Friday, May 26, 2017

2017 Reading Challenge

I recently started following the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and I have enjoyed their reading-centered posts and book recommendations (although I'm not a huge fan of the name because I would hate to be Mrs. Darcy--I have an issue with Pride and Prejudice).

Anyway, they created a 2017 Reading Challenge that I only just saw today. I have always been interested in doing one of these but have never actually followed through. As I looked at the categories, however, I thought of many books I have already read that would fit in. After a thorough search through my Goodreads shelves, I realized that I have either already read or planned to read books for every one of their 24 categories!

If you are interested in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge and/or what I have been reading, here we go! Or look at any of the links above.

  • A book you chose for the cover: The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty, Amanda Filipacchi
  • A book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able: Cinder, Marissa Meyer (I'm also trying to finish the rest of the series in the next two weeks for my two-person book club)
  • A book set somewhere you've never been but would like to visit: Anne of Green Gables series, L.M. Montgomery (get me to Prince Edward Island!)
  • A book you've already read: The View from Saturday, E.L. Konigsburg
  • A juicy memoir: This Is Really Happening, Erin Chack (I laughed out loud so many times reading this book)
  • A book about books: Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale
  • A book in a genre you usually avoid: My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem
  • A book you don't want to admit you're dying to read: Food Freedom Forever*, Melissa Hartwig (this category was hard because I'm not really embarrassed by anything I have read or want to read, but I guess I wouldn't talk about this book to just anyone)
  • A book in the backlist of a new favorite author: I read every book by Liane Moriarty within the last year
  • A book recommended by someone with great taste: Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (recommendation from Twitter after my rant about hating Jane Eyre!)
  • A book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven't read yet: Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple (I have wanted to read this book a million times and even checked it out from the library without reading it. But I finally did it!)
  • A book about a topic or subject you already love: Women at Church, Neylan McBaine (I love talking about feminism within the LDS church)
  • A Newberry Award winner or Honor book: The Wednesday Wars*, Gary D. Schmidt
  • A book in translation: The Neapolitan Novels*, Elena Ferrante
  • A book that's more than 600 pages: The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
  • A book of poetry, play, or essay collection: Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay
  • A book of any genre that addresses current events: The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  • An immigrant story: Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue
  • A book published before you were born: Let's Kill Uncle, Rohan O'Grady
  • Three books by the same author: I read the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author: What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi
  • A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending: Eleanor, Jason Gurley
  • A book nominated for an award in 2017: The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  • A Pulitzer Prize winner: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

*Books I haven't read yet but are planned into my summer reading.

If you have read any of these books, I am highly interested in discussing them with you. If you haven't, do it. Happy reading!

Friday, April 28, 2017

April Cookbook Club

April was Mary's pick and with some heavy influencing from Jared, she chose The Tucci Table. Jared also developed a Stanley Tucci-themed trivia night for the club which was so fun but so hard.

Jared made Tuscan tomato soup and lemon butter asparagus.

Travis and Katie made quinoa salad (he loves that stuff) with feta/pomegranate/pistachio, cauliflower steaks, and carrot cake.

Mary made grilled cheese sandwiches as an appetizer and they were so fun.

I made a sausage roll (very GBBO inspired).

Dinesh made homemade BBQ chicken wings and onion rings, which were delicious and fun to make from scratch.

Hanna made blondies (so gooey).

Kelly made raspberry ripple lemon cake.

Note: Mary won trivia, which is fitting, since apparently Stanley Tucci is her man.

March Cookbook Club

March was Travis's pick of cookbook, and he decided on Oprah's Weight Watchers-inspired book, Food, Health, and Happiness.

Mary made red pepper/sausage/fennel soup that was kind of DIY for assembly, which was cool, because it meant you could control the flavors/level of spice.

Kelly made corn chowder that was supposed to be DIY but she said screw that and put everything in the soup. It was so so good. She also made "skinny" cornbread that tasted a little skinny.

Dinesh made an Indian pumpkin curry (with butternut squash instead) that called for a million spices and luckily his roommates had them that we could borrow. Worth it.

I made "unfried" chicken (breaded with almond flour, spices, and parmesan and baked in the oven) and Vietnamese chicken salad. Salad needed more flavor I think.

Jared went rogue and brought zucchini bread not from the cookbook.

Travis and Katie brought spiced applesauce minicakes (I think those are called muffins), breakfast cookies, and quinoa salad.

Monday, February 6, 2017

February Cookbook Club

We had to do an early cookbook club this month because lots of us will be traveling later in the month. It took forever to settle on a date, but we ended up doing it last night, which made it probably my most delicious anti-Super Bowl party ever.

Note: it was only an anti-Super Bowl party for me, because I didn't/don't watch the Super Bowl. Other members of the club did watch it.

We used the cookbook Date Night In, which features seasonal menus to cook together with a date. We didn't really end up cooking with dates, and definitely didn't follow all the seasons designated for the menus, but we did have a ton of delicious food, as always.

Jared made WINGS (because Super Bowl), pickled celery, and wedge salads (kind of. We had to assemble our own and they didn't all end up in wedges). Kelly made a rainbow chip birthday cake (everything from scratch, including the sprinkles).

Travis and Katie (maybe the only ones who actually used this cookbook club as an opportunity for a date) made a leek/bacon/ricotta tart (OMG so delicious), an endive salad, and Nutella ice cream (no ice cream maker required, so I need to get on that).

Hanna made pizza with sausage and ricotta and bittersweet chocolate brownies with peanut butter frosting.

Mary made a salad with Brussels sprouts, feta, leeks, and grapes.

Dinesh and I made sausage patties (which were seriously delicious and I will make them again and again), baked eggs, and croissant French toast.

Until next time, Cookbook Club.

Friday, February 3, 2017

January Cookbook Club

In January I checked out 7 of Ina Garten's cookbooks from the library to make a Barefoot Contessa feast. We ended up using recipes from only 4 of them, which I guess means we'll have to come back to her recipes at some point.

While flipping through, it seemed like the majority of her recipes involved seafood (which we mostly don't like) and/or alcohol (which we don't drink). There was also the added complication of Whole30, which I was following during this month. Luckily, however, we ended up with some delicious food, as always.

Travis and Katie balsamic roasted beef and guacamole salad (which was SO flavorful).

I made kale chips and a mustard chicken salad.

Dinesh made tortilla soup (no tortillas though. #Whole30).

Jared made herb-marinated pork loin which might have been the most delicious meat I have ever eaten in my life. He also made garlic roasted cauliflower.

Mary made orange braised parsnips and carrots (thank you to her for the veggies).

Hanna and Kelly handled the desserts (chocolate caramel and salted caramel), which I didn't try, so I can't comment on them, but they were definitely popular.

I couldn't check out her new book, Cooking for Jeffrey, because it was too popular, but I have heard amazing things, so we'll be back, Ina Garten!!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Chronicles of Narnia

Over the past three months, I have read or listened to all 7 books in the Chronicles of Narnia series. I remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when I was young, but I must have never made it around to the others, because I didn't remember anything. However, I highly enjoyed them as an adult and I'm in a much better place to understand the allegory, so I'm not too sad I missed out earlier.

These books are all part of a very strong Christian allegory, and they do a good job of making me think about life on Earth, heaven, my relationship with Christ, and right vs. wrong.

They also helped me see evil in new, powerful ways. Although I have understood the concept of gaslighting abstractly, The Silver Chair gave me the most concrete example I have ever found. And reading The Last Battle made me very uncomfortable when I started to draw connections with the current government.

Two of my favorite quotes, both from The Last Battle, speak to what happens at the end of our lives, which aligns very well with what I was taught and what I have always believed.

A lot of sad, hard things happen at the end, including Susan, one of the original children from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, not returning to Narnia with the rest.

SPOILER ALERT [but can it really be a spoiler for a book that was published 60 years ago?]: At the end of the book, all the good characters from the whole series watch the Narnia they have known and loved die, and then they go into a new land, where everything seems familiar but better.

"The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this."

"For all find what they truly seek."

I love the idea of heaven as an improvement of this world, where we'll be comfortable and happy but know it's an upgrade. I also like thinking that people will end up where they are happiest. Bad things happen, but at the end, it will be alright. I look forward to the feeling of reunion with everyone who has ever left me. The end of this series feels hopeful, even with the heartache that accompanies it.

I know C.S. Lewis is highly revered, especially in the Mormon world, but I have never been able to get into his nonfiction. These books, however, are perfect at bringing the reader into the story in order to speak some real truths. I'm excited to reread them, hopefully someday with my future children (?).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 Resolutions!

Like I said, I am a goal person. I know a lot of people hate on New Year's Resolutions, but I like them and I'll never stop making them. Making goals for myself is how I show that I think my life matters.

I read Better than Before this year and learned some interesting things about myself and the way I set goals and create habits. I am an Upholder, meaning I am a rule-follower and I follow expectations, whether they are set for me or I set them for myself. However, I am also somewhat of an Obliger. I will always do things for other people, and having a person to keep me accountable is just what I need when my Upholder tendencies start falling away. I am also an Abstainer, not a Moderator, which means it's easier for me to give up things completely than indulge in them in moderation. I don't have a moderation setting. I am an all or nothing person.

I made some goals for this year taking into account these distinctions about myself, and I'm excited about all of them! I read some good advice that you shouldn't make goals/resolutions that you're not excited about, and I think that's a good point. Forcing yourself to do something you don't want to do is the worst. So, either find a way to be excited about it or cut it out!

Here are my 11 resolutions for the year!

1. Read 100 books. I didn't set a number last year until late in the game and I could have been working smarter the whole time to accomplish it. This year I will.
2. Start a savings account. My financial situation is kind of embarrassing, mostly because I have a checking account in Utah and a Banana Republic credit card and that's it. But I have a savings goal in mind and I'm gonna figure it out!
3. Figure out MY Food Freedom. I have done a million different food plans and I keep doing them because I like to try things so I can know what works for my body but eventually I want to just figure it out. And this year I have a different food plan for each month and I'm gonna journal the hell out of it so I can actually see how I feel and what's gonna work long-term. I'm starting with #JanuaryWhole30 (my third round)!
4. Personal training. I signed up with my gym and committed through June, and if it's great I'll continue. I can usually get myself to go to the gym, but the Obliger part of my personality needs someone to tell me what to do there. I'm looking forward to getting stronger and healthier.
5. Keep track of the good things that happen to me. I always see ideas like "put a slip of paper in a jar when something good happens and read them on New Year's Eve" and I want to do them but I never have. I've had a half-assed planner system ever since my mission (and maybe even before) where I recorded some things, but it was sporadic. I want to commit to remembering the good parts of my life. I have a fairly good memory and can often recall things that others can't, and I want this to be a way to maximize that.
6. Figure out my beauty routine. I'm not someone who tries really hard to be pretty, which most of the time works for me. But sometimes I want to be pretty, and I need to do the steps regularly that will allow that (wash my face, have the right hair products, grow my eyelashes, etc.). I started getting a monthly Birchbox last year and it's so fun but there are definitely a few areas that I haven't even tapped into, and I want to start.
7. Finish 15 post-masters-degree credits. My school district pay scale increases for every 15 credits after a masters degree, and I've been working on those credits for a while so it's time to actually finish and get paid for them. I'm working on a class right now and then I'll need one more 3-credit class.
8. Watch all 48 animated Disney movies with Dinesh. I've seen most of them already, but a lot I haven't seen since I was a kid, and he hasn't seen almost any of them! We've been watching together and it's so fun (except some of the early ones are so bad).
9. Commit to the life-changing magic of tidying up. I've done a lot but I haven't completely committed to the process and so there's always more to do. I want to get to a good clutter-free place this year.
10. Engage with the Savior daily. This hasn't been my strength lately but I want it to be. It doesn't have to be as complicated as it seems, so I'm starting small and feeling good.
11. Be okay with being alone. Whoaaaaa I know, so much vulnerability. I'm definitely an extrovert, but I also think sometimes I use that as an excuse for desperately craving validation and not wanting to face myself. So I'm working on strategies for being comfortable spending an evening or a day or a weekend (okay, that will probably never happen) by myself.

I'll be tracking these things to measure my progress and also to constantly remind myself that these are things I want to work on. Looking forward to continuing my growth this year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016's Resolutions

I am a goal person. I love making goals and I love the satisfaction that comes with accomplishing them. I have done some pretty awesome stuff just by making it a goal (the best one ever was to run a marathon!!!!). However, that does not mean I am immune to the typical New Year's resolutions problems. I set some goals for 2016 that I didn't quite accomplish, and I'm here to report on them.

Resolution #1: Eat more vegetables than treats.
What I didn't do: Track it well enough to actually have a number on that for the whole year. I started off strong, and had periods throughout the year of tracking my food where I was more mindful and it worked, but then a lot of the year I just threw that out the window and probably ate more treats than vegetables, whoops.
What I did do: Eat so many vegetables! I signed up for a weekly CSA box this summer (June through October) and it was SO good at getting me to eat fresh, organic, local, bright, delicious produce. I am definitely going to sign up again this summer. I also got really into cookbooks, including a lot of vegetable-centered ones, so I'm looking forward to diving in.

Resolution #2: Track my spending habits and make a budget.
What I didn't do: That. At all. I signed up for Mint but could never actually get it to work so I didn't even get to the tracking part of this goal. And I didn't even take a stab at a budget. Again, whoops.
What I did: Make enough money that I always have a lot left over in my checking account every month. I pay off my credit card bill with plenty to spare and I don't have to worry about surprise costs. Next step: a savings account (LOL).

Resolution #3: Monthly book club with my dad.
What I didn't do: Do this for 12 months. There were about 4 months when we read the same book and 3 times that we got together to talk about it. My dad stopped listening to audiobooks as much as he used to so that kind of shut down the plan, and he didn't really love my suggestions either.
What I did: Read about 100 books! Including a bunch of them over the summer. I have really put reading on the back burner for the last few years but this year I kicked it into gear and read a lot of books, including a bunch of rereads that were wonderful and a bunch of new books that changed my life! I didn't really start reading fervently until mid-February so I know I can do better.

Resolution #4: Have a weekly step average of 10,000/day.
What I didn't do: Surpass a step average of 7,000! Again, a big whoops. I started and then gave up habits that I intended to help meet this goal a million times this year, but the truth is that I hardly get any steps during the day at school because my school is tiny and I never leave my classroom and then after school I do everything but walk around.
What I did do: Exercise a lot! I had a really great active summer, including a million kayaking days and hikes and a trail Ragnar (which was OMG SO HARD) and then in the fall I got into a really good groove of going to the gym three times a week. And I committed to personal training through the month of June. I'm gonna figure this exercise thing out.

I have a lot of goals for 2017 and I have been really excited about them! I'm not on team 2016-was-the-worst-year-ever (except for the election UGH) but I am on team hopeful-for-2017 because I've never been not hopeful for a new year before and honestly, I don't have anything to complain about in my life. Is 10 resolutions too many? We'll see.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December Cookbook Club

For December we did the Smitten Kitchen cookbook/blog and as always it was an absolutely delicious evening.

Jared made a potato frittata with SO MUCH DELICIOUS FETA in it.

Kelly made a salad with shaved Brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds (we found an excellent method for getting the seeds out if you're interested) and pickled onion AND she made cranberry scones.

Hanna made brown butter and sea salt rice krispy treats and POPCORN COOKIES that were transformative. They're like chocolate chip cookies but instead of chocolate you mix in buttered popcorn. Yes.

Dinesh made baked potato crisps topped with bacon and cheese and chives and sour cream and that's the way I want to eat potatoes from now on.

Travis made sweet peas and shells with alfredo sauce and apple cider caramels that tasted like fall and we need them again.

I made a butternut squash and caramelized onion galette that was tasty but it was all in the crust. That crust was a game-changer. I think I'm realizing that I don't love butternut squash so I would try the same thing again with other veggies. I also made this gooey cinnamon squares that SOUND like they're rice krispy treats made with cinnamon toast crunch but actually they're like snickerdoodle bars kind of. I think I overbaked them which is a huge sin in my book and they're actually the only thing that didn't get entirely eaten.

Smitten Kitchen is the bomb and I love that we do this every month and I'm finally realizing that if I cooked delicious food more often then I could be as happy as cookbook club night on the reg. I'll try it out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Troughsgiving/November Cookbook Club

For November Cookbook Club we did our third annual Troughsgiving. This time we held it at my parents' house in Hull rather than in our Cambridge apartment, on a Saturday, and a few of us stayed the night on Friday, which helped with space and cooking time. It was epic, and instead of going around the table and saying what we were grateful for about our lives, we said what foods on the table we were grateful for. I think everything got named.

Dinesh made the turkey/gravy! Again! [And he actually ended up cooking the turkey with my family on Thanksgiving Day as well.]

Kelly made roasted vegetables (that took 500 years to roast. What is it about Kelly's dishes that they always take way longer than anticipated?) and pumpkin bread.

Jared made "Stuffing with Apples and Gouda" that was more like a deconstructed grilled cheese in a delicious way. He also made cranberry salsa.

Hanna made banana cream pie and cherry Jello (that's for some reason part of the meal instead of dessert).

Travis made pumpkin bread, salad, and Chrissy Teigen's cauliflower mash.

Mary made so many mashed potatoes.

I made pumpkin/sweet potato/coconut pie and my mom's insanely delicious and buttery sweet potato casserole that basically has cookies on top.

Brent brought rolls. He bought them from the store instead of making them. It is important to note this.

Kristin showed up 2 hours late with broccoli/hazelnuts that was probably delicious but it was hard to know because we were so full. Though the broccoli in my leftovers was memorable and great.

I had found a bunch of Thanksgiving cookbooks but none of them were good enough to use, so we had/found our own recipes and it was the best. Long live Troughsgiving*!!!

*Troughsgiving is like Friendsgiving** but with a trough***
**Which is like Thanksgiving but with your friends
***The trough is a very special thing which might require an additional blog post. Let me know if you have questions.