Friday, December 19, 2014

Four Books to Read if You Love the Podcast Serial

Podcasts are having a major moment right now. At the forefront of that moment is Serial, a This American Life spin-off that has shot to the top of the charts and spawned the first major podcast about a podcast.

It’s a good time to be a podcast nerd. The only problem finding a way to get your Serial fix now that the first season is over. But, as usual, books are here to help obsessive nerds like us. If you’re looking for something to fill the void, you can count on one of these great reads to satisfy your Serial craving. (Looking to satisfy your cereal craving instead? I recommend Honey Nut Cheerios.)

A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation by Tal McThenia and Margaret Dunbar Cutright

A Case for Solomon is an expansion of my personal favorite This American Life episode, about a hundred-year-old mystery reexamined. As with Serial, a cast of fascinating people shed light on a puzzling crime and a probably legal injustice. But, in this case, the crime took place generations ago and the question of mistaken identity (one of my personal genre Kryptonites – see also: my second favorite This American Life episode) looms large at the center of the story.

The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
One of the things that makes Serial so intriguing is that host Sarah Koenig takes listeners along on her journalistic investigation. Beyond being a story about a murder, Serial is a story about a journalist investigating a murder. In The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom investigates another real-life murder mystery and possible wrongful conviction, but she also examines the ethics of journalism and, like Koenig, lets readers inside her investigative process and comments on her own experience.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
One of the questions that comes up a few times in Serial is the possibility that the man at the center of the story, who seems like very nice person, could instead be a “charming sociopath.” I always recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interesting in psychopathy/sociopathy (the terms are interchangeable). Jon Ronson, himself an occasional contributor to This American Life, explores psychopathy in fascinating and highly entertaining detail. This is one that definitely sticks with year years after reading it.  
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Though it’s not exactly lacking for press, I couldn’t compile a list like this and not include In Cold Blood. A must-read for fans of true-crime and narrative non-fiction, this pioneering masterpiece defined a genre and continues to enrapture readers today. Also, though it pains Capote fans to think of it, new evidence suggests In Cold Blood may be an example of very bad journalistic ethics indeed, which certainly gives historical context to Koenig’s very careful reporting and how far journalism has come in the last half century.


Don’t despair, Serial-addicts. There’s a book to fulfill your desires, whether you’re interested in submerging yourself in another true-crime mystery, delving deep into questions of journalistic ethics, or even exploring the spin-off subject of psychopathy (a spin-off of a spin-off, a podcast about a podcast – things are getting really meta around here!) As usual, books have your back.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Recipe: Candy Apple Pie

Candy apple pie

I love trying new pies for Thanksgiving, and I usually gravitate toward classics with a twist. This year I made the pumpkin creme pie I make every year at Ryan's request, and a candy apple pie. The candy apple pie was pretty neat because it had a delicious cider-caramel sauce on the inside and a hot cinnamon candy shell on the outside. If you have trouble choosing between caramel apples and candy apples when you go to the fair, then this is the pie for you. It was pretty hard to cut, though. So, if I made it again, I'd make less hard candy to give it more of a drizzle that a full coat. 

Candy apple pie

Recipe slightly adapted from First Prize Pies

Ingredients:

Crust:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup whole milk (plus extra for glaze)
1 T. apple cider vinegar
12 ounces or 3 cups flour
1 T. cornstarch
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt

Filling:
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 pounds granny smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Candy topping:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1 t. cinnamon extract
10 drops red food coloring

Candy apple pie

Step 01. Cut butter into roughly 1/2 inch cubes. Combine dry ingredients in a food processor with a quick whirl. Add butter and blend until mixture is the texture of rough sand. In a measuring cup, stir vinegar into milk. Turn on food processor, and slowly pour milk mixture through the feed tube. Turn processor off as soon as combined. Do not over mix. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Step 02. Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Roll out half the dough into a circle about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Trim overhang to 1 inch and refrigerate crust.

Step 03. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, boil cider until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Lower heat to medium-high, melt butter into cider syrup, and whisk in brown sugar, cream, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Bring mixture to a gentle boil and cook until dark, thick, and glossy (about 7 to 10 minutes). Remove from heat and cool until just warm.

Step 04. Layer apple slices in pie crust and pour caramel sauce over. Brush edges of pie shell with some of the milk reserved for glaze. Roll out remaining pie dough, lay it over the filled pie shell, and trim overhand to 1 inch. Roll edges of both crusts together and crimp. Brush top and edges of pie with remaining milk reserved for glaze.

Step 05. Back pie on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, rotating once halfway through. Lower temperature to 350ºF (175ºC) and back for 30 to 40 minutes until crust is golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Step 06. Wait until pie is cooked to begin candy shell. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat sugar, corn syrup, and 1/3 cup water over high heat. Cook until the syrup reaches 300ºF (150ºC) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and whisk in cinnamon extract and food coloring. Use a fork to drizzle liquid candy over pie. Do not refrigerate pie (it will soften the candy crust), and serve as soon as possible. 

Candy apple pie

Monday, December 15, 2014

What I wore today: 12/12/14 (Black and Tan)

Black and tan outfit: high-waisted black jeans, partial-laceup leather Frye boots, J.Crew camel-colored cashmere long-sleeve tee, quartz necklace, Madewell black and tan colorblock streetcar coat

Black and tan is my favorite color combination right now. I know some of you are probably thinking that black and tan aren't even real colors, so allow me to explain. 

I've mentioned my love of neutrals (and, by association, Madewell) before, but I haven't really said all I want to say on the subject. You see, I realized recently that neutrals are the introverts of the color world.

Black and tan outfit: high-waisted black jeans, partial-laceup leather Frye boots, J.Crew camel-colored cashmere long-sleeve tee, quartz necklace, Madewell black and tan colorblock streetcar coat
Black and tan outfit: high-waisted black jeans, partial-laceup leather Frye boots, J.Crew camel-colored cashmere long-sleeve tee, quartz necklace, Madewell black and tan colorblock streetcar coat

I often hear people express the opinion that colors are happy and neutrals are sad, that colors are exciting and neutrals are boring, that colors express personality and neutrals express conformity. But, all I hear in these opinions is the same extrovert-privileging perspective that saturates all aspects of American society to the detriment of us all.

Yes, colors are loud and neutrals are quiet, but there's nothing wrong with being quiet. In fact, when color is stripped away, it's easier to notice the subtler design aspects underneath, such as silhouette, texture, and material.

Black and tan outfit: high-waisted black jeans, partial-laceup leather Frye boots, J.Crew camel-colored cashmere long-sleeve tee, quartz necklace, Madewell black and tan colorblock streetcar coat
Black and tan outfit: high-waisted black jeans, partial-laceup leather Frye boots, J.Crew camel-colored cashmere long-sleeve tee, quartz necklace, Madewell black and tan colorblock streetcar coat

I must admit that, as an introvert who loves neutrals, as a person who invited only 50 guests to her wedding and chose gray bridesmaid dresses, I sometimes take it personally when people bash neutrals as "boring" or "lazy."

I like a certain effortlessness, yes, but I am not a lazy person. Just because I chose a black and tan coat, a beige sofa, or a solid gray linen comforter, doesn't mean I didn't pick those pieces with care, consideration, and a desire to express my authentic self. Of course, there's nothing wrong with choosing color if that's what you like (for the record, my other sofa is purple), but colors aren't inherently superior anymore than extroverts are.

The point is that the world benefits from a balance of color and neutrals, extroverts and introverts, noise and quiet. Don't bash the quiet corners of the world.

Black and tan outfit: high-waisted black jeans, partial-laceup leather Frye boots, J.Crew camel-colored cashmere long-sleeve tee, quartz necklace, Madewell black and tan colorblock streetcar coat
Black and tan outfit: high-waisted black jeans, partial-laceup leather Frye boots, J.Crew camel-colored cashmere long-sleeve tee, quartz necklace, Madewell black and tan colorblock streetcar coat

Black and tan "Colorblock Streetcar Coat" – Madewell
Black high-rise jeans – Gap
Camel-colored cashmere long-sleeve tee – J.Crew
Partial lace-up brown leather boots – Frye
Quartz necklace – Forever 21

Saturday, December 13, 2014

November Ins and Outs: What I Bought and Read Last Month


November Ins and Outs

I read Yes Please for book club and enjoyed it a lot. I actually listened to the audiobook, which was great because it has a lot of fun guest stars. I picked up Station Eleven recently because the ebook was on sale, and then someone happened suggested it for our next book-club book. Score!

Ryan bought Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life while we were in New York and has since developed a fierce passion for the local artist. We barely knew anything about him except that his illustrations are all over our public parks, but this collection really shows how incredibly groundbreaking, brilliant, and diverse his work was. He had such an incredible sense for color as well as for the simple shapes that not only create an image but tell a story.

We also read The Ice Dragon together after Ryan requested it from the library. It's a children's book George R.R. Martin published in 1980, and it takes place in a soft of proto-Westeros. It was cool to see him developing some of the same ideas and themes that he would expand on later.

I started Belzhair while in New York the night before seeing Meg Wolitzer at the Bell House in Brooklyn as part of a live taping of NPR's Ask Me Another. I'd read The Interestings already and loved it, so I was optimistic. I ended up loving Belzhair too. It's definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I deeply related to it personally and I think Meg Wolitzer has such a sharp sense of what it feels like to be a teenager and even to just be a human. She was also insanely funny, smart, and entertaining at the Ask Me Another taping. I'm officially a fangirl.

I've been a longtime fangirl of Meghan Daum. I read her debut collection of essays, My Misspent Youth about eight years ago, and it's still one of my favorite books of all time. Since then I've read every book she's published. I liked her second collection and I thought her novel was okay, but nothing compared to My Misspent Youth. Still, I preordered The Unspeakable the moment I heard about it and abandoned all other reading material the moment it came out. Of everything else she's written, this came closest to capturing what I loved so much about My Misspent Youth. Her voice is so distinct and appealing: funny but insightful, full of cultural references and personal revelations. Reading her books is like having the best conversation you've even had with your most interesting friend.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What I wore today: 12/02/2014 (Patches)

Patches outfit: skinny jeans, partial-lace-up frye knee-high boots, Topshop blazer with elbow patches, chambray button-down, cashmere pashmina scarf, braided belt

This may be the last you'll see of my red hair. I've really enjoyed it (and I may come back to it), but I've gotten this notion in my head that I want to try blonde for the first time, and now I'm really excited about it. The trouble with hair color is that (unless you're Nymphadora Tonks) you can't change it absolutely every day to suit your mood. There are still some mornings when I wake up and wish I were brunette again, and I'm sure I'll have blonde mornings when I wish I were redheaded, but, right now, most of my days are filled with a deep, desperate desire to go blonde. 

As for this outfit, it's really a classic winter uniform kind of look for me, bundled up but still keeping some semblance of shape. A few years ago I got really into belting blazers after seeing a lot of French women do it, and I remembered recently how much I love this little accessorizing trick. It's the perfect thing for winter because it keeps cold air out (especially if you knot a scarf around your neck and tuck it in) and adds a bit of interest to a simple outfit. 

If there's one thing that defines my personal style it's classic pieces with interesting details. This outfit is super basic, but I think it's still interesting because of the belt, the boot laces, and the elbow patches on the blazer. Ryan bought this blazer for me at Zara in Soho when we went to New York in October, and I wore it on my first day at my new job last month. I think it's lucky. The patches hide just out of my eyesight so I forget about them, and then, when I catch a glimpse of them, I remember that I'm wearing a lucky blazer.

Patches outfit: skinny jeans, partial-lace-up frye knee-high boots, Topshop blazer with elbow patches, chambray button-down, cashmere pashmina scarf, braided beltPatches outfit: skinny jeans, partial-lace-up frye knee-high boots, Topshop blazer with elbow patches, chambray button-down, cashmere pashmina scarf, braided belt Patches outfit: skinny jeans, partial-lace-up frye knee-high boots, Topshop blazer with elbow patches, chambray button-down, cashmere pashmina scarf, braided belt
Patches outfit: skinny jeans, partial-lace-up frye knee-high boots, Zara blazer with elbow patches, chambray button-down, cashmere pashmina scarf, braided belt

Boots – Frye
Jeans – Gap
Shirt – Anthropologie
Blazer – Zara
Scarf – Nordstrom Rack
Belt – Forever 21