The Top 10 (or so) Books to Read in Winter

As I write this, it’s about 30 degrees outside my window. I know, I know. Not exactly the frozen tundra, but it’s still cold. The fireplace is kicking out heat and pretty soon I’ll bundle up to take my dog for a walk. She loves the cold–in fact, she’ll lie down on the chilly ground outback and just survey her kingdom for hours.

Today’s weather has me thinking about books set in the wintertime. This weather is perfect for curling up on the sofa and reading. My list isn’t limited to novels; there are books for grown-ups, books for children, and books that combine the best of both worlds.

So without further ado, I present you (in no particular order) with my list for the top 10 books to read during the winter:

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that I read this book last year. It was haunting. In the several months that have passed since I finished the novel, I’ve come to regard it even more highly. It’s the story of a couple who are blessed with a magical child in early twentieth-century Alaska. You can read my review here.

 

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

I read this quite some time ago, but it has stayed with me. It’s a beautiful story told, in part, almost like a fairy tale (albeit a very dark fairy tale). It spans decades and has its roots in the starvation of Leningrad. It’s fascinating and spellbinding, and you’ll remember it long after you read it.

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

There’s a reason this book has been read by millions, made into a movie, and spawned countless imitations: it’s really that good. Set in a magical kingdom of eternal winter, it’s the ultimate tale of good versus evil. Younger readers appreciate the action and the family drama that unfolds; adults can appreciate the more subtle messages and dark humor in the story.

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

You know the story: the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future visit the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on the night before Christmas, prompting Mr. Scrooge to learn a valuable lesson about kindness and generosity. If you’ve never read the original by Dickens himself, do yourself a favor and read it. The language is flowery, much more so than modern novels, but there’s something about reading the words Dickens wrote that makes the story even better.

 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Set in Russia, the coldest of cold places, this book examines the life of Anna, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who refuses to let that be her destiny. As she attempts to build a life with her lover, she faces scorn, ridicule, and social norms that force her to make a devastating choice. Spoiler alert: as with much of Russian literature, this book does not have a happy ending.

 

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Full disclosure: The Long Winter and the rest of the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder have been among my favorites since I was old enough to read them. This one is especially exciting because it tells the story of one particularly bad winter in the Dakota Territory, when one blizzard after another culminates in a shortage of food, fodder for the animals, and even firewood. It’s thrilling to read about how the people of the territory managed to survive.

 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

This was one of my favorite books to read to my kids when they were little, but you don’t have to be little to enjoy it. A young girl and her father go owling, hoping to see one of the magnificent creatures swoop by in the moonlit darkness. The illustrations are exquisite and the story is timeless.

 

Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams and Jean Stoick

This book, comprised of gorgeous photographs and simple words, is a love story to nature. There’s a stranger in the woods and the animals need to determine whether the stranger means them harm. Spoiler alert: the stranger brings only good.

 

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

David Sedaris has been called “one of the funniest writers alive” by Economist (because who knows humor better than economists??) and this collection of essays/short stories is an entertaining introduction to Sedaris if you’re not already familiar with his writing. Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be a Macy’s elf? Check it out.

 

And last, but not least, there is a tie between

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

 

 

and Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M. C. Beaton

 

You knew there was going to be an Agatha on this list, didn’t you? It was a toss-up between Dame Agatha Christie and another Agatha (Agatha Raisin, nosy and forthright brainchild of M. C. Beaton), so I chose to include both.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is classic Hercule Poirot, with the great detective trying to figure out whodunit in the murder of a millionaire businessman. The murdered man is surrounded by enemies on the Orient Express, a luxurious sleeper train that has become stuck in a huge snowdrift, so Poirot has his work cut out for him.

Kissing Christmas Goodbye follows the antics of fireball Agatha Raisin, Cotswolds detective and middle-aged divorcee, as she attempts to curate the perfect Christmas while trying to find the murderer of an elderly widow. M. C. Beaton, who passed away only three weeks ago, is a master at writing cozy mysteries.

What wintertime books do you recommend?

Until next time,

Amy

 

This is How Eye Roll…

Many thanks to my aunt for catching the mistake in my last post.

For those of you who lost sleep last night thinking you had missed Book 3 in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery series, fear not.

Be My Valencrime  is Book 3 in the series, and Ghouls’ Night Out will be Book 4.

       

I know I feel better.

Until next time,

Amy

Out with the Old…

As 2019 draws to a close, I’d like to wish everyone a happy and healthy 2020! Normally on the last Tuesday of the month, I like to share what I’ve been reading. I’ll get back to that schedule in January, but today I’m going to share a few of my (many) New Year’s resolutions.

FYI, I have a love-hate relationship with resolutions and there have been years I’ve refused to make any, but this year I’m determined to make them, stick to them, and succeed at them.

First, I am committed to releasing four books in 2020, beginning with Be My Valencrime (Book 4 in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery Series) and including Ghouls’ Night Out (Book 5 in the Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery Series), Dutch Treat (Book 2 in the Libraries of the World Mystery Series), and Cape Island Menace, a tentatively-titled historical mystery set in Cape May, New Jersey. This will be the first book in a new series set in Cape May.

Photo courtesy of pixabay/alexas_fotos

Second, I want to eat a more plant-based diet. My family has done pretty well with eliminating meat for at least one or two meals a week, and I would love to continue the trend and make it three or four meals a week. This only includes dinners, by the way. Breakfast for us is almost always meat-free, and lunches are meat-free about half the time.

This is neither my house nor my backyard. 😉

Third, by the time 2020 is over, I WILL have a plan to landscape my backyard. I may not start the work, but a plan will be in place. More on this later.

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I would love to read about your resolutions, the goals you’re setting for yourselves, and your reflections of the year that’s coming to an end, so please share in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Amy

The 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs and Books

Do you have a blog? A website? Please share your links by clicking the link below to help some special animals this holiday season. And many thanks to Hugh Roberts for his generosity.

 

via The 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs and Books

First Tuesday Recipes for November

It’s that time of year again…the time when the calendar is in fast-forward from Halloween through the New Year. It’s a busy season, but try to slow down every now and remember to be thankful!

This week I’ve got a breakfast recipe that’s simple and delicious, a side dish, and an easy weeknight soup using convenience ingredients.

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Favorite Oatmeal

One serving of plain oatmeal, prepared according to package directions

1/4 c. half & half

1 banana

1 T. (or to your taste) brown sugar

Prepare oatmeal as directed. Place in a bowl. Pour half & half over oatmeal, but do not stir. Slice banana onto top. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar until golden and fragrant. Stir and enjoy!

If you don’t have a kitchen torch, place the oatmeal in a broiler-safe bowl, layer ingredients as above, and broil until sugar is golden and bubbly. Keep a close watch on it!

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Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Sour Cherries

This recipe comes courtesy of Chef Ed Daggers of the Atlantic City Country Club, with his permission.

3 med. acorn squash

2/3 c. dried cherries

1 c. frozen tart red cherries

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

1 t. grated lemon peel

1/4 t. nutmeg

1/2 t. salt

1/4 c. lemon juice

3 T. butter

Cut each squash in half and discard seeds. Place squash, cut side up, in two 13 x 9″ greased baking dishes.

Combine the dried and tart cherries, brown sugar, lemon peel, nutmeg, and salt. Spoon into squash halves. Sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, or until squash is tender.

***

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 pkg. Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice original recipe (discard spice packet)

1 c. water

2 cans (14 oz. each) chicken broth

1-2 carrots, shredded

10 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed

onion flakes

1 can cream of chicken soup

8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese

In medium saucepan, bring rice, water, and chicken broth to a boil. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Add carrots, broccoli, and onion flakes; simmer for 5 minutes.

Add canned soup and cream cheese; simmer until thickened.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for October

It’s officially fall and despite what the thermometer says, I know cooler weather is coming. (It’s supposed to be almost 90F here tomorrow…ugh.)

Fall is my favorite season for lots of reasons, but food is one of them. I love using apples and apple cider, pears, Brussels sprouts, squash, parsnips, and broccoli when I cook, and this is the best time of year to enjoy them at their finest.

The recipes I’m going to share this month are a simple side dish, a pasta dish, and a quick bread. Let’s cook!

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Cheesy Brussels Sprouts

This recipe is one I made up, so the measurements are approximations. It’s easy, though, so you can tweak it to your tastes.

1 c. Brussels sprouts (I use frozen because they’re smaller than fresh), thawed if frozen

1 T. olive oil

1 T. butter

1/4 t. salt

1 palmful grated Parmesan cheese

If you use frozen Brussels sprouts, pat them dry with paper towels once they’re thawed. If using fresh, just wash them.

Halve the Brussels sprouts.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat until the butter has melted. Add Brussels sprouts to the pan, cut-side down. Sprinkle with salt. Cook for about 4 minutes, without flipping the sprouts, until the cut sides are beginning to brown. You’ll have to check them, since cooking times vary depending upon the size of your sprouts.

Flip the sprouts and continue cooking until they are browned all over. Add the Parmesan cheese to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the cheese starts to melt and stick to the sprouts. The cheese should start to become golden. Serve immediately.

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Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

This is one of my favorite recipes EVER. Everyone likes it and it’s crazy easy to make.

1 lb. your favorite pasta or 18 oz. cheese tortellini
1 T. butter
1 sm. shallot, finely chopped
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
pinch of nutmeg
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve some of the pasta water (about 1/2 cup) before draining.
While the pasta cooks, heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until slightly soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the cream; bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to low; simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and cook until thick, about 1 more minute. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with the reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve sauce over pasta and wait for the compliments to roll in.
***
Apple Bread
1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 c. peeled, cored apples, finely chopped
2 T. buttermilk
2 c. flour
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/3 c. chopped walnuts or pecans, opt.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift dry ingredients (I use a whisk) and add to the butter mixture alternately with apples and buttermilk. Fold in nuts, if using. Pour into greased bread pan (regular size) and let stand for 20 minutes.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. It’s best to wait until the next day to slice and eat the bread, but if you can’t wait that long, I completely understand.
Enjoy!
Until next time,
Amy
P.S. Remember that I’m always open to printing recipes from readers! If you’d like to submit a recipe, just email me at amymreadeauthor@gmail.com.
P.P.S. I know the spacing in this post is off, but I don’t have the hours upon hours it was taking to fix it. Sorry about that!

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday of the month–time again for some good news to take you into October with a smile.

The story I’ve chosen for this month is full of great news for travelers who stay at any of the hotels owned by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG–the parent company of Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites, and many others). Over the next two years, in all its 5,600 properties around the world, IHG will be phasing out the miniature bottles of bathroom amenities in favor of providing guests these amenities from bulk-sized containers.

This isn’t the first time IHG has provided an example of sustainability for the hotel industry–back in 2018, it committed to removing single-use plastic straws from all its properties worldwide.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a worldwide blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

Your cohosts for this month are Sylvia Stein, Eric Lahti, Shilpa Garg, and Lizbeth Hartz. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!