Friday, November 21, 2014

Reflections from my small kitchen..

Something about the onset of winter has me baking and cooking in the kitchen. I love to cook but I love it even more when the wind is blowing and it is rainy or snowing out. It just makes me feel all snug and cozy and warm. 

I have to tell you too, I have the world's smallest kitchen. Seriously. It is a very small counter and the kitchen can fit two people in it at once, if they squeeze tight. But it doesn't stop me. And it didn't stop my grandma either. This kitchen may be small, but it produced our family's Thanksgiving dinner every year when I was kid, forever and ever. My grandma made it all too~ turkey, mashed potatoes, green veggies, pies of all kinds, and my very favorite, Yorkshire Pudding. Just thinking about that Yorkshire Pudding brings tears to my eyes, with missing her. It was always made last, and we all anxiously awaited its arrival at the table, fresh from the oven. My uncle and I are both end piece lovers, and I remember being very little and hoping that when it made its way to me, there was an end piece left. 

So now, when I bake in the very same kitchen, I think of my grandma, and I feel so connected to her and those family holidays.

One thing I made recently is this Challah bread.

 Raspberry-Sea Salt Challah from Girl Versus Dough

She made hers with fig as well, but I don't care for fig so I left it out. It turned out so good! The process for me was messy and slow going ~ it took me five hours as I am not an experienced challah maker at all! But the end results were pretty and tasty, and I was pretty darn proud of myself. I think my grandma would have been too. 

I've also been churning out my own version of Spicy Vegetable soup by the potful, and assorted pastas, including the Pioneer Woman's Mac and Cheese. I love that stuff and could eat it every day! My husband was even hit by the baking bug, and made the most delicious Madeline's, so light and lemony, that I enjoyed one morning for breakfast. 

Of course, I am looking forward to Thanksgiving as well. I plan to make Nantucket Cranberry Pie, which I made last year, and it seemed like people liked it. 

Baking pie was a specialty of my grandma's. She always made her own pie crust by hand, and I loved to sneak the scraps of dough to eat. People say there isn't a difference between homemade and frozen crust, but maybe that is because they haven't had quality homemade crust, like my grandma used to make. 

Food is memory, is sensory. Food is family, and love. I think of all those memories of my grandma, of baking shortbread with my mother, of baking now in my little kitchen that has seen so many meals, the kitchen I will bake in for my own child one day soon, and there is something soothing and wonderful about it all. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

Title: In Your Dreams
Author: Kristan Higgins
Source: My friend Mary's library

Goodreads Summary:

Emmaline Neal needs a date. Just a date—someone to help her get through her ex-fiancĂ©'s wedding without losing her mind. But pickings are slim in Manningsport, New York, population 715. In fact, there's really only one option: local heartthrob Jack Holland. Everyone loves Jack, and he won't get the wrong idea…. After all, Jack Holland would never actually be interested in a woman like Em. Especially not with his beautiful ex-wife creeping around, angling to reunite ever since he rescued a group of teens and became a local hero. 

But when the wedding festivities take an unexpectedly passionate turn, Em figures it was just one crazy night. Jack is too gorgeous, too popular, to ever end up with her. So why is she the one he can talk to about his deep, dark feelings? If Em is going to get her dream man, she'll have to start by believing in him…

My thoughts:

This is only the second Higgins book that I have read, and both books were in the Blue Heron series. I have to say, I really did enjoy this book! I loved the setting, the Holland family, and although I had to cringe sometimes over the awkward moments the main character Emmaline Neal found herself in, I liked the basic plot of this book. It was certainly original!

Emmaline Neal's ex-fiancee is getting married. They broke up over a particularly strange turn of events, and Emmaline wants to prove that she is over him and the hurt and anger that went along with their break-up. Jack Holland, local hero and hot guy is enlisted to be her date. Unexpected sparks fly between the two, and while certain things are good, Emmaline is left wondering why her? Matters are further complicated when Jack's delicate ex-wife rolls back into town.

One thing I have loved about both Higgins' books I have read: they both included animal stories, which touched my animal rescuer's heart. The story of Jack's cat is particularly touching.

Overall I really enjoyed this book! It had tension, and some awkward moments for the character which are always hard for me, and an interesting plot. Not necessarily a holiday read, but it does take place in the winter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Birthday fit for the birds

So Sunday was my birthday, and I had a blast with my family celebrating it.

I had nerd fun on my birthday this year. We kicked off my birthday Saturday night by going to an Owl Prowl at Oakwoods Metropark, with my brother and his wife. The weather was going to be cold and in the 20s, so we all bundled up in our warmest outdoor gear, complete with thick fleece gloves and hats that covered our ears. Prior to taking to the woods, Oakwoods has a presentation about owls, discussing things like which owls live in and visit Michigan, what myths about owls are true, and about the general biology of what makes an owl an owl. After the presentation, everyone trooped outside, where the dark devoured us. Out there in the woods, there was not a lot of light, other than the one flashlight our guide Roni was carrying. She asked that we not shine lights of our own, because it could potentially frighten the owls away, leaving us to hike through the cold, dark woods without hope of seeing an owl. 

We were hoping to spot an Eastern Screech Owl on our walk. They have a very distinctive call, which to me sounds like a ghost or a horse. Roni would walk us to a point in the woods where screeches had been spotted before, walk up a bit ahead of us, turn off her flashlight, and play a recording of a screech owl call. This is what pulls them in to us, basically calling them to the group. Owls have silent flight, so we wouldn't be able to hear them fly in. Instead, we were to watch for them flying in along the horizon, or to listen for them calling back to us. We were rewarded for our efforts by three sightings of two Screech Owls! They are so cute and little, about 8 inches tall. 

That pic was taken during the day, although we were out at night. I found the cold walk in the woods invigorating; there was just something about that made us feel so alive.

The next morning my husband my husband made me hot chocolate pancakes, which were amazing! After breakfast we spent a few hours at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, just wandering around. I love to see it all decorated for Christmas. Later that evening, we went to my mom's for dinner, and she made my favorite, macaroni and cheese. No matter how old I get, I will always love mac and cheese! Lol. I also was lucky enough to receive a few gifts! My family knows me very well - from my brother and sister-in-law, I received a necklace with a camera pendant, and a leather journal; from my mom, a window nesting box for birds, and an owl print; my husband got me the warmest, comfiest sweater boots, which I have on my feet as I type! I love them and feel they will get a lot of wear this winter. They were all so thoughtful, but the best part was when we were sitting around my mom's living room after dinner, all cozy and warm, and we went around the room saying nice things about each other. It was spur of the moment but one of those moments you remember. Is sounds hokey, I know, or like something out of Little House but for some reason it just evolved into conversation, and it was actually very nice.  

 All in all it was a wonderful birthday!

And if you haven't told your family so lately, let them know you love them, and how much they mean to you. The holidays are coming and it is the perfect time. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list.

I missed last week's link up due to some issues with my senior English Setter, Penny. She is recovering very well, thank goodness. 

I had also thought I was going to be able to handle two blogs. After giving it a shot, I decided just to merge my new blog with this one, and this blog will expand to include more general posts about my life as well. I was already kind of sorta doing that anyway, I think.

Read Last Week:

Little Women: Still working on it. 

Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne: Fun holiday read in a great setting.

The Lodge on Holly Road by Sheila Roberts: Ditto. Lol. But I did like the Thayne book more.

Reading This Week:


Little Women: Will continue reading. I love this book so much!
In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins: Aww that little puppy!!
The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak: Yet another holiday romance. I admit it, I am an addict!

Did Not Finish:

The Remedy for Love by Bill Roorbach: Wow, I didn't want to give up on this, but I just couldn't finish it. For me, it started off really strong, but is bogged down in the middle so much, I can't stand it. I might skip all the way to the end just to see what ended up happening but will skip the pages that would be take me there. 

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: The Lodge on Holly Road by Sheila Roberts

Title: The Lodge on Holly Road
Author: Sheila Roberts
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

How Santa Gets His Christmas Spirit Back… 

James Claussen has played Santa for years, but now that he's a widower, he's lost interest—in everything. So his daughter, Brooke, kidnaps him from the mall (in his Santa suit!) and takes him to Icicle Falls. She's arranged a special Christmas at the lodge owned by long-widowed Olivia Wallace and her son, Eric. And yet…Brooke wants Dad to be happy, but she's not ready to see someone else's mommy kissing Santa Claus. 

Single mom Missy Monroe brings her kids to the lodge, too. Lalla wants a grandma for Christmas, and her brother, Carlos, wants a dog. Missy can't provide either one. What she'd like is an attractive, dependable man. A man like John Truman… But John's girlfriend will be joining him in Icicle Falls, and he's going to propose. 

Of course not everything goes as planned. But sometimes the best gifts are the ones you don't expect!

My thoughts:

This is a cute holiday read, nothing too complex or crazy, just a sweet story about a jumble of lost souls who all are celebrating Christmas together at a B and B in Icicle Falls. There are a myriad of characters all looking for someone to love, be it a romantic partner, a grandma, or a dog. The settings of Icicle Falls and the lodge are quaint, charming, if not a little twee.

The characters all have their issues, big and small, and it seems like the Lodge becomes a place of healing. And what better time to do so than Christmas? My only complaint is that a few of the younger male characters seem a little shallow, and one of them was so clueless and shallow, that he grated on my nerves big time. Overall though, everyone got what they needed, including me. I was looking for some light entertainment, and I got it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Book Review: Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

Title: Snow Angel Cove
Author: RaeAnne Thayne
Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:

Nothing short of a miracle can restore Eliza Hayward's Christmas cheer. The job she pinned her dreams on has gone up in smoke—literally—and now she's stuck in an unfamiliar, if breathtaking, small town. Precariously close to being destitute, Eliza needs a helping hand…for her sick young daughter's sake as well as her own. But she's not expecting her holiday hero to almost run her down with his car! 

Rescuing Eliza is pure instinct for tech genius Aidan Caine. At first, putting the renovation of his lakeside guest lodge in Eliza's hands assuages his guilt—until he sees how quickly he could fall for her. Having focused solely on his business for years, he never knew that what his life was missing was Eliza and her little girl. But is he willing to risk hoping for a yuletide romance that could lead to forever?

My Thoughts:

First, I want to talk about the cover. I think I wanted to read this book mainly because I love this cover. I want to go to that place, with the mountains, snow, horses, gigantic Christmas tree that wasn't mentioned in the story but would be cool anyway. I can just imagine drinking hot chocolate on a peaceful, quiet winter night, looking out at the still landscape. Yup, I am a sucker for some atmosphere!

Moving on to the actual story, I really liked it! My only complaint is how the two main characters, Eliza and Aidan, met. I found it a little unbelievable on her side of things. Regardless, I managed to forget about it, and ended up really enjoying the story. I felt like it had deeper nuances than just two people meeting and falling in love. They both had some back story that was pretty serious stuff, and I felt like the author didn't just throw it in, then wrap it all up super quickly - instead, it all made sense together, even if it there was a lot going on under the surface.

I of course loved the whole Christmas aspect of this story, the snow, the setting, the wintry events. This is the first is a new series by the author, who writes the Hope's Crossing series as well. I can't wait to read the rest of this series, to see where it is headed and what happens to the town of Haven Point!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's Tuesday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, that is guaranteed to add to your reading list.

Ok, so I am a day late, and not really linking up. But I didn't want to not write this post. So, here I am late to the party but still here!

It was a crazy weekend, one that began in tears but had a happy ending. You can read about here. It concerns our senior English Setter, Penny. But remember, happy ending!

Read Last Week:

I attempted two classics at once, but it didn't work out. I can only handle one at a time. So I am sticking with my book club pick of Little Women and will go back to Anne Bronte in the future.


I'm still working on both Little Women and The Remedy for Love. The Remedy for Love isn't bad! I wasn't sure about it at first but it has grown on me.

Reading This Week:


Snow Angel Cove by RaeAnne Thayne: I have breached the barrier of holiday reads! I am really enjoying this one. Maybe it feels like the right time, considering the snow that is in our forecast for this week. I will also be continuing to read Little Women and The Remedy for Love. 

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