Book-A-Day Update

As happens to most people, my resolution to read a book every day in the year 2013 came to an end in February. By mid-February I was running approximately 4 days behind schedule, but quickly fell impossibly further behind when the next several books on my list were close to 1,000 pages each. Needless to say,  books of that length would have been problematic for my goal even if I did not have a full-time job.

Over the next few weeks I’ll post highlights of the books I’ve read as part of this goal and since then, and I’ll also post some new recipes I’ve been developing. Now that I’m not spending every waking moment (and then some) scrambling to read books on pace, I’ll have time to write more reviews of what I am reading and cooking up in the kitchen.

I am really looking forward to getting back to the blogging. In the meantime, I hope you’ve got some lovely spring weather to enjoy! Cheerio!

Paper Source Foil-Embossed Calendar

Paper goods are just behind books on my list of favorite things. I start shopping for cards for people months before their birthday or other holidays in which card-giving is socially acceptable, and will often find myself unable to resist buying multiple cards for the same person for a single holiday. To that end, Paper Source is one of my favorite places to satisfy my addiction to paper goods, and although they have great cards and gifts, this calendar has to be one of my favorite finds of all time. It is currently sitting on my desk, and I keep pausing in  my work just to appreciate how beautiful it is! Furthermore, foil embossing is such a cool process and this calendar is a great conversation starter on the topic.

I know we’re already a little ways into 2013, but having an extra calendar or getting around to buying your first calendar for the new year, is always a good idea. Better yet, it’s on sale now: $10. You know you want it!

Book-A-Day: January 16-31

Here is the rest of January’s books:

1/16 -17: Freckles (by Gene Stratton-Porter) This and A Girl of the Limberlost remind me of my childhood and Indiana. I grew up playing outside in our vegetable garden and in Holcombe Gardens on Butler University’s campus, and although my childhood was in a very different era than the setting of these books, I never fail to appreciate the attention paid to the natural characteristics of the land and animal life in that part of the country. These books are a celebration of progress and self-improvement through dedication to the land/nature which is a concept I respect and strive to achieve,  but progress and preservation of nature are and historically have been considered incongruous concepts. I recommend it for young adults and adult readers who are interested in early twentieth century regional fiction, or any mid-level or better reader interested in nature.

1/18: After Milk and Song (by Erin Mullikin) This is another South Carolina Poetry Initiative chapbook winner, but it happens to be authored by one of my classmates at Clemson. It appears to be currently unavailable, but if you get the chance to read a copy of it, Mullikin’s poems delve deeply into the loss of a parent and reflection on how pieces of them and the lessons they taught you live on. They are beautifully done, and I highly recommend watching out for more works to come by her.

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Book -A-Day: January 1-15

Okay, so I have set a (kind of) crazy goal for myself: reading a book each day in 2013. That is on top of working full time, trying to cook healthy meals regularly, stay in shape, maintaining a clean and organized household, keeping up with this blog, and still having a social life…like I said, crazy. I thought posting about it here would offer a little more accountability and it would provide a huge amount of information about books! Therefore, I am going to post a list of all the books I read in January with a brief review of each and a link to the book on Amazon in case you want to pick up a copy for yourself.

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The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients is a beautifully written story of friendship, revelation and redemption achieved through food. The scene is that of a cooking class, and each lesson is tied to a character’s personal story and unique difficulties which, through cooking with certain ingredients and eating certain foods, are overcome.

Without wanting to give too much away, I must say that the book as a whole is delightful, but it is the opening chapter that moved this book into my top 10 favorites list. This chapter tells the story of a mother who has buried herself in books to hide from grief and who “enjoys every part of a book…[but] collected exquisite phrases and complicated rhythms, descriptions that undulated across a page like cake batter pouring in to a pan, [and] read aloud to put the words in the air.” I do not think this is the normal way of reading, but sometimes I truly do read this way. I am often bursting to share turns of phrase or searching through books that I read years ago trying to find a single paragraph that moved me so profoundly that I return to it time and again. The title character of this chapter, Lillian, is a young girl who learns to cook through trial and error, gains confidence from observation, and learns to cook based on instinct and to the needs of the person (or people) she is feeding, her mother. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am able to cook in the same way that Lillian learns to, I think most home cooks try very hard to make good food that people enjoy eating and that is certainly true of me.

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Zucchini Boats

Happy Earth Day! I thought today would be a great day to share a great vegetarian recipe since meat is considered to be such a threat in terms of global warming. Everyone has their own opinions about what makes up a “healthy” or “balanced” diet, but I think people are finally beginning to understand that most people only need  about 1/4 the amount of meat the average American consumes per week, and for those of you that are trying to cut back or add some variety to your diet, this is a great recipe to start with since it’s so hearty and flavorful.

If you’ve ever grown zucchini or squash in a backyard garden, you are all too aware that you’ll reach a certain point in the summer where you begin running out of ideas of what to do with all of it. Unfortunately, it’s still spring so that wonderful problem isn’t quite upon us yet, but I thought that with the weather quickly warming, now is a good time to start prepping for the summer squash bonanza.

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Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I recently considered joining a book club until realizing the book of the month was Little Bee. I have read this novel cover to cover, always hoping that there would be some point and some value to the story, but now that I have re-read the book and listened to the audio book I can conclusively say there is nothing but sadness and depression ahead of you if you read this book.

I don’t often come across books that I cannot appreciate for one reason or another, but this one takes the cake. I will say this: the novel is well written and quite emotional. However, in the same breath I feel obliged to say that being well written and emotional but offering nothing but sadness is a bad combination. There is no salvation for the young girl fleeing Nigerian civil war, the British family that the finds falls apart because of knowing her, and the end is violent in an ambiguous way that leaves the reader unsatisfied and in need of hugs and comfort food.

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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

I’m always looking for unusual forms of narration, and The Lover’s Dictionary has proved to be quite a delightful twist from the norm in that regard. By distilling a relationship in to it’s most defining and/or memorable moments and finding precisely the right word with which each moment could be summarized is one of the most interesting perspectives on relationships that I have ever encountered. Add to this that the words are organized alphabetically, beginning with “abyss” and ending with “zenith,” hitting on each letter in between, and the fact that it creates a narrative at all is beyond impressive.

The narrative is not necessarily chronological is it arcs from the first date all the way to the breaking point(s) of the relationship, and yet, David Levithan skillfully captured a wide spectrum of emotions without actually concluding the relationship, and without ever actually providing closure of any sort. It is so brief, and yet I could spend many hours pouring over the pages with the Oxford English Dictionary pulled up trying to research the root, history, past use, and current complexity of meanings with each word. Piecing together the many ways in which the word is rightfully assigned to each moment. In addition to that, however, what I found most compelling about this carefully crafted narrative is that it reads, in many ways, like a poem, yet it also reads like a conversation you might have over drinks with a friend who just needs to get some stuff off his chest about his relationship.

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Risata il Rosso

I have found that I’m beginning to like wine more and more over the years. I’m not a big drinker, but my boyfriend’s parents came to visit so I wanted to pick up a bottle to have with dinner. Since I don’t particularly like wine, I went with a sweet red, which I understand, is not very respectable in the world of winos. Regardless, I actually really loved the wine we got: Risata il Rosso. According to the bottle, ‘risata’ means laughter in Italian, which is always a good sign, and it tastes of cherries and strawberries. I picked up on a mixed berries sort of flavor, but the cherry didn’t really stand out to me. This delicious, sparkling, sweet red wine, however, won me over and I actually had two glasses at dinner! I hardly ever finish a glass, so everyone was stunned to see me refill my glass.

I highly recommend this delicious gem of a wine that I picked up for a scant $14.00 at a Fresh Market. I served it with an Italian beans and rice dish (Riso e Fagioli) which turned out to pair really nicely. The food was hearty and earthy, so I liked the way the sweetness of the wine contrasted, and then I cut up a Honeycrisp apple to serve for desert (non-dairy deserts are often rather depressing, but fresh fruit is always a winner in my book) and it went really well! Even my boyfriend, who isn’t usually in to sweets or fruit commented on how well the wine paired with the apple.

I will definitely be purchasing another bottle of this soon and keeping it on hand for a summer evening of entertaining as well as for an evening spent cuddled up with a blanket and a good book. I hope you can find a bottle in your area! It would be well worth your search. Cheers!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today is one of my favorite days of the year! As an Irish Dancer I spent March 17th performing at local schools and pubs with some of my best friends. It was a day of hard work and lots of fun…and seriously, who doesn’t love a chance to skip school in order to go dance and party all day?

In the spirit of the day, I wanted first to praise the beauty of March 17, 2012 Google Doodle created by artist Jennifer Hom. It’s reminiscent of all of the things I love about Celtic art and knots, but not overly burned with the cliched shamrocks and glaring greens that dominate the usual celebrations. It reminds me of all the time so many of my friends and I spent choosing designs and colors for solo dresses, or even dreaming about the day when we’d get to design a solo dress.

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