Summer Reading Challenge update

Posted on July 24 2015 in reading

I'm participating in the YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge. Interested? You can join in at any time. Learn more here.

Eight books in, and seven to go!

Let's start with my pick for "Book by your favorite author" - which I took some liberty with by choosing CONVICTION (by fellow YA Buccaneer Kelly Loy Gilbert). It's Kelly's first book, but since she's a favorite person of mine, I figured it counts. ;)

I loved CONVICTION. Kelly writes beautifully, with poetic descriptions and little details that paint such vivid pictures. She also knows how to weave a seriously intense story. I was surprised by so many things up to the very last page, and each surprise felt like an emotional roller coaster. It is SUCH a good book.

I think this would be a great one to recommend to older teen boys, and also to adults who don't usually read YA. You can learn more about CONVICTION here.

Next I read IT WAS ME ALL ALONG, a memoir by Andie Mitchell for my non-fiction pick. I first discovered Andie through her TED Talk. After hearing her speak about self acceptance, eating disorders, and her life (and love of food!), I added her book to my to-read list. I'm very glad I did! I couldn't help but be moved by her story. It's a difficult subject matter, but she has a hopeful, positive tone, and a lot of love and forgiveness.

Another new favorite? CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein. I haven't read a really good historical fiction novel in a LONG time, and this one blew me away. It's set in England (and thereabouts) during WWII, and it's the story of two women: a spy who is caught by Nazis, and her friend, a female pilot. (Are you already itching to read this book?) Unique, vivid story-telling. Fantastic writing. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and made me laugh (which is very surprising considering the gravity of the subject matter). Highly recomended!

BEWARE THE WILD by Natalie C. Parker wins for best atmosphere. It's a Southern Gothic (think: Louisiana swamps, southern drawls, humidty) and is a downright creepy story about a swamp creature who spirits people away. Beautiful descriptive writing and a spooky story that will keep you turning pages (just leave the lights on). I loved it.

For my freebie, I chose HEROES ARE MY WEAKNESS by Susan Elizabeth Philips. I haven't read one of her romances in a very long time, and I forgot how much I enjoy her books. This story felt like a tongue-in-cheek ode to Victorian Gothic novels (think: Jane Eyre), but had unique, varied twists and details and a contemporary feel (for example, the book starts with the heroine talking to her puppets). A good choice if you're looking for a romance, but want something different. It's fun, well-written, and delightfully complicated.

Here's my full update:

  1. Banned Book

  2. Set During the Summer [BEWARE THE WILD by Natalie C. Parker]

  3. Historical Novel [CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein]

  4. Book with a Diverse Main Character

  5. Adapted into a Movie [GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn]

  6. Published Your Grad Year

  7. Book By Your Fave Author [CONVICTION by Kelly Loy Gilbert]

  8. Freebie! Book of Your Choice [HEROES ARE MY WEAKNESS by Susan Elizabeth Philips]

  9. Graphic Novel

  10. Road Trip Book [TRUST THE FOCUS by Megan Erickson]

  11. Translated From Another Language

  12. Rory Gilmore Book

  13. Book You Own But Haven't Read

  14. Set On a Different Continent currently reading THE EMERALD ATLAS by John Stevens

  15. Non-Fiction/Writing/Craft [IT WAS ME ALL ALONG by Andie Mitchell]

I'd love to hear what you've been reading. Anything you'd recommend? I'm particularly interested in finding books for the categories I haven't hit yet ... So let me know if you have a suggestion!

P.S. You can find more of my book reviews on Goodreads!

In the Kitchen Etsy Finds

Posted on July 21 2015 in etsy finds

June was a crazy month for us. From house guests to travel, plus an unexpected house project - we were busy! The business spilled into July and I just now feel as though I'm getting back into the swing of things. For us, that means lots of hikes, sunset swims, and not cooking whenever possible. ;) I've been making tacos on a daily basis and eating all the fruit I can find (which you probably know if you follow me on Instagram).

All this time away from the kitchen has me thinking of new recipes to try (and share!), which inspired me to put together a new Etsy Finds round up.


01. Olive oil bottle by ArtetManufacture, $45

02. Walnut cutting board by ButternutBrooklyn, $95

03. L'olio print by anek, $45

04. French-style tapered rolling pin by CattailsWoodwork, $47.45+

05. Little bird ceramic sponge holder by BackBayPottery, $32

06. White ceramic bowl by juliapaulpottery, $90

07. Ceramic spoon holder by bininaor, $16

Have an Etsy shop or item to share? Or perhaps a technique for staying out of the kitchen during the summer? I'd love to hear about it!

P.S. See all of my Etsy Finds round ups.

The YA Buccaneers started our Summer Reading Challenge on Monday. I'm joining in, and you should too! The goal is to cross off as many of the 15 prompts as you can (see image below) by the end of August. It's a great way to encourage yourself to read this summer and to push yourself out of your reading comfort zone.

You can check in on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, or not at all. If you do check in online, then use the #YABSummerReads hashtag when you share it. (That helps us find your posts!) Those who check in on Fridays on the YA Buccaneers blog will be entered into the monthly giveaway, and each month one reader will win a $10 Amazon gift card. Awesome, right?

Learn more here.

Now let's get to the books!

  1. Banned Book

  2. Set During the Summer [TRUST THE FOCUS by Megan Erickson]

  3. Historical Novel

  4. Book with a Diverse Main Character

  5. Adapted into a Movie

  6. Published Your Grad Year

  7. Book By Your Fave Author

  8. Freebie! Book of Your Choice

  9. Graphic Novel

  10. Road Trip Book

  11. Translated From Another Language

  12. Rory Gilmore Book

  13. Book You Own But Haven't Read

  14. Set On a Different Continent

  15. Non-Fiction/Writing/Craft

I started the challenge with TRUST THE FOCUS by Megan Erickson (which you can get for 99ยข right now!).

I loved this book. It's about two best friends, Justin and Landry, who go on a road trip the summer after they graduate from college to spread Justin's dad's ashes. Along the way, their relationship changes into something different, and they have to figure out if it means the end, or a new beginning.

I cried, I swooned, I learned a few things, and I just really, truly enjoyed Justin and Landry's story. It was the first M/M romance I've read (it's adult, not YA), and I couldn't be more impressed. I now have the urge to read everything Megan has written. Ever.

Now it's your turn: Will you be joining Summer Reading Challenge? I hope so!

P.S. Need some book recommendations? Last month I shared a few of my recent favorite reads.

How to chop salad greens FAST

Posted on May 29 2015 in kitchen tips

Have you ever felt too tired (okay, too lazy) to throw together a salad? It happens to me all the time, but I know I feel so much better if I have a couple of salads a day. Anything I can do to make the process easier makes a HUGE difference, which is why I love this tip so much!

Are you ready?

Here's the tip:

Use kitchen shears to chop salad greens.

I used to chop my greens on a cutting board, but then I saw a chef chop them in the salad bowl with kitchen shears. Not only is it super fast, but it also saves cleaning a cutting board. Brilliant!

Here's how to do it: put your cleaned greens in your salad bowl, grab your kitchen shears - I like to hold them with two hands - and chop! It will get your greens into bite-sized pieces in a minute or less. How awesome is that?! (And here I'm realizing I might be the only person in the world who gets this excited about salad prep made easier/faster.) ;)

Do you have a favorite kitchen tip to share? I'd love to hear it!

P.S. See all of my kitchen tips!

How to keep your greens fresh

Posted on May 22 2015 in kitchen tips

Sometimes (okay, all the time), I forget to clean and prep my salad greens right away. If you've done this before, then you know what comes next: Wilty, limp greens. Or, worse, slimy greens. Ick.

Here's my tip to help you avoid wilty, slimy greens:

Store fresh greens in water.

It sounds simple (and it is), but it can make a huge difference. Storing your greens this way will help them last longer, which will give you more time to use them, help you reduce food waste, and it will keep your greens tasting fresh and delicious (if you're trying to eat more greens, that's so important!).

For greens that come in bunches (kale, chard), trim about an inch from the ends. Fill a wide-mouthed cup or glass with 1-2 inches of cold water, and place the bunch of greens into the glass (very similar to a bouquet of flowers). Store in the refrigerator, or - if it's room temperature - on your counter top. Refresh the water once a day, and use within 2-3 days. (Note: This also works for celery and romaine lettuce, just don't trim the bottom - you want the heart to stay intact.)

For greens with short stems (baby kale, arugula, hearty spinach) storing them in water can also work, although I tend to store short-stemmed greens in my salad spinner. As soon as I get home, I rinse them, then spin off the excess water. I put a paper towel over the top of the greens, cover them, and store them in the refrigerator. The paper towel helps soak up excess moisture, and will help your greens last longer.

If they have gone wilty, you can try soaking them in cold water (the results aren't as consistent as they are with the bunched greens). To try it, place your greens in a large bowl or glass tupperware, then cover with cold water. Store in the refrigerator. They should plump up within 2-3 hours. If they haven't, then they might be past the point of no return. (sad face) But that's what composting is for!

Do you have a kitchen tip to share? I'd love to hear it!

P.S. I took this photo while shooting my Simple Spring Salad recipe.