February 22, 2010

Book Review - Lucky: A Memoir

I've joined a book club! This book was our first selection to read and review at our monthly get togethers, which are lovingly titled "B*tch & Wine" nights! Our first gathering was Sunday night and it was a great evening full of discussion, friendship, and maybe a little b*tching to go along with those robust reds and lighter white wines!
FYI - If you haven't read the book & are planning on it, you might want to visit this post after reading the book for yourself. Now onto my thoughts...
Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold is an in depth description of her rape that occurred during her freshman year while attending Syracuse University. It follows her recovery through this experience and also describes the legal trail that followed the rape, once her attacker was caught. While I felt this book did not have the traditional "beginning, middle, and end" parts like a piece of fiction would, this memoir is one of the most honest depictions of someones life story that I have ever read.

The book starts with vivid details of Sebold being attacked while walking home from a friends house. The first chapter goes into further details of the struggle she went through, the coping mechanisms she used to survive the encounter and it also lays out of the gory details of the rape itself. When I read the first few chapters of this book, I felt the hairs on my skin standing straight up at times, that's how brutally honest she is in describing this horrible tragedy she went through. While these words were hard to read, I simply could not put this book down.

It does not take long to learn that Sebold uses her sarcastic sense of humor to get through the first few days once she is reunited with her family members, who all struggle with how to handle being around Alice. The story of how her family handles things made me mad and frustrated for Sebold. Once the criminal case went to trail, there was confusion as to which parent would attend the trail to support her. I found it hard to believe that both of her parents weren't right there at her side. Quoting her father, shortly after her rape - "Well, Alice, if it had to happen to one of you, I'm glad it was you and not your sister." Seriously, that's how honest Sebold tells it on these pages.

While I will leave the trail details out of this review, the end of the memoir takes a quick turn as she tells the tales of her life after her rape. It almost seems like a separate book during this part, because it is told so fast and almost felt choppy to me as I read the final pages. If there was one quote that I felt stuck with me as I read this part of Alice Sebold's life story, this is it: ""My life was over; my life had just begun." That statement would seem to suggest the rape ended a certain part of her life, but on these pages you'll find that Sebold triumphed over this event and has found a way to make it part of her history, a part that does not control her future.

February 16, 2010

Cucumber Sandwich Appetizers

This is probably thought of as more of a summertime appetizer, but I whipped up a batch of these for a Super Bowl party we attended a few weeks ago. I've had these at several parties and have enjoyed them, even though I am not a huge cucumber fan. Here's a quick recap of the recipe I used to make this appetizer:

1 Seedless Cucumber - cut thin slices of cucumber. (Before you cut the slices, you can take a fork and score the sides of the cucumber, making a nice design on the slices, if you are up for this decorative touch!)

In a large bowl, mix up 1 package of soften cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of mayo and 1 package of dry Italian dressing mix for the yummy spread.

I used store bought cocktail style Rye Bread for the toast part. (Some people go all out and bake their own french bread toasts, which is awesome, but the pre-made store bought bread slices worked just fine.) Spread a nice amount of cream cheese spread on the toast, add the cucumber slice on top, then sprinkle some fresh chopped dill over the top.
That's all there is to it - super quick and easy. These are usually a big hit at parties, so be prepared to give away the recipe the next time you take them to a get together. Enjoy!

February 13, 2010

Happy Valentines Day

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend...

Ella sends out a Happy Valentines Day to everyone!

- Posted Using BlogPress

February 11, 2010

Oatmeal Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

Enjoy this great recipe I found on a blog called Coconut & Lime:
6 oz semisweet chips
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup toffee bits
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, vanilla and sugar. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Then add the flour, baking powder, salt, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in toffee bits and chips. Place tablespoon sized blobs of dough on the lined cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart and bake for 12-14 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just golden. Carefully remove from baking sheet and cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies
I made these delicious cookies this past weekend for a Super Bowl party and they were a big hit with party goers and also with my co-workers, who benefited from them the next morning at work. I love toffee and think it's a great element to add to cookies to mix things up. One note of warning on this cookie dough. Once you combine all the ingredents together, it doesn't look like enough dough to make 2 dozen cookies. But if you follow the directions and use a tablespoon to measure out the cookie dough, you'll have just the right amout of cookies to take to a party - and maybe have a few extra to enjoy at home with some milk the next morning!

February 09, 2010

El Jefe Burger Shack

The Luquillo area in Puerto Rico is know for its beautiful sandy beach & deep blue waters offering great waves for surfing & bogey boarding. It's also know to the locals as a great place to stop off after a day at the beach for some great grub! There's a strip of locally owned restaurants that runs right along the main highway in town. This area is called the Luquillo Kioskos. Here you can kick back with a cold Medalla beer and enjoy some local dishes like empanadillas and rice & beans.

If you stop by Kiosko #12, you're in for a real treat, you'll find El Jefe Burger Shack. This stand is know for it's hand packed angus beef burgers & some truly delicious pina coladas! We stopped off at the Burger Shack after a great day exploring the El Yunque Rain Forest. JJ and I were greeted by a nice young lady, who invited us to grab a seat and check out the menu.
The vibe is totally relaxed, with people mingling about, drinking cold beverages and exchanging laughs. We headed to an open table, near the back of the open air restaurant. We ordered up some of tasty drinks from the bar - a pina colada for me and a margarita for JJ.
Time for lunch - we decided to share a burger & some beer battered onion chips. We ordered up a 1/2 lb. burger, topped with sauteed onions, swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms, mayo, lettuce & tomato - all stacked between a fluffy toasted bun. Check out the picture below - now that's what I'm talking about, some serious goodness here people! Yummm...
The El Jefe Burger Shack in Luquillo, PR totally rocks - it's an absolute must visit if you are ever in the area. Now I know this is not the type of food you think of when you might think of "local" Puerto Rican food, but what I love about this burger joint is that lots of their products are bought from local farmers and they work one on one with a local bakery to make the buns that are delivered fresh to the restaurant. They make their sauces & dressings from scratch and their walls are covered with artwork from local artists. The owners fell in love with Puerto Rico and have created a gold mine, right along the beach - does it get any better than that, seriously!

February 02, 2010

New Websites to Check Out

I've added a few new websites to the right column of CincySpin in an effort to share some of the great new websites I've recently stumbled upon. Here's a short description of the site and why I find it interesting.

344 Pounds - This blog is from a young guy in North Carolina and his journey towards a healthy lifestyle. He's totally inspiring and has appeared on CNN to share his story. Check him out, I think you'll enjoy reading about his journey.

Kevin and Amanda - I came across this blog one day when I was searching for new recipes for dinner. A young lady named Amanda runs this blog where she's posts alot about scrapbooking, cooking, and the daily goings on of her & her husbands life.

You Are Remarkable - This is a site dedicated to "spreading big or small bits of love and things that make you smile and laugh." They post some awesome quotes that leave me feeling refreshed and ready for the day with a positive outlook!