Black Raspberry and Elderflower Pimm's Cup (plus Everyday Life and Menu Plan 7.25.16)

Last week was a pretty crazy week, especially in the evenings. Almost every night was a mad dash to eat dinner and then get out to a meeting or something for the kids. It was the perfect week to try out a Pimm's Cup, since I had heard that it gets better with age in the fridge and I could make a big batch ahead of time. I did not do a traditional recipe with cucumbers or lemon/lime soda because I didn't want it to go flat in the fridge and I lamented the fact that I had regular Pimm's at home when I saw a blackberry-elderflower version at the store last week. No matter! I can make my own, so I did - and you should, too! 
Black Raspberry and Elderflower Pimm's Cup
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries 
  • 2 cups Pimm's
  • 1/4 cup Chambord or other raspberry liqueur
  • 1/4 cup St. Germain or other elderflower liqueur
  • 4 cups lemonade (I just used bottled Simply Lemonade)
It does get EVEN BETTER after macerating for awhile. So try not to drink it all in one sitting, however tempting.

Thankfully the weekend was nice and relaxing, where our only commitment was to have a kid free dinner out at our favorite Mexican joint.
Mmmmm, fish tacos and margaritas on a warm summer night!

And we broke up the monotony of our near daily trips to the Y and pool with a rainy day trip to the local trampoline place that is outfitted with laser tag, followed by sleepovers.
I got the good end of the deal, taking the two very well behaved nine year old boys at my house and my friend got my six year old girl as well as TWO MORE, including her own. Four six year old girls for a sleepover! she should be sainted... Now we're gearing up for our first real hot and sunny week of summer, finally!
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie and Mommy Run Fast- be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


I Bought A Book! (and The Stack - July Library Haul)

Okay, before I get into the library stack, I must confess that I paid actual CASH MONEY for a book. Now it may seem rather odd, given how much I love to read and talk about books (obviously), I do not regularly buy books. If I do, it's usually AFTER I've read the library book and it becomes an all time favorite. (Here are my favorites from each year since 2012.) But, it is true, I am a die hard library 'power user' as described by the cheeky individual behind the social media accounts of my beloved King County Library System

Shortly after having our first kid and it was clear that going back to work was not a gain for me (financially or otherwise) we downsized our expenses. Cutting out at MINIMUM $50 to $75 a month was an easy decision. We've come to a place where I could certainly afford to buy some books, but I am a creature of habit. Unless it's something that I want on my shelves FOR LYFE (the aforementioned yearly favorite or two, an illustrated Harry Potter or other beloved books for my kids), I usually don't buy. The last time I bought a digital book was when Allegiant came out and immediately went on sale for something like $6.99. I was getting ready for a rare bout of travel and immediately bought it for my Kindle. 

The honor of my recent Kindle purchase goes to Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. 
I have been anticipating the release of this book, and put in what I thought was a pretty early hold on both the book and e-book. Alas, the holds were moving SO SLOW. And then, Amazon did it again. They put a sought after new release on sale - this time $3.99! And this time, yes, I thought it was worth the price of a cup of coffee. If you didn't catch this viral blog post on authors comparing the cost of a cup of coffee to the cost of books from Insatiable Booksluts (Ha!), I think I found it shared by Neil Gaiman on Twitter, it's worth a read.

Now, I CERTAINLY don't begrudge those who buy lots of books! I sometimes think about getting back to doing that and filling our shelves up with ALL THE BOOKS. And I've had my finger on the trigger of the Book of the Month club so many times. I love mail! I love books! I just can't bring myself to take the plunge - YET.

So! As for the books I got with my well spent tax dollaz this month... I had a vague familiarity with the title of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, but never picked it up until hearing Anne Bogel and her guest rave about it on the What Should I Read Next podcast. It sounded right up my alley, given that Jane Eyre and The Thirteenth Tale were mentioned in the same conversation. I still have 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl from last month and hope to read it soon. But I have time since it was a choice read that I can renew. I read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante this month and was reasonably drawn in, so I picked up the second book The Story of a New Name when I saw it on the choice reads shelf. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan sounded like a good summer read. My hold for the last installment of the amazing Red Rising trilogy, Morning Star, by Pierce Brown finally came in! Eight Hundred Grapes was another discovery through Anne Bogel and her summer reading guide. And lastly, I got a cookbook for the first time in AGES. I find Chrissy Tiegen quite funny and I saw a recipe from Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat in a magazine I was reading while at the gym and it sounded GOOD. I shall report back with the ones I try, of course!

New digital books in the library queue/ARCs:
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood (a NetGalley ARC)
Shelter by Jung Yun
Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Still in the queue:
Small Great Thingsby Jodi Picoult (a NetGally ARC)
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter 
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi 
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

As always, I'm interested in any thoughts/if you've read the books on this list or others I should know about!


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 7.18.16

Since yesterday was just such another horrible and sad news day, I just couldn't bring myself to sit down and write about my little menu plan - ya know? But, it's one of my favorite things to do and makes me happy. You know what else makes me happy? An excellent summer cocktail makes everything better. We perfected our Mai Tai recipe for the summer and I highly recommend it!

Just use equal parts of the ingredients shown above: one shot each of triple sec, orgeat, dark rum, Jamaican rum, and lime juice. Throw it all in a shaker and pour into your ice filled glass. YUM.

This has been a great month for reading and my kids are getting more and more autonomous at the pool and beach, which gives me even more time with a book (or time to chat with mom friends, which I was also lucky to do last week).
Since we've been beach-going, I think we've hit the beach by May some years and always by June. This summer has been odd, to say the least. With all the cloudy weather, we've been taking EVEN MORE trips to the library than usual.
Last week we checked out the remodel of a nearby library, and after perusing the choice reads section, I happened upon this lovely moment of peace and sharing.

Today we went to our usual library and picked up summer reading prizes for the kids. Since they have completed the whole summer challenge already, they received the halfway prize of a collapsible water bottle and the final prize of a medal and a free ticket to a Seattle Storm game, along with official certificates signed by the librarians.
It was really fun, they even placed the medals over the kids heads and gave congratulatory handshakes after talking about the books they read.

Of last week's new recipes, the Chicken Florentine from Pink Parsley (adapted from ATK) was goooooood. It was slightly rich, so I might try subbing half and half or whole milk in lieu of heavy cream next time. This week is a busy one, with two different nights of meetings for me (a Moms Demand Action one and a jog-a-thon one for our school), a potential sleepover at our house, and a first soccer practice for my son. So I'm keeping things pretty easy, nothing new.
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie and Mommy Run Fast- be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


Seattle to Hood River - Our 2016 Family Road Trip

Photo dump time! For our first family road trip, we traveled west to Forks. The second, we traveled north to Orcas Island. We figured for this trip, we should pick a new direction, so we headed south. Hood River seemed like a cool little town, along a scenic drive (the Historic Columbia River Highway) and had a great hotel option for our family with the Best Western Plus: inexpensive suites and an outdoor pool. To kick off our journey, we took a bit of a detour towards Mt St Helens National Park for a hike along the Ape Caves lava tube

The entrance/only place with ANY light along the trail.
I think I'll put the deets on this in a separate hiking post. In summary, it was super cool, I survived my claustrophobia and it was a good way to break up the drive.
Even if it added a couple of hours to what would have only been about a three hour journey, it was worth putting a halt to the arm wrestling contests before they went south and of course GIANT TUBE OF LAVA. And it was a beautiful journey. Just driving along the Columbia River Highway to Hood River was pretty amazing. 
Once we got settled in our suite, we headed straight for the pool, of course. Luckily, the bad weather curse we had in Orcas did not catch up to us until we were about to leave Hood River, and we were able to decompress and let the kids get their energy out at the pool both days. 
I was not mad about the view of the gorge from my chaise.
The room view wasn't too bad, either.
After a lovely dinner at Riverside in our hotel, we prepped the kids for bed and broke into the libations we picked up at the nearby Safeway.
Adult patio time
The wine and patio relaxation also help us fall asleep amid the kids bickering over having to sleep in a bed together, which they've never done. We did bring an aerobed in advance of such an issue, so they agreed to each take a turn in the bed and on the floor. Although, levels of light vs darkness was a sticking point so we left the bathroom light on and their door open, and we may have fallen asleep by one o'clock in the morning. Ah, if it weren't for trying to sleep on vacation with kids, it'd all be such a CAKEWALK.

Then they were up and at 'em by 6:30 the next morning, of course. So we zombie walked to breakfast at Riverside, which was complimentary except for a few dishes, and I ate the most delicious steel cut oatmeal with hazelnuts and a poached pear. We then headed into town to get some local coffee at Grounds which was yummy and then drove the 'Fruit Loop' stopping at a few places along the way, most memorable being the Lavender Farm.
Just having buckets of bubbles kept the kids so happy! We sat in cozy purple Adirondack chairs, sipping our coffee and taking pictures. Heavenly.
We decided to head to The Dalles for lunch (at the Rivertap Pub which was tasty and kid friendly) and a trip to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum
We found this guy ready to welcome us in the parking lot!
This was definitely a good decision, as the science of the gorge was fascinating to us and the activities were a fun diversion for the kids, including dress up, a birds of prey presentation with live birds, and a lovely walking path in addition to all the educational exhibits.
Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for some more pool time and a bit of a rest before heading out to dinner. I had hoped to hit up Full Sail Brewery and maybe even get a tour. Alas, by the time we headed out it was prime dinner hour and a bit too long of a wait for us. So we headed over to Double Mountain Brewery, which was perfect. 
Their specialty is brick oven pizzas and I devoured my 'Truffle Shuffle' with goat cheese, 'shrooms and truffle oil, as well as my Shandy - a Cider and Pilsner combo. I also enjoyed a bit of my husband's IRA (not a typo: India RED Ale), which was a bit more mellow than a typical IPA.

Of course the kids passed out easily the second night and we all had a nice late sleep in (past 8AM!) before taking advantage of our included breakfast and hitting the road home. Our plan was to stop at Multnomah Falls on our way out, but that plan was completely foiled by the massive HORDES. Not a parking spot was to be found and we noticed that people were being shuttled in from other parks to see the sights. We were just not down for that. So, I guess we'll just have to go back sometime and get up earlier. Maybe a quick family trip to Portland is in order...


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 7.10.16

Quite a bit has transpired since my last menu plan post, and I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day holiday and has been able to find ways to find some happy in what was a really horrible week. I have yet to get in to the whole Hamilton thing, but this post shared around Facebook from Lin-Manuel Miranda really resonated with me:

I also find that taking concrete action towards the things I want to change helps me get through these tough times. If you are local, please feel free to send me a DM via Twitter if you would like to come with to my next Mom's Demand Action meeting - the next one is in Redmond on the 18th. And you do not need to be a woman or a mom to join! If you are not local, here are ways to help the victims in Dallas and to support Black Lives Matter.

There was also lots of good in our week, with fun on the Fourth, an outing to see Finding Dory and our first family road trip in two years! 
They did great in the car!
Our beloved pugs joined our family the last two summers, and raising puppies kind of put the kibosh on our plan for yearly road trips until now. I've posted a few pictures on my Instagram from our trip to Hood River, and will probably do a big self indulgent photo dump post soon.  
This view, though..
And the day after we got back, my son did his first Mountains to Sound Greenway 22 mile bike trip along the Snoqualmie Tunnel trail with dad. The same one we like to walk for fun.
Now that we're back from our little family road trip, I am back in the saddle and planning some meals:

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie and Mommy Run Fast- be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!


Books I Read in June

You by Caroline Kepnes
Such a creepy and disturbing read! I'd recommend it with some major caveats. If you don't want to read about unlikable characters, really sexually explicit or gritty violence, this is not the book for you. I found it absorbing and TERRIFYING. An interesting look at how impotent we all are in keeping our inner lives private, thanks to the internet and social media. I wonder what it would be like to read this book in ten years time, given that the landscape of social media changes so quickly. I'm not sure it'll stand the test of time, but it was a good read for right now.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
I am really sad that I only have one book left in the Raven Cycle, and am torn between putting off the end and wanting to read The Raven King RIGHT NOW. This series is just beautiful in so many ways: it's humor, the magical realism (on a level with Neil Gaiman in my opinion), the realness of the characters, and their love for each other - not just romantic love, although there is that. My favorite part of the book is when one boy, unbeknownst to his friend, shows up to support him in court. Just lovely stuff.
"Is this okay? Was it okay? Adam had turned down so many offers of help from Gansey. Money for school, money for food, money for rent. Pity and charity, Adam had thought. For so long, he'd wanted Gansey to see him as an equal, but it was possible that all this time, the only person who needed to see that was Adam. Now he could see that it wasn't charity Gansey was offering. It was just truth. And something else: friendship of the unshakable kind. Friendship you could swear on. That could be busted nearly to breaking and come back stronger than before. Adam held out his right hand, and Gansey clasped it in a handshake, like they were men, because they were men."

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin (You can read my NetGalley review here!)

Still Life by Louise Penny
I was skeptical going in, because serial mystery novels are not usually my bag. This felt a bit different, told with more depth of feeling and character development. I loved the little whimsical town, the inspector with a heart of gold and all of the unique inhabitants of Three Pines. The lack of gruesomeness was also a refreshing change for a mystery series, and there was certainly suspense - I did some frantic page turning into late hours to finish. I happened to be reading it on a rainy June day, and it was a perfect snuggy book. I will definitely pick up more in the series, probably in the fall!  

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Why did I take so long to read this book!? It's one of those 'laughter through tears' kind of stories, a semi autobiographical novel of a teen boy growing up on an Indian reservation and his struggles to succeed. I was bowled over within the first few pages, and marvel at Alexie's ability to elicit such a wide range of emotions. It is also one of those 'everyone should read it' kind of stories, to gain even the slightest understanding of what life for American Indians (or any minority) might be like in our country.