Thursday, February 27, 2020

Book Opinion: Blame It on the Billionaire


Blame It on the Billionaire is not my typical book fare.  I mean, I read romance almost exclusively, but I stay away from the billionaires and workplace romances.  I'm not sure what inspired me to pick this one up especially because it's Book 3, and I haven't read the other books in the series.  I don't know what the other 2 books are, but I can guarantee you do not have to read them to get what you need out of this one.  

Grayson is super upper-crust, comes from money but also started his own company of which he is CEO.  Nadia is a receptionist in the company (not his) and also cares for her younger brother.  Grayson has some family pressure both professionally and personally.  He wants no part in any of it.  Nadia has some family baggage of her own stemming back to her childhood - her mother had a reputation in the small town which reflected poorly on her children.  

Anyway, there is a black out where the two get cozy and then a feigned engagement.  All delicious things in a short little Harlequin book.  I read it in a day, started it on my morning commute (you're welcome to any who read over my shoulder) and finished it before bedtime.  

I don't read a lot of category books, but every so often, a little Harlequin is perfect for a commute especially when I don't know what to read next.  Any suggestions?

Book Opinion: Ignite on Contact


Earlier this week, I read Ignite on Contact.  This was Book 2 of a series.  I had forgotten almost all of Book 1.  It was like a dream.  So, I refreshed my memory and then went onto this book.  I found it really cute.  The backstory is that a group of 3 homeless boys were found by a firefighter.  He raised them with his wife.  The 3 boys become the firefighter main characters of this series.  

This book centers around Rafe and Carmen.  Carmen lives next door and is an ER nurse.  She lives with her grandfather after her mother and grandmother pass away (separately and before the book takes place).  She is living with her grandfather after he had a stroke - again, before the book takes place.  She is not interested in a relationship after a sour divorce.  

Rafe lives next door with his two brothers and his older brother's girlfriend (see previous book).  He doesn't do relationships.  I got the impression he's sort of a serial monogamist with nothing lasting more than a handful of months.  He's the always-upfront, never-looking-for-something-serious type of guy but always shows a girl a good time.  

Anyway, the two are friendly and then more than friendly.  The book is a little predictable in that they get close and then get too into their own heads and then resolve it all at the end.  I don't think it was very heavy, but the characters are very likable including Carmen's grandfather and his love interest as well as Carmen's best friend and colleague (and other folks in the first responder world also were individuals showing the characters had friends and family and could cultivate relationships outside of their romance).  It was the perfect book for a busy week.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Book Opinion - Break Shot: My First 21 Years: An Audio Memoir


I had dabbled in Audible before.  I guess I had a trial membership briefly last year, but I never listened to anything or purchased anything.  Anyway, I really wanted to read James Taylor's memoir, but I found out it's only an audio.  So, I signed up for Audible again and got Break Shot: My First 21 Years: An Audio Memoir.  It's free which was cool.  It took me a week, but I got through it.  I hope he's going to do the next few decades.  This book just started getting good musically.  

I liked the format of James Taylor narrating his early life but also singing little interludes.  His voice was calming, and I think he was very fair to places and people where I would not be as kind, but he treated himself with the same fairness.  I'm still cynical and realize that, as the author, he's still writing what he wants us to know and how he wants us to hear it, but I appreciate the care taken.  

The book touches upon milestones with a lot of time spent with his family and parents which, as a memoir that focuses on the first 21 years, you would expect.  It ends with his career (and meeting Carol King - squee!) and the introduction to drugs though that runs a bit throughout.  So, I would imagine the next 21 years are a roller coaster.  

Monday, February 24, 2020

Captain Update - Week 2

2 full weeks!  No accidents at school or at home.  He has taken to peeing standing up which is a new development.  BUT he has also successfully pooped at home, at school, and while we were out running errands.  This is a big corner and has made for a much happier household.  The household is still full of rampant hormones of the toddler and teenage variety, but this looks to be improving.  

Now we just need to work on his aim... 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Captain Update

We went to the pediatrician last week thinking we were heading into the worst, but it went well.  Captain didn't have one accident last week after a 2-day long journey with daily suppositories.  Then, after a long weekend, he had some bathroom time on Monday with everything working normal.  We continued, so far, this week with no accidents.  He's so happy - and we're so happy.

Long story short, the pediatrician thinks this can be controlled by diet.  I heard many went gluten-free so I was preparing for that, but it turns out, we're doing the opposite and doing as much fiber as possible.  So, it's whole-wheat snacks, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat pizza dough.  We have upped the amount of fruit to his diet, and he's allowed to have juice quite often along with water at school per doctor's orders.  We are continuing to limit dairy and applesauce and bananas which were off his diet for the most part already.  He's been such a trooper and asks if the doctor said it was ok to eat this before every new food.  He's embraced everything we've thrown at him, and we haven't had to eliminate treats yet (like cookies, cake, etc.)  Because he's avoiding the white flour, I was afraid it would be drastic, but we're good if it's offset enough.  I know one week isn't much, but you have to start somewhere.  Next test will be vacation, but summer vacations always have so much fruit that it's not so bad.  Fingers crossed!

Book Opinion - Golden in Death


Last night, I finished Golden in Death, J.D. Robb's 50th book in the In Death series.  As with the rest of the series, the mystery is not why I read the books.  I found this one a fun one showing the evolution of Eve and Roarke's relationship and marriage and showing Eve's growth as a character throughout the series.  Plus, any book with Mr. Mira makes me smile.  It was only one scene, but I could feel his hug throughout the rest of the book.

If you don't read the series, you get the most out of it if they are read in order (though, to be honest, I stopped reading the short stories and just read the full-length books).  The futuristic aspects kind of blend together after the first few books and aren't as distracting after awhile.  Murder is still murder.  Many don't like the violence, but I'm an odd duck.  I love a good romance, but once in awhile, I like a lot of dead bodies piling up and needing justice.  It's called balance. 

I don't think this was a perfect book, but it's always good visiting with old friends.  There's a comfort in that.  Oh, and it doesn't hurt that Peabody was the Bad Cop which doesn't happen often because she's so natural at being empathetic and the Good Cop.  So, that was refreshing and made me want to stand up and applaud. 

New Food 2020 - Vanilla Cake with Fruit Filling & Homemade Buttercream

Full disclosure: we made this recipe before as a cakelet and loaf.  It's a really good vanilla cake.  We wanted to see how it was with a fruit filling and buttercream, a more traditional cake.  We tweaked and made it for Mom's birthday.

Vanilla Cake

Ingredients
  • 4 whole eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • ¾ cup butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup shortening
  • 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp lemon extract (optional)
  • 3 cups cake flour (To make cake flour, replace 2 tbsp of flour with cornstarch per cup. So, for this recipe, add all the flour to a bowl, remove 6 tbsp and then add 6 tbsp of cornstarch. Whisk well to combine.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, full fat, at room temperature

 



Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 325. Grease and flour three or four 8 or 9 inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper that is also slathered with a bit of butter or shortening.
  2. Separate the 4 whole eggs, placing the 4 yolks in a small bowl and the whites in a separate medium size bowl. Add the 3 additional egg whites to the other 4 for a total of 7 egg whites. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy. (*See note.) Slowly pour in 1/4 cup of the sugar, beating as you pour. Continue to beat until the meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form when you lift the whisk from the beaten egg whites. Set aside.
  3. Fit the standing mixer with the paddle attachment and cream the butter, shortening and remaining 2 cups of sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl a time or two. Beat in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
  4. Add 2 of the egg yolks and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining 2 egg yolks, beat for about 20 seconds, until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg to a large bowl and mix with a wire whisk just to combine.
  6. Beating on low speed, add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour: 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 of the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour. With each addition, beat on low speed, just long enough to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  7. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter just until distributed. You should still see some streaks of egg white throughout the batter. Do not over mix.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If baking 3 layers, bake for 40-50 min. If baking four layers, bake for 30-35 minutes. When done, the cakes will be golden brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan. To check for doneness, stick a toothpick into the center of one of the layers. Remove the toothpick and look for signs of raw batter. If only cake crumbs stick to the toothpick, the cake is done. You can also scoop a tiny amount of cake from the center of one of the layers to check for doneness. (You’ll be covering the cake with frosting anyway.)
  9. Let the cakes cool on wire racks for 5 minutes in the pan, then gently turn them out of the pans onto the wire racks to cool completely. If you don’t plan on frosting the layers immediately, wrap each tightly with plastic wrap. The layers can be stored at room temperature for 1 day, or frozen for up to 2 months.

We used this buttercream and not the one in the above link:

Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Butter Vanilla Bakery Emulsion (or vanilla extract)
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Instructions
  1.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, add butter. Beat butter on medium speed with the whisk attachment for about 1 minute, until butter is smooth.
  2. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, and beat until combined. Repeat with 1 more cup.
  3. Add bakery emulsion and heavy whipping cream and beat until combined.
  4. Add the remaining powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating until combined after each addition.
  5. Beat for about one additional minute, until frosting is thickened, smooth, and fluffy.
  6. The frosting should be smooth and fluffy, but stiff enough to hold its shape. If it's too stiff, add more whipping cream, half a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve the desired texture (2-3 tablespoons total).
For time, I just added Smuckers jelly as the filling (and not enough), but if you go full fruit preserves and liberally apply, I think it would be tasty.  This recipe makes a decent amount of cake.  I made 3 square layers.  That said, the buttercream did not make enough to cover the entire cake so I added the strawberries along the bottom to cover it up best I could.
So, the points are below.  Little Miss gave it a 6 because she doesn't like jelly.  I gave it an 8.  The average is 7 points.
10 possible points - Taste (possible 5), Was it worth the effort?  (possible 3), Appearance (possible 1), Would we make it again? (possible 1)
 

Standings:
Orange Chicken - 9 points
Crepes - 9 points
Vanilla Cake - 7 points

Monday, February 10, 2020

New Food 2020 - Crepes

This week, our new food was crepes.  I know this wasn't much of a risk, but there had to be some slowballs in there to balance out the ones that were going to bomb.  We used the recipe linked, but I cut and pasted it below.  I didn't add butter/oil to the pan, but our new nonstick pans are magic.  Maybe it would help with some taste, but they weren't bad.  I wanted them to be sweater, but I also don't think I added enough filling.  We filled with hot fudge and fresh strawberries and topped with whipped cream.  Little Miss really liked them.  Based on our scale (below), I rated them an 8, and Little Miss rated them a 10.  So, we averaged the rating for a 9.  I deducted points for taste.  I will say that we got the consistency and color down until I got lazy at the end.  Our scoop worked well to get the uniform shape as well (medium scoop which is about just shy of 1/4 cup).

10 possible points - Taste (possible 5), Was it worth the effort?  (possible 3), Appearance (possible 1), Would we make it again? (possible 1)


Standings:
Orange Chicken - 9 points
Crepes - 9 points



Basic French Crepes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Resting Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr

 Course Breakfast
 Cuisine French
 Author Aline Cueni
 Servings  Crepes
 Calories per serving 108kcal
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Ingredients

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth. If you don’t have a blender, mix it in a large bowl using a whisk. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  • Preheat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add one tablespoon of butter or oil, let it melt and add about 1/4 cup (60ml) of the batter into the pan. Swirl until the bottom is covered.
  • Cook each side for about 2 minutes until golden.
  • Repeat this procedure with the rest of the batter. 
  • Serve the crepes with your preferred filling.

Notes

  • If you don’t use the whole batter, you can store it in your fridge for up to one day and make fresh crepes the next day with it.
  • If you like to use nut milk for this recipe, add ~1/4 cup of water. Nut milk is usually thicker than cow milk, therefore it’s the best to dilute it with water to prevent the batter to be too thick.

Book Opinion - Scot Under the Covers

I recently finished Scot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch.  I don't read a lot of Suzanne Enoch's historicals, but I loved her contemporaries.  I think it's more that I went through a phase where I just didn't read a lot of historical romance.  I like this series, and its first book (this is book 2).  I liked the characters a lot in this one, but I really didn't like some of the characters which frustrated me while I read it.  I liked how it played out, but I wanted another chapter or two before Col steals the spotlight in his book.  I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to Aden and Miranda when they finally concluded their story.  I do love these Highlander brothers though.  It was definitely worth the read, but my impatience held me back a little.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Daily Life

Captain was born with an imperforate anus.  He was lucky that it wasn't very severe and, with surgery at around 6 months, he had all working parts.  However, he is easily constipated and any change in diet really affects his body.  As a baby, he didn't have banana, applesauce, and had restricted dairy which are all foods babies eat first.  Keeping weight on him was always a challenge.  Starting last year, we started giving him fiber vitamins and probiotics as well as a weekly stool softener - except you don't want to over-correct either.  It's a delicate balance.

As a slow potty trainer, it was difficult to see how his condition would affect him long-term.  We know that the constipation is a daily, constant issue, but the bowel management/control is relatively new.  He's been trying, but we don't know what else to do.  There's either an accident or a little poop on his underpants at least 5 out of 7 days of the week.  The school seems to be impatient with it which I completely understand, but he also can't help it.  We see the doctor to see what else we can do this week.  

I've done some research online, but there are so many with such severe conditions and challenges, but I'm hopeful we can control this by diet and possibly medicine.  The next stages are much more physically taxing (daily enemas or X-rays or suppositories).  He already receives frequent suppositories which he hates.  As a picky eater, it makes diet tricky, but I think we would be able to adapt to any conditions we need to add.  So, here's hoping we get to the bottom of things.  See what I did there?  

Science Fair

We avoided the Science Fair every year Little Miss was in elementary school until the 5th grade where it was mandatory.  By then, she was old enough to do it all by herself.  However, Captain loves science and wanted to participate so bad in the Science Fair.  Except he's in Kindergarten.  Which means that an adult needs to supervise and, well, do most of it.

So, we signed up for the Science Fair after which I forgot all about it until last Sunday.  We got an email telling us about the procedure for Thursday night.  Thursday.  Night.  4 days from when I read the email.  To put this into perspective, Monday is hockey night.  Wednesday, I was having minor outpatient surgery.  Thursday was baking club.  And Science Fair.  Luckily, we had almost all of the materials.  Monday, we did the science experiment and half of the presentation.  Tuesday, I forgot to print out the photos so I ran to Staples where they allow you to email photos to print and it was seamless and easy.  Then, we finished the project Tuesday night.  Wednesday, we dropped it off at school.  Thursday, we got a participation ribbon.  I mean, Captain got his participation ribbon.  


His experiement was to see which method inflated a balloon the best.  We filled one bottle with hot water to see if the steam would inflate the balloon.  It did but only slightly and not enough to raise the balloon.  We filled one bottle with water and placed an alka seltzer tablet in there.  It inflated the balloon to standing.  We filled a third bottle with vinegar and added baking soda.  It inflated the balloon to standing and almost bursting!  Captain's prediction was correct.

Monday, February 3, 2020

New Food 2020 - Orange Chicken

Little Miss has created the 2020 Madness of New Foods (why limit ourselves to March?)  

4 categories - Fruits/vegetables, Sides/Snacks, Main Dishes, Desserts
64 new foods
10 possible points - Taste (possible 5), Was it worth the effort?  (possible 3), Appearance (possible 1), Would we make it again? (possible 1)

First up was Orange Chicken w/jasmine rice topped with cilantro.  Technically, we didn't make this, but we went to a cooking class at Williams Sonoma.  Little Miss helped work the Instant Pot, and we did taste it.  They had 2 Instant Pots - one for the jasmine rice and one for the chicken, but I can make rice on the stove top.  It was 3-4 pounds chicken and this jar of sauce for 5 minutes in the Instant Pot.  After, cilantro was sprinkled on top.  
It was really good.  We gave it a 9, but it could have been a 10, but there were some Instant Pot quirks to overcook the chicken.  

Recipe:
1.  Sautee 3-4 pounds of chicken in a pan.
2.  Dump chicken and jar of Williams Sonoma Instant Pot Orange Chicken Sauce.  Set for 5 minutes.
3.  Serve over jasmine rice.  Garnish with cilantro.

In the past, I've cooked the chicken for my chicken teriyaki in my Instant Pot instead of cooking beforehand.  I wonder if that would make a difference.  Either way, the sauce was good.  It was too sweet like a lot of orange chicken sauces.  

It was originally supposed to be a General Tso's chicken class, but the sauce didn't come in time so I'm curious about that sauce.  If you try it, let me know.