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

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!!

***

“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.

***

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.

 

 

Reading Round-Up: June Edition

It’s been two months since my last Reading Round-Up because I’ve been reading very slowly lately. But I have some great books to share this week and I think I’m back on track for another Round-Up on the last Tuesday in July.

***

Man of the Year

The first book I read was Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker. This was a book of psychological suspense that I enjoyed but thought could have been shorter (it’s about 500 pages). Read my review here.

***

The Penitent Priest by J. R. Mathis

The Penitent Priest by J.R. Mathis is the first book in a new series, and I found it very enjoyable. Quick synopsis: a man who joined the priesthood in middle age is sent back to pastor the parish where his wife was murdered. If you like the Father Brown mysteries, you’ll like this book. Read my review here.

***

Let it All Burn by Denise Grover Swank

My book club read Let It All Burn by Denise Grover Swank in May. This was a paranormal book with a heavy dose of mythology, and I enjoyed it. I hadn’t expected to, since paranormal is usually not my thing, but I was wrong and happily so. Check out my review here.

***

Murder Aboard the Flying Scotsman by Lee Strauss

Next up was Murder Aboard the Flying Scotsman by Lee Strauss. Though this is the 8th book in the Ginger Gold Mysteries, it was my first and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes cozies set in the 1920s. This one is set aboard a train, making it appear to be a locked room mystery, but it branches out to other venues and we get to see a bit of England in the process. You can read my review here.

***

Emerald's Secret by Iris Chacon

I read Emerald’s Secret by Iris Chacon in under two hours. It’s a short, delightful novel that is typical of Iris’ fun style, quirky characters, and fast-moving plots. In this book, four police officers go undercover to bust a gambling ring, and each of the four is assigned an undercover identity that is nothing like his or her real personality. A great book that I think you’ll enjoy. Read my full review here.

***

The Gallery of Ghosts by Victoria Benchley

The Gallery of Ghosts by Victoria Benchley is the second book in her Marsden Murder Club series. The Marsden Murder Club is a group of people who come together to solve cold case murders. Each member of the club has a specific and unique talent which is the reason he or she has been invited to join. The main character, Charlotte, has an uncanny ability to read people—to discern their pasts and uncover their secrets. This book takes place along the Hudson River and flirts with a hint of mysticism when Charlotte can sense the ancient drumbeats of the original dwellers along the river. This was a great read and you can take a look at my review here.

***

The final book this month was Rail Head by Stephen Honig. This is a book of poems all about trains—commuting, traveling, collecting, etc. I don’t read much poetry, but this is the second book I’ve read by Stephen Honig and I find his poetry insightful and interesting. I love the author’s note at the end explaining why he wrote the book. I would recommend it to lovers of unique poetry.

What have you read lately? Please share in the comments.

Until next time,

Amy

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday in June, and time for some good news to take you into July (JULY?!?!) with a smile. The post I’ve chosen to share this month (with thanks to Carol Thompson, who shared it with me first) is especially good news for the children in the state where I live, New Jersey.

Governor Phil Murphy’s wife announced this month that New Jersey will be the first state in the US to incorporate climate change education in public schools for kids in Kindergarten through 12th grade.

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 Sylvia McGrath, Susan Scott, Shilpa Garg, Damyanti Biswas, and Belinda Witzenhausen. 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!

The Top 5 Places this Book Nerd Would Love to Visit

Photo courtesy of Dariusz Sankowski, pixabay

I wrote this post for another site (Book Cave) that published it last week, but I’m going to share it here, too, because I’m hoping that you’ll all chime in with your favorite bookish destinations.

***

A lot of people don’t like the phrase “bucket list,” but most of us have them. I like to think of mine as a Lifelong To-Do List. My list includes things like learning Greek, visiting Turkey, and taking a cooking class in Italy.

My list is a mile long and includes lots of other things, too, but because I’m a card-carrying Book Nerd (and I suspect some of you are, too), there’s a special subset of my list that I want to share with you today: Bookish Things. This subset doesn’t consist merely of travel to famous bookish places, but also includes things like relearning stories from Greek and Roman mythology (have you noticed a Mediterranean bent to my lists?), writing a piece for a national newspaper, and finishing every single book on my Kindle.

But the Bookish Things I want to share with you today are all travel-related, since in this time of pandemic, most of us can only dream about traveling. And what better way to daydream than to imagine myself in the most fascinating bookish places in the world?

With that, I present you with the top five places on my Book Nerd bucket list.

 

Hay-on-Wye

This village in Wales, population about 1500, sits on the border with England and is home to over twenty bookshops devoted to all manner of literary niches. And traditional bookshops aren’t the only attractions: there are also a number of honesty bookshops, which are simply shelves and shelves of outdoor “shops” with a cash box nearby. Readers are asked to put their money in the cash box before walking off with a book. There are even honesty bookshelves lining the wall of one of the castles in town. Yes, there’s more than one castle in Hay-on-Wye.

There’s something about browsing shelves of real books for hours on end that I find really appealing, especially at a time when so many brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing. And there’s even a store called Murder & Mayhem, which is devoted to the kinds of books I love best. I can see myself spending way too much time (and money) in there.

Hay-on-Wye is also renowned for its annual literary festival (cancelled this year), which takes place for almost two weeks in May and June and which Bill Clinton has referred to as “Woodstock for the mind.” I hear that the town’s population skyrockets to about 500,000 during the festival.

If you want to know more about Hay-on-Wye, I suggest these two websites: https://www.solosophie.com/hay-on-wye-book-town-wales-guide/ and http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk/.

 

Jane Austen’s House

This museum is located in Chawton, Hampshire, England. It’s the place where Jane Austen spent most of the last eight years of her life and the place where she penned Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, among others.

The collection at Jane Austen’s House includes the legendary author’s writing desk, some furniture, personal letters, and her jewelry, among many other things. Visitors can wander through her house and garden, which I think would be enchanting.

Want to add this place to your list of Bookish Things to Do? Visit https://janeaustens.house/explore/the-museum/ to find out more.

 

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

This museum, located in Key West, Florida, USA, is the place Ernest Hemingway called home for ten years. He lived in the home during one of the most prolific periods of his writing life.

The museum is also home to many descendants of the cats who lived in the home during Hemingway’s time there.

If you think this is a place you’d like to visit, click on the link to see the website. https://www.hemingwayhome.com/.

 

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Road Trip

As a devotee of Laura Ingalls Wilder from childhood, I would love to tour the places where she lived and which served as inspiration for her Little House on the Prairie series. From Silver Creek to Walnut Grove and well beyond, visitors can see where she lived (in some places, only replicas are available, but that’s okay with me) and played and farmed and taught.

Here are a couple websites you might find interesting: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/08/12/bcst-thread-books-laura-ingalls-wilder-road-trip, https://midwestweekends.com/plan_a_trip/history_heritage/ingalls_wilder/laura_ingalls_wilder_sites.html, and http://littlehouseontheprairie.com/historic-locations-and-museum-sites/.

 

The Mark Twain House and Museum

Located in Hartford, Connecticut, USA, this is the place where Mark Twain lived with his family from 1874 to 1891, when financial woes forced them to move to Europe. The house is a breathtaking example of American Gothic architecture, and it would be fun to tour for that reason alone. But to walk where Twain walked, to peek into the rooms where he laughed and wrote, would be a special treat.

If you’re a writer, the Mark Twain House and Museum also has classes, workshops, and a Writers Weekend. How cool would that be?!

To learn more about the house and museum, head to the website at https://marktwainhouse.org/. And you can even take a virtual tour by visiting this page: https://marktwainhouse.org/about/the-house/virtual-tour/.

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your Lifelong To-Do List of Bookish Things? Have you visited any of the places on my list? I’d love to hear about it!

Until next time,

Amy

Book Review – Cape Menace

I want to thank Lynne Fellows for a beautifully-written and thoughtful review of Cape Menace. Since I didn’t write a blog post for this week, I think this will do nicely!

Just 4 My Books

Cape Menace

by Amy M. Reade

The blurb:

The year is 1714. Two years have passed since Ruth Hanover vanished into the wilderness of the New Jersey colony without a trace, leaving behind her husband, William, and their daughter, Sarah. Though William and Sarah have never stopped hoping that Ruth will return, as time goes by it becomes less and less likely they will ever see her again.

Now William is acting strangely. He won’t tell Sarah why he’s conducting business with a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, he won’t explain the sudden increase in his income, and he won’t share with her what people in town are
saying about her mother’s disappearance.

When the time comes for Sarah to face her father’s secrets and figure out why her mother never came home that December day in 1712, what she learns will shock her tiny community on…

View original post 564 more words

First Tuesday Recipes for June

photo courtesy of Jill Wellington, pixabay

I know it seems like 2020 has lasted for years, but we’re actually only five full months in. Don’t ask me how that happened. I hope you’re all staying safe and being careful.

This month I’m sharing three recipes that are easy to make and generally well-received by everyone (i.e., picky eaters). If you have a recipe (or more than one) that you’d like to share, email me at amymreadeauthor[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll be happy to include your contribution!

***

Macaroni and Cheese

This one comes courtesy of my father

12 oz. elbow macaroni

6 T. butter

6 T. flour

3 c. milk

12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

salt and pepper

breadcrumbs

Cook macaroni al dente according to package directions; drain well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat (I use the same pan I used to make the macaroni). Add flour and whisk for a full minute. Add milk and continue to whisk sauce until slightly thickened. Add cheese and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add cooked macaroni and stir until well coated. Pour macaroni and cheese into a greased casserole dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs to your liking (my family prefers seasoned breadcrumbs). Bake for about 35 minutes or until nice and bubbly.

***

Pizza Stromboli

1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed

2 eggs, separated

1 T. grated Parmesan cheese

1 T. olive oil

1 t. dried parsley

1 t. dried oregano

1/2 t. garlic powder

1/8 t. pepper

8 oz. pepperoni slices

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

4 oz. mushrooms, sliced, either cooked or canned

a handful of sliced pepperoncini

1 sm. red or green pepper, diced

other fillings of your choice

1 can pizza sauce, warmed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a greased baking sheet, roll out bread dough into a 15 x 10″ rectangle.

In a small bowl, combine 2 egg yolks, Parmesan cheese, oil, parsley, oregano, garlic powder, and pepper. Brush over dough, using all of mixture.

Layer pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and other filling ingredients (everything but the pizza sauce) on dough. Roll up from one of the long sides. Pinch seam and tuck ends under loaf.

Beat egg whites with a fork. Brush egg whites onto loaf.

Bake immediately for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce.

***

Frozen Creamy Fruit Pops

1 1/4 c. frozen raspberries

1 1/4 c. frozen strawberries

1/4 c. honey

1 T. lemon juice

dash salt

7 oz. plain Greek yogurt

2 T. buttermilk

Place first 5 ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine yogurt and buttermilk; stir until well-combined. Pour fruit mixture into yogurt mixture and stir gently until mixed. Divide mixture among 10 2-oz. pop molds. Top with the pop mold bases or make your own: put a foil lid on each pop and insert craft stick into yogurt mixture until it’s poking out about 1 1/2 in. Freeze completely.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. I almost forgot! Cape Menace: A Cape May Historical Mystery is out! Thanks to everyone who preordered and if you didn’t, you can get your copy here: https://books2read.com/u/mv5ao6. You can order a paperback from Amazon, too!

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday in May, and time for some good news to take you into June with a smile. The post I’ve chosen to share this month is about a planned solar project in Nevada that has been approved by the US Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management. The project will result in the largest solar facility in the United States and the 8th largest in the world.

And the best part? The renewable energy generated from the facility will offset the annual greenhouse emissions from 83,000 cars. There will also be long-term monitoring of the project to reduce the possible negative environmental impacts caused by the facility.

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, Dan AntionDamyanti Biswas, and Inderpreet Kaur Uppal. 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!

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – Pre-order for June 2nd – Cape Menace: A Cape May #Historical Mystery by Amy M. Reade

With thanks to Sally Cronin for sharing the news of my new release…

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to share the news of the release of  Cape Menace: A Cape May Historical Mystery (Cape May Historical Mystery Collection Book 1)by USA Today Bestselling author Amy M. Reade on pre-order for June 2nd.

About the book

The year is 1714. Two years have passed since Ruth Hanover vanished into the wilderness of the New Jersey colony without a trace, leaving behind her husband, William, and their daughter, Sarah. Though William and Sarah have never stopped hoping that Ruth will return, as time goes by it becomes less and less likely they will ever see her again.

Now William is acting strangely. He won’t tell Sarah why he’s conducting business with a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, he won’t explain the sudden increase in his income, and he won’t share with her what people in town are
saying about her mother’s disappearance.

When the time…

View original post 480 more words