Book Review: Drink Like a Woman-Shake, Stir, Conquer, Repeat by Jeanette Hurt

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When it comes to liquor and libations Milwaukee-based food and drink writer Jeanette Hurt knows her stuff. So I was only too delighted to come across her book Drink Like a Woman: Shake, Stir, Conquer, Repeat.

Drink Like a Woman provides over 70 cocktail recipes and so much more. It goes beyond the fruity, sweet, pink and girly drinks like the Cosmopolitan popularized by Sex and the City to provide cocktail recipes for all kinds of palates and tastes.

After a foreward by Ann Tuennerman, founder of Tales of the Cocktail, Hurt share a few words on so-called “girly drinks,” in which she claims there are no “girly drinks.” Women like what they like and we don’t have to apologize for it.

But before we can make a cocktail we need to get our home bar together. Hurt provides a very thorough list of needed accessories like jiggers, muddlers, shakers, strainers, pourers and glasses to make your home bar top notch whether you’re new to the cocktail game or an experienced mixologist. And you don’t have to break the bank. Many of these items can be found at thrift stores, estate sales and rummage sales.

Okay, now we’re onto the fun part-the cocktail recipes, which are inspired by fierce femmes and our herstory, which spans from the 1600s to the modern age.

Chapter One, Witches and Bar Wenches covers the years 1600-1900, which celebrates the Revolutionary War, authors Jane Austen (Jane Austen’s Zombie) and the Bronte Sisters (Bronte’s Brew). You can also make a toast to trailblazers with drinks like Nellie Bly-Tai, Curie Royale and Amelia Takes Flight. That time of month? Ditch that Midol and enjoy a Monthly Medicinal instead.

Chapter Two, Votes for Women, Whiskey for All, covers the years 1900 to 1950. Drinks celebrate flappers with Flapper’s Firewater, Rosie the Riveter with Rosé the Riveter and the iconic artist Frida Kahlo with a Frida Kahlúa. Do you need a virgin cocktail for non-drinkers or those underage? Stir up it up with a Suzy B’s Virgin Voter, which honors Susan B Anthony, famous suffragette and a proponent of the temperance movement.

Chapter Three, Libations for the Liberated, covers the years 1950 to 2000. Pop culture icons like Mary Richards, Princess Leia and Buffy the Vampire Slayer get their own drinks (Bloody Mary Richards, Kissed by a Wookie, and Buffy’s Stake), feminism is in fine form with the Bra Burner, Sister Solidaritea, and the Gloria Stein’em.

Chapter Four, Stirring Up Cocktails and Shaking Up the World, covers the 2000s. You can also make a toast the LBD with The Little Black Dress, denounce manpslaining with Mansplainer Antidote and celebrate friendship with the BFF.

Drink Like a Woman also provides recipes for all kinds of syrup, the rules for creating creamy drinks, and hangover cures in case you indulge too much. And Drink Like a Woman also provides a list and brief bios of the ladies of liquor, the mavens of mixology who shared these cocktail recipes.

Drink Like a Woman is also a fun read for its quotations, lists of music and movies to love while enjoying your cocktails and Paige Clark’s charming illustrations. Drink Like a Woman is a welcome addition to any one’s book shelf whether one imbibes or does not.

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Book Review: Little Book of Hygge-Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

2016 was an immensely difficult year for me and so many others. And as 2017 rolls along I still feel a certain sadness personally, professionally and politically. And I’m not the only one. So it was truly a blessing to find Meik Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.

Hygge (pronounced “hue-guh”) is the concept of happiness, fulfillment, well-being, and contentment. Denmark is considered one of the happiest countries in the world, and Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen so needless to say, he knows what he is talking about.

And just what is hygge to Wiking and many of his fellow Danes? Well, a lot of it has to do with warmth and light, which is not surprising considering it can get pretty cold and dark in Denmark. Danes love their fireplaces and wearing comfy bulky sweaters. They also have a love of soft lighting from well-placed lamps and burning candles. Only the candles Danes prefer are unscented.

Danes also find hygge in togetherness, whether it’s with their families, friends or just their communities as a whole. Just connecting with a loving soul via actual human contact (not social media) can fill a Dane with contentment and joy.

One way Danes connect with through food and drink. Having tea or coffee with a cherished loved one is a great way to inspire hygge, and so is throwing a dinner party or having a potluck with friends. In The Little Book of Hygge Wiking generously shares some beloved recipes, which as a total foodie I can’t wait to try out. And I now for myself, one way I connect with others is through my love of baking (my sugar mint cookies should be declared a national treasure).

Here are few thing the Danes feel are hygge:

  • Holidays like Christmas
  • Board Games
  • Music
  • Books
  • Sundays
  • Pets
  • Television
  • Parties
  • Plants
  • Sports

I must say I agree with a lot of things on that list. I love to listen to music, and I often use it as a healing balm when I’m feeling a bit down. It’s no secret I love books (or else I wouldn’t have this blog). I love Sundays. I start off my Sundays watching one of my favorite TV programs CBS Sunday Morning, and then I head off to my church First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, where I am not only treated to a wonderful service, I also connect with a like-minded community. I adore my fur baby, Pokey Jones whose purrs and unconditional love fill me with hygge.

Other countries have their own concepts and words for hygge. Canadians call it hominess. In Norway it is called koselig. German’s call their concept of hygge (yes, Germans want to be happy, too) gemutlichkeit. What would I call hygge as an American? Well, I call it niceties.

Hygge is practiced all year around and Wiking mentions hygge for each Month. January is a great month for having movie nights. In March, you can have theme nights; my theme for the month of March? My birthday, of course! May is a great time for a week-end getaway to a cabin or maybe a lovely bed and breakfast place. Summer picnics are ideal in the month of July. Wiking inspires us to have soup cook-offs in November.

Hygge doesn’t have to be costly. Often they are free or very inexpensive. Wiking suggests making your own “Hygge Emergency Kit.” His suggestions for such a kit include candles, chocolate, your favorite tea, books, a collection of treasured hand-written letters, warm woolen sweaters, a notebook and pen, and music.

In the past few days I have been feeling sad with the state of our world and some personal issues I’m dealing with. But reading about hygge reminded me to think of good things that filled me with happiness and joy. The eclipse filled me with hygge, reminding how inspiring the galaxy can be and how one moment can fill the world with joy and wonderment. This morning I woke up to find a text and an IM from two friends, which lifted my spirits. I’m currently reading some good books. I made a fabulous meal last night. Heck, even a decent night’s sleep helped me feel hygge.

I truly loved The little Book of Hygge and am so grateful for Meik Wiking. This book and its ideas will inspire me for quite a long time. We should all feel and practice hygge.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Art of Eating In-How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway

A few years ago Cathy Erway made a decision — for two years she would not eat out in any of New York’s 41oh732dmhl-_sx330_bo1204203200_five boroughs. Instead, she would discover the pleasures of cooking and eating at home, and she’d keep a blog called Not Eating Out in New York, tracking her culinary adventures.

Her foray back into the kitchen is now chronicled in the book The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove.

I can’t imagine never eating out in New York, one of the best restaurant cities in the world. I was intrigued on how Erway was going to accomplish this monumental task. Cooking can be a lot of fun, and there is something very satisfying about eating a meal you made yourself. At the same time, cooking large meals with lots of ingredients can be time-consuming and costly, and constantly trying new recipes that are both delicious and nutritious can be a challenge.

The Art of Eating In started out strong. In the beginning, Erway gives a brief history of restaurants — the first of which began in the Middle East during the late tenth century. The first known restaurants appeared in the Western world in Paris (where else?) in 1766. Today, we have our pick of everything from fast food joints to high-end eateries anywhere in the world. Needless to say, this is having a huge impact on both our wallets and our waistlines.

Dollars and pounds aside, what Erway really wanted to do was start a blog about her project (ah yes, the blogging-your-way-to-fame tactic). She tried her hand at freeganism, dumpster diving for food restaurants and shops just throw out. She was appalled by the amount of food she found, many of it still safe to eat. Erway also foraged for edible plants at a local park.

Eventually, she got involved with New York’s supper clubs, underground clubs where people share all kinds of meals. Before long, she became semi-famous in these circles, both for her blog and for her dishes, even winning an award for her no-knead bread.

But as the book went on I found myself getting irritated, not inspired. Rarely does Erway mention a mishap in the kitchen or a recipe gone awry. Even the most seasoned gourmands make a mistake. Furthermore, despite being just out of school and nebulously employed, she seems to have oodles of money for supper club fees, exotic and expensive ingredients and fancy cookware. Never does she really break down a budget for her two-year experiment, so there’s little commentary on the economic side of the project, which would have been helpful.

Plus, every one of Erway’s friends seems to be a hipster “foodie” and completely bowled over by every single dish. This seemed highly unrealistic to me. Surely someone must have turned their noses up at something.

Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Erway’s writing is rather dry and not very engaging. After a while, I just didn’t care about her little experiment, and ordered Chinese food in protest. I would have liked to read some of her initial blog posts to compare to the actual book. Even the recipes interspersed throughout left me rather cold.

In the end, The Art of Eating In is like fast food meal — you feel stuffed, but you won’t feel satisfied.

How to Be a Redhead by Adrienne and Stephanie Vendetti

How to be a redheadWritten by the founders of the redhead related website, How to Be a Redhead, focuses on fashion, beauty, hair and skin advice aimed at those of us with fiery-toned locks (both natural and by choice), How to Be Redhead is a primer on how redheads from strawberry blondes to those with dark auburn hair can make themselves look their best.

Naturally a brunette, I decided to become a redhead back in the 1990s, and I haven’t looked back since. I may not have been born a redhead but I really do think I was born to be a redhead. It suits my fair coloring and people tell me my redhead makes my baby blues just “pop.” When I found How to Be a Redhead at my local library I just knew I had to read it.

How to Be a Redhead is divided into several redhead-related topics. First the sisters tell their personal stories on being natural redheads, the good, the bad, and yes, the ugly. Often teased for their fiery tresses, he Vendetti sisters are having the last laugh with their successful website filled with ginger-related gems like hair accessories, fashionable graphic t-shirts and tank tops, and beauty boxes filled with redhead-friendly goodies like sunscreen, hand cream, and cosmetics, and of course, their book How to Be a Redhead.

The next chapter focuses on how redheads can gain confidence in a world where redheads are quite rare and most beauty-related companies, websites and books focus mostly on blondes and brunettes. And let’s not forget some of the bullying redheads face even today when the public face of many redheads include beauties like Julianne Moore, Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne and Prince Harry.

Chapter three focuses on the beauty of red hair and why it should be celebrated, especially by those of us who have red hair. Preach! In this chapter the Vendetti sisters include five steps for finding redhead friendly products.

The following chapters focus on various beauty and fashion issues most redheads face, including hair, skin, nails, make-up, famous redheads, and finally, fashion.

Hair tells us the different red hair colors. Cool tones include strawberry blonde and copper. Warm tones include classic red, deep red, auburn, deep auburn and red violet, complete with photos of various celebrities like Emma Watson and Isla Fischer. My hair is a hybrid of deep red and auburn, which features two of my favorite redheads, the aforementioned Julianne Moore and Debra Messing.

Included in the hair chapter tells us how to figure out if our hair is fine, coarse, or frizzy or normal. This chapter also tells of the best shampoos, conditioners, sprays, gels, styling tools and home treatments for redheads. I like the home remedies because they can be made with simple products found at any grocery store like olive oil, eggs and bananas, are wallet-friendly and easy to make.

There is one part of the hair chapter I do have a quibble with, the hair styles. The Vendetti sisters have gorgeous Rapunzel-like locks and the hairstyles shown in this book reveal this. My hair is long but just past my shoulders. Sure, I can rock a chignon or a bun, but I do wish we could see some hairstyles featuring redheads with shorter hair whether a swinging bob or a cute pixie cut.

Redheads often have sensitive skin, and even though I’m a redhead by choice, I also have sensitive skin, so especially appreciated How to Be a Redhead’s chapter on how to best take care of my skin. This chapter tells us how to recognize our skin types, redhead friendly products and treatments, seasonal skin care and the beauty of freckles.

I’ve recently gotten more interested in giving myself manicures and I liked the chapter on nails including hand and nail treatments,

The chapter on make-up informs the reader of the best utensils every redhead should have in her make-up kit, brushes, eyelash curlers, sponges, tweezers, mirrors and pencil sharpeners. My favorite part of the make-up is the focus on cosmetics from foundations to lipsticks to eye shadows. This chapter includes make-up tutorials. While reading this chapter I also found out that rarest hair color/eye color combination is red hair and blue eyes…

Damn straight!

I usually cringe when a book or magazine tells us “how to get the celebrity look,” so I was ready to dismiss How to Be Redhead’s chapter named just that. But this chapter includes make tips from make-up artists who work with Reba McEntire, Julianne Moore and the hairstylist from Mad Men who gave one of my favorite one of my televised redhead, Joan Holloway-Harris, her notable bouffant.

How to Be a Redhead closes with fashion tips including the most redhead friendly colors, including emerald green, plum purple, ruby red (yes, redheads can rock the red) and various shades of blue, including sapphire, peacock and navy blue. As a hybrid of deep red and auburn hair colors like cranberry red, turquoise, and pink mist are great colors for me. Actually, this chapter tells redheads there is a rainbow of redhead-friendly colors including fuchsia, mustard yellow, black and pumpkin orange. Redheads should also ignore silly myths like don’t wear green (too Christmassy), white, or neutrals. Hey, if you’re a redhead and love a certain color, wear it and rock it!!!!

How to Be a Redhead is a fun read, while also being informative and charming. I just know I’m going to make some of the home treatments found in this book and take a gander at the Vendetti’s website more often.

 

 

Book Reviews: Audrey at Home-Memories of my Mother’s Kitchen by Luca Dotti (with Luigi Spinola)

audrey at home“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.” ― Audrey Hepburn

When I learned of Audrey at Home-Memories of my Mother’s Kitchen by Luca Dotti last year, I just knew I had to put it on my reading list. It’s no secret I am a huge fan of the late Audrey Hepburn. I also find great joy puttering in my kitchen with a pot of chicken soup on the stove, a pot roast in my slow cooker and my much beloved sugar mint cookies baking in the oven.

Most people know Audrey mainly through her film work and her humanitarian work with UNICEF. She is also notable for her Givenchy-honed sense of style. But to Luca Dotti, Audrey’s son with Andreas Dotti, she was simply his mother who loved him and his elder brother Sean. Audrey also love gardening and puttering in her kitchen discovering new recipes and savoring the tried and true.

But Audrey at Home isn’t merely a collection of recipes; it is lovingly written book filled with family photos and Luca’s sweet (and sometimes bittersweet) memories of being Audrey’s son. I always thought I knew her, but Audrey at Home gave me insight into a delightfully singular, yet everyday woman more than I could ever know.

After creating a career, most notably in movies like Roman Holiday (for which she won an Oscar), Sabrina, Funny Face, A Nun’s Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Wait Until Dark, Audrey decided to dial back and focus on being a wife, mother and homemaker. First in the country of Luca’s birth, Italy, and later in Switzerland, in a home called “La Paisable,” (The Peaceful Place). I can’t think of a better name for a home owned by Audrey Hepburn, especially considering how she barely survived the Holocaust as a child and spent her later years as a tireless advocate for children through her work with UNICEF. Audrey desired peace, not only for herself, but for others.

“There is a science of war, but how strange that there isn’t a science of peace. There are colleges of war; why can’t we study peace?” – Audrey Hepburn

Audrey also brought her desire for peace to her home, making it a welcoming place not just for her sons and the love her live, Robert Wolders. But also for her extended family and close friends (both famous and not famous). Food was just one way Audrey used to express a place of peace, love, comfort and joy.

Though Milwaukee is a great food town, and I have access to a wide-range of ingredients and food products in my east side neighborhood, I like Audrey’s idea of simplicity and less is more when it comes to cooking. Most of the ingredients in Audrey’s recipes can be found at your local grocery store, your garden and your favorite farmer’s market. While reading the book, I made note of Audrey’s recipes – flourless chocolate cake, mac and cheese, cutlets and various seasonal salads.

This past May 4th (Audrey’s birthday), I made the book’s first noted recipe called Hutspot, which sounds like a slightly elevated version of Pocket Stew. I learned how to make Pocket Stew when I was a freckle-faced Girl Scout and I still eat it to this day. Here is Audrey’s recipe for Hutspot:

HUTSPOT (Serves 2)

Ingredients: ½  pound  (225 grams) beef shoulder or chuck roast

Salt and Pepper

2 large eggs

2 large potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

Whole grain mustard for serving

Add 1 cup of water (250 ml) to a braiser (I used my slow cooker). Add beef, lightly salted and peppered. Cook at a low temperature until tender.

Remove and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium and stir to thicken the gravy. Pour the gravy over the meat to keep warm.

In the meantime, place the potatoes in a pan and add water to cover the potatoes, then add the carrots and onion. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook the vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the vegetables into a puree, and season with salt and pepper. On a platter, place the sliced meat on top of the puree and serve accompanied by mustard.

I have to say the result was very delicious, and quite comforting on a cold, windy day. I’m sure I will make Hutspot again and again

While reading this book I couldn’t help but think of my mom cooking for my sister and me. To this day, I still think she makes the best chicken soup ever. And though my mother was no Julia Child (too short) and no Martha Stewart (she’s never been to prison – well, not as far as I know), she made sure her kids got a decent meal while growing up. Though my sugar mint cookies should be declared a national treasure, I was inspired to make a favorite since childhood that my mother taught me- the classic chocolate chip cookie. Delicious!!

Interspersed throughout Audrey Hepburn are handwritten notes on gardening, food and actual photos of index cards with various recipes written on them. Remember when we used to have little boxes filled with index cards of recipes?

Audrey Hepburn at Home is a nearly-perfect book, one that not only celebrates Audrey Hepburn as the multi-faceted woman she was, but also one that celebrates the two greatest gifts we can give to our families, our friends, our communities and our world as a whole- our love and our labor.

On this mother’s day I would like to dedicate this post to my mother and my sister, Julie. I would also like to dedicate this post to two non-moms, my foodie friends Nora and Elaine who inspired me to trust myself more in the kitchen.

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” ― Audrey Hepburn

 

 

Ecobeauty: Scrubs, Rubs, Masks and Bath Bombs for You and Your Friends by Lauren Cox

Eco beautyI’ve been a big fan of homemade beauty and bath products ever since I learned to make my own soap nearly seven years ago. And since then I’ve also learned to make bath soaks, exfoliating scrubs and massage oils. I’m always on the hunt for more homemade beauty and bath recipes, so I was very happy to find Lauren Cox’s book Ecobeauty: Scrubs, Rubs, Masks and Bath Bombs for You and Your Friends.

Cox learned to make homemade beauty and bath products from her mother Janice, who has also written about the topic. In fact, I have the elder Cox’s book Natural Beauty for All Seasons: More Than 250 Simple Recipes and Gift-Giving Ideas for Year-Round Beauty on my bookshelf and I’ve referred to it many times. Now it’s the younger Cox’s turn to pass her homemade wisdom to others.

Divided up into several sections, Ecobeauty‘s recipes are for your face, body, mouth (yes, you can make your own homemade mouthwash), hands and feet and hair. They include facial masks, bath bombs, foot soaks and deep hair conditioners. There is also a section on combining Ms. Cox’s recipes into different gifts, and fun packaging and wrapping ideas.

A majority of the recipes can be made using products found easily at any grocery store. Some require items only found in health/nutrition stores or online. Do your homework when purchasing these items to find the best deal. And if a recipe calls for more exotic ingredients, stick with the instructions and don’t try substitutions. However, there are times when a recipe can be amended. Use your best judgment.

For the most part, the recipes are very easy to follow. The layout of the book is clean and crisp, and the photos of the products are lovingly done. Interspersed throughout are quick tips on being environmentally conscious, saving money, health and beauty. One quibble: I’m not fond of the book’s binding. I would have preferred a spiral bound book because then I could lay it flat on my work space in my kitchen.

Ecobeauty is an informative manual for anyone interested in making homemade beauty and bath products for both personal use and as gifts. This book helps you to be green, creative and economical. Making these creations is also fun for a girls’ night in, a slumber party or other activity, and it’s full of recipes for everyone’s taste, need and spending habits. It’s one book you just want to refer to again and again.