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.

Monday, December 19, 2016

16 Years Late to Gilmore Girls, or: Why I Stopped Reading Books in November

On October 28, my longtime friend Katharine, who I had just invited to spend Thanksgiving with my family, asked me if we were bingeing the Gilmore Girls revival on Black Friday. Because my parents had made some pretty strict rules about TV-watching while I was in middle school, I missed the boat on a lot of shows that most people have seen, and Gilmore Girls was one of them. I knew everyone was excited about the revival, and several of my friends told me they thought I would like the show, so I told Katharine that I had never seen it, but maybe I would watch it before Thanksgiving. She said, "it's 7 seasons though!" and I said "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."

I had watched the first episode a year or so earlier and didn't love it, but I committed to at least giving it an honest chance. During the whole first season I still wasn't sold, but when my roommates Kelly and Jared told me the second season was the best, I continued on. At some point I stopped noticing whether or not I actually enjoyed watching the show and just fully dove into the task of finishing it by Thanksgiving.

Each season of the 7 has 22 episodes, and at 45 minutes each, that adds up to 6,930 minutes of television, or 115 hours. I had about one month to complete them, which means 4 hours of Gilmore Girls each day. That was a huge feat for me, since I normally am not a huge TV watcher. I teach all day, I have a regular workout schedule, I like to cook, and read, and I teach Sunday School for church, and I really like to hang out with my friends a lot, plus my boyfriend. After taking a sick day in that first week and watching ALL DAY without any real progress, I realized just how much 115 hours of TV is.

But I never give up on challenges. So I dug deep. I not only watched while I was doing cardio at the gym, but also while I was walking there and back. If I had to wait for appts or in long lines, I'd turn it on. During my prep periods at school, if I was doing a mindless task like entering grades, I'd have an episode on (and I'd always watch at lunch). I fell asleep to an episode a lot of nights, and if I woke up earlier than I had to, I'd watch in the morning. One night Dinesh and I sat next to each other with headphones in, him watching Before the Flood while I watched Gilmore. Eventually, I convinced him to watch it with me, and GG replaced everything we used to watch (How I Met Your Mother, Chopped, movies, etc.). Sundays after church were almost entirely devoted to episode after episode after episode with Kelly. I kicked myself when an entire day would go by without watching, since I knew it would cost a lot in makeup time.

I also completely gave up reading during this time, except for audiobooks while I was driving. On several occasions I wanted to pick up a book, but that November 25 deadline was looming, so I pressed on, promising myself I would read again when I was done.

Thanksgiving came, and I still had about half of the last season to watch. While prepping pies on Wednesday night, Gilmore was playing on the TV at my parents' house (thank goodness for their open floor plan). Thanksgiving Day was the same--cook, watch, repeat. Friday, November 25 dawned, and we finished up season 7 while celebrating my dad's birthday and avoiding social media references to the revival. At last on Friday night, after this arduous process,  I reached the last episode of season 7 and was so, so content with how it ended.

But unlike fans of Gilmore Girls around the world, I did not have to wait 9 years to find out what was happening to the girls. We started right in on the revival, watching Winter on Friday night and Spring, Summer, and Fall on Saturday.

What did I think of the show, you ask? (Revival spoilers below, but seriously, if you haven't watched it yet, you're not that big of a fan so it can't really matter anyway.)

  • I was strongly Team Logan through the first 7 seasons. Yes, he was an entitled playboy, but he cared about Rory so much (and it was obvious he still did in the revival too). I'm fine with her ending up with Jess eventually, but Logan will always be my fave.
  • Sookie is everything. I loved her and Lorelai's relationship and it was devastating that she was only in the revival for a brief moment. The show needs her.
  • Worst character in the whole show is Taylor. I HATE that man.
  • Rory kept disappointing me over and over again through everything, and I guess that's true to life. Everyone you ever love will disappoint you at some point. Just a fact.
  • Emily's revival story was SO SATISFYING. She was the worst so many times throughout the series and I loved seeing her chill out a little bit.
  • Hated the musical (duh) and hated Lorelai's Wild story. Running away is definitely something she would do, but copying someone else's experience does not seem realistic for her.
  • Kirk was soooooo heart-eyes-emoji in the revival. Thank goodness they didn't show his bare chest because I would not have been able to stomach that again.
  • I'm not sad at all about the ending. I actually think the last four words thing was a great way to end it. Maybe it's a little depressing to realize that escaping the cycle of our family is not always realistic, but I also think Rory has the opportunity to do things very differently than how Lorelai did and I'm hopeful for everyone.

My life felt a little empty after finishing it all, but I am relieved to be spending time on other things these days. Dinesh and I have been watching all the Disney movies, and I have been working my way through the Anne of Green Gables and Chronicles of Narnia series. Plus, I can go full days without TV of any kind and it's totally okay. Looking forward to a lot more of that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cookbook Club Round Two

For October's cookbook club we did It's All Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow. I wasn't as wowed by all the recipes initially as I was with Cravings, but luckily everything turned out super delicious anyway. There were some weird ingredients we had to buy, but now we have them so we can make everything again!

Here's the rundown:

Travis made Moroccan chicken salad wraps. They tasted like Morocco in a good way.

Dinesh made zucchini and leek soup. It was really simple but surprisingly flavorful (okay, and too spicy for some of our friends).

Kelly made carbonara which was seriously stressful mostly because the water for the pasta wouldn't boil for 40 minutes. Once it did finally boil it was so delicious.

Mary made chicken chow mein, which was a real winner. If it was actually less than 30 minutes, that would be a great alternative to take out (which I never really do anyway).

Hanna made taquitos which were so cute and fun! And there was a really delicious salsa that went along with them.

Jared made fattoush salad, falafel, and cilantro hummus, which were all SO GOOD, especially together. Also, he now has a food processor which is a miracle for all of us.

I made cauliflower mac and cheese which called for three kinds of cheese (cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan) and also fooled everyone into thinking there were no veggies. I also made this roasted beet and blue cheese salad (I love blue cheese for these things!) that I was nervous about because it called for radicchio and endives and hazelnut oil and specifically 9-minute eggs, but it turned out well.

We also had dessert this time, which was nice but almost too much because we were sooooo full. Travis made his famous pumpkin bread, Kelly made s'mores bars, and Hanna actually made a dessert from the book (coconut key lime tarts). Hanna's was gluten-free and vegan and paleo and it was good for being gluten-free and vegan and paleo.

Jared's parents came and I think they were impressed with the quality of the food and also that this is something we regularly do. Here's to impressing parents and eating a full, complete dinner at least once a month!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Books 40-42

40. Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin. I loved The Happiness Project so I was excited about the prospect of another life-changing book. I loved the first because I have always liked setting goals and it gives me a huge sense of accomplishment to achieve them. This book focused on habits, and those definitely aren't something I have been patting myself on the back for. I did get some good information, and a lot of the things she wrote changed the way I think about habits. I liked the book and found it useful.

But overall, I mostly realized that establishing habits is really hard and I am not going to be successful at it. It just takes too much work to make something happen every single day and that's not what I'm focusing on right now. Since reading this book, I've kind of felt bad when I don't do something that I normally do (get up 30 mins earlier than I have to so I can go for a walk, go to the gym right after school, say no to treats, etc.), but it hasn't made me keep doing them more often. Or maybe it has. I think it's worth reading, but I'm not at a place where I want to be a slave to my habits yet.

41. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte. OMG. I hated this book with the burning fire of a thousand suns. I read it in 9th grade for summer reading and I remember enjoying it, I guess. It's my mom's favorite book, plus about a million other people. People like this book. Especially women. But I despised it. Mostly because every man is an abomination. It's like reading a book full of Donald Trump characters. Yuck. Also, I just couldn't handle the sexism/racism/classism that I know was normal back then. This is a big part of why I don't like to read less contemporary books. Our world has changed for the better and I'm glad I live now. I get too angry reading about people being marginalized and it being okay because it's the past. Ugh.

Here are the things that I'd like to say to Jane: 1. It's not cool that Mr. Rochester uses his power over you as his employer to manipulate you romantically. 2. It's not cool that you act like teaching "impoverished" farm girls is such a worse gig than teaching at that uppity boarding school. 3. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE SIMPLY FROM LIVING IN INDIA. People live there. That doesn't cause them to die.

I also have a lot of things to say to Mr. Rochester and St. John but mostly it's language that I don't really use and definitely shouldn't be published on my blog.

TL;DR: If you like this book okay but I really don't get you.

42. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon. I have been meaning to read this book since 2009. Proof of that is the receipt I found inside the book from Smith's in Provo. Apparently on August 18, 2009 at 11:18 pm I purchased a bag of potatoes and an onion.

I'm glad that I finally got around to it because this is one of my favorite books from this year. It took me forever to read it (I started in August and finished today, yikes), mostly because of the vocabulary. I wasn't aware there are so many words in the English language that I didn't know! Motivation to up my vocabulary. It's also pretty dense. I couldn't just cruise through it like I have a lot of these books.

But, I think the time I spent with this book contributed to how much I loved it. I realized as I was nearing the end that I was going to miss spending time with [reading about] these characters. They were believable, they were heartbreaking, they taught me things I didn't know about the world. That's what I want out of books, honestly.

Currently listening to Henderson the Rain King and reading Lust for Life. Making progress.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

First Cookbook Club

My new roommate Kelly introduced an exciting idea in our lives this fall: Cookbook Club. Once a month, we choose a cookbook and invite our best chef friends to bring a dish from the book to a big dinner party.

I have had Cravings by Chrissy Teigen basically since it came out and I had only made one recipe from it, so we decided on that book for our first month.

Turns out I don't have a lot of chef friends, so I wasn't sure how the dishes would turn out, but they were all DELICIOUS.

Hanna made spicy chorizo and jalapeƱo queso.

Kelly made "I Can't Believe It's Not Gardetto's" and thyme-roasted carrots.

Travis made garlic ricotta cauliflower mash.

Dinesh made secretly spicy deviled eggs and sweet and salty coconut rice.

Jared made mac and cheese (Chrissy's mac and cheese, not John Legend's, which is important).

Mary made broccoli and sour cream potato cakes.

And I'm going to share the basics of my two favorite dishes so I can make them again and again.

KP made this salad that I assumed would be kind of whatever but NO. It was NOT whatever. It was everything and I need to make it again and again. Roasted cauliflower + orzo pasta + spinach + dried cherries + feta cheese + red onion + a dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, garlic and salt/pepper. I need to up my salad dressing game. I'm getting sick of white/brown balsamic vinegar on repeat.

Honestly my favorite thing of the whole night was what I made (and I knew it would be as soon as I saw the recipe). Brussels sprouts are life. So I roasted them with whole cloves of garlic (I was nervous but it was great), then mixed them up with crumbled crispy bacon, cranberries, and blue cheese, then drizzled this honey and balsamic reduction over the whole thing. I loved it. The flavors were SO good together. I left the blue cheese out because I know some people don't like it but the flavor wasn't too strong at all mixed with all the other things and it really added a lot to the whole dish. So seriously, just add in the blue cheese. Or if you're REALLY opposed try goat cheese or feta.

We ate so well that night, and leftovers the next day too. It was a dream.

Now I want to do cookbook club like every week and I already checked 15 cookbooks out of the library because I'm insane but I want to use them all!!!!!! Maybe I should start purchasing them. That would be a dream collection.

Next one is October 18 and we're doing Gwyneth Paltrow's It's All Easy by VERY popular demand. Can't wait to share all the delicious things we eat.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Another Food Post

Here are some good things I have made lately:

1. Such veggie mac and cheese
Caramelized leeks + roasted cauliflower + whole wheat pasta. Simmered butternut squash cubes in whole milk until soft and then blended it up, then added grated sharp cheddar cheese. Mixed everything up in a 9x13 pan, threw some extra cheese on top, and put it in the oven at 400 for 20 mins. Don't forget to add SALT to EVERY STAGE. It's delicious and it's mac and cheese but it's full of veggies and good things.

2. Such fall salad
Kale + roasted sweet potatoes + pistachios + "private stock" sharp cheddar cheese + dressing made with tahini and lemon juice and salt and a little agave and some avocado oil. The dressing looked super weird but when I put it on the salad and mixed everything up it tasted awesome.

3. Breakfast fritatta!
Sausage + sage + 12 eggs whisked + a whole yellow squash grated in + kale added and mixed right before baking. 400 for 30 mins. Cut into 8 slices and have breakfast all week. I've been making these for a while, but this last one was my favorite. The flavors were great, the texture was great, and it fills me right up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Books 36-39

I'm not going to finish the 50 books on my list by the end of summer. Not gonna happen. But I will finish them! Eventually. It's taking awhile and that's okay because reading is about enjoying it and I have really enjoyed this task and all the books I've read and it's going to continue.

36. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler. I never heard of this book until it was recommended to me and I never ever would have read it but I'm glad I did! There is a huge, huge surprise pretty early on that I would have known if I had read the back more carefully but I didn't so I was shocked and I liked that. Interesting observations on family. Pretty heartbreaking.

37. Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver. I have meant to read this book for years so finally I did. I listened to it, which wasn't ideal, but by the end of the summer I just didn't have much reading time but I had plenty of audiobook time (driving, running, etc.) so I went with it. I listened to the majority of this book while I was running the New England Trail Ragnar (15 miles of running up and then down a mountain, broken into three separate legs). Every time the girls in the book complained about the challenges of living in the Congo in the 60's I was like yep. It's hot. I don't have enough water. There are bugs. There are animals. I get it. Obviously I was being dramatic but it was funny to listen and for once not be like "whoa I have it so good" but rather "whoa I feel so sorry for myself right now." I liked it and I hope to read it someday.

38. It Was Me All Along, Andie Mitchell. This book was not on my original list but I ran out of audiobooks temporarily and I needed to listen to something, and I'm so glad I did. My dad recommended this to me and it was so, so relatable. It's a memoir about a girl who grew up always overweight and her struggle to deal with her weight and fitness and food addiction. I was with her the whole time until she got super skinny. Still waiting for that part of my story.

39. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell. Nonfiction books kill me. We all know that. Once again, this book had a lot of interesting information that was drawn out way too much. I don't need 25 examples of pro hockey players born in January, just one will do. Luckily I listened to it, which made it easier to power through the parts I'd have a hard time forcing myself to read. But, really good points and I'm still thinking about the ideas. Although I now believe it that success comes from all the right circumstances, which most people will never have, I can console myself with the fact that we don't need to be SUPER rich/successful to be happy in life. We can also be moderately successful and that's good enough.

I'm currently listening to Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay which is a million pages long and that's why I haven't finished an actual book since August. However, I am enjoying it and I'm going to keep enjoying it and I'll read everything else eventually.

CSA Post!

Okay I have terribly lost track of my CSA weeks and I haven't posted anything in forever which I'm actually sad about because I really wanted to keep track of recipes I liked.

I've decided to eat salads every day for lunch at school. This is good for a few reasons:
1. I can mass buy/prep a bunch of salad stuff and then just assemble it the night before, rather than having to cook something every night to eat for lunch.
2. Salads are healthy, duh.
3. I use up a lot of my CSA greens/other veggies doing this.
4. They can actually be good as long as I put enough stuff in them.
5. It's easy and it's a good habit (I'm listening to a book about habits (see some book post in the future where I'll discuss it) and I hope to be able to maintain it.

Most of the salads I have eaten so far have been okay, not great. But today's salad is a real winner! So I gotta remember it.

Cabbage + radishes (from CSA! yay!) + cashews + chicken thigh (that I rubbed with salt and garlic powder then seared on each side in a really hot cast iron pan) + sesame seeds (that I purchased because I wanted poppy seeds and the store didn't have any). The dressing was rice vinegar + toasted sesame oil + a little olive oil + sriracha + salt/pepper. This was GOOD. The kick from sriracha was perfect. The texture was crunchy and great. I wanted to add mango but my mango wasn't ripe yet, so I'll make this salad again once it is.

Other things I've made recently that I've liked:
BKT: toasted sourdough bread, spread with goat cheese, topped with kale leaves, sliced tomato sprinkled with salt, and crispy bacon. OMG. Heaven in a sandwich.
Beet chips: slice thinly, sweat them out with salt, bake (for not too long cause otherwise they'll get burnt and luckily Dinesh will eat them anyway but it'll be a little sad)

Also I have been dreaming about making zucchini carbonara (I got a super awesome spiralizer and I LOVE it) but the farm isn't harvesting anymore zucchini so to try it I might have to buy some from the store.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Books 30-35

30. East of Eden, John Steinbeck. Okay I finally finished this audiobook. I LOVE THIS BOOK. It is perfect. Can't recommend it enough. But listening to audiobook wasn't as beautiful as reading it so I think I'll have to read it again in a couple of years.

31. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls. Since this book was recommended by 5 of the handful of people who gave me recommendations, I was expecting something amazing. And I was actually impressed. The story is a terribly sad memoir about a girl who was severely neglected as a child, but it's helpful that you know throughout reading it that she turns out fine as an adult. The writing was extremely compelling.

32. Everyday Antiracism, edited by Mica Pollock. I read this book as part of a curriculum planning class I did this summer, and it was incredibly helpful in reframing my philosophy as an educator. The basic premise is that although race is a social construct and not a genetic reality, minority students have lived experience as members of a racial group, and though everyone talks about the achievement gap, the real problem is the opportunity gap. There were about 50 essays in the book all pointing out a specific antiracist way we can help minority students. I got some great ideas for the coming year and I'm actually excited about my curriculum. Highly recommend for educators.

33. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I had read this book before, and I guess I have unfortunately turned into more of a grown-up since then, because although there are some stand-out lines, overall the story is kinda weird. Maybe it makes more sense in French? I'll never know.

34. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari. I listened to the audiobook for this, which I highly recommend, because Aziz Ansari reads it himself and he's freaking hilarious. Very interesting info about dating in today's world. If I weren't in a relationship already I think I would find the info more useful, but still it's worth a read to understand how things have changed.

35. Matilda, Roald Dahl. I haven't thought about this story for years, but as I was reading I remembered the movie very fondly, so I think I'll have to watch it again soon. Great book for kids.

I have two more weeks till I go back to school, and I'm planning on cramming a whole lot of reading in! Here we go.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Books 25-29

I'm in trouble and I know it.

25. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. I loved this book! I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads which is super rare. I just couldn't put it down and though it was clever and entertaining. A lot of people have been reading it this summer and I totally get it.

26. Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson. I had read this book before, probably during high school, and I remembered the basic premise but no details. Reading through it this time, I found the main character kind of unbelievable. She was just so specifically witty in her misery. However, when I read this book during high school I don't remember her being unbelievable, so maybe it's that I have forgotten what it's like to be a teenager.

27. Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger. Another reread from high school. Another possibly unbelievable narrator, though I found his way of talking more realistic than the previous. I am going to suggest my students read it this year and see if they have anything in common with him.

28. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger. I listened to this on a road trip and really really liked it. I had seen the movie and it was helpful to have a basic idea of the plot, but the book was SO much better. Believable love stories are just so so touching to me, and this book did a good job of making the relationship realistic. There were a few points where I actually liked how they did things in the movie better, so taking them as a package, I would recommend this.

29. Peace Like a River, Leif Enger. I had also read this book before and really loved it when I read it the first time. This time I listened to the audiobook and it didn't work for me as well. I couldn't follow the details very well, and a lot of what I loved was beautiful sentence structure, which doesn't come across. I would still recommend this book, but definitely reading it and not listening to it.

I am STILL not done with East of Eden (I haven't had a lot of solo listening time in quite a while) but I'm so close! My next read will be The Glass Castle, which 5 of my friends recommended to me, so I really have high expectations.

I'm giving myself until the official end of summer to read these books, so I hope I make it. I have some big books coming up, but I'm excited for them. I'm still really enjoying this challenge, even as I'm failing at it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Books 21-24

Remember how I thought I was going to get a ton of reading done while I was in Utah? Hahahahahahaha.

I'm not doing very well, guys. I'm far off track and looking at the last few weeks of summer (I'm about to start crying) I don't really see a way to catch up. However, I am going to continue trying valiantly, and even if I don't finish all 50 by August 31, I will finish them eventually, and I have still read A TON this summer.

21. Dracula, Bram Stoker. I was very surprised at how much I liked this book. I normally prefer contemporary fiction, but this book was so spooky and really well-written. Telling the story through letters and diary entries was innovative, and I just kept wondering what was going to happen next.

22. The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. I was originally freaked out by how long this book was, but reading it was easy and it kept my attention the whole time. I experienced a huge range of emotions while reading but the end was satisfying without being unbelievable.

23. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, "JK Rowling"/Jack Thorne/John Tiffany. I had to read this book, because Harry Potter duh, but I knew it wasn't going to be anything like a new HP novel. I missed out on the character development and descriptions that are missing in a script, and all the people who are saying it feels like fan fiction are right. I don't regret reading it, and it was fun to enter the world again with a new story, but I definitely wanted more. Also, I don't believe JK Rowling played anything more than a minimal part in this.

24. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Okay I love reading novels about people/experiences that I know nothing about because it's like a whole new world opened up to me. This book was exactly like that and I ate it up. My only problem is that I take in these books as if the story is real, and because it's not, it just can't be a completely accurate representation. But still, this book is the bomb. It made me think a lot and entertained me while doing so.

I'm still listening to East of Eden (LOL it's taking an eternity but it's the best so I don't mind) and I'm about to read Ready Player One! Bring it on, August.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Books 17-20

17. My Name Is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok. While I was reading this book I didn't realize the significance of it to myself, but a few hours after I finished and was still thinking about it, it occurred to me how relatable this story is to single adult Mormons. Having a strong faith connection but not living up to expectations is an extremely common story for people in my life. This is definitely a book I will recommend, and those are hard to come by for me.

18. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, John Gray. This is a second book that has become important to me and that I will recommend. The premise is ridiculous (men and women are literally from different planets--he refers to it several times throughout the book and I could not stop myself from rolling my eyes) and there are definitely some outdated ideas about men and women. But, even through all of that, I found my eyes really opened to some fundamental differences in perspectives and communication that have caused minor issues in my (really, really great) relationship. I feel like after reading this book and putting these things into practice, there will be no challenges that can't be worked out. Sounds naive, but I have noticed a real difference already. Read this book.

19. Attachments, Rainbow Rowell. This book is adorable. It's a great story and it won't make you feel sad or hopeless and that's pretty rare in fiction these days. It's also a Y2K throwback, which is just a bonus. This book passes the mom test, and I would even read it again.

20. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks. I would never have read this book if it wasn't recommended to me, and I still had to skim through a lot of the neurological jargon, but the stories were interesting and I found a lot of connections. It also surprisingly had some implications to my view of teaching special education.

Currently reading Dracula and still listening to East of Eden (and loving it. I adore that book). Tomorrow is halfway through the summer and I've read 42% of my pages. I'm bringing a Nook on a trip to Utah and I've never used an e-reader so hopefully that doesn't hinder my reading because I'm planning on tackling some important books (Ready Player One, Goldfinch, David and Goliath, and Americanah). Please bless I have a lot to report in about 10 days!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lost count of CSA weeks

Okay last week my CSA was GOOD. I still didn't use up everything (I am very embarrassing and if there are any freegans in the area I need them to contact me so I can stop throwing away perfectly fresh and organic vegetables) but I did the best job I have ever done.

I got:

I finally did that thing I imagined I'd do all summer where I cooked several different meals throughout the week (three in one day, which I'm not sure I have ever done). It was extremely time consuming and I don't know why I thought I could do that often. Cooking takes TIME.

But, I honestly made some good things.

Just a regular salad with lettuce and cucumbers, for one. I found this dressing at a grocery store in New Hampshire over Fourth of July weekend (Simply Dressed Lemon Vinaigrette) that still has some junk in it but tasted light and good. I put it on cabbage and ate it just like that in NH and then put it in this salad with an apple.

Sage was probably my favorite spice that I've received so far and I put it in sausage for breakfast sandwiches and also in cheddar and sage biscuits. Turns out my best bet is to use my CSA stuff for not the healthiest food and then I'll love it (I also used zucchini and squash with TJ's orange chicken + coconut rice and it was the bomb.) The breakfast sandwiches were SO good (a fried egg, a thick slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese, sausage with sage mixed in, and not-store-brand English muffins) and the biscuits had a lot of potential but a) I'm not really precise enough at baking and b) I didn't make them thick enough! One I accidentally made thicker than the rest and it was the only one that puffed up in the oven and it was the best one. I need biscuit practice.

Thursday was the day that I just went over the top with food. Sausage, egg, and cheese for breakfast, then I made a variation on this salad for lunch (I roasted the fennel and carrots along with it) and was surprised at how much I liked it. Then I made beet chips and some were good and some weren't sliced thin enough. I NEED a mandolin. I also need a better spiralizer. I'm trying to declutter my life but also constantly talking myself into buying more kitchen appliances. (Just took a break from writing this blog to purchase both a spiralizer and a mandolin.) A good trick for beet chips is to coat them in salt and oil and then let them "sweat" for 20 minutes. They stayed nice and flat. Then I made roasted corn chipotle pasta salad with nothing from my CSA (okay actually I used half of an onion) but it was delicious. Highly recommend.

This week I got similar stuff (including one purple pepper) but I'll be out of town for most of it so if I get a chance to make any good recipes I'll note them here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Books 14-16

If you have been anxiously awaiting another book review post and getting worried about me falling behind in my reading, you're not alone. Me too.

14. Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty. I loved this book! Two friends recommended it and I was looking forward to a quick, friendly read, if you know what I mean. It was exactly that. I sped through almost the whole thing in one beach day and it killed me to wait to finish the next day (during Sunday School, whoops). Takes place in Australia, which was fun and fairly new to me. Plenty of surprises.

15. The Moon is Down, John Steinbeck. I have read a few other Steinbecks (including East of Eden, which is my favorite book), but I hadn't even heard of this, and after reading it I wasn't surprised. It's basically WWII propaganda, and very popular propaganda at the time, but it hasn't gotten much attention since, which I learned from reading the introduction to my copy (something I almost never do). It was a short, which was nice, and the story was compelling.

16. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer. This story was nuts. I didn't really know anything about it before reading it, and most of my knowledge of Mt. Everest came from the IMAX movie I saw at least a few times in middle school (mentioned in the book). The tale was tragic and even a little gory, and convinced me to never even aspire to summit Everest.

I was on the type of vacation that doesn't allow for lots of reading this past weekend, but I have big reading plans to catch up! Currently listening to East of Eden and reading Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and My Name is Asher Lev. I'm trying desperately to get back on track. Will report hopefully soon!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Books 10-13

10. Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton. I read House of Mirth in college and remember really liking it. This book was very different, and it moved so quickly (only 99 pages) that I wasn't sure if I was missing the point. I read extensive Sparknotes after finishing and realized I didn't miss any details, but another person's summary did help me see the point. That makes me feel like a garbage English major/teacher, but oh well. Early twentieth century lit isn't my favorite anyway.

11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling. One million stars to this book. I had SO MANY FEELINGS while listening to this. Countless tears. So many details I had forgotten about. But even knowing what was going to happen didn't soothe me. I basically cried from Dobby's death all the way to the end. Happy and sad tears, for so many reasons. I'm excited to read the new book and see the movie coming out, but I doubt it will ever be the same. The good thing is I can always read them again.

12. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan. I am not a big fan of nonfiction books. I often feel like the same minimal information is repeated again and again to fill an entire book. I know about BSing to fill page requirements (I attended both high school and college), so I'm happy he's making money from this book, but I wish I could get the information in a more succinct way (like an article). Therefore, I did some skimming. This is the first book I haven't read cover to cover, but I'm counting it because I still came away with some important principles: Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants. (I guess I could have gotten that from the cover.)

13. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo. Again, a nonfiction book with the same issue. A lot of information was repeated. On top of that, a lot of information was a little wacko. I like her ideas, and I think I will go through a big decluttering process in my house (I waited until the last day of school to read this book so I could embark on this project with a lot of time on my hands), but I don't think I'll get to the point of emptying out my handbag at the end of each day or thanking my possessions for serving me. Or drying my sponge on the veranda.

Currently reading Big Little Lies and I'll need to start a new audiobook too. I'm feeling good about my pace!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Close to the Coast

Back in 2013, a really good thing happened. A friend stumbled upon a race in Freeport, Maine. There was a 5k and a 10k, the race started from a campground, and there was an option to camp there the night before. We scrambled to get our friends together, reserved the group campsite, and thus the best weekend of the year was born: the ushering in of summer.

The first year we did it, that Saturday coincided with the summer solstice, and we were all too happy to spend the entire day outside. Here's how it goes:

Campfire Friday night
Sleep in a tent
Wake up with the sun
Run a race around this beautiful coastal campsite
Watch your really fast friends win pies for coming in 1st or 2nd place in their age group
Listen to a cute band and eat the free post-race BBQ (including Ben and Jerry's)
Pack up the campsite
Go to the beach

That was the schedule the first year, and since I don't fix things that aren't broken, we've never looked back.

Every year new friends come and are surprised at how fun it is. It helps that the weather is always absolutely perfect.

Here are some highlights from this year!

Ben and I are the only remaining survivors from that first 2013 race, and we always take cute pictures to commemorate. 

We thought a wheelbarrow would be a good idea but nope. My arms are the worst. 

Hanna and Dinesh wore unplanned matching shirts. This was before the race so that's why they still look cute.

Aaaaaand here's the post-race, matching-shirt chest bump. 

 Some of these friends came all the way from The Big Apple (New York City) to do this race. They loved it.

Like I said, you gotta invite your fast runner friends, cause then they win pies. And share them. 

Acroyoga at Old Orchard Beach. The water was like an ice bath, which is probably how we had strength to do stunts/run away from supporting the stunts after running our incredibly challenging 5k (okay Conner ran the 10k).

 Here we are at the most photographed lighthouse in the world or something. Wouldn't you take a picture of that beauty?

And now, summer is here. And I'm the happiest.

Books 8 and 9

8. Looking for Alaska, John Green. Okay, books where teenagers die are not okay to me. I have read a couple of other John Green books that I liked but didn't love and this was in the same vein to me. Quirky teenagers, I get it. However, their quirks are often somewhat relatable, which was the case in this book. I almost threw the book in the river but I'm glad I read to the end because although the death was still inexcusable, I did find some value in how things played out.

9. What Is the What, Dave Eggers. Whoa. This book was powerful and sad and took me more days to read than most books lately, so the story stayed with me longer. I have heard of the Lost Boys of Sudan, but didn't really know much about them. It's overwhelming how many different ways there are for a person's life to be bad. I'm glad I read about Valentino Achak Deng's story, and I'm glad for the unique way it was written.

Still working on HP7 and I also started In Defense of Food. School is almost out and soon I'll be cruising through these books (hopefully).

CSA Week 3

I picked up my new box yesterday and everything always looks really exciting the first day, so I'm a little more excited about this one that I was last week.

I got:
Swiss chard (I have a bad relationship with Swiss chard from my mission in Chile but I'm hoping we can come back from that)
More scallions (to add to the million in my fridge still)
Garlic scapes (???????)
More turnips (ugh)
Napa cabbage
Zucchini/summer squash (finally something I know how to use!)
Basil (usually not my favorite but it smells SO GOOD)

I'm planning pasta, pizza, garlic butter, slaw, roast zucchini salsa. If I find/create good recipes I'll share them here!

CSA Week 2

I had a harder time with my CSA last week. I guess I was a little disappointed by how my recipes turned out the first week; I felt like I was eating because the food was there but not because I loved it. And it's sad to eat food you don't love when food you do love exists. So I kind of just didn't really cook.

I received:
More beets
Bok choi
Collard greens

I made another quiche with turnip and beet greens, fennel, and dill. Yuck. Fennel is not a food I like. I heard it was better caramelized, but I didn't do a great job, and in the end it got old so I threw out the rest. Whoops.

I also made my own ranch dressing with dill, which was pretty good. I'm not a huge ranch fan, so I put it on one salad and then brought it to a party with veggies.

I use a few collard greens for wraps and though the stuff inside was good (carrots, cucumbers, turkey, avocado, hummus), I just didn't love the taste of the greens on the outside. I still have a few that hopefully I can use.

I put some bok choi on pizza, which was good but not great.

I realized that as much as I want beets to be potatoes, they're just not. That's a good lesson.

I'm looking forward to finally being out of school (half days Thursday and Friday!) so I can spend more time cooking and looking for recipes that are great, not just edible.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Books 4-7

4. Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood. I read this book back in high school at the recommendation of my best friend and I remember loving it, but I hardly remembered anything about it. It was a good reread because it was easy to follow the plot already being familiar with it, but I was shocked again at all the surprises. I was also continually appalled at the way women were treated/thought of/talked about. I know that we have come a long way in terms of equality for women, but it was still painful to see it laid out so explicitly. This book is an interesting hybrid of real facts and embellished narrative.

5. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan. I had seen this book at stores for years and kept planning on reading it eventually, so I was happy that Katharine recommended it and lent it to me. This book was a quick, fun read. It's fairly dated in the time period it was written (2009, I think) with talk of Google and Facebook and Kindles, but since we're still in that time period more or less, a lot of it was relatable.

6. The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party's Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House, McKay Coppins. I would not have read this book if my brother didn't write it. Republican politics are uninteresting to me at best and aggravating to me at worst. However, McKay is a great storyteller and by hearing their backstories, I found myself sympathizing with a lot of the candidates I was hating on earlier this year (except Donald Trump. Nothing will humanize that monster). It was cool to get more info on so many of the issues I've been hearing about this campaign cycle.

7. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides. I read this for a book club with a few friends, and we haven't discussed it yet, so I look forward to adding their perspectives to my opinion on this book. It was a really fascinating story, and pretty eye-opening to a world I didn't know much about (intersex people). The book is hefty, but I got hooked in fairly easily. However, there are some definite problems. If you have read it and want to discuss, I'm happy to talk!

I finished 7 books by 15 days into this challenge, so I'm actually not doing too badly. I'm working on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Looking for Alaska, and What is the What now!

Monday, June 13, 2016

CSA Week 1 continued

Alright, here are the rest of the recipes I made to use up all my CSA stuff:

1. I made this quiche with the greens of my beets instead of kale. I was worried, but turns out eggs and pie crust can mask any scary vegetable flavor. I used frozen pie crust from the grocery store because pie crust has always scared me and I have another one in the freezer still so I'm sure I'll make another quiche with whatever I get this week.

2. I made pesto out of the greens of my kohlrabi. I used a recipe from the CSA email, but I don't think it was enough oil and my blendtec had a hard time blending it all up. The greens were still kind of thick rather than pureed. I'll look for another pesto recipe. I used the pesto in this pasta dish and it was really good. It tasted really fresh and almost fruity, which I wasn't expecting. I'd make it again. I still have some pesto left so I'm thinking about what else to use it in. I'll update.

3. I used beet, kohlrabi, and some baby carrots I had lying around to make this slaw. I wanted to be the type of person who ate just the veggies, but the flavor wasn't doing it for me, so I added the goat cheese and peanuts like she did here and it really transformed the dish. I would make this again. I wouldn't buy beets and kohlrabi to make it again, but if I had them, I definitely would.

4. I tried two other salads with the kale and lettuce, and while they were edible, neither of them were as good as the one that first night. I think bacon + goat cheese in a salad is a real winner. I'll keep trying though. I just saw this post of summer salad ideas and they all look so good, so I'm sure I'll work my way through this list.

I realize how ridiculous it is that I just linked to four recipes from the same blog, but it's the only blog I follow with posts about CSA veggies, so it's a valuable resource. Also, after making several of her recipes, I trust her, so I'll keep following along.

I haven't heard yet what I'm getting tomorrow, but I'm sure it'll be another adventure. Just two more weeks of school and then I'll be done, and it's about time, because cooking my way through even just a half-share of CSA veggies is taking up all of my free time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

CSA Week 1

I have admired and at times coveted my friend Carol Ann's CSA shares for years, so now that I have a steady job (summer income!), and a dedication to eating more vegetables than treats this year (a New Year's resolution I haven't completely honored), I decided it's time.

My first box contained:
Radishes (including greens)
Beets (including greens)
Kohlrabi (??????)
Green garlic

I've found some recipes I'm excited about so I'll post about those as I use them, but last night I made a cute little salad that I really loved, so I've gotta save the recipe.

Lettuce, shredded (very important quality in salad greens for me)
Bacon (cooked till crispy)
Sunflower seeds
Goat cheese (a game changer that I'm convinced could make me eat any salad)
Balsamic dressing (made by me)

Sometimes I think I like salads and then I make one that's so terrible and I can't even eat it (that happened on Monday night--thank goodness for Dinesh being willing to eat honestly anything). So I've gotta note of what makes them edible and hopefully enjoyable to me.

Books 1-3

I'm 8 days into my 92-day summer reading challenge, and I've finished 3 books. Mathematically, that's not great. However, I am still in school until June 24, so that is slowing things down for me, and I do have several shorter books coming up, so hopefully I can still catch up.

1. Sula, Toni Morrison. I have actually never read a book by Toni Morrison before (I know, the shame!) and I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of reading. I liked the powerful story of female friendship and the important way she calls out racism. However, I always have a hard time believing a character who just refuses to subscribe to what I see a human morals. I guess people like Sula might exist, but I believe they have more facets to them.

2. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, Mona Awad. Holy cow. This book killed me. So many sentiments that I have felt throughout my life were expressed, and none of them were pleasant or uplifting. It was enlightening, however, and I choose to see this story as a cautionary tale. My worth is not dependent on my weight, and neither happiness, self-esteem, nor a positive relationship will ever come from simply being skinny.

3. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, JK Rowling. As good as ever. I haven't read these books since the 7th came out in the summer of 2007, and Dinesh hasn't ever read them, so we decided together that it was time. We're listening to the audiobooks and it's so so fun. Jim Dale, the narrator, is a genius. I remember when I first read them thinking that the third book was my favorite, and after listening through this time, I realized that the third book is the end of the somewhat easygoing, happy Harry Potter stories. After that, although there are moments of triumph and real, human joy, there is so much darkness and loss to contend with, and it's painful to listen! I really care about these characters, and in a way, entering the stories again has felt like coming home. So, every tragedy in the wizarding world feels tragic to me as well. However, I am endlessly touched by the friendship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Their dedication to each other is admirable and makes these among the most powerful books I've ever read. I'm waiting a minute to start the 7th, because I don't want them to be over again!

I'm currently working on Alias Grace, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and The Wilderness, so check back very soon for those reviews!

Summer 2016 Goals

I've taken on a few new projects this summer, and I want to keep track of the results, so here I am, back at blogging. I have thought about resurrecting my blog for awhile, mostly because of how much I love reading blogs, but I don't think I can commit to the daily/thrice weekly/super consistent posts. However, I have committed to two major things: reading 50 books this summer, and receiving a weekly CSA farm share box. Here we go!