more all the books

17 Nov

Another year, another book. Or books, shall we say.

Can you believe I’ve been tracking my books for 15 years? Me neither.

If you’ve been wondering what I read in RY21, wonder no longer! Below is my reading list, all books I enjoyed (because if I didn’t enjoy them, I stopped reading them. Amazing!). And this year, I started keeping track of when I read them, and continued tracking in which format. Turns out January was a big month for reading, and also, 36% of the books I read were in ebook format.

Happy reading, friends!

Year Fifteen of Books

Books completed between November 10, 2020 and November 9, 2021

  1. Mixed Doubles–Jill Mansell (ebook) (November 2020)
  2. One Day in December–Josie Silver (November 2020) 
  3. Making Up–Lucy Parker (ebook) (12/3/20)
  4. Majesty–Katharine McGee (December)
  5. On Second Thought–Kristan Higgins (ebook) (12/20/20)
  6. Lark! The Herald Angels Sing–Donna Andrews (December 2020)
  7. Elizabeth the First Wife–Lian Dolan (ebook) (12/26/20)
  8. Christmas at the Island Hotel–Jenny Colgan (12/30/20)
  9. The Nightingale Before Christmas–Donna Andrews (1/3/21) 
  10.  Helen of Pasadena–Lian Dolan (ebook) (1/4/21)
  11. The Heir Affair–Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (ebook) (1/7/21) 
  12. The Cactus–Sarah Haywood (1/21/21) (book club read)
  13. It Started with a Secret–Jill Mansell (1/24/21) (ebook) 
  14. The Guest List–Lucy Foley (1/31/21) (book club read) 
  15. The Flatshare–Beth O’Leary (2/9/21) 
  16. Two’s Company–Jill Mansell (2/18/21) (ebook) 
  17.  Kiss–Jill Mansell (3/2/21) (ebook)
  18.  The Twelve Dates of Christmas–Jenny Bayliss (3/11/21)
  19. The Book of Essie–Meghan Maclean Weir (3/18/21)
  20. Head Over Heels–Hannah Orenstein (3/25/21)
  21.  Big Summer–Jennifer Weiner (4/5/21)
  22.  Above the Bay of Angels–Rhys Bowen (ebook) (4/11/21)
  23. Wedding Girl–Stacey Ballis (4/14/21)
  24. Genuine Fraud–E. Lockhart (ebook) (4/23/21) 
  25. Nothing to See Here–Kevin Wilson (4/25/21)
  26. Maybe This Time–Jill Mansell (ebook) (4/27/21) 
  27.  The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks–E. Lockhart (ebook) (5/9/21)
  28. Beach Read–Emily Henry (5/23/21) 
  29. The Friend Zone–Abby Jimenez (6/7/21) 
  30. The Good, The Bad, and The Dumped–Jenny Colgan (6/19/21)
  31. The Echo Wife–Sarah Gailey (Book club read) (6/29/21) 
  32. The Midnight Library–Matt Haig (Book club read) (7/5/21)
  33. And Now You’re Back–Jill Mansell (ebook) (7/10/21)
  34. The Checklist–Abbie Woodridge (ebook) (7/17/21) 
  35. Toucan Keep A Secret–Donna Andrews (8/3/21)
  36. The Venice Sketchbook–Rhys Bowen (8/17/21)
  37.  Mrs. Everything–Jennifer Weiner (8/21/21)
  38.  The Happy Ever After Playlist–Abby Jimenez (9/4/21)
  39. The Two Lives of Lydia Bird–Josie Silver (9/16/21) (ebook) 
  40. Life’s Too Short–Abby Jimenez (9/23/21)
  41. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living–Louise Miller (9/29/21)
  42. When Stars Collide–Susan Elizabeth Phillips (10/5/21)
  43. Apples Never Fall–Liane Moriarty (10/30/21)
  44. God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen–Rhys Bowen (11/5/21)

all the books

9 Nov

I realized in making this list that if I am adding a book to a list, it’s probably a book I would recommend in one way or the other, which kind of makes me asterisking books I would recommend moot. Because if I didn’t like a book at least enough to finish it, then it’s not on the list anyway. See what I mean? So the asterisks you see here are books I really really recommend, that stood out to me in this Reading Year, and that when people ask me, “What should I read?” these are the books from this year that come to mind.

And aren’t you all better for knowing that?

And with that, I present you with my reading list for Year 14.


Year Fourteen of Books

Books completed between November 10, 2019 and November 9, 2020

  1. Gravity is the Thing–Jaclyn Moriarty
  2. The Great Christmas Knit-Off–Alexandra Brown (ebook) (If you want something light, fun, and Christmas-related, this is your book.) 
  3. Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe–Jenny Colgan* (This book isn’t available at my library, or anywhere near my library, so I bought it as a Christmas present to myself. You’re welcome, me. This was exactly what I needed during the holidays.) 
  4. Sourdough–Robin Sloan* (Book club) (This book was exactly what I needed to read in January, post-holiday blahs. There’s just enough magical realism for my taste, and be forewarned: This book will probably make you hungry.)
  5. American Spy–Lauren Wilkinson* (Book club) (Thank you, President Obama, for recommending this book.) 
  6. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo–Taylor Jenkins Reid* (I flew through this book, and the twist at the end was surprising, but I’m not entirely sure I bought it? Then again, I didn’t much care, as I just really enjoyed this book overall.) 
  7. The Bookshop of Yesterdays–Amy Meyerson (ebook) (I liked the scavenger hunt aspect!)
  8. Christmas Shopaholic–Sophie Kinsella (A little fast and loose with the “discovery” of the source of the last bit of conflict, but the Nativity Play scene literally had me laughing out loud. Still giggling when I think of it. Heh.) 
  9. Modern Lovers–Emma Straub
  10.  A Girl’s Guide to the Outback–Jessica Kate (Didn’t realize this was a Christian romance when I picked it up, but here we are. A very sweet, light read.)
  11.  The Rosie Project–Graeme Simsion* (ebook) (book club read) (Super fast read, and an enjoyable story to boot!) 
  12.  Good Luck with That–Kristan Higgins (I don’t know if it’s because I read it so fast or what, but some of the plot points for the characters seemed to come out of nowhere and then were resolved in what felt like 10 pages. [Okay, I know it was longer than that, but you know what I mean.] This is why I should probably slow down when I read.) 
  13.  Act Like It–Lucy Parker (ebook) (Cute romance, good story, quick read, spicy love scenes, overall well written. Exactly what you want in a romance novel!)
  14.  The Great Village Show–Alexandra Brown (ebook)
  15. Pretty Face–Lucy Parker (ebook) (I love when books reference characters from other books!) 
  16.  See How They Run–Ally Carter (I liked this one much more than the first book. Maybe because it didn’t seem as confusing? Or maybe just because I understood what the premise was where as I was left super confused at the end of the first book, I seem to recall. Either way, I will see this series through to the end and read the third book.) 
  17. The Mother-in-Law–Sally Hepworth* (ebook) (book club read
  18. One Summer in Italy–Sue Moorcroft (ebook) 
  19. The Perfect Couple–Elin Hildebrand* (While the first EH book took me a long time to get through, I flew through this one. A good beachy read, IMHO. Not that I read it on a beach, but whatever.) 
  20. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill–Abbi Waxman* (Super cute, and quirky character like Eleanor Oliphant, but not anywhere near as dark as Eleanor. Also, some major book-loving characters, and I am totally here for it. They speak to me.) 
  21. The Rosie Effect–Graeme Simsion* (ebook) 
  22. Normal People–Sally Rooney
  23. Evvie Drake Starts Over–Linda Holmes* (Looooooved this book. LOVED. Linda Holmes, please write more! PLEEEEASSSE!)
  24. Take the Key and Lock Her Up–Ally Carter (ebook) (A fitting end to this trilogy!)
  25. The Royal Delivery–Melanie Summers (ebook) (I’ll admit it, I got teary eyed at the end when she was in labor. This happens all the damn time to me now, ever since I had my own kids.) 
  26. The Victory Garden–Rhys Bowen 
  27. Where Have all the Boys Gone?–Jenny Colgan* (ebook) (Seriously. Jenny Colgan’s books make me want to move to the Highlands. Also, I really enjoy her standalones as much as I enjoy her series!)
  28. Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend–Jenny Colgan (ebook)
  29.  500 Miles from You–Jenny Colgan* 
  30. The Last Mrs. Summers–Rhys Bowen* (I had my suspicions on who the killer was, but this one still kept me guessing!) 
  31.  All Adults Here–Emma Straub*
  32.  The Other Typist–Suzanne Rindell* (book club read)
  33.  Always the Last to Know–Kristan Higgins
  34. Oona Out of Order–Margarita Montimore* (book club read)
  35. American Royals–Katharine McGee* (A very fun read!) 
  36. According to a Source–Abby Stern (ebook)
  37. Perfect Tunes–Emily Gould 

year of cake (+ the january cake)

23 Jan

For far too long, we as a society have been eating terrible cake. Dry cake. Cake with canned frosting. Cake that has no flavor. Frosting that is so sweet it rots your teeth upon contact.

And I won’t stand for it any longer! I won’t!

Thus, I have declared 2020 to be the Year of Cake. As I did with the Year of Pie in 2019, I am committing to baking a new (to me) cake every month. (Maybe more, if I’m feeling frisky.) (Probably not.) (But a girl can dream.) And like the 2019 Year of Pie, I can’t guarantee that I’ll tell you about all the cakes here, because…well, I just can’t. (However, it’s inevitable that I will post about them on the Insta, as the kids say. Or is it the ‘Gram? I have no idea what anyone says these days. I don’t even know what I’m saying right now, for the love of all that is holy. And WTF is Tik Tok?)

You’re welcome.

Not sure what for, but you’re welcome.

But wait, there’s more

I’m not just here to tell you what I’ve declared 2020 to be. I’m also here to tell you that I’VE ALREADY MADE MY JANUARY CAKE.


Here’s how this magical moment happened: On New Year’s Day, we did our usual Salonica breakfast/Powell’s Bookstore trip, and it was while perusing Powell’s that I came across a Maida Heatter cake cookbook. I’ve been lurking in baking circles for long enough to know that Maida Heatter is Not To Be Questioned. And that her cakes Are Where It’s At. So naturally I grabbed the book and ran up to the counter, threw money at the clerk and ran out the door screaming, “IT’S MIIIIIIINE!”*

And then last week, some friends were coming over for a visit, and I thought, what better time to make a cake than when I can pawn the leftovers off on unsuspecting friends because otherwise my children will harass me to eat nothing but cake for the next 12 hours until I give in and then have to somehow explain to myself, my husband, and my God that said children are crabby and hysterical because they’re crashing from sugar so high it would make the Sears Tower weep. After a quick flip through the Maida Heatter book, I came across her recipe for orange chiffon cake with chocolate whipped cream frosting and thought to myself, “This looks delicious and mildly terrifying. I think I’ll make it for my guests.”


Nudie-tudie cake.

The mildly terrifying experience of cake making

If you’re wondering what, exactly, makes a cake mildly terrifying, I shall tell you.

  1. It’s made in a tube pan, which comes in two parts, which in my head posed the risk of cake leaking out the bottom, and thus stinking up my kitchen with the smell of burned cake batter. (None of which happened.)
  2. It involves whipping egg whites to a stiff peak, and then whipping them a minute more because THE ENTIRE FLUFFINESS OF THIS CAKE RESTS ON HOW WELL I CAN WHIP THE DAMN EGGS. Also, you don’t want to whip them too much, lest you dry them out, which I didn’t even know was a thing but apparently it is and OMG how do you know if egg whites are too dry and this is how I end up staring fixedly at my mixer as it goes round and round and round and round in the egg whites and OMG it’s a cake, get a life, lady.
  3. It also involves hanging the pan upside down on a bottle immediately when it comes out of the oven, and you just let it…hang there…until it is completely cool. Fun fact: Every bottle in my house was too wide for me to hang the tube pan on, and I feared my cake was doomed until Swede grabbed some blocks from our toddler’s train set and we were able to prop the cake up that way.
  4. The instructions for getting the cake out of the pan read quite complicated and involve shoving a knife between the edge of the cake and the pan on both the outer rim and inner tube, and then under the bottom of the cake, which then becomes the top of the cake. It seemed the perfect storm for me to do something stupid, like somehow manage to saw a chunk out of the cake somehow, or manage to leave a wodge of cake stuck to the pan, a la most of my bundt cakes. (Miraculously, neither of these scenarios played out, and the cake came out easy peasy.)

It was just a little stressful, okay?

But in the end, it was worth it. The cake was loverly, and had a fantastic orange flavor. In truth it may have been overbaked slightly, but honestly I don’t think anyone much cared because we were all too busy falling in love with the chocolate whipped cream frosting.**


Chocolate whipped cream frosting is where it’s at. 

Interwebers, I’m going to give it to you straight: that frosting is like the ranch dressing of desserts. I want to put it on everything. And it makes an enormous amount. So much that as you’re slathering it on the cake, you’ll inevitably think to yourself, “Surely this is too much frosting. It will without a doubt overwhelm the cake.” To which I say, “No. No it won’t. And also, when has too much frosting ever been a problem?”**


The ideal cake-to-frosting ratio. The tiny human shoving her face in the background agrees. 

Cake, ho!

So, my friends, to sum up:

  1. I made a cake in January.
  2. It was delicious.
  3. I still don’t know what constitutes dry whipped egg whites.

I don’t plan on every cake I make this year to be a Maida Heatter cake, though I’m not opposed to it. I actually have a list of cakes I’d like to make, but if you’ve read me for any length of time you know that I adore making lists but when it comes down to actually following them I also adore throwing them out the window and going down a completely antithetical path. I guess we’ll just see what the next 11 months bring. But for now, January Cake: SUCCESS.


*It possibly was more civil and more restrained than that IRL.

**It possibly was just me and my 3-year-old who were falling in love. And by love I mean we were not above licking clean the bowl in which the frosting was made.

***When the frosting is shitty, that’s when. But that is not a problem in this scenario.

what pie is this?: a 2019 reflection

16 Jan

As you may remember, I declared 2019 to be the Year of Pie. I was hellbent on making a new pie every month, and sharing it with you all. Well, sharing the experience of it with you all. It’s not like I was going to show up on all of your doorsteps, pie in hand, though that would have been pretty amazong (which is a step above amazing).

And, Interwebers, I did it. Mostly. For 11 out of the 12 months, I made a new pie, and I shared it with you. Okay, not here, because, well, whatever, I just never wrote about it. But I’m pretty sure….goes and checks Instagram…nope, no I didn’t. I didn’t even post about all of them on Instagram. Oh well.

Trust me, though, I accomplished my Year of Pie that I set out for myself. And I consider finishing 11/12 of this goal as good as if I had made 12 out of 12. The only month I missed completely was October, and I’m not entirely sure why. It is my spirit month, after all—you’d think I’d have been reveling in All The Fall Baking at that point, but no.

And though there were some misses—LO! WERE THERE MISSES—there were some definite winners as well. The February pie comes to mind, as does the April topless pie (re: tart), the September pie (which I never wrote about here) and the November tart (same). I’d make all of these again, and in the case of the April tart, I already have, and don’t any of you be surprised if you come to my house and it’s in a regular rotation of dinner party desserts. YOU’RE WELCOME.


The November topless pie, a chocolate raspberry tart. I never wrote about it, but believe me when I tell you it was Full of Yum. 

Year of Pie, I learned so much from you. I learned that making a crust from scratch isn’t as terrifying as I thought. I learned that I shouldn’t try to make up my own recipe, lest I’m left with a weird pie amalgamation that defies all pie rules, but not in a good way. I’ve learned that pie is delicious. Wait, no, I didn’t learn that, I already knew that. I learned that having a reputable source is key to making a good pie. I learned that I owe Sally’s Baking Addiction and King Arthur Flour many several thank yous for their delicious recipes. I learned that I am very picky about my pies, because no one should eat bad pie, and people, there are a lot of Bad. Pies. out there. Occasionally, those Bad Pies are made by me.

Year of Pie, you were marvelous. Thank you.

2019 Pies 

January’s Pie: Chocolate cream pie from King Arthur Flour

February’s Pie: Creamy Lemon pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction

March’s Pie: Fudge Bottom pie from Kitchn

April’s Pie: Brown Butter Raspberry Tart from epicurious

May’s Pie: Salted Honey Pie from David Lebovitz

June’s Pie: A terrible amalgamation of the crust from the March Pie and a twist on the filling from the February Pie. Don’t ask.

July’s Pie: Blueberry Pie, with filling from Sally’s Baking Addiction, and crust from King Arthur Flour

August’s Pie: Peach Streusel Pie from King Arthur Flour

September’s Pie: S’mores Brownie Pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction

October’s Pie: No pie. Bummer.

November’s Pie: Chocolate Raspberry Tart from…you know, I cannot remember. I think maybe Martha Stewart?

December’s Pie: Cranberry Pear Crumble Pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction


jeff bezos can’t keep me down, or, year 4 of movies

9 Jan

I made a goal for myself in 2019, to see at least 12 movies. It didn’t matter if it was in the theatre or on my couch, on a plane, or on a train, with a fox while eating lox, whatever. After 2018’s paltry showing, and with so many movies out there just waiting for me to love them, or to ridicule them, I felt called to explore more of the cinematic scene.

Not that you’d call what ended up being 2019’s movie list a “cinematic wonderland.” More like, “I have two small children, so you’re lucky there weren’t more cartoons on this list.” Really rolls off the tongue.

But 17! I watched 17 movies this year, you guys! And I will add that #17 got in just under the wire, as we watched it on New Year’s Eve. Because nothing says Happy New Year like watching a bunch of rich people whose souls have been destroyed by money, amirite? Plus, I would like it noted that this year I didn’t even include the holiday movies I semi-watched/fell asleep to! It’s been a banner year, I tell you. A banner movie-watching year. I’m not sure 2020 will be able to top such stellar movie watching progress on my end, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Movies I Watched + 3 takeaways from each 

January 1, 2019-December 31, 2019


  • 1. Fyre Fraud–1.You guys realize that this Billy McFarland is an utter sociopath and compulsive liar, right? Right? He’s like Ryan Howard on The Office, but on a much bigger scale. 2. I still don’t understand what the point of the Magnises card was. 3. Seriously, who is Kendall Jenner and why is she famous and coveted?
  • 2. Bee Movie–1. Really? This came out in 2007? I would have guessed earlier. 2. Humans and their honey stealing are terrible. Terrible! 3. Meh. Not my favorite animated movie I’ve seen.
  • 3. Like Father–1. Great soundtrack on this movie. 2. Kelsey Grammer is a very, very tan man, almost disconcertingly so. 3. Seth Rogan! What are you doing here, you random drop in celebrity? 
  • 4. The Theory of Everything–1. I had no idea Stephen Hawking was so droll. 2. Eddie Redmayne–just…wow. 3. I thought it was sad when he and Jane split up, but (as they showed it in the movie) I totally support it. 
  • 5. Breaker Uppers–1. The two main characters look so familiar to me, and yet going through their IMDB list, I’ve never seen a damn thing they were in. 2. The accents are a wonder to me. They are so melodious, even when they’re trash talking. 3. I should watch more Australian/New Zealand-made movies. 
  • 6. Can You Ever Forgive Me?–1. Melissa McCarthy is just It, isn’t she? She’s just…she’s just perfect. She’s on my list of invitees to the celebrity dinner party I would throw. 2. Who knew forging literary letters would get you stalked by the FBI! 3. Richard E. Grant. Oh dear. I think I shall have to have HIM at my celebrity dinner party as well. 
  • 7. The Incredibles 2–1. It’s entirely possible that Swede and I enjoyed this movie WAY more than our toddler did. 2. It’s entirely possible that Jack Jack was modeled after our infant. 3. “Num num coookieeehhhhhs” has now become A Thing in our household.
  • 8. Bohemian Rhapsody–1. I completely understand (and support) why Rami Malek won for best actor. 2. I wonder what Freddie Mercury would be like if he were alive today? 3. I was so excited about this movie that I’m pretty sure I missed half of it and now need to go back and rewatch it. 
  • 9. Aquaman–1. This movie is just Silly. 2. So, Mera–she’s a grown up Ariel, yeah? 3. I had no idea Nicole Kidman was in this movie. 
  • 10. Ocean’s 8–1. This is very heist-forward, and not-so-much plot line or character development forward. 2. I love all the women in this movie, separately and together. 3. I was kind of sad that Danny Ocean is presumably dead, yet hopeful that it is just a ruse. 
  • 11. The Post–1. I would have liked to see more about Graham on the personal side, and the struggles she faced in moving from Hostess with the Mostess to Publisher of a National Newspaper. I feel like there was more there, and I wanted them to get into it. 2. Can this really be considered a political thriller since we already know the ending? 3. I love Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, full stop. Though Tom Hanks’ accent (??) in this movie is a little weird. 
  • 12. Always Be My Maybe–1. This is one of the most fun rom-coms I’ve seen in a VERY long time, and one I would happily rewatch over and over. I could NOT stop giggling to myself, and since I watched it on a plane ride to Chicago, my fellow passengers probably thought I was nuts. 2. Seriously, the writing is clean and smart and hilarious. 3. Two words: Keanu. Reeves. Another word: HILARIOUS. 
  • 13. Spies Like Us–1. I always forget how differently sex was portrayed in 80s movies, and how non-R rated things were, when they probably should have been. 2. Add this to the list of movies that never would have been made today. 3. Chevy Chase when he was still funny! 
  • 14. Secret Life of Pets 2–1. I missed about 20 minutes of this movie because I was walking the baby up and down the lobby. Don’t worry, I was still able to pick up the plot. 2. Lots of giggles during this movie, that I’m pretty sure went completely over my toddler’s head. 3. Going to a matinee on a Sunday is quite a treat. 
  • 15. Where’d You Go Bernadette?–1. This movie looks exactly how it looked in my head when I read the book. 2. I saw this movie in a dine-in theatre, where waiters came to ME, and brought ME food and wine, and I may never watch a movie another way again, and I think it just made me love the movie even more. 3. The casting for this movie was spot. on. 
  • 16. Ford vs. Ferrari–1. I love Matt Damon as an actor. There, I said it. 2. I was not expecting to like this movie as much as I did. 3. This is definitely one to see on the big screen.
  • 17. Generation Wealth–1. I love a good where are they now, and this documentary is like 90 minutes of that, with a side of money will ruin your psyche. 2. The truest character, IMO, is the former hedge fund manager who rails against money and wealth, but you can totally tell that’s only because he got caught and taken down. Otherwise, he’d still be flying high. Or possibly dead. Hard to say, really. 3. The best line (which I paraphrase here) in the whole thing is, hands down, “I would like to DJ until my fingers can’t spin anymore. I also have a passion for lizards.”


Netflix is really showing me something with their original movies! 

Also, assume that all of these movies are recommended, because if I didn’t include a movie on this list it’s because I never finished watching it, most likely because I didn’t enjoy it. 

And in case you’re wondering what my movie watching has to do with Jeff Bezos, it’s just…it’s a thing. 


i read and i know things.

2 Jan

Okay, that title is kind of a misnomer. I definitely read things–though this past reading year I read fewer (32 books) things than in years past–but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that means I actually know things. I know nothing, really. If I have concluded anything in life, it is that I know nothing.

I made a goal in 2019 to “actually finish any interesting book club books” and seeing as how I’m not in two–yes, two–book clubs, this meant that quite a few of the books on this Reading Year’s list stemmed from these groups. And there were some real gems: The Great Believers blew me away; Where the Crawdads Sing was read for both clubs, funnily enough; Stillhouse Lake was great, but there is no chance in hell I am going to read the rest of the series (because really I don’t need to be reading about serial killers, though the other gals in the book club really enjoyed the other books that followed it, so feel free to take their recommendation if you’re into it).

I will say there are a few book club books that I wasn’t able to finish–not that they weren’t good, or interesting, though perhaps they weren’t AS interesting as I thought they were going to be, or wanted them to be, if they didn’t capture my attention enough to keep reading them? I feel like there’s something psychological here I should poke at and evaluate, but yet not, because listen, there are so many books, and so little time, which is just the truest adage I’ve ever found in life. Maybe I’ll get around to finishing them this Reading Year. Or maybe I won’t. Hard to say, really. You just never know what a Reading Year will bring.

Year Thirteen of Books

Books completed between November 10, 2018 and November 9, 2019

Lucky Thirteen!


  • Transcription–Kate Atkinson* (Book club read) (There’s a bit at the end that is revealed that I was like, wait, what? But it didn’t detract from how much I enjoyed reading this book in the least.) 
  • The Royal Runaway–Lindsay Emory (Hmm…I guess I liked it? Kind of?  If there were a sequel I’d probably read it.) 
  • Christmas on the Island–Jenny Colgan* (ebook) 
  • Those Other Women–Nicola Moriarty* (ebook) 
  • Heartburn–Nora Ephron* (ebook) (What a strange, delightful book.) 
  • You Will Know Me–Megan Abbott (Book club read) (Terrible ending.) 
  • The Heirs–Susan Rieger* (ebook) (Book club read
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows–Balli Kaur Jaswal* (ebook) 
  • The Identicals–Elin Hildebrand* 
  •  Fast Friends–Jill Mansell* (Not my favorite of Mansell’s books–this one packs a LOT into multiple years of the plot–but still an enjoyable read.) (ebook) 
  • Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop–Jenny Colgan* (ebook)
  • Nine Perfect Strangers–Liane Moriarty* (Book club read
  • Exit West–Mohsin Hamid* (Book club read) (I’m giving this a recommended asterisk, but I’m honestly not sure if I recommend this book or not. I think I need to think on it a bit.) (Edited to add: Yes, I definitely recommend this one.) 
  • The Great Believers–Rebecca Makkai* (Book club read) (This may make my top 10 books of all time list. The writing is beautiful, the story–particularly the one set in 1985–is gripping [the one set in 2015, eh, it’s fine, but not as grabbing as the 1985], and it’s a look into a time and a culture that I’d never truly considered before. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me heartbroken for all the lives lost too soon and too fast.) 
  • The Boy is Back–Meg Cabot* (A super-fast, cute read, though if you don’t like stories told entirely through emails, fictitious newspaper articles, texts, etc, this one is not for you.) 
  • Daisy Jones & The Six–Taylor Jenkins Reid* (It’s like a rocumentary, in book form! So fun.) 
  • The High Tide Club–Mary Kay Andrews (Not my favorite of her books, but a good beach read nonetheless.) 
  • The Wife–Alafair Burke* (Book club read) (It seemed a little slow, but picked up toward the end. But then again, I don’t read many thrillers, so maybe this is just normal pacing and building of the story?) 
  • Little Beach Street Bakery–Jenny Colgan* (ebook) It really says something about a book that even though you’ve read its two follow ups, so you totally know what happens, yet you still never want it to end anyway.) 
  • Where the Crawdads Sing–Delia Owens* (Book club read)
  • Save Me the Plums–Ruth Reichl* (A short, but entertaining read, and you get an inside look at her time as editor of Gourmet.)
  • The Kiss Quotient–Helen Hoang* (Wowee, she is not messing around with the sex in this one! Not for the prudish heart!) 
  • Rich People Problems–Kevin Kwan* (A fitting end to the trilogy!) 
  • Fame Adjacent–Sarah Skilton* 
  • The Bride Test–Helen Hoang* (Book club read) (A good follow up to her first book.) 
  • Everything’s Relative–Jenna McCarthy 
  • The Bookshop on the Shore–Jenny Colgan* (The ending of this one seemed to wrap up a little too fast, and it was a little confusing–she shouldn’t stay in the house with her son and the troubled 9 year old who almost killed him? But she does anyway, because the girl gets psychiatric help? Also, did she start her own bookmobile? I feel like I may have missed something–but all in all it’s another Jenny Colgan novel that I couldn’t put down. Le sigh of happiness, and wishing I could live in the Scottish Highlands.) 
  • Stillhouse Lake–Rachel Caine* (Book club read)
  • Ellie and the Harp Maker–Hazel Prior* 
  • Love and Death Among the Cheetahs–Rhys Bowen* 
  • Ask Again, Yes–Mary Beth Keane* (Book club read)
  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota–J. Ryan Stradal* (Book club read)



You’ll see this year that I denoted which books I read that were ebooks. I was just keeping track of this out of curiosity’s sake. I feel like this year there were a disproportionately low number of ebooks, but that’s entirely me guessing, seeing as how I’ve never kept track until this year.

may i have this pie

5 Sep

I told you about the April pie. And the June pie. And about the July pie. And now that I’ve reminded you about these pies, you’re probably thinking, “But she never told us about a May pie. Clearly she has not been successful in her Year of Pie, and the pursuit of goals has run amok and life as we know it is not worth living without her pie updates.”

And that is where you would be wrong, Interwebers.

Because I DID make a May pie.

I just haven’t gotten around to telling you about it until now. Also, I like to keep you on your toes.

You’re welcome.

Anyhoodles, the May pie goes something like this: My friend Jen gave me this recipe, and she got it from David Lebovitz (not, like, personally, I don’t think. I think just from a blog or a cookbook or an Instagram post or some such). So my feeling on the outcome of this pie was pretty much if it sucked, we can all blame them. Granted, if it sucked, there was a 112% chance that it sucked because of baker error rather than anything my friend Jen or David Lebovitz did, but honestly, I can’t be held accountable for my baking after I’ve spent the evening introducing my parents to the best Chinese restaurant in Chicago and stuffing ourselves silly with bao and a pork dish that we didn’t actually order, among other delicious dishes.

Because that’s exactly how this pie came into being. Stuffed with Chinese food, and home by 7 pm on a Saturday night, what else is a girl to do? Some people, I realize, go clubbing on Saturday nights. I like to bust out my best jammie pants, put my hair up in its messiest bun, put on the most perfect pair of slippers, and go baking.


Behold! A pretzel crust! 

Just kidding. I don’t have slippers. I wish I did, though.

I used Lebovitz’s salted pretzel crust for this pie, rather than a traditional crust, because back when I made it I A) still hadn’t located my rolling pin, and 2) hadn’t purchased my new rolling pin, and III) was still frightened of making a pastry crust, even though it turns out I am stellar at it. For the honey I used whatever honey we had on hand, and in truth, Interwebers, I think this may be where I went wrong.

Because I didn’t love the pie.

I say this, and I say it with the recognition that I’m not a huge fan of honey in general (though I adore this candle because it smells like my kids after bathtime), but I just didn’t think the pie was all that great. Definitely not a standout for me. Interestingly, I brought this pie to dinner at our friends’ house, and the friends absolutely loved it. It’s entirely possible that they were putting me on, and just being polite. It’s also entirely possible that my bias of feeling “meh” toward honey-flavored things is at play here. I am happy to report, at least, that in the actual making of the pie, it came together quite easily, and despite being completely watery when I poured it in the crust, it set nicely.

Perhaps if I had used a specialty, high-quality honey I would have liked it more. Perhaps I should have added more honey to flavor it. Or perhaps this pie, while technically fine, and while other people enjoyed it, was simply not my cup of tea.

Lesson learned.


I should love everything about this pie, from its delightful pretzel crust to the flaked sea salt on top. Who doesn’t love flaked sea salt on pie, amirite? And yet, I did not love this pie.

bye, bye miss july pie

8 Aug

You guys, I did it. I finally made a pie crust from scratch.


Pie crust! Made from scratch! With a rolling pin!

And then made a pie with it!

What? Who? How? What is this madness you speak of! You finally found your rolling pin! Where was it?

No idea.


I sucked it up and bought a new one from Amazon. Which, it turns out, I like a lot better than my old rolling pin.

Well, that’s okay, I guess. A little lazy and over-consumer-ish when you could have just sucked it up and taken 12 hours to dig through your basement and crawl space to find your old one. But whatever.

Stop judging me. I did it for the pie, okay? And for personal growth of finishing something I started.

Tell it to your therapist. Now tell us about your pie.

Gladly. But I feel this pie experience would be best expressed as a litany of Thank Yous.

How very Alanis Morissette of you.

Thank you, Indiana. Thank you, blueberries. Thank you, thaaaankk youuuu pie play-aate!

OMG. I can’t even with you.

You’re my inner voice, you have to with me.

Get. On. With it.

Right. Thank you….

…Indiana, for the blueberries. Everyone always touts Michigan blueberries, but Indiana is rife with berry patches as well. Plus, it’s marginally closer than driving to Michigan. Sadly, Indiana didn’t get the memo that the weather was supposed to cool off the weekend we picked, after three days of insane heat in Chicago, and after 10 minutes of picking we all looked like we’d jumped in a pool.

…my children, for not melting when Swede and I made them go blueberry picking on the aforementioned hotter than F day, even if Toddler McSwedolish, at one point, sat down in the middle of the blueberry patch and announced he didn’t want to pick anymore, and that I should fill his bucket with blueberries. If we started picking at 11 am, this statement was declared at 11:05.

…rain, which rolled in juuuuust as we were finishing up our picking. My God, I have never been so thankful for a cool breeze and playing on a jungle gym (which was at the front of the berry patch, and which is how we bribed Toddler McSwedolish to not run away while picking berries) in a steady rain.

…my children, again, for forgetting the hardship that was picking blueberries and happily “helping” me make, but more so eat, the pie. (No “helping” about it when it came to the eating, I should add.)

…King Arthur Flour, for the delicious and so-simple-why-was-I-avoiding-this-for-so-long? pie crust recipe.


So much butter! All for the crust! I love you, butter! 

…Sally’s Baking Addiction, for the pie filling recipe. It’s different—all the blueberries stay their individual selves, rather than get kind of mushed together (in a good way) as in other blueberry pies I’ve eaten. Plus, I like the dash of cinnamon added to the filling, for the depth of flavor it provided.


And more butter in the filling! 

… King Arthur Flour (again) for not getting upset that I didn’t use their blueberry pie filling recipe. (I only had 6 cups of blueberries left over after Swede made a dozen jars of blueberry liqueur!) This is most likely due to the fact that they don’t know I didn’t use their recipe, so don’t tell them.

…my own brilliance for using all brown sugar, instead of white sugar for the pie filling, as Swede had used all my white sugar in the aforementioned blueberry liqueur. If/when I make this pie again, I will keep using straight brown sugar. Though I may try an experiment of one pie with white sugar and one with brown, to see how the tastes differ. Project!

…self, for getting over yourself and putting your new rolling pin to work. Was that so hard? No. No, it was not.


Look at that goddamned gorgeous finished pie. PIE! 

And blueberry makes 7.








when my best intentions go south, or, the june pie

1 Aug

When I started my Year of Pie, I wanted to tackle this escapade because I wanted to challenge myself, sure, but I also wanted know more about the ins and outs of making pie. One half of a year into the project, and I can safely report that I know very little more now than I did when I started. Case in point, the June pie.

I was feeling daring. I felt like I’d had enough successes, even with my sloppy, messy—YET DELICIOUS—March pie, that I could successfully step out of my comfort zone of following a recipe and create my own pie. Kind of.

I started out thinking about what I liked about some of the pies I already created. The March pie, while a failure* had a delicious, cookie-like crust. The February pie, which I considered quite successful given that there was little to none left once our party guests left, was delicious and easy. But then I took the February pie one step further, and wondered if, instead of lemon, I could use orange instead.

And then I will have a pie that essentially tastes like a creamsicle.

And I love creamsicles.


So I went ahead and did all of those things, creating a Frankenpie of my own dreams. I made the pie crust from the March pie. I made the filling from the February pie, but subbed in orange juice instead of lemon.

It was obvious then, that I was a pie genius in-the-making. This, despite my doubts as I put the pie in the oven, as the pie in its pan was thin, watery(?), and a very unappetizing color. No matter, I assured myself, things change when they bake, because of all the heat and sugar and science and magic. It would be fine. It was going to be delicious.

Interwebers, do I need to tell you that what I had hoped would be the pie to end all pies was, in fact, a piestrosity?

Because it was.

I’m not entirely sure where I went wrong, except maybe being too in love with my own personal grandeur, and for the millionth time ignoring the little voice in my head as I was making the pie that something didn’t seem right. I certainly overbaked the pie, but I’m not sure if I had baked it less it would have been any better. There were, in my opinion, several things wrong with the pie, but for brevity’s sake I will share with you the top three:

  1. The pie never magicked into an appetizing color. The crust and the filling both stayed an unappealing beige, though the filling did have a sort of yellowish, almost ghoulish underlying tint to it. Not that that helped anything.
  2. There was little-to-no orange flavor. I guess when baked orange is just not as strong as lemon? Perhaps I should have added orange zest? I just…I don’t really know how to explain it. But the filling was creamy(ish) (if overbaked) and tasted like baked condensed milk. Not…terrible? Certainly not good. (IMHO.) But not at all what I was going for.
  3. The crust and filling switched places. I repeat: THE CRUST AND THE FILLING SWITCHED PLACES. I wish I could say I’m joking about that, but even more I wish I could explain how that even happens. (I mean, I know baking is half done by magic, but this seems a trick beyond compare.) After I pulled the pie out of the oven and let it cool, I cut into it, and realized that no…no, my eyes were not playing a trick on me—the crust had definitely somehow sort of floated to the top and caramelized over the filling. Underneath was a softer texture—what was meant to be the filling. I wish I had taken a picture as proof, but the pie was so ugly I couldn’t bear the thought of having that image captured. As it is, I can never unsee it.

I was so disappointed that the pie was such a flop that I didn’t even bother decorating it with piped whipped cream as I’d planned. I didn’t even bother eating more than a bite of it—I didn’t think too highly of the flavor, though my Swede said it tasted pretty good and ate a whole slice. And I didn’t even bother taking a picture of it. So just believe me when I say that it was not good.

I should probably take “Pie Developer” off my resume. May have been a little preemptive in that addition to my skill set.** Excuse me while I go make some edits…

On to the next pie!

*In my personal opinion.

**Though if someone thought, in my line of work, that pie developer was an asset of a skill to have, well. It would be a whole new ballgame.

such a tart

3 May

You should know—and perhaps you’ve already noticed—that my photography skills—the little that I had—went to pot fast here on McPolish. I’d like to blame camera phones, Instagram, dirty politicians, and cheap gin, but really it’s because I’m too lazy to pull out my big, fancy camera and do a proper photo with good lighting, photo editing, etc, etc.

And because of this, I realize in my quest to achieve Pie Greatness this year, I’m not giving you very appetizing shots of the pies I’ve made.

Well, Interwebs….

Prepare to be disappointed again, friends!

But what April’s featured pie lacks in photogenic-ness (?) (it’s a word now), it makes up for in taste. And know that I at least attempted to get you some better photos this month, friends. I may not have succeeded, but it’s the thought that counts.

I should also prepare you to be twice disappointed because technically I made a tart, which is not exactly a pie, but it’s not not a pie. As I mentioned on The Instagram when I made this brown butter raspberry tart from epicurious, tarts are similar to pies in that there is crust and there is filling, so it counts. And, and, when I looked up just now whether it should be tart or tarte, The Wikipedia says this “tarte” is a French word that can mean either pie or tart, “as both are mainly the same with the exception of a pie usually covering the filling in pastry, while flans and tarts leave it open.”


The uncooked tart, which is similar to pie.

The key word here is usually, people. When have I ever done anything “usually”? Do you see pastry lids on any of the three previous pies I’ve made this year? No. No you do not.

Ergo, this tart counts toward my Year of Pie goal.

It also counts because I say it does.

Anyhooters, once I nailed the browned butter part of this recipe (my first batch of browned butter burned, and I learned something then: There is nothing sadder than burned butter) (I learned, too, that it’s easier to brown butter in a pot with a light colored bottom, because you can actually tell when it starts to brown) (tell your friends), the rest of it came together beautifully. And instead of listening to the directions, I only cooked it for about 30 minutes, rather than 40, but it seemed done, so I pulled it out of the oven. But then about an hour later I was second guessing my decision, and was worried I’d have yet another fall-apart dessert on my hands when slicing it up that night for our guests (because yes, I all the goddamn time buck the adage that you should never make new recipes when you’ve got guests coming for dinner, because what if it all goes to shit) (answer: order pizza) so I threw it back into the oven for another ten minutes or so just to be sure.

Let the record show that Swede gave me A Look when I did this and then put a voice to my doubt over this choice. And let the record show that he also agreed with me when I said, “I may have fucked up the tart.”

And also let the record show we were both wrong.


The finished tart, which is still similar to pie.

Next time I’ll probably just bake it for 40 minutes straightaway, rather than 30 minutes and then another 10 random minutes later in the day. But it obviously didn’t affect the taste, because the four of us—me, Swede, and our old next-door neighbors who came for dinner—killed that tart in one fell swoop. There was not a crumb in sight.

And tart makes FOUR.