What We're Eating {Menu Plan Monday}


I have three words for you: Back to School. This picture sums it up quite nicely.

So do back to school, then add on a weekend camping trip. This girl is tired. Here's what we ate last week (I post last week's menu so I can offer an opinion on whether the recipes are any good!).


Summer Corn Chowder {Cooking Classy} - I felt like I was racing the clock to make this recipe while the corn was still cheap good. So yummy and summery, but don't forget the saltines, oyster crackers, or baguette for dipping!


Crusty Pepperoni Pizza {Parents Magazine} - No, this was not fancy. But it's soccer season, so I'm on the lookout for meals that can be prepped before practice and eaten quickly! I served this with some raw carrots on the side to simplify even more.


Eat out with friends!


Cracked Out Chicken Bubble Up {Plain Chicken} - Served with a simple green salad, this was the comfort food star of the week. I used homemade cream of chicken soup in place of the can, which I think improves things!


Spaghetti and Meatballs {Bobby Flay} - This recipe is a labor of love. A two hour labor of love, in fact. It's my daughter's favorite meal and what she requested to cap off her first day of school, so how could I say no!!! About halfway through this recipe, I wonder why didn't buy a jar of sauce and a bag of frozen meatballs. But while eating it, I remember that it's worth every minute!


River Cats Game


Camping - this was a bit of a lat minute trip, so we didn't overthink it. Chili cheese dogs, sliced apples, and cheetos for dinner. S'mores for dessert. Donuts and strawberries for breakfast. Throw in some snacks (a party platter of meat, cheese, and crackers plus a bag of trail mix) and some bottles of water and we called it a day! When the kids are older and we are at the campsite for more than 18 hours, I plan on going big.

Here's the site I use for meal planning:

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Check out more recipes over at Menu Plan Monday!

{This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Please see my disclosure policy here.}

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman {Book Review}


When you normally read books about spaceships and dragons, a novel that is deeply emotional can really take you by surprise. That's how I felt about Alice Hoffman's The Marriage of Opposites. Let me sum it up with this way - there may have been some tears shed while reading this novel.

Before I say anything else, how gorgeous is that cover!? But since I don't think book bloggers are allowed to judge a book by its cover, let's talk about some substance. The Marriage of Opposites is set primarily on the island of St. Thomas in the early 19th century and follows a Jewish family and their insular community.

About a third of the way through The Marriage of Opposites, I wondered what all the fuss was about. I was confronted by a character whose inner monologue was one of confidence, power, and self-determination, but whose actions showed no such strength. Where on earth was this book going? I enjoyed the island setting and associated mysticism enough to keep reading.

But then about halfway through, The Marriage of Opposites really hit its stride. The characters were developed with intricate detail and I could almost guess what they were going to do next (if they had any say in it). My only complaint was that the narrator's voice was somewhat terse and stilted. This was likely a tool to express a personality trait, but I sometimes felt like I wanted to speed things up.

This book also gets my highest form of praise for historical fiction - I immediately hopped on the internet after finishing it (no spoilers!) to research the characters on which the story was based. Read this book, but have some tissue handy.

{I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Please see my disclosure policy here.}

What I've Been Reading {Quick Lit}


Another month of reading, but I have not made much progress on my August TBR List!  Luckily there's still a little bit of time....

Alienated by Melissa Landers - This book made me worried for my daughter. Why? Because if this is a YA book, then I am not entirely sure I want her reading YA books when she is old enough! Maybe I am an old lady, but I found portions pretty racy for something aimed at an age range starting with age 12. Setting that aside, this book was a ton of fun and was a quick, light (and, as mentioned, somewhat racy) read.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - Wow, this was dark. It's the book everyone is reading this Summer, but there is nothing beachy about. Fast-paced and well-written, but you aren't going to love any of the characters here.

Letters to Zell by Camille Griep - Check out my full review here. It is hard to pass up a book with a cover that gorgeous - am I right? If you love fairytale re-tellings, this is a must-read.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty - I am not sure why I keep reading Moriarty's books when I really get annoyed by them. When I read What Alice Forgot, I just wanted someone to sit poor Alice down and tell her all the details of her life that she couldn't remember, for God's sake! It makes sense then, that I really enjoyed this novel, because it appears to be the least-loved among Moriarty fans. This was an easy read that kept me engaged and wondering what would happen next.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George - Check out the full review here. This book is just a sweet and bittersweet adventure in a world where there is a perfect book for every person.

The Heartland Trilogy by Chuck Wendig - Check out the full review here. I would love to hear what a Midwesterner thinks about this series, where mutant corn has taken over America's heartland. I had no idea how much I would enjoy it and each book was better than the last.

Finches of Mars by Brian Aldiss - Check out the full review here. While this novel fell flat for me (in fact, I didn't finish it, which is rare), it did inspire me to read some of Aldiss' earlier works, which sound amazing.

Check out more books that folks read this month over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

{This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Please see my disclosure policy here.}

What I'm Cooking {Meal Plan Monday}


I post last week's menu so I can offer an opinion on whether the recipes were any good! Here's what we ate:

Sunday - Wednesday

We were on vacation in Santa Cruz! My favorite meal of the week was at The Picnic Basket right near the Boardwalk, where these two little beauties landed in front of me:

A photo posted by Madeline Miller (@plantohappy) on


30 Minute Bang Bang Chicken {Lauren's Latest} - This is one of my all time favorites! Except I really shouldn't cook when I just got home from vacation because I somehow turned off the burner that was cooking the rice and then I overcompensated and overcooked it. Sigh. Anyways, try this recipe! I have never had the original that this recipe copycats, but this is quick, easy, and full of flavor.


Creamy Chicken and Rice {Natasha's Kitchen} - There was nothing fancy about this recipe for Creamy Chicken and Rice, but it was a perfect comfort food dish. At one point, you stick an entire head of garlic (with the top trimmed off) into the cooking rice. The recipe then says you can squeeze the garlic out into the rice or discard it. Is that even a choice? The garlic was soft and mellow and oh so yummy with the chicken and rice. Next time, I might throw in more veggies just for fun.

Simple Meal Planning - Plan to Eat

Check out more recipes over at Menu Plan Monday!

{This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Please see my disclosure policy here.}

The Finches of Mars {Book Review}


After reading YA and Chick Lit books lately as part of a concerted effort to consume beach reads, reading Finches of Mars by Brian W. Aldiss felt challenging. The Science Fiction genre was not the issue - I am a sci-fi fanatic. I was looking up many words in my dictionary (thank you, Kindle, for making that so easy), re-reading many sentences, and pondering many deep philosophical issues pertaining to human perceptions of the universe and the meaning of life. Phew. Not exactly summer reading.

Finches of Mars considers what would happen if humans, besieged by expanding wars on Earth and overpopulation, sent colonists Mars. There's a problem, though - none of the babies born on Mars survive, making the colony's future uncertain.

This novel was confusing and faltering. In certain passages, I could not discern the connection between the ideas expressed within paragraphs or even within sentences. There are footnotes, which I usually admire, but here serve as an example of over-complication. The characters were without real emotion and instead seemed locked in one-dimensional despair.

I did appreciate the wry sense of humor and the detail presented about what life on Mars could be in a multi-national settlement. Both the emotional and physical challenges of life on the colony were detailed. However, that was not enough to make me really enjoy this novel.

After hunting around on Goodreads, I learned that this is Aldiss' last science fiction novel and that his earlier works are worth reading. I'd say if you are interested in the idea of humans on Mars, read The Martian, which was outstanding.

{I received an eARC copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Please see my disclosure policy here.}

The Harvest by Chuck Wendig {The Heartland Trilogy Book Review}


If you are a fan of the Young Adult Dystopian genre, how about a series set on a world overtaken by mutant corn and ruled by an upper class who look down from flotillas floating in the sky? If this sounds like the ticket, then you'll be happy to hear that each book in The Heartland Trilogy by Chuck Wendig is better than the last.

One warning: these skew heavily towards the oldest Young Adult reader and at times I wondered why it was shelved as Young Adult at all.

In Under the Empyrean Sky, I wanted more about information about the history and culture of both Heartland and the mysterious world above it. The introduction to the characters was gradual, but they become fleshed out, then vibrant. At the end of this novel, I was left asking a bunch of questions, which may have been the point, since the second book Blightborn, picks up immediately where Under the Empyrean Sky left off, with no backstory provided to enlighten a reader who hadn't read the first book.

Blightborn takes off like a bullet in the first few chapters and does not let up. The second installment moves the story forward very quickly and we get to learn more about characters that are only minor in Under the Empyrean Sky. I kept finding excuses to sneak away to read this one!

The series culminates with The Harvest, which is set a year after Blighborn concludes. This jump forward in time created some mystery and allowed for revelations to unfold. However, the pace of those revelations was breathless and full of with twist and turns. I am not a reader who is disappointed with a little ambiguity at the end of a trilogy, but even one of "those readers" would be happy that the story lines are concluded in this installment.

It is an interesting time to read the The Heartland Trilogy: with an anti-GMO labeling law moving through Congress and GMO news all over the internet, books featuring an Earth covered with mutant corn called Hiram's Golden Prolific (sounds very similar to Golden Rice doesn't it?) and with a nefarious character named Agrasanto (sounds very similar to Monsanto, doesn't it?) seemed timely.

Given these references, I was curious about whether Wendig, who writes a popular blog, would be anti-GMO. I went hunting around and found this (nsfw language):
And the fear doesn’t even have to be real. Fear of science seems to be at an all-time-high. Fear of GMOs and vaccinations. Fear of things we need to actually help us. Sometimes social media helps clear the fog — but it can just as easily spread lies and misinformation, quick as lightning.

I'm not sure Wendig's stance has anything to do with the story, but I always enjoy a little context to understand where the author is coming from. Make sure you have all three books on hand when you start reading the first one because you won't be able to stop yourself once you start it!

{I received eARCs of these books from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Please see my disclosure policy here.}

Back to School with SockPanda {Subscription Box Review and Coupon Code}


The Box:


Follow SockPanda:


The Cost and Coupon Code:

Men's and Women's - starts at $19/month, less if you are billed yearly, for one year
Kids - $12/month for two pairs a month

Use the coupon code SCHOOL15 (expires 8/31) to receive 15 percent off your first month
After 8/31, use the code HAPPY15 for the same deal!

What's Included:

Men's - one or two pairs of socks in either Daring and Bold styles or Smooth and Suave.
Women's - one or two pairs of socks in either Patterns and Prints or Wild and Crazy.
Kids - two pairs of socks

Sock Panda Review:

While Back to School denial is running rampant in my home, there are certain things that might have to be dealt with. Clothing is one of them! SockPanda can throw some fun into that experience. The socks I received were cute and quirky, but also good quality.

I am impressed by the level of customization available for SockPanda. In addition to selecting a style when you sign up (or a mix of the two available styles), the socks for kids are different based upon the age selected. For example, the fall socks for kids feature apples and pandas, while the teen socks have guitars, mustaches, chalkboard scribble, and emoticons.

SockPanda offers a gift program, as well, which allows the gift giver to send a handwritten note along with the socks. In addition, SockPanda also has an aggressive donation program and donates socks for those in need each time a subscription is purchased.

{SockPanda sent these socks in exchange for an honest review. This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Please see my disclosure policy here.}