Blog Archives

Listening: ‘Platinum’ by Miranda Lambert.

A semi-oldie but a real GOODIE.

It should come as no surprise that I’ve been going through some tough times lately, and one of the most difficult things for me has been driving in my car – I cry all the time in my car.

I realize how pathetic this sounds, and it is frustrating for me because I’ve always enjoyed taking drives – just for the sake of it – especially when my mind needs clearing. But, as I’ve mentioned, things that once worked for me aren’t really working anymore, so I’m left searching for new solutions.

Which brings me to this 2014 Miranda Lambert album. I thought that maybe if I changed the atmosphere within my Jeep – I’d do a little less crying. So, when I went on my most recent library trip, I dug through their selection of country CDs.

I knew the songs from a total bad ass such as Ms. Lambert would help me.

I didn’t grow up on country music, but I came to love it the summer I left Indiana and headed South. I have always admired the soul behind the songs, and when country went “nautical”, I love dreamin’ about the beach while listening (and sippin’ a cold beer).

I have been honored to interview many country legends (ahem, Tracy Lawrence) including Ms. Lambert, during a nationwide tour when she was married to Blake Shelton. She remains to be one of my country favorites for her ability to stay strong, and show her true roots. I love that about her!

While I hadn’t heard “Platinum” in its entirety, I’d heard hits such as “Little Red Wagon” and “Automatic”, both of which I love.

You can’t ride in my little red wagon
The front seat’s broken and the axel’s dragin’
No you can’t step to this backyard swagger

My favorite song has to be “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” featuring Little Big Town – it’s totally nostalgic and has all the fixins of a perfect country song (smokin, drinkin, love, and campfires).

But even though Lambert and Shelton didn’t announce their divorce until mid 2015 – this record makes it OBVIOUS that things were on the rocks between them. Take into consideration the lyrics of “Priscilla”?

Priscilla, Priscilla
He’s always in high demand
How do you or don’t you get the love you want when everybody wants your man?
It’s a difficult thing being Queen to the King
And I feel ya
Priscilla

It’s a fun track, but I heard that and knew it had to be written about her marriage troubles (especially since Lambert was his mistress in a previous marriage).

My other two favorite songs are “Somethin’ Bad”, which is a duet with Carrie Underwood, and “Another Sunday in the South”, a hazy song about day drinkin’ and night fishin’ (what more could you want in life?!).

Overall, this is a fun, well-rounded album. I’ve been listening to it all week (and have not been crying), and I realized I needed to listen to the other CDs I picked up: one of Little Big Town and one from Chris Stapleton.

You’ll be seeing my reviews of those, too!

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BBC: ‘Let it Snow’.

After nearly two weeks off from work – I’ve officially survived the first four days back (it was not without struggle)! We’re here and I’ve got a really great book to share with you all: “Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances” by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle.

This book has been on my list for at least a year as part of my mission to read all things John Green, and ta-da! Just like that, I have.

“Let it Snow” is a compilation of three short stories (each about 100 pages or so) that are all slightly connected. The connection? A massive blizzard! Here’s the official description from Amazon.com:

A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Now, I definitely wanted to read this book before the holidays, but such is life, and I read it this week instead. But hello, Bomb Cyclone or whatever the heck it’s called – it’s timely without even planning for it! If you’re snowed in currently, go ahead and download this little gem today, because it’s got all the Waffle House references (i.e. scattered and smothered hash browns), holiday references (the collectible Christmas village), and the nostalgia of teenage, holiday romance. It’s really quite perfect.

Of course, I really enjoyed John Green’s story, but this book also introduced me to two authors I hadn’t heard of.

Maureen Johnson has written a ton of books, including three series sets: The Shades of London Series, The Scarlett Series, and The Blue Envelope Series. She’s also written several stand-alone books such as “Girl at Sea” and “Devilish“, among many others. I am adding some of these to my library list!

Lauren Myracle has also written a good array of books, including some for middle school readers and some young adult novels. She’s written “The Infinite Moment of Us” and “Kissing Kate“, and has also authored a four-book series completely made of text messages!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is “Career of Evil” by Robert Galbraith – sure to be a goodie if you’re reading the Cormoran Strike series!

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend – stay warm if you’re in the path of the bomb cyclone thing… I am not, but i may as well be, because I’m not planning on leaving the house. I’ve got waaayyy too much TV to catch up on and my bed is just too comfortable. See you next week!

BBC: ‘A Man Called Ove’.

So, the holidays are officially over (I think now is the appropriate time to stop saying ‘Happy New Year!’ to everyone, right?), but it’s Friday and I’m sure this week was a struuuuggggle for everyone involved. I actually didn’t hate my life too much on Tuesday morning, but as each morning passed, I hit the snooze button more and more. Ugh.

But, Blanche’s Book Club has been on a roll (read: I’ve been taking many hot baths and enjoy reading while doing so), and we just finished a book that was on my library reserve list for about four months, “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman.

I heard about this book on “What Should I Read Next?” (a podcast), and it got mixed reviews – some people really loved it, while others said it took them awhile to get through it (although those readers said it was better in the audio version). So, I took the risk and added it to my list – considering the waiting time was so long I feel like a lot of people enjoyed this book. Here’s the description from Amazon:

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down” (Booklist, starred review).

I don’t know if I would call this a “feel good story” by any means, as Ove is pretty cranky, and he is very sad – considering we meet him on the day he is planning to kill himself.

But Ove’s story is a deep one – he acts the way he does because of the life that’s behind him, although the story that lies ahead is a little brighter.

I enjoyed this book, but I’m definitely not running out and looking for more reads from Backman, but that’s just me. Afterall, it got 4.5 stars on GoodReads, AND its being made into a movie! Here’s the trailer:

Looks pretty good!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Still Life” by Louise Penny, a murder mystery! I’ve been so excited to read this one – if you’d like to read along with us, simply comment on the blog, or hit me up on social media @OrangeJulius7.

What is everyone up to this weekend? I am definitely going to be cooking something from Chrissy’s cookbook, as I mentioned yesterday. And I’ve got a season of “Orange is the New Black” that I need to watch before it’s due back at the library (story of my life), and I’m planning to watch the Golden Globes on Sunday.

I hope you have a great weekend – stay warm – and I’ll see you right back here on Monday!

That ‘Nine Track Mind’…

Helloo Charlie Puth.

Helloo Charlie Puth.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my latest celebrity crush is Charlie Puth – and he still is. I borrowed his debut album, “Nine Track Mind” from the library and listened to it for a solid month before purchasing it on my own. It’s delightful, in a traditional pop music way, and there are a few songs I cannot get enough of.

The album features the hits we’ve heard from Charlie such as, “One Call Away” and “We Don’t Talk Anymore”.  But there are also some others that I like – “Left Right Left” being an upbeat, cheery tune that’s good to listen to on the way to work.

My favorite is “Suffer”, which is shockingly suggestive… and catchy. I have never seen Mr. Puth live in concert, but I hope he brings a girl on stage for this song, because I would D-I-E if it was me. Here’s the tune:

I also borrowed some other albums from the library when I had to rent a car while my Jeep was in the shop (finally), and I’d love to share them with you, just in case you’re looking for new music.

I got James Bay’s album, “Chaos and the Calm“…wow. I really liked the single off the album, “Let it Go”, and I didn’t expect to like the rest of it. I was wrong. Every single song is good, and it’s one of those albums you can listen to in its entirety.

This is Bay’s debut album, which came out in March of 2015. He co-wrote all of the songs, and I cannot wait to see what’s next for this guy.

I also got “Attack and Release” by the Black Keys. I had the HONOR of seeing them several years ago at Hangout Fest, and it was really the first time I’d listeened to them… and they rocked the joint.

“Attack and Release” is the 5th studio album from the Keys, and was released in 2008 – so hey, I’m pretty behind on the game here, but this is some good stuff!

I’ll be honest here, I am not well-versed in rock music, but the Keys’ sound is perfection in the way it sounds gravelly and cool all at once. I have really enjoyed cranking this one up in the car and crusing through Austin.

Finally, I also got “The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac” – a 2 CD set, which was quite well-loved (the case was broken), but obviously the CDs weren’t affected. I hadn’t heard many of the songs – I’m a recent Fleetwood Mac fan, but I enjoyed hearing the new-to-me stuff, and of course, blasting “Gyspy” as loud as I possibly could.

So, there you have it! I’d love to know what you’ve been listening to lately – I’m always on the hunt for new music!

Okay, Drake, I hear you.

I think I'd lie for you.

I think I’d lie for you.

A few weeks ago, I took a 10-hour road trip (that’s 10-hours each way, which ended up being a good bit longer, but whatevs). I had to rent a car for my trip, because, well Jeep sucks (a story for another day), and about five minutes after I picked up the rental SUV, I realized just how spoiled my every day car has me – I love my Sirius XM!

I couldn’t figure out how to change the station in the rental car for the life of me – and anything I could find was definitely in Spanish. Not going to fly for 20 hours in the car. So, I drove right on over to my favorite place – the library – and checked out some audiobooks and some CDs. Here’s what I found:

“Hozier” by Hozier

This album includes the hits “Take Me to Church” and “Someone New”, so I was excited to listen to it. I absolutely love “Someone New”, but I was pleasantly surprised by the entirety of this album – it’s one of those you can listen to from beginning to end and enjoy it as a whole.

The album is a bit dark, lyrically and in sound, and it’s a bit gritty – but if you’re into soul, I think you’ll love it. One of my favorite songs is called “From Eden”.

This album really makes me want to see Hozier in concert – I can already imagine how much he would jam out!

Babe, there’s something tragic about you
Something so magic about you
Don’t you agree?

-Hozier, “From Eden”

“I Am Not a Human Being II” by Lil Wayne 

A long-time Weezy fan, I was really looking forward to hearing this album. However, I am not quite sure if there is any piece of work from Mr. Carter that can compete with “The Carter III”. Sorry, not sorry.

“I Am Not a Human Being II” however, brought us “Rich as Fuck” (with a killer beat) and “No Worries”, which is a song that will definitely put you in a good mood, if you’re not already:

What I love most about Lil Wayne is his ability to go bold and not give AF; and okay, he also spilled some clever, witty lyrics on previous albums that I’m straight up jealous I didn’t write. But, I have to say I rarely heard that on this album. It’s more about sex, and sex, and well, just lots of sex. Sorry, Weezy, can’t relate!

However, I did really like a track called “I Ain’t Nervous”, where you can hear a littttle bit of the Wayne we know and love:

Have my pants saggin like fuck it
I’m still on my business, spent my birthday in jail
I was making bad decisions, saw my enemy at the light

“Bangarang” by Skrillex 

I had the pleasure of seeing Skrillex live last year at Hangout Fest and was blown away by how fun he was! Plus, I love his SnapChats. While I’m a little obsessed with his work in JackU, I admit I’d never listened to an entire Skrillex album – until I was driving across Texas around 6:30 am.

Holy craaaaap! If you need a wakeup call, just pop in a lil “Bangarang”! I’ll be honest here, this wasn’t my usual cup of tea, but it was fun to listen to while on the road. Here’s the first track on the EP, “Right In”, and it will give you a good taste of what you can expect from the rest of the album:

“Nothing Was the Same” by Drake

Yes, I have a few random Drake songs on my phone, but I’ve never really paid tooooo much attention to the dude until this summer. I have a special attachment with “Hotline Bling”, and absolutely love “Too Good”. So, when I saw a few of his older albums at the library, I snatched them right up.

“Nothing Was the Same” was released in 2013 and brought us “Started From the Bottom” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – both songs I love, and they both give us a taste of Drake as a lyricist. I’m obsessed with the line “I’ma worry ’bout me, give a fuck about you” – cause that’s just where I am right now.

The song I kept replaying had to be “Worst Behavior” – as its thick beat is perfect for in-car dancing and general bad ass swag.

“Thank Me Later” by Drake

This album came out in 2010 and served as Drake’s debut – and damn, this one blew me away. The album starts with “Fireworks”, featuring the one and only Alicia Keys, and has some fantastic lines in it:

I missed them before but won’t miss them again
I keep having the same dream
And I think that I just realized what it means.

This album also brought us “Fancy”, along with its title track. But, the song I kept bumpin’, kept repeating, and ultimately the reason I ended up buying the album, was “Show Me a Good Time”. The beat, the words – I cannot help but dance to this one, and I really would love to see a performance of this, because it’s just so damn fun!

So yeah, I’m looking forward to continuing listening to Drake – the old and the new; and now I’m just dying to seem him live. I know, I’m basic, but if it means dancing to Drake and finding some lines to live by, I’m all about it.

Fuck a fake friend, where your real friends at?
We don’t like to do too much explainin’
Story stay the same I never changed it

-Drake, “Started From the Bottom”

BBC: ‘If I Forget You’.

This was my first book I put on reserve at the library! I felt like it was cheating to do that, so I refrained, but week after week, this book was checked out and it was starting to do two things: 1. Make me think the book was really good, and 2. piss me off.

So I put it on reserve, and got it two weeks later. I also now have the MAX number of reserves: 5, and I try to keep it at five… it kind of feels like a gamble, since I never know what book is going to be ready next. I know, I’m really living on the edge here.

I originally saw this book, “If I Forget You” by Thomas Christopher Greene, on a reading list and thought it sounded so good. Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Twenty-one years after they were driven apart by circumstances beyond their control, two former lovers have a chance encounter on a Manhattan street. What follows is a tense, suspenseful exploration of the many facets of enduring love. Told from altering points of view through time, If I Forget You tells the story of Henry Gold, a poet whose rise from poverty embodies the American dream, and Margot Fuller, the daughter of a prominent, wealthy family, and their unlikely, star-crossed love affair, complete with the secrets they carry when they find each other for the second time.

Written in lyrical prose, If I Forget You is at once a great love story, a novel of marriage, manners, and family, a meditation on the nature of art, a moving elegy to what it means to love and to lose, and how the choices we make can change our lives forever.

This book is set in New York, and provides a beautiful background for a rather interesting story. The characters, Henry and Margot, are very likable, and their story is unique. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’ll say that their story is told by both of them, and sometimes it overlaps, but it moves pretty quickly, and it’s unexpected. But I wouldn’t recommend it for the non-romantics.

I checked out GoodReads to see what the reviewers were saying about it, and it was completly mixed because of the romance factor. I warned you!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Admissions” by Meg Mitchell Moore. Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

I am leaving for vacation this weekend; a real vacation without my computer. But, I’ve got blogs in store for you, still, and they’re a pretty special treat! So, see you here on Monday; have a great weekend!

BBC: ‘Girls In White Dresses’.

Whoop! Blanche’s Book Club runs a tight ship! …Just kidding, the book club run by my cat is full of watermelon wine spritzers and requires pajama pants. After reading such a fun memoir by Andy Cohen, I was ready to continue down a path of simple, summer reading.

So, I was really excited to pull “Girls In White Dresses” by Jennifer Close off my shelf – because it’s been there for awhile, admittedly! A description of the book from Amazon.com:

Isabella, Mary, and Lauren feel like everyone they know is getting married. On Sunday after Sunday, at bridal shower after bridal shower, they coo over toasters, collect ribbons and wrapping paper, eat minuscule sandwiches and cakes. They wear pastel dresses and drink champagne by the case, but amid the celebration these women have their own lives to contend with: Isabella is working a dead-end job, Mary is dating a nice guy with an awful mother, and Lauren is waitressing at a midtown bar and wondering why she’s attracted to the sleazy bartender.

With a wry sense of humor, Jennifer Close brings us through those thrilling, bewildering years of early adulthood as she pulls us inside the circle of these friends, perfectly capturing the wild frustrations and soaring joys of modern life.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a wedding, but there was a section of my life where it seemed like I was either in, or going to, a lot of marital-related events – I’m sure many of us have been there! Weddings, I’m sure at any age, bring about a mix of emotions: of course there’s happiness for the couple of the day, and there’s all the people there to celebrate (new friends and old), and then there’s the introspection. For me, I am always at a wedding wondering if that is ever going to happen to me – so if you see me crying at a wedding, you know why!

But all of these reasons made me really excited to read this book, as it seemed to touch on that interesting point in all our lives when we’re celebrating the future of our friends, while feeling the pressure to sort out our own.

I liked the fact that this book didn’t have too many characters, and they were all different enough to keep the story entertaining. I could relate the most to Isabella with her job woes, and also Lauren, as I’ve dated many a sleazy bartender. Yuck.

After I read a book, I’ve started getting into the habit of checking it out on Good Reads to see what other people thought of it. This book had VERY mixed reviews – the people that hated it said it had no plot, and it shined a light on everything women “today” do to sabotage relationships.

In a way, I can see how these readers felt this way – but, I also think that’s why the book is so relatable. We’ve all messed up in dating, or made mistakes as we learned the way, or hell, dated the wrong person for years.

One thing many of the reviewers on Good Reads could agree on, was that Jennifer Close has a voice that’s very readable. And I will say, YES – I read this book quickly – it seemed to fly by without much of a notice.

While I’d hate to recommend a book with such mixed reviews, I will say this may not be the book you fall in love with, but it’s full of these little moments that are very illustrated, and I just love that.

One of those moments is with Lauren and her friend Shannon, and she’s dating a man who is very, very into politics. In fact, he’s so into politics that he quits his job and volunteers to help the current presidential candidate and his campaign (which is never named, but it seems blatantly to be President Obama).

Anyway, Close creates a fantastic dialogue and scene when Lauren is out walking with Shannon one night, and a boy with a clipboard stops them and asks them if they have a minute for the candidate:

“I have given the Candidate weeks-no, months-of my life. No, I don’t have a minute for him. You want to know why? My boyfriend has left to travel around with him. He quit his job to work for the campaign, and I haven’t seen him in a month. A month! I’m not sure if he’s ever coming back, and the thing is, he doesn’t even care! He doesn’t care because all he wants is to work on this godforsaken campaign that is just so important. More important than anything else, including me!” 

…The rant continues for nearly two pages, and it’s equally sad and hilarious, and it was one of my favorite parts of the book. The cool thing is, when I looked up other books by Close, I found that her other one has a premise that seems to be based off this very idea! The book is “The Hopefuls“:

A brilliantly funny novel about ambition and marriage from the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses, The Hopefuls tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband and his political dreams to Washington, DC, a city of idealism, gossip, and complicated friendships among the young aspiring elite. 

When Beth arrives in DC, she hates everything about it: the confusing traffic circles, the ubiquitous Ann Taylor suits, the humidity that descends each summer. At dinner parties, guests compare their security clearance levels. They leave their BlackBerrys on the table. They speak in acronyms. And once they realize Beth doesn’t work in politics, they smile blandly and turn away. Soon Beth and her husband, Matt, meet a charismatic White House staffer named Jimmy, and his wife, Ashleigh, and the four become inseparable, coordinating brunches, birthdays, and long weekends away. But as Jimmy’s star rises higher and higher, the couples’ friendship—and Beth’s relationship with Matt—is threatened by jealousy, competition, and rumors. A glorious send-up of young DC and a blazingly honest portrait of a marriage, this is the finest work yet by one of our most beloved writers.

I am definitely adding that book to my list! However, the next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs, which is my first check-out from my local library! Want to read it with us? We’d love to have you! Share your thoughts on the book with us via the blog comments, email (holly@thebitterlemon.com) or on Twitter & SnapChat @OrangeJulius7.

Love Blanche’s Book Club? Me too! You can keep up with all of our past reads right here, or by clicking on Blanche’s selfie in the right-hand column of the screen. Happy reading!

Single Girl Recipe: (Paleo) Lemon chia seed muffins.

Mine didn't quite look this cute...

Mine didn’t quite look this cute…

Over the weekend, I was in search of simple – and cheap, if not free – joys. I’m sure I’ll talk more about this at some point, but I’m currently in a personal budgeting crisis. At the same time I lost two of my good freelance gigs, I owe a massive tax bill,  like now.

Money stresses  me out more than anything, and every extra penny I’ve got must go to paying off this bill. So, I needed to have a weekend full of free stuff (I see a lot of weekends like these in my near future).

On Friday night,  I hit up the laundromat, which didn’t cost me anything since I had money loaded up on my Washatopia card. Score! I did go to the grocery store afterward, as I needed eggs and something to drink at the pool on Saturday. I found this organic cucumber-lime and chile Italian soda that I figured would go perfect with some tequila I had in my freezer. I escaped the store in $7.

On Saturday, I spent a little time looking for freelance work, and then I hit the pool. I packed a small cooler with some snacks – chips, hummus, cheese, and grapes – and enough tequila and Italian soda for three large drinks.

For two hours, I was the only one there. I sat, and I read – finishing one book and starting another. I stayed out there for almost five hours. Cost: $0 and I even improved my tan.

I came home and tended to my plants, replanting some grass for Blanche, watering all the other plants, and sweeping the patio. I also made dinner instead of going out – I made brats and fries – and had a few beers that were already stashed away in my fridge. I watched a few episodes of “Dexter” before I was sufficiently freaked out (I only have a few more episodes before I’ve watched the entire series twice) and had to switch to “The Vanilla Ice Project”.

On Sunday, I slept in, enjoyed some coffee, searched for more writing jobs, and then I went to a library that’s pretty close to my house. I’d been there once before to tutor someone, and it’s really nice. I decided to get a library card and spend a few hours hunting for more good reads for Blanche’s Book Club.

The library is really nice, but I will say they checked my address twice to make sure I actually lived within the district. I had no clue libraries were so exclusive. After about an hour of searching, I got “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs and “The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating” by Carole Radziwill.

I spent the remainder of Sunday reading, looking for writing gigs, cooking, and I baked these paleo lemon chia seed muffins to eat for breakfast during the week. I found the recipe on The Iron You, and I’ll say that even though he calls them Coconut Lemon Chia Seed muffins, there is no coconut flavor in them.

They were pretty easy to make, and for paleo muffins, they turned out delicious – better than anything I tried to bake when I was actually on the paleo diet. The only other thing I’ll say is that my batch didn’t rise that much, so they look like “half muffins”. I will probably make another batch, and I think I’ll use the mini muffin tin to make them look more muffin-y.

The good news? One muffin is 92 calories, with only 3g carbs and 3g of protein! Yes!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup of coconut flour
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Pinch of fine grain sea salt
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of milk of your choice (I used coconut)
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the middle. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine coconut flour, chia seeds, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, milk, honey, coconut oil, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar.

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix very well until fully incorporated, the mixture has thickened, and there are no clumps of coconut flour left. Pour the batter into the lined muffin tins, 3/4 the way to the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Carefully remove from muffin tin and let cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Let me know if you make these muffins, or have any other great healthy recipes!

Maine.

I picked up a copy of Maine during a library trip — I had written down a list of authors I wanted to check out and J. Courtney Sullivan was definitely one of them.

Maine is Sullivan’s second novel (the first one is Commencement), and it’s got all the good stuff rolled into one: the story of a multi-generational family, each with its own set of problems. What brings them together, aside from family, is the family-owned beach property, purchased decades prior.

The book is divided into chapters (naturally), but each chapter is told by the perspective of a different family member — I LOVE it when authors do this! The New York Times book review of Maine does a great job of wrapping the characters up in a neat little package:

Alice, the widowed, 83-year-old matriarch, a devoted Catholic and fierce but lonely woman who is haunted by a tragedy in her past; Alice’s granddaughter Maggie, a fiction writer living in Brooklyn whose first collection of stories was about “love gone awry” (and who, though she was supposed to arrive in Maine with her boyfriend, has instead shown up solo, and pregnant, love having gone awry yet again); Maggie’s mother, Kathleen, the black sheep of the family, who on hearing of her daughter’s predicament hops a plane from California even though she vowed after her father’s death that she would never visit Maine again; and Ann Marie, the fastidious, tightly wound wife of Kathleen’s brother, Patrick, whose carefully constructed marriage is not all it seems to be.

Because of the different-character chapter setup, the story really dives into the lives and the history of each character, which is really interesting.

I found an interesting article in Real Simple where Sullivan answered questions about the book. In one, she discussed the deeper meaning of Maine:

Maine is a novel about the roles we play within a family—in the eyes of the Kellehers, Kathleen will always be a mess. But to people in the worm farming and AA communities, she’s something of a leader. And the same is true for Alice. Her kids see her as someone who is too old to be trusted alone, a mean drunk, a racist. But through her church, she prays each day, she visits the sick, she fights to keep her hometown parish alive. Her church community sees her as she wants to be seen. As both Alice and Kathleen show, sometimes it’s much easier to be graceful and generous to outsiders than to your own family.

Fascinating! I have to admit, I didn’t even think about it this way when I was reading the book. Truthfully, I picked up the book, because I have always loved the idea of a beach home that’s shared by a big family — the memories and the drama surrounding it. Plus… beach picnics. With wine.

I am really looking forward to reading other books by Sullivan, including Commencement (a sparkling tale of friendship and a fascinating portrait of the first generation of women who have all the opportunities in the world, but no clear idea about what to choose), The Engagements (an exhilarating novel about Frances Gerety, the real pioneering ad woman who coined the famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever,” and four unique marriages that will test how true—or not—those words might be), and Dating Up (a guide for women everywhere who have worked hard to get where they are in their lives and their careers and deserve to be challenged, excited, and supported).

Pic of the Week.

Nerd alert: I got a library card!

Nerd alert: I got a library card!

If you could only see the happy dance I’m doing right now! I am WAY too excited over my brand new library card!

This all started many years ago, when I registered to vote in East Baton Rouge Parish. My voting spot is just down the road from my apartment, at a library. The only thing is, the voting area wasn’t around any books — or other evidence that it was in fact, a library.

A few people in my office later started telling me about the wonders of the library; the digital collection, DVDs, and of course, endless piles of books! I officially put it on my to-do list to get a library card.

Although it took me awhile to get around to it, I picked a rainy day after work when my muscles were too sore to get to the gym. I had my ID in tow, along with a list of books I was looking for.

It took all of two minutes to obtain said library card, and I was free to roam the stacks. There were so many books on my list that I saw on the shelves, but checkout time is three weeks, so I didn’t want to go overboard.

I ended up with two books that I’m really excited to read:

the-uncoupling-hi-res_custom-f61effc60970bdf97a735b6adf6fa9e8479a59d8-s6-c30The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer: “The latest from Wolitzer (The Ten Year Nap) is a plodding story with a killer hook: will the women of Stellar Plains, N.J., ever have sex again? After new high school drama teacher Fran Heller begins rehearsals for Lysistrata (in which the women of Greece refuse to have sex until the men end the Peloponnesian War), every girl and woman in the community is overcome by a “spell” that causes them to lose all desire for sex. No one is immune, not Dory Lang and her husband, Robby, the most popular English teachers at Eleanor Roosevelt High School; not Leanne Bannerjee, the beautiful school psychologist; or the overweight college counselor Bev Cutler, shackled to a callous hedge-fund manager husband.

The Langs’ teenaged daughter, Willa, who eventually lands the lead in the play, is also afflicted, wreaking havoc on her relationship with Fran’s son, Eli. Despite the great premise and Wolitzer’s confident prose, the story never really picks up any momentum, and the questions posed—about parenthood, sacrifice, expectations, and the viability of long-term relationships in the age of Twitter—are intriguing but lack wallop.”

9923372Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan: “For the Kellehers, Maine is a place where children run in packs, showers are taken outdoors, and old Irish songs are sung around a piano. Their beachfront property, won on a barroom bet after the war, sits on three acres of sand and pine nestled between stretches of rocky coast, with one tree bearing the initials “A.H.” At the cottage, built by Kelleher hands, cocktail hour follows morning mass, nosy grandchildren snoop in drawers, and decades-old grudges simmer beneath the surface.

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing, and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other”

As usual, I’ll keep you posted on how they are. As far as other summer reads, I’ve also loaded up my iPad with Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska by John Green, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. What are you reading this summer?