Very Valentine

Very Valentine ****

by Adriana Trigiani

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani’s millions of fans around the world.”

“In this luscious, contemporary family saga, the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of exquisite wedding shoes since 1903, is one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. The company is on the verge of financial collapse. It falls to thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli, the talented and determined apprentice to her grandmother, the master artisan Teodora Angelini, to bring the family’s old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century and save the company from ruin.”

“While juggling a budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother to learn new techniques and seek one-of-a-kind materials for building a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. There, in Tuscany, Naples, and on the Isle of Capri, a family secret is revealed as Valentine discovers her artistic voice and much more, turning her life and the family business upside down in ways she never expected.   

This was a fun, quick read, the first book of a trilogy (you can also read book number two which is out now).

You have to love a character described as: “I’m not the pretty sister. I’m not the smart sister either. I am the funny one.”

 

It was also fun & timely as a theme of a tablescape, using my components from a Christmas table, adding in some shoes, chocolate, rose petals, Valentine votives & some new napkin rings.

 

“We’ve changed though, the Young Italian Americans. As my generation marries outside our group, our children don’t look as Italian as we do, our Roman noses shorten, the Neapolitan jaws soften, the jet black hair fades to brown, and often directly to blond. We assimilate, thanks to the occasional Irish husband and Clairol. As the muse of southern Italian women, Donatella Versace, went platinum blond, so went the Brooklyn girls. But there are still a few of us left, the old-fashioned paisanas who wait for curly hair to come back in style, can our own tomatoes, and eat Sunday dinner together after church. We find joy in th same things our grandparents did, a night out over a plate of homemade pasta, hot bread, and sweet wine, which ends with a conversation over cannolis at Ferrara’s.”

“We are very proud of the components we use to make shoes. Gram travels to Italy every year to buy supplies. When you cook, it’s all about quality ingredients, and the same is true for making shoes. Sumptuous fabrics, fine leathers, and hand-tooled embellishments make all the difference and define our brand. Loyalty plays into Gram’s work ethic also. She buys our leather and suede from the Vechialrelli family of Arezzo, Italy, the descendants of the same tanner my great-grandfather used.”

Food is abundant in this book, which no doubt will continue in this delicious trilogy. . . delicate crab cakes, tiny potatoes with buttons of sour cream and caviar, clams casino, baby lamb chops, roast pork. . .

  

The requisite bowls of pasta, manicotti, ravioli & lasagna. .  . which according to Valentine’s mother’s rule of etiquette, dictates that it must be presented whole, like a welcome home gift~ not with a square missing as to be seen as a leftover :-)

Wine is flowing, olive oil is drizzling, bread is baking. . .

Scents of butter, sage, & warm burgundy wine are just a few that waft from these pages. . .

Instead of cooking any of a dozen meals, I took liberties with this description of Valentine’s father in the book for Food for Thought:

“This is a man who would sprinkle grated cheese on cake if he could.”

So I am serving a cheesecake sampler, with a well-heeled server in honor of the Angelini Shoe Company (and my husband’s birthday :-)

“Very Valentine is a sumptuous treat, a journey of dreams fulfilled, a celebration of love and loss filled with Trigiani’s trademark heart and humor.”   

Napkins & Napkin Rings/ Pier 1

Glass Shoes & Handbags/ Hobby Lobby

Well Heeled Server & Velvet Shoes/ Home Goods

The winner of my giveaway  by Random Number Generator is Slyvia at Slyvia’s Simple Life~

email me, Slyvia and I’m make arrangements to get your gift cards to you!

Thank you for your visit & to my hostesses:

Queen of the Road

   

Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own****

by Doreen Orion

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

    “A pampered Long Island princess hits the road in a converted bus with her wilderness-loving husband, travels the country for one year, and brings it all hilariously to life in this offbeat and romantic memoir.”

“Doreen and Tim are married psychiatrists with a twist: She’s a self-proclaimed Long Island princess, grouchy couch potato, and shoe addict. He’s an affable, though driven, outdoorsman. When Tim suggests ‘chucking it all’ to travel cross-country in a converted bus, Doreen asks, ‘Why can’t you be like a normal husband in a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?’ But she soon shocks them both, agreeing to set forth with their sixty-pound dog, two querulous cats—and no agenda—in a 340-square-foot bus.”

“Queen of the Road is Doreen’s offbeat and romantic tale about refusing to settle; about choosing the unconventional road with all the misadventures it brings (fire, flood, armed robbery, and finding themselves in a nudist RV park, to name just a few). The marvelous places they visit and delightful people they encounter have a life-changing effect on all the travelers, as Doreen grows to appreciate the simple life, Tim mellows, and even the pets pull together. Best of all, readers get to go along for the ride through forty-seven states in this often hilarious and always entertaining memoir, in which a boisterous marriage of polar opposites becomes stronger than ever.”

What a hoot this book was…a quick, entertaining read~ I learned about this book from Jain in her fun review last year and added it on my very long list of books to read. The author, whose idea of ‘roughing it’  is staying at the Holiday Inn, is less than thrilled at being promoted from ‘Princess from the Island of Long’ to ‘Queen of the Long Narrow Aisle’ . Their journey in their 40 foot, 40,000-pound, 179-gallon diesel tank bus, is fueled with more than a few funny disasters, and acknowledged with a commemorative cocktail at the beginning of each chapter.

 Their liquor cabinet is stocked with every kind of infused vodka or flavored liqueur imaginable for maximum martini mixing~ the only ingredient they seem to lack is a bottle of Dramamine for the several shots I would need to endure this bus ride :-)

Overnighting in Walmart parking lots, RV parks & Campgrounds, there more than a few mishaps. . .

“With all the disasters we experienced on the road (fire, flood, armed robbery and finding ourselves in a nudist RV park, to name just a few), happy hour, understandably, became somewhat of a necessity. During the few stretches without any mishaps, we continued this new custom (look, the memories still stung, OK?) and the happy hour habit became one of our favorite bus traditions. Even when stationary, we continued to adhere to it rather strictly (some might even say, ‘Obsessively’).”

Bus Phobia commences soon after starting their adventure:

“On the slightest downhill, I’d try to mind-meld with Tim, to get him to put on the engine brake, my foot stomping on air. At every turn, I’d clutch the seat, anticipating a rollover. At every dip in the road, I’d hold my breath, listening for the sound of bending steel, a portent of our imminent, albeit mercifully swift, midsectioning.”

“What was I afraid of? I kept asking myself. The answer was always the same: careening off the road amidst the sound of our belongings crashing.”

Hurlatini

  • 1 part rum

  • 2 parts Midori

  • 1 splash pineapple juice

  • 1 splash sweet ‘n’ sour

  • 1 white-knuckled squeeze of lime

“Pound martini shaker against emergency exit until window breaks or ingredients sufficiently mixed for self-medication.”

“What if someone makes a sudden stop? What if we hit an elk? What if the brakes go out? I keep imagining us careening over the edge of the road. I don’t even imagine the dying part, just the careening. The screeching of tires, the shattering of glass. But most of all, the careening. The CAREENING. I can’t take it anymore!”

Their bus approaches a bridge with a sign posted:

“Limit 13 Tons”. . .

“That was all I needed to turn my reel into a full-fledged centrifuge; I could feel my lunch quickly separating itself from my intestinal tract. ‘WE’RE TWENTY TONS! WE’RE TWENTY TONS!’ I screamed, contorting myself, even as my eyes remained glued to the road.That there are no armrests turns out to be a serious design flaw when the buddy seat is inhabited by a bus phobic.”

 

Love Me Bender

  • 2 parts passion fruit liqueur

  • 2 parts champagne

  • 1 part raspberry liqueur

“Rest shaker on hip, gyrate, drink. If you can still recall that the love of your life is making you live on a bus, repeat.”

After a scare of an electrical fire on the bus Doreen has an epiphany–surprising herself that she gave no thought to her beloved shoes during her crisis, in spite of her history of “rampant & resplendent consumerism”. And as one would expect mixes up a martini in celebration… a lovely shade of orangey-red:

Fire in the Hole

  • 2 ½ parts Bacardi 151

  • 1 ½ parts orange curacao

  • Squeeze of lemon

“Hold lit match in one hand, shake in other. Bring together until hair catches fire. Make note to use only 80 proof next time.”

It seemed only fitting that I took a little road trip for Food for Thought, rather than staying at home to cook my book.

While they stop and visit places of interest you’d expect like Mount Rushmore, Graceland, Carlsbad Caverns & Yellowstone National Park, they also sought out local attractions and stopped in at area wineries for wine tastings. That was the perfect excuse to prompt us to get in the car to visit a local vineyard for a tasting that is a short thirty minute drive for us, that we had never taken the time to visit.

Davesté Vineyards 

 

 

We brought a bottle back to enjoy by the lake with some cheese~

 “ ‘Don’t worry, honey,” Tim reassured me. ‘What’s the worst that can go wrong?’

‘Flood? Locusts? Pestilence? And for that matter, rioting townspeople?’ I offered.”

In Massachusetts, Doreen rediscovers Friendly’s:

“As kids, we used to go to Friendly’s for ice-cream treats, and for really special occasions, we’d preface our desserts with one of their fabulous burgers. Being an East Coast thing, Tim had never heard of it until I squealed with delight when we happened by a Friendly’s in our Jeep.”

“We have to go! We have to go! I exclaimed, channeling my inner twelve-year-old as I bounced in my seat.”

I rediscovered Friendly’s myself since I hadn’t been to one in about*ahem* forty years~ a treat for us when we visited my grandmother.

I received only a few strange looks while we were there, either due the fact that I had my pulled out my little camera to take photos of the menu & meal, or the fact that we were the only kid-free table in the restaurant :-)

“You must understand that at Friendly’s freverything is freenamed. The onion rings are ‘fronions,’ the shakes, ‘fribbles,’ and so on.”

 Our ‘fronions’  were as tasty as I remembered them. . .

 I recommend you buckle your seat beat, mix yourself a martini (or two :-) and enjoy this bumpy & entertaining ride.

You can see more travelogues on the author’s website here.

 Thank you for you visit~

I’m joining Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday~

Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ this week’s letter assignment Q

For more Food for Thought, click on the book titles to read more reviews by other Thoughtful Readers:

Winter World

 

Winter World **** by Bernd Heinrich

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

The weather outside is frightful . . . while we thankfully have not had as much snow as the Northeast, it’s been colder than normal here in the sunny South. Snowbound, I had the perfect excuse to stay indoors and read a couple of weeks ago. This book provided *interesting reading while I was tucked away, cozy indoors, watching the birds and wondering how nature adapts to the frigid temperatures and winter landscape.

(*interesting reading for those defined as a bit of a Discovery Channel or Animal Planet geek :-)

“From flying hot-blooded squirrels and diminutive kinglets to sleeping black bears and torpid turtles to frozen insects and frogs, the animal kingdom relies on staggering evolutionary innovations to survive winter. Unlike their human counterparts, who alter the environment to accommodate physical limitations, most animals are adapted to an amazing range of conditions. In Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival, biologist, illustrator, and award-winning author Bernd Heinrich explores his local woods, where he delights in the seemingly infinite feats of animal inventiveness he discovers there.”

“Because winter drastically affects the most elemental component of all life — water — radical changes in a creature’s physiology and behavior must take place to match the demands of the environment. Some creatures survive by developing antifreeze; others must remain in constant motion to maintain their high body temperatures. Even if animals can avoid freezing to death, they must still manage to find food in a time of scarcity, or store it from a time of plenty.”

“Beautifully illustrated throughout with the author’s delicate drawings and infused by his inexhaustible enchantment with nature, Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival awakens the wonders and mysteries by which nature sustains herself through winter’s harsh, cruel exigencies.”

  I set a Winter World-inspired table with pine cones, lichen covered branches, moss & a few nuts for foraging squirrels. . . on a landscape made of a jute runner layered on a snowy white quilt.

“Perhaps none depends on snow more than the snowshoe hare. The size of this hare’s tracks are out of proportion to the animal’s size. As a result of its low foot-loading, the hare can walk, hop and run very near the top of the fluffiest snow. As a consequence, the more that snow accumulates, throughout the winter, the more easily the hare can reach its food, the fresh twigs of small trees and brush.”

Woodland botanicals, snowy white orbs, and branches fill my lanterns on the table. . .

Rock Salt is sprinkled to mimic an icy coating, rather than to melt the snow on the sidewalk :-)

I was surprised to learn that Crossbills often lay their eggs in winter, so they are able to raise their young when the seeds of spruce or pine cones are most plentiful.

Heinrich is a scientist with a talent for relating his love for nature, his appetite for discovery, and his humorous insights in a fashion that is enjoyable for the reader.

My appetite led me to Pine Cone Cheese for Food for Thought, you can find a recipe here.

Winter can be difficult for birds when the days are short and nights are often cold and long. The natural food supply has been consumed or is hidden by snow.  Water can be hard to find, and food needed to provide the energy to keep birds warm might be scarce.

Food for Thought also led me to make pine cone bird treats for our feathered friends. . . snowy day fun for kids if you have the materials on hand, with a recipe found here.

I hope you will fly over to join the fun as I co-host Food for Thought with Jain here, Feb. 1st.

You’re invited to nosh your way thru your novel, munch upon a memoir, take a bite out of a biography, digest the pages of a decorating book, or feast upon a favorite cookbook. . .sharing an edible passage or food-inspiration from your book~

Rate your book & link it to Amazon:

***** EXCELLENT!
**** good read
*** average read
** so-so
* just skip it~

Other Winter World Table details:

Bird Dishes: Gracie China/Home Goods

White Plates: Oneida Westerly Basket

Jute Runner & Napkins: Pottery Barn

Thank you for your visit & to my hostesses:

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love****.*

by Larry Levin

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

This week’s letter assignment is O in Mrs. Matlock’s class, so I’m sharing Oogy’s story for Alphabe-Thursday~

“In 2002, Larry Levin and his twin sons, Dan and Noah, took their terminally ill cat to the Ardmore Animal Hospital outside Philadelphia to have the beloved pet put to sleep. What would begin as a terrible day suddenly got brighter as the ugliest dog they had ever seen–one who was missing an ear and had half his face covered in scar tissue–ran up to them and captured their hearts. The dog had been used as bait for fighting dogs when he was just a few months old. He had been thrown in a cage and left to die until the police rescued him and the staff at Ardmore Animal Hospital saved his life. The Levins, whose sons are themselves adopted, were unable to resist Oogy’s charms, and decided to take him home.”

“Oogy”an affectionate derivative of “ugly”, is a heartwarming tail for dog lovers, or for those who simply enjoy pulling for the underdog.

I’m a sucker for dog stories, especially those with a happy ending, which I’m relieved to report is the case for Oogy despite his rocky beginning. I’m always anxious to know before getting emotionally involved & spending hours in a book if the animals or dogs fare well. This was a quick read and one I enjoyed and began with not a little trepidation.

The sad and ugly truth and facts of dog fighting and ‘bait’ for those fights~ any animal and often cats~ that can be found through ‘free to good home’ ads, strays, kidnapping, etc. is simply too horrific & hard for me to wrap my brain around.I think you’ll find, “the dog only a family could love” is one that you will love too.

Oogy spends his mornings keeping the boys & dad company during their routines of getting ready for school & making breakfast. He eats his kibble while the twins enjoy their breakfast of pancakes. . .

“He continued to heal and then began to flourish. His condition and the cruelty he had endured produced a heartfelt, deeply caring reaction among the hospital staff. His happy, affectionate nature was seemingly more pronounced because of the horror he had undergone.”

“The fact that a brutalized, mutilated pup had so immediately and so completely reposed his trust in us made all of us feel that we had been rewarded. He was one of us.”

Besides Pancakes, Food for Thought was plentiful, although not in the traditional sense. . .

“In his first six months with us, in addition to chewing up the futon couch, Oogy gnawed the middle out of the seat cushions of the two camelback sofas in the living room. He bit the eraser off any pencil he could find and would climb onto tables and desks to get at them. The decapitated pencils were left where they had fallen. He at a pair of my glasses. He chewed apart a wooden drawer in the kitchen. He ruined videotapes, countless CDs and CD cases, pens, crayons, and markers. He broke though every screen on every door in the house and scratched the paint off the doors when he wanted to get out. He ate the antennae off every landline telephone in the house and then ate off the replacements.”

My own house has gone to the dogs. . .

“He tore apart insulated galoshes, flip-flops, scarves, sneakers, shoes, plastic fruit, and the head of one of Noah’s lacrosse sticks. He chewed up hard rubber dustpans, flay swatters, and brushes. He ate books, barrettes, and toothbrushes, shredded newspapers, ripped apart magazines, tore chunks out of books.”

 

“I noticed that Oogy’s bag of food was missing, as was some cheese and the lunch meat that had been in the cold drawer. The fruits and vegetables had not been touched. The beverages and salad dressings had not been opened. What was left of the missing bags of food was in pieces underneath the dining room table, which is where Oogy likes to take his illicit treasure. He seems to think of it as his little cave, where no one can see him. . .”

“. . .Oogy had figured out how to open the refrigerator.”

“I put a bungee cord across the handles for the freezer and the refrigerator adjacent to it. It was the only way to keep him out.”

“On several occasions since then, though, when the last one of us to use the refrigerator has forgotten to clip the cord in place, Oogy has raided it. I can tell by his demeanor when I walk in the door. If he isn’t greeting me joyously but is skulking, his body low to the ground, head drooped but watching me, I know he is feeling guilty of something, and the first thing I check is the refrigerator. Then I go to the dining room and clean up the debris.”

“. .  . what appeals to everyone about Oogy is that he is proof that what we all know is lurking out there– the awful and, yes, inevitable tragic loss, the unexplainable savage attack, the seemingly insurmountable occurrence –can, in fact, be survived with love and grace intact, without bitterness or resentment, and with an appreciation for all that follows. Oogy is, right there in front of everyone he meets, tangible living proof that there can be happiness, love, and hope on the other side of unspeakable and unimaginable horror.”

“This is a story about what can happen when the worst in people meets the best in people and the best wins. In spite of its subject, this is a gentle tale of one man’s love for his dog and the angels along the way who brought Oogy into his life.” -Susan Richards, author of Chosen by a Horse

 Thank you for your visit & thank you to my husband who indulges my obsession with Food for Thought by eating like a preschooler :-)

 Visit Jenny Matlock for Alphabe-Thursday~ for more alphabet fun :-)

Feather Your Nest

 

Feather Your Nest **** by Mary Carol Garrity

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

Since this week’s letter assignment is N in Mrs. Matlock’s class, I’m Feathering My Nest for Alphabe-Thursday  and joining French Country Cottage for Feathered Nest Friday~

“Home decorating guru Mary Carol Garrity compares her techniques for transforming her own 130-year-old Greek revival fixer-upper to that of a bird building its nest- carefully selecting and layering all components twig by twig. In Nell Hill’s Feather Your Nest: It’s All in the Details, each chapter focuses on nest-building basics for different areas of the home, from common spaces like foyers to private spaces like bedrooms. Garrity empowers readers to feather their own nests by developing a sense of personal style, emphasizing minor touches that make a major difference.”

 Twig by Twig guidelines and inspiration for adding layers & creating cozy vignettes that are a visual feast~

I spent a little time feathering my nest on my porch this past weekend~

Williamsburg Aviary by Wedgwood~ a plate given to me by my sister and a cup & saucer, a consignment store find~ I would love to feather my nest with a few more plates or pieces this year :-)

 

A bird wine bottle caddy was a Home Goods purchase several years ago~

 Twig by Twig elements for a cozy nook on my porch include plenty of pillows, a throw, easy access to some books & usually a dog on my lap :-)

 

 I filled a bird accented urn with greenery, artichokes & pheasant feathers for more nest feathering. . .

 

 Food for Thought led me to the kitchen to play with cheese & pesto. . . thyme sprigs surround the cheese to resemble a nest~

Pesto Goat Cheese courtesy Southern Living, recipe here

 Flour tortillas + the magic of cookie cutters + the oven = bird shaped crackers :-)

I hope you can join the fun this year, as I co-host Food for Thought with Jain here, Feb. 1st.

You’re invited to nosh your way thru a novel, munch upon a memoir, take a bite out of a biography, digest the pages of a decorating book, or feast upon a favorite cookbook. . .sharing an edible passage or food-inspiration from your book~

Rate your book & link it to Amazon:

***** EXCELLENT!
**** good read
*** average read
** so-so
* just skip it~

For Food for Thought inspiration & a fun format to follow for your edible review, check out a few of my favorite reviews of Jain’s:

Rosewater and Soda Bread, Tomato Rhapsody, The Illustrated Olive Farm, The Lost Cyclist, & A Year on Ladybug Farm

In celebration of my one year blogging anniversary, I am giving away a $25 Home Goods gift card to feather your nest along with a $25 Amazon gift card for happy reading to one winner.

To enter, leave a comment on this post for one chance to win; a second comment for another chance telling me your favorite book or book on your nightstand you’re reading now. A winner will be chosen by random number generator on Feb. 2nd.

This giveaway is now closed.

Thanks for your visit & to my hostesses:

How the Tables have Turned

 

 

I’m joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday~

 

It’s been a whirlwind of a year. I thought I would recap my most viewed and favorite tables. I was surprised to realize in looking back, I had “played with dishes”  42 weeks this past year :-) I’ll recap the top 12 viewed from the past year with the title you can click on if you’d like to take a further look~

 

 

Giving Thanks

 

  My Giving Thanks tablescape was not only my top viewed table, but also my top viewed post of the year~  which seems appropriate, since I am thankful for the warm reception and the generous comments I’ve received, as well as the friends I have met since I started my blogging journey almost a year ago. 

 

 

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

 

I sometimes feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, wondering how I got here & what I did before this blogging adventure :-)

 

 

 

 

Pontoon Picnic

 

 

 

 

A Bowl of Cherries

Happy 100th Tablescape Thursday :-)

 

 

 

A Tommy Bahama State of Mind

 

 

 

Tailgating

 

 

 

 

A Dog’s Purpose

 

 

It was fun looking for tablescape inspiration in the pages of my books this year :-)

 

 

Fairyopolis

 

 

 

All Aboard

 

 

 

By the Sea

 

 

 

 

Harvest Time

 

 

 

A Visit from St. Nicholas

 

 

Thank you for your visit & your comments~

 

 If you’re like me, sometimes you need a nudge from a book or magazine to jog your brain and get your creative juices flowing. If you are looking for tablescape inspiration this year, I invite you to join us at Food for Thought , where pages from your book mix with your kitchen & camera. It can be an adventure to plan a table provided by theme or setting found between the covers your book, along with a tasty morsel :-)

 Join us here Feb. 1st as I co-host Food for Thought with Jain.

 

Visit Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for more dish fun in 2011~

 

 

Morsels, Meals & Memorable Books

 

 

 This week’s letter assignment is M in Mrs. Matlock’s class, so I’m sharing my meals, morsels & memorable books from this past year for Alphabe-Thursday~

I’m approaching my one year blogiversary which is hard for me to believe until I look at my number of posts :-)

Before I embarked on my blogging journey, I had been visiting & sitting on the fence~ uncertain about what I would want to share until I stumbled on Jain’s blog at Food for Thought by way of Designs by Gollum. My love of books and the idea of sharing one in an edible fashion seemed intriguing and a fun way to get my feet wet.

Taking a page out of Jain’s book, I’m sharing a year-end summary of the journey my year of reading has taken, the meals & morsels I’ve enjoyed along the way.

 

 I have. . .

  • searched for Flower Fairies while dodging falling acorns & nibbling on fruit & cake

  • watched dolphins in Sweetwater Creek while raising Boykin Spaniel Cheese Straws

  • floated down the Duoro River in Portugal in a Cork Boat feasting on Tiger Shrimp

  • picnicked On Folly Beach with Fried Chicken, Cornbread & Blackberry Iced Tea

  • won a bet & learned not to fear a few extra carbs & calories when it comes to the perfect Chicken Marsala

  • rooted for The Help in Mississippi while having Chocolate Pie minus Minny’s secret ingredient

  • sipped on an Omar Sharif cocktail, sampled Strawberry Tea sandwiches, Grilled Peaches & Pound Cake on my Flowers for the Home journey

  • learned about Asperger’s Syndrome as well as House Rules eating by the colors of the rainbow

  • entered witness protection~  8 aliases & several Orange Hostess Cupcakes later, fled with a mafioso’s son, discovering the Ultimate Mussels

  • was Inspired by designers’ favorite foods including David Easton’s mac & cheese, Candice Olson’s favorite pizza and Green Tea Ice Cream with Vincente Wolf

  • ate Green Eggs & Ham along with Dr. Suess, commemorating the 50th anniversary of this classic book

  •  solved a 30-year old mystery eating Peanut Butter Pie with the Domino Boys

  • stopped inflicting a good marriage on a reluctant husband & re-invented my life while enjoying Brie in Puff Pastry

  • tried to settle a family feud in Between Georgia & polished off Deviled Eggs

  • defended an Amish girl at trial, ultimately learning the Plain Truth with a slice of Squash Pie

  • investigated an abused boy while Chasing Fireflies & eating Tomato Cheese Grits

  • celebrated Christmas with a Big Book that inspires fresh ideas in cooking, baking, entertaining, and decorating.

 Whew!

In summary my plate was full this year, reading & cooking my books. . . I chowed down, crammed, devoured, digested, dined, dispatched, feasted, gobbled up, gorged, gormandized, grazed, ingested, inhaled, masticated, munched, nibbled, noshed, polished off, put away, ruminated, scarfed, snacked, supped, swallowed, & wolfed my way through my pages.

I chased the moon & fireflies~as well as props & dishes to provide visual book reviews & find tablescape inspiration. . .

 

I discovered the magic of bottle trees, fairies & sugar and well as new authors, books & recipes. . .

I stopped to smell the Roses (not very fragrant :-) Flowers for the Home & Southern Bouquets.

I was waterlogged from happy hours in Sweetwater Creek, On Folly Beach, Last Light over Carolina, Between the Tides, and with Women of the Sea.

I spent time with winery dogs, racing dogs, re-incarnated dogs, tuckered dogs, lived with dogs, boated with dogs-

I was surrounded by girls… one named Zippy, The Girl She Used To Be, & one who Chased the Moon & just The Girls~

 It was an educational, entertaining & full year :-)

I hope you can join us this year, as I co-host Food for Thought with Jain here, Feb. 1st.

 You are invited to share any book of your chosing, be it fiction, nonfiction, favorite children’s, cookbook, coffee table, etc.

 It’s a fun way to read & find something for your supper~

Rate your book:

***** EXCELLENT!
**** good read
*** average read
** so-so
* just skip it~

~link it to amazon and provide an edible passage from your book~

Visit:

  •  Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday~stop in & see what’s being served~

 

 

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Christmas with Tucker

 

Christmas with Tucker **** by Greg Kincaid

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

 

“It is the winter of 1962, and Kansas is hit with one of the worst blizzards in its history. It is during this cruel season that twelve-year-old George is called upon to endure more than even most grown men could withstand—the death of his father and the upkeep of the family that his legacy. When his mother and sisters leave for Minnesota, George has only his grandparents and the companionship of Tucker, an Irish setter, to help him persevere through these most difficult challenges. Can he find the strength to walk the road that leads to healing, find his true self, and ultimately become a man? A coming-of-age story for readers of all ages, Christmas with Tucker is a classic Christmas tale about a young man’s love for his dog, his family, and his farm.”

I know we are tuckered out at my house from the busy holiday season. . .

. . .but I couldn’t let the Christmas Season pass without a review of this book. My eyes were bigger than my tummy AND the 31 days on the calendar this month for sharing all the Christmas books I wanted to share. I’ll finish the year with one final book that will bring a close to the holiday season ending 2010 with this happy tail :-)

 

Young George has a lot on his plate with his responsibilities helping out on his grandparents’ farm. Snow days may mean a break from school, but there is no rest for the weary on a dairy farm. . .

Dairy cows require lots of water, with each cow consuming 25- 50 gallons of water a day depending on the weather. When the electricity goes out and their stock tanks freeze, their next available source of water is a pond that needs to be ice-free so they aren’t trapped by the ice in their search for water & drown.

 I hung my glittery snowflakes on the tree for a snowy effect for this review. . . not dreaming we would be gifted with a White Christmas, the first one here since 1947.

Our snow was not paralyzing like it was for the Northeast. It started Christmas Day and continued through the following day, but quickly melted, but not before providing me with an opportunity to photograph some snowy barn scenes. . .

“There was this vague but growing conclusion settling in my young mind that life does not always bestow upon us everything we want or think we should have. We are forced to move away from hoping others will give up what we want, to a new place where we must discover how to find happiness on our own. Santa was the last vestige of youth where all our wants are magically delivered by some other.”

“It was like being in the middle of a really great Zane Grey novel, and when I got to page 100, just as I victoriously led my mare over the top of the windswept hill after outwitting the bad guys, someone switched in fifty pages of the bleakest scenes by Charles Dickens and messed up my perfectly good life.”

“Farm boys operate machinery, big machinery, by the time they were thirteen, and I was no exception. I’d learned to drive a tractor as soon as I was tall enough to reach the pedals.”

 

“He kept the harness and the old horse-drawn blade stored in the implement shed along with other McCray prized possessions:  an International Harvester and a Massy Ferguson tractor, plows, cultivators, seed drills, rotary and sickle-bar mowers, hay rakes and balers.”

“My guess was he kept the horses and old blades around for a reason. If the maintainer ever broke, he was prepared to clear the roads with the horses, though by 1962 they were far too old to do the job. If the horses couldn’t pull the blades, he owed countless shovels and we would get at it one scoop at a time.”

 

George’s grandmother bakes chocolate chip cookies to fortify him for his wintry weather chores~

“He backed a few feet away from me and started barking, demanding that I play with him. I started to run away, hoping he would chase after me, but he was so excited that he set out circling the house at full speed, his big, floppy, red ears going up and down as he bounded by me. I wondered if doggie Christmas had arrived early for this pooch.”

 

“His warm body helped me feel safe and secure. I pulled him close to me, buried my face in his coat, and realized that all I could do was hunker down and get through the winter. I would have to accept that things did not always turn out the way they should. Maybe that was the new rule.”

 

The author, Greg Kincaid is a pet-adoption advocate who lives on a farm in eastern Kansas with his wife, two cats, and two dogs, including Rudy adopted from a local shelter. My searches for adoptable dogs on Petfinder not only pulled at my heartstrings, but led me to search for dogs named Tucker that ultimately landed me on Dogster.

 Dogster lets you create a profile for your dog, upload a photo and show off your pooch. The most popular pet-based social network with nearly half a million visitors each month, you can find advice on dogs, connect with other dog owners, find a breeding partner and even adopt a new dog. Shhhh, don’t tell Chloe & Gracie there’s a place in cyberspace to receive virtual bones & make friends :-)

 My search led me to 1,164 dogs named Tucker on Dogster. . .let me introduce you to a few of them~

Blazes of Glory Tuckers~

The Toy Group~

Tuckered out Tuckers. . .

 The Sporting Group . . .

I’m dreaming of a white Tucker. . .

To find adoptable pets near you, visit Petfinder.com.

Visit Food for Thought for a recipe of Happy Reading~

I’m also joining Mary at Little Red House for Mosaic Monday~

 & Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday~

O Christmas Tree

Nell Hill’s O Christmas Tree ****.*

by Mary Carol Garrity

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“Mary Carol Garrity and her home furnishing emporium Nell Hill’s have become synonymous with delivering creative and stylish advice on all facets of home decorating and entertaining. Inside Nell Hill’s O Christmas Tree, Mary Carol offers seasonal decorating tips for all tastes and budgets by inviting you into her own 130-year-old Greek Revival home decked out in the season’s liveliest shades of evergreen, pinecone, and holly.

To showcase how her holiday tips can transition into different design styles, Mary Carol also takes you inside a suburban ranch, an urban condo, an arts and crafts bungalow, a new-construction town home, and three historical period homes in Kansas City. Deck your halls like never before with Nell Hill’s O Christmas Tree.”

The most recent Nell Hill’s Christmas book for your coffee table, hostess-with-the-mostest, or Christmas lover~ full of inspirational eye candy. . .

. . .while some of the reviews found on Amazon are mediocre for this book (it’s true there is less glitz than her previous Christmas compendium), its natural evergreen focus is a feast for the senses for someone who likes to “deck the halls with boughs of holly.”

 You can practically smell the piney boughs & cedar along with the fragrance from the seeded eucalyptus wafting from the pages. . .

“Our Christmas trees—and the traditions we honor while decorating them—hold tremendous emotional power. Trees connect us to our past while we are reinventing and celebrating the present. A home is truly ready for the arrival of Christmas Day when the tree is placed in the right spot and decorated. It brings us back to the wonder and excitement of our childhood as we reenact our traditions and also reinvent the holiday for new generations.”

 

“So often we try to do all things with our holiday decorating, and we miss the mark not because we didn’t try but sometimes we try too hard. I favor of uniformity in theme, with surprises tucked in.”

Inspired by the ‘What a Dish!’ section I got caught up in playing with trayscapes . . . so I’m also joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday as part of this Edible Review.

 My Fitz Floyd tray, with a Lennox salad plate~

 I picked up a set of four plaid salad plates from Target this season & paired them with my Fitz & Floyd St. Nicholas Bread & Butter. . . presented on a red lacquered tray, also from Target with a side of candy canes :-)

 A library tray serving a sledding Santa~

Christmas Home by Royal Stafford accompanied by a chalkware Santa~

 Silver with a dusting of snowflakes~

 

 Jewelry for the table is always fun :-) I fell in love with these snowflake napkin rings from Pottery Barn ~

“In the history of Christmas traditions, the gift of fruit holds an important position in our customs. Receiving fruit in our stockings dates back to earlier times when it was hard to find fruit in the winter, and one orange was truly a rare treats. High prices were paid for fresh foods that had to come long distances to arrive at our Christmas doors. The use of fruit today is still an honored tradition that you’ll find at Christmas celebrations and a symbol of the bountiful gifts of the season.”

 

“To me, fresh produce can be just as beautiful to look at as newly picked flowers from the garden. Fruit adds texture and color to the table, too, and is easy to arrange because it looks so pretty just stacked up, and it reusable after the party is over.”

This gorgeous outdoor area with the columns swagged with greenery is the perfect setting for a ‘dessert prom’ where a dollops of meringue are served alongside the silver & champagne~

Food for Thought was easy with Trader Joe’s Vanilla Meringues~

 

 Pretty, ready-made, and you can have four cookies for 110 calories if you’re counting :-)

“May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope; The spirit of Christmas which is peace; The heart of Christmas which is love.”

~ Ada V. Hendricks

 For Book Love visit Food for Thought ~

 &  Dish Love visit Between Naps on the Porch ~

Nell Hill’s Christmas at Home

 

Nell Hill’s Christmas at Home ****.*

by Mary Carol Garrity

I’m joining Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word~

“The town of Atchison, Kansas, is never busier than at Christmastime. It is during this season that the acclaimed Nell Hill’s home decorating emporium is transformed into a magical space where old meets new, formal meets frivolous, and imagination is key. Now you can bring that spirit into your home for the holidays. In Nell Hill’s Christmas At Home, shop owner Mary Carol Garrity, the endlessly inventive home decorating marvel, turns her attention to the specifics of holiday decorating.”

 “With the inimitable style and warmth that has made converts of so many, she offers unconventional wisdom for beautifying your home throughout the season. Whether it’s a new and exciting spot for a Christmas tree or a wonderful way to wrap and present gifts, Mary Carol’s ideas are never stuffy and always inspirational. Full of lavish photographs, Nell Hill’s Christmas at Home distills the decorating wisdom gleaned by Mary Carol from countless conversations with her devoted customers. With this latest book, she offers readers the most imaginative and entertaining ideas to come along in years.”

 A mesh tree cone, inverted to hold a bouquet of ornaments accessorized by her collection of silver tree toppers:

“Clustered together in front of a mirror, they appear to double in number and suggest turrets of a shimmering fairy-tale castle.”

Mary Carol Garrity established Nell Hill’s in 1981 in an old bank building in her hometown of Atchison, Kansas, naming the store after her maternal grandmother who was an early Kansas pioneer. This landmark retail store has become legendary in the decorating world—more than ninety-five percent of Nell Hill’s patrons travel more than 100 miles to visit Mary Carol at her flagship store. Since its humble beginnings as a gourmet food shop, the Nell Hill’s stores have grown to include the original location and a sister store, Garrity’s Encore, in Atchison, Kansas, as well as the latest addition—the new Nell Hill’s at Briarcliff Village in Kansas City.

“The Christmas season doesn’t replace everyday life; it’s a bonus. Don’t banish your usual touchstones, but instead look for ways they can star in the holiday scene.”

A long time fan of Mary Carol Garrity & Nell Hill’s, I love all her books, any of which would make a wonderful gift~ chock full of eye candy and inspirational decorating ideas. I remember reading about her in Victoria Magazine around the time she came into her  own, before her blog & her claim to fame with Forbes magazine dubbing her “one of the hottest little retailers” in America.

“When you’re not inclined to start from scratch for an over-the-top holiday scene, just tweak the everyday elements of your rooms.”

“Think small. In the midst of the lavish gestures and intricate schemes of the holidays, a quiet surprise brings pleasure far greater than its effort. Tuck a tiny boutonniere in a visitor’s lapel; mail a beautifully wrapped present to someone you see every day. . .”

“I know now than an ornament is a symbol of the season and a message of hope, a mirror of fashion or the cue to a family legend. Each one starts out as something created just to please the eye; that’s what it is to visitors seeing your tree for the first time. But for you, who have hung that slightly chipped angel  on the tree for years or remember the chubby hands that created your goofy clay snowman, the most valuable ornaments go beyond loveliness straight to the heart.”

“Unstuffy stockings. . .for the best stockings, blend silly with sophisticated. . .”

One of my stockings~ a touch of whimsy courtesy of a Christmas fairy . . .

A few vintage treasures, an old book. . .

 My grandmother’s photo, a lidded Santa box, beaded garland & vintage ornament~

 Chloe & Gracie are anxious to rip into their stockings. . .

I had some puff pastry fun for Food for Thought creating a stocking. . .

Instead of velvet & ribbon trim, these stockings are embellished with pine nuts, sesame seeds & puff pastry cut-outs in the shape of leaves, snowflakes & gingerbread men :-)

You can attend Mary Carol Garrity’s Christmas Open House at her home by video here~ click on Christmas Party.

Be sure to visit Food for Thought~ stop in for Happy Holiday reading~