Whatever, Whatever

Month: February, 2017

Songs that make me feel feelings

One of my favorite quotes about music is from Jim DeRogatis

“How do those of us who love music interact with it in real life? We sit on the couch and blast the stuff on the stereo, trying to convince each other that the music we love is something that our friends need in their lives too.”

Sometimes when you love a song and you show it to someone else they’ll think it’s OK but they won’t get it in the way that you do. Music is personal. Sharing music with others puts you in a vulnerable position – especially when you’re judgmental and you’ve disliked songs others have shared with you before. But there are also times when you hear something that a friend shows you and you end up liking it too and you form a bond because of it.

And that’s why we share music – because the risk is worth the reward.

So here I am sharing music, as I’ve done a million times before. This time it’s a collection of songs that make me feel feelings. They’re not necessarily my favorite songs, but they evoke emotion. Most songs make me feel, but these make me feel feelings. You know those songs that give you goose bumps or take you somewhere else? These are mine.

Links are direct to Spotify and Youtube. Enjoy my TV references and overuse of the word honestly.

“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” The White Stripes [Spotify / Youtube]

One of my most vivid music-related memories was when this song came out. I think I heard it on the radio (WKQX/Q101 in its prime) and I remember I was standing in my room, my speakers turned almost all the way up and I heard the feedback screech and the first chord and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Something about the sound and how loud it is and how raw the recording is struck me deep in my soul. I had never loved a song as much as I loved this one. It was the first time in my life that I had an immediate and powerful emotional reaction to a song. It caught me by surprise – I got to listen to it for the first time without any expectations. To this day I get that same elation from my gut to the top of my head – a blissful swelling in my heart. This is also why I chose to walk down the aisle to this song. Everyone thought I was crazy, but on my wedding day, as I was walking towards the love of my life, I got to hear my favorite song and feel every possible positive feeling. To me it’s what love feels like.

“Do You Feel It?” Chaos Chaos [Spotify / YouTube]

This is a more recent discovery for me and it’s all because of a cartoon. I’m not kidding. One of the most emotional moments I’ve experienced in a TV show is when this song is playing at the end of season 2 episode 3 of Rick & Morty. It gets me every time. Do yourself a favor and watch that episode. Actually watch the whole series – it’s fantastic. There’s something special about the simplicity of the piano and the beat and how it builds. Maybe it’s only good after seeing that episode, but I really like this song. It makes me feel sad and happy all at once.

“Needle in the Hay”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Between the Bars”  [Spotify / YouTubeElliot Smith

I’ll be honest – I was not into Elliot Smith when I first heard him. I think I was just in the wrong time in my life to appreciate him, but later, after watching The Royal Tenenbaums a bunch (that scene with Luke Wilson in the bathroom, ugh) I started to get it. After I started to like Needle in the Hay, I sought out more of Elliot Smith’s music. Of course he was already dead by then. But both of these songs are treasures. When you need a good cry, these songs on some headphones are the best thing. Also another Rick and Morty reference: this song is a perfect part of a joke in one of my favorite moments from the Tiny Rick episode. For those who don’t know: Rick is Summer and Morty’s grandpa and he’s a scientist and in this episode he has transmitted his consciousness into a younger version of his body and they call him Tiny Rick. He has a blast connecting with his grandkids but his teenager brain doesn’t think about consequences, so he doesn’t want to leave the younger body, but Morty and Summer know that he has to go back to his old man body, otherwise he’ll die. Summer uses Between the Bars to get Tiny Rick to stop wanting to be a teenager – it’s a perfect scene (watch it here!).

“Modern World” Wolf Parade [Spotify / YouTube]

This whole album by Wolf Parade was on repeat on my iPod Micro (light blue chrome – hell yeah) when I was in late high school. Specifically, I think it was the summer between junior and senior year that I listened to it a lot. I can pinpoint exactly what I love so much about this song: the bridge. It makes the hairs on my arms stand up (it’s around 1:23). I always turn it up at that point and can’t help singing along. It reminds me of carefree summers, driving around downtown Wheaton with my friends, going to get coffee and loiter around in the sunshine. A short and sweet little nugget of a song.

“My Last Hostage”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Muscle Cars”  [Spotify / YouTubeThe Life and Times 

Whenever I’ve written about The Life and Times, I always reference My Last Hostage as being the track that got me hooked on them. It’s true. The crashy symbols, the dreamy vocals, the overall shoegaze-y feel. I love it. It’s catchy and unique. It took me longer to get into Muscle Cars, because honestly, I don’t like slow songs very much (ha! what is this playlist?). Once I saw it live though, it took on a whole other place in my world. If you get the chance to see The Life and Times live, do it. These songs will shake you down to your bones.

“Trailer Trash” Modest Mouse [Spotify / YouTube]

Listening to Modest Mouse takes me back to a specific point in time – when I was around 17 years old. A lot happened that year. I was starting to figure out who I thought I was. I began defecting from a lot of my past tastes. Discovering Modest Mouse through my friends and my job at the time was a turning point in my teenage identity phase (lol that was short lived). Even though they’re not on my day-to-day rotation anymore I still have a lot of nostalgia for Modest Mouse. It was hard to pick just one Modest Mouse song, but this one was usually at the top of my track order. It’s long, but worth every minute.

“Welcome Home, Son” Radical Face [Spotify / YouTube]

This is a song that I feel like would be on most people’s version of this list. I remember when it came out thinking that it was really special. I remember what the MySpace page looked like and everything. It didn’t take long for it to get old and the sound to become common, but I remember the first time I heard it build and fall – I was completely swept up in it. If I close my eyes when I listen to this song, I imagine myself riding in a car with the windows down on a sunny day passing by a forested area on a windy road. Today, Radical Face falls in the realm of “hipster nonsense” (thanks, Liz Lemon) but back then it was fresh and I was into it.

“Unaccompanied Cello Suite” Bach (performed by Yo-Yo Ma) [Spotify / YouTube]

The unaccompanied cello suite is one of the best Bach pieces ever. That’s my opinion, but it’s also in a lot of commercials and TV shows and movies, so I think it’s a safe bet to say that with confidence. Anyway, I played the cello for a few years, so I love cello-forward pieces. There’s no way I could’ve ever played this song unless I took on a different personality and was able to concentrate long enough to put in the hours to master it, but it’s definitely one of my favorite pieces of music. It also corresponds to a pivotal scene in The West Wing (another one of my favorite TV shows) so that just adds to the feelings. I like to close my eyes when I listen to it to really get wrapped up in how beautiful it is.

“Where Is My Mind?” Pixies [Spotify / YouTube]

Another song that’s probably on everyone’s list. Overplayed by anyone who has seen Fight Club and covered by every band ever. But I can’t deny that it still makes me feel feelings, even after all the exposure. Makes me want to get out my flannel and converse and hang out in a garage. I imagine everyone has a specific memory tied to this song too.

“All They Ever Do is Talk” Earlimart [Spotify / YouTube]

This song was also a TV discovery for me (you’re seeing a theme here), this time from Veronica Mars. I’ve watched the series at least five times all the way through, but I didn’t vibe on this song until the one of the last times I went through it. It’s a short scene and the music makes it much more powerful and it reminds me of other shoegaze songs that I like. As soon as I found out what it was, I listened to it over and over and it grew to be one of my go-tos for this type of playlist. It goes into my “rainy day drone-y stuff” playlist too, but it’s certainly a feelings-heavy song.

“Audience No. 2” Autolux [Spotify / YouTube]

Usually I’d say my favorite Autolux song is Turnstyle Blues or Blanket, but this isn’t a list of my favorite Autolux songs, this is a list of songs that make me feel feelings. When I first heard this song, it was the single from their first album in eight years. Fantastic Planet changed my life in its own way, and Transit Transit as an album is good, but Audience No. 2 on its own affected me more than both combined. It was the end of the summer before my first year of college. As soon as I heard it I was overcome. I had just moved to Chicago and it was the first time in my life I was living on my own. I had two roommates from high school who -it shortly became apparent- did not have anywhere near the mindset I did in the real world. Pretty soon it was like we were on different planets. I hadn’t felt that alone before, and this song felt like what the inside of my head sounded like. Dark and dreary, reality sinking in. But along with the deep drums and solemn chords, “suddenly I’m alright” became my own little anthem. It was there for me through my independence-developing, non-fake emotional stage — and thank god that only lasted a few months. I was on my feet eventually and moved on, but this song reminds me of the times that I wasn’t.

“If I Could Write”  [Spotify / YouTubeand “Reflecting Light”  [Spotify / YouTubeSam Phillips

These two songs are only important to me because of my favorite show of all time: Gilmore Girls. Two key scenes happen during these songs. Technically three now, since the Netflix revival. In case you didn’t know, Sam Phillips is the creator of the famous “la la la la la” bits throughout Gilmore Girls. I’ve liked If I Could Write for a while, it’s a beautiful song, but the scene where Rory is leaving for Europe is just perfect for it. Female acoustic acts can get a little boring, but I love a good subtle revenge anthem and this borders on that. Reflecting Light is special — it’s the first song Lorelai and Luke dance to, but since seeing the revival it nearly makes me burst into tears. It’s silly to feel so strongly for a fictional world but Gilmore Girls got me through so much and it holds a special place in my heart. Both of these songs are big emotional gets for me, even if they’re not usually the kind of music I listen to.

“Bradenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major” Bach [Spotify / YouTube]

My favorite Brandenburg Concerto: mainly for its cello part and how jaunty it is! When I was learning to play the cello this was one of the pieces we played in the school orchestra, and I had a really hard time with a certain measure of it. My (very very patient) cello tutor tried her best to get me to be able to play it, but I struggled, so she took my printed sheet music and wrote “section fudge pie” across the top of that measure to make it less scary. She told me to practice it over and over until I got section fudge pie right. So I went home and played that measure over and over and over until my arms and head hurt, but eventually, I got it. I had never worked on anything that hard in my life. To this day that measure symbolizes determination to me — even though I ended up messing it up when we played it in the school concert (but I’m pretty sure no one noticed since I was like last chair) I knew I had mastered it on my own and that was enough. I’d like to get it tattooed on me some day.

“I Can’t Wait” Star and Micey [Spotify / YouTube]

There’s something about stomps and claps that make a song feel more alive. This one has both, and the chorus is super catchy. Disclaimer: I know this band personally, but they’re so fantastic, I can’t not include them. I know enough bands IRL to make another post about them – but this is the only one I’ll add here because they’re the only ones on Spotify and I don’t want to discredit myself by stacking my blog with endorsements 🙂  but honestly, this song is so full of life and all of the reasons people like music. It makes us happy. It’s fun. This song is pure fun.

“Birdhouse in Your Soul” They Might Be Giants [Spotify / YouTube]

This song is important to me because I was almost born to it! The album Flood had just come out and as my mom was preparing for my due date, she picked it to bring with her to the hospital. I don’t know if they actually did bring it but didn’t listen to it or if they forgot it, but I still feel very connected to it. Knowing this about Birdhouse in Your Soul makes me feel like it was written for me — which is impossible, but this list is about how things *feel*. Plus it’s an upper and that’s important in a playlist full of emotional tracks. It felt appropriate to end on a high note.

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Getting weird looks for laughing in public: a list of my favorite memoirs by funny women

If you enjoy a good book and a good laugh, the kind that gets you looks from strangers when reading in public – this is for you!

In the past seven or eight years I’ve gotten into reading books by female comedians, usually memoirs. Much like the list of thrillers from my last book post, this is a themed list of reviews.

As you may know, I read on the train during my commute every day. It’s about 40-45 minutes, twice a day, where I get to sit in the quiet car and read. The quiet car is the designated car on the Metra that doesn’t allow talking – in fact, the rare noisy passengers get death-stares from those too timid to say something or are strongly told off, shushed, or asked to leave by the brave defenders. It is almost always blissfully quiet and the perfect environment for reading.

I usually try to rotate my books by genre so I don’t get too bogged down by thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi or dystopian young adult series, and when I need a complete shift I like to pick up a funny book. Sometimes I can keep the giggles to myself, or it’s the kind of funny that’s like “ha!” in your head and not the out-loud kind of laughter. But sometimes a book will be so funny that my stomach will hurt from trying to stifle my chuckles. I’ll be on the verge of tears and need to take a breather to try and stop myself from snorting. Those are the books that are rated 5/5 – that I couldn’t read on the train.

 

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

5/5

If you have a short attention span or are frequently interrupted while reading, this is a great place to start. I Was Told There’d Be Cake is a series of short essays about the author’s experiences living in New York, starting out on her own, and some random thoughts and anecdotes that come together seamlessly. Not only is Sloane Crosley an excellent writer and immensely funny, she’s also intimate and indiscrete. She’s the voice inside your head when you’re obsessing over bits from your past, only slightly less self-deprecating and much wittier. I found it relatable, honest, and at times a little crude (in a good way). It’s refreshing and full of almost-in-tears laughter. Do not read in public.

 

Bossypants by Tina Fey

4/5

I feel like everyone read this when it came out in 2011, but in case you were living under a rock or were waiting until the hype died down and then never got around to it, I highly recommend picking up Bossypants. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Fey: a funny, off-kilter collection of stories from her life and career, sprinkled with a few touching moments and life lessons, observations and sincerity. Probably wouldn’t get kicked off the quiet car – has many very funny moments, but it’s safe to read in public.

 

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

3.5/5

Looking for a similar vibe to her BFF’s memoir, I picked up Yes, Please as soon as it came out. I was slightly disappointed though, since it seemed like the whole book was about how hard it was to write the book. It felt a little unfinished and some of it was too meta, but learning about Amy’s life was so much fun. Usually I don’t like getting life advice directly from books, as it can make the author seem pretentious, but I didn’t mind it from Amy. She doesn’t brag or boast. She’s honest and genuine. One of my favorite bits was this: “You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” Even though parts of it felt padded, there were enough bright spots to save it and it was still an enjoyable read. Safe to read in public, and I recommend picking it up.

 

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

5/5

Honestly, I didn’t know who Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess, was before picking up this book, but after my mom recommended it and I skimmed the back cover, I knew I had to read it. I’m having trouble finding a way to describe how funny this book is or compare it to anything. Lawson’s life is pure comedy with steadying bits of humility. Her deadpan style and incomparable quirk left me nearly in tears throughout. I would have to stop reading to catch my breath from laughing too hard (this was when I was alone – I quickly learned not to take this book on the train otherwise I’d disturb the other passengers). I can’t recommend this book enough – it’s both very weird and very charming. Definitely get it if you’re in need of a good laugh. Read at home and try not to drink anything (for risk of it coming out of your nose).

 

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

4.5/5

I’ve always been a fan of Sarah Silverman, but I understand that she can be a little too much for some people. I believe though, that this book would be enjoyable even for people who aren’t as into her brand of humor. She’s able to make fun of herself and reveal more serious aspects of her life, including her struggles with anxiety and depression. But she does it with honesty and class and without making you feel sorry for her. It has both highs and lows and is packed with candid memories, silly encounters and corresponding photos. I didn’t read this one in public coincidentally (I think it was over a summer or holiday break during college), but I’d be cautious since it has a lot of laughs.

 

Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

4/5

Because I read Fey and Poehler’s books, I felt it was only right to read Dratch’s as well. It dives into her time at SNL, but is also sprinkled with early life and current stories. This book is short and entertaining, definitely on-par with others like it but with a more refreshing point of view. Not having known much about her going into it, I ended up not only feeling like I got to know Dratch, but also wanting to know more. It was interesting seeing her side of her career and how it compares to those of her peers. Feel free to read in public, but get ready to stifle a giggle here and there.

 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me by Mindy Kaling

3/5

I read the majority of Kaling’s book on a Megabus to Minneapolis to spend a week with my best friend Roz over winter break my junior year of college. Not known for being a quiet environment, it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d laughed aloud either way. Though humorous and fun, this book was not my favorite. I really liked the parts about her early life and family, but the bits where’s she’d jump into giving advice felt a little unwarranted. Compared to others, the book came off as kind of self-serving. I haven’t read her second book, but I’d hope it to be more grounded. Worth reading, but not life-changing.

 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

4.5/5

Kendrick is charming and forthright in this short and sweet memoir. I found myself relating to her quite a bit, which made it even more enjoyable. I loved her insights into life as a celebrity and how she keeps herself steady, as well as her background in acting and how she rose to fame. It’s a fast read with really funny moments and good storytelling. Kendrick’s short, almost Mitch Hedberg-like one-liners and set-ups are flawless. I found myself laughing aloud often, so think twice before taking this book out and about.

 

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham 

4.5/5

It’s hard to accurately summarize what the show Gilmore Girls means to me, so just know that it’s my favorite of all time and it’s my go-to comfort show. I watch at least part of an episode almost every single day (usually before bed), and have most of it memorized. Graham’s character had a huge impact on my life and while it’s nice that she’s similar to Lorelai in a lot of ways, I’m glad she’s also different and that both come out in her writing. I read Graham’s novel, Someday, Someday Maybe and really enjoyed it. It was well-written and fun. Since it was loosely based on her early life as an actress, I had some insight going into Talking As Fast As I Can. I’ve also read a lot of interviews with her over the years. But the most interesting parts were the things I didn’t know – like that she spent a large part of her childhood living on a houseboat and that she always dreamed of having her picture on the wall of the first theatre company she was part of. The best parts of the whole book (as a diehard Gilmore fan) though, were her reflections re-watching the series and the section from her diary during the filming of the Netflix reboot. Graham is witty and charming and gives fans exactly what they want. Safe to read in public and immensely enjoyable for fellow Stars Hollow residents.

Black Bean and Tomato Soup

This recipe is easy and delicious. Most of what you do is dump a few cans of beans and tomatoes into some sautéed veggies. Soup is seriously the perfect cool-weather meal. This one is hearty, and as a base it is vegetarian and diary-free, but can be altered easily for anyone. It’s great with ground beef (or so I’ve been told), cheese, and/or sour cream. It’s also amazing with barley in it! We did that once and it was fantastic. The yield is… a lot. Be prepared for leftovers.

This is my favorite soup recipe.

As Lorelai says in season 1 episode 17 of Gilmore Girls: soup is good food.

MAX: Whoa, whoa, whoa wait a second. So this is it? You leave and we forget that this ever happened?

LORELAI: No.

MAX: Then what?

LORELAI: I leave and we go on with our lives and then at some point we buy some soup.

MAX: Lorelai…

LORELAI: What? Soup is good food.

 

INGREDIENTS

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 shallot

2-3 celery stalks, diced

2-3 large carrots, diced

1 very large garlic clove or 1 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp red pepper flakes

3 (14 or 15 oz) cans of black beans (with their liquid)

1 (14 or 15 oz) can white beans or chickpeas (optional – can sub another can of black beans)

1 (14ish oz) can of fire roasted tomatoes (have also added a second can of regular diced tomatoes for extra tomato-y goodness)

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

a dash or two of hot sauce

salt and pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS

In your largest soup pot (one that has a lid to it), heat the oil on medium heat and add the diced carrot and celery. As it sautes, stir, and add the shallot before the veggies get soft- but not at the very beginning. This usually takes about 7-9 minutes but I think that’s because my soup pot is super thick. Yours might soften faster. Just keep an eye on it.

Add the garlic, cumin, pepper flakes and some salt and pepper and saute for 1-2 minutes.

Once everything is all fragrant and happy, add the beans (remember not to drain them! We want the juice in there!), tomatoes (again, with their liquid! and if you think it’s too bean-heavy add another can of plain crushed or diced tomatoes), and the veggie broth. Bring it to a nice simmer (almost boiling) over medium heat, stirring so the beans don’t stick, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Stir it frequently, but let it hang out, simmering for 30 minutes.

At the end I like to taste it and add salt and pepper (if it needs it) and a dash or two of hot sauce.

Then it’s time for toppings! It’s incredible with cheddar or parm. If it’s too spicy I’ve added sour cream and cubes of avocado (!!!) and sometimes if I bring some to my family they’ll add ground beef.

This winter Joe and I have been eating a lot of soup because it’s easy to make dairy-free and vegetarian. This has been one of our stand-by meals for months and the leftovers are awesome.

 

This recipe is a modified version of the Black Bean Soup recipe in The American Craft Beer Cook Book by John Holl.

Put a Girl on it. My ratings of various female-led thrillers.

I read a lot. Mainly advance reading copies (ARCs) from my mom who is a bookseller. I read during my commute and I love a good female-led thriller. They’re very popular right now. Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train — my mom thought of starting a new hashtag #ggott for Gone Girl On The Train. It really does feel like if you’re going to write a modern thriller you should put the word Girl in it. Instant best seller. (The title of this post is a play on Put a Bird On It from Portlandia – in case that wasn’t clear.)

Explaining my jokes. This blog is the best.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

4.5/5

A girl enwrapped in the made-up lives of people she sees from the train on her daily commute becomes more involved in their actual lives than she could have imagined. 

One of the original and arguably one of the best. It’s probably the barometer of this genre, not just for me as a reader, but for other crime authors as well. As the characters show their true colors and the mystery unravels you’re not only totally engrossed but also completely blindsided by each twist. It jumps around in time and setting – throwing you off just when you think everything has become clear. Truly a unique experience. And perfect for those of us who read on the train. READ THE BOOK AND THEN SEE THE MOVIE. The movie was good, but read the damn book first.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

5/5

The main character thinks she has left her past behind, but when an old friend asks her to attend her bachelorette party, she learns the past is nearly impossible to escape.

As far as female-led thrillers go, this one is exceptional and it doesn’t even have Girl in the title! It was engaging, thrilling, and I could still sleep after reading it. I like thrillers that are intense but not too scary and this was just that. The main character is relatable and readable and the whole time you feel the need to figure out how the hell this is all happening – right up to the end. Apparently this will also be a movie at some point? I heard rumors but haven’t seen any followthrough. Fingers crossed!

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

4/5

Aboard a cruise ship, a travel journalist becomes obsessed with a mysterious murder that may or may not even have occurred.

Also by Ruth Ware! This is her newer book and I enjoyed it a lot, but it wasn’t quite as unique as In a Dark, Dark Wood. While a tiny bit predictable at times and a little slower to build, it was still an engaging and creative read. I found myself hurrying home to finish a chapter when my train pulled into the station at the end of the day – that’s saying something! The main character’s skepticism, both of other characters and of herself, keeps you guessing again and again. A great vacation book! But maybe not a cruise vacation.

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

3/5

A teenage drama queen gets involved in a sticky situation (lol it’s her murder – it’s the central plot; this isn’t a spoiler) when trying to “find herself” in this small town-centered murder mystery.

So this is only partially female-led — it switches perspectives (and jumps around in time) between the girl, the town sherif, and an unhappy townsperson. This ARC was getting *all the hype* but unfortunately I wasn’t as excited by it once I started in on it. I think it was partially due to the personality of the main character and probably also her age. It’s a little too adult for teenagers but it also felt very young-adult-ish to me and that put me off (don’t get me wrong, I like young adult novels but this just wasn’t what I was expecting). I finished it because I wanted to see how it turned out, but I wouldn’t necessarily read it again. Plus I didn’t like reading it in public because the cover is a close up of a young white girl’s face and it made me feel like I was reading a Gossip Girl novel or something terrible. Judging the book by the cover… It happens.

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

4/5

An unhappy husband meets an intriguing stranger and gets caught in a Heathers-like game of “what if I murdered my spouse…”

This one is written by a man! It’s not entirely female-led, but it has two lead female characters as well as a male. It’s more of a standard crime fiction book but since I put it in the same category in my head, here it is. I actually had trouble putting this book down – I liked how it moved seamlessly between characters and perspectives and how fast the plot moved along. It’s unique (though as I mentioned in the synopsis, it’s a little like the movie Heathers but with adults)  and totally takes you on a ride as you learn more about each character, their pasts, and their motives. Threw me for a loop a few times – and I’m usually able to sniff out an upcoming plot move. The writing and particularly the dialog wasn’t amazing but it’s a good read.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

3.5/5

A dysfunctional couple deals with a whirlwind of drama and trauma as they figure out who they can and cannot trust after their newborn baby goes missing.

I really wanted to like this book, but after about half way through I started to lose interest. It’s fairly predictable and I didn’t really like the characters, but has some gripping parts and is overall pretty original. It was a good book for my commute: engaging, but not so much where I had trouble putting it down when I needed to get off the train – it was easy to leave and pick back up later. A few moments were a little thrilling, but it was more emotionally stressful than the others in this list. I was disappointed that I was able to figure out the two main twists way before they occurred, which I don’t like! I want to be totally surprised!

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

4/5

After a girl goes missing, mirroring her friend’s disappearance from ten years ago, Nic Farrell is roped back to into her hometown life. A reminder that history repeats itself and the people you thought you left behind never really let you go. Nic catches up with her past in this unwinding mystery. 

So the big device in this one is that it’s told backwards. It’s actually pretty fun. I was surprised by the twist in this one, which is big for me because I can usually sniff it out pretty quick. The writing is above-average and the characters are detailed but mysterious enough to keep you guessing. The whole “small town everyone knows your secrets” thing gets a little over-told, but doesn’t ruin it. Having been to small towns in North Carolina myself, the setting was familiar and easy to imagine, but I suppose it wouldn’t be hard if you’ve been to any tiny town in America. All The Missing Girls is Miranda’s first adult novel, and even though at times you can feel her slipping into her young-adult style, it’s a page turner and a great read for the genre.

 

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Check back as I continue reading mystery books with “Girl” in the title!

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

The other night Joe expressed a craving for Sloppy Joes, but knowing they’d be vegetarian for me, he coined the term “Sloppy Zoes”

Humor!

They were AMAZING and even though there are quite a few spices going on, the ingredient list is actually very simple and it’s overall super fast and easy.  And it’s both vegetarian and dairy-free so it meets both of our dietary needs! So here’s my recipe for Vegetarian Sloppy Joes aka Sloppy Zoes:

INGREDIENTS:

One package fake ground beef (we used “Beefless Ground Beef” from Trader Joe’s, but MorningStar Farms also makes really good Crumbles)

One can Tomato Sauce (also from Trader Joe’s)

1/4 c ketchup

1 1/2 TbspWorcestershire sauce (I’ve heard of vegetarian versions, but I use the regular since I still eat fish – up to you! You can also sub a little vegetarian BBQ sauce mixed with a tiny bit of vinegar)

1/4 c minced onion OR 1 small minced shallot OR 1 Tbsp onion powder (I only had onion powder but it turned out very good)

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp mustard powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp thyme (or more to taste)

1 tsp paprika (optional, but we used it)

2 tsp chili powder (optional, but we used it… probably more than 2 tsp actually)

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a large sauté pan or large pot (whatever you have that has decent surface area and a lid), over medium heat combine fake ground beef, onion (or onion powder or shallot), and at the last minute garlic. Get it all nice and hot and fragrant. The fake ground beef is already cooked so you’re just heating it and mixing it with the onion and garlic to add super great flavor.

Add tomato sauce (I only used most of the can, like 4/5 of it, but do to your liking), ketchup, Worcestershire sauce (or BBQ + vinegar mixture), and the brown sugar and then all those spices, stirring frequently. Taste and add more of whatever you see fit to get the flavor of your dreams.

Once it’s all nice and mixed, cover and turn the heat down to let simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir frequently.

After it is done hanging out and getting delicious you can do some last minute seasoning (I added a tiny pinch of salt and some black pepper). Now you have Sloppy Zoes! We lightly toasted wheat hamburger buns and kept it simple. Enjoy!