September 26, 2012

The Perfect Bowl

I have been on the hunt for the perfect bowl for about a year now.  To me, the perfect bowl will be suitable for chili, rice bowls, soup, pasta dishes, fruit crisps and ice cream, and on, and on, and on (you get the idea).  To clarify, the perfect bowl must be:
  • wider than it is deep;
  • deep enough to contain a full serving of food without spilling or overflow; and
  • shallow enough to distribute any toppings over the entire dish.

About six months ago, when we first moved to Jacksonville and I was nesting, I was in Big Lots and spotted the perfect bowl...AND they were only $4.00 a piece.  Unfortunately, I was trying to "be good" by not spending unnecessary money and walked away without purchasing a single one.  

Lesson learned: 
When you find exactly what you have been looking for for a long time, GRAB. IT.!  

I mentioned these bowls to my mom, so when she visited this past weekend she suggested we go back to Big Lots to see if they were still there.  Luckily, they were, BUT only three were left. :(


Regardless, we decided that three were better than none, and snatched up all three.  Who knows, maybe if I check at other Big Lots locations I can find another five or seven to round out my collection!

See what I mean?!  
These bowls are perfectly wide, sufficiently deep, and yet still shallow enough for tons of delicious toppings!

In honor of my perfect bowl purchase, last night I whipped up an old classic: 

I started out by making a batch of rice cooked in vegetable broth (for additional flavor).  Once cooked, I added:
  • 1 1/2 T Earth Balance;
  • 1 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese; and
  • salt and pepper to taste.  

The texture and taste were similar to a risotto - without all of the tiresome stirring - SCORE!

For the add-ons, I:
Then I:
  • poured the spicy minestrone over the rice; and
  • garnished the dish with an additional 1/2 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese.

As simple as this dish was, it was incredibly filling and delicious.  
As Bo said, "this one's a keeper!"

In the future, I look forward to repeating this dish with different grains on the bottom and soups and garnishes on top.  For instance, I am already thinking about a cheesy polenta base, smothered in vegetarian tortilla soup, with avocado chunks and salsa for garnish.  

Doesn't that just should divine?!

In other somewhat sad news, Lola had an accident last night.
This was the end result...

Here's the back story:

Around 5:45PM, we let Lola outside in the backyard to tinkle (like we always do).  About 7-10 minutes later, Bo opened the back door to check on her.  As usual, she came running towards us as if to come inside.  Immediately Bo asked me to bring a towel, saying that it looked like she had red syrup all over her.

Well, it wasn't red syrup. 
It was blood.

Long story short, somehow, somewhere, someway, Lola received a 3 inch cut on her tail.  With every wag of her tail she was slinging blood E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E.  Bo and I were covered.  To be honest, it sort of looked like an ax murder took place on our back patio.

Five hours, twelve stitches, over $350.00, and one trip to the emergency animal hospital later, Lola was drugged, and Bo and I were exhausted.  It was not exactly the night we had planned.

Her tail looks so sad (sort of like a rat tails), she seems to be in quite a bit of pain, and she abhors the head cone.  None of us slept very well last night because Lola couldn't get comfortable in the head cone, Bo and I could hear here moving around all night, and she had a tinkle accident in her crate because when we did get home she was still so drugged that we could hardly get her to stand...much less poddy.  Now, poor thing, she smells like pee and we can't give her a bath because we can't get the tail wet.

Thank goodness for scented candles.

Overall, she is just incredibly pitiful.  Between the pain and the head cone she seems totally defeated...certainly not the happy-go-lucky puppy girl we are used to!  She tends to whine most of the day from pain, discomfort, and displeasure, and it is breaking both Bo and I's hearts to see her so sad.  On top of it all, we are going out of town this weekend and now have to board her with her vet.  I know that they will take good care of her, but I am so sad to be leaving our little girl in her time of need.

Question of the Day:

What is your favorite dish in the kitchen?  Do you have a special coffee mug?  Maybe it's a special cereal bowl or casserole dish?  Is there a story behind your favorite dish?  

Tell me all about it in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

September 24, 2012

(Antique) Treasure Hunting with Mom

I feel like I have been away from the ABC blog forever (OK, maybe not FOREVER, but certainly much longer than usual)!  Things have been super busy here with work (more on that in a future post), weekend getaways with family, weekend visit from family (i.e. Mom was here this Thursday through Monday), etc. etc. etc...all good stuff, but stuff that keeps me away from sharing with you all nonetheless!

I am looking forward to things calming down in the very near future.  Give me a week or two and things will be calmer and moving at a slower pace.  Until then, my posting might be a bit sporadic.  Regardless, don't worry.  I'm not going anywhere.  I've just got some other things on my plate right now that require my time and attention.

- enough pontificating -
(Fun word, huh?!)
Let's get to today's post.
Shall we?!

As I just mentioned, my mom was visiting from Springville, AL this past weekend.  My mom and I have become such good friends over the past few years (well, we have always been very close, but that closeness has evolved into a deep friendship as I have become an adult), and we always have so much fun when we are together.  It doesn't take much to make us happy!  Among the things that we LOVE to do are:
  • relaxing in a local coffee shop, sipping on warm coffee or tea, sharing thoughts, memories, and laughs together;
  • cooking;
  • practicing yoga or dancing; 
  • shopping at thrift stores and Goodwill's; and
  • hunting for hidden treasures in local antique shops!

The last item on that list might very well be our favorite.  I don't know what it is about antique stores, but my mom and I just love them.  Maybe it is the history that is behind every piece...or maybe it's the face that every item echoes a time gone by.  Whatever it is, my mom and I are both in our element when we are surrounded by timeless and beautiful antiques.

On Friday morning, my mom and I stopped into a local antique store in Orange Park, FL (where Bo and I live).  As most antique stores do, from the outside this one looked like a hole in the know, nothing to write home about.  However, once inside, it was filled with troves of treasures!
Sidenote: Isn't "trove" a fun word?  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means "a store of valuable or delightful things," and man oh man were we delighted!

I just loved this old buffet.  One day, I would love to invest in something like this, repaint it, replace the glass panes, and display my china (and various other timeless trinkets) inside.  It's hard to find furniture like this anymore...unless you have $5,000.00 or more, that is.

BOOKS, books, and more beautiful books! 

(I love to use old books with colorful and timeless spines to decorate with...they bring such character to a room and really say a lot about its inhabitants).

My beautiful mother.  
I hope that I age as gracefully.

I thought that these old-timey tools were so cool!  

If we lived in more of a country-style home, it would be really neat to create a wall display with them, don't you think?  Oh, and by the way, looking at these tools really made me appreciate how easy things are these days.  The simplest of tasks used to be so much more difficult than they are today!

Old-timey kerosene lamps.  

Actually, we ended up picking one out for me because this is a great thing to have when/if the power goes out.  Now I just need to head over to Wal-Mart to pick up some kerosene and a wick to put it all together...

(Seriously, what cook can have enough cute AND practical dishes?)

More dishes and records.  

Although you may think I am too young to remember records, you are mistaken.  I grew up dancing to them in the dance studio (before tapes were widely used, and WAY before CD's were invented).  I remember that if we landed a leap too close to the record-player we would cause it too skip.  I also remember the teacher having to restart the song every. single. time. it. ended.  

What good memories.

Trinkets filling every corner.

A beautiful decanter with matching tumblers.  
Can't you just envision a gentleman serving scotch or bourbon from this?!

Day's gone by.

Me...surrounded by antiques everywhere!

In the end, my mom helped me settle on a counter-top full of goodies, including:
  • five Pyrex dishes with glass tops;
  • a kerosene lamp;
  • three old-timey Bell jars;
  • a crystal decanter;
  • a stainless-steel bundt pan;
  • a hand-held, metal citrus juicer;
  • ceramic salt and pepper shakers; and
  • a beautiful, blue porcelain baking dish.

I can't wait to build shelves for our kitchen so that I can display all of my food-filled Bell-jars.  Dried beans, oats, cornmeal, lentils, quinoa, flour, sugar, chia name it and I will be putting it in a jar for display!  It will be so nice to get them out of the pantry and onto the walls for all to see!

I have already cooked in two of my Pyrex dishes and they worked out perfectly.  Not only can I cook in them, but I am also looking forward to storing leftovers in them and saving money on Tupperware, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap.  Win-win!

All our loot in a carry-home cardboard box!

To my mother - THANK YOU for spending your time and money on me.  The memories will last a life-time, and thanks to its quality, most of the items that we bought will too!

I love you.

Question of the Day:

How do you like to spend quality time with your mother/father?  What are some of your favorite things to do together?!

Ally and Bo

September 19, 2012

Shades of Grey

No, no, no...this post isn't about the Fifty Shades of Grey series (although I have read the trilogy and enjoyed it).  I know that the title of this post might have gotten your hopes up, but today's post isn't a book review.

Nope, today's post is about food choices.  


I don't know about you, but most of my food choices aren't black and white (Figuratively speaking, that is.  I'm not talking about black figs vs. white rice here).  Instead, the vast majority of my food choices come in various shades of grey (thus, the title of this post).  For instance:
Recently, Bo and I were craving rice crispy treats.  Since I'm not a huge fan of packaged foods, I decided to make my own at home.  Luckily, I found organic puffed rice (cocoa flavored, no less!) at the commissary, and I keep Earth Balance (sometimes Smart Balance) at home.  However, the challenge came with the marshmallows.  Now, I know that Whole Foods carries vegan-friendly marshmallows, but a single bag costs between $5.00-6.00, not to mention the thirty minutes it would take me to drive across town.  In the end, I bought a package of Jet-Puffed Marshmallows that contain gelatin...and I felt a little guilty.

In situations like that I feel really conflicted about my food choices.  On the one hand, I feel good about choosing an organic rice cereal and Earth Balance (or even organic butter); but on the other hand, I feel a little ashamed of myself for buying the Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.  In general, I'm not a fan of the use of gelatin (if you're interested in knowing what's in it - and how it is made - read here).  I also try to steer clear of any products that are made with dairy products that are not organic (you would be SHOCKED at how many packaged products contain dried egg whites, dried milk, etc.).

But sometimes
- OK, a lot of the time -
it is really difficult to steer clear of every product with which I have an ethical dilemma.

Sure, pretty much all produce is a safe bet (although, there again, you have to be careful about pesticides and the whole organic vs. conventional debate), and we buy organic eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk (although that's for Bo, I drink almond milk), and cottage cheese.  In general, our grocery cart consists of LOTS of fresh fruits and vegetables, organic dairy products, whole grains, meat (for Bo), and weekly odds and ends that aren't food related.  (And yes - to answer your question - buying organic dairy products and some produce costs us significantly more money than if we simply bought conventional (see dark, but relatively true, comic strip below).)


But even then I frequently feel conflicted about things.  

For instance:
  • What about the whole wheat bread that we buy - is it sprayed with harmful pesticides?  Is it grown on land that could be used for grazing happy cows?
  • What about the tortilla chips that we buy?  Is the corn produced in a way that is sustainable for our environment over a long period of time?
  • What about the jelly that I spread on our PB&J sandwiches - does it contain pectin?
  • and on...and on...and on...


After reading things like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and watching movies such as Food, Inc. and Polycultures: Food Where We Live, I want to be a responsible (and educated) consumer.  I want to be the type of consumer that makes the earth a stronger, healthier, and more balanced ecosystem.  And I suppose that, sometimes, I feel a little paralyzed by the fear of making an uninformed - or simply a lazy - decision that will negatively impact the earth, all the animals in it, the atmosphere, etc.

And then I think that - perhaps - I am being a little too dramatic.

Maybe what the world needs is a little more balance.

Maybe I am being too hard on myself.

Maybe the fact that I am writing this blog post is a sign that I really care, and that I am really trying to be a good steward of what I have been given.

And maybe
- just maybe -
the world
- along with all of its multi-legged inhabitants -
will cut me some slack when I buy Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.

Question of the Day:

Do you ever face an "ethical dilemma" related to the foods you purchase?  Do you try to buy organic for certain foods (or food groups)?  

I would LOVE to hear your comments and feedback on this topic!

Ally and Bo

September 17, 2012


I know that I have been totally MIA for the past few days.


Everything's fine.

We've just been out of town...and then REALLY busy.  
I will be back on Wednesday and can't. wait.!  

Until then, here's a Lola pic to tide you over. :)

This is from Lola's first road-trip this weekend!
Ally and Bo

September 13, 2012

Herb-errific Pasta Frittata

Who am I, and what have I done with Ally?!

Well, I assure you that I really am myself...I just happen to have found another way that I LOVE to eat my pasta (strange, I know).  As you might have read from the "About" page, I love to watch the Cooking Channel.  In fact, one of my favorite programs is Giada at Home with Giada de Laurentis.  Unsurprisingly, Giada cooks with a lot of pasta (come on, she IS Italian, after all).  The other day she made this pasta frittata that looked sooooooo good.  Seriously, both Bo and I's mouths was watering by the end of the episode.  

A day later, we had a potluck-style party to go to.  So, I decided to look up Giada's recipe online and recreate it.  For the party, I followed her recipe to the tee.  It turned out really well - in fact, I received several rave reviews from party-goers; BUT...that got my wheels turning.  I started to think about ways that I could re-make Giada's admittedly delicious recipe EVEN BETTER with a few minor tweaks.  In the end, I:

  • replaced the whipping cream with unsweetened almond milk;
  • used 1/2C organic Parmesan and 1/2C organic cheddar cheese (instead of 1C Parmesan);
  • replaced the thyme with a mixture of marjoram, oregano, and parsley; and
  • garnished the frittata with plain Greek yogurt (the creaminess REALLY sets off the richness of the frittata perfectly).

If I do say so myself (and Bo agrees), I think my version is even better than Giada's!  Granted, her recipe was my inspiration, and without it to kick-start my creativity, I doubt that I would have come up with this dish on my own.  Regardless, I am pretty proud of my final product...and my tummy's pretty happy about it too!

Note: I know that the directions below might seem a little overwhelming; but truthfully, this is actually a very easy dish to make.  I simply wanted to be as clear as possible in my directions.  Don't let them scare you away from making this delectable's a crowd-pleaser, I promise!

Herb-errific Pasta Frittata
Serves 6-8

6 eggs (I used organic and vegetarian fed)
3T unsweetened almond milk (or any milk)
1/2C organic Parmesan cheese
1/2C organic cheddar cheese, shredded
3tsp dried marjoram
1tsp dried oregano
2tsp dried parsley
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp pepper
3C penne pasta, cooked and cooled
2-4T plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream), for garnish

  • Heat a large, non-stick saucepan over medium heat.
  • Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the milk, and whisk until smooth.
  • Add the Parmesan cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, marjoram, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  • Stir together.
  • Add 1T EVOO to the heated saucepan.
  • Add the pasta to the egg/cheese/herb mix, and toss to coat.
  • Swirl the EVOO around the saucepan, and then immediately pour in the frittata mixture.
  • Gently press down the frittata mixture.
  • Cook for eight minutes.
  • Loosen the frittata with a large spatula.
  • Place a large plate on top and, in one rapid movement, flip the frittata over.
  • Add 1T of EVOO to the saucepan, and then re-insert the frittata in the pan with the uncooked side down.
  • Cook for an additional five minutes.
  • Remove, cool for five minutes, and then slice into wedges.
  • Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream) alongside a fresh salad.

Just looking at these pictures has me ready for lunch.

I am SO. HAPPY. that we have leftovers!

Question of the Day:

Assuming you eat eggs (which - by the way - is totally cool if you don't...I didn't for years), do you prefer an omelet, a frittata, or a quiche?!  OH, and what are some of your favorite fillings for each?!

Ally and Bo

September 11, 2012

Better-than-your-Picaddilly's Carrot Souffle

I don't know about you, but I grew up eating lunches and dinners with my family (especially when my Mee Maw and Pee Paw were around) at Picadilly Cafeteria.  In case you've never been to - or heard about - a Picadilly, it's essentially a cafeteria where you walk through the line and pick out your salad, entree, vegetable (or two...or my case), bread, and dessert.  In case your interested, here's a sample of their menu selections.

When I was a kid, I ALWAYS picked out a Jell-O bowl (you know the kind cut into little squares) and carrot souffle.  The rest of my choices would vary from visit to visit, but I could NEVER go without picking up both of my favorite items.  Looking back, I don't really understand my fascination with the Jell-O bowls...maybe it was the combination of the whipped cream with the Jell-O, I'm not quite sure.  Regardless, the carrot souffle is a dish that I still dream about as an adult.  For a kid that didn't really enjoy cooked carrots growing up, Picadilly's carrot souffle was like heaven (and dessert) wrapped in the guise of a vegetable!

Although the official website describes the carrot souffle as "subtly sweet" and "one of Picadilly's most popular dishes," I can assure you that there is nothing subtly sweet about the cafeteria's version of the dish; and honestly, that's probably why it's one of their most popular dishes!  So, when I started looking into recreating the dish, I expected it to contain quite a bit of butter and sugar.  However, I DID NOT expect the traditional Picadilly recipe to have:
  • 8T (yes, that's TABLESPOONS) of butter;
  • 1C of white sugar; and
  • 2T brown sugar.

WOWZA - that's quite the nutritional profile, isn't it?!

My version is just as delectable as my memory recalls, but with only 1T Smart Balance, 1/4C sugar-free maple syrup, and 1-3 packets of stevia, it is MUCH healthier.  Plus, my version includes the added protein of organic plain Greek yogurt, reduces the cholesterol by only using egg whites, adds a flavorful punch with nutmeg and ginger, and pumps up the nutrition with the addition of raisins and unsweetened coconut.

I'd say that's a home run on all accounts, wouldn't you?!

Better-than-your-Picadilly's Carrot Souffle
Serves 6

1 lb. carrots, peeled and diced
1/8C plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
2 egg whites
1T Smart Balance (or butter)
1/4C sugar-free maple syrup (or regular)
1-3 stevia packets (I only used one)
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1T all-purpose flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/8tsp nutmeg
pinch ground ginger
pinch salt
1/3C raisins, soaked in boiling water to reconstitute
1/4C unsweetened, shredded coconut

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Boil the carrots until tender (6-8 minutes).
  • Drain and place the carrots into a food processor.
  • Pulse until lightly pulverized.
  • Add the plain Greek yogurt, egg whites, Smart Balance, maple syrup, stevia packets, and vanilla extract.
  • Process until smooth.
  • Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
  • Process until smooth.
  • Add the reconstituted raisins and coconut.
  • Pulse 2-3 times, just to incorporate.
  • Pour into a non-stick baking dish.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Serve warm - as a side dish for dinner - or with a drizzle of maple syrup, and a dollop of vanilla ice cream, for dessert!

(See, I wasn't kidding when I said she was always around when food is being prepared!)

Question of the Day:

Did you eat at Picadilly (or a similar type of cafeteria) growing up?  What are your memories of eating there?
Have you ever dared to make a souffle?!  If so, what kind?  Cheese?  Chocolate?  Carrot?!

Ally and Bo

September 9, 2012

Light and Lemon-y Pasta

Night before last I was (strangely) craving pasta.  Usually, pasta is not my thing.  I'm not sure why, but I just don't really crave it...maybe it's because I usually find it to be too heavy and unsatisfying.  More times than not, I end up making it for Bo, and throwing together something else completely for myself.

Not two night ago.

Surprisingly, I actually wanted pasta, AND I wanted the last of our summer tomatoes.  So, I threw together a light and lemon-y pasta dish that satisfied all of my cravings.  The result was colorful, nutritionally balanced, and - most importantly - delicious!

Light and Lemon-y Pasta
Serves 2

2 campari tomatoes, diced
2 handfuls of spinach, torn
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2C uncooked pasta
1/2 lemon (squeezed to remove juice)
1/4C Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 avocado, diced

  • Add the diced tomatoes, torn spinach, and lemon zest to a large mixing bowl.
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  • While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the lemon juice and EVOO.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and then immediately add it to the tomato/spinach/lemon zest mixture.  Toss together.
  • Add the Parmesan cheese, and then pour the lemon juice and EVOO dressing on top.
  • Toss to incorporate and melt the cheese.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Garnish with avocado chunks, and serve quickly (before the avocado turn brown).

Oh hi Lola!  
(Thanks for poppin' in!)

You can always count on Lola to be close by whenever food is involved...surprisingly, she loves ALL food (i.e. not just meat and peanut butter).  Even if I am cooking a vegan/vegetarian dish, she is directly under-foot and intently interested (and hopeful that I might drop a mouthful - or two)!

I captured the perfect lighting in the picture below (probably my favorite out of the bunch).  You can really see all of the dish's colors in this one:
  • red from the tomatoes;
  • green from the spinach and avocado;
  • brown from the pasta;
  • yellow from the lemon zest; and
  • flecks of white from the Parmesan cheese.  


As a TOTAL tangent: 
Look at how much my hair is growing!

Remember when is was THIS short?!

(That was last Thanksgiving...less than a year ago!)

Now it is just above my shoulders, and I can almost pull it into a full ponytail.  

For now, I am just going to keep letting it grow.  I don't really have any specific length in long as it continues to look healthy and shiny then I will just keep letting it get longer.  Who knows, maybe one day it will get this long...

Question of the Day:

What's your favorite pasta shape? Macaroni? Penne? Spaghetti? Lasagna? Shell? Orzo?

Personally, I like shells and penne because they capture lots of yummy sauce inside! :)

Ally and Bo

September 7, 2012

Love is Like a Mirror

Yesterday, on my way home from a business meeting and taking a yoga class, I was listening to "Fresh Air" with Terri Gross.  "Fresh Air" is easily one of my favorite shows on NPR; there is just something about Gross' ability to ask the right questions that makes every show both impressionable and memorable.

In yesterday's program, Gross interviewed Martin Bayne who was forced to enter an assisted living facility due to his debilitating early-onset Parkinson's disease.  Unlike most of his assisted living counterparts who are in their 80's and 90's, Bayne - in his early 50's - "calls himself an observer-advocate and writes about long-term care reform for the elderly" in his blog, as well as nationally-renowned newspapers such as The Washington Post.  The interview covered a vast array of topics including:

But - for me, at least - the most powerful moment in the interview was an obscure one: it was a moment that reflected not on death, and not on the elderly, but on love.  I am paraphrasing substantially here because I cannot find a transcript of the interview online, but when Gross asked Bayne why he cares so much about his community, he answered in roughly the following way:
Because love is like a mirror.  If I can love the brokenness in others.  If I can accept the disintegration of my peers and of my friends, then I can learn to accept the same faults within myself.  I can only love my friends and family as much as I love myself.  No more. And if I have no love for myself, then that will inevitably be reflected in my relationship with everyone else.

I almost cried. 


It's amazing how the truth can find us in the most unexpected of times, when we are most unprepared for its arrival.  And yet, Bayne's words hit me like a ton of bricks and said:

"Are you listening?"
"Don't you get it?!"

And in that moment, I did.


With love you cannot bargain there,
the choice is not yours.
Love is a mirror, 
it reflects only your essence,
if you have the courage to look in its face.


Normal Rockwell paintings are some of my favorites, and this one (entitled "Girl in Mirror") is one of my all time favorites.  This painting has always spoken to me; maybe it's because "something about the way this young girl looks at herself in the mirror rings so can tell she's judging herself," and it's beautiful in a sad, intimate sort of way.

As an interesting tidbit, if you look at the original photograph that Rockwell painted from, there is no magazine.  He added the magazine onto the girl's lap in his painting...and I have to wonder why?

What was his inspiration?
What was he trying to say...if anything?

I have a hard time thinking that he would add the magazine "just because" - without any real meaning or message behind it - but then again, who am I to judge?  Regardless, at the end of yesterday (and into this morning), Bayne's words still echo in my mind:

I can only love my friends and family as much as I love myself.  
No more. 

With that said, I think I have some work to do...

Question of the Day:

What are your thoughts about today's post?  Do YOU think love is like a mirror...or do you think this is just some silly simile?  

Whatever you think, I would love to hear all about it in the "Comment" section below!

Ally and Bo

September 5, 2012

Book Review: Tiger's Destiny (Tiger's Curse Series: Book 4)

What is better than The Hunger Games;
better than The Twilight Saga; and
better than The Divergent Trilogy?

Don't get me wrong!  I still love The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games as much as almost any fan reader (Heck, I am am flying to Boston in November to visit a friend and watch the final Twilight movie!), but there are so many things about The Tiger's Curse Series that make it far and above my favorite series of all time.

For instance:
  • the action is bigger, better, and much more imaginative;
  • the story is punctuated with ancient Indian mysticism, Chinese folklore, as well as myths from all around the world;
  • the characters are nuanced and multi-dimensional (i.e. Kelsey is stronger than - and not as needy as - Bella, less hardened by the world than Katniss, and just as tough - if not more - than Tris)
  • the love triangle is heartbreaking and yet believable (no offense to Twilight, but Edward and Jacob have nothing on Ren and Kishan in this department); and
  • finally, the series is infinitely more imaginative than any other series (or book - for that matter) that I have EVER read!

Yesterday afternoon I finished the fourth book in the series (there will be five total).  Since finishing Tiger's Voyage last November, I have been waiting over ten months for Tiger's Destiny to be released.  In fact, I pre-ordered a copy back in July so that I would be one of the first readers to get my hands on a copy!

Funny side-story: I received my pre-ordered copy of Tiger's Destiny last Friday.  Immediately I scanned through the book - you know, just to make sure everything was there - and whaddya know but my copy was missing the last chapter and the epilogue!  Yes.  MISSING.  As in, NOT THERE AT ALL.  I think my jaw dropped.  And then I just stared at the book in total disbelief for a few minutes.  SERIOUSLY?!  All this waiting and I don't have the final chapter?! 
Well, I ended up calling Amazon, reporting my complaint, and having a new copy sent out for free.  The copy finally arrived on Tuesday (which was a good thing, because I had already read the entire book and was patiently impatiently waiting to read the final chapter and epilogue).  Now, I've read the entire book, and the saga behind my pre-ordered book dilemma has been solved.  WHEW!

Now, back to the book review at hand:


With three of the goddess Durga's quests behind them, only one prophecy now stands in the way of Kelsey, Ren, and Kishan breaking the tiger's curse.  But the trio's greatest challenge awaits them: A life-endangering pursuit in search of Durga's final gift, the Rope of Fire, on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.  

It's a race against time - and the evil sorcerer Lokesh - in this eagerly anticipated fourth volume in the bestselling Tiger's Curse series, which pits good against evil, test the bonds of love and loyalty, and finally reveals the tiger's true destinies once and for all.



Seriously, I don't know how author Colleen Houck does it, but every. single. book. in this series just gets better and better!  Her creativity is endless, the plot thickens in ways that I couldn't ever imagine, and the twists and turns result in an emotional roller-coaster that leaves you feeling a bit of "reader whiplash" (in a really good way!).  Houck makes you want to never stop reading!

In addition to the amazing creativity behind the story itself, the saga's main characters of Kelsey, Ren, and Kishan have increasingly matured and evolved.  Unlike the series' beginning, each character has become less selfish, more independent, and stronger both in body and spirit.  In Tiger's Destiny, I also really enjoyed gaining a better understanding of Lokesh as a helped me to understand is villainy (even if I still find him to be one of the creepiest villains of all time!).

At several points in this book I got teary eyed - and yes, a tear or two might made its way onto the pages of the book.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to by the incredibly happy ending to this book, and am interested to see how Houck shakes things up for the series finale in book five!  I can hardly imagine what crazy amazingness she will come up with!

So, if you have not read this series you are missing out on a brilliant, original masterpiece that is unlike anything you have read before.  

What are you waiting for?!  
Go pick up The Tiger's Curse series N.O.W.! 

Now - as my friend Emily would say - I need to go nurse my "book hangover."  What's a book hangover, you might ask?!  Well, it is:

"The inability to start a new book because you're still living in the last book's world!"  

On that note, maybe I will just re-read Tiger's Destiny.  After all, there might be some foreshadowing for book five that I missed!

Question of the Day:

What is the best book series YOU have ever read?!

Ally and Bo

September 2, 2012

Lemon Honey Stone Fruit Salad

Sadly, the last of this year's blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries have come and gone.  That means another year of waiting until they are fresh and in season again.


Thankfully, just as berries go out of style season, stone fruits come in!  So what - exactly - are stone fruits?!  Well:
  • peaches, nectarines, apricots, mangoes, avocados (yes, it's a fruit - not a vegetable!)and plums are characterized as "stone fruits;"
  • so-called because of the stone-like seed inside, these fruits ripen in late summer and early fall; and
  • among other benefits, stone fruits:
    • create collagen;
    • care for your nerves and muscles;
    • sharpen eyesight;
    • strengthen bones; and
    • aid in digestion (Source).

Pretty good report card eh?!

Since I love both peaches and nectarines, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that both fruits boast up to five times more antioxidants than previously thought (that's because some of them are "unlocked" during the digestive process)AND - perhaps even more exciting - stone fruits are known for curbing appetite and providing a sense of fullness.

Sounds like the perfect snack to me!

The lemon-honey dressing for the salad is out. of. this. world. delicious!  I could have drank a glass full of it...yes - it was that good.

Lemon Honey Stone Fruit Salad
Serves 2-3

1 medium peach, washed and diced into bite-size pieces
1 medium nectarine, washed and diced into bite-size pieces
1 medium-to-large plum, washed and diced into bite-size pieces
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
2T (scant) honey

  • Place the peach, nectarine, and plum in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Zest the lemon on top of the fruit.
  • Add the lemon juice and honey to the fruit.
  • Toss to incorporate.
  • Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to two hours).
  • Serve chilled.

Can you see the little specs of lemon zest?!  

As a sidenote, I am LOVING the natural light in these photos.  Note to self:  make more recipes in the middle of the day so that I can take pictures of them in the sunlight!

Question of the Day:

What is/are your favorite fruit(s)?!  I LOVE apples, really good peaches, and almost any type of berry (unfortunately, the season for berries is far too short in my opinion).

Ally and Bo