Archive for November, 2009

30th November
2009
written by Steph
Hello, internet friends!  We hope you all had a wonderful weekend, regardless of whether it was a long Thanksgiving break for you (as it was here at S&TI!), or just a regular two-day job.  Any time that can be spent in one's pajamas is always time well spent is my way of thinking!  Our Thanksgiving was rather quiet as we just celebrated as we traditionally do, with a huge feast for just the two of us.  I know many people wouldn't bother making a turkey for such a small number, but I think this is a real oversight, as it clearly neglects to consider the glory that is LEFTOVERS.  I ask you, is there anything better than leftover turkey sandwiches, crammed full with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy?  Clearly not!  So on Thursday I went to town when it came to our Thanksgiving feast, and consequently, I have had to do no cooking since then (though our microwave has gotten quite the work out), and probably won't have to for much of this week either... huzzah! I must say that this year's Thanksgiving feast was probably our most successful, as the timing of the myriad of dishes worked out well, and pretty much everything was cooked flawlessly, and nary a complaint was to be found.  Here's a snapshot of Tony's plate before we chowed down:

Yum!  Truly a feast to be thankful for!

Yum! Truly a feast to be thankful for!

Starting at the "6 o'clock" position and working clockwise, here's a rundown of what I cooked (with links to recipes where appropriate, though I freely admit that I didn't follow anything strictly):
  • Pioneer Woman's Sweet Potatoes (with marshmallows!)
  • Stuffing (following my mom's recipe, which is without a doubt the surefire way to get the absolute BEST stuffing)
  • Roast Heritage Turkey with Bacon & Cider Gravy (we used a little Butterball turkey as we aren't millionaires who can go and buy our turkey at Whole Foods and I skipped the Dijon in the butter concoction, but it still turned out succulent and delicious... and the gravy... oh, probably the best gravy I have every made!  We don't make turkeys often, but the next time I do, this is the recipe I'll follow.)
  • Carrot & Turnip Mash
  • Smoked Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
  • Creamed Kale
  • Dessert (not pictured): Maple Pumpkin Pie (divine!  Though we didn't do the leaf lattice for the top because we are not actually Martha Stewart)
Everything was so scrumptious and paired nicely with the raspberry lambic we picked up on a whim at Trader Joe's earlier in the week.  Honestly, I love Thanksgiving meals so much that maybe Tony & I should start celebrating both Canadian & American Thanksgiving so that we can have this glorious feast twice per year! Our Thanksgiving weekend was predominantly spent snuggled on our couch (in pajamas, obviously) playing video games and doing some serious armchair traveling via Rick Steves' Best of Europe on Hulu and some episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.  Also, imagine my delight when I discovered that episodes of The Two Fat Ladies have been released on DVD and that our local library carries them... The show is even better than I remembered (even if the food is somehow worse and more offputting), and I was definitely giving thanks for that long forgotten gem.  Sigh.  Such a good weekend, and I hope yours were similarly good even if they were not at all similar! 😉 Anyway, back to the last week our regularly scheduled programming!  It's time to announce our final winner for the last week of giveaways celebrating our one year blogiversary!  Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions of books to read, and it's much appreciated that none of you suggested books that you figured we would hate but for the resultant amusing review.  Lots of good ideas, including some titles I'd never heard of.  But a winner needed to be selected, and according to the randomness of this number generator, that winner is Nadia of A Bookish Way of Life.  Nadia selected Margaret Atwood's newest novel, The Year of the Flood, so a copy will be making its way to her very shortly.  Congratulations, Nadia!  We hope you enjoy the book! To all of you who entered our various giveaways, thanks so much for being a part of the celebrations and helping us brainstorm new and fabulous directions to take the site in our second year of blogging!  Here's to many more, and we look forward to celebrating with all of you in another year's time!
25th November
2009
written by Steph

I first read a review of this book a few months ago on Write Meg! and left a comment saying it sounded like a fun read, and one I’d consider taking a peek at myself in the future.  Enter, Nicole, publicist extraordinaire who then contacted me asking if I would like a free copy of Only Milo to review on our site.  I said yes (thanks, Nicole!), and here we are! November has been an abysmal month for me in terms of reading.  We’ve been really busy with traveling and work, and that certainly hasn’t helped me with turning the pages, but moreover I think I’ve just kind of been on reading burn out.  It’s a terrible thing when it happens, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that voracious reader that I am, there are still going to be times when my reading ebbs and I just need to take a break from books.  It’s never a divorce, mind you, just a temporary separation while I recuperate and reenergize before diving back into the endless ocean of books. So after taking THREE WEEKS to read a single book (Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, if you must know, and no, it didn’t take that long because I wasn’t enjoying it, but rather the aforementioned reading slump is squarely to blame, and yes, I did really like it a good deal, but unfortunately that’s all I can say for now and you’ll have to wait for the Jan issue of BookPage to hear more of my thoughts on the matter, but basically if you are already a longstanding fan of Fforde then it pretty much follows that you will like this one too…), I decided it was time to turn my attention to something that would be a quick and easy read. (more…)
24th November
2009
written by Steph
While we were in New York City, I received an email from my awesome friend Laura (not that I have a non-awesome friend named Laura and I am trying to distinguish between the two… just that my friend Laura is awesome, that’s all!) keying me in to the fact that there was a Jane Austen exhibit taking place at the Morgan Library while I was in town.  Normally I am a crazy trip planner when we go on vacation, obsessively researching every possible attraction and thing to do, but I admit, NYC overwhelmed me and I made the decision to go with the flow and just do whatever struck our fancy and figure out our options when we got into town… so I had not done my homework and the fact that there was something Austen-related going on in town that I didn’t know about me shook me to my core!  I mean, what if we had gone all the way to New York and returned home only for me to have then discovered the exhibit existed?  I shudder to even contemplate the possibility! Anyway, once I realized there was an exhibit on, I told my friend that we were visiting in New York that we had to go.  The day was gray and drizzly, but that did not stop us in our pursuit for Austen (even if we did walk many blocks out of our way to first go and lunch at Prêt à Manger, which is WAY better than Panera, by the way, so why can’t we have one in Nashville already?  Oh right, because it’s Nashville… I’m always trying to forget that… The roast turkey sandwich with stuffing and orange-cranberry sauce was a game changer, is all I’m saying!).  At other museums, I balked at the expensive admission prices — don’t get me wrong, the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History and the Guggenheim are hella amazing, but $20 PER PERSON is just a tad pricey — at the Morgan library, I practically shoved my $8 into their hands before tearing off into the bowels of the building in search of Austen. (more…)
23rd November
2009
written by Steph
[Remember, this post is sticky, so be sure to scroll down for new content!] First off, thanks once again for the wonderful website suggestions, whether they were book-related, or just plain fun!  I should point out that I had Savidge Reads in my Google Reader, only I had his old RSS feed and lazily forgot to change over to his new feed when he changed sites, so that's why I've gone months without reading any new content from him.  My bad, and I guess a lesson to you all: when someone mentions they have changed URLs and you need to consequently update your feed readers, you should probably not wait 3+ months to do so!  But really, lots of great sites to choose from, some I myself also follow, but plenty that I was completely unawares of, so thanks for helping us sieve through the madness that is the fecundity of the internet. As for the giveaway this week, this week the power of the internet randomly selected lucky number 7 from the ether, which means that we'll be sending a book to Claire of kiss a cloud (which is one of my much-loved spots on the internet).  Claire is a fellow José Saramago fan, so we'll be sending her a copy of All The Names to add to her growing collection. Congratulations, Claire!  I would say that I hope you love the book, but let's dispense with that, because I know you'll love this one! 😉 So, now is the time when the rest of you get one more chance in this zany whirligig of fun that has been our month of giveaways to snag yourself a free book.  To do so all you have to do is scour our archives for a book we've reviewed at some point in time on the site that you'd like to win and leave a comment letting us know which book you'd like.  Along with that title, we'd also like you to tell us one book you would like to see reviewed on the site in our next year of blogging.  It can be a book that we've mentioned buying but haven't yet gotten around to covering, or it can be a book you've read and loved and think we need to read, or maybe you'll be cruel and suggest a terrible book in the hopes that we will snark on it hard.  Whatever, it's up to you to use your power for good or evil!  In exchange for your ideas, you'll be entered into the running for a free book!  It doesn't get much easier than that, does it? Other deets: this final giveaway is open until Sunday, November 29 @ 11:59 pm, and is open to everyone anywhere on the planet.  One entry per person, but if you blog or tweet about this post, then we’ll give you an extra entry (one for each). You can pick any book that we’ve reviewed in some form on the site (though edition is not guaranteed to be the same as the one we read).  Good luck!
19th November
2009
written by Steph

More books... but this time with a fancy new book bag to keep them company!

More books... but this time with a fancy new book bag to keep them company!

While Tony works away diligently on our post recapping our momentous trip to NY (after all, given how bustling and busy the city is, how can a trip there be anything but momentous?), I thought I’d share some of the books that have lately made their way into our household, almost as if it were of their own volition.  Honestly, that’s the only reasoning I can come up with for why books keep showing up in our apartment: it’s because they want to be here.  A good chunk of these came from me doing the shelves at BookPage at the beginning of the month, but as you can tell from the jaunty book bag gussying up our coffee table, some of them are purchases from The Strand in NYC.  Because again, how could I go to NY and not visit the last surviving establishment from Book Row and traipse about their 18 miles of books?  Even with aching feet (the new Steve Madden boots helped, but we still did A LOT of walking), such a proposition is pretty much my idea of heaven! (more…)

18th November
2009
written by Steph
ThaiPork

Thai Pork with Chiles & Basil and Coconut Rice

Here at Steph & Tony Investigate!  we’re pretty adventurous eaters and we just love trying global cuisines.  Of course, one of the tricky things about having a penchant for international food is that making it yourself is not always a winning proposition.  We love us some Vietnamese food, but that stuff takes ages to make on your own (though perhaps not now that we finally have a handy kitchen mandolin), and it never tastes quite like what we get at our favorite place (likely because we don’t have all the right spices).  Thai food is a little bit more successful for us, and while I don’t know exactly how authentic this recipe is, it definitely tasted really good!  For this dish, I followed yet another Martha Stewart recipe (can you tell that I’m obsessed?) to good results.  And even more shocking I pretty much followed the recipe as was to a T, with minimal changes on my part: (more…)
17th November
2009
written by Steph
Tony's Take A couple of weekends ago we went to our local drive-in movie theater (the Stardust) and enjoyed a nice double feature: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Where the Wild Things Are. Personally, I had very few expectations for Cloudy as I knew very little about it. Steph asserted that she had heard it was funny, and that was enough for me, as Steph is usually right on when it comes to what I’ll like. As far as Where the Wild Things Are, my preconceptions were a little different. I had seen (as had we all) the preview where they blast the Arcade Fire song and all the imagery just breathes in time to the music and it is magic. Fortunately for Spike Jonze this was enough to convince me to shell out my seven dollars (that’s right, seven dollars for two movies) and sit in our car for several hours.  Unfortunately, I also knew that Dave Eggers had a hand in this movie so I really didn’t know what to expect (I like McSweeney’s well enough, I suppose, though not usually the parts Eggers himself writes). (more…)
16th November
2009
written by Steph
[Note: This post is sticky, so be sure to scroll down for new content!] Another week, another winner!  For this most recent giveaway, we solicited your opinions on things we could do to improve our site, and the responses were all really helpful, so thanks to all of you who took the time to give us some feedback.  Some of the things that were mentioned will take a bit of time to implement, but we're going to start moving on the things y'all brought up as quickly as possible.  To that end, you should find that you can now subscribe to comments!  In terms of other feedback we got, things for us to keep in mind:
  • More joint reviews [We absolutely plan to do more of these, and we really enjoy doing them, but of course they depend upon one of us having read a book that is good enough that we feel the other one HAS to read it... But certainly we might want to think of other ways to incorporate "he said/she said" type features in the future.]
  • A book review archive page [Agreed!  We definitely need to get this done sooner rather than later!]
  • More book talk that aren't simply reviews [Definitely a direction to consider, and this would be a great way to diversify the site]
  • More pictures/visual cues [Not entirely sure how to implement a "visual archive" if you will, but I like the idea, and if there's a way to implement it, then I think it would be really cool]
  • Archive of recipes [It only seems fair if we're doing it for books that we'd do it for food!]
As I said, all really great suggestions, and they've definitely given us things to think about and consider as we work on a site redesign.  The feedback was incredibly valuable, and we're more than happy to give away a book in exchange for taking a quick peek into your blog needs and wants! 😉 Now, as for the winner, this week our winner is Claire from Paperback Reader!  Claire was cheeky and requested a book that we haven't reviewed yet (although we have mentioned it a few times on the site), and indeed one that hasn't even been released yet (and won't be until 2010), but we're in a giving mood and are going to send her a copy of Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey when it is eventually released.  Congratulations, Claire! So, we're half way through the month, but you still have two more chances to win a book from the site!  This week to be entered in the draw for a free copy of any book we've reviewed in the past, comment on this post telling us which book you'd like to win and also tell us one other must-read site that you visit on a routine basis.  We're always looking for great new sites, so share one of your favorites with us! The nitty gritty: this week’s giveaway is open until Sunday, November 22 @ 11:59 pm, and is open to everyone anywhere on the planet.  One entry per person, but if you blog or tweet about this post, then we’ll give you an extra entry (one for each). You can pick any book that we’ve reviewed in some form on the site (though edition is not guaranteed to be the same as the one we read).  Good luck!
12th November
2009
written by Steph
We're in New York, New York!  Yeah!  So, updates might be a little bit slow until we get back to our dreary little life in Nashville this Sunday evening.  After all, it would be a shame for us to miss out on the city that never sleeps because we're on the computer... But I wanted to say that we made it here with minimal fuss, have checked into our wonderful hotel (Hampton Inn off of Times Square... who knew?), and we are already in love with the city, after having spent just one evening here.  It's good to be back in a place with public transportation, more restaurant choices in a single block than we have in all of Nashville (perhaps I exaggerate slightly... but oh, how street food makes my heart skip a beat, perhaps even literally!), the ability to walk about excessively, and yes, shopping!  Oh, and Jamba Juice! And on that note, I'm off to grab myself a Caribbean Passion, and then I'll go visit the flagship Steve Madden store (mmm... shoes...) and the Aldo in SoHo.  On every trip I seem to foolishly pack shoes that wind up hurting my feet by the end of the day and so I always have to buy a new pair.  Part of me might be doing this deliberately, since it happens almost every time! (Why I do not pack the shoes I purchased on my previous trips, I do not know.)  Oh well, there are far worse things in life for me than spending time in a shoe store... Have you ever been to New York?  If so, any things to see or do (or places to eat) that you highly recommend?  Yay!
10th November
2009
written by Steph
Homemade Tomato Soup with puff pastry croutons

Homemade Tomato Soup with puff pastry croutons

I don’t know about you, but to me there are few things more comforting than a bowl of tomato soup served with a grilled cheese sandwich.  Whenever it’s cold and dreary or I’m in a funk and need something warm and satisfying, this is the meal I like to have.  Normally I try to keep a few cans of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup around for that purpose, but then I finally had the brainwave that I could probably make the soup from scratch.  Don’t ask me why it’s taken me 26 years to get over the belief that tomato soup was one of those things that just couldn’t be done from home (hey, I just had my mind blown by the notion that you can make your own brown sugar… and it’s really easy too, to make it all the more embarrassing!)… For this soup, I mostly followed this Martha Stewart recipe (after years of loathing her, I have finally gone over to the darkside and am completely into all things Martha), but I did add a few things to boost up the potential flavor levels, as you’ll see. (more…)
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