Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman

"The oceans never stop. They know no beginning or end. The wind never finishes. Sometimes it disappears, but only to gather momentum from somewhere else, returning to fling itself at the island, to make a point which is lost on Tom. Existence here is on a scale of giants. Time is in the million of years; rocks which from a distance look like dice cast against the shore are boulders hundreds of feet wide, licked round by millennia, tumbled onto their sides so that layers become vertical stripes."

This is a moving, heart-wrenching and well written story that proposes several moral dilemmas. Stedman writes of flawed characters, love between a husband and wife, and most of all - the powerful bond between mother and child. Isabel is married to Tom, a lighthouse keeper who has brought her to a beautiful but remote island off the coast of Australia. Tom is a silent, caring man who is haunted by ghosts of the war and cannot fathom why he survived when so many were killed. He is kind toward his wife, and Isabel is a loving wife that truly seems to enjoy even the isolated light-keeping lifestyle. Their love seems sweet, strong and supportive. After two years of marriage, Isabel is devestated that she cannot bear a child. She experiences two tragic miscarriages and a premature stillborn, and while Tom is loving, she is inconsolable. Until, a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and living baby. The baby seems to be newborn, and its cries awaken something in Isabel. Tom wants to report their findings and return the baby, but Isabel convinces him that it is God's wish for them to become parents to the seemingly orphaned child. They name her Lucy and love her as their own. Isabel is described as the most doting, devoted mother, and Tom, while riddled with guilt, sees that she is meant for motherhood and feels he owes it to her to stay silent. Lucy is the light of their life and has given Isabel a new purpose to her life. Honestly, passages about Isabel's love for the child brought me to tears. Tom too, is in love with the little girl, and they raise her as their own child until a trip to the mainland reminds them that they have made a decision with consequences to many others.

I don't want to spoil the end of this book, especially because it is so so beautifully written and touching -- I would not be able to do justice to the moral complexity of it, and especially, to the beautiful relationship described between Isabel and Lucy. As a mother to a daughter, I was weeping at the end of this beautiful story. I could not put this book down, and stayed awake late into the night to finish it. I found myself heartbroken and torn.

"There are still more days to travel in this life," Tom thinks. And everyone 
"who makes the journey has been shaped by every day and every person along the way. 
Scars are just another kind of memory."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Weekend Roundup

We had a great weekend despite the brutal cold and despite being stuck in the house sick on Saturday. Hope you did too!

1) Had a great dinner at Due, and the highlight was this antipasti dish
2) Celebrated two good friends' birthdays with a brunch and bloody marys on Sunday
3) Came across this quote on pinterest which made me smile
4) Ordered little J this adorable bikini for our March trip to Mexico!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Recipes: Cold Comfort Foods

It's been a freezing week here in NYC and the frigid temperatures are expected to continue through this weekend, with the addition of snow tonight. Here are some dishes I made this past week that will keep you cozy through the cold. All have minimal prep/cook time but maximum warmth to the tummy :)

Baked Pesto Chicken with Spicy Veggies, via this recipe
Oven Roasted Acorn Squash served with Couscous Arugula Salad (forgot to take a picture of it!) via this recipe
Veggie Panini with Pear/Goat Cheese Salad via this recipe and served with my mint chutney
Buttery Mushroom Orzo and a side of sauteed garlic spinach described here
Kale & White Bean soup minus the sausage from this recipe

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend... stay warm!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Recipe: Amazing Eggplant Parmesan

This is the best eggplant parmesan you will ever taste. I'm serious! Even if I do say so myself. It's layered with chillies, spinach, and of course fried & breaded, succulent eggplant. The homemade sauce is creamy and spicy, and the shredded mozzarella adds the perfect topping to this easy (but a little time consuming) dinner. You'll enjoy the leftovers too!!


1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices
3 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
5 lb plum tomatoes
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
20-30 fresh spinach leaves
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 cups italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 lb chilled fresh mozzarella (not unsalted), thinly sliced
1 chili pepper, thinly sliced


Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt and hot red pepper flakes to taste, let sit in a bowl

Use this recipe to make tomato sauce, adding chili peppers and salt/spices to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Stir together flour, salt and pepper to taste, in a shallow and wide bowl

Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow and wide bowl

Stir together your breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in a third shallow and wide bowl

Working with 1 slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip off, and dredge in breadcrumbs until evenly coated - let eggplant slices sit aside on wax paper

Fry eggplant until golden brown and then let sit aside on paper towls to drain excess oil

Sautee spinach and chili peppers in a separate pan until just wilted

Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in your baking dish, then layer the eggplant slices

Arrange about one third of eggplant slices in 1 layer over sauce, overlapping slightly if necessary, cover with spinach mixture, and then the remaining sauce. Top with mozzarella and continue layering to your liking.

Bake for 45 minutes until cheese is browned. Serve with a sprinkle of hot pepper, sea salt and parmesan cheese.

This dish is so hot & hearty.... no need for sides and no room for dessert :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

147 days until Summer

It was 11 degrees in NYC this morning, and it was one of those days where I need a reminder that there is a light at the end of this cold tunnel of winter. Luckily I have pictures all the way back to June on my iphone, and they really served as a pick-me-up today. I googled it and learned there are 147 days until summer. That means, 147 days until....

 peonies on my foyer table....


pool side lounging...

fun at the beach...

long morning walks...

 ....and sprinklers at the park.

 I can't wait. Can you?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Being Mommy: iPad Apps for Toddlers (To Play or Not to Play??)

I'm sure many moms agree with me.... balancing a healthy dose of technology in our toddler's life is always a struggle. TV, or no TV? If so, how much? What shows?? I feel the same way about the iPad. In one sense, I hate to rely on it as a means to entertain my active, curious toddler. But at the same time,  it's nice for a car ride or restaurant party where she can keep busy, entertain herself, and be content while I can still carry on an adult conversation. Little J is just starting to get to the age where she has been enjoying playing games on the iPad and she has been increasingly asking for it. I am reluctant to give it to her... it is a slippery slope to get to the point where she wants to play games instead of have conversations, and stare at a screen instead of playing with her peers. Why should she color with fake crayons on an iPad when we have tons of real crayons and real coloring books all over our apartment?? Is it really fun to play a fake piano versus a real one? I was thinking how I would not want little J to replace real books with iPad books only, but didn't I do that somewhat when I bought into the Kindle concept? Whatever you decide, it's important to remember that this is the next generation, and while there is value in traditional toys and traditional learning, there is also value in technological advancements.

Some of the iPad apps we've checked out to feel better after a boo-boo, or to tolerate long car rides, or as a special treat, are really fun & entertaining. Some of them are really great for teaching letters, words, shapes, colors, etc. Here's a list of some fun ones we've been exploring. Does anyone have others to add to the list?? I'd love to hear.

Monkey Lunch
Monkey Math
Books (like Cat in the Hat)
Easy Bake Oven
Talking Hippo
Drawing Pad
Fish School
Music Sparkle
ABC Tracer
Teach Me Pre-School
Nick Jr Draw & Play
Bubble Guppies

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Recipe: Vegetarian Chili

There's nothing like a hot bowl of yummy chili on cold night. This chili recipe will make you the most amazing bowl of winter goodness.... loaded with protein, it has a creamy texture, and a bit of heat from the jalapeños. My favorite part is how the monterey jack cheese melts into the chili, and sharpens every bite. While this is simple to make, it takes a while to cook since the flavors have to stew and blend together. It took about 2 hours from start to finish.... so plan accordingly.

3/4 cup olive oil

2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 can (35 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, with their juice
1 1/2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
1 diced hot pepper
2 tablespoons good-quality chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1 cup canned dark red kidney beans, drained
1 cup canned chick-peas (garbanzos), drained
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
4 scallions, white bulb and 3 inches green, sliced on the diagonal

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini, and sauté until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the onions, garlic, and bell peppers. Sauté until just wilted, about 10 minutes.

On low heat, add the canned tomatoes and their juice, the fresh tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, pepper, salt, and parsley. Cook, uncovered, stirring often, for 30 minutes.

Finally, stir in the kidney beans, chick-peas and lemon juice, cooking for another 30 minutes. Stir well, and adjust the seasonings to taste.

Turn the chili to low heat... and take this chance to butter your bread, pop it in the toaster-oven, and watch it brown for 7 minutes.

Serve with bowls of sour cream (I added some paprika to ours), grated cheese, extra parsley, and sliced scallions alongside.

 I served this with buttery, flaky sourdough bread. Best dinner of 2013 so far!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Happy Monday! I hope you are enjoying the new face of this blog! Thanks to Tiffany Kuehl, you're now looking at a clean and fun design.

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I finally finished a book I started a while ago, and wanted to share my review. Have any of you read Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver? I would rate her novel, Poisonwood Bible, in my top 10 of all time, so you can imagine how eager I was to read her latest book. I pre-ordered it this past summer, and as always, Kingsolver did not disappoint. This book is so unique and well written, and will leave you thinking about important issues like global warming and climate change.

It is set in a stunning mountain village of Appalachia, focusing on a troubled Turnbow family and the migration patterns of monarch butterflies. Dellarobia Turnbow is a poor, beautiful, unhappily married mother of two, who is incredibly disatisfied and bored with her life. She feels she was caught in her marriage too early in life and is desperate for some excitement and a change. On her way to meet a neighbor crush, she is siezed by the sight of a sky aflame (these are the butterflies in an extravagant orange and bold show). To Dellarobia, who has never been very religious, this is a sign from God and one she must abide. She turns toward her own life with a vow to change it for the better. At this point in the novel, we see how science and faith meet, and the entire community gathers in light of this miracle. Dellarobia, meanwhile, faces her marriage, her church and the outside world in a seeming flight toward truth, like the displaced butterflies.
Kingsolver's beautiful story tells a larger story of global warming and the changes that come along with it. It brings our attention to the very real connection between man and nature, as we see how the natural world plays a role in the lives of the Turnbow family. As the world of nature reveals it own truths, so does this family. This book is full of love and heartache, and written by this talented author, it's a must read.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

iMovie & Highlight Videos

Have any of you played around with iMovie, the amazing feature that comes with Mac? I am newly obsessed with it these days. I've been putting together mini videos, highlight films, and slideshows for a while now, but iMovie lets me take my amateur skills to a new level. Check out this video I made of our Whistler ski trip from last year.

Whistler 2012 Highlight Video

Doesn't it just make you want to hit the slopes??

This video is easier to make than it seems. You just add movie clips via iMovie, pull in photos from iPhoto, and add music from iTunes! It's such a nice way to mix together video and photo footage in one place, and creating a highlight reel of a vacation is the best way to preserve the memories. I find I never care to look at tons of videos from our vacations, but having clips of them set to music and with pictures, makes the videos so accessible and fun to watch. Playing around with transitions and special features in iMovie is really fun too. If you have a mac, check out the tutorial that comes along with will be on your way to professional looking videos in no time!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sweet Start to 2013! Recipe: Cashew Butterball Cookies

As many of you know, one of my new year's resolutions is to bake more often and learn to bake well. I kicked it off this past weekend by making delicious and good-looking cashew butterball cookies. I was tempted to make these when I saw them on Smitten Kitchen last week and they were every bit as simple to make and yummy to eat as I had hoped!

The toasted cashews made our apartment smell amazing, and I had to fight hubby off of these so I could have enough to bring to a family event on Sunday! Will definitely repeat these in the future.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, friends! I hope you all had a restful, happy holiday. I took a break from posting and enjoyed time with family & friends, including an elegant and fun new year's celebration in Southhampton.

Now I'm gearing up for the new year with a few resolutions. In 2013, I hope to:

1) Learn to bake delicious & beautiful treats. If I could ever achieve something like these perfect mango tartlets, I would die happy.

2) Read more. Next few books on my list: Flight Behavior, Twelve Tribes of Hattie, The Light Between Oceans. Any other suggestions?

3) Spend more time on my hair/skin/nails/teeth... I always feel better with a nice blowout, whether I do it myself or get it done, and the same with my nails. There's something so polished and beautiful about a perfect manicure. And I must take the few minutes every morning to take care of my skin and floss, or I know I will regret it later...

Do any of you have resolutions you want to share?