2021 Movies & TV Shows

This year was not the best for TV & Movies. Maybe because I was so over watching TV after 2020? I’m not sure. I watched New Girl twice, rewatched Friends once (and started a second rewatch) and started to rewatch Vampire Diaries. I watched a ton of terrible Christmas movies in November & December. This was also the year I discovered The Chef Show & Ugly Delicious & Nadiya’s Time to Eat and became OBSESSED with all of them. Love me some food shows. Top Chef, Big Brother, Survivor, The Bachelorette (Michelle’s season), The Challenge, and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills all had incredible seasons this year. I finally started watching Station 19 after the millionth Greys Anatomy crossover…and I actually LOVE it. Some of my favorite series from 2020 came through with a season 2 (Never Have I Ever, Outer Banks, Emily in Paris) and one of my favorite new shows got cancelled (Prodigal Son). I’m looking forward to some of my favorites from 2021 getting a season 2 in 2022!

Top 15 Movies & Shows (in no particular order):

  • The Chef Show (available on Netflix)
    • I’m honestly obsessed. Roy Choi & Jon Favreau are an absolute delight. They’re funny & honest & the food looks amazing!! If they don’t put out more shows…I anticipate rewatching!
  • Firefly Lane (available on Netflix)
    • I loved it! Katherine Heigl & Sarah Chalke are incredible and I really liked how it was told in 3 time periods. Can’t wait for season 2!
  • Ginny & Georgia (available on Netflix)
    • I really liked this one! It got mixed reviews but I thought the cast was STELLAR and the story was amazing. Kept me on my toes.
  • Station 19
    • Okay. I’ve been sleeping on this one. I never watched but after so many Greys crossovers I decided to just do it. And holy moly it’s so good!
  • The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City
    • This is the only “Housewives” franchise I watch and I love it. The drama, the fights, the friendship, the family issues, the LEGAL SCANDALS. I meannnnn come on this show has it all!
  • Survivor
    • I watch so much reality tv. Like honestly, so much. But Survivor stays the best. The challenges, the strategy, the social/emotional exploration, the progressive conversations. And we had some amazing castaways this year too – plus I truly did not know who was going to win, which just goes to show how great the gameplay was this year.
  • Prodigal Son
    • I cannot believe this show got cancelled. A serial killer’s son catching serial killers. Plus dealing with the demons of his father’s reality and the rest of the family issues that stem from having a serial killer father. It was riveting television, truly.
  • Only Murders in the Building (available on Hulu)
    • This was cute but had a thriller-edge to it! It was fun to see Martin Short & Steve Martin together and I really enjoyed the concept.
  • Fantasy Island
    • Loved the characters, the life lessons, the feel-good aspect of enjoying life. It made me want to watch all of the older versions. Can’t wait for season 2!
  • Maid (available on Netflix)
    • This one was intense. But good & meaningful & important. Cannot recommend enough. But it will be emotionally draining. Proceed with caution, but know that you must proceed.
  • Top Chef
    • I’m fairly new to the Top Chef world, but it makes me so happy. I love watching the chefs compete and thinking about their methods and being introduced to new styles of cooking and different cultures. I particularly enjoyed all of the past contestants coming back as guest judges for this season. It was really fun to watch.
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 (available on Netflix)
    • This movie is so important and so necessary to watch. I don’t even want to say anything else other than you must watch it.
  • Nadiya’s Time to Eat (available on Netflix)
    • I fell in love with Nadiya. She is honest, relatable, and kind. Her food is accessible. Her warmth radiates from her smile. She is earnest in her quest for knowledge about food origins and the people who help make it available to us. I can’t say enough good things about her. Whether or not you like to cook, if it’s something that you do, her show is for you.
  • Murder Among the Mormons (available on Netflix)
    • This show was wild & totally unexpected & not what I thought it was going to be. You think you know what’s coming, but you don’t.
  • Outer Banks (available on Netflix)
    • The actors are amazing, the story-telling is compelling, and it’s just a heart-racing adventure the whole way through! It lives up to the hype.

Rating System: 5 stars – loved it, consistently recommend 4 stars – really liked it, would recommend 3 stars – good show, nothing too notable 2 stars – would not recommend to others 1 star – did not finish, do not recommend.

January:

  • The Undoing – 4 stars
  • 7th Heaven Season 6 – 4 stars
  • The Queens Gambit – 5 stars
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 4 – 4 stars

February

  • Fate: The Winx Sage – 3 stars
  • Lucifer Season 5 – 4 stars
  • Firefly Lane – 5 stars
  • Where’d You Go Bernadette – 5 stars
  • American Murderer: The Family Next Door – 5 stars
  • Tiny Pretty Things – 3 stars
  • Red Dot – 1 star
  • Outlander Season 3 – 4 stars
  • 7th Heaven Season 7 – 4 stars
  • Chef Show Volume 1 – 5 stars
  • Behind Her Eyes – 4 stars

March

  • Ginny & Georgia – 5 stars
  • 7th Heaven Season 8 – 4 stars
  • Chef Show Volume 2 – 5 stars
  • To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before: Always and Forever – 5 stars
  • Namaste Wahala – 1 star
  • Friends Seasons 1-2 – 5 stars
  • Murder Among the Mormons – 5 stars
  • Station 19 Seasons 1-3 – 5 stars
  • The Bachelor Season 25 – 2 stars
  • The Vow – 5 stars
  • Real Housewives of Salt Lake City Season 1 – 5 stars
  • Prodigal Son – 5 stars

April

  • Friends Seasons 3-5 – 5 stars
  • Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel – 3 stars
  • Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal – 2 stars
  • Why Did You Kill Me? – 3 stars
  • Nadiya’s Time to Eat – 5 stars
  • Trial of the Chicago 7 – 5 stars
  • I Care A Lot – 4 stars
  • Ugly Delicious Season 1 – 5 stars
  • 7th Heaven Season 9 – 4 stars

May

  • The Circle Season 2 – 3 stars
  • Kenan – 4 stars
  • Friends Seasons 6-9 – 5 stars
  • Shadow & Bone – 5 stars

June

  • Masked Singer Season 6 – 4 stars
  • Friends Season 10 – 5 stars
  • Station 19 Season 4 – 5 stars
  • Greys Anatomy Season 17 – 3 stars
  • 7th Heaven Season 10 – 4 stars
  • New Girl Season 1-6 – 5 stars
  • Luca – 4 stars
  • Fatherhood – 4 stars
  • Married at First Sight Season 12 – 4 stars

July

  • Ugly Delicious Season 2 – 5 stars
  • Top Chef Season 18 – 5 stars
  • New Girl Season 7 – 5 stars
  • Manifest Season 1 – 5 stars
  • Never Have I Ever Season 2 – 5 stars
  • The Crown Season 1 – 5 stars

August

  • Virgin River Season 3 – 3 stars
  • Outer Banks Season 2 – 5 stars
  • New Girl Season 1-7 – 5 stars
  • The Bachelorette Season 17 – 2 stars
  • Love is Blind: After the Altar – 3 stars
  • FBoy Island – 4 stars
  • Manifest Season 2 – 4 stars
  • Love Island US Season 3 – 4 stars
  • The Crown Season 2 – 5 stars

September

  • Vampire Diaries Seasons 1-3 – 4 stars
  • Big Brother Season 23 – 5 stars
  • Woke – 4 stars

October

  • The Originals Season 1 – 5 stars
  • Vampire Diaries Season 4 – 4 stars
  • Maid – 5 stars
  • Bachelor in Paradise Season 7 – 4 stars

November

  • Only Murders in the Building – 5 stars
  • Fantasy Island – 5 stars
  • Outlander Season 4 – 4 stars
  • LoveHard – 4 stars
  • Snowed Inn Christmas – 4 stars
  • No Sleep Til Christmas – 2 stars
  • Hometown Christmas – 2 stars
  • A Sweet Christmas Romance – 3 stars
  • A California Christmas – 3 stars
  • Dancing Through the Snow – 2 stars
  • The Originals Season 2 – 4 stars
  • Red Notice – 5 stars
  • The Christmas Contract – 4 stars
  • A Castle for Christmas – 2 stars
  • The Housewife and the Shah Shocker – 3 stars

December

  • A Very Charming Christmas Town – 2 stars
  • Holidaze – 3 stars
  • Christmas A La Mode – 2 stars
  • True Story – 5 stars
  • Rodeo and Juliet – 2 stars
  • Single All the Way – 4 stars
  • Originals Season 3 – 4 stars
  • Survivor Season 41 – 5 stars
  • Friends Seasons 1-3 – 5 stars
  • The Challenge Season 37: Spies, Lies, & Allies – 5 stars
  • The Bachelorette Season 18 – 5 stars
  • The Unforgiveable – 5 stars
  • Emily in Paris Season 2 – 4 stars
  • Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner – 5 stars
  • The Crown Season 3 – 5 stars
  • The Glass Castle – 4 stars

Books of 2021

Well, this year I read 39 books just like last year. I wanted to make it to 40, but I didn’t and I’m honestly trying to not be too hard on myself about it. 39 books is still amazing AND I proved to myself that I could still make time for something I love even though it was a crazy year. Below, I’ll only be discussing the 35 books that had nothing to do with my grad school classes. It’s crazy to me that I read almost exclusively women. I don’t think I’m doing it on purpose? But literally 94% of my books were written by women. It’s probably because so many of those spots are taken up by romance…which I refuse to give up because it makes me happy! 63% were written by white people, though, which is something I said I wanted to pay attention to this year and I want to continue to work on it for next year. The percentage only went down by 3% from last year. I need to get it way down and diversify my bookshelf. I read a TON of great books this year, and it was hard to figure out which should be on my top 5 list, but ultimately I went with the most memorable, the ones I recommend the most, and the ones I couldn’t get enough of while I was reading.

My Favorite 5 Books of 2021

  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I am obsessed with the interview style of this book. It was like reading a TV special on the most scandalous band ever. I could not get enough and I wished I could hear their songs…which hopefully will happen when the series comes out!!!
  • Infinite Country by Patricia Engel – This one was painful to read. The kind of pain that makes you want to change the world. I reviewed it in March…check it out here if you want to read more about this amazing book!
  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry – I just absolutely loved this book. The traveling, the friendship, the personal growth, and the love. It was everything. All I wanted to do was be them.
  • Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian – Even though this is a retelling, the story was amazing. Compelling and impossible to put down. It was long but I tore through it and never wanted it to end.
  • Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang – This debut was breathtaking. The details were so intense but told with innocence. It felt like a friend telling you her life story over lunch. I really recommend it!

Here are the rest of the books I read this year, sorted by genre. Books with a star next to them mean I have a review on my blog that you can check out!

Fiction

  • The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans – 5 stars*
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett – 5 stars*
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – 4 stars*
  • Infinite Country by Patricia Engel – 5 stars*
  • What’s Mine & Yours by Naima Coster – 3 stars
  • The Removed by Brandon Hobson – 4 stars
  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid – 4 stars
  • Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – 5 stars
  • Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy – 5 stars
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare – 2 stars
  • His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie – 4 stars

Romance

  • This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens – 4 stars
  • The Heiress Gets A Duke by Harper St. George – 2 stars
  • The Dating Plan by Sara Desai – 4 stars
  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry – 5 stars
  • Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center – 3 stars
  • The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang – 5 stars
  • Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore – 5 stars
  • Well Played by Jen DeLuca – 3 stars
  • The Bride by Julie Garwood – 3 stars
  • The Truth About Cowboys by Lisa Renee Jones – 3 stars
  • The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox – 5 stars

Fantasy

  • The City We Became by N.K. Jemison – 5 stars
  • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – 5 stars
  • Ariadne by Jennifer Saint – 4 stars
  • A Million Junes by Emily Henry – 5 stars
  • Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian – 5 stars
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – 4 stars

Memoir

  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – 4 stars
  • Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang – 5 stars

Non-Fiction

  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo – 5 stars
  • Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today by Anne Willan – 5 stars

Thriller

  • The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins – 5 stars*
  • The Perfect Marriage by Jeneva Rose – 4 stars
  • Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala – 4 stars

I hope you had a great year of reading as well! Let me know in the comments what your top 5 of 2021 were or if you read any of my 35 books!

January 2022 Book of the Month

I wasn’t totally impressed with the picks this month. I saw Rachel Hawkins and knew immediately I wanted that one, but then I read the reviews and didn’t know if I wanted to use a credit on it. I figure I’ll borrow it from a friend. The rest of the books just didn’t even really stand out to me. So, I looked through some websites showcasing books that are being published in January, and there are a few I would have liked to see: Honor by Thrity Umrigar, Weather Girl by Rachel Lee Solomon, How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu, or The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz. All that to say – I’m sure these books are delightful – I just wasn’t “wowed” by any of the options. Unsurprisingly, I went with the two romances – my comfort zone – to start the year!

Main Pick Options

  • Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson – Contemporary Fiction, Debut, Early Release – Emotional, Family Drama, 400+ Pages, Immigration: Brimming with wisdom, a moving story of two siblings who wend their way to reconciliation after losing their mother. Goodreads Rating: 4.32
    • I’m definitely curious about this book and want to wait to see what others think about it. The 400+ pages gave me pause. My reading just has not been up for something too long because of work lately!
  • Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly – Romance, Debut – LGBTQ+ Themes, Quirky, Salacious, Foodie: This delicious queer rom-com proves that like the best meals, true love is hard work, a bit messy, but oh-so-rewarding. Goodreads Rating: 4.25
    • ROMANCE + FOODIE?! It’s me! I don’t read much queer rom-coms, mostly because romance is my comfort genre, where I like to read from my own perspective (straight 20-something woman), but I’m excited to branch out!
  • Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins – Thriller, Repeat – Fast Read, Movieish, Whodunit, Drug & Alcohol Use: These 20-somethings quickly learn island life is about the little things: Strong Drinks, Soft Sand. Cool Water. Murder. Goodreads Rating: 3.87
    • Okay honestly I do really want to read this, but like I said the reviews on Goodreads made me think twice. I anticipate borrowing this one from my cousin who chose it, though!
  • Fiona & Jane by Jean Chen-Ho – Short Stories, Debut – Nonlinear Timeline, Literary, Female Friendships, Millenial: In these braided short stories, two girls come of age and learn friendship is both indispensable and a great challenge. Goodreads Rating: 4.25
    • I guess I’m just a little confused by the “braided short stories” format. I’ll be curious to see how people react to it.
  • The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis – Historical Fiction – Multiple Viewpoints, Slow-Build, Real-Life Characters, NYC: A rich tale suffused with intrigue, mystery, and betrayal that swirls around the history of the infamous Frick family. Goodreads Rating: 4.33
    • This sounds pretty interesting!

Add Ons

  • Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn – Contemporary Fiction, Debut – Inspirational, Light Read, LOL, Love Triangle: This vibrant, winning novel follows the (mis)adventures of a woman in pursuit of a date for her cousin’s wedding. Goodreads Rating: 4.20
    • Yes, I obviously got this one. It’s full of all the things I love. It was my number one pick and I can’t wait to read it!
  • The Maid by Nita Prose – Mystery, Debut – Quirky, Whodunit, Buzzy, Underdog: This absolute charmer follows Molly Gray as she tries to solve the murder at her hotel before anyone pins it on her. Goodreads Rating: 4.18
    • I’m not NOT interested – sounds like a good tv show!

My Box

  • Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly
  • Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

Let me know if we got any of the same books – or if you think I should grab one that I left behind! I’d love to chat books with you all!

22 for 2022

My 22 for 2022 list is a little different from how I normally approach new years resolutions. In the past I’ve always included goals or habits I want to start, but this year I’m breaking free of making a list of personal obligations to myself. Instead, I’m making a 2022 Bucket List. After spending so much time not being able to do things or being afraid to go out and do stuff because I didn’t have someone to do it with – I’m over that mindset. I want to live life to the fullest and have experiences that bring me joy. I’m ready. So, these are all the things I hope to do in 2022 to make it an amazing year full of memories!

Bucket List

  1. Podcast Show
  2. Comedy Show
  3. Play
  4. Longwood Gardens
  5. Run in a Race
  6. Visit North of Me
  7. Visit South of Me
  8. Pro Sports Game
  9. Movie Theater
  10. Concert
  11. New Local Restaurant
  12. Try Nigerian Food
  13. Cooking Class
  14. New Brewery
  15. New Winery
  16. Local Bookstore
  17. Color Factory
  18. Friends Experience
  19. Famous Chef Restaurant
  20. Go on a hike
  21. Get a massage
  22. Go apple picking

What are you hoping to accomplish in the new year? Let me know in the comments!

NYE Appetizers

New Year’s Eve is a classic appetizer-forward holiday. You’re up all night, but you normally start the party after dinner, so there’s no “sit-down” meal aspect of the event, yet you still need to have something around for people to eat. Enter appetizers. This year I’m highlighting one of my favorite appetizer snacks: the mini pepper. There is so much you can do with a mini pepper! You can stuff them, slice them, roast them, sauté them…the options are endless. Here are a few easy recipes for mini peppers!

Sausage Stuffed: Cut off the tops, remove ribs & seeds, and stuff with sausage (I used chicken sausage – my favorite! – but any kind would work). Cook for about 30 minutes on 350…you’ll know when the sausage is done!

Everything Bagel: Cut off the tops, slice in half, remove ribs & seeds, fill with whipped cream cheese and top with everything bagel seasoning. No heating process necessary!

Roasted: Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes at 450. I liked to serve these with a paprika aioli! For that, you whisk mayo (1/2 cup), garlic (3 cloves minced), olive oil (1 tbsp), & paprika (1/2 tbsp).

Let me know in the comments if you try any of these! Happy New Year!

Survivor 41

CBS really changed things up this year while at the same getting back to the roots of Survivor. All of the twists kept it new and fresh, but the lack of food and the constant shelter changes brought back that feeling of it being truly about survival. Also, there were so many important societal conversations this season and I loved that Jeff kept saying “this is what Survivor is about” to really drive home the idea that the game started as a social experiment, not a challenge-winning game. I think these conversations are so important to have and they brought them into the homes of people across the country. I honestly don’t know how I feel about Jeff talking to us like he’s in our living rooms, though!

  • Favorite Twists:
    • Do or Die penalty for being out first
    • Losing Fire as a result of losing the challenge
  • Disliked Twists:
    • Shot in the Dark was too risky for most people so it really played no part
    • Beware Multi-Idol: I didn’t like the loss of vote/not knowing what you’re risking when you get the “Beware” – I think it would have been interesting to see if people took it or left it after knowing what it did, like Ricard & Shan
  • Favorite Players:
    • Xander – likeable personality, silly, somehow stayed despite all of the disadvantageous situations he has been in, truly able to “survive” on less
    • Evvie – smart, analytical, tough, stayed true to who they are, always kept the “game” in mind and didn’t take things too personally
    • DeShawn – analytical, smart, honest, able to articulate his emotions and provide the Survivor audience with authenticity
    • Ricard – smart enough to take Shan out and get the numbers on his side, won a ton of challenges, kept his emotions in check to be analytical
    • Erika– used time turner but stayed with majority until it benefitted her to switch, became super close with only Heather so she never had to betray anyone, won a bunch of challenges
    • Honorable Mention – Naseer who just has a lovely personality! Such a joy to watch him.
  • Favorite Challenges
    • Tribe Reward – one at a time, they tossed a ball onto an overhead track, then ran through a rope obstacle underneath the track to catch the ball before it hit the ground. Once all of them finished, the balls were tossed onto a beam. The winning tribe got a visit with a local survivalist, and second place got a fish to share. I love the local survivalist reward and I don’t know I just liked the challenge itself!
    • Merge – Group Immunity/Reward – I liked this one because there were so many team elements for people who were not on tribes together and so maybe did not necessarily know how to work together. The teams were drawn randomly to start. They had to dig out a large, heavy boulder from the sand, then roll it through obstacles to get a key. Then they had to scale a tower, unlock puzzle pieces, and solve a puzzle. The winners got a feast and immunity from Tribal Council, which would mean they made it to the merge/jury. They also chose between the two who didn’t compete and one joined them while the other got sent to exile.
    • Pre-Merge – Individual Immunity: Build a block tower and put a flag in the middle using their feet. This one I love for the pure comedy of building something with your feet. Lol.
    • Final Immunity: I love this one. It takes patience, coordination, and grit – but anyone can win! They have to stack blocks on a wobbly platform while holding onto a rope to steady that platform, but also walking on a wobbly platform.

Final Tribal: I won’t lie – at first my thought was “wow any of them could win” and then it was “okay DeShawn definitely can’t” and then “Xander probably has this one in the bag since he didn’t let Erika compete for fire.” So at the end, I was a little confused, but that’s probably just me thinking too much about the fire-making decision and putting too much stock in that. Once I had time to reflect…I ended up with the following thoughts:

  • DeShawn had a great game, but he was the weakest of the three. He had an alliance and then his move to cut Shan resulted in Liana & Danny being voted off as well. He had the majority and didn’t run with it. For someone who also didn’t win individual immunity, that showed his social game had some serious weaknesses as well.
  • Xander played an amazing game and I would not have been disappointed if he won. However, he had no idea what social dynamics were at play for most of the game so I completely understood the jury’s reluctance to reward him for that. He survived despite being on the bottom the entire time, which is impressive considering he was a threat. However, I think he has a lot to learn about sincerity and connection.
  • Erika truly outwit, outlast, and outplayed the group. I’m not giving her credit for the time-turning thing because it wasn’t really a choice, but I am definitely giving credit for surviving on exile alone and capitalizing on the turn of events in the game. Also, her name was being thrown out almost every week, yet she wasn’t voted out and was never blindsided. And she won immunity challenges. So really she had it all!

Would love to hear your thoughts on Season 41 of Survivor, so please share them in the comments!

Broadway Day Trip

I’ll be the first person to say that I am not a big fan of cities, and although I live so close to NYC, I rarely go. I’m way more comfortable in Philly. In fact, before this trip, I don’t think I’ve been since 2018. Yes, part of that is due to the pandemic closing most things down, but a lot of it is simply because I don’t particularly enjoy it. I’m not “enchanted” by cities the way some people are. My enchantment usually comes from nature or more rural settings. However, I knew for sure that I wanted to see To Kill A Mockingbird on Broadway while Jeff Daniels was still the star, which meant I had to get there before the end of 2021. So, on a brisk, but not cold (for December in the city) Saturday, my mom and I caught the train and headed up to the Big Apple.

The train ride is only about an hour and a half on NJ Transit, and I spent that time reading (coincidentally the book was set in NYC). When we got to Penn Station mom was starving and I knew I wanted some caffeine (historically, theaters make me sleepy lol) so we walked along 7th ave until we found a spot that had some tea and food. We stopped at a bunch, checking out what they had to offer, before coming across Zeppola’s Italian bakery. It was beautiful. The lights were bright and shining on their delectable pastries through the window, so we stepped inside. To my delight, there was a nice variety of tea. We got English Breakfast tea and a raspberry croissant to share. The croissant was perfect – flaky but not crumby, sweet but not overbearing, and just enough yummy raspberry filling. It was a small place, but not packed, so I highly recommend checking it out because it was so unique compared to the other cafes we perused.

At this point we had about an hour before the show began and I really wanted to get some good NYC pizza before the day was out, so we continued along 7th street sipping our tea until we got to Carnegies, where we ordered two sausage slices and 1 margherita slice to split. In true NYC pizza fashion, it did not disappoint. The margherita slice was a little salty for me, but mom said she didn’t notice – so it’s all about individual tastes. For me, the crust was perfect – and that is essential for good pizza.

The show itself was honestly incredible. It was the best Broadway performance I’ve ever seen. I was engrossed from the start and truly could not look away. The actors were absolutely incredible and brought the story to life. I loved the way it was told and the rhythm of the lines and how many times I wanted to cry because of the emotion portrayed. It was breathtaking.

Since it’s winter, I knew I wanted to visit the Winter Village at Bryant Park, especially because it was such a short walk from the theater. I’ve seen the tree at Rockefeller Tower a bunch of times, so it wasn’t on my “must-do” list, but I definitely recommend it if you’ve never gone before! We walked around and checked out some of the shops, buying ornaments for the tree and some loose tea blends (I can’t help myself) from The Spice Professors. Then we split a pork belly banh-mi from Mama’s Cupboard & a pork belly bao & red curry chicken bao from Bao by Kaya. Both were mom’s first! I am slowly getting her to move through the expansive culinary world that is the Asian cuisine, while knowing that I myself have only experienced a fraction of what that world has to offer. To end the night, we went to a bar (and managed to grab seats at the bar!) called Stout and had a few drinks. I went with some local beer selections (SixPoint’s Sweet Action & Blue Point’s Blueberry Ale).

For someone who doesn’t love NYC, it was an incredible day, and made me want to go back sometime soon. Despite the stress of being in the city, I was able to enjoy all that it had to offer and do all of the things I hoped to be able to do, on top of seeing the best show of my life.

December Book of the Month

There was a lot of genre diversity in this month’s picks! Romance, thriller, magic, contemporary, memoir, essays, etc. A couple of debuts, early releases, and some options that were published earlier in the year. Plus, December is when BFF’s get to choose their Book of the Year add on. This year’s Book of the Year finalists were Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner & Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby. The winner was The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Since I already have the first three I was deciding between The Four Winds & Razorblade Tears. I ended up going with Razorblade Tears because while I really want to read Kristin Hannah, I’ve heard that this was not necessarily her best, so I want to read The Nightingale and The Great Alone first.

Main Pick Options

  • Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez – Contemporary Fiction, Debut, Early Release – Family Drama, Buzzy, Mama Drama, NYC: Two siblings vie for the American dream until Hurricane Maria drags their estranged mother back into their lives. Goodreads Rating: 4.22
    • This book sounds like an incredible debut. A family drama set in NYC in 2017 during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico. I went back and forth on purchasing this, but ultimately chose something because I already have a storm-based novel on my TBR (What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J. A. Chancy).
  • A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw – Magical Realism – Multiple Viewpoints, Action-Packed, Puzzle, Rural: A mesmerizing tale about the search for a missing woman last seen going into an isolated forest town with some secrets. Goodreads Rating: 4.22
    • I truly cannot wait to read this. It gives me magical cult vibes mixed with a missing persons mystery. I’m ready to get lost in a new world.
  • A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham – Thriller, Debut, Early Release – Psychological, Movieish, Murder, Unsettling: When a serial killer emerges with an eerily familiar pattern, Chloe Davis wonders if she’s really escaped her past. Goodreads Rating: 4.2
    • As we know, thriller’s aren’t really my thing, but shoutout to Ashley Spivey’s book club – this is written by the sister of one of the members! And honestly, it sounds pretty good, I might give this one a shot in the future.
  • Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford – Memoir, Debut – Emotional, Literary, Inspirational, Critically Acclaimed: A moving coming of age memoir about the complications of family provides ample testament to the resilience of love. Goodreads Rating: 4.15
    • As with most memoirs, I’ll probably listen to it on audible. I don’t love that this is offered as one of December’s main picks as a “yearly lookback” because it was published earlier in the year, so I feel like it could have been an add-on.
  • The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox – Romance – Happy, Quirky, Love Triangle, Foodie: Tis the season for hiijinks! Twins who could both use a reset decide to revive their childhood habit and swap places. Goodreads Rating: 3.71
    • This is so random but I was taking a Book Riot quiz (Describe the perfect cozy afternoon & we’ll tell you which 2021 holiday romance to read) and I got matched with this book! I read the description, thought about buying it, and then happened to notice a post in the Book of the Month club group that suggested this might be one of the picks, so I decided not to buy and I’m glad I did because here it is! I love the holidays, I love romance novels, and I am currently devouring allllll the Lifetime Christmas movies I can get my hands on. So, needless to say, I cannot wait to snuggle up with this book and a hot chocolate!

Add Ons

  • But You Seemed So Happy: A Marriage, in Pieces and Bits by Kimberly Harrington – Essays – Quirky, LOL, Marriage Issues, Writer’s Life: In these witty essays, divorce is an onion- it’s got lots of layers and is bound to make you cry (with laughter). Goodreads Rating: 4.21
    • This one is super intriguing to me, but I just couldn’t do a book about divorce. I’ve been single for far too long lol.
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green – Essays – Famous Author, LOL, Light Read, Brainy: In this witty collection of essays filled with insightful ideas, John Green reviews the faults – and merits – in ourselves. Goodreads Rating: 4.48
    • John Green is truly an enigma to me. When I found out the same guy was responsible for all those heart wrenching young adult books AND crash course history – I could not compute. Based on those two facts alone, I’m sure this is a highly entertaining compilation of essays about our world and culture at present.
  • The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton – Historical Fiction – Romance, 400+ pages, International, Real-Life Characters: Beautiful and wealthy, this heiress could choose any path. Her choice: to help smuggle artists out of Vichy France. Goodreads Rating: 4.24
    • This sounds good! A 400+ page romance about running away from Nazi’s is not on my agenda at present, but it could be in the future!
  • Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen – Narrative Nonfiction, Debut – Social Issues, Literary, Immigration, Foodie: Sometimes a melting pot is not a metaphor. This book profiles immigrant women who left an indelible mark on how we eat. Goodreads Rating: 3.98
    • I’m not 100% sure what’s going on with my literary taste right now, but I am currently OBSESSED with reading books about food. Not cookbooks, not recipes, but books about food. Whether it’s chef memoirs or food history, I am all in. So there was absolutely no way I could pass this up. It’s so niche, I know. We’ll see how long it lasts, but I have about 3 on my shelf right now that I’m ready to devour.

My Box

  • The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
  • A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
  • Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America by Mayukh Sen
  • BOTY Finalist: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Crosby

Let me know if you got any of the same books as me, or if you chose a different one from this month! I’d love to connect & chat all things books with all of you!

Delaware Beaches in November

I spent the first weekend of November celebrating the fall weather by heading to…the beach. I know, seems contradictory, but honestly it was so nice to get away and to experience the Rehoboth area without the crowds and the craziness. There weren’t long lines anywhere, we got Lyfts without having to wait super long, and we weren’t walking around sweating because it was actually pretty chilly. I hadn’t been to Rehoboth since I was in middle school cheering on my brother at a baseball tournament, so this was a totally new experience. I honestly really loved it. The thought of moving there crossed my mind more than once!

Friday

I arrived around 1:30 and headed straight for Lewes to check out Cape Henlopen State Park! It was $10 to enter as a non-resident. I climbed up Tower 7 – an observation tower during World War II – and got an amazing view that included Cape May! It was around 115 steps and the pictures of this view do not do it justice. I also walked over to Herring Point to see where the bay meets the ocean, and spent a little time on the beach! The state park has so much to offer that I didn’t explore, so it’s worth a little research to get the most out of your visit.

My next stop was the boardwalk in Rehoboth! I was really looking forward to checking out some of the local shops in the area. I was totally enchanted by the Tea & Spice Exchange. There were so many loose tea options, but I was blown away by the number of spices, peppers, salts, & sugars! I ended up buying a “comfort tea” blend, hot chocolate (tis the season!), a buffalo dip mix (just add cream cheese – I’m really excited to try it), and gochujang salt. I don’t know what prompted me to get the gochujang…but I suspect it’s my memories of reading The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim. Anyway – stay tuned for some related recipes! I also hit Browseabout Books, which was an awesome bookstore. There was even an author signing while I was there, so cool! They had entire sections dedicated to Christmas, Schitt’s Creek, local interest, and staff picks. It felt unique while still having a good variety and coverage of many different genres. I ended up purchasing two magnets (one from the Schitt’s Creek section of course) and two books: His Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie & The Food Explorer: The True Adventures of a Globe-Trotting Botanist Who Transformed What America Eats by Daniel Stone.

At this point I was starting to feel a little hungry, so I headed over to Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen & Bourbon Bar. I ordered the violet mule and absolutely loved it. I also ordered the brisket pierogies because that combo sounds amazing, but the execution of this concept was not quite there. The result was that some of the pierogie was cooked well with a little crunch, but some of it was undercooked, and it was overall tough to cut through. What I’d do is make them as classic potato pierogies and then top them with brisket. Otherwise, just make it an empanada. No need to reinvent the wheel here. I also ordered an apple jack drink at the encouragement of both the bartender and the hostess, and while it was good and tasted as described, I’m simply not much of a whiskey person. It was a nice quiet bar, though, and I was able to do some reading while I relaxed!

Once I got some food in me, I headed to the Anchorage motel to check in and wait for my fellow weekend adventurers to join me. As a trio we headed to Thompson Island Brewing Company where we enjoyed some adorable decor: white lights on the trees outside and a modern farmhouse vibe on the inside. I started with the Escapades Ligonberry & Cherry Sour and thought the taste was delightful, but it had a smoothie consistency, which surprised me. Then I ordered the No Bad Days Lager and wasn’t disappointed, but I had definitely expected it to be lighter based on the description. For food we got the Bavarian pretzel and “pork crackles,” which were basically just pork rinds with pepper on them. We ended the night at Summer House Saloon drinking Miller Lites and watching American Ninja Warrior. Another perk of going in the off-season is that it’s easy to get seated at the bar everywhere you go!

Saturday

Saturday morning started with some Wawa breakfast (basically just hash browns & black tea for me) before heading to Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton! This was the main reason for our trip, and definitely one of the best parts. The brewery was both bigger and smaller than I expected. What I mean is – the whole place was huge, but the tasting room was fairly small. Since we got there early, we were able to grab a table and hang out for a couple of hours trying a bunch of different beers. Even though Dogfish Head is a huge operation and you can find there beer in most locations near where we live, they had tasting room only beers, which I thought was super cool. Also, they made announcements about special and rare beers that they had available. My brother ended up buying their Pumpkin Liqueur, and they’d only made about 240 cases, so it was cool that he was able to get one! While we were there, I tried: Festina Peche, Flavia Flav, Midas Touch, Tango Crush, & Punkin Ale. I also did a flight of the “Taste of Miami” which had beers from the Dogfish Brewery there – Madam Roselle, Melon-Choly Sour, Morado Bravado, & SoFlo Pils. I was most surprised by the Midas Touch beer, which was described as “historical” rather than a classic beer category, and tasted so good! It was smooth and golden and delicious. The inspiration for this beer came from 27,000 year old items found in the tomb of King Midas – how cool! For food we ordered the brisket nachos, sausage calzone, and margherita pizza.

For a brief non-drinking activity, we headed to the Rehoboth shopping area along the boardwalk where we checked out the Shining Sol Candle Company (I bought a candle called Prospero’s Bookstore), the Olde Salt Gift Shop, and the Olive Orchard Tasting room. If you’ve never been to a specialty Olive Oil & Vinegar shop, I recommend it. They offer a huge variety of olive oil & balsamic vinegar tastings, plus they sell jams, barbecue sauces, pestos, and so much more. I ended up purchasing a White Fig Jam, which I believe will be perfect for holiday charcuterie boards, but truly it’s a culinary dream of a place – just like the Spice & Tea shop! After a little shopping, we checked out the beach for a few minutes and then got some raw oysters at Zogg’s Raw Bar. Before heading back to the hotel for a reset, we stopped by Revelation Brewing, which was a small, off the beaten path brewery that had some serious charm. I tried Razz’s Accomplice- a raspberry sour that I really enjoyed.

After a short break at the hotel, we left for the evening to go to a couple of breweries and a bar. Our first stop was Big Oyster Brewery – which I was dying to get to because of the pictures I’d seen online and the food menu. I ended up getting oyster sliders & crab dip. Both were delicious, but oyster sliders were truly amazing. I’d go back there just for them. As far as beer goes, I started with the Sarah, which is a Fruited Sour with Strawberry Vanilla flavors. It was delicious and empowered me to go big with a flight next, which led me to: Soft Serve Banana Split, Soft Serve Cherry Vanilla, Isabelle, & Public Pilsner. They were all pretty good! I really liked the decor and honestly just the whole oyster theme!

After that, we went to Crooked Hammock Brewing, which was my favorite stop of the trip. It was low key, there was a large bar that we sat at, but there were also tables, a mini gift shop, and an outdoor beer garden. The decor was relaxed but unique, and there was a huge variety of beer. I ended up being able to get a full flight of sours – and that didn’t even cover all of the sours on tap! I had Brand New Day, Tardy Pass, FrankenBooBerry, & Pass the Sauce. Brand New Day was my favorite – it was low key…just like the brewery! I really hope to get back there someday, and I would definitely make it a must-stop on any long weekend list! Our final stop of the night was The Pond Bar to hear some live music by The Jimmies. It was a nice way to close out the evening because it was lively & close to the hotel!

Sunday

Before driving back to Jersey, we stopped for brunch at Egg. We split a lovely breakfast of mini croque madams, the eastern shore eggs benedict, and a side of bacon. We opted for just coffee and tea, but they had a full bar that would have been fun to explore if we weren’t driving home! The mini croque madams were adorable – they used quail eggs to keep it small enough to fit on a crostini! I was delighted. And the béchamel sauce was lovely. The eggs benedict had crab on it – and let me tell you – this was not imitation crab. It was genuine lump crab meat and that made all the difference. Some of the best eggs benedict I’ve ever had. After breakfast we walked next door to Rise Up, which is a coffee shop/cafe that features organic coffee. I got a hot chocolate with a shot of pumpkin flavor topped with their handmade whipped cream, and it was absolutely delicious. The perfect end cap to our weekend.

If you’re thinking about an off-season trip to the Delaware Beaches – you should go for it! Prices are reasonable, crowds are at a minimum, and despite many aspects of the boardwalk being closed there is still so much to do.

November Book of the Month

I really wasn’t super into the majority of the picks this month. It’s not that they don’t sound good, they just didn’t speak to me. I was also trying to be conscious of not purchasing too many books that would make me sad and emotional because that’s what the majority of my bookshelf looks like right now, and with seasonal depression right around the corner, I need to limit my emotional distress. I definitely plan to read or purchase some of these books in the future depending on other reviews and when I can fit them into a box! I ended up choosing one main pick, one add-on, and one pick from a previous month.

Main Pick Options

  • A Little Hope by Ethan Joella – Contemporary Fiction, Debut – Emotional, Multiple Viewpoints, Inspirational, Sad: An ode to the beauty of the everyday, this novel traces the losses, loves, and dreams of a small Connecticut town. Goodreads Rating: 4.18.
    • I do actually think I want to read this one, but keywords like emotional and sad are not necessarily on my reading bucket list at the moment. I want to wait and see how other Book of the Month readers feel about it, and then I might spring for it in the future.
  • The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker – Young Adult, Debut – 400+ pages, International, Magical, Underdog: Red Scarborough is on a journey to impress the Goddess of Death in this riveting story of monsters, magic, and Reapers. Goodreads Rating: 3.96
    • This is sort of in my wheelhouse, but I’m just not in the mood for fantasy about the Goddess of Death. I think if it weren’t based around Death and the idea of Death as a character, I might be more into it. I haven’t written it off, I’m just waiting for a little more feedback.
  • The Collective by Alison Gaylin – Thriller – Fast Read, Movieish, Action-Packed, Murder: Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned in this propulsive story of rage, injustice, and the limits of revenge. Goodreads Rating: 4.25
    • Thriller’s aren’t really my thing and phrases like “scorned mother” and “injustice” seem really emotionally heavy for a thriller, so I decided not to get this one.
  • The Family by Naomi Krupitsky – Historical Fiction, Debut – Family Drama, Literary, Female Friendships, NYC: Set in mid-century Brooklyn, a story of a decades-long friendship between two women bound by the sins of their fathers. Goodreads Rating: 3.95
    • This one just didn’t stand out to me. I love historical fictions, but I wasn’t drawn in by the description.
  • How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson – Romance – Happy, Quirky, Love Triangle, Road Trip: Two friends take a wild road trip stop the world’s most eligible bachelor from making a big mistake – getting married. Goodreads Rating: 3.69
    • This was my selection for November. Does it sound corny and silly? Heck yes. Did I ever think I’d be buying a book with Keanu Reeves’ name in the title? Not particularly. But how can I go wrong with a friends to lovers book set on a road trip? An adorable pick-me-up!

Add-Ons

  • Still Life by Sarah Winman – Historical Fiction – 400+ pages, Slow Build, International, No Quotation Marks: As the end of WWII nears, an art historian (and maybe spy) forges a rare and impactful friendship with a young soldier. Goodreads Rating: 4.19
    • I’m just not super into art history, and in my effort to diversify my reading, this one just didn’t make sense for me.
  • Will by Will Smith & Mark Manson – Memoir – Famous Author, Inspirational, Buzzy, Music: Brave, astonishing, and inspiring, Will Smith’s memoir is a profound, entertaining journey of self-knowledge. Goodreads Rating: 5.00
    • I’m a big fan of memoirs in audiobook format, so that’s the route I’m likely going to take on this one.
  • Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu – Literary Fiction, Debut – Emotional, Nonlinear Timeline, Mama Drama, NYC: A young biracial woman grapples with identity and belonging while nannying for a wealthy family in New York City. Goodreads Rating: 3.98
    • I contemplated back and forth on this one, and honestly if I could get 4 books, I would have gotten this one. I would say it’s likely in my future.
  • My Body by Emily Ratajkowski – Essays – Feminist, Famous Author, Social Issues, Buzzy: How should a woman be? These sharp, vibrant essays offer one woman’s heartfelt and rich search for answers. Goodreads Rating: 3.58
    • I just couldn’t read a series of essays about society’s relationship to women’s bodies from a supermodel’s perspective. I’m sure there is a lot that could be learned from this perspective, I’m just not in the right headspace for that.
  • The Choice by Edith Eva Eger – Memoir – Emotional, Serious, Inspirational, Writer’s Life: Speaking to the resilience of the human spirit in even the hardest of circumstances – a beacon of hope for our times. Goodreads Rating: 4.56
    • This is definitely a book I’ll want to read. It feels important and needed, I was just trying to avoid intense emotional books this month, and there is no way I wouldn’t feel intense emotions while reading this one.
  • Silverview by John le Carre – Thriller – Famous Author, International, Movieish, Whodunit: The final twisty tale from the modern spymaster John le Carre. Goodreads Rating: 4.08.
    • Another thriller that just didn’t jump out at me.
  • In the Weeds: Around the World & Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain by Tom Vitale – Narrative Nonfiction, Debut – Emotional, Drug & Alcohol Use, Action-Packed, Quest: An up-close and personal behind-the-scenes look at the culinary and cultural adventures of Anthony Bourdain. Goodreads Rating: 4.46
    • I could not pass this up. Food & cooking are one of my passions, so getting some insight into one of the most influential food and culture narrators of our time was a no brainer.

My Box

  • How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson
  • In the Weeds: Around the World & Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain by Tom Vitale
  • The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood – y’all know how much I love a good romance novel, and people have been absolutely raving about this one, so I couldn’t pass it up again!

Let me know if you got any of the same books as me, or if you chose a different one from this month! I’d love to connect & chat all things books with all of you!