June 20, 2021

Empty Nest!

This week is going to feel SO strange. Noah and Eli left early this morning to go on a road trip up to the upper peninsula, to stay at my sister's property until Friday. Two of Noah's friends went along, so it was just the four of them making the 10-hour drive up there.

When Noah got his license last year, he asked if he could go up north with his friends in the summer of 2021. I said sure--honestly, I didn't think he'd ever bring it up again. So when he kept talking about it, and making real plans for it, I got pretty nervous that it was actually going to happen.

Noah will be 17 in a couple of weeks, and Eli is 15. Noah is a FANTASTIC driver--if he wasn't, I never would have agreed to let him drive up there. When his friends asked their parents if they could go, one of the "pro" arguments used was, "Noah's mom is really strict! We'll be fine!" Hahaha, I have NO idea what Noah has told them to make them think I'm super strict. Maybe because I didn't let Noah go to parties and stuff like that during the COVID-19 lockdown? I don't know--I always thought I was a "fun" mom! It was funny, though, when I heard how strict I am ;)

Noah's friends came over at 5:45 this morning so that they could hit the road by 6:00 or so. I planned on staying incredibly busy all day so that I wouldn't worry the whole time and keep refreshing the "Find Friends" app on my phone (where I can see Noah's location).


I was so relieved when I got a text from the kids saying they arrived safely at Jeanie's. They are going to spend the week fishing, sitting by the campfire, playing corn hole, riding four-wheelers, and just having a fun time with their "cool" aunt (and leaving their strict mom at home!).

Jerry was off of work today, so we had the day to ourselves--and it felt so weird! We decided to look through the cookbook and make some dinners this week that we don't normally make (because the kids don't like it).

I baked my dad a pecan pie, per Father's Day tradition (I bake him a pecan pie on Father's Day and on his birthday every year). When I brought it over there, I also brought an empty pie plate that I covered in plastic wrap--my dad has to have heart surgery on Wednesday, and I told him I baked a special pie that is sugar-free, salt-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and carb-free. (Yes, it was a total dad joke, but appropriate for Father's Day!) Then I handed him the real pie.

In other news, today is the summer solstice! At 11:32 PM ET, it will officially change from spring to summer (in the northern hemisphere). And THAT means that it's time to start the Cookies' Summer Challenge!

If you haven't seen the post about it, it's not too late to start--you can find all the details here. The summer challenge is something I've been hosting since summer of 2016. There is a checklist for runners and/or walkers to complete between the summer solstice and the fall equinox in September. The list has 50 items on it to do while running or walking.

The challenge is just meant to make exercise a little more fun in the summer heat. Every year, I say that I'm going to complete the entire list, but I've never done it. This year, I make the same goal--I want to complete the list! And since I'm doing the Couch to 5K plan right now, I have no reason not to work on it.

Anyway, all of the information can be found on this post, including the checklist to download and the link to the Facebook group.

It's almost 10:00 PM right now, and I'm ready to start the summer challenge by literally running from spring into summer--I'll start my run before 11:32 and finish it after 11:32. I'm super tired, but I'm hoping I'll be able to sleep in tomorrow, due to the quiet house!

June 19, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Tender Crust Dinner Rolls (and Woman's World Beauty Tips from 1900!)

When I was looking for a recipe today, I realized that I still have some fresh yeast left over from Nan's Coffee Cake; the yeast was relatively expensive, so I wanted to use it before it expires. I didn't want to do another dessert recipe, so I chose to make Tender Crust Dinner Rolls.


This recipe was submitted to the Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society by Jeanette Herzog; it comes from her grandmother, Leona Skinner. I wasn't able to find anything online about either of them, unfortunately, except that Leona was born in 1898 and passed away in 1953. So, I'm guessing this recipe is from the early 1900's (perhaps older, if it was passed down to her).

As always, I am typing this out exactly as written, and I followed the directions without any modifications. Make sure you check my notes after the recipe if something is unclear. The printable recipe clarifies anything that I was unsure of.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Ingredients:

3 T. butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk, scalded
1 cake yeast
3-1/2 to 4 c. sifted flour
2 eggs

Directions:

Add butter, sugar, and salt to scalded milk; cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk mixture. Add 1 cup of flour and beat with rotary beater until well blended. Add egg and beat again until smooth. Mix in remaining flour, mixing thoroughly. Allow dough to rest, covered, on rolling board for about 5 minutes. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rise, covered, in a warm place until double in bulk. Pinch and knead lightly. Divide into desired shapes. Cover with damp cloth and let rise until light. Bake in hot oven, 325 F, about 15 minutes or until nicely browned.

My Notes:

The ingredients are pretty simple. The yeast cake is fresh yeast--a small cake is 0.6 ounces and a large cake is 2.0 ounces. I had a large one, so I just used 0.6 ounces of it. (A small cake is for roughly 3-4 cups of flour.)

I don't think it's absolutely necessary to scald the milk (from what I've read, the purpose of scalding the milk in these older recipes was to kill bacteria. However, heating the milk also serves the purpose of melting the butter and dissolving the yeast--so it's helpful either way.

I definitely needed the full 4 cups of flour. I was tempted to add more because the dough was still a little sticky. This picture is from after letting it rise for a while...


I rolled mine into balls about the size of an egg. I got 20 rolls out of the batch (they were a little small--I think next time, I'd do 16 rolls). I weighed the batch when I was done, and the batch weighed 950 grams total. So next time, I'll make them roughly 55-60 grams each.

Before rising:



Covered with a damp towel:



Just before going into the oven:



I baked them 15 minutes and they still looked a little pale, so I ended up baking them for a total of about 18 minutes and they were perfect. They probably could have gone another minute or two, but I didn't want to risk burning them--and I wanted them to be very soft.

Thoughts:

Holy cow, these are delicious! "Tender crust" is a great description--the rolls are super soft and fluffy. It's kind of like not having a crust at all--just the super soft, squishy part of warm bread. Yum!


I commented to Jerry that they would make perfect sandwich rolls or hamburger buns. You could just shape them into larger discs and bake a little longer. I'm going to try it soon.

This is a great recipe, and I'll definitely be making it again!


The heritage cookbook includes some fun tidbits including excerpts from the Woman's World book, printed in 1900. Since I don't have a story to go along with this recipe, I'll share these beauty tips :)

  • To keep the face from wrinkles, lie down, if possible, once or twice daily in a darkened room; close the eyes and let the facial muscles rest.
  • Preserve your temper if you wish to preserve a youthful expression.
  • Sleep eight hours in twenty-four.
  • Leave the top sash of your window open about an inch at night.
  • Exercise in the open air as often as possible.; walking is the best possible exercise you could have.
  • CaCao-butter applied at night and washed off in the morning will keep the skin soft and clean.
  • Cream of lemon-juice rubbed in at night will remove all sun-burns.
  • Shade a strong light so that it may fall on your work whilst your eyes may remain in the shadow.
  • The bath not only serves to cleanse the body, it acts as a tonic.
  • The best skin tonic you can have is a tepid bath, using Starlight Royal Toilet Soap.

June 18, 2021

Friday Night Photos

Well, I wish I had more/better photos for today, but unfortunately, I have very slim pickin's on my camera roll for this week! But I do love Friday Night Photos, so here goes...

Little Duck makes me laugh so much--he's SO cute and funny! And I baby him terribly ;) But this was new for him--I was sitting on the couch reading a book and he stretched out as long as he could and slept like that for a good 30 minutes. I wanted to move, but I didn't dare. He is officially the largest cat in our house now.


I really want to do a post about "A Day in the Life of Little Duckling"--because he has a very interesting routine. Anyway, the cats always lounge on my bed in the evenings and I couldn't help laughing when I saw Duck like this. Jerry said he looks like a cartoon cat, hahaha...



When I saw the picture of Jerry disc golfing last week, I could have sworn I saw the same photo before. I looked through some old photos and found almost the exact same picture, only from 2009. I told him that aside from his weight, his form looks a little better ;)



I spent ALL MORNING and half of the afternoon like this in the garage. It was thundering and lightning, and I loved every second of it (I love thunderstorms). I'm glad I put the screens on the garage doors.



And what was I doing in the garage? Well, a whole lot of THIS. I finally updated my recipes page! It now has all of my recipes on there, including all of the heritage ones. I updated photos, too, because some of the photos on older recipes were really bad. Not that I'm much better at photography now, but at least I don't use the flash anymore! So, if you've never looked at my Recipes page, please do--I spent forever working on it ;)



The pain in my hands has been really bad in the mornings, especially if my hands are the slightest bit cold. A few days ago, I found myself wanting to knit some fingerless mitts to keep my hands warm while allowing my fingers to be free--but ironically, my hands hurt too much to be able to knit!

So, I decided to get creative with my sewing machine and serger and an old t-shirt. I LOVE how they turned out! I even got to try out a new stitch on my serger--the flatlock stitch. It's probably hard to see well in the photos, but the stitch goes across the base of my fingers. I took a bunch of pictures as I was making these because I think I may put together a pictorial.


Speaking of painful hands, I bought some new "skinny" water bottles. My favorite water bottle (made by Bubba) was painful to hold because it was wide. So I looked for some skinny ones and ended up buying these on Amazon (affiliate link). I chose the blue color because it looked like it may match my kitchen. I was a little stunned when I took them out of the box, because the color match is IDENTICAL. You can see the cupboard below--look at the shade of blue!

Anyway, I really like the new water bottles. They are much more comfortable. And I love using the stainless steel straw! (They have multi-color packs of bottles, but every one of them has a pink bottle in it--and I really don't want a pink one.)


(By the way, I had my follow-up appointment with the rheumatologist on Wednesday. She gave me a tentative diagnosis, but wants to do a couple more tests--including an x-ray of my hands. She also prescribed a medication for rheumatoid arthritis and depending on how my body reacts to that, it should give her more info. I'll write more when I find out more.)

Have a great weekend!

June 17, 2021

The Infamous Week 4 Workout (and a Cringe-Worthy Mistake)

I did it!

I was planning to wait until Monday to post about my Couch to 5K progress, like I usually do, but as you know, Week 4 was a big deal for me. I finished Week 3 on Monday and yesterday was my first workout for Week 4.

I know I've explained this several times, but just in case someone is new here, here's a quick backstory:

I had attempted to do the original Couch to 5K plan several times (maybe not several--maybe 3-4?) back in 2007-2008-ish. I hadn't yet lost the weight (I didn't start losing weight until 2009). I would do okay with C25K until I got to Week 4. Week 4 is a HUGE jump from Week 3--the running intervals in Week 3 are 1/8 and 1/4 mile long. Then in Week 4, they are 1/4 and 1/2 mile. When you're a beginner runner, that's really tough!

Each of my attempts ended during the first 1/2-mile interval in the Week 4 workout. I just couldn't do it--and I got discouraged and quit.

When I was losing weight, I was thinking about trying it again... but I found that I was dreading each and every interval. I really don't like run/walk intervals--I'd rather get all the running out of the way at the beginning. So, that led to my creating my own plan (you can find that here). I was able to bump my distance up to 5K pretty quickly!

From there, I went on to do 10K's, half-marathons, and even three full marathons.

BUT.

I never finished the damn Couch to 5K plan! And it's been in the back of my mind for all these years. Now that I'm back to losing this weight I've gained and focusing more on my health, I want to get back to running again. I've tried lots of other exercises over the years, but I like running the best.

And since I'm a true beginner again, I decided that it's a good time to attempt the Couch to 5K plan. Again.

It's been very humbling, to say the least. Running for a couple of minutes at a time is much harder than I expected! But that's what happens when you quit running for three years (other than 12 weeks of half-marathon training in 2018 and some three-milers here and there).

I'm slow, but I'm totally okay with that. Someday, if I want to get faster, I know how to do that. But my ultimate goal is to be able to run three miles at an easy pace 4-5 days a week--just for fitness.

Anyway, I was really nervous about yesterday's workout! The start of the infamous Week 4. This is the workout:

run 0.25 miles
walk 0.125 miles
run 0.5 miles
walk 0.25 miles
run 0.25 miles
walk 0.125 miles
run 0.5 miles

[For those that asked, I don't use an app--I just printed out the plan and keep track the old-fashioned way. There is something I really enjoy about crossing off each run! The plan is no longer available where it used to be (Coolrunning.com) and I can't find the whole plan written out as it used to be. I typed it out in a spreadsheet--you can get it here if you'd like.]

I decided to do it on the treadmill so I could control my pace--I wanted to set the speed at 5.0 mph for the running intervals and 3.3 mph for the walking. To keep my mind occupied, I actually read my library book! I increased the font size on my Kindle to enormous (believe it or not, that was only at about 75% of the largest font) and I put it in the tablet holder on my treadmill. Then I got to work.

Last week, the 0.25 mile intervals were really tough--and I had to do those again yesterday, PLUS two 0.5 mile intervals. Lowering the speed to 5.0 mph (I did 5.5 mph last week) was a big help. I concentrated on my book the best I could and hoped I could make it.

And I did it! I got through all four running intervals. I was very sweaty when I was done, but I was THRILLED that I completed the workout! I'm officially the furthest I've ever made it in this plan--and I am determined to finish it :)





Ohmygosh. You guys.

I was just getting ready to post this when I thought it would be fun to look up my first Couch to 5K workouts (from 2007). As I was looking at them, I realized there were more than I expected--if I only did Weeks 1-3, that would be 9 workouts total (10 if you count the attempt at Week 4, Day 1).

You can forget about everything I wrote in this post. It turns out that I actually DID complete Week 4... and Week 5, Week 6, and Week 7!

How totally embarrassing to have come up with this whole story about never having gotten further than Week 3--but also hilarious. All this time, I was so sure that I never made it past Week 3. But here it is--the first workout of Week 4, completed November 5, 2007:


I went back through the download of my old blog (it's no longer online) to see if I wrote about it, and I did--here is what I wrote after Week 4, Day 1:
"Okay, yesterday's C25K... UGH! I started Week 4, and was a little stunned by the huge jump between Weeks 3 and 4.
Week 3 was:
Walk 5 minutes (warm-up)
Run 0.11 miles
Walk 0.11 miles
Run 0.25 miles
Walk 0.25 miles
... and repeat one time. The longest part was the run of 0.25 miles, which was difficult for me, but I managed.

THEN, moving along to Week 4:

Walk 5 minutes (warm-up)
Run 0.25 miles
Walk 0.13 miles
Run 0.5 miles <-------(wha-wha-what???!!!!) 
Walk 0.25 miles
Run 0.25 miles
Walk 0.13 miles
Run 0.5 miles <------(jeez mother!)

To jump from not-even-a-quarter-mile to 1/2 mile in one stretch like that was reeeeally hard. Not to mention that it was so windy I almost drove my car off the road on the way home from working at the doctor's office, AND it was raining, AND I was on Day 1 of my period, AND I hadn't eaten lunch. Complain much? But I fucking did it!!!"
This is so funny (and totally cringe-worthy!). Reading my old posts is embarrassing--which is why I took that blog down when I started this one in 2011. However, going through it just now after realizing that I actually DID get pretty far into Couch to 5K (I'd started Week 8, Day 1 and quit during that) is interesting.

I thought it would be fun to share quotes from my old blog about my runs in the past when I post about them in the present. 

June 16, 2021

Three Weeks In

It's been over three weeks now since I started participating in a DietBet. I had no idea at the time that it was going to be just the push I needed to get my diet back on track.

I kind of dislike the phrase "back on track"--it implies that I was doing something temporary and now I'm getting back to doing that again. The changes I had made before, when I lost all the weight and then the couple of times I had to "get back on track" and lose some that I'd gained back, were changes I'd made with a lifetime goal in mind. I made sure I only made changes I was willing to live with forever. (I just re-read that post I linked, and wow--it is helpful even to me, and I am the one that wrote it! Haha)

And that's still true. Somewhere along the way, though, I developed some bad habits and the good habits fell to the wayside--which is how I gained back a big chunk of weight. When I say "back on track", I am just talking about getting back to the good habits that helped me lose the weight and keep it off (for the most part) for so long.

The past three weeks have been great as far as changing my habits. The biggest one, obviously, is counting my calories. I REALLY didn't want to have to do that, but after a single day of it, I realized it's not so bad. When counting calories, there is no question about whether I'm eating a "normal" amount. It also helps me get used to smaller portions and to only eat the things I really want. I don't want to waste my calories on something that I think is just so-so tasting; I want to use my calories on foods that matter!

I've also fallen in love with fruit again. I've always loved fruit, but I haven't been eating nearly as much of it over the past few years. Since starting the DietBet, I've been eating a LOT of fruit--mainly grapes and watermelon. I tend to eat fruit for breakfast, then fruit and cheese for lunch, and then a good, filling dinner. I like to save a lot of my calories for dinner--that way, I can cook with "real" ingredients (not trying to skimp on calories) and feel full enough through the evening so that I don't want to snack all night.

Yesterday's dinner, for example, was 750 calories. It sounds like a lot, but it wasn't an enormous amount of food. I made pork, mushroom, and carrot bibimbap (I used the recipe from the Hello, Fresh kit that I'd tried a while ago). It was SO delicious!


I took pretty much all of the mushrooms--can you believe that I'm the only one in my family that likes mushrooms?!

My final weigh-in for the initial DietBet is next Tuesday, and as long as I keep doing what I'm doing, I'm definitely going to win my money back. I'm glad I am signed up for the six-month one because hopefully that will keep me going until my habits become very strong again.

Now, I'm off to attempt Couch to 5K - Week 4. I'm nervous! But I'm going to reduce the treadmill speed quite a bit and hopefully I'll make it through. :)

June 15, 2021

Transformation Tuesday #31


It's Tuesday--which means transformation time! I have some fun transformations to share today--including a couple of cleaning/organizing ones. I love those transformations because cleaning/organizing costs nothing, but it makes such a HUGE difference! Whether it's a whole house or just a single junk drawer, organizing can make something feel brand new.

Enjoy!



This one is pretty embarrassing to send over. We really let the basement get away from us. You can barely see there’s a pool table under there! A couple weekends ago my husband and I both took off and dedicated ourselves to cleaning this mess up. The basement itself needs updating but I’m very proud of our cleaning! Now to keep on top of it!

- Amanda, Wisconsin




This was our living room when we first moved in to our house. We love the natural light throughout our house and felt like the dark brown wall was a bit too dark and plain. We also felt like the fireplace surround was out of date.  My boyfriend did the planking on the wall with planks from the hardware store.  I did the mantle, which required some sanding, priming, and painting.  We love the way it turned out! It helps keep our room so light and I love the grey tones.  The “after” photo also includes our pups who have joined the family since the feature wall was done.

- Sara, Illinois





I hadn’t had my hair cut in 2 years. It was getting harder and harder to comb, making it take forever in the morning to get ready for work. I had my coworker to take a before picture and made an appointment to get a real haircut. It feels SO much better and lighter plus it’s easier to take care of.

Amanda, West Virginia






Another change in the cottage was the kitchen. I wanted to do something nice for my grandma, she’s 92 and her favourite color is purple. The cabinets were old and had very rustic hinges, knobs - I changed it all out for faux crystal knobs. Lots of sanding, repainting and updating. I added a crystal light fixture too - trying to be elegant on a budget!

- Lindsay Sue






In January 2018, we took in a lot of tools and other garage stored stuff from my father-in-law’s house. We gradually purged, sold, and reorganized, but my vehicle lived outside from then until October 2020. When my husband took a lot of gear and a 4-wheeler to deer camp for the season, I took matters into my own hands and reorganized and consolidated things to make room for the car. This year, we had a shop built, so many items relocated there, but half of the the garage was still pretty disorganized, and my husband’s fishing boat remained in the yard. Today, we did some measuring and cleaned out the garage to give the boat a new indoor home! We are both so pleased with the new setup!

-Jeanna







Amanda, we have ALL been there at some point with a room that just gets out of control ;) It looks fantastic! Doesn't it feel so nice to go down there and see such a clean room? Something about a clean room makes my mood instantly brighter.

Sara, the wall looks so elegant! I love love love the planking (and with lumber prices today, you just increased the value of your home by approximately $1 million). You both did a great job!

Amanda, your hair is GORGEOUS! I'm tempted all the time to cut mine off, but I'm always afraid it will make me look older--but your cut makes you look younger. Very cute!

Lindsay Sue, the knobs change the look of that whole kitchen--wow! The pink walls and the white trim on the stairs brightens the whole place up. I love seeing the transformation of your cottage step by step!

Jeanna, I can certainly empathize! Haha, we have a big garage but it's out only storage--so we have a LOT of stuff in there. Certainly no room for cars ;) You did an amazing job organizing--I know how hard that is to do when you're trying to find storage for your storage! I bet it feels great to be able to park your car in there and I'm sure your husband is glad to have his boat in there as well.

Thank you so much for sharing! Please continue to send me your transformations so I can keep posting them :)  To submit a transformation, just email a before photo and an after photo to me at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Don't forget to include your name and a description of your transformation!

June 14, 2021

Couch to 5K : Week 3

Just a quick recap of how Week 3 of the Couch to 5K plan went for me...

That expression, "It's all relative", perfectly describes my feelings about this week of running. I was not, at all, expecting to jump right back into running long distances and have it feel easy. I took a few years off, so of course I feel like a total beginner again! I just had no idea how hard it would feel to run for just a couple of minutes at a time when I used to run for hours at a time (and at a faster pace, too!).

When I was marathon training, an "easy three-miler" felt like a rest day; and now, running just a couple of minutes at a time, those couple of minutes seem five times longer. And the thought of running three miles seems impossible. I'll get there--I know I will, as long as I keep working on it--but wow, it's humbling.

My end goal right now is to eventually be able to run three miles easy again (and have it actually feel easy).

The Week 3 of the Couch to 5K plan is as follows (it's the same for all three workouts):

Running at 6.0 mph on the treadmill last week was really tough--and that was for just 90 seconds at a time. For this week, I decided to ease back on the speed to ensure that I can get through each 0.25-mile running interval. I used the treadmill for all three runs this week because it's been a HOT week here.

I chose to set the speed at 5.5 mph (10:55/mile) for my running intervals and 3.3 mph (18:11/mile) for my walking intervals. I didn't vary them because I figured that since I can't really see fitness progress based on speed or distance right now (especially on the treadmill), looking at my heart rate data would probably be the best way to see changes in my fitness level. If I run at the same speed each time and my heart rate gradually gets lower, then I'll know that I'm getting fitter.

It really doesn't make any difference, since my main goal is to just finish this plan, but you know how I love looking at running data ;)

Because the runs are different each week, I can't really compare this week's data to last week's. But here are the three runs from this week--all done on the treadmill, all at the same speeds. (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 in that order:)




Not enough to draw any conclusions, but I noticed that on the first day, I hit Zone 5; the second day, I did not; and by the third day, I hadn't even hit Zone 4. Today I spent half of the run in Zone 1! So if this trend continues, my goal of running three miles easy isn't just a pipe dream ;)  (Ideally, my heart rate will be in Zone 2 for an entire three-mile run--that's my MAF zone).

Reducing the speed this week made a HUGE difference in how I felt during the runs! I felt like I could have run farther if needed, though it was still tiring and I was grateful to start walking again. Whenever someone tells me that they are having a hard time building any distance, my first piece of advice is to go slower--even if you feel like you're already running as slowly as you can! It really does make a huge difference.

Next week, Week 4, is going to be a big obstacle; I've never gotten past Week 3 of the Couch to 5K plan! I attempted Couch to 5K a few times, starting in probably 2006-ish, but each time I got to Week 4, I just couldn't get through it. Eventually, in 2010, I did my own thing instead of C25K, and that's how I was able to "become a runner" (this is the plan I made up as I went along, and I found it much easier than Couch to 5K).

So while completing Week 4 is (again, relatively) easy compared to all of the other running accomplishments I've achieved over the years--5K's, 10K's, half-marathons, marathons--I feel just as nervous. It's kind of funny! Here is the schedule for Week 4:

So I have to run 1/4 mile (twice) and a half-mile (twice). This workout is double the amount of running from last week, for each interval. I feel like there should have been a week in between 4 and 5 because that's such a big jump. I know that I can always add my own week in there, but I'd really like to complete the program as written--simply because I've never done it before. And I know that I can--I just might have to reduce the speed quite a bit, which is fine.

Hopefully I'll report good things next week ;)

June 13, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: 'One of Us Is Lying' by Karen M. McManus

For 2021, I committed to participating in a read-athon with a 'Friends' theme (the TV show). You can read more about it on this post. Each month, there is a different theme for choosing a book to read. June's theme is:

Rachel: "I wasn't supposed to put beef in the trifle!" - Read a book where there is a mistake or misunderstanding.

It's hard to choose a book with a theme if you haven't read it yet, so I chose my book based solely on the title and description. I picked 'One of Us Is Lying' by Karen M. McManus. (Amazon affiliate link)


Here is the publisher's description:

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

          On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

    And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. 

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

I love teen drama and I love murder mysteries, so this sounded like a good pick. And the title, 'One of Us Is Lying' indicated a mistake or misunderstanding, so it seemed appropriate for June's theme.

I enjoyed this book right away, although it took until I was about a quarter of the way through it to get REALLY invested in it. And when I finished, I immediately wanted to give it 5 stars--I LOVED how clever this story was! After some thought, I gave it 4 stars--I'm very stingy with 5 star reviews, and there were a few points that made me hesitate. Here are my likes and dislikes...

(NO SPOILERS)

Likes:

The entire story was very clever and took a LOT of planning on the author's part. You know from the beginning that someone dies in detention in a room with five other people in it. You know who winds up dead, so the mystery lies in whodunit.

I had a theory right away, but I it was so far-fetched that I spent most of the book trying to prove it wrong. In the end, it turned out to be correct! However, that did not take away from the enjoyment of the book AT ALL. I don't think it's a very obvious conclusion overall. And even if you guess it, to read later how it all ties up is mind-blowing.

I enjoyed this book just as much (if not more) for the teen drama as I did the mystery.

The characters were very likable. I liked all of them!

The storyline deals with important teen issues that are very prevalent today as well as the consequences of teens' behavior. This reminded me a lot of '13 Reasons Why'--although '13 Reasons Why' is about a girl's suicide and not a murder investigation, the girl describes how the actions of several others contributed to her making the choice to take her own life. In this book, we see how the actions of fellow students can contribute the death of their peer. In both cases, it's certainly not other kids' "fault" (unless they are the ones doing the killing), but it shows that we need to be nice to people and they hopefully won't make rash decisions.

I loved seeing the growth of the characters and they learn more about each other. When they wound up in detention together, they weren't friends or even acquaintances, really. Throughout the book, they get to know each other and you see their interactions change.

Dislikes:

There were two things that stood out to me from the very beginning: 

1) The cause of death was anaphylaxis due to ingestion of a tiny amount of peanut oil. I remembered learning in chemistry or some class in college that peanut oil is not an allergen for people who are allergic to peanuts because it's the peanut protein that is the allergen. As soon as I read that it was the peanut oil that caused the anaphylaxis, I was skeptical--even cynical. However, this is addressed later in the book--apparently, cold-pressed, expelled peanut oil IS unsafe for people with a peanut allergy. (Do your own research on this--I only know this from a quick Google search!) So, I was wrong to be skeptical of the peanut oil--I just wish it had been addressed right away.

2) The fact that the police immediately focused their murder investigation on the four students (not even looking at other ideas) was unrealistic to me. My first thought was that anybody at all could have put peanut oil in the cup that Simon drank from and left it near the sink--it didn't HAVE to be someone in the room. The investigators should have looked at ALL possibilities from the beginning instead of immediately jumping to the conclusion that it was one of the four students. (Even the teacher who was in the room with them wasn't considered a "person of interest".)

This isn't a "dislike" but it was a funny moment at the beginning of the book when I almost said, "Forget it! I can't read this!" When Simon was struggling to breath after ingesting the peanut oil, one of the kids rushed to him and then looked at one of the girls and said, "Do you have a pen?"

I've seen pretty much all medical drama shows on TV and there is ALWAYS at least one episode where an emergency tracheotomy is performed using a knife and a pen (and probably some sort of liquor to sterilize). I rolled my eyes, but the next paragraph stated the reaction from the girl--she immediately thought the same thing I did--was he going to perform a tracheotomy on this kid?!

She handed him a pen, and he said, "No, an Epi-Pen!" Hahahaha, I literally laughed out loud.

Anyway, I loved loved loved this book and I think it would make an amazing book club read or required lit for high school. It can spark a lot of discussion. It was also entertaining, and clever, and very well-written and thought out. Now I just need to talk my kids into reading it!

GIVEAWAY...

Because I loved this book so much, I'd love to give away a Kindle copy to one of you that is interested in reading it! (To read the Kindle copy, you just need a device that has the Kindle app. Although, you all know how I feel about my Kindle Paperwhite!)

To enter the giveaway, just fill out the Google form below and I pick a winner using Random.org. Deadline is June 23rd at 10:00 PM ET. I'll email you if you're a winner!



June 12, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Oatmeal Cake (and a 1929 news story)


While I was browsing through my heritage cookbook, I was going to try not to pick another baked good/dessert recipe--but when I saw who submitted this one, I knew I wanted to make it. I have an interesting story from July of 1929 to share. Normally, I don't like to write a bunch of stuff before the recipe because I know how annoying that is when you're going to a website for recipes! This heritage series is a bit different, though, as it's as much about heritage as it is about recipes (to me, anyway).

If you're just here for the recipe, here is the printer-friendly, no-nonsense version!

Otherwise, please bear with me while I explain the who's-who of this story.

This recipe for Oatmeal Cake was submitted to the Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society by Marge Robillard, in memory of her mother, Agnes Woodcroft.

Backstory: Until I was 15 years old, I lived next door to Theodore (Ted) and Marge Robillard, an elderly couple. They had grandchildren who stayed with them (a lot--for months and even years at a time). The oldest (Brian) was my age, and the middle one (Mike) was my younger brother's age. They had a younger sister as well.

Anyway, I was very good friends with Brian and Mike. When I talk about my "childhood friends", Brian and Mike are two of them. I remember playing at their grandparents' house when I was a kid, but I honestly cannot remember anything about Marge. When Ted and Marge had both passed away, Brian and Mike's mom and dad moved into the house.

Here is a picture of Brian and me. I wish I could remember what the heck we were doing! Hahaha.


The following story has nothing to do with Marge's recipe, but it's actually about Marge's (future-at-the-time) sister-in-law. In 1929, Ted Robillard (Brian and Mike's grandpa) was 12 years old. He had a 13-year old sister named Goldie. Goldie was invited to go to a beach cottage for the weekend with her friend's family... and her friend just so happened to be DeLand Mercure (does that name ring a bell? That's my grandpa!).

I'm going to include the actual The Monroe Evening News article here, dated July 1, 1929. I had to type it out because the photocopy of the article is kind of hard to read.

ROCKWOOD GIRL IS DROWNED

MERCURE BOY SAVED BY ANOTHER BATHER

Body is Recovered After Two Hours; Efforts at Resuscitation Fail

While hundreds of resorters looked on and many made frantic attempts to rescue her, Goldie Robillard, 13-year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Morise Robillard of South Rockwood, drowned shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday while bathing in the dredge out at the mouth of the Sandy Creek, just south of Detroit Beach. DeLand Mercure, aged 13 years, her companion, narrowly escaped death in attempting to save her.

The children had hurried home from a moving picture show to the Detroit Beach cottage of Mr. and Mrs. Dan Mercure of South Rockwood, parents of DeLand, where Goldie was a week-end guest. Goldie went wading along the shore, and for a while was content to practice the swimming strokes which she had just learned at the Girl Scout camp at Manitou Beach.

Apparently without realizing it, she edged out into the deeper water from which she had been warned, both by DeLand, who is an excellent swimmer, and by Mr. and Mrs. Mercure, who had come down to the lake a few minutes before to make sure the youngsters were all right.

As soon as the girl got beyond her depth young Mercure came to her assistance and struggled for several minutes to bring her back to shore. She pulled him under several times and as she became more and more frightened she made rescue more difficult. By this time scores of men, women and children were attracted to the scene. Several of the bathers went to the assistance of the struggling children and one man, whose name has not been learned, reached the girl before she went down. She grappled with him, tore his bathing suit and scratched him badly, and in his efforts to break loose from her grip he lost his own hold and the girl went down.

In the meantime, the boy had become exhausted and was in danger of drowning. He was rescued by Walter Kunder, a life guard who was attracted by the screams of the girl. DeLand was so far gone that it took many minutes to revive him and for a time his life was thought to be in danger. He was taken to the cottage of his parents, where he is still suffering from the effects of his experience.

A call was put in for Coroner George Huber and another for Dr. W. W. Bond. Both responded promptly, but were unable to do anything because the body of the girl could not be recovered. It was not until members of the South Rockwood post of state police arrived with grappling irons that the body was brought up, shortly after 8 o'clock.

Efforts were made to revive the girl, but they were entirely without avail. The newly purchased Huber pulmotor was used but the girl had been in the water too long to make it effective.

The channel in which Goldie Robillard was drowned has long been regarded as dangerous. A number of drownings have occurred there, although none within a period of more than a year. Cottagers from neighboring beaches have been warned to avoid the place, which is more than 20 feet deep in places, and, like all creek mouths, full of treacherous currents. The dredge cut is apart from all the beaches, but many bather are attracted to it because it is deep enough for diving.

The Robillard and the Mercure families have been neighbors and close friends for a good many years. Goldie Robillard was a week-end guest at the Mercure cottage at Detroit Beach. On Sunday she had been invited to extend her visit to a week, had obtained the permission of her parents and had accepted the invitation.

The Robillard girl had just graduated from the eighth grade and was to have entered the South Rockwood high school in the fall. She was a member of the Campfire Girls, and also of the junior choir of St. Mary's Catholic Church of South Rockwood. The girl, who would have been 14 years old in October, had a wide circle of friends both among children and grown-ups.

Besides her parents, she leaves three brothers and two sisters, all at home. They are George, aged 22 years, Mildred, aged 19 years, Theodore, aged 12 years, Joseph, aged 8 years, and Naomi, aged 4 years. Mr. Robillard is a clerk of Berlin township, and has served for 23 years as a section foreman on the Grand Trunk railway.

Isn't that simply heartbreaking? I was stunned when I saw this recently while asking questions about my grandparents. This is such a tragic story--and it makes me think about how hard that would have been for my grandpa, seeing his good friend drown at just 13-years old. That's not something you can ever get over. I don't know if he kept in touch with the Robillards afterward. My being next-door neighbors to Ted was entirely coincidence.

Anyway, Goldie's brother Theodore (Ted) grew up and married Marge. And Marge is the one who submitted this recipe for Oatmeal Cake to the Historical Society.

NOW, on to the recipe...!

This was a unique cake--not only because of the oatmeal, but because of the "frosting". I put that in quotes, because it's not a typical frosting. You spread it on the cake and then put it under the broiler, which toasts the coconut and nuts, and caramelizes the sugar. 

As usual, I made this recipe exactly as written (which I will post word-for-word below). Any notes or clarifications will be in my notes after the recipe.


Oatmeal Cake

1-1/4 c. boiling water
1 c. raw oats
1/2 c. soft margarine
1 c. sugar
1 c. firmly-packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1-1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Pour water over oats. Let stand 20 minutes. Beat margarine; gradually add sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, soda, salt, and spices. Stir in oats. Blend well. Pour into greased 9x9-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 50 to 55 minutes.

Frosting:

1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. coconut
3 T. light cream or milk
1/2 c. nutmeats

Melt butter. Add sugar, milk, nuts, and coconut. Spread on cake. Broil until bubbly. Very good!

Notes:

This was another pretty straight-forward recipe. As far as ingredients, the "soda" is obviously baking soda; and I learned in a previous recipe that nutmeats are just nuts (I chose to use pecans). It didn't specify sweetened or unsweetened coconut--I had unsweetened coconut on hand, so I used that.

The cake part of this is very moist and tastes just like zucchini bread--it's delicious! The frosting gets crispy under the broiler, so it's a different texture than what you'd expect on a cake. I'd actually think this would be just fine without the frosting/topping. I would have liked a more typical frosting texture.

Now that I think of it, there is a recipe in the heritage book for "banana filling for a cake" and I always wondered what kind of cake you would use that for. Well, I think this one would be perfect! I'll be making this cake again in the future and I'll try out that banana filling as well. The cake is very tall, so it would work out to split it and put a filling in there. Or, it could be baked in a 9x13 pan to thin it out a little.

Regardless, Marge was correct when she wrote this cake was "Very good!" on her recipe ;)

The batter before going in the oven:



I couldn't find any toothpicks, so I stuck a butter knife in to check if it was done--that's why it looks a little butchered.



This is the topping before I put it in the oven. I realized just now that I forgot to add the milk! I was supposed to have added 3 Tbsp. of milk, which would have thinned it a little--but not by much. I'm assuming it wouldn't have made a huge difference.



After putting it under the broiler for a few minutes (I watched it like a hawk! I was sure I was going to burn it. I literally laid on the floor in front of the oven watching it under the broiler.)





Just for fun, since I shared that news article about my grandpa (Pippi), here is a "recipe" that was included in my grandma's (Gobby) recipe collection:

Salmon Balls

One Friday, Pippi asked Gobby
what was for dinner.
Gobby said, "Salmon Balls."
Pippi said, "I didn't know salmon
had balls."

The more I learn about him, the more I wish I could have known him! Here is a picture I saw of him only recently:

June 11, 2021

Friday Night Photos

It's Friday night, and I have the house all to myself (well, for a few hours, anyway). Jerry's working, Noah's working, and Eli is staying at a friend's house because he is leaving early in the morning to go on a short fishing trip tomorrow. I'm really excited for him--he's been talking about this trip for a year! They had wanted to go last year, but with COVID, things changed.

Anyway, I have no fun plans for myself--I just plan on mending a bunch of clothes that have been piling up (hemming pants, stitching loose seams, stuff like that). This is my photo haul for the week... nothing too exciting, unfortunately!

Noah brought this mocha + chocolate flavored KitKat home from work and gave it to me. It didn't sound very good, but I tried it and oh, wow--it tastes a LOT like a Coffee Crisp bar! My very favorite candy bar is called Coffee Crisp, but it's a Canadian product (I'm sure you can find them in specialty stores here and there in the States, but I have never found them outside of Canada). Whenever any of my family members goes to Canada, it's pretty much mandatory that they bring back Coffee Crisps for everyone ;)  I can't even remember the last time I had one, it's been so long... but this KitKat tasted a lot like it. (The Coffee Crisp is still better, though.)


Remember the project I said I was working on in the garage using the 2x4's I had from the workbench I built (and then disassembled)? Well, this is it! I am SO tired of chasing after Phoebe every time she sneaks out of the house. (She hides by the door, and the very second it's opened, she darts out.)

I've been wanting to build a "catio" type outdoor enclosure for the cats. Ideally, I would connect it to the house next to the window, so the cats could go in and out as they please. However, lumber is so expensive right now that I'd have to sell a kidney to have the funds to build the catio. So I used what materials I had (I even had the screening) to build this little thing. I made one of the sides on a track so it could slide in and out. I put a little bench in there and I sewed a hammock to hang.

And a few days later, I disassembled it... ugh! For as much as Phoebe wants to be outside, I thought she'd be thrilled to get to hang out in there--but she wanted nothing to do with it. So maybe someday, I'll build one that connects to the house--I think she'd like that better--but for now, I'll just have to keep chasing after her.


This. If, somehow, I could transmit smells through this blog post, you would be retching right now. Remember when Eli caught his dream fish--a 47-inch muskie? He released it, but was thinking about saving his money to get a taxidermy version that is made by using the measurements and photos of the actual fish (that way, he could have a memento but the fish wouldn't be harmed).

Well, a few days ago, my dad found an enormous (dead) muskie that had washed up from the lake behind his house. It was 50 inches long! He suggested to Eli that he could clean up the skull--an impressive thing to have, I guess. Eli thought it was a great idea and started researching how to clean bones. We even watched a Dirty Jobs episode where Mike Rowe is a "skull cleaner".

Eli started by boiling the head to get all of the meat off. This fish had been sitting on the beach for a couple of days, so it already smelled so bad I couldn't even stand near it outside without a mask on! I told him that there is no way that he can do it in the house, nor can he use one of my cooking pots. I bought a big pot from Salvation Army so he could use that and then throw it away.

Once all of the bones were clean, he started working on whitening them--we've tried baking soda, vinegar, peroxide, and bleach (not all at the same time). Now they are drying out and once they're completely dry, he has to piece the skull together with superglue. (The bones separated once the tissue came off.)

Eli was so mad when I was taking this picture--he kept gagging from the smell and he couldn't get a grip on the skull. The joys of boys! ;) 





Poor little Duckling... he SO badly wants to befriend Estelle and Phoebe (but especially Estelle). Estelle is like the popular mean girl in high school and she totally snubs him. He tries so hard, too--he follows her around like a little puppy dog, and when she looks at him, he immediately rolls over onto his back and looks at her like, "Wanna play?" She glares and hisses at him, then walks off. 

Duck just doesn't give up! In this picture, Estelle was sitting on top of one of the cupboards in the kitchen. Duck sat on the floor and just watched her for the longest time. When she got down, he went up there and took her spot. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, no?


I was washing our bedding, and naturally, when the bed looks different (no sheets) the cats are drawn to it. Estelle was napping up there, and Duck was pacing around, watching her. I could tell he wanted to go up there with her. He finally got up the nerve and jumped up next to her. He kept inching his way closer to her until he was practically touching her.






Until he was all up in her business, haha. He wanted to cuddle with her so badly--and I'm shocked that she let him touch her.



This was from today. Estelle and Phoebe were chillin' on their throw pillows/beds near the window and I could see Duck watching them, trying to figure out where he could fit. So I brought over one of the other cat pillows and set it down next to the "cool kids"--and Duck found a way to feel like he fit in ;)



Meanwhile, Chick was content hanging out with the misfits (i.e. Joey)...



Look how huge Chick has gotten! He's such a pretty cat.



When I was cooking dinner, Eli asked Jerry if he'd go outside and play catch with him. They do that a lot while I am cooking dinner and it warms my heart. But I was shocked when I looked outside and saw Noah playing, too! He is not interested in playing baseball anymore and there are many other things he'd rather be doing. I loved that the three of them were playing. So, I took my time making dinner!



My book choice for June. I'm about halfway done with it and I like it! I'll write a review after I finish.



I babysat Luke and Riley last week, and when it was time for me to leave, they ran to the door and put on Jerry's steel-toed work boots and Eli's shoes. It was funny watching them walk around like that.



You know I'm not a salad person, but I was in the rare mood for one, and I made the most delicious salad EVER. I marinated the chicken in a chipotle marinade and it was amazing. And I lightly coated the lettuce with an avocado ranch dressing. This was heavenly. (I will have to post the recipe for the chicken--I use it for burrito bowls and for quesadillas, too.)



Jerry's been going disc golfing with a friend lately and I love that he's getting out and doing that again. He was talking about wanting a hobby, but he couldn't think of something that he was interested in getting into. He and his friend both love disc golfing, so I'm glad that they've been going together. (If you're not familiar with disc golfing, it's basically glorified frisbee--but don't ever make the mistake of calling it "frisbee" to a disc golfer, because you will never hear the end of it! Haha. But really, it's actually a very challenging sport.)


And that's all I have for the week! Have a great weekend :)

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