Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Goodbye, January!


It's hard to believe January is ending. What a month, right? From the horror of the Capitol Insurrection, to the hope of the Inauguration, to the reality of a deep partisan divide in Washington and across the country, and a pandemic that is far from under control... there is an awful lot of work ahead. I pray we're all up to the task.

It's been a good week here... very chilly (for Florida) though. I  actually wore gloves on my walk a couple of mornings ago! We saw my FIL twice (outdoors and socially distant) and he continues to improve. I attended a couple of virtual bookish events. Both were excellent, and I really hope these continue after the pandemic.

Current reading// 

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson 

This book was published ten years ago. Why has it taken me this long to pick it up? At over 600 pages, it's certainly a time commitment... but it's excellent. I'm nearly 40% into this read/listen combination. 

This Week's Bookish Events//

The T Book Club: A Conversation on ‘The Custom of the Country’ with author Claire Messud.  The T Book club is sponsored by NYTimes T Magazine and consists of a series of articles and then a discussion about a classic work of American literature. Ideally, participants read the novel and articles prior to the event. 

For this event, features director Thessaly LaForce introduced Messud, who gave a presentation on the novel. The comment box was open to participants who typed questions or made comments the entire time. Afterwards, the two chat, and LaForce posed questions raised by the audience. You can view the 45-minute presentation here... you may need to be a NYTimes subscriber.

The next selection, Passing by Nella Larsen, will be discussed March 9 and features Brit Bennett.

Doubleday presented Two Writers Talking: Family Secrets with Bob Kolker and Dani Shapiro. This was such an interesting discussion! Bob Kolker is the author of Hidden Valley Road (which I have not read) and Dani Shapiro is the author of Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, which was my favorite nonfiction read of 2019. The event was free. You can find out about other events by visiting Knopf Doubleday's virtual events landing page.

On the blog//     Top Ten Tuesday: 2020 Author Discoveries 

Books Read in January//

Rachel to the Rescue by Elinor Lipman 3.5/5

A Quiet Life in the Country by T.E. Kinsey 4/5

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio 4.5/5

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole  3/5

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington 4.5/5

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (reread) 5/5

February Reading, Tentative Plans//

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Shelf subscription selection (can't wait to see what it is!)

Middlemarch by George Eliot (reread)

In the kitchen//

My sister sent me this recipe for Sweet & Spicy Bacon Wrapped Chicken and I had to try it right away because... bacon! It was really good, but probably more of an appetizer than dinner. I could picture serving these on wooden skewers at a cocktail party... remember those?!? I dialed back the spice a little bit, too.

I made this Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread because my FIL likes something sweet for breakfast a few times a week. It was quick and easy, and I don't think you even need the glaze. I needed to bake it for a few minutes longer than suggested.

So that was my week. How was yours? 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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: 2020 Author Discoveries

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's prompt is "New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020."

For many of us, 2020 was not a typical reading year. My goals, challenges, and projects were upended as I turned to books for comfort. That meant more rereads, backlists titles from favorite authors, memoirs, and quite a few lighter books. Here are my favorite author discoveries, listed in the order that I read them.

Kevin Wilson,  Nothing To See Here 

Rachel Lyon, Self-Portrait with Boy 

Claire Lombardo, The Most Fun We Ever Had 

T Kira Madden, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir 

Nella Larsen, Passing

Connie Schultz, The Daughters of Erietown 

Lucy Foley, The Guest List 

Bess Kalb, Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (as Told to Me) Story 

Austin Channing Brown, I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness 

Fredrik Backman, Anxious People

Have you read any of these authors? Who was your favorite author discovery last year?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Sunday Salon: January 24, 2021

Hello, friends. It's a beautiful day in Florida and I feel strangely calm. Yes, the pandemic is still raging out of control and, as a country, we face all the same problems as a week ago. BUT I feel more secure now knowing experienced, competent professionals are in charge. 

The highlight last week was being able to see my father-in-law again... the first time since early November. My sister-in-law drove him over and we were all able to visit for a couple of hours. He's doing well now, but has lost some weight. My mission is to fix that!


The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

I love this book more every time I read it. This was my third time, but the first read/listen combination. I used an audible credit and chose Lorna Raver's narration. Definitely another 5-star experience!

The online T Book Club event is later this week. Claire Messed will be the guest speaker and I can't wait to hear her take on Undine Spragg. She is one of the most memorable characters I've ever come across! I'll give you an update next weekend and let you know about the next selection, too.

I just finished The Custom of the Country  this morning and am not sure what I'll pick up next. 
Under consideration are:
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Middlemarch by George Eliot (another reread)


I tried two new recipes this week, both featuring Asian flavors.  First up was Hoisin Pork Tenderloin from Taste of Home. (After last week's dry pork chops, it was back to a tenderloin.)  I couldn't tell you the last time I purchased either ramen noodles or hoisin sauce, so this was a tasty change of pace for us. It was pretty simple to prepare, too. My daughter especially loved it. 

A few days later I made Sweet Lemon Shrimp from Damn Delicious. The shrimp is marinated in a mixture that contains hoisin sauce (again!), honey, and plenty of fresh lemon juice. She says to marinate 30 minutes to overnight, but I think the lemon would become overpowering if you left it too long. I ended up marinating for an hour and a half. We roasted the shrimp as the recipe said, but they would be good grilled, too.

Today I made my father-in-law's favorite Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake from Pinch of Yum. We're planning to see him for dinner.

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, January 17, 2021

The Sunday Salon: January 17, 2021

Hello from windy, cool Florida. It's been another news-heavy week but, thankfully, reading provided a welcome diversion and kept me from becoming overwhelmed. Unfortunately, my kindle died midweek. Not a total surprise, since it had been touchy for several months. A new paperwhite arrived an hour ago... can't wait to get it set up!

Another welcome distraction this week was a virtual presentation by Audubon of Southwest Florida on my favorite pink birds- spoonbills and flamingos. Over the past couple of months, I've enjoyed exploring a variety of free online events... bookish and otherwise.

Now for the books...



The first book from my Shelf Subscription (Annie's pick) ticked all the boxes for me. Some reviewers say it's reminiscent of The Great Gatsby - and I can see that in terms of theme - but I was reminded more of the late Pat Conroy. This was such a well-written coming-of-age story... definitely one to sink into the pages and lose yourself! 

Intuitive Eating: A Practical Guide to Make Peace with Food, Free Yourself from Chronic Dieting, and Reach Your Natural Weight
 by Evelyn Tribole,  Elyse Resch 

This book was mentioned in our local newspaper early last week. I was curious enough to check the library for a copy and found the audio available via hoopla. It was an interesting listen, but probably nothing you don't already know. Still, it's good to be reminded every now and then. The audio was about four hours long and it went even faster since I increased the speed.



I didn't make much progress this week. Between my kindle being out of commission and the impulse listen about food and eating, Edith was pushed to the back burner. It will become my primary read now that the new kindle has arrived. I want to finish before the T Book Club zoom next week.


The big hit last week was Slow Cooker Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli from Damn Delicious... so, so good! I forwarded the recipe to my mother, sisters, and daughters... and am wondering if this week is too soon to make it again.

For a treat, I made a Blueberry Buttermilk Cake from NYTimes. This recipe has become a favorite because it's so flexible... you can use any type of berry and any kind of milk, too.

My husband has been asking for pork chops lately. I prefer tenderloins, but decided to try Pork Chops with Lemon-Caper Sauce from the NYTimes. The sauce was delicious, though it took a bit more effort. He really liked it, but they were still pork chops. 


Inauguration, at last! I'll admit to being a little nervous about how it will all unfold, but am hopeful we'll enjoy a celebration Wednesday evening.

Another virtual lecture  - the week's topic will be Sand Dunes: A Global and Local Perspective.

And more reading, cooking, and walks as we continue to keep a very low profile.

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, January 10, 2021

The Sunday Salon: January 10,2021

The first full week of 2021 is over and it already feels like an entire year! I am horrified by Wednesday's events and pray we make it safely to January 20th. 

On to the books...


 The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

The author calls this a work of creative nonfiction. I call it a unique, powerful blend of memoir and journalism.

The author herself is a Harvard-educated undocumented American. In addition to writing about her own life, she travels to various cities to chronicle the experiences of others. In NYC she examines the role of undocumented workers on and immediately following 9/11. She examines the lack of health care available to undocumented immigrants in Miami. Other chapters focus on Flint, Cleveland, and New Haven. She addresses issues unique to the undocumented, including some I'd never considered...  eye-opening to say the least.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. It kept me completely engaged throughout. Highly recommended. 


The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington

The first book from my Shelf Subscription arrived. Both the title and author were unfamiliar, but my reading taste seems to align with Annie's and the enclosed recommendation card made it sound like my kind of book. So far, it is! I can't wait to pick it up later again later this afternoon.

Earlier in the week, I attended a Facebook Live event sponsored by Parnassus Books where the author spoke with Mary Laura Philpott, author of  I Miss You When I Blink.  I'm enjoying these "pandemic events" very much.

 The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

I'm (re)reading this for the January T Book Club sponsored by NYTimes Style Magazine. It is the second in a series of four discussions on classics of American literature. I started listening to the audio version read by Lorna Raver, but will make it a read/listen combination after finishing my current print book. More information on the 1/28 event can be found here.


Last week I mentioned that I was about to bake Katie Workman's Chocolate Banana Cake. Well, I did and it was delicious! This week I'm buying a few extra bananas so I can make it again.

Another night I made this White Chicken Chili from Taste of Home... it was quick, easy, and not too spicy. Most of the white chili recipes I've tried use boneless chicken breasts or thighs, but this one called for ground chicken. We all agreed it's a keeper.


This will likely be another news-heavy week. My goal is to stay informed, without becoming overwhelmed by the constant coverage. Good thing I'm in the middle of two excellent books!

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, January 3, 2021

The First Sunday Salon of 2021

Hello, friends! Hope you're enjoying a peaceful New Year's weekend. It's sunny and a little warmer than usual here in southwest Florida, but we're expecting a cold front by tomorrow. Today we're cleaning, putting away Christmas decorations, and getting organized for the week ahead.

Our Manhattan daughters were here for several weeks in December. Fortunately they were able to quarantine at out recently-vacated condo before eventually joining us at the house. We all kept a very low profile (numbers are way too high in FL) and they have both tested negative (again) since their return to the City. Now we are back to three... one adult daughter lives with us.

Within the past week I've discovered a renewed energy for reading and, hopefully, blogging. My ankle seems to have healed well enough to allow me to walk 2.5 miles with minimal pain. Last week I was able to walk five days. The time on the beach with an audiobook in my ears has done wonders for my mood! I'll maintain this pace/distance for a few weeks and see how it goes.

Finished last week//

Rachel to the Rescue by Elinor Lipman

I've been an Elinor Lipman fan for years, but hadn't heard about her latest until Audrey mentioned it. This is the first novel featuring Covid and the Trump presidency (in an unfavorable light, in case you're wondering) I've come across, but many more are sure to follow. Lipman's witty prose and quirky characters made for a light, fun reading experience.

Last week Audrey and I attended a virtual event sponsored by Belmont Books featuring Lipman in conversation with fellow author and friend Caroline Leavitt - a delightful evening! I hope events like this continue post-pandemic. 

by T.E. Kinsey, narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden

It's been quite a while since I listened to a cozy mystery, but this was a perfect post-Christmas diversion. The first in the Lady Hardcastle Mystery series, our main characters are an eccentric, English widow and her lady's maid, Flo. They have retired to a quiet life the country, but somehow murder and intrigue follow. My favorite aspect of the novel was the witty banter between Lady Hardcastle and Flo. The narrator's British accent made it even more enjoyable. Be sure to choose the audio if you decide to give it a try!


Current reading//

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

This book was included on several  "Best of 2020" lists, so I decided to use an audible credit. The nonfiction audio is narrated by the author, an undocumented Harvard-educated American, and is very moving. I've also borrowed the ebook from the library, but will probably continue listening... almost halfway through now.

On the blog//

In the kitchen//

I'm planning to make Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese  (a favorite) for dinner tonight and, since there are a few overripe bananas to use, I'll try this Chocolate Banana Cake recipe from Katie Workman. 

I also have to plan menus for the week and make a grocery list. I'm still shopping once a week (at 7 AM) but look forward to the time I don't have to be quite so organized... 

How was your week? What have you been reading lately?

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

Friday, January 1, 2021

Wrapping Up 2020 and a Look Ahead



At last. As a result of everything 2020, this space has been woefully neglected. And as for reading... I simply could not concentrate on books for much of the year.  

It's time to close out the year with a few statistics, favorites, a look ahead.

Number of Books Read
My grand total was 41 books... the fewest in my 30+ years of record keeping.

63%/37%... slightly more fiction than last year

I read mostly female authors (78%), just a few classics, and only two books in translation. 

Longest/Shortest Book
The Way We Live Now  by Anthony Trollope, 864 pages
Intimations  by Zadie Smith, 97 pages

More than half of my books were read/listen combinations. I enjoy listening to audiobooks while walking (and am finally getting back into it after breaking my ankle in September) and picking up the same book on my kindle afterwards.


The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo 

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz 



The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (reread)


House Lessons: Renovating a Life by Erica Bauermeister


  • No reading challenges
  • Goodreads goal set low - 40 books
  • Read/listen to books I own
  • 6 months Shelf Subscription (Annie's picks) from The Bookshelf Thomasville, GA
  • continue T Book Club (NYTimes Style Magazine) series featuring classic American Literature, The Custom the Country by Edith Wharton is up next

  • try to post more consistently
  • continue Sunday Salon/Weekly Update posts
  • bring back book briefs (short reviews)
  • resume occasional Weekend Cooking posts

Good-bye 2020. No apologies and no guilt, but I am full of hope for a better year of reading and blogging in 2021. Happy New Year, friends!


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