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.”

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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.

 

food · life · reviews · through my camera lens

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza

Yesterday we decided to go out to eat for dinner. We had a few other errands to run including picking up weights. We now have a complete set of dumbbells from 5lb to 50lb.

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We decided to try a new pizza place, so we went to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in Cranberry PA. We looked at the menu on-line and decided it was worth trying out. We decided to get 4 large meatballs with ricotta cheese, a small mozzarella and tomato salad and then a large pizza that was half cheese/half bacon.

The meatballs were really good. The sauce was really fresh and the ricotta was really smooth. Colby enjoyed the sauce to much he scrapped it off his plate and then off Richard’s plate. He also ate his whole meatball and part of mine.

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While were eating these we over heard the manager talking to another table. He said that everything was fresh made. They do not have a microwave or a freezer on site. The tomatoes and mozzarella with basil were super fresh and tasty. This is one of my favorite “salads” to get at Italian places. The basil was a bit strong and there was a LOT of it so I pushed off a bit when I at the second slice.

It took a bit for the pizza to arrive. The sauce on the pizza was homemade as well, you could see the bits of tomato in the sauce itself. The bacon side was COVERED in bacon. there seemed to be a combination of slab and thick cut bacon on the top. Colby was in bacon pizza heaven.

The crust was thin which then made it crisp. I only had a cheese slice, but it was nicely balanced and very tasty! We will certainly be going back to Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza to have more. If it’s up to Colby we will buy their pot of meatballs (13 meatballs and you get to keep the pot).

reviews

Dos and Rage– card game reviews

I’m always on the hunt for new games to play.  Many nights we play a game together as a family before the boys go to bed. We have done this since they were little. We have a large selection of games. We play board games, card games, new game, old games and pretty much any game we have.

We really enjoy card games especially on nights that we do not have as much time to play. There is typically very little set up and not a huge learning curve.

I recently purchased two new card games…. Rage and Dos.

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We played Dos first. This is the squeal to Uno. We struggled with this game a bit as the directions seemed to be missing a few key pieces. We ended up pulling up a few you tube videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq1VgsYLFxQ) and that helped a great deal in understanding how to play this game.

When you play Dos you deal out 7 cards to each player Two cars are then turned up in the middle. On your turn you match the number on the card(s) in the middle. You can match it exactly or play two cards that add up to the number. If you match the color and number you get a color match which give you the opportunity to play an extra card down in the middle. If you play an addition set that is a color match (all three  cards are the same color), you get to  play an extra card in the middle and your opponents have to each take an new car for their hand. You have to say Dos when you have two cards left. First person to play all their cards wins. We haven’t played with scoring just yet since we tend to wait until we’ve fixed the learning curve first.

If you have ever played Oh Hell, 10 up/10 down, they you’ve played a game very similarImage result for rage card game to Rage. The directions on this game were very well written and we were able to figure it out after a few hands.

This is a trick bidding game with a few twists. The first round you deal out 10 cards, the next 9 then 8 and so on until you get to 1.

After the cards are all dealt, you turn the top card over and  that color becomes trump. You then bid on how many tricks you expect to take.

There are a variety of specialty cards that effect the trump that is used in that round a play. Some also effect the scoring. If you get the exact number or tricks you bid, you get an extra 10 points on your score.

Both of these games are a lot of fun. We played them with all four of us, and Colby and I played them just the two of us. It was better with more players, but just as good with just two players. I’m sure they will be pulled out often to play!

Do you play games with your family? What games do you like to play?

book · family · food · reviews · through my camera lens

P B & J sandwich cookies

cookies

If you follow my blog on Facebook, or follow me on Instagram (@teacherturnedmommy), then you know I baked cookies yesterday!

I have been reading the Hanna Swensen Mystery series by Joanne Fluke. AJ at A Petite Slice of Life, mentioned that she not only had read these books, but made many of the recipes in the books. That was incentive enough to test one out myself.

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I just finished reading Blueberry Muffin Murder and one of the recipes in that book was  Peanut Butter Melts. One of the suggestions she made was turning them into peanut butter jelly sandwich cookies. Well…. as it turns out Richard, Colby and I had just talked about pb & J cookies this past week. When we were in Amish country we purchased 4 jars of jelly. Colby has been working on polishing off the strawberry jelly and loving it with peanut butter.

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Sooooo the baker in me decided to use another jar of jelly to make pb & j cookies.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies -adapted from Peanut Butter melts by Joanne Fluke

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • jar of jelly (I used raspberry)
  1. Preheat oven to  375
  2. Melt butter in microwave add both sugars and vanilla mix well
  3. Add baking soda, baking powder and salt. mix until incorporated
  4. Add peanut butter to the mixture
  5. Add in eggs one at a time
  6. Add flour and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated
  7. Use small cookie scoop to dish out the dough, put onto cookie sheet leaving space between balls. press balls flatter with the tines of a fork in a crisscross pattern
  8. Bake at 375 for 6-8 min (if making bigger cookies bake 8-10 min) cookies should just start to golden on the bottoms.
  9. cool 2 min on sheet and then move to cooling rack
  10. when fully cooled spread jelly on the bottom of one pb cookie, top with another cookie to make sandwiches.
  11. I then put all the cookie sandwiches in the fridge to finish cooling and let the jelly set up

P1000282Colby loved these cookies. He had one last night and then quickly packed another to have at camp today for snack. He really wanted to pack 2 cookies but since he was having a PB&J sandwich for lunch I didn’t think he needed two cookies. I”m sure he will have one as a snack when he gets back from camp today.

Richard said they had a really good peanut butter flavor and liked them. He took a tin of them into work today to share with his co-workers.

I would tell you my opinion, but I haven’t had any yet. I’m using my will power! As I’ve mentioned I’m trying to eat healthier, working out and following a specific program. I do get a cheat day and plan on having that this weekend, so trust me I’ll have one then!

 

food · life · reviews

More protein needed!

Ok so I mentioned on Monday that Richard and I have started using BeachBody’s Liift4. First of all let me tell you that my body hurts and I’ve only done two workouts! Today is our rest day. This program has M, T, Th, F workouts and then W, S, S are “rest days”. We plan on sleeping in on Wednesday and then working out at night with the boys on that day doing either core or cardio workouts.

I am also following their meal plan. I didn’t get the containers, I’m pretty good at portion control and I can measure if I need. They have provide a meal plan based upon your current weight that helps balance calories and type of foods consumed.

I’m allotted:

  • 3 veggies
  • 2 fruits
  • 4 proteins
  • 2 carbs
  • 1 healthy fat
  • 1 seed/dressing
  • 2 oil/nut butter

I’m drinking my shakeology for breakfast. Typically my shake is 1 protein, 1 carb, 1 fruit and 1 veggie. I use milk (1 carb and 1/2 an oil/nut butter), a fruit, spinach (veggie) and the shakeology powder (1 protein).

This leaves me 2 veggies, 1 fruit, 3 proteins, 1 carb, 1 healhy fat, 1 seed/dressing and 1.5 oil/nut butter for the rest of the day.

I have no problems with anything except the proteins. I will eat a portion of protein for lunch and one for dinner, but I have to fit in one more portion. Typically I’d grab nuts (those are considered healthy fats), cheese (also healthy fats), peanut butter ( oil/nut butter… oh and you only get 1 tsp in a serving), hummus (healthy fat)

They think of proteins more of meats and eggs. These are snacks to me. I can eat plain yogurt-yuck! I’d have to leave a fruit for this. I can have cottage cheese, which I like, but don’t want to have daily as a snack. They say to have tuna as a snack, but that doesn’t work in my mind… tuna is lunch not a snack.

Now I’m debating on making eggs for breakfast and then moving my shake for later in the day. But, I’m making the shake for Richard too in the morning, he drinks his on the drive into work. So it makes sense to just have mine for breakfast. Plus I’m used to having a smoothie for breakfast that is what I drank every day when I worked.

Ok people… help me how can I make find a way to have a protein snack?