Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 Book Review

Every year I set a New Year's Goal to read one book a month. I think this is a doable goal for a busy mom! However, since having kids, I read more than 12 books this year! Hallelujah!!! I joined a Book Club when we were still in Philadelphia and I really enjoyed the books we chose and loved our get togethers to socialize and discuss the books. I even re-read a book in preparation for my husband's and my trip to Paris, France this past April. Also, not listed, but I have read Harry Potter Books 1-4 to my oldest son aloud and we are currently on the 5th year - The Order of the Phoenix. I love reading to my boys and as a result my son is in the top reading group in his class and my little guy is spelling words! I LOVE to read. It's no surprise I was a huge nerd growing up - I mean I was even in the Chess Club when I was in Elementary School! Below are the books I read the year with a few sentences about how I felt about them.

I hope to share another list of books at the end of NEXT year! Happy New Year!

1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Really enjoyed this read, it was suspenseful and exciting but also a little over exaggerated for Kindergarten drama in my opinion! I also had the opportunity to watch the HBO mini-series starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, and really loved the show! It was based in CA... and the book was based in Australia. So, quite a few differences, but if you enjoyed the show or the book, I recommend trying out the show or book you did not try out!



2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I re-read this book since it had been at least ten years since I read it last. My husband and I went to Paris in April and I wanted to see and experience The Da Vinci Code in person! We saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, saw the Compass Rose Line at Sainte-Chapelle, saw the Pyramid Inversee at the Louvre, among other places that were referenced in the book. I just love a good suspense that is full of factual knowledge - Dan Brown wrote an amazing book!



3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling. This is an original screenplay about the fantastic beasts of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter world. One man sets out to find these beasts and protect them, although runs in to quite a bit of trouble with the Ministry of Magic! This was a quick and fun read and I really enjoyed the movie as well.



4. Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach. LOVED this book! Such a fun read in a different time period that we read for Book Club. There is suspense, there is history about an actual real thing called "Tulip Fever," there is love and deceit, and without giving anything away - the ending of this book SHOCKED me!!! I recommend this book, it was worth the twist at the end!



5. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.  This book was well done suspense-wise, but I caught onto what was going on early in the book so it was not as exciting as it could have been for me. I read it pretty quickly on a plane ride.



6. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. LOVED THIS BOOK! READ IT!!! This was my favorite book this year to read. Some schools recommend it as reading in colleges and it came highly recommended to me. It is a beautifully told story about an Indian couple coming to America and how their culture and lives are changed. Their story follows their children and how their lives are viewed as they grow up in America, as Americans. It is a story of acceptance and love and loss. I have recommended this book to friends and am actually gifting it to my sister for Christmas this year. 



7. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. My Book Club read this one together and watched the original movie. A "whodunit" murder mystery at its finest, set on a stranded train in a snowstorm with numerous passengers who all become suspects.



8. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is a classic story that was recently made into a HULU miniseries. I have not watched the show, but I did like this book. It was a tad confusing for me and literally left me hanging at the end. I do hope the world never becomes like it is in this book- where the government controls everything everyone does in extreme ways.



9. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda. This book was written in reverse order to unravel what happened in this story. Super exciting read - I think I read it in two days!



10. Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson. This book was super fascinating because it takes place in a very small village and has a lot of characters that become suspicious. Good read and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a series!



11. The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer. OK - READ THIS BOOK! I know the author's name may look familiar to you, she wrote the Twilight Series. However, this is not a Twilight book! This is a surprising CIA spy book with so many twists and turns I could not put it down. I actually want to re-read it in the New Year.



12. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. This book totally sucked me in and creeped me out. There are so many characters in a small town that are covering up a murder... and an affair! However, it leaves a young girl mother-less, so it is essential the truth is revealed about her mother's death. Justice is served.



13. The Sinner by Petra Hammesfahr. I am a big Jessica Biel fan and saw that she would be starring in a TV miniseries called "The Sinner." So, naturally, I just had to read the book. It was pretty disturbing and different than the miniseries, but well written. I had no idea who had taken Cora in and messed her up so she would not remember the night in question accurately. It really does show you how parents will do anything to protect their children, and how the past comes to haunt.



14. Truly Madly Guilty by Loraine Moriarty. I checked this book out at the library and really thought I'd like it as much as "Big Little Lies," but it was just an ok read for me. The story was pretty drawn out and it dealt with some strange topics, such as hoarding.



15. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. This, by far, was the hardest book for me to read. It follows an African American labor and delivery nurse who is told not to touch a white supremacists newborn son. She is left alone to watch the baby and notices that he stops breathing and has no choice but to try and save his life. She is fired from her job and accused of killing this baby, who dies under her watch. The book tells the story from the nurses's perspective, lawyer's perspective and the white supremacists couple's perspective. The way racist people think and act was really hard for me to read. The book ends beautifully and you really reflect on yourself as a human.



16. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. Now if you are driving across the country and want to listen to a book on tape, this is your book. It is equally frustrating, suspenseful, and goes around and around before giving you the ending! I'm glad I was forced to listen to this story, because I think the written version would have not been finished by me.



17. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. If there is one book that has been recommended to me to read, it is this book. I loved it. Beautifully told in a mere 100 pages, it will touch you and make you cry. I only hope I can instill acceptance of all those who are different in my children so that they treat everyone as equals. I look forward to reading this story with my son and watching the movie with him. Bullying is terrible, and I do not want my kids to be either the bully or to be bullied.



Enjoy!
Brittney

Cookie Exchange Party

This past weekend I hosted a Holiday Cookie Exchange Party and we all had a blast! Every lady made 3 dozen cookies that we all voted on - Most Creative, Best Tasting, Most Festive, and Best All-Around cookie! We enjoyed Cranberry Apple Cider Sangria, cheese and crackers, and of course, COOKIES! Below are some recipes and pictures of the party! 

 Cookie Exchange Voting Ballot I found on Etsy

 Hot Cocoa Bar: Starbucks hot cocoa powder with milk in CrockPot to keep warm, marshmallow, Pirouettes, peppermints, and a shot of your choice: Bailey's or Peppermint Schnapps

Cranberry Apple Cider Sangria: 1 bottle of red wine, 2 green apples cubed, 1 cup fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup Triple Sec, 1/2 cup simple syrup, 3 cups Apple Cider, 1 cup Cranberry juice, top with Sparkling Water when served!


 My Candy Cane Cookies, recipe here

 Christmas "Tree" cheese platter

 The Ladies

My friend's "Most Festive" Cookie - Reindeer macarons with a chocolate peanut butter buttercream filling

Enjoy!
Brittney

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

White Chocolate Dipped Gingerdoodles

Christmas time is here! We finally put up our tree and I am busily baking for my Cookie Exchange Party I am hosting! I tried this new recipe out and I love them! They are delicious with both the white chocolate and without. Such an easy recipe I enjoyed making with my littlest guy. More to come on what all I plan to do for my Cookie Exchange Party if you are in need of ideas for yours!

White Chocolate Dipped Gingerdoodles

- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 1/4 cup flour
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ginger
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (for rolling your dough in to)
- white chocolate, for dipping

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Cream your butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
3. Add your egg and molasses and mix thoroughly.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk your dry ingredients together: flour, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, salt and baking soda.
5. Slowly add to your wet ingredients until a dough forms.
6. Create 1 1/2 inch cookie balls with your dough and roll each ball into granulated sugar before placing on your baking sheet.
7. Bake for 8 minutes.
8. Allow to cool completely before dipping into white chocolate, as desired.

 Rolling Gingerdoodle Balls with my little guy!

Baked Gingerdoodles

Festively dipped in white chocolate with sprinkles

Enjoy!
Brittney

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Homemade Healthy Tomato Soup

It's finally getting cooler out here in Colorado! My husband and I attended a wedding this past weekend and the appetizer was a martini glass filled with tomato soup and a square of grilled cheese - it was amazing! I have been craving tomato soup ever since... but wanted to make it healthy! Here is my version of tomato soup without the guilt, so you can pair it with a guilty grilled cheese!

Healthy Tomato Soup

- 2 x 28 oz. cans of whole tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 sweet potato, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 1/2 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat your olive oil over medium heat in a stock pot.
2. Add the sweet potato, onion and red bell pepper and sauté them for a few minutes as they soften.
3. Add your garlic, pepper and salt and stir about 1 minute until garlic is fragrant.
4. Stir in your tomatoes, vegetable broth and basil leaves. 
5. Allow soup to simmer for 20 minutes.
6. In batches, add your soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Repeat until all soup is blended.
7. Add blended soup back to your stock pot and simmer for a few minutes before serving.

 Softened Vegetables

 Added tomatoes, vege stock and basil

 Blending the soup

 Tomato Soup

Paired with a grilled cheese!

Enjoy!
Brittney

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Chip Bread

Fall and everything pumpkin is in the air! I recently made a really delicious pumpkin spice bread with these pumpkin spice chips that I found at Target. The recipe I used said to make it with chocolate chips, so you can use those if you prefer, but I decided to use the pumpkin spice chips instead. We are going on Fall  Break to the east coast and I hope to experience a little bit more "Fall weather" and visit at least one pumpkin patch while we are away! My husband and I are also attending a wedding and I think I might include a review of how much I have enjoyed using Rent the Runway for formal events in my next post!

Pumpkin Spice Chip Bread

- 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 2 large eggs
 - 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2/3 cup pumpkin spice chips

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your bread pan.
2. Place your dry ingredients into your KitchenAide Mixer: flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.
3. In a small bowl, whisk your eggs, sugars, pumpkin puree, vegetable oil and orange juice together.
4. Slowly add your wet mixture to your dry mixture at a low speed until combined.
5. Add your pumpkin spice chips until combined and pour your mixture into your bread pan.
6. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

 Fresh Baked Pumpkin Spice Chip Bread!

Perfect served with butter when warm... yum!

Enjoy!
Brittney

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars

It's (almost) Fall! I bought my first can of pumpkin for the season and have been waiting for a recipe I haven't tried before. These cookie bars are thick, moist, and delicious! You must try them! My 4-year-old and I had so much fun making them together and now I have some pumpkin leftover... so I'll need to make something else soon!

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars

- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp. pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 egg
- 2 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. milk

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and use non-stick spray on a 9"x 11" glass pan.
2. Cream your butter and sugar together then add your egg, pumpkin, and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, mix your dry ingredients together: flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
4. Slowly add your dry ingredients to your wet and add the tbsp. of milk if not moist enough. Consistency should be of cookie dough, so pretty thick but pliable.
5. Spread cookie dough on the bottom of your pan and bake for 15020 minutes.

Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting

- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp. pumpkin puree
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp. ginger

1. Whip all ingredients together until smooth. Frost your cookie bars and cut.

 Baked Cookie Bars

 With Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting

Tastes like Fall!

Enjoy!
Brittney

Friday, August 18, 2017

Laundry Room Makeover

My laundry room is complete! A good friend of mine told me to make my laundry room pretty - because you are in there enough! So true! I was so inspired by palm leaves and tropical prints I had originally wanted to do wallpaper on the wall behind my washer and dryer, but because the wall was 8 ft. x 6 ft. - it was going to be about $300 to wallpaper just that space. Instead I opted to just paint the entire laundry room Behr Silky White from Home Depot and put two x 4 foot long grey wood shelves above the washer and dryer from Home Depot. I also replaced the florescent lighting with a semi-mount pendant light with a moroccan design. When I took off the florescent light I found 2 holes in the ceiling, so I had to teach myself how to patch a hole! Oh the surprises you find! I hope you like my before and after pictures!

Before - My laundry room had yellow/brown paint with florescent lighting and a shelf at an awkward location. I had to fill in a lot of holes!

 Florescent light is down but you can see the original paint and shelf

 2 holes in the ceiling!

New semi-mount found here

After - Laundry room is painted white and shelves are put up! I also bought a behind the door hanger for our ironing board. 

 IKEA Silverhojden gold frames, Etsy prints, Amazon rug, Target laundry basket

 Frames!

 Vase and plate from Anthropologie, Monstera leaf and hexagon shelf with succulent from Hobby Lobby, Small Target laundry basket

 Ironing board hook

Enjoy!
Brittney Brengel