Friday Find: Remember the Library?

Image c/o Pinterest

Image c/o Pinterest

One of my bad habits is reading too many books at one time. So when I finally got around to getting a Chicago Public Library card, I knew I was dousing lighter fluid on a bonfire (no, this is not a  Fahrenheit 451  reference).

A contributing reason that it took me so long was not wanting to fumble around with a book as a commuter. Although I’m not quite taking a private plane to work, I stick to the TSA two carry-ons rule when on the bus. I didn’t want a book taking up precious real estate (and bodily strength) whilst in my tote.

But now, the library affords me the opportunity to download eBooks to my iPad, which takes up little room in my bag. And they’re free! What?! Currently I’m cruising through The Night Circus and I scope daily for my next read.

Now if only I could snag a weekend with nothing to do but drink coffee and read. Ah, la vie en rose.

Tell me what to read next!

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Girl Crush: Mindy Kaling

Image c/o Scribd

Image c/o Scribd

Recently I finished reading Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects (not, I repeat, NOT a book for those that are easily disturbed and/or can’t make it through an entire episode of Law & Order: SVU), and looking for something a little…lighter to occupy myself on my bus ride to work. Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) fit the bill.

Now usually I have my hands full with my gym duffle and my coffee, so reading on the bus isn’t a daily activity and with this particular book, I tend to want to laugh out loud and we all know that that isn’t proper bus etiquette. The train to and from Milwaukee, however, is primetime…time.

Image c/o NPR

Image c/o NPR

What I have found through reading her book is that 1) she’s hilarious and 2) we would be amazing friends. I was already a fan of hers from her time as a writer, producer and co-star on The Office, but now it is just cemented. Her new show The Mindy Project is on FOX and, while I would laugh from time to time, I was having trouble getting into it. Since diving into the book, I’ve realized she talks exactly the way she writes and that is directly translated onto the small-screen. My appreciation has bloomed.

Even reading her blog posts right now makes me feel like I’m reading something that I would write. I/we/she am/are/is so funny! Don’t confuse this for me thinking that “I could be a writer and famous like Mindy!” Nah. I’m more concerned with how I will stop myself from not eating these three boxes of Girl Scout cookies I came into today. I feel like she would support me in just devouring them now and getting it over with. I’ll dedicate a box of Thin Mints to you, girl.

Late Night Goodness

Yesterday at work I received some particularly upsetting news: my very wonderful supervisor is moving out West with her husband. I was caught by complete surprise and a not so thrilling day set out before me. Plus it was raining outside. Most times when rain is falling I am delighted since it reminds me of The Homeland and my curly hair and freckles seem to dance off my head. But on this day it would not be so.

Post-work, I prescribed myself a workout and a baking adventure. Yes, endorphins and sugar. That’s just what the doctor ordered.

I leafed through The Cupcakes Diaries that my man gave me for Christmas. It’s a mixture of recipes and the stories behind them written by the sisters of the famed cupcake shoppe (fancy word for “shop”, pronounced “sho-pay”), Georgetown Cupcake in DC. While, I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting it in person, I imagine it is a heavenly place with heavenly smells.

My selected recipe was Lemon Blossom Cupcakes. They were a little bit more work than your average box. The “little bit more work” also entailed me making an emergency visit to the 24-hour CVS to pick up new flour (and one particular impulsive extra that I swore to myself I wouldn’t buy). I found an entire bug kingdom inside the stash I had on hand. Ick. The cupcakes turned out beautifully though. Dare to dream how delicious they will taste when I make them from this and not my casino-begotten handheld mixer (don’t ask)!
In the recipe below, I’ve included my notes about how I cut corners because I took advantage of the fact that I’m clearly not a professional. I left them unfrosted so I could have them as muffins. My thoughts behind that are if I have to take some extra effort to frost them, I won’t be as likely to do so and thus avoid consuming unneeded calories. Gen-ius.
Gor-geous. She was my impulsive buy. Are you waiting for the rationale behind my purchase? Have you come to expect it? Okay, good, because here it is. A.) I LOVE September for its textbook-like magazines of pages dripping with fall fashion. I want to sip coffee and light candles and wear black-rimmed glasses (which I don’t have or need) and soak up every last bit information. B.) It has Kate Middleton on the front, DUH. C.) (Unrelated) Hey, Vanity Fair. “Kate the Great” has already been used. Newsweek. April 2011. I should know because the cover is hanging up, framed on my wall.
The result of the evening? Complete success. Happiness achieved.

Lemon Blossom Cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake

Makes 12 cupcakes (I got at least 24 out of this)

FOR THE CUPCAKES

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard cupcake pan with twelve paper baking cups, or grease the pan with butter if not using baking cups. (Cute baking cups are a must.)

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper and set aside. (My tiny, tiny kitchen did not allow for this luxury. I just added in as is, sans bugs, and hoped for the best.)

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for 3 to 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing slowly after each addition.

4. Add the vanilla to the milk in a large liquid measuring cup.

5. Add one third of the dry ingredients followed by one third of the milk, and mix thoroughly. Repeat. Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the last third of dry ingredients followed by the last third of milk. Mix slowly until just incorporated. (Suck it up and just do this extra step. I swear it makes a difference.) Add lemon juice and zest (I have found that I am not very skilled at grating), and mix thoroughly at low speed.

6. Scoop the batter into the cupcake pan using a standard-size ice-cream scoop (Perhaps a little over-the-top. A spoon will do.) until the cups are two-thirds full (I filled mine 3/4 full in the second batch and they came out much better) and bake for 16-18 minutes (start checking at 15 minutes) (I took them out at 15 minutes, but I like them a little underdone), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

FOR THE LEMON CREAM-CHEESE FROSTING

(I did not make this. I can only be bake-from-scratch-girl for so long.)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup freshly grated lemon zest (2 to 3 lemons)

Combine the ingredients in a mixer and whip together at high speed until light and airy, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Frost the cupcakes with the signature swirl (You’ll have to buy the book to find that one out!) , and top with a lemon wedge or piece of lemon zest.

Williams? Sonoma? Marco?

Image c/o Williams-Sonoma

There exists a store that you can walk in for no other reason but to explore. You know what I’m talking about. The Targets, the Crate and Barrels, the Anthropologies, the Pier Ones. You don’t need anything in particular, but you eventually find something that you had no idea how you survived without. Williams-Sonoma is one of those stores.

From the classic aprons to the wall of cookbooks, the second you enter the store a warm waft of something baking envelops you. Even if you don’t cook very often (ahem, I’m looking at you, Me) you are at least inspired to start cooking as soon as you get home.

I am featuring some little gems that my girlfriends and I found on our impromptu trip last Saturday.

Image c/o Williams-Sonoma

Melamine 4-Piece Mixing Bowl Set, Multicolored, $27.97

There is a ring of nonslip rubber on the bottom of these bowls. It will make your day.

Image c/o Williams-Sonoma

Kuhn Rikon All-In-One Avocado Tool, $12.95

My friend flipped over this avocado tool. I see a lot of guacamole in the future. PS the fruit tools are major.

Image c/o Williams-Sonoma

Donuts Cookbook, $18.95

Pick a food. Heck, pick a food genre and there is a cookbook for it. My faves are obviously the sweet treats and the breakfast goodies. Did you need a donut maker? Surprise! You do because donuts are forever.

Images c/o Williams-Sonoma

Domed Glass Cloche, $19.00

Never have I been so thrilled to protect and display cakes, cheese, breads, and more! I am into monogramming almost everything and this sings right into my soul.

I may just have to make a special trip before my cookie exchange next week. A good enough excuse as any in my book!

Weekend, Weekend

Image c/o Pinterest

Once Thursday rolls around I’m usually jonesing to get to the weekend. I mean, who isn’t? But I think my (literal) list of activities differs from most. My list isn’t mindblowingly awesome, but it makes me feel like my life is in order. By the time I’m done writing it I completely on board to blow past Friday and get elbow deep in my plans.

Caution: I swear I’m not uncool. I just re-read my list and I sound like someone who would be uncool. Trust. I am normal.

The sad part about the weekend (aside from it ending) is that I live for it. I want the week to pass so quickly because the weekend is so precious. Then it’s- poof- gone. I think we forget that there are 4.5 good days (Friday afternoon = the missing 0.5 day = the weekend) of living inbetween there that we deem as useless time when in fact it is not. True, most of the day for people is filled with work time, but weekdays are not off limit for living.

I made a simple list (I LOVE LISTS) of weekday f-u-n.

Some people may have more extensive lists or are more strapped for time (I have not yet filled up my schedule with dependents- human or feline/canine/etc.), so hopefully there is a spare chunk of relaxation in there somewhere.

With that I leave you with this little gem I affectionately call “Pasta Baby.” Enjoy!

Image c/o ComicsForNerds.net

Reading vs. Seeing

Images c/o Amazon

There exists an eternal argument about whether or not the book was better than the movie, or vice versa. Teachers constantly warned you to “not see the movie in lieu of reading the book!” Well, maybe they weren’t so eloquent, but the underlying truth is there.

I was never one to risk skipping the actual reading of the book; I was the person that used Sparknotes as a study tool, not as the study material. My overwhelming need to be prepared usually prevented me from cramming the night before. But those days are over. Now reading is just about enjoyment.

My roommate and I decided to read the two above books before the movies debuted. Upon completion, we would “reward” ourselves with a movie date. In my opinion, I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson fell short in movie form (although the book was a little drawn out for my liking, but that, as they say, is another story), while The Help by Kathryn Stockett was fulfilling in both versions.

In my brief experience as a reader following books to the silver screen, I have always been hesitant. I end up loving the book and subsequently walking out of the theatre disappointed. Either something was left out or changed entirely and I can never understand why. Some books are more difficult to adapt from book to movie, like IDKHSDI (I just can’t type it out in full again). A lot of that book is an inner monologue. But then the movie cut out a few characters and a few sub-plots. The biggest offender of this kind of “editing” was in The Devil Wears Prada movie (a good read, by the by). Written by Lauren Weisberger, Andy’s boyfriend in the book is Alex. In the movie his name is Nate. Seriously? Why?

Images c/o Amazon

Two book/movie series that did not disappoint were Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (J initials of authors coincidental?). On behalf of all the nerds out there, I extend a big thanks to all parties involved in creating the movies we already adored as books.

After much deliberation and worrying I’m spoiling the book/movie for myself, I end up reading the book before seeing the movie, unless I am unaware of a literary edition (had no idea Forrest Gump was a book first). That seems to be the only option. I don’t believe that one can see the movie and then read the book; no matter what, one usually ends up not doing justice for the other. I refuse to read The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks or P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Sorry, but the movies were so wonderful for me that I wouldn’t want to change them in any way.

Image c/o IMDb

Up next, I’m working on finishing The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (did I mention I’m a sucker for hype surrounding books?) (P.S. to all future books, please give up the tagline “the next Harry Potter” because there will never be anything better). This is one scenario that I think the movies are going to be better than the books, or at least I hope so. Great concept, a little lackluster in the delivery.

I’ve been scanning this link trying to think of others books-to-movies: http://www.nextmovie.com/blog/upcoming-book-adaptations/. I’m flirting with a couple, while some of them I’ve already read and may have to re-read pre-movie (I’m looking at you The Host). Unrelated to that list, I want to add Lev Grossman’s The Magicians to my books-just-staying-books list. I just can’t resist a good sci-fi fantasy.

Where do you stand on reading vs. seeing? At present, I don’t know if there is a side to choose. For me, the movie just seems to be the manifestation of the visuals the book provides. The root of the problem is wrestling what you saw in the book with what someone else saw. That other person just happens to be able to put his or her vision to film. If we could all be so lucky…