Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Diaries of a Teenage Bride

In my eyes, one of the best – of many – things about summer travels is the chance to catch up on my reading while in flight, at the pool, on the beach, or wherever else my journeys might take me. So far this summer, I’ve had the chance to enjoy a number of good books, including two I recently finished – Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin and Peter L. Bergen’s  Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--from 9/11 to Abbottabad.

Yet another is Diaries of a Teenage Bride by Jillian Amodio, who I had the pleasure of working with at the Weddzilla Blog last year and who graciously sent me a review copy of her book a couple weeks ago. Without question, one of the things I like best about Jillian's tale is the fact that it is a thoughtful and inspiring modern-day love story with “old soul” charm. While Jillian’s story focuses on her experiences as a young bride, wife and mother, the lessons and insight she shares – about such things as the importance of forgiveness, learning how to grow together rather than apart, and accepting one another’s differences – are universal and can be applied to marriages at all stages, with partners of any age. Throughout the book, Jillian’s writing style remains consistently honest and warm, and she speaks with a voice that is wise beyond her 21 years.

Image Source:
Especially relatable are Jillian’s discussions about the differences between what couples initially “think” married life will be like and the “actual” day-to-day realities that later ensue. Although the book does include some religious themes that relate to Jillian’s Catholic faith, the messaging was not overwhelming to me as a non-religious reader, and I was still easily able to connect with Jillian’s poignant observations about love and marriage. If you’re looking for a quick read that warms the heart, Diaries of a Teenage Bride is definitely worth checking out! 

What good reads have you picked up this summer? 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Northwestern Retreat

Is it just me, or do the final few weeks of summer seem to be flying by faster and faster? This one finds me once again on a plane, this time headed to the Pacific Northwest to spend a few fun days kicking back in and around Seattle with several of my closest friends.

After a couple weeks of feeling rather “blah” and out of sorts here on the East Coast, I can’t wait to take in the lush northwestern scenery and enjoy a relaxing mountain-cabin retreat, not to mention get some much-needed relief from the sweltering DC humidity. After all, how could one not feel entirely renewed and uplifted in a setting as beautiful as this? 

After that, it's off to Southern California for another week of family time, plus visits with even more longtime friends, two things that definitely never fail to lift my spirits!

I’ll be posting via Instagram @heather_28 throughout my trip and will also be ready to share a couple interesting highlights once I get back. I wish you all a fabulous next couple of weeks, hopefully filled with lots of late-summer fun! Ciao for now! 

Are you heading off on any end-of-summer getaways? 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Summer Cocktail & Appetizer Linkup: Wild Rice Salad

Happy Thursday! Today, I’m linking up with Kate @ Daffodils to share one of my favorite starter dishes, Wild Rice Salad, which I adapted from the National Museum of the American Indian’s Mitsitam CafĂ© Cookbook.

As part of my ongoing effort to get healthy and be in better shape, especially given our upcoming fall trip to Hawaii (more details about that excitement coming soon!), I've recently decided to try going meatless during the week. While I’m not sure I’ll easily be able to cut meat out of my diet completely, especially when it comes to weekend dinners out or special occasions, I’m doing well so far and am hoping to start viewing it as more of an indulgence rather than a staple. 

Perhaps one of the best things about this salad is that the list of ingredients merely provides some good suggestions, and it is entirely possible to customize the recipe with whatever seasonal combination of veggies you prefer. This slightly fruity dish also pairs well with a crisp and somewhat sweet white wine, such as Vintage Ridge Vineyards' Summer Night, one of my all-time favorites! 

Image Source: National Museum of the American Indian

What's your favorite summer appetizer, side dish or wine? 

Wild Rice Salad

Salad Ingredients 

6 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth
1 ½ cups wild rice
1 carrot, peeled & cut into 2-inch matchsticks
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 plum tomato, finely diced
4-5 scallions, finely chopped
½ cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
¼ cup unsalted raw pumpkin seeds, toasted and cooled

Apple Cider Vinaigrette Ingredients

6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 
¼ cup honey
¾ cup canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large saucepan, combine the stock and wild rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until tender for about 45 minutes. Let cool. 

Scoop the rice into a large bowl and add the carrot, dried cranberries, tomato, scallions, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds. Toss to mix. Add 1/2 cup vinaigrette and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Serves 4-6.