There may be something there that wasn’t there before…

Hello readers,

Today is the joyous day that marks the beginning of Reading Week, a much-deserved week off for students. It’s been a gruelling past few weeks with assignments and runny noses and cars that won’t start so I am certainly looking forward to some time off! And what better way to spend Reading Week than reading and binge watching episodes on Netflix? Needless to say, I’m totally excited.

So I just finished watching every single episode of Once Upon a Time, one of the greatest shows ever – I swear, it was made with people like me in mind! – and while not every story in the series sticks to their traditional origins, every single story makes me super happy. I love fairytales, people. I grew up reading the classic Grimm fairytales (more gruesome than you might think) and watching Disney princess movies. I’m well-versed in my Hans Christian Andersen stories. BUT my all-time favourite fairytale was not written by Andersen or the Grimm brothers…

I have so much love for Beauty and the Beast. It’s my favourite Disney movie – I have it on both VHS and DVD, and I also have the soundtrack. I even have a Chip cup in my kitchen cupboard, which I acquired on my first trip to Walt Disney World (yes, I’ve been more than once). Every time I do a Disney quiz on Facebook (yes, I do those – no shame!), my result is always Belle. She loves books. She gets to live in a castle. She ends up with a prince. It’s kind of awesome, right?

Disney's Beauty and the Beast (giphy.com)
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (giphy.com)

So who wrote this masterpiece, if not Andersen or the Grimms? Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (born 1695 in Paris, France) is known as the author of La Belle et la Bête, the oldest known variant of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast. I wanted to track down the original story to see the difference between the Disney version and the Once Upon a Time version and so I did a little interweb sleuthing and found the story online. If you’re looking for some light reading this week, read this. I gotta say, the Disney version is still my favourite version.

200-3

The other reason I wanted to bring Beauty and the Beast to your attention is because a few short weeks ago, it was announced that Emma Watson (a.k.a Hermione, another favourite literary character) will be playing Belle in Disney’s upcoming live-action reboot of Beauty and the Beast. STOKED. You can read all about that little piece of happy news here. Doesn’t this make you want to watch a good old Disney film? Yeah, me too.

Here’s to a grand week off!

Happy reading,
Katrina

 

 

 

 

‘Tequila Mockingbird’ and other Harper Lee News

Hello readers,

Big news in the literary world this week: Harper Lee, Pulitzer-winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird,  is releasing a new book for the first time in more than 50 years! This is timely news because I’m totally re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird right now. Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman, is a sequel to the famous To Kill a Mockingbird, set in the same fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama and based on a grown-up Scout Finch, even though it was written before To Kill a Mockingbird.

In a USA Today article released yesterday, Lee is quoted as “explaining that she abandoned the Watchman manuscript decades ago, after her editor suggested she write a new book from the young heroine Scout’s perspective and to set it during her childhood. That became Mockingbird.”

While there has been a massive amount of suspicion about the timing of Watchman’s release (read up on the controversy here), I am personally really looking forward to reading this book when it comes out – and it looks like I’m not the only one. It’s already the #1 book on Amazon.com’s bestseller list and it isn’t set to come out until July 14, 2015. Pretty exciting stuff!

To Kill a Mockingbird is such a popular book that it inspired the title for Tim Federle’s Goodreads Award-winning cookbook Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist, the book I’m going to head out to buy tonight – the perfect way to spend a Friday night is mixing literary cocktails! Love the punny play on words right there.

(http://www.foodiemisadventures.com/2012/05/frozen-margaritas.html)
(http://www.foodiemisadventures.com/2012/05/frozen-margaritas.html)

Cheers to a great weekend!

Happy reading,
Katrina

Top Ten: Guilty Pleasures

Hello readers,

First off, I want to thank all of you for your amazing support! I’m so grateful to have so many wonderful friends and family members take an interest in my writing and even pick up a book recommendation or two. Writing these posts never feels like ‘homework’ knowing that you’re taking a read. You’re all gems.

Now, you may all remember a Top Ten list I posted back in autumn that focused solely on Historical Fiction. True story: I just finished another powerful WWII fiction novel right now!! Don’t judge! I can’t get away from it. I read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which was featured on the “Best Books of 2014” lists on both Amazon.com and Chapters, and it also won a Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction this year. It was beautifully written and I highly recommend it! But, my friends, because I’ve already covered historical fiction extensively, I thought I’d give you a break by covering my guilty pleasures – so fun!

Get excited! (giphy.com)
Get excited! (giphy.com)

TOP TEN: Guilty Pleasures – books so bad, they’re good

1. Lauren Conrad’s teen fiction trilogies are ridiculously addicting! If you grew up watching Lauren Conrad and Speidi on The Hills, these are for you. If you’re a fan of (un)reality TV, you’ll want to read these books. It’s like reading a TV show – quick-paced, dramatic, amazing.

  • L.A. Candy, Sweet Little Lies, and Sugar and Spice
  • The Fame Game, Starstruck, and Infamous
Lauren Conrad is excited about her books too! (giphy.com)
Lauren Conrad is excited about her books too! (giphy.com)

2.  Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo. Teen fantasy fiction with a Russian magical twist – don’t say nyet to these ones!

3. The White Rabbit Chronicles by Gena Showalter. Romance novelist Gena Showalter takes us on a trip (like a really trippy trip) with this Alice in Wonderland re-make filled with zombies, hot boys, and creepy scientific experiments. So bad. So good.

seriously trippy (giphy.com)
seriously trippy (giphy.com)

4. Anything by Clive Cussler. The villains are crazy, the plots keep getting more and more unbelievable, and the twists just keep coming. Clive currently has five different series going but his most famous series focuses on main character Dirk Pitt, played by Matthew McConaughey in the 2005 film Sahara. Good book, good movie. good stuff. Every time I travel, I take one of Clive’s paperbacks with me. I even have one written in German.

5. Dan Brown‘s early novels – Deception Point and Digital Fortress. From the author that brought us The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, these fast-paced thriller-dramas are a little hokey yet totally entertaining. Every hostel I’ve been to has a couple Dan Brown books kicking around.

6. THE TWILIGHT SAGA. Need I say more? Teen vampire romance = the ultimate guilty pleasure.

sums the story up pretty nicely! (giphy.com)
sums the story up pretty nicely! (giphy.com)

7. The Dark Heroine Series by Abigail Gibbs, an ambitious amateur 19-year-old author. The first book, Dinner With A Vampire, caught my eye at Chapters with a big silver sticker on the front cover saying “The Sexiest Romance You’ll Read This Year”, so naturally I picked it up. It was sexy/questionable/so-so/good. The second book, Autumn Rose, was similarly good/bad! The third novel (in what’s expected to be a nine-book series) is set to come out sometime in 2015 and I know I will give in and buy it.

8. Books written by Nicholas Sparks that have been turned into movies – none will ever beat A Walk to Remember or The Notebook, but most of his books are perfect for poolside/beach reading. I always end up reading one of these while on summer vacay.

200-8 200-7

9. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I was NINE years old when I first read this and I still come back to it when I need something cute/cheesy/easy to read. The movie doesn’t do the book justice!

10. Eragon by Christopher Paolini. This was a childhood favourite and I recently re-read the entire teen-fantasy series just for kicks. So juvenile, so good.

Well, folks, that’s it and that’s all for this week! What are your guilty pleasures? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy reading,
Katrina

Cooking Adventures with Kaeri and Katrina

Hello readers,

I’m currently between books – I just finished All the President’s Men and am in the process of deciding what to read next. Therefore, I bring you a post about one of my very favourite things: perogies!

On Saturday, my bestie/cooking buddy Kaeri and I decided to get crafty in the kitchen. We have been trying out recipes and making messes in the kitchen together for the better part of ten years and figured it was time to do a little cooking together. We were both craving homemade perogies last week so we grabbed a copy of Mennonite Girls Can Cook and settled on a recipe for the classic cottage cheese variety.

Mennonite Girls Can Cook is written by ten women of similar faith and backgrounds – one of whom attends my home church and is a close friend of Kaeri’s family. What began as a recipe-sharing blog has turned into two cookbooks and a lot of fun!

Perogy-making is an art. Kaeri and I both come from German/Ukrainian/Russian/Mennonite backgrounds and grew up watching moms, aunties (known in German as “Tantes”), and Omas make little dough pockets of perfection. My aunt’s nickname is literally “The Perogy” – it’s in the blood, I tell you! We started making our own a couple years ago because they are the perfect thing to make for a potluck – everyone loves a good perogy!

I grew up with the potato/potato-cheese variety but discovered cottage cheese perogies a couple of years ago. I wasn’t a fan at first but have since grown to love the little guys. In terms of ease, cottage cheese perogies take a lot less time to make because the filling is less labour-intensive (no boiling/mashing/mixing – all you have to do is add egg, salt, and pepper to dried cottage cheese), so that was a bonus! We were very pleased with the dough in the Mennonite Girls Can Cook recipe but recommend adding less salt than called for in the filling. Because cottage cheese is salty to begin with, we recommend cutting the salt measure (1 tsp) in half. We doubled the recipe and found that 1 tsp was more than enough – 2 tsp would have been overwhelming. We even had a little extra dough at the end and made three blueberry perogies – my first time making fruit perogies! They were a big hit – my dad has put in an order for more ASAP.

I highly suggest making ‘gravy’ to accompany your perogies (known as ‘white gravy’ or schmaunfatt – which is Low German and fun to say). Don’t forget to fry up some farmer sausage, bacon, and onions for a true Menno meal. For more recipes and the story behind the Mennonite girls who produced this cookbook, check out the Mennonite Girls Can Cook website. Make sure to take a peak at the projects these women have raised money for with proceeds from cookbook sales – it’s inspiring!

Happy reading!
Katrina

New Year, New Books!

Hello readers,

Welcome back! I took a bit of break from writing over the holidays to take full advantage of my time off, and it was blissful. I did a lot of sleeping, reading, movie watching, treat eating, crafting (see my last blog post!), and friend seeing – I feel like I don’t get to see everyone as much as I would like to when school is in full swing so it was very nice to see friends and family, and relax. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday as well!

Now it’s official: 2015 is here – which means new classmates, new projects, and of course, new books to read!

giphy.com
giphy.com

I just finished Ken Follett’s Edge of Eternity over the break – the book is about the size of your average Bible so I waited until Christmas to read it so that I could give the story my undivided attention and it was well worth the wait.

The book spans 1961 to 2008 and wow was there a lot to cover. Follett writes with clarity, wisdom, and honesty about the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, the decades-long battle for civil rights in the U.S.A., the Vietnam War, the changing landscape of communism and the Soviet Union during the Cold War (with some impressive discussion on the Cuban Missile Crisis), the Watergate scandal (which was great prep for reading All the President’s Men this semester! For a sneak peak about the legacy of Watergate and the Washington Post’s Pulitzer-winning coverage, check out this link), and so much more.

Through characters experiencing historic events on the front lines, Follett leads us on a journey through the last third of the 20th Century, tying up loose ends and finishing off his epic Century trilogy that began with Fall of Giants and continued with Winter of the World. If you’re seeking a better understanding of the cultural, political, and social tensions and transformations that took place between 1900 and today, read this trilogy. It was so well written and I look forward to seeing what Follett writes next (I’ll need a BIG book to read when we take a break from CreComm over the summer!).

Now that I’m pretty well-versed on the 1960s and 70s, I’m delving into All the President’s Men for my Journalism class. I don’t normally read non-fiction because I’m a sucker for fiction and fantasy, but so far I’m finding All the President’s Men riveting. Up next, I’m hoping to read some classics that have been on my shelf for a while, including Doctor Zhivago, War and Peace, 1984, and To Kill a Mockingbird (I’m sensing a 1960s/Russia/revolution theme…). However, I might change things up on you – Anne of Green Gables is also looking like a good prospect. So many choices! I’ll just have to keep you guessing.

Here’s to a new year of adventures on the page and in real life!

Happy reading,
Katrina

Anne of Green Gables and other pretty things

Hello readers!

I hope you are all enjoying this holiday season with friends, family, and good food! As we say goodbye to 2014 and welcome in a brand new year, I am especially grateful for my super supportive friends, my lovely family, my amazing grandparents (who survived a devastating house fire in mid-December and are starting a new chapter of their lives), stitches being removed early (allowing me to eat delicious Christmas baking I thought I’d miss out on!), and, of course, for books!

My family knows me oh so well and gifted me with a the classic novel Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery this Christmas. I have never read Anne of Green Gables (how un-Canadian of me!), so I’m excited to read it. What makes this book particularly special? My mom found me an edition with a cover designed by Anna Bond, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Rifle Paper Co., a beautiful stationary and gift company that I’m currently obsessed with.

Anne of Green Gables with cover designed by Anna Bond
Anne of Green Gables with cover designed by Anna Bond

Bond designed four book covers for Puffin’s In Bloom collaboration, including Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Heidi, and A Little Princess.

Mom picked my new copy of Anne of Green Gables up at Anthropologie at Polo Park. You can also find Rifle Paper Co. products at all of my favourite stores, including Chapters, Pineridge Hollow, and Tiny Feast in the Exchange District. I purchased my 2015 calendar at Chapters and my iPhone case at Pineridge Hollow. Like I said, I’m quite obsessed with Rifle Paper Co. designs!

My growing Rifle Paper Co. collection
My growing Rifle Paper Co. collection

Rifle Paper Co. products can be a little pricey so our crafty friend Martha Stewart has provided us with a way to get our very own Rifle Paper Co. designed bags at an economical price – how, you ask? In the December 2014 edition of Martha Stewart Living, Bond provides a design template for painting leather clutches/purses/pouches based on a bag she painted for herself during Fashion Week. You can find the step-by-step instructions here. Because I am enjoying a glorious amount of free time, I decided to craft my Saturday away and here are the pretty results!

If you decide that you want your very own Rifle Paper Co. designed bag, too, I recommend using a bag with a smooth, leather(like) surface. The bag I used had a pebbled texture that made tracing the pattern with transfer paper a little tricky. Depending on the surface you decide to paint on, you may have to do multiple coats of paint – I did two coats of each colour, with one hour of drying time between coats. If you use the Sharpie paint pen (highly recommended!), allow the paint a minimum of 24-hours to dry.

Happy reading and happy crafting, friends!
-Katrina

Resources:
Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Satin Paint in Summer Haze and Wild Blueberry (purchased at Michaels)
Sharpie oil-based metallic paint marker in Gold (purchased at Michaels)
Transfer paper in White (purchased at Michaels)
Fine paintbrush (found in a random kitchen drawer – score!)
Black clutch (free from Shoppers DrugMart – the perfect bag to experiment on)

 

 

The Mockingjay Effect

How the Hunger Games is transcending into the everyday…

Hello readers!

Last Saturday, my friend Kaeri and I embarked on our annual Christmas shopping adventure. It’s something we have been doing for almost 10 years (yeah, that doesn’t make me feel old…) and I look forward to it every holiday season – it’s one of my favourite Christmas traditions!

Because we rarely see each other any more (I’m not really blaming CreComm, but I might be just a little bit), not only did we get some shopping in, but we also decided to hit up Cineplex Polo Park to see Mockingjay: Part 1, the latest instalment of The Hunger Games.

I read the books before the movies were made and while I didn’t love them, I have to acknowledge that Suzanne Collins has worked some brilliant concepts into her series. When I first read the books, I read them through the lens of my degree so I couldn’t help but analyze the political and revolutionary elements of the series. However, watching the most recent movie last weekend, I looked at those elements through a CreComm lens.

Here’s something that stood out to me:

The Propos
One of the most fascinating aspects of The Hunger Games series, seen most prominently in Mockingjay Part 1, is how everything in Panem is highly produced. The Hunger Games themselves are a reality TV show where the audience is encouraged to vote on their favourite competitors and encourage donors to send them care packages based on how well-liked they are. And Katniss as a symbol of the revolutionary movement = highly produced and marketed as something to sell. She’s a commodity to be controlled and sold. It bothers me so much. And as much as I know that Collins did this as a social commentary and as satire, I can’t stand it. And this has made me take a critical look at how advertising and and public relations can be used maliciously to contort messages and control public opinion and societal values. Crazy. So here’s a reminder to be aware of what messages you’re sending when you create campaigns. And to be aware of what your clients stand for.

Lastly, the Mockingjay Effect:
Mockingjay has been banned by one theatre company in Thailand because protesters have been using the three-finger salute from the books in peaceful protest against the military that organized a coup in early Spring of this year. This gives me chills. I love that pop culture has the power to trickle down into our every day lives and inspire change. I think it’s so cool that a symbol from a book has become a vital symbol in a real movement and is creating dialogue and awareness about a social justice issue. Usually, real events inspire and inform books, television, and film. We get our ideas from true stories because the craziest stuff happens in real life. However, this is a really cool example of give and take. It’s refreshing to see pop culture influence reality in a positive and fascinating way.

giphy.com
giphy.com

For more information about what’s going on in Thailand, check out these links:
Bangkok Post http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/politics/444270/apex-drops-mockingjay BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30140596
BBC Blog: Fact and Fiction Collide http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-30216289 

I love it when literature makes you think! It always should! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas – this may be my last post until January, but who knows, I may surprise you with a little literary fun over the break.

Happy reading,
Katrina

 

‘Tis the Season

December is almost here! 

I’ve been waiting for December for a while now. Not only do I get a break from school but I also get to enjoy Christmas baking, Christmas music, Christmas movies, Christmas sweaters….

I think you get the point. I love Christmas. I’ve been wearing my reindeer sweater since October. I quote Elf year round. This is the season I live for. Honestly.

Elf - giphy.com
Elf – giphy.com

I have several traditions I uphold each year (tree decorating! baking! craft sales! choir concerts! Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate!) and one such tradition is working my way through my Christmas movie list. I watch the same set of movies every year sometime between the beginning of November (I watched Love Actually on November 9 – don’t judge) and the end of December, and I haven’t gotten sick of any titles yet.

I enjoy a variety of storytelling forms – from books to blogs, and TV shows to film – and I thought I’d interrupt our regular programming to talk about Christmas movies. Get excited!

Here’s my current list:

  1. The Grinch – both the animated classic and the Jim Carrey version
  2. Home Alone – I stick to the first two but I watch them every year without fail
  3. Elf – if you haven’t seen it, you’re a cotton-headed ninny-muggins
  4. The Family Stone – probably one of my all-time favourites!
  5. The Holiday
  6. Little Women – not technically a Christmas movie, the first scene is set at Christmas-time
  7. Muppets Family Christmas (this is TV special from the 1980s and it’s amazing! My sister, a tech whiz, found it online and we now have our very own DVD copy to replace our recorded VHS tape hehe)
  8. Muppets Christmas Carol
  9. While You Were Sleeping
  10. Serendipity
  11. Four Christmases
  12. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past – it’s so bad but so good!
  13. You’ve Got Mail – this is another one that isn’t technically a Christmas movie but the Christmas scene has always stuck with me so I watch early on in the Christmas movie marathon
  14. Arthur Christmas – watched it for the first time last year, so this one’s new to the list
  15. And of course, my favourite recorded TV specials from the 90s: Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Little Match Girl

This year, I plan on adding National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to the list because I confess I haven’t seen it yet!

I plan on getting the marathon started tonight – what’s on your Christmas movie list? Let me know!

Happy First Advent!
– Katrina

Katrina and Jessica try out a recipe!

Hello readers!

You may recall that last month I read The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. Well, fun fact for you, there’s a recipe at the back of the book and my friend Jessica and I decided to try it out this past Saturday.

It was an exciting day! Not only did we have a chance to catch up, but we also did a little book swap – and by little, I mean big. She brought me three beauties to try out (Wuthering Bites by Sarah Gray, Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter, and Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev) and I lent her four of my favourites. Needless to say, these additions to my reading list will keep me busy for the next little while.

The main part of the afternoon was spent baking. I really love to bake but I am by no means a master pastry chef so things got a little wonky at times – the end result, however, was indeed delicious!

Now, I don’t want to give too much away because I know some of you plan on reading The Storyteller, but I will say that the recipe at the back of the book is for “Minka’s Rolls”, and these buns are an important symbol throughout the story. Because Jessica and I both loved the book, we thought it would be a great idea to try the recipe out. It will likely become a November tradition from here on out.

the finished product: Minka's Rolls
The finished product: Minka’s Rolls.

Here is the recipe we followed, which can also be found on Jodi Picoult’s website and at the end of The Storyteller.

Ingredients:

1/2 cups warm milk, 110 degrees
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for bowl and muffin tin (it also works to use non-stick cooking spray)
¼ pound bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped or shaved
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Set Aside:

Butter a large non reactive bowl for dough; set aside.
Butter a 12 cup muffin tin; set aside.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Pour warm milk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. In a bowl, whisk together ¼ cup sugar, 1 egg and 1 egg yolk. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated.
4. Change to the dough hook. Add 3 tablespoons butter, and knead on low speed until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, about 10 minutes. Dough will be sticky.
5. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel. Set aside in a warm place to rise until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
6. If dough is not in a warm area it may take longer to rise. A simple trick to help warm your dough-place a large pan of boiling water on the lowest rack in your oven and place bowl of dough on the next highest rack. This should help the dough rise.
Prepare filling 
7.Place chocolate, remaining ¼ cup sugar, and cinnamon in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Add 3 tablespoons butter and toss to combine. Alternately, place chocolate, cinnamon and butter in food processor and pulse to combine. Set aside
8. Once dough has doubled, turn on to a well floured surface and deflate. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.
9. With rolling pin, roll dough into large rectangle shape. Sprinkle filling over dough; roll the dough into a log and slice into 2’ pieces. Place each slice in muffin cup. Cover muffin tin with plastic and let sit for 15-20 minutes or until dough rises slightly.
10.Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

mixing the dough with my handy-dandy Kitchenaid mixer
Mixing the dough with my handy-dandy Kitchenaid mixer.
chocolate for the filling - delicious!
Chocolate for the filling – delicious!
this may not look tasty yet BUT the filling was pretty amazing
This may not look tasty yet BUT the filling was pretty amazing.
soo tasty
Baked to perfection!
Voila! The perfect snack for a wintery evening!
Voila! The perfect snack for a wintery evening!

Try the recipe out – guaranteed your rolls will look different from ours because you are going to follow the directions, right? Right. *But if you mess up, worry not! Ours were still scrumptious!

Until next week, happy reading!
-Katrina