Monday, November 29, 2010

Start of the Holiday Season

With the end of Thanksgiving brings the beginning of the holiday season, my favorite time of year.  And I spent a large part of my weekend making lists of holiday things I need to do, gifts I need to buy and decorations I would like to put up to make our apartment seem homey and festive and less like a small, bare-walled closet.  It was so nice to have time off this weekend to spend with family and friends though, and I feel like I accomplished a lot.

Some things that crossed my mind this weekend:

  • I need to read more actual books.
  • Why do I want so many cookbooks?
  • How hard would it be to open my own bookstore/stationary store? 
  • I send so many Christmas cards every year and get very few in return.  That should bother me but it doesn't really.
  • Do I have time to make 40 holiday cards before mid-December?
  • The holidays are supposed to be fun but almost always wind up stressing me out and bring out the worst in people.  There must be ways to avoid this.
  • When I think about my wedding day (in the far-away future), I imagine being in a tent on a chilly night with tons of sparkle lights and lanterns.  I hope that I can find a place to put this tent when the time comes.
  • It's amazing how much fun I can have with old friends, even when we aren't doing anything.
  • When I straighten my hair, I look like I'm fifteen years old.
  • I should wear more make-up.
  • For some reason, everyone likes Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" song. 
  • My 10-year high school reunion was this weekend and I didn't attend.  I don't feel like I missed anything at all.
  • Can I really write a book before I turn 30?
  • It was so unbelievable that my family loved the homemade apple pie I made for Thanksgiving. Compliments coming from a bunch of professional bakers are so surprising, in a good way.
I hope you all had very happy Thanksgivings with lots of turkey and pie!

The turkey cards that I made for Thanksgiving--now I just need an idea for Christmas cards.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cupcakes Finally Out?


It's like the New York Times wrote this article knowing I have obsessions with both cupcakes and pies.  I don't even like dessert very much but I love cupcakes.  They're adorable, easy to eat and just the right size for me. People are always excited when I bring cupcakes to a party.  And pie is my new baking project, as I've already shared.  I'm even planning to make a couple more for Thanksgiving. 

In this piece, pie 'experts' from all over the country discuss why they now focus on pies and even pass along some tips to readers (I never even thought about baking the pie crust before putting the filling in!).  Some are making savory pies with cheddar cheese and hot peppers, or Frito chips and onions, that are really changing the standard idea of 'pie.'  I know that running a bakery is hard work but to someone who sits in an office all day, it sounds like so much fun to spend days in the kitchen creating 'new' pie combinations. 

One of the co-owners of Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a pie shop in Brooklyn that I so want to try, said something that I think is really important:  "There’s really nothing new in pie...Farm women have tried everything before."  I think this is true of pretty much everything.  Cupcakes aren't new; they are just the newest thing to resurface and catch on again.  Maybe farm women weren't making cupcakes in their kitchens 50 years ago, but everyone has already done everything already.  It's up to us to put our own touches on everything to make it special. 

Photo courtesy of New York Times

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Keeping Your Pup Warm

I just came across the cutest winter coats for dogs on Etsy.  The TreeParlor shop is creating adorable hoodies and jackets for pups of all sizes.  I love that the hoods actually have drawstrings and that there is a velcro flap that fastens underneath.  You can pick from over 50 colors and patterns--the coat itself is fleece, lined with flannel.  It doesn't hurt that the model for these handcrafted items is the sweetest greyhound.  I grew up with greyhounds as pets and I will always have a soft spot for these gentle animals.  I can't tell you how much I miss our pups.

Do you think your dog would like a coat for the cold-weather? 

Photo courtesy of TreeParlor on Etsy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two Weekends=Two Kinds of Pie

Two weeks ago, I made this pie, courtesy of a Martha Stewart recipe:

I had never made cut-outs for the top crust before but the leaves really add a nice autumn feel to the dessert.  When I made this same recipe last year, I remember it being a little difficult but this time, it was a breeze to make.

Fast forward to last weekend.  My new Bon Appetit magazine was sitting on the coffee table and when I flipped through, a recipe for an apple streusel pie caught my eye (to my dismay, only half of the featured Thanksgiving desserts had accompanying photos.  Why feature a pie and then not show a picture of it, Bon Appetit?!)  Anyway, the recipe looked easy enough.  It did have many steps and lots of ingredients but my love of streusel swayed me and I decided to try it. 

When it was finally done, the pie was delicious, but it took over three hours to make. It was not as easy as I thought it would be!  Each step took forever and since I don't have a food processor, I mixed everything by hand.  The apples were so tender and flavorful (this recipe called for melted butter to be mixed in with the apples before baking).  Next time, I might try a cheddar cheese crust, but I think I'll stick with the extra butter in the apple mixture.  These are only the second and third homemade pies that I've ever made but I'm happy that I kept with it.  There's no telling what dessert I'll try next!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marilyn Monroe: Movie Star and Chef

I read a really great article in today's New York Times today that combined three of my favorite things: Thanksgiving, cookbooks and movie stars from the 1950's and 1960's.  There is a book being published with personal letters, notes and poems that were written by Marilyn Monroe between 1943 and 1962.  On Page 180 of this collection is a recipe for turkey stuffing written on a piece of stationary from a random insurance company.  Historians and chefs alike have been analyzing Monroe's scribbled recipe: Who gave her this recipe? What do all of her notes in the margins mean?  What are the origins of the recipe itself?

The first thing that comes to my mind is an image of this beautiful woman in the kitchen making homemade stuffing.  Monroe didn't need to cook for herself.  The New York Times mentions that her worn and obviously well-loved copy of the Joy of Cooking was auctioned in 1999 for almost $30,000.  And the recipe itself is extremely tedious and time-consuming.  Monroe obviously was a dedicated and determined chef.  It's amazing how much you can learn from just one piece of paper. 

Because of the nuts, parmesean cheese and raisins in the recipe, a food historian concludes that the origins of this recipe are probably Mediterrean, most likely Italian (perhaps from her DiMaggio in-laws?).  But for me, the best part is the additional evidence that Monroe was so much more than the blonde bombshell that was her public persona.  When I read this recipe, I picture Monroe chopping nuts, shredding bread and grating cheese.  Truth be told, this little piece of information from Marilyn's life brings more insight into her true personality than almost anything else could. 

We all will leave behind items that reflect parts of our lives that were private to most people.  What do you think your written words will say about you?

Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail

Monday, November 8, 2010

Books: "Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self" by Danielle Evans

A few years ago, I read a short story entitled "Virgins" that appeared in the Paris Review.  I'm not sure if it was her well-developed characters or her writing style but Danielle Evans's story stuck with me.  When I looked her up, I was excited to learn that she was working on a short story collection and a novel.  Last week, I finally got my hands on a copy of her collection, Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.  It took me about a week to read it, only because every time I finished a story, I realized I was closer to the end and made myself slow down. 

I rationed the stories because I knew early on that these were stories that I would remember for a long time.  Sometimes, when I read a collection, I find it difficult to recall all of the individual pieces after I am finished.  With Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, I remember all of the characters and the details of their lives.  I'm still worried about CeCe at the end of "Robert E. Lee is Dead" and I want to know what happened to Angel from "Harvest."  Evans is so honest, sharing the best and worst of all characters with her readers, and I appreciated that so much.  These stories are about people that I know--I empathized with them, identified with them, pitied them and even envied them.  But the best part was that I never doubted that they were real and I loved that.

Danielle Evans is about a year younger than me.  Right now, she is teaching at American University as part of the MFA program that I so desperately want to attend.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read honest, thoughtful fiction that deals with life, laced with some realistic humor.  Real issues are the true focus of this collection, including race, abortion, drugs, poverty and death, and the stories reflect so much of what I am trying to do with my own work.  If my stories turn out half as well as hers, I'd be a very lucky writer.  Until then, I'll keep reading Danielle Evans's work and hope to work with her someday in the future.

Friday, November 5, 2010


We're going to Savannah in March!  Two weeks ago, when Anthony and I were with his mother, we offered to go on vacation with her to one place that she has been dying to visit (not including Europe).  She chose Savannah, which was no surprise to me since she loves tea parties and all things Victorian.  We decided on March, and after a little research, Georgia in the early spring is actually much warmer than I thought it would be, which will be a great treat for us as New Englanders.

And now, on to the planning stage.  I love love love to read about a place before I actually go so that I know a bit about the history and the general layout.  Savannah has historic squares within a simple-looking street layout.  This will be my first time below Washington DC, although I was in Florida once.  I've never been to the 'true' south and am really looking forward to seeing a whole new part of the country! 

So, what to see and do in Savannah?  Anthony and I usually walk to explore new places but I'm not sure his mom will be up for that.  A tour of the city's gardens and perhaps a sidetrip to Tybee Island, which I read is beautiful, will definitely be on the itinerary.  And of course, we must visit a tea room!

Have you ever been to Savannah?  Any favorite places or must-sees?

Photo from Southern Living magazine

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Red Cups!


As I've stated before, I'm not a huge Starbucks frequenter, but last night, I was with a friend and we stopped off to get a warm beverage after dinner.  You can imagine my excitement when I saw that my drink came in a signature Starbucks red holiday cup!

This does seem like something silly to be happy about, but the truth is, the red cups symbolize the start of the holiday season for me, which also happens to be my favorite time of the year.  I love not only the Christmas carols, the cold weather and the jolly decorations in stores, but also the exhilaration.  I love writing out Christmas cards (I'm thinking of actually making my own this year!) and I love buying and wrapping gifts to give to my loved ones.  The last few years have been hard in a way--I'm always rushed at the end and that takes some of the enjoyment out of the celebration.  I'm determined not to have that happen this year.

So welcome, red cups!  I'm truly happy to see you, especially at a time when I could use some cheering up.  Holiday joy never hurt anyone, right?

Photo courtesy of Eater, who also has a blurb on Starbucks red cups!  Looks like I'm not the only one who is excited!