I've Moved!

It's been a while since I checked in with Radiator Tunes and since my time away, I've decided to change formats a bit and start a new blog. Some of my content from Radiator Tunes has been transferred to my new site, Remember When The Music, and I hope to continue posting on books, film, music, and social justice. Thanks to all my readers for following along with me!


Glen Hansard

I've long considered Glen Hansard, front man behind the bands the Frames and the Swell Season, to be something of a musical genius. From the first scene in the film Once when I was introduced to Mr. Hansard performing an acoustic cover of Van Morrison's "And the Healing Has Begun" on the streets of Dublin, I knew that this Irish singer-songwriter had an inordinate amount of talent. He quickly earned his place among my favorite musicians and has remained there ever since.

After hearing news that Glen was releasing a solo album this summer, I've been anxiously counting the days until its release date on June 19th. In the meantime, YouTube offered me some musical solace with these little gems. I don't know if any of these tunes will make it to Glen's new album (though I'm pretty sure the song featured in the final video, another Van Morrison cover, won't be one of the tracks), but they offer some wonderful listening in the meantime. Enjoy!


Oodles of Udon

When Mike and I were on our epic cross country road trip a few years ago, we stopped for Chinese takeout at some nameless place along the West coast. I ordered the nondescript "Healthy Noodles" on a whim and was utterly delighted with my meal - thick, doughy, and flavorful noodles tossed with stir-fried veggies. I thought about those Healthy Noodles many a time since then but only recently discovered that they were, in fact, udon noodles.

When I ordered udon noodles on purpose for the first time, not knowing exactly what they were, I finally received some long-awaited closure. My dish arrived, full of those same thick and delicious noodles I'd had years ago. I finally learned that my beloved Healthy Noodles were udon.

Next time I headed out to the Asian market, I happened across some udon noodles and decided to try my hand at preparing udon in my own kitchen. The package I decided upon actually contained pre-cooked noodles - all I had to do was add them to whatever dish I prepared. They could not have been easier to use and my final product tasted just as authentic as that of the two restaurants where I'd first tried udon.

This was the kind of meal that I composed primarily by feel. No measurements, recipes, or real direction guided my preparations - I simply added whatever I felt was necessary after each ingredient. First was some butter, sesame oil, and chopped oyster mushrooms. For a bit of protein, I added in some tiny cooked frozen shrimp (more accurately, shrimp-lets). I doused the whole thing with a little mirin (a sweet cooking sauce) and hoisin sauce (an Asian barbecue sauce of sorts) once the shrimp were fully defrosted. After introducing the udon noodles, I threw some greens in the pan to finish things off. As soon as the greens wilted, my udon delight was ready to serve.

There is something so appetizing about these doughy wheat noodles and their almost-but-not-quite-chewy texture. These are quite certainly going to become a new staple in my kitchen, especially since the local Asian market carries an affordable no-cook brand.


The Beginner's Goodbye

My introduction to Anne Tyler occurred in eleventh grade English. We were to select an author from a list provided by the teacher and read three of their novels, than fashion some sort of analytical report about the author's work. I went with Tyler on my mother's suggestion and was delighted with the prospect of delving into her work quite quickly after I started to read my first Tyler selection. And so marked the beginning of my Anne Tyler fandom.

I think part of my fondness for Ms. Tyler has something to do with the fact that she is based in and tends to set her stories in Baltimore. It's an unexpected comfort to read a novel rife with references to my own hometown, to follow a cast of characters frequenting landmarks with which I am highly familiar. Beyond this Baltimorean bond, however, Anne Tyler's novels are the kind I simply cannot fail to enjoy. Her protagonists are always the kind that are strangely alluring, humanized by some sort of defect whether physical, psychological, or both. The plots are never highly complex in nature but they explore very compelling human themes that make for engaging and moving reading. 

Her evasiveness when it comes to the press is pretty intriguing, and impressive, as well. Tyler hardly ever gives interviews in-person and her books are well-received despite the fact that she doesn't travel on book tours. With a Pulitzer Prize in the bag for her ninth novel Breathing Lessons, the world seems to be in agreement that Anne Tyler has got something special in the writing department.

Much as I adore Tyler's work, I caught word of her most recent release, The Beginner's Goodbye, only in passing and immediately sent out a request for it at the library. Despite the busyness of work and school and gardening and housework and all the rest, I found the time to knock out this engaging and plainly delightful novel about a grieving widower named Aaron in just a few days. 

Though the construct of the story is downright tragic (Aaron's wife Dorothy is killed in their own home by a fallen tree), The Beginner's Goodbye is not a necessarily somber book. Aaron is editor of his family's publishing business which specializes in a beginner's guide series on topics from kitchen remodeling to dinner parties to funeral planning. After her passing, Dorothy continues to appear to her late husband. Through these visits, we travel with Aaron through the grieving process, with recollections from the couple's initial meeting all the way up to the moments before that fateful tree ended Dorothy's life. Though no how-to manual could ever direct Aaron out of his grief, encountering Dorothy helps navigate Aaron through his despair, much like the books which he edits are intended to guide novices through the new phases and challenges of their lives. 

Tyler's story is comforting, tender, and appropriately touched with levity. The Beginner's Goodbye is a subtle and simple story but one that, like most of Tyler's work, provides deep satisfaction and resonance. 


Broccoli Basil Pesto

A recent issue of Whole Living magazine opened my eyes up to all the possibilities of pesto. I've tried using different combinations of herbs and cheeses before to make this flavorful and healthy spread, but Whole Living's recipes included ingredients as varied as carrots, pistachios, red bell peppers, spinach, lemon, and broccoli rabe. These were totally outside my realm of imagination and I couldn't wait to try them all.

Inspired by Whole Living's recipes and an excess quantity of broccoli in my freezer, I tried my own hand at playing with pesto and I came up with a healthy, delicious, and relatively inexpensive version that I love. Using veggies can really stretch a pesto without sacrificing on nutrition or flavor, and the very combination of ingredients involved sound pretty impressive to the foodie's ear.

I wasn't very exact while preparing my pesto, so the following recipe is more of an estimation of how I created my delicious and complex pesto. If there's one thing that I've learned about pestos, in addition to just how versatile they can be, is that they are extremely forgiving.

After thawing out some frozen broccoli, I added between 4 and 5 cups of the veggies to my food processor. Since they are pretty mild in flavor but bright green in color, these were the perfect compliment to my fresh basil (about a cup or so) and pungent garlic (I used a whole head for this recipe). Instead of adding the pine nuts, as traditional pestos do, I used a combination of slivered almonds and pumpkin seeds. Once everything was in the bowl of my food processor, I added a touch of salt and pepper, then pulsed until everything was finely chopped, making sure to wipe down the sides so no ingredients were left behind. Then I continued to combine my pesto ingredients while streaming in olive oil (between 3/4 and 1 cup).

The result was a bit of a flavor explosion with all the bright greenery of broccoli, the delicious flavor of garlic, and the earthy hint of basil. I topped some wasa toasts with my pesto and a smear of goat cheese for a light lunch and froze the remaining pesto in small portions for easy weeknight meal-making.


Goat Cheese and Quick Onion Jam Toasts

Sometimes in my kitchen, necessity is the mother of invention. When I make it home after a day at work and a night of classes, the last thing I want to see is a near-empty fridge. But with so much of my time consumed by my various jobs and my education, I find less and less time to worry over what to feed myself (which may, in fact, be a good thing). Nonetheless this also means less time to plan elaborate meals and get in some strategic grocery shopping.

But for whatever reason, there always seem to be onions on hand in my house. Though I may run out of fruits and vegetables, onions are one of the most constant and dependable staples in my kitchen, and they never seem to run dry. I'm a fan of the onion myself, cognizant of its value in countless cuisines and flavorful possibilities, but Mike is not so found of these pungent recipe staples.

When I recently found myself out of produce after a particularly exhausting day, the idea for these simple and sweet toasts came to me. I had plenty of reliable onions on hand and, thanks to Sam's Club, a huge log of creamy goat cheese. An old pack of hearty Wasa crackers buried in the back of the pantry (but far from expired) seemed the obvious vessel for this quick and surprisingly elegant dish, though any unflavored cracker or toast would do.

One of the most wonderful things about the onion is its sweet side. A little caramelizing goes a long way; sliced raw onion rings become caramelized when warmed over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. I used two medium onions which required only a few tablespoons of agave and a single tablespoon of sugar to bring out all their sweet goodness. I let the thinly sliced onions cook for 12 to 15 minutes in canola oil, then added agave and finished up with a sprinkling of sugar 5 minutes later. Once the sugar was fully dissolved, I removed the onions from the stove and divided them among my goat cheese-covered crackers. The onions were sticky and sweet, a wonderful complement to the creamy tanginess of the goat cheese. 

This dish has quickly become a staple in our house on account of its ease, reliability, and impact. We can enjoy them as a quick snack on a busy night or as an impressive appetizer for a friendly dinner party. The ingredients aren't hard to find and are nearly constantly on hand, the process could not be simpler, and the results are a flavorful delight.



This was the first weekend yet that truly felt like spring to me. Sure, I had tons of homework on my plate and Easter obligations tied up some of my precious free time. But the sunny days and warmish temps were quite welcome, and I can't complain about having longer days and thus more hours of natural photo-taking light after work!

Since the office was closed on Good Friday, I took advantage of my extra time off to get some stuff done around the house. My mom lent me a hand with painting the bathroom, and on one of our trips to Home Depot, we came across an array of succulents that were too beautiful (and cheap!) to resist.

Planted in some bright terra cotta pots, these succulents are the perfect cat-safe way to fill up some empty space in our living room. I love the look of these plants with their cool blue and green hues and thick, milky leaves. It doesn't hurt that they are also unbelievably low-maintenance and that my cat Digby won't go near them.

I realized that I've become quite the garden geek as I've progressed into my mid-twenties. There's just something about the colorful blooms of spring, the anticipation of the backyard harvest, and the cheery look of a few well-placed house plants that lifts my mood immensely.

PS - Mike and I saw 21 Jump Street on Saturday and absolutely loved it! It's been quite some time since I laughed in a movie theater like that. Though I never watched the original show, I definitely would recommend the movie remake to anyone who considers themselves a fan of comedy or Jonah Hill!


Being Flynn

It's been a pretty good month for me in movies and I was pleasantly surprised when Mike and I headed out to see yet another indie flick this past weekend. Being Flynn is based on Nick Flynn's memoir entitled Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. I was intrigued enough by the book's title when I came across it years ago to buy a copy for myself, but it was only recently that I actually sat down and read the thing. Though I enjoyed Flynn's memoir, this was one of those very rare cases (if not the only case) in which I enjoyed the film version better than the book.

Paul Dano, as Nick Flynn, and Robert De Niro, as Nick's father Jonathan, both deliver excellent performances as would be expected of two such talented actors. Though Jonathan was largely absent throughout the majority of his son's life, Nick knew of his father's delusions of being one of the nation's most brilliant writers. With this knowledge in the back of his mind, Nick hesitantly followed is his father's wayward footsteps, pursuing the written craft himself.

Though Nick's path is not quite as turbulent and disarrayed as his father's was, the younger Flynn inherits plenty of baggage from his parents, the unconventional single mother home in which he was raised, and the constant rotation of father figures that entered and quickly exited his life. Nick stumbles upon work at a Boston homeless shelter while in between jobs and soon finds himself stationed in gainful employment. When Jonathan shows up in line at the shelter one winter night, however, the small semblance of stability Nick has forged is quickly thrown off balance.

I appreciated Flynn's memoir and the story he had to tell; it was only his narrative style that left me less than satisfied. I entered the theater with less than high hopes for the film version, not sure how Nick's complicated story would play out on screen. But I was very much pleased by the cinematic storytelling, the pacing of the movie, and the performances delivered. Though there is yet to be an exceedingly positive consensus from the critics (according to Rotten Tomatoes), I definitely think Being Flynn is worth a shot. I left the theatre feeling good, satisfied with the $7.50 investment I made with my matinee ticket and glad that I gave the film version of Flynn's story a shot.


More Mangan

I posted about Dan Mangan a few months back. He's easily my current favorite artist and I've been listening to both of his albums nonstop these days. I found some excellent live performances of songs from his most recent album, Oh Fortune, that I thought were worthy of sharing. Now if only he would come to Baltimore so I could see him perform these live and in person for myself!


Brownie Pudding and An Endorsement for Pinterest

One of my loosely framed resolutions for the year was to reduce my time in front of screens, whether television or computer. Much as I do enjoy exploring the blogs of others and mindlessly sorting through craft projects, recipe ideas, and the endless array of talented artisans selling their crafts on Etsy, I also worry about the amount of time I waste in cyberspace. My fear is that, by becoming too ingrained in the virtual world, I will be unable to experience the real one without comparing my days to those depicted in the blogs of others or without making reference to some anecdote recounted by a friend on facebook.

That's not to say that the internet isn't a useful tool for connecting and sharing with people near and far. I love that I can find inspiration from people the whole world over within the space of a few keystrokes, that I can keep up to date on the lives of friends traveling abroad, and that I can even reconnect with people I thought I would never have the opportunity to meet again. The amount of knowledge that can be shared and the way that information can be so easily accessed is still absolutely incredible to me, though at times incredibly dangerous.

But the number of hours I waste aimlessly browsing the internet scares me off of it too. The thought of how many books I could have read, conversations I could have engaged in, meals I could have prepared, and experiences I could have had in the innumerable hours I've lost during the past twenty three years of my television-watching and internet-accessing life fills me with inklings of regret. So I vowed to spend less time in front of a screen this year and more time doing, being, and experiencing in the real world.

Then I found Pinterest. I had refrained from joining the pin-board social network for quite some time, aware of how quickly it would consume my rare free hours and unfamiliar with the necessity of one more social networking tool. But I began to grow more and more interested as my internet bookmarks grew increasingly overwhelming and disorganized, despite my ardent attempts to keep things methodically categorized. The idea of a visual organization system, obtainable wherever the world wide web can be accessed, was appealing to an A-type such as myself. I decided to give it a try. And I pretty quickly bought into all the hype (I'm still a staunch anti-Twitterer though!).

All this to say that Pinterest is not nearly as overrated as I had imagined it would be. In fact, it has provided me with some incredibly decadent and delicious recipe ideas, dishes I would never have otherwise found. Organized as Pinterest is, I can browse hundreds of ideas quickly, filtering through what I do and don't want to retain without wasting an inordinate amount of time. In the space of five minutes, I can find recipe ideas for the whole week, whereas pouring through food blog after food blog for the perfect seven dinners would take an hour or more. I guess eventually I might have found Tracey's version of Ina Garden's recipe for Brownie Pudding through some inadvertent path, but Pinterest brought it right to me just when I needed something chocolatey and gooey the most. 

Mike and I devoured these little pots of chocolatey goodness too quickly for me to snap a picture of them, so these shots are from my original sources. Pretty so we had stomachaches on account of the speed with which we consumed such an inordinate amount of chocolate. But the pain in our bellies was well worth the deliciousness of this brownie pudding. They were simple to make (I accidentally beat the eggs and the butter, rather than the eggs and the sugar, in step #3 and my puddings still turned out excellent!) and highly adaptable I imagine. Next time I plan to add a little Nutella to the mix and maybe I'll even try a few with peanut butter too!

Photo from Tracey's Culinary Adventures

Brownie Pudding

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Place the butter in a saucepan and melt over medium-low. Set aside to cool once fully melted.
  3. Sift cocoa powder and flour together into a medium bowl.
  4. Beat eggs and sugar until the batter is very thick and forms ribbons. On low speed, add vanilla extract and the cocoa and flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Then pour in the melted butter, mixing until just combined
  5. Spread the mixture into baking dish. Place baking dish inside large roasting pan, adding hot water to roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  6. Bake 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted about 2 inches from the edge comes out partially clean.
  7. Transfer baking dish to a wire rack to cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!



Had a nice, quiet weekend with my dog, my husband, and my homework.

I've been MIA as of late on account of school, work, and dreary days of pre-April showers. Things are calming down a bit on this end and more posts are soon to come!


The Age of Missing Information

Although Bill McKibben's The Age of Missing Information was written in the year 1990, its central tenets still ring true over two decades later. McKibben embarks on an unusual experiment of sorts, comparing the information and insight gleaned from 24 hours spent in nature with that imparted by 24 hours of television. This was before the dawn of the internet, when the most transformative technology introduced during the lives of the majority of Americans was the television. McKibben's innovative project yields keen observations about the way that our society has been vastly changed by this single technological advancement.

I've become quite a fan of McKibben as of late. Though I don't quite share in his religiosity, Mr. McKibben's environmentally-conscious, anti-consumer sensibility is extremely amenable to my own while his liberal politics very nearly mirror my own. Sharing such a mindset with the talented writer and social critic lends itself to a desire to read his books, but what really sets McKibben apart for me is his ability to impart the severity of the changes we have wrought. Reading his analysis of the myriad ways that television has transformed how we give and receive information, communicate with one another, structure family and community life, and conceptualize ourselves and our world and our place in that world imparts a small sense of doom given that the internet has so vastly compounded the issues TV has wrought. McKibben has an uncanny ability to bring home just how fundamental the topic of this piece is while retaining a sense of hope for necessary change.

I would hate to recount McKibben's major arguments here and spare you the pleasure of discovering them yourself in The Age of Missing Information. But I cannot avoid making mention of his contention that television almost counterintuitively decreases the size and scope of our worlds. We tell ourselves that, since we can watch TV and catch a glimpse of life as experienced nearly anywhere in the world, we are reaping the benefits of globalization and creating stronger and more vast communities. But in succumbing to the lure of the boob tube, we're ever more isolated from our true communities, the ones composed of our physical neighbors, coworkers, friends, family networks, and more. Is going global really better than staying local? If we sever the connections forged between the people who live right outside our door, are we really doing better by ourselves, our neighbors, or our country at large?

Then there's also the idea that watching television enhances our lives. People believe that they are engaged, learning, and made happier vis a vis their television set. Well McKibben is here to argue to the contrary. TV only engages two of our senses and narrows our field of vision to the point where we're no longer cognizant of the peripheral visual information our eyes absorb, like the television set itself, the shelf upon which it sits or the wall in front of which it is located. While there is a seemingly infinite amount of content on television, the state in which viewers find themselves makes it extremely difficult for that new knowledge to be fully consumed and digested. And the way in which it is presented, in transitory two-dimensional soundbites and snapshots, quickly replaced by words and images on a new topic, makes it nearly impossible for our brains to truly retain anything offered on TV. Before television, knowledge was learned by experience, deep concentration, and thorough training. People practiced crafts as apprentices for years before taking on the profession themselves and poured over reading material of all sorts to ensure they were thoroughly well-versed on the topic of their expertise. We're kidding ourselves if we imagine that those hard-learned and well-earned skills and pieces of knowledge from the days of yore can be so easily transmitted nowadays through the medium of television.

And these are just the beginnings of what McKibben has to say about TV. His contemplations on the set and all it entails are entertaining and thought-provoking, sure to leave you considering your own television habits and how the presence (or absence) of a TV has shaped your world. The purpose of McKibben's book is not to banish the TV or to trash the American media, but rather he makes a case that we need to reconsider what television means for us individually and as a society living in what was once a natural world. If we don't stop to think about the effects of TV now, we may very well dig ourselves into multiple holes out of which we will have no hope of emerging.

Prior to reading McKibben's book, I had made a personal effort to abstain from screens as much as possible. While schoolwork, emails, and blogging are pursuits that require a computer screen and I have trouble completely abolishing, I've found it quite easy to avoid the television screen. Sure, there are days when I succumb to an episode of Gilmore Girls here and there, but for the most part I resort to more engaging, challenging, and fulfilling forms of entertainment in my rare moments of free time. And I've found that the joy of reading a book, playing with my dog, or talking to my husband are far superior to the temporary benefit imparted by the TV. When I'm reading a book, I have a much greater sense of where my time has gone. I can track the minutes by the number of pages I've read, the points of plot uncovered, whereas half an hour of TV can easily turn into four or five and a night well wasted. I was never a huge TV-junkie before but The Age of Missing Information has highlighted some of the benefits of a reduced-television life that I never even imagined previously.

Television is a hallmark of American culture, one that has shaped our lives and produced some true works of art. But it is a technology not without its hazards and is best consumed in moderation. McKibben makes a case for a new conception of this age of information as one of missing information, for far too often our obsession with television leaves something else essential out. My hope, and one that I imagine Bill McKibben shares too, is that we can get a better grasp on what we're missing before its too late to ever recover.

***For more great social commentary, cultural critiques, and provoking politics, check out McKibben's Hundred Dollar Holiday.


The Perfect Crumble

I've always been a huge fan of the crumble. With a base of juicy, sweet fruits complemented by an upper crust full of crunch, warmth, and oat-y heartiness, you can't go wrong. Unless you can't get it right. And for a long time, I could not.

My mom is the queen of crumbles. After a successful trip to the farmer's market or a fall day spent at the apple orchard, she can whip up a crumble that elevates her fruity finds to a new level of decadent deliciousness. Her crumbles are the perfect way to make use of those just a little bit too ripe peaches or the apples that are a bit more mealy than desired.

For many a year, I've tried to emulate the topping that she so perfectly concocts, but no combination of butter, sugar, and oats in my kitchen has ever tasted quite like that of hers. So I finally caved in and asked how she does it. Her recipe is super simple and incredibly versatile, but attaining that crucial balance of ingredients is what makes it so winningly delicious.

The secret? Equal parts butter and flour and two parts brown sugar and oatmeal. That's all. Here's my take on that perfect combination of sweet and substance with a base of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Substitute any fruit you've got on hand, just be sure to use a total of 3 to 4 cups.

The Perfect Berry Crumble


  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3-4 cups mixed berries, if frozen thawed and drained


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 
2. Mix whole wheat flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until it is well-incorporated throughout the topping mixture.
3. Pour berries into the bottom of serving dish (I used four ramekins but a 9 by 9 baking dish would work well), being sure to drain most of the excess juice.
4. Spread oat mixture over top.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy!


The Beginnings of an Edible Garden

It's seems that plans for my at-home vegetable garden are growing with each year. Before moving out of my parents' home, I was a garden novice with little interest in or knowledge regarding the care and maintenance of edible plants beyond that of the most basic herbs. Two summers ago, in my own house complete with modest backyard, I planted a simple array of squash, tomatoes, herbs, and greens. This past summer I expanded my edibles repertoire to include broccoli, string beans, cauliflower, and strawberries, though most of these newer additions didn't make it to harvest on account of a new puppy with a penchant for digging.

This year, I've decided to expand the garden both in size and scope. Inspired by both Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates project and my dog's unavoidable canine instincts, I have planned an edible garden that includes both my front and back yards. And I've challenged myself with the task of maintaining edibles that operate on different growing schedules, with some late harvesting pumpkins and some double sowers including arugula and spinach. My first batch of compost will also go into this year's vegetable-growing efforts once its time to transplant. And from colorful swiss chard to radishes, lavender, peppers, and stevia, this year is sure to be a diverse and delicious one.

For now, I've got sowing schedules planned out, garden layouts designed, and seeds well on their way in  peet pots. Patience is not my forte and it was hard to resist starting those seedlings until the requisite eight to ten weeks before Maryland's last frost. But the pure excitement of growing my own food has already kicked in just days after that first batch of seeds was planted - some sprouts popped up over the weekend.

I never thought I'd be a gardener as it was always a hobby I associated with soccer moms, Martha Stewart, and retired folk (though I am quite the Martha fan). I guess I'm still far from your average gardener; I'm much more likely to spend a good ten minutes debating between two varieties of tomato seed than picking out ornamental plants for purely decorative purposes and I subscribe to the trial-and-error variety of garden knowledge more so than the scientific precision professional growers utilize. But there's something truly awe-inspiring about growing your own food. To start with just a mere handful of tiny seeds and then round out the summer having reaped a harvest plentiful enough to feed an entire family is pretty incredible. And the sighting of these baby sprouts are just the start of it.



It's a rare treat these days to settle down with a good book and read purely for pleasure. Between working two jobs, attending grad school, and all the other demands of running a modest rowhome complete with husband, cat, and dog, I haven't been able to indulge in fiction (or pleasurable nonfiction for that matter) nearly as much as I'd prefer. But in the midst of all the bustle, I completely relished my reading of Alexis M. Smith's debut novel Glaciers, a delightful book that took barely two hours to finish. It was a perfect treat in fiction form.

Glaciers is all about Alaskan-native Isabel, a twenty-something living in Portland, Oregon who collects relics from the past. But Isabel's affinity for thrift stores and vintage clothing is not the stuff of a passing trend; it is indicative of her enduring desire to explore the quiet histories of simple people, to forge a useful meaning out of long-forgotten items, to amass a collection of personal treasures. Much as she likes to dwell in the past, both her own and that of an era long before she was born, Isabel's affection for a coworker at the Portland library is the present she most passionately wants to create. Glaciers is a novel about storytelling and memory, about the importance of what we make of both past and present.

Though Isabel's story is a simple one, it is beautifully and poignantly told. Smith's narration is straightforward and unpretentious, her characters effortlessly drawn and achingly real. Glaciers was reminiscent of Vendela Vida's Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name in that I was completely captivated for those few short hours required to finish reading and also the film Spooner in that it was so unassuming and unaffected, a piece of art that never tried to be more than it was.

I've heard quite a lot of good buzz about Glaciers and am so glad to have made the time to find out what it's all about. It's a thoughtfully crafted novel, but compact and precise enough to finish in just a day. I anticipate many more novels to treasure from Alexis M. Smith in the future and am sure to revisit the delightful Glaciers again soon.


Anniversary Tunes

Today marks three years since Mike and I started dating! In just a few years, the two of us have traveled all over the country, moved in together, become husband and wife, adopted a kitten, adopted a puppy, embarked on new career ventures, and so much more. At times I can't believe that we've only been together for three years; at others I can't believe that these few years have passed so quickly.

Here are a few songs that we've grown to love together over the past few years and/or ones that I can't hear without thinking of my husband. It's quite an eclectic but nonetheless special mix. I hope you find something you like on this little video playlist. Enjoy!

The Proclaimers "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"

Blind Pilot "3 Rounds and a Sound"

The Swell Season "In These Arms"

Rick Astley "Never Gonna Give Up"

Ryan Adams "Come Pick Me Up"

George Harrison "Here Comes the Sun"


Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Chestnuts

Much as I love food, it isn't unusual that I come home from the grocery store or farmer's market and find myself in a food rut. I'll buy all my favorite ingredients but, come dinner time, won't have the slightest idea how to put them all together into some new and delicious dish. Though my old standby recipes are tried and true, they have become so tired that prepare them yet again would be pure torture to my husband Mike.

In such situations, I turn to my trusty cookbooks. Although I often search for recipes on the internet when I have a vague idea in mind of what I'd like for dinner, there's nothing like flipping through a cookbook (preferably one full of color photos) to reignite my passion for food and to spark my culinary creativity.

The Kitchen Garden Cookbook is one such collection of recipes that I know will never fail to get me thinking outside the box no matter what I have on hand. This is a great cookbook for seasonal eaters, backyard gardeners, and amateur canners alike. Food-lovers, vegetarians, and carnivores can all find something to learn from editor Caroline Bretherton's quite brilliant cookbook which lists recipes by major ingredient and has preserving tips along with unbelievable recipes.

So when I found myself with a butternut squash and not the faintest clue as to how to create a delicious meal out of it, I turned to my trusty cookbook. The Kitchen Garden Cookbook offered me a simple and surprisingly innovative side dish recipe that I completely adored. The Squash with Cranberries and Chestnuts recipe spoke to my love of fall-flavored dishes and holiday feasting foods. Though I don't much like chestnuts (and actually omitted them from my creation), cranberries figure so largely into my diet that they deserve their own separate food group designation. With a touch of warmth courtesy of some cinnamon and allspice, plus a little added sugary sweetness to balance out the tart cranberries, this squash dish is composed of the simplest and most obvious ingredients, but I doubt I would ever have thought to add fresh cranberries into roasted butternut squash on my own. Easy to make and super satisfying, this dish is a shoo in for my family's Thanksgiving potluck this year and a great new go-to side or vegetarian main dish.

You can see the recipe here using Google books. Just go to page 274 to learn how to make this delicious butternut squash side dish and take a flip through the rest of the book's incredible tips and recipes. Be prepared to do some major salivating!


The Tiger's Wife

Though Tea Obreht's novel The Tiger's Wife wouldn't be classified within the fantasy genre, her debut novel is quite magical, a story ground in reality but elevated by her the mysterious and intriguing workings of her imagination. Set in an unspecified Balkan nation, Obreht weaves a dynamic tale of family, loss, and mystery against the backdrop of a war-torn country. Natalia is a young doctor, heading to an orphanage on the coast with her ballsy friend Zora to administer much-needed medical care to the children in residence at the orphanage. Natalia's journey is marred by the news of her grandfather's recent death. Though Natalia was the only family member privy to the knowledge of her beloved grandfather's illness, his mysterious passing in a coastal village just an hour's drive from the town to which Natalia is headed further confounds the young grieving doctor.

As Natalia works through her grief and confusion, she revisits the routines which she shared with her grandfather and the many unbelievable stories he shared with her over the years. Trips to the city zoo with her grandfather's well-loved copy of The Jungle Book always stowed in his jacket pocket are at the center of her reminiscences, while stories from his childhood in Galina and of repeated encounters with a deathless man are crucial pieces of the puzzle that is Natalia's memories of her grandfather.

The fantastical narratives that Natalia relates as shared by her grandfather offer irrefutable evidence of Obreht's storytelling talent. There is the tiger's wife, the deaf-mute girl whom Galina townsfolk accuse of having relations with a tiger that inhabits the nearby woods after a bombing destroys the zoo walls that for so long bound the tiger's world. As a boy of nine years old, Natalia's grandfather was enraptured by the mystery and danger of the tiger, seen by so few but feared by so many. But even more so, he was enamored with the tiger's wife, a mere girl with such vast power as to tame a feline beast. And then there is the deathless man whom Natalia's grandfather meets with much skepticism at multiple points over the course of his life. Natalia's grandfather, a doctor, is first called to examine the deathless man after he asks for water from the bed of a coffin, only to remain unbelievably but undeniably alive after two bullets to the head. The doctor enters a bet with the deathless man, unable to comprehend such blatant immortality, placing his weathered copy of The Jungle Book as a wager. Natalia recounts and explores these stories in an effort to better understand her grandfather and the circumstances surrounding his death, circumstances to which no one was fully privy or able to fully grasp.

Obreht is considered quite a find among literary types, especially in light of the fact that she was a mere 26 years old when The Tiger's Wife was published. Her novel is unlike anything I've ever read before, beautifully jumping between Natalia's present bewilderment, the magical and timeless stories of her grandfather, and the circumstances the structured his upbringing so many years ago. Completely enrapturing, The Tiger's Wife is not an easy read but was one I consumed rather quickly on account of its beguiling storyline and masterful storytelling. Tea Obreht is definitely a name to keep in mind and The Tiger's Wife is certainly not to be missed.


Slow-Cooker Cranberry Glazed Ribs

I'm usually not much of a meat eater. I owe this fact largely to Michael Pollan and Jonathan Safran Foer whose books have challenged the way I always thought (or more accurately, failed to think) about the meat I was eating. The reasons I maintain as much of a vegetarian diet as possible are far and vast, from my health to that of the animals providing meat, from the environment to my own wallet. But sometimes I do crave something thick and meaty. In such rare cases, I try to make the most of my carnivorous meals and choose my meat as ethically and wisely as possible.

Recently Mike was dreaming of devouring a nice rack of ribs and he got me in the mood for some as well. I had come across an interesting recipe for cranberry barbecue ribs just a few weeks before and decided this would be the perfect way to prepare an indulgent and meaty meal. Better yet, I came up with a way to do it all in the slow cooker, leaving me with very little clean up and even less prep work.

Six hours of low heat in the crock pot made the meat tender enough to just fall right off the bone by dinnertime. The interesting combination of sweet cranberry and tomato-y barbecue made these ribs even more decadent and delectable, though maybe not the healthiest of meals.

I wasn't too precise with my measurements when throwing everything in the slow cooker, but this recipe is highly adaptable and easy to alter to your particular taste. If you don't have enough cranberry sauce on hand, strawberry jelly or blueberry jam would both make for delicious substitutions. Play around with whatever flavors you like and enjoy every last bite off the bone of these ribs!

Slow-Cooker Cranberry Glazed Ribs


  • 1 rack pork ribs
  • 3 cloves garlics, minced
  • 3/4 cup jarred cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup strawberry jelly
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut ribs to fit in slow cooker (I cut the rack into multiple two- to three-bone sections).
2. Place ribs in bottom of slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients on top of ribs
3. Cook on low setting for 6 hours. Enjoy!


The Virtue of Pets for Live-In Couples

Attempt #1 at a Finazzo Family Christmas Photo

While taking my dog Louie on one of her late night walks, I found myself feeling an unmistakeable inkling of what I like to call happiness. It's not that happiness is a necessarily unusual emotion for me to experience, but barreling through the 30 degree weather after my first 8-hour work day for many months just after the excitement and leisure of the holiday season ends isn't exactly a recipe for happiness. There were plenty of factors that could have easily contributed to my joy. The bliss of newlyweddedness, my recent meditation practice, and having just begun to read a jewel of a Haruki Murakami novel were all potential factors. But the present company seemed a pretty good reason to feel in good spirits too and I attributed the burden of my cheerfulness to her, or more accurately, to what Louie has done for my marriage.

Mike and I were never a dysfunctional or volatile couple, but when we first moved in together, the transition wasn't without its fair share of challenges. Not only was I working my first full time job back then, I was doing so for minimum wage with AmeriCorps. And this was also my first time truly living on my own with rent to pay, bills due, and a whole host of chores to finish at the end of the day. Navigating the world of independent adulthood is a transition in itself, but doing so with a significant other can be a stressful and trying experience. I watched in horror as my free time was drastically diminished and I felt the true burden of housework like I never did when living in a dorm or at my parents' house. Though it was great to live with Mike, there were times in those first few months when our roles as roommates far overshadowed those as boyfriend and girlfriend.

It was exciting to be around one another so often, but difficult to achieve a working balance between our other relationships, our personal time, and the time we shared with one another. I felt guilty when I was at home but not physically with Mike, when I just wanted to read by myself or watch a chic flick in which he would have no interest. I imagined that I was the one doing all the housework (which I wasn't) without a bit of help from him, because that's often how it felt. And having our finances wrapped up required some adjustment as well on account of the fact that we have very different attitudes toward and tendencies regarding money.

Don't get me wrong, we loved living together and our roles as live-in boyfriend and girlfriend gradually became easier once we figured out one another's expectations, quirks, and responsibilities. But I don't think we have ever been as happy as when we found ourselves owners of an adorable runt of a tuxedo cat and a rowdy pit-boxer puppy made of pure love and solid muscle.

Digby came first when we thought we couldn't afford to buy a dog. He was the very smallest kitten on offer for adoption at the Petsmart and, though we had a tough time deciding between all the adorable and tiny cats napping behind the glass, we were certain we had made the right choice once we brought him home. Though the little guy hid beneath our futon and behind a shelf lined with DVDs for the first few days, he gradually emerged and began to make himself at home in our laps, in our bed, and on our laptop keyboards (there's something about the warmth of a computer that he finds so appealing). I was never a cat owner previously and I think I played a little more roughly than I should have with young Digby because I was so accustomed to interacting with rowdy puppies. Digby has grown into a one and a half year old crybaby, a whiner who loved nothing more than to be held but would just as often purr in your arms as attack your hands with his itty bitty teeth and piercing claws. He loved to play in a more violent way than most cats, but I loved him just the same, though I think Mike, despite being a self-proclaimed cat person, has become much less fond of Digby's ways than myself.

Despite Mike's reservations regarding the cat, introducing a feline into our home was a good thing. Digby offered a place to direct our attention, a cute and cuddly plaything to take care of and foster together. It was, in some ways, a trial run for parenthood, but also a bonding experience of sorts. I think our relationship improved after Digby's entrance into our family. Though time itself could explain the general upward trend in our relationship's quality, Digby was a project of sorts in which we were both invested that strengthened our connection, offering us something positive to focus on rather than all those little aggravations that can develop into big arguments when you have too much free time on your hands and too little with which to concern yourself. And of course, owning a cat together was sort of emblematic of our commitment to one another (even if we were already engaged) because if we split up, then one of us would have to give up Digby and that just wasn't happening.

When Digby was just under a year old, Mike and I got married and decided it was due time to get a dog. We felt bad for the cat, away from his owners during our week-long honeymoon and then having his world altered by the introduction of this new rambunctious animal in his home. But Louie very quickly became a part of the family that even the cat grew to love (and fear too).

At first, I wasn't entirely sold on Louie given that she was still a six month old puppy with plenty of training and attention requirements that we may or may not have been able to meet. She also had some pit bull in her which was a little cause for worry given that we didn't know her history. At six months, she could have been inculcated with the beginnings of a fighting mentality if her early days had been spent in the hands of the wrong owner. Luckily we discovered that she was the friendliest pup we could possibly have chosen. Louie's musculature and solidity belied a sweet and playful nature towards both humans and canines that we quickly grew to love. Though she required two hours of walking a day, constant playtime, and thorough training efforts at first, these doggie duties were ones we enjoyed. In fact, we playfully bickered over them, vying for the best Louie chores. Our division of pet-related labor was so equitably split that I couldn't possibly argue that I was doing everything as I so often had previously. We each wanted to be the one to spend an hour walking Louie, procuring her affection by divvying out her daily dose of kibble, or releasing her from the confines of her cage in the morning with a barrage of wet kisses and a violently waging tail. The responsibilities that came with having a dog were fun to us and so we split them quite fairly with little argument or resentment (although I did begrudge Mike a bit when Louie started acting up on walks with me but not with him, a clearly demonstration in my eyes that Mike was her preferred walker).

Beyond feeling good about our equitable division of dog owning responsibilities, Louie required even more attention that Digby, once again displaced our focus from the small things that, without canine or feline distractions, could have erupted into greater disruptions for reasons too silly and petty to understand. Mike often says that having a dog is more work than having a child and, though we can't speak to the amount of labor required in raising a baby, we were happy to expend any amount of effort required to be excellent dog owners. Louie makes us happy, and we love nothing more than to make her happy in return. We lavish toys and attention on her, improving the lives and temperaments of everyone involved. Though I don't think she singlehandedly improved our relationship (a series of increasingly improved job situations for me and Mike's newfound comedy habit definitely helped with our own personal happinesses), Louie's presence joined us in a strong commitment to providing our dog with a great life. She was a common hobby, a shared interest, a source of laughter and conversation, and even a source of entertainment. To put it quite plainly, Louie was the best thing that happened to me and Mike, our sanity, and the state of our relationship.

A more authentic and chaotic family portrait attempt

And this is what was running through my head after my first full day on a new job in the dead of winter when the world lies dormant for months lie until spring, when the festivity and fun of the holidays have ended, and the trees are bare, and the world feels dismal and dreary. I was quite happy and not just because of a good first day. It was a larger and more general happiness, one that had become a steady undercurrent in my life, rather than an occasional pattern popping up every now and then.

Pet ownership is a rewarding experience in itself - no animal-lover will argue with that. But doing it with a significant other is even more gratifying, for it lends a larger sense of purpose, commitment, joy, and love to already positive and strong relationships. True, there are days when the last thing I want to do is take my dog for a walk in the below-freezing winter night and Mike still gets on my nerves from time to time. Adopting a dog won't solve your relationship issues and often time is the best avenue to identifying solutions to these problems in the world of love. But adding an animal to the home you share with a live-in significant other can do wonders for a relationship that you thought couldn't get any better. Digby, Louie, Mike, and I are living proof.


Chocolate Cinnamon Pots de Creme

It's a rare night that I don't crave a little bit of chocolate after dinner. But it's an even rarer event that I actually proceed to prepare a chocolatey dessert. I was recently feeling unusually ambitious and decided to finally give Martha Stewart's Chocolate Pots de Creme recipe a try. I'd been salivating over the photo of her smooth and dainty teacups of chocolate custard topped with fresh whipped cream for quite some time. 

Though my pots de creme didn't turn out quite as pretty, I amped up the dish by switching out the espresso powder for a little bit of cinnamon - reminiscent of the flavors found in mexican hot chocolate - and a topping of peanut butter whipped cream. The subtle warmth of the cinnamon makes for an interesting flavor combination and will fill your whole kitchen with the most temptingly delicious aroma while baking. 

Of course you can never go wrong with the chocolate-peanut butter combination. And your extra peanut butter whipped cream is great for topping hot chocolate or as a dip for all sorts of sweets (Oreos, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies are all made even more scrumptious with a a little spread of peanut butter whipped cream on top!).  

Though the two small pots of fluffy chocolate custard may not look very substantial, they're rich and filling. All the heavy cream in these gorgeous desserts quickly adds up, but using the individual custard cups serve as an excellent portion control measure. 

These are an elegant but super simple dessert to make. Though the recipe recommends letting the custards cool on wire racks for one hour and then refrigerating them for another four, I enjoyed them at room temperature after an hour-long cooling and they were perfectly delightful. And the recipe which follows is for just two custards but it can easily be increased to four or more for a dinner party.

Cinnamon Chocolate Pots de Creme
adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, February 2012


  • 3/4 cups heavy creams
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 ounces (1/4 cup) bittersweet chocolate (70%), finely chopped
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter, melted


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cream, the cinnamon, and vanilla to a simmer; pour over chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Let sit for three minutes (this is important so you don't get scrambled eggs in the next step!); whisk until smooth.
2. In another medium bowl, whisk together egg yolk, sugar, and a pinch of coarse salt; add warm chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Strain custard through a fine sieve into a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
3. Place 2 teacups in the center of a baking dish. Divide custard between cups, and fill pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the teacups. Cover tightly with foil; poke several holes in the foil. Bake until custard is set around edges but wobbly in the center, about 25 minutes.
4. Remove cups from water bath, and let custards cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days. Before serving, whisk remaining 2 tablespoons cream to soft peaks, folding in melted peanut butter just before serving. Dollop peanut butter whipped cream over pots de creme.


The Sounds of February

I posted a random selection of songs that I was crazy about during the month of January, but I still had more songs to share, so here's my February collection of tunes and videos I currently dig.

J.D. McPherson "North Side Gal" - J.D. McPherson is one of the most unique modern artists, primarily because his sound is so reminiscent of early rock'n'roll with touches of doo wop. Though his musical aesthetic is definitely influenced by the likes of Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Chuck Berry, McPherson puts his own stamp on this tried and true musical sound that is sure to get your feet tapping.

Damien Rice "Wild and Free" (skip to about 1:45 to bypass Damien's guitar tuning and get to the music) - I was ecstatic to find some new (at least to me) Damien Rice songs. His music is reminiscent of, or maybe more accurately a precursor to, that of The Swell Season and Mumford & Sons. Though Rice has released a few excellent albums, it's been quite a while since I've heard anything new from him so the simple and gorgeous "Wild and Free" was quite a treat to find!

Damien Rice and Melanie Laurent "Everything You're Not Supposed to Be" from Laurent's album En T'Attendant - I adored Laurent when I first saw her opposite Ewan McGregor in last year's Beginners. And just like McGregor, Laurent has quite a set of pipes. Some of the songs off her 2011 debut album were produced by Damien Rice and he performed alongside Melanie on "Everything You're Not Supposed to Be." Though the sound is definitely a departure from the typical Rice tune, I really enjoy this lovely and refreshing duet. It makes me think of warm spring days and sunny skies which is always a nice treat around this time of year.

Ingrid Michaelson "Can't Help Falling in Love" - Since it's February, the month of Valentine's Day, I thought it'd be fitting to end this one with a love song. Though I had heard Ingrid Michaelson's version of "Can't Help Falling in Love" many years ago, it wasn't until I saw the trailer for Like Crazy that I really fell for this song. Come to find out, a lot of people are also crazy about this song as Ingrid's version is listed before Elvis' when YouTube suggests videos from the song title. I've long been a fan of Ingrid's vocals and I think this stripped down cover highlights her talent better than nearly any other songs of hers.


Vaclav and Lena

Haley Tanner's debut novel Vaclav and Lena is a particular brand of boy meets girl story that was a true delight to read. Vaclav and Lena are both Russian immigrant children living in the same Brooklyn neighborhood. They meet when placed in the same elementary school ESL class. On a trip to Coney Island, an outing that marks their first real foray into friendship, the two find themselves unable to board a single ride on account of their short stature.

But a quick trip to the sideshow is within their budget and bars no restrictions on short or young patrons. Vaclav and Lena are transfixed by the magic show and spend the rest of their afternoons perfecting their magic act at Vaclav's house until his mother sends Lena home after dinner. Vaclav the Magnificent and his assistant the Lovely Lena anxiously await the day they can take their own act to the boardwalk at Coney Island.

Lena's is a heartbreaking story. She never knew her parents and so lives with her aunt, a woman who works as a stripper and only agreed to take custody of her niece for the monthly check Lena's presence brings in. Vaclav's mother Rasia takes pity on the poor girl, doing her best to care for the motherless girl. But when her desire to do right for Lena leads Rasia to take matters into her own hands, Vaclav's mother's actions put an untimely end to her son's relationship with the young girl. Nine year old Vaclav is unable to comprehend why his mother would make such a decision that serves to remove Lena from his life. But after a seven year separation, the two childhood friends find themselves reunited under sensitive circumstances.

Though the true crux of Tanner's story is Vaclav and Lena's reunion, it isn't until the final 70 pages of the book that we are even introduced to their teenaged selves. But this late placement is far from detrimental to the book as it allows readers an opportunity to really get to know both Vaclav and Lena. Tanner narrates with an authentic voice, describing with alarming clarity the unique situation in which these immigrant children find themselves. Though Lena has lived in the United States for as long as she can remember, her exposure to the English language has been rather minimal, wrecking havoc in her school life and loading an overwhelming degree of anxiety upon young Lena's shoulders. Quiet and subdued, Lena often follows behind Vaclav and remains practically invisible among groups of adults, so frightened is she of speaking incorrectly and embarrassing herself.

Though Vaclav has picked up on the English language more readily than Lena, his is still an outsider among most of his peers. In fact, before Lena's entrance into his life, Vaclav had no friends to speak of. For both Lena and Vaclav, magic offers a welcome respite from the real world and all the fear, misunderstandings, and confusion it brings. Though this magic act is the source of their tight bond, it is a worrisome hobby in the eyes of Rasia who imagines that Vaclav and Lena's performance will only end with the two subject to further ridicule and embarrassment.

Tanner's novel is as unforgettable as Vaclav and Lena are to one another during their teenaged years apart. Unpretentious and honest, Vaclav and Lena was a fairly simple story, both in narrative style and structure but completely affecting nonetheless. Tanner's no frills writing, paired with a unique imagination, delivers a stand out debut novel that I highly encourage readers of all sorts to try.

***While seeking out more information about Haley Tanner, I found this piece from the New York Times about Tanner and her husband who was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma just months before they met. The article provides some brief background and the video clip is pretty moving as well. The piece offers some interesting insight to Tanner after completing her novel.


Homemade Granola Bars

Granola is one of my very favorite breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snack foods. It plays an extremely versatile role in my diet and I love to mix up both store-bought and homemade varieties with different dried fruits, seeds and nuts, and healthy additions such as wheat germ and ground flax seed.

But sometimes a bowl of crumbly granola just isn't convenient when I'm at work or need a snack on the go. For one thing, I find granola much more satisfying when enjoyed in a bowl of milk. And for another, it's quite a messy snack to enjoy when attempting to maintain a professional appearance. Thus I decided to make granola bars, full of the same wholesome flavors and healthy ingredients as my beloved granola but much more easily edible!

Just like when making granola, this recipe is highly adaptable. I actually came up with my own version by scoping out tons of granola bar recipes from all over the internet and each one is completely different, but I'm sure they all yield highly delicious products. So feel free to mix up the following recipe, whether you'd like to switch out the dried fruit and nuts included with other varieties or would rather skip the peanut butter and apple butter entirely. Whatever changes you make, just try to keep to the wet-dry balance as much as possible - add a little more honey or butter if you remove the peanut butter or include a few more cranberries if you decide to steer clear of the golden raisins.

Homemade Granola Bars


  • 4 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup apple butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare 9 by 13 inch pan with butter or line with wax or parchment paper.
2. Combine oats, pumpkin seeds, cashews, almonds, cinnamon, salt, dried cranberries, and golden raisins in a large bowl.
3. Over medium heat, warm brown sugar, butter, honey, peanut butter, and apple butter until sugar dissolves and butter is completely melted. Lower heat as needed to prevent burning and stir occasionally to fully incorporate.
4. Pour melted warm ingredients over dry ingredients, making sure to fully coat all the dry ingredients.
5. Transfer granola bar mixture to prepared baking pan. Pressly the bars firmly down, ensuring that the mixture fills all corners of the pan.
6. Bake for 35 minutes until bars are golden brown and fragrant.
7. Allow the bars to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. If used, grab the ends of the waxed or parchment paper to turn out the granola. Cut into bars of desired size. Enjoy!


The New Kings of Nonfiction

Though I've recently started listening to a lot of public radio, I'm fairly unfamiliar with Ira Glass and This American Life. In fact, I've never heard a single minute of the award winning program that Glass hosts and produces, nor do I have the slightest idea what he looks like or why he is so widely beloved at the moment.  But when I picked up The New Kings of Nonfiction and saw his name listed as editor of the collection, I figured it was about time I discovered what all the fuss was about.

The book is an assortment of nonfictional stories compiled by Mr. Glass himself. At first I requested it from my library assuming it would appeal to my newfound taste for essays. But in the introduction, Ira explicitly states that the pieces included therein are not essays at all, but rather true stories that are authentically, intelligently, and memorably told. The New Kings of Nonfiction is a testament to those modern writers who have mastered that delicate balance of skills required in any journalistic endeavor. Among them he includes Chuck Klosterman (a personal favorite of mine), David Foster Wallace, Bill Buford, Lawrence Weschler, Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Savage, Michael Pollan, Susan Orlean, and many others.

Glass offers a selection of intriguing stories that present some larger truths in the telling of single events or encounters. The writers don't always adhere to the standard rules of journalism, many of them allowing their own voices, thoughts, impressions, and emotions to become part and parcel of their final pieces. Others infuse their writing with a sense of humor and level of personality that many nonfiction writers consider anathema to the medium. But after reading all of these stories and digesting the central tenets of Glass's introduction, it becomes clear that such a style of writing imparts immeasurable strengths to a writer's nonfiction pieces, rather than detracting from them. Glass makes explicit the basic facets of great storytelling by carefully selecting a diverse collection of well-told stories.

Apart from demonstrating Ira's aptness for story selection, The New Kings of Nonfiction offers some intriguing, entertaining, and memorable reading. A piece on Lois Weisberg, one of Chicago's most well-connected and socially productive Renaissance women, unexpectedly but nonetheless aptly offers commentary on the pros of affirmative action. The first story included profiles a teenager who engaged in white collar stock market crime and ultimately speaks volumes about our nation's economics and the at-times dangerous reach of technology. The lessons to be learned from each of the stories in Glass' collection are often surprising and always significant.

Each story highlighted in this volume, though maybe not concerned with topics I would normally consider to be of interest, proved compelling and educational. Glass' collection gave me pause to reflect upon my feelings toward nonfiction storytelling. In all honesty, I almost returned the book without reading a single story after I finished the introduction, so adverse was I to the notion of nonfictional stories. Few among the array of topics considered, from the stock market to soccer, sounded the least bit appealing. But I decided to give the first story a try, and then the second, and so on until I found myself converted.

I enjoy learning and reading is one of the primary venues through which I aim to educate myself. But these appeared, at first, to be arduous profiles of people, circumstances, and the like which had no relevance to me. Though I would still argue that most of the topics are far from relevant to my everyday life, the pieces within The New Kings of Nonfiction were entertaining rather than arduous and not completely irrelevant in theme. The factual nature of these stories makes them compelling in themselves,  and my impulse to continue reading was only enhanced by the quality of the writing.

For the endlessly interested individual, the type of person who finds anything and everything about the world we live in to be a source of excitement, Ira Glass' The New Kings of Nonfiction is a no-brainer. But even to those of us who may be harder to convince, this nonfiction collection offers a captivating look at just a select few of the vast number of subjects about which and from which we can learn. And for those who love the written word, as a creative medium, a personal outlet, or a source of leisurely entertainment, Glass' compilation is a wellspring of inspiration proving that good writing can transform just about any old topic into the stuff of a brilliant composition.
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