Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Butterflies and a Dash of Red (What I Wore)

What can I say? I love black and white clothes. I've been trying to move past buying all black, but I can't seem to help myself. I also can't help loving this ridiculously tacky butterfly clip. I've had it forever and I have no intention on getting rid of it anytime soon. Ugly-ish things just appeal to me.


Dress - Faith21
Belt - from another dress
Shoes - Torrid

I absolutely adore this dress. Depending on what I pair it with, it can be made to suit any mood. I love things like that. Also, does the last photo make anyone else think of garden gnomes? Just me?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts

When I saw Ina Garten make this recipe for Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts, I knew I had to give it a go as soon as possible. I took the opportunity to try out this dish the last time I had people over and it was very well received. These tarts are a little sad looking since I took this picture the next day and the fridge didn't help their appearance, but I promise they are super tasty. In fact, they were all eaten besides these two I put aside just for you dear audience. You're welcome.


Instead of making four large tarts like this recipe says, I used a glass and made smaller individual tarts. Biscuit cutters would be perfect, but I just lightly pressed the glass into the pastry and cut around the indention leaving a border (so I could skip scoring a border). I also substituted mozzarella for goat cheese since that's what I had on hand, but I think the tang of the goat cheese would be excellent. Either way these are super delicious and quite pretty. I did prefer the tarts warm compared to room temperature so you might want to keep that in mind.

Would I make this again? Oh yes.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts


1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
Good olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

1. Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface, and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square.

2. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

4. Take your pastry circles out of the refrigerator. Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.

5. Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle inside the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve hot or warm.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Walking Dead

I just saw this trailer for the new Walking Dead series on AMC over at The Book Smugglers and I am so excited. Even better, the series debuts on Halloween. I'm thinking a zombie themed party would be fitting don't you?

Oh yes. I see weird party food and lots of fake blood in my future.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I have no idea why I put off making this recipe for so long, but I could kick myself for it. (The ironic part is that I've made the Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars from the same episode at least a dozen times.) As I've come to expect with any Ina Garten recipe, this dish is simple, flavorful, and just plain awesome. If you like fresh vegetables you will not be disappointed by this recipe since it's basically just a fresh veggie salad with bread. And if you don't like fresh vegetables, you might want to leave now weirdo. Just joking. Kind of.


I cut this recipe in half and it easily served four adults so I would take that into consideration. The bread was my favorite part of this dish (it was a tough race with the cucumbers though), but it started to soggy pretty fast so I would keep the bread separate and mix it in at the last second on only as much as you think you'll need (this way any leftovers can be stored separately and won't suffer from soggy bread). Beyond that, this recipe is perfect. Next time I might skip the vinaigrette and just use Italian dressing, but that's really just because I'm lazy.

Would I make this again? Oh yes. The flavor is unbelievable.



3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.


Friday, August 27, 2010

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 9 and 10

A Book you’ve read more than once: I have to admit I don't read too many books more than once. This is partly because I get most of my books from the library, but it also has a lot to do with the fact I just don't care to reread a lot of stories. I've also found that I tend to like books a lot less when I reread them later on. I have no idea why that is, but I don't like it. When I am really impressed by a particular book I tend to go back and reread certain sections, but I almost never start the book completely over with a few exceptions. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is definitely one of those exceptions.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley--a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all of that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry--and anyone who reads about him--will find unforgettable.

For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him...if Harry can survive the encounter.

What else can really be said about this series that hasn't been said before? I didn't really get what all the hoopla was about Harry Potter until I finally decided to give the series a try (which wasn't till a few years ago). I like to reread each book before a new movie comes out and I definitely think he series deserves the hype. Plus anything that gets more kids reading is good in my book.

The first novel you remember reading: I remember reading some book about monkeys or something in fifth grade, but since I can't remember the title I'll have to go with the cooky poetry books by Shel Silverstein.

A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein.

Last night while I lay thinking here
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song:

Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?...

Here in the attic of Shel Silverstein you will find Backward Bill, Sour Face Ann, the Meehoo with an Exactlywatt, and the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire. You will talk with Broiled Face, find out what happens when Somebody steals your knees, get caught by the Quick-Digesting Gink, hear a Mountain snore, and see Them Put a Brassiere on the Camel.

From the creator of the beloved poetry collections Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up, here is another wondrous book of poems and drawings.

I don't think there's a elementary school anywhere that doesn't have at least one of Silverstein's books on its shelves. I still love the illustrations.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Music Thursday - The Chevelle Edition

It has been a few weeks since I've done a post for New Music Thursday. Just in case that soft sound of weeping is because of my random NMT posts, I thought I would remedy that issue. Of course, I don't want you getting too uppity so I am going to do things a little different this week.

Usually I post new songs on NMT (shocking I know), but this week I am posting a bunch of random Chevelle songs. Why? Because Chevelle kicks major ass and I've been listening to their music non-stop today.

Send the Pain Below:

Well Enough Alone:

Vitamin R (Leading Us Along):

The Red:


Chevelle doesn't get nearly as much love as they should.

Stripes and Boots

Would you guys hate me if I gush about the awesomeness that is this jacket for a moment? Seriously, I think I squealed a little when I first saw this striped piece of heaven. I'm a total sucker for jackets/blazers and stripes are my most recent love. Even better, the jacket is only $24.80 which means my broke ass can actually afford it.


I also decided to get this pair of boots since Forever21 was having a deal on shipping (free for orders over $40). I've had doc martens on the brain for the last few weeks, but at $29.80 these boots are more in my price range. Hopefully they turn out okay. I've never bought a pair of shoes from F21 and I'm a bit nervous about it to be honest.

Copy of Project2

I've read a lot of commentary about "fast fashion" and whether or not it is always the best route to go, but I think it's great that stores like F21 give people greater access to affordable fashion. I don't know why I felt the need to say that, but there you go.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Jenny" 08/10

My little sister wanted a picture for herself and as usual I couldn't resist making her something. (I'm a sucker for knowing someone wants something I've made.) This picture is only 8x10" since I had to carry it on the plane, but I actually liked working with a smaller canvas. It was loads easier.

Copy of IMG_7629

I plan on giving the other canvas to someone else as a surprise, so you'll see that eventually. Obviously it'll probably look pretty similar to Jenny's though.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cheesy Sausage Penne

This is the type of recipe that is delicious, super easy, and not at all fancy. I like to make this instead of lasagna since it requires cheaper ingredients and Ryan is particularly fond of it (go figure). While this dish may not be impressive, it doesn't take a lot of effort and it is quite tasty. And tasty but easy is pretty much my cooking attitude.


This recipe will give you a ton of food for a very reasonable price. I usually like to cut the recipe in half since it is just us three, but that is entirely up to you (I just plan other recipes using the sauce and cream cheese).

Would I make this again? Already a family favorite.

Cheesy Sausage Penne


1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jar (26 ounces) spaghetti sauce
1 package (16 ounces) uncooked penne pasta
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
4 green onions, sliced
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese


1. In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream and onions.
3. In a greased shallow 3-qt. baking dish, layer half of the pasta and sausage mixture. Dollop with half the cream cheese mixture; sprinkle with half the cheddar cheese. Repeat layers.

3. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until bubbly. Yield: 12 servings.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Killed by adorable: Mila's Daydreams

Have you guys seen the blog Mila's Daydreams yet? If not, you definitely need to hop on over there and marvel at the ingenuity of this woman. This blog is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. If not, then you must be a cold hearted Borg like creature. (Ok...maybe Borg was a bit much, but the amount of adorable at this blog is staggering. It is right up there with puppies dressed as cats.)

Check it out.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Food&Fiction: Everybody Loves Raymond and Braciole

Everybody Loves Raymond is actually my favorite television show. I've seen every episode at least four or five times, but I still watch it everyday. Ryan and I get a kick out of the way our relationship mirrors Ray and Debra's (though not so exaggerated of course) and I think every one can relate to family humor.

Everybody Loves Raymond and Braciole



I obviously can't review Everybody Loves Raymond quite the same way as I do a book, but I do think this clip pretty much sums it up:

Gosh I'm such a nerd, I'm already giggling.

Anyone who has seen an episode of Everybody loves Raymond knows that Debra's bad cooking is a recurring theme on the show. But on one episode, Debra actually makes a good dish:

Debra's braciole ends up causing a rift in the family so she stops making it, but the episode got me wondering what exactly braciole was. I had never had it and it turns out that braciole is pork or steak rolls that have been filled with some kind of filling and braised in tomato sauce. After learning that, I definitely had to give it a go.


I am pretty sure Debra specifically mentions that her dish is Pork Braciole, but this version is made with steak. (What I'd really like to try is braciole made with chicken. I can't help it. I just love chicken.) Even though there is a long cooking time, braciole is well worth it. There is just something special and wonderful about little steak bundles simmered in tomato sauce.


This recipe is from Anne Burrell and if you can't find thin cuts of top round then I would go with flank steak. You can see here that flank steak is much easier to get thin and even versus top round. The filling in this dish is golden, but you might want to consider making only about half since I had some left over. (I actually ended up using the extra filling, minus the bread, in my garlic bread. It turned out surprisingly good.) Instead of passing whole tomatoes through a food mill I used crushed tomatoes. If you plan on doing the same, I'd recommend adding some water to make sure your braising liquid isn't too thick (it will cook for three hours so the sauce will cook down anyways).

Would I make this again? Yes, but this is definitely a sometimes dish. I am looking forward to cooking this for friends or on a holiday though.


Anne Burrell says this recipe takes three hours but it took me closer to four. The time it took me to make the filling, make the beef rolls, brown the meat, and get the sauce going was a solid hour. Then my beef rolls simmered for three hours after that. (I know that seems like a huge amount of time, but it is kind of like making chili where all you need to do is check it periodically.) You can save time by buying your meat already thinly sliced if it's available.


Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced pancetta
1 large onion, finely diced
Kosher salt
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups day old Italian bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound spinach, stems removed and cut into chiffonade
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated provolone
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 pounds top round, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (about 12)

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 (32-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes, passed through the food mill
2 cups water

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
Special equipment: toothpicks


1. For the beef rolls: Coat a large saute pan with olive oil, add the pancetta and bring the pan to a medium heat. Cook the pancetta until it gets brown and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions and crushed red pepper and toss to incorporate with the pancetta. Season with salt, to taste. Cook the onions until they are soft and very aromatic, about 7 to 8 minutes.

2. While the onions are cooking, in a large bowl, combine the bread and the milk. Toss to combine and let sit until the bread has absorbed the milk and is very soft. Use your hands to get in there and really squish everything together. Reserve.

3. Add the garlic to the pan with the pancetta and onion and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt, to taste, and saute until the mushrooms are soft and have let off their moisture, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the spinach.

4. Add the onion/mushroom mixture to the reserved bread and stir to combine. Add the pine nuts, provolone and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and stir to combine. Taste to make sure that the mixture is delicious and season with salt, to taste, if needed. Set aside.

5. Lay the beef slices between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and gently pound with a meat mallet to flatten and even out the slices. Put about 1/4 cup of filling on 1 end of each of the pounded beef slices and roll up. Secure the rolls with toothpicks. Repeat this process with the remaining beef and filling.


6. Coat a large, wide pot with olive oil and put over medium-high heat. Season the beef rolls with salt, to taste, and brown them on all sides. When the beef rolls are brown on all sides, remove them from the pan and reserve. Make the sauce in the same pot.

7. Sauce: Remove the oil from the pot that the beef was just browned in. Add a light coating of fresh olive oil and add the onions and crushed red pepper. Season with salt, to taste, and put the pot over medium heat. Sweat the onions until they are translucent and very aromatic, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and red wine, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and 2 cups of water and season with salt, to taste.

8. Return the beef rolls to the pan and snuggle them into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the beef is very tender and flavorful, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the toothpicks before serving. To serve, arrange 2 or 3 braciole on each serving plate. Halve 1 or 2 rolls to expose the stuffing. Spoon on some of the sauce and garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano and chopped parsley.

Friday, August 20, 2010

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 7 and 8

A Book that’s hard to read: This is the type of question that is up for interpretation, but I decided to go with a book that was hard to read because of the subject matter.

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

A young woman who has endured unspeakable cruelties is magically granted a safe haven apart from the real world and allowed to raise her two daughters in this alternate reality, until the barrier between her world and the real one begins to break down.
This summary doesn't touch on any of the emotional and physically gut wrenching topics this book covers. Seriously, this book is one of the most difficult books I've read. While written quite beautifully, the plot is hard core. I haven't read Push or seen Precious yet, but I imagine there are of a similar vein (while still being completely different if that makes any sense). This book has been pegged as a standard fairy tale retelling, but I would definitely recommend reading this review so you know what you are getting into.

An unpopular book you believe should be a Best-Seller: I am really bad about reading books that a lot of people are already talking about, but I am a bit surprised when I come across a book that is super great but doesn't get much love.

1. Kirith Kirin by Jim Grimsley

In a land ravaged by the rule of the usurper known as the Blue Queen, a young boy fulfills his destiny by entering the service of Kirith Kirin, who seeks to reclaim his rightful throne. Jessex grows strong in his magical studies and fighting skills, finding both companionship and love in the company of the man he serves and discovering his crucial role in the battle against the evil that overshadows his land. Mainstream novelist and playwright Grimsley (My Drowning) crafts an elegant tale of love, war, and magic in the epic fantasy tradition.
This book completely surprised me and has everything I could want in a book. I don't know how this book has flown under the radar, but if you like high fantasy Kirith Kirin is a must. One of my favorite books I read in 2008.

2. The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling

For three centuries a divine prophecy and a line of warrior queens protected Skala. But the people grew complacent and Erius, a usurper king, claimed his young half sister’s throne.

Now plague and drought stalk the land, war with Skala’s ancient rival Plenimar drains the country’s lifeblood, and to be born female into the royal line has become a death sentence as the king fights to ensure the succession of his only heir, a son. For King Erius the greatest threat comes from his own line — and from Illior’s faithful, who spread the Oracle’s words to a doubting populace.

As noblewomen young and old perish mysteriously, the king’s nephew — his sister’s only child — grows toward manhood. But unbeknownst to the king or the boy, strange, haunted Tobin is the princess’s daughter, given male form by a dark magic to protect her until she can claim her rightful destiny.

Only Tobin’s noble father, two wizards of Illior, and an outlawed forest witch know the truth. Only they can protect young Tobin from a king’s wrath, a mother’s madness, and the terrifying rage of her brother’s demon spirit, determined to avenge his brutal murder....
I mentioned how much I liked this book before, but The Bone Doll's Twin really does deserve more love. Flewelling's writing is very similar to Juliet Marillier in this book and I love the fact that this trilogy is already finished. I'm trying to avoid series books at the moment since there is just an overabundance of them it seems.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bandanas and Saints (What I Wore)

I still feel weird about posting outfits, but I'm trying to get over that. similar to how posting recipes has made me more adventurous, I'm hoping outfit posts will do the same.

This is pretty much my go to outfit when it is super hot outside. While I generally like wearing tights, some days that just isn't an option when it gets too hot.

Project6 (3)

Dress - Faith 21
Black t-shirt - Walmart
Shorts - Lane Bryant pants I cut up
Flats - Target
Necklace - Torrid
St. Jude Medal - online from

Some of you may know I'm an atheist, but I really like saints and religious (especially Catholic) imagery/iconography. St. Jude has always been my favorite because he is invoked in desperate situations (he is the patron saint of desperate cases) and because his feast day is on my birthday.

I love this dress (though since putting it in the dryer is really a long shirt) because I can wear it so many different ways. Don't be surprised if you see it crop up quite a few times.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chicken Cacciatore

When I starting asking our families to contribute recipes for Holden's cookbook I'm making, Ryan's grandmother Nancy sent me this recipe for Chicken Cacciatore.


Ryan was quite happy Nancy gave me this recipe and after making it myself I could easily see why. Paired with a simple salad and some French bread, this dish is just perfect.


I did change the recipe a tad since I prefer olive oil to shortening and I like to finish cooking my chicken in the oven so I don't have to worry about undercooked meat (I'm kind of paranoid about this). It was also hard to fit everything in my pan without major spillage so the oven helped with that as well. I haven't tried using canned mushrooms since fresh are so easy to come by, but I trust Nancy so I wouldn't worry too much about it if that's all you have on hand.

Would I make this again? Already have. Chicken Cacciatore is the perfect recipe to have in your repertoire.

Chicken Cacciatore


4 to 6 chicken breasts
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup flour
2 cups thinly sliced onion rings
1/2 coup chopped green pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can (1 pound) chopped tomatoes, drained
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can sliced mushrooms,drained, or fresh
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

1. Wash chicken and pat dry. Season both sides with salt and pepper and dredge through the flour till lightly coated.

2. Melt shortening or oil in large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Cook chicken in shortening/oil until browned on both sides. Remove chicken and place in the oven to finish cooking.

3. Add the onion, green pepper, and garlic to skillet. (If using fresh mushrooms you'll want to add them here as well.) Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients simmer, tightly covered, 20 minutes.

4. After 20 minutes, or whenever the chicken is cooked through, remove the chicken from the oven and add to the vegetable mixture. Allows the cacciatore to then cook together for about ten minutes (prepare your rice or pasta during this time if using).

Serve as is, or over fluffy rice or spaghetti.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Las Vegas Weekend Pictures

*cross posted*

Here are some pictures from my weekend in Las Vegas. I had a lot of fun but I didn't get to take nearly as many pictures as I would have liked.


I am putting the rest of the picture under the cut since there are kind of a lot.

continue reading...

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Sisters" 08/10

This is the last picture Heather asked me to make. I wasn't completely happy with the results of this one, but she seemed to have really liked it so that's what matters the most.


That crooked "childhood" just grates on my nerves though. Cutting out those words by hand was a such a pain that I didn't want to risk tearing it by trying to reposition it. Super irritating.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 5 and 6

A Non-fiction book that you actually enjoyed: Kind of a weird way to phrase the question, but there are quite a few non-fiction books I've enjoyed. I think a wide variety of people would enjoy these two books though.

1. A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman


David M. Friedman's A Mind of Its Own is a cultural examination of the penis, from ancient Sumer to the present. Friedman convincingly suggests that humankind's various and contradictory attitudes toward the penis have been instrumental in mapping the course of both Western civilization and world history.
The first half is more interesting than the second, but I loved this book. The best part of this book is in its details.

2. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris


Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, David considers using the water in a vase of flowers and his chain of associations takes him from the French countryside to a hilariously uncomfortable memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina. In essay after essay, Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life-having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger on a plane or armoring the windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds-to the most deeply resonant human truths. Culminating in a brilliant account of his venture to Tokyo in order to quit smoking, David Sedaris's sixth essay collection is a new masterpiece of comic writing from "a writer worth treasuring."
What needs to be said about Sedaris that hasn’t already been said? His books are great and if you need a good laugh about the mundane yet entertaining aspects of life then this book is for you. You can read my favorite essay from this book here.

A Book that makes you cry: This question is a bit ridiculous to me since I pretty much cry at everything. Everything. It is completely out of control in fact. The last time I can remember crying super hard though was when Dumbledore died in Harry Potter.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate -- and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort -- and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ranch Chicken

When I saw this recipe in the Food Network Magazine my heart fluttered at the genius of it. Buffalo and ranch are a pair made in heaven, but the idea of switching up the flavors never crossed my mind. My chicken is buffalo and my dipping sauce ranch. That's just the way it has always been. Until now of course.


I decided to go with chicken breasts instead of wings since I don't really like to eat wings. The bones make me feel too much like a cave man or something (yes I'm weird). I was only able to marinate the chicken for an hour since I totally forgot about the long marinade time, but the ranch flavor was still very nice. It came through rather delicately with a twang that Ryan couldn't put his finger on. Seasoning each step with ranch is really important I think. The simple addition of some honey to my beloved Frank's was also great.

Would I make this again? For sure.

Ranch Chicken


2 pounds chicken wings (split at the joint, tips removed) or 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (sliced into strips)
3 1-ounce packets ranch dressing mix
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs
Vegetable oil, for frying
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/4 cup honey


1. Toss the chicken with 1 packet dressing mix in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours.

2. Whisk the flour, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 packet dressing mix in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, 2 tablespoons water and the remaining packet dressing mix.

3.Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour, then dip into the egg mixture and return to the flour mixture, turning to coat. Transfer to a rack.

4. Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F. Fry chicken in batches until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

5. Whisk the hot sauce and honey in a bowl. Serve with the wings.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Cameron and Dylan" 08/10

This is the second picture (out of three) Heather asked made me to make for her. She originally asked for the picture to be made into two paintings, but I got it stuck in my head that three would be better. Fingers crossed that she's happy with the results.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 3 and 4

A Book that completely surprised you (bad/good): There are three books that stand out in my mind for some reason.

1. Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente

Summary: (from Goodreads)
Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse—a voyage permitted only to those who’ve always believed there’s another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night. To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important—a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.
I remember reading Palimpsest after seeing it was voted the best new fantasy book of 2009 by amazon and being completely surprised by how good the book really was. When I reviewed the book I said, "I guess you could say this book is like the abandoned love child of Juliet Marillier and Simon Green’s Something from the Nightside series" and that "this is the kind of book that makes you want to read out loud so you can feel the velvety texture of the words on your tongue. That’s how great the writing is." I still stand by both those statements and I'm surprised I haven't seen this book get more attention.

2. Animal Farm by George Orwell

A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned--a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.
I actually read this book just last month and have already mentioned my surprise at how good Animal Farm really is. The line, "All animals are equal. But some are more equal than others," is still one of the best I've ever read. My love for this book completely blindsided me.

3. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Summary: (from Goodreads)
The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. But Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves--Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.
It's no secret that I didn't like Twilight and I found myself ready to hate the Host before I even picked it up. When it turned out that I actually enjoyed reading this book, I was completely surprised. Shocked even. Though there are similarities to Twilight (over-protective men, teenage girls being carried all the time, sappy dialogue, etc.), the Host is a far better story. I also really loved the science fiction aspects to the book. While it seems to take Meyer forever to get to her point, I still enjoyed this book a lot.

A Book that reminds you of home: I am actually skipping this one because I really can't think of a single book that fits this criteria.