Recipes

Lemon Dressing

It is a hot night this beautiful Monday, so I am making a simple salad for dinner.  Making your own salad dressing is a great way to save money.  Not only that, homemade tastes so much better.  Below is my recipe for lemony salad dressing.  Since it is lemon juice and olive oil, you know it’s healthy.  Enjoy!

Lemon Dressing

1/4 cup  fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar and shake.

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Books

The Favorite Daughter-Book Review

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I recently finished The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda.  The main character in this book, Jane, is a mother of 2.  She recently lost her older daughter, Mary, and questions remain as to what happened.  When the book begins, they are approaching the one year anniversary of Mary’s death.  Jane has spent a year, heavily medicated, to get through the grief of losing who she believed was her perfect daughter.  During that year, her husband has been working longer hours and her younger daughter, Betsy,  is keeping secrets.  The family appears to be falling apart and Jane has made it her mission to find out what is going on and what actually happened to Mary.

I don’t want to give any spoilers.  But, I have read a lot of books that follow what I have mentioned before as being in the “Gone Girl” genre and this one definitely follows that same genre.  As we all know, Amy was a certifiable lunatic in Gone Girl.  Compared to Jane in The Favorite Daughter, Amy was actually very sane and normal.  To say Jane is crazy, would be an understatement.  While I had fun reading this book, I did have a hard time dealing with the true insanity of Jane, I can’t remember the last time I read a character that was crazy and so void of humanity.  In a word, WOW!

The Favorite Daughter gives us a very fictional glimpse into the perfect, All American family living in Orange County California.  The neighborhood that they live in is over the top idyllic and the people who live there are nothing more than characters.  If this is what it is really like to live among the rich in California, I will continue to be happy in Midwestern America.  No one seems real in the story, making it hard to actually care about the characters.  That being said though, I did have fun reading the book and read it quickly.  It is a very easy read and while the ending is very predictable, Jane is very transparent, the story will draw you in.

Don’t expect great literature with this one.  I came across one very glaring mistake the author made while writing the book.  Throughout the story she talks about all the years her girls were one year apart in school.  However, when the oldest daughter goes to college, the younger daughter is starting her junior year of high school.  This was, in my opinion, a major mistake that the editor missed.  That set aside,  expect to have fun reading it and know that the ending will be very satisfying.  I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.  I would have given 3.5, with a half star for the fun factor if that was an option.

Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Here is the roundup of things we did this week to save money.

  1.  When Luna was a puppy, she destroyed our couch.  I mean, seriously ripped it apart.  The result has been driving me crazy for months.  Instead of buying a brand new couch for her to destroy again, I ordered a slip cover from Amazon to hide the damage.  It looks fine and will do until we have the courage to buy a new couch.
  2. This week I was thinking that I need to order a 2020 calendar as I continue to make appointments into the next year.  Coincidentally, Amazon mailed multiple appointment books to my employer and told us to keep them.  So, I got a really nice and really free appointment book for 2020.  It’s definitely not in the league of the Lisa Condren appointment books that I like, but it serves it’s purpose just fine.
  3. I bought my mom her birthday gift online, utilizing a one day only 25% off special.  Just in case you are reading this mom, you will love it!
  4. I bought a new rug at Kohl’s (of course everything at Kohl’s is always on sale, but 50% off isn’t bad).  I got $20 in Kohl’s cash which I plan on using for new throw pillows, to replace the pillows the dog destroyed.  Also, the rug needed to be replaced, because the dog destroyed the old one.  See a pattern here?
  5. I got the oil changed on my car and used a $25 of coupon.

What have you done this week to save money?

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Recipes

Jalapeno Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich

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I love egg sandwiches for breakfast.  I have created a super simple and tasty sandwich.  The required ingredient is cheddar with jalapenos Pub Cheese from Trader Joe’s.  This sandwich is so much better than anything I have had at a coffee shop or restaurant.

Jalapeno Cheddar Egg Sandwich

1 fried egg

1 breakfast sausage patty (I use the veggie breakfast patties from Trader Joe’s)

1 english muffin

1 generous serving of cheddar jalepeno cheese spread

Assemble sandwich and enjoy!

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Required ingredient!

 

Family Life

Early Morning Treat

I woke up earlier than I usually do this morning.  Because I start work a bit later than most people, I have the luxury of sleeping in  most mornings.  I have considered myself lucky, but I do miss those early mornings to savor a cup of coffee while the house is still quiet.  Most nights I commit to waking up earlier the next morning, but I rarely follow through.

This morning was different for some reason.  I woke up at 6:00 when I heard my husband getting ready for work.  So, I pulled myself out of bed to let the dogs out and start a pot of coffee. What a treat that was.  It was a beautiful morning.  Summer is finally here, the proof was in the dew that I walked through as I took my dog out for her morning potty break.

After my husband and daughter went to work, I brought the dogs with me to our front porch.  With a book and cup of coffee in hand I took advantage of a quiet morning before going to work.  I really need to go back to my early bird schedule, the morning has so much to offer.

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Early morning game of catch with Luna

Books

Wunderland – Book Review

I recently finished the World War II drama Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein.  This was one of those books that I started and had to promise myself that I would not stay up until 12:30 am reading.  I did not fulfill that promise to myself and finished it in 2 nights, it was that good.

Set in Berlin in the 1930’s, best friends Ilse and Renate, have spent their childhood together.  They share secrets and make promises to each other to remain best friends forever.  As the Nazi party continues to strengthen in Germany, they find that maintaining their precious friendship is going to be impossible.  Renate’s family reveals a secret that will make it impossible for her to sustain her lifestyle, her social connections and education.

After introducing Ilse and Renate, the book jumps to 1980’s New York City and the reader is introduced to Ilse’s daughter Ava.  Ava was born at the start of WWII and never knew who her father was and never knew why she was surrendered to an orphanage as a young child, only to be retreived by her mother years later.  She spends her life begging her mother for answers, but receives nothing from Ilse.  Finally, after years of estrangement from Ilse she receives a letter from Germany that includes the story of her mother’s life through a series of letters that her mother wrote over several decades to Renate.  These letters explain to Ava why her mother was distant and cold during her childhood.  It also explains the mystery of her father and those years in the orphanage.  The answer is shocking.

I really liked this book for several reasons.  I have read so many WWII books over the years.  The events of 1940’s Europe provided endless material for historical fiction.  Personally, I have always felt an obligation to read those stories so that I can understand why the holocaust happened and what drove millions of people to follow a madman blindly.  In all honesty, I have been backing away from those books a little bit because they all seem to end in the same place, a death camp. While I know that was the story for millions of victims, it was not the story for all of Hitler’s victims.  Make no mistake about it though, just because this story does not end in a death camp, that doesn’t make the outcome any less tragic. In the end,  the brutality these families live through ends before they have to enter a death camp.

I realize that while this book was historical fiction, it also had the element of mystery and suspense.  The big reveal is saved for the last few pages,  which allowed the book to hold my attention until the very end.  I kept asking myself, what is the secret?  So many scenarios went through my mind, but honestly, I wasn’t prepared for the end.  That is what makes a good story great!

I also appreciated that the author had the ability to make me really hate Ilse through almost the entire book.  I mean, she is really portrayed as an awful woman.  Her final letter allowed me to realize their was so much more to her.  I can’t say I walked away feeling pity or sorry for her, or that I even liked her at the end.  But, I ended the book understanding her a bit more.

I gave Wunderland 5 stars on Goodreads without hesitation.

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Here is a list of the things we did this week to maintain our frugal way of life.

  1. Father’s Day was spent at home.  We grilled out and had a family dinner loaded with laughter and conversation.
  2. The kids and I pooled our money and bought Eric a Father’s Day gift he wanted, instead of buying 4 so so gifts.
  3. Did you know that Head and Shoulders shampoo is the perfect home remedy for some skin rashes?  Instead of buying cream at the store, I used the shampoo we had on hand and it worked like a charm.  NOTE talk to your doctor about using Head and Shoulders before applying it to a rash.  My doctor was the one who told me this a couple years ago, but everyone is different.
  4. I had to drive to Green Bay unexpectedly over the weekend.  Like always, I used our teeny tiny Toyota Yaris for the drive.  The car gets 30 miles to the gallon, making it an economical way to travel long distances.
  5. I have been doing some “redecorating” of the kids rooms as they move on, move out, move back and grow up. I made some changes to my son’s room and used furniture, bedding and decorations we already had.  I have to constantly remind myself to use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.
  6. Here is an extra which relates to my daughter, not me.  On her way to work on Monday morning, she filled up her tank and the pump had some kind of problem.  She got $40 worth of gas for free.  The gas station attendant told her that there was nothing she could about it and she could call corporate.  Corporate told her to talk to the gas station.  She made a genuine effort to pay for the gas.

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Family Life, Recipes

Mushroom and Boursin Cheese Omelette

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Watt’s Tea Room was a Milwaukee monument for over 100 years.  Watt’s was a  restaurant that served breakfast, lunch and tea on the top floor of the shop it was part of.  The store sells china and crystal and I can’t think of a time that we were there that we didn’t see a mother and daughter there, picking out patterns for a wedding registry.  On December 31, 2016 the tea room  closed it’s doors, bringing the end of an era.  My daughters and I were there on the last day for one last meal and to say goodbye.  Watt’s Tea Room was an annual tradition for us, we would go for lunch the Saturday before they went back to school.  The food was good, I am not so sure that it was amazing, but it was good.  For me, it was more about being part of the history of our city.  Everyone knew about Watt’s Tea Room and almost everyone I knew had either been there with their mother or daughter at least once.

One of my favorite meals was their mushroom and boursin cheese omelette.  When the store closed, my first thought was “oh no, that omelette”, I feared I would never eat one again.  I have since tried to replicate it at home and I believe I am close.  When I serve that omelette, I am sure to have big, thick english muffins on hand, as Watt’s was famous for their english muffins.  Here is my attempt to recreate that recipe.

Mushroom and Boursin Cheese Omelette

2 eggs

1 tbsp half and half

2 oz mushrooms

splash of white wine (optional)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

garlic and herb boursin cheese (to taste)

Whisk eggs and half & half.  Heat olive oil in pan, once heated add sliced mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.  Add white wine for extra flavor.  Once mushrooms are cooked, remove from pan and add butter and melt.  Add eggs, once firm add mushrooms and cheese. Note, boursin cheese is very flavorful, you don’t need a lot.  Fold into an omelette, garnish with additional mushrooms and cheese.

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.