Food for Friday

It’s Friday and it’s time for the Friday Food Round-up! How are you feeling? Eat well this week? Sleep enough? Fit in some exercise? Hopefully all those answers are yes, and now we get to enjoy the weekend!

Breakfast

I made bagels from Skinnytaste that were 3 points on Weight Watchers! 3! The base is Greek yogurt and though my mom didn’t love the texture, I thought they were tasty. I dipped the first one in some peanut butter.

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Because the way I assembled them were too thin to cut, I dipped them into two over-easy eggs.

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I need simple and satisfying breakfasts at work, so I’ve been on a huge peanut butter stuffed pita kick as of late. With banana or other fruits is particularly delicious.

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Sometimes a girl just wants some eggs and toast.

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Lunch

I started off the week with a huge salad full of fresh veggies, grilled chicken, and some nuts for crunch.

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One day I stuck with leftovers for lunch, but the next day, I made this tuna salad with greek yogurt and mustard. Red bell peppers, carrots, and celery rounded out the dish.

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Since I work late Thursdays, I made a significant lunch of whole wheat pasta, grilled shrimp, and veggies.
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Dinner

The first dinner of the week was this blackened salmon dish with spinach rice, roasted bell peppers, and broccoli.

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Blackened scallops on a bed of spinach, peppers, carrots, and nuts.

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Chicken cacciatore with whole wheat pasta, bell peppers, and asparagus.

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A beautiful salad with veggies and grilled chicken.

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Have a spectacular weekend!

i do things besides binge watch tv…

Look at this brand new book I’m reading!

Oh, what? It’s been ten years since the last book in the series was released? Two books after? Oops.

Okay, confession time.

I started my annual-ish Harry Potter re-read last summer in preparation for what would end up being Harry Potter trivia victory for my sister and meshipped my series across the country, and made it all the way into the fifth book and stopped.

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Why?

The fifth book is angsty! I was homesick, missing my family, friends, and my life. I couldn’t handle the stress that Harry and friends were enduring. Even though I already know how it ends. Or! Because I know how it ends.

Sorry, I’m going a little crazy with the italicizing.

Point is, Harry Potter is a wonderful, glorious, magical gift to the world in which I can always return, particularly when our ministry seems to be infiltrated by dementors, Death Eaters, and Voldy himself….

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Other books I’ve read lately:

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

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And also reading:

The Girls by Emma Cline

 

What are the summer rImage result for the girls emma clineeads you can’t put down?

It’s funny because when you think of being sick, you fondly remember the allowance of time to spend in your bed, cuddled under the covers, and having a valid excuse to do nothing. You don’t remember the runny nose, scratchy eyes, swirling nausea, and random aches and pains coursing through your body. Surprise! It’s hard to sleep when you’re sick.

I thought that it would be nice to listen to some music, throw on a movie or some Netflix, or curl up with a book to read that is an interesting mystery thus far, but that wasn’t the case. I wanted nothing to do with anything, but fall into the sweet oblivion of sleep.

Truth be told, I didn’t get much reading done this week because I was down for the count. I was also hyping myself up to get into a more regular writing routine and that completely fell through.

Instead, I’m happy to live blog the Golden Globes, which is my favorite award show because it features both television and film.

The biggest takeaway of the show, which we already knew, is that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are goddesses. From their monologue to their little moments throughout the show, they were hilarious and spot on. Unfortunately, the show was stacked with awards and ran long due to the fact that all the winners were placed in the back of the theater and it took fifteen minutes for everyone to even get on stage. We didn’t get to see nearly enough of Amy and Tina, who I like to refer to as Tamy, and so I was bummed about that.

As far as the winners, none of the people who I thought- ok who I wanted- to win did, but I also didn’t have a huge investment in who won because none of my favorites were nominated. I didn’t even get a chance to glimpse Chris Evans as I’m pretty sure he wasn’t there.

One thing I did notice as I was laying in bed and listening as I fell asleep, is that I need to do a retraction on my blog! I don’t know how many times I actually mentioned this, but the film called “Still Alice” that Julianne Moore is starring in is NOT the same as the book I just read. Both focus on memory loss, but Moore’s is far more serious about a degenerative disease, not someone falling off a bike and getting amnesia. I didn’t realize this until I cringed when I believed Moore thanked the wrong author. How embarrassing! So, consider this your retraction and my apology for assuming things and not researching deeper. Whoops.

However, I was right about “Wild” being made into a movie. I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know how it compares to the book, but I have heard excellent things and I’m glad to see that Reese Witherspoon invited the author, Cheryl Strayed, to the show.

Award shows are funny because we are basically just watching beautiful people do their thing. I mostly just watch because I love opening monologues and seeing my favorite celebrities, though I will admit to getting overly invested and anxious when any of my favorites are nominated because so help me if they don’t win! It’s the same with watching sports games that are uncomfortably close. Almost too thrilling, it’s almost unbearable to watch!

Hopefully this week I can get back into doing some reading and can fill you all in next week!

Memory, Well, It’s A Fascinating Concept

I was excited when I came off the wait list for Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot because I’ve heard excellent things about the film version. I didn’t know much about the plot going in and my initial thought was it was about a person who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The book starts out with a woman who has fallen at her gym and regained consciousness, thinking it was ten years ago and that’s she’s pregnant with her first child. Past this, I won’t go further to spoil the plot, but I find it an intriguing and terrifying concept to discuss.

From the movies (and books) the concept of hitting your head and suffering amnesia is a romantic concept, of which I have fallen prey. Not that I’ve ever lost my memory, but the idea of it hooks me in and gets me thinking, which is a mark of an effective plot device.

I often joke that if I ever lose my memory, the first thing I want my family to do for me is read Harry Potter because I’ll never have a chance to relive them as something new. If you really think about it, it’s not a light concept at all because there are so many terrible ways one can lose their memory, and never gain it back, and there are many unanticipated repercussions of realizing you’ve lost a few years of your life.

As someone who believes I have been suffering a quarter-life crisis of sorts, I sometimes think longingly of ten years from now, when I’m 35 and may seemingly have my life sorted out. It’s scary and difficult to start out on a career path that will consume and define so much of who you are. It’s also hard to try new things and go on exciting adventures because of time, money, and expectations.

One thing I have learned from hearing stories on the news, in my town, or personally, is that life really is so short. Anything can happen at any time that makes the small, daily trials and tribulations seem so small. It’s far too easy to get caught up in obstacles that life throws at you and to believe that the world is against you. Sometimes, it probably is, but I can’t claim that belief. As many tragic, terrible things there are in this world, there are also magnificent ones. In my tiny shell, I’ve been blessed with good fortune and seemingly smallish problems, and I try to focus on the good, while recognizing there is bad in the world.

It would be, seemingly, very easy for me to fall asleep right now and wake up ten years later to find what has happened to me. There a multitude of directions my life may take me, depending on so many different circumstances, happenstances, and choices I, or someone else may make, to get me there, or not. It would be easy and somewhat nice to wake up and find that I’ve met my soulmate (Chris Evans, waiting on you), bought a house, am succeeding in a career, pursue hobbies, travel, am fit and strong, etc, etc. I won’t even go into the bad things that may lie at my feet or the people and moments I may have missed losing.

Despite if I’ll be thrilled, mournful, exhausted, or a variety of a million different emotions in ten years on, I don’t want to wake up one day and find that I’ve reached that point, at least with no memory of how it happened. I want those ten years of memories. I want the hard moments where I feel as though I want to pull out my hair, cry myself to sleep, or feel such pressure of anxiety building in my chest, that I might explode. I also want those pure moments of happiness with loved ones, laughter, and love coursing through me. I want all the firsts, the lasts, and the in-betweens; the stress, relief, and rush of the unknown; I want to have gotten to a place of success, or failure, from the blood, sweat, and tears, that I remember with such poignance and purpose.

It’s not necessarily just what happens to us that makes us who we are, puts us where we are, defines what we are, how we do things, or why, but the processes, the actions and the evidence we put forward, that provide us with the wrinkles, scars, and memories.

I don’t think we can appreciate anything of substance without realizing how it came to be. Some things are serendipitous, though that is a definite opinion. I believe that everything happens for a reason, but with the condition that we have led ourselves to that point with choices, actions, mistakes, and purpose. Some things happen to us and for us that we have no control over, depending on where we are born, when, and to whom. We are so dependent on how other people act, believe, and live their lives, that it’s no wonder the world can be such a scary place to live.

Christmastime in particular motivates me to watch the old tapes my parents filmed of me and my siblings when we were older. Time is such an odd concept to me because in any particular moment, people are living and breathing and doing so vividly and then all but the memory, if that, exists. People disappear, no matter how real and alive they seemed. Time passes and surroundings are altered and we stop for a second and we look around or we think back and we say, how did it get to this place? Time is both terrifying and thrilling, burdensome and healing, temporary and everlasting.

It’s funny how time can change perspectives in a second, minute, hour, day, week, year, ten, twenty, fifty, hundred, a lifetime. No matter what lays ahead, no matter how scary, we are going to eventually reach that point, or we won’t. Sometimes it takes a moment of courage and a deep breath, but we try to live in the present, to appreciate and remember even then, with the anticipation of what might be coming next.

All of these thoughts, this is what a good book with an interesting storyline does. It inspires thinking and reflection. This very blog post is the product of quality entertainment because it places you within something bigger and more meaningful.

Family Dynamics As Shown In Books

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the book I will be reviewing today because I did, I promise. It’s just that, the excitement coursing through me as I force myself away from Amy Poehler’s new book Yes Please to be a productive, functioning human rather than a cackling fiend on the couch is impalpable. Next week, you’re going to get a really long, loving review of how much I love that book and I can say that with confidence even now because though I’ve had it for just a few hours, I’m tearing my way through it. And it is phenomenal.

But, I can’t get ahead of myself and allow this other excellent book from falling into a black hole of never being appreciated by me. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout has been on my reading list for awhile now, but got tossed aside a few times when all of my on-hold books kept surging in and I had to finish those on a deadline.

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The story begins with from an outsider’s perspective, showcasing how humans have the tendency to observe and react to another’s life, particularly those who live around us, are close to us, or are celebrities that we feel belong to us (Amy Poehler and I are basically best friends for reals though, I promise). In this case, a mother and daughter focus on a small family who lived in their neighborhood, two boys and a girl, whose family mysteries seem alluring and intriguing and unknown. In this method, Strout also establishes the characters’ personalities through an outsider’s view, so when we finally meet the Burgess’ we feel as though we already know them. This is interesting because oftentimes when I’m reading, I feel as though I am next to the main characters, undergoing every event with them. In this case, I felt as though I was watching them, much like a neighbor might, and I wonder if that was the author’s intent.

From the preface, I thought the story was going to be focused on a mystery that was highlighted, but ended up being a sort of “MacGuffin” or otherwise an afterthought to the actual plot of the story. In the end, that mysteries so-called resolution doesn’t really matter to the characters and after reflecting on it, I found it doesn’t matter so much to me either. As in life, with books, you travel on a journey with complicated people whose ordinary lives are turned extraordinary through quality writing, interesting plot twists, and obstacles that arise quickly because it usually needs to be resolved by the end of the story. How things turn extraordinary often depend on the genre because an extraordinary fantastical tale about a young wizard facing the world’s evilest noseless man is different than an extraordinary memoir about a young woman embarking on a months’ long hike by herself. Yes, sometimes plot lines in stories are juiced up in order to make them interesting and oftentimes what happens to the characters wouldn’t happen to your real-life next door neighbor, but a piece of the story and those characters feel alive and recognizable.

This is the case in The Burgess Boys. There’s nothing aggressively extraordinary about these characters when you observe them at a glance, but the fact the Strout brings them to life, gives them a voice, and makes them breathe, allows a reader to see that mundane life is fraught with complications and hardships that are born from both how a person feels and acts as well as anything that might happen to them.

Part of what attracted me to the novel is not what happened because I didn’t feel as though a lot did happen. What’s interesting is seeing these different personalities that make up a dynamic of a family. My own family is close and loving and we definitely have our similarities, but there are tons of differences between us. From our family, we find the voice of reason, the comedian, the drama queen (YUP, that’s me), etc, as all families do. Sometimes our family members do things that don’t make sense to us or are wrong or are exceedingly kind, but the best types of families, the closest ones, stick through it to support, even if it looks messy and is full of mistakes.

To me, that is the essence of The Burgess Boys whose main characters are a family who are different from each other, both on an emotional level based off of life experiences and on a personality level that stems from an inherent narrative (and probably other scientific things I won’t pretend to understand), but they share a similarity that, if nothing else, is due to the fact that they are family.

Life and family are complicated and sometimes we get frustrated by that and it takes reading a book to make us understand how fragile everyone else is too. To our families and those closest friends, we are at our most vulnerable because they see us through our best and worst times. Other than just family members, sometimes we put certain people on pedestals or judge others as somehow lesser than us, or we even put people in boxes and expect that we know who they are and what they do. But people have the remarkable ability of surprising us, even those we know and love best, and regardless of if that surprise is good or bad or in-between, we have to accept it or we don’t.

I can’t honestly claim any hard feelings or angst with my family or other people (unless I’m oblivious), but it is interesting to read about. I would definitely recommend this book because it is not only a good read, but it makes you reflect on your own family and the part you play in it. Enjoy!

Books, Books, Books

I finally went ahead and did it. I read a Gillian Flynn book. Wait, no, not that one. Not yet at least because just as I was ready to settle down with it, you know, Gone Girl, my mom lent it to someone else. Instead, I found Flynn’s novel Dark Places that drew me in with an interesting storyline.

It’s rare that I’ll stick with a book without finding some remote interest in characters, but the mystery had a hold on me that made me power read through. I cannot say I was overly invested in these characters and it’s not because they were flawed and “dark.” When reading, I don’t need to love characters or relate to them, but I do crave a fascination in them, wondering what will happen and how they might react in a situation. To be honest, as much as I liked the book overall, I didn’t care enough about the people in the beginning, which I think would have left more of an impact, in order to care in the end. All I wanted was to solve the mystery.

The mystery is what happened to a family of five, a single-mother, her three young daughters, and her teen son, who was arrested and convicted for the murders of three of them. These are not spoilers, but the premise offered on the back of the book. To start, we, the readers, are taken to a point years later when the sole surviving victim, the youngest daughter, is still very angry at the world (rightfully so), especially when no longer being able to rely on living off of the infamy that tore her life apart. An assortment of characters both living in the present and those dead looking back on the past to that last day carry the storyline along only in the sense that they fulfill necessary roles. There was some decent character development, but nothing that heightened my investment in them.

In mysteries, I’ve found that this is often the case. The premise, mystery, and resolution are far more intriguing than what characters may have to offer. It doesn’t matter who they are so long as they take you to the places you need to go, or more appropriately, can be carried to the places you need them to go. One person who incorporates both a great story and well-developed characters is JK Rowling in her Cormoran Strike series. Okay, yes, I suppose I’m slightly biased when it comes to my Literary Queen, but that is an excellent series so far! (Harry Potter will always be better, sorry I’m not sorry).

Please don’t think that I am bashing Flynn’s writing because I did enjoy reading and I could not put it down. The ending wasn’t terrible, though I was disappointed I didn’t figure it out, and at least it had a resolution! I will always be cautious about reading mysteries in the fear that they will not be resolved in the end thanks to In The Woods by Tana French.

I recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of Flynn’s Gone Girl, but then again, I haven’t read that yet.

Another book I read this week was Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs. To put it lightly, this was a strange novel. Spoken through the main character’s inner monologue, nothing big really happens, save for a few intriguing moments, so the story has to be carried along by characters. Though the main character definitely left me wondering of what she was capable, I didn’t care enough about the supporting characters that the protagonist is obsessed with and I think this hindered my appreciation for the book.

As a reader, such as in life, you don’t have to agree with a character’s motive, but it’s important to be able to understand where in which an action or feeling stems. I kept waiting for something momentous to happen, which is not a bad writing device, but was left a bit confused as to where it ended. That’s not to say that I was in the mourning stage of having finished a book because I didn’t love it enough for that (that is a real thing by the way, it has to be), but it also didn’t leave me seething mad, so I will take it.

I didn’t hate the book by any means, I just thought it was strange. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.

To end this edition of Rave Review Tuesday, here’s a bit of a tangent. Since connecting my e-reader to the library, I’ve found some books that I wouldn’t normally have read, but I’m also missing that inspired feeling I get when I step into an actual library or bookstore, surrounded by books and creative, imaginative spirits. That’s why I try to alternate where I access my books. Yes, the e-reader is more convenient, but there is something to be said about holding an actual book in your hand to connect with it.

Two Books, One Theme, A Hundred Thoughts and What-Ifs

This week, I’ve read two books, a memoir about hiking and a novel about happenstance. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is one of those books that leaves you feeling inspired and in awe of the human condition. I love hiking, surrounded by trees and water, the peace of silence, and the feeling that your body and mind are truly connected. At the end of the day, I also very much like going home, eating a hot meal, using the facilities, and sleeping in my warm bed in my warm house. Camping can be fun for a couple of days, but I’m not sure I would love doing what Strayed did for that long.

Wild is a memoir Strayed wrote about her travels on the Pacific Crest Trail. Though she set out alone, she met people on the way, learned a lot about herself and her strength, and walked a whole lot. In theory, it sounds romantic. When it comes down to it, if I needed to or felt inspired to, my body could handle the physical requirements of such a journey, but emotionally, I’m not certain I would be up for it. To be fair, Strayed went through a lot of emotional obstacles that led her towards the trip, but I am certain there are people who hike for long periods of time because they like to. I am not one of those people, but I do like reading about them.

Unlike the book I mentioned that I stopped reading, I felt connected to the protagonist and her story. It was as much about her personal life and emotions as it was her hiking adventures and there was a nice balance. In memoirs, there’s never the true anxiety of wondering what will happen next because you know the protagonist is well enough in the end to have written the story (in most cases). Yes, there’s still the anticipation of things that you don’t know, but it’s not quite the same as in novels. However, memoirs portray a range of different perspectives and life experiences that can only be shared through media. At times, I felt as though I was on the trail, my legs burning, feet torn up, lugging a huge backpack that contained all of my life’s possessions. When Strayed expressed relief, I felt relieved. When she was scared, I was trembling with her. That is a mark of an excellent memoir, an author who shows not just what happened, but how he/she felt in those moments.

I was sad when the book came to an end and I also had a hankering to go hiking. No worries because Reese Witherspoon hopped onto this book before it even came out and has already filmed the movie version.

When I started The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, I was excited because I’ve had it on hold from the library since August. I was immediately pulled into the story and anxious about first, what the secret was, then how all of the stories and characters would interact. I cannot give this away, but I will say that the novel is satisfying in that it feels frustrating as hell. I liked the book in the way that I didn’t necessarily love what happened, but it left an impact.

I believe I mentioned a book I once threw across the room because I hated how it ended. This was a different circumstance and not only because I was not about to throw my electronic reader. In that book, it ended without an actual ending, but a copout. In The Husband’s Secret there are great tie-ins and an interesting plot throughout and I loved learning how they all connected. It was very hard to put this book down and I can see why I had to wait so long for it. I finished the book very quickly and felt satisfied with the ending, which again, is not easy for me!

One theme in the book that stands out to me is how the author lingers over the what-ifs in the world. She defines these possibilities, which leaves a larger impact on the way things actually play out. Though it’s important to live in the present in real life, it can sometimes be fun to imagine how things may have played out if you made a different choice, whether it’s big events or small occurrences. In real life, you’ll never know, but Moriarty uses this technique in an intriguing way which only adds to the story.

When reading, I often reflected after wondering what I would do in some of these awful situations the characters have to endure and there is no easy answer. I suppose that what the story and Moriarty wants to convey is that when faced with something, you just do it, which is prevalent in Strayed’s story as well. There’s no anticipating how you might react to something, just as there is no knowing what might happen next. Sometimes, you just have to trust yourself and your instincts to go with the flow. That’s a scary concept.

Though these books were very different, in themes and styles, they both show how important reading is. It makes you think, learn, and view things in a different light.