Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review – My Spy by Christina Skye

Love it, love it, love it. The main characters, Navy SEAL Sam McKade and resort spa owner, Annie O’Toole are instantly likeable. They first meet when Sam moors his boat at the cove off the resort. He and Annie become intimate shortly before he has to leave. No promises were said, not even a good-bye. But several months later when Sam nearly dies on live TV risking his life to save a busload of school children, the Navy must find a secret place for Sam to recover, and what better place than Annie’s spa resort (she is after all, a physical therapist). The only problem is, Sam has accident-induced amnesia and doesn’t remember Annie – that and the bad guy that’s trying to kill Sam for the information he found on his latest covert operation.

I loved everything about this book. It is well written with very likeable main characters and secondary characters. The plot is always interesting and the setting, a resort spa on the ocean’s edge, is very enjoyable.

Overall rating: 3 out of 3 stars

Book Review – Code Name: Blondie by Christina Skye

This smokin’ hot book features Skye’s typical science fiction-enhanced Navy SEAL hero. This one’s name is Max Preston. The heroine’s name is Miki Fortune. Miki gets stranded on a tropical island where Max happens to be performing a covert operation, and oh yeah, there’s a hurricane coming. They are trapped in close quarters and one thing leads to another. Once you get over Max’s super-human abilities, the chemistry between him Miki is electric. I was reading the book while exercising on the elliptical machine at the gym and ended up getting a 50 minute cardio workout in because of an extensive love scene that I couldn’t put down (I normally only do between 30-40 minutes of cardio).

Overall rating: 2 out of 3 stars

Book Review – Body Language by Suzanne Brockmann

Here’s another short review because I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it and the books are due back at the library tomorrow, but I do want to keep track of what I’ve read.

Lifelong friends, Clint McCade and Sandy Kirk find that as adults they have a mutual attraction for each other. But, with Clint’s traveling lifestyle as a photographer, Sandy knows he won’t settle down for any relationship and doesn’t want to risk the friendship by revealing her true feelings. Sandy is interested in another man, and McCade gives her “body language lessons” so she can attract this other man. Will either of them go for it and reveal their true feelings before it’s too late?

This couple is instantly likeable. The plot is predictable, but I didn’t expect anything more. Overall a good weekend read.

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

These are pretty simple, so I won't post a recipe, but I wanted you to see what I've been eating recently. These are my wheat-free chocolate chip cookies with my lactose-free ice cream smushed between. Yummy!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hamburger Helper

I was craving, yes I said craving, Hamburger Helper. The strange thing is, I've never had it before, and I'm intolerant to the wheat in the noodles. So I can't just buy a regular box of Hamburger Helper. Luckily, the Fred Meyer stores carry a wheat-free version of Hamburger Helper.
I think that even though the box calls it "Beef Lasagna," it's really more like Hamburger Helper. It's what I wanted, and that's what matters. I even had freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top. The taste was... okay. Since it is more of a natural, granola-type product, I think there was hardly any sodium in it, so I had to add generous helpings of my own salt. But, being someone who can't smell, and therefore, can't taste anything beyond salt, sweet, bitter, and sour, I'm not really a good judge at whether it tasted good or not. Here it is in all it's glory.
It satisfied my craving, and I really don't need to have it again any time soon. Thanks Mrs. Leeper.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Book Review – The Paper Marriage by Susan Kay Law

Look out folks, I’ve ventured out and read a new author!

The Paper Marriage is similar to Nicholas Sparks’ The Choice. Ann McCrary’s husband was in a automobile accident twelve years ago that left him a vegetable. Ann now spends her life alternating between working and sitting beside her silent husband. But Tom Nash, former baseball star, moves in next door to Ann, she is intrigued by him and his daughter. Both father and daughter need help and Ann finds herself spending more and more time with them. Her attraction to Nash is mutual and she must decide to live for love or for the promise she made her husband on her wedding day. The Paper Marriage is a good read, but nothing extra special.

Overall rating: two out of three stars

Book Review – Force of Nature by Suzanne Brockmann

I’ve really been slacking off on my book “reviews” and now I have three books waiting for “reviews,” which means, it’s been a couple weeks since I read some of these and my review won’t be up to par.

In Force of Nature, cop turned PI, Ric Alvarado and his “assistant” Annie Dugan get caught up investigating the wrong case. Enter the FBI and agent Jules Cassidy who has frequented many of Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series. Lifelong friends Ric and Annie fall in love during their moments of peril, and Jules Cassidy finally gets together with the love of his life. Force of Nature is loaded with action and very interesting characters. A good read.

Overall rating 2.5 out of 3 stars

Friday, July 25, 2008

French Toast

Hubby was sick with the flu a couple weeks ago, and after the fever broke, he finally felt like eating again. So I made him French Toast. It's so simple to make, but we hardly ever have it, so it was a real treat. I also had my wheat-free bread, so I made myself a piece too:

It's not as pretty as the real thing, but I sure enjoyed it.

Does anybody have an actual recipe for French Toast? I put too much milk in for how many eggs I used, so what I need to know is a egg to milk ratio. Anybody?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Tale of My Strawberry Plant

This was when I first planted the strawberry plants.

A little while later:

My first blooms!

They survived the snow.

And grew beautifully.

This is basically all I got from the plant:

Well, there might have been five or six other little strawberries...hopefully I'll get more next year (and maybe they'll be a little bigger!).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Book Review – The Horsemaster’s Daughter by Susan Wiggs

Hunter Calhoun, the widowed owner of a tobacco farm turned horse ranch, needs the help of Eliza Flyte, the Horsemaster’s Daughter. Eliza’s father, The Horsemaster, had a reputation for being able to tame any horse before he died. Eliza has the same talent and uses it to tame Hunter’s horse and also works her way into Hunter’s life. Eliza, having been raised by her father is not a proper Virginia belle and Hunter must convince her that she has a place in his world.

This book was okay…I read it a couple of weeks ago and just never got around to writing my “review.” It was nothing really special, and Eliza acts stubbornly, which prevents her from having what she wants, her true love. I think the stubborn woman as the main source of conflict is kind of a cop-out in romance books. It gets old, especially in a Susan Wiggs novel.

Overall rating: 1.5 out of 3 stars

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Gladiator Name

Don't laugh, but last night, Hubby and I watched American Gladiator. It was quite amusing and delivered the right dose of laughs we were looking for. My favorite Gladiator is Crush (pictured above). She has her original boobs and that means a lot to me. (Well, at least they look real when she's on American Gladiators when she's in action; they look a little different in her touched-up professional photos.)

So, if I were to be a Gladiator, what would my name be? This question has been keeping me up at night, but I finally came to an answer. Enigma. What do you think? Do you have a wanna-be Gladiator name?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Book Review – Hot Target by Suzanne Brockmann

Death threats won’t stop filmmaker Jane Mercedes Chadwick. Her controversial movie continues production as the studio hires Troubleshooters, Inc. to protect her. Cosmo Richter, a Navy SEAL spending his vacation working for Troubleshooters, ends up in a classic bodyguard falls for the client scenario.

Cosmo Richter, a usually silent type, explodes into fights and then conversations with Jane while “protecting” her. It was delightful to see the familiar Troubleshooters series character Cosmo open up with Jane. Heavy on relationships, Hot Target is an intriguing read. Brockmann is excellent as usual and doesn’t overwhelm with unnecessary details about the bad guys. The secondary characters are also very interesting which makes the whole book a very good read.

Overall rating: 3 out of 3 stars

Book Review – Breaking Point by Suzanne Brockmann

Number 9 in Brockmann’s Troubleshooters, Inc. series, Breaking Point, tells the story of FBI leader Max Bhagat and Gina Vitagliano. Max first met Gina when he was negotiating her release after being taken hostage aboard a hijacked plane. Gina fell in love with Max, but he, the non-emotional FBI Agent, will not admit his need for Gina for fear that he would lose her. As Max continues to push Gina away, she travels overseas to help with AIDS relief work. When Max receives word that Gina was killed by a car bomb, he travels overseas to identify her body only to find that Gina is not dead but missing. Max must find Gina and confess his feelings before the terrorists who have taken her hostage really do kill her.

This being taken hostage scenario seems to be a recurring theme in Gina’s young life. Besides that un-believability, Breaking Point is nothing special. Brockmann spends a lot of time simply telling the tale of the hostages (Gina and her friend, Molly), and their rescue, and there’s nothing really interesting in that. The main characters, Max and Gina spend half the book apart from each other before Max finds Gina, so we don’t get their character interaction until halfway through the book. Brockmann tries to make up for this by adding flashbacks into Max and Gina’s life into the first part of the book. The flashback stories are interesting, but it makes it a little confusing to read.

Overall rating 1.5 out of 3 stars

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chicken Marsala

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup pre-sliced mushrooms
½ cup Marsala wine
½ cup fat-free less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Place chicken between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound each piece to ½-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle both sides of chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow dish. Dredge chicken in flour, turning to coat; shake off excess flour.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Add mushrooms, wine, broth, and juice to pan; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 2/3 cup. Return chicken to pan, turning to coat well. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until chicken is done. Sprinkle with parsley.

*Special notes: you’ll notice that I have used canned mushrooms (that way I can make Chicken Marsala whenever, despite the fact that I don’t have fresh mushrooms, but it really is better with fresh mushrooms. And, I obviously forgot to use the parsley.

Recipe Source: Cooking Light magazine

My Favorite New Product

I used to used the Italian Dressing and the Vinaigrette versions of the Wishbone Salad Spritzers, and they were okay, but for someone who really likes ranch, they just weren't doing it for me. Lately on my salads, I've restorted to using Hubby's full fat Italian dressing. But the other day in the store, I saw they had the Salad Spritzer in Ranch. I really enjoy it. It does come out looking runny (compared to normal ranch dressing), but I tastes good and is way less fat than regular ranch. Go give it a try!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Book Review – Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber

Bookstore owner Anne Marie Roche celebrates this Valentine’s Day with a special group of women. They are all widows. They decide to focus on living and make a list of twenty wishes. Falling in love again is on each woman’s list. Except, unprecedented for a Macomber novel, main character Anne Marie falls in love not with a man, but with a little girl whom she adopts.

Twenty Wishes was a refreshing read, and although I enjoyed the break-away from the main character falling in love with a man, I truly enjoyed the secondary characters’ love stories and wished I could have read more about them.

Overall rating: 2.5 out of 3 stars

Book Review – Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann

Navy SEAL Sam Starrett is searching for his missing ex-wife and daughter. Helping him is FBI Agent Alyssa Locke, also Sam’s former lover. As the mystery of his ex-wife’s whereabouts unfolds, Sam and Alyssa’s repressed love burns hot.

I truly enjoyed this book. The main focus is on the relationship between the main characters, Sam and Alyssa, but Brockmann is still able to make it an entertaining and action-packed romance/suspense novel. Brockmann gives us glimpses into Sam Starrett’s life growing up, and these little flashbacks were well written and full of emotion. I’ve yet to read a Brockmann novel that gave so much interesting background information about the main character.

Overall rating: 3 out of 3 stars

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fourth of July Fireworks

My crazy-ass neighbors were lighting their economic stimulus checks on fire last night, so I got some pictures of it. I must say that it is amazing that I even got these shots - not knowing which of my six neighbors was going to let off a large firework when. I was running around the outside of the house in the dark with my camera on the tripod and constantly readjusting the camera. I felt like Sydney Bristow on Alias doing her super-spy thing, but instead, I was taking pictures.

This year I finally have my remote control so I don't create camera shake when pressing the release button. I operated in full manual mode, f-16, manual focus, bulb exposure, and I used my remote control to determine how long the shutter was open. For only $20-30, the remote control makes a huge difference when trying to do this kind of photography (assuming you already own a $800 DSLR).

I really like this one and I wondered what I could do with it in, so here it is inverted:

This one isn't one of my favorites, but Hubby liked it, so I'm including it.

Fourth of July Food

These are my sugar cookies arranged in an American flag. The next time you hear me say I'm making sugar cookies to decorate, remind me of all the time it takes. Tell me that it's going to take longer than I think. Tell me that I can't even eat the sugar cookies because they have wheat in them. Promise me you tell me these things.

This is my Grammy's Cream Cheese Pie. It is delicious! Our guests for the fourth really loved it and raved about it. Here's the recipe:

Grammy's Cream Cheese Pie
12 0z. (1 and half bricks) of softened cream cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine ingredients and beat until light and fluffy. Pour into graham cracker crust and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until set. Remove pie from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes. Then pour topping (recipe below) over pie. Return to oven for 10 minutes. Refrigerate for at least five hours.

1 cup sour cream
3 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Special notes: I baked this pie for 25 minutes and it still was not set. I didn't know what to do, so I just kept following the rest of the recipe, and when I went to add the sour cream topping, it sunk into the middle of the pie because it was not completely set. I spoke with my aunt, and she said factors such as the humidity and the size of the eggs cause this pie to take either longer or less time in the oven to set. So my advice is don't be afraid to do as much time as necessary so that it sets, but obviously doesn't turn too brown. My aunt said she has even had to do an extra 10 minutes. I only did mine an extra five minutes, but I needed to do it longer. But after it finished setting in the refrigerator, it was not runny when I served it, so all was okay!

You can eat the pie plain, but since I had never had it before (well, we supposedly had it a lot growing up, but I just don't remember), I really thought that it needed a topping. I didn't realize that the pie has its own sour cream topping. So, I made a raspberry reduction sauce and added three blueberries to complete the Fourth of July look. It was de-lish.

Here's another picture of my baby. My real baby, my Little Guy ate a whole piece of pie off his aunt's plate. After he finished, she had to get another piece for herself.

Here's my raspberry reduction sauce. It was a little difficult to make and only made about 1/2 cup, which was plenty in the end, but for all the work...I'm not sure I'd made it again. But, the taste was phenomenal, so maybe I'll make it again if I really want to knock the socks off my guests.