Monday, April 15, 2024

What I Read #7 (8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 too): Bridgerton!


This is pure book candy and just what I needed in my life right now -- some fun escapism that is engaging, but doesn't leave me pondering deep philosophical questions. 

When I was in my teens and twenties, I was a big (but sort of secret) fan of historical romance novels. The more "literary" books might have pride of place on my living room bookshelf, but the top shelf in my closet was filled with paperbacks from Bertrice Small, Virginia Henley, Amanda Quick, and Valerie Sherwood. 

My love of romance novels started early. When I was 12, we visited my aunt in DC. Having already gone through the stack of books I brought with me to read in the car, I was going through Aunt Charlene's bookshelf when my eyes were drawn to a flowery pink cover with a couple galloping on horseback. And thus, I discovered Danielle Steel. 

Oh wow, Nancy Drew and Ned never did THAT!

And, well, my Mom didn't really monitor what I was reading...  So I may have been a shy bookworm who didn't put what I read into practice, but by the time everyone in the ninth grade was passing around copies of Shirley Conran's Lace with some particular pages marked (80s girls, IYKYK), I was pretty blasé about it. 

In our 20s, my bestie worked part-time at Barnes and Noble. Customers would often ask for romance novel recommendations, and since she is not a fan, I created "Stephanie's Guide to Smut," which ended up posted on the wall of the employee break room. 

I don't remember everything from my guide to historical fiction authors, but I do remember describing Amanda Quick as a Regency novel that was a bit less sexually graphic than some of the others -- basically, it's Jane Austen Gets Naked -- with some humor thrown in. 

Of course, I've watched (and loved) the Netflix series, so I decided to jump in and read the series, and Julia Quinn's Bridgeton novels were a pure retro delight that reminded me of the Amanda Quick books I loved back then.

Oh, and I can't wait for the third season of the show, which starts in a few weeks. Romancing Mister Bridgerton was my favorite, and it's nice to know my cynical, 50-something self can still get lost in swoony silliness. 

I think we should all hold onto a little bit of that. And who wouldn't sigh when Colin tells Penelope:

“I love you with everything I am, everything I've been, and everything I hope to be. I love you with my past, and I love you for my future. I love you for the children we'll have and for the years we'll have together. I love you for every one of my smiles and even more, for every one of your smiles.”
Tuesday, March 19, 2024

What I Read #6: Capote's Women


I suppose this is also a "What I Watched" post because I bought the book to go along with watching Feud: Capote vs. the Swans. 

So this is basically the OG version of the Real Housewives of NYC - a peek into the lives of the super-rich society women who ruled the social scene in the 1950s and 60s. If you love vintage high fashion and glamour -- it's a lot of fun.  

The FX show is based on Laurence Leamer's 2021 book. And even though it pulls in a bevy of amazing actresses to play legendary socialites such as Babe Paley ("you can never be too rich or too thin"), CZ Guest, and Lee Radziwill, it actually narrows down the cast of swans considerably, mostly leaving out several of the women profiled in the book (Pamela Harriman, Marella Agnellli, Gloria Guinness) who became confidantes of Truman Capote and were the focus of his final, largely unpublished novel. 

Neither Capote nor any of the women come across as particularly admirable characters in the book or the show (the book is actually a little grittier and less forgiving). Still, they make for an interesting story that has been fun to read and watch. 

Friday, March 1, 2024

Strawberry Cake for a Rainy Day


Just when I thought spring was arriving -- with the urge to pull out the sandals and cute floral dresses and take the pupper to the dog park-- it's a cold rainy Friday here in Atlanta. 

The four-legged prince of the household refuses to go potty in the backyard and get his butt wet, and I'm back in cozy sweats and sipping a mug of hot tea. 

When I opened the fridge for some milk (I like my English breakfast tea strong with a spoonful of sugar and a splash of milk), I noticed the strawberries we bought last week at the farmers market. They were meant to top a spinach and feta salad that never got made, because the fruit and vegetable bin is sometimes the place where my good intentions go to die. 

If I was going to use them, something needed to happen FAST.

Enter my favorite strawberry-lemon yogurt cake. It's easy to make and goes perfectly with a hot cup of tea (or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which is what will be happening later today in our house).

The first thing I ever baked on my own was a pound cake when I was 15, and they are still one of my favorite things to make, in many variations.  The Greek yogurt and lemon give this one a nice tang that balances out the sweetness, and it's a great way to use up those strawberries that haven't gone to the dark side -- but that are definitely not looking super bright and fresh.

Friday, February 23, 2024

What I Watched #1: Shōgun Premiere


While my days of taping pages from Tiger Beat to the wall have long passed, I think most grown-ass women still have our swoony crushes on certain celebs. I know I do (looking at you, Bradley Cooper), and I know my mother did. 

For my mom's generation, Richard Chamberlain was at the top of the list of drool-worthy dudes. This was the era of the mini-series, and I have vivid memories of watching The Thorn Birds and Shōgun with her. 

Revisiting The Thorn Birds as an adult a few years ago was jarring. Yeah, Richard Chamberlain was a hottie... but the story of a Catholic priest obsessing over a teenage girl that was wildly romantic to a 12-year-old girl struck me as kind of creepy from today's viewpoint.

But I've been intrigued by the trailers for FX's new adaptation of Shōgun, and was excited to have a date night with Tim last night to attend a sneak-peek preview of the first two episodes. 

All I can say is WOW.  I'm impressed! Visually, it's absolutely stunning and seems to have been made with amazing attention to sets and costumes. It's just simply gorgeous to watch each scene and take in the details.

The story is pulling me in also and I can't wait to see how it unfolds. Watching the original in 1980, I'm sure I was laser-focused on the romance, but this is shaping up to be a fantastic and complicated story of politics and power, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

And yeah, if Tiger Beat still existed, I could happily stare at pictures of Cosmo Jarvis taped to my wall!

Friday, February 9, 2024

A 15-minute chcken dinner? Hold my beer...


So last week I wrote about the easiest yummy chicken marsala that you can get on the table in 15 minutes. This week I topped myself with this quick and satisfying Cowboy Chicken Salad salad. 

I actually had this for the first time at Tim's aunt's annual Christmas lunch - Linda is a fabulous cook, and there is always tons of yummy food when the Hulseys get together. The version was a meatless side, and even with all the gooey, carb-loaded holiday goodies, everybody went back for seconds. 

I made it this week and added some rotisserie chicken for some protein to make it a one-dish dinner. It seems to be a riff on a Ree Drummond recipe, with a few simplifications.  Seriously, you can throw this together in five minutes, so it's FANTASTIC on a night when you want something super easy and not too heavy. 


  • 2 cups diced rotisserie chicken
  • one head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • one can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • one can corn, drained
  • 12-15 ish grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese (whatever floats your boat)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped (or a few green onions)
  • optional - some sliced jalapenos or avocados, fresh cilantro, crunchy tortilla strips


  • 1/4 cup each - mayonnaise, barbeque sauce, lime juice, whisked together
  • a dash of chipotle hot sauce or powder if you like things a little spicier

Toss everything together in a big bowl, and you're good to go!

Thinking out loud, this would probably be amazing if you skipped the chicken and added some sliced grilled flank steak instead. Keeping that idea for when it's warm enough to break out the grill again!

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

What I (Re)Read #5: A Discovery of Witches


Re-reading a favorite book is like spending some time with a comfortable and cozy old friend. And even though I've got TONS of books on my to-read list, I was in the mood for one of my all-time favorite book series ever -- Deborah Harkness' All Souls novels. 

I love a supernatural story, and this one has all the right elements with careful nods to history and a great "universe" of customs and rules for the supernatural creatures that inhabit the series. the characters are intelligent, fully-fleshed-out adults, and the vamps DO NOT SPARKLE. 

I re-read the first in the series, and I'll probably go back to the other three before the fifth book, The Blackbird Oracle, comes out later this year. 

The Brits adapted the first three books as a TV series that I also really liked. (available on Prime) - definitely worth checking out. 

Friday, February 2, 2024

The Best 15-minute Chicken Dinner!


When it comes to cookbooks, I have a bookshelf full, but I tend to reach for a few over and over for my tried-and-true favorites.  The Barefoot Contessa has pride of place with her own shelf. Smitten Kitchen's see a lot of use, and the Southern Living Cookbook is my bible. 

I'm also a big fan of Giada de Laurentiis -- her first cookbook, Everyday Italian, has some of my go-to Italian recipes, including the easiest Veal Marsala ever.  The marsala recipe is in a section on "cutlets" and most of the recipes work interchangeably with thin cuts of veal, chicken, pork or steak. 

Chicken Marsala is in regular rotation at our house. It comes together in no time at all. and if you're lazy like me, it's super easy over some premade mashed potatoes. I like to serve it with french green beans steamed in the microwave and tossed with a little butter, lemon juice, and lemon pepper. Boom! Dinner in 15 minutes. :)

Giada's Chicken Marsala

1 package thin-sliced chicken breasts (why bother with pounding out breasts when you don't have to?)

2-3 tablespoons butter

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped (I use a couple of green onions, and use scissors to cut them right into the pan)

2 smashed garlic cloves (if. you haven't discovered Dorot frozen garlic cubes, find them!)

1 package sliced mushrooms (white or baby bella)

1/2 cup marsala

3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

sprig of fresh rosemary

Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook in a large skillet with half the oil and butter until slightly browned. 

Remove chicken to a plate, add more butter and oil to the pan, and saute the mushrroms with garlic and shallot/onion until tender. 

Add marsala and scrape pan. Let it cook down by half, then add chicken broth and rosemary and return chicken to pan.  Simmer for a few minutes longer until the chicken is cooked through. Salt and pepper to taste.

If you want a slightly thicker sauce for your mashed potatoes, you can make 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch slurry and mix in while the dish is simmering. Finish it off with a sprinkle of parmesean cheese if you like.