Jaime

About Jaime

As a Circulation Clerk at the Warrenville Public Library, I seek a life in books. Aspirations include: adopting a dog named Blizzard, transitioning to the age of ebooks, and baking. Often found reading romance, fantasy, and watching creature features.

Macaron Mayhem: Conquering the French Dessert 1 Batch at a Time

Books & Recipes – French macarons are my guilty pleasure.  I love the light, crispy yet chewy texture of the delicate cookies, and the sweet, buttery filling ranging from buttercream to chocolate ganache.  Intimidated as I was, I decided to give the fanciest of French desserts a shot.

Naturally, my first stop in my macaron adventure was our library, where I collected some cookbooks, including: The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer, Bake it, don’t fake it! by Heather Bertinetti, and Bouchon Bakery by Sebastien Rouxel.

The Art of the French Pastry and Bake It, Don’t Fake It were both very helpful in introducing me to the world of French pastries, including detailed baking guides as well as helpful hints for novice bakers.  Bouchon Bakery is a beautifully photographed cookbook that made me believe I too could create Instagram worthy delicacies.  Additionally, I requested Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes by Cecile Cannone through Interlibrary Loan,  which features a ton of recipes for both macaroon shells and fillings.

The first batch was an absolute failure and did not reach fruition.  Anyone who has made macarons will tell you how  crucial it is not to overbeat your egg whites; and mine ended up looking like a pile of soapy egg suds.  Yuck.

The batter was still fairly lumpy in my second batch but I persevered, hoping everything would magically work itself out, which somehow, it did!  My third attempt went 1,000 times better.  With the assistance of my sous-chef (aka: Mom), I managed to whip the egg whites into shiny, perfectly stiff peaks.  With the grace of an experienced baker, she showed me how to gently (so as not to collapse the fluffy batter) fold in the dry ingredients.

Three more batches and 12 hours (yes, TWELVE hours) later, I could bake no more, with over 100 macarons.  With some fancily piped Vanilla Buttercream (recipe courtesy of Cecile Cannone’s Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes), even I was impressed by my handiwork.

 

Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat by Caroline Burau

Book – Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a 911 operator, to be on the receiving end of any number of emergencies and daily life struggles, never quite knowing what that next phone call will bring?  Needing to respond clearly, quickly, without hesitation.  I can’t imagine the pressure and anxiety of worrying whether you helped someone, and especially if your help came too late.

Caroline Burau shares her experiences working as an emergency dispatch operator in Answering 911: Life in the Hot SeatWhile weaving in details from her past and personal life, Caroline composes a relatively chronological account of her work as a 911 dispatcher.  Reading the memoir, it feels as if we the readers are actually shadowing the author through her daily work.  Because of this writing approach, it’s easy to picture the dispatch center’s environment.  We see the inner workings of the center, and watch Caroline’s as she first becomes an operator through her decision to leave the job.  I appreciated that the author doesn’t try to romanticize her career as a dispatcher.  The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about this job is “Wow!  That must be really exciting and she must have a lot of crazy stories!”  Which isn’t true, as Caroline points out.  More often than not it is not emergencies that come through the phones, but day to day struggles, claims of stolen items, neighbor complaints…etc.

Caroline is honest and to the point, detailing the highs and lows of the job, it’s impact on her life, and through it all, her desire to help people.  Her writing style is informative, but not really humorous as most memoirists I tend to read.  When we are not learning about her career, readers gain insight into Caroline’s own personal thoughts/mind, encountering her inner demons, self-doubt, and desire to make a difference.

 

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Movie – I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the whole genre of action films, but after being coerced into seeing the newest King Kong film, Kong: Skull Island, I was pleasantly surprised that it actually exceeded my expectations.

In Kong: Skull Island, we meet the eccentric Bill Randa.  Most people think he’s mad, but he manages to find funding for a crazy expedition disguised as a geological study, with  military escort in tow.  In reality, Randa is out to find something big on unexplored island where all planes, ships and people who’ve ventured there were never heard from again.  A Bermuda triangle kind of place.  However, Randa’s comrades and the military personnel are none too pleased to discover the monstrous inhabitants that lurk beneath and above the ground, especially the incredible Kong.  It’s a fight to the death for the remaining survivors.

The moral of the story? Don’t explore remote islands from where no one returns.  Don’t inflict the wrath of a giant ape beast (he’s not stupid). And please try really hard not to unearth some demon-like alien creatures that will surely kill all of your men.  Just turn back now while you can, and never look book.

I enjoyed this film.  The reason?  I often find myself bored by  intense and lengthy fight scenes that seem neverending and repetitive.  (That might also just be a me thing, though)  Luckily for me, this film came across as more creature feature, a genre that I love.  It’s an unrealistic story (Because giant apes), with a fair share of comedic elements and some pretty cool creatures.

 

Divide by Ed Sheeran

Music CD – I’m a longtime fan of Ed Sheeran, and was pretty stoked for the release of his newest album, Divide.  Overall, I think this is a really strong album.  I love classic Ed Sheeran songs like “Photography” and “A Team,” in X and + [Plus sign], easy listening tracks that are perfect for zoning out to.  In Divide, we get a good mixture of soft-spoken Ed as well as a collection of more powerful, intense tracks that I think really show off Ed’s full vocal range.  You can hear him rising from his comfort zone, reaching out for those higher pitches and playing around with his vocals.

There are some great pumped-up beats for your morning drive to work, my favorite being “Castle on the Hill”. On the other hand we also get some good ‘ole smooth-talking Ed Sheeran in “Happier” and “Perfect”, songs for when you need some music but have a headache looming. Ed is a folky kind of musician in general, but I can’t stop obsessing about the swingy, Irish jig feel of “Galway Girl” and especially “*Nancy Mulligan” (*Unfortunately this track is only available on the Deluxe Version).  The acoustics are just beautiful and the music makes you want to get up and dance.  It’s a nice compilation of music.  I also just adore “Castle on the Hill;” it’s about missing where you’re from, and returning home to all the places and people you’ve missed.  It can sound like a love story, even romantic depending on the mood you are in whilst listening, but overall it’s a feel good, nostalgic song. You really get to hear the full range the artist has to offer in this album and those high notes are a real treat.

 

 

Confessions of a Wannabe Fashionista: Fashion Comedy Films

Film List – I have a confession; I am wannabe fashionista.  My addiction to fashion-themed romantic comedies knows no bounds and is ever growing.  Here are a few recommendations for a rainy night in:

The Devil Wears Prada

Andrea dreams of being a journalist, and having just graduated from Northwestern University, she is finally ready to start her writing career.  But her dream never involved working as the assistant to demanding Miranda Priestly, Editor-in-Chief of a famed high fashion magazine.  Andrea soon finds herself in way over her head.  How will this young woman survive the deadly world of fashion.  It’s normal girl transforms into fashion goddess; one of my all-time favorite films.  And to top it off the film has a killer cast with the incredible Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, and Emily Blunt.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Rebecca Bloomwood is a shopaholic; she dreams of writing for a fashion magazine and sharing her addiction with the world.  But Rebecca is in some serious credit card debt from all her shopping escapades and needs a job fast.  She manages to land a job at a financial magazine.  Now Rebecca has to write about personal finances and saving money while battling her inner shopaholic.

The Dressmaker

Though more eccentric-depressing drama than comedy, I still think this film is worth a nibble.  Kate Winslet portrays fashion designer Tilly Dunnage, who’s had an exciting life traveling the world.  When Tilly returns to her childhood home, she is an outcast, even to her eccentric mother, Molly.  In spite of her efforts, Tilly falls for the childhood friend turned handsome flirt.  To gain the approval of the local townswomen, Tilly begins designing custom apparel for them, but a dark secret from her past threatens to destroy everything.  Is it too later to start over and move on from the past?

 

 

 

Close Enough to Touch: A Novel by Colleen Oakley

Book – Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley is the wonderfully whimsical story of a girl who is allergic to human touch.  Young Jubilee Jenkins was an oddity in her small town, due to an allergy that seemed too ridiculous to be true.  Doctors diagnosed her with a severe allergy to physical contact to other humans.  Her body lacked something that all humans possess, an unfortunate reality that caused her to break out in hives at even the lightest touch.  As a child, a fatal event nearly takes her life, and so Jubilee becomes untouchable, living alone and hidden from the world for nine years.  When her mother passes unexpectedly, Jubilee must finally face the world on her own.  Finding solace in her very first job as a Circulation Clerk at the local library,  Jubilee slowly begins to open up after an encounter with a struggling divorced father named Eric.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book.  I thought the concept was really unique.  As soon as I opened the book jacket and read “allergic to touch,” I was hooked.  I’m also a sucker for stories involving libraries or working in libraries, so this novel was a good match for me.  The only thing that really bothered me was that I thought it ended much too soon and abruptly.

 

 

Hi Anxiety: Life With a Bad Case of Nerves by Kat Kinsman

indexBook Hi Anxiety: Life With a Bad Case of Nerves by Kat Kinsman is an exploration of anxiety and its effect on one woman’s life.  In 2014,  Kat went public about having General Anxiety Disorder, publishing a blog post on CNN.com titled “Living With Anxiety, Searching For Joy“.  The reception following the publication was incredible; she received an overwhelming response from readers overjoyed to hear a voice that resonated so much with their own lives.

I have to mention first how much I love the cover art of this book;  I’m always a sucker for cute animals, (especially bunnies) and I snatched this off the shelf without a second thought.  It also seems appropriate given the subject matter–rabbits are by nature skittish, nervous bundles of fluff, in my opinion a perfect mascot for anxiety.

Kat Kinsman is a funny, relatable author who does an amazing job showing what life is like for someone living with anxiety.  She delves into all aspects of her life in a format that switches between chronological chapters, and sections titled irrational fear.  The irrational fear segments detail specific activities and instances that incite anxiety in Kat, including but not limited to: “Seeing the doctor,” “Having No way Out,” and “Driving”.  My favorite thing about this book is Kat’s focus on personal relationships–the role anxiety plays in her relationships with others, and specifically its impact on the pursuance of romantic relationships.  Embarking on romantic endeavors is difficult enough without anxiety and I found that Kat’s personal narrative of love and loss really resonated with me.

It’s easy to feel a connection to Kat’s words thanks to the intimate and honest nature of her writing.  Whether or not a reader struggles with a mental disorder, I think anyone can find a connection with some aspect of Kat’s experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mirror Sisters by V. C. Andrews

29430815Book – From the author of Flowers in the Attic, comes a new disturbing tale of twins, appropriately titled The Mirror Sisters by V.C. Andrews.

I should have known what to expect from this creepy, chilling novel centered on identical twins, Haylee Blossom Fitzgerald and Kaylee Blossom Fitzgerald.  With a manic and controlling mother, the sisters received a truly identical upbringing, and were taught to view themselves as a single perfect being.

As children, their mother ensured that each twin received exactly the same treatment and experiences.  If one twin received a new dress, the other must also have an exact duplicate.  Likewise, if one child happened to cut her finger on a broken shard of glass, the other must be pricked in the exact same spot of the exact same finger.  Differences in behavior and thought were frowned upon and punishable.  Though centered on the relationship between the two girls, I enjoyed that this story also had a strong focus on all relationships within the Fitzgerald family.  The obsessed mother.  A troubled father.  It was cool to see those unique family dynamics.

The story as a whole left me frustrated, and stayed with me long after reading.  I applaud V.C. Andrews for composing a complexly disturbed narrative I simply couldn’t put down.  Definitely not a feel good story in any respect, but well worth the read.

 

The World From the Side of the Moon by Phillip Phillips

phillipphillips-album-cover-400x400Music – Country to me has always been a difficult genre to nail down, with music ranging from classic country legends, to rock pairings, and ventures into the pop scene with just a twang of country accent.  I’ve even heard country rap!  It seems there is something for every music lover in this ever evolving genre.

For a minimum of two months at least, The World From the Side of the Moon by Phillip Phillip’s was my sole music provider.  I’m the kind of person that will listen a CD to death until I can’t bear another track, and Phillip Phillips was a great contender.  He has a folky, almost rock tone.  As a whole, I think this album is a great listen from start to finish.  The live tracks at the end of the album were also a nice bonus.  Having first heard Phillip Phillips as a contestant on American Idol, I was impressed with his solo voice outside of studio recordings, and his premier album did not disappoint.

The World From the Side of the Moon is a simple collection of songs that share a similar tone and rhythm.  It’s easy to pass through the whole album without really noticing how many songs have really gone by.  While some may find the album to be a bit monotonous, I enjoyed the constancy of the CD as a whole, which is great for as both background and avid-listening music.

Pets on the Couch : Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry by Nicholas H. Dodman

pets-on-the-couch-9781476749020_hrBook – Nicholas H. Dodman has penned quite a few bestsellers on the subjects of animal behavior and psychiatry, his latest book being Pets on the Couch : Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry. Dodman is a world-renowned animal behaviorist, who has appeared on countless television and radio shows to share his work.

In Pets on the Couch, Dodman discusses different diagnoses for troubling behaviors in pets. He starts off with the story of a dog who is sweet as pie, but awakens from sleep as a violently aggressive fiend who rips blankets to shreds, and attacks nearby witnesses. Dodman diagnosed this particular patient with a seizure disorder, and prescribed an appropriate medication, one meant for humans. What I found most interesting about Dodman’s approach to treating animal disorders is that he prescribes human medications as treatment. He describes the strong emotional/psychological connection that humans and animals both share which is why he considers human medications appropriate methods of treating psychological and mental disorders in animals.

While critics felt Dodman claimed he was the first to discover that animals and humans share similar psychological and emotional connections, I was far more interested in the content itself. At times I did wish that Dodman expanded more on the examples/animal cases he provided, and also wished he was able to provide more of these examples. Fortunately for me, Dodman has written many bestsellers on animal behavior, so I have no doubt I can find plenty more stories of his experiences.