June Happenings

It’s that time of month AGAIN……(head’s up: this post has A LOT of Jane Austen/Jane of Austin gushing)

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on the bookshelf

I added more than a few books to the bookshelf in June. It’s going to be a busy summer! One fabulous just-because read being True to You by Becky Wade, others being Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, and a neat Jane Austen Memoir compilation by some of her relatives. Other for-review copies include Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge, The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo, High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin, and On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Memorable Dads in Literature + #BookDadQuotes
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)
  3. Book Spotlight, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge
  3. The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

in the kitchen

I really, really want-to-make these olive oil chocolate chunk cookies I found on The Little Epicurean site. Soon.

20170626_150604 (800x450)did bake scones just this week from Hillary Manton Lodge’s recipe in Jane of Austin. Her recipe is for cranberries, but I happened to have fresh blueberries on hand and they worked just as well!

on the screen

Sense and SensibilityYet again, because of Jane of Austin, I re-watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie. It had been way too long since I had watched it, and I appreciated it all the more this viewing. It is brilliantly cast!!! And the acting performances are wonderful, particularly that of Emma Thompson (I ❤ her).

Recently, I discovered the weekly travel show Born to Explore with Richard Wiese on a local TV station. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the episodes on Morocco, India, Uganda, and Cyprus.

around the web

Continuing with all the Jane Austen love this month, here are 3 wonderful articles by Hillary Manton Lodge:

Thanks to a Tyndale House Facebook post, I found these adorable little Lender’s Library Bookmarks — a free printable library-ish bookmark to keep tabs on your lent books.\

If you like “armchair adventures”, or traveling through reading, this is a “reading list road trip” from Bethany House Publishers of 2017 releases and their locations across the U.S. and globe.

 

April Happenings

I can’t believe it’s already time for the April monthly wrap-up!

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on the bookshelf

Two of the MOST EXCITING titles added to my collection this month included an ARC of Sara Ella’s second novel, Unraveling, and the lovely novella collection Right Where We Belong with small-town stories from authors Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh. Both of these should be reviewed on the blog this May.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Novels with the Most Unique Settings
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 things that will make me instantly want to read a book
  3. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-bashamMost popular book reviews:

  1. Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham (plus author interview)
  2. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  3. Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald (plus book snippet)

in the kitchen

20170415_120919-1The most notable “new” recipe I made this month was this version of dairy free Hot Cross Buns for Easter weekend. They turned out great! I used a combination of dried currants and raisins because I like both.

on the screen

The Zookeeper's WifeI had the privilege of seeing The Zookeeper’s Wife on the big screen…. And let me just say it was a fabulous production! It tells the fascinating inspired-by-a-true-account story of a zookeeper’s family sheltering Jews in occupied Poland during WWII. It appropriately portrayed the harshness of life for the Jews and the sacrifices of people who risked everything to help them. The quality of this film is very prominent, with the acting top-notch (especially Jessica Chastain!) and everything from the zoo animals to the furniture/clothing period-appropriate. This is one to see if you’re a fan of historical dramas or WWII.

around the web

Pepper Basham featured one of my favorite book heroes (ahem, book boyfriends) on one of her “Swoony Saturday” posts. It is Dr. DAVID ROSS. Enough said.

I ’m not planning a wedding ANY time in the near future. You kinda have to plan a groom first. But, if I were, I’d be all over this wedding entertainment option recently in the news: ALPACAS and LLAMAS!!!! This little animal therapy place in the OR/WA area offers options to book llamas and/or alpacas to be a part of a ceremony or to entertain guests. I’m thinking it needs to be extended to any social or family event. Wouldn’t it be fun to show up to a family reunion or birthday part to find alpacas to play with?! 🙂

March Happenings

March Happenings

Welcome to my new feature, a monthly wrap-up of sorts!

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Having seen several blogger friends’ takes on a month-end post, I have decided to attempt such a summary or fun little recap at the end of each month. So, here goes!

on the bookshelf

I added SEVERAL books to my TBR shelf, most ecopies and a few paperbacks. Out of all of them, I think I’m most excited about reading With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall and The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan over the next weeks.

on the blog

textgram_1488839984.pngMost popular posts:

  1. 4 Reasons to Read Inspirational Fiction
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid!)
  3. Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
  3. The Message in a Bottle Romance Novella Collection

in the kitchen

Thanks to a Facebook post by author Hillary Lodge, I tried this amazing recipe for a pan baked lemon almond tart. It’s naturally gluten free, if you’re conscious of that, AND I made it dairy free by using full fat coconut milk in place of the cream and earth balance “butter”. I’ve already made it a second time.

I’ve also discovered the brilliance of overnight oats. Mix together oatmeal and your favorite add-ins, like nuts, flax, coconut, cinnamon, etc., add milk, and let sit overnight in the fridge. Instant breakfast! It’s even better if you throw in some fresh fruit. This recipe on my local news station convinced me to try it!

on the screen

I wrapped up the premier season of Victoria on Masterpiece Classic. My mom and I LOVED this series. It is worth a watch for the costumes and architecture alone. On top of brilliant acting and a well-structured script, the growth of Victoria as she adjusts to her role as queen and the love story between her and Albert is all the more enjoyable because it is true. History is NOT boring, people!

Force_of_Arms_FilmPosterI happened upon the classic movie Force of Arms (1951) this month. It’s a WWII drama/romance starring William Holden and Nancy Olson reminiscent of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Considering its era, I thought it a very well made piece of art, even if the romance was a *little* fast moving and melodramatic. Somehow that made it all the more entertaining with William Holden’s sappy declarations of love amidst army advances in Italy. The wit and sometimes fast-paced dialogue of the script reminded me of the banter that’s more often found in rom-com novels. It is as much drama as love story, though, and does a decent job showcasing the perils of fighting, sometimes featuring real-life footage of the army or city scenes. If you have a chance to watch it, do so!

 

Until last week, I had not seen the 2006 biography/drama Miss Potter. I don’t know how I went this long without seeing it or really knowing more of the story behind Beatrix Potter’s life. (She’s the one who wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, etc.). It is all kinds of sweet and poignant with a fantastic cast (Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson). Fans of children’s literature and period drama enthusiasts alike will enjoy it!

around the web

I’m still sporadically participating in the #WishfulWonder book photo challenge on Instagram (AKA #bookstagram for we book-loving photo enthusiasts). The prompts are curated by Tressa and Rissi each month. See Rissi’s post here for the April schedule!

Author Pepper Basham has begun a blog feature called “Swoony Saturdays“, complete with ratings on a Jane Austen- inspired hero scale AND a kissing level. It’s terribly fun. She’s featured 2 of her own fictional book heroes so far with plans for more.

I recently saw and LOVED Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. From the costumes, sets, casting, and MUSIC it was gorgeous. My little girl heart was happy. There were a couple things, though, that I was slightly disappointed in. This blog post by Sarah Cinnamon sums up my feelings perfectly and shines a light on the love that can be seen in such a story.

Cookbook Review: Giada’s “Happy Cooking”

Today’s review is of the once-in-a-while kind: about a cookbook. I jumped at the chance to review Giada De Laurentiis’s latest cookbook because I generally like her recipes and ideas. I mean, who doesn’t love Italian food!?

Happy Cooking by Giada De LaurentiisThe good news is, this is not just another Italian cookbook. Giada has included a great variety of healthy and indulgent recipes combining Italian roots and modern flavors.

My favorite thing I’ve tried from this cookbook so far is the recipe for Pumpkin Ginger Chocolate Muffins. With bits of candied ginger and a bittersweet chocolate glaze, they were a perfect snack when I was craving something sweet, with the added bonus of “healthy” ginger and pumpkin.

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My finished Pumpkin Ginger Chocolate Muffins

 

I liked the recipe variations or possible substitutions included in some of the more complex recipes. For instance, there are 2 recipes for Chicken Parmesan: one a stuffed version, one a “skinny” version with less cheese and no breadcrumbs. Recipes that are gluten free, vegetarian, or vegan are noted with a small mark and are easy to spot.

The notes from Giada in the cookbook add a very personal touch. The layout and design has a vibrant feel with bright colors and easy-to-read text.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing for the complimentary review copy.

Cookbook Review: “My Paris Kitchen” by David Lebovitz

This cookbook has been waaaay long on my to-review list. So, here goes:

My Paris KitchenMy Paris Kitchen chronicles David Lebovitz’s time living in Paris and learning Parisian cuisine. With his personal stories and experiences shared with each recipe, it makes you feel as though you have experienced a bit of Paris through his eyes. The overall style and composition of each section of the cookbook is attractive and easy to read. (My pet (cookbook) peeve: font/text that’s too small or faint to understand. This DOES NOT happen here.) It is a well-rounded book featuring sections on appetizers, main courses, etc.

He has taken traditional French recipes and presented them colorfully, some with his own alterations or “twists”. Some of these variations understandably help us “here in America” because we don’t always have access to the same ingredients at the market. These come with fun explanations and suggestions for substitutes.;

My favorite recipe so far is the one for Israeli Couscous. It combines couscous with lemon, dried fruit, parsley, and spices. Yum! It’s a great side. Here’s a photo to make you hungry!
Israeli Couscous from My Paris Kitchen
Thank you to Blogging for Books for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Family, a Film, & a French Apple Cake

Sometimes you have a family or culinary experience that’s just so delightful you wish it would last forever. In my case, it was a combination – an evening watching a movie followed by eating a yummy apple cake. It was so great I decided to blog about it 🙂

Last week, I enjoyed watching one of my absolute favorite movies The Ultimate Gift (2006) PosterThe Ultimate Gift (2006) – with my grandmother, aunt, and uncle. If you haven’t seen it, you MUST watch it immediately. It’s one of my go-to movies, the kind I love to watch or listen to any time. It is the perfect family movie with a message for everyone – one “take-away” is that life is a gift meant to be shared with others. Plus it has a great cast (Abigail Breslin, James Garner [one of my personal faves], and Drew Fuller).

So, back to my great evening. After watching this with my family, we devoured ate most of a DELICIOUS French Apple Cake with Almonds (Yes, I am a little biased because I baked it myself, but when my uncle wants seconds, you know it’s good). The recipe came from Hillary Manton Lodge’s fabulous novel A Table by the Window, which is full of recipes squeezed in between the chapters of the story (like Nutella mousse, pasta carbonara with leeks and lemon, pine nut couscous, and mini focaccia to name a few). The story alone was one I loved, but these recipes are a fantastic bonus. This apple cake was very moist and just sweet enough — and easy to make. It was the perfect end to an evening making memories and enjoying a movie with my family. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book, if only for the recipes.

By the way, Hillary is featured in August’s Book Fun Magazine with an interview and recipe for the Provencal Lavender and Honey Pound Cake from the novel.

French Apple Cake with Almonds (recipe by Hillary Lodge)

Here’s a pic of my cake. Doesn’t it make you want a piece?

 

Note: I did receive a free copy of this book from the publishers to review (Thank you!), but this post is just a “fun” one I wanted to share, not encouraged/required by the publishers.

Have you seen The Ultimate Gift? What did you think? What’s your family’s favorite movie?

I’d love to hear your comments – they don’t even have to stay on topic! 😉

Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread Recipe -Another Extra from “A Beauty So Rare”!

Ok, ya’ll. Here’s another fabulous recipe from the oh-so-delightful Tamera Alexander, featured in her novel A Beauty So Rare!

Today, it’s character Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread recipe. I’ve already shared her recipe for a Savory Custard (Ham & Cheese Quiche), and told you about how this book made my mouth water. I’m so glad to be sharing this recipe today. Can we all just take a moment to imagine how this shortbread must smell, warm and buttery, hot out of the oven?

While you’re snacking on this shortbread, you should also have the best reading material – so go find A Beauty So Rare!  Trust me, it’s awesome.

From Tamera:

 

Hey friends,

Is there anything that smells as good as homemade shortbread baking in your oven? Oh so scrumptious, and a time-honored recipe. Shortbread is just one of the many recipes included in A Beauty So Rare, the second stand-alone novel in the Belmont Mansion series.

Since Eleanor Braddock (the heroine in A Beauty So Rare) is practical to a fault, she makes her shortbread in a cast-iron skillet, so I did the same. Gives you the best crunchy edges and buttery middles! Wish I could share some with you. But I’ll do the next best thing––share the recipe!

Have you ever made shortbread? It’s so easy.Eleanor Braddock's Shortbread

 

Eleanor Braddock’s Shortbread

(from A Beauty So Rare)

 

3/4 cup butter at room temp (1 1/2 sticks)

1/2 cup powdered sugar*

1/3 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, then spray a smaller (8-9 inch) cast-iron skillet very lightly with non-stick cooking spray. You don’t need that much spray. Trust me, the butter in the recipe will take care of that.

 

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, then the vanilla. Next, work in the flour. You can either mix the flour in with an electric mixer, or you can get into the 1860s way of doing things and knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s nice and smooth.

 

Press the dough into the iron skillet (or you can use a pretty shortbread pan too). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Cool for about 10-15 minutes then flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. Cut the shortbread into pieces while still warm. It “sets up” as it cools. Or serve it warm. Serves 10-12. And it really does. This stuff is rich and delicious. Hope you enjoy.

 

 

And just for fun, a bit of history:

*Did you know that in 1851, Oliver Chase (of NECCO Wafer fame) developed a mill for powdering sugar which he used in his candy making process? But if a cook wanted powdered sugar back then, refined loaf sugar was pounded into a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. So much easier today, huh?

 

 

For more recipes and to watch the novel trailer

for A Beauty So Rare, visit www.TameraAlexander.com