Monday, May 30, 2016

Summer Reading Challenge

Happy Memorial Day! School is out and we have been partying all weekend. I scheduled this to go up this morning but it didn't work. I'm grabbing a few minutes before our guests come over tonight to publish it manually. I had hoped to have a few more from my New Year's list before putting up my list for summer reading. But I'm just behind. And with that in mind, I'm quite doubtful this is all really going to happen before Labor Day, but it's summertime again and that means it's also time again for Modern Mrs. Darcy's Reading Challenge.

A book published this year- It's going to have to be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling.

*A book you can finish in a day- George loves the book Smith of Wootten Major by J.R.R. Tolkien. It's only 44 pages.

*A book you've been meaning to read- I picked most of these for my lists at the beginning of the year the last two years, but I have had a book on my library list for later for a while simply because it is the first in a series and I was waiting to carve out time for the whole series. Apparently, it is a series about a Southerner named Miss Julia written by a North Carolina author.  First things first though, it is probably best to read one before deciding I must read all. The first book in this series from the South is called Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller- We have a little independent bookstore just down the road from us that I have always meant to visit. So this looked like the perfect opportunity to check it out. George and I went together and planned on buying a book for each of us. Unfortunately, the man in the store didn't even greet us when we came in, not even after we greeted him. It was very awkward being the only two people in the store besides this "Hunter" fellow- we know his name because he answered the phone while we were there- who kept looking at the clock the whole time (we got there about 20 minutes until close). We ended up leaving empty handed and without getting our recommendations. I believe there are a couple of local bookstores in Ames so I may check one of those out-- maybe later on in the summer after I've read everything else and have a little bit of a "mood" I'm going for. It was a neat little bookstore though- I just wouldn't tell anyone to go if  they were looking for recommendations or service on any level-- which, if we don't want service, we'll order the book for 40% less off Amazon!

A book you should have read in school- I decided this one should be on I should of read in college instead of high school like last year. And I needed this incentive. I chose Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner.

*A book chosen for you by your spouse- George recommended Smith of Wootten Major and also The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman as well as Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. In the end, he pushed hardest for Never Let Me Go.

*A book published before you were born- I have a list full of classics this year, most published a hundred years or more before the year I was born. It is not unusual at all for me to read a book published before I was born. However, what is unusual for me is to read something from time closer to when I was born. And because I was born in December of 1977, I thought it would be interesting to look at the bestsellers from 1977, which would, in fact, have been published before I was born- only very shortly before I was born. As it turns out, there was not a Pulitzer Prize awarded for fiction in 1977, and there were not many books on the New York Times fiction bestseller list in 1977. The list includes a mere five titles for the year, one of which is Tolkien's Silmarillion, and another, which held the number one spot for over three months, was The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. Remembering that The Thorn Birds was made into a miniseries in the 80's only swayed my leaning heavily ;) The Thorn Birds, at over 630 pages, is my choice.

*A book that was banned at some point- as a Southerner, I feel like it is appropriate that I should read Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe which was banned by the Confederate States of America.

A book you previously abandoned- When I was reading Ethan Frome, I was struck by some of the similarities it had with Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. Of course, I don't remember Jayber Crow very well because I never finished it. Time to remedy that.

*A book you own but have never read- This is annoying because I already put these on my list for the last two years. But I did get a book last summer that I never quite got to. This summer, with our impending move, seems like a good time to get to it. It's The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith.

A book that intimidates you- This category is cringe worthy for me. Because I knew instantly which book it is that intimidates me so much that I have been putting it off for over 15 years. I didn't want to even say anything because I'm just that intimidated. But it's time to just bite the bullet. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Ugh! At 1200 pages, I'm so very intimidated.

A book you've already read at least once- Here's a much needed treat after 1200 pages of French Revolution. Betsy Tacy by Maude Hart Lovelace. I'll just do the whole series I think. Maybe not by Labor Day, but this will be great. These are favorites. And I will make myself wait until after Les Mis is completed.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Links



George recently subscribed me to a daily lectionary which has made my daily Bible reading way easier. This site emails me an Old Testament passage, a passage from the Gospels, a passage from one of the epistles, and a passage from the Psalms every day. As a horribly indecisive person, the fact that the passages have been chosen for me is glorious. I don't have to decide where to go next when I finish a book, I don't have to decide when to stop reading each day or remember where I was reading the day before. Even cross references are given to me for reading the following day- which has been a cool and unexpected.  And then of course, I don't often forget to read when I have an email come straight to me.

My friend Jessie sent me a link to a sermon series a little while ago that has really blessed me. I have since passed links on to many friends, and become a "fan" of the pastor. The pastor's name is Greg Thompson and he is at Trinity Presbyterian in Charlottesville, Virginia and the sermon series is called Streams in the Desert.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Easter Tradition

Apart from the yearly shopping trip for Easter dresses, one of the only Easter traditions we really had in my family growing up was lemon cake for dessert. It just seems so springy and refreshing, doesn't it?! Of course, in those days, we bought a box of lemon cake mix and a can of lemon frosting. Since I have graduated to being able to make cakes from scratch, I have made several types of lemon cakes, and not just at Easter. I have posted the recipe for a favorite in the past.

I first made this recipe about four years ago when we went down to Alabama to stay with our good friends at their house on the Black Warrior River. So I was surprised not to be able to find it here when I looked to make it again for Easter this year. George has requested it several times but I guess I went back to my Barefoot at Home cookbook for the recipe. Barefoot at Home has a version that calls for yogurt and oil, but this version from the Food Network calls for butter and buttermilk which to me is preferable.

Lemon Cake

1/2 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 c. sugar, divided
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c. grated lemon zest- from about 5 large lemons
3c. flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4c. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4c. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 350. Grease two loaf pans and line with parchment (allow overlap on sides to lift cakes out later).
- Cream butter and 2 cups of sugar in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy, about five minutes.
- With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time and the zest.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
- Combine buttermilk, 1/4c. lemon juice, and vanilla in a separate small bowl.
- Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
- Divide batter evenly into loaf pans and bake for 45-60 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan on wire racks for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, lift the cakes out of the pans and place on a cooling rack inside a rimmed baking sheet, then spoon syrup over top.
- To make the syrup, combine remaining 1/2c. sugar and 1/2c. lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
-Spoon syrup over tops of warm cakes and allow cakes to cool completely

glaze
2c. confectioner's sugar
3 1/2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

- stir confectioner's sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl until smooth
- drizzle glaze over top of cooled cakes and let drip down the sides

Monday, February 29, 2016

Cookie of the Month

So already this month, the kids have gotten used to there being a new batch of cookies every week. I even bought my first cookie jar (it's just a basic 1 gallon Anchor Hocking glass jar- but I have the 2 gallon jars for my sugar and flour so it "goes")!

And speaking of jars, the first week this month, I just made a mix from a jar someone gave us as a gift for Christmas. It was a gingersnap mix and all I had to do was add the butter and eggs and bake. I don't know what was in the mix, but I do have a great recipe for gingersnaps.

The second week of the month started with Superbowl Sunday. Amabel had liked the last M&M cookie recipe so much that her request was for monster cookies which I had not made in years.  We had some good friends over to watch the Superbowl and the peanut butter-oatmeal-M&M- chocolate chip cookies were a hit! They're one I really need to stay away from because I have absolutely no self control when they are around. Just to be clear, I don't put raisins in mine. Why would I do that? I just add more M&M's and chocolate chips to make the difference.

The third week of the month Amabel made another request - chocolate crinkle cookies. This recipe comes from the Williams Sonoma Kids Baking cookbook that I got a few years back when Borders went out of business. It's out of print, but I just love that it has basic recipes for basic baked goods. I use the recipe for pizza dough often. And this recipe is great too-- no chilling the dough or rolling out dough-- I think I've even made it on Sunday morning before church.

The last week of the month I was out of sorts. I just couldn't find any inspiration. Amabel was also out of sorts and really just wanted cookie dough. And the best kind of cookie dough, in both Amabel's and my opinions is chocolate chip cookie dough. Still slightly unsatisfied with the Nestle Tollhouse recipe and with no M&Ms on hand, I searched for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe and did find one that I liked, but the dough wasn't quite what we wanted. It lacked enough salt for one thing, and the inclusion of cornstarch in the recipe weirded me out a little. The recipe was fairly similar in many ways to last month's cookie of the month- down to the pre-chill (though only for 20 minutes in the fridge- I'm starting to think some sort of chill time is a must) and the two teaspoons of vanilla. However, the cookies themselves were also not quite salty enough. They were great though, and we all enjoyed them. However, I think the search continues for a new go to.

And therefore, the cookie of the month is chocolate crinkle cookies- simple, easy, soft, chocolatey, and delicious. I can't believe I've never posted them before now!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. Dutch processed cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar

- Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
- Scrape down sides of mixer and blend in vanilla and eggs, one at a time.
- Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl.
- Mix the flour mixture into butter mixture
- One at a time, scoop out rounded tablespoons of dough and roll into balls, then roll each ball into confectioners' sugar to coat.
- Place balls on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart and bake until crackled and puffed, about 10 minutes, at 350.
- Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet set on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before removing cookies to cooling racks to cool completely

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