July 2014 - The Surznick Common Room

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Surznick Reads: July 2014

Hey there! We're fresh off the plane from San Francisco (boooo), but here's what we read this month!

Sarah's Reads!

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
From Amazon.com: "With her knack for being in trouble's way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte's, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but her attention is divided when she realizes that her lover, Eric Northman, and his "child" Pam are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, Sookie is drawn into the plot-which is much more complicated than she knows..."

With the 7th and final season of True Blood starting up last month, I decided it was time to dive back into The Sookie Stackhouse Novels (aka The Southern Vampire Mysteries). I flew through the first ten books of this series last year but decided to take a break to read other books on my list. Dead Reckoning is the 11th book and I still have 2.5 more books to go! I've been a huge fan of True Blood since the very beginning (Nick and I were even Bill and Sookie for Halloween in 2009!) and reading the books has just furthered my love for the folks of Bon Temps. The books are a little ridiculous compared to the show (i.e. Elvis is a vampire and makes an apperance in almost each book...), but they're still enjoyable and super easy to read. If you're a fan of True Blood, or if you're just looking for a series about vampires, shape-shifters, werewolves, witches, fairies, etc. then this series has everything you're looking for.

My Rating: 4 Stars

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
From Amazon.com: "On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by David Henry's fateful decision that long-ago winter night."

I really enjoyed this book. Not only did I find the plot interesting, but Caroline's portion of the story takes place in Pittsburgh and I LOVED reading about things and places that I know and can picture in my head. There's even a chapter where she's at the museum where I work (cool, right?!) There were a few parts of the story that dragged on and were a bit boring, but overall I was really interested in finding out how it was all going to end. Are the two families ever going to know of one another, or will they remain a secret forever? Guess you'll have to read it to find out!

My Rating: 5 Stars

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
From Amazon.com: "Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive... Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret."

This was my book club selection for the month and I loved it! The story is told from the perspectives of three different women: Cecilia, Tess, and Rachel. At first, their lives seem completely different, but as the story unfolds you see how everyone is connected. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life of each woman and I think it really adds to a story to get many different perspectives, as you can find different ways to relate with each character. This book was also really easy to read and the end of each chapter left you wanting to know what was going to happen next. I'm definitely interested in reading more from Moriarty!

My Rating: 5 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
From Amazon.com: "This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises. Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages."

(Here's my review of book 1 and Sarah's review of books 1 and 2!)

Equally as fantastic as the first book, this was a joy to read. There is just something about the combination of his writing style, the photos, and an exciting plot that make these books so easy and fun to get into. Without giving anything away, I will say that this has a really great and refreshing plot twist at the end that beautifully sets us up for a third book. I'm very excited to read it!

My Rating: 5 Stars

Magical Thinking: True Stories by Augusten Burroughs
From Amazon.com: "From the #1 bestselling author of Running with Scissors and Dry--a contagiously funny, heartwarming, shocking, twisted, and absolutely magical collection. True stories that give voice to the thoughts we all have but dare not mention. It begins with a Tang Instant Breakfast Drink television commercial when Augusten was seven. Then there is the contest of wills with the deranged cleaning lady. The execution of a rodent carried out with military precision and utter horror. Telemarketing revenge. Dating an undertaker and much more. A collection of true stories that are universal in their appeal yet unabashedly intimate and very funny."

I feel like I've been saying this a lot lately, but this was seriously one of the funniest books I've ever read. I laughed out loud CONSTANTLY. The title of the book didn't at all give me any indication as to what it would be like, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are just short stories from various periods in the author's life. I've been hearing about Augusten Burroughs for a very long time, and this is the first thing I've read by him. I cannot wait to read everything else he's written. If any of it is half as good as this book, it'll be a fantastic read.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Sarah & Nick

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hi from SF

Hi from San Francisco! We are seriously loving it here and we've only had one full day so far! I wasn't planning on posting while on vacation, but somebody (Nick) is still asleep, so I thought I'd share a couple photos and do a fun 20 Questions post that Blake did on her blog. Happy Friday!

If you want to see more photos, follow us on Instagram (@sawissinger & @nmalburg)!

20 Questions
1. What brings you the greatest joy? Having Nick and my mom in my life.

2. What are your vices? I don't think I really have any... (maybe Nick can come up with some for me).

3. What is on your nightstand? A lamp and a book (House of Leaves).

4. Do you have a secret talent? Nick would probably say my secret talent is my willingness to do tedious, time consuming tasks without getting stressed or annoyed. (i.e. Spending multiple hours finding out how to get Alcatraz tickets while we're in SF. He said if it were him he would just be like, "Alcatraz is sold out - we can't go." But my mentality is that there's always a way and I will do anything to find it! P.S. I got us Alcatraz tickets.)

5. What is your greatest indulgence? Online clothing shopping. But I will say that I am a very savvy shopper and I almost never buy something unless it's on sale. So I don't feel too guilty.

6. What should every woman try at least once in her life? No idea. Do whatever makes you happy. If I had to pick something that I'm glad I tried in my life, I would say it's moving away from my hometown. I love being able to call multiple places home.

7. What makes you laugh? Nick, always. He is the absolute weirdest person I have ever met and not a day goes by where he doesn't make me laugh.

8. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I've never smoked a cigarette in my life (you're welcome, mom).

9. What is on your bucket list? I don't really have a bucket list (you can read our short-term summer to do list here). But I would like to travel and read a lot of books.

10. What is on your feet right now? Nothing! Just chilling in bed, waiting for sleepyhead to wake up.

11. How did you make your first dollar? Besides an allowance or selling friendship bracelets or things like that, my first real dollar at my first real job was from being a cashier and key-cutting extraordinaire at a hardware store.

12. What superstition do you believe in? I don't really believe in any, but living with Nick has ensured that my first spoken words of every month are "Rabbit, Rabbit" or else I'll have a terrible month (according to him).

13. What items in your closet do you wear the most? Probably black pants for work. But I try to wear a bunch of dresses and different shirts so I don't get tired of wearing the same things every day. Oh, and my Minnetonka moccasins. I can't wear them to work, but when I'm off the clock there's a 75% chance they're on my feet.

14. What is the best gift you’ve ever received? Everything!

15. What is on your liquor shelf? Always whiskey. I love a whiskey sour and Nick loves his on the rocks. Currently I think we have vodka and creme de menthe too. And of course pretty red and white paper straws!

16. What is on your kitchen counter? Pretty standard... Coffee pot and toaster. We also have a three tiered stand for fruit that we made out of thrifted vinyl records. Maybe we'll share a tutorial soon?!

17. What would you never leave home without? Clothes.

18. What movie has the greatest ending? Definitely not Requiem for a Dream. Maybe Saved? I love that movie so much. Is that embarrassing?

19. Who is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party? Nick, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, Luke Danes, and Kirk. That sounds like a good time.

20. What is one thing you wish you had known when you were younger? Nothing, I like being surprised.

Have a great weekend, dudes!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Black Bean Brownies

So before we dive into this DELICIOUS recipe, I thought I'd tell you guys a little secret. It may come as a surprise to you (as it was definitely a surprise to us), but Nick and I have started eating a (mostly) vegan diet. We probably won't talk about it much on the blog, but I thought we should give you guys a heads up in case you start wondering why we always shared all of these recipes that were like "Chicken! Cheese!" and now they're like "Seitan! Tofu!"(just kidding). Anyway, this recipe is vegan, but you of course could use non-vegan ingredients if you so choose! Let's get started...

I've wanted to try these black bean brownies for a long time because I was very intrigued by the idea of making a yummy, chocolately dessert that's healthy but will actually still taste good. I was definitely not let down. Want to try it?

Here's what you need! (Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie)
- 1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed very well
- 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup quick oats
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup agave sweetener
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips (we used dairy-free chocolate chunks)

NOTE: These ingredients are what we used for our brownies, however the original recipe linked above provides substitutions (i.e. pure maple syrup or honey rather than agave, and vegetable oil rather than coconut.)

Here's what you do!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8x8" pan.
- Combine all ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips in your food processor and blend until completely smooth. (I blended once, then scraped the sides with a spatula and blended again).
- Once well blended, stir in your chocolate chips and pour into your greased pan.
- Bake 18-20 minutes and let cool completely before cutting. (Seriously, I tried before they were completely cooled and it was a little messy.) Makes 9 brownies.

These brownies were so good, it's a little ridiculous. They are super soft and chocolately. The consistency once they're completely cooled is actually more like a fudge than a brownie. Since we used coconut oil rather then vegetable, they had a subtle coconut flavor which I really liked. Plus, they are SO easy to make! Another A+ for our brand new food processor!

I'm also really pleased that Nick loved them because he was definitely unsure about the whole bean thing when I suggested it. When we were photographing and sampling them, he kept telling me "Okay, these are just so good. I love them. They're my favorite." And they have BEANS in them, you guys. Can you believe it?!

Also, here's a fun little GIF we made with the new Party Party app from A Beautiful Mess. Fun!

 photo photo_zps43d49e2a.gif

Okay, we're off to SAN FRANCISCOOOOOO! Have a great week everyone. We'll be back next week to share our July books with you!

Sarah & Nick

P.S. Congratulations to Rachel, the winner of our first giveaway! If you guys enjoyed the giveaway, please let us know. We'd love to do more in the future!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Heart-Felt Sweatshirt

Okay, to tell you the truth I was going to do this project months ago, like when it was actually still cold out. It just got away from me and before I knew it, it was 90 degrees and I knew I wasn't going to be wearing long sleeves for months. But Nick and I are heading to San Francisco next week (woop, woop!) and the one thing I've been hearing over and over again is, "Dress warm, it's going to be chilly there!" So I decided alrighty then, I'm going to make this now so I have a cute sweatshirt to throw on in San Fran!

I purchased this plain dark grey/blue sweatshirt from Old Navy on clearance for about $3 and thought it would be cute to spruce up with some heart-shaped elbow patches. This is a super easy DIY you can accomplish in an afternoon! Want to make your own?

Here's what you need!
- Sweatshirt/sweater
- Chalk (or something to mark your sweater)
- Felt
- Embroidery floss
- Hand-sewing needle
- Scissors
- Paper
- Pen and/or Sharpie
- Pins/Stitch Witchery/Iron (optional)

Here's what you do!
- Put on your sweatshirt or sweater and use chalk to mark where you want your patches to be.

- Fold a piece of paper in half and draw half a heart along the crease in the paper. Use scissors to cut out your folded heart (which will be symmetrical when unfolded).
- Check the shape and size of your heart on the sweatshirt. If you're satisfied, use the paper as a guide to trace two hearts on your felt. Use scissors to cut them out.
- Attach your felt hearts to your sweatshirt with pins or stitch witchery (if you have leftover Sharpie marks, place them facedown). I used two small pieces of stitch witchery and my iron to attach my felt to my sweatshirt. This will help keep the hearts in place when you're sewing.

- Using your embroidery floss and a needle, sew your felt heart onto your sweatshirt sleeve. Knot tightly once finished.

This project was super quick and easy (despite it taking me months to get around to). It was also cheap! I'm definitely ready to start sewing felt hearts onto everything. Maybe throw pillows next time? You guys know I love a good pillow project.

Sarah & Nick

(Hey, don't forget! There's two days left to enter our GIVEAWAY! Just click this link and enter using the rafflecopter widget. The prize is pretty cute so make sure you do it!)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Avocado Chickpea Dip

Guess what, guys? Nick and I are the proud new owners of our first food processor! I'm pretty pumped to add this tool to our kitchen arsenal, so for our inaugural dish we made this super delicious avocado chickpea dip. Check it out!

Avocado Chickpea Dip (Adapted from The Lo Down)
- 1 avocado
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Additional olive oil for drizzling
- Veggies (or anything else!) for dipping

Here's what you do!
- Cut and scoop out avocado into your food processor. Add drained chickpeas, olive oil, and salt. Blend until combined. Add more olive oil if you'd like a smoother consistency.
- Transfer to a bowl and top with olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Serve with veggies or anything else you want!

This was super easy to whip up and it's great with baby carrots. I can already see this being my go-to work snack. Anyone think they'll give this dip a go? How about some great food processor recipes for us to try?

Sarah & Nick

P.S. Don't forget! There's still 5 days to enter our first ever GIVEAWAY!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Oh yeah, Oasap! + A Giveaway

I first saw this Oasap dress on Darcy of A Memory of Us and knew that I had to have it! I had never heard of Oasap before but was surprised to see that they have a lot of adorable dresses at great price points. I grabbed this dress on sale for under $20!

Ordering from an unfamiliar site for the first time can be a little nerve racking, as you don't know if the clothes are going to be true to size or look as good in person as they do online, but this dress exceeded my expectations. Both the fit and quality are excellent and it definitely looks and feels more expensive than it is. This dress is also great for me because I can wear it to a wedding or a night out with Nick, but feel comfortable wearing it to work as well.

Dress\Oasap (exact),  Purse\Urban Outfitters (exact no longer available, similar),  Wedges\Target (exact no longer available, similar)

I'll definitely be ordering more from Oasap again, but in the mean time I want one of you to experience Oasap for yourself! We're giving away this black scalloped tank top and DIY chain bracelets to one lucky reader! This is just a small token of appreciation to those of you who follow along and read our blog. It's fun sharing a small part of our lives with others and we hope that you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoy writing it!

 Shirt measurements: Length: 23.6", Bust: 36.22". Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway is open for one week! Happy entering!

Sarah & Nick 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Happy 4th

Hey all,

We just wanted to check in to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July. We hope you all had a great weekend of celebration with friends and family. The past few weeks have been pretty busy for us as we visit friends and family and get ready to go on vacation later this month. The next couple weeks are going to be just as busy, but we hope to have some recipes and DIYs up for you soon!

Here are some photos from our Independence Day. Have a great week!

Sarah & Nick

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