Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #50 and 53

Welcome to my weekly throwback book review! Each week I’ll be rereading and reviewing one or two books from my childhood. I was a huge reader as a child and these books shaped my life. I couldn’t possibly get rid of them, so I still have a large collection that I am sharing with all of you in the form of reviews.

#50 Mystery In The Cave: The Aldens are going spelunking! Their Aunt Jane has a friend who runs tours in an underground cave system, so the kids are staying in the area for a week to go exploring. But it wouldn’t be the Boxcar Children without a mystery or two… or three.

On their first trip into the caves, they run into a man who seems upset that they’re down there. This becomes a trend as they see a woman trying to shoo them out of the caves as well, along with a pair of men who seem to be troublemakers.

Despite setbacks like missing equipment and getting lost, the kids continue exploring and find some sinkholes that lead to new caves. They discover the first man’s man cave, literally, where he goes to escape from it all and do a bit of reading. The woman is searching for silver in the rocks of the cave, and the two men heard about a treasure from an old bank robbery hidden in the caves, and were trying to scare everyone away so they could find it for themselves.

As far as mysteries go, this one wasn’t all that interesting. The two men were crooks who recently got out of jail, but the only things they did were steal a raft and a headlamp, and cause the kids to get lost in a cave for a while.

What We Missed: #51 The Mystery on the Train, the kids go on a train for the first time and someone is trying to steal another passenger’s portfolio; #52 The Mystery of the Lost Mine, where they look for a lost gold mine in Arizona.

#53 The Guide Dog Mystery: The kids run into a guide dog passing her final exam while they’re out shopping and are instantly intrigued. The woman in charge knows their grandfather (of course) and invites the kids to the guide dog school for a while. They shadow Jason, a guide dog trainer, and help him out with the dogs.

The newly graduated golden retriever is paired up with a blind girl, Anna, and the Aldens help her adjust to having a guide dog. Except someone really wants to get Ginger, the dog, for themselves. A man offers to buy her for a show dog, and her previous foster owner keeps popping up unexpectedly.

Strange things start happening at the school, with keys going missing, strange figures around the kennel, break ins, and ultimately the kidnap of Ginger. Jason has some strange moments, so the kids suspect him of some of the weirdness, but the mystery is quickly solved when Ginger shows back up when her former owner and her driver is around: her driver stole a diamond bracelet and hid it in Ginger’s collar and was trying to retrieve it.

I liked this one a lot better, I like the books where the kids learn about something new and convey it to the audience in a non-preachy way, and they act like kids, not like going spelunking in random caves under the supervision of a 14 year old.

Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen by Brittany Wood Nickerson

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This book was released on June 27, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

This book is based around the idea that you can heal yourself with the herbs and foods you choose to eat. This is not that they are a replacement for medicine, more like preventative medicine. Getting the right nutrients in your diet can absolutely keep you healthy, and this book focuses on herbs in particular and which ones can help with what.

The book is first divided into talking about different flavors, such as sweet, salty, pungent, sour, etc. and what food and herbs fall into those categories. Then each herb gets its own spotlight as to what it is, how it’s used, and what it’s good for. For example, basil, the author writes, can help with digestion when it is added to dishes, but in general we usually just sprinkle a little on top of pizza. It’s often mostly used in pesto.

This section is followed by a section of recipes for teas, tinctures, butters and oils, using herbs for various medicinal and culinary uses.

The main recipes follow, divided into sections for nourishing recipes, invigorating recipes, comforting, challenging, and transforming, with chapters about adapting to the seasons and sharing with others coming at the end.

 

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #48 and 49

Welcome to my weekly throwback book review! Each week I’ll be rereading and reviewing one or two books from my childhood. I was a huge reader as a child and these books shaped my life. I couldn’t possibly get rid of them, so I still have a large collection that I am sharing with all of you in the form of reviews.

What We Missed: #47 The Mystery of the Hot Air Balloon. No info about it, but apparently a hot air balloon lands in their yard. Cool?

#48 The Mystery Bookstore: This one isn’t about a haunted bookstore, the mystery part is that the bookstore was bought by a mystery writer who wants to turn it into a mystery bookstore. The kids are in New Orleans with Grandfather, at an auction where a bookstore is going up for sale. His friend, the mystery writer, lives there and wants to buy the store. There’s a bidding war and she eventually can’t afford it, but Grandfather steps in and purchases the bookstore, leasing it to her until she can pay him back.

Several other people are interested in the store, or maybe just the books in it. Rumor has it that the old owner had some valuable stamps hidden away in one of the books. As the kids help the new owner clean out the store and set up a book sale (as they do), they try to solve the mystery of who keeps breaking into the store and what all these suspicious characters are up to.

Turns out the valuable stamp was (of course) in the book set that Violet was given, and she gave it back to the store owner to sell and get her business off the ground.

Any book that has to do with books is an automatic winner for me, and this was always one of my favorites. It was an interesting plot and the kids act more like kids, with their detective work overseen by the mystery writer, who gives them tips on sleuthing. I also really like the cover of this one with the subtle placement of Boxcar Children books in the background.

#49 The Mystery of the Stolen Boxcar: It’s Founder’s Day in Greenfield and the kids are super excited for it. They have the brilliant idea of fixing up the old boxcar they used to live in and ride in it for the parade.

When their boxcar is featured in the paper, it brings a bunch of crazies out of the woodwork. First, a train collector offers to buy it very aggressively. Then, a man wants to purchase it so a senator can use it for her re-election tour. A small girl throws a fit because she wants the boxcar as a playhouse.

When the boxcar goes missing out of their backyard, they have a few suspects. They have a bigger problem though, their dog Watch is missing too! They figure out that he was in the boxcar and whoever stole it shut him inside. Luckily, he finds his way home after a day or so.

The kids question the train collector, who doesn’t seem to know anything about it. They try to track down the senator’s assistant, only to find out he’s been fired and the senator knows nothing about a boxcar.

When they run into the bratty child again, she’s going on about her new playhouse and doesn’t seem to like Watch. The kids put two and two together and find their way to their house. The senator’s assistant stole the boxcar to sell to the girl’s rich father to make some quick money. Everything gets straightened out and the kids get to ride the boxcar in the parade.

Something about this book seemed off, especially in the beginning of the book. It was like they got a new ghostwriter who had only read the first book and had a cheat sheet for all other characters and events. The writing is generally for elementary school, so it’s always simple, but it seemed more simple than usual. Also, their cousin Soo Lee was featured again, and this time she only lives a few minutes away from them, when before she lived in a town outside of Greenfield, or on the outskirts of Greenfield. No one has figured out where their family lives yet, despite the fact that there was a book heavily featuring their house.

You Need to Try This Lasagna

 

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So yesterday I ran a bunch of errands. I had to go to Michael’s for cake supplies (they had everything I needed for once, hallelujah!) then go to Aldi for my weekly stop. I also had to do all the laundry and go to my OBGYN appointment. Good news there, everything looks exactly perfect and normal. Bad news, I have to take a gestational diabetes test next time. Bleh.

We got home from the appointment around 3:45 or so, and I had to think about dinner. Being me, pregnant and exhausted, none of my options really appealed to me, and neither did standing over a hot stove for half an hour or more. Of everything I had planned, pasta sounded the best, and even though it was so hot, popping something in the oven and letting it do all the work sounded even better. So, I made this lasagna!

You guys, I am no lasagna expert. I’ve made a few, and they’re always good, but this is the best lasagna I have ever made. Plus it’s super (mostly) healthy! Another bonus, there’s no pre-cooking involved. My husband, who isn’t the biggest fan of spinach or tofu liked it, and I’m already looking forward to eating leftovers for lunch.

I’ve had this recipe in my recipe app for ages, and there’s no link associated with it, so I have no idea where it came from. If this is your recipe or you know who made it, please let me know so I can give credit.

Yum! Look at all the decadent layers and goodness.

The finished dish.

I followed the recipe I had almost exactly with a couple of tiny changes.

Spinach and Tofu Lasagna


Ingredients

12 lasagna noodles (I used no-boil and added 1 cup of water over the lasagna. If using regular noodles, just cook beforehand)

1 (28 oz) jar pasta sauce 

5 to 6 cups fresh spinach

1 package of extra firm tofu

1 Tbsp each apple cider vinegar & honey

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 to 2 cups of cheese (I used mozzarella)

2 eggs

Italian seasoning 


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook lasagna noodles if you’re not using no-boil.
  2. In a bowl, mash tofu with a fork. Add vinegar and honey and mix well. Add two eggs, mix well. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper, then mix in most of the cheese (save some for the top).
  3. Spread a small amount of pasta sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan.
  4. In the prepared pan, layer as follows: noodles, sauce, 1/3 tofu/cheese mixture, 2 cups spinach, repeat 2 times. End with a layer of noodles, then spread remaining sauce on top. Top with remaining cheese, then sprinkle generously with Italian seasoning. (If using no-boil noodles, add 1/2 cup of water on top of each middle noodle layer, total of one cup.)
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes, removing foil in the last ten minutes.
  6. Allow to cool slightly before serving.


The Harvest Baker by Ken Haedrich

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This book will be released on June 27, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

The author of this book grew up in a family that loved to bake. His first opportunity to cook as a career came when he got a job as the cook in a group home. The gardener there constantly brought him stuff he had grown, and Ken had to figure out how to cook with it.

Every recipe in this book has a base of some fresh fruit or vegetable. The recipes range from breads to quiches and pizzas to, of course, dessert. There’s something for everyone’s taste in here. In the back, there’s a small section dedicated to sauces and glazes as well to top off the recipes.

This is a great book to try if you want to experiment with the strange and delicious looking things you find in the produce section or your local farmer’s market.

Weekly Meal Plan: June 18 – June 23

Coming up to the end of the month, lots going on. I have an appointment today to check on the baby as well as doing a ton of errands. I have to go to Michael’s and pick up supplies for the cakes I’m making this weekend (hopefully they have everything I need this time) as well as make my weekly Aldi run. Work has thankfully hit a slow point at the moment (but not dried up completely) and hopefully it will still be somewhat slow this weekend.

What we’re eating this week:

Tuscan One Pot (pictured) — I used ground beef instead of sausage, and chickpeas instead of beans because my husband hates beans. I also cooked some quinoa and added it at the end.

Spinach and Tofu Lasagna — No link, sorry. I’ve always put off making this because it seemed difficult but when I reread the recipe, it seemed a lot easier. So we’ll see how this turns out.

Creamy Garlic Penne Pasta — Just a simple pasta dish. I want to practice making sauce with flour and butter.

Chicken with Feta Cheese Sauce — Another sauce with butter and flour as well as evaporated milk. This sounds really good. I’m going to pair it with some mashed potatoes.

Simply Great Pork — My usual chicken dish, only with pork chops this time. It’s great either way. Probably serve this with couscous or rice.

Weekly Pinterest Roundup — June 16

Welcome to my weekly Pinterest roundup, no images belong to me, only their respective owners. Click each picture to go to the link.

Pinterest is a huge help in my day-to-day life, I use stuff from it every single day from recipes to fitness routines to just cool lifestyle ideas. Every week I like to round up a few things that I really liked recently.

Inspirational:

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We’re redoing our master bathroom soon and I really like how this is laid out. Click the picture for a lot more inspiration, this entire house is so beautiful and organized!

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I plan on doing this with our son and any future kids. Reading a huge part of my life and I plan on teaching them to read as early as possible.

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I’d like to build this for my husband for his growing collection of tools.

Food:

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Cajun Shrimp with pasta and cream sauce, this sounds delicious.

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I actually found this recipe while I was doing research for an article I was writing on turmeric. This is Turmeric Falafel and it sounds super easy to make!

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I tried this recipe for microwave cookies. They didn’t turn out too well for me, if someone else tries them, let me know how they went!

Style:

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I love the color yellow but it’s never been a good color on me sadly.

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I would never be able to wear this romper, but it is gorgeous!

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Packing a beach bag for a week. I’d leave out the buttondown, polo and khakis, but I like everything else.