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What I Read: Spring Edition

I know I have been promising an update on my latest reads and impressions, but honestly, I have not really been feeling it. That is not to say that everything has been wasted effort…I am half the way through interviews for my dissertation field research (transcribing, edits, and coding are a whole other story). That is, of course, awesome news considering that most of my field research time in the last six months have mainly been spent waiting. But hey, lots of reading can happen when you are waiting.

So what have I read?


Outer Order, Inner Calm in many ways reminded me of reading a blog about organizing. The sections were short and sounded very personal, almost conversational. A lot of what Rubin had to say has been said by many other authors before her, but I found myself energized after reading the book. In fact, when I finished it, I was a little shocked and wanting to know more. My Easter plans consist of doing a little organizing and there will be no discussion on if something brought me joy but rather does this thing still hold value to me. At least that is what I got out of the book and Rubin does mention Kondo and Morgenstern as other resources to consider when it comes to organizing. I like it when an author acknowledges stuff like that.


I will fully admit that I like the arranged marriage trope and all the subsets like mail-order brides…in fiction, not real life. I am not saying that it is a practice that should still be followed, but imagine the courage these women must have had to leave everything they knew to marry a stranger. You definitely need faith in who your future spouse says they are cause it might turn out that they are on the run from the law which is the case with Saving the Mail Order Bride. I really wanted to like this story. It started out great with the outlaw and the bride ending up on the same stagecoach and not realizing at first who the other is…but then it turned out not so great. Really, how many times can you put your protagonist in danger and have him come out alive? I really feel like the author said “Challenge Accepted”. The poor man was tossed from a stagecoach, shot, bit by a snake…


Okay, meet cute stories are my second guilty pleasure. So the title and cover of Meet Cute caught my interest right away. Then the storyline of a celebrity crush meeting not once but twice. I loved the book! Plus there was the whole family angle to put another dynamic on it. There was only one part of the book that I did not like and that was the conference scene. I felt like Kailyn was being a little selfish and insensitive to Dax. It just felt off compared to the rest of the book. Other than that I would highly recommend it.


I feel like this one has been mentioned before, but I couldn’t find a post for it. Full disclosure, I read this one months ago. However, I have put it on the list because I overheard a friend say that she was tired of reading about women falling in love with rich men or the dashing hero, that she wanted to read a story of a woman who fell in love with a bum. Well, this is a story of a woman who fell in love with a bum. My third guilty pleasure read (and probably my favorite), the “let’s pretend we are together” storyline. In Marry Me Tomorrow, Emily has basically created a Bunbury husband in that she told her mother she got married to stop the discussion of when was she ever going to settle down. Her mother lived in the states and she in England, so no problem on keeping the truth hidden…until her mom says she is coming to visit and expects to meet the new spouse. So Emily asks one of the homeless men she sees on her morning commute to pretend to be her spouse. The story has some dark moments and tackles some mental health and societal problems. Sam was just such a nice guy who got dealt a raw deal. You will be rooting for him!


I really wanted to like No Other Duke But You. The Amazon description does not do it justice because that description is only a small part of the story. What the book is really about is two friends, one who says he is not ready for marriage and the other who is too busy matchmaking to focus on her own love life. What made me cringe was how obviously friendzoned the guy was and how he manipulates the girl into realizing that they are perfect together. Normally, I like the stories where the guy and girl realize they are more than best friends, but this was not it. As I write this, I actually had a flashback to one of the prequel Star Wars movies where Anakin is *maybe* unconsciously using the force to get Padme to love him.


Say No to the Duke was the third book in a series, the Wildes of Lindow Castle by the fabulous Eloisa James. Each book gave you a glimpse into the relationship that would be highlighted in the next book and I have to admit that I could not wait to read what would happen after the billiards game in book two. I am honestly not sure how to give my opinion on this one without giving you a spoiler. At the end of book two, there is a billiards game that may result in a compromising situation, no matter who won. If the woman won, then she got a London adventure in men’s apparel. If the man won, then he won a night with the woman with no marriage attached. All I will say is that the person who I wanted to win, did win, but I did not like the outcome of that win. Okay, the theme here is storyline tropes that I like and the next one is when a woman (or even the guy) has to disguises their identity. I really like the genderswap stories a la Shakespeare and as a Shakespeare scholar, I was looking forward to how James handled that plot. And that is all I am going to say about that.

If you click on any of the links I have provided, you will be taken to Amazon where you will see a more detailed description of the books listed here. Hey, these are just my opinions and you might love the books I found issue with. It happens. My husband thought Hunger Games was an awesome book and I thought Katniss was a horrible person. To each their own. Happy Reading!

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Perfect Pesto Potato Pizza

When I was in high school, I used to spend my days at this small mall in Princeton. It had a Barnes and Noble and a movie theater. There was also a small pizza place that sold some interesting combinations. I was going through a limited meat phase, so usually opted for veggie pizza. They had a pesto and potato pizza that sounded interesting. It was so good. I wanted to try it again, but then the mall went under renovations and the pizza place was gone. For years, I said I was going to try and recreate it. So last night I finally did.

Family Pizza Night is a standard in our house even though it doesn’t have a strict schedule. If we are making pizza, then that means all three of us are making pizza. We buy the dough pre-made or sometimes my son will prep it for us. We have even made pizza on nights where he had a friend over. My husband usually tries to make a calzone with various results. So I decided that this would be the week we made pizza. I bought three packages of dough from Walmart through their grocery pickup service. Let’s just say that that service is a lifesaver. In and out in less than twenty minutes. I just wish they had same day pickup. The closest I can ever do is 24 hours, but it is way better service than I got at the nicer supermarket in the area, Harris Teeter. Plus it is free!

Last night was an experiment night. Usually, we do the standard pepperoni pizza. Maybe I do one with olives and peppers. This night I used some leftover pesto sauce I had still in the fridge. I thinly sliced a potato and voila! Perfect pesto potato pizza…try saying that three times fast.

I made a small personal pizza, but you could always adjust the recipe to make a larger pie. The coarse sea salt was a perfect touch because there were small pockets of flavor intensity. Yum!

So here is what I did:

Materials:

  • Pizza pan or large baking sheet
  • Rolling pin
  • Spreader/spatula
  • Knife
  • Potato peeler
  • Pizza cutter
  • Ingredients:
    • 1/2 package Pizza dough, pre-made
      1/4 cup Pesto sauce
      1 small Russet Potato
      1/4 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
      1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
      Olive oil
      Flour
      Garlic powder
      Sea salt, coarse ground
      Black pepper, coarse ground
      Italian seasoning

    Procedure:

    1. Let your dough sit out for at least 1 hour for it to come to room temperature.
    2. Peel potato and slice into thin slices. These slices should be almost translucent. The thicker they are, the longer it takes to cook and you run the risk of cooked crust and raw potato. Place slices in a bowl of water mixed with a dash of salt. This will prevent them from turning brown and oxidizing.
    3. Pre-heat oven to 450F.
    4. Once your dough is ready, flour a large flat surface. Take your dough and split it in half since you are only making a small pie. You can use the other half for another pie or even breadsticks. Roll your dough out into an oval or rectangle shape. It doesn’t have to be perfect, call it rustic!
    5. Once dough is rolled out, transfer to your pizza pan.
    6. Place dollops of pesto sauce on your dough and use your spreader to spread it out.
    7. Arrange your potato slices around your pie. Don’t overlap any of the pieces.
    8. Drizzle olive oil over your potato slices.
    9. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic over your potatoes. The amount varies depending on your preference, but I recommend coarse ground sea salt and pepper.
    10. Sprinkle your cheeses over your pizza. Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the cheese. Again, the amount of seasoning you use depends on your preference, but remember that pesto already holds a lot of flavor.
    11. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes. You should start checking it at 15 minutes, crust should be slightly brown and the potatoes soft enough for a fork to pierce them.
    12. Let rest for at least 10min outside the oven to cool and then slice.

    What are your favorite non-traditional pizza toppings? Yes, I do like pineapple and ham. Bacon of course is better. Share in the comments.

    Silence and Reflection

    As I write this post, I am sitting on my deck with a cup of coffee listening to the birds sing. It is a little chilly still, but still perfect and tranquil. I know I have not posted any updates in a while. I caught the crud that has been going around and just getting the energy to read let alone write has been a struggle. The cough is little more than an afterthought now, so things are looking brighter and I want to make sure that I don’t let myself get too far behind.

    My survey for my dissertation research closed for the second time. The participation was much better this time than the first go round. My supervising professor and I have decided we are moving forward with the interview portion of the study. That means a lot of work coming up. I have roughly ten people to interview and they are spread across the state. I am so thankful for technology to make the distance a little easier (Hello, Google Hangouts!). This month we also have the whole slew of doctors’ appointments for my husband. We may be busy, but it means we are moving forward.

    I plan to post another round up of what I have read in the past two months. Though, honestly, it has not been much. But for now I just want to remind everyone to take a breath and enjoy the sunshine if you have it. Taking time for solitude and reflection is important for your mental health. So the laundry can wait; you will get to the dishes. Grab your beverage of choice and find a comfy chair. Sit in the silence and reflect on the good things that have happened in your life. Even if the bad outnumber the good, there is still something to be gained. What are the lessons that you can learn from the experience?

    Spinach Artichoke Fondue in the Instant Pot

    My husband requested I make a Spinach Artichoke dip as my next recipe post. Unfortunately, I have been very sick with this crud that is going around. So I was not able to make and test this recipe before Super Bowl Sunday, but better late then never! This is not the usual dip, it is more of a fondue because it is loaded with cheese. It is so gooey, but so yummy!

    Materials:

    Ingredients:

      10oz Fresh Spinach
      8oz Cream Cheese
      8oz Gouda Cheese, cubed
      1.5 cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
      1/2 cup Chicken Stock
      1tsp minced Garlic
      1/4 tsp Sea Salt
      1tbsp olive oil

    Procedure:

    1. Turn Instant Pot to Sauté. Add Olive Oil and Garlic. Be careful not to burn the Garlic.
    2. Add rinsed spinach to pot. Keep tossing with the garlic and oil. This may seem like a lot, but the spinach will start to wilt and shrink down in the pot.
    3. When spinach has wilted down (about 1min), add broth and salt. Toss the spinach.
    4. Add cream cheese and stir.
    5. Add Gouda and stir.
    6. Place lid on IP and close the vent. Switch to Pressure Cook on High on Manual for 3 minutes. QPR.
    7. Add mozzarella and stir. If too watery, add more cheese. Please note that it will thicken as it cools.
    8. Serve with bread, tortilla chips, or pita chips. This would also be wonderful served in a bread bowl.

    Maryland Crab Soup in the Instant Pot

    It has been really cold the past few days. Plus our household has come down with the crud. So it is a perfect day for soup. Last week I had Maryland Crab Soup for lunch while out at a restaurant. It cost me $19 for a bowl with a side of hush puppies. I thought I could definitely make it for cheaper than that. Read More »