Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reading...Party Girl


Party Girl (The Girls, #1)Party Girl, by Rachel Hollis is such a fun read. Landon Brinkley -- a sweet and friendly Texas girl whose favorite color is glitter -- dreams of being a big-time event planner. When she lands an internship at THE Hollywood event company, she takes off for LA with three months of living expenses, a truck full of optimism, a heart full of ambition, and a lot of determination. Of course, because this is chick lit at its best, things don't go quite as she anticipated. Selah Smith, the founder of SSE Events is the epitome of chic and cool and everything LA. She's also ruthless, and the environment at SSE is sink or swim. But Landon makes friends and allies, and finds some potential romance. She keeps her head down and works hard and keeps her goal in mind...and tries not to lose herself along the way. 
Party Girl is my favorite kind of chick lit -- funny, smart, and with heart. Landon is the kind of protagonist you root for, she's sunny and optimistic, but with hidden depths and more grit, smarts, and determination than people give her credit for. Her friends are the kind of friends you want to have, and the romance has just the right amount of "will-they-won't-they" and plenty of swoon. It was fun to get an inside look at the Hollywood event planning scene (which is based on the author's own experiences). There are shades of The Devil Wears Prada, as far as Selah Smith is a boss along the lines of Miranda Priestly and Landon starts out a bit naive and hopeful. But for their similarities, Party Girl stands completely on its own. This is the first of a series, and I'm looking forward to reading more about Landon and her friends.
Bottom line: if you're looking for some quality chick lit or a peek into Hollywood/LA life, check it out! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cooking

I really enjoy cooking (and cooking shows...and cookbooks...). To be fair, I particularly enjoy cooking when I'm not racing a clock, or have hungry kiddos begging for food, or know that someone else will clean up after me. But situational exceptions aside, I just like it a lot. I was thinking the other day about those people who have contributed to my love of cooking and/or the way I cook. We all have inspirations, and I've been blessed to have a few great ones.

Like many others, my first experiences with food and cooking were at home. My mom will tell you she never really liked cooking all that much, but what I remember is that she did (and does) a great job with simple, nourishing meals. From my perspective, she was also good at taking whatever we had on hand and putting it together into something yummy. She was the queen of delicious reinvented leftovers.

My Grandma Rush loved to cook. And more than that, she loved to feed people. Big family dinners were a joy. I can also remember a few single men from church would stop by for dinner from time to time, and I don't know who had more fun -- the person getting treated to excellent home cooking, or my Grandma watching them enjoy it. I remember cookies, pies, sun tea on the porch, homemade meatballs, the best potato soup, and melt-in-your-mouth brisket.  Being from Kansas City, Missouri, people often ask me about my favorite barbecue place. To this day, I have to stop myself from saying "my Grandma's house."

From my mom and my grandma, I learned about simple, good food. About the power and joy of sharing a meal with others. Pull up a chair and make yourself at home.

My family started homeschooling when I was in 8th grade, and at some point my brother and I took a cooking class from my mom's best friend Carol. Carol was an amazing cook. Her husband used to say that he didn't really enjoy going out to eat at restaurants because he could eat better at home. I remember thinking it was funny that Carol subscribed to a couple of magazines (probably Better Homes and Gardens, and maybe another one or two) just for the recipes...of course, joke's on me, because I have totally done that. I don't remember a lot of details from that cooking class, aside from making homemade bread for the first time, and learning to read and follow recipes. But what I do remember, is learning the fun to be had in trying new things and branching out. Reading magazines just to discover new recipes. And that you can basically cook anything if you have a good recipe.

My culinary nostalgia would not be complete without also mentioning my good friends Nicole and Jeanette. We shared a house with Jeanette for... a few years (I'm having trouble remembering how many), and Jeanette was always game to try out whatever new recipe I felt like cooking. I also think I can credit Jeanette for my intense love of cooking competition shows. We shared a house with Nicole and Ryan for about six (or more? again, can't remember) years. In Nicole, I had a partner in crime. Someone who loved to cook as much as I did, but who had her own unique go-to recipes and style of cooking. Cooking with Nicole encouraged me to explore, to eat more baked goods (well, to bake more...but then someone has to eat it), and to never underestimate the power of having someone to clean up with afterward.

So there you have it: from taco night, improvised spaghetti sauce and barbecue to stuffed cherry tomatoes, pierogies, risotto, and Marlboro Man sandwiches. And because I have to tie everything in to books...

One of my current go-to cookbooks:
 Not only are the recipes fast and yummy, but they do a lot of explaining, so it's like a mini cooking class.

Cupcakes, friendship, (high school) romance:
Bittersweet

Caterers, family, life:

Scarlet Feather






Monday, August 8, 2016

A Monday list

1. I've basically discovered that anything with salted caramel and chocolate is going to be kryptonite. So I've decided that resistance is futile. If it's in the house I'm just going to enjoy it. Once it's gone, it's gone and maybe I'll remember not to buy it in the future (except for special occasions...because you've got to allow for those).

2. I'd like to remind everyone that despite the overabundance of media time devoted to the Presidential election -- which is important to be sure -- there are a lot of other elections taking place. If nothing else, pay attention to who is running for Congress and the Senate in your area. State and federal. Governors, mayors, county commissioners, city council. All of these elected offices have a big impact on our day to day lives. Don't get distracted by the circus.

3. And speaking of politics...can we all just agree right now to stop name calling? To stop being arrogant and condescending or arrogant and bullying toward people who disagree with us? Please, and thanks.

4. Olympics! A nice break from the circus.

5. So, I'm in the middle of watching Star Trek Voyager on Netflix. I'd say it's a rewatch except I never actually watched Voyager when it was on. I hear that it's not as well-loved as other Star Treks, but so far I'm digging it. It's slowing down my reading at the moment, but it's giving me my story fix. 

6. Speaking of books, I've bought three in the past week. Two non-fiction! Crazy. It's all the recommendations I'm getting from The Happy Hour podcast. (which you all need to go listen to, especially if your name is Nancy, Erin, or Tess).

Off to laundry! (and one more Skinny Cow Salted Caramel Pretzel ice cream bar. No judging)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Reading...Start

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters I did a mid-week check of my 2016 goals today.

Hahahahaha! Yeah...it's a good thing the year isn't over yet. But one thing I HAVE done is completed my goal of reading two non-fiction books this year. Score! I may even read another!

The latest book I read was Start, by Jon Acuff. Start is a motivational book that encourages readers to dream big, and to believe that pursuing and reaching those dreams can be a reality. Start is a nice mix of  idealistic and practical. Acuff gives readers a challenge: to identify their "awesome," that thing that makes you excited, that you'd love to be excellent at and that you'd be happy to do every single day. He talks about the journey of "awesome" in a realistic way -- it's not a predictable, linear journey, and one that you have to keep working at all the time. He gives advice for identifying and addressing those fears and doubts that keep us from pursuing our dreams. He talks about pitfalls along the journey such as getting caught up in success, getting complacent, There's a lot of good action steps, starting with finding 30 minutes a day to start working on your awesome, and figuring out how you work best and finding a way to apply that to your awesome (for example: do you work best alone? in groups? with a partner? a little bit at a time? on a deadline? no deadline?).

I'm not great at summarizing books like this, and there was a lot to process. But overall, it's a solid, motivating, practical book written in Acuff's signature funny and witty style. It's got substance without being heavy. A recommended read for anyone who needs a little motivation to get started -- or re-started -- pursuing your dreams.

Reading...Start

Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters I did a mid-week check of my 2016 goals today.

Hahahahaha! Yeah...it's a good thing the year isn't over yet. But one thing I HAVE done is completed my goal of reading two non-fiction books this year. Score! I may even read another!

The latest book I read was Start, by Jon Acuff. Start is a motivational book that encourages readers to dream big, and to believe that pursuing and reaching those dreams can be a reality. Start is a nice mix of  idealistic and practical. Acuff gives readers a challenge: to identify their "awesome," that thing that makes you excited, that you'd love to be excellent at and that you'd be happy to do every single day. He talks about the journey of "awesome" in a realistic way -- it's not a predictable, linear journey, and one that you have to keep working at all the time. He gives advice for identifying and addressing those fears and doubts that keep us from pursuing our dreams. He talks about pitfalls along the journey such as getting caught up in success, getting complacent, There's a lot of good action steps, starting with finding 30 minutes a day to start working on your awesome, and figuring out how you work best and finding a way to apply that to your awesome (for example: do you work best alone? in groups? with a partner? a little bit at a time? on a deadline? no deadline?).

I'm not great at summarizing books like this, and there was a lot to process. But overall, it's a solid, motivating, practical book written in Acuff's signature funny and witty style. It's got substance without being heavy. A recommended read for anyone who needs a little motivation to get started -- or re-started -- pursuing your dreams.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Reading...If Only You Knew


If You Only Knew Kristan Higgins is one of my only go-to adult romance authors these days. Her books are funny, sweet, and a little sassy -- all of which I've mentioned before. Her last few books have been part of her Blue Heron series, set in a small town in Western New York's wine country. This book is different in a couple of ways: one, it's the start of a new location series, and two, it's told from the perspective of two sisters, their lives and stories separate but intertwined. I enjoyed this slight change of format from Higgins' usual m.o. This book was also a bit different in that the romances themselves weren't entirely straightforward. Jenny Tate, a wedding dress designer, moves back to her hometown to open her own shop. She's looking forward to the opportunity, but also looking forward to putting some distance between her ex-husband and his perfect family -- who are oddly her best friends, and Jenny's probably the only one who doesn't think that's a little odd (and unhealthy). Fortunately, a friendship-turned-maybe-something-more with her enigmatic neighbor Leo might just giver her a change of perspective. Her sister Rachel has a seemingly perfect suburban family life....except it's not. When she discovers her husband is having an affair, her whole life turns upside down. She questions her marriage, her choices, and herself. Rachel's story is less of a] romance than it is a story about her relationships with friends, family, and even herself. I do love that the duel-narrative gives Higgins the opportunity to tell more than just a boy-meets-girl romance (although obviously I love a boy-meets-girl romance). My only complaint with this book is that I kind of wish there was a little more of each sister's story, the downside to having to heroines. But since I'm pretty sure this is the start of another series, maybe the next book will give a peak at what's been going on with Jenny and Rachel. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Tuesday list

1. Instagram. You can all stop using it now, because I'm clearly so late to the party that it's gotta be last call. Kidding. Sort of. I did sign up for Instagram last week, and I may be a little enamored.

2. Popcorn. I think it's my friend Tess who doesn't like popcorn? Sad. I've got a big bowl sitting on my desk right now and it's delightful. The downside to having kiddos who often eat really early is that I'm hungry again before bed. The upside to having kiddos who often eat really early is the legitimate excuse for a snack. I love snacks.

3. Camp was fantastic! I had two cabins of hilarious, sweet, sincere, delightful young ladies. New friends, old friends, and I actually got to sleep through the night for a whole week! (sadly, my in-laws did not. Thanks for watching our kiddos Nana and Grandpapa!)

4. The new Needtobreathe album came out (HARDLOVE) and it just gets better every time I listen to it.

5. Anyone else out there ever noticed that there are runners, and there are people who run. And there's a difference. And it has nothing to do with how far or how fast you run.

6. I've picked up a new book -- an actual hardback book, that I got for Christmas -- The Way of All Fish, by Martha Grimes. I'm having trouble getting momentum, mostly because I've only been able to read it in five minute increments. I can tell I'll like it (Martha Grimes, after all), but with her books I tend to need a good hour of solid reading to start off.

Happy Tuesday!