Don’t Judge a Book by Its Genre: Eleanor & Park Review

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell was the first book I completed after graduating from UCLA. It was exactly the kind of book I needed to read post-degree. It was fun, tragic, hopeful, and real.

It’s considered a Young-Adult novel and, I’m not going to lie, I was a bit apprehensive about reading it. I feel like there are many people who look down on YA novels. At one point, I was one of them. However, after binging on Eleanor & Park I was struck by guilt. How dare I judge a book based on where it is located within a bookstore. Have I, like many others, not fallen head over heals for Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree? Pssst…it’s considered a Children’s Book. Have I not obsessed over the Harry Potter series? I remember seeing copies of the novels in the Scholastic book catalog I used to receive in grade school. Because I earned a degree in English, all of a sudden I was too good to read a novel with a bright, fun book jacket? I’m happy that I looked past my narrow-mindedness and cracked this story open.

Simply put, Eleanor & Park is about a boy and girl who meet in high school. The girl is severely bullied; the boy is severely independent (although he admittedly cares a little about what people think of him). They first meet each other on the school bus. He doesn’t want anything to do with her but in an attempt to keep her head down and avoid further rejection she takes a seat beside him. Neither of them are happy about the arrangement but it is on this shared bus seat that their tale begins.

I’m not going into more detail about plot only because I hope you will go out and experience this book for yourself. Yes, not just read it but experience it.

The characters are so well written and well rounded. They could easily be friends of yours. If you don’t see yourself in these characters then you’ll see someone you know within them. Personally, an aspect of myself is in every page of this book, which is probably why I love it so dearly. The situations the characters find themselves in are incredibly true to life. The plot isn’t the only wow-factor that emerges from the pages; Rowell’s writing style is genius too. She goes back and forth between Eleanor’s point of view and then Park’s. It’s this type of seesaw that builds excitement, anticipation, and even a bit of anxiety within the reader. “If only he/she knew…” often popped into my head. The chapters are short: some are mere sentences while others are a few pages long. It’s the perfect book for the reader who hates cutting their reading off mid-chapter or the reader who finds themselves flipping through the pages thinking, “When is this chapter over?” Even though I love reading, I love short chapters more. I don’t have a complaint or criticism of the book…except maybe one…but we can talk about it after you’ve read the book for yourself.

So, please, if you’re a lover of the written word, if you ache for stories that are real, go out now and buy the book. Fall in love with Eleanor & Park.


What’s your favorite YA book?

Not Your Grandma’s Bread Pudding: B Sweet Review

When I dine with other people, I like to let them choose where we go. You never know when your friend is going to pull out a culinary gem from their back pocket…it also doesn’t hurt that I’m incredibly indecisive and having them decide spares me of the anxiety attack that accompanies choosing.

Last week, my friend and I were trying to plan our Friday night outing. She picked the dinner spot and suggested a dessert place in LA. She texted me and asked if I like bread pudding. I automatically thought: YES (my pumpkin/chocolate chip bread pudding is pretty killer)! As soon as I responded, I wanted to take it back. The bread pudding I’ve been exposed to (if not made by my own hand) usually involves raisins. Why do all “classic” desserts call for raisins? Were their designers merely trying to rid their pantries of these shriveled monsters?

Anyways, before I could go into my long(er) rant about raisins, my friend cut me off and said, “Nah girl, I’m not talking about old people bread pudding.” Her suggested dessert location, B Sweet, was later described as “BOMBBBB.” You know it’s serious when your friend uses all caps.

Friday night rolled around and we made our way to the Sawtelle neighborhood on the other side of the 405. Traffic was non-existent at 10 pm. We braced ourselves for the headache known as LA parking but we were pleasantly surprised when we were able to snag a prime spot with no effort and without having to go through any of the stages of LA-parking grief. As we made our way to the dessert bar, my friend warned the group: It’s going to be crowded. However, when we walked through the welcoming glass door, below a beautifully lit sign, we were the only ones in the place. I thought this ominous at first but my fear quickly turned to thanksgiving when we approached the “register” (aka iPad) and asked for samples. The woman helping us was very kind and patient even as we tried multiple flavors (Glazed Donut, Cookies and Cream, and Birthday Cake) while the non-existent line behind us quickly escalated to overflowing out the door.

The samples themselves were thoughtful and delicious. Each morsel, handed over in a sample cup, was dressed with its corresponding sauce. They WANT you to have the whole experience in one bite. It’s rare to see such attention to detail, especially in such a busy place.

"Being Bad"...but was it bad?!
“Being Bad”…but was it bad?!

While my husband was falling fast for the glazed donut, we ultimately decided on sharing the Birthday Cake flavor topped with a scoop of ice cream. We were presented with two sizes: “Being Good” and “Being Bad”. Now, in our defense, the empty “Being Good” container looked as if it held barely enough to satisfy a small child, so we opted for the “Being Bad”. Our eyes were the size of saucers when we were presented with our overflowing treat topped with confetti sprinkles…much larger than the empty container appeared. Oh yeah, we were definitely “Being Bad”.

The shop had become almost uncomfortably full between the time it took us to order and when we were handed the mountain of bread pudding goodness. Rather than stand at the adorable bar at the front of the shop (ideal for people-watchers), we opted to take a seat out front on the crate furniture, which kept in tune with the bits of charming industrial décor from the interior. It was here that we enjoyed the night air (still warm at 10:30 pm…thanks, SoCal) and our take out container of sweetness.

Sure, we were “Being Bad” in terms of size but it tasted oh-so-good! There was the perfect ratio of ice cream to bread pudding. The bread pudding wasn’t piping hot and it wasn’t cold and mushy. It was the perfect warmth with the perfect amount of moisture. It also didn’t sit heavy in our stomachs, surprisingly. It was dense, yet refreshing. We nearly finished the whole container. It was so good that I felt bad not being able to finish the last couple of bites, knowing I’d regret it later.

All in all, the bread pudding was delicious and definitely not reminiscent of “old people”, although there are flavors in-house for anyone of any age. The fun, new spin on this classic dessert fits in perfectly with the vibrant neighborhood in which it resides. Do yourself a favor and head over to B Sweet NOW (or maybe when traffic dies down a bit)!


What’s your favorite dessert spot?

One Week Down…

I went to a retreat in February, atop a mountain, disconnected from the “real” world. When I left, I felt certain of the path my career needed to take. First step: blog. There would be no more uncertainty; it was now or…NOW. Since then, there has been an incredible amount of work that has gone into setting up the website, creating original material, and trying to figure out how to mirror who I am in website code.

After we launched on Tuesday, my husband took me out to a celebratory dinner. It was here that I finally sat, took a breath, and thought: It is done.

Peek-a-Boo, I’m going to write about you!

I reflected back and looked at this tangible thing that took months of work and it occurred to me that this launch wasn’t birthed on that mountain. It was not months in the making. Nay, it was birthed within a curly haired girl from The Valley whose nose was perpetually always in a book. A girl who couldn’t stop writing. This launch was years in the making.

So, my dear reader, thank you for checking out the site. Thank you for staying.

What projects are you tirelessly working on?

Structured Chill

To say that I love writing is an understatement. Before this website was launched I had an on-again-off-again flirtatious relationship with the idea of starting a blog. Overly complicated, I know. I was always too scared to take it beyond the dreamy idea stage. About five years ago, a small group of us used to have weekly “family” dinners. From this came the idea: “We should start a blog that showcases our recipes!” but that’s where the idea stopped.

A couple of years later, my husband suggested we start one. He could write about things he was interested in (bikes, meat, beards?) and I could write about whatever I wanted. Well, I wasn’t going to let this blog go so I jumped on board, grabbed hold of the steering wheel, and slammed my foot down on the accelerator. I began talking about blog plans, schedules, and meetings. My husband went wide-eyed and never mentioned the ill-fated blog again.

During the development stage of, I decided I wanted the tone for the blog to be chill. Like, emoji-with-dark-glasses-and-sly-smile kind of chill. My husband kindly reminded me of the blog he wanted to start years prior and about how that was the tone he was going for.

Paperwork to help keep the chill blog organized. paperwork = love
Paperwork to help keep the chill blog organized. paperwork = love

Me: Well, then why didn’t we do it?!

Hubs: Because you started talking about schedules and plans. I wanted it to be chill and you wanted it to be structured.

A-ha! So THAT’s why we never took the world by storm with our husband-wife beard, burger, bike, book blog!

I couldn’t miss the chance to correct him: “I was going for structured chill.”

The seriousness of my tone and the seriousness that I wore on my face made him laugh. Reflecting on my seemingly innocent remark, I am ready to stand up (figuratively) and say: My name is Ida R. Jardines and I love the idea of “chill” with a heaping side of structure. I am structurally chill. Structurally chill? What does that even look like? Monica Gellar. Rachel Berry. Angela Martin. Just Kidding, Angela was all structure and no chill.

I’m like this in a lot of areas in my life. I remember on my wedding day, during a series of photos I was taking with my mother, she leaned over and planted a sweet, gentle kiss on my cheek. My response? Take a look at the picture above.

Glossy Lips + Wedding Make-Up = All Structure and No Chill

<sorry Mom>

Finding myself on the other half of my 20s, I’m finally embracing my quirks…structure and all…without excuses, without pretending I don’t like schedules, meetings, and all that stuff that others find boring. Sure, I like structure but I can be emoji-chill too. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since the classic wedding picture. I hope you, too, are embracing your quirks regardless of where you are in life. So, think of me as you kick off your shoes and leave them where they land; as you pop the cap off of that ice cold ginger beer and take a sip…but don’t forget the coaster!


What quirks have you learned to love and embrace?