Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a wonderful day spent with people you love!

Sunday, November 23, 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.

Read Last Week:

In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins: This was a fun snowy read! I enjoyed it.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I'm not finished but I am going to buckle down on it this week and get it done. I am enjoying it but am so tired by the time I get to read most nights I fall asleep!

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder: I always get a little nostalgic and reread this series in the winter. 

Reading This Week:


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: This is my week to finish this book!

Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich: Seemed appropriate for this week. :)

Posted Last Week:

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. 

Posted Last Week:

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. 

Posted Last Week:

My Girl Penny

It's been a rough few days, all due to this crazy girl.
Penny is our rescue English Setter. We found her in the shelter we volunteered for, where she had been picked up as a stray. She was skin and bones, extremely underweight, but full of hope and love. All she wanted to do was find that home that would take her with them and treat her well.
I had just gone through some hard losses myself, and was struggling. But when I saw Penny, I knew she belonged with me. Her soulful, sad eyes peered at me through the bars of her kennel, where she would press as closely to them as possible, to be closer to people.
So I brought her home with the intention of fostering her, but then quickly realized the only home good enough for her in my opinion, was my own. She put on weight, and soon began to come out of her scared shell, getting into all sorts of mishaps and mischief.
She's been slowing down some now, with more white on her face than red, but still has that same spirit - so stubborn.
Then on Saturday night, Billy and I came home from just a few hours out, and it was obvious something was wrong. She couldn't walk or stand up without losing her balance and falling over. She was turning in circles over and over, and her head was tilted to one side. We decided to keep her still and calm for the night and see how she was in the morning. Well, after a sleepless night by all of us, morning came, and Penny seemed about the same. I was heartbroken. I called my brother and sister-in-law, told them what was happening, and asked them to please come over. I thought we were going to have to say goodbye to this sweet girl, and I needed Devin and Chrissy with us. They agreed to come with heavy hearts - then bounced through our door minutes later. Chrissy had found that dogs who suffer a stroke usually recover pretty completely within a short period of time. She said to just give it time, and take her to the regular vet the next day. Of course since I didn't really want to have to make a hard decision, and even in the short time she had been up had shown she was doing better, I agreed quickly.
So after a Sunday of watching over Penny, helping her walk around obstacles, up and down stairs, being carried down them when Billy was home, we noticed she really was improving. The next day, I made a vet appointment, and throughout the day I noticed she kept improving. 
At the vet, we got the official diagnosis of Canine Vestibular Syndrome, which is apparently an inner ear disorder that sometimes just happens, no rhyme or reason for it. There is no treatment but time, and the vet said that Penny was already ahead of the curve, and improving quickly. The vet also told us that she should recover 95-100%, with maybe only her head tilt remaining, although he said that could go away as well. He said the hardest thing with the disorder is actually convincing the owners to give the animals time, because it looks so horrible, and they think their pet is suffering. Just like we did. I wasn't hard to convince, maybe because I am an optimist at heart. Maybe because I know my dog is a tough old bird(dog) who has been through her fair share and come out the other side. And so we have our girl still, shaky and unsteady, but getting better everyday. We keep her confined at night, as our biggest battle we are fighting with her is keeping her from jumping on the couch in her condition. She loves the couch, and doesn't want to give it up. So when Billy gets home, she gets a little couch time, where Billy lifts her onto the couch, and when she is ready, he puts her back down safely on the ground.  
It might take a little time, and of course we are more than happy to give that to her, and to help her however we can. She has given us so much love, that we could hardly do less. We love her too.

Friday, November 7, 2014

October Book Club

Month: October
Hostess: Alyssa
Book: Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig
Food: Squash soup, Avocado Pasta, Three cheese pasta with olives, Pumpkin Cheesecake

It was a blustery evening for book club, with winds and rain and a definite chill in the air. I feel that snow is just around the corner now, whether we are ready or not. We all arrived one after another, bundled in our sweaters and warm clothes, and promptly parked ourselves at the kitchen table. For some reason at Alyssa's this is our space; we gather around the table, sharing and laughing and eating. Those who could drink poured themselves glasses of red and bubbly, while I poured myself countless glasses of Perrier. It didn't take long before the food was ready, and food was on the table.

I actually managed to grab a few shots of the food before I started eating!

As we all ate and rhapsodized over the pasta, especially the avocado, we chatted and caught up on each other's lives. Conversations were flying all over the place, and it was that good kind of chaos of conversation, like you find on a holiday with family. That is what it felt like too; warm, cozy, surrounded by friends who are like family, talking about everything and anything. Alyssa always has some new animal or another at her house, as she works in an animal shelter and brings them home a lot to care for until they find homes. Last night her new additions included a pen of the tiniest new little kittens, and a crazy dilute calico named Squee, whom Alyssa is adopting. This cat was a nutter - just spayed that day, Squee did not show any signs of slowing down as she jumped on our laps, played with our hair, tried to lap whipped cream off my plate. She was tiny too, 5 months old but the size of 3 month old cat. I can see why Alyssa fell in love with her. 

Talk eventually turned to the book. This book was crazy! I had to admit some of the time I was confused, but by the end it all made sense. The general consensus was that this was a strange story, saved by the fact that it was short. What was interesting was that some of us liked different parts more than others - for instance, Jennifer liked the parts where the characters were talking about their actual lives, but I liked where the character Molina was relating to Valentin the story of the panther woman. I don't think it was a terrible story, it just wasn't necessarily a book I loved.

It was a fun night, and while it was blustery when we arrived, when we left it was even crazier! The wind had picked up considerably and the temperature had fallen even further. I couldn't wait to get home and put my pajamas on. Perhaps I was distracted by that, but I almost hit a deer! I was driving through Alyssa's sub when a huge deer raced out in front of me! I was shocked, I didn't even know deer were in her subdivision! But then there one was, large as day, running through the cold and windy night. It felt like something out of a movie! I am not sure I have ever been so close to a deer before, except in Shenandoah National Park. 

I finally made it home safe and sound, and snuggled down under a quilt on the couch, in my pajamas, content after a wonderful, fun night with my friends. 

Next month is my month! I picked Little Women. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Witch with No Name Book Signing with Kim Harrison

On Devil's Night, Kim Harrison fans were out in force at Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor for the last book signing of the last book in The Hollow series. I was one of these fans, along with my good friend Mary.

Attending this book signing every year is a fun tradition for us. We look forward to it like crazy, and none more than this year, albeit it was bittersweet to have to say goodbye to these beloved characters.

Things were different this year. Nicola's closed their store for an hour to set up, and when they reopened, only those fans who had called and reserved a ticket were allowed in. Tickets were also limited to 300.

I am an early bird, while Mary tends to be of the late sort. I really wanted to be one of the first in line, so I rounded her up early and off we went. We did end up getting there early enough that we were the second in line, which made me happy. We had a game plan - get in line early, and then after we got our tickets at the door one of us would head directly to the seating area and grab our seats, while the other deposited our donation of tomatoes. Kim Harrison had requested canned good donations for this event, that were to be given to the Ann Arbor food bank. Mary being the generous, big-hearted person she is, brought 3 flats of canned goods. I unfortunately couldn't help her carry much, being pregnant, but we found a cart to keep them in while we were in line. It worked out though, I just became the seat saver to her canned good giver.

This year, they had fun activities planned us. There was a wine tasting, snacks, a temporary tattoo station that gave away the pack tattoo, skits from the book, and a costume contest. I didn't dress up, but Mary went as Maria Gonzalez, Sr. Editor of the Hollows Gazette. I thought it was very clever, but she didn't win. There were some really great costumes!

After the festivities and a short question and answer, it was time for the signing. We all had line numbers, so it was just a matter of waiting our turn. I of course always turn into a weirdo, and get so starstruck that I am speechless when it was my turn - this time was no exception. All in all, we had a fabulous time. We are going to have to read her new series, just so we can attend her future book signings. They are always so much fun!

A group shot of us. We were told to say "The Hollows", and then the picture was snapped on the last syllable, accounting for our strange expressions.

Previous Kim Harrison Book Signing Posts:
Ever After
The Undead Pool

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

To Do List Tuesday

Today, I have a million things to do.
It's election day - I always, always vote.
I have to run into my doctor's office to leave a deposit of my blood for a quick test.
It's my anniversary! I need to get a few surprises in place before the hubs gets home.
I also have homework to start, as well as a few other general errands.
It's a busy Tuesday, and it is only 9:15 am.
But I am still sitting here in my pajamas, working on my last cup of coffee for the day. I spent some time looking out the window, along with my cat Maggie who kept me company. We were both watching for birds, but I am sure for different reasons. I was surprised none showed up while I was there - I am going to blame Maggie for that.
It's a lazy morning on a busy day.
I know that soon I will have to get a move on, and get out the door.
I just can't make myself do it yet.
And that's ok, right? I think we all need to take time this, to not rush hither and yon, or at least if we absolutely have to do that, that we at least take moments for ourselves in the day. Whether it is before, during, after, making time for ourselves is necessary. It's not really lazy. It is healthy, therapeutic. For me, this will set the tone for my day. I might have a lot to do in a short window of time, especially now before the afternoon nap threatens to overtake me, but I am going to make the best of all the time I have. 
When I get to the polls this morning, I will pay attention to the moment. I will probably wish I had gotten there sooner if there is a giant line, but I am still going to be mindful of what I am doing.
I think a lot about the state of being mindful, to be in the moment, to think about the needs of my body and mind, its rhythms, its ups and downs. I find that by doing so my normally frantic, anxious demeanor slows down, and I am calmer, happier, nicer.
So I am going to sit here in my red flannel pajamas with scotty dogs on them, finish my coffee, watch for some birds. At least for a little while longer.

Sunday, November 2, 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 hope everyone had a fabulous Halloween!! Ours was very cold and wet here in the Detroit area, which made me sad for the kids trick-or-treating. We did have some tough kids braving the elements though, and I rewarded them with handfuls of candy. 

Last week was a total bust for reading! I came down with my usual seasonal bronchitis, which triggered an asthma flare, that resulted in an ER visit in the wee hours of the morning. I even had a job interview to go to that day as well, which was not my best interview ever, for obvious reasons. In between sleeping on the couch and watching Gilmore Girls, I had homework to do and a test to study for. I did manage to rally though, for the Kim Harrison book signing of The Witch with No Name, the final book in The Hollows series. I am looking forward to a slower and healthier week this week!

Read Last Week:

I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have been exclusively reading Hamish Macbeth, but it was definitely a week for comfort reading!


Reading This Week:


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte: It seems a good time to start working on my Classics Club list again.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I picked this for our November book club. I am going to start now!

Death of a Prankster by M.C. Beaton: Just for some balance.

Posted Last Week:

I started a second blog, a more personal one. In the first post I reveal the gender of our expected baby!

I just didn't want to clutter this blog up with more personal posts, as it is mainly a book review blog. I am not sure if they will remain separate but they are for now.