Archive for January, 2010

12th January
2010
written by Steph
If it's an international best-seller it's gotta be good, right?

If it's an international best-seller it's gotta be good, right?

When it comes to following up a Jane Austen novel, clearly the perfect choice is a gory crime novel, right?  Ok, maybe not most people’s choice, but I finished Northanger Abbey on our flight from Toronto to Chicago and clearly couldn’t stand an hour-long flight without some alternate reading material.  I figure that so long as there are airports, the publishing industry doesn’t really have anything to worry about because people read A LOT when flying… including myself!  So I snagged myself a copy of Stieg Larsson’s debut novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because for better or for worse this thing has been hyped to high heaven the world over and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. There are several storylines running throughout this novel, but I suppose a boiled down synopsis would go something like this: When journalist Mikael Blomkvist is convicted of libel for printing an unfounded article about one of Sweden’s financial bigwigs, he thinks life as he knows it is at an end.  There goes his reputation, his career, and maybe his magazine in one fell swoop.  But then Mikael is approached by Henrik Vanger, ex-head of the Vanger corporation, and offered a job in which he’ll spend a year investigating the disappearance of Vanger’s niece, Harriet.  The twist?  Harriet went missing 40 years ago… and most of the Vanger family is a suspect.  In return, Vanger will pay Mikael a handsome salary and at the end of the year, will give him some information that will let him exact his revenge on Wennerstrom.  No one really expects Mikael to make any headway in a case that has stumped the authorities for 4 decades, but when he makes some unexpected discoveries, it’s time to call in hacker extraordinaire, Lisbeth Salander, to do some exceptional and unconventional digging.  Will they figure out what happened to Harriet?  If not, will Mikael be able to bring Wennerstrom down? (more…)
10th January
2010
written by Steph
Here is a new feature we are thinking of including regularly on our site: a short(ish) podcast in which Tony and I recap the movies we watched during the past week. What are you in for?  Well, we cover the following four movies: Other bonuses:
  • Hear us bicker... about several things, but mostly about whether "Jim from The Office" is really called James Krasinski
  • We insult Twilight... again
  • Is Henry Tilney gay?  Find out our final take!
  • We outline one of the major pitfalls screenwriters grapple with when penning prequels
  • Finally hear our crazy accents!
Click the play button below and take a listen and let us know what you think!  If people enjoy this, we're open to doing it again... Is that a threat or a promise?  Only you can say! [NB: When we talk about Northanger Abbey being a 1986 production... well, Steph should have checked IMDB and not trusted Tony, because this was NOT an '80s production, but rather one from 2007...]

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9th January
2010
written by Steph

The finished product

The finished product

I'm assuming that those of you who are smart enough to read this blog are also smart enough to assemble a pizza on your own (plus we've held your hand before), so this will be a bit of a departure from our normal recipe series in that I'm not going to walk you through the steps here one by one.  Instead, I'm going to tell you what toppings we put on this so-called "Supreme Pizza" and focus on one of the more important parts of this dish: the sauce.  You see, when it comes to pizza, I'm insanely picky - sure it's hard to screw up, but it's also hard to get REALLY good pizza - and more often than not I'm let down the sauce component.  Most pizzas are too saucy, or rely on sauces that are too thick and akin to tomato paste, both of which are sins that will have me turning up my nose.  My favorite kind of sauce is one that tastes like true tomatoes and that are light and liquid-y rather than goopy.  Turns out I'm in luck, because this type of sauce is actually really easy to make yourself (and will have you shunning all of that tinned/jarred sauce nonsense). (more…)
8th January
2010
written by Tony

Best hat ever!

Best hat ever!

Apparently (according to Steph's brother, who is, admittedly, unreliable) Toronto's nickname is "Hog Town." I have no Earthly idea why this is, but I'm going with it anyway.  So we did Hog Town Steph and Tony style, which is to say we went there and ate food. I mean, we saw her family and everything blah blah blah but we also got the chance to have Dim Sum, street meat and pork buns. We put the "más" in Merry Christmas. Amiright? This was my third trip to TO, so this was all kind of old hat for me, but there were still some quintessentially Canadian things I had yet to do, so they went on the list. Also, my brother got himself a passport and decided he wanted to see the Big Freezy for himself (that's my own nickname, thank you), so halfway through our vacation he came to town.

(more…)

7th January
2010
written by Steph
Check out my dreamy Folio society edition!

Check out my dreamy Folio Society edition (purchased with my own $$$)!

I have a confession to make: I love Jane Austen.  Ok, ok, that is no surprise to anyone who has read at least three posts (probably even the cooking ones) here at S&TI! or engaged me in about 5 minutes of conversation, but it’s such a fundamental part of who I am that I think it bears repeating.  Truth be told, however, that wasn’t my confession.  My real confession is this: I love Jane Austen, but I have always secretly felt that Northanger Abbey was one of her lesser works.  The thing is though, I’m human so, rare though it is, I do occasionally make mistakes.  Consider this prior notion of mine to be one such error. I first read Northanger Abbey during the summer of 2005 when my friend Laura and I were backpacking around Europe and the UK.  I can’t remember where I got the copy I read, only I know I didn’t bring it with me, so I must have found it at one of the hostels we stayed at and took it along for a train ride or two.  Prior to reading the book (or perhaps concurrently), Laura and I visited the Jane Austen costume exhibit that was going on in Bath and part of the exhibit involved a quote from Mr. Tilney about muslin and various other fabrics and dressmaking which caused Laura and I to turn simultaneously to one another and mouth the word “GAY!” before collapsing into a fit of giggles. True story.  So anyway, while I read the book and knew it was a spoof on the popular gothic novel of the time, I really walked away with the strong perception that Henry Tilney was a huge fop, hardly deserving of the title of Austen hero, and that was about it.  There was nothing wrong with Northanger Abbey – it wasn’t a bad book – it just got catalogued in my mind as sort of a limp, less significant Austen novel. (more…)
6th January
2010
written by Steph

Guaranteed to cure what ails ya!

Guaranteed to cure what ails ya!

It’s cold/flu season, so I know I’m not alone when I tell you that part of my holiday this year involved lying in bed sick as a dog (though to be honest, our dogs never seem to get as sick as I do…).  It was a bummer being all snotty-yet-stuffy nosed and achey and fevered, even if my mom was there to take care of me… but then we returned to Nashville and things got worse because now my mom wasn’t even there to take care of me!  However, I’m not my mother’s daughter for nothing and I swiftly decided Tony and I needed to cook up a big pot of my mom’s chicken noodle soup, because if there’s one thing I want to eat when I’m sick, it’s that (well that and pho, but chicken noodle soup is way easier to make from home).  So today’s recipe is brought to you courtesy of my mom, because while I’m sure tons of people out there have their own CNS recipes, my mom’s is the BEST at curing what ails ya.  Trust me.  It’s got secret ingredients and everything. (more…)

5th January
2010
written by Steph
Bon appetit!

Bon appetit!

I’m pretty sure Tony thought there had been some kind of terrible mistake with our Netflix when Julie & Julia showed up in our mailbox.  What Tony always fails to recognize is twofold: 1) I like watching crappy movies; 2) Just because I don’t make him see something in the theater doesn’t mean I’m not going to rent it when it comes out… in fact, I’m probably waiting for it to come out on dvd so I can do just that!  Given that I love food and cooking as much as I do, it really should have been a no brainer that this movie was going to make an appearance in our home sooner or later. And what can I say?  I actually liked this movie for the most part!  It’s not a groundbreaking piece of cinema, but based on most of the reviews that came out when it was first released, I expected it to be fairly horrific, especially the parts featuring Julie Powell.  Instead, I found this a pretty pleasant movie that was soothing and charming, if not challenging and provocative.  I enjoyed Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child (then again, I do have a bit of a girl crush on Ms. Streep) and loved when Jane Lynch popped up as Julia’s sister (again, another girl crush there), I liked seeing all of the kitchen antics that took place for both women, and I adored the little journey into the past and overseas to Paris that we got to take, even if now I’m trying to figure out when we can pack our bags and move to the city of lights. (more…)
4th January
2010
written by Steph
No greyzone here - I loved this book!

No greyzone here - I loved this book!

My review of the first book in Jasper Fforde's newest series, Shades of Grey, is now up on the BookPage website and can be found in the January issue.  I'm posting this under "books read in 2009", since that's when I read it, and it was technically launched here in the U.S. before 2010 was rung in. What can I say about Jasper Fforde here that I have not already said?  I think he's brilliant and Shades of Grey definitely does not disappoint. This one was a bit of a slow boil for me as the first half of the book can be overwhelming since Fforde is trying out something completely new here and there's a lot of worldbuilding and backstory that needs to happen.  Those who have any experience with Fforde's fiction know that his writing and speculative leaps can sometimes be discombobulating, even to those who have been initiated and where their Fforde fan badges with pride.  I promise that the disorientation passes and your efforts at the beginning will be richly rewarded.  I'll always be a Thursday girl, and I know that for many fellow book lovers, that series is beloved for a reason, but I really admire the risk Fforde has taken here; whether he intended to or not, he explores new depths both in terms of content and as a writer.  For someone who characterizes his own books as silly and whimsical, there is a lot of intellectual and emotional heft in Shades of Grey that may not necessarily surprise his readers, but will certainly satisfy them.  I went from being uncertain about this series to being completely ravenous for the next installment!  I hope that fellow fans feel the same way, and suggest that those who were not unequivocally won over by The Eyre Affair may want to try this on for size and see if it's a better fit.  Make no mistake, it's still a Jasper Fforde novel, but it is different from the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series. If I were reading and reviewing it on this site, I would have given the book a 4.5 out of 5. [And yes, I received my review copy for free, but y'all know that something being free doesn't change how I feel about things!] Also, if all goes according to plan, my interview with Jasper should be going up sometime in the next week or so.  I'll keep you posted!
3rd January
2010
written by Steph
By now I’m sure everyone has read more than their fair share of recaps of 2009 reading across the book blogosphere; apologies for being late to the party, but the holiday time in Toronto left little time for perusing the internet (and even less for reading or composing my own posts).  I admit, it was nice taking a mini-break from blogging, and the time away readily filled itself with great meals, movies, shopping, sight seeing, and best of all, time spent with family and friends.  I won’t get all contemplative on all of you here, but prior to my trip home I was rather fraught with ennui – missing home, but worrying that I’d get off the plane in Toronto and fail to feel things click back into place.  Spending two years away from the place you grew up is really hard, and I don’t think I realized how much a part of me was missing until I did get home, and suddenly all the tension and stress and malaise I’ve been carrying evaporated.  That’s not to say I returned to Toronto with unchanged eyes – the city has changed (heck, my family’s home has changed… my parents now sleep in what was my bedroom!) and so have I – but no matter how much it changes, no matter how long I’m away, whenever I hit Canadian soil, I really do feel like I’m coming home. As ironic and paradoxical as it may seem, it’s this prolonged absence away from home that has helped me to better appreciate and understand the place that I’m from and how integral and important Canada as a country is to who I am as a person and how I conceive of my identity.  I mean, I may be able to hear everyone else’s Canadian accent now, and it sure is weird when I hear my own, but I can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard I try.  Canada is truly a part of me. But, this post isn’t really meant to be a reflection or musing on national identity or my time spent at home (there will be another post on the latter, at the very least… and that one will include pictures!).  No, this is supposed to be about books!  Well, you’ll note that in terms of the various activities I mentioned engaging in whilst in Toronto, one of the things that did not feature (along with blogging) was reading.  Despite the best of my intentions, I probably only did about an hour’s worth of reading while out of the country, so although I had hoped to finish Northanger Abbey before ringing in 2010, it didn’t happen.  However, I’m not going to spend my time lamenting the lack of Austen in my 2009 reading, because as you’ll see from the graph and my rundown after the jump, there was still plenty to celebrate (and really, kicking off 2010 with Jane?  Not a bad way to start the year, am I right?)… (more…)
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