Recommendations

A Few Meals

I’ve been making a summer salad lately that is really good! The first time I made it, I blanched the asparagus (2 minutes in boiling water and then into cold water) and mixed it with cherry tomatoes from our garden, fresh mozzarella, chopped onions and Italian dressing. It was really tasty.

This time I made a greek version. Asparagus, onion, tomatoes and then made a greek dressing, added kalamata and black olives and feta. It was delicious! I love this salad and it’s a nice way to use up asparagus instead of just grilling it.

So we had the greek salad, some naan bread and Michael grilled some lamb chops. (He marinated the lamb chops in olive oil with fresh onions, mint, rosemary and thyme.) The lamb chops turned out perfectly on the grill!

The next night we had some friends over for dinner. Michael got some fresh salmon (with the skin on) to grill. Michael seasoned the salmon with salt, pepper, lemon juice and fresh thyme.

 

Our friends brought various veggies to grill that they bought at the Farmer’s Market. They brought zucchini, corn and Walla Walla Sweet onions.

The veggies were just seasoned with ghee, salt and pepper. Everything turned out so perfect! The salmon fell off the skin in perfect chunks, it wasn’t dry at all and perfectly flavored.

Dinner was outstanding and our new favorite meal! We can’t wait to recreate it. It all went so well together and the grilled onions were to die for! If you’ve never done it before, do it asap.

Look at this feast:

I’m going to be thinking about that dinner for a long time. I mean, it’s all simple, healthy things but it was all really stellar. And of course, the fresh salmon was a million times better than the frozen farmed salmon we get from Costco. I know, it’s convenient and cost-effective, but after having the good stuff…I don’t know if I can go back!

For dessert we grilled up peaches and topped them with whipped cream. That was all we had. The whipped cream was nice and went well with the peaches (and low in calories) but I think next time it would be better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some granola on top.

Yum!

Books #32

Get your reading list out! I have some good ones for you to add to your “to read” list. 😀

1 ) The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

This book was SO GOOD. Run out now and get it! It was a YA book but didn’t read like a YA book, it just read fast. I could not put it down.

The story is about a super religious family who are also reality stars. Think the Kardashians but religious. The father is a famous preacher and they have a crap-ton of kids. Essie is the youngest at 17. Her entire existence has been on the TV. It’s a very odd life.

Then Essie discovers she’s pregnant. Her mother, Celia, has a secret meeting with the show producers and they decide the best move is for Essie to get married. It will boost their ratings and hide the illicit pregnancy. Except Celia doesn’t realize that Essie is manipulating her mother as a way out of that life.

It is such a fascinating read and I loved it!

 

2 ) A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

I was a bit on the fence at the start of this book but then it took off and was so good!

Ginny (“Big”)  is the matriarch of the family. She got pregnant at 15 and left her family and town with her baby, Liza, went back to school and got a job and tried her best to be a good mom. Liza then, at 15, gets pregnant, and has Mosey. She leaves town with the baby but returns two years later asking Big for help. She needs rehab and help with her baby. Big takes her in and they all live together. Liza gets sober, Mosey grows up.

Now Mosey is 15. Liza has had a stroke and Big is taking care of both of them. She decides to have a pool put in to help Liza rehab from her stroke. Except when they take down a tree and start to dig up the yard, bones of a baby are discovered. Who is it? Who buried it?

This book was so incredibly good. I absolutely LOVED the characters. Big and Liza were so real and you just LOVE them. It’s heartwarming how they take care of each other.

 

3 ) No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

“If the story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?”

That’s the question in this memoir. Glynnis is a Canadian writer living in New York City. She’s had a somewhat successful career with some ups and down, but as she gets closer and closer to her 40th birthday, she starts to question the script that women are given. Meet a man, get married, have a baby.

At the same time as this, her mother is deteriorating from Parkinson’s and Dementia. She flies back to Toronto frequently to help her parents and her younger sister who has two kids and a baby on the way.

“…this definitely feels like an excellent time to make an exit. But now that the person exiting belonged to me, it didn’t feel that way at all. As it turned out, standing by death’s door, no matter how long you spend there with a person, no matter how comfortable you think you are with its presence, is a great deal different than having that person walk through it. [Loc 71]”

The stress and grief she feels about her mother failing and eventually dying might be hard for some to read, but it’s not the entire focus of the book. The book is about her experiences in her fortieth year trying to figure out what she wants, what she wants her life to look like and to come to peace with the expectations of society.

“I was thirty-nine, the age at which women made do with what they have, take the parts and construct them into something usable. [Loc 586]”

“I was certain that come the stroke of twelve my life would be cleaved in two, a before and an after: all that was good and interesting about me, that made me a person worthy of attention, considered by the world to be full of potential, would be stripped away, and whatever remained would be thrust, unrecognizable, into the void that awaited. [Loc 121]”

I could definitely relate to this book in a lot of ways. I’m almost 39 and I feel 40 looming. Even though I am married and have a toddler, part of me wonders if we will have another baby and then I start doing “the math” and realize we are “running out of time.”

“As thirty-seven became thirty-eight became thirty-nine the calculations became even more pressing and less feasible. Married next week, and pregnant the next morning? Time ticked on. Eventually there was no way to make the numbers add up. I couldn’t outrun my own clock. [Loc 199]”

The book is also about feminism and independence.

“Not every encounter needed to be the first step in a permanent decision. Men, it occured to me, perhaps for the first time in my life, did not need to be a goal. [Loc 1254]”

The book is beautiful to read. The experiences she has are fascinating and the fact that she takes control of her life is very empowering.

“Every woman I knew seemed to think she was failing in some way, had been raised to believe she was lacking, and was certain someone else was doing it better. Had been told never to trust her instincts. [Loc 2957]”

I enjoyed this book a lot and I think a lot of women would relate to her stories.

4 ) The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Excellent story! Riveting and creepy. There was a gothic theme, supernatural creepiness, with a murder mystery and really good character development.

Fiona is a journalist in a small town in Vermont. Twenty years ago her older sister was brutally murdered by her boyfriend, who is now in prison. But Fiona just can’t let it go and she’s kind of obsessed with where her sister’s body was found — the grounds of Idlewild Hall.

In the 1950’s, Idlewild Hall was a girls boarding school where the “troublemakers” were sent. The girls who were illegitimate offspring, the ones that had no family, or mental illness. Shipped away to the creepy school that definitely has ghosts.

The two stories are intertwined and it was so unexpected and interesting and I really didn’t want the story to end!

5 ) The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger

This was a well-written, fast-paced book that could have been “ripped from the headlines.”

Annabel Lerner’s husband is a banker for a Swiss Bank when his plane mysteriously crashes and she’s informed he’s dead. But there’s no body. And now she’s left behind in Geneva, looking for answers and realizing she’s not sure who she can trust.

Marina is a journalist engaged to Grant, son of one of the most powerful men in America who is going to run for president. She uncovers a story so big she can’t sit on it. A story that will have the answers Annabel is looking for.

Very solid thriller. Good story and I could not put it down!

 

6 ) The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie

Holy smokes! This book was so good! I could not stop reading it!

There is a horrific explosion in a building in downtown Chicago. Over 500 people were killed. One of them was Cecily’s husband. She is now a widow with two teenage kids and her best friend was also killed in the explosion.

A year later, Cecily is trying to put her life back together, at the same time participating in a documentary film about the explosion and aftermath. She now regrets participating because she can’t escape the tragedy. At the same time, there are two other women who were touched by the explosion and the struggling with the aftermath. The secrets the three of these women are keeping are pretty mind-blowing.

The story was addicting, horrifying and had so many twists and turns. So good!

 

7 ) The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland

Cass and Jonathan have been married for 5 years. Cass has had a rough year–a miscarriage and her mentor and boss died. Suddenly she is jobless (by choice) and noticing things about her husband that are grating. Feeling unsatisfied with her life, she decides that they will take an “intermission” from their marriage for 6 months and decide if, in fact, they still belong together.

“It felt to her like the absence of intimacy was a third person in the room with them, hovering just out of reach. [pg 53]”

“Until that point, she’d viewed their marriage like a car moving along a highway–some patches were rough, others were smooth sailing, but still they forged onward with a definitive destination in mind. Driving forward as if getting off at any random exit and ditching the car was out of the question. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t. And she was all the way in California, a detour if there ever was one. [pg 112]”

Cass moves from New York City to Hollywood and gets a cushy job that is inspiring and exciting. They share “custody” of their dog in monthly increments where one of them flies back and forth to pass off the dog to the other.

This is a time of reflection for both of them. They both have secrets from each other, some bigger than others. What will happen after 6 months? Will they find their way back to each other? Realize the grass isn’t greener? Or discover things about themselves and each other that reveal they aren’t a good match?

The chapters alternate between Cass and Jonathan’s different perspectives. And with each chapter, you see the story from the other point of view and you start to side with one of the couple over the other…then it flips. I found myself disliking Cass quite a bit, but on one hand I kind of understood where she was coming from. Both characters were flawed and someone unlikable but at the same time, I liked their story. It’s complicated! Like marriage.

“She knew what it felt like when a relationship had substance. It was like a weight you could in your hand, and this wasn’t it. [pg 332]”

This is a book about marriage and self-discovery. It was a character study, so not quite a “page turner” until you get towards the end, then I couldn’t put it down. I had to find out the ending!

Happy Reading!

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