Books

Book: Educated

Educated was another book I grabbed off the shelf at my local library when I was there with my kids. I read a few pages right away that evening and was instantly hooked. Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho. She never attended school and didn’t have a birth certificate.

Despite the odds stacked against her and parents who are adamantly against higher education, established medical care, and any government involvement, Westover obtains a decent score on the ACT and gets into Brigham Young University. Rather than being proud of her, her parents try anything they can to keep her away from her pursuit of higher education.

Westover describes the tragedies that come from her parents’ views against established medicine. She details her father’s paranoia over Y2K and his preparations for the end of days. Her ability to overcome her background is shocking and powerful.

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Westover’s story of overcoming great odds to obtain a doctorate from Cambridge is inspiring. Her success is not without sacrifices. She reminds us that sometimes the people we want to love us are the ones who hurt us the most.

I kept going back to the fact that someone who had little to no education up until the age of 17 could not only write a book, but could write a book as amazing as this. Westover’s writing is, at times, so painfully honest and thought-provoking. This is one of the best books I have read this year. It would make a great book club read.

 

 

 

 

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Food

Roasted Squash Soup

I love squash soup, but I have never made it myself. My mother-in-law gave us some lovely squash so I decided to whip up a batch of this beautiful comfort food this past weekend. Even my squash-hating hubby enjoyed this soup.

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I started by cutting a large squash in half and scooping out the seeds.

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I drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted for nearly an hour.

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Allow the squash to cool for a while before scooping out the good stuff and putting in a blender. At this point, an immersion blender on the stove top would work as well.

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As I puréed the squash in batches in my blender, I added chicken broth, sautéed onion and garlic, and maple syrup. I seasoned it with a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

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Maple syrup adds a comforting sweetness to the soup. I then simmered the soup in a large pot on the stove until we were ready to eat dinner. I used an entire 32-ounce box of chicken broth, but you can add the broth gradually to ensure you achieve the thickness you want. Vegetable broth could be used to make this an entirely vegetarian dish.

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Before serving, I drizzled a bit of olive oil over the soup and sprinkled each bowl with a bit more nutmeg.

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Recipe:

  • 1 large (or a couple of small) squash
  • 32 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon nutmeg (plus more for sprinkling before serving)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

 

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds
  • Drizzle each half of squash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place each half of the squash face down on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the squash in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Let the squash cool for at least 15 minutes before scooping out of the peel and into the blender.
  • Purée the squash in batches, never filling the blender more than half full at a time. It will expand as you blend.
  • As you blend the batches, place the puréed squash in a large pot on the stove.
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes, adding more broth as needed until the desired consistency is achieved.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with nutmeg and serve!
Adventures

The Lost Sock

A few nights ago, I got upset with my husband for losing one of my socks in the laundry. In my defense, he has a history of losing my socks when he does a load of laundry. In his defense, he was helping with laundry so why was I being so high-strung? In both our defense, it’s pretty awesome that the only thing we had to fight about that week was a lost sock.

After telling him he needs to pay more attention and insisting he help me look for the sock for nearly an hour, I found it. I didn’t want to tell him where because it was in my closet, tucked in a pair of my pants, completely my fault and not his at all. Embarrassed and humbled, I swallowed my pride and admitted my mistake.

In nearly five years of marriage I have learned that life is not always going to be perfect and that’s OK. Even as I was losing my mind over this dumb sock, I could tell how ridiculous I was being. Isn’t that the worst? When you’re being ridiculous and you know you’re being ridiculous, but you can’t turn it off?

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There are some things that just don’t matter. Read: Lost socks. I was clearly taking my stressful work week and parenthood-induced exhaustion and pouring all of that emotion into an epic search for that sock. Seriously. It wasn’t even a new sock.

In quite a few of my blog posts, I write about cutting ourselves some slack. That message is a reminder to myself as much as it is to any of you, readers. Sometimes I have it together. Sometimes I’m throwing a toddler-style tantrum because of something as inconsequential as a sock.

Fortunately, most of the time I don’t mind admitting I made a mistake and, most of the time, my husband is quick to forgive. We could laugh about this situation almost immediately. I’m thankful for that. Almost as thankful as I am to have my sock back.

Books

Books: The School of Essential Ingredients

Lately my reading material choices have been pretty deep. I needed to weave in something lighter. Weekly library visits have been a favorite treat for my daughters lately, and on one such trip I grabbed The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister on a whim. It is nearly a decade old, but I had never heard of it. It was a delightful, light surprise.

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Bauermeister introduces us individually to the students in a cooking class as well as the class instructor, restaurant owner Lillian. I am not afraid to admit that I love food. Bauermeister’s descriptions of the food being prepared and enjoyed by the characters (the smell of pumpkin, the crispness of dry white wine) added a interesting touch to the story.

The book is short which means a lot of the story lines could have been further developed, but it also fit the bill for a quick read that I could devour during a few lunch breaks. Bauermeister wrote a sequel to the book called The Lost Art of Mixing. I plan to pick that one up next time I’m in the mood for a light, fun read.

In My House

A Few Favorites

I don’t do much shopping, but I like to share some of my favorite things. There’s no theme this time, but here are six of my favorite recent purchases. This is a little more fun than posting my grocery list.

Fall

1. This might be the last year I get to select my youngest daughter’s Halloween costume without her feedback. So an adorable, fluffy snow owl it is! (Target) 2. Just try to challenge me to a game of Golden Girls Trivial Pursuit. Always Fits is my new favorite web site for fun, quirky gifts. (Always Fits) 3. This black bomber jacket has been my favorite item to transition into the chillier months. (Gap) 4. I started purchasing some products from The Honest Company because my youngest daughter has extremely sensitive skin. I selected this mascara on a whim as an add-on product with my last shipment. The primer adds length and the mascara has a great consistency. It stays put all day, but comes off easily with a cosmetic wipe. (The Honest Company) 5. I actually haven’t purchased this super cute rug yet, but I have been eyeing it. I love October! (Pier 1) 6. After years of aggressively ripping a brush through my super thick wet hair I heard about Wet Brush and decided to give it a try. I love this brush! (Wet Brush)

In My House

Is Every Cast Member from The Hills Promoting Hello Fresh? Weird.

For whatever reason (crazy work schedule, motherhood, trying to be a Metallica groupie) I have been absent from the blog for a while. During that time, it seems that nearly every cast member of MTV’s decade-old hit reality show The Hills has started promoting meal-kit delivery services. Furthermore, it seems that Facebook’s has unveiled a new algorithm with the sole purpose of flooding my feed with these meal-kit ads despite the fact that I have never ordered one, expressed interest in them on social media, or otherwise “liked” them.

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Photo by Tayhart Photography

First I scrolled by Lauren Conrad in a cute pink peasant top in her perfectly spotless (read: unused) white and stainless steel kitchen happily unpacking a Hello Fresh box. Not 24-hours later, I scrolled past Lo. (You’re asking yourself “who?” and I did, too, but I’d recognize that silly name and deer-in-the-headlights facial expression anywhere.) Lo from The Hills. What? Really?

If you’re Hello Fresh, you really have to ask yourself: If Lauren Conrad is promoting your product do you also really need Lo promoting it, too? That’s like getting Stephen Curry to promote your new line of high-end athletic supporters and then also signing the guy who serves Gatorade to the Golden State Warriors to do a later-aired ad for the same product. You like that sports reference? That’s basically just to impress my husband in case he ever breaks away from his Fantasy Football line-up or ESPN.com and reads this blog.

I am not saying I have anything against meal-kit delivery services. I might even be willing to try one someday. I just think some of these advertising choices are a little bizarre, and trying to convince me that Lauren Conrad’s busy schedule as a mom, designer, or whatever you call her, is anything like my life or the lives of the other real-life working moms I know just doesn’t work.

Real-life working moms don’t cook in gorgeously clean kitchens while wearing adorable pink peasant tops. They cook in kitchens with appliances smudged with tiny finger prints, while still in a pencil skirt from the office, but in a Fleetwood Mac shirt with no bra because their toddlers are begging for snacks before they can completely change out of their work clothes.

I haven’t been on Facebook for a few hours, but I can almost guarantee that when I do, something special will be waiting in my feed. It will be Spencer and Heidi standing in a pristine kitchen, unpacking a cardboard box and talking about how Hello Fresh saves them so much time in their packed schedules of juice cleanses, plastic surgery consults, and anal-bleaching appointments.

Adventures

Elements of a Strategically Organized Trip to Build-a-Bear

Last month on our girls’ trip to Phoenix, my lovely bestie had the idea to take our daughters to Build-a-Bear Workshop at a nearby mall. Mind you, this was during Build-a-Bear’s “Pay Your Age” campaign so the place was busy. Couple that fact with the endless decisions to be made (princess or ballerina outfit? cupcake-scented or strawberry-scented? bear’s name?) and it could get intense. A strategically organized game plan was the only thing that would help us get out alive.

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Here are the tactics we employed.

INTELL: Prior to the voyage, my bestie and I conducted a high-stakes intelligence gathering summit which involved the two of us meeting in the hotel room bathroom while our girls played Enchantimals in the other room. We sat on the edge of the tub and scrolled through data on our phones obtaining such critical knowledge as mall hours of operation, Build-a-Bear pricing, and, perhaps most importantly, the nearest location for us to get post-shopping margaritas.

UNIFICATION: This being my first trip to Build-a-Bear I was horrified to discover that children can have their bear equipped with a voice and even have them sing specific annoying pop songs. We agreed that under no circumstances would we be allowing either of the girls to select this option. We would remain firm, strong, and united. If you allow one of them to elect the bear-voice option, you have to allow both of them to, and then the terrorists have won.

FISCAL CONSERVATION: Although the “Pay Your Age” campaign meant each bear only cost a few dollars, the abundance of accessory choices makes staying on budget a true challenge. Just so we didn’t wind up having to take out a second mortgage on our homes after buying light-up fairy wings and a red convertible for stuffed animals, we made a budget. Each girl got a bear, an outfit, a brush, and a toy hair dryer for the bear. Still sounds ridiculous, but I was happy when my daughter’s bill came to less than $50.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT: As you might imagine, little girls can be horribly indecisive when presented with thousands of teddy bear clothing options. I thought I was home free when my daughter finally decided her bear would be a ballerina, only to find there were at least six different bear tutus from which to choose. Just when I was about to tear my hair out from the agony of a four-year-old’s decision making, a little pep talk from my bestie put me right back in the game.

EXIT STRATEGY: The bear is selected, stuffed, dressed, and beautifully accessorized. Time to leave, right? Not just yet. Now your child gets to use a computer to name her bear and print a birth certificate. The concept is at the same time adorably sweet and mentally draining. I could sense frustration mounting as my friend’s daughter struggled to choose the perfect name for her bear. I intervened, throwing out as many cute names I could think of at the time all while easing my own daughter to the door. She named the bear Sprinkles, printed the certificate, we paid, and we left, the sweet sight of the mall’s Mexican restaurant (there are margaritas there) in our crosshairs. Victory is ours.