Morning Train Reads: Hunting and Gathering

2-84263-085-8I finally finished Hunting and Gathering by Anna Galavada a few days ago — it is the longest book I’ve read in years. It is the story of three unlikely friends living in Paris who create their own unconventional family when their own families let them down. The book is character-driven, rather than plot-driven. In close to 500 pages, Galavada delves deep into each of character’s backstory, and explores the way their personal histories impact their relationships with others. I did feel that the book was a bit longer than it needed to be, but I enjoyed it. I noticed that there is a movie version, featuring the actress who played Amelie! Maybe I can watch it on Netflix someday.

Prague & Paris Trip

We returned Saturday from our honeymoon trip to Paris & Prague, and we had a lovely time.

In Prague I showed Alex around all of my old stomping grounds from the six weeks I spent there for a study abroad program in 2009. We ate Czech food, drank Czech beers, checked out the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and the famous astrological clock in Old Town Square. We also took a day trip to the charming countryside town of Cesky Krumlov.

In Paris we hit all the highlights: Notre Dame, the love lock bridge, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. We were just there for one full day, but it was an action-packed day.

Alex took 950 photos throughout the trip! I picked a few of my favorites to post here. Enjoy!

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Morning Plane Reads: Three Honeymoon Books

booksWe returned from our honeymoon trip Saturday, and it’s been a whirlwind of catching up on work at home and in the office ever since. I’ll post a few pics from the trip later, but for now, I thought I’d mention the books I finished reading before, during and right after our trip.

First, I read Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. The first great thing about this book is that the author went to my alma mater, N.C. State. After reading The Paris Wife the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, I was interested to read about Fitzgerald’s wife. The stories intersected a great deal, because of the circle both couples belonged to in Paris. I must say, I enjoyed reading about Zelda a great deal more than reading about Hadley Hemingway. While Zelda’s story was not ultimately happy, she was a lively and unique woman with many talents and skills of her own. While Hadley’s story involved her being Hemingway’s doormat at all times, Zelda was much more her own person with hobbies and ideas of her own. I really enjoyed this book!

Next, I read The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro. It was an exciting and suspenseful, yet fictional, twist on the story of the real-life art thefts from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but this book was really great.

The final book I read on the trip was The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, which went hand-in-hand with Z and The Paris Wife. It was the story of Anne Morrow, the wife of famous aviator Charles Lindenbergh. I enjoyed learning about Anne’s life, but after reading all three books about women with such oppressive husbands, I felt a bit depressed. Anne’s life was very exciting at times, but ultimately, Charles was in control. I guess all I can say is that I’m glad times have changed.

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

When I went to Chicago for work a few weeks ago, Alex decided to make a deep dish cast iron skillet pizza here in New York. It turned out so well that he wanted to make another one this past weekend.

We started by making the dough. I’ll admit upfront that I had little to do with the prep work for this recipe. The dough is made up of flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, water and honey.IMG_6411

We let the dough sit all day while we were in Governor’s Island. When we came back, it was time to get started.IMG_6537

We baked the dough for a short time, then took the skillet out to add sauce, cheese, black olives, sun dried tomatoes and caramelized onions. Yum, yum, yum.IMG_6541 IMG_6553 IMG_6555

It turned out so well! I can’t wait to make more soon.

Governor’s Island Picnic and Paris Festival

Last Saturday, I was determined to put the picnic basket I got for Christmas a few years ago to good use. I’ve carried that picnic basket from apartment to apartment, but  I’ve never actually packed food in it and taken it to the park. We decided to go to Governor’s Island, an island off the southern tip of Manhattan that used to be an army base. There are huge, beautiful old houses, tons of trees and lots of grass to roam around on. Governor’s Island is just a short ferry ride away, so we packed our picnic basket and set off. IMG_6429

It was raining when we got there, so we set up at a picnic table under a large tree, which shielded us from [most of] the rain. We had an impressive sandwich from Faicco’s Italian Specialties, which is right around the corner from our apartment. We also packed some Magnolia Bakery banana pudding [the absolute best] and some potato salad. Delicious. IMG_6435 IMG_6437 IMG_6438 IMG_6440 IMG_6445

Luckily, the skies cleared just as we were finishing lunch. We consulted a map and walked around the island to the Paris Festival that’s running on the Island all summer long. IMG_6450 IMG_6453

There were beautiful carousels and old time-y carnival games all around. It was the perfect thing to get us excited for our honeymoon trip to Prague and Paris next week.IMG_6457 IMG_6460 IMG_6463 IMG_6472 IMG_6482

We finished up the day with a few hours of reading books under a tree in a beautiful field. I didn’t even feel like I was in New York City anymore, which was just what I needed that afternoon.IMG_6502 IMG_6506 IMG_6514 IMG_6516

Morning Train Reads: Farewell Waltz

FAREWELLIs it ok if I don’t really say much about Farewell Waltz by Milan Kundera? I decided to read it because we’re leaving for our honeymoon trip to Prague and Paris this weekend (!!!), and Kundera is a Czech/French author. I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being during my first trip to Prague, and I loved the story that took place in the city where I was living at the time. Farewell Waltz wasn’t bad, and I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t love it or even care very much about it.

Let’s see how many books I can read during about 20 hours of airplane time over the next week!

Morning Train Reads: The House on Mango Street

imagesThe House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros was short and pleasant to read. This classic novel is written from the point of view of a young girl living with her parents and siblings in a poor Latino neighborhood in Chicago. While the heroine, Esperanza, is surrounded by poverty and sadness, she sees joy and excitement in small things in her neighborhood and amongst her neighbors. She dreams each day of living in a real house away from Mango Street with two stories and a beautiful yard. The book comes across as a collection of short stories, or anecdotes, told by Esperanza. Some are sad, and some are uplifting. I highly recommend reading this!

Morning Train Reads: This Side of Paradise

This_Side_of_Paradise_1_by_mscorleyAfter all the craze over The Great Gatsby over the past year, I wasn’t even surprised when I stumbled upon a “Party at Gatsby’s” cropped tank on Pinterest. I guess there are worse cultural obsessions than a classic piece of literature! While I love Gatsby as much as the next person, I decided it was time I read something else by Fitzgerald. I chose This Side of Paradise. The book–Fitzgerald’s first–is the  semi-autobiographical story of a wealthy, egotistical young man beginning in his late childhood years and ending in his mid twenties. The language in this book was pretty tedious for me, and I didn’t really enjoy much of it.  I actually checked Spark Notes when I was finished reading just to make sure I had actually understood everything that happened, and thankfully, I had.

Even though this wasn’t my favorite book, it was interested to read Fitzgerald’s earliest work, written when he was just 23-years-old.

Morning Train Reads: Looking for Alaska

99561My opinion of this book was probably doomed from moment I placed it on hold at the library. After reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene this spring, I was obsessed. I just had to read more by the author, and hoped Looking for Alaska would be as great (or greater!) Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed.

I think the reason for my disappointment is the fact that while both books fall under the Young Adult category, the heroine in The Fault in Our Stars is wise beyond her years. She’s a high school student, but because she’s battling cancer, she has a wisdom that is unmatched, even among adults. In Looking for Alaska, the characters are high school students who come across as…high school students. I thought the story was fairly compelling, but I just didn’t love it the way I loved Stars.

Oh well, on to the next book! I’m looking forward to some extended reading time as I fly to and from Chicago this weekend for the BlogHer Conference. Plus, I’ll see Shana there!

Morning Train Reads: Beautiful Ruins

11447921I can’t lie. The reason I picked Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters was 95% the nice cover art and 5% that I saw it had good reviews on Good Reads. Luckily, judging this book by its cover worked out in the end. It was one of those books that tells the stories of several different characters throughout, and their paths all intersect at the end. The book centers primarily on a love story in a tiny coastal town in Italy, and covers several decades of time. It was an enjoyable, easy read, and perfect for summer.