September Tumblr Round-Up

For a while, I totally fell off the Tumblr bandwagon. I think I was following too many hipsters posting photo after photo of the same monochromatic images of coffee mugs and vinyl records and v-neck-t-shirt-clad androgynous boys that I just got bored with it all. For some reason unbeknownst to me, as of late I've allowed myself to enter the realm of Tumblr again, making sure to seek out better blogs to follow. I think I've done pretty well on that front thus far.

Tumblr is almost a form of micro-blogging since most posts are quotes, photos, links, and the like. So I thought it would be interesting to re-post some of my favorite little bits and pieces that I've come across on Tumblr on the more long-form Radiator Tunes blogger site. I'm hoping to make this a monthly post where I'll select and share some of the best things I've discovered on Tumblr in the past 30 days. Here's my first attempt at a Tumblr round-up. Let me know what you think, if you have a Tumblr account that I should follow, or if you have any following recommendations to make!

There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your live those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.” - Nikki Giovanni

'Don’t be morbid,’ Jordan said. ‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.’ - F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting” - e.e. cummings


The Head and The Heart - Rivers & Roads (A Doe Bay Session Extra) from Sound on the Sound on Vimeo.


Things I've Learned From My Days with Dogs

As an evening grad student, I walk dogs during the daytime hours to support myself. Much as I love the actual work that I do, having the less than prestigious professional title of "Dog Walker" definitely has brought on its fair share of mental battles. Sometimes I find myself unbearably frustrated that, with all the hard work I put in to earn my Bachelor's degrees, I've been unable to find more gainful, challenging, or stimulating employment. I worry too much about what my clients think of me, my friends, my family, my old classmates.

But on the other hand, walking dogs is preferable to some of the other lowly employment options that this miserable economic state have sent my way. Dog walking offers me exercise, vitamin D, companionship, ample opportunities for meditation, and a decent enough paycheck. It keeps me active and healthy and engaged with some of the most joyful and pleasant creatures I could hope to encounter. For now, I'm just working on letting that be enough.

As I struggle with the negative feelings I sometimes have and believe that others have toward my work, I find myself trying to focus on the positives as much as possible. And, in addition to all the things listed above, I can also point to quite a few positive life lessons that we can learn from our canine friends. They may not be the most eye-opening or life-shattering observations, but they keep me going on each and every walk each and every day.

1. Nature is meant to be explore with all our senses. In a day and age where our sense are inundated with creatively placed advertisements, perpetual sound, media infiltration, and near-constant connectivity, it is easy to lose sight of the more natural world that simply exists all around us. Dogs never hesitate to sniff, taste, and listen to everything in their line of sight. Each blade of grass holds the possibility of endless exploration and every route taken holds the possibility of exciting new sensations. Though the canine senses of scent and sound far exceed our human capabilities in these departments, we can learn much from their eagerness to utilize every last scent in their arsenal to explore the world around them.

2. Attention-seeking is a primary motivation behind all of our actions. For most of the dogs I walk, I think that the most exciting part of their day is not so much when we go on a walk as when I arrive for that walk. Nothing produces more tail wagging, jumping, and licking then the simple arrival of an interested individual. Speaking a dog's name in a sing-song voice, petting her, and taking her for a walk all are met with joyful and enthusiastic responses. At the end of the day, dogs just want someone to pay attention to them, and I think the same goes for their human counterparts. We just want someone to notice us, love us, spend time with us, be kind to us. Even something as simple as exchanging pleasantries with a stranger (which often occurs on a walk) can bring a smile to one's face. There is no reason why attention and kindness can't be shared, especially when the impact of such small actions can be so vast.

3. Never underestimate the power of play and exercise. When Louie is misbehaving, rambunctious, or out of sorts, the best medicine that Mike and I know is a good long walk. Usually her bad behavior is a product of listlessness, idleness, and boredom. Playing with her or getting her good and tired out helps bring her back to that good dog equilibrium for which we constantly aim. And I've noticed that the same pattern holds true in my own life. When I have something I need to work out mentally or emotionally, a good run does wonders for easing my mind and sorting out my worries. Other days when I'm not feeling my best, I can work in a little outdoor exercise to wake my body up and get myself back on track. The power of a little exercise is quite formidable but also universal.

4. There is nothing quite like the simple joy of food. Most dogs are overjoyed to receive treats, no matter how much you make them go through to earn it, no matter how small the reward actually is. The joy derived from that delicious taste is enough to force them to do nearly anything you, as an owner, please. And mealtime is a celebratory event in itself. Much as I know Louie is excited to see us every morning after a night spent in separate parts of the house, I think much of her excitement can also be attributed to the prospect of an imminent breakfast. Meals are devoured voraciously as though each one could be her last. Though food is a vessel for fueling our bodies, there is another reason it tastes good - it's meant to be enjoyed. Every bite is worthy of savoring, every meal an opportunity for pleasure and enjoyment. And there's nothing wrong with a little something sweet every once in a while!

5. Communication is not only verbal. One of the things I learned a lot about while reading up on dog training was canine expression and body language. Far too often people rely solely upon their powers of verbal communication to send messages to one another and their pets. But dogs are expressive creatures, as are humans, and both of us are able to relay and interpret messages through other means. While this may seem a blatantly obvious and elementary point, I think we often forget about how much we can say to one another with speaking a word. Simply touching someone, making expressive facial gestures, or providing a smile can do wonders to reinforce how we feel. And though we often don't realize that it's so, we are constantly interpreting these visual messages from others. So put on a positive air, offer a cheesy smile, and be cognizant of what your body language is saying - and if it truly aligns with what you're trying to say.

6. We all need praise. For most dogs, praise is enough to get them to comply with whatever it is you're trying for. Some of the dogs I walk won't start moving their feet until I get down to their level, lure them over, and shower them with praise and love. Others won't make a move toward their kennel until I encourage them with a simple "good dog" and a treat. Positive feedback fuels so many canine actions because it offers such a basic and elemental good feeling for them. This corresponds with #2 quite well - we want to feel good just like dogs do and more than anything positive attention brings those much-desired good vibes. Dogs need that constant reinforcement which we're not always so likely to give to each another, even when we recognize one another doing good. So give someone some thanks, acknowledgement, or even a reward for their thoughtfulness, kindness, talent, or positive impact. I don't think anyone could find themselves feeling any worse for receiving a little bit of praise.

7. Vegetables are best eaten straight out of the ground. Louie loves nothing more than to tear up my garden and nibble on some broccoli and peas. While this caused me a bit of stress and frustration, I also can't blame her for eating so healthy and enjoying food as fresh as it comes. Next year, I hope to model her behavior all season long, after fencing off the garden to keep her out of it!


The Submission

Amy Waldman's debut novel The Submission has been considered one of, if not the prime runner for becoming America's classic 9/11 novel. Though the story takes place entirely in the aftermath of the disaster that struck New York City on that day, The Submission speaks to the importance of how the nation deals with and grows from the tragedy.

The novel starts two years post-9/11 as a carefully selected committee settles their decision for a 9/11 memorial. Composed of artists, prominent members of the New York elite, and even a widower from the event, this composite group is designated the task of selecting, from thousands of anonymously reviewed plans, the memorial that will forever stand on the site of ground zero. Despite contentions that wreck committee members in deciding between the final two proposals, even further chaos is unleashed when the identity of the winning designer is revealed.

This novel speaks to how vast and inexplicable the impact of 9/11 is on the American psyche. While only one member of the committee was directly impacted by personal loss on that day, the opinions of other committee members who are equally American prove to be, at times, equally valid. The legacy of 9/11 is not one limited to the immediate family members of the deceased or New York City residents only, which Waldman speaks to with eloquence and subtlety.

Just what that legacy is, however, is another issue of central concern to Waldman's novel. For some, the attacks of 9/11 represent an assault on an American way of life that need be upheld more than ever before. For others, the attacks provide evidence of the United States' vulnerability and the necessity of suspicion, security, and vigilance in all matters of life. Still others understand the anniversary of 9/11 as a time to celebrate the diversity that makes this nation so strong, unique, and vital. These varying legacies are all manifest in the behavior of  individual characters within the novel, reflections of real American citizens across the nation. The terrorist attacks are a tender issue that Waldman handles with equal doses of realism, honesty, and solemness. Though sentimentality plays a role, it does so in only the subtlest of minor hints.

The Submission also finds great strength in the composition of its very characters. Waldman paints unapologetically realistic portraits of individuals affected by the tragedy. There were characters I wanted to sympathize with on account of their circumstances, but Waldman made them unforgivable in nature. Others were less than noble in their actions but still received my encouragement. The complexity of these personalities is unforgivingly honest and helps to make this novel ring even more true.

While I recognize that this review has done little to supply potential readers with the plot line of this novel, I hope that, in so doing, I've demonstrated how thought-provoking of a read The Submission is. I was relatively young when 9/11 occurred and didn't understand the full consequences and implications of a terrorist attack in a city a few hundred miles from my home. The devastation and tragedy of the day were definitely impressed upon me, but as a girl barely in her teens, I was unable to fully process what had occurred or what it meant to myself and everyone else who called themselves an American.

Though my feelings regarding the legacy of 9/11 and the national attitude we need take from the attacks are still being formulated, Waldman helped raise new and interesting questions that will ultimately help to shape my personal attitude. The Submission throws the concepts of tolerance, security, patriotism, love, and democracy into debate in challenging ways that I bet a majority of Americans have failed to even consider. With great care, understanding, and insight, Waldman's The Submission opens up a vast realm of thought surrounding 9/11 that concerned Americans would be remiss in overlooking.


Win Win

If you were following my blog in the beginning of 2011, you probably remember my anticipation regarding the film Barney's Version. Mike was anxiously awaiting its local release date and revisiting the trailer over and over again. We left the theater thoroughly satisfied, although with time, the sense of initial fulfillment wore off little by little. Not to say that Barney's Version was a disappointment, but I don't think it has stood the test of time as much as we had initially expected (we were also probably more than a little bit miffed by the fact that Paul Giamatti didn't get even so much as a nod from the Oscar's for pulling off this incredibly challenging role).

But that could also be a product of our reaction to another of Giamatti's recently released films, Win Win. I entered the latter film with fewer expectations and less of an idea of what the movie was even about (after all, I had read the novel version of Barney's Version). But I came out with a sense of complete joy and utter contentment. Win Win quite simply made me feel good. Without the sap and sentimentality that you might expect, this movie proves quietly engrossing and ultimately heartwarming. And it is most definitely a movie worth watching again and again, for each viewing is as enriching an experience for the viewer as the first.

Win Win stars Giamatti as Mike Flaherty, a counselor at law and part-time wrestling coach whose floundering practice is a source of great stress and financial woe. When one of his elderly clients, a man named Leo, is nearly court-ordered to be sent to an assisted living facility against his will, Flannery steps in to take up Leo's guardianship. Mike is truly in it for the money and quickly sends Leo to the dreaded elderly home. While Mike keeps all of these struggles behind closed doors so as not to worry his wife, Leo's grandson Kyle shows up and further complicates things. Though he seems like a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, the Flaherty family's innate generosity makes it impossible for them to turn Kyle away, and he soon becomes an unconventional but elemental part of the family.

Beyond Giamatti's amazing performance (as always), this film features some great acting talent all around, including Amy Ryan as Mike's wife Jackie, newcomer Alex Schaffer as Kyle, and the always entertaining Bobby Cannavale as Mike's close friend Terry. Though some critics have contended that the story is a bit predictable if not naive, I like to argue that Win Win offers a refreshing take on the family drama without going to an overly sentimental or melodramatic place. The characters are realistically drawn and well-portrayed, the plot intriguing and multi-faceted. Win Win tells its story with a hard-to-achieve balance of delicacy, comedy, and heart. Its the perfect recipe for success, especially with Giamatti at the helm.

And it is this unique perspective and winning cast that has catapulted this movie to a coveted spot near the top of my personal favorite films list. I can see myself revisiting Win Win when I'm in need of a little pick-me-up, a bit of warmth on a dreary day, or a decent film that will never fail to please.


Happy Fall!

Though the craft stores may already be stocking pumpkins, gourds, and ghouls and Halloween candy is in abundance at grocery stores across the nation, today marks the official start of fall! I don't discredit companies that rush the season as I do so myself with a vengeance. But I also like to give a nod to the official start of the season because today I know that all my waiting, anticipating, and make-believing are over (at least until next year).

Pumpkin chai, apple orchards, changing leaves, scarves and sweaters, cozy blankets, steamy tea, feasts and the giving of thanks, a crispness in the air - just a few of the things that I love about this time of year! I'll even add football to the mix!

So Happy Fall to you and yours! This marks the most wonderful time of the year in my book (September through December is pretty much an unstoppably positive and joyful period of time in my life) and I am ready to soak it all up! Here are just a few photos to get you in the mood... I promise to create many more in the coming weeks!


Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

One of my favorite methods of experimenting in the kitchen is the variation on a theme technique. I utilize the process required for a basic (although sometimes a not-so-basic) recipe and incorporate a whole host of new flavor combinations to create spectacular and surprising new recipes. It worked well for me with hot cocoa - a Red Velvet Hot Cocoa with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream recipe translated quite easily to a Hot Cocoa with Peanut Butter Whipped Cream idea. And now I'm using that same concept to make some delicious pumpkin treats!

One of my favorite dessert finds ever is this Peanut Butter Oreo recipe. I utilized Smitten Kitchen's Homemade Oreo idea, then went one step further and made a peanut buttery cream filling (I usually add peanut butter to the middle of my Oreo sandwiches anyway - they are my one true vice!). I was in the mood for something sweet but also wanted to make something seasonal, warm, and cinnamony. So what better way to bring the flavors of fall to my palate than a pumpkin sandwich cookie? I basically kept the same crispy wafer recipe, opting for cinnamon, cloves, and pumpkin pie spice instead of cocoa powder to make a sandwich almost reminiscent of snickerdoodles. Then, instead of using peanut butter to flavor the cream filling, I thought pumpkin puree would be just the thing.

These cookies are full of the flavors and scents of fall. The cinnamon and cloves made my kitchen smell heavenly and the dough was too delicious to resist taking taste after taste after taste. These cookies are the sweetest way to welcome fall and to revel it in all season long!

Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies

Cinnamon Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar [see recipe note]
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg

Cream Filling Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp water

To make the cookies:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Mix flours, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  3. Add the butter, then the egg, while continuing to mix until dough forms a ball.
  4. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or a generous coat of cooking spray. Use only one rounded teaspoon of batter for each cookie and space them two inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly.
  5. Bake for 7-8 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once in the middle of baking.

To make the cream filling:
  1. Use a mixer to combine butter and pumpkin puree.
  2. Add in the cinnamon, then add the sugar 1/2 cup at a time. 
  3. Mix on highest setting for 2 to 3 minutes to achieve a light and fluffy cream filling. Add water if the filling is too thick, though you don't want it to run out the cookie sandwiches either.

To assemble the cookies:
  1. Scoop filling into a pastry bag or gallon sized freezer bag. Use a 1/2 inch round tip on pastry bag or simply cut of a small corner off a freezer bag to pipe out filling.
  2. Pipe filling onto cookies, a little more than one teaspoon of filling per cookie. Top with an equal sized cookie and give a little squeeze to spread the filling.
  3. Repeat this process for all cookies. Enjoy!
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies.


Weekly Recap

Monday: Not sure if Digby is trying to tell me to skip class or if he just wants to come with me.

Wednesday: It seems that summer has taken its last stand. I played around outside a bit for the last few summer-like days, but the coming cool temperatures are much welcome! 

Friday: Dog-sitting cute little guys like Bailey here isn't the worst way to spend a day. 

Saturday: Had a fabulous 80's-style girls' night with Sheela and Meghan. We got ourselves decked out to see 80's cover band The Legwarmers but got some interesting reactions from Baltimore's pedestrians after the show.

Sunday: Sunday is my day to be in the kitchen. Preparing soups, sandwiches, and dinner for the week was a great way to wind down the weekend. And these individual sweet potato pies were a great way to celebrate the coming of fall!


Edible Stories

I'm not always a fan of short stories, or really any type of written word that doesn't offer me the opportunity to become fully invested for more than a mere few minutes. So I wasn't sure that I would enjoy Mark Kurlansky's Edible Stories. Much as I consider myself a foodie and could read gastronomic fiction day in and day out, short stories just don't always move me the way I'd like. But Kurlansky's book is tagged "a novel in sixteen parts" so I gave it a fighting shot and was much pleased.

It's a simple enough little piece, one that I'd analogize as a food-lover's "Love Actually" or "Paris Je'Taime" in book form. The various stories interweave in ways that are at times imperceptible and at others blatantly obvious. Each part revolves around a certain food item which plays a vital role in that particular story (so I guess the analogy works best with "Paris Je'Taime" since the love of food serves the same role as the love of Paris in the film). At turns relatable, hilarious, and sentimental, the novel is sure to evoke a sense of nostalgia in any reader whose memories are strongly and irrevocably tied to food (as mine most certainly are).

It's hard to categorize this pieces or place it within the strict confines of a specific genre. I would most accurately describe this effort of Kurlansky's as a relatively stimulating food-lover's beach read. But it would be a wonderful book to curl up with come fall after enjoying a Thanksgiving feast or in the spring and early summer when fruits are finally ripening and the first tastes of fresh strawberries, juicy peaches, deep dark cherries, and backyard tomatoes are still fresh on your lips. Anyone with a passion for food can find something to enjoy within Edible Stories and I found myself quite pleasantly satisfied when I completed this one.


Green America: Economic Action for a Just Planet

I just wanted to spread the word about this wonderful little website I recently came across called Green America. Their tagline says it all: Economic Action for a Just Planet. This site hosts listings of green businesses, a guide to ending sweatshop labor, green gift suggestions, and avenues for taking action to ensure social responsibility and justice. Green America publishes reports on socially responsible businesses and investing and offers programs to teach readers on everything from boycotting to fair trade.

I'm just enthralled with all the good work that this non-profit does and how comprehensively they encourage, support, and advocate for a socially responsible, environmentally conscious, just lifestyle. I could spend hours browsing their website, weaning whatever morsels of knowledge and insight I could from the multitude of articles featured on an array of topics so vast and varied. Green America is truly a wonderful resource for anyone who recognizes the consequences of their lifestyle and their actions, for socially conscious consumers, and for innovative individuals with aspirations of leaving the world a better place than they found it.

 Learn more about Green America by visiting their website and be sure to check out their list of Ten Things You Should Never Buy Again, their suggested 25 Ways to Get and Give What You Need Without Money, and of course the Guide to Ending Sweatshop Labor.


Weekly Recap

Monday: I spent much of my Labor Day sifting through and reorganizing my bookshelves. I must say, I was pretty proud of the results!

Tuesday: My garden just keeps on giving and I couldn't be happier (or more surprised!). I harvested a few beautiful eggplants this week and will probably have a couple more in the new few days.

Wednesday: My new charge! He is easily one of the cutest dogs I've ever taken care of and I couldn't be happier about it!

Friday: Dinner of champions! Homegrown green tomatoes and eggplant with oregano, basil, mozzarella, and a fried egg.

Saturday: Mike and I were playing around on PhotoBooth with Louie in our laps. We were pretty proud of ourselves when we finally got a picture in which she was still, even if she wasn't actually looking at the computer.

Sunday: Went with my mom to the local Fall Arts and Crafts Festival. While browsing the offerings, we hit a great antique store and I found this great autumnal candleholder. It was just the thing to get me even more excited about the coming season!



I picked up Barry Estabrook's Tomatoland with a little bit of resistance. I'm a huge fan of food non-fiction, but I also had gotten to the point where I felt as though I'd exhausted the genre. What more was there to learn that would be so starkly different from all that the Michael Pollans and Marion Nestles of the world had already shared? I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the answer was, in fact, quite a lot.

Estabrook's book focuses, as the title suggests, exclusively upon the tomato industry, particularly as it exists in the sandy and unfavorable soil of Florida. He throws out facts and anecdotes that are sure to scare the modern grocery consumer, from violations of regulations regarding pesticides to the way in which industry standards favor a certain tomato appearance, rather than a flavorful taste. But most horrifying of all are the conditions in which farm laborers struggle to live and making a living. Though other books (particularly Karl Weber's Food, Inc.) have touched upon the plight of those workers who occupy the lowest of the low rungs on the industrial agricultural hierarchy, Estabrook takes a more incisive look at the issues that shape the lives of these laborers that is sure to make any reader think twice before picking up their next factory-farmed tomato.

The plight of the tomato farm laborer is one that doesn't ease at the end of a long day of work. A vast majority of farms only pay their workers for the amount of tomatoes they pick in a day without regard to the lapses in time which occur while waiting for their daily assignment each morning or the hours they must wait at the end of a long day while the amount of work they have completed is tabulated. Under good conditions, a farm laborer does stand a chance of filling enough bushels to earn what would amount to minimum wage, however rain, those waits before and after the work day, illness, and a whole host of other factors come in to play and reduce earned income.

But beyond the injustice of the way in which pay is set up, the very conditions of the work are inhumane, so much so in fact that tomato labor is considered one of the prime sites of modern day slavery. Stooped to a crouch under the hot sun for 10 hours a day, picking tomatoes that are drenched in pesticides, often before the requisite waiting period is over, is just a daily occurrence for these people. Further troubles arise when they got home to crowded trailers operated by their bosses, who threaten them, their lives, and those of their family if they attempt to leave or dare to raise a complaint. It's a dangerous cycle which far too many uneducated, non-English speaking laborers have found themselves trapped within.

Luckily there are a few recourses to action that are signs of hope for the Floridian tomato workforce. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a non-profit dedicated to fighting for the rights of Florida workers, particularly in Immokalee, one of the most destitute and corrupted communities where farmworkers live and work. After three Immokalee women gave birth to children with severe birth defects, some of them unable to live more than a mere three days because of the severity of these defects, the Coalition sought action. They hired a powerful lawyer who took the case on pro bono to prove that such defects were a cause of chemicals used on the fields and tomato farm supervisors failing to adhere to regulations that the fields be empty during spraying and remain so for a requisite period of time post-pesticide-application. The coalition has fought for countless other basic rights in the name of these farmworkers, primarily by joining forces to stand up to crew bosses that failed to fully pay their workers or that were hurling physical abuse upon their laborers and tenants. There is still plenty of work left to be done, but Estabrook does a wonderful job of highlighting why there is reason to be hopeful.

Tomatoland touches upon plenty of aspects of the tomato industry, from worker's rights to corrupt industry executives, from dire health concerns and violations to the long sequence of events that made taste a non-factor in factory farmed tomatoes. Similar to Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, Tomatoland won't necessarily deter you from eating the food which is the prime subject of his book. Rather, he ensures that the next time you do eat a factory farmer tomato, you will do so with full consciousness of all that goes into harvesting that fruit in the hope that this will influence your opinion of the tomato and how you both acquire and enjoy it.


Pumpkin Chai Challah Bread Pudding

I must say, I was struck by a stroke of genius when I came up with this one. I had made a loaf of pumpkin challah bread that I needed to finish off before it went bad. Bread pudding was the obvious solution, but a chai-spiced bread pudding took this sweet idea to a whole new level.

The method is pretty simple. Prepare a milky chai, substitute it for milk or cream in your custard, and add some pumpkin into the custard mix too. I basically prepared my Indian Spiced Chai according to the recipe, then added pumpkin and eggs to make a custard. The pumpkin-flavored challah bread is not essential but definitely helps bring out more of the flavors of fall that make this dish so spectacular.

If you don't have all the whole spices on hand to make the chai, simply add the powder version of them when you incorporate the sugar. I also like to add a little touch of cinnamon and brown sugar on top before popping the pudding in the oven to complete the dish!

Pumpkin Chai Challah Bread Pudding


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/4 inch stem of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 4 tsp Darjeeling Tea (or other black tea) leaves (about 3 tea bags)
  • 1 cup milk (the richer, the better)
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 4-5 cups day-old pumpkin challah bread (regular challah bread will do just fine)


1. Put water, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger into a pot and bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
3. Add the tea and allow to infuse for recommended brewing time (usually 3-5 minutes).
4. Remove tea and spices.
5. Add milk and heat on high until just about to boil. Then reduce heat, and add sugar and pumpkin puree. Whisk to fully incorporate.
6. While allowing the tea to cool, cut challah bread into 1-inch cubes. If cubes are soft and moist to the touch, toast lightly to dry the bread out. 
7. Whisk the eggs into the pumpkin tea mixture. Divide cubes among buttered ramekins or baking dish. Pour the pumpkin tea custard over the bread, being sure to push down on any pieces of bread that might not be soaked. 
8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. 
9. Enjoy!

*Recipe makes enough bread pudding to fill four individual 10 oz. ramekins 


Weekly Recap

Tuesday: Power outages make for very interesting candle wax formations. 

Wednesday: Power outages also make for perturbed puppies.

Thursday: I was so excited to receive this wonderful selection of chocolates and candy from my friend Karyn who is currently abroad in Germany. Generous international foodie friends are the best!

Friday: A pesto-coated portobello mushroom salad was just what the doctor ordered once we got our power back (and more importantly, the fridge and the stove back too!).

Saturday: I'm trying my hand at drying my own herbs. This rosemary plant was already on its way out so I decided to get an early start on saving these leaves up.

Sunday: My backyard tomatoes just did not want to ripen on the vine. Windowsill sitting sped up the process while my impatience allowed me an opportunity to enjoy some tie-dye tomatoes.


The Art of the Movie Trailer

Mike and I are both big movie fans (him more so than me), but he can pretty easily compel me to watch nearly any film that has a stunning trailer. We saw a trailer recently for this Sundance romance called "Like Crazy." It was the kind of movie preview that you can't stop thinking about, that absolutely floors you with its idyllic images and compelling score, that has you counting down the days until the theatrical release of the film. Then Mike told me that he thought the movie was going to suck.

This led us to a conversation on the art of movie trailers. There are some trailers that I watch again and again, despite being disappointed or unmoved by the full-length film, simply because I love the way they make me feel. There are others that provide a small and seemingly magical glimpse into a world that the feature film fully encapsulates as well. No matter the integrity, quality, or wonder of any full-length movie, there is undeniably a way that shots from it can be pieced together to create a compelling and moving trailer. But it takes a very talented and creative eye to put the puzzle together in a maximally appealing way. And that's what this post pays ode to.

Here's the trailer that started it all. Though "Like Crazy" doesn't come out until later in the year, I feel as though this trailer will feed my appetite for quite some time. Set to Ingrid Michaelson's simple but stunning cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love," this Sundance film looks like a really heartfelt, beautiful, slightly quirky, and overall satisfying romance. I hope it lives up to all the hype I'm creating in my own home about it.

I think that Mike's pessimistic prediction regarding "Like Crazy" was probably founded on his experience with "Blue Valentine." An amazing trailer for a truly disappointing film. We both felt that the feature-length movie was painfully slow-moving and extremely difficult to watch. It is a very dark film, so this light-hearted trailer definitely helped to appeal to the masses more so than one would that was more in keeping with the feel of the entire movie. But despite our feelings toward the film, I think we both still consider this a delightfully sweet and enticing trailer. It's just a shame that the movie turned out to be so different from our expectations.

I don't think that "Garden State" needs much introduction, successful as it was. And I think this film truly deserved every last iota of critical praise and recognition that it received. This is one trailer that I found extremely compelling, as much so as the movie itself. The film lived up to all that the preview promised, and for that I consider this trailer even better than I originally thought.

"Medicine for Melancholy" is a movie that was on me "To See" list for a long time on account of the trailer. The look, the feel, the conversations, the sounds. Everything about it appealed to me and the snippets from positive reviews that occasionally interjected clips from the film didn't hurt either. I wasn't completely blown away when I saw the movie, but I was definitely quite satisfied with it.

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