Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Where Did You Go, Bernadette?

From goodreads:
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world. 

My Thoughts: I was disappointed in this book. I realized that the book was a string of emails, faxes (really? faxes?) conversations, and snail mail, that lead up to the disappearance of Bernadette, but the woman didn't even disappear until page 214 (out of 326)! Once she did disappear, the last 100 pages were rushed and like a lot of the book, not believable. I know: do I have to expect every book I read to be believable? Isn't that the point of books: to be transported to another world where we can let our imaginations run a little wild? I guess, but if I'm going to get caught up in the unbelievable, I want to at least like the characters. And, I couldn't really like any of them, except sometimes Bee. I found myself drifting a lot and couldn't stay hooked on the story.

Two user reviews on goodreads, I agreed with:

Bernadette has the potential for being an extremely interesting character. However, between her ravenous and delusional tirades, I quickly lost interest in her story and what led her to become this woman, and instead just wanted her to shut up. Seeing as the book is centered around her, it seems that the author got too caught up in all of the other characters until the last 100 pages, remembered the book was about Bernadette, and quickly threw in the bit about her disappearing. This part (and most important part) of the story felt rushed and sloppily handled. 

Mama Kaye wrote:
By the end (and the ending was fairly abrupt and unsatisfying, IMO), I didn't feel that I had really come to a better understanding of any of the characters, most of whom engage in fairly preposterous behavior throughout the story. I suppose that if you read it simply as a funny and satirical take on life in Seattle and the pretensions and hypocrisies of the American upper class, it's worthwhile. There's no question that portions of it are very funny and entertaining. However, beyond that, I didn't see much value in it. 

The author said after writing the book that without even trying, the theme of the book came to be: "to know someone, is to love them." Most of these characters didn't really know each other. The only person who really knew Bernadette was her daughter, Bee, and she really does love her mother. Bernadette and her husband never talked and hardly even saw each other. Her husband is told things about his wife from other people, never verifies or even asks her if they are true, (except to try and broach the subject at an inappropriate time at a nice restaurant with their daughter and her friend) and then just decides to have her committed to a mental institution! I couldn't tell if the author wanted me to feel sorry for Bernadette, or her husband, but either way I felt sorry for neither. Through this family not really knowing each other, and completely avoiding each other, a whole slew of misunderstandings and miscommunications ensue. While that is a plausible scenario for many families, I was left very unsatisfied with the conclusion, and the story as a whole.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Downton Abbey

Carnival Films

In two weeks, Chris and I successfully managed to watch the entire first three seasons of Downton Abbey.

Am I proud? sort of.
Am I embarrassed? sot of.

That's a lot of over 30 hours worth of television. But seriously, it was SO.GOOD.

Though the big surprise ending at the end of the 3rd season was ruined to me thanks to an innocent google search, I do hope that the show continues to be good in its upcoming seasons - I'm a little worried by this most recent turn of events in the plot line, but we shall see.

If you watch Downton Abbey, you might get the humor in these two things:
If Downton Abbey took place entirely on Facebook.
They do a "recap" of every episode, each one funnier than the last.

My friend, Mandy, sent me this video of the cast performing One Direction's What Makes you Beautiful.

Are you a Downton Abbey fan? 
The next show we are going to start is either The Walking Dead or True Blood, and suggestions?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake


My Mother-in-Law's birthday is today (Happy Birthday!) so over the weekend I decided to tackle Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cake, which I had been eying for quite some time now. This was my first time ever making a layer cake, and I was quite a bit intimidated going into it. But Chris and I were stuck at home this weekend while the painters painted our basement anyway, and with my mother-in-law's birthday right around the corner, it was the perfect time to tackle a cake! I definitely learned a thing or two going through this cake-making process.

First, I should have used the parchment paper to help me lift the cakes out of the pans. Somehow, I completely missed that part of the directions, and some of the cakes fell apart as I took them out. This made for quite a "tower of Pisa" cake initially:

Per Smitten Kitchen's directions, I froze the individual cakes before frosting them, then the frosting was able to act as a glue to hold some of the broken pieces together. And I also used extra frosting to prop up some of the leaning pieces.

Deb also suggested to do a light "crumb" layer of outer frosting first, to get a base onto the cake. Then, put that in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, before doing the final out layer:

I tried to get the top layer of frosting to look smooth, but I kept pulling up some of the broken pieces of cake, and figured it was best to just leave it alone. In the end, I liked this "ragged" look peaking out from under the ganache better anyway.

After that hardened for an hour in the fridge, I then poured the chocolate ganache over the cake, and Chris helped me garnish it with chopped Reece's Peanut Butter Cups

And voila! A picture of perfection if I do say so myself!

My thoughts on this cake: I used canola oil in this. First of all, I HATE canola oil. I hate the taste of it, and I hate the smell of it, but I figured both would bake out in this recipe. Secondly, not only does it call for canola oil, it calls for a full CUP of canola oil. (bleh!) The only reason I even had canola oil in the house is because I bought some when I got Chris his deep fryer (although, now that I think about it...that was two years I'm googling "how long does canola oil last") Anyway, the recipe specifically says to use canola or vegetable oil, so I pushed my good olive oil aside and grabbed the canola, happy to use it up.

I could taste the canola oil in this cake. Though the frostings masked the taste enough for me to enjoy it, I couldn't enjoy the cake to its full extent. Next time I make this, I will definitely use 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/2 cup olive oil.

Other than the canola oil mishap, this is a very good cake, and very decadent. A little bit goes a long way, and it certainly looks impressive to serve or bring to a party! If you'd like to try making this cake, here is the recipe:

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
From Smitten Kitchen
Adapted, only barely, from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes

This cake is INTENSE. Serve it in the thinnest slices possible, and keep a glass of milk handy.
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (the book says, I say a heck of a lot more)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend (note from Laura: I wouldn't use canola!)
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosted, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: Where We Belong and My Horizontal Life

Here's what I've been reading lately:

From goodreads:  
Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.

For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light. As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.

My Thoughts:
This was an entertaining, light read. Sometimes Kirby annoyed me, other-times Marian annoyed me. But it was an interesting perspective on life, and especially on family.

From goodreads:
You've either done it or know someone who has: the one-night stand, the familiar outcome of a night spent at a bar, sometimes the sole payoff for your friend's irritating wedding, or the only relief from a disastrous vacation. Often embarrassing and uncomfortable, occasionally outlandish, but most times just a necessary and irresistible evil, the one-night stand is a social rite as old as sex itself and as common as a bar stool.

Enter Chelsea Handler. Gorgeous, sharp, and anything but shy, Chelsea loves men and lots of them. My Horizontal Life chronicles her romp through the different bedrooms of a variety of suitors, a no-holds-barred account of what can happen between a man and a sometimes very intoxicated, outgoing woman during one night of passion. From her short fling with a Vegas stripper to her even shorter dalliance with a well-endowed little person, from her uncomfortable tryst with a cruise ship performer to her misguided rebound with a man who likes to play leather dress-up, Chelsea recalls the highs and lows of her one-night stands with hilarious honesty. Encouraged by her motley collection of friends (aka: her partners in crime) but challenged by her family members (who at times find themselves a surprise part of the encounter), Chelsea hits bottom and bounces back, unafraid to share the gritty details. My Horizontal Life is one guilty pleasure you won't be ashamed to talk about in the morning

My ThoughtsThis was quite the interesting book. I like Chelsea small doses. I first started watching her show two weeks before I moved out of my Astoria apartment the last two weeks of 2009. I was there alone and everything was already moved out except for a handful of clothes and an air mattress. I camped out in my living room, and stayed up way too late every night thinking about the next phase of my life, and for some reason, watching way too much Chelsea Handler. She's definitely funny, and as we all know, I LOVE reading books about people in television (i.e. Mindy Kaling, Anthony Bourdain, Andy Cohen, Barbara Walters, Tina Fey, Bethenny Frankel, etc.). But, I thought this book was pretty poorly written, and almost too unbelievable. Maybe it was interesting to live a little bit vicariously through her crazy, partying, live-it-up way of life, but me? I'll take my pajamas, tea, and a movie any day.

What are you reading lately?

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Newport, Rhode Island - Monday

After our amazing Saturday in Newport and Sunday in Newport we had one last morning to explore the area before heading home.

We were in Newport for the first weekend of the Newport Winter Festival which included special events and deals. The Old Colony & Newport Railway was running extra train tours throughout the weekend and we thought we'd hop on! We got tickets for the first-class parlor car - sounds fancy, but first class was $13.50!
We then enjoyed the sites of Newport, Rhode Island at the rip-roaring speed of 9 miles per hour. We know this because we checked on our TomTom iphone app. I could have run faster than this train. We drove out 35 minutes, then came right back on the same track.

At least we were kept warm by this little pot-belly stove:

It was a cute little tour, with a neat concept, but we were a bit disappointed by it. There wasn't all that much to see, and the conductor wasn't very captivating to listen to. We disembarked the railroad and it was time to bid adieu to Newport. 
I loved this sign as we exited the train.

We both realized how incredibly nice and needed this weekend was for us. We didn't do a ton, we had a lot of down-time to watch Downton Abbey and relax, yet we still felt we were able to really get a sense of Newport and what it had to offer. I can only imagine how amazing Newport must be in the summer months, and would love to go back there someday.
Sayonara Newport!

Where is your favorite place to go for a nice "get-away weekend"? 
Have you ever been to Newport?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Newport, Rhode Island - Sunday

After our incredible first day in Newport, Saturday night into Sunday there was a snowstorm with incredible 50+ mph winds. The wind outside was INSANE, especially since we were right off the water. We woke up several times throughout the night because it was so loud outside, and the building was shaking so much. I actually contemplated whether or not to call the front desk and ask if we should be taking cover in case the roof ripped off the hotel. In the morning, there were only a few inches of snow on the ground, but it continued to fall throughout most of the morning.
Luckily, we were able to walk down the street to Tickets Bar and Grille for a nice warm breakfast while we figured out what to do with our day. The train ride we were going to take was cancelled, the winery tours were cancelled, the seal watch boat cruise was cancelled, so we had to improvise our day a little bit. After brunch we went back to the hotel and watched another episode of Downton Abbey, you you do. Then, we headed out to Greenvale Vineyards. The tour may have been cancelled, but we could still drink the wine, right?

The snow had stopped but the wind was causing some major drifting. At times, the wind was blowing snow around so much we couldn't even see in front of us.
Greenvale Vineyards was a quaint little barn-like building set way back in an isolated (un-plowed, snowy, treacherous) area. Thank goodness Chris is a good driver, and thank goodness we had also taken his mom's 4-wheel-drive car with us in anticipation of the snow. We were able to taste all 7 of their wines AND keep the tasting glass. Their wines tended to be on the drier side, so I wasn't completely in love with them, but I did enjoy the tasting nonetheless. 

We then tried to get to Newport Vineyards, but they somehow seemed to be positioned right in the path of all the drifting snow and we couldn't even make out where to enter their lot. We scratched the second winery and did the 10-mile drive instead. This took us past all the historic estates, Salve Regina University, various beaches, Fort Adams, Yacht Clubs and other incredible looking houses. All that driving made us hungry so we stopped into Via Via: The best and only real brick oven pizza in Newport (at least, that's what their website says)! Being from New York, and loving pizza as much as we do, we are definitely pizza snobs. But I have to say we were both very happy with our slices! Well done Via Via!

After that we had three hours before our dinner reservation so we drove back to the hotel to rest before dinner and well, watch more Downton Abbey of course! We're almost done with season 3! Then it was time to head out to The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar for dinner, where I was most excited to eat on this trip.
I loved the atmosphere of the place. Positioned right along the water, candlelit tables, and their entire drink menu was on an ipad they left with us to browse. This place was very cool.
Chris had the Pork Tenderloin: with Cheddar-Chive mashed potatoes, wilted greens, crispy bacon, maple-thyme gastrique and I had the Mooring Scampi: Pan-roasted lobster, shrimp, sea scallops, tomato, garlic-herb butter, and angel hair pasta. Both did not disappoint.
We then had coffees and dessert, which of course, I do not have pictures of because I was too know, eating. I will say Chris's cheesecake was incredible, I so wished I had ordered it instead of my chocolate sampler. After dessert, we drove around town a little more looking at houses and using the Zillow Real Estate Iphone app to find out how much they cost (holy-freaking batman!)

Tomorrow, our last day in Newport!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Newport, Rhode Island - Saturday

Chris and I had an amazing get-away weekend to Newport, Rhode Island! We left early on Saturday morning, and arrived in Newport exactly 3 hours later. We were both starving by the time we got there, so we walked around town and grabbed lunch at the Brick Alley Pub & Restaurant.
We split a garlic bread pizza to start. Chris had a pulled pork sandwich, and I had the smoked turkey artichoke panini as my meal, which was fantastic.

After lunch, we walked around the main part of town a little bit more, and bought a couple pieces of Country Kettle fudge to bring back to the hotel.

After that, we went to check-in to our hotel at the Newport Beach Hotel and Suites. It was a nice hotel, with a nice sized room, small sitting area, and even smaller bathroom. Each room in this hotel is a different size and arranged differently, so I was a little nervous to see which room we would get. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the size and layout of our room.

After we checked into our hotel, we drove over to tour The Breakers Mansion, home of the Vanderbilts from 1895-1948. We really enjoyed this audio tour, and now that Chris and I are currently obsessed with Downton Abbey, we found this tour even more fascinating than usual because it was around the same time period. The mansion was super extravagant and beautiful, I can't even imagine what it must have been like to live here.


That night we went to Salvation Cafe for dinner. It was a cute little place, and I had one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. I ordered the Teriyaki Salmon: with lemon coconut rice and crispy spinach. The combination of these items together was amazing. I would love to return to this place one day to have this meal again.
Tomorrow, I'll share with you our Sunday in Newport!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Finds: "Our Wedding Song"

In honor of Valentine's day this week I thought I'd share this adorable video taken at a senior living center. "For Valentine's Day, CDZA takes a trip to a Senior Living center to share the stories of four couples and perform the songs they were married to." It's adorable, and I can only hope that this will be Chris and me one day - not old, just married forever and still in love type thing ;)

While I'm at it, through this video I discovered Collective Cadenza's Youtube Channel, whose description is "We create music video experiments." Their videos are great!

With that, we are off for a long weekend in Newport, Rhode Island! But first, I'm kicking off the weekend with a facial with Janis Chakler, who is amaaazing! I am looking forward to some much needed relaxation and site-seeing.

Follow along with us this weekend by following me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours!
Surprise dinner reservation for tonight is made
Weekend getaway to Newport, Rhode Island is planned
Now, just counting down the hours to spending time with my love!

Chris and I were featured on Storymix Media's Wedding Blog yesterday, with an updated version of our wedding video trailer. It was such an awesome excuse to revisit some pictures and video from our wedding day. Thanks Ariane!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blizzard of 2013

We survived the blizzard of 2013! And by survived, I mean we "didn't leave the house all weekend and watched two complete seasons of Downton Abbey" (seriously, how amazing is that show?!) We got about a foot of snow, and it was so pretty!
I love when snowstorms hit on a weekend. They aren't annoying, we don't have to rush out and commute to work in it and we just....relax, and enjoy.

It turns out Zoey LOVES the snow and enjoyed frolicking in it, donning her winter finest of course.

What tv or movie marathon weekend is complete without popcorn? Feeling ambitious, I decided to try a Kettle Popcorn recipe that I had recently pinned from How Does She? It looked really easy to make and looked so delicious!

Unfortunately, this proved a bit more difficult than it seemed. My kernels weren't popping so I finally decided to turn the heat up on it. Then, a lot did pop but still half of them wouldn't, and ended up burning in my pot - and almost ruining it!

Nevertheless, I was still able to make a good amount of fresh kettle popcorn to enjoy on Friday night while watching Spider-Man. At least it was an interesting lesson in homemade popcorn but in the future, I'll probably just stick with my good old air-popper.
In case you want to try making your own Kettle Popcorn, and want to see if you have better luck than me, the recipe is below.

Kettle Popcorn
From How Does She?

  • 5 Tablespoons of Canola Oil
  • 7 Tablespoons of Sugar
  • 2/3 cup of popcorn kernels
  • Dashes of salt
  1. Get a big pot with a lid. Put the oil into the pot. Heat it on Medium-High until you see a faint puff of smoke. It's faint, so watch for it.
  2. Sprinkle the sugar into the bottom of the pot. Let it dissolve a wee-bit.
  3. Stir in the pop corn.
  4. Stir quickly for 10 seconds.
  5. Turn heat to low.
  6. Put the lid on the pot.
  7. Every 20 seconds...shake it. Shake it good. Caution: Make sure lid is on tightly and you use hot pads. It's hot.
  8. When 'pops' slow pull it off the heat. Add a dash of salt.
  9. Wait for it to cool and devour!
  10. Yum.

If you want to see more of my culinary adventures, I update a lot more food pictures on:
Facebook, and
Instagram @lwoodsny

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snow Weekend: Bread and Milk

Happy Snowy Weekend to all my fellow East-Coasters. I just LOVE when a snowstorm hits over the weekend. It provides the perfect excuse to hunker down, watch movies, eat lots of food and relax....that is...once you've gotten your bread and milk. (Watch video here)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Zoey's Bath-Time

It seems most of the blogs I read have done a post this week about being in a "winter funk" and it's very true. Let's face it, February and March are brutal months, and if we can all just hold in there for a little while longer, before we know it, Spring will be here and we'll all feel a little better and have a little more to talk about! So with that, I thought that this pathetic picture of my pup getting a bath might make you all laugh.
Zoey hates her baths and afterward all she wants is to get the water out of her ears. We only bath her about 3-4 times a year, and the whole process from start to finish is pretty comical. 

When the winter gets you down, remember the Groundhog didn't see his Shadow, so Spring will be here before you know it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: Top of the Rock and Kitchen Confidential

I've been on a reading frenzy lately! Last week, I read Top of the Rock: The Rise and Fall of Must-see TV, an Oral History, by Warren Littlefield, former NBC President of Entertainment. It was very fascinating to hear the stories at NBC through the 80's and 90's when Seinfeld, ER, Friends, Bill Cosby Show, Will and Grace, and Cheers all went on the air. The stories behind how these shows came to be, or almost didn't come to be, and how they selected the casts were fascinating. I've recently discovered that I love reading behind-the-scenes stories from television, having read and enjoyed Bethenny Frankel's A Place of Yes, Andy Cohen's Most Talkative, Barbara Walters The Audition, among others. I want to read more of these.

Then I went on to read Kitchen Confidential: Adventure in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain. Woa - first of all, this does NOT make me want to go into the kitchen industry at all. The sex and drugs that take place in these tiny kitchens which serve us food on a daily basis. But again, it was fascinating to hear Anthony Bourdain's story from a young kid, to a troubled drug addict, to the success he is today. I love a good success story like this.

I've been on a real reading kick lately, and after reading all the book recommendations left in the comments of Joanna's book recommendations post at Cup Of Joe last week, I added 70 books to my online library account. 70. Books.

This has me feeling both greatly accomplished, and severely overwhelmed. I have this problem where spending a day organizing my pinterest boards, and updating my library account leaves me feeling on top of things, yet so far behind at the same time.

How on earth will I ever try all these recipes?!

How on earth will I ever read all these books?!

I suppose this is a good thing: To feel excited by all the books and recipes out there I have yet to experience. To have a whole arsenal of things to look forward to, if I keep trucking along.

If this overwhelming feeling wasn't there, then where would the drive be to go home and cook/bake or to pick up another book? So I guess "overwhelming" can be a good thing!

Not that I need even more book recommendations, but what are you reading right now?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Clusters

My sister's birthday was on January 25th, and since I was going home this past weekend, I told her to pick anything she wanted from my pinterest dessert board, and I'd make it for her. She very smartly, chose these chocolate coconut oatmeal clusters and I was super stoked to try them out for her.

So I made one batch on Wednesday night, tried a cookie as it came out of the oven and promptly made two more batches on the spot.

I took a bunch to work the next day, and they were literally gone in 2 minutes. Coworkers were stopping by asking me if I had any more, or if I was planning to bring more in. Clearly, three batches weren't enough. So I went home that night and made another batch. Can this be considered crazy? Yes? No? Maybe?

This recipe is from Bev Cooks, which also happens to be where the famed, Mississippi Mud Brownies recipe came from a few weeks ago. This is quickly becoming one of my "go to" blogs for recipes.

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Clusters
from Bev Cooks

What it took for roughly 20 clusters (From Laura: this actually made 14 for me)Ingredients:

* 4 Tbs. butter
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1 egg
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 cup cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup coconut shavings
* 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1 tiny pinch of salt
* 3 Tbs. milk
* 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

In a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix another few seconds until it’s combined. Add the vanilla. One more blitz. There ya go.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, cocoa powder, coconut, baking powder, baking soda and pinch of salt. Toss toss toss until fully combined.

Add the butter mixture, the milk and the chocolate chips to the bowl. Stir until combined and thick and awesome.

Dollop about a Tbs. of the mixture onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dollops. I mean I guess that’s obvious. Sorry.

Bake for about 14 minutes and enjoy!