Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday Motivation

So true!

How many times have we said, "Someday" to ourselves whether it be about where to go on vacation, when to start decluttering your home, or when to visit friends and family.  This really spoke to me this morning on several levels.  Life passes by quickly, and one day we wake up and realize that "Someday" is now.  So instead of dreaming and saying you will do that thing you really want to do "Someday", try to make your "Someday" a reality.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

My Favorite Finds!

Do any of you have the Spotify app?  I downloaded it several months ago when Jessica Merchant, author of The Pretty Dish, included some playlists in her daily blog.  All of her playlists are under "How Sweet Eats", so you can easily search for them and add them to your library.  Examples are HSE Dinner Tonight, Broadway Love, Favorite Covers, Picnic Lunch, Workout Now, HSE Girls Trip, and HSE Road Trip.  She also has summer and holiday playlists.  Starbucks also has numerous playlists available. Their newest is Discovery where they are adding new songs from up-and-coming acts.  My all-time favorite playlist is Reading Chill Out by Spotify.  I can read, write, and even fall asleep to it!  Try them out, and let me know what you think.  If you have any favorites, let me know!

Now for television!  I have cut my television time back because of my reading, but there are a few shows I'm really enjoying right now.  I mentioned this week the show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix.  I have watched four episodes now, and I can hardly wait to watch more! 

I'm also watching the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  I love this show!  I love the fashion, the plot, the characters...everything.  It has also been renewed for a third season!  Yay!  It is found on Amazon Prime.  Rachel Brosnahan won the Golden Globe for Actress in a Movie or Comedy last Sunday evening, and Alex Borstein was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  The series was also nominated for Best Television Series--Musical or Comedy. 

Is anyone watching Dirty John on Bravo?  Oh my gosh!  The season finale is this Sunday at 9:00 pm.  It is worth the time to binge watch the seven previous episodes.  The tv show is based on the podcast of the same name by Christopher Goffard.  It is the true crime story of Debra Newell, played by Connie Britton, who is looking for love online.  She meets John Meehan, played by Eric Bana, and soon her life becomes a complete nightmare.  The story is riveting, and it is one of those shows that you cannot stop watching once you start.  Connie Britton is outstanding, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for her role in Dirty John.

I found these crackers made by Simple Mills at my local Publix.  They are delicious!  In addition, they are gluten-free, vegan, grain free, paleo-friendly, corn free, and soy free, which makes them yeast-free!  The flour used is a nut and seed flour blend of almonds, sunflower, seeds, and flax seeds.  I tried the Fine Ground Sea Salt and the Rosemary & Sea Salt crackers.  They have other flavors, but read the ingredients carefully in case you are dairy-free.

So good!


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Gluten Free Banana Bread

I was searching for a gluten free banana bread recipe when I discovered this one on  It is absolutely delicious!  I made this for our family Christmas brunch. 


2 cups Bob's Red Mill wheat free, dairy free, 1 to 1 gluten free baking flour (no xanthan gum needed if this flour is used)
4-5 very ripe bananas mashed (1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup of Truvia Cane Sugar Blend.)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk (I used almond milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 cup chocolate chips (I did not use chocolate chips.)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan, set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Stir eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas until well blended.  Stir banana mixture and chocolate chips (if you use them) into flour mixture; stir just to moisten.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.  Let bread cool in pan and then turn out onto a wire rack.  Slice and serve warm.

So delicious and moist!

I just love this banana bread!  My entire family loved it, too!  I will be making this over and over.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Christmas (Or Any Day) Morning Muffins

Jessica Merchant, author of The Pretty Dish, made available a Holiday Entertaining Guide this year.  The recipe for Christmas Morning Muffins caught my eye.  I saw that I could easily adapt them to be gluten free, dairy free, and low sugar.  So, that is one of the dishes I made for my family this Christmas. 


  • 1-3/4 cups flour (I used 1-3/4 cups of Bob's Red Mill Wheat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour.  It contains xanthan gum, so you do not have to add it separately.)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of Truvia Cane Sugar Blend)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (I did not use this.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup milk (I used 2/3 cup almond milk)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
Cinnamon Sugar Topping:
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, mixed (I used 1 tablespoon of Truvia Cane Sugar Blend instead of sugar)

Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Line a muffin tin with liners.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, butter, extracts and zest.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until just combined.  Fill the muffin liners 2/3 of the way full.  Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are set and golden.

Remove the muffins and brush the tops with melted butter.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and serve.

Yummy muffins!

These muffins were a real hit with my family.  They are a special muffin that could be reserved for a holiday, birthday, etc.  But, you could also make them any day of the year.  After you taste them, you might want to do that!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Monday Motivation for the New Year!

Even though I don't "work" anymore since retirement, I still stay very busy!  The nice thing is that I can pick and choose what I want to do, and I do things I enjoy!  No matter what stage you are in life, each new year brings the anticipation of a "start over".  What have I learned in the past that I can apply to my future?  Over the last few days I used my new Passion Planner to sketch out my Wish List for 3 month goals, 1 year goals, where I see myself in three years, and for a lifetime.  I did some serious thinking, but it was good for me to write everything down so I can go back and refer to it. 

Many of my goals this year concern my home.  There are many things that I would like to do to improve my home, and I hope to have some of them done by the three month mark.  I have an oak tree that needs trimming, I need gutters, and I want to have my house painted (to go with the new roof).  I have dreamed of having a screened-in porch for 20 years, so I hope to have one by the end of the year. 

I've also started a thorough decluttering/cleaning of every room in my home!  Have any of you watched the new Netflix show "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo"?  Oh my gosh!  She is my new favorite person!  I started folding my laundry yesterday using her tips.  She also has a book titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I think I like her so much because she is calm.  She has her method, and she knows it will work for anyone's home.  Her mantra is "only keep what gives you joy."  In the end, you will have a home that reflects your joy. 

I'm going to continue to write my blog and improve my photography.  I have expanded my fitness goals to include some stationary bike riding, strength training, as well as walking with Milo.  (That is a given!)  I have a reading goal of 72 books this year, up two from last year.  That is an average of 6 books a month.  I am always reading one book (either hardback or on my Kindle) and listening to one (when I drive to my mom's and when I clean.)

Aside from that I stay busy with Life@UCF, a Bible Study, and of course, taking care of my mother.  I say that last, but right now she is the priority in my life.  Everything else takes a backseat to what she needs.  She is 96 and still lives on her own!  Mom is such a positive person; she never complains about anything.  She even keeps up with the news!  There are so many life lessons to be learned and cherished from a person her age. 

I hope you take some time to think about your goals for the year, if you haven't already done so.  I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

My Top Ten Books of 2018

I began 2018 as a newly retired teacher.  However, I did not start my habit of reading until March.  I was looking for a book club when I heard about #spiveysclub.  It is an online book club that now has over 11,000 members.  Usually the moderator of the club, Ashley Spivey, selects one book of the month to read, and the members vote on the second book.  The club already has its selections through February, 2019.  Then there is a date set aside each month to discuss the books.  The club has a Facebook page.  It is an extremely active page and members are always giving great book recommendations.

In April, I joined the Barnes & Noble Book Club.  We met in May, August, and October.  I liked the books that were chosen, the Barnes & Noble moderators, and the people in the club. We were also given beverages and snacks from the cafe.  Barnes & Noble also offered a special edition of the book for the club at a reduced price.  I haven't heard anything about book selections for 2019, but I keep checking their website for information.

I also joined the Book of the Month Club in September. They have excellent selections of books that are just being published.  You also have the option of purchasing add-on books at a reasonable price.

Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club also makes excellent monthly selections.  One Day in December was her December pick and it was also a Book of the Month Club selection.

When I started reading, I began using the Goodreads app.  I already had it on my phone, and had used it sparingly.  I could never get into the habit of reading during the school year; I only read on vacations.  I decided in March to do a Reading Challenge on the app.  So, I made my goal 12 books.  I thought I could read one book a month.  Remember, I started reading in March, so I was already two books behind.  Well, something miraculous happened!  I had to keep increasing my goal because I kept reading more and more!  I ended up reading 70 books this year and meeting my goal.  Click on the link below to see some of the statistics that Goodreads keeps on what you read.  It has been a great motivator for me.  All of the books I read this year are also included in the link below.

Goodreads 2018 Challenge

So, now to my Top Ten Books!  This was tougher than I thought it was going to be.  I read every book that I started this year, even if some books were slower than others.  In the end, I am glad that I persevered though the books, because it helped me to stretch as a person and a reader.  I tried not to have preconceived ideas about the books.  I treated them as a fun assignment for myself. 

Not all of the books on my list were published in 2018.  Some are older, but I purposely did not include any books from Harry Potter or the classics I read (Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird) on my list.  However, those books would be classified as "must reads" on practically anyone's list!

I also read two full series of books, which I rated separately from the Top Ten.  I did this because I loved all of the books in both series, and that would have accounted for 5 books!

Top Books in a Series

1.  Beartown and Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

2.  To All the Boys I've Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Top Ten Books (Not in a Series)

1.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

2.  Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

3.  My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

4.  The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

5.  One Day in December by Josie Silver

6.  The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

7.  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

8.  The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

9.  Looking for Alaska by John Green

10. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows

Runners Up

1.  All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

2.  How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

3.  The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

4.  The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

5.  Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

6.  The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Now, I better get started on my new goal of 72 books for 2019!  Happy reading, everyone!