Book Review: Big Little Lies

If you couldn’t tell from my last book review, I really enjoy a good murder mystery book. Based on the summary and recommendations from friends, I knew I had to pick up Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

The story, which takes place in Australia, opens on the night of the murder which occurs during a trivia night fundraiser.

Credit: Goodreads

Credit: Goodreads

Moriarty doesn’t revel too much but let’s the reader know a murder has taken place and there is complete pandemonium as the local police try to figure out what actually happened. We even get statements from various parents attending the event at the end of each chapter.

To totally through you off, the story jumps back several months to Kindergarten orientation day. New to town, Jane, a young mother with a son named Ziggy, runs into a fellow mother, Madeline, who is on her way to the same orientation with her daughter Chloe. Madeline injured her ankle (on her 40th birthday of all days!) and Jane graciously helps her, making the two instant friends. Once the pair arrive at Pirriwee Public School, it becomes glaringly obvious that Jane is much younger than the other mothers.

While the children are at orientation, Madeline and Jane go to a local coffee shop where they are joined by Celeste, another mother who has twin boys, Max and Josh. Jane and Celeste quickly learn the school politics and the three basically agree to stick together all year. The three learn some more about each other, like Madeline’s ex-husband’s daughter is also attending Pirriwee, Jane is raising Ziggy on her own and Celeste’s husband is constantly traveling on business. As the story continues, Moriarty dives deeper into each woman.

Upon arriving back at the school, Ziggy is accused of injuring another little girl, who’s mother of course is not exactly friendly with Madeline. As a result the lines between parents become drawn and the school kind of takes off from there. Ziggy and Jane become subject to petitions from parents trying to get him expelled and even though she has her own stuff going on Madeline is quick to step up and defend her friend. Additionally, Ziggy is almost at that age of wanting to know his father, a man Jane had a one-night stand with and she’s not even close to letting herself go there with a five year old. She does confide in both Madeline and Jane who are of course sympathetic to the entire situation.

Madeline’s teenage daughter Abigail, whom she raised alone, has started to rebel and doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye anymore with her mother. Abigail now thinks her step-mother Bonnie is such a role model and starts to emulate her qualities, right down to advocating rights of women and become vegan. Madeline is not too pleased with these developments, especially since her ex-husband decided to start a new family and live in the same town, but grudgingly lets Abigail move-in with her father. I felt as though this change needed to happen in Madeline’s life so she could see things and people a little differently. Her opinion about several parents, including her ex-husband’s wife changes for the better.

Now for Celeste. It’s really true what they say, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. Unfortunately for Celeste, her what looks like a perfect marriage is anything but. Her husband, who is frequently traveling for work, hits her and for silly reasons. Of course he swears every time it’ll never happen again and buys expensive things to make Celeste happy, but that peace only lasts for a few weeks, if that. It takes a lot, but Celeste finds the strength to finally talk to someone and starts to plan a life with her twins alone in a small apartment. Sadly for Celeste, her husband finds out the night of the fundraiser and that’s when all of the secrets start to come out…even which child is actually the Kindergarten bully!

But wait, who dies? I can’t tell you that. I’m sure you’re thinking one thing, I know I was while reading, but Big Little Lies provides for one huge twist you won’t see coming. If you love a really good page tuner, this is the book for you!! By the last 50 pages or so, my jaw was basically on the floor but all the developments. Moriarty doesn’t disappoint and I hear her other books are just as good!!

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Weekly Menu Plan April 26-May 2

It is that time of week again! I’m finally on the mend from that monster cold and that meant I was feeling up to a day full of food prep. I love prepping food for the week because it helps me stay on track with healthy meals. If all the hard work is taken out of making wholesome, nutritious food, I have no excuse to order in or eat junk food.

On Sunday I went grocery shopping and came home and made Butternut Carrot Whole Wheat Muffins (I used regular eggs, reduced the amount of maple syrup and added raisins and/or sunflower seeds to some of them), freezer breakfast sandwiches for Klaus, I cooked up a mess of chickpeas from dried for meals this week and washed and cleaned fruits and veggies – including grapes, radishes, cucumbers and carrots.

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Klaus and I are both trying really hard to get on and stay on a healthy path. A few hours of week spent in the kitchen definitely helps us do that!

Now, on to the menu plan!

Menu Plan April 16 – May 2

Any substitutions or changes I plan are noted below

  • Sunday: Garlicky Swiss Chard and Chickpeas over Wheat Berries (photo below!)
    • I sliced up a few of the chard stems and cooked them along with the shallots and garlic
  • Monday: Chickpea Schwarma over brown rice, side of roasted zucchini
    • Obviously, I’m serving this with brown rice instead of millet because I can’t find millet at my local stores
    • Topping it with roasted red peppers, feta, homemade tzatziki, parsley and red onion
  • Tuesday: Book club! We usually meet at Thainy
  • Wednesday: Southwestern Kale Power Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Avocado Sauce
  • Thursday: Seared Cod with Cucumber Relish, side salad
  • Friday: Veggie Frittata (really this is my “use what veggies are left in the fridge before they go bad” meal)
  • Saturday: I’m hoping it is warm enough for roof top bars this weekend, if so – we’ll be eating out! If not, I’ll make something from what is left in the fridge – a fried rice or pasta dish usually.

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Bridesmaid Boxes

Because we’re not getting married until January 28, 2017, Klaus and I don’t have a ton of wedding planning to do yet. I mean we know where (Now Sapphire Resort), when and some general ideas (colors: ocean blue and bright yellow), but we really don’t have to get into the details for quite some time.

But one of the very first things we decided on was our bridal party. While we’re doing a pretty relaxed destination wedding, having people I love stand up with me was something I really wanted. Again, in the theme of slightly unconventional, I’m having two maids of honor (my sisters) and two bridesmaids and Klaus is having one best man and two groomsmen. All of the bridal party has been asked and said yes, but I wanted to treat my bridesmaids to a little something special. FullSizeRender (5)

I’m in love with the new trend of bridesmaid boxes and decided to do one of my own. I am no Martha Stewart, but I am pretty pleased with the slightly Mexico-themed box I pulled together. Each of my girls is getting a message in a bottle (I bought these from Petite25 on Etsy), a Chocolove Chilies & Cherries in Dark Chocolate bar, a bottle of tequila and a handwritten thank you note. I also included a sheet of paper with the photos, e-mail addresses and names of everyone in the wedding party, which I folded into an origami heart. Most of our wedding party don’t necessarily know each other, so I thought this was an important part.

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I packed all of these items into a white box with the insides painted our wedding colors, packed them in mailing boxes and shipped them off!

I know it can be a little cheesy, but I am so excited to be married and I see the wedding as this really awesome celebration with family and friends. I want everyone to be as happy and excited as Klaus and I are. As we get closer to the actual wedding I’m sure I’ll post more about it here, but I promise not to overwhelm this blog!

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Things We Love This Week – 4/24/15

It’s that time of the week! Here are Things We Love This Week…

Brittany:

I JUST finished a really great book which had been on my “to-read” list for quite some time. Big Little Lies is a story of whodunit and didn’t disappoint. Without giving too much away (I’m definitely doing a book review next week), the story opens the night of a trivia night fundraiser at a school in Australia, where someone is tragically killed. Of course with school politics, the police are unable to get a clear answer on what happened from the parents. Liane Moriarty did an amazing job of going back to the beginning when the school year started and in developing the characters. Her character and story development really turns Big Little Lies into a page-turner. Definitely a book I’d recommend to everyone!

Big Little Lies

Rose:

While I’ve been listening for awhile, I’ve been really addicted to the Strangers podcast lately. The show is a really intimate look at love, heartbreak and the lives of people all around the world. The idea of the podcast is to get listeners to feel compassion for complete strangers. Lea Thau, host, has a really compelling voice. Its scratchy and sexy and, I think, easy to listen to. Which is really funny because she had been told by many people that her voice would never work on radio. If you’re familiar with The Moth, a storytelling program, Lea was a big part of the creation of it and was a director for many years.

The podcast is an interview of someone different every week, with Lea’s insights and feelings woven throughout. Some stories are really uplifting, while others make you just want to climb under blankets and have a good cry. If you have some free time, check out some of the older episodes – especially the ones Lea does about herself (the Love Hurts series chronicles Lea’s love life and investigates why she is single, she even calls old boyfriends!) Check it out online or wherever you get your podcasts!

Photo Credit: KCRW Strangers

Photo Credit: KCRW Strangers

Weekly Menu Plan April 19-25

Hello again! I’m on the mend from a terrible cold so I didn’t do much this weekend, including cooking or food prep. Which means this week’s menu plan consists of mostly quick and easy meals. I’m trying to shove in as many fruits and veggies as possible to get me over the tail end of this terrible thing.

Also, as the weather gets warmer, I’m starting to go back to my favorite breakfast of Overnight Oats! I mix it up each week, but The Yummy Life is a great place to check out proportions and get flavor ideas. I love these because I can make them all on Sunday and have an easy, yummy breakfast ready for the entire week!

Menu Plan April 19 – April 25

Any substitutions or change I plan are noted below

30-Minute Meal: Kielbasa and Broccoli with Pasta

Growing up, my mother worked (she still does) and managed to get home cooked meals on the table. (We did occasionally have takeout.) A few weeks ago I decided to give one her recipes a go, since it’s one of my favorites. I’ve seen my mom cook kielbasa a variety of ways but I really enjoy when she mixes it together with broccoli and pasta. While her recipe may not be the healthiest, it’s definitely easy and a great 30-minute meal to make during the week. If you’re looking for a dish to feed yourself over a couple of days or four people, give this one a shot

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

One kielbas

Pack of broccoli steamers

Half box of farfalle pasta

Olive oil

Garlic powder

Teriyaki sauce

Pepper

Instructions:

  1. Set the oven to 350°.
  2. Line a pan with aluminum foil and spray non-sticking cooking spray. Poke holes on both sides of the kielbasa and place into pan.
  3. Cook the kielbasa for 15-20 minutes.
  4. While the kielbasa is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add half the box of farfalle pasta to the water and cook until done. (You can use another type of past if you’d prefer but I love farfalle.)
  5. After the kielbasa has cooked on one side, flip it over for another 10 minutes.
  6. Cook the package of broccoli steamers in the microwave at the recommended time.
  7. Once everything is done cooking, drain the pasta and coat with a little bit of olive oil in the pan. (This will help prevent the pasta from sticking together.) Add some garlic powder for season.
  8. Cut the kielbasa in to small pieces. Add the kielbasa and broccoli to the pan and mix together with the pasta. Sprinkle some teriyaki sauce and pepper over the food and mix again.

Now your dish is ready to eat! You can always go back and add more garlic powder, teriyaki sauce and pepper as you see fit. I’m horrible at measurements when I cook so I basically eyeball everything and taste along the way.

Kielbasa & Broccoli

Weekly Menu Plan April 12-18

I had a really fantastic weekend. Friday I went to a SALES show and had a few drinks with friends and ended up dancing the night away, which is something I always love and on Saturday my friend hosted a dirty dinner party” that consisted of a lot of wine, “dirty burgers” (bacon, caramelized onions, buttery mushrooms, american cheese and other delicious things) and a donut cake. But Sunday was probably my favorite day, some friends and I played a Mission Escape Game and we got out with more than 7 minutes left and the room only has an 18% completion rate too!

But because of the eventful weekend, I still haven’t been grocery shopping yet! I plan on going tomorrow (hopefully).

Menu Plan April 12 – April 18

Any substitutions or change I plan are noted below

  • Sunday: Dinner out after Mission Escape (we had Mac ‘n Cheese at 169 Bar)
  • Monday: Lemon Garlic Salmon with Roasted Broccoli and half a Sweet Potato
  • Tuesday: The Big Salad
    • Low-Sodium Soy Sauce instead of Tamari
  • Wednesday: Zucchini, Black Bean and Rice Skillet
    • Cooking black beans from dry (its cheaper!)
    • Brown rice instead of instant white (pre cooked in a rice cooker)
  • Thursday: Chili Cheese Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
    • Cooking black beans from dry (I’ll just make a double batch on Wednesday)
    • I’ll likely add in some cayenne or Chipotle Chili Powder to kick up the spice a bit
  • Friday: Leftovers or some egg dish
  • Saturday: We MAY be having a ladies night so I’m holding on deciding this until our plans are set

Things We Love This Week – 4/10/15

Hope you didn’t miss us too much! We’ve been super busy and crazed over the past two weeks. As a treat, we’re giving you a double dose of the Things We Love This Week.

Brittany:

So technically both of my things started last week but they’ll be around for awhile….I’m sure.

First off, Younger premiered on TV Land last week and stars Sutton Foster, Debi Mazar and Hilary Duff. It’s also by the creator of Sex & the City so I figured why not give it a shot? I mean I’ve always been a Hilary Duff for years! Hello, Lizzy McGuire! So Younger follows the life of Liza Miller, a 40-year-old in the middle of a divorce with a teenage daughter, who tries to get back in the working world only to discover she’s too old. Thankfully, she has very youthful skin and looks 26, which a cute guy (Nico Tortorella) in the bar believes. Yes, they do start dating. Don’t want to give away any spoilers but it’s definitely interesting to see Sutton try to figure out Twitter and how to make a hashtag trend. The show mainly takes place in Brooklyn and midtown Manhattan. I’ve actually seen some of the signs near my office in Brooklyn, so you know I’m hoping I run into them one day. 😉

Credit: TV Land

Credit: TV Land

Another show premiered last weeks and it’s FILLED with laughs. If you’ve ever watched the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, you know he’s known for creating sketches that are shared all over the internet the next day. One sketch was lip synch battles, which would pit him against his celebrity guests for the night lip synch songs. Since it was a huge success, they turned it into a show on Spike TV. Lip Sync Battle is hosted by LL Cool J and Chrissy Teigen and two celebrities go head-to-head each week performing two songs. The first episode was Jimmy Fallon against The Rock and you have to watch this video The Rock posted. Overall the show is worth watching and the celebs pull out all the stops in the hopes of being the Lip Sync Battle championship belt.

Credit: Spike TV

Credit: Spike TV

Rose: 

I’ve always loved yoga, but after I got hit by a car a few years ago (another story for another day), I’ve been pretty inflexible, especially in my back and hips. I did some physical therapy and it helped a bit, but I’ve been a little embarrassed to go to classes because I’m working my way into poses at a totally different speed than others. But, I discovered Yoga with Adriene, a YouTube yoga class, and I am totally obsessed. Adriene, the woman leading the videos, is super relatable and not at all over the top like some other yoga videos I’ve tried to do, and she really encourages you to do what feels good. So if my back is being iffy one day, she has one or two modifications that really do feel great. And she has a bunch of different videos – some for beginners, some short, some long, some for if you’re feeling sick, some for when you’re at your desk and need a stretch – you will definitely find something your speed. If you’re new to yoga, or at all intimidated by it – I would absolutely check out her channel. It is my new favorite way to start the day!

Credit: Yoga with Adriene

Credit: Yoga with Adriene

Another thing i’ve been obsessed with lately is Padmapper. This is not at all a new tool, but has been a great tool for us as we get closer to our move date. I’m an over-planner and, while we’ve narrowed down where we want to live to two neighborhoods, I want to know more about the walkability, the price range, what the apartments look like etc. Padmapper pulls in posts from several housing-posting sites (including Craigslist) and lays them all out on a map and you can overlay a “Walk Score” so you can see which areas are more walker-friendly. We’re heading to Columbus in May to hopefully find an apartment and sign a lease, so I am anxiously looking forward to that moment.

Source: Padmapper.com

Source: Padmapper.com

I’m Jammin’

Spring NailsMe and nail polish have never gotten along.

When I pain my own nails it always looks like a toddler did it – its all over my skin and somehow crooked looking. And I have a tendency to knock over bottles of nail polish; the pink carpet in my childhood bedroom is stained with shades of blue, purple, red and black as well as bleach spots where I tried to clean the sticky mess up. Getting a manicure is definitely a step up, but a regular manicure is $15 or so and inevitably chips within days. So frustrating.

But I have found a solution: Jamberry. Seriously, I am so in love with these nail wraps. They come in super cute patterns and colors, they are fairly easy to apply and last on my nails forever without showing much wear and tear at all. On average, I wear my wraps 7-10 days and the only wear I start to see is a little lifting near the cuticle and a little wear down at the very tips (but you have to look closely to see that!). Mind you, that is 7-10 days worth of cooking, dish washing (dishwashers are a rare breed in NYC), floor scrubbing and general living.FullSizeRender

I use the “baggie method” to apply my wraps. Basically, I take the wrap, cut it down to the right size and lay it on my nail. I often have to reposition it because I am not the most dexterous person in the world, but that is okay! Then I wrap a plastic sandwich bag around my finger so it is pressing the wrap down, blast it for a few seconds with my blowdryer then take the baggie off. I trim off the excess wrap by filing it off my nail (only file down, not up and down or side to side) and voila – pretty nails!

IMG_2170I’ve tried nail stickers and those polish strips and I don’t think anything works quite the way  these do. I love that I can put together cute combinations and that they don’t damage my nails. No matter what I’m wearing, I always feel more polished with cute nails.

Have you ever tried Jamberry? Or are you a nail expert (if so, I’m jealous)? Let us know below!!

Menu Plan: April 5-11

Sorry for the late post of this week’s menu plan! I was busy all weekend, which is actually pretty rare for me. I tend to be a homebody, preferring to bum around the house or the neighborhood to parties and such. But I’m so glad I did get out, I had a blast with close friends this weekend celebrating my birthday and Easter. But, that means I drank way too many mimosas and ate way too much chocolate. So, back to healthy this week (again)!!

Menu Plan March 29 – April 4, 2015

Any substitutions or change I plan are noted below

  • Sunday: Easter brunch at a friend’s apartment. I made cheesy hashbrown nests to share
  • Monday: Sweet Potato & Lime Taquitos with a side salad
    • Baking instead of frying the taquitos
  • Tuesday: Dinner at Ethos Meze (Klaus is taking me out for my birthday)
  • Wednesday: Easy Vegan Creamy Pasta with Kale
    • Using roasted cherry tomatoes instead of sun-dried tomatoes (because I don’t love sun-dried tomatoes – I think they’re too sweet)
    • Whole wheat spaghetti noodles because that is what I have on hand
    • No pine nuts (Again – expensive!), I may sub in chopped walnuts
    • I MAY add in some nooch to the cream sauce
  • Thursday: Crispy Tofu Sticks, frozen fries, side salad (these are super good and are my go-to if I’m craving something fried and crispy)
  • Friday: Lemon garlic salmon, side salad, roasted cauliflower
    • I think I’m going to be on my own for dinner because Klaus is going to a show and I’m looking forward to a night in alone, so we’ll see if this is what I make. If we have any leftovers I may just eat those
  • Saturday: My friend Alex is hosting a lunch/potluck that involves sandwiches and a donut coffee cake – so I’m guessing I won’t be too hungry at night. Maybe we’ll pick something up!