Five Favorite Novels From 2016

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source: Moyan Brenn

I read a quite a lot of forgettable novels in 2016.

They consisted mostly of mysteries, thrillers and spy novels. These books tend to have both interchangeable titles and plot lines. However, I do find them gripping, which is what I usually look for in a book.

Somewhere in the mix, though, I did manage to read a couple of exceptional books this year. These books contained standout plots, memorable characters and interesting dialogue. A few even had an important message to deliver.

Here is a list of my favorite books of the year.

the_girl_with_all_the_giftsThe Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.


“Just… isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying’?”
“It sets a dangerous precedent.”
“For avoiding pain?”
“For avoiding life.”


They both looked at Ruth, and she managed a small, uncomfortable smile. She did not know whether to agree that he would get fat, which would imply an unwifely lack of admiration, or agree that he lived on his nerves, which would indicate that she was not protecting him from stress.



I had rescued the moment by using my camera and in that way had found how to stop time and hold it. No one could take that image away from me because I owned it.


My Sister’s Keeper by Jody Picoult
You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.

As you can see, my list is quite short. However, each book on it is five stars in my mind.

If you’ve read any of these novels please send me a comment with your thoughts on it. I’m always happy to hear someone else’s opinion.

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Ditch Your Car: 10 Alternative Ways Of Getting Around

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14183036309_80c549400d_zsource: Jdmoar

Folks living in wealthier countries often believe that owning a car is essential to a comfortable way of life.  We, in less civilized parts of the world, know that that’s just not true.  Yes, you need transportation. No, owning a car is not necessary.

How We Live Without A Car

1. Walking. We live live close to schools, shopping and work, so a car is largely unnecessary. Instead, we walk to most places. Groceries are bought home in a shopping cart we bought for that purpose.

Actionable Idea: Next time you move, consider finding a place convenient to where you do most of your errands.

2. Bicycle. My husband has been nagging me about purchasing a bike for years.  The only reason I don’t agree is that our neighborhood is known for its poor drivers. If you live in a less accident prone area, why not give it a try?

Actionable Idea: Consider purchasing a bike. Besides saving money, they are a terrific form of exercise.

3. Buses. Usually, when I need to travel further than 1/2 mile, I go by bus.  For about $1.00 US, I can get virtually anywhere. Many buses even have storage spaces for purchases. Most have child safety straps.

Actionable Idea: Plan your next errand day on the bus. Be sure to inquire ahead of time about schedules and location of bus stops.

4. Cab. Once in a blue moon, I take a cab. Most often it’s when I’m sick, going to someplace new, or the weather is unbearable. I figured out that even if I take 60 cabs a month (I don’t) it would still be cheaper than owning a car.

Actionable Idea: Try out the cab service are in your neighborhood. Determine the cost and reliability.

5. Train. For city-to-city travel I take the train. It’s convenient and extremely comfortable. I love having access to a bathroom and a food station.

Actionable Idea: Locate a schedule and map of nearby trains. Try the train out on a non-urgent trip.

6. Motorcycle. We have never owned a motorcycle, and I hope we never will.  But for braver souls than I, a motorcycle makes cheap and convenient transportation for longer distances.

Actionable Idea: Look into the cost of motorcycle lessons, purchasing a motorcycle and insurance.

7. Ride Sharing. My husband’s boss gives him a ride to work most days.  My husband has tried repeatedly to pay him, but he refuses money. Instead, he just asks that my husband engage him in conversation, rather than reading a book or using his laptop.

Actionable Idea: Ask a co-worker if he or she who would be willing to trade rides for gas money.

8. Mooching Favors. My brother-in-law’s sister used to always do her shopping on the same day as her car-owning parents.  Her parents enjoyed the company and she got a ride back and forth to the store.

Actionable Idea:  Speak to friends, relatives and neighbors. Offer to barter gas money, help carrying groceries, or help putting them away in exchange for a ride.

9. Renting A Car. Occasionally a friend of mine rents a car. They’ve used a rental car for vacations, moving and major shopping sprees.  Rental cars seem to work well for them.

Actionable Idea: Find out how much car rentals are in your neighborhood. Make sure to ask if the price includes insurance and gas. Also find out when the car needs to be picked up and returned. Be cautious to avoid being ripped off.

10. Google Lists. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but in a close-knit neighborhood, with active email lists, rides can frequently be found via the internet. I’ve never done this myself, but I know plenty of people who have. To be safe, only go with someone you already know or a friend of a friend.

Actionable Idea: Sign up for a local email list where subscribers can offer or request rides.

If anyone knows of another car-free methods of transportation, please send me an email or a comment. I’d love to hear about it.

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The Easiest Way To Peel Garlic

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10758711885_26397508dd_zsource: Quinn Dombrowski

I use a lot of garlic. My favorite recipe calls for an entire head of garlic per person.

Therefore, when I came across an easy way to peel garlic I was thrilled.

The tip came from the book Brilliant by David Joachim. According to Brilliant, all you need to do is microwave one head of garlic for 60 seconds at the highest setting. The skins will practically come off by themselves.

I have tried this method many times since reading this wonderful tip and it really does work. However, the tip also works (at least in my microwave) if you only heat the garlic for 30 or 40 seconds. I prefer this adjustment, as the garlic doesn’t come out as “cooked” and still works very well for sauteing.

Try both times and see which works best for you.

Read More: Amazing Food Hacks or Home

19 Home Business Ideas That Work (And 4 That Don’t)

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This is the time of the year that everyone is looking for ways to make extra money. Between unpaid credit card bills from Black Friday and overly generous seasonal gift giving, a lot of us are scrambling for extra cash.

If you already have a full-time job or have small children at home, the best way to earn money may be to start your own mini business. You can set your own hours, choose your own pay and do the kind of work you enjoy.

I know quite a few people (including myself) who have made money working from home. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

A neighbor used to make money each year by delivering the new Yellow Pages to our area. She had a big van and a good back but it was still a lot of hard work.

My mother sold rubber stamps and Spanish videos at the flea market (what a combination!). She ordered the products wholesale and rented a booth in a popular indoor flea market. She made about $1000.00 profit in good months. Warning: Don’t just jump into a flea market business without a lot of research. This business is a lot harder to pull off than it sounds.

A friend of mine has done daycare in her house for many years. She always has to be home and her house needs to be constantly spotless but she actually makes very good money.

Another neighbor made good money running a long distance van service. He advertised in the community newspaper for customers who needed to go from Baltimore to New York or Baltimore to New Jersey. My neighbor also did airport runs. He charged a flat rate, irregardless of the number of people traveling.

My mom ran a notary service from her house. She made only a few dollars per notary and had the aggravation of strangers coming to her home at all hours. She hardly made any money but she did for many years. Update: Several people are now offering mobile notary services (for a high price) and this may be a more profitable endeavor.

I use self-employed plumbers, electricians, handymen, movers and cleaning help. My father-in-law uses self-employed painters, carpenters and caterers. I assume each of these contractors makes a decent living.

My husband worked for a man who sold t-shirts, undershirts, underpants and socks at flea markets. The man would buy “imperfect” merchandise very cheap and sell them for a small mark-up. In order to earn a reasonable living, instead of just selling at one flea market, he hired enough teens so that he could sell at several.

I tutored Russian and Israeli immigrants in English. I found some students through my part-time ESL job and others through advertising in the community newspaper. I was able to do the work without knowing either Hebrew or Russian, as the lessons were all given in English. I will probably write a longer post about this later.

My niece runs a nursery school from her home. She has a degree in early childhood education and teaches the class in Hebrew. She has six to eight children each year and provides a complete preschool curriculum.

My daughter’s 20 year old friend made $10.00 dollars an hour babysitting. Babysitting doesn’t seem like a very grown up way to make money, but it is actually quite profitable.

I used to send my son to a man who specialized in teaching religious studies to homeschooled boys. The man charge several hundred dollars a month and taught the boys in groups of eight. The classes lasted three hours daily and took place in his dining room. He taught a group of younger boys in the morning and a group of older boys in the afternoon. If you have a important skill to pass on, teaching homeschool classes may be the way to go for you.

My husband and I had a business called Baltimore Computer Repair. My husband made house calls to sick computers at night, after his day job was through. He found his customers through advertising in our daily newspaper. My son, who is A+ certified, now does this same work in Israel.

The husband of a friend makes money at home doing telephone soliciting for charities. He works his own hours and is on commission.

My husband made close to $1000.00 a month on weekends by doing computer programming for businesses. He got the first job, writing an inventory program, for a distant friend who owns a pizza shop. The pizza shop owner recommended him to a man who owned three grocery stores, who recommended him to a print shop owner, etc.

When I was a teen, I made a small amount of money doing grocery shopping for senior citizens. I advertised in the community paper and got plenty of calls. I charged a $5.00 minimum or $.15 per item. Nowadays, I would have to charge a lot more to make this worthwhile, probably $.30 per item.

I see plenty of boys (and men) making money shoveling snow, mowing lawn or raking leaves. As a matter of fact, I’ve paid for these services plenty of times myself.

My mother sold Avon for many years. Unlike lots of other direct sales programs, you do actually make money from Avon. Mary Kay and Tupperware also make a profit for their salespeople. I have friends who sold both, quite successfully.

I had a very successful business selling hats and modest skirts from my basement. I sold to a specialty crown (religious women and cancer patients). I sewed the hats myself and outsourced the simple skirts to neighbors. Besides selling from home, I had several retail distributors.

In the past, I have made money from this blog. Right now this blog is making less than $100 a month, but several years ago it was doing slightly better. The money comes from Google Adsense and is deposited in my bank account each month.

Now for a couple of businesses that don’t work (at least for me)!

I used to have my own flea market business, selling kitchenware, novelties and kid’s toys. I ordered products wholesale through the Thomas Register and through flea market merchandise catalogues. I also bought merchandise locally at wholesale stores. I lost a ton of money on this project and to this day I don’t know why.

I had a business where I tried to outsource computer techs to busy companies who needed help with their overflow. Another big failure. The cause of this flop was easy to understand after just a few weeks. The smaller companies didn’t have any overflow work to offer us and large companies wanted an established business to work with.

I made handmade gifts and jewelry to sell at flea markets. After a month of Sundays I finally sold one pair of earring. The cause of this disaster was simply a lack of thinking on my part. I didn’t realize that people go to flea markets to get great deals…not art jewelry at medium to high prices. I really had no excuse for this stupidity because I already had flea market experience.

I once tried selling greeting card ideas to the companies listed in the back of Writer’s Digest. Yes, people said it took years to break into the greeting card market, but I didn’t believe it. I sent out hundred of greeting card ideas and not one of them sold. I guess sometimes you need to listen to advise.

If you have a successful business, please let me know about it in a comment.

Read More: Good Reads or Home




2016 Book Haul and Used Book Buying Tips

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7947961744_d6d4ba38ee_zsource: Pascal Maramis

My hobby is used book collecting and this has been a massive book buying year for me. It’s amazing that I’ve bought so many, because I live in a non-English speaking country.

For anyone else living overseas, here’s where I find used books.

  1. – Better World Books offers free shipping to a lot of countries. The prices on new books are very high however, so I only use them for used books that are on sale. In addition, the books can take several months to arrive, depending on your location.
  2. – Book Depository also offers free international shipping and the prices for new books are highish, but reasonable. Faster shipping than Better World Books, but can still take over a month or more.
  3. Libraries – We have several English libraries scattered throughout the country. The library closest to me has an ongoing book sale and two yearly sales. Prices are about $1 per book and they have a good selection.
  4. Private book sales – I belong to many mailing lists and I constantly look for books being given away or sold cheap in English speaking neighborhoods.
  5. Yard Sales – Yard sales are a good place to find used books if you live in an English speaking neighborhood. Besides individual sales, a local English speaking organization also has a yearly yard sale for books.
  6. Used Book Stores – There are several English used book stores here and though the prices aren’t rock bottom, I frequently trade in books I’ve gotten for free (see Number 4 above).
  7. Freecycle – Most countries have at least one freecycle or ReUseIt. I don’t use them often but they do occasionally have English books.
  8.  Second Hand Stores – Most countries have an equivalent to Goodwill and the ones in English speaking neighborhoods obviously have English books.
  9. Friends – My friends all know I collect books, so when they have something to get rid of, I’m usually the first person they think of.
  10. Trips To US – Whenever I, my friends or relatives go to the US, I always have at least one book brought back.

As you can see, purchasing used books overseas can be a little time consuming. However, I find the hunt enjoyable. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt.

Here is what I amassed this year.

Basic Cookbooks

The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook

Joy of Cooking 1975

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Cooking

The American Century Cookbook

The Essential New York Times Cookbook

The Good Housekeeping Cookbook: 1,039 Recipes

The New Basics Cookbook

The Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes

Silver Palate Cookbook

The Best of Gourmet: The World at Your Table

The Bon Appetit Cookbook

The New York Times International Cookbook

Entertaining by Martha Stewart

Julia Child & More Company

The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book

Martha Stewart Living: Annual Recipes

60 Minute Gourmet

The New York Times International Cookbook

Fannie Farmer Cookbook

New York Times Heritage Cookbook: Over 2,000 Recipes

Sunset Recipe Annual by Sunset Books

Jewish Cookbooks

In the Jewish Tradition

Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics

The Flavor Of Jerusalem

Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Greene, Gloria Kaufer

New Jewish Cuisine

Seasoned with Love: Culinary Treasures from the Breman

Not Chopped Liver

New Kosher Cuisine for All Seasons

Jewish Holiday Treats

Shabbat Shalom: Recipes and Menus for the Sabbath

Quick and Kosher

From Our Table To Yours

A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking

Enlightened Kosher Cooking

Jewish Holiday Style

Rika Breuer Teacher’s Seminary Cookbook

The Passover Gourmet

The Low-Fat Jewish Vegetarian Cookbook

For The Love Of Cooking

America Cooks Kosher

Jewish Vegetarian Cooking

Sephardic Cooking: 600 Recipes Created in Exotic Sephardic Kitchens

Levana Cooks Dairy-Free!

Jewish Cooking Secrets from Here and Far

Vegetarian/Vegan/Vegetable Cookbooks

Vegetable Love by Kafka, Barbara

Moosewood Restaurant New Classics: 350 Recipes for Favorites

The Uncheese Cookbook by Stepaniak, Joanne

Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes from the Greens Restaurant

Vegetables by Peterson, James

15-Minute Vegetarian Recipes: 200 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes

Raw Food Made Easy: For 1 or 2 People

Eastern Vegetarian Cooking by Jaffrey, Madhur

Indian Vegetarian Cooking

The Bold Vegetarian Chef: Adventures in Flavor

Vegetarian Express: Easy, Tasty, and Healthy Menus in 28 Minutes

Vegetarian Dishes from Across the Middle East

Appetite For Reduction

Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

Vegetarian Celebrations

Jean Hewitt’s International Meatless Cookbook

Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook

The Vegetarian Lunchbasket: Over 225 Easy, Low-Fat Recipes

Recipes From An Ecological Kitchen

International Cookbooks

The cooking of India by Rama Rau, Santha

Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook

Cooking of Provincial France by Fisher, M. F. K.

Cooking of Japan (Foods of the World) by Steinberg, Rafael

Cooking of Italy by Root, Waverley

Latin American Cooking by Leonard, Jonathan N.

Cooking of the Caribbean Islands (Foods of the World) by Wolfe, Linda

Cooking of China by Hahn, Emily

Healthy Cookbooks

Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook

Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian by Weight Watchers Editors

Weight Watchers Make It in Minutes: Recipes in 15, 20, and 30 Minutes

Light & Tasty Annual Recipes 2004 (Taste of Home)

Taste of Home’s Light & Tasty Annual Recipes 2003

American Heart Association Meals in Minutes Cookbook

The New American Heart Association Cookbook

Other Cookbooks

Real Fast Food: 350 Recipes Ready-To-Eat in 30 Minutes

Pilaf, Risotto, and Other Ways with Rice

The Dumpling Cookbook

Stuffings: 45 International Recipes

50 Best Stuffings and Dressings

Mostly Muffins

Blue Ribbon Winners: America’s Best State Fair Recipes

Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook

Six Ingredients or Less

Ice Pops by Shelly Kaldunski

Favorite Restaurant Recipes by Bon Appetit

How to Cook Without a Book

Perfect Pops: The 50 Best Classic & Cool Treats

Southern Heritage Breads Cookbook

The New Woman’s Day Cookbook: Simple Recipes for Every Occasion

Family Circle All-Time Favorite Recipes

Muffins by Alston, Elizabeth

American Cooking : The Eastern Heartland

Candy by Time-Life Books

Junior League Centennial Cookbook

Forum Feasts: The Classic Community Cookbook by Forum School

American Cooking (Foods of the World)

The Best American Recipes

The Best American Recipes 1999

Craft Books

Making Memory Books by Hand

More Making Books by Hand

Home, Paper, Scissors: Decorative Paper Accessories

1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse

Encyclopedia of Origami and Papercraft

Realistic Collage Step by Step

Paper Sculpt Sensation

Paper: Making, Decorating, Designing

Books Unbound

Making Books by Hand: A Step-By-Step Guide


Cardboard Folk Instruments to Make and Play


Eco Craft: Recycle, Recraft, Restyle

Homemaking Books

The Penny-Pinching Hedonist

America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money

The New Food Lover’s Tiptionary

It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff

Penny Pincher’s Almanac: 1,552 Surprising Ideas

Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

Psychology Books

The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest

Innovate Like Edison: The Success System of America’s Greatest Inventor

Your Creative Brain

Make the Most of Your Mind by Buzan, Tony

A Sheep Falls Out of the Tree

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

One Minute for Yourself by Johnson, Spencer


Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in

The Mindfulness Solution

Your Memory: How It Works and How to Improve It

Get out of Your Own Way

Psychology and the Challenges of Life: Adjustment and Growth

Eat That Frog

Psychology Applied to Modern Life

Happier at Home

What You Can Change and What You Can’t

Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being

Better Than Before

Supercoach: 10 Secrets to Transform Anyone’s Life


The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The 9th Wife by Amy Stolls

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

The Norton Anthology of Short Stories


Angela’s Ashes

Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness

Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life

My Fair Lazy

The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life

Jewish Books

Too many to mention

Kids Books

The Dangerous Book For Boys

Bonjour, Babar!: The Six Unabridged Classics by the Creator of Babar

A Treasury of Children’s Literature

Pinkalicious: The Princess of Pink Treasury

Activity Books/Writing Prompts

Art Before Breakfast

Everything That Can Happen in a Day by Horvitz, David

The Anti Journal

Nat Geo Action Journal: Talk Like a Pirate, Analyze Your Dreams

The Pointless Book

This Book Will Change Your Life Again!

Tag This!: A Doodle Book by Price Stern Sloan Publishing

This Book Will Change Your Life

Take Ten for Writers: 1000 Writing Exercises to Build Momentum

The Write-Brain Workbook

Other Books

Best Food Writing 2005

You Can Do It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls

The Novel Cure

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Read For Your Life

The Geography of Bliss

Nickel and Dimed

Read More: Book Reviews or Home

3 Ingredient High Protein Salad

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5346503674_111c08a7a3_zsource: Kris Donaldson

I eat this yummy salad all the time. It takes about a minute to make and tastes delicious. In addition, since I’m a vegetarian, I can always use the extra protein. By the way, you can cucumber and diced tomato if you want, but it’s totally unnecessary.


mixed greens

cottage cheese

creamy garlic dressing


Place the greens in a plate. Add a scoop of cottage cheese. Dallop with a generous amount of garlic dressing.

Serve immediately so the lettuce doesn’t wilt.

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Annette’s Easy Tortilla Soup

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annettes-easy-tortilla-soupsource: miss_yasmina

This recipe is a convenience food version of a soup I found online. The original dish had over 20 different ingredients, but the use of taco seasoning and a few other simplifications has produced a much easier to make meal.


1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 package taco seasoning mix

1 can tomato paste

2 tablespoons onion soup mix

3 cups water

1 cup mild salsa

2 can black beans, drained

spicy tortilla chips


Fry onion in oil till golden. Stir in all other ingredients except chips. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add additional water if needed.

Garnish with chips immediately before serving.

Optional: Shredded cheese and sour cream also can be used as garnishes.

Read More: Recipes or Home

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