Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Club–Sarah’s Key

Last night, we had our monthly book club gathering. This month’s book was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. When I was first invited to join the Stoneybrook  Book Club, the books had already been selected for several months. A different member of the club hosts the gathering each month and for my month the book that had been preselected was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  princess cupcakes_so sadI loved this book and went on to read the other two in the series. For my first book club gathering, I added a Swedish dinner. It was really a lot of fun. Here are some pictures of my delicious princess cupcakes. They tasted a LOT better than they looked and had all the requisite layers. If you want to see the look I was going for (and the recipe), go to the cookie shop blog. This is very labor intensive but way better than the Ikea ones (which are good in a pinch.) ikea princess cupcakes

Plus, mine had alcohol in them!!


Anyway, I digress. The reason I give you all this backstory is that I had so much fun hosting a night to match the book that I suggested that we each get to select the book to read for the month we are hosting. And to my pleasure, the group agreed.  My next book was suggested by most everyone in my family – The Glass Castle.  Then when my turn came again, I chose Sarah’s Key based on my mom’s recommendation. Again, I went all out.

book club signI created a sign for my front door and then used the same motif to create labels for all my food. 

Since Sarah’s Key is in France, I labeled all the food in French (with my mom’s help, of course!) peach galette





labeled foodI tried to pick French theme-food, including some French sandwiches (made by Lee’s Sandwiches – a small Vietnamese and Euro-style sandwich shop chain.) I printed very small versions of the book cover and taped them to toothpicks. I used these on a few of the sandwiches and Deli Manjoo pastries. (Click on pictures to bigify and read labels!)

book covers

Peach GalletteI made a galette with fresh peaches. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take pictures until after the gathering so there isn’t much left to see.

Besides all the cute (if I do say so myself) labels by the food, I tried to use some French dishes. It’s hard to see in the pictures but you may notice a bowl and mug with my name on it. (Unlike America where I have never seen my name on anything except while in Vegas, in France my name is more common and preprinted on lots of stuff!! Both of these were gifts, one from my Mom and one from my grandmother, Mémère.)french dishes

I decorated by putting some paintings and pictures of France and French landmarks, stacking up some books written in French, and putting out a pile of pictures from my visits to France. tour eiffel

Any suggestions as to what my next book should be?



*If you are wondering if I saw the movie,…I did. And I did NOT like it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It’s Your World, Squirrel

two squirrels
Many squirrels reside on the grounds of our condos. They are well fed, unafraid of humans or cats, and have lots of offspring. I have many stories about these lively squirrels but will spare you for fear of becoming known as that crazy squirrel lady. Here is a picture of two of them hanging out in the tree in front of my deck. (Can you find them? Click on picture to bigify.)

They create endless hours of fascination for my cats (and sometimes myself - the young ones are so cute.) Last year they created havoc on my Halloween pumpkin.
cute babypumpkin eater
Jem eyes squirrel
feed me
So I after seeing this picture on flickr, I decided to copy it but with a twist. I stitched this cute little thing in a weekend and after I was done, I got the pattern emailed to me! That would have made it a lot easier but I am so impatient…
it's your screen
So you are wondering why did I choose the words “It’s Your Screen Squirrel”??
See below for a daily occurrence.

screen squirrels
Thinking about all these squirrels gave me an idea when Karen made chicken pot pies. They should have a squirrel on them!

She was gracious enough to use my cookie cutter on her delicious pies!
fall pot pie

I bet by now you are probably thinking that I am  a crazy squirrel lady….
staring me down

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Furs with Louisa May and booze with Matt Helm

It's been a while since I've watched What a Way to Go! with Shirley MacLaine and all her leading men so I convinced Karen to come over and watch it with me. As the movie progressed, I realized that it would be more fun to try wear some of my vintage furs while watching the movie to emulate Shirley and her many fur changes...
(This blog has a great post about all the different furs in the movie, with lots of pictures.)
Surprisingly, I do have many vintage furs that kinda match the movie. (I have not bought any furs in years and years and I would never buy a new fur so please no comments about that.) During this scene, I ran out of the living room and then ran back in and sat on the sofa with this very fur wrapped around my head (sans the bow.) Karen freaked.
This is a picture I took after the fact with some of the furs. The one on my head is the one that started it all.

Here are two that prompted me to get out my blue marabou.

Then I just brought them all out and Karen got into it as well!

So the plot is cute but not great and the movie is slow in areas but if you haven’t seen this movie, I’d highly recommend it IF:

a) you enjoy fashion! The budget for all the wardrobe changes was fantastic for the time ($500,000) and all of Ms. MacLaine’s outfits were designed by Edith Head. This youtube video gives you a glimpse of some of them but there is a fantastic, very risqué outfit that isn’t in this preview that you must see!

b) you love men! Paul Newman, OMG, Paul Newman. This is reason enough for me to watch the movie again and again. All the men are more attractive then I seem to remember them – even Gene Kelley! (But then by this time, I was suffering a mild case of heat exhaustion underneath all my furs so don’t take my word for it!) Dean Martin was also dreamy, which caused me to immediately rent The Silencers.

The Silencers is the first in a quartet of movies featuring the main character Matt Helm. He is supposedly a spoof of James Bond. Since Dino was so dreamy in What a Way to Go, I figured he’d have to be even better as a womanizing spy.

Ugh! This movie was awful! I think he must have been drunk throughout the whole thing. There was no plot and the acting…I hasten  to even call it acting.

Oh Stella (Stevens), you annoyed me more than any female ever has on the screen. stella
And Cyd (Charrisse), why were you even in this movie? Your singing was dubbed and you wore one of the most ridiculous outfits I’ve ever seen.no Cyd no no
And poor Daliah Lavi, you look gorgeous through most of the movie but your character takes such a bizarre turn. At least you went on to Casino Royale.daliah

Would I recommend this movie?
Believe it or not, YES!  The first 15 minutes are CLASSIC. groovy baby
There’s a funny bit about the radio with old blue eyes. Just beware that there is almost no plot and the acting is atrocious. And if you’ve seen Austin Powers, you’ll definitely pick up some similarities. But there’s eye candy for everyone so settle in, don’t think, oh, and by all means drink lots of booze – you know – to get into the character of Matt Helm.pointless car chase

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Classic Cookbook Challenge

Cooking for TwoOver the past few years, I have picked up quite a few vintage cookbooks. I love looking through them, especially the pictures and illustrations. My friend Karen and I found quite a few Better Homes and Garden cookbooks from the 60's the other day at a thrift shop. Since we are both broke, we each only bought one. It took us forever to only choose those two. One that got away that we both wanted was Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cookbook, hint hint.
The reason I mention this is because later that evening, I started a new project called 365project. (I’ve created a permanent link on the sidebar to the left.) It’s a site where you take one picture a day and upload it. So I thought I would start by having my first picture be of a few of my most recent cookbook acquisitions.  Then that got me to thinking. Besides challenging myself to take a picture every day for a year, how about if I created a cooking challenge stemming from my new, old cookbooks? And what if I managed to get some more in the process? Hence Celine’s Classic Cookbook Challenge was born!
Here’s what I am doing:
Each month for the next twelve months, I am going to make one recipe from a different “vintage” cookbook. The cookbooks have to be printed between the 1950's and the 1970's.  If someone wants to donate a cookbook to me, then they can chose the recipe that I will make from it. (So here’s you chance to get rid of a cookbook cluttering up your house or pick up one at a garage sale. You can have me make something ridiculous, if you want!)
To start off this challenge, I let Karen pick out a recipe (any bhg cooking for two backrecipe she wanted – I did not bhg cooking for two frontlook at the book before she picked something) out of the book she just purchased, Better Homes and Gardens Cooking for Two, first printing – 1968.

She picked a recipe called Shrimp Curry Luncheon. Unfortunately, it does not have a picture but I did scan the recipe. (You can click on picture to “bigify.”)
shrimp curry luncheon
I looked through the book and decided to make a dessert that does have an accompanying  picture, Mint Patty Alaskas. Ever since I found out Ted Baxter’s favorite dessert was the Baked Alaska, I’ve always been meaning to make one. (You know Ted, the newscaster from WJM!) Neither Karen nor I like peppermint candies so I decided to eliminate them. Then after an exhaustive internet and grocery store search for chocolate-coated ice cream patties (or any ice cream patties – for gosh sakes – what the heck are they??), I decide to make the recipe more like a traditional Baked Alaska.  I also decided that I should add a classic wedge salad and Karen whole-heartedly agreed.baked alaska recipe
hints on wineLastly, the book had a page that gave me “Hints on Wine” so Karen gave me the appropriate white wine which I chilled for two hours in the fridge as directed.
I started the menu by making the insides of the Baked Alaskas. I used Black Raspberry Dark Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream instead of the “chocolate-coated peppermint ice cream patties.” I let the ice cream thaw on the counter for 30 minutes or so. Then I spooned some into each sponge cake to resemble a small mound, like I think I’ve seen done for traditional Baked Alaskas.
baked alaska prep

I then put the whole Pyrex dish in the freezer. Oops! After I rearranged the freezer, I then put the whole Pyrex dish in the freezer.oopsNext I got started on the Shrimp Curry Luncheon. What kind of name is that for a recipe anyway? It sounds like an event not a dish. Wait, did I just answer my own question?shrimp curry luncheopn ingredients
So the first step is to cut avocado slices and brush with lime juice. Odd. I was very impressed with my avocado slicing abilities but then I just squeezed some lime juice on them and totally ignored the “brush” part of the instructions. These lime juice-covered-slices are supposed to be in a warm oven for 5 to 10 minutes, which leads me to believe that the author assumes that one can complete the next steps in that amount of time. HA! If there is a work time given in a recipe, then I have to at LEAST TRIPLE it to find my actual time. A recipe boasts that it only takes 15 minutes to make? Then I can’t make it in under 45 minutes. That’s just how I roll folks. Anyway, back to my poor avocado slices. Once I realized that they were definitely going to be in the oven more that the required 5 – 10 minutes, I lowered the temp from 300 to 250. Not sure if that helped. They tasted fine but looked like this when they came out of the oven.avocado slices out of oven
On to the next steps, which take place on the stove in my “new” old Corning Ware “Spice of Life” skillet. So exciting!!!! One thing I definitely learned is that having the ingredients prepped before you start cooking would probably help with the time issues I was having. Chop, chop, chop. (Plus, I still had to chop an egg and wedges for my salad.) bubbling
Initially, the stove portion of the recipe did not look that good. And eeks!, what a lot of butter. Julia would be proud!
I think this picture looks pretty cool because if you really look, you can see the steam coming from the pan…
Shrimp Curry Lucheon assemblytable
As a disclaimer, I should mention that Karen helped assemble the wedge salad and opened the wine. I figured since recipes were not part of my “challenge” that this would be okay. I had chopping to do People!
I thought the meal was very pretty and to me, it also looked very “vintage.” I felt like I was transported back to the Mad Men era. Karen and I both liked the recipes very much. In fact, I would make it again and think it would be perfect for a ladies luncheon or a bridge game (if I remotely knew how to play bridge!) I am not a fan of curry but the curry really worked here. It wasn’t overpowering yet kept the sauce, which has lots of butter and sour cream, from being too rich. The avocado added to the overall creamy-ness of the dish. The English muffin soaked up the sauce but didn’t become soggy. And there was just enough shrimp that you got some shrimp in every other bite or so but it wasn’t fishy tasting. Really this recipe was much yummier than I would have ever imagined just by reading it. Even though it wasn’t a huge volume of food, we were both very full after eating it.
And yes, we were full but we decided that I should continue on with dessert. I mean how can anyone be too full for dessert? I took out my divided Pyrex dish from my rearranged freezer and moved the two Alaska insides to another Pyrex dish that was room temperature. I would hate to shatter my beloved Pyrex by putting her in the oven after being frozen!!ready for the oven
At this point, I was following the recipe again. Karen and I were surprised how easy the meringue was to make. And it seemed like the recipe made a LOT of it. I just blopped it over each ice cream/sponge cake mound with a spoon then used a spatula to try and make some peaks. whipping and browning
It took three minute in the oven for them to look divine. Karen had the great idea to shave some dark chocolate on top. And then we dug in. This dessert is a winner! I will totally make it again. The ice cream I picked was perfect. The flavor combinations of the raspberry, dark chocolate, sponge cake and meringue is delicious. And to have the ice cream be cold is refreshing but it was never so cold that you had to worry about brain freeze. The sponge cake and even the fruity ice cream flavor that I picked out, kept  the meringue from feeling too sweet. I think the dessert looked very elegant (or elegante  as this cookbook likes to call recipes.) Maybe Ted Baxter wasn’t so dumb after all!fini baked alaska
So I wonder what my Classic Cookbook Challenge will be for December???

Friday, November 04, 2011

Fall is finally here!

My Mother has posted some nice fall pictures on her blog and my cousin,

Ken, posted some gorgeous fall photos on Facebook.

Click on pictures to bigify!

fall treesInspired, I walked around my condo and took these photos.

This is as “fall” as it gets here in Long Beach. Some evenings I have to wear pants instead of shorts and use a blanket on the bed but then during the afternoons, shorts are still a must. But I do feel like it is slowly getting  cooler.

Speaking of fall or autumn, I found a guest towel on sale at Michael’s and was inspired to whip up a cute fall towel. I have loads of thread that I have bought at Estate sales. The problem with these is that many colors don’t have any identification on them or are from defunct companies. Therefore, they can’t really be used with specific patterns.

There are several French blogs that I follow for their nice, free cross stitch designs. My favorite is Gazette 94; I decided to use one of her designs. It has everything I love – pumpkins, squirrels, mushrooms, and acorns!

I cut out the images that I wanted to use and taped them together into a long line. Then I went through all my thread and picked cute colors. On the leaf and the small mushroom, I combined two colors so if you look at it in person it is a very subtle, cool effect.

towel suppliesThis was a relatively quick and easy project that will now be a cute hand towel in my guest bathroom for the Thanksgiving celebration I am hosting. Nice, huh?
finished towel