Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Greater Journey

After finishing The Greater Journey by David McCullough, I feel like I've fulfilled the quota of self-improving, educational books for the summer. Now I can spend August rereading Twilight over and over. (Kidding!) I'm not going to lie- getting through this book was a slog at times-- especially during the middle section that endlessly detailed life in Paris during the Franco Prussian War-- but there were some really interesting parts that made it all worthwhile.

I haven't read any of McCullough's other historical biographies, but I decided to pick this one up because it's about Americans in Paris. Not my favorite 20's-era Paris, though. Spanning the second half of the nineteenth century, this is more Degas and Cassatt than Picasso and Hemingway. The book covers a huge range of Americans who made the trip over there for work or for artistic pursuits. Although I probably picked up a fact or two about a few of them, what I really came away with was a general sense of a particular time and place. It reminded me a little of the scene in Midnight in Paris where Marion Cotillard's character talks about how for the French in the 1920's, the Paris of the Belle Epoch was what they looked back on as their Golden Age. This book made it a little easier to imagine how that could be true.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Dessert & A Call for Help

I recently discovered a delicious, decadent, and still pretty healthy dessert (from this cookbook, surprise, surprise). It's incredibly easy to make and perfect for summer. Just make up a little bowl of mixed berries, top with a couple of spoonfuls of ricotta cheese, drizzle with honey, and add a sprinkle of almonds.

I actually found it to be just as rich and refreshing as a bowl of ice cream. And I would never make that kind of statement lightly!

Now on to my plea. I've been a bit slow in posting this week because of some issues I've been having with blogger. Of course, I could just look online for troubleshooting, but I thought I'd take the easy route first and see if any of you readers have a solution for me.

My problem is this: I have a video I took on my iphone that I want to post. Every time I try to upload it, it seems to work and the window for the video appears in the draft of my post. Then, when I try to play the video, I get an error message and am told to try again later. I've posted videos before...what's going wrong now? Any ideas? Please don't say I'm going to have to start using something like Vimeo. (Cue old lady whine about not wanting to set up yet another account on yet another site.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Hangman's Daughter

I first heard about The Hangman's Daughter quite some time ago when I saw it touted as one of the top selling books for the Kindle. A translation of a German bestseller, it was first published exclusively by Amazon and has since been picked up for wider, print publication.

This was one of the freebies I picked up at BEA, and I'll admit that I wasn't all that excited about reading it (Germany in the 1600's isn't an era I normally like to lose myself in). Luckily for me, the book ended up exceeding my modest expectations. I found myself pulled into the engaging mystery, following a benevolent hangman as he races to discover who or what is abducting and murdering children in his village before a full scale (literal) witch hunt develops. Probably not a something everyone will love, but if a copy happens to fall into your lap, I'd say give it a try.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Corn with Basil Butter

I was unduly excited about stopping by the farmer's market after work yesterday. It was practically the only thing I could think about all day long. I left the office, dashed over in the ninety degree heat, and arrived to find...mostly just bunches of lettuce. I guess here in New Jersey, it's just a bit too early for the bulk of the tomato crop and a bit too late for the really good berries.

I did come away with some really good corn, though, and decided to dress it up a little bit.

I'm generally not one to put butter on my corn, but I had the idea to try topping it with some butter infused with basil snipped from the pot I have growing on my back stoop.

I just mashed a few leaves with a pat of room temperature butter, then spread it on top of the hot corn.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Modern Flapper

I'm well aware that if I do one or two more posts about Zelda, F. Scott Fitzgerald, or modern day interpretations of the 1920s, I'll have reached some kind of tipping point and will have to start a spin-off blog devoted just to that topic. Until then, though, you'll have to put up with me because today (thanks to Oh Joy!) I came across these flapper-esque dresses from Alexandra Grecco's Etsy shop.

These would look perfect paired with any of the Zelda inspired items featured in July's issue of Matchbook, or with these jewelry pieces that the NY Times magazine blogged about. I can just imagine Daisy Buchanan hopping into an old-fashioned car in one of these.

See, I'm not the only one who's obsessed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Untold Story

At first glance, Untold Story looks like it would be some kind of Princess Diana biography, timed to release around what would have been her 50th birthday.

A closer look reveals that it's actually a novel exploring the premise that Princess Diana faked her own death to escape her celebrity and live a quiet, unassuming life in America. It sounds like pretty hokey territory until you realize that it's written by the fantastic Monica Ali. As a writer she has a way of drawing really rich, complex characters, and this novel is no different. The story develops in a way that made me forget any real-life Princess Diana comparisons and see it as a really interesting character study that manages to be funny and suspenseful in turns, and that nicely blurs the line between protagonist and antagonist.

After liking this book as much as I did, I was surprised to see so many negative reader reviews written about it on Amazon and Taking a closer look, I realized that most of them seem to be written by Diana fanatics who didn't seem to fully get that this wasn't intended to be a biography or a piece of historical fiction. Case in point- one reviewer who, in all caps, expressed outrage that it would even be suggested that Diana would ever willingly "leave her boys". Hmmm. Perhaps the cover designer should have bumped up the words "a novel" by a few points?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cowboy Caviar

This recipe for homemade salsa has one of the silliest names I've ever come across. It's also one of the biggest crowd pleasers.

To make:

In a bowl, mix together the following, all finely chopped: 1 green pepper, 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, 1 small red onion. Add in 1 can of shopeg corn, 1 can pinto beans, and 1 can black eyed peas (all drained).

In a small pot, bring to a boil 1/2 cup cider vinegar. Stir in 3/4 cup sugar until it dissolves. Remove from the burner and add in 1 cup canola oil. Pour over the veggie mixture.

Marinate overnight. Drain the liquid from the mixture before serving.

It's pretty addictive and tends to disappear fast when you serve it to a group, so I'd recommend setting some aside in a little bowl beforehand. You'll definitely want some leftovers to enjoy the next day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Fierce Radiance

I've been having some pretty good luck with my summer reading picks so far. I came to this realization recently when I got completely sucked in to A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer.

A historical mystery very loosely in the vein of The Alienist, it drops you into the middle of 1940's New York, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and follows a female photojournalist for Life magazine as she become embroiled in a murder mystery involving the development of penicillin.

This isn't a perfect book. I found myself noticing some flaws as I read it, like some rapid and frequent shifts in point of view that didn't always work. That didn't keep me from fully enjoying it, though. There was just too much else to like about it. I loved traveling through the different neighborhoods of historical Manhattan. I loved all of the photography details (all the more so in light of my own recent fledgling attempts). I was fascinated by the facts about the early days of penicillin. And the mystery itself wasn't too bad, either.

Do I dare risk jinxing myself by declaring this book another great summer read?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just Like Buddy Holly

My current music obsession is Rave On, a Buddy Holly tribute that just came out. I bought the CD for my dad and took it back almost immediately after giving it to put the songs onto my ipod. Each song is better than the next, with some really great covers by She & Him, Florence & The Machine, Karen Elson, Cee Lo, and The Black Keys.

I think it would be the perfect soundtrack for a summer cookout. Highly, highly recommended.

Have you discovered any great music lately?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lunch in Paris

If My Life in France and A Homemade Life had a book baby, it would be Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard.

Bard tells the story of her move to Paris and marriage to a Frenchman, all prompted by one lunch date in Paris with her husband to be. She doesn't write about food as vividly as Julia Child or Molly Wizenberg. To be honest, I didn't even pay much attention to the recipes that are woven into each chapter. It's still worth reading, though, for a breezy, pleasant story and an interesting look at the ups and downs of being an American in Paris.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Silly Miss Millie

Millie's been bugging me to write a guest post for the blog. I finally gave in.

Hi, it's me, Millie. My human is always taking lots of pictures of me. I'm not sure why. Sometimes I don't feel like posing, so I just stick my tongue out at her.

Don't my back teeth look nice and clean in this picture? Those dental chews must really work. (They're pretty yummy, too.)

Sometimes I get so tired, I just have to take a snooze. Not that often, though. Only about twenty times a day.

I like to sleep on my back just in case someone passing by wants to rub my tummy. I wouldn't want to miss out on any belly rubs just because I'm napping.

I really wanted to go into this pet store, but it was closed.

I can't wait to meet the dog who left these paw prints. I love big dogs!

So there you have it- Millie's take on what she's been up to lately.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I finally got around to reading Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games series. I have to say, I have mixed feelings about this series. Obviously I liked the books well enough to read all three. The stories are well constructed and written in a way that makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

The downside, for me, is that the stories are just so bleak. I know they're meant to be set in a dystopian future, but it's just nonstop strife and struggle for the characters. Any moments of reprieve are few and far between, and seem to grow fewer and farther with each of the three books. I can't say that I really enjoyed reading Mockingjay. All of the turmoil proved too exhausting for me. I'm glad I saw the series through to the end, but I'm not sorry that it's over.


Related Posts with Thumbnails