Saturday I fly to San Antonio for an International Fundraising Conference. I’m not even embarrassed to tell you that I am most looking forward to the reservations I’ve had for months to Boudro's, this supposedly amazing restaurant my friend said we have to visit. I can’t wait!! (In case you were wondering, my plan is to have the Duck Three Ways: Soy espresso glazed duck confit with huckleberry blood orange sauce, served with a crispy duck springroll, smoked duck enchilada and jalapeno corn pudding) I’m also excited for airport reading time, in-the-air reading time, and hotel-after-long-day reading time. Plus, I’ll attend fundraising sessions and hopefully come home with some fundraising swag. But really, the food!
I’m hopeful that the restaurant lives up to the hype. I’ve had some pretty memorable eats and drinks in my lifetime, and although this list is irrelevant to reading….. here are some of my top meals:
Mr. B’s Barbequed Shrimp at Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans
New Orleans is one of my very favorite destinations. Whenever I hear that someone is soon to be in NOLA, I encourage them to head to Mr. B’s. When you order their BBQ Shrimp, they’ll place a bib around your neck right before they place a platter of jumbo shrimp and French bread in front of you. The shrimp is drowning in a sauce like you’ve never tasted before. It’s sweet and smoky and you’ll drag your bread through it and stop just short of licking the plate. I first experienced this dish on a family vacation with my sister and parents, and since I was in high school, I suppose it’s somewhat likely that I did, in fact, lick the plate. Most recently, I had a serving of it when hanging out in New Orleans with my sister a few years ago. The recipe is on the website, but I’m nervous to make it, because what if it doesn’t live up? I’d probably just better go back.
White wine flight, fish flight, and chocolate flight at Flight in Memphis
Early on in my OSF career, I attended a Donor Relations Conference in Memphis with my boss and fellow new Donor Relations Coordinator (now one of my besties, Ashley). Blessedly, they allowed me to choose the restaurant for our first evening out, and I’m proud to tell you that I brought my A game in restaurant research. I had a wine flight, seafood flight, and finished up with a dessert flight (vacation calories aren’t a thing, and conference calories are even less of a thing!) If my memory serves me, it was a beautiful night and we were able to eat outside. We stuffed ourselves and learned more about each other. Next time I’m in Memphis, I’m there!
Soprano sandwich and High Rock Kit Kat at High Rock Café in Wisconsin Dells
On our Puerto-Rican honeymoon-turned Wisconsin Dells honeymoon, Jeff and I still were able to pack in a lot of fun experiences, including an AWESOME day zip-lining. On the van ride back to our cars, the tour guide recommended High Rock Café, and encouraged us to be sure to get the homemade Kit Kat dessert. Sold! Exhausted, flushed, and happy (and ravenous!), we feasted on amazing early dinner followed by the recommended dessert. Afterwards, Jeff (who acts like he doesn’t care about food one way or another) even had to admit that it was one of the best dinners he’s ever had. We took Vinnie and Veronica last year and while it was a whole different experience, the food was still fantastic. So was the High Rock Kit Kat!
Pecan Crusted Halibut at Le Radis Rouge
Today you might go to Tony Roma’s in Bloomington and have a hit or miss steak-chain meal. But 15 years ago, you would go to the restaurant at the Chateau and dine on food that would knock your socks off, including Jumer’s famous cinnamon rolls (in the bread basket!). Throughout my college years and just after, I would forever be dragging my family there for my birthday or any other celebration so that I could enjoy my favorite dish, the pecan crusted halibut. I can still taste it. Their duck was awesome as well. We had some wonderful family dinners there, and God bless my dad for not flinching at the bill. He probably knew the French restaurant’s days were numbered in Bloomington-Normal.
All of the food – Cracked Pepper wedding tasting
While I thought the food at our wedding reception was delicious, there’s no way it could ever compare to what was set before us at our tasting. Everything the chef brought out – from the carrots to the salmon to the rosemary spuds, the bbq chicken, the salad – it was all fantastic. Jeff and I left the tasting room grinning from ear to ear. We were getting married, and then we were going to get to eat that meal again! (…and again, the afternoon after our wedding. Still good!) Our choices, paired with our niece Taylor’s truly phenomenal desserts helped us feel better about not offering an open bar. Hopefully we were forgiven!
Pain Perdu – somewhere in New Orleans.
Really I’m just envisioning my family sitting outside in New Orleans – a light breeze, the trip only just beginning, eyes sparkling with our relatively new discovery of the coolest city ever, luggage bulging with eclectic treasures purchased all around the French quarter – and four thick slabs of French toast glistening with butter displayed in front of me, ready to be inhaled and washed down with chicory coffee and probably alcohol of some sort. But it wasn’t French toast like you’re thinking! I don’t know what it was, other than sweet and flavorful and quick to disappear.
Iced Miel Latte – Thirty-Thirty Coffee, Peoria
Luckily, my best coffee experience can be relived again and again anytime I’m in Peoria and feel like treating myself (and am ideally not pregnant, as supposedly my fetus should only have so much espresso) – this coffee confection is sweet but thanks to honey and cinnamon as opposed to pumps of flavored sweet syrup. There’s a difference, and you can taste it. My mouth is getting all watery right now just thinking about it. I bet even the fetus could kinda go for one.
(Note: I have another coffee experience that ties for first place, but I remember virtually nothing about it, other than when I was just in my infancy of discovering coffee drinks, I suggested that my dad and I split some iced orange mocha thing during one of our vacations. We took it to go and finished it as we were walking in about four sips flat. We looked at each other and considered running back for another one (or two! Or three!). I wish we had!
Oh my gosh, I’m only about halfway through my list! This will need to be a two-part blog post, as I don’t want to drive my readership (of 5 people) away with unnecessarily long blog posts.
I want to hear about your favorite dining experiences!
Last week, Jeff enjoyed baseball and hot dogs in Arizona and I seized the opportunity to polish off a few books (come to think of it, our hot dogs and books finished ratio was probably pretty similar).
Composed by Rosanne Cash
Jeff and I enjoy the music of Johnny Cash and found what we learned of his life in the movie, Walk the Line, to be really interesting. Therefore I was inspired to pick up the memoir penned by his oldest daughter and famous songwriter and performer – Rosanne Cash (though I’m not nearly as familiar with her music).
Rosanne jumped around a lot and I’m not 100% sure I loved how she laid the book out, I did really enjoy it. She’s had an interesting life – dealing with her dad’s fame and the crumbling of her parent’s marriage, moving around here there and elsewhere (she moved around from city to city as casually as I move from the living room to the bedroom), building a music career, having kids, switching out husbands, having brain surgery, etc. She has a really honest voice and seems like someone I’d want to know in real life (and I wouldn’t care to know just everyone. Tom Hanks is an awesome actor but I’d rather get to know the teachers at Vivian’s school, the nice lady who works at IGA, or the staff at Goodreads).
I definitely recommend composed if you have any interest in the Cash family. Plus, it’s a quick read.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
About 20% into this book, I e-mailed Veronica and told her that I was reading this great book I think she would really like – it was a teenage girl’s diary of her senior year and was chock full of interesting happenings (pregnant friends, gay friends, confusing heritage, meth-addict dad, and more!) without the whiny angst. Veronica agreed it sounded great and now that I’ve finished, I’m hoping she forgets all about it. This will be a great book for her in late high school, perhaps, but my goodness – YA books these days have gotten both better and raunchier. We’re not in Sweet Valley anymore, okay?
Still, I flew through this one and pretty much loved it all, although it did include a few tired themes. Gabi was relatable and funny and super sharp. She really liked to eat and alluded to this fact at least twice in every diary entry. Normally this would annoy me, but enjoying food is perhaps the one “personality quirk” that I can understand well enough to not mind the ongoing mentions (though it made me hungry for a bunch of dishes I’ve never even heard of).
If you’re feeling like some YA that tackles literally every teen issue but excludes the angst, give this one a go. Unless you’re a 7th grader. Then you need to wait! You need to wait for a LOT of things, you hear?
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
This book kinda looked like it was going to be a heavy historical chunk of confusing Russian characters doing things I don’t understand, but instead it turned out to be this really lovely story that just kept flitting along pleasantly until reaching its satisfying conclusion. The premise I’ll offer to you is that a guy is ordered to live out his life in a super swanky hotel in Moscow for reasons that aren’t crystal clear, but the fuzziness of those details is okay, as the focus is on how he makes a life for himself over the next 30+ years as the hotel’s suave permanent guest.
What this book is lacking in nail-biting, page-turning action, it makes up for in scenery and character development.
This was our book club book, and most of us really enjoyed it, although a couple struggled to get into it.
This would make an excellent book to read on a flight, or when you’re suffering from a book hangover and need something that isn’t going to require much more from you other than some focus. I would advise you have access to some wine, as much wine is sipped within these pages.
Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley
Everything Lucy Knisley touches turns to gold! Imagine my delight recently when, after LOVING her graphic novel Relish, I saw that she had recently written one about being pregnant!! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.
I’ve been really *trying* to keep my pregnancy talk to a minimum in day-to-day conversations. I know that people feel like they should ask how I’m feeling and that sort of thing, and I’m happy to share that I’m feeling fine, thanks, but I know that whenever any of us ever see a pregnant person approach we dread the inevitable conversation about to happen regarding all things cravings, swollen feet, and baby names. This usually doesn’t even happen but we’re all scarred for life from the one or several times that it actually did – so much time acting like we care – and we’ll never get that time back!
Thus, this book provided an outlet for me to live in the land of pregnant for a while. It was a lovely indulgence. More importantly, she offers a quick, enjoyable yet meaningful read on all aspects of pregnancy – including miscarriage, misconceptions, and other fun facts woven among her personal story.
I definitely recommend Kid Gloves!
Later the Same Day by Grace Paley
Okay, this is going to be the crappiest book review I’ve ever done.
This is a book of short stories. Although the book appears to have been written in English, I never had any idea what was going on. I can’t tell you anything about what any of them were about at all. Can someone please read this and validate my feelings on this matter or help me understand what was going on? WHAT WAS EVEN EVER HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK???
I’m reading a cool nonfiction that sorta reads like a Psychology textbook but is great for making me feel smart (which I need, after my failure with Later the Same Day) and I’m reading a solid five star travel memoir. Actually, I’m doing more than just reading it. I’m experiencing it. All I want to do right now, other than cuddle with Vivian, is read this book.
This is probably kind of an obnoxious post, especially if you as the reader aren't feeling especially chipper as of late. So please feel free to skip this one. I still love you.
When something is making me happy, I try to take the time to feel or even express gratitude for those moments of happiness. That helps to offset my grouchy days, I hope!
One of the bloggers I enjoy occasionally posts about little things that are making her happy, often products or services or even mindsets. I love those posts! So I thought I'd give it a shot. Please note that family and friends are always my main source of happiness, so that goes without saying.
Grocery pick-up: My overall life contentment has trended upward ever since I started using a grocery pick-up service from your least favorite supercenter. I don’t have to give up time that I could be reading to meandering through the aisles of a grocery store, almost ramming into someone every time I turn a corner. Plus I would usually forget to grab at least five things every time. Now it takes me about five minutes to order and then five minutes to pick it up. Anything that saves me time makes me happy.
Culver’s Flavor of the Day: Now that alcohol is out, as are espresso drinks (for the most part), I’m letting myself indulge in something that not-pregnant Kimberly isn’t really allowed to have – ice cream! One scoop of the flavor of the day from Culver’s a couple of times a week is exactly what the fetus wants. Yesterday I had this Oreo Chocolate Volcano thing with M&M’s and Hershey’s chunks and Oreos. It was disgustingly wonderful.
Online shopping: I feel like, especially in Bloomington, there is nowhere left to shop for clothes. Macy’s, Bergner’s, Gordman’s – all shuttered and no longer part of my lunchtime shopping rotation. While my 2020 apparel goal is to buy nicer crap, I’m not about to drop too much cash on something to dress the watermelon. Thank goodness for specialty online stores with 30% off coupon codes and free shipping. I just discovered PinkBlush on Monday and it could become a problem.
Book Club: I just really appreciate the opportunity to read books that I otherwise would not have ever picked up. I enjoy diversity in book selections, but still have a long way to go in terms of widening the scope. Still, my book club has helped enormously and I love the lively conversations. We’ve been together over 10 years and are always welcoming new folks into the fold.
Netflix: Jeff and I have finally found a show we both enjoy!! While I’m not one for binge-watching something (I’d rather sit and read a book than watch 12 episodes of a show in a row), I do love the routine of having everything done at night and spending some time together. Plus, this one sparks a lot of good conversation. (Designated Survivor with Keifer Sutherland, in case you’re wondering.) Thank goodness for Netflix and other similar options that provide tons of variety in programming.
30 minutes in the morning: Somehow, the morning routine is such that I’m able to have 30 minutes to myself each morning after everyone else has left for school and work. It’s the best thing ever!! I think not feeling rushed positively impacts my whole day.
Upcoming plans: I’ve got a trip to a conference in San Antonio coming up, and I’m pumped! The conference should be good, but I admit I like travel days too. Flights = reading time. Airports = reading time + coffee + bookstores. Hotels = big beds for reading and sleeping. Plus, I enjoy any blocks of time that laundry & dishes are not part of the equation.
Not having to suck in my stomach: Everyone tells me that my fat belly is cute and I don’t think I fully appreciated this feeling enough the first three times.
March Madness: I don’t care a whole lot about sports, but I have become increasingly competitive in recent years and I therefore have come to love March Madness. I just filled out my brackets and look very forward to ignoring all of my responsibilities in the coming week as I watch teams I don’t care about play basketball, so that I can feel self-righteous about my selections. Then it’s almost just as enjoyable to gripe about how my bracket is busted to anyone who will listen. (One year I did win when I selected Harvard to go decently far and everyone else had them losing right away. The best part was that my bracket was openly mocked upon completion and then I kicked everyone’s butt.)
The library: I know I don’t need to elaborate, as I recently dedicated an entire post to the library. Still, Veronica and I have started going there together from time to time and watching her select books transports me right back to when I was 12 and trying to figure out what I wanted to read. Thank goodness for libraries and their wonderful variety (like Netflix! Except better cuz….books!)
The sun: Do I even need to explain this one? I can walk outside without freezing my buns off now!
How about you? What's making you happy these days?
The book I'm currently reading on my phone makes pretty much no sense to me at all. I feel like I'd understand just as much if it were written in French. I can't even put my finger on what it is, it's just that I feel like I'm reading words strung together as opposed to a story.
I considered abandoning it, but I try not to do that PLUS it's a quick read, at least. It looks like I'm about 40% through the words. It's a book of short stories, and I'm pretty sure the last story was about someone's daughter who seemed nice. Seriously, that's all I got.
At any rate, I know most readers are much more likely to throw in the towel if a book isn't doing it for them. Do you have any special rule of thumb? I think I read somewhere recently that page number 26 is the magic number - if the book still sucks on page 26, give it up.
However, I have finished a few books that luckily were more than just words strung together...
You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
Yuck, what the hell was this? Read this book if you like reading about people on high horses who do immoral things. A total dud, although a good reminder to people who need it (not me) that just because someone interacts with you does not mean that they want to sleep with you. Too bad, because the writing style was lovely.
Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman
I’ve never seen The Bachelor and probably never will. TV isn’t really my thing. Sometimes Jeff and I will turn on HGTV and make fun of people talking about “space” and “entertaining” for a half hour or so and that’s about all I do anymore. Plus, I’m too cynical to buy in to reality TV and have been known to tick off those around me by announcing, “The producer TOLD them to say that!” after pretty much every line. I’m no fun!
The author is both snarky and fun, but wow – she really did her homework. She provides all sorts of insights including the (interesting) history of tv dating shows, the psychology of why people buy into this particular show, and of course all of the fascinating details about what it is like to be a part of the Bachelor – from the online application to putting life back together after it’s all over. She’s never personally been a contestant, as she doesn’t fit the mold, but she makes up for it with gobs of research and interviews.
I really enjoyed this, and would recommend it to fans of the show or to those horrified by the reality that such shows exist. The ending could’ve used some pizzazz, but definitely no reason not to give this book a rose (ugh, that hurts to type, but there it is).
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
I love family sagas and deep dives into relationships among siblings. While I loved those aspects of this novel, I really felt like it could’ve been so much more for me personally if I liked the characters. All of the siblings were pretty frustrating and so much was covered that nothing was truly explored. Plus, random stuff would happen for no reason. One of the siblings just decides that it’s too hard to keep loving her husband so she leaves him and that was NBD. Then the ending shared that the moral of the story is that romantic love doesn’t really exist. Or something. I don’t know, but my love for this book didn’t exist. Such a shame, because it really could have. I want to re-write it – the Kimberly Scheirer version.
Next up: I've started the latest book club book. So far it's pretty good, but it requires extra focus, so it might take a while. Also, 60% more to go on my word stories nonsense, unless you all convince me to abandon ship. I'm also soon to be reading a graphic novel about.....pregnancy!
Have a great week in reading!
I do read a lot, but reading isn’t about quality over quantity.
Quality, too, is in the eye of the reader.
So please know while it’s possible that I might judge you on the state of your eyebrows (it’s okay, I judge myself the most in this area. Would someone please drive me to the nearest eyebrow waxing facility? This situation is getting out of hand.), I will not judge you on how many books you complete in a month or a year – even if that number is zero. It’s also cool with me if you favor bodice rippers, cozy mysteries, Presidential biographies, or 1950’s science fiction (all favorites of many of my closest friends). You don’t have to apologize to anyone.
I know I’m not the first person to point this out, but every reading of a book is different based on who is doing the reading and when the reading is done. A book I thought was crappy in high school might hit me just perfectly in my now ripe old age of 38. Our current life experiences impact us so much more than we think, too. When I was having my ultimate worst year – 2012 – I needed (and deserved) the fluffiest fluff book that ever fluffed. I needed the Shopholics series. I would’ve enjoyed The Babysitters Club series again, although they really did tackle some tough topics (We need a Babysitters Club – The Adult Years. What does Claudia do in her adult life and what is she WEARING?). Fast forward to 2019, and my life is probably the best it’s ever been (although I hesitate to even write that, because now a meteor will hit me in the face, but I do believe in gratitude for the now because I believe happy times provide respite and strength for when the S hits the F) – I am open to reading all of the weird and crazy stuff that challenges me (AND some fluff!).
One thing I love about the book club I’m in is that strong opinions are welcome and embraced, and we all walk away still friends (I think). We’ve almost always been divided in our opinions of each book. The funny part is that there’s no pattern in terms of who typically agrees with each other and who typically are on opposite ends of the book-love/hate spectrum. I’m finding that humor, especially, is such a crapshoot. I can get bellyaches from a book that many of my other booklovin’ babes (and studs) are like ummm… this is pretty dumb. While this used to practically ruin my day (how about I read it for you? Maybe if I read this in a funny voice accompanied with some interpretive dance…), I’ve made some peace with it. My buddies aren’t judging me for laughing at stuff they think is stupid (most of the people in my life understand that I laugh at pretty much everything – the world is a grand comedy to my sense of humor). They just don’t read it the way I read it and that’s okay. They’re okay, I’m okay, you’re okay. Doggone it, people like us.
Look, I wrote a blog-ramble! I should address this to someone and call it an open letter!
What I want YOU to know is that you should feel free to read whatever you want and read however much you want and know that it’s all good – you’re doing your thing and I don’t judge you. When I allocate my judgments, I file what people do in their spare time under “No judgments” (unless you’re doing something mean). I file social media posts and eyebrows as “Fair game for respectful judgment.” I like to think that most people are with me on that.
I’d also like to announce that I’m now going to transition my blog to discuss both everything books AND keep everyone up to date on the state of my eyebrows. Current state: Embarrassing and may soon cause loss of employment, as potential donors will not trust someone so poorly groomed.
It’s a sleepy Sunday after an otherwise eventful weekend, but I did have a very important appointment for a book club meeting this morning with Vinnie. Last week, he asked me to read his favorite book and we made a plan to have a discussion in his room as soon as I finished up.
Our conversation about superpowers and plot twists was certainly a high point of the weekend, and I hope we’re talking books 30 years from now!
A busy couple of weeks caused my reading to slow down some, but I did manage to finish a couple of pretty solid reads.
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks
Where do you draw the line between “Who are we to say what cultural or religious practices are wrong?” and “Wow, no, that’s just wrong!”
This book exposes the seemingly pretty cruddy treatment of women within the Islamic faith, which in some cases, extends beyond those who practice to those who even visit the region. At the time of the writing, the author couldn’t check into a hotel room in Saudi Arabia because women are not permitted to travel alone. What the heck?
I’ve been interested in learning more about women’s struggles in other countries because I often lean on these struggles to justify my eye rolling at some of our first-world women’s issues. True, there are any number of well-known and some less well-known legitimate concerns women face in America, but when actresses complain of being asked who they’re wearing on the red carpet, I cringe. There are places on Earth in 2019 where women are still legally beaten into submission by their husbands and you’re frustrated because all of America just can’t even with how beautiful you look tonight?
I don’t want to be the person with strong opinions shaped exclusively by what I’ve mainly only observed by accident in my 38 years of pursuing happiness. Thus, I grabbed Nine Parts of Desire to learn a bit more. I found it well-written and extremely frustrating, but want to read more on the subject – perhaps something that is more up-to-date.
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl
I became a Ruth Reichl fan after reading her relatively recent fictional work, Delicious, featuring a food magazine. The way she writes about food – amazing! No wonder she is FAMOUS for writing about food. Even her tweets make my mouth water.
This is a memoir from her earlier days. It was good and I’m not sorry I read it, but hands down the best parts were when she described food she ate (obviously). The most boring parts were about her life and stuff. This leads me to believe that I appreciate food more than life. After having an otherworldly experience with some chocolate caramel bars at last night’s Euchre party, I realize it’s probably true.
Reichl has had a pretty cool life I suppose, and this was a fun little book with some recipes included. Check it out if you’re a fan.
Next up: Today I’ll be finishing a new release of short stories that was underwhelming and I’m also soon to finish an expose on reality television that only confirms what a crock it all is. It’s a juicy tell-all about a show I’ve never even watched and I’m loving every page. (Brain candy for the win!)
Mom of four, wife of one. By day I fund-raise with coffee, by night I read with wine and chocolate.