my latest obsession | cannelle et vanille

Last Fall, I stumbled upon a recipe for a roasted carrot soup on the Washington Post that sounded delicious. I love soup and this recipe sounded interesting. It was from Aran Goyoaga’s soon to be published cookbook Cannelle et Vanille and I was immediately intrigued. The soup was terrible. It was likely an error on my part. It was my first attempt at a dairy free soup where the dairy is replaced by cashews. Whatever it was, it was disgusting. But it didn’t deter my interest in Aran Goyoaga. I started following her on Instagram. Even though my first attempt at one of her recipes was a failure, her success with gluten free baked goods was interesting. I asked for her cookbook for Christmas and then poured over it. Yet I didn’t make one damn thing. (Hahahaha! This is very me.) Flash forward to quarantine and suddenly, I had some time to experiment with some recipes. As someone who wasn’t always gluten and dairy free, finding any sort of baked goods that taste delicious is hard. They’re almost always disappointing or they make me sick because I missed an ingredient that doesn’t work for me. Fun, right? This cookbook has been a revelation! It’s incredibly gratifying to find recipes that don’t make me sick AND taste good. If you have similar food allergies GO BUY THIS BOOK! Her pizza dough recipe is the closest I’ve found to my Dad’s dough. Her cakes have blown me away. I mean, look at this ridiculous loaf cake I made two weeks ago. It’s her take on a classic yogurt cake that her Mom made when she was growing up. Except her version has no yogurt or gluten. It was seriously amazing and even my *husband liked it. Enjoy! Citrus Olive Oil Cake 3 eggs1/2 cup maple syrup1/2 cup olive oil1/3 cup milk (I used coconut milk so it’d be dairy free)zest of 1 large lemon 1 cup super fine brown rice flour1 cup almond flour2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Whisk all wet ingredients together in a bowl (eggs, maple syrup, olive oil, milk). Stir in lemon zest, brown rice and almond flours, baking powder and salt. Pour into a greased loaf pan. (I spray my pans with olive oil). Bake 35 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack. Take out of the loaf pan...
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who needs a distraction?

Hello from U St! Normally when things are crazy, I have no inclination to write. You know that saying: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” I’ve been doubling down on that idea! Quarantine is strange. I miss so many things. Dumb stuff like my exercise classes, my friends, the cleaning ladies, getting my nails painted, grabbing a meal or a drink. I know! It’s completely shallow and yes, I know I’m lucky. But that’s how I feel. Mostly, I’m relieved my loved ones are healthy and safe. For me, my day to day hasn’t changed too much. I’ve worked from home for years. The real estate market is still booming so I’m still working a fair amount. (That’s a post for another day!) Anyway, let’s focus on some distractions. Everyone one knows I’m crazy reader. The volume of books read has remained the same but I can’t get into anything super complicated. I tried to read John Grisham’s latest (Well written as always but I couldn’t get excited about the characters. A priest/attorney who’s helping innocent people get off Death Row? Meh). Instead, give me a romance, anything sci-fi (but no dystopian, failed world novels) or a fast paced spy novel. Make me laugh. Give me a happy ending. DISTRACT ME! These have been thoroughly entertaining: American Spy  Lauren WilkinsonNothing to See Here  Kevin WilsonIf I Never Met You  Mhairi McFarlaneThe Giver of Stars  Jojo MoyesCrescent City   Sarah J. Maas Things You Save in a Fire  Katherine CenterThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill  Abbi WaxmanThe Dutch House  Ann PatchettEvvie Drake Starts Over  Linda Holmes  I’ve yet to watch a movie but if I do, one of these is happening: BooksmartGirls TripBridesmaidsWedding CrashersCocoUpIncredibles 2Pretty in PinkThe Breakfast ClubFerris Bueller’s Day OffThe Blues Brothers Stay...
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winter reads

Anybody who knows me understands my nose is always in a book. This last month, distraction has been needed. (furlough + freezing temperatures=books and curling up on my couch.) I only read fiction so this list will be divided into “light and fluffy” and “serious” books. What’s the difference? “Light and fluffy” books tend to be romances and books that make me laugh. “Serious” books are the ones that caught my attention because the plot or the writing (or both) enchanted me. I lost a day or stayed up all night reading these books because they were so engaging. Enjoy! Light & Fluffy My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan. I was expecting a trite, coming-of-age abroad novel. It’s not. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me think. All signs of a great read. Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson. A smart, sassy romance.  It’s not the typical boy meets girl story. Instead, it’s littered with amazing, quirky characters who teach the protagonist there’s many ways to love. Ghosted by Rosie Walsh. This book was a page turner. I expected it to be a typical tale about a woman getting dumped. Instead, it’s about life’s unexpected turns. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. I love the way Sally Rooney writes. This book is sharp and complex. One of my favorite reads of late. Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey. Who doesn’t enjoy a southern novel about complicated families? The first of the Peachtree Bluff Series, I whipped through this in one evening. Women in Sunlight by Frances May. The premise of this book was interesting: 3 ladies at the end of their lives rent a villa in Italy. (who doesn’t want to do that?) It’s worth reading for the descriptions of the meals and the day to day life in Italy. The rest: banal at best.   SERIOUS The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman. This is not an easy read. It’s raw and the subject matter will likely be disturbing for some. It’s also fantastic and a tribute to a mother’s love. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. A beautifully written tale about four siblings.  Tragic and glorious. All We Ever Wanted by Emily Griffin. Emily Griffin is one of my favorite authors because I immediately get sucked into the plot. Her latest is about the dangers and consequences of social media gone...
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summer reading

School is over and vacation season is in full swing. Interested in a few books for your down time? These seven books are what I’ve liked lately. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.  What do you do when your 5 year old boy wants to be a girl? This insightful, beautifully written novel explores the topic without sensationalism. Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller. Twelve years after his wife has disappeared, Gil spots her outside a book store. What unfolds next is a tale of a family torn apart by her disappearance and what really happened. The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansk.  A lost painting brings together two women who form an unlikely friendship. I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi. When your seemingly well adjusted mother commits suicide, some unsettling truths emerge. The Girl Before by JP Delany. A psychological thriller with an unexpected ending. I also read The Couple Next Door and Behind Closed Doors. The Girl Before is the best out of the three. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. A mindbending sci-fi thriller.  You know I love sci-fi and this is the best one I’ve read this year. The Futures by Anna Pitoniak. A book about love and betrayal in your early 20’s. It perfectly captures that time of indecision immediately after college when you’re trying to...
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winter reads

I love curling up on the sofa with a blanket and getting lost in a good book. As we make our way through snowy, cold days, here’s a few books that have caught my interest.  I’ve read almost all the books that are on the “lists” and many didn’t impress. (I’m talking to you The Underground Railroad, Sweetbitter, The Wonder, The Girls. I know but I didn’t like them. Don’t bother unless you can check them out of the library.) What I did like was: The Assistants by Camille Perri. An accurate, hilarious portrayal of life as an assistant. The Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.  All the hype is spot on.  An engaging tale about complex, family relationships. Faithful by Alice Hoffman.  I LOVED this book and blew through it in an afternoon. The story is about growing up with a burden of guilt. the book that matters most by Ann Hood. What books matter most to you? That’s the premise of the novel and it explores the relationship of why book matters and how literature can heal. The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close.  This books is so DC, I had to include it.  It’s about the Obama campaign and it made me laugh. small great things by Jodi Picoult.  As always, Jodi Picoult delivers a thought provoking book that’s a timely message about race. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. A feel good novel about following your dreams. Happy reading!...
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summer reads

I’m a voracious reader and since it’s a holiday weekend, it’s time for a summer reads post.  I comb the lists and read 90% of what’s recommended. Thus far, the best books I’ve read have been: Opening Belle–  The heroine is smart, sassy and hilarious. It’s a fascinating portrayal of life on Wall Street. The Nest– This book is on every “must read” list this summer and it held up to the hype. Modern Lovers– I loved Emma Straub’s novel The Vacationers which made this an automatic purchase. Eligible– As a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, you know what’s going to happen but it’s still  entertaining. Days of Awe-Life is full of curve balls and the how you deal with them. and 7. The Secret Life of Violet Grant and Tiny Little Thing are book 1 and 2 of the Schuyler Sisters trilogy.  All three are fast moving, historical fiction novels and they’re wonderful. Not worth reading (so either check them out in the library and see for yourself or skip all together): Rich and Pretty– And vapid, as far I’m concerned. Blurgh. Love in the Lower Case– So, so slow and after reading half of it, I’m still not into the characters. Finding Fraser– I love a good Outlander novel but this is terribly written. Masestra– Another day, another bondage book.  BORING. As Close to us as Breathing– I usually enjoy multi generational stories but this novel did not capture my interest. Perfect Days-It’s supposed to be a creepy thriller.  It was just creepy and awful. One with You– I thought it’d be the ultimate trashy novel.  Trashy, yes.  Interesting, no. My name is Lucy Barton– I can’t figure out why everyone loved this book.  It was dreadful. At the Edge of the Orchard- I loved all of Tracy Chevalier’s book but I did not enjoy this one....
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novel novels

During our extended vacation in the Bahamas and Miami, there were a lot of cocktails and a lot of books. Out of the many books I read, Did you ever have a family? by Bill Clegg and Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams were my two favorites. If you’re looking for an uplifting, laugh out loud book, skip Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family?  It’s a tragic tale about losing your family. It’s amazingly complex and beautifully written.  It’s Clegg’s debut novel and it’s included in the longlist for the Man Booker prize. It’s a must read but prepared to be sad. Along the Infinite Sea is the third book by Beatriz Williams about the fictional Shulyer sisters. Set in 1956, it’s a historical novel that encompasses secrets from WWII, a rogue baby daddy and a love story.  What more could you want? Also read The Secret Life of Violet Grant and Tiny Little Thing about the other Shulyer sisters.  Here’s a few more I enjoyed: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith, A Knight In Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin, The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo, The Lake House by Kate Morton, The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward. A note on some of the books that have been getting good press but I wasn’t impressed: The Blondes by Emily Shultz, The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, All the Stars in Heaven by Adriana Trigiani, The Clasp by Sloane Crosely, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (I KNOW. I loved the Monsters of Templeton but I hated this book.  Ugh.) *a small moment of holy *&^%: Last year, I read 113 books on my digital devices and that doesn’t include library books.  Isn’t that bonkers?  You can tell my #1 pastime is burying my nose in a...
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novel novels

In honor of Halloween and Día de los Muertes, these two novels are the best that I’ve read lately in the weird and scary category. I enjoyed them because I like strange and creepy (as long as the creepy isn’t happening to me personally.) Lauren Groff’s latest book, Fates and Furies is on all the Fall “must read” lists.  I’d never heard of her and while researching her new book, I discovered her first novel The Monsters of Templeton. I checked it out of library and when I started reading it, I was instantly engrossed.  It’s a complicated narrative with tons of plot twists. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware is a fast paced thriller.  Set in the woods in a spooky house with no cell service (natch), it’s a tale about old friends getting together for a hen party. Except there’s a deadly turn.  (dum dum dum). I read both in a matter of days.  To me, it’s a sign of a good book....
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novel novels | beach reads

Last week, seven books from my library reserved list hit at once.  Most people would be overwhelmed.  I was pumped!  Out of the seven, The Luckiest Girl Alive and The Book of Speculation were my favorites. I thought The Luckiest Girl Alive was going to be the typical “fashion girl in her 20’s” book. Nope.  It’s twisted, dark and completely engrossing.  It also had an unexpected plot twist.  I love when I’m surprised by the story. I read so much it rarely happens. The Book of Speculation is one of those strange tales about a weird family.  There’s tarot card readings and freaks.  If you’re into American Horror Story, this will book will appeal to you. I also received the new Judy Blume In the Unlikely Event (meh), The Stranger by Harlan Coben (great thriller), The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (the premise is so silly but highly entertaining), The Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin (bluck). I’m leaving out one because it’s too embarrassing to admit I read it (a trashy, romance novel by Johanna Lindsey).   I also purchased The Color of Circles by Lindsay Ashford (decent but check it out from the library),  You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz (predictable but entertaining nonetheless), The Precious One by Maria de los Santos (LOVED it).  Is it ridiculous I read 10 books in a week?  Yes but if you could, wouldn’t...
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novel novels

After a long stretch of sub par books, I read two fantastic books this week.  I love a good page turner and both The Bone Tree and The Bullet delivered. The Bone Tree is the fifth book in the Penn Cage series by Greg Iles.  All of the novels are excellent. If you’re looking for a series to keep you occupied this summer, I recommend reading them.  They’re set in the South and there’s history, intrigue, murder and mayhem. I was thoroughly engrossed. What if you discovered there’s a whole chapter of your life you don’t remember?  That’s the premise of The Bullet. The protagonist has a lingering health issue and when she goes to the doctor, she discovers there’s a bullet in the base of her skull.  Fascinating, right? It gets better and while it’s not remotely realistic, it’s highly entertaining.  I whipped through it in one evening. What are you...
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novel novels | april reads

Lately, I’ve been on a book drought.  Nothing has caught my fancy and I’ve been re-reading the Sookie Stackhouse and Mercy Thompson books.  They’re easy and I find them highly entertaining but I’ve been BORED. Happily, these two books recently came to my attention.  A Little Life is a complex story about four college friends and their trajectory after college.  I started reading it last night and already, I can’t put it down. It’s well written, the characters are interesting and I’m already wondering how it ends.  All signs of an excellent book. Secrets of a Charmed Life is set in the present and during WWII.  It’s a fascinating read about what happened when two sisters were separated when they  evacuated to the English countryside.  There’s intrigue, confusion and heartbreak.  It’s a great...
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novel novels | february reads

Sometimes, a girl needs some magic in her life.  These two books fit the bill and I enjoyed them so much! Did you read The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer?  It was one of my favorite books of 2014. When I saw her latest endeavor had been published, I immediately read it.  Belzhar is about adolescence, depression and how to endure and overcome.  Her writing is beautiful and the story immediately takes you back to your angst filled youth. I love Sarah Addison Allen and I read her novels again and again.  First Frost is the sequel to Garden Spells.  Set in the mountains of North Carolina, the book is full of magical elements but mostly, it’s about family. I find her books entertaining and...
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