Weekly-ish Update 1
Has it been two years since I've posted something...I'm sorry to say that that is a yes. Will we dwell on this fact...no. Instead, let's jump right in and explore some reading and food related updates.
What I'm reading now:
Audiobook: The Boys by Ron Howard and Clint Howard
When my dad spoke of growing up in rural Tennessee in the 70's and 80's, his county held a rustic and vintage charm that my suburban Long Island couldn't hold a candle to. When my mom taught at my dad's old middle school, she came to discover the same families, the same teachers, the same small town feel. I suppose it's true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Having left Nashville before I was two years old, I have no memories of the South, and try as I might, living in Hampton Roads, Virginia doesn't quite muster the same charm as the lost in time Andy Griffith Show. Yes, Williamsburg is lost in time. Yes, Yorktown is lost in time. Yes, I do digress. I loved watching black and white reruns of the classic show and enjoyed seeing a young Ron Howard bring Opie Taylor to life. The giraffes are selfish scene has become a staple in our family, and poor Horatio will always make me chuckle. Now Ron Howard is known as a talented director whose credits help to define popular culture today. The Boys is a memoir that takes a close look at Clint and Ron's childhood and young adulthood as they navigate acting, fame, and growing up in the spotlight. Both men are immensely grateful for their supportive parents and the bond they share as brothers (and, at times, colleagues), and while the memoir has plenty of anxiety, it is filled with passion and love. My favorite parts are Ron's stories about his girlfriend and now wife, Cheryl. The love the two share is so powerful and so sweet, and it is heartwarming to hear him fondly recall the emotions he felt when he first met her, first kissed her, and proposed in such vivid detail. I am listening to this as an audiobook as I drive, walk, and cook, and I absolutely love that its read by both men. The introduction by Bryce Dallas Howard is the icing on the cake, and I can't wait to complete it when I'm driving to meet my coworkers for lunch tomorrow.
What I'm reading next:
Audiobook: Thank you for Listening by Julia Whelan
Thanks to Libro.fm, I've been on an audiobook streak for the past two years. Libro.fm is the perfect alternative to Amazon because it supports the independent bookstore of your choice and works closely with booksellers to get curated recommendations and reviews. Being a part of their monthly influencer mailing has been the most exciting part of being a reviewer, and I am immensely grateful for the seemingly never-ending list of compelling audiobooks that grace my virtual TBR shelf. I've been on a romance kick for the past year, and this romance novel about an actress narrating a romance novel seems filled with potential. While tragedy is hinted at in the summary, I'm hoping for lots of bright spots and a happy ending for this summer read. Because I'll be doing a lot of driving this week, I expect that I'll be done with this one by the weekend.
Physical book: Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
I told you I was on a romance kick, so of course I am slowly working my way through the Bridgerton series. I devoured The Viscount Who Loved Me far too quickly and wish there were at least 50 more pages detailing Anthony's married life. I am still salty that Season 2 made so many significant changes from the book because the pacing and banter were far stronger in the novel. I love a good enemies to lovers plot, but this installment is promising me friends to lovers, a trope I haven't had much of a chance to explore. Alas, the library did not have Benedict's story, but I am glad that I can still spend more time in the immersive world that Julia Quinn has created. I will be taking a 5 day cruise with my college roommate, so I think I'll need to pack an extra book. Given how addictive the first two were and how much time I'll be spending at the pool and beach, it's probably a good thing I checked out another three books from the library. We'll just have to see how many will fit in my suitcase! Who knew that cruise vacations required so many different outfits?
What I've been cooking:
My boyfriend and I have lots of fun dates out and about, but what we most enjoy doing together is cooking. He's an enthusiastic mixologist, so with a drink in our hands and some country love songs and sea shanties playing in the background (yes, we both have interesting musical preferences), we set to work creating grown up Mediterranean and Philly Cheesesteak grilled cheeses, Cajun pasta with alligator sausage and plenty of vegetables, and Black Forest Cake. The cake was our biggest culinary undertaking yet, and while it tasted amazing, it didn't rise at all, and my decorating skills leave something to be desired. We'll both be traveling for most of this month, so chances to cook together will be few and far between for a while. Tomorrow will be a quick but favored dinner of veggie and tofu fried rice.
Restaurants I've loved lately:
While my family was in town, I had the chance to take them to some of my favorite places. My boyfriend and I had our first date at Cafe Stella in Norfolk, and I am in love with their Ghent location. Their baked goods never fail to satisfy me, their bagel with salmon and all the fixings makes my New York heart happy, and their coffee is consistently good. Plus, they have wine and a patio perfect for watching double rainbows or people walking their dogs. My mom and brother both got the waffle, but I wished they got the challah bread french toast so I could steal a bite of that. I'm itching to go back for their apple cake and hot caramel latte. Yes, it's summer in Virginia, but iced drinks don't have the same comfort level as a warm mug.
Because my brother loves all things Japanese, I promised to take him out for ramen. We went to Tanpopo Ramen in Newport News, and he couldn't have been happier. Anime posters (especially One Piece) covered the walls as well as cute Polaroid pictures of happy customers. It was his first time ordering salmon onigiri, and we both decided to get the Tonkotsu Ramen. While it was in the 90s and humid, the pork bone broth was homey and comforting, and the egg was rich and flavorful when mixed with the pork or wood ear mushrooms. My brother gave it an unprecedented 9.5/10 stars because "there's always room for improvement." The fact that he was too full for mochi is really saying something about the quality of his lunch.
Places I've loved lately:
My family and I decided to go blackberry picking on the hottest day of the week, and while it was the sweatiest thing I've done in a long time, it was so rewarding to fill out buckets with the fresh fruit. Mount Pleasant Farms had rows of blackberries and a tempting peach orchard that I'll need to explore later this month. Their small store sold Oberweis ice cream, and I am not exaggerating when I say that their strawberry ice cream is the best fruit-flavored ice cream I've ever had in my entire life. How they made their ice cream so fresh and flavorful is a mystery I wish I could crack and replicate. The staff was friendly and helpful, and I look forward to purchasing and picking more produce from their farm soon.