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August 1, 2012 / Rebecca Foss

Cupcakes: Not Only Delicious, But Make A Great Story

How to Eat a Cupcake is a wonderfully written debut novel by Meg Donohue. Annie Quintana comes from two different worlds– that of the daughter of the help and the almost-sister of Julia St. Clair, the Pacific Heights princess, she grew up with. Annie and Julia grow up together in the St. Clair estate, close friends until high school rivalries and rumors tear them apart. Now, ten years later, Annie longs to open her own bakery. Julia wants to help her open a cupcakery, and she has the means to do it.

This is the story of two friends, raised together like sisters, torn apart through prep school scandal, and their awkward reconciliation through a business venture ten years later. The story is told through both Annie and Julia’s voice, ensuring that the reader is privy to the thoughts and perspective of each young woman. Donohue intricately crafted the story to slowly introduce clues and events that bring the novel to its climactic conclusion. While the characters are well thought out and likable, it is the details that lead up to this end that keep the reader turning the pages.

But the characters– oh, you can’t get more three-dimensional than this! Annie is witty, sarcastic, lovable, stubborn, independent, proud, and lonely all at the same time. Julia is a bit of a snob, generous, prim, popular, sad, smart, sophisticated, and needy. They frustrate each other and complement each other and it is simply lovely to see how their relationship grows beyond the events of the past.

This is a fun read that holds a little mystery, so get comfortable and enjoy the flavors of this delicious little gem.

July 30, 2012 / Rebecca Foss

Hail to National Cheesecake Day

So, I have a special place in my heart for cheesecake. No, not because I love it. More because I spent almost three years waiting tables at the Cheesecake Factory. Yes, I was one of those college grads that majored in theatre and went on to wait tables. Over the course of my tenure at the Cheesecake Factory, I tried many different flavors of cheesecake– so much so, that I can’t bear to order cheesecake in a restaurant anymore. Don’t get me wrong, their cheesecake is great (some better than others–ahem, White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle), but I had my fill of cheesecake after my employment there. Even with all the delicious cheesecakes they have, the very best cheesecake I ever tasted was homemade by my college roommate, Serena. Not sure what she did to make it so delicious, but it was. In honor of National Cheesecake Day– today, in case you didn’t know– here are a few things to try with cheesecake. Try them, love them, and share them. And if you feel like sharing, what’s your favorite?

   Of course, this is Philadelphia Cream Cheese’s take on the classic cheesecake. Looks a little like Serena’s. Could be…

 

Oh snap. Best of the Cheesecake Factory’s flavors, in my humble opinion.

Brownies and cheesecake and ice cream. This is dessert heaven.

Eli’s is famous for its cheesecake– and who doesn’t love key lime?

 

Oh Dairy Queen, you do know how to come up with the most delicious blizzard ever, don’t you?

New Yorkers will tell you that Juniors has the best New York style cheesecake there is.

Of course, The Golden Girls will tell you there’s nothing like a Sara Lee.

 

 

 

July 23, 2012 / Rebecca Foss

Heartwarming and Controversial, Even Now

I’m not sure why, but it took me a little while to get through Kathryn Stockett’s, The Help. I think mostly because I have been pretty busy with other things.  Regardless of the time in which it took me to read this little gem, I will say it was extraordinary. Stockett has the uncanny ability to tell the tale of living in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960’s from the perspective of both white and black women.

After returning home from Ole Miss, “Skeeter” Phelan is anxious to begin life as a writer– the only problem is, she does not know what to write about. Through some encouragement to write about something she cares about, and the injustice she witnesses in her hometown of Jackson, she sets out to interview the help and tell their story.

Skeeter would embrace the courageousness of the first black maid to step forward, Aibileen, to tell her story, despite the risks. Minny soon follows in her friend’s footsteps and has a knack for recruiting other maids to join in their project after one of their own is sent to prison for theft. During a time when hate and racism were leading the charge in Jackson, it was difficult for these black maids to trust a white woman enough to tell her the truth. Fortunately, trust and friendship prevailed as they produced a book that touched many and shook up the town of Jackson.

During a time when our country was going through radical change with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the shooting of Medgar Evers, and the teachings of Marting Luther King, Jr., the town of Jackson was fighting to keep “separate but equal” in full force. The bravery of all of the women involved in writing and contributing to a book that forced a town to open its eyes and view things differently was risky and rewarding at the same time.

I realize that when this book arrived on the New York Times bestseller list back in 2009, there was much controversy over the book and many thought Stockett wrote in a vernacular that seemed stereotypical and even suggested that her writing has racial undertones.  I disagree. Stockett uses her own background, weaving fact and fiction into a story that draws the reader into what life was really like living back in those times.  Adding this vernacular made this authentic and real where it could easily have been offensive had it been written differently. For a debut novel, she excels, writing about what she knows and creating strong characters that keep the reader rooting for them to succeed. This book made me laugh and cry and gave me a different perspective of some of the unimaginable things that occurred during the time. If you haven’t seen the movie yet– wait! Read the book first. It will be well worth it.

July 16, 2012 / Rebecca Foss

A Little Help From A Stranger

Short story. I needed a new dining room table, so I went to IKEA over the weekend to have a look. Keep in mind, I have purchased furniture from IKEA before and every time, I curse myself for doing it as I lay out the 362 pieces that I will need to put one piece of furniture together. And I swear up and down that I will NEVER buy furniture from IKEA again. Anyhoo, I relented, went back to IKEA to make my purchase (I really do love their stuff and am a big fan).

Normally, when I go to IKEA, I go with a friend, my sister, anyone who can help me lift stuff. Not this time– went solo. I struggled to drag the boxes onto the flat cart and somehow managed to get the incredibly heavy, flat boxes across the warehouse of a store and into the checkout line. I made my purchase and pathetically steered the cart with the oversized boxes through the parking lot, the whole time wondering how I was going to lift the heaviest of the boxes into my car. Whew!

Now, here’s the inspiring part of the story. As I push-pulled the cart to the back of my car, a woman stopped her car, rolled down her window and said “Do you need help with that?” I looked at her, completely surprised and actually said yes (normally, I am too stubborn to accept help from people). Now, I know she really wanted my primo parking space and that was her motivation for helping me, but when I thanked her kindly for her help, she replied with, “That’s what God put us on this earth to do. Help each other.” In any case, I was a little touched by that and wanted to share. Thank you, kind lady in the IKEA parking lot that helped a sister out!

And a short side note: below is what my boxes contained. And yes, I cursed IKEA, swore up and down I would never buy furniture from there again, and I completely love my finished table.

July 13, 2012 / Rebecca Foss

Yes, it IS National French Fry Day

It’s National French Fry Day and I’m inspired. I love french fries and am particularly partial to good ol’ McDonald’s fries. No, my inspiration does not come from running to the closest McDonald’s and ordering up–instead, here are a few healthy fry recipes that I am adding to my list to test. (Click on the photos for the recipes).

Baked Garlic Parmasan Fries from Return of the Yummy. Parmesan, garlic, potatoes, yum!

Crunchy Baked French Fries from Fitness Magazine. Baking instead of frying cuts a ton of calories and fat.

Oven Sweet Potato Fries from Eating Well. At 122 calories per serving what a way to celebrate National French Fry Day!

Avocado Fries from Sunset. Seriously love avocado– can’t go wrong with these babies!

Zucchini Fries from Tiny Morsels. Yum! These look delish. Zucchini is chock full of fiber, antioxidants and well, it’s just plain good for ya!

Baked Asparagus Fries with a Trio of Dipping Sauces from Spoon Fork Bacon. OMG– pass the asparagus please. I’ll take mine with the roasted garlic and lemon aioli.

Enjoy your veggies and celebrate National French Fry Day delectably. 

July 11, 2012 / Rebecca Foss

Barney At Work

Having fun with my first Viddy! I really love that these are limited to 15 seconds and just a fun video snapshot. And how cool is it that you can add a little soundtrack?

July 6, 2012 / Rebecca Foss

Rachel Thompson Cleverly Exposes The Mancode

As I perused my Twitter feed yesterday, I connected with Rachel Thompson, a social media pro and author. She was promoting her new book, The Mancode: Exposed. For a few days only, all of her faithful fans and followers could download the book free on Amazon. So, I downloaded it. I’m not usually one to read these types of books and I thought that perhaps I might read a few pages and then let it fall into the land of unfinished reads. But, no. Rachel’s knack for keeping a reader captivated with humor led me to the land of completion. This book had me smiling and even laughing out loud from the first essay. Her take on the differences between men and women are not particularly new, but she writes what most people are afraid to discuss out loud. I am happy to have connected with such a talented and funny tweeter-– of course, the jackpot came when I was able to read the book. Seriously, Rachel’s snarky wit comes throughout the book that leaves the reader thinking, “Yes! Why do men do that? She’s so right!” Aside from the fact that I love how she writes in #hashtags some of the time, her writing is very conversational, like she’s sitting next to you having a cuppa joe.

A few of my favorite things:

  • Disney dad classifications
  • Men are from Seinfeld and women are from Friends
  • Hoarders: Key Edition
  • Dude hair

There are so many more laugh out loud moments that it would not be right for me to list them all. Incidentally, the offer for the free download is still good through today– I would highly recommend you give it a read. And if you miss it today, it’s worth the list price!

July 2, 2012 / Rebecca Foss

Within Dark There is Always Light

I loved this book! The Lost Wife is incredibly well written and engaging. I could not put this book down. Alyson Richman managed to take us on a journey of two families, linked by one couple, during the 1930’s and 40’s. Josef and Lenka had the world before them in pre-war Prague until the Nazi invasion separated them as Lenka refused to leave without her parents and sister. What I found incredibly captivating was how the story was told from both Josef and Lenka’s point of view.

Lenka’s captivity in both Terezin and Auschwitz was heart-wrenching, to say the least. Having been to Prague and visiting Terezin, I was incredibly moved by this story. Visiting Terezin in 2008, I remember feeling the sadness of the town and finding it hard to imagine the conditions the Jews were forced to live in. Reading further along, getting to know the heroes of Terezin and how they tried desperately to communicate with the outside world about the conditions of the camps, was incredibly touching, particularly hearing it from an artist’s perspective. My only criticism is that I would have like to have known more about what happened to Lenka after the war.

Lenka marked the beginning of her story as a naive art student and ended up as a risk taking artist. Josef choosing to be an obstetrician as a career, marked a sharp contrast to the death that surrounded him. His way of dealing with that was to bring life into the world. As the novel was inspired by true events, Richman weaved in historical details while taking the reader on a poetic journey. And let’s not forget, the love that Josef and Lenka shared outshone all of the horror that surrounded them and remained with them throughout their lives. This is a beautiful story that will stay with you well after you’ve turned the last page.

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