Mailbox Monday

December host:

Suko’s Notebook

Christmas on Mimosa LaneSynopsis: Anna DeStefano presents a touching Christmas story about love, loss, and healing—and the joys of coming home.
A childhood spent on the streets leaves Mallory Phillips longing for a normal life and a perfect Christmas. Now an elementary school nurse in Chandlerville, Georgia, Mallory’s dream to blend into the picturesque community isn’t working out. She’s once more living a loner’s existence. Then an emotionally fragile seven-year-old appears in her living room in the middle of the night, and Mallory’s isolated world is turned upside down.
This is Polly Lombard’s first Christmas without her mother, and she won’t utter a word to anyone—except Mallory. She believes Mallory holds the key to helping her father overcome his sadness. Despite Pete Lombard’s lingering grief over his wife’s death and concern for his daughter, his resistance to their mysterious neighbor crumbles as he spends more time with Mallory and falls for her amazing heart. But when her past returns haunt her, is Mallory strong enough to keep the Lombard family in her life? And can the spirit of Christmas heal these broken souls and bring them all the joyous, loving holiday they deserve?

5 Golden RingsMy thanks to author Sophie Barnes for the gift of Five Golden Rings!

Synopsis:  The holidays are a time for wishes, magic and, of course, love. Celebrate the season with this delightful collection of Christmas tales. What better way for Connor Talbot, Earl of Redfirn, to spend the holidays than convincing Leonora Compton that the only match she needs to make is with him!

The Duke of Ashton has had three years to plan for his perfect Christmas present—the Lady Eleanor Fitzsimmons as his wife. Now, all he has to do is convince the reluctant lady …

Phin Baldwin does not believe in Christmas magic … until the clever and beautiful Ginny Overton gets it into her head to show him how wonderful it can be when wishes come true.

Just returned from the Crusades, marriage is the last thing on Sir Caerwyn’s mind. But will he be able to resist Lady Nia, the thief of his boyhood heart, when she tempts him yet again?

Responsible Ethan Weatherstone is determined to save Penelope Rutledge—and her reputation—from her silly scheme, but can he save himself from the temptation of her lips?

willful wifeI won How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English. Thanks to Sourcebooks and Linda at Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell for hosting the giveaway!

“It’s a duel of wit and wills in this charming retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. But the question is…who’s taming whom?”

Weekend Cooking – Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

IMG_1276I spent yesterday, a rainy Saturday, with two of my sisters baking a boatload of Christmas cookies. We came prepared with our dough ready to be baked. Even with that timesaver we baked from 9am to 5pm. I have a newfound respect for professional bakers!! My neck and back were sore and by the time  I arrived home I was ready to call it a day. But it was worth it because my baking is pretty much done. And I’d spent a fun day with my sisters. And Abby the wonder dog 🙂

The cookie I made was a new-to-me recipe. I’d intended to make shortbread Cookie Bookcookies but found I was missing an ingredient so I went to my Betty Crocker’s Cookie Book and found a recipe I thought would work. Again, I was missing a key ingredient (I knew I had flaked coconut in the pantry but when I pulled the package from the very back of the shelf I found it had expired in 2007 – yikes!). So I altered the recipe and substituted 1 tsp. cinnamon for the coconut and ended up with a very thin, buttery cinnamon sugar cookie. It earned a thumbs up from the tasters.

Here’s the original recipe:

No-Roll Coconut-Sugar Cookies

2 cups sugar

2 cups butter or margarine, softened (I used butter)

1 cup flaked coconut (I substituted 1 tsp. cinnamon but you could use a little more)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sugar

Heat oven to 350 (F). Beat 2 cups sugar, the butter, coconut (if using) and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda, (cinnamon if you’re using it) and salt.

Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press bottom of glass into dough to grease, then dip into sugar; press on shaped dough to flatten slightly.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

I sprinkled a little red sugar on after baking

Yields: about 8 dozen cookies

IMG_1273

weekend cookingWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. More information at the welcome post.

In the Bag by Kate Klise

In The Bag

Synopsis:  (back of the book) – A European vacation. A luggage mix-up. A note from a secret admirer.

Meet two single parents who think they’re too busy to date. 
And two teenagers who can’t stop writing flirty emails. 
This is a tale of connections–missed and made–in a universe that seems to have its heart set on reuniting Ms. 6B and Mr. 13C.

Webb
I can’t believe I picked up the wrong bag at the airport. My dad is never going to let me hear the end of it.

Coco
I don’t understand why Mom told me to pack my worst underwear. And now I’ve lost my bag? Ack!

Andrew
I cannot stop thinking about that woman in seat 6B on the flight to Paris.

Daisy
I don’t have time to worry about the creep sitting in 13C who slipped a note in my purse. I have to find my daughter’s missing bag before this ruins our vacation.

“In the Bag” is a smart and stylish story that explores the old-fashioned art of romance in a modern world, where falling in love can be as risky as checking a bag on an international flight. Buckle your seat belt–it’s going to be a bumpy vacation!

My take:  The back of the book synopsis gives a good sense of what to expect in this entertaining and, some might say, predictable novel. I enjoyed it for the fun plot, the interesting characters, and the snappy dialogue.

I was taken by surprise, in a good way, by the discussions of songwriter Jimmy Webb and his songs – especially Wichita Lineman, a song that always makes me stop whatever I’m doing and listen. There’s just something about that song. Anyway, Andrew was such a fan that he named Webb after him.

All in all, this novel reminded me of those Disney teen movies that always leave an audience smiling. It was a welcome diversion during a busy week.

Title:  In the Bag

Author:  Kate Klise

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  May 2012 – William Morrow – PB: 306 pages

Source:  I bought my copy

Mailbox Monday

December host:

Suko’s Notebook

Life After Life(Publisher synopsis):  What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can — will she?

Darkly comic, startlingly poignant, and utterly original — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best.

barefoot contessa(from the Publisher synopsis) Millions of people love Ina Garten because she writes recipes that make home cooks look great; family and friends shower them with praise and yet the dishes couldn’t be simpler to prepare using ingredients found in any grocery store. In Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, the Food Network star takes easy a step further, sharing her secrets for pulling off deeply satisfying meals that have that “wow!” factor we all crave.

For Ina, “foolproof” means more than just making one dish successfully; it’s also about planning a menu, including coordinating everything so it all gets to the table at the same time. In Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, Ina shows you how to make a game plan so everything is served hot while you keep your cool. There are notes throughout detailing where a recipe can go wrong to keep you on track, plus tips for making recipes in advance. It’s as though Ina is there in the kitchen with you guiding you every step of the way.

With 150 gorgeous color photographs and Ina’s invaluable tips, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof is a stunning yet infinitely practical cookbook that home cooks will turn to again and again.

What was in your mailbox?

Sunday Post

IMG_1259We decorated the tree last week. Our younger daughter came over and helped and then we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and had dinner. I used Instagram to take the picture. I think I have a lot to learn about that app.

Blog news:

I decided to try a new blog theme. Someone pointed out that she had to search for the place to comment so let me point to the little “comment balloon” to the right of the post title. Just click on it and talk to me 🙂

Reviews posted last week:

Spare Change by Bette Lee Crosby

Churchill: The Prophetic Statesman by James C. Humes (audiobook)

I noticed that Jill (from Breaking the Spine) started posting about the Pinterest recipes she’s actually made. I say actually because I’ve pinned countless recipes but have only tried, well, two now! One was this simple appetizer and the other was this entrée. Hubby gave it a thumbs up so I’ll make it again. I thought it was delicious – quick and easy too! I want to thank Jill for the inspiration to try some of the recipes I’ve pinned. I’ll blog about the keepers here on the Sunday Post.

So, what about you? Do you like Pinterest? Do you pin recipes and then actually try them?

Audiobook Brief: Churchill: The Prophetic Statesman by James C. Humes

churchillSynopsis: (Publisher) Churchill: The Prophetic Statesman reveals the astonishingly accurate predictions of Britain’s most famous prime minister and how his critics’ perceptions of them shaped his political career. Who could have foreseen the start of World War I twenty-five years before the assassination of a Serbian archduke plunged Europe into war? Who could have predicted the rise of al-Qaeda nearly eight decades before anyone had heard of Osama bin Laden? Winston Churchill did. Now for the first time, bestselling author James C. Humes reveals these and other shocking predictions made by this legendary figure. Churchill didn’t need a crystal ball to tell the future. Using his skills as a historian, he studied patterns of the past to make his eerily accurate forecasts, including the rise of European fascism, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the exact day of his own death as he entered his final years. In fascinating detail, Humes’ astonishing biography documents the spot-on prophecies Churchill foretold and the political consequences he endured for sharing them.

“The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward”  Winston Churchill, 1944

My take: If you are a fan of Churchill you’ll want to read or listen to this book. It would also be a great gift! I found it interesting as well as informative – both on a level that forced a “Wow!” out of me from time to time. Although I enjoyed listening to the book I would recommend also reading the print book. I had to stop and ‘rewind’ more than a few times to get the full gist of what had just been said. If I’d been reading the actual book there would have been a lot of highlighting involved.

That said, I thought narrator Matthew Brenher did a wonderful job with James C. Humes’ book. His Churchill voice was  very good and fit perfectly into the narrative of each passage.

I find myself wanting to read more about Churchill and I see that Mr. Humes has written a few more so I’ll add them to my TBR list. Recommended.

Source: I purchased the audiobook.