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.

The Science of Cooking by Dr. Stuart Farrimond

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This book will be released on September 19, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

The Science of Cooking is a great resource if you want to know the ‘whys’ behind cooking. You’ll probably like this book if you’re a fan of the show Good Eats. The inside looks like a textbook but is a lot more fun with tons of helpful diagrams and pictures.

Every section is prefaced with a good question about cooking, from ‘How do I know when meat is done cooking?’ to ‘Why do we eat oysters raw?’ The chapters are divided by food, such as meat and poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, and so on.

I learned that it’s apparently dangerous to reheat cooked rice, which is something to look into further. Each section has good tips on choosing the right ingredients as well as food safety and the chemistry behind how things cook, with special spotlights on things such as sugar, flour, herbs and more.

I wouldn’t recommend this to a beginner cook, as it might be a bit overwhelming with all the information, but it’s a fantastic resource for someone who wants to improve their cooking skill or just learn more.

Weekly Meal Plan: September 17 – September 23

This will be the last meal plan post for a while as I have my c-section scheduled for next week! I’ll be working this week on scheduling a bunch of posts to go up but I can’t imagine much meal planning will be going on (especially if husband is in charge of feeding us!).

Next week we get to meet our sweet baby, hopefully. They’ll send me home if he ends up flipping over at the last second so I can go into spontaneous labor. At this point I just want him out, I’m ready to start being a parent and so ready to be done with these pregnancy symptoms. Today my ankles swelled up pretty much twice their normal size. Ugh.

What we’re eating this week:

One Pot Creamy Sausage Pasta (pictured) — Going back to the classics this week, such a delicious easy dish, and it makes tons of leftovers!

Green Pepper Casserole — Another favorite, and super easy. I was in the mood for some gooey rice.

Honey and Soy Chicken — No idea what I’m serving with this, but I have so much chicken right now. And I might have bought a giant pack of chicken thighs again this week because it was super cheap. Oh well, husband will have to figure out what to do with them.

Chickpea Spinach Curry — Two of my favorite foods of all time? Yes please.

I planned to make spaghetti one night as well, but my mom actually invited us over to have spaghetti on Sunday night. I’m always a fan of one less day having to cook, especially right now.

Throwback Book Review: Boxcar Children Special #2

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 rest of the series. The last one in the series I own is #78, and there are 145 regular books total. Also Special #1, Mystery on the Ice, in which the kids solve a mystery involving a figure skating troupe.

Special #2 The Mystery in Washington, DC: Grandfather is off on another business trip and decides to take the kids with him. Except his trip is in Virginia, so he drops the kids off at a bed and breakfast owned by a friend of his in Washington. The Aldens are all ready to go sightseeing by themselves when they meet Amira, a girl Henry’s age, also staying there alone, so they bring her along.

The kids see many sights like the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian but what’s far more interesting to them is the fact that things keep going missing at their bed and breakfast, and two men in sunglasses keep following them around.

They suspect everyone staying at the bed and breakfast, including Amira, who acts strangely. She knows so much about a lot of things in Washington but doesn’t seem to know what fish sticks are. Other suspects include the photographer couple who don’t seem to know much about cameras and the artist who doesn’t know about art. And of course the owner’s assistant who has access to everything in the house. The kids sightsee by day and by night try to solve the mystery.

Of course, in the end the thief turns out to be the assistant, who was having trouble coming up with tuition for school. The kind-hearted B&B owner lets him off the hook if he makes everything right, and even loans him the money for school. As for Amira’s secret, she’s the Egyptian ambassador’s daughter but didn’t want anyone to know, so she was pretending to be a normal girl, even though she was being followed by two security guards.

The Aldens spend another vacation solving a mystery. They also spend it alone. Why do the authors of these books keep sending their grandfather away? I don’t care how responsible the kids are, I was barely going to the mall by myself at 14. My parents would have never dropped me off in another state to go sightseeing, let alone with three younger children to take care of.

I don’t have much else to say on this one, other than what is Jessie wearing on that cover? Also, this book being a special, it has a bunch of interesting activities in the back that I never did apparently. It has connect the dots, a maze, recipes and craft projects. I hope our son will be interested in those kinds of things when he gets old enough, they seem like fun.

The Dinner Plan by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion

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This book will be released on September 19, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

As you’ve probably noticed, I’m a big advocate for meal planning. If I didn’t do meal planning, we would not eat half as well as we do, simply because I’d go to the store and get a bunch of unrelated things and be missing several key ingredients to make anything. This book seems like a great resource for those who want to meal plan, or just need some extra help putting dinner on the table.

The recipes in this book are divided into different categories such as make-ahead, staggered, one-dish, pantry, and extra fast, depending on how you need to get dinner on the table that day. Make-ahead meals can be prepped in advance and simply heated up when needed. Staggered meals consist of things that your entire family can eat at different times based on their busy schedules. Pantry meals consist of only long term storage foods, and extra fast meals take about 30 minutes or less.

This book is full of delicious sounding, somewhat common recipes that are worth trying. Some of them include Shrimp Scampi, Carbonara, Chicken Parm, Salisbury Steak and Sloppy Joes. When you need to get dinner on in a hurry, I think this book would be a great resource. It’s divided into different chapters such as chicken, fish, vegetables and more, with each recipe labeled ‘make-ahead’, ‘one dish’ and so on, sometimes falling into more than one of these categories. This plus the index in the back makes it really easy to find something to make for dinner.

 

Slow Cook Modern by Liana Krissoff

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This book will be released on September 12, 2017. I received a copy through NetGalley.

I recently reviewed a different slow cooker book, this one is similar but with very different recipes. They are more exotic in this book with a bit less accessible ingredients, such as Miso-Ghee Corn Chowder.

Each recipe is divided by what you need to do in the morning before work, and what you will need to do when you get home to finish preparing it. It sets it up so that you can easily get everything ready to walk in the door and finish the dish, including side dishes, which most recipes have suggested for you.

The book is divided into chapters based on the meat of the dish, such as a vegetarian chapter, one on poultry, one on pork, etc. For the more adventurous, it also contains a chapter on goat and lamb.

Overall, if you’re looking for a primer on slow cooking, go with the book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. If you’re in a rut and want some more ethnic food, this would be great for you or as a gift to a special cook. Personally the recipes in here look delicious but are far too complicated for my taste.