Posts Tagged ‘summer’

More Summer Reading

Posted in reading on June 22nd, 2012 by Betsy – 7 Comments

I always fought the Kindle.  I love books.  I love the feel of them in my hands and the smell of the pages, especially old books.  I enjoy the conversations started when strangers ask you about the book you’re reading because they’ve seen the cover.  With a Kindle or Nook, you just look like you’re reading a screen and plugged into yet another technological device.

BUT, I have to admit, I’ve been converted.  David bought me a Kindle recently and I’ve officially fallen for it.  I am tearing through books on this thing.  Now I probably won’t read a lot of non-fiction, history texts on the Kindle, because I like to flip back and forth between the index, the photos and the text, but the Kindle is great for summer reads.  It’s just so darn easy to hold too.  I never thought I would fall in love with the Kindle, but I have.

So here are my first three reads on the Kindle:

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer: This work of fiction that was made into a movie last year with Sandra Bullock.  While a major part of this book is about NYC and September 11th, it’s more about the odyssey of a boy looking to learn more about his deceased father’s past.  I enjoyed this voice of this book, through the eyes of the boy, Oskar, and his grandfather, and you feel like you’re a part of each story.  We can all relate to Oskar as he deals with grief, the past and an unwillingness to let go of his father.

The American Heiress,  Daisy Goodwin: If you enjoyed the drama, romance, and sometimes cheesiness of Downton Abbey, this is the book for your summer reading list.  While the story starts in Newport, Rhode Island at the turn of the 20th century, Cora Cash (the American Heiress and main character) spends most of the story among the wealthy in England.  A bit of a fish out of water in England, Cora (and her maid, Bertha) experience their own coming of age stories, full of love, heart ache and suspense.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, Anna Quindlen: My mom sent me this memoir, written by Pullitzer Prize winner and New York Times writer, Anna Quindlen.  In this book, she addresses the topics of aging, motherhood, generational differences, career, friendship, and faith.  As I’m about to enter a new stage in life, I really enjoyed reading Quindlen’s insights and reflections on her own life.  Even though she is twice my age, I still felt like I could relate to Quindlen’s stories, struggles and triumphs.  Lots of Candles… is a quick read that will provide you with an abundance of food for though.

Do you have any Kindle reading recommendations?

Start of Summer Reading List

Posted in favorite things, reading on June 8th, 2012 by Betsy – 2 Comments

While we are so excited about the arrival of Baby Girl Metcalf, I must admit that I’m enjoying my final days of peace and quiet, sitting on our front porch and reading a good book.  With this upcoming major life change, I am full of emotions: eagerness to have her here so I can start getting to know her, fear that our life is about to completely change, and of course the joy that our family is going to grow.

Soon there will be a little girl making her presence known in our world but for now, it’s just me and a book, and quiet.

So here’s what I’ve been reading…

Those Guys Have all the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, James Andrew Miller & Tom Shales: While I still haven’t been able to get through the 800 pages of Anna Karenina, I feel quite accomplished that I read all 800 pages of ESPN. If you are a lover of sports and ESPN, then this is the book for you.  This book is composed almost entirely of interviews from people who work at ESPN and athletes that have overlapped with the network and they don’t appear to sugarcoat anything.  Not only is this book about sports, however, it also addresses the changes and developments in the media over the last 30 years.  Cable television, internet, creating multiple channels, magazines, documentaries, live television: ESPN has done all of these things.  From a business perspective, this book is fascinating.  I enjoyed learning about the different individuals who have run ESPN, how they’ve chosen to interact with the NFL, NCAA, NHL, etc. as well as their interactions with other networks, especially Ted Turner’s empire.  If you know who the hosts of PTI are, the real name of “Stat Boy,” and that Rush Limbaugh was briefly a host of the NFL Countdown team, then ESPN is the book for you.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, Candace Millard: After reading The President and the Assassin, I was interested in learning more about presidents and their assassins.  So I picked up Destiny of the Republic, which follows President Garfield and the man who ended his life, Charles Guiteau.  Yet again, I was amazed by the contrast of the two men featured in this story and how intensely Guiteau focused on ending Garfield’s life.  The book also discusses the drama following the shooting because ultimately Garfield died because of poor and mishandled medical treatment rather than the bullet.  Destiny of the Republic gives a unique glimpse of a piece of U.S. History that is often barely mentioned or thought of.

Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, Ruth Reichl: Well, I’ve been on a bit of a nonfiction kick with this series of books.  My most recent read is written by former New York Times food critic, Ruth Reichl.  Previously, I’ve read her book, Comfort me with Apples, about her time starting out as a food critic in California.  Garlic & Sapphires takes the reader to New York, where Reichl is forced to wear disguises when visiting restaurants so the staff and management don’t know who she is.  She visits these high profile restaurants both as herself and then as her new identity and in her review, compares the two experiences.  Reichl’s disguises change with each restaurant and she shares with her reader, not only how her looks transform but also her personality.  Through her memoir books, we learn about Reichl’s life, her family, as well as her professional work.  This is a light, summer read that will make your stomach growl.

In case there’s a little too much nerdy non-fiction in this post, here are some of my older lists, in case you’re looking for other summer reads.

Happy Reading!  Cheers to summer!

Summer Reading List Part II

Posted in reading, Uncategorized on August 22nd, 2011 by Betsy – 4 Comments

Yup, there are more books from my summer.  Maybe I should get another hobby?  David keeps trying to convince me that golf’s a good option…

The 19th Wife: David Ebershoff; Going with the Mormon theme of the summer, this unique book tells the story of Brigham Young’s 19th wife, as well as a modern day murder in a fundamentalist Mormon community.  The book flows well, even with the changes in time, place, and characters.  Polygamy, murder, history, and Utah: what more could one want in a book?  And it was on the “Buy 2, Get the 3rd Free” shelf at Barnes & Noble…I just can’t resist that deal!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexie: I wouldn’t have picked this book up except for the fact that it was on the 9th grade summer reading list at the school where I work.  This young adult fiction novel tells the story of “Junior,” a Native American adolescant straddling two lives: one on his reservation and the other at an almost all white school “off the res.” Junior’s “diary” is part journal, part doodles & drawings, as he processes tragedy, life, racism and being a teen.  While this one wouldn’t have jumped off the shelves at me, I thoroughly enjoyed this read and my students did too.  (I can’t say they felt the same about the next book.)

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck: This literary classic was also part of the 9th grade summer reading.  “Don’t judge a book by its length,” I always warn my students when they first pick up this book.  Even though Of Mice and Men looks short, it’s deceptively complex and a tough read.  The story of Lennie and George is at the same time tragic and endearing, but if you’re going to read a Steinbeck novel, I’d always recommend East of Eden, over Mice. (Yes, it’s worth reading all those extra pages!)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot: If you haven’t gotten your hands on this book yet, this should be your next read.  Henrietta Lacks was my favorite book of the summer.  This incredible story beautifully blends history, science, and a human story.  Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman from rural Virginia, arrived at Johns Hopkins in 1950 with cervical cancer.  While receiving treatment, her cells were taken for research, and doctors quickly learned that Henrietta’s cells were immortal, as they reproduced more rapidly than any others.  For years, her cells have been used for research that has advanced science and medicine in many ways, from cancer research to the polio vaccine to in vetro.  Author, Rebecca Skloot, weaves the story of Henrietta’s life, the fate of her cells, and her extended family.  Seriously, this is a must read!

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain: This novel tells the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Heminway’s first wife.  Their story is full of passion, distraction and disappointment.  I enjoyed reading this book but I wasn’t completely convinced by the characters.  Some parts felt a little forced.  Maybe I felt this way because this is the type of book I envision writing myself: a true story about real people, but told with dialogue and artistic license.  I would love your thoughts on The Paris Wife if you’ve read this one.

So what are my my “Top 3, Couldn’t Put them Down, Reads” of the summer?

Here they are, in no particular order:

What are yours?

Oh, and I just started this one (and can’t put it down): David Nicholls’ One Day

“Take a Look, It’s in a Book:” Summer Reading

Posted in advice, favorite things, reading on August 10th, 2011 by Betsy – 8 Comments

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m not very wild…I’m not at the clubs late night.  I’d rather split a bottle of wine and have a nice dinner.  I’m not very hip and cool.  I rely on Elaney for all of my fashion pointers and now that she’s not regularly blogging, I’m totally lost.  I don’t wear make up and haven’t dried my hair since I got a $20 haircut a month ago.  (I do like a good pedi though!) I’m helplessly a nerd, and I love it.  That being said, summer, for me, is about relaxing and diving into a pile of books.  I’m always overambitious, as I can’t resist many of the books that Amazon magically suggests for me or that I stumble upon in a bookstore.  My book-buying addiction is a bit of a problem that I definitely inherited from my father.

This has been a summer full of great reads.  Two of my favorite authors recently came out with new books and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them.  Here are a few of my summer reads to wet your palette.  More selections to come in the next couple of weeks!

Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks: Author of March and Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks yet again does a superb job of taking bits of history and weaving it into a beautiful fiction story.  Brooks tells a story of the first Native American to attend Harvard, in the 17th century, and a fictional female character, Bethia Mayfield, daughter of a Puritan minister.  This novel takes place in what is today Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge, connecting two different cultures, people, faiths and sets of beliefs.  Caleb’s Crossing touches on religion, gender, history, emotions, and love, all in one well told and voiced story.  A must read.

In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson: Another all-time favorite author of mine, Erik Larson wrote Devil in the White City and Isaac’s Storm. His newest nonfiction book transports the reader to Berlin in the 1930s, as Hitler rises to power.  The story is told from two perspectives: William E. Dodd, the U.S. ambassador to Germany at the time, and his daughter, Martha, whose wild love life will keep you turning pages.  Larson has a gift of using only primary documents to write a book.  While it reads like fiction, it’s incredibly true.  I was amazed by how the U.S. passively watched Hitler take over, and build up his totalitarian rule.  Even if you don’t consider yourself a historian, this book will hold your interest from start to finish.

New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, Elna Baker: If you’re like me and couldn’t get enough of Rhoda Jansen’s Mennonite in a Black Dress, then you will love Elna Baker’s hysterical memoir.  Her tales of life as a Mormon in NYC are LOL funny, yet poignant.  I think every twenty-something woman can identify with her awkwardness, self-doubt, and questioning.  Some of my personal favorites include her experiences working at Nobu and “The Fortune Cookie Story.”  You can listen to a few of Elna’s stories live here.  I’m particularly drawn to Elna because she loves The New Yorker and has done pieces for This American Life and The Moth, two of my favorite nerdy radio shows.

The Children, David Halberstam: Definitely the biggest reading project of the summer (over 700 pages!!), this nonfiction book chronicles the civil rights movement through the stories of its Nashville leaders.  Starting with the Nashville sit ins and watching the Movement spread through the south, you will be blown away by the strength, passion and faith that these young leaders showed.  John Lewis, Diane Nash, Julian Bond, Marion Barry, and Jim Lawson are some of the central characters in The Children, so it’s a different perspective from the MLK focused Movement we traditionally learn about in school.  Halberstam clearly illustrates the shifts and changes in the Movement during the 50s and 60s, from nonviolent, Christian based and inclusive to all willing participants, to Black Power and somewhat isolationist.  Thanks to my brother-in-law for putting this book in my hands.

What did you read this summer?  I’m always looking for more books!  (Even though I still have Anna Karenina staring me in the face, begging me to read her.)

Vacay

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on July 28th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

I heart vacation.  I love reading, eating, drinking, parking myself by the pool, and time with my hubby.

I think this will be the perfect place…

Perfect Sunday Supper

Posted in favorite things, local food, recipe on July 25th, 2011 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

Yum…so easy but so good.

Sliced local tomatoes and cucumbers with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, S&P

Grilled swordfish: If you haven’t tried this fish, you’re missing out.  It’s meaty, not fishy, and worth the financial splurge. Just a little olive oil, some herbs and lemon juice make the perfect marinade.  This time we used a tequila lime rub.

Grilled corn on the cob: shuck the corn, wrap each ear separately in tin foil, with a little butter, S&P, and put on the grill.

My kind of food!  Simple, fresh, easy and highlighting the naturally delicious flavors.  What are your favorite easy suppers?

Curry Chicken Salad

Posted in recipe on June 29th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

I love chicken salad, especially in the summer months.  It’s a great option for entertaining because you can make it ahead of time.  There are so many varieties of chicken salad that it’s hard to get sick of it.  Well, except when you make a huge batch of it and eat it for a week…

One of my all time favorites is Kim’s Chicken Salad.  This simple, traditional version of chicken salad is a go-to, great summer recipe.

Last week, I brought dinner to a family at our church who just had a baby.  I decided to try making curry chicken salad for the dinner, accompanied with this quinoa salad.  These dishes served their purpose as they were easily transportable, no assembly required and ready to eat upon arrival!  I also included salad and crackers as accompaniments for the chicken salad.

Since I planned on serving the chicken salad to some friends that same night, I wanted to make a lot of it.  In retrospect, I probably made too much.  Four chicken breasts would have been plenty.

A note on the chicken: I think it makes a huge difference to get bone-in, skin on chicken breasts.  The meat will be much more tender and it shreds up better.  Don’t be intimidated.

Curry Chicken Salad (Makes 10 generous servings.  Feel free to cut recipe in half.)

Ingredients:

  • 6 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (or more, depending your preference; I used Hellman’s Light Mayo and it worked just fine)
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted*
  • 1 cup grapes, halved

*Toast pecans for about 5 minutes on a cookie sheet at 350.

Preheat oven to 350.  Put chicken breasts on baking sheet, skin side up.  Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook for 35-40 minutes, until meat is cooked through.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 10-15 minutes.

Remove skin and pull meat off of the bone.  This should happen pretty easily.  Chop up chicken into pieces, in the size you prefer.  I’m not super precise in cutting up the chicken.  You can use kitchen shears or a knife.  Place chopped chicken in large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix mayo, curry powder, salt, and lemon juice.  Add mixture to the bowl with chicken and combine, mixing until chicken is coated.  Feel free to taste along the way.  The amount of mayo, curry and lemon depends on your taste buds.  I start with less mayo and add as I go.  I prefer mine to be a little “curry-heavy.”  Add pecans and grapes.  Stir and refrigerate.  I would suggest refrigerating for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Enjoy on top of a salad, with Mary’s Gone Crackers, or on toasted GF bread.  I find it perfect with summer heirloom tomatoes.

Summer Cooking Ideas

Posted in cooking, recipe on June 22nd, 2011 by Betsy – 4 Comments

Running out of dinner ideas?  Are you in a “cooking funk?”  I feel that way sometimes…that’s when I find myself eating sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts three nights in a row.

Here are some recipe ideas to get your creative juices flowing (and your stomach rumbling):

Roasted Beet Salad

summerbeetsalad

Pesto

summerpesto

Egg Strata with Turkey Sausage

summerstrata

Salmon on the Grill

summersalmon

Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas, Spinach & Pecans

summerchickpeaquinoa

Tomato Pie

summertomatopie

Summer Squash Casserole

summersquash

Peanut Butter Crispy Treats with Nutella

summernutella

Peach & Blueberry Crisp

summercobbler

What are you making in your kitchen this summer?  I would love your ideas to bring some creativity to my kitchen.

Happy Cooking!

101 Cookbooks’ Quinoa with Currants, Dill & Zucchini

Posted in cooking, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetarian on June 15th, 2011 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

quinoabowl

Last weekend I hosted a baby shower for my friend, Meredith, who’s expecting a little boy in August.  My jobs for the shower included making gluten-free blondies and a quinoa salad.

quinoablondies

Last summer I made this quinoa salad for another baby shower, but when I saw the following recipe on Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, I couldn’t resist.  I love random ingredient combinations and this recipe fits that description.  I was a little nervous about the dill in the salad but I really enjoyed it, especially with the feta cheese.

I tripled the recipe below since I was making it for a crowd.  There were plenty of leftovers too!

quinoapresents Quinoa with Currants, Dill and Zucchini (from 101 Cookbooks)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup dried currants (you could use dried cranberries too)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated
  • 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds*
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Feta cheese, crumbled

quinoashreddedzukes

quinoagreenonions

quinoacurrants

*To toast sesame seeds, I put a dry pan on medium heat on the stove top, added the sesame seeds and toasted for about five minutes, tossing a couple of times during the cooking process.  They will brown and start to smell yummy.  That’s how you know they’re ready.  Toasted sesame seeds are quite possibly my new favorite thing!

quinoasesame

For quinoa: Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add most of the green onions, a pinch of salt, and cook until onions soften, a couple of minutes.  Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grains toast a little bit, about 3 minutes.

Add the water, currants, and remaining salt.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, decrease heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked, about 15 minutes.  (Even with tripling the recipe, I didn’t need to cook any longer so you might want to check on it after about 10 minutes.)

While quinoa is cooking, zest the lemon and squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into a small bowl.  When quinoa is cooked, remove pan from heat.  Stir in zucchini, lemon juice and zest, most of the sesame seeds, and most of the dill.  Add salt as needed.

Put quinoa into a serving bowl.  I refrigerated it for awhile before adding the feta cheese.  Add as much feta as you’d like.  (When eating leftovers, I’ve been adding a little more.)  Refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature.

quinoabowl This dish is great if your hosting a shower, summer cookout or any other warm weather event.  It would go perfectly with this grilled chicken.

Enjoy!

PS: My friend, Mary Stuart, made this amazing (GF) popsicles, with cool flavors like mango, watermelon mint, and blueberry lemon.

quinoapopsicles

Happy Summer!

Posted in event, travel on June 3rd, 2010 by Betsy – 2 Comments

Summer’s here!  I finished up school last week and June is a whirlwind of travel for me.  Last weekend I went to Sea Island with some friends and tonight I’m heading north to be in a wedding in St. Michael’s, Maryland.  Becky, one of my best friends from high school, is marrying a college friend of mine, Peyton.  (He owns an NYC suit company, Alton Lane, so it’s going to be one hip and trendy event.)

High School Buddies

High School Buddies

After a weekend of wedding fun on the Shore, I’m staying up north in Alexandria for the week until my 10-year high school reunion the following weekend.  Wow.  Lots of events and time away but I couldn’t be more excited.  Summer means travel, which can mean anxiety for those of us with celiac.

Just remember a few simple tips to make your gluten-free travels less stressful:

-       Plan ahead: Investigate and take the time to research.  I’ve talked to the caterers for the wedding this weekend and they’re going above and beyond to help me out so there are thankfully some meals I don’t have to worry about.

-       “Be Prepared:” Yup, it’s the Boy Scout motto but it works really for us gluten-free eaters too.  Sometimes there’s no option for you at a wedding reception or an event.  Don’t go hungry.  Have plenty of snacks and a cute purse (or your date’s blazer) to carry them.

-       Research the area: Look for blogs by gluten-free writers in the area you’re visiting or even find the chains (like Outback) that always have gluten-free menus.

-       Find Access to a Kitchen (and use it): Last weekend at the beach we had a kitchen and we ate most of our meals in the house.  We made a group trip to the grocery store and divided up the meals by gender.  I trusted the people I was with and it made me feel better to know that David was in the other cooking group so he would keep me safe from glutens.  You don’t need to go out to eat for every meal on vacation and you’re probably safer if you don’t.

The guys' gluten-free dinner at Sea Island.

The guys' gluten-free dinner at Sea Island.

Beef tenderloin, mushroom-asparagus risotto & salad: Delicious!

Beef tenderloin, mushroom-asparagus risotto & salad: Delicious!

-       Explore non-eating activities, such as:

Go for a hike…

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Go to a museum…

Betsy and David Trip to France 2006 011

Go wine tasting…

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Walk on the beach, looking for sand dollars…

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or (my favorite) lie by the pool and read.

pool

All are gluten-free!

Please share your travel advice and tips for those with food allergies.  Safe travels this summer and happy (gluten-free) eating!