Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Willow Brook Road Book Review

I got another book off my reserve list unexpectedly.  It would be expected if I went back and checked the status but it seemed that all of the books were moving forward to put me at the top of the list at the same time.  Super excited to see Willow Brook Road (A Chesapeake Shores Novel) by Sherryl Woods because it was the newest installment of the Chesapeake Shores series which I finished awhile ago but really loved.

Spirited, spontaneous Carrie Winters has grown up under the watchful eyes of not only her grandfather Mick O'Brien, but the entire town of Chesapeake Shores. Now that she's home from Europe, a glamorous fashion career behind her and her heart broken, there seem to be far too many people watching to see if she'll live up to the expectations her family has for her. As if that weren't enough pressure, Carrie finds herself drawn to sexy, grief-stricken Sam Winslow, who is yearning for someone to help him raise the nephew who's unexpectedly come into his life after a tragedy. With her own life in turmoil, is Carrie really ready to take on a new career and a new man? Or is Sam exactly what she needs to create the strong, loving family she's always wanted?

It was exactly what I needed to read.  It was a lot like the other books in the series covering one of the family members in depth and meeting some new people to the town.  I really enjoyed getting to know Carrie more and meeting Sam for the first time.  The wonderful story of how Carrie was finding her way to making a new life was inspiring.  Many people have a career and decide that it isn't working for them but this showed the next step in the process on how she was rebuilding her life in her hometown.  In the process (of course), she finds love and happiness.  It was a great book with great writing and hope that you check it out too!!  Add it to your reading list and let me know what you think.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Menu Plan Monday 11/23

Monday- Tacos with saffron rice
Tuesday- Leftovers
Wednesday- Dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house (my parents)
Thursday- Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house
Friday- Dinner at my cousin's house
Saturday- Dinner either at cousin's or parents house
Sunday- Probably Pizza

We ended up having a different dinner on Sunday last week so we are going to carry our yummy tacos over to Monday night and we are going to be here there and everywhere for the holidays so I think we are going to do leftovers and then most of our meals are going to be out and about.  Hope you have a yummy week and a fabulous holiday!!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Knights Before Christmas Book Review

This book sounded too cute to pass up.  The Knights Before Christmas by Joan Holub was quickly received after I requested it and I was so excited to see what was inside.  I barely got to read it before my son said is that for me...."Ummm, sort of...sure.  Do you want to read it?" I said.  He said yes and immediately sat down to read this new book to his collection.

'Twas December 24th, and three brave knights were just settling in for the night when out on the drawbridge, there arose such a clatter! The knights try everything to get rid of this unknown invader (Santa Claus!), a red and white knight with a fleet of dragons . . .
But nothing would stop
their white-whiskered foe.
No matter their efforts,
he just would not go!

This parody of Clement Clarke Moore's well-known poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas is kid-friendly, clever, and just plain silly―sure to become a holiday classic of a different kind.

Super funny and entertaining books for kids and parents alike.  Mine read it and laughed out loud.  At first he didn't understand that it was a parody but he quickly caught on and found it even more funny.  As a parent, I thought it was nice to have something a little different to read during all of the Christmas stories.  The captions really add to the story to make it even more engaging for young readers.  I was also entertained by the Knights names which I am sure that the kids won't find as funny at first but they were super clever with Brave Knight, Polite Knight, and Silent Knight (my favorite).  On the tapestry in the castle, there was also Sir Knight Stand, Sir Dance-A-Lot, and Sir Knightie Knight.  I can't wait to read this again and again over the years because I think that there are more things that the kids will catch on to as they get older like the spearmint gum being used for spears to the castle.  I hope that you all check this out and see for yourself what a wonderful holiday classic this book is going to be for your family.

**I received a copy of the book for free for my review and honest opinions.  All opinions here are my own.

Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe

I have a huge binder that I keep a bunch of recipes in and I used to pull it out every time that I was baking.  Sadly, only half of the recipes that I had fit into it.  It was huge and overstuffed and barely fit on the shelf.  I got two different (and very pretty) Hallmark cookbooks for my wedding shower over 11 years ago so I decided that I would use one of them to put all of the recipes that I actually made over and over into.

Inside the new condensed cookbook, I don't have to ask myself... "Is this the oatmeal cookie recipe that I use or is this other one?"  Which usually got answered based on which ever one was dirtier or I had to call my mother.  Seeing that this wasn't the best method, I added recipes after they were made a few times to my cookbook which is on a stand in the kitchen.  It includes pumpkin bread, banana bread, applesauce bread, chocolate chip cookies and American Sandwich Bread (which I actually make without the recipe now because I do it so often).

Did you hear a recipe for sugar cookies in there?  Nope!!  I had to go to the basement (sadly where the cookbook is now that I don't have a wonderful bookcase in my kitchen like my old house) and find all of the sugar cookie recipes.  Then I had to figure out which one of them I used.

I knew it was one of the ones from my middle school home ec class (Thanks Mrs. Lucey) but I wasn't sure past that.  I looked at the ingredients.  I didn't have sour cream so that was out.  I didn't remember using confectioners sugar so that was out.  I went with Edith's Cookies... and no I don't know who that is but I remember it being in a paper that my teacher gave me and we made them.  I came home and saved it but rarely make it because I hate rolling out the cookie dough!!  Although the finished product is really good, I don't really have the patience for all that work but I needed cut out cookies for my class Halloween party so I set to work making them.

I pulled out the vegetable shortening, butter and coconut butter to mix to get the needed fat in the recipe with 1/4 cup yet.

I mixed the butters and shortening with the sugar.  I added in the eggs and vanilla.

 I added the flour, baking powder and salt into the mixture to add the wet to the dry ingredients.

It quickly mixed in to make a great dough.

I scraped the bowl and put the dough in a big ball and put it in the fridge.  It needed to be a little bit of time in the fridge so I left to get my son at school while it cooled.

 I put the dough on a floured surface.  I used the rolling pin to roll the dough out.  I cut out the round cookies to make cookies to decorate.  The great news is that it was still easy to re-roll the dough when there were leftovers even though I am sure that I should have chilled them again.

I got lots of round cookies which were nice and crispy but barely brown.

 Then, we got to decorate them with icing and lots of toppings.  These were the ones that I made at home.  My son and I enjoyed them with icing and my husband enjoyed them plain.  They weren't very sugary but they were an interesting treat more like a shortbread cookie.  I can't wait to make them again with sugar crystals on them before they are baked.  That is my favorite way to make them because it is easiest to make and still yummy to eat.

They were super tasty and we really enjoyed them and I hope that you will to.  They are great for any holiday or occassion.  I hope that you make them and enjoy them as much as we did.

Edith's Sugar Cookie Cut Outs

3/4 c. Part Butter and Shortening
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. lemon extract or 1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Mix shortening, butter, sugar, eggs and extract together until creamed.  Add dry ingredients, flour, baking powder and salt and mix until combined. Chill for at least 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness on floured surface with floured rolling pin.  Cut with a 3 inch cookie cutter and place on ungreased cookie sheet or silpat.  Bake 6-8 minutes or until very lightly brown on the edge of the cookies.   Decorate or Eat Plain.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Things that I Do to Save Money and Stretch those Groceries

This week of saving started off really slowly.  I had a busy end of the week so I didn't get a lot done at home but I got really busy over the weekend trying to get everything done before the work week started.  I was hoping to make some breakfast food for the week but it didn't happen over the week.

I also finally made the big jump and went out and bought a new car.  I don't have it yet and although this is a lot of money, it still is a little bit thrifty because my 12 year old car needed a lot of expense work done to it to keep it running.  I know that it doesn't seem like a thrifty or frugal decision but the expenses were at the point that it was going to cost more then the car.  I even had coupons but I passed on the repairs and decided to finally move forward with a new car so I hope to get in the next few weeks!!!  Cross your fingers and send good thoughts my way.

1. Froze the Remaining Raspberries:

Sad fact and why I never buy raspberries is because they go bad so quickly.  It makes me so sad and I really should remember this but I laid out some of them so that they could freeze.  Many were already yucky so they ended up in the trash.

2. Made Lemon Blueberry Raspberry Scones:

I used the rest of the smooshy raspberries and frozen blueberries to make these Greek Yogurt Scones.

3. Made Loaf of American Sandwich Bread:

I made a loaf last week that lasted a really long time.  I took out the bread before the time on the bread machine.  I find that 9 minutes early is the best for the bread to be finished.  I ended up taking out the bread 15 minutes early and I thought that it was undercooked but it turned out perfectly.  The loaf was really soft and we ate the whole loaf from one end to the other which lasted through the whole week.  I made another one on Sunday for the coming week.

4. Made Popcorn:

I make so much popcorn that it tends to blur together but we ate a lot of popcorn this week between my son and myself.  My husband even washed out the popcorn pot so that I can make more next week.

5. Made Iced Tea:

Love my tea and couldn't live without it.  I make a pitcher everyday and bring two containers and my cup to work.  I make sure that I never go without my tea :)

6. Went to Library to get Books:

I went to the library early on and got books for myself since I was down to the last few books in my reading pile.  Then I went to the library and picked up more books for my son including some reserved stuff.  We have both already read some of them and returned them.

7. Got Papers:

I went to the library on Saturday morning since I didn't get to go on Friday.  I am going to take the pile to my son's school because the teacher needs them for a turkey craft so these will help stuff some turkeys.

8. Got Coupons:

I got about 21 inserts of two different ones for this week.  I sadly haven't cut last weeks coupons so I now have a pile of things to take care of!!   I also got the coupons from my free paper that is delivered to my driveway (those are the two on the right).

9.  Dinners at Home:

We had all of our dinners at the house except one meal that we went to a friends house where we had pizza there (they paid) and then they came the next night to visit our house.  I made lots of yummy dinners which I had all of the food already in the house.  I also worked on getting the plan together for next week of all of our meals.

10. Lunches from Home:

We made lunches and brought them with us to work and school and wherever we were going.  However, we did have a little splurge on Chinese food when my cousin was here because she loves it.  I didn't want her to go home without having her favorite Crispy Shredded Beef from our favorite restaurant even though we had it last week with my mother in law (also her favorite place).  The great news is that we used our rebate credit card so that we didn't spend any money out of our pocket.

11. Made Chocolate Chip Cookies:

I used up all the chocolate chips in the house to make the last batch of chocolate chip cookies but they were really yummy and hit the spot.  I made a few with M&Ms on top for my son.  He enjoyed the special cookies.  We also had a special visitor who really enjoyed them too.

 12. Made Buttery Yeast Rolls:

I made these yummy rolls which I made the other week for Thanksgiving dinner for the dinner that we had friends over for.  It was another yummy treat and these cooked up wonderfully.  These were my leftovers so that I have them for later in the week to add to our meals.  I think that these might be my new favorite.  I wonder if I could make some to freeze and then set them out to thaw and bake.  So tasty!!!

13. Downloaded My Son's School Pictures:

We bought a package that included a download of six different backgrounds.  I wasn't sure if I was going to keep the pictures or send them back for retake day.  I decided that even though it wasn't the best picture that it could be, it wasn't a bad picture.  When you tell my son to smile, he has a weird grin (which I know that most kids do at a young age) and I think that the photograph kind of captures that so I guess we will have a memory of exactly the little man we remember for years to come.  What do you think??  Did I make the right decision?  The best thing about this is that I can use the free prints at Walgreens to get a big picture to frame since the package is twice the price to get a big print.  This way, my whole family gets their prints on their accounts for free.

14. Made Chicken Broth:

I decided that while I was home cooking the chicken for 90 minutes, I might as well start the chicken broth with the things from the freezer.  I think that it is way easier then using the chicken after dinner so I will save the chicken from this week to make next time.  Super easy and I double strain to get everything out and the broth is ready to use.

Did you do anything frugal that saved you a little money this week?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Book Review

I was on the library website searching for new books to read when I found a list of new releases. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō jumped out at me even though I knew nothing about it.  I guess I was one of the only ones since they said right on the cover that there are millions of people who have bought the book.

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?  Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).  With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

She suggests starting with clothes, papers, books, and ending with more personal items like photos and letters.  Getting into the habit early with the easier stuff that we might have less attachment to.  She wants the people to take all of the items out of the house where they are currently kept and put them on the floor.  Although this makes sense for a single person living by themselves, it makes a lot less sense for someone who has so much stuff and isn't going to finish in a day while the rest of the family is away from the house.  It is an interesting book with good ideas on how to get you started but many of her concepts apply to Japanese households and are less applicable to American households.  I have never wanted to make a shrine or carry around things from shrines but she suggests making them on the top of your dresses which he has put in the closet after her decluttering.  I am by no means an expert like she obviously is but this is a lot more of the minimalist ideals then tidying or decluttering.  That being said, I didn't put down the book to take all my clothes out and see what makes me happy because for the most part, none of them do but they are things that I wear so that I am clothed and dressed appropriately for the occasion- work clothes for work and home clothes for home.  I don't have an unhealthy obsession with handbags (which it sounds like she might) but I do have a lot of junk.  The worst part is that it says that you have to deal with only your own things which makes me wonder how that helps organize things because at least 1/3 of the things in the house is my husbands and 1/3 for my son's.  There is no magic suggestion on actually getting a family on board with this plan or how you can get family house cleaned and organized except to say that they will follow once you start.  I don't think that they have meet my family because my husband and son would say thanks for cleaning up so that I have more room for my stuff.  I hope that you check this book out at your local library or bookstore and let me know if you think that this works in other countries.  I know that you will enjoy the wonderful ideas she shares but I want to know if you can put it into practice (Ann that means you need to read this and tell me what you think!!).

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wildest Dreams Book Review

I was interested in reading all of the new books that were coming out so I put a ton of books on the reserve list at the library.  Most of them came in at the same time so I was trying to read all of the books with all of the books that I was supposed to be reviewing.  The Wildest Dreams (Thunder Point) by Robyn Carr was the next in my pile from the library from reserve so I was going to get it done before it was due back to the library.  I was on a race against time with no renewals :)

Blake Smiley searched the country for just the right place to call home. The professional triathlete has traveled the world, but Thunder Point has what he needs to put down the roots he's never had. In the quiet coastal town, he can focus on his training without distractions. Until he meets his new neighbors and everything changes.

Lin Su Simmons and her teenage son, Charlie, are fixtures at Winnie Banks's house as Lin Su nurses Winnie through the realities of ALS. A single mother, Lin Su is proud of taking charge and never showing weakness. But she has her hands full coping with a job, debt and Charlie's health issues. And Charlie is asking questions about his family history—questions she doesn't want to answer.

When Charlie enlists Blake's help to escape his overprotective mother, Lin Su resents the interference in her life. But Blake is certain he can break through her barriers and be the man she and Charlie need. When faced with a terrible situation, Blake comes to the rescue, and Lin Su realizes he just might be the man of her dreams. Together, they recognize that family is who you choose it to be.

It was as great as all the other books in the series have been with a wonderful story getting more into the life of one of the characters that we have known for a little bit only as Winnie's nurse.  It was great to see her stubborn side and find out what happens when she is pushed to accept "charity."  She leaves the horrible neighborhood that she has been living in and moves to a nice small apartment in Thunder Point.  Her whole life starts to turn around and become so much happier until she has a fight with her son about living the past alone.  You have to pick up the book to find out what happens but it is sure to leave you surprised.  I hope that you check out this book and others in the series. It is a wonderful series with great characters and even better writing.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.