1. 2017 books part 2

    December 31, 2017 by Angie

    I reviewed the first half of 2017’s books earlier here. I’m not counting cookbooks, pattern books, and similar things here, although I read quite a few and reviewed them on Goodreads. Last year I read 27 books which was more than I’d read any other year since I started keeping count in 2007. This year I broke that record with 32 books read. I know a lot of people who regularly read a lot more than that every year but it’s a lot for me so I’m happy about it. 2018’s goal is 35 books!!!

    My favorite: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

    Five star winners: Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout; Sisters by Lily Tuck; Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond; The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey; Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

    My least favorite: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

    The longest: Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory at 556 pages

    The oldest: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman published in 1892

    Nonfiction: 7

    Fiction: 25

    Here is the second half of the list in the order I read them. I’ve included reviews for some and ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 stars for all. The book club I was in disbanded but we’ve started one at my library and I’m attending a class for work that involves reading a book then meeting to discuss it and watching the film adaptation. This is keeping me busy with reading plus I’m still getting a lot of great books from NetGalley.

    16. The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie – 3 stars

    17. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – NetGalley – 4 stars

    I loved Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You, and I loved Little Fires Everywhere almost as much. The novel is a domestic drama set in the wealthy, planned community of Shaker Heights. Ng explores the lives of two families. One is “perfect” with a beautiful home and four all-star children and the other consists of a nomadic, somewhat mysterious artist and her 15 year old daughter. The families, and especially the two mothers, represent two ways of living life: planned and by the book and winging it based on feelings while chasing experiences and meaning. The end kept me from giving this book five stars. The novel opens with a tragic event and then backtracks showing us how that event came to be. The end and the reasons for it were not predictable until quite far into the book, but once it became obvious, due to an almost insulting amount of foreshadowing, I was let down a bit. Overall, it’s a great novel deserving of the buzz it’s getting it. Celeste Ng is a do not miss author for me.

    18. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – NetGalley – 3 stars

    I raced to the end, reading the book in one day, which I never manage to do. There is a lot I really liked about this book, but the last fifth or so of the book disappointed me. The characters I came to care about exhibited choices and behavior that I feel are very much out of character. There were, in my interpretation at least, some disturbing values portrayed in the end too. Jones’ writing is often stunning and the dialogue is believable. I have to give her credit for getting the Louisiana speak right (making groceries, fixing a plate) – lots of books, TV shows, and movies fail miserably at their attempt at Louisiana settings and characters, but not Jones.

    19. The Visitors by Catherine Burns – NetGalley – 3 stars

    The Visitors is rather unputdownable. I expected it would be more of a thriller, based on the blurb, but it was a creepy character study instead. Nothing particularly scary happens, but the entire novel inspired a heeby jeeby feeling in me.

    It’s about an older woman, Marion, who lives in her childhood home in England with her brother, John. From the blurb, we already know that he is keeping sex slaves in the cellar and she is, at least somewhat, complicit because how could she not notice that there are women in her cellar? The story is told by Marion as she goes back and forth between the present day and memories from her childhood. There is also an epistolary component. Surprisingly, the women in the cellar are not the focus of the novel. Rather, it’s mostly about Marion, her childhood, and her family and how she came to be the sad, lonely freak she is at the opening of the story.

    20. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild – 4 stars

    21. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – 4 stars

    I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I know people have problems with Ta-Nehisi Coates and his views/politics but I really don’t. I think the book is worth reading/listening to.

    22. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman – books to films book club – 3 stars

    I heard a lot of great things about this book but I thought it was just okay. It was formulaic and I wasn’t as moved by the protagonist as I should have been.

    23. The Night Child by Anna Quinn – NetGalley – 3 stars

    I rushed through this short novel in one day. I enjoyed it while I was reading it and was interested in reaching the end. Anna Quinn’s writing is great. I think there are several aspects that were not explored fully and the book suffered for it. I would like to understand what Nora’s mother and the rest of her family knew and how they coped with what they knew. I think it’s completely insane that several characters in the book knew children were in danger and did nothing to help them, including Nora herself. That doesn’t feel realistic to me. I don’t feel like I knew John, Nora’s boss, very well and he appears that he will play a major role in her life going forward. Other than those issues, it is a solid debut novel which I enjoyed reading.

    24. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – book club – 2 stars

    I really did not want to read this book, but it was the book club choice at work. I listened to the audiobook for the most part which was a terrible idea. The reading of this book was just plain awful and made me hate the book even more. I feel like The Girl on the Train was a less good Gone Girl and The Woman in Cabin 10 was a less good The Girl on the Train.

    25. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – NetGalley – 3 stars

    I was really, really loving this book until about 70% through. Around that point there started to be too much going on and too many mythical creatures. I am debating reading the second novel in the series.

    26. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – 4 stars

    I loved Homegoing. It was almost a 5 stars book for me but I had some issues with the ending. I feel that it is very improbable that the people at the end would have happened to meet and I didn’t understand why they became close enough to travel to another country together. Until that point though, I thought it was perfect. I love family stories that span generations. I really like that each chapter almost functions as a short story because the characters and point of view change with each chapter.

    27. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay – 3 stars

    28. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines – 4 stars

    29. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – 4 stars

    30. A Simple Plan by Scott D. Smith – books to films book club – 4 stars

    I saw this movie in the theater and really enjoyed it. That was a long time ago so I’d mostly forgotten the story. I don’t usually read this kind of book – it’s a bit of a thriller – but I really liked it. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse for the main character and his wife, something else happened. I like that it is a thriller with conscience. It has action but it’s more about the contemplative aspect of how can I do these things I know are wrong and yet continue to by myself, a regular person?

    31. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward – 5 stars

    This is in the running for my favorite book I read this year. I am still giving favorite book read in 2017 to The Snow Child because I felt there were times when the writing of the internal thoughts/narration in Sing, Unburied, Sing did not match the speech of the narrators. It didn’t happen all the time but when it did it bothered me. Other than that, the book is perfect in my opinion and very deserving of the National Book Award.

    32. Wine All the Time: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking by Marissa A. Ross – 2 stars

    I might have learned something but it wasn’t worth all of the awful writing and anecdotes I had to wade through to get to that information.

    angeleen’s bookshelf: read

     


    goodreads.com


  2. Birmingham, AL

    December 30, 2017 by Angie

    Hurricane Irma, oh my god. What a jerk. It messed up our house and took years off of our lives. We evacuated to Birmingham, AL in early September because we were told a Category 5 hurricane was definitely coming to wipe our house off the map. In good news, Birmingham turns out to be a pretty cool place. We tried our very hardest to make the best of our evacuation trip while compulsively checking the storm track.

    Somewhere in Georgia
    Somewhere in Georgia

    Cuthbert, GA

    Somewhere else in Georgia

    Robbie drove us for many hours with Sookie in the backseat. She was a good girl except for the time she tried to fight a bellhop.

    We stayed at the only dog-friendly hotel we could find with a room left, the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel. The people who work there were very good to us, but it wasn’t the best location and getting to the car in the parking garage or outside to walk Sookie from the hotel room was an ordeal.

    Sheraton Birmingham Hotel

    Food We Ate

    We had breakfast at the Harvest Restaurant and Bar in the Redmont Hotel nearby. It was a very pleasant, quiet, calm breakfast.

    Omelet, a soy latte, and the best potatoes

    You know we won’t pass up a chance to eat at Mellow Mushroom. My parents and Sookie came too. It was a really good Mellow Mushroom and we would know because we’ve been to them all over the country.

    Mellow Mushroom drinks

    Mellow Mushroom drinks

    Outdoor seating at Mellow Mushroom
    We sat outside on the front patio.

    We had fantastic vegan hot dogs at Hot Diggity Dog.

    Hot Diggity Dog Tots and a veggie dog
    And tots!

    Time is a flat circle
    Time is a flat circle.

    Urban Standard is a coffee/breakfast place where I got a very fine soy latte and grits. Robbie didn’t love his tofu scramble thing and none of the food was photogenic. The place itself is cute, however.

    We got takeout from New China Town and it was everything I wanted it to be. Vegetable dumplings, fried rice, and General Tso’s tofu!

    Closeup of our foul, hotel living and amazing, fried tofu.


    New China Town

    Drinks We Drank

    We loved Paramount Bar, a video game bar with great drinks.

    We had some impressive drinks at the The Atomic Lounge.

    I love the Angela Davis Room

    This bar has the same aesthetic as Fiona Apple’s Criminal video, but a lot more #woke.

    We had such great fries at the adorable Carrigan’s Public House!

    The outside is so cute

    Robbie at the bar

    Places We Went

    We took Sookie for a walk around Railroad Park.

    Railroad Park

    Railroad Park

    Railroad Park

    Robbie and Sookie at Railroad Park

    Railroad Park

    Robbie did some out-of-state beer shopping at Hop City.

    Hop City

    I had to check out the Birmingham Public Library. The central library was very close to our hotel.

    The Atwood/Austen section

    We walked through Red Mountain Park with my parents and Sookie. The park wasn’t done in the way I am used to, spoiled as I am by Florida state parks. It was pretty though and I’m glad we went and did not in fact get lost (although we almost did) or fall down a big hill (which 3 out of 5 of us came very close to doing).


  3. Instant Pot black bean soup

    December 30, 2017 by Angie

    Robbie got me an Instant Pot for Christmas! So far I’ve made rice using the rice cooker function and this black bean soup. I’m stoked to make a million more things.

    I mostly followed this recipe from A Pinch of Healthy for my first real foray into Instant Pot cooking. I am really impressed that I didn’t have to soak the black beans. The black beans went from dried beans in a bag to soup in an hour and twenty minutes.

    I added minced garlic, garlic powder, and white wine. I ran out of chili powder so I ended up with a little less than a tablespoon instead of two tablespoons. I also took about half of the solid stuff out with a big ladle when it was finished cooking and pureed the rest of the soup inside the Instant Pot with my immersion blender. Then I added the rest of the solid stuff back in, stirred, and added white wine, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. The avocado I bought wasn’t ripe so we added a little shredded Mexican cheese on top of each serving and ate the soup with toast.


  4. garlic & white wine pasta with Brussels sprouts

    October 28, 2017 by Angie

    I made this a few weeks back and am finally getting around to sharing it now. I couldn’t let myself forget to post about this because it was really special and delicious and unlike any recipe I’ve made before.

    It’s pasta with baked Brussels sprouts and a really rich, vegan, Alfredo-esque sauce.

    I followed this recipe from the blog Minimalist Baker.

    It’s really two recipes because it calls for vegan “Parmesan” as an ingredient for the sauce and to sprinkle on top.

    Vegan “Parmesan” is cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and salt.

    The sauce is Earth Balance (vegan margarine), white wine, garlic, soy milk, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, vegan “Parmesan”, and salt and pepper. I didn’t need to blend it in order to get it to a smooth consistency. I do think I used too much cornstarch and will reduce that in the future.

    Picky, red-sauce-fanatic Robbie loved this pasta!


  5. curried potato and lentil soup

    September 17, 2017 by Angie

    It’s mid-September and in the nineties outside. Who cares though. I’m not going to miss out on Fall. This recipe is very Fall because it’s hearty, it’s soup, and it has carrots which is a Fall ingredient to me.

    I recently discovered the blog Minimalist Baker and picked out several recipes I’m very excited to try. This is the first. The best thing about this recipe is it is delicious. The second best thing is you only need one pot to make it. I barely changed this recipe but I am writing out the ingredients because I’ve learned the hard way that online recipes are not forever and I don’t want to lose this one. The changes I made are: I used vegetable oil and less of it; I used brown lentils instead of green because that’s all I can ever find at Publix; I skipped the sugar; and I substituted arugula instead of kale because I am not good at kale.

    Barely modified from Minimalist Baker.

    Serves four.

    curried potato and lentil soup

    Ingredients

    2 tsps vegetable oil
    1 small yellow onion, diced
    1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
    2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    2 tbsp minced garlic
    1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
    1 large potato, chopped
    1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
    6 cups vegetable broth
    1 cup brown lentils, washed and picked over
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    A lot of fresh arugula, washed (about 2 oz)

    Instructions

    1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large stockpot. Add the onion, ginger, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes
    2. Add in the sweet potato, potato, and curry powder. Stir.
    3. Add in 5 cups of vegetable broth and the lentils. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
    4. Bring to a boil then lower to medium heat. Cook for 35 minutes.
    5. Check that the potatoes and lentils are cooked and soft. I opted to add another cup of broth and more salt and pepper at this point. Taste your soup and adjust as needed.
    6. Stir in the argula. I had a 5 oz container of washed arugula and used about half of it.
    7.  Serve and enjoy. Toast would be nice with this.

    two bowls of soup

    Robbie was very impressed. This is a keeper and will be added to the homemade soup arsenal.


  6. vegan chocolate chocolate chip muffins

    August 31, 2017 by Angie

    I am not a chocoholic. I prefer really good bread or a sugar cookie over chocolate cake and I would never even consider eating chocolate ice cream. But then these muffins came into my life. Chocolate with chocolate inside and chocolate on top. Send me to chocolate rehab because I am chocolate wasted.

    Slightly adapted from this recipe by B. Britnell.

    Yield 12 muffins.

    Ingredients

    1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    heaping 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
    1 cup of powdered sugar
    1 cup soy milk
    1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    heaping 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
    heaping 1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips (I used the Enjoy Life brand.)

    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin pan with liners.
    2. You need a large bowl and a medium sized bowl. The large bowl is for the dry ingredients to which you will add the wet ingredients later.
    3. In the large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar.
    4. In the medium bowl, stir together the soy milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, and apple sauce.
    5. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until it’s just combined. This is one of those things you don’t want to overstir so break up any chunks of cocoa powder or powdered sugar before you add in the wet ingredients.
    6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
    7. Evenly distribute the batter across the twelve liners filling them up about 2/3 of the way. Top each with 4 or 5 chocolate chips.
    8. Bake for 15 minutes. Conduct the toothpick test to be sure they’re ready.
    9. You now have a dozen warm, chocolatey, chocolate muffins with chocolate chips on top. You are welcome.

    Robbie, the dessert shunner, ate three! of these babies. I brought them to work and everyone there ate two each. They’re really special. I can’t wait to make them for my parents, the true chocoholics.


  7. chocolate chip SunButter bars

    July 16, 2017 by Angie

    Game of Thrones is back tonight! This is not super relevant but is the excuse I used to try a new recipe.

    I followed Chocolate Covered Katie‘s recipe for chocolate chip peanut butter bars. I swapped in SunButter on account of anaphylaxis prophylaxis (you like that?). Turns out SunButter is really, really oily. Between that and my oven being pure shite, I had to bake the bars about twice as long before they even thought about setting. These bars have a bit of a texture problem but the taste is awesome.

    If (WHEN) I make these again I will cut the SunButter a tad and add a tiny bit more flour. I’m also interested in trying this recipe with cashew butter to see if that works out any better.


  8. 2017 books part 1 – January-July

    July 1, 2017 by Angie

    Last year I read 27 books. That was my record since I started keeping count in 2007.

    July 1 is the halfway point for 2017 so here’s a recap of what I’ve read so far this year. I’m not including cookbooks, pattern books, travel guides, and the like in this list – only real novels, short story collections, and heftier nonfiction books make the cut.

    Noteworthy stuff so far:

    My favorite: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

    Five star winners: Anything is Possible; Sisters; Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City; The Snow Child

    My least favorite: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

    The longest: Three Sisters, Three Queens at 556 pages

    The oldest: The Yellow Wallpaper, published in 1892

    Nonfiction: 3

    Fiction: 12

    Here is the list in the order I read them. I’ve included reviews for some and ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 stars for all.

    1. Information Now: A Graphic Guide to Student Research by Matt Upson – work – 3 stars

    2. Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory – 2.5 stars

    I didn’t enjoy this as much as the other books in this series. It was slow and felt repetitive. I might have learned something though.

    3. Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout – NetGalley – 5 stars

    “Anything is Possible” is a collection of interconnected, short stories related to Strout’s previous book, “My Name is Lucy Barton”. Strout is in the running for my favorite living author so I was very excited to read her latest book. I was not disappointed. Strout gives us more stories about characters we met or heard about in “My Name is Lucy Barton”. She explores small town life, poverty, family, relationships, loneliness – her usual themes that I enjoy so much. The collection is artfully written, connecting people, places, and backstories.

    4. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – 4 stars

    5. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – 4.5 stars

    Nearly perfect! I kept thinking about this book and the characters long after I finished it.

    6. All That’s Left to Tell by Daniel Lowe – NetGalley – 3 stars

    I wanted to love this book because it was recommended by Elizabeth Strout in an email I received and I love Elizabeth Strout. I enjoyed reading the novel while I was reading it, but when I reflect on the story, I’m not sure it was worth my time or that the story-within-a-story plot worked well in this case. Very little actually happens in the book. A man is kidnapped in Pakistan and spends the book talking with one of his captors, an American woman. He gives her information about his life and his recently deceased daughter. She weaves that information, along with what she found online and learned through a phone call with the kidnapped man’s mother, into a pretty weird story about the life the captive man’s deceased daughter might have had if she had not been killed a few months earlier. I’m all for a good story-within-a-story plot (a la “The Blind Assassin”), but this one fell short. Too much of the book was speculation, so the “real” parts and characters were not fleshed out. I couldn’t relate to the captive man much at all because I didn’t know him. The big reveal at the end about the captive man didn’t impact me. I cared about the story being told within the story more, but less than I would have if it had been the book itself because I knew it wasn’t “real”. I didn’t really get to know any of the characters, aside from the fictional versions of potential futures for the main character and his dead daughter. The American captor seems to weave her younger, partially fictionalized self into one of the stories as well. Then there is the bizarre sex stuff which was also mostly not “real”. The book is a bit of a mess to be honest. I gave it three stars because I liked the writing.

    7. Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance – 4 stars

    Stereotypes are bad, obviously. This book explores hillbilly culture. I didn’t feel it was stereotypical and was, in fact, helpful to me as someone who knows/is related to white people from Appalachia. I get it now. Thank you, J.D. Vance.

    8. Sisters by Lily Tuck – NetGalley – 5 stars

    “Sister” was my introduction to Lily Tuck. I loved this brief novel, which feels much more like a short story belonging in a collection. When I reached the end, I wished for another one. It reminds me of Lorrie Moore’s amazing short stories and those found in “No One Belongs Here More Than You” by Miranda July. 

    The narrator is her husband’s second wife. The focus is on what it’s like to join a family after another woman has left, but remains a part of everyone’s life (as a mother and a co-parent) except the narrator’s. She is constantly wondering about the first wife and marriage and how she and her marriage measure up.

    The novel is dark, modern, and a little funny. Tuck’s writing forces you to read between the lines, but in doing so you find a full story. Without much history, I completely understood the second wife’s feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and curiosity about the previous wife and marriage. Some of the references were over my head, but I caught the apt Manderly mention referring to “Rebecca”, a classic novel all about the first wife. This is a quick read, but don’t breeze through it or you’ll miss all the subtle, implied content. FIve stars – I’m looking forward to reading Tuck’s other works.

    9. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind – book club – 2 stars

    10. The End We Start From by Megan Hunter – NetGalley – 3 stars

    “The End We Start From” is a dystopian novella narrated by a woman who gave birth to her first child amidst a catastrophe that caused London to completely flood, displacing all of its residents. I’m a big fan of this genre so I was predetermined to enjoy this short novel. I appreciate dystopian fiction that considers the unique vulnerability of women in a world after society and law and order have broken down. Hunter adds to that the challenges of being a new mother. 

    While I enjoyed it, the book is so brief that it lacks something. The sparse writing style appears intentional and, in a way, works well with the context of disaster and isolation. There’s something about the writing and the brevity of the book that makes the story feel incomplete, however. I wanted to know more about the origins of the disaster and where the husband was and what he experienced during much of the story. It is enjoyable, unique, and worth reading, but not at the top of my list for books in the dystopian genre.

    11. The Party by Robyn Harding – NetGalley – 3 stars

    I breezed right through “The Party” racing to the end. It was an enjoyable read, but not outstanding. There are two things I can put my finger on that I did not like. The first is the description of the characters. The author describes the wealthy, tech company executive and his perfect homemaking wife and the yoga and meditation addicted mother of their daughter’s friend so clearly I could very easily call up all the stereotypes about these kinds of people and get a good feel for these characters. The stereotype part of that is concerning and I think the descriptions are very “on trend” causing them not to age well. There were too many mentions of current brands, technology, and fads utilized in painting the picture of the kinds of characters in the novel. The second thing I did not love is the ending of the novel. It felt anticlimactic. It tries to give the reader the opportunity to speculate about where the story will go after the book ends without providing enough information to create an interesting or thought-provoking cliffhanger that would leave readers wondering what specific choices the characters will make.

    12. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond – 5 stars

    The sheer amount of work, time, and research put in to this book! I’m so impressed. Also, man, can he write. “Evicted” is a thoughtful and thorough investigation of an economic and social epidemic facing our country.

    13. American War by Omar El Akkad – 3 stars

    14. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – 5 stars

    15. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – a single short story – 4 stars


  9. Montréal, QC

    May 19, 2017 by Angie

    Our sixth anniversary trip last month was to Montréal, QC. I read and heard it’s best to visit Montréal in May through October. I didn’t really believe the haters. After visiting in April, I would agree with that advice. That being said, we had a great time and there was plenty to do even though a lot of stuff is closed until May 1 or later.

    On the Border in the airport

    Getting the party started in the airport bar. Bon voyage to us.

    We stayed at the Hotel InterContinental Montréal, which is downtown. The ride from the airport was not bad and they charge a flat rate to that part of town. They let us check in early and offered free late checkout at 2:00 pm.

    We immediately went to a vegetarian restaurant called Lola Rosa. They have three locations. They gave us so much food.

    Robbie, wine, and nachos

    Robbie, wine, beer, and nachos

    NACHOS at Lola Rosa

    Nachos!

    lasagna at Lola Rosa

    Lasagna

    Veggie burger at Lola Rosa

    Robbie got an elaborate veggie burger.

    We walked to a wine bar, Pullman. It was very nice inside but Robbie didn’t like his drink and our drinks were expensive. Check out this chandelier made of glasses.

    Pullman chandelier

    Pullman washrooms

    I guessed “F”.

    After that we went to McLean’s Pub to watch hockey thinking everybody would be excited about it but nobody cared at all. No photographic evidence of that stop.

    We took an Uber to a really cool speakeasy, The Coldroom. You have to know what the door looks like because there’s no sign. You ring the bell and somebody comes to let you in. The drinks were great.

    The Coldroom

    Angie's drink at The Coldroom

    We passed by Notre-Dame all lit up on our way back to the hotel.

    Notre Dame at night

    Notre-Dame Basilica at night

    We walked around a little while in the neighborhood near the Notre-Dame Basilica. It was mildly shady and a little more than mildly touristy. The church is really worth seeing, however.

    Notre Dame

    Wow

    The altar at Notre Dame

    The Underground City is not as good as I wanted it to be but better than I expected considering Underground Atlanta is my reference. Our hotel and many (all?) subway stations are connected to it. We used it to get around a little when it was raining and I got delicious bagels from the shop right outside the InterContinental twice (bagel count: 2).

    We had lunch at the Green Panther where I had the falafel sandwich and Robbie got a BBQ tofu sandwich. I neglected to get photos but we totally recommend it.

    I like to see libraries. It was rainy and we ducked into the Grand Bibliotheque, Quebec’s national library and part of BAnQ. It is impressive and seems popular with the locals. Most of the materials are in French but they have some English stuff too.

    BAnQ

    Stories of library stuff!

    The Stranger

    I wish I could read this book in French.

    It was still rainy so we stopped at a locals’ bar, Bistro a JoJo where two Canadians were mean to us! Yes, mean Canadians! One guy said the library is where he would put his wife so he could go to the strip club. A gentleman and a scholar.

    After that we had a round at La Distillerie #1 per my brother’s recommendation. It was before 5:00 on Thursday and still raining so it was pretty quiet. The bartender made Robbie’s favorite Old Fashioned of the whole trip. She gave us free goldfish crackers. We loved this place.

    Le Distillerie

    Le Sainte-Elisabeth is one of the places that really needs to be visited during terrace season. The terrace is huge and in the photos online it’s beautiful. When we went it was closed, the vines were dead, and it was raining and about 50 degrees. I guess we need to go back to Montréal in the summer! No photos of the sad terrace, sorry.

    We visited the absinthe bar in our hotel, Sarah B., twice and ordered the cheese plate both times. It was wonderful enough to warrant coming back, I promise. We also got some really great fries on our second visit. Robbie kept ordering weird drinks I thought tasted awful, but I loved the wine I had the first time and the espresso martini the second time. Even though we went twice I managed to get no photos. You should look at their Yelp photos because it’s for sure the coolest hotel bar I’ve ever seen.

    My favorite meal of the trip was brunch at L’Avenue. I regret not taking photos of our food. We waited outside in the cold for a table so once we were seated it was all business and shoving delicious fruit, a Montréal bagel (bagel count: 3), and a very fancy omelet into my face. I’m against bathroom selfies as a rule, but check out this bathroom. The clock thing is a video. The black lights and the huge mirror were really disorienting.

    L'Avenue

    Disorienting bathroom

    There was a break in the rain so we walked around the Mile End neighborhood and then got an Uber towards McGill University and got dropped off near the entrance to the Parc du Mont Royal.

    mural

    Mural of important, dead socialist, Albert Saint-Martin

    Fairmount Bagel

    We didn’t eat the famous bagels at Fairmount Bagel, but I did eat three (bagel count: three!) Montréal bagels during our trip. Robbie was not a fan at all but I think they’re so much better than New York bagels.

    McGill University

    Aside from speaking very poor French, our big adventure was visiting Parc du Mont-Royal and walking up the “mountain” to the lookout area. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted who also designed Central Park. It’s a beautiful park, even in mid-April. You can take stairs to the top where there is a lookout area and a chalet with restrooms (washrooms, if you’re Canadian) and a gift shop.

    Park du Mont Royal

    lookout

    Robbie

    Robbie at the lookout area

    Montreal

    Montréal

    Angie

    Angie squinting in front of the skyline

    thingie

    I like this thing

    Robgeleen are serious

    Robgeleen!

    The saddest missed photo documentation opportunity was at Dieu du Ciel, a brewery/bar not far from the park. Robbie had their American style IPA, Moralité, and was so in love.

    We had a late lunch at Le Cagibi where Robbie had tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich with pesto and I had veggie nachos. For the count: that’s two nachos and three bagels.

    Le Cagibe

    We spent a long time at a swanky bar, the Sparrow. We sat at the bar and chatted with the bartender. The drinks were fantastic and Robbie won’t stop talking about the fries he ordered. They really were good fries.

    Drinks at the Sparrow

    Dispensing

    We struggled to find things that were open and not too packed, but not totally dead either. We went to Bar Kabinet which is a soviet themed bar attached to Bar Datcha where I understand there is sometimes dancing. It was quiet but nice. We had a round at Apt. 200 which was also quiet but very awesome inside with house plants and couches. We walked a lot looking for stuff to do and then walked a long way back to the hotel. We saw the mural and really cool lights below.

    mural

    cool lights

    lights and a mural

    We didn’t want to leave without having crepes. The next morning we went to Spanel Crepes & Gourmets for buckwheat crepes. They were unique and quite different from regular crepes, but so good!

    crepes!

    buckwheat crepe

    We had late lunch/early dinner at BEVO Bar & Pizzeria. Again, no photos. I’m lame. It was so good and our waiter and the rest of the staff were really nice.

    Our longest wait of the trip was for a spot inside another speakeasy, Cloakroom. It was worth the wait. Cloakroom is a bespoke suit shop and barber shop with a hidden bar. That mirror is on a secret door!

    Cloakroom bar

    They go out of their way to make it a classy experience. They only let 25 people in at a time because it’s so small. They gave us a playing card as a kind of pass, took our coats, and brought us to our seats at the bar. We had an assigned bartender who explained their approach. He asked us what we like in a drink and our favorite flavors and then created something just for each of us. The drinks were perfect. We stayed for another round and those were perfect too!

    drinks at Cloakroom

    Personalized drinks at Cloakroom

    On our last day, we had breakfast at the adorable Olive et Gourmando where we had pain au chocolat and cheese toast with tea and a very pretty soy latte.

    pain au chocolat

    Thank you, Montréal, for the wonderful time and happy anniversary, Robbie. <3


  10. best favorite banana bread

    April 25, 2017 by Angie

    I have tried several banana bread recipes over the years. This is my go to. My all-time “best favorite”. I originally found it on the blog Hell Yeah It’s Vegan! The blogger totally revamped the site and did away with some of the recipes. The banana bread recipe featured there now is quite different. I found the old one here, but can’t tell if all of the text is from the original blog. Either way, it’s the same recipe I’ve known and loved. Because it’s such a favorite, I’m blogging it myself to keep it forever.

    I’ve made this banana bread with chocolate chips many times. Below is my slightly altered version to reflect the ingredients I always use and my actual method for baking the bread.

    This banana bread is always a huge hit. Last night I made it to bring to my library’s volunteer appreciation breakfast. I was told it went fast.

    This recipe is vegan if you hunt down vegan chocolate chips – which is much more difficult now that Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips have milk in them. R.I.P. Ghirardelli vegan chocolate chips.

    Ingredients
    5 medium to large, very ripe bananas, mashed
    1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use Smart Balance oil and measure out a scant 1/4 cup.)
    3/4 cup sugar (I go slightly scant on this as well.)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup unbleached flour
    1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    a pinch of ground cloves
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 350°.
    2. Grease a loaf pan.
    3. You need really ripe bananas for this. If you’re like me, you froze some bananas a while back and they’re still in your freezer because you didn’t take them out to thaw on the counter earlier. Procrastinators: place the bananas in a microwave safe bowl and defrost them until you can peel them. Place the peeled, freezy banana goodness in a new bowl and continue defrosting for 2-3 minutes. Now you’re ready to mash the bananas with a fork.
    4. In a large bowl, mix bananas, oil, sugar, and vanilla extract together by hand.
    5. In a separate bowl, combine flours, spices, salt, and baking soda.
    6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; stir by hand until there are no chunks of flour visible. Do not overdo it or use a mixer. You want to stir it just enough to mix the wet and dry, but not so much that it gets gummy. Lumps are to be expected!
    7. Fold in the chocolate chips.
    8. Pour into the greased pan. I like to tap the pan around a bit on the counter to get the batter settled in there nicely.
    9. Bake for approximately 30 minutes and then start checking it. It takes anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to bake fully. I look for a golden top and test with a toothpick. When a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out relatively clean, you’re good to go.
    10. Cool on a cooling rack.
    11. Enjoy as soon as it’s cooled off enough or wrap aluminum foil over the whole pan and bring it to brunch, your potluck, your library volunteer appreciation breakfast – feed somebody delicious banana bread!