Monthly Archives: June 2015

‘Picnic in Provence’ by Elizabeth Bard [ REVIEW ]

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One of my goals for 2015 is to get back to my roots and read more books. As the great Frederick Douglass said, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.’ Books are a passion – nay, an obsession of mine and always have been. I grew up in the library and my parents fostered my love of reading and learning. With books I have lived a thousand lives, found myself absorbed in different worlds, and learned immensely more than I could have otherwise. So put up your feet, grab a good paperback and let’s get reading!

I was expecting a lot from ‘Picnic in Provence’ by Elizabeth Bard after having read her novel ‘Lunch in Paris‘ years ago and loving it so much I purchased it. For the most part, ‘Picnic in Provence‘ did not disappoint. Bard invites you right in. You feel like you are there with her in Southern France, exploring the french market, smelling the strawberries, and choosing the perfect bread for your picnic in the french countryside. It brings on the wanderlust that’s always on the back burner big time.

In her first novel Bard moves to Paris and spends her time integrating herself into the community, spending time with her boyfriend then fiancee, and cooking. A lot. ‘Picnic’ has a slower start, and is probably meatier – unnecessary, especially at the beginning. I do wish that there was more of an explanation of the transition time from when the now married couple decided to move to a rambling French providential home in the south of France from the bustling Paris they both love. We are along for the ride as Bard finds out she is pregnant (finally!) and as she learns how to be a good mother (you have to actually try/be involved). We see her cooking, but we also see her fitting her and her family into this new life in the country. Eventually they have another upheaval, her husband quits his amazing job and they spend over a year getting the licence and perfecting recipes for their new business endeavor- an ice cream shop called ‘Scaramouche- Artisan Glacier – Adventures in Ice Cream.’ (Look it up online, if you’re in the area – ha – you can go there! I believe you can order Christmas cakes online during the holidays too, but as it’s not the time for it currently I am not sure how far away they ship).

Bard is a storyteller, and so we gain the most satisfaction at the end of the novel when all of the lines she has been weaving are wrapped up. Some of my favorite passages were picking the saffron stems from the flowers that grow abundantly in the fields, and going along for their truffle hunting adventure. I loved hearing the process of starting the ice cream business and how she learned to carve out special time with her son. Some of my favorite passages were the descriptive ones. “When you’re hungry, textures take on a particular pleasure. Cold rice moistened with the juice from the tomatoes and a bit of olive oil feels summery yet substantial. The crackle of a fresh baguette is suddenly the perfect partner for toothsome bits of ground port; even the slippery bits of fat find their place. It tastes even better if you’ve spent the morning walking uphill. Tonight we are making pasta.” pg. 185

Bard includes LOTS of recipes in the book, and I had to try one out. This is the birthday cake she mentions, the Gâteau au yaourt- or the Yogurt Cake. It is delicious- and looks even better than the other recipes I saw online as she has added the special touch of raspberry jam in the center and powdered sugar on the top! Enjoy the book, and the recipe I’ve added!

A SIMPLE BIRTHDAY CAKE, Gâteau au yaourt

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • A pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 10-inch cake pan with a sheet of parchment paper.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, oil, and lemon zest until sugar is dissolved. Add the eggs one by one and whisk to incorporate. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine.

Bake for 40 minutes, until firm and golden. Cool on a rack, then un-mold and cool completely. It’s terrific plain, but to make it birthday festive, cut the cake in half horizontally, into 2 equal-size disks. Spread the bottom half with 1/2 cup raspberry jam, then gently replace the top layer. Dust with powdered sugar and get out the candles.

Tip: If you want to make a super-simple chocolate glaze like Isabelle did with the kids: Melt together 5 ounces of dark chocolate with 4 tablespoons each of light cream and water. Pour evenly over the cake, letting some dribble down the sides.

Serves 8, store wrapped in aluminum foil

four_half-stars_0

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Click here to see my goals for 2015

You can also see my goals for 2014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!

 

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‘It Was Me All Along’ by Andie Mitchell [ REVIEW ]

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One of my goals for 2015 is to get back to my roots and read more books. As the great Frederick Douglass said, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.’ Books are a passion – nay, an obsession of mine and always have been. I grew up in the library and my parents fostered my love of reading and learning. With books I have lived a thousand lives, found myself absorbed in different worlds, and learned immensely more than I could have otherwise. So put up your feet, grab a good paperback and let’s get reading!

“It was me all along” by Andie Mitchell takes the reader on the emotional journey of Mitchell’s relationship with food. Her weight loss challenges start at childhood, when food was her comfort in a sometimes unstable home. Food continues to be her constant through high school where she accepts that she is the ‘fat girl’, and uses food to smother the grief of the loss of her father. “I built walls around myself with bricks of cake, using frosting as a mortar.” Then in college Andie gains more, the freedom to eat independently and to go out drinking puts her on the ‘heavier side of 250’. The combination of realizing she is closer to 300 pounds than 200 and the the shock and panic of her mother seeing her size when she went home for the summer helps push Mitchell to change. “I left school that May praying that this time would be different. That this would be the summer my weight would finally pack its bags and leave for good. That I’d never again see that look in my Mom’s eyes. I desperately wanted to feel ready for change, to be empowered and resolved and committed, but mostly I was terribly scared.”

Mitchell joined weight watchers, kept a food/emotion journal, learned how to cook healthy foods for herself and learned to exercise even when she hated it – “Can you exercise today, Andie? Not tomorrow, not the next day, not even a month from now. Today? Eat the best you can, work your plus-sized heart out… today?” She found that she could. She started loosing weight. “What I learned in those six months had less to do with food and more to do with myself. It taught me about the nature of struggle and the feeling of strength that’s born from it.”Right as her weight loss leveled out and she accepted that she would need to steel her resolve she went to Italy for a semester abroad. That is where after some bumps she lost 55 pounds and even after returning she lost another 22 pounds to finally reach a number she didn’t think she’d ever see: 133.

Mitchell now loved what she saw in the mirror but still mentally viewed herself as the ‘fat girl’. She hated the extra hanging skin left from her extreme weight loss. She came to realize through therapy that plastic surgery was essential for her mental health, and at the same time she addressed the depression that the food and weight- and now exercise had covered. Mitchell talked about her film jobs and then her jump into food blogging. Her relationship with all things food now healthy after she realized she could still have her favorite foods as long as portion control was the name of the game. “What I discovered in that year- and perhaps in all of my life- was that I am always growing, always learning. And whenever I think I’ve figured it all out, I’ve really only just begun.” We are taken on her emotional and physical journey with her.

Mitchell’s memoir is truly inspirational. She doesn’t sugar coat anything, she doesn’t make excuses or advertise her book as a ‘cure all’ or dole out condemnation. She writes of what her peers called her and what she thought of herself. It’s her personal story of working hard to achieve the best that she could for herself. Although this book focuses on weight, it could be applied in the reader’s lives in all various aspects. We are left seeing that whether at a healthy weight or overweight, Andie is always the same person- it was her all along.

You can check out Andie’s food blog, ‘Can you stay for dinner?’ here:

http://www.canyoustayfordinner.com/

four_half-stars_0

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Click here to see my goals for 2015

You can also see my goals for 2014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!

 

‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ by Jacqueline Woodson [ REVIEW ]

Brown Girl Dreaming

One of my goals for 2015 is to get back to my roots and read more books. As the great Frederick Douglass said, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.’ Books are a passion – nay, an obsession of mine and always have been. I grew up in the library and my parents fostered my love of reading and learning. With books I have lived a thousand lives, found myself absorbed in different worlds, and learned immensely more than I could have otherwise. So put up your feet, grab a good paperback and let’s get reading!

Written in free verse, Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ is a memoir of her childhood, a collection of passages about growing up between her father’s Ohio and her mother’s South Carolina in the sixties and then eventually moving part of the family to New York. I don’t normally read books written in free verse, but I’m glad the book synopsis encouraged me to pick it up from the library:

“Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.”

This book is powerful and moving. A must-read for everyone of every race, religion and gender. Everyone who reads it will get something different out of it. Everyone who reads it will remember a part that spoke to them personally. It is deeply personal- Woodson’s recounting of the journey towards her eventual vocation and voice. It is, to put it plainly, a work of art. It is incredible.

five-stars-624x145

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Click here to see my goals for 2015

You can also see my goals for 2014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!

 

Lush : Phoenix Rising Bath Bomb [ REVIEW ]

One of my *unofficial* goals for 2015 is to relax more. As the great Leonardo da Vinci once said, ‘Every now and then go away and have a little relaxation. To remain constantly at work will diminish your judgement.” What is more relaxing close to home than a luxurious bath?  This year I will review products from my fav shop that makes fresh and handmade beauty goods, Lush! So draw up a bath, get a good book and a glass of wine, and let’s relax!

The Phoenix Rising Bath Bomb is a tribute to Lush’s belief that “great things can rise out of the ashes, just like the mythical Phoenix”. After you toss it in the tub the bomb sinks to the bottom, bubbling and fizzing and then it slowly rises, letting off a gorgeous scent of cinnamon and spicy apple. The water was soft, and the purple and gold dusted bomb turned it a lovely pink hue.

What is left of the bomb rises to the top and is sooo soft. The smell is intended for the fall (which is when I purchased the bath bomb) but I can attest it is still wonderful even in the summer! I will be purchasing this bath bomb again!

Mother’s Day Lush Products I’ve tested:

Rose Bubble Bar, Secret Garden Bath Bomb, Mother Superior Bubble Bar

Easter Lush Products I’ve tested:

Immaculate Eggception, Golden Egg, Fluffy Egg, Bunch of Carrots, Bubblegrub

Other Lush Products I’ve tested:

Blackberry Bath BombTwilight Bath Bomb, Sakura Bath Bomb,

*This post is not sponsored

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Click here to see my goals for 2015

You can also see my goals for 2014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!

‘Garden Spells’ by Sarah Addison Allen [ REVIEW ]

Garden Spells

One of my goals for 2015 is to get back to my roots and read more books. As the great Frederick Douglass said, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.’ Books are a passion – nay, an obsession of mine and always have been. I grew up in the library and my parents fostered my love of reading and learning. With books I have lived a thousand lives, found myself absorbed in different worlds, and learned immensely more than I could have otherwise. So put up your feet, grab a good paperback and let’s get reading!

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen is a lighthearted romance with a touch of magic. The Waverley women of Bascom, North Carolina all have a special skill (magic) which some accept and some do not. Claire Waverly is at peace with her family inheritance, living alone in the ancestral Queen Anne home running her catering business by herself. The business thrives because of the magic from her garden that she measures into her cooking. The townsfolk will pay for lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Claire has all but secluded herself when her rebellious sister Sydney shows up with a young daughter. About the same time Claire meets the new guy in town, Tyler. Claire’s life is turned upside down.

The book centers on Claire and Sydney as they rebuild their relationship. The thread of relationships throughout also connects Claire and Tyler and Sydney and her childhood friend Henry. The depth of the characters is surprising. All of them are oddballs for sure, but honest and real. The flavor of the magic as well as the old southern charm feels as old as time but as fresh as the morning dew. Overall, Garden Spells was a cute, quick read with likable characters, a richly detailed setting, and an enjoyable plot. It asks nothing of the reader but to enjoy it. That’s not hard.

five-stars-624x145

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Click here to see my goals for 2015

You can also see my goals for 2014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!

 

June ArtSnacks Unboxing [ 2015 ]

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One of my goals for 2015 is to sketch more. I’ve always loved art, whether it was admiring other’s work or creating my own. Over the past year I have been taking online classes through Sketchbook Skool. I found out about it before the first class and I’ve taken all three (plus currently their Bootkamp) that they have offered. They have inspired me to capture the everyday. They also inspired me to try new materials which has me on the hunt for the ‘perfect’ sketchbook as well as new products.

I loved June’s Artsnacks box, there were several items I had never seen before and they were so much fun to play with!

Faber-Castell PITT Artist Big Brush Pen

I LOVE this pen. It’s about three times the size of the regular Faber-Castell PITT Artist pen, and has a super versitale brush which can create all sorts of sizes. Also, the strokes are so buttery against the paper. It has a brilliant lightfast grade which gives the pigmants a vibrant color forever. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this pen and will be purchasing it again when it runs out!

K-12 by Krink

This marker pen made my day. It was developed by a street artist in San Francisco. It is a paint marker, is fun to use and is such a neat addition to my sketch. I used it here for a little pop of color.

Caran d’Ache Grafik Pencils

This unique HB pencil was imported from Switzerland. It clearly has the Swiss quality and the pop-art design on it is so fun.

KUM 4 in 1 Sharpener

My new favorite pencil sharpener. It accommodates 7, 8, 10 and 11 pencils, and of course a catch-all barrel to collect all of the shavings.

 

*I also ordered the ArtSnacks Travell Collection box, a one time special box which has full size products (of unknown status) that are perfect for traveling. It will ship the week of July 6th so I’ll be posting about it soon afterward!

You can order it until July 1st, check it out here: http://www.artsnacks.co/travel-collection/

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Click to see my ArtSnacks unboxing for: February, March, April, May,

*This post is not sponsored

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Click here to see my goals for 2015

You can also see my goals for 2014, 2013, and 2012 and my bucket list!

‘Very Good Lives’ by J.K. Rowling [ REVIEW ]

Very Good Lives

One of my goals for 2015 is to get back to my roots and read more books. As the great Frederick Douglass said, ‘Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.’ Books are a passion – nay, an obsession of mine and always have been. I grew up in the library and my parents fostered my love of reading and learning. With books I have lived a thousand lives, found myself absorbed in different worlds, and learned immensely more than I could have otherwise. So put up your feet, grab a good paperback and let’s get reading!

In 2008 J.K. Rowling delivered the commencement address at Harvard University. I have to admit I’m pretty jealous. I graduated from college the same year and don’t even remember who gave our commencement address. I think I would remember every single word if J.K. Rowling had given it. She spoke about two topics very close to her heart: the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. She said that having the courage to fail is as vital to having a good life as any conventional measure of success. Also, the ability to imagine ourselves in the place of another is a uniquely human quality to be nurtured at all costs. Her words inspire and ask the listener or reader to consider what it means to have a ‘good life’.

This book contains literally only the words of her speech accompanied by fantastic illustrations by Joel Holland. It is well packaged and presented for anyone who wants to be able to take it from the shelf and in less than ten minutes gain a burst of inspiration. This book is for anyone finding themselves at a turning point. It is a call to arms. In daring to take a risk and be willing to fail, to dare to imagine and put those thoughts into action we will begin to live less cautiously and become more open to all of the opportunities life has to offer.

five-stars-624x145

_________________________________

Click here to see my goals for 2015

You can also see my goals for 2014, 2013, 2012 and my bucket list!