Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bookish: Favorite Reads of 2016

Hello and Happy New Year! 

2016 was an odd, transitory year for me. It seemed to feel much longer and more difficult than the years preceding it. I passed some major milestones, like writing my thesis, working two internships, and completing my graduate program. But, I also experienced quite a few disappointments and setbacks.

 I wound up only reading half the amount of books I'd planned to read at the start of 2016, and almost completely stopped writing in the blog. However, despite this, I did discover a few new favorites. I also rediscovered my love of George RR Martin's ASoIaF series which I reread-- or re-listened to--this year. I really fell in love with audible and have audiobooks to thank for getting me out of almost every reading slump this year. They also made my incredibly long commutes to school and work much more bearable.

SO, without further ado, here are the best books I read in 2016:

by Daphne du Maurier

This classic is both gothic romance and psychological thriller. Need I go on? That sentence summarizes pretty much everything  look for in a book. But, there's frosting on this cake in the form of duMaurier's beautiful writing and compelling characters. The mystery is handled superbly. I thought I knew what was going to happen, only to be blindsided by bumps and twists along the way. This might be my favorite novel of the year.

I Capture the Castle
by Dodie Smith

Jodie Smith, author of the beloved 101 Dalmatians, also penned this heartwarming coming-of-age story. I Capture the Castle follows the charismatic teenager Cassandra Mortmain and her quirky, impoverished family who live in an crumbling castle in 1930s England. The story is told through Cassandra's diary an her voice is at once playful, naive, self-depracating, and insightful. Despite the sweetness, this story is unapologetically real in its characterizations and its romances. An all time favorite, for sure.

Station Eleven 
by Emily St. John Mandel

I'm sure everyone's at least heard of this debut novel by now, if they haven't already read it. Emily St. John Mandel has not only the best name I've ever heard, but also possesses an incredibly beautiful writing style. This book has been called sci-fi and dystopia. In my opinion, the setting adds an element of intrigue and helps to move the story along, but Station Eleven is more character driven literary fiction. You know that phrase, this book has something for everyone? It definitely applies here.

The Lake House 
by Kate Morton

This was my first time reading Kate Morton and I was definitely impressed.  Months later and this story-- atmospheric and descriptive-- has stayed with me. Plus it's set in Cornwall-- a place I love to read about-- with two parallel narratives: one set in modern day and the other set in the 1930's.

by JJ Abrams and Dog Dorst

This book is difficult to describe. Abrams and Dorst have created an incredibly interactive and immersive story. On the surface the novel appears to be an old library book called Ship of Theseus. It's overwritten and, frankly, quite boring. But,t hat does't matter because the real story of S is written in the margins of the pages. As you read you follow the notes written between an English grad and a college senior as they get to know one another and unravel the mystery behind this classic text.

This One Summer 
by Mariko Tanaki

This was my favorite graphic novel of the year. This is a quiet coming of age story with gorgeous illustrations. The characters, two pubescent female friends experience very real, gritty issues and learn some life lessons. 


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Travel: Snapshots From My Trip To Asheville

I visited Asheville this past March, and had a great time. There was so much to do that my short trip left me feeling like I'd had gotten only the slightest taste of what the city had to offer. So, I planned another long weekend to visit my friend Jennifer and explore Asheville and its neighboring towns.

Our B&B, seen below, was in Weaverville, a small town outside of Asheville that seemed mostly residential and very cute! I loved the understated Victorian style of our room.. and the yummy vegetarian breakfasts served up by the host. An awesome detail that sets this place apart from any other B&B I've visited is that around 5pm every night, thy serve appetizers and drinks on the back porch. Needless to say, we had a great stay!

One of our first stops was to visit my friend Jennifer and her family in Black Mountain, a town northeast of Asheville, with a lot going for it in its own right. In fact, if I lived in this area, I'd probably want to live here. The Village of Cheshire is a gorgeous community of craftsman houses, large victorians, stone cobbled mountain homes, and even a few tree houses. They have a community garden, park, and acres of land to explore.

We also paid another visit to the Biltmore. Jen's family gave us tickets as a welcome gift! I could really visit this place repeatedly and enjoy it just as much as the first. So many stories play themselves out in my mind as we walk down the gilded corridors and through the obscenely elaborate rooms of the mansion. The history is overwhelmingly all-encompassing and my imagination has a field day when we're there.

If you know much about Asheville you probably know that it is known for it's great restaurants and breweries. The first night of our trip, we had dinner at a 100% Gluten Free Restaurant called Posana. It was stunning, atmosphere-wise, and my homemade fettuccini with asparagus, chanterelles, trumpet mushrooms, sun gold tomatoes, and tarragon butter was SO good.

The next day we had some White Duck Taco based on a coworker's recommendation. They're located in the industrial River Arts District of Asheville and serve up ethnic fusion style tacos like "Bahn Mi Tofu,"  "Jerk Chicken," and "Korean Beef Bulgogi." YUM.

We also stopped into High Five Coffee Bar, because, coffee. I got an earl grey latte, but Matt vouches for the beans, and he is quite the coffee snob so I don't take that lightly!

Finally, on our last day we drove to 12 Bones Smokehouse about 15 minutes before they opened. We were intent on getting some BBQ for the ride home. To our surprise a line was already forming to order! This place got great publicity when the Obamas visited a couple years ago but, IMO, it is totally warranted.

Now that I've got a real feel for Asheville, I'm planning my next vacation to somewhere new. Nashville, Tn and Austin, Tx are at the top of the list.

Thanks for reading!
I hope you're enjoying what's left of summer.


Monday, May 16, 2016

National Vegetarian Week!

If you didn't already know, it's National Vegetarian Week in both the UK and US.

I will personally be eating only vegan foods for the entirety of the week, and I encourage you to do the same! Or, if that's too daunting, give vegetarianism a go for at least a few meals. I think you'll be surprised by how easy, affordable, and satisfying this type of diet can be.

As an homage to all of the fabulous people who live a compassionate lifestyle, I went through all of my instagram posts to find some vegan eyecandy to share with you. Here are a handful of delicious vegan dishes and treats I've tried over the years.

Clockwise, R-L: 1. Tofu scramble 2. If there is fresh fruit in the apartment-- and there always is-- I will compulsively pick at it all day. Without guilt! 3. Vegan chocolates made with cocoa powder, coconut oil, agave, and strawberries. 4. Vegan banana bread! (I've made this gluten free, as well.) 5. Vegan Coconut Chip from Lulu's Sweet Apothecary 6. Marinated Portobello 7. More fruit!! 8. Baked apples with earth balance 9. Sweet Potato fries 10. Tofu with sweet chili sauce.

I've been a vegetarian off and on for about 5 years, so I've yet to develop a large inventory of my own vegan recipes. Fortunately there are so many amazing veggie food bloggers out there sharing great recipes, tips, and tricks along with stunning photos. I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you!

Minimalist Baker

When I first began attempting to cook vegan, Dana's recipes were always high on my list of google results. Minimalist Baker is one of the most popular vegan blogs out there-- and for good reason. Again and again, I found myself skipping past all of the other options and clicking through to the beautifully designed Minimalist Baker blog. You might say I came for the photos, and stayed for the recipes. From her chia pudding to her vegan banana bread (see above), I am always happy with the way Dana's recipes turn out. An extra bonus is that they are all gluten free, as well. 

Oh She Glows

Oh She Glows blogger Angela Liddon is the author of New York Times Bestseller The Oh She Glows Cookbook.  Angela started out as a researcher in the field of social psychology before opening up her own bakery. She now writes and blogs full-time, and we lucky readers get t benefit from the fruits of her labor. There's even an app which neatly organizes her recipes which you can filter through according to your preferences, cross off ingredients and recipe steps, and even add your own notes for next time. I love it!

Gluten-Free Vegan Girl

Solveig Berg Vollan of Norway is the youngest of the bloggers on my list. She started blogging at 16 when she switched to a fully vegan diet and discovered her love for cooking.   All of her recipes are plant based and free of gluten and refined sugar.  She has a very personable writing style and  her cultural dishes are  really fun and refreshing. Check out these vegan swedish meatballs!

Wholehearted Eats

Wholehearted Eats' author Sophie promotes an all around healthy lifestyle. Although she does not completely subscribe to a vegan or gluten-free diet, Sophie creates nutritious recipes using whole foods, clean ingredients, and healthy alternatives. She has a great aesthetic, and I love that each of her posts tells a story.

Honorable Mentions:

Chickpea Cookie Dough Balls from A Dash of Compassion. I cannot wait to try these out!

Just discovered My Darling Lemon Thyme written by Emma Galloway.  I love her blog name and her personal story.

Kriss Carr's Crazy Sexy Diet cookbook is a favorite.

I have shared my love of Alicia Silverstone's cookbook The Kind Diet on here before. Check out her website The Kind Life for recipes, articles, videos, and more.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Recent Artworks

A couple of months ago, my mom sent me a photo of a painting and said, "Can you make me something like this?" I stared at the gorgeous strokes of bright, vivid colors. The piece was soft, feminine, and only just suggestive of a figure. I thought to myself: I wish I this was what my art looked like.

The original painting was very small and hanging on a wall n the background of a living room in some home decorating magazine. (If you know the original artist, please let me know!) It was clearly done with oil, but I wasn't ready to revisit that medium. So, I got my trusty goauche and some acrylic and tried to emulate the style. This is what happened:

Not perfect by any means and the true beauty of the colors are a bit lost in the photo, but I'm proud of this. It means something to me in that it marks a shift in my perspective, and brings me closer to finding my own artistic voice. 

Over the following few weeks I created many more paintings in this vein. Some more abstracted, some more naturalistic. All with bright color, bold contour, and spontaneous, impressionistic strokes. It's a learning process, and a fun one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Places: Biltmore Estate, NC

 During my trip to Asheville, my friend Jen's family treated me to a ticket to tour the historic Vanderbilt family's Asheville estate. 

The Biltmore was featuring a special exhibit for which they displayed various costumes from popular period dramas. A major focus of this was wedding dresses worn by actresses in film adaptations of classic novels. But, to be honest, I was a bit more enamored with the mansion itself... which you'll see reflected in the photos below.

Perhaps because I had only brought my 50mm lens, I found myself focusing on the small details of the mansion. Maybe not an uncommon perspective, as taking on the huge rooms with vaulted ceilings, precious antiques, and various paraphernalia can be quite overwhelming. I really enjoyed zeroing in on scenes like this piano (above) or the engraved detail on the stone pillars (below). 

We wound up spending five hours frolicking about the mansion, grounds, and gift shops. I think my favorite spot of all was the large stone balcony off of the smoking room. With the sun shining and the  gorgeous view... I was totally set into high spirits for the rest of the day.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Places: Black Mountain, NC

Last week in New York, we had  bit of a snowfall, but the day I had scheduled my flight was 70' and sunny. I spent most of the flight playing my new favorite computer game, Don't Starve.

We had a two hour drive from the Charlotte airport to my friend Jennifer's family home in Black Mountain. After I dropped off our bag and had dinner, we took a long evening walk around the little town. It was perfect.

After the walk we headed over to Burial Beer Co. in Asheville for a dark coconut stout. All in all,  a great intro to this new city. Next up: Biltmore Estate Tour!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Places: Museum of Morbid Anatomy

The original plan was to check out the Morbid Anatomy Flea Market which was taking place down the block at The Bell House-- a favorite music venue of ours. However, it seems the turnout was more than anyone organizing the event expected. Being a small venue, they were only able to admit people in groups of around 30 at a time, resulting in a line that wrapped around the block. Matt and I decided to bypass this spectacle and go straight to the museum itself!

I have been wanting to visit the Morbid Anatomy Museum for quite a while now. The exhibition currently on display is House of WaxAnatomical, Pathological, And Ethnographical Waxworks from Castan’s Panopticum, Berlin, 1869-1922. And, I have to admit, it was way more disturbing than I expected. I didn't getting shots of the main exhibition, but couldn't resist getting out my camera when we ventured into the smaller adjoining room.

This room functioned as a sort of library, featuring bookshelves filled with various anatomical reference books, bizarre histories, and more. There were also interesting arrangements set up around the room of little vintage  oddities and an assortment of jarred specimen and taxidermies. Many a blogger would have had a field day here.

These Dia de Los Muertes figures were Matt's favorite!

After we explored the upstairs exhibits we headed down to the cafe for some Variety coffee-- our favorite local brew!

Hope you had a wonderful Sunday filled with new adventures, or at least some good coffee. ;)