Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What I'm Reading! February Books

Continuing my What I'm Reading book reviews, I'm picking up today with what I read in February, before the world ended.

The Lost World by Michael Crichton
I continued my Michael Crichton fix with The Lost World. This one is also SO good. This book follows Ian and Sarah Harding as they visit the island that Jurassic Park was NOT on. It is very, very different from the movie, in my opinion. I did enjoy this one a lot. If you love Jurassic Park, you need to read this one as well.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
This was our January Book Club pick this year and I am on the fence about it. Did I enjoy it? Yes, BUT. Ha! I loved it because while I was reading it, my mom, sister, and I went to Savannah for the day and did a Midnight tour. It was SO GOOD. The tour guide picked us up at the Savannah tourist center and because it was the first Saturday in January and rainy, it was just the 3 of us!!! We couldn't have planned it better. If you want to go to Savannah without the crowds, do it in January. She took us to all of the important scenes from the book, we toured Mercer House, and we ended the day with a long stroll through Bonaventure cemetery. It was all so interesting! The book was very interesting, though. The first half of the book, Berendt is introducing all of the characters he met while living in Savannah. The second half of the book follows the murder trials of Danny Hansford, the young man that Jim Williams is on trial for killing. Overall, the book felt long-winded to me, but the writing is compelling and there are so many parts that are just funny. Savannah is full of interesting people and stories.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn
Going into this book, I thought I was going to hate it. I'm not sure why. I ended up REALLY loving it. If you like a psychological thriller, try this one. Anna Fox is a recluse with agoraphobia who enjoys watching her neighbors out her windows. She is an alcoholic whose husband and daughter no longer live with her. New neighbors move in across the street and Anna sees something shocking happen. But does she? Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Who can you trust and believe? I was mistaken up until the very end. Have any of you read this? What did you think?

So that was it for February books. So far, this year has felt a little like a dud for me in spite of really liking many that I've read. The Michael Crichton books were not new ones for me and of my new ones, nothing has captivated me. I've done a lot more reading and have LOTS more to go, but I'll keep you posted! I'll be back tomorrow with my March books.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

What I'm Reading! January Books

It has been SO LONG since I've done a book review! The first few weeks of "Shelter At Home" status, my mind was WILD. I couldn't concentrate on reading, I couldn't sleep at night, I wasn't eating. I would say about 3 weeks in some of that shifted (it helped when Eddie began staying at home, too) and I have been able to focus on some projects around here as well as some reading. I am still not pouring through books at a high volume, but it has increased tremendously.

One thing I will share is that my Kindle is one of my favorite purchases EVER. I got a Kindle for my birthday 10 days after James was born and I loved it. About a year ago I got myself a new version of the Kindle Oasis. It's their priciest model, but it has back lighting (my original model Kindle isn't lit - I had to use a light to read) and this one is WATERPROOF. Game changer. So I have been reading in bed at night to fall asleep instead of watching TV like I have always done for YEARS and I've been floating in an extra large baby pool and reading there as well. The pool has been MAGICAL. The boys have "quiet time" (AKA - Mama gets quiet time) for an hour every afternoon. I usually use 30-45 minutes of their quiet time for reading and floating if it is hot enough and sunny. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. That gets me outside in some solid Vitamin D about 3-4 times per week. The rest of my outdoor time I'm usually in the shade. 

Since it's been a WHILE since I've shared what I'm reading, I thought I'd start back at the beginning of January and just get caught up. 

Love Does by Bob Goff
This one is really so good. Bob Goff is just a great guy and a fun story teller. He tells stories throughout this book that lead back to Jesus and what the Bible teaches us about love. I have the book, but I listened to it on Audible. It was a great audio book and Bob reads it himself. There's a kid version to and my two LOVE it.

Call Me God: The Untold Story of the DC Sniper Investigation by Jim Clemente, Tim Clemente, and Peter McDonnell
This is sort of cheating because it's not actually a book - it's an Audible original. It plays out more like a podcast than an audiobook. It was INCREDIBLY well done. If you recall the events of the sniper shootings around Washington, D.C. back in the early 2000s, you might be interested in this one. It is narrated the whole way through, but provides accounts from a multitude of people - FBI agents, police officers, the families of those officers, victims' families, etc. SO well done. I was very impressed. I listened to this on the way home from St. Simons late one night and every time I got to a traffic light I got a little uneasy!

Independence Day: Resurgence by Alexander C. Irvine
Meh. That's how I felt about this one. Just ok. If you don't know me well, you may not know that I am a closet sci-fi weirdo. Anything where animals go crazy (see several others below), I am all over. I loved Independence Day, the movie, when it came out years and years ago and I re-watch it every summer. I got this one on Audible a few months back and finally got around to listening to it in January. It's the novel based on the movie sequel that came out a few summers back. It was ok. Nothing great, nothing terrible. It follows the movie exactly and to me the movie was just ok. I loved that many of the original characters are back and that it's a true sequel, not a remake. I didn't love it or hate it.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
I am a HUGE Michael Crichton fan. I realize his writing isn't for everyone, but Jurassic Park is definitely one that I think most people can enjoy. Straying from the movie in some ways, the book follows Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler who are taken to Isla Nublar by John Hammond to see his "biological preserve." Obviously, what ensues after is animal chaos. The book can obviously go into much more detail (the raptors play a larger part in the book than in the movie and several characters don't survive the island). If the movie is a favorite and you haven't read the book, do yourself a favor!

Caldera by Larry LaVoie
Following my science-fiction trend in the early part of the year, I read Caldera which had been on my Kindle unread for a while. This one is about a super volcano and the political corruption that can occur when natural events transpire. (Hmmm....) I wanted to really enjoy this one, but it fell a little flat for me. This story flips between the view point of a few different characters - Carlene Carlson, an assistant to a Yellowstone volcanologist and Jason Trask, a USGS volcanologist. Trask and Carlson find evidence that Yellowstone is going to erupt, but they begin being targeted to quiet their findings. The story twists and turns as they try to uncover more evidence and reveal it to people who can alert those that need to know. It wasn't a bad story, it just didn't hold my attention.

I'll share February's books tomorrow. I'd LOVE to hear suggestions for you about what I should read. You'll see over the next few days that I will read almost anything. I don't have a particular genre that I gravitate to. What are you reading?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Summer Reading List...

I rarely do this to myself anymore because I'd rather just read what I'm feeling like reading at that moment, but I have some books that NEED to be finished up this summer because I'm trying to lighten my load (I have too many books...I know, I know...I'm running out of room). So here's the list of what I'm planning to read this summer. I thought I'd share and update with what I've finished at the end of each month. (More blogging during this quarantine summer break? Maybe?)

1. Mister Rogers Neighborhood: A Visual History by Tim Lybarger
2. Find Your Path by Carrie Underwood
3. The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler
4. A Time to Kill by John Grisham
5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
6. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
7. The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews
8. Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams
9. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
10. Furious Hours by Casey Cep
11. The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth
12. Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
13. The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand
14. Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
15. Laugh it Up! by Candace Payne
16. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
17. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
18. Watching You by Lisa Jewel
19. Beach Read by Emily Henry
20. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
21. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
22. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
23. River of Kings by Taylor Brown
24. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
25. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
26. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
27. Disney's Land by Richard Snow
28. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory 
29. The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand
30. Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand
31. The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook
32. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
33. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
34. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
35. The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
36. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
37. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
38. The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler
39. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
40. Montana Sky by Nora Roberts
41. The Bromance Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
42. The Girl Beneath the Sea by Andrew Mayne
43. The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess
44. The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan
45. The Honey Don't List by Christina Lauren
46. The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
47. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
48. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
49. The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
50. I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

Yes. Fifty books. It's daunting, I know. But I sort of figure if I'm not working much AND we can't really go anywhere or do anything I'll have lots of time on my hands, right? It will be just like sitting poolside at the Y if I'm sitting on my porch watching the boys play in the baby pool. Right? RIGHT???! I'll keep ya posted AND let you know when some of these get placed into the Little Free Library if you're local. *wink*

Monday, May 4, 2020

Summer Bucket List

Every year for the past 8 years we have made and marked off our little summer bucket lists. The first ones were a little primitive, but they've expanded and gotten better each year. This was the year that it almost all ended. Y'all. To come up with this many things was a CHALLENGE in and of itself. I love to add new things and not try to list the same things over and over each year, but this one was hard to do without using previous lists' items. We have "out to eat" on it for crying out loud. In years past we went out to eat multiple times a week and NEVER put that on our list, but there it is! HAHAHA! Here's hoping that this list will keep us entertained until we are able to venture out again. And may that darn virus be gone SOON.

Monday, April 20, 2020

James at 10.5 years

Well, hello there! We have been rocking and rolling with this quarantine thing over here and while it is THE busiest time of the year for me, we have still managed to have some fun, clean some things out, and get some work done. Whew! This has been a CRAZY thing, right? I feel like we're in the Twilight Zone!

One of the things I did last week was to interview James as he is TEN AND A HALF today. Can you believe that?! I asked the exact same questions that I asked when he was five.  See that one HERE. (There's also a link there for his FOUR year old interview!)

Favorite color: Depends on the day. Blue today.
Favorite food: Pasta. (He looks at me like it was a dumb questions)
Favorite sport to watch: Football.
Favorite sport to play: Baseball. Basketball in the off-season.
Favorite holiday: Christmas because everybody goes big.
Favorite toy: Bop It
Favorite fruit: Strawberries
Favorite TV Show: Duck Dynasty
Favorite lunch: Spaghetti
Favorite shirt to wear: a baseball graphic tee
Favorite snack: Fritos BBQ Twists
Favorite Game: Clue or Monopoly
Favorite animal: Polar Bear
Favorite sports team: The Braves. (Again with the dumb question look.)
Favorite song: All I Do is Win by DJ Khalid
Favorite Book: Jedi Academy
Best friend: Davis and Reid
Favorite movie: Sandlot or Remember the Titans
Favorite thing to do outside: Play baseball. Actually, water balloon fight.
Favorite drink: On game day it's Green Apple Gatorade. On a regular day it's strawberry lemonade.
What do you take to bed with you at night: A blanket. (NOT big wubbie anymore.)
Favorite breakfast: Cocoa Pebbles
What is your mom's job: Preschool worker
What is your dad's job: Accountant
What do you want to do when you grow up: Be a sports player because I haven't decided between baseball, basketball, football or fishing. All of those are sports. 

And there you have it, folks! James at 10 and a half!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Christmas Morning Breakfast!

We had Christmas Brunch at our house this year and because everything was REALLY good (in my opinion) so I wanted to post the things we ate to save for next year. I've had to go gluten-free over the past few months so these are all gluten-free recipes.

Sausage Balls:
1 pound ground pork sausage
2 c gluten-free Bisquick
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 c milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat oven to 350*. Line baking pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together and shape into 1-inch balls. Place on pan.
Bake uncovered 40 minutes or until light golden brown (my oven cooks a little slower...many recipes will tell you to cook 20-30 minutes).
Serve warm!

Hashbrown Casserole (courtesy of Thriving Home Blog):
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c half-and-half
3 tbsp cornstarch
1.5 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1.5 tsp Kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
5 tbsp butter, divided
1 c frozen diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
30 oz shredded hash browns
16 oz container sour cream
2 c shredded cheese
*** can add 1 lb of bacon, but we didn't since we served with sausage balls ***

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together chicken broth, half and half, cornstarch, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When butter is melted, add the onions and saute about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic at the end for about 30 seconds.
Whisk in the creamy cornstarch mixture to the onions. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until thick and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the thawed has browns, cooled cream sauce, sour cream, cheese, and bacon. Place in a casserole dish. Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Bake for about 45 minutes until edges are bubbly and top is golden.

We also served grits last night for New Year's Eve and cinnamon rolls and pigs in a blanket for Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Christmas Card Carousel

Every year I've shared our Christmas card here and even though it's AFTER Christmas this year, I didn't want to miss it!

What a year 2019 has been! There have been lots of ups and downs, but we are happy and healthy and that's what really matters!

I hope that this has been a happy, healthy year for all of you as well! Happy New Year, friends!