Scenes from the Weekend

Hi lovelies! I hope that you all had an absolutely wonderful weekend! It was pouring rain in the city this weekend but it seemed like things worked out perfectly and it always cleared up during times when I was out and about! Love when that happens! I had a full weekend that was the perfect combo of relaxing and fun.

-Daddy Jeff’s Birthday

It was Daddy Jeff’s birthday this weekend so we went out to celebrate on Friday night! It was so great to have an opportunity to celebrate Daddy Jeff because he really is the most incredible, most compassionate, sweetest dad! I am so, so lucky to have him in my life!

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-Gluten-Free/Vegan Pumpkin-Almond Butter Muffins!

Late Friday night I did a little baking so I could bring something special to brunch the next day. In addition to the gluten and dairy, my doctor’s have a few other things I can’t have so I knew it was best to make something out of the ingredients I could! I made a version of Chelsey’s “Pumpkin Surprise Muffins” but substituted almond butter for peanut butter and stevia for the sugar. I also added a little almond milk. Mine didn’t turn out quite as pretty as hers, but they sure tasted delicious!

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-Book Club Brunch

For the Girl’s Book club that I’m in, we usually have our meetings on Friday nights. This time our lovely host Biz decided to do things a little different and we did Brunch instead! It was so fun gathering together and getting to chat with all my friends over a delicious brunch. Oh and we talked about the book too! We read Gone Girl this month and it was so good! I’ll be sure to post a review soon!

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-The Most Exciting Surprise!

A huge highlight of my weekend was when my parents brought home a Vitamix! I cannot even tell you excited I was but will share that I may have been dancing around the kitchen squealing “we got a Vitamix!” I have wanted one so badly for the past two years and cannot wait to start using it. Smoothies, soups, pesto, nut butter, dairy free ice cream? I mean really the possibilities are endless!

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-Starting the Christmas Season off right

Yesterday I went to see the San Francisco Choral Artists perform their Christmas concert and it was just beautiful. They all had such powerful voices and the notes they could hit was awe-inspiring! One of my favorite songs was actually done without words and just with sounds which seems a little odd but was really cool! It was a great night!

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Questions:

-What did you do this weekend?

-Any recipes I must make using my new Vitamix??

GGG Book Club: Sarah Jio’s Novels

Hi Lovelies!  I hope that you all had a wonderful weekend and are having a great Monday so far. I was lucky enough to spend Friday night with my best friend and sorority Big who was in town. It was so wonderful to be reunited and feel caught up on each others lives.

Since I haven’t had internet for a little while now, I’ve been finding that I’ve been reading even more than usual lately which I enjoy but my wallet doesn’t- those books add up! I have read a lot of great books, but realized I’ve never posted about my favorite author- Sarah Jio.

In general, I’m a pretty quick reader, but I have read all of Jio’s books in one sitting each. I’ve found that despite downloading them just before bed, I find myself desperate to know what’s going to happen and unable to put the book down, regardless of how late it may be! Because I’m never one to keep a good thing to myself, I thought I’d share with you a little about her amazing books. One thing they all have in common is that they are written in the past and present, constantly switching between the two in a way that keeps you interested but is never confusing. She also finds a way to include a love story (essential in my eyes for a good book) and a mystery- but not of a scary nature. Rather, each book has characters trying to figure out what happened to X and I’m always so desperate to know the whole story, that I can’t put the book down. They are full of twists and turns that will keep you reading and somehow she manages to tie it all together neatly in the end. She has a background in magazine writing (Glamour & O the Oprah Magazine) so her books are well written but very approachable for any reader.

The Violets of March

Amazon Summary:

A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily’s good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

Review:

This is Jio’s first novel and in my opinion, one of her best. The book reads like a movie as her characters are so well-developed and the imagery is so clear that you can easily picture them. It’s hard to tell you too much about this book without giving the plot away, but I’ll share that when I reread the last chapter in preparation for writing this review, it gave me chills. All I can say is: read this book, you will NOT be sorry!

The Bungalow

Amazon Summary:

A sweeping saga of long-lost love, a mysterious painting, an unspeakable tragedy and the beach bungalow at the center of it all …

In the summer of 1942, newly engaged Anne Calloway sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses–of life, and of love–that have haunted her for seventy years.

Review:

One of the things I loved about this book was how the “past” story was set during the war. I’ve heard so many stories from my Grandma about this time and I loved contrasting those with the experience that the nurses had- how very excited they were for this big adventure, not sure what to expect. There’s something about war that breeds romance too and that is very present in Bora Bora, and it is one that is all consuming and everlasting.

Blackberry Winter

Amazon Summary:

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways…

Review:

This was one of my favorites of Jio’s novels. I admit that in the first I was skeptical whether I would like it having read books about missing children before that were scary and upsetting. This was nothing of the sort. Rather, modern day Claire Aldridge’s commitment to learning the story behind the abduction matched my own, and the twists and turns the story took were completely unexpected.

Questions:

-Have you ever read a book by Sarah Jio?

-Who are your favorite authors?

Do You Know the Muffin (Wo)man?

Hi lovelies, I hope that you have had a wonderful weekend. I’m sorry for my absence last week- work was extremely busy and then I was down for the count with a horrible migraine. Luckily, I’m back up and running and happy to be back connecting with all of you!

I realized this weekend that there is something that I haven’t shared with you yet- my love of muffins. You all know that I love a carby breakfast, but what I never order but always want to, is a good muffin. My love started as a kid in Sacramento as many Sundays after church, my family would stop at this little cafe Muffins Etc. This place served up at least 20 different muffins, my favorite of which was the Cappuccino Chocolate Chip muffin. This was, without a doubt, the most delicious muffin I’ve ever had. It had the perfect amount of coffee flavor and was generously studded with chocolate chips. But then one day they were gone, and muffins weren’t trendy anymore. A sad for all.

Luckily, there were still those dense, enormous chocolate muffins with chocolate chips at school functions. But as I grew up and started watching what I ate, muffins were cut out. Then, as bakeries began to stock them again, they became extra large and containing as many calories as 2 meals! Scary! So what’s a muffin-loving girl who wants to avoid a muffin top to do? Why make her own! For my recent book club brunch, we were supposed to bring something healthy and delicious. I knew that muffins were on the docket, so I turned to some of my favorite blogs seeking out a healthy recipe.

Looking through (and pinning) so many recipes, I finally decided to make Skinny Taste’s Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins. Hailed by her husband as the best muffins he had ever had, I knew I picked a winner. These muffins are delicious and generously studded with blueberries (sense a theme here? I like my mix-ins aplenty!) Plus they are so easy to make and full of ingredients that most of you will have at home. They’re low in sugar, made with heart healthy oats and whole wheat flour, and each muffin is only 126 calories! Now that’s my kind of muffin. Make these and everyone will be a fan. Oh, and they make the perfect morning breakfast especially when slathered with almond butter.

Questions:

-Do you like muffins? What’s your favorite kind?

-What foods do you like that aren’t trendy?

-Have any other healthy muffin recipes? Link me!

GGG Book Club: The Last Letter from Your Lover

Hi lovelies, happy Thursday! I’m so sorry that I’ve been absent from the blog world lately. Things were a little crazy with the Fourth of July holiday and then I wasn’t feeling too well. Anyway, I’m back now and happy to be here! During my time off I realized that I’ve been holding out on you guys. It’s been months since I did a book review which would make it seem like I’m not reading. Actually, the opposite is true and I’ve been averaging a few books a week. It all started when I discovered the addictive Hunger Games series and 50 Shades series. Since then, a book doesn’t last for more than 2 days around me!

I’m in two book clubs so I read for those, but most of the books I read come from my Amazon Kindle suggestions. By analyzing your purchased and browsed books, Amazon creates an ever-changing list of books that you might be interested in– and they are often spot on! The latest one I read was The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes. Cited as a book that will appeal to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I did not like and One Day, which is my favorite book, I thought I should give it a shot.

Synopsis:

It is 1960s London and Jennifer wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of how she ended up there or her life prior to the accident. Recovering from her injuries, she is thrust into a seemingly new world where she struggles with how to act and behave as a high-society wife. While she looks to those around her to guide her, what she struggles with most is her inability to remember how she feels about those closest to her, including her husband. One day, while searching the house for clues to jog her memory, she comes across a hidden love letter, mysteriously signed B. In 2003, journalist Ellie struggles to focus on work while she’s wrapped up in a complicated affair. As everything around her is starting to fall apart, she finds a love letter from forty years prior and is determined to find out what happened to the lovers and if they had a fairy tale ending.

Thoughts:

This book hooked me instantly with Jennifer waking up in the hospital. The idea of someone not being able to remember how they felt about things really stuck with me, and Moyes does a beautiful job conveying all of Jennifer’s emotions and the struggle to return to her life. I also loved the contrast of Ellie’s modern-day perspective and thought it truly highlighted something I talk to my girlfriends about all the time- how these days a man’s effort is often restricted to a text message vs. a hand written love letter to convey one’s feelings. The contrast is so interesting and it’s easy to see why Ellie becomes wrapped up with this story. I also love a romantic storyline and this is one of the best I’ve read in a while- I found myself rooting for Jennifer and the mysterious B (whose perspective is also shared) and became desperate for them to get together. This well-written novel will appeal to those who are looking for a summer read but want something a little more complex than your usual chick-lit. The storyline continually twists and turns and it will keep you interested all the way through. I wholeheartedly recommend this!

Questions:

-How do you pick what books to read?

-What do you think about the amount of effort men put into relationships these days versus 50 years ago?

-Do you read books based on what city they are set in? (I almost always gravitate towards books set in London- my favorite city in the world, or San Francisco!)

GGG Book Club: Little Bee

Hi lovelies! Thank you all for your advice on how to cut a spaghetti squash yesterday! It looks like I need to invest in a sharp knife! Can you guys believe that it is already Thursday? I’m happy this week is flying by because I have a very special visitor arriving this weekend that I am anxious to see!

On a sad note, I want to take a moment to talk about Steve Job’s death. It’s such a tragedy for someone so gifted to have died so young. I was talking about it with my mom and she said something that resonated with me– although he had all the resources and money in the world, in the end, none of that mattered? I think it’s such a good reminder that our material possessions don’t mean a thing and it’s the moments that we spend with those we love that really matter.

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Switching gears here, I wanted to do a book review for a recent read, Little Bee. I realized that I never addressed how I choose my books! Some of the books that I review are for a book club that I do in SF with my sorority sisters. I love being in a book club for many reasons (girl time, wine & cheese) being three of them, but the other is that it  is always promoting me to pick up books that I usually wouldn’t gravitate towards. Because of that, I’ve found some amazing books like the one I’m discussing today! I often find my other books through other blogs, word of mouth, best seller lists and Amazon’s recommendations- the latter usually being spot on for my tastes. Let’s just say my Kindle wish list is very, very long!

Synopsis:

Usually I like to write my own synopsis for you, but in this case, I think I’d better just write what the back of the book says, lest I reveal too much…

“We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it. Nevertheless, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this: This is the story of two women. Their lives collide one fateful day and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind we hope you never have to face. Two years later, they meet again- the story starts there…”

Thoughts:

This New York Times best seller is truly an incredible read and I could not put it down. Told in two perspectives, which I love, the characters are so honest and vulnerable that they reveal their soul on every page. It is heart wrenching at times and hopeful at others and really makes you think about ‘what would you do’. That being said, this was not an easy novel to get through. It is violent at times and there are situations and discussions that may be disturbing to readers. I had to skip one section entirely. Usually, this would put me off a book completely, but when they say there is something special about this book- they mean it. And since the back cover also says “when you read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.” So I’ll leave it at that…

Questions:

-Thoughts on Steve Jobs?

-Have you read or heard of Little Bee?

-How do you choose the books you read?

GGG Book Club: Then Came You

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Hi lovelies! I hope that you all had a great Monday! Did anyone else catch the Bachelor Pad? I don’t want to reveal spoilers but if you have, let’s discuss via twitter!

Now it’s time for book club! Although I was an English minor and love Shakespeare, I also happen to love chick lit. There is something to be said for books that make you genuinely smile while reading them and desperate to pick up the book to find what happened to your romantic heroine. One of my favorite Chick Lit authors is Jennifer Weiner. She’s written many novels but some of my favorites were The Guy Not Taken, Best Friends Forever and Fly Away Home. So when I found out that she was coming out with a new book I immediately put it on my Kindle wish list.

Synopsis:

Then Came You tells the story of four different women who lead very separate lives. Jules Strauss is a Princeton senior who believes she has a chance of saving her father by donating her “pedigree eggs.” Annie Barrow is a young married mother of two who has grown frustrated with not having enough to provide for her family and finally thinks of a solution that could make things better. India Bishop has changed everything about herself so she can obtain the ultimate goal- landing a man that will take care of her. Bettina Croft is a junior appraiser at an impressive auction house that has all the money she could ever want someday… but is that enough?

Thoughts:

This was a book that I really wanted to love. I stuck with it the whole way through but never felt as into it as I had her other books. Although I enjoyed the story, I had a problem with the actual characters. Having four different female narrators felt confusing at times and hard to follow along. Also, the characters had substance but I didn’t find myself rooting for any of them and when you aren’t invested in the characters, it’s hard to truly get into the book. But despite my lack of connection with the characters, I did find myself enjoying the book towards the end and looking forward to the plot’s resolution.

Rating: (Out of 5 Lipsticks)

Questions:

-Have you read Then Came You or any other Jennifer Weiner books?

-Do you like Chick Lit? Favorite authors?

-What characters in books do you connect best with?

GGG Book Club: The Help

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Hi lovelies! I realized tonight that I haven’t done book club in a while, so I’m bringing it back! I’ve read lots of great books lately, but thought I’d discuss one that everyone’s talking about: The Help by Kathryn Stockett!

Synopsis:

Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s, The Help tells the story of three different, fascinating women. Skeeter has just returned home from college at Old Miss with a stronger desire to write something important than to get married and have children, as all of her friends have done. Aibileen is a black maid that has developed a certain hardness since her son was killed but is still devoted to the little white girl she looks after and is determined to raise her in a positive way. Her best friend is Minny, the sassy black maid who’s known throughout Jackson as being the best cook with a sharp tongue and quite a reputation. When the three come together secretly for a controversial project, they start to let themselves believe in the possibility that things could change and end up creating something remarkable.

Thoughts:

I loved this book! It was definitely one that I could not put down and found myself reaching for my Kindle whenever I had a spare minute. This book is about so many things: friendship, equality, values, strength, faith, support… the list goes on. Stockett is able to embody all of these things when writing in the voices of Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny and you are truly transported into their worlds. You find yourself laughing with them, hurting for them and feeling frustrated on their behalf as well. Although this book is fictional, it provides what I believe to be a fairly accurate portrayal of the South in the 1960s. At times, it’s hard to comprehend that so much hatred and inequality was present during some of our parent’s lifetime. Just like Skeeter wanted to do, this book really does show a different perspective and made me think while being a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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Movie:

When I know that a movie based on a book is coming out, I always try to read the book prior to the movie’s release. But like most people, I almost always enjoy the book more as I spend most of the movie wondering why specific parts were left out or questioning the casting. This was not the case with The Help. I think all of the casting choices were perfect. Emma Stone was fantastic as Skeeter, Viola Davis was the perfect Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minny made me laugh as much in the movie as she did in the book. Furthermore, I truly understood that the parts of the book that were cut out were purely done so due to a timing issue and felt that it didn’t hurt the movie at all. This is truly a fantastic movie- it will make you laugh, cry and really think all at the same time. If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you, the movie is a must-see all on its own merit.

Please excuse the bite taken out of the side... I literally could not wait to taste it!

After the movie, my movie date (my mom who also read and loved the book) and I decided it was only fitting that we go to the Soul Food restaurant and split a piece of caramel cake! If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that Minny always talks about making her famous caramel cake and so we decided that it was time to try it! Our report? Caramel cake is amazing! I’m usually only a chocolate fan, but this was delicious and oddly, even better the next day!

Recommendation:

I highly recommend both the book AND the movie. So go out, get yourself a piece of caramel cake or some fried chicken and enjoy one of the most talked about books/movies of the year!

Questions:

-Have you read The Help? What did you think?

-If you saw the movie and read the book, were you happy with the result? Were the casting choices what you had imagined?

-Have you ever seen a movie that was as good as the book?