This Just Landed On My Doorstep: Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King and Owen King

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 It doesn't change my opinion, but you should know that I might be paid for my referral.

Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen King and Owen KingI absolutely love Stephen King. I pre-ordered this 1st edition and it just arrived. I may have to pull an all-nighter. What’s your favorite Stephen King book?

I’m anxious to see whether I like the combination of him and his son Owen writing. I recently read his other son’s “Fireman” and seriously thought I was reading Stephen himself – it was that good and that similar.

OK, gotta run – lots of reading to do.

Family Reunions and Shared DNA

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Three summers ago, a first cousin and I decided that a “cousins reunion” was in order. We gather the first full weekend in August in a tiny farm community in Illinois. The visiting gets better every year as we each start looking forward to seeing our extended family. The food is pretty good, too!

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Barbeque Pulled Pork Sandwich

We start with a crockpot full of pulled pork cooked for us by a local meat locker merchant. This year we added a good-size mountain of fried chicken, too. Then everyone brings something to share and even though we have fly-in guests and long distance driving for some, we end up with a nice variety of sides. The local small grocery is a great resource for prepared salads and good vegetables.

This year, the topic of DNA testing came up because one cousin had done two or three different ones and compared the results. It was pretty fascinating to find that we might not be as German as we thought, for one.

Our grandparents had proudly displayed a small plaque that said something about being Pennsylvania Dutch, which as adults we finally understood to be German. Those war years changed a lot of family lore I think.

I left the reunion determined to log in at Ancestry.com and order a kit, even though I knew it was pricey. The last time I looked it was $100+ with shipping, etc. But I really really wanted that snapshot of who I am.

As sometimes happens, the Universe was playing along and a friend posted a coupon to Ancestry.com the same week that I returned from the reunion. It wasn’t a tough decision at all to click and order.

All the information involved in ordering says that it could take weeks, but I had the kit in hand within a few days. Once I managed to get enough saliva in the bottle and send it back, the results were in my account within a couple of weeks.

I wasn’t surprised by the results since my cousin had shared his, but what did strike me was how I really wasn’t “a little bit of everything” as I thought. It seems that my history is pretty much centered in NW Europe and then NE colonies, US. That was a surprise.

 

For The Want Of Some Hand Lotion

 

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I’ve heard that pure blogging your life is interesting to your readers. If that’s true, here’s a treat.

I was up to my ears in work this morning, but my hands were screaming for lotion. When I hit a stopping point I headed for my bathroom to grab some. Uh Oh, I was going to replace the soap, that’s why I left the shower curtain open. Last bar, don’t forget to grab some more. Scrubbing bubbles on the soap tray, better move the shampoo bottles and get that area too. Where’s the timer so the foam doesn’t dry because I forgot. Oh yeah, more soap. Laundry closet shelf. Soap. Where’s that duster thing that fits between the washer and dryer? You were going to do that in December. There. Maybe while it’s in hand, clean down in the lint filter. Soap – grab some soap. Might as well throw a load of laundry in. Back in the bathroom with the soap, my hair dryer is cool, so I can clean the counter.

Back to my desk, pick up where I left off. I should blog this. Boy, my hands are dry. I need some lotion.

Cruising the Caribbean Ocean

Cruising the Caribbean- Love it? Hate it?

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Even though I’ve only cruised the big big ships once I’m have to say I loved it. And I have the next cruise booked. I’ve done lots more small yacht sailing – mostly in Lake Michigan and the Florida Keys.

My first big ship cruise was with Carnival, out of Galveston. It was even better than I expected and I was ready to go again even before we braved icy winter to get back home. The next reservation is for January of next year with Royal Caribbean and one of their huge new ships – Harmony of the Seas.

As I start making my lists and checking them twice, I’ll share what I’ve learned and what other more experienced cruisers share with me. I’m also in need of new luggage. I can’t decide whether to go overboard with the budget to get something that will last forever, or accept that the airlines and other porters are hell on bags and nothing is going to last very long. It’s a tough decision. My first “good” set of luggage regularly went through hell and back and lasted for a decade of hard use.

So I’ve left you with nothing helpful here at all, but I’ll get there. Promise.

How To Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs Are Easy!

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My grandson showed me how to get perfect hard boiled eggs every time! He’s going to be a chef and he practices his art daily at the restaurant where he works while finishing high school.

Perfect hard boiled eggs
Perfect hard boiled eggs every time using this method.

Over the holidays, he came to help me prep the food for the big gathering. Two dozen eggs were needed for deviled eggs. Here’s what he taught me and the proof is in the picture.

1- Spin each egg on the counter until it stops wobbling. This centers the yolk so you have an attractive slice for salads and a stable white for deviled eggs.

2- Cold eggs, cold water – 17 minutes on high from start to finish

3- Have an ice bath ready when the timer goes off after 17 minutes

4- When eggs have cooled, remove them from the ice bath, shell them immediately, and store in a gallon storage bag in the fridge.

That’s it. Perfect every time I’ve done it since.

The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl

Review: The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl

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I just finished The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl and had a couple of very distinct reactions while reading it.

The author has penned a compelling plot line that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to the end. The characters are well drawn, even if a few of the descriptions are more in the tradition of a formula read. The story moves quickly and the predictable parts are not overly predictable. Overall I want to say “Well done”.

The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl
The Candidate, by Lis W. Wiehl

But twice while I was reading, there was a jarring stop in the action where the author inserted themselves as though it were a conversation and they were interrupting a story. It was weird enough for me to remember for days.

First, there was a scene where a character displayed some kind of common courtesy; I think maybe they stood and pulled out a chair for someone joining the group. No biggie. But the very next sentence was “…more manners than ever displayed by Trump.” To this point in the story, Trump had never been mentioned. Not once, even though this is a story about a Presidential campaign taking place in the current time with made-up characters.

There was absolutely no reference to Trump before that statement or anywhere in the book after. I had to stop and go read the jacket bio of the author. That’s when I found out that she is involved with Fox News, which made it even more of a puzzle and took me out of the story for a few days. Very strange.

And Then it Happened Again

The second time was less intrusive, but still weird. The main character, a news anchor, is hopping a plane to Detroit. The explanation includes the comment that this was her first time flying to Detroit (which added nothing to the story) but the next sentence I swear was just missed by whoever edited the first draft. It said: “Right? Who goes to Detroit?” I had a hard time thinking of any reason for that comment and it didn’t add or subtract from the plot other than to stop me again and make me wonder about author bias.

Now, I loved the story. It was chilling and suspenseful and because it was written earlier in 2016, there was not as much reason to think about a foreign power infiltrating our election, which later proved to be a huge concern. I thought that was a little odd as well, considering the position of the author at a major network.

My recommendation: If you like politics at all, if you enjoy a suspenseful thriller with the typical chase scene that wraps it all up in the end, if you enjoy having a defined bad guy and a flawed good guy who saves the day – read it! I really liked it.

Make it easy to match up containers to lids

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Here’s a quick and easy way to keep containers and lids matched without trying every lid to find a match.

Use 2 matching address labels to pair up your plastics. This works best on containers you take out of the house and want back.

For containers that never leave the house, you don’t need the address; just use any two matching stickers.

Charge It!

My Jawbone UP 2 charging
My Jawbone UP 2 charging
Advertising note: When I link to businesses and / or products, I make a real effort to get paid for that advertising. It doesn't change my opinion, but you should know that I might be paid for my referral.

I’m getting a little better about checking the charge on my fit tracker (It’s a Jawbone UP2).

It’s not THE big name brand one, so I have to learn things one-at-a-time. Today I took it off, set up the little charger thing and then turned on the device that has the easiest access USB port. And wandered off.

Every step I took reminded me that I should check to see if it was ready to put back on – I was missing steps! All the way out to the dumpster. Back and forth to the fridge. Even clear over to the recycling bins.

So I remembered to bop over to that side of the room and check. I. Never. Plugged. It. In. Must be Friday the 13th.

 

Beer Burger North Liberty With Friends

Beer Burger Now Open in North Liberty!

Beer Burger in North Liberty, Iowa
Beer Burger in North Liberty, Iowa
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Our group has been waiting impatiently for Beer Burger to open and now it is! We met for a dinner meeting last night to check it out.

We had a group of 7 and between us we had:

Kale Artichoke dip with garlic naan and veggies – generous portion – three of us worked on it and half the dip remained. The naan was gobbled up though – irresistable!

Various burger renditions with fries. All were yummy – the regular fries are addictive; I can only imagine how good the upgraded fries could be. One friend ordered the appetizer sliders instead of a burger because she wasn’t hungry enough for a whole burger – her three sliders combined were as big, if not bigger than our regular burgers – and the presentation was adorable (little pickle bits on picks – so sweet).

Two in our group ordered salads – they were large and looked very nice. The word was “delicious”. One only ordered a shake – watching the diet, you know. It was a regular size glass, but decorated with chocolate and sprinkles on the sides, whipped cream and a cherry on top. She said that made it a little too sweet, but it was OK. We thought the perfect dinner of the future might be a chocolate shake with no fancy trim and an order of regular fries. Could be heaven.

How’s the Beer at Beer Burger?

Beer: You’re probably wondering about the Beer, right? After all, it’s in the name and all. Beer Burger is known for their “keg room” – a glass enclosed area that can hold over 200 kegs. They have a big list of tap beers at the bar, also. Mixed drinks and cocktails are available too.

It was Happy Hour when we were there, but only certain things were included and that turned out to be none of what we ordered. The first request was for a Millstream Pale Ale and they were out. 🙁   So let’s have a Stella instead. “Out of that too, sorry” 🙁   OK, so what do we have that’s similar? Turns out the beer list is sorted by the various attributes, so if you feel like studying, you can find a sub for what you really wanted.

There are “tasting” opportunities at $ per ounce – that was the biggest thing we heard mentioned as we chatted with friends around the room. “I got this much and it was $5.40! So… lesson learned. But if you were actually on a beer adventure – this would definitely be the place!

Beer Burger is Popular!

The place is huge – their theme is a very industrial look, and within 30 minutes of opening it was full. They open at 4 and we were waiting. When we left after dinner, it was still full with a short line. That was on a Wednesday night at 7.

Two people in our group had tried to come earlier in the week. On Friday or Saturday the parking was clear out to the road and the line was too long so they left. That speaks well for support from our small town. The word is that other popular and similar establishments in town aren’t hurting, so I think we had room for more places like this.

All in all, it was a great time. A little noisy for great conversation, but perfectly fine for casual friendly chat. There were some TVs, but not a huge saturation like your typical sports bar. Service was more than excellent and the food was tasty and fun. Our food arrived pretty quickly also; but we were settled in a little ahead of the huge crowd.

I can highly recommend and I know for sure I will be back!

 

Good Soup Created Accidentally With Leftover Chicken

Good Soup Can Just Happen Sometimes

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There are times when I create good soup that I think I should go the route of food blogs with the overhead camera and the nifty ingredient tricks (Snap! Chopped!) but I always decide that it’s not worth it for the actual amount I cook.

Good Soup: Leftover Chicken with mixed veggies, tomatoes, and black beans.
Good Soup: Leftover Chicken with mixed veggies, tomatoes, and black beans.

Yesterday, against all prior planning, I accidentally created some really good soup. Let’s start at the beginning with just a little bit of background. I love those deli chickens because they’re easy and tasty when compared to messing around with raw chicken and roasting to savory goodness. My intention is always to use the best white meat atop a lunch salad and then find frugal and efficient ways to use the rest.

What usually happens instead is that I fail at matching up available fresh greens with the chicken and never get my delicious salad. I have even (gasp) ended up wasting the chicken. 🙁   But this weekend I bought greens and chicken, and in a burst of Monday inspired efficiency, carved it up and made a delicious salad on my lunch break.

I don’t know exactly what possessed me (probably the chilly rain outside), but I grabbed a 2 qt pot and started tossing the dark meat and tiny scraps of chicken in.

Ingredient: Good Soup Needs Roasted Chicken Bits

My pantry is full of canned goods, so I added a can of mixed vegetables and pondered spices for a minute, but turned the burner on to get a feel for what I had created with these two ingredients so far. (It’s how I roll.)

As you can guess, the combination left something to be desired and would surely leave me wanting pizza for dinner if I didn’t look around for flavor. I threw in a can of diced tomatoes for color and additional veggie goodness. Still lacking something. Oh, right – it lacks flavor.

Ingredient: Good Soup Needs Garlic and Onion

I have some garlic paste in a tube that I’m trying to use up – so I added about an inch and a half as a start (equiv of 1-2 cloves). Then I grabbed a fistful of frozen onions and turned up the heat. Started mixing salt and pepper in a small ingredient bowl and threw them in as the mixture started boiling. After a few minutes, I turned the heat back and cleaned up my chicken chopping mess and went back to work.

Garlic inspires me. The aroma drifted into my home office and pulled me back to the stove for tasting. I also had a timer I carried back to work with me so I wouldn’t forget to check. At this point, the chicken and vegetables were coming together into a very suitable 1st course for dinner. I could have stopped at this point with just the addition of a little more salt.

Ingredient: Good Soup Needs 1 More Something

I was so close to perfect I actually stood there and stared into the pan for a few minutes thinking through what else I had in the freezer or pantry that would take this over the top for me. Noodles? Some other pasta? Beans? That’s it! One of my favorites is White Bean Chicken Chili and I always keep canned beans around in the winter. But when I opened the pantry door, the first thing in view was a stack of black beans I had carried home with no plan other than a healthy addition to something. Bingo!

Ingredients: Here’s The Whole List

Scraps of deli roasted chicken – I probably had about 3/4 cup of dark meat and tiny bits of leftover white meat.

Cans – 1 Mixed Vegetables, 1 Diced Tomatoes, 1 Black Beans – liquid and all – just open and dump them in

Flavor – 1 handful of frozen chopped onions – probably 3/4 cup if you feel the need to measure. It could have used more, but I didn’t want to play with the temperature up and downs again. 1 and 1/2 inches of garlic paste from the tube in the fridge – equivalent to 1-2 cloves. Salt and pepper to taste – probably 1/2 – 1 teaspoon each. I added more salt a couple of times during the simmer.

That’s it. I ended up eating 2 bowls with crackers for dinner and skipping the meal I had planned. It was so good and I have enough for 2-3 bowls left over for lunch today.