Maybe Matilda

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 2015 Books

The end of the month approacheth, which means it's time for a reading recap!short and sweet summer book reviews
Luckiest Girl Alive (Jessica Knoll) // This books is always compared to Gone Girl, which I think is a bit of a slight to Gone Girl. While Luckiest Girl Alive is definitely suspenseful and entertaining with some unexpected twists, it just doesn't stack up to Gone Girl's unexpected, nutso psychological crazy-town-ness. I mean, I enjoyed this book. It was fun and exciting and horrifying and sort of a love-to-hate-it type read, but as more time passes since I finished it, I find I'm thinking back on it with less and less fondness. And as a warning, lots of sexual content and violence.

Maybe Someday (Colleen Hoover) // If only I could get back the time I spent with this book. I'm not sure I've ever met two love interests I cared less about, or thought were more self-centered and less mature. No, that's not true. See: Twilight.

Life As We Knew It (Susan Beth Pfeffer) // Now, this was a neat one. This YA apocalyptic read is written as the journal of 16-year old Miranda before and after an asteroid hits the moon, knocking it closer to the earth and setting off a chain of horrible natural disasters. The journal style makes it a really interesting mix of disaster survival with coming-of-age story, and I found it so interesting and hard to put down. I didn't realize when I began reading that it was a series, and followed it up by listening to . . .

The Dead and the Gone and This World We Live In (Susan Beth Pfeffer) // The second and third books in the Life as We Knew It series. The audio narration was well done, so it made for interesting and easy listening, but sadly, I didn't think these two were nearly as good as the first. New characters I didn't love, no character development or progression, lack of action, and no real plot movement. There's one final book in the series that I haven't listened to, but I won't be checking it out--lots of terrible goodreads reviews, and since books 2 and 3 were lackluster, I can't imagine 4 being better.

Wonder (R.J. Palacio) // I've read this book before, but reread it this month for my book club. Such a sweet story about 10-year old Auggie who is normal in every way . . . except for his incredible facial abnormalities. He's attending public school for the first time this year, but will he be accepted by his new classmates? This book is aimed at middle graders, and is so sweet and lovable, and a powerful lesson on kindness. I loved that different narrators took over, so we get to read from Auggie's perspective as well as from the perspective of others who cross his path. This is one book I definitely look forward to reading with my kids when they're a bit older.

Kindred (Octavia E. Butler) // Here's a novel I won't be forgetting anytime soon. Kindred is the story of Dana, a modern black woman who finds herself inexplicably transported back in time to a plantation in the antebellum South (where, of course, she has no choice but to live as a slave). I've read many books set in this time period, but never one that portrayed slavery through the lens of how a modern-day black woman would see and experience it. It was unsettling and disturbing and thought-provoking, all in the very best ways. I'm so glad I read it (especially in light of recent race-related events). I didn't always love the writing style, but it's a very moving novel. I'd definitely recommend it.

What did you read this month? Any recommendations for me?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday List: 5 Not-Strictly-Essential but Super Awesome Kitchen Gadgets


While these kitchen tools might not be called absolute necessities, here are a handful of kitchen items that I super duper love. 

Could I survive without them? Yes. But do they make my life in the kitchen simpler, more delicious, and more efficient? Capital Y-E-S.
5 optional but awesome kitchen tools
1. Silpat -- I first saw a Silpat at my in-laws' house, and wondered why the heck they were using that funky plastic sheet on their baking pans. They sent me one for Christmas many years ago, and I don't think I've baked cookies or rolls or biscuits without it since then. My baked goods bake so evenly and nicely, and they slide right off without ever sticking to the pan. I love it more than I ever would have expected.

2. Nutrimill Classic Grain Mill -- Chalk this up as another item I never would have purchased for myself, but have grown to love. My mom gave me this grain mill as a gift a few years ago, and it has turned out to be a really fun gadget to have in the kitchen. I love baking my own bread, so I step it up a notch now by grinding the wheat flour at home, too (so much cheaper than buying wheat flour!). I also use it to grind my own cornmeal and other flours (rice, etc.).

3. Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker -- see my full, detailed review of this item on Twined.com

4. Rival Electric Griddle -- I can actually remember specifically telling Jeff not to buy me a griddle in the past. It seemed unnecessary, especially when we don't have loads of kitchen storage to devote to non-essential tools. But after spending way too long flipping one pancake at a time in a little skillet on the stove, I finally caved and got an electric griddle. It has been way more useful than I ever would have guessed. I love using it for pancakes, but it's also perfect for making larger batches of eggs, cooking burgers indoors, grilled cheese sandwiches, and frying up bacon.

5. KitchenAid Stand Mixer -- see my full, detailed review of this item on Twined.com

Sooo . . . what's this Twined site where you can find some of my reviews?

I'm happy to enlighten you. Twined.com is a new shopping platform that lets you discover detailed, in-depth reviews of products you're interested in, written by experts and curators you trust (like yours truly). When you find an item and a review you love, you give it a vote. And based on the votes, Twined works to negotiate with vendors to get deals on the items you love. It's a new way to access the very best products at the very best possible prices. Check it out!

What are some of your non-essential but very favorite kitchen gadgets?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Amazing Cake Batter Ice Cream

I've mentioned before that I really wasn't much of an ice cream fan until getting an ice cream maker and experiencing the heavenly perfection that is homemade ice cream. It made a believer out of me.

If store-bought ice cream was always something of a lame womp-womp for me, cake batter ice cream might have been the womp-wompiest of all. It always tasted vaguely chemically to me, and not at all like actual, irresistible cake batter. Jeff, however, has always loved cake batter ice cream, so I wanted to try a homemade version for him.

And you can imagine my delight at making homemade cake batter ice cream, and having my mind blown by how delicious it was.

the BEST homemade cake batter ice cream recipe

This ice cream is all the sweet, fresh, creamy goodness of homemade vanilla ice cream, combined with the rich, buttery deliciousness of sneaked bites of raw cake batter. 

Cake batter ice cream fans--you will love this awesome homemade version. And cake batter ice cream haters--you just might surprise yourself by loving it, too.

the BEST homemade cake batter ice cream recipe

Cake Batter Ice Cream
adapted from AllRecipes.com -- makes about 1.5 quarts of ice cream


1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 cup yellow cake mix

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and freeze according to the instructions on your ice cream maker. Enjoy right away, or transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until ice cream reaches desired level of firmness. 

If desired, serve with whipped cream and sprinkles!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Long Pixie

*Before you get to reading about deep and important subjects like hair, and hair, pop over to Chelsea at Two Twenty One and listen to me embarrass myself on her podcast! Check it out HERE.*

Life is too short to stick with one haircut for long.

I'm averaging something like 8 weeks between major cuts lately . . . I'm going to run out of hair pretty soon.

But after a lengthy grow-out followed by a rather rapid descent back into short hair, this cut feels like coming home again. I'm not sure how to classify it--very short bob? Long-ish pixie? *shrug* 

Whatever it is, I'm enjoying it.

Asymmetrical Long Pixie

Cell phone pictures? Again? Yes. My goal is to keep your expectations for this blog so dangerously low that you'll be blown away if I ever step up my blogging game. 

I liked the asymmetrical look of my last haircut, but I found myself missing the total ease of shorter hair. My last cut--a more traditional bob length--was just long enough to still feel like a lot of work. 

So I gathered up some pictures and got what you see here. Very short, stacked layers in the back with jaw-length layering at the front, a little longer on one side than the other. Still a fair amount of styling variety compared to a more traditional pixie (I can fit in some braids or twists or curls around the front).

Long pixie cut

I have some leftover ombre color from a previous style. I'll be sad when it eventually gets trimmed off. I've always been hesitant to color my hair, partly because of the expense and commitment it requires, and partly because I like my natural dark brown and am scared to mess with a good thing. But this little hint of ombre has been really fun--and fairly inexpensive since it doesn't require the touchups that come with all-over color or traditional highlights.

Long Pixie with longer layers around face

Since someone usually asks--I have what my stylist calls "a medium amount of very fine hair," with a bit of wave to it. 

There have been a handful of requests for a styling tutorial from instagram friends (feel free to follow me there for more awkward selfies, if that's your jam). I truly cannot overemphasize how little I know about styling hair . . . but I'll see what I can do. This is the beauty of a short haircut, I think. With long hair, it's harder to fake being good at styling. With shorter hair, there's less room for error.

And just for fun, a little collage of my many hair lengths--top row is growing out the pixie, and bottom row is back-tracking into a shorter cut again. Three cheers for indecision! Sorry for the low quality photos--once again, cell phone collages. Pro blogger alert!!
Growing out a pixie cut, then cutting it short again

Monday, July 13, 2015

Green Chile Turkey Burgers

If I'm ever on death row making a request for my last meal, odds are good I'll request a burger. There is almost nothing I love more than a juicy burger with gooey cheese and fresh, crisp toppings.

Now I'm hungry all over again.

I've been making this recipe regularly for over a year, tinkering with things here and there until we've hit on a burger we are really crazy about. I love that it's a bit leaner than the typical burger since it uses ground turkey instead of beef, and the chile flavors really take it to another level. And topped with avocado and tomato? So dang good.

Quick and delicious, Green Chile Turkey Burgers

I'd rate this burger at a mild spice level. It's flavorful and delicious without being hot. 

Green Chile Turkey Burgers

Green Chile Turkey Burgers
adapted from Budget Bytes

For the burgers:
19 ounces ground turkey
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup breadcrumbs

For serving:
burger buns
Monterey Jack cheese slices
avocado slices
tomato slices
lettuce
mayo

In a medium bowl, combine all burger ingredients and mix well (I find it easiest to just get in there with my hands to mix it all up).

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with nonstick spray.

Divide burger mixture into six equal portions, and shape into patties. Cook on skillet, flipping once, about 5-7 minutes per side or until burgers are cooked through, browned on the outside, and no longer pink inside. Top with cheese while the burgers are still hot.

To assemble, spread mayo on both sides of a bun, top with the burger, then arrange avocado slices, tomato slices, and a lettuce leaf on top.
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