Personal & Round Ups
Another year comes to a close. It was a busy year and I didn’t get to read as much as I would have liked to – I read less than two dozen books last year, which is really quite pitiful for me. Hopefully 2017 will give me more time to get back into reading.
Here you’ll find some of my favorite books read (not necessarily published) in 2016, with links to the reviews I wrote on each. The books are listed in the order in which I read them. It’s a very short list, limited to a handful of books (each in different genres) that I couldn’t put down.
What were some of your favorite books read in 2016?
My Favorite Books Read in 2016
In the Kingdom of Ice (by Hampton Sides) – I picked this one up because of a book I had read years ago by Sides, and loved. This non-fiction book about a voyage to discover the North Pole did not disappoint. It was absolutely fantastic.
Orphan X (by Gregg Hurwitz) – This suspense novel was one of my favorite books read this year. The story-line was unique with lots of plot twists and turns. Plus, there was a depth of character that surpassed what one usually finds in novels of this genre.
The Magnolia Story (by Chip & Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino) – A short little book about the costars of HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper. The book tells the story of how the couple met, fell in love, and got their start in business. A must-read for fans of the show. I definitely walked away liking them even more after reading their story. (This was also the book review that received the most visits from readers in 2016.)
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Fall Happenings, 2016
I know that technically, there’s still another 3 or so weeks of fall, but for me, December signals the start of winter. I become all about the Christmas holidays and staying cozy in the house – unlike fall where I plan a zillion Halloween-related activities for the family and gravitate to enjoying the cooler weather outdoors.
In The Kitchen
My hubby and I have continued to try to eat healthier. For me, that means cooking more often, which is a challenge with full-time work and kiddos that come home from school hangry every night. I’ve been trying to cook in large batches so that I could cook less frequently, especially during the week. It’s worked out well with the changing weather. Comfort foods are definitely better for this lifestyle, rather than the fresh cooking that we gravitated to all summer. Some of my favorite recipes from this fall include:
- An Italian Meal for 12 featuring two of my favorite lasagnas.
- Salisbury Steak Meatballs – These were so good that we made them several times, making a double batch each time. They take a fair bit of prep time, despite being a slow cooker recipe, but worth it.
- Cinnamon Hot Toddy – I tried this recipe when I was suffering from congestion which turned into sinus headaches. It immediately cleared my head and made me feel better. I’ve made it with brandy, but particularly enjoy it with Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum.
- White Chocolate Oatmeal Cream Pie Fudge – I was sooo excited about this recipe and was sooo terribly disappointed in it. It was just unbearably sweet. I had one bite and that was it. Even my sweet-loving hubby didn’t like it as much as he expected to, given the promise behind the title.
On My Bookshelf
Most of what I’ve read this fall has been blog posts and catching up on the huge pile of magazines that has been on my bookshelf forever. (I wanted to clear off the bookshelf so that I could move the shelf out of the room before the holidays arrived!)
The one book I did finish was The Magnolia Story, the story of Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. I had the book on preorder and flew through it. Love Chip and Joanna, love Fixer Upper, and I loved their book.
While on a short weekend getaway, I also started Girl on the Train. Yep. I’m the last person in the world to read it. I’m about halfway through it and enjoying it so far, but my reading has slowed down substantially now that I’m home, back at work, and back to the daily grind.
This fall I’ve been knitting up a storm. My bestie was due with her second child shortly before Thanksgiving and as I did with her first, I wanted to make Baby Boy a blanket. After starting and tearing out almost a dozen failed knitting and crocheted attempts at a chevron pattern, I went with a very simple striped pattern. And I love it. That beautiful aqua color… I couldn’t get enough of it, so of course Baby had to have a matching hat.
As I mentioned this summer, Miss. Hazelnut has been asking for a hat and scarf, so after finishing the baby blanket, I got to work on that. I love the way the scarf turned out, with a little pocket to tuck the end through, but I’ve been dragging my feet on finish the hat. Instead, I’ve started a shawl for myself and a knit pillow case, for the church pew that’s soon (spring?) to show up in my front hallway.
Finally, I’ve had a couple of scrapbook dates with a girlfriend. I’m almost finished with the paper scrapbook I have been making for Miss. Hazelnut’s first year – one page per month, with a few extra pages in there for her Christening, Christmas, etc. My intent was to digitally scrapbook each year for both the kids, but also have a paper scrapbook to hold photos, papers, cards and other memorabilia that I didn’t have digital copies of. I’m horribly behind on both types of scrapbooks and really need to do more before I get to a point where it’s just impossible to keep up.
Speaking of which – my photo management is a disaster. Between photos pulled off of our phones, out of email (daycare reports and sent from friends), and ones we take on our camera, I can’t keep up with downloading them, nevermind organizing them. Anyone have any suggestions?
Have you noticed that I’ve been MIA for the past month or so? If you have, I appreciate your patience and am glad you’re still reading.
As my mom will tell you, I’m the queen of over-committing. I want to do everything but there’s only so many hours in the day. So last month, I made the decision to take a little break from blogging. During that time, I focused on work, spending time with family and friends, and some of my other hobbies – reading, knitting, and scrapbooking. I continued to read and cook some, but not nearly as much as earlier this year.
In the Kitchen
Since Nutterbutter turned 1 this spring, I’ve spent a lot more time chasing him around and cooking stuff I can pack into his lunchbox. While my daughter ate like a bird when she was little (and still does), Nutterbutter is a tank (they don’t call him Meatball for nothing!). Italian-style meatballs and zucchini bread muffins are two staples in his lunchbox. I can’t keep up with stocking the freezer.
With all the crazy that’s been going on this summer, most of my activities in the kitchen have been quick, simpler recipes. Some highlights include:
- Testing out cocktails from my new book, Mix Shake Stir. The pomegranate gimlet and Hang Thyme, a citrus-based cocktail, quickly became two of my favorites.
- Simple desserts like Oreo and Coconut Cream Popsicles and a Cookies & Cream Ice Box Cake (which I hope to share soon)
- Overflowing antipasto trays – with assorted cheeses, fruits, and a few select meats – have been my go-to appetizer for summer entertaining
- Dinners have consisted of LOTS of grilling, which I love – it’s light and generally something the whole family will eat. (We’ve been working on Hazelnut’s pickiness, but it’s been a very slow process!). I haven’t tried a lot of new recipes, but we did have a win this summer, with this Honey Garlic Shrimp. You’ve probably seen several variations on Pinterest. This particular variation was great. We loved the flavor, and it was a super quick meal, perfect for a busy weeknight. We’ll be making it again for sure.
As summer winds down, I’m getting excited to get back in the kitchen with both new recipes and old favorites. I’ve been bookmarking and pinning recipes like crazy – time to start making some of them!
On My Bookshelf
Although I’ve had less time to read, I still managed to squeeze in several books. I’ve mostly been binge-reading light series, as they’re easy to pick up and put down while I cater to the demands of The Munchkins. You can follow what I’m reading at any time on Goodreads, but here’s a quick summary of what I’ve been reading this summer.
- The Max Revere Series by Allison Brennan – mysteries/suspense
- Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling – humorous autobiographical; a good listen on audiobook
- The Kane Chronicles Trilogy by Rick Riordan – young adult/fantasy. I had read the first two when they first came out but reread them in order to finish the series
I’m still binge-reading Rick Riordan books, having recently started The Heroes of Olympus series. I tried to put it off, since I know I’m going to be sucked in and will be much less productive around the house, but I gave in.
The Bullet Journal (BuJo)
In addition to reading books, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pinterest and blogs. In particular, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with reading about journalling, especially bullet journalling. I initially learned about the BuJo on Pinterest (before Pinterest started all of these awful althorithms where the only thing they seem to show is their own recommendations, which aren’t very good), and quickly became captivated by all of the pretty, creative layouts.
If you’re interested, I’ve been doing most of my reading on the BuJo on Boho Berry and Pretty Prints and Paper. For my own part, I can’t do without my planner (currently using an Erin Condren planner), but earlier this year, I started my own take on a BuJo. While most of what I’ve read emphasizes list-making (daily, weekly to-do lists, movies to see books to read, really whatever floats your boat), I’ve been using mind as a habit tracker (healthy lifestyle and Books n’ Cooks social media presence – which I’ve been trying to be more consistent with), actual journalling – to highlight some of the memories, quotes, etc from my kiddos (with the idea that these details will be used in their scrapbooks, whenever I finally get around to finishing them), and planning, brainstorming, and creating a strategy for Books n’ Cooks. I do have the sporadic brain dumps of to-do lists, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, but those are few and far between.
While I don’t talk about it much on here, I do love to craft. I used to be really into scrapbooking and while I still enjoy it, I just don’t have the time to do as much of it anymore. I have started to work on my scrapbooks again, starting with the one I began when Hazelnut was a baby. I’m making slow progress, but at least it’s progress.
I’ve also begun knitting again, pretty regularly. For the past year or two, I’ve been making a lot of baby blankets, but this summer, I finally got to work on a project for me! I purchased a kit for this gorgeous 3 Color Cashmere Cowl by Joji Locatelli this past spring, and quickly started knitting it up. I love the way it turned out! Now I just need the weather to cool off so that I can start wearing it! (PS. I suck at selfies.)
Having finished the cowl, I’ve started on a couple of Christmas gifts for my daughter and niece – both saw me knitting and asked for scarves and hats. I’m enjoying the quick projects but am already itching to start one of the other projects I have picked out for myself.
The hiatus this summer was a much needed break for me, a good chance to recharge. Now, I’m happy to be back to blogging. Reading and cooking remain passions of mine, and I enjoy being able to share my passion with you.
Now that you’ve heard a bit about my summer, please leave a comment and tell me a bit about yours. What have you been up to? Read or cook anything worth sharing? Or have you been spending time on other things important to your life?
For the past couple of years, every July, I share some of my favorite frozen treats that have caught my eye. I have tried very few of the recipes, if any, but the innovative recipe and/or drool-worthy photo had me saving the recipes at a pace there was no way I could keep up with. To kick things off, here are 25 ice cream and sorbet recipes that are sure to entice you to skip the store-bought stuff and make something homemade this summer.
If you try any of the recipes below, please be sure to come back and tell me how it turned out! And if you liked it, show a little love and leave a comment for the blogger as well!
Ice Creams, Sorbets, and More!
- Apple Crisp Ice Cream (from Belle Vie)
- Blackberry Basil Ice Cream (vegan) (from Snixy Kitchen)
- Blackberry Lavender Chevre Ice Cream (from The Kitchen McCabe)
- Butter Brickle Ice Cream with Homemade Toffee (from Chef Savvy)
- Cannoli Ice Cream with Pistachios and Dark Chocolate (from Full Belly Sisters)
- Cardamom Fig Ice Cream (from Girl in the Little Red Kitchen)
- Cherry Amaretto Ice Cream (no churn) (from Nutmeg Nanny)
- Circus Animal Cookie Ice Cream (from Kleinworth & Co.)
- Coffee Bourbon Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (from Simply Recipes)
- Coffee and Donut Ice Cream with Mocha Hot Fudge Swirl (from Melanie Makes)
- Cookie Butter Ice Cream (from Handle the Heat)
- Fudgey Brownie Batter Ice Cream (no churn) (from Beyond Frosting)
- Graham Cracker Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream (no churn) (from Cupcakes and Kale Chips)
- Hokey Pokey Ice Cream (from Eva Bakes)
- Lavender Lemon Ice Cream (from The Kitchen McCabe)
- Mango Chili Ice Cream (from Bell’alimento)
- Monkey Bread Ice Cream (from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)
- Mud Pie Ice Cream (no churn) (from A Kristen Duke Photography)
- New York Crumb Cake Ice Cream (from Keep It Sweet Desserts)
- Nutella Swirl Toffee Crunch Ice Cream (no churn) (from Cupcakes and Kale Chips)
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Coconut Milk Ice Cream (from The Roasted Root)
- Fresh Pineapple Ice Cream (from The Kitchen McCabe)
- Pomegranate Champagne Sorbet (from The Cookie Rookie)
- Raspberry Chambord Sorbet (from Books n’ Cooks)
- White Chocolate Blackberry Ice Cream (from Life as a Strawberry)
Welcome to the fourth annual #BrunchWeek hosted by Terri from Love and Confections and Christie from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures. We are so excited to have you join us this year as we celebrate Brunch and prepare for Mother’s Day. 37 Bloggers from around the country will showcase their best brunch dishes, from cocktails to cakes, breakfast breads, tarts, and quiche – there is something for everyone! Our amazing Sponsors have donated some great prizes for the #BrunchWeek giveaway. Thank you so much, Sponsors, for your generosity. We have an incredible giveaway below and we’d love if you would take a moment to read about it and what you can win!
Prize #1 Red Star Yeast is giving one winner an amazing baking set, which includes a mixing bowl, dough whisk, bamboo spatula, rubber spatula, instant-read thermometer, measuring cup, pizza cutter, tea towel, oven mitt, bench scraper, ‘Knead to be Loaved’ apron, 6 strips of Red Star Yeast, National Festival of Breads cookbook, and The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day hardcover cookbook
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Prize #2 Dixie Crystals is giving one winner 1 case of 2-lb Extra Fine Granulated Sugar, a silicone baking mat, Dixie Crystal’s My First Cookbook, and Dixie Crystals red ruffle apron.
About Dixie Crystals: Since 1917, Dixie Crystals® has been the South’s choice for high-quality sugar and sweeteners. Our pure cane sugar products are all natural, non-GMO and provide consistently delicious results.
Prize #3 Cabot Cheese is giving one winner $50 assortment of Cabot Cheese, one Berghoff Cheese Knife and one Slate Cheese Board
Cabot Creamery Cooperative is a 1,200 farm family dairy cooperative with members in New England & upstate New York making all natural, award-winning cheeses & the “World’s Best Cheddar.”
About Vidalia Onions: Vidalia onions are unique to a very small region. In fact, they only grow within 20 counties in Georgia (which is also why they are the official state vegetable of Georgia)! Vidalia onions were discovered back in 1930’s, and just like back then, they are still planted, transplanted and harvested entirely all by hand! Vidalia onions are grown during the winter months, and are only available in stores between April and September, making them a true seasonal specialty. In order to grow great tasting Vidalias, and to give them their characteristic sweetness, they must be grown in a sandy soil mixture that is low in sulfur (sulfur in soil is what gives onions their hotness). Because of this sweet flavor, Vidalia onions are incredibly versatile and can be used in any sort of dish; grilling, baking, appetizers, sandwiches, casseroles, and yes, even sweet desserts. Each year, approximately 5-million 40-pound boxes are shipped out around the entire country – now that’s a lot of onions!
Prize #5 Sage Fruits is giving one winner a Ninja® Mega Kitchen System® with Slicing/Shredding
Sage Fruit Company is a premier grower/shipper of apples, pears and cherries. Not only are they focused on healthy products, but also on helping kids get excited about healthy eating through their free Kids in Force program that helps kids eat more nutrition and get more physical activity.
Prize #6 Nielsen-Massey Fine Vanillas & Flavors is giving one winner a set of their pure flavors: 2-oz each of Orange, Lemon, Peppermint, Almond, Chocolate, Coffee, Rose Water, and Orange Blossom Water.
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has been crafting the world’s finest vanillas and flavors since 1907. Each of Nielsen-Massey’s all-nature pure flavors are crafted with premium ingredients, sourced from around the world and chosen to meet the utmost quality standards. From lemon to peppermint to coffee or chocolate, Nielsen-Massey’s pure flavors offer convenience, quality and consistency to ensure your favorite recipes taste delicious every single time. All products are gluten-free, allergen-free, GMO-free, all-natural and Kosher.
Prize #7 KitchenIQ is giving one winner a Lid & Mitt, Edge Grip Quick Prep Knife Sharpener & Pairing Knife Combo, IQ Smart Wireless Nutri Scale, Edge Bug Scissor Sharpener, and Prep & Measure Tool
KitchenIQ, the new houseware branch of Smith’s Consumer Products, Inc., embraces Smith’s long-standing reputation for innovation and quality. KitchenIQ is committed to producing smarter products for the kitchen.
Prize #8 Le Creuset is giving one winner one Egg Carton in Caribbean, a Heritage 4 Qt Rectangular Baking Dish in Caribbean and a Revolution Spatula Spoon in Caribbean.
Le Creuset is focused on inspiring and empowering people everywhere to make joy through cooking. From our original enameled cast iron cookware to stoneware, stainless, silicone and more, Le Creuset has grown to offer products across a range of materials and categories that guarantees the right tool for the right job.
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Disclaimer: Thank you to #BrunchWeek Sponsors: Red Star Yeast, Dixie Crystals, Cabot Cheese, Vidalia Onion Committee, Sage Fruits, Nielsen-Massey, KitchenIQ, and Le Creuset for providing the prizes free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #BrunchWeek. All opinions are my own.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I feel like I just joined the What’s Baking? group, so I was completely surprised when it was suddenly my turn to choose a theme. In an effort to continue the healthier lifestyle my husband and I have tried to adopt this year, I knew I wanted to do something more savory. Quiche was immediately on my short list since its great for a light appetizer or for a more substantial brunch.
I was really impressed with all of the great recipes that the What’s Baking? crew put together for the theme this month. I’m loving the seasonal and veggie packed quiche recipes some of the bloggers came up with, and was floored to see some of the more creative recipes (venison sausage! kelibasa! pizza quiche!). Check out the recipes below.
What’s Baking? Quiche Round-Up
I made mini zucchini quiche – light and crustless. This recipe hides the vegetable (great for picky eaters) and lets the fresh herb shine. We had them for brunch but the individual servings make the recipe great for appetizers for a crowd as well.
Eva from Eva Bakes made Crustless Spinach and Mushroom Quiche. I know some people aren’t mushroom fans, but I sure am. Between loving mushrooms and having a brother who is a vegetarian, I know that I’ll be making this one in the near future!
Jaida at Sweet Beginnings made a quiche that made me want to call my father-in-law and ask for some venison sausage. She made Crustless Zesty Italian Venison Sausage, Spinach, and Red Pepper Quiche. Yum!
Coleen from The Redhead Baker was one of the few to make a quiche with a traditional crust this month – a Spring Veggie Quiche packed with veggies. I was drooling a little over Coleen’s quiche. Between her quiche and Eva’s, I resolved not to wait for my brother to visit, but instead to work on converting my meat-loving hubby to a Meatless Monday participant so that I can try some of these recipes in the near future.
Finally, Kate at Kate’s Recipe Box made a Ham and Cheese Quiche, which she served for Easter brunch. I love the idea of having a “traditional” Easter ham for brunch instead of dinner. Off to bookmark this recipe for next year..
I hope you all enjoyed this round up. Come back in a couple of months to see what What’s Baking? will be cooking up next!
“but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”
― Jane Austen
This past year, I felt like I read very few books. Unusual for me, but I guess natural with all I had going on in my life. So this year, with an almost 3-year old and a new baby arriving halfway through the year, I decided to shoot to read 30 books this year – enough to keep me in the habit of reading (and to prevent me from falling too far behind on books by my favorite authors!) but also a high enough number so that I couldn’t slack off.
I came close, but didn’t reach my goal. My reading definitely in the latter part f the year, as we traveled and entertained more. I didn’t review everything I read this year (see here for reviews from this year, the most recent first), but I did track it. If you’re interested, you can check out that list here.
So, without further ado, I give you some of my favorite books that I read this year (in the order in which I read them).
Labyrinth (by Kate Mosse) – I actually just barely finished this one in 2014, but blogged it in 2015, so I’m going to count it. I enjoyed the story, the blend of two story-lines, one past, one present. There was a little history, a little mystery and suspense, and a little magic. It had something for everyone.
Snitch (by Brooker T Mattison) – A quick suspense novel that stands out from others in the genre for it’s poetic prose and depth of characters.
The Rosie Project (by Graeme Simsion) – A light fictional novel about a socially awkward genetics professor and his search to find the perfect wife. It’s sequel, The Rosie Effect was a little disappointing (although it could have been my frame of mind), but The Rosie Project definitely ranked up there in my top books of the year.
Daughter of Smoke & Bones Trilogy (by Laini Taylor) – A young adult/fantasy series, I was hooked pretty quickly. The trilogy has a little bit of everything – angels, monsters, and humans; love and war; dark and serious characters and others that are more relaxed, funny, and witty. I flew through this set of books and definitely had a hard time putting them down.
What were your favorite books of 2015?
Is there anything you’d recommend that I check out?
Today is the last in my Frozen Fridays series, and I’m sharing an assortment of frozen beverages – milkshakes, cocktails, and other concoctions – that had me tracking down where we put the blender when we moved.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these roundups and have gotten some good ideas for your own kitchen adventures. I didn’t try nearly as many of the recipes as I would have liked, but that seems to be the story of my life.
- Almond Butter Banana Oatmeal Smoothie (from Cooking with Ruth)
- Cherry Lambic Milkshakes (from Love and Olive Oil)
- Confetti Cake Batter Milkshakes (skinny!) (from Sprinkles Bakes)
- Cookie Dough Milkshake (from My San Francisco Kitchen)
- Frosted Blueberry Lemonade (from Pinch of Yum)
- Iced Snickerdoodle Latte (from Feed Me Seymour)
- Kahlua Mudslides (from Sugar Dish Me)
- Lemon Blueberry Ice Cream Floats (from The Sugar Hit)
- Raspberry Colada Smoothie (from The Housewife in Training Files)
- Rice Krispie Treat Milkshake (from Beyond Frosting)
- Salted Caramel Bailey’s Milkshake With Vegan Irish Cream (from Spabettie)
- Skinny Mocha Frappuccino – Starbucks copycat recipe (from Healthy Sweet Eats)
- Strawberry Almond Smoothie (from Healthy Recipe Ecstasy)
- Strawberry Riesling Slushies (from Annie’s Eats)
- Toasted Marshmallow Peanut Butter Milkshake (from Honey and Birch)
So we’ve made it through ice cream, toppings and servers, and popsicles. You might be wondering what else is left. Why, desserts, of course!
This week, I’ve desserts that don’t fall into one of the above categories. They’re frozen pies, cakes, sandwiches, and other ice cream-like creations. Some are simpler to make and others have a number of steps. The thing they all have in common? They’re sure to impress your guests!
- Banana Split S’mores Ice Cream Cake (from Beyond Frosting)
- Blackberry Icebox Cake (from Beyond Frosting)
- Cannoli Ice Cream Sandwiches (from A Sprinkle of This and That)
- Cherry Almond Chocolate Ripple Semifreddo (from Girl in the Little Read Kitchen)
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Bars (from Two Peas and Their Pod)
- Coconut Brownies Sundae (from Roxana’s Home Baking)
- Fried Ice Cream (from Overtime Cook)
- Frosty S’mores Cups (from Easybaked)
- Frozen Chocolate Cherry Bars (from Running to the Kitchen)
- Fudgy Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie (from Through Her Looking Glass)
- Funfetti Cookie Dough Ice Cream Pie (from Beyond Frosting)
- Ice Cream Crepes (from French Press)
- Lemon Cloud No-Bake Ice Box Cake (from The Slow Roasted Italian)
- Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake (no-churn) (from Cupcakes and Kale Chips)
- Mocha Brownie Ice Cream Pie (from Handle the Heat)
- PB&J Ice Cream Sandwich (from Mom’s Kitchen Handbook)
- Pan-Fried Banana Split (from Taste and Tell)
- Root Beer Float Pie (from Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch)
- Rum-Soaked Grilled Pineapple topped with ice cream (from Gimme Some Oven)
- Reeses Ice Cream Cake (from Lemons for Lulu)
- Salted Caramel Brownie Ice Cream Cake (from Diary of a Recipe Collector)
- Salted Peanut Caramel Ice Cream Bars (from Not Without Salt)
- Strawberry Sorbet Cookies (from Epicurean Mom)
- Toffee Ice Cream Brownie Bars (from Two Peas and Their Pod)
- Vanilla Frozen Yogurt and Blueberry Terrine (from Cooking and Beer)