Friday, October 30, 2015

Happy Hallow Reading--Part 2!

Halloween is my favorite time of year (yes, it’s a time of year for me, just like fall or summer!), and one of the reasons that I love it so much is that I spend the month dedicated to the spooky and macabre.  

One of my Halloween highlights this year was a trip over to one of the most haunted places in the world, the Winchester House, for their infamous flashlight tour. I wore a glow in the dark cat shirt, because why not?, which turned out to be a huge mistake since I was a light-up target for everything that goes bump in the night. To be fair, most of those things were actors—but you never know…

Like every Halloween season, I dedicated time to reading some new spooktastic books. Sad fact though: I’m a huge wimp. Like, almost everything is 2spooky4me. This probably sounds odd, since I love Halloween so much, but what I love is the sad ghosts, the misunderstood monsters, the well-meaning witches.

I love scary, but a certain type of scary—the kind that is more spooky than slasher. So I tend to gravitate towards middle grade and young adult books for my thrills, because not only are they less grotesque, but honestly, they’re often more creative and well written than adult horror novels.

Last year I made a list of some of my favorite spooky reads, and now I’m happy to share with you a spooktacular part 2—more MG and YA books that you can devour them like the insatiable reader ghosts that you are.

Happy reading!

The set-up of this MG novel is perfect--a lonely and angry girl is forced to move into a decrepit theater with her somewhat estranged father and kooky scarf-loving grandmother. Soon a telepathic black cat enters, the ghostly chaos ensues, and the journey begins for the reader.

Overall this was a fun and spooky book. I love that the protagonist was a strong girl who frequently solves the puzzles on her own, but is smart enough to know when to ask for help. I love that books like this exist for young girls to read.

I love pictures in books, especially when they’re well done, like the creeptastic images in “Asylum.” Pictures feel like little treasures you get to uncover after you turn a page, falling deeper into the book. Although, in this book many of these pictures were more like terrors than treasures, and more than once I had to snap the book shut because I was so freaked out!

Asylum uses pictures perfectly, but doesn’t rely on them to achieve its thrills. The plot takes care of that itself—Dan Crawford, a smart but kind of lonely kid, goes off to summer school, but it turns out the school is actually an old—you guessed it—asylum. Frightening shenanigans follow.

A fun and quick read, and I’ve already bought the sequel (which takes place in a carnival—eeek!).

If you read my first list you probably remember that I was still in the middle of reading Nightmares! (the first book in the series) when I wrote the post. So, I finished it a few days after that, and it was FANTASTIC! The perfect amount of scary and silly, while still being heartfelt and imaginative. So of course I pre-ordered the sequel.

At first I thought Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic was going to be some freaky middle grade version of the Walking Dead, but it takes the zombie concept on its own unexpected twist.  I loved that, as a sequel, it didn’t just try to rehash the plot of the first book, but builded up from it, and took the characters even further. That’s pretty much all I want to say, since I don’t want to ruin the first or second books for you.

Instead of reading a hardcover copy, like the first book, I listened to the sequel on audiobook. The narrator (Jason Segel) was so energetic and fun to listen to that I highly recommend “reading” the book this way!

The one thing I’ll complain about is that the book ENDED WITHOUT A RESOLUTION. Oh, cruel, cruel books who do this. WHY? The good thing is the reader knows there will be another book, the bad thing is, I want my happy ending, dang it! I mean, there is some resolution, but I want to know the answer to the mystery!!! Le sigh. Will have to wait another year to find out, I suppose!

This might be the one time in my life I am grateful for having a cold, because now I have an excuse to lay on my couch and read this book all day!!!  And when I say all day, I mean DAY, because I can’t imagine how scary this book would be to read at night.

Confession: I’m only half way through this book, but regardless, I think its pretty safe to recommend it, as so far it has both intrigued and scared the crap out of me.

Cas is a ghost killer, and Anna is a murderous ghost. A friendship between the two seems unlikely. And yet—nope, I’m not going to write what I was tempted to say, because I want you to read this one for yourself, without giving anything away. I’ll give you some of the words I was going to use though taken out of the sentence—rage, blood, revenge, complicated, relationship. There. You get the jist without me telling you what I think.

Go forth and read on, my literary minions!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

GF Chinese Food Recs for A Night Out or A Night In

Chinese food has always been my delicious downfall, and finding great gluten-free options is my epic food quest. But fear not, my precious penguins, because I have stumbled upon some amazing GF chinese food, and I'm hear to share my discoveries with you.

I present to you, two easy and different but both delectable ways to enjoy GF chinese food. Cheers!

For a Night in Make: 

Ivy's nails their sweet and sour chicken. It's relatively easy to make (I used the oven and skillet option) and it tastes fantastic. I wish it came with quick cook rice, but I have no problem making that on my own. Restaurant quality without having to put on pants. 4 1/2 stars. I hope they come out with a General Taos next!

(Picture from the Ivy's website. I didn't have time to take my own before I ate it...)

And for Dessert: 

One of my coworkers brought this cake in for my and another co-workers, birthday, and when I bit into this cake, tears of joy filled my widened eyes. This cake does not only taste gluten-free, but it tastes better than your normal non-gluten free cake. I really can't think of the right words to describe how magical eating this cake is. It'd be like if a unicorn married a golden statue of Brad Pitt floating on rainbow colored clouds. 

(Picture courtesy of me, ignore the bite missing from the corner of the cake)

For a Night Out Eat:

I've always loved PF Changs (even before I knew I had celiacs) so you can imagine how thrilled I've been to discover their gluten-free menu. I ordered the Spicy Chicken AT AN AIRPORT and it was FANTASTIC. Yes, airport food blew me away. I never thought I'd admit that, but there you go. I shouldn't have been surprised, as PF Changs has always been great, but this meal was so delicious that after one bite I called the waiter back over to verify it was gluten-free.  Honestly, it wasn't until I'd gone 48 hours without celiac symptoms that I truly believed it was GF! I can't wait to get this one again. As soon as they make their Sesame Chicken GF I probably won't need to eat anywhere else!

(Picture from the PF Changs website. Another instance of eating my food too fast and forgetting the picture.) 

And End the Night with:

(picture links to amazon for your culinary convenience) 

I think these may have been the first gluten-free brownies I made years ago, and I haven't found any brand that tops them. No one has ever been able to tell the difference between the gluten-free and gluten-full, and its my go-to when I bring a dessert to parties. They are simple to make, so yummy, and easily adaptable if you want to put your own twist on the dessert (think walnuts, caramel, etc). Should definitely be a pantry staple for all GF girls and boys with a sweet tooth. 

That's all for now. Feel free to comment with your favorite GF chinese foods and desserts. And in the meantime, I hope you have at the ready a pair of loose pants and a big appetite. Bon appetite! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

New and Improved Sweet and Tangy Texas Caviar

"Some things are even better the second time around." 

Lately I've been in a bit of a cooking slump. I think its partly because there are so many new amazing gluten-free pre-packaged foods and restaurants out there that I've gotten lazy.

Also, I can now make most of my favorite foods gluten-free, so I've gotten less motivated about creating new recipes.

So instead of coming up with all new dishes, recently I've tried improving upon a few old favorites (whether because I lacked certain ingredients or just felt creative) and dished them up in slightly different ways. Usually ways that require less time and effort (I mentioned before that I'm lazy, right?).

Texas Caviar is an old favorite that I changed last week to make it easier, healthier, and increase the tang. This is one of my 'go-to' potluck or sports party foods. Scoop it up with your favorite tortilla chips!


1 lime
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 large yellow onion
1 can corn (preferably grilled)
1 can black beans(15 oz)
1 can pinto beans (15 oz)
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Step 1: In a large bowl mix vinegars, salt, pepper, and sugar. Squeeze the juice  lime into bowl and stir. 

Step 2: Chop onion and bell peppers. Add to bowl with sauce.

Step 3: Empty the pinto beans, black beans, and corn into a strainer. Rinse beans and corn thoroughly and add to the large bowl. Toss all ingredients together.

Step 4: Marinate for 1 hour and serve with gluten-free chips of your choice!

Serves 6-12 depending on portion size. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top Reads of 2014 Plus Fake (and Ridiculous) Awards

"My kids can't eat awards." - Pitbull

I don't know about you, but I thought 2014 was a great year for reading. To be fair, most of the books I picked up weren't published in 2014, as I have a strong preference for paperbacks (weak wrists, amongst other made-up problems). Although a few were, usually ones that I've been impatiently waiting to see published.

This year I read 50 books (I know because Goodreads told me), and I wanted to share my favorites with you. In fact, I liked these books so much I've invented completely arbitrary awards to show my pleasure. So well done, books! (err, I mean, authors)

Amazing Adult Fiction:

11/23/63 by Stephen King

Award: Best Book by A Repeat Writer (aka I read everything you write, but not in a stalker way—I know you don’t like that, I read that book, too.)

Notable Non-Fiction:

Critical Care by Theresa Brown

Award: Most "Oh my gosh that is disgusting--how are humans even alive! I can't believe I'm reading this...please continue" moments.

Young-Adult Fantastic Fiction:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene

Award: Most Fun You’ll Have While Sobbing Uncontrollably

Powerful Poetry:

Tell Me by Kim Addonizio

Award: Most Pleasant Way to Get Your Heart Broken

Memorable Middle Grade:

Nightmares! By Jason Segel

Award: Spookiest without being 2spooky4me

Favorite Fantasy:

A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin

Award: Best Use of Beheadings

Best Book by A Friend:

How to Date Dead Guys by Ann Noser

Award: Creepiest Use of a Smiley Face, or, Most Likely to Make You Consider Necrophilia (I'm looking at you, Jake!). 

Moving Memoir:

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Award: Most inspiring to make me turn off Netflix and be a more productive person--after one more episode. 

Stupendous Series:

The Prydain Series by Lloyd Alexander

Award: I've already read this series 10 times and I still get goosebumps because Taran and Eilonwy forever.

Ten Additional Recommendations That I Enjoyed in 2014 For Various Reasons That are Too Long-Winded (kind of like this title...) to Easily Categorize Here:

Paint it Black by Janet Fitch
Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail by Suzanne Roberts
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Pines by Blake Crouch
Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis
Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet