Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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Once Taken

So far I am blowing through my reading challenge for the year. I finished 4 books in January but that is not at all typical. A couple of the books were pretty short and I had a long weekend with 12 hour (round trip) road trip to give me lots of extra reading time.

Once Taken by Blake Pierce is the second book in a series with main character Riley Paige. If you like Criminal Minds, you will like this series. Riley Paige works at the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) of the FBI and goes around the country working to catch serial killers. She is also trying to keep her already broken family afloat while dealing with some very heavy and personal cases. I honestly didn’t always like her character – she makes some pretty stupid decisions – but I realized that it actually makes her more believable as a character. Real people make mistakes.

If you’re looking for a good psychological thriller this is a good series. I’m not sure if I’ll read all 14 books in the series (yes…14…) but I’ll at least try a couple more.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

This book has been on my wish list for a while now and my husband was keen enough to get it for me for Christmas. This was one I wanted an actually copy of, as opposed to having or borrowing on my Kindle like most of the books I read. It has to be added to the Harry Potter collection, obviously!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne is a script for what is now a show on Broadway. If you are familiar with the books and/or movies, they both end 19 years after the defeat of Voldemort. Sorry I’m not giving a spoiler alert warning – it’s been 11 years since the lasts book was published and 7 years since the final movie. I also don’t know why you would be reading this book if you weren’t familiar with the books and/or movies and I wouldn’t recommend it. Anyway…the beginning of the Cursed Child should be familiar. Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione, and their respective children are gathered at Kings Cross Station for the departure of the Hogwart’s Express. Harry and Ginny’s middle child, Albus, is starting his first year at Hogwarts. I’d say Albus is the main character of this story/show, along with his best friend, Scorpius, but don’t worry – the main characters we know and love are all very involved throughout.

I won’t give any more spoilers, but the story is about how dark magic is still present in the wizarding world as well as what it means to live as Harry Potter’s child, which Albus struggles with. And he ends up on an adventure reminiscent of his father’s escapades while at Hogwarts. I’ve never read a screenplay before but it was just like reading a book. Except a lot shorter. There aren’t a lot of details about internal emotions, facial expressions, or scenery because that’s what you’re supposed to see on stage. So now, obviously, I have to go see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. Who’s ready?!

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Becoming

This is not a political post, so please don’t comment with anything political. Don’t worry, I have political views and opinions but I prefer to not open that can of worms on my blog. I enjoy reading about people and people’s lives. Everyone experiences life in such different ways, which is what makes us human and the world an amazing place.

Becoming, on the whole, a political book. This is about a woman who started out like so many and eventually found herself in a place that so few had been. Michelle Obama grew up without much in the way of money or material things but worked hard to earn an ivy league education (multiple degrees) and get a great job as an attorney. I enjoyed learning that she struggled to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, even well after finishing school. But she strived to find something that would be fulfilling and also make a difference, as many people strive to do.

This is about a woman who loves her husband. Even as a senator’s wife, she never wanted a life of politics, but she put her own wants aside and put her husband’s first. That is true love – each spouse putting the other first. She dealt with the same struggles that new mothers deal with every day, especially in our country, feeling the tug between career and home.

She goes to write, obviously, about their campaign for the presidency and life in the White House. About how she used her position to address issues that were (are) important: childhood obesity, access to education, and supporting military families. I recommend this book not because of the Obama’s politics or because their eight years in office were perfect, but because Michelle Obama is an inspiring woman who has accomplished much. And although I cannot imagine or relate to many of the trials she faced or issues that caused her anxiety, I wholeheartedly agree with this quote from the book.

“So many of us go through life with our stories hidden, feeling ashamed or afraid when our whole truth doesn’t live up to some established ideal. We grow up with messages that tell us that there’s only one way to be American – that if our skin is dark or our hips are wide, if we don’t experience love in a particular way, if we speak another language or come from another country, then we don’t belong. That is, until someone dares to start telling that story differently.”

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Wedding Wrap Up

Our wedding was 9 months ago but I took a blog hiatus last year, so I wanted to do a quick post with some tips. Obviously different things work for different people and many factors go into how you plan your wedding, but I think there are some general suggestions that are helpful for everyone.

  • Spreadsheets. They are your friend. Even if they aren’t very detailed I highly suggest a spreadsheet for various aspects of planning: comparing venues and/or vendors, budget, timelines, deadlines, checklists. Being organized will help keep you sane. We used Google docs so everyone involved in certain parts could have access to what they needed.
  • Coordination. No matter what your budget, you need a day of coordinator. I can be a professional. It can be a friend of a friend who is very organized and who wouldn’t have been invited to the wedding anyway. But you, the bride, do not need to be thinking about details the day of the wedding. And your mother or mother-in-law, or anyone already involved in the wedding shouldn’t have to either. If you’re in the Atlanta area or North Georgia, I highly recommend White Vine Weddings because they were amazing.
  • Food. Obviously you want it to be good, but rarely do people remember the food. We hired a caterer and hadn’t even tasted the food but they had great reviews. There are numerous wedding websites now that have reviews of any company that does things wedding-related. Use them. In the end, there were a few things we would have changed about our catering experience, but it did not make or break our wedding. People ate, enjoyed the food, and the service was good. Check out Zest in Atlanta!
  • Friends. If you’re like me, you had a number of friends get married before you. Ask them questions, ask for recommendations, and ask for help. I don’t think I asked for much help (though my friends may remember differently) but I did ask one friend in particular a lot of questions. She had gotten married in the same city about a year and a half before me. She had great recommendations and we ended up using the same DJ, who people still talk about today as being the best wedding DJ they had experienced. DJ Spontaneous will not disappoint!
  • Decor. It can be simple or it can be elaborate, but make it what you want. It’s your day. If you have the budget, rent items so you don’t have to figure out what to do with them afterward. If you lucky enough to find a company that does multiple things, you can cut down on vendors. White Vine Weddings (read coordinator above) also did beautiful decor that can be customized just for your wedding! See photos below of signs and flowers that they did.
  • Photo and Video. These are the things you will have from your wedding for the rest of your lives. Make it a planning and budget priority. Use reviews and recommendations. Every person I asked when my planning our wedding said they either regretting not have a videographer or that the videographer was the best thing they spent money on. We were lucky enough to have connections for both of these things. My friend did our photography and my husband’s coworker shot video. Then if you’re even luckier, like me, your husband can edit the video and you get a perfect, personalized reminder of your special day.

In the end, you want your wedding day to be exactly what you want and not what other people want (except maybe ask your fiancé’s opinion occasionally…I guess it is his day too). Make it perfect for you and enjoy the process!


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Saltine Cracker Toffee

I love sweet and salty. One thing I have always remembered my grandmama making was saltine cracker toffee. It’s like a faux toffee or brittle. And it’s super easy. Recently, I ate something that had the same flavor so I made a mental note to find the recipe and make it, especially after learning that my husband’s family had never had this incredible concoction before. Then, like a mind reader, my mom made some for our family Christmas get-together, except she made hers with graham crackers instead of saltines.

My memory is not always the best, but I know I remember grandmama making this with saltines. And luckily my cousin remembered the same. So I got the recipe from my mom (which did use graham crackers), found something similar online to compare that used saltines, and kind of combined and tweaked the two to make a delicious Saltine Cracker Toffee.

None of the measurements have to be exact and there are a lot of ways to modify this recipe. Apparently a lot of people add chocolate too. I love chocolate but there are SO many chocolate treats that I prefer this one without. You can also use different kinds of nuts or no nuts at all! That is the beauty of this recipe.

Try it out and let me know (a) how you like it and (b) how you modify it! Individual steps/tips and pictures are next or see the recipe below.

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The recipe requires a simple 3 ingredients. Yes, that’s right – only 3. Saltines, butter, and brown sugar. Oh and some cooking spray and aluminum if you want to count those.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet (one that has sides and is not completely flat) with aluminum foil then spray with cooking spray. Line up saltine crackers to fill the cookie sheet. If you are using nuts and need to chop them, go ahead and do that.

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In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. I cut the sticks into smaller pieces just to help it melt quicker. Once it’s about halfway melted, add the brown sugar. Once butter is completely melted, bring to boil over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until it thickens and the sugar has dissolved. Stir constantly during this part. You want the butter and sugar to be completely combined and be the color of caramel.

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Once that is done, pour it evenly over the saltine crackers and spread with a knife or spoon or spatula. It does not have to be perfect and it will spread out more in the oven, but try to cover all cracker with sauce as best you can.

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Sprinkle nuts on top. You can use and much or as little as you like and again – perfection is not a thing. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes. You want it to be golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cool. It will cool faster if you take the foil (with the toffee) off the cookie sheet. I also let it cool about 10 minutes on the counter then put it in the refrigerator to finish cooling. After it cools, break into pieces and enjoy! These were a HUGE hit at my office holiday party and it’s super easy to make.

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Saltine Cracker Toffee

Ingredients

  • 40-50 saltine crackers
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 C light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 C chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray
  3. Place saltine crackers in single layer covering cookie sheet
  4. Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until butter is about halfway melted then add brown sugar.
  5. Once butter is melted, bring to a boil over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Stir constantly. The goal is for the sugar to be dissolved and combined with butter, the mixture to be thickened, and to be a caramel color.
  6. Pour butter-sugar mixture evenly over saltines. Spread out with a utensil (knife, spoon, spatula, etc.).
  7. Sprinkle pecans on top.
  8. Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Remove pan from oven and take foil & toffee off of the pan. Let cool then break into pieces. Can also place in refrigerator to cool.

Notes

You can use whatever nuts you want or no nuts at all. Print the recipe here: Saltine Cracker Toffee



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The One That Got Away

My 2019 reading challenge is officially underway. My Goodreads challenge is to read 34 books (two more than I read in 2018) and book number one for the year was The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes. This is a sort of freaky Friday scenario, except instead of trading places with someone, main character Abbey Lahey finds herself living in a world where she did not turn down a date with Alex van Holt. A world where she is no longer working full time, shuttling kids around, and trying to make ends meet while her husband’s business declines. In this world she is the wife of a millionaire running for Congress.

The book was a pretty quick read and was entertaining. There were times when I began to dislike Abbey’s character but she always seemed to bounce back into good graces. Also as a reader, I just kept waiting and waiting for her to wake up. The freak accident that caused this alternate universe – falling off the escalator at Nordstrom – obviously put Abbey in a coma and she would wake up any moment. But the author keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting for this outcome.

Does Abbey wake up? Is she really still Abbey Lahey and not Abbey van Holt? How can one small decision change the entire trajectory of your life? You will have to read to find out. 5 stars from me!

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Swimming Pigs

Since my previous post about our honeymoon was getting long, I promised to write one specifically about the excursion. As I said, there were plenty of free activities at Sandals Emerald Bay, but there were also optional excursions and we decided to not be completely lazy every single day.

Now I may have been – at first – a little underwhelmed going to the Bahamas (a feeling that was completely unfounded and wrong), but when my husband told me what excursion we would be doing I almost cried. Ever since I was little I have loved pigs. Don’t ask me why and I don’t know where that love came from (mom? dad? anyone know?), but I love pigs. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out we would be SWIMMING WITH PIGS. Even now, almost 9 months later, I am reliving the excitement. I had also seen this excursion on The Bachelor so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

The tour was done by Great Exuma Water Sports. They had 2 time options – a morning and afternoon. We decided we could suck it up and set an alarm one morning, knowing that the weather would be more mild than the middle of the afternoon on a boat. I want to say there were about 25 of us on the tour but that could be way off. There was a short bus ride to the other end of the island where we boarded the boat and took a nice little ride through the Exuma islands. The guide was great – telling us stories and history about the area and specific islands. And just riding around in a boat was fun enough!

But of course we were there for more. The first stop was Pig Island and it is definitely something you need to experience. As the boat nears the island, pigs literally begin running into the water. They swim to the boat, amidst sting rays swirling around below the surface. (You can see some of it in the video on my last post). We jumped out of the boat, into the water, and began feeding the pigs chicken hot dogs. Only the big ones really swim out into the water but there are little ones too that hang out at the edge of the water on the island. I guess eventually they learn to swim because that’s where the treats are. They also bring a bucket of leftovers to feed to both the big pigs and little pigs to make sure everyone gets some grub. We hung out with the swimming pigs in the water for a bit then made our way up onto the island where I immediately found a cute little friend. I held him like a baby and he fell asleep in my arms. Once again, I was almost in tears.

I could talk about the pigs for days. I was in love and would have brought that little piggy home if I could. But there was more to the tour! Our next stop was a little island that bordered both the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay where there is a cool blow hole. It also had beautiful views. I think you would typically do some reef snorkeling there as well but the Atlantic was very choppy that day and it would not have been a pleasant snorkeling experience.

Our guide found a live starfish along the ride, which we passed around the boat (then returned to the water). We stopped at another island to see and feed Bahamian Rock iguanas (who eat grapes). And our last stop was by the little island to do a little snorkeling since we couldn’t do it at the reef.

I would definitely recommend this tour if you visit Great Exuma. It was nice to get out of the resort for half a day and we still got some good nap time by the pool after we returned. I cannot imagine a better honeymoon – my husband did a FANTASTIC job planning – and Sandals definitely set the bar high for all-inclusive resorts.