Monday, January 31, 2011

Pizza. Bacon. Together

Smitten Kitchen has struck again with a delicious pizza recipe that I tried last week.

It's topped with a mixture of ricotta cheese and sour cream, onions, and, of course, bacon. It has a surprisingly light taste and is nowhere near as heavy as you would expect a combination of those ingredients to be. Of course, it's not exactly a healthy dish, but I did what I could using whole wheat crust and serving it with a side of garlic spinach.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Snow Break

At the park yesterday, the snowmen were ready for a break from working overtime this winter.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crowning a New Worst

It wasn't that long ago that I bestowed the worst book award on something I read. Unfortunately for me, another book has already come along that eclipsed it- The Room-Mating Season by Rona Jaffe. I had previously read and enjoyed The Best of Everything, so I decided to look for another book by Rona Jaffe. The Room-Mating Season looked like the most promising of the few that the library had, and was partially set during the same time period of the 1960s, so I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be one of the worst books I've ever read!

I hate to rant on and on with negative comments, but there's no way around it in this case. This book felt like something written by a different writer who was trying to mimic The Best of Everything- the author even plagiarized herself, using a scene that was nearly identical to one in that book. The writing on the whole was just horrible, with way too much exposition. It felt like you were reading a rough outline of plot, not a finished novel. When there was an actual scene thrown in, it was filled with cheesy dialogue said by stereotypical characters. And whenever the time jumped forward in the story, there would be a paragraph that went something like "It was 1980. Reagan was president, the economy was booming, women were joining the workforce...", as if the reader would have no idea what the culture of a particular time period had been. I really have to think that either this was written by some kind of ghostwriter, or that the author really lost her touch since writing The Best of Everything. I actually made it through the whole book, mostly out of a sense of disbelief at seeing how much worse the book could manage to get. Stay far, far away from this book. It's what I'll be doing in the future with anything written by Rona Jaffe!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Read this Magazine

I've never been a big fan of reading online magazines until today, when I discovered Matchbook. I came across it this morning and have already looked through the entire issue and declared it a favorite. They call themselves "a field guide to a charmed life", which I think pretty much says enough right there. The issue had a nice mix of everything- fashion, food, decorating, profiles- and one of the first spreads featured items for the "book worm" and the "English rose". Sold!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oatmeal Nut Fluff Sandwiches

That's the name I'm giving to this new concoction. I knew I had to try it as soon as I saw Paula Deen making something similar on her show.

I started by making oatmeal cookies from a mix (which taste the best of all the store bought mixes, in my opinion), then spread half with Nutella and half with marshmallow fluff and sandwiched them together.

The result was delicious. I just did a thorough sweep of my kitchen, looking for something else I could spread with this Nutella/ fluff combination, but came up empty handed. I had to settle for just a spoonful of each until I can get to the store for some more cookie mix.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brick Lane

I'd always heard good things about Brick Lane by Monica Ali and had been wanting to read it for a few years now. It's the story of two Bangladeshi sisters, Nazneen, who is sent to England for an arranged marriage to an older man and Hasina, who is left behind to fend for herself in her own country. The story is told from Nazneen's perspective, with letters from Hasina that allow us to see her life. Nazneen's philosophy about life can be summed up as "what will be, will be", like she doesn't have the power to change anything for herself. Through her seeming inaction, she settles into life in London with her family and then gets pulled into an affair with a younger man who is on the path to becoming a radical Islamic fundamentalist.

This is a richly written novel, with some really lovely and unexpected descriptive moments, like when Nazneen sees figure skating on television for the first time. Best of all, the author manages to use little details to make you feel empathy for certain characters who might be otherwise foolish, mean, or just generally unlikeable.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cutest Model Ever

Here's Millie modeling the sweater I knit for her. I have to tweak it a little as it's a touch big on her, even though I already reduced the pattern smaller than the extra-small size.

It's from the Martha Stewart "Sharkey" pattern by Lion Brand Yarn.

(Turns out they also have a Martha Stewart "Coming Home" poncho, based on the one she wore when she was leaving jail!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tiny Treats

What's the best way to get over the bitterness of not having a snow day off from work? By baking something, of course. I decided to make mini cupcakes using a cake recipe that called for sour cream. They came out very light and vanilla-y. The delicious cake was slightly diminished by the fact that I used store bought frosting, but I tried to make up for it by piping it on in a pretty swirl.

(I just realized that they don't look all that miniature in this picture, but they are. That's only a dessert size plate.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz first caught my eye shortly after I got Millie and I've been wanting to read it ever since. It's all about how dogs perceive the world, what they can sense, how they interact with other dogs, and how they bond with humans.

It was a pretty interesting read. I could have done with a tad fewer of the scientific studies of other animal groups, like apes and bees, that the books goes into, but overall the author has a funny writing style and is clearly a dog lover. Little stories about her life with her own dog are interspersed throughout the book. I don't necessarily see Millie in a whole new way, but I did glean a few new insights into her behavior. Turns out that what she's doing as I write this- barking at me, climbing on and off of my chest, and trying to lick my eye- is actually a play signal.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Costumed Brits

Who watched Downton Abbey on PBS last night? It's a British import shown on Masterpiece Theater, so obviously I did. Set just prior to WWI, it opens with the sinking of the Titanic and follows the family and the servants living in an English country estate. It's basically Gosford Park redux, but stretched out into a six hour miniseries. I have my Sunday nights scheduled for it for the next few weeks. The story is interesting and the costumes are gorgeous, plus it's fun to play the game of spotting the British actors who've been in other BBC imports (so far I have Sense and Sensibility, North and South, and the Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice on my list).

It ended up being a big weekend for period pieces, since I also saw The King's Speech, which I would recommend. It's actually kind of a feel-good movie, which is kind of surprising for something that's getting awards buzz (or really for anything not animated by Pixar or starring Sandra Bullock).

And guess what else- There's a new remake of Jane Eyre coming out soon. It looks promising from the trailer.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on beagles...all obvious items on my favorite things list. Here are a few more things, mostly Christmas gifts, that have become new favorites.

Anne of Green Gables

Penguin Classics now has a line of pretty children's books, and I got this lovely edition of Anne of Green Gables. Re-reading it over the holidays made me fall in love with the story all over again. The writing just immerses you in Anne and her world, and it's every bit as interesting for adults to read. Until I can plan a trip to Prince Edward Island, I'll settle for cozily re-watching the movie this weekend.


This Keurig coffee maker was an unexpected Christmas gift that I've been enjoying daily. I went a little crazy buying different flavors of K-cups, but they really make a delicious cup of coffee. Especially when poured into this Contigo travel mug that I picked up at Target that keeps drinks super hot. The combination has actually made me like my homemade coffee more than my treat trips to Starbucks, which is saying a lot.

Tarte Eye Makeup

I got a couple of makeup sets by Tarte with various eyeliners, shadow liners, and mascaras. I'd tried their great blush in the past, and have now realized that their eye makeup is just as good. Apparently one of the main ingredients is Amazonian clay. Whatever that is, it goes on nicely and stays on longer than anything else I've ever tried.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has gotten a lot of buzz in the last year. I first saw the story featured on CBS Sunday Morning, and it's been chosen for some "best books of the year" lists. Despite all that, it's one of those books that I probably wouldn't have read if it hadn't been chosen by my book club. It tells the interesting story of the woman who unknowingly provided the first cells that were successfully grown in a lab culture. They became known as HeLa cells, which played, and continue to play, a key role in scientific and medical research.

This book weaves in one part biography of Henrietta and her descendants, one part information about the science behind the use of the cells, and one part the tale of how the author got the family to let her tell Henrietta's story. Living in poverty, Henrietta's descendants were largely misinformed about the cells and distrusted anything and anyone that had to do with them. The author had to slowly bring them around to cooperating with her. Some of the interactions between the author and Henrietta's family were pretty dramatic and, for me, were the most engrossing parts of the book. It did leave me wondering if the family's goal of telling Henrietta's story was truly achieved. I feel like I came away from this book with a better picture of Henrietta's descendants then of Henrietta herself.


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