It’s raining…

Hi there, any internet-roaming individual who may be reading this. 

It’s raining outside, and it’s one of those quiet, rainy days that are perfect for reading. I’m off to finish The Samurai’s Garden (41 pages left at this point- review later today), but I wanted to share this picture, which harnessed the same quiet energy for me as the weather outside. 

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I don’t think I’d noticed it before, as it was hidden in my pictures from Thanksgiving, but I stumbled across it this morning and love it. 

Enjoy the weather and your reading, wherever you are!

-Nicole

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Great Things I’ve Read: 2013

2013 was a big year- academically, in regard to development of thinking (especially over the past few months), and, of course, reading-wise. I did not nearly read enough this year (again, over the past few months), but I have read some really fantastic things this year. And so comes the end-of-year highlights.

Pete Wells reviews Guy Fieri’s Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in Times Square.  By far the best restaurant review ever. Period. Also one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and while this came out last November (picture me laughing and looking insane on the school bus), I have shared it with a countless number of people this year. I believe it is fantastic.  My family also has a thing against Guy Fieri, which is mostly with my dad, which makes it that much more hilarious. Enjoy.

LeBron James Is a Sack of Melons. I don’t do sports. I mean, I played volleyball for a couple years and took on soccer this fall, but I definitely am not a “sports person” and I am assuredly not a, let’s say, proficient viewer of professional sports. Uh, no. I have minimal knowledge of football, and the smallest inkling of basketball (primarily from my first grade days when I was playing with all boys– sound familiar to any fields of study I happen to love now?). Yet this article made me laugh. A lot. It too came out last year, but I’ve read and reread it countless times, heightened by the fact that it’s one of my dad’s favorite articles. If you’ve ever heard of LeBron James (who goes by the nickname LeBon (like a bon bon) from my sister in our house), read this. Please.

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I was looking through my notes from last school year to make sure that I technically read this book this year. It’s true. I did read it this year. It was in January, which seems both ages ago and no time at all. Frank McCourt writes more poignantly about childhood, poverty, innocence and loss of innocence than any other writer I’ve ever encountered. This is my go-to book whenever any of those things come up in discussion, and, as I tend to say, “it’s my go-to book for slum life.” As crude as it sounds, it’s true. And the whole book is true too, given that it’s a memoir. I said ages ago that I’d read ‘Tis (the sequel) and I haven’t yet, but will definitely get around to it soon.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I don’t know how I managed to put several other things before this, as it is the best book I’ve ever read and I read it this past summer. Incredible. Just incredible. You have to read it if you haven’t. There’s no way to describe it that does it justice. Just amazing.

These articles (1, 2) on reading. My reading has developed in such a different way in the past couple of months; annotating has approached new standards and levels, which I hope to keep improving. Both of these articles were eye-opening in terms of approaching things in a new manner. More to come on how I read later.

Explaining Twerking to Your Parents. For all teenagers out there. All of them. All teenagers who have to deal with our potentially decaying (though quite up to debate, I admit) pop culture. Inexplicably fantastic.

War and Baked Beans. My dad sent me this article one afternoon. Food for thought, definitely, with no pun intended. Which brings me to…

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Wow. This is one of those books you read in just a couple hours and then need a week to think about. Intense, certainly, but poetic, as a teacher and I agreed on. For sure on my reread list.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I wrote about it here right after I first read it, but I gifted my sister a copy and found myself, as I was attempting to wrap it, halfway through rereading it. Similar to The Things They Carried in terms of the way in which you need to read it- three hours or less, and then nothing else for a week. Don’t do what I did and read The Lost Symbol right afterwards. Let’s just say it doesn’t work well that way.

Give and Take by Adam Grant. Sociology, which has been a fairly new topic to me this year, is brought into a totally new light in this book. After reading about him in this NY Times Magazine article a long time ago, I waited to buy the book because it was a hardcover I could only find on Amazon. With a gift card one day, I splurged on it, and never looked back. My copy is currently lent out, but you will want one for yourself. It’s going to change the way I approach everything (and has already) moving forwards.

Both of these articles on running (1, 2). I ran track this spring again, the 400 and 800 meters. But I just love running. I’ve never been “good” at running long-distance, but I am vowing to run more for me next year. Both of these were great to read as general ideas/opinions/advice, not just on running.

Philosophical thoughts here. I know the people who run this blog, and this is a favorite sample of their writing. Reminds me a bit of several quotes from Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed that we read in class (which is yet another book on my reading list). Philosophical questions are coming up in my annotations more, so I need to explore more writing and apply ideas across things.

Lastly, if that wasn’t enough reading material, this made me laugh back in June or July. Especially relevant given that this is an end-of-year list. You can be one of those people and comment on this post if you’d like, but no guarantees I won’t do the same on yours.

Happy reading! What’s the best you’ve read this year?

-Nicole

Talking with my Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater

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I could have made this title much longer by adding (AKA Why I Love Gail Simmons) at the end of it, but I decided to spare it today. The holiday season means you see a lot of things in excess, so a super-long title needn’t be one of them.

Hi!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’ve intended to, but haven’t. Awww. There was other work going on, including a creative nonfiction piece to write and math homework to do and an extra alternative proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. Then I got home, baked a bunch of cookies, and settled into Vacation Mode. How to tell? I have flour in my hair (not at this moment, but typically) and the callouses on my feet are not from dancing but from pacing the kitchen floor barefoot.

We had a so-called Drop Holiday last week, which meant that I got to read this lovely book. I love Gail Simmons so much. She is a great writer, a wonderful television personality (one of the few I can stand), and a beautiful person inside and out. This is her autobiography that came out last year (though almost two years ago at this point).

Gail was born and raised in Toronto in a family that loves food. She has two brothers, an adventurous appetite, and more currently, a husband named Jeremy. She works for Bravo on the TV show Top Chef (where I first saw her), as well as hosting Top Chef: Just Desserts and writing. She has previously been the head of the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, CO and trained as a chef and worked in professional kitchens. She set four goals for herself in her parents’ house once she graduated from college that she’s since been trying to live up to: “Eat. Write. Travel. Cook.” This book charts her life’s adventure to secure all of those things and find balance and happiness in her busy life.

I think Gail is such an inspiration. She’s a lovely woman who went to culinary school, cooked in kitchens as the only girl in the savory kitchen, written fiercely, and knows tons of amazing chefs (can you say Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert and Hubert Keller and Dave Chang? Yes, and more). Her knowledge of food and the little quirks of the industry is undeniable. She’s a fantastic female role model, and has a humble and wonderful balance of self-confidence and admitting that she makes mistakes.

I give her book four of five stars. There are some great diagrams in it, and the “life in a day of meals” idea at the very end is unique and really well thought-out. The writing rambles a little bit at parts, and I would love for her to share a bit more of her culinary education along the way. She does in small spurts, but cumulatively, more could be useful. However, that said, loved this book as a quick, easy read, with wonderful messages and lessons in body image and humility and growing up and figuring out what you want to do with your life and working with food and valuing yourself.

I will post later this week with a couple end-of-year lists. I’m thinking Best Things I’ve Read This Year and maybe a What I’m Looking Forward to Reading: 2014. I promise there won’t be quite so long a gap between posts, as that was unsightly.

Have a wonderful week! Read fantastic things!

-Nicole

This Side of Paradise

Hello! Happy Sunday!

I don’t know about you, but Sundays are a delicate balance of getting stuff done and laziness for me. Maybe that’s because Sundays are the only full day I have off each week, so I kinda have to treasure it. So Sundays are used for jigsaw puzzles (like the one of Times Square in the library I was working on last night and this morning) and planning holiday baking and homework. 

Anyways, I realized that I had finished this book a while ago and had forgotten to post a review. It had taken me quite a while to read this book because I had very little time to read it. And here comes the review. 

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Armory Blaine is an upper-class young man who grew up in the northeast with his mother, Beatrice. He successively goes from boarding school to Princeton, and basically has a lot of young people shenanigans along the way. Meanwhile, the cast of friends and minor characters in his life (and they are very minor considering his self-congratulatory nature) cycle in and out, and Armory makes his way along the eternal ‘quest to find himself’ that young people most often embark on when they leave home. 

This was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first book, first novel. This made him a huge success when it was published first in 1920. It made him a giant success, brought about the road to fame for him and Zelda (who he married right after the publication) and planted the seed for the idea that they were the “It Couple” of the 1920s. 

I would say this book was a really interesting comparison and connection book. It may be weird to read his later work like The Great Gatsby first like I did, but it worked out okay. I like Gatsby so much better, but it can be fascinating to see how Fitzgerald’s style changes between the two, in even that five-year period (Gatsby was published in 1925). Examples include the fact that he didn’t use the same rambling plot that This Side of Paradise has, although some of the tone is similar, and some of the ways that the characters react and interact are similar too. I can also draw similarities to another coming-of-age book written twenty years later, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

I give this book three and a half stars. It has some really great quotes tucked inside (I didn’t get to underline and pull them out since it was a library copy), and the ideas of it are good. However, it can be a bit drawn out, some of the minor characters can get confusing, and Armory’s romances started to blend into each other at the end for me. It’s a book to read to be able to reference it, for sure, so I would definitely read it as a contextual reference for other texts. Not the best book I’ve read, and certainly not the worst. 

Anyways, I’m off to do other things, including but not limited to enjoying my Sunday. Have a nice weekend and a wonderful week ahead!

Nicole

The Science of Pie

So I posted about the science of cookies. And then I found this. As if I wasn’t already enough obsessed with Christina Tosi, she is absolutely amazing here too. Plus, scientific bake-off? Just about the coolest idea ever. Yeah. Basically. So I’m posting this too. Enjoy!
Nicole

scienceandfooducla

The Science of Pie
Featuring Christina Tosi & Zoe Nathan
May 19, 2013

At the world’s first scientific bakeoff, the students of the Science & Food undergraduate course presented results from their final projects, including a live taste test of apple pies. The final projects were judged by Chefs Christina Tosi and Zoe Nathan, food critics Jonathan Gold and Evan Kleiman, and UCLA Professors Andrea Kasko, and Sally Krasne.

Chefs Christina Tosi and Zoe Nathan also shared their perspectives on inventing desserts, with an emphasis on pie. Watch the entire lecture or check out some of the shorter highlights below.

Christina Tosi on…

…creating cereal milk

“Cereal milk, fortunately for us but unfortunately for the scientific process, was very simple to make . . . But a lot of the other things that we make at Milk Bar go through a much more vigorous question asking and testing process before…

View original post 419 more words

If you ever were thinking about cookies at this time of day…

I just came across these very cool articles from my mom about the science of cookies. Of course they appealed since I’m a baker and a science-lover, but it’s pretty cool for anyone who likes eating cookies too. 

Cookie-Baking Chemistry: How to Engineer Your Perfect Sweet Treat

The Science of Cookies

And if you want to see why so many science articles are popping up, not just about cookies, check out Cheers for ‘Science’, which promises a bright future for science as a whole, including the chemistry of cookies. 

Have a great afternoon!

Nicole

Looking Ahead- Books to Read This Month

I have far, far too many books on my shelves to read, and I need to clear out some shelf space for a new dump after winter break. Need. Space. For. More. Books. My life in a nutshell.

So, a couple books I’m looking forward to reading this month to help clear off my shelves. Just a few I’m itching to read as I finish up The House on Mango Street (side note- my first time really annotating inside the book itself, and I find myself with paragraphs in the margin. It’s really exciting!).

For class: The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

My teacher’s way of describing this book today when I asked if I could read ahead- “Sure. It pulls you in peacefully” (or something like that). I’m curious where it will go, considering I have at this point read and analyzed only the first two paragraphs. Slightly pathetic? Yes, but that’s what we did in class today, and with things happening this afternoon, I will use tonight to catch up (well, I suppose to my standards, though as ever-increasing as they are, the task would be impossible. I’ve been thinking quite philosophically in class; can you tell?).

Next up for personal exploration: 1984 by George Orwell

How did I get this far without reading this? I don’t know. I just know that it’s up next because I absolutely need to read this (not for class- for me, of course. You can sense my strange urgency about these things.).

After that: Talking With My Mouth Full by Gail Simmons

Her autobiography; no doubt a much lighter read. I just love Gail Simmons. She is so eloquent while really knowing what she’s talking about and using words to her advantage. Definitely excited for this one.

Once those two are done: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Again, how I could have traveled this far into my reading career without reading this one is pretty astonishing. Especially considering one of my favorite recommenders sent me a copy, which made me grin so big, and she had lent me a copy before that (along with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World— which I need to get to but not right now).

These are a couple ideas I’m toying around with for reading this month. Maybe more, maybe less. We’ll see based on work and breaks and baking cookies and all of those necessary things. (To be in the grand scheme of things again, what is necessary in our lives and why is it so? Why do we deem it so, in fact?) And I will post reviews when I finish all of these wonderful books!

On that note, happy December reading!

Nicole