2021 A Year in Review

It’s been a long year, hasn’t it?

It’s been a long year, hasn’t it? Who would have ever thought that the pandemic would be still dragging on at this point? It’s been almost 2 full years of the pandemic and it has impacted every aspect of our lives. We started out the year with vaccinations being approved which made us all hope for a swift end to things. Alas! So many people have still not gotten vaccinated, which has enabled the virus to mutate and surge in waves. With the holidays currently running, another surge is expected as people travel home for the holidays.

So how has all this impacted you? For myself, I find that despite not being able to get out as much, I don’t have the time I’d like to have for myself. When I checked my blog stats, I posted a whopping 283 posts! That’s almost 1 post per day! But along the way, I discovered some things about the posts. I needed to put more of myself in them.

My husband’s take on all this was that I was overwhelming myself trying to do a post a day. So let me see about changing that. Now there will still be Lifestyle posts, in fact, I will have a guest post next week. I also want to start including some Blog Tour Posts on new books.

The main focus of the blog will still be on book reviews, but if I’m honest with myself, that doesn’t mean that I have to write all the reviews. I may flirt with reposting reviews from other blogs.

My year in books

I took a look at my GoodReads stats and was really surprised.

  • 424 books read
  • 70,867 pages read
  • Shortest book – 22 pages
  • Longest book – 1209 pages (Lord of the Rings)
  • Average length – 167 pages
  • Most popular book shelved – Lord of the Rings (414 people)
  • Average Rating – 4.23
  • Highest Rated on Good Reads – 4.95 (Submission by Delta James)
  • First Review of the Year – His Human Claim by Stella Rising
  • Last Review of the Year – Alien Conqueror by Sara Fields

I have to laugh at myself. These stats would have been very different if I had remembered to mark all the ones that I was REREADING again!

Last Thoughts

It’s been a long year for my house. My husband’s decreasing mobility has meant that I spend a lot more time caregiving than I do other things. Thanks to a visit from a friend from Ohio, I’ve started taking time for myself away from the house. Right now, I’m attending Country Church with a newly widowed friend on Saturday nights. When I can, I take a walk.

If you’ve found yourself serving as a caregiver for a loved one, remember to take time for yourself as well. It will make a world of difference for you.

Till next year!

Sandy, the Reluctant Retiree!

Good Bye Little One

This is hard to write for me. I’m still trying to process what happened. Our very beloved Shitz Tzu, Coco, passed away on Christmas Eve. Her death left my husband and myself reeling a bit.

On both December 22 and 23, she had a case of the runs. We couldn’t figure out what was causing it. On the 22nd she ate her supper and seemed in good spirits. Unfortunately on the 23rd, it was another repeat of the very liquid, stinky poo but this night she threw up a little. Not knowing what else to do, we cuddled her all she would let us.

The morning of the 24th, Coco seemed to be back to her same old self. She never went poo that day, but I wasn’t too worried since she hadn’t eaten supper the night before. She climbed up on the chair with my husband and we thought everything was okay.

At some point that evening, I remember catching sight of her behind his chair. I didn’t think anything of it since she would frequently sleep back there. Then came bedtime.

As we went back to the bedroom, I didn’t hear her nails clicking on the floor as she came back. So I started looking for her. She wasn’t under the bed, in her bed in the living room or on the shelf. I glanced behind my husband’s chair at the blanket and she wasn’t there either. I double-checked to make sure she hadn’t followed me outside to turn off lights. Nothing.

Coming back into the living room, I started checking all the smaller spaces she could have gotten into. Then I caught sight of her tail coming out from under his chair. Now our chairs are power lift chairs so there is some room there. I hit the button to lift the chair higher, thinking she’d gotten stuck.

My worst fears were realized as I grabbed her out from under the recliner. She was absolutely limp. I yelled for my husband who came out to check her out. She was gone. Take great care, we laid her to rest in something that we could use to transport her to Pet Passages, which is where we took Odie when he died.

My husband says no more pets. At the moment I have to agree with him. I don’t know why Coco died, but she will live on in my heart.

Downsizing Lasagna

We all have a favorite recipe we love to use for lasagna. I have to admit that the first recipe I tried came from a book included with a microwave. It made good lasagna so I kept it. Only problem was that it made a 9 x 13 pan of lasagna.

Now if you have a larger family, or they are big eaters, this size isn’t a problem. This size is also great for taking to potluck dinners. If you don’t eat all of it, there is usually enough to store for later consumption. Win – win, right?

Or is it? At this point in life, it’s just me and my husband. The kids are grown and married. Trying to make a 9 x 13 pan of anything just results in too much food. Most people can only stand leftovers so long before they grow tired of them. So how can you cut things down?

Change the Pasta

Rather than using the typical lasagna noodles, swap to an oven ready version. These are much easier to use and fit in smaller pans. A single piece fits in a loaf pan, while 2 can fit side by side in an 8 x 8 pan. As a plus, you don’t have to spend all that time boiling the lasagna noodles before you assemble your meal!

Change the Pan

As I mentioned, switch to smaller pans. A loaf pan will make 2 generous servings, while the 8 x 8 pan will make 4 servings. Since your original recipe make a much larger pan, you will in all likely-hood be able to make multiple pans.

Assemble your lasagna in your normal manner. The only change I would recommend is to leave off any toppings that you may add to the pans that are destined for the freezer. Put a lid on the pan if you have one, or wrap it tightly in freezer paper.

When you start to pull out that frozen lasagna to make for the night, defrost it first overnight in the refrigerator. Then increase the baking time to 1 hr. If you just made it ahead and the pan has been in the refrigerator, no defrosting is needed. But you will still need to bake it longer.

And there you have it!

Your favorite lasagna recipe, now sized to fit your family as it exists today. It wasn’t all that hard, and only needed to change a few things.

Enjoy!

November Wrap Up

Since I wasn’t doing as many posts in a month, I decided to temporarily suspend the weekly Sunday Post. But I still wanted to wrap up the month, so here’s a listing of the posts and books from the month of November.

Book Reviews:

Silent Predator by Delta James.

Touch of Light by Delta James.

Touch of Fire by Delta James.

Claimed by the Cyborgs by Grace Goodwin

Lifestyle Posts

Fixing the Bike Trail

Remembering the Casserole!

Rethinking Audiobooks

So that was my month. How was yours? I’ve made it through Thanksgiving surrounded by friends. We’ve all made sure to get our vaccinations, boosters, and flu shots. If you are choosing to not be vaccinated, at least do everything you can to protect others. Whether that is by wearing a mask, getting a test the day before, or something else, think of your family and loved ones before yourself.

See you in December!

Remembering the Casserole!

It’s that time of the year again. In the next few months we have several holidays to celebrate. Holiday celebrations generally also include cooking for friends and family. All that cooking can be a bit overwhelming if you like me, cook all the meals anyway. Some nights I just don’t want to cook anything!

That’s when having a casserole or two in the freezer comes in handy. Having been raised in PA just outside of what generally gets called “Amish” country, I know several one pot meals that I can use. Sometimes you just want more. So, I make casseroles and freeze them. I don’t mean Tuna Noodle casserole either!

Why make your own casserole?

Yep, there are lots of made casseroles available in the freezer section of your local grocery store. Take a second though, and look at the nutritional information on that package. I looked through the offerings at Walmart and just randomly checked a package. While the calories were acceptable, the sodium was not. The recommended amount for an adult is around 2500 mg per day. This random package, which serves 1 person, had 1250. That’s half of the RDA! If you make it yourself, you can cut that number down.

The second reason for making your own casserole is leftovers. It’s the perfect solution to the problem of what to do with the leftovers. Just chop them up into bite size pieces and make a casserole! For that, you don’t need a recipe. What you need is a basic formula.

Basic Formula

Okay, I found this article on Allrecipes on making a casserole. As you can read, it can be really easy to make one without a specific recipe. So let’s go through the steps together.

  1. 3 – 4 cups of protein. Recently I made some boneless pork chops that turned out to be bigger than my husband and I could eat. I plan to cut it up and measure the amount. If I don’t have enough , I’ll add something else to bring it up to the amount needed.
  2. 2 cups of Carbs. Did you make too much pasta, potatoes or rice? Perfect! Measure them up and throw them in. If needed, mix the carbs together.
  3. 1 cup of aromatics. I tend to keep some of these chopped in the fridge. Think onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, etc.
  4. 1 – 2 cups of vegetables. I tend to use frozen vegetables because it’s easier for me. You can also use canned vegetables or even fresh if you want.
  5. 1-2 cups of binder. I’ve started keeping cans of cream of “whatever” soup in my cupboard just for this reason. I usually mix a can with 1/2 can of milk for this.

This makes a 9 x 13 pan. If you making it to bake later, try using a tinfoil pan. That way you can save on clean-up later by just throwing it away. I have a small family so I divide it between several smaller pans. I either use 8 x 8 pans or loaf pans. Both are readily available, think Dollar Tree for these! Make sure that you have lids for them.

Baking the Casserole

I tend to use a cookie sheet under the pan to make it easier to get in and out of the oven.

Fixing the Bike Trail

Back on September 14, a “Road Closed” sign showed up at the trail crossing by my house. Looking down the trail, I saw a group of pylons blocking off part of bridge. Being the good nosey neighbor that I am, I walked down to see what was going on. Here’s what I saw….

A chunk of the trail had fallen through. Why?
It seems that the rocks and whatever that was surrounding the drain pipe had finally washed out.

So, they brought in the big front end loaders. Now remember, this trail is just barely wide enough for a pickup truck to go down. So getting all the equipment in place was not exactly easy.

They placed a proper storm drain pipe made of concrete under the surface. You can just see it in the photo. Then they built the sides out of concrete.

Those spillways were something that had been needed for a while. Finally after 2 months of work, it was finished.

Hopefully those big rocks will help keep the weeds away!

Time For A Change

It’s been one of those weeks here at my house. Actually, to be honest, it’s been that way for a few weeks. RL has taken me away from doing more than just blasé book reviews for a while now.

That’s going to change. I’m tired of going back through old book series. For example, Milly Taiden’s Paranormal Dating Agency. These last few books are ones that I just can’t seem to force myself to even finish. After looking at the reviews, it looks like I’m not the only one having problems with it.

Julia Mills’s Dragon Guard is another series that I seem to have a “love-hate” relationship with. The last few books feature the MacAllen clan which is okay. It looks like she is spinning them off into a new series, Dragon Intelligence Agency. I will admit, I don’t do books with cartoon covers so there are several of her holiday Dragon Guard books that I won’t be reading.

Anna Lowe and Heather Long are another two authors that seem to be slowing down and failing to keep my interest. For both of them, their most recent series seems to be dragging on with no end in sight.

So where does that leave me???

For awhile at least, you can expect fewer actual book reviews. Delta James has several new series started that have captured my interest. The packs and families that she began in “Wayward Mates” and “Tangled Vines” have had children. The story of this next generation is being told in “Fated Legacy.” I was amused to see that a number of the clubs mentioned in these series also show up in other series by her.

I want to post a few more “Lifestyle” posts. Cooking, decorating, just general “what’s going on in my world” posts. It’s fall now and for most of country, our focus is changing. The weather is changing and there are major holidays coming up. I’d like to capitalize on those.

So stick around, and we’ll all enjoy a new phase of the journey together.

The Sunday Post #21-40

Welcome!

Welcome to another Sunday Post! If you are reading this, I have included links to the book reviews from the past week. If you are listening to the podcast, I’ve included the entire book review post within this podcast. Enjoy people and let me know what you think!

Book Reviews from Last Week

Dreaming Of A White Dragon by Julia Mills
Touch of Darkness by Delta James
Fury of Conviction by Coreene Callahan
Dragon Falling by Julia Mills
Zadri by Celia Kyle

Sticker Shock

My husband and I were never into electronics and cellphones. It wasn’t until recent years that we bought cellphones. Only to follow them with tablets. That doesn’t mean we like change though.

After seeing one too many ads for the iPhone 13 Pro, I decided to look into the cost of upgrading our equipment. In the past, I have had laptops die because they couldn’t be upgraded anymore. I didn’t want that to happen again.

I started by calling one provider who had recently been in our area for a quote. They came by the house and talked to us about the costs. To get started would cost us $500 up front. Oh my! Then I stopped by my current provider and posed the same question. Our initial cost would be a little bit less here.

Now mind me, we are still talking about spending about $2500 on phones and tablets. The difference is that my current provider would give me sufficient credit for trading in my current phone to completely cover the cost of the phone we want. We’d still be paying for the tablets but the monthly cost would be considerably less!

Moral of the story is to shop around and don’t be afraid to let your current provider know what you are doing! They might be able to make the deal sweeter.

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