1. 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.


  2. 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


  3. 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


  4. 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!


  5. flapper’s delight

    March 31, 2017 by Angie

    This is the second cocktail recipe I’ve made from the book, How to Drink French Fluently by Drew Lazor and Camille Ralph Vidal, that I got from NetGalley. I can’t just read the cookbooks, I have to make the recipes – for delicious, boozy research purposes.


    I changed it up a little because I forgot to buy limes, I do not like gin, and I wanted to reduce the amount of sugar in the simple syrup. The slightly altered recipe follows.

    Ingredients

    8-10 mint leaves
    3/4 oz simple syrup
    1 1/2 oz vodka (or gin, if you’re 100 years old)
    1/2 oz St-Germain
    3/4 oz lime or lemon juice
    Club soda, to fill
    Ice cubes

    Instructions

      1. If you don’t already have some, you can, and I would argue you should, make your own simple syrup. Boil a cup of water and add a cup of sugar unless you think that sounds like diabetes, then up your water to sugar ratio.
      2. Get a rocks glass. Put half of the mint leaves in there then pour in the simple syrup. Crush it up with a spoon so that the mint releases its mintiness into your drink.
      3. Add the vodka, St-Germain, and juice. Stir.
      4. Add the ice cubes. Pour in club soda until your glass is full.
      5. Garnish with a mint sprig.
      6. That drink looks good on you!

    flapper's delight with vodka


  6. St-Germain cocktail

    March 15, 2017 by Angie

    OMG, you guys. It’s been a minute.

    Life has been crazy nuts. But this week is SPRING BREAK. Therefore, so many drink recipes.

    I received and read a great, new cocktail recipe book from NetGalley, How to Drink French Fluently by Drew Lazor and Camille Ralph Vidal. There are four recipes I’m dying to try and can afford/find the ingredients to make. I made two tonight. The first is the St-Germain Cocktail.

    Ingredients

    1 1/2 oz St-Germain

    4 oz cava (prosecco, champagne, whatever you got just make it brut)

    2 oz club soda

    Instructions

    Easiest recipe ever. Get a champagne flute. Pour the ingredients in. Stir. Boom, you have a delicious champagne cocktail.

    SPRING BREAK 2K17!


  7. elderflower champagne cocktail

    December 31, 2016 by Angie

    Happy New Year! Bye bye, 2016!

    Robbie, Sookie, and I are ringing in the new year at home where we can bark at the fireworks. I fell in love with St. Germain and champagne cocktails on our vacation to California in 2014. Today I got a bottle of St. Germain and whipped up a single serving of this elderflower champagne cocktail from the Kitchn.

    elderflower champagne cocktail

    Here is the single serving recipe, in case your significant other won’t drink champagne cocktails either 🙂

    1. In a wine glass, add ice cubes.
    2. Add 100 mL of champagne, prosecco, cava, whatever you got. I used a new to me prosecco called Bolla.
    3. Add just shy of an ounce of elderflower liqueur, like St. Germain.
    4. Add 1.5 ounces of club soda.
    5. Stir to mix.
    6. Throw in small slices of strawberry. Garnish with a strawberry if you’re feeling festive.

    Happy New Year!


  8. 2016 books

    December 31, 2016 by Angie

    I broke my record for books read in a year. Twenty five was the most since I started keeping track in 2007. This year I made it to 27! I realize many people consistently read much more than that, but for me it’s a biggish deal.

    I joined a book club, I read some of these books for work, and I started receiving eBook ARCs this year from NetGalley and Edelweiss. All of that brought more books to me than usual but I’m still apt to fall asleep if I’m not standing up so my reading time is still limited. I read and reviewed cookbooks, pattern books, and travel books on Goodreads this year but did not include those in my count.

    2016 Reading Challenge

    2016 Reading Challenge
    angeleen has
    completed her goal of reading
    15 books in
    2016!
    hide

    My favorite: Idaho by Emily Ruskovich – expected publication date is February 16, 2017

    Five star winners: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

    My least favorite: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    The longest: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy at 433 pages

    The oldest: also Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy originally published in 1874

    Nonfiction: 5 (I’m counting a memoir.)

    Fiction: 22

    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. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood – 2 stars

    I should probably give this a 2.5. I read the first novella which eventually became part of this book. I just was not feeling it. I’m very sorry, Margaret. I still love you.

    2. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – work – 3 stars

    3. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger – 4 stars

    4. Rising Strong by Brene Brown – book club – 3 stars

    5. MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition by The Modern Language Association of America – work – ? stars

    I realize this is a style manual, but I read it six times this summer and fall so it makes the list!

    6. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – 5 stars

    7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – 4 stars

    8. Tampa by Alissa Nutting – book club – 3 stars

    9. The Vegetarian by Han King – 4 stars

    10. Teaching Information Literacy Threshold Concepts: Lesson Plans for Librarians by Patricia Bravender – work – 4 stars

    11. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 2 stars

    12. The Girls by Emma Cline – 3 stars

    It is a decent book, but the level of hype surrounding it is unwarranted. My favorite part is the way the author understands young women and puts that understanding into words via the thoughts of the main character. I especially liked her thoughts about the girlfriend who is abandoned at the house she’s staying at in real time (when she’s an older woman). For a book about a murderous cult, there was very little happening.

    13. Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat – work – 5 stars

    I’m not much of a memoirs person, but I really enjoyed this book. Danticat’s writing style makes the book flow more like a really touching, fictional story than an autobiography. I knew shockingly little about Haiti before reading this and, while I’m sure I still know basically nothing, I know more than I did and am eager to learn more.

    14. The Winter of our Discontent by John Steinbeck – book club – 3 stars

    The pet names and “conversations” with the groceries drove me crazy. It’s Steinbeck so it was occasionally very good. I felt that the story was too drawn out. I don’t understand why the main character needed not one, not two, but three get rich quick schemes. I get that Steinbeck was saying something about materialism and morality and I appreciate that. I feel he could have said it much more succinctly. If you want a moral lesson, I recommend reading The End of the Affair by Graham Greene instead.

    15. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – book club – 4 stars

    16. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch – NetGalley – 5 stars

    I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

    I really liked this book! I’m not much of a science fiction or mystery reader, but this book features my favorite aspects of the best books/films/shows of those genres with great, “literary fiction”-style writing.

    Dark Matter is a book I couldn’t put down. I raced to the end. Once or twice, I thought I guessed the ending, but I believe Crouch wants readers to realize certain plot twists just before they are presented outright. There were more coming, so the book stayed intense and unpredictable. The physics and philosophy sprinkled throughout intrigued me and taught me some things I didn’t know. I enjoyed the questions this novel asks us to ask ourselves, particularly about identity and choices.

    Recommended for fans of not-so-cozy mysteries (a la Gone Girl), spooky/cerebral science fiction, and shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror.

    17. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach – book club – 3 stars

    18. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison – NetGalley – 4 stars

    I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is a thought-provoking, post-apocalyptic, page turner for the rest of us! In the tradition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this is the end of the world from a female perspective. Just about every kind of person was represented by a complete character in this book: a gay couple, a bisexual woman, a sex worker, some LDS church members, young women, young men, people who decided to fight for their lives and people who chose to die. At no point did the book feel like a diverse checklist. Every character felt real and helped the plot along. If you like post-apocalyptic fiction like Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven then The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is for you.

    19. The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff – work – 2 stars

    20. Bird Box by Josh Malerman – 4 stars

    21. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – 4 stars

    22. Idaho by Emily Ruskovich – NetGalley – 5 stars

    I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    I read more books than usual this year and Idaho is possibly the best of them all. I love Emily Ruskovich’s writing. She wove music, and one song in particular, throughout the entire book without it ever being cheesy or cumbersome. The song held the non-linear story together as we learned details out of order from a number of characters. I love that it’s a mystery and a love story. It shows characters capable of extreme violence and cruelty but also uncommon compassion and kindness. I think it’s really unique that one chapter was dedicated to a bloodhound’s experience while searching for the missing daughter.

    Idaho is one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I’m glad I didn’t skip this one and hope Emily Ruskovich’s future works are this great.

    23. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – 4 stars

    24. The Mortifications by Derek Palacio – NetGalley – 3 stars

    The characters have a lot of strongly held convictions that change too often and are too ambiguous for strongly held convictions. I enjoyed reading the book for the most part, but nothing really happened and I never became invested in any of the characters.

    25. The Futures by Anna Pitoniak – NetGalley – 3 stars

    I enjoyed this book, although it was very predictable. I graduated in 2008 like most of the characters in the book. It was a hard time to enter the real workforce. I liked the way Anna Pitoniak expressed, through the main female character, Julia, how difficult that time in life can be. The path to success is pretty clear up until graduation when things get confusing and young people are very much on their own to find work and their adult identities. The period just after graduation can be rough, even for the wealthy apparently. Much of the book is building up to a major event that I saw coming a mile away. As soon as I got the male characters’ absurdly white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant names (Jake Fletcher, Evan Peck, Adam McCard) sorted out, I knew what was going to happen. The predictability and then the slow build to a not-much-of-anything ending make this book just okay in my opinion.

    26. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – 3 stars

    27. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout – 3 stars


  9. vegan zucchini meatballs

    December 19, 2016 by Angie

    I love a fake meatball. Ever since Nate’s Meatless Meatballs became impossible to purchase without insane shipping costs, I’ve been searching for a suitable alternative. I’ve previously made some pretty great TVP-based “meatballs”. Alas, TVP is also nearly impossible to buy where I live now. I found this recipe for vegan zucchini “meatballs” on Pinterest from the blog Making Thyme for Health.

    Vegan Zucchini ‘Meatballs’

    They were pretty easy to make – easier than the TVP version. They did not bake all the way through in the middle, but I adjusted the recipe below with suggestions I think will correct that problem. I added more spices than called for in the original recipe. The taste and texture were really good. The only downside to this recipe is the cleanup. It was so heinous that Robbie asked me to never make it again 🙁 I suppose I will have to save this recipe for a day when I have the time to cook and do the dishes so, like never, basically. Huge shout out to my dish doing husband who makes cooking possible.

    a saucy "meatball"

    Ingredients

    1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    2 tbsp minced garlic
    1/2 c rolled oats
    1/2 tbsp dried basil
    1/2 tbsp dried oregano
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 tbsp nutritional yeast
    juice of 1/2 lemon
    1 1/4 c shredded zucchini
    one jar of spaghetti sauce
    pasta of your choice, cooked as directed on the package (Robbie had fettuccine and I had zucchini noodles.)

    vegan zucchini meatballs with zucchini noodles

    Instructions

    1. Use a food processor with the shredding blade attached to shred the zucchini. I used almost two large-ish zucchini. Measure it out to be sure you have at least 1 and a 1/4 cups of shredded zucchini. Set aside.
    2. Remove the shredding blade and use the food processor to blend the drained and rinsed chickpeas, minced garlic and oats. I used pulse for 5 seconds three of four times to get everything finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
    3. Add the basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and nutritional yeast to the chickpea mixture. Stir to combine with a spoon.
    4. Add the shredded zucchini and lemon juice. Stir to combine again.
    5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
    6. Form the mixture into balls and place them, spaced apart, on the lined cookie sheet. I believe I had enough for 15 balls at about a rounded tablespoon each. Bake for 15 minutes then turn them over and bake for another 15 minutes.
    7. While the “meatballs” are baking, prepare the pasta and heat the spaghetti sauce.

  10. Sharpie mugs

    December 17, 2016 by Angie

    I like to make little gifts for my college library co-workers and hand them out before our winter break. Last year I made soy candles. This year I made decorated coffee mugs. I made 17 mugs with either the first letter of their first name, a reindeer, or a Christmas tree.


    Materials

    • The cheapest, crappiest, plainest mugs you can find – you want mugs with no coating on them so the cheaper the better. I got mine at Dollar Tree.
    • Oil-based Sharpie markers (I used a gold marker and a silver one.)
    • Stickers, or sticker paper and a printer
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Q-tips

     


    Instructions

    1. Wash the mug. It doesn’t hurt to clean the surface you’ll be decorating with rubbing alcohol. Let it dry completely.

    2. Apply a sticker centered in the area you want to decorate. I used some alphabet stickers intended for scrapbooking. For the rest of the designs, I found images I liked online, slapped them into a Word document, and printed them on sticker paper. Print them in grayscale to save some ink because you’re throwing them out in the end anyway. Cut the designs out of the sticker paper carefully. You want to choose designs that work well as silhouettes. I used a solid tree shape and a reindeer head.

    3. Start using one of the markers to make dots all around the design. You want to outline the design so the shape is clear. I started by going around the design with one marker and then slowly spread out from there making the dots more sparse. Switch to the other marker and do the same.

    4. Wait until the marker has dried – probably two hours. Carefully peel off the stickers. At this point, you can use rubbing alcohol and Q-tips to fix any mistakes. Some of the dots got under my stickers which messed up the appearance of the shape. I was able to erase those with rubbing alcohol. Add any new marker dots you feel you need.

    5. Let the design dry for 24 hours.

    6. Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours.