Monday, June 19, 2023

Weekly Roundup: Back at it

A weekly round up: eats, workouts, watches, and reads.  Sigh, the problem with taking blogging PTO is that things do tend to pile up. 

It's going to take me a hot minute to get my solo week long vacation on the blog, but it was everything that I hoped that it would be.  For right now I'll drop a hint on one of the places that I went when we get to talking about movies and books, and I'll come back a bit later and take you along with a series of blog posts.  We've got a lot of stuff to talk about in the meantime!


I knew even before I left on vacation that my first meal back at home was going to be Rainbow Plant Life's Braised Tofu.  I already had most of the ingredients at home, so it was just a quick stop by the grocery store for a red pepper and green onions and I was in business.

My changes to the recipe were (1) air fry the tofu because it's hands off and IMO better tasting, (2) use a dash of sriracha instead of sishuan chili flakes cuz I didn't have any, (3) mirin instead of black vinegar for the same reason, and (4) vehemently disagree that this recipe is 3-4 servings.  It's two servings as long as you have a bit of discipline.  This was sooooo good and please take note of the technique of stir frying the garlic/ginger/et al in chili oil.  That added a ton of flavor up front and I'll be stealing that suggestion for other recipes.

My current lunch obsession is Bibim Guksu (cold noodles in spicy sauce).  You prepare it to be all pretty looking and then mix it together when you start eating it.  I followed the recipe pretty closely for this one.  Really my only change is no lettuce, smuggle some shredded tofu in with the noodles, and top with fried onions for a little extra fun. 

My final hit is The Foodie Takes Flight Stir Fried Spicy Udon Garlic Noodles.  Like seriously where has this recipe been all my life?  The only change that I made was using a decent amount of regular mushrooms instead of 3.5 ounces of shiitake mushrooms - that's what the grocery store has and I'm not going to get out a scale in the middle of cooking, I'm going to eyeball it.  When I make this again I'm going to increase the sauce just a skosh but otherwise this is shear perfection.  Though we have another serving size dispute - she says this is 2 servings and I say it's 3 but if I ever got hungry enough I'd be happy to see things her way so there's no need for a fight.


This is the boring part of my recap.  As planned I biked to my heart's content on vacation, and then came home and eased back into my normal routine.  I did the one week long Caroline Girvan No Repeat series, which is a slew of shorter workouts.  I skipped the cardio/HIIT workouts because those didn't look like my jam and heads up that her idea of no repeat is not the same as most people's idea of no repeat, but in general I liked the program.


I managed to squeeze in a few movies on vacation.

First up, I rewatched one of the all times greats.  A Matter of Life and Death asks the question what happens when you're supposed to die but don't?  It's WWII and Peter's plane is in the middle of a crash that goes on just long enough for him to make the choice between staying in the plane and being burned alive or jumping without a parachute and going splat.  He opts for the jump and hours later he wakes up on a beach in one piece with only a headache so it seems like he made the right choice.  Meanwhile in heaven it turns out that Peter was supposed to die and now the records are out of balance.  The heavenly powers try to convince Peter to come over to the other side where he belongs while Peter's doctor thinks there is a different explanation for what's going on - but who is right?  The scenes on earth are in the most gorgeous of gorgeous 1940s Technicolor and the scenes in heaven are in black and white - you get to make of that what you will.

From what I gather it seems like this movie started as propaganda to improve US and UK relations post WWII but all that's left from that is a clunky scene in heaven about whether the UK or UK is better.  Whatever the beef was back then this movie must have solved it so now all that's left is for us to sit back and enjoy it.


Vacation movie # 2 is an Alfred Hitchcock that should be better known.  I can't find a decent Youtube teaser for Stage Fright, but the gist is that a famous stage actress kills her husband.  She turns to an actor who has a crush on her for help, and in the process he gets incriminated and no one suspects her.  He goes on the run while his girlfriend goes undercover to figure out what really happened.

Vacation movie # 3 is an lesser known Alfred Hitchcock that as far as I'm concerned can stay that way.  The Trouble with Harry is about a group of people who find a body (Harry) and have to figure out what to do with him.  The Trouble with this movie is that neither Harry, how he died, or anything else is that interesting.  

My final vacation watch was a documentary.  Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power.  And if you're saying "huh that seems like a weird thing to watch on vacation" I'm saying "wink wink that's the hint that I promised you about where I went;-)" 


I finished Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano.  This book was being hyped to the point where I was getting annoyed but I'd seen enough "this is the real deal" chatter to give it a chance.  And thank goodness because yes this book is the real deal so I'm happy to add to the hype 😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻😻

I feel like the right background to bring to the book is what I had, which was nothing.  But OK, it's about the romance between a man who is estranged from his family and a woman with a large, loving family.  There are four daughters and some clever nods to Little Women.  That's enough of a background.

I need to warn you that unless you are a lot more stoic than me, you're going to want to read the final 25% of this book in private with a big box of Kleenex handy.  Normally when I say that something made me cry, I mean that I dropped a few tears and maybe had to blow my nose.  This was a big fat looong ugly sob fest where the Kleenex was not optional.  And yes it's possible to have a big fat cry and still love a book.

In a less exciting vein, I finished MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend, which was the one about a woman who moved away from her friends and went on a quest to make new ones, specifically having a "girl date" once a week for a year.  It was an interesting but EXHAUSTING process.

Another interesting but less exciting audio book for the road was Stash: My Life in Hiding by Laura Cathcart Robbins, which is an addiction memoir with a twist.  The twist is that Robbins made the leap from high school dropout to self made owner of a Hollywood PR firm to Big Deal Director's Wife.  Along the way she picked up a massive ambien addiction and had to tackle a divorce plus the addiction in one go.  All that I can say is that if I were a Big Deal Hollywood Director's Wife, I'd need a lot more than ambien to get through it because it sounds like a miserable way to live.  

Last but not least!  I did say that I encountered something Margaret Atwood related on vacay, so it was finally time to stop intending to get around to reading her someday and start turning the pages.  About mid way through the discussion in the documentary, I hit pause and got myself on Libby to get The Handmaid's Tale on my Kindle ASAP.

My words fail me besides to tell you that it did not disappoint.  The stunning thing is that it's a work of fiction that is firmly based on nonfiction.  Atwood "limited" herself to only writing about things that have actually happened to women.  For example, there was a cult where women were called Handmaids.  I put off reading this for so long because I thought it would be pompous and outdated, and I think that anyone who's read it can back me up that this is a 40 year old tightly written page turner with an eerily contemporary feel.  There is about a 100% chance that I'll be starting the TV show soon.

Your turn!  Cooked anything good recently?  Have you read The Handmaid's Tale or seen the show?


  1. Oooh I impulse bought tofu at the store and now there is 100% chance I am making the above recipe, or some version with the ingredients I have! Thank you! Looking forward to hearing more about your holiday... some epic reading there. I haven't read handmaidens tale but I imagine it's only a matter of time until I do. I started watching the TV show once before I had kids and I think I might not be able to deal with it in the baby years but have only ever heard amazing things.

  2. Welcome back!
    Thanks to you, I just read up on Margaret Atwood. Including a summary of The Handmaid's Tale. I've heard of this book so often but never knew what it was about. Oh my goodness! I need to get that book!
    I'm looking forward to reading all about your vacation!

    1. I don't think I knew what The Handmaid's Tale was about until recently when I heard someone describing the show. It's very well written and relevant.

  3. I recently reread The Handmaid's Tale (well, when I say recent, it was sometime during the pandemic) and I was astounded at how differently I felt. The first time I read it I was a young woman, and now I really felt like "I used to be a Handmaid, now I'm a Wife, or maybe a Martha." I love almost everything Atwood has written, and that one is great. I have not watched the series, and tbh I won't, but I know a lot of people love it. Anyway, the book really does hold up, it's pretty incredible.
    STILL WAITING FOR HELLO BEAUTIFUL TO COME IN. Probably I'm going to have to cancel the hold and put it on hold when I get a library card in my new city (high priority!).
    I am bookmarking this post because those three meals look insanely good.
    I am so excited to hear about your vacation!

    1. I really lucked out with getting Hello Beautiful so soon. It was a special thing on Libby called "jump to the head of the line" with a shorter checkout period.

      I've got my fingers crossed that you're moving somewhere with great libraries!

  4. You cried? At Hello Beautiful? I...didn't. Hm. Interesting. I actually have a lot of thoughts about this, but writing I'm a review for the book to be published tomorrow, so I'll just write it there instead of hijacking your comment section.

    I feel like Margaret Atwood and Octavia E. Butler aren't given nearly enough credit for just how visionary and prophetic their books were/are. Sometimes it feels like we're living in a real-life parody of their novels.

    1. I didn't just cry, it was big ugly sobs for the final quarter of the book. Yep, it got me. I'm interested to see your review - we'll "talk" tomorrow over on your blog!

      I haven't read Olivia Butler yet but it's only a matter of tie.

  5. Gosh, your food always looks SO good! YUM!

    I am so glad you liked Hello Beautiful! It was very touching. I love how much it moved you!

    Wow, I didn't know that about The Handmaid's Tale! Put mindblown emoji here! I have not read it or seen the show.

    1. Well after reading your blog I'm craving Teriyaki stir fry, so we're even!

  6. This food good. I'm sitting on my couch, it's almost supper, I'm having leftovers and feeling very sad it's not one of these incredible looking feasts.

    I have Hello Beautiful on hold but the list is LONG. It will take a while.

    Can't wait to hear more about your vaca.

    1. If it's any consolation I *want* to make something fresh for dinner tonight but I'll probably just grab something quick and eat with the hubs.

  7. Well, thank God you're back because I need dinner ideas! That braised tofu looks insane and I'm making it tonight. I'll obviously be doubling the recipe though.
    Yes, I know all about CG's "no repeat" workouts. She's tricky with that!
    My hold of Hello Beautiful just came in and I'll be picking it up today. I'm in the middle of another book but I'll start it soon. I read Engie's comment and am now more intrigued than ever to read this book.
    I think the only thing I've read by Margaret Atwood is Cat's Eye. It was a long time ago, but I remember really liking it.
    I CAN'T WAIT to hear all about your vacation!

  8. I'm also eager for more deets on your vacay! I'm not a tofu gal, but you always make it look tasty...I might have to conform l;-)

  9. All of your meals look delicious! I feel like running out to get more tofu right now.

    I read Handmaiden a dozen years ago, did like it, but have not seen the show. I am hit and miss on dystopian type novels, but although this is an oldie, it was a goodie. I also read Hello Beautiful last weekend and I liked it, but not as much as the hype. I did have a moment when I had to stop and swallow hard, even though I knew what was coming! And I guess in the end, I decided that my favorite character was Izzy.

  10. The Handmaid's Tale was so good... and disturbing! I haven't seen the series yet.

  11. I also ADORED Hello Beautiful. I did not cry but books rarely make me cry, probably due to my lexapro rx which really evens out my emotions. I did sob reading "A Heart That Works" which was a memoir about losing their 2yo to cancer... and I have a 2you so it hit me particularly hard. Back to Hello Beautiful, though, it's my best read of 2023 so far and it hard to see anything topping it. I come from a large Catholic family with parents that are VERY Catholic. So I related to how being Catholic can impact a family, and I related to the sibling dynamics. The alliances and secret-keeping were spot on.

  12. Yay! You (and your recipes :>) are back! I cannot wait to hear more about the vacation. Way to stoke our curiosity!
    I have not read the Handmaiden's Tale but... really should. I often look at those lists of "books you need to read in your life" and have very few checked off the list. For some reason, my English classes in HS (which included a lot of reading!) skipped a lot of the classics, too. Weird.