The Trespasser, Tana French

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

When I was little, and I'd managed to get my hands on some grape or orange Bubble Yum or Hubba Bubba, I'd have a pep talk with myself: "You can DO IT this time!"

It never worked. 

The flavor was always so concentrated and intense when I put a piece in my mouth that I both loved and couldn't handle it. I'd try and chew through the candy-like texture until it mellowed out and became actual gum. But it invariably overwhelmed me so much that I'd have to swallow it for some relief. 

This is basically the same way I've handled Tana French books—until now. It took all six books in this series, but I've finally cracked the code with The Trespasser:

1. Listen to the audiobooks so it's basically impossible to skip ahead and ruin the ending because it's too intense to handle. This way, your anxiety about the whodunnit can stay at bay while you enjoy the experience.
2. Enjoy the story as much as possible, because French can paint a mood like no other, and the wrap-up never quite lives up to the anticipation and atmosphere of the book. The experience is always better than the ending.
3. Pack your suspension of disbelief for the 20 pages of prose-etry dialogue from an ancillary character that will inevitably crack the case wide open 15% from the end.

With French, it's always worth the ride. 

 

PS - Come find me on Goodreads.

Favorite Apps! (The Kind You Eat.)

I hear there's a football game on this Sunday!

I'm sure there will be a lot of Marketing Monday morning quarterbacking (heh) when it comes to the commercials, but in the meantime, let's do our homework and prepare for the big game. 

Appetizers and snacks! I'm sharing my favorites. Get excited. 

1. For the last several years I have been spreading the gospel of Buffalo Chicken Dip. Make this now and thank me later. If you need a testimonial, ask my friend Miriel. Her oldest child is actually made of 40% buffalo chicken dip thanks to my important work. Serve this with tortilla chips, carrot sticks, and celery sticks. 

Don't judge a recipe by its picture. Just know that if you enjoy wings, you will fall madly in love with this dip. Not to oversell it.

Photo from franksredhot.com.

Photo from franksredhot.com.

2. Pigs in Blankets. One time, many moons ago, my husband and I hosted our first party. He went all out with super fancy cheese plates, duck prosciutto he cured himself, home-brewed beer, etc. etc. I, on the other hand, really wanted to make pigs in blankets for the first time because I had never had them. What's not to like about meat wrapped in pastry? Plus, I'd heard people love them. My husband was less enthused. He didn't think they'd go over that well. 

Guess which was the first party food to disappear, and quick? That's right. It's been nearly a decade and I still enjoy holding this story over his head.

Listen, now is not the time to get fancy. Do the Pillsbury crescent rolls and the Lil' Smokies. Though you can top them with sesame seeds or poppy seed if you wish. Serve with ketchup and mustard for dipping.

Photo from pillsbury.com

Photo from pillsbury.com

3. Homemade hummus. It takes minutes to whip up, and tastes miles better than the store-bought stuff. This is my go-to recipe. Serve with pita chips and all manner of vegetables. My favorites are baby carrots, mini bell peppers, and thick slices of English cucumber.

Photo from epicurious.com.

Photo from epicurious.com.

4. Rosemary roasted nuts. The recipe calls for cashews only, but for years my husband and I made a version of this with a mix of cashews and pecans and gave them out at the holidays. When I left my last job, my boss told me that he wouldn't write my recommendation until I gave him the recipe. 

Photo from foodnetwork.com.

Photo from foodnetwork.com.

5. Since childhood, chips and dip has been one of my favorite indulgences. It was the stuff of sleepover and birthday party legend. I will forever be partial to a packet of dry onion soup mixed dumped into some sour cream, but I can attest that this grown up version, Caramelized Onion Dip, is to die for. Get yourself some good ridged chips and go to town.

Photo from foodnetwork.com.

Photo from foodnetwork.com.

6. And finally, you can't go wrong with baked brie in puff pastry. Put raspberry or fig jam in the pastry with the brie, or serve it on the side with soft slices of baguette. This is a perennial favorite at Thanksgiving.

Photo from thekitchn.com.

Photo from thekitchn.com.

What's your go-to app recipe?

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

There are myriad ways to celebrate Valentine's Day, depending on your preference, budget, and the season of life you're in. Chocolates and roses and teddy bears aren't for everyone, and anything your loved one loves makes for a great gift. I've got a little something here for everyone–your kid, your partner, your friend, or yourself. My other gift guides are still full of plenty of timeless ideas: start with my most recent big guide to see more!

Some links are affiliate links, which means if you click on them, I may get a small percentage of the sale. These links have no impact on my opinions or the products I recommend, and help me keep writing these posts.

1. Let's dive right in with my favorite February treat: See's Candies Hot Hearts. They're like the high-end love child of a jelly bean and a Hot Tamale. 

Photo from sees.com.

Photo from sees.com.

2. Before you place your order, throw some chocolate in your cart. Milk hearts, dark hearts, or a special raspberry chocolate treat. Check out their complete line of Valentine's candies, including sour gummy hearts!

Photo from sees.com.

Photo from sees.com.

3. Keep your love hydrated and/or caffeinated with this thermos, which my friend Ali swears keeps her coffee scalding for the whole day.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

4. Throw in their favorite tea or coffee beans, or order coffee online from Coffee Kind: they feature small roasters, and you can search by roaster, roast, or region.

Photo from coffeekind.com.

Photo from coffeekind.com.

5. And for your little sweetheart, a kid's water bottle. Because you love them and want them to stay hydrated. There are so many fun designs that it was hard to choose.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

6. Donate to their favorite cause. Whether it's conservation, human rights, ending human trafficking, a children's hospital, or their favorite local charity or personal fundraising effort, they'll appreciate that you see them and know them enough to help them support what's important to them. Here is a shameless plug for one of my current favorite fundraisers.

Photo from classy.org.

Photo from classy.org.

7. For the book lover in your life, these delightful bookmarks. They bring me joy every time I look at them.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

8. Throw in a sweet, light work of fiction while you're at it. I recently read the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and was utterly charmed.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

9. And for your little loves, a twist on an old favorite with this sweet book by Eric Carle.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

Looking at that book led me to a whole host of other sweet twists on favorite kids' books. Oh man. Please buy them all. 

10. Llama Llama I Love You!

Photo form amazon.com.

Photo form amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

12. This also seems like a good chance to share Giraffes Can't Dance. It's my favorite book to give to kids, because it's about learning to dance to your own tune, even when that's hard.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

13. For a friend (or even for the right kid), a heartfelt note about what they mean to you and a pretty, potted succulent: something for them to love in turn. Trader Joe's often has great selections. 

Photo from succulentsandsunshine.com.

Photo from succulentsandsunshine.com.

14. If you want to get a little fancier, this terrarium is very pretty.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

15. Sweet treat note cards. Man, do I love a good note card. 

Photo from papyrus.com.

Photo from papyrus.com.

16. People who enjoy sending cards and letters can never have too many stickers. This is my firm belief. Get seasonal on them with these hearts. Also a great choice for kids who are giving out valentines at school.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

17. Alternately, I am sure these emoji stickers would be a hit!

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

18. Kid's banana jams! Because you're bananas about them.

Photo from hannaandersson.com.

Photo from hannaandersson.com.

19. For the lover of games and/or wordsmithing: Codenames. I gave this as a gift over the holidays, and we ended up playing it with a big group on Christmas. It was so much fun. Highly recommend.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

20. Oh! Or a puzzle! Use it as an excuse to spend more time together. This one is pretty, and seems just hard enough without being so hard as to make you pull your hair out. (I'm looking at you, 500 piece Ansel Adams puzzle of a tree in the snow that I found in that cabin I stayed in that one time. You haunt me still.)

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from uncommongoods.com.

Photo from uncommongoods.com.

22. Date night memory bucket. For those of us who are not crafty enough to make our own. No shame in that game.

Photo from uncommongoods.com.

Photo from uncommongoods.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

24. Handy cord and item organizer for the traveler, commuter, or organization appreciator on your list. I have one, and it's great.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

25. This not-at-all-handy, but whimsically delightful unicorn ball popper. All ages, because whimsy.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

26. All-ages artsy fun with these colorful scratch notes.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

Celebrating Galentine's Day? I gave Treat Yoself gift bags to some of my cousins at Christmas, and they were a huge hit. I was even told I should trademark them. Alas, I can hardly claim "Treat Yoself", but I can share these ideas with you. The bags I put together had earrings, skincare, a book, and their favorite chocolates. Use whatever combination of gifts and price points makes sense for you: I just love the idea of a gift that is purely for the care and enjoyment of the recipient, especially if it's something(s) they might not buy themselves. Ideas below!

27. These heart jams! They are well-reviewed and come in plain colors, too.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

28. Sheet masks! All the rage. There are so many to choose from, but this Tony Moly variety pack might be the best deal in town.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

29. Glitter earrings! I have these and have given these. They're the perfect probably-wouldn't-buy-it-for-yourself gift. Various colors.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

30. A beautiful, rose-plum nail polish. Essie says this is their most Pinned color, and I can understand why.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

31. Fancy-yet-affordable soaps with great reviews. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

32. Natural bath bombs. Made with shea butter and essential oils. 800+ reviews, 4.5 stars.

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

33. Fancy lip serum to keep your smart mouth hydrated.

Photo from nordstrom.com

Photo from nordstrom.com

34. Or! Fancy lip balm. I was lucky enough to receive this as a gift (thank you, Bria!), and I am absolutely in love with it. It's not overly rose-y; it heals and hydrates and soothes. When it finally runs out (it seems to last forever), I will hold a funeral for the empty jar.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

A few more general purpose gift ideas before we wrap up. 

35. I'm a big fan of Shinola's American-made products. Their stuff is beautiful and the quality is fantastic. How about a linen hard cover notebook for your honey, monogrammed with their initials? Comes in a range of gorgeous colors.

Photo from shinola.com.

Photo from shinola.com.

36. My favorite beef jerky, because not everyone likes candy. Krave jerky is also widely available at Target and grocery stores. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

37. My favorite peanuts, because not everyone likes candy. 

Photo from hubspeanuts.com.

Photo from hubspeanuts.com.

38. Choco-covered salted peanuts, because they are so, so good. You can also get both types of peanuts together in a gift pack

Photo from hubspeanuts.com.

Photo from hubspeanuts.com.

39. Scrubby soap. I like the Kiehl's one too, and it's not just for men. (As if any soap really is.)

Photo from nordstrom.com.

Photo from nordstrom.com.

40. And finally, a book that has was a big hit on a previous guide. Always happy to revive an old favorite. 

Photo from amazon.com.

Photo from amazon.com.

 

In closing, you really can't go wrong with a gift that celebrates something your giftee loves or something they love to do. Give some thought to their favorite sports, their fitness or recreational pursuits, and things they enjoy like spending time with family, playing games with friends, going to the movies, or their favorite places to shop. At the end of the day, I think anything given with thought and heart is a good choice. 

Thanks for reading, and happy Valentine's Day!