7.02.2015

Books I Read in June 2015

All the Bright Places
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Oh man.  This is a book that Joey would put in the freezer, like he did with Little Women.  It's damn near a carbon copy of The Fault in Our Stars, but with teens dealing with depression and mental illness, rather than cancer.  Fun, right??  Ah, but it suuuuucked me in, just as TFIOS did with beautiful passages, witty and empathetic characters, and a frenetic 'MUST FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NOW' race to the end of the book.  It's horrible, and ultimately lovely.

A God in Ruins
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

This was lacking the magic of Life After Life, and it plodded along for more than half the (nearly 500 page) book.  Things jump back and forth in time quite a bit, which I suppose is to be expected with a companion book of Life After Life.  But, it was in more of a haphazard way, not at all like Ursula's story.  Once I started reading about Teddy as a grandfather, which was so dear and compelling, I became sucked in to his story and felt bereft at the end.  I kind of saw it coming, but it still took my breath away and I'm glad I read it.

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Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

What's the deal with all these detached, depressed, introspective and yet completely vacuous female main characters?  I really didn't understand the point of this book about a very mentally ill American housewife living with her Swiss husband and their children abroad in Switzerland.  So much awful in this book, but I kept reading, hoping I'd get some more clarity into Anna's psyche.  Nope.  The fancy wordplay and poetic prose does not elevate it in my estimation, either.  


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Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Oh, how I loved this!  I haven't read one of Dessen's novels in two years (the same month I read Life After Life - weird), and I think I've got to go back and read MORE.  This was a heartfelt story of a girl who is dealing with the damage her older brother brought upon her family, by seriously injuring another in a drunk driving accident.  It's touching, bittersweet, and at times, fraught with tension - I stayed up hours past my bedtime to finish it.  It's much heavier fare than some of her other novels, but still full of real, relatable characters and so much heart.  I just wanted to hug this book.  

6.28.2015

I Made A Smoothie Bowl! (and This Weeks Eats 6.28.15)

Despite the fact that we have air conditioning, this crazy hot weather we've been having has made me pretty disinterested in hot food.  I've been consuming lots of salads and iced coffee (and tea) during the day, and now...  I must admit, I made a smoothie bowl!

It seems like such the newfangled thing and sort of silly.  Why not just drink a smoothie?  But I gave one a try at a local Brazilian fast food place a few weeks ago and now I GET IT.  
before diving into the Kitanda bowl
carnage half way through
There's just something about the texture and being able to slowly eat your blended fruit with toppings: the creaminess of thick yogurt or bananas, the crunch of coconut or granola.  I'd never have just a smoothie for lunch, but I will most certainly have a smoothie bowl.

My creation consisted of:

For the smoothie base - 1 small frozen banana, a frozen acai pack, about two tablespoons of Greek yogurt and about 1/3 cup of almond milk.

For the toppings - a few sliced strawberries, half a banana sliced, chia seeds, sliced almonds, shredded coconut, a big handful of granola and a drizzle of honey.

SO, SO GOOD!

This week:

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!

6.25.2015

A Few of My Favorite (Summer) Things and Trader Joe's Picks

I usually gush about my top 10 Trader Joe's favorites in the fall (2012  list and 2013), but there are a few recent items I had to share that are great for summer.  And it's been another long hiatus since a Favorite Things post, since February! (Also worth noting: the beach bag from February favorites has been getting a serious workout lately, and I still love it.)

Over the last few years, it seems that Rose wines have increased in popularity.  At least, according to my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds.  I've always been hesitant to try because I'm not usually a fan of white wines and the pink just leads me to believe it's going to taste like a sugary White Zinfandel.  But I gave it a shot last week because it's been so unseasonably warm here in the Seattle area, and it really sounded refreshing.  And, lo, it is VERY refreshing!  I can't speak for the fancier versions, but this TJs Exclusive Pinot is goooooood.

And, of course, summer is time for drinking even MORE margaritas.  AMIRITE?  The TJs mix is perfection.  Simple and not too sweet, which I appreciate.

I'm not a total lush, I do drink beverages of the non-alcoholic variety.  Sitting in the hammock in the backyard with a huge glass of iced tea is my favorite way to end the day.  I'm partial to the green tea mixes, especially the lemonade and pomegranate flavors.

Not a refreshing beverage, but this Sriracha BBQ sauce is a new must have for grilled chicken, pulled pork or in lieu of ketchup on a burger.

Moving on from Trader Joe's, I got these amazing Sofft 'Breeze' sandals a few months ago and wore them for the first time the weekend of The Blathering.  I did a LOT of walking in them and they were still so comfortable!  They also stood up to hours of hoofing it up and down the strip in Vegas, and are still totally cute with a nice dress, in my opinion.  
My mom saw them and bought herself a pair - she loved them so much that she just bought a pair for my sister in law.  Yeah, they're that awesome.

I don't know if it's necessarily a summer color, but I've really come around to black nail polish.  It's not something I ever would have bought on my own, but I got the little package of three free mini nail polishes with my last Zoya purchase and Anais was one of them.  I figured it would be fun to give it a try, and now it's one of my favorite colors.  
It's not a flat black color, there's a little hint of shimmer and a depth to it that's just really cool.  It's only available on Ebay right now in the mini trio, so I'm using it sparingly until I find a similar shade.

Finally, I've got to update the playlist, since I've added a song that's surpassed You Are My Diamond for my favorite pump up song.  I could listen to Redefined by TyDi, featuring Melanie Fontana all the livelong day.  So, so, so good!  Give a listen below, along with a few others songs I've added in the last couple of months. 

Run on Love by Lucas Nord, featuring Tove Lo
Another You by Armin van Buuren, featuring Mr. Probz (also love Wave After Wave)
Don't Look Down by Martin Garrix, featuring Usher

Redefined by TyDi, featuring Melanie Fontana

Run on Love by Lucas Nord, featuring Tove Lo

Another You by Armin van Buuren, featuring Mr. Probz

Don't Look Down by Martin Garrix, featuring Usher

6.21.2015

Retro 24 Hour Salad Recipe (and This Weeks Eats 6.21.15)

This salad brings to mind the summer nights of my childhood - block parties, lawn games, and the dulcet tones of Kool and the Gang.  Since those days were back in the 1970s, I think that qualifies this recipe as being 'retro' - right?  I didn't list exact measurements, as this salad automatically adjusts to the size of the bowl you're using.  If feeding a crowd, use an extra large bowl and follow directions accordingly.  Same goes for making a smaller salad for one.

Retro 24 Hour Salad

Ingredients:

  • head of iceberg lettuce, cut into ribbons (you could use something healthier, but I like to stay true to the nutritionally void iceberg for authenticity)
  • diced red onion
  • frozen green peas, thawed 
  • mayonnaise
  • sharp cheddar (or medium cheddar, at a minimum), shredded
  • cooked and crumbled bacon
  • dash of sugar
Directions:

Choose the size of bowl you wish to use enough lettuce to fill about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle and even amount of diced red onion over the top.  Create a layer of green peas to cover the lettuce and onion, and then 'frost' the top of the peas with a thin layer of mayonnaise.  This can get a little tricky, definitely use a spatula.  Sprinkle just a dash of sugar on top of the mayo and pile a generous amount of cheese and bacon on top. I'd say about a cup of cheese and 6-8 slices of bacon for a large, serving bowl sized, salad.  Cover with saran wrap and toss when you're ready to eat.  I like to add fresh cracked pepper on top, once it's mixed.  And, yes, it will keep in the fridge for 24 hours!

This weeks eats:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!

6.18.2015

Brooks Trailhead 15K Race Report

Eeep!  Better late than never on the Brooks Trailhead race recap, right?  It's no secret that I love Brooks shoes.  My love affair started with Adrenalines years ago and now I'm a die hard Ravenna girl.  I also quite enjoy the 15K distance - it's right about the time in a half marathon that I'm ready to be DONE.  There aren't enough 15K races in these parts, nor 10 milers.  Can someone rectify this?  Maybe a Quest Field 10 Miler, like the Soldier Field 10 Miler?  I digress...

So I was thrilled to learn that Brooks would be hosting the annual 15K race around Lake Union (formerly Seattle's Best, which I ran three years ago and last year it was the Emerald City Run).  My goal for this race was to make it a long run, since I'd been sidelined by sickness and vacation for most of May.  It was a bit of a slog there, but I made it...

It was perfect race weather, maybe a tad on the warm side with hardly any clouds and temps getting well into the 60s by the time we finished.  Parking was no problem, as with every Gasworks Park race.  My 15K start time was supposed to be at 8:14AM, two minutes after the elite 10K start, four minutes after the elite 15K start.  Kind of confusing and I don't think this is how it went down.  So everyone, 10K and 15K runners alike, just went and crossed the starting mats haphazardly.  I waited and therefore missed meeting up with my friend Lauren who was going to keep me company for most of the race.  But I brought my music along and was just fine and ended up catching her around mile 5, which is just as well because that's when I was starting to lose steam.  I was clocking miles pretty consistently in the 10:30s, but starting at the hilly section, I just had to start taking walk breaks.  Final time was 1:42:26 for an average pace of 10:40.  No, not 11 minute miles befitting a 9.3 mile race, as they took into account that the course was really nearly a quarter of a mile too long at 9.6 miles.  



I'm glad of that for my results, but I was not glad to be thinking I was nearly done when I was not!  

It's a typical Lake Union race, utilizing the parking lots, sidewalks and some streets around the lake - as well as my least favorite up and downhill portion of races ever.  I'm sure the loop is great for getting a run in, and I know Lauren had a great 10K on this course.  But, I can say with certainty that I'm just not a fan.  I don't like the bumpy, holey, gravel parking areas, the abandoned bit of railroad track, sidewalks by businesses, and of course the steep uphill followed by scary downhill bit.  Again, thankfully I wasn't going into this race with any lofty goals.  For sure all Lake Union runs will continue to be fun runs.  

That being said, I love that my favorite shoe company is in my backyard and is organizing this run.  I love that I have a Brooks themed medal and race shirt!

And I absolutely love that it's held on a Saturday morning and within walking distance of The Essential Baking Co for iced coffee and breakfast sandwich with a friend.  Thanks Lauren for being my personal photographer.




6.14.2015

This Weeks Eats 6.14.15 (and my 'Lone Wolf' Eats)

One of the consolations of having to fly solo when my husband goes out of town, besides commandeering the remote, is to eat an assortment of things he doesn't love.  For me, that means eggs, kale, Brussels sprouts, and even some brie!  I made a veggie frittata one night, 

sprouts with some yummy Tarte D'Alsace from Trader Joe's,

a kale salad with this brie/apple/pecan appetizer I've always wanted to try,

and my favorite old school pea and bacon salad recipe handed down from mom.

I think I'll have to share the recipe for it next week.  I also might have to incorporate an 'everybody fend for themselves' night every once in awhile so that I can make these things for myself...

This week:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie, Mommy Run Fast and Jill Conyers - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!

6.07.2015

Books I Read in May 2015

Nope, no menu planning today - we pushed back a meal 'cuz I'm going out for dinner tonight and my husband is travelling for the better part of the week.  I shall be eating lazy, last minute dinners.  So, time for books!

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

After just having read I Was Here, this was slightly depressing with a similar theme of a mystery revolving around a girl's suicide.  BUT, Ng's was so much more deftly realized.  I felt like I understood completely the psyche of each character and my heart ached for all of them.  Riveting. Engrossing. Indelible.  One of my favorites of the year so far.

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The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins

I guess I now have an inkling of how people that disliked Gone Girl felt.  Maybe there was too much buildup to this book - which is where the similarities to Gone Girl end, in my opinion.  It's a mystery, but not strikingly unique in the way I think Gone Girl was with Flynn's use of the narrator's perspective.  Basically, Girl on the Train is about a very sad and troubled character who was drunk and can't remember a crime.  We wait MANY PAGES for her to work through her memories and continued drinking.  Once she finally remembers, the mystery is revealed!  What a crappy and totally uncreative way to string a reader along!  It did move fast, and I was somewhat surprised by the ending - but mostly because I thought it would be more of a twist and it was not.

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The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

Being on vacation, and having read too many depressing books in a row, I finally read an Elin Hilderbrand book!  This was a really sweet story and I turned the pages just as furiously as Girl on the Train - but with more enthusiasm.  Granted, it was rather predictable, but I was really invested in seeing each lovely character figure out his/her destiny.  Also, the attention to every detail of life on Nantucket made the book come alive and I REALLY want to go there now.

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Gemini by Carol Cassella

This was roller coaster of a book!  The story begins with the mystery of a Jane Doe that comes into the main character's emergency room and eventually ICU.  Figuring out who 'Jane' is and what happened to her is the overarching story.  But along the way, as we find out more about her and doctor Charlotte's story, we find so many more things to question.  A very cool multi-layered plot with a hefty dose of fascinating medical drama.

I've definitely come to the point in my life where if a book isn't grabbing me by 100 or so pages in, I give up for something more worth my time.  I put down TWO books this month:

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Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The narrator in this novel was so lifeless and wooden.  I could not be moved at all to care about her, and the story is terribly disjointed (at least it started off that way).  If you're looking for a compelling story with characters that leap off the page, and with profound commentary on race - see above and read Everything I Never Told You.

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The Final Empire (Mistborn Series Book 1) by Brandon Sanderson

I really wanted to enjoy this fantasy novel that was recommended by a friend.  Alas, I felt like I was reading a not so great fantasy version of Ocean's 11...