Friday, June 21, 2013

Like YA Fiction? Then Read Matched.

Matched (Matched, #1)Matched by Ally Condie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I willingly forgo sleep on a work night and seriously contemplate removing myself from any and all social activity just so I can read, I know it’s book obsession. It didn’t take long with Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy.

This dystopian series hooked me in pretty early; which surprised me because I wasn’t expecting much. And I wasn’t expecting much because I did something bad, and I judged a book by its cover. Terrible, I know. But I couldn’t help it. I had never heard for the series or author before, and my favorite librarian suggested it to me because she knew about my love for young adult fiction. It didn’t help knowing that I was getting into another dystopian series. After the Hunger Games, I’ve steered clear of such novels because I loved those books so much.

If you’re at all concerned that this might be too much like Suzanne Collins’ world, don’t be. In Condie’s dystopian society, everyone is happy – or so they think. The government in power known as “the Society” has eradicated sickness (no more cancer), makes optimal marriage matches for citizens, puts people in the best job positions for their abilities, and has basically removed all the discomforts of life as we know it. There are even pills to keep you calm (there are always pills to keep you calm). Of course, not everyone is happy, and people are starting to wonder, and some are starting to learn.

This book is marketed as a romance, and I did find it be quite romantic. There’s a lot of love here, but it’s not just between two teenagers. There’s also love between friends and family. Maybe even a little self-love too. Condie’s written a great book for those of us who love YA fiction, and it’s worth losing sleep over. I mean, she made my heart swell every time I read the words of Dylan Thomas’ poem:

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Old age should burn and rave at the close of the day;
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light…

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Gave Lean In a Chance

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When my Meetup group announced that our next event would center around Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, I thought, “Oh no. No way am I reading a book written by some high-powered female executive. And a Facebook one at that. I’ve got enough books to read.” I immediately wrote the book off and did not want to give it a chance because I assumed it would be filled with feminist jargon that did not concern me. I didn’t even read the book description our organizer provided from Amazon.

Thankfully, the universe intervened, and forced me to listen to someone else talk about the book. When I bothered to listen and be open-minded, I realized that I did want to read a book about women, work, and leadership.

I still approached Lean In warily. Perhaps Sandberg would drone on about women’s rights and the unfairness she’s experienced in the workplace. These are things that don’t usually concern me. Rarely in my professional life have I thought I was treated a certain way because I of my gender. Normally, I don’t doubt that I can execute at work. It doesn’t bother me a whole lot to be the only woman in a room full of men at work. Yet, I found some perspective through Sandberg’s book.

Yes, she talks about equality in the workplace, and at home. But I didn’t find it to be didactic, or whiny for that matter. She takes her reader through her professional and personal experiences, and admits to the times when she could have done better. Sandberg also discusses her shortcomings, her doubts and her struggles. She even points out some very interesting studies. My favorites being the 2003 Heidi/Howard study conducted by a Columbia Business School professor and a New York University professor; along with a study conducted in the UK about employment and socio-emotional behavior.  I would go into detail, but I really want you to read this book.

Maybe I liked Lean In so much because like Sandberg, I have been called bossy for my entire life. Maybe it’s because I work full-time, and I’m in a leadership position at my current job. Whatever the reason(s), Lean In resonated with me, and it’s an important book for everyone to read. And I mean everyone.

If you work in your home or outside your home; if you’re a woman or a man; if you’re entry level, middle management or in the C-Suite, there is something you can take away from this book. If you have a daughter (or three like my parents), then my guess is you probably want her to become a confident woman who find success and happiness in life. This book isn’t the end-all, be-all, but it’s headed in the right direction.

My favorite Lean In excerpts:
  • Think personally, act communally (when negotiating)
  • If you’re offered seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat, you get on (career advice)
  • Done is better than perfect (Facebook poster)
  • The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately – to set limits and stick to them
View all my reviews

Monday, June 10, 2013

I Ate My Way Through My Vacation

Instead of a bunch of souvenirs, I came home with a very full stomach and an iPhone full of food pictures. Yes, I ate my way through my vacation. Surprisingly, the weight gain was pretty minimal; thanks to all the walking I did. But this isn't about exercise, this is about food.

I really didn't expect to eat anything truly delicious until I got to Paris, but I was wrong. I was also wrong in thinking that the food would be pretty blah until I got to Paris. In Amsterdam, thanks to colonization I enjoyed my first taste of Indonesian food, and in Berlin there was Turkish food. The beer (as expected) was great, as was the wine in Paris.

Now for the photos.

Unfortunately, I have no idea what Dutch food is like. However, I do know that ZOUK is a decent place to grab a beer, and a lamb kabob. It's located away from the Leidseplein, so mostly locals hang out here.

Brouwerij't IJ zatte - a triple from Amsterdam

Lamb kabob at ZOUK

I managed not to eat anything Dutch for dinner either. When I asked the bartender at ZOUK for recommendations, he started talking about steak. I love steak, but not while traveling in another country, so I opted instead for Indonesian food. I picked Kartika because it had a sign out front, and it was crowded. It was dumb luck that I wandered into this yummy place. Full disclosure - I've never had Indonesian food before, so I have nothing to compare this against.

My first Indonesian dish ever

If my plate looks like I went to a potluck and tried a little bit of everything, it's because I did get to try a little bit of everything. They had a menu item which allowed you to try several different dishes all on one plate.

In Copenhagen the food experience was interesting. They too eat a lot of steak, and apparently béarnaise sauce. At the top of my list to try was smørrebrød, which is basically an open-face sandwich. 


I tried smørrebrød at Dag H in Copenhagen. The sandwiches are nothing to write home about, but it's Danish, so I think you pretty much have to try one while you're there. The best thing about Dag H is that they are always open; from what I understand this is pretty unusual for Copenhagen.

My best restaurant meal was at a place called Maven (which means "stomach" in Danish). The restaurant is in part of what used to be a church, and it's a great example of hygge (which roughly translates to "cozy"). The food is great, but I took no pictures because it was really dark in there. 

For my birthday, my friend, Ms. R. took me to a place called Salt, which serves Nordic cuisine. We enjoyed a rather large lunch, and tried several dishes. I had my first taste of herring, although Ms. R. said that I should have tried regular pickled herring instead of this fried version.

Three types of salt to taste

Herring disguised so as not to look like pickled fish

I love all charcuterie

My favorite meals in Copenhagen were at Ms. R.'s place. One day she made us panini with chorizo, and it was delicious. The chorizo was not the type of ground sausage I'm used to, but more like what you would find with charcuterie. Yum.

Onto Berlin. By this point on my trip, I was getting full easily, and it was so cold I was rarely hungry. My most memorable meals were at a Turkish restaurant called Hazir, and at a Bavarian place called Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt.

Appetizer plate at Hazir

I couldn't tell you how to get to Hazir because my friend guided me on the U-Bahn, and I would never have gone there on my own. It was yummy though, so if you can make your way to this part of town, definitely eat here!


I really wanted to eat what I thought of as traditional German food (sausage) in Berlin, so my friend took me to Augustiner, which he said was more Bavarian. I tried the bratwurst, and realized that I still just do not care for bratwurst, even in Germany. The sauerkraut was good, as was the beer.

One must have beer while in Germany

I am ashamed to admit that I don't really know what Czech food is like either. My main meal was at Red Pif, which is  wine bar and restaurant. The food was okay, but nothing amazing. I went there to try the Czech wines, which were good. I did manage to try a trdelnik, while walking from Prague Castle to the Charles Bridge. Trdelik is a rolled pastry.


The jam-like substance is some sort of plum. There was a nutella option, which I'm sure would have been good, but I can get nutella in the states so I opted for the plum.

Finally, Paris. The food is as amazing as advertised. Don't get me wrong, I had a bad meal, complete with the stereotypical rude French waiter (stay away from La Coupe d'Or in the Hotel-de-Ville neighborhood); but as a whole, if you love food, you will love what Paris has to offer. For the most part, I steered clear of anything around the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées. I also ate a ton of bread (how can you not), and wish I had more cheese and charcuterie. Oh, and don't order an Orangina in Paris - it's a waste of money. Drink tap water and wine.

My favorite dinner was at Le Petit Niçois, a restaurant near my hotel, Les Jardins d'Eiffel. Technically it's near the Eiffel Tower, but it's a good 15-minute walk to the restaurant from the tower. The ratatouille (my entrée) was served with a poached egg and pesto on top, and this took the already delicious ratatouille to a whole new level. Plat du jour was a lamb dish. It was amazing.

Le Petit Niçois ratatouille

Lamb at Le Petit Niçois

I also made it a point to try two of the places recommended by Anthony Bourdain on the Layover: Berthillon (for ice cream) and Du Pain et Des Idées (for bread). 

Praline Citron Coriander flavor

Berthillon is at 31 rue Saint Louis en I'lle, and it was worth every bit of my long, lost walk. I picked the praline citron coriander because I didn't know how it could possibly work, yet completely trust the French.

L'escargot au citron et nougat de Montélimar

Strong cheese and smoky ham on the left, olive on the right

Du Pain et Des Idées is a boulangerie not to be missed. They are traditional, so you will find no patisserie here. Perfect for me because I have no interest in patisserie. Honestly, I could have ordered one of everything at this place, but I was good an only left with three items. Unfortunately, they were sold out of croissant by the time I got there (before lunch), but I enjoyed every bit of the flaky l'escargot and those savory rolls.

From left to right: pistachio, caramel with fleur de sel, and basil strawberry

I am ruined forever when it comes to the macaron thanks to Paris. These three delightful macarons are from Lenôtre. I don't know if it's possible to make macarons this amazing outside of France.

Pain au chocolat

My sister Mindy asked me to eat pain au chocolat for her. So I did. Even if I don't care for chocolate a whole lot. Again, totally worth it. And now I'm off to dream about macarons, bread, wine, cheese and Paris.