It’s Time To Think About Christmas

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. I’m going to take a guess that none of us let the day go by without referring to plans for the next big holiday — Christmas. Our entire family is getting together for Christmas. That’s the entire extended family — 20 at last count. We’re all meeting up in Portland.

With that many people together you know we’ll have lots of traditions that will need to be melded together. A few old ones will remain and new ones will be added. Nostalgia will have nearly everyone remembering the good old days and wishing for an old-fashioned Christmas.

Speaking of an old-fashioned Christmas, I received a wonderful new book by that title I’d love to tell you about. An Old-Fashioned Christmas by Ellen Stimson is part fun, heart-warming essays and stories, gorgeous photos, and part mouth-watering recipes. There’s plenty of food and party talk to cover all of the holiday events that happen at this time of the year.

Old Fashioned ChrisrmasWith its snowy streets, pine forests, sleigh rides and woodsmoke curling from the chimneys, Vermont was practically invented for the Christmas postcard. And no one celebrates the season better than Ellen Stimson, author of the best-selling Mud Season, and now the author and home cook behind this cozy new collection of holiday magic.
From warm drinks for the first snowfall to treats for furry friends, from indulgent snacks for carolers to a traditional menu for Christmas day, An Old-Fashioned Christmas will keep you and your loved ones eating, drinking, laughing and baking all through the holiday season. (-from the publisher)

I love the stories and essays in this book and I love all the good food and party ideas. There are so many yummy recipes in this book that I have loads of post-it bookmarks on my copy. Coming up next is a Rootbeer Pulled Pork. It’s going to be perfect for Sunday’s football day. I spotted one recipe that I had to make immediately. A long time ago I made a wonderful green olive dip, but I lost the recipe. This recipe was much better. It’s a cheese ball with a smaller amount of green olives. I’ve made this cheese ball twice already with everyone enjoying it.

Cheese Ball 2Aunt Loraine’s Brady Bunch Cheese Ball


  • 3 cups grated extra sharp cheddar\
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoon mayonnaise (more if it seems dry)
  • ⅓ cup chopped green olives
  • 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes garlic powder
  • 4 dashes celery seed (or a small squirt of mustard)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 ounces chopped pecans


Mix together everything except the pecans. Mix it completely and form it into a ball. Put the chopped pecans on a plate and make sure all of the ball gets covered with pecans. Wrap it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours so the flavors mix and it sets into a solid ball.

The author suggests serving the cheese ball with Ritz crackers for a “festive retro vibe.” They went together nicely.

If you are like me and love to read cookbooks as if they were fiction, you will especially love this book. It’s very personal and similar to a memoir. The author has a wonderful sense of humor and, I think, is a gifted storyteller. I highly recommend it.

Ellen StimsonAbout Ellen Stimson:


Ellen Stimson is a bread-and-butter homecook…possibly more butter than bread. Her table is usually overflowing with friends, family, and folks who have come just to listen to her stories. Some of those tales made it into her bestselling memoir, Mud Season. She cooks and writes from a farmhouse in Vermont.


Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: Ellen Stimson Book Tour

tlc tour host

I’m linking this post to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking. I want to be sure that all my foodie-friends find out about this book.


An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving That Reminds Me Of My Childhood

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;

All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.

God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;

Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wondrous Words #326

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

In honor of the big eating day tomorrow I have a couple of new food-related words I’ve learned recently. From a recipe for Jerk Chicken I came across this word:

1. fond:  “Add a thin layer of olive oil to the pan of reserved fond; heat on medium until hot.”

In this case fond does not mean I feel affection for you. In cooking, fond is the stuff that’s left in the pan.


From a recipe for a Thai chicken soup using coconut palm sugar, I came across this word:

2. jaggery: “It’s an unrefined sugar, similar to jaggery, with a mellow sweetness.”

The sentence seems to assume that I know what jaggery is, but I didn’t. As I checked this out I found out that jaggery is a coarse dark brown sugar made in India by evaporation of the sap of palm trees. Okay, now I know.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

First Paragraph: Conflict of Interest

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

This week I’m featuring a legal thriller/mystery. It’s Conflict of Interest by Scott Pratt. I’ve already read the first four books in the series. I’m looking forward to starting this fifth book. Here’s how it begins:

Conflict of InterestChapter One
I lifted my arms and allowed the guard to run his hands all over me. He was a young man, maybe twenty, just starting his career at the sheriff’s department. They start all of the new deputies at the jail. It familiarizes them with the “local talent,” so to speak, and teaches them how to deal with the same kind of incorrigible conduct they’ll encounter later on patrol. I looked at the name stitched into his black pullover shirt as he finished frisking me. It was Freeman. I mused at the irony while he grunted something unintelligible and waved me through the metal detector.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Book Review: Longhorn

LongbournAuthor: Jo Baker

Publisher: Knopf, 2013

Format: Audiobook, Narrated by Emma Fielding

Longbourn is the title of this book. If you are a Pride and Prejudice fan, you’ll recognize Longbourn as the setting for Jane Austin’s famous novel. The author, Jo Baker, took the setting and turned it into a completely different story. Many have said this is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, but I didn’t see it that way. The original characters seldom appear. Longbourn by Jo Baker is a story about the servant for whom life was not as rosy and comfortable.

Although for me the book was rather sad, I loved this opposing look at life at Longbourn. I am a Jane Austen fan and every year I reread at least one of her stories for the basic romance of a simpler time. The novel Longbourn made me see those simpler times differently. It was as if the lights had been turned on full force. Although not mentioned in Austin’s novels, the pounding and cleaning of dirty clothes had to be done by hand, as did the cleaning out of chamber pots and outhouses. Food had to be grown and preserved and cooked and served, and clothing had to be made and mended. Who did all that?

I never thought about the background of the Bennet household while reading Pride and Prejudice. Reading Jo Baker’s Longbourn gave me insight into what backbreaking and disgusting work the Bennet’s servants performed. As we know from Pride and Prejudice, the staff was small. The Bennets weren’t wealthy. There was just Mr. Hill, who took care of the horses and carriages, and Mrs. Hill, the the housekeeper. There were two orphan girls to help with everything else: Sarah, about 18 was a housemaid as was Polly, a girl of eleven or twelve.

It was an exciting day for all the servants when Mr. Bennet added James Smith to the household staff. He helped the aging Mr. Hill in the stables as well as miscellaneous chores. Because he was a hard and conscientious worker, he also helped Sarah and Polly width their chores. James often rose early and had all the fireplaces lit before Sarah had a chance to do them.

Mrs. Hill was especially happy to have James at Longbourn, but not just because of his helpfulness. (I’ll say no more as I don’t want to spoil the story for you.) The story of James’ life before he came to Longbourn is a good part of the novel. How he helped all the servants is another part I liked. The author created a great character in James Smith. I’m sure the author intended us to see a parallel between James Smith and Mr. Darcy.

The time period of Longbourn follows that of the events in Pride and Prejudice. You won’t see a lot of the people and events of Pride and Prejudice in Longbourn, but there are a few. The arrival of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, Jane’s trip to London, and Lydia running off with Wickham are all there, but only in the background and in how they affected the servants. Longbourn, the novel,definitely stands alone.

As I said earlier, I am a Jane Austen fan and Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of her novels. Despite many reasons to dislike this book, I did not. For me Longbourn didn’t take anything away from the original story. If anything, I thought Longbourn enhanced Pride and Prejudice. I have a greater understanding and appreciation for the time period as well as all the people created by both Jane Austen and Jo Baker. Longbourn made me think and really feel for the characters. I’m glad I read it.

I Just Met Agatha Raisin

I don’t know what took me so long, but while visiting blogs a couple of weeks ago I discovered the world of Agatha Raisin. It’s actually a great world to spend time in. Agatha’s world is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny, thought provoking and generally good entertainment. Her world is found is fairly short novels, so I didn’t have time to get bored. I was able to read the first two books in the series in a very short time.

But first, let me answer this question: Who is Agatha Raisin? Many of you will already know the answer, but Agatha Raisin is a middle-aged, self-made English woman who owned her own public relations firm in London. Actually, she owned her own world there in London and could very easily make things happen. Agatha is, you see, someone who speaks her mind which tends to offend people and made them think she is arrogant and pushy. She’s very strong-minded so she usually gets whatever she wants.

Quiche of DeathFrom the time she was a girl Agatha always dreamed of owning a cottage in the Cotswolds. The dream stayed in the back of her mind and then, suddenly, one day, she decided it was time to do just that. She sold her business, her condo in London, and bought her cozy little cottage. Quiche of Death tells us the whole story. This first novel introduces readers to Agatha and covers her move to the small village of Carsley.

Agatha really should have done a better job of thinking through her move to the country. Country life was so different for her. She didn’t know how to fit in. But, in Agatha’s attempt to meet her fellow villagers, she decided to enter the local quiche baking competition. Of course Agatha knew nothing about baking quiches, but she did know a great quiche-maker in London. She bought the quiche, entered it in the contest, but didn’t win. One of the judges brought the quiche home, ate it, and died.

At first, Agatha was blamed, but the police soon learned of the origin of the quiche and she was cleared. Agatha now thought it would be fun to find the real killer. She needed something to do — something to keep her busy. Following her attempts at investigation was great fun.

Vicious VetThe second book in the series picks up where Quiche left off. Agatha is still trying to make friends in the village. She’s also trying to impress the hot-looking man next door. James Lacey is an ex-military man who has retired to write military history. All the local women have been chasing him and, when he sees Agatha on his trail, he avoids her too.

When the local veterinarian dies in an accident while tending a horse, Agatha doesn’t believe it was an accident. Everyone, including her friend Bill Wong, a police detective, thinks Agatha is just saying its a murder so she can step back into the local limelight. Surprisingly, James believes Agatha. Together they check out a few things and gradually get some results although it takes a while and isn’t exactly what they thought.

Neither plot in the two books is complicated. There are the usual red herrings and tricky twists. Both books were very lighthearted and there’s quite a bit of humor in them. The second book has a scene with Agatha going to extraordinary lengths to eliminate a blemish on her nose. The visual description made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. A thoroughly enjoyable experience. Highly recommended.

Wondrous Words #325

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

I found some new words when I was trying to decide if I should read a particular book – Longbourn by Jo Baker. It’s a book set within the world of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I’m reading the book now, and hope to share my thoughts in the next day or two. I found these reviews and new words on Goodreads and Amazon.

1.  oeuve:  “Her oeuvre is so popular that it has inspired a vast amount of fan fiction, much of it %&#@.”

Oeuve is a noun that means the works of a painter, composer, or author regarded collectively.”


2.  pastiches:  “It is a truth universally acknowledged that the market is oversaturated with Jane Austen pastiches.”

Pastiches is an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period.


3.  chillblains: “The iron pump-handle was cold, and even with her mitts on, her chilblains flared . . . ”

A chillblain is a painful, itching swelling on the skin, typically on a hand or foot, caused by poor circulation in the skin when exposed to cold.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

First Paragraph: Longbourne

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

Like many of my friends, I love any Jane Austen wrote. My favorite remains Pride and Prejudice. I’ve stayed away from most of the spin-offs from the book. I recently read one that I want to feature today. It’s Longbourne by Jo Baker. It’s the story of the servants with only  the events of the Bennett family as a back-drop. Here’s how the story starts:

LongbournCHAPTER I

The butler . . . Mrs. Hill and the two housemaids . . .

There could be no wearing of clothes without their laundering, just as surely as there could be no going without clothes, not in Hertfordshiure anyway, and not in September. Washday could not be avoided, but the weekly purification of the household’s linen was nonetheless a dismal prospect for Sarah.

The air was sharp at four thirty in the morning, when she started work. The iron pump-handle was cold, and even with her mitts on, her chilblains flared as she heaved the water up from the underground dark and into her waiting pail. A long day to be got through, and this just the very start of it.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Book Review: The Silkworm


Author: Robert J. Galbraith/J.K. Rowling

Publisher: Mulholland Books, 2014

Format: Audiobook narrated perfectly by Robert Glenister

The Silkworm is the second book in Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling’s detective series featuring Cormoran Strike and his eager secretary Robin Ellacott. This book starts up at what seems to be six to eight months after the first novel. This time the detective agency isn’t struggling as much as before. After Strike’s success in solving the well-known crime written about in the first novel, business has improved. Clients are now seeking him out to help with various problems.

As the story opens, a woman asks Cormoran for help in finding Owen Quine, her missing husband. Quine is a writer and does go off from time to time to be alone to write. His wife also knows he goes off to be with various girlfriends, but he’s never been gone this long without checking in on her and their retarded daughter.

As Cormoran starts searching for Quine, he learns that the writer has recently completed a tell-all manuscrupt in which he trashes most of his literary friends and everyone else he knows. He shares old secrets that could ruin lives. As the contents of the manuscript become known people are very angry. When Cormoran finally finds Quine, he sees a gruesomely murdered body. Somebody must have really hated this guy.

Cormoran would like to help solve the crime, but of course he must notify the police. An old army friend is the police detective in charge, but he keeps Cormoran away from the investigation. When the police arrest Cormoran’s client, the victim’s wife, he feels even more compelled to find the real killer.

This is a wonderfully complicated story that includes all sorts of details and twists. I enjoyed it so much, I really didn’t want it to end, even though I had to keep reading so I could find out the solution. The finale — the who-dun-it — is so complicated I had to read it twice! This is one mystery I will re-read, just to savor the mental exercise of it all.

The first book in the series was outstanding as the author established the main characters. I loved that. Now, this book did it all over again with a whole new cast of characters. I am amazed at the author’s ability to develop her unique characters. It’s what sealed the deal for me.

In addition to the characters there were several other things I’ll call my favorite parts of the book. One was the literary quotes at the beginning of every chapter. Each one made me think. I’d read the quote and then think about what I thought was going to happen next. They were sort of like mini clues without giving anything away. They didn’t always match my guesses. That added to my fun.

I also loved all the talk between the characters who were writers, publishers and agents. It was gossipy and snarky and made me feel like an “insider.” I suspected that this is stuff that J.K. Rowling knows about or has experienced. There was no naming of names or anything overt. I could be completely off on this, but I hope not. It was fun to follow and imagine that it really does happen or did happen in that rarified worl of publishing.

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed The Silkworm. I do feel compelled to warn you that this book has plenty of swear words, violence and the blood and guts stuff. It’s not going to be nominated for an Agatha Award. If you can overlook all that, you’ll find a well-written, character-rich, complicated crime/mystery novel that will keep you reading and thinking late into the night.

Book number three, Career of Evil, was just released in October. I am impatiently waiting for my name to come up at the library. When I finally get it, you can be sure I’ll drop out of life for a while. I’ll let you know.

Wondrous Words #324

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

I have been playing this Wondrous Words game long enough that sometimes I encounter words that seem familiar, but yet I don’t know them. This week I’m sharing two words that I think I’ve seen before but it doesn’t show up on a past post. Here they are:

1. doppelganer:  “But if you found yourself seated next to your exact doppelganger, you’d probably never want to stop bonding.

Doppelganger is an apparition or double of a living person. I found this word on Huffinton Post in a story about two guys who look alike but were not related nor had they ever met before.


2.  querulous: The room was filled with querulous women.

Querulous means complaining in a petulant or whining manner. This word came from Rough Country by John Sanford.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.