For the love of the Classics

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It was Mark Twain who once said, “Classic: a book which people praise and don’t read.” For most of my life,  this was mostly absolutely applied to me. Unless it was assigned to me in school, I rarely picked up what could be considered classic literature, instead veering toward new fiction, historical fiction, fantasy or science fiction (usually in that order.) I read for the lovely escapism of a good book and classics felt like too much brain work. But, lately, I’ve decided that part of my reading education should include either re-reading or reading for the first time books that are considered to be classics. 

Though the definition of what is considered a “classic” is debated, I think it’s safe to say in order for a book to be a classic it usually speaks to some ultimate truth that stands the test of time.  Sometimes these truths are very, very long truths, so my first inclination is fear at the thought of tackling War and Peace. (Confession: I bought it months ago and I still haven’t read it yet. Which I know I need to do. In fact, I’m not allowing myself to buy another book (after I finish Thorn Birds and Sputnik Sweetheart) until I finish it). Not buying books is a very hard thing for me to do especially since I discovered a used book store in my town where you can get books for $2. I have 2 book shelves, double stacked with books  on each shelf and loads of books under my bed. And I keep buying more. It’s a disease. 

For those of you with your own book lover disease, I have complied a list here of my top 5 favorite classic books. It was really hard for me to narrow down to just 5 but these are the books that I read that make me feel like, aw yeah, I want to read that again. And again.  Books that didn’t make the cut but that deserve an honorable mention: the inspiration for this blog, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Both books I’ve read multiple times and will do so again. 

Top 5 Favorite Classics

anna karenina book cover vintageAnna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. You guys, this book was published in 1875 and I read it for the first time in 2010 and was like, whoa this is exactly what heartbreak feels like. It is so good, sad and true all at once. Being able to write a truth that resonates 200 years later qualifies Tolstoy for genius status in my opinion. At first, it seemed very long and the Russian names are similar so I was always confusing the characters. But, stick with it, you won’t regret it. If you want to cheat, you should totally see the movie that recently came out though Keira Knightly is just way too thin to be Anna and I hate Vronksy’s whispy mustache but  it’s still a beautiful film worth seeing.

les-miserables-hugo-victor-hardcover-cover-artLes Miserables  by Victor Hugo. This is a book that I’m sure many of you have never read since the musical is a work of genius on it’s own. But seriously, you should read the book. It is truly a beautiful example of timeless writing. Especially Jean Valjean, who might be one of my all time favorite characters and who is just a beautiful soul. It is absolutely worth reading and another one that seems super long until you start it and then you’ll devour it in like 2 days like I did.

 

pride-and-prejudice-1946Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I’ve read this book multiple times and every time I remember all over again why I love it. Elizabeth Bennett is one of my all time heroines for many reasons but mostly her sass like her line about her sister being, “the most determined flirt to ever make her family ridiculous.” Best. Plus, this is a book that is unexpectedly hilarious–try reading the scenes with Mr. Collins without laughing, it’s basically impossible.

 

4631A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway. A few years back I went through a serious Hemingway phase where I basically devoured his books back to back and loved all of them. Much like his character in Midnight in Paris says, (one of my fav movies, btw) his writing is very honest and true. I had a hard time choosing one of his books that was my favorite but this one captured the lost generation and my love for 1920’s Paris is strong. I also really loved The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls. If you haven’t read Mr. Hemingway get on it, like now.

 

51Eyg5IySaL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Little Women, by Lousia May Alcott. This was the first proper book I ever read at 13 and so it holds a special place in my heart. I suppose this book might be responsible for my lifelong love for reading because after I read it I was hooked. No matter how many times I’ve read it, I still cry and laugh and want to hug my sister when it’s all over. Truly required reading for everyone but especially all my ladies out there.

 

Okay, now that I’ve done the work of narrowing down my classics list, tell me some of yours! What classics could you read over and over again? Do tell. 

Have a rad weekend

Yayy it’s Friday! I got inspired to wish you all a RAD weekend since we all know rad is an underutilized word in 2016 and that needs to be rectified immediately.

What are you up to this weekend? By the time you read this, I will  be in a plane, feeling annoyed that I am awake so early and have a layover but SO HAPPY that I am going, going, back, back to Cali, Cali to visit my family this weekend in LA. I have been dreaming about tacos all week, I’m not even kidding. So excited to be in a real city where the favorite past time isn’t slots or bowling. I feel like I’m coming out of exile, just for a few days, and it is grand.

To send you off in style, here are some totally radical things I saw on the internet this week:

Some stupid principal thinks Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings cause brain damage. I’m down with the theory that this dude is actually Voldemort, whose with me?

This kinda makes me feel old: it’s the 30th anniversary of Top Gun. Remember when people used to think Tom Cruise was hot?

15 wine slushies you need to drink outside this summer. Wine + slushie = yes. But we should totally call them wlushies.

How to be a boss–wise words from some wise ladies. Feeling Mindy Kaling’s quote 100%.

Gilmore Girls quotes for real life. At least twice this weekend I’m going to try to incorporate “Oy with the Poodles already” in conversation.

The best way to cut a mango. Seriously, helpful. Cutting mangos is hard yo.

8 snacks you can make with peanut butter. I’m on team PB forever. For-ev-er. For-evvvvverrrr

The White House Bedroom Through the Years.  Please, please can I have the  Jackie room in my house? So pretty.

 

 

Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

3076576716b834d75e2ad7a27c18a86fI think peanut butter is high on the list of foods that I would be loathe to live without. There are so many options for deliciousness with peanut butter: the simple beauty of a  PB & J sandwich, the many desert variations (ice cream, cookies, pie, not to mention with chocolate!), and the savory options like in the sauce for a chicken satay.

That is why it is so sad to me that peanut butter has been all but outlawed from kids lives these days. I understand it’s necessary and would absolutely want to be sensitive to kids allergies but why the heck do we have so many these days? Nut allergies have risen 3 fold since the 1990’s and they still don’t know why. But, there is a theory that consuming nuts when you are pregnant can reduce your kids risk of developing an allergy. So, think of this post as a public awareness campaign for the expectant mamas out there. Making these cookies could help make sure your kid enjoys a life of peanut buttery goodness. And you can’t put a price on that.

This recipe comes from Betty Crocker, who was my first cooking teacher. My mom gave me that iconic red and white cook book when I went away to college and it is where I learned all the basics for cooking. Nothing fancy, but a great way to get started. If you are just learning how to cook, Betty won’t steer you wrong. These are the kind of cookies you can whip up in a few hours and are sure to please the peanut butter lovers in your lives. One thing  I would note, don’t skimp on refrigerating the dough, it makes all the difference.  Also, I know Betty says you can use margarine but seriously that stuff is disgusting and I thoroughly hope none of my readers would use it , ever.  #butterforever #margarinenever

Peanut Butter Cookies, via Betty Crocker

  • What you’ll need:
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup peanut butter
    • 1/4 cup shortening
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1 egg
    • 1 1/4 all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • How to make them:
    • Step 1: Mix sugars, peanut butter, shortening, butter and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm.
    • Step 2:  Heat oven to 375ºF.  Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with fork dipped into sugar.
    • Step 3: Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

 

Have a great weekend!

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Hooray, we’ve made it to Friday! What are your plans for this weekend? Anything but work? Yes, sounds like a good plan to me.

The Texan and I are going to go out with friends tonight at one of the few fancy places in town that doesn’t have slot machines–holla! I feel like there are lots of events happening this weekend. One, its derby weekend so this is your excuse to wear fancy hats and drink juleps (if you need one). Oh, and watch horses race because it is awesome.  And two, it’s mothers day so at minimum I hope you are giving your mother a call but really you should be arranging some thoughtful gift/meal because she’s totally earned it. Whatever you are up to, I hope it is just grand.

Here are some cool links I saw around the web this week:

15 fresh flower gifts for Mother’s Day: For those of you who have procrastinated on your mothers day gift.

These rose shaped potatoes look both adorable and delicious.

What do you think about bleach tie dye?  I’m concerned that breathing bleach fumes might kill us all but that dress is pretty cool. Tough call.

Mint Julep everything. For those of you that want more mint julep-y goodness, those cupcakes look kind of amazing.

What do you think about Justin Timberlake’s new song? I kind of love it.

OMG you guys, there is going to be a Center Stage sequel. And it will be on lifetime so 80% chance it will be cheesy as all get out. I’m not sure we can be friends if you don’t love Center Stage, the ballet, the music. The red toe shoes!

21 reasons everyone should love Sixteen Candles: This is basically an excuse to look at gifs from one of the greatest movies of all time, so you’re welcome.

How to make classic coffee cake: I love coffee, I love cake, I love this link. Pretty sure I’m making this tomorrow.

Have a FANTASTIC weekend!! xo

 

 

 

Weeknight Meal: Peach Whiskey Chicken

I was in a funk this week about what to make for dinner.  It sounds minor but the burden of having to come up with new ideas for meals that are balanced and delicious can be daunting. That is, until I remembered this amazing chicken. Or should I say, this amazing sauce because the sauce!! Seriously, you guys, it is the best  thing ever. I absolutely would bathe in it, or at least baste myself in it. It is that good.

You know how you have those few meals where every time you make it, you’re like, seriously why don’t we make this every week? That is how I feel about this sauce. I could write a few hundred more words about how much I love it but I’m sure that would get old. So instead, I will get to the good stuff and share the recipe. It is from the Pioneer Woman, a blogger lady who I liked long before she became TV famous.

A few notes about the recipe. The Texan requested chicken breast instead of chicken thighs so I lessened the cooking time considerably lest our breasts turn to mush (and no one wants that). It turned out so great he was still talking about the chicken right before we went to sleep. I live somewhere that has seriously the worst peaches ever so I didn’t add the fresh peaches and it still turned out great (though I did miss them). I also cut the recipe in half because it’s just us two. And, because I’m a jerk, I will point out that I spell whiskey with an “e” because I used American whiskey, not Scotch or Irish whisky.

Peach Whiskey Chicken, via the Food Network 

  • What you’ll need: 312627ec-5db3-4cfb-84e8-7223caacb90f
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 12 chicken legs or thighs, bone in, skin on
    • 1 yellow onion, diced
    • 1 1/2 cups whisky
    • 4 cups barbecue sauce
    • 1 cup peach preserves
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 4 peaches, pitted and sliced into 8 slices each
    • Mashed potatoes, for serving
    • 3 green onions, sliced thin, for serving
    • Chopped fresh parsley, for serving
  • How to make it:
    • Step 1: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
    • Step 2: Add the onions to the skillet and stir and cook over medium heat until translucent, about 3 minutes. Pour in the whisky, taking care if you are cooking over an open flame. Cook for 3 minutes or so, allowing the whisky to cook and reduce.
    • Step 3: Grab your favorite bottled barbecue sauce and pour it into the pan. Add the peach preserves, Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 cup water to the sauce, then whisk to combine. Add the chicken back to the pan. Then throw in the peaches.
    • Step 4: Cover the skillet with a lid or aluminium foil, and then roast in the oven until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone the sauce is beautiful and rich and the peaches are soft (about 1 1/2 hours). That’s how you know it’s done!

It’s the Freakin’ Weekend!

Hooray, you’ve made it to the weekend! I just got back from a glorious outdoor run where I listened to an old ipod of mine I found and you guys, can we just talk about how wonderful music was circa 2000-2007? I forgot about how amazing R. Kelly  can make weekends feel. I really think I might want to start a club that only plays music from the early ’00–because let’s face it, that would be awesome. Maybe we can throw in a 90’s night for good measure.  Whose with me?

In other news, obviously I really fell off the blogging wagon this week and I’m sure you are all very sad for it. No great excuse except that sickness hit our house therefore nothing really blog worthy happened. C’est la vie.

Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? I am going to try and hit up a new brunch spot in town which always makes me happy and continue reading the Fiery Cross because I’m addicted.  Whatever you are up to, I hope that it includes at least one moment where you listen to Remix to Ignition and bounce, bounce, bounce.

Here’s some fun links I saw around the web this week:

8 awesome podcasts: I really love me some podcasts and absolutely want to listen to every one on this list.

Would you try seltzer in your scrambled eggs? I’m kinda skeptical but am totally going to try this out over the weekend.

This Harry Potter Wall is amazing: I am super impressed with how straight she got those lines. But, I think if I were doing it I might pick a different page–too much Dursley for me.

Ask a French Girl:  This lady has so much wisdom. Repeat after me, you don’t have to have it all under perfect control.

12 ways to commemorate your travels: I love the idea of celebrating your travels around your house.

Does anyone want to tour the world with me just to eat breakfast? Because this list, seriously. I want to try everything.

Poll: is a solid gold toilet art? I vote no. Also, I bet you anything there will be a line out the door to use this loo.

House shaped bed for guests: I think this is kinda genius but there is no way the Texan would fit in it.

Cucumber/Coconut eye masks: These look heavenly.

15 easy dinners when you don’t feel like cooking: this will def come in handy over the summer when turning on your oven is the worst.

Happy, happy weekend to all!! xo

 

Have a lovely weekend!

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Yay, we’ve all made it to the weekend. Do you have any exciting plans? I feel like I’m going to spend most of it trying to comprehend a world without Prince in it. So sad. So lacking in blouses. But, in addition to listening to Purple Rain on repeat, we are going to watch Game of Thrones which I’m so excited for and also maybe go see the Jungle Book (even though animals that talk kind of freak me out).  Whatever you are up to, I hope it includes dancing your life away like it’s 1999. It’s what he would want.

Here are some fun links I saw around the web this week:

What’s in Prince’s fridge? I know there are like a million stories about Prince on your newsfeed but chances are most don’t  include his love for Dunkaroos.

Dave Chappelle as Prince is seriously everything.  Game Blouses.

Simple rules for Croques Madame/Monsieur Seriously you guys, I’ve been having dreams about this sandwich, must make it this weekend.

Prince Harry and William get in a light saber fight. Team Harry forever.

Speaking of royals, the Queen turned 90 this week and rocked a fab green suit like it was nothing. She’s the best.

Given what a spaz I am in photos, I am seriously impressed by Posh’s ability to nail this perfect sassy hip every time. (She will always be Posh to me. Zizga zig-ah!)

Whipped Asparagus Pesto spread  For realsies, this looks delicious.

Woman Double Fisting Pizza on kiss cam is an American Hero. Also, she needs a cooler friend because that girl seems kinda embarrassed.

Squeee tiny tree houses for your houseplants. I want this so much!

Prettiest deserts to make this spring. I’m totally making a lemon meringue pie this afternoon and that basil mint coconut cream pie is going on my list.

Julia Child’s trick for perfect poached egg. I’ve found Julia is rarely wrong (except for all the love for aspics, ew).

Hope you have a lovely weekend!!

 

Best DIY Lip Balm

Now that I officially bummed all of you out with my last post (sorry!), I am going to take a moment to talk about something super important: chap stick. Because seriously, I am addicted to it. Pretty sure there hasn’t been a moment of my life since I was 11 that my lips have been dry.  I think this obsession first started thanks to Bonnie Bell lip smackers. The flavors, omg who didn’t love the lemonade kind or Dr. Pepper? Plus, it also was a necklace, what else could you want? It was basically my dream in life to look as cool as this girl and also have all those chap sticks. (I would have been so jealous of her side braid).

I always have at least 3 different versions of lip balm/chap stick/ lip gloss  that I use in rotation depending on the situation.  Regarding lip gloss, I am very particular about it because I think having sticky lips that feel like someone glued them together is an excellent form of torture.  Worst. Thing. Ever. And for some reason, there are loads of lip glosses that are sticky, icky. My go-to affordable lip gloss: NYX Butter Gloss. I have about 4 of these and every time I wear the cherry pie shade people always ask where I got it. For chap stick, I really like Burt’s Bees. Goes on smooth, moisturizes and they have a ton of amazing flavors. For lip balm, I’m a sucker for Eos.  I love that I can always find that little egg in my purse. Currently in love with the vanilla mint flavor.

If I were kidnapped and taken to desert island and they told me I could only have 3 things, one of them would be chap stick. Or better, it would be coconut oil so I could make mine because I just learned that it is super easy to do it yourself.  If you are mad for lip balm like me then you should absolutely copy this super easy recipe for homemade lip balm. I usually use this when I’m about to go to bed and I wake up in the morning with super soft lips.

DIY Lip Balm

  • What you’ll need:
    • Lipbalm container (I used these from amazon)
    • 1 TB Coconut Oil
    • 1 t honey
    • 1/2 TB bees wax (they sell this at most craft stores)
    • mixing bowl
    • lip stick for color (optional)
  • How to make it:
    • Step 1: Mix coconut  oil, shaved bees wax (I used a cheese grater because it melts faster) and honey together in a bowl. Either use a double boiler or a bowl in the microwave for about 20 seconds. It should be liquid and mixed together. If you want to give it some color, you can melt some lip stick into the coconut oil.
    • Step 2: Pour into lip balm container and let set. I put mine in the freezer which I think helped to harden it faster.
    • Step 3: Once it is hard, you are done! So easy and you will never have to go without lip balm again, woo hoo!

 

When the cry read is too much

Writing has always been a way for me to process the way I feel. I started my first journal at 7 years old and keep one to this day. I wouldn’t say that my journals represent my best writing or anything I would ever want anyone to read but I always feel better after writing.

It’s in that spirit that I decided to write here to tryimages and process through my feelings on the latest book I’ve read because it continues to haunt my thoughts. If you are a reader, there’s a good chance you’ve come across A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, released last year. (Note: I’m going to try my best to not reveal serious spoilers about this book but if you are sensitive to these sorts of things and want to read the book, maybe you should skip this post).

A Little Life was critically well received, being short listed for the Man Booker Prize and a National Book Award Finalist. It’s a story about 4 young men who are close friends and recent college graduates that move to New York City, telling the story of their lives. It’s clear from a quick glance at the back cover  that this book isn’t a typical tale of friendship, it is about trauma and abuse. You go in knowing that you are about to read about a subject that is painful. And yet, even with warning, I wasn’t prepared for how incredibly awful this book made me feel. It is not a short read at over 700 pages and it feels like nearly every bit of it is full of anguish. I cried so many times reading this book I lost count. I know I said before that sometimes cry reads are good but honestly, this one hurt.

The abuse in this book is revealed slowly through flashbacks to the main characters childhood. There are moments of a normal story of coming of age in New York (something I clearly can relate to) but in the corner are these allusions to abuse, like a big, scary gorilla, waiting to be released. When the abuse is first revealed, I sobbed tears  of outrage, as if there was an idea of “fairness” that wasn’t being followed. Because in my sheltered life experience, all children are precious and protected. It really wasn’t fair. It went beyond fair, it wasn’t fathomable. I wanted to believe that this is something that would not really happen to anyone. And while I sincerely hope it is impossible for that many different kinds of abuse to happen to one person,  I know it depicts abuse that is a reality for children across the world.

By the end of the book, my tears flowed silently, the rage I felt was gone. Much like the character, it seemed to me that the abuse was inescapable. It didn’t matter how accomplished he became, how many friends he had or what kind of support system was around him. None of that could erase the abuse that he experienced and the power it held over him.

And of course, there were times when I was so frustrated with him (and I felt guilty about). Why couldn’t he see that he had people who loved and cared about him now? Why did he let himself believe the things his abusers said while being deaf to the love that was around him? Why didn’t he see that hurting himself hurt others?  Why did he refuse therapy for so long? I don’t know.  But, the thing is, I really don’t have any context for relating to him. The atrocities he experienced are the kind that you don’t want to understand because the only way you  could would be through experience.

The Texan watched me read this book and at times questioned why I kept going if it was making me so sad. I think it helped that I was reading it with my best friend. I honestly don’t know if I could have read this book alone. At the very least it helped to get texts from her that reflected the same feelings I had: oh this book. It’s so sad. How do we even talk about it? I think what makes this book extra sad is there really isn’t any hope. The author isn’t following the script we are all used to where things eventually get better. The hits just keep coming.

When I finished it, he asked me if it was a good book. I said yes, but also no. It is an incredibly well-written book. So much of it is just beautiful writing. It is also so painful, I’m not sure I would subject myself to it again. But, maybe everyone should read it, just once. Maybe instead of turning away from this sort of thing we should try to understand because maybe it’s not about us. Maybe it’s for them. For who they represent, for the pain that is all too real for too many. And maybe not all books are to be read for the escapism they provide, maybe some books are meant to provoke, to haunt you, to make you think differently about the world. Days later, I can’t stop thinking about it and I also don’t want to think about it. Maybe that’s a sign that it is a worthwhile read after all.

 

Have a Wonderful Weekend!

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Hooray, it’s Friday! What are you up to this lovely spring weekend? The Texan and I are making a serious attempt at assimilating to our local culture by going bowling tonight with friends. I am not exactly confident in my ability to bowl, but I plan to handle it humbly when I claim Gutter Ball Queen title tonight.  Whatever you are up to, I hope it is at least as grand as bowling on a Friday night in a casino.

Here are some fun links I saw around the web this week:

Grown up versions of your favorite teen decorating trends: I absolutely want that painted night sky bathroom. Painted with glow in the dark paint.

30 recipes you should know by 30: This is a great list and I think applies to everyone, even those already past 30 who haven’t mastered no knead bread yet (me).

40 stunning bathrooms with incredible views: I fantasize constantly about having an amazing bathtub. But, I’m  afraid I would end up like Margot Tennebaum and never leave the bathroom.

15 memorizing pottery videos: Feeling stressed? Just zone out and watch these videos because they are amazing.

12 Actors who got real about roles they did for money: None of these are very surprising (Jaws: Revenge was seriously a movie?)except for the the heart breaking revelation that Alec Guinness hated being Obi Wan. Saddest thing I read this week.

Drink more water with these refreshers: Seriously, I love flavored water. Currently have the basil/orange combo in my fridge and it is everything.

5 ways to update thrift store art: It’s posts like this that make me wish my husband appreciated quirky art more.

10 fav 90’s movies on Netflix: I love 90’s movies and want to watch everything on this list though I’m not sure I can subject myself to My Father, The Hero. I remember finding it creepy when I was a kid, I feel like that feeling will get worse.

Household tips for finding lost things: This list is pretty amazing and full of a lot of common sense ideas that I will probably be too lazy to do.

Whoa, these almond joy bites look amazing.

Have an amazing weekend full of white Russians and inner peace.