Strawberry Mint Lime Pops

Aren’t fruity pops the perfect summer treat? Refreshing and delicious, plus  since it’s mostly fruit, nothing to feel guilty about (or at least that’s what I tell myself!)

Strawberry Mint Lime Pop

Ingredients:
-One package of strawberries
-One bunch of mint
-1/2 cup of sugar
-1/2 cup of water
(I used one cup each of sugar and water and we had a lot of extra syrup)
-one lime

You’ll also need a pot, a food processor, and pop molds!
Makes 6 pops.

1. Stir together water and sugar in a pot over medium heat. Add mint leaves to your taste. We’re making a mint simple syrup.

Simple syrup
2. Boil for about 1 minute until sugar and water are combined and mint leaves start to brown (it will turn a little green from the mint)

Syrup done

3. Set aside to cool.
4. Wash and cut strawberries and add to food processor. I used a manual food processor that we have because I wanted it to be a little chunky but you can puree it completely and/or strain it if you want to be smoother. Transfer to a bowl.

5. Juice one lime into the strawberries.

Strawberries with lime

6. Strain the mint leaves out of the syrup and add to strawberry mixture. You can add as little or as much as you want.
7. Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze for about 6 hours!

 

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If you have syrup left over, it will keep, sealed, in the refridgerator for about a week. Brian likes to use it for cocktails, especially “mojitos” with rum and tonic water!

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Brooklyn Spots

Here is a list of some of my favorite spots in Brooklyn. I love living here and I plan on adding more spots, the more I explore!

View of the bridges from Brooklyn Bridge Park

View of the bridges from Brooklyn Bridge Park

Eat
No. 7 (Fort Greene) – Probably Brian and I’s favorite restaurant. They have a super small kitchen and thus a small menu but everything is delicious. Do not miss out on the broccoli tacos, even broccoli haters will enjoy!
Aita (Fort Greene) – This tiny Italian place has great pasta and great main dishes, the decor is super cute and they have a great brunch!
Olea (Fort Greene) – Delicious Mediterranean dishes! All the tapas are really good and make for a reasonably priced meal when split among friends!
Walter’s (Fort Greene and Williamsburg) – New American done right. I love the mushroom pasta and the chicken & waffles at brunch!
Black Forest Brooklyn (Fort Greene) – German food and beer. Also has a delicious brunch! I love the schnitzel with eggs and Brian likes the French toast.
Milk Bar (Prospect Heights) – Not to be confused with Momofuku Milk Bar, this place has the most amazing brunch ever. This little place is an Australian coffee shop that serves delicious poached egg dishes. I love love love the salmon toast with avocado and Brian likes the cheddar biscuit.
Le Gamin (Prospect Heights) – French food. I’m a big fan of savory crepes and this cute place delivers! (It’s also right next to the most Brooklyn shop ever – Empire Mayonnaise.) Ahh this location is currently closed! There’s also one in Greenpoint though!
Blue Marble (Prospect Heights) – My favorite ice cream place! Simple and delicious flavors, my favorite is the ginger.
Ample Hills Creamery (Prospect Heights) – I think Brian would be mad if I didn’t also include Ample Hills for ice cream. If you’re more of a fantastic flavors person then Ample Hills is for you. At least try the Salted Crack Caramel – it’s my friend Katherine’s mom’s Toffee Cracker Cookies in ice cream form.
Barboncino (Crown Heights) – Really good wood fired pizza. I really like the mushroom and sausage one. Garlicy and delectable!
Almondine (DUMBO) – Little French bakery with good soup, sandwiches and quiche. Great for grabbing something to go eat at the Pebble Beach at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Chip Shop (Brooklyn Heights) – Amazing fish and chips (or shrimp and chips!), known for frying any and everything, so come hungry!
Dub Pies (Windsor Terrace + food truck) – Australian pie shop (love the breakfast pie and the sausage roll!) with good coffee.
Pickle Shack (Gowanus) – Vegetarian food, good beer, and mostly importantly fried pickles!!

Shop
Greenlight Bookstore (Fort Greene) – I love independent book stores and this one has a great selection!
Smorgusburg/Brooklyn Flea (multiple locations) – A flea market and/or food bazaar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, and Crown Heights. Lots of great vendors for cool jewelry, vintage, and food.
Color BKLYN (Prospect Heights) – A little store with trinkets and jewelry, great for presents!
Pink Olive (multiple locations) – A super cute pink store with cards and gifts.
Powerhouse Books (DUMBO and Park Slope) – Another bookstore, this one has a more curated selection of books and gift items.
Steward and Stand (DUMBO) – Very similar to Color BKLYN (they may be owned by the same people?) but lots of cool housewears and stuff.
Black Bear (Windsor Terrace) – Unique gifts and cool vintage.
Bellocq (Greenpoint) – This place is kind of in the middle of nowhere but their tea is great and their decor is even better.

Drink
Habana Outpost (Fort Greene) – Frozen margaritas and a beautiful patio space, need I say more?
DSK (Fort Greene) – A German “beer garden” that’s also cozy in the winter.
Konditori (multiple locations) – Really good Swedish coffee chain.
Brooklyn Roasting Company (multiple locations) – No joke maybe the best coffee I’ve ever had. My love for BRC knows no bounds.
Depanneur (Williamsburg) – Good coffee and good sandwiches!
Devoción (Williamsburg) – Colombian coffee and a beautiful café.

See
Brooklyn Bridge Park – All along the East River from Brooklyn Heights to DUMBO. Great views of lower Manhattan. You can take the East River ferry to Williamsburg for a nice summer ride and to see the Midtown sights.
Prospect Park/Grand Army Plaza – The Central Park of Brooklyn. There’s a nice farmer’s market on Saturdays which can supply a really nice picnic.
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens – I love coming multiple times during the summer and seeing how different it is each time.
Coney Island – Coney Island is great, though rough around the edges. I highly recommend going at sunset so it’s not too hot because the beaches are gross and you’re not going to swim. Get there just before sunset, get a caramel apple and/or Nathan’s hotdogs and ride the Wonder Wheel as the sun goes down.

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The Wonder Wheel at Coney Island

Prague, CZ

Let me start off this post with a little message. If you are considering going abroad in college, I am here to tell you to do it. I would not be the person I am today without studying abroad (luckily for me, I got to start doing so in middle school!) and I generally find well-traveled people to be the best kind. My parents have always instilled this thought in me and I think they were pretty right on this one (as they are on most things.)

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Charles Bridge and Prague Castle

I got to participate in an exchange program in middle school where we hosted a French student for a few weeks and then we’d stay with their family in France for a few weeks. This pretty much set up the expectation that I’d study in Paris when I went off to college. Don’t get me wrong, (who doesn’t love Paris?) but by the time I was deciding where to go abroad I had been to Paris 4 times (Trust me, I know how spoiled and lucky I am to be able to say that.) Also, NYU has a really great (in most ways) study abroad program where they basically have satellite campuses all over the world, so there’s no worry about credits transferring or anything and you know your education is still going to be top-notch. This is awesome but also constricting to a music major who needed to keep on track with their music theory education. Your choices are Prague in the fall semester or Florence in the spring and after a meeting where we got a spirited review of the Prague campus and a very lackluster one of Florence, my mind was made up. I was going to the Czech Republic. It’s been three years since I came back from Prague and my friends and I are going to the Czech Beer Garden in Astoria this weekend so I’m thinking it’s time for a nostalgic Prague post!

Camille’s Top Picks in Prague (and the CZ)
-Lokal
This is probably the best restaurant in Prague and definitely one of the most Czech. They are famous for their Pilsner tanks and the fact that they make traditional Czech food in a modern and seasonal way. They always have some kind of goulash and smažený sýr aka fried cheese. Yes, giant deep fried cheese sticks are really popular in the CZ! Make sure you order a side of potatoes to go with. This is where you go to drink fresh beer (order with how much foam you want) and really good Czech food.

-Maitrea/Lehka Hlava
This became a fast favorite for my veggy boyfriend. Maitrea is located right behind Týn church in Old Town and Lehka Hlava (Clear Head) is just down the river from the Charles Bridge. The food is a weird combination of cultures and all vegetarian but we really enjoyed everything we had there and they even have vegetarian versions of Czech specialties such as svíčková which a meat stew with dumplings (kind of like goulash) but is traditionally served with sweet jam and whipped cream. (I promise it’s good!)

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The view from Petrin Hill

-Petřín, Vyšehrad, and Stromovka
Check out all the parks in Prague! Petřín Hill, Vyšehrad, Letná and Stromovka are some good ones. Take the cable car up the hill to Petřín Town (Prague’s own mini Eiffel Tower) for great views of Prague Castle and Old Town. You can also see David Černý’s baby scupltures on the TV tower in Žižkov. There’s also a rose garden by the tower if you go in the summer. Vyšehrad is a medieval castle (or what’s left of it) and is bascially a big park area, located right on the Vltava river. One of the coolest places at Vyšehrad is the graveyard. Lots of famous Czech people are buried there, including Czech composers Dvořák and Smetana. Stromovka might be a little out of the way for the average tourist (I lived in Holešovice so it was very close to us) and used to be the old royal hunting grounds.

Stromovka in Winter

Stromovka in Winter

-Letná Beer Garden
Letná Park is another awesome park in Prague. It’s huge and contains a giant metronome where a statue of Stalin used to stand and on the Eastern side there is an awesome beer garden. They serve food here (grilled meat and vegetables) but the draw is really the beer and the view. You can see down into Old Town from here too. One night when I was there, they were even having a wedding reception and we got to watch a fire show!

-Bohemia Bagel
This restaurant is run by an American who moved to Prague, so while it’s not a very Czech experience it quickly became a staple for us study abroad students. They have lots of locations all over the city (Old Town, Malá Strana, and Holešovice) and great food. I loved the pastrami!

-Charles Bridge/Prague Castle/Old Town
Why would you come to Prague and NOT come to the Charles Bridge? It’s one of Prague’s most famous landmarks for a reason. I prefer the walk to Malá Strana but either way, you’re going from one cool place to another. Malá Strana is the neighborhood containing Prague Castle and Old Town has Týn Church and the Astronomical Clock. They’re both pretty touristy but if you look around, you’re still certain to find cool spots. There are vendors set up along the bridge with the statues (you can see which ones are lucky by if they’re rubbed shiny or not) with cool souvenirs. For the best view OF the bridge, I suggest walking south along the Vlatava on the Old Town side. There, you can get a view of the bridge and Prague castle that can’t be beat!

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Charles Bridge

-Cross Club
I can’t exactly personally recommend Cross Club, seeing as I’m not a club person and never even went there, but all my friends really liked this place. Even though it’s a bit sketchy, Brian says it feels like the Star Wars cantina with moving gears and an industrial feel. There’s lot of clubbing in Prague (like in all of Eastern Europe) so if you want to go to one, I’d suggest sticking to Holešovice and the outer areas of Prague instead of Old Town.

-Christmas markets
The Christmas markets in Prague, much like everywhere else in Germany, Austria, Poland, etc are awesome! Pick up all your Czech souvenirs and Christmas decorations and make sure you get some food too! Look for Trdelník (you may know them as chimney cakes?) and Prague ham. You can find some of this food year round in Old Town.

Taken by Lauren

Old Town Christmas Tree

-Karlovy Vary
Karlovy Vary is a spa town about 3 hours west of Prague. It’s very popular with Russian tourists and totally worth the short bus trip out. We spent a weekend here and were totally captured by the beauty of it. We only spent one night which ended up being a just fine amount of time. Our first day we walked around the city and did some shopping (for these special little cups you use to drink the “curative” water out of spouts around the city and for some warm spa wafers) and ended up taking the cable car up to Diana Tower. It’s quite pretty up there and you can see all the colorful buildings of Karlovy Vary. We came back down for some dinner. The next day we woke up early and swam at the Thermal Pool at Hotel Thermal. The hotel may be a big ugly Soviet block but the view from the outdoor, heated pool was awesome. After we swam, we got some lunch and took a tour of the Becherovka museum. Becherovka is the liquor of the Czech Republic. It’s spicy with hints of cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg, made with the healing waters of the area. (People call it Christmas in a bottle…) You get a short tour of the history of the liquor and then a small tasting. We headed back to the bus after that and headed back to Prague. Don’t miss Karlovy Vary because it’s beautiful and relaxing.

Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary

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-Liberec
If you’re traveling around Europe (on your way to Berlin or Dresden perhaps?) you may want to consider a stop in Liberec. We stayed one night here and it’s got a couple things to see. The grand town hall is beautiful, and the “Giant’s Breakfast” bus stop by David Černý is pretty cool. We also went up to Ještěd Tower for views of the surrounding area (you can see three countries!) and some good apple strudel. They even have a hotel in the tower!

Liberec Town Hall

Liberec Town Hall

The Giant's Breakfast

The Giant’s Breakfast

-Everything else
I never really made it to Brno (look into the caves if  you’re on your way to Vienna, and if you’re there in the fall, make sure to get some fresh Moravian burčák or young wine) or Český Krumlov (a cool medieval city with moats on your way to Munich) but if you had the time and were headed in that direction, I would suggest you check it out. Prague is great because you can travel to so many cities quite easily. We took the train to Berlin and Krakow, the bus to Vienna, and short flights to Budapest, Brussels and Amsterdam. I love Prague and I miss it so much. But trust, I will be back!

If you want to see more about my semester in Prague, you can check out my study abroad blog here.

Easy to Sew Tote Bag!

So my grandma got me a sewing machine for Christmas! Whoo hoo! Now I can finally do that sewing project I’ve been putting off right??? Wrong. I’m writing the first draft of this post and it’s March 19th and I have not even threaded the machine. But I plan to! Very soon! My good friend Lauren and I have the same birthday and I decided I wanted to make her something…. on my sewing machine!

Now I know how to sew (at least in a straight line) from “Grandma Camp” when I was younger, which is when my parents would leave my brother and I up at my grandparent’s house for a week in the summer and we would do lots of crafts and sewing. We made American Girl clothes, Barbie clothes, and once even an awesome quilt and pillow cases for my room.So I’m thinking I can make SOMETHING. I have a week. It can’t be that hard, right?? Right????

GUYS I DID IT. I made a good looking tote bag! And you can too:

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What You Need:
-Two 4″ X 30″ strips of fabric* for handles
-34″ X 16″ fabric* for body of the bag
-scissors
-iron and ironing board
-pins
-sewing machine
*You can choose anything here but I think a linenish fabric, is a nice balance between a thin, light fabric and a heavy duty one.

Optional:
-toilet paper roll
-fabric paint

1. Cut your fabric into the three pieces you need.
2. Iron out any wrinkles in the fabric.
3. Take the piece that will be the body of the bag and fold the short sides down about an inch, then fold again so no raw edges are showing. Repeat on other short side. It doesn’t matter how deep the folds are exactly, as long they’re straight. Iron down and pin in place.

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4. Fold your straps in half longways and iron to make a crease. Fold the raw edges into the crease on both sides, (so it will be folded in fourths) and pin in place so no raw edges are showing. I like to iron it down as I pin.

tote_handle
5. Once you have everything pinned, head to your sewing machine.
6. Sew the straps first near the double folded edge. Don’t worry about how the short ends look because they won’t be visible in the final product.
7.Now we’re going to sew the tops hems of the bag. There are going to be two, one at the top of the fold and one at the bottom. We’re going to do the bottom one first. We are going to put the strap under the hem, you can either place this before you start sewing the seam and pin in place or you can start sewing it and put in when it feels right because we’ll line up the second one after we do the first side. Start sewing the hem and backstitch the edges. When you get to the spot where you want the strap, put the strap under your hem and sew over it, so the handle is facing the inside of your bag. Keep sewing and put in the second edge of the strap when you’re ready for it, making sure the handle isn’t twisted. Backstitch when you reach the end.

tote_sewnhem

8. Now we’re going to do the top hem. Sew this along the top edge of the bag. When you get to the strap, pull the strap up over the hem and sew it down so it sticks out of your bag. Backstitch this hem too.
9. Do the same thing for the hems on the other side. For the straps, you want to make sure they line up. Fold your bag in half, with the “right” side facing out, fold down the hem, and make an “X” on the hem on the “wrong” side. I use a yellow or white colored pencil. (You won’t be able to see it when you’re done.) As you sew the hems, add the straps where your Xs are.
10. Fold your bag in half with the seams out (“wrong way”) and sew the sides, backstitching the ends.
11. Turn your bag inside out and poke out the corners. You’ve sewed a tote bag!

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Now you can go crazy with it! I’ve made two so far and I painted one for my friend’s birthday with her Zodiac sign and one I printed with eyes using Make and Tell’s stamping method. I love the eyes!

April Reads 2015

Ah, April. You left me with some serious good reads and waiting on the mailman for Book #2s. The Shadow of The Wind has definitely become one of my favorite books and I’m totally, embarrassingly obsessed with A Discovery of Witches.  Can’t wait for May reading!

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The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
One sentence summary: Daniel finds a book by the mysterious Julián Carax, becomes intrigued by the life of the author, and follows it to the end of the story, as it echoes his own.
Oh man, I really loved this book. It was so good. I was left in a reading limbo after finishing it. (It wasn’t helped by the fact that I didn’t have another book lined up to read after it…) There are lots of twists to the story and the ending was really not what I thought was going to happen. I thought the depth of the story was good, the characters were interesting and the writing was engaging. I’m thinking I found a new favorite book and I can’t wait to read the next one in the series because I finished the book about a week ago and I’m still thinking about it.
5 stars

All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
One sentence summary: Jake lives alone on a sheep farm on an island off of England and is trying to figure out what is attacking her sheep- an animal in the woods or has her past come back to haunt her?
This book was way shorter than it seems and I finished it before I knew it. Every other chapter is Jake in present day and Jake’s past told backwards. You know something bad has happened to her but you don’t know what until you reach the end. Everyone seemed to be confused about the ending on Goodreads and I can’t say I really understood it either. It really leaves you thinking and trying to figure out if Jake is a reliable narrator or not. It’s all very odd and while I didn’t NOT like the book, I can’t say I loved it.
3 stars

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
One sentence summary: The stories of Bradley the people around him and how they fell in and out of love with each other and the power that love has.
The hardest books to write about are the ones that I liked  but didn’t feel any particular love or hate for. This is one of those books. I have no gripes against it, and no screaming love either. When I was reading reviews on Goodreads it seems a lot of people didn’t like some of the narrators but  I though Baxter carried it off just fine. The theme of love is interesting and carried out nicely and I enjoyed it being set in Ann Arbor (although I don’t think Baxter is from AA, there were a couple phrases that I don’t feel like we Michiganders really say) and overall it was a good reading experience.
4 stars

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
One sentence summary: Diana is a witch, who wants to ignore her magical powers but can’t when she finds a long hidden manuscript and is confronted by all sorts of creatures who want it, including her new love, a vampire named Matthew.
Is this the cheesiest book I’ve read in a long time? Absolutely. Did I love it? You betcha. Although some (okay, most) of the romance was eye-rollingly bad (there they go again as I type this), I really liked this book. As I got to end, I didn’t even want to keep reading because I didn’t want it to end. Luckily for me, there’s two other books in the series! This book is so easy to compare to Twilight (overseeing board of vampires/witches that doesn’t want the romance to happen, and some other things I don’t want to spoil) but it’s how I would have wanted Twilight to be written. With touches of history and science, and a twisting compelling story, it’s not quite the sappy, whining, romance book that Twilight is. The ending doesn’t feel like an ending because it mostly just sets up the second book without bringing this one to a close, making it feel a little incomplete (but now I can’t wait to read the next book). I don’t even know if I can recommend it, I’d rather get my twisting storylines from someone like Gillian Flynn but boy, did I enjoy this one.
4.5 stars

The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories by Carson McCullers
One sentence summary: A collection of short stories by Southern Gothic writer Carson McCullers , the eponymous story is about a woman and her doomed loves.
I read The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter a few months ago and I enjoyed it, it reminded me of The Little Friend (I’m a big Donna Tartt fan) and Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen.  It’s just a simple collection of short stories that leaving you thinking.
4 stars

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
One sentence summary: An series of essays by David Sedaris, many of which are about his time spent in France.
So refreshing to read David Sedaris after a few years. I forgot how funny his stories are. I guess I just haven’t read anything that was laugh out loud funny in a long time. I like Sedaris’s cynical point of view and it was great reading about his adventures in Paris. But the best stories are about his childhood and family, who can’t relate to a cheerful story about a slightly dysfunctional family?
4 stars

Fresh Off The Boast: A Memoir by Eddie Huang
One sentence summary: Do you really need a summary for a memoir? It’s the story of Eddie Huang’s life!
We started watching the show  LOOSELY based on the book so Brian actually wanted to read it and we picked it up. I’m not sure that I could really relate but Eddie definitely took an interesting journey through life and it’s great to read it with Eddie’s voice so prevalent in the text.
3 stars

AprBooks2

Susie’s Banana Bread

This is my great grandma’s banana bread recipe that’s been handed down to me from my mom’s mom’s mom aka my Great-Grandma Anastasia aka Susie. My mom used to make this whenever we had bananas that were too ripe to eat anymore and she still has the little index card with her grandma’s hand written recipe on it. Now Brian and I love to make it whenever we forget to eat our bananas too because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! This recipe makes two loafs but you can easily halve it to just make one (use two small eggs).

Susie’s Banana Bread

3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

4 ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350˚and grease 2 loaf pans.

Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Peel the bananas and put them in a bowl with the sugar and eggs. Mash with a fork or a potato masher until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Stir until combined.

Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients. The consistency should be somewhere between a dough and a batter.

Pour into your loaf pans (they’ll be about half full) and bake for 45-55 minutes (mine sometimes take longer), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

(Sorry that there are no pictures…. we ate it all before I had a chance to write this post and take pictures!)

March Reads 2015

We took a little weekend trip to Florida at the beginning of the month and so I got some quality vacation reading time in (when I wasn’t needed by my four and two year old cousins for quality entertainment, such as lining up dominoes so they can knock them down). So I technically finished Sputnik Sweetheart in February but you can excuse the slight indiscretion of including it here right???

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Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
One sentence summary: K tells us the story of his friend Sumire and her strange love affair with older Miu.
This is the 4th Murakami book that I’ve read (Hard Boiled Wonderland & The End of the World, Kafka on the Shore, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles) and this book is obviously pure Murakami, but it feels kind of boiled down to me. Lots of the same themes and patterns are here too. Cats, the idea of another concurrent world, and even Greek islands. I (obviously) really like the weird and winding world of Murakami but having recently read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles this seems like a short, dip into Murakami especially since this book is so similar. With a mysterious completely put together woman, a Greek island (instead of a woman named after one), a traumatic experience involving sex, and even the mention of cats in trees makes this feel like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles condensed.
4 stars

Midnight in the Garden on Good and Evil by John Berendt
One sentence summary: This “true crime” novel gives us a peek into the life of Savannah, GA and it’s quirky and mysterious inhabitants.
I loved this book! I went on a trip to Savannah with some Girl Scout friends (Juliette Gordon Low founded the good ole GSUSA here) a couple years ago and it was a great trip. I think it helps to have experienced the magic of Savannah before reading this book. There’s no open container laws in this beautiful Southern city of charm and I think that helps explain it! Its really hard to believe this is a true story and not a well written novel. From the black drag queen to a rich white antiques dealer living in a huge house, Berendt shows so many interesting people in Savannah and how all their lives intertwine. I don’t know what more to say about it without giving it away but it’s a great book!
5 stars

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
One sentence summary: Marie-Laure is a blind girl who lives with her keymaster father in Paris in 1942 and Werner is a curious young German orphan who goes to a school for the Hitler youth. This book is about how their lives are shaped by each other. (Okay I know that was two sentences…)
It felt like it took me so long to finish this book! Maybe that’s because it’s over 700 pages but I think it also has to do with Doerr’s writing. It’s very descriptive and it took me a little to get into it. You have to read carefully and pick up every word which can be hard for me because I’m a very fast reader. That said, it’s incredibly well-written and the story is very intriguing. You’re totally invested in both characters, (isn’t weird when a writer makes you sympathize with Nazis!?) and the ending satisfied both the part of me that wants every story to end with everything ending up how you want it to and the part of me that doesn’t want that for being too cheesy and predictable. I won’t go into details and spoilers but I will warn that you don’t like spoilers, don’t look ahead at the chapters- the titles give much away!
4.5 stars

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
One sentence summary: Amy Poehler gives you her tips and stories from her life in comedy, improv and love.
Soooo I love Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. I can count on one hand the amount of books that I’ve read more than once (I am just not a re-reader) and Bossy Pants is one of them. (Well I read and listened to it on Audio book but still…) and if that’s what you’re expecting out of Yes Please then you’re going to be disappointed. There are of course funny moments but this isn’t a book of funny stores, it’s a biography and life tidbits (I don’t want to call it a self help book but it does contain lots of advice). It’s always interesting to see how your favorite stars went from a kid to what they are and do today though and I enjoyed Amy’s journey enough…. I just liked Bossy Pants better. What can I say? I’m a Tina girl.
3 stars

What She Saw… by Lucinda Rosenfeld
One sentence summary: What Phoebe Fine saw in all her boyfriends and love interests from 5th grade in New Jersey to 25 in Brooklyn.
Another book from the Buzzfeed “Books to Read in your 20’s” list. (Did I mention that I’m reading this? It had a bunch of my faves on it already so I’ve been turning to it when I don’t know what to read next). Phoebe’s not very likeable and neither are the boys she dates so it’s hard to really like this book. That said, it’s a good read, it’s interesting how Phoebe can’t see her own issues and has a hard time stepping out of her own shoes. It also seemed to me like the sentences were short and choppy and that made it hard to read sometimes. Two meh books in a row, hoping the next one is good!
3 stars

MarBOOKS2

Vegetarian French Onion Soup

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I was at the grocery store a few weeks ago and I saw mushroom broth. Brian is a vegetarian and we’ve made mushroom gravy for Thanksgiving the last couple years and you basically steep dried mushrooms in water (mushroom tea!) and then make roux to add it to. I figured that’s what mushroom broth was and I wanted to figure out a way to use it! Mushrooms are really meaty so it’s a good substitute for beef broth and we decided to make french onion soup!

SHROOM

Here’s what you need:
-Two onions
-some olive oil
-two tablespoons butter
-a pinch of Italian spice (rosemary, thyme, etc blend)
-two cloves garlic
-2 tablespoons flour
-one box of mushroom broth
-two tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-salt

-french bread
-shredded gruyere

ONIONS

Chop your onion into thin slices. Add some olive oil to your soup pot (our pot is small so we made some extra onions in a pan and added them) and start heating it up over a low heat. Add the onions and garlic and let them cook until they’re starting to turn brown, about halfway through add the spices.

Once the onions are done, add the butter. After the butter melts, stir in the flour to make a bit of a roux. Once you have a nice roux, stir and add the broth and balsamic. Let it boil for about 15-20 minutes to let the flavors all come together and salt to your taste.

When you’re ready to eat, toast up some bread. Make sure you put the soup into an oven safe bowl!! We used some ramekins but it should work in anything that can go into the oven (ceramic’s your best bet). Cut the bread either into a circle the size of your bowl or just into little chunks. Put your soup in the bowl and float the bread on top, then cover with cheese.

SOUP

Put the bowls in the oven under the broiler for about 5 min or until the cheese is melty and delicious!

The Perfect Fruit Smoothie

My mom often made smoothies for me and my brother when we were kids for a special treat and now Brian and I also love to make them for a healthy dessert!

Here’s how to make the perfect fruity smoothie!

SMOOTHIE2

First of all, smoothies breaks down into three parts:

1. Frozen
2. Fresh
3. Liquid

Frozen:
Your two main options here are ice and frozen fruit. I love using frozen fruit because you’re not watering down your smoothies and they blend easier and into a nice smooth texture. I usually go for strawberries and or/mango, both of which are easy to find pre-cut and frozen at the grocery store. You can also freeze older bananas or any fruit of your choice! Just make sure you clean and cut them before you freeze them. Ice can also bulk up a smoothie with just fruit!

Fresh:
My favorite and go to for this is banana but this could be anything! From berries, to spinach or kale, to banana or apple. You could also add yogurt here, for a creamier smoothie. You really need some kind of fresh fruit to compliment your frozen component (and obviously for the fruit part if you’re using ice) or it just tastes a little icy. This is a real flavor booster!

Liquid:
You need a liquid so that everything will blend! For optimal fruit flavor, go for orange juice! It goes with strawberry/banana, or mango and tropical fruits! The tanginess of orange is a really great complement to creamy banana. Another easy option is milk, since you probably always have it in your fridge. Almond milk is another fave of mine. Any juice or milk will work!

SMOOTHIE1

For a strawberry, orange, banana smoothie pictured here use:
2 handfuls of frozen strawberries
1 1/2 banana
about a cup of orange juice

This makes enough for two people. If it’s too thick, add more juice. Too thin, add more frozen berries or some ice. I love this smoothie because it’s pure fruit!

February Reads 2015

This year I’m doing a 50 book challenge! I think this is a thing from all the “BookTube” videos I watch when I’m bored at work. Anyways, it’s good because since I noticed the reading challenges on Goodreads last year I’ve really noticed how many books I read in a year. Last year my goal was 30 and I ended up reading 38! I was thinking only reading 2 more was too easy so here we are at 50.

Luckily, I’ve been ambitious so far this year! Here’s what I read in February:

FebBOOKS

Just Kids by Patti Smith
One sentence summary: Patti Smith regales her life with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York in the 70s.
When I first started reading this, I wasn’t sure that I’d like it. Patti Smith’s writing is very dreamy and you can feel the nostalgia that she felt while writing it. I got much more into it when she moves to New York. She actually lived not far from where I do when she first moved here and so I could easily picture all the places she was referring to. I love seeing a glimpse into how New York used to be and that’s more of what appealed to me than Patti’s life. It definitely reads like a novel and not a biography which I definitely appreciate.
4 stars

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
One sentence summary: Ben is young black kid from the UES who spends his summer in Sag Harbor and sees his perspective change as he gets older.
My grandma actually gave me this book. She must have picked it up because she came to visit me last September and we took a trip out to the Hamptons and stayed in Sag Harbor. It took me a long time to get around to reading it because I wasn’t all that interested but for some reason the feeling seized me that I had to finish this before I read another book that I was more excited about. In the end, I can say that, you can tell Colson Whitehead is a great writer but I couldn’t really relate to the book much, I’m definitely not a black male teen in the 80’s who goes to prep school in Manhattan and lives out in Sag in the summer. I saw a review on Goodreads that simply says “Colson Whitehead is one shit-describing motherf**ker”, which is so accurate. There was 5 pages of tangent on the different types of people who come into the ice cream shop where Benji works, which got a little old at times.
3 stars

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
One sentence summary: Billie is hired at Delicious! magazine and finds letters from Lulu to James Beard written during WWII.
This is another book recommended to me by my grandma. I have to start off a review of this with a quick mention to Ruth Reichl’s autobiography Tender At The Bone. I really loved Tender At The Bone when I read it last December. First of all, Ruth Reichl is an amazing writer, especially when it comes to food. When she describes the taste of something, she somehow finds just the right words to make you taste it too. Secondly, I think I liked it because three of the main settings are New York, Ann Arbor, and Berkeley, all of which I have been to/have a strong connection to. So coming off Tender At The Bone, I went into Delicious!. The main difference is that Delicious! is a novel. It still has Ruth Reichl’s amazing writing and the story contains some great characters. My only complaint is that is pretty cheesy. What’s a novel without a romance subplot right? So while it didn’t inspire me to think or anything, this still a great read but I’d start with Tender At The Bone if I was you.
5 stars

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
One sentence summary: Gogol Ganguli is named in and for a twist of fate and that and his cultural identity follows him through his life.
There’s this Buzzfeed list of Books to Read in Your Twentys and when I saw it, I decided they were probably some good suggestions, as many of my favorite books were already on there (The Secret History, Lunar Park) and that’s where I found this book. I can’t think of anything interesting to say about it. The cover makes it look really boring but it’s not. You could say it’s about the child of an immigrant in the United States but I think it’s really just about what it’s like to grow up in a different time or place than your parents. It’s just a solid novel.
4 stars

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson
One sentence summary: Merricat and Constance live a sheltered life with their dying Uncle Julian in their dead parent’s big house, tucked away in the woods until Cousin Charles shows up.
So wow, this book is so weird but so good. In the introduction by Jonathan Lethem, he mentions that Merricat is 18 but seems like a small child. This is what makes everything that happens so much weirder, she’s very superstitious and when one of her charms falls, her cousin Charles appears to “help” the sisters (or just take their money). Merricat “knows” he’s a demon so she has to drive him out. I like a good unreliable narrator and Merricat is crazy enough to fit the bill. The interaction of the Blackwood sisters and the villagers is what defines this book. You feel bad for the sisters even though they really are the crazy ones. This is a short read and fascinating book.
5 stars

READS2

I’ve also been reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and I read The Valley of Fear and some stories this month! At this rate, I’ll be easily BEATING the 50 book challenge! Whoo hoo, I can always use more excuses to read 🙂