Book Talk: Americanah

“Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops, and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly.”

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 After reading this initial sentence of  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s gorgeous novel, Americanah, it felt utterly impossible not to lose myself in this intricately woven tale.  To say that I loved this book is a gross understatement; I even got to the point where I would read it while walking to work which, for a klutzy person such as myself, is saying something.  Americanah crosses the boarders of Africa, Europe, and North America to tell the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, young lovers who depart to separate countries from their native Nigeria in order to chase their dreams abroad.  Confident and sharply intelligent Ifemelu travels to the United States to attend college, where she encounters and wrestles with issues of race and what it means to be a person of color for the first time.  Calm and pensive Obinze initially plans on joining Ifemelu, but ultimately winds up oceans away in London, where he leads a treacherous life as an undocumented immigrant.  Their story is one of love, race, and finding the courage to accept your identity.

I seriously cannot praise this novel enough.  Aside from spinning a masterful tale that  leaves you constantly wondering what in the world will happen next, Adichie raises some important questions about what race and our perceptions of each other mean.  This book encouraged me to pause often and consider my own awareness of social issues that are happening here in our Western world, and made me feel like parter of a larger conversation that we as human beings should be having.  I highly, highly, highly recommend this book to anyone interested in a novel that honestly discusses race, immigration, and what it means to truly love someone.

What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear!

 

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Veganish: Goulash

After seven years of not eating meat, I can honestly say that I haven’t missed it much….except when it comes to my mother’s family recipes.  On a typical weekday, my family prepared and ate pretty standard meals; chicken and pasta with jarred Alfredo sauce, mac n’ cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup.  However, every so often, my mother would stray from the everyday and cook a dish whose recipe was passed down to her from her mother.  My brother and I would go nuts for these meals, partly because they felt extra special, and partly (at least for me) because eating those foods made me feel closer to my mum, as well as to my grandmother, whom I sadly never got the chance to meet.  I loved the sense of tradition and family that eating those meals gave me, and I love them still.  The down side? All of them contain meat in one way or another.

I recently decided that I was going to try and recreate vegan versions of my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes, with the hope that one day I’ll pass these versions on to my own family.  And so, without further ado, meet my meatless (ha!) Vegan Goulash.

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Goulash is a traditional meat sauce that, according to mum, hails from Poland.  It’s usually made with hamburger and served over pasta, but I swapped those out in favor of soy crumbles and zucchini noodles to veganize (did I just invent a word?) and lighten this dish.  I balanced out this meal with a slice of whole wheat bread and, of course, a small glass of red!

Vegan Goulash with Zucchini Noodles (serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • olive oil (roughly 1 TBS)
  • 1 package of soy crumbles- I used Trader Joe’s brand
  • 1 can of tomato paste; 8 oz
  • 1 can of tomato soup; 12-16 oz
  • 2 raw zucchinis, spiralized into spaghetti-like strands
  • salt; to taste
  • pepper; to taste
  • garlic powder; to taste
  • red pepper flakes; to taste

Method:

  1. In a saucepan, sautée the onion, garlic, and pepper in the olive oil until the onions are translucent (~5 min).
  2. Add the soy crumbles, and sautée for a few more minutes.
  3. Add your spices, all to taste.  I prefer a little kick to my sauce, so I used a lot of red pepper flakes.
  4. Add the tomato paste and soup.  Stir your sauce, and allow to simmer until hot.
  5. In the meantime, spiralize the zucchini.  You can heat your noodles through in a pan with some oil if you like, but I prefer leaving them raw.  I find that using 2 zucchinis yields just enough “noodles” for two people, with one serving leftover for lunch.
  6. Once the sauce is hot, ladle immediately onto your raw zucchini noodles, and enjoy!

What have you been cooking up lately? Working on any old family recipes? Creating new ones? I’d love to hear! Until next time!

Happy Things

Happy Monday!!! I cannot lie, after being spoiled by a long weekend, it felt pretty rough to wake up early this morning to dive into the week.  However, I did feel ready to rock and roll after drinking a big glass of water, writing in my gratitude journal, and squeezing in a sweat session before getting ready for work.  Productive mornings make for good days (and weeks) , and I am so glad I forced myself to rise at the crack of dawn to get myself ready for this one!  In the meantime, here are some things that made me smile this past week.

1) My new mantra.

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2) I get an eyeful of this gorgeous view of Boston two times a week when T picks me up from class.  Yes, I am aware of how spoiled I am.

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3) I tried my hand at a new garlic bread recipe, and this one did not disappoint!!! Check out the recipe here.

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4) T makes the meanest Lemon Drop martini. Enough said.

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5) Easter Sunday selfie with my one and only.

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What made you happy last week? I’d love to hear! Until next time 🙂

Currently Craving

Spring is in the air which, among many other delightful things, means it’s time to re-vamp the ole’ wardrobe.  I’m currently craving pretty much everything floral, off-the-shoulder, and easy-breezy.  While having the budget of a student teacher makes clothes shopping feel absolutely laughable at the moment, I have an on-going list of “one day” pieces that I cannot wait to splurge on some time (hopefully) soon.  These pieces are all first up on my never-ending list.

 

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H&M dress

I am OBSESSED with this dress.  The print is gorgeous, and this piece could easily be dressed up for a wedding, or down to a backyard cookout.

 

 

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H&M blouse

I love a solid neutral blouse like this one.  It could easily be dressed up with the right accessories, but it’s just as cute left alone.

 

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The Rage dress

I love pretty much everything about this dress.  The colors are absolutely gorgeous, and the cut looks extremely flattering.  I could see myself wearing this on a date night, at the farmer’s market, or even at work (paired with a cute denim jacket).

What are you craving for spring? I’d love to hear!

Until next time.

Happy Things

There’s just something about Sunday that I have always loved.  Sunday is a perfect blend of laziness and productivity, a time to recover from the week before and prepare for the week ahead.  Today, I wanted to reflect on and share some bright moments last week brought me.

First up- handmade bowls made by yours truly (and T).  A little over a month ago, T and I ventured to Mud Flat studios in Somerville along with his sister and her boyfriend for a Valentine’s date night pottery class.  It was SO much fun, and our finished pieces were finally ready to be picked up this week! I think we did pretty well, no?

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green for me and blue for T

Now that Daylight Savings has struck, my morning walk to work starts off a bit darker, but at least I have pretty sunsets like this one to look forward to.

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I am SO happy with my new Java Head candle from my gals over at the Lime Green Taxi Shop!  This one has a delicious coffee scent that makes our living room feel so warm and inviting.  Check out their Etsy shop (you won’t be disappointed) and read my review on their candles here.*

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To say that I’m obsessed with the Whole Foods Salad bar, would be a gross understatement.  My current favorite item is their raw Brussels sprout salad with peppers and olives.  Washed down with my favorite cranberry Kombucha, this makes the perfect, healthy afternoon pick-me-up.

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What’s got you smiling lately? I’d love to hear!

*Disclaimer- while I have received candles from the Lime Green Taxi Shop as gifts, this one (among others) was purchased with my own money.

Veganish: St Patty’s Day Vegan Irish Stew

Top o’ the mornin’ to you, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  While I would have dearly loved to celebrate this holiday by having a green beer or two at the pub, I made do with wearing a green dress to work and popping this hearty stew into the crockpot to munch on for dinner.  Paired with a slice of homemade soda bread and a pint of Guinness, this meal is a healthy, meat-free alternative to a traditional Irish dish.

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I sought inspiration for this stew here and here, but the final result ended up being more of a hodge-podge of the two.  Here’s (roughly) what I did:

Vegan Irish Stew (serves 6)

Ingredients:

– 6 red potatoes, washed and cubed

– 1 package of mushrooms, chopped

– Roughly 4 cups of vegetable broth

– 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

– 4 cloves of garlic (or more if you love it!), chopped

– Roughly 1 TBS chopped rosemary (fresh)

– Roughly 3 TBS of your favorite BBQ sauce

– 1/2 to 3/4 c barley

– 1 cup corn ( I used frozen)

– 2 cups peas

– 3 bay leaves

– 1 cup non-dairy creamer ( I used Silk Soy Creamer in plain)

– Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1) In a pan, sauteé the onion, mushrooms, and garlic for about 5-8 minutes (or until the onions are translucent) over medium heat.

2) In the meantime, toss the rest of your ingredients into a crockpot.  When the mushroom mixture is done cooking, throw that in as well. Mix together, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

One of the things I love most about cooking, is all the freedom that comes with it.  It’s so much fun to toss ingredients together in a pot and hope for the best- a method I’ve found leads to some pretty delicious meals.  So, that being said, have fun with this stew! Play around with your ingredients and spices, and see what you come up with.

How are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? I’d love to hear!

 

What I Wore: Boho Kimono

Hello all! I’m so excited to bring you my very first ‘What I Wore’ post! This past Saturday, T and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous springy Boston weather by heading out for brunch.  I took full advantage of the warm (by New England standards) weather and donned this boho kimono that I scooped up a couple of weeks ago at Leaf Boutique.

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Kimono found here, similar here and here

I am a total sucker for breezy pieces like this one.  They’re so versatile, they’re nice and light, and they make me feel like I’m at a music festival, even if I’m stuck inside grading papers.

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I kept it simple on this day with solid black leggings and a black tank, but I’m excited to pair this kimono with shorts and skirts when summer is finally here!

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My favorite detail of this piece is this little dipped V line in the back.  It’s such a simple feature, but it adds that much more fun and playfulness to an already easy-breezy piece.

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I am SO excited that warmer weather seems to be here to stay in Boston, which means that plenty more spring looks are on their way 🙂

What have you been wearing lately? I’d love to hear 🙂

My Everyday ‘Face’

I have such an admiration for those women who can roll out of bed in the morning and be more or less ready to greet the day. I, unfortunately, am not one of these women, and I need a little time to ‘put my face on’ before subjecting it to other humans (ha!) No, but really. I don’t feel like myself without my warrior paint on, and I’ve come to find my morning makeup routine to be incredibly soothing.  I never feel quite ready to tackle all that I need to until my makeup is done, and I am totally okay with that!

 

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before/ crazy hair

everyday makeup label

On a day-to-day basis, my makeup routine stays more or less the same.  Here’s the scoop:

1) First I apply a thin layer of BB Cream to my face as a foundation.  This really smoothes out the texture and tone of my skin, without feeling too heavy.

2) Next, I dab a little bit of concealer on any areas of my face that might need a little extra coverage.  Once applied, I pat the area repeatedly with my finger to blend.

3) Up next, I dab a light amount of powder on the tip of my nose and my cheeks to prevent them from looking too dewy or shiny.

4) As someone who is naturally on the paler side, I like to apply just a touch of bronzer to the apples of my cheeks to brighten up my face.

5) On to the eyes- I swipe a pale bronze shadow over the lids of my eyes to make them pop.  My current favorite shade is this Neutrogena brand (the 2nd shade down in the palette.)

6) My favorite part of doing my makeup is without a doubt applying eyeliner.  I feel naked if I’m not wearing it! This one goes on really smoothly, making for easy cat-eyes! One tube also lasts FOREVER- I’ve had mine for so long that the label has worn off.

7) To pull the look together, I apply a coat or two of mascara on both my top and bottom lashes.

8) Finally, I use my handy dandy Q-tips to clean up any smudges, and I’m off!

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after

 

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wings

 

What’s your makeup routine? Do you have any favorite tips or products? I’d love to hear.

Until next time!

Don’t Pout: My Tips on Staying Positive

Let’s face it…bad days are inevitable.  Sometimes, you miss that train, you spill your coffee all over yourself first thing in the morning, you get in a fight with your significant other, or you burn the lasagna.  Often, these things happen all in a row, or even because of each other.  Other times, it might feel like your life has become a string of bad days, and you just can’t seem to shake off that permanent, pesky little rain cloud that keeps following you around everywhere*.  In these instances, what in the heck is a girl supposed to do??  Here are my tips on how to gently guide yourself back into a positive mindset on a bluesy day.

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1) Write down something that you’re grateful for that happened that day. It can be in a journal, your planner, a random scrap of paper, but write it down.  Reminding yourself that your day did have a moment or two of brightness will make it easier to deal with whatever it is that’s bothering you.

2) Reach out to a friend.  When I’m feeling stressed or down, I have a repertoire of ladies I know I can rely on to offer support, advice, or even just comic relief.  A good vent session is often all I need to put my situation in perspective and turn my mood around.

3) Do something kind for someone else!  Positivity breeds positivity people! Smile at someone else, hold open a door, offer a compliment.  Sometimes, going out of your way to be nice to others results in being nicer to yourself, and eases you back towards your positive mindset.

4) Be productive. As difficult as it is to tackle anything if you’re feeling down or cranky, forcing yourself to get absorbed in a task could help you ditch the bad mood and get back on track with a positive mindset.  Whether it’s cooking, writing, cleaning your apartment, or finishing a project, accomplishing a task can often help lift your mood.

5) Shake your booty! Or go for a walk! Try a yoga sequence. Play some upbeat music and do anything to get your body moving and grooving; exercise often helps me to release stress and negative emotions.

What do you do to try and stay positive? Any tips of your own? I’d love to hear!

*This post is entirely intended for relieving the day-to-day blues and trying to regain a positive mindset.  If you or someone you know suffers from serious symptoms of depression, or any similar disorder, I urge you to seek the help you need.  More information is available here.

Book Talk: All the Light We Cannot See

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To say that I devoured this book would be a gross understatement.  Recommended to me by a friend, I dove in not really knowing what to expect, and did not come up for air until I was a good 100 pages in.  All the Light We Cannot See spins the tale of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose paths cross against the backdrop of a shredded, World War II Europe.

Marie-Laure and her father live in Paris, where he works as the key-master at the Museum of Natural History.  After losing her vision at the age of six, Marie-Laure learns how to navigate through the city by studying an intricate and exact model built for her by her father.  As the Nazis begins to roll in and disrupt their quiet and happy life, father and daughter flee to coastal French city of Saint-Malo to stay with their reclusive uncle, Etienne, and his rebellious housekeeper.  Despite their relocation, they are hardly safe, as Marie Laure’s father carries with him what may be the museum’s most valuable and precious stone, that is rumored to curse those who carry it.

Werner and his younger sister, Jutta, grow up in an orphanage close by to the mines that claimed their father’s life.  After miraculously repairing an old radio, Werner becomes obsessed with the care and keeping of the machines.  His intelligence and talent land him a spot in the vicious academy for Hitler Youth.  After an early graduation, Werner’s instinct for radios earns him an assignment tracking resistant parties.  The knowledge of human suffering brought about by his intelligence begins to weigh on Werner, throughout the war, until he sees Marie-Laure make her way down a street in Saint-Malo.

This book will rip your heart out only to heal it, and leaves you wanting to begin again after you’ve read the final page.  Honestly, I probably would have done just that if I didn’t need to return my copy to the library!

Have you read All the Light We Cannot See? What else are you reading? Drop me a line…I could talk books ANYTIME!