Nine Years of Book Club. What Have We Read?

Photo credit: SheKnows

 

I mentioned my book club last week and the hot cross buns that I made for our meeting. I don’t know if you noticed the picture that shows the list of books we have read in our nine years together. Thought that some of you would like to know what was on that list!

One of our members keeps track of all the books that we have read together as a club and on our anniversary each year brings us a copy of the list. We love to look over it and remember (or sometimes not remember!) our literary journeys.

We are planning a trip to Napa Valley next Spring break to celebrate our 10th anniversary as a group. The spouses are tagging along as well and we are really looking forward to it. Perfect getaway for our Wacky Wednesday Wino Weaders!

Funny thing about the spouses, they have a “Not Book Club”. After “the girls” had been meeting monthly for about a year they were feeling kind of left out. So now on the last Wednesday of the month while we are meeting they all get together and have pizza and beer. I think they look forward to their meeting as much as we look forward to ours!

If you are in a book club, if your are thinking of starting a book club, or if you just love to read, here are our books choices through the years. I asked each of  my girls to choose one favorite and I puts a star next to those choices. Happy reading!

2008
Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

*The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The 13th Tale by Diane Setterfield

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The Red Tent Anita Diamant

2009
*The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

Molokaii by Alan Brennert

The Year of the Fog by Michelle Richmong

The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein

The  3rd Angel by Alice Hoffman

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pic Society by Annie Barrows

2010
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

*The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee

The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio by Terry Ryan

First, Do No Harm by Lisa Belkin

*Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

*The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

2011

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carlton

The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

*The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

*The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

2012

The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall/Denver Moone

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

2013

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

With or Without You by Domenica Ruta

The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

2014

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Found Manuscripts of Accra by Paulo Coelho

A Dogs Purpose by Bruce Cameron

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

2015

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Dinner by Herman Koch

 In the Woods by Tana French

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

After You by Jojo Moyes

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

2016

I am Malala by Malala…..lalala

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Likeness by Tana French

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

The Little Paris Book Shop by Nina George

2017

The Virgin Queen’s Daughter by Ella March Chase

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

 

Super Simple Baked Cream Cheese Wontons

Remember the sushi party we had last Sunday? These little nuggets were the appetizers. Um…..yum!

I have never made anything with wonton wrappers before. They seemed a little intimidating to me. Sheesh! They are easy peasy!

You can whip up this four (yes, four!) ingredient appetizer in practically no time and really impress your guests.

I adapted the recipe from this one but instead of frying them in oil I sprayed them with some cooking spray and baked them. Save calories whenever possible!

We used Panda Express Sweet Chili Sauce for dipping and it was the perfect touch. It would be fun to make these and experiment with different dipping sauces. I’m thinking sriracha mayo, wasabi mayo, buffalo sauce, fig jam. Use your imagination!

Super Simple Baked Cream Cheese Wontons

Makes 24 Wontons 

INGREDIENTS

8 oz Cream Cheese

3 green onions – chopped small

1 tsp Sesame Oil

24 Wonton Wrappers

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 400.

In a small bowl beat cream cheese, green onions and sesame oil.

Place about 2 tsp of cream cheese mixture in center of each wonton wrapper.

Wet the edges of the wonton wrapper and fold in half to form a triangle or bring opposite edges together to form bundle.

Place wontons on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees.

Let’s Bake Those Hot Cross Buns!

So. Those hot cross buns I made for my book club. Yep. Gotta say, they were delish!

I adapted a recipe from The Pioneer Woman that I found here. I do love the PW. I think her and I could be besties. Hey Ree! I played with the ingredients a bit to use stuff that I had on hand so I didn’t have to run out to the grocery store in my jammies.

I messed up a step when I was adding the yeast so I started a second batch just in case. Even with the mess up both batches were yummy. I ended up with about 48 buns. The neighbors were happy to receive the extras! (It also helps placate them while we have construction going on in our backyard.) The construction guys were pretty happy to get some also. It takes energy to pound those nails.

First I heated up some condensed milk, water, canola oil, and sugar to just under a boil. I let it cool for awhile until it was about 120°. You need it about this temperature for the yeast to do its magic when you sprinkle it in. I forgot to sprinkle the yeast on the liquids before I mixed in the flour on the first batch! Wasn’t sure what was going to happen but it was all good!

After adding some of the dry ingredients it was time to let it rise for a bit. I like to use Pillsbury flour when I do my baking. It gives me consistent results and I trust the brand.

Multiple risings going on here. Look at those cute towels. That is my Grandma Jessie’s cornbread recipe on them!

After the rise and adding a bit more of the dry ingredients it was time to turn the dough out on to the counter and incorporate the cinnamon sugar and raisins. This was a fun step. Play Doh anyone?

I formed the dough into golf ball sized pieces and placed them on the cookie sheet and let them rise again.

Then it was time to brush them with the glaze, pop them in the oven, let them cool, and drizzle that yummy frosting cross on them.

This recipe makes buns that are light, almost croissant-like. The cinnamon sugar/raisin ratio is perfect. So so good with a cup (or two) of good coffee in the morning.

Let me know if you try them for your Easter festivities this year. These will for sure be a part of our tradition from now on!

Books and Buns Hot Cross Buns

Yield: about 24 buns

1  12oz can Carnation® Evaporated milk

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup C&H sugar

1 package fast rising yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

4 cups Pillsbury All-purpose Flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup raisins

1 egg white

Splash of heavy cream

ICING

1/4 cup warm water

1 TBSP light corn syrup

1/4 tsp almond extract

3 cups powdered sugar

Combine the evaporated milk, water, canola, and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan. Heat over med low heat while stirring to just under a boil. Set aside and let cool to 120°.

Transfer liquid to a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over liquid. Add 4 cups of flour and mix until combined. Dough will be sticky. Cover with a really cute towel and let rise for one hour.

Mix 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Add to dough and stir until combined.

Combine cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press to flatten a bit. Sprinkle a third of the cinnamon sugar and a third of the raisins on top. Fold the dough over on itself and flatten it again. Repeat with a sprinkling of a third of the cinnamon sugar and a third of the raisins. Fold it again and repeat the sprinkles one more time. Fold it again.

Put a little bit of flour on your hands and roll golf ball sized rolls. Turn the edges of the balls under themselves slightly to get a nice rounded shape. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and cover and let rise one hour in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 400°

Mix egg white with a splash of heavy cream and brush on each bun when they have finished rising.

Bake for 16-18 minutes or until tops of buns are deep golden brown.

Remove from pan and all to cool on a cooling rack.

Make icing:

Stir warm water, corn syrup and almond extract in a small bowl until syrup have dissolved. Add liquid to the powered sugar and beat with a hand mixer until smooth.

Once buns are cooled, scoop icing into a small zippered sandwich bag and snip the corner a little bit. Make the crosses with the icing on each bun.

 

 

 

 

 

Books and Buns

Book club! Who’s in one? I LOVE mine. We just celebrated the nine year anniversary of ours. We call ourselves the WWWW. Wacky Wednesday Wino Weaders. Let me tell you, we have fun.

Look at that wine glass! Perfect for our WWWW.

There are seven of us in our book club. We are all neighbors. Last night we were reminiscing about how when we started we were really just acquaintances. A friendly wave to each other and neighborly chit chat was about the extent of our relationship.

Over these last nine years we have developed a special bond that we each treasure. We know that if any one of us needed something the others would be right there for us.

We have read 93 books together. Some amazing ones. Some ok ones. Some not so amazing ones. We have laughed, cried, agreed, disagreed and had some great wine (I mean discussions!).

So what, do you ask, do those hot cross buns pictured above have to do with books. I will tell you!

The book that we read for last night’s meeting was “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty. It was a great book and we all gave it the thumbs up. The story is set in Australia and part of the story takes place on Good Friday. Well, I guess everyone in Australia eats hot cross buns on Good Friday because for a while in the book it seems like every single character is eating one! The author made them sound so good. I am telling you, it gave me a craving for one, even though I really couldn’t remember ever eating hot cross bun. So I HAD to make some to take last night. Because…… carbs, cinnamon, raisins, frosting. I think we may have a new Good Friday tradition in our house!

Do you like to read? Are you in a book club? I highly recommend it!

Sushi! You can make it at home. Yum!

Sunday dinner. We love it. A time for the family to get together and touch base. This Sunday there were only six of us, all adults, at the house. The perfect time to try my hand at sushi.

My son and DIL gave me this sushi making kit from Williams Sonoma for my birthday. How fun is that? I was excited to see how my own homemade sushi would turn out.

I made the sticky rice the day before in my rice cooker. It needs to cool before you use it. There is a package of rice in the kit, but it is basically sushi rice (calrose), rice vinegar, sugar and salt. You can use this recipe here. I don’t know what the “kombu” is in the recipe and I didnt use it.

Two of my DILs were there to help me prep everything a give me moral support as I learned to roll the sushi rolls.

We prepared carrots, cucumber, avocado, imitation crab, store bought poke, asparagus (the first little stems from my garden this year!), sesame seeds, nori, wasabi mayo, and the crunch topping. We used panko bread crumbs for the crunch topping and just toasted them in the toaster oven.

I thought that the nori that came with the kit looked small so I bought a pack of large sheets. As you can see below, my first attempt rolling using the larger sheets did not turn out as planned! Way too big! The sheets that came with the kits turned out to be the perfect size. Of course!

Once I figured out the correct size nori to use, and the proper way to use the mat I was on a roll! (Pun intended!)

The hubs grilled some teriyaki chicken for my one son who does not eat fish. He loves to fish though. You may have seen a picture of him on a previous post holding a salmon. Also we added a yummy Asian Salad from Taylor Farms and voila, dinner was served!

I think that my first attempt at sushi was pretty good. Certainly not as beautiful and artistic as the real sushi chefs but not bad for a beginner.

I look forward to looking up some recipes and watching some sushi making videos on youtube and stepping up my sushi game!

Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery. A Spring Delight!

Yesterday was another day for a girls outing with one of my granddaughters. Spring was in the air and we set out for Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens in Fallbrook.

This is a magical place! So beautiful. So peaceful. So quirky. And such a fun time. We found lots to see and do there, and we even came home with our own little fairy garden!

Look at this sweet carriage!
Just walking around the grounds was such a treat. There are adorable things everywhere. We loved seeing what each new turn would bring us.

This is the Woman of the Garden.
We purchased their “Kids Spring Break Experience” which runs everyday from 10AM-5PM through the end of April. The $19.50 package includes: a cookie, Myrtle Berry Lemonade, Happy Goat Mountain Access (with goat treats), and a Build Your Very Own Fairy Garden.

We started out feeding the goats. They were very gentle, and hungry! Even little little ones would enjoy feeding them.

Hungry goat!

This guy was checking us out.
Next we sat down to enjoy our cookie and lemonade. There is a little cafe on the grounds that has salads, sandwiches and even a crepe station. Your get your order and they have picnic baskets and tablecloths that you can take and sit anywhere on the grounds that you choose. And, there are so many beautiful places to choose.

The lemonade is super yummy.
Next it was on to make our fairy garden. The package includes a pot, three plants (they have a variety of different ones to choose from), potting soil, moss, and one little figure. The staff was very helpful with getting us started and then off we went. It was fun working side by side with my granddaughter to create our gardens.

Aren’t these just the sweetest?

As I have said before, I really enjoy spending one on one time with my grandkids. When I think of my gramma, I smile. We did lots of fun things together. Is it selfish of me to want my grandkids to smile when they think of me? I think not!

 

 

Bonus Love!

Here’s the thing. I have four bonus grandkids. Our oldest son is getting  married in May. He has two children, she has four. Brady Bunch anyone?!

They got engaged on Thanksgiving of 2015 and that day her kids started calling us Gramma and Grandpa. Love it! The number of grandkids we had doubled. Just like that. In the blink of an eye. Lucky us! Eight grandkids to love.

I have never cared for the term “step”, as in stepmom or stepchild. A while back I was reading a blog and came across the term “bonus child”. Doesn’t that sound so much nicer? I think so. So now I have four bonus grandkids!

Last weekend I volunteered to drive up to Disneyland in the late afternoon and pick up one of the older grandsons and his friends who were there for a band concert. Long story. My oldest granddaughter volunteered to ride along with me for company.

We drove up and hung out at Downtown Disney until it was time  to pick up the boys.

My granddaughter and I had so much fun just hanging out together. It was fun walking around and checking out what ever store we wanted and just being silly. And being girls!

We also had some pretty good eats as well. We started out at LaBrea Express Bakery. We had the clam chowder bread bowl and the turkey mozzarella panini and both were really good and not super expensive. The clam chowder was very rich and smooth. So yummy!

Of course we hit up the Jazz Cafe………..because beignets! This was my granddaughter’s first introduction to these treats and they were a hit. Four of them come in the small order and it was a perfect amount for the two of us. My lo carb day flew right out the door when we bought these!

Our last stop was to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie. There is an AMC movie theater at Downtown Disney. It was fun to see it there on opening weekend. We both agreed that it was a good movie and the Emma Watson looks just like one of my DILs.

It was so nice to have a companion with me for the trip up to Disneyland. I am trying to do one on one time with each grandchild and to find out what is going on in their lives. The hubs and I try to make all the baseball games, school performances, piano recitals, etc that we can, but I believe that there is nothing like that one on one time.

We are so thankful for these four “bonus” grandchildren and the many memories we will make with them.

What about you? Do you have bonus grandchildren? How have you embraced them into your family? What are some ideas you have to get to know them? Let’s talk!

To Die For Wasabi Salmon – Really!

This. Is. So. Good. The Hubs and I love this salmon. We eat it at least two times a month. Usually more.

It doesn’t hurt that the Hubs and two of our sons took a fishing trip to Alaska last summer and I have a freezer full of salmon, and halibut, and rockfish. I love fish. I could never be a vegetarian because I would miss fish too much. I guess it’s a real thing that you can eat too much fish, so I try not to eat it at every meal!

Here they are on their early morning flight to Alaska.

The men (My boys are men! Sigh. It went by way too fast. ) had a great time hanging out together, fishing, bonding, fishing, laughing, fishing, and just enjoying the beauty of Alaska. Oh yeah, and also fishing!

Look at that beauty caught on the Kenai River.

I make this salmon so often that I don’t even have a recipe written down. People ask me to send it to them and usually I just shoot them a quick text with instructions.  I figure this blog is a good place to finally write down the details. It is adapted from a recipe that my sister-in-law, Laura, gave to me years ago. I don’t know the recipe’s source but I am sure grateful to whoever came up with this wonderful combination of flavors.

Start out with your beautiful salmon.

Then mix the wasabi paste and mayo. I sometimes substitute plain yogurt or half yogurt and half mayo. Depends on what kind of mood I am in! It’s great either way. I use Roland Foods Wasabi Paste. I’ve found at my neighborhood Barons Marketplace and also at WinCo.

Spread the mixture on the salmon and drizzle with Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki Sauce. This is the absolute best teriyaki sauce in the world! I am not exaggerating. Such a rich flavor. Not too sweet and there are sesame seeds mixed right in it. Perfect! Once in a while I will find it in a larger size at Costco and I always snatch it up. I wish it was there all the time. You know the Costco saying. “If you see it, buy it, or it won’t be there next time!”

Bake for a bit and then enjoy the best salmon! You will crave this salmon. You will dream about this salmon. You will rave about this salmon. You will want to share it with everyone. Really!

To Die For Wasabi Salmon

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 lbs. Salmon filets

1/2 cup mayo (or plain yogurt or a mixture or both)

3/4 to 1 tsp. Roland wasabi paste (adjust wasabi to taste. You may find you want to use a little less)

2 Tbsp. Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce for drizzle

 

Preheat oven to 425°.

Spray baking pan with cooking spray and place salmon in pan.

Mix mayo and wasabi paste together until smooth. Spread mixture over the top of the salmon,

Drizzle with teriyaki sauce.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until salmon flakes but is still moist. Don’t over bake or you will end up with very dry salmon!

Calories per serving: 290

WW Plus points per serving: 8

 

 

 

My Little American Girl®

 

I am a mother of boys. I raised three of them. Baseball, soccer, tennis, cross country, Star Wars, video games, jeans, t-shirts, Garbage Pail Kids, baseball cards, Legos®. You name it. I loved every minute. Well, there were probably some minutes that I didn’t “love”!

Once my boys were raised the grandkids started coming. One, two, three. Boy, boy, boy. Love them! And I knew what to do with them!

The fourth grandchild turned out to be a girl. Immediately I imagined tea parties, sparkly shoes, hair bows, shopping, baking cookies and all sorts of girly girl things. Bring on the pink! I have not been disappointed.

Watching her unwrap her first American Girl doll was something I was especially looking forward to. She received it two Christmases ago. She was three at the time. I got her the Truly Me doll. So adorable!

We decided to go to the American Girl Store for her birthday that year. We live about an hour and a half from one so it was do-able. I truthfully don’t know who was more excited, her or me!  Dolls, lunch, shopping. All in one place. How much fun is that for a little girl and her gramma? Her mom, her other grandmother (“Mimi”-who happens to be one of my very best friends. Bonus!), myself and our Princess Glitter Sparkle had a super fun time.

Last year. Look at that smile.

Her fifth birthday was this month and I got her a Bitty Baby from American Girl®. Of course we planned another trip to the store. We all piled in the car, with the addition of a cousin, and headed up again.

This year. Getting her doll ready to eat.

If you live close to one of the American Girl® stores, and your granddaughter or daughter is into the dolls, I highly recommend at least one trip there for shopping and the lunch, tea or dinner. So fun and so adorable. From the first little cinnamon bun they bring you to the flower pot dessert it is delightful.

So much fun stuff to check out!

I really am having fun with her as she gets to know the American Doll® collection. I see many memory making moments in the future!

Thank heaven for little girls!

More bags this year!

 

 

 

Soup, Sun, Lentils and Tea

 

I had every intention of going to Trader Joe’s last Saturday and buying ingredients to make some soup. The hubs and I had couple’s bunco that night and the soup was going to be my food contribution. It would be so yummy and fresh!

I got in the car and drove across town. One step out of the car and I felt the wonderful, glorious, uplifting, (insert adjective of your choice here) sun on my face. Ahhhhhh……. lovely!

I am a “summer” girl. That’s why I love living in SoCal. I can not resist any little thing that smacks of summer. Suddenly all my plans changed.

No soup for me!

I ran into Trader Joe’s, bought the ingredients for my go-to quick appetizer and headed home. It will take me one minute to throw this together. It is amazing! I serve it with Trader Joe’s blue tortilla chips.

 

When I got home I grabbed my Kindle. I spent the afternoon in my back yard sipping my favorite green tea with coconut. Now this is what I am talking about when I say “living life in the slow lane.” I am learning to turn off my type “A” personality and embrace the “B” that has been inside me longing to get out. I like it!

It may only be March but I’m in the mood for summer!

Trader Joe’s One Minute Lentil Salad

Serves: 6  Prep Time: 1 Minute

INGREDIENTS

 

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl, combine lentils, feta and bruschetta sauce, then stir. Serve cold with your favorite TJ’s crackers.

Thank you Trader Joe’s for the recipe.