Books of 2017 & My Top Three

I’ve always been an avid reader and ever since I decided to read a book a week back in 2014, I’ve kept a list of the books I’ve read for each year. For 2017, I mostly read what was available on Prime First or Prime Reading. It was easier, I was lazy, and mostly, I was not very intentional in my choices. Never mind the ever growing list of books I want to read or that have been recommended, and as a result, there were few books this past year that moved me. Also, I’ve learned that sometimes, for me, it’s best not to reread a book that I considered life altering in my younger years e.g., Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, simply was more profound at the age of 20 than it was at 42.

  1. Three Wishes, Liane Moriarty
  2. The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things, Courtney Elizabeth Mauk
  3. The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland, Rebekah Crane
  4. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters In The End, Atul Gawande
  5. The Danish Girl, David Ebershoff
  6. Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl
  7. Sisters One, Two, Three, Nancy Star
  8. Never Again So Close, Claudia Serrano
  9. The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter, J.S. Drangsholt
  10. All The Lies We Tell, Megan Hart
  11. One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, Jim Fergus
  12. One Last Thing Before I Go, Jonathan Tropper
  13. Mrs. Saint & the Defectives, Julie Lawson Trimmer
  14. Stillhouse Lake, Rachel Caine
  15. The First Word, Isley Robinson
  16. PS From France, Marc Levy
  17. The Dark Lure, Loreth Anne White
  18. What Remains True, Janis Thomas
  19. Milk And Honey, Rupi Kaur
  20. Coming Clean, Kimberly Rae Miller
  21. Love & Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

As I review the list, it’s predominantly fiction, and as I select my top 3 as must reads, I’m not surprised to find, I consider non-fiction and memoirs more impressive to me.


In late 2016, I began working in hospice and this book presented as a necessity to read. It’s a peculiar thing, the relationship we have with death and dying. People not in the field always seem so mortified when I tell them I love my job. They moan, “Ugh, I couldn’t imagine dealing with death every day.” They’re mostly surprised when I tell them I don’t deal with it every day and sometimes people who know their time is limited, live more than those living day by day.

“People with serious illness have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete.”




I learned a long time ago, true life is much more fascinating than fiction and this memoir sheds light on growing up with parents who are hoarders. It’s surreal and eye opening.

“In my reading I found that many hoarders have similar stories to my dad. Maybe they weren’t the children of abusive alcoholics, but they were emotionally neglected at some point in their development. One of the more popular theories behind the triggers for hoarding indicates that people who are neglected emotionally as children learn to form attachments to objects instead of people. When they do connect with others, they then keep any object that reminds them of that person as a way of holding onto those attachments.”




While I really value and enjoy my work in hospice, one of my other favorite positions I held was in a grant funded marriage education program in which I worked one on one with couples for a year who participated in a 12 week group education program. Couples learned communication and conflict resolution skills, as well as understanding  expectations and how each person shows and receives love. We revisited these topics in our visits together, allowing them the opportunity to put what they learned to practice, and review their couple specific marital inventory that highlighted their strengths and growth areas. This book touches on the differences men and women tend to have in showing and giving love.

“That a husband values respect more than love is very difficult for many women to grasp. God has made you to love, and you see life through pink lenses that are focused on love. You give love, you want love, and you may not quite understand why your husband does not operate the same way. When I say a husband values respect more than love, do I mean that your husband does not value love at all? Of course he values your love – more than words can describe – but he spells love R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

Reading for 2018 is well under way. I’ve decided to put more thought and selection into my choices and no longer feel obligated to finish a book simply because I’ve started it. I’ve already abandoned two. Time is precious so I might as well spend it pursuing something worthwhile. Happy Reading!


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Chicken Tetrazzini

chicken tetrazzini

Most week days the moment I walk in the door from work, the first words I hear are, “Mom, what’s for dinner? I’m hungry.” 85% of the time I’m prepared or have delegated dinner to Chris or the girls. The other 15% is a complete gamble. The other day it was going to be a toss up when late in the afternoon the idea of chicken tetrazzini came out of nowhere. I have had chicken tetrazzini once in my life about 4 years ago and I’ve never made it, but I remember liking it & figured, when in doubt, the internet’s got my back. I opted to downsize the recipe because while I knew I would like it, I wasn’t sure about the others. Bri was the only one who didn’t care for it. It was too creamy for her liking so she fended for herself, but otherwise it was a success and actually, the downsized version worked perfectly – side salad and all.


  • 8 oz. linguini
  • 1/4 butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken, cooked & shredded
  • 1 can cream of chicken
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 10 -15 cranks of fresh ground pepper, per taste
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup Colby jack cheese, shredded


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the linguini according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, spray a 9×9 ceramic baking dish with nonstick spray; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, soup, sour cream, S&P, garlic powder, & chicken broth. Stir in the chicken and noodles when ready; mix well and pour into pan. Sprinkle cheese on the top and bake for 35 – 40 minutes.

Adapted slightly from:

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Recipe Redux: Carrabba’s Copycat – Mama Mandola’s Chicken Soup


There are some recipes in which I never deviate and then there are others that as I make them a few times, such as this soup, I modify and adjust just enough that it warrants an update to the recipe.


  • 3 tbsps. butter
  • 5 celery ribs, chopped small, approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • 3 big carrots, peeled & sliced, approximately 2 cups
  • 3 medium size russet potatoes, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I used white)
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 tbsps. Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed & deboned, shredded in large chunks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 15oz can of diced tomatoes, do not drain liquid (I used fire roasted)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup ditalini pasta, cooked in boiling water for 6 minutes, less than al dente*
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tsps. (or more, as needed) each of Litehouse poultry seasoning, oregano & basil



In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium-hi heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, onion, and garlic. Season with 1 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt, stir to incorporate, cover, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.

Add the 10 cups of water, stir in the chicken base, add the can of tomatoes and included liquid, and stir in the white pepper, bay leaf, basil, oregano, poultry seasoning, thyme, and shredded chicken. In a separate small pot, cook the pasta in boiling water for 6 minutes. It is less than al dente, but will continue to cook in the soup, and often expands the longer it sits in the soup. Drain and add to the soup.  Season with extra Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, per taste.

Note: This makes a lot of soup! It’s perfect for a party or to take to a potluck or if you don’t mind having soup for days. Add some freshly grated parmesan cheese just prior to serving, if desired.






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Chocolate Chip Date Cake

Chocolate Chip Date Cake

This is another recipe pulled from the archives of my mother’s trusty recipe box. Like most recipes from mom, this one stems from my childhood. I’d never made it myself until this past summer when my parents were returning from a trip to Illinois around my dad’s birthday. I asked him what I could make for him and he selected this one, only because I didn’t have the recipe for the Burnt Coconut Cake he likes. So, this one was a second runner up, but by no means is it a runner up.


  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 12oz. package of chocolate chips, reserving 1/2 cup
  • 1 1/2 cups dates, chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease & lightly flour a 9×13 pan; set aside. Pour boiling water over dates to soften & allow to cool. In a large bowl, beat together the egg, butter and granulated sugar until creamy. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt & add alternately with cooled dates (and water used to soften them) to creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into the pan. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and chopped nuts. Sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake for 27 – 30 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top of the cake after removing from the oven.

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Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

’tis the season of an overflowing abundance of zucchini. I like it sautéed, grilled, baked, etc. and then there’s always the stealthily hidden zucchini in baked goods, like this bread. I’ve found my bread turns out much better, i.e., cooked all the way through without being too well done on the bottom, if I bake it in a bundt pan. I doubled the recipe since I knew I would be baking it this way. If you don’t have the same struggles as me, and only want one loaf of this bread, half the recipe and you’re good to go.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted better, melted & slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup melted & cooled refined coconut oil, or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and seat salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined, without overmixing. Stir in the shredded zucchini. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate chips.

Pour batter evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cups of chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 60 – 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, other than the melted chocolate chips. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool on a cooling rack.

Source: a friend shared on Facebook, but I didn’t get the link.



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Copycat Alice Springs Chicken – sort of

Alice Springs Chicken

For years I ordered Alice Springs Chicken while at Outback Steakhouse (sans the mushrooms and honey mustard because that’s how I like it), but it’s so easy to make at home.


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, sliced in half
  • 1 tsp. Lowry’s Season Salt
  • 2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese


Rub the chicken with the season salt; set aside to marinate. While the chicken is marinating, cook the bacon to just under crispy. Place bacon on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb grease.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the same skillet you used to cook the bacon, saute the chicken breasts on medium heat and cook on both sides until chicken is a light golden color and cooked in the middle, but not dry.

Transfer the chicken to a baking dish (spread with honey mustard and sliced mushrooms, if you’re into those things) top each chicken breast with bacon slices and sprinkle a 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on each chicken breast.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese melts.


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Hot Ham & Swiss Croissant Sandwiches

Leah's croissant sandwiches

When the girls are staying with my parents in Colorado, they always make sure to hit up a little French cafe in Colorado Springs. I’ve never been, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. After they first went, Leah kept telling me about this sandwich and she was able to find a recipe that was a close runner up. It makes for a light summer meal and hits the spot with a good green salad.


  • 2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 croissants, split
  • 8 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 lb. Black Forest Ham


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, and brown sugar and spread evenly amongst each side of the split croissants. Place a slice of cheese on both the top and bottom halves of the croissants and fill with desired amounts of ham in between. Place the halves together and wrap in foil. Place in the preheated oven and allow to warm for 15-20 minutes.

*Note: When I make these, I use 1/2 tbsp. of honey and 1/2 tbsp. of brown sugar because I like it a little less sweet. We’ve also been known to double this recipe and place the extras in the refrigerator.



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