doing adulthood one mess at a time

Reading For: Lazy City Summers

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When I have too much quiet and/or free time on my hands, I tend to go on massive reading binges. Occasionally, this results in me reading books with actually literary merit. More often, this results in me reading many books that are variations on the same theme. One such reading binge took place the two weeks before I moved. I was up to roughly one book per day while I was packing for the move that took place a couple weeks ago. Here is what I read.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple – This book was probably the most unexpectedly good book I’ve read this year. TBH, I was kind of expecting to hate it. It is the truly engaging story of a most unconventional family in the midst of a bizarre mystery. The author’s writing of Bernadette’s point of view was intriguing. Highly recommend.

The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor – I had been wanting to read this one for a while, actually. I had seen it on several “Summer Beach Read” lists. Since I had no actual plans to visit a beach, I decided to staycation with an evocative novel or two. This one was just the ticket. A fantastic story about the complications and rewards of going home again, set against a lovely, beachy backdrop. Highly recommend.

The House at Mermaid Point by Wendy Wax – Honestly, I chose this one thinking that it would be an easy, uncomplicated romance read. It wasn’t – it was actually much better. A novel about love at different stages, shown through the intertwining lives and relationships of a group of friends and coworkers of different ages. This is part of series, though I didn’t realize that until I was partway through – there’s enough background that it makes a lovely standalone read.

Here is where we get to my oddly fanatical binge reading habits . . . My theme for part of this reading binge was modern retellings of Pride & Prejudice. They are all variations on the same story, so I can only recommend that you read all of them if you have my particular fondness for reading the same story again and again. I am only going to hit the obvious tweaks here, since we’re all more or less familiar with the story. I enjoyed all of them a lot – Eligible probably has the most literary value.

Modern Pride & Prejudice Reading List:

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – Set in Cincinnati, of all places. Darcy is a doctor, Elizabeth is a journalist. Highly recommend.

Fitzwiliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud – Set on a music tour. Darcy is, obviously, a Rock Star, Elizabeth is in a band.

The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini – Set in Britain. Darcy is a judge, Elizabeth is lawyer.

Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton – Don’t remember the setting, actually. California? Darcy is a rich philanthropist with OCD, Elizabeth is a doctor.

Do you have any fabulous book recommendations? Please share in the comments!

I Tried It: Trader Joe’s Cha Siu Bao Review

TJ's Bao Photo

I am currently a poor part-time student with a part-time job. I am soon to be a poor full-time grad student with no job. Anything that keeps me from spending extra money — be it on junk that I don’t need, junk that doesn’t work, or takeout (a very serious personal weakness) — is both necessary and appreciated. Since I am absolutely addicted to reading others’ reviews of items I am thinking of buying, I figured that I would put my own two cents in here to benefit you, dear reader. Please find below the first in a series of occasional reviews of things that I purchased and tried. Here’s to trying to assuage our #poormillennialproblems.

TJ's Bao Photo

My first thought upon removing the cooked Trader Joe’s Cha Siu Bao from my steamer basket was that on the outside these *looked* roughly as good as the ones from my favorite Chinese dumpling provider. Upon taking a bite, I found these to be fluffy, warm, and very satisfying. The pork filling is sweet (and tasty) but less acidic/spicy than my favorite delivery place. Nonetheless, I WILL TAKE IT. The bao are very pillowy when you bite into them and the dumpling dough has a very pleasant sweetness to it. The filling is a slightly grayer color than my usual delivery dumplings but that is not necessarily a flaw – probably just a function of different seasoning. I found the pork to have a nice, meaty flavor that smells slightly more peppery than it tastes. Three or four of these are actually a really satisfying meal for one person.

To accompany these, I made a very serviceable dipping sauce from soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, and honey that I found in my cabinets. SUPER TASTY. The next time I make it, I will figure out the approximate measurements and post a recipe.

TJ's Bao Filling Photo

Ease of prep: Easy!
If you’re steaming these, they are SUPER easy. Like boiling water easy. And it takes under 10 minutes, entirely unattended. I also appreciate the parchment squares on the bottom of each dumpling. When I steam dumplings, I usually have to cut myself a parchment liner for the steamer basket so that all my dumplings are not destroyed when I remove them. The attached parchment obviated the need for this.

I tried microwaving the bao per the directions on the package and it. Was. A Disaster. I heated the dumplings for 1 minute, covered with a damp paper towel – this was 15 seconds longer than the package directions instructed. Dear reader, the dumpling filling was still frozen when I removed them from the microwave. (To those wondering: I actually have a very high-powered microwave, so this was surprising.) I microwaved the bao for another minute (still covered with a damp paper towel) and had okay results. The microwave method resulted in a tougher, less-pillowy outer dumpling skin. I would still recommend steaming (on the stove) if you can.

TJ's Bao Package Photo

Value: Good!
These are $2.99 for 4 at my local Trader Joe’s. This is the price of one bao at my local favorite Chinese place. And I did not have to wait for or tip a delivery driver.

Taste: Good!
Comparable to delivery, which is way better than expected.

Overall: 8/10
There are no really good bao places in my current neighborhood (I get my favorite delivery bao when I’m at work), so the discovery that I can buy such a solid substitute at Trader Joe’s is a game changer. I plan to purchase these and keep them stocked in my freezer for as long as Trader Joe’s chooses to sell them. They are a solid fast + tasty option on nights that I would otherwise opt for takeout.

And, because taking it from (just) me is always a questionable way to live your life, here are some other thoughts on Trader Joe’s Cha Siu Bao from around the internet:
The Fearless Flyer
GrubPug
8Asians
Mantou Joe

Have you tried these? What did you think? Slash do you have any other awesome takeout-replacement foods? Let me know in the comments!

thunderstorm.

Rain on Window

It’s thunderstorming in New York as I write this. I absolutely love a good thunderstorm. When I was very little, I had a ground floor bedroom and worried often that someone would try to come in and get me through the window. Nights when it was storming always made me feel safe – I figured that no bad person would risk such adverse conditions to do me harm. I always felt so cozy and slept so well with a raging storm outside. Now, I sleep well because I really appreciate the white noise.

It has been quite a couple of months.

I committed to a nursing school.

I went through a breakup.

I won my fantasy Bachelor league.

I dealt with an extremely painful flare up of a chronic injury.

It’s been a very mixed bag.

All of this said, I’m very excited. Now that I know where I’m headed for school this year, I can finally start planning. I love a good plan . . . and a good to-do list. Mine is rather long at the moment. But I can cross this update off of it.

Good night!

A

beginnings.

Windowsill Plant

This blog has been a project two or so years in the making. Despite writing quite a few draft posts and thinking a lot about what I would like to publish here, I could never get myself to actually start. What did I have to say? And why would anyone actually listen?

My thinking shifted recently when I was accepted to a few graduate nursing programs and was frantically, ravenously trying to find ANY information about the experiences of actual students as they made their way through these programs. Any first person narrative of what an average student in these programs thought or felt or experienced was suddenly of paramount importance to me. It’s really easy to find academic information about graduate programs, but it is way more difficult to get students’ honest, unfiltered opinions about them. I am nerdy (hence the grad school applications) and compulsively research before making decisions (hence the months-long search for my latest coffee maker) – figuring out where to go to school was no different.

I was somewhat shocked to find that it was difficult to track down great first-person blogs about the programs I was considering. After weeks of intense googling, I had only come up with four or five really informative options. (And, it should be noted, this dearth was made all the more painful by how incredibly informative the blogs that I *did* find were.) I decided that, once I settled on a school, I would start a blog.

So, I am writing here to give others some (extremely subjective) information on my experience and also to keep a record, for myself, of what this process was like so that I can remember it later. I have been warned that direct entry nursing programs move so quickly that everything becomes a blur and you end up processing how you felt about events much later. This is my attempt to remember, and to make that processing easier.

Since I am just jumping in and starting, I have no idea how this blog will turn out. I may abandon it in three weeks. The writing may never actually improve (sorry, y’all). But I’m excited to see what happens.

A