Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Summer Reading Revisited

Friends, I am going to be honest with you, I honestly thought Autumn would never get here, and now, I am a bit concerned we may never see cooler temperatures for more than a day or so.   I am one of those who is distressed when seasons and holidays are rushed.   Though Autumn is my favorite season, I refuse to welcome it before summer takes her last bow.  

Now that Autumn is officially here, it is time to look back on this past summer's books.  Early in the season, after listening to a podcast questioning the definition of "literary fiction", I made the decision to mostly read authors new to me, genres I normally do not gravitate to and books I could find at my local library.  It was a great reading summer!

With a To Be Read list several pages long, I always had a book ready to be opened.  I am not an exceptionally fast reader... I read about 20 books over the summer.  I found new authors, a mystery series I fell in love with and now want to read from the beginning to the end (I will never catch-up),  and I discovered books so moving I had difficulty recuperating.

Here is a recap of books I most enjoyed over the summer.

Gods in Alabama, Joshilyn Jackson
What would you do for those you love?
Plot driven, strong character development.
There is a bit of a mystery, and a twist at the end.

The Night Circus, Erin Morganstern
Atmospheric, strong character development,
beautifully crafted.  I can't believe I kept moving this
book down on my TBR list.

Reading People, Anne Bogel
A simple yet enlightening look at why we do the things we do
and why some folks drive us crazy.  A good reference for deciphering the
many personality test available.   Find someone to read along with you.
Take some of the tests.... loved this one.

The Lost for Words Bookshop, Stephanie Butland
For anyone who loved Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, will
enjoy this one.   It begins a little slow...
layers are gradually peeled away, making this a really good read.

Southernmost, Silas House
This one is at the top of my favorites for the year.
It grabbed my attention from page one, and slowly
stole my heart.   A profound statement on just loving.

Into the Water, Paula Hawkins
I enjoy how this book started slow and
gradually, gained speed.   This mystery is not solved until
the very last page.

Where the Crawdad's Sing, Delia Owens
 I loved this book!  Oh my gosh, from page one I felt as if someone
was holding my heart in their fist and squeezing.   Heartbreaking, but so full of hope.

Perennials, Julia Cantrell
The perfect ending to my summer reading.  
Set in one of my favorite towns, Oxford, Mississippi, this is a story of
family bonds, what cements them and what shatters those bonds.  
Perennials is not a fast paced tale... 
do you really want to rush a beautiful sunrise?  
One word description....

Now the series that hooked me?  
Louis Penny's Three Pines Mysteries.

I have been hearing about this series for awhile; not wanting to get tied up waiting, I have avoided anything labeled number "whatever" in a series.   I actually began somewhere around #7 and realized I probably should go back to the beginning, #1,  Still Life.  I am still a newbie to "Three Pines", but I am loving them.  As I moved from one to another a nostalgia I can't explain enveloped me...  I not only want to read them.... seriously?  I just want to move to Three Pines and be a character in these books.

  My summer reading was an eye opener and ever so enjoyable.  There are a lot of good, entertaining, well-written books to be picked up and read, not considered literary fiction.  I believe there is a book out there for everyone (let me know if you need help finding it).

So... Autumn is here.  I've finished my first book, bought a pumpkin scented candle and baked pumpkin bread.  Now I just need Mother Nature to kick it into gear and give us some autumn like temperatures. 

Happy Reading friends!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Milk and Cookies - BEE

How do you feel about bees? 
 I know they can be pretty scary to children and adults alike.  The years I have spent in the garden I have learned a lot about these little yellow and black creatures.   I discovered they are most often more intent on finding nectar than using me as target practice.   The times I have been stung we were two moving objects fated to collide.  

Britta Teckentrup's beautifully illustrated book follows a day in the life of a bee, as she searches for food, all the while spreading pollen along the way.   BEE, is a gentle lesson on the enormous importance the bee has on our landscape, and ultimately our survival. 

This picture book has everything I love,  bright and beautiful illustrations, simple text and a lesson.

I may have made bee skip cookies.

Children love iced sugar cookies.  Even more, they love to decorate them.  I've tried a lot of sugar cookie recipes, and this may be my favorite.  I am almost sure it is from a long ago episode of The Pioneer Woman.

Sugar Cookie Cutouts

1 1/2 cup butter
 (yep, that's 3 sticks)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
zest from one orange
1 tsp. salt

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Using a mixer (on medium) cream butter with sugar until light  and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and slowly add in flour mixture; mix well.

Divide dough in half.  Form into disks, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.  If I am making these with my grandchildren, I usually freeze one disk for later.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper, and pre-heat oven to 325℉

Let dough soften then roll out to about 1/4" thick.   Place cookies on pan and bake until lightly brown.   I start checking at about 15 mins.  

Let cool and ice using your favorite cookie icing.

Royal Icing
(I don't usually measure ingredients for my icing,
these are approximate amounts.  It is all about the consistency you want.)

2 2/3 cups Powdered sugar
4 to 6 tablespoons milk ( depending on consistency)
you can use water
1/2 tsp vanilla
(most recipes don't call for vanilla.
I think the icing taste better)
2 tbsp meringue powder

In a mixer with the whisk attachment combine 4 tbsps.  of milk and the meringue powder.  Whisk until it begins to get frothy.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla.  Add milk, a little at a time,  to obtain desired consistency.

I tend to start with a thick icing to pipe around the edges.... thin and flood the inside.  Tint icing using your favorite food coloring.  I actually like the powdered, but can sometimes be hard to find.

When doing this with children I eliminate the meringue powder, hand them a plastic knife and let them have fun.

Someone in my house thought they were pretty yummy without the icing!

Happy Reading friends! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Book Talk Wednesday - The Dinner List

That's what Audrey says.  She states it with a little bit of an edge, her words just 
bordering on cursive."
                                                                                                      The Dinner List

There is a section in the Sunday edition of our local newspaper titled High Profile.   The front page is taken up with the picture and biography of someone who has accomplished good things, usually as a philanthropist, a politician or in their career.  Though the article can be a little lengthy at times, there is a small insert on the second page where the guest is ask several questions.   Almost always one of the questions is  "who would you like to invite to dinner?"  Do you know who you would invite?

Sabrina is urged, by her roommate, to put together a list of five people, living or dead, she would invite to a fantasy dinner.  The list is made and put away.  Fast forward ten years.  Sabrina shows up to her 30th birthday celebration to find the table filled with those from her list: a favorite professor, her dad, her boyfriend, her best friend and Audrey Hepburn.  Sabrina is confused, but as the night evolves the reason this dinner is taking place on this night becomes apparent.

The Dinner List is a bittersweet character and dialogue driven story of betrayal, abandonment, redemption and learning to let go.  Once the layers begin to peel away we discover the true reason this group is brought together.  I promise, Audrey does have a role at this dinner party.  Oh, there is a big OMG moment I did not see coming.

   Structuring a chapter, let alone a complete book around food can be a bit risky.  The story can stall and become a bit boring.  Rebecca Serle successfully keeps the story moving by alternating dinner conversation and events of the last ten years.

I received an early copy of The Dinner List from Flatiron Books and Goodreads for an honest review.  When I first began this book, I was a bit concerned, but soon became engrossed.   It may not make my top five list... it is a good read.

Have you made your dinner list?
Please share!

The Dinner List hits the bookstores September 11th.

Happy Reading Friends!

Oh, my list? 
My mother, my seventh
grade English teacher, Laura Bush,
Ann Lamont and my daughter.
(readers and writers)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Back to School

It's  my first day back in school. 
 It is always exciting.   
There's always a little bit of a honeymoon period, 
then the children figure out I'm pretty much a push over.

I'm working on a routine of writing and scheduling, rather than writing and posting.  Stay with me, it may take me a few weeks to build my stamina.  I'm fully expecting to need a nap when I get home this afternoon.

I'm going in....
It is going to be a great year!