what’s on my kindle, part 11

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. This was absolutely fascinating. It’s the story of 3 women during WWII- a 16 year old Polish girl who gets put in an all-women’s concentration camp for her participation in underground resistance, a young German doctor, and an American debutante who has devoted her time to placing French children orphaned by the war. The last two women are real people, and the story is based very much on fact. The Polish girl is also based on a real prisoner of Ravensbruck. The audiobook was crazy long but worth it for the accents.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling. Except not really. You guys. I hated this. I knew it was going to be written in a play format so I set my expectations relatively low, but it was BAD. I had the same feeling after reading this that I did after the second Sex and the City movie. That was a waste of my time, and it didn’t advance the plot at all. I lost a little respect for Lady Jo here, if I’m being honest. The dialogue was campy, and the story itself read more like amateur fan fiction than something from her genius brain. This Harry Potter fanatic is unimpressed.

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Buttermilk Falls in Ithaca, NY

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult. Vintage Jodi! She must have written this sometime between her terrible books (i.e. Tenth Circle) and her amazing books (i.e. Nineteen Minutes). Yes, that’s my favorite Jodi book. Closely followed by House Rules. This was decent- it’s about a little girl who starts communicating with God and performing miracles in the midst of her parents’ messy divorce. Took me a while to get into it but I ended up enjoying it.

The Girls by Emma Cline. This has been so buzzed about because it was written by a 27 year old who got a 2 million dollar advance for it. (Does anyone want to give ME money for writing this blog?) It’s about a girl who gets sucked into a Charles Manson-esq cult when she’s 14, and flashes between that and her life in middle-age. It is incredibly disturbing. I was uncomfortable for about 85% of it, but I will say she’s a damn good writer. I mean, almost as good as me.

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Pizza date with my friend Kate (new DC resident!!) at All Purpose.

Meternity by Meghann Foye. This was horrifying. I should have guessed that based on the title, but Emily Giffin is quoted on the cover saying she loved it! Duped. It reminded me of that show Younger where the 40 something woman pretends to be in her early 20s and gets an internship at a fashion magazine or something. Hillary Duff is in a supporting role if that gives you an idea of the show’s caliber. Anyway, this book is about a woman who works at a maternity magazine and fakes a pregnancy. I guess I understand where people would think it was cute and lighthearted except that the main character is a terrible human AND she gets away with it in the end. Sorry to spoil it, but this is a no-go.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. You know her from Something Borrowed (still upset that they butchered that movie). I really didn’t like her most recent book The One and Only, but this one was good! It’s written from the perspective of two sisters who have kind of a rocky relationship and are each dealing with their own issues. I also love that all of her books are loosely connected- in this one Meredith’s best friend is Ellen, of Love the One You’re With.

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Reading Emily Giffin in my happy place.

The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close. I was dying to read this because I loved Girls in White Dresses so much. This book didn’t make me laugh out loud the way her first did, but I really liked it. It’s about a young married couple who moves to DC and the husband gets involved in a political campaign. I think I appreciated it more because of all the DC/Maryland references, but it was a decent story. I’m still on hold for The Smart One.

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New Baltimore brewery! Not as good as Union, but the GS loved their oyster stout.

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay. I couldn’t even finish this. It had 4 stars on Goodreads but I don’t understand why. It’s about an author who recently lost her husband and one of her books is getting turned into a movie. But, like Meternity, I can’t stand it when the protagonist is really not likable but you can tell the author thinks they are. If that makes sense.

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. Oh Liane how I’ve been dying to read your latest book. But… meh. The whole premise is that these three couples have a barbecue together and something terrible happens that ruined all of their lives, but you don’t find out what the something-terrible is until about 60% of the way through. And it was mostly just depressing rather than a major plot twist. I really enjoy the way she writes but this is my least favorite book of hers.

(On a side note, one of the characters in this one has a mother who is a hoarder, and you should DEFINITELY read Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller, which is a memoir of a girl who grew up with hoarder parents.)

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The GS works at a WeWork in DC and I’m obsessed with the funky decor.

The Assistants by Camille Perri. This, I LOVED. It’s about a couple of young female assistants at a large media company who fudge their expense reports in order to pay off their student loans. Naturally, it gets a little out of control. The narrator is really funny and obviously I identified with the stress of living in debt. Highly recommend.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen. Just like it sounds, the stories of 9 different women who come into contact with one famous dress in New York City. It was just okay. It kind of reminded me of Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan- I liked that one better. I will say that I listened to the audiobook and appreciated the fact that they had like 13 different narrators for all the different characters.

orzo with deconstructed pesto

Does anything make you sound like more of a pretentious jerk than describing something as “deconstructed?”

I don’t think so.

In fairness, my intention for this dish was to just make regular old pesto. But a certain married couple that I live with is a liiiiiittle bit possessive over their Ninja blender and took it up to the lake with them for the week. I guess I can’t be mad because wine slushies.

It wasn’t that much more time consuming to just chop everything up and throw it in, and you still get the pesto flavor for sure. But if you own the rights to your blender, feel free to use it. You can also feel free to do pine nuts or any other nut in place of the pistachios, but especially when they’re chopped up like this they look pretty pretty!

Orzo with Deconstructed Pesto

1 lb orzo pasta

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

3 oz Parmesan cheese, chopped/grated

6-7 slices Serrano ham, chopped (you could easily sub prosciutto)

3-4 cups arugula

juice of one lemon

2-3 tbs olive oil

1 garlic clove

salt, pepper

Start by cooking the orzo. I threw a garlic clove in the pot while the pasta was cooking (I also do this for mashed potatoes, too). I cooked it a couple of minutes under package directions so that it would still have some bite to it.

While the pasta is cooking, chop up the basil, pistachios, and ham. I chopped up some of the Parmesan and grated some- I like to have chunks of it in the pasta.

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Put all of this at the bottom of a large bowl, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with the arugula.

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Pour in the hot pasta and toss everything together. The arugula should wilt a lot with the heat of the pasta, and you may want to add more depending on how green you want the dish to look. I took the cooked garlic clove and ran it through my garlic press, and added that too.

Check the seasoning- you may need to add more salt/pepper/CHEESE. Hence the chopping and the grating technique.

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We ended up eating this at room temperature and I was obsessed with it. I ate it really fast and gave myself a terrible stomachache. Literally my bowl was empty before the GS had even made a dent in his. It was pretty horrifying.

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Apparently a little pretension does not equal being ladylike.

wine slushies

Just got back from the greatest four days at the lake!

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The weather was perfect and we did some cool stuff like hiking Buttermilk Falls (see above!)

The only unfortunate incident happened on the golf course. My mom, my grandma, Aaron, Kevin and I went out to play 9 holes at the local course. It was all going relatively smoothly until the 9th hole.

I haven’t been playing that often so my skills have been inconsistent at best. My second shot went left, left, left. Into the parking lot. My mom really shouldn’t have parked where she did.

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I still don’t quite understand the physics behind a golf ball striking a window hard enough to break it, but then bouncing 50 feet back. And into play.

No penalty strokes.

Needless to say after 2 hours in the 90+ degree heat and one broken window later, I was ready for a wine slushie.

One of our favorite camp delicacies comes from Buttonwood Winery.

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We’ve done the tastings at all the wineries out there a million times, but these wine slushies never get old. Worth all $7.

Buttonwood is nice enough to give away the recipe- equal parts Blackberry Briar wine and Sprite, stick it in the freezer and let it slush.

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Now, not everyone has time for the freezing part. Sometimes you need a slushie rightthisminute.

Luckily, my mom had a stroke of genius as to how to make this happen.

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Take the popsicles off the stick and throw them in a blender with the wine. So refreshing and not overly sweet.

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If you’re not going to be in Romulus, NY any time soon, you can probably substitute the blackberry wine for any sweet red wine.

One box of popsicles made about 3 generous slushies. But you can easily multiply this. And you should.

My mom is going to need one since she’s driving around Camillus with a tarp taped over her back window. Whoops.

 

shrimp salad

This weekend my best friends got married! To each other!

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It was a beautiful wedding and so much fun to have some of the Loyola crew back together again.

A couple of days before the wedding I went to get my nails done. I had purchased a Groupon to a new nail studio in Canton Square, which is a very nice part of downtown Baltimore.

On a side note, I use Groupon for almost everything. Restaurants, manicures, oil changes, getting my wind shield replaced. All the usuals.

So even though I hadn’t heard of this new nail studio, its location convinced me that it must be good. And with all my associated promo codes and Ebates cash back, it was only $25 for a gel manicure and a spa pedicure. What a steal.

Given that I needed to enter said nail studio from a back alley, I should have been somewhat tipped off that it probably wasn’t up to code. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this place had three lawn chairs with buckets in front of them. No rolling massage, no water jets with bubbles, no Korean soap operas on in the background.

Unfortunately I’m polite to a fault so I stuck it out. Stuck it out for almost 2 hours of my foot resting on a woman’s bare thigh while she painted my toe nails and talked to me about how the crabs in Maryland are so big this year that “it’s suspect.” You would think after 2 hours my nails would look pretty damn good.

Alas.

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It looks like I let the GS paint them. With his left hand. After a couple of drinks.

I sent Sheila a snapchat and she responded “You did NOT pay for that.” And then after hearing the whole story, “You should probably take an antibiotic.”

I felt I needed to redeem myself in Canton Square and went to brunch on Saturday with some friends at Mama’s on the Half Shell, where I had a fabulous shrimp salad sandwich.

Hence, recreating it here. Don’t you want to make seafood salad after I just showed you a photo of my toes?

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Shrimp Salad

makes 4 large sandwiches

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/3 cup mayo

1-2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped

1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

sub rolls or Kaiser rolls

You can buy pre-cooked shrimp for sure but I thought that might be too much of a cop-out to blog it, even for me.

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I just cooked them on a grill pan for 2-3 minutes until they were pink. Mix the mayo with the Old Bay, and then stir in with the celery and onion.

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Shrimp salad is basically just tuna salad for rich people.

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And if I’m eating rich, maybe I should stop using Groupon when it puts my health in danger. Lofty goals.

how to use grilled veggies 3 ways

High of 99 today folks! Doesn’t that make you want to go fire up your grill?

LOL no. But timing these blog posts has never been a strength so I’ll fill you in anyway.

This weekend the GS and I invited ourselves over to our friends’ house. They’re getting married this weekend! So we wanted to have one last double date before they tie the knot. Oh, and they have a pool.

We brought dinner over- chicken, corn, and veggies to grill, along with some bread and whipped feta.

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I should probably do a separate blog post on the whipped feta to highlight how amazing it is, but given that it’s blatantly stolen from HowSweetEats and only 3 ingredients, I’ll tell you about it right here.

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8 ounces creamy feta (the brick form, not pre-crumbled), 8 ounces whipped cream cheese (I used the one above with Greek yogurt in it), and one avocado. In a blender or food processor. Whip it and schmear it on anything and everything. Trust me.

Okay so here’s the veggie list:

1 red onion

2 zucchini

2 summer squash (the yellow ones)

1 eggplant

1 bag of small sweet peppers

1 bunch scallions

When you chop up all this stuff (I left the peppers and scallions whole) you end up with a large volume of veg. Just toss it all in olive oil, salt and pepper. Maybe some garlic. I used Jane’s Mix up salt. And put it in one of those grill baskets and FIRE AWAY.

Saturday, we stuffed our faces with chicken and veggies, all covered in that lovely green whipped feta.

Sunday, we had veggie paninis. With prosciutto, because a certain Italian needs some kind of meat with every meal.

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Then for last night I tossed the rest in some al dente pasta, and while it was hot stirred in this fancy goat cheese we bought at Mt. Vernon Marketplace.

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We probably would have used more whipped feta in the pasta instead, but we’re super nice people and left the majority at our friends’ house as a thank you for their hospitality.

And as their wedding gift. Congrats, guys!

 

what’s on my kindle, part 10

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. I listened to this audiobook, partially because it was all my library had available and partially because I find Aziz’s squeaky voice irresistible. It’s basically about how dating, marriage, relationships, etc. have evolved in the modern world. He talks about online dating, how technology impacts the way we date and communicate, and highlights the dating culture in a few international cities. It was pretty interesting, and funny because his personal thoughts and commentary are interjected. It’s a really quick read, too.

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand. I was excited to read this in general but especially once I found out that it featured recipes from How Sweet It Is. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. There’s only two recipes from Jess and while they’re both fine, they don’t seem realistic as coming from the main character who is a classically trained celebrity chef. The book is about this famed chef passing away and how his three former wives have to reunite in Nantucket to spread his ashes. Not her best, but I finished it in less than a day.

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tuna tartare with glorified potato chips for the win

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. You know this as the Oscar nominated movie starring Saoirse Ronan (my red carpet fave). I haven’t actually seen the movie but I’ve heard great things about it so I decided to listen to the audiobook. It was kind of blah. A nice story, I guess, and I’ll probably see the movie because everyone raved about it, but pretty regular.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. It was an interesting experience to read this right after Brooklyn, because it’s also about a young girl who moves to Brooklyn alone. It just takes place 100 years later. And instead of making sweet mistakes like falling in love with an Italian boy instead of an Irish boy, the protagonist in Sweetbitter works in a restaurant as a glorified busboy and does some recreational drugs. It’s a little dark, but the writing is really incredible.

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The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. This is about an 11-year-old Boy Scout who is assigned a service project to help an elderly woman with chores around the house. When the boy passes away unexpectedly, his estranged father takes on the commitment to the old lady. I wouldn’t call it riveting, but it’s a sweet story and I can easily see it being turned into a popular Indie flick. Hopefully starring Jacob Tremblay.

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ombre drinks in Montauk on the beach

Euphoria by Lily King. This is loosely based on Margaret Mead, who I know nothing about, so I’ll try not to judge the quality of her life from this book alone. Not a fan. It’s about a love triangle between three anthropologists studying native communities in New Guinea in the 1930s. After typing the description, I can’t quite recall why I thought I would like this. But I didn’t.

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison. This was pretty regular. It held my attention but the writing was kind of amateur-ish, and it went from being an interesting suspense/mystery to just completely crazy with secret siblings and drug rings and sex scandals.

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That time I walked to yoga in the sunshine and left in an impending monsoon. But stopped to take a picture first.

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain. This is about a young social worker in North Carolina in the 1960s who starts working in a rural community and gets overly involved with one of the families. I’ve talked about Diane Chamberlain’s books before and how I love (most) of them, and this was no exception. It’s a little slow to start but then I couldn’t put it down.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. This took me forever to finish but I’m so glad I read it because I’ve never read anything else like it. Basically it starts with a guy and a girl running into each other on the street, and there are three different versions of how it turns out (him walking away, him asking her out, etc.) And then there are subsequently three different stories of how their lives turn out based on that first day. It’s definitely a little slow but I kind of loved it.

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Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam. This  is about two 32-year-olds who have been best friends since middle school and are both living in NYC. It’s not all that eventful, but it just struck me as being very REAL. One is engaged and on track to be a charmed housewife, while the other is single at a crappy job with a crush on the temp. Their lives aren’t really aligned anymore but they try to stay friends for old times sake. Again, not really a page turner but it’s so well-written that I would recommend it anyway.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. This is one of the worst books I have ever read or listened to. I was hustling out of a clinic to get in my car for a 5 hour trip to Baltimore and realized I only had about 40 minutes left in Rich and Pretty, so I literally downloaded the first audiobook that popped up in Overdrive. It’s about a 3rd grade teacher who becomes obsessed with one of her students and his parents. The only reason that I kept listening to it aside from being stuck in the car was because I thought she was finally going to crack and kill them all. But she doesn’t. It’s simultaneously creepy and boring.

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New breakfast habit: Chia pudding with blueberries.

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres. I mean, it’s Ellen. I wouldn’t say she’s at her funniest in this and it definitely would have been less funny had she not been narrating it. But it was only about 3 hours long so it kept me company on one of my drives. I think I like her best when she’s on her show laughing at other people.

I have two more books going right now but needed to cut myself off somewhere. What are you summer reading?!

caprese burgers

Enter: my new favorite burger.

This is such a simple concept I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. I think these would also be adorable as appetizers at a summer party in slider form.

In this case, the four of us ate them for Sunday dinner at like 9PM after playing 9 holes of golf. As someone who usually eats dinner as close to 5PM as possible, this was a struggle. And probably also the reason that the last picture is slightly blurred. I think I was in a daze and going in for my next bite.

I think the couples golf outings should be a regular thing, though. As you can see, we take ourselves very seriously.

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Originally we thought we would just play a friendly 4 ball scramble. For you non-golfers, that basically means that everyone tees off, and then everyone plays their 2nd shot from the location of the best drive, and so on.

This wasn’t competitive enough for Aaron, so we played two on two. The GS and I took home the victory, and Kelly reported that she simultaneously hated the experience and had fun. So yeah, it will be a weekly thing.

And after all of our stiff competition and walking, we feasted!

Caprese Burgers (makes 8 burgers)

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground chuck

1 loaf ciabatta bread (or ciabatta rolls- my mom gets the Torta rolls from Costco)

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

pesto, either homemade or store bought

fresh mozzarella

basil leaves

olive oil, salt & pepper

Combine the ground beef and chuck, or use all of one or the other. Don’t overwork the meat. Form into 8 patties, slightly indented in the center. Grill to desired done-ness, adding a slice of mozzarella at the very end.FullSizeRender_1

Brush the ciabatta with olive oil and grill for a few minutes until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, and with a little garlic if you’re in the mood. Slice into sections for “buns”.

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Serve with pesto, tomatoes, and extra basil leaves and assemble your burgers!

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These were so good. The GS said he never wants to eat another burger on a regular bun. Ciabatta only from now until forever.

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I can’t help myself. This was a hole-in-one.