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?

Cookbook Review: Holiday Cookies by Elisabet der Nederlanden

Ya’ll, Christmas, baking, and books are three of my very favorite things. When they all combine in the wonder of a fabulous cookbook, I’m a very happy person. Holiday Cookies

Holiday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season by Elisabet der Nederlanden is a TREAT of a cookbook. Its simple layout and photos are eye-catching to say the least, and the recipes are easy to follow and promise all sorts of yummy holiday times. I should know. I’ve tested FIVE recipes already!!! Just to make sure. Quality control and all.

Each recipe I have made has been perfect to a “T” — the measurements, baking times, and consistency of the results. I’m happily going into the Christmas season with this book in hand, planning to try the oatmeal crisps with chocolate next!

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What I’ve tried so far, from top left: Italian Pignoli Cookies, Peanut Butter-Chocolate Crunch Squares, Espresso Thins, Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownie Sandwich Cookies, Thumbprints with Spicy Plum Jam.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and Ten Speed Press for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Meal Planning 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official prompt is: Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books (Does a character eat something you’d love? Or maybe the book takes place in a bakery/restaurant that makes yummy things? You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don’t read foody books.)

Well, people, I READ FOODIE BOOKS! And I didn’t realize how many until I started making this list….so many of them focus on a main character with a culinary background of some sort. I’ve already featured a TTT way back about characters who cook/bake, so I’m going with the actual meals this time. Such fun! Join me as we plan an indulgent schedule of eating and snacking.

MEAL PLANNING 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

Breakfast

Count Me INfrom Count Me In by Mikal Dawn

a Kit-Kat Latte – the perfect combination of sweet (chocolate and vanilla) and stout to caffeinate your day.

 

 

from Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnsonwhere-two-hearts-meet

3 words: Caden’s cinnamon rolls. “There was only one thing better than the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. The taste of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. “-chapter 1

 

Reservations for Twofrom Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge (but I could say ALL THE FOODS from the “Two Blue Doors” series!)

Blueberry buckwheat breakfast cake (AND there’s even a recipe for it in the book!)

Lunch

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano - mini reviewfrom Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

James’s tuna Nicoise sandwiches with new red potato salad and fresh fruit: “seared tuna, seasoned delicately with olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard, then layered with hard-boiled eggs and spring greens on an artisan roll.”

Tea… er, Coffee Time!

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillanfrom The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

Turkish coffee and LEMON CURD SANDWICHES. Merinda would not be herself without her frequent Turkish coffee, and lemon curd is the way to Ray’s heart, apparently 😉

Appetizer

19320758from When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren

Ahi tartar in a rice noodle cup, garnished with char orange supreme. When the characters are participating in a cooking contest, the result is pretty exotic creations!

Dinner

a-portrait-of-emily-price

from A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Chef Benito Vasallo’s Bistecca alla Pizzaiola AKA steak of the pizza maker’s wife: a thick-sauce, wintry Italian dish with “a tangy mix of tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, and something [Emily] couldn’t name….”

The Wishing Seasonfrom The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

Filet steak with garlic butter, asparagus spears, and risotto. A meal fit for a food critic.

Dessert

Dare to Love Againfrom Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman

Ghrardelli chocolate bars straight from the factory at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA. This list would not be complete without Julie’s “chocolate kiss” fun!

 

Bonus! Books on my TBR shelf that promise all kinds of yummy foods:

The Romano Family Collection: A Trio of Romances Flavored with Grace by Brandy Bruce

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano (releasing Feb. 2018)

 

Which of these meals sounds the most appetizing to you?  Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you enjoy foodie fiction and have recommendations for me? Comment away!

July Happenings

It’s the end of JULY already! Wow, the summer has flown by! I would love to hear how your summer is going or what you’ve been reading lately in the comments. As always, thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog.

on the bookshelf

July was a fun month for book gathering! Someone needs to stop me from clicking on the “purchase” and “request for review” buttons all. the. time. Or, someone could just lock me in a cabin with food and my TBR and I might make a dent after a few weeks…..

The bookshelves gained these titles: A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren, Many Sparrows by Lori Benton, His Steadfast Love by Julie Lessman, Not by Sight by Kate Breslin, Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh, A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White, Where the Light Falls by Allison Pataki and Owen Pataki, and finally a physical copy of Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Book Spotlight, Author Interview, & Giveaway: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Book Quotes About Books
  3. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project

Most popular book reviews:

  1. The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo (plus author interview)
  2. His Steadfast Love by Julie Lessman (plus book snippet)
  3. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones

in the kitchen

I altered this PBS food recipe for dairy-free spinach stuffed shells. Thanks to a cow dairy allergy, it caught my attention, though I did alter it by using ricotta made from almonds and a little sheep cheese. It’s highly recommended!

on the screen

Dunkirk One SheetOf the movies I’ve seen this month, Dunkirk (just released July 21) is the one that left the biggest impression. Extremely well done from start to finish, every element, from the cast to the cinematography, musical score, and riveting timeline of the story worked together to create an immersive experience. This lesser-known event (to those of us on this “side of the pond”) was of key import to the UK and its allies as it struggled to evade the advancing Germans and evacuate France from the beach of Dunkirk. It’s a film to be taken seriously — both its subject matter and story of the prevailing good of humanity during an atrocious time of history. I highly recommend it!

around the web

Carrying forward more Jane Austen fun (because you can never have too much Jane Austen), check out Hillary Manton Lodge’s Jane Austen Week interviews and recipes in honor of the bicentenary (200 year mark) of Jane’s passing. And, check out my #bookbestie Rissi’s review of Hillary’s novel, Jane of Austin, over at Finding Wonderland.

More bookish fun! Title news for Joanne Bischof’s upcoming series, book 1 releasing in 2018.

Fellow book blogger Kate over at Fiction Aficionado has published a fabulous series discussing a common book and story trope: the love triangle. She introduces and gives specific examples of several kinds (from the Christian fiction genre), then further discusses the good and the bad of this trope in two more posts!

Finally, this is an old article, but SO MUCH FUN! 10 of the Best European Train Trips, compiled by National Geographic.

So, tell me: what was your month like?

 

 

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.

Review: Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Lizzy and Jane was another excellent book by Katherine Reay! She has the uncanny ability to write deep characters in unique situations, delving into uncommon issues and insightful experiences. I’m sharing this review way later than I had intended. Like, 6 months late. Just because I waited forever to share it doesn’t mean I loved the book any less! It DID make my favorites list for 2014!

Lizzy’s character at first seems closed off and unfeeling, but as you get to know her, she makes her way into your emotions. You begin to identify with her struggles, her pain over the loss of her mother, her prejudices against her sister Jane for her unconcern when their mother died. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine ReayYou understand, though, Jane’s perspective, too.That their personalities are just opposite – but they have more in common than they realize.

Truly, Lizzy experiences many emotions and carries baggage and pain from the time her mother died. She holds it as a grudge against her sister, that she left Lizzy, even as Jane now goes through a horrible battle with cancer.

The literary references included in this book – especially to Austen and “food in classic literature” – are again fabulous and fun, like in her debut, Dear Mr. Knightley.

I liked witnessing Lizzy’s journey and her reaction to her sister’s situation. Lizzy finds purpose in serving others, helping them in some small way through their pain, because she can identify with some of their feelings.

A romance with Nick, a friend of Jane’s, is not exactly central to the story, but happens as Lizzy’s story with Jane unfolds – in the middle of pain, family, and everyday life. That’s why I loved it, and was drawn to how their relationship would conclude in the story. It realistically showed that life is not a fairy tale, but happiness can be found even in the struggles.

Overall, this was an engaging, thought-provoking story. It begs this question of the reader: Are you doing something to make a difference in people’s lives?

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Summary: Lizzy and Jane never saw eye to eye. But when illness brings them together, they discover they may be more like Austen’s famous sisters after all.

Lizzy was only a teenager when her mother died of cancer. Shortly after, Lizzy fled from her home, her family, and her cherished nickname. After working tirelessly to hone her gift of creating magic in the kitchen, Elizabeth has climbed the culinary ladder to become the head chef of her own New York restaurant, Feast. But as her magic begins to elude her, Paul, Feast’s financial backer, brings in someone to share her responsibilities and her kitchen. So Elizabeth flees again.

In a desperate attempt to reconnect with her gift, Elizabeth returns home. But her plans are derailed when she learns that her estranged sister, Jane, is battling cancer. Elizabeth surprises everyone-including herself-when she decides to stay in Seattle and work to prepare healthy, sustaining meals for Jane as she undergoes chemotherapy. She also meets Nick and his winsome son, Matt, who, like Elizabeth, are trying to heal from the wounds of the past.

As she tends to Jane’s needs, Elizabeth’s powers begin to return to her, along with the family she left behind so long ago. Then Paul tries to entice her back to New York, and she is faced with a hard decision: stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane, or return to New York and the life she worked so hard to create?