We Made: Dijon Roasted Chicken

A few months ago, Andrew and I decided to make the plunge and commit to a wine club; we joined ClubW (now Winc), the online wine club loved and frequently recommended by one of our favorite YouTubers, Hannah Hart. When we were going through our latest shipment, we were taking a look at the chardonnay Winc promised that we’d love.

Usually, Andrew and I do NOT like chardonnay, but when seeing that it was recommended to us, we were intrigued. What could possibly be different about this chardonnay? Really, it’s the oak that gets to us. We’ve often said before that if we could find a non-oak aged chardonnay, we’d probably love it. What got us on the description was that it said it had hints of “butterscotch” in it, and while it didn’t say it wasn’t oaky, it didn’t say it was either, so we took a chance.

Winc is great, because they send you flavor profile cards for each wine you order, online with matching recipes. On the back of the tasting profile for Wayward Co. Chardonnay, there was a very simple-seeming, delicious looking recipe for Dijon Roasted Chicken that was supposed to pair well with the wine. We made a plan for making the chicken on Saturday and finally drinking the wine with a paired recipe.

It really was very simple to make — like something I could have done myself and not even needed Andrew for his cooking prowess. Though, I’m glad he was there, because I’m not sure I would have held up well to unwrapping the chicken and rinsing it off. We have food preparation gloves so we don’t have to actually touch meat, but blech. Anyway, we just got the chicken ready, rubbed some mustard on it, rubbed some vegetable oil on it, popped it in the oven for an hour or so, and voila! Delicious, delicious chicken.

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The outside looks dry in this picture, but what the mustard did was create a super flavorful crust on it that was incredible. The inside was perfectly moist and delicious (and we put a little dijon mustard dipping sauce for the dryer bits). Also, the wine totally went with the recipe! It was a great Saturday lunch and I’m so glad we’re taking advantage of this wine club thing the way we’re supposed to.

I love this part of marriage, where we get to plan something together and share what’s actually very simple: enjoying a meal with a glass  of wine. But, with Andrew, it becomes something special. Planning the meal, helping to cook the meal, working together to gather the ingredients and get the recipe right, double-checking with each other to see if the recipe makes sense and will turn out correctly. Or even just talking about how delicious the food is, and how the flavor goes with the wine and why it might work. I never used to want to get married, but now that I am, all I can be is grateful that this man is in my life and we get to share our meals and join wine clubs and plan out weekends like the one we just had.

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Legend by Marie Lu.jpgTitle: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Series: Legend, Book 1
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Hardcover: 305 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I remember when Legend came out and people were raving about how awesome it was. The hype was so much that when Marie Lu went to the LA Festival of Books to sell signed copies, I stopped by her booth just so I could read it and see what the raving was all about. Of course, I’m terrible at reading books right away since my to-read list is ridiculously long, so now, years later, I am finally getting to see what the hype is all about.

Legend is yet another YA dystopia, this time in a world with a militaristic/war focus rather than an we-are-a-perfect-society focus. People who are born into wealthy families are groomed for the military so they can help in the Republic’s fight against the Colonies. June is a military prodigy — she’s smart, athletic, and can think outside the box, and is being groomed for a distinguished military career. She goes on the hunt for Day — who is also smart, athletic, and can think outside the box — the Republic’s most wanted criminal who grew up in a poor district in the Republic.

When Day allegedly commits a crime that hits home for June, she goes on the hunt for him to bring him to justice. What ends up happening is that they both learn a little bit more about what’s really going on behind the closed doors of the Republic.

This book is just straight enjoyable. I love that Lu kept it simple in terms of creating her world: no factions or groups for people to be sorted into, just poor and rich; military and civilian. Because of this, I think this book gives quite an amazing commentary on society in general in terms of how poverty is viewed and taken advantage of, and how people suffer under such strict hierarchical structures.

The conflicts within this world are revealed slowly — no information dumps!!! I enjoyed that I slowly got introduced to the complexities of the government and of what went on behind closed doors. I feel like this is the main reason why I enjoyed Legend. There’s an inherent conflict and pull in trying to figure out what exactly is going on with this dystopia — when the plot needed to stop for character development, I was pulled forward by what I wanted to know about this new world.

However, this book is fairly predictable — I don’t think there was one twist that I didn’t see coming. Also, I have a pet peeve about people being in a life-or-death situation, yet romance seems to be a priority. I get the whole young adult romance angle, but it bothers me, especially from characters who are supposed to be super intelligent, even if they are young.

With that said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the narrative of the book. It’s perfect amounts of tragic and heartwarming and I am very much looking forward to reading the sequels to see what exactly is going on with all the war stuff. I’d recommend this book for any dystopia lover. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly better than many other dystopias out there.

Review: Marc Jacobs Enamored Hi-Shine Nail Polish – Jezebel

Andrew’s cousin got married a week ago, and when I was planning to pack for it, I realized that I do not own one wedding-worthy dress that has not been to a wedding within the past two years, so I thought it was time to buy a new one. But, buying a new dress means buying a whole lot of other things, like shoes, a wrap, matching accessories, etc.

I didn’t have enough time (or want to spend the money) on a professional manicure, so I figured I’d buy my own nail polish and do my own nails to save myself the trouble. After much deliberation and swatch-comparing, I ended up purchasing the Jezebel color (138) from Marc Jacob’s Enamored Hi-Shine Nail Polish line.

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First, I used the Formula X Prime Xcel Base Coat and then got started.

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The finished product

Pros:

The nail polish dries extremely quickly

The color is quite nice

Cons:

It is so streaky! With two coats, the polish was starting to look evenly done, but when you add any more than two coats, the color starts getting incredibly dark.

For something that’s called hi-shine, it’s pretty matte-looking when it dries. The top coat (Formula X Shine Top Coat) was wonderful for adding shine, but I wouldn’t consider the polish itself to be very shiny.

It chips fairly easily. Admittedly, I am not the best for keeping nail polish looking fresh for a long amount of time, but three days into it, and I had to retouch the tips. After five days, decent chunks of the sides and tips were gone.

VERDICT

Honestly, I’m really not sure this nail polish is worth the money. It was my first time using the base and top coats (Formula X brand), so maybe that could have done something to the polish, but after reading other reviews, I’m not sure. While it was great for the one event I attended, if I wanted to keep my nails looking great for a long period of time, that just wouldn’t be possible. For me, this was a “meh” purchase. I’ll use it until it’s gone, but I don’t think I’m going to buy it again.

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

absolutely-true-diaryTitle: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Author: Sherman Alexie
Illustrator: Ellen Forney
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Hardcover: 230 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This is one book that I feel like I missed out on reading during my high school years, and I’ve always been sad about it; I’ve even owned a copy for at least 3 years, and I still wasn’t able to read it until recently, so finishing this was somewhat of a personal accomplishment for me. Not because it’s such a hard book or anything, but because this is a recent classic that I’ve been wanting to read for so long. It feels especially close to me, because while I am very much not related to any Native Americans, my grandfather lived in Spokane, WA for almost all his life, and he even lived on the Spokane reservation with his girlfriend for a large part of his later life, so it’s interesting to get a sense of the place my grandfather called home.

First, I have to say that this book is lovely. It’s about a boy named Junior who lives on the Indian reservation in Spokane, and he decides to go to the “white” high school to try to build a future for himself. I was able to read through it quickly because it’s a pretty easy read and it is so, so entertaining and hits on some very real, true-life events that were inspired by Alexie’s own life. It’s wonderful that this book is out there for teens to read when they’re feeling like an outsider, because the main character is pretty much the ultimate outsider in a lot of ways and reading about his feelings about that and how he deals with it is somehow comforting.

What makes this Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a success is the fact that it covers everything. It’s funny and yet incredibly heartbreaking, reflecting real life in a way that most stories don’t even come close to, which I think is a reflection of its large autobiographical influence. It comes across as honest and genuine, which is something that is lacking in fiction sometimes, and which YA fiction especially needs. The illustrations are an added bonus and give further insight into Junior’s character and his overall mood at the time he’s “writing” his diary entries. They’re incorporated well and I loved reading Forney’s explanations for why each illustration was done the way it was.

There’s a reason why this is such a classic, and I don’t know what I can say that others haven’t, except that I personally liked this a lot and think it belongs on the must-read lists of everyone, because it is such a powerful, wonderful story.

We Made: Caramel Infused Vodka!

My mom posted a really yummy-looking recipe for Caramel Apple Mimosas from Delish on Facebook, and Andrew and I had to try it out some weekend, because we are all about fall flavors. Basically, you pour some salted caramel vodka, apple cider, and champagne in a flute and it’s supposed to taste very much like a candy apple.

For some reason, finding salted caramel vodka is incredibly difficult in the city of Chicago. I don’t know if it’s because Andrew and I mostly do our liquor shopping at grocery stores or what, but we absolutely could not find a bottle of this — ridiculous. But, I’ve infused vodka before, so we decided to make our own caramel infused vodka. We got the recipe from Mix That Drink, which has really great step by step instructions for infusing it.

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Shaking the bottle so all the caramels dissolve faster!

Pro tips for people wanting to infuse their vodka:

Straining is important. We didn’t strain before making our first drinks and while I’m sure it won’t kill you, there’s tons of white gunk stuff that’s left over from the caramels dissolving and it’s not very pleasant to drink. We found that we were able to strain the vodka through a coffee filter twice before it became impossible for the liquid to get through the gunk that collects — if you want a faster experience, you can use a coffee filter each time. And we used a clean old vodka bottle to pour the filtered stuff back into so that the residue didn’t affect anything.

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The finished product (before straining)

A couple of weeks after we infused our vodka, we went into a specialty store and lo and behold: pre-made salted caramel flavored vodka! We bought some and decided to test out the differences. Personally, we both prefer the infused vodka. The taste starts like vodka, but finishes caramel, while the pre-bought flavored stuff starts caramel and finishes vodka. So, I’m glad we were forced into infusing our own.

Book Review: A Spy Called James by Anne F. Rockwell

a spy called james
Buy from the Book Depository

Title: A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent
Author: Anne F. Rockwell
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Hardcover: 32 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Told for the first time in picture book form is the true story of James Armistead Lafayette, a slave who spied for George Washington’s army during the American Revolution, and whose personal fight for freedom began with America’s liberation.

* I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.*

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I very much appreciate this book for existing in the first place — it’s a wonderful idea to introduce children to stories like these at a young age, especially stories like James’s are hardly ever told in schools. At least, they weren’t very often told in my schools when I was younger, but I hope that’s changing. As the description says, James Lafayette was a spy for George Washington’s Army during the American Revolution, and had to fight to obtain the rights that were given to other former slaves who served in the army because “spies” were not generally covered under the agreement that was made between slaves and the newly formed American government.

The story itself is simply told in a language that children will understand, but covers all the details. And I love the illustrations. They’re soft water-color type illustrations with a lot of blended colors and soft lines. It’s very child-friendly and I know I enjoyed looking at the pictures, so I think they might, too.

I could see this being in a classroom for children to enjoy during free reading time, or even have it being read aloud to children as part of a history lesson. And, of course, it’s a nice addition to the home library, especially for a history-lover.