Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children Recap

We’ve completed our first series! Click here to go to the beginning of my Boxcar Children reviews if you missed them.

So, what do we think? The Boxcar Children were one of my favorite series growing up. They sparked my love of mysteries, I always learned something interesting, I have good memories of reading these books. Coming at the series from an adult perspective as well as a writer, they probably aren’t books I would choose to read again for myself. This is simply because I’m not the recommended audience, and there really isn’t much in them for an adult audience as some books have. However, I will be happy to read them to our son and pass them along as he gets old enough to read them himself. They’re nice and clean and contain good morals.

I was kind of surprised that I didn’t remember much about them as I was reading. Some of them that were my favorites, I usually remembered ‘whodunnit’ but generally it was like reading them for the first time again besides some random things I remembered. That’s always an issue with rereading books, some of them you can revisit over and over and some are ruined if you know the twists.

Overall, the storylines kind of frustrated me, probably for the same reasons they appealed to me growing up. Obviously, the kids regress in age after book 19 once the original author stops writing them, and then they never age again. I don’t have a big problem with that except for the obvious passing of time that is happening, such as the kids meeting their cousin, he gets married, they buy a house, adopt an orphan. Seasons also change, but they never age. They never seem to go to school either. School is hardly ever mentioned in the books at all, and they’re constantly traveling to places. In book 6 when they take a boat, they all have books and schoolwork to do. I wish they had kept up with that at the very least.

As an adult, the lack of supervision really bothers me. Their grandfather constantly takes them on trips and leaves them by themselves. I don’t know how many hotels and motels would be okay with a group of kids, the oldest 14 and the youngest 6, staying all alone. They’re supposedly wonder kids who are just so responsible and helpful and stuff, but give me a break. A few weeks living in a boxcar doesn’t translate to street smarts and stuff. Just off the top of my head, they are left alone to explore both San Francisco and Washington D.C. I’ve been to both places and even now I wouldn’t really want to navigate either by myself. End of that rant I guess.

I know these books were started in a different time, but they have no excuse for some of the things the kids do when they live in an era of computers and things. Like for example, they’re constantly getting jobs and working in places that kids would be a huge liability for. Their resumes would stretch pages long, even for Benny who is 6. I suppose them volunteering or being paid under the table takes care of most of it, but who really wants to hire a 6 year old?

Enough complaining I guess. One thing I do appreciate is the fact that the mysteries aren’t ever too hard or dangerous. They don’t tend to get kidnapped or run into people with guns or anything. They’re more realistic for kids of that age to solve, mostly just by snooping and being observant. I’m surprised they never actually made a ‘detective agency’ and hired themselves out, unless that was in one of the books I missed. But then, I guess they don’t really need money, and they never seem to need to look for a mystery.

Top Favorite Boxcar Children Books: The Animal Shelter Mystery, The Mystery Bookstore

Least Favorite Boxcar Children Book: The Black Pearl Mystery

Thanks for reading, and come back next week to find out what I’m reviewing! I will be focusing on a few books by an author I really enjoy, one of which was turned into a movie.

Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless by Raquel Pelzel

This book will be released on October 3, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

Just a note, the edition I have is labeled ‘Vegetarian’ instead of Meatless, not sure what the final title is. The ISBN leads to the meatless version on all sites except for NetGalley.

This is a collection of recipes all made on a sheet pan, from soups and salads and pastas, to breakfast recipes and desserts. There’s something for everyone in this book, with recipes labeled vegan and gluten-free as needed.

If you’re wondering how you can make soup on a sheet pan, so was I. You simply roast the ingredients on the sheet pan and then blend it up with the more liquidy stuff in a food processor. Some soups included in this book are Gazpacho, Avocado and Roasted Garlic Soup, and a chickpea stew with tofu.

As it’s meatless or vegetarian, this cookbook is deliciously vegetable-heavy along with grains and beans. If you’re looking for a new way to cook old favorites or try a new ingredient, there is something in here for you, such as Eggplant and White Bean Meatballs. The desserts sound delectable as well, from cakes to cookies and everything in between, especially the Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake.

If you want to try something new, this is the cookbook to get. Every recipe is very unique and the pictures showcase the recipes beautifully. It would make a great cookbook to explore in the coming colder months when you want to use your oven more.

Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate Macdonald

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This book was re-released this month, I received a copy through NetGalley.

It’s no secret that I love Anne of Green Gables. L.M. Montgomery is my favorite author of all time. I had the earlier edition of this book back in high school but it’s gotten lost somewhere in my parents’ house.

I am so happy to see this new edition and all of the recipes that have been added to it. This edition also has gorgeous looking pictures of each recipe that make you want to try everything. Some of the recipes are straight from the books while others are inspired by them or true to the time period L.M. Montgomery lived through.

The dessert recipes are my favorite, like Mrs. Irving’s Shortbread or Miss Ellen’s Pound Cake. I want to try Anne’s ‘Liniment’ Cake, it looks so good. There’s also a recipe for Raspberry Cordial that looks refreshing, but is nothing like the bubbly Raspberry Cordial you can get on Prince Edward Island.

This book is a great addition to any kitchen, or a good gift for any Anne fan. Even cooler, the author Kate Macdonald is L.M. Montgomery’s granddaughter, so the book is as authentic as they come.

Creamy Pea Casserole

I’m revisiting some of my older food posts, updating them with new titles, new pictures, a nice pinnable image, and a recipe. This week is Creamy Pea Casserole, an updated and personalized version of the Creamy Ground Chicken Casserole I posted back in 2015.

It was a new recipe for me, but since then has become a part of my short list of good recipes I keep going back to.

creamy pea casserole

Look at all that creamy goodness. But it’s actually pretty good for you too! Check out my secret ingredient in the recipe.

Don’t feel you are limited in this recipe at all. You can use whatever ground meat you prefer, as well as any vegetable. I’ve tried this with green bell peppers, you could also try small bits of carrot, frozen okra, or maybe even edamame? The casserole has a very mild flavor that would complement nearly anything.

Creamy Pea Casserole

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • Olive oil
  • 1 diced onion (or as much as you like)
  • 1 pound ground meat (beef, chicken, pork, turkey)
  • Garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper (to your taste)
  • 1 [8 oz] can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt


Directions

  1. Start cooking rice according to directions.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large oven-safe skillet.
  4. Cook the onion for a minute until soft, add ground meat, and season with garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper.
  5. Cook ground meat until mostly browned.
  6. Stir in tomato sauce, chicken stock, peas and rice. Sprinkle with half the cheese and stir in. Let simmer for a few minutes to combine.
  7. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.
  8. After 15 minutes, spread remaining cheese and Greek yogurt on top of casserole. You can mix them together or just spread the yogurt on top of sprinkled cheese.
  9. Bake for an additional 15 minutes.


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Voila! It’s not the prettiest dish, but definitely delicious. Let me know in the comments if you tried it.

 

Creamy Pea Casserole Banner

Fitness Friday: Goals for Life With Baby

I haven’t done a Fitness Friday post in a long time, but that’s not exactly what this is either. I’d just like to share some goals I have once the baby comes with all of you.

I really let myself go with this pregnancy. I was actually doing really well with exercising at the beginning of the year. I was doing a squat challenge and actually made it to 100 squats or so, even though it hurt pretty bad by the end. I found out I was pregnant in early February, and then the nausea and fatigue hit.

I actually never had morning sickness, not once. Eating regularly helped keep the nausea down and eventually it went away. The fatigue never did though. That combined with regular eating made me gain way more weight than I wanted. Luckily it’s mostly baby, but I still don’t like my slight double chin or the way I look. So I have some goals including food, fitness and just life in general that I’d like to work on in the coming year, at least once I’m moving around again and have recovered from abdominal surgery.

Goal #1 Cut Down on Sugar: I had a major sweet tooth this pregnancy, especially for ice cream, melons and dried mango. This is my first goal that I promised my husband would happen as soon as the baby is out. I may or may not still have some ice cream in the freezer at that point, but once that’s gone, no more. Anything sweet I eat will be either fruit or something I make myself from scratch.

Goal #2 Walk: At least before it gets cold, I want to take the baby out either in the stroller or the sling every day. This is once I recover a little of course. The walking will be good for me, and I know we’re going to stay cooped up trying to figure out how to take care of a baby for the first month while my husband is off work. I don’t know what I’ll do once it gets cold, I’ll have to figure that out.

Goal #3 Healthy Eating Habits: I’m planning on baby led weaning once he hits about 6 months, so I want to start our eating habits early, before that point. We eat vegetables but I want to make more of an effort to eat them at every meal, as well as more fruit. I might start buying salad fixings again more often so we have that at the very least. This kid is going to eat vegetables and like them, so we need to set a good example.

Goal #4 Productivity and Self Care: Again, once I’ve recovered and we’ve figured out this baby thing a bit better. I want to get into a better routine, like bathing and getting dressed every day and cut out some habits that eat my productivity. A lot of them will be cut automatically since I just won’t have three hours to spend playing games on my iPad in the morning anymore. A routine and dedicated work time (with baby care breaks) is my goal.

We’ll see how well these all work out. I think I left them broad enough that they’re doable but with specific actions I want to take on all of them. Can any moms or anyone else give me some tips?

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children Special #7

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 children save an inn, join a baseball team, visit a colonial village, and go to the county fair.

Special #7 The Pet Shop Mystery: The Aldens find a gray parrot that has escaped from the local pet store and bring it back. The owner has just hired a new manager and also asks the kids to help out while she’s at a conference. The new manager wants nothing to do with the kids and keeps them out of the store as much as possible. He’s also acting strangely, giving them mixed up orders and ‘finding’ a macaw and monkey who need to be transferred to a zoo. He claims someone left them at the pet shop door while the kids witnessed someone delivering the animals to him.

Strange things keep happening, like the door of the shop being left open at night and the exotic animals escaping, all of the birds let out of their cages, and animal food ripped open and scattered. And the kids get blamed for all of it.

When the kids catch the manager selling the monkey and macaw to a customer and not sending them to the zoo as promised, they call the owner who catches him in the act. He wanted the store to start selling more exotic pets to make more money, while the owner wants nothing to do with wild animals who should be left in their habitats.

As I was writing this out, I realized that not a lot actually happened in this book. It takes place over an extremely short amount of time and all of the mysterious problems are mostly the same, mixed up orders and missing animals. But it was a nice little mystery and I remember liking this one a lot, like all of the animal mysteries.

One exciting part of this one is that the action actually takes place around school. The kids have an after-school paper route and the pet store job, and one of Jessie’s classmates shows up in this book. I’m not sure why this one is a special besides the fact that it has the activities in the back like the Washington D.C. special.

This is the last book I own in the Boxcar Children series, so stay tuned next week for a recap post and then the start of a new series/group of books!

 

Herbs by Judith Hann

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This book will be released on September 21, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

This beautiful book is all about herbs, written by someone with an obvious passion for them. Not just a cookbook, this book not only explains how to use the herbs written about, but how to grow them as well. The book is divided into seasons, with each intro giving a list of things to do in that season to take care of your herb garden.

Each herb talked about has a history section as well as tips on cooking and growing before a few recipes where it has a starring role. Besides the section on each herb, interspersed throughout the book are pages on things that involve multiple herbs, such as a page on pesto, herb teas, and herb cheeses.

Personally, most of the recipes in this book are not to my taste, but it’s well worth checking out just for the loads of information on the different herbs and sections on making herb syrups, herb ice cream, herb preserves, and anything else you could think of. This would make a great gift for an adventurous cook or a gardener.