Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Crucible: Caramel Apple

To go with The Crucible, I wanted a drink that would feel like fall. We had just picked up some apple cider, which always feels like fall to me. I mixed it with some whipped cream flavored vodka. I wasn't sure exactly what the flavors would be once they were mixed together, but I was pleasantly surprised. It tastes exactly like a caramel apple.

1 part Whipped Cream flavored vodka
2- 3 parts Apple Cider

Pour ingredients over ice, stir and serve.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Crucible: Review of the Play

As I mentioned in yesterday's review of The Crucible, it's currently on stage at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT). The Big Guy and I saw it this weekend and we were both impressed. It's easily one of the best productions we've ever seen at IRT.

One of the most difficult things about putting on a show like this, to me, is the casting. I was impressed with all of the performances and thought that everyone was really well cast and well matched to the characters they played. The emotions were raw and real and I couldn't take my eyes off the stage.

Speaking of the stage, the set was fantastic. It was sparse and rustic looking, with modular pieces that allowed the single room to represent the minister's house, the court, the Proctor's house and the jail equally.

If you're in Indianapolis or are planning to be and have the time to get to the show, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Crucible

It's Fall, which is my favorite time of year. The leaves are changing, it's time for cozy sweaters, football is back, and we're getting close to starting the holiday season. Other seasons are starting as well, including the season at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT). The Big Guy and I have season tickets again this year and we went to our first play this past weekend.

Since the IRT is starting off their season with The Crucible, I figured it was a good time for a re-read. Plus I hadn't read this since high school and I'm usually interested in how my opinions may have changed with time. I liked it then, and I still like it.

I'm fascinated at the way things completely spiral out of control as more people start listening to the girls and taking everything they're saying as fact. It's almost as if the lies begin to take on a life of their own and everyone is afraid to stop and tell the truth because of all the damage that's already occurred. That's pretty clear in the final scenes where the judge refuses to grant any additional time or leniency because others have already been hanged. No one can risk looking weak or uncertain so they all press on, full force to save face almost as much as to uphold justice.

It's well known that the play is a mirror of everything that was going on in the US around suspicion of communist activity. The McCarthy proceedings were very similar to the Salem witch trials with people turning on each other and making false confessions just to save themselves. It's sad, but I think it's something we're all capable of doing. Self-preservation can be a pretty powerful motivator.

That's not to say that we're all bad. Clearly at the end of the play John Proctor has found his strength of character and he and the others go to their deaths bravely knowing that the judgment that has been passed on them by the court is not the real judgment that will impact their eternal souls. They know the truth is on their side and have comfort in that.

I love the evolution of John Proctor throughout. We see all of his flaws early on, and yet he's still likable, it's still easy to see him as a good man; or at the very least as a man who is trying to be better than he was. He never puts the blame for his actions on anyone other than himself and is willing to accept the full consequences of what he's done.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: Hpnotic Martini

I wanted to make something to go with The Ocean at the End of the Lane that would fit into the mood of the story. The story is more than a little magical, and I felt like there was a bit of a haze over some of the characters- the adults mostly- as they were under Ursula's spell. When I came across this recipe I knew it would be the right one. The light blue color is exactly what I pictured for the blue of the kitten's eyes as well.

The recipe as it's written can easily be increased for parties, like your book club meeting, by using the entire bottles.

1 part Hpnotiq* liqueur
1 part citrus vodka
club soda- if desired

Combine Hpnotiq and vodka in a shaker over ice. Shake to combine, pour into a chilled martini glass or into larger glasses to top with club soda. Garnish with lemon wheels.

This was really drinkable. Very refreshing, with a nice citrus flavor. So drinkable that I could see this causing all kinds of trouble if enjoyed in large quantities.

*Hpnotiq is a French liqueur made from Cognac, vodka, and tropical fruit juices.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I loved this book. This latest book by Neil Gaiman tells the story of a grown man returning to his childhood home for the first time after many years away. As he looks over the new home that's taken the place of the house where he was a child, a strange series of events comes back to him. These memories take him back to a time and place that he'd forgotten.

As a young boy our narrator is introduced to Lettie Hempstock, her mother and her grandmother who live on the farm at the end of his street in Sussex. Through them he see for the first time the magic that exists in the world around us, the magic that most people will never see. In some cases that's probably a good thing as not everything in this magical view of the world is beautiful or kind. The boy brings a piece of this world back to his home without realizing it and is forced to face the monster.

The pond in Lettie's backyard is so much more than it seems. He doesn't believe her when she tells him it's an ocean. He does learn that she's telling the truth and goes into that ocean himself. The ocean has healing powers and allows him to see everything as it truly is,  though only for a short time. When Lettie puts herself in front of him to protect him from the monsters, her mother and grandmother put her into the ocean knowing that someday it will send her back fully healed.

The man quickly forgets the details of this visit to Lettie's farm and her ocean as he has countless other visits over the years. He goes back to his normal life, never remembering all the magic that surrounds him.

I loved this book. I love the worlds that Gaiman creates and the way he describes them. Nothing is ever completely spelled out or defined in this book, and that's really part of what I like about it. It adds to the magic for me as I'm reading. Not everything can be easily described.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Deluxe: Hennessey

One of the companies most frequently referenced in Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster is LVMH- the umbrella over Louis Vuitton, Moet, Hennessy. With that in mind, I decided to keep things simple and opt for a bottle of Hennessy. For the full luxury effect, I put it into our Waterford decanter. Name dropping like nobody's business in this post!

Now if you're looking closely, you'll notice that there's a lot of Hennessy in that glass. I've never really had cognac before so I totally overestimated what should be in the glass. Tonight was one of those literary cocktail moments where the Big Guy was happy to have me share. It's nice when that works out.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

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I just finished this book after reading it off and on for almost two years. Not because it wasn't a good book, but it was that book sitting on the night stand waiting to be read only a few pages at a time and it was pretty easy to go between since much of the detail was unique to each section.

What drew me to this book was the author's premise: as luxury brands become more accessible to those of us not in the elite and wealthy segments of society and embrace mass production, do they actually lose what made them luxury in the first place.

My first thought was that yes, they would have to, but after reading, it's not really that simple. There's a fine line between expanding to new customers and alienating the customers who helped you to build your brand. Not an easy feat, especially when you're looking at brands that has been traditionally run by artisans and their families but are now under the direction of more traditional-minded business people. It's not impossible, but it does present a unique set of challenges.

Personally, I love the idea of sitting in a designers atelier and working with them to plan a look from their collection to fit your big event. I love the idea of the event that used to be the luxury experience. Not that I would ever have experienced that first hand, but I still find it very appealing. I like the idea of taking time and care to make each piece perfect. I have a lot of respect for the skill, not to mention the patience, involved in that level of craftsmanship.

Having said that, I think the expansion into new markets is necessary. Not just because of the impact on the bottom line but because we have a much more image-oriented society. It's easier to see the pictures of the fashion and other luxury items and more people are going to want a piece of that dream, of that lifestyle. While there was a time for cultivating an exclusive experience, too much of that is now just elitism. The storefronts used to be minimal and more like waiting areas and now it's a showcase for everything the brand has to offer.

I do think that expansion must be done carefully, though. This book did a great job explaining the research and the planning that goes into that expansion. Sacrificing quality for automation and increased production shouldn't be an acceptable option. There's something to be said for adding to the product offerings rather than completely replacing what was previously available. I might have the Louis Vuitton wallet, but there are also people out there with hand-made steamer trunks. I like the idea of degrees of luxury. It's less about trying to fit into the dream and more about finding the dream in your size.

I would recommend this book to anyone who's interested in luxury brands and shopping.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I usually post something on Wednesdays and didn't want today to be any different. Instead of the normal book review, I'm taking some time to remember the events of 9/11. It seems like so long ago, but in the same moment it feels like it was just yesterday. I remember exactly where I was, even the building on campus I was sitting in, when I got the news.

Today my thoughts are with everyone who lost a friend, family member or coworker that day and my prayers are that they've been able to find some peace after such a tragic loss. My thoughts are also with all the men and women who gave their time and energy to help put things back as close to normal as they possibly could be, and all those who continue to fight to protect the freedoms that others want to take away from us.

I remember how much kinder everyone was to each other after the attack and how united we all felt as a nation and as a people. I want to recreate that feeling as much as possible today and every day.

I hope that we can all remember how valuable the things are that we take for granted, and how much the people in our lives really mean to us. Tell someone you love them today, and mean it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Burning: Strawberry Reisling Slushies

To go with Burning I knew I wanted something that would be great for those summer days where it's so hot you don't want to move. Since we just celebrated Labor Day, it's hard not to feel like summer is over or will be soon, but I'm not quite ready to let go of the season. I also wanted something that would feel youthful. (Typing that makes me feel much older than I am, which is 32 in case you're curious.)

I modified a recipe that I found in the August 2011 issue of Bon Apetit magazine.

2 cups hulled strawberries
1 bottle dry Reisling
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp sugar

Combine ingredients in a blender. Blend to desired consistency.

I picked up a bottle of Reisling at the grocery store. Since I knew I was blending it, I didn't need anything fancy. I've had this one before, and I like the clean finish and mineral aspects to the flavor. I thought it would be a nice compliment to the strawberries.
At this point you could stop and just have a really nice sangria. I'm planning on making sangria soon, but since I have another recipe in mind, I kept going and turned on the blender. I also added a little bit of ice to give it that slushie feel.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


** I received this book as part of a giveaway from a fellow book blogger. I received a free copy of the book for my participation. I was not compensated for this review, nor was any review of the book required for my participation in the giveaway.

Sometimes I read books that can be found in the Young Adult section of the library. I know that a lot of people don't think very highly of Young Adult novels, but I think they're missing out on some great stories and some amazing writing. It's come a long way since I was actually in the intended demographic. That could easily be a post on its own though, so I'll just leave it at that.

As I noted at the beginning of this post, I won a copy of Burning by Elana K. Arnold through a giveaway from another book blogger. It's a story about Ben and Lala, a boy and girl from two very different worlds who happen to meet in the desert outside Burning Man in the series of days that will lead to some big changes for both of them.

Ben's town is shutting down. Not figuratively- the town was built around a mine and with the mine closing everything is shutting down and everyone must move out of their homes. Ben is getting ready to go off to college on a track scholarship and is dealing with the guilt of moving on to a real future when his friends and his family are moving into uncertainty.

Lala is a gypsy. She and her sister are telling fortunes outside of the festival. She's good at it- able to read people and help give them the information they want to hear. The trouble is she's not able to go after what she wants. She's set to be married and will live out the rest of her life within the strict rules set out by her family's culture. Where Ben seems to fear and pity uncertainty, she sees it more as adventure and possibility.

Some of the story is predictable in so much as there will be an attraction between the two and they'll hit obstacles as they try to find a way to be together. What I didn't expect was the ending.

Spoiler coming...

There's a bit of a twist to the way the relationship goes. Instead of ending with the couple deciding to stay together and make it work, which is what Ben wants, Lala sets off on her own to find her own way in the world.

Part of me found that terrifying- a 17 year old girl with no family out on her own? There are too many horrible things that could happen. Another part of me, though, was impressed with her courage. I'm sure at one point or another we've all wanted to start fresh and go somewhere new to be someone new, and here's a character that has that chance and isn't afraid to take it.