Twitterature / July 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

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The Romanov Prophecy / Steve Barry
While not exactly great writing, I enjoy a good international conspiracy thriller. And, I love all things Russian, especially when it deals with Anastasia Nikolaeva or Anna Anderson.  I’m a believer.

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Bound / Sally Gunning
Nicely written historical fiction set pre-revolutionary war. Bound is a sequel, although I didn’t know that until after I finished.  Enjoyable but not overly compelling.

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Between Shades of Gray / Rūta Šepetys
An important, beautiful book.  The western world has long brushed over the atrocities of Stalin’s reign of terror in the Soviet bloc. Rūta does her family’s Lithuanian heritage justice with this must-read (but admittedly hard-to-read) YA book.

17910611Wedding Night / Sophie Kinsella
Typical Kinsella – fun, fluffy and quick.  Not my favorite of hers, but great for a sunny Saturday with a cocktail in hand.  

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The Fault in our Stars / John Green
I cried as much as the next girl, I suppose, but I have a hard time buying the idea of My One True Love at age 16.  As good as any Lurlene McDaniel book was when I was a tween.  (Also, I kept thinking that Jennifer Lawrence plays Hazel in the movie, and that was super distracting.)

17402288Dept. of Speculation / Jenny Offill
Brief, lovely snapshots of a marriage – the “love, loneliness, grief, joy, fidelity, beauty, depression, mania, motherhood.” Less a typical novel and more enticing fragments of thought and life.  Should be read in one sitting.

I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

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All the new restaurants

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

8. Try one new Omaha bar or restaurant each month.  We love our city, but tend to go to our old favorite places all the time.  Time to branch out.

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I haven’t been very good about blogging about these restaurant excursions, but actually, in addition to Kitchen Table, Block 16, and all our new friends in Benson, we’ve done a good job of branching out in the way of restaurants this year.

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New-to-us places we’ve tried this past year include:

  • Wilson & Washburn – Good happy hour and fries.  I’d like to try their beet burger.
  • Avoli Osteria – Um, AMAZING.  I’ve heard that it’s the best food in Omaha right now, and I wouldn’t have much of a case for disagreeing.  Get your boss to pay if at all possible, cause she ain’t cheap.
  • Taco Truck on Saddle Creek – Darn good tacos on the cheap. (pictured above)
  • Rivera’s Mexican – our company that night was far better than the food which was just okay, and the atmosphere was terrible.  The tile floor and crowded tables made it almost impossible to have conversation.
  • The new Bread Oven – I have such fond memories of the old Bread Oven, but the new one’s food seems at least up to par with the old.
  • Railcar – Okay, not amazing.
  • Salt 88 - Better than I was expecting, actually.  Too far away to make our regular rotation.
  • Heartland BBQ – Come to mama.  That brisket is to die for.

See new restaurants #1 & #2#3, #5 & #6) here. What was #4? You tell me. I don’t remember.

Dinner: A Playbook

In a crazy moment of complete how-did-that-happen, I was chosen to review new recipes to help promote the upcoming release of Jenny Rosenstrach’s new cookbook – Dinner: A Playbook.  I’ve been a happy blog reader of Dinner: A Love Story for years, and was thrilled to participate in the recipe challenge last week.

The instructions were pretty basic – we were asked to try 3 new recipes from Dinner: A Playbook (out in August – pre-order here), and share stories and results on social media.  So here we are!

kale

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know that I served cheddar brats from a local grocery butcher and TJ’s chicken sausages alongside a Feeling Brave kale slaw (with bonus dried cranberries) to some lunch guests.  I say feeling brave, because I never know what to do with kale, you guys.  I know it’s ridiculously trendy, and I don’t mind eating it, but buying it is a little intimidating.  I was pretty excited to find a kale/spinach/chard blend at HyVee, and I just chopped it up to make the slaw – easy peasy.  The tangy dressing on the greens was the perfect accompaniment to the grilled sausages.

radish

I love the bright flavors (and colors!) of summer vegetables, and radishes are some of my favorites.  This salad brought together spicy radishes and sweet sugar snap peas with a few surprising ingredients for a fresh combination so good that I might have made it 3 days in a row for lunch.  Chad doesn’t like radishes (silly boy), but that just meant there was more for me.  Win.

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God bless the slider for popularizing the meatball that refused to ball.  I did pan-fry these chicken parm meatballs instead of baking them (it’s too hot for an oven, y’all), but they would just not stay round.  So, meat-flats they were.  And boy, were they tasty.  Raw ground chicken is admittedly kind of strange, but the finished product was simple and delicious – one that I’ll keep in our regular rotation.

So there you have it.  New recipes and a fun challenge.  Check out more photos and stories on Twitter and Instagam with #DinnerPlaybook.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of Jenny’s new cookbook and a $50 Target gift card to pay for groceries, but was not otherwise compensated for my review.  As you know, I love Target and food, and all thoughts here are my own.

What I’m Into / June 2014

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June. — Al Bernstein

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Welcome back to puffy cloud season, everyone!

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First things first.  Let’s take a look back at June 1983 – the month that Chad turned 1 and I turned 2.  Yep, I’m the older woman; we’re the same age for 24 days each year.  But seriously, if that’s not the cutest thing on the internet right now, well, maybe just don’t tell me about it.  Happy birthday, Team Wastell!

We spent the majority of the month on the road, but still managed to squeeze in plenty of fun.

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Namely, with these little nutters.  We spent a few days at my sister’s tacked on to the beginning of a business trip to the east coast, and I LOVED getting lots of snuggles and silly moments with my nieces.  They’re 4.5 and 2.5 and full of energy and giggles and wanting all the snacks and treats.  Sisters are the best.

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We hosted some super fun Airbnb guests, including one couple who bought steaks at a local butcher, but were tired at the end of their day, so Chad the Rockstar Griller Man offered to grill their ribeyes for them.  We’re pretty much great hosts.  Come visit!

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Speaking of beef, we were in Chicago over the weekend, so we popped up to Evanston for Al’s famous roast beef with blue cheese.  So good.  And Al’s accepts Euros, so hey.

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We took a stroll along the lake and took a picture in which I actually look slightly tan, but do not be fooled.  Just good lighting and a little Instagram.

What I’m reading
I linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share books I’m reading in Twitter-inspired fashion.  This month’s reads included A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Someday Someday Maybe, The Slap, Admission, and Burial Rites.

What I’m watching
Grey’s & Nashville finales, CHECK.  Game of Thrones finale, CHECK.  Bad summer movies and all the funny YouTube videos, CHECK.

Around the web
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Check out #DinnerPlaybook on Twitter and Instagram – I was chosen to participate in a fun challenge for one of my favorite food blogs to celebrate a new cookbook.

Little things I’m loving

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A dear friend sent me some homemade jam, plus some art from her littles that basically rules.

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Even Solomon in all his splendor was not clothed like one of these.

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But, new shoes!

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Some good friends baptized their baby and I got to do a reading.  The afternoon was full of moments of glory.

Adventures in Piggery
Most of the month was spent preparing for or recovering from World Pork Expo, where people take pigs for a walk, among other things.  Read my full recaps here.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.

 

Family room, a little better

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

23. Finish decorating the basement family room  Hang curtains, hang some art.  I’ve got a Pinterest board and everything.

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Several years ago, we pulled up the carpet in the family room due to years-old water damage.  The water came from run off from our neighbor’s driveway, and since he didn’t fix the driveway, we didn’t replace the carpet.  The room is barely used, so it’s not a big deal to have a cement floor.  For a while.

I got tired of the stacks of rubbermaid tubs sprawling out from the corners and the cobwebs on the walls, and finally decided to do something about it.

I bought an area rug on sale at Garden Ridge (admittedly not the best color for the room, but really cheap), hung the curtains that my friend Amee gave me, bought some throw pillows and hung some art.  I corralled some of storage tubs into the corners that you can’t see, got rid of some stuff (THE BEST), and moved some stuff out to the garage.

Family Room

We’ll replace the carpet down there eventually, and maybe get some side tables and lamps someday, but for now, it’s better.

Babies!

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

14. Take meals to 5 new mommies.  Are you having a baby?  I want to bring you food.

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No, I’m not pregnant.  Calm down.

My friends have cute babies, you guys.

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Snuggly

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Soft and warm

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Scrunchy

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And so, so sweet.

Not pictured - the mom who was stuck in the hospital on bed rest who got a homemade meal, the baby shower I planned, the baby I held while mama took an actual shower (“We have groceries,” she said.  “I need a shower.” Deal.), and Little Miss Anna (pronounced Ah-nah) whom we hopefully get to meet this weekend.  Who may or may not actually be named after me.  Probably not, but a girl can dream.

Books books and more books

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

22. Purge/organize our books.  Deep breath.

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I gave a little tour of our book shelves and piles several months ago, in which y’all saw that we have a lot of books.  To say that we own several hundred books would not be an unreasonable estimate.  Not unreasonable, but a bit ridiculous, I’ll admit.  And, there were some unruly piles growing around the house that needed to be returned to their homes.

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Today was the day, I decided.  10 minutes later, this box was full.  It was easier than I expected, honestly.

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I had hoped to get rid of “a lot” of our books, but for now, 45 will have to do. I’m working on experiencing grace this year, right?

I’m also moving Chad’s old economic textbooks to the basement, as soon as I get another box.