Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bookish Gift Guide 2017: Cookbook Edition

The holidays are swinging in full gear now. You can hear the ringing of the Salvation Army bell outside, holiday decorations are adorning stores and houses and the music has become more cheery lately. With the colder weather and the many holiday functions with friends and family, more time is spent eating. Why not spend time cooking up a feast from some wonderful cookbooks? Check out some of my recommendations for this holiday season. Whether you purchase them for yourselves or for your loved ones, someone will enjoy creating masterpieces and savoring over morsels of delicious home cooked food.

Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz - $32.00
I love Joanne Chang's Flour bakeries and her baking books so I am pretty sure her latest book based on recipes from Myers+Chang restaurant will be excellent! If you want a taste of some delicious Asian fusion food, check out this book.

BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks - $35.00
Stella wrote this book to remind people about their childhood. These amazing baked goods will remind you of some wonderful memories as a kid. Dive into these scrumptious desserts this holiday season.

Half Baked Harvest Cookbook: Recipes from My Barn in the Mountains by Tieghan Gerard - $29.99
I have been a huge fan of Tieghan's blog called Half Baked Harvest and I was excited that she has a cookbook out! Not only are her recipes easy to follow and the food is delicious but the photography is superb and picture perfect! I love following the journey of a food blogger from a blog post to a finished cookbook.

I've love Malaysian food but never made any Malaysian dishes at home. Christina makes cooking Malaysian food easy at home with this wonderful cookbook. It's like bringing a part of Malaysia home with you from dishes like Hainanese Chicken to Pineapple Sambal Prawns. 

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh - $32.50
Molly is a food blogger and musician who moved from Brooklyn to a farm on the North Dakota-Minnesota border. Her food blog, My Name is Yeh, is simple and she has very creative recipes infusing her Jewish heritage. Molly's blog incorporates her life story with her wonderful recipes. Her photography gives off a muted vintage book and so does her cookbook. 

Do you have a favorite cookbook that you use frequently? What cookbooks do you recommend giving as gifts this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Boston Book Festival 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Boston Book Festival this year on Saturday, October 28, 2017. I always love attending this festival but this year I only attended one panel due to the overwhelming crowd this year. I feel like every year, the festival has been increasing in numbers and unfortunately some of the attendees can be super rude. The festival takes place in Copley Square at the Boston Public Library and at many of the beautiful churches on Bolyston  Street and on Newbury Street.

I ended up attending the The Biker, the Baker, and the Dumpling Maker panel at The Boston Public Library's Rabb Hall which was beyond fabulous! At the panel, Karen Akunowicz, Joanne Chang and Stella Parks spoke about their new cookbooks, chatted about some of their experiences and even shared about recipe testing and recommended some of their favorite cookbooks.

Joanne started Flour before she ventured into owning Myers+Chang with her husband, Christopher. Prior to cooking and baking, Joanne majored in Applied Mathematics and Economics at Harvard but soon figured out that it wasn't her calling. Her passion is baking! She only has Flour bakeries in locations she can bike to. I absolutely love Flour! I've been an avid follower since 2009 and I own all of Joanne's cookbooks.

Stella mentioned that her calling is to reconnect people with their childhood memories with pastries. High skilled and fancy pastries are not necessary. Her interpretation of American classic desserts connects people with friends and family. Stella's cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts intrigues me because I love how she weaves in some storytelling with her fantastic desserts. It's sort of resembles a journal of her life and what baking means to her. She transposes some of her memories onto pages for her readers so they can also create meaningful memories.

Karen talked about how culinary school is very strict and it can create a toxic environment for females. You have to take the harassment at the culinary school. There is no crying or getting upset. If you do, it's pretty much "get out of the kitchen." However, you have to be strong in order in order to succeed. Joanne mentioned how she wants to make sure that everyone has benefits at her bakeries and  restaurant. She wants them to feel safe and that there is an HR person for people to go to. Karen and Joanne work well together at Myers+Chang and they coauthored a wonderful cookbook. Karen was elated to be asked to contribute to Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery.

The three talented women talked about "why cookbooks now in the digital age?" When the audience was asked how many people use cookbooks still, almost everyone in the whole room raised their hand. Only a few prefer reading recipes off their tablets. There is something tangible about a cookbook that you can look and page through. It's okay if you get it a bit dirty. Also, they make wonderful gifts!

Stella mentioned that she didn't know that cookbooks were dying out. Actually, she was asked to write a cookbook and she decided to write it. Karen and Joanne used a Google document and worked on the book between their busy shifts. Karen said there was no romantic notions in Vermont or writing battleship style as she envisioned prior to writing the cookbook.

In terms of favorite cookbooks, Stella loves The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs for flavor pairings. Karen jokingly mentions she loves all the Flour cookbooks but she uses loves Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucat√°n. Joanne's most used cookbook is Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

In terms of recipe testing, Joanne talked about how scaling and rewriting for the home and not for the restaurant was sometimes a challenge. Testing out the recipes in a home kitchen was key. Joanne had three people test out a recipe and will receive feedback from them. The recipe is rewritten before she asks another three people to test out the recipe. This process continues until the recipe is perfect. Stella had her friends and associates test out her recipes and then she had professionals test them out.

The balance between stories, images and recipes were vital for Stella's book. Her book is for avid home bakers and for those how love some history. Her editor sat in during the photo shoot to help streamline the process. Karen and Joanne mentioned how their book is catered for home cooking.

After the panel, I was lined up to have Karen and Joanne sign my copy of Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery. Joanne already signed my Flour copies in the past. Afterwards, I went to check out some of the vendor booths and had some Chicken and Rice Guys at the food truck outside of the Boston Public Library. I ended the day fairly short and ended up going home early.

Definitely check out Karen and Joann'e latest book Myers+Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery and also Stella's book BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. Thank you to the organizers and volunteers of Boston Book Festival. I always look forward to this free annual festival.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Haunting the Deep Event Recap

On Sunday, October 22nd, I was fortunate enough to attend a book event at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA hosted by Wicked Good Books. Adriana Mather and Kali Wallace packed in a huge room full of book lovers. Adriana and Kali talked a bit about their current novels and answered questions from the audience. A book signing occurred after the talk and hot apple cider and delicious donuts were served!

I was able to see Adriana last October when her debut novel, How to Hang a Witch, was published. She had an event at Hawthorne Hotel last year as well. It was amazing to see how many new fans she gained over the year. Last year the event was fairly small and this year the hotel staff had to find more chairs for attendees!

When Adriana was looking for a particular book the only place that had it was in Salem, MA. When she inquired about the book, the lady at the bookstore said Mather is name not popular around Salem. This sparked the idea to write How to Hang a Witch. When Adriana was at her grandmother's house, she found a desk with older letters and old journals. There she found a letter about the Titanic and how a relative survived. Of course, Adriana did her happy dance when she found the Harper letter. This letter was inspiration for Haunting the Deep. Did you know the Harpers that Adriana is related to is also the Harpers of Harper & Brothers which is now HarperCollins? Adriana mentioned that the third book in the series (if she writes it) will take place in Sleepy Hollow since she is related to some people there. Adriana hit the trifecta jackpot for being a descendant.

The audience asked some very interesting questions this year. One person asked Adriana if she makes her books into movies. For those who don't know, Adriana is also a screenwriter in California on top of being an author. Adriana shot her book trailers in Salem, MA and in CT at her mother's house which is at least 300-years-old. How to Hang a Witch is optioned as a TV show but Adriana can't let us know the network or any of the details yet.

In terms of historical research, one person asked how was the research with the Titanic compared to the Salem Witch Trials.  With the Salem Witch Trials, the research was limited due to how far back in time the events occurred. Adriana used letters and written accounts. For the Titanic, it was a blackhole since there were so many people involved and there were a lot of interviews to comb through. One of the stories that Adriana told the audience was about Ester Hart who didn't want to go on the ship but her husband insisted. She had a feeling something bad will happen. Because of this feeling, she slept all day and at night she stayed in her day clothes. Another story was about a ship cat  who took her kittens off the boat one by one on a ramp at the last port before New York City. Adriana also read a lot of conspiracies whether it be socioeconomic, sociopolitical or even environmental.

Adriana spoke about her favorite scene that she wrote. She likes writing about Mrs. Meriweather's bakery called Sugar Spells. Adriana loves everything to do with the bakery whether it be the interior design to the bakery's sweet treats. Adriana's favorite character within the How to Hang a Witch duology is Alice. She has a soft soft for people who can't keep their mouths shut and she loves a good flawed character.

One person asked Adriana if she would bring back Sam's mother or grandmother in the series. Adriana said she was toying around with the idea to bring back an immediate family member or even Jaxson's father. In terms of a prequel, Adriana possibly will consider the option especially if the How to Hang a Witch TV show kicks off. Everyone seems to love Elijah and would love to read more about him before he met Sam.

For inspiring writers, Kali recommended to "keep writing. Your voice matters. You're the only one that can tell the story. Go with what you you like. Do it! You have to love it!" 

Adriana mentioned, "There is no right way to write. Complete it and you can break it apart. Have fun and learn. Keep writing. You learn stuff you don't know. Write what is interesting and fun for you."

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Top Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's Top Ten Tuesday asks bloggers to blog about their top ten characters who would make great leaders. The following characters are in no particular order.

1. Hermione Granger, from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - There is no doubt that Hermione Granger would make an excellent leader. She is the brains of the Trio and has the collected coolness during tough situations. She believes in equality for all whether it be for House Elves to Werewolves. I would totally vote for Granger for president!

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2. Minerva McGonagall, from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, is a badass no question asked. She is skilled in dueling and is an excellent Transfiguration professor. Peeves hardly listens to anyone besides the Bloody Baron but takes orders from McGonagall. She takes charge of Hogwarts in the absence of Albus Dumbledore.

3. Annabeth Chase, from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians  and The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, is the daughter of Athena and she is one of the chosen seven. She is head counselor of Cabin 6 and is an exceptional architect. She is well versed in battle and shares the same wisdom as her mother.

4. Tina Goldstein, from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling, is an Auror for MACUSA. She graduated from Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardy as a Thunderbird. Although, Tina follows the rules of the most part, she does what is best based on the situation. She has a good heart and would make fantastic leader.

5. Audrey Rose Wadsworth, from Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco, is the quintessential renaissance woman. She doesn't mind getting her hands dirty and doing things that a man can do. Ms. Wadsworth uncovers mysteries while taking charge in the 1800's, leading the path for ladies to take a stand and to do anything that set their minds to. It's okay to love forensics while donning a dress and drinking a cuppa.

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6. Nicolette Lampton, from Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell, is independent and doesn't rely on others for her own happiness. She is smart and is very creative in engineering and other sciences. I love how she embraces her STEM interests. It shows that females can achieve anything.

7. Charlotte Branwell, from The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare, is former head of the London Institute and is the first female Consul in the late 1800's. Charlotte is a naturally born leader who can do anything a male can do. She is independent, responsible and knows when to lay down the law.

8. Sydney Sage from the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead is intelligent, systematic and is responsible. She was once very closed-minded but has opened up after she eventually falls for someone who she once despised. Ms. Sage's character development has blossomed over the course of 6+ books. Sometimes being in someone else's shoes opens your eyes to things you've missed.

9. Kestrel Trajan, from The Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski, is a mastermind! Never underestimate her because she always has something up her sleeves. Not only is she a brilliant strategist but she doesn't care about rankings of the Valorians and the Herrani. She believes that the two shouldn't be at war.

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What characters do you think would make great leaders? Comment below.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Little Elliot, Fall Friends by Mike Curato

Title: Little Elliot, Fall Friends
Author: Mike Curato
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Publication date: August 29, 2017
Pages: 40
Source/format: From Publisher//Hardcover

Rating: ☆☆☆

Synopsis (from

It's autumn in the Big City! Little Elliot and Mouse love the hustle and bustle of the city streets. But sometimes it feels like there are too many people, too many noises--just too much! The best friends decide to get out of town for a vacation in the countryside. There, they'll discover the sights and smells of autumn in the country. Everything is more fun when shared with a friend!

M Y  T H O U G H T S
Little Elliot, Fall Friends is the fourth book in the Little Elliot picture book series. Mike Curato illustrated a wonderful book for everyone of all ages.

The soft muted colors are timeless. Curato transports readers to the countryside where Little Elliot and Mouse go apple picking and hang out with the barn animals. The countryside is much slower in pace and Little Elliot and Mouse start to wind down more when they escape the craziness of the big city. They learn to appreciate nature and enjoy nature's bounty. 

The scenery is bursting with the fall foliage, pumpkins and apples. The picture book focuses on slowing down, reconnecting with nature and to embrace coming together as a family as well as making new friends.

This is the perfect picture book for this time of year and for children to understand the changes of the season from summer to fall. The warmth of the illustrations provide a cozy feeling.