Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club. Her father's "Bunny Rabbit." A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.
Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: 
A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston. 
Frankie Landau Banks:
No longer the kind of girl to take no for an answer. Especially when "no" means she's excluded from her boyfriends all-male secret society. Not when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she's smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew is lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done 
Frankie Landau Banks at age 16: 
Possibly a criminal mastermind.  
Let me start off by saying that I love this novel I especially loved it the first time that I read it. E. Lockhart truly has a gift for making me feel so connected to the characters and stories. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is told from the perspective of Frankie, a new student at an elite boarding school. This novel may seem like just another average boarding school novel, but don't be fooled by this first impression, Frankie is a spunky and lovable character. She's the type of girl that I always looked up to because she's cool, but she's also wickedly smart and has a little bit of an edge. When she finds herself attending the same boarding school that her father had attended years earlier she makes it a goal of hers to sniff out the all male secret society that she had heard rumors of as a kid. 
This novel is filled with some of the cliches of boarding school, but they're offset by Frankie. Frankie is such a brilliant character. We see her at the start heading into high school and we se the transformation that she makes. E. Lockhart says it best by describing her as "no longer the kind of girl to take no for an answer" because Frankie is determined and she lets us follow along on her path to manipulating and outwitting this super secret society. All in all, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is fast- paced and a must read, I read it for the first time in middle school and now a few years later I still love it. It puts me in a good mood and it has such a great mystery element to it that you'll want to read it in one sitting.
4 Cupcakes! 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Flour by JoAnne Chang

JoAnne Chang’s new cookbook Flour titled after her renowned bakery in Boston is by far one of the best, most reliable books I’ve ever used. I received it as a Christmas present last year from my mom, who knows how much I love to bake. The recipes are all challenging and time consuming, but so worth it. Chang uses techniques that I had never tried before and I have learned so much through working with her recipes.
I started out with her recipes and as I began to read them I realized how she does two major things differently from most other cookbooks I’ve used one being, she weighs everything instead of using volume and two, almost every recipe has a waiting period before it’s baked. These two things add a noticeable improvement to the flavors and textures of the cookies, cakes, and pastries. Weighing makes a very big difference to the texture because especially with flour, which is often a main ingredient, it is important to weigh because it allows you to more accurately measure. Volume, on the other hand, is more temperamental and can easily be thrown off resulting in a less than perfect measurement.
When I first paged through the book last Christmas after receiving it as a gift my first thought was that all of the recipes seemed really time consuming and complicated. I must say I was wrong, well mostly wrong. The recipes are so decadent and probably the best things that I have ever made. Granted they aren't without their work, but they are so easy to prepare ahead of time and then bake fresh the day they're needed. Chang talks about having a freezer filled with dough for breads and pastries and I don't blame her because it is so easy and it allows you to wake up in the morning and say 'hmm I could really go for some homemade poptarts right now', which by the way are absolutely divine! The recipes all need some time to sit to let the flavors come together, I must say you really can taste the difference when you wait for the dough or batter to sit and allow the flavors to meet and become more vibrant. Some planning is involved for sure with this baking and I would recommend reading through the whole recipe as always before starting so that you aren't thrown off if your dough has to rise for 2 hours or your scones need to be refrigerated before baking.
Overall I cannot speak highly enough of JoAnne Chang's Flour it is my new favorite baking book and it is tried, true and absolutely trustworthy!
5 Cupcakes!
Buy Flour by JoAnne Chang on Amazon

Friday, December 16, 2011

To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”
- A C Grayling

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson was not initially a book that I had planned to review. Laurie Halse Anderson unlike so many other young adult authors writes about books that are dramatic and heart wrenching, but they delve deeply into real issues. The author writes beautifully in Wintergirls and especially after reading Speak, her New York Times Best-seller, I had almost impossibly high expectations. Wintergirls was very different from Speak and much harder to read because it was about two girls and how they bring pain upon themselves. It was much more disturbing and tragic because of that. 
Wintergirls is the type of book that stays with you and haunts you long after you've turned the last page. Lia's stubborn personality that keeps her from healing from her eating disorder is so troubling. Lia narrates the book, and as her character develops so does her voice. Anderson does a brilliant job of illustrating Lia's growth throughout the book. Lia as the narrator describes her own eating disorder and although she recognizes it she does not want to heal herself. She can only focus on her eating and her calorie intake after the loss of her estranged best friend Cassie.  

Cassie and Lia were best friends they created a dangerous pact to race to be the skinniest. Lia is sent to a hospital to heal herself leaving Cassie behind. After Lia has been discharged from the hospital she begins to heal until Cassie dies. Lia spirals out of control and cannot shake Cassie from her mind which drives her back to starving herself. 
After exploring other reviews on Wintergirls I was surprised to see the lack of empathy for Lia. Many people have found this novel to be difficult to relate to because Lia is harming herself and is aware of her problem. To me this was hard to read even though it was a foreign thought, I think anyone can relate to the desire for attention and also for Lia it was about letting go of her best friend and all of the guilt she felt for her death. 
Wintergirls will remain a favorite book of mine and Laurie Halse Anderson will always be a favorite author of mine. 

5 Cupcakes!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Cupcakes

 After much debate as to how to decorate my Christmas themed cupcakes I finally settled on using vanilla cupcakes with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. I didn't do anything fancy with the frosting I just spread it on. To top the frosting I dipped some in coconut and some in white sanding sugar. I then used candy spearmint leaves and little shortbread I had baked and cut into tiny snowmen to top them. The amazing reindeer pulling the sleigh were a gift to me from a family member at thanksgiving. I love them and think they are just adorable, they came in a little kit with pretty cupcake liners too.  The cupcakes are made of my favorite vanilla cake from the book More from Magnolia by Allysa Torrey. Her cupcakes are some of the most reliable and I use her vanilla and chocolate all the time. I also used an amazing shortbread recipe that I've been using for years, especially around Christmas time. Every year in my neighborhood we bake cookies for all of the neighbors and my shortbread are always a hit!
Here's the recipe from The Family Baker by Susan G. Purdy:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp.(not soft), cut up
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
2. in a large mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and confectioner's sugar until smooth and well blended.  Sift on flour and salt just until the dough forms large clumps.
3. Turn the dough out onto a counter (not floured). And use your lightly floured hands to gather into a ball. To keep  shortbread tender, it's important not to overhandle it.
4.  Using a rolling pin roll out dough until about 1/4- 3/4 inch thick(depending on your personal preference, I usually make them about 1/2 inch thick)  and using cookie cutters of your choice shape and place on a cookie sheet. (I like to use simple shapes like stars and hearts).
5. Dust with sanding sugar if desired and bake for about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie cutter, cookies should be lightly golden so keep an eye on them as they bake.
6. Cool 2-3 minutes un pan before removing them with a spatula onto a cooling rack to cool completely ( cookies should be totally cooled before eating
The Family Baker: 150 Never-Let-You-Down Basic Recipes

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen

A long, hot summer... That's what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father.
But sometimes unexpected things can happen- things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister's project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes a boy with a past, a taste for truth telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl's workd upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry
I find it hard to describe my opinions about The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen, as it is one of my most beloved books. The Truth about Forever is the first book that I read by Sarah Dessen and it will always be the book that started it all.  After reading it I immediately went out and read all of her other books and I anxiously await the releases of her new ones. The Truth about Forever is the first book that I read by Sarah Dessen  and it will always be the book that started it all. After reading it I immediately went out and read all of her other books and I anxiously await all of her new releases. The Truth about Forever is one of those rare books that I enjoy reading and have read multiple times and have not tired of it. It's a book that reminds me of why I love to read and write about reading, which makes it so hard to put my thoughts into words that express this. 
The Truth about Forever is about Macy Queen after she loses her father suddenly and how her family grows apart at a time when they need each other more than the ever have. Macy and her mother are maintaining a relationship of minimal substance, in that they both have their feelings locked up inside and cannot talk about anything of true importance. I found the dynamic between Macy and her mother to be very sad and frustrating because I cannot imagine what either of them are attempting to deal with and it is seemingly impossible that they are doing it nearly alone. 
I will probably always regard The Truth about Forever  as a favorite book of mine even though as a teenager it is likely most relevant to me now, but because I read it at a time when I was just beginning to realize that I have a love for books and it helped me realize this. 
5 Cupcakes!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coffee Cake Streusel Cupcake Muffins

 I made these muffins for our new neighbors and they loved them.  I kept some for my family and they vanished in record time!  These muffins have a cinnamon and dark brown sugar streusel baked in a yummy cake topped with a milk glaze drizzle. They are perfect for brunch as they may be too sweet for some (definitely not me!) to have for breakfast. These cupcake muffins (I decided they are somewhere between the two, which is why I use the two names interchangeably throughout this recipe) are everyone's favorite because muffin-lovers and cupcake-lovers alike enjoy these tasty treats!  I love giving them to people and watching as they take a bite into the moist cake dotted with cinnamon streusel pieces. The milk glaze to me is key because it makes it special because not only does it taste good but it makes the cupcakes look so amazing and cute! I love that this recipe from Cupcakes by Martha Stewart is so quick and easy, you can make the streusel and then use it when you need it. I personally like to make it the night before and chill it over night. I lay out my ingredients and then in the morning just mix them up and throw them in the oven and you've got fresh baked muffins!

Recipe for Coffee Cake Streusel Muffins:

Streusel Ingredients:
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup all-purpous flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter cut in small pieces
Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpous flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Milk Glaze Ingredients:
1-1/2 confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons milk

1. To Make the Streusel: In a medium bowl stir together brown sugar, flour and salt.  With a pastry blender or your finger tips (or two small knives) knead the butter in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate at least a half hour before using.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the muffin tins with butter. To Make the Muffins: Whisk together four, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Stir in vanilla by hand.
4. Add flour mixture and sour cream and stir until just combined.
5. Divide the batter evenly among cups. Sprinkle with half of the streusel and lightly press it into the batter. Sprinkle the remaining streusel over the cupcakes and bake for about 20 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean, rotating half way through.
6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Whisk together the milk and confectioner's sugar, making sure that there are no clumps, use immediately. Once completely cooled drizzle the milk glaze over the cupcakes. These muffins will keep for 3-4 days after being glazed at room temperature in an airtight container. They can be frozen in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks before being glazed.