Friday, December 28, 2007

Graphic Novels

I started reading graphic novels in junior high but really didn't get hooked on them until a few years ago. For the years I worked at the American Library Association in Chicago, my commute was 2 to 3 hours a day via car, bus and train. This was a fantastic time to read and because ALA was such a holding house for new books, I had my pick of everything sent by publishing houses.
I would guess the majority of readers have never picked up a graphic novel and for those of you who haven't you don't know what you're missing. The better ones are a mix of unmatched story telling and gorgeous art, I'm not a fan of much of the manga genre, but even some of the bubble-gum mass produced materials are entertaining.
Many of the graphic novels I read are not for the faint of heart, they appeal to my macabre sense and read like fairy tales from hell. The first graphic novel that I really got addicted to was through a friend I worked with at ALA: Preacher by Garth Ennis (synopsis: Reverend Jesse Custer has a mission: to find God, who has disappeared from heaven. Armed with a peculiar moral code and a voice that must be obeyed. Custer joins up with his gun toting former girlfriend and a hard drinking Irish vampire to take on an indestructible gunfighter called the Saint of Killers and bring down a grisly serial killer) This series is seriously fantastic, disturbing, sad, hysterical and DEFINITELY not for children. Extremely Gothic, there are no boundaries or morals in the villains and some of the writing and art turned my stomach. However disturbing it is, the story is simply unforgettable.
My latest addiction is My Dead Girlfriend by Eric Wight. The main character has the best name I've come across in years, Finney Bleak. His parents are ghosts, most of his family members are too, and he falls for the perfect girl, right before she dies. The best part of the story, they try to make their mortal+ghost relationship work.
Other graphics I enjoy include:
Sandman by Neil Gaiman
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore ( I am also probably the only person who loved the film)
League of Extraordinary Gentleman, also by Alan Moore

Marvel's X-Men
Dc Comics Justice League of America
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Some popular ones with our library readers include: InuYasha, Yu-Gi-Oh, Ranma, Marmalade Boy, Kare First Love and Faeries' Landing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Gets You Excited?

Conversation back at work this morning:
Shannon: "Hi Ted (not his real name), how was your Christmas?"
Ted: "Fun and exciting"
Shannon: "Exciting? Oh my god, did you get engaged?" (Ted has a serious girlfriend)
Ted: "No, it was just exciting"
Shannon: "Huh, exciting...well....that's neat."

I seriously did not know what to say to exciting. I haven't heard anyone say Christmas was exciting since I was 8. This got me to thinking, what did I think was exciting? Definitely not Christmas, I am not a holiday person, so I gave some deep thought to what evoked excitement in my life.
I'm kind of a been-there-done-that type of girl when it comes to relationships and run-of-the-mill jobs, so those didn't really qualify. Thinking back through 2007 and farther, it's been the traveling I've experienced that has excited me. Planning a new trip, a new country, new friends and unexpected locations really gets me going.
My husband and I have been invited to a wedding in Goa India in February and we are looking into airfare, the idea of this trip has really gotten me excited to learn about a country I didn't have on my travel horizon.
Seriously, have you thought about the excitement in your life? What is it? Your baby's first step, a new job, a new love, a new home? Besides the possibility of a wedding on the Utorda Beach in India, my May 2008 graduation with my Masters after almost 6 years of study, excites me (and my Mom)and I can't wait!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Best Christmas Song Ever

Fairytale of New York
The Pogues with Kristy MacCool

The #1 Christmas song in England and Ireland, enjoy!
RIP Kristy MacCool

Friday, December 21, 2007

My French Chef

So my son did not get my aversion to cooking and baking gene, thank goodness. Since hitting his teen years my son has become quite the cook. He goes through phases, we've had the nothing-but-smoothies-for-a-week phase, the pasta-with-pesto phase, the chocolate-chip-cookie phase, the experimental-spaghetti-sauce phase and my current favorite French-cooking phase.
Last night while I was at my last grad class of the semester, my kitchen turned into a French Culinary Institute.
My amazing child created, FROM SCRATCH, a traditional French pastry Buche de Noel which when completed looks like a yule log.
I arrived home to a French feast, complete with homemade croissants filed with chocolate (which my husband assisted with).
My son has been in French classes since the age of 3 when he was enrolled in a private Montessori school in Evanston and has quite the aptitude for languages, he also understands and can speak basic Spanish. His high school French teacher is excellent and the pastry was for his class party today.
As his very proud mama, I could not be more pleased with his abilities in both cooking and his enjoyment of French traditions. I think it's time to plan our next trip to Paris.
In case you are interested, here is the recipe:
Caramel-pecan buche de noel, French with a New Orleans flair
2 cups pecans, toasted, cooled
1/4 cup all purpose flour
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons bourbon
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled

Frosting and caramel sauce
11/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
11/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Fresh bay leaves or lemon leaves
Powdered sugar (for sprinkling)
6 large bananas, sliced (optional)
2 pints butter pecan or pecan praline ice cream

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 17x12x1-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment; butter paper. Pulse nuts and flour in processor until nuts are finely chopped (not ground). Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in very large bowl until foamy. With mixer running, gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar, beating just until stiff peaks form. Using electric mixer, beat yolks with 1/3 cup sugar and bourbon in large bowl until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add yolk mixture to egg-white mixture. Sprinkle nuts over; gently fold until almost incorporated. Add butter; fold gently just to blend. Pour into prepared baking sheet, spreading batter gently to form even layer.

Bake cake until edges begin to brown and cake is firm to touch, about 14 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.

For frosting and caramel sauce:
Stir 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1/3 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes (time will vary, depending on size of pan). Remove from heat; immediately add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk in butter, bourbon, and salt. Stir over medium heat until any caramel bits dissolve. Transfer 1 cup caramel sauce to small pitcher. Add chocolate to remaining caramel in saucepan. Let stand off heat 5 minutes; whisk until smooth. Transfer to bowl. Let frosting stand until spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Spread 1 cup frosting over cake in even layer. Beginning at 1 long side and using parchment as aid, roll up cake jelly-roll style. Starting 1 inch in from each end of cake, cut off 3-inch-long diagonal piece from each end. Arrange cake, seam side down, on platter. Spread cut side of each 3-inch cake piece with some of frosting. Attach 1 cake piece, frosting side down, to top of cake near 1 end. Attach second piece to side of cake near opposite end. Cover cake with remaining frosting. Run fork in concentric circles on cake ends. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover loosely with waxed paper and let stand at room temperature.

Garnish platter with leaves. Sprinkle cake lightly with powdered sugar. Cut cake into slices and serve with bananas, if desired, ice cream, and sauce.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


MSNBC is in the same bed as CNN, news with a dash of sensationalism thrown in. I'm a news junky, I admit it. I have my local news delivered the old fashioned way ( it arrives on my doorstep every morning at 5 am)but I enjoy the London news online each morning. It's when I'm looking for the latest national news I click to MSNBC. It's the contributing writers I enjoy, they write it like it is, opinions, bias, no holds barred. Classic examples from the entertainment news this week, this article on Nicole Kidman's frozen face had me laughing out loud. And frankly, I couldn't agree more about her Barbie doll complexion.
Another great article, this writers love affair with Daniel Day Lewis, he hits the nail on the head about the greatest actor of my generation and why he is the only actor I will pay full ticket price to see in a theater (with the exception of my Harry Potter movie obsession).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Latest Favorite Things

So with the stay-inside-in-front-of-the-fireplace weather we had this past weekend, I hibernated with my kid, ordered Chinese takeaway, did homework, wrapped presents, read and watched some great documentaries.
What we watched:

I can't decide which episode I love more. The episode Great Plains is comical, the Siberian Fox chasing the Pika makes me laugh out loud and the death of the polar bears in Ice Worlds makes me cry (much to the chagrin of my son). This gorgeous series is not to be missed, it is simply awe inspiring.
The book I immersed myself in is Women Who Write
Fantastic short biographies with beautiful pictures of some of the greatest female writers past and present.

Another favorite thing is the online version of the Evening Standard, I have been reading this London website on a daily basis for almost a decade and love the mix of news and British style tabloid rag.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Great Gift Idea

The reason one writes isn't the fact he wants to say something. He writes because he has something to say.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have a thing for stationary, I love it. Especially personalized stationary. With the ability to text and email from almost every electronic device we can carry, few people actually write letters or personal notes anymore. Even in our techy world, there are some great options for stationary, birth announcements, note cards etc. Personalized stationary makes a great gift, below are a few of my favorite websites where you can design for yourself or a friend: My absolute favorite stationary is by Lauren Wonderful variety and styles Beautiful designs Create a personalized avatar to add to your stationary, very popular with celebrities Another create a persona site

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fly the Friendly Sky

My flight on Friday was full of Brits going to the Mayweather Hatton fight in Las Vegas.
Before we had been in the air an hour the plane had been emptied of beer.

Overheard while sitting in Premium Class:

"On the piss" (Translation: Out to get drunk)
"e' drank all the lager?" (Translation: We drank all the beer?)
"Piss off, g't me a Bloody Rum" (Translation: F*ck off, get me a rum and coke)
"Chat 'er up" (Translation: Try and pick her up)
"No honking" (Translation: No puking)
"E's knackered and having a slash" (Translation: He's drunk and taking a piss)

It was an interesting flight. Hatton, the British fighter lost to Mayweather on Saturday.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Girls Are Back

It's not all about the Spice Girls.
Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte on the big screen in Spring 2008.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Toxic Toys, chose wisely

The more I read about carcinogens and environmental toxins in food and everyday products, the more diligent I become about removing these poisons from the environment of my family and friends.
Did you know that many children's toys contain lead? Here is a list of toys containing lead that everyone should avoid:
Toy jewelry
Mattel cars (paint contains lead)
Some Thomas The Tank toys (paint contains lead)
Some Baby Einstein blocks
Barbie accessories
To check toys for their toxicity, visit this website:
A tip, buy your toys from US manufacturers and avoid all products made in China. For more information on lead free toys made in the US, check out this link:

If you are looking for information on how to make your home safer and your body healthier, check out the website for Healthy Child Healthy World.
For some wonderful organic products, visit Eminence Organics:
And for safe bedding and furniture that is free of toxic materials, visit:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Musical Variety

In a few days I am flying to Las Vegas for the Saturday night Spice Girls concert. Most reactions to my trip are incredulous, "Spice Girls...are you serious?" Yup, and why not, it will be fun! I have never been to Las Vegas and what better reason to go to the City of Excess than to see the most outrageous, kitchy, giggly, excessive show of the year?
Going to a live show is a great escape for me and during the past year or so I've seen a wide variety of concerts and have enjoyed all of them.
Here is a list of some of the musicians I have seen recently:
Gypsy Kings (Amazing, all those guitars!)
Indigo Girls
Snow Patrol (Great show at the Riviera)

Rick Springfield (Seriously the hardest working musician I have seen on tour)
The Smithereens (The show was free thankfully)
The Jeff Buckley Tribute Concert featuring:
Dorothy Scott
Ryan Groff
Spencer Michaud
April Smith
Alpha Rev
Anna D'Aloisio
Catherine Harrison
Old Dog Music

I've also seen some great musicians at area bars, festivals and open mic nights. While in Italy we bought a CD from a street group named the Last of the Mohican's who have a Latin, Native American and Celtic influenced sound and we play the CD constantly at home.
Like art, sometimes the most fascinating artists are the ones creating on the street, at the Legion Hall, in a park or in their parent's basement. However this weekend I am going to thoroughly enjoy the big budget synthesizer over dubbed sound of Spice and hopefully many cocktails pool side at the Venetian.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My baby

Will be 6 feet tall any second now. He just picked me up and physically moved me out of his way,"Mom I'm in a hurry..."
How do you make time slow down?