Meal Plan Monday (On A Tuesday): Random Rambling

It’s late Tuesday evening and my boys don’t yet want to call it a night. Meanwhile, I’m in my jammies, already in bed because my body is craving rest and my mind is craving quiet. I know the next 4 or 5 days are going to be out of the ordinary and I’m taking advantage of the mundane moments while I can.

I put together a meal plan over the weekend and then put together a whole new one yesterday when the first one just wasn’t ticking all the boxes for me. There was a lot of prep involved in the very tasty options I selected the first time around and simplicity is the name of the game for us in order to not rely on takeout this week. I’m only here for a couple dinners, with busy, busy, busy days, and then the guys are doing the bachelor thing.

I’ve decided I enjoy simplicity. Quick and easy meals. Comfort food. Dinners that don’t require hours of prep but that also don’t come from a tinfoil tray in the freezer. Savoury soups. Fresh salads. A sandwich or stew or stirfry.

This evening’s menu called for sandwiches – fresh buns and a variety of deli meats, cheeses, veggies… but I wanted more. And by 4 pm my 12 year old was asking for dinner and he really wanted soup. We put together a quick and easy tortilla chicken soup. He filled up. I filled up. There’s plenty left for lunch and dinner tomorrow. Two meals out of the way although I’ll add a salad to my plate tomorrow night.

Thursday and Friday is up to the guys. They have a variety of choices. Breakfast for dinner, pasta, chicken and veggies. They’ll make do. Their meals may not end up as well-rounded as when I’m in charge, but I know they won’t be starving. Saturday, half of us are walking with The Coldest Night of the Year. Dinner should be provided after the walk. Sunday will be whatever piques my interest when I open the fridge.

Some weeks, fed and family time feels more important than what’s actually on the menu. Three out of four loved the soup tonight – it’s one of the meals that always tastes delicious even though I don’t follow a recipe and the seasonings and ingredients change each time. (Tonight the pot featured red beans, jalapenos, tomato, corn, and spinach.) A different three out of four enjoyed some sandwiches tonight. We all enjoyed eating. At home. In the comfort of each other’s company. And that’s what all this menu planning is about – a fed family grateful and fortunate to have enough to eat, even when it’s simple.

Book Review: A Simple Wedding

For those who haven’t looked at a North American calendar in sometime, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. A day of romance and wooing and overpriced flowers and gifts to say “I love you!”

My husband and I no longer “really” celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sometimes we’ll order in (but that’s not an unusual occurrence around here) or I’ll try to make a special dinner for my guys (it usually fails.) I prefer my dashes of romance between the pages of a book and leaving the real life “I love yous” to a shout while dashing out the door or with help folding the laundry. I’m not a relationship expert, but it works for us and we’ve been married 15 years so why mess with it. I’ll appreciate that love even more if I’m given some alone time to jump into that romance novel.

A few days ago I picked up “A Simple Wedding” by Leigh Duncan. It’s published by Hallmark which means you probably don’t even need to keep reading my thoughts. (Please do.)

It’s set in “Heart’s Landing” – an east coast wedding destination. (This should also tell you plenty.) It’s dripping with sappiness. (My phone just tried to autocorrect sappiness to happiness and I mean, it’s not wrong.)

And yet… all sappiness aside, I loved it. Fluffy and sweet, easy to read, likeable characters, charming setting, and just enough of a twist on the typical Hallmark romance to make it interesting – interesting enough that I’ll be looking for other titles in the Hearts Landing series.

A little unbelievable at times, but it’s fiction… and contemporary, enchanting romance at that. The whole premise is that a successful personal assistant is planning a wedding for her famous cousin while not divulging she’s not the actual bride. Through the absolute ridiculous requests and the truth coming to light, I feel that even though our heroine is sweet as pie, everyone was entitled to a meltdown and they all just rolled with it.

Is this a 5-star literary masterpiece? Not even a little bit close. Is it a feel good impractical reminder that romance isn’t dead? Absolutely. Will it leave you craving decadent cupcakes and small town friends? Yes. It’s a quick and easy read that will warm your heart and tempt your tastebuds. Watch for this title to hit shelves on March 10th!

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

Book Review: The Wedding Dress Christmas by Rachel Hauck

I requested The Wedding Dress Christmas by Rachel Hauck and it was such a delightful warm and cozy read. It was set at Christmas, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading it any time of year. I didn’t get around to reading my copy until February and the magic wasn’t missing just because it’s a holiday-read.

The Wedding Dress Christmas follows the saga of one remarkable dress. (Hint: If you haven’t read any of the titles in this series, you’re missing out. Go pick up The Wedding Dress at the least.) This particular title is easy to read as a stand alone – you won’t get lost – but it’s all the sweeter when you know the history of the dress.

Written with the classic charm that Hauck brings to each of her novels, you’ll be enchanted by the small-town charm. The characters are damaged and flawed, but relatable and strong. They grow and change and reconnect. This is a magical, romantic tale that will warm your hearts no matter the season.

I received a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own .

Book Review & Blog Tour: The Third to Die by Allison Brennan

While historical fiction and women’s fiction seem to be my regular go-to’s when it comes to genres I enjoy, every once in awhile I enjoy pulling out a heart-pounding, fast-paced thriller or suspense. I’m excited to say that Harlequin hooked me up and I’ve recently had the chance to read The Third to Die, the highly anticipated first book in Allison Brennan’s new series. This title hits shelves on February 4th. All the Buy Links and author information will be posted way down below if you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy for yourself – and if you’re a fan of this genre, you’ll want to pick up a copy.

From the Publisher:

New York Times bestselling author and gifted storyteller Allison Brennan’s new standalone thriller features a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer.

Brennan’s novel will launch a book-a-year series featuring a fabulous cast of recurring characters. It’s the story of a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer; and the bond they forge in this crucible sets the stage for the future books in the series.

Detective Kara Quinn is visiting her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, after being placed
on administrative leave by the LAPD, when she comes upon the mutilated body of a young
nurse during an early morning jog. The manner of death is clearly ritualistic; she calls it in.
Meanwhile back in DC, special agent in charge Mattias Costa is meticulously staffing his
newly-minted Mobile Response Team. One of his first recruits is the brilliant FBI forensic
psychologist Catherine Jones. When word reaches Matt that the Washington state murder
appears to be the work of the Triple Killer–it will be the first case for the MRT. Jones has done
the only profile on this serial killer, but she is reluctant to join the unit, still shaken by the death
of her sister a year ago under circumstances for which she holds herself responsible. But only
she holds the key to understanding the killer’s obsessive pattern–three murder victims, three
deep slashes a piece, each three days apart, each series beginning on a March 3rd–3/3, then a
three-year hiatus before he strikes again.

This time they have a chance to stop him before he claims another victim strikes, but only if they
can figure out who he is and where is is hiding.

About the Author:

Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen thrillers and numerous short stories. She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers, has had multiple nominations and two Daphne
du Maurier Awards, and is a five-time RITA finalist for Best Romantic Suspense. Allison believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five kids. Allison and her family live in Arizona. Visit her at allisonbrennan.com

Social links for the author include:
Facebook: @AllisonBrennan
Twitter: @Allison_Brennan
Instagram: @abwrites
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/52527.Allison_Brennan

My Thoughts:

Ms. Brennan is an award winning author for a reason – simply put, she knows what she’s doing. This book was fast-paced and had my heart-pounding. Twists and turns will keep you on your toes in anticipation. She gets inside the mind of a psychopath so well, but also paints a picturesque view of the surrounding landscapes. Her heroes are brilliant, damaged, and likeable and the whole package will keep you engrossed until the very last page. The Third to Die is the very ideal of a page-turning, nail-biting, read-it-all-in-one-sitting-don’t-talk-to-me type of novel – suspenseful, intense, and entertaining!

For my more discriminating friends, I’ll leave you with this caution: reader discretion is advised for violence, mature situations, and strong language. This is not a tip-toe through the tulips, neat and tidy, no rough edges fiction. It’s dark and gritty as the plot is all about stopping the lowest dregs of humanity.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0778309444/httpwwwalli0f-20
Amazon (Canada): https://www.amazon.ca/Third-Die-Allison-Brennan-ebook/dp/B07S4BCQMJ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+third+to+die&qid=1580228085&sr=8-1
Barnes & Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-third-to-die-allison-brennan/1131669020;jsessionid=C1
F1BD4B1DE6C665460E505FA5022816.prodny_store02-atgap03?ean=9780778309444

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778309444
Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/product/9780778309444
AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-third-to-die/id1464894471
Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Allison_Brennan_The_Third_to_Die?id=0sWZDwAA
QBAJ


Meal Plan Monday (on a Sunday): January 26th Edition

It’s been a long weekend – meh (not to be confused with a long weekend – yeah!) We are looking ahead at a week that is going to require some creative juggling again. You know what those look like.

Work will include helping to facilitate a busy visitation and funeral, sitting down to discuss wedding plans with an engaged couple, and some Annual General meeting prep plus all the usual… with one less day to do it all. Parenting this week will include accomodating teacher strikes, exams, another hospital visit with the youngest, and all the usual chauffering. A book review is due Tuesday as part of a publisher’s blog tour. Come back and read it!

In an effort to stress less, I’ve put my meal plan and grocery list together tonight, and, hopefully, included easy, no-muss meals. I’ve started marinating my chicken drumsticks for tomorrow’s dinner. Let me tell you… it’s going to be delicious. Now I just have to make sure I’m home from work on time to throw them in the oven and be out the door again to get the boys back to town for 6:30. It may not have been the best pick for tomorrow, but it’s going to be worth it, taste-wise.

On this week’s menu:

  • chicken braised in coconut milk, served with carrots, potatoes, side salad
  • creamy coconut chicken and rice soup (using leftovers)
  • a dinner out or takeout depending on timing after the visit to SickKids
  • cashew ginger stirfry with sweet potato spirals
  • DIY pizzas
  • grilled cheese and fresh veg, maybe soup
  • pesto bruschetta pasta

We may be busy this week, but as long as my energy remains, we’ll be eating fairly healthy, tasty meals. Wish us luck as we juggle the rest…

All the I Love Yous

Today I said I love you by letting you sleep in. We have things to do around the house, but I know you’ve been exhausted this week. It may be a slightly selfish I love you because this means I could sleep in as well.

Yesterday I said I love you by picking up your favourite fast food burger on my way home from work. You were home by yourself all day and I was sure you kept opening the fridge and the cupboards, but still managed to find nothing to eat. (There is fruit on the table… always!!!) When I show my love this way, I can only hope that you’ll still eat dinner (and you did.)

The other day I said I love you by sending a text reminding you how awesome you are before you headed into your first ever exam. I probably even used the words “I love you” in this one, but I never got a reply. I can only hope that you really, truly know your value and that beyond a shadow of doubt know you are loved, despite your grades (which I’m sure you rocked!)

Last week I said I love you when I folded your laundry. The three baskets of it that you let pile up just waiting for someone to fold. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to be responsible for now, but I didn’t mind taking the time to do this for you while you were at school.

Every day I say I love you. In the meals I cook – yes, even the ones you complain about. In the reminders to try your best. In the lectures about contributing to the society of our home. In the responsibilities given. In the trust exercised. In the chauffeuring. In the questions about your life that drive you crazy. In the call to wake you up each morning and the call again 10 minutes later because you haven’t made a sound yet. In the words “I Love You” when you’re frustrated with me or just passing you in the hall.

You don’t always hear “I love you”, but child, my I love yous are being shouted loud and clear or soft and quiet every single day and I’ll be sharing them until I’m no longer here to tell you. Never, ever doubt you are loved and know that I hear your I love yous too, even when they’re not spoken.

Book Review: The Forgotten Home Childby Genevieve Graham

There are so many things I love about The Forgotten Home Child by Genevieve Graham. If I had a Must-Read in 2020 list, this would be the second title on it. (The first place holder hasn’t been reviewed yet because it doesn’t publish until late summer, but it is worthy of first place.) Maybe I need a Must-Read Fiction in 2020 list and this could go straight to the very top. It was that good by my recommendation.

Emotionally Moving

First thing I love about this one? The genre. Historical fiction will always hold a special place in my reader’s heart. Always. This novel is based on factual history, but the plot and characters are make-believe. It’s the type of historical fiction that made me do some very light research because I had no idea this had happened (and it left me feeling bereft and heartbroken on behalf of the children who left their homes, and even more so for those who were mistreated in what should have been a better life.)

Two, I love this title because it showcases an important piece of Canadian history, is set in Canada (and the UK), with recognizable destinations and landscapes and was written by a Canadian author. Score for familiarity.

Three, I loved the voice of this writer so much. It was so easy to read, engaging and emotional. I read some early feedback from others that felt certain aspects were sugarcoated – there are some mature, graphic situations (not graphic in actual content, graphic in theme). The author chooses to gloss over them (i.e. rape was not called rape) but I took the liberty of assuming this had more to do with keeping with the era than the author choosing to belittle such horrible events. She paints a highly illustrative struggle of the children in their new situations and also casts a fair light on the flaws in what should have been an excellent program. On the flip side, there is a balance in acknowledging that not all the children ended up in abusive positions and their lives were better for it.

This novel addresses chasms between classes, the heartbreak of stigma, the darkness of an era not far behind us. It’s presented in the retelling by a nonagenerian who has kept her history a secret until a fateful occurence sparks some questions from her family.

Overall, I found The Forgotten Home Child to be one of my all-time favourite reads. It was emotionally moving and enlightening. I am in awe of the resilience of the characters and saddened by this aspect of our history. It hits shelves on March 3rd so make a preorder or on publication day pick up a copy for yourself and let me know if you agree or disagree with my take.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this title courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Simon & Schuster Canada

Book Review: The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear

Read with Caution – Gripping and Evocative

I feel compelled to admit that I’m not sure I will find the proper words for this particular review. The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear was a riveting, emotional work of fiction that took a very close look at the Harpe brothers and their crimes from the perspective of an acquaintance of one of their wives/victims. It is part of the True Colors series by Barbour about historical, American crime. Most of the titles I’ve read to date have characters expressing a strong faith-based element or struggling to find their faith as they live through a connection to these true crimes.

Going into this one, I had no idea who the Harpe brothers even were. Let me tell you… they were pure evil, serial killers, sadists, degenerate criminals. They were evil incarnate. If you’re like me, having no previous knowledge of their crimes or terror inflicted on families and travellers in late 1700s Tennessee and surrounding areas, this book was a disturbing introduction to these less-than-upstanding characters of American history. The author does address the difficulty in walking the fine line between the gruesome telling of their crimes and doing justice to the historic, factual events and honoring the victims while still presenting a “wholesome” piece of Christian fiction. Not an easy task…

This novel is graphic and grisly and dark. On the other hand, it has moments of hopefulness, healing, and romance. McNear balances it well so the darkness doesn’t overwhelm the tale – and yet darkness is the body of the unfortunate events depicted – it leaves a stain or heaviness behind.

It’s quite difficult to explain my reaction to this one. It was intense. The novel is very well-written and you may cry more than once – at least I did. It was gripping and evocative. I highly recommend it, but I recommend it with a bright strobing word of caution. You may feel a little banged up upon completion, especially if you’re a sensitive soul. The “true crime” aspect makes it difficult to process and will have you questioning how humanity can be so broken.

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

Published by: Barbour Books (Barbour Publishing Inc.)

Publication Date: March 1, 2020

The Dream of Silence

This morning as the alarm went off, I had visions of a leisurely day ahead. I pictured myself resting in some comfy clothes, book in hand, between loads of laundry, cups of tea, and dishes. The dog would snuggle up to me, I’d turn the ringer off on my phone, I’d bask in the silence.

Then real life set in and my dreams were but a puff of smoke. One child yelling about how much he dislikes school and telling me I’m not his mother (a familiar 7 a.m. refrain.) The other boy slept in a little and woke up grumpy. The buses were late because of the cold and my hard won silence was more of a mad, rapid descent into pandemonium.

J. made it onto the bus, albeit late, bundled up head to toe. Once he made it out the door, I though we were in the clear. Kaleb made it out as well, without any posted delays. I erroneously prepared to indulge in my comforter again a short time before meeting the day.

But the text messages started. “Mom, the bus isn’t here. It’s cold. Is there a delay?” This followed by him coming into the house asking the same questions. While I try to track the bus, I hear it from the recesses of my bedroom, driving past my driveway – child still in the house. No big deal. Just a little hiccup. I will drive him in. He’ll still be on time and no, child, you’re not missing school. It’s an organized study day before your exams.

Except, I forgot to plug in my car last night and it wouldn’t start. Now what? We plug it in for a short time and I get him to school just minutes after the bell rings. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. I’ve taken care of the immediate fires, but I’m frazzled and the bliss of silence needs to be fought for again. It’s fine – a great excuse for a chai latte and a muffin… and now that I’m out, I might as well do something with my day. Shopping, anyone?

Meal Plan Monday: I'm Not Even Sure What Day It Is Edition

I know it’s Monday… but it feels like March and it’s only January and it feels like these days I’m not sure whether we’re coming or going. I’m trying to juggle clinic appointments for myself, business as usual, oldest son’s high school exam schedule, out of town early morning clinic appointments for the youngest, business as usual, and well all the other fun stuff with life. I’ve written a meal plan the last 3 weeks, than made it to the grocery store and thrown it out the window to some degree. We’re calling it flexibility.

Last week was an incredibly rough week. I wasn’t feeling well and there were mornings it was difficult to roll out of bed. One morning in particular, I made it as far as the shower, dropped a million things, spilled grape juice on myself (and the bed) and had enough of the twitchy eye and shakiness that I crawled back into bed and tried to find my normal. I slept most of the day and hid most of the evening and by daylight the next morning, felt like a human again. Many days last week resulted in a full day of work and a nap the minute I got home. It was rough, y’all. These are days that I can have the healthiest meal plan on the planet, but if I don’t have the energy to cook it, it doesn’t do me much good.

Our quick grocery run yesterday took that into account and had some easier, less prep meals. Better for the overall budget than take out, not so great for my food budget in general, and of course, a bit less healthy. However, it’s not everyday and I think a fed family is important. No judgement, please.

My first version of this week’s meal plan involved some great soups, lots of veggies and from scratch comfort cooking. My actual version involves a box of chicken wings (what a rip off) and some potato wedges from frozen. Meh.

Our menu for the week, in no particular order:

  • frozen chicken wings, potato wedges, and apple slices
  • tacos
  • quesadillas
  • some sort of soup and sandwich combo
  • pasta (using whatever remnants are in my pantry and whatever jar of sauce I can find.)
  • hot dogs – probably wrapped in Pillsbury dough because I found both hiding – one in the freezer, one in the back of the fridge.
  • burger date night… if the kids have their drop in program this week.

What are your cheat meals and do you feel guilty about them? Why do I feel so guilty about them? Food should not be something that triggers guilt.