Books I’ve Read & Plan to Review

This is just a list for my own mental clarity that will help me recall which books I have read (and need to re-read) and intend to review.

First, novels I have already reviewed:

  1. [List will be updated once some of my reviews are published! I have several in progress.]

Then, novels I have read and am in the process of reviewing:

  1. Unstoppable Moses by Tyler James Smith
  2. Paper Towns by John Green
  3. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Next, novels I have read and have not yet reviewed (or even began the process of reviewing):

  1. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  2. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  3. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  4. I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
  5. Zac and Mia by A..J. Betts
  6. Let it Snow by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson
  7. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  8. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  9. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodie Picoult
  10. Handle With Care by Jodie Picoult
  11. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
  12. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

You can also find my to-read list here.

Last updated 09/15/20

Cooking: Fried Zucchini Discs

On the same day that I made Fish Tacos & Churros with my dad’s help, we made some fried zucchini!

We are up to our ears in zucchini over here.

Zucchini discs stacked on a cutting board

The batter was very simple- flour, salt, water. Next time around, I would add more salt and maybe some other seasonings, because it truly has no taste- just texture.

Seven pieces of fried, battered zucchini
A plate full of fried zucchini

We really just played it by ear with these, so I can’t actually even say how long they cooked or at what temperature, but they turned out lovely!

Coming up soon, I’m hoping to make zucchini fries.

Cooking: Fish Tacos and Churros

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Fish taco: a fried corn tortilla with guacamole, pico de gallo, fried fish, and tapatio hot sauce

I love fish tacos. Love. Seriously, if I go to a restaurant that sells fish tacos, I usually get fish tacos.

I wanted to make some fried fish tacos with some of those flavors you associate with mexican food- although I have to say, it was much weaker than anticipated.

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Flour and salt in a bowl

I used a batter made of flour, water, and salt. I added taco seasoning to the batter, but I’m honsetly not sure if you could taste it.

Fried fish chunks in the fryer

With the help of my dad and his deep fryer, the battered fish chunks were fried.

Pico de gallo ingredients on the table and cutting board

Meanwhile, I made a quick pico de gallo, which was not my best, because I didn’t let it sit overnight.

cherry tomatoes on the cutting board
onion and yellow cherry tomatoes in a bowl
chopped cilantro, a knife, and pepper veins/seeds on a cutting board
pico de gallo in a bowl
guacamole in a bowl

And guacamole, of course, which is a staple in our house.

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fried corn tortillas on a plate
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fried corn tortillas on a plate

We fried up some corn tortillas, which is absolutely the best way to eat a corn tortilla (or any tortilla, for that matter).

churro dough in a pan

And while we had the fryer out, I decided to make churros for the first time ever! The batter is way stickier than you expect it to be.

churros in the frier
churros in cinnamon sugar
churros in the fryer

Cooking: Fruity Pebbles Cereal Treats

fruity pebble cereal treats

a bag of mini marshmallows, a box of fruity pebbles, and a pan with 3 pats of butter sit atop a floral table cloth
Today we made cereal treats out of fruity pebbles. These are delicious, but also very pretty. I just used the basic Rice Krispie Treat recipe from Kellogg’s and substituted Rice Krispies with Fruity Pebbles.

melted butter in a pan with a wooden spatula, a green pot holder is beneath it stop a floral table cloth
First, we melted 3 tablespoons of butter on the stove.

mini marshmallows in a pan with a wooden spatula atop a floral table cloth

marhsmallow-butter goo in a pan with a wooden spatula
Then, we melted in an entire bag of mini marshmallows.

fruity pebbles in a white bowl

an orange measuring cup full of fruity pebbles
Next, we measured out 6 cups of fruity pebbles in a large bowl.

marshmallow goo on top of fruity pebbles in a bowl

strings of marshmallow hang from a wooden spatula covered in fruity pebble cereal treats
Finally, we mixed.

a 9×13 pan with fruity pebble cereal treats in it
And as a last step, I buttered a 9×13 pan and placed them in it to cool.

a small child mixes fruity pebble treat mix with a wooden spatula in a white and red bowl
Most of what I enjoyed about this “recipe” was spending time with my daughter, telling her about each step. I also thoroughly enjoyed photographing the steps of this process because fruity pebbles are pretty and I love the art that goes into food preparation.

fruit pebble cereal treats
Fruity pebbles and marshmallows are a match made in heaven.

Cooking: Tuscan Creamy Butter Salmon

tuscan creamy butter salmon sits in a pan with a wooden spatula

Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely will (and must) re-shoot these images. They are not my best work.

While ordering groceries a few weeks ago, I knew I wanted to make salmon. But I didn’t want to make salmon the way I’ve always made salmon, because although it is delicious, I had pinned so many incredible looking salmon recipes on my Pinterest, and I wanted to try my hand at cooking something that required a bit more effort.

My usual method of cooking salmon is:

  1. Thaw fish still in single packages. (I buy frozen salmon because frankly, the fresh stuff isn’t better for you, the frozen is cheaper, and the taste difference is not substantial enough to me to justify buying on a budget. I buy 1lb of salmon for $6, or 2lbs for $10 from Meijer– sometimes cheaper on sale!)
  2. Remove fish from packages, place on baking tray. Preheat oven according to package directions (perk of frozen fish if you aren’t a skilled cook: cooking instructions are included.)
  3. Place a pat of butter (just less than a tablespoon) on each fillet, salt and pepper eat fillet, squeeze lemon over each fillet, place a lemon slice (I do circle slices) on top of the butter.
  4. Bake for 7-10 minutes.

And typically I make long grain and wild rice and green beans or asparagus to go with it.

But this time, I wanted something different.

salted and peppered raw salmon filets sit in a dish

I looked at these two recipes back and forth a lot: Tuscan Butter Salmon from Lauren Miyashiro at delish, and Creamy Garlic Butter Tuscan Salmon from Cafe Delites. The recipes are pretty similar, and needed mostly the same ingredients, so up until I started making them I prepared to make either one.

Ultimately I combined the two recipes.

olive oil drips from outside of the frame into a puddle in a frying pan

I started by making searing the four pieces of salt-and-peppered salmon on both sides in two tablespoons of olive oil on the stove. The Cafe Delites recipe calls for five minutes on each side, but I only needed four. When that was done, I set the salmon aside to rest while I worked on the cream sauce.

salmon sears on the stove

Next, I melted two tablespoons of butter into the oil (and the juices that came out of the fish while cooking) and fried two teaspoons of minced garlic. The Cafe Delites recipe calls for six cloves, the delish recipe calls for three cloves, but what I had on hand was a jar of minced garlic that has proven to be pretty potent. The internet tells me that half a teaspoon is equivalent to a clove, but I didn’t want garlic to overpower the dish (I’m not a huge garlic fan. I know, I know).

garlic and butter bubble on the stove

After that I added in about two thirds of a large sweet onion. The Cafe Delites recipe calls for a whole small yellow onion, but apparently drastically changing recipes to suit my preferences and what I’ve got on hand is my favorite hobby. The delish recipe doesn’t call for onion.

a knife and measuring spoon rest atop a cutting board beside diced onion and chopped tomato
onion and garlic sweat in a pan

I opted to forgo wine in my recipe, mostly because I ordered my groceries online and didn’t feel like jumping through hoops, but also because I didn’t care to buy a bottle of wine that I wouldn’t use ever again, and also because I’m not a particularly big fan of alcohol (I’m a once-or-twice-a-year-to-celebrate-a-friend’s-birthday drinker).

onion, garlic, and tomato in a pan beside a wooden spatula

At this point, I basically switched over to the other recipe, because I didn’t want to use sun dried tomatoes (I don’t care for them, but I also had only half of what the recipe called for and those were already allocated to pasta salad) and because I wanted to use heavy cream instead of half-n-half.

I added the tomatoes (this time I used campari tomatoes salted, peppered, cut in quarters; in the past I have used cherry tomatoes in halves) into the butter-onion-garlic mixture and cooked that until the tomatoes were beginning to burst.

spinach leaves

Next, I added the half cup of heavy cream which I brought to a simmer over low heat.

heavy cream is poured into a pan that contains onion, tomato, garlic, and a wooden spatula

When the sauce mixture was simmering, I added salt and pepper and then two cups of spinach, which I cooked only until wilted.

wilted spinach and tomato in a sauce with a wooden spatula

Both recipes call for Parmesan cheese, but I skipped it.

cooked salmon filets (and crumbled pieces) sit in a clear baking dish to rest

When I was done cooking, I pulled the pan off the stove and put it directly on the table (on a hot pad, of course). I placed the salmon from the other dish back into the pan and spooned a liberal amount of the sauce and veggies on top of each piece.

tucscan creamy butter salmon sits in a pan with a wooden spatula

Alongside this dish I made a can of french bread (again, what I had on hand) and it turned out to be perfect at sopping up sauce and covering with vegetables to go alongside this awesome dish.

salad in a bowl

I served this with a basic salad (lettuce, spinach, tomato) and some bread.

The final product was sweet and rich, almost nutty tasting, with the flavor of salmon shining through. It could not have turned out more perfect!

In case you need it, here’s a list of ingredients:

  • 4 salmon fillets (I used frozen)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tsp jarred garlic (or 4 cloves, if you want to use fresh)
  • Approx. 2/3rds of a large sweet onion (or a whole small sweet onion)
  • About 10 campari tomatoes (or about 1.5 cups of cherry tomatoes)
  • 3 cups spinach

Cooking: Banana Bread Pancakes (+ Crescent Roll Egg Bake)

ingredients on a floral table cloth (buttermilk, cinnamon, Brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, flour, vanilla, salt, egg, butter)

Because I love to put bananas on my pancakes, and because I love the song “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson, I made bana pancakes. Banana bread pancakes to be specific. 

bananas in a glass bowl beside banana peels and a kindle fire with ingredients behind

I followed this recipe which calls for bananas, buttermilk, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, brown sugar, butter, egg, and salt. 

little hands mash banana with a fork

First, my little helper helped me mash two bananas.

melted butter in a ramekin with butter packaging beside it

Next, I melted 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave.

a little hands holds a quarter teaspoon of baking soda over a bowl

The recipe says to mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately and then mix the two, but I’m a huge proponent of never doing that. It wastes dishes and time.

I poured the dry ingredients on top of the banana. First the 1 & 1/4 cups of flour, then 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, a full teaspoon of cinnamon (The recipe calls for 1/2 a teaspoon, but every sweet recipe that calls for cinnamon needs more. I hold this conviction very deeply.) and an eyeballed dash of salt.

cinnamon and other dry ingredients sit in a bowl

 first whisked those dry ingredients before adding the other wet ingredients on top and mixing the entire batter.

melted butter and vanilla in a ramekin

I added the teaspoon of vanilla into the butter before pouring it into the bowl.

buttermilk on top of dry ingredients

Next I added the 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of buttermilk.

a little hand holds a quarter cup of brown sugar over a bowl of ingredients

After that, the 1/4 cup of brown sugar.

an egg sits on top of other ingredients in a bowl

And finally, the egg.

batter drips from a whisk into a bowl

The next step is to whisk it all together. 

a pancake bubbles on the stove

And then make pancakes, which I am terrible at. None of my pancakes were photogenic. Several of them were overcooked or squashed. I suspect it’s going to take a lifetime of practice to be able to successfully make and flip pancakes.

four eggs on top of a dough made from crescent rolls

In the meantime, I started a very simple crescent roll egg bake. This recipe is simple: just pinch the crescent roll edges together, roll the outside edges to form a barrier, crack a few eggs (I used 6 the first time and they overfilled the dough and oozed into the pan, so this time I used four). Then sprinkle with cheese (I used Sargento four state cheddar). Add any other toppings you’d like- I added tomatoes to 3/4 of it.

one pancake with a dollop of whipped cream on top

Here’s a finished banana bread pancake with homemade whipped cream on top.

egg bake on a sheet pan with a serving spatula

And here’s the finished crescent roll egg bake! 

Cooking: Simple General Tso Stir Fry

ingredients lay on a floral table cloth (bell peppers, noodles, canned vegetables, jarred sauce)
cut bell peppers sit beside a knife on a cutting board, a kindle fire opened to a stir fry recipe* sits beside it, ingredients sit behind it
a cutting board with cut bell peppers and a knife atop it

Tonight I felt like making a stir fry, and I’m far from good at it, but it was okay nonetheless. 
First, I chopped up bell pepper. I used about 2 peppers worth, but from 3 different colors (I set about 1 pepper worth aside to use in a cheesy Mexican skillet later in the week.)

a pan with chopped bell peppers and olive oil

Next, I added those to my skillet with olive oil.  (Which I badly photographed because my depth of field was very narrow, I was rushing, and the focus is on a small spot of oil instead of any peppers…)

rice noodles sticking out of a plastic packet

Then I drained the bamboo shoots and water chestnuts and added those.  Evidently I did not photograph this.

steam comes off a pot

I boiled the rice noodles but evidently the secret to avoiding sticky noodles is to cook them hours beforehand, pat them dry, and toss them in oil. I didn’t do that because it didn’t even occur to me until after my noodles came out sticky. Hindsight is always 20/20. 

a can of bean sprouts with several can opener openings and peeling label

Then I started suit frying the veggies. I added the mushrooms and bean sprouts partway through. At the end, I added the rice noodles and jarred General Tso sauce. It was a substantial fight to open these bean sprouts, my can opener kept leaving gouges but not actually opening the thing! But eventually I got it sorted.

stir fry in a pan with a wooden spoon

This dish wasn’t great, but it was okay. I would definitely make changes next time. Like for example, un-sticking the noodles properly and adding something green- maybe bok choy, since I’m not a huge fan of pea pods in my homemade stir fry.

close up of stir fry

* the recipe featured on the kindle in images was not followed. I simply checked it to determine when I should start the bell peppers in comparison to other items.

My 2019 Most Listened on Spotify

  1. You’re Not the Only One – Lukas Graham
  2. Mama Said – Lukas Graham
  3. Nancy Mulligan – Ed Sheeran 
  4. 7 Years – Lukas Graham
  5. Not a Damn Thing Changed – Lukas Graham
  6. Golden – Brandon Beal, Lukas Graham 
  7. Happy Home – Lukas Graham
  8. Love Someone – Lukas Graham
  9. Everything That Isn’t Me – Lukas Graham
  10. Stick Around – Lukas Graham
  11. September Grass – James Taylor
  12. Drunk in the Morning – Lukas Graham
  13. Rhythm of Love – Plain White T’s
  14. Rockstar – A Great Big World
  15. Sweet Caroline (Glee Cast Version) – Glee Cast
  16. You’re Not There – Lukas Graham
  17. Good News – Ocean Park Standoff
  18. A Whole New World – Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott
  19. Prince Ali – Will Smith
  20. Lullaby – Lukas Graham
  21. Scars to Your Beautiful – Alessia Cara
  22. New Soul – Yael Naim
  23. One Jump Ahead – Mena Massoud 
  24. Better Than Yourself (Criminal Minds pt. 2) – Lukas Graham
  25. Fight Song – Rachel Platten
  26. Friend Like Me – Will Smith 
  27. Come on Get Higher – Matt Nathanson
  28. Take the World by Storm – Lukas Graham
  29. Speechless (Full) – Naomi Scott
  30. It’s Your Life – Francesca Battistelli 
  31. Put Your Records On – Corinne Bailey Rae
  32. Promise – Lukas Graham
  33. The Sound of Sunshine – Michael Franti & Spearhead
  34. One Jump Ahead (Reprise) – Mena Massoud 
  35. Speechless (pt. 2) – Naomi Scott
  36. Off to See the World – Lukas Graham
  37. Landslide – Dixie Chicks 
  38. One Jump Ahead (Reprise 2) – Mena Massoud 
  39. Speechless (pt. 1) – Naomi Scott
  40. Funeral – Lukas Graham
  41. Arabian Nights (2019) – Will Smith
  42. The Big Ship – Alan Menken
  43. One and Only – Teitur 
  44. Drunk in the Morning- Spotify Sessions – Lukas Graham
  45. King of Anything – Sara Bareilles 
  46. Say Hey (I Love You) – Michael Franti & Spearhead, Cherine Tanya Anderson
  47. A Whole New World (End Title) – ZAYN, Zhavia Ward 
  48. Hold My Hand – Lukas Graham
  49. Love Yourself – Justin Bieber
  50. Wamkelekile – Hot Water
  51. This is the Life – Two Door Cinema Club
  52. Unhappy – Lukas Graham
  53. Father and Daughter – Paul Simon
  54. Love Song – Sara Bareilles
  55. Bibia Be Ye Ye – Ed Sheeran
  56. What Happened to Perfect – Lukas Graham
  57. Boom Clap – Charli XCX 
  58. Friend Like Me (End Title) – Will Smith, DJ Khaled 
  59. All the Pretty Little Ponies – Kenny Loggins
  60. Lie – Lukas Graham
  61. I Love it (feat. Charli XCX)– Original Version – Icona Pop, Charli XCX 
  62. Everyday People – Sly and the Family Stone
  63. Island in the Sun – Weezer 
  64. Strip No More – Lukas Graham
  65. Sugar – Maroon 5 
  66. Thrift Shop (feat. Wanz) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  67. Soak Up the Sun – Sheryl Crow
  68. 7 Years – Lukas Graham (Spotify Sessions)
  69. Rivers and Roads – The Head and the Heart
  70. Cheer Up! – A Great Big World
  71. Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
  72. Say Yes (Church Ballad) – Lukas Graham
  73. Ridin’ Solo – Jason Derulo 
  74. It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy, Rik Rok 
  75. Sorry – Justin Bieber 
  76. Better Than Yourself (Criminal Minds pt. 2) – Lukas Graham (Spotify Sessions)
  77. Rockstar- Live from Spotify NYC – A Great Big World 
  78. Life is Short – Butterfly Boucher
  79. It’s Your Life- Dented Fender Sessions – Francesca Battistelli 
  80. Love Someone (feat. Sabina Ddumba)- Recorded at Spotify Studios – Lukas Graham, Sabina Ddumba
  81. On the 4th of July – James Taylor
  82. Really Don’t Care – Demi Lovato
  83. Dive – Ed Sheeran 
  84. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me – Lukas Graham
  85. Carry Me On My Way – James Taylor
  86. Agrabah Marketplace – Alan Menkin
  87. She’s in Love with the Boy – Trisha Yearwood 
  88. Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes 
  89. Party in the U.S.A. – Miley Cyrus
  90. Caroline I See You – James Taylor
  91. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds- Remastered 2009 – The Beatles
  92. Stand By You – Rachel Platten 
  93. Steal My Sunshine – LEN 
  94. October Road – James Taylor 
  95. 22 – Taylor Swift
  96. Peace Train – Yusuf / Cat Stevens
  97. Castle on the Hill – Ed Sheeran
  98. Baby Buffalo – James Taylor 
  99. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars
  100. Intro- Lukas Graham 
Observations and reflections:
  • I am obsessed with Lukas Graham. This isn’t really an observation, although my Top Songs of 2019 certainly reflects it. I discovered Lukas Graham in early 2019 and spent most of the year listening to his music nonstop and on repeat.
  • I love Ed Sheeran. This is also not really an observation, I already knew this. I love his music, but I’m not a big fan of his most recent album.
  • I’ll never get a true gauge of my music taste over the year because I put my spotify on the T.V. where others can use it, and because I use it for parties and to let my daughter listen to music.
  • We listened to a lot of Aladdin. Jasmine is my daughter’s favorite princess.
  • We listened to a lot of James Taylor- which admittedly, 99% of those September Grass plays were my doing. But the other songs on the list largely made the list because my mom was shuffling them on the T.V.
  • I’m nostalgic. I listened to a lot of music I used to listen to as a kid or teen:
    • James Taylor
    • Put Your Records On
    • Island in the Sun
    • Soak Up the Sun
    • Ridin’ Solo
    • She’s in Love with the Boy
    • Blister in the Sun
    • Party in the U.S.A.
    • Steal My Sunshine
    • Peace Train
    • Uptown Funk
  • I love soundtracks! Featured on this playlist are songs from Aladdin, Soul Surfer, Blended, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, The Fault in our Stars, and Aquamarine. Also some songs I picked up from Grey’s Anatomy and “Everyday People” which I first heard in Definitely, Maybe.
  • My daughter loves A Great Big World, “Rockstar” is her favorite song.
  • My most listened song of 2019 was not my favorite song- my favorite song ranked #2.
  • I played my Beach Playlist on repeat more than I realized! Most of the sun and beach-themed songs on this were from that. I played it on the way to and from the beach all summer long.
  • Songs I played only one or twice made it onto my most listened because of how fervently I repeat my favorite songs.
    Spotify’s automated playlists are an interesting way to gain some insight to yourself and your habits, which to me is just and added perk since I primarily use Spotify because I like being able to make custom playlists. 

    Peony & Peach Photography | My Portfolio

    two girls crouch beside an orange chicken next to a chicken coop from the “Cousins” photo series
    If you know me, you know I’ve been doing photography as a hobby for about 12 years. I had various point-n-shoot cameras as a middle and high schooler, and I had a decent eye for a teenager.
    a newborn’s legs in froggy position with hospital bracelets and umbilical clamp visible from”Fresh 48’s” featuring Jackson
    I got my DSLR with my graduation money after graduating high school, when I was 18, about six months before my daughter was born.
    two girls (sisters) with faces side-by-side from “Portraits” featuring Jade and Nora
    In that time, I have done a lot of personal projects and a few professional shoots. Over the years I have also taken two courses in photography: Beginning and Advanced Digital Photography. Between these classes and their cool professors and the help of some other photographers both locally and worldwide, I have come to achieve more consistent images and better work all-around.
    a girl with cupped hands blows glitter from the “The Sweetest Peach” photo series
    You can find my portfolio here, on Adobe Portfolio: Peony & Peach Photography (My Portfolio)
    a couple stands on a mountain, laughing at one another from “Portraits”
    a baby girl lies on a knitted blanket with fingers in her mouth from “Milestones”
    On my portfolio, you will find my professional work (Portraits, Fresh 48’s, Milestones, Engagements, and Maternity) and my creative projects (The Sweetest Peach, Cousins, Candids, and Other Work).
    a girl reaches to pick an apple from an apple tree from the “The Sweetest Peach” photo series
    a child blows massive bubbles while reaching about their head from the “Cousins” photo series

    My To-Read List

    Just a list of novels on my list that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. First, books I own but still haven’t read: Next, books I do not yet own but hope to purchase and read in the near future: Last updated 06/12/20
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