A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

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“Life: a constellation of vital phenomena—organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation.”-pg. 184

This book fell into my lap unexpectedly.  On my maiden visit to my new local library, I came across this book.  I always pick up way too many books (at least four) on every trip.  The cover of this book as well as the title appealed to me immediately, which I know is a terrible stereotype.  However, this system has proven effective for me.

Taking place during the war in Chechnya in 2004, and several years prior, this novel cleverly tells the tale of hardship, love, family, and consequences.   Before reading this book, I’d never heard of Chechnya or knew anything about the wars in Russia.  This really opened my eyes to hardships that are faced around the world much like The Leavers by Lisa Ko and :I am Malala: by Malala Yousafzai.

Each character that Marra creates is expertly developed in just enough time to truly add to the storyline.  I loved his writing style in that he bounces around between one year and the next, in an efficient and elegant way.  He captures the struggle, the tough decisions that need to be made, and the terrible pain that accompanies wartime.

This novel truly floored me.  I was hooked from the first chapter, and could not put it down.  Even after I finished it, I found myself thinking about it.  If you enjoyed reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer, you will love this book.

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“As a web is no more than holes woven together, they were bonded by what was no longer there.” -pg. 63

Enjoy!

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Mimosas: Otherwise It Would Just Be Juice

It’s only Tuesday, but I can’t be the only one dreaming about the weekend.  Brunch is a good idea year-round, but summer is almost begging us to invite our friends over, make some delicious food, and pop some bottles.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you know how to make a good mimosa.  Or you know how to drink good mimosas.  But I have some tips and tricks for making a great mimosa bar, and a fantastic mimosa.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, most importantly, you will need decent bubbly.  Choose from prosecco, Champagne, sparkling wine, or anything with actual bubbles and alcohol.  My go-to is prosecco, especially since I tend to drink dryer wines.  If you have buckets of cash lying around, empty them out and buy yourself some fancy Champagne from Champagne!  My favorite brand of prosecco is Freixenet, however I also like the Belletti Brand shown below and both options are very affordable.  Keep in mind that the juices will add sweetness and you don’t want the finished beverage to be too sweet.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Next, you’ll need fruit/mix-ins and juices.  My go-to choices include fresh berries, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, and the classic orange juice.  Fresh fruit is always a good choice, as is citrus segments.  Think raspberries, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, strawberries, cranberries, currants, grapefruit, orange, blood orange.  Now, you can go crazy with juices.  I usually have orange juice, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, mango juice, pineapple juice and anything else you can think of juicing.  The best part about parties with mimosa bars, is that everyone gets to make the exact drink they want, and they can also try new combinations!

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Ratios are also very important when discussing mimosas.  I generally stick to a 1:3 juice to bubbly ratio.  My guests have never complained.  Also, the order in which you add the items to the glass is important.  You want to add the juice first, then when you add the bubbly, it will mix together nicely.  If you add the fruit before the bubbly, it will cause an absurd amount of excess bubbles to form, so its better to garnish afterwards.  You don’t want to run out of anything, so 3 juice options should be enough, and buy enough bubbly knowing that you will get about 6 mimosas per bottle.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

So dust off your champagne flutes, call your friends, and stock your fridge!  Also, I’m now available for left-handed modeling gigs.

Cheers!

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Photography by Allyson Regan (who loves mimosas BTW)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Strawberry season in Michigan is so fleeting that my tiny apartment-sized freezer is full of the sweet gems.  The great thing about freezing them, is that even if you don’t have time to bake with them when they are in season, you can just pull them out of the freezer when you have time!  One of my favorite ways to enjoy strawberries when they are in season is pairing them with a flaky crust and sour-tart rhubarb, also from Michigan.

Mastering the art of the ideal pie crust can be tricky and frustrating.  As someone who has made a couple of gross pies in her day, I have found a recipe and a couple tried and true tips that work for me.  Some of the expertise comes with experience, and working with your specific flour, altitude, water, etc.  Many experts say that it’s easiest to make your dough in the food processor, however, I’m a firm believer that the blades ruin the flakiness that is key to good crust.

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My go to pie crust recipe can be found in Kate McDermott’s fantastic cookbook, Art of the Pie.  It can be found on page 61 and you’ll only need flour, salt, butter, and water.  Now, you’re your own person, so use any pie crust you feel comfortable with.  If pie makes you uncomfortable, buy this book and use this recipe.  I’m not going to include her recipe on here, because if you are committed to good making good pies, you really should have her book in your cookbook library.  Also, she has so many other great recipes and tips that are very valuable.  I would recommend buying a marble rolling pin.  It helps to keep the dough colder, keeping the butter inside the dough solid until you bake the pie.

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The filling recipe that I use is adapted from Kate’s recipe found on page 250.  I like to keep my fillings simple to let the gorgeous flavor of the just picked fruit shine through.  Just combine the ingredients below and let them cook down inside the pie.  For this pie, I didn’t pre-bake the pie crusts before putting in the filling, like some recipes call for.  It does take a little over an hour for this pie to bake.  I cover the pie with tin foil for the first 20 minutes to help the filling to begin to set.  Uncover for the rest of the baking process.  If you notice that the crust is getting too brown towards the end of baking, just re-cover with foil.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling

4 cups of strawberries, quartered

2 cups of rhubarb, sliced

1 cup of sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup flour

Enjoy!

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