Monday, August 31, 2015

Playlist: August 2015

Last month I shared some of my musical guilty pleasures, and then went on to make a playlist featuring many of the bands and artists mentioned in that post. My guilty pleasures post wasn't all about the music I'm embarrassed to admit I like, though. I also included music that most people are surprised to learn I like as well as some long time favorites that some might think I should have "outgrown" (but I obviously never did).

I tend to get a little nostalgic around this time of year, but it's not just because of all the back to school stuff. I mean, yes, sometimes I miss the excitement of a new school year (yes, I was one of those nerdy kids who actually looked forward to learning new things), but I think it's mostly because I'm another year older. I'm more removed from my youth.

In some ways it's relieving ... I mean, who wants to relive all the drama and insecurity and raging batshit crazy hormones of their preteen and teenage years? I certainly don't.

At other times, though, it's a little sad. High school wasn't the nightmare for me that it was for some people. I wasn't the prettiest, most popular girl (not by a long shot!), but I had a great group of close friends. I was involved in a lot of fun activities (drama, dance, band, flag corps, etc.). I had a few boyfriends, and began my first very serious, very long term (4 years) relationship the summer before my junior year. I saw my family, including my now deceased grandparents, all the time (something I definitely took for granted back then). I spent a lot of my free time writing, reading, and listening to music (not much has changed there, I guess). Sure, there were the shitty fights with friends, dramatic breakups, and occasional feelings of inadequacy ... But I mostly enjoyed my time in high school.

So, as an ode to my high school days (and the music I never outgrew), this month's playlist is all about the band that was my absolute favorite from 7th grade until my last year or so of college: Pearl Jam.

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I never stopped loving Pearl Jam ... I just fell in love with some other bands and artists and stopped listening to them as often. (It probably also didn't help that most of their stuff after Riot Act just didn't do it for me.)

Lately, though, I've been listening to them a lot. And listening to Pearl Jam transports me back to a completely different time in my life ... A time when I thought anything was possible.

Music is powerful because it can bring so many memories to the surface. A single line might remind you of the happiest time in your life (or, conversely, your lowest point). So now I have to ask ... What music transports you to a completely different time in your life?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Restaurants 7/12 and 8/12 in 2015: Which Wich and Toppers Pizza

One of my goals for August was to try at least 2 new restaurants. I knew we'd be going to a nice place for my birthday, but I felt like we should push for at least 2 places this month since I've been falling behind in my goal of trying 12 new restaurants with Eric this year. I thought it would be a really easy goal to achieve (I mean, that only averages out to one new place each month), but I didn't consider other factors like craving something at one of our favorite places or simply not wanting to spend a bunch of extra cash on eating out every month.

Since I really wanted to get caught up on the restaurant goal (and since we can sometimes be too lazy to cook dinner), we actually ended up trying 3 new places this month. We only had one romantic night out, but we discovered a couple of quick, delicious places nearby that are perfect for the nights when we aren't in the mood to make anything but don't want to bother with going out (and don't want to spend a ton of money!).

The first casual place we tried was Which Wich.  

I'm kind of weird about sandwiches. I don't really like them when they're made at home (with the exception of breakfast sandwiches or "fancier" sandwiches that require actual cook time, like a grilled chicken sandwich with avocado spread). I'm not a huge sandwich lover anyway, and I feel like I'm kind of picky when I go to a sandwich place because I usually want something that isn't just sliced deli meat on bread with a few veggies and condiments. (And, speaking of weird, I never put cheese on sandwiches. I eat cheese in other things, of course, but the idea of cheese on a sandwich disgusts me.)

Although I can be a pretty picky sandwich eater, I really wanted to try Which Wich. They offer tons of options that range from the typical chicken salad or club (what Eric ordered) to more unique (for a fast food sandwich joint, anyway) options like Sriracha tuna salad and black bean patties (what I ordered). They also have a bunch of extra items you can throw on your sandwich, and there are only a few that cost extra. (Avocado was, of course, on that list. We love avocado, though, so it was worth the extra money.)

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We both loved our sandwiches, but Eric said he probably added too many things to his. When you have a million options, it's easy to go overboard and add all the things! He chose a lot of things that didn't necessarily go well together (Dijon mustard, avocado spread, and hummus), and he thought the flavor kind of got overwhelming. Regardless, he said he'd definitely get sandwiches from Which Wich again ... He'll probably just get one of those things on his sandwich instead of all of them.

If you're curious (and can't read the bags in the picture above), these were our orders:

Eric: Large (14") toasted turkey, ham, and bacon club on wheat with provolone, hummus, Dijon mustard, light mayo, red onions, avocado spread, lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, black olives, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Me: Medium (10.5") toasted vegetarian black bean patty on wheat with hot pepper mix, spicy Ranch dressing, red onions, avocado spread, lettuce, tomatoes, banana peppers, and garlic.

As you can see, I still got a lot of things on my sandwich, but the flavor wasn't overwhelming ... Just perfectly spicy and delicious!

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Which Wich has locations throughout the U.S. (as well as some international locations), so if you feel like trying a new sandwich place and you stumble across one of these restaurants, you should definitely give it a try. We'll definitely be going back!

Although I already achieved my goal of trying 2 new places this month, last night we tried another fast food place. We were feeling kind of lazy and planning to stay in and relax, and I hadn't made a plan for dinner. I usually try to come up with a meal plan for the week (or at least have a general idea of the recipes I plan to make), but, for whatever reason, I didn't even think about Saturday night dinner. 

At first I just thought I'd throw in a frozen pizza (we always keep at least one on hand for nights like those!), but then I had a better idea. I found a flyer in our kitchen "junk drawer" for a pizza place we'd both mentioned we wanted to try, and showed it to Eric. I said something like, "We can either make a frozen pizza tonight, or we can finally try this place," and he immediately responded with, "Let's order from this place!"

The place was Toppers Pizza

I was really excited to try this place because they have a ton of unique toppings and sauces. While I can definitely enjoy a classic cheese or pepperoni pizza, my favorite pizzas feature things you wouldn't normally find on a pizza. Because, really, you can put pretty much anything on a pizza and it will taste fucking amazing. 

One of my favorite pizzas of all time is the Couch Potato from Glass Nickel Pizza Co. When I lived in Wisconsin, I ordered this on a fairly regular basis. I tried some of their other pizzas too, of course, but there was nothing like a pizza covered in potato wedges, bacon, and broccoli served with a side of sour cream. (I clearly still think about how delicious this pizza was, and I haven't lived in Wisconsin for almost 6 years. It was really that good.)

But anyway ... Back to Toppers. 

There were a ton of awesome choices, but we settled on a large Brat Topper. This pizza featured a ketchup sauce, sliced brats, onions, pickles, and a spicy brown mustard drizzle. I know that this would sound absolutely disgusting to some people, but it was perfect for us. Every pizza and breadstick order comes with a free dipping sauce, so we tried the bacon honey mustard with our pizza. So good! 

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I was also determined to try the Chocolate Baconstix with chocolate frosting dipping sauce. Eric was kind of "meh" about them, but I managed to convince him (especially after locating a coupon on their website for $3 off!). I'm so glad we ordered these, because they were delicious

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I used to think that chocolate and bacon didn't belong together. A few years ago, I was convinced by a friend at work to try a bacon chocolate chip cookie. I was all, "That's gross and weird!" but I tried it anyway. And you know what? It wasn't gross or weird. And I'm not even one of those people who loves to put bacon in and on everything. So seriously ... Even if you think this sounds like the worst combination ever, you should try it sometime. (Unless, of course, you're a vegetarian or vegan.)

We were really happy with our food, and they delivered it at almost exactly the time they said it would arrive (it was actually a few minutes early). They also deliver until 3:00 a.m., which is kind of awesome. I don't stay up that late as often as I used to, but it's nice to know I have options. (And, to be honest, I was up until 3:30 a.m. last night/this morning finishing You. I'll be reviewing that book next week for the Show Us Your Books! link-up.)

We'll definitely be ordering from Toppers again soon!

I didn't anticipate writing so much about food, but what can I say? I really love to eat! I also love trying new places (whether they're fancy or not), and I especially love when those new places are so good that I know I'll become a regular customer. (Though not too regular ... I don't want to gain 100 lbs!)

I'll be back with something completely unrelated to food tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Caesar Crusted Salmon

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've wanted to try this recipe for almost a year. When I was searching for some recipe ideas recently, I came across an old weekly meal plan from September 2014 that had this recipe listed. I kept that list because I'd made some notes about another recipe on it, but it was probably a good thing I did ... If I hadn't, I doubt I would have even remembered that this salmon recipe existed, let alone where to find it online.

I make meal plan lists all the time, but I don't always stick to them. This was a perfect example of a time when I didn't stick to the list. I'm not exactly sure why I never made this, but I'm guessing we either decided to make a different salmon recipe or opted not to buy salmon at all.

Regardless, I didn't make this Caesar Crusted Salmon until last week. I'm really glad I was able to find the recipe again because it was so simple and so delicious. Eric and I both love fish and Caesar salads, so this was perfect! (It's obviously not exactly like eating a Caesar salad since you don't use any Romaine lettuce, but a lot of the flavors are still there.)

It's not the healthiest way to prepare salmon (though I used lite Caesar dressing to cut some calories), but I've shared much more indulgent recipes on this blog. I probably wouldn't recommend this as a great meal if you're trying to cut calories, but if you're trying to incorporate more fish into your diet (and can spare 500+ calories for your main course that day!), you should definitely try this recipe. It's so good!

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Caesar Crusted Salmon

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on Taste of Home.

Ingredient List:
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1/4 cup creamy Caesar salad dressing (I used lite)
  • 3/4 cup Caesar salad croutons, crushed (I used a really easy method for crushing the croutons: I simply put them inside a Ziploc bag, sealed it, and then used a can to beat the croutons into small pieces. You could obviously also use a food processor, but I'm lazy and didn't want yet another thing to clean!)
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder


1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray.

3.  Spoon the Caesar salad dressing over one side of the salmon fillets.

4.  In a small bowl, mix together the crushed croutons, Parmesan cheese, basil, black pepper, and garlic powder. Spoon this mixture over the salad dressing on the salmon, gently patting it down so it sticks to the fish. 

5.  Drizzle the olive oil over the fish, and bake for 15-20 minutes (or until the fish flakes easily with a fork).

Like I said before, this is an incredibly easy main dish. I love sharing recipes that are great for busy weeknights, and this is no exception. As you can see from the picture, I served this with a side of steamed broccoli and (yes, I admit it) Rice-a-Roni. (Hey, Rice-a-Roni can be good!) Maybe one day I'll get a little more creative with my side dishes, but, for now, I like to keep them quick and simple.

Friday, August 21, 2015

I Don't Always Love Classic Literature, But I Love These 5 Amazing Novels

If you've been reading this blog or checking out my Instagram for any amount of time, you've probably noticed that I really love books. I think I've been a little more in love with them this year because I've finally managed to overcome the awful reading slump I was in for a couple of years. And, for the first time ever, I'm actually on track to finish 50 books! (This probably excites me more than it should.)

I truly love reading, but I don't read many classics. After commenting/emailing with Steph a few days ago regarding To Kill a Mockingbird (which I haven't read yet), I started thinking about my relationship with classic literature. 

At first I thought that maybe I haven't read enough. (But what is considered enough?) 

Then I thought of all the classic novels I had to read in high school and college that I hated. The worst of the worst were the ones that seemed so promising ... The kind of books I'd pick up on my own. What disappointment. (I'm looking at you, As I Lay Dying!)

Then I started looking at my bookshelves. (I don't own every book I've ever read and loved, but I do own quite a few!) After scanning the titles, I realized that I've probably read more classics than I initially thought. And I actually loved several of them. I would even say that I consider some of these absolute favorites ... Books I'd happily read over and over and recommend without hesitation.

I love giving and receiving book recommendations (have I mentioned how much I love the Show Us Your Books! link-up with Steph and Jana?), so today I'm sharing 5 of my favorite classic novels. 

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1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Find it on Goodreads here.)

I first read this novel when I was a senior in college, and it changed my life. I was dealing with severe depression at that point, and this book made me feel a little less alone. I think The Bell Jar is an important book, and I feel that anyone who has dealt with depression would benefit from reading it. I realize that it may not have a profound effect on everyone, and some people may find Esther Greenwood "bratty" or "whiny." Regardless, the descent into a despair that cannot be shaken is something those dealing with depression will identify with, and this novel may also allow loved ones a glimpse into what they're going through.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Find it on Goodreads here.)

This is one of the best books I've ever read. It's often referred to as a "horror classic," but it's not a traditional horror story. There are no ghosts or vampires or witches ... The true horror here lies within Dorian Gray, a man willing to sell his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Once an innocent man, Dorian allows himself to be corrupted by Lord Henry Wotton. Although he remains physically perfect, his portrait, which he keeps locked away, reveals the true nature of his ugly soul. 

3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Find it on Goodreads here.)

Beautiful and haunting, it's easy to see why Lolita is considered by many (myself included) to be a masterpiece. Yes, it's about a man who falls in love with a very young girl ... But it's so much more than that. This novel made me feel so many conflicting emotions. Nabokov created an unreliable, unlikable narrator in Humbert Humbert and still managed to make me pity him. His obsession consumes him and, if readers are to believe his story, he allows himself to be manipulated over and over by the object of his affection. While there is some dark humor in this book, the overall feeling I was left with was heartache. As I said, this book made me feel so many things ... And it made me feel them deeply.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (Find it on Goodreads here.)

This is dystopian fiction at its finest. Set in a world where women no longer have rights, The Handmaid's Tale is the chilling story of Offred, a handmaid whose sole purpose is to provide the Commander with a child. However, this novel is not simply a tale of horror ... It's also a tale of loss. Offred can still remember her life before she became a handmaid: a time when she was free to work, free to seek knowledge, and free to love her husband and daughter. I've loved every Margaret Atwood novel I've read, but The Handmaid's Tale is a true classic.

5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Find it on Goodreads here.)

This is the only novel on this list that I don't own, which explains its absence in the photo. Although I haven't purchased my own copy (yet), I would happily read this again. This was required reading for one of my college literature courses, so I didn't expect to love it. (I rarely love books I'm required to read.) But Madame Bovary really struck a chord in me. Emma Bovary lives her life without truly living, in a constant state of dissatisfaction. When I first read this as a college student, I completely identified with that. For me, this novel served as both a cautionary tale and a slap in the face ... It affected me on so many levels.

Before I end this post, I feel like I should say this: my "To Read" list is out of control (and constantly growing!), and classics often get shoved to the bottom of that list. I think it's because they're more of a "gamble" for me ... I usually either love classic novels or hate them. Occasionally my feelings fall somewhere between those two extremes, but, for the most part, I'll have a strong positive or negative reaction. 

So I'm not saying that you should immediately run out and pick up a copy of any of these books if you haven't read them. (Though if you want to, that's awesome!) I get that classic literature isn't often at the top of everyone's "To Read" list. But, if you're in the mood for a classic and aren't sure what to read, give one of these books a try. 

You may hate it (we all have different tastes, after all!), but who knows? You may discover a new favorite!

I'd love to hear from other book lovers. Have you read any (or all) of these? What are some of your favorite classic novels?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: One Pot Turkey Burrito Bowls

It's no secret that I love one pot meals. (And really, doesn't everyone?) The fewer things to clean after making dinner, the better. It's not as though we don't have a dishwasher (I don't think I could ever live in a place that didn't because really I hate washing dishes!) ... But we always wash our pots and the majority of our other kitchen utensils by hand.

So when I found a one pot burrito bowl meal online, I knew I had to try it. Burrito bowls are one of the easiest things to make, and we make them often. They're great because you can pretty much throw anything into one and it will taste amazing. (Here's a chorizo potato burrito bowl I shared previously that utilized the leftover filling from the enchiladas at the beginning of that post.)

This burrito bowl was no exception. If rice, meat, beans, and chilies all cooked together with melty cheese and fresh tomatoes on top sounds like your kind of thing, you should definitely give this recipe a try. And feel free to change it up ... There are so many options when it comes to a meal like this!

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One Pot Turkey Burrito Bowls

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on No. 2 Pencil.

Ingredient List:
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 10 oz. can mild Rotel
  • 1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheddar Jack cheese
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Diced green onions for serving (optional)
  • Salsa for serving (optional)
  • Sour cream for serving (optional)
  • Guacamole for serving (optional)


1.  Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

2.  Season the ground turkey with the garlic salt and black pepper and add it to the heated skillet. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, breaking it up as it cooks.

3.  Add the red onions, and cook until just softened.

4.  Push the meat and onions to one side of the skillet. Pour the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in the other side and cook the uncooked rice with the oil for about 2 minutes (or until some of the grains begin to turn golden brown).

5.  Stir in the black beans, Rotel, diced green chilies, water, cumin, chili powder, cilantro, Mexican oregano, and cayenne pepper.

6.  Bring the ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Let the mixture cook for about 20 minutes (or until the rice is tender).

7.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the top. Remove the skillet from the heat, cover, and let sit for a few minutes until the cheese has melted.

8.  Top with the diced tomato and, if desired, diced green onions. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole.

As I said earlier, there are so many ways to make this recipe your own. You can change the type of meat you use (or skip the meat completely). You can use another type of cheese (I'd suggest pepper jack or a Mexican blend). If you hate beans, leave them out. Add a jalapeño pepper for more spice. Do whatever you like ... Just make sure you give this a try!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fall Film Challenge 2015: 25 Movies in 3 Months

After participating in a summer book challenge (well, technically I'm still participating since I haven't completed all 10 books!), I realized I really love these types of things. Challenges like this combine so many things I love: entertainment, making lists, connecting with others, and, of course, getting out of my comfort zone a bit to check out things I might otherwise have ignored.

So when Stephanie and Erin shared posts about a fall movie challenge, I was intrigued. I've been trying to read a lot this year, so I haven't been watching as many movies (or as much TV, for that matter). When I do watch Netflix, I'm usually binge watching a TV show. I guess I've been in kind of a movie rut lately. I can't even remember the last time I watched a movie that I really loved.

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I'm hoping this challenge will help me start enjoying movies again. I wouldn't say I don't like movies anymore, but sometimes it's hard for me to devote 100% of my attention to a film. (Which is probably why a lot of the foreign films on my Netflix queue have been sitting there, unwatched, for at least a year.) 

It will also be a little more fun because it's something I can share with Eric (when he wants to see the movie too, anyway). Although I've discovered that I love reading challenges, that's a solitary activity. Yes, he could read the same books I'm reading so we could discuss them, but we don't usually enjoy the same types of books ... So it wouldn't be very fun for him (or for me if he picked the book). We like a lot of the same movies, though, so I'm sure we'll be checking a bunch of these off the list together. (I know there are a few on this list that he'll probably pass on, though.)

I'll admit that finding movies to fit each category that I've never seen and that had a theatrical release was more difficult than I initially thought (and, if I'm being honest, I initially thought it would be pretty challenging). For the most part, I tried to pick movies that were already on my Netflix queue because I really need to clean that shit up. I did end up adding a few, though, so I still have about 100 on my instant queue and over 300 on my DVD queue. Yikes.

If watching 25 movies in 3 months sounds like something you'd want to do, you can read the official rules here.

Edited to add: I was either really tired when I wrote and edited this or I just don't know how to count (either is totally possible), but the challenge runs from September 1 through November 30, so you have 3 full months to watch 25 movies. I've edited this post to reflect that.

Here are my picks:

1. A movie set in New York City: Side Effects
I didn't know this was set in New York until I started Googling. I was relieved because I feel like it's been sitting in my instant queue for a really long time.

2. A movie that incorporates hot air balloons in the story: Night Crossing
Apparently there aren't that many movies that feature hot air balloons (or so it would seem). I'd already seen Up (if that even counts) and Enduring Love, and there weren't many other movies listed that appealed to me. This one sounds like it could be pretty good, though.

3. A movie featuring a child as the main character: Lolita (The 1997 version)
Although Humbert Humbert is technically the main character, I think this probably still counts. I love the novel, and I've wanted to see how it translates to film for a while.

4. A Disney film: Inside Out
Since Netflix didn't list any tentative release dates for this, I placed a hold on it at the library. I'm number 152. Hopefully I'll get it within the 2 month time period for this challenge! I know I can always pick something else, but I really want to see this one.

5. A movie set in Egypt OR featuring an Egyptian character OR starring an Egyptian actor/actress: Benny's Video
I was shocked to learn that part of this movie takes place in Egypt ... It seems kind of random. Regardless, this has been in my queue forever so I'm glad it fit into one of the categories.

6. A close friend or family member's favorite film: The Majestic
I asked Eric if he had any favorite movies that I hadn't seen, and this was one of them. He claims one of the last scenes is one of his favorite movie scenes of all time, so I'm definitely curious.

7. A movie with the word "Great" in the title: Great Expectations (The 1998 version)
I didn't really want to see this, but nothing else sounded better.

8. A movie starring Harrison Ford: Paranoia
I realized I've seen a lot of Harrison Ford's movies when I was trying to pick one for this challenge. Erin chose the same movie for this category, so hopefully we both enjoy it!

9. A movie featuring an idiot as the main character: Step Brothers
No, I've never seen this movie. I don't watch a lot of "dumb" comedies (or comedies in general), but this was still a difficult category because I've already seen the ones I'd actually want to see.

10. A movie mentioned in the Levi Strauss list Denim and the Oscars: A Look at Jeans in Cinema: Thelma & Louise
I've seen several of the movies on that list, but I kind of can't believe I never watched this one.

11. A film about a knight: Braveheart
Like Stephanie, I've never seen Braveheart. A lot of people seem to think it's good, though, so hopefully it's worth the time. (At almost 3 hours long, it really better be worth the time!)

12. A love story: One Day
Like comedies, romantic movies aren't really my thing. I did, however, have this movie on my Netflix queue already. I guess I'm willing to occasionally branch out.

13. A movie about something miraculous: 127 Hours
This was another movie that was already on my Netflix queue. I always try to avoid spoilers, so I don't actually know if this movie fits well into this category, but the summary makes it sound like a pretty extraordinary story.

14. A movie starring an actor/actress with your first name: Bridesmaids
I almost went with a Kristen Stewart movie (I know, I know) because I actually want to see Speak. I've never seen Bridesmaids, though, and I feel like everyone thinks it's hilarious. I want to see what all the fuss is about.

15. A film about the Olympics: Munich
This is another movie that has been on my queue for a really long time. I just never got around to watching it.

16. A film mentioned on Time magazine's list The Top Ten Newspaper Movies: Zodiac
Can you believe I've never seen this? I can't. I mean, it's a movie about a serial killer that stars Jake Gyllenhaal (I love him) and is directed by David Fincher (I love him too). It's a perfect movie for me, so it was the obvious choice here.

17. A movie with a question in the title: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
I'm glad I got to include this one because my mother-in-law has told me several times recently that I should watch it.

18. A movie with a score of 90% or greater on Rotten Tomatoes: It Follows
This one was actually tough because there were so many movies I'd like to see that fall under this category. And, although the premise seemed kind of ridiculous to me at first, It Follows has been getting pretty consistently good reviews. I felt like I should give it a chance.

19. A film about a superhero: Kick-Ass
I don't really like superhero movies, but this one might be bearable.

20. A movie with subtitles: The Hunt
It's no secret that I love foreign films, so it was hard to choose just one. This one has been on my queue for a while, though, and it seems like the kind of deeply emotional, deeply disturbing movie I'd love.

21. A movie that incorporates unicorns in the story: Black Moon
I was kind of surprised that there were so many to choose from in this category. I'll also admit that I've seen The Cabin in the Woods, Fantasia, Heavenly Creatures, and The Virgin Suicides and I couldn't remember anything about unicorns in any of them. Maybe it's been too long since I've seen any of those, but I've even seen The Virgin Suicides multiple times ... It makes me wonder how I could forget (or possibly not even notice) something like that.

22. A film about a personal victory: Captain Phillips
Again, since I avoid spoilers, this was kind of a tough category for me. Since it's based on true events, though, I'm going to assume he probably survived to tell the story. (Don't answer that if you've seen it. I still want to be at least somewhat surprised!)

23. A movie with the word "Black" or "White" in the title: Red White & Blue
This is probably one of the most fucked up movies on my list (which means I'll probably end up watching it alone). It's been on my queue for a while, though, and it's received quite a few positive reviews.

24. A movie set in a country you would most like to visit: Enter the Void
This was difficult for me because I want to visit so many places. Parts of this movie are set in Tokyo, though, and Japan is pretty high on my list of places to travel. It's also another movie that has been in my queue for a long time, and I'm sure it will be awesome (and probably fucked up) because it's a film by Gaspar Noé. (He wrote and directed Irreversible, which made it into my Guide to the Best Disturbing Films.)

25. A film set in a zoo: A Zed & Two Noughts
Since I've already seen We Bought a Zoo, I was worried it would be difficult to find something for this category. I managed to find this weird little movie, though, and miraculously it's available on Netflix.

If you've seen (or want to see) any of these movies, feel free to let me know your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

From the Bookshelf: Recently Read - August 2015 Edition

I was hoping I'd have more books to review for this month's Show Us Your Books! link-up, but I'm proud of myself for finishing so many when I've had a lot of other things going on. I'm still on track to meet my 50 book goal this year, though, and that's what counts!

Before you read any further, please note: I know I can ramble on and on when it comes to books, so if you aren't in the mood to read lengthy reviews, feel free to skip to the "TL;DR" summary at the end of the post. You can always go back and read a specific review more closely if something there catches your eye.

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Identical by Ellen Hopkins - 565 pages

Completed on 07/16/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

Identical was my YA pick for the Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge, and, despite the fact that I'm usually not a YA fan, I did enjoy this one. I wavered between a 3 and 4 star rating on Goodreads, but I eventually decided to give it 3 ... I liked it, but I didn't love it.

Before I say anything about this book, please note that it deals with a lot of heavy topics including drug and alcohol addiction, self mutilation, eating disorders, and incest. I'm not saying this to dissuade anyone from reading this, but I think it's important to know what you're getting yourself into. It can get pretty graphic, and I know some people can't (or don't want to) stomach that sort of thing.

Identical is the story of twin girls, Kaeleigh and Raeanne, and their dysfunctional family. On the surface, they seem to have it all: they're intelligent, beautiful, thin, and rich ... But no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. Their mother, a politician running for Congress, is rarely home. With an absent wife, their father focuses his attention on Kaeleigh. Though she knows what's going on between them, Raeanne can't help but feel jealous ... She would give anything for her father's love. Since she can't have that, she turns to the next best thing: sex with guys in exchange for alcohol and drugs.

Although this is a thick book, it was a really easy read. Not because of the subject matter (definitely not a fluffy beach read!), but because the book is written as one long poem. It took me a little while to get into it because of the unique style, but once I'd read about 20 pages, it was easy to keep reading. I finished it in only 2 days, which is amazing for me (especially since I worked both days!). One of my favorite things about the book was the way Ellen Hopkins inserted a short mirrored poem each time the book's narrator switched from Kaeleigh to Raeanne (or vice versa).

I also loved that Hopkins didn't shy away from difficult and often disturbing subject matter. (Apparently most of her books deal with serious issues, and I may eventually check some of them out.) She didn't simply allude to something and then back off ... She held it up to the light to be examined. And although it's a YA novel, I would only recommend it to more mature readers. As I said before, this book is filled with heavy topics.

Unfortunately, that was also my issue with this novel. It kind of reminded me of watching an entire season of Degrassi (which, feel free to judge, I totally love in all its over-the-top glory). It's not enough for someone to have one or two issues, they have to have all the issues piled one on top of another. It's like saying, "It's not enough that this character is being sexually abused by her father. Let's throw in an eating disorder, issues with self mutilation, etc." (I'll just stop there because I don't want to spoil anything.) It just felt less realistic the more I read.

I had my suspicions about the way things would turn out, but I was still at least somewhat surprised by the direction Hopkins took things in the end. I had mixed feelings about it, but I did appreciate her subtle clues throughout the novel that clicked into place once certain things were brought to the surface. (I'm being deliberately vague here to avoid spoilers.)

It's hard to recommend a novel like Identical because I know it's not the kind of thing that appeals to everyone. I enjoyed the free verse style, though, and appreciated that Ellen Hopkins willingly tackled some pretty difficult subjects (even if she may have taken on a few too many in this case). I think it's worth reading, but it's definitely not for the faint of heart.

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A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan - 281 pages

Completed on 07/22/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

I usually do a lot of research before choosing a book. This mostly consists of reading numerous reviews on Goodreads and other blogs (avoiding spoilers, of course!) in an effort to determine whether or not it will be worth my time. Despite my best efforts, sometimes I still find myself stuck with a really shitty book. (And, if you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know that I have trouble giving up on a book without finishing it.)

However, there are times when I quickly scan the summary and just go ahead and add it to my "To Read" list without bothering to check any of the reviews. In these cases, the summary makes the book sound so amazing that I just have to read it. This is how I chose A Pleasure and a Calling.

William Heming is a very successful real estate agent in a small English town. Although he owns the company and is extremely comfortable in a sales role, he's also adept at blending into his surroundings. He's very average ... Not unpleasant, but not particularly memorable. And it's this quality that makes it easy for him to indulge in his favorite hobby. (Though his choice of profession certainly helps.) 

When Mr. Heming makes a sale, he doesn't just forget about the people living there and move on. He checks in from time to time. You may think that sounds nice ... He truly cares about his clients. But there's more to it than that. 

When he stops by, he isn't ringing the doorbell and coming in for a chat. In fact, it's better if his clients aren't home at all. It's not as though he even needs them around to let him in. It doesn't matter whether he sold the home 3 months or 13 years ago ... He has keys to them all. (Lesson learned: when we finally buy a house, we need to immediately change all the locks!)

This incredibly creepy premise immediately grabbed me, and I'm glad I didn't spend a lot of time reading reviews before diving in. It would have been completely unnecessary.

Phil Hogan managed to create an oddly charming antihero in Mr. Heming. He's not really the kind of character you want to like, yet I found myself rooting for him throughout the novel.

Although A Pleasure and a Calling dragged in a few places, it was a fantastic read. There was so much more to it than I initially thought. (Vague, I know, but I prefer to let others discover things on their own.) It was the perfect combination of creepy and suspenseful with a fair amount of dark humor thrown in. (I actually laughed out loud several times while I was reading.) If this sounds like your kind of thing, I highly recommend picking this up!

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Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch - 387 pages

Completed on 07/27/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

Herman Koch is a really interesting author. In both this novel and The Dinner (which I reviewed here, if you're interested), he's written stories centering around a bunch of repulsive characters ... And, for whatever reason, it works.

The main character in Summer House with Swimming Pool is a family doctor named Marc Schlosser with questionable morals and even more questionable medical ethics. He's self-absorbed, disgusted by the human body, and has absolutely no empathy for any of his patients. For the last few years he's been mostly catering to famous people and widows. One of those famous people happens to be Ralph Meier, a talented actor who is better known offscreen as a misogynistic pig. 

We're told from the beginning that Ralph will die due to complications from a medical procedure performed by Dr. Schlosser. As the story unfolds, details from the summer the two men spent together with their families are revealed, and the later events (including Ralph's death) are seen in a new light.

I will admit that the plot of The Dinner was similar (at least vaguely). In both novels, a horrible act of violence changes the lives of the characters forever. But, while I enjoyed The Dinner, I found Summer House with Swimming Pool to be better written, more entertaining, and an overall better book. 

It's a beautifully written novel, and that's really saying something since it was translated (and sometimes the translations can seem awkward). It will not only make you think, but also make you squirm. It may also piss you off at times ... When I say these characters are horrible people, I mean it. Koch doesn't shy away from anything in this book, so I'd say it's probably not for everyone. I will say, however, that despite the awful characters and their despicable actions, I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. I was really impressed with it!

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Last Days by Brian Evenson - 201 pages

Completed on 07/31/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

What a fucking weird little book. I mean, based on the synopsis I knew it would be weird ... But I didn't expect this.

Kline is a former detective trying to come to terms with a brutal encounter that resulted in the loss of his right hand. It is because of this traumatic event that he is sought out by two men who claim he is the only one who can solve a crime within their religious cult, a cult that honors amputees with a "less is more" mentality.

What follows is a bizarre whirlwind of severed limbs, murder, and the feeling that the novel is somehow stuck on repeat. 

Last Days began as a novella titled The Brotherhood of Mutilation. After publishing that novella, Evenson decided he wanted to continue the story and wrote another novella using the same characters. Both novellas were then published together as one complete novel.

It didn't really feel as though the book was separated into two distinct parts. It was labeled to let readers know where one novella ended and the other began, but I thought Evenson did a nice job tying them together. 

My main issue with Last Days was that it was a really interesting idea that just fizzled out. The dark plot, outlandish violence, and surreal feel of Last Days reminded me of David Lynch's films. (I'm a huge fan of Lost Highway, though I admittedly haven't enjoyed much of his other work.) So if he ever decides he wants to make the most boring movie ever, he could adapt this story into a screenplay. 

This book was only 201 pages long, but it took me 5 days to read it (and it wasn't because I was too busy). I just never felt like picking it up. It wasn't the worst book I've ever read, but I got really frustrated with the repetition. For a good portion of the book, nearly every chapter started in a very similar way ... I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over with a few slight differences. I could summarize the chapters as follows: Kline wakes up and doesn't know where he is, he suddenly remembers and/or realizes something is wrong, he receives a threat (either in person or on the phone), he must fight to survive. Throw in several dismemberments and lots of gunshot wounds to the head and that's pretty much it.

Basically this book was extremely predictable after just a couple of chapters. I expected so much more based on the summary and reviews on Goodreads, and I was really disappointed. I still gave it 2 stars because I thought Evenson had a really good idea ... The execution just left much to be desired.

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White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi - 227 pages

Completed on 08/03/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

This novel was on my "To Read" list for several years. When I wait a long time to read a book (especially if that book sounds like something I'd really love), I start to build it up in my mind. It's not really fair to the author (or the book, I suppose), but I can't help it. I want it to be this beautiful masterpiece that I'll want to share with anyone who will listen. Most of the time I wind up disappointed and wonder if the disappointment stems from my high hopes or from the fact that it was actually not very good.

Fortunately, White is for Witching was not one of those disappointing books. In fact, I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads ... I loved it that much.

I will say that if you're looking for a light, fluffy, easy read, this isn't it. It's written in a very unconventional way, flipping through time and, in some cases, the real world versus another world that only the main character, Miranda Silver, seems able to enter. 

The story is also told from 3 distinct points of view, and you really need to pay attention because the point of view may shift several times without warning in a single chapter. The story is never told from Miranda's perspective, but rather those around her. I haven't read any of Helen Oyeyemi's other work to know whether she often writes in this style, but it really worked well in this novel. I will admit, though, that it took me a little while to adjust to the constant shifting and to accept that the house (yes, the house) would be acting as one of the narrators (the others were Eliot, Miranda's twin brother, and Ore, a girl Miranda meets and falls in love with at college).

The novel centers around Miranda's complete mental breakdown following the death of her mother, and, upon her release from a rehab clinic, the slow, subtle changes she begins to exhibit. She's always suffered from pica, an eating disorder in which a person consumes inedible substances, but her sickness goes far beyond that.

It's difficult to explain a book like White is for Witching in a review like this, though. It's really something that you just need to read for yourself. 

I wouldn't say that this is a scary book (it's definitely not horror), but it's unsettling. Helen Oyeyemi shares her story in a lovely, almost poetic way, but certain sections still gave me chills. 

It's not all about fear, though. The author did an amazing job of weaving the themes of family relationships, feelings of alienation, the political climate in England, and race into this novel. As I said, this isn't an easy read, but it's well worth the time.

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The Devil You Know by Elisabeth de Mariaffi - 306 pages

Completed on 08/09/2015 - Read more reviews on Goodreads

I couldn't decide if I wanted to give this book 2 or 3 stars on Goodreads, but finally settled on 2. It was okay ... Not great, not terrible.

At just 11 years old, Evie Jones's best friend, Lianne Gagnon, was abducted, raped, and murdered. Although the police named a suspect, he managed to disappear. He was never found and the case went cold.

10 years later, Evie is living on her own in a small apartment in a somewhat sketchy part of Toronto. She works as a crime beat reporter, and is often handed assignments that force her to remember the terrible thing that happened during her childhood. She begins to obsess over Lianne's death, and spends every spare moment searching for the truth. As new information is revealed, she becomes convinced that the killer is still out there ... And that he's coming back for her.

Based on the description, I thought this would be a really exciting psychological thriller with lots of twists and turns. Unfortunately, only some parts of the book really delivered ... Other parts just dragged on, and in several places the dialogue was just awful.

My biggest complaint, however, was the fact that Elisabeth de Mariaffi didn't use a single quotation mark in the entire book. The book was written in first person, and I often had a horrible time trying to figure out what was actually being said by the characters and what was simply a stream of Evie's thoughts. I kept thinking, "How could any editor let this novel move forward in the publishing process without first sending it back to the author and demanding that she use some quotation marks?" Maybe I'm a hardass, but if I were an editor, this would not see the light of day until those changes were made.

The redeeming quality was the fact that de Mariaffi managed to work some true crime into her fiction, which I found to be a very interesting approach. The Devil You Know is set in 1993, and features the crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. (If you're not familiar with them, you can get a quick Wikipedia summary here.) In addition, she sprinkles in some tidbits relating to Charles Manson and Helter Skelter (I read that years ago and highly recommend it if you're interested in true crime) and David Koresh. She uses enough facts to make the story seem a little more real without overwhelming readers and taking away from the main plot. 

If the book hadn't dragged in so many places, the dialogue had been more believable, and the author had bothered to use quotation marks, The Devil You Know would have been worthy of a solid 3 stars. But, because I just can't overlook those issues, it's a book I'd just call "okay." Read it if you want, but you won't be missing much if you decide it's not worth picking up.

"TL;DR" Summary:

If you have to choose just one of these novels to add to your "To Read" list, pick White is for Witching. It's haunting, heartbreaking, and beautifully written.

Also highly recommended: Summer House with Swimming Pool and A Pleasure and a Calling. I'd suggest Summer House with Swimming Pool only if you don't mind reading novels centering around the lives of really horrible people. I know some people hate this, so if you're one of those people, skip it. If dark humor is your thing, A Pleasure and a Calling is a great choice.

Identical is good but not amazing. It deals with a lot of really difficult subjects, so I'd suggest reading my detailed review before picking it up. If, however, you're comfortable reading about pretty much anything, it's worth checking out. It's a fairly quick YA read, so don't let the thickness scare you into believing it's a major time commitment.

Last Days and The Devil You Know weren't the worst books ever, but I think my time could have been better spent. Don't waste space on your "To Read" list on either of these.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Chicken Veggie Avocado Rice Bowl

I feel a little embarrassed sharing this as a "recipe" because it's so ridiculously easy to throw together that instructions probably aren't required. We've been making it about once a week lately, and it's quickly becoming one of our favorite weeknight meals.

This bowl is filled with simple ingredients: rice, spiced grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, and fresh smashed avocado. There's obviously nothing fancy or intimidating about it. But, for whatever reason, this combination is amazing. I actually crave this meal now (which is probably why it keeps popping up on our weekly menu).

And, unlike many of the other delicious meals I share on this blog, this one is actually pretty healthy. It's not super low calorie, though, so if you're trying to cut back, you could always grill the veggies instead of roasting them in olive oil, reduce the amount of avocado, and/or substitute quinoa for the rice. I may try some of these substitutions at some point, but right now I'm happy to eat fewer calories at lunch and then chow down on this at dinner. It's so worth it!

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Chicken Veggie Avocado Rice Bowl

A Divulge and Indulge original recipe.

Ingredient List:
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into slices and then halved
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 avocados
  • 1-2 cups cooked rice (I've been using long grain white rice, but any type of rice will work.)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp chipotle chili powder, divided
  • 2 tsp garlic salt, divided
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano


1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Preheat the grill. (We live in an apartment, so we just use a little George Foreman indoor grill. It doesn't take very long to heat up, so it's fine to start it up around the same time as the oven. I've never actually used a "real" grill, so I'm not sure how long it takes to heat up ... I'm guessing not more than 10-15 minutes, which should give you more than enough time to slice the veggies and add the spices to the chicken while you wait.)

3.  Place the chicken in a medium bowl and rub both sides of each breast with the following spice mixture: 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp chipotle chili powder, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp chili powder, and 1 tsp Mexican oregano. (You can either mix all of the spices together beforehand in a small bowl, or add each one individually.)

4.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray.

5.  Place the sliced red bell pepper and grape tomatoes on the baking sheet. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp black pepper and 1 tsp sea salt.

6.  Allow the vegetables to roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. (The tomatoes should begin to burst a bit when they're ready, and the red pepper should soften while still retaining a bit of crunch.)

7.  While the vegetables are cooking, add the spiced chicken to the grill. Grill until completely cooked through. (This should take between 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken.)

8.  Once the chicken has finished cooking, dice it into smaller chunks. (Eric usually takes over the chicken portion of this meal, and he likes to cut the chicken up into really tiny pieces. It works well for a bowl like this because you'll get some chicken in each bite. It's obviously not necessary to cut the chicken so small, however, I would recommend cutting it up a bit so you don't just have a big piece of chicken sitting on top of your bowl.)

9.  Smash the avocados in a small bowl. Add 1 tsp chipotle chili powder and 1 tsp garlic salt, and mix well.

10.  Spoon rice into bowls and top with veggies, chicken, and smashed avocado.

This meal just screams summer to me, so make sure you try it before the season is over. Trust me, you'll be happy you did!

Monday, August 10, 2015

New Restaurant 6/12 in 2015: V. Mertz

I know I've mentioned this at least a hundred times, but Eric and I really love food. We love trying new things, cooking at home, and, of course, eating out.

We're fortunate to live in a city with a large number of dining options. I know it's not the same as living in a huge city, but for a smaller to mid-size city, Omaha has a lot of restaurants to choose from. We occasionally go to chain restaurants if we want something quick but delicious (like Chipotle, Qdoba, Panera, or Noodles & Company), but we usually try to support local places instead. Besides, it's more fun to eat at restaurants unique to your area!

For my birthday, Eric surprised me with a reservation to V. Mertz. With their emphasis on serving local meat and produce, this is exactly the type of restaurant we like to support! And it was good ... Like really really good.

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V. Mertz is one of several restaurants in Omaha that changes its menu on a daily basis. I think that's a really smart way to keep people interested and coming back. While we definitely go to certain restaurants because we're craving specific things, we also like trying new places because we have an opportunity to try a lot of new dishes. If a restaurant we've already tried (and enjoyed!) is continually offering new options, we'll be more likely to go there when we want to try something different since we can trust it will be delicious.

We started our meal off with some cocktails. I had the Grass Kilt (the pink drink in the photo below) and Eric had the Re-Animator. Mine was pretty sweet and fruity, so it was a really great choice for a refreshing summer evening drink. Eric's had a pretty strong espresso flavor, and we both really liked it (though I probably would have wanted something like that with a dessert).

After finishing those, I ordered a glass of sparkling wine (one of my favorite things!) and Eric ordered a beer. Beer wasn't listed on the cocktail/wine menu, so Eric just asked the server for recommendations for a dark beer that might pair well with his meal. The waiter returned with a Porter, and we were both impressed because it was delicious and definitely tasted great with his dinner! I didn't get a picture until about half the beer was gone, but I'm sure you get the idea (plus, beer always looks like beer).

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Before any of our food arrived, the server brought over an amuse-bouche. He described all the components, but I honestly can't remember what they were now. (What a bad blogger ... I should have written it down!) It was tasty, though, and definitely got me even more excited about the things to come (which was the point!). We were also served some molasses dinner rolls with an herb butter that I didn't take a picture of (I know, I know ... But I think everyone knows what a roll looks like!). I usually don't use butter on my bread, but I always use it if it's "fancy" herbed butter. I was a little skeptical of the flavor of molasses in a dinner roll, but the sweetness was very subtle and the herbs in the butter complemented the flavor beautifully. (I never thought I'd have so much to say about a piece of bread!)

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We decided to try the Smoked Swordfish Dip for the appetizer, and I'm so glad we did. I love the flavors of smoked fish, and this dip was perfectly rich and creamy and (of course) smoky. When we ran out of crackers, our server brought us more so we could finish our remaining dip. We both really appreciated this ... We've been to so many places that never even offer to bring more crackers, chips, bread, etc. even when you obviously have quite a bit of dip remaining.

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Our main dishes were both amazing!

I had the Maple Smoked Duck Breast, which came with a smear of mole sauce, roasted potatoes, grilled cucumber, and Thai basil. I was a little worried I wouldn't want the cucumber because, to be honest, I hate it. I even hate the smell of cucumber (though I love pickles). However, grilled cucumber apparently works for me because I ate every last delicious bite on my plate. The duck was a perfectly cooked medium rare and had a slightly smoky sweet taste. The sauce was rich with a hint of spice, and I was glad that the duck wasn't drenched in it ... A small amount was really all that was needed to enhance the flavor.

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Eric ordered the other meal I was considering: the V. Mertz Peppersteak. His steak came with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and a brandy peppercorn sauce. He loved his dinner and, since he was nice enough to give me a bite, I can tell you that I loved it as well. The steak was also perfectly prepared (he ordered it medium rare, which is also my favorite way to order steak), and it had a slightly spicy pepper crust. The sauce was also fantastic ... It was rich (but not overly so), and worked very well with the flavors of the meat.

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We finished our dinner off with delicious deconstructed s'mores. Everything on the dessert menu looked amazing, but I was in the mood for something chocolatey and summery, and s'mores definitely fit the bill. The dessert came with homemade marshmallow ice cream, graham cracker crumbles, a graham cracker and chocolate ganache macaron, torched marshmallows, and little bars of chocolate. So good!

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Overall, our experience was fantastic. Our server was attentive but not overly so ... I hate feeling as though a waiter/waitress is constantly hovering, but I also hate having to search for them for a long period of time if I need a refill or want to order another glass of wine.

The atmosphere was romantic and classy. My pictures aren't the best because it's hard to get a decent picture in candlelight using an iPhone, but unless you're a blogger, Yelp enthusiast, or obsessed with posting pictures of food on Instagram, this probably wouldn't matter. I really liked the ambiance, and it was in the Old Market Passageway downtown, which gave it an even more intimate vibe.

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And while this is definitely a nicer restaurant, I felt like they were very welcoming and treated each guest with the utmost respect. I know that sometimes I've gone to places like this and felt really out of place (because, you know, I'm not really a "fancy" kind of person). The host was even willing to take a picture for us, which is actually my favorite picture of the night:

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I know I already posted it on Instagram, but I wanted to post it here too so you can see just how cool the Old Market Passageway really is!

And if you read through this and thought, "Oh, Kristen, you're classy and fancy enough for a place like this," I'd like to prove you wrong with the next couple of photos. On the left, you'll see me posing for a selfie in the bathroom mirror (#classy). On the right, you'll see me awkwardly attempting to seduce Chef Boyardee in front of the ConAgra headquarters. That's apparently what happens when I get tipsy, shove my phone into Eric's hands, and demand pictures.

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And, since it was my birthday weekend, I'll also share a couple of pictures from our breakfast on Saturday. Eric made pancakes with blueberries and pecans, and we swung by our favorite coffee shop for some delicious morning treats. Eric had a cotton candy frappe (and it was actually delicious and not disgustingly sweet like I imagined it would be!), and I had an iced dark chocolate salted caramel mocha. (And again, I know this picture was already on Instagram, but whatever.)

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We finished off the weekend at Eric's parents' house, where we had delicious homemade chocolate cake and some tiramisu gelato.

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And a closer look:

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All in all, a very successful and fun weekend. 31, I think I'm going to like you.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Words of Wisdom: 30 Things I've Learned in 30 Years

With my 31st birthday just one day away, it seemed like the perfect time to write this post. I've been thinking about it for a while, but I never actually sat down to work on it until now.

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1. There will always be someone who is "more" than you: smarter, more attractive, funnier, more talented, etc. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you'll be able to stop constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling like a failure if you don't measure up.

2. On the other hand, it's okay to feel a little sad if you haven't accomplished everything you wanted to by this point in your life. Just don't give up on those goals!

3. Life happens and things don't always go according to plan. Accept it and move on with plan B (or C or D ...).

4. One of the greatest, most freeing things you can do is remove toxic people from your life. Sometimes it's a friend, sometimes it's a significant other, and sometimes it's even a family member. But if this person is making you feel bad about yourself or treating you like shit, it's time to move on (no matter who they are).

5. Some people, however, will stay in your life forever. These people are incredibly special and should be treated as such.

6. You should never feel guilty for taking time for yourself.

7. Heartbreak is an inevitable part of life for most people. It's awful at the time, but you'll emerge so much stronger.

8. Love usually creeps in when you least expect it. It's such a cliché, but it's a cliché for a reason.

9. Be grateful for the things you have.

10. You won't always agree with everyone, and you may even have some very unpopular opinions. That's okay. We don't all have to be the same.

11. It's also okay to judge people for behaving like assholes. Don't put your douchery on display for all to see if you don't want to be judged.

12. Don't feel pressured to validate your life choices. Unless you're actively harming yourself or others, no one has the right to tell you which path to take.

13. Don't be afraid to open up and share personal struggles. Everyone struggles with something, and sometimes it's better to know you're not alone.

14. It's easy to forget this sometimes, but true success is not measured by how much money you have or the things you own.

15. Reading is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. It not only exercises your mind, but also gives you an opportunity to escape your day-to-day routine (even if only for a short time).

16. Get out of your comfort zone once in a while.

17. See as much of the world as you can.

18. Try to avoid living with regrets. It can be difficult sometimes, but learn from your mistakes and move on. Nothing is gained by dwelling on the things you can't change.

19. Similarly, remember that every decision you've made brought you to where you are right now, in this moment.

20. Nothing worth having comes easily. Whether it's a specific personal goal, a promotion at work, or even a relationship, you have to work at it.

21. Sometimes being an adult can really suck.

22. On the other hand, sometimes being an adult is really awesome. The freedom to (mostly) do what you want when you want is amazing.

23. If you ever feel like you just can't deal with something (even something major), just remember that you're stronger than you think you are. You'll get through it in your own way in your own time.

24. While incredibly expensive, a college education is priceless. (And it's not just the things you learn in the lecture halls.)

25. No one else notices the things you think they do. You're your own worst critic. Never forget that.

26. However, it's completely normal to have insecurities. We all do.

27. It's okay to ask for help.

28. Be open to new experiences and ideas. Don't shut yourself off just because you think you might not like it. You may surprise yourself.

29. Sometimes a small, simple thing can make the biggest impact.

30. No one thing can define you. You are the sum of all your parts.

Now it's your turn. What are some words of wisdom you'd like to share?