Books

Save Me The Plums-Book Review

In 2003 I went to an author lunch with a friend of mine.  We went to a French restaurant on Lake Michigan and indulged in some truly delicious and memorable food.  The author we saw was Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine.  She was on a book tour promoting Gourmet magazine’s first cookbook.  With the guidance of my dear friend Amy, I had only recently discovered that I appreciated foods that went beyond my midwestern roots.  While I love a good casserole, I realized I also love salad with baked goat cheese, a perfectly roasted chicken or mushroom risotto.  The world of food had been introduced to me.

Save Me the Plums, written by Ruth Reichl, tells the story of her years at Gourmet magazine as editor.  It follows other books she has written, my favorite being Tender at the Bone.  I highly recommend that one, the stories she tells about her mother are laugh out loud hilarious.  Save Me the Plums gives the backstory to how she fell into such a great job, the politics of running a magazine, the personalities of the people she worked with and the ultimate dismantling of Gourmet magazine.   I enjoyed the book, but it was not great, it had some flaws.

I found it hard to keep track of all the people.  I understand that when you run a magazine, it is a team effort.  But, there were just too many personalities to keep track of.  I don’t know how she could have revised that aspect, but it was hard to follow.  I also felt like she jumped over huge periods of time without a lot of detail.  She goes from complaining about slumping sales, to bragging about robust sales very quickly without a lot of explanation as to why.  That happened quite a few times throughout the book.  It made it hard to follow.  I was also disappointed in the ending.  She devoted very little to explaining how and why the magazine came to an end.  It felt like she purposely skipped a few facts?

That being said, having met her, she came across as a genuinely warm and kind person.  I loved the stories about her interactions with her son.  It made the story seem more genuine.  She talks about the relationship with her husband, they come across as a happy couple.  She talked about the tense relationship she had with her mother and her fondness for her father.  Again, all things that made me like her, therefore, liking the book more than I would have had I not met her.

Save Me the Plums is an easy read, with some recipes included, which I plan on trying.  I gave it 4, very reluctant stars, on Goodreads.  I would recommend that if you want to read this, start with her first book and read them all first.  By doing that, you will have a better idea of what happened in her life to bring her to the world of food.

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Recipes

Mixed Berry Fruit Crisp

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Last summer I harvested a lot of raspberries from our backyard.  On Saturday, I used the last of those precious berries, knowing that in a few short weeks I will have a robust supply of them once again.  I make a delicious mixed berry crisp that make those berries the perfect addition.

Mixed Berry Fruit Crisp

8 cups berries ( I used a variety of raspberries, blueberries and strawberries)

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp corn starch

juice from one lemon

1 tsp lemon zest

Topping

1/2 cup flour

1 cup old fashioned oatmeal (not instant, steel cut or quick)

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chilled butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Wash the berries and put in large bowl.  Add sugar, corn starch, lemon juice and zest.  Let sit.   Put the flour, oatmeal and brown sugar in food processor and mix.  Once mixed, add butter and mix.  Put fruit in baking dish, sprinkle crumble on top.  Bake until bubbly.  Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

 

Household, Recipes

DIY Dry Shampoo

Here is a recipe for DIY dry shampoo. It is super easy to make and it works just as well as store bought dry shampoo. I found this recipe from wellnessmama.com.

Dry Shampoo Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or organic cornstarch OR 2 tablespoons arrowroot/cornstarch + 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 5 drops of essential oil of choice (optional- I use lavender)
  • An old make-up brush to apply

Dry Shampoo Instructions

  1. Put the drops of essential oil into the arrowroot or cornstarch and mix with a spoon. Store the mix in a small jar or old powder container.
  2. Apply with an old make-up brush to the roots or oily parts of your hair. Applying with the brush is optional, but it removes the need to comb through as much and is better for styled hair. If you don’t use the brush, comb the powder through your hair and style as usual.

 

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Another week has passed which means it’s time to review my list of ways we saved money.

  1. I did not buy alcohol for myself at the Paul McCartney concert.  It was $12.25 for a 4 oz glass of terrible wine.  I did buy my son a can of beer though.
  2. Now that summer is here, we have started to line dry our laundry outside.  Nothing smells better than sheets that have been dried in the sun.
  3. This one is for my daughter.  She went to Six Flags in Gurnee IL on Thursday with her boyfriend.  He has a season pass and it was bring a friend for free day.  Researching free days for museums and amusements parks is always the way to go.
  4. For the first summer in probably 18 years, I did not need to pay for a camp, a class or other summer entertainment for my kids.  I have reached that stage in parenting where those things are no longer a part of our budget.  It is actually shocking how much those experiences add up to when you tally them up every summer.
  5. My son is going to a wedding this summer and needs a pair of dress pants.  The pair he has now are too big.  Instead of buying a pair, my mother in law is doing alterations for free.

What did you do this week to save money?

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This is not an economical glass of wine.

Books

Lost Roses-Book Review

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Last night I finished the prequel to Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls, Lost Roses.  Like Lilac Girls, Lost Roses focuses on 3 women whose paths cross during pivotal points in world history.  Lilac Girls took place during WWII and Lost Roses takes place during WWI and the Russian Revolution.  I liked this book and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.  In fact, I fall in the minority of people who did not like Lilac Girls.  I like Lost Roses much more.  I could tell that this was the author’s second novel.  The writing is better in this one.

The characters are well developed with the loving families surrounding them.  They all come from different backgrounds.  The character, Eliza, is American.  Sophya is a relative to the Russian tsar and Varinka is a Russian peasant.  It is hard to imagine how these 3 will cross paths, but they do and the story is fascinating.

I personally love novels that take place in Europe, especially early 20th century Europe.  There was so much social and political change going on at that time, it provides a never ending supply of fascinating novels.

That all being said, I had a couple issues with the book.  These characters were not always likable. Varinka was actually pretty horrible through most of the book.  Her back story gives an excellent explanation as to why.  But, it didn’t make it hard to truly dislike her.  I didn’t care too much if she survived the revolution.  Sophya was a very likable character.  However, she was part of the tsar’s family and given what we all know about how the tsar treated the majority of Russians, I believed that it was appropriate for her family to be forced back to reality.  They were in the end and she endured.  Eliza, the American, for the most part was a likable character.  But, her interactions with her mother and daughter often left me wondering how they were able to put up with her.  She was also very spoiled and had very high expectations of what she be given.  She came across as more spoiled than the Sophya.

The story had a happy ending and they were able to go forward with their lives, no matter how different they were pre war.  This will be a great, easy summer read

Recipes

Tofu Fried Rice

Fried rice is an easy way to use leftover rice.  The ingredients are cheap and it’s  hard to ruin.  My recipe is straightforward and tastes close to restaurant fried rice.

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Tofu Fried Rice

3 cups cooked rice

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 lb firm tofu coated in corn starch

1 lb  frozen mixed vegetables

2 eggs

soy sauce

Heat oil in wok or skillet on medium high.   Add onion and saute for 5 minutes.  Add tofu and saute another 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Add cooked rice and vegetables and cover for 5-7 minutes or until vegetable are cooked.  Make a well in the center of the rice and vegetables, add the whisked eggs and scramble.  Mix everything together, add soy sauce to taste (I don’t add a lot while cooking so that everyone can add their own).  Serve with egg rolls or spring rolls.

My husband and daughter also add sriracha sauce, I don’t because I don’t like the smell of it.  But, they say it makes it even better.

 

 

Family Life, Recipes

Weekend Thoughts

Another weekend on the books, and it was a fabulous one at that.  I am on a rotating schedule with my job, so over the summer I have a 4 day weekend more often than not.  This allows for more family time in the summer, which I try to take full advantage of.  I am considering this last weekend as my official summer kick off.  I was fortunate enough to be able to see Paul McCartney perform at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  I went with my mom and my 21 year old son and we had, for lack of a better word, a blast.  Paul McCartney might be in his 70’s, but he performs like a man half his age.  The show was amazing, the music iconic and the atmosphere was perfect.  I told my son everyone needs to see at least one arena concert in their lifetime, he hit the jackpot.  I have memories with my mom and son that I will carry forever.  It was the perfect example of why I prefer to spend money on experiences, not things.  Experiences stay with you for a lifetime.   I am still singing Hey Jude in my head and I wouldn’t have it any other way.IMG_0004

Pre show at Lambeau

I learned a valuable lesson on Sunday about the importance of keeping an adequate supply of food in my house.  Sunday family dinners have become a tradition in my home.  More Sundays than not, all 3 kids are home for dinner.  Sometimes all the boyfriends/girlfriend are also eating with us.  Last night turned into a dinner where we had almost everyone.  I had planned for a dinner for 5 which turned into 7.  I was only planning on pasta salad and kale salad.  Thankfully, I had a frozen pizza in the freezer that we were able to add to dinner, and voila, I had enough for everyone.

I want everyone to know that dinner on Sundays in my house is open to everyone. For that to happen, I need to be better organized for big meals that may need to get bigger at a moment’s notice.  Impromptu dinners are the best kind because the mood can never be replicated and that is what makes them so much fun.

Here is the recipe for the pasta salad that I made last night.  It was a hit.

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Greek Pasta Salad

1 lb pasta

8 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts

8 oz roasted red peppers

2 oz sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)

1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives

1/4 cup chopped red onion

4 oz crumbled feta cheese

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp  oregano

1 tsp basil

salt and pepper to taste

 

Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

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Milwaukee Art Museum

Another week has passed and it’s another week of saving some cash.  Here is a run down of what we did this week to save money.

  1. I have an unruly set of eyebrows.  Without proper maintenance, they turn into a unibrow.  I used to pay someone every 3 weeks to wax them, now I do it myself with a pair of tweezers and a lot of patience.  I did that this week.
  2. The first Thursday of every month is free day at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  After going to an appointment with my daughter on Thursday, I decided to visit the museum for a couple of hours.
  3. We ordered pizza last weekend, which we don’t do very often.  Dominoes had a $7.99 3 topping large pizza special.  We ordered 2 and my daughter picked them up, so no delivery fee or tip.  This provided dinner for 4 and lunch for 2 the next day.
  4. I brown bagged it to work everyday.  Thankfully, my restaurant options are limited near my employer, so anything I can put together at home is the better option.
  5. I carefully menu planned and stayed below my weekly grocery budget.  Not buying meat helps that cause.

What did you do to save a few dollars this week?

 

Books

My Lovely Wife – Book Review

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I think it is safe to say that 2019 is going to prove to be a great year for fiction.  I recently finished My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing.  In a word, WOW!  It is, in my opinion, as good as Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.  Just a completely different genre of fiction.

In 2012, Gillian Flynn released Gone Girl.  I think almost all of my friends read that book.  Since that time, it feels like every author is trying to write the new Gone Girl.    Don’t get me wrong, I love almost every single one of those books.  I love a good mystery, no matter how predictable they have become.  But, the key word there is predictable, we all know how they are going to end.

My Lovely Wife, in my opinion finally broke that mold.  The summary claims this to be Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  That description is semi accurate, but so much more.  It’s the story of a couple who have decided to add a bit of excitement to their marriage.  They are both certifiably crazy, you just don’t know until the end who is actually crazier.  The author does such a good job of character development, that I found myself almost hoping that they wouldn’t get caught.  That is until the end, then I did want one of them to get caught and wanted the other to walk away.  I was not disappointed by the ending and did not see it coming.  This is a great one for a day at the beach or in your hammock.  Just leave enough time to read it in a couple of sittings, it is hard to put down.

I don’t want to give any spoilers so I will end here.  If this book is any indication of what is coming in fiction for the second half of 2019, I better clear more time in my schedule for reading.

Household

Lavender Room Spray

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My favorite scent is lavender.  I burn lavender candles, use lavender soap and lotion, diffuse lavender oil and spritz my rooms with lavender spray.  I used to spend about $10 for a bottle of room spray at my food co-op.  But now I make my own for a couple dollars, at the most.  The recipe is easy and found all over the internet.

Lavender Room Spray

1 1/2 tbsp vodka

6 tbsp water

10 drops essential lavender oil

spray bottle (mine is a recycled bottle from the spray I purchased)

Pour all ingredients in bottle and shake.