Sunday, June 30, 2013

a bunch of grandmas are going to be pissed their secret recipes are out.

I don't know where these southern people get their grandmothers from, but mine's more of a broad than a sweet old lady who shares her recipes with me. As a child, I do remember her baking and me watching, but honestly, my grandmother's idea of comfort food was a bowl of Frosted Flakes and homemade milkshakes, which worked for me.

In At My Grandmother's Table by Faye Porter, southern granddaughters and grandsons share recipes they enjoyed as children, and memories of the one's who prepared them. They all make their grandmothers seem sort of magical, and maybe southern grandmas are. This recipe collection is very down home, complete with sweet tea, pies and cobblers, old fashioned donuts, and gravy. Including the ultimate comfort foods in the form of main dishes such as chicken and dumplings, many different ways to fry chicken, stews, and casseroles. A great cookbook for any kitchen, even if you're a damn Yankee.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

a unique travelogue.

Agatha Christie is a favorite author of many. Her grandson, Mathew Prichard, put together a very popular piece of her history in The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery, especially for those who loved Christie most.

In 1922 Agatha Christie set off on a ten-month voyage around the world. Leaving her young daughter behind to follow her husband on this journey, Christie was able to see exotic places and meet remarkable people that would later inspire the writing that readers around the world are still able to enjoy. This travelogue includes pictures, authentic letters, and Prichard's own memories of his grandmother. Separated into sections for South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Honolulu and Canada, we get real insight into Christie's adventures in these far away places. The Grand Tour shows us a more personal side to Christie, making her less of a celebrity and more of a person in the eyes of her devoted readers.

Friday, June 28, 2013

bags, bags, bags.

All the ladies in the house can agree that purses are uber expensive. I only get a new one when it's absolutely necessary. Twice when I was in Europe my purse broke and I had to buy a new one. Once in Munich and once in London. As you can see, I wear them out, good to the last drop. Now I have an answer for all of our "ain't nobody got money for that" purse problems...well, Tricia Waddell has an answer in Best of Stitch: Bags to Sew.

(Interweave/F+W Media; $26.95)
You can purchase here.

Now a decade ago, ladies would be like oh hell no I am not sewing my own purse. Today, since the arrival of Pinterest and the economic decline, we are all about the DIY. For all the women who are independent, and broke, and cheap, and have way more time on their hands because they are broke and cheap. You have got to see the types of purses you can construct in Best of Stitch, it's really amazing. Waddell has included idiot-proof directions on how to sew messenger bags, zippy pouches, GARMENT BAGS, wallets, coin purses, clutches...ALL cuter than Vera Bradley (no offense). She has even included seven actual sewing templates for seven different styles of purses. Towards the back of the book Waddell gets nice and specific on how to create handles/straps, pockets, zippers, and includes other tips and tricks as well. I loved this collection, now I just have to pay someone to sew them up for me. (Just kidding).

Thursday, June 27, 2013

YA summer reading...

I read Morgan Matson's Second Chance Summer in literally one day. Yes, I am a teacher in her first few weeks of summer freedom, so I've got nothing but time, but I also couldn't put it down. Seventeen-year-old Taylor tends to run from things (we have this in common). Whenever things get tough or intense that girl is off. Once her family found out that her father has stage four pancreatic cancer, Taylor discovered that there are certain things you just cannot outrun. The doctors gave Rob four months to live so the family decided to retreat to their summer home in the Poconos for one last summer together. Taylor is dreading this summer plan, one because she doesn't want to emotionally deal with her father's sickness, but also because she burned some bridges during her last family vacation there when she was twelve. She had her first romantic experience, making things uncomfortable with her best friend Lucy and her summer love, Henry, and did what Taylor does when things get uncomfortable, she ran, and she never came back, until five years later. Matson created such a beautiful character in Taylor and the very different members of her family. Taylor was mature beyond her years in a lot of ways, but Matson always brought her back down to seventeen-year-old earth, which made Taylor's character much more relatable to younger girls. I absolutely loved Warren, Taylor's older brother. He was awkward and smart, and Matson gave us many vocabulary lessons through his character. Totally the English teacher in me. Second Chance Summer made me laugh, made me cry, and made me want to read more of Morgan Matson's work.

i wish i read this before college.

Confessions of a Scholarship Winner by Kristina Ellis should be in every high school guidance office in America. Seriously, this chick got her PhD through SCHOLARSHIPS. Completely paid for. Please do not be discouraged by the fact that Ellis is a minority, and also came from an impoverished background. These factors did not get her all of her scholarships, you'll see as you read that Ellis' hard work and persistence are what got her to where she is.

In this resource, Ellis gives us her personal success story, and also spells out how to go after scholarships of all sizes. She includes how to write essays; what to concentrate on, and how to make every word count. How to write resumes, and make yourself stand out. Ellis didn't have outstanding grades or test scores, she was pretty average academic wise. Many students who are not in the top 10% of their classes think that scholarships are out of their reach, Ellis proves that is not always the case.

Now is the time to grab a copy of Ellis' story, take her advice, and start pursuing the scholarships that are right for you (or your kids).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

i got 99 problems but microsoft lync ain't one.

When I'm looking for instruction on anything computer related, I aim for the plain and simple, as I am at a second grade computer level. Coincidentally, Darren Lloyd has created an easy, colorful, see-how guide for Microsoft Lync 2013, because heaven knows, I have enough problems.

For those of you who don't know what Microsoft Lync even is (which was me yesterday), MS Lync is a communication software for any type of business. It's basic features include instant messaging, Voice Over IP, and video conferencing.

Advanced features are related to integration with other MS software, here are just a few of the basics:
  • Availability of contacts is based on Microsoft Outlook contacts stored in a Microsoft Exchange Server.
  • Contact lists can be retrieved from a local directory service, like Microsoft Exchange Server
  • Microsoft Office can show if other people are working on the same document.
  • All communication between the clients is done through a Microsoft Lync Server server. This makes communications more secure, as messages do not need to leave the corporate intranet, unlike with the Internet based Windows Live Messenger. The server can be set to relay messages to other instant messaging networks, avoiding installation of extra software at the client side.
  • A number of client types are available for Microsoft Lync, including mobile clients.
Since MS Lync just keeps advancing every year, other features now include:
  • Collaboration through Whiteboard documents, where the participants have freedom to share text, drawing and graphical annotations.
  • Collaboration through Power Point documents, where the participants can control and see presentations, as well as allow everybody to add text, drawing and graphical annotations.
  •   Polling lists, where Presenters can organize polls and all participants can vote and see results.
  • Desktop sharing, usually by allowing participants to see and collaborate on your windows screen.
  • Windows applications sharing, by allowing participants to see and collaborate on a specific application.
This software is pretty bad ass honestly, it makes your workday and communication with colleagues much more efficient. Now Darren Lloyd's Microsoft Lync 2013 Plain & Simple is the only guide that begins at the beginning, but also gives you the most updated information on the simplest ways to get things done with MS Lync 2013. Time for your business to get on board if you haven't already. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

well, if you like meat...and pickles.

I love real books. I understand the whole concept of the Kindle, I even have one myself, but nothing beats the feel of a book in your hands. I enjoy holding them in my lap, flipping through the pages, and long walks on the beach. Plus, you can't bring a Kindle into the pool with you. My point? Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee has a cheaper Kindle edition, but I would judge you terribly if you didn't spend the extra few bucks for the hard copy. It's one of those big, strong cookbooks, and it's just plain enjoyable.

Edward Lee is a Korean-Brooklyn native, who found himself drawn to the American South and all the flavors that goes along with it. Lee states that "...the American South is not part of a trend, it's a culinary movement..." In cities like Louisville, the past never leaves the present, no matter how bold or new the recipes get, and Lee takes his cue from there. He shares with us his recipes which are more like stories, in the most non-traditional Southern cookbook I have ever seen. The Smoke aspect of this cookbook includes lamb, cow, birds, pigs and seafood. There are also chapters that include veggies, pickles (of course) and bar snacks. My honest opinion? I don't know how I've lived without Bourbon Sweet Tea for this long...

Monday, June 24, 2013

you don't have to be rich to be my girl.

I am a Generation Y girl, I missed the whole Generation X boat by a few years, but I still appreciated Prince in the 90's. Well, his music, his appearance made me slightly uncomfortable if I'm going to be honest. Only because I had never seen a man in such tight clothes before, looking so feminine. I was just a kid. I probably shouldn't have even been watching MTV, who was babysitting me anyway?

Toure, who apparently only needs one name to be recognized, wrote a kick ass short biography on Prince titled I Would Die 4 U. While reading, I learned that Prince is older than my mother, and that their generation never really "got" him, but the gen Xers were just sitting around, waiting to be entertained, ready for something different. Then out walked Prince, and here we are. Toure mentions how Prince preached in a lot of ways, writing lyrics that touched on God and evil. Gen Xers weren't religious in the traditional sense, but Prince, with his evangelistic music, became a religion. Toure bases his biography on WHY Prince became an icon. Why did gen Xers need him so much? Well, because they were unconventional, so they were drawn to someone like that.

You see a lot of Toure's take on Prince's life in this biography. It's not long or incredibly detailed, so don't expect it to be.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

no means no.

The Boy Who Said No by Patti Sheehy is based on a true story, yet reads like a novel. Told from the point-of-view of young Frank Mederos, who is desperate to escape Cuba (under the rule of Castro Fidel) for the land of the free, a boy who has all odds against him.

We watch as our courageous protagonist falls in love, is drafted into the army in Cuba where he is quickly promoted to the Special Forces, and despite his position in the military, still cannot safely leave his home country to meet his girlfriend in America. Sheehy keeps the suspense high as Frank risks his life to obtain the freedom every one of us constantly takes for granted.

GIVEAWAY: If you would like the opportunity to win a free copy of this book, follow this blog and email your name, address, and this book title to: by 6/28!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

happy first day of summer!

Alternating between the early 1930’s and 1938 author Beatriz Williams uses an historical event, the New England Hurricane of 1938 to paint an engrossing and passionate tale in her latest novel A Hundred Summers.

The years 1931-1932 set the time when our main characters Nick Greenwald and Lily Dane first fall in love, but there relationship is derailed by Lily’s parents who do not agree with their daughters romance with the Jewish, Nick.

Jump ahead to 1938 where Lily is summering at Seaview, the beach house her family has vacationed at for generations. Her best friend Budgie will be arriving shortly at her own family's beach house and Lily is nervous for her arrival since the two haven't spoken in years. Just to make things nice and complicated, Budgie is now Budgie Greenwald, having married Nick. Yes, Lily’s Nick. Now throw in a faked pregnancy, a few affairs, too many lies to count on two hands, and a deadly hurricane, and we have the perfect storm of a novel.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

always a pleasure.

Mary Higgins Clark is known as the “Queen of Suspense” and for good reason. Her mysteries are always thrilling, and she doesn’t make a habit of disappointing her readers. Daddy’s Gone A Hunting, which came out in April, keeps you on the edge of your seat, wherever that may be.

This particular story opens with a literal BANG when an early morning explosion at a family-owned furniture firm leaves one person dead and another gravely injured. The deceased, Gus Schmidt, was a disgruntled craftsman who was forced into retirement. Found alongside Gus is Kate Connelly, although alive, her condition has resulted in a coma that leaves her unable to defend herself when she becomes a person of interest in the case.

Kate’s sister, Hannah, who is left to pick up the pieces, is no stranger to tragedy. Hannah is a fashion designer with a promising future, and is fully committed to clearing her sister’s name. She only hopes that Kate will survive to tell the truth of what happened that fateful night. Meanwhile, Kate is struggling to overcome a life-threatening fever and regain consciousness. She’s also having flashbacks of events that leave her vulnerable to harm but cannot express this to the outside world, but only to us readers, which isn’t very helpful in this situation. Clark incorporates several other mysteries into the storyline as well, including the disappearances of an aspiring actress and a war veteran. You know, just in case the main plot of the story wasn’t suspenseful enough.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

grief, marriage and motherhood.

When life gets bad. I mean really, really bad. The people in our lives often remind us that God will never throw something at us that He knows we can't handle. I don't know what people said to Jackie Hance after her tragedy, but I hope it wasn't that. Because if I were her, I would have punched that person in the face.

Jackie Hance lost all three of her young daughters, ages eight, seven, and five in a horrific car accident. She wasn't there, she wasn't even driving, yet she lived with guilt for years after. Hance opens up to us in her memoir I'll See You Again, being very honest and upfront about her feelings, and the trials she faced after such a loss. She shares with us little memories of her daughters, and how she handled finding out she was pregnant with daughter number four. Some may have considered this conception a gift, Hance didn't see it that way at the beginning, she was terrified.

At the end of the day, Hance gives us a memoir about living. Giving us all hope that maybe we can survive anything, just like her.

GIVEAWAY: If you would like the opportunity to win a free copy of this book, follow this blog and email your name, address, and this book title to:!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

chirpin' all over the world.

Markus Varesvuo, Jari Peltomaki and Bence Mate. Three bad ass wildlife photographers who have compiled the most beautiful volume of bird related photographs I have ever seen. Okay, I have never actually seen bird photography book before, but it's pretty obvious that The Handbook of Bird Photography is the best one. Inside the authors enthusiastically share their knowledge and love of birds and nature photography. The pages are filled with advice on the best spots to photograph birds and how to set up for and capture the money shots under unpredictable conditions. They even throw in some technical advice regarding digital camera equipment and basic accessories. Every picture has a caption including where and when the photograph was taken, what type of camera was used and all of that f-stop, manual focus, photography jargon that many of you totally understand.

I'm sure you're all dying to know my favorite photographs of the bunch. I'm glad you asked. My favorites are hands down in the "Photographing at Nests" section where mama birds are feeding their little baby birds. These three photogs are super ambitious AND pretty fricken patient.

Monday, June 17, 2013

paleo all day everyday.

Eating paleo is an easy concept: We should eat as our ancestors once did, we should eat based on how we are genetically wired to eat, and we should eat foods that are not highly processed. What does eating paleo consist of? I'm glad you asked. Paleo means eating meat from animals that live the way nature intended their species to live, like grass-fed beef. Eat both fruits and vegetables, but favor the veggies. Eat quality fats like avocados, seeds, nuts, and use coconut oil for its beneficial healthy fat. Eating paleo also means eliminating any grains, which is the biggest issue for people I think. If you're interested learning more about the paleo diet consider picking up a copy of Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso.

Fragoso introduces readers to the paleo lifestyle in the first few pages, including a basic food guide which most find helpful. What is even more helpful are the dozens and dozens of very tasty looking recipes included. I especially enjoyed the Plantain Chips and Guacamole on page 225. This is just an example of how foods you already enjoy eating qualify as paleo, which makes the change a little more manageable for those who want to give it the good college try. Also included are detailed shopping lists, I feel like going to the grocery store overwhelmed is half the problem when it comes to Americans eating healthy. They don't know what to get. Problem solved. The very end of the book includes basic fitness circuits and advice, along with kids fitness.

Fragoso covers all bases which makes Everyday Paleo the ultimate guide for learning the paleo diet and fitness lifestyle.

Friday, June 14, 2013

what would a pastor’s wife do?

The only real exposure I’ve had to the life of a pastor, one with a large denomination and many responsibilities to the “flock” is Seventh Heaven episodes. And boy, did I love Eric Camden. I wanted him to be my dad. I’m sure real life pastors and their families either love or hate these fictional portrayals. Either they are spot on or completely off base. That being said, you real life pastor’s wives are going to either love or hate Lisa Takeuchi Cullen’s novel titled Pastor’s Wives.

Pastor’s Wives follows three women, all tied together by a southern evangelical “mega church”, and the fact that their marriages are falling apart. Ruthie follows her Wall Street husband from New York to Georgia when he hears a calling to serve at Greenleaf. Not the best time considering Ruthie’s mother has recently passed and she is going through a major crisis of faith. Candace is Greenleaf's "First Lady," a force of nature who'll stop at nothing to protect her church and her superstar husband. And finally Ginger, who is married to Candace's son, has a tainted past, and is struggling to live up to her mother-in-law’s expectations.

It’s not considered Christian Fiction, it’s more Fiction with Christian themes, with a well-written plot and characters you’ll love. Pastor’s wives, who realize that at the end of the day they are human, just like the rest of us.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

pretty adorable.

Patchwork, Please!: Colorful Zakka Projects to Stitch and Give by Ayumi Takahashi is a collection of projects done in patchwork. We are talking the types of patchwork projects that you can create from bits and pieces of fabric, fat quarters and scraps, so the best kind. Included are clear instructions that are extremely easy to understand, each followed by graphics. For those of you who have been there, done that with patchwork, there are many original, one of kind projects throughout these pretty pages.

"Interweave/F+W Media; $22.95,"
You can purchase this title here.

Takahashi uses a Janome DC4030 (whatever that means), but assures readers that a “basic” machine is all that is necessary. She has more of a “forties", "fifties" and "sixties" retro style when it comes to fabric, but that doesn’t mean you have to. I for one, really enjoy the vintage looks. Patchwork, Please! is the perfect DIY book for beginners and especially for those looking for patchwork inspiration.  
GIVEAWAY: If you would like the opportunity to win a free copy of this book, follow this blog and email your name, address, and this book title to:!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

this one makes me glad i see my grandma every day.

Clementine Evans, an extremely driven law associate on the verge of making partner in a large Manhattan firm is feeling like her life is nothing but a 70-plus hour workweek, a failed engagement, and well, nothing good. When she attends her grandmother’s 99th birthday and stumbles upon a family mystery, she just can’t seem to let go of the intrigue, clinging to it to spice up her lonely days. Her mother is no help, so Clemmie seeks help uncovering the clues from her aunt’s stepson, Jon.

The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig is told in the alternating voices of Clemmie and her grandmother Addie. Clemmie’s story takes place in the wealthy sector of Manhattan in the late 20th century, while Addie’s story ranges from WWI society in Britain to the plains of Kenya in the early 20th century. As the story moves along between past and present, family secrets are revealed. It was a nice journey through three different countries and time periods that are poles apart, with just enough romance to keep a girl like me on board.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

erotic novel of the year?

The first few pages of Eric Jerome Dickey’s new novel Decadence made me a tad red in the face if I’m going to be honest. How does one acquire dreams like Nia Simone Bijou? Jeesh, sign me up, Mr. Dickey.

Anyways, Decadence takes place four years after the events of Pleasure. Nia is now a successful author who presents a more serious persona to her audience, but behind the scenes she is expanding on her quest for sensual pleasure.  Nia is pure sex, and so is Dickey’s writing. He has created Decadence, an elite adult only club that caters to the sexually free and the sexually athletic. No inhibitions allowed, and becoming a "watcher" or a "doer" is purely your choice. Okay, sign me up for this, too. Our girl Nia decides to become a participant and the rest of the novel is quite the wild and sweaty ride. Expectations will be exceeded.

Monday, June 10, 2013

if you loved the film, purchasing this book is a given.

Author, Glenn Frankel (from Rochester, NY – my area as well!) has come up with a perfectly original take on John Ford's movie The Searchers in his historical “fiction” novel of the same name.

The Searchers’ initial story is the true historical account of the slaughter of the adult members of the Parker family and the capture of nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker by Comanche’s in Texas, 1836. Frankel's book is a chronological telling of Cynthia Ann's capture, her family’s gruesome murder, and her life as a reluctant prisoner who gradually accepts the Native American way. Frankel then moves on to Cynthia’s Uncle Jack Parker's search for her and other captives, her return to her white family, and her tragic early death in despair and wish to return to the Comanche's. Irony at its finest.

Part two of the story involves the son of Cynthia Ann, Quanah Parker, who was left homeless and motherless with the capture of his mother by white society when he was a teenager. Quanah would grow up into a fierce warrior and Comanche chief and continue to attack white settlements and settlers for many years thereafter.

Glenn Frankel has created a classic of his own with this one.

GIVEAWAY: If you would like the opportunity to win a free copy of this book, follow this blog and email your name, address, and this book title to:! 

Friday, June 7, 2013

growing up is hard to do.

Manfriend and I just bought a house, so I thought a copy of The How-To Handbook: 50 Essential Life Skills for Everyday Life by Martin Oliver and Alexandra Johnson was a necessary read. Except for the short time I lived on my own down south, I’ve always lived with mommy and daddy, and I liked it. I never had to worry about a thing. At twenty-seven, it’s about time I learned some life skills.

Oliver and Johnson have created a very handy reference here, compiling the things a person really has to know how to do. For example, chopping an onion (have done it, but not correctly), ironing a pair of pants (have attempted it, but not correctly), loading the dishwasher (have never owned one, but will in the new house), and for the record, I already knew how to wrap a gift, but it’s included as well for those of you who don’t.

There are easy to follow instructions and useful illustrations for all of the babies out there (like me) who need direct instruction on how to become an adult.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

cook like a gatherer, entertain like a lady.

Sometimes I get sad when I see a cookbook made so beautifully, knowing that as soon as it enters my kitchen it will be ruined. Sign, sorry to authors Hayley Mason and Bill Staley who went to all the trouble of writing, compiling, and photographing dozens of recipes, and creating such a visual masterpiece in Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining, my copy already has a stain.

This is the most gorgeous recipe book that I have ever seen. The photographs are beautiful, and it's organized so well by season, inspiring us to cook delicious and healthy food all year long. And not just cook, but also put on a bit of a show with the presentation. The different sections of the book are themed, for example there is a Midsummer Garden Party menu that includes shopping and preparation, specific recipes, and even a beautiful table setting to imitate. The A Night in Tuscany menu is something I absolutely have to copy spice for spice, picture for picture. All of the recipes look delicious, and normal, AND include dessert. I don't know if wine is considered "paleo" but Mason and Staley have included it on every table setting, so I am taking that as a drink and be merry.

Honestly though, with everything spelled out for you right there are the beautifully illustrated pages, what is there to stress about? Your small gatherings, holiday parties, and summer events will be the talk of the town, or Facebook.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

wishing i could scribble for a living.

Just in case you didn’t know, in August of 1869, thirty-three-year-old Samuel Clemens – or as he was later known, MARK TWAIN moved to Buffalo, New York. Um, that’s where I live! Mark Twain is one of my all-time favorite authors. I borrow his words often because he was so damn brilliant and insightful. Anyways, THE Mark Twain spent 18 whole months here in Buffalo, and Thomas J. Reigstad tells us all about it in Scribblin’ for a Livin': Mark Twain’s Pivotal Period in Buffalo.

Author, and long-time Buffalo State College professor, Reigstad, now retired, is Buffalo's definitive "Twain expert" and he shares with us his research and extremely hard work in this very readable history of Twain's time living in Buffalo from 1869-1871. A lot happened in Twain’s life during his year and a half in Western New York. Twain arrived in Buffalo in mid-August 1869 as a bachelor and left as a married man with an infant son. He arrived as an enthusiastic co-editor and co-owner of a newspaper and left as a man who would never practice journalism again. Other Twain biographers wrote Buffalo off, while Reigstad did an excellent job uncovering truth to the myths others have missed.

Monday, June 3, 2013

meanwhile on the planet lorien.

The movie, I Am Number Four, which came out a few year ago is based on a series. Let me give you some background. Lorien Legacies is a series of young adult science fiction books, written by James Frey and Jobie Hughes under the collective pseudonym Pittacus Lore. I Am Number Four (published 2010) is the first book in the series, followed by The Power of Six (2011), The Rise of Nine (which is the book I will be reviewing today), and The Fall of Five (to be released August 2013) as the first four books in the series, of a proposed six.

Each installment tells the story of the character with the number in the title. Basically they started with nine numbers (or people), and all are being destroyed. The series begins with Number Four because Numbers One-Three have already been killed. The Rise of Nine is told from the first person perspectives of Number Four, Number Six, and Number Seven. It tells the story of the remaining Nine, and how they, one by one, reunite with each other and continue attempting to evade their destruction. I recommend reading the first two installments before beginning this one as it very much feels like coming in on the middle of things.