a different kind of lime treat- Jo Malone's Lime, Basil, and Mandarin cologne.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Funny Essays

I can't say that I'm a true fan of The Daily Show because I rarely watch it, and rarely even think to watch it. I may want to start now, though, after reading Samantha Bee's very, very funny book of essays/ memoirs I Know I Am But What Are You? I decided to read this on a whim after reading a review that covered both this and Sloane Crosley's book and I'm glad I did. Her essays start at her Canadian childhood and end with a dude ranch vacation with her husband. Each new story has a little reference back to something she talked about in a previous one, so it feels like you're a part of the inside joke. It's a good summer reading book- light and easy, and it made me laugh out loud quite a bit.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jess LC Jewelry

I saw this jewelry designer featured on jenloveskev a while back and thought that some of her pieces were really nice. Lately I've been liking delicate necklaces that can be worn everyday like a signature piece and layered with other things, like this double strand pearl necklace:

Or this one with two roughly cut crystals.

The site also has some cool pieces that combine a round disc stamped with Braille with a small crystal bead.

Monday, July 19, 2010

How Did You Get This Number

I think my favorite thing about Sloane Crosley's new book is the title, and all the different ways you can emphasize is. It is- How did you get this number? How did you get this number? Or How did you get this number? Who knows.

Anyway, Sloane Crosley writes short, humorous, slice-of-life essays, kind of like David Sedaris, if David Sedaris was a thirty-something, female book publicist and was just a bit less funny than he actually is. I really liked her first book, so I was a little disappointed to find that this one was just ok. The essays are perfectly fine and funny at times, but it's the kind of humor that made me think "ha ha" in my head rather actually laugh out loud.

I'm about to start another book of humor essays, so expect a full comparison soon.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Last night I saw the Banksy movie Exit Through the Gift Shop. It was really good- funny, perplexing, and interesting all at the same time. Definitely a must see, which might seem surprising for a documentary about a documentarian (documentarist?).

It's kind of tricky to explain the movie (this review will probably do a better job that I will), but on the surface it's a documentary about Thierry Giuetta, a compulsive French filmer (though not necessarily a filmmaker) who follows and videotapes artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, ostensibly making a documentary about street art. Then the film takes a turn when Giuetta decides to become a street artist (of sorts) himself.
There are all sorts of layers you can read into it. Is it a commentary about how people are gullible when it comes to what's considered art? Is the entire thing just a joke that Banksy's playing? All of this is mixed in with really interesting scenes of street artists putting up their work. I can't really be sure what the full meaning of the whole thing is, but I do know that I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Treats from Sweet

As promised, here's my second new cupcake discovery- Sweet. Slightly off the beaten path in Hoboken, it's a cupcake bakery that's been right under my nose, but I only found out about it the other day.

Remember when I was musing about how a blind taste test would be a good excuse to eat two cupcakes? Well, I retract that. I don't need an excuse to eat two cupcakes. The ones from Sweet are slightly smaller than most. I tried a vanilla one which was only so-so, and a red velvet one which was delicious. Probably the best red velvet cupcake I've ever had. Now I know which to focus on the next time I go back.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

I would really like to be able to recommend The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano, but I just can't. The ending was too much of a letdown. It follows two misfit characters in Italy from childhood to adulthood. The first 3/4 of the book kept me really enthralled. It's a case where the two main characters weren't completely likeable, but I still liked them anyway and was rooting for them. For me, the ending negated all the good that came before it. Not only was it not the ending that the story seemed to be building towards, but it was completely unfulfilling, leaving things way too unresolved. Sometimes I like that kind of thing, but not in this case. Boo!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Build Me Up, Buttercup

This is the first in a two part series about some new cupcake discoveries. Let's start with Buttercup. In all of my forays to Magnolia, Crumbs, and Babycakes, I seemed to have missed stopping at this bakery until just recently. Apparently two people started Magnolia together, then one broke away to open Buttercup. Or possibly the other way around. In any case, Buttercup and Magnolia are kind of like the step-siblings of the cupcake world.

Overall verdict: The taste was very similar to Magnolia, especially the frosting. I enjoyed the sugar sprinkles that Buttercup put on top, but generally like Magnolia's light pastel frosting colors better. Maybe I should set up a blind taste test. (And, yes, that would just be an excuse to justify eating two cupcakes at once.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I just finished reading the Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg . She's strictly a short story writer whose work was highly recommended to me. It was a recommendation that was right on target, because the stories were all really good.

The stories are all really different, but what they do have in common is the way that Eisenberg captures the voices of a variety of characters, typically kind of quirky, and focuses on in small but pivotal moments in their lives. The massive 900 pages of this book are comprised of three or four of the short story collections that she's written over the years. I like her earliest and most recent stories the best, but I admit that I skipped over a few in the middle. Going from one story right into the next made it a little hard to fully digest some of them. I'd likely go back and reread some of these, one at a time, and at a slower pace.

Final random fact: Deborah Eisenberg is married to Wallace Shawn, from Clueless and, more recently, Gossip Girl.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Another Bronte Down

I've read all of Jane Austen's books many times over, but I'm still working my way through the Bronte sisters'. I checked another off my list when I recently finished Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, probably the least known of the three sisters.

The title character's middle class family loses their money. Too well-bred to be part of the lower classes but too poor to be grouped with the upper classes, she goes out and finds work as a governess. The story deals with the struggles she faces dealing with the two different families she works for. Things I've read about this book have all mentioned the fact that it brought to light the extreme hardships faced by a governesses at that time in England, but I didn't think the conditions depicted here seemed all that harsh or terrible- mostly just annoying. Agnes Grey herself seemed kind of one-dimensional, and the eventual romantic culmination that's found in all of the Brontes' novels was only moderately engaging. Not a bad book, but probably not something I'll feel the need to reread over and over.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Whipped Up Leftovers

Lately I've really been enjoying making homemade whipped cream. Watching the transformation from liquid cream to whipped cream just never seems to get old. When I made the almond-flavored whipped cream to go with my recent chocolate cake, I used an entire container of whipping cream and had a big bowl leftover. I woke up the next morning with an idea about how to use it planted in my head. I mixed up a package of Bisquick biscuit mix, sliced off the tops, and layered whipped cream, fresh peach slices, and blueberries in the middle. They were a delicious dessert thinly disguised as breakfast.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Slice of Homemade Life

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg- the creator of the food blog Orangette- is like a culinary autobiography. Each chapter starts with a story about some aspect of the author's life in which food played a part and ends with the recipe for the food item in the story. Each story is only a few pages long, so it's a quick breezy read, and the author writes with a warm, familiar tone that feels like she's personally writing you a letter to tell you about herself.

My one initial disappointment with this book was the fact that only a few recipes grabbed me as something that I wanted to try. I had imagined that every recipe was going to spark a desire to run into the kitchen, but that wasn't quite the case. However, this minor complaint flew out the window once I actually tried baking one of the three recipes that caught my eye- the "Winning Hearts and Minds Chocolate Cake".

The long-winded name for this cake has to do with the fact that the author always made it for people she wanted to impress and eventually ended up making twenty-five of these to use as her wedding cakes. It comes out looking like a flat, round brownie but, Oh. My. The plain appearance hides the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever had. It's rich like a brownie, but lighter in texture, and very chocolaty but not cloyingly sweet at all. Best of all, it's quite simple to make. It does call for real baking chocolate to be chopped up, which I usually shy away from in favor of easily pourable chocolate chips. I went by the book this time, though, and was pleasantly surprised. The chocolate was soft and easier to chop than I expected. I think it really made a difference in the cake. Best of all, the bars are stamped with a cute picture of an old-fashioned lady:

I followed the author's suggestion of serving the cake with homemade whipped creamed. I even took it up a notch by adding some almond extract to the cream.



Continuing on my recent streak of good books, I've found another one that I loved- Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.

It follows the journey of an Irish girl as she comes to America, gets a job working at a department store in Brooklyn, and eventually gets married. In a way, it could be the story of an American Girl doll after she grows up. There's a small parallel to Pride and Prejudice that bookends the beginning and end of the novel that's very nice. More important, though, is the lovely story that comes in between. It's very simple- nothing crazy or melodramatic happens- but very good, and leads up to an ending that's realistic and bittersweet.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy Belated Fourth!

I'm just back from a very relaxing long weekend spent at home. The only downside was that the internet there wasn't working. Hence, I'm posting about the Fourth of July on the sixth.

Summer reading has kicked in full force. There's just something about summer that makes me want to race through book after book. I think it might carry over from those summer reading programs I did at the library. I always tried to sign up to read 100 books, and the librarian always tried to discourage me and talk me down to twenty-five. I must still feel the need to show her up because last week I went through four books in five days. That's a lot, even for me!

Needless to say, I'm a bit backlogged with books to post about. On top of that, since a good portion of my weekend was spent baking and eating, I'm backlogged on my food posts too. Here's a little taste to start things off.

Fresh corn on the cob.

Grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, avocado, and tomato. Much, much better than a burger.

Homemade blueberry crisp. Note: this and all of the above taste best when eaten outside on the deck.

And on a unrelated note, my mom has a butterfly bush in the yard that lives up to its name:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Glover's Mistake

Glover's Mistake by Nick Laird (a.k.a. Mr. Zadie Smith) has been on my To Read list since it came out last year. I had read and enjoyed his first novel, and this one was no different. Laird seems to write really well about friendships between young, or young-ish, men in London. In this novel, David, a thirty-something, vaguely pathetic failed artist and current high school teacher reunites with a former art professor of his, a forty-something American artist. Just as he thinks a relationship with her is about to develop, he unwittingly sets her up with his roommate ("Glover" of the title), a twenty-something bartender. Attempts to sabotage their relationship ensue, as David is hurt not only by his own thwarted romance, but by the fading friendship between him and Glover. The characters here are nicely complex. I found myself alternating loving and hating them all in turn.


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