Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Club Friday-- Brain on Fire.

GoodReads Synopsis: One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four year old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter.  Susannah’s astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. As weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning her to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined her team. He asked Susannah to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing her with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history. With sharp reporting drawn from hospital records, scientific research, and interviews with doctors and family, Brain on Fire is a crackling mystery and an unflinching, gripping personal story that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer.

My Thoughts:  This was a fascinating story.  But for the ingenuity of one doctor, who knows what Susannah's fate would have been.  It's crazy to thing about how many people suffering with mental illness could actually be suffering from a physical illness instead.  The author starts out the book by saying that she's not the most trustworthy of authors because she does not remember much of the events that she's writing about.  But being the good journalist that she is, she went to other first hand sources-- her parents, her boyfriend, her doctors and other caregivers-- to interview them.  She also uses journals kept by all the same people and even herself in the early days of her illness.  Therefore, the book reads like a cross between a memoir and an investigative report.  One that I really, really enjoyed.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Goodbye, Captain.

I know there's been SO much talk about Derek Jeter's retirement this year, to the point of being slightly annoying even to me-- a true blue Yankees fan.  But I couldn't possibly let this baseball season (and Derek Jeter's career) come to a close without me honoring...

... my all-time favorite baseball player.

... Mr. November.

... a 14 time All-Star, the 2000 World Series MVP, the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year, 5-time Gold Glove Award winner, 5-time Silver Slugger Award winner, 2-time Hank Aaron Award winner, and  a Roberto Clemente Award winner.

... the sixth highest man on the all-time MLB hit list (3,461 as of 9/24/14)

... the player of 2,744 Major League Baseball games, all with the Yankees.

... the master of "The Flip"

... a five time World Series champion.

... and the man who really made me love baseball and the Yankees.

Goodbye, Captain.  Baseball won't be the same without you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall To-Do List.

It only took me 24 days to finally link up with the Blog-tember challenge.  Fortunately, today's prompt matched a draft I had already started!  I love seasonal "bucket lists."  They help me remember to do fun things while the season is still here instead of putting them off until "later," which invariably turns into never.  So, here's my list!

ps-- I totally stole Tricia's graphic from her blog because it was SO cute!!

What's on your fall bucket list??

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall To-Read List.

As fantastic as this summer was for reading, I'm hoping this fall is even better. A 10-day road trip in November with hours and hours in the car should help me get plenty of books read!  These books are at the top of my to-read list this fall!
I'm still on a quest to clean up my to-read list on GoodReads.  I've got about ten books on there that I said I wanted to read in 2012.  If I can get them read before the end of 2014, that would be great.  These three are at the top of that list...

Two of my favorites are once again releasing new books in the fall-- Michael Connelly and John Grisham!  I'm already in the queue at the library for both even though the releases are at least a month away...

After discovering the wonders of Harlan Coben earlier this year, I've read almost a dozen of his books.  I think it's probably a little ambitious to try to read all of his books in 2014, but I'm certainly going to aim to get close.  Next up, the most recent of his YA series following Mickey Bolitar along with two of his early stand-alone novels...

And I've gotten several books from NetGalley that I need to read and review so I can get more!  These two are also on my list from last week of authors I need to read more from...
Ship of Brides // The Silent Sister

What's on your list for this fall?

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Winey Weekend.

Friday, I surprised Donny by taking him to the Old North State Winery in Mt. Airy, NC. I do not generally drink wine, but he loves it. So I'm not really one for going to a wine tasting. But knowing that he really wanted to go to one and trying to be a better, more thoughtful wife, I found a good one for a little adventure!
We were not the only people in the place, but it was close.  One cool thing that they did is let you choose from their wines-- you could either taste the dry and semi-dry ones, the sweet and semi-sweet wines, or all of the above.  Donny chose the dry wines (duh), and I chose the sweet ones even though I wasn't even plan on having any.  
It was actually a ton of fun, and I even found a few that I liked!  Y'all-- I even BOUGHT two bottles! Who am I??  After the wine tasting, we wandered around the town of Mount Airy for a while-- it's a cute little downtown with a bunch of shops, but it didn't take us too long to finish the tour.  

So we made our way home where I tried in vain to finish Dawson's Creek before Netflix took it off their site on Saturday.  I made it to episode 10 of the final season before I couldn't stay awake any longer.

Saturday morning, we were awake before the sun to head to Greensboro where Donny was running in a 5k.  Being the dutiful and loving wife that I am, I went with him to take pictures.  Like these...
We did get some free Chick-fil-A out of it too!  And while we were in Greensboro, we stopped by the big used book store, where I found season six of Dawson's Creek for only $9!  And then I promptly came home and take a nap.  Haha.

One of my favorite things in the world are Saturday pancakes.  They've become a serious tradition in our house.  Since we were up and gone super early, I didn't get to make them for breakfast.  So, it was breakfast for lunch instead!
I finished Miracle Cure, which was Harlan Coben's first published book.  It was pretty interesting but definitely not my favorite of his, which I suppose isn't surprising since it was his first book.  I also started The Firm by John Grisham. 
As I was about to start making dinner, my co-worker Amanda called because they were stranded due to a flat tire that meant their car would have to be towed to a mechanic (no spare, unusual sized tire = stuck on the side of the road).  So, Donny and I went to take her to her home in Lexington while her husband waited for the tow truck to come and for her to return with their other vehicle.  And since we were there, we went and ate at my favorite BBQ place as a kid.  (Definitely NOT Whole30 approved food, but delicious nonetheless.)

Sunday was pretty uneventful-- lots of reading and football.  I made some food for the week, including my current favorite lunch-- egg drop soup.  SO good!

How was your weekend?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Club Friday-- Summer Reads.

Yes, I know it's the middle of September.  Forgive me for not posting some great beach reads until now.  These were some of the light reads/chick lit I read this summer.  Most were good, some not so much...
GoodReads Synopsis:  In Hollywood, fame can be found on every corner and behind any door. You just have to know where to look for it. Nineteen-year-old Madison Parker made a name for herself as best frenemy of nice-girl-next-door Jane Roberts on the hot reality show L.A. Candy. Now Madison's ready for her turn in the spotlight and she'll stop at nothing to get it. Sure, she's the star of a new show, but with backstabbing friends and suspicious family members trying to bring her down, Madison has her work cut out for her. Plus, there's a new nice girl in "reality" town—aspiring actress Carmen Price, the daughter of Hollywood royalty—and she's a lot more experienced at playing the fame game... When the camera's start rolling, whose star will shine brighter?

My Thoughts:  I loved this series!  It was the perfect light, beach read.  I actually ended up liking Madison throughout this series (as opposed to the L.A. Candy series).  If you like fluffy chick-lit books, then I definitely recommend these!

GoodReads Synopsis:  Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret. 

My Thoughts: I liked this book, I didn't love it.  The story was rather depressing, and it all came together in a bizarre ending that seemed too strange to be true.  I did love the way Liane Moriarty wrote, and I loved the way she weaved several stories into her book.  I do look forward to reading more of her books.

GoodReads Synopsis:  Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.  But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

My Thoughts: This is probably Emily Giffin's most controversial book, which is odd considering that many of her books deal with (and somewhat glorify) infidelity.  I know many EG fans did not particularly care for this book, but I loved it.  I loved the setting of a football town in Texas, the characters, and yes, even the plot.  I did think Shea and Coach's relationship was rather odd and a little gross.  But, it was a fantastic story, and I couldn't put it down.

GoodReads Synopsis: From her sudden rise to fame as a golden-haired teen beauty, to recently redefining herself as a single working mother to three growing girls, Jennie Garth has defied the odds and thrived in a town that can be more than a little tough on its blondes. Since Jennie landed in Hollywood at just sixteen, she has built an enduring career as a television and film actress, producer and director, beginning with her iconic turn as Kelly Taylor on Aaron Spelling’s smash hit Beverly Hills 90210, a show that ran for a decade and which cemented Jennie’s place in American pop culture. Recently, Jennie found herself facing her forties from a place she never expected to be in: newly single, in demand again as an actress after years spent focusing on her family, and all over the tabloids. So she decided to do what surprised many—including herself: she decided to write about it, to tell her own story, in her own words. And now, in this intimate memoir, she explores the highs and lows of her life, both in front of the camera and behind closed doors, revealing the real Jennie Garth—smart, funny, and stronger than she ever realized.

My Thoughts: I had so much hope for this book, given my love for Tori Spelling's memoir.  But it was nowhere near as good.  Too much stuff no one would care about and not enough stories about things we all want to know.  Read at your own risk.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday.

Today's topic with The Broke and the Bookish is "Top Authors I've Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More." I love this category because I tend to hit and run authors a lot. Only Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben have been the exceptions to this rule in the last few years. But there are many authors whose works I've loved and really, really want to read more!
1. Sarah Addison Allen-- Her book Lost Lake is one of my favorites of 2014.  It's completely original, and I love love love the quirky characters she writes.  
2. Chevy Stevens-- One of the best psychological thrillers I've read in the last few years was her book Still Missing. Her other books seem rather intense like this one, so I'm saving them for a rainy day when I don't mind the stress.
3. Jo Nesbo-- Once I finish my Harlan Coben books, I think I'm going to start on Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole detective series.  After reading The Son, I'm very intrigued by his writing.
4. Ken Follett-- The only book of his I've read, The Man from St. Petersburg, was published in 1982, but it was fantastic.  I know he has some rather popular series/trilogies that span time periods, and those are pretty intriguing to me. 
5. Liane Moriarty-- I don't know how I've managed to only read one book of hers, but The Husband's Secret definitely made me want to read more.
6. S.J. Watson-- Before I Go to Sleep was amazing, and it was only his first novel.  This is one author that I'll be anticipating each book as its released.
7. Rainbow Rowell-- Probably my favorite YA author, and I've only read Eleanor and Park.  Unfortunately I'm not the only one because all of her books have long queues at the library!
8. Alafair Burke-- The competition for Jo Nesbo.  Again, she has a few detective series, only this time with a woman as the main character.
9. Diane Chamberlain-- Granted, I didn't love The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes.  But I did love the way she wrote, and I look forward to trying some others of her stories.
10. Jojo Moyes-- Me Before You is definitely the saddest book of 2014, but boy does she know how to write characters that make the reader fall in love with them.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Our Weekend and a Recipe!

I have been in a horrible funk the last few weeks (hence the sporadic blogging).  Recently, I had to fire my assistant that has been with me for four years.  It sucked.  Making the decision to do it was horrible.  Doing her job plus my job was horrible.  And trying to find a new person to replace her was horrible.  All while detoxing from sugar, grains, and all manner of delicious food that ordinarily gives me comfort...

So while cranky about work, I was cranky about food, and just generally not a delight to be around.  Of course, Donny had to deal with me, including a crying spell because he wouldn't go get me Zaxby's one night and help me cheat on the Whole30.  (Yes, I was acting like a four year old...)  But he also pointed out to me that I'd been holing myself up in the house being sad and I needed to get out.

So, that's what we did this weekend.  There were pedicures, card games with my parents, weightlifting, dinner with friends, an evening stroll through Barnes and Noble, football games, cooking, cleaning, church-going, and more this weekend.  Sadly, plans for putt-putt were derailed by rain, but there was plenty going on otherwise.
Donny was very right-- I needed to stop moping around the house and out of my own head for a while.  And it really helped.  Getting out and being around other people actually helped this introvert recharge and refocus.

One of the best things I made this weekend was egg drop soup!  I LOVE egg drop soup at Chinese restaurants, but I never knew how easy it was to make.  From the time I got up to make it to the time I sat down to eat it, maybe 20 minutes passed.  It was super easy and super quick, not to mention delicious!  
Recipe adapted and photo from Gimme Some Oven

4 cups good-quality chicken stock (I used Trader Joe's)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3 large eggs (or two whole eggs and two whites)
1/4 tsp. sesame oil (start with a little then add more if desired-- a little goes a long way)
3 green onions, sliced thin (about 1/4 cup sliced), plus extra for garnish
Salt, to taste 
Black pepper, to taste 


  • Whisk together chicken stock (chilled or room-temperature), cornstarch, ginger and garlic powder in a medium saucepan until combined and no lumps remain.  Then heat over high heat until boiling, stirring occasionally.  (Do not heat before cornstarch is whisked in or the lumps will never go away.)
  • While the stock comes to a boil, whisk the eggs in a spouted measuring cup (or a bowl, but the spout is best for the next step).
  • Once the broth reaches a rolling boil, remove from heat. Then use a whisk to stir the broth in a circular motion while slowly pouring the whisked eggs into the soup to create egg ribbons. 
  • Stir in the sesame oil and green onions until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve immediately, topped with additional green onions for garnish.
I hope you all had a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bacon Chipotle Meatloaf.

I'm back on the Whole30 train this month!  I felt SO great after I finished the first one, and I ate pretty much paleo most of the time for a while.  And then I fell off the wagon...  So, I needed a dietary "reset."  I'm on day 3 now, and I think this time around will be easier.  First of all, I know what to expect.  I know that I need to eat more than I think I do in order to avoid hunger.  I know that I'm still going to be a little cranky while I detox from sugar.  And I know that I can absolutely do it.  The other thing making it a little easier is that I've learned how to cook paleo-- it's not foreign to me anymore.  While the Whole30 is slightly more strict than regular paleo cooking, most of the things I make are already compliant.  

But of course, I'm always looking for new recipes.  And I found this meatloaf recently from, which is one of my favorite paleo recipe sites.  It was UNBELIEVABLE.  Even if you don't eat paleo, you need to make this meatloaf ASAP.
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Four slices of bacon, cut in half
  • 2-3 tablespoons chipotle mayo (recipe to follow)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix all ingredients, except for the bacon and mayo, in a stand mixer on low until combined.  (Mix by hand if you don't have a stand mixer.)
  • Place the meat mixture into a loaf pan and spread evenly.  Try to avoid squishing it more than necessary.   
  • Place your bacon across the meat, overlapping slightly to cover all the meat.  Tuck the sides of the bacon in so they don’t turn up while they bake.
  • Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes then turn on broiler and cook for less than 5 minutes, just to brown the bacon a little more.  Make sure to watch to keep the bacon from burning.
  • Garnish with chipotle mayo!

The chipotle mayo is super easy if you already have some mayo on hand.  Since going paleo, I no longer eat store-bought mayo, so I make my own.  It's not difficult at all, and it tastes so much better.  Mel Joulwan has the best tutorial on how to make it.  I follow it to the letter and have never had a problem.  So once you have your mayo, but a big dollop (highly technical term, I know) into a bowl.  Then just add the spices to your tastes.  I used:
  • 3/4 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
  • A few shakes (maybe 1/4 tsp) of cayenne pepper
  • A few more shakes (maybe 1/3 tsp) of garlic powder
  • A sprinkle of salt and pepper
Just taste it and season it how you like.  I didn't want mine very spicy, so I went easy on the spices this time, although it still had a mild kick.

Let me know if you try it and what you think!  

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Love This Holiday.

Every year, I'm excited for Labor Day.  It's my favorite holiday other than Christmas.  I know it's rather unusual, but Labor Day brings so much excitement!  First of all, it signals the end of summer and beginning of fall.  Since I'm not in school, I'm not that sad about summer ending.  Fall is the best season, and Labor Day means that it's finally arrived!

I know it's pretty cliche now, but I flipping love the Pumpkin Spice Latte.  They finally roll back into Starbucks stores on Labor Day weekend (although this year, they debuted a week early...).
Labor Day weekend is also the first college football Saturday, which is one of the happiest events of the fall. 
The last tennis major of the year, and usually one of the most exciting, also surrounds Labor Day weekend.  The US Open is always two weeks of fantastic tennis and a great show.
This year, sadly, Labor Day is also the last day that the pool is open.  So, you can find me here today soaking up my last few minutes of summer before fall starts in full swing.
Hope you all enjoy your Labor Day!