After binge watching the Amazon Prime series Good Girls Revolt over my winter break, I find myself drawn to nonfiction as well as historical fiction of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Good Girls Revolt, tells the stories of women in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s who work at a New York based news magazine that doesn’t allow women to write, instead relegating them to research positions only. The show details the fictional lives of these women while using the backdrop of real life events from that time period. Not only do the women do a tremendous amount of work for the articles they research but often they do some if not all of the writing while still getting none of the credit.
While tackling serious topics, I found this show to be funny and vastly entertaining. I was extremely disappointed to learn that Amazon had canceled it, leaving me wanting a lot more from this story and these characters. This paired with Charles Manson suddenly being in the news again this last week because of his recent hospitalization and the new movie Hidden Figures that I absolutely can not wait to see, has left me even more intrigued by this time period. It also left me somewhat amazed that we haven’t made all that much progress in the last 40 or 50 years. We still have women who feel they are not treated as equals in the workplace, we still have crazy nonsensical acts of violence happening, and we still have issues of racial discrimination across the country. For me it is sometimes easy to retreat to the bubble I live in where none of these things have yet to really affect my life, but when I do allow myself to really think about all that is wrong in our world it is not only depressing and scary, but also overwhelming. In my former Disney Castmember ways I often wish there was some bit of magic we could use to wash away the darkness that seems to envelop us all too often. Instead I am left do what I can by spreading love and kindness to whoever I come in contact with. Unless of course that person is doing an illegal u-turn on Main St. in the summer to steal the parking spot I’ve been patiently waiting for, in which case that person will hear the full wrath of my anger.
That being said, I’m going to try and keep this blog part of the bubble, with bits of the dark realities we all face trickling in every now and then. And instead of facing the harshness of our current world I will instead retreat to the stories of our past, particularly those that show women fighting the good fight. Being the librarian that I am, I’ve turned to books. So here is my reading list for the next several weeks.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
By Margot Lee Shetterly
"Before John Glenn orbited Earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as 'human computers' used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation."--Dust jacket.
The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace
By Lynn Povich
“It was the 1960s--a time of economic boom and social strife. Young women poured into the workplace, but the "Help Wanted" ads were segregated by gender and the "Mad Men" office culture was rife with sexual stereotyping and discrimination.”
The Girls: A Novel
By Emma Cline
“An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong.”
Another Brooklyn: A Novel
By Jacqueline Woodson
“Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.”
(All Synopsis and images taken from www.Amazon.com)
I’d also like to note that I’m super thankful for Amazon Prime right now (even though they canceled my show) because I was able to order these books will have them in no time at all. I know as a librarian I really should be a better library patron, but I also really love to build on my own personal library. I’m also excited because I’ve already decided on my next blog post about books based on some of the suggestions that came up when researching these books on Amazon. Female Celebrity Memoirs. So be on the lookout for that post down the road.
As I write this I’m eating my leftovers from last night, it was just so good I could wait to have it again today. Being gluten free, Chinese food is something I rarely eat unless we are with in twenty minutes of a PF Changs in which case I always make Sean stop. However our closest PF Changs is almost an hour away so it doesn’t happen all that oftern. I’ve also found a really great restaurant in NYC called Lilli & Loo, but let’s be real how often am I going into NYC for Chinese food? Hardly ever. So last night I decided to challenge myself and make some of my old favorites from when I could eat gluten. The one thing that always made me hesitant to making Chinese food is the amount of ingredients I would need to buy that I don’t normally have in the house. So I went on pinterest and set out to find a couple of recipes that wouldn’t be too overwhelming. I don’t typically follow recipes because I always like to do things a little different, but I love looking at recipes for inspiration. This usually works out pretty well for me, but it is risky when I’m making something for the first time because it doesn’t always work out the way I want it to. So I checked out a couple sesame chicken recipes and was pleased to find that most people used pretty basic ingredients. I always like to decide on my main dish when cooking and then decide on sides. The other thing I wanted was to be able to use a lot of the same ingredients in the dishes I chose while creating unique and different flavors.
Here is the menu I decided on:
Vegetable Egg Rolls
Sesame Chicken with Snap Peas
It Seems like a lot of food and it was, but it was also light and fresh and delicious!
Here is my grocery list, some things I already had and a lot of you probably do to. I broke it up for each dish in case you are planning on only making one of them, it will be a little easier to see what you need.
Rice Paper Spring Roll Wraps
Coleslaw Mix (No Dressing)
GF Soy Sauce, Tamari, or Liquid Aminos
Chicken Tenderloins or Chicken Breasts (The Tenderloins are just easier to cut into small pieces)
GF Soy Sauce, Tamari, or Liquid Aminos
Flat Brown Rice Noodles
Apple Cider Vinegar
I started first with the Egg Rolls. The rice paper wraps are much harder to work with than regular egg roll wrappers, and I don’t deep fry them so they don’t always end up looking pretty but they taste amazing. First take the coleslaw mix and depending on how many you are planning on making pour some into a mixing bowl. I would say you want at least a half cup per egg roll. I was making four so if you do more than that you’ll just want to add more of the next few ingredients. Pour 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce over the coleslaw mix and stir. Then mix in 2 teaspoons of ground ginger, unfortunately I forgot this last night when I went shopping and didn’t have any. My egg rolls were still good so don’t worry if you forget too, but they really are better with it. Now here’s the tricky part, the rice paper wrappers. You’ll notice the rice paper is hard and brittle, you need to soften them in water before you can use them. Fill a large bowl with warm water and dip the rice paper in one at a time until it’s soft but not too soft that it’s losing its shape. This may take a little trial and error if you’ve never used these before. When you think it’s soft enough lay it flat on a piece of parchment or wax paper and place a half cup of filling in the center. I usually fold the sides in first making it more of an oval rather than a circle. Then starting at the top I roll down keeping the filling in the middle. Repeat this for each egg roll. I don’t like to deep fry these because as good as it tastes we all know it’s just not good for us, but I do flash fry them in a skillet with a little sesame oil to get them a little crispy before putting them in the oven. However if you into frying stuff or you’re looking to treat yourself, by all means fry these babies up. If not place them on baking sheet with parchment or wax paper (They get really sticky) and put them in the oven at 350 until golden brown. The rice paper won’t hold its shape as well this way so don’t be disappointed if they look kind of funky, I promise you they will still taste really yummy.
Now onto the chicken. Keep that skillet out that you used for the egg rolls but set it aside for right now. I love when I can reuse pans and dishes too, it just makes cleanup so much easier. In a small mixing bowl make the sauce first, mix together ¼ cup of whatever soy sauce you are using, 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, and ¼ of honey. If you like your sesame chicken on the sweeter side you can always add more honey. Now put ½ cup of cornstarch in a large ziploc bag and cut up your chicken in little bite sized cubes. Add the chicken to the bag and seal closed. Shake it around so that the corn starch covers each piece of chicken. Crack two eggs in a bowl and mix. This next part you can do two ways, and depending on which one you chose will determine how big of bowl you need for the eggs. You can take each piece of chicken out of the bag and dip in the egg and then but it in the skillet, this is a little neater but will take a lot longer. Or you can dump the entire bag of chicken into the egg mixture and mix it all up. Now you don’t want to have too much egg on the chicken when you cook it or it will turn into an omelet. Take a pasta strainer and pour the chicken into that over the sink letting the excess egg drip away. Now get that skillet back and add a little more sesame oil and a ¼ chopped scallions, let them cook for a few minutes before adding the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked thoroughly and even a little crispy add the sauce and saute a few more minutes making sure the chicken is evenly covered. I like my snap peas a little crunchy so first I poured the chicken into an oven safe dish and then added the snap peas do the skillet with very little sauce left. After a minute or two add the snap peas to the chicken. Now throw it in the oven that is still hot from the egg rolls but not on anymore. You want to keep it warm while you make the peanut noodles. Everything on this menu cooks very quickly so I found it was best to focus on one thing at a time
While you are still working on the chicken you can start boiling water for the noodles, or you can do what I did and start boiling the water when you finish with the chicken so you can take a couple minutes to sit down and check your phone. Once the water is at a full boil throw in your noodles, the ones I bought came in individually wrapped bundles, I used two bundles. I hope you’ve all cooked pasta before and can kind of take it from here with the noodles.
In a separate saucepan chop up some more scallions and cook them with a tablespoon of sesame oil. Now over medium heat add in 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, ¼ of peanut butter, ½ tablespoon of maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. If you feel like the sauce is too thick you can always add more vegetable stock. Continue to stir until it’s smooth, be careful that it doesn’t start to burn on the bottom of the pan. Pour over cooked rice noodles and top with a few more chopped scallions.
Almost done, and this last part takes no time at all. You have the sesame oil out so you might as well use it but if you’re not a huge fan of sesame oil you can use any oil you like. Pour a little in a skillet with some garlic and then add in your broccoli florets. Again I like my veggies kind of crispy so I only cooked the broccoli for a couple minutes, but you can always cook it longer depending on how you like it.
Obviously you don’t have to make all of these things together like I did, but they work so well together and make such a satisfying meal that I really really recommend it. The sesame chicken would also be delicious over a bed of brown or white rice, but admit it you kind of want those peanut noodles, and who needs two starches? I’m not claiming this to be a low calorie meal, but if you are craving good Chinese food it is certainly better for you and less fattening that take out from a quick service restaurant. Sean liked it all so much that he decided we should have a Chinese New Year Party, so look for more on what I do with that later in the month.
Those that know me know that I’m really much more of a summer girl, I actually really hate cold weather. Which is why I went to college in Florida, and it’s just about this time every year when I say to myself “Why did I move back up north?”. Truth be told there are a couple things I really do like about snow and cold weather. One, as a teacher a two hour delay or a snow day are just as amazing as they were when we were kids. Two, I love winter fashion. And although it was a harsh jolt into reality after shopping the Lilly Pulitzer After Party Sale to wake up to snow this morning I was really excited to put on my flannel and Bean Boots.
Here are my top 5 winter essentials and where to find them.
My style is pretty classic with a few trendy pieces thrown in. Some of my favorite winter pieces are a few years old now, but I do always love styling them in a different way to change it up.
So anyone who has ever moved into a new house will understand that it can be challenging to furnish it with out taking out a second mortgage. It’s not like on TV or in the movies when everyone’s house looks perfectly decorated no matter how long they have lived there. When Sean and I moved into our house we each had a few key pieces that helped fill in the blanks, but we had to get creative and look for good deals to really make our house feel like a home. I spent hours looking online to get ideas and I felt like everything I liked was way out of my price range making it impossible to fully furnish a house. This is what I learned:
Here are my top 4 furniture shopping tips:
Luckily for us we have a pottery barn and restoration hardware outlet not far from where we live. And we spent a lot of time leading up to the closing on our house shopping and arguing in these two stores. I'm sure many of you also know when you move in with anyone, roommate, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, fiancé... it can be hard to blend your individual styles so that you both feel represented in your new home.
We found a lot that we liked at Restoration Hardware, but often times we would feel like it was still a little pricey considering all we had to buy, or just not exactly what we were looking for. But the more time we spent in the store the more we learned. The first thing we learned is the day of the week in which they receive new shipment. This may seem insignificant but it's actually extremely important for two reasons. The first being a little more obvious, that it's always good to know when they're getting new stuff especially if you are looking for something very specific and you don't want to miss out. The second being that many of these store have limited space to store merchandise so the day before they receive shipment they are more likely to give you an even better deal than the price that's marked. This is how we ended up with our beautiful dining room table for under $400 as well as a leather couch for under $400 as well.
2. Pottery Barn (not the outlet)
I know what you're thinking “Pottery Barn is so expensive, how am I getting a good deal there?” Well here's the trick, As I'm sure you may know PB sets up beautiful “rooms” to display their furniture and decor. What you might not know is that all of that stuff is for sale at a huge discount. They can’t sell the floor models at full price, so if you are willing to take the one off the floor you can often get it for 50% off or sometimes even an additional discount depending on what store wide promotions are going on. The one catch is you might need to be patient, as they are unable to sell anything until they have something to replace it with. The staff at our local store is so nice and they will usually write your name and number down with the pieces you are interested in and then call you when it is available for purchase. We were also responsible for picking it up ourselves, so start thinking about that friend you have with a truck and stay on their good side. Taking advantage of the floor models allowed us to purchase two large leather chairs that would have normal cost $1500 - $2000 each, and a $6,000 sectional couch all for under $5000. It's still a big purchase but our living room is now complete and we have sturdy comfortable furniture that will last us many many years. The only down side to our beautiful sectional is the color. Dont' get me wrong its absolutely beautiful other wise I would not have bought it, but it's basically white and I'm terrified of ruining it so I keep a blanket neatly tucked over the cushions. Luckily we bought the slipcovered version so we can take it off and have it dry cleaned. I'm sure down the road we will buy a new slip cover maybe in grey or something that is a little darker but not too dark. Buying a new slipcover is in expense but its nothing compared to what it would be to buy a whole new couch.
You know I love Ikea, I did my whole kitchen with Ikea, but their furniture isn’t necessarily going to last you as long as some of the more expensive retailers. Does that mean we should avoid Ikea all together? Absolutely not. The price points at Ikea allow you to buy a lot for very little, at least little in the home furnishings world. A lot of people however don’t want it to look like their whole house came from ikea. So the trick here is balance, spend a little more on the pieces that are most important to you or the ones that you think might become the focal point of a room. Then pair those more expensive pieces with some Ikea staples. Also it's important the measure the height of any Ikea furniture as well as how high you want it to sit in your home, a lot of Ikea furniture sits a little (or a lot) lower than what we’re used to, but in the store it will seem normal next to all the other furniture. This is especially important with tables and and any type of seating.
I know I mentioned patience in regards to Pottery Barn, but you need to also have patience in regards to your home. Don’t try and do it all at once, first of all it’s really hard on your bank account, but you also don’t want to make the mistake of settling for something that’s not right for you and then changing the feel or theme you had in mind for a certain room. You’ll end up wanting to redecorate and spending more money down the road. Sean and I were so excited when we bought our house that we couldn’t wait to invite our family and friends over and have it feel lived in, but we quickly realized it was going to be a work in progress for quite sometime. We had giant rubber bins stacked as our night stands for months until we found the night stands that we wanted. I hated the look of those rubbermaid night stands but now that I have the perfect nightstand it was well worth the wait.
There are million other ways to find good deals on home furnishings, for example a lot of people I know have had great success at yard sales and estate sales. I, however, have never had a ton of luck there. So you have to find what is right for you and your home, but I hope some of my tips were helpful and making your life a little bit easier. I think the pottery barn one is especially good.
Before and After Living Room (Of course I had to show it at Christmas).
"PB Basic Slipcovered Sectional." Pottery Barn, William Sonoma Inc., 2017,
www.potterybarn.com. Accessed 5 Jan. 2017.
"Railway Trestle Rectangular Dining Table." Restoration Hardware, RH, 2017,
www.restorationhardware.com. Accessed 5 Jan. 2017.
"Manhattan Leather Arm Chair." Pottery Barn, William Sonoma Inc., 2017,
www.potterybarn.com. Accessed 5 Jan. 2017.
"Kennsington Sectional". Restoration Hardware, RH, 2017,
www.restorationhardware.com. Accessed 5 Jan. 2017.