Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Night Links 34

Because there's not much else on the internet these days (exaggeration, but you know what I mean), a few political links for your perusal. And if you missed it, check out the articles I linked before Monday's debate.

Obama's time is dwindling, but he leaves behind a food legacy like no other President before him.

Laughter is the best medicine, and it may be the last weapon we have to take down Trump.

This article takes some time to get there, but echoes my sentiments from Monday: we can't afford to vote for a third party candidate in this election.

"There's no weakness in asking for help:" POTUS on service members seeking treatment for PTSD.

Very interesting breakdown of the specific phrases Clinton used during the debate to discuss race.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What I Know About...How to Give Within Your Means

I consider myself a frugal person, but that doesn't mean I can't also be a generous person. The ultimate goal of my frugality is remaining financially independent while also having the luxury of spending my money on what I truly want - and that includes causes I believe in. How do I feel good about my own charitable giving while also making sure I can save, pay bills, and buy wine? Here's what I've learned...
  1. Choose With Your Heart AND Your Head. We all have causes near and dear to us - I love food and reading, so I gravitate towards organizations working to end hunger or promote literacy. You may be an animal person, a human rights advocate, or a champion of clean air and water. Start there and look for an organization that will use your donation for what you want most for the planet. The trick is to not stop with the first thing that comes up in a Google search - do your research on any charity you want to support. Are they reputable? What do they use donations for (direct services and programs, salaries, or "administrative expenses")? Use a website like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or Give Well to see how the charity of your choice uses your dollars.
  2. Stay Local. To avoid worrying about giving money to a faceless organization, find something close to you or close to someone you care about. Your church, school, and place of work are great places to start, but check out nonprofits that are literally in your neighborhood. Odds are you already know about these places and their reputations, and you can be sure your donation is directly assisting programs in your community. 
  3. Donate Smarter, Not More. Once you've decided on a charity, an organization, or something else you'd like to support financially, make a smart donation. Check to see if they have a matching program, where your donation is doubled by another (larger) corporation. Look into how the organization uses the money and see if you can mark it for a certain project or request that it be put into a certain fund (ie, an endowment fund where the original donation is never used, only the interest accrued from it). Look at the agency's calendar of events to see if they have any upcoming fundraising drives or events.
  4. Speaking of Events...Attend, volunteer at, and be involved with your charity's events. That's the best way to learn more about an organization and how they benefit from donors. Your involvement will also further invest you in their mission, which will help boost your feeling of generosity. Don't undervalue your donation of time and/or talent!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Let's Get Political

It's Debate Night, people. Watch on almost any channel. Drink if you must. Be nice online and informed at the proverbial water cooler tomorrow.

For those who are undecided: Really?

For those of you who already know who you're voting for (myself included): watch to stay informed, or at least for a laugh.

For those who think their 3rd party vote will enact change at a federal level: start smaller, my friends. Get 3rd party politicians into local and state offices first, then go for Congress. "This is not the time for a protest vote."

For those of you who aren't voting: please rethink your decision!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This is Your Life

This is Your LifeThis is Your Life by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of several lives and how we influence them, or let them influence us.

First thoughts: This is definitely a Meg Wolitzer - character driven, with beautiful poetic lines - yet I can tell it's an early Meg Wolitzer.

Favorite quote: "She was not a deep well, a bottomless pit, as she used to imagine herself. There were limits, she thought, and it was a relief to feel that there were edges around you, a membrane that kept you from spilling out into the world." -p256

Recommended for: lovers of characters and human interactions, larger-than-life personas, those who try to hard, and those who don't have to try at all.

Final thoughts: This is Your Life is entertaining, but not all parts were cohesive. I'd like an updated version, or just something Wolitzer has written more recently.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

S'mores Treats

Summer may be over, but it can keep right on going in your kitchen with this campfire-esque recipe. S'mores Treats are Rice Krispie Treats, with Golden Grahams subbed for Rice Krispies and a few chunks of chocolate added in to the mix. Here's how I made mine, adapted from Rian Handler at delish and Christy Denney at The Girl Who Ate Everything.


7 cups Golden Grahams (I used Cinnamon Toast Crunch)
3 tbsp butter (I used coconut spread)
1 package mini-marshmallows with 1 cup reserved
1-2 chocolate bars, cut into pieces
  1. Grease bottom of a 9 x 13 glass pan.
  2. Measure cereal into a large bowl.
  3. Stir together butter and marshmallows (minus 1 cup) in a large pan over medium heat until creamy.
  4. Add marshmallow mixture to cereal and stir until cereal and marshmallows start to come together. Add a few pieces of chocolate and continue stirring until completely mixed.
  5. Spread mixture in glass pan (tip: use a buttered rubber scraper) and top with remaining marshmallows and chocolate.
  6. Let cool, then cut and enjoy!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cat's Eye

Cat's EyeCat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Female relationships are hard. Margaret Atwood explores these dynamics with the story of Elaine Risley, painter, friend, and woman.

First thoughts: I can think of the Elaines in my life. And the Cordelias, Graces, and Carols. Atwood brings complex relationships to life in a way only someone who's been there can.

Favorite quotes:

"There is never only one, of anyone." -p6

"...everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise." -p15

"I see that there will be no end to imperfection, or to doing things the wrong way." -p154

"I know too much to be good. I know myself." -p170

"I could live without this. I have before. But I like it all the same." -p417

Recommended for: women, girls who will become women, anyone who has friends who are women.

Final thoughts: I love the language and imagery. This was a haunting tale, one that sticks with you after you finish reading.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 15, 2016

An Asian Variation

The casual connection between this post's restaurants is the continent their cuisines originated from - the food itself varies from "traditional" Asian-American fare (stir-fry, rice and noodle dishes) to sushi to Vietnamese sandwiches. The real connection is yours truly, a satisfied eater of each of these establishments' specialties.

Hot Woks Cool Sushi
Good For: date night, late night carry out, or lazy day delivery.
Ambiance: intimate, but not intimidating.
Notes: BYOB! We like the Pad Thai, bento boxes, crab rangoon, and sushi.

Manee Thai
Good For: dinner with friends and trying a variety of Asian cuisines
Ambiance: dimmed lights and lots of conversation.
Notes: BYOB! The servings are large, but I prefer HWCS's flavor.

Bahn Mi Ba'Get
Good For: a working lunch, or a sandwich to go.
Ambiance: fast-casual sandwich counter, plus plenty of on-theme decor to view while eating in.
Notes: There are four locations in Chicago!

Gorilla/Godzilla Sushi
Good For: late night sushi cravings.
Ambiance: I've never been inside, but we're regulars for delivery.
Notes: At 2.95 a roll, you can't really go wrong. My favorite is the Golden California roll.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Choose Your Own Movie Adventure

Three movies = three adventures to choose from, but depending on your mood and the experience you want, only one is the movie you really want to see (at least for today). Let's look at these new(ish) releases and decide which one is right for right now.

If you're totally over election year & just want to go back to a happier, more innocent time, try:
Southside With You
Is this really what Barack and Michelle's first date looked like? Not exactly, but we'll forgive Richard Tanne for the rose-colored glasses with which he views this budding relationship. Nods are made to familiar Obama tropes (the ears, the smoking) and, because we know how things end up, when Michelle's character asks about a future in politics and lauds Barack's character's speech-giving abilities, we all swoon for our 44th President. Watch to feel inspired and grateful.

If you love stop-motion almost as much as you love the traditional hero's journey, try:
Kubo and the Two Strings
Storytelling and magical realism combine forces in this powerful tale of a boy and his guitar. Kubo embarks on a journey to protect himself from his grandfather, the Moon King, and along the way discovers who he is, with the help of Monkey and Beetle. We in the audience learn that endings are really beginnings, and when we decide to tell our own stories, we choose our own destinies. Watch if you need a reminder of the power of storytelling.

If you've ever wondered how a blind man might defend his home from intruders, try:
Don't Breathe
This is a home invasion thriller with a twist - we're cheering for the invaders. Or are we? As a viewer, I wasn't sure who to root for a lot of the time: the three burglars who are looking for a way out of Detroit? Or the blind vet trying to grieve his daughter in peace? The simple yet chilling moments of suspense had me pulled to the edge of my seat, then pushed all the way back as I tried to stay safe from the horrors on screen. Don't watch alone!

A sweet date movie, a family-friendly adventure with universal appeal, or something to keep you awake all night...which adventure will you choose?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Field Guide to Sports Metaphors

The Field Guide to Sports Metaphors: A Compendium of Competitive Words and IdiomsThe Field Guide to Sports Metaphors: A Compendium of Competitive Words and Idioms by Josh Chetwynd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Football's back - and thanks to this handy little guide I now know the origins of phrases like "calling an audible" and "armchair quarterback" along with others from sports like baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, wrestling, and track and field.

First thoughts: I learned so much trivia! I loved the book as a reader/writer, and enjoyed it as a person with a casual interest in sports. I'm definitely thinking about how to pull out a few tidbits in future conversations. This is a great coffee table book.

Okay, so what sports metaphors?: Chetwynd hits up the usual team suspects along with the more individual racing, pool (billiards), bowling, boxing, golf, and horse racing.

Favorites: I appreciated the Geek Notes and was more interested in learning about metaphors from sports I watch, or metaphors whose meanings are unclear, ie "hands down" versus "have a horse in the race" which is pretty self-explanatory.

Recommended for: sports buffs, historians, writers looking to expand their metaphors, people with memories for quirky facts.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 9, 2016

Not All Giraffes are the Same

There are actually four species of giraffe?! You learn something new every day, even (or especially) if you are a scientist! This is a great reminder to keep questioning your assumptions - you never know what you'll discover.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Olive Kitteridge

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Readers learn about Olive Kitteridge through a series of connected short stories. Some are about Olive directly, while she plays minor parts in others.

First thoughts: Connected short stories are such an interesting way to tell a complete story about someone - we learn so much even from snippets of other people's lives, which might only briefly touch on Olive herself. The way lives intersect is beautiful.

First regrets: I wish I would have read more stories in a sitting - I would read a story here and there, and sometimes forgot some of the minor characters who came back into play later in the book.

Favorite quotes:

"He wondered what in her young life had made her not trust happiness..." p10

"She'd been through some things, but never mind. She straightened her back. Other people had been through things, too." p112

"People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it." p162

Recommended for: small-town dwellers, quiet folks with lots to say, character lovers.

Final thoughts: Loved it. Love Olive. It all works beautifully, and it's a perfect companion to a refreshing fall day.

View all my reviews