Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Duluth Pack Market Tote Review

I recently bought the Duluth Pack Market tote.

Made in Duluth, MN by a company that's been around for awhile (started in 1870!).  Their website will make you want to become a total hipster with all of their cool gear.

This bag is huge.  If you are familiar with the JCrew leather tote or the Transport tote by Madewell, think bigger than that.  It was so big that I didn't know if I was going to keep it.  I thought maybe it was a little too big.  However, since I already had the leather JCrew bag I decided to give it a go because at the very least it would work as a weekender tote.

Images from Duluth Pack website.

A pic of the bag vs. me.  I could never be a fashion blogger- it's too hard to take pictures of yourself!

It comes in a whole bunch of colors and has an inner pocket which I consider essential to keep track of your phone and keys if you don't carry those on you.

The handles are made of leather sourced out of the meat industry from Montana making it a more sustainable use of the product.  The bags are guaranteed for life, but if you read the reviews it sounds like they're pretty much indestructible so you probably won't ever need the guarantee.

I love mine.  It's big, but I like a big bag to hold my books and anything else that I happen to stuff into the bag on the journey.  If you just aren't a big bag person, they have a medium market tote about the size of the JCrew and Madewell totes.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

15 Years

Today is Chris and my 15th wedding anniversary!  That went fast.

Image from

I'd write something really long and sentimental, but Chris doesn't read the blog, so instead I'll just say it's been good....and bad.  Just like all marriages.  But I love him to the moon and back and we make it work.  Always.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Leather Weekender Tote: Splurge vs. Save

I love leather bags.  Something about the smell and the feel of it.

Madewell has this gorgeous weekender tote.  But it is definitely an investment at $298.

Most people rank it very high, with a few saying the strap is too thin and some have had issues with the zipper.

If you're like me, you have expensive taste without the sadly needed monetary aspect to go with it.
Sole Society has an excellent weekender bag.

At $69.95 it's much more affordable than the Madewell version.  It's also vegan if that is something you are looking for and comes in 4 different color options.  (I'm kind of partial to the red)  The Sole Society bag has been on many a blog for its great style and affordable price.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Spicy Bok Choy

Bok Choy might be my new favorite vegetable.  We're growing it in our garden and it's ready already.

I love it in various Asian soups.  But my kids were complaining that we ate soup too much.  So I quick Pinterested Bok Choy and found this recipe.  I made some for lunch and it was delicious.  I put a hefty dose of Cayenne pepper on them so my littlest kids thought they were a little too spicy, but it just meant more for me.

I basically want to try every recipe on the Bok Choy Pinterest Page.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

4 Cookbooks That Will Transform How You Make Meals

I never understood how people say they love to "read" cookbooks.  The idea of just looking at recipes upon recipes is enough to make me order take out.

But then I came across some cookbooks that are almost like novels.  Delicious paragraphs about how food matters, and how cooking it should bring us joy.  Not something that drives us to eat cereal and Hamburger Helper because we feel overwhelmed.

Here are 4 that are definitely worth your time.

1.  Heart of the Artichoke     &     2. A Platter of Figs

Both written by David Tannis, I found Heart of the Artichoke at the goodwill years ago.  It was my first experience with a cookbook that was more than a cookbook.  So lovely and the recipes are arranged by season.  The way he writes about food is completely different than anything I've ever been exposed to.  It makes me want to just travel the world and stay for extended periods immersing myself in a country's food culture.  Both of these can be bought used on Amazon cheap.

3.  How to Eat

This book actually is out of print so you have to buy a used copy.  Which works out wonderfully because you can get it for a song.  I love this book.  Even more than the above two.  Her book is filled with thoughts on cooking, and she is ever pragmatic.  "As I eat, so I write", which is how you end up with a recipe for an appetizer made out of duck liver.  Don't let that gross you out.  This book makes eating an art, which really, is how it should be.  We eat three times a day and shouldn't they be the most amazing food we can make?  Not arranged like traditional cookbooks, so this could be slightly annoying for some.

4.  Bountiful

The most recent of the four, and the most traditional cookbook as well.  This one is done by a husband and wife duo who are also food photographers.  She's Vietnamese so that pops up in the recipes a smidge as well.  They share small thoughts on each recipe, but I have to say it's one of the most gorgeous cookbooks I've seen.  Heavily slanted towards vegetables, it gets you so excited to eat them you almost don't even think of anything else!  I don't own this one yet.  But used copies can be had for about $12 including shipping and handling.  When my library loan of this ends you can bet I'm going to by it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Jess Reads May

Here's everything I read in May as well as what I have on request from the library:

Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life

I'll be the first to admit that this sounds ridiculous, but it was actually a really fun read.  You learn a whole bunch of stuff, one of the most useful is how to escape from duct tape which is the number one way criminals will tie up people.  The book is worth it just to learn that (and I highly recommend that you do!)  Written by a former CIA officer, it's filled with tips on how to basically save yourself from horrible situations, and given today's society, not a bad idea.

Out of the Silent Planet

The first book in CS Lewis's space trilogy.  It follows a man named Ransom who's forced to go to Mars and encounters other beings that know God but aren't human.  I've read a lot of Science Fiction in my day and in terms of that I would say that this isn't fantastic.  There are some great ideas and thoughts, but it doesn't really compare to other SciFi that I've read. However, Lewis isn't writing it to be just another SF book.  He's writing it because there is a lesson there (because of course there is!).  I just participated in a study on the book of Revelation, and someone asked about the possibility of other things created in other parts of the universe.  I mentioned that I was reading this book, and the Pastor said it is his belief that this was Lewis's way to talk about the possibility that God created other beings that also knew Him in a way that wouldn't end up with Lewis being labeled a heretic. Interesting thought at the very least.  I'm currently working through the second book.

The Enneagram Made Easy

I love Myers-Briggs, and am an ENFP.  This is a book that classifies people into 9 different categories, with "wings", strong parts of you that can be another type in itself, but affect you in certain ways.  I had never heard of this before, but when I answered the questions in the book, oh my goodness was it right!  I am an 8 (Asserter or Challenger based on what book you are reading) with a 7 (Adventurer) wing.  Actually, I was almost a 7 with the 8 just pulling out ahead by a couple points. Chris is a 3 (Achiever) with a 2 (helper) wing.   The upshot is that we have to work harder to have a good relationship!  Favorite tip for those who deal with 8 type people- We often speak assertively, don't assume its a personal attack.  And the other one is- give me space to be alone.  So true.  If you love personality stuff you will love this.


I was really looking forward to this book after seeing a fair amount of hype on the internet. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to my expectations.  Eligible is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  That alone interested me.  But the book was not at all what I was hoping for.  Liz and Jane Bennett are 38 & 39 in this book.  A bizarre age assignment if you ask  me.  The whole thing seemed to one giant story about people who are highly immature and ridiculous.  The casualness and frequency of sex in this book is excessive, and not at all in line with the original.  Now I get that it's a retelling, and shouldn't expect it to be very Austen-like, but this is a horrible version of it.  This book is horrible even if it wasn't an Austen adaptation. I kept finding myself thinking why doesn't everyone in this book just grow up?  You're 38 years old!!  This book is easily the worst book I've read in a long time.  As one reviewer on Amazon put it "I read 400 pages for this?!"  Indeed.

The Ship That Sailed to Mars

Published in 1923, this is probably the most beautiful book I've seen.  William Timlin wrote the stories in calligraphy and did the drawings which are amazing, weird and totally gorgeous.  They seem light years ahead of their time.  The story is about an old man who travels to mars on a ship- an actual sea-fairing ship, not a rocket ship, built by fairies.  The story is only so-so, but the 48 pictures in this book are, in my opinion, what it's all about.  Add it to your library as soon as possible.

As the Days of Noah Were

For the open-minded only!  This book focuses on the Nephilim mentioned in the Bible and the history of giants in other cultures around the world. (Actually, if you google giants you will find tons of information about huge skeletons that have been dug up all around the world, but also in places like Wisconsin and Ohio.)  It also delves into aliens and supernatural happenings around the world in what the author believes is due to the angels that fell with Satan when he was kicked out of heaven.  It also looks closely at what Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 about how the end times would resemble closely the days of Noah as well as Lot.  Very interesting, but sometimes exceedingly hard to really think seriously about certain aspects of it.  I literally have no idea where I came across this one from!  At the very least it will make you think about things in a different way.

The Road to Little Dribbling

I love Bill Bryson.  Originally from Iowa, he married an English girl and has spent the last 40 years living in Britain.  This book chronicles a whole bunch of English places he went to and is filled with wry and dry humor.  Just the type I like.  Everything I've read from him has made me laugh.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

I've seen this book in stores for years but never read it because if the creepy, levitating girl on the cover.  I finally decided to at least read the dust jacket and it seemed intriguing.  The book has a series of original, untouched photos, many of which are quite bizarre.  The author built a story based on the pictures (unique idea) about an orphanage that housed kids with peculiar abilities.  It's hard to say much about it without giving too much away.  The story ended up becoming something I wasn't really expecting, kind of science fantasy, and I'm feeling neutral about it.  There is a sequel (2 actually), which I may or may not read depending upon my mood.  What I would like to know is the history of some of the photographs.  That would make for an interesting book.

And a list of what I have currently requested from the library.

1. The Weird Sisters
2. One True Loves
3. The Forgetting Time
4. Before the Fall
5. The Nightingale
6. Orphan Train
7. Jane Steele
8. Lab Girl (25th on the library waiting list!)