Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Roasted Chickpea Tacos

Roasted chickpeas have been pretty high on my list of foods to try for quite a while. They're healthy and I knew they'd probably be pretty easy to make, but, for whatever reason, I kept putting off trying them.

When Erin posted a picture of roasted chickpeas on Instagram a few weeks ago and said they tasted like chalk, I started worrying that I would hate them too. I already had roasted chickpea tacos on the meal plan that week, and I didn't want to abandon the idea completely ... But I also didn't want to force myself to choke down something disgusting.

Thankfully my experience with roasted chickpeas was much better than Erin's!

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These tacos were delicious. So delicious, in fact, that my meat loving husband gobbled them up and kept telling me how good he thought they were! I assumed he'd probably like them (I mean, he'll seriously eat anything), but I figured he would be more like, "These are pretty good, but they'd be better with some chicken or beef or something." In reality I don't think he even missed the meat (or, if he did, he didn't mention it).

Although the chickpeas require about 30 minutes in the oven, this is still a really easy and relatively quick dinner to throw together on a weeknight. I also appreciated the fact that I could keep things pretty simple and still have a really flavorful taco. As you can see from the pictures, I just topped my taco with some fresh quartered grape tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and a little guacamole ... And that's really all it needed.

I can honestly say that this is now one of my favorite vegetarian dinners. Now that I know how simple (and how delicious!) this meal is, I'll be making it often!

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Roasted Chickpea Tacos

Adapted from a recipe on Amuse Your Bouche.

Ingredient List:
  • 2 15 oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (Or more if you like really spicy foods. I actually used more, but I think this is a good starting point. If spicy isn't your thing, you can skip this altogether and reduce the amount of chili powder you add.)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese (I used a cheddar jack blend.)
  • Taco shells (I used Old El Paso Stand 'N Stuff soft flour tortillas. It was the first time I'd ever used these, and I loved them! I felt like they could hold a lot more filling than the average taco shell.)
  • Toppings (Like I said, I just used some fresh quartered grape tomatoes, fresh cilantro, and a little guacamole. I really liked the addition of the fresh tomatoes, and I'd recommend going that route instead of topping your tacos with salsa. Obviously if you're not a fan of tomatoes, you can skip that.)


1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

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

3.  Combine the chickpeas, chipotle chili powder, black pepper, garlic salt, cumin, Mexican oregano, and cayenne pepper (if you're using this) in a large bowl, mixing well to coat the chickpeas as evenly as possible.

4.  Add the olive oil to the chickpeas and spices, and stir a few more times to coat.

5.  Pour the chickpeas onto the prepared baking sheet. Be sure to spread them out in a single layer across the baking sheet.

6.  Place the chickpeas in the oven and allow them to roast for 30 minutes. I'd suggest checking them at least once about halfway through, and stirring them a bit.

7.  When the chickpeas are finished, place them in a large bowl. Add the shredded cheese, and gently stir a few times in order to melt the cheese throughout the chickpeas.

8.  Warm your taco shells (if desired), and then add the chickpea and cheese mixture. Top with whatever you like.

This makes quite a few tacos, so if you're not feeding many people (or you just don't want leftovers), I'd cut it down to one can of chickpeas and then readjust the amount of spices and oil accordingly. The leftovers weren't bad, but the chickpeas did dry out a little bit after they were reheated (even though I added a little water to them before I stuck them in the microwave). 

I'd also recommend cutting back on the spices if you don't want really spicy chickpeas. Ours were pretty spicy (which I love and Eric is slowly growing to like), but, as I mentioned in the ingredient section, I would probably cut back on the amount of chili powder and cayenne pepper if you're not a fan of really spicy foods.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Recently Read: In-Depth Reviews - April 2016 Edition

I usually try to write my reviews immediately after finishing a book (or as close to immediately as possible), but I didn't do that as much in March/the beginning of April. And, unfortunately, I think it's kind of obvious.

The reason I write these more in-depth reviews in the first place is because I like to take some time to process what I've read and how I feel about it. Obviously some books are meant solely for entertainment and don't evoke strong emotions, but other books really make me think and/or stir up a lot of emotions. But it's not as easy to discuss my thoughts on a book days (or weeks) after I've finished it, especially since I've usually moved on to another book (or two or three) by then.

That being said, hopefully these reviews can still give you a little more insight into why I did/didn't like a book.

If lengthy reviews aren't your thing, don't worry. My slightly more condensed reviews of these books can be found here (assuming you haven't read those already).

And if you don't want to read about books at all, feel free to skip this post and come back another day. I talk about books a lot, but I also post about plenty of other topics.

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - 438 pages

Completed on 03/09/2016
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I know I've mentioned before that I'm not the biggest fan of historical fiction. I don't hate it or anything, but the plot has to sound really good in order for me to feel compelled to pick up a book in this genre.

That being said, I decided to pick a couple of historical fiction novels for Book Challenge by Erin 4.0. These books happened to be on my "To Read" list already, and, since I like to use book challenges to both cross items off that list and challenge myself to read at least a couple of things I might not normally choose, they seemed like the perfect choices for my book challenge list.

I know most people have probably already read The Nightingale (or are at least familiar with it), but just in case, here is a quick summary of the plot:

Vianne Mauriac is a wife and mother living in the small French village of Carriveau. At the start of World War II, she is forced to say goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads off to fight. Ever the optimist, Vianne hopes the war will be over quickly and they'll all survive relatively unscathed. But her world begins to spin horribly out of control as the Nazis begin to occupy France and she is forced to house an enemy. Fearing for both herself and her daughter, Vianne is forced to make many tough (and often terrible) choices in an effort to survive.

Vianne's younger sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious and often reckless 18-year-old searching for a way to make a difference in the war. After meeting and falling for a young man with similar goals, Isabelle is heartbroken when he leaves with only a note saying she isn't "ready." Determined not to give up, she joins the Resistance without a second thought to the very real and deadly consequences.

Before picking this up, I honestly was a little worried that this book was going to be a "romance" kind of book. While there's nothing wrong with romance books, they're just not my kind of thing. However, I don't mind books that include a romance as a subplot, and I would say The Nightingale is more like that. Some focus is given to romantic relationships, but the book is much less about that and much more about the war as women experienced it. It also focuses on the often complex relationships that arise within a family: particularly between sisters and between fathers and daughters.

One of the things I really appreciated about this novel was that Kristin Hannah didn't shy away from the atrocities of the war. This is a book that, in my opinion, is very much geared toward women (though it's definitely not chick-lit!), and it was refreshing to see that these things weren't sugarcoated or glossed over. It made the story feel authentic ... Like I was reading someone's actual account of what they experienced during the war.

I also loved that Hannah created two very different main female characters, both strong in their own ways. I liked Vianne a lot (even when she made bad choices), but I absolutely fell in love with Isabelle. While she was sometimes reckless, she was also incredibly brave. I was completely captivated by her portions of the story.

I really loved The Nightingale overall, but there were a couple of things that did annoy me.

I didn't like that there were French words or phrases peppered in randomly while the characters were speaking to one another. Yes, I realize that the novel was set in France ... But it actually took me out of the story a bit when Kristin Hannah threw some French into the dialogue.

The reason this bothered me was because I assumed that, being French, the characters were always speaking in French to one another. Writing it in this way made it seem as though they were speaking mostly English with some French words and phrases sprinkled in. I would much rather read it as though it were translated into English from French (even though it wasn't).

I don't know if that makes sense, but basically I just felt confused as to why it felt like the characters were speaking in English to one another then suddenly answering, "Oui," to a question and then going back to English for another three pages. I know that probably wasn't the author's intention (I think it was even stated that several of the characters didn't speak English or didn't speak it well), but that's how it flowed in my mind.

My only other complaint was the fact that Isabelle fell madly in love with Gaetan after only knowing him for a very short time. That's just a personal pet peeve, though. I understand why the author wrote it that way (though I'll admit that I didn't for a portion of the novel), but I don't think I'll ever not hate the "immediate love" thing in books and movies. And, for a story that otherwise felt pretty realistic, it really bothered me. It didn't bother me enough to knock down my overall rating (I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads), but it was probably my least favorite thing about the book.

Despite those "flaws" (which probably didn't bother most people), I thought The Nightingale was amazing and worthy of all the hype. I also took Erin's Instagram picture of herself sobbing after finishing the book as a warning and made sure I finished the book in the privacy of my home. And I'm really glad I did that because I was the definition of a hot mess by the time the book was over. Seriously ... You'll need some tissues and some privacy for the end of this book!

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino - 530 pages

Completed on 03/19/2016
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Last year I read and reviewed Out (by the same author), and, for the most part, I really enjoyed it. So obviously I had high hopes for Grotesque.

Unfortunately, Natsuo Kirino just didn't deliver this time. But, before I go into detail about what I did and didn't like about this book, I'll tell you a little more about it:

Grotesque follows a total of four narratives: a female unnamed narrator who despises her younger sister, Yuriko, for her astonishing beauty and her ability to float through life and receive special treatment simply because she's beautiful; Yuriko, a woman once admired and feared for her exquisite and unusual beauty who has grown unattractive with time and age; Kazue, a high school acquaintance of both Yuriko and the unnamed narrator who obsesses over being the best; and Zhang, a Chinese immigrant who came to Japan in search of more opportunities and a better life only to find himself on trial for the murders of Yuriko and Kazue.

From the beginning, the reader knows that Yuriko and Kazue have gone from students at an elite high school to prostitutes. As the story unfolds, we begin to learn why they made their choices and what led to their murders.

I feel like the idea behind Grotesque was amazing. I like stories that offer multiple points of view (even if every single narrator is completely unreliable, as was the case with this novel), and I like my stories dark ... And obviously a book whose plot revolves around the murder of two prostitutes is probably going to be dark. (Not to mention the fact that I knew from Kirino's previous work that she likes to write about fucked up shit.)

I also like books that expose me to different cultures, and how those cultures affect an individual's overall experience. In the case of Grotesque, Kirino spent a lot of time discussing how age, beauty, and (to some degree) wealth can affect a woman's standing in Japanese society.

All of those things were fascinating, and made me feel like the book wasn't a complete waste of time ... But the overall execution left much to be desired.

As I was reading Zhang's portion of the book in particular, I kept thinking, "Oh my God, how much longer is this part?" It seriously dragged on and on for me, and by the end of that section I felt nothing but relief.

Honestly, there were several parts that I found tedious and boring, but Zhang's portion was the absolute worst. It's funny because the unnamed narrator comments on each person's section (each is supposedly told in a series of journal entries or essays that she's had access to), and with regard to Zhang's she says, "What a ridiculously long and tedious piece of work. Zhang goes on and on about completely irrelevant matters: the hardships he faced in China, all the things his darling little sister did, and so on. I skipped over most of it." When I read that, I laughed and thought, "I wish I'd done the same!"

I wouldn't say I hated this book, but I did only feel it was "okay" and gave it 2 stars on Goodreads. Since I know that Natsuo Kirino is capable of writing a captivating novel, I think that knowledge intensified the disappointment I felt when I realized much of Grotesque was filled with the random and often uninteresting ramblings of four generally unlikable (and possibly crazy) people. I don't mind unlikable characters, but when they're also pretty boring it can make for a tedious read. It's also particularly disappointing when you know the author can do so much better.

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman - 312 pages

Completed on 03/24/2016
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I went into this book with no real expectations. I added it to my "To Read" list on a whim several months ago, and, since it worked for one of the categories in Book Challenge by Erin 4.0, it got pushed to the top of the list.

What She Left Behind tells the stories of two very different young women living almost 70 years apart. In 1929, wealthy and rebellious Clara Cartwright's overbearing father sends her to a home for "nervous invalids" after she refuses to go along with her parents' plans for an arranged marriage. When her family loses their fortune following the stock market crash, Clara's father is no longer able to pay for her stay at the home ... And she is forced to move to a public insane asylum.

Nearly 70 years later, Izzy Stone is asked to help her foster parents, employees at a local museum, catalog items that belonged to the patients at the Willard Asylum, an institution that shut its doors years ago. Hoping to forget her own troubled past and the difficulty she's having fitting in at her new school, Izzy soon becomes intrigued with a journal she finds among a former patient's things.

The journal, which once belonged to Clara Cartwright, not only gives Izzy insight into Clara's experiences at the asylum but also forces her to question what she knows about her biological mother. Did her mother murder her father because she was mentally ill or is there more to the story?

I gave this book 5 stars mostly because I wanted to keep reading it to find out what would happen to these characters next. Izzy was an okay character, but I became pretty invested in Clara's story. The treatment given at insane asylums during the 20s and 30s was horrific (especially when it came to female patients). It became even more unsettling when I read some of the information at the back of the book and realized that Wiseman had done her research: the often unbelievable therapies she described were all considered legitimate treatments for the mentally ill at that time.

The writing itself didn't blow me away, and as I continued to read, I wondered if this was going to become one of those books where pretty much every bad scenario imaginable is thrown at the main characters. (And, for the record, it was one of those books.) I usually hate that, not because I'm a person who loves happy endings but because at some point it just becomes repetitive and boring. It's like, "Okay, we get it. Bad shit is happening and will continue to happen to these characters. There is no hope for them." But, for whatever reason, I was able to (mostly) overlook that here. (Maybe it was because I was fascinated by Clara's experiences at the asylum?)

I was also somehow able to (mostly) overlook the fact that I often felt like I was reading the script for a soap opera. There were quite a few over-the-top moments that bordered on silly, and there were also a few too many things that just fell into place effortlessly. (I can't go into those things without spoilers, though, so I'll leave it at that.)

Obviously this book had some major issues (for me, at least) ... But I still really enjoyed it. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, and I was eager to pick it up when I had free time. It isn't the type of book that I would normally rate 5 stars, and it certainly isn't one of my favorite books of the year. It's also not a book I think everyone should read. But something about it stuck with me enough to make me want to give it a high rating.

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney - 208 pages

Completed on 03/27/2016
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This was yet another book for Book Challenge by Erin 4.0, and one I probably never would have read (or even heard of) if I wasn't required to choose a book published the year I was born. And, while I wouldn't consider it a new favorite, I'm glad I read it.

Bright Lights, Big City follows a young man (who remains unnamed throughout the novel) living in New York City as he tries to figure out his life. His wife, Amanda, is a model who recently left him after her career took off. Now, without someone to come home to, he finds himself staying out later and later with his best friend, Tad Allagash, hitting clubs, snorting coke, and picking up women (or at least attempting to). His lifestyle begins to catch up with him, though, and he begins struggling to keep up with his work as a fact checker for a prominent magazine.

My favorite thing about this book was the writing itself. It's witty and very quotable, and I love authors who can write interesting passages that make me want to stop and share those lines with the nearest person. This was one of my favorites: "Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don't want to invite anyone inside."

My only real issue with this book was that it felt underdeveloped and incomplete in some ways. It's a very short novel, so that's probably not too surprising ... But I turned the final page and felt like I wanted more. McInerney didn't necessarily need to tie up all the loose ends or anything, but I just felt dissatisfied with the somewhat abrupt ending.

I also didn't connect with the main character the way I wanted to, but I attribute this more to age and experience than anything else. (Oh, and the fact that I'm not a cokehead.) If I'd read this book as a teenager (or even in my early 20s), I probably would have loved it and given it a really high rating. But, at 31, I gave it a solid 3 stars on Goodreads: it was a good book, but it definitely didn't blow me away.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper - 339 pages

Completed on 04/02/2016
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After reading Bright Lights, Big City I wasn't sure if I was really in the mood for yet another witty book from a male point of view, but, in an effort to complete Book Challenge by Erin 4.0, I decided to pick up This is Where I Leave You. And I'm so glad I did because I absolutely loved this book!

You've probably already either read it or seen the movie, but if you're not familiar with it, here's a quick summary:

The entire Foxman family hasn't been together under one roof in years, but that all changes when Mort, beloved husband and father of four, passes away. He has requested that the family sit shiva, and the dysfunctional Foxmans have to figure out a way to coexist for seven days and nights without killing each other or losing their minds.

Jonathan Tropper did an excellent job keeping me entertained and engaged in the story. The characters were flawed in realistic ways, and I felt like I was reading a story about a real family. And even though the characters weren't always very likable, I still found myself wanting them to work through their problems and succeed in dealing with whatever shit life has thrown their way.

I expected this book to be funny, and it didn't disappoint ... I found myself laughing out loud numerous times throughout. What I didn't expect, though, was that I'd be on the verge of tears just as often. Tropper masterfully blends the humorous with the heartfelt, and I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of emotions this book made me feel.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. It's the sort of book I'd recommend to everyone without hesitation. (And I don't get to say that too often because my tastes run pretty dark!) I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of Tropper's work in the future.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - 310 pages

Completed on 04/04/2016
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This is the only book I've read recently that wasn't for the book challenge. My original plan was to finish the challenge in March, but when that didn't happen, I figured I'd move on to one of the other library books I'd recently picked up.

I'll be completely honest here: the premise for In a Dark, Dark Wood seemed a little cliché. I feel like we've all read plenty of books (and seen plenty of movies!) in which a group of old friends spend a weekend in a remote cabin/house in the woods only to find themselves in the heart of some sort of danger.

But the (mostly) great reviews on Goodreads and pretty cover (yes, sometimes I do judge a book by its cover) made me think that there was probably more to this story than just a simple "weekend in the woods gone wrong" plot.

I'm glad I decided to give this book a chance because it was one of the best thrillers I've read in a while! Although I did have things figured out before they were revealed, I didn't feel like it was obvious. Ruth Ware twisted the story quite a bit and kept me wondering what might happen next.

One thing I found really interesting about the book was the fact that Ware took some clichés I'd normally hate and changed them just enough to make them seem fresh again. I don't mind an author recycling certain themes and ideas (I mean, you almost have to at this point since so many things have been done at least once!), but I get annoyed when I feel like I'm just reading the same tired trope over and over. When a writer puts a slightly different spin on things, it's refreshing ... And that's a great word to describe In a Dark, Dark Wood.

I read most of it in a single day, and that says a lot since I don't consider myself a very fast reader. I couldn't put it down! It was one of those books that just completely sucked me in and made me forget about pretty much everything else.

The only reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 was because it sort of fell apart a bit in the end for me. It didn't seriously let me down, and I wasn't like, "What the hell kind of ending is this?!?!" (Which, unfortunately, is something I find myself wondering a good portion of the time with suspense/thriller books. I love these types of books so much, but there have been so many times when I've felt the ending was unsatisfying.) The book just felt like it lost its momentum at some point near the end. And, while I still wanted to find out what happened, I wasn't glued to it the way I was during the weekend when I spent the majority of my Sunday frantically turning the pages because I had to know where the story was going to go next.

The Bloodletter's Daughter by Linda Lafferty - 512  pages

Completed on 04/10/2016
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The Bloodletter's Daughter was the last book I needed to finish in order to complete Book Challenge by Erin 4.0. I can now officially say I've made it through all ten categories!

I chose this book not only because it satisfied one of the categories, but also because I'd added it to my "To Read" list at least a year ago and I knew I'd probably put off reading it forever if I didn't feel like I needed to read it. I originally added it because the story sounded interesting ... But I know myself pretty well, and I know that historical fiction (especially historical fiction that takes place hundreds of years ago) isn't really my favorite thing to read. So, unless I had some sort of reason to pick this book up, I probably would never bother getting to it.

That being said, it wouldn't have been terrible if I didn't read it. While this book had its interesting moments, it was definitely very worthy of my 2 star rating. I didn't hate it, but it definitely wasn't better than "okay." (And, really, it was barely even okay.)

In 1606, Emperor Rudolf II sends his bastard son, Don Julius, away from Prague to a remote Bohemian village. He is shut away in a castle there, and, in an effort to cure him of his madness and depravity, he is only allowed to see and speak with a priest and a physician.

Believing they can cure him with bloodletting, the physician requests the help of the village bloodletter. When Don Julius meets the bloodletter's beautiful daughter, Marketa, he is instantly drawn to her, believing her to be the embodiment of the women in his prized Coded Book of Wonder. His enchantment quickly grows to dangerous obsession, and Marketa, both frightened and fascinated, can't stay away.

I'll admit that I don't know much about life in the Czech Republic in the 1600s, nor did I know anything about the true story of Don Julius and Marketa's murder. (Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. It tells you on the back of the book that the novel was "inspired by a true murder that rocked the Hapsburg dynasty," and, given the context, it's not difficult to figure out that this refers to Marketa's death.) I couldn't tell you whether or not there were a lot of historical inaccuracies because I simply don't know.

What I can say, however, is that a story that could have been great was just sort of "meh." There were so many things that really didn't make sense to me (unfortunately, I can't really talk about them here because I try to always avoid spoilers), and the epilogue left me thinking, "Really? This is so ridiculous!" The writing wasn't the worst I've ever read, but it definitely wasn't good.

One of the reasons I typically don't like books set so many years in the past is because I really dislike the stiff, formal language writers use when characters are speaking to one another. This book was no different. Unfortunately, the dialogue itself was often repetitive and silly, so I got a double whammy.

This book is also very "rapey." There's no other way to describe it. I'll be completely honest here and say that, in general, I don't mind a book that uses rape as a major part of the plot (or even uses it to propel a subplot). But this book goes far beyond that. When I first started reading it, I read a couple of chapters and thought, "I don't know if I'm going to be able to finish this book." There wasn't even any rape in the first couple of chapters, but the descriptions of Marketa's experiences in the bathhouse her mother runs were just weird and very telling of the way she would be treated throughout the book.

Basically, The Bloodletter's Daughter sort of reminded me of a really bad romance story with some rape and supernatural elements thrown in. I think the only reason I kept reading was because I wanted to know how the author would describe the events leading up to the murder (and because I just can't abandon books!). It just wasn't very good, and I'm glad it's over.

Friday, April 15, 2016

My Favorite Angry Songs: Music For Every Pissed Off Occasion

Last week Jana shared this Bad Day Recovery Plan post, and it made me think about how my own recovery plan simply involves turning to music when I'm feeling angry or sad. (Or, if I'm being totally honest, I turn to music regardless of how I'm feeling because I fucking love music. But, if you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know that.)

Anyway, her post inspired me to finally share some of my favorite angry songs. This has been on my list of blog post ideas for a while, and I've just never gotten around to it.

I'm using YouTube videos instead of a more traditional playlist because a couple of these songs weren't available on Spotify. And, just to change things up a bit, I'm breaking this list up into categories.

When you need to vent about a shitty friend:

"Keep It On Wax" by Alexisonfire

"I guess the only thing cheap to you is your friends/Oh, what a fucking shame that you had to mess things up this bad/Times change and people change with them/Some people love to play the victim"

"Pot Kettle Black" by Tilly and the Wall

"I bet you think we didn't know, didn't even see the tides change/But it's a small, small world, girl, getting even smaller every day"

"Butcher's Mouth" by Emery

"But it ends me when I can tell that I've become the person I can't take, that I hate/A person so much like you"

When love sucks:

"Limp" by Fiona Apple

"You fondle my trigger then you blame my gun/And when I think of it, my fingers turn to fists/I never did anything to you, man/But no matter what I try, you'll beat me with your bitter lies/So call me crazy, hold me down, make me cry, get off now, baby/It won't be long 'til you'll be lying limp in your own hands"

"Welcome Home" by Coheed and Cambria

"You could have been all I wanted/But you weren't honest, now get in the ground/You choked off the surest of favors/But if you really loved me, you would've endured my world/But if you're just as I presumed/You're a whore in sheep's clothing, fucking up all I do"

"Lust A Prima Vista" by The Spill Canvas

"In one fell swoop it became clear to me that I despise you entirely/But the good news is I'm gonna keep you around/And so your lust is just convenient now"

*Side note: I'll be seeing these guys live this weekend!

When you hate pretty much everyone:

Ænima" by Tool

"Some say the end is near/Some say we'll see Armageddon soon/I certainly hope we will/I sure could use a vacation from this bullshit three ring circus sideshow"

"March Of The Pigs" by Nine Inch Nails

"Shove it up inside/Surprise! Lies/Stains like the blood on your teeth/Bite, chew, suck away the tender parts/I want to break it up/I want to smash it up/I want to fuck it up/I want to watch it come down"

"King Kill 33°" by Marilyn Manson

"The world that hates me has taken its toll, but now I have finally taken control/You wanted so bad to make me this thing/And I want you now to just kill the King/And I am not sorry, and I am not sorry/This is what you deserve"

When you're sick of what's being portrayed in the media (and what's going on in the world in general):

"Testify" by Rage Against the Machine

"The movie run through me/The glamour subdue me/The tabloid untie me/I'm empty, please fill me/Mister Anchor, assure me that Baghdad is burning/Your voice it is so soothing/That cunning mantra of killing/I need you, my witness, to dress this up so bloodless/To numb me and purge me now of thoughts of blaming you"

"Road To Joy" by Bright Eyes

"So when you're asked to fight a war that's over nothing/It's best to join the side that's gonna win/And no one's sure how all of this got started/But we're gonna make 'em goddamn certain how it's gonna end"

"Doomsday Clock" by Smashing Pumpkins

"Apocalyptic means are lost amongst our dead/A message to our friends to get out/There's wages on this fear/Oh, so clear/Depends on what you'll pay to hear"

When you really just want to say "fuck you":

"A Punchup At A Wedding (No No No No No No No No.)" by Radiohead

"Hypocrite, opportunist/Don't infect me with your poison/A bully in a china shop/When I turn around, you stay frozen to the spot/The pointless snide remarks of hammerheaded sharks/The pot will call the kettle black"

"Judith" by A Perfect Circle

"You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never ever choose to be/Oh, so many ways for me to show you how your savior has abandoned you"

"Precious Things" by Tori Amos

"He said you're really an ugly girl, but I like the way you play/And I died/But I thanked him/Can you believe that?/Sick, sick/Holding on to his picture, dressing up every day/I want to smash the faces of those beautiful boys, those Christian boys/So you can make me cum, that doesn't make you Jesus"

*Side note: That last line is one of my all-time favorite lyrics. So good (and so true).

When you have no one to blame but yourself:

"Room A Thousand Years Wide" by Soundgarden

"Listen, hear he is inside/One who lives while others lie/I close my eyes and walk a thousand years, a thousand years that aren't mine/It seems he's near me as I walk/One who loved what love denied/He lives these years that I walk blind/All these years cannot be mine"

"Some Red-Handed Sleight Of Hand" by Cursive

"So why do I think I'm any different?/I've been making money off my indifference/We all pass the hat around/This is my body, this is the blood I found on my hands after I wrote this album"

"Needle In The Hay" by Elliott Smith

"I can't beat myself, and I don't want to talk/I'm taking the cure so I can be quiet wherever I want/So leave me alone/You ought to be proud that I'm getting good marks"

It was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be to break these up into categories. Some of these song lyrics are pretty straightforward, but some are definitely a little more subjective.

I also left off several of my favorites, so there may be an "Angry Songs Volume 2" playlist posted one of these days.

Oh, and I was totally rocking out to all of these songs while I was writing this post. (I'm sure you'd expect nothing less.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

From the Bookshelf: Recently Read - April 2016 Edition

It's time once again to join Steph and Jana for the Show Us Your Books! link-up (a.k.a. the best time of the month since I get to talk books with some of my favorite bloggers)!

Although I didn't hit my reading goal for March, I still feel like I've read a decent amount since the last link-up. Most of these books were for Book Challenge by Erin 4.0, and I'm proud to say that I've now officially completed the challenge!

But anyway, here are my thoughts on what I've read since the last link-up. I'll also be sharing slightly more in-depth reviews this Sunday if you want to know more about any of these books. (But don't worry ... I never post spoilers!)

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - 438 pages - 5 stars

Practical Vianne lives a happy and comfortable life with her husband and young daughter in a small French village. Her younger sister, 18-year-old Isabelle, is rebellious and often reckless.

As World War II begins, things start to change for these women. Faced with making increasingly difficult (and often dangerous) choices, the two sisters find themselves doing whatever it takes to survive.

That simple description of the plot doesn't even begin to do The Nightingale justice. The characters were complex and likable (even when they made poor choices), and, while I liked Vianne a lot, I absolutely fell in love with Isabelle.

My heart ached for these characters as I read about the horrors they faced at the hands of the Nazis. But, while it was sometimes difficult to swallow, I loved that Kristin Hannah didn't sugarcoat their experiences. It made the story seem more authentic, and I really felt what they were experiencing.

I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but this book was amazing and absolutely lived up to the hype. If you haven't read it, you should make time to pick it up. It will break your heart, but it's well worth the tears.

Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino - 530 pages - 2 stars

Exquisitely beautiful Yuriko and studious, awkward Kazue were once students at the elite Q High School for Young Women in Tokyo, bound together only through their school and Yuriko's unnamed, unpopular older sister. As adults, however, they have suffered the same fate: brutally murdered while working as prostitutes.

Through a series of four unreliable narrators, Grotesque reveals the events that led them to prostitution and their ultimate demise, while also describing the struggles the three main female characters face in Japanese society.

I previously read and enjoyed another novel by Natsuo Kirino, Out (you can read my review here, if you're interested), so I was really looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, Grotesque just didn't have the same impact.

The plot was intriguing, and I thought her descriptions of what it was like to grow up female in Japanese society were very interesting and eye-opening. I also liked that there were multiple points of view, particularly because there was a lot going on in the story and it was interesting to see things through the eyes of several characters.

However, the book overall was very mind-numbing, and I had a lot of trouble slogging my way through it. It took me 9 days to finish it, and even though it's a fairly lengthy novel, it shouldn't have taken me that long to read it.

I think Kirino is a talented author, so I was surprised to find so much of the book boring. The section narrated by Zhang was just awful. I would literally groan out loud at certain points because it was so boring that it was almost painful to read. Funnily enough, the unnamed sister (who narrates much of the book) calls Zhang's story "a ridiculously long and tedious piece of work." I guess I wasn't alone in feeling this way.

What She Left Behind
 by Ellen Marie Wiseman - 312 pages - 5 stars

In 1929, rebellious Clara is sent away to a mental institution after refusing to give up her relationship with an Italian immigrant and agree to an arranged marriage. Nearly 70 years later, Izzy discovers Clara's journal while helping her foster parents catalog items at the now closed Willard Asylum.

Izzy finds herself drawn to Clara's story, quickly realizing the woman who wrote those journal entries wasn't actually mentally ill but simply shut away for refusing to obey her parents' wishes. As she continues to read, Izzy begins to question what she knows about her own biological mother. Did her mother murder her father because she was mentally ill, or is there more to the story?

Have you ever read and rated a book and then later wondered why you gave it that rating? That's how I feel about What She Left Behind.

On one hand, I really enjoyed Clara's story. It was both eye-opening and heartbreaking to read about the types of horrific treatment given to asylum patients in the 20s and 30s, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to her.

On the other hand, much of this book was completely over-the-top. I like some drama in my entertainment, but this was a little much.

So why did I rate it 5 stars? Other than the fact that I became pretty invested in Clara's story, I'm really not sure. I went with what I felt as soon as I turned the final page, but, since I didn't bother writing my review until much later, I feel like I can't explain why I gave it such a high rating. (Whomp whomp. Review fail.)

Bright Lights, Big City
 by Jay McInerney - 208 pages - 3 stars

Recently separated from his wife and barely hanging on at his mostly boring job as a fact checker for a prominent magazine, a young man spends most of his time in the hottest clubs of New York with his best friend, snorting coke and attempting to pick up attractive women.

While Bright Lights, Big City doesn't have the most original or exciting plot, the writing itself was wonderful.  It was sharp and witty and full of passages that were so awesome and inspiring that I wanted to stop reading so I could work on my own novel. Here's a great example: "But what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name."

I think I would have liked this book a little more if I'd read it as a teenager (or even in my early 20s), but it was still enjoyable overall.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper - 339 pages - 5 stars

Judd Foxman is dealing with a lot of shit: his wife has been having an affair with his boss ... And now she's pregnant. To make things even worse, he gets the news that his father has died. Grieving for both his marriage and his father, Judd returns home to sit shiva with the rest of his highly dysfunctional family.

I don't think I've ever read a book that could make me laugh so much and then, just a few sentences later, make me want to cry. Reading This is Where I Leave You was like riding an emotional rollercoaster: there were so many ups and downs that I kept wondering if my heart would make it off the ride intact.

This is the first book I've read by Jonathan Tropper, and I'm definitely interested in seeking out more of his work.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware - 310 pages - 4 stars

Leonora Shaw (known to some as "Nora," to others as "Lee") is invited to an old friend's hen party at a remote house in the woods. This should be a fun weekend away, but Nora has her reservations about going. The biggest issue? She hasn't seen or spoken to the bride-to-be in at least a decade. Why does Clare suddenly want to be part of her life again?

After talking with a mutual friend who was also invited to the party, Nora reluctantly agrees to attend. Now, just a couple of days after arriving at the eerie glass house, Nora wakes up in a hospital bed, injured and unable to remember what happened to put her there.

In a Dark, Dark Wood could easily have been a terrible book. After all, we've all read (and seen) the "weekend in the woods gone wrong" stories about a million times.

Thankfully, Ruth Ware was able to breathe new life into a story that could easily have been riddled with boring clichés. I read most of this book in a single day (and I'm not a very fast reader, so that's pretty impressive for me!). I just couldn't put it down!

While it's not perfect, it's easily one of the best suspense/thriller novels I've read in a while. If you're a fan of that sort of thing, I'd recommend this one.

The Bloodletter's Daughter 
by Linda Lafferty - 512  pages - 2 stars

In 1606, Don Julius, the bastard son of Emperor Rudolf II, has been sent to live in a castle in a remote Bohemian village, shut away from the outside world. Believing he needs to be cured of his madness and depravity before he can return to Prague, the Emperor requests the help of a priest and a physician. The physician, in turn, asks a local bloodletter to assist him in purging the young royal of his vicious humors.

When Don Julius meets the bloodletter's daughter, Marketa, he begins to show signs of change. As his obsession with her grows deeper and more dangerous, Marketa, both frightened and fascinated, can't stay away.

The plot (which is based on true events) was the only reason I added this book to my "To Read" list, and Erin's book challenge is the only reason I wound up reading it. I'm not usually a huge fan of historical fiction anyway, but I especially have a hard time getting through books that are set hundreds of years ago. Sometimes I like to get out of my reading comfort zone, though, so I decided to give The Bloodletter's Daughter a try.

Honestly? I kind of wish I hadn't wasted my time. The writing is mediocre at best, and it reads like a really bad romance story with some rape and supernatural elements thrown in. While I wouldn't say it's the absolute worst book I've ever read, I didn't exactly look forward to picking it up each day either.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

March 2016 Goals and Results

I mostly failed when it came to sticking with my February goals. When I posted my results last month, I tried to look at where I fell short and figure out how I could have a more productive March.

Unfortunately, I just wasn't motivated. At all. 

By the end of the month, I just stopped caring. A part of me really wanted to mark things off my list. That same part wanted to write a very different goals and results post than the one I'm sharing today. But the lazier, less goal oriented part of me was just like, "Oh, fuck it. I fell behind already, so why bother?" Obviously that part won out.

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I thought about just skipping this post altogether, but then I realized I shouldn't be embarrassed that I didn't stick with my goals last month. It happens. Whatever. I'll share my results and then move on.

Linking up with Kristen and Gretchen!

March 2016 Goals and Results

1. Read 6 books.

FAIL. I like to set a specific number of books to read each month because I think it helps keep me on track for my goal for the year. (This year I want to read 60 books.) Obviously sometimes I don't reach that goal, but, if you were wondering why I always have a "Read x number of books" goal every month, that's why. In March I only managed to read (from start to finish) a total of 4 books.

2. Finish Book Challenge by Erin 4.0.

FAIL. All of the books I read in March were for this challenge (you can see my challenge picks here, if you're interested), but I still haven't quite finished. I'm on my final book, though, so I'll definitely finish before the challenge ends at the end of April!

3. Make and post bonus round picks for Book Challenge by Erin 4.0.

FAIL. I have a few books out from the library that will satisfy some of the categories for the bonus round, so I'm planning to read as many of those as I can before the end of this month. I won't finish 10 more books (I just can't read that fast!), but at least I won't be giving up completely.

4. Post 2-3 times each week on my blog.

FAIL. I started the month off strong, but by the end, I wasn't posting at all. I mean, I didn't write a single post last week. I just didn't feel like it. And, while I definitely want to make my blog more of a priority, I also don't like to feel like I have to post ... So I'm not too sad about failing this one.

5. Get back into a 5 day per week workout routine.

FAIL. I was most disappointed that I wasn't able to stick with this goal. I didn't completely abandon working out, but I think I could have done better.

6. Make a double payment on my car.

PASS. This is the only goal I managed to stick with in March, but it was a good one to complete. (And I actually paid slightly more than double since I rounded up!) I'm ready to get my car paid off, so the more I can put on it each month, the better!

7. Try one new class at the gym.

FAIL. I actually had a specific class in mind, and I still didn't bother going. Oh well. Maybe I'll make it to that class eventually.

8. Organize/purge/shred papers in my basket.

 This basket is essentially my "junk drawer" and where all random mail and other papers seem to go to die. I had a bad feeling I'd wait until the end of the month for this one because I really dislike doing stuff like this ... But I wound up just avoiding it completely. I should probably do this soon, though, because as much as I hate taking time to go through a bunch of crap, I also hate looking at a messy, overflowing basket of junk.

Like I said, March wasn't exactly my month for sticking with goals. I also ate out a lot, which led to spending a lot more money than I initially planned (and putting the two pounds I lost last month right back on). I'm hoping I'll do better in April, but we'll see.

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And now on to my workouts for March. As with previous months, I'm just sharing the basics: which days I worked out, what I did, and how long I did it. This part of the post is more for me (mostly so I can get a quick overview of my workouts for the month), so feel free to skip it if you don't care about other people's workouts.

March 2016 Workouts

Week 03/01 - 03/08:

03/01: Yoga video (30 minutes)
03/02: Yoga video (35 minutes)
03/03: Yoga video (25 minutes)
03/07: Yoga video (40 minutes)

Total Time: 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)

Week 03/09 - 03/16:

03/09: BodyPump class (60 minutes)
03/10: Yoga video (35 minutes)
03/12: Yoga video (50 minutes)
03/14: Yoga class (60 minutes)
03/15: Yoga video (45 minutes)
03/16: Yoga video (30 minutes)

Total Time: 280 minutes (4 hours, 40 minutes)

Week 03/17 - 03/24:

03/17: Yoga video (25 minutes)
03/20: Yoga video (30 minutes)
03/21: Yoga video (30 minutes)
03/23: Yoga video (45 minutes)

Total Time: 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)

Week 03/25 - 03/31:

03/25: Yoga video (30 minutes)
03/28: Yoga class (60 minutes)
03/30: Yoga video (30 minutes)

Total Time: 120 minutes (2 hours)

Looking at it like this, my workouts really don't look so bad ... But I had a few issues. I'd sometimes skip two or three days in a row (which makes it really tough for me to get back into it), I didn't push myself the majority of the time, and I didn't do any straight up cardio (i.e. walking, jogging, Zumba, etc.). I also only went to one BodyPump class. Whomp whomp.

Yoga is clearly my favorite form of exercise, and really the only thing that makes me want to work out ... But I still only managed to make it to two yoga classes the entire month of March. I also didn't challenge myself in my practice as much as I think I should have, so that's something I need to work on. I may never be able to do certain poses, but I'd like to continue increasing my strength and flexibility and work toward some of the more advanced poses I'd feel comfortable trying.

Anyway, that was March.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tasty Tuesday: Crockpot Garlic Herb Potatoes

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been struggling with finding my motivation. Motivation for working out, motivation for blogging, motivation for, well, pretty much everything.

I think most people get in these weird slumps from time to time, and last week I decided to just say, "Fuck it" and take some time away from the things I felt like I had to do. (And you'll see exactly how little I cared by the end of the month when I post my goals and results!)

Instead of working on blog posts, I watched countless hours of Dexter with Eric. (And yes, we've both seen it before. We randomly decided to start the series over from the beginning a few weeks ago because we both love it so much.) Instead of stressing about finding time and energy for a workout, I did yoga videos when I felt like it and didn't worry about how hard I was pushing myself.

I'd like to say that I'm completely relaxed and centered now, and that I'm ready to get back into the groove of things ... But that's not exactly true. I'm slowly getting there, but it's definitely a process.

I realize that introduction probably doesn't seem like it has anything to do with a recipe, but it actually kind of does. One thing I struggle with when I lack motivation is the inspiration to try new things in the kitchen. I either want to go the ridiculously easy route (i.e. frozen pizza, pasta and jarred sauce, grilled chicken breasts, etc.) or, if I'm really unmotivated to throw together a meal, I resort to going out or getting takeout. 

I went a little crazy with eating out last month, and the result was an emptier wallet and tighter pants. Remember how I lost two pounds in January and another two pounds in February? Well, two of those pounds found their way back after I spent the entire month of March stuffing my face with Qdoba, chocolate, gyros from my favorite Greek place, pancakes, potato chips ... The list could go on and on. The point is, I stopped caring about making stuff at home and am now regretting some of those choices.

But anyway ... There will be plenty of time to talk about that in an upcoming post. 

Today's post is all about one of the recipes I made early last week that kind of helped me get my groove back in the kitchen.

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I struggle with coming up with interesting side dishes. 98% of the time I stick with things like Steamfresh vegetables, salads, and rice. While those are all fine, I get sick of having the same thing all the time.

The only problem is that I never really feel like putting much effort into side dishes. In general, I don't love spending hours in the kitchen, but I'm much more willing to put in some extra time and effort for a main dish than for a side.

But, since I wanted to start trying new recipes again, I thought a simple side dish might be a good start. So I spent some time searching Pinterest and found this recipe. I tweaked things a bit, but it's essentially the same basic idea.

Honestly, I had no idea how these potatoes would turn out. I worried that they'd either get too mushy or wouldn't cook completely. But they were actually really good!

This isn't a fancy side dish ... Not at all. Sometimes, though, keeping things simple is best. And this combination of potatoes, garlic, butter, olive oil, and herbs is the perfect compliment to a meal.

Crockpot Garlic Herb Potatoes

Adapted ever so slightly from a recipe on Damn Delicious.

Ingredient List:
  • 3 lbs small potatoes, halved (I used a combination of red, purple, and yellow baby potatoes.)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic (or, if you're lazy like me, the equivalent of jarred, pre-minced garlic)
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp dill


1.  Spray the inside of the crockpot with cooking spray.

2.  Add the halved potatoes, 2 tbsp olive oil, butter, garlic, basil, oregano, dill, and black pepper to the crockpot and mix well.

3.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours or high for 2-3 hours. (I checked my potatoes often, and, after starting them on high, switched to the low setting. I cooked them on high for 1.5 hours and then finished them on low for 2 hours. I felt like this gave me the slightly softened yet not at all mushy texture I was going for. I highly suggest checking the potatoes several times as they cook ... The cook time may differ depending on their size.)

4.  After the potatoes have cooked for about 2 hours, add the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil. This is completely optional, but I thought my potatoes seemed like they weren't completely covered in oil and butter and I worried that they might dry out if I didn't add a little more. I opted to add oil, but you could always add more butter if you prefer.

5.  At the end of cook time, add the garlic salt (or you can use regular salt if you think that's too much garlic!), and stir the potatoes several times.

Although I felt like I needed to check my potatoes regularly to ensure they didn't overcook, I still thought this was a really simple recipe. It was also a nice change from the usual steamed vegetables or salad (though definitely not as healthy!).

It probably sounds silly, but after I made these potatoes, I started feeling more excited about trying new recipes again. I guess sometimes the simplest things can work to get you back on track!