Everyday Life and Holiday Eats!

Last week was pretty laid back - we got out to see some Christmas light displays, had a day date with my husband before the kids got out of school to go see Rogue One (recommend!) and are doing lots of BAKING!

Our first foray into making muddy buddies was a success, and sugar cookie decorating will commence this week.

If you happened to catch my Instagram stories, I made two staples recently: holiday bark and these Linzer muffins. SO GOOD.
I have a tentative menu plan for the week, but since I'm taking a little blog hiatus next week, I thought I'd just link to my favorite holiday meals and treats. 

Christmas Eve is always appetizers (complete with Salami Stacks, of course) and a good Neuf du Pape while watching Love Actually after the kids go to bed. They either eat 'snowman pizzas' where I mold the dough into the shape of a snowman and they do the toppings, or I make them breakfast for dinner.
On Christmas Day, we start the day with either Monkey Bread or homemade cinnamon rolls. For dinner, we have done lasagna in the past. However, after eating a lot of cheese and crackers the night before, a cheesy dinner didn't sound all that appealing. I decided on a tasty recipe for Beer Braised Beef with Marsala Mushroom Sauce and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes that we haven't made in years and is SUPER TASTY.

New Year's Eve we'll make a longtime favorite for special occasions: Giada's Braciole recipe, and I'm not sure about New Year's Day. We don't have any hard and fast traditions other than an indulgent breakfast - whichever of the two we didn't have for Christmas morning. Perhaps I should get a black eyed pea recipe? Or we should just start eating salads every day for January...

Happy holidays to you and yours!


The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian - A NetGalley Review

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Doubleday (January 10, 2017)
Description from the Publisher:

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body? 

It's been a VERY long time since I read a Chris Bohjalian novel, but I've always enjoyed his work. This latest novel seemed to have similarities to some of my favorites: The Law of Similars, Trans-Sister Radio and the widely known Midwives (Oprah's Book Club), where the narrative centers around a mystery with an intriguing medical backdrop. Parasomnia, abnormal behaviors during sleep, is the fascinating catalyst of The Sleepwalker. 

Lianna, the daughter of the missing woman, is the central character and she didn't come to life for me at all. I didn't feel like I could connect with her, or her relationship with the detective working on her mother's case. The unfolding of Annalee's disappearance and the gut wrenching conclusion are well executed. Yet the bulk of the story is this back and forth dance between Lianna and Gavin, and I wanted to be invested in their romance. Alas, it seems the only reason they connect is that she finds him attractive and she can wheedle him for information about her mother. If I had been swept up in their star-crossed story, I might have felt differently. Additionally, the implausibility of his actions, with glaring conflicts of interest as a detective, were hard to swallow.

Bohjalian has such impressive breadth and depth to his body of work, and learning about the condition of parasomnia was rather interesting. But, I suppose not all of his novels are going to be right up my alley. Your mileage may vary!


Everyday Life and Menu Plan (12.12.16)

This week was PERFECTION. My husband's birthday week is always a fun one, as it's during holiday season and it's usually when my mother in law comes to visit. She wasn't able to come out this year, but my husband still took time off of work to chill and do fun things. Like visit Tat's Deli!

I am a devotee to the Tatstrami, and my husband goes for the cheesesteak.
And THEN...
We finally got a real snow around here! It was perfectly timed on a Friday, and was everything the kids hoped it would be - snowman building, snowball fights, pancakes for breakfast and lots of hot chocolate.
I love they're at an age where I can just let them run around in the backyard and the snow is so NOVEL that it keeps them outside for hours. So, I got lots of reading done!
And it melted just in time for us to go out for our favorite date night dinner! The kids stayed blessedly healthy this time around.
Daniels had a special list of 'Manhattan Project' cocktails on the menu and the 'Portwood' with Rye whiskey, ruby port and maple syrup was heavenly. I don't know if any other week can top it, but we'll try.

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


Books I Read in November

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This classic Gothic novel is one that I never got around to reading and I found it somewhat slow and repetitive - there's only so much information about the mullioned windows of Manderly that is necessary. It was mostly atmospheric, which is not my favorite, but it does build a nice slow burn. I eventually got sucked into the mystery of Rebecca, and the truth about her was not what I expected. Incidentally, I find it odd that this is shelved in the Teen Classics section of the library/on Amazon. I suppose the narrator is young, but that does not a YA make...

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
I adored Where'd You Go Bernadette and this is very similar and VERY different. As with the first book, there is a harried mother with some major issues, a precocious child, a distracted husband and annoying school parents set in Seattle. However, with this story, I felt as if Semple let her creativity and her 'freak flag' fly, in the best way. It started out rather odd and disjointed, kind of like main character Eleanor's life. I was sort of confused as to whether I should laugh or cry over her character. She is sort of infuriatingly self-absorbed and then the heart of her character becomes incrementally clearer as the reader is taken down the crazy rabbit hole of her life. We are introduced to some amazingly odd and complex characters, as well as some graphic novelization to bring the story to a dramatic and untidy conclusion. I felt winded after finishing this book, it's crazy and unique.

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
At the get go, I felt as if this was going to be a Twilight/50 Shades read-alike. There is the very obvious Edward/Christian/man that cannot love and the quirky Bella/Anastasia/woman who can change him. Even some of the peripheral characters smack of the aforementioned novels. However, it turned in an unexpected direction and tackles some tough subjects including gun violence, homelessness and above all domestic abuse. It was riveting stuff, after I got over my initial hesitation. Straight up romance novels are not usually my bag, but I like to change things up every once in awhile. This novel by a renowned romance author was apparently a very personal departure for her, and I would definitely read more of her work.

The Couple Next Door by Shari LaPena
This book! This is the kind of thriller I enjoy! It kept me up all night turning the pages. I haven't felt like I've read a novel this crazy since Gone Girl (yes, I liked Gone Girl). The narratives are not at all the same, they were just both jaw dropping, holy crap reads. Now, it's not exactly amazing prose, and you have to really suspend some disbelief, but it sure was a fun ride. Hopefully this isn't a spoiler, but the plot reminded me of my favorite Oscar winning Coen brothers movie. Let me know if you've read it and we can discuss!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Oh man, I wasn't sure what I was in for with this book - I just knew it was going to tug on my heartstrings. It was beautiful, and I luckily received the illustrated version from the library.
So gorgeous and haunting, it added so much to the reading experience. I was bereft after reading Conor's story of surviving his mother's battle with cancer. As a mother, and as a daughter of a mother with cancer, it was a gut punch on so many levels. It's so worthwhile and exquisitely written - like a modern day fairy tale. I just feel that so many middle grade books tackle tough subjects these days, and I now need to go read something fluffy - like an adult romance perhaps... 


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 12.4.16

Sigh. All the leftovers have been eaten. Perhaps we'll make another turkey for Christmas...

No more DELICIOUS Turkey Cranberry Salad Sandwiches. Or stuffing topped with fried eggs, another favorite.
Our week started off with a couple of sick kids. 'Tis the season!
Thankfully they rallied pretty quickly and we had a nice week of relaxing and doing advent activities. The house is filled with paper chains, new Christmas books and these easy jar fillers from Target were fun.
And one of our first advent activities is always a 3D viewing of The Polar Express.
Today we got out for a family stroll before we MIGHT get hit with a little snow tomorrow. 
Since it's been a very long time (I think over three years?) since we've had any significant snow, we all have our fingers crossed. Either way, I got my usual Monday grocery shopping done today, just in case!

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