Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Big Scarf

After looking at some of the chunky knitted items in this Etsy shop, I was inspired to make an oversized cowl that could also be pulled down over my shoulders as a little shrug/poncho hybrid. I found this Lion Brand pattern for something similar that seemed like it would work:

I was a little uncertain as I was knitting it. It seemed like it might be too stiff and bulky to work out, but I'm actually pretty happy with the finished product:

I'm imagining wearing this as a cozy bit of extra warmth, even when I'm just sitting around at home.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


One of the few things to look forward to during post-holiday January is the return of Masterpiece Theatre to PBS. Sunday night was the premiere of a new BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. (If you missed it, you can watch it online. The series continues for the next two Sundays.)

I really loved it! So far, it's pretty high up there among my favorite Jane Austen movie adaptations. I still think that Gwyneth Paltrow set the standard in her version of Emma, but this Emma isn't far behind. All of the other characters are perfectly cast and the times when the movie veers away from the book, like when it shows the characters as children, actually seem to improve upon the original story.

The movie's website also has a cute little Bachelor's of Highbury quiz to find out which male character you're most compatible with. Although I'm not sure how cute it actually most compatible bachelor is Mr. Woodhouse?!?! Emma's elderly, hypochondriac father?!?! I'm horrified! Aren't these things supposed to be rigged so that everyone gets Mr. Knightly?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Little Night Music

I just love when I think of nerdy, vaguely-pun-like titles for my posts, like this one about Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes. Perfect for a book made up of five loosely connected stories revolving around music and nighttime, right?

I'd been looking forward to reading this for a while because I love the other two books I've read by the author, Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day. The premise of this one made it sound like a cross between one of those and Bel Canto. Instead, I was surprised to discover that the stories were all actually pretty funny. Not quite what I was expecting, but still a pleasant reading experience.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Trip to Purl

My friend Lara gave me a lovely gift for Christmas- a gift card to Purl yarn shop in Soho! Yesterday after work I made my first trip to the store, a bright blue little shop in the middle of a dark street.

I wish I had taken a more centered shot. It's a tiny, tiny store and I felt like I had to be stealthy with my picture taking.

Inside the walls are lined with shelves of pretty yarn.

They had this display showing different project ideas. They were also selling these really pretty shawl clips. I may have to get one if I can think of a good project to wear it on. Luckily, (and uncharacteristically) I saved some of my gift card for a future visit.

I came away with two skeins of purple lupin colored baby alpaca yarn for a hat. Pictures to come once I finish! Thanks again, Lara!

(Note the vintage knitting bag that my mom gave me,)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let the Great World Spin

I tend to inwardly roll my eyes when I see a blurb that describes a book as "leaving you breathless", but I've finally found an instance where the blurb was true. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann tells the interweaving stories of several characters set against the backdrop of 1970's New York on the day that Phillipe Petit walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers. The descriptions of the crowds on the street watching the tightrope walker create such a buildup of tension that you really do feel a little breathless after reading them.

At the risk of gushing, I loved everything about this book.- the writing itself, the way the author connects the lives of characters that are worlds apart, the way its pre-9/11 setting takes on a post-9/11 meaning. I'm still thinking about it after finishing it. So many characters come in and out of the story, and some of the most fleeting moments between minor characters are the ones that have stuck with me the most.

I liked this book so much that I watched the documentary Man on Wire about Phillipe Petit's tightrope walk. It's a really interesting movie, and it's amazing how crazy his entire stunt was- beyond the actual craziness of tightrope walking in general. They actually strung the wire by using a bow and arrow to shoot fishing line between the two buildings in the middle of the night, then ran the steel cable across little by little. Crazy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cozy Winter Meals

Lately the winter weather has inspired me to make some cozy, hearty meals. Here are some of the new recipes I've tried in the past couple of weeks.

Pasta and Veggie Casserole

This was a casserole idea that I got from Leslie's blog. It's very simple to make- just a mixture of cooked pasta, corn, lima beans, tomatoes, cheese, and some seasonings. The end result was really yummy. A hearty casserole without being too heavy, it has a nice flavor and a surprising creaminess considering that comes from just the cheese, no other kind of sauce.

Rigatoni and Broccoli with Ricotta

This was another easy recipe that I saw made on the Rachael Ray show. I was a little bit disappointed by the fact that the ricotta didn't turn out as creamy as I would have hoped, but it still had a nice flavor to it.

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

This is my favorite new recipe! It's originally from Vegetarian Magazine, but I got it by way of one of my daily blog reads, JenLovesKev. It was a bit labor intensive in that you have to peel, chop, and sautee a lot of veggies for the filling:

And you have to boil and mash some sweet potatoes for the topping:

But the end result is completely worth it. It's delicious and satisfying but incredibly healthy too. You can see the full recipe here. It makes enough to reheat for a few days, so I would definitely recommend trying it on a cold day when you have time to stay in and cook.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Netflix Worthy: ShakespeaRE-Told

The Netflix instant movies that you can watch online are great for when you're in between returning one disc and getting another. Or when, say, the lock on your mailbox is broken, leaving Season 2 of Mad Men trapped inside for a few days while the building tries to fix it. Just hypothetical situations like that. Anyway, one of the instant movies that I recently watched is ShakespeaRE-Told, a BBC miniseries starring famous British actors, like James McAvoy, that translates Shakespeare's plays into modern settings. It was one of Netflix's recommendations for me "based on my interest in Flight of the Conchords". I'm not really sure what the connection is there- maybe Brett's and Jemaine's lyrics are as beautiful as a Shakespeare sonnet? In any case, I decided to give it a try and I'm glad I did. There are four in the series- Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I've watched two of the comedies so far and both were really entertaining. Not exactly high culture, but fun and clever enough, and the British accents trick you into thinking they're very highbrow.

I may have to start an offshoot blog called Miss Anglophile

Monday, January 11, 2010

Oxfords (Finally!)

I've been wanting a pair of men's style oxfords since the beginning of the fall. I was casually keeping my eyes open for a pair and as the months went by, every so often would think "I can't believe I haven't gotten my oxfords yet". Last week I finally decided to order a pair so that I would still have plenty of time to wear them throughout the winter. They finally arrived!

And I love them! Especially with patterned tights!

I've been browsing around online for inspiration for some outfits that I can put together around them. I especially like when they're paired with full, feminine skirts like these:

(from The Sartorialist)

(from Darling Dexter)

I've been struggling a bit with how to make them look good with pants. I think they'll definitely look cute with cropped pants in the spring.

(The Sartorialist, again)

I wasn't quite sure how to make them work with jeans, but I like this example:

(from Chicisimo)

And finally, I spotted this dress while window shopping on

I love how it's a very different, unique print, but still a bit subtle from a distance. I would wear oxfords with that.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cozy Winter Reading

The freezing weather this weekend has been the perfect excuse to hang around my apartment and be lazy. Staying inside (with the exception of a trip out to see Sherlock Holmes) has of course translated into lots of reading.

I'll admit it- I've become a complete sucker for young adult books. They're my guilty pleasure of choice. And when I get one using a B&N gift card that was burning a hole in my pocket? Even better. This one, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, is a romance between a teenage girl and a boy who's a werewolf- but not the usual kind. A fun book and an entertaining way to spend a few hours on a chilly winter afternoon.

On a slightly more sophisticated level, I read the collection Boston Noir. I'd heard of other titles in this series before- Brooklyn Noir, Los Angeles Noir, etc.- and when I saw they had one for Boston I snapped it up. Not only did it deal with one of my favorite settings, but it was edited by Dennis Lehane, author of The Given Day, which I really loved, and other books that I've enjoyed the movie versions of, like Mystic River. The stories in here didn't disappoint. Set in various parts of the city and covering different time periods, from colonial times to post-WWII to present day, they all share a really great atmosphere and a sense of eeriness and foreboding that fit right in on a winter's day. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for some of the other cities in this series.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Vicky and Al

Over my holiday vacation, I saw the movie Young Victoria, which I would highly, highly recommend.

It's the biopic about the years during which Queen Victoria ascended to the throne and met and married Prince Albert. The movie has a perfect mix of history and romance, and Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are great in the lead roles. I've read a couple of lukewarm reviews, but I absolutely loved it. My only criticism was that it was too short- I would have like to have seen more of their married life together.

This inspired me to read the book We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals.

My only problem with this book is the same that I have with any biography that I read. No matter how well written, or how interested I am in the subject matter, they always take me FOREVER to get through. That aside, this one was actually really interesting. It painted a really vivid picture of the lives of Victoria and Albert, and at the best times I felt like I was reading a historical novel. But unlike a novel, this book also discussed the flaws of Victoria and Albert and, unlike the movie, didn't paint a completely rosy picture of their relationship. Reading this book, it was very easy to see how and why the movie deviated from historical fact (and how much more enjoyable it was because it did).

Glad I read the book, even gladder that I saw the movie.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Jewels

Okay, so "jewels" is a slight exaggeration, but I did get two new pieces of jewelry for Christmas that I really like.

This silver initial and pearl necklace came from this Etsy seller. The stamped letter looks like something that would have been done with an old-fashioned letterpress. It's very delicate and I love wearing it as an everyday little signature piece.

This bracelet is made from vintage buttons and came from Sea & Green in Pt. Pleasant, NJ. It's a cute little shop that sells items by local artists and crafters, most with an emphasis on upcycled or eco-friendly materials.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Over the weekend I made mini-turkey meat loafs (loaves?). The recipe is from the book Cook Yourself Thin that I picked up on a whim a while ago, not because I'm actually trying to cook myself thin, but because it seemed like it had lots of easy recipes that sneak extra veggies into unexpected dishes. This particular recipe calls for an entire bag of fresh spinach to be mixed in with one package of ground turkey, among other ingredients. It makes four mini loafs that are perfect for freezing and reheating.

I can't decide if this picture makes it look good or not, but trust me, it's delicious. The glaze on top is my own addition- a mixture of ketchup and brown sugar.

On a related dinner note, am I the only one who gets nervous cooking a baked potato in the microwave? All that sizzling and hissing makes me think it's going to explode!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Longwood Gardens

The holidays are officially over, but I have a recap of one last festive trip: Longwood Gardens.

Longwood Gardens is a botanical garden in southeastern Pennsylvania. It's located on the grounds of what was once the DuPont estate. I first went there at Christmas time last year, when I got free tickets from an author I work with. It was so nice and festive that my family decided to go back this year. You wouldn't necessarily think that tons of people would flock to a garden during the holidays, but they do. For two years in a row, I've been surprised at how crowded it is.

There's an indoor conservatory and greenhouses that are beautifully decorated.

The outdoor landscape is decorated too. You can buy hot chocolate to drink while strolling around looking at all of the lights.

There's a really nice restaurant on the garden grounds where they serve little flower pots of bread:

I had some sweet potato gnocchi that was delicious and tasted like the perfect winter dish.

And remember in my last post when I mentioned freeing old books through the BookCrossing program? Well, I released a book on a bench in the garden. Here I am in action:

(I'm so sneaky!)


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