Sweet Treats

I’m flying to Paris tonight and that’s pretty much all I can think about, so I was very tempted to scrap all of the recommendations I had come up with this week and instead recommend my favorite French things. But I’ll spare you two weeks of Francophilia, since I’m planning on sharing my favorite Paris things next week. Instead, here are just a bunch of things I enjoyed this past week that I think you’ll like too.

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Make these sweets that I made for my Valentine’s Day party.

I love making Martha Stewart’s Ideal Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing for Valentine’s Day and any other holiday for which I have appropriate cookie cutters. I usually bake and frost them the night before I’m serving them because they’re a bit softer, though still perfectly crisp, the next day. This year, we dipped heart-shaped cookies in pink and white royal icing.

I also made cupcakes using basic White and Devil’s Food Cupcake recipes from Bon Appetit. I filled all of the cupcakes so there were four different “flavors” at the party (white filled with raspberry jam and topped with vanilla buttercream, white filled with chocolate ganache and topped with vanilla buttercream and a maraschino cherry, devil’s food filled with marshmallow fluff, and devil’s food filled with Milky Way and topped with chocolate ganache). I’d never filled cupcakes before so it was all one big experiment, but my party guests seemed pretty pleased with the results.

I recommend all of these desserts because they’re good (and also good for pretty much any occasion).

Go to see John Wick: Chapter 2 with your best buds.

At least a few of you know that I’m a(n unlikely) fan of the 2014 action movie John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves. Well, John Wick: Chapter 2 came out last weekend and while it wasn’t necessarily as good as the first movie, it did satisfy my need to see Keanu Reeves kill like 100 bad guys within two hours. It did not satisfy my need to know why people are always calling John Wick “Jonathan”. The movie is not Jonathan Wick. It is not even Jon Wick. It’s John Wick and “John” is not short for anything.

(This guy feels me and even offers up some potential solutions to this mystery. I personally am now convinced that Jonathan “John” Wick is named after Jonathan “John” Ritter, after discovering that John Ritter’s real name is Jonathan while in a Wikipedia vortex yesterday.)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it already, I recommend catching John Wick: Chapter 2 with your friends when you’re hungover (or not) this weekend.

Consume all things Queen Victoria.

I’m…very into Queen Victoria this week. I just finished watching Victoria on PBS. (It’s actually not finished airing yet, but all of the episodes are available on pbs.org!) And I am currently listening to Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird on Audible. I recommend the show if you need a perfectly fine costume drama to look at and I recommend the book if you want to read an entertaining, well-researched account of the life of the second-longest-reigning British monarch. (Queen Elizabeth II now has her beat by a few years.)

Read The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin.

How many Chinese novels in translation have you read? I can’t say I’ve read very many (or perhaps any at all, other than one or two required in Chinese history courses in college), so reading The Three Body Problem, a sci-fi novel that people had been recommending to me for years, was a different experience. Basically the entire book is a run-up to what you know is going to happen if you read the jacket copy (I’m trying not to give away the story here because I know that if I start summarizing I won’t be able to stop), but that doesn’t mean it’s not totally engrossing. I recommend this book if you’re looking for a challenge, want to check out an international sci-fi bestseller, or if you, like me, have been hearing about this book for a long time and need one more reminder to pick it up.

Listening to the new season of You Must Remember This.

I’m pretty sure that You Must Remember This is already everybody’s favorite podcast, but if you don’t know about it then I will tell you that You Must Remember This is hosted by the film critic Karina Longworth and is dedicated to “exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.” YMRT is back after a long-ish hiatus with a brand new season and the theme is “Dead Blondes.” Needless to say, it’s super up my alley. The first three episodes are out and I recommend starting with the very first in the series, about Peg Entwistle, the actress who committed suicide by jumping off the Hollywood Sign in 1932. I recommend this season (so far) and most of the other seasons to anyone with a vague interest in old Hollywood or, um, American cultural history in general, I guess!

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l.o.v.e. is strange to me

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Here’s a mix for February with some (happy and sad) love songs.

Tracklist:

1. Annette Funicello: ‘That’s Amore’
2. Barbara Lynn: ‘Only You Know How to Love Me’
3. Orange Juice: ‘L.O.V.E. Love’
4. Moe Tucker: ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’
5. Honey Ltd.: ‘Tomorrow Your Heart’
6. Roy Orbison: ‘Crying’
7. Helene Smith: ‘Pain In My Heart’
8. Dressy Bessy: ‘Makeup’
9. The Breeders: ‘Do You Love Me Now?’
10. Neil Young: ‘I Believe In You’
11. Harry Nilsson: ‘You Made Me Love You’
12. Simon & Garfunkel: ‘For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her’
13. The Beach Boys: ‘Disney Girls (1957)’
14. Beverly Kenny: ‘A Sunday Kind of Love’
15. Shelley Duvall: ‘He Needs Me’
16. Gary Portnoy: ‘Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Cheers Theme)’

You can download the whole mixtape here. I also made a Spotify playlist, if you prefer listening that way. ❤

Valentine’s Day Hangover

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Every year, I host a Valentine’s Day party. It’s basically an excuse for me and my roommates to decorate our apartment and get drunk with our friends during one of the bleakest months of the year. It’s also an excuse for me to make a playlist, which we know is one of my favorite pastimes. This year, I found a list of every song that’s been on the Billboard chart and has had “love” in its title and went from there. I know it’s after the fact, but if you want to listen to five-ish hours of songs about love that you can probably dance to, the playlist is here and also below.

Valentine’s Day Mix

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I made you a little mix of some love songs, happy and sad and whatever’s in-between. Enjoy! ❤

Spotify link: V-DAY

Tracklist:

01. Françoise Hardy – Le Temps de l’Amour

02. Wanda Jackson – Stupid Cupid

03. The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman

04. The Isley Brothers – This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You)

05. The Crystals – Then He Kissed Me

06. Frank Wilson – Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)

07. Wilson Pickett – In the Midnight Hour

08. The Contours – Just A Little Misunderstanding

09. The Flirtations – Nothing But A Heartache

10. Gloria Jones – Tainted Love

11. The Mad Lads – Patch My Heart

12.  John Lennon – Oh Yoko

13. The Kinks – Tired of Waiting For You

14. Love – Alone Again Or

15. Brenda Lee – Break It to Me Gently

16. The Left Banke – Walk Away Renee

17. Jackson 5 – Who’s Lovin’ You

18. Sam Cooke – The Riddle Song

A Thing That Happened Over the Weekend: An Early Valentine’s Day

This weekend, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, my roommates and I decorated our apartment like so:

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(The original idea was to use only heart cards but we got kind of lazy. We hung a bunch of hearts from the middle of the chandelier, though!)

Then we had a party. (The 2nd Annual Valentine’s Day Party/1st Annual Semi-Formal Valentine’s Day Party.) We served snacks like these sugar cookies (I used Martha Stewart’s recipe):

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I also made some raspberry brownies from this recipe I found on Epicurious and my pal Julia kindly brought a beautiful and very delicious red velvet cake which I’m both happy and sad to report was utterly destroyed by people eating with it their hands as the night progressed.

We danced until very early in the morning, first to some songs that were on-theme, and then to some songs that maybe were not. I’m pretty sure a lot of fun – possibly too much fun? – was had by all or at least most. A very big thank you to everyone who came out to party even though it was so, so snowy and an even bigger thank you to our neighbors for not calling the police!