Friday, February 5, 2016

My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris

Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey
: July 27, 2011 by Grand Central Publishing
When I first saw this book I remember being intrigued by seeing Tel Aviv in the title. In general, I'm a fan of cooking memoirs, but that was what won me over. (Also there was the tiny detail that I found it at a Borders closing sale so it was crazy discounted.)

After culinary school Shockey decides to stage, or what you could call a restaurant intern, at four restaurants across the world. In her memoir so goes into what it's like working in a fancy kitchen, the differences in them depending on where they're located, and of course all the delicious food she discovers.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that while in New York she worked at wd-50 for Wylie Dufresne. Surprisingly, those chapters were some of my favorites. I was intrigued by her time in Vietnam, but never really felt transported there. The parts in Israel that I was so excited for, seemed to go by way to quick and didn't seem to have much substance. The last section in Paris was again interesting, but I never really got a feel for the city.

I loved the idea of this book, but overall it fell a little flat for me. Shockey had a great adventure, but never I seemed to understand why she wrote a book. She didn't necessarily seem excited about the adventures she went through and by the end she was kind of over cooking, so I never really got why she wanted to relive those experiences.

Despite this, I loved the look into a restaurant kitchen, especially one as famous as wd-50. There were some delicious sounding recipes as well, especially one in the Tel Aviv section for halvah ice cream, that I can't wait to make.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

#LoveBlog: Valentine's Day Traditions

I remember the first Valentine's Day I celebrated with the boy. I asked him what plans he made and when he told me, "nothing," I assumed that meant I was in for a great surprise. He must had made reservations at some new restaurant. Or had something crazy and exciting for us to do.
Cup of Coffee
The Boy's Present to Me Our First Valentine's Day, 2007
The day finally arrived, and the boy had planned... nothing. He was telling the truth the whole time! I was a little disappointed at first, and a little in disbelief, but despite that we still wound up having a great time.
Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day 2008
We exchanged presents in my apartment. I can't remember what I bought the boy, but he bought me a coffee cup (that I still use today!) and chocolate covered cherries.
Beau and Me
A Valentine's Day Wedding, 2009
We went to dinner. (I'm not completely sure where, but maybe Macaroni Grill?) We stopped at the bookstore, before going to the movies to see Music & Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. (A movie I still love and have all the songs memorized.)
Ready to go out
Valentine's Day 2010
Since then, that's pretty much been our Valentine's Day standard. A dinner and a movie, and if we're lucky we'll make it to the bookstore. It's low key, and it's perfect for us.
On the Couch
Valentine's Day 2011
As for our plans this year? Surprise, surprise... we don't have any! But we'll likely let Elley spend the day with her grandparents and make our way out for dinner and a movie.
Valentine's Sushi
Valentine's Day Sushi, 2013
Today I'm co-hosting Belle Brita's LoveBlog, a daily link-up for the month of February. See below for more info on the link-up and to meet the other hosts.

Meet Brita Long: Christian feminist blissfully married to Dan Fleck for almost two years. Lover of Paris, pink sparkles, sensible shoes, manicures, and books. Fueled by hot tea and mimosas.
Twitter // Instagram // Facebook // Pinterest // Tumblr // Google+ // Bloglovin

Meet Tayler Morrell: Mormon stay at home mom married to her best friend, Justin, for 3.5 years. Mother to 19 month old Rhys. "Retired" history and English teacher, runner, lover of video games, fantasy, books, and cooking. Consumer of Italian food, chocolate, steak, and strawberries.
Twitter // Instagram // Facebook // Pinterest // Bloglovin

Meet Shoshanah: California girl who moved to Louisiana and fell in love (with her husband and the state!). Loves to read, especially historical fiction and YA. Obsessed with gingerbread lattes and creme brulee.
Twitter // Instagram // Pinterest // Bloglovin

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Last Christmas

Let's take a trip back in time and so I can finally share photos from our Christmas celebration! The boy and I had initially talked about going to see the bonfires on Christmas Eve. But there was talk of rain, and both the boy and Elley were getting over colds so we opted for a lazy night at home.
Since I never shared any of our decorations this year, these are our stockings. Also you can just barely see that I traded out some of our pictures for last year's holiday photos.
We don't normally exchange any presents on Christmas Eve, but this year it was pretty much a necessity. Our standard tradition is to watch Love Actually on Christmas Eve, but after 10 years of use my dvd wasn't in the best condition and skipped the whole time we watched it the year prior. Which is why it was such a perfect idea by the boy gifting me a copy of Love Actually on blu-ray.
Not only is it our Christmas Eve tradition but it's my first present of the holiday since my first copy is over 10 years old now and all scratched up.
While we watched the movie, I wrapped the last of Elley's presents so everything was ready for her the following morning.
Ready for Christmas!
By the time Christmas m orning arrived, both with Hanukkah and her birthday, Elley was a gift opening pro. Although with so many presents and the giant bag of blocks she definitely got a little distracted and went from present to present at first.
Christmas Morning
Eventually though she made it through, although there wasn't a ton of time to hang with all her new toys since we were headed over to Elley's grandparents' house for, wait for it... even more presents.
She was a little less sure about the present opening this time though. I think the number of people and the crazy amount of presents overwhelmed her a bit, but she still had a great time.
Unsure About all this Craziness
Of course this post wouldn't be complete without a family photo, so here are me and Elley in front of the Christmas tree.
Merry Christmas
For a crazy fun comparison, here we are just one year prior.
Merry Christmas
She looks a little different then, right?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Oh What Fun

It's always so exciting receiving a new VoxBox in the mail! Size-wise this was actually the smallest box I received, but I think the things inside were some of my favorites.
Jingle Vox Box
Starting in the back, there's a case of Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. I already use Cetaphil every night to wash my face. I do always intend to put on moisturizer afterwards, and well... rarely remember. Which is awful, especially with such dry skin in the winter. I love that this is the perfect travel size and think this may be coming along on my next vacation.

These packs of Biscoff cookies were so delicious! I think I ate both packs within 24 hours of receiving my box. I had meant to take a photo of the cookies themselves, but I couldn't help myself.

I used to always use Sephora brand eyeliner but they recently changed their formula and I'm not a fan. I've actually been looking for a new everyday eyeliner and this NYC City Proof 24 Hour Waterproof Eyeliner has been amazing. I've used it practically everyday since it's arrived and haven't had a complaint yet.

Honestly, I can't remember the last time I painted my nails. I'm not actually sure I own any nail polish. Till this box arrived that is! I'm now the owner of Pure Ice Nail Polish in Shore Bet. I guess this means I can end my drought of polish-less nails?

While I have worn nail polish before I've never actually worn fake eyelashes. This kit of Kiss True Volume Lashes and Kiss Strip Lash Adhesive with Aloe does look a little intimidating, but maybe I'll brave them the next time I need to get dressed up.

For more food, there's a coupon for Ore-Ida Tater Tots because honestly who doesn't love tots? I don't believe Elley has had her first tot yet, but I'm pretty sure she'd love them.

Speaking of Elley the last item in the box was specifically for her. It's a Rapunzel from Hallmark itty bittys. She actually already had a Wonder Woman so it looks like the two of them can keep each other company.

Disclosure: I was provided these items through Influenster. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Once Upon a Time

We're taking a trip back through time so I can finally share with you all Elley's first birthday. I'm sure you won't be that surprised but I decided to go with a children's book theme. I actually spent way too long on Etsy looking for the perfect customized invitation, but instead wound up finding one on tinyprints that I think was a great preview of things to come
I tried to keep decorations low key and went with a pink and gold theme. I hung up with monthly photos on the wall framed by pink and gold scrapbook paper.
We had pink tableclothes, pink and gold steamers, and I even hung up a gold happy birthday sign. Not that this is the best photo of me or the banner, which has its th upside down, but it is the only photo I have of it.
We had bowls of various type of goldfish out representing One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
Also as appetizers we had The Hungry Caterpillar's cheese and sausage.
I also made Stregna Nona's pasta salad and Deviled green eggs using this recipe from Katie Lee for avocado deviled eggs.
The boy contributed a gumbo as the main course. We also had a hot chocolate bar, although with the temperature being around 80 it wasn't really used. There was still dessert though and I used Blueberries for Sal to inspire the cakes.
I used a Martha Stewart recipe for the actual cake and this awesome recipe for whipped buttercream frosting.
As for the birthday girl, she seemed to have a blast. After everyone ate their lunch we opened presents. Although Elley's wasn't all too happy with the fact she couldn't take each present out as she opened them.
Opening Presents
There were a ton of presents, and she got a little distracted by the end, especially with all the people around.
But eventually we made it through, and it was time for cake. I'm not sure I've ever seen a baby eat a smash cake like Elley since instead of eating fistfuls of cake she literally picked the entire thing up in both hands!
#throwbackthursday to Kaylee's first birthday last Saturday. Sometimes a cake just needs two hands!
She had a blast with that cake though!
She actually managed to get through a good portion of it, of course turning herself blue in the process.
Overall I thought it wound up being a really fun day. Although it's crazy to think my baby is a year old! I'm not quite sure how I let that happen. I'll do my best to make sure her second birthday doesn't get here as quick!

Monday, January 25, 2016

From England to France

Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson
: January 19, 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Two years ago I read Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson and fell in love. But then was let down by her follow-up After the War is Over last year, partly due to my high expectations. So when it came to her next book I was a little apprehensive but still really, really excited.

Thankfully this book brings the magic back! The story follows Lady Helena, who had cameos in Robson's other books, but this is the first time we really get to know her. And yes, for those wondering characters from Robson's first two books do have cameos here. Not necessarily large ones, but similar what you find in Emily Giffin's book.

While the first two books took place during WWI and its aftermath, this one moves us forward in time to the roaring 20s. I do think the book really captured the period and brought it alive. There's even cameos by those celebrities you'd expect to see in Paris in the 1920s, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

Once again this was a book that I couldn't put down! I absolutely adored the love story. Yes, it had it's moments of frustration, but it made sense and felt real.

I loved how Paris was featured in the story, one aspect I felt was missing from Somewhere in France considering the title. I loved the art school aspect, something that reminded me of another favorite book, A Mad, Wicked Folly.

To me this book proves that Somewhere in France was no fluke and has cemented Robson in my auto-buy list. While I may not know what her next book will be, there's definitely a character in her that would be perfect for her own story and if that is what happens, I can't wait to read it!


Disclosure: I was provided this book through TLC Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Designated Ugly Fat Friend

The Duff by Kody Keplinger
: January 13, 2015 by Poppy
First Published: September 7, 2010
This book was huge when I first got into book blogging five (seriously, five?!?!) years ago. It piqued my interest then, but I never got around to it, nor anything else by Kody Keplinger. Then with the movie coming out, one of the members of my book club was curious enough to suggest we read it, which meant it was finally time.

I did wind up enjoying the book, yet I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it 5 years ago. In some ways I feel a little too old for parts of this book, though there are definitely themes that are more universal.

I think my biggest issue was the amount of sex in this book. Reading it now, as a 30-year-old, with a daughter, I can't imagine wanting my own future high school-er to read it. It just felt way too mature. Then I read the author's bio which tells you she started writing it in high school, which all of a sudden makes the book make so much more sense.

High school girls are a little obsessed with sex and relationships, so I can easily see how this book could have been imagined by someone in it. Also, you can't really say the book is too mature for a teenager if in was in fact written by a teenager.

Now for the stuff I liked. I loved the friendship between Bianca and her friends. I do think the book captures so well the essence of been a teenage girl. There were moments of Bianca's inner monologue where I'd comment to myself, I remember feeling the exact same way.

Part of me is curious to read more from this author. In fact I added another one of her books, Shut Out, to my goodreads wish list years ago, December 2011 to be more precise. But knowing my complaints with The Duff, I'd imagine I'll feel quite similar with that one as well, especially knowing it's a modern retelling of Lysistrata, which basically means sex is the main plot line. Even so, I have a feeling my curiosity will get the better of me eventually.