Everything But Books
Fun and more fun, but none of it relating to books (because I have another page for that)

September 21, 2012

Music of my Heart: The Melody of France

Because of the soon approaching release of Becoming Clementine, the Jennifer Niven blog posts have become, well, French. I’m sure most of you have tried out Phoebe’s wonderful French recipes (I know I have) so I thought, why not pair them off with some French music to get the full experience…

So get your ears ready and your handy-dandy translators in hand because I found some great French music that I’m sure Velva Jean would enjoy.

First, let’s start with the classic. Edith Piaf was one of the most famous French singers in the 1930s-1960s and is still today the most recognizable name in French-music history. Her hard life only made her voice even more beautiful and haunting. Aside from listening to her music, I suggest watching her 2007 biopic La Vie en rose which won the lead actress an Oscar. Here is her most famous song, La Vie en rose.






Next is my favorite, Charles Aznavour. Why you ask? Because, although his name does not end in “ian”, he is in fact Armenian (his actual last name is Aznavourian). Don’t think I’m biased because of his race though–when you hear his voice you’ll understand. He is the most famous living French singer and although he is 88, he does give performances now and again and boy, he’s still got it! Here is one of his most popular songs, La Boheme.



On to a more modern singer. Although she has the classic French voice, Carla Bruni only just became popular in the last couple of years after her song was featured on the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack. Although I only speak broken French, and by broken French I mean twenty words if not less, I pretend I know exactly what she is saying while I listen to her in my car. Enjoy her amazing song, which I can’t even pronounce, Quelqu’un M’a Dit.



Someone very similar to Carla Bruni is Keren Ann. I recently discovered her,and although she sings both English and French, I prefer her French music. She has a gentle voice that would be amazing on a rainy afternoon. Here is her song Ailleurs meaning “Elsewhere.”




Last but not least, a very famous band that many people do not know are in fact French:  Phoenix. The band gained popularity in 2009 with the release of there record Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which featured famous songs like “1901and Lisztomania.”  Although not sung in French, this song technically does count as a French song, right?




Well, that’s enough for now! I hope you enjoy this lovely music while you enjoy one of Phoebe’s delicious recipes– and play it in the background while you read Becoming  Clementine. Each of these artists have
other amazing songs, so look them up and enjoy!!!

September 20, 2012

Sweet and Savory, French and Tasty!

The French people sure know how to eat wonderful foods, and with only 5 days till the Becoming Clementine release, we thought it was time for some French flair in our recipes. From cheese to chocolate here are 2 french inspired recipes to keep you wishing you were sitting right in Paris.

Baked Camembert with Garlic Bread

1 whole Camembert, in its box

1 clove of garlic, sliced

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

1tsp olive oil


Garlic Bread

1 small ciabatta loaf cut in half

1 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled



1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Remove any plastic packaging from the cheese and then return to box, leaving the life off.

3. Pierce the top of the cheese in several places and insert pieces of garlic and thyme into the slits.

4. Drizzle with olive oil and leaving cheese in the box. place into oven for 10mins or until center of cheese is melted.

5. FOR GARLIC BREAD: Drizzle cut side of bread with olive oil and place onto hot pan until toasted. Once toasted rub toasted side with garlic clove.

6. Serve camembert with garlic bread for dipping.


French Chocolate Bark

8oz semi sweet chocolate

8oz bittersweet chocolate

1 cup dried apricots

½ cup dried cranberries

1 cup roasted cashews (also good with pistachios)



1. Melt chocolate in a heat proof bowl over water. Can melt in the microwave but be sure to stir frequently to avoid burning.

2. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a tray. Pour the melted chocolate onto the paper and using a rubber spatula, create a rough rectangle about 9×10 inches.

3. Sprinkle remaining ingredients all over.

4. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours. Cut into small rectangular bite sized pieces.


If you have any wonderful french recipes be sure to send them over to us!


September 19, 2012

Southernisms from my (Southern) family: Presentation is everything

 Southern women are wonderful at entertaining.  The women in my family are no exception.  Through the years, they have spied in the Revolutionary War, run plantations and defied various enemies during and after the Civil War, raised ten or twelve or fourteen children on their own, flown planes, taught school, run organizations large and small, written books, and been crowned beauty queens. And in the midst of it all, they always take pains to set a handsome table.

This is a discussion my cousin Gay and I once had that covered everything from entertaining to serving pieces to Sara Lee cakes.

Mama is already trying to say if everyone brings an appetizer they should bring it on a silver or crystal platter or a paper plate, and I can put it on one of my nice serving pieces because she cannot stand how the table looks with a mixed assortment of casual serving platters.

My own mother can’t sleep on mismatched sheets. She can’t even sleep if there are mismatched sheets anywhere in the room, no matter if they’re just stacked up in a pile on the dresser.

Grandmama Helen used to love to get out a Sara Lee cake. Those little boxed Sara Lee cakes are so reliable. Always perfect and delicious. In her later years sometimes they wouldn’t be all-the-way thawed but they would ALWAYS be on a sterling platter with a doily and some powdered sugar sprinkled on top. And if someone would compliment the store-bought cake, Grandmama would say, “Didn’t it turn out nice?”

I used to love those Sara Lee cakes. I’m forever using paper towels as napkins and that drives my mama crazy. She always has the prettiest napkins! She sets a beautiful table, everything matching just like the sheets.

Have you ever attempted to bring a canned drink to the table!? It totally freaks my mother out. Sometimes Glo and I set a 2 liter soft drink bottle on the table just to watch her come unhinged.

September 13, 2012

The Best Flourless Chocolate Cake (because who doesn’t love chocolate!)

Myself and Lara over here at Team Jennifer are both gluten intolerant, but because we both still love our cake (especially chocolate cake) it was time to find a recipe that we could both eat. It is tried and tested and one that won’t let you down!


1 tspn instant coffee granules/powder

1 tspn hot water

100g butter

150g dark chocolate

1/2 tspn vanilla extract

4 large eggs at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

200g almond meal (ground almonds)


1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.

2. Prepare cake tin, lining the bottom with baking paper.

3. Dissolve coffee with 1tsp of boiling water.

4. In a saucepan over a low heat, melt the butter, dark chocolate, dissolved coffee and vanilla. Once melted set aside.

5. Separate egg whites from yolks.

6. Using electric beaters or a whisk, beat whites with about half the sugar. Beat until peaks form.

7. In another bowl using electric beaters or fork, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar. Beat until light and creamy.

8. Fold the chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture. Add to this the almond meal and mix until combined.

9. Fold in the egg whites, then pour into prepared tin.

10. Bake for 40mins and serve warm or cold with cream and strawberries.


If you have any delicious gluten free recipes let us know!

Cheese straws for every occasion (because who doesn’t love cheese?)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — jennifer @ 8:57 am

My dad was always cooking.  He could whip up shrimp bisque or Marchand di Vin for sixty people easily, and was always trying to teach me the right wine to go with beef Wellington.  This was lost on me because, as a teenager, all I wanted to eat were normal things like hamburgers and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese out of the box.  My father made his macaroni and cheese from scratch.  It took hours.  He even made the noodles by hand.

Dad died in 2002.  He was only sixty.  But I have his recipe book:  a fat brown binder with the recipes carefully typed out on over-sized index cards.  Here’s one of my favorites:

Dad’s Cheese Straws (yields about 20)

These crisp and mildly spicy twists of puff pastry have been our most popular “nosh” for years.  Arrange a basketful on the bar/table and watch them disappear.


1 pound Puff Pastry

3/4 cup grated imported Parmesan cheese


1.  Roll out puff pastry dough into a rectangle 20 by 24 inches.  Sprinkle half of the Parmesan evenly over the dough and gently press cheese into the dough with rolling pin.

2.  Fold the dough in half crosswise, roll it out again to 20 by 24 inches, & sprinkle on remaining cheese.

3.  Using a sharp thin knife, cut the dough into 1/3-inch strips.  Take each strip by its ends and twist until evenly corkscrewed.  Lay the twists of dough on an ungreased baking sheet, arranged so they are just touching each other; this will prevent shrinking.

4. Set the baking sheet in the middle of a preheated 350 degree oven & bake until the straws are crisp, puffed and brown, 15-20 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 min., then cut apart with a sharp knife.  Finish cooking the straws on a rack, then store them in an airtight container or plastic bag until serving time.  They will stay fresh for about 1 week.

Music of my Heart: The Lumineers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — lara @ 12:12 am

Although my true passions in life include reading, writing, television and film,  music is what moves me most. Nothing changes my day like a song. I can be in a very hyper mood, but if a song with deep lyrics or a soft ballad comes on, I become a new person, a calm person.

A couple of months ago I heard this song. I can’t explain the feeling I had when I heard it, but I can compare it to the first time I had a crush on a boy in kindergarten. (Yes, I know kindergarten is young but what can I say? I was ahead of my age.) Once I heard this song I immediately downloaded the  rest of this band’s music. The band’s name is the Lumineers. I thought that one song, “Ho Hey” was good? Well when I heard the rest of their songs I knew that I had just found my new favorite band, the one I would one day tell my kids about.

A little background about the band:

There are three members


Wesley Schultz
Jeremiah Fraites
Neyla Pekarek

The band is originally from Ramsey, NJ. Their genre of music is a mix of Indie and Folk. In the last two months they have been in Blue Moon’s commercial, a Bing commercial and their song “Ho Hey” is now very familiar to radio play.  You can also buy their album at Starbucks, which I did two days ago even though I already have them downloaded.

I hope this amazing band moves you as much as it did me. I’ve attached a few links below for your ears.

The Lumineers- Ho Hey

The Lumineers- Stubborn Love

The Lumineers- Flowers in Your Hair

The Lumineers- Classy Girls

September 5, 2012

Pucker Up: How To Get Fabulous Lips

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — lara @ 11:08 pm

My mother and my mother’s mother both always say that even with no other make-up, lipstick can make your face look more alive. I am in no way a make-up artist, but from experience I have found ways to take that extra in making my lips look “Old School Hollywood Glam”.


You will need a few things:

-Your lip color of choice (MAC has some great ones)

-A lip brush with a pointed tip

-LUSH Lip Scrub (Comes in great flavors, I recommend the mint. Goes for    about $9)

-Lip Balm (Burt’s Bees is recommended. Its only $3 and its all natural)

-Optional: DuWop Lip Venom. ($16) Sephora.com




Pat your wonderful lips with a warm towel all around. Take your lip scrub and put it around your lips and scrub away. The scrub is edible, so enjoy. When lips are soft, wipe away excess scrub.



Put some lip balm (not Chapstick, because it is known to dry up lips), around your lips. Wait a little until your lips have absorbed the moisture.



My mother and grandmother usually put on lip liner before putting on lipstick, but seeing as I am to clumsy to do that I just use a brush with a pointed tip. A brush goes into the hard corners your lipstick cant. With your lipstick color on the tip of your brush, gently apply your lipstick without going outside the lines. Think of it as being in pre-school and coloring a coloring book. Who said that would never come in use?



If you’re like me and you like to have plumper lips once in a while, take some lips venom on your brush and apply in on top of your lipstick. It will sting a little, but that means it’s working.


NOTE: If you want a more mat look, whip off lip balm before apply mat lipstick. For the lip venom, apply it on right after STEP 2 and wipe it off after 5 minutes, then proceed onto STEP 3.



I hope these steps help your awesome lips look even better!

Don’t dip them, fill them!

It is clear that filled strawberries are much more fun and tasty than dipped ones. Here are 3 simple strawberry filling recipes.


Ingredients Required

3 Dozen Strawberries


Heavenly Strawberries

8oz cream cheese

½ cup powdered sugar

¼ tsp almond or vanilla extract


Inside-out Chocolate

8oz cream cheese

½ cup chocolate sauce

3 x 3/4oz milk chocolate bars finely chopped


Peanut Butter

8oz cream cheese

½ cup peanut butter

5tbs powdered sugar


1. Remove stems and inner part of strawberries to create a bowl. Strawberries can be placed into an empty egg carton to make them stand easily.

2. For each recipe, beat all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth.

3. Using either a pastry bag or a heavy duty plastic bag with the corner cut, pipe mixture into the hole of the strawberry.

4. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Can sprinkle with grated chocolate if desired.

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