We Are the World Blogfest

It’s the last Friday in July, and time for some good news to take you into August with a smile. The post I’ve chosen to share this month is about a process called “carbonation” and how green sand, made of olivine, can help reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in a process by which it is returned to the sea in another form to be stored in shells and coral structures. Many thanks to Carol Thompson for sharing this article with me.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a worldwide blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

Your cohosts for this month are Eric LahtiSusan Scott, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Shilpa Garg, and Peter Nena. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Round-Up: July Edition

I’m pleased to say that I was able to read a variety of genres in July, and the three books I’m reading now, which will be in next month’s Reading Round-Up, just add to that diversity. Even though a couple of the books are out my preferred genres, I’m glad I read them. Which leads me to ask: how often do you deviate from the genres you most enjoy? Do you think it’s important to do that or not?

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

First up was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is one of those outside-my-normal-comfort-zone books, and wow. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. The book was a selection for my book club (which I actually forgot to attend), and I’m so sorry I missed the discussion, because I had really looked forward to it. Read my review here and please ignore the typos. 🙂

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The Man from the Train: Discovering America's Most Elusive Serial Killer

I was really excited to read The Man from the Train by Bill James. Here’s the premise: there was a serial killer stalking families that were living near railroads across the United States in the early twentieth century. The author, a well-known baseball statistician, makes the tantalizing claim that he knows who the killer was. This book presents the evidence in support of and against his theory. I thought this was going to be a fascinating book leading to a dramatic unveiling of the killer. Parts of it were fascinating, yes, but the unveiling of the killer wasn’t as climactic as I thought it would be. In the end, I gave this book 3 stars because of the way it was presented, the author’s use of language, and a “subplot” that added nothing to the book. Read my review here

Please note that I had to think long and hard about whether to include this book in my post. My policy is to post a review of any book that I would rate 3 or more stars, so I included this in keeping with that policy. As many of you know, I almost always love the books I read. I was disappointed in this one, but that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t love it. Indeed, this book has plenty of 5-star reviews online.

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The Crown for Castlewood Manor (My American Almost-Royal Cousin Series Book 1)

Moving right along, next I read The Crown for Castlewood Manor, the first book in the My American Almost-Royal Cousin series by Veronica Cline Barton. What a treat! If you like cozy mysteries set in the English countryside with manor drama, murder, and parties fit for royalty, you’ll love this book. Check out my 5-star review here.

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The Silver Dollar Connetion: A Sandi Webster Mystery (The Sandi Webster Mysteries Book 13) by [Marja McGraw]

Last, but certainly not least, I read The Silver Dollar Connection by Marja McGraw. As I’ve noted before, Marja McGraw is on my auto-buy list because I love everything she writes, and this book didn’t disappoint. It’s the latest installment of the Sandi Webster mysteries, and in this one Sandi and her husband, Pete, are asked to help an older PI (Rocky) who has some serious family issues going on. His estranged son is being threatened and doesn’t even know it, and things are about to take a turn for the worse. But it’s not just a mystery you’ll find in this book. You’ll also find characters who are dealing with friendship, mental health issues (including PTSD), aging, and isolation. You’ll find my review here.

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That’s my list for this month. Care to share what you’ve been reading?

Until next time,

Amy

 

7 Really Cool Websites

As I was doing research for this post, I realized I should have done it waaay earlier in the pandemic because so many people were stuck at home, longing for things to do besides bingeing on Netflix.

But, as they say, better late than never. So, without any further commentary, I present you with seven of the most interesting and fun websites I’ve found to waste my time take a break from the daily grind.

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Armored Car, Armored Vehicle, Buran

HOW IT’S MADE

This video series is part of the Science Channel and it’s got a wealth of information about just what the title suggests—how things are made. Want to know how pita bread is made? How about bowler hats? Armored vehicles? Grammy awards? There’s a show for that. Currently there are 24 seasons of “How It’s Made” online, totalling 414 episodes of really interesting stuff.

One note: in order to watch the episodes, you need to click on your television provider. It’s easy. Just click on the key icon on the right side of your screen when you find an episode you’d like to watch, and it will take you to a screen where you click on your tv provider. You may need a password, but I didn’t, so maybe you won’t.

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Flying Horse, Pub, Nottingham, England

ATLAS OBSCURA

This website has a wealth of fascinating articles about everything from the college student with 6,000 takeout menus to how the Black Death gave rise the British pub culture to the village in India where each resident is named with a unique song. This is a great site for writers, too, because the articles can give rise to some fabulous ideas for stories. I have signed up for Atlas Obscura‘s daily email, so cool stuff gets delivered right to my inbox every morning.

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Animal, Turtle, Aquatic, Diving

OCEARCH

This site is an ongoing compilation of data on marine life compiled by a group of scientists using tagging techniques, advanced scientific tracking, and ping technology to locate certain types of ocean fish and mammals. The data is mostly concentrated in and around the US, but there’s a world map on the site that allows users to click on icons that show whether sharks, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, alligators, and/or seals have been spotted in that area. For example, OCEARCH tracked Teazer, a 10’9″ 651-pound male white shark, 3,624 miles over 103 days so far, with the last ping being recorded just five days ago in Nova Scotia. It’s pretty interesting to just browse around this site.

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Wormhole, Black, Hole, Galaxy, Space

GRAVITY POINTS

This is a site that you’ll want to see just because it’s mesmerizing. I suppose it can teach us interesting things about science, swarm theory, and gravity, but really, I just like it because it’s fun to create a point and watch all the little comet-like things move around the screen.

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Peeps, Pink, Easter, Candy, Marshmallows

MENTAL FLOSS

This site reminds me of Atlas Obscura because it’s got a ton of interesting stories, cool facts that you didn’t even know you needed (case in point: did you know that in 1953 it took 27 hours to make the first marshmallow Peep, but now it only takes 6 minutes? Huh? Bet you’re glad you know that now), quizzes (like famous movie quotes—I failed), and lists of random stuff. Like 10 facts about the Oregon Trail or 10 things that went wrong on Disneyland’s opening day. I encourage you to check out this site when you’re looking for something fun to read.

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Iced Coffee, Coffee, Drink, Benefit From

LIFEHACKER

You’ve heard of life hacks, those simple ideas that can make life easier for all of us. (Here’s one I love: when you slice, mince, crush, or otherwise manipulate garlic, rub your hands on stainless steel afterward so they don’t stink. It really works and I do it all the time.) This site has tons of how-to stuff like that. Are you frustrated? Would you be interested in screaming into your phone and having that scream played in Iceland? This site shows you how to do it. Have you ever wanted to know how to host a foreign exchange student? How about how to turn your frappucino into an alcoholic slushie? This site has your back.

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Water, Raindrops, Raining, Wet, Liquid

A SOFT MURMUR

If you’re anything like me, you prefer ambient noise to music while you’re working because you get caught up in the lyrics and you end up singing along and not paying attention to the task at hand. Enter A Soft Murmur, the ambient noise-lover’s dream site. At this handy website, you choose the ambient sounds you want to hear (rain, thunder, waves, wind, fire, birds, crickets, coffee shop, singing bowls, and white noise, and those are just the free ones), choose the level of the sounds’ intensity with a sliding scale, and, if you want, a timer. Do you want to hear birds in your coffee shop? That’s fine. Simultaneous fire and waves? That’s cool. It’s your noise, so choose the noise you want.

 

That’s my list. Does anyone have other cool websites to check out? I’d love to read about them, and I’m sure other people would, too! So share them in the comments.

Until next time,

Amy

Pesto Presto!

If your garden is like mine, you have So. Much. Basil. right now. You also have poison ivy, and you have cucumbers and squash growing where your hydrangeas used to be, in a flower bed right in front of the house, but that’s another story.

Anyway, what to do with all the basil?

Make pesto, of course!

Now, I’ve never made pesto, so I thought I would share my first attempt with you through photos. And since it turned out to be DELICIOUS, I hope you’ll give it a try in your own kitchen!

Here’s what my basil looked like before this activity:

 

I know. Bushy and overgrown, much like quarantine hair. I cut quite a bit of the basil and ended up with an armful that looked like this:

 

I washed the basil and snipped off the leaves (just using my fingers, which are now green) to measure two packed cups. I put the basil in the food processor. Then I added 1/3 cup of pine nuts, which I had toasted in the toaster oven for just a few minutes.

 

This is what it looked like:

 

I pulsed the mixture several times, until it looked like this:

 

Next I minced 3 cloves of garlic and added that to the mixture in the food processor, along with 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

 

Then I pulsed the mixture several more times, after scraping down the side of the processor.

 

Then I added 1/2 cup of olive oil in a thin stream while the food processor was running. I let it run for about ten seconds (and yes, I did try to fancy-up the photo).

 

This is what the pesto looked like when I turned off the food processor:

 

Finally, I added a pinch of salt and let the food processor run again for several seconds. Then I put a dollop of pesto on three bread rounds and we tried it. Yum! For those of you who might be wondering, I do not normally garnish our plates like this. I did it purely for your visual enjoyment. In truth, we would normally just scrape the pesto up with the bread and eat it over the sink like uncivilized boars.

 

If you make pesto, be sure to put it in the fridge, covered with plastic (press right down onto the surface of the pesto) so the air doesn’t get to it. In this case, the pesto filled one of my glass jars right to the top, so I didn’t need any plastic wrap.

Here’s a recap:

2 c. basil, well-packed

1/3 c. pine nuts, toasted

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 c. olive oil

dash salt, if desired

Place basil and pine nuts in a food processor. Pulse several times. Add garlic and grated cheese; pulse several times again.  Make sure you’re scraping down the side of the food processor occasionally. Using the food processor’s tube, pour the olive oil into the processor in a thin stream while the machine is running. Season with salt.

Pesto is delicious on bread, but you can also mix it into soups, try it in place of pasta sauce, replace pizza sauce with on your favorite homemade pizza, jazz up a sandwich, or make a compound butter with it.

Next I’m going to try oregano pesto. We’ll see how it goes.

What is your favorite thing to make with garden bounty or summer vegetables and herbs from the farmers’ market/grocery store?

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for July

Photo courtesy of pixabay/alexas_fotos

This post almost didn’t happen because I’ve been having so many problems with my computer, which finally died last Friday. Luckily, my daughter wasn’t using hers this morning (Monday, July 7th), so I borrowed it to write the post.

If you live in a place where it’s anywhere near as hot as in New Jersey (where we’re literally melting in the streets), you’ll appreciate some no-cook/grilling recipes this month. And that’s exactly what I’ve got for you.

Grilled Shrimp

This is a recipe I adapted from Food.Com.

2 lbs. extra large uncooked shrimp (size 21-25), peeled and deveined

2 t. finely minced garlic

1 t. paprika

1 t. Italian seasoning

1 t. basil

1/4 t. black pepper

2 T. olive oil

1 T. lemon juice

1 T. brown sugar

Mix all ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Marinate in refrigerator for 20 minutes. While the shrimp is marinating, preheat grill to high. Grill shrimp until pink and charred, about 2-3 minutes per side. Using a grill basket makes grilling the shrimp much easier!!

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“The Wild Thornberrys'” Watergate Salad

This is from neither “The Wild Thornberrys” nor the Watergate, but it is very similar to the famous salad and that’s what my family calls it.

1 small box pistachio pudding mix

2 8-oz. cans crushed pineapple,  undrained

8-oz. container Cool Whip

8 oz. cottage cheese

1 c. mini marshmallows

In a large bowl, combine pudding mix and pineapple (with juice) until blended. Add Cool Whip, cottage cheese, and mini marshmallows. Stir gently until combined. Spread in a 13 x 9″ baking dish and chill until ready to serve.

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Greek Sandwich

Sandwich:

8 slices sourdough bread

1/4 t. each salt and pepper

8 slices tomato

1 cucumber, peeled and cut into slices the same thickness as the tomato

3 c. spring greens or other greens of your choice

1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly

2 T. pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

Vinaigrette:

2 T. crumbled feta cheese

2 T. lemon juice

1 T. olive oil

1/2 t. sugar

1/2 t. oregano

1 clove garlic, minced

pinch salt

Have all ingredients ready (mise en place–you’ll be glad you did). Toast bread lightly. While the bread toasts, combine the salt and pepper in a small bowl. Prepare vinaigrette by mixing all ingredients with a whisk until well-combined.

As soon as the bread is golden, divide the tomato slices evenly on four pieces of bread. Sprinkle with half the salt and pepper mixture. Place cucumbers on top of the tomatoes; sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Add greens, onion, and olives to the vinaigrette; mix well. Arrange greens mixture over the cucumbers. Top with remaining toast.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. I have absolutely no idea why some of the ingredients are highlighted in this post, but it means nothing. Carry on.