I love to read. As in, I could spend all day reading and would if only I could find someone to pay me to do it. Seriously, any ridiculously rich person out there willing to pay me to read? I’ll give you book reports.

I have been a reader since childhood. Mom used to find me lying in a patch of sun in the pasture, using our rottweiler Tasha as a pillow, lost in a book while cows and goats grazed around us. (Sounds bucolic, right?) Other times she’d wake up at four in the morning and my door would be cracked and the dim light of my lamp would be shining out into the hall. When she peeked in my door she’d fine one of three things: me hunched over a book, me asleep face down in a book, or me sleeping with the light on because I was reading Stephen King at way too young of an age.

Is it any surprise that I majored in English in college? It’s not a particularly useful degree, per se, but I was certainly exposed to a lot of material I otherwise wouldn’t have been and I truly believe it expanded my worldview in a way that helped positively shape me as a human being. Reading instilled in me an understanding of adventure and possibility and wonder that helped make me brave enough to live out of the country twice without batting an eye.

As an adult literature serves both as an educator and a means of escape. I can get lost in a story and forget my troubles for a while, or I can read about the struggles of others and understand the world I live in a bit better. Books are amazing things.

There is a book list from the BBC going around on Facebook this week. The BBC is estimating that the average person has only read six. I’ve read forty-two. I guess this just means that I still have a lot of reading to do. You can check out the list here:
BBC Book List

What are you reading?


{November 26, 2010}   33 Years In the Kitchen – Week 21

We had quite a lovely Thanksgiving in the Davis household. G and I went to Mom and Dad’s, my sister brought my two darling nephews, and one aunt/uncle set came over. We ate a wonderful meal that was prepared 1/2 by mom, 1/4 by me and 1/4 by dad (he fried the turkey).

After the family stuffed itself on our Thanksgiving main courses, out came the desserts: Carrot Cake, Cherry Delight, Rice Krispy Treats, Key Lime Pie and my Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Tart. Everyone liked the super rich and creamy tart, including me, but I still prefer my staple Bourbon Pecan Tart. I’ll be making it at Christmas. However, if any occasion ever calls for pumpkin pie, I’ll make this tart instead. However, Cooking Light is on crack if they thing that one tablespoon of butter a crust makes and it took more like 40-45 minutes instead of 35.

After we ate the boys took Geoff out to the pasture and barn to burn off some calories (using unripe figs and slingshots to see who could make one explode against the wall of the shed and playing pool in the barn) while the rest of us lounged around a table in the gazebo telling old stories and talking about my uncle and paw-paw who were the light of our family until they passed. We still miss them.

The wind picked up and the sun went down and we were ready for our Thanksgiving nap, so I popped The Expendables in the DVD player (what? you guys already know I love Jason Statham and Mickey Rourke) and settled down amid a pile of pillows and nephews on the living room floor. Perfection.

How was your Thanksgiving? I know family time can be stressful for a lot of folks, so I hope it was as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.

Oh, and p.s., I’m totally eating leftover tart right now. Mmm, bourbon.

Now that it’s almost Thanksgiving, and seeing as how on actual Thanksgiving I’ll be in a turkey coma, here are a few things I am thankful for right now (I’m still half-asleep, btw, so I’m bound to leave TONS of things out and most of this stuff will sound totally trivial, but it’s the little things, you know?):

  • The Chai Tea from Trader Joe’s that is attempting to wake me up this morning (and RouxBarb who introduced me to it).
  • My cute little muffin-faced, snaggle-toothed, three-legged kitty, Chester “Ches-bo” Davis and his snuggly, vain, regal sister Imogen “Pretty Girl” Davis (and the ASPCA who took such good care of them pre-adoption).
  • Having a job (the fact that I actually like it most of the time is a total bonus).
  • Knowing who my real friends are (and having such abundance).
  • The surprising number of people who read my blog (and comment on it to let me know).
  • Having the most awesome parents a girl could want (for example, they called me from the grocery just last night to ask what kind of champagne I wanted in my Thanksgiving morning mimosas).
  • Getting not one, but two full days with G this week (one day in a Turkey Coma and one day decorating for Christmas).
  • All of the great books I’ve read this year (and the writers brave enough, and filled with enough gumption to actually finish a project).
  • My awesome therapist (who not only listens to my crazy ramblings and holds me accountable for the shit I say, but who also, in her own life, is an example of being true to yourself and showing that true self to the world).
  • My Macbook Pro (which is now co-sharing spot number two with my Kindle for “favorite object I own,” spot number one is and will always be occupied by the feather pillow I have had since childhood).
  • That my mom just this very morning added Carrot Cake to our already overflowing Thanksgiving menu (she makes a darn good carrot cake).
  • My currently absentee aunt who filled my childhood with such delight and gave me a free pass to experiment in her kitchen (unknowingly helping me give birth to my inner chef).
  • The way that technology lets me keep in touch with friends who live far and wide (next up is my first venture into the world of Skype so that I can talk to Nix properly and see that darling Sacha in live action).
  • My wookie and the hell blanket, who keep me cozy and warm (that’s right, I have TWO super fuzzy blankets – I blame it on the iron free blood in my veins).

That’s all I can think of in my fuzzy-headed state right this very minute. I’m sure there are more. I’ll be back. But while I’m gone, what are you thankful for this year? No, seriously, I really want to know.

{November 22, 2010}   Grudges, Grudgingly

I hold grudges. Forever. Seriously. I’m upfront about this when I meet people. “Hi, my name is Beth and I hold grudges.” I wouldn’t want anyone to be taken by surprise ten years down the road after we’ve had a parting of ways and we run into each other on the street and I’m all like “Fuck you, asshole.”

What I’ve figured out lately, though, is that it’s more than just a grudge I hold onto. Yes, I’ll never forget what happened. No, I’ll probably never forgive you. But, as it turns out, I’ll also probably always be just as pissed off about it as I am the moment whatever “it” is happens.

And that means I need to come up with a new name for my grudge holding. Are you ready for it? I’m not a grudge holder, I’m a BOX FULL OF RAGE!!!! You don’t want to get put into the box. Trust me.

I’ve also decided I need my own logo/icon/image/whatever they’re called. So, I’m having my sister drawn one up (that I designed). It’s forthcoming. Until then, I love this doll:

So, it’s Thanksgiving week and I’m excited. There is just SO much food to look forward to this week. I’ll be heading to the homestead (aka Mom and Dad’s house in Loganville) on Wednesday to start the day and a half long cooking extravaganza that will end in a very late, very southern Thanksgiving lunch on Thursday (and leftovers for weeks!).

Don’t worry, though, I have no intention of slacking on 33 Years In the Kitchen just because there is a holiday. As a matter of fact, I’m using said holiday meal as an excuse (and all of the family members in attendance as guinea pigs) to try a new dessert: Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Tart. Now, the fact that I’m making something new, instead of my signature (read stolen from Cooking Light) Bourbon Pecan Tart with Chocolate Drizzle has caused a bit of an uproar in the Davis household. However, I told them bourbon is bourbon and it’s sure to be delicious so shut up already.

Want to know what’s on the menu? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway because I am just THAT excited:

Deep Fried Turkey (I totally had to beg, bat my eyes and say “but DAAAAAAAD” to get the turkey deep fried this year)
Southern Style Corn Bread Dressing (not that chunky dry stuff, the the moist delicious sage filled bake it in a pan and cut it into squares kind)
Giblet Gravy
Sweet Potato Soufflé (with pecan topping, not marshmallows)
Homemade (not from a box) Mac n’ Cheese
Green Beans
Collard Greens
Broccoli Casserole
Creamed Corn
Green Jello Salad
Deviled Eggs
Rice Crispy Treats
Cherry Delight
Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Tart
Slap Your Mama Sweet Tea
Caramel Cider Martinis

Wow, I think I gained 10 lbs just typing that and I have a sneaking suspicion that I forgot something. There will only be nine of us (7 adults and 2 kiddos) so that may seem like overkill, but we LOVE leftovers. And, want to know the best part? I found out on Friday that a certain family member who always tests my ability to bite my tongue and swallow heaping tablespoons of rage has to work and won’t be there. Jackpot!!

Once I wake up from my food coma, I promise to write all about the new recipe and how it compares to my usual holiday dessert. Then it’s time with out-of-town friends for the rest of the weekend and come Sunday G and I will go out in search of the perfect Christmas tree and I can get down to business making and wrapping presents. “O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree/You fill my heart with music.” Did I mention that we’ll be playing the South Park Christmas Album while we decorate? What? You didn’t think I was going to go all traditional on you, did you?

{November 15, 2010}   Random, thy name is Beth

Here are some random thoughts I’m having today:

1) How effing hard is it to give someone a freaking courtesy wave? Every single morning on my commute I make a space for people (ONLY if they use a blinker, you non blinker using assholes can suck it) to move into my lane and I’d say 90% of the time they can’t even bother to waggle their wrist to say thank you. It really incenses me. I always courtesy wave. Always. This is how road rage is born, people. Lift your hand or I’ll lift my finger (and blow my horn)! Grrr.

2) I love Steve Madden. His Madden Girl collection is fun and flirty; his regular collection is sophisticated and beautiful; and he offers a wide variety of mid-range (2.5 inches) heels (my new favorite height). As a bonus, his shoes are actually comfortable. You can run in those bad boys! For example, I’m wearing these today:

3) I’m finally excited about Christmas shopping. I was feeling SO uninspired this year, but have made some good headway on my “what to get who” Christmas list this weekend and am feeling much better. Sales and discounts are abundant, my wrapping paper (bought post season and deeply discounted last January) is old school, and I can not wait for people to see my personally designed (and only slightly offensive) holiday greeting card come December!

4) Cheese is good. Sadly, G did not pack me any in my lunch bag today 😦 I suppose he figured the cheese in the leftover Chicken and Rice soup he packed me would be enough.

5) I have the best girlfriends ever. I mean that. I’m extraordinarily lucky. I have two good lady friends at work. You know, the kind that you also like to see socially even though you see them every day? I got ’em. Then there are the book club girls, the old (and new) college friends, a few choice high school buddies and some randoms that I’ve accumulated along the way. The best part is that these groups overlap and mix and match and boy howdy are they fun.

6) Puppies are cute. Adorable as all get out Mychal Voorhees (who needs to move her super self back to the ATL nowish) got me hooked on playing Puppy Showdown just this very morning. I’m kinda glad I don’t have one, though. I love playing with other people’s pups, but between Imogen and Chester’s daily demands for attention I really just don’t have the extra hands right now to give my very own puppy enough lovin’. Plus, three cats in a two bedroom apartment is plenty. One too many if you ask me…wonder if I could convince G to trade in his cat for a dog? Or better yet, for a Guinea Pig named Chuckles…what? a girl can dream.

Ok, that’s enough randomness for now.

{November 14, 2010}   33 Years In the Kitchen – Week 20

G and I had a rare day off together today (and by rare, I mean this is the first day we have both been off since our vacation in September). So, after a lovely brunch of blueberry pancakes, maple sausage and mimosas and several hours of lounging on the couch, we decided to head to the grocery and gather the ingredients for some soup.

Instead of reaching for my trusty accordian file, I reached for my laptop. You see, I recently upgraded my version of FileMaker Pro to work on Marti (the Macbook) and transferred all of my paper recipes to my homemade FileMaker database. After flipping through a few entries, we came upon one from Cooking Light that sounded good for a rainy Sunday evening: Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. We added a little crusty bread and voila, dinner.

Overall this was a super delicious, hearty soup. I did feel that the potato was a bit redundant, though. So, next time I’ll leave it out.

After dinner we may or may not have whipped up a tasty, savory treat for RouxBarb’s upcoming birthday. Time will tell 😉

{November 11, 2010}   33 Years In the Kitchen – Week 19

We have the lovely author of RouxBarb (good friend Barb) to thank for this week’s recipe. You see, I have a guilty pleasure. I like smut magazines. By smut magazines, I mean things like People and OK and US Weekly. Sometimes, when I’m really lucky, good friend Lauren will bring me copies of said smut after she reads them. I, in turn, pass them on to Barb. To say thank you for my role as middle man the food blog fairy will sometimes leave a copy of Real Simple magazine in my mailbox at work. Everybody’s happy. See, kids, recycling does work!

From one of these issues of Real Simple came this little gem: Autumn Squash Soup with Orange Zest and Nutmeg. Since the recipe gave me the option of using acorn or butternut squash, I decided to use one of each. Turned out to be SUCH a good idea. The butternut squash added fruitiness and the acorn squash added an earthy warmth. I also used fresh ground nutmeg. I’m fanatic about it. I used my handy stick blender again (thank you sous chef G) instead of a regular blender and whipped this soup up in just about half an hour.

G and I both enjoyed this fresh and delicious soup with some crusty bread and my very favorite salad. Because I’m full and happy, I’ll share the ingredients with you too:

herb goat cheese
chopped toasted pecans
mandarin orange slices
spring mix
blush wine vinegrette

I know it sounds simple, but it is uh-may-zing. Here’s what it looked like:

I hope you’ll try this combo. It’s wonderful.

p.s. See those mini squash on the table? Those were a gift from RouxBarb. She rocks.

{November 8, 2010}   Bald is Beautiful

No, really. Bald is hot. Let me prove my point. Or, to be more accurate, let Taye Diggs (Model/Actor), Michael Psilakis (Chef), Jason Statham (Actor, former Olympic diver), Djimon Hounsou (Actor/Model), Michael Symon (Chef), Bruce Willis (Actor) and Geoff (that’s right, my personal sous chef) prove my point for me:

See, I told you. Bald is beautiful. That last one is my favorite.

Update as of 11/9/10 @ 8:45 am: You two are absolutely right. How could I have forgotten Shemar Moore and Kelly Slater? Yikes. I’ll correct that mistake now.

I’ve really been enjoying trying so many new recipes lately, but sometimes all you really want is a belly full of of a warm, delicious, old-faithful. That’s how I’m feeling tonight. It’s cold. And this time, I don’t just mean 65 and brrrr I’m cold, but for real cold. Like, it’s supposed to be 29 tonight. Yuck.

So, I’m making chicken and dumplings. This is one of my stock recipes. One of my favorite recipes. It’s bubbling away on the stove right now. I can’t wait to dig in. Here’s my recipe, which is super simple, but completely amazing:

1 rotisserie chicken, shredded (I prefer barbeque flavor)
1 onion, chopped
2 small cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh time
2 boxes Pacific brand organic chicken broth (brand is very important in this recipe)
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in soup pot. Add onions, garlic, salt and pepper and saute until onions are soft. Add chicken stock, thyme and chicken. Bring to a boil.

While you are waiting for the liquid to boil, make dumplings according to box recipes substituting 3/4 cup buttermilk for the 2/3 cup milk.

When broth is boiling, drop dumpling dough in by spoonfulls into the pot. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Put lid on pot and cook for ten more minutes.

Remove from heat and stir, scraping any bits from the bottom.

et cetera