Release Day!

Today’s the day! Ghouls’ Night Out is here! Many thanks to everyone who has preordered the book. If you’d like to order the book now, click here! If you haven’t ordered a copy and want to know a little bit more about it, here’s the blurb:

“Halloween is just around the corner and the goblins are out in force in Juniper Junction. A crotchety merchant, a malicious next-door neighbor, and some ghoulish trick-or-treaters are causing hair-raising problems for Lilly Carlsen’s boyfriend, Hassan Ashraf, and things are about to get much worse.

When Hassan finds himself at the center of a police investigation following the deaths of two of his tormentors just days apart, Lilly is ready to help in any way she can to bring the real fiends to justice.

But with Lilly’s daughter having trouble adjusting to college, her mother continuing a downward spiral into dementia, and possible romantic strife on the horizon between Lilly’s brother and her best friend, Lilly’s Halloween is beginning to look especially frightful.”

***

To help celebrate my new release, the first three books in the series are on sale!

The Worst Noel is just 99¢ (click here to order)

 

Dead, White, and Blue is $1.99 (click here to order)

 

Be My Valencrime is $2.99 (click here to order)

 

As always, thank you to everyone for your support. And don’t forget to leave a review after you’ve read a book—the reviews are important for authors!!

Until next time,

Amy

 

A Day in the Life…in GIFs

The life of a writer is one thrilling day after another. I thought I’d share a typical day with you because it’s not fair that I keep all this fun to myself. I don’t think my days are atypical of writers in general, though I can’t speak for J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

***

School starts this week. I don’t know about where you live, but here in my school district the kids are going to school two days a week in person. On those two days, my day will start thusly…

wake up coffee GIF by good-morning

Okay, let’s be honest. Every day starts like that.

 

Then I walk the dog. This is what it looks like. How she has that much energy every morning is baffling.

dog walk GIF

 

Because I don’t go anywhere except to walk the dog and go to the grocery store, I dress like this:

amy poehler yolo GIF

I could dress up, but why? Being comfortable is my superpower.

 

Since March, our clothes dryer has been broken. So most days I do laundry and hang it outside. Come winter, we will have to bite the bullet and buy a new dryer. And while I’m outside, I take a few minutes to pull some weeds.

travel sky GIF

 

My real work starts as soon as I’ve hung the laundry out. It’s about 8:30 a.m. by this time. That’s when I get online, check email, and visit all my social media hangouts, with the exception of Twitter…

Pop Tv GIF by Schitt's Creek

…and my book sales dashboards and sales pages.

Confused Kelsey Grammer GIF by CBS All Access

Sometimes this is good news, sometimes it isn’t.

 

But good news or not, after the real work begins. And this is the best part of the work day, even when the words won’t flow.

excited new girl GIF lisa simpson writing GIF

 

Lunch!

hungry ready to eat GIF

 

After lunch, I tweet. It takes up too much time to do it before lunch and to tell you the truth, I don’t love Twitter. My refusal to do it before lunch is my small way of rebelling.

social media twitter GIF by RealityTVGIFs

 

Then I write again. By now my creative juices are flowing and it’s time for everyone else to leave me alone.

fail seth meyers GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

Are you still with me? It’s been a whirlwind of a day.

 

Then I make dinner. I love to cook.

mary berry cooking GIF by BBC

Note: the kids don’t always love what I make, so they suggest alternatives. This is usually my response:

Bounce No GIF

 

Later, when the dinner dishes are done (because the dishwasher is also dead), I go for another walk because I’m trying to lose weight.

tired fox tv GIF by Kicking & Screaming

 

Finally, it’s time to relax and read a good book.

book read GIF

 

Bedtime!

chris farley mornings GIF

When do I clean, do you ask?

Simple: it gets done when it gets done.

sweeping mrs. doubtfire GIF by Hollywood Suite

Credits: tumblr.brockurealities.com; fox.com/kicking-and-screaming; hgtv.com

First Tuesday Recipes for September

Soup, Vegetables, Pot, Cooking, Food

It’s September 1st! You know what that means: we’re one step closer to lower humidity, cooler temperatures, and less weather-induced fury on my part. Today I’m sharing three fall-ish recipes that I hope you’ll try. Let me know what you think. And if you’ve got a recipe you’d like to share, email me at amymreadeauthor[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll be happy to post it!

Before I continue, I’m going to engage in some shameless self-promotion for just a moment. Today I’m being interviewed by Dr. Summer Watson, author, podcaster, filmmaker, coach, and speaker, on her KORE Women podcast. Just click the link and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to have a listen: www.KOREWomen.com/podcast‬

And now for the recipes!

***

Fall Apple Sandwich

2 slices cinnamon raisin bread (you can substitute any bread, but the cinnamon raisin really elevates this sandwich)

2 oz. deli ham or turkey (I prefer the ham)

1 oz. cheddar cheese, sliced thin or shredded

1 apple, peeled, cored, and thinly-sliced

butter

 

Preheat griddle or skillet over medium heat. Layer ham, cheese, and apple slices on one piece of bread. Place the other piece of bread on top. Butter the top of the sandwich. Place sandwich, butter side down, on the griddle and butter the bottom slice. Cook until cheese is starting to melt and bread is golden. Flip sandwich and cook until cheese is completely melted. This is delicious with a dollop of your favorite mustard on the side.

 

***

Chicken and Apple Salad

Dressing:

1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. Dijon mustard

4 T. honey

2 T. lemon juice

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

 

Salad:

1/4 t. pepper

1/8 t. salt

3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast

cooking spray

8 c. salad greens

3/4 c. chopped red pepper

1/2 c. celery, thinly sliced

1/2 c. red onion, sliced and separated into rings

1 1/2 c. Red Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

1/2 c. shredded smoked Gouda cheese

1/4 c. sliced almonds, toasted

 

Make dressing: combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; whisk to blend. Set aside.

Preheat broiler and coat broiler pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle salt and pepper on chicken. Broil chicken for about 5 min. per side or until juices run clear. Slice chicken into 1/4″ pieces. Combine chicken, salad greens, red pepper, celery, and onion in a large bowl; toss gently. Whisk dressing again and drizzle over salad. Sprinkle with cheese and almonds.

***

Ham and Bean Soup

16 oz. navy beans

ham bone (I wrap mine in cheesecloth so the yucky bits don’t get into the soup)

3 c. diced ham

1/2 t. basil

1 sm. onion, chopped

1/4 t. pepper

2 med. celery stalks, sliced

1 med. carrot, chopped

 

Soak beans in 2 qts. water overnight. Drain water from beans and add another 2 qts. water. Combine beans with all other ingredients except celery and carrots. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 hours, covered, stirring occasionally. Stir in celery and carrots. Simmer for 30-60 minutes. Remove and discard ham bone before serving.

 

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Author Updates – New Releases, Offers, Reviews – #Mystery Amy M. Reade, #Romance Linda Bradley, #Thriller Iain Kelly

What a treat to find a spotlight on Ghouls’ Night Out and Cape Menace this week on Sally Cronin’s blog. You can check it out, along with some great-sounding books from two accomplished authors, on Sally’s blog. Thanks again, Sally!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the new look Author Updates where I share new releases, offers and recent reviews for authors on the shelves. If you are a new author and would like to be included in the cafe please check out the links in this post: Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore FREE author promotion.

The first author with news is USA Today Bestselling author Amy M. Reade with a new release in time for Halloween.  Ghouls Night Out (The Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery Series Book 4) on Pre-order for September 15th.

About the book

Halloween is just around the corner and the goblins are out in force in Juniper Junction. A crotchety merchant, a malicious next-door neighbor, and some ghoulish trick-or-treaters are causing hair-raising problems for Lilly Carlsen’s boyfriend, Hassan Ashraf, and things are about to get much worse.

When Hassan finds himself at the center of a police investigation following the…

View original post 839 more words

Reading Round-Up: August Edition

For the entire month of August, I’ve been thinking that the last Tuesday was actually next week. Imagine my shock when I learned it’s today. Luckily, over the past month I’ve been working on this post each time I finish a book, rather than waiting until the day before the last Tuesday and then writing the whole thing.

Anyway, August was a good month for reading! I’ve finished seven books since my last Reading Round-Up, and it’s an even more eclectic bunch than last month. Let’s get started!

 

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. I read this for my book club, and if it hadn’t been assigned, I might not have chosen to read it. I think World War II stories are important, but I have to read them really far apart from each other or I just find them too overwhelming.

Let me start by saying this book is very closely based on a true story, which I find absolutely incredible. I highly recommend it, but only before and after you’ve read something very light-hearted. If you’re looking for a happy book, this isn’t the one for you. It takes a lot to get me to cry while I’m reading, and this reduced me to a puddle. Read my review here.

***

Dead Man’s Prayer: A gripping detective thriller with a killer twist (DI Frank Farrell, Book 1) by [Jackie Baldwin]

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin. I first heard about this book, the first in the DI Frank Farrell series, on Twitter when I started following author Jackie Baldwin. I was intrigued at first because I love books set in Scotland, but once I started reading the intrigue factor jumped into the stratosphere and I couldn’t turn pages fast enough. Are you looking for a thriller that will leave you breathless? You’ve come to the right place. Read my review here.

***

Out of the Woods by Patricia Gligor. This is the third book in the Small Town Mystery Series. In this book, Kate Morgan confronts the man who left her, a pregnant teenager, eleven years ago. For the sake of their daughter, she tries to make the best of the situation, but his return causes some problems, not the least of which is the reaction of her fiance. And when questions arise about the man’s possible involvement in a number of horrifying home invasions, what will she tell her daughter?

This is a great book and although it’s classified as a mystery, it crosses genres into women’s fiction, family drama, and suspense. It’s got it all. Read my review here.

***

Sea Wife: A novel by [Amity Gaige]

I really looked forward to reading Sea Wife by Amity Gaige. Billed as psychological suspense, it’s the story of a family (husband, wife, two young children) who leave their lives behind for a year and sail around the Caribbean. Unfortunately, it’s all psychological and no suspense. The main character, Juliet, suffers from depression and, it would appear, anxiety, and the story ends up being a morose tale of a marriage that has gone stale and the disturbing thoughts of a woman who doesn’t think she was ever meant to be a mother. I gave the book 3 stars and you can read my review hereAs I noted last month when I shared a book I didn’t really like, don’t let my review put you off from reading the book. There are plenty of glowing reviews for this work of literary fiction.

***

The Orchardist: A Novel by [Amanda Coplin]

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin was a book club pick. I’m glad I read it, but I didn’t like it. It was depressing, entirely bereft of any semblance of happiness for any of the characters, and looooong. As in, almost 600 pages. The book spans many years, and I often felt like I was reading it in real time. On the other hand, in taking a look at the many reviews this book has garnered, I am clearly in the minority. There are lots of people who think this book is beautiful, moving, and melancholy in a good way. It’s just not my cup of tea. I think it’s because I like my reads to have at least a little bit of action and some character growth, and I saw almost none of that in this book. If you like a character-driven story, this might be for you. Read my full review here.

***

Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a work of art. I listened to this memoir on CD, and hearing the book read by the author was a great experience. This is the first time I’ve heard a book (at least, not a children’s book) read by the author and though I have my doubts about fiction writers voicing their own work, for a memoir it was a wise choise. Read my review here.

***

The Jane Austen Society: A Novel by [Natalie Jenner]

This book has been on my radar for a while, and I was eager to read it. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner doesn’t disappoint. Read my review here.

What have you read this month? I hope you’ll share your reads in the comments.

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

And the Winner Is…

Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s poll to choose the next read for my book club. The book I hoped would win (These is My Words by Nancy Turner–I have read another of her books and loved it) didn’t win, but I am pretty sure I’ll be reading all the books on the list eventually. And, of course, I’ll review each one and keep you posted on the last Tuesday of each month.

The winner is Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland. The story actually takes place in Atlantic City, which is about ten miles from my house as the crow flies. When I go for a walk in the evenings I can see the casinos lit up on the horizon.

Now on to my main topic for today. As many of you know, I am currently working on the second book in my Libraries of the World Mystery series, which uses special library collections from around the world to commit or solve crimes. In the first book in the series, Trudy’s Diary, the main character (Daisy) helps solve a crime in the present day by using the dime novel collection in the Library of Congress to solve a related mystery that took place in the 1800s.

In the second book, Dutch Treat, Daisy is working as an associate professor at a college in New York City while she’s on sabbatical from her job at Global Human Rights Journal in Washington, D.C. When one of her colleagues is murdered, Daisy is drawn into the search for the killer and discovers some fascinating information about her own family’s background in New Amsterdam, long before the city became known as New York.

New York Public Library, Library, Books, Manhattan

In my research for the book, I’ve done a lot of reading about the New York City Public Library. Today I’m going to share my top ten favorite facts about the library.

  1. When the New York City Public Library opened in 1911, it was the world’s largest marble building. Its exterior walls are 12 inches thick and builders used 530,000 cubic feet of marble to construct the magnificent edifice.
  2. The two lions guarding the front entrance to the library on the corner of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, Patience and Fortitude, are both males. Their original names are Lord Lennox and Lady Astor.
  3. And speaking of the lions, Teddy Roosevelt was not happy with the choice of mammal to grace the library’s entrance. His vote? Buffaloes. He wanted animals that would symbolize the American West.
  4. In 1987, the original Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and Kanga became permanent residents of the library.
  5. In the early years after the library opened, it took 20 tons of coal per day to heat the building.
  6. In one of the library’s collections, you will find Charles Dickens’ favorite letter opener. The tool consits of an ivory shaft topped with the embalmed paw of Dickens’ favorite cat, Bob.
  7. Lions aren’t the only animals featured in the library’s architecture. There are also dolphins, catfish, oxen, turtles, snakes, birds, rams, bees, dogs, eagles, swans, and roosters.
  8. In 1911 all the employees of the library were given rubber-soled shoes to wear at work because the marble floors were so hard on feet!
  9. If you’ve ever wondered where you might find a lock of Charlotte Brontë’s hair, you’ve come to the right place (likewise the hair of Wild Bill Hickok, Walt Whitman, and Mary Shelley).
  10. The New York City Public Library has the fourth largest collection of volumes in the United States. The library with the largest holdings is the Library of Congress, followed in order by the Boston Public Library and the Harvard Library.

Which is your favorite fun fact? Have you ever visited the New York City Public Library?

Until next time,

Amy

Help Me Choose a Book Club Read

I’m hosting book club again in September! You know what that means: you all get to decide what book we read. There are five books listed below, and down at the bottom, a poll where you can cast your vote for the next book club read. As I did last time, I’ve provided the cover and the Amazon blurb for each book, so read through them and let me know which title you choose. I’ll announce the winner next Tuesday.

And thanks for your help!

***

Florence Adler Swims Forever: A Novel by [Rachel Beanland]

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland. Here’s what Amazon says about it:

Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to “America’s Playground” and move into the small apartment above their bakery. Despite the cramped quarters, this is the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence, and it always feels like home.

Now Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bedrest for the duration of her pregnancy. After Joseph insists they take in a mysterious young woman whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams.

Esther only wants to keep her daughters close and safe but some matters are beyond her control: there’s Fannie’s risky pregnancy—not to mention her always-scheming husband, Isaac—and the fact that the handsome heir of a hotel notorious for its anti-Semitic policies, seems to be in love with Florence.

When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth—at least until Fannie’s baby is born—and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies, bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal.

Based on a true story and told in the vein of J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions and Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl, Beanland’s family saga is a breathtaking portrait of just how far we will go to in order to protect our loved ones and an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after tragedy.

 

***

Mexican Gothic by [Silvia Moreno-Garcia]

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Here’s the blurb:

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

 

***

The Last Train to Key West by [Chanel Cleeton]

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton. Here’s what Amazon says about it:

For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

After the Cuban Revolution of 1933 leaves Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position, she agrees to an arranged marriage with a notorious American. Following her wedding in HavanaMirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to her new husband, his illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.

Elizabeth Preston’s trip to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles after the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.

 

***

The Glass Woman: A Novel by [Caroline Lea]

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea. Here’s the blurb:

Rósa has always dreamed of living a simple life alongside her Mamma in their remote village in Iceland, where she prays to the Christian God aloud during the day, whispering enchantments to the old gods alone at night. But after her father dies abruptly and her Mamma becomes ill, Rósa marries herself off to a visiting trader in exchange for a dowry, despite rumors of mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death.

Rósa follows her new husband, Jón, across the treacherous countryside to his remote home near the sea. There Jón works the field during the day, expecting Rósa to maintain their house in his absence with the deference of a good Christian wife. What Rósa did not anticipate was the fierce loneliness she would feel in her new home, where Jón forbids her from interacting with the locals in the nearby settlement and barely speaks to her himself.

Seclusion from the outside world isn’t the only troubling aspect of her new life—Rósa is also forbidden from going into Jón’s attic. When Rósa begins to hear strange noises from upstairs, she turns to the local woman in an attempt to find solace. But the villager’s words are even more troubling—confirming many of the rumors about Jón’s first wife, Anna, including that he buried her body alone in the middle of the night.

Rósa’s isolation begins to play tricks on her mind: What—or who—is in the attic? What happened to Anna? Was she mad, a witch, or just a victim of Jón’s ruthless nature? And when Jón is brutally maimed in an accident a series of events are set in motion that will force Rósa to choose between obedience and defiance—with her own survival and the safety of the ones she loves hanging in the balance.

 

***

These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901

These is My Words by Nancy Turner. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

A moving, exciting, and heartfelt American saga inspired by the author’s own family memoirs, these words belong to Sarah Prine, a woman of spirit and fire who forges a full and remarkable existence in a harsh, unfamiliar frontier. Scrupulously recording her steps down the path Providence has set her upon—from child to determined young adult to loving mother—she shares the turbulent events, both joyous and tragic, that molded her, and recalls the enduring love with cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot that gave her strength and purpose.

Rich in authentic everyday details and alive with truly unforgettable characters, These Is My Words brilliantly brings a vanished world to breathtaking life again.

***

Now you choose!

 

Until next time,

Amy

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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