Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

And for a little literary tie-in, this year Millie is dressed up as the title of the next book I'm reading for my book club. Any guesses?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spooky Town

In the past week, Hoboken has just exploded with Halloween decorations. There's one block in particular that's gone all out, with fake cobwebs everywhere and one house topping the next. During the day, the decorations look nice against the backdrop of charming brownstones...

And at night, Halloween lights give a glow to the dark, tree-lined street and uou can just imagine eerie music playing while trick-or-treaters run around, just like a scene out of that movie Hocus Pocus.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Giada Strikes Again

Ina and Giada are my top two TV chefs. Ina because it's fun to watch her entertain her friends and fuss over Jeffrey, Giada because her recipes consistently deliver. Every one I've made has ranged from Very Good at the worst to Amazingly Delicious at the best. The most recent one I tried was for Baked Gnocchi. It could also be called Baked Gnocchi with Goat Cheese and a Creamed Spinach Twist, if you wanted a more descriptive name.

To make it, you use store bought gnocchi (yes, it's somewhere under there), cover it with a cream sauce, baby spinach, goat cheese, and Parmesan, and bake. Overall, I'd rate it a Very Good. Next time I make it I'll reduce the gnocchi-to-cream ratio and I think the rating may go up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Arts & Crafts Festival

Two weekends ago I went to the Batsto Village Country Living Fair. Batsto is an old historical village in the New Jersey pine barrens. My family used to go all the time and, after ages and ages of missing it, we decided to go again this year.

They had some antiques and lots of crafts, like traditional quilts, handmade soaps and candles, and yarn spun from alpaca hair.

One of the yarn stands even had their alpacas (alpaci?) with them. Aren't they cute? I'd take one as a pet.

Everything was set among the historic village buildings, namely an old manor house and various stables and farm buildings.

Add to that the fact that it was perfect fall weather AND we brought Millie with us, and it all made for a classic fall day. She met a lot of other dog friends, and we couldn't walk ten feet without someone stopping and mistaking her for a puppy.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Help

My week-plus dearth of posts can be blamed on the fact that I was spending every waking minute trying to finish The Help in time for my book club meeting. Okay, not actually every waking minute, which is probably why I still came up 100 pages short by the time of our meeting. This had nothing to do with the book, though, just poor planning on my part.

The book itself was quite good, and it sparked one of the longer, more interesting conversations that my book club as had yet. The consensus was that everyone liked the book, but the more we discussed it, the more criticisms emerged- things like characters who should have been fleshed out more, voices that didn't ring true, and a few plot devices that seem like they were just randomly thrown in with no final payoff. And since I finally finished them, I can say that those last hundred pages seemed a little inconsequential, like the author just tried for a neat and tidy throwaway ending.

Despite those complaints, I still liked the book as a whole. It's vividly written and well paced, making it easy to get wrapped up in the story. It seems perfectly suited for the movie that it's being turned into. I'd recommend it, at least to the five or so people left who haven't read it already.

(And thanks again to Lara for lending me the book!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One Day

I've just finished one of the most truly enjoyable books I've read in a while- One Day by David Nicholls. I'd heard a ton of buzz about this when it came out in the summer, with lots of reviews describing it as a great beach read for people who normally hate beach reads. I was worried that this was just hype, but the book did more than live up to it and actually surpassed the "beach read" label.

The book opens as Emma and Dexter meet in the 1980's, on the day after they graduate from college. Each subsequent chapter pops in on them on that same day- July 15th- year after year. It's a complete gimmick, but one that manages to work. This is really a completely entertaining book. It's witty, with a kind of Nick Hornby-vibe, has elements of romance, and has a very poignant ending that actually left me misty-eyed, but in a satisfying way.

And for two random notes about the book: 1) I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I had read, and thoroughly enjoyed, one of the author's other books and 2) I've heard that One Day is set to be made into a movie, with Anne Hathaway as the lead.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Indian Summer Dinner

The farmer's market around here is going on through the end of the month and when I went last week I picked up a carton of heirloom tomatoes. Most of them were deep, plum-colored cherry tomatoes that looked more like grapes.

I picked up a bunch of basil, too, and decided to make a bruchetta pasta. It's probably something I would make more in the summer rather than the fall, which is why I'm calling it an Indian Summer dinner.

I sauteed the tomatoes with some garlic, olive oil, and just a little balsamic vinegar. I put that over some spaghetti and mixed in the basil and some cubes of fresh mozzarella. Perfect for eating from a bowl with a slice of crusty bread.

Here's my sous-chef, who was ready in the kitchen in case I needed any help.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Book Nook

No, I'm not talking about Barnes & Noble's e-book reader. I'm talking about one of my favorite areas that I've decorated in my apartment. It's a little reading corner made up of a vintage looking velvet chair from HomeGoods, a frilly pillow from Pier One, and a crystal chandelier, also from HomeGoods.

Now I wasn't able to get a picture where both the lighting and the furniture looked good, so you'll have to do some metal photoshopping here. Imagine the chandelier as it looks lit up in the this picture...

...with the chair as it looks in this picture. While you're at it, mentally add some more books into the piture. There's a few lined up on the ledge there, but I still need to move in some more.

I think it will be so nice to sit there and read with a cup of tea. So far, though, it's mostly been used by Millie as a springboard to get up on the window sill to look out at the world.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall Street Fair

Last weekend was Hoboken's Arts & Music Festival. It's basically like a huge street fair for the town. Stages with various bands and musicians bookend blocks and blocks of stands featuring artists, crafters, local businesses, and food.

A few of the more interesting art stands...

...including one artist who does custom pet portraits. Don't think I wasn't tempted.

Equally tempting were the food stands:

I managed to limit myself to only something from a cake stand. Besides the fancy cakes they had on display, they were also selling little miniature "babycakes".

They were basically a cake version of a bon-bon, make with cake batter mixed with buttercream and dipped in chocolate. I got a little bagful and they were delicious! The vanilla ones tasted almost like a creamy marzipan.

The best craft stands all seemed to involve hats. One sold knitted, cloche-like hats decorates with feathers. It gave me an idea of something to try myself.

Another stand sold handmade felt cloches and fedoras that were just gorgeous.

They were a little pricey, but if I had had an extra $100 to burn, I definitely would have bought one. (Humor me here and pretend that I'm not someone who buys hats only to never wear them.)

And finally, I was happy to see that sand art is still going strong. I made my fair share of these in my day. I'm sure there's still a few packed in an attic somewhere.


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