book · reviews

We Were Mothers: A Novel– Book Review

We Were Mothers: A Novel by [Sise, Katie]I  recently finished reading the book We Were Mothers: A Novel, By Katie Sise.

What you see on the outside isn’t always the whole truth! Cora seemed to have the perfect life. Married to Sam and mother of twin two year olds, Cora’s life was about making everyone else happy. But, was she?

On the day of her twins birthday, Cora’s life was turned upside down. Cora finds a journal in her bedroom that will shake her world, but that isn’t the biggest revelation in the story. The information in this book is just the start of the ball of yarn unraveling. Cora, her family and friends will soon find that nothing is as it seems, and may never have been!

I really enjoyed this story. I do not want to put much more information into this review as you need to read the book and watch the truth come to life through the eyes of the characters. This is an intense suspense novel that shows that not everything is at it seems.

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food · reviews

Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles

After I made the oatmeal pumpkin spice cookies, I decided I needed to try pumpkin spice snickerdoodles. Come on, who doesn’t love a good snickerdoodle cookie? They are buttery and tasty.

Well this weekend I decided it was time to try out this theory. I looked up a snickerdoodle reicpe and then tweaked it with pumpkin spice. I have a recipe I normally use, but decided to just find one quickly online.

I decided to bake bar cookies instead of cookies. This gives it more butter flavor and is also faster because it is all one 9×13 pan

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Pumpkin Spice Snickerdoodles Bars

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, plus 1 yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground pumpkin spice
  • 2 3/4 cup flour

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Spray a 9×13 pan
  3. Cream the butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar together
  4. Add in the egg, the yolk, vanilla, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and pumpkin spice and mix for 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Turn mixer to low and add in flour, mixing until just combined.
  6. Turn mixture into the 9×13 pan and spread it out
  7. top with sugar/pumpkin spice mixture
  8. bake for 20-25 min
  9. allow to cool completely before cutting
  10. ENJOY

Richard and I both brought these to work. They were a big hit. I really enjoyed the fact that the pumpkin spice was added to the actual cookie and not just as a topping in this recipe. It made it less buttery, but the spice carried through the whole cookie. I’m not sure they tasted like snickerdoodles due to this change, but it still was tasty.

 

book · reviews

The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel

I just completed reading my next book. This book was a SLOWWW read. I’m not sure if it was because of the book or because I was reading it at the beginning of the school year or a combination of both, but I felt like it took me forever to finish the book this time.

The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel by Elizabeth J Church begins during WWII when Meridian Wallace is a 17 year old college student studying ornithology at the University of Chicago. There the innocent Meridian meets 2 men who are as opposite as opposite can be. In the end, she falls for Alden, a physics professor. Alden sweeps Meridian off her feet by opening her eyes to the world of words and knowledge.

Meridian is hesitant to give up her schooling, but wants to be with Alden who is now working for the government in Los Alamos, NM. Life in Los Alamos is very different from the world Meridian knows in Chicago , but she find that even in Los Alamos she can follow and learn more about her precious crows.

It is in her studying of her crows that Meridian’s life takes another turn. Here she meets Clay. Clay offers Meridian the type of relationship she no longer has, or actually never had with her husband.

Meridian spends life wishing she has more. Wishing she was more. But, in the end she is who she is, and that can never change.

Read about life in the US changes from the 1940s to the 1970s. Live life with Meridian and think about what choices you would have made in her shoes. Would you give up your dreams for Alden. Would you leave Alden for Clay? Follow Meridian as she negotiates the changing rolls of women in the country.

I did like this book. I mean I finished the whole thing. There was a lot to think about and a lot of incite into how different life was in that time. How much life changed in a few decades and the views of love, life and respect changed over time. I guess it would be a 3.5 out of 5 star book for me. I won’t tell you “run our right now and get this book” but I would tell you that it is a good read. I think you have to go into it looking for an impression of life in that time and you will enjoy the book more.

 

family · food · reviews

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Cookies

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This weekend my school held their fall festival. This was an opportunity for the children to show off their classrooms, play games and play in the bounce house. We also had the book fair open and were selling items at a bake sale. All the staff members were asked to bake items to sell at the bake sale. So, I got thinking… what am I going to make.

I decided to bake two different cookies. First I baked S’more cookies, and messed up the recipe. It turned out ok, but would have been better if I followed ALL the steps.

The second kind I decided to bake at pumpkin spice oatmeal cookies. I figure, oh everyone is head over heals for pumpkin spice these will sell like hotcakes. Well they didn’t, but I don’t care they still tasted really good (and I am not a huge pumpkin spice person).

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal cookies. (edited from Food Fanatic)

  • 1 cup Butter, Softened
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 2 tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F, line your baking sheets
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Scrape down the bowl, and mix in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla
  4. Add the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, pumpkin spice and oats). into the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.
  5. Scoop out dough with a large cookie scoop and place on the lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown, its okay if the middles look slightly undercooked, they will finish cooking on the pan as they cool.
  7. Allow to set for 4-5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. 2018-10-08 14.08.42

These cookies were REALLY tasty. They were not dry in the least. Colby took home some of the extras from the bake sale and they were sticking together. Colby was hesitant to try it at first and then loved them. I think he took home 4 bags from the bake sale. I guess I will have to bake these again. I bet they would be very tasty if you used apple pie spice in lieu of the pumpkin pie spice. I have more pumpkin pie spice now I want to make snickerdoodles with the pumpkin pie spice… yummy!

book · reviews

The Bette Davis Club– book review

I know it has been forever since I wrote a book review. At the end of the summer, I was plowing through a book series that I was picking up from the library.

After we dropped off our last set of books to the library, I dove back into my kindle reading list. The book I choose to read was The Bette Davis Club, by Jane Lotter.

The Bette Davis Club

Margo Just traveled to CA for her niece’s wedding. She didn’t really want to go, but since her half-sister Charlotte was footing the bill, Margo decided to consider it a vacation. When Georgia, Margo’s niece, runs away on her wedding day everything begins to take a very interesting turn of events. Charlotte offers to pay Margo to go find Georgia and a “few things” that Georgia took from the house as well. Here’s the kicker, Charlotte will allow Margo to take their father’s 55 MG, but the would be groom has to drive.

Margo and Tully, the would be groom, travel from CA in search of Georgia and manage to meet a variety of unique characters along the way.

Through the story the author weaves in a multitude of Margo’s back story. How she moved to England, the relationship between herself and her father, her one love (or so she thought) Finn, and so much more that makes Margo…. Margo.

Will they find Georgia? Will anyone find happiness? Can Charlotte and Margo mend the fences that came about in their youth? Will Margo learn to love and come to some type of peace with her past?

 

I did enjoy this book and found it a good read. It wasn’t super deep and while there were a few twists and turns it was not a “OMG I can’t put this book down” type of book in any way shape or form. The relationships were a bit weak, but worth reading about. I am glad I read the book, if only to have read the touching forward written by the author’s daughter. You see this book was actually published after Jane Lotter passed away. She never saw her dream of publishing come to completion, but it was. We can only hope that she is able to rest in peace knowing that many readers are picking up and reading “The Bette Davis Club.”

food · reviews · through my camera lens

chicken salsa

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Chicken salsa is a recipe I created years ago. It started as a quick recipe of just chopping chicken up, popping it into a skillet. After the chicken cooks a bit, I would add in salsa and let it finish cooking. Then I would put it on top of couscous and top it with cheese.

Over time I’ve made this in the crock pot or even in the pressure cooker.  With both of these cooking methods I would just cut the chicken into bite size pieces and put the salsa in to start. When you do it in the pressure cooker, it makes it more like shredded chicken which is perfect for nachos!

Well, since we have been working on adding more veggies into our meals I decided to revamp salsa chicken.

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Salsa chicken

  • 1 package of chicken thighs
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cubanelle peppers
  • 3/4 stocks of celery
  • salsa
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • chili powder
  • S&P
  1. put pressure cooker on high
  2. trim up chicken thighs, add to crock pot
  3. dice up onion, peppers and celery, add to crock pot
  4. add spices to your taste preferences
  5. add 1/2 jar of salsa
  6. put the lid on and cook for 3-4 hour on high

I served it over farro as well as couscous to serve this over. Colby added cheddar cheese to his chicken salsa. We ate the WHOLE crock pot worth of chicken salsa. We did have farro and couscous leftovers, but I’ll take that. I enjoyed the increase of veggies and felt it added to the taste as well as the health levels.

 

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Mixed Berry Sauce

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Colby had requested pancake for dinner tonight. So we had pancakes and bacon for dinner. While I do get one cheat day/meal a week I decided I wanted to have a slightly healthy addition to our pancakes.

While Richard made the bacon, I whipped up our favorite homemade pancakes. Here is the link to the pancake mix we use.

I also made a batch of mixed berry sauce. I have frozen mixed berries for my smoothies, this bag was strawberry, blueberry and raspberry,

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I used the berries as a topping on my pancakes as well as topping a dish of vanilla yogurt. Since I did not add any sugar to this mixture the sweetness totally came from the berries.

Mix Berry Sauce

  • 2 c. mixed berries
  • 1 lemon
  1. put berries into the sauce pan over high
  2. zest and juice the lemon adding both to the pan
  3. once it comes to a boil, reduce the head to low and let the mixture simmer
  4. stir to assist in the breaking down of the berries
  5. remove from the heat and let cool
  6. serve over pancakes, yogurt, ice cream… whatever you want/need a berry sauce

This batch had a strong raspberry flavor, but it was very tasty. I am planning to make a batch of just strawberry, and then experiment with a peach sauce since I have frozen peaches too. I really liked this over the yogurt and the fact that I can control the amount and quality of berries added to my yogurt!

 

food · reviews

Lemon or Lime cookies

So Richard had a bbq to go to after work today, I decided to bake cookies for him to take. Shocked? Yeah I’m sure his co-workers won’t be shocked either. Oh well, at least I’m predictable in a tasty way?

So I was originally going to make a make your own oreo recipe, but decided I didn’t want to deal with rolling out and cutting cookies. I had gone to the grocery store and picked up some lemons and limes. I decided to make lemon and/or lime cookies. I went searching on the web and stumbled across a recipe for Lemon Chewy Crisps.

Lemon or Lime Chewy Crisps Cookies (adapted from allrecipes)

  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • zest of a lemon (or two limes)
  • juice of a lemon (or two limes)
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  1. preheat oven to 350
  2. cream butter and sugar
  3. incorporate egg, zest, juice, vanilla, baking powder and baking soda until blended
  4. add flour until just mixed
  5. scoop onto cookie sheet
  6. bake 10-12 min until edges start to brown
  7. let cool 1 min on sheet then remove to cooling rack

I made one batch of lemon and one batch of lime. I got about 22 cookies in each batch. While the color of the cookies were pretty much the same (oops guess I should have added a drop or two of food coloring), that is where the sameness ended. The lemon (right picture) ones didn’t spread much at all and ended up with a crinkled top. The lime (right picture) ones spread out more and had a smooth top. The lemon flavor was barely there just a hint of lemon to be found. The lime ones had a much stronger flavor.

I said to Richard “Now I need to go get an orange and try it with orange.”

I may try them again, we will see. I might have to search for a different recipe. I wanted something more crispy and these were certainly a chewy cookie.

 

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Chicken thighs with sweet potatoes and apples

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I had chicken thighs and sweet potatoes to have for dinner last night. Originally I was going to grill them both, but then it decided to pour when I would have to heat the grill and get things started.

This prompted me to switch gears.  Ok… turn on the oven!

This was a toss together meal, so that means I don’t have any exact measurements, but hey winging it is not a bad thing!

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Chicken Thighs with sweet potatoes and apples

  • chicken thighs- trim off the fat
  • 2 apples sliced
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes sliced
  • cinnamon
  •  nutmeg
  • cumin
  • S & P
  • EVOO
  1. preheat oven to 400
  2. pour a bit of EVOO on a sheet pan
  3. placed sliced sweet potatoes and apples on the cookie sheet
  4. sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper over the whole layer
  5. placed cleaned chicken on top of sweet potatoes and apples
  6. sprinkle cumin, salt and pepper over chicken
  7. top with aluminium foil and bake for 15 min
  8. remove foil, increase oven temp to 425 and cook for an additional 10-15 min or until chicken is cooked thoroughly

I did enjoy this a lot. I probably put more EVOO than needed. Next time, I may just spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray instead of pouring the EVOO on it. It didn’t taste greasy, but there was just a lot of grease/oil on the bottom of the pan when it was all said and done.

The boys both enjoyed the chicken and ate 2 or 3 thighs each. They were not fans of the apples or sweet potatoes, but that didn’t shock me since they don’t really like cooked veggies at all.

Richard did not like the apples but did enjoy the sweet potato and chicken.

I found that if you got a bite with a bit of everything it tasted really good. Next time, I will make it with just the sweet potatoes and skip the apples. But it was a tasty and healthy meal!

book · reviews

Beautiful Exiles

I know it has been forever since I did a book review! I have been reading a lot of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Series. I am also almost done reading young adult series, by Kiera Cass, which started with Selection.

Last week I finished my library books early so I had a lot of time to devote to a story I’ve been reading on my Kindle, Beautiful Exiles by Meg Write Clayton.

Beautiful Exiles tells the story of Martha Gellhorn who is a headstrong, independent, journalist in a time where most people felt that women needed to be in the house not on the battlefield.

In 1936, Martha along with her mother and brother go to Key West for the holidays. There they meet Ernest Hemmingway. Martha is awestruck as she views Hemmingway as a journalist to model herself after.

Hemmingway, married at the time to his second wife, finds the company of Martha quite enjoyable. He woos her with his words and the prospect of travels to war torn places. Hemmingway states that the best love stories are written against the fury of war.

Both Hemmingway and Gellhorn travel to Spain to cover the beginning steps of World War II. There Gellhorn falls deeper in love with both Hemmingway and the nature of being a war journalist.

The book follows them through their relationship right up until Hemmingway’s death. They have a very turbulent relationship in all aspects. While the book tells about their relationship it is far from a love story. This book touches on all aspects of life… the good, the bad and the ugly. It is told from the perspective of Gellhorn and is a great way to show how even when it is enough, it isn’t enough. She was a strong female who stood up for what she believed in. She struggled to find balance between her dreams and goals and being the wife the Hemmingway expected her to be.

This is one of those books that I wouldn’t read again. It’s not a book that I’m going to say… go out and get this book now! But, I didn’t put it down either. I didn’t delete it. It was a good book. It was informative. It told a lot about life in the world during the pre-WWII era.

I will admit that I’ve never read anything written by Hemmingway. I never heard of Gellhorn before reading this book. But I did find them both to be intriguing.