Violet Riot Necklace
Top: Ann Taylor Loft
Shoes: Candie's, Kohl's
Bag: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Belt: New York & Company
Green Grape Garden Necklace
Skirt: Necessary Objects, Annie Sez
Shoes: Nine West, DSW
Bag: Ecko Red, Macy's
Good Luck Garden Necklace
Shoes: Nine West, Macy's
Bag: XOXO, Ross
Howdy, Heartland! Necklace
Sweater: Mossimo, Target
Blouse: Candie's, Kohl's
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: XOXO, Ross
Okay. So the necklaces aren't strictly "vintage," and "witties" isn't even a word. But the rhythm was right, so I ran through the night with all the energy of a rumba star (you know, if writing was like rumbaing, which I suspect it's not). Although not members of the exclusive V class, these necklaces do have a little bit of history repeating in that they contain remnants of (my) old store-bought jewelry. Those green panel beads in the Green Grape Garden Necklace used to be the bones of a stretch bracelet, as did the pink embossed medallions and white rhinestone clusters in the Howdy, Heartland! Necklace and the brown blossoms in the Good Luck Garden Necklace. I love the way they add heft to this neckwear.
But it hasn't been all fashion all the time; I've been reading a lot lately, too. Most of what I read falls into two categories: the broccoli category and the pudding category. Broccoli books are good for you but sometimes hard to swallow. For me, this means nonfiction and fiction that is overly dark, historical, and/or scientific. Pudding books, on the other hand, are comfort food. You know what you're getting and are happy to get it, returning for seconds and thirds so satiating that they anchor you to your couch. By now you probably know that my favorite flavors are chick lit, cozy mysteries, and biographies by (non-dark) comics. So, when I received This Shared Dream by Kathleen Ann Goonan as a gift, I knew that I was in for some broccoli. The first clue was the telltale TOR on its spine, designating it as science fiction. The second was the largely historical bent, an element that became apparent within the first few pages of this time-traveling saga partially set in World War II Germany. Without getting too crazy (because there's plenty of potential for that), I'll put the plot out there. The three Dance siblings, Jill, Brian, and Megan are dealing with the fallout of their long-missing, top-secret spy parents. Then Jill reports encounters with their mother, landing herself in the loony bin. Weird stuff starts happening to Brian and Megan too, leading them to conclude that their parents are still out there somewhere in the space time continuum, ostensibly on a mission to save the world from war by disseminating a brain-controlling drug called HD-50.
Now, this would be a good place to admit that I appreciate this novel's sci-fi strangeness, its shadow of doom glowing, galaxy-like, in the background despite my habit of dissing the whole sci-fi genre. Equally appealing is the juxtaposition of the familiar with the otherworldly, kind of like the cornfields in Superman and that Star Trek movie remake (and for all I know, the original, too -- like I said, I'm no a sci-fi aficionado), even if, in this case, the familiar is far-from-bucolic Washington, DC. Yet, nestled amid the steel fronds of this urban jungle are idyllic scenes from the Dance family homestead, a gingerbread mansion overflowing with books and banter and a Montessori school tucked into the sun room. Although the story is at times hard to follow, what with the time travel, the World War II references, and the science-y jargon, its central question is clear: Is it okay to control people's minds if doing so benefits the greater good? It's an odd concept, especially because it's the inverse of the one that fuels textbook utopian dramas like 1984, The Giver, and from what I'm told, Divergent. Those stories turn utopias on their heads, are, indeed, tales of utopias gone horribly wrong. By contrast, This Shared Dream challenges the idea that utopias are inherently evil, which is part of what makes it such a tough, ahem, pill to swallow. To be fair, it does do that classic push-pull, devil's advocate thing before settling into its stance of honest people don't have anything to worry about. Nevertheless, when I reached the book's fantastical yet inevitable conclusion, it was with mixed feelings. But I can't deny that it made me think.
And now that the broccoli's been dutifully downed, trunks and all, it's time for the pudding! And the cherry on top (who says pudding can't have cherries?) is served up by our pals Fred and Carrie. That's right, it's The Portlandia Cookbook, a culinary compendium that should, by all rights, be the broccoli in this analogy based solely on its crunchy cuisine. I read it more as a book than a cookbook, which is how I read any cookbook worth its salt. This particular collection of eclectic eats chronicles treats (and trials!) featured throughout the IFC sketch comedy series. To be sure, the intro invites fans to not, "Put a bird on it!" but "Lay an egg on it!", slyly suggesting that a yolk or two will make a dish a real zinger. More out-there still, the Kale and Quinoa Bowl with Tofu and Mushrooms how-to includes much-needed directions to the famed fart patio. Other recipes reference Nina's (of Lance and Nina fame) tapas-themed birthday dinner, ex-carb addict Peter's (of Peter and Nance fame) newly moderate approach to pasta consumption, and the for-women-only margaritas mixed up by -- who else? -- Candace and Toni of Women and Women First.
Everyone knows that Portlandia's denizens are quaintly quirky. But can they cook? The answer is . . . sort of. The Portlandia Cookbook is packed with the kind of food designed to tease health conscious yet epicurean palates, spare yet fancy fare hip enough to pass muster in any Pacific Northwestern brunch spot, coffee shop, or food truck. Which is to say that this cheese-and-crackers blogger had a tough time finding something that didn't send her taste buds screaming. Still, I managed to home in (yes, birdlike) on this singular sugar-drenched breakfast delight:
Cream-cheese Filled Pumpkin French Toast with Pecans (pg 155)
1/2 cup pecan halves
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of kosher salt
1 1/3 cups whole milk
8 slices of good-quality white bread
Softened butter, for the griddle
Maple syrup, warmed, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Spread the pecans out in a single layer on a pie plate and toast until fragrant and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
3. In a small bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat to combine.
4. In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin puree together with the eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Whisk in the milk.
5. Arrange the bread in pairs and spread 4 slices with the cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Top with the other 4 slices and dip each "sandwich" into the pumpkin custard, allowing it to soak for 15 to 20 seconds. Lift the sandwiches from the custard, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl, then place them on a platter while the griddle preheats.
6. Heat a griddle or a nonstick skillet over medium heat and generously brush with the softened butter. Add the sandwiches and cook until browned but not cooked through, turning once, about 4 minutes. Brush the skillet with butter as needed.
7. Sprinkle the almost-done French toast with confectioners' sugar, flip so the sugared side is down, and cook just until glossy, about 15 seconds. Sprinkle the top with confectioners' sugar and repeat to cook the second side. Transfer the French toast to a baking sheet and finish cooking in the oven until just firm and the edges are dry, about 5 minutes. Serve the French toast with warmed maple syrup and toasted pecans and dusted with confectioners' sugar.
Pureed pumpkin for breakfast? Tastes like pudding to me! Except, I'd probably just buy a pudding cup instead of going through all this trouble. Something tells me that most Portlandians would do the same.