Posted by Apr 14, 2015
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Money spent on a good book is never wasted, and for that matter, neither is the time. When you’re feeling a bit hermity, what could be better than visiting some old friends in a far away place? And all for the $10 you spent five years ago. Books are an investment in happiness, and in my opinion, you can never have too many of them.
Some books are only good one time around. The plot is simple enough to fully embrace the first time, or they depend on suspense to provide entertainment. But other books beg to be read again and again. Worlds that are rich and deep, plots that are complex with too many characters to count, or words that are just so beautiful, you want to bathe in them again and again. Here are 10 books I love re-reading!
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling– I’ve actually lost count of the amount of times I’ve read through the entire series. I never ever get tired of it. When I’m stressed or anxious, Harry Potter always calms me down and makes me happy. I laugh and cry each and every time.
- Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein– An excellent combination of rich worlds and rich languages. I love a book or series that starts out with a map. You know you’re dealing with someone who takes world building seriously. I promise you didn’t catch everything the first time.
- Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin– I actually don’t super love the writing and think that Martin could have benefited from an aggressive editor, and yet I still can’t stop myself from re-reading. These stories are so deep with so many plot twists and hidden agendas, I don’t think I’ll ever figure it all out. And that’s unacceptable.
- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke– This book is completely mesmerizing. Every time I open it up, I feel like I’ve been put under a spell. It’s not exactly an action packed adventure, but it’s so exquisitely written, I can’t put it down. Even the second time around.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald– I’ve been re-reading this book since I was 18, and it never stops being completely beautiful and completely heartbreaking. It takes my breath away every single time. If you think this novel is just about booze and fringe dresses, you’re seriously missing something.
- Watership Down by Richard Adams– I’ve been trying to get my husband to read this book for years. Yes, I know it’s about rabbits, but it’s an incredible adventure. This is on my current re-read list, and I’m going to give it another turn soon.
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant– I love a strong female lead, so to read the story of strong women in a time when women were almost completely powerless is definitely fascinating. The language is also quite lovely.
- Night by Elie Wiesel– This is a book I taught every semester while I was an English teacher, and often I read much of the book out loud to the class. How someone can write so beautifully about something so brutal and tragic is nearly incomprehensible, but I am deeply moved each time I read this book.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston– Another strong woman in a powerless situation manages to take control of her happiness, if only for a moment. If you’re into audio books, I highly recommend the version of this novel read by Ruby Dee. It’s just too much to love.
- A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman– This is the only non-fiction book on my list, but this collection of essays is an amazing mash up of science and poetry. You can open it to almost any page and find yourself reading something completely fascinating. It never gets old.
These are just the first ten books that came to mind. What are your favorite books to read again and again?
Posted by Apr 8, 2015
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How do you feel about the grocery store bakery counter? I remember as a child making sure we always went past the bakery case every time my mom took me to our local Albertson’s. Sometimes I’d get lucky, and she’d buy me a tigertail doughnut, which might be one of the best things on Earth. But even if I didn’t get to take something home, we almost always got a free cookie from the lady behind the counter. They kept a stock of giveaways, probably to keep obnoxious kids quiet while in the store. I guess it worked because I always walked away happy.
These days, I’m both thrilled and a tiny bit disgusted every time I walk through the bakery section. The bread and pastries look so lovely all golden and crusty and neatly lined up. The single slices of cake call to me. Even the elaborately decorated cakes and cupcakes with mounds of sugary frosting are alluring with their bright colors like one of those deep sea lure fish. And yet, half the time, when I get something from the grocery store bakery the actual experience leaves me disappointed. Those ingredient lists are impossibly long for something as simple as a chocolate chip cookie or a slice of white cake.
This is where learning to bake becomes an asset. You don’t have to play roulette with the grocery store bakery or pay impossibly high prices at a more upscale place. You control the ingredients, so you know it’s going to taste amazing. And the time it takes is time well spent, in my opinion.
Make stuff yourself, kids. I’ll never stop saying it. It’s cheaper, tastes better, and is ridiculously fun.
Lofthouse Cookie Bars
Soft and sweet, these Lofthouse Cookie Bars are better than store bought and almost as easy.
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 350 and cover a half sheet pan or a jelly roll pan with foil, then spray lightly. I used a 17x12 inch pan. You could use a smaller pan, but I wouldn't use anything larger.
- In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until smooth and fluffy.
- Next, mix in the egg and vanilla until combined.
- Turn your mixer to its lowest setting and slowly mix in the dry ingredients until just combined.
- Spread your cookie dough as evenly as possible in your pan. It will be quite sticky. I tried a couple different tools, but ultimately, the best thing was clean hands.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden. Cool completely.
- Beat together butter and powdered sugar with your electric mixer adding the powdered sugar gradually. It will be a very stiff mixture.
- Mix in the vanilla extract then add the milk slowly to thin it out. You may need a little more or a little less. You want a very thick frosting that will be more smashable than spreadable. Crank the speed up for about 30 seconds to make sure everything is smooth and fluffy.
- Carefully spread your frosting over your cooled cookie bars, covering the entire surface as evenly as possible.
- Scatter your sprinkles across your frosting and gently press to sprinkles down into the frosting to hold them in place. I do this with a wax paper covered hand.
- Slice into bars of the desired size. You could definitely make smaller servings to feed a larger crowd if you need to. Everyone will still be happy.
- Store in an airtight container.
- If you plan to use liquid food coloring to color your frosting, you may want to hold off on some of the milk.
Adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
How to be awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
Posted by Apr 6, 2015
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It’s been a rough road, friends. After my vacation, I came down with the worst cold I think I’ve ever had. I felt like I’d been beaten with a baseball bat, and eventually, I completely lost my voice and could only whisper for two whole days. No amount of zinc lozenges, Airborne, or even 12 solid hours of sleep has made any improvement. At the moment, I am able to croak a bit and can move around for a few minutes without wanting to take a nap on the spot. I’d say that’s a bit of an improvement. I’ll take it.
I managed to meet most of my work and social obligations and even smiled while pretending not to die. I doubt I was very convincing, but I showed up, and I took care of business to the best of my ability. Next week, I promise to be super awesome and conquer the world.
Some things are still super useful when they look the most sad and decrepit. Like bananas. Ugly bananas can be transformed into something super awesome. This time around, it’s chocolate banana muffins. That’s right, kids, chocolate.
I’m not a banana eater myself, but Emily had some sad looking bananas that she brought with her on the plane, and we couldn’t let them go to waste. That’s like putting money in the trash. But just regular banana muffins are not awesome enough. Cocoa powder is like magic, friends. These muffins are fluffy and flavorful and awesome for breakfast or as a snack. And you can pretend their healthy, right?
Fingers crossed I can make a comeback and become as awesome as these chocolate banana muffins. Here’s to health and happiness and cocoa.
Chocolate Banana Muffins
Moist, light muffins that are deeply chocolaty and gives sad bananas a new life.
- 3 very ripe bananas
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar
- 1-1/2 cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat your oven to 400 and pop some pretty papers into 12 muffin tins.
- In a large mixing bowl, mash your bananas with an electric mixer. Mix in the oil, eggs, and brown sugar.
- Turn your mixer down to low and mix in the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda until just combined.
- Scoop your batter into your waiting muffins pan, filling them about two-thirds full.
- Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes and eat warm, or allow to cool completely and store in an air tight container.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
How to be awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/