Monthly Archives: July 2011

Julie and Julia Book Review

When Julia Child wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she meant it to be a fail-safe, proven guide to help the average American cook create elegant and delicious French food.  It took her years to write and was a landmark publication when it finally hit shelves in 1961.  So when Julie Powell, an average American cook, came upon this cookbook at her mother’s home in Texas, she came up with the brilliant idea to work her way through this 750-page bohemith one recipe at a time.  She blogged about her successes and failures, her worries and concerns.  She was the reader Julia Child was hoping for when MtAoFC was written.  The Julie/Julia Project, as the blog came to be called, was one of the best ideas yet hatched in the new age of blogging.  One year later, Powell had mastered all 500+ recipes, gained massive fame, and had a book deal in the works.  Two years later, Julie Powell’s first book Julie & Julia:  365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen was published.

I really wanted to like Julie & Julia.  This book had all the ingredients for a great publication, but the result was far from well done.  Powell’s numerous rants about work, family, and failed cooking experiments overshadowed the real purpose of this book:  to talk about The Project.  Julie & Julia comes across as a whiney long blog entry, unorganized and unprofessional.  Her language is vulgar, her blog is maybe mentioned three times, and her ego is so distracting that I can’t help but despise her.  She is constantly harping on her husband, the one person standing by her side throughout the span of her project, and, I hate to be a prude, but she calls Julia Child a b**ch one too many times for me.  Not cool, lady.

If you’re interested in learning about Powell’s year of French cooking, don’t even bother with this book.  Instead browse her blog or watch the recent movie of the same name.  Although I am a huge fan of the movie, I will say that both renditions have the same fault:  too much Julie and not enough Julia.

NEXT WEEK:  It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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3-Step Ice Cream Cake

Here’s a no-bake dessert that’s sure to please!  It’s classy, beautiful, and literally takes little to no effort.  That’s my kind of recipe!  🙂

Heavenly and Super Easy Summer Dessert!

DREAMY ICE CREAM

1 half-gallon container of your favorite ice cream

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup whipping cream

1.  Make sure your ice cream has been in the freezer for at least 24 hours.  Remove from the freezer and cut the carton off.  Place on a tray and refreeze until firm.

2.  Bring whipping cream to a simmer.  Make sure you watch it carefully, you don’t want it to start boiling.  Once the cream is simmering, pour it over chocolate chips.  Let stand for 1 minute.  Mix until combined and let sit at room temperature until cool, stirring occasionally.

3.  Once your ganache is cool, pour it over your ice cream.  Refreeze until the chocolate has set.  Scatter with shaved chocolate, strawberries, or top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

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When You Are Engulfed in Flames Book Review

Death is a funny subject.  It can start conversations and end them.  It can make people uncomfortable and can cause fear in even the strongest of hearts.  It’s inevitable…the one fate we all have in common.  Ironically enough, for David Sedaris anyway, death is just the motivation he needs to start living.

In this collection of essays, When You Are Engulfed in Flames,  Sedaris discusses everything from his fascination with dead bodies, to moving to Japan to quit smoking…from a crude taxi driver to how his boyfriend, Hugh, was knighted “Sir Lance-a-lot”.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, you’ll find yourself wanting nothing more than to spend an evening with Sedaris and his wack-job family (yes, he’s the brother to the one and only Amy Sedaris, who makes a few appearances in these essays).

When You Are Engulfed in Flames is essentially an ode to Sedaris’s midlife crisis.  As he contemplates death and dying, the main theme of this collection begins to emerge:  how to quit smoking.  In his final essay, “The Smoking Section”, we journey with Sedaris and Hugh to Tokyo, Japan.  Set up as various diary entries, “The Smoking Section” is laugh out loud funny.  The cultural differences between east and west almost seem too stereotypical to be true.  The customs and traditions of the Japanese lifestyle both interest and scare Sedaris…and his various run-ins with electric toilets, poopy hands, and abrasive barbers make his journey all the more enjoyable…for us, anyway.

Ultimately, death always wins—regardless of how it claims a life.  “I never truly thought that I would die the way my mother did [lung cancer], but now I really, really don’t think it,” he says, after three weeks of not smoking.  “I’m middle-aged, and, for the first time in 30 years, I feel invincible.”  Thank goodness for that, both for his sake and his readers’.

NEXT WEEK:  Cooking got you down?  Tired of the same ol’, same ol’?  Why not try an aspic on for size?  Or maybe some calves’ brains?  The French may be fashionable, but their food…well, that’s another story.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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Today in History…Happy Flitch Day!

The Flitch of Bacon

What’s Flitch Day, you ask?  An old custom started by monks in Dunmow Priory, England (probably around 1104) has become the holiday we now call Flitch Day.  Once a year, a slab of bacon was given to any married couple who could prove they have lived in harmony and fidelity for the past twelve months.  It appeared that very few couples actually “took home the bacon.”

“The court was held in a marquee erected on Talberds Ley, especially for the occasion.  Couples that had been married for at least a year and a day came from far and wide to try and claim the Flitch.  This was not a competition between the couples. All couples could be successful in their claim, which was vigorously defended by Counsel employed on behalf of the Donors of the Bacon, whose job it was to test their evidence and to try and persuade the Jury not to grant them the Flitch.”  Sounds like a new reality TV show in the works…

“Successful couples were then carried shoulder high by bearers (humble folk) in the ancient Flitch Chair to the Market Place where they would take the oath (similar to pre-Reformation marriage vows) kneeling on pointed stones. Unsuccessful couples had to walk behind the empty chair to the Market Place, consoled with a prize of gammon.”

You can celebrate Flitch Day today by cooking up some bacon for your hubby (or hubby-ess).  If you want to go all out and kneel on stones while reciting the oath, I commend you.  Here’s the oath, should you be so enclined.

“We do swear by custom of confession
That we ne’re made nuptial transgression
Nor since we were married man and wife
By household brawl or contentious strife,
Or otherwise at bed or board,
Offended each other in deed or word;
Or since the parish clerk said amen,
Wished ourselves unmarried again;
Or in a twelvemonth and a day
Repented in thought in any way,
But continue true and in desire
As when we joined in holy quire.”

Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!

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The Dirty Life Book Review

I’m sure we’ve all thought about life out in the country.  Growing our own food, raising our own animals, waking up with the sun and going for a long horseback ride through your acres and acres of land…ah, the simple life.

I’m sure a little piece of Kristin Kimball was expecting that when she decided to throw away her journalism career, her Harvard education, and her glamorous life in Manhattan, and move out to upstate New York to start a cooperative farm with a man named Mark, a man who started out as the subject of one of her articles and ended up becoming her husband.

In her sweet and inspiring book, The Dirty Life:  On Farming, Food, and Love, Kimball takes us on a year-long journey with her, beginning with her first arrival to Mark’s farm and concluding with the start of her and Mark’s extremely successful Essex Farm.  Through all the dirt, frustration, deception, and doubt, Kimball emerges as a woman with a driving passion for life and pleasure.  She throws herself into learning all she can about farm life, to Mark’s surprise and amazement.  Their story is one of power and determination…and, as Mark might say, “good luck.”

You can learn more about Kimball and Essex Farm (GardenShare) here.

NEXT WEEK:  Death, compulsion, unwanted sexual advances, corporal decay, and more death.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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5 Fun (and Practical) Kitchen Gadgets

When my boyfriend and I go to Crate and Barrel, it’s like two kids in a candy store…especially when we’re playing around with kitchen gadgets.

Granted most gadgets on the market are kinda pointless, since they often have one useful job that can be done just as easily with something you probably already have in your kitchen…but here are some gadgets I came across that are not only fun, but practical.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t practical, but come on!  How cute is this?!  This doggie tushies hold towels in the kitchen or bathroom and are just innocent enough to not be gross.  BUY!

These are brilliant.  These 5-blade shears allow you to quickly and easily chop herbs and spices for cooking and garnishing.  And with 5 sets of blades, your chopping is done quicker and looks professional.  BUY!

I love this cutting board!  I often use the same board over and over if I’m cutting lots of fruits and veggies and stuff always gets in the way.  With this prep bowl board, you can chop onions, garlic, and more and easily set it aside so you can move on to the next thing.  BUY!

Nothing like a glass of freezing cold iced tea in the summer…and with these nifty spider webs, you can enjoy your cold beverage without having blocks of ice hit you in the face as you tip the glass.  Keep your drink nice and cold till the very last sip.  BUY!

Here’s another “grate” gadget.  This Grate n’ Store is a measuring bowl with 3 attachable grating lids, plus one solid lid for storage.  Prevent messy cheese grating and ensure proper measurement with this fun little gadget.  BUY!

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

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Eating Animals Book Review

This book will change everything.

Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated  and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) is on two very important missions.  The first:  fatherhood.  The second:  feeding his family.  In his first nonfiction book, Eating Animals, Foer takes readers on a heart-wrenching journey behind the pad-locked doors of factory farms.  In an effort to find out where his food comes from and to learn more about how to provide for his newborn son, Foer sets out to learn all he can about the meat processing industry.  Eating Animals is the result of his research…and with more than 60 pages of notes and sources, it’s easy to argue that this could be one of the most thorough and honest books on the subject of factory farming.

Between stories of his own complex relationship with food and testimonies from farmers and factory farm workers, Foer fills this book with grueling truths about the miserable lives and deaths of industrialized chickens, pigs, fish, and cattle.  I warn you now that this book will be hard to read.  The honesty that fills these pages brought me to tears several times and it will be difficult to forget what I’ve discovered in reading this book.

I can’t say that Eating Animals has turned me to vegetarianism, but I will say that it has drastically changed the way I think about, shop for, and buy food.  Will I stop eating meat completely?  Probably not.  But I will be more cautious about where I buy it and what I eat…as will most people who read this indelible story.

NEXT WEEK:  Some people are lucky enough to live near a local farm that grows and raises its own crops and food.  Next week, we’ll get a closer look at one of these farms…and learn more about how they’re trying to change the way the world eats.

 

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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My Booky Wook Book Review

Like many uncultured Americans, the name Russell Brand meant nothing to me until I saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  As I sat in that crowded theater, I found myself quickly falling in love with this British renegade.  I couldn’t believe that someone as adorable as him had remained out of the spotlight for so long.

When I got home, I jumped on Google and typed in Russell Brand.  Little did I know that this crazy-haired, sex-obsessed, London rocker was a superstar across the lake.  Not only had he done his fair share of stand up routines all over the world, but he had starred in several TV shows (similar to our Jackass and Wild Boyz series) in England.  When I learned he was working on his autobiography, I instantly added it to my Good Reads list…and thank goodness I did.

Brand’s hilarious and honest autiobiography, My Booky Wook:  A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up, may seem like just another story about a celebrity life gone crazy, but it’s actually quite a testament to the difficulty of stardom and the determination of one man who stopped at nothing to achieve his dreams.  Filled with tales of his troubled childhood in Essex, England, his battle with alcohol, drugs, and sex, and his journeys through some of London’s most prestigious acting academies, My Booky Wook is “a giddy trip through the brilliant mind of one of Britain’s most valuable exports.”

After the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Brand has become quite the star here in the U.S., appearing in several films over the past few years.  He even took on hosting the MTV VMA Awards…maybe not the BEST idea at the time…but I enjoyed it!  You can watch his stand up and some of his early TV shows, including some work he did in the early 90’s for MTV, on YouTube.  Now, if only we can convince him to side with Johnny Depp in the next Pirates movie…

NEXT WEEK:  While I don’t think I could live my life as a vegetarian, this book has seriously changed the way I eat.  Everyone…and I mean EVERYONE…should read this book.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

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