Thursday, October 23, 2014

Winter 2014 Book Challenge: Preliminary List

I've been wanting to participate in one of Megan's book challenges since I discovered her blog last year. This winter I'm finally going to commit! I feel like I've been watching entirely too much Netflix recently thanks to discovering Scandal and American Horror Story, and I want to spend more time this winter with my nose in a good book. I like this challenge because it encourages you to read books that are new to you, but some of these categories were hard! These are my preliminary choices for the Winter 2014 Book Challenge:

5 points: Freebie! — DarkPlaces by Gillian Flynn (I am obsessed with Gone Girl, and I can’t wait to read another one of her books!)

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books. — Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

10 points: Read a book of short stories. — One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

10 points: Read a book with a food (not a drink!) in the title. —  The $64 Tomato by William Alexander

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you (so no rereads for this one!). — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language. — Still thinking about this one!

15 points: Read a book written by a local author (either an author from your state if you live in the United States, or in your country if you live somewhere else—note: author must be from where you currently live). — Pretty Girl – 13 by Liz Coley

20 points: Read a "bookish book" (in which books play an important role, e.g. the setting involves a bookstore or library, a major character is an author, or a book that celebrates reading and books. – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title. — Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

25 points: Read a book from a genre you don't usually read. — This one is hard because I like to read a little bit of everything! Does anyone have any good science fiction book suggestions?

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title. — Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close (My Favorite Things – Sound of Music Soundtrack)

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, brunch; update: meals like feast, banquet, picnic will also count, but try not to get too "creative" with your meal words!). — The Dinner by Herman Koch, Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brunette Ambition: A Review

Ever since I read Tiffany's review of Brunette Ambition by Lea Michelle, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of that book. I'm a huge sucker for books written by celebrities - remember when I read Farrah Abraham's book in one day? Anyways, I was so excited when this book arrived in the mail! 

One of the reasons I both liked and disliked this book is that Lea talked a lot about her life before and during Glee, without actually talking a lot about Glee. I love Glee. (Despite what recent ratings say, I think the show has only gotten better since the main cast graduated and moved to New York.) I really enjoyed reading about Lea's own time on Broadway and how she built her career before landing her role as Rachel Berry. I also liked seeing how Lea lives her life off-set - she's a total stay-at-home type just like me, loves food and loves to cook but doesn't like to eat meat just like me, and values her close friends and family more than anything just like me. If you haven't figured it out already, Lea and I are basically soul sisters. 

Throughout these sections of the book, Lea shares her favorite recipes, exercises, gorgeous outfits, and about a million other tips and tricks that she's learned from being in the business. I want to try everything! Except the exercises...because I'm not the kind of person who gets excited about trying new exercises. 

I was really hoping that more of this book would be spent talking about Glee and Cory Monteith. Only one chapter was spent on the show, and Cory was only mentioned a few times. Lea wrote almost all of the book before he passed, and I know that really wasn't the point of the book, but I was still hopeful. 

Overall though, I thought this was a great book! Lea's writing is very relatable, the pictures are beautiful, and the look and feel of the book itself was nice to read. If you're a Glee fan or just want to know more about Lea Michelle, check out Brunette Ambition!

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are, of course, my own. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Seasonal Recipes: Crockpot Chili

Even though I'm an almost-vegetarian, that doesn't mean that meat isn't cooked in our house. Ryan makes a huge batch of chili at least twice a year, and today he's here to tell you about it! 

So about two years ago I decided to recreate a recipe for chili.  I used to make it much more complex with beans, corn and various other things. It had gotten fairly complicated, and I wanted to go back to basics.  This is the recipe that I came up with! Ever I started bringing it into our work potlucks, I've had so many requests for it. One of my coworkers even made a point to hunt me down and ask if I was bringing it for our most recent event.  The recipe also works well with ground venison substituted for either all or half of the beef. (I personally prefer 1 lb ground beef and 1 lb venison.)  I hope you all enjoy it.  


2 lbs ground beef
1 1/2 onions, finely chopped
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 29 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped 
2 serrrano peppers, finely chopped
2 1/2 Tbs. chili powder
2 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5/8 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Saute beef in a skillet until lightly brown. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Add cooked beef, onions, tomato sauce, drained diced tomatoes, and peppers into a 6 quart crockpot and turn on high. 

Cook for approximately 4 hours, adding seasonings in increments. Modify seasonings to taste. 

Serve immediately alone, over pasta, or with crackers. 

The remainder can be refrigerated or frozen. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Seasonal Starbucks

Like almost every other blogger/midwestern/basic white girl, I am in love with Starbucks. Ever since that first sip of caramel frappuccino in 5th grade at our Girl Scout Mall Lock-In, I've been hooked. So, today I'm linking up with Melissa to talk about my favorite Starbucks seasonal drinks!

Spring - This one isn't technically a seasonal drink at Starbucks, but I love their iced tea/lemonade combos in the Spring!

Winter - Oh my god. Gingerbread Lattes. I always get so excited when the red cups come out!

Summer - I live for the Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino during the summer. It's like drinking a huge, creamy Oreo coated in whipped cream, and if anyone tells me how many calories are in it I will kill you. 

And finally, Fall - Obviously my favorite Starbucks drink is the Pumpkin Spice Latte. It just tastes like fall. (Deep, I know.) I actually didn't hop on the PSL bandwagon until this past year - for a while I had a very strong aversion to eating anything that was naturally orange. aka pumpkin. (Fake orange was fair game.) But after one sip, I was totally obsessed. Now I'm one of those girls who uses all the embarrassing hash tags with absolutely no shame. #PSL #basicwhitegirl #fall

Aaaand that's it. Heading to Starbucks now because this post made me thirsty.  

Making Melissa

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rainy Day Rituals

Today I’m linking up with Melissa and her October Blogging Challenge to talk about my rainy day rituals! My rainy days look very different depending on whether I have to leave the house for work/school  or if I can stay at home in yoga pants. 

If I have to leave the house…

If it’s a school or work day and I wake up and hear rain, I’m almost immediately get fussy. I just want to hide under the covers all day. Instead I have to get up, fail at planning an outfit around my obnoxiously colored bright yellow rain boots, and spend my day struggling to keep my umbrella from turning inside out as I walk to class and work.  I move more slowly, and I find it hard to focus. I probably should have just stayed home, I think to myself about 15 times before noon. My favorite part of the day is when I eventually make it home and, without question, start making comfort food. Probably something warm with squash, and I will eat it while wrapped as tightly as possible in my tie-fleece blanket.


If I don’t have to leave the house…

If it’s a weekend or a random day off during the week and I wake up and hear rain, I’m smiling before my eyes are even open.I lay in bed for a while just listening to the rain, then eventually shuffle over to my closet to pull out yoga pants and a well-worn OSU hoodie. (And you better believe I'm not changing out of them all day.) I head straight for the kitchen and make a cup of hot tea in the biggest mug I can find. And then another...and another. My favorite rainy days are spent Netflix binging or reading chapter after chapter of a good book while watching the rain coming down on our back deck. I'll usually wind up baking bread or cookies sometime during the day, mostly just to make the house smell amazing. Once it starts to get dark, I'll make Ryan light the fireplace (because it's scary), and one or both of us will make a cozy dinner. Again, probably something with squash. It just doesn't get any more cozy than that. 

Making Melissa

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall Festivalin'

This past weekend, my parents and I headed over to the east side of Ohio to the Atwood Fall Festival! We used to visit the festival almost every year, and it was great to be back. Besides the little bit of rain in the morning, the weather was great- cool and crisp and fall-y and perfect. There were so many vendors with adorable, handmade Fall and Christmas decorations, and I picked up some amazing things for the house! 

All ready for the festival

There were SO many pumpkins and gourds all over the grounds!

After exhausting all of the booths and tents, we headed to lunch/dinner at the Lighthouse Bistro. We sat outside overlooking the lake, and I had the best cup of clam chowder I've ever had in my whole life.

When I got home, I immediately started decorating the house with my fall festival goodies. What do you think? 

Other notes from this weekend: 
Hockey is the best. 
There's a rooftop bar in downtown Columbus. This city is even cooler than I thought. 
Gone Girl was amazing. Seriously amazing. Go see it now. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I Ain't Sayin' She a Gold Digger

I’ve been trying this new thing at the office where, instead of listening to Kanye on repeat while I work, I listen to something educational or intellectual. It started with TED Talks about birth control and the spread of HIV, and eventually moved to listening to Dan Savage talks for literally, not figuratively, hours.

I’m kind of obsessed with Dan, with his job, and his views on sexuality and monogamy. I’ve read his books, went to see him speak when he came to OSU a few years ago, and read his column religiously, but it had been a while since I had listened to his recorded lectures .

I found myself switching back and forth between the SavageLove podcasts, his college lecture series on YouTube, and the debate on same-sex marriage that he had at his dining room table with that asshole Brian Brown. So after getting all excited up about sex-positive education and sexual acceptance like “YES! This is all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life!” I took a break. I went back to the Kanye.

18 years, 18 years, she got one of your kids, got you for 18 years.

And then I got caught in a flashback. When I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school, a woman named Pam Stenzel came to speak at a school-wide assembly. It was all very exciting – she was the sex lady who was there to talk about sex. I honestly don’t remember much of what she talked about that day, aside from rapping Gold Digger (see how we got here?) and rattling off all of the possible STIs that you can get when you have any kind of sex, protected or not. For me, this was the first time I had heard anyone speak so candidly about sex, and I thought that made her really cool. I remember going home, telling my parents about her, and two days later, she was on my dad’s radio morning show rattling off STIs to his listeners.

Throughout college, I’d read several articles about how most of what Pam has to say promotes abstinence-only education and slut-shames, two things that I am whole-heartedly against. I’d avoided listening to any more of her talks because, honestly, I wanted to remember her as the women who showed me that it was ok to talk about sex out loud. (I clearly missed the point of her lecture.) But today was different. Today I was curious.

Below Images are the 3rd, 4th, and 5th hit when you search
for Pam on Google.

So I googled Pam to find a recent lecture and started listening to one that was published back in April 2013. Pam was yelling. It seems like all Pam does is yell. She told a story about senior male who, at one of her previous lectures, stood up and confessed to his entire school that he was a father. Pam asked him if he had any advice for his fellow classmates, and his two words were, “Don’t. Drink.” Pam paused dramatically, then goes on to talk about how it was the alcohol’s fault that this boy hooked up with the hot girl who was vacationing in his town the summer before.

It is my personal opinion that this boy’s advice, and by extension Pam’s advice, is wildly unhelpful and unrealistic. It is unhelpful to teach high school students that it is wrong to want to have sex. Newsflash – high school kids want to have sex. Shaming them for their perfectly natural feelings isn’t going to make them not have sex, but it is going to take away from time that could be better spent teaching them how to do it safely. It is unrealistic to think that every teenage parent was drunk when conceiving their child, and it is even more unrealistic to think that every high school student who has sex is drunk every time. Yes, they are more likely to correctly use a barrier, or use one at all, if they’re sober, but abstaining from alcohol doesn’t equal abstaining from sex. Here’s two words for those high school kids: Use. Protection.