Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Fancies

This week I reread Colm Toibin's lovely novel Brooklyn, prompted to pick it up again after seeing ads for what looks to be a very good film adaptation that's just been released. This second reading confirmed that it's as good as I thought it was when I read it the first time, although I cringe a bit when I see what I wrote about it in 2010. That post lacks a bit of depth, to put it kindly, and I literally have no idea what I thought the "small parallel to Pride and Prejudice" was--certainly nothing that I noticed this time around. It's so fascinating how our frame of mind can influence our reading. Now, writing from what I hope is a wiser and more insightful vantage point, I would describe Brooklyn as a quiet but perceptive look at a young Irish woman trying to figure out her place in the world. I highly, highly recommend this novel, especially to any fans of Persephone or Virago Classics. This novel could easily sit among those because of its focus on the minor yet fascinating domestic struggles that make up a life.

A few other things that caught my eye:

If you were a Reading Rainbow fan as a kid, then I'm sure you can understand these book lover problems (starring LeVar Burton!).

A long read about an early visit to Amazon's new bookstore.

A short read about Ali Smith's new project.

This looks like a sweet children's book (discovered via this post).

Jhumpa Lahiri's next book sounds interesting.

And Barnes & Noble is once again doing their Black Friday signed books promotion. I'm not entirely sure what I think about this. I like that it encourages the gifting of books, but I'm hard pressed to think of a current author whose signature I would go out of my way to get.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Golden Age of Television

Have you binge-watched any good TV shows lately? Over the past several months I've been on a streak of watching some fantastic series on Netflix. It all began with Friday Night Lights. I had known this was a cult favorite but never had a strong interest in watching it until I went on a trip to Austin last Spring. Friday Night Lights was shot on location there and I was curious to see if the show's would match my impressions of the city. Turns out that it didn't match up at all, but after just a couple of episodes I was hooked on the amazing characters, writing, and acting and quickly worked my way through all 5 seasons.

After Friday Night Lights I started watching another show starring Kyle Chandler, the Netflix original series Bloodline. This series centers around the Rayburns, a prominent, successful extended family in the Florida Keys, and follows what happens to them when the black sheep of their family comes back into their lives. The dark and shady dealings that ensue aren't anything unique in and of themselves, but the way in which they are revealed the the viewer is. Each episode flashes forward from the present action to show one of the final scenes of the season. It's fascinating to watch how the family descends from point A to point B when, at first, the two places appear to be worlds apart. The beautiful yet slightly foreboding Floridian setting adds a great sense of place to the show, too.

Finally, I watched another series full of secrets and lies (aren't they all these days?), The Honourable Woman. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the part of Nessa Stein, an Israeli-British woman who uses her family's business to try to work toward peace in the Middle East. On the eve of the launch of a big project for the company, the kidnapping of someone close to her sets off a chain of events that sheds light on a traumatic episode from Nessa's past and the machinations of various government agencies. Beaing an eight part miniseries means that The Honorable Woman requires less of a time commitment to watch, which is probably a good thing because the show was actually quite stressful at times. The great acting performances made it well worth watching, though.

What series should I check out next? I just watched the first episode of Aziz Ansari's new show Master of None and it looks promising, and Walking Dead has been saved in my Netflix queue for quite a while now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sneaky Pumpkin Pie

I did some seasonal baking over the weekend and made one of the easiest pumpkin desserts ever. I'm calling this a sneaky pumpkin pie because it requires only two key ingredients and although it's not quite a traditional pumpkin, it provides a pretty close imitation of one.

To make this sneaky pie, you'll need a box of yellow cake mix and a 29 oz. can of pumpkin puree. Season the pumpkin puree to your liking using whatever spices of have on hand, either pumpkin pie seasoning or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Then use a hand mixer to blend the dry cake mix into the pumping puree. Pour this mixture into two pie plates (one 11x13 baking pan will work, too) and bake according to the time and temperature given on the box of cake mix. 

The texture will be less creamy and more cake-like than a true pumpkin pie, but it self-forms a slight crust that allows it to hold its shape when sliced. When topped with a basic cream cheese icing, this could earn a place on the holiday dessert table, particularly if you're looking for a quick way to check a pumpkin flavored dessert off of your baking list.


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