Saturday, July 31, 2010

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

This recipe is everything you can want in a dish - flavorful, quick, easy, and just plain lovely. Paired with some mash potatoes, this dish is perfect for any night.

IMG_4969

Even though the ingredients list may seem long, I had almost everything on hand. If you're not a big fan of fennel seeds you can always leave them out, but I love them and am glad for any excuse to add them to something.

Would I make this again? Oh yes.

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

Ingredients:

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Brush chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; sprinkle spice rub over chicken. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute. Arrange chicken in an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until done.

3. Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, shallots, and rosemary; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve bell pepper mixture over chicken.

You can find nutritional information here if you're itnerested.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Red, White, and Boots (What I Wore)

This is what I wore on the fourth of July (I realize I'm a bit behind posting this). I feel a bit vain posting outfits, but I am trying to get over that.

Confession: This is the first time I wore dress or shorts without any tights in....idk like 5 years. I shit you not. I always feel self conscious about my whiteness, but the more I go without tights the more I get used to it.

Project1

Dress - Faith 21
White shirt - walmart
Jean shorts (you can't see obviously) - Lane Bryant pants I cut up
Boots - ebay


I'm not very fond of this dress to be honest. While I love the fact it isn't a dark color (you'll always have my heart black...call me) and I really like the crocheted part at the top, I really hate that one ruffle at the bottom. It just bugs me. I think a white cardigan would look nice and be more flattering, but the only one I have got destroyed in the best way at Holi.

Beyond that, I tied little blue checkered ribbons to my boots and painted my nails blue to add some holiday spirit to my outfit. I felt very patriotic.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Music Thursday

New Music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are.

These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

We Used To Be Friends by the Dandy Warhols:



No Envy, No Fear by Joshua Radin:



Stay Too Long by Plan B:



Our Swords by Band of Horses:



Premeditated Murder by J.Cole:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Grilled Raspberry-Chipotle Chicken Salad

Here's another recipe since I have nothing else to talk about. (What can I say? I'm pretty boring.) I actually came across this recipe on Pillsbury's photostream on flickr. How awesome is the 21st century?

Grilled Raspberry-Chipotle Chicken Salad

What I love about this recipe is the simplicity. I just browned the chicken on my George Foreman grill (please tell me I'm not the only one who owns one) and threw it in the oven for about ten minutes to finish cooking. I liked the raspberry chipotle sauce, but I might have to look into making my own since it tasted kind of like just sweet bbq sauce. And while that's all well and good, for about $6 bucks a bottle that's a bit disappointing. Other then that though, I thought the salad was great. I didn't have any raspberries to add to the salad, but I think the berries would have been great and bumped the salad up to the next level.

Would I make this again? Sure.

Grilled Raspberry-Chipotle Chicken Salad

Grilled Raspberry-Chipotle Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 lb)
1 cup raspberry chipotle sauce
1 bag (10 oz) ready-to-eat mixed salad greens (such as romaine, iceberg and leaf lettuces)
1 pint (2 cups) fresh raspberries
1/4 cup butter toffee glazed-flavored sliced almonds (from 3.75-oz package)
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons orange juice

Directions:

1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Brush both sides of chicken with about 1/4 cup of the raspberry chipotle sauce.

2. Place chicken on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 10 to 15 minutes. Turn chicken; brush with 1/4 cup of the raspberry chipotle sauce. Cover grill; cook 3 to 5 minutes longer or until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (170°F).

3. Arrange salad greens on 4 serving plates; top with raspberries. Cut each chicken breast into slices; fan over salad greens and raspberries. Garnish with almonds.

4. In small bowl, beat remaining 1/2 cup raspberry chipotle sauce, the oil and orange juice with wire whisk until blended. Drizzle over salads.

Grilled Raspberry-Chipotle Chicken Salad

Monday, July 26, 2010

Drugstore Makeup

Since the time I started wearing mascara and light eye liner in ninth grade, I've been a bit enamoured with the magic of makeup. I just adore the way makeup turns our faces into canvases and I like having the ability to express my mood in another medium. My eye shadow is practically a mood ring and I don't buy into the idea makeup should be "natural" looking or undetectable. If that's what makes you happy then go for it, but I like my eyeliner dark and my eye shadows bright. So while it may seem kind of random that I want to talk about makeup for a second, if you ever met me you wouldn't think it odd at all.

There are a few things I've gotten from ebay, like eyeshadow palettes, but most of my makeup comes from the drugstore. This is mainly because I'm poor, but also partly cause I'm cheap. One of the biggest problems I've had, was finding a good drugstore foundation though. After hearing a lot about the new Revlon Photo Ready foundation on youtube I decided to give it a go. Since Rite Aide was having a sale on Revlon products, I picked up both the Photo Ready and Revlon Colorstay.

By themselves, the Photo Ready and the Colorstay both have pros and cons. Together though? Magic. Somehow all of the good aspects of each foundation shines through and the less then good aspects are cancelled out.



With the Colorstay foundation, you have to apply it quickly and I've heard some complaints about it being cakey. My biggest issue is that it feels heavy on my face and I don't like that (plus the smell is kind of weird). But when you mix in the lighter and smoother feeling Photo Ready these issues disappear. On the flip side, one of the major complaints people have of the Photo Ready is the finely milled shimmer that's in it. While inside and/or in anything other then direct sunlight the shimmer makes your skin look "dewy," but in direct sunlight the shimmer can be too noticeable. Mixing in some of the Colorstay keeps the shimmer under control though. See a pattern? Mixing these two foundations has given me the most perfect foundation that is light and smooth, but also provides good coverage without being too heavy. Seriously, perfection.

And since I'm talking about drugstore makeup I love, I should probably mention L'Oreal Voluminous mascara. It is one of the most amazing mascara I've ever used and I find myself buying it over and over again.

You know how some mascaras that say "waterproof" aren't really all that waterproof? Well this stuff is. You might want to invest in a sandblaster to get this shit off - or some good makeup remover at the very least. (I don't even want to think how much soap it would take to get it all off.) The good thing about that though, is that means it won't smudge. And no one likes smudging. Except maybe Courtney Love, but that's a whole other can of worms.

Anyways, if you have thin crappy lashes like me, this will be your life savior. Scouts honor.

And on a worse note, Maybelline Ultra Liner is the worst liquid eyeliner ever. It dries shiny and flakes off when you try to apply another coat (we're talking within minutes of applying the first one too, not later in the day). I've used Maybelline liquid liners since a teenager, but this stuff is crap. Complete crap.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Smokin’ Chicken Burger

As you can see by the recipes I've posted here, I'm not a big beef fan. Even though I sometimes get it into my head that I just have to have a burger, I usually end up regretting not getting my standard chicken sandwich. Chicken is my love and the flavor of beef just doesn't do it for me. Searching for a chicken burger wasn't as fun as one would expect though either. Most chicken burgers I've had suffer from dryness and not a lot of flavor. Until I stumbled upon this recipe I had almost given up hope.

IMG_6836
IMG_6833

The mushrooms in these patties really keep everything nice and moist. Couple that with the onions, red wine sauce, and bacon and this burger definitely has flavor. I usually cook the patties on a griddle and then toss them in the oven for about ten minutes to finish cooking (I usually get everything ready and toast the buns during this time), but you can do whatever you like.

Would I make this again? Already a family favorite.

Smokin’ Chicken Burger

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 pound white mushrooms, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3/4 pound ground chicken
6 slices bacon, cut in half crosswise
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 kaiser rolls, split

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a medium bowl; let cool slightly. Add the ground chicken, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; shape into 4 patties.

2. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the skillet. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 10 minutes.

3. In a small saucepan, bring the chicken broth, red wine and tomato paste to a boil and cook until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes.

4. Preheat the broiler. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the patties and cook, turning once, for 12 minutes.5. Meanwhile, spread the remaining 2 tablespoons butter on the rolls and broil until golden. Place a patty on each roll bottom; top with onions, wine sauce, bacon and a roll top.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Keys on Main

Keys on Main before is a local dueling piano bar that I just love. Last night I went with a few friends and here are some pics:

IMG_6971
IMG_6932
IMG_6902
IMG_6959
IMG_6940
IMG_6972
IMG_6878
IMG_6985

I totally sat at random tables in order to get these pictures since there was a man sitting right in front of me ruining all my pics (I've found people are quite accommodating if you just ask). That older man with the white hair was so hilarious. He was really drunk and kept dancing and playing air guitar. He was wearing sunglasses, but one of the lenses was popped out which made it all the more funny. It was awesome.

Anyhoo, great night all around. Hope you guys have a good weekend. Cheers.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food&Fiction: The City of Ember and Poor Man's Gumbo

I actually got this book from my local thrift store for only 75 cents. How could I resist that?

The City of Ember and Poor Man's Gumbo

Project6

"The only light in the dark world."
Photobucket

Title: The City of Ember (The Ember Series, #1)
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Genre: Dystopian/Apocalyptic, Young Adult

Summary: (from Goodreads)
The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever!
Review: I don't know why, but that exclamation point at the end of the summary just cracks me up.

Anyhoo, The City of Ember is the story or a city...named Ember. Ember was built for reasons only alluded to by people referred to only as the "Builders." Built deep underground, Ember is running out of resources fast. Worse then being forced to survive on canned goods though, is the fact the city's only source of light, a massive generator, is starting to fail. The City of Ember follows 12-year-olds Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow as they draw lots for their jobs on Assignment Day and try to find a way to survive. When Lina find a mysterious message hidden in her grandmother's closet and Doon stumbles upon the mayor's secret, finding a way to survive becomes a quest to escape. With nothing but darkness as far as the eye can see, escaping will take all the wit Lina and Doon can find.

Overall I enjoyed The City of Ember. I found the book to be a light read that I whizzed right through. Lina and Doon are both likable characters, but for different reasons. While I loved Doon's questioning cynicism, Lina's dedication to her family was really touching I thought. Lina has the habit of thinking a little too good of everyone around her, but it counter balanced Doon's pensiveness and the oppressive atmosphere of Ember.

There were some aspects of the book that I think could have been expanded upon, but overall I think this book was a good first book in a trilogy. If the story doesn't get much better in the sequel then I will probably be a bit disappointed, but on its own this book it good. I look forward to reading this one to Holden when he's a little older as well. If you're looking for a hard hitting post-apocalyptic story, then this isn't for you. But if you're interested in a quick read with an interesting premise then The City of Ember will do.

Rating: 6. Good, but might not be for everyone

Photobucket

The City of Ember does mention specific meals in the story, but none of them sound very appetizing. This recipe for Poor Man's Gumbo came to mind though because it relies mainly on pantry staples and simple ingredients. This dish is not the type of dish I'd ever make for company, but I think it's perfect for those days when I don't feel like putting too much effort into dinner and I'm too lazy to go to the store.

IMG_5563

I got this recipe from Rachael Ray (which I find amusing since I said I wasn't too fond of her recipes and then posted a bunch of them). I know the picture is really boring, but it is what it is.

Poor Man's Gumbo

Ingredients:

12 slices bacon (about 1/2 pound)
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
One 12-ounce can solid white tuna packed in water
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon filé powder, such as Zatarain's
1-1/4 cups rice

Directions:

1. In a large, heavy skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

2. Drain off all but 1/4 cup bacon fat and return the skillet to the heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tuna and its liquid, tomato paste, jalapeño and 1 cup water and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Whisk in the filé powder; remove from the heat.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 2 1/4 cups salted water to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, lower the heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Serve the gumbo over the rice and crumble the bacon on top.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Craft Roundup

I feel like I've been boring the last few weeks. I haven't done any crafting lately since I've been busy with a few of my other hobbies, but I'm jonesing to create something. I thought I would do a small craft roundup so I can get those creative juices flowing.

Photobucket

1. How to Make a Pop-Up Photo Diorama!
2.
How to make your own chain harness
3.
Watermelon Pie
4.
Puffy Pouch
5.
Zipper Bracelet
6.
paper mache boat pattern

I am definitely going to make that watermelon pie desert with Holden. I know he'll just love it. I also think those boats would be great to put in his room, but it seems like kind of a lot of work. I hate to admit it but my laziness far out weights my craftiness.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Apricot and Chicken Bruschetta Sandwich

I based this sandwich on a appetizer I saw on Everyday Italian for Apricot and Chicken Bruschetta. This sandwich has the perfect balance of salty and sweet that I absolutely love.

IMG_5522

The original recipe called for prosciutto, but I prefer pancetta. I'm sure any kind of ham would be good though so use whatever you like. I also think Swiss or provolone would be a good substitute for the fontina. You can use of those rotisserie chickens from the supermarket and skip having to cook your own, but I just roasted mine at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If you like spicy mustard I bet a little would be nice as well.

Would I make this again? Sure.

Apricot and Chicken Bruschetta Sandwich

Ingredients:

Bread, Ciabatta or a baguette
Apricot preserves
Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
Roasted chicken breast, cooled and thinly sliced
Pancetta, thinly sliced and crisped in the oven
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Spinach or other greens

Directions:

1. Slice the bread in half and spread each side with a light coating of the apricot preserves. Then arrange the cheese, sliced chicken, pancetta, and greens on top.

2. At this point you'll want to either warm the sandwich in the oven, just until the cheese starts to melt, or use a panini press. If you don't a panini press you can toast the sandwich in a pan while weighing down the sandwich using a heavy skillet. (I have one of those really small cast iron skillets that's good for this.)

IMG_5524

Monday, July 19, 2010

Abby's Birthday

I have spent the last few days reading and eating and pulling out all of my hair since my internet and cable were down (I'm looking at you comcast). These pictures are from a month ago, but I though I'd share them anyways.

IMG_4794
IMG_4859
IMG_4849
IMG_4841
IMG_4846
IMG_4857
IMG_4793
IMG_4872

Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Book and Movie)

Book: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publishing Date: January 26th 2001 (first published 1985)
Paperback: 272 pages

Movie: Directed by Tom Tykwer

Starring: Ben Whishaw, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, and Rachel Hurd-Wood
Theatrical Release: January 5, 2007

Summary: (from Goodreads)
In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift-an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the "ultimate perfume"-the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.
Review:

Broken down into its most basic parts, this book is about a man, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, with an extraordinary sense of smell. When Grenouille smells the most intoxicating smell he's ever smelt, that of a young woman, he knows that he only has one purpose in life - to figure out how to capture the smells of the world. But there is another thing about Grenouille that is peculiar. While he can smell even the most minuscule of smells around him, he has no scent himself. That's right; Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is odorless. And if our smell is the soul of our being, then what does that say about Grenouille's soul?

Upfront I want to say that the greatest thing about this book is Süskind's writing. The way he tells the story and the mood of the overall book is very good. I have never read another book that has so beautifully paid attention to smell. Süskind has this way of making you both fascinated and revolted by his protagonist. At no point in the book did I ever genuinely like Grenouille and yet I continued reading. I've probably said it before, but I love it when authors don't set out for you to like their characters. Stories tend to feel more natural and less forced that way.

And ultimately, that is why I think the movie was a total flop.

While the book had this almost haunting quality about it, the movie was much more expected. The real gem of this book isn't the story. It isn't the characters or the overall idea. It's the writing. For large sections of the book there isn't even any dialogue. All of the characters around Grenouille are flat and lifeless for a specific purpose. This is the story of a murderer. Not a sympathetic man who makes mistakes or the beautiful women he hunts. We are supposed to be revolted by Grenouille and the movie didn't capture that.



Now I don't want to be too hard on the movie. Just imagining the process of turning this story into a film gives me a headache. The book has a nasty habit of rambling on for much longer then it needs to and some parts of the book are almost unbearably long (like the whole cave part). I think Ben Whishaw was a great choice for Grenouille and the way the film was shot was very beautiful. Rachel Hurd-Wood was also quite lovely, but the film focused too much on her I think. Film adaptations will always be a bit different from the book, but to make a good adaptation I think the essence of the story is really what's important to maintain. And unfortunately this movie didn't do that.

Süskind's writing has the texture of a story being told out loud and the decision not to fully narrate the movie was a bad one. Even reading a few parts of the book verbatim would have helped immensely. Instead the narration was used only two or three times in a haphazardly sort of way. The movie also glossed over the importance of Grenouille not having a scent. The idea that Grenouille was basically invisible and was able to manipulate people by creating different scents was one of the more important aspects of the book. Not only does it show Grenouille's self righteous contempt for everyone else, but it also explains why he went about making his perfume from young girls in the first place. (To be loved of course.)

Rating:

Book - 6. Good, but might not be for everyone
Movie - I don't really rate movies but I wouldn't really recommend watching this film. The trailer looks awesome, but the movie is pretty boring.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Music Thursday

New Music Thursday is an attempt to keep my goal of listening to some new music alive and kicking. Not all of these bands/artists are new to me, but all of the songs are. I'm really loving the song “Leavin’ Cincinnati” by Jake Speed and the Freddies but I couldn't find anything on youtube. It's a shame!

These are the songs I'm diggin this week:

Blow Away by A Fine Frenzy:



You Never Knew by Hieroglyphics:



Everlasting Light by The Black Keys:



Happy Alone by Earlimart:



Little Lies by Dave Barnes:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hello Dolly Bars

I saw this recipe for Hello Dolly Bars over at the Home Sick Texan. I don't know how popular Hello Dolly Bars are or if it's a regional dish, but I had never heard of them before. I decided to give the recipe a try since I knew Holden would have fun making them and I had everything on hand.

IMG_4919

The bars turned out to be quite tasty, but super sweet. Next time I plan on cutting way back on the chocolate chips and trying unsweetened coconut.

Would I make this again? Yes. At least for Holden since he had fun making them. For me though? probably not.

Hello Dolly Bars

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers (about 8 graham crackers)
2 cups of chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans
1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup of butter

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Pour melted butter into an 11x7 or 8x8 cake pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs into pan, and mix well with melted butter to form a crust.

2. Layer on top of graham-cracker crust chocolate chips, coconut and pecans.

3. Evenly pour sweetened condensed milk over everything.

4. Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes, top should be light brown. Let cool in pan for at least half an hour, cut into bars and serve.

IMG_4727
IMG_4729IMG_4735
IMG_4746IMG_4755
IMG_4759

Variations: Some recipes use butterscotch and chocolate chips. Likewise, you can use walnuts or any other nut you like as well.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lily Cole in British Vogue (2005)

Lily Cole is one of my favorite models (then again it's not like I know a bunch). I'm a total sucker for red-heads and I love how innocent she can look. There is just something really sweet about her face.

I especially love these pictures of Cole photographed by Tim Walker for British Vogue, 2005.

Photobucket
Photobucket

Now I want some candy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What I'm Reading

I've been reading so many books, but I don't feel like reviewing them. So I'm going to just talk about a few of them in one post.

The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling

Summary:
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 like to read a lot of dystopia and post-apocalyptic stories, but ever so often I need to read a more classic fantasy book to get the thoughts of starvation and death out of my mind. I had read Flewelling's Nightrunner series (well the first two books anyways) and enjoyed them immensely so I decided to give some of her earlier work a try. Well, I definitely wasn't disappointed and The Bone Doll's Twin is one of the most surprising books I've read this year. Flewelling's writing is very similar to Juliet Marillier in this book which is a plus for me. There is something about their lush writing that makes me feel like I'm getting a more fulfilling reading experience then usual. I know that's kind of a weird thing to say, but I can't think of any other way to explain it.

Rating: 10/10

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Summary:
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.
Ok, I can't believe it took me this long to actually sit down and read 1984 and Animal Farm (Animal Farm is like 90 pages too). I liked both of the stories, but Animal Farm was my favorite. Maybe it's because it was the first story I read, but I was completely floored at how good Orwell's writing was. When I read the line, "All animals are equal. But some are more equal than others," I was completely awed. Orwell has this way of bringing certain things to light without giving the reader the impression you're being lectured to. In a lot of ways I'm kind of glad I waited to read these books. I just don't know if I would have appreciated his writing as much as I do now if I had read them in high school. I worry that some of the more complicated concepts in these stories, especially in Animal Farm, might be lost on younger readers (like thinking the story is actually about animals). Anyways, the fact I had just gone over the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia last semester made 1984 particularly enjoyable as well.

Rating: 9/10

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

Summary:
In this work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the several decades before Roe v. Wade. This is the true story of "sex and the single girl" in the post-World War II years - a story not of carefree sexual liberation, but rather of a devastating double standard that had punishing long-term effects on millions of American women who were told they had no choice but to give up their children." Ann Fessler brings the women's voices as well as the spirit of those times to life, allowing the women to tell their stories in intimate detail. The stories she uncovered are often shocking in their revelation of the degree of pressure brought to bear on these women, the lack of compassion and guidance shown them, and the failure to appreciate the lifelong consequences of coercing a woman to surrender her child.

This book is by far one of the most eye-opening and sad/infuriating books I've read. I don't have much to say except give this book try.

Rating: 8/10

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Summary:
Great Britain in 1985 is close to being a police state. The Crimean War has dragged on for more than 130 years and Wales is self-governing. The only recognizable thing about this England is her citizens' enduring love of literature. And the Third Most Wanted criminal, Acheron Hades, is stealing characters from England's cherished literary heritage and holding them for ransom.

Bibliophiles will be enchanted, but not surprised, to learn that stealing a character from a book only changes that one book, but Hades has escalated his thievery. He has begun attacking the original manuscripts, thus changing all copies in print and enraging the reading public. That's why Special Operations Network has a Literary Division, and it is why one of its operatives, Thursday Next, is on the case.

Thursday is utterly delightful. She is vulnerable, smart, and, above all, literate. She has been trying to trace Hades ever since he stole Mr. Quaverley from the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and killed him. You will only remember Mr. Quaverley if you read Martin Chuzzlewit prior to 1985. But now Hades has set his sights on one of the plums of literature, Jane Eyre, and he must be stopped.
I really wanted to read another Fforde book since I loved Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron so very much. After reading both books it's obvious Fforde has the amazing ability to create these wondrous worlds that are also completely unique. While The Eyre Affair was a bit slow going in and I actually had to keep prompting myself to pick the book back up, the idea alone was enough to keep my intrigued (I think any book lover will adore the concept of this book). I have the second book in the series on hold and I have a feeling the series will just get better and better.

Rating: 7/10

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

Summary:
In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.
I feel a bit silly, but I didn't realize this was a non-fiction book when I checked it out (I had put it on hold without too much thought). I found the first half of this book hard to get into. In fact, I skipped most of the book and jumped right into the cannibalism part. At that point the story got so interesting I read the rest of the book properly through. I later went back to fill in the gaps, but I still couldn't read too far before the whale attack. I think if Philbrick had written the story more like a novel this wouldn't have happened. Either way I learned some horrific things about how we used to get oil from sperm whales and was once again shocked by the lengths humans will go to in order to survive. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in maritime history. This book is great if only for the latter half.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Dad's French Bread Pizza

When I decided to make Holden a family cookbook, I knew I had to include this French Bread Pizza recipe from my father. My dad has a lot of failings, but he sure can cook. He's one of those people who just opens up cupboards and whips up a feast without even trying.

If I'm honest, I should admit I'm a little jealous of people who can do that.

Anyhoo, this recipe is easy and tasty and it reminds me of my father. What more can you ask for in a meal?

IMG_4956
IMG_4949

Like all pizza recipes, this one is extremely flexible. Just put what you like on it and leave off what you don't. No thinking required. Instead of using jarred sauce I made my own by just cooking some chopped garlic and red pepper flakes in a little olive oil before adding a can of crushed tomatoes. Usually I have no problem with using jarred sauce for this recipe, but I didn't have any on hand.

Would I make this again? Most definitely.

My Dad's French Bread Pizza

Ingredients:

1 Loaf of French Bread (2 if you're feeding more then 4 people)
1 jar of Spaghetti sauce (you can make your own of course)
Pepperoni
Sausage (cooked and crumbled)
Mushrooms
Mozzarella
Butter (enough to cover one half of your loaf, softened)
Garlic
Basil

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

1. First you're going to cut the top off of your French loaf. Instead of cutting it perfectly in half, you're going to cut only about a third of the top off. You'll then want to partially hollow out your bottom half to make room for your ingredients. (If you want though, you can cut your loaf perfectly in half and hallow out both sides instead of having a top. This is how my father does it though.)

2. Starting with the sauce and ending with the cheese, layer your ingredients in the loaf. Easy peasy.

IMG_4896
IMG_4890IMG_4903
IMG_4901
IMG_4947IMG_4915

3. You'll then want to mix some chopped garlic with your softened butter and spread it across the top piece of your French bread.

4. Place both sides of your loaf in the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, about 20-30 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil if you like.

IMG_4948
IMG_4953

At this point you can eat your pizza with the top on or without it. I think it's a bit easier to eat it with the top on, but it is also kind of messy because of how toasted I like everything. Next time I think I'll make both sides pizzas, but I wanted to stay true to my father's recipe for Holden's book.