Month: January 2015

Book Fridays: The King

If you’re familiar with Tiffany Reisz’ Original Sinners series then you know all about Kingsley Edge. I have a friend that thinks he’s hers, incidentally she’s the reason I started reading these books. I guess I owe her a lot, but I’m willing to fight her for King.  This book tells his story. Now, if you’re not into sexy writing, taboo topics and kink then I can safely say you should probably read these books anyway 😉 When I first started Ms. Reisz’ books I was instantly hooked. Her characters are always complex and the writing is always clever. There’s no shortage of wit, humor and even tears.

Fast forward to The King (my most anticipated read) where we learn the origins of the Eighth Circle and Kingsley himself (as well as his Hessian boots). I read this book in a day as I couldn’t put it down. Tiffany Reisz once again delivers a book that has it all. The relationship between Søren and Kingsley kills me. Søren’s underbelly is revealed in this book and seeing his more sensitive, affectionate side felt like nothing short of a treat. It also hurt like hell, which I’m sure Søren appreciates.

Something that Ms. Reisz has nailed, in my opinion, is the ability to take the subjects of kink, BDSM, religion, relationships, and sexuality and juggle them so brilliantly so as to do them all justice.

My favorite new character from this book has to be Sam. She had some great lines and her overall personality made me want to meet her in real life and beg her to be my friend.Maybe even my lover. The fact that she plays a very important role in the establishment of King’s Kingdom entitles her to my deepest affections.

This book details the making of our favorite King of Kink and it couldn’t have been a more enjoyable read.

Vive le roi!

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DIY Art Installation (easy & affordable!)

I’ve been slowly decorating Diego’s room after finally turning it into a toddler room. I had been looking for something to go on the wall above his crib but I hadn’t come across anything that I loved. The letters spelling his name that I painted felt underwhelming and to be honest I’m not in love with them but it was better than nothing. The other day I came across this post on how to make a DIY pinwheel art installation. I glossed over the pictures and decided that this would be fun to make and since I already had everything I needed to make it I would incur no further cost. I am so pleased with how it turned out I decided to share it here.

Last week my local craft store was having a sale on their craft paper so I picked up a pad of 50 sheets for $10. I used it for another project and after making the pinwheels I have plenty left so this has turned out to be a great buy. In addition to craft paper (or really, any sturdy paper) you will need: scissors, glue, pushpins/thumbtacks.

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The pack of craft paper that I purchased came with various prints and patterns and they all coordinate so it was just a matter of choosing which ones I wanted to use. Step two is to cut squares in various sizes. I did not measure anything and I was not fussy about anything being perfect. Close enough is good enough here. The paper I used was not double sided but I like the white so I was okay with that. You could always use double sided paper or paint the white side if you would like.

Fold your square diagonally and then cut down each diagonal crease without cutting all the way to the center of the square.

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Add glue to the center of the square and fold in every other corner.

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Secure with a pushpin and let dry. I used a piece of styrofoam for this. I laid the pinwheel on the styrofoam and pushed the pin through the middle. Let the glue dry. Using glue allows you to change the position of the pinwheels once they’re up on the wall. You could forgo the glue but I think that would just make it all more difficult to work with. (The original DIY linked above uses hot glue, I don’t have a glue gun which is why I used Tacky Glue)

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Once you have a variety of different sizes you can start playing around with placement. The pins slide easily into drywall. I will probably make a few more pinwheels and add to the installation but I’m pretty happy with how it looks now.

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Book Fridays: Puerto Rican Literature

Las Más Bellas Poesias de Puerto Rico, an anthology compiled by Edwin Miner Solá and divided into eighteen topics was given to me as a gift by my mom and has resulted in the equivalent of a crash course in Puerto Rican literature which I now want to share with you. It includes works from the following literary movements: Pasnassianism, Modernism and Romanticism.  The book was printed in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February 2011. I don’t know why but this makes me really happy to have a book of poems by Puerto Rican authors compiled and printed on the island.

The book’s introduction provides some great information that felt new to me. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention in my Spanish Literature class or maybe it was just not presented as it is in this introduction. The cultural literary movement in Puerto Rico developed much later than it did in most of the colonies and Latin-American republics. This was partly due to the following: lack of university, isolation, illiteracy, literary censorship, and the restricted freedom of thought imposed by the regime.

Even though printing began in 1806 there was still no book commerce in 1840 and as a result obtaining books relied on young students that returned from universities in Spain. Despite all these obstacles the first publication, titled Aguinaldo Puertorriqueño was published in 1843. This first publication was a sort of anthology and inspired future publications. Aguinaldo  Puertorriqueño, by its title can lend one to assume it’s a collection of Christmas themed poems and the like but in reality it has nothing to do with Christmas. The publication itself was meant as a gift, hence the title, and is a collection of essays in prose and verse. The following year Album Puertorriqueño was published.

These publications gave way to the first important book of our literature:  El Gíbaro by Manuel A. Alonso. This was published in 1849 and is a collection of photographs documenting (and critiquing) the customs and traditions of Puerto Rico. At the time of publication the majority of people on the island were illiterate. The Antilles were not known for literature, they were simply places to exploit for riches, this book began a movement to build a literate citizenry as well as the preservation of Puerto Rican culture.

It’s funny how a collection of poems has awoken my interest in Puerto Rican literature. I have fallen down a rabbit-hole of literature and I’m enjoying the journey. I read through most of the poems in this book last night and there is so much in here to think about and digest. Some poems stuck out to me, like Nostalgia by Virgilio Dávila. I grew up listening to Andrés Jiménez sing the words of the first stanza without knowing their origin and inspiration. Now I know.

Gracias Mami por este regalo tan perfecto.

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References:

Literatura de Puerto Rico. In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 16, 2015  http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literatura_de_Puerto_Rico

Lengua de Puerto Rico: historia y presente Retrieved January 16, 2015

Why you should keep a gratitude journal

Life can suck and I am not one to dismiss the negative feelings I have from day to day. Being perpetually optimistic and happy is unrealistic to me. Tune into current events and you will see how much work we, as a society, have ahead of us. It can be a real bummer. I believe in venting about the bad in our lives, not necessarily in public for all to see (unless you want to) but in a way that helps you get it off your chest. That being said, I also believe that “there’s something good in everyday”. Everyday we have something to be thankful for, something that we can look to and say, “That was nice.” It might be those amazing pancakes you made for breakfast and didn’t burn, the unexpected but welcome phone call from a friend, a polite smile and compliment from a stranger, or even the mere fact that you got half of one task complete for the day. Whatever it is, this little something should be acknowledged and recorded.

Negative stuff, thoughts, interactions, feelings can take center stage in our consciousness to the point we don’t see all of the stuff that is right in our lives. We tend to block out the mountain of good with a freckle of bad. I know that I am guilty of this. If say, I get feedback from ten different people I will give much more weight (emotionally) to the one negative response. I try not to do this but it’s difficult not to dwell on that one person. Similarly, whenever I’ve had a bad anxiety day I feel negative inside and look at all things through this darkened lens.

By taking the time to process our day in a manner that looks for something good we will be inclined to find it. It gives us a different way in which to frame our day. Small pleasures, and seemingly inconsequential happenings take on new life when we view them through the lens of gratitude.

A gratitude journal can take many forms. Each entry can be a simple sentence, a short paragraph, a picture or photograph, a quote or even a memento. I’ve even seen it in the form of a large jar into which you drop small scraps of paper on which you write something you’re grateful for and on December 31st you pick them out and read them. It’s a great way to look back on the year. I have a small notebook and I am trying to scribble something in it each night before I go to bed. I find that keeping this journal is even more important to me when I’ve had a crappy day.

Today is Sunday and I am going to share what I am grateful for right here in this blog post. We spent the day at home today. It was raining and it just felt like the sort of day to spend home. Nothing about today sticks out except that we finally purged the outdoor closet. It was such a mess and we had things we didn’t even know we had. I had mentioned to my husband that we really needed to sort that closet out but we just never got around to it. Today we finally did. It was warm and humid out there so it wasn’t comfortable to haul all of that junk into the porch where we sorted through it. The end result is a closet that is now usable and an item checked off my list. Looking at our junk in another way, I am grateful to have accumulated it all with my husband. In the mess I saw remnants of repairs and remodels we’ve done to our house and I know that I am lucky to have a place of our own.

I can’t really commit to a daily journal per se but a gratitude journal is something I believe is good for me and my mental health, and it could be good for you, too.

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Book Fridays: South of the Border, West of the Sun

South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami felt very much like a continuation of Norwegian Wood when I first began the book (but it’s not!). Norwegian Wood was my first Murakami book and I enjoyed it so much I decided to read more by this author. South of the Border, West of the Sun is a haunting read about a mid-life crisis. Hajime, a 37 year old man, is stuck in the past. Unable to let go of the love he feels for his friend, Shimamoto, whom he has not seen since they were 12 years old, he embarks on a journey that almost costs him everything.

The idea that our memories idealize our past relationships hits close to home for me. Not in a romantic sense, but I often think so fondly of friends that I haven’t really known since high school. All that ties me to them are the memories, and the occasional texts, but is there really a relationship there? Murakami explores this to a greater and more relevant extent. He is married with two children and runs two successful bars. His life, on the outside, seems idyllic but he’s lost in an internal turmoil that has him willing to throw it all away to give a future with Shimamoto a chance.

Shimamoto is mysterious and sometimes a little off kilter. She reveals very little about herself and I got the sense that Hajime was as confused about her as the reader. Hajime ultimately gives in and sleeps with Shimamoto once, but even though he cheated on his wife the sex manages to not feel dirty. Murakami manages to treat sex with a sort of purity and innocence.

In the end Hajime knows that he has to do and it doesn’t feel like a compromise. Not even a little.

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For anybody that’s interested, all books that I review on my blog are either purchased by me (with my husband’s money :p) or borrowed from the library. I do not write sponsored posts or receive any form of compensation for anything that I write. I write this blog for fun. If this ever changes I will clearly say so at the TOP of my posts. 

Delicious, gluten-free dessert

The holidays are pretty much behind us and it’s time to look to the year ahead. This year, I want to share more savory recipes and as I looked to rid myself of the last of the sugars laying about the house I came up with a dessert that will likely be my go-to whenever I am hosting a dinner.

I love cheesecake, it’s rich, decadent, and refreshing. I had two bricks of cream cheese in the fridge and what better way to use them up than to make cheesecake batter and pour it into a lined cupcake pan? The recipe is simple and all of the ingredients are gluten-free (or can at least be found gluten-free).

The end result is a beautiful dessert that you will be proud to share.

You will need:

16 oz of cream cheese at room temperature

2 eggs at room temperature

1/2 cup of sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp orange zest

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 325F.

Beat the cream cheese using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, you can also use a hand mixer (if you have strong arms you can even do it by hand with a wooden spoon). Once creamy and smooth, add the sugar and cream together.

It is important that the cream cheese be at room temperature otherwise you will have a lumpy batter.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.

Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and mix until incorporated.

Pour into lined cupcake pan. Depending on how much you fill them you should be able to fill 12 slots.

Bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes. You want the cheesecake to be almost set in the middle but still wobbly. Turn off the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the oven and setting on a cooling rack.

The cheesecakes will deflate a little. Allow to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Raspberry orange champagne sauce

The cheesecakes are already wonderful as they are but I had some frozen raspberries I wanted to use up so I threw them into a saucepan along with the juice and pulp of one orange. I also added about a quarter cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then I added a generous splash of champagne. I brought it all to a boil and simmered it for a few minutes until it  had reduced a bit.

At this point taste your sauce and add a little more sugar if you feel it needs it. I wanted the sauce to be fresh with a hint of tartness, not sickly sweet.

I then strained the mixture and discarded al the seed and pulp. I returned the liquid to the stove and simmered until it thickened a little. Once I was happy with the consistency I turned off the heat and let the sauce cool in the pan before transferring it into a bowl and placing it in the fridge.

Plating

Carefully, remove the cheesecake from the cupcake wrapper. Place upside down on a plate. This conceals the sunken top part and gives you a flat, smooth surface on which to spoon your sauce. Top with as much sauce as you want and top with fresh whipped cream. I recommend taking the first one you plate up as a little chef’s treat, practice your presentation on this one and modify your approach on the others.

This was my first attempt (too much sauce):

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Never made your own whipped cream before? It’s easy. You need really cold heavy cream and a really cold bowl. I place mine in the freezer for a few minutes. Whip the cream until it’s stiff enough to pipe. You can add vanilla extract and powdered sugar if you want.

These can be plated a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Enjoy!

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Book Fridays: Trading Rosemary

I purchased Trading Rosemary by Octavia Cade after watching a review of this novella by Books and Pieces. Well, I added it to my TBR list and finally purchased it 3 months later. The story takes place in a world where experiences, memories are a form of currency. The memories are transferred into coins made out of various materials, usually scented with something relating to the memory they store. Coins are valued according to the memory they hold, common memories are worth very little but memories such as the birth of a child are worth a lot more. This relationship between smell and memory is something I think most of us can relate to. I love how just a scent can trigger vivid recollections.

In the story, Rosemary trades away the memory of her grandmother’s last concerto much to her daughter’s distress. She then sets out to get it back but in the process she trades away her own memories and experiences to the point where we must ask ourselves how much of her will be left? Throughout the story we are given glimpses of experiences and memories of Rosemary’s, in a way the book becomes a coin and we are receiving these memories stored within it.

The idea of trading memories and experiences is fascinating to me. Our experiences shape who we are so it stands to reason that they are valuable. How much do our memories make us who we are? I think Octavia Cade explores this within this novella.

The character of Rosemary was an interesting one. She wasn’t very nice, she continually said less than charitable things to and about her daughter. She was cruel to both animals and people. In all, she wasn’t a likeable person. She sought to have the best coin library and so she was a ruthless and meticulous trader. Stories usually offer us a character who goes off on an adventure or journey and gains things along the way. They often find themselves, change for the better, or something along those lines. Trading Rosemary offers us a story about a woman that goes on a journey but loses pieces of herself along the way (by trading away memories).

What remains of Rosemary at the end? I could tell you what I think but I really feel it’s best to read for yourself. I really enjoyed this book, the writing is superb and the world building is fantastic.

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Happy New Year!

The holidays are almost over but the New Year is already here. As usual, I’m feeling full of possibility and optimism. What do I want to do this year? Well, blogwise I have seen how it’s evolved. I started this blog to document my life as a mother but it didn’t take long for it to veer off course. My blog has evolved, it is currently a veritable hodgepodge of topics, much like my life. I cannot commit to talking about only one thing. That’s just not who I am right now. I like to dabble in various things and now that I have a blog I have a platform on which to explore various parts of who I am.

Out of all the series I have done on my blog Book Fridays is my favorite. I have always loved reading but I didn’t really have a space on which to collect my thoughts about specific books and reading in general. Blogging about what I’m reading helps me organize my thoughts and feelings better. It also provides me with notes I can refer back to later when I can’t remember what a book was about. Also, I find that when I write about something I force myself to really think about it and recall it better later. There’s also the added bonus of meeting fellow readers and hopefully turning them onto a book they hadn’t heard of/hadn’t considered before.I’m setting myself the goal of reading more in 2015.

I still love cooking and sharing recipes so I will definitely be sharing more of those this year. In particular, I want to explore gluten free and vegan cuisine. For no particular reason other than culinary curiosity. I have no plans to stop baking cookies and the like but I want to vary the recipes I share.

On January 6th we will be celebrating Epiphany/Three Kings Day. For me, it’s a cultural celebration. I want Diego to know about this tradition. This year, he made out like a bandit on Christmas so I’m actually hesitant to give him the gifts I have set aside for him. He has more toys I am comfortable with but what can you do? My own gift giving plans went out the window this year and the results are so laughable that I am almost ashamed to link you to the post I wrote about gift giving last year.

Like most people I have a laundry list of things I want to do but I want to keep my goals simple for this coming year, so I’m sticking to doing more of what makes me happy. You can never go wrong with that. I will plan things as the year goes on but I’m not setting myself up with a long list of lofty ideas that will probably not get done.

I wish you all a wonderful year ahead. I hope to see you around 😉

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