book · reviews

The Night The Lights Went Out– Book review

What’s better than one book review in a day???? How about two? Click here to see the first one I did today!

I finished the book I was reading upstairs this week too. The Night the Lights Went Out, by Karen White is a contemporary novel. I love the description on the back of the book that says “…. it touches all the bases of a chick-lit thriller…”

This is the story of Merilee who is recently divorced who moves into Sweet Apple, Georgia. There she rents a house on the property of Sugar Prescott, the towns matriarch. Sugar is known to be aloof and a bit odd, but she hits it off with Merilee. Sugar sees a lot of herself in Merilee and begins to open up and share stores with her that she has not shared with anyone.

Merilee’s children are attending a private school, where Merilee meets Heather the queen bee of the community. Heather brings Merilee into her circle and encourages her daughter to befriend Lily, Merilee’s daughter.

As the story progresses, Merilee finds out that a blogger from the town is writing about not only the town and southern sayings, but also about Merilee and her life. She doesn’t know how to feel about this but since she is trying to keep her head above water and deal with all the drama of life.

As you read through the story, you hear more about the drama of Sugar’s life of the past. You read the many blog posts that show a different side of small town drama anddddd the real dramas of a small town. There is so much more to share, but I can’t without telling you too much.

I highly recommend this book. It is a perfect summer read. It is the type of book that keeps you thinking and makes you want to not put down the book. Read and find out what happens The Night the Lights Went Out.

** Product links included, please read my disclosure statement**

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book · reviews

Coming to Rosemont- book review


The first book I read on my Kindle Paperwhite E-reader – Black, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers was Coming to Rosemont: The First Novel in the Rosemont Series, by Barbara Hinske.

Maggie Martin’s husband dies suddenly, but this was just the beginning of the changes in her life. Upon his death Maggie discovers that the life she was living the last few years was not the life she wanted to live. After discovering that her husband was involved in a variety of elicit activities she also discovers that he inherited a house in the serene Mid-Western town of Westbury.

Maggie headed to Westbury to meet with a real estate agent to put the house, known as Rosemont for sale. When Maggie arrives there she discovers more that just a house. She finds home. Maggie then decides to sell her house in CA and move to Westbury.  What she doesn’t know is that this quiet majestic town has a secret or two of its own.

This is a great fast paced novel that is realistic and modern. It is a great story about a strong female who learns so much more about herself and what she is capable of doing. This is also the first book in series, so if you are like me and hate when a book ends… then this is a great book because you can read more in the second book: Weaving the Strands: The Second Novel in the Rosemont Series. I know I will.

**This post contains product links, please read my disclosure statement**

Must Have Monday · reviews

Must Have Monday- Water

TTM_MHM

If you ask my kids what I drink they will probably say Coke or Coffee, but the funny thing about that is I don’t drink either of those very often. I have had one cup of coffee every morning, or almost every morning since we got our Keurig. I don’t drink Coke very often either. Richard and I will split a Coke when we go out to eat. I do drink Coke whenever I have a headache. Whenever I get a headache I first drink a coke, then I grab Excedrin (which also has caffeine in it). This works almost every time for me now. I started that when I was having migraines and was trying to avoid taking the prescription medications. The doctor I had at the time suggested Excedrin and said just get extra strength, it has the same ingredients as the migraine version.

Ok…. back on topic. So the what do I actually drink the most of… WATER! I drink water all day long. So over the years I have has a large variety of different water containment devices. Here are a few of my favorites.

At home, I love having my BEAST!  BEAST 30oz Stainless Steel Tumbler Vacuum Insulated Rambler Coffee Cup Double Wall Travel Flask Mug with Splash Proof Lid, 2 Straws, Pipe Brush & Gift Box Bundle By Greens Steel. This double walled medal water cup, with straw works perfectly for me as I spend my day around the house. I fill it up with ice and water first thing in the morning. Then as the day goes on I only need to add more water to the cup. This stays ice cold all day long. There are many days when the ice is still there the next morning. I also like the size. Think about it, three fills equals 90oz of water! I don’t like to travel with this cup because of the size and if you knock it over by mistake the water will spill.

For traveling about, and going to the gym I use my Brita 20 Ounce Sport Water Bottle with 2 Filters – BPA Free – Twin Pack, Blue and Orange. We purchased these originally before our first Disney Cruise. The thought behind it was that we could always create filtered water no matter where we were going.  On that trip we got off the ship in Nassau and didn’t want to drink the water when we were on that island. After that, the boys and I began taking these to school because we could refill them in the school sinks and not drink school sink water. Anyone who has been to an elementary school knows the sinks have a level of funk no matter what you do. I take mine with me when I hike and go to the gym. Now I typically do not put ice in this because it is not insulated and will sweat. But, as I mentioned it has a filter that I like, but it also is spill proof which is why send it with the boys to school. It has a pop up top which is pretty easy to open and close, but for the most part you need to squeeze it to get the water out.

As I mentioned last week, we have two types of water containment devices for biking. All four of us have CamelBak Rogue Crux Reservoir Hydration Pack, Black/Graphite, 2.5 L/85 oz as well as CamelBak Podium Chill Insulated Water Bottle, Periwinkle, 21 oz Fill the pack up with ice and then add in the water. It will stay cold while you drink and bike or hike. I have often seen people have these at Disney as well. The water bottle is contoured to fit safely into the cage on the bike and not slip and slide while you ride. The ones I just got for the boys are insulated and which will help them stay cold longer. One thing to be aware of when using the pack is when you aren’t wearing it make sure the pack it NOT sitting on it’s bite valve. I can not tell you how many times we have put the down and found a puddle later (in the car, in the truck, on the ground, or even the kitchen counter). The water bottle has a twist close top, but just like the Brita bottles they don’t really leak even when open since you need to squeeze it.

Richard has two different water cups that he likes to use. He has a Tervis 1228352 UCF Knights Pregame Prep Tumbler with Wrap and Black Lid 16oz, ClearHe takes water with him to drink on his drive into work every day and then refills the cup with bottle water from work to drink on his drive home. The Tervis Tumbler he uses during the cooler months. He also has a YETI Rambler 20 oz Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tumbler w/ MagSlider Lid, Black. This one he is using now because the water will stay colder and the ice will last beyond his morning drive. These fit perfectly into the cup holders in the truck.

Here you go… my must have for drinking water. Well I need to go refill “The BEAST” and keep drinking water. Do share… what is your favorite water containment device? You never know when I need to find another one.

** post contains product links. please read my disclosure statement.**

family · life

Weekend update- mother’s day edition

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend. We were busy this weekend. Saturday found us at North Park on a bike ride. The boys wanted to show Richard the trails they have been riding in bike class. I decided to skip the ride and go for a hike. I went on a few new paths that I hadn’t walked on before. It was a win-win all around. We then went to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and stopped at the bike store. Blake needed a new helmet and Richard wanted to look at new bike shoes. We were spent a while outside doing a bit of this and a bit of that as well as chatting with neighbors. We originally planned to go out to dinner, but the skies opened with no sign of letting up, so fend for yourself dinner it is! We decided that since we stayed home we should watch a movie. We decided to watch Ocean’s Eleven (2001). Richard and I have been on a kick of showing the boys movies that Richard and I enjoy, but are still appropriate for tweens.

Sunday morning Colby decided he wanted to make me breakfast in bed. Richard told him that wouldn’t work since there was no way to serve it. So instead Colby opted to make me a strawberry peanut butter smoothie. He tried to bring it up to me, but I was already on my way downstairs. After breakfast, we went off to the gym, DiBellas, and Lowes. We had a long list of things to purchase at Lowes. This did not make the boys happy. We can’t win they don’t want to go if we don’t have a list, now they don’t want to go if we do have a list. Get over if… home ownership means trips to Lowes!

When we got home we started putting down seed on the front and side lawns and then were were going to begin putting the bags of top soil on bare spots. The ground here is rocky, loaded with sticks and it is clay not soil. So we are having to work hard to get this lawn looking the way we want it to look. We will get there. While we were working on putting out the top soil it began to rain. It wasn’t bad at first, but then it picked up. We had to head in and wait it out in the garage. We were already partially done and slightly damp so we decided to wait it out instead of going in to change. We then went out again when it let up only to have the sky open and drench us. Oh well… it got done.

Colby came outside when he finally stopped raining and was observing the run off on the lot next door. He has been learning about water and the effects of it on the landscape. It was neat listening to him discuss the erosion he was observing, the tributaries that were created as well as many other terms he learned in science class. School work at it’s finest!

We had homemade pizza and rolls for dinner. We used the Alton Brown recipe again. It wasn’t as good as the first time we made it, but it was still really good.

The night was ended with Google Hangout calls to both grandmothers to wish them a happy mother’s day.

Hope you had a great weekend.

(Must have Monday is still going to appear today…. just later on today. I didn’t post yesterday so I wanted to share the whos and whats of the weekend)

family · food · life

Favorite Foods… family addition

Happy Saturday!

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a few people posting about their favorite food items. I decided to take this and Lori-ize it. So you are going to get our family version of the top 5 food items.  Here we go:

Colby:

  1. Pasta- Colby would eat pasta all day every day if I allowed him to. I try to limit it to a few days a week. His favorite right now would be anything with Alfredo sauce
  2. Peanut Butter- He loves to eat this on a spoon, in a bowl or on a sandwich. He puts it with chocolate, honey or jelly.
  3. Steak- Colby has recently learned about the joys of filet minion. When we have gone on the Disney Cruises he eats steak almost every night for dinner.
  4. Stromboli- especially if Richard makes it at home
  5. Bacon, Bacon, Bacon- need I say more?

Blake:

  1. Pizza/ Stromboli- Blake LOVES pizza and tries to have it every week on the menu
  2. Cheese- Blake eats cheese 24/7, by the slice, shredded, in sandwiches or any other way he can have it
  3. Chocolate- anything sweet Blake eats has to be chocolate
  4. Quesadillas- This is something Blake makes almost every time we have fend for yourself (FFY)
  5. Chips- Blake eats at least one single size bag of chips every day.

Richard:

  1. Steak- Give Richard a rare to medium rare steak with the right seasoning and he is more than a happy camper
  2. Subs- This is reason we go to DiBella’s almost every weekend. He enjoys Italian, cheese steak and well… so many more
  3. Pizza- Richard not only loves to eat pizza, but he also loves to make his own pizza
  4. mint chocolate chip ice cream- This is his absolute favorite ice cream. He picks this as his flavor for sundaes, milkshakes and any other ice cream products
  5. fajitas- chicken or steak doesn’t matter… with or without onions and peppers… the drippier the better
  6. brownies- this is Richard’s go to desert

For me…

  1. Chocolate- do not give me the cheap stuff!  Ghirardelli, Lindt Truffles, Dove are my go to. Now don’t get me wrong give me a Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I’m happy, but there is something about the quality chocolate you can’t beat.
  2. Hummus- that stuff is addicting! I love it on tortilla chips, on chicken, on pretzels, on carrots… hummus is good! I need to make some of my homemade hummus to share with you one of these days.
  3. Fruit- the fresher the better. I can’t wait for the berries to be ready to pick
  4. Anything we didn’t have yesterday— I enjoy leftovers, just not the next day. I hate having to eat the same kind of foods for multiple days in a row

UMMMMM…. UMMMMM I don’t know if I have a 5th thing. I’m not a person that has a ton of favorite items. I like a lot of different things but I’m not an OMG I have to eat this. I like to switch things up a lot as I easily get bored with foods.

Join the fun… what are your favorite foods?

 

 

 

family · life

Friday rambles

Yesterday the boys had their second mountain biking lesson. They are really enjoying this. I went for a walk again. This time I didn’t go on the trails, but stayed on the paved areas. I walked just shy of 4 miles. We had a huge rain storm during the day yesterday, but it the weather improved and it was the perfect weather to be out in the park.

Today has been overcast and on the cool side. After breakfast this morning, I went outside and mowed the lawn. I decided to stick my phone in my pocket and put on “map my hike” while I mowed. It was about 1.5 miles and we don’t even have grass on our whole lot just yet. (we haven’t dealt with the back of the lot yet since we want to alter the topography of the lot still) Let me tell you… my hips hurt now.

This means I had four walks over 1 mile this week. I’m trying to get more walks/hikes in each week. I was thinking last night that I should probably find my headphones and start playing music or even a book while I walk during the boys biking class. I am almost done with both of the books I’m reading now. I haven’t decided if I want to start using my kindle before I go to bed or continue to have a real book for reading upstairs in bed.

It looks like we are going to have a soggy weekend. I have no clue what we will end up doing this weekend. We will probably try to get to the gym and the boys are wanting to go biking with Richard to show him the trails they have ridden in class. Lets see if the weather allows that to happen. All I know is Sunday we are having pizza and I’m making more of the garlic rolls I made with Alton Brown’s pizza dough… yum!

Hope you have something fun planned for your weekend.

 

 

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

Honey “Bourbon” Chicken

Ok so yesterday I didn’t write any posts, and today you get two (and both are recipes I made yesterday)! Earlier I posted a sweet treat recipe, chocolate peanut butter pretzel bars, that I made yesterday. One of the ingredients of this treat was honey. Now as I mentioned in that post I do not actually like the flavor of honey, but Richard and Colby both love it. I have a HUGE bottle of honey that I purchased at Costco. It was put to use yesterday.

For dinner last night we had Honey Bourbon Chicken made in the electric pressure cooker. I read through the recipe and my first thought was…. ummm where is the bourbon? When reading the comments they said that this was “Bourbon inspired”. One of the people also responded that if you cook with alcohol in a pressure cooker it does not cook off the alcohol… ok let’s try this anyway!

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Honey “Bourbon” Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I grated it with my microplane)
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 c. honey
  • 2 TBSP canola oil
  • red pepper flakes (I did a few shakes of the container)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1 TBSP water

Put all the ingredients (except cornstarch and water) into the electric pressure cooker

Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes

Let it release pressure for 5 minutes then finish releasing the pressure manually

Remove the chicken and dice it up into bite size pieces

Combine the cornstarch and water to make a slurry, then add to the cooking liquid. Stir to dissolve completely

Return the chicken to the pressure cooker

Set to saute and cook for an additional 3 minutes to thicken the sauce

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I served it with red wheat berries that I toasted and then cooked, adding a bit of butter at the end of the cooking process. Colby said this made it taste a lot like popcorn. We also had a raw carrot. Colby ended up eating two since he took the one off Richard’s plate too before he got home. No worries, I peeled another one for Richard.

I tried everything separably, but then put the chicken and wheat berries together and it was so yummy.

The chicken was really tasty. Colby felt it had a homemade bbq flavor, I don’t think it did, but hey if that works for him… then go for it dude. Colby ate 2 carrots and 2 servings of wheat berries and one serving of chicken. Blake ate 2 servings of chicken, his carrot and a nibble of wheat berries. Then, when Richard came home and was having dinner, Blake had a 3rd serving of the chicken. I’d say he really liked this one. Richard enjoyed it too.

I really wish the sauce ended up thicker. I think next time instead of thickening the sauce in the pressure cooker I’d transfer it to a pot and cook it in there so that the liquids can evaporate and thicken. Richard suggested reducing actual bourbon in a pan and adding it to the chicken mixture in the thickening step. This would add the bourbon flavor, but not the alcohol.

I think we will be trying this one again!

 

 

food · reviews · through my camera lens

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars

Yesterday I never did get around to writing a blog post, I’m not sure why, but oh well such is life.

I saw the recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel bars and thought they looked rather yummy. Who does’t like chocolate, peanut butter and pretzels, oh wait I know a few people who don’t, but I like them and that’s what counts, a lot of people like them and that is what’s important.

I made them yesterday… well I made something similar anyway. I followed the recipe, but then “Lori-ized it”. And, as soon as I tried one I was already re-writing the recipe in my head.

This is what I did:

Ingredients
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided) Image may contain: dessert, food and outdoor
  • bag of mini pretzel twists
  • 4 oz. box Reese’s Pieces candy
Peanut Butter Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate layer:
  1. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a siltpad
  2. Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate chips gently in the microwave (on low heat, stirring every 15 seconds) until smooth. (my microwave has a melt chocolate setting so I used that, but this is the typical way to melt chocolate in a microwave without burning it)

For the peanut butter sauce:
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat add honey and sugar and stir well to combine.

  2. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 full minute, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth.

  3. Stir in vanilla

     

Assembly:

  1. Spread the melted chocolate onto the baking sheet, don’t worry about neatness aim more for a similar thickness across the surface area used
  2. Top with pretzels and Reese’s Pieces. You can put them down at random, or be more like me and spend time making sure they are evenly spaced out (ok a bit OCD there, but hey what can I say?) Lightly press into chocolate
  3. Prep peanut butter layer. I had enough to spread it in an even layer over the whole bar
  4. Add an additional layer of the pretzels and press into peanut butter layer
  5. melt remaining 4 oz of chocolate and drizzle over the top of everything.
  6. Refrigerate until solid.
  7. Cut or break into pieces
  8. Enjoy!

OK… now here is how I’d change it next time!

First I felt this was very honey forward. I would either use 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of agave nectar or switch it all to agave nectar (I am not a huge honey fan even though both Richard and Colby love the stuff and eat it all the time).

Also, I would add salt to the peanut butter layer to bring out the peanut butter flavor more than just the sweet of the honey/sugar combination

I liked the double layer of pretzels (that I already changed from the original recipe), but felt the Reese’s pieces got lost. So you either need to double the amount you use or add peanut butter chips or even peanut M&M’s to up the peanut flavor.

Finally I would put more of the chocolate into the bottom layer maybe only reserve 2.5 oz for the top so it was a true drizzle and not a full layer of chocolate.

Colby tried these out as his after school snack. He loves peanut butter and chocolate together. He loves peanut butter and honey together. He always eats peanut butter and pretzels together. He LOVES  Reese’s Pieces. So this treat was right up his alley. Richard also enjoyed them when he came home from work. I guess I will be making these again, but next time I’ll “Lori-ize” them even more!

Image may contain: food

food · life · through my camera lens

Rambles and Pasta Salad

Yesterday the boys had their first mountain biking lesson. They left excited to go back on Thursday! That makes it feel like money well spent. While they biked I went off on a hike. I’d hiked over 1 mile when Richard surprised me by showing up to walk with me. I had to hike back out and meet up with him. I ended up hiking/walking over 3 miles in about an hour. I wasn’t doing a good job about pausing my app while texting/talking to Richard in order to figure out where we were going to meet up. So, I’m not sure how long I walked, but I don’t care that was still good hike.

One of the places I came across on my hike has a “forever tree”. This is a tree dedicated to those furry friends who loved North Park, but are no longer with us. People add medal ornaments to the tree to honor these pets. Such a loving tribute.

Today I decided to take my coffee and make it a smoothie. I used 1 cup of chocolate coffee, a splash of chocolate creamer, and 1.5 frozen bananas. I blended it up and called it a drink. It was yummy… I’d show a picture, but I finished it before I decided to share about having it.

While I was having my coffee smoothie I worked on lunch. I know I often talk about the foods I make for the family for dinner, but almost never discuss breakfast or lunch. Part of that is breakfast and lunch is take care of yourself meals. I haven’t made breakfast or lunch for my boys since they were about 5. Most days my lunch is open the fridge and toss whatever I find on top of salad, pasta, rice or something on that idea. I will also eat leftovers as is, but I typically like to reinvent them so they feel new and not just leftovers.

Today, since I went to the grocery store, I decided to make myself a pasta salad. I love pasta salad and is such a great side, but for me… it’s lunch!

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Today’s pasta salad

  • bowtie pasta (about 1/4 a package)
  • zucchini -diced
  • grape or cherry tomatoes (I used a 10oz package) split
  • heavy handful of spinach
  • 1/4 package of broccoli slaw
  • fresh motzarella
  • Italian Dressing (I used Ken’s Simply Vinaigrette Italian)
  • EVOO
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder

Cook pasta according to package. When done make sure to rinse in cool water to cool down the pasta

Dice zucchini. Heat EVOO in a skillet. In skillet put half of the tomatoes and zucchini. Dust with garlic powder. When cooked to the texture you like, leave to cool.

Chop of the spinach. Cut the rest of the tomatoes in half. Cut mozzarella into bite size pieces.

In a large bowl place the spinach, broccoli slaw, chopped tomatoes and mozzarella. When pasta and veggie are cooled down add to bowl. Top with dressing and then toss.

Refrigerate. I put it into the fridge for 40 min or so before eating. This is one of those the longer it sits the better it tastes.

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I like the fact that there is more veggies than pasta. You can put in whatever veggie float your boat. I was trying to go for an Italian-ish flavor profile. Do you have a favorite pasta salad? What do you put in yours?

food

Time to Menu Plan!

I realized that I”m running out of milk and need to go to the grocery store tomorrow, so we are menu planning now.

Here’s what’s Image result for on the menu

Tuesday: ham steak and fruit

Wednesday: Honey “Bourbon” Chicken in the electric pressure cooker– not sure why it’s called honey bourbon when there’s no bourbon, but it sounds good anyway

Thursday: FFY– the boys have biking again

Friday: Orecchiette with mini meatballs

Saturday: out?

Sunday: pizza something with Alton’s pizza dough

Monday: FFY– the boys have biking again

Sweet treat: Chocolate Peanut butter pretzel bars

 

— Side note, if you wrote a comment on Blake’s Peace, Love & Little Donuts’s post the other day he will get back to you tomorrow… I think