Monday, May 23, 2016

Food With Friends, a review

Food with Friends, The Art of Simple Gatherings is a book about showing hospitality, whether a large party or a small get together with friends.  The author, Leela Cyd, is an artist with a camera who happens to have some very good recipes.

While this book is not for everyone, it is perfect for the cook who loves to make food pretty and who loves to experiment with flavors.  If one does not live on the West Coast, it may require ordering some special ingredient online.  However, I think it would be worth it if one is making this food for a special occasion such as a wedding shower or birthday.

The chapters include:

  • Secret Ingredients
  • Style File
  • Breakfast & Brunch
  • Teatime
  • Happy Hour
  • Potlucks & Picnics
  • Desserts
  • Tiny Takeaways

This is the perfect book for foodie meets Pinterest.  If your preference is for ingredients on hand and not at all complicated, I don't think you would be happy with the book.  Although you could certainly find a few recipes in it.  However, it is definitely for the cook who enjoys pretty, girlie food that is going to be unique for sharing with guests.

This book was provided by Blogging For Books but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found about Food With Friends... here.*

*Most links to are Associate links.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Blog Update

My New England family will be arriving within a couple of hours.  We can hardly wait to see them!  Their beautiful house sold before it was officially put on the market and now, after downsizing a lot of stuff, they are moved into a smaller rental house while their new house is being built.

I'm sure now that Phase 1 is behind them, Stephanie will be able to update the process on her blog.  That link is on the sidebar.  She hasn't been able to write with the house selling so quickly and having to move out faster than originally planned.  But it is good to have that part over with and they can enjoy themselves here for a week.

Part of the events will be a baby shower for Mrs. Christopher this weekend while the menfolk go on a kayaking trip.  My husband promises me he won't overdo.  Yeah, right.  The rest of the family are also planning a trip into Michigan to go to South Haven for a day.  The two of us who are older will remain home and nap.

All that to say... I won't be writing any weekend posts this week and perhaps next week.  I may be able to get in a Sunday Afternoon Tea next Sunday.  We'll see if there is time.  I will have a book review next week and I'm hoping to write another Book Talk.  This one is inspired by the conversation from my last Book Talk post.  It will be how I choose what books to read and what I stay away from.  Also, how I chose what books my kids read when they were home.

I'm hoping to get time to write it and get it published next week but if not, certainly the week after next.  But to write I need time to ponder and with six adults and five children and one Diva Kitty, pondering time will be hard to come by.  But that is just fine with me.  ;)

Oh, on a sad note.  Remember when we visited New England this time last year so Stephanie and I could go to the May Brimfield ?  (If you don't know what it is, Google it and there are lots of photos of lovely antiques.)  I loved spending time with their dog, Sir Charles the Stout.  Charlie had to be put to sleep recently.  We all will miss him.

Image:  Taken at our favorite coffee shop near campus the last time Stephanie visited.  Yes, we split the cake.  No... no one gets part of my coffee.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book Talk

Yesterday was a very long day as I sat in the Urgent Care waiting room of a VA Hospital in a nearby state for my husband to see doctors and have tests.  We thought he may have damaged a prior surgery but thankfully tests showed he hadn't done anything that required further surgery.  He was sent on his way with a warning to be more careful.  That was a very polite way of telling him to act his age and remember he is no longer twenty-nine.  ;)

I thought we would be there a few hours so I had taken my "purse book" with me and fortunately... should it be longer as it turned out.. an insulin pen and two granola bars.  My "purse books" are those with self contained chapters that makes it possible to pick up and then set aside easily.  Fiction is only tucked in my purse if I'm in the midst of a book I cannot put down so it travels wherever I do.

My current "purse book" is The Irrational Season by Madeleine L'Engle.  I am thoroughly enjoying this book so I'm fairly certain it will eventually move from my purse to the coffee table where it can be given some serious attention. It is the third in her Crosswicks Journal trilogy and I haven't a clue why it has taken so long to read it.

The first book in the trilogy, A Circle of Quiet, was my first introduction to Madeleine L'Engle and a much beloved volume.  It has been read and reread numerous times.  The second in the trilogy, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother has been read through once.  I can already tell that The Irrational Season will have sections reread someday. 

While the first two books in the trilogy were more biographical, this one so far seems to be a more spiritual journal, although the first two do contain a lot about her faith.  I have had some people through the years question my love of L'Engle's writing because she is more "High Church" but I think that is why I love it so much.  I have found nothing unscriptural in her writings, just a different way of seeing...

The other nonfiction book by L'Engle that I have read through a couple of times and reread section of over and over is Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art.  In it, she talks about her life as one who loves God and makes Art as well as encouraging other Christians on the importance of their artistic work.

A favorite quote from this book is, "To paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnational activity.".  Amen sister!  Oh, excuse me... they don't do that in her church. Whispering in her ear a gentle, "I agree!".

As we are talking about one of my favorite authors, I have to admit that I didn't read A Wrinkle in Time until I was middle age.  I thought of it only as a children's book but my daughter kept encouraging me to read it (much in the way she encouraged me to start blogging).  I finally bought the edition that had all four of the "Time Books" when it was on sale and began reading... oh, my.

It was one of the most amazing works of fiction I have ever read, although I do admit to enjoying Science Fiction/Fantasy books.  But I think even those who don't would enjoy A Wrinkle in Time.  I was glad I had bought the Quartet so I could continue reading through them.  She went on to write one or two more in the series before her death.

She talks about writing A Wrinkle in Time in Walking on Water, which was fascinating to read as one who loves that book and who enjoys good writing.  The mother in A Wrinkle in Time is one of my very favorite fictional mothers, too.  

I don't care how old you are, unless you absolutely can't stand SciFi/Fantasy book... you must read A Wrinkle in Time.  You may not want to read the rest of the series, which are very good but I didn't think as absolutely amazing as the first.  If you have a child who needs an interesting book, this one is it.  I'd say a Middle School student who is a good reader should be able to get through this just fine.

Madeleine L'Engle was a prolific writer and her other series of children's books are well beloved, too.  I just haven't read them. 

Further Information*

A Circle of Quiet can be found... here.

The Irrational Season can be found... here.

Walking on Water can be found... here.

A Wrinkle in Time can be found... here.

*Most links to are Associate links.  I thank you.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Life As It Is

I was pondering this week, thinking of what I wanted to say today... when I remembered I had already written a similar essay for Sally Clarkson's blog when it was called I Take Joy and she had guest writers. 

Life As It Is, Not As I Want It To Be
From I Take Joy, 2012   

Do you ever find yourself frustrated with the way your life is compared to what you would like it to be?  I do quite often.  God has shown me my attitude has much to do with having peace about what I desire and reality and I’d love to pass on some of what He has shown me, hoping it will bring comfort to you in your journey.

We can choose to have faith that God is in control of our lives. By spending time in the Word, reading books by and about people of faith, and listening to music that feeds the soul…we build inside of us a deep reservoir to use in the challenges of daily living.

We don’t need to be going through a great trial to need strength for living. Sometimes I find it easier to pray for a large need than for money to fill the van with gasoline. Little things need big faith, too.

We can choose to learn what we do not know.  I have been making a home for over thirty years and there is a great deal I still do not know about all the aspects of home-making. I continue to learn how to better clean house and do laundry, ways to decorate my home, gardening skills I need…lots of gardening skills I need, recipes to try out, decisions to make about next semester’s schooling, books to read…miles to go before I sleep, miles to go.

We can choose beauty in a world that gets darker every day.  I work at making things beautiful. I study the library books, magazines, articles, etc. in an attempt to find new inspiration. My home has to be a sanctuary from this world for all of us who live here.

I thought at one time I’d love to decorate in a Shabby Chic color scheme with big cabbage roses in pictures and on pillows. However, that was not to be in a small house with two men. Fortunately, they both liked the lace on the windows, the teapots and teacups, the vintage look of the kitchen, the shelves of books and more books, all items men can live with.

They both appreciated the results of a morning baking in the kitchen along with coffee or tea (or a large glass of cold milk for my son). They liked the flowers planted, the herbs in containers, the rocking chair on the porch and the aromas when the door was opened and they stepped into… home.

This world should be a comfortable place in which to live…it isn’t.  My home can be quite comfortable, though. I like soft sofas and chairs, throws everywhere for when it gets cold, pillows abounding, hot drinks on cold days, flannel housecoats, comfortable clothing (washed and put away where they belong), clean bed linens, quilts, and soft cats.

However… there is more to being at peace and comfortable than our choice of the stuff around us.

This world ought to be filled with grace and it is not.  Only in my home can I have some control over grace filled words and atmosphere. It has not always been grace filled.  There have been plenty of days when tempers flared and words were spoken because the people living here were exhausted and cranky. However, because grace is sought after and important, there is always the hope (and plan) for peace to follow forgiveness.

For most of us, we do not stay within the walls of our home all day, every day. Life is often lived on the other side of the front door, whether family members work outside the home or simply must run the necessary errands required of keeping a home.

We attend church and other meetings. We take part in school activities whether they involve homeschooling, public schools, private schools, universities or preschool. We volunteer, we hold public office, we do what we are called to do to be salt and light in the world.

But at the end of the day… there must be a place where we come home to a world a little closer to what it ought to be.

It will never be perfect this side of eternity. But when there are people making an attempt, doing their best, putting thought and energy into bringing a little bit of Heaven into this fallen world for their family (in spite of the fact reality is far from perfect and perfection can never be reached) then we are at least heading in the right direction toward hearing “well done good and faithful servant”.

Image:  A Good Book by Paul Gustave Fischer

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - This and That

Information below!
This crazy weather is playing havoc with getting my garden planted.  It has been cold and wet and we have a frost warning for tonight and tomorrow night.  It is so cold, it felt more like February on the way out to check the mail late afternoon.  Brrrr...

I didn't wait until tonight, I tucked the deck flowers and herbs under the two small deck tables and covered each with an old flannel sheet.  I've covered the porch flowers already.  I figured if I was that cold, they are cold.  I'll take the covers off tomorrow but keep them handy for tomorrow night. 

Since we are planting so late, I am not sure if I can get away with planting any cool weather veggies.  It will most likely turn hot if we get this Arctic high (or whatever it is) to move.  But I've already bought some kale starts and they are always planted in the part of the garden that gets shade, across the garden lane (so to speak) from the apple mint bed.  So I'm thinking they may be okay.  I'm glad we don't depend on the garden for survival.

My New England family are coming for a visit in a week so I've been feeding that part of the pantry that is in the freezer.  I have two double batches of shortbread dough, which will be rolled out and cut with fluted cookie cutters when they are here.  Shortbread cookies are very household friendly.  I have two dozen formed chocolate chip cookies in the freezer ready to bake, too.

Next week I will freeze at least two make ahead main dishes and perhaps a loaf or two of a quick bread.  We will be doing enough cooking in real time that to have at least a couple options ready to go into the oven would be a good thing.

This week I want to share a really good book about living a Pantry Lifestyle and answers to questions.  

The book is shown above and the full title is The Made From Scratch Life: Simple Ways to Create a Natural Home by Melissa K. Norris.  I've shared Melissa's blog and podcast information before but I just recently purchased her new book.

This is a simple, basic book about being more self sufficient including gardening, harvesting, preserving food, making natural cleaners, lowering your energy bill, etc.  I had to chuckle at the bad reviews on Amazon, some were quite offended it was from a Christian perspective.  I was quite delighted.

I had the book on my Wish List but I admit to adding it to an order to give me free shipping.  I'm so glad I did!  

Q & A
My washer and dryer have been in the garage since we moved here.  I'm thinking they have been there since the house was built in the 1960s.  We haven't had any problems with them being in the garage except it is very cold in winter for the person who does the laundry (that would be me).  Our garage is unheated.

Our only problem came when the house was hit by lightening and the dryer developed a gas leak and our house would have blown up if our cat hadn't escaped into the garage and we saw the flames starting in the back of the dryer.  Some of you may remember that "interesting" experience.  So we called the fire department (for the second time that week) and Victoria saved the house.  But we still don't let her in the garage and hopefully we don't get struck by lightening again.

The vinegar sherry vinegar I bought from Amazon is the Don Bruno Sherry Wine Vinegar D.O.P. 25.35 ounce.  There are numerous places it is offered on Amazon, for some reason it is unavailable now where I ordered it.  But I will add a link to another seller.  I think it is excellent, this amount will last me awhile.

I hope that answers the questions.  I must admit I tend to forget what people have asked if I let them go very long. 

The Made From Scratch Life information can be found... here.*

Don Bruno Sherry Wine Vinegar can be found... here.*

Melissa Norris information link... here.

*Most links to are Associate Links.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

NKJV Chronological Study Bible, a review

The first thing I have to say about this Bible is that it is gorgeous.  I have so enjoyed just perusing it this last week and getting to know what it has to offer.  For one thing, the Books of the Bible are in chronological order in which the events happened, not by author.  So in this Chronological Bible, it does not begin with Job but with Genesis.

The Bible is unique in how it adds other sections of Scripture within where they would go in the context.  For instance, there are Psalms inserted into the pages of I Samuel.  The Bible contains maps, notes, illustrations, and other inserts pretty much on each page. 

The Bible is divided by various "Epochs" of History, combining Biblical history with World History notes quite often.  They are:

Epoch 1: Before the Patriarchs, Creation - 2000 B.C.
Epoch 2: The Patriarchs, Israel's Ancestors, 2000 - 1500 B.C.
Epoch 3: The Rise of a Unified People, 1500 - 1200 B.C.
Epoch 4: From Tribes to a Nation, 1200 - 930 B.C.
Epoch 5: The Fall of Two Nations, 930 - 586 B.C.
Epoch 6: Exile and Return, 586 - 332 B.C.
Epoch 7: Between the Two Testaments, 332 - 37 B.C.
Epoch 8: The Coming of the Messiah, 37 B.C. - A.D. 30
Epoch 9: The Church Age, A.D. 30 - 100

Each Epoch features an Introduction and Historical Overview, it contains a Topical Index and Glossary, and In-text full-color maps of the world of the Bible.

For me this Bible would be best studied just reading it through a little at a time so I was pleased to see it offers a One-Year and a Two-Year Bible Reading plan.  Although one could easily pick it up and get lost in any section for sheer enjoyment.

This book would make an excellent gift for someone who already has the regular approved canon Bible, what I call my "take to Church" Bible.  The only caveat I would provide is that ADD people may find it a bit overwhelming for there is a lot going on in each page. 

The Bible is in the New King James Version, which is not the version I use most of the time but makes it very easy to read.  The print is good enough to be easy to read while not being a large print Bible.  I'd say if I can read it, most people will be able to see the print.

This Bible was provided by the publisher for the sake of review but the opinions are my own.

Further information can be found at here.*

*Most links to are Associate Links.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Home Cooked, a review

Home Cooked is a beautiful and well written cookbook.  When I first perused it, the thought that came to me was that for some people, this is the cookbook they have always wanted.  It is perfect for those who cook from scratch, I mean really cook from scratch... like perhaps growing and processing their own meat.

But this cookbook goes far beyond that with recipes and instructions for processing your fruits and vegetables, pickling, making your own ricotta, and a lot of good sauces.  The recipes are mostly with an Italian slant as the author lived in Italy for some time.

The author also provides in-depth instructions when appropriate, such as in the section on making your own ricotta cheese.  I found the chapter on cooking with an iron skillet very helpful if just for the instructions on how to clean up very old iron skillets. The chapter called "A Steak Primer" was very helpful even to this long time cook.

While I may not use half the recipes in the book, there are plenty of good dishes I can't wait to try like Fast Kraut, Cornmeal Spoonbread, Asado Potatoes, Buttery Spatchcocked Chicken, and Apple Torta.

As I said in the first paragraph, this cookbook will be exactly what some cooks have been wanting but even for the rest of us, it is an excellent well written and well photographed book.  With a good story!

This cookbook was provided by Blogging For Books for the purpose of review but the opinion is my own.

Further information about Home Cooked can be found... here.*

*Most links to are Associate Links.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Mothering

My kids at Christopher's wedding, four years ago now!

Mother's Day this year finds me walking slowly due to back spasms brought on by chilly, damp weather.  Remember the old commercial, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature?".  I feel as if she is fooling us this spring with a brief warm up and then this cold rainy stuff.  Why, it could cause a usually sanguine person to become cranky.  ;)

Mr. and Mrs. Christopher took us out to lunch at a favorite neighborhood restaurant from our "old" neighborhood.  It was a nice walk from our house at the time and we would have breakfast there once a week.  Back when there were four of us and our two former kitties were in feline middle age.  It is still a favorite place that hasn't changed much since those days.

I find this day can bring about memories both good and bad... second only to Christmas for most people.  Some of us are missing our mothers while others try not to remember their mothers.  Those who are childless not by choice grieve on this day and those of us who have lost a child, whether through miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, accident, or illness... the day can bring sadness.

There was joy at our table today as we talked about mothers, especially our resident mother-to-be.  All of us are awaiting the arrival of a little girl in July (Stephanie and I are thrilled Mrs. Christopher is expecting a girl).

There are times I get nostalgic for the mothering of old, which was already being lost when I was in high school.  My husband remembers when he grew up (and he is over seven years older than I am), the neighborhood children knew all the mothers as they all knew each other.  It didn't matter whose yard you were playing in, the rules of each family were pretty much the same and if you broke one at a friend's house... you would hear about it when you arrived home.

But mothering was considered an important occupation then and while I am thankful for the women's movement for the good things accomplished (it is quite remarkable to think women once were not able to vote), I do feel the chipping away at the value of mothering has been detrimental to society.

I'm not thinking of just our own mothers or the way we mother... but women as a whole mothering the next generation.  For in my husband's childhood, most women were nurturers whether they had their own children or not.  For instance, he still has fond memories of women who were his teachers (and the Latin teacher he downright feared but respected).

Do you remember the Women's Pages in a newspaper?  They began to die out and be renamed around the 1980s in our area of the country but I remember the recipes and the columns about raising children, sewing, fashion, hospitality, etc.  My mother-in-law loved the recipes in the Chicago Tribune and in her papers when she passed away were dozens of prize winning recipes carefully clipped out and many of her family favorites were $5.00 winners (a lot back then).

I know we can't turn back time and I certainly wouldn't want to in my life.  I like being a grandmother.  However, I find myself thinking of the generation of women who came before me when I wear a vintage apron and make a pie from scratch.  Cooking is one of my love languages, I have the spiritual gift of cookies.

I think of my sister Bonnie's mother-in-law, whose memories I have of her were all in her kitchen.  I never knew her as an adult as she passed away about the time I was married but I remember her each Christmas when I give gifts of homemade cookies and candy because her homemade candy was the most anticipated gift each year.

I think of the women before me like my mother who worked outside the home because she had to and got up each morning to go to a job without complaining.  It was just something they did.  She had lived through a Great Depression and WWII and had a lot of grit.  She taught me just how strong women can be when they had to keep going.

I came to realize a long time ago that there are children around us that need nurturing, even if they are not related to us.  God has a way of putting a child, teenager, or college student in our path if we ask Him.  Someone who needs a mother in their life, quite often someone who doesn't realize they need a mother figure.

Someone to listen to them and to pray for them and if time permits, mentor them in God's Word and in the mysteries of womanhood.  Like how to bake perfect cookies, and to salt the water early for pasta and late for beans, and to think before speaking, and to befriend the shy girl, and that Jesus can be their very best friend forever and ever.

Perhaps you know a lonely young mother who needs an older mom to mentor her.  For I remember how clueless I was when I became a mother and we moved away from my hometown when Stephanie was just a few months old.  How wonderful it would have been to have an adopted mother guide me through all those questions.

Mentoring motherhood can begin with offering a neighborhood child cookies and milk (albeit these days one has to ask if they are gluten free and lactose intolerant) or inviting a young woman from church over for an afternoon tea.  If you ask God, He will lead the way by showing you who needs mothering.  You may be surprised to find it is your own teenager who appears so aloof.

Is your relationship with your mother or your children broken in any way?  Ask God how to mend it.  You may have to show forgiveness without expecting any in return.  But that is God's way, you know.  Ask God to love that person through you if you have no feeling of love yourself.  I've been there with people and have been amazed when God does that.  Absolutely amazed. 

Now excuse me as I brew a pot of decaf ginger peach tea and celebrate the rest of my day listening to the Grey Haven's album my daughter gifted me through iTunes and read a little and perhaps watch a PBS Mystery a little later.  That sounds like a very good Mother's Day evening.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - My latest pantry obsession

Recently I made my mother-in-law's recipe for chicken casserole, a dish I used to make often but I hadn't in a long time.  It tasted... different.  I realized it was the additional salt in the dried mixes added for flavor.  There has to be a whole lot more salt in them than there was when I used to make this same chicken casserole.

Next time I will leave out the onion soup mix completely and just add dried onion flakes.  That wasn't the first time I've noticed what is being sold today is not quite what it once was... whether in taste or size.

Of course, we have to eat so much "cleaner" than we once did that we are also probably sensitive to the amount of sodium in these mixes.  Most items in my kitchen are made from scratch.  

My husband was once a person who mainly wanted meat and potato meals, mixed in with a casserole here and there.  For that was how his mother cooked and most moms of that generation.  So for a long time our meals were centered around protein in the form of beef or chicken or pork.

However, with the changes in our dietary demands, I'm making far more vegetarian meals these days than those centered around meat.  I now buy for a month the amount of meat I used to buy for about a week and a half.  Partly for dietary reasons and partly because the cost of high quality meat has sky rocketed.

So for awhile now, I've been tweaking the pantry to include more vegetarian style options.  I've written about experimenting with various types of spices (where was sumac all my life?).  I don't think my mother had ever heard of garam masala and the only sumac she knew was poison... not the spice.  However, it has been fun and I have inexpensive options to try a little at a time, whether buying bulk from the health food store or at a local Asian market.

My most recent pantry tweaking has been in the form of vinegar and oils.  After hearing many of my favorite TV cooking teachers talk about sherry vinegar (Sarah Moulton says it is her favorite vinegar), I finally ordered some from Amazon.  I had been looking for it at stores for years.  Apparently it is getting easier to find but not in my town.  Want something Asian?  You will find it here.  Mexican?  There are specialty stores.  Indian?  Look at the Asian market.  Etc.

I thought I'd like sherry vinegar after trying sherry for the first time in a beautiful West Virginia Bed & Breakfast.  The owners, in typical Southern hospitality, had a carafe of sherry sitting out with beautiful cut glass glassware for guests to help themselves to a sip each evening.  I did.  I loved it.  My Southern genes were quite happy.  Sherry vinegar is made in much the say way as sherry.

I first did a little Google research on the ways people use sherry vinegar (and in Spain it is on everything it seems, like balsamic vinegar in Italy).  So this past week, I had leftover steamed green beans I wanted to freshen the next evening and I splashed just a little sherry vinegar in them as they reheated in butter.  Oh, my.  Yum... and Mr. Picky my husband thought they were great.

I've been playing around with vinegars for a long time.  I think the first out of the ordinary vinegar I tried (at least it was new to us) was seasoned rice vinegar.  This was back in the 90s and it was just being discovered in the States, about the time sushi was getting popular.  We loved it!  Although we now purchase regular rice vinegar (without the sugar of seasoned rice vinegar), it is still our go to vinegar for salad dressings.

My collection of vinegar and oils also contains Bragg's apple cider vinegar, a middle-of-the-road balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, olive oil with lemon, olive oil with garlic, and non GMO cold pressed canola oil.

These are the kind of pantry items that are helping me bring flavor into a completely different way of cooking than I once did... and learning new things is fun.  Oh, I still assemble the occasional casserole and just last week I made fried chicken (although these days I cut the chicken breasts into two servings).

I love unique pantry items and how a small amount of money spent on a new seasoning, salt, spice, herb, oil, vinegar, etc. can turn humble ingredients into a yummy dinner!

I was asked how long dried beans last?  They are best the first year but after that they are still edible but they take longer to cook.  I have heard there comes a time when they get too old to ever soften but I have never had that happen.

Do I wash canned goods when I bring them in from the garage?  I actually do unless I just recently purchased them.  Our garage attracts unwanted guests that sometimes leave behind evidence they were on the shelves (yuk) so I do wash the top of the cans with soapy water before opening them.  I don't obsess over it but a quick sudsy cleaning will certainly help prevent illness and it won't hurt.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Book Talk

I will be forever thankful to my friend, Kristi, for encouraging me to read novels by D. E. Stevenson.  Books by Stevenson are in their own little bookshelf in my home (along with their friends by Elizabeth Goudge)... greatly treasured.

Kristi gifted me with Listening Valley last year and I (no surprise) loved it.  For my favorite books by Stevenson either take place in Scotland or the characters end up in Scotland. 

After finishing that book, I looked to see if there were any sequels and I found, while not really a"prequel", Celia's House takes place in the same small Scottish town, ending just prior to when the main character of Listening Valley moves to the town.

A couple months ago, I used Amazon credit (thank you!) to purchase Celia's House.  While I adore old and well worn books, it is quite wonderful that so many of these old favorites are now available in paperback (and some on Kindle) at a reasonable price.

I had to set it aside to finish a couple of review books but when I was finally able to read it, it had the same affect that many of Stevenson's books do... I felt I was in England and Scotland!

Celia's House is about a family who are surprised to inherit the family home from the husband's Great Aunt Celia.  We learn some of Celia's past and we go through the years with Celia's nephew and his family as they love the grand old home.

As with other Stevenson books, the house and the land and the neighbors become central characters in the book.  Which is why one feels they could smell the aroma of the Scottish sod.

Although it had only been last year that I read Listening Valley, I read it again immediately after finishing Celia's House.  For that is where it belongs in its' proper reading.  (Although I didn't know Celia's House existed before my research.)

While each book can be enjoyed on their own, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Listening Valley even more the second time around because I now knew the history of the people and the town.  As with other Stevenson novels, I also noticed a name or two associated with the delightful series that begins with Vittoria Cottage.

I wrote recently about my need to "run to the lovely" and these are the kinds of books that help keep joy alive.  I love books about Great Britain in WWII and the Scottish Highlands and how we all need each other in times of trouble.  They will definitely be read again. 

I also read a nonfiction book last week that I greatly enjoyed. 

I will admit to following Amazon recommendations.  You know, those "People Who Bought this Book Also Bought" rabbit trails.  That's how I find great books that were not on my radar.

The Cozy Life by Pia Edberg came along just at the time I needed to read about Beauty and warm and fuzzy things. The subtitle is "Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge".

Pia now lives in Canada but was born in Denmark.  This book is not very big but it is exactly what I needed.  In reading about how the Danish cherish and live with the warm, cozy, lovely concepts of adding Beauty to their every day lives.

I purchased this as a Kindle download (it is still very inexpensive) and when I finished it, my Kindle loaned my daughter's Kindle the book immediately.  I plan to purchase the paperback version when I have a little extra Amazon credit.

Pia explains in the book how the long, dark winters in Denmark brought about the simplicity of lighting candles, enjoying hot coffee or tea when arriving home in the cold, adding beauty to their homes to bring warmth and light in their stark environment.

While there are times I feel winter will never end in my part of the world (it has been a very cool spring), we don't live in an area where it is dark for months upon months at a time.  However, we can learn a lot from the Danish people and their love of Hygge. 

Reading this book while listening to a cold rain outside my window was in itself, practicing Hygge.  Loved it.

Listening Valley can be found... here.
Celia's House can be found... here.
The Cozy Life can be found... here.

I mentioned D. E. Stevenson's wonderful Drumberely series which begins with Vittoria Cottage.  I know I've given links to the three books before but I'll add them here, too.

The hardback is pricey but the Kindle Version for each of the three books in the series is only $3.99 each.  They make perfect summer reading!
Vittoria Cottage (Book 1)... here.
Music in the Hills (Book 2)... here.
Shoulder the Sky (Book 3)... here.

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