Thursday, June 30, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein


When I go for nonfiction, I gravitate toward the popular nonfiction that's full of trivial information.  Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer's book that follows his path to the U.S. Memory Championship, fills the niche nicely.
It all started when Josh, a science journalist, covered the championship for an assignment.  He quickly got caught up in the world of mnemonists after being taken under the wing of a world-renowned memorist, Ed Cooke.  Cooke convinced him to study for the next year's championship, and this led to tons of research into the human memory.  Some of the most intriguing sections of the book include:
-an interview with the man with the worst case of Alzheimer's in the U.S.
-how people become experts in a field.
-the crazy testing London cabbies have to pass to drive taxis in the city.
-tons of little bits of what people are capable of remembering (one guy knows over 83,000 numbers of Pi!).
I'll say this: while the book is interesting in some points, I'm having a hard time reading it for a substantial amount of time.  Foer does point out that we read now more for extensiveness, as in reading as much as we can, than intensiveness, which is reading a piece of literature and squeezing everything we can out of it.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the nature of memory is changing from an internal thing  (we remember phone numbers because we don't have memories in our phones, memorize epic poems because we don't have paper) to something outside of our persons (we take pictures, keep daily journals, etc. so we can recall information only after looking at an external source).
This underlying discussion point, about the loss of our collective internal memory, is what ultimately keeps me reading.  I'm close to being done, but can't guarantee that I'll remember the author's name in a few years.  He will, however, be at the National Book Festival this year, so I'll keep him in mind until then!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Portobello Burgers with Grilled Peaches

Even though JP and I don't have an outdoor space for a barbecue, we still do plenty of grilling with the help of our stovetop grill pan.  It's got the raised bars and everything, so everything gets that outdoor barbecue look without the hassle of charcoal!
It came in really handy with these grilled Portobello mushrooms with peaches.  These are great for the summer!  If I had a proper grill, I would make these weekly, and just switch up the toppings according to who was there and what was on sale at the grocery store.  This week, JP and I used peaches, Roma tomatoes, store-bought guacamole, HUGE mushrooms, and those sandwich thin things (really skinny whole wheat buns...they're good toasted!).  The marinade that goes on top of the peaches and mushrooms has a bit of tartness from the lemon, and the rosemary adds a lovely aromatic quality.  We each had two!  Paired with sweet potato fries, this meal is a home run for the summer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Sisters Brothers

I'll be honest: the cover is a major reason I was drawn to this book.  Check out that bold graphic!   Skull or brother assassins?  
Patrick DeWitt has crafted the story of Charlie and Eli Sisters, hired killers in the 1850s who are sent to kill Herman Kermit Warm.  They are employed by The Commodore, an unseen figure, and Eli is beginning to question his career path in light of The Commodore's need for a "lead man" on their latest mission.  Not only is Eli unsure of why they have been sent to kill Warm, but he is no longer interested in simply living job to job.  He decides this will be his last mission, which Charlie is not happy about.  
Why have they been hired to dispense with Warm?  Will any of Eli's romantic plans work out?  How did Eli get his freckles?  Although there is an overarching plot to the book, it meanders into a number of detours on the way to Warm.  The brothers face bears, numerous brandy benders, and one-eyed horses, among others.
This book is startlingly violent at times, so I won't recommend it to absolutely everyone.  It was a fun, quick read, though, appropriate for a weekend in a secluded lake house or road trip with a guy.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Minted Pea Soup

I know, I know, most people hear, "Pea soup," and think The Exorcist.  Please do not let one little thriller affect the way you feel about this dish.  It's delicious, and super versatile!
Katie Lee used this soup in one of her cookbooks, and her picture is totally cute: a lovely green soup in a glass tumbler with a sprig of mint.  Of course I had to try it.
Not only is this soup incredibly easy to make, but it can be served hot or cold, as an appetizer or an entree (with some slices of challah!), and saves incredibly well.  Be sure to blend well, as you don't want anything chunky left at the bottom.
Sorry this picture didn't turn out better; I was kind of in a rush to eat it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Green Black and Brown

Shirt: Gap
Skirt: Ann Taylor
Belt: F21
Earrings: April Daze
Sandals: Michael Antonio via Piperlime
This skirt and I go way, way back.  When I was a senior in high school, my mom, Haley, stepdad and I went to NYC for a weekend, and our trip included a trip to Broadway to see Cabaret.  Exciting!  I grew up on musicals, so we were all pretty psyched (even Brent!).  Mom decided we needed new outfits, and I got this skirt and a supercute halter top to pair with it on top.  The top has fallen by the wayside, but the skirt lives on!  It's great for work: black jersey that doesn't wrinkle and, just enough detail to not be boring.
I wore this to work on a day that the A/C was broken, and it got to 90 degrees in the building.  Oh goodness, thankfully I wore sandals!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Father's Day! (A day late, but no less important)

See that guy?  He's awesome.  I got to spend Father's Day with him yesterday, and it could not have made me happier.  My dad has supported all of my decisions wholeheartedly, and, as an adult, that's one of the best things a parent can give their child.  I love love love him, and hope I get to spend next Father's Day with him too!
There we are when I graduated from Flagler.  He wore a shirt underneath the button-down that Haley and I made for him as wee little ones.  What a wonderful, sappy dad!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Strawberry Summer Cake

You know what's funny?  I generally don't even like strawberries.  They're a little too too somehow: too sweet, too many seeds, too summer.  Finally, though, they're dawning on me like a revelation.  Oh, I think to myself, maybe they are the perfect summer fruit.  Beautiful in color, infinitely usable in tons of recipes, tasty on their own...
It's almost as though strawberries have hit me over the head.
I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and knew it would be perfect for a friend's graduation party.  He's not a big sweets person, but I wanted to bring something festive that could be downplayed.  The cake itself isn't sugary, but more like an even coffee cake that lets the fruit take center stage.    It got lots of compliments, and none of the sixteen small slices were left after 10 minutes.  Definitely make it for a brunch, a potluck, whatever.  It's absolutely wonderful!
P.S. These strawberries were MASSIVE!  Safeway did it right during that week.  Oh, so good.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Finally!  A book review!
I'll be honest: my gut reaction to the plot of this book is depressing.  Emma Donoghue has crafted the story of a woman and her five-year-old son who are forced to live in an 11'x11' room, with only a skylight for a glimpse of outside.  Seven years ago, Ma was kidnapped by Old Nick, and she has been his prisoner ever since.
The amazing thing is, this book is enthralling.  The story is told from the point of view of Jack, the five-year-old, who doesn't see his life as missing anything.  Ma has done such a wonderful job of creating an entire world within the room that Jack doesn't even realize there's another world outside of it.  His contact with Old Nick is almost non-existent, as Ma has him sleep in a closet when Old Nick visits at night.  Jack and Ma spend their days doing Physical Education (seeing who can run back and forth in the small room fastest), creating toys out of eggshells, doing laundry in their bathtub, and occasionally watching TV, among others.  Ma becomes anxious to get out and have Jack experience life outside of Room, though.  Can they escape their prison?  And does Jack even want to?
Once again, Grandma in North Carolina has given an excellent book recommendation that I was completely hooked on.  Jack's prose takes a few pages to get used to, but his perspective is incredibly insightful at times.  It's a great look at what a mother will do to survive, and the effects of a solitary life.  A bit heavy at times, this would be a great novel for a book club!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Air Force One

Free film festival season is here!  I'm telling you, it's almost as though you don't have to pay for a movie outside from now till September in DC.  This year, I'm determined to take advantage of this marvelous time of year, and began last Monday by going to the Crystal City Film Festival.
This year's theme is "By the Numbers," which started out with Harrison Ford's epic Air Force One.  I had never seen it, and Summer had only seen the final 15 minutes, so we double-dated.  We had a lovely time!  The weather was pleasant and breezy (almost chilly!), and we lounged on our blankets while watching the movie and people around us.
Seriously, people watching in DC is awesome.  Almost better than Ford's, "Get off my plane" line.
Our goofy dates.  They got there first and got a great spot!
Not sure what the girl behind them is doing, but I'm glad it's caught on film.
A couple hundred of our close friends.
It's all done in this picturesque square in Crystal City, right next to the metro.  A food truck is there if you're hungry beforehand.
Air Force One is a great summer movie; there's lots of action, Russian bad guys, and Harrison Ford saves the day (surprise!).  All in all, we had a fun time, and I can't wait to do it again!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cute new necklace!

Recently, I received a very sweet care package in the mail from my wonderful friend, Jessilyn.  In it was a quick, thoughtful note, and this cute necklace!  It's a little enamel teapot with a teaspoon charm next to it.  She knows I love some baking and lots of tea!  I love it with this little owl chain, but it also looks great on its own.  I absolutely adore it, and have worn it nearly constantly since it got to DC.  Thanks, Jess!
I also got new glasses a few weeks ago.  They're tortoiseshell!  Tres chic, no?  The best part is that I can see leaves on trees now.  This is one happy girl!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Poppy Seed Cake with Strawberries

Man, I have been in a cake mood lately!  A couple weekends ago I made a wonderful, light strawberry cake (will post soon) for a graduation party.  It was so good, I only got one sliver!  To make up for the loss, I made this Memorial Day cake for John Paul and I (don't worry, we shared...a bit).  I saw it on Not Without Salt a few days ago, and it spoke to me.
This cake is perfect for summer.  The mascarpone frosting is lighter than cream cheese, and there's not quite so much sugar.  The poppy seed cakes are mildly nutty, with an excellent slight crunch to it.  Top it off with some strawberries for a bit of extra sweetness...seriously, you can't go wrong.  The strawberries I bought were a bit big; I should have cut them into eighths so the layers weren't so far apart.  Even so, tastiest Memorial Day cake I've ever made! 
P.S. This frosting is super delicious with just strawberries dipped into it...perhaps a quick dessert?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Flank Steak with Lime Marinade

It's not often I get a crazy craving for steak, but, when it happens, I get it bad.  For the most recent case of steak fever, I broke open my trusty Everyday Food: Great Food Fast for a summer marinade.  Is there anything more summery than limes?  It's refreshing, tart, and a great foil for tasty red meat. 
I'll be honest: true to my "no cooking meat" form, JP actually cooked the steak while I steamed the green beans.  We poured the juice from the steak on top of the veggies; yum!

Flank Steak with Lime Marinade (Everyday Food: Great Food Fast, 2007)
1/3 c. fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/3 c.)
2 Tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lbs. flank steak
Coarse salt and black pepper
1. In a resealable plastic bag, combine the first 5 ingredients.  Add the steak and seal the bag (place it in a dish to prevent any leaks); marinate the steak in the fridge, turning occasionally, for 30 minutes.
2. Heat grill to high; lightly oil the grates.  Remove the steak from the marinade letting excess drip off; season with salt and pepper.  Place on grill and cook; turning once, until the meat has reached desired doneness.  Let steak rest for 10 minutes before slicing thin.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Registry Outfit 2011

Shirt: Target
Jeans: Levi's
Shoes: MIA (via Piperlime)
JP and I registered for our wedding yesterday!  I wanted to wear an outfit that was comfortable, but still cute.  I'm still not sure how to deal with this whole "bride" thing; not sure if I can pull off that whole blushing pink and white look.  I'll give it a shot in the future, though!
Jeez louise, I'm loving these shoes.  They remind me of my Aunt Andrea, who has a fabulous shoe collection.  They're not my usual style, but I love the chunky heel and grommets.  They were on sale, too, so they couldn't be turned down!
A quick note on where we registered:
We started at Crate and Barrel for a registry event, with food, demonstrations, and Mary Kay hand treatments.  What!  A great time, lots of awesome items added to the registry, and the salespeople were great.
Then we went to Pottery Barn, for linens and table stuff.  It was just the two of us from here on out, and the store wasn't super busy.  Really good vibes at PB.
Our favorite place to go was Williams-Sonoma, where the saleswoman answered all of our crazy questions about pots and pans, the scan gun was easy to use, and there was a ton of great kitchen stuff.
We also went to Macy's, but might not keep the list there.  The first three stores covered most of our needs, and the environment at the store was super busy and disorganized. Meh.
Wow, that wasn't so quick, was it?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lemint Summer Drink

Last summer, I had the best lemonade EVER.  Baked and Wired in Georgetown took a few mint leaves, muddled them in a glass, and added lemonade.  The mint made the lemonade even more refreshing, and left such a great taste in my mouth!  It was seriously delicious, and it's haunted all of my other summer drinks.
Let's face it: muddling is a huge hassle, and I don't have a muddler.  Instead, I made this quick, easy batch of Lemint Summer Drink (cute, right?) and have decided to keep a pitcher of it in the fridge all summer.  My only question is, what can I add to it to make a cocktail?  Any suggestions?

Lemint Summer Drink
1. Buy lemonade from your grocery store.
2. Boil 4 cups of water,  and pour into a pitcher with 4 peppermint tea bags.
3. Steep tea bags for 3 minutes, then remove.
4. Add lemonade to mint tea, and chill in fridge until ready to drink up!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What I've been doing, Pt. 2

JP and I were lucky enough to see two really great shows last month.  The first one, on May 8, was Donald Glover.
Now, if you don't watch Community, didn't watch the first 3 seasons of 30 Rock, and don't like rap, you wouldn't have enjoyed the show.  I, however, was so amped I could hardly stand it!  Donald Glover plays Troy on Community (see him in this clip), and was a writer for 30 Rock when he was still an RA at NYU.  The kid is hilarious, and his set started with 30 minutes of stand-up.  Then it went onto his rap for an hour.  We went with a couple of friends, one of whom thought it was pretty funny that I knew all the words to his songs.  Hey, a white girl can memorize lyrics, too.
He was backed by a band, including a violin.  Very cool, very packed, very fun evening.
P.S. Donald Glover songs are not mom-approved.
Summer and I drove 7 hours to and from Tennessee for a family reunion a couple weekends ago.  It was the first time our whole family has been gathered together in a while, and we had a wonderful time!
On Saturday, a photographer came out and took pictures of us, so we had to look cute.  How do you think we did?
All of the girl cousins!  There were other people there, but I forgot my camera.  Sometimes, we have to just take what we can get.
Quadron is one of my favorite new groups.  The Danish duo opened for Raphael Saadiq last Wednesday, but we'll get to him in a minute.  I think you'll like Pressure and Slippin by them, both of which they played, including a bunch of other songs from their debut album.  Although they're not well-known here yet, their stuff is great to snap and dance along to.
Raphael Saadiq was in the 80s group Tony, Toni, Tone!, which I honestly haven't heard anything by.  However, his solo album The Way I See It has been on repeat on my iPod for the past two months, and is a great Motown homage.  The guy is full of energy, and it was so much fun to hear some of my favorites performed live.  Seriously, how can you not love 100 Yard Dash, Stayin in Love, and Sure Hope You Mean It?  I'd really like to have Love That Girl played at our wedding.
I'm used to going to shows for 20-somethings, and it was great to see a mixed-age group with lots of dancing and people getting into the performance.  I want to go to more soul shows!
His pianist was great, too.  Look at him rocking that bow tie and cardigan.
Back to recipes and outfits tomorrow.