Monday, October 31, 2011

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

I'd have a hard time trying to pick one all-time favorite Halloween costume. Every year growing up, my mom would make my costume for me. One of the big events of the beginning of Fall was always going to the fabric store to look through pattern books and pick out that year's costume. There were so many good ones over the years that it's hard to pick a favorite. I can narrow them down to a top few, though, one of which was this pumpkin costume:

I'm about four in this picture and what I remember most about the costume is that it was sooo cozy and warm. I loved wearing it. If it still fit, I'd probably still be putting it on as a lounge around the house on a chilly day outfit.

What was your favorite childhood costume?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Homemade Pretzels

As much as I enjoy cooking and baking and trying out new recipes, I never in a million years would have thought that I'd ever say I made soft pretzels from scratch. But this weekend, that's exactly what I did. After coming across a simple recipe in this magazine (and after getting over my fear of working with yeast), I decided to be adventurous and give them a try.

The unorthodox "S" shape may not look traditional, but they tasted delicious- exactly like a classic pretzel. Boiling the pretzels for ten seconds before you bake them gives them a really authentic chewy bite.

I made them with whole wheat flour, since I had that on hand. Next time I'll use plain old white flour, which the recipe calls for. Or maybe try mixing in some cinnamon chips for a sweet pretzel.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Heatley Cliff

I made a great discovery last week: The Heatley Cliff, a series of podcasts that is so perfectly right up my alley, I'm amazed that I hadn't discovered them before. Which, of course, makes me suspicious that I'm late to the party and everyone already knows about them.

The podcasts, put out in weekly, 30-minute(ish) installments, are an irreverent attempt to create a pop culture salon set in a virtual, fictional English manor house (hence The Heatley Cliff). Kind of like an NPR show that doesn't take itself at all seriously, each episode is a conversation between two Canadian women talking about their current favorites in books, British TV shows, music, and knitting.

Right up my alley, no?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Another Place

About a year ago, I was excited to see some of Antony Gormley's Event Horizon public art installation appear around Manhattan. The other day I learned (thanks to this post) about another Gormley installation on Crosby Beach near Liverpool, England. Like Event Horizon was, Another Place is a series of 100 life sized, figural sculptures. They're placed at various points along water's edge on the beach and are revealed and submerged to varying degrees as the tide ebbs and flows.

I think these are so haunting and fascinating. Can you imagine what it would be like to stumble upon these on the beach without knowing what they are?

And to keep from being too highbrow and artsy, it looks as though people have had some fun with the sculptures too:

(images via here, here, here, here, and here)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Violets of March

The Violets of March is a book that I should have liked. It's full of intriguing plot elements that, in theory, seem to lend themselves to a good story. Things like a lost diary, family secrets, and parallel storylines linking two generations, plus a lovely setting on Bainbridge Island in Washington's Pugeot Sound. The problem, though, was that all of these parts just didn't come together enough for me. A couple of the characters seemed too shallow, there were a few glaring inconsistencies (like a character mentioning that there were five possible options, listing three of them, then saying, "and the last option is..."), and the pacing just seemed too rushed at times.

I think I actually would have enjoyed this more if it had a hundred extra pages to it and could slow down a bit, taking time to develop things more fully.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Little Tipsy

Get it? A little tip? About wine? Is a little tipsy!

(Bear with me, you know I love silly puns.)

Not too long ago, I wrote about finally finding some go-to favorite wines. Well, I found a new one- the SeaGlass brand, in one of my favorite varieties, Riesling. I was initially drawn to the pretty sea glass label on the sea-blue bottle, but it turned out to be one of the best Rieslings I've ever tried. I'm sure I'll be picking up a bottle or two to bring to my family's Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing was one of the books that I'd been most eager to read lately. I had always heard good things about Geraldine Brooks and this historical novel sounded particularly interesting. Set in Martha's Vineyard and Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 17th century, it purportedly told the story of Caleb, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard.

It turns out that the story was actually focused around Bethia, the daughter of a Puritan minister and lifelong friend of Caleb. I found this to be letdown, both because I was far more interested in Caleb as a character and because I couldn't help but find Bethia to be an annoying narrator. Her frequent lapses into a Puritanical mindset made it hard to warm up to her. The way she tells her story--in three parts, as written in a journal at three different times in her life--made the pacing feel awkward for me. Just as I was getting into the action, a scene would abruptly end and the next part would begin, with her writing something along the lines of, "Looking back to what I wrote then..."

In spite of all this, there was something compelling about the book. Even though much of it fell short of my expectations, I still found myself rushing through, eager to see what would happen next. That has to count for something.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Penny Lane

My favorite purchase of the fall so far might just be a pair of classic Bass Weejun penny loafers. They're a super comfortable alternative to my standard ballet flats, made even better by the fact that I got my pair for less than half price at the Bass outlet. So far I've been wearing mine with ankle length pants, but plan on pairing them with some skirts and dark tights once the weather gets just a touch cooler.

(Image via pinterest)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Berkeley Square

If, like me, you were obsessed with Masterpiece's Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, then you may enjoy Berkeley Square, a ten-part BBC miniseries from the late 90's that I found on Netflix.

It's the story of three nannies and the families they work for in Victorian London. It wasn't quite as good as Downton was. Sometimes it got a little too melodramatic (think babies with swapped identities). At other times, it felt like it was trying a little too hard to be heartwarming. That being said, I still really, really enjoyed it, to the point that I was so surprised that it ended the way that it did, I had to do some extensive online searching to make sure that there wasn't a second season I was missing out on.

Give it a try if you're looking for something to get you through to January 8th, when the second season of Downton airs. (Their website already has a countdown clock- only 88 days, 23 hours, and 43 minutes to go.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chocolate and Chocolat

I've probably watched the movie Chocolat about half a dozen times. I never had any real intention of reading the book it's based on, but figured I'd give it a try when I picked up a copy for a few pennies at a library book sale.

I was surprised to find that the book is actually much darker than the movie is. The magical elements that give the movie a fairy tale feel come across as sinister on the page. Certain characters play different roles in the book, and the ending is much more ambiguous, to the point of being a let down. I may be influenced by the fact that I saw the movie before reading the book, but I have to say that this is rare case where I think the screenplay improved upon the original story.

The book did share one thing with the movie- the ability to induce chocolate cravings. The movie has been known to send me scrounging in my cabinets for a packet of hot chocolate. I was more prepared this time around and got my sweet fix by making some quick and easy Nutella cookies that were making the blog rounds last week.

Have you ever cooked along with the theme of a book?

Friday, October 7, 2011


I just had such a delicious lunch that all I want to do is spend the afternoon talking about it. Since I don't think my coworkers would really appreciate that, you get to hear all about my meal from the Cinnamon Snail, a vegan food truck that's my current favorite among the many trucks that are always out around town. Today I had Thai basil grilled tofu with greens, curried cashews, scallions, and green coconut chutney. Oh my goodness, it was to die for! I absolutely gobbled it up.

They sell a lot of vegan baked goods to, so I treated myself to a pumpkin pie doughnut. I'm now counting down the minutes until I can justify eating it as an afternoon snack.

So that's my little culinary rave. What did you have for lunch today?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Special Delivery

If you read this blog regularly, you'll know that there are a few subjects I just can't stop writing about (I'm looking at you, cupcakes. And you too, British period dramas). It seems that Persephone Books has found its way onto that list.

For a couple of weeks last month, they were running a "Fortnight in September" promotion. If you ordered three books, you got a free copy of The Fortnight in September. It was too tempting for me to pass up, and last week I was excited to come home and find my package waiting for me. At first I was a bit surprised to discover that the books were jacketed paperbacks and not cloth editions, but any whiff of disappointment evaporated when I saw their beautiful endpapers and coordinating bookmarks.

The first one I chose to dive into was Every Eye by Isobel English. Of the few Persephone novels I've read so far, this is the first one that I can truly say I loved. The story weaves the present with the past for Hattie, a woman traveling with her husband to Ibiza for a newlywed vacation and looking back on her former life in London, where she spent her teenage years living in the shadow of a manipulative aunt. I found Hattie to be a moving and likable narrator. Her thoughts and emotions lead the way back and forth between the two storylines, which ultimately come together in the last lines of the book for a surprise ending that was unexpected and amazing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

State of Wonder

After finishing State of Wonder, I can confidently say that the streak continues with yet another book that I loved by Ann Patchett.

The story hearkens back to Conrad's Heart of Darkness with a few dashes of Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible thrown in, but has a unique spin that's Patchett's own. All I could think about while reading this was how amazed I was by the vivid world that she's created. Traveling along with pharmacologist Marina Singh, the novel's protagonist, from the safety of her research lab in Minnesota to the middle of the Amazonian jungle where her former med school mentor is conducting fertility research, I had the same reaction as Marina herself and ended up completely enthralled by a world that I never expected to encounter.


Related Posts with Thumbnails