June 27, 2012

Off The Summer Reading List Already with Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Okay, so, technically I'm back ON the summer reading list now, as I am currently more than half way through The Goose Girl. But I took a brief detour last week when my number came up on the library hold list for Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.

So, let's start here. Have you heard of The Bloggess? I stumbled upon her blog http://www.thebloggess.com/ last year...I don't even remember how, but I picked the perfect day to happen upon it, as she had just posted what turned out to be one of THE funniest blog posts I had ever read-- about her purchasing a giant metal chicken for her husband for their anniversary. You can read it here: http://thebloggess.com/2011/06/and-thats-why-you-should-learn-to-pick-your-battles/. Anyway, I about peed my pants laughing when I read this and, at that moment, I REALLY wished that she lived next door to me so that I could watch the show live. Alas, she does not. My neighbors are FAR less cool and interesting than that, as far as I can tell.

Over the next year, I visited The Bloggess's site periodically so I could catch up on her fun and crazy antics, and you can imagine my delighted surprise when I discovered she was coming out with a book. Well, I put myself on the library hold list as soon as it was released, and won the new release book lottery last week. So I briefly digressed from my summer reading list.

So how was the book? I'll quote my husband for you..."I have never heard you laugh out loud so many times while reading a book." That's what he said when I was reading the last chapter in bed last week. True story.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened is Jenny Lawson's memoir and it is filled with funny, quirky, touching, and out-and-out strange stories from her life thus far...and what an entertaining life it has been! It is a true testament to the adage "truth is stranger than fiction." And the book is written in the same fun, blunt, irreverent style as her blog. Really. Read her blog. If you like, you'll like the book. If you don't, you won't. I'll just say this: it was an enjoyable, fast read, that was, at times, truly laugh-out-loud funny. I mean VERY funny. And it will totally make your life look normal and easy...whatever that means.

June 24, 2012

She's Crafty: The Big Wine Cork L

Despite the fact that I have reported absolutely NOTHING crafty in quite some time, I have, in fact, found some time, here and there, to actually BE crafty. I know. I'm as shocked as you are. But there I go, surprising us both once again. I can only imagine how crafty I will be once both kids are in school. (For those of you whose kids are already in school, please let me hold on, just a little bit longer, to the fantasy that I will then have lots of time for myself. Thanks.) And with Pinterest guiding my way, the possibilities are endless. I shudder with delighted anticipation. For now, though, we'll all have to suffice with what I have to share with you today. Are you ready? Here we go...

The Giant Wine Cork L! Yes, I know. It. Is. So. Cool.

This was a bonding craft for my husband and me. Not only did we bond while drinking all of the wine necessary to facilitate the making of this marvel, but we also bonded while creating the "L". My husband is a wonderful cross between a type-A engineer and an artist, so he's great for this kind of stuff (Except for when he drives me slightly nuts with the freaky type-A-ness...it doesn't have to be perfect, honey. It's art!).

So here's how we did it: I found a giant, 3-dimensional cardboard letter L (for Lorbach...if that's not obvious) at JoAnn's (measures 24x16 inches). Then we sorted through our overflowing basket of wine corks to find the best looking and most meaningful corks...ones with great shades of red on the tips, ones with cool logos, and ones from our wedding and other special places and occasions. Then we laid the corks out around the outside edge of the L, plugged in the hot glue gun, and got to gluin'. Once the outside edge was done, we then laid out the ones covering the face of the L, and glued those on. We were careful to position the corks so that the cool logos or important words were showcased. Here's another angle so you can see what I mean:

And that was pretty much it. We were going to fashion a way to hang it on our family room wall, but ended up propping it up on the mantle and liking it there. So there it sits.

Next we plan to do a cool wine cork wreath that I saw on Pinterest a while back...which means we need to get drinking!

June 21, 2012

This Week In Food...Two Simple Summer Salads, Delicious!

I've been out of the blogging loop for a bit again. I don't know what happens, exactly. One week I'm plugging away, and the next week things just fall apart on me. And fall apart they have. I'm not certain what prompted my most recent breakdown (like an old car on the side of the road), but something happened after a Father's Day spent in happy servitude and, well, Monday, the wheels came off the bus. I think it'd been building for a few weeks. Not enough "me time" (read: not ANY me time, really), not enough sleep, too much going on, no two mornings a week of preschool for Portia...maybe it was my baby turning one that pushed me over the edge, I just don't know. Anyway, I am working on putting the pieces of my sanity back together now (read: babysitter, yoga and wine...not all at once, though) and thought I'd take a few minutes to share some recipes we've enjoyed in the last couple of weeks.

Summer salads! It is HOT here this week, so who wants to heat up the kitchen even more with a hot stove? Not me. So I've been leaning heavy on salads and side dishes of fruit...which, let's be honest, my waistline could use as well (now if I could just get my evening snacking under control and I'll be all set!). So, both of these salads are super easy and super yummy (my favorite combo) and both are originally from Cooking Light.

Chicken Salad with Asparagus and Creamy Dill Dressing
2 1/2 c. asparagus, cut on the diagonal in 2 inch pieces
2 c. shredded or cubed cooked chicken breast
1/2 c. thin-sliced radishes
Creamy Dill Dressing (see below)
8 fresh, ripe tomato slices
Fresh ground black pepper

1/2 c. lowfat mayo (can use regular mayo)
1/2 c. low/no-fat buttermilk (can use regular buttermilk)
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (juice from half a lemon)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine dressing ingredients in large bowl and stir well with a whisk. Steam the asparagus until crisp-tender (about 3-5 minutes). Drain, plunge in ice water till cool, then drain again. Add asparagus, chicken and radishes to bowl and toss well. Serve salad atop tomato slices and top with fresh ground pepper.

Seriously, this is so good! My daughter loved it. Even my one year old ate it. And I was sopping up the dressing with bread. And, it took no time to make. A real summer winner!

Whole Wheat Mediterranean Panzanella
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (I use regular balsamic)
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
6 1/2 c. chopped tomato (3 large tomatoes)...OR...3 red, yellow and/or orange peppers (I make it with peppers because my husband doesn't like tomatoes, and it is so good this way!)
1 1/2 c. cubed english cucumber
1/2 c. pitted kalamata olives (I omit these because I'm not a huge olive fan.)
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, torn
6 oz. whole wheat country-style bakery bread torn or cut into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups, or a little more than half a typical loaf)
1 4 oz package crumbled feta cheese (I've even used goat cheese before, when that was all I had on hand, so you can substitute accordingly...but feta's the best.)

Combine first 4 ingredients in large bowl and stir with whisk. Add veggies and mix. Add bread and cheese and toss gently until well combined. Serve immediately. Keep the oil and vinegar on hand and once everything is combined see if you'd like a little more moisture in the salad--I've added extra dressing before. If so, just mix the oil and vinegar in the same ratio as above in a small bowl, then pour over salad and toss a bit more.

This is really yummy and light. We eat it as dinner, but it could also be a great side dish when you're grilling out-- great with grilled chicken or with burgers and dogs.

Serve both of these salads with a side of fruit...maybe watermelon and honeydew? And I recommend a loaf of bakery sourdough with the Chicken Salad. And if your sanity is anywhere near the place mine has been lately, a nice glass of wine should be had, as well (sauvignon blanc or chardonnay would pair nicely with them...though I like a nice pinot noir or light, red blend, myself).

That's it for this week in food. Enjoy the salads and stay cool...and, of course, happy cooking!

June 1, 2012

Books, Books, Books. I Love Books. A lot. Really. (aka My Summer Reading List)

I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned that I love books. One of my favorite pinboards on my Pinterest page is my book board. I love it. It's filled with pictures of books and book shelves and book stores and reading nooks and reading lists. I have reading lists everywhere. On sticky notes in my purse. On sticky notes on my desk and in various notebooks. On my ipad. On my phone. On my library page. On this blog. In emails from friends and facebook posts. Everywhere. I will never read all of the books on these lists. I know. But I will try. And I will keep making lists. I will keep wandering book stores, eventhough I have no business buying any books since I already have a jam-packed "to read" shelf. And I will keep reading book reviews. And I will keep asking for reading recommendations. Because I love it. Because I just can't help myself. Because it is a cheaper addiction than designer shoes.

What have I read recently? Well, I just finished The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham. Good. Cute. Fun. Easy. Before that, I Am The Messenger by Marcus Zusak. Also good. Not as good as The Book Thief (an all-time fav), but still really good and worth a gander. Next I'm starting Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. Not something I'd normally choose, but my father-in-law recommended and lent it to me. And my husband read it already and said it was good. I cannot stand Bill O'Reilly, but I'll try to put that aside and just enjoy the book. After that will be Beauty Queen by Libba Bray (a young adult author whose A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy I read last year on reco. Young adult fiction rocks these days!)...a loaner from my niece, Katie, an avid reader and writer (at 15 she's already written her first novel...which you will hear more about when it's published!).

I recently asked Katie for her top ten books of all time (so far). Here it is:

1. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
2. The Host by Stephanie Meyer
3. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
3.5 The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
5. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (awesome!!!)
6. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
7. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
8. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
9. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
10. Matched and Crossed both by Allie Condie

So, this is my summer reading list (after Lincoln and Queens)...my goal is to finish her top ten by labor day (give or take). I've already read The Hunger Games and Harry Potter series and The Book Thief. So that leaves 9 books. It may be a bit ambitious given the 3 1/2 year old and 1 year old that occupy most of my time. And the fact that Rolland and I have committed the summer to catching up on a bunch of great television series (we're starting with Mad Men and Grimm right now, then moving on to Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Veep and PBS's Sherlock, among others). Plus I have five craft projects in the queue. It tis a summer of ambition!

After that, who knows which book list I'll tackle. Maybe the one on this blog. Maybe one I haven't even started yet. One thing's for certain: I will be reading. And I will be adding books to my list.