November 30, 2015

Book Review: The Rosemary Spell by Virginia Zimmerman



Publication Date: December 1, 2015

Source: Vine

Part mystery, part literary puzzle, part life-and-death quest, and chillingly magical, this novel has plenty of suspense for adventure fans and is a treat for readers who love books, words, and clues. Best friends Rosie and Adam find an old book with blank pages that fill with handwriting before their eyes. Something about this magical book has the power to make people vanish, even from memory. The power lies in a poem—a spell. When Adam's older sister, Shelby, disappears, they struggle to retain their memories of her as they race against time to bring her back from the void, risking their own lives in the process.

Future English Lit majors will see themselves in Rosie and Adam, who are equally comfortable with Harry Potter as they are with Shakespeare. Edward Eager, Edith Nesbit, Neil Gaiman, and a host of other beloved children’s authors get a mention or two, making me squeal in delight. These are my people – this is my language!  That of books.

“I curl up with a book, one I know well, and reading words I could recite from memory is like snuggling under a warm blanket.”

How easily the synopsis lured me – two children find a mysterious old book in a locked cupboard. It is magical and soon it wreaks terrifying consequences in Rosie’s and Adam’s lives.

Zimmerman could have just gone with a more conventional, middle grade plot, but here she does something more profound, marrying magic with reading in its most powerful state. Words have power. Words have magic. It’s one thing to mindlessly escape into some other world within the pages of a book, but it’s another to actually understand and respect what words can accomplish. Rosie and Adam have to somehow set things right and turn to the close reading of poetry for an antidote to the book’s havoc.

The plot starts slowly, but picks up around 100 pages. It’s perfect for the discriminating junior book lover.

November 25, 2015

You know you're a book nerd when...



November 23, 2015

Eva Green and the 2015 Campari Calendar

2015 is almost over (gasp!) and I just recently discovered that Eva Green was photographed for Campari's 2015 calendar. This was the same time I discovered that Campari even had a calendar.  Apparently the calendar is not for sale and are only given out to friends of Campari. 
Eva is utterly ravishing in red for every single month of the calendar, which spans many glamorous styles and time periods.  Here are my highlights.



The below is my absolute favorite dress and tableau of the entire thing. It's romantic and dreamy and speaks to my love of travel as well.


Takes me back to my trip to Italy and drinking spritzes during hot afternoons…

November 18, 2015

Lamb Osso Bucco



Angelina's Bachelors is a heartwarming novel about a widow who starts cooking for gentleman bachelors as a way to make ends meet. It's an old-fashioned setting (sometime in a quaint, unspecified era) where every minor and major event revolves around food. The author, Brian O'Reilly produced Dinner Impossible and the amazing recipes featured in the book were by his wife, Virginia. Each dish is a showstopper, requiring some patience and appreciation for the art of cooking.

When the story came to the osso bucco scene – I instantly knew I would have to make it. I didn't even continue reading the book until this meal. Meat so tender it was falling off the bone, that creamy lemon caper sauce --- oh my goodness. This is a recipe to keep in your arsenal and whip out to impress.


Lamb Osso Bucco with Egg Noodles and Capers

Ingredients

Two lamb shanks
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp nutmeg, approximately
3 tbsp canola or olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 shallot cloves, minced
1 large garlic clove, lightly crushed and minced
1 cup dry vermouth 
1 quart chicken stock
12 peppercorns
4 large sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 fresh sage leaves
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
2 tbsp butter
4 egg yolks
1 pound egg noodles or fettucine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 fresh lemon, zested and juiced
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp minced fresh dill leaves
2 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Rinse the lamb to remove residue and pat the meat dry with paper towels.  Season each piece on both sides with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  

2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan and sear the lamb, leaving undisturbed fir about 2-4 minutes to allow the seasonings to integrate into the surface of the meat and to prevent tearing of the flesh.  Add a second tablespoon of oil to the pan, flip the veal and sear the other side in the same way, then remove to a utility platter.

3. To the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and over medium heat, cook the shallot cloves and garlic until the shallots turn translucent, stirring frequently to prevent burning, about 1-2 minutes.  

4. Deglaze the pan with vermouth and allow most of the liquid to evaporate, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the chicken stock and return the lamb to the pan.  Reduce the heat to low and add the peppercorns, thyme, bay leaves, and sage leaves.  Cover the pan and let cook over low heat until fork tender, about 2 hours.

6. Saute the carrots over medium low hear in the butter until tender, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, cover, and set aside until needed.

7. When the veal is tender, begin boiling the water for the egg noodles.

8. Carefully remove the veal to a platter, keeping the osso bucco pieces intact, and cover to keep warm.  Strain the cooking liquids to a small bowl, wipe out the pan, and return the liquid to the pan to make the sauce.  Increase the heat to medium high and allow the liquids to reduce to 1 cup, about 10 minutes.

9. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks until no streaks remain and they turn light in color.

10. Meanwhile, begin boiling the egg noodles until al dente.

11. When the pan juices have reduced, reduce the heat to medium low and whisk in the heavy cream to heat through.  Remove the pan from the heat and, 1 tablespoon at a time, add the liquid to the bowl of egg yolks, whisking between additions. (This is called a liaison- which equalizes the temperatures so the eggs don't coagulate.)  When half of the cream mixture from the pan has been added to the egg yolks, pour the entire contents of the small bowl into the pan and whisk thoroughly to combine well.  

12. Add the lemon juice and capers, set the heat to medium low, and stir constantly until mixture begins to thicken slightly and it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as measured with a candy thermometer, 5 t o7 minutes.  

13. Drain the egg noodles and toss with the butter/carrot mixture and fresh dill.

14. Serve veal on top of noodles with sauce spooned on top and sprinkle some parsley and lemon zest.

November 16, 2015

Book Review: The Lake House by Kate Morton



Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Source: The book store

A missing child…
June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.
An abandoned house…
Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. Sadie retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, she stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.
 An unsolved mystery…
Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape…


The Lake House is the perfect fall/winter book for me. I had been saving it for a treat during a chilly day and cracked it open during a recent holiday. I was happily ensconced with it at my couch, underneath a blanket for the next 3 ½ hours, savoring every delicious word. (This is my idea of heaven, BTW. This, along with a mug of thick hot chocolate and a plate of cookies.)

In The Lake House, we have the adventurous and imaginative Alice, a budding young writer scribbling all sorts of stories while at her family’s lake house in Cornwall, Loenneth. Alice’s mother, Eleanor, was so enchanting as a child that she was inspiration for a classic children’s book written by a family friend, the Lewis Carroll-like Mr. Llewellyn. When she grows into a young woman, Eleanor falls in love with Anthony Edevane under such romantic circumstances that their love story becomes the stuff of legend. 

Thus, the Edevanes live a fabled life, with magical summers that culminate in an annual party. Thus, it would seem that the Edevanes are charmed, until Alice’s little brother goes missing the night of their grand party and is never found again.

Many years later, Loenneth has fallen into disrepair for the Edevane family has never returned to summer there since Theo’s disappearance. Alice Edevane is now an imperious but bestselling author of crime novels. Her carefully erected façade starts to crack when a detective on forced leave decides to resurrect Theo’s cold case and starts doing off-duty investigation. Alice is hiding some secrets about that fateful Midsummer night so long ago … could they be the key to solving what happened to Theo?

The Lake House has everything that makes me such a devoted Kate Morton fan. First, there’s the wild and beautiful setting of Cornwall. As always, Morton’s descriptions are so vivid, I can see, feel and hear every detail. Then there are the characters, which are rendered with such specificity that they live and breathe, from an elderly woman in her 90s to an 11-month-old baby. But tantamount to all is Story. There is never any doubt when cracking open Morton's books that I will be seduced from the first page. As I do every time, my mind races with possibilities of what or whodunit. Events are seen from one perspective then another, and their significance is altered. Just when I think I know what happened, Morton surprises me yet again.  

In The Lake House, Morton masterfully weaves a haunting and captivating tale.

November 13, 2015

Spectre



While Spectre is not my favorite James Bond film (of the Daniel Craig era) - that place is held by Casino Royale - it does have what I consider to be the most stunning opening sequence of all.  The Day of the Dead scenes are colorful, festive and make me long to visit Mexico City. As the behind the scenes video below shows, the filmmakers made every effort to deliver something unforgettable and they certainly succeeded.

I was going to start talking about Daniel Craig's suits but found this excellent website which beat me to it: The Suits of James Bond
Instead I'll post the pics of my favorite outfits by the dashing Mr. Craig. 

I really love this look. All covered up but you can still tell how dangerous and fit! he is. All in black with those piercing, icy-blue eyes.


There's a shoot-out in the snow scene and despite the hail of gunfire, one can't help but admire his form.


I love all of James Bond's suits; they're sleek, perfectly tailored and somehow Daniel Craig makes running on top of buildings in them look effortless. 


Apparently, all of the suits were supplied by Tom Ford.


Except for this one, I think. Nevertheless, I think this suit, with the top hat and cane, is my favorite one from the movie. Somehow, Daniel Craig makes skeletal look sexy.

November 11, 2015

Roasted Garbanzo Beans with Rosemary and Cayenne Pepper


I love the Barefoot Contessa's Rosemary Roasted Cashews - so utterly addictive with that tango of sweet and spicy going on. I wondered if I could translate it to something a bit healthier, such as garbanzo beans. With some experimentation, I found that the essence of what makes it delectable - the triumvirate of rosemary, brown sugar & cayenne pepper - was easily applicable, with some adjustments, without losing none of the simplicity.  These are perfect for snacking during a football game or movie night, with lots of flavor and only a fraction of the calories.


Roasted Garbanzo Beans with Rosemary and Cayenne Pepper

Ingredients:

2 15 oz cans of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp coarsely chopped rosemary leaves
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
olive oil spray

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray and place the garbanzo beans in a single layer. Place in the oven for 35-40 minutes. You want them to be lose a lot of their moisture, to be crunchy yet not completely dry inside.
3. Mix the rosemary leaves, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and sea salt.
4. After 35-40 minutes in the oven, take out the baking sheet and spray the beans lightly with some more olive oil then pour the sweet & spicy mixture over them. Mix right on the pan and make sure all the beans are coated evenly.  Spread the beans onto a single layer again.
5. Pop the pan back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
6. Serve warm.

November 9, 2015

Book Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor



Publication Date: November 6, 2012

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is--and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?


"Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living--one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

"Once the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel box without a jewel--a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

"This was not that world."


Daughter of Smoke and Bone enraptured me some years ago and its sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, similarly captured my imagination and heart from the first page and would not relinquish it even to the last.

Days of Blood and Starlight is a successor epic in scope - Taylor admirably expands upon the wildly romantic Daughter and takes readers to the darker, war-ravaged world of the chimaera and seraphim. There is plenty of blood spilt in Days, but characters from the different sides begin to question what it is they're fighting for. War is depicted in all of its facets and perspectives, from Misbegotten angel soldiers, avenging rebels, to innocent refugees caught in the crosshairs.

Although war is at the forefront of this novel, its myriad characters' plights, seraphim and chimaera, as well as humans, give Days its stirring emotional depth. As in Daughter, I had some "Oh, no!" heart-wrenching moments with new and familiar faces. However, I was very glad that although Days leaves Prague behind, Zuzana and Mik appear in delightful scenes to balance the darkness of the rest of the book.

Mirroring the narrative shift of the trilogy, Karou also undergoes a similar transformation from naive teenage girl of the first book to a guilt and anger-ridden force within the Chimaera. She and Akiva, in their own separate narratives, undergo soul-searching and try to find their true purpose while still longing for each other. As the title promises, there is a bit of bittersweet Starlight in this sequel, all the more effective when juxtaposed with the brutality of the endless war.

Days of Blood and Starlight has everything I loved in Daughter of Smoke and Bone: amazingly imagined fantasy world; suspenseful plot; characters that won my heart and my avid hate, alike; and above all, exquisite writing.

November 6, 2015

Furs and Feathers


I've been resisting the fur/feather vest for awhile now, thinking the concept was too over the top for me.   However, I happened to see Emma Roberts in Scream Queens wearing a series of feather dresses and faux fur coats and I had an epiphany. They're supposed to be over the top! - and if styled right, they can look amazing.


Suddenly, everywhere I looked I saw fur/feather vests so I finally gave in and bought one of each.  Paired with skinny jeans and boots, with light, feminine blouses underneath, the contrasting textures make an intriguing outfit, perfect for those fall chilly nights out.


Faux fur brown vest 
Super skinny jeans in medium wash
Cream lace blouse with puff sleeves
Western booties in camel
Crystal bangle
Long silver necklace chain with pink crystals


Black and white feather vest
Pale pink chiffon blouse
Super skinny jeans in medium wash
Taupe tall boots
Oversize crystal ring
Crystal chandelier earrings
Silver charm necklace

November 4, 2015

Chicken and Spicy Cheddar Empanadas




Empanadas are one of those dishes that can inspire endless versions. Anything you can imagine or desire can go inside that pastry purse, pop in the oven and in no time at all you'll have an amazing snack, appetizer, or meal. You can put pork or ground beef or no meat at all. Any type of vegetables. Or if you want it sweet, make the inside an orgy of melted nutella or a mini apple pie version. Savory? Put some ground turkey, potatoes and raisins. 


Chicken and Spicy Cheddar Empanadas

Yields approximately 18-20 medium empanadas.

Ingredients

Filling:
1/ 1/2- 2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
4 oz. sliced pimientos, drained
8 oz. cheddar flavored jalapeño cream cheese

Dough:
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp salt
1 cup cold, unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 1/4 cup ice water

1 lightly beaten egg

1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling well. Set aside.
2. Preheat the over to 400 degrees.
3. In another bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder. 
4. Add cold, unsalted butter to the flour mixture until texture is coarse and only pea-sized pieces of butter remain.
5. Mix in 1 cup of ice cold water until the dough is crumbly and just come together.  Add more water if too dry.
6. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead together.  Roll out with a rolling pin until approximately 1/4 inch thick.
7. Cut 4-inch circles of dough and flatten each with a rolling pin.
8. On each flattened circle, place a tbsp of filling in the middle, just below the center line.
9. Brush the edges of the lower half with some beaten egg.
10.Fold the top half over the bottom half, then press edges together with fingers. Crimp the edges with fork tines. Prick a small haole to let steam escape during baking.
11. Place the empanadas of a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat.
12. Brush the tops of the surface with beaten egg.
13. Bake for 20 minutes.

November 2, 2015

Book Review: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll




Publication Date: May 12, 2015

Source: Library

HER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE.

As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.

With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that's bigger than it first appears.

The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

I was hooked from the first page on – equal parts horrified and delighted by Ani’s acidic, razor-sharp voice.

Outwardly, Ani leads an enviable life – young, beautiful, an editor of a magazine, and engaged to a handsome lawyer. Her picture perfect existence has been meticulously and aggressively constructed, from just the right shade of blond hair to the elegant and sophisticated wardrobe that indicates good taste and breeding. Having checked all the boxes of the list for a wonderful life, Ani should be happy.

Yet beneath it all, Ani is in a seething rage - partly because she’s hungry all the time as she rigorously adheres to a severe diet for her upcoming wedding but mostly because of the horrors of her past.

Ani is not that likeable of a protagonist – in fact, as we are introduced to her in a scene that would ordinarily be a delightful one (or at least mundane) – wedding registry shopping with her fiancé, the way Ani’s thoughts run shockingly counter to how she should feel jolts the reader into an uneasy but mesmerized state.

I inspected the knife in my hand.

“That’s the Shun.  Feel how light it is compared to the Wüsthof?”…

Another hand, the skin several shades lighter than my own, appeared in the frame and made a grab for the handle. “Can I feel?” I looked up at him too: my fiancé. That word didn’t bother me so much as the one that came after it. Husband. That word laced the corset tighter, crushing organs, sending panic into my throat with the bright beat of a distress signal. I could decide not to let go. Slip the forged nickel and stainless steel blade (the Shun, decided I liked it better) soundlessly into his stomach.

Sharp and deadly as a knife, Ani is seemingly one cold bitch and her fiancé a sorry, unwitting fool. But as pivotal scenes from her high school days are revealed, there are reasons for why Ani hides how she feels and why she desperately strives for a life that ultimately makes her unhappy.

Luckiest Girl Alive is an intense and crackling good read!