sunday brunch

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If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you to stay far, far away. I was SO lucky to catch a late-spring cold and it is terrible. I’ve run the gamut–super tired, sore throat, stuffy AND runny nose–and luckily it is on its way out. No one wants to get sick, but trust me, it is far better to get these kinds of things when it’s not 75 and sunny. I just want to run and play!

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you, no, you didn’t miss anything, we STILL don’t have our new floors. I don’t know either. Are they growing the bamboo shoots one at a time? It’s the only explanation I can come up with that doesn’t leave me raging. In the meantime, we’ve done things like build a half wall in our living room (replacing a spindly banister over the stairs), started a DIY fix-up of some patio furniture I got at a yard sale, and replaced our refrigerator (reluctantly), but ugh I want the floor. Now.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you I did it. I started the last Tana French book. I…can’t explain myself. I knew that I would race through them after I loved The Likeness so much, and I had no willpower to stop myself. I love them so much. Please, please, read them all. Thanks.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I am so ready for this summer. We have a few little weekend getaways planned, some concerts, and because we’re crazy, we’re planning to ride our bikes 100 mile. It’s…so far. Please keep the ice packs and Advil handy as we start to ramp up the training miles these next few weeks. (I’m only sort of kidding…it’s actually so much fun, much better than I found marathon training.)

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that we have been watching Netflix like crazy people. How are they SO GOOD at their original programming? I love Bloodline and I know it sounds so dumb, but Daredevil is insanely addictive. Damn Marvel. I am also already dreading the finale of HBO’s Silicon Valley. I love those nerds so much. Can we also talk about Mad Men? I was on the fence for the last few seasons, but still stuck it out, and I am getting a little weepy that it’s going to be over tonight. I’m a few weeks behind so I at least get to savor the end. Sadface!

What’s going on in your world today? Share!

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what i love: august

Happy Labor Day! I hope you’re enjoying this long weekend and filling it to the brim with all your favorite summer activities you’ll miss as we move into fall. I’ve been lounging at the pool and have cookouts and bike rides in the plan. I am sad to see summer go, it truly has been a special one, but I am ready to stop sweating the second I go outside and I need all the fall things in my life. I mean, college football started yesterday! If that doesn’t mean the beginning of scarves and boots and PSLs and crunchy leaves, I don’t know what does. Here are the things making me smile this month!

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1. These cookies are like magic. That picture even looks like some dark voodoo of deliciousness! Double Trouble Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Honey Cookies. Seriously? I just can’t even with these. They are perfectly chewy and, really, when is peanut butter and chocolate not pretty much the best thing ever? Never. Since Reese’s Pieces are essentially a food group for the husband, these are on high rotation at this house. And I am certainly not going to complain about that…though maybe (definitely?) my jeans will.

2. As I was editing the images for this post, the husband walked by and said, “that looks like something you’d wear.” Amazing compliment because this outfit is totes amazing. Scarves! Leopard! Stripes! You guys. Let’s get real for a minute. Summer dresses are great, but I miss so many of my clothes. Scarves and sweaters now please! Let’s make it happen and boycott this 80-90 degree weather that’s lingering for at least another few weeks.

3. Bet you couldn’t tell this coffee table is an IKEA hack. Yeah, I know. It’s gorgeous! I’ve always loved the KLUBBO coffee table because it’s super simple and would look great in the lower level that I’ve been planning for 4 years now. But that marble contact paper though! It takes it to a whole new level of awesome. I’m more than a little obsessed with this super easy DIY.

4. What am I also obsessed with? This desk area with reclaimed wood in the most amazing house owned and designed by the guy behind Schoolhouse Electric. True story: when I finally am a grown up and have cashmoney, I’m going to buy everything in that store, but that’s a story for another day. Look at those red lights! The hardware on the desk and cabinets! The wood! Everything is so perfect and I have altered those 4-year-lower-level plans to include a reclaimed wood wall behind the built ins and above the fireplace. It’s so good. (Make sure to check out the whole house too, because the kitchen is something special.)

5. I love the reminder on this wise print. My life is pretty great, I know that, and I am beyond grateful for my family and friends and my home and my stable career and my health. It’s sick how lucky I am and I know it. But life is life, and it’s not always easy to keep it all together. Because of that, it IS easy to fall into a trap of complacency and general Eeyore-ness. I think we all probably need this reminder to shake things up — to get out of our heads, get off our butts, and to just do the damn thing. Just start eating better if you want to lose weight. Call a friend if you feel left out. Do better work at work. No need to overthink it!

What’s making you smile this month?

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nerdy girl reads: the vacationers

I know, I know. Stop the presses! Another book review so soon? I got off my lazy butt (just kidding, I’m writing this on my ipad while watching Orange Is The New Black and drinking wine…it’s a hard life I lead) to write you a special review of a book you simply HAVE to read before the summer’s over. And time is ticking guys! We’ve got like a week and a half before Labor Day – the perfect amount of time to race through Emma Straub’s The Vacationers. Though you probably won’t need it, it’s that good.

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I know I say this about every book, or at least the ones I deign worthy of a review, but I loved this book. It is absolutely perfect to read at the end of summer. It’s light and funny and packs a heartwarming emotional punch that leaves you nostalgic and so, so happy. It’s simple in theory; The Vacationers follows the Post family on a two-week vacation in sunny Mallorca. First of all, it sounds like pure paradise. A gorgeous private villa in a small Spanish island town surrounded by mountains and cliffs and spotless beaches. Uh, yes please. I can catch the first flight in the morning. But of course, life for the Posts is not paradise. Jim and Franny are trying to figure out how to deal with the aftermath of his affair (and disgraceful lay-off) after 35 years of marriage. Their daughter Sylvia just wants to get through the last few mind-numbing weeks before college – oh, and lose her virginity if at all possible. Their son is secretly hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and stuck in a dead end relationship with a woman ten years his senior who no one likes. Soooo tension. Add a super hot Spanish tutor and a famous tennis player (modeled after Rafa Nadal perhaps?) to the mix and things are ripe to blow up into some delicious family drama.

This book is oh so fun. The characters are delightfully flawed and just the perfect amount of self-absorbed. And you can tell Emma Straub really loves them. I loved them too. Sylvia is quick and sarcastically witty, obviously hiding her vulnerability in teenage surliness. Franny loves to cook enormous amounts of delicious food to try to keep everyone together and make them love her. Carmen (the noxious girlfriend) avoids her disappointment in her life in endless burpees (shudder). They are so complex and truly make this character drama sing. As if it could get any better, Straub’s writing is so buttery-smooth and enjoyable to read. This Goodreads review says it so well because there’s so much to enjoy: “I loved many, many other things about this book—the food, the weather, the atmosphere, the dialogue, the sexy moments, the characters’ wonderful little quirks. (I’d love to quote you some specifics, but immediately handed the book over to my mom upon turning the last page.) But one of the things I loved the most is that all the braided plotlines were resolved in really satisfying ways, and it felt like everyone absolutely got what they deserved—both good and bad. That was really a relief for me; maybe I’ve gone soft, but I’m sick to death of reading about crummy characters who win, or wonderful characters who get fucked (in the bad way). ” I agree. The ending is so great and I want everyone to experience it too.

In the end, this is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. It makes you love your family and appreciate the imperfect life you’ve made for yourself. And of course, the occasional trip away to strip away the all the lies. Go read it. NOW.

Rating: 9, Just shy of perfect (Can’t put it down! Well rounded with exceptional characters and style.)

sunday brunch

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If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that next week is my birthday and it feels…uneventful? For the past three years, we’ve spent my birthday week sunning and swimming and reading the days away at Pawleys Island and though we went to Hilton Head earlier this summer, it feels strange to be home for number 28. And sadface, I might only get ONE birthday cake! I’m excited about 28 though, it feels like it’s going to be a great one. I won’t bore you with my silly positive-intention stuff, but I’m thinking it’s going to be a year of many more yeses and a lot more of The Happiness Project. Bring on the goodness (and the cake)!

If we were having brunch, I’d tell you this week brings the last of my wheel pottery class and I can’t believe it went this fast! I’m going to miss my new little hobby. I am so glad my friends and I decided to break out of our routines and try something new. (I guess I started saying “yes” a few weeks early!) I think it’s so important to make time for yourself and to keep learning and I’ve loved getting to do nothing but play and create for a few hours a week. And it turns out we’ve all actually gotten pretty good! Ok, maybe just not completely embarrassing. The perfect coffee mug still eludes me though…only one week left to get it right!!!

What should I try next? The other girls didn’t like my idea of trapeze…

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that we totally binge-watched the end of The Killing and ugh, you guys. It’s so good. The show definitely didn’t get the press or viewership it deserved on AMC and I’m glad Netflix took it over to end the series the right way. If you haven’t seen it, the show follows two homicide detectives in Seattle and is funny and sad and maybe slightly creepy and you will love love love Holder. Just trust me, it’s worth it!

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I also have been binge-reading. Can’t help it, I’m a glutton. Last weekend I somehow read an entire book. My house is a disaster and I have no social life, but whatevs right? I haven’t done that in a very long time. I tore through The Intern’s Handbook (SO GOOD) and dove into The Book of Life, the finale of the All Souls Trilogy that was just released. I’m excited to review the series as soon as I finish it, but I’ll say for now if you are a fan of smart chick lit mixed with magic and history and science, you’ll love it.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you once again, this summer has been so much fun. Despite having no money, we’ve been able to do so much (though sadly, nothing to the house!) and have felt so free with our time. We’ve enjoyed outdoor concerts (Lumenocity was so freaking amazing), have ridden our bikes hundreds of miles thanks to some really incredible weather, and celebrated little everyday moments like dinner on the deck. I even got a date night last night (Guardians of the Galaxy…love)! It’s been a great season so it pains me to say I’m maybe ready for the next? I just want some boots, okay?!?

Your turn! Grab your coffee and let’s chat!

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what i love: july

Ohmygod it’s time for the normal spiel about how it’s already the end of the month and HOW?!? and time is moving too fast and blah blah blah. It’s all true, of course. The days are long but the years are short. Lately we’ve been soaking up time with friends and family and trying to stay in each moment of the long days of summer before they start to march into fall (though this post reminds me I still haven’t done ANYTHING on my summer bucket list, gah!). This has been a spectacular July – here’s what’s been making me smile!

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1. My love for summer dresses has not abated one bit; in fact, it’s grown exponentially this summer. And it’s not like this summer’s been hot! We’ve had maybe three days in the 90s? What the what? Anyway, I just love that summer dresses always look so put together with the absolute minimum amount of effort. This geometric-print shift is majorly adorable (though sadly from last season) and is definitely the silhouette I’m loving right now since it’s oh-so-forgiving after a night of g&ts on the deck. There’s only a month or so left ladies before we have to retire them – let’s have fun!

2. I am OBSESSED with this house. It’s so great. I pinned like three of its rooms because I couldn’t stand all the pretty. But this sunny kitchen is my favorite. The yellow is perfectly bright but not primary or obnoxious and I love the sleek and classic custom cabinetry. Ok, I maybe would switch out those pulls for something with a bit of sparkle, but details. That spindly stool is amazing and I’ll be keeping my eye out for something similar when we finally do something to make our kitchen better (aka, a million years). And did you see that HUGE soapstone sink hiding in the back? Yeah. The stuff (nerdy) dreams are made of. I would gladly cook all the time in this kitchen.

3. Speaking of cooking, doesn’t this gazpacho look amazing? I don’t even know how this has happened, but I’ve never had gazpacho in my life. Seems like a good time to start, yeah? Something about it being cold and kinda lumpy has kept me away, but Jenna has convinced me that it’s super easy and yummy. I love that she topped it with shrimp because they are pretty much the BEST weeknight meal ingredient because they cook so fast. And you know, they’re delicious too!

4. I have been reading so many mysteries this summer! Not sure why I’ve been on such a roll with them, guess all of my library holds are coming in at once, but I’m super excited about Shane Kuhn’s The Intern’s Handbook. The cover alone is freaking amazing. It’s a skull! Made out of office supplies! Basically it follows an “intern” who is really a paid assassin on his last hit. Yeah. Like I said, super excited. I can’t wait to hear what book club has to say about it as it’s very different from what we normally read (sad-wife-of-famous-husband books or ya…). It’s darkly funny and reads like a fast and fun movie!

5. Aaahhhh my future dream lake house! Isn’t it gorg? That beauty is somewhere in Sweden, but I’d love to pick up it’s beautiful black walls and crisp white windows and absolutely perfect deck and transplant it, I don’t know, maybe somewhere in Michigan? I know, I KNOW, I just went on vacation like 6 weeks ago. An awesome vacation no less! But, I really want to go escape for a few days to a quiet little lake, preferably spending a lot of time here. I could do things like make ice cream and go on a boat and finally cross off those summer bucket list items. But seriously, future dream lake house is calling my name in a bad way. Anyone else in?

What are you loving this month?

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nerdy girl reads: short summer reads

Last night I realized that these sweet summer days are quickly passing us by when the husband got a text about his fantasy football draft in a few weeks. What the what? I can’t even. (Though let’s be real, I am super pumped for football season and already want pumpkin beer. It’s a sickness.) But thankfully, we do still have more than a month ahead of us before Labor Day’s arrival – plenty of time to soak up the sun and get some reading done before the pool closes! Because I love you all so much, I’ve read a bunch of shorter reads you can fly through in a weekend or two and reviewed them all here. Hope it helps you find a new fave!

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
A-Hundred_SummersIn the mood for some pure chick lit fun? A Hundred Summers is for you. I first read Williams’ work in Overseas, and was excited to check this one out. Set in a beach town in Rhode Island in 1938, we follow socialite drama at its best. Lily Dane is shocked and hurt when Nick and Budgie Greenwald show up unexpectedly for the summer. They are her former best friend and her former fiancé, now recently married. Sucks right? Budgie insinuates herself back into Lily’s friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction…and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But because it’s chick lit and a little formulaic, Lily and Nick can’t stay away from each other, and the two are drawn back into their long-buried feels, despite their heartbreak. I really enjoyed this story and despite its somewhat sappy and contrived plot, I was hooked because I love love stories and historical fiction. Williams does a great job of weaving in flashbacks to the main story and you really will love Lily and feel her heartbreak. Like I said, pure chick lit fun for the summer!

Rating: 7, Darn good (Highly recommended book that is well paced and enjoyable with a few flaws.)

Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith
Trains_and_LoversI can’t believe I had never read an Alexander McCall Smith book before this year! Not only because he’s written SO MANY, but also because they are all so British and I love British things. Anyway, Trains and Lovers. You guys, it is so cute. I know that sounds lame, but there’s really no other way to describe it. The book itself is tiny in size and the cover is an adorable watercolor of a train with pretty hand-lettered type. And the story is just as sweet. Basically, four strangers meet on a train and tell each other their love stories on the journey. It is incredibly sentimental and not for anyone who isn’t the most hopeless of romantics. There’s really not much in the way of plot – the characters are just riding a train after all – but the writing is so gentle and intelligent that this quick read is like sitting by the fire and enjoying a pleasant warmth. It sticks with you much like the rocking of a train and makes you happy to be in love.

Rating: 8, Excellent (Memorable and above par, highly entertaining.)

Lonely Planet A Fork in the Road
Fork_in_the_RoadI love travel writing, especially if it involves food. The best parts of Eat, Pray, Love are by far when she talks about the food she eats in Italy and The Sweet Life in Paris was a wonderful romp through French cuisine. So when A Fork in the Road‘s cover caught my eye in a library display, I snatched it up. It’s not really a story, more of a collection of essays written about the intersection of food and travel and its impact on famous foodies’ lives. I’ll admit, it wasn’t my favorite read of the summer. Some of the essays sparkle with life and wit and some fall pretty flat. I naturally loved the stories from well-known chefs and authors like Curtis Stone and Michael Pollan, but some of the hidden gems were from people I had never heard of talking about disastrous stays at a Tuscan villa, a comedic family lunch in a small town in France, and how an exotic dish brought a girl and her estranged father together despite her uptight Asian family. If you are a fan of the genre, you will enjoy its humor and sentimentality and it is perfect for when you only have 10-20 minutes to read because you can skip around the chapters as you want, knock out an essay, and feel immense amounts of wanderlust!

Rating: 6, Above average (Recommend with reservations. Entertaining, but lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.)

Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues by Martin J. Blaser
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Ah yes, a learning book. And a kinda scary one at that. But hear me out! Not everyone likes all this schmaltzy stuff! And this isn’t like the summer reading you had to do in high school – it’s waaay more interesting than Machivelli or Greek plays. (Anyone else have to suffer through that?!?) I saw Blaser on The Daily Show and knew I had to get his book. After waiting forever to get it from the library, I hustled through this quick science-y read. I love learning about our human biology, especially when it comes to bacteria and our digestive system and our health. (See Cooked and this past month’s edition of Eating Well for more fun!) As someone who is also suspect of taking any and all medications, I wanted to learn more about the damage that overuse of antibiotics is doing to our health, you know, small things like contributing to the rise of obesity, asthma, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. Gah! For hundreds of thousands of years bacterial and human cells have lived in a peaceful Garden of Eden that is responsible for the health and equilibrium of our body and we’re ruining it! Blaser skillfully combines technical data from the lab and his conclusions without getting to science-y for the lay reader and offers really good solutions for how we can start to fix it. I’ll warn the hypochondriacs out there that there was a chapter I had to stop reading in the middle because it was freaking me out (antibiotic-resistant MRSA anyone?), but I think this is a worthwhile read for anyone who wants to make smart decisions about their health and medicine.

Rating: 8, Excellent (Memorable and above par, highly entertaining.) (Ok, maybe not entertaining, but important!)

Goodnight June by Sarah Jio
Goodnight_JuneOk, back to the schmaltz! Y’all know I love Sarah Jio. Blackberry Winter is still one of my fave chick lit reads. Unfortunately, I think her editors are doing her a disservice by having her crank out at least one book a year because her two latest have felt under-developed to me. Goodnight June could have been great because the story premise is great: burned-out and heartbroken financial guru June moves to Seattle to take over her deceased aunt’s failing bookstore and finds out she was confidantes with Margaret Wise Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon, and inspired the famous story, thus saving the store and finding love. Like I said, sounds great, yes? The writing is a little flat though, especially when it comes to the love story. You know it’s unmemorable when you can’t even remember the love interest’s name! But, it’s worth reading if only for the letters between June’s aunt Ruby and Margaret. They come alive and their friendship really becomes the love story and heart of the novel. I loved the literary bent of the book and I credit Jio’s imagination for coming up with such a clever and beautiful backstory for such a beloved book. Again, perfect to pick up and read by the pool for some easy-going chick lit!

Rating: 6, Above average (Recommend with reservations. Entertaining, but lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.)

What are you reading this summer?

sunday brunch

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If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you all about my sweet husband who bought me a super early birthday present – a fancy new bike! …and about how much we’ve been riding. Seriously, ouch. We definitely shouldn’t have made this purchase (thanks new heat pump), but we took my old cheap bike in for a tune up and after learning it needed a new chain and derailleur and many other things, the cost to fix it was ridiculous. So after a lot of test riding and hemming and hawing and promises that yes, I indeed would start to actually ride again, the pretty new baby was mine. What are credit cards for, right? He is fast and matte black and super comfy. We’ve done everything from a short hill interval workout that left us utterly breathless to a day-long 60 mile adventure. It’s been so fun, and even though running will always be my first love, I’ve been bitten by the cycling bug again. So much so that…

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I’ve become some other human and actually care about the Tour de France again. I freely admit this may be the nerdiest thing about me right now. A few years ago I watched EVERY single stage and knew all the riders. It was intense. I think the sport has gone through a few dark years thanks to Lance Armstrong and the drugs (it’s not just him, but he’s the most well-known and that makes him the poster boy sadly), but I hope it starts to build in popularity again. I’ve been watching the weekend stages and the drama and crashes and teamwork and of course, the gorgeous scenery are so much fun to watch. It is truly amazing what they do. The husband and I rode 40 (flat) miles yesterday and I am so sore it’s stupid. They ride at least double that in the mountains everyday for WEEKS. I also somehow have cared about soccer. There may or may not be a World Cup/Fried Chicken party at our house this afternoon. 😉

If we were having brunch, I’d tell you that I started taking a pottery class a few weeks ago with friends. I haven’t touched clay since middle school when I learned that 2-d art was much more my forte, and never ever on a wheel. Well, I remember why. My efforts have been…abstract…at best. But the class is so much fun and a perfect mid-week relaxing creative outlet. Like most things in my life, I struggle with the patience to go through each of the (many many) steps in throwing a pot, but it’s probably a good lesson for me to learn at this point in my life. I forgot how much I need a creative hobby that’s just for me. I may be creative for a living, but it’s not making art just for the sake of making art, something that feels oh so good. I can’t wait to share my creations once they’ve been glazed!

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I found a new series to be obsessed with. Y’all know already that I pretty much love any book with magic in it and will gobble up any and every one I find. A year or so, my aunt (hi!) recommended A Discovery of Witches to me, and I finally got around to reading it. And then reading the sequel Shadow of Night immediately after. They may not be the best books ever written and sometimes the writing and dialogue is quite cheesy, but I was sucked in and totally hooked. I really love the cast of characters and the author’s version of magic. The author is a historian and you can definitely tell, perfect for nerds like me who also really love learning about the past. She weaves magic into world history in really clever ways, especially in the second book when there’s time travel. The third book is sitting in the library’s processing department right now (do you know how hard it is to walk past 75 copies of the book just sitting on a cart a few times a day and NOT take one?!?) so hopefully I’ll get a copy in the next few weeks. Can’t. Wait.

If we were having brunch today, I’d celebrate that we’ve finally got perfect tomatoes and peaches. Clearly, the best parts of summer. I’ve been planning meals around all the best summer bounty and it has certainly been a delicious summer. Hence why we need to keep riding our bikes!

Your turn: If we were having brunch today, what would you tell me?

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sunday brunch

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If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you Happy Summer! I am loving it. We’ve already had a cookout, had many meals al fresco, gone to the pool for many many hours (my skin isn’t so happy about this one), ridden our bikes a ton, are going to an outdoor concert tonight (!), and maybe or maybe not enjoyed milkshakes two days in a row. Can’t be too sure about that last one! I love feeling like the days are endless – I want to squeeze as much out of each extra minute as possible.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I’m almost finished with reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and The Secret History back to back. Y’all, these are not light and happy summer reads. I need some Nora Roberts frivolity stat. These books though. I am in love. The Goldfinch is heartbreaking and dark, but the last chapter…it’s beautiful. I can absolutely see why it won the Pulitzer. The Secret History was our book club choice and I can’t wait to hear what people think (or let’s face it, if anyone else read it…). It’s fun and creepy and full of snotty New England intellectuals. Love it so much. But seriously, I need a little break on the doom and gloom here!

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that not having any money is a drag, but it makes for some interesting challenges. And hey, we’ve faced this past week of 90-degree days and the new ac didn’t even break a sweat, so I am beyond grateful and definitely not complaining. Much. We might not be able to go on any more adventures for awhile, but I’ve been having fun scouting free or cheap things to do in the city – who knew there were so many free concerts, stargazing nights (pumped for this!), paddleboarding, etc. Just don’t try to get me to a church festival. There are about 100 million in Cincinnati and I just can’t. Ever.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you I am obsessed with Orphan Black. Now that we’re cutting our cable (see the no-money challenges above), we’ve been actually using all the streaming stuff we have and it is SO GOOD. If you have Amazon Prime, watch it now. It is so dramatic and the actress who plays the main character (characters?) is really great. And duh, Orange is the New Black. Love it. We’ve also been World Cup-obsessed (yes, only a week after being Stanley Cup-obsessed…I need a sports break) and working our way through Friday Night Lights. Tim Riggins forever.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you I’m in a food rut. I was recently told my dinner menus were a bit “monotonous,” so I need some help. Anyone got some good summer eats? Caveats: must be cheap, quick and easy to prepare, and delicious. SO easy, right? If it were up to me, my summer days would look like this: iced coffee all the time, yogurt and granola, caprese salad, corn on the cob, and milkshakes. (The last two days can attest to the last one.) I’m ok with a little delicious monotony, clearly. But apparently boys don’t eat this way, so help please! The husband thanks you in advance.

Spill, what’s going on in your world this month? Happy brunching!

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sunday brunch

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If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you all about my fab week at the beach. It was awesome, y’all. I am both happy and sad to be back home – happy because my skin desperately can’t handle any more direct contact with sunlight for awhile and sad because well, no one ever really wants vacation to be over, right? It was the perfect weeklong binge of good food, even better alcohol, sunlight so perfect it makes your heart hurt with happiness, laughter and smiles, beautiful books to read, and enough gorgeous runs and walks on the beach to avoid gaining 10 pounds (as opposed to the five or so I brought home as a souvenir). I am so thankful to have the amazing parents I do and that they let the husband and I crash their party this week.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that I am super lame and have made a “summer bucket list.” I know, I embarrass myself too. It includes things like “make homemade ice cream” and “go to a Reds game” and “go on the [brother-in-law’s] boat.” Ok, and a lot more food-related items I’m leaving off because they make me realize just what a fat kid I really am. But I can’t help it, I am just SO excited for summer to get here and to be one of the best yet because last summer the husband and I didn’t really get to enjoy anything thanks to all his health issues. This summer is going to make up for it in spades, I can tell.

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you that this girl really needs to whip her butt back into shape. Not only to get rid of that pesky “souvenir,” but simply to feel better. I’ve been kicking butt with my running, no issues there, but since I stopped lifting with a trainer twice a week and fitting in some yoga a few times a month (seriously…don’t even remember the last time I pulled the mat out of the closet), I’ve been feeling a bit off. One of my besties started a “yoga everyday” challenge and has totally inspired me this past month. Maybe I should make up a challenge for summer. I can surely do something everyday, right? Right?

If we were having brunch today, I’d tell you I picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at last year’s used book sale at work (OMGITSTARTSNEXTWEEK!!!!) and started reading it a few days ago. You guys. How did I not read this before now? It’s so beautiful. I got about 10 pages in before turning to the husband at the beach and waxing poetic about how I already loved it. The imagery and tone are simply beautiful and I have totally fallen for Francie. Go read it.

If we were having brunch today, I’d apologize for my radio silence. I’m so sorry guys. Truth is, I’ve been feeling uninspired and you, my dear readers, paid the price. For some reason or another I would try to come to this space and write creative words about books and my house and music and nerd power and I couldn’t. I can’t promise to be back here wholeheartedly in the weeks to come, this is just a hobby and creative outlet after all and let’s be honest, no one wants to sit at a computer when there’s so much summer to enjoy, but I can promise not to be such a stranger. Deal?

Your turn! What’s going on with you this month?

nerdy girl reads: what i read on summer vacation

Did you ever have to write “summer vacation” essays at school? I really don’t think I ever had to, despite the fact that it’s like the number one back to school cliché around. While I’m usually only on summer vacay for one week of the three or so months, I sill feel like I get a break every summer…except maybe this summer when I spent most of it driving to and from the hospital. Nevertheless, I got a lot of reading done this summer and most of it was excellent. I promise to be back with full-length book reviews next week, no more of these shorties for awhile, but I’m quite behind and you’ll just have to humor me, mmkay? Here’s my attempt at a “what I did over summer vacation” essay – nerdy style!

Flowers

The Language of Flowers
You know those books you want to reread as soon as you finish the last page because you can’t stand the fact that you actually finished it and you can’t move on to anything else because you are so moved by a story? The Language of Flowers is even better than that. I wanted to climb in this book. I yelled at the characters. I cried. I felt like I could smell the flower mart and walk along the hilly San Francisco streets I know and love with Victoria. I finished it in less than 8 hours. Yeah…nerd alert. This is by far the best book I read all summer and one that will stick with me for quite some time. Not only is it beautifully written (I would call the storytelling and word choice elegant, even if Victoria’s story itself isn’t elegant all the time), you learn a bunch about the meanings of flowers.

The Language of Flowers follows Victoria Jones as she is emancipated from a life of group homes and foster care to the streets of San Francisco. While not educated in the standard sense, thanks to one of her foster mothers, she knows the meanings of flowers and how they communicate. Thanks to a little bit of luck and an uncanny ability to give a person exactly the bouquet they need to fix a relationship or bring about a positive change, she gets herself off the streets and working in a florist shop. When she meets someone from her past, it stirs up all her memories of a terrible, awful thing she did – and she is forced to confront all her guilt and pain and feelings of unworthiness. My only fault with this book is that it is a tad unbelievable that Victoria is 18. She sounds much more mature in some way (much less in others, though) and I guess we are supposed to attribute that to her difficult childhood “in the system.” Ultimately, there is a realistic happy ending (my favorite kind!) and Victoria no longer uses flowers to communicate her mistrust and anger with the world. I could go on and on about how much I loved it, but save me the trouble and go buy it.

The Sweet Life in Paris
The Sweet Life had EVERYTHING going for it. It’s a memoir about Paris and pastries. I mean, that sounds like a home run right? But I thought it was slightly boring. I know, I kinda hate myself! The Sweet Life of Paris is basically a collection of David Lebovitz’s observations of being an ex-pat in Paris and everything that he learns about the city, the people, food, and himself along the way. It is, pardon the pun, very sweet and charming, but like a puff patsry, is just fluff.

The Last Camellia
Last year I raced through the work of Sarah Jio, reading Blackberry WinterThe Bungalow, and The Violets of March in rapid succession. I LOVED the first two and though they were great romantic-historical-mysteries, and while The Violets followed the same sort of story arc as the other two, I just wasn’t as into the characters or the mystery and found it fell flat. Well, The Last Camellia, also by Jio, also fell flat for me. The story, like her others, follows two women from different time periods who are connected in a mystery concerning this special camellia, the Middlebury Pink, that is rumored to be on the ground at Livingston Manor. The modern heroine, Addison, was not very well developed and well, not very likeable. She came off as whiny to me and I wasn’t interested in her part of the mystery. I also really hated her backstory and her stalker. True story. However, I really liked Flora, the character from the past, and her story of coming to England to steal the Middlebury Pink (to help her family naturally) under the guise of being the nanny, but then falling in love and becoming part of the family. I enjoyed watching her uncover the details of some mysterious deaths around the manor, especially when it came to a somewhat gruesome climax.

All in all, this Sarah Jio story felt like moderately-decent chick lit, whereas her others were definitely above-average. Great for the beach or reading on your commute.

The Cuckoo’s Calling
Umm, so yeah, I did it. I read the new J.K. Rowling book. I actually saw a few copies at work before I heard it was Rowling’s work and was interested in the cover enough to put it on my reading list. I know, I’m so hipster…I knew about it before it got big. Major lol. Anyway, after being somewhat disappointed, yet somewhat intrigued, by The Casual Vacancy, (seriously, I STILL don’t know how I feel about that book) I can say that this book was awesome! While I don’t normally pick up crime novels, I do like them and think they are fun to read every now and then. I thought this one was well-paced, the characters were very well-developed, and the plot was excellent for a crime mystery. I did suspect who the killer was before it was revealed, but I wasn’t 100% sure, so it was fun to hurry to the finish to find out.

The story revolves around Cormoran Strike, an ex-military private detective with one leg, who is approached by the brother of an old school friend to investigate his famous sister Lula’s death. It had been ruled a suicide, but he is convinced it wasn’t. After falling out with his girlfriend and being down on his luck for awhile (aka, private detectives don’t get much business these days), he needs the money and takes the job. Strike and his plucky new assistant work through the mystery and the crazy cast of characters (millionaires, rocker boyfriends, fashion designers, friends from rehab…) all involved with the model’s last day to find out what really happened (and who was responsible). True to Rowling form, everyone has a weird name and is given some absurd qualities. I love her and I hope she writes more Strike novels.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
If you’re ever in the mood for a weird book, get The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. It’s just…weird. On her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein, a pretty unremarkable girl, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. And they’re not good. Suddenly, food becomes fraught with peril and for the rest of her life, she learns secrets about the people she loves (like her mother’s affair). As Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift/curse and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. The super weird part is a whole tangent with her brother…he is super smart, but very much a loner and hates to be around anyone, even his family. He starts to do experiments where he disappears. Like, into furniture. Told you it was strange. I did really enjoy the ending when Rose finds a purpose for her talent and finds joy learning about food and cooking, but it took awhile to get there.

Z

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
I have read a bunch of sad-wives-to-famous-historical-figures books in the past few years. They are all excellent, despite being quite sad. Z was no exception. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like we know a lot about the Fitzgeralds, more than we do about the Hemingways or the other literary/artistic figures of the 20s. And maybe most of that is just their reputation of being wild partiers and mentally unstable. I think that’s what this book is trying to show – that there was more to Zelda than what we know. In the beginning, she was not a complex girl. She was a Southern belle who liked to flirt and party with the boys around town. But after a lifetime of suppressing personal ambitions to be the wife of a giant, she becomes a much more interesting woman. And her relationship with Scott is much more fascinating that I thought. I guess I believed the hype that they were just wild partiers and she was ok with that and then eventually went a little cuckoo. But Scott is not painted in the best light here. While I do think they loved each other, it becomes clear that he really wanted her to just be his pretty and witty companion, always putting his needs first. I know that’s the time period speaking, but yuck. Being a more modern woman, Zelda totally resents that, and that’s where the end of Scott and Zelda begins. The book asks who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too?

The writing is great and obviously, the cover is gorgeous. I do think the ending was a little rushed, though maybe that makes sense because Scott’s and her deaths were pretty rushed. I’d be inclined at this point to read a biography of Scott, to see if they paint him or their marriage in a more favorable light, because when I say above that he doesn’t look good in this novel, I mean it. He sounds cruel and like his badgering and cruelty (not to mention the fact that he used her as inspiration for his characters and novels) were huge factors contributing to her nervousness and emotional instability, as well as to the general perception that she was “crazy.” Definitely pick this up if you’re at all interested in the Jazz Age or the Fitzgeralds!

What did you read over Summer vacation?