Monday, October 20

bibliophile [casual vacancy]

I'm NOT just saying I like this because it's J.K. Rowling. But that probably doesn't hurt.

The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling

Damn she's a good writer. I wasn't worried, but I'm still pleased that I dig JKR even when she's not writing about Hogwarts. Blurb:

A big novel about a small town...
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

Even though it's not HP, there are some similarities: big discussion/focus on class divide, wonderful character description and development, and truly creating a world. Ok, so this one isn't magical,  but you truly get to know this small town. It's not happy-go-lucky, certainly, but it inspired some interesting reflection on the cruelties of life and how they transform us, and those around us. Since I enjoy her writing and her character development, I didn't mind the slower pace for the first 70% of the novel; she's really laying the scene and drawing you in, but some critics found it boring. All the action happens when characters collide in the last quarter of the book. I thought it was a thrilling end, with car-crash like commotion and destruction.

Give it a read! I have the Cuckoo's Calling on my list next, her pen-name novel (like we don't all know it's her...)

Friday, October 17

link it up


Spent every night this week researching Asheville (and conferring with my Southern friends y'all) and think we have the BEST trip planned. Dinner res at Chestnut tonight and The Admiral tomorrow, long hikes in the morning to work up our appetite for Biscuit Heads, a brewery list a mile long (plus a distillery tour if we wanna get saucy), and bopping around downtown for chocolate, cheese, coffee, and cocktails, our holy 4 C's. Of COURSE a visit to Biltmore Estates, the largest private residence in the US. That's royalty up there and I can't wait to see it....and the 5 antique shops located within a mile. If you have any further ideas for me, do share. Photos to come.

I use Yelp on occasion when looking for a new restaurant in one of my work regions, and I've witnessed some pretty silly, and in my opinion, irrelevant reviews. This Kansas City restaurant fired off a most sassy reply to a one star review. I always love when both sides get in the mud.

How cool is this: Scoopshoot will help connect you and your amazing instagrams to companies that want to purchase your work. Basically, it's a crowd-sourced stock photo website. Sell your snaps for a mutually agreed upon price, usually $5-$50, to news outlets, big brands, anyone that's buying. You can just snap away as normal or you can post specifically to "tasks" they have assigned- a recent request for pictures of boats, kayaks, canoes, yachts, and ships received 2,500 submissions. If you're taking the picture anyway, might as well make a buck.

Ok, I don't have a link for this one, but Pinterest taught me something amazing this week. Remember all that spiralize info I shared with y'all this week? Well, if you want rice-like texture from your veggies instead of pasta-like texture, try this: spiralize a sweet potato, than pulse the noodles in a food processor until they are a crumb-like consistency. VEGGIE RICE FOREVER. Also works with squash, carrots, PLANTAINSohyum, and other harder produce. I'm going to make my mom's stuffed bell peppers recipe using this idea!

Go get some free art! D will be jealous, he wants to print this one. Don't forget that you can print architecture prints (sometimes called engineering prints) for a few bucks at FedEx. Costco also does large scale. Keep in mind it's only black and white and won't be crystal clear, but that sounds ideal to me.

Is this the cutest fall dress there ever was? Yes.

Wednesday, October 15

discover [hotel tonight]

No posts yet this week? For shame! Instead of blogging, I decided to spend yesterday evening doing hours (and hours...I self-identified as a maximizer over a year ago) doing research for a last minute weekend escape. And why am I able to embark on an unplanned, spontaneous vacation while staying within my budget?

Hotel Tonight.

I'm not sure who shared this with me, but considering how much I travel, my helpful friends are often sending me hotel or flight related hacks. And this is one of the best. 

Hotel Tonight allows you to book hotels for the current evening, or up to 7 days out, at discounted rates. Pretty standard, right? I guess, but they do it the BEST. The app is incredibly user friendly and functional: they sort the hotels and label them with one of a handful of descriptors from Basic (clean but no frills) to Charming (B&B's! old homes!) to Luxe (hubba hubba), and you can book in just 3 clicks. Ultimately I care about price,and these are the rock-bottom lowest you're going to find.

The best deals (I've done a LOT of monitoring, but this is just anecdotal) are always available for same-day reservations. Which makes sense- when it's 6pm, I'm sure hotels assume those rooms are going unused, and they're willing to fill them at low rates. I was stranded in Chicago last month and found 5-star hotels offering $139 10pm at night. Talk about late check-in. D and I decided that Asheville is too good of a getaway to leave to chance, so we decided to book a few days out- which gives me time to pick which breweries and pubs we'll be visiting in "Beer City USA" (definitely this one, and this one). 

It's funny, one of their taglines is "plan less, live more". That is SO not me- if I don't plan it, is it even worth living?!- but Hotel Tonight actually encourages me to pull the trigger and get out the door because I'm confident they truly are the best system with the lowest prices out there.

So check it out! My invite code is MGIBBONS34 to get $25 off your first booking (and the same for me, too).

Thursday, October 9

cheap eats [zoodles]

Ahh zoodles. So many opportunities from such a simple process.

I made me and my sister this Mexican-ish meal in just a few quick minutes. I mixed a can of black beans, a can of corn, and a can of diced green chilies and tossed it with one big spiralized zucchini. Topped it off with mango and avocado and some baked plantains and we were both stuffed. So much better than tossing it all on white rice my friends.

I made the salad below using a spalsh of balsamic vinegar and olive oil as dressing, then added red onion, basil, and mint, and topped it off with grilled peaches and goat cheese. Basically any salad recipe is going to work here.

Zucchini are, of course, not the only thing you can cut up with this bad boy. I have done sweet potato spirals, which I then baked (half the pan with old bay, half the pan with cinnamon). I've done carrots a few times, but they're a little tougher because they're thin- with this spiralizer, you lose a 1/4 inch core down the middle of your veggie, which can be significant if your produce is thin to begin with. I always eat the middle, so it's not a waste, but it's also not cute ribbons. ANYWAY, you could make this asian peanut salad I did last year with a peeler muchhhh easier. I've also done my mom's cucumber and onion salad- cukes in ribbons, onions in spirals. It came out great and took about 2 minutes. Cray.

Next on my recipe list: some hot recipes. I like the consistency of these zoodles, so I would probably just warm them up, but you can also blanch them (drop into boiling water for one minute, then dunk in cold water to stop the cooking) in order to soften them a bit. I'm thinking a lemony, garlicky, wine-y shrimp dish would be good, and a red pepper and spinach dish is high on my list. I'll report back!

Tuesday, October 7

discover [spiralizer]

I almost feel bad about not having shared this with you earlier. Let me make it up to you by sharing it with you now.

Introducing: the spiralizer.

I bought this one when the price was $32- now it's $36, but lemme tell ya, it's still worth it.

It allows you to replace a starchy base with a raw vegetable base in a more creative way than a bed of lettuce. It takes me less time to spiralize a zucchini (or carrot, or apple, or onion) than it does to chop and wash a head of romaine, and DEFINITELY less time than it takes to boil pasta or make rice.

"Zoodles" (zucchini noodles) are the most popular way to use this tool- just type that into Pinterest and prepare to be inundated with zoodle recipes galore. Just about any fruit or vegetable can go through a spiralizer, but it needs to be sturdy enough to not just mush up- so, berries and tomatoes are out. You can spiralize a sweet potato or a rutabaga and make a breakfast hash, or better yet some baked french fries. It chops cabbage, it slices onions, it makes uniform thin cuts of an apple, it's just wonderful.

Seriously, AFTER MY VITAMIX DUH, this is one of the best kitchen gadgets I own, and one of the most frequently used, too. I'm going to share a few recipe favorites this week, so stay tuned!

Monday, October 6

link it up

Monday link up because I had my little sister in town since last Thursday. Why would you spend time blogging when you can spend time with family? I swear she brought a New England cold front with her, but it was lovely weather for walking and talking and making applesauce and enjoying the fall. All that's missing is the autumn color palate, but I'm sure we'll get that soon enough.

So, I've already read the book recommendation I got after taking this quiz, but it was a very good match to what I was in the mood for. Find out what you should read next. (If you're curious, Here's my review of the book I was given.)

The National Forest Service wants you to purchase a permit before you snap any selfies in front of their mountain. They've clarified their stance a bit to limit such restrictions to commercial photographers, but as the line between amateur and professional is increasingly blurred, it's a tough subject. Thoughts? I think this would make for good dinner conversation.

Cool stuff for those of us who love design AND beer (I'm thinking of you, E).

Root beer float cocktail, with no root beer and no ice cream. We're SO adult.

Thursday, October 2

bibliophile [open city]

Despite how much I've been missing city living lately, this city did NOT satisfy.

Open City, Teju Cole

This was named a best book on more than 20 end-of-the-year lists. But not on mine. Blurb before I start complaining:

A haunting novel about identity, dislocation, and history, Teju Cole’s Open City is a profound work by an important new author who has much to say about our country and our world.
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor named Julius wanders, reflecting on his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past. He encounters people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey—which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.

Any author who is listed as "important" is always suspicious to me. Are they important or are their books good? Not always the same thing. I can only assume critics are referring to the writing style and narration, which I did like- the book is just you being in the main character's head. Total stream-of-consciousness. The story itself bored me, and I was trying to like it, trying to get pulled in, because I had heard it was "important". Also, you HAVE to already have guessed that 'Murica sucks for this immigrant. I don't mind that story line, as it's very true for plenty of people, but sometimes when people were rude to him, he had been rude first, making it a justifiable human reaction that has nothing to do with his immigrant status. This came up quite a bit, where he lost my sympathy before engaging with negative stereotyping or prejudices. 

For me, the best thing about this novel is that it reminded me of my dear friend, merMAN, who likes to wonder cities, is very independent, is deeply reflective and has a bad habit of falling in love with girls on the metro.

Tuesday, September 30

pinned [industrial windows]

Light is one of the most important things to me in my home- artificial, natural, you name it I care about it. In fact, it might be the thing of greatest importance to me, if I had to pick just one element of interior design to prioritize. Just ask D- my collection of lamps is slightly absurd.

Natural light is trickier, because of course you can't just head to the store and purchase some. The bones of your home are often unalterable, especially if you're a renter, which i will probably be until 2035 (ugh).

But just because you can't have it doesn't mean you can't dream about it, yes? My absolute favorite type of window is the large industrial-looking panes, floor to ceiling if you can get it. Here are a few images that I think get it just perfect. The last one is the best, although the rest of the decor is a bit modern for my taste.

the most beautiful of work spaces
both floors of the home can enjoy the natural light from these stunners
totally doable- an interior screen like this is could be added anywhere
a beautiful loft
looks like a thoughtful addition rather than part of the original home
via          CAN YOU IMAGINE!

Monday, September 29

link it up

I was in Chicago the end of last week and got stranded an extra day because of a fire. So, link up comin' your way today instead. 

If you too need to kill time on the North Shore of Chitown, go check out the Ba'hai temple- there are only 8 in the world, and this one is stunning. I know one person who practices their faith, and find it fascinating- the three main tenants are unity of God (just one fella), unity of religions (there are many paths up the mountain, but they're all pursuing the same thing) and unity of humanity (we are all equal, regardless of race, culture, gender, sexual preference, etc).

How to reheat pizza at home. Spot on.

When D and I want to pick a Netflix movie, it takes me 40 minutes of going back and forth between our queue and Rotten Tomatoes, trying to sort through the masses. Check out A Better Queue to bring the two seamlessly together.

In need of a classic camel blazer? Tried this on over the weekend and can't wait to buy it.

Why I hope to die at 75. I think my dad would agree with this dude. I mean, maybe if you're already 70, but I think as preventative care improves, not to mention smarter health choices being made since childhood, 95 is the new 75.

Thursday, September 25

bibliophile [the interestings]

An interesting read indeed.

The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer

You've probably seen this notable cover around. It got a LOT of hype when it came out, which means there are as many naysayers as there are huge fans. To give you the gist, I'm going to start us off with the blurb before I elaborate:

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken. Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.

I enjoyed this book for sure. So we gather from the summary that this novel focuses on talent, success, friendship, and love. Friendship and love you can find by the bucketful in any novel, but the value in The Interestings for me was really it's study of talent and success. D and I, along with most of our peers, are at an age where we think long and hard about how we would define a successful life, so this book seemed well-timed to my own experience and also a bit of a warning (spoiler alert: not all of the characters have the "right idea" when it comes to the value one places on monetary and emotional success). The characters, however flawed, were so well portrayed off the bat that I didn't mind so much that they saw relatively little development or personal growth over the 40 years we follow them. I mean seriously. The personality flaws of these 15 year olds are the same flaws at 50, but it was still compelling to see them play out.

I've heard mixed reviews, but I enjoyed this one, and I'm comfortable recommending it.