I have things to say. So I say them here. Things include talking about food, my teenage (!) kids, music, Chicago, running, reading and did I mention food. I also have aspirations to do some stuff I find on Pinterest, meal planning and saving money. Wish me luck!
Who else can't believe that it's already 2 weeks until Christmas? I'm in big trouble as I have barely started shopping! Don't tell Patrick but I am hoping he will like his 'big present' I went out on a limb as he didn't ask for this, but I got tickets to see Hamilton! Cheap seats to be sure, but still a big expense. This afternoon he was singing a song from the show so I think he will be excited.
Then for BMO all he wants is one thing...a Nintendo Switch. Ugh they are $299 and you can't get any good deal on those. Don't let anyone tell you kids aren't expensive.
picture from digitaltrends.com
Anna wants a few items, including REAL Ugg boots. I was hoping Uggs weren't really a thing anymore, but apparently they are, and only REAL Uggs are acceptable. I don't know that Uggs will be happening. I just don't see the value in purchasing the 'real' boots when the basic style are $20 - $30 and function as well. Also they are bad for feet, they have zero arch support.
Clearly I'm already broke with these three kids. :)
I did get a nice deal from a coworker. She gave me a code for free meals from Blue Apron and I tried a couple of meals this week. Instead of three free two-person meals, I got two of the family meals, those serve four people. I knew at least one kid wouldn't like something about whatever meals I picked, so we would be fine, quantity wise. Also, I added extra potatoes for the sides with each meal so there was more food for the man. I liked the quality of produce and meat that we received. The steps were a bit more labor intensive than I had anticipated, but nothing too taxing. The food was definitely restaurant quality and assuming that to eat at a restaurant is at least $12 per person, Blue Apron is less expensive and you can eat in your pajamas. I think we will get Blue Apron about once a month moving forward, it's easy to pick meals and I like to try new recipes. Maybe at some point I'll be able to mince garlic fine enough to turn it into a garlic paste- something both my recipes asked me to do and I failed at doing.
Braised Chicken & Smashed Potatoes with Olives, Herbs, & Broccoli
I liked the capers in the smashed potatoes, a nice way to add flavor!
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you had a lovely one. I have been neglectful of my blog, because I have been participating in my first NaNoWriMo! One month, 50,000 words, 1667 new words per day. I was keeping up for the first couple of weeks, getting up at 5:30AM to try and put as many words down as possible. Well I managed to stress myself out so much I was having trouble sleeping by day 14. Writing a book is something I want to do and not hate doing, so I decided to focus on writing everyday and not counting the words. I had to take a break from obsessing over winning the month, and rebalance. In the end, I finished November with over 30,000 words.
If you ask me, I think this was a great first year effort and I'm feeling good about my Cozy Mystery book in process: Temporary Name: Creating Cakes, Book 1, (I'm looking for a punny title but have come up short so far) Creaking Cakes, Book 1 is about 25 percent finished and I'm excited with where I am going, as I recently introduced my main character "Jane" to her future love interest "Mr. Northmen" He looks like this...
(picture from pindaddy.com )
He is an 8th Grade teacher. Yes, picture Keanu Reeves as a middle school teacher. Jane just ran into him while volunteering at the school this past Friday. I could go on, but I should focus on actually writing the book not writing about writing the book.
For Thanksgiving I tried a new turkey cooking recipe and that bird turned out delicious! The high heat locked in the juices. After it was done, I lowered the temperature and cooked the sides. Anna made the mashed potatoes with a recipe from Williams-Sonoma.
If you are going to make a turkey for Christmas, you have got to try this recipe! So easy and it works! The Simplest Roast Turkey, is a recipe by famed chef Thomas Keller which I found on the Epicurious website. Give it a try and you can feel that you are in the rarified air of professional chefs when you serve this roast turkey to your family!
Happy December! Happy Advent ! Has this been a long year or what?
Thanks for reading today and I'll blog again much sooner.
I got this book through my kindle unlimited subscription, I chose it because I was looking for Seasonal Cozy Mysteries and this takes place around Halloween. It's book 3, so ideally I would prefer to read the series in order, but I wasn't paying attention and didn't realize it was third in the series. About 3/4 of the way through this mystery, I started listening to the Audio Version of Book 1 (Killer Jam). I'll be finishing that and reviewing it very soon.
I enjoyed this book, it was fairly easy to surmise who the killer was, but the why took longer, which is fine with me. I enjoy both the mystery and the why's when I read Cozy Mysteries. I will be catching up with this series by mid November and then I'll be looking forward to book 4 (Mistletoe Murder) to be out December 11th---a Christmas Themed book! (I like those holiday reads and I'm not going to apologize for it.)
There are a few reasons why I am enjoying this series. First, Lucy our protagonist is in her 30s and a former Houston reporter. She has lived some life before we met her and I find that to be a big plus. Second, the mystery takes center stage, i.e. we don't get a subplot where Lucy is filled with angst over a man. Third, I enjoy the small farm setting, Lucy and her friends are environmentally conscious; it's not an overt message of caring for the environment and being responsible, but it is there, interwoven into the books' adventures.
My only issue with the series is that I don't feel that the writer has provided enough description of what the characters look like- I don't know if this is because I began on book 3, or I'm reading too fast and missing it or if the writer has done this on purpose.
All in all, it's a good Cozy Mystery series, especially enjoyable for me is Lucy learning how to homestead at her family farm. Here you can see the first book in this series: Killer Jam
Now what is a Dewberry? Have you heard of Deweberries before? I had not. Turns out they are very similar to blackberries and grow throughout the Northern Hemisphere. One type is know as Texas Dewberry and that is found in ...wait for it... Texas (and some of Louisiana). They ripen before blackberries so that is a plus for anyone who loves berries. You can find out more here
With the kids being teens, I see the writing on the wall, our time together as a family under one roof is limited. Therefore, I'm on a memory making mission. Heck I even put Throwback Thursday on this post so it will be easy to find in 5 years when Anna goes off to college and I'm a giant puddle of nostalgia.
This past Saturday was declared by me as Family Craft Day. The craft I chose was Halloween Mason Jars. You may notice we didn't actually use Mason Jars. Being frugal and ecofriendly, I saved jars, soaked off the labels and we were set. I still have about 6 jars we can use for Christmas Crafts.
Should you be looking to make your own Halloween Luminaries, there are literally thousands of different webpages like this one, and Pinterest Pins devote to this craft. I got buy-in for this craft project from 2 of 3 kids, so I took it as a win and we are now enjoy the whimsical fruits of our labors.
I also spent some time being creative in the kitchen and here is what I came up with for Sunday Dinner. Jewel had a sale on pork loin, so I paid $11 for a loin I cut into 5 pork roasts. Such a Deal! I froze all but one for future meals. This one I first covered with Garlic Garlic, Onion Onion, salt and pepper and seared it on all sides in a cast iron skillet. Then I placed the roast in a roasting pan and added a couple of sliced apples, an onion, 4 potatoes and 4 wedges of cabbage. I seasoned the vegetables and poured 1/2 cup of Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar over everything. I covered the pan with aluminum foil and roasted until the pork roast was fall-apart tender ( 300 degrees F for about 3 hours). It worked out really well. The sweet/sour/savory flavors melded together quite well. Tom and I enjoyed ours with a Ballast Point Pumpkin Ale.
Today I'm sharing a new mystery series, the first book has just come out and it's a deal on Kindle! Always fun to add new books to your TBR file!
Murder Mystery, Cozy Mystery
Meet David Wagers, a cool, collected and incredibly handsome Private Investigator in the New York City area. David is hired to investigate the unsolved murder case of Courtney Tabbin, a popular, young woman with a promising future. Along the way, David encounters some interesting and suspicious characters and a complex office drama. Was Courtney’s murder just a random act of violence, or something more personal?
While digging deeper for answers, David also manages to juggle an understaffed office and even forms an alluring, new friendship with Victoria under the unlikeliest of circumstances. With impeccable skills of observation, deduction and razor-sharp instincts, David moves steadily towards solving the case but not without a few twists and turns, and managing to turn a few heads along the way.
Work & Wagers (David Wagers Case #1), a cozy murder mystery, is the first book in the new and exciting David Wagers detective series.
David could already hear the phone ringing as he unlocked his office door. “I guess I really need to get someone in here,” he acknowledged to himself, knowing that he should have hired an assistant a good month ago. Business was beginning to pick up and no longer consisted of just background checks and unfaithful spouses.
His office suite was in a mid-rise building and consisted of two rooms; a small waiting room and his even smaller private office. It really wasn’t a bad trade off considering he had a view – or a snippet of a view – of the New York City skyline.
Sitting at his desk, David snapped his laptop into its docking station and turned it on. He would need to weed through his voicemail messages but that would have to wait for the time being.
One call that he had received the evening before was from Walter Huffs, a respected local attorney. Walter’s niece had been murdered and the crime remained unsolved. Concerned for his sister’s mental health and not wanting the case to go cold, Walter had hired him to investigate further. It was a case that David really wanted to handle, for a number of reasons.
“Courtney Tabbin,” he typed into the search engine on his sluggish computer. Page after page of search results came up. David began to comb through each and every one of them.
He remembered the incident very well. No more than a year ago, Courtney Tabbin’s body had been found in a secluded wooded area in Northern New Jersey, savagely beaten and left in a nearby stream. There had been no sign of sexual assault. Stolen items including a necklace and a wallet containing cash suggested a robbery, but the nature of the wounds suggested something more.
“I will have to speak to your sister, Joanne, about your niece,” David had said to Walter at the time, “and in doing so she will have to relive the crime and the loss of her daughter all over again. Will she be up for it?”
“Yes,” Walter had replied. “I discussed this with my sister before contacting you. It will be hard for her but not as hard as not having closure.”
According to past news articles, the night that Courtney disappeared she was supposed to meet with some co-workers for dinner. At first, when it appeared that Courtney was running late, a couple of the girls had tried to reach her on her cell phone. When she completely failed to show up, one of her co-workers had called Courtney’s house and had spoken to her mother. Her car had eventually been discovered on a desolate road, not far from where her remains had been found.
David’s concentration was broken into to when the phone rang. “David Wagers,” he quickly answered.
“Hi, David, did you get any of my messages?” It was Penny Irvines, a spousal surveillance client. Penny was in her mid-forties and well preserved, but was not the teeny bopper that she thought herself to be.
“Hello, Penny. Yes, I did,” David replied. Penny had left a message yesterday evening. “I just got into the office a few minutes ago.”
“Did you find anything out last night?” she asked sweetly. He could almost hear her batting her eyelashes.
“No,” David admitted. “I didn’t. It seems as if Troy was just working late.”
“Ohhh, how could that be?!” Penny exclaimed. “Are you sure about that?’
“There hasn’t been any evidence of infidelity so far,” he stated.
“You know he still has that business meeting outside of the office at the end of the week,” Penny continued.
“Yes, I’m prepared for his meeting on Friday,” David answered.
“David, dear, I didn’t mean to suggest that you weren’t prepared,” Penny said innocently. “It’s just so hard for me to be home alone all the time when I know he’s out gallivanting.”
“We’ll see what his meeting on Friday turns up. I’ll give you a call at the end of the week,” David said, eager to get her off the phone.
“Thank you, David,” Penny purred. “I’ll be waiting.”
David was getting the distinct impression that Penny just wanted an excuse to get out of her marriage, but he didn’t want to jump to any conclusions.
Picking up the phone, he dialed in his voicemail passcode. Now was as good a time as any to go through the rest of his calls.
After picking up records on the Tabbin case graciously supplied by Detective Woods at the local police department, David was on his way to meet with Joanne Tabbin.
Joanne resided in a prestigious area in Northern New Jersey with her husband, a senior accountant and owner of his own CPA firm. Courtney had been their only child, which had made their loss that much harder to bear.
Arriving right on time, David pulled into the driveway of the attached, oversized two-car garage, as Joanne had advised. As he made his way up the front walk, the sun shined down brightly in the quiet, serene neighborhood, attempting to conceal the anguish that he could feel lingering underneath.
David rang the bell and waited for just a couple of minutes, hearing soft footsteps on the other side of the door.
Joanne answered the door looking haggard. In her early fifties she appeared older, with her salt and pepper hair and deep, dark circles beneath her eyes. She quickly extended her hand.
“So nice to meet you, Mr. Wagers,” she said, her gaze meeting his with unexpected determination. “Please, come in.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Tabbin,” David responded. “Your home is lovely.” The center hall colonial opened to a two story entry foyer which delivered a dramatic first impression.
“Thank you so much,” Joanne said. “Come, make yourself comfortable.” She led David to a formal living room where he took a seat on a small sofa. A framed picture of Courtney, a pretty brunette, sat on a nearby end table.
“Would you like anything?” she asked.
“No, thank you,” David said.
Joanne sat down in an armchair across from him. “So, where do we begin?”
“Well,” David said, taking a pad and pen from out of his briefcase, “We could start with that night.”
“Yes, a night I will never forget,” she stated.
Joanne then proceeded to rehash the events of that fateful evening. How Courtney had come home right after work and changed to go out to dinner for a girls’ night out with her co-workers. They were set to meet at the restaurant at seven thirty that evening, and Courtney had left at approximately five forty-five.
“Why did she leave so early?” David asked as he jotted down notes.
“She was probably taking into consideration the rush hour traffic,” Joanne speculated. “I know she was planning to stop for gas and the bank before it closed.”
“Could she have been planning to meet up with someone else before going to dinner?” David questioned.
“Courtney never mentioned that, but I supposed it’s not out of the question,” Joanne said.
“What about boyfriends? Was she seeing anyone at the time?” he continued.
“She did have one boyfriend but he was away in Connecticut for his last year of college,” Joanne answered.
“I’m sure you’ve been asked all of this before, but I need to ask again,” David commented.
“I understand that,” she nodded.
David hesitated for a moment. “Did Courtney have any enemies that you know of, any jealousies or dramas occurring in her life at that time?”
“Not that I know of,” Joanne stated. “Courtney was a popular girl and always had a lot of friends. She was beautiful and outgoing so, yes, there were some jealousies from time to time but nothing drastic.”
“I understand that Courtney was working at a major corporation in the area,” David said, “What was her role in the company?”
“Courtney was working for Well Metro, a health insurance company,” Joanne said, “She worked as a paralegal in their legal department. She was considering going further and becoming an attorney.”
“How long was she working at Well Metro?” David asked.
“She had just started. Maybe six months,” she recalled.
Tapping the pad with his pen, David asked, “Was Courtney having any problems at work?”
“No, not at all,” Joanne answered. “She loved the work she was doing. Her co-workers seemed like a nice group of girls. They were very concerned for her the night she went missing. I actually still talk to one of the girls. She’s very upset about Courtney’s murder and has been very supportive.”
“Could I have her name?” David asked.
“Pam Jobley,” she said. “She’s a very nice girl. In fact, I know she’s looking to move and I was actually considering offering her our lower level suite. It’s been so quiet in the house since Courtney has been gone. Pam is very cooperative and I’m sure she would answer any questions you might have about Courtney should you want to speak with her.”
“Maybe I will,” David said, looking up from his notes.
After speaking with Joanne for a little while longer, David left with a list of names of friends, classmates and co-workers of Courtney’s. Although none of the information he obtained was anything new from what was already on record, he was hoping that a different approach would bring forward different results.
It was obvious that Joanne leaned toward the idea that the murder was the result of a robbery gone wrong, some random person that, hopefully, someone would remember seeing Courtney cross paths with that night. David wasn’t so sure, however, and planned to leave no stone unturned.
About the Author
Sherrie Sushko is the author of three books, Remain, Lost Love, and Work & Wagers. When not writing or reading, Sherrie enjoys spending time outdoors with her dog. Sherrie currently resides in the United States.
Happy Wednesday! Just 13 days until Halloween. Alas this year Halloween is on a Tuesday, so not the best day for Tricks and Treats in my opinion. Nevertheless to help you get into the spirit I invite you to enjoy my latest Pumpkin Ale review!
Wait! Before we begin, set a reminder to watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! tomorrow night on ABC at 7PM CDT. Heck enjoy a Pumpkin Ale during the show.
Now on to the review. This week's pumpkin ale hails from Trader Joe's. It's called KBC Pumpkin Ale, the KBC stands for Kennebunkport Brewing Company. KBC Pumpkin Ale has been featured in the Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer so if you are a fan of their unique take on grocery ads, check it out here.
I quite enjoyed this Pumpkin Ale. You could definitely taste the flavors of fall in this one, i.e, cardamon, cinnamon and cloves (The big 3). It's not a heavy beer so you can enjoy a couple of them and the ABV is under 5 coming in at 4.5. The price point is nice as well, a six pack was under $9.00. KBC Pumpkin Ale is a perfect beer to enjoy with roasted vegetables or a butternut squash soup or even a turkey sandwich. There isn't a bitter aftertaste, and the pumpkin flavors aren't too flowery so this is a good drink to bring along to share at your upcoming Halloween Gatherings.
If you are in the mood to double down, I have a tip I just learned from a friend and artisan crafter, Kim D. (you can learn more about her and her daughter's pottery and crochet art by clicking -Intertwined Art). Kim was recently at a restaurant in the Pittsburgh area where they offer a shot of Whipped Cream Vodka in your Pumpkin Ale! It's the booziest of pumpkin pie experiences. You should probably bookmark this post, this may just be the ticket to get you through a trying Thanksgiving dinner.
Want a recipe that is easy, full of flavor *and* pairs well with this week's Pumpkin Ale? Here you go!Harvest Veggie Sheet Pan Dinner by Mashup Mom Not only is it delicious, it's also inexpensive! ( should be about $2 per serving!)
Do you shop Black Friday? If so are you planning to shop in your pajamas? Are you planning to get out there in it, shoulder to shoulder, wrestling strangers for that one damn thing your kiddo really, really really wants under the tree?
Me, I like Black Friday shopping. We live in an urban metropolis so I have my pick of stores that are conveniently located. This year I'm planning to check out JC Penney's during my Black Friday shopping and this is because, I'm a fan of Tracee Ellis Ross and she has a new holiday collection.
To be the first to see the JC Penney's ad, as well as Target, Kohl's and Menards (that's one is for the Hubs) I subscribe to BF Ads they are reliable source for all the leaked ads!
A great way to double down on your savings this holiday season is to use apps that give you cash back on purchases now and then use the cash back or gift cards when Black Friday arrives.
Now many stores have rewards programs themselves so make sure you have the Target Cartwheel app, the Kohls Yes to You Rewards , and the Kmart/Sears Shop Your Way . These are all super handy because you don't need to have a store credit card to get the rewards. Also all of these stores have ship to store pick up so you can shop online and go pick up your order to avoid shipping charges.
The best way to earn cash back is to get yourself an Ebates account. You sign up and when you are ready to shop go to Ebates, type in the store name and shop. When you are done shopping cash is rebated to you and put in your Ebates account. Then they send you a check when you request it. This way you get all the deals of the store reward program plus you earn cash back!
For grocery shopping, I use the Ibotta App. You click on what grocery store you are going to and then you click on the various rebates they have available. You do your shopping and then you scan your receipt and Ibotta adds rebates to your account. When you rack up $20 in rebates, which is not too hard to do, then you can tranfer the money to apps like PayPal or redeem for gift cards! You also earn bonuses for various purchases and for referrals. My referral link is here.
Holidays are almost here and it's always a good time to save money! I hope these tips are useful!
I found that the voice of Aurora Teagarden was much more the voice of Charlaine Harris a 60-something than that of a 30-something librarian. For example, what 37 year old woman in 2016 uses the word trousers to describe pants. C'mon! This book takes place just a few weeks after the last one, which is disjointing. (esp. since the previous book was set in the early 2000s) So just a few weeks ago Aurora finds her SIL dead and now it is Christmas, she is pregnant, married and not only is her step brother missing but there are other kids missing AND dead teenagers. It seems like a bit much, and yet there is plenty of time for the author to give paragraphs of space to the discussion of Aurora preparing the most bland food ever eaten.
Lastly during the book Aurora does three stupid things and hides 2 crucial details from police that prolong the mystery and are so reckless it's hard to fathom. I almost through the book across the room a couple of times due to the lack of critical thinking by Aurora and her husband.
A common thread in all Charlaine Harris books is uneccessary discussion of what food the protagonist is preparing. If the food sounded good, that would be forgiving, but her main characters are bad cooks. Just the most boring food. It's depressing. If I was her editor, I'd put big red slashes through all food talk!
To combat bad food writing I thought I would share a couple fun Halloween themed recipes:
½ cup roasted and salted shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Sour cream (optional)
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add Onion Onion™ Seasoning; sautè 30 seconds.
Stir in broth; bring to a simmer. Add pumpkin and 1 Tbsp. Rustic Herb Seasoning; simmer 5 minutes. Stir in coconut milk; continue simmering 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine pumpkin seeds and remaining 1 tsp. oil in small bowl. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. Rustic Herb Seasoning and Parmesan cheese. Toss to coat.
Ladle soup into bowls or shot or cordial glasses. Sprinkle with herbed pumpkin seeds.
To decorate the glasses, add sour cream to a resealable plastic bag. Cut off a bag corner. Pipe slightly wavy ring around the inside of each glass. Using a wooden skewer, push the sour cream down to make elongated lines. Pour soup into glasses.
Serve soup in Jack Be Little or other small pumpkins. To prepare pumpkins, cut top ½ inch off each pumpkin; scrape out seeds. Place on a baking sheet with rim. Add ½ cup water to baking sheet; cover pumpkins with foil. Bake 20 minutes or until soft enough to scoop out pumpkin flesh. Remove from oven and cool; gently scoop out flesh, leaving a ¼-inch shell.
Checked out the old weather forecast and it looks like the next 7 days in Chicagoland will continue to be above normal. Rain is supposed to show up on Tuesday and Wednesday so I'll have to remember not to wear sandals on those two days. Sandals in October? Yes. I'm going to keep on wearing my sandals until the daily temps go under 60. Why not right? Plus I need to buy a new pair of black boots and have not gotten around to doing that and right now since we are paying for 2 kids to go to Disney on school trips in 2018- I'm trying to put as much $ toward getting those trips paid off as possible as quickly as possibly.
All this warm weather does make it rather hard to remember Fall is here. The trees aren't bursting with gold, orange and red leaves, and you can leave the house without a jacket. I am sure this will change shortly, but for a bit longer I'll stick with my warm weather clothes.
That being said I do realize Halloween is fast approaching. I have amassed a collection of glass jars that I am trying to prioritize DIYing into cute Halloween décor. I did my Googles and found this blog called Crafts by Amanda-easy craft tutorials for adults and kids. My plan is to follow through and get crafty the weekend of 10/21- 10/22. My goal is to get at least one of the kids to make the crafty luminaries with me. Wish me luck!
Last week in Chicagoland the weather was amazing. We started the day at Pet-A-Palooza where I had a Tastefully Simple booth. BMO who is crazy about dogs came with to check out all the pups on parade. Literally, there was a Pet Parade and prizes! Later in the day, I dragged the hubs along to check out a local brewery's Imperial Oak Brewing Oktoberfest.
For the event they had food trucks, a German Band and about 40 different beers on tap. Tom was a real peach, he doesn't like beer but he still posed for a picture.
Tom is holding a Sour Beer called Straw. It was my first time trying a Sour Beer and turns out, I don't really think it's my thing. I wanted to give this a try because it is a Wild (Brett) Saison) and I like Saisons from time to time. They have a flowery essence that I find appealing during Spring. A couple of years ago I fell in love with IPAs and all their citrus punch, but a few months ago, one day out of the blue, I was done. I'm over IPA and Sours fall a bit into that category. Now if I'm going to enjoy a beer I'm looking at Lagers, Stouts and Porters.
For my Pumpkin Ale, I tried the Bourbon Barrel aged Dark Gourd- Pumpkin Ale. It was a pretty dry beer, and I didn't taste pumpkin or seasonal spices coming through. A bit of a bummer. Lucky for me third time is the charm. The Kolsch was great! Kaiser-Kolsch- 5.4 ABV, 19 IBU. What is a Kolsch? Its a nice sunny beer that is made with mostly Pilsner Malt. ( paraphrasing from Wikipedia). It would be spectacular paired with a big bowl of German Potato Salad. When I make my German Potato Salad I wing it, but here is a recipe that looks like the real deal should you want to try your hand at a great side dish.
A winner of a beer! The picture doesn't do the color justice, in real life it was a brighter yellow. And there you have it, good beer super local.