Spinster Life: Looking for a Heroine


I dual majored in English and Communication in undergrad so it isn’t a shocker that I love to read. I tend to mix it up between fiction and non-fiction and I know this is admitting what I nerd I am but the life-long learner in me still enjoys picking up something on literary criticism every now and then. On of my favorite books on that topic in recent years was How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis. I couldn’t put it down. She recounts all of the literary heroines she loved over the years and revisits whether she should be holding them up on the pedestal that she used to. Many of the characters she covers are also some of my favorites and I too needed to pause and think about how I was reading them.

Ms. Ellis’ epiphany came when arguing over who is the better heroine, Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. While I enjoy both Emily and Charlotte Bronte’s novels I, like Ms. Ellis, always preferred wild Cathy to practical Jane. During her argument with her friend though I have to admit an excellent point was made. Her friend pointed out that Cathy ends up unhappy and a ghost lost on the Moors while Jane becomes independently wealthy, free to make her own choice, and with her happy ending. It’s hard to ignore facts like that.

While I see merit to that argument I also agree with Ms. Ellis who feels that Jane isn’t the perfect heroine because she doesn’t really have flaws or make mistakes. That’s boring and while I don’t want to end up like Cathy, Jane still isn’t the heroine for me.

Two of my favorite characters ever are also explored by Ms. Ellis, Anne Shirley, and Jo March. I reread one of the Anne novels each year and I have to admit that I get more excited when I read the earlier four books as opposed to the later four. I used to think it was because there was more tension in the earlier novels and while I still think that is true  Ms. Ellis reminds the reader that once Anne gets married she gives up writing and all of her later stories are focused on her children. Jo March meets a semi-similar fate. She doesn’t give up writing completely, but she does end up living back in her hometown and married to a man who is boring compared to her prior beau. I wanted them to both have amazing adventures and become world famous authors.

She breaks down other characters I love including Elizabeth Bennett, Franny Glass and even the women in Valley of the Dolls. Okay, I admit I never saw Neely, Anne or Jennifer as a character I wanted to be, but I do reread Valley of the Dolls every couple of years. I love and agree with most of Ms. Ellis’ critiques. She doesn’t abandon these characters. They still have heroic qualities we should look up to, but we should also be aware of their shortcomings and flaws.

This has made me want to read some more novels with strong female characters to find some new heroines to add to my posse. Let me know some of your favorites in the comments. 


Wanderlust Wednesday: Best Pizza in NYC


Sal & Carmine’s 


There are some foods that New York is known for: bagels, hot dogs, and of course pizza. My college years in the Midwest most adventures in pizza were ordering the campus specials from chains like Domino’s and Papa John’s…not that there’s anything wrong with that. But New York opened me up to a world full of pizza that I never knew existed.  Most tourists are familiar with famous haunts like Grimaldi’s and John’s, but here are some other worthy slices to try.  

Best Traditional Slice-Sal and Carmine’s: It’s hard to walk a block in NYC without finding a place to grab a basic slice. Most, to be honest, are mediocre, but Sal and Carmine’s  is the perfect place to walk in for a standard slice or pie and leave completely satisfied. I think the secret to this little hole in the wall is their focus on simplicity.  They don’t crowd their menu with other dishes and sides. They only serve pizza and it is dished up with fresh ingredients and baked to perfection.  

Best Sicilian Slice-Spumoni Gardens: Traveling out to Graveshead, Brooklyn might not be on everyone’s to-do list, but it is worth making a special lunch trek to Spumoni Gardens.  This is the perfect summer jaunt thanks to their ample outdoor seating.  They have a comprehensive Italian menu and you can certainly gorge on pasta and entrees, but the standout dish is the Sicilian slice. Seeing as they’ve been serving up slices since 1939 and have had a loyal following all these decades, they must be doing something right.  

Best Gourmet Toppings-Artichoke: This local chain has locations throughout the Village and Chelsea and even LaGuardia Airport. What sets Artichoke apart from other pizzerias is their premium toppings. Their house specialty is their namesake pizza with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, and two cheeses.  I’m also a fan of the Crab Pizza with crab sauce, cheese, and surimi stuffing.

Best Pizza at an Upscale Restaurant-Cafe Fiorello: This Upper West Side restaurant is one of my favorite’s in the city. Fiorello’s has an incredible antipasto bar, deadly desserts, the best bartenders in the city, and amazing pizza. Their pies are served ultra thin and crispy. They are perfect for sharing over a bottle of red wine or cocktails. The menu changes every so often but there is always a great selection of both meat and vegetarian pies. You can’t go wrong with the classic Margherita pizza. 

Best Pizza that is Worth the Long Wait-Di Fara’s: I mentioned Grimaldi’s and John’s which both serve up amazing pies and are notorious for their wait times. In my opinion the true worth the wait pizza is at Di Fara‘s in Midwood, Brooklyn. They’ve been a neighborhood fixture for over 50 years and while five dollars for a single slice may seem steep in a city famous for one buck slices, trust me it is worth every penny. They don’t take reservations so brace yourself for a potential wait. In my personal experience I’ve waited up to 45 minutes for a single slice. I do have friends that have endured a two hour queue, but swore it was worth it.  I’ll let you be the judge. 

365 Project: Recipes 61-75


Here are the latest 15 recipes. Less than 300 to go. It finally feels like I’m making a dent.

61. Greek Salad with Cumin Seitan:


Source: Family Circle Magazine

Notes: This recipe calls for chicken but I replaced it with seitan. Seitan is a great substitute for poultry if you want to make a recipe vegetarian or vegan.

Rating: LOVED

62. Ginger Lime Roast Carrots 


Source: Whole New You

Notes: This can be served as a snack or a side dish.

Rating: Liked

63. Orange White Chocolate Cookies


Source: Landeelu 

Notes: This was one of my favorite cookies as a kid. You’ll notice that I haven’t been rating the baking recipes as high as the savory dishes. That’s because I’ve been attempting to make them semi-healthy. Replacing butter with apple sauce works for me taste wise but replacing all purpose flour with alternatives hasn’t worked well for me unless the original recipe was written using a flour substitute. The lesson is when I do bake I should use the less healthy ingredients.

Rating: Okay

64. Orange Tumeric Protein Shake


Source: Nutritionist Meets Chef 

Notes: This may be healthy but tasty it was not.

Rating: Pass

65. Creamy Hummus Pasta 


Source: The Savory Vegan

Notes: For pasta recipes, I’ve replaced white flour pasta with Explore Cusine brand pasta. They are high protein and low carb which are great for people who are trying to get more protein from plant sources. They are also gluten free and tasty.

Rating: LOVED

66. Sundried Tomato Pesto


Source: Greatest

Notes: This source has multiple variations on classic pesto. I liked this because the sundried tomatoes gave it a lighter flavor.

Rating: Liked

67.  Baked Salmon with Pesto 


Source: Cooking Classy 

Notes: I love that this was so easy to make and to clean up.

Rating: Liked

68. Mexican Lasagna 


Source: Foodie Fiasco 

Notes: This was yummy. Carb smart tortillas make this dish semi-healthy. I used a mix of seitan and tofu for the protein.

Rating: LOVED

69. Espresso Chocolate Mousse 


Source: Supergolden Bakes 

Notes: Finally I dessert that I loved.

Rating: LOVED

70. Lavender Lemonade 


Source: Ritely 

Notes: I have since made this without the honey as a type of spa water.

Rating: Liked

71. Tumeric Lime Chickpeas 


Source: Pulse Pledge 

Notes: I’m excited to try some of the other varieties of this dish.

Rating: Liked

72. Beef Tips in Honey Bourbon Sauce 


Source: Spicy Southern Kitchen

Notes: I used seitan instead of beef to make it vegetarian.

Rating: Liked

73. Balinese Green Bean Salad 


Source: Asian Inspirations 

Notes: This has a nice sweet and spicy kick to it.

Rating: Liked

74. Slow Cooker Pineapple Black Bean Rice 


Source: Real Life Dinner 

Notes: Once again I used seitan to replace the chicken.

Rating: Liked

75. Kale and Lemongrass Protein Shake


Source: Original

Notes: I used Plant Fusion natural protein powder, two celery stalks, 1/2 a cup of pineapple, a kale leaf, a tablespoon of lemongrass, and a tablespoon of hemp seeds

Rating: LOVED