From the library | Recent Reads

Checking in with what I’ve been reading lately:

IMG_1883

“Food A Love Story” I got about 30 pages into this book before tossing it away in frustration. I found the tone to be whiny and material to be unoriginal. I can see where he was going with the book, I just was not interested in following through.

“Unbroken” Y’all. I half-heartedly grabbed this book thinking it’d be so-so and boring. Instead it was awesome and I could not put it down for the 3 days or so it took me to finish. I cried. Laughed. Was horrified. All the feels! I did not see the movie (and if it’s anything like how The Martian played out I probably do not want to) but wowzers. Get this book.

“Orphan Train” was a good “fun” read! It was not entirely predictable, pretty well written, and had some plot twists that got me by surprise! Oh, and a few heartbreaking moments that make you want to punch a pillow, so all in all a good read.

IMG_2071

Bill Bryson is one of my favorite authors but like the Food book mentioned above, I found “The Lost Continent” to just be whiny and rude, and I did not finish it. I tried to read these two in quick succession so maybe I was just in a mood?

IMG_2219

Circling the Sun” was another good read. The plot moved quickly, but you couldn’t read too fast because there were a lot of characters to keep straight. I enjoyed this read!

In Athens I was part of a book club and while I do not make it to book club anymore, I do usually pick up whichever book they are reading. “Luckiest Girl Alive” was one of them (I think? Or else I got it from stalking another blog) and I can see why it was popular. I had no idea the middle of the book plot twist was coming till we got there, and yikes. I was pretty down after reading this book (sheesh, watching the news will do that to me too) but it is definitely a good “beach book.”

I picked up “Life after Life” from a book club members recommendation and it did not disappoint. I hardly know how to describe it, other than to say “go get it now.” It really explores the effects of one decision as compared to another…again, hard to describe but trust me on this one. Similar to Station 18, this had me thinking (and texting my friend) for a while.

Weekend recap | May 7-8, 2016

The first weekend in May I was all set to volunteer at a work event ALL Friday night and Saturday but then those plans unexpectedly fell through, giving J and I a full weekend together!

On Friday night I prepped for our Mother’s Day Brunch, making the cake and herb gravy. Whenever we host an event I try to cook anything possible in advance, leaving the day of just for reheating and plating. J and I cooked (and cleaned) together, before some of our nightly Walking Dead.

IMG_2326

Saturday morning we hiked Kennesaw Mountain!

IMG_3450 copy

J had hiked the mountain plenty of times before but I had not, and we enjoyed hiking it together! The views were beautiful, and it was not too hot. On our way home we stopped in the Marietta square, looking for an ice cream shop I had remembered going to over 12 years ago…it was that good. And lo and behold IT WAS STILL THERE! It was just as amazing as I remembered, and I had J promise me that we could stop each time we are in Marietta.

IMG_3461 copy

Sunday brought Mother’s Day! My in-laws came up and it was fun to show them our home, serve them lunch, and then go look at paint samples together (they are renovating a home). Our lunch menu was a balsamic pork tenderloin, mashed red potatoes, herb gravy, green beans, and lemon-blueberry pound cake.

IMG_2330

Recent Recipes

One of my favorite parts of the week is meal planning. I meal plan, shop on the weekend, and tend to cook all of our food on Sunday. My favorite sites for meal planning and tasty recipes are Budget Bytes and Skinny Taste–I have yet to find a dud! Here is some of what I’ve been cooking recently:

J’s birthday cake!

IMG_2210

The Mr. requested a “chocolate cake with vanilla filling and caramel frosting.” …he really likes sugar, if you cannot tell. The first vanilla filling recipe I tried TANKED, and TANKED in a bad way. I now really, really hate gelatin. But that is neither here nor there, and take two of just butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar did the trick!

Lunches

J’s lunches tend to be tuna noodle salad or a sammie of some sort (other than the week he requested to have my kale salad). My lunches tend to be the aforementioned kale salad (kale run through the food processor mixed with a homemade dressing, beans, a grain like couscous and whatever veggies are on hand) or lentils and spinach.

Veggie lasagna

IMG_2205

I made this when N and her husband came to town. It was so tasty! I used broccoli (frozen), onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, and homemade tomato sauce with the noodles and cheese.

Strawberry Shortcake

IMG_2230

Strawberry shortcake is one of N’s favorite desserts and I made a recipe that was easy to make small portions of. She could not stay long because she had some errands, so I made her some to go!

Beef tips and rice

IMG_2348

J requested beef tips and rice, and almost EVERY recipe calls for corn starch. I was not a fan of putting that into my food, so for this I cooked down onion, garlic, mushrooms, and beef, and then to thicken it I cooked green beans and ground them up with my immersion blender. It worked so well! Well…it was more like dirty rice, but there were no complaints on the taste.

Going on in our world | April 2016 Edition

Last weekend we celebrated the Mr.’s birthday with a trip to Serenbe.

IMG_3361 2

 

We arrived for our reservations at The Hil on The Hill with plenty of time to spare. After first perusing the menu I was worried that J would not like anything and we debated going elsewhere, but we were glad we stayed. Our mushroom pizza appetizer was out of this world, and J’s crab cakes were some of the best I’ve ever had.

IMG_3359 2

My salad was simple, which allowed the flavors to really shine. Following lunch we walked around for a while and then made our way back to The Hil for dessert (the parfait. It is life changing). The outing was just what we needed. We’ve been in the city non-stop for weeks and the brief getaway was rejuvenating and we appreciated the time to get away.

IMG_3385 2

Aside from our getaway and a pub night with friends, our weekends have been full of spring cleaning (me) and paper writing (J). I have post-poned my graduate school plans by a semester (to have more time to study for the GRE), so my evenings are filled with making wedding photo books, studying the GRE, reading for fun, and The Walking Dead.

Yes, The Walking Dead. When I first heard about the show and its premise I said to myself “I’m never going to watch that show!” I hate gore. I hate violence. I hate killing. I hate scary…all things The Walking Dead has in SPADES. When we were first married I would ask J to not even watch it while I was at home. Then one night I relented and he watched it while I read in a chair that is not in direct line of sight of the TV and my interest got piqued. Then came the next week when I tried to read again with it on in the background. That episode happened to be the season finale and when the screen cut to black I knew I was hooked. I rented the first season from the library and we’ve been working our way through. I still hide my face at the scary bits (which is a lot of the time on certain episodes) but I am hooked on the character development.

My office has temporarily relocated and I now have the opportunity to run stadium stairs during lunch. I LOVE getting to do my workouts during the workday. Results yet? Even with carb cutting?

Not yet. Goals, though!

My favorite kitchen tips | Edition 1

I will firstly acknowledge that some of the tips below will make me sound like a kitchen jerk. I have accepted that about myself. Now let’s carry on.

I always have an eye for the “kitchen tips” when I read social media forums. I have come across true gems and awful duds, and then there are those that make me roll my eyes. Take for instance, “FLUFFIEST PANCAKE EVER! tips.” Those usually involve adding some random ingredient that will truly result in the most life-changing fluffy pancakes of your life. Umm…no. In my life experience, with any recipe (I cannot vouch for pre-made mixes because I do not use them) but getting sky-high fluffy pancakes is all in your technique. I am a pancake snob and like mine so much that I will not bother ordering them in a restaurant because I always have smooth fluffy pancakes when I make them. My technique/tip is LEAVE THEM ALONE. For such a happy food, in getting them to be awesome they do not play nicely. I thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients in their own bowl. I beat the eggs for a good long while, and then mix the eggs with the wet ingredients in their own bowl. Then with as little jostling as possible I stir the wet into the dry, pouring in the wet as I incorporate the two to make sure they are not jostling a lot. When I put them on the (sizzling) hot griddle, I don’t mess with them till time to flip. Flip once, cook on the other side, and done. Fluffy, sky high pancakes.

Another is scrambled eggs. Another item I’ve heard “add this” or “add that” for “truly fluffy pancakes.” Again, I’ve had fluffy scrambled eggs with just eggs and a dash of milk (though if I have plain half-n-half on hand milk will be trumped). It boils down to your heat. The egg liquid measure when placed into a screaming hot pan screams in return, cooks too fast, and gets tough. Instead, put them the egg mixture into a cold (Pamed or buttered) skillet, turn the heat on low, then busy yourself with other items while keeping an eye on them. When the eggs are looking a bit firm, it is time for a solid stir with a spatula, then carry on again (but stay closer). When cooked over a long time over low heat they are tender (awful word) and fluffy and in the T family opinion, perfect.

Finally, hard boiling eggs. I have read so many tricks about how to make peeling hard boiled eggs easier and what I have found to consistently work well is peel them after you drain and rinse them. Finger tips may get hot, but the shell comes off immediately!

Weekending | April 2-3

Every Friday J and I do pizza and games. When we were first married we had fun picking out different pizzas from restaurants to pick up to have at home, but we have since harshly evaluated our budget and have been quite happy with a frozen pizza from Kroger. Tangent—I enjoy good food as much as the average girl, but sometimes it hits me—why pay $22 for something that while it tastes amazing you’re not going to remember it tomorrow when you get spend $6 and have something that tastes tasty and both have the same end goal of you no longer being hungry? Tangent 2—our favorite pizza to get out is Antico’s. All the heart eyes…tangents done.

Anyways, on Thursday I was texting Z and I invited her over and she agreed to join in on T-family Friday night pizza and games. Unfortunately she thought is was going to be a far bigger affair and when she showed up she was shocked to learn it was just the 3 of us…whomp. She stayed, we had burgers instead (thanks Z), and J and I taught her Settlers of Cattan. J tried to rig the board so it’d be easy to learn on and instead it led the game being hours longer than normal.

Saturday morning brought a headache from h&*#, so we had a late start to our lake day with the D family. They refurbished a boat and we had a blast on the water all day (despite the chilly weather and non-biting fish). I had a cute baby to cuddle lots of the day, which was extra winsome. We got back to their home, Kelli fried up the fish that were caught (she caught the only fish on a line and her hubs caught many from a net), J practiced fileting fish (to great success), and I made sides.

Sunday was the normal routine–we went to church, the grocery store and I meal prepped while J studied.

Weekending | March 12-13

Last night the Mr. said “weekends go by so fast.” #nokidding

On Friday night I killed my step goal with a run after work and then the Mr. and I shared a pizza (being in PJs by 7:15 p.m.). When I did not immediately jump into watching a movie hubs started taxes and I saw no reason to slow down the train. I ate all the popcorn he made that I said initially that I did not want, he finished around 11, we watched a Shark Tank, and called it a night.

Saturday brought with it cleaning (me), retirement work (hubs), and then a 4.5 hour walk through neighborhoods in our area. We stopped for ice cream during our walk and a cute boutique was having a sale and I grabbed some Rifle Paper Company cards for upcoming events worth much celebration (wedding and babies) and some stationary with a “T” (because it still is not getting old). After we dragged ourselves home and cleaned up I made (the best) homemade nachos. Y’all, if you’re ever in the position to get a piece of Le Creuset—the braiser is one of the only two pieces I would whole-heartedly recommend (the other being a dutch oven because obvi). I used ground turkey instead of beef brisket and we inhaled them (our 20,000 steps may have contributed to how much we ate). I had grabbed “Everest” while running errands and we watched that—yikes. It was intense and sad. I was reading up on climbing Everest afterwards, and it posed a great question to me—a situation that is frequently being encountered is that people can (and do) hire Sherpas to do a TON of the work—setting the guide ropes, building their camp, etc. I read a quote that some people who climb do not even know how to set themselves onto the guide rope. My question is—is that even “climbing” Everest, if you do not know the basic fundamentals of climbing, or is just surviving a tough situation for a few weeks that you willing pay a lot of money to survive?

Daylight savings kicked our tails. When we woke up for church we both decided “NOPE.” I did our laundry (and a spot of online shopping), Joe did homework, and we took another walk (not quite as long). While walking we called our family members and close friends and struck out on most of our calls. I caught up with the bestie for a bit, we got home, finished up supper (Mississippi roast, minus the pepperchinis, oil, and buttermilk, and only using 2 tbsp. of butter + ½ cup of beef broth seasoned with cayenne), and then launched into a discussion of our savings plan (note to self-never start that conversation at bed time).

Reads

The New Year brought about a binge reading spree which is still going strong. Like most avid book readers, one thing I love most is stepping into someone else’s shoes to experience the world through their eyes and emotions. Most of the books I’ve read this year have not disappointed.

This week I finished “All the light we cannot see” in a Marta commute and one evening (I’m a fast reader and I had an uninterrupted 4 hours to read). Per how fast I finished it, you can tell I devoured this 500+ plus page novel. The characters were engaging, the story intriguing, and presented yet another perspective of individuals in WWII.

Last week I plowed through “The Red Tent.” The name should have indicated that it was going to be heavy on the graphic side (I’m a whimp, BTW) but I couldn’t put it down. This fiction book expounded upon biblical characters and their life experience. Again, it was fiction, but it did present a hint at what life was like for women thousands of years ago. As I was reading my heart broke anew at the fall—one line of the book indicated that men could not be successful without women, yet women were the “weaker ones” and in most instances, a mere commodity.

I grabbed “Station 18” from a popular Instagrammer’s recommendation and oh. My. Gosh. I took the book with me on the ski tip and when I read the dust jacket I thought…meh, why did I only bring this book, this looks lame. Um…NO. I could not put the book down, and I am still thinking about it nearly two months later. The seamless integration of the story and characters around one character who died in the first chapter was amazing.

Stella Bain” Also a book I grabbed from a blogger’s recommendation and it was one that once I finished I thought, “well crap. Now I’m dumber.” It was BAD y’all. The writing was shoddy, the character development nearly non-existent, and the plot holes huge. The only reason I pushed through was that it took me about 2.5 hours to read and I kept thinking to myself, “surely it’ll get better.” Spoiler: it did not.

The Long Road North” was a book that I could not finish. Also grabbed from an Instagrammer’s recommendation, I thought this would be a good one based on the award on its cover. I am sure to some they may find it awesome, but I found it heavy-laden and extremely depressing. I did not expect the book to be a picker-upper, as that it was about a POW camp in Japan in WWII but I found the main character to be well…an expletive. The book started with him in the midst of an affair (he was a serial womanizer) and that should have been my first clue to walk away. While I was talking to the Mr. about how I much I did not enjoy the book he goes, “don’t you hate any hint of adultery?” Oh yeah. The descriptions of the camp were vile (as the camps undoubtedly were) and explicit, and when I gave up in the middle, the book was only getting darker.

Rising Strong” by Brene Brown; I’m a fan of Brown’s message and I’ve read a couple other of her books. It could be that I was just not in the mood for self-improvement, but I only made it through about half of this book before calling it a day.

Also read:

The Martian. If you have not read it yet, go put in a hold at your library for it or find it on sale. I found this book hilarious and a fantastic read.

The Beekeepers Apprentice. Completely delightful and well written.