Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winter Layers

Here's a dilemma I experience during the winter months- Do I wear classic, sophisticated items, like a chic wool coat and riding boots, or do I go for more practical items, like a cozy sweaters and knits? It can seem like these two categories don't go hand-in-hand, but this photo from The Sartorialist shows a girl who mixes the two with great results.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Judge This Book by its Cover...

Or its title, for that matter. Both make it seem like some kind of romance novel/ self-help hybrid, when it's actually a literary novel that follows one woman and her interactions with her family during three different relationships she has in her life.

I picked up The Man of My Dreams because it was on the sale table at B&N and because I had liked the author's first novel, Prep, but I think this second novel only warrants an average rating. At times the writing is really good and seems to capture authentic moments, but at other times it feels like she's trying a little too hard to make her characters seem "real". The entire last chapter seems unnecessary. It suddenly switches from a third-person narrative to a letter format that tries to sum up too much and wrap up loose ends. The previous chapter could have easily served as the ending. It would have left the story more ambiguous and open-ended, but in my mind that would have been better.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snowed In Again

It's rare enough for me to get a snow day off from work, let alone two in one winter, let alone two in one month! I wasn't too surprised when I got the call this morning, though, considering that it had been snowing for about 24 hours straight.

By 3:00 the weather had cleared up enough to venture out for a latte. A few little snow-friends popped up between my apartment and Starbucks.

Now excuse me, I must get back to the standard snow-day activities of reading/ movie watching/ knitting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prodigal Summer

What is it about Barbara Kingsolver? It seems like any time her name come up in a conversation among readers, the reaction is usually "Oh, I love her books". The praise is well-deserved. Her writing is very approachable, yet still manages to have a sophistication about it. The result is that she's able to make almost any character or setting seem interesting. Prodigal Summer follows several farmers and a wildlife expert living in rural Appalachia. Not a topic that I would immediately gravitate towards, but it ended up being the most compelling thing I've read in a while. I had to stay up late one night to finish it.

Beyond her writing, this particular book was interesting to me because it ties in with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I read with my book club a while back. In some ways, Prodigal Summer is like the fictionalized version of that book, from the environmental philosophies it touches on to smaller details, like the canning and preserving of seasonal fruits that one of the main characters does. They're perfect companion books for each other.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cute Cards

Today I stumbled across an Etsy shop called The Great Lakes that sells all of these really simple but really cute notecards.

It's a bit belated, but these would have been sweet on Valentine's Day:

I can think of one person (who shall remain nameless) who might like either of these because of her incongruous love of both cross-stitch and the Notorious B.I.G.:

And last week I was looking at goodbye cards for my friend Leslie who's moving away, but could only find cheesy ones and opted for a blank card instead. Of course, now I find this one that has the perfect sentiment:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Men in Tights

Last night I saw Kings of the Dance, a tour of some of the top male ballet dancers from various companies around the world. I originally agreed to go because my other ballet-groupie friends were interested in it, but I have to admit that I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The show ended up being so good! There was a really nice variety to the solos that each "king" danced- some were funny, some a little more modern, some classical. Then there were a few group pieces and a finale where they all just went crazy showing off. One dancer did something I'd never seen before- a tour jete with an extra rotation added in the air before he landed (I sounded like an Olympic snowboard commentator in my own head when I saw it).

As good as the dancing was, another highlight of the evening was seeing a woman in the audience who was very Upper East Side-looking except for her crazy hairstyle- a bleached blond short precision bob with a long, dark brown mullet coming out from underneath and going to her mid-back. I'm hereby christening this style a Bullet.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another Hat

I just finished my second hat, the mushroom hat from Purl.

When I first started working on this, it seemed like a hard project because the yarn was finer and the needles were smaller than anything I've done before. Once I got the hang of it, though, it wasn't bad at all. I'm pretty pleased with the way it came out and really like the overall pattern on the top part of the hat. It's a very slouchy hat, so it might take some time for me to get used to wearing that style.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pretty Frocks

Over the past day or two, I've seen quite a few blog posts, tweets, and general buzz about the new Alexa Chung line for Madewell. I really like these two dresses in particular.

They'd be really cute for spring, but could also work during transitional weather. Unfortunately, they won't be out in stores until the fall.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Education

When the movie An Education was out last fall, not only was I dying to see it (still haven't, but it's on my queue), but I was also dying to read the memoir it was based on. Unfortunately, it seemed to be out of print or only available for the Kindle. I had pretty much forgotten about it when I was browsing at the Union Square Barnes and Noble and, lo and behold, I spotted it. Of course, I snapped it up.

The author writes with a casual tone that made this a breezy, quick read, the perfect antidote to the last not-so-great book I read. It spans the author's teenage years and time at Oxford, followed by her marriage and work as a journalist. One of my favorite parts was the final chapter- it takes a sad turn, and then you think it's going to become truly depressing until the final few paragraphs of the book rescue it in a surprising way. Now I'm even more anxious to watch the movie.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Cupcake Diaries

Over the course of the past week, I've eaten approximately five cupcakes. It seems that I'm finally coming close to meeting my recommended daily cupcake intake. Here's how they stacked up against each other:


I finally had cupcakes from Babycakes, the all-vegan bakery on the Lower East Side that I've been wanting to try for a long time. I made the sacrifice and tried two to get a taste of both the chocolate and vanilla gluten-free versions. The cake was slightly denser and drier than most cupcakes. I think this might make some people say that it tastes like health food, but I really do think that if you did a blind taste-test, you wouldn't be able to guess that it's vegan and sugar free. Some kind of agave is used instead of sugar, I thought that the icing (the key part of any cupcake for me) was really good. It had a nice sweetness without being cloying.


I was in the vicinity of Magnolia shortly after my Babycakes experience and decided that it was only fair to pick up a couple and do a true comparison. These really are the gold standard. There's a slight vanilla/ almond taste to the cake, and the frosting is super sugary. Normally I stick with the vanilla cupcakes here, but the vanilla cake/ chocolate frosting combo was surprisingly good.


I ended off the week with some belated-birthday cupcakes that I got for my mom from Crumbs. These really can't be considered true cupcakes. They're so huge, and come in so many crazy flavor combinations, that they're more like small individual layer cakes. We sampled from three: Rasberry Swirl, Red Velvet, and some kind of Strawberry Valentine's flavor.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Potato and Artichoke Tortilla

I was in the mood to try a new recipe during my snow day yesterday. I had two requirements- the recipe had to call for only basic ingredients and it had to be something cozy. I spent some time on SmittenKitchen and decided that I would hit the "Surprise Me" button five times and see what recipes popped up. On the fifth try the perfect recipe appeared- a potato and artichoke tortilla.

I love these kinds of tortillas, which are like a Spanish version of a frittata. They always remind me of the first time I ever had one, which was during my freshman year of college when the RA on our floor took an entire troupe of girls to have tapas in Boston.

I had mixed results with this recipe. I loved the mix of flavors from the potato, onion, red peppers, and artichokes. Mine didn't come out as thick and tortilla-like as it should have, but that was because I cut some corners on the recipe. It calls for cooking the entire thing on the stove top, and flipping it out of the pan onto a plate to turn it over several times. Not only did that seem dangerous, but I don't have any plates that are bigger than my frying pan, so I ended up just cooking it like frittatas that I've made in the past- partly on the stove top and partly in the over. I think this made it flatter than a tortilla is supposed to be. I would definitely make this again, though, and possibly even consider following directions next time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day!

The snow is swirling around so much outside my window that it looks like it's falling upward, and the news is have special nonstop blizzard coverage. This means that today I had a very rare snow day off from work! The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to make a final push and finish reading a book I've been trudging through for the past three weeks.

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt had been on my reading list for a few months. I really enjoyed Possession, the other book of hers that I've read. That book weaves together the stories of two modern day literary scholars with the lives of the writers they study. The Children's Book sounded like it might be similarly structured. It follows the children of a Bohemian British family whose mother writes children's fairy tales. She writes special stories for each child, and these are intertwined with the real lives of the children. Theoretically, this sounded like something I would like. Plus, it spans the late nineteenth century through WWI, so I thought it would fit in with the little Victorian kick I've been on lately.

Something just didn't click, though, and I found it really hard to get through this book. There's not one reason I can pinpoint for why I didn't like it. I did like the characters and the relationships between them were interesting enough, but the author includes so many historical details that they really started to weigh down the story (I admit that I skimmed through most of those passages during the final 100 pages). Some skimming also occurred during the story-within-a-story fairy tales, which I found to be dull. I think my biggest complaint is that the story just seemed slow to pick up. It was until around page 350 (yes, that's 350) that I felt like it finally caught my interest. Even after that point there were times when I wanted to give it up, and was only stopped by the thought of the time I'd invested so far.

And to add two more complaints to the list- I had to keep the book out overdue from the library to finish it and the 600+ page hardcover was so heavy that I had to prop it up with a pillow when I was reading it. I'm so glad that I finished it. Now on to better, though not necessarily bigger, things.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tim Burton

Yesterday I went to see the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA. It was packed! We did a lot of slow museum shuffling and peering around people to see everything, and got really overheated in the crowded galleries. But aside from those complaints, it was a really interesting show.

One of my favorite parts was seeing the sketches and cartoons he did when he was in his early twenties. The characters were drawn in his typical style and the cartoons were surprisingly funny. There were storyboards and screens from some of his movies on display, including some really beautiful and elaborate ones from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a section of other movie items, like the suit and hands from Edward Scissorhands. It put me in the mood to rewatch both of those movies, and to watch Sleepy Hollow and The Corpse Bride, which I've never seen. All of them are now on my Netflix queue.

I was also reminded of this unrelated picture I took of the full moon a while ago:

Kind of eerie and Tim Burton-esque.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Easy Italian Dinner

I recently found out about a food blog called Smitten Kitchen. One of the recipes I found there is for an incredibly easy tomato sauce that I decided to try. This is the kind of recipe where you give the directions a quick once over and know exactly what to do. It's that simple.

The ingredients are a 28oz. can of tomatoes, one onion (peeled and halved), and just over half a stick of butter. Put those three things in a pot and simmer for 45 minutes, keeping an eye on it and giving it a stir every now and then. Then, pull the onion halves out and voila, it's done.

The butter adds a sweetness that makes it smell amazing while it's cooking. The end result is a pretty tangy sauce. It reminds me of a classic red sauce that you would get at a simple, no-frills Italian restaurant, only better because it's homemade.

To use the sauce, I decided to recreate a dish I had at a restaurant recently. I put it over some cavatelli and topped it with a generous dab of ricotta cheese. It becomes nice and creamy when mixed together. I have to say, this has to be one of the easiest dishes I've ever made, and I think I liked it even better than the restaurant version that inspired me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Six More Weeks...

In honor of the groundhog peeking out from his burrow today, I thought it was time to finally take a peek at some spring clothes. I wasn't quite ready when I saw them in the stores while the after-Christmas sales were still going on, but now I'm more in the mood for warmer weather and have been doing some online window shopping. I must say, I'm loving some of the looks that Anthropologie is showing right now.

I love the haircut, I love the French vibe, and I love that these outfits look easy enough to put together using some things I already have.

And speaking of a French vibe, I found the next pair of glasses I want on a recent post by The Cherry Blossom Girl:

I love wearing my Ray Ban sunglasses, so why not have them as glasses too? I think these look adorable. The flowered headband doesn't hurt either.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Hat

As promised, here's the hat that I made with the yarn I got from Purl:

And, even though I'm a bit reluctant to post a picture of me wearing the hat, here it is on:

I like that the shape of it is a little reminiscent of a 1920's cloche. I can channel Zelda when I wear it (minus the craziness). I also completely love this yarn- it's the softest and coziest I've ever felt. I could even imagine that it would be possible to try the hat on after finishing it and then fall asleep and take a nap while wearing it. Not that I would do something like that, of course.

Now for my next dilemma- what to get when I go back to Purl. Do I get more of the same yarn in a different color to make some kind of scarf? Or do I get the yarn to make this mushroom hat from their website?


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