I went to Ireland once.  It was October and I thought I would never again be warm.  It was rainy and frigid.  I swore I’d never ever go back in the winter.  Chris really wanted to make a quick trip while we were in France, but I stood my ground.  If it was frigid in October, I could only imagine what January looks like.  But luckily for us, the East Coast was holding all of the frigid for the entire world in the Polar Vortex and temperatures in Ireland were about the same as in Paris, maybe even a bit warmer.  My big plans for a South of France adventure were shattered, as I discovered that the small towns I’d wanted to visit were shuttered for the winter, so I gave in.  And I’m so glad I did.  Ireland is just marvelous.

It’s still cold.  It’s still rainy.  But it’s green, and the people are so incredibly friendly.  One waitress, who’d just moved from Galway, told me that she was having a hard time in Dublin, as the people were more standoffish than back home.  I can’t even imagine what people in Galway are like, because the Dubliners we met were some of the most friendly people I’ve ever encountered.  If you go to Ireland and come home without making any friends, you’re doing it wrong.

We stayed in Ballsbridge, just a 15 minute walk into the Dublin city center at The Schoolhouse Hotel, a converted school house.  It’s a small boutique hotel, but it’s attached to a bar and restaurant with live music every weekend.  Rooms were quiet, but it was so nice to be so close to a bit of nightlife, especially on cold evenings.

The food is all about comfort… stews and hearty pies and fish & chips.  It’s not groundbreaking, but it makes you feel good.  We ate one night at The Chophouse (a Bourdain recommendation), an updated gastropub and the food was fantastic!  And then there’s beer.   It’s too cold and wet to be outside, so you pub jump, drink a lot of beer, and then roll yourself home.  It’s not such a bad life.

The parks in the city are absolutely beautiful and totally accessible.  We spent one day walking through Phoenix Park, a huge park in Dublin. We ended up at Farmleigh House, once owned by the Guinness family, but now the place where visiting dignitaries stay in Dublin.  Tours are free, only 30 minutes and really lovely.   A walk through Trinity College was lovely as well.  Of course there’s the Guinness Factory which is a lot of fun and the pint at The Gravity Bar is absolutely worth the price of admission.  The top of the building is a floor-to-ceiling windowed bar with beautiful views of the city.  You can eat downstairs, but at least go see the view from up there.

We really wanted to take a longer day trip, perhaps Cork or out to the Cliffs of Moher, but spending six hours on a bus didn’t seem like a great way to spend one of the few days that we had.  The woman that checked us in recommended Howth and it was absolutely perfect.  It’s a small fishing town, just forty minutes north on the train.  The seafood is great and the town is adorable.  The hike up to the top of the mountain is absolutely incredible.  It’s muddy, but the views are amazing and totally worth it.  When you hit the top, take a right and walk down the road until you hit The Summit Inn.  Reward yourself with a pint and some fish & chips!  There’s a bus that will take you back in to town, or just stay on and go all the way back to Dublin.  The day in Howth definitely gave us the countryside feel without spending half the day on an awful bus!

Cabs are super reasonable in Dublin and we’d take them for longer treks, or if it was raining and we were lazy.  Almost any cabbie can give you an entire lesson on the history of Dublin (on the way to the airport, he didn’t stop talking for 25 minutes) and you can learn a lot that way!  Tipping in Ireland was a bit different that the rest of Europe, but not like in the States.  A bit of a tip is recommended, but our hotel clerk said on a 100euro tab, 5euro would be plenty.

There’s so much more to Ireland than Dublin, and we’ll definitely be making a trip back (hopefully in a summer month when it might be the tiniest bit warmer!)
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Morocco has always been fascinating to me and I’ve always wanted to visit.  The food, the colors, the people, the markets… it all seemed so foreign.  The fact that it’s just a few hours flight from Paris made it my destination of choice for a quick few days.  The fact that the sun shines there on the regular solidified our plans.

Marrakech is an incredible place.  It’s busy and it’s loud.  The food is pretty fantastic and the people are absolutely lovely.  You’re meant to get lost here, and you should.  Our digital maps were completely unreliable, and the paper map from our hotel wasn’t really all that grand either.  Streets have been renamed a number of times, from the original Moroccan names, to French names during their colonization of Morocco, and then back to Moroccan names… it doesn’t seem that anyone really knows where anything actually is.   But that’s OK, because you’ll always be able to find your way back to the main square.  You just have to know how to get home from there.   If you are lost, go inside a shop and ask the shopkeeper for directions to the square… they have to stay at their shops, if you ask someone on the street they’ll take you there, but they’ll want money for their service.

We stayed at Riad Diexneuf La Ksour and were so happy.  It’s a lovely little hotel with just six rooms.  It’s inside the Medina (the old walled city), but far enough away from Jemaà el Fna (the main square) that it’s quiet and we felt safe walking home at night.  The couple that runs the hotel was incredibly helpful with recommendations and advice and the staff made sure we were completely taken care of.  I can’t recommend the hotel enough!

Our first night in town, we ate dinner at the hotel. A private table in front of the fireplace was set for us, and we were served the most incredible four course meal with some pretty fantastic Moroccan wine.  It was perfect!  We ate at two restaurants within the Medina: Cafe Arabe & Terrace des Epices.  Typically, Moroccans don’t eat out at restaurants, so most of them will be geared towards tourists.  Cafe Arabe was lovely with two dining areas, one in a courtyard under orange trees and the second on the roofs.  Terrace des Epices was also a rooftop dining area, with the tables tucked into little alcoves.  Food was great at both, but I preferred the atmosphere at Cafe Arabe.  Our last evening, we went outside of the Medina to Comptoir.  It’s just outside of the old city, in an area of only hotels.  It’s known for it’s belly dancing show, which starts around 10 pm.  Super touristy, but the food was pretty good and the show was a lot of fun.   Most of Marrakech is dry, but you can find alcohol at all of these places, as well as at Kosy Bar, a great bar with fantastic views of the city.  The other option for food is the night market in Place Jemaà el Fna.  There are food stalls, some offering full menus, some offering very specific dishes.  There are also performers (some of whom are very insistent on taking photos with you, all of which will want money from you, generally around 100 dihram or $12), musicians and games. We didn’t eat here, but walking around is an adventure in itself!  We did try some fresh orange juice (it’s everywhere!) and mint tea (also everywhere!).  The tea service is an art and beautiful to watch.  The tea is sweet and flavorful… definitely try some.

Marrakech is a shopping destination.  The main souks spread out from Jemaà el Fna and are a tangled web of leathers, carpets, shoes, scarves and wood.  Shopkeepers here can be a little bit abrasive, and Chris & I are still deciding if it’s better to start here, to get the feel for the markets and be completely overwhelmed, or to start on the outskirts and get used to them little by little.  The markets around Cafe Arabe are a bit less overwhelming and where we spent most of our time.  For the hard sellers, a polite but firm “No, thank you” in French, Spanish or English will generally work after the fifth try.  A few times we met people in small corridors who followed us and hounded a bit and it can be scary.  Realizing that they only want your business is important.  Generally speaking we felt very safe, but it’s a completely different culture and not always comfortable.  Keep your belongings close & secure (Chris spotted a small boys hand in my purse before I did).

We were only in town for three days, so we didn’t get to everything that I would have loved to do.  If we’d had the time, I would have loved to go to a more traditional hammam (a Moroccan spa) and take a day trip up into the Atlas mountains.  There are tons of tours advertised, but definitely something worth checking out.

Definitely book a taxi through your hotel from the airport if you’re staying in the Medina.  Cars aren’t really allowed within the inner walls and the taxi will drop you on the street.  Our driver was in touch with the hotel and we were met by the staff to walk us to the hotel door.  Also, make sure you have a pen with you at the airport.  You’re required to fill in a form, but there are no pens and your fellow travelers aren’t very keen on letting you borrow.  On the way home, security lines at the airport are separated by gender, men on the right and women on the left, so don’t stand in the wrong line.

We loved Marrakech and it was the perfect few days away from the grey skies in Paris!
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January 20, 2014 The 24 Hour Laundry

Some of the hardest things to do here are the things that I don’t even think about at home.  And the worst, laundry.  It shouldn’t be so hard, and yet, please follow along on the adventure of our first load of laundry.

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5 pm – put a load in, follow the directions and feel real proud of myself when it all starts to work.  Realize the wash cycle takes two hours and feel like that’s a long time.

8 pm – the machine stops around 7, but I forgot about it.  Open it up and realize it’s all dry!  Whoa, easy peasy!  The machine is a washer and a dryer, but I didn’t realize it would be so easy! Nope, the bottom is covered in soap and clearly I put it on the dry cycle before.  I spent three hours drying dirty clothes.  F.   Start over again.   Think we’re going good!  Two more hours.

10 pm –  woop!  Clothes are wet and smell clean!  But now it’s too late to start the dryer per our apartment rules. So it shall sit over night.

10 am, the next morning – OK!  I’ve dried before, we can do this.  I set to one of the options under sèchage, which my dictionary tells me means “to dry”.  Set, go.  Water pours in to the machine and we spend another two hours washing the clothes. F again.

2 pm – we’ve been out and about, but we really need to get to the wet clothes.  Pick a button that is DIRECTLY under sèchage. Set, go.  It only dries for 13 minutes. Then stops.  Clearly, it’s all wet.  21 hours ago I dried for two hours, which button was that?!  Set, go, 13 minutes. We do this a number of times.  Clothes are still wet.

3 pm – ohh, one button says “minutes”.  How did I not see this one before?! Hit it repeatedly until we get a solid 78 minutes of drying time.

7 pm – come home to only slightly damp clothes!  3 pairs of socks, one pair of basketball shorts, two t-shirts, one sweater and a few underpants.  Just about 24 hours.

Sometimes adventure really just looks like two educated adults staring at a tiny machine and cursing every thirteen minutes.

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I’d never really had a whole lot of desire to see Amsterdam.  Not that I didn’t want to go, it just wasn’t very high on my list.  You hear a lot about the drugs and the prostitution and maybe a bit about the canals, but not a whole lot more.   But, we really wanted to use Paris as a homebase to travel though Europe, places we wouldn’t necessarily go otherwise.  I’m planning one trip, and Chris is planning one trip.  He wanted to drive; there’s just something so intriguing about crossing over two country borders in the matter of a five hour drive (especially when back home you can drive that long and still be in the same state!) so, he picked Amsterdam as our destination and I’m so incredibly happy he did.  On the way there, we stopped for a bit in Brussels, and then in Bruges on the way home.  Good for a meal, but I won’t be heading back to either in the near future.

Forget almost everything you’ve heard about Amsterdam.  It.Is.Gorgeous.  It looks like it should be created solely out of gingerbread it’s so cute!  The houses have such a unique architecture are very tall and very skinny (they’re taxed on their width, so long, tall and skinny seems to be the way to go).  The vast majority of houses directly on the street & canals have huge windows, but no curtains.  The voyeur in me finds this fascinating.

The people here couldn’t possibly be nicer.  Everyone we met spoke English, which was amazing because our Dutch is the worst (three days there and we still are working on Happy New Year!). One gentleman even crossed the road to make sure I knew that the bench I was sitting on was a “wishing bench” and that I should make a wish.

There are significantly more bikes than people and they are everywhere.  You can rent bikes for the day and it’s incredibly easy to navigate the city.  It’s a great way to see it!

The center of town is built completely on canals, and you’d be absolutely remiss not to take a touristy canal ride.  They’re actually quite informative, super inexpensive (ours was 10€) and a great way to get your bearings in the city.  I’m told that they’re all very similar, so you can’t go wrong.  There are also hop on-hop off boats, a great way to get to the touristy spots.

The food is my favorite way to see a new city, and from what I can tell, Dutch food is all about comfort… Hearty meats and potatoes and whatnot.  They love pancakes and there are pannekoeken huis everywhere.  We tried the Pancake Bakery (very close to the Anne Frank House) and heard great things about Pancakes!, although it was closed when we stopped by. Fries are super popular and I could have eaten ten orders from Vleminckx Sausmeesters with mayo and sate sauces.  The Netherlands had colonies in Indonesia, so there is quite a bit of Indonesian food in Amsterdam.  I’d heard about Kantjil and De Tijgre from a few people and it did not disappoint at all.  You can order a Rijsttafel and you basically receive a table full of small plates, each one better than the last.  At any traditional pub or restaurant you’ll see pea soup and apple pie on the menu.  Try them both, so delciious!   And then of course the beer, so much beer, and all of it wonderful!

Speaking of beer, the Heinekin factory is in Amsterdam, and while it’s a little bit hokey, it’s a lot of fun.  The 18€ entrance fee gets you a self guided tour and a history lesson.  At the end, you’re rewarded with two beers and, if you choose, a canal boat ride back to the center of town. Totally worth it and a great way to get out of the rain for a few hours.

One absolute must see is The Anne Frank house.  They did a beautiful job restoring the warehouse that housed eight people for two years during World War II.  The lines will be long, but they move quickly.  It’s a an amazing thing to see and definitely worth the time.

If you’re there on the first Sunday of the month, Cafe Luxembourg (across from Kantjil and de Tijgre) has a live band that was fantastic! Alderliefste is apparently quite popular and, although we had no idea what they were singing, was so much fun!

The drive from Paris is so easy (about 5 hours) and I’m so glad we decided to take a few days away to see another country. I’d love to come back in the spring, sitting on the canal with a cold beer would be so lovely!


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January 10, 2014 Wandering Through Paris


I crave change, but I’m not entirely graceful when it comes to the implementation. The transition, it seems, is not my strong suite.  When we adopted our dog Basil, I cried for a week.  He was perfectly lovely, I just needed to transition.  Same thing happened when we arrived in Paris.

Finding the balance was tough.  Because we’re not really on vacation, but we’re not really living real life, we had to really decide what this trip was supposed to be.  If we weren’t doing something that you’re “supposed” to do in Paris, I felt guilty for not taking advantage.  But if we were to spend the day at a museum, I felt guilty for the go, go , go because that wasn’t the point of coming here for so long.  I truly want to feel like I live here, for it to feel comfortable.

So, our first week has been spent just trying to figure it out.  We walk, a lot, picking a new direction everyday and just heading out.  Sometimes, we sit at a cafe for hours drinking wine and talking.  Or sometimes not talking because we’ve run out of things to say for the moment.   And then we walk.  We’re just breathing it all in. Paris is slowly unfurling for us and discovering it this way has been so rewarding. 

We’re finding new favorite restaurants and beautiful views.  Chris & I are realizing that we are not very good at relaxing, but we’re learning.   And it’s been wonderful.  So, first up, a few snaps from our walks through this stunning city…


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December 28, 2013 A Snapshot of London


London was the very first city I visited outside of the United States.  I was 12 and my grandmother took me for a little vacation.  We stayed at the InterContinental, there was a middle of the night fire alarm.  Gaga was mortified to be forced downstairs in her rollers, until a woman with the most amazing head of hair commented that she adored them.  I was too young to realize it, but the gorgeous woman was Diana Ross.   I don’t remember much else about London icon smile A Snapshot of London

Chris has been dying to visit, and I used the beautiful city as a bargaining chip for my five weeks in Paris.  It worked and was the loveliest opening act for this amazing trip.

We stayed in Notting Hill, at a simple little hotel, 10 Pembridge Gardens.  We did the touristy sites and splurged on Christmas tea at Brown’s Hotel.  We popped into pubs and sampled lots of the local brews, one of my favorites in Soho, The Crown and Churchill Arms in Notting Hill.  We spent our last morning wandering through Notting Hills markets and antique shop, highly recommended!

Because we were there over Christmas and Boxing Day, getting around the city and visiting almost anything was pretty tough.  If you’re thinking about going, know that the tube & all buses are completely shutdown for Christmas Day.  You can walk, take a cab (which was so incredibly expensive) or rent a bike (there are stands throughout the city.)  We didn’t do it, but apparently Addison Lee is a minicab company, running about half the cost of a black cab (I imagine it’s similar to an Uber.)  Most restaurants were closed, so we stuck to hotels that would be open for their guests and headed for an Indian restaurant for dinner.  Even though it was tough, it was oh so lovely.  The city is decorated so beautifully for the holidays, and you can feel the Christmas spirit in the air.  Not a bad place to be icon smile A Snapshot of London

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France 0001 Our Next Adventure: France

My grandfather always wanted to drive a Winnebago across the country.  Apparently it was something that he talked about a lot, even though I can’t even begin to imagine my grandparents rolling up to Yosemite in a motorized living room. It was  something that he had planned on doing when he retired, when there was time to do that kind of thing.  But he had a stroke at 64 and lived the rest of his years in a nursing home, confined to a bed.  Not that my grandfather didn’t have a million adventures, but I always found it so sad that this one went unrealized.  It always seems like there’s going to be time to do these things, no?  We work hard now, reap the benefits later.  But, as morbid as it sounds, we’re not guaranteed later.  So I plan to live, all out, now.

If we’ve ever met, you probably know that I have a special affinity for France.  The food, and the wine, and the language, and the culture.  It’s my place and I try to get there as often as I can.  My dream is to live there, but just picking up and heading out isn’t really an option, at least not now.  So, we’re going to go test it out.  We’re going to leisurely walk the streets and only eat one dinner a night because we don’t have to squeeze twelve restaurants that I’m dying to try into seven nights.  We’re going to relax, with no projects and no renovations.  We’re going to walk through the Louvre, and maybe not just hit the major attractions, maybe stroll to see it all.  We’re going to sit at cafes and maybe spend an entire afternoon with a cafe au lait.  We’re going to reset from one of our busiest years yet.  And we’re going to live.  Maybe it will get the living abroad bug out of my system.  Or maybe it will become more clear that we should figure out how to do it for real.  But I never want to regret waiting, I want the adventure.
There will be lots of pictures I’m sure, and I’ll be back with some pretty images of my place.  Can’t wait to share it with you!
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I know everyone says this, but time seems to have sped up recently.  It’s moving entirely too fast and I’m not sure where it’s going.  We’ve been renovating, a lot.  If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen a bit of it, but I guess that’s where the last few months have gone.  Drywall and plumbing and paint.  So many good things coming to the blog soon though!

reno 1 Lemonades Israeli Couscous

On to prettier, more delicious things!  If you live in the LA area, and haven’t been to Lemonade, you are seriously missing out.  They’ve created some of the best salads I’ve ever had and it’s my go to place for a quick lunch with girlfriends, or a healthy dinner with my husband.  There’s a brand new location going in just a few miles from my house, and I have never been more excited about a chain restaurant opening in my life.

lemonade Lemonades Israeli Couscous

But my friend Jordan posted a picture on Instagram that nearly turned my world upside down.  The creator of Lemonade wrote a COOKBOOK and all of my favorite recipes are included!   ALL.OF.THEM.  I ordered it immediately and flipped to the page that could change my life.  The Israeli Couscous page.  I always assumed this little pasta salad was made with little bits of magic. But it turns out to be simpler than I could have imagined and just as tasty coming from my own stove.  Seriously, I could eat this by the bucket.  Grab a ton of mushrooms and try for yourself!
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Lemonades’ Israeli Couscous

3/4 poud assorted wild mushrooms (crimini, shitake, oyster, etc) wiped of grit, stemmed & sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup Israeli couscous

1 cup vegetable broth or water

1/4 cup Lemon-Truffle vinaigrette

1/2 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the mushrooms on a large baking pan, dirzzle with the oil, toss to coat and spread out in a single layer.  Seasons generously with salt and pepper.  Roast, shaking the pan from tie to time, until the mushrooms lose thier moisture, shrink and begin to brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer the mushrooms to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.  The mushrooms can easily be prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated.

To prepare the couscous, place a large dry skillet over medium-low heat.  Toast the couscous, stirring frequently, until it smells nutty and is golden-brown, about 5 minutes.  Pour in the broth, cover and simmer until the couscous is just tender, 10 to 12 minutes.  Set the couscous aside to cool.  The couscous can easily be prepared in advance, covered and refrigerated.

When ready to prepare the dish, in a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked, cooled mushrooms, couscous, vinaigrette, cheese and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.


Lemon-Truflle Vinaigrette

Juice of 2 lemons

3/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon white truffle oil

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small mixing bowl or mason jar, combine the lemon juice, canola, olive and truffle oils; season with salt and pepper.  Whisk or shake to blend.  Keep any leftover vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Makes 1 cup

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September 17, 2013 The Elusive Cronut


The Cronut.  Dominique Ansel Bakery took NYC by storm in May and has since had the entire country in a tizzy for it’s delicious combination of fried & flaky dough.  The beautiful marriage of a croissant and a doughnut.  It is a blissful thing my friends.

When I was in NYC for work last month I decided that if I was up early, and had a few hours to kill, I might try to score myself a Cronut.  In all actuality I thought “it’s been months!   The line can’t be so bad anymore.  And it’s a Monday!  I’ll be in and out of there!”  Lies.  All lies.   The Cronut is only getting more popular all these months later and the 2+ hour wait is no joke.

You walk up to an adorable little bakery, and it doesn’t look so packed.  Until you look to your right and see the line snaking around the corner and down the street.  The bakery opens at 8, but people have been waiting since 6ish.   I arrived at 7:30, I was number 121 in line.  They make 300 Cronuts a day, and customers are allowed to purchase a maximum of 2, so I was golden!

Cronut 0004 The Elusive Cronut

Bring a book, watch people walk by, try not to feel ashamed when someone asks what you’re waiting for you and then they laugh when you tell them it’s pastry.   The wait isn’t all that bad when the line starts moving.   20ish customers are allowed into the store at a time, so the line moves, then stands, then moves again.

One thing I didn’t know, but wish I had known, Dominique Ansel only makes one flavor a month.  (If I’d diligently read the Cronut 101, I would know this, but I didn’t.)  There is no original.  There is no plain.  There is only the flavor of the month.  For August, that flavor was coconut.  I hate coconut.  But I’d already been in line for 30 minutes, so I decided to stick it out.  (For September, it’s Fig Mascarpone, and that sounds amazing!)

I got in, grabbed two Cronuts and a coffee and skipped out in utter glee!  There were about 20 Cronuts left when I headed out.  Kind of perfect timing.

They are pretty delicious.  Really soft on the inside, with a delicious coconut cream.  I know I said I hate coconut, but this was subtle enough to be amazing.  The icing on top is sweet, but with just a bit in each bite it’s perfect.  My only complaint is that they’re really hard.  The exterior is kind of tough and eating it was, well, less than graceful.

Am I happy to have done it?  Yes!  Would I do it again?  Absolutely not.  Two hours is a long time folks.

If you’re really dying for one, but not up for the challenge, you can always head over at about 8:10 am.  Someone will sell you theirs for $30.

Cronut 0001 The Elusive Cronut
Cronut 0002 The Elusive Cronut
Cronut 0003 The Elusive Cronut

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index Flipping Pages: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Hello and Happy Summer! Let’s celebrate by transporting to the 80′s in this newly-beloved YA novel about an unlikely pair of teens who fall in love for the very first time. If you loved John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, this one is for you. Rainbow Rowell’s prose is more realistic than Green’s witty froth (to be clear, I love a bit of wit, but I like her dose of reality much more). Of course, the Romeo & Juliet comparisons abound. We’ll never get enough of this story, will we? This take is so satisfying, though, that it feels like something new. Eleanor and Park aren’t your completely typical teens. They have some serious problems that are dealt with so beautifully. And since the book is set in the 80′s, their love is cultivated over comic books and mix tapes. I mean, come on.

I’d suggest making a playlist of The Smiths and a little Joy Division to listen to while reading to get the full effect. Happy Reading!

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