Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #73

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.

#73 The Gymnastics Mystery: The kids are hosting a young gymnast from Russia named Katya for a local gymnastics competition (because why not come all the way from Russia to Greenfield, Connecticut). From the moment they pick her up at the airport, strange things start happening. A man takes her bag, mistaking it for his, and shows up irate at their door demanding his back. Even stranger, he shows up at Katya’s gymnastic practices as a journalist.

Things quickly start going bad for Katya, with her warm up clothes being soaked with water and her music going missing, as well as a mysterious figure following them around. Is someone trying to sabotage her? Katya also has a strange connection with a gold box the children see a picture of in a letter from home, and also find in a local pawn shop. Katya refuses to talk about her home, changing the subject whenever it comes up, so the Aldens are determined to get to the bottom of this.

It turns out that their friend the journalist doesn’t actually work for the newspaper, so his presence at the gymnastic meet is concerning. He’s the number one suspect until the mother of one of the other girls apologizes to Katya for her pranks, she just wanted her daughter to win instead.

However, the fake journalist is up to something. It turns out he was in Russia and stole a fancy gold box from a mansion, where there was a portrait of a girl who looked a lot like Katya. So he assumed that when she had his bag, she stole the box back and he had been trying to follow her to get it. Except a random man had overheard his plans to sell it and stole it out of his car, pawning it.

Katya admits that the portrait is definitely not of her, since she lives in a tiny apartment with her entire family and had been ashamed of how poor she was compared to the riches she saw in the US.

The thieves are apprehended by the police, Katya wins her competition, and she and the Aldens go for some good old American pizza in a nice happy ending.

I didn’t remember this one much at all, it’s the second to last book I bought so I didn’t have the time to reread it as much as the older books. It seems generally forgettable. One funny part I did enjoy was that all of their suspects were wearing blue sweatpants at one time or another, and it really bothered Jessie. In the end, they see that their local sporting goods store had a sale on blue sweatpants. One more mystery solved.

 

Stock the Crock by Phyllis Good

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This book will be released on September 5, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

If you love to cook with a slow cooker, or would like to do so more, this is the perfect book for you! This book includes not only 100 recipes, but each recipe has variations for vegetarians/vegans, those who are gluten-free and more. The author is famous for her ‘Fix-It-and-Forget-It’ series of slow cooker cookbooks.

I really liked the recipes in this book. A lot of them sounded like things I would either like to make or similar to ones I make already. I saved a few to try later, and kept finding more and more to try. I’ll try to get some food posts up at some point with these recipes.

The recipes in this book range from soups to pastas to main dishes with poultry and beef, to desserts. There are a lot of baking recipes in the dessert section that might be worth a try, such as brownies and cakes. Stock the Crock also includes the fundamentals on how to purchase and use a slow cooker, and has a section in the back of the book on making your own staples such as chicken stock, whether they use the slow cooker or not. There’s a microwave recipe for cream of mushroom soup I am eager to try.

If you like to use your slow cooker, or you know a new owner of one, Stock the Crock makes a great gift or addition to a cookbook shelf.

Weekly Meal Plan: August 27 – September 2

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My baby shower is this weekend finally! Went out with my mom this weekend to get prizes for the diaper raffle and decorations. I’ll be glad to get it over with so we know what we still need to get for ourselves.

Ultrasound tomorrow to find out the baby’s position. I’m excited to be able to see him again, hopefully we can see a face this time. And hopefully the insurance will cover it, ugh.

He seems pretty content to stay in there for now, which is good since I have a month left. Still a ton to do, but I scheduled a meeting with a pediatrician for next week, and all of my car stuff is taken care of. Soon we need to tackle trying to install the car seat and pack bags.

What we’re eating this week:

Orzo Skillet (pictured) — I had some ground beef that I didn’t use last week, and this is all stuff I keep on hand usually, so this was a no brainer. I had two pounds of beef so I froze the second one for later.

Paprika Chicken and Rice — Trying something a bit new, we’ll see how it goes.

Spinach and Tofu Lasagna — I bought tofu last week but didn’t end up using it because I ran out of rice. I really loved this lasagna last time so I thought it was time to make it again.

Seafood Skillet — Another new recipe, I’ll be using imitation crab instead of a seafood mix.

Crockpot Whole Chicken — Easiest way to cook an entire chicken ever, with zero effort. I’ll be serving it with corn and possibly potatoes.

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #72

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: The kids search for a missing park ranger in the Everglades, find a missing sword, play basketball, solve a mystery involving a movie star hanging out in town, search for buried treasure, and visit a ghost town.

#72 The Mystery in the Mall: Grandfather Alden is visiting a friend so they can go to their high school reunion together, and thinks the kids will have fun visiting the mall his friend owns. Being the Aldens, they’re ready to be put to work. They’re given a job in Penny’s Emporium, a shop that sells a bunch of souvenirs. The owner loves them, but her manager isn’t as crazy about having a bunch of kids hanging around.

Janet is always disappearing and reappearing at random, always with excuses about why the Aldens shouldn’t do their jobs. Is it because she doesn’t like working with kids, or is she hiding something? A mysterious man keeps appearing too where he shouldn’t, like the back door of the store. He seems to be working with Janet as well.

Benny’s coconut painted to look like a monkey keeps disappearing. The first time was an accident, but when Henry replaces it, it goes missing from the store. It eventually turns up on the doorstep of the house they’re staying in, but it’s not the same one. What does it have to do with the mysterious stuff going on with the store?

The mysterious man turns out to be Janet’s brother, who ended up on a smuggler’s ship, and enlisted his sister’s help to return some stolen goods to their rightful home. The store gets a shipment of coconut monkeys, and some of the valuable stones were hidden inside. Janet had been trying to be alone with some of the shipments to find the stones and didn’t want anyone finding out.

I think this book was trying to sound cooler than it is with a smuggling plotline, but it ended up just kind of confusing. I didn’t really like this one as much.

Promise You Won’t Tell? by John Locke

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I downloaded this book during an ebook sale quite a while ago and just now got around to reading it. I was not compensated for this review in any way.

Dani Ripper is a private investigator/decoy. She’s mostly hired to find out if spouses are cheating, sometimes even putting herself up as bait to see if the man (or woman) will cheat. She’s quite well known for being a victim of abduction and assault as a teenager, so she’s got a soft spot when a teenager walks into her office and says that she thinks she might have been assaulted.

Riley got really drunk at a sleepover where some guys showed up later that night. She was sleeping it off in her friend’s room and missed most of the party, but at school some of the boys called her ‘Strawberry’, referring to a sticker she had placed in a private area.

Dani takes the case, determined to find out what happened and who was involved. The web continues to get more and more tangled the more Dani talks to the people involved. Things might not be as simple as they seemed at first.

This is one of the first times I got a sequel book through iBooks before the first one. You don’t feel like you really missed anything, but reading the book before this one might make a few things make more sense. Overall I liked it, the tone was fun and it was a quick read, though the ending was a big long winded explaining the whole mystery and some of the things in it were a bit farfetched, like Dani’s receptionist who is ‘sick’ for the whole book and unexpectedly shows up at her office in a hospital gown with an IV and her head painted red. But if you want a fun read for a few hours, try this book.

Weekly Meal Plan: August 20 – 26

5 weeks, 4 days left until my due date according to my app. It’s coming up fast so we’re trying to get everything done. I have to start packing my hospital bag and find a pediatrician, and we need to get some kind of dresser for all of the baby clothes and items. My parents ordered a crib with a drawer underneath so that will help a lot. We took our hospital tour over the weekend as well. I keep feeling like I’m forgetting to do things. Literally everything is due next month as well like my car registration and inspection and driver’s license, so I’ve been working on those this week just to get them over with. My baby shower still isn’t for another two weekends too. We’ll be cutting it close.

Went for my second ultrasound last week at a college that offered free ultrasounds so their students could get practice. It was great seeing him again and everything looks awesome, except for the fact that he refused to show his face. He kept it in my spine the whole time. Plus, the week before my doctor told me he was head down based on his heartbeat, but the ultrasound revealed him to be breech again. He better start cooperating, my friend and I were there for two hours trying to get him to move into a better position. Also while they were moving the wand around trying to get his face, the lady there informed me that I have gallstones. Awesome… Anyone have experience with them?

My husband and I have nicknamed the baby Lumpy as that’s literally all he’s been doing lately. No nice round bump for me, there’s always some protruding baby part that feels like he’s trying to force his way out.

What we’re eating this week:

Creamy Ground Beef Casserole (pictured) — Unlike my recipe post, I used ground beef instead of ground chicken, and green bell pepper instead of peas. Super delicious as always.

Sweet and Sour Chickpeas — I’m really excited about this one, I love trying new meatless meals that hopefully taste good.

Chicken Burrito Bowls — My husband isn’t going to be happy about the black beans in this one but I think all the other ingredients will make up for it. Hopefully.

Honey and Soy Glazed Tofu — As I’m writing these all out, I realize that most of my meals this week revolve around rice, oops. I also forgot to add it to my list. My menu might require some tweaking.

Creamy Sausage Pasta — A long time favorite of ours and always delicious.

 

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children #65

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.

#65 The Cereal Box Mystery: It’s just a normal day in Greenfield. The kids are out running errands, because apparently their housekeeper can’t go to the grocery store so she sends four kids with bikes to get their food. Benny is obsessed with a sugary cereal ‘Silver Frosted Stars’ and the stars that come inside the box, because if he collects enough of them, he can get a detective’s badge. So the kids buy three boxes and Benny opens one right away to start looking.

But we can’t just have a normal day in Greenfield. After they get the groceries, they see a thief running out of the local jewelry store who knocks their bikes over. He stole a very valuable cabochon ruby jewelry set. There are three witnesses to the crime: the store owner, a man looking for an engagement ring, and a woman who tries to stop the thief at the door. With no leads, the kids are on the case.

That night, the Alden’s home is broken into, and the only thing missing is one of the boxes of Frosted Silver Stars. When everyone has a big bowl of it in the morning from the opened box, Benny finds a special prize: a couple of pretty rings which he gives to his sisters. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

The kids investigate the case of the missing jewelry while they continue to be targeted at home by someone going through their trash, and grabbing another box of Frosted Silver Stars from their boxcar. They finally put two and two together and realize that Violet’s ring is a cabochon ruby, the thief slipped it into the cereal box when he ran from the store, and has been trying to steal it back ever since. But where’s the rest of the set?

It turns out that the woman who tried to stop the thief is actually a black belt in karate, so not only did she not stop him as she could have, they deduce that he slipped the jewelry to her. The kids set up a trap with the police to catch the two thieves red handed and save the day again. And Benny finds enough stars to get his detective badge.

I mostly remembered this one, it’s a pretty decent mystery as far as kids solving mysteries go. One thing I just don’t understand is why the thieves kept grabbing any box of cereal they could find. He slipped it into an open box but then stole a new sealed box. So he realized exactly what brand of cereal he stashed it in, but not the fact that it was already opened? Also, immediately following the robbery the woman accomplice offered to throw away the opened box for them, thinking it was damaged. It isn’t clear if she knew at that point that is where he stashed it. That would have been a very different story if the box ended up in the trash without anyone finding the ring.