More Downtown Dining and a Dog Memoir

Yep, you read that right — a dog memoir!

Yesterday, Alysha, Brittney, and I met at The Knick in downtown Milwaukee to partake in Downtown Dining Week and to discuss our latest book club book.  But first, the food!

Similar to Molly Cool’s, the Knick’s three-course meal included an app, an entree, and a desert.

I started with the fried calamari, and it was delicious!

I loved the dipping sauce, it was orange something (?) and tasted very fresh and clean.

For my entree, it was a tough decision (all three options looked great), but I went with the mushroom ravioli.

It was incredibly good!  I loved the sauce, and I’m still thinking about it :)

Finally, I ended my meal with the flourless chocolate cake.  The other option was carrot cake, which I normally would have gotten, but that was the dessert I had Sunday, so I decided to switch it up.

And look at this!

It was by far the best flourless cake I’ve had — loved the crust!

Downtown Dining is seriously the greatest thing on earth — love getting these amazing food options!

Now onto the reason for the dinner (besides wanting to just hang out!): A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog.

This is a book written by Dean Koontz about his golden retriever, Trixie.  I’ve never read a Dean Koontz book, but from what I know of him, this book is very different from most of his books.  This was light-hearted, funny, touching, and about a sweet dog!

I absolutely loved this book.  It was easy to read, I liked the glimpse into Dean Koontz’s life, and the stories about Trixie were so funny!  They were relateable as a dog parent, and I also loved how he talked about dogs’ feelings and whatnot.  It really hit home, especially because I read most of the book with Milo in my lap :)

He looked kinda like this the whole time:

I do have two warnings though — 1. this is definitely a dog-person book.  It was funny and fun to read, but if you aren’t into dogs, this isn’t for you.  Second of all, get ready for tears.  You will get attached to this dog!  Ugly cries all around :)

That’s it for tonight — time to clean the house and get ready for the weekend.  Have a great night!

 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Hi all!

Ready for a little book review to bring us into the weekend?  I recently finished this book and want to chat about it before I get to my next book for our book club — which is about a dog, so I assume you already know how that one goes for me :)

Anyway, I had heard a TON about this book, and it made it onto a bunch of end of the year best books lists, so I had to check it out.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

First off, a goodreads.com synopsis.

“A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at “the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal”—three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew—has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America’s most sought-after heroes. For the past two weeks, the Bush administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide Victory Tour to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on this chilly and rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside the superstar pop group Destiny’s Child.
Among the Bravos is the Silver Star–winning hero of Al-Ansakar Canal, Specialist William Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native. Amid clamoring patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers on their cars, the Bravos are thrust into the company of the Cowboys’ hard-nosed businessman/owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a luscious born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized pro players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Among these faces Billy sees those of his family—his worried sisters and broken father—and Shroom, the philosophical sergeant who opened Billy’s mind and died in his arms at Al-Ansakar.

Over the course of this day, Billy will begin to understand difficult truths about himself, his country, his struggling family, and his brothers-in-arms—soldiers both dead and alive. In the final few hours before returning to Iraq, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.”

Now for my thoughts :)

Let me start by saying that I don’t read what books are about — I get a general feel for it in one sentence, then start reading.  I don’t read the backs or inside jackets of books, so I don’t always know what I am really getting into.  So here, I didn’t realize that the book would literally take place over the course of one day!  One day!

The book starts as the soldiers are on their way to a Cowboys game and ends when they leave the game.  There are a few times the book uses a different setting than the stadium, such as when Billy replays his weekend at home with his family in his mind, but for the most part, the entire book is either in the bleachers, the owner’s suite, or the concourse of the stadium.

That being said, the book never got boring.  It seems like only so much can be said in the course of one day, but there is so much going on, so many thoughts in Billy’s head, and so many different characters that the story moves smoothly.

I really liked Billy.  He seemed so young, and even though he was a hero, Fountain does a great job of reminding you how young he really is without saying, hey remember that this kid is 19?  He puts Billy in situations and has him react in a way that reminds you, this is a young kid going through these things.

I also loved the setting.  I am a huge football fan, so even if the game and behind-the-scenes act was fictionalized, I can see everything playing out the same way.  From being in the owner’s suite to meeting the players to being a part of the halftime show, I feel like it was pretty true to life and not something that fans see everyday, so that was cool.  But if you don’t like football, don’t worry, the actual game is only mentioned in terms of the score.

In general, I liked this book was I wasn’t blown away by it.  It was interesting, and I liked the characters, but it’s not a book I will be bringing up in conversations when people ask what they should read.  It’s hard to describe — I liked it, but wasn’t in love with it.  One of those books, you know :)  So, in other words, I would recommend it if you come across it, but don’t rush out to find it.

On that note, have a wonderful weekend!!

Tuesday Tangents

Hi everyone!

This week is taking forever, huh?  I woke up today thinking it was Wednesday and got all prepared for BodyPump, but instead, it was spin day.  Weird, huh?

Anyway, since it is Tuesday, let’s get to some tangents!

1. I got great news yesterday!  My sister is taking her PA boards in Milwaukee in September, so I get to spend some time with my sis!  Always excited about that!

2.  Our yard is looking good! Love having so many pretty flowers!

3.  James had a work event at the Intercontinental Hotel and I stopped by after work.  Because I was there, I got carry out from the restaurant there, and it was amazing!  Polenta cakes and a pretzel roll.

My favorite meal!

4. My adorable boy has been loving the outside.

And then getting super tired after hours of playing.

5.  I am doing a Bachelorette Fantasy League again this season.  My team?  Zak W., Bryden, Juan Pablo, and Kasey.  Hopefully one of those is the one!

6.  I’m excited for summer shows!  The Glades is back, Graceland starts this week, and Breaking Bad and Dexter are coming back in the next few months!  Good times ahead!

7.  I finished this book, so a review is coming soon!

That;s it for tonight, have a great Wednesday — finally :)

 

A Few Things For Friday

Good morning!

Here is my typical Thursday Tangents post, but in Friday form because last night, instead of posting, I had dinner with two fabulous people (see below) and watched some excellent television (see below).  Here we go…

1.  Book Club dinner last night was ah-mah-zing, Penny Hartz-style.  I met up with Brittney and Alysha to discuss When In Doubt, Add Butter at Thai-namite.  Sushi galore and it was wonderful.  Plus, some post-dinner fro yo?  Obv! (no pic though)

I ate a few before I took the pic

2.  The Office ended last night :(  I haven’t been a huge fan since Michael Scott left, but it’s still The Office, and I still watched every episode.  There were definitely some tears.

Great show

3. Fridays are my favorite workout days.  Why?  James does BodyPump with me!  It’s fun to get some extra time together this morning since I typically leave the house before he even wakes up so I can hit the gym.

Ready for BodyPump

4.  Speaking of extra time together, we did get some yesterday.  The weather this week has been beautiful, so I decided to forego the gym and run outside.  I got in 9 miles before 7 a.m., and I was able to have breakfast with James and snuggle a bit with Milo.  Win, win, always!

great run!

Someone was happy mom was home in the morning

5. Why did I run 9 miles?  Because I can’t stop eating these:

Best cookies ever

My mom gave me a bunch of these insanely, ridiculously delicious cookies last weekend, and I am addicted.  There is vanilla bean flavoring in them (I think that’s what is it) that must be laced with something because so so so good!

6. I also may have had this for dinner on Wednesday night.

Pulled pork and sweet potato fries

Told you pulled pork is my favorite!  And sweet potato fries?  Game over.

7.  But the miles were awesome because?  New shoes!

new shoes!

Obsessed with these guys!

8.  We finally have a weekend at home!  I haven’t been home in the last five weekends (that’s A LOT of time away from Milo), but this weekend, I will be in my house, snuggling with my pup.  Also doing some pool and yard related errands, but I’ll take it :)

That’s it for this morning!  Have a wonderful day and great weekend!!

When in Doubt, Add Butter

How awesome is that for a title of a book?  AND, how great is this cover:

This is the book Brittney, Alysha, and I read for our book club, which we are meeting to discuss tomorrow.  I’ve had multiple people tell me the cover alone made them want to read this book, and in this case, it’s perfect fine to judge a book by it’s cover!  Without further ado…

When in Doubt, Add Butter

Here is the description from goodreads.com:

“As far as Gemma is concerned, her days of dating are over. In fact, it’s her job to cater other peoples’ dates, and that’s just fine by her. At thirty-seven, she has her own business, working as a private chef, and her life feels full and secure. She’s got six steady clients that keep her hands full.

There’s Lex, the fussy but fabulous department store owner who loves Oysters Rockefeller and 1950s comfort food; Willa, who needs to lose weight under doctor’s orders but still believes butter makes everything better; a colorful family who may or may not be part of the Russian mob; an überwealthy Georgetown family; the picture-perfect Van Houghtens, whose matriarch is “allergic to everything”; and finally, a man she calls “Mr. Tuesday,” whom she has never met but who she is strangely drawn to.

For Gemma, cooking is predictable. Recipes are certain. Use good ingredients, follow the directions, and you are assured success. Life, on the other hand, is full of variables. So when Gemma’s takes an unexpected turn on a road she always thought was straight and narrow, she must face her past and move on in ways she never would have imagined. Because sometimes in life, all you need is a little hope, a lot of courage, and—oh yes—butter.”

As you can tell from the description, this would be considered chick lit.  I typically don’t go for chick lit, but I loved this book!  I thought the main character was interesting and I liked her, so it was easy to root for her.  I also loved that the book was about cooking and wasn’t always about her love life — her work life crept in quite a bit, too.

This book was incredibly easy to read, which actually made me sad because I flew through it.  This is one of those books where you just really like the characters and want to hang out with them, not fly through the book and be done with them.  It was also so nice to not really think during this book!  I’m all for deep and meaningful books, but I’m all for fun and lighthearted, which this definitely was.

My only two problems were that it was a bit predictable (I saw the big reveal from miles away, but I wanted it to happen, so I was not at all upset) and that there wasn’t quite enough about her cooking and her clients.  She had some super weird and crazy clients, and I would have liked to see more interaction with them, along with more info about what she cooked for them, especially for the people with ridiculous food requirements.

But overall, I loved this book.  It was fun to read, definitely kept my attention, and I feel like the book is just like the cover — colorful, fun, and draws you in.  I definitely recommend this for a summer read!

Weekend Recap: Wedding Shower with My In-Laws

Hi everyone!

Another MIA weekend because I spent another great one with family and friends!  So, here’s a quick recap of the weekend:

Friday

After heading to Bed, Bath & Beyond to tweet our registry and picking up some Panera, James and I lounged on the couch with Milo and watched the NFL Draft.  I didn’t think the draft was all too exciting this year, but still great to hang out with my boys.  I also read a little of this book, which Alysha, Brittney, and I are reading for our new book club meeting:

I’m not too far into it, but I love it so far!

Saturday

Saturday morning, after a quick 7-mile run around the neighborhood (it was BEAUTIFUL out!), we were off to James’s hometown to see his family.  His mom and sister threw me a Pampered Chef bridal shower and James hung out with his grandpa and uncles while the ladies were with me.

It was such a blast, great food, and wonderful times with my future in-laws.  I absolutely love them and loved spending time with James’s mom, stepmom, sisters, grandmas, aunts, and cousin.

Sunday

This morning, we hung out with James’s mom, stepdad, and niece for a bit, before heading to breakfast with his grandma.  We then stopped by Macy’s, and because of some sales and gift certificates we had, we got these outdoor stemless wine glasses for $1.46 — a DOLLAR and forty-six CENTS!

They were on our registry, but about to be discontinued, so we said what the heck.  Such a deal!

After hanging out with James’s grandma, sister, and her boyfriend, we headed back to Milwaukee to pick up out boy and relax with him.  I immediately headed outside with him because it was so beautiful out, and I wanted him to enjoy the outside.

He’s a little pooped now :)

After some household chores, James and I are now finally just hanging out and getting ready for our work week, then the wedding of one of my best friends, Emily!

It’s going to be a great week!!  Have a good one!

The End of Your Life Book Club

Hi everyone!

WordPress was working this time around!  Yay!

Today, I have the book review I was going to post yesterday.  Alysha, Brittney, and I recently finished our latest book for our book club, which happened to be a book about book clubs.  Crazy, huh?

We read The End of Your Life Book Club, which made a ton of end of the year best lists for 2012, so I was interested to read it, so here we go:

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

First things first, the book is about a forty-year-old-ish man who finds out his mother has incurable cancer.  Both he and his mother are big readers, and are spending a lot of time together at her chemo appointments, so they decide to start a two-person book club.

Each chapter talks about a book they are reading while also talking about what is going on with the treatments, as well as in each of their lives.  In other words, this book is mainly a memoir about a man’s experience with his mom’s cancer and then books they read along the way.

I have mixed feelings about this book — I both loved it and was annoyed by it.

I loved the idea of starting a book club with you mom.  In fact, I want to start a book club with my mom now.  I loved that their conversations about each book evolved into a conversation about stories from his mom’s life.  I have recently been spending some time asking my parents for their stories, so I loved this aspect.

I also found the characters interesting and was always hoping for the best when the author’s mom would receive health news.  Honestly, I liked the author’s dad the most, and he was the one I felt for the most throughout this ordeal.  Overall, I thought this book was interestng, and I enjoyed reading about their thoughts on the books.

A few things did annoy me though.  First of all, at times I felt Schwalbe’s writing was a bit pretentious because of how long and  convoluted his sentences were.  I think people often think flowery writing is the best, but sometimes conciseness is just necessary and more appropriate, and he seemed to avoid that.  I also got a little frusterated with his mom, which is terrible to say.  She was clearly an educated, dedicated woman, but sometimes it seemed like she was preaching about the right way to do things or the things that everyone should be doing, which I wasn’t the biggest fan of.

My last complaint is that I didn’t regconized any of the books they were reading — I think it would have been a bit more enjoyable if I had an interested in the books (some I did, but few), but that’s more a commentary on what I like to read than anything else :)

Overall, I did like this book.  I found it interesting and engaging, and I’m glad I read it.  However, it’s not a page-turner, but more of a book to sit and reflect about after reading.  I would recommend reading it for a change of pace, as long as you know what you are getting into.

I hope that was helpful — ironically, this was a hard one to talk about for a book club.  Odd, huh?

That’s it for today, not sure what I have in store for tomorrow, but something good!!

 

 

Sunny Weekend Recap

Hi everyone!

So was anyone having major wordpress issues last night?  I tried to post this then, but it wasn’t working for me.  Anyway…

Sorry I was gone forever!

I had every intention of posting a book review Thursday of The End of Your Life Book, but I didn’t…I think I fell asleep?  So that will be coming tomorrow.  In the meantime, now I’m back for my weekly weekend recap.

On Friday night, James and I caught up on our tv shows as always (are you watching Hannibal?  You should).  We switched it up this time around with a Papa Murphy’s pizza.

So good!

We got the gourmet veggie, and it was delicious!  I think we have found a new Friday tradition.

Saturday, we headed to Indiana to go to my grandma’s house to get some furniture.  Our house is still not entirely furnished, so it was nice to get a few things to make it more of a home.

We came back with a dining room table and chairs, a server for the dining room, two twin beds for one of the guest rooms, a dresser, and a night stand.

New dining room set

New server

New guest room furniture

New dresser

Milo claiming the bed for himself

Now 3 of the four guest rooms are furnished!  James thinks the guest room is a little girly, but Milo seems to enjoy it so that’s all that matters :)  Also, the night stand and dresser were my mom’s, which I think is really cool!

The last thing I got was this amazing picture to hang in my office at work — I’m obsessed with it!

LOVE

Sunday was spent cleaning the house and enjoying the sunshine.  I got in a 10k run (distance, not an actual race), then headed into the back yard to play ball with this guy.

Ready to play!

Get ready for some major Milo time…

With his ball

Chasing a ball (don't worry, he's not dumb for running passed that other ball, I threw one that he is actually chasing)

Ready for more

C'mon, Mom!

Now he's pooped

Resting in the shade

And cooling off inside

After a wonderful dinner of salmon patties (recipe from the blogger meet-up) and brussel sprouts, it was time to relax then head to bed.

Hope you had an amazing weekend, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a book review!

Thursday Tangents

Hi everyone!

One more day for some of us and the weekend is already here for others.  Either way, good times ahead :)

Tonight,  I want to do my  weekly tangents post — best way to hit on a lot of random things floating in my head!

1.  Thanks for all your song suggestions!  I need new music always when I run or I get bored, so I’m excited for these new options.

2.  So my 5 mile run turned into a 6.5 miler.  I felt great so I just kept going and ran until the treadmill turned off after one hour.  I hate when it does that, but an hour was plenty today.  Also, might have listened to the Fall Out Boy song six times during my run — yes, 6.

3.  The new Real World started last night.  To be honest, I sort of hate the Real World these days (although I did want to be on it soo bad when I was younger), but I have to watch to get to know the people who will be on the Challenges — you know, the fifth major sport.  My early predictions?  Marlon and Jessica are my two faves.

4.  James and I bought these chips on a whim and I am obsessed!  They are going way too fast!

5.  I don’t have an engagement ring :(  Hence why I wasn’t wearing a ring in this picture:

There wasn’t a wedding band designed with my engagement ring, so one has to be custom made.  So the jeweler took my ring Monday to make a mold, and with Easter coming up and the store being closed, I probably won’t get it back til Wednesday or later.  I miss it!

6.  I stayed up late (oooh 10p.m., so crazy!) to watch the Real World last night, so I was struggling today, but look who else is tired from staying up with me:

He tried to sleep, but I kept waking him up by squeezing him and giving him kisses.  I’m sure he’s over me at this point.  I also have so many pictures of him like this (see yesterday’s post) — he probably hates that I portray him as so lazy, but, well, he is :)

7.  Speaking of dogs and Easter, is this not the cutest picture you have ever seen?

Go to Buzzfeed to look at the full post and a bunch of other pictures of this dog, but c’mon.  I die.

8.  Finished Anatomy of a Murder last night, so review coming soon.  James and I are hoping to watch either In Cold Blood or Witness for the Prosecution this weekend, so I’ll do a combined legal drama post — I know, I know, what could BE anymore exciting :)

On that note, time to watch some basketball!  (IU for me and Marquette for James).

Night!

 

Funny Ladies’ Books Reviewed

Yeah, that’s a super weird title — oh well, sue me.  I’m hungry, so I can’t think straight :)

I just realized today that I am wayyyy behind on reviewing two books I read on vacay, and because both are supposed to be humor books written by ladies, I figured I would group them together.  I will review them in order of how I liked them….

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

No surprise that this one was my favorite because, well, I love Mindy Kaling.  Kelly Kapoor has always been my favorite character on The Office, and despite some critical naysaying, I’m a big fan of The Mindy Project.  I find Mindy simply delightful, which is exactly how I would describe this book.

This book is a collection of short stories from Mindy’s childhood, time in New York trying to “make it,” some post-”make it” time, and most importantly, a whole bunch of randomness.  And I loved it!

I read Tina Fey’s book, which is often compared to this, but I liked this better.  I laughed out loud multiple times at Mindy, especially because I imagined everything in her voice — which adds to the humor.

This is definitely an incredibly easy read (she even says as much in the intro), but it was hilarious, perfect for the beach, and one of those fun books that you need every once in awhile when you don’t want to think critically, you just want to enjoy reading and enjoy life.  We all need those books!

As a disclaimer, don’t forget — I LOVE Mindy.  This could have added to my enjoyment of the book, but if you are familiar with her at all, I think there is something in here for everyone to enjoy!  Put this on your to-read list especially if you are going on vacation or are in need of some light-hearted fare.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster

This one I read on a whim.  I wasn’t sure what I was really getting into, but I heard good things and that it was funny, so I dove in.

This book is a memoir about a high-powered, money-spending executive who gets laid off and has to navigate the world with fading money (when she used to drop thousands of dollars on shoes and what have you) and all the madness in between.  The story of losing her job and trying to find a new one is interchanged with stories about rescue dogs, apartment hunting, a Vegas wedding, and various job interviews and trips to the unemployment office.

Although I liked Mindy’s book better, I really enjoyed this one, too!  Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Jen (pre-losing her job, she was just terrible [which may have been a bit exaggerated]), and although as the book went on I liked her more, I still felt like she was a little arrogant.

But, her stories were funny, her significant other was a fun character, and the book takes place in Chicago, which I liked a lot.  This book was a little long, especially for being a light-hearted, funny book, but it was also an incredibly easy read, and again, absolutely perfect for reading on vacation.  No heavy thinking here, just more light-hearted reading and funny stories.  I like Mindy better than Jen, but this was still a good book that was fun to read.

****

I forgot how much I love books like these–funny memoirs.  I read some Laurie Notaro in the past, who I absolutely loved, and these books reminded me that I need to get back to that genre.  These books just made me happy — plain and simple.  I still want to read best-sellers and books everyone is talking about, but I need to remember to include some funny books as well, for my own sanity :)

Welp, that’s it for tonight, dinner time!!  Have a wonderful Wednesday!