Books · food · Life · travel

How YOU Doin’?

I realized the other day that it’s been quite a while since I’ve done one of my Monday How You Doin’? posts. For a while I didn’t feel like I really had that much to share, so I just put HYD on the back burner for a little bit.

A Beautiful Escape

This past weekend I drove to Asheville. I’ve been experiencing a ton of kidney pain lately and it’s been making me one cranky bitch, so I figured a visit to one of my favorite places would cheer me up. And it did. I paid a visit to my favorite bookstore, ate soup dumplings, and had fun wandering around all the other funky shops and art galleries. Driving through the mountains always gives me inspiration and helps me to clear my head. How can such a beautiful view lead to anything but feelings of contentment?

 

Cat Yoga

In an effort to improve my physical and mental health I’ve gone and done something out of the ordinary. I signed up for yoga. *horror movie scream* There’s nothing wrong with yoga, but it’s never really been my thing. I appreciate it as a form of exercise, but it’s always looked somewhat boring to me. That and I really don’t like the spiritual side of it that often gets shoved at you. In the last few months I recognized how much my flexibility and strength has decreased now that I can’t do my pole exercises as much. I’ve been stretching a little at home to try to improve this, but I don’t feel like it’ll be enough. About a week ago I saw that the local cat cafe does yoga classes once a week. You get to do yoga and socialize with kitties at the same time. Perfect. Even if I’m a little bored with yoga, at least I’ll have the cats as a motivator to keep showing up.

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I must confess that I am not the most graceful person. My first cat yoga class will be this evening and I am expecting to fall over and embarrass myself a few times.

What I’m currently reading

 

So…how you doin’?

food · Life

Kiersten Bakes Stuff

You guys know I love to bake. As the former owner/cake baker/master of madness of a small dessert company, obviously my love of all things sweet and carb-y runs deep in my veins. When I’m not reading or writing, I’m either experimenting in the kitchen or obsessively watching the Great British Baking Show, plotting what to make next.

Despite how confident I usually am as a baker, one area that has always intimidated me is yeast doughs. For a long time I absolutely hated making anything with yeast because I felt that they never turned out well. After years of shunning yeast and breads, I feel like I’ve learned enough about the process that I’m beginning to test the waters again. This past weekend I made a successful batch of hot cross buns (with raisins and dried figs) that I was super proud of. Check them out, plus some of the other yummy things I’ve made lately:

Hot cross buns

Banoffee (banana + toffee)  roulade 

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Swedish cardamom buns (another successful yeast recipe!)

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Hazelnut croquets 

Anyone else been creating fun things in the kitchen lately? Tell me about them!

 

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Life · mental health

Cranky Bitch, Party of One

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Good morning on this day that we call hump.

I feel like I’ve been a bit disconnected from the blog world lately. I’m  not posting as much, not commenting as much, am completely behind on everyone else’s posts, etc. For a while I was attributing this to all the extra effort I was putting onto finishing the draft of my book. In part, some of that was the cause, but now that I’m taking a break from that I realize that there’s more to it. I’ve been feeling pretty crappy, both mentally and physically, the last couple of weeks. After having been doing really well n recovery the last 10-11 months, I feel myself slipping backwards and becoming that miserable, depressed person I was a year ago.

I don’t have much energy or interest in things lately, even the things I enjoy. I’m starting to worry about food/weight stuff again – not enough that it’s causing a problem, but enough that it could easily become an issue. Rather than be proud of all the work I did on the book this past year, my brain keeps trying to convince me that it’s not good enough and, as a result, I’m feeling like garbage. I’m cranky and angry all the time and I can’t even stand being around myself at the moment. UGH.

I’m not sure what’s going on. Maybe it’s just seasonal. Depression can often get worse for people during the winter months because of the lack of sunlight. My kidney problems have been acting up lately, causing me a lot of pain, which I am sure is also contributing. Maybe it’s a delayed response to Beaker’s passing. It’s been two months now. Everyone said I’ve been coping really well with the whole thing, but now I’m wondering if I was just in shock and it’s only starting to hit me. Maybe it’s hormonal. I’ve switched birth control twice now in the last few months, so it’s possible that this is the reason I’m a raging bitch. It’s most likely a combination of all these things.

I’m not going to lie, I really don’t think I can handle slipping back into a full-blown relapse after working so hard to get myself to a better place these last several months. I know I don’t owe anybody an explanation or excuse for why I haven’t blogging as much, but I do like to keep you guys in the loop, considering how supportive you’ve been this past year. I’m working on figuring it all out and hope things start to look up soon.

As always, thank you for reading. ❤

Books · Life · travel

Wanderlusting: Bookstores Around the World (Part 1)

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a wanderlust post. Don’t worry, it’s not because I’m losing my sense of adventure or desire to travel. I’ve actually been planning and researching for the upcoming trips I’ll be going on this year.

There are two things I look for first when considering a place to visit: the culinary scene and how many bookstores they have. As a proclaimed foodie and bibliophile, these are the things that speak most to me. They call me late in the evening and whisper in my ear whilst I’m asleep. “Come to me!” they say. And I listen.

Perhaps I will do a future series of posts about all the foodie destinations I plan to visit someday, but for now, since this is primarily a book blog, I’ll focus on the bookstores.

Eliot Bay Books (Seattle, Washington) – There isn’t much history to this one, but I’ve heard it’s the best bookstore in Seattle.

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Shakespeare and Company (Paris, France) – This one has been around since 1919. The apartment upstairs housed several famous authors over the years, like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Boyfriend and I will definitely be visiting this one when we visit Paris in the Fall.

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Livraia Lello (Porto, Portugal) – One of the most stunning bookstores in the world, the neo-Gothic building was said to have been the source of inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s depiction of Hogwarts.

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The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, California) – Lots of quirky character packed into this store, in addition to a quarter-million new and used titles. I can’t even imagine how many people go here every year just to take pictures under the tunnel of books.

Life · mental health · Writing

There’s Underwear In My Shoe

I feel like a bit of a mess lately. No, maybe mess is the wrong word. Blob is a better one.

Greetings, from the Blob Monster!

On my drive to work this morning I realized that I had underwear in my shoe. This would have been highly perplexing had I not remembered putting said underwear in my shoe yesterday. What is perplexing, however, is why I didn’t take them out before putting my shoes on.

I’m struggling a bit this week. Work has been a nightmare lately and even though I’m excited to have finished the first draft of my book, I’m finding that I have too much time on my hands now. Before, I was so absorbed in getting the story finished that I wasn’t giving my brain much down time. You’d think that having some down time now would be good, right? As someone with mental health issues, too much idle time leaves room for my depression and anxiety to creep back in. That’s kinda what’s been happening the last week. I get home from work and find that I don’t have anything to do, so I start thinking about everything and nothing at once, then I get overwhelmed and just go to bed really early.

And that’s how you become so blob-like that you end up with underwear in your shoe. I’m going to sit down tonight and start working on book two. Otherwise, I’ll end up with a bra in my ear tomorrow.

(I have no idea where this post was meant to go. Please excuse my rambling.)

Books · food · Life · travel

New Orleans: Where you Beignet All My Life? (Part 2)

My second day in New Orleans was an early one. I woke with the eager anticipation of a child on Christmas morning, only it wasn’t presents I was looking forward to. It was something better: Beignets! Cafe du Monde had been on my list of places to try for about 15 years now. Yes, it sounds touristy of me to say that one of my favorite things about NOLA was Cafe du Monde, but I don’t care. If there’s something wrong with eating hot, crispy French doughnuts covered in powdered sugar than I sure as hell don’t want to be right.

Strolling around the French Quarter in the morning is quite a different experience than it is during the afternoon/evening. There are less people about, making things a little more laid-back and quiet, which is always preferable. I loved strolling along the canal early in the morning, watching the ferries in the distance while the smell of beignets fresh out of the fryer filled the air. I could certainly use more mornings like that.

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Mid-morning I hopped on a streetcar and rode out to the Garden District. The Garden District has quite a different feel than the Quarter. It’s more of quiet, residential area, with picturesque homes, tree-lined streets, and old cemeteries. The first (and probably my favorite) cemetery I visited was Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I’ve mentioned before how I’m a little obsessed with cemeteries, especially ones with lots of character. Lafayette was by far one of the coolest cemeteries I’ve ever visited. I took so many pictures that it’s hard to pick out just a few to share!

I even made a friend while I was there. 🙂

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After the cemetery, I paid a visit to another local bookshop, Garden District Books. It was a great shop with a nice variety of genres to choose from. Small as it was, I still probably could have spent a few hours wandering around there. I ventured a few  blocks over to Magazine St., to check out the shops, art galleries, and (of course) the food scene. On my way there I paid a visit to author Anne Rice’s house. (I now realize that I should have gone in the evening to see if I could catch glimpse of any vampires.)

That evening, I took part in a Haunted History tour that took us all around the Quarter, pointing out various locations that were rumored to be haunted by ghosts. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but it was still fun, nonetheless. I enjoyed learning more about the history of the city and hearing about some of the creepy/disturbing things that have happened along the way. (For all you American Horror Story fans: Part of the tour was the infamous Lalaurie mansion, which just so happened to be a couple of blocks from my hotel.) I definitely thought about sleeping with the lights on that night. Hehe.

My last day was filled with more wandering, both in and outside the French Quarter. I was truly amazed that even on day 3, I still came across places I’d yet to discover. There were street performers, musicians, and all manners of folks out and about, simply enjoying the weekend. After spending a few days eating and sight-seeing my way across the city, I was quite sad to leave. I realize now that my original perception about New Orleans was not entirely accurate. New Orleans isn’t just a city where people go to get drunk. It’s a place to celebrate beauty, culture, and the art of being alive.

food · Life · travel

New Orleans: Where You Beignet All My Life? (Part 1)

Greetings, friends! After three exciting, fun, and exhausting days in New Orleans, I am back home.

I’ll be honest with you, I was a tad nervous my first day there, as I always am when arriving in a new city by myself. I wasn’t about to let fear ruin my trip though! After a quick check in at my hotel, I took a stroll around the French Quarter to combat any doubts that had been lingering. Within minutes I was in awe of the beautiful sights the city had to offer and immediately felt more at ease. Everywhere you look in the French Quarter you’ll find stunning architecture and art. Every building, whether a small business or large mansion, is resplendent with balconies and galleries framed in cast iron railings, colorful facades, and arched windows. There are hidden courtyards with tables and chairs, elaborate fountains, and classical statues. Every nook and cranny has as much art and beauty as you’d find in any museum. It’s like stepping back into a piece of history every time you walk down the street.

 

I spent most of my first day just exploring and people-watching. I took a ten minute stroll down Bourbon St. (the famous street in New Orleans where everyone goes to get drunk and party) and quickly decided that it was not my scene. Even while avoiding Bourbon St., I found plenty of things to keep me busy. There’s so much to do in New Orleans, that it’s impossible to even make a dent during just one visit.

 

I paid a visit to Faulkner House Books, the former home of William Faulkner, where he wrote his first novel. It was a tiny little shop, but it was packed floor to ceiling with classics and rare editions. They didn’t have much in the way of the genres I like, but it was still cool to check out anyway. I discovered lots of other fun and quirky shops, the French Market (an airy, outdoor market that was half specialty stalls and half flea market), Jackson Square, the wharf, and, of course, restaurant after restaurant.

For me, no trip is ever complete without me sampling as much of the local cuisine as I can. One of the biggest reasons I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans is because I’ve heard how amazing the cuisine is. “Amazing” doesn’t even cover it. The food I had there was probably some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s not all about the fancy restaurants either, even a po’boy from the corner deli is carefully crafted and packed with more flavor than you can imagine. I ate SO much during my trip and it was worth every freaking calorie. 🙂

Part 2 to follow!