100 Books of 2015

I decided that 2015 I would challenge myself to read 100 books. Now years ago, this would not have been a problem, but since getting glasses reading books has become difficult and I fall asleep. So I have been listening to audiobooks, and am in love with the process. 

 

My fascination with audiobooks started with the Harry Potter books, there are two sets out there, one read by Jim Dale, and the other by Stephen Fry. I honestly prefer Jim Dale over Stephen Fry; Jim takes extra care to put a voice to his characters. And of all of them when he impersonates Snape, it made me fall in love with the character even more. But honestly, that is another story. 

 

I used to listen to Harry Potter, to fall asleep years ago. It helped me drift off, and I cannot remember having a better sleep when I was listening to these books. From this point forward I was addicted. I have listened to almost every kind of book imaginable that is out there. 

 

There are times when I will read the book first, and then listen to it, just to see what the difference is. And honestly there is a GIANT difference, when listening to a book, rather than reading it. It is more like you are there, and still get to make up the story in your head; rather than being transported into the vision of the directors and producers of a movie.

 

Now, I get to listen to a lot of these books while at work. A lot of people ask me how I can pay attention to the book and still do my work. And honestly, I just can. A lot of my job is repetition, and data entry, and if someone enters my office I pause the book immediately, not to be rude. It is just a habit I have gotten into, out of respect for my co-workers. 

 

So, what I intend to do with this list of 100 books (which is not currently at 100 yet, but is growing each day.) is reviewing each book or series I complete. At this point in time in 2015, I have already completed 3 new books, and 5 Old, and am in the middle of three. (Yes I can read three things at once, as long as they are not the same genera, I can happily switch between worlds.) You will find I am a giant fan of mystery, and fantasy, that range between young adult to adult. I am not a fan of the romance (harlequin) type books, but will pick one up here and there if the story intrigues me. 

 

Books I have read so far this year: 

 

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – Cinder, Scarlet and Cress, and Fairest is one of the books I am half way through at the moment. I went through both Cinder and Scarlet in a matter of two days, and Cress took me a little longer due to not having the time. I am taking my time with Fairest, because the last book in the series is not out until June, so I want to savor what I have left until then. 

If you are a fan of Fairy Tales, these are the books for you. They are a re-telling of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White, with an interconnecting world, and kingdom. Also it is set in the future with cyborgs, and robots, a life/world threatening disease, aliens, and space ships. I know it sounds a little odd, but honestly I couldn’t put these books down. I had over looked Cinder more than once, thinking that the primes was just too much for me. But when I gave it the chance it deserved, I was very pleasantly surprised. I find myself shipping for all the main characters of the books, and their meant to be loves. And am rooting for the characters to FINALY get together, I mean it is a fairy tale, there has to be a happy ending, right? I guess I will just have to wait until June.                                                          

Another book I am in the middle of is Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell: An original Mystery. Yes, I am a Veronica Mars fan, and yes I read the Rob Thomas written books. I am savoring this one as well, because I do not know if there will be another one. 


The third book, I am in the middle of, and basically just started today ( and finished the same day.)  is Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. And holy crap, I cannot put this book down. This is something new, (to me) this premise, and man is it ever fascinating. I am really enjoying the audiobook, because they change voices for the male and female protagonists of the story, and it makes it a lot more engaging. Much like Gone Girl by Gillian Glynn, having the two different voices in the audiobook, I believe engages the reader even more so than that of the book. If I had to give the book a rating after finishing it, I would actually put it as 10 out of 10. I cannot believe how engaging, and creative this book realty was. 


 

A series that I am currently the second book of is The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden. The first book, I actually caught on Netflix as a movie. Called: Tomorrow when the War Began, a great movie, and when I found out that they were books I had to immediately go out and get them. 

The first book is much like Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption, practically word for word from the book to movie. There are a few differences, to tie off the end of the movie, as there are seven books, the ending cannot be exactly the same. 

I am enjoying the series, very much, and it is a nice change from the lovey dovey chick lit, or young adult. It is about war, and survival, when all things are lost. 


So with 3 months in I am 5 books down, I think I need to get a move on! I will update in a little while with how my progress is going on. I am hoping that I can have at least 50 done by June! 

 

Recipe Alert! Chicken Chow Mein

So, one of my go to recipes, is Chicken Chow Mein. It’s honestly the quickest, easiest, dish I have ever made. And the BF loves it, which is also a great thing.

You need the following:

Chicken Breast – You can cook it in the oven, saute it, or even use the left overs from a roasted chicken.

Chow Mein Noodles – Much like ramen noodles, some of the cheapest things in the grocery stores.

Any veggies you like. – I use, onion, carrots, and celery.

Low Sodium Soy Sauce – I prefer low sodium, for the taste, and the health benefits are good too!

Cook your chicken, cook your chow mein, and saute your veg. Toss it all together with the amount of soy sauce that you like. We like it a little heavier than most people, but do it to your liking. And VOILA! Dinner!

If you are more of a fan of takeout Chow Mein here is a copycat recipe from Damn Delicious of Panda Express’ Chow Mein Recipe. It is a little bit more involved than my version, which I will call the lazy way, but I’ve also made it this way, for a Chinese potluck party we attended a little while ago.

And if you are looking for a good recipe resource, Damn Delicious is one of my newest favorite places to go. I am so tempted to try her Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots.

Enjoy!

A Mommy Confession

On Sunday, February 8th, 2015 at 2:10am my life changed.  After 41 weeks of waiting I was finally a mother of 2, a mother to a brilliant young boy, and a brand new gorgeous baby girl.  It was a quick labour and delivery, and the moment she was placed in my arms I was awestruck.  She was beyond words.  So perfect, it terrified me.  I had thought about it for the last 9 months, what it would be like to be a mother to a little girl.  I was just starting to get used to being a mom to a little boy, the bumps and bruises, the hot wheels, the superheroes, all of it.  Now I was being thrown in to a whole new realm of motherhood.

I’ve never been overly “girly” myself.  Not saying that my daughter will grow up to be girly, not saying she won’t grow up to be a tomboy like I was.  I have no idea what she’ll grow up to be like, but as long as she’s happy with who she is I couldn’t be happier.

When you become a parent you are subjected to the worst kind of pressure, helping someone develop and grow in to their own person.  For me it’s scary to be a mother to a little boy, but I can only influence so many aspects of his life.  His father will be the one he looks up to, who he’ll want to grow up to be like.  But now I have a little girl, a smaller version of me.  I’ll be the one she looks up to, I’ll be the one she’ll aspire to be like, at least I hope so.  I have to be the best I can be, better than the best.  I want her to know that she can come to me no matter what, for anything she wants.

It’s been 11 days since my sweet girl was born and I’m already terrified that I’ve let her down in some way, I know I haven’t, but it’s still scary.  When she’s old enough to understand the things I’ve done, I can only hope and hold my breath to see what she chooses to do with the things I teach her, and the things she learns from me on her own.

Ask any parent. There’s nothing scarier than being a parent. There’s so much pressure. Ask them if it’s worth it.  They’ll all tell you the same thing.  Absolutely.  I would take this life over the complete opposite any day of the week.  There will be days when they’ll make me want to pull my hair out, but those are the best days, those are the days where I can show them the best of who I am, and who I can only hope they can be.

So what’s my big confession you make ask.  I’m a mother…and it scares the crap out of me.  I will be scared for the rest of my life, and I’m totally alright with that.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Hi all,

As we all know February is the month of Love, or it is supposed to be anyway. Sometimes, in the dead of winter with 15CM of snow covering your ankles, and it is -33 with the windchill it is hard to remember that it is supposed to be this mushy, lovey dovey month.

So what are some ideas to help you keep in the spirit of Valentine’s?

– Watch a mushy movie: there are tons of them out there. But I will say, if you are watching with your significant other, DON’T get a tear-jerkier, nothing kills the mood more than one or both of you blubbering for fictional characters on the TV.

– Make dinner together: If your house is anything like mine, one cooks and one cleans. But doing this simple task, encourages you to talk, and is just plain fun.

– GET OUT OF THE HOUSE: I think this is one of my all time favorite things to do, is just go for a walk. If you have kids, bring them, if it’s just the two of you, maybe start a snowball fight, or make snow angels.  Once you get back to the house, make a batch of REAL hot chocolate, and cuddle up to get warm. See Jamie Oliver’s Epic Hot Chocolate recipe for a chocolate lovers dream.

– This may not be traditional, but honestly folks, there is nothing romantic about being crammed into a restaurant on valentines day like sardines! With you being next to a couple who is fighting, or with screaming kids, and on the other side is a couple of who are pushing PDA to the limit. Take it from me, postpone your night out for valentines a week, or even make it a week early. This year the BF and I are going to our fave steak house in March, instead of February, just to make sure that we can enjoy ourselves a lot more.

Now for those people who HATE valentines day… I have some ideas for you too. We have all been there, not loving this month and the idea that a day where you proclaim your love for the person you are with. I honestly flip flop back and forth each year. Some years I could care less, and others I am excited for the day. (I am in the middle this year, as it is a Saturday, and we’re kinda stuck for ideas.)

So for the Haters of the Month of love:

– Horror movies – the perfect opposite of the a fore mentioned mushy ones.

– Get out, and take a class. This is the perfect month to get on those resolutions you forgot you made in January. Keep your mind off the month of love by getting out there, and take that cooking or yoga class you have always wanted to take.

– Go away for a girls weekend. Get all your single girls together, (heck even take some of the taken ones.) and go to a ski lodge, or cross boarder shopping.

– Throw an anti-valentines day party – basically just throw a party with a theme of wear anything pink or red, you are not allowed in!

If you are celebrating Valentine’s or not, I wish you all a wonderful February!

Recipe Alert! Chicken Noodle Soup!

So, it’s winter, and it’s cold, and to be honest I know I am coming down with something. So I wanted soup, and not just any soup, some hearty, chicken noodle soup. So I thought, why the hell don’t I try making it from scratch, and from memory. So this is my personal recipe! I think next time I am going to grab a squash, and put that in, as well as some red peppers, just for some different flavors. Also, there is no chicken broth needed for my soup, so you get to control the salt intake.

What you need:

Chicken – I used about a pound cut up into small thin pieces.

Carrots, onion, celery – chopped and sweated out in about 2 tbs of olive oil.

2 medium potatoes – cubed

Noodles (I used egg noodles, but use whatever you have on hand)

Spices: All to taste

salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves, garlic salt, and pepper medley, and garlic medley from club house spices.

1) Poach the chicken, in 4 cups of water

2) Sweat out the veggies. I made to al dente. Once to the point where you want them cooked, add your spices. NO SALT yet. ( I added the potatoes at the end, so they did not get mushy, they were far from done when I added them to the water)

3) Drain the water, from the chicken, and add the chicken to the veggies, stirring around so the chicken can take on some of the spices.

4) Bring 4 cups of water up to a simmer and slowly add the chicken and veggies.

5) Bring to a boil, and let simmer for how ever long it takes to make the veggies soft.

6) Add spices to taste, this is where you can add the salt.

* if at this point you are seeing more of a stew, than a soup, add more water and bring it to a boil. Just remember to adjust your spices.

7) About 10 minutes before serving add in your noodles, bring to a boil and let them cook out.

8) Serve and Enjoy!

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Recipe Alert! Stuffing Meatloaf

So my hubby’s cousin shared a post that had this recipe on her wall on Facebook. I love meatloaf and I love stuffing so I was immediately intrigued.

Let me tell you something…. it was amazing!!! Now I don’t have a bundt pan like it says to use, but I’m definitely going to get one, because the picture used for the post on Facebook looks awesome, the nice bundt shaped meatloaf with a big scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy served in the middle (kudos to whoever came up with that presentation idea). Even without the bundt pan it was still awesome. I used a regular loaf pan, and then made a few small, muffin sized portions that are the perfect size kids lunch boxes (or in my case for my almost 2 year old niece that I was babysitting).

When I got to thinking about it, it’s also a really good college student meal. Make one batch it can last a long time, and the ingredients are cheap because you can get no name stuffing and no name onion soup mix.

If you give it a shot…enjoy!!!

1 package Stove Top Stuffing mix, dry
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 package onion soup mix

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat inside of bundt pan with cooking spray.
2. Place warm water, onion soup mix and dry stuffing mix in a bowl. Mix well. Let sit for 5 minutes to allow bread time to absorb water.
3. Add eggs and ground beef. Mix well. Best to get it blended by using your hands and incorporating it all together.
4. Place evenly into bundt pan. You can also put into muffin tins to make individual loafs.
5.Bake 1 hour or until no longer pink inside.
6. Remove and allow to rest 5 minutes before cutting into.

Recipe Alert! Raspberry Apple Jam

So I figured I’d do something a little different for this recipe alert.  Instead of the typical dinner option I thought I’d share something as a throw back to my wedding.  As our wedding favours I made jars of homemade jam.  There were 3 flavours: Rhubarb Strawberry, Blueberry, and Raspberry Apple.  Not to toot my own horn, but they all turned out AMAZING! So I thought why not share one of the recipes that I made.  So I give to you, the recipe for the Raspberry Apple Jam.

Ingredients
– 3 cups (750 ml) crushed raspberries, about 3 pints
– 1 lemon, rind and juice
– 2 cups (500 ml) unsweetened applesauce
– 1 pkg (57 g) BERNARDIN® Original Fruit Pectin
– 7 cups (1750 ml) granulated sugar

Directions
1. Place 8 clean 250 ml mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside. Heat SNAP LID® sealing discs in hot water, not boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and lids hot until ready to use.
2. Wash, thoroughly drain and crush raspberries, one layer at a time. Measure 3 cups (750 ml).
3. Grate rind from lemon and squeeze juice to measure 1/4 cup (50 ml).
4. Measure sugar; set aside.
5. In a large deep stainless steel saucepan, combine prepared raspberries, applesauce, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter or margarine to reduce foaming, and BERNARDIN® Original Pectin. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Add all of the sugar. Stirring constantly, return mixture to full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim off foam, if necessary.
6. Quickly ladle hot jam into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) of top of jar (headspace). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if required, by adding more jam. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Centre hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight. Return filled jar to rack in canner. Repeat for remaining jam.
7. When canner is filled, ensure that all jars are covered by at least one inch (2.5 cm) of water. Cover canner and bring water to full rolling boil before starting to count processing time. At altitudes up to 1000 ft (305 m), process – boil filled jars – 10 minutes.
8. When processing time is complete, turn stove off, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars without tilting and place them upright on a protected work surface. Cool upright, undisturbed 24 hours; DO NOT RETIGHTEN screw bands.
9. After cooling check jar seals. Sealed discs curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use home canned foods within one year.

This recipe makes about 8 250mL jars (or I think I was able to get 14 125mL jars).

If you’d like to find some more delicious jam recipes check out the Bernardin Home Canning: Because You Can website.

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