Graduates in Wonderland – Book Review

I can’t even begin to tell you how many book lists I’ve pinned with Graduates in Wonderland on it.

If you were curious and haven’t checked out my “Books Worth Reading” board, why not take a look? I can only dream of reading all the books on it.

Written by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale, it follows the life of two friends after graduating from college. The book is comprised of e-mails written back and forth between the two during a three year period.

Graduates in Wonderland - The Memoirs of Two (Almost) Adults - Review on Pintertesting. I’m not one for reading autobiographical novels. If I’m going to read a novel, I just prefer it to be fiction. Why is this? I’m not sure. I guess I associate nonfiction with boring… Graduated in Wonderland was not boring. In fact, I don’t recall a single boring moment of this book. I’m pretty picky on my books, but this book I would give a 10/10. It was funny, sad, exciting, heartbreaking, and most importantly it was true. Knowing that what I was reading really happened blew this out of the water for me. What I loved most was how realistic these women were.

I’m sure that there is a lot of their life they cut out or summed up, but what they did leave in was brilliant.

“Sam’s found temp work in Sydney but is planning to find a way to move to Melbourne sometime after I start my master’s program (if I get in). If I don’t get in, then I have no idea what I’ll do. Maybe move to the Chinese countryside to sell eggs, as I’ve always feared, because I’ll have no other option”

If someone asked me what life is like after graduating I would hand them this book. I graduated a few years ago (yes, years with an “s”), so this book hit home. I thought it’d be a dull memoir, or one full of two girls bragging about what they did. Instead it’s literary gold. I’d honestly recommend every college graduate to read this book. I’m sure even high school graduates could agree.

It’s witty, fun, full of emotion, fast paced and a great well written book. I can only judge this from the perspective of someone who just graduated, but I’m sure all ages (meaning HS graduate and up) could enjoy this.

I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite scenes:

“Speaking of half-bloods, have I told you that I’ve been reading the final Harry Potter book? During my first week here, I was desperate and it was the only English book I could find. However, I made the mistake of first buying a fake one off the street. It was called Harry Potter and Leopard Walk-Up to Dragon. It was essentially bad translations of the Lord of the Rings, with Harry Potter characters inserted. I’ll try to send one to you. Here’s how it begins: “Harry doesn’t know how long it will take to wash the sticky cream cake off his face. For a civilised young man it is disgusting to have dirt on any part of his body.” He sounds a little OCD to me in this version. Fucking gold. Read it and weep, J.K. Rowling”

Grade: Cost: Time:

A+

10/10

Genius

Library = Free(but worth buying) Took me about 3 days. It’s 285 pages. I read about a year a day.
Level of Difficulty:
Adult
What I Would Change:
I wish they had a blog I could follow to keep up with these two. I want to know what happens next. Oh wait, what’s that?? www.graduatesinwonderland.com
Overall Impression:
Inspiring, emotional, hilarious. One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. It was a surprise book and I cannot be grateful enough for finding it.

Greek Yogurt Banana Bread

There was a sale last week on bananas at our local grocery store. I bought more than usual because we’re always running out. Bananas are our go to food before working out, in place of breakfast, and for general snacking. I thought “a few more couldn’t hurt”. Then I remembered that half my family was going on a vacation so those bananas were just going to sit. I had a whole bunch (6 to be exact) that were going bad.

About a week or so prior I was looking for different bread recipes to use up some greek yogurt I had. That was set to go bad in another week so I was coming under a time crunch. Expiring greek yogurt…rotting bananas….  It was like the stars aligned.

I intended to add the recipe on here, but the original site has a great format for letting you print the recipe out. Check them out here.

I didn’t have the whole wheat graham flour, so I substituted more regular flour in its place. I also excluded the nuts. I brought a loaf in to work and didn’t want to add nuts in case someone was allergic.

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Grade: Cost: Time:
A Will run you maybe $5-$10. These are basics, so most you should already have Prep: 10 Minutes

Cook: 1 Hour

Cool time: 15 Minutes

Level of Difficulty:
Easy
What I Would Change:
I enjoyed it as it. I did not use the wheat flour. We only had regular.
Overall Impression:
I found that I enjoyed this banana bread more than most other recipies I’ve tried. This bread was moist and the banana flavor was just right. I agree with the original poster of this recipe that you need to use 6 bananas.

Yellow Summery Nail Design

I didn’t know what to call this blog post… This nail design has dots, flowers, and stripes on it. It’s blue, yellow, grey, and white. It’s fun and summery which is why I decided to give it a go. I actually did it back in July but just finally remembered about it.

Summery Nail Design on Pintertesting.com

You could use tape and mark out the different areas, but I found that using the brush and slowly dragging it to make the lines was easier. it also cut the time tremendously.

I decided I didn’t like the yellow dots on yellow polish. The yellows I had just didn’t work. I substituted the yellow dots for white ones. I like this one a lot more! I also smudged these a few times. Touching it up was both easy and annoying…..

spotted striped flowery summer nail design tested on Pintertesting.com

Grade: Cost: Time:
B+ (because I’m a perfectionist and this is very very difficult) Free A long long time… hours. Don’t plan on doing anything else for awhile.
Level of Difficulty:
Hard/very difficult
What I Would Change:
I changed the yellow dots to white. I liked this a lot better. I also would use a thin paint brush instead of a toothpick to make the flower. I liked it, but it got clumpy in spots.
Overall Impression:
Very fun and festive. I got many compliments on it, but it’s pretty hard…. I found myself loving the white and yellow dots more than the actual stripes and flowers nails. Mostly because I’m a perfectionist. I most likely wouldn’t do this again just because of the amount of time it took.

How to Pick a Fresh Watermelon!

I love watermelon and there’s nothing more disappointing than chopping one up to find out it’s rotten. Low and behold…. this beautiful list on how to pick a superstar watermelon!

I read this out loud to my entire family and sent my sister out to find us a new watermelon. The grocery store choices aren’t always the best, but it helped her pick a really good watermelon.

The following is taken from the blog fifteen spatulas.

Here’s what to look for when selecting a watermelon:

  1. Pick a dull looking watermelon.  A shiny appearance indicates an underripe melon. This applies to honeydew melons too.
  2. Find the field spot.  This is a creamy spot on the melon, and it’s where the watermelon was resting on the ground.  The field spot should be a yellowish creamy color, like shown with my watermelon:how to pick a ripe watermelonThe darker the color of the creamy spot, the longer it was on the vine sweetening up.  If it is white (or not even there), put it back, because this indicates an underripe melon.
  3. What’s all that knockin’ about?  A dull thud indicates an underripe melon.  You will get a dull thud if the flesh is soft, which you don’t want.  Your knuckles should bounce off the melon, and the surface should be pretty hard/firm.
  4. Pick that bugger up.  Is the watermelon heavy for its size?  Note: this applies to pretty much ALL produce.  When I pick up onions for example, I pick the heaviest one for its size.  That means there is lots of water in there.  The watermelon pictured here in my post was a whopping 18 pounds!  It was heavier than the other comparably sized melons around it.
  5. While you’ve got the watermelon in your arms, make sure it’s uniformly shaped.  Irregular bumps indicate it may have gotten inconsistent amounts of sun or water.
Grade: Cost: Time:
A+ Free N/A
Level of Difficulty:
Easy
What I Would Change:
N/A
Overall Impression:
This was a great guide! I wish I had known about this sooner. I could have saved a lot of money.

DIY Cake Stands

Like I mentioned in my Rose Cake post, my brother and his wife had a second wedding reception recently.  To display the cake and other items, Claire wanted an array of cake stands to fit the classy, rustic picnic feel we had going.  Cheap cake stands cost $30 a pop.  That was not happening for this shindig, let me tell you.  I’d seen different iterations of this pin all over Pinterest in the past and suggested we try it out.

We went to a Goodwill together and left with enough materials for…one cake stand. :( I told her I would check out my local Goodwill because, “I never leave it empty handed.”  Never were truer words spoken.  I found enough stuff for another 5 cake stands.  I also found a rather unattractive cake stand there made by a super high end china company.  Ours were better. It felt good.

This is how easy they were to make:

So sorry for the quality, but I wasn’t planning on putting that video on the internet! However, as you can see it took all of 20 seconds to put them together.  Here are a few tips to make your cake stands more successful:

  1. Whatever base you choose, make the widest end of it the bottom of the cake stand. This will be your best shot at preventing tipping.
  2. Don’t place hot pies/cakes right on the cake stand before the glue gets a chance to set up.
  3. Choose bases that aren’t too tall. Top heavy cake stands are asking to tip over.
  4. Cake stands of various heights, when placed together, look great.

Here are all of ours, together before we left for the event.
image

Grade: Cost: Time:

A+

Each cake stand cost approximately $4.

About a minute? So fast.

Level of Difficulty:
Easy!
What I Would Change:
I might try spray painting the base a coordinating color to a printed China plate on top. There could be some cool combos to be made.
Overall Impression:
This was relatively cheap and easy.  I think it turned out how she wanted it and I had a lot of fun getting them together.

Rose Cake

My brother was married last December in St. Louis (which is quite a drive from our home near Chicago). The weekend of his wedding a large snowstorm hit St. Louis. The snow was beautiful for a winter wedding, but not so great for travelers.  Since there was a good number of people from “up north” that couldn’t make it, they decided to have a summertime second reception.  I was tasked with doing some baking for the event (that would also include some minor birthday celebration).   Among other things, I made a 12″ round chocolate layer cake with vanilla buttercream.  Simple, a crowd pleaser and my brother’s favorite combo.

I had chatted with my sister-in-law, Claire, about what she was thinking of as far as a theme or vibe for the party.  What she described was a classy, rustic picnic vibe.  I showed her this pin to see if she liked what I was thinking for the cake. She gave me the go ahead.  The good thing about this pin is that it is also a fantastic tutorial.  All too often there is just a fancy picture with no instruction on how to accomplish it.

For actual cake baking, the link above has good instructions on making the recipe work for a 12 in round pan. Also, 1 batch of that buttercream just barely wasn’t enough for that large a cake. I made two layers. If you were to make a 1 layer 12 in cake or a 2 layer 9 in cake, it would be fine.

I’m not going to try to explain the tutorial, just go a read it at it’s home.  I couldn’t do any better if I tried.
image

Grade: Cost: Time:

A+

The piping tip was less than $2 at Michaels.

Baking depends on recipe.

Piping took less than 10 minutes.

Level of Difficulty:
Easy!  I know it looks complicated, but I assure you that it isn’t.
What I Would Change:
Next time I would make a slightly softer buttercream.  I tend to make a pretty firm buttercream.
Overall Impression:
So easy, and everyone was really impressed.  So many people came up to me during the party to ask about/compliment the cake.  I would definitely do this again.This cake could be fun for a bridal shower, small wedding, or even a baby shower with the right decoration.

Smoothie Cubes

I really enjoyed the smoothie I made a few months ago, but the task of making a new one every night or morning, and cleaning the food processor every time was not something I was interested in.  When I saw this pin that had (among other things) a tip to make smoothies ahead and freeze them as cubes, I knew I had found something I liked.

So I made two batches of smoothies.

wpid-imag0207.jpg

I picked up 2 ice cube trays for a total of $1 at Target.  Washed them, obvi.

wpid-imag0208.jpg

I filled the cubes up with smoothie.  It was basically one smoothie = one ice cube tray.

wpid-imag0209.jpg

Then I froze them overnight and they looked like this!

wpid-imag0211.jpg

For ease of storage, I popped out the cubes and put them into plastic storage bags. This way I could keep going on the cycle and make more smoothies until I had a nice stock pile.

wpid-imag0212.jpg

 

Grade: Cost: Time:

A

$1 for the trays, I already had the ingredients.

About 15 minutes, not including freezing.

Level of Difficulty:
Easy
What I Would Change:
This worked pretty well for me.  If you are the kind of person that makes a smoothie everyday, I would recommend doubling the batch and freezing half so you can have back up smoothies.
Overall Impression:
This was super easy and made breakfast easy. It is also a good way to take advantage of any produce you have that is about to go bad.  Could also do this with homemade stock!
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