Well I guess I forgot all about this, didn't I? Whoops. I've not been as great of a reader as I'd like--I have binge-watched Nurse Jackie, The West Wing, and The Sopranos, so I've been productive--but at any rate, here's what I've ready so far this year.
Fates And Furies, by Lauren Groff
People went kind of crazy for this book. I found it to be mostly infuriating until halfway through. Infuriating throughout, though, was the fact that I needed a dictionary to look up every other word. Anyway, I think people liked this book because of the s-e-x, but I didn't find it very racy. It's an interesting character study once you get to that halfway point...but first you have to get there.
The Rumor, by Elin Hilderbrand
I don't even remember what this was about, but did it have Sancerre and Nantucket? Probably. I'm sure it was enjoyable, as all Hilderbrand's books are for me.
The Art Of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
Okay. OKAY. Everyone loved this book. I had to slog through it. This book might be what almost single-handedly killed my reading mojo for the year. The plot(s) were good. The characters were interesting. The way the book jumped from point-of-view to point-of-view kept it engaging and enjoyable (although it was long, hence the slog). UNTIL THE VERY END. THIS WAS THE DUMBEST ENDING I HAVE EVER READ. Perhaps because I am not literary, maybe I didn't get the meaning or something, but MEH. (This article that my girl Jennie shared years ago, on how this book came to be written/published at all, is a fascinating read. Recommend.)
Winter Street, by Elin Hilderbrand
This is Hilderbrand's first winter-themed novel and I enjoyed it! It's very short, I finished it in two days. It was nice to read in the summer, when it's hot as balls and you're just looking forward to Christmas.
The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This was cute. It's based-ish, I guess on Prince William and Kate Middleton (who I'm sure have actual titles by which they should be referred, but whatever). Anyway, the ancillary characters were probably more interesting than "Prince Nick" and "Bex" themselves, but there were a lot of those characters to cover, which is good. If anything, this novel did take me back to the royal wedding, which I was up early (late?) watching when LG was 9-days-old.
Right now, I'm finishing up the second in Elin Hilderbrand's "Winter" trilogy, and then I'm not sure what's up next. What have you read recently that's not total dreck?
Well, here we are to round out the final two nights of the Tasty Challenge. In my brief time here, I have realized I am not as committed to theme cooking/cooking challenges as Erica, who chose/is choosing recipes that are real deep cuts (i.e.: I haven't seen them in the Tasty Facebook feed in the last month or so. Also she made a dish where dye and sprinkles were involved. Golf clap Erica.)
Recipe 3: Black Bean Burgers. These were really good. They were supposed to be vegan, which we ruined with cheese. Then we ruined their vegetarian-ness by adding bacon on top. SMART DECISION.
As indicated above, they were very messy. I don't know if that's because I baked instead of pan fried, but I am guessing not because they didn't even shallow fry them in oil, so I can't imagine pan frying dry is any different than baking. Anyway. next time I'd shallow fry. Maybe in bacon fat.
Recipe 4: One-Pan Lasagna. This was a very easy recipe. I liked that it was truly one-pot because I was able to prep it all around noon, stick it in the fridge, and then pop in the oven when we got home from gymnastics.
As seems to be the running theme throughout this challenge, this was very messy. I also used probably double the ricotta this called for, but I don't care because lasagna is all about the ricotta.
Alright Tasty, you've been fun! Until next time (when I might try the mysterious broccoli tots)...
#1: I've been trying to cook a variety of meals lately. Tacos every Tuesday is certainly not a bad thing, but it does occasionally get old. Okay, no it doesn't, but diversity is a good thing.
#2: For awhile, LG and I were watching gymnastics videos online. Once we exhausted all the women's all around competition videos from the last four Olympics games, we turned to watching Tasty videos on Facebook. You know the ones--one minute-long hyperlapsed videos of Buzzfeed staff making stuff.
The combination of Nos. 1 and 2 got me thinking. While I have been cooking from new cookbooks (Ottolenghi, for example), not all meals can be fancy pants and use every pot and pan in the kitchen. Sometimes you need something really low-brow that uses one pan and looks, well, tasty.
And so a challenge was born! Make Tasty recipes for dinner all week! And drag house Theme Chef, Erica, along with me!
When deciding on meals, I thought I'd go with two fatty, bad-for-you recipes and two healthy-ish recipes. I also knew I needed to pick something that included dough in a can, the hallmark of Tasty recipes. I landed on Pizza Rolls (bad-for-you), Thai-Style Lettuce Cups (healthy-ish), Black bean Burgers (healthy-ish), and One-Pan Lasagna (bad-for-you). Here's how the first two shook out:
Recipe 1: These sausage, onion, and pepper pizza rolls were easy to put together, but I call complete bullshit on the amounts of ingredients they used. I halved the sausage, used two bell peppers instead of three, and didn't add ham to my rolls (heh) and the dough still broke.
Now I'm not going to admit to user error, but it might have been user error. I didn't have parchment paper, as the recipe called for, and since I didn't want the pizza roll to stick to my ratchet baking sheets/foil, I made this on my pizza stone. I still cooked it at 375, though, when I probably should have increased the heat because of the stone. Anyway, we are still eating leftovers of this, so no real complaints.
Recipe 2: The name Thai-Style Larb Lettuce Cups sounded funny (larb!) and looked like they'd fit the healthy-ish bill. These were in fact tasty, but...I do not think I like fish sauce, which is featured twice in this recipe. I've used fish sauce before and didn't have a bad reaction, so maybe it's the brand I used this time? Either way...
Chris will be eating the leftovers from this.
Alright! Tune in later in the week to see how the other two recipes shook out!
The people who work at my local coffee shop are not very bright. Well, there are two in particular who, when I walk in and see that either of them is working the counter, make me groan in my head.
The first time I was like, Oh, this person's not too bright was when I ordered my usual tea, called kokomate, and they put it in as a kokomate latte (which I didn't notice or I'd have said something and while I'm sure was delicious, was not what I'd ordered). I said, "Oh, I just wanted a regular tea, not a latte," so they remade my drink, but did not offer to refund me the difference in cost from a regular hot tea versus a latte. I thought about saying something, but ever since I got charged $1,300 for a Christmas tree, I've been wary of peoples' ability to properly run a credit card machine, and so I didn't bother.
The second time I experienced this not-brightness, a different person was taking our order and while we were ordering three meals (including a PB&J sans J (which still ultimately came out with J), three drinks, and a pound of beans ground to a particular size), the not-brightness is unrelated to all that. I have one of those frequent flier cards for coffee beans, which states that you get a free half-pound for every half-pound purchased. Since we were ordering a whole pound, we should have gotten two punches, but we only got one. Chris said to the person, "Oh, you forgot a punch!" and the person read the card, and while a little confused, did seem to confirm what we understood, which is that each punch is for a half-pound, and also seemed to understand that we did buy a full pound, but was still like, "Ugh, I'll just punch it," in this trying-to-get-rid-of-these-
Then yesterday LG and I went there for lunch. She ordered a PB&J (with J this time--she likes J this week, apparently!) and with any kind of sandwich, including the PB&J, comes a bag of chips and a pickle. After the person rang us up and charged my card, they asked if I still wanted the chips and pickle with the PB&J. "Uhh, yeah..." I mean, I get that a pickle is a weird combo with a PB&J, but the chips are the real fancy kind and if the price of a sandwich includes chips, then, UHH YEAH I WANT THE CHIPS. The fuck kind of question is that.
See? Not bright.
When I first noticed this phenomenon, I felt bad about myself and my parenting. Then, as I noticed it more, I got mad and now I'm in a place where it just annoys the shit out of me. What is this?, you ask. It's parents micromanaging their kids' fun. Let me 'splain.
In California, where the weather is beautiful and gorgeous, we spent a lot of time at the playground. Invariably, there would be some parent (usually more than one) holding their kid's hand as they went along the play structure, or following their kid around as they played atop the giant lizard statue, or saving their kid from the two-foot drop off the spider web-looking thing. Sometimes, there'd be parents actively playing with their kids, going down the slide themselves or swinging on the swings.
I found all of this weird for several reasons, first of all because the play structure sign says Ages 5-12, not ages 5-35. I found it weird because I think it's healthy for LG (and other kids) to figure out how to get themselves out of sticky situations without their parents' help, because their parents are not going to be there to do things for them all the time. I found it weird because as a parent, I can be anxious about the swingy bar with a far drop to the ground, but it's my job to internalize that anxiety and let my kid play on her own, rather than be overtly nervous about her falling five feet off the swingy bar onto the ground. (I was very nervous about the swingy bar but I did not want to let LG know I was nervous about the swingy bar. I want her to be brave and fearless.)
I mostly found it weird, though, because if my kid wanted to play with another kid, oftentimes that meant also playing with that other kid's parent and here I was, on a bench nearby, listening to a podcast or reading a book and seeming like I was uninterested in my kid as she played with another kid(s) and their parent. Now, this would actually not be untrue! I did not take LG to the park for my fun, unless you count the podcasts or books as fun, in which case, I guess I did take her there for my fun, but not in the, "I'm going to heave my giant ass through this tunnel and pretend to be a monster" kind of fun.
Listen, I don't ever want to grow up and I spend a fair amount of time doing non-grown-up-type things, like doing improv. The other day, at LG's initiation, I pretended there was a sleeping dinosaur in our garage and we had to be veeeeeeeery quiet when we got in the car and then we freaked out about the dinosaur and we talked about the dinosaur several more times throughout the day. Yesterday, at LG's request, I reenacted her birth in our kitchen. It was less messy than the first time and I kept all my clothes on, but my point is, I do indulge my kid in fun things. I am not a monster.
However, when we go to the playground, that is LG's time to play with other kids her age, not her lame mother or other adults her lame mother's age. It's the time where 4-ish-year-olds convene and work shit out among themselves. It is Lord of the Flies out there, except it's only for an hour or so. And then, if it turns out some kid is being an asshole, we can talk about it either right there, or later that day and we can have a discussion about how some people are assholes and here is how you don't act like an asshole.
This brings me to the current day, where it's cold and snowy and you can't play at the playground, so you play at the library. Our library is pretty great. The entire downstairs is for the kids, so they can run around and be themselves without the constant, "SHHHH!" from their parents, because there are people trying to study or research or play online poker at the computers a few feet away.
The problem is, I see library time as I saw playground time, which equals reading time for me. I have no interest in sitting in the kid-sized chair and watching LG play a game on the iPad (WHY DO THEY HAVE iPADS AT THE LIBRARY? Different rant for a different day.) Without fail, though, there are other parents at the library, following their kids around as they play and then when my kid tries to play with their kid, it turns into their weird game where the kids are being refereed by this other parent as they, like, do puzzles, and there I am, reading Fates and Furies (still not finished) and looking very disinterested. BECAUSE I AM! Because I have plenty of work to do at home, but I am here, for my child, so that she can learn and grow and become independent and a problem-solver and make friends. I don't need some other woman monitoring whose turn it is on the iPad. I don't need some lady saying to my kid, "Are you here with your grandma?" as if that would make the absence of a parent make more sense. Oh, tired grandma is taking a rest, for surely if your mother was here, she'd be hovering over you, telling you how to do this puzzle correctly.
I don't know, maybe I'm the asshole.
The first day of 3Q15, I started a new job. The last week of 3Q15, I moved 2,000 miles away. So, not a lot of time for reading this summer. Luckily, I found the library in my new town and took up reading once again.
Beautiful Day, by Elin Hilderbrand
Elin Hilderbrand might be taking over as James Patterson for me. That is, I seem to go for her books when I'm looking for something to just read. Not to think about too much, just to enjoy and finish quickly. (So to speak.) Anyway, her books have a formula that works for me; this one was no different. All her books take place on Nantucket and this time it was about a wedding, complete with lots of family drama. I found most of the characters charming and it wrapped up nicely.
The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty, by Vendela Vida
I heard about this on NPR awhile ago and finally got around to checking it out from the library. It's about a woman whose belongings are stolen right out of from under her at a hotel in Morocco and how she takes the lack of ID and money as an opportunity for adventure. It's written in second person, which kind of tripped me up at the end when I realized I'd read a whole book strictly through, basically, her thoughts, but it ultimately served as a useful vehicle to provide background information on the main character. Recommend.
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
This was really fun. It takes place over several decades and in different countries and then all ties together at the end. It also takes place in a fairly obscure part of Italy, which had me Googling and busting out my atlas, and I love that kind of stuff. It ended nicely, save for the ending of one character. That one just pissed me off, but since there ended up being several other main characters, it didn't stand out as, like, the entire ending. Recommend.
The Girl Who Chased The Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen
I think this is probably a YAF book, which is NOT my genre, but luckily it had two main characters/storylines--one of a teenager and one of an adult. It was one of those magic-/supernatural-type stories, which, other than Harry Potter, is usually not for me. Despite all signs pointing to the "no" column, this was actually cute and I was not mad at it. I'm still not going for magic teenage fairy books, though.
Past Perfect, by Susan Isaacs
(I actually finished this on January 1st, but forgive me, I am adding it to the 2015 list.) I looooove Susan Isaacs, so I was excited for this book. BUT, it was a bit of a slow burn and didn't really even get to the good stuff until the very end and then the ending wasn't even wrapped up well. Like, I had to go Google, "past perfect susan isaacs ending" to see if someone else could explain it. Unfortch, all that yielded was a lot of reviews on Goodreads about how much people hated this book. So.
I am currently reading Lauren Groff's Fates And Furies, but since I have to keep a dictionary at hand to even get through one page, I am not sure it's for me.
What have you read lately?
2015 was a year. A year, it was.
1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
Performed weekly with an improv team. Lived in the Midwest.
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't think I made any resolutions. I am not making any for 2016.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. What countries did you visit?
None. (CRYFACE EMOJI.)
6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you didn't have in 2015?
(Haha, last year I said, "A finished kitchen." Since we sold our house, now I don't give a fuuuuuuq about my kitchen.) Anyway, I would like a goddamn vacation.
7. What dates from 2015 will be etched upon your memory, and why?
September 15, the date our shit was packed up and headed off to Illinois. September 19, the date we left California for Illinois.
8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Being asked to perform weekly on an improv team, finding a job I really liked, being a very supportive spouse.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I don't think I failed at anything.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I can't really think of anything that I bought that was that great. Champagne?
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Chris got promoted! He's a badass. LG continued to be chill and took all the big changes in stride. I was, once again, a very supportive spouse.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
After marriage equality, when people continued to passive-aggressively quote Bible scripture on Facebook as if to make some stupid point...STOP IT. The only point you're making is that you're a bigot. Go away.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage/rent, daycare, food, booze.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Being asked to be on an improv team!
16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
"Changes," by Langhorne Slim and The Law. I heard this in my last yoga class in California the week we moved and I cried and then I couldn't find the song anywhere and then a few weeks ago, I randomly heard it during an Auto Trader commercial and I was like, There's that song! And also I need to send my yoga teacher a Christmas letter! Life works in funny ways sometimes.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: A) happier or sadder? B) thinner or fatter? C) richer or poorer?
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Improv or anything else comedy-related. Stand-up, sketch, etc.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Ate fried food.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
The three of us spent Christmas at home, just us and a shitton of food. The usual.
21. Did you fall in love with 2015?
22. What was your favorite TV program?
All the Real Housewives, as usual; The Affair; Homeland; The Americans; Better Call Saul; The West Wing; Vanderpump Rules.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
24. What was the best book you read?
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I recently downloaded Grace Potter. I dig it.
26. What did you want and get?
27. What did you want and not get?
A family vacation!
28. What was your favorite film of 2015?
Haha, "film." I don't think I saw any movies this year, except the Peanuts Movie, which was really quite stupid, and Inside Out, which was not stupid, but which made me cry.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Chris and I went to San Diego--alone!--and hung out with friends and went to the bar where we met. I turned 32.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
It was a pretty legit year, so I can't say there's more I would have wanted. Don't be greedy.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept of 2015?
All I can think of is that most recently, it's puffy coats.
32. What kept you sane?
Running, yoga, podcasts.
33. What political issue stirred you the most?
There are too many shootings in this country and I don't know how to solve it, but it needs solving because what the fuck is going on?
34. Who did you miss?
My mom and dad. They came to almost every improv show and I loved seeing their faces front row center every Wednesday.
35. Who was the best new person you met?
My bosses; my old cubicle-neighbor, who has turned into a real friend; and improv people.
36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Just say yes--adventure is a good thing! Be loyal to your family--ride or die.
37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"Gimme one reason to stay here and I'll turn right back around..." (LG and I have been listening to a lot of Tracy Chapman.)
After going to four different stores (meat market, Trader Joe's, regular grocery store, Italian market), we're ready for Christmas! Here's what's on our menu:
Christmas Eve breakfast
Chris has to work on Christmas Eve and I'm a big believer that Christmas Eve doesn't start until the first showing of A Christmas Story airs on TBS, but since both LG and I are off, and since Chris doesn't really like sweets anyway, I bought us ladies some imported chocolate croissants for breakfast. They could be awful, we'll see.
Christmas Eve lunch
See above re: not really Christmas yet. We'll just have leftovers or whatever for lunch. Possibly more croissants.
Christmas Eve dinner
Appetizers! My friend Caitlin talked me off a ledge and convinced me to just buy appetizers from TJ's instead of doing a whole big stressful cooking thing. She's smart. Here's what we're having (it's inadvertently Greek/Middle Eastern-ish, the latter being fitting, when you think about it):
Pastry Pups (pigs in blankets) + mustard
Hummus + veg + crackers
I also have a large block of Dubliner cheese if we find we need more food
We'll probably drink the usual libations...wine, G&Ts...can't get too crazy since
we Chris will be putting a (shhh!) bike together and we I will be texting with my parents--the bike-givers, THANKS MOM AND DAD (I love you)--during A Christmas Story ("Okay Black Bart, now you get yours.")
Bagels (everything and cheese) + cream cheese + a ham steak
Bone-in ribeye steak (Chris will grill, since it's supposed to be a balmy 46 degrees that day)
Ricotta + spinach stuffed shells with marinara
I bought some delicious quartet of cheesecakes from Trader Joe's. Also port.
What are you having for Christmas? Merry day to you all!
So it snowed last weekend. Our first snow! Today I went for a run and while it was very nice (I do enjoy running in the (somewhat) cold), I also quickly realized that my shoes are serious dry-weather shoes. So I'll be buying some new ones that don't get my feet soaking wet.
Anyway, this week is Thanksgiving, aka: my favorite holiday ever. We're sticking close to home this year (uhh, by which I mean we are just...staying home), which is sad, but good. Sad because no family, we have to do all the cooking. Good because no family, we get to do all the cooking. Here's what's on our menu this year.
We debated on doing Bloody Marys and bagels with lox, but then I randomly bought bagels and lox a few weekends ago and so that didn't sound great anymore. We decided to just do Bloody Marys and appetizers instead, so here's what apps we're having:
Meat, cheese, and crackers
Potstickers (Costco, from a bag)
Jalapeno poppers (leftover cream cheese from bagels and lox day + bacon that needs to be used + jalapenos that need to be used)
Shrimp and cocktail sauce (homemade sauce, Ina's recipe)
We'll probably eat around 2pm or so. Maybe a little later, depending on if we're starving or if I decide to make an emergency flatbread with the pizza crust I stress-bought last week.
Turkey with sage and Kerrygold rubbed all up on it
Stuffing with sausage
Mashed potatoes (from a box! But I am roasting garlic to add in)
Green bean casserole (topped with onion rings, Chris's favorite)
Maybe a salad (the produce here sucks and so the spinach we bought a few days ago is already bad. It's either go to the store this week for new salad ingredients or...just forgo a salad)
Possibly roasted carrots (this is the portion of the show where I start to worry we won't have enough food)
King's Hawaiian rolls
Smitten Kitchen's Pear, Cranberry, and Gingersnap Crumble, but with apples instead of pears, and vanilla bean ice cream on top
What are you having for the big day?
...from the Midwest! Hi, yes, we moved to Illinois. I figure you already know this because you follow me on Instagram and/or Twitter and/or you're my mom or grandma. If none of those apply, then what a surprise for you! Anyway, so we're here now and seem to be surviving just fine. I found a school for LG and am looking into my options for comedy (which are great if you're IN Chicago, but less-great if you're in the suburbs, which we are.) It has not snowed, but my weather app shows a snowflake for next Saturday, so that may be my first opportunity to bust out my fancy Sorel boots and Lands' End down coat. I am sure they'll get five minutes of play before I go back inside the house like a normal person. Meanwhile, I tell everyone I meet who mentions the mild weather we've been having, "Yes, I am here from California and I brought it with me you're welcome." Just trying to endear myself to the locals. People here are very nice, which makes me highly suspicious (WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?) but I am trying to go with it. Luckily last night, I had the opportunity to call our old eye doctor in California and yell at him (long story), so I am feeling much more myself.
In makeup news, I bought Benefit's They're Real! mascara for not the first time a few months ago and...did they change the formula? Because it suuuuuuuuucked. It's not waterproof, yet it would. not. come. off. EVER. I felt like it was ruining my eyelashes, like one day I'd wake up and they'd just be these little mascara-covered stubs. I threw it away and wen't back to L'Oreal Voluminous and am much happier.
I also picked up Maybelline Color Blur Cream Matte Pencil (in Berry Misbehaved) and I quite enjoy it. My new thing for winter, I think, will be buying brightly-colored lipsticks. And also maybe snow-shoeing.
Alright, I have to get the little one off to school. Stay warm, my friends.