Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

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Another great Book of the Month selection!

Swimming Lessons is a novel about a young love that blossoms between a budding feminist and her literary professor/writer, set in England.  They fall in love and an unplanned pregnancy brings a tumultuous and emotional time for Ingrid.  She’s unable to finish school, struggling to accept her new daughter, and finds out that her husband is the man she was warned about.  After several miscarriages, and many more mistresses, Ingrid finds herself on the verge of leaving the life she has come to hate.  What actually happened to her is speculation, but Flora never gave up hope that her mom was still alive.  Written from Flora’s point of view as well as from Ingrid’s point of view in the letters that she leaves for Gil in his expansive book collection, you are left to piece together the story and speculate about what really happened.

This book is artfully written.  I am a sucker for books about book stores or writers or books themselves, which this book is about all three of those things.  But it also shows us the complicated webs that love weaves, between husband and wife, mother and daughter, life and loss, betrayal and trust.  The narrative is quite creative in that as soon as you find yourself hooked on Flora’s point of view, the chapter ends and Ingrid’s lost letters enlighten the reader.

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What are the odds that I would start reading this book on May 2nd, the same date that was mentioned two pages in?

It was quite interesting to watch Flora grow up and to watch Ingrid disappear.  Claire Fuller did an excellent job in revealing just the right amount of information to keep us turning the pages.  It’s a medium length book, but a fast read and would make a great book club book.

 

 

 

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The Leavers by Lisa Ko

It’s been a really long time since I’ve gotten lost in a book they way I got lost in ‘The Leavers’ by Lisa Ko.  The story she weaves is so artfully and purposefully unraveled.  You are discovering new things about each character as they realize them about themselves.

I picked this book up on a site called Book of the Month.  If you’ve never heard of this subscription box service, it’s pretty great.  They select five books every month that you can choose from based on whatever subscription level you sign up for.  What I really like about them is that you can read a synopsis of each book as well as a review written by a fellow book lover about the book.  They picks are smart and broad, covering a wide variety of genres.  I often use this site when I’m looking for books that I know will be good, but may be in a new genre.  You can also skip the month if you don’t see anything you want.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not being paid to promote them, I just really like them.  If you’re interested, click this link to sign up!

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‘The Leavers’ tells the heart-wrenching story of a mother and son, who try to find their home in a world that prevents them from truly knowing each other.  Immigration, adoption, adolescence, heartbreak, mental illness, abuse, and poverty are all topics that find their way between these pages.  After reading this book, my eyes were really opened to what immigrants sometimes have to go through to get into America, all for a better life.  I don’t think this book was based off of a true story, however I do know that there are Immigration Detention Centers in the USA that have less than perfect living conditions and that stories similar to this exist.

It breaks my heart to think about stories such a this one, where a mother leaves her child in her home country and survives the travel conditions to make it here, only to work hard to pay off her debt and then be jailed, abused, and deported.  This book also tackles the topic of adoption, and exposes all sides of it.  This is the first time I’ve read anything about an older child being adopted, one that remembers his birth mother all too well.  Another topic that is touched on can speak to probably almost everyone.  It shows a very raw look at the struggle it is to find where home is for yourself and to find something that you are passionate about in life.  All too often, kids think that they need to figure out everything by the time they get to college when that is unrealistic.  Deming’s story took a good look at this.

Overall, this book really widened my world view and I would highly recommend it.  Also, Lisa Ko’s writing style worked really well for me and I found myself completely submersed in the story.  This is the kind of book that will have you thinking about the characters even when you aren’t reading it.

Burrata: The Better Mozzarella

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Let’s talk cheese.  If you like mozzarella and good food in general, you’ll love burrata.  Trust me. It’s creamy and fresh, texturally unique compared to other cheese, and so versatile.  If you want to learn more about the process behind making fresh cheese, check it out here!  Or you can read about it here.

Burrata is traditionally from the Apulia region in Italy and is made with water buffalo’s milk or cow’s milk.  It is a thin shell of mozzarella holding in a creamy mixture called stracciatella, which is basically cream and strings of mozzarella curd.  I first had burrata when I was in Italy and we visited a mozzarella factory.  The burrata in Italy tastes different, mostly because the cream they use is the naturally separated cream from the milk, and in the U.S., cream that is mechanically separated is normally used.  The flavor difference also comes from the type of milk used.  The burrata that you can get most commonly in America is made from cow’s milk.

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Here in the midwest, it can be difficult to track down this cheese.  My go-to place is called Martha’s Vineyard.  They usually have burrata in stock and if they don’t, they are pretty good about letting you know when they will have it next.  If you aren’t in Grand Rapids, you should be able to find it at any local specialty wine or cheese shop.

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The brand that I used for this cheese plate (let’s be real….. I ate this for lunch) is called Liuzzi Cheese,  The flavor is really great and it lends itself well to a lot of different dishes and flavors.  It is made in Conneticut, but it is owned by two Italian borthers.  My favorite thing to do is pair it with really great heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, balsamic reduction, good extra virgin olive oil, and toasted crostinis.  Oh and lots and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.

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I’ve also melted this on sourdough bread with pesto or chipotle aioli and thick cut tomatoes in a grilled cheese.  Or you can melt it on top of a seared chicken breast or top a risotto.  Either way, give it a try and I’m sure you’ll love it!

Want to read more about burrata? Check out these links below.

Bon Appetit

Fine Dining Lovers

Culture Cheese Magazine

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Enjoy!

:I am Malala: by Malala Yousafzai

You guys.  I just finished this book, like less than 3 hours ago and I just couldn’t wait to post about it.  I don’t even have a picture for this post because I read it so fast.  This is one of those books that really makes you think and changes your perspective on the world.

If you’ve never heard the name Malala Yousafzai, then let me give you a quick run down of her amazing story.  She grew up in Pakistan and experienced the terror of the Taliban first hand, all while she was only 11 years old.  She fought for her right to attend school and advocated for the right to education for every child.  Because of how outspoken she was, she was targeted and shot point blank by a member of the Taliban.

This well written autobiography captures Malala’s strength, spirit, and tenacity while thoughtfully telling her story.  Her innocence shows in the early chapters when she herself was still young and trying to figure out her world.  She has accomplished so much in her life, and she is truly an inspiration to determined women and girls everywhere.  It’s no surprise that she’s the youngest person ever to be awarded the Noble Peace Prize.

Malala opened my eyes to the struggles that face women and girls all over the world.  While the #metoo movement is still in the forefront of the media, there’s a need to bring the issue of education of all individuals back into the spotlight.  We need to fight for all of women’s right so that every human can have the same rights.  Education for all could solve a lot of the issues around the world.

Seriously, use the freedom you have to read and educate yourself and buy/borrow this book.  Here’s even a link!

 

Happy Reading!

What I’m reading

Do you ever find yourself wishing that you had that friend that was always reading something current and interesting, possibly a book that will transport you within its pages or change the way you see the world?

Same.

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I’ve tried to follow other public book clubs like Reese Witherspoon’s and Oprah’s picks, but it can be hard to sync up your reading pace with theirs.  I really like the Book of the Month subscription box, especially because you can read a synopsis and a judge’s review of the books. They also do a lot of pre-releases for popular books.

I’m very fortunate that my beautiful mother used to be an English teacher and is still an avid reader to this day.  My sister, my mom and I actually do a book club several times a year.  Every time my mom comes to visit me, she brings me at least one new book.  I should mention that she only lives and hour and a half away.  So it’s no surprise that I have a stack of books patiently waiting to be opened.

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With our recent week-long trip to Costa Rica, I was able to have time to read finally.  And I didn’t waste any time at all!  I read a YA novel by Sara Evans, Nourished by Lia Huber, The Fault in Our Stars (I know, I’m late to the party on this one), and I started I am Malala.  It was awesome to get back into reading again!

I love to share books that I find interesting or life-changing with my coworkers and friends so I thought that I’d start to share them here.  Feel free to leave comments, book suggestions, grammar corrections, or any other concerns.

Oh, and Happy Reading!

 

 

New Year. More Cake.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake 2018

2018.

 

Guys, we survived 2017.

 

As a whole {country} 2017 was a rough one, but personally, I had a great year. I got married to my best friend and favorite human, I got to travel to NYC and explore some fantastic food, and I got a new job that allows me to spend more time with said favorite human.  While I didn’t go to the gym as often as I wanted, and I didn’t post on my blog very often, sorry guys, and I probably watched too much TV, but I enjoyed this past year spending time with my loved ones and truly lived life.

Which is how I landed at the title for this post as well as my mantra for the year ahead.  Life is all about balance people.  Balance between work and relaxation, balance between exercise and couch time, balance between quinoa and cake.  So while New Years Resolutions can be a great way to motivate ourselves to be better, we need to take some time three days after the new year and eat a piece of cake out of the fridge after our workout.

The recipe for this Flourless Chocolate cake can be found here and while I’m not in love with the result, it did satisfy my sweet tooth.  I added cointreau to the ganache that I spread on top.  For the berries, I tossed them in turbinado sugar, white wine, and cointreau and let them macerate overnight.  Stay tuned for a better recipe.

 

Happy New Year!

Falling for Autumn

 

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It’s that time of year again folks.  Newsfeeds are full of first day of school photos, pumpkin spice coffee is on the market, and the markets are losing their summer jewels.  It seems almost too soon.  Gone are the days with our toes in the sand, quick and cold summer rains, and reasons to drink rosé in the middle of the day.

But autumn is my favorite time of year.  Well, until the first snow.  Fall is memories of Friday football games, almost seeing our breath, color guard girls huddled close for warmth in our tank tops, voices turning hoarse as we cheer on our team.  Fall is crockpot meals, long runs with shorts and gloves.  Fall is the crinkling of leaves underfoot as we rake almost everyday.  Fall is pumpkin rolls, homemade apple pie, stockpiling pie filling in the chest freezer for the winter.  Fall is home, when we find ourselves inside with those we love most.

So with fall just around the corner, I grabbed a lonely can of pumpkin puree and made some pumpkin bread.  This loaf is sweet and loaded with spice, cinnamon, cloves, and of course nutmeg.  I coarsely ground up pecans with brown sugar and butter to use as a crumb topping. Enjoy with your favorite strongly brewed coffee.

 

Spiced Pumpkin Bread (adapted from epicurious)

Makes 2 loaves

 

3 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

 

 

Throughly combine all ingredients. This does make a fairly sweet bread, so feel free to decrease the sugar by 1 cup if needed.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes.

 

Top with crumb if desired.