The Eight Mountains

The Eight Mountains

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher (through NetGalley) in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Eight Mountains by Paola Cognetti is a story of friendship and family. Pietro and Bruno meet in Italy as young boys, and share their summers together. While Pietro goes back to Milan in winter, Bruno stays near the mountains tending to his family’s livestock. Eventually, Pietro goes to college and their summers together come to an end.

A lifelong friendship despite large spans of being apart, they are reunited later in life. The story is mainly focused on character development and less on plot.

While enjoyable to read, I did not feel a strong connection to any of the characters. Pietro as the narrator often seemed to lack an understanding of his friend (and others), and this may have been the primary contributing factor.

I wanted more from this book, and in the end it did not deliver.

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Zoodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce courtesy of New Zealand

While I was in New Zealand, I came across some spicy peanut butter, called Smoke and Fire. It looked so amazing, I knew right away I had to buy it, even though I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it.

smoke and fire peanut butter

I’ve been trying to eat healthier lately, and focus on eating more whole foods, like veggies and less processed crap and definitely less processed/refined carbs. And what better way is there to exemplify this style of eating than zoodles? And what goes great with zoodles? PEANUT SAUCE!

I started off looking for a recipe for raw pad thai, and this came out as sort of an adaption of a recipe I saw online, modified a lot based on what I had on hand and my own preferences. It turned out amazing! I think it would be even better with more vegetables to add variety to the dish, so I will definitely be making this again.

zoodles with peanut sauce

Zoodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Serves 2 (1 if you’re hungry and/or not eating anything else with it)

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 1/4 c peanut butter
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 2 tsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (honey or agave would also work)

Directions:

  • Peel the zucchini and carrots
  • Use the vegetable peeler to cut the zucchini and carrots into zoodles/slices (a spiralizer would also work)
  • Slice bell pepper into small thin strips
  • Combine peanut butter, orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce and maple syrup
  • Mix the carrots and bell pepper with the peanut sauce and serve on top of the zoodles

Variations:

  • If you don’t have spicy peanut butter, I would recommend adding Sriracha to taste (start with 1 tsp and see how it goes). I would also add some fresh ginger or garlic (1 tsp). 
  • more veggies – bean sprouts, chickpeas, cabbage
  • garnish – cilantro
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Welcome to 2018!

SF 1/2 Marathon

It’s New Year’s Resolution time!  Of course, if you’re like me, you hate resolutions. I feel like people set resolutions with no plan, no idea of how to achieve them. It’s like a wish list with no reality. I prefer to set intentions or goals that have real action items.

2017

2017 was both a great year and a rough year for me. I suffered an injury, developed some good habits, and struggled with getting rid of some bad habits. As a result, these things have definitely influenced my outlook for 2018.

Early in 2017, I learned that I have a torn labrum in my hip, and I struggled with pain from sitting. For awhile, running was out of the question. After seeing 4 different orthopedic surgeons and getting a variety of opinions – ranging from surgery was my only option to surgery was NOT an option – I decided to hire a personal trainer and work on core strength and general fitness. This was the best decision I could have made. My trainer treats me holistically vs. a physical therapist who prescribes only the very basic exercises and stretches targeted for one specific area (the hip).

Now I have a great habit of going to the gym, something that I’ve done on and off on my own for a few years without any real consistency. I see my trainer twice a week and most weeks I make it to the gym a 3rd time on my own. I really want to continue this in 2018, and I started my year off with a workout with my trainer bright and early this morning. It was pretty empty at the gym, I was the only one working out. However, I’m sure the crowds of New Year’s Resolutioners will be there later this week.

Despite my injury, I managed to run in the SF Rock N Roll 1/2 marathon. This was a pretty big accomplishment for me, as the SF course is very hilly and challenging. Also, I am normally not that motivated to go to races that are an hour away by myself.

Unfortunately, I had to skip the Las Vegas 1/2 as my hip got worse after the SF race. I’m hopeful that maybe I can do that one in 2018. It’s still on the bucket list! For the short-term, I’m training for the Silicon Valley 1/2 marathon this April.

On the reading front, I was right on target with my goal of reading 60 books. The number of books might be misleading, because hey, maybe I read 60 really short books. According to goodreads.com, I read 23,624 pages across 60 books. This is 5 books and about 5,000 pages more than the previous year, not too shabby. One highlight of my reading adventures in 2017 was re-reading the entire Dark Tower series by Stephen King. These are his best books, in my opinion, and I was very sad that the movie sucked so much. I was really hoping it would be amazing, as the intent was to launch both a movie franchise and TV show.

One thing that was missing in 2017 was travel time. I made the usual 3 trips to Romania, and did 2 weekend adventures while I was there, but I didn’t make it anywhere else. For 2018, I’d really like to travel more.

While I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked, I did make time to go on some local adventures. I rode a Segway for the first time, and had a blast zooming all over Golden Gate park in San Francisco. Visiting Pinnacles National Park and hiking up to the top was also a fun adventure and something I’d like to do again this year.

And last, but not least, I had the wonderful opportunity to foster 3 amazing dogs and help them find their perfect homes. Teddy, Trina, and Nutmeg were all very special dogs. Each had their own unique quirks and needs, which can make finding the right home a challenge. I’m so happy to have been a part of the team that saved them.

2018

So what’s the plan for 2018?

  • Keep going to the gym!
  • Running
    • Silicon Valley 1/2 marathon
    • Las Vegas Rock n Roll 1/2 marathon (depending on how training and running the SV 1/2 feels with my hip injury)
  • Read! (60 books? 24k pages….)
    • Write more book reviews
    • Read more non-fiction and classics
  • Travel
    • New Zealand
    • Rome
  • Stop drinking Monster (or at least drink less). That shit has got to be bad for me.
  • Go on more adventures
  • Continue volunteering and fostering

That’s my plan, and hopefully I’m sticking to it!

Happy New Year!

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Lily and the Octopus

Let me start off by warning you now, this review contains spoilers.

Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus By Steven Rowley. Oh how I hated this book. A book about dogs. A tear-jerker. A book Brie should love! Oh how they were wrong.

First off, Ted, Lily’s owner. This guy. I hate him. And that’s probably why I hated the book. Ted is depressed. Ted is a narcissist and doesn’t have many friends. He’s anthropomorphized Lily to the point where they play Monopoly and talk about which boys they have crushes on. 

A talking dog? Well, normally I’d be all in for that. A sad story about a man and his love for his dog? Yep, that sounds like a book I’ll love. However, I disliked this book so much, it actually made me angry.

I wanted to like this book. I wanted to love this book. I…just…can’t. It started around the time Ted notices “the octopus” on Lily’s head. Is he delusional?  Is that his cute way of avoiding the fact that THIS IS A TUMOR AND LILY NEEDS MEDICAL ATTENTION? Even when he does go to the vet, he still refers to it as the octopus.  “My dog, Lily, see, she has this octopus on her head”.  OMG. SO STUPID. Ted even mentions that he couldn’t find anything on the internet for “octopus on dog’s head”.  Gee, I wonder why.

The book is well written, and so I stuck it out, hoping, HOPING, that it would redeem itself. And then, impossibly, it got worse. There is a huge dream (hallucination?) sequence of Ted taking Lily out on a boat to hunt the octopus and meeting a man who is really the big bad octopus in disguise. It’s possible I would have hated the book less without this part. I might have only moderately disliked it. But I still would have blamed Ted for Lily’s death.

In the end, Lily dies with Ted having done pretty much nothing about it, nothing to take care of her. Why isn’t he seeking serious medical attention for her? It isn’t clear that there was no hope, but Ted just pretends that the only way is to scare the octopus away. He denies all the options given to him by the vet, whom he calls Doogie (after Doogie Howser, MD). Ted even mentions that he didn’t like or trust this vet, he only went there because that was the last vet he’d been to. Ok, that’s fine, go to another vet then! Don’t just sit there and do nothing.

On good reads, I rated this 2 stars. I’m not sure why.  Probably only for the fact that it was well written (despite being terrible) and because I really really wanted to like it. When I finished, I wanted to burn it, I hated it so much. I didn’t cry uncontrollably, instead I was filled with rage. Rage for Ted who was too self-absorbed to notice his best friend, his dog, had a massive tumor growing until it was (maybe) too late. Rage for the author for suckering me into reading this pile of crap.

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I disliked a book this much. No offense to my friend Kimmy who recommended the book and even loaned me her copy.

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