Book Review: Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter

The third and final novel in the Bluebell Inn series, Autumn Skies is an absolutely wonderful conclusion to a beautifully written contemporary family saga. Three siblings renovate and run the Bluebell Inn to commemorate their parents, each novel devoting itself to one love story at a time. My review of the first title, Lake Season, can be found here.

Continuing the family story while tying up the loose ends as the Bennetts look to the future, we encounter Grace’s romance in this last installment. Engaging and heartwarming, Denise Hunter knows her audience and creates dynamic characters that you love. There is an innocence or winsomeness to Hunter’s writing that is appealing, and yet her characters and storylines have a depth to them – scars and doubts and obstacles that all must be dealt with for any healthy relationships to occur – especially as truths are exposed that make heartache a very real possibility. Set in a picturesque small town that you’ll want to visit, this is another winner for Ms. Hunter, I’m sure.

Released October 20th, you should be able to find this title at your favourite local bookseller or through the usual online distributors. If not – request it and the other titles in the series and find a quiet spot to get lost in their charm!

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley.
Opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 9780785222804



Blog Tour & Book Review: The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick

I have had some disappointing reads lately that have just been “blah” and left me in a bit of a reading slump. I haven’t been quick to pick up any new NetGalley titles because I’ve been leery of feeling disappointed and not quite knowing how to weave my thoughts into constructive criticism – which is the whole premise of the program. When a reminder popped up that I was to post as part of the Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Historical Fiction blog tour for Nicola Cornick’s newest title, The Forgotten Sister, I realised I had procrastinated long enough and it was time to jump into something new. It took me a day to read and it was easy-going – no drudgery involved. What a relief!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

In the tradition of the spellbinding historical novels of Philippa Gregory and Kate Morton comes a stunning story based on a real-life Tudor mystery, of a curse that echoes through the centuries and shapes two women’s destinies…

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…

Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.

MY THOUGHTS:

This was a well-crafted easy-to-read novel. During the opening scenes, I had some doubts about compatibility, but kept reading and was pleasantly entertained. I shouldn’t have doubted, as I’ve read and enjoyed Cornick’s work before. I pondered the relevance of the title at times but that too resolved itself to my satisfaction. This is a fanciful work of fiction with some extrasensory elements. I don’t typically travel to the Tudor period in my historical reading, so was unfamiliar with some of the key characters. The author’s note at the end made it even more interesting to me!

I was able to read the book throughout one day (without neglecting my family!) I was entertained, my curiosity was piqued, and the plot caught me by surprise. Overall I would recommend The Forgotten Sister as it held (without taking away from the merits of Cornick herself as an author) a Susanna Kearsley-esque appeal. Released today, you should be able to pick up a copy from your favourite local bookseller or any of the usual online retailers

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over thirty historical romances for Harlequin and HQN Books. She has been nominated twice for a RWA RITA Award and twice for the UK RNA Award. She works as a historian and guide in a seventeenth century house. In 2006 she was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Ruskin College, Oxford, where she wrote her dissertation on heroes.

THE FORGOTTEN SISTER 
Author: Nicola Cornick 
ISBN: 9781525809958
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books 

Book Review: What They Meant for Evil

It has been more than a year since I first read Rebecca Deng’s beautiful autobiography, What They Meant for Evil. My Facebook post from October 2019 reflects my eagerness to share this title with the world. “I was given an advanced copy of this book, but didn’t get around to reading it until Saturday night. Once I started, I could not put it down. It is a remarkable account of a “Lost Girl” from Sudan and all she survived before (and after) being accepted as a refugee. Her faith was unshakeable and her story an inspiration. As one of my kids complained their turkey was cold, I shared a little bit of Rebecca’s story to remind them of how truly blessed we are. I will be ordering a copy for myself so if you want to borrow it, let me know!”

Unfortunately, my advanced order from Amazon was cancelled and I’ve not yet looked into a new source. Officially released September 8, 2020, I strongly recommend this title for anyone who would like to expand their worldview as it provides a remarkable firsthand account of a historical atrocity that we only heard about on the news.

From the Publisher:

One of the first unaccompanied refugee children to enter the United States in 2000, after South Sudan’s second civil war took the lives of most of her family, Rebecca’s story begins in the late 1980s when, at the age of four, her village was attacked and she had to escape. What They Meant for Evil is the account of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and purity of a child, Rebecca recalls how she endured fleeing from gunfire, suffering through hunger and strength-sapping illnesses, dodging life-threatening predators-lions, snakes, crocodiles, and soldiers alike-that dogged her footsteps, and grappling with a war that stole her childhood.

Her story is a lyrical, captivating portrait of a child hurled into wartime, and how through divine intervention, she came to America and found a new life full of joy, hope, and redemption.


Deng’s writing is descriptive and beautiful, painting a brightly woven tapestry of heartbreak, sorrow, hope, and healing. I don’t know how anyone could read it without being moved by her story – her strength, her brokenness, her light, her voice. Candid and captivating, she doesn’t shy away from the darkness encountered in her journey, but leads you carefully by the hand as you take every step with her. Rebecca Deng is a beacon of purpose and peace as she shares her incredible history without bitterness.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. I will be purchasing when I can locate a supplier in Canada. If you have any leads, please tip me off in the comments.

Taking Care of the Valuable Things

The other day I was on the phone with mom crying. Fun fact: I hate crying. It leaves me feeling vulnerable and frustrated, which is ironic because those are two feelings that often lead me to cry. Unfortunately for me, I am a crier and you’d think after 39 years I’d be used to it. I’m not. I cry when I’m happy, sad, frustrated, angry, worried, stressed, tired, caring for people, praying for people, reading, watching movies, laughing at myself, etc. I cry. A lot. Especially when I drop heavy objects on my toes. Just sayin’. Sometimes I think my feelings are directly connected to my tear ducts. When things get a little emotionally full, it comes out my eyes and leaks its way down my face.

So yes, I was crying on the phone to my mom the other day. She’s tough and can handle my tears. I was frustrated that I looked around my house and had so much to do but absolutely zero energy to do it. I’m too stubborn to ask for help. (And I’m honest enough to admit I’d probably be really short and snappy with anyone who ventured in.) I know this is just a short-term thing until my body is back on track and I’m trying to be patient and graceful. (I am neither patient nor graceful.) But I hate not having strength in myself to do it all. (None of us do.) I fall prey to the trap of comparison. (It’s a joy suck.) I feel all these negative things – yes, a bit of self-pity and woe – and I cried.

Yesterday, I went to work. I puttered a bit when I came home in the afternoon. I sat down to finish writing a review and while pondering my words, I fell asleep. Kevin worked a bit later than usual. It was dark when he got home. (It’s dark very early now but it’s nice to wake up to sunlight.) We had a time-sensitive errand to run. Dinner hadn’t been made. I looked at him in the car shortly before 7 and said “I’m done.” I was frustrated. We bought takeout for dinner and I left the dishes until this morning. I felt guilty and then realised how stupid it was to feel guilty. I didn’t cry though. Maybe I did. I was in such a fog that I honestly don’t remember. The family was cared for in a different way and did what needed to be done even if it was a shortcut. Everyone went to bed with full bellies. No one was hurt by the dishes in the sink.

Today I slept in. It was lovely. I embraced the day with a to do list. I sat down at 1:30 p.m. to write this because… guess what? I am done. Not done my to do list. Just done. My list has fallen to the wayside. (Technically it’s on my phone still waiting for me to check items off.) I started to feel frustrated at all that remains to be done. I was falling into the trap of comparison and self-pity again. But I stopped. Grabbed a cold Diet Pepsi out of the fridge. Sat down and realized what’s left on the to-do list doesn’t matter right now – the to-do list will never end. Ever. What does matter is finding pride in what I have accomplished even if that doesn’t look like what you accomplished or what she-who-shall-not-be-named-but-makes-me-look-like-a-slacker accomplished. Because we’re not the same person. We’re not in the same place.

Today I am satisfied with what I’ve already done before I ran out of steam (remember, my tank is pretty small right now – it doesn’t take a lot to hit empty.) This morning I cleaned two bathrooms, emptied and loaded the dishwasher, washed a overflowing sink full of things that aren’t dishwasher friendly by hand, I’ve washed, dried, and folded three loads of laundry, I started a new devotional, I wrote a note to a friend, I fed and watered the pets, I changed our bedsheets, I cleaned the washer and dryer (why do we have so much dusty lint?) and I have two pots of soup on the go. Soup one is a creamy tomato and white bean. (In case you think I’ve got it all together – you know, judging by my masterful command of life and emotions – I may have, most definitely, burnt the beans as I write this – we’ll hope it adds a depth of smoky flavour to the soup – my kitchen no longer smells delicious.) Soup two is a roasted butternut with maple and bacon marmalade. I’ll keep some for dinner, some for the freezer, some for a friend. And I’m done. Not fully done. I’ll still putter. But I’m going to sit down, find a snack, and realize that sitting, thinking, recharging, resting – they’re important too.

My point in all this? Don’t lose heart. Don’t get angry when you look at the unconquerable to-do list. Take stock of what you have accomplished even if it takes some reframing. Didn’t get to the laundry, but raked the leaves with your youngest? You spent time with the kids and got fresh air and exercise. Dishes are clean but your bed didn’t get made? You spent time in the kitchen. Stayed in bed with nothing more than a book? You took a day for yourself. Stripped all the wallpaper in your ugly bathroom but forgot to make dinner? Order a pizza and take a hot shower. Kept the kids alive but your hair and/or teeth haven’t been brushed? You. Kept. Kids. Alive. (Major accomplishment, right there, for some kids.)

Don’t judge your accomplishments OR YOUR WORTH by what you see on social media, your friends, your family, or how you think people are judging you. My morning? Super productive actually but if I look at what I have left to do, it’s but a tiny piece of the puzzle. My afternoon? Also productive – I’ll be taking care of some really valuable things (i.e. myself alongside my physical and mental health.) For you, those valuable things may be your health, your kids, your loved one. While I sit and pause I might just find the energy to take a shower and change out of these pajamas. There’s nothing wrong with being productive, just remember that there’s nothing wrong with ignoring the to-do list once in awhile either. You matter beyond any checkmark.

Harlequin 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour – Women’s Fiction & Romance – Rescue You by Elysia Whisler

There’s something about reading in fall – maybe it’s the opportunity to get really cozy with a warm blanket and a hot drink while immersing yourself in an even cozier read. If you follow the publishing industry at all, you’ll know there’s some highly anticipated books hitting the market this time of year. One of those titles, Elysia Whisler’s Rescue You, is being released next week (October 27, to be exact.) My thanks to the team at Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing an advanced readers copy for review as part of the 2020 Fall Reads Blog Tour featuring Women’s Fiction & Romance.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

She needs a fresh start. He’s got scars that haven’t healed. With the help of some rescue dogs, they’ll discover that everyone deserves a chance at happiness.

After a year of heartbreak and loss, the only thing keeping Constance afloat is the dog rescue she works at with her sister, Sunny. Desperate for a change, Constance impulsively joins a new gym, even though it seems impossibly hard, and despite the gym’s prickly owner.

Rhett Santos keeps his gym as a refuge for his former-military brothers and to sweat out his own issues. He’s ready to let the funny redhead join, but unprepared for the way she wiggles past his hard-won defenses.

When their dog rescue is threatened, the sisters fight to protect it. And they need all the help
they can get. As Rhett and Constance slowly open up to each other, they’ll find that no one is
past rescuing; what they need is the right person—or dog—to save them.

MY THOUGHTS:

This title was really immersive, as in, I’m more of a cuddle on the couch type of person than a let’s get sweaty and run 5 miles before we bench-press our bodyweight type of person, but I found myself wanting to hit the nearest CrossFit facility after stopping at the local animal shelter to adopt a puppy. The author brought her environment to life in an engaging and appealing way.

The characters were smashing* in a kick-butt, no nonsense regard. Constance was sweet and sassy, strong and protective – a down-to-earth woman with a very low tolerance for bull from anyone. Rhett is damaged but kind and also, ridiculously fit. I particularly appreciated some of Constance’s realizations regarding her own self-image, workouts, etc. She needed some healing and I think she found that. Beyond that, the story has layers – the primary heartwarming love story, the sisters’ relationship, a dog rescue, and a secondary romance. All the layers mesh together to create this easy-to-read, give-you-all-the-feels, about-what-you’d-expect contemporary romantic women’s fiction. It wasn’t anything spectacularly “out there”, but was warm, stirring, engaging – exactly what you want for a fall weekend read. (*I didn’t know what word to use here… use your imagination.)

Reader discretion advised for occasional language and not-graphic adult scenes (that you can definitely skip over if you choose.) While I enjoyed the novel, I wouldn’t be comfortable lending it to a 12 year old.

Watch for this title to hit all your favourite retailers next Tuesday! Available from the usual spots online for preorder or ask your local bookseller to bring it in.

RESCUE YOU
Author: Elysia Whisler
ISBN: 9780778310082
Publication Date: October 27, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Isolation & A Book Review: Take Heart by (in)Courage

It’s midday and I’m tucked into bed, laptop on my knee. I’ve been up since 7 a.m. after a restless night. In the accomplishment column, one child made it to school without issue, I gagged down some oatmeal before 7:30 a.m. (I hate early breakfasts), I unexpectedly shuttled the other child to school because the bus didn’t show, and made it into my nuclear medicine appointment with seconds to spare. I spent time listening to a rundown on radioactive iodine and what I can expect over the next few days, weeks, months. Signed off on consent forms, and after an hour of time and a dynamic little capsule, was safely back on the road back home again. I’m in isolation with some distanced visiting for the next few days – I can’t share a bed or a couch with my husband, but I can watch TV in the same room. No kissing, sharing dishes, or using the same washroom, but we can visit a bit and otherwise I’m restricted to my room. I’m anticipating all the free time I’ll have (3 whole days of not being allowed to do things!) and I’ve been making a mental note of what I want to enjoy with this precious bundle of unspoken for minutes. I’m looking at it as an enforced vacation – books, blogging, Netflix, naps, etc. We’ll see if my outlook is as optimistic by Sunday afternoon.

Those who know me or have been following along know that not unlike others, my journey hasn’t been along the smoothest straightest path. Sometimes life really sucks. Hard things happen. Difficulties loom. Health tanks. Relationships strain. Loved ones pass. We struggle… but I am a person of faith and I believe that we are not alone, even in the darkest moments and the brightest of days. I’m not here to preach or pontificate, but wanted to preface the book review I’m sharing below as it’s not a genre I usually post about.

I was privileged enough to be a part of the Take Heart launch team and was provided with a complimentary digital copy of this devotional (through NetGalley, naturally.) For someone who has been experiencing probably the roughest two years of her life, every entry was like sitting down to have a chat with a friend – straight-shooting, honest, heartfelt, and soul-soothing. Some readings made me sit up straight and think. Others were a balm that left me feeling seen and heard. Some made me laugh or cry – or even both at the same time in that awkward snort-sob kind of way.

Written by women going through the same things you and I experience every day, the quality of the topics and the writing is spot on. Quantitively, the entries are quick and easy to read, with a short Scripture (or two or three) and each passage closes with a prayer of reflection. With titles such as “Rest and Be the Beautiful You” by Bonnie Gray, “In the Waiting” by Jen Schmidt, and “The Worthy Cost of Being an Ally” by Michelle Reyes, you’ll find relevant topics with soul-searing truth and beautiful voices sharing encouragement straight from the heart. I highly recommend this devotional for anyone who finds themselves struggling with the mundane or the not-so-ordinary hiccups that come along the path of life as a reminder that you’re not going through anything alone!

One of the most poignant readings for myself was the entry mentioned above by Bonny Gray. The whole thing struck a chord in me and even the prayer is a call of my heart. She closes with this simple statement that reinforces the importance of rest and stillness.

Be kind to yourself and find a place for your weary soul to rest in His irrevocable love for you.

– Bonnie Gray, Rest and Be the Beautiful You,
Take Heart: 100 Devotions to Seeing God When Life’s Not Okay by (in)Courage

This devotional is now available for pre-order and releases October 20, 2020. The cover is beautifully designed as all titles from (in)Courage are and it’s affordably priced. I can’t wait for my purchased copy to arrive and sit within easy reach on my bedside dresser. My thanks to the publisher and the entire launch team for including me in previewing this timely, relatable title!

Book Review: Take The Lead by Shelley Shepard Gray

Readers familiar with Shelley Shepard Gray may know she’s a top notch writer when it comes to inspirational contemporary fiction set among the Amish.  I will admit that while no doubt well-written, those novels appeal to a very niche market and just aren’t for me.  When I was first introduced to the Bridgeport Social Club series, I quickly realised that I was guilty of pigeonholeing the author without cause.  Her contemporary women’s fiction is enjoyable reading.  If you’re familiar with Bridgeport, some of the characters and landmarks in The Dance With Me series will seem recognizable. 

I read the first title, Shall We Dance, in fall of 2019 and gave it a warm review.  Last month, I eagerly read an advanced readers copy of the second title in the series, Take The Lead, and was not disappointed in the least.  It continued along familiar lines with charming characters and a heartwarming celebration of family. While part of a series, it could easily be read as a stand alone title.

Growing up in foster care, Officer Traci Lucky had a rough start to life, but things are looking up now that she’s found a place in Bridgeport with two sisters she never knew she had. One night while on the job Traci finds Gwen, a pregnant teen caught up in a dangerous world of drugs, and takes her straight to the hospital. There Traci encounters the oh-so-charming Dr. Matt Rossi, who surprises Traci with his compassion—and his movie-star good looks.

A busy ob-gyn with a huge, meddling Italian family, Matt Rossi hasn’t had much time for love in his life. All that changes when he meets the beautiful Officer Lucky. He’s intrigued by her strength and the kind heart she tries to hide beneath her tough exterior.

When Matt confides that he needs to learn to waltz for his brother’s wedding, Traci reveals that her sister happens to be a ballroom dance teacher. Next thing they know, Matt and Traci are juggling busy careers, helping young Gwen with her pregnancy and personal safety, and learning to waltz together. But when Gwen’s escalating problems threaten to put all of them in danger, they wonder if they’ll ever find time for a little romance too.

The characters are flawed but charismatic and, as a girl with absolutely no rhythm, I enjoy the beauty of how dance is portrayed. The chemistry is spot on as is the drama. The novel presents a complex balance of romance, peril, and emotion with an engaging, easy-to-read appeal. I look forward to the final book to see how the sisters continue on their path to happily ever after.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy via NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.

Publication Date: September 8, 2020 Publisher: Blackstone Publishing ISBN: 9781982658557

Book Review: Acceptable Risk by Lynette Eason

Way, way back when the summer sun kissed our skin, the trees were green, and I wasn’t working (the beginning of August, to be exact), Revell released the second title in the Danger Never Sleeps Series by Lynette Eason. I read the first title, Collateral Damage, even earlier in the year and found it gripping – unfortunately, I don’t think I ever got around to a review.

When the newest title, Acceptable Risk, became available on NetGalley, I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy! Without giving away too much of the storyline, the series is lauded as {clean} romantic suspense. Each title is packed with intrigue, twists, turns, conspiracies, and cover ups that just keep coming – these are non-stop fast-paced works of fiction. Beyond that though, the character-work is superb. Flawed, courageous characters lead the charge for justice and truth and along the way, find some romance.

Sarah Denning is a military journalist with the Army in the Middle East when her convoy is attacked and she’s taken hostage. When former Army Ranger Gavin Black is asked by his old unit commander–Sarah’s imposing father–to plan an extremely risky rescue, he reluctantly agrees and successfully executes it.

Back in the US, Sarah is livid when she’s discharged on a false psychiatric evaluation and vows to return to the Army. Until she learns of her brother’s suicide. Unable to believe her brother would do such a thing, she puts her plans on hold and enlists Gavin to help her discover the truth. What they uncover may be the biggest story of Sarah’s career – if she can survive long enough to write it.

I’m not a big fan of military themed novels on the whole, for no other reason than it just isn’t my thing – but Eason creates such a fantastic fictional world with each page that you can’t help but be drawn into the drama and the mystery as it unfolds. The layers and risks of each step in the journey are balanced with easy to read dialogue, well-crafted backdrops, and heart-pounding action. The lead characters are complex and each have a rich history that entangles in a strong, gritty, emotional read dealing with difficult, but real, issues such as PTSD, suicide, family tragedy, and reconciliation. I can’t wait to dive into the next title in the series to see where the author takes us next. My recommendation is to get your hands on your own copy of each for yourself!

My thanks to the publisher for a complimentary ARC of this title via NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

Published By: Revell (Baker Publishing Group)
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
ISBN: 9780800729356

Our Hectic Mundane… and A Book Recommendation

It’s a quiet Friday morning in September – it was 3 degrees (Celsius) when I woke up and I can feel in my frozen toes that winter is coming.The boys have headed back to school, but like most people around here, that has meant nothing in terms of routine. As of today, we are officially on our specific schedules which still seems to involve a lot of juggling with varied timetables even though we opted (optimistically) for in person learning. My contract was reestablished and I headed back into the office on a scaled-back schedule.

While I have a few hours to myself (the oldest is only out of the house for 3 hours, every other day) on this dedicated “day off”, I sat down with a Tetley gingerbread tea latte (featuring a combo almond/coconut milk and oat milk froth because I’m eliminating reducing dairy) and realized I have a to-do list, yes, but nowhere and nothing that NEED to be done. If I want to sit in my pajamas all day and read, well, I could do that – guilt-free. (I won’t though, because I don’t think that’s what my body needs today. Yesterday, yes – I worked, I napped, I ate (ugh) cup-o-soup for dinner instead of the veggie stir fry I prepared because I wasn’t feeling up to anything. Not all days are a success on this journey.)

I have been scaling back on my NetGalley reads – the to-be read list is still ridiculously long, but so is my pile of books I’ve actually invested in. I most recently picked up The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri from the fabulous Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge. (It’s one of my favourite independent bookstores – probably my favourite locally!) I’ve been tip-toeing my way through this title because I’m feeling book burnout. It’s an unfortunate state of being. So instead of reading what I “need” to – as I felt I was sometimes missing the pleasure of the read and therefore, perhaps unconsciously skewing my reviews – I opted to read something that grabbed me in the moment.

The Wikipedia summary of this title blandly states: The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a 2019 novel by Christy Lefteri. It deals with the flight of refugees from Aleppo in Syria to Europe during the Syrian Civil War. While a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience over two summers volunteering in Athens at a refugee center.

What Wikipedia fails to mention is the passion, heartache, and beauty that has gone into this work. I don’t have a full review for you – I’m only half-way through, but I would, based on reading to date, recommend this title to anyone and everyone. It’s captivating and moving and almost too much for me to read in a binge session. It’s heavy-weighted and I need air in between passages at times, but it’s beautiful. Perhaps my view is a little slanted because as I read, I can’t help but relate the carefully crafted words to the experiences those of my own limited acquaintance have encountered as they lived the plight of the refugee.

So today, I leave you with that recommendation and quick glimpse into our current life. Myself? Well while the dishwasher runs, my toes warm under a blanket on the couch, and the kittens (yes, we adopted two kittens this summer) run amok through the house, I will take a few breaths, enjoy my few hours of freedom, find joy in the sunshine, and peace in our special hectic mundane (which may or may not involve unclogging a shower drain – oh the glamour!)

Some Meal Planning & Comfort Snacks

Summer is drawing to a close as far as freedom and flexibility in our schedules. The boys are returning to a modified school schedule next week and I return to work the week after. Gone is the ability for everyone to free feed with whatever is in the house – some extra thought is going to have to go into our snacks and meals, even more so as the cost of feeding two teenage boys seems to be growing each week.

We are heading up to the beach with part of our bubble tomorrow and the beach requires snacks. I will admit that I usually just pick up convenience food at the grocery store to throw into a bag or grab some fast food on the way up (it’s almost 2 hours – those boys are starving by the time we arrive if I don’t feed them on the way! )

I did my groceries this morning and all the snacks and muffins just seemed mediocre. And I just spent $250 on said groceries that will maybe just last me to next week, so no unplanned for snacks made it to the cart. I knew I’d have some “free” time (is it every actually free, though? I mean my “could do” list is neverending…) and thought homemade comfort food snacks were the way to go. My house smells like that perennial classic cereal snack mix and strawberry streusel muffins are awaiting their turn in the oven. I considered soft pretzel bites but decided that was just too much work. Tomorrow, I’ll toss some coronation grapes, apples, celery with peanut butter, and pepperettes into the cooler with our drinks, along with the cereal mix and muffins and I think we’ll be (more than) set – lots of variety, perfect for lakeside snacking!

Cereal Snack Mix With Pumpkin Seeds

My mom used to make cereal snack mix when we were little but I don’t have her recipe and the ones I found online were all very similar. Knowing my mom, who I love dearly, it probably came off the box of Shreddies. I opted for base ingredients of Multigrain Cheerios, Shreddies, and Rice Chex. I omitted the pretzels because no one really likes them, do they? No? Just me? I added honey roasted peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and whole almonds because that’s what we had. The dressing is the traditional butter, garlic, seasoned salt formula but I kicked it up with a bit of chipotle chili powder. Then roasted in the oven for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so, because the idea of microwaved cereal grossed me out a little. It’s a huge batch, but I’ll be lucky if it will last the next three days. sigh In all honesty, the pumpkin seeds are my favourite part!

My strawberry streusel muffins are made using a very loose recipe – the greek yogurt batter looked amazing in the cups, but who knows if they’ll actually taste good. I had some fresh local strawberries languishing sadly in the back of the fridge and feel just fine adding bruised produce into my baking. If they’re a success I’ll be posting the recipe just for my own reference. (FYI, I took them out to cool and sampled one – tastes delicious but was a little wet on the bottom. I’ve popped back into the oven hoping for triumph.)

FYI, our meal plan for the next few days looks like this if you need some ideas. Let the organized chaos begin!

  • souvlaki chicken, rice, salad
  • “charcuterie” for a quick meal, no kids
  • ribs, sweet pepper poppers, corn on the cob
  • grilled chicken, roasted cauliflower, cucumber, and herbed potatoes
  • beef dip sandwiches with crudites

What are your favourite make-at-home snacks to tide you over? I think everyone has a family favourite that evokes memories of their childhood or times with their own littles or that they just can’t get enough of… Now that we’re thinking lunches again, bonus points if they’re healthy, nut-free, and packable! Share away!