6.28.2018

Summer Bucket List 2018

We've been pretty busy this first week of summer break, already putting a dent in our annual summer bucket list! We've hit up the pool, the Y for some indoor games and rock climbing and a trip to a local farm/amusement park. And even though the list only varies slightly from year to year, I thoroughly enjoy writing it all down and aspiring to check off as many items as we can in between the inordinate amount of time we spend at the beach or pool. Without further ado:
Blueberry picking (The photo above was from some raspberry picking we did this week, but we'll be back at it when the blueberries are in season soon!)
Mini Golf
Go to the Movies
Bowling 
Point Defiance Zoo (We're Woodland Park Zoo members and love it, but every summer we take a trip to Point Defiance as it's MY FAVORITE.)
Visit Paradise at Mount Rainier (We bought a national park pass when we did our summer road trip last year and are headed back to Crystal Mountain this summer! I'm hoping we can do a separate trip to the Paradise entrance to Rainier and get the most bang for our buck.)
Hike Big Four Ice Caves trail and Wallace Falls 
Go to an Outdoor Concert 
Annual Car Show
Art Project (I bought origami papers from Michael's before school got out, so I'm hoping to do a little origami. Perhaps a tie dye party if I'm feeling brave...)
New to us Museum (The kids have been to a few on field trips that my husband and I have yet to visit, so I'd love to finally see MOHAI, MoPOP or the Museum of Flight.)
Deep Clean/Purge and Rearrange Kid's Rooms (Not necessarily a fun task, but while we have the time...)
Complete Library Summer Reading Challenge and Read Harry Potter Books (My eight year old is ready for The Prisoner of Azkaban and my eleven year old is on to The Order of the Phoenix. I'll likely read with the younger, and this might be the first year that my older will read on his own. Although, I might butt in and read to him or have him read to me from time to time, because I enjoy the experience so much!)
Visit Wild Waves (This has never really been on my list because uggghhh, CHAOTIC water parks are not high on my list. However, we get free tickets doing the summer reading challenge, so... Also, I'm pretty pumped to have my own adult challenge sheet!)
Yoga Breaks (My daughter loved her after school yoga class, and she's been doing some Cosmic Kids Yoga on her own. I'm thinking I might get my older guy on board with the Minecraft or Star Wars yoga sessions...)
Have Each Kiddo Pick a Meal to Make for the Family (This will be with our help, of course - and I'm referencing this helpful post from Shutterbean.) 
Theo Chocolate Tour (This has been on my list for awhile, as I've never been and both kids are old enough now!)
Redmond Night Bazaar (I'm usually dead tired by nighttime in the summer, after long days in the sun at the beach or pool, but this sounds so fun.)
Ferry to Bainbridge (Like the aforementioned museums, we have shamefully never visited Bainbridge! Perhaps something to remedy this summer.)
Try a New Cocktail Recipe (I'm already eyeballing this one using the fresh raspberries we just picked...)
Try a New Restaurant for Dinner (Lots of new restaurants have opened in our neck of the woods on the Eastside of Seattle and the bucket list is a perfect impetus to check them out!)

Do you have a summer bucket list? Any suggestions or feedback? Happy summer y'all!


6.22.2018

Healthyish by Lindsay Maitland Hunt (A new favorite cookbook, and recent eats!)

If I make at least one recipe from a cookbook, I consider it a success. So far I've made two dinners and one breakfast from Healthyish and we're still going strong. First up, remember those Trader Joe's Bahn Mi Bowls that I'm addicted to? Well Hunt has a DELICIOUS Bahn Mi dinner recipe!
We used ground chicken in the recipe for Bahn Mi Rice Bowls with Spicy Pork and Sriracha Mayo and it turned out fantastic. Also, I'm not a huge fan of cucumber, so I subbed half with julienned red pepper. Definitely going into regular rotation.
The Brown Rice and Adzuki Bean Bowl was also a success, and I subbed tofu for the beans. I love both of these recipes for the summer because the veggies are no-cook and I always use Trader Joe's microwaveable brown rice, not the stovetop.
Lastly, I tried the 'Why Didn't I Think of That' breakfast bowl with brown rice, almond milk, diced apple, peanut butter, honey and a sprinkling of hemp hearts. 
The flavors are super tasty, but my brain is confused about my savory dinner staple in my breakfast, so I may try the combo with another grain like bulgur.
My dependence on the Trader Joe's microwaveable brown rice factored heavily in our menu planning with this book. It just makes the weekday crazy so much easier! I do plan to try a few more recipes, for sure.
We also tried Pinch of Yum's Summer Chipotle Chicken Cobb Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette last month and subbed cherry tomatoes for the strawberries. 
I'd definitely recommend!
And lastly, I had a Starbucks reward to try one of their new Mercato lunch items for 50% off and the Za'atar Chicken Salad was SO GOOD!
There was so much going on in this salad (grains, tzatziki, cauliflower, golden raisins) and it all comes together really well, and I love a tahini dressing. It's a little pricey for Starbucks, around $10, but it's comparable to something I'd get at a sit down restaurant. At the very least it'll be well worth a free reward redemption!

6.12.2018

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (NetGalley Review)

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Publisher: SJP for Hogharth Books (the new Sarah Jessica Parker imprint) June 12, 2018 
Description from the publisher:
As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made. There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride. What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best? 
A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla’s own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children—each in their own way—tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home. 

Family sagas are definitely my jam, and this novel was no exception. I enjoyed the structure of the book, working backwards from the arrival of estranged son Amar at the daughter Hadia's wedding. Immediately we know that something is amiss and are not given the answers as Mirza quickly brings us back in time to the beginnings of their family, their parents marriage, and examines the childhood of the three siblings. I felt invested in the characters right away, as they struggled with universal experiences of childhood - most notably: first love. Learning about different cultures also makes a novel compelling for me, especially in the ways it affects the family dynamic. There is a lot to unpack about gender roles, religion, habit and individuality. 

"Maybe it was the exceptions that we made for one another that brought God more pride than we we stood firm, maybe His heart opened when His creations opened their hearts to one another..."

The second part of the book brings us back to the wedding when all of the family secrets come out and it plays out in excruciatingly dramatic fashion. I turned the pages furiously, hoping the characters I had become invested in had some closure or perchance a happy ending or two. 

"And remember that any time you point your finger to accuse someone, there are three fingers beneath it, curled to point right back at you."

In the last section, we are given the Rafiq's, the father's, story as he reflects on the entire history of his family from his devastating point of view.  Mirza's writing is simple and beautiful, evocative of first loves, unrequited love, familial and, in the end, excruciating parental love. If you enjoyed Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, I would HIGHLY recommend this book. There are so many similarities, and the common thread of a minority family struggling with the love they have for each other, their culture, and trying to do right by one another. Sometimes their actions end in happiness, and other times it ends in tragedy, as in life.
Many thanks to Hogharth books and NetGalley for the free advance digital copy for my review!

6.05.2018

Books I Read in May


Lots of books this month! I listened to more than half of Educated back in April, and I chose a number of slim novels just over 200 or so pages - Whiskey and Ribbons, The Gunners and Piecing Me Together.

What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine
You can read my review HERE!

The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
I was so glad to have a seasonal reason to read another Inspector Gamache novel! The latest crime in Three Pines involves a woman that dies during a seance the over the Easter holidays. The way Penny delves into the human psyche in this one was really compelling, especially with the idea of the 'near enemy.' That there are emotions that look the same but are in fact opposites, one healthy, the other twisted. The 'enemy' being attachment masquerading as love; pity as compassion; and indifference as equanimity. Another great mystery executed brilliantly with multiple plot lines that mirrored each other and gave the story depth. I just discovered that the next book, A Rule Against Murder, is set in the summer! Might have to queue another one up soon...

Educated by Tara Westover
I'm certainly not the first person to make the observation that this was SO similar to The Glass Castle (which I read last June). And my thoughts are also very similar! I was blown away by Tara's story of overcoming her abusive, neglectful upbringing to achieve educational success that is hard to attain no matter how well we are raised. Like Wall's memoir, I wish that it was heavier on the time she spent AFTER leaving her family behind. Although, the details of her upbringing were appallingly fascinating. The amount of viscerally uncomfortable scenes of accidents and injuries that happened to her family, who reject modern medicine, were many. I felt as if she meandered a bit, recalling all these childhood 'stranger than fiction' accounts. But her observations by the end of the book were searing: about gaslighting, what we know to be true, what is history and who writes it? There's a line there at the end, when she acknowledges that SHE writes history that made me tear up. It's a powerful read. Also, in general, it's another work that gives some pretty solid evidence that misogyny is the root of all evil.

The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
This was basically The Big Chill in book form, but with grittier characters that had absent, neglectful parents growing up. When the adults reconvene for the funeral of their childhood friend, each has a secret about his or her relationship with the deceased and why they think she left their tight circle as a teen. I was drawn in, I found myself curious about all. the. secrets. And the characters are memorable and unique, but just didn't feel real to me for some reason. Maybe it's because I don't have a similar group of friends, mine are... different to say the least. Overall, I was impressed at how much Kauffman was able to convey in just over 200 pages. If you're looking for something short, with some heft, I would recommend The Gunners. 

Piecing Me Together by RenĂ©e  Watson
If The Hate You Give is a blinding light that we all are drawn in by (which you should be, it's a must read), then this novel is like a soft glow that is equally compelling with many similar themes delivered in a more nuanced way. Both are the stories of a young black girl who goes across town to a private school of mostly white kids (see also: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian). In this case there's not a jarring death of a young black man to propel the story, but rather the type of 'death by a thousand cuts' or micro aggressions that comprise the life a black person. Which is just as compelling, and perhaps more important to read these stories. I also was glad that it addressed the plight of black women and girls specifically. A friend on Instagram said that her kiddo's high school was giving families THUG for summer reading, which is AWESOME, and I would strongly suggest adding this one to the pile.

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
Yes, I am late to the party on this one. I have found that memoirs read by the author are to my taste in audiobooks, I downloaded this one from the library on Sarah's recommendation as part of her Mother's Day roundup. It is definitely one of those 'right book at the right time' and I can't imagine reading this before becoming a mother. This memoir of Kelly's experience nannying for a widow, while on her post college trip to Australia hit me on many levels: as a mom, as a GenX-er, and, like her small charge Mille, someone who lost a parent at seven years of age. Not that I wouldn't recommend this for anyone that doesn't fit into these categories: Corrigan gives such amazing insight to anyone who has a mother or mother figure in their lives. LOVED.  "And it occurs to me that maybe the reason my mom was so exhausted all the time wasn't because she was doing so much, but because she was feeling so much."

Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith
This was a slow burn of a novel that examines the relationship between two people after the most important person in their lives is killed in the line of duty. The trajectory of how Eamon's brother Dalton and his wife Evangeline will move forward after his death seems pretty evident from the get go. There are some family secrets uncovered, but I also felt as if these were evident to the reader and the tension came from wondering how the characters would learn the truth and deal with the fallout. It's a lovely and melancholy examination of love and loss. "Brian was with Eamon when he took his last breaths, so I think some of Eamon is with Brian still. Maybe some of his breath got inside of him and Brain carries that around and that's why we're quiet so often when we're together or when we're on the phone. So we can hear Eamon."

Still Me by Jojo Moyes
After reading a melancholy and introspective book, I really wanted something I could smile about and just devour. Fate brought me back to Moyes when I saw Still Me sitting on the Lucky Day shelf at the library, and oh, how I missed Louisa Clark! I loved this so much, getting reacquainted with this singular character and her family, as well as another fabulously unique and lovable supporting cast. I actually thought After You was enjoyable, even though I felt that it hardly had the same indelible feel and heft as Me Before You. Now that expectations for a reboot have subsided, I think Still Me is able to shine on the merits of Moyes' ability to make her audiences laugh, cry and swoon. RECOMMEND.