Monthly Archives: February 2013

Book Review: “Cupcakes!”

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I love cupcakes. I’ve got a whole Pintrest board dedicated to them. In fact, it was one of my first Pintrest boards that I sat up on my own when I first joined up. At last count there are over 160 cupcakes on my cupcake board. I’ve actually made a few. On this blog I’ve got several cupcake and muffin recipes that I’ve shared. Muffins are a lot like cupcakes most of the time, they usually just lack frosting of some sort. Which is why, when I saw this book on the shelf of my local library I just had to check it out.

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“Cupcakes!” by Elinor Klivans was a very promising book. I mean, just look at the picture on the cover. This looks like a book that is devoted to the taste of the cupcake more than the look of what goes on top. There are a lot of books out there that are all about the decoration, but for me, it’s all about the taste. The recipes in this book are sound, near as I can tell. As I’ve said before, I don’t often make the recipes in the cookbooks that I read, I just like to read them for the low-fat version of indulgence. That being said, this book did annoy me just a bit.

I get that a cookbook has to speak to several levels of cook, but the recipes were all basically variations on each other, after reading the introduction and the first one or two recipes, I started to feel as though the author thought the people reading her book were all idiots. Even a novice cook will know how to remove cupcakes from a pan.

The other thing that I wish there were more of in this book were pictures. Cooking is very visual to me. Sure, I can imagine what the recipe is supposed to look like, but a picture makes it just that much better. Sadly, there were very few pictures in this book. The ones that were there looked a bit flat. The frosting looked sticky and unappetizing and quite often too sweet.

Honestly, this wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t that great either. I know there are other cupcake books out there, maybe next time I’ll grab one that is more inspiring to me.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

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Cup of Noodles smell like my senior year of high school. The science teacher sold cup of noodles and Grandmas cookies and other easy things, out of his office as a fundraiser for the students in his biochem class so that we (yes, I was in that class) could go to Yosemite National Park in the winter. I would get them to eat all the time. You bought the cup of noodle and then filled it up with hot water that he kept in one of those really large percolator type coffee makers that you see at school functions. Every time I have a cup of noodle I think about sitting in the physics classroom (which was next door to the biochem classroom, and had a slightly nicer teacher) with my friends, or in my old math classroom with the same group of friends (it depended on the day of the week where we ate lunch). I can still smell the sent of white board markers and new trailer (because our science building was being rebuilt after a fire). I can still remember laughing with my friends over stupid things. I smell cup of noodles and remember those times.

Book Review: “People’s Pops”

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Who doesn’t love a popsicle? Even better, who doesn’t love a whole book full of how to make the wonderful juicy gems at home? Even if you aren’t a huge popsicle fan this book is still fun.

The authors of “People’s Pops”-Nthalie Jordi, David Carrell, and Joel Horowitz- are the owners of the company by the same name in New York City. They seem a bit like hipsters (I could be wrong, but that’s what they seem like) and because of that they have a very casual way of doing and thinking. All of the recipes that they include are simple and easy. And they all look good. I really enjoyed not only the recipes, but also the little stories that they share throughout.

I initially picked up this book because the cover looked good, and lets face it, that’s the most important thing really. I was pleasantly surprised by the easy of reading in the book. The recipes are simple, but they don’t assume that you’re an idiot. The recipes are written  and instructions given, so that you can adjust to your own tastes and to the fruit you have available  For example, I loved the grape pop, but would love to see a pomegranate pop. But I don’t imagine that they have fresh pomegranates in New York, they are pretty much a southern southwest thing. But their instructions, and the suggestions, make it possible for me to think about what I would need to do to make a pomegranate pop. I think I could totally do it too.

Another thing that I really liked about this book and the recipes is that it encourages you to think outside of the box. All of the recipes are sweetened with simple syrup (basically sugar and water) and they encourage the reader to infuse the syrup with all sorts of different herbs and flavorings. As a plus, the syrups also taste good in other applications where you want to sweeten things, like lemonaid.

I can’t wait for summer to try out some of these recipes. Specifically  I want to try their apricot and salted caramel pop. Apricots grow like crazy around here and there are always some to find. I can’t wait!

Book Review: “Methods of Madness”

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“Methods of Madness” by Stephanie Black is not a story I normally would have read. I don’t usually read suspense novels, nor do I usually read LDS fiction. However, the lady that I work for likes both and so I listened to, rather than read, thus book. She listens to a lot of audio books. And I mean a lot. She’s pretty much cleaned the library out of all of their books…or at least the ones by LDS authors. She doesn’t go in for sex and bad language or graphic descriptions of violence. I think she’s going to need to move on to kids books soon. Because our tastes in books are so different I usually just tune them out when she listens to them. But occasionally one of the books pulls me in. “Methods of Madness” was one of those books.

This story starts with a tragedy, Emily’s sister is killed and her fiance dispersers on the same night, which sadly happens to be her birthday. Fast forward several years and she’s moved on, newly engaged to a lovely young man named Zach, who is just about the sweetest guy you can find. But things don’t stay happy for long, there are threats and fake blood and a murder that make Emily think she’s crazy. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the ending coming. That’s unusual for me. Usually I can peg it down early on, but not this time. It came out of left field for me, which was awesome. I love being surprised.

This is an LDS fiction book, so there is an element of religion in it. That being said, it’s subtle. It explains how Emily would know and move in circles with people who are so different than her. It explains how her mother knows casual acquaintances and other things like that. And, like all faith based fiction, it gives the main character a kind of overriding faith to fall back on that you don’t see in most popular fiction these days. It’s quite refreshing.

In all, I’d say that this is a very good book. The suspense is there, the story is captivating, and while there were a few characters that I didn’t care for, the were mostly very well written.

Book Review: “Emeraldalicious”

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I’d like someone to show me a little girl in America who had not read or at least heard of the Pinkalicious books. The original story was very cute. A little girl turns pink after eating too many pink cupcakes, but she doesn’t care at first because pink is her favorite color. As the book goes on though she decides it’s not as fun being pink as she thought it would be and has to eat a bunch of icky green vegetables to turn her regular color again.

The original book was written by what I’m assuming are sisters, or at the very least sister-in-law’s, named Elizabeth and Victoria Kann. I can imagin how the decision to write the books went down, one night they were talking about a daughters love of the color pink and how funny it would be if they ate so much pink things or had so many pink things that the little girl turned pink! And then one said “Hey, we should totally write that as a book.” And the other was like “Awesome idea!” and BAM! we have “Pinkalicious” a cute silly book about a girl who loves the color pink. I’m sure when they wrote it they didn’t realize that they would be spawning an empire that would include a plethora of other books, dolls and other merchandise and even a Broadway Musical. Little girls everywhere what Pinkalicious birthday parties complete with pink cakes and tiaras and wands for everyone, in pink of course.

I loved the original book. I loved the second book, “Goldalicious” about an imaginary pet unicorn. The third book wore me out a bit, and by the fourth book I was kind of loosing my interest. By that point there were a number of other books besides the main picture books. There were easy and beginning reader books, meant to capture the aging demographic, there were sticker books, there were all sorts of books. But you know what, none of that matters. And do you know why? My just turned six year old loves them. She got a “box set” of the first four picture books for Christmas from Grandma, she reads them in the bathroom, she reads them in bed, she plays Pinkalicious. She even has the crown from Burger King that we’ve had for ages and it probably the best made toy from a kids meal we have ever gotten.

Tonight, when we walked into Barns and Noble for our usual look through the kids book section without the intention of actually buying anything, my daughter was ecstatic when we were almost immediately hit with a display of these books:

Yes, that’s right. It is a brand new Pinkalicious book. And this time it’s all about being green. I don’t really have much to say about the book. It’s cute in the way that all the Pinkalicious books are cute, and it features her brother Peter (who isn’t afraid to admit that he likes the color pink too) which is nice. And my daughter liked it, which I suppose is the most important thing considering she’s the target demographic for this book. I liked that it had a “green” message without ramming it down your throat like some books can do. The one thing I will say is that at times it seemed like it was trying too hard. While reading it to my daughter in the books store I found myself constantly having to start paragraphs lower than I normally wold because almost all of the sentences ended in an exclamation point. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but they are learning about punctuation in school and she knows that an exclamation point is supposed to be excitement, so yeah, that is always fun.

All in all, if you have a little girl in the house, she will probably love this book and want you to read it again and again and again. And really, isn’t that the point?