February 21, 2017

The Blessings....a book review

Apparently, I'm on a hot streak when it comes to selecting something new to read.

After my last review - where I re-read yet ANOTHER book by accident, I tweeted about the lack of fresh reading material being available in my home.

Being a woman of my word, I headed straight to Barnes & Noble on Sunday and picked up three new books.  I should have picked up a couple of more as I found myself drawn into The Blessings by Elise Juska, so much so that I read it one sitting!

This is a tale of family.  And how the events and circumstances within our extended family shape the people within it.

From the front cover,

"When John Blessing dies, leaving behind two small children, the loss reverberates across his extended family for years to come.  His young widow, Lauren, finds solace in her large clan of in-laws, while his brother's wife, Kate, pursues motherhood even at the expense of her marriage....and nephew Alex a gifted student travels to Spain and considers the world beyond his family's Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood.  Through departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions THE BLESSINGS reveals the struggles beneath the surface of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them...."

This story reminds us that family is everything - most of the time.  The traditions of family are comforting and constant.

I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend it.

I've now started my second book, which is by Lisa Scottoline - she is always a good read so don't be surprised if another book review pops up soon.  I love it when I hit on a string of good books!

February 18, 2017

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons...a book review

About two or three pages into reading Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik, I quickly realized that I'd read this book before...but seeing as I didn't really remember the story and I  was enjoying it, I soldiered on.

Upon finishing this book this evening, I headed over here to see if I'd reviewed it before - apparently I haven't, much to my chagrin.  It was about this time when I toyed with the idea of creating a page of every book that I read from this point forward if for no other reason than to keep me from re-reading books I've already read!

But I quickly discarded that idea because if I had such a list, I wouldn't have re-read this book and would have missed out on the enjoyment that this book gave me again.

This is one of those books that remind you to cherish your friendships.  This story is about a group of women who spontaneously decide to create a book club and spans thirty years of their lives.  It is a testament to how important it is to have friends that you can rely on for celebrations and heartbreak.

An excerpt from the back cover:

"The women of Freesia Court are convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delicious desserts, and strong shoulder can't fix.  Laughter is the glue that holds them together - the foundation of a book group they call AHEB (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons), an unofficial "club" that becomes much more.  It becomes a lifeline...."

The Denver Post's blurb:

"It is impossible not to get caught up in the lives of the book group members...Landvik's gift lies in bringing these familiar women to life with insight and humor."

It's true...while reading this book, I recognized traits in some of the characters that mimic traits in friends of mine.  In fact, one character reminded me so strongly of a blogger that I follow that I had to tweet it to let her know I was thinking of her at that moment....

Ignore the typo - I have clumsy thumbs!

And just like *that* I was reminded that my circle of friends is larger than I realized.  Blogging has brought me into contact with people I would have never met in real life.  And I count them as true friends - people who will let me cry on their shoulder when I have that need and are there to rejoice with me when a celebration is in order.

So I leave you with this - read this book and tell your friends how much they mean to you.

February 15, 2017

Slowly losing my mind at work and an unexpected trip home...

OMG!!  When I say it has been dead at the office, I am not even kidding.  It's reached ridiculous proportions.  Take yesterday, for example...I got to work, logged on to the computer to check my email.  Hmmm, I had three new emails.  Two were "junk" emails - industry newsletters that I never read and one from my personal email sent to remind me that I needed to pick up dish washing detergent.  As I was busy deleting the industry newsletters one new email popped up that was work related.  Then I did not receive another email until well after lunch.

Things got so boring that I popped into visit with my co-worker.  She was struggling with a PowerPoint...which was her son's homework.  PowerPoint is not really her strong suit - so I offered to do it - which is how I found myself doing her son's homework.  Now granted, he had typed most of the text so all I had to do was pretty it up a bit...unfortunately, that didn't take too long.

Today was another snoozer.  Days like this make me absolutely crazy - because I continue to think of ways I could be productive...if I weren't at work.  Ah well, hopefully this lull will pass quickly and I need to remind myself - if the Legal Department isn't busy that's good for business...right?

As a quick aside - I am getting to take a trip for work.  I need to get some training for the system we use to pay outside counsel, so basically I am handling all the billing for our department.  Yes, I said billing.  The woman who was handling our billing decided to take another job within in the company and billing was dumped on me.  ME - the woman who can't even balance her checking statement.  The woman who once screwed up our bank balance so badly that The Husband was ready to close the account and start over.  THIS is the person they decided should be in charge of paying the bills?!  The person who left was tasked with training me.  Let's just say she was a very poor trainer.

So while I haven't COMPLETELY screwed it all up...yet; I've been winging it - which as we all know when it comes to bills isn't a very good idea.  So when this opportunity came up to attend this training I jumped.

Particularly since the training is to be held in Austin - a mere two hours away from Houston.  And this training ends on a Friday afternoon.

So I asked if I could tack on a vacation day and spend a quick three day weekend at home and it was granted.  Oh happy day!

The last time I was home was two years ago and was a very sad occasion.  I can't believe it's already been two years since he passed.

I had expected that my next trip home would give me more time to visit, do and see.  Since I will only have three days, I expect that I'll keep this trip simple and quiet since so many of the people I want to see live so very far from where I will be staying.  I'm mulling over whether or not I should ask my brother to meet me halfway to Houston.  I'm still very irritated with him from our last encounter - which after searching my archives, I find that I didn't tell you about.  Let's just put it this way - during the election he was sharing things on FaceBook that were VERY offensive.  I finally called him out on it in a private text message and it wasn't pretty; but apparently effective as he has been just a teensy bit more reserved in what he shares publicly.

So yeah, there's that bit of tension.  But, he still has a large majority of my mom's albums, which  I've talked about here and here.  So basically, he is sitting on a virtual gold mine and I could potentially get some of that there "gold" and have it shipped home - since it is apparent that he is not going to get off his keister to ship them like he promised two years ago.

The jury's still out on this one but I have about a month before I have to make up my mind on that, so we shall see.


This post was originally going to be titled Random Nonsense...because I had so many little things rattling around that seemingly weren't post-worthy on their own.  And then I sat down to write it and found that I had more to say on this particular subject than I first thought.  Just goes to show, sometimes you have more to say than you think.  Something I definitely need to remember for future posts.

February 9, 2017

The Great Coffee Caper

The beginning of this story actually started a few years ago...the distribution company that services our offices has their own coffee brand.  So naturally, they wanted to distribute their coffee.  I'm sure it saved the company a few pennies.

We gave the coffee a chance - but it was AWFUL.  So a good majority of us complained.  And they brought us a variation of their coffee...it wasn't much better.  So we continued to complain and eventually became the only floor in the building that was receiving Maxwell House.  Apparently, the other floors don't mind drinking swill.

So, for the past couple of years, we've enjoyed decent coffee.  Until a week or so ago...when the awful coffee showed up along side the Maxwell House.  We shoved it to the back and continued to use the Maxwell House.

But, to our utter horror, someone kept pulling the swill to the front and using it to make coffee.

Now you must realize, the fact that someone was actually making the coffee - someone other than the three or so of us that usually makes it - is a minor miracle.  But the fact that they were intentionally using the swill?  What the hell is wrong with this person's taste buds?

Finally, I contacted the person who deals with this vendor.  He assured me that it was a mistake on the part of a new driver and promised that from here on out they would only deliver the good stuff.  And as promised, they came out that day and delivered the good stuff...but failed to take away the gross stuff.

At first, we kept pushing the coffee to the back and pouring out full pots of sludge.  And it kept reappearing.

Obviously, this person was NOT getting the hint - or was flat out ignoring it.

This morning was the last straw.  When I came in there were two full pots of this vile liquid.  Then and there I concocted a plan.

The majority of the floor generally leaves the building for lunch at noon.  I generally head out around 1:00 pm.  Around 12:10, I headed toward the break room only to discover that someone actually decided to eat in there today, drat!

For the majority of the hour, I skulked around hoping they would leave.  Finally around 12:45 pm this person packed up and went back to his desk.  Here was my chance!

I hurried into the break room, snatched up the two offending boxes and carted them off to the executive kitchen (apparently our CEO loves this stuff) - which is kept under lock and key to most - and deposited the boxes of sludge.

So tomorrow morning?  I know without a shadow of a doubt, that there will be good coffee in the break room.  And one confused person.

February 5, 2017

The Baby Shower...

If you've been following along with the last several posts then you are aware that I was hosting a baby shower brunch today.  And I've pretty much been up to ears in planning, test baking, and fretting for the past couple of weeks.

And, as a direct contradiction to my last post, I would do it again - for this particular mom-to-be especially - in a heartbeat.  All the work was totally worth it.

The large group of women that descended upon the house was an eclectic group to be sure - but we showered the mom-to-be with lots and lots of love.  And lots and lots of food.

Speaking of food, the recipe that I deemed perfect for the coffee cake was indeed perfect.  As promised, here's the recipe, which I found at the Bon Appetit website.  I also discovered this article over there - which explains how to make the perfect crumb topping - a skill that I was woefully lacking until now.

I also found the almost perfect Lemon Poppyseed muffin recipe - I say almost perfect because although they were heavenly they were very pale....they almost looked uncooked.  I did modify the recipe a bit.  I omitted the orange zest and juice, I just threw another lemon into the mix (and I'm glad I did!  One of the women is actually allergic to oranges - who knew that was a thing?  I'd never heard of it, have you?).  I think next time, I will throw a crumble on top of it.  Yes, I DO love a good crumb topping - don't judge.

The Husband's contributions were TWO breakfast casseroles and TWO frittatas - it's like he thought this was a gathering of men.  He left me with explicit instructions on what temperature and length of time to cook the casseroles and how to heat the frittatas.  In fact, as he was leaving he admonished me to not burn his casseroles.  I didn't.

But because it's me, there HAD to be one disaster...

His instruction regarding the frittatas was to stick them in the microwave to heat.  The first one went into the microwave and was warmed beautifully.  The second one - the one I really wanted to try (it was a spinach frittata - you know what a sucker I am for something with chopped spinach in it!) would NOT fit in the microwave.  So we decided to throw it in the oven for a few minutes.  And then the damn dish shattered!

It's not that the glass plate was too cold - I had taken it out in plenty of time for the dish to warm up prior to hitting the oven.  Maybe the dish wasn't oven safe?  Who knows.

We closed the oven and acted like nothing happened - very few guests were witness to this disaster.  After the shower the debris was cleared and the glass covered frittata was tossed, sadly.  The Husband has promised to make me another one soon.  Luckily, we had PLENTY of food so there was no reason to stress.

Coffee was made.  Lemonade and orange juice (the better to make mimosas with) were served in crystal pitchers - the ones I rarely use because of the animals I live with - this actually became a topic of discussion among some of the ladies.  We all agreed that we SHOULD use our beautiful things more often - and I am going to work on getting over the fact that one of the guys in the house might break it; but the truth of the matter is this:  it is most likely that *I* would be the one to break it; but at least I would have enjoyed it while I had it rather than letting it gather dust in the cabinet; only being brought out for special occasions.  Surely, I'm not the only one who does this?  It will definitely be something that I will try to do more often - use my pretty, beautiful things more often and enjoy doing so.

To call this shower a success is an understatement - this shower was the longest shower I've ever attended!  The last guest left around 4:00 pm - this shindig commenced at 11:30 am.  We talked, we laughed, we ate, we cried, we laughed some more and showered the mom-to-be with love and good wishes - all in all it was perfect.

As I type this missive, The Husband, Man-Child and The Girlfriend are watching "the" game.  If you know me at all, you know this is something that doesn't interest me in the least - so while they are enjoying themselves, I am doing something that I enjoy - it all works out.

And Man-Child is happy with the plethora of leftovers at his disposal - in addition to the food The Husband prepared for the game...all in all it's been a good Sunday - how was yours?  Are you watching the game?  Or are you, like me, hiding in another room - finding something else to do?

February 4, 2017

Why I will (probably) never host a brunch again...

As I mentioned in the past two posts, I'm hosting a baby brunch tomorrow.

Here's the thing, I LOVE brunch.  But prepping for one?  Not so much.  Now granted The Husband will be doing most of the heavy lifting.  His contribution includes breakfast casseroles and fritattas...they will be delicious.  Although Man-Child was aghast when he learned that his father would be cooking and then be expelled.  The child has yet to realize that there are times when men are excluded - not always, of course, but occasionally.

And although The Husband is doing the majority of the heavy lifting, I was left with the rest of it.

The cleaning (done).  The shopping (done).  The baking of the coffee cake and the lemon poppy seed muffins (done).  The making of the deviled eggs (done).  The decorating (semi-done).  The ordering of the gift (done); the wrapping of the gift (NOT done - just realized I'm out of wrapping paper!! - which means I have an early trip to the store tomorrow).  And now, at a mere 6:30 pm, I am exhausted; which is a good thing since I need to get up SO very early tomorrow.

The problem with a brunch is that it happens fairly early in the day.  Which gives you less time to work with.  I purposely scheduled this brunch for a Sunday so I'd have an extra day to prepare without having to take time off from work.  Lesson learned?  Next time I (IF I ever again) have a brunch, I'll be sure to build in at least two days off prior to the brunch.

Left off the list of To-Do's that have been abandoned?  At least six to seven To-Do's that have been deemed as unnecessary due to the time constraints.

Will all this complaining diminish my pleasure from enjoying the brunch and the guest of honor's pleasure?  Not one single bit.

These life events are meant to be enjoyed - even if there is a bit of work involved.

February 1, 2017

Neighborhood news...

I don't believe I've mentioned it here - but my very dear friend, who lives around the corner, is expecting.  We are all very excited for them.

Of course, when she told me, I nearly drove off the road as I had no idea they were even trying.  The last time she sprung some news on me, I was expecting her to tell me that she was pregnant.  Instead, she told me then they might be moving to Arkansas.  Luckily for all of us, that move never materialized.

I promptly offered to host a baby shower/brunch for her.  She asked me to team up with another friend of hers that I don't know to co-host the shower.  I agreed.  This person seems VERY nice but from her most recent email, I now know why my friend's husband was laughing when he discovered that me and this other person would be teaming up.

Turns out we are very different - which is fine.  Turns out our ideas on what constitutes as "baby shower activities" are very, very different.  So while she is doing her thing for her activity, I'll be doing mine.  I'm sure it will all be fine.

As I mentioned here, I have been in search of the perfect coffee cake recipe.  As of the typing of this post, I am currently on my THIRD test cake...yes, I know. I'm insane.  It also appears that I mentioned the baby shower earlier than I did the baby, that I am SO very excited about - if this kind of thing keeps happening, I will be asked to turn in my blogger card...

At any rate, I think I may have found the perfect recipe - until I got home and started pulling it together...seems I didn't have any sour cream or enough butter.  I had to ad lib the whole thing.  We shall see how it turns out.  At this point, I have told myself that if this cake turns out to be tasty then the recipe done correctly will be fabulous.  That makes total sense, doesn't it?

This is why I shouldn't bake in the evenings.

Although, I just peeked in on it...based on looks and smell this one may be the winner! *crosses fingers*

So now that I've reported all the mundane news...on to the bigger news.

So, my very dear friend, that lives around the corner, she and her husband have been in mild state of panic about their house.  Even before they discovered they were expecting.  You see, her husband has declared that their house is too small for their family.  He kept nattering on and on about moving (further) out into the country.  She, on the other hand, was adamant about staying in the neighborhood and keeping the children in this school district.  They were at an impasse - so the husband began to reluctantly discuss expansion.

Then the house across the street from us went on the market.  They wistfully talked about that house but it was quickly snapped up.  I've since been inside that house and I don't think they would have liked it anyway.

About two weeks ago, a Coming Soon for sale sign went up two doors down and I knew this one was going to go FAST.  I texted my friend.  She came by to get a peek at the outside and saw some possibility.  Once it went on the market she made an appointment and loved it.

We were discussing the house but she didn't seem ready to jump.  I don't blame her - what with her due date being a little over a month away.  I figured that was as far as they were going to take it.

Me, being me, I kept an eye on the house and sure enough, the house was already in due diligence yesterday morning.  I sadly reported this info via text to my friend. She came back with "Wow.  That was fast.  How do you know?"

I informed her that I still receive an MLS report every day.  And she responded with, "Well, smart people I guess.  Probably took a leap of faith with encouragement from a good friend. ;-)

And then I realized, THEY had made the offer and it was accepted.  There was much rejoicing in this house last night, I can tell you.  Because although they are only around the corner, two doors down is MUCH better.  Especially with a new baby!

And that coffee cake?  Well, it looks promising...

And, after a tiny nibble, I think with all the right ingredients, we have a winner.  I'll let you know after the shower.