Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Sunday Salon: April 11, 2021


Whew, it's been a busy couple of weeks around here. We celebrated Easter, our twin daughters' birthday, and enjoyed spending time with my sister and brother-in-law during there recent visit. 

The big news is that I got my second vaccination on Thursday! Like last time, we had to drive two hours each way, but it was a nice day for a road trip... and so worth it. My side effects were worse this time - fever and chills, muscle aches, and headache. I felt fine after 24 hours. In two weeks I can finally go to the hair salon. Maybe I'll get a pedicure too! 


Recent reading//

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

I loved this book - a solid 5 star read!  I hope to post a review later this week.



by Sayaka Murata,  narrated by Nancy Wu

What a wonderful audiobook! This book has been on my wish list for a while, but Diane's recent review convinced me to listen now. This short (just over 3 hours) audio is included with an audible plus membership and is also available on hoopla. If you enjoy books with quirky characters (like Eleanor Oliphant) this belongs on your list.





by Patricia Highsmith

This is the next selection for The T Book Club, sponsored by The New York Times Style Magazine. I wasn't feeling it last time I posted, but your encouraging comments and the fact that my daughter is currently reading a Highsmith novel, made me change my mind.

Tom Ripley is a classic sociopath (definitely not my typical reading fare) and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. What a fascinating character! I also enjoyed the Italian setting. But, I didn't like the way the book made me feel...  too tense, too much on edge. Ultimately, that means Highsmith succeeded. I'm not sure whether I'll read the other Ripley novels, but you never know.

This was a read/listen combination for me and I highly recommend the audio version narrated by Kevin Kenerly.  The book discussion, led by writer Edmund White, will take place on 4/22. Click on the T Book Club link to join in. 



Current reading//


My recent reading of Code Girls  inspired me to seek out more WWII nonfiction, so here we are with Erik Larson's latest. This is another read/listen combination for me. I started the audio (narrated by John Lee and just under 18 hours long) on my walk yesterday. It's very interesting so far, but will take a while to finish.


National Poetry Month//

April is National Poetry Month. Thanks to Iliana, I signed up for Poem-A-Day and now receive a poem in my inbox each morning.


In the kitchen//

Between Easter, birthday celebrations, and family visits, I haven't tried many new recipes. Instead, the focus has been on traditional menus and family favorites with a few nights of take-out added to the mix.

One night we had leftover steak, so I made Sheet Pan Steak Fajitas from The Busy Baker. Since the steak was already cooked, I only warmed it for the last few minutes and then tossed it with the peppers and onions before serving. This was a big hit with the family and I can see trying it with shrimp or chicken, too.


We grilled boneless chicken breasts one night using this Honey Mustard Chicken recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod. The combination of whole grain and dijon mustard is delicious combined with honey. The acid from the lemon juice "helps break down the chicken, allowing the marinade’s oil and spices to infuse the meat with flavor and moisture." This is a keeper!

Today I made Morning Maple Muffins from Taste of Home. We all enjoyed one, then I sent the rest over to my FIL and SIL.


The week ahead//

We don't have a lot planned this week - a routine doctor's appointment, early morning grocery shopping, and wine on the beach with friends. Twin A will fly back to NYC on Friday... how can her month here be ending already??


How was your week? What have you been reading?



The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date


Friday, April 2, 2021

March Reading Wrap-Up and A Look Ahead



 Is it just me, or does is seem like March lasted for a very long time?  Highlights here included vaccinations (one for me, one for Twin B, and two for my husband!), a visit from my brother and his fiancé, Twin A arriving for an extended visit, experimenting with my new air fryer, trying several new recipes, and, of course, beautiful sunsets on the beach.

I ended up reading six books in March, including three of the four from my tentative list. I started the month with two impulse reads (always fun), followed by the new Shelf Subscription (Brood didn't work for me at all), and then dove into nonfiction for Women's History Month. I moved on to a backlist title from an author I've previously enjoyed and finished the month with a book I'd hoped to get to last year. 


Books Read in March//

Young  Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin  3.5/5

The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi  3/5

Brood by Jackie Polzin  

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy  5/5

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller  3.5/5

Writers & Lovers by Lily King (no review yet)  5/5


My favorite books of March//




Tentative Reading for April//

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson (nonfiction)

April Shelf Subscription selection  (new fiction, ships 4/6)

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (T Book Club, American classic - I'm not in the mood for this now. We'll see how I feel in a week or two. Have you read it?)

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated fiction, 2018)


How did your March reading go? What was your favorite book last month?



Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Vaccinations and Visitors


 It's been another beautiful week here in Florida... warmer temperatures, slightly higher humidity, and a gorgeous sea breeze. Our daughter arrived on Monday and worked from our condo all week, but joined us for outdoor dinners at the house. It's so good to spend time with her!

Friday was the BIG DAY. Two weeks after his second shot, my husband reached full immunity! He celebrated by going to the local grocery store midday (rather than our usual 7AM) to purchase fresh seafood for dinner and fresh cut steaks for the weekend. Somehow a bag of potato chips and container of ice cream also found a way into his bag. It's the little things! Two weeks until my second dose...


Finished this week//

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

This was the novel my mother and sister both read last month. The had very different reactions (Mom hated it, but my sister liked it) and they wanted me to weigh in. It was on my wish list anyway, so this seemed like a good time to pick it up.

Bitter Orange  features a woman on her deathbed reflecting back to the summer of 1969, a pivotal time spent in a ruinous English manor house. She is there to compose a report on the grounds and gardens for the absent new owner, while another young couple catalogs the contents of the buildings. The book unfolds very slowly, with long, detailed descriptions, and is quite well-written. It has a Gothic feel and there is a near constant sense of impending doom or tragedy. None of the characters are particularly likable, yet they're all interesting with complicated backstories...and complicated relationships with each other. I think fans of Daphne DuMaurier are particularly likely to enjoy this novel.

I borrowed the ebook from the library, then used an audible credit for the audiobook. It turned out that the audio narrated by Bianca Amato added much to my overall enjoyment, so I recommend going that route if you can. 


Current reading//

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

This book seemed to be on all the lists at the end 2020, but I'm just getting to it now. I'm 40% in and enjoying it even more than expected!


In the kitchen//


This was a very good week in the kitchen! I had three new recipe successes,  two of them from Half Baked Harvest Super Simple.  Thai Basil Beef with Peanut Salsa was a real crowd pleaser, and was actually super simple to prepare. The leftovers were just as tasty. A food blogger included the recipe in her review post here.

The other winner was Walnut Crusted Chicken with Honey and Brie. My daughters especially loved it and I liked that you can prep the chicken ahead, then all you have to do at dinnertime is pop it in the oven. Again, I couldn't find the recipe online, but if you search for it on Pinterest, you will find a photo of the cookbook page.


Finally, these Pecan Carrot Muffins from the Simply Delicious  blog were just amazing! My FIL, who isn't eating much of anything lately, ate two. I'll make them again for Easter brunch.


The week ahead//

Our daughter finishes her quarantine this evening and will move from our condo (affectionately known lately as "the holding tank") to the house. 

My sister and brother-in-law, who are both fully vaccinated, arrive Friday night to spend their spring vacation at our condo. We should be able to spend plenty of time with them outdoors at the beach or on our lanai. I can't wait to see them!


How was your week? What have you been reading?



The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date


Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Spring is Here!

Spring is here... and even though making it through a Florida winter is no big deal, it' still a milestone. I'm no fan of these darker mornings, but the extra hour of sunlight after dinner is the best. We've enjoyed some beautiful sunsets at the beach this week.

My brother and fiancé were in Florida all week and spent the last few days at our condo. They're both fully vaccinated but we're not quite there yet so, while we couldn't join them at restaurants, we spent plenty of time catching up at the beach and on our lanai. What a treat!

Finished last week//


This is my kind of narrative nonfiction! It strikes just the right balance between hard history and human interest. Mundy's research is thorough, her writing is great and I learned about something completely new. I wasn't at all familiar with this fascinating story of women recruited from colleges (primarily the Seven Sisters) and trained by the government to break codes during WWII. A fun fact - this group of women included Bill Nye the Science Guy's mother. 

As an added bonus, Code Girls  has inspired me to read further on the subject. I'll likely turn to fiction next and have placed a library hold on  The Rose Code  by Kate Quinn. (Have you read her? I haven't yet.) I'd also like to continue the WWII theme in my nonfiction reading. The Splendid and the Vile  by Erik Larson may be the nonfiction title I choose for April.

This was a read/listen combination for me. Erin Bennett's narration of the audio version was pitch-perfect, but I was glad to have the ebook available, too. I would've hated to miss the photos. 



Current reading//


Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

I started reading this book yesterday morning and didn't want to put it down when it was time for my walk, so I downloaded the audio version, too.  At the 30% mark, I can't say I really like any of the main characters, but am looking forward to getting back to the story . 


In the kitchen//

The Key Lime Pie I mentioned last week was delicious. The recipe I used (given to me by my mother-in-law many years ago) was unbelievably easy. Not sure why I waited so long to try it. If you'd like to make one, too, this recipe from Taste of Home is practically identical.

On St. Patrick's Day, I made Irish Soda Bread for the first time using a recipe from Natasha's Kitchen. My sister has always been the official baker of Irish soda bread and delivers loaves to family and friends every year. Since we're in Florida now, I had to make it myself. It disappeared within 24 hours!


The week ahead//

One of our Manhattan daughters is arriving tomorrow! She is still working from home and will stay at our condo (we're starting to refer to it as the "holding tank") for a quarantine period before joining us at the house. We're hoping she'll stay around for much of April, too.


How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Sunday Salon: March 14, 2021


It's Sunday again and what a difference a week makes! We are now on the road to full vaccination. My husband got his second shot last week (again with the 3-hour drive to Tampa) and I was thrilled to get my first. As a bonus, it was only two hours away in Sarasota...  not sure why Florida can't deliver enough doses to the southwest counties. Still, we are fortunate to be able to travel that distance without issue to receive our vaccines.

Aside from our two days in the car, it was an uneventful week. We enjoyed a couple of beach sunsets, a socially-distant glass of wine with friends, and I finished a book.


Read last week//

Brood by Jackie Polzin

Let's just say that this was not my cup of tea.

 I first read about Brood  on Diane's blog and decided it was a book I could safely skip. It's almost a relief when that happens because there are so many other books I want to read, but the book arrived in my mailbox as Annie's March Shelf Subscription pick.

It's about a nameless woman who raises a brood of four chickens. We come to recognize it as a coping mechanism for her grief following a miscarriage. Now I'm not particularly fond of chickens (other than as a dinner option) but even as a woman who has dealt with miscarriage, I could not connect on any level with this novel.

There is not much in the way of either plot or character development. It's basically one woman's ramblings... though I did appreciate a few keen, beautiful observations. Unfortunately, the cover was my favorite part of the book.


Current listening//

This book has been on my TBR list for a couple of years and is my Women's History Month selection. Just over 25% in and finding it very interesting.


Up next//

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

My mother and sister both read this book recently and came away with drastically different opinions, so it looks like I'll be the tie breaker. I just downloaded the ebook from my library and plan to get started tonight or tomorrow.


In the kitchen//

Nothing very exciting happened in my the kitchen this week but, in honor of Pi Day, I made my first Key Lime Pie. It's chilling now... I'll let you know how it turns out.


 I bought a new cookbook last week: Half Baked Harvest Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard. Generally I borrow them from the library first for a "test cook", but I've followed the Half Baked Harvest blog for years and have enjoyed many of her recipes. Besides, I purged half of my cookbooks when we moved so haven't felt too guilty purchasing a few more. There are SO many recipes in this book I want to try. It'll be fun cooking my way through.


The week ahead//

We're anticipating another fairly quiet week. My brother and his fiancé will spend a few days at our condo later in the week... and we can't wait to see them (outdoors, socially-distant, etc.) It's been a long time!


That's if for me. How was your week? What are you reading?


The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Sunday Salon: March 7, 2021


 Hello, friends and Happy Sunday. Today I've been thinking about the strange anniversaries coming up this week... anniversaries marking drastic changes in the way we live. On March 9, 2020, we attended a neighborhood gathering of about ten couples - our last social event. I remember we bumped elbows for the first time instead of hugging. Just a few days later, on March 13, two of our daughters left Manhattan for what would turn out to be a four month stay with us here in Florida. We stocked up on food, searched for toilet paper, clorox wipes, and hand sanitizer, stopped going to restaurants, and started getting groceries delivered. 

One year later they are back in Manhattan (still being careful), we've moved into a newly renovated home, go to the grocery store once a week at 7 AM, and are still avoiding restaurants. I've cooked more than ever this past year! Now my husband is finally scheduled for his second vaccine at the end of the week. We're making progress...


Finished this week//

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

A welcome change of pace from my heavier Black History Month reading, this impulse read was the result of a perfectly-timed recommendation from Les. I LOVED the beginning of this modern day Monica Lewinsky story set in south Florida. The first chapters literally had me laughing out loud. There are three main female characters: Jane (who has the affair), her mother, and her daughter. The opening features Janes's mother, who drew me in immediately. Jane's daughter, Ruby, was also a delight. However, when Jane's story turned into a "choose your own adventure" tale, my eyes began to roll. That was a little too hokey for my taste. Overall, this was still an enjoyable, light read. 




The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi

A couple of months ago, a blogger friend mentioned The Lazy Genius Podcast. I listened to a few episodes, enjoyed the host's voice and suggestions for streamlining tasks.  Deb recently mentioned her book, so I found the audio version available at my library.

I liked listening to Adachi's ideas, but felt the book was primarily aimed at younger, suburban, Christian, stay-at-home moms. Adachi outlines several basic principles... and I was pleased to find that I used a similar  approach when my kids were younger. At the time, I was the master of batching tasks, planning menus, and organization in general. I chuckled at some of her more "extreme" suggestions, but may have actually employed a couple of those, too. I will continue to listen to her podcast as time allows, but mostly prefer audiobooks for my listening time. 




Current reading//

Brood: A Novel by Jackie Polzin

This is the book from my March Shelf Subscription . I've read about 30 pages and and like the writing, but am not quite sure what to make of the story yet. I do love that cover though! Will keep you posted...


On the blog//

February Reading Wrap-Up and a Look Ahead


In the kitchen//

This has been the week of the air fryer. I have to confess that I was not overly impressed with the results UNTIL Friday night's Coconut Shrimp. We used fresh shrimp from the local seafood stand and it was amazing! My photography skills, however, leave much to be desired.

Now that I've learned some basic air frying principles, it seems like I can make adjustments to improve the results. I borrowed three air fryer cookbooks from the library and purchased ATK's Air Fryer Perfection. There are still several more recipes I want to try.


The week ahead//


After taking the month of February off, T Book Club is back on March 9 with a presentation and discussion of Passing by Nella Larsen. The guest presenter will be Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half  and The Mothers. I read the book last summer and decided not to reread it so soon. There's still time to sign up for this free event if you're interested. See you there?

On Friday we'll take another drive to a Publix in Tampa where my husband will get his second dose of the Moderna vaccine. Hopefully his side effects will be mild again. Still not sure when I can get one...


How was your week? What have you been reading?


The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date


Thursday, March 4, 2021

February Reading Wrap-Up and a Look Ahead



 February was my first month with a planned reading list. I kept it modest to allow for impulse reading and unpredictable library holds, and found that I liked having the "what do I read next?" question resolved in advance. 

I ended up reading three of the four titles on my tentative list. As for Middlemarch, I read the first chapter and decided this was not the time for a reread.  On the plus side, my Black History Month reading was a huge success - 5 books instead of the planned two, 3 nonfiction and 2 fiction.


Books Read in February//

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson - 5/5 

Everything Beautiful in Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager (audio) - 4.5/5

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi - 3.5/5

We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida - 4/5, Shelf Subscription

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo - 5/5

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds,  Ibram X. Kendi - 4/5

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (play) - 5/5


My favorite February book was The Warmth Of Other Suns.



March Reading, Tentative Plans//

Brood by Jackie Polzin - Shelf Subscription selection 

T Book Club selection - an American Classic, TBA 3/9

Code Girls by Liza Mundy - or other nonfiction for Women's History Month

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller (my mother and sister had very different opinions and want me to weigh in)


How did your February reading go? What was your favorite book last month?




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