Reading Rainbow: Summer Edition

Hello folks!

One of the best perks of summer, despite the fact that I’m working, is that I have enough time off from course work that I get to read for fun!  My classes officially end in December, but my internship is year round.  Still, I have evenings off and I do not have a stack of textbooks staring me down.

I looked at my bookshelves a few weeks ago and realized my only “light” summer reads were Crime and Punishment and Jane Eyre.  I’ve been wanting to read both for quite some time, but they both require much more brainpower than I’m willing to exert in the summer months.  Does that make me lazy?  Perhaps.  I can accept it.

Given that, I went online and bought a few lighter books to knock out while sipping sangria on the balcony.  Lol, isn’t that the perfect image?  In actuality, I probably read the bulk of these books in bed and fell asleep just as the book smacked into my forehead.  Real life isn’t glamorous.

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

Image from Amazon.  Click to be redirected.

Image from Amazon. Click to be redirected.

Every dog owner should read this book.  The story is told from a dog’s perspective over the course of several lifetimes as he discovers his purpose.  It’s simultaneously heart-wrenching and goofy.  I recommend reading it whilst holding your dog tight and never letting go.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Image from Amazon. Click to be redirected.

Image from Amazon. Click to be redirected.

This book follows a traditional old man in England as he deals with aging, his brother’s death, and complicated feelings towards a Pakisttani woman–an outsider who is discriminated against.  I was extremely invested in the characters early on because they are realistic and faulty (my favorite kind of character).  I would say the entire book was a realistic portrait of aging and grief and love until the end, when things took an extremely dramatic turn and it momentarily read like an action novel.  The ending was entirely disconnected from the rest of the book and left a sour taste in my mouth.  Overall verdict: forgettable.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Image from Amazon. Click to be redirected.

Image from Amazon. Click to be redirected.

This book has been sitting on my Kindle for ages.  I got halfway through it this summer and realized I had read it once before several years ago.  I guess that means this story was forgettable too, but I really enjoyed following the characters a second time.  The plot centers around one woman, but each chapter shows a unique view from a different member of the small town.  The author does a really beautiful job of showing human sadness and strength.

Next up on the reading list: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

What are you reading this summer?  Do you read “light” for the summer months too?  

-Mads

Desperate Housewives Kayak Long Beach

Hey, The car poll results are in: we’re most likely getting a Honda Accord!  We love the fuel efficiency, Jonathan loves the space of a sedan, and it’s notoriously long-lasting.  Plus, you guys never steer me wrong.  😉 To practice another form of transportation, I went kayaking on the smooth waters of the Long Beach bay.

For 9 bucks, you can grab a kayak and paddle around the bay for an hour.  The safety video requires that you know how to swim and that you don’t slip, fall, break your neck, and die.  The video narrator literally told us not to die.  haha  Good safety tip!

Tiki hut times

A few of my graduate school cohort buddies and I started a Desperate Housewives club.  Now, most of them aren’t housewives, and I wouldn’t consider myself desperate, but it’s a good way to get out of the house once a week.

So we’ve been doing new things around town once a week over summer break.  Kayaking was the perfect way to spend a sunny Thursday afternoon!

Besides the fact that I got a paddle blister on my good paddle thumb, it was a glorious afternoon out on the open sea.

The desperate housewives/husbands also got a great chance to see their future ocean-side mansions and accompanying yachts.  How decadent!

How have you been soaking up the summer? 

-Mads

Life Changer

I will post more about wedding stuff soon, blah blah blah.

BUT my life was drastically changed tonight when I discovered something magical on the internet.

MAGICAL.

This blog boasted the best umami flavor in a grilled hamburger ever.  Umami is that crazy smack of flavor that wakes up your taste buds and has you saying, “What was that?” (more about umami here).

The White on Rice Couple said their secret to the best umami burgers ever was fish sauce.  That’s right, the Vietnamese sauce that seems to go well with all Vietnamese dishes…but in an American burger.  As soon as I read that, I smacked my forehead.  Of course you should put fish sauce in a burger.  D’oh!

Three Crabs is the brand we use. (Click on image to be redirected to photo source)

Fish sauce is filled with glutamates, which are those nummy little amino acids that give umami flavor to soy sauce, worcestershire, meats, and anything delicious.

I followed their recipe to a T, and I can honestly say it was the best burger of my life.  I’ve never been able to grill anything remotely close to that awesome flavor.

Ignore my freckled skin and peach fuzzed arms.

I topped my burger with feta cheese, caramelized onions, basil, and Trader Joe’s Red Pepper Sauce.

p.s. This is awesome…as if you ever doubted the awesome power of a Trader Joe’s sauce.

I was literally hooting and hollering on my patio.

Life=changed forever.

Please try this.  Even if you have to buy a jar of fish sauce, you can always use the rest of the bottle for stir fries (frys?), fried rice, AND ALL THE BURGERS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Thank you for your time,

Mads

MN State Fair On a Stick

I got back this evening from a whirlwind tour of Minneapolis.  There was a surprise engagement party, wedding dresses, and lots and lots of baby blankies (not for me).

I will share more on that later, but I really wanted to talk about what’s most important: State Fair Food.  More specifically, all of the fried goodies I ate off of a stick.

Jonathan and I partook on a gastroenterological tour of the MN State Fair with some family and friends while we were in town this past weekend.  Now, I usually get cheese curds, corn on the cob, and a corn dog.  I’m aware that this might not be the healthiest dinner, but it’s a pretty light in terms of fair food.

This year?  It was a no-holds-barred kind of event.

First on the roster was Ole and Lena’s hot dish on a stick:

This went something like meatball, tater tot, meatball, tater tot, deep-fried goodness, and slathered with gravy.

Jonathan was in heaven.

I still maintain that it was not as good as my homemade tater tot hotdish.

Next up was deep-fried apple pie:

This came with cinnamon ice cream and I literally screamed when I found out.  Embracing the small things…

The apple pie was sort of like McDonald’s apple pies on crack.  In other words, it was incredible.

Finally, we had to try the new fair food, deep-fried cookie dough on a stick:

Click photo for source.

I was skeptical of this one from the get-go, and I wasn’t mistaken.  I get that the cookie dough was supposed to be gooey, but so was the batter.  It was all too much.

Besides all of the eating, we did walk around quite a bit and saw a lot of animals.  My favorite (as usual) was the piglets at the Miracle of Birth Center:

And we happened to stumble across a live Tapes ‘n Tapes concert:

Best surprise ever?  Yes, I think so.

What’s your state/county fair like?  What’s your favorite deep-fried food?

-Mads

Josie’s trip to the beach

Today marks my second official day of graduate school.  Here’s to hoping I picked the right field and that I can complete it without losing my mind.  Isn’t that what all grad students think?

Hopefully I’m not alone here.

To keep me sane, I’ve painted my nails a lovely shade of champagne.

The Next CEO by Nicole OPI

Have you tried the Nicole OPI line?  It’s pretty fantastic.

Moving on…

I’m going to spend today prepping for class, working out, and finding my zen place.

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite shots of Josie at the beach:

I love this picture because you can totally tell that she's thinking, "Oh sh!t, that's a big wave!"

Josie has discovered a newfound love for swimming in the ocean.  I frequently get shin-deep in the water because I am absolutely petrified that I will have to perform a rescue mission.  She thinks she is a giant labrador, and I think she looks like pea next to those waves.

I apologize in advance for the next picture.  I find it hilarious.

Best Butt Buddies

When I was little, we had a black lab/vizla mix, named Cassie.  We ONLY have pictures of her butt.  haha  She loved mooning the camera.  Josie is much more of a ham.

Doesn't she look like a creature of the black lagoon? Maybe a mermaid? Something freaky is happening here.

These next ones are my favorite.

Smart dog:

Not-so-smart dog:

Full of wisdom:

The hamster fell off the wheel:

What are you doing this week to keep yourself sane?

-Mads

Sunset harbor cruise

Life got completely surreal last night when Jonathan and I decided to go on a sunset harbor cruise with 8 other people.

For $15 per person you can show some dock boy your driver’s license and captain a boat for a few hours.  Do they care where you go? Nope!  Do they care if you’ve ever been on a boat before?  Nope!  Booze?  Why not, Captain!

I had no idea places in America still existed like that.

Anyway, we got settled in and took out to sea.

The trip was filled with wonder and delight.  Or at least, it could have been filled with wonder and delight had our boat load of people not been screaming, “I WANT TO SEE DOLPHINS!”

Nonetheless, we took in some sights.

The Queen Mary (ever-present in this blog’s narrative):

Thar she blows

Tons of oil rigs:

The oil rigs are presented to you in sepia in order to minimize feelings of rage.

Chevron’s lovely oil tanker, The Mississippi Voyager:

We got so close, the workers aboard the ship stopped to see if we were planning on crashing right into their side.

My favorite sight of all was the seals:

I would like to say this was a zoomed shot, but this is actually how close we were. At this point, a few passengers aboard thought it would be a great idea to toss them some shrimp cocktail. It was terrifying.

We just so happened to cruise on the same day as the Jazz Festival in the Marina.  Over 1,000 jazz fans packed the marina.  Most of the people were walking casually about the marina, but a large number of them were also on (incredibly expensive) docked boats in the harbor.

Packed marina.

Needless to say, parallel parking a rental boat was tricky.

Captain Greg had no boating experience, but we all put our faith in him.

Erm…what?

When it was time to pull the boat forward to readjust, the engine slipped and Captain Greg gunned it in reverse.

Directly into one of those expensive boats filled with people.

A thousand jazz fans collectively went “Woah”.

It wasn’t pretty.

This was my cue to step off the boat and run away.

And so ended a lovely sunset cruise in the harbor.

Have you ever been in a boating mishap?  

What’s the craziest animal you have seen in the wild?  

-Mads

Reading Rainbow Roundup

I believe it’s about time to share what I’ve been reading this summer.  Here goes:

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I love Tina Fey.  She’s self-deprecating, liberal, and a raging feminist.  Plus, I have a soft spot in my heart for female comediennes.  They fight the good fight.

Bossypants was a hilarious look at Fey’s childhood, breaking into show-biz, and backstage at SNL and 30 Rock.  The last chapter or two felt rushed, but I was generally pleased with what she chose to include in this memoir.  This is one of those quick beach reads that is fun for a minute or two.

1984 by George Orwell

For some reason, I’m the only person who didn’t have this on a required reading list in high school.  I know the public education system failed me, but c’mon!

I pretty much love any book with Utopia/Dystopia themes, so this was a win!  I’m also amazed that something something written in the 1940s could be so timeless.  The problems in 1984 are still threats to us today.  Bravo, Orwell.  Bravo.

The Devil in The White City by Eric Larson

This took me an embarrassingly long time to finish.  I would pick it up, read the first chapter, and then completely forget that I was reading it.  So, I’ve been meaning to finish it for over two years now.  *shame*

I finally made the commitment and I’m ohsoglad I did.  The Devil in The White City is a blow-your-socks-off non-fiction piece that parallels the Chicago World’s Fair to the story of a serial murderer.  I couldn’t put it down and it inspired me to hop on the ole Google to find out more about the fair.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been so moved by a book as to investigate the history for myself.  I’m so excited they are making this into a movie!

What are you reading this summer?  What books are you stoked to see turn into movies?

-Mads