What I’m Into September 2014

what-im-into

September is at an end, and it’s well and truly fall now. This is the view from my window as I’m typing. See the bits of colour starting to show on the leaves? As usual, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share some of what I’ve been into this past month.

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Books

I’ve finally finished going through the huge pile of books I requested from the library, which means I’m in the market for new reading material suggestions (here’s where you come in, other WIIers. i’ll be getting most of my new crop of suggestions from your favourite reads of the month). I read a total of 13 books this month.

  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. Devoured in less than a day, and I was really groggy the next morning. Totally worth it. The whole trilogy was fantastic
  • Enchanted and Hero by Alethea Kontis. Y’all know how much I love riffs on fairy tales, and these were a lot of fun. The first one is a Cinderella/Princess and the Frog mashup and, while I didn’t recognize the base story of the second one, it still had that fairy tale feel to it. I will definitely keep an eye out for book 3 (Dearest), which is slated for release sometime in the coming year.
  • The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I read this on Leigh (Kramer)’s recommendation and loved it. It’s set in a fantasy version of pre-Revolution Russia, and I’m a sucker for good world-building. My only qualm was that an unrealistic number of people were in love with the heroine.
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. This is a debut fantasy novel that looks to be the first part of a planned series. I liked the heroine and the plot, but the world-building drove me up the wall. It felt like the author was making it up as she went along. It’s supposedly set in our future, on some new continent that magically materialized on Earth, but the tech level is medieval and there is absolutely no contact with the Americas or Afroeurasia. When I am supreme ruler of the universe. Every fantasy author will be required to begin their book with a brief history of the world they have created (and, if applicable, state exactly when that history deviates from our own). All that being said, I would still totally read the other books in the series when they come out.
  • The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore. This is the latest installment in the Lorien Legacies series. I still want the authors to wrap it up already, but this one actually had some twists I wasn’t expecting. It was better than the past few books in the series.
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. It wasn’t bad, but who sets a romance between two teenagers in the 1980’s and then doesn’t tell you what happened to them in the modern day? I felt ripped off, a little.
  • The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. This was a takeoff on Twelve Dancing Princesses set in 1920’s New York, which I read at Cara‘s recommendation. I enjoyed it but missed the magical elements of the story.
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. I loved this book. It feels like a perfect choice for a book club read. I liked the ending but also liked that it didn’t arrive at its ending in too facile a manner, which it easily could have.
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling. I got some laughs out of this book, but it was a bit disjointed and overall I preferred Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. You guys, this book wrecked me. I kept hoping that it would end differently, and I was even sure it would until the last few chapters. Still a good read, but it takes an emotional toll.

TV

This month, I brought myself up date on back episodes of New Girl (did they really have to break up Nick and Jess? Really?). I also went back to The Mindy Project, and found it less annoying this time. I have to say, though, Danny was such a tool for most of season 2 that it was hard to properly celebrate their getting together at the end.

We’re also still watching through Fresh Prince and The West Wing and enjoying seeing some of our favourite shows start up again (hello Downton Abbey).

Food

I actually posted a recipe to this blog for the first time in nearly a year. These Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter Sugar Cookies were just too good not to share.

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Other favourite foods of the month included these Peach Shortcakes with Honeyed Whipped Cream, this Spinach, Turkey, and Butternut Squash Autumn Lasagna, and this Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova. As usual, you can catch my other favourite recipes I tried on my monthly What I’m Into Pinterest board.

IRL

Grad students aren’t as affected by the start of the school year as undergraduates because a) we’re expected to keep working during the summer and b) many of us don’t have classes anymore. Even so, it changes your routine. I’m loving being back to TA work. Also, I have my written comps coming up in two days and my oral comps at the end of the month, so I’ve been trying to prepare for that. I’m not too worried. Goodness knows I can talk about Reformation history ad nauseum anyway, so this past month has just been a matter of going back over my notes and making sure my thoughts are clearly organized.

In lighter IRL news, I also had the chance to visit the new board game cafe in Waterloo, which I really enjoyed. We’ve already acquired one new game for our collection after trying it out there. It’s a cooperative board game called Forbidden Island, and it’s reminiscent of a simplified Pandemic (another favourite of ours). We’ll be going again with some friends on Wednesday night. Does it make me a dork that board games are my post-comps celebration of choice? Undoubtedly, but I embrace it.

Anyway, that’s it for me for this month. Be sure to head over to Leigh’s page to check out some of the other contributions.

Brown Butter Sea Salt and Nutella-Stuffed Sugar Cookies

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I know, I haven’t posted a new recipe on this blog in nearly a year. It’s mostly because I’ve discovered Pinterest, and Pinterest accomodates both my desire to share recipes and my laziness. But these are too good not to share. I got the base recipe from Cookin’ Canuck and decided to brown the butter, because when has browning butter not improved a cookie recipe? (The answer is never, by the way). The main innovation of this recipe was freezing the Nutella in small dollops before stuffing the cookies. I tried making Nutella-stuffed chocolate chip cookies once and, while they were delicious, they were a royal pain to assemble. Freezing the Nutella makes the process much more manageable. And the end result? Well, it’s absolutely beautiful. Just look at that Nutella centre!

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You’ll need:

  • ~3/4 cup Nutella
  • 1 1.2 cups + 1/3 cup, divided
  • 14 tablespoons (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ~1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Dollop your Nutella onto the lined cookie sheet, and place in the freezer. You’ll want 3 dozen or so dollops, about a teaspoon each. If you have extra, you’ll just have to eat it. I know, life is hard. Next, brown your butter in a saucepan (here’s a handy guide, if you’ve never done it before). Transfer your browned butter to a heatproof mixing bowl, and let cool a few minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups sugar. Next, add the eggs one at a time and the vanilla, then stir in the baking powder and salt. Fold in the flour and mix until smooth. Wrap cookie dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Form your chilled cookie dough into 1-inch balls. One at a time, flatten the balls of cookie dough into 3 inch circles, and place a few grains of sea salt and a frozen dollop of Nutella in the middle. If the Nutella starts to thaw, put the baking sheet back in the freezer for a few minutes. Wrap the dough around the Nutella and roll the cookie in the reserved 1/3 cup of sugar. Place cookies on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake 11-13 minutes, and let the cookies cool on the pan a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Enjoy!

What I’m Into August 2014

what-im-into

Another month has come and gone, this one mostly on Canadian soil. I’m linking up once again with Leigh Kramer to share some of what I’ve been into this August.

Books

We road tripped to New Brunswick to visit family, which means I finished all 22 books I borrowed from the public library this month. I’m not even ashamed. Every  last one of them was YA, most of them were redone fairy tales. I think my favourite was Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross, a take on Sleeping Beauty with a few other fairy tales thrown in for good measure. Jackson Pearce’s series of fairy tale reboots set in Georgia was pretty good, but surprisingly dark, and I couldn’t put down Daughter of Smoke and Bone and its sequel. I’m nearly at the top of the library queue for book 3 and looking forward to it. Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red series was pretty good as well (who doesn’t love time travel?), although I thought the ending was a bit much.

TV

I may or may not have binge-watched the entire sixth season of Drop Dead Diva in the first two days of the month. I’m glad they’ve finally wrapped it up and brought resolution to the whole Jane/Grayson arc (although am I the only one who wishes that Stacey and Fred could have stayed a thing? Owen’s nice, but I liked Fred better for her). Now, Aaron and I are watching through Fresh Prince (a re-watch for me, and I’m realizing anew how much Will is not as cool as he thinks he is) and The West Wing (which we’re loving. Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn is just so adorably earnest.) I’m also watching through New Girl on my own, mostly for all the schadenfreude.

Movies

We watched The Giver in theatres. I was prepared for disappointment, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what they’d done with the book. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I thought the whole boundary of memory plot line they added strained credulity, though.

Music

I’ve had a few new favourite music finds this month. I enjoyed the debut album by Colony House. It’s a band made up of two of Steven Curtis Chapman’s sons (and a friend), but they’ve grown and found their own musical sound since their earlier musical efforts as Stevenson. I really like what they have to offer, and the first single off their album has really taken off.

I’m also enjoying music from Citizens (now Citizens and Saints), a former worship band at Mars Hill (I know, it’s like I don’t even know myself. They’ve left the church, though, so I don’t feel so weird about it.) The first single off their new album is ridiculously catchy, and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of it later this fall.

Food

You know what I’m really into? Being back in my own kitchen and making my own meals. Seriously, I’m loving it, especially since we made it back just in time for peach season. As usual, I’ve made up a What I’m Into Pinterest Board for the month with some of its culinary highlights. My very favourite recipes of the month include these phenomenal Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Chicken and Bacon Quesadillas, these Baked Peaches with Cardamom Streusel, and this simple but delicious Chicken, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Pesto Pasta.

IRL

We were able to take a week and a half and go to New Brunswick to see our families, which was lovely. We got to celebrate my niece’s first birthday, catch up with friends and family we hadn’t seen in several months, and see my sister before she went off to be an au pair in France for a year (I’m seriously excited for her, I think she’ll have a great time). Aaron and I also spent a day camping with my family. I can’t say I’m wild about camping, but I did like getting to spend time with my family, and the location (Deer Island, near the border with Maine) was gorgeous. Also this month, Aaron and I celebrated 3 years of marriage on the 20th. We didn’t do much to celebrate, as it came in the middle of a very short trip home and we wanted to make the most of the time we had there, but we’ll likely find a way to celebrate just the two of us in the coming month.

That’s it for me for the month, be sure to check out Leigh’s blog for more link-up contributions.