Monday, February 28, 2011

The History of Love

I may be little behind the times with reading The History of Love. It came out about five years ago and I'm only getting around to reading it now, when the buzz has already moved on to Nicole Krauss's next book.

The History of Love tells the story of an elderly Jewish man who wrote a book in his youth which, unbeknown to him, survived after he fled Nazi Europe, made it's way across the Atlantic, and ended up a published novel. The story unfolds as his life converges with that of a young girl Alma, named after one of the characters in his book, as she tries to piece together the mystery of the writer who created her namesake. Just trying to sum that up concisely left me feeling a bit confused. This is definitely a novel that reveals itself like a puzzle. You read about some of the characters without being one-hundred percent sure that you're right about who they are until the next piece falls into place.

One of the most interesting things for me was comparing this to what I've read by Jonathan Safran Foer, Krauss's husband. His writing sometimes leaves me feeling like he's engaging in literary gymnastics just for the sake of proving that he's a good enough writer to pull off crazy stunts. I felt a bit of the same with The History of Love, but to a lesser degree. Whatever gymnastics it contains seem really relevant to the way the story is told, but there were one or two aspects of the story that I thought were left hanging (from the uneven bars, if you want to beat this analogy into the ground) and didn't quite come together as much as I would have liked in the end.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Breakfast Cookies

What better topic than breakfast for a Saturday morning post? I've been making breakfast cookies just about every day since I came across the recipe on this blog. A "cookie" in shape only, it's actually a really easy and healthy breakfast that tastes like it could be a dessert.

You start by mixing together a mashed banana and the egg whites from one egg. Then add a dash of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of baking powder (that's the only ingredient I measure exactly; everything else is eyeballed), a spoonful of flax seed, some oats, and a sprinkle of chocolate chips. Transfer onto a plate, flatten into a cookie shape, microwave for 1:45, and then top with a spoonful of peanut butter. I prepare these the night before, then cook them in the morning right before I leave for work. Between these and my favorite Keurig coffee, I've come to look forward to my homemade breakfasts more than any breakfast I can buy out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amy Bloom's Stories

I've heard so many great things about Amy Bloom's writing, so I was excited to get a taste of it for myself with the story collection Where the God of Love Hangs Out.

I was afraid I was going to be disappointed after the first series of four interconnected stories got me off to a slow start. I just didn't like or connect with anything about the characters in the grouping. Luckily, once I got past that, I ended up loving every other story in the collection. Bloom covers a lot of ground with the variety of characters she writes about- a man who spends his life being a cold and violent father, only to turn around once he becomes the charge of a Polish caretaker during his failing years; a girl whose roommate has been kidnapped and murdered; and, in another linked series of stories, a mother and stepson whose relationship is both disturbing and compelling. The common denominator among all of the pieces is that they dwell on sometimes unlikeable characters in often-times uncomfortable situations, but are so realistic and engrossing that it's impossible to look away.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vintage Dishes

When I first moved into my apartment, I really liked the idea of mixing and matching vintage china patterns to create an eclectic dinnerware set. I succumbed to necessity, though, and bought some functional but basic plates, bowls, and mugs from Target. My mom recently gave me a some prettier pieces to start out my collection.

A set of dinner plates from Goodwill, with coordinating but not matching dessert plates that my mom had in her own cabinets. The scalloped edge on the dessert plate is my favorite detail.

A set of teacups and saucers... a single, vintage-inspired teacup and saucer from HomeGoods.

And this lovely cake stand, procured when my mom "shopped" her own cabinets. Look for some home-baked treats to be photographed on this in the near future.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Overnight Socialite

The Overnight Socialite by Bridie Clark is one of the most frivolously entertaining books I've read in a while. A modern-day retelling of Pygmalion set among New York socialites, its classic plot, fun setting, and likeable characters all made for a purely enjoyable read.

High literature it's not but, after a couple of recent bad experiences, it happily restored my faith in chick-lit as a worthy genre.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kate Spade Look

I didn't pay all that much attention to the goings-on of Fashion Week, but I did come across one look by Kate Spade that I completely love.

Between the bejeweled cardigan and the glasses necklace, I think I've found two pieces that I want to look to recreate myself.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


This week Borders filed for bankruptcy and announced that 200 of its stores will be closing. As a true bibliophile who finds browsing a bookstore infinitely more satisfying then ordering online, it's always sad to hear of a brick-and-mortar store that's not doing well. When it comes to the big chains, I've generally been more of a Barnes & Noble girl, but have always liked Borders for the fact that they always seem to have a good selection of non-mainstream books and magazines, as well as some quirkier items, like these that I discovered the last time I was there.

A whole aisle of records by lots of good current artists, like She & Him!

These t-shirts, tucked away on a display in the fiction section. They're by a company called Novel-T . They're baseball shirts with a literary character's name on the back, and a little image that ties in to their story on the front. This one with the windmill says "Quixote" on the back. The shirts (especially the ones for Gatsby and Poe) are cute and nerdy and fun- as are the literary playlists the company gives for each character on its website.

I think this proves that those Team Edward/ Team Jacob shirts were really just a rip-off of Team Darcy/ Team Wickham ones that Jane Austen embroidered to promote her book back in the day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lucky Jim

I've seen Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis crop up on various "must read" or "best 100 novels of the century" lists, and heralded as the seminal 1950s British campus novel. It's the story of Jim Dixon, a fledgling history professor who reluctantly tries to gain a permanent position he doesn't want at a college he can't stand. He fumbles his way through the politics of academia with often disastrous results.

While I liked this novel and got more invested in the story as it went along, it wasn't as hilariously madcap as I had expected it to be. I can see how it's meant to spoof the academic world and there are certainly laugh-out-loud funny parts, like watching Dixon's bumble through various schemes to get himself out of awkward situations. Despite that, I felt like I kept seeing a more serious character study of Dixon beneath all that. Maybe I'm missing something from that time period or from the British perspective.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

It's always a treat when a Valentine comes from an unexpected quarter. Today it was this box of truffles from an author I work with. A nice surprise to brighten up the workday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Champagne Wishes and Strawberry Dreams

My favorite local cupcake shop is completely decked out for Valentine's Day, with each of their cupcakes festively decorated for the holiday in some variation on the pink-red-hearts theme.

I stopped in to pick up some cupcakes to celebrate my mom's birthday and tried two of their special Valentine's flavors: champagne and strawberry-champagne.

Both were good, but the plain champagne flavor was truly delicious. Possibly one of my favorite cupcakes ever, it actually tasted like it left a bit of sparkly fizz in your mouth. They were baked in cupcake wrappers that had a little double ruffle at the top- kind of like a tulle skirt for a muffin tin.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Anthropology of Weddings

Recently Anthropologie held an event at their Philadelphia studios to preview their new wedding line, BHLDN, for a group of bloggers. I was not one of them. At least I got to browse through the pictures on other blogs while on hold with the post office, trying to find out why my invitation got lost in the mail.

I really like some of their shorter length dresses.

And then there's this one, which seems like a pretty close replica of what Zelda must have worn when she married F. Scott.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rereading List

I have a hard time rereading books. Even if it's a beloved favorite, the thought of my long and ever-growing list of new books to read makes me feel guilty about going back to something a second time. Temptation got the best of me the other night, though. I was trying to start a new book, but couldn't resist my pretty Penguin Classic edition of Emma staring at me from the shelf across the room.

It turned out to be perfect timing since my favorite adaptation of Emma was shown on PBS yesterday as part of their "Austentatious" marathon of Jane Austen movies. Superbowl alternative programming at its finest.

Here are the rest of the books that are on my rereading list:

Never Let Me Go; North and South; Brideshead Revisited; Cranford; Northanger Abbey

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Add this to the long list of reasons why I wish I was British- all the fascinators they get to wear. They're part flowery headpiece, part tiny hat, like the ones seen here on Kate Middleton and company. I wish they would catch on for wedding guests here in the States. Or even for work here in the States. That would add some much needed whimsy to the office.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wigs on the Green

Browsing at the bookstore a while ago, I spotted a very pretty cover on an edition of Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate :

I already own a copy of this book and was wishing that I had a reason to purchase this one too when, lo and behold, at the other end of the display table, I spotted another, equally well-covered book by Nancy Mitford that I hadn't heard of before, Wigs on the Green.

Set among a group of young men and women in the English countryside, it satirizes the various British political views of the time period- just prior to WWII, as Hitler is rising to power in Germany. Apparently Mitford pulled it out of print for a long time once the war hit out of sensitivity to the circumstances. Aside from a few jokes related to Hitler that are still a little uncomfortable to read, I found it to be quite a funny novel. The plot is too convoluted to even attempt to explain, but there are lots of madcap characters and cases of mistaken identity, and on a few occasions I had a hard time stifling laughter while reading in public.

Now I have my eye on two more Mitford titles that I want to get, Don't Tel Alfred and The Blessing, partly so that I can read the stories and partly so that I can have a whole collection of books with these great, vintage-y covers.


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