Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paradise for a Bookworm

I missed "Oh, How Pinteresting" this week. So this week, I'm just going to take part in Thursday Favorite Things by sharing some lovely images to do with one of my favorite subjects: books/reading.

If you're a book and reading lover too, please do let me know in my comments! I'd love to hear from you.






"My Eldest Daughter, Suzanne with Milk and Book" by Carl Larsson, 1904

I'm participating today in Thursday Favorite Things hosted by Katherine's Corner 

Thursday Favorite Things

Monday, February 25, 2013

Once Upon a Time, there was this show about fairy tales...

Today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day.  Which leads me to one of my favorite television shows...Once Upon a Time.

I posted about the show back in March, 2012:

 If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I never give a blanket recommendation to a TV show.  Very rare is the show that contains nothing that would be offensive to someone or completely family-friendly.  With that caveat, though, I have to say: 
I'm loving "Once Upon a Time."
I've got to admit, it had me at Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the creators of the show.  Both were among the writers of "Lost," my favorite show of all time, so I was pretty sure "Once Upon a Time" was going to be special.

I'm still watching "Once Upon a Time, " and still enjoying it.  As I wrote earlier, the show appeals to the fairy tale lover in all of us.

Yes, you do have to suspend disbelief when watching it sometimes.  Although much of the action takes place in the present day, these are fairy tale characters living in the modern world.  And if you have a hard time rolling with invisible ships, tiny fairies sprinkling fairy dust, talking crickets and a wooden boy, you' may have to give it a pass.

But people, this is FAIRY TALES we're talking about.  They're not supposed to be realistic!

I would NOT recommend this show for young kids.  There are things that could be disturbing and scary and just not appropriate for them.

I think Once Upon a Time is great for letting adults recapture the feeling of being told a fairy tale, with the added bonus of terrific writing, topnotch acting, and characters you grow to love...or love to hate, as the case may be.

I like this quote by co-writer Edward Kitsis:

Once Upon A Time is, at its core, a story about hope. "For us, that’s what a fairytale is. It’s that ability to think your life will get better... Adam and I just wanted to write about something hopeful that for one hour a week allows one to put everything aside and have that feeling that your dreams just may come true."--Edward Kitsis, Co-Creator/Executive Producer

I'm linking up today with the Tea on Tuesday blog hop 
hosted by Jessica at Boy oh Boys and Haley at Team Ibrahim

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Delicious, Nutritious Lentil Bean Chili Recipe!

Today is National Chili Day. How appropriate for these chilly February days, and what better way to celebrate than by making a big pot of chili? Today I'm re-posting one of my very favorite chili recipes. (I originally posted this on October 23, 2010.) *************

My friend Staci mentioned the other day that she's tired of making the same old flavor-packet chili, and I told her I have a recipe for a wonderful home-made chili.

This is actually from the Magic Foods for Better Blood Sugar book that my mom got for me right after I learned I have type 2 diabetes. You can read more about the book here.

It became my diabetes bible, with wonderful information about lowering your blood sugar with healthy eating, and a ton of delicious recipes that have become favorites with my family.

You can order this wonderful book on

This chili uses lentil beans (which are fantastic for your blood sugar) and dark red kidney beans. My family members rave about how delicious it is!

You can garnish the chili as you please with diced avocado, grated cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, and sour cream (reduced-fat if you wish.)

The original recipe does NOT call for meat of any kind. I usually add a pound of very lean ground beef or ground turkey breast, just because my husband prefers chili with meat...but if you want to leave it vegetarian, I'm sure it would be just as good.

By the way, I could not find this recipe online, so it shows how much I love all of you that I'm typing it out! :)

I'm giving you the vegetarian version--if you want to add ground beef or ground turkey, brown it separately, drain it, and add it to the pot when you're simmering your onions and carrots.

Lentil and Bean Chili

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1 cup diced carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 teaspoons chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cups vegetable broth or reduced-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 cans (10 ounces each)diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cans (15 or 19 ounces each) dark red kidney beans
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots (and meat if you're using it). Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the broth and lentils. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

2. Add the tomotoes, beans, and pepper. Return to a simmer. Cook, covered, over medium low heat until lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes longer. One serving is 1 cup. Left-overs will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Nutritional facts for the chili WITHOUT meat:
199 calories, 12 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 12 g fiber, 3 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 691 mg sodium

*photo source
*photo source

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I need this book.

Have you ever tried to locate a book from your childhood or youth?  One that you had lost, or lost track of, or never even owned...but for whatever reason, you really wanted a copy again?

I have.  And I tracked down at least two, with very good results.

I've blogged before about finding  copies of two of my childhood favorites, Red Knights from Hy 
Brasil and Auntie Robbo.

That's one of the marvelous things about the Internet.  An obscure book that you thought was lost to you forever can be found on sites from abebooks to alibris to Amazon (Probably eBay? I haven't tried that yet.)

I also found a beloved book for my mom.

Carol Plays Summer Stock

Well, the other day something made me think about this book.   I think it was the unusual first names in the book--there was a character named Orchid and one named Remember.

I'm not even sure how this book came into my possession.  Honestly, I think it might have been a library book my older sister never returned. But I read it, and loved it, even at probably 10 or 12 years old.

And as I still do with books I really love, I read it repeatedly.

The book is available on Amazon.  And I was able to find some interesting information about its author, Helen Dore Boylston, on Wikipedia.

I found this description on Goodreads:

Her apprenticeship at Phyllis Marlowe's Repertory Theater behind her, green-eyed Carol Page now faces her first real job as second ingénue at the Richards Village Theater, Winasset, Maine. Along with her go her former classmate Julia Gregg and clever young Mike Horodinsky - Julia as apprentice, Mike as assistant stage manager.
In a rambling old house by the sea, Carol, Julia, and Mike live with the other members of the Richards Theater. Here their days are filled with learning parts, attending rehearsals, painting scenery, and absorbing as much as possible about the business of a summer theater; nights are filled with the excitement of performance. Here, too, Carol learns what it means to combat such forces as townsfolk who frown on the stage as evil, and Maine fog and rain which seem intent on keeping away an audience. She learns how to meet discouragement and how to cope with a girl named Orchid, a professional member of the cast whose training gives her an advantage over Carol and whose glamour is as effective as her technique.

Most of all, Carol and Mike discover the meaning of the theater - its demands, its disappointments, its rewards - and it is with a deeper realization of their love for it that they turn their eyes toward Broadway.

Have you tracked down favorite books?

I'd love to hear the story of how/where you found it! Or just tell me about what favorite book from your past you'd love to find and own.

 Read the story here of how finding this book led me to a true tale of murder in a tiny English village.

I'm linking up with Thursday Favorite Things at Katherine's Corner!
Thursday Favorite Things

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Needing a Downton Abbey fix? Try the BBC's "North and South"

No, it's not set in the World War One era or the Twenties.  BUT...the BBC's 2004 series "North and South" is delightfully British, a really good story,features a feisty heroine and a handsome brooding hero...and even Downton Abbey's Mr. Bates (well, Brendan Coyle) in a featured role.

Not only that, it's just four episodes, so you're not making a major time commitment.

I had heard about "North and South," and at first confused it with the Civil War miniseries.  But this "North and South" is based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell  (who also happened to be the close friend and biographer of Charlotte Bronte.)

This from Wikipedia:

It follows the story of Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe), a young woman from southern England who has to move to the North after her father decides to leave the clergy. The family struggles to adjust itself to the industrial town's customs, especially after meeting the Thorntons, a proud family of cotton mill owners who seem to despise their social inferiors. The story explores the issues of class and gender, as Margaret's sympathy for the town mill workers conflicts with her growing attraction to John Thornton (Richard Armitage).

Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby Ashe) 

Daniela Denby Ashe exudes a quiet loveliness as the heroine, Margaret Hale.  (BBC series never feel the need to plaster make-up on their Victorian characters, and Denby Ashe is luminous without it.)

But Margaret is the kind of young woman that made Victorians a bit uncomfortable...she's just a bit too passionate about things like social injustice, and a little too outspoken with her opinions.  All in all, although she can sometimes be quick to judge, she's an admirable character that you want to root for.

John Thornton (Richard Armitage)


And yeah...what can I say about Richard Armitage as John Thornton?!

Well, John doesn't come off as a sympathetic character at first.  We (and Margaret) first see him beating up an employee for smoking on the job.  (We later learn that the employee had been warned before, and fire was the single greatest danger in a cotton mill, but the scene doesn't exactly endear you to mill owner John Thornton.)

Yep, that was a VERY bad first impression, and it keeps Margaret from wanting anything to do with him for some time.

Needless to say, the character redeems himself.  And as for Richard Armitage?  I'd read stuff raving about the I know what all the fuss is about.

Nicholas Higgins (Downtown Abbey's Brendan Coyle)

Mr. Bates is one of my favorite characters on Downton Abbey, and he's a likable character here too...but very different from the strong-but-subdued Bates.

Coyle plays Nicholas Higgins, a union organizer passionate about getting better pay and working conditions for his co-workers at the cotton mill.

(Interestingly, the series is even-handed about unions--depicting the need for them, but also the quandary of workers who can't feed their families on bare-bones strike pay.)

Margaret Hale has befriended Higgins' daughter Bessy, and becomes friends with Higgins as well.  She strongly sympathizes with the plight of the mill workers...another thing that doesn't endear John Thornton to her.

I enjoyed seeing Brendan Coyle in a role where he could be more forceful, more eloquent and more rowdy than Mr. Bates.

Finally...a love story


There's so much to keep John and Margaret apart, I began to despair of them ever getting together.  (I was also getting a bit annoyed with Margaret--seriously, you're NOT into him?!)

But I don't think it's too much of a  *spoiler* --to tell you that the payoff is rewarding, even if it comes at the very end.
***spoiler over***

"Look back...look back at me."--via 

(I watched North and South for free on Amazon prime.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Be Still My Heart: A Tribute to Love & Romance

Falling in love is like jumping off a really tall building. Your brain tells you it is not a good idea, but your heart tells you, you can fly.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 116--via

At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet. 

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves. 
Victor Hugo 

 Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another. 
George Eliot 

 This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.
C.S. Lewis


“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest -- blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine.” 
 Charlotte BrontĂ«, Jane Eyre


"...I found him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let him go..."
Song of Solomon 3:4

 "And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many."
J.R.R. Tolkien 

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” 
Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm linking up with Katherine's Corner for Favorite Things Thursday!
Thursday Favorite Things

Monday, February 11, 2013

Can't-stop-readable Victorian Suspense: Anne Perry

"With insight, compassion, and a portraitist’s genius, Perry illuminates the shifting tide of emotions encompassing Queen Victoria’s London and the people who live there—aristocrats, brothel owners, thieves, Dickensian ruffians, and their evil keepers. She takes us through dangerous backstreets where the poor eke out their humble livings, and into the mansions of the rich, safe and secure in their privileged lives. Or so they believe..."
Note: This post was originally posted on my book blog on 4/28/12

William Monk is the kind of man Heathcliff would be if Heathcliff wasn't violent and cruel

Not long ago, I realized I was up-to-date with Elizabeth George's mysteries (and not only that, I was having some reservations about her books), when I started casting about for a new series to get involved in.

I love Victorian mysteries, so I decided to check out Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series.  I read and enjoyed a couple of them.

But then I read the first in her William Monk series, and I was hooked.

William Monk is the kind of man Heathcliff would be if Heathcliff wasn't violent and cruel. :)  He's dark, brooding, attractive and mysterious.  But he also has a heart, and I fell in love with him immediately.

How do I picture William Monk...maybe a little like this? (Actor Richard Armitage)

The author's troubling history

It wasn't long before I found out that Anne Perry is a convicted murderer herself.  It's complicated, but she was very young when it happened, she has served her time and apparently deeply regrets the whole thing.

Some people have said they wouldn't read Perry's books because of that.  But I actually believe in redemption, second chances, and that people can change.

And darn it, she writes a great book!

If you decided to get into the series, I definitely recommend you start at the beginning, with "The Face of a Stranger."  There's a definite arc to Monk's story, and each book adds to its trajectory.

The story

I found the book riveting from page one.  William Monk wakes up in a hospital with no memory of who is or how he got there.

He has been in a serious carriage accident that has robbed him of his memory.  Eventually he learns that he is
a London police detective...and a very good one, but also a very disliked one.  Apparently the William he used to be was arrogant and downright mean.

He can't tell the police--especially his supervisor, Superintendent Runcorn, who obviously dislikes him and probably for good reason--that he has no memory.  He has to go back to work, because it's the only way he has of earning a living.

Immediately he's thrust into a high-profile murder investigation.  Fascinatingly, it seems his detecting skills haven't suffered too much from the accident--those seem to return instintively.

But obviously he's hampered by the fact that there are people everywhere who know him (and most can't stand him), while he doesn't know them at all.

(By the way, snatches of his memory do return throughout the series, but I'm well into it, and he still doesn't remember everything.)

Monk is a fascinating character, and as we can see his basic goodness and compassion, we like him and are rooting for him to succeed.

Hester Latterly
How do I picture Hester? Maybe a little like an un-glam Kate Winslet, or a younger Emma Thompson?
This book also introduces a character who becomes extremely important to the series--Hester Latterly, a nurse who worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War and who is on sort of a mission to reform the appalling Victorian hospitals and antiquated ideas about nursing and health care.

Outspoken, independent and strong, Hester is the opposite of the kind of woman Monk is usually attracted to, and yet he is drawn to her.

Thanks to the character of Hester, I've learned so many fascinating things about the history of nursing.  In fact, each Monk book has significantly enriched my knowledge about a remarkable time in history.

I'm really enjoying these books, and I dread when I'm finally up to date on them.  They've pretty much comprised my leisure reading for the past couple of months.

I highly recommend them to anyone who loves mysteries and enjoys books set in the Victorian era.

Update: Since I posted this on my book blog in April of last year, I've read all the William Monk books right up to the most recent one which  I'm currently reading, A Sunless Sea.  I'm still just as enthusiastic about the series.

Friday, February 08, 2013

My Life Lately on Instagram

Are you on Instagram? It's a fun way to share pictures with others...and I've found it's also a cool way just to visually chronicle what's going on in your life.  Here are some of the pictures I've shared recently.

The Rock River is one of the sights I see when I'm going home from work.  On this night, the fog hovering on the river looked absolutely eerie.

I'm adding more touches of white to my home decor's just so bright and clean.  I spray-painted the vase in this picture. 

A baby at church (Hope Whitehead) was sporting these adorable shoes, and I couldn't resist taking a picture.

My mom gave me this zebra top, which I love! Yesterday I decided to add some hot pink to the mix.  (Yes, I'm ready for spring!)

What you call a GPOY (gratuituous picture of yourself). :) 

For some reason, I like to mark the turning of a page on my Austin, TX calendar at work.  This one boasts a  nice shot of the Texas capitol.

This one tickled my funny bone.  I imagined a gas station named in honor of road rage. Corny? Yep.

Another desk shot...showcasing some of the things that provide a nice little British vibe to my workspace.

Do you Instagram? Tell me about it!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Oh How Pinteresting: Duchess Kate Style

I love Kate Middleton...or more correctly, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.  Her style is classy and elegant, and she is gorgeous is a girl-next-door way.

Of course, she's now expecting a royal heir, so I'm sure soon we'll get to see how she styles a baby bump. :)

  Pinterest is a great place to find pictures of Kate.  I'm sharing a few today as I link up with The Vintage Apple's "Oh, How Pinteresting"!

Source: via Cindy on Pinterest

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