Posts filed under Bossy Pants Recommends

Tiny Food Par-tay

I usually don't care for blogger swag and review copies because it's usually dumb crap like cheetos. There is no world in which I'm going to write a blog post in exchange for cheetos. I have morals and standards people! What I will do is beg, plead and otherwise prostrate myself for a book written by bloggers whom I read regularly. Today I'm psyched to bring you a review of the new cookbook from one of my favorite food blogs Spoon Fork Bacon. Spoiler alert: I love it.

Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park's new book is my favorite kind of cookbook, one written for a specific situation. I like that if I'm looking for something to bring to a party that I not only have a whole book of go-to recipes, I have a book of all super-cute tiny recipes.

I also like this book because it lists food the way I eat it, all fusioned-up. I didn't grow up eating exclusively Filipino food or "american" food for that matter. My family ate everything, chinese, mexican etc and I've always liked mixing it up foodwise.  The first recipe I tested were kimchi deviled eggs with candied bacon. They were delicious and bi-cultural just like me. I felt very emotionally in sync with the deviled eggs. Second bonus? Despite our deep meaningful connection they were still very simple to make. I got all the ingredients at Trader Joes. I had very good intentions of showing you pictures but my egg peeling skills made for some unappetizing looking appetizers. My son and husband were not emotionally in sync with the eggs but this did not prevent them from gobbling them greedily.

Next up I tried out the arepas with guasaca (avocadao sauce). Since I'm currently outnumbered by Colombians in my household arepas were a no-brainer. These were super-easy to make and ready to go in about 30 minutes. Our households chief Colombian/arepa maker was duly impressed by the creation and I could imagine making these in huge quantities for a party and letting people build their own with mixed fillings. Look out for your invite to the Tiny Arepa Party. Wha-what?!

I think the last thing to mention about this book is that it has pictures of every recipe. Some people are very serious cooks who do not need pictures. I am not one of those people. I want a big fat, beautiful picture of each dish to inspire me to get off my duff and make a recipe. Tiny Food Party will inspire you. I want to make it all: caprese skewers, tiny lemon meringue drinks, mini-chicken and waffles. It's all on the to-eat list and my crew and I are scheming about possible tiny-food parties. If you like party food, you will dig this book. It's on bookshelves now, so get to it!

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not compensated or required to write this post. All opinions about the books quality and possible emotional projections of ethnic identity upon deviled eggs are my own.

Posted on October 8, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Awhile back a friend watched me discipline my son. The most delicate way to describe my attitude towards him in that moment might be "exasperated". She looked at us amusedly, him whining, me exhausted and said "Thank you so much for not making it look easy. I really appreciate that you don't pretend it's easy." I think some people might've taken the comment as a backhanded compliment. The kind of snipe that's emblematic of the so-called Mommy wars. I didn't. I knew my friend was sincere. I've treasured that compliment deep in my heart because it brought me comfort to remember that our imperfections can have the same redeeming qualities as our strengths. After reading Dr. Brene Brown's book I think she would agree. Her book Daring Greatly discusses the power of vulnerability, arguing that our avoidance of vulnerability does not help us to avoid disappointment and pain but rather to miss out on opportunities for love, connection, creativity and triumph. At the risk of sounding melodramatic I'd like to state for the record that I would recommend this book unreservedly to anyone and everyone. It is changing the way I see myself, my loved ones and the people who populate my world. It will be a classic that changes the way we understand vulnerability, fear and shame.

Dr. Brown is a reasearch professor in Social Work and has investigated shame and vulnerability over the past decade. Her book balances academic rigor, practical advice and compelling personal stories. While reading this book I wanted to cry and take notes at the same time. It was a very inspiring and unique reading experience.

I could tell you more specifics about the book but I think the following story will tell you all you need to know. Almost immediately after finishing this book I experienced a very difficult and charged conversation that left me dazed. The details of the conversation are not important but vulnerable seems to soft a word to describe how I felt afterwards. I was so upset with myself that I took a walk to collect my thoughts. I ended up jaywalking across two streets directly towards a policeman on a bike. Understandably upset by my blatant disregard for safety/the law/common sense the policeman proceeded to rip me a new one at the stoplight (there were a ton of people around to watch. Bonus!) "What were you thinking? The way you jaywalked is so dangerous AND it doesn't even save any time. What is WRONG WITH YOU?" As he sat there berating me publicly all I could think was "Man, if you only knew. Everything is wrong with me today."

The upside was that the wretched day became a useful pop quiz for practicing the tools in the book, which is exactly what I did after I extracted myself from the policeman's fury. And I don't mean that I did some mumbo-jumbo "affirmation" exercise and then watched TV. I mean that I literally went home after my disaster of a day, sat down with my book and started following the precise instructions of how to deal with the fallout. I struggle with perfectionism and I've often found that the kind of mistakes that led to my no good, very, bad, terrible day land me in a state of paralyzing fear. Not this time. This time I'm doing my best to remember that growth is often uncomfortable and not to fear the discomfort. I'm trying to remember how terrible it is to be the one in the wrong and to remember to be more generous and kind when I'm disciplining my child. I'm trying to be corageous and not run away or obesses about the valuable criticism I've received. Most of all though, I'm remembering that there is a very important action item for each of you:  read this book

This is a paid review for the BlogHer Book Club. All opinions expressed are my own. To join in on the group discussion on Daring Greatly click here.

Posted on September 19, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Incendiary by Chris Cleave

This book is devastating. I started reading it a few days into our stay in Santander and after the first few chapters I was overcome with anxiety that someone was following me in order to kidnap my child. You'll be pleased to know that I shared this "suspicion" with my husband who instead of talking me down like a regular person instead joined me in the crazy. The joys of marriage.

This is an epistolary novel written from the point of view of a working class British woman whose husband and young son are killed in a terrorist attack. I am not a working class British woman but I thought the author was spot on. This picture of a woman whose life and mental health are clearly falling apart felt incredibly real so much so that I'm not sure if I would really recommend this book. For me, it was very upsetting, probably more so because it felt a little close to present reality to ignore. If you are looking for something incredibly well-written in a unique voice I suggest this to you, but be forewarned, its intense.

Posted on July 31, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Taft 2012

Ludicrous and lovely, this is a great summer beach read. It's short, fun and about a president so you can pretend to look down on everybody reading "fluffier" stuff. This book presents an alternative world where President Taft wakes up from some kind of suprise coma in 2012. No time is wasted on the mechanics of why Taft is undead which is great. Who cares? He's back and lumbering his way through a changed world. I found this book to be both funny and thoughtful. Read it now. It's what Taft would want.

Posted on July 30, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Back to Reality

We're back from Colombia and I'm missing my former schedule that included a one movie/one book/ five fresh-squeezed tropical fruit drinks a day diet. I'm also mourning a series of hilarious (if I may pat myself on the back) blog posts that I wrote, edited and then promptly deleted by accident. Yikes. Instead of reading about Bogotá Beauty salons this week it'll be book reviews galore.  I read the Hunger Game Series (excellent!) as well as the first of the Sookie Stackhouse books. I'll spare you my thoughts on those books since everybody and their Mom has already read them. Tomorrow I'll start book recs but in the meantime can I suggest 21 Jump Street for your viewing pleasure? I haven't enjoyed a comedy so much since I saw Bridesmaids. I promise that it is a million times funnier than it's trailer.

Posted on July 29, 2012 and filed under Bossy Pants Recommends, Uncategorized.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Magically Delicious

If I was a video blogger this post would be five minutes of me sighing contentedly and fondly clutching this book to my chest. There are lots of reasons to read: for information, to explore ideas, to learn about history, to laugh but my number one favorite reason will always be to get lost. I was hopelessly, wonderfully lost in Erin’s magical world about a circus that opens only at night. A place where the magic is real, rooted in love and threatened by hate. Like Jerry Maguire, Morgenstern had me at hello, after the first page I knew I was in for something different. I wanted to go to the circus! I could taste the hot chocolate, and hear the black and white tents billowing in the still night air. The book is not perfect. I found the end somewhat confusing and the time leaps problematic, but it is absolutely one of my favorite books I have read this year. Read it, and if you don’t like it don’t tell me because I’ll take out my magic wand to fix you.

Posted on June 7, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

The First Husband by Laura Dave-A Beach Read to Burn Through

People have different requirements for summer reading. Some like to keep it light, only chick lit and cheap romance novels need apply. Others need adventure; a certain series of dystopian young adult novels could fit that bill. Those among us with more “elevated’ tastes might devour a good historical biography. Personally I have a need for speed. I want a book that’s pacing makes me want to dig in the way the Orange Chicken at Panda Express brings you sniffing through the door, that is to say happily/against your better judgment. The way I see it the best part of reading on vacation are the long luxurious stretches of uninterrupted time. Summer is the time to pick up a book and then put it down finished and devoured four hours later with a smile on your face and a twitch in your eyelid.

I’m happy to report that Laura Dave’s new novel “The First Husband” perfectly fits the burn-pace beach read bill. Out of necessity (poor planning regarding the book launch date) I ended up reading this in an enjoyable four-hour frenzy. The pacing of this book is perfect with a mini-cliff hanger/shocker that propels you forward to the next chapter. Just when I would lose interest in the protagonists’ predicament Laura’s excellent pacing would pull me back in and propel me to the next chapter, eager to find out what happens next. This book reminded me of a romantic comedy; as I read it I could already see the trailer in my head. Whether you are a fan of that genre would probably be a strong indicator of whether you’d enjoy this novel. Bridget Jones’ Diary is one of my all-time favorite book/movies so I’m a solid recommend on this book. To learn more about “The First Husband” by Laura Dave, visit the BlogHer Book Club’s discussion here.

The BlogHer Book Club sponsors this review but all opinions are my own.

Posted on May 30, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Sixth Course

Arnold and I are huge Top Chef fans. I used to think I could never, EVER get into a show where I didn't get to eat the food at the end but we love the creativity of the chefs on the show. We've been hooked for a few years now and we have rituals. Not only do we have to watch it together, we also have to eat a good meal immediately preceding the viewing. Nothing is more tortuous than watching Top Chef after a dinner of leftover lentils.

As a weirdo I always like the weird foods on the show, the molecular gastronomy, the bizarre flavor combinations. To be clear I am well aware that just being strange for novelty's sake can often result in flops but when edgy meets delicious it blows your palate.

This is what happened when I ran into Sixth Course chocolates at the SF Chocolate salon. They had rosemary caramels and fennel pollen cream and... a habañero caramel truffle that was a game changer. Executed poorly all of these combos would be a hot mess, but the ladies over at Sixth Course know their stuff. The habañero was just hot enough to be disconcerting, but right at the moment that the spice was becoming alarming the creamy caramel kicked in to smooth the rough edges. They habañero had me hooked but what reeled me in was a truffle called champagne bubbly: a little nugget of joy that was filled with a teeny tiny amount of pop rocks. All together the mixture gave the extremely enjoyable sensation of having a mouthful of creamy, smooth chocolate champagne. It was a game changer.

Being a master of subtly I instantly fangirled out. Before I could stop myself I spit out all sorts of superlatives "Amazing. Top Chef quality. Innovative. I love you. Please give me MORE!"

They were very polite about the whole thing. Manners and master chocolatiers? Go support them here or check out their shop which will be opening in the San Francisco Mission District shortly.

Posted on March 4, 2012 and filed under Bossy Pants Recommends.

Super Sad True Love Story: Scarier than Reality TV

The minute I finished this book I mentally sketched out this blog post. In the process I found myself suddenly obsessed with the word dystopic. Unfortunately at the time I wasn’t sure what the word dystopic meant so I looked it up.

Dystopia-a hypothetical place, state, or situation in which conditions and quality of life are dreadful

Good to know because it’s an incredibly useful word to describe Super Sad True Love Story. Gary Shteyngart’s novel takes place in Manhattan in the “not so distant future” where our social problems/patterns have been taking to satirical extremes. All people are hyper-connected in a social network that is constantly ranking you in terms of popularity, beauty, financial wealth etc to everyone you walk by. Younger people are no longer able to read books having been taught only to scan texts for information and people’s wealth is ranked not by net worth but by their credit scores. In this world people are highly connected and highly isolated at the same time. It’s clear that Shytengart is probably not a fan of Facebook, or maybe he is? I did just start following him on Twitter.

Super Sad True Love Story is intended to be a dark comedy but I think that I am too softhearted to read it as the comedy it was meant to be. Instead of laughing, I felt myself cringing as the hapless protagonist Lenny Abramov navigates a terrifying world that feels too close to the present day to be funny. I recommend this book for the interesting ideas and unique voice it presents but I can’t say it was a fun read, I felt hopeless when I finished its last page. If any of you have read it I’d be very interested to get your take.

PS-This last week my stomach, my household and my plans for a kick-ass Oscar party were ravished by the stomach flu. The word dystopic came in handy once again for there is nothing as wonderful/pretentious/ridiculous as moaning about the flu creating a dystopic state of being.

Posted on February 26, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Nobody's Perfect: The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson

Note: This is a sponsored review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. Sere Prince Halverson’s first novel opens with the sudden death of the protagonists husband. At first glance I thought this novel would be about the journey of grief, but death is just the beginning of a crisis that isn't always what it seems. This book is about the truths that lie beneath the surface.

One of the major themes of the book is the breaking of unhealthy family patterns and Halverson manages it masterfully. The principal plot point is a heart wrenching custody battle in which everybody is right and everybody is wrong. As the novel progresses Halverson uncovers slowly the motivations and anxieties of each character, showing us the tragedies that shaped them and the desperate, dysfunctional and disparate ways they are fighting not to repeat their own histories. Despite its heavy subject matter, this is essentially a hopeful novel. By the end you are cheering the characters on, urging them to be brave enough to trust each other and make things right.

A second principal theme is the question of what it means to be a good mother. As an adoptive mother myself it’s a question I've wrestled with myself quite often and I appreciate that the book brings up topics such as postpartum depression, psychosis, step-parenting and adoption in a way that is evenhanded and fair. There is so much talk about “bad mothers” it is nice to see a work that explores the different ways to be a good mother.

This book is not perfect, I found some of the dialogue to sound a bit unnatural but overall I enjoyed it immensely and I’ve found myself thinking about the themes even after I finished. The sure sign it’s a worthy investment of your reading time.

To learn more about the Underside of Joy and join in on the BlogHer bookclub. Click here.

Posted on January 18, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.

Sweets on a Stick

A few weeks ago my friend Dahl got sent to Germany for business. She generously invited me to come along but it wasn't in the cards. I was bummed, but immediately cheered when she arrived home with hot chocolate on a stick for me! I've been wanting to try it for a long time. If you don't have a friend willing to import German chocolate for you, grab something similar here.

Posted on December 18, 2011 and filed under Bossy Pants Recommends.

5 minutes of Beautiful

My friend Emily brought this video to the YouTube Pizza Party and I've been thinking about it all week. Give yourself a treat and take five minutes to watch, it will change your day.

PS-If you'd like to see all the videos submitted for YouTube Pizza Party you can check them out here. (Warning-Not suitable for work or kids)

Posted on December 8, 2011 and filed under Bossy Pants Recommends.

YouTube Pizza Party

Arnold came up with a great party idea a few months ago: we'd each make a list of our favorite YouTube videos and then watch'em at a party. My friend Lisa added "let's make pizza" and thus a wonderous new tradition was born. On Saturday we gasped at parkour videos, giggled at Captain Jack Sparrow and rapped along with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. It was ridiculous fun. Also? There was pizza. Lots and lots of pizza!


Posted on December 4, 2011 and filed under Bossy Pants Recommends.