Friday, February 27, 2015

A Nice Day and Exercise

Since I've been sitting on my butt for ages, trying to pound out as many books as I can (and surfing Facebook), I've put on some weight. I am in desperate need of some exercise. Of course I could do sit-ups on my living room floor, jumping jacks, and several other real exercises but I've chosen to try and walk it off.

Walking is okay exercise and I get a moment to just be. Try and picture walking down a trail that's supposed to be a road but sees so little use it has a line of grass in the middle, the Black Hills hovering in the background. Deep breaths of clean air are frequently followed by sighs of contentment. The beauty surrounding this strolling soul is almost too much to comprehend and the serenity of it all almost puts them into a happiness trance.

Okay, so that's not how my walks go down. I take the kids with me and the cats like to tag along. I find I'm taking a lot of pictures, doing a lot of "Get out of the mud!"
"Keep up,"
"Get out of that. That's icky. Yuck!"
"Now we have to go home and clean you up,"
"Keep up. I'm barely moving. You should be able to keep up."
"Didn't I already tell you a hundred times to STAY. OUT. OF. THE. MUD."

At least that was my experience for my latest trip out into the wilds.  I did get some pretty fun pictures and the girls, though muddy, really enjoyed the walk. Ah heck, who am I kidding. I love it, too. Even if I have to get after them every few seconds I love sharing these moments with them. In a strange way, the previously described moment of serenity and complete contentment, is what I experience.

I did mention I take pictures during our walks and I'm going to share some of those with you.  At the very end of this blog post I will highlight why walking, as a form of regular exercise, is a bad idea for me.  All of these pictures were taken Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 with the exception of the very last picture. It was taken the very next day, Wednesday, February 25th, 2015.

 And here is why walking is not a good REGULAR exercise choice for me.  I really don't like being out in the cold.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Recently Read - Kill Shot

Kill Shot
Vince Flynn

This is the second book in the Mitch Rapp series.  I recently read the first one, American Assassin: A Thriller (Mitch Rapp Book 1), and was excited to get to the second one.  I have to say I wasn't disappointed!  I recommend this one to anyone who might like to follow a spy/assassin around without actual bullets flying past them.  Now I'm ready to start in on #3 of the series, Transfer of Power (Mitch Rapp Book 3).


#1 internationally bestselling author Vince Flynn delivers the young, hungry, and lethal Mitch Rapp at the onset of his career as a CIA superagent.

In the year since the CIA trained and then unleashed him, Mitch Rapp has been steadily working his way through a list of men, bullet by bullet. With each swift and untraceable kill, the tangled network of monsters responsible for the slaughter of 270 civilians in the Pan Am Lockerbie attack become increasingly aware that someone is hunting them. Rapp is given his next target, and finds the man asleep in his bed in Paris. In the split second it takes the bullet to leave Rapp’s silenced pistol, the trap is sprung and he finds himself in the fight of his life.

     The next morning, nine bodies are discovered in one of Paris’s finest hotels—among them the Libyan oil minister. Back in Washington the finger-pointing begins in earnest as no one wants any part in what has become an international crisis and potential embarrassment for the CIA. Rapp’s handlers have only one choice—deny any responsibility for the incident and pray that their newest secret weapon stays that way.

     Rapp must avoid capture or die quietly. One person in the group, however, is not prone to leaving such important things to chance. Rapp has become a liability, and Stan Hurley will not allow Rapp to be taken alive by the French authorities, even if it means killing him. Operating on his own and outside the control of his handlers, it will soon become clear that nothing is more dangerous than a wounded and cornered Mitch Rapp.

     In Flynn’s newest page-turner, the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been as Mitch Rapp embarks on the journey that will turn him into America’s most deadly asset. The nonstop action in this shockingly realistic political thriller will keep your pulse pounding till the very end.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Standby Pasta Salad

I make this pasta salad a lot in the summer time because the produce is fresh and we eat a lot of meals in which a pasta salad goes great with them.

My cousin turned me onto the Suddenly Salad and the bacon ranch one in particular.  We fell in love.  However, I just had to add stuff to it.  I once added tomatoes from my garden.  It was heaven for the first couple of bites, but then it became a bit watery and pink. My solution - don't add too much tomato. At least my girls loved the pink color of the salad.

Then, one day I didn't have my trusty box of Suddenly Salad but I really wanted some, so I made my own from scratch.

I'm not a fan of the bottled ranch you buy on the shelves so I have a big bottle of dry Hidden Valley Ranch mix in my cupboard.  I prefer that to the pre-made ranch and we use the dry mix for stuff other than just salad dressing. But, if you like the bottled ranch, by all means, use it. It makes the recipe that much easier. Though mixing up your own ranch is pretty simple.

I really like this recipe because it's so very versatile.  When making this I rarely measure anything, so I won't be giving you exact amounts either. Give in to your imagination. This one is pretty hard to mess up.

Ranch Dressing (either bottled ranch or home made.)

Pasta (I've used several different kinds. This picture shows macaroni.)

Bacon bits (I've used bacon I've cooked as well as bits I've bought in the store, but it is always REAL bacon. None of that dried up bacon flavored stuff. I don't even know what that stuff is.)

Various vegetables (the Suddenly Salad version has carrot strips and peas)

Meat (I sometimes add tiny shrimp, chicken, ham. The salad is just as good without meat.)

Cook your pasta to your tastes.  I like mine softish, but not mushy.  The amount depends on how much salad you want in the end.  Drain and cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

While my pasta is cooking I make my ranch dressing and add the bacon bits.

Dice your vegetables. In this picture I've added cucumbers, celery, red and yellow bell peppers.  I've added tomatoes before and zucchini might be a great addition. Actually, I can't think of much that you couldn't add to this recipe. I often add in diced, cooked chicken and tiny shrimp you can find in a can in the grocery store.  This picture has chicken but no shrimp.  I've made this recipe with diced ham as well. All of these ingredients are very good in the salad.  We've actually made this salad the main dish of a meal before. (Yes, I can be super lazy and we sometimes eat weird stuff for dinner.)

When your pasta is cooled and drained all you need to do is add it and your veggies and/or meat to the ranch dressing. Coat everything well with the ranch and it's done.  So easy and very tasty.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Baked Tomatoes

It has been a long time since I did a post with a new recipe. I'm excited to share this one with you guys.

I saw some yummy looking tomatoes on my news feed over on Facebook and thought that would be something I'd like to try.  I checked it out and read the recipe. Then I forgot about it for a couple days. Of course, I have no idea who posted it and there's no way I'm going to find it again. So I looked up baked tomatoes on Google.  I never did find the recipe I saw on Facebook but I did find several others. Some called for balsamic vinegar and some for olive oil.

I've never done anything with balsamic vinegar so I decided I'd try it out.  I didn't follow any specific recipe and just threw these tomatoes together with what I remembered from the various recipes.

The first picture is of the tomatoes before I put them in the oven.  The second picture is of the finished tomatoes.  The third picture is of the meal we had the tomatoes with.

Baked Tomatoes
Sliced Tomatoes - I wouldn't recommend slicing them too thin. I think 1/4 inch or thicker would be best for this recipe but I think you could simply cut a tomato in half for this recipe if you wanted to. I used Roma tomatoes because they were the cheapest at the grocery store.

Balsamic vinegar - This was my first try of balsamic vinegar and I just grabbed a bottle. I truly had no idea what the difference was between the different bottles on the shelf and I even did a little research and am still in the dark. Maybe I'll figure it out someday.  (One of the recipes required marinating the tomatoes in the balsamic vinegar for about four hours - I didn't do this.)

Minced garlic - I have a big container of minced garlic in my fridge. I use it for a lot of things. I'm certain you can use fresh garlic and mince it yourself. The flavor might be better, but I'm lazy so I really like my big container of minced garlic.

Shredded cheese - I think you could use any kind of cheese depending on your taste. Most of the recipes I read called for parmesan. I chose a mix of shredded cheeses. It was called Italian six cheese blend. It had mozzarella, provolone, asiago, parmesan, fontina and romano cheese.

Bread crumbs - I bought a container of bread crumbs, but you can make your own and use those. They are good for a lot of different things.

Salt & Pepper - You could use your favorite seasoning salt instead of just salt and pepper.

This is how I made mine, but I think part of the joy of cooking is figuring things out for yourself and just winging it. It's really fun when you wing it and it still tastes good. Don't be afraid to do things your own way.

Put the tomato slices on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes. (The next time I make these I'm going to try olive oil in place of the vinegar just to see what kind of difference it makes.) I put a small amount of minced garlic on each slice and then sprinkled a small amount of bread crumbs over them along with the salt and pepper. Then I put the shredded cheese on top of each slice and then another thin layer of bread crumbs because I couldn't remember if the crumbs went on top or not.  I put the pan of slices in the oven set on 400 degrees and baked them for about fifteen minutes. Keep a good eye on your tomatoes after you hit the ten minute mark - all ovens cook a bit differently. Then I put the stove on broil for about a minute and a half to brown the tops. Always keep a good eye on things in the oven when on broil. I rarely make a batch of garlic toast under the broiler that isn't burned. It could be just me... I freely admit I'm still learning to cook.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Currently Reading - I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad...

I Used to Think 
I Was Not That Bad 
and Then 
I Got to Know Me Better
Dorothy Rosby

Empathy for people who read self-improvement books but never get any better. (Also for the people who sincerely wish they would.)

About the Author
Dorothy Rosby is a syndicated humor columnist whose work appears in newspapers in eleven Western and Midwestern states, as well as in local and national magazines. Her column has been recognized by the South Dakota Newspaper Association, the South Dakota Federation of Press Women, and the National Federation of Press Women.

Let me start off this post with a disclaimer.  I personally know Dorothy Rosby. She's a member of a couple of writing groups I'm also a member of. She is a really neat lady.  Now that you know that you can choose to believe the raving I'm about to do is because I know her, but I will tell you with the utmost sincerity that is not so. Dorothy Rosby is an amazing author who speaks my language.

I haven't finished the book yet at the time of scheduling this post, but I am enjoying every single word I've read so far. This book has lifted my spirits over and over the past few weeks. I'm taking my time with this one because it is several stand-alone articles and I can stop easily anywhere throughout the book and I won't lose my momentum for the story. Plus, it's definitely one I don't want to end just yet. I'm savoring it and not rushing through. It's the perfect book for any moment. If you want to sit down and read it from cover to cover it flows quickly and easily. If you're like me, you might just want it to last a little longer and read it in between other books so you can make the journey last a little bit longer.

Dorothy Rosby is a syndicated humor columnist and is published in several different magazines as well as newspapers. Unfortunately, I don't know which media outlets carry her column. Before reading this book I'd only been privileged to hear her read her own work. Let me tell you, I was impressed before starting to read her book (a compilation of her columns), but as I read I become more and more impressed with her talent and even more so with her as a person.  

I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better is just plain perfect. You should be able to tell that from the title alone - I love the title!

I'll give you an example of how great she is with an excerpt from her Introduction (you should be able to read this for yourself if you go onto Amazon and read the sample.)

It's hard to be a humor writer. I know what you're saying. You're saying, "How would you know?" (See what I mean? Immediately she gets us going.) And that's one of the hard parts. Humor is very subjective. Just because you didn't find something I wrote funny doesn't mean no one else did, although it's certainly possible no one else did. (Hee hee)

I would definitely recommend this one to anyone. In fact, I've been reading it out loud to my husband and children (ages 14, 7 and 5). My fourteen-year-old asked me the other day, after I expressed some displeasure with her father, if I wanted a duplex - a joke Dorothy makes about married couples. This book has made an impression on all of us and we aren't even finished with the book.  If you enjoy humor at all, this book is a great addition to your library!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Recently Read - American Assassin

American Assassin
Vince Flynn

#1 New York Times bestselling author Vince Flynn introduces the young Mitch Rapp on his first assignment, a mission of vengeance that made him a CIA superagent.

Two decades after the Cold War, Islamic terrorism is on the rise, and CIA Operations Director Thomas Stansfield forms a new group of clandestine operatives—men who do not exist—to meet this burgeoning threat abroad before it reaches America’s shores. Stansfield’s protégée, Irene Kennedy, finds the ideal candidate in the wake of the Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist attack. Among the thousands grieving the victims is Mitch Rapp, a gifted college athlete, who wants only one thing: retribution. Six months of intense training prepares him to devastate the enemy with brutal efficiency, leaving a trail of bodies from Istanbul and across Europe, to Beirut. But there, the American assassin will need every ounce of skill and cunning to survive the war-ravaged city and its deadly terrorist factions.


For those of you who follow my blog, you will know I don't do book reviews. For those of you reading your first of my "Recently Read" posts, I don't do reviews. I write up a short and sweet little bit about a book that I've read and enjoyed. Sometimes I go into some detail about the book, but mostly I just give you a short, quick reason why I liked the book.  So - here goes...

I will provide links to the book for any of you who might be interested, but I actually listened to the audio version available from Amazon/Audible. Most of my reading is done via audio books so I can do other things while "reading".  For example, during the narrative of this book I picked up and dropped off my kids at school for a week as well as doing some housework and crochet.  

Vince Flynn has been recommended to me several times but, until now, I hadn't gotten around to his books.  I have to say, I was not disappointed with American Assassin.

American Assassin is the first book in the Mitch Rapp series and was released in 2010. Yes, I'm slow at getting to most books. I rarely read what's being read by everyone at the moment.

 I've not done a lot of research on Vince Flynn and don't know if he's written any other series or stand-alones. I was mostly interested in this series because it was recommended to me and it's about an assassin - go figure.

American Assassin is mostly about the recruiting and training of Mitch Rapp with a mission or two thrown in. The book was very well written and kept me interested all the way through. It's the kind of book I'd like to write, someday. If only I could be more serious for longer periods of time.

I'm really excited to get into the next book - Kill Shot. I have no idea when I'll finally get to it though. I don't normally like to read while I write (I'm currently working on book #6). But, I've given myself a goal for reading that I'd like to keep up on. We shall see if I can manage it.

I would recommend this book for a great escape into a realistic world of spies and assassins. Now drop and give me fifty!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Recently Read - Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn


THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLEROn a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 


I decided to pick up Gone Girl for a couple of reasons. 

One - it's been made into a movie that seems interesting to me. (UPDATE:  I just watched the movie and made the hubby watch it with me. It was great to see the look on his face when we reached the Part Two part of the book come to life on the screen. I had to spend a good fifteen minutes after the movie ended to fill him in on a lot MORE crazy that wasn't on the screen. Still, the movie was probably pretty good even if you don't know all the extras. Nothing compared to the book - as is the usual outcome.)

Two - the reviews of the book are very intense. Some say it's horrid, some say it's great. Most say they hated the ending. I HAD to know.

I assumed, because of the reviews, I probably wouldn't like the book. I'm glad I tried it anyway. I really liked the book. It wasn't fun or happy, but it was very interesting and kept me wondering. It's a bit deranged and without giving out spoilers, I can say it's an interesting romp through crazy.

The book isn't overly gory or vulgar, but it definitely is an adult read. It takes us through a fairly typical, if slightly unhappy, marriage. Though I have (or seem to have) a great relationship with my husband, I can see how the marriage between Nick and Amazing Amy evolved into what it did.

As for the ending - you'll have to read the book or watch the movie to find out the ending. I'll just say that though most of the reviews I read said they hated the ending, I think it was appropriate to the story. Even if it was... let's just say - the way it is.