April Happenings (2020)

It’s time for my monthly update post…Happy Leap Day! The second month of 2020 is already over…

I’m sharing a few updates on what I’m reading, blogging about, and what I’m eating and watching.

April Happenings

on the bookshelf

Currently reading: Stay With Me by Becky Wade

Recent additions to my TBR/shelf I’m super excited about: Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner, The Little Bookshop of Love Stories by Jaimie Admans, When I Lost My Way by Jennifer Rodewald, Masquerade at Middlecrest Abbey by Abigail Wilson.

on the blog

Most visited new reviews:

  1. The Lost Lieutenant by Erica Vetsch
  2. The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews
  3. Kings Falling by Ronie Kendig

Other popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 11 Titles That Would Make Good Band Names
  2. First Line Fridays # 32: Take a Chance on Me by Becky Wade
  3. Spotlight + Excerpt: “The Thorn Keeper” by Pepper Basham Birthday Blog Tour

on the screen

I’ve been watching all the WWII related dramas. So far, I’m enjoying the PBS WWII drama World on Fire. It has an almost-too-big cast (many little plots to follow), but it’s following interesting events early on in the war.

I also loved the TV movie The Windermere Children, based on true life Jewish refugee children in post-war England. I rewatched Operation Finale, too.

in the kitchen

I love all things ITALIAN. Lately, I’ve made my first homemade meatballs (recipe here) and found that they freeze well! And, thanks to my PBS watching and America’s Test Kitchen, I discovered the Torta Caprese AKA a flourless chocolate cake make with whipped eggs and almond flour. It had just the right balance of gooey and light texture.

Your turn! Tell me: what have you been reading, watching, and eating this month?

February Happenings

Happy Leap Day! The second month of 2020 is already over…

It’s been a while since I’ve done any type of “monthly recap” post. I posted these regularly in 2017-18, but time & other factors caused me to get out of the habit. SO! I would like to revive them with a few format changes. I plan to post at the end of each month with a few updates on what I’m reading, blogging about, and maybe what I’m eating and watching.

on the bookshelf

Currently reading: If For Any Reason by Courtney Walsh

Recent additions to my TBR/shelf I’m super excited about: Kings Falling by Ronie Kendig, Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal, and Becky Wade’s new (free!) novella Take a Chance on Me.

on the blog

Most visited new reviews:

  1. Review & Interview: The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews
  2. The Solid Grounds Coffee Co. by Carla Laureano
  3. Follow the Dawn by Rachelle Rea Cobb

Other popular posts:

  1. Favorite Quotes from The Blue Castle
  2. First Line Fridays # 31: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
  3. Favorite Quotes from Persuasion

on the screen

howard's end still

I finished watched some great British drama this month, including the one and only season of Sanditon and the newest Howard’s End miniseries. I enjoyed them both. I know Sanditon is polarizing, especially with its ending, but I liked it and think it ended with enough hope. Now I need more Theo James in period dramas! Howard’s End was the first rendition of this classic I’ve ever seen, so its story ups and downs were fresh and interesting. I really really loved Margaret, though I didn’t always like the choices of the other characters and the way they drove parts of the story.

Fun movies I watched for the first time include Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks-starring and directed, hilarious “normal life” humor) and Timeline (GERARD. BUTLER. on a horse.).

in the kitchen

I had some amazing raspberry oat bars from Whole Foods I’m scheming to recreate in my kitchen. I have a couple online recipes and the ingredients list. I’m going to science!

Grocery store adventures: I can’t find buckwheat flour anywhere local. Buckwheat pancake and waffle mix, yes. Buckwheat groats, yes. I’m wanting to make the Buckwheat Blueberry Breakfast cake from this novel.

I DID make crepes a couple days ago, using Alton Brown’s recipe from his Good Eats show. I posted a pic on Twitter… and Alton tweeted back! I kinda fangirled over the kitchen nerdiness of it all.

Your turn! Tell me: what have you been reading, watching, and eating this month?

Best of 2019: Film & TV + Top Ten Tuesday

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

I’m also linking up with Top Ten Tuesday today, the topic being Favorites of 2019 ~~ my twist being fav movies & shows!

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV + Top Ten Tuesday!
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog

So far, I have talked all about the books I loved. Today I shift focus slightly and talk about story in a different form: TV & movies! From this list it’s obvious how my taste is eclectic 😉

Best of 2019: Film & TV

FILM FAVORITES

Avengers: Endgame (Disney) | Yes, I admit it. I’m a big fan of the MCU, moreso in recent years, as I’ve seen Disney take these characters on unforgettable story arcs all wonderfully (if not always perfectly) intertwined. I’m excited to see what 2020 brings with new additions to the next “phase” of films!

The Boys are Back (Miramax) | I discovered this 2009 film re-airing on television. It is a humorous and poignant look at family and grief, and one father’s journey to learning how to do “life” in a different way.

Harriet (Focus Features) | This real-life story of a BRAVE woman was both encouraging and tragic. I wonder if the real Harriet ever considered how her story could still be impacting the world 150 years later?

Overcomer (Affirm Films) | A film for anyone in the family to enjoy, this story touched my heart with its surprises and depth.

Ad Astra (Fox) | Stunning visuals combine in this “to the stars” movie, but it’s not all about exploration and the cosmos. Its message about life, family, and people needing PEOPLE is subtle and beautifully expressed.

Midway (Lionsgate) | If it’s a WWII story, count me in! This well-told story incorporates a cast based on real-life heroes.

Little Women (Sony) | In theaters now, this re-imagining of Alcott’s classic shows the March sisters in a fresh way. I really liked the way the non-linear timeline of the film was presented! Saoirse plays Jo SO WELL.

Downton Abbey (Focus Features) | Avid fans of the series rejoiced when the movie-length story released! It is a continuation with beloved characters! Though I didn’t love *every* aspect of this presentation, I did love the way they hint at a happily-ever-after for Tom. And I loved ALL the scenes and one-liners of Lady Violet’s.

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) | Yes, I’m a fan. Every scene was fascinating! I did not expect THAT ENDING. I love it when a story surprises me.

TV FAVORITES

I have loved my PBS channel this year! The final season of Poldark left me happy because it ended hopefully. Also, George Warleggan was a surprise this round!

New seasons of Victoria and Grantchester were great, too! I’m still working my way through the PBS Country Music documentary series.

My recommended Hallmark channel Christmas movie list this year includes A Godwink Christmas: Meant For Love, Picture a Perfect Christmas, and A Christmas Love Story, the latter being my favorite! Also, I enjoyed Christmas On My Mind, adapted from a Denise Hunter novel (woohoo)!

What did you watch this year? Do you have favorite movies to recommend? Did you participate in Top Ten Tuesday with a favorites list?

Eating My Way Through Italy: Tivoli and Spoleto

We’re back to talking about food and Italy, two of my favorite things! Especially when combined 😉

In the first installment, I talked about the amazing food in Rome. Today, I want to share my experiences in two little towns, Tivoli and Spoleto.

white pizza & tiramisu in Tivoli

Cafe Ristorante Villa d’Este: The best tiramisu I’ve had. Ever.

Tivoli, a town on a mountain just outside of Rome, was our destination for an afternoon. We visited the Villa D’Este and ate a little restaurant just outside it. The ironic part: it rained a lot during our lunch, which meant we took our time and had dessert. I had a white pizza and the tiramisu!

Fancy dining and a colorful dessert in Spoleto

Albornoz Palace Hotel in Spoleto

In the mountain town of Spoleto, our accommodations were artsy and unique. In addition to the art eVerYwHeRe at the hotel, the food was magnificent! We were fed well, with an elegant four-course meal each night.

four courses in Spoleto

Ristorante Bar Canasta: the best affogato

I’ve already mentioned my love for affogato. The BEST I had on the whole trip was at this sunny spot in Spoleto!

assorted bread, gnocchi, and affogato at Canasta

What kinds of yummy foods have you encountered on your travels?

Eating My Way Through Italy: Rome

About a month ago, I went to Italy. It was an experience I will never forget. I traveled with a short term study abroad group affiliated with the college I work for. That means it was full of art, history, educational things, and LOTS of fun! I’ve been sharing Instagram pics like crazy.

This post is all about one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip: THE FOOD in Rome. Good food. Pizza, pasta, paninis, lamb, cannoli, CAPPUCCINOs, roasted chestnuts on the street and lemon torte in a cafe. Tiramisu.

If you’re going to Rome any time soon, I highly recommend the eating spots I list here! We did stay in the northeast part of the old city, near the train station, so most of the actual restaurants we patronized for dinner were within walking distance of that area.

I’ll be sharing more about food in other towns soon 😉

Artichokes, pizza, lamb, and cappuccino at La Famiglia Roma

Best overall: La Famiglia Roma

Canneloni, roasted lamb, pizza, artichoke Roman style, eggplant parmesan, cappuccino. With a menu in Italian and English, it was easy to discover new dishes! VERY affordable and friendly atmosphere! I ate there 4 times. I needed another week, at least, to try all of the items I wanted to on their extensive menu.

Diadema Restaurant – top 2 photos

Diadema Restaurant— streetside dining! Spaghetti was great!

treats from U. Giuliani!

Caffe Pasticceria U. Giuliani for cappuccino and sweet treats. Best cappuccino! They didn’t look twice at the crazy Americans ordering cappuccino after noon.

Exquisitaly for late night gelato and affogatos. An affogato is the BEST kind of gelato treat because it is 1-2 scoops of gelato with a shot of espresso on the top! Like the best “float” for coffee connoisseurs.

Affogato at Exquisitaly

Have you ever been to Rome? What are your favorite Italian foods? (And, more importantly, do you have any recipes to share?!)

February Happenings

Ah, February. The shortest month. The month for all things chocolate and heart-y. And for my family, a big month of birthdays. On the blog today, I’m looking back at some fun that happened this month!

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on the bookshelf

Only a few new books on the shelf this month….. which is probably a good thing. I need to catch up! The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin, As Easy As Riding a Bike by Bell Renshaw, Embers by Ronie Kendig, Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best On-Screen Rom-Com Couples
  2. First Line Fridays ❤ Valentine’s Day Edition: The Breath of Dawn
  3. Favorite Quotes from “Persuasion” by Jane AustenLove in Three Quarter Time

Most popular reviews:

  1. Love in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan
  2. The Cupcake Dilemma by Jennifer Rodewald (+ Author Interview)
  3. Music Review: “Whole Heart” by Passion Music

on the screen

Gifted

Gifted (2017) I finally watched this family drama starring Chris Evans. It was as delightful as a movie concerning a custody battle could be — and I mean that in the best way. Tiny moments of humor added levity to an otherwise thought-provoking story line dealing with questions of purpose, normalcy, and the importance of childhood.

I’m also working my way through the 2008 biographical miniseries John Adams. By next month’s recap, I’m sure I’ll have several thoughts on it!

What have YOU been watching?

around the web

With Valentine’s came some super fun romance-related posts! Like Carrie’s themed KissingBooks 101 “lesson” and Andi’s “guess that author” list!

The INSPYs are in full swing, as the advisory board members have been saying on social media. (FYI, INSPYs are the “bloggers’ award for excellence in faith-driven literature”). On March 1, potential judges can apply to participate in choosing the 2018 winners!

YOUR TURN! What exciting things happened for you in February?

Music Review + GIVEAWAY: “Whole Heart” Album by Passion Music

This is release day for the latest installment in the “Passion” event live praise & worship albums: WHOLE HEART. Today I’m sharing a review + ways to learn more about Passion and an opportunity to win your own copy of the music.

Before you go, be sure to enter the CD GIVEAWAY (US only) via the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post.

MUSIC REVIEW

Whole Heart is a collection of truth-filled praise anthems. Upon my first listen, a line or two gave me chills. These songs display the styles and tones I expect from the veteran artists, while the newer voices offer refreshing artistic variance to the set.

I was happy to discover a couple familiar and already favorite songs like Crowder’s “All My Hope” and “Great Are You Lord” sung by Matt Redman on this album. And, I think I’ve found some new ones to set on ‘repeat’, particularly “Ghost” and “Reckless Love”.

Like the title song alludes, this album carries a theme of hope and grace shared through praise. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of commitment on both sides: God freely offering His whole heart to us to accept through salvation, and our returned praise and faith lived out daily.

ABOUT THE ALBUM

Passion Whole Heart

WHOLE HEART is the new live album from Passion—captured at Passion Conference 2018 in Atlanta, GA. Passion Conference 2018 was a beautiful worship experience, and the live album captures each powerful moment, allowing those who were not in attendance to experience it.

Featuring songs by these artists:

Kristian Stanfill, Melodie Malone, Sean Curran, Matt Redman, Brett Younker, Crowder, and Tauren Wells.

Buy Whole Heart by Passion Music:

http://capcmg.me/PassionWholeHeart

ABOUT PASSION

Rooted out of the Passion movement, we are committed to leading people towards renewed intimacy with God and fresh encounters of worship. Passion is more than music. More than events. Passion is a generation living for His name.”

Learn more about Passion at: http://passionmusic.com/story/

You can listen to Passion music at http://capcmg.me/PassionSpotify

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Giveaway is for (1) copy of Whole Heart, US mailing addresses only. Giveaway ends 3/1/18 12am.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

January Happenings

Today marks the last day of January and 1 month passed in 2018. How is that possible?! Join me in looking at some new books added to the shelf, popular posts, and favorites from this month.
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on the bookshelf

New books on the shelves (virtual and real): The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz, Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald, The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White, “The Rock Harbor Collection” by Colleen Coble, and Nightshade by Ronie Kendig. ARCs: Amongst the Roses by Meghan M. Gorecki, A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green, Love in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan, Unbreakable by Sara Ella, The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron, The Heart Between Us by Lindsey Harrel, No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert, and The Cupcake Dilemma by Jennifer Rodewald.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Best of 2017
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017
  3. First Line Fridays #9: The Saturday Night Supper Club

1-The UncloakedMost popular book reviews:

  1. Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood
  2. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  3. “The Uncloaked” Trilogy by J. Rodes

on the screen

Oh, so many movies, so little time! Instead of waxing poetic about a movie or two, I’m just going to list some I’ve really enjoyed lately. What have YOU been watching?

  • One Winter Weekend (Hallmark) |While not without its little moments of cheesiness, this one was 99% believable and one of the best of the winter themes. Plus, the leading actress, Taylor Cole, is a fav.
  • VictoriaVictoria, S2season 2 (on Masterpiece Classic, PBS) | My history and romance loving heart LOVES this series! It’s one of the best developed series I’ve ever seen, everything from the historical accuracy, gorgeous sets/costumes, the ❤ great cast, and the nuances of the supporting cast just works.
  • 12 Strong (Warner Bros.) | Riveting and eye-opening, this depiction of true life events just after 9/11 makes me honored and proud to be an American.
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney) | Yes, I’m a nerd. And a fan of the direction this movie took. #REYLO
  • The Case for Christ (Pure Flix) | This biopic based on Lee Strobel’s life and journey from atheism to faith is interesting and faith-affirming. Go watch it.

around the web

If you’re still on the lookout for a reading challenge to complete this year, go check out Bethany House’s unique and quirky list.

Author Carla Laureano wrote an AWESOME guest post on the Seekerville blog all about The Care and Feeding of Authors. FYI, this list applies to bloggers, too. Just throw chocolate at us when we look like we need it.

 

YOUR TURN! Tell me all about your January in the comments. 

 

The Joy of Christmas Book Tag

Thanks to Rissi for sharing this fun Christmas Book Tag! Head over to her blog post or BookTube channel for her tag.

1) Anticipation: The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating?

The Lacemaker by Laura FrantzI could refer you to my recent Top Ten Tuesday post all about this, but I’ll just mention ONE. The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

2) Christmas Songs & Carols: What book or author can you not help but sing its praises?

Pepper Basham. Every. Single. Time.

3) Gingerbread Houses | What book or series has wonderful world building?

Ooh! Anything by Lori Benton. Most recently, Many Sparrows. Her attention to historical details simply transport the reader to the wilds of the frontier.

4) A Christmas Carol: Favorite classic or one that you want to read.

north and south endingThat’s easy. Persuasion by Jane Austen and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell are two favorites.

5) Christmas Sweets | What book would you love to receive for Christmas?

Hmm. My Christmas list consists of the “Discarded Heroes” series by Ronie Kendig, specifically the recent re-releases: Nightshade and Digitalis.

6) Candles in the Window | What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling?

How about a Christmas title for this one? Enchanted: A Christmas Collection by Melissa Tagg.

7) Christmas Trees & Decorations: What are some of your favorite book covers?

I’m a bit obsessed with book covers. A few recent and upcoming favorites would have to be:

Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof (2018), Just Let Go by Courtney Walsh (2018), Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac, Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg, Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey, Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge.

8) Christmas Joy | What are some of your favorite things about Christmas and/or some of your favorite Christmas memories?

Combined good food and family time! My Christmas Eve tradition of going to my grandma’s house for dinner is a favorite. As my family has grown with new cousins and second cousins, it’s even more fun. Watching the youngest kids all open their gifts is the most fun! And, there’s something cozy about eating a traditional Christmas meal (ham, turkey, potatoes of all kinds, pie, etc.).

 

This tag was created by Samantha at Novels and Nonsense. The original video was posted on her YouTube channel on November 23rd, 2015.

Your turn!!!! What would your answers be to these prompts? Join in the tag fun!

“Passport to Pinterest” Tag

Social media has been blessed with a fun platform for images, bookmarks, and inspiration for planning everything from your cat’s sweaters to a dream log cabin. I’m talking about Pinterest! I’ve been tagged to share random images from my favorite Pinterest boards in the “Passport to Pinterest” tag by Rayleigh Gray over at Accelerate the Jesus Movement blog. The tag originally appears on the Livy Lynn blog. (Thanks for the tag, Rayleigh!)

passporttopinterest

The Rules:

  1. Open your Boards.
  2. Open http://www.random.org (Or any random number generator website or app of your choosing.)
  3. Enter the number of pins on your first board.
  4. Click “Generate.”
  5. Find that number pin on your board.
  6. Share the image of that Pin in your new Blog Post, and a little blurb about why it’s important to you!
  7. Continue the process with ALL or as many of your boards as you like!
  8. Tag another blogger (or two, or three…or ten! The more, the merrier!) and link back to thank the blogger who tagged you.

 

Without further ado, here are some random favorites from my Pinterest boards!

The board: The Green Mockingbird [my blog]

The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

The board: Books, books, and more books!

Curl up with a good book

Curl up with a good book….

The board: “Price of Privilege” Series by Jessica Dotta | Dream Cast + Aesthetic

keys - price of privilege aesthetic

How fitting a ring of keys is the photo for this board….oh, the significance of a certain set of keys in this book series!

The board: Is it tea time yet?

tea

Tea is always a good idea. I wholeheartedly agree.

The board: Classics

leap year

LEAP YEAR. This movie is adorable.

The borad: All Things Austen and English

far from

“Romantic moment of the week” from the Silver Petticoat featuring “Far From the Madding Crowd”….. I ❤ the cinematography of this movie and the hero. The heroine, not so much.

The board: North & South – Elizabeth Gaskell & BBC

north and south ending

North and South ending scene ❤

The board: poetic

nevertheless

Nevertheless, she persisted. Encouragement for you today. 🙂

The board: Random Amusing & Funny Things

random funny

Have a laugh!

The board: Music

needtobreathe

More Heart, Less Attack by NEEDTOBREATHE

The board: Cabins, Mountains, Camping, & Woods

woods

Isn’t this peaceful?!

 

YOUR TURN! If you’d like to join in this fun photo-sharing idea, consider yourself tagged! Or, if you waste time on Pinterest like me, share your Pinterest profile link in the comments!