Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bluebells in the Mourning review

I recently read "Bluebells in the Mourning" by KaraLynn Mackrory. It is a Pride and Prejudice take off. It starts when Mr. Darcy is going to propose to Elizabeth at Hunsford. However, she had just received horrible news from home, so the proposal wasn't offered. And that is where the story diverges from the original. Along the way, their relationship deepens, bad guys are discovered, other relationships are explored, and several happily ever afters occur.

One of the parts I particularly liked was the exploration of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's relationship, and why it was the way it was. And also the understanding of each other that occurs.

This was a very nice book. I would definitely recommend it to others. 5/5 stars.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Crochet buntings

I am about to embark on a crochet extravaganza! A blog I follow from Yorkshire UK is calling all followers to send her crochet triangles to make into a hunting. Her blog is You can look there for details.

I am going to start crocheting mine this weekend. I will post pics as I progress :) Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pride and Prejudice challenge #5

Caroline Bingley by Jennifer Becton

Caroline Bingley has been sent away from her brother and his friends due to her interference in Mr Bingley's courtship of Miss Bennet, and her disapproval of Mr Darcy's betrothal to Miss Elizabeth.

The entire trip to her mother's home, she alternates between despondency over her removal from society, and plotting her return by circumventing an apology to Miss Elizabeth. She feels that the heir to the local barony would serve her well...marriage to aristocracy, money, and high society, thus elevating herself from her tradesman roots.

But things suddenly go awry, and she finally realizes she needs to follow her heart.

Caroline had a very strong tendency to judge a book by its cover. It was all about impressions made - both the impression made by another person on her, or her impression on other people- and elevation in society. She was horrified by her pedestrian background, and would do whatever it took to rise in society. It got a little annoying, but I think she was supposed to be annoying, until she finally saw how she was acting and realized the need for change.

A good read. 4/5 stars

Pride and prejudice challenge #4

Maria Lucas by Jennifer Becton

This was a short story continuing Maria's romance from her sister's book. While the description says there are spoilers if you read it first, there are very few not already in the description on amazon. Charlotte's husband is not named, so it could be anyone.

The story is very short. It took me about 20 minutes to read. While it gave us a little more insight into Mr. Card, it seemed a bit superficial. Maria sees he has gained some muscle, and suddenly she is overcome with attraction for him. Her feelings are engaged when she hears why he has been absent from home so much. Nice story, might have been fleshed out a bit more. 3/5 stars

Pride and Prejudice entry #3

This is a little later than I had intended to post. I had a whole lot of stuff come crashing down in February, so my reading challenges suffered. Fortunately, I had previously read some P&P books, and just needed to refresh myself so I can catch up on my postings...even tho I was only planning on doing 5-8 at the most, I think I may end up doing more :) I keep finding more books to read!

This on is "Charlotte Collins" by Jennifer Becton

Mr. Collins goes to his just reward, and Charlotte is left with her small income. She settles into a life of being the widow of Mr. Collins. Her sister Maria visits and convinces Charlotte to enter society more fully to enable Maria to do so as well. Two gentlemen of similar age to Charlotte are met, and reputations precede them. However, reputations are not all they appear.

Charlotte had a strong belief in the proper way to do things in society, which she is trying hard to impress on Maria, with little success!. This is discussed repeatedly. Is this behavior proper? It was almost too much, and tended to drag the middle of the story down. Finally, she gives up propriety and chooses to follow her heart instead. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Chilaquiles for dinner

Tonight Cupcake and I made chilaquiles for dinner. I have made them in the past, but it has been a while. They are quick, relatively inexpensive, and tasty. They remind me of chicken enchiladas, without all the work of rolling enchiladas.

I don't remember where I found the recipe I made in the past. My inspiration for tonight was from Rick Bayless' chilaquiles for a crowd. Obviously, I was not feeding a crowd, so I modified it. I also made mine red rather than green, based on Cupcake's choice.


2 10oz cans enchilada sauce (we use mild)
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed
2 cooked chicken breasts, diced (we used left over rotisserie)
1 15oz bag corn tortilla chips
cheese (cheddar for red sauce, jack for green sauce) and sour cream for garnish

Bring enchilada sauce, chicken broth and oregano to a simmer in a large pot. Stir in chicken, and turn off heat. Quickly stir in all the chips, making sure they are all covered. Place lid on pot and let sit 4 or 5 minutes. Serve into bowls and top with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Harvest in April

Even tho I haven't finished turning over the grass in my garden plot, I had my first harvest of the season today.

There is a perennial and herb garden at my community garden. In this garden are two giant rhubarb plants. One is starting to flower, which our coordinator has never seen rhubarb do. While one of the gardeners doesn't think we should let it go to seed, we are considering letting it flower just to see what they look like, then cutting them off before they seed. Anyway, the other rhubarb was crying out to have some stalks harvested. So I did. I plucked seven fat stalks off, with the intention of bringing them home, cutting them all up and freezing them.

So I did just that. But I remembered that last year I made a rhubarb relish/chutney/sauce to go with pork chops. But I couldn't find the recipe (haha...didn't try looking here...wonder if it is here?). So I looked for a new one. Pinterest to the rescue! The recipe, from, was for four. I am solo tonight as Cupcake is at her dads. So I kind of halved the recipe and cooked one chop (I sprinkled some ground coriander on my chop as another recipe did). My only gripe is that the recipe called for "2 large stalks of rhubarb." Most rhubarb at the store is half the size of the ones I picked. Wish the recipe included a measurement rather than a quantity. Moving on. The recipe has shallots, garlic, ginger, fresh thyme (also from the herb garden), red wine, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and chicken stock. And rhubarb, of course. It was yum. Some other recipes mentioned their sauce would be good with sharp cheese or goat cheese. So I made mashed potatoes with goat cheese, and sprinkled some goat cheese on the chop. Mmmmmmmm.....

Pork Chops with Rhubarb Compote

4 boneless pork loin chops (1-inch-thick)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced (I finely chopped mine)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 large stalks rhubarb, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup Brown Chicken Stock (I used regular)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Pat pork chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; add pork chops and cook, turning once, until nicely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to oven and roast until just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer pork chops to a plate and keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a medium skillet. Add shallots, garlic, ginger, and thyme and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until reduced by half; add balsamic, maple syrup, chicken stock, and rhubarb. Cook until rhubarb has softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add butter and swirl until melted and well combined; season with salt and pepper.

4. Divide pork chops evenly between 4 plates and top with compote; serve immediately.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Regency reading challenge entry 3

An Affair of Honor by Candice Hern

About a man who, after a curricle accident, thinks he has visions of a red haired angel. In actuality, it is Meg, a beautiful young woman who, as a gangly debutante, had a miserable season in London six years ago. Viscount Sedgewick, the one man who had shown her kindness and danced with her - twice! - was now laying in a heap near her family's country home. They take him in and nurse him back to health. But while he is recovering, they develop feelings for each other. But as a known rake, Sedge is not expected to offer for Meg, although her Gram is ever hopeful. There is then a Big Misunderstanding, as well as Sedge's sudden accident prone existence to worry about, before everyone has a HEA.

This book was a fun read. The misunderstanding is amusing in its origins. However, the reason for Sedge's accidents seems a bit obvious early on. My Kindle copy had some typos in it (I only noticed them in the last third of the book) that became distracting. But over all, I would recommend it. 4/5 stars

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So, Cupcake and I have church tomorrow so we are having St. Patrick's Day dinner a day early. I told her the options, and she chose Beef and Guinness Stew and Colcannon. So we ran to the store this morning and got what we needed. And here it is:

Beef and Guinness Stew
1.5 lb beef chuck (I got a steak, as roasts are twice as big, and way more than two if us need), cut into 1 inch chunks
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pound baby carrots
Salt, pepper and dry thyme
1 bottle Guinness
2 teaspoons vegetable base (no extra liquid)
Dry instant potatoes

Layer beef, onions and carrots in 2.5qt crock pot, seasoning with salt and pepper after beef layer. Sprinkle thyme over the top, then pour the Guinness in. Then swirl the vegetable base paste into the Guinness. Cover, turn on high and cook 4-6 hours (or low for 8-10).

Turn cooker off, and sprinkle in enough potato flakes to thicken as you desire.

1 bunch kale, pulled off stems and torn into small pieces
1 stick butter (I used Kerrygold garlic and chive butter)
1.5 cups potato flakes
Water and milk

Melt butter in a pot and add kale. Cover and cook until tender.

In a large bowl, mix potato flakes and enough water to make very dry potatoes. Add kale and butter from pot. Stir, then add about 1/2 cup milk (more or less to taste). Then add enough water to make potatoes desired texture. Season with salt and pepper.

It is good and warm on this cold, drizzly St. Patrick's Eve. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Regency reading challenge: entry two

Here is my second installment in the Regency romance reading challenge hosted by -- "A Change of Heart" by Candice Hern

A third son suddenly inherits the family title after the tragic deaths of his father, brothers and nephew. Unlike his own careful management of his small estate, his family had mismanaged theirs, leaving "Black" Jack Raeburn with a mountain of debt that only marrying an heiress would remedy.

Lady Mary Haviland has no interest in marriage, but is drawn to men of roguish repute as distraction and amusement. Mary offers to assist Jack in his search for a bride, not knowing of his true motives for joining the Marriage Mart.

Jack, through his friend Robert (from A Proper Companion), learns Mary is very wealthy in her own right, with no male relatives to negotiate with. So he turns his considerable charm toward Mary, feeling if he must marry, it might as well be someone he enjoys being around.

Enter in the Revelation of the Secret, leading to a Big Misunderstanding, and the couple has to wait for their HEA.

Mary had total disregard for reputation, mostly due to her disinterest in marriage, and seemed to suffer no social repercussions. It comes to light that Mary's father was slightly mad, and very mean. The book delves into the brainwashing effect Mary's father's abuse had on her, and how it affected her relationships, and how she felt the abuse was her fault.

It is unusual for an historical romance book to deal with issues like abuse in more than just passing. This was, other than Mary's emotional scars, an enjoyable read. 4/5 stars

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Beef stew

I mentioned before that I had bought a small, 2.5qt crock pot that was better suited to cooking for my small family of 2. Well, today I bought a 6qt. Why? You ask? Well, my small group bible study has a soup supper during our gatherings every other week, which two families provide each time. My little pot was not big enough for my share. So, since I saw they were on sale, I bought one. I is the nice kind, made for traveling, with a lid that latches on.

Today, a friend and her son were coming over for an unspecified amount of time, so I thought, just in case, I would make something for us all to eat. That is what the impetus was to buy the pot today. So I bought the goodies to make beef stew.

My beef stew is an amalgamation of recipes I have read and tried over the years.

3 lb beef chuck roast, cut into chunks
1 small package baby carrots
1 bag frozen chopped onions
4-5 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into chunks
Salt, pepper and thyme to taste
1 carton beef stock (this is sold by Swanson, and is richer than beef broth)
1 cup red wine or dark beer (Guinness makes a nice St. Patrick's stew, with some quartered prunes added to counter the bitterness of the beer. Other beer I like is Newcastle Brown Ale)

Place veggies in bottom of crock and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Place meat chunks on top, and season again. Cover and cook until meat and potatoes are tender, 5 hours on high, or 8-10 hours on low.

When done, you can either leave the broth thin and soup-like, or you can thicken it. My preferred method of thickening stews with potatoes is using instant mashed potatoes. Sprinkle some in, stir, and repeat until desired thickness. Make sure you wait a bit between additions, as the flakes need to soak up juice.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge book review, part 2

_Charlotte_ by Karen Aminadra

After almost a year of marriage to Mr Collins, Charlotte is getting to know her neighbors in Hunsford. She is also getting tired of Lady Catherine dictating everyone's lives. She determines to open Mr Collins' eyes to Lady Catherine's manipulative ways and claim her future, which does not go as hoped. At first.

This book is very different from other PandP fan fiction I have read. Rather than Charlotte continually regretting her marriage to Mr Collins, she grows to care for him as he realizes his shortcomings and "ridiculousness" and endeavors to improve himself. And we come to like him as well. During this time as well, while struggling with the consequences of thwarting Lady Catherine, Charlotte becomes involved in a flirtation with Colonel Fitzwilliam, which ultimately shows him in a less than flattering light.

It was a light, enjoyable, quick read. 4/5 stars

As a side note, having just read Jennifer Becton's "Charlotte Collins" (review coming another time), it is odd to read about the same people with alternate realities. I have not yet read many PandP variants, just continuations. I am sure it will just get stranger :) Maybe I should leave more time between reading about the same characters!

Monday, January 28, 2013

When in Rome...

Today is my birthday. And while many women of a certain age may try to keep that on the down low, not me. I knew it would be party central! Thats how things are done in preschool. And when in Rome, you should do as the Romans do!

When I got there, there was a happy birthday note in my box from a school age girl that left for school before I got there. Then when I walked into my class, they all jumped out and yelled happy birthday, then sang to me :) I got a gift from my boss, along with flowers and a cupcake. My coworker made me a cake and gave me a handful of dark chocolate candy bars (she knows me well!). The class all drew me happy birthday pictures, then several of them also painted me pics after I got there. I got hugs galore (maybe the best part). After the school agers got back, they made brownies and gave me one, sang to me, and gave me a card.

I love working with these people and kiddos <3

Now, off to dinner with my girlie and a friend. Perfect ending to a good day :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Homespun scarf

Well, I finally finished the scarf for my boss. I think my stitches were looser than the pattern meant, as it was called a "one skein scarf" and it only used about half. Maybe it just meant it wasn't more than a skein. Oh well. It is still a pretty scarf. The pattern was also for a standard scarf, and Boss asked for an infinity (circular) one. So I stitched the ends together when I finished. Voila!

You can find the pattern here:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge book review, part 1

As I mentioned, I have joined a couple regency-themed reading challenges through This one is to commemorate the 200 year anniversary of "Pride and Prejudice."

I only recently read "Pride and Prejudice" for the first time. And then I started collecting sequels and variations. At the end of this challenge I may reread "Pride and Prejudice," but for now, I will work on the reviews of other books.

This review is of the book "Georgiana Darcy's Diary" by Anna Elliott. It is written in diary format, starting when Georgiana is 18. It chronicles her Aunt de Bough trying to foist her off to eligible bachelors, and her feeling toward her cousin, Edward Fitzwilliam.

It was a nice read. Being diary form, we were only aware of Georgiana's thoughts and feelings, and how she perceived Edward's actions. It opens at the initial defeat of Napoleon, and Georgiana is hoping Edward is alive and well, although she has not heard from him since he left Pemberley over a year ago.

He does arrive home, but seems a little unlike himself after experiencing the horrors of war. After much trial and tribulation, they finally come to an understanding and a potential HEA. That is where the book ends. Their story continues in "Pemberley to Waterloo: Georgiana Darcy's Diary, Volume 2." And that, my friends, is a review for a different day!

I enjoyed this book, though my diary entries are never as interesting! There was a matchmaking aunt (though her interests were more dynastic than emotional), caring family, an assortment of eligible bachelors, and misinformation. I would give it 4 of 5 stars.

A Regency Book Review, part 1

As I mentioned before, I am participating in a Regency Romance reading challenge through The featured author is Candice Hern.

I had previously read her book "A Proper Companion" some time ago as a free selection on my Kindle from Amazon (currently priced at $2.99). But because of the reading challenge, I reread it to freshen it in my mind.

Synopsis: A noble-born young woman in an impoverished state chooses to become a governess/companion rather than go to her estranged family as a poor relation. As a spinster aged companion to a dowager countess, she enters London society and becomes entangled in the life of the current earl, and encounters her long estranged family.

Thoughts: Mainly because I had read it before, it seemed a little predictable. Obviously, we knew Emily and Robert would have a HEA. Her family was an interesting addition to the typical romance story. It was an enjoyable read both times I read it. There are the requisite bad guys, the insufferable upstarts, matchmaking grandmamas, and lovelorn young people. I would recommend it to others who enjoy regency romance stories. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

I look forward to reading the next two in the "Regency Rake Trilogy," as we met some of the characters in this book.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

Well, Laurel Ann Nattress of has done it again. I am joining another reading challenge. At least I have enough books on my Kindle for this one already! I have a few reimaginings of "Pride and Prejudice," and some sequels. Although I may see about getting a movie or two to add to my list :)

I am going to commit to neophyte (1-4 items), but may be able to accomplish disciple (5-8). But since I am also participation in the Candice Hern challenge, I don't want to overcommit myself, as there are already many other books on my TBR list!

Here is the list I am going to choose from:
"His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel" by Nancy Kelley
"One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy" by Diana J. Oaks
"A Pemberley Medley (A Pride and Prejudice Variation)" by Abigail Reynolds (this is a collection of five short stories)

"Georgiana Darcy's Diary: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Continued" by Anna Elliott
"Pemberley to Waterloo: Georgiana Darcy's Diary, Volume 2" by Anna Elliott
"Charlotte - Pride and Prejudice Continues" by Karen Aminadra
"Charlotte Collins: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice" by Jennifer Becton
"Caroline Bingley: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice" by Jennifer Becton

Of course, there is always "Pride and Prejudice" to read again. I also have a book titled "All Roads Lead to Austen: A Year-long Journey with Jane" by Amy Smith. It is not a "Pride and Prejudice" variation. Rather, it is a memoir of a woman that travelled to Latin America with a box of Spanish language Jane Austen books to conduct a traveling book club. It sounds interesting, and if I get a chance, I will write it up, too!

So here is to a year of reading!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Crockpot cranberry pork roast

Just a quick note about what I made for dinner last Thursday, and have had left overs for dinner twice. It is Crock Pot Cranberry Pork Roast. I found it on Pinterest from the site I will put a link to her site below, and just mention the few modifications I had to make.

When I first found the recipe last month, it sounded good, so I bought a can of cranberry sauce in anticipation :) Last week, when the tasty bug bit, I couldn't afford the pork loin roast she used. So I bought 2 pork shoulder blade steaks that weighed about 2.5 pounds. Not as lean, but cheaper by a couple dollars a pound.

I didn't brown the meat as suggested in the recipe, and only cooked it on low...for 9ish hours. A girl has to go to work, ya know? When we came home, it smelled yummy. M (who now wants to be referred to as Cupcake, after seeing some other blogs with kidonyms) wanted rice, so we did the first night. It. Was. Yummy. But I happened to have some left over mashed taters, so that is what I have been eating the left overs with. I like that even better!

So here is the link. Try it and enjoy!

Bread pudding for brunch

After perusing a cookbook about crockpot spoon breads and desserts a couple weeks ago, I thought it might be yummy to have cinnamon bread pudding for breakfast on a day with no plans. That day was today, and the no plans thing turned out to be a good thing.

I originally found the recipe in a cookbook I got for free on my kindle. While searching Pinterest for other breakfast bread pudding possibilities, I found the exact same recipe on the sight, although it was called cinnamon raisin bread pudding. That was the only difference. All the ingredients were the same. I am a little disappointed in my free cookbook :( Plagiarism is not ok. I put a lot of recipes I find other places on here, but I do my best to somehow credit the source (my linky skills are lacking, but I do try).

So, to get back to Mr. Food. I remember watching Mr. Food on my local ABC news when I was growing up. I also have a favorite (tho not often remembered) soup recipe that I know I got from him. I searched for it on the site just to make sure. But back to bread pudding. Instead of a cinnamon raisin bread, I used a yummy cinnamon swirl bread from my local grocery store bakery. It has lots of thin layers bursting with sweet cinnamony goodness. I used about 3/4 of the loaf, as the recipe calls for a one pound loaf, and the one I bought was 1.3 pounds. Mostly, I cut it into thick slices which i weighed to find a pound, then into cubes (sort tried falling apart). I then put as many into my crockpot as would fit, which ended up being just shy of a pound (14.5 ounces) as my crockpot was 2.5qt rather than the 4qt called for. I don't know if that contributed to my other problem or not.

The recipe said to cook on low for 2 hours, or until the center was set. Well, at the end of two hours, when I pulled the edges in, there was still a bunch of juicy custard liquid. So I put the lid back on and turned it up to high for 30 minutes. When I went back it was all nice and puffed up, and not juicy. Then it was to cool for 30 minutes out of the base. While serving, I found some nearly burnt parts around the bottom edge. Possibly from the 30 minutes on high.

But over all, it was very tasty, even if later than planned. It was almost too sweet for me, tho. Not sure if I may try leaving all or some of the brown sugar out if I make it again, as the bread was very sweet itself. And if I had done it the way I had intended, I would have had all the bread cut up the night before, so all I had to do was assemble it this morning. That also added to the lateness of breakfast.

Here is the recipe:

Cinnamon Bread Pudding in the Crock Pot

3 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream (I used 2 cups whole milk instead of milk and cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 (1-pound) cinnamon-raisin bread loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I omitted these)
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in milk and next 3 ingredients. Add bread cubes, stirring until moistened. Stir in butterscotch chips and pecans. Pour into a lightly greased 4-quart round slow cooker.

Cover and cook on LOW setting 2 hours or until center is set. Carefully remove slow cooker insert from heat element. Let stand, covered, 30 minutes. Serve pudding warm with whipped cream, if desired.