Water for Elephants, By Sara Gruen- A Book Review

My Rating- 4 stars

Water for Elephants is an entertaining and unique love story about the lives of the people in a traveling circus in the 1930's.

The story is centered around a young veterinarian, Jacob, who happened to stumble upon a job with the Benzini Brother's Circus and decided to run away with the circus after the tragic death of his parents. The novel bounces between Jacob as a 93 year old man and his time with the traveling circus.

The author uses real scenarios throughout the book that happened in the traveling circuses of the early 1900's (some of the things they did to draw a crowd are mind blowing!). The entire circus crew traveled together on a train across the U.S., set up the big top, and did there show week after week.

I definitely enjoyed this heartwarming love story. I found myself cheering for Jacob in his every endeavor throughout the book.

Water for Elephants will ultimately remind you that "old people" were once young too and have a story to tell!

There is a movie coming out based on this book and I am excited to see it. I think this book will make a really good movie!


It's Good. I Promise!

How many veggies do you eat in one day? Veggies are just about the healthiest food we can put in our bodies, but I find it hard to chow down on veggies everyday! One of my favorite tricks is to add veggies to my morning smoothie to pump up the nutritional value. My reasoning is, if I'm going to drink a smoothie I might as well get the most out of it that I possibly can and it will get my body off to a good start.

Adding veggies to a fruit smoothie will boost your daily veggie intake (the more veggies you can eat in a day the better!) and you won't even know you are eating them:)

My favorite breakfast smoothie contains the following-
half of a grapefruit
one orange
one banana
a handful (or two) of baby spinach leaves
one carrot stick
a handful of ice cubes

Make sure to put the grape fruit and orange in your blender first so you won't have to add any extra juice, there is plenty in the orange and grapefruit!

You can replace the grapefruit and orange with any fruit you like such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, what ever your heart desires. If you need to add more liquid to a smoothie so that it will blend consider adding milk, orange juice, or even water (it actually works well without tasting bad). You can use any fruit juice but remember the calorie and sugar in fruit juice and make sure you choose wisely!

I find that a banana is good in every smoothie combination to give it a creamy texture but it is your smoothie!

As far as veggies go, it is a good idea to start small if you think it is a weird idea and you will see for yourself that the veggie flavor disappears once blended. After a while you will find yourself adding lots of veggies to your smoothie but, starting out small and testing the waters is better than no veggies at all!

I'll warn you that your smoothie may turn green :) but don't let the color bother you.

I have also added green beans, English peas, kale, snap peas, and avocado to my smoothies, and they work very well too!

If you use a protein powder in your smoothie, adding a handful or two of veggies still works really well!

Try a fruit and veggie smoothie for yourself this week and find out for yourself just how easy it is to incorporate more veggies into your daily diet!


The House at Riverton, By Kate Morton- A Book Review

My Rating- 4 stars
This is the second novel I have read by Kate Morton and it is safe to say she is one of my favorite authors!

The House at Riverton is a mega intriguing page turning mystery! The story is set in England during the early 1900's and is centered around the family that lives in the House at Riverton.

The narrator of the story is one of the maids, Grace, that started working at Riverton when she was 14. As Morton unwinds the story, you learn that Grace knows more about the events that took place at Riverton than anyone ever knew. At age 99, Grace decides it is time to tell a big secret she has kept to herself for decades to her grandson.

What I love about this book is that it paints a picture of what life was like for British society people and the people that served them. The story takes you through WWI and into the 20's and paints a vivid picture of a way of life that is long gone. Like I said, this is a page turner, but I could tell early on that I wouldn't get the answers to the novel's mysteries until the end of the story. It was a satisfying read but I wish the excitement was spread throughout the novel a little better.

Overall, it is a GREAT book and I can't wait to read Kate Morton's third novel, The Distant Hours!


Great Documentary

Did you know that during WWII all of the art in the Louvre (including the Mona Lisa) was packed up and moved out to hide in the French countryside in order to protect it from potential plunder and bombs? Can you imagine the entire museum empty? Well, the French weren't the only ones to take big steps to protect the world's most important art, the Italians and Russians took similar measures. Check out The Rape of Europa this week for a new perspective on WWII and Hitler.


The Snow Maker

Today we made our own snow!! A few days ago on TV we saw a lady in Canada try this in -30 degree weather and it was really cool. You boil water and throw it into the air and the steam turns to snow! We tried it ourselves in 21 degree weather and it worked! Check it out!


A Thousand Splendid Suns, By Khaled Hosseini- A Book Review

My Rating- 5 stars
When I look at the world through my American lens, it is almost impossible to imagine that in this past decade, women and children anywhere in the world are experiencing oppression and abuse as extreme as Khaled Hosseini describes in his novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. It seems impossible that women in this decade could have no voice, but, in Afghanistan this is life.

This powerful novel will open your eyes to the past 40 years of history in Afghanistan by following the story of two unbelievable women. This book helped me understand more about the rise of the Taliban and how people caught up in the transition really feel about it.

This is definitely not a light read but I certainly learned from it and feel compassion for the voiceless in this novel. It is maddening the way women are treated in this society. I'm glad Hosseini has been able to educate us on what Afghanistan and it's people are like through this novel and his other novel, which I also highly recommend, The Kite Runner.

Read this book if you are looking for an educational and convicting read.


Visiting our friend, Warren Buffett

Yesterday my husband and I were in Omaha, Nebraska. While we were there we thought we would swing by Warren Buffett's house to see if we could say hi. I think he would appreciate our ambition but he wasn't home, bummer!
Buffett is the third richest person in the world and lives in a normal neighborhood in the middle of Omaha in a 5 bedroom house that he bought in the 50's. Definitely not a typical house for a billionaire to live in!

Since we do not actually know Warren Buffett and have never met him, I was nervous when my husband wanted to go ring his doorbell! Somehow he convinced me though and now if we ever do meet Warren we can tell him that we tried to visit him at his house:)


Half Broke Horses, By Jeannette Walls- A Book Review

My Rating- 5 stars

I love reading books, especially when I learn something from them. Half Broke Horses is a true-life novel because Jeannette Walls wrote this story about her grandmother's life mainly from her mother's memories so she had to fill in the story a little bit.

Mainly this book takes the reader back to a time in American history when the frontier was still wild (the early 1900's). The main character of this novel, Lily Casey Smith, is a no-nonsense, strong woman who grew up on a Ranch in Arizona. Lily pulled her own weight on her dad's ranch as a kid and her hard-working spirit stuck with her the rest of her life.

At the age of 15, Lily rode her horse a few hundred miles across the Arizona desert by herself to become a teacher in a one room school house. Her journey at age 15 did not include hotel stays either. This woman camped outside with a campfire, her gun, and a family too far away to do anything to help her out if she needed it. What courage! The other stories filling this novel are just as fascinating (and maybe even more so). The stories of Smith's life left me longing for a time when rules and laws were not as defined. I couldn't hop on a horse and ride across any state now for just the cost of food and water, even if I wanted to! I was amazed with all that Smith endured, her spirit, and her strength. It is fascinating to hear a true life story of someone who actually lived and all that they saw, did, and accomplished.

The author of this book also wrote The Glass Castle which I will review at another time. If you liked The Glass Castle you will love this book too!

Half Broke Horses brought a piece of America's history to life for me through the life of a woman that was exceptional. I wonder how many more stories there are of amazing people that never get written down?!


Something to Try This Weekend!

Here is a helpful tip to carry you into your weekend! Have you heard of Greek Yogurt yet? It is getting pretty popular and is very exciting because it is a super healthy food (lots of protein, low calorie, Zero fat)!

Personally, I think plain Greek Yogurt tastes nothing like regular yogurt but instead it tastes exactly like sour cream. (And who among us doesn't love sour cream?)

This weekend use Greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute and you will see for yourself that it tastes exactly the same! I love to put a dollop of Greek Yogurt on a baked potato for lunch and there is lots of great flavor with ZERO guilt.

I have tried a blueberry flavored Greek Yogurt and tried my best to like it but I just don't. However, I was so glad to discover that there is a great use for such a healthy food.

Here are the nutrition facts for Yoplait Plain Greek Yogurt-

Here are the nutrition facts for sour cream-

Soooo, after comparing those two, I say, give yourself an extra dollop of Greek yogurt on whatever you would usually put sour cream on because it will only be good for your body and taste like exactly like sour cream.

Just think of all the possibilities- you can make spinach dip, sour cream and onion dip, sour cream frosting, cheese cake, and who knows what else with Greek Yogurt instead of sour cream and make it waaayyyy more healthy.

Happy weekend!


The Forgotten Garden, By Kate Morton- A Book Review

My Rating- 5 Stars

While reading The Forgotten Garden, I got so into it that I sad when I finished the book. This long novel held mysterious twists and turns on every page! There was not a single lull or boring section in the story. If you are looking for an enchanting mystery, this book is for you.

The book starts in 1913 with a 4-year-old girl mysteriously ending up on a ship from England to Australia by herself. When she arrives in Australia, she seems to have no memory of who she is and is adopted by two loving parents. On her 21st birthday, her father tells her the truth about her origins. To complicate matters more, the father has very limited information for his daughter, making her quest to find out where she came from extremely difficult.

With her new-found knowledge, the girl, Nell, begins to unravel her story with the help of many along the way, discovering secrets that span the generations of her family.

The author unravels the story at a steady pace, luring the reader further into the twisted tale of the Montrachet family. This is a very satisfying novel and all loose ends are tied up in the end, which I really love. There are hints throughout the novel of the end discovery but so many twists and turns in the plot will leave you changing your mind the entire story.


Winter Wonderland!

Yesterday it snowed about 6 inches here in Kansas City! Being from Texas, I am not used to living somewhere with all of this beautiful snow! (We'll see how long the enthusiasm lasts)

Not only am I not used to seeing this much snow, I have NEVER driven in the snow! Today was my day to venture out in my front wheel drive Honda and give it a whirl! I'm glad to say my drive was successful, I did not even spin my tires once! There were several cars that still sped around me despite the snow, I guess they are more experienced snow drivers. I however have no problem driving niiiice and slow in the snow, even if it does bother more experienced drivers:) 

Last night my husband and I wanted to go sledding. We heard that there was an awesome hill behind Lowes so we went to check it out. It was the funniest sight I've seen in a while. Picture a regular Lowes Home Improvement store with a hill next to the parking lot with about 75 people (adults and kids) barreling down this steep hill on every type of sled, laundry basket, some were even snow boarding!

Currently it is 8 degrees outside and tonight's low is expected to reach -6 degrees. Ridiculous!

FYI: There is a pool under that blanket of snow!

Do it Yourself Tortillas

A staple in my family's everyday diet are whole wheat tortillas. I make breakfast burritos and hummus wraps daily, and use them when I make fajitas or quesadillas.

Because I use whole wheat tortillas so much, I decided not to depend on buying them at the grocery store each week. I wanted to find a way to make my own. The way I make them is cheaper, healthier, and I think tastier than the one's I find at the grocery.

Here's the how to-

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup very warm water

Mix your ingredients in a bowl and kneed the dough until you have a big ball of tortilla dough. The dough should not be too dry (add a little more water if the dough is flaking apart).
Let the dough rest about 5 minutes.
Next divide your dough ball into 8 smaller balls.

Get a rolling pin to roll your tortillas out.

Heat a griddle or big pan on low/medium heat.

Cook your flattened dough on the low/medium heat for a few minutes each side.

Now you have delicious, healthy, and cheap tortillas for the week!