Lessons From The Prairie by Melissa Francis

Description:  Melissa Francis was eight years old when she won the role of a lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the world’s most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. 

Now, in the trade paperback of her wildly popular LESSONS FROM THE PRAIRIE: The Surprising Secrets to Happiness, Success and (Sometimes Just) Survival I Learned on America’s Favorite Show (Hachette Books; paperback on-sale April 3rd, 2018), Melissa shares behind-the-scenes stories from the set, along with inspirational and practical life lessons learned throughout her career. With a refreshing take on being a busy mom, Melissa offers her own mantra on how to balance everything: “Don’t ‘Lean In.’ In fact, sit down and take a load off!”

“I’ve taken more than a few pies to the face,” says Melissa,now a Fox News anchor. “Along the way, I’ve come to realize that many of the tools I needed to clean myself up, I learned in those few precious years on the Prairie. Read along and you’ll get the benefit of the laughs and lessons, without the whipped cream.”

A hilariously candid and brilliantly effective self-help book, Melissa shares her five-step recipe for turning disaster into golden opportunity, the critical upside of staying positive (nice guys/gals finish first!), how she wrangles the demands of motherhood with a full-time career (figure out what you really want), the role of faith (miracles do happen!), and how she’s learned not to care what anyone else thinks (show them your cellulite!)—all while peeling back the curtains on the legendary Little House series.

Melissa keeps readers laughing as she details her less-than-glamorous road into television journalism, revealing her tricks to break into the industry and how she finally got her big break—only to blow it and get fired! That’s when she learned her most powerful lesson: how to turn disaster into a golden opportunity. She shares those brilliant but easy steps in these pages. Building on her own experiences and the life lessons she’s learned over the years, Francis offers readers advice on resiliency, reinvention, and most of all the ability to laugh heartily at your own flaws.

Whether you’re a fan of her television work past or present, you’ll roar at Melissa’s unique brand of self- deprecating humor and walk away from Lessons from the Prairie with the tools to lead a happier and more successful life.  (publisher)

My take: Melissa Francis shares her road to becoming a television journalist in her memoir Lessons From The Prairie – now out in paperback. I missed the Little House on the Prairie series because I was in college and then a young mom during those years. I’ve watched grown-up Melissa Francis on the business channel she currently works for and find her way of explaining economic information to clear and concise. I don’t read many celebrity memoirs but I found hers to be entertaining and informative and appreciated her candor. I thought her easy writing style made her relatable – especially early on when she sought her first post-graduation job. Lessons From The Prairie is a ‘how I did it’ memoir that I can recommend.


About the author:

Broadcast journalist Melissa Francis is the author of the acclaimed memoir, Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter. She is an anchor on Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, and a regular contributor on financial, economic, and political issues on shows such as The Five, Outnumbered, Happening Now, and America’s Newsroom, among others. As an actress, she appeared in numerous motion pictures, television series, and more than a hundred television commercials; she is best known for her role as Michael Landon’s daughter, Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, on Little House on the Prairie. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics degree from Harvard University and lives in Manhattan with her husband and their three children.

LESSONS FROM THE PRAIRIE by Melissa Francis

Hachette Books | Paperback | April 3, 2018 | 272 pages ISBN-13: 978-1602863170


Praise for Lessons from the Prairie

“Melissa Francis’s Lessons from the Prairie is a busy mom’s manifesto—candid and commonsense, insightful, laugh-out-loud funny. A refreshing reality check for working moms who love their jobs as well as their families, and won’t compromise their happiness.” — Mika Brzezinski, bestselling author of Knowing Your Value and co-host of “Morning Joe”

“Touching and brave, heart breaking and inspirational…I simply loved it.” “Melissa Francis’ Lessons from the Prairie delivers one belly laugh after another as she tees up an easy to follow, step-by-step guide to tackling the toughest challenges that dog each of us. She charmingly turns personal disasters into hilarious anecdotes that will seem all too familiar to every reader, then follows with a clever take away to make your life happier. What a fun way to share the wisdom she gained growing up before our eyes on the Prairie.” — Megyn Kelly, NBC News anchor


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The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship by Lisa Verge Higgins

Title: The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship

Author: Lisa Verge Higgins

Genre: Fiction

About: (Goodreads partial synopsis) Rachel Braun was the inspiration to her group of friends, the one who lived each day to the fullest – and the one whose life was cut tragically short. Upon her untimely death, Rachel left letters for her three best friends challenging them to face their biggest fears. (for more click here)

My thoughts: I think most women could relate to Lisa Verge Higgins’ enjoyable and heartfelt story of friendship.  The three thirty-something women are accomplished in their own lives but Rachel saw that they could be living even better lives if their perspective was tweaked.  The intent of her letters was to give them each a specific assignment to get out of their comfort zone. That’s how she lived her life and she wanted to nudge them one more time. As they tackle Rachel’s last wishes each woman realizes she’s been going through the paces of everyday life but perhaps not appreciating the joy of what’s right in front of her.  In the end, as they accomplish their friend’s requests, the fresh perspective gained has the effect Rachel intended.

Recommendation: Yes. It’s an entertaining novel and I’m glad I had the chance to read it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Hachette Book Group

5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson – Weekend Cooking

at Beth Fish Reads

 

From the book blurb: Claire Robinson – host of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix – is here to help you get dinner on the table with minimal fuss and just a few great ingredients.

With everyone struggling to streamline and budget, Claire’s recipes make preparing delicious meals a snap.  Showing you how to choose the right ingredients along with a little culinary know-how is her specialty.  According to Claire, cooking doesn’t have to be complicated to be impressive:  Simplifying the process with fewer ingredients saves time, frustration, and, ultimately, money.

My thoughts: When I first saw the title of this beautiful cookbook I thought it seemed like a good one for me.  5 Ingredient Fix covers all meals as well as cocktails and various dinner courses.  The author imparts her philosophy of cooking with fewer ingredients and also lists which basics every kitchen warrior should own. There is a section titled Menu Ideas For Memorable Meals which groups recipes from the book into meals.

The photography is gorgeous and made me want to try several recipes. I must say that some of the ingredients are not staples I would normally find in my pantry or refrigerator so preparation is key.  After browsing the recipes I decided to make:

 

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Basil Butter

1 large spaghetti squash (about 4 pounds)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

8 large basil leaves, sliced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus more for serving

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Preheat the oven to 375°

Halve the squash through the stem and remove the seeds.  Season with salt and pepper and roast cut side up on baking sheet until completely soft, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly and, with a fork, shred the squash flesh from the shell and transfer to a serving dish.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the pine nuts and basil to a paste.  Add the butter and cheese and pulse to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Serve the squash warm with soft butter on the side to dollop on each serving.

 

 

Tim and I agreed that it’s a tasty side dish.  I think the star of the recipe is the Basil Butter.  The combination of the basil, pine nuts and cheese is wonderfully flavorful. Some of the ingredients are on the expensive side – I had no idea about the price of pine nuts!  Despite the cost, I would definitely make this recipe again.

 

~

 

Claire Robinson is the host of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix and Food Network Challenge.  She cites her French-speaking grandmother as a major influence on her love for food.  Claire graduated from the French Culinary Institute, is an accomplished private chef, and has worked on culinary production teams for several cooking series, including Food Network’s Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

She’s Gone Country by Jane Porter

She's Gone Country

When Shey Darcy’s marriage ends she takes her kids home to Texas where they’ll be surrounded by her family.  Problems don’t magically disappear with the move and she finds herself facing new issues.  Her oldest son wants to go back to New York and his old school.  Her middle son is fighting depression and her youngest wants to learn how to ride bulls.  And if all that isn’t enough she sees a lot more of Dane – the guy who used to be her crush more than twenty years earlier.

I thought Jane Porter did a good job addressing the usual concerns of a family going through divorce.  While not delving real deep she didn’t gloss over them either.  Her characters are real – they have flaws and struggles.  The supporting characters (Shey’s brothers and mother) have a lot going on in their lives as well.  Porter gives enough glimpse into each that it’s easy to understand their motivation relative to Shey.

I enjoyed the story and the pace.  It was a quick read and an entertaining novel.  This is the first book by Porter that I’ve read and I look forward to reading her backlist.  I recommend She’s Gone Country.   A reading group guide is included.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken

The I Hate to Cook Book: 50th Anniversary Edition

“There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who don’t cook out of and have NEVER cooked out of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK, and the other kind…The I HATE TO COOK people consist mainly of those who find other things more interesting and less fattening, and so they do it as seldom as possible. Today there is an Annual Culinary Olympics, with hundreds of cooks from many countries ardently competing. But we who hate to cook have had our own Olympics for years, seeing who can get out of the kitchen the fastest and stay out the longest.” – Peg Bracken

Philosopher’s Chowder. Skinny Meatloaf. Fat Man’s Shrimp. Immediate Fudge Cake. These are just a few of the beloved recipes from Peg Bracken’s classic I HATE TO COOK BOOK. Written in a time when women were expected to have full, delicious meals on the table for their families every night, Peg Bracken offered women who didn’t revel in this obligation an alternative: quick, simple meals that took minimal effort but would still satisfy.

50 years later, times have certainly changed – but the appeal of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK hasn’t.

This book is for everyone, men and women alike, who wants to get from cooking hour to cocktail hour in as little time as possible.

* * * * * * *

I remember hearing buzz about The I Hate To Cook Book when I was a teen.  At the time I wondered why a cookbook would be titled as such but fast-forward a couple of decades and I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner for my family on a daily basis.  Looking back I wish I had Peg Bracken’s book in those days.

When I had a chance to review the 50th Anniversary edition of The I Hate To Cook Book I grabbed it.  Author Peg Bracken died in 2007 so her daughter Jo wrote the forward that tells about her mom and the book.  Following the forward is Peg’s introduction where she explained how and why the book came about. Bracken’s wit is apparent throughout the book making it an enjoyable read as well as a go-to reference.

Many of the recipes seemed familiar to me (maybe my mom had this book?).  They use ingredients found in most pantries such as cream of mushroom soup, canned vegetables, fruits, tuna, etc. The recipe directions are easy to follow.   Saturday Chicken (p.20-21) earned a thumbs up at my house.  (I added a small can of mushrooms to the recipe)

Saturday Chicken ingredients

Saturday Chicken

  • 1 cut-up fryer (or any 6 good-sized pieces of chicken)
  • salt and garlic salt
  • paprika
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup
  • 1 cup heavy cream (don’t cheat and use milk; the cream makes a lot of difference)
  • chopped parsley

Take your chicken and salt and garlic salt it a bit, then paprika it thoroughly.  Next, spread it out, in one layer, in a shallow baking pan.  Dilute the soup with the cream, pour it over the chicken, and sprinkle the chopped parsley prettily on top.  Bake it, uncovered, at 350 for one and a half hours.


Fresh out of the oven


Saturday Chicken (right) with baked potato and green beans


The chapters cover pretty much any type of dinner situation: Potluck Suppers; Company’s Coming; Luncheon for the Girls; Little Kids’ Parties.  Also included are helpful hints, equivalents, and substitutions.  I think The I Hate to Cook Book would be a great addition to any cookbook collection.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

Dangerous Desires by Dee Davis

Dangerous Desires

After surviving a horrible childhood, a few years in a Columbian prison, and more time under the thumb of a crime lord, Madeline Reynard becomes the rescue subject of A-Tac (American Tactical Intelligence Command) – an off the books arm of the CIA.  She has information that can help the CIA, hurt the Columbian crime group, and may just get her killed unless A-Tac succeeds in their mission.  The A-Tac team is comprised of several highly-skilled professionals (covert operations, IT, ordnance, communications, etc.).  The author reveals enough about each A-Tac member to get a feel for their personality as well as their importance to the team.

The person most involved in Madeline’s rescue is Drake Flynn.  He’s the confident and capable guy anyone would want on their side. Even though he has questions about her connections to known criminals he keeps the mission his priority.  My favorite part of the novel was the escape of Drake and Madeline from the jungle to a safe house a day’s travel away on foot and small boat.  The action is fast-paced and had me turning pages long past my bedtime.

Davis’s action scenes are exciting.  Her descriptive writing placed me in the drama which I loved because sometimes when I’m reading suspense novels I get lost in the details. Davis had me following right through the heart-stopping conclusion.  If you like your romantic suspense heavy on the suspense  I recommend  Dangerous Desires.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

Countess of Scandal by Laurel McKee



Back of the book:
As children, Eliza Blacknall and William Denton ran wild over the fields of southern Ireland and swore they would be friends forever. Then fate took Will away to England, while Eliza stayed behind to become a proper Irish countess. Years later, Will finally makes his way home-as an English soldier sent to crush the Irish uprising. When he spies the lovely Eliza, he is captivated by the passionate woman she has become. But Eliza’s passions have led her to join the Irish rebel cause, and Will and Eliza now find themselves on opposite sides of a dangerous conflict. When Ireland explodes in bloody rebellion, Will’s regiment is ordered to the front lines, and he is forced to choose between his duty to the English king and his love for Eliza and their Irish homeland.

* * * * * *

Countess of Scandal takes place in 1790s Ireland. There is strife between the landowners and the Irish people. Will is torn between his love of Eliza and his duty to “family, to England, to our estate“. Eliza, also part of the aristocracy, has always been proud of Ireland. She was born there and considers herself Irish, not British. She will do anything to help the Irish people – even if it puts her in danger.

I thought there was a good balance of romance and conflict. Eliza is a strong heroine and Will, a good hero. I liked how Will’s inner conflict was resolved. I wasn’t sure how this British soldier would find a way to be with his seditious Countess but Laurel McKee made it happen.

This is the first book in The Daughters of Erin trilogy. I look forward to the next: Duchess of Sin (December, 2010).

Review copy from Hachette Book Group