One To Nothin'

The Audiobook Obsession Is Real

Guys, this post has been sitting my drafts for so long. Like, I've listened to a dozen new audiobooks since then, long. Like, I hope I can even remember what these books were about, long. Like, I was listening to these back when I could run 26.2 miles straight, long. And I've been watching Gilmore Girls every night instead of blogging, so I don't know when to make my list rambles stop. Anywho, here are some books I listened to on tape a long time ago (can I still call them that?) and my emotional reactions to them. Do with them what you will.

"Girl On The Train" - Paula Hawkins
This murder mystery book-recently-turned-movie started off sloooow. I am all for making up stories in my mind about the random people I see on trains and getting a little too hammered sometimes, for that matter, but it took me a while to get into this one. Once I did it was compelling for sure, and even though a couple of the voices featured in the audiobook are jarring, I'd recommend it if you're looking for a read you can get lost in. 

"On The Road" - Jack Kerouac
This classic was pretty much everything I'd built it up to be in my mind all these years. Adventure, literature, drunken debauchery, so much epic road tripping and a littttttle too much creeping on the lady characters (especially the young ones--chill out there, Jack). Definitely worth the listen though. Dude does a great job of reading even if he does pronounce huge without the H. 😒

"The Martian" - Andy Weir
If you're surprised that this one made the list, that's okay--so was I. I'm not usually a sci-fi kind of gal, but I am very trusting of a majority of stellar reviews. I still haven't watched the movie, but I will say that for a book that is almost completely an inner dialogue mixed with very technical space things, it was really flippin' funny. The reader was excellent too--the bro-iest nerd ever. 

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being" - Milan Kundera
UGH don't do it. Just don't. The best part of this book was the very minor role of the dog. I believe much of the meaning is lost in translation, so please enlighten me if this is your fave. But otherwise, do yourself a favor and do not listen to it on tape. There are some effed up dream sequences and waaay too many anus references. I regret spending a full credit on this guy.

"Modern Romance" - Aziz Ansari
Oh, Aziz. I already loved him for his role in Parks and Rec, but it was his Netflix show "Master of None" that really turned me into a fan (I highly recommend you watch the first season ASAP). I figured this book would be funny and full of anecdotes, but I didn't really expect to learn as much as I did. He dives into some super relatable modern dating research, conducts studies, gets experts to weigh in and fills you in on the goings on of dating culture in other countries as well. It's quick, it's informative, it'll make you laugh and he reads the audiobook himself, so there are plenty of extra giggles to be had.

"Luckiest Girl Alive" - Jessica Knoll
This is not a book for everyone, particularly not for those of the masculine species, but I liked it. That plot twist, man. It's a fast-moving mystery, but it's buried under 556 too many designer name drops and body/eating issues (but not in a constructive way. I'm all for an educational moment on disorders--that's not what this was).

"Gone Girl" - Gillian Flynn
YAS KWEEN! I don't know why it took me so long to get to this one. Clearly everyone already knew this twisted story was awesome before I did, but the audiobook particularly rocks. The voices are on point, and I plowed through all 19 hours and 11 minutes of it in maybe a week? Maybe less? If you don't already know the plot of this book, I'm not even going to describe it. Just go read or listen, but please, for my sake, do not watch the movie first. It's good, but it's way more fun to watch after you've read it.

"The Gifts of Imperfection" - Brene Brown
Meh. I may have completely overdone the self-help genre at this point in time (ahem, all this was happening), but I wasn't all that impressed by this one. Granted I was trying to learn why it's okay to be imperfect when I've always, always embraced imperfection while doing the longest training runs of my life just as the weather was getting hot AF, so who knows who the real culprit here is. All I know is the cover art is fugly. Why.

"Flowers For Algernon" - Daniel Keyes
Did you guys have to read this a million years ago? It was never on any of my reading lists back in school (Why yes, I did read every single book that was ever assigned to me. How did you guess?), so I decided to go for it as an adult. It was lovely, heartbreaking and super interesting. The reader on this one did a great job--not an easy feat when the author depicts changes in the lead character's mental capacity and health through spelling and grammatical errors in the journal. It's certainly not a happy-go-lucky story, but it's important.

"Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" - Elizabeth Gilbert
This one's for my creatives out there. If you've ever felt overwhelmed, incapable of creating or scared to start/finish, I suggest you read this one immediately. It's very inspiring, and far less annoying than others in its genre (promise).

I'm getting on a plane to Florida tonight and I'm almost finished with my longest audiobook yet (32 hours!!). Any suggestions for my next Audible credit? Any IRL books you've loving lately? Let's talk books! See my up-to-date reading list and be my friend on Goodreads.

PS: Check out old book reviews here, here, here and here.

PPS: Need new music? Here's my 2017 list so far. If you don't have Spotify, you're doing it wrong.


A Fresh Start

Sponsored Post: This post is sponsored by Wente Vineyards, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.
Two years ago, it looked like I settling in. It was a nesting year. My apartment’s furnishings drastically improved—I decorated for each holiday, bought kitchen supplies and blogged a lot. I started a new (boring) job that year with great benefits and more money. Everything looked very in place. And it made me all the more anxious. 

After months of dreaming I was trapped in a sinking car, getting robbed of all the things I cherish or losing children I was responsible for watching, I realized I needed to make a change. I decided to quit my job and see where things went from there. 

Immediately, my car—which had recently been paid off—was hit by a semi, and suddenly I had to deal with the entirely unappealing process of buying a new car (everyone was safe—I am v grateful, but still). On top of leaving my cushy job and losing my car, my long-term relationship was coming to an end. And just like that, I went from settling in to overhauling everything. 

The past year hasn’t been the easiest—transitions never are—but y’all, I made the best of it. I took a temporary job nannying, which I knew I would love, and I freelanced on the side. I don’t particularly condone quitting a good job without a safety net, but I guess I kind of do. If you’re not happy, who cares about your resume? I didn’t. It was scary. It worked out.
During that time I went through three different roommates, but I also made new friends, got closer to my old ones, explored new places, ran a marathon and, of course, drank lots and lots of wine

I didn’t spend nearly as much time expressing myself on the blog last year, but in a way that felt more authentic. Pouring my insecurities and worries out on the internet when I could barely articulate them to the people who needed me to figure my life out IRL didn’t really seem fair. I took a step back. 

My word of the year was “freedom,” and while I hoped that would bring clarity or a job that allowed me to forget about my bills and go on adventures, it ended up meaning things had to get crazy for a while before they could get better. But they did get better. 
I got a new car that I love. I have a different outlook on relationships and what I need going into the future. I found awesome freelancing opportunities while I cared for two of the cutest children I’ve ever seen. I remembered how excited I am for a future with my own children one day. And as of two months ago, I started a new job that I’m absolutely stoked about (I’m a writer at Sephora now, ICYMI). 
I doubted my decisions a lot over the past year. There were moments where I cried into my pillow (Ziggy pawing at my head, trying to lick my tears), or called my mom or sister hoping they would tell me I was doing the right things. But ultimately, regardless of whether I was able to get a new, nicer car or score a badass job, right now I am more me than I have been in a long, long time.

It took messing pretty much everything up pretty bad to get here, but I am so happy I did. 

TL;DR? Watch the video to get the gist.


Dairy-Free Stuffed Shells Simmered in Tradition

Sponsored Post: This post is sponsored by Ragu, but all content and opinions expressed here are my own.
In my family, food is everything. We never pass up an opportunity to get our grub on, and we’ve pretty much got a signature dish for every holiday, event or, in my case, homecoming.
Christmas morning it’s eggs benedict, on my birthday is wiener schnitzel, for Halloween it’s fish sticks (with mayo + ketchup sauce - don’t judge) and so on. It’s a thing. I can tell you each of my family members’ favorite foods because we eat them on their birthdays every year without fail. But aside from these foodie traditions, we had a few odd snacking preferences, too.
We were far too dedicated one specific brand of frozen burrito, on an average day you could find me crunching on raw Ramen noodles (yea, I still do that), and frozen stuffed shells were my jam. My family never really cooked Italian food except for the occasional spaghetti, but I fell madly in love with stuffed shells somewhere along the way.
I started ordering them every time I saw them on a menu and while everyone else was falling all over their meaty, tomatoey lasagnas and baked ziti, I was all PASS THE CHEESE. Since discovering, ignoring and finally accepting the fact that I’m severely lactose intolerant all through college, the passionate flame started dying down. And after one extremely unfortunate calzone situation (think: a bunch of dudes + work lunch + me eating a calzone the size of my face), I no longer allowed myself to be giddy at the sight of my beloved shells.
I’d pretty much given up on them completely until all my recipe development for Does This Have Dairy? got underway, but I’m happy to report that I’ve got my shells back — without the pain or awkward next-day water cooler chats. And so without further ado, I introduce to you my newest tradition: dairy-free stuffed shells. 
1/2 c cashews (soaked overnight)
1/8 c lemon juice
2 T diced garlic
1 lb firm tofu
1 1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
Large pasta shells
2 T chopped fresh basil
1 jar RAGÚ® Homestyle Zest Garlic Pasta Sauce
Imitation mozzarella cheese shreds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and start boiling water to cook pasta shells
Blend cashews, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice in a high speed blender or food processor until it’s thick and creamy
Add crumbled tofu and salt to the blender mix and blend until it’s a nice ricotta texture
Mix in chopped basil
Spread half the RAGÚ® bottle over the bottom of the pan
Dunk the cooked shells in ice water after draining, then stuff them with about 2 T of ricotta mixture, arranging them in the saucy pan
Top the shells with the rest of the RAGÚ® sauce and sprinkle with imitation mozzarella cheese
Bake for 30-40 minutes

Check out more RAGÚ® recipes here!
Wanna watch me make it instead? Press play!
Learn more about RAGÚ® Homestyle Sauces and discover more recipes for the family here.

What kind of foodie traditions or weird snacks went down at your house?


Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas, friends! I spent the holiday with my family in Florida. I didn't take many photos, or dress up in pretty clothes (narwhal onesies, however..), or even stay for very long. I just loved on my family and friends, got silly, ate lots and lots of food, and headed back west. I have an extensive list of goals, to-dos, improvements and ideas I hope to get through in 2017, but I know this blog won't be a priority. Sure, I'll update when I feel compelled, but I decided that I won't let its neglect cause me any distress in the new year. That's not to say I won't be writing though. Quite the opposite, in fact. A large amount of my creative energy will be spent on my new website, and while its focus is on lactose-free living, I think you know me well enough to know I can't even write a recipe without letting some goofy ass personal anecdotes creep their way in. So I hope you'll follow along on this journey (I'm always on Instagram) and help make this year far better than the last. See ya in 2017!

What I Wore

Top: Tilly's / Shades: Ray-Ban / Shorts: Billabong / Choker: UO / Sandals: Seychelles
It’s hard to believe there was a time when I consistently posted five times a week. What did I even talk about? It’s funny how quickly we lose momentum when it comes to creative endeavors. I’m definitely not just talking about blogging.
I’m talking fancy carbs, novels started a year and a month ago and not touched since, websites that are stupid frustrating to set up, publications that disappear overnight (and never pay you for your work) and the ever fleeting motivation that comes at the least convenient, most impossible time to act on it.

Excuses, of course. Some bloggers wake up at 4am to work out, spend all day doctoring children or something equally difficult and draining, then shoot, write and edit beautiful content while taking care of a family and still have time and money to travel the world. Those people are not me, unfortunately.
I get overwhelmed by three dishes in the sink. I fail to do laundry for three weeks at a time. I don’t buy a new bag of dog food until the last one is completely empty. I’m still in shock from the election (and cry when I go on Facebook). I Googled “Is it bad to take old lady vitamins?” last night after realizing I bought Centrum Silver. I don’t exactly have my shit together, but hey! Sometimes I find pretty walls to take photos in front of. And sometimes I find crop tops I don’t hate that are on mega sale. Sometimes I run marathons and other times I watch all of the new Gilmore Girls episodes in one day, hungover on the couch. But I pretty much always find a way to have fun, and one day I’m confident that I’ll miss the days when it was pretty okay to not have my shit together. 


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