November Monthly Meal Wrap Up

November is always the BEST month for meals because THANKSGIVING! But, before I get to that, I finally picked up Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant of How Sweet Eats blog.

So far we've tried the breakfast cookies, because I can't resist a breakfast cookie - and these were quite tasty.
We also tried the Chicken Pitas with Jalapeno Whipped Feta.
These were rather tasty, however I think I'll do about half the jalapeno next time. I can handle spicy, but I spent a lot of time roasting garlic for the whipped feta and I want to taste more than just the hot pepper. Since we had some left over feta, I decided to try Half Baked Harvest's Easy Greek Sheet Pan Chicken Souvlaki and Potatoes.
This was really easy! And good... However, I'll crank the oven down or cook it for less time than directed next time, as the chicken was super dry and the potatoes got a bit burned.
We also got out for a bite to eat after checking out the Funko HQ, which was a blast. If you are local, I highly recommend hitting up Scuttlebutt Brewing with the kids after a visit to Funko. Good beer, food, and service!
I enjoyed my fish tacos and the few bites I stole from my husband's spicy chicken sandwich. 
And, of course, we stuffed ourselves silly on Thanksgiving with perfectly brined turkey, stuffing, potato casserole and a big green salad - the links to all my traditional recipes can be found in this post. My favorite use of leftovers: turkey cranberry salad
 and a fried egg atop leftover stuffing!
Now it's time to regroup and get ready for all of the Christmas holiday eats!


Holiday Wish List 2017

As holiday shopping starts up, I like to compile a little gift guide (here's 2015 and 2014). It's really been just a guise for putting my wish list together, so I'm calling it like it is this year. Since I didn't get around to it in 2016 (I wasn't in the best of moods last November) I thought I'd resurrect this rather fun exercise. Pictures are via the websites linked and Amazon affiliate links are included, as well as a couple others I've noted. Without further ado...

If you, too, are an avid What Should I Read Next listener, this should come as no surprise: I want ALL THE THINGS from CW Pencil Enterprise! So many fun pencil items that I should probably buy for my kids (erasers, pencil caps, cases, travel size colored pencils) and that I want to keep for myself. This vintage Viarco set of pencils is calling to me...

Usually I get the Harry Potter illustrated editions at Christmastime. However, my husband gifted me The Prisoner of Azkaban early this year. Instead, I shall request Pete Souza's Obama: An Intimate Portrait! If you are not following Pete on Instagram, you should rectify that situation.

These jammies from Nordstrom are already in my rotation, but I love them so much that I needed to share the info as such a great gift!

Our short cocktail glasses are flared and I've been wanting to get some straight sided glasses for whiskey drinks. There are so many fun options out there, and I'm leaning towards these ones with a PNW vibe.

Sephora gift sets are always a hit with me, and this year I'm eyeing the nude lip set or really just a gift card in general!

Emily McDowell studio is a fantastic site for gift giving. I sent my mom the Kicked Cancer's Ass pin last year, and I'm thinking I need to get some of her wisecracking in my life. I keep coming back to this pouch...

OK, here's another thing I already have, or rather, I caved to the Fab Fit Fun box. I saw that the winter edition has the Kate Sommerville ExfoliKate and decided it was worth the whole box! If you want to gift yourself this subscription box every season (it comes four times a year, and makes the price tag easier to bear) here's my referral link.

And, speaking of referral links, I must end on a book note! Here's one for Book of the Month and it's $10 for your first book and a free tote, which also makes an excellent gift. I always think that I should just give it up, but then they have the most excellent selections and I can skip as many months as I want. I mean, five of the top ten Amazon editors picks for 2017 were BOTM offerings, including the #1 and #2 spot - the best nonfiction and the best fiction of the year, respectively. 

OK, I should reign it in now. I hope everyone has a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving!


Artemis by Andy Weir (NetGalley Review)

Artemis by Andy Weir
Publisher: Crown (November 14, 2017)
Description from the publisher:

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.
Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

Oh, how I wanted to love this book! One of the reasons that the majority of advance copies I request are from authors I've read and enjoyed is because I really hate giving a negative dedicated review. I absolutely devoured The Martian, and it was one of my favorite books of 2014. The idea of a female protagonist who was going to 'science the sh*t' out of things on the moon was also very appealing. Alas... 

Let me start with the good: Weir is SUPERB at world building. The city of Artemis is fully realized in my mind and full of fun and unique details about the way people live, eat and entertain themselves on the moon. Like many great sci-fi novels, I can ABSOLUTELY picture the inevitable movie version. And, like Mark Watney's character in The Martian, Jazz's ingenuity was compelling. However...

The main character has a similar irreverent shtick that worked in The Martian, but didn't work for me in this novel. The salty language was not used to any kind of great humor - I just felt as if Jazz somehow needed it to make her seem tough and have a chip on her shoulder. For the life of me, I never really figured out why she was so angry at the world or her dad. If I did, it might have gone a long way to make me want to pick up the book more often and care about her plight. The action was fun, but I didn't care how it would play out. It's one thing to think about being stranded on another planet, trying to get home to your family. That has drama and heart. An inexplicably angry woman trying to pull off an illegal heist? Not so much.

If interesting science (lots of stuff about heat, atmosphere, how things would work on the moon in zero gravity - like the way dust settles, which was really interesting!) or a cinematic heist sounds like fun fare, by all means, you should definitely read Artemis. These are things I nerd out on as well, but I just wanted a little more.

Many thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review!


October Monthly Meal Wrap Up

My husband and I kicked off the month with a day date to Rattlesnake Ledge for some hiking and our first visit to Twede's Cafe: home of the 'damn good cherry pie' of Twin Peaks fame. It was damn good, as was the club sandwich and my spinach omelette the size of my head!
 I didn't try many new meals this month, as it was pretty hectic with school commitments and my husband taking back to back business trips. I did make Skinnytaste's baked potato soup with cauliflower for a few solo dinners and it was super easy! I added some sauteed garlic and onion to give it a little more depth and it turned out quite tasty.
 For solo dinners when my husband is MIA, I almost always grab a Tarte D'Alsace from Trader Joe's. However, this year I had to try the seasonal tarte with gorgonzola and butternut squash. Sooooo good! I stocked up on a few before they are gone for the season. They're perfect with some roasted greens, brussel sprouts being a favorite.
Speaking of Trader Joe's, they remodeled my local store in a new shopping development across the street from the old one and it is GLORIOUS. Of course we went on opening day to pay our respects!
 And to finish out the month, we dealt with my least favorite holiday - yay! I know, I know. I am a Halloween scrooge, but I make up for it tenfold over Thanksgiving and Christmas. We get our pumpkins at the local fruit market which has plenty of fun for the kids with games, free popcorn and cider.
 And then I hand the reins over to my husband for the carving assistance. 
 This year, though, my son did it entirely on his own and I think he did a pretty good job replicating his toy sloth. And my husband did a lovely job replicating my daughter's Pusheen.
Now it's time for planning menus for the most wonderful time of the year, starting with Thanksgiving!


Books I Read in October

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I don't know if there's anything more I can add to the conversation about this fantastic novel! I also got a signed copy and heard her discuss the book, which was wonderful.
The story of these two starkly different families that come together in an affluent American suburb is a blistering take on privilege and class. My only small critique would be that it felt more like allegory than story. You will not finish the book wondering what the message is that Ng is trying to convey, especially in the case of the two mothers. However, it is a very worthwhile one. I am probably in the minority when I say that I loved Everything I Never Told You (a favorite from 2015) a smidge more - also definitely worth a read.

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur
Yes, this was a HIGHLY frustrating read about the Trump campaign. I'm thankful that my main takeaway from the book was a glimpse inside the life of a campaign reporter, which was surprisingly fascinating stuff. The focus on small, yet intimate stories on food (seriously, she talks about food A LOT), travel horrors, mirror-less curling iron conundrums, and thousands of cups of coffee made this such an enjoyable read. And the stories about her personal life, especially the chapter about her parents who are also journalists, were heartfelt. In the end though, fair warning, having to look some terrifying and grotesque realities in the face is difficult: "I will never unhear him, not the man's message, and not the thousands of other voices that summarize 2016 by not shouting him down. 'Assassinate that bitch,' the man said, and the crowd said nothing. 'Assassinate that bitch,' and the crowd cheered on."

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
This sequel did not live up to the excellent Garden Spells, but it was fun to immerse myself in the world of the Waverly's again. There were a lot of plot points that seemed scattered, meandered a bit, and didn't have a clear sense of urgency. The only fun was catching up with all of the characters and her whimsical writing. I definitely plan to read more of her work, though.

The Party by Elizabeth Day
I burned through this dark and compelling psychological thriller. It's one of those stories that starts with the feeling that something is 'off' that you can't put your finger on and becomes more and more ominous as it goes on. Similar to Big Little Lies, it starts with an incident at a party that gets the police involved and flashes back in forth in time to drop clues for the reader to piece together. I loved Day's vivid scenes and searing commentary on sexism and class politics. I wrote more extensively about it here.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstoree by Matthew J. Sullivan
I'm not usually a big mystery fan, but I'd been hearing about this one a lot and it was on the lucky day shelf at the library. I'm glad I picked it up, it was a perfectly quick October whodunit. It was smart with well fleshed out characters and great atmospheric writing. Sullivan had me guessing until the last, and it was a pretty big shocker that also made perfect sense - which I feel is lacking in a number of contemporary thrillers/mysteries. It is also a little more maudlin than the title and cover lets on, FYI.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
This was my Newberry pick for the month and it was a sweet and touching story of a girl trying to find her 'higher power' in the aftermath of her mother's death, while being raised by her father's ex wife. It reminded me a lot of the themes from Flora and Ulysses, as well as the eclectic characters and the 'magical thinking' of children. It's a little on the morose side and the atmosphere that Patron conjures up is so evocative of Lucky's desolation, literally (set in the Mojave desert) and figuratively, yet also her optimism. 

I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's monthly quick lit - be sure to check out all the great book recs!