Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More Swedes

I'm trying really hard to become a Swedophile. And I think I have a lot going for me besides my recent Swedish book kick. I come from a family of devout Volvo drivers and I've thrown up in two separate IKEAs. But I might be facing a setback because I didn't like The Girl Who Played With Fire all that much. The reservations I had about the first book in the series were magnified by the fact that the entire plot of this one is devoted to revealing backstory about the main character and setting up the starting point for the third and final book that's still to come. Not that these would be bad things if there was something else going on too, or if the twist that's revealed wasn't something I predicted early on. So disappointing...but I'll still read the last book in the series when it comes out, just to complete the circle.

On another note, I've been wanting to give this blog a little facelift for a while. First I thought I would do a new year, new look kind of thing, but January came and went. Then I thought I would unveil something new in honor of the one year anniversary in March. That obviously didn't happen, so I've decided to just unveil some changes little by little. Ten points if you spot the first new addition!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cupcakes to Drool Over

Last week I discovered the baking website MingMakesCupcakes and all I can say is Oh My. The site features recipes for cupcakes both traditional, like red velvet and chocolate peanut butter, and more exotic, like Sour Cream Fig with Creamcheese Frosting. Or Coffee Chocolate with Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting. (There are recipes for cookies and savory baked treats as well.)

But the most tempting to me by far are the Flourless Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Cream.
My favorite veggie used to make my favorite sweet? Sounds like a dessert sent from heaven, via a stop a Dwight Schrute's beet farm. And surprisingly, the recipe seems fairly simple, so I may have to give these a try.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Condition

It's nice to read a good, non-cheesy family saga every once in a while. The Condition by Jennifer Haigh falls into that category. I'd been wanting to read this since last summer, when I saw it on some list of good summer books set on Cape Cod, and I finally got around to it.

Although it begins and ends on Cape Cod, it actually covers various parts of the country as it follows one family of three siblings from childhood to middle age. The focal character is daughter Gwen, who has Turner's syndrome, a condition that keeps her stuck in the body of a young girl even as she ages. Hence it's "the condition" of the title (as well as a potential topic for one of TLC's rare medical condition documentaries). Throughout the book, the author links Gwen's condition to the conditions of the other family members, like her parents dealing with the "condition" of growing older, etc. It's done a little obviously- the author uses the word condition over and over- but it works well enough and adds a nice theme to the book.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lovely Cover

Check out the pretty cover on this copy of Delta Wedding that I came across while browsing this weekend. Why do I always find prettier editions of books that I already have?

Monday, April 12, 2010

An April Shower

I just spent a very fun weekend in Boston celebrating my friend's wedding shower. As a pre-shower activity, the bridal party went to 1154 Lill Studio.

Tucked into one of the brownstones on Newbury St., Lill is an adorable handbag shop that lets you design your own purse.

You pick the style of bag that you want, then pick the fabrics for the outside, inside, pockets, etc. The store is lined with racks of samples of inspiration.

All of the choices were pretty overwhelming. Our work table ended up buried in fabric samples by the end of our session.

I decided that I would design a large tote that I could take to work everyday (in spite of some debate as to its resemblance to a diaper bag). Then I found out that that style was unavailable and was thrown into an utter tailspin of confusion. I ended up picking a clutch instead. I really loved the shape and it's not like anything I already have, but I probably wouldn't have let myself pick it if the practical diaper-esque bag was still an option. So all in all, the initial disappointment was a blessing in disguise. The top clutch shows what a finished one looks like. The bottom one is covered with the fabrics I chose for mine. I felt a little bit like I was on Mad Men when I was holding it. Not Joan or Betty, just one of the background secretaries. But still.

The clutch is being made as we speak. I'll post a picture when I get it next month. In the meantime, here's a self-portrait, for no other reason than I'm feeling like showing off one of my Liberty dresses.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Becoming Jane Eyre

It took just a little more than one train trip for me to finish Becoming Jane Eyre, the historical/ literary fiction by Sheila Kohler. It chronicles Charlotte Bronte's life, along with the lives of Anne, Emily, and brother Branwell (why has that name fallen out of fashion for boys?), and interweaves them with the writing of the sisters' respective novels. A Bronte trend seems like the next logical step as the perennial interest in Jane Austen seems to be in a bit of a down cycle. Kohler's book, which got some good reviews, is more serious than the usual fluff, but I'm not sure that someone who isn't a Bronte fan would really enjoy it. I found it interesting to see how the influences for the Brontes novel were tied to their real lives, but only knowing a little bit about the Bronte family biography, I wasn't sure how much of this is true and how much was fictionalized. What this book does best, though, is portray these characters in a way that doesn't seem stuffy or stereotypically 18th century, but that makes their feelings and motivations seem quite relevant and modern.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Free Books!

Few things spice up my workday more than when the mail guy drops off a package with a free advance reader copy in it. A few weeks ago, I hit the jackpot and got three in two days.

Two of the three were young adult books: The Daughters, about a group of children of celebrities living in New York (written by an actual celebrity child, Joanna Philbin, daughter of Regis) and Sisters Red, a modern day fairy tale that cashes in on the current werewolf trend. Both were perfectly fine books and quickly got passed along to my teenage cousin.

The third book, Men and Dogs by Katie Crouch, turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. I realized that I've actually read the author's other novel, but remember literally nothing about it other than that the cover was pretty. The synopsis of this one seemed very typical- troubled adult daughter returns to her family home and must deal with issues from her past- but it was all dealt with in a very fresh, un-stereotypical way. The writing feels very genuine, and revelations about different characters are nicely paced throughout the book. I found myself really loving this book. It's a freebie that's going to find a home on my shelf.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Clothes for Playing Pretend

It's a rare day when I don't want what Anthropologie is selling, but I'm especially enjoying their current grouping based around The Secret Garden.

One of my favorite games of pretend when I was little was wandering around the yard, pretending that I was either in or looking for the secret garden. I think this top, skirt, and ruffly bikini would be perfect for doing just that. Okay, maybe not the bikini. In any case, I think that Frances Hodgson Burnett would approve.


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