Tuesday, April 28, 2020

You and Me and Us by Alison Hammer

Publication: William Morrow, Hardcover/Trade Paperback/Ebook, April 2020
Genre: Fiction
Plot: Alexis Gold knows how to put the “work” in working mom. It’s the “mom” part that she’s been struggling with lately. Since opening her own advertising agency three years ago, Alexis has all but given up on finding a good work/life balance. Instead, she’s handed over the household reins to her supportive, loving partner, Tommy. While he’s quick to say they divide and conquer, Alexis knows that Tommy does most of the heavy lifting—especially when it comes to their teenage daughter, CeCe.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Easy Shortbread Thumbprints

Have you noticed that working remotely requires a lot more cookies than working in the office? 


½ cup softened butter

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup apricot or raspberry jam


In a medium bowl, cream together butter and white sugar until smooth. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix in flour until dough comes together. Form dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Make a small hole in the center of each ball, using your thumb or finger, and fill the hole with preserves.   The hole should not expose the cookie sheet!


Bake for 14 to 18 minutes at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)  in preheated oven, or until lightly browned.  Let cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet.


Delicious and very quick to make!   This was adapted from an AllRecipes version and some of those bakers recommended putting the cookies in the refrigerator or freezer for ten minutes before baking so they are rounder than flatter.   I suspect that is the result of using all butter, which is essential for shortbread.  Butter is an emulsifier and it makes cookies tender.  It also adds in the crispy-around-the-edges element, which you can see in my photo.  Adding too much butter can cause the cookies to be flat and greasy, however.  If I double the recipe in the future, I might try using ¾ butter and ¼ margarine.  

The original recipe called for almond extract instead of vanilla.  I have never owned any almond extract but some will recall that it features prominently in the Beany Malone books.  Over several books, it seems like she will never run out of almond extract: 

Johnny offered to run up to Downey’s drugstore for more, but Beany said firmly, “Not you, I’ll go.”  As though Johnny could buy a few candle holders.  He’d come back with five dozen.  Wasn’t Beany still using the pint bottle of almond extract he had bought over three years ago when a recipe had called for a few drops of almond extract?

Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday's Bookshelf Traveling

I liked Judith's idea at Reader in the Wilderness of visiting a bookshelf that hasn’t been getting a lot of attention so gazed around the room where I sit most often – this particular shelf sometimes gets ignored because it has the much-read-and-referenced Betsy-Tacy books on the shelf above and the almost equally beloved Beany Malone and Elswyth Thane books on the two shelves below!  I am not sure how this happened.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Love, Jacaranda by Alex Flinn, a retelling of Daddy Long Legs

Title: Love, Jacaranda
Author:  Alex Flinn
Publication: HarperTeen, Hardcover, July 2020
Genre: YA
Plot: Jacaranda Abbott is a foster kid with a voice.  While working as a cashier at the Publix grocery store in Florida, she makes up and belts out a song for an elderly customer and it goes viral. When she is offered a scholarship to attend a performing arts boarding school by a mysterious benefactor, she knows what an incredible opportunity this is but is worried people will find out her mother is in prison.  School is hard work but fulfilling and Jacaranda, now calling herself Jackie, is determined to take advantage of every opportunity.   She is happy but once she starts dating a millionaire’s son who seems sensitive and caring she wonders what will happen if he finds out her secret.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Five Things

Dr. Amy Acton, the Health Official flattening the curve in Ohio, took time out to say that Laura Ingalls Wilder helped her get through a very difficult childhood.

My newly crafted mask is not unattractive but slides down the back of my head, although I followed the specs.   A paper bag would be easier to wear!   I am not speedy enough to equip medical professionals but have made a few for family.  I doubt my nephew was thrilled to receive a mask for his 15th birthday but he politely admired it and put it on (taking a wary glance at his reflection in a nearby window) (it wasn’t his only gift).

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery - #1920Club

Publication: McClelland & Stewart, Hardcover, 1920
Genre: Children’s fiction
This was the edition at my library
The #1920Club is hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings who share blogger reviews of books published that year.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Great Impersonation by E. Philips Oppenheim - #1920Club

Title: The Great Impersonation
Author:  E. Phillips Oppenheim
Publication: Little, Brown & Co., 1920
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Setting: 1913 East Africa, England

About the Author: E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866 – 1946) was a English novelist, acclaimed for his thrillers, of which this is the most renowned, selling over 1,000,000 copies in its first year and inspiring several movies over time.  Oppenheim worked in the leather industry for many years and, interestingly, met his wife in Easthampton, Massachusetts while traveling for work in 1892 (Easthampton, about a 90-minute drive from my home, is better known for textiles than leather).

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Top of the World by Ethel M. Dell - #1920Club

Title: The Top of the World
Author:  Ethel M. Dell
Publication: Putnam, hardcover, 1920
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Author:  This seemed like a good choice for the #1920 Club, especially at a time when my library is closed (sorrow). Dell (1881 – 1939) was a bestselling British romance writer, who wrote more than 30 novels and several short stories from 1911 to 1939, thus was an important contributor to this genre.  I first came across her in the Harvard library when I was ostensibly studying 16th-century History and Literature but easily distracted by the unexpected fiction I found in the stacks.  I read at least one book by Dell and all the Elinor Glyn I found, as I had once enjoyed a book by her granddaughter called Don’t Knock the Corners Off

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Spring of the Year by Elfrida Vipont

Title:  The Spring of the Year (Haverard Family #3)
Author:  Elfrida Vipont
Illustrator: T.R. Freeman
Publication: Oxford University Press, hardcover, 1957
Genre: Children’s/series
Plot: The Spring of the Year continues the story of the Haverard family featured in The Lark in the Morn and The Lark on the Wing but focuses on Kit Haverard’s niece, Laura.  Laura is the fourth and sometimes difficult child of Kit’s older brother Richard and his wife Sylvia (aka Flip), the prefect who was kind to Kit when she was being bullied at Heryot.  Richard is an academic like his father and has just got a department chair at a university in Fairleigh, so the family is reluctantly leaving Oxford. Heading to Fairleigh to house-hunt, they detour to St. Merlyon, a big village with a small but inviting Quaker Meeting House and a beautiful Priory Church.  Laura and her brother Christopher are enchanted by the area and attracted to the house for sale next to Ye Olde Priory Cake and Bunne Shoppe.  Soon, the Haverards have moved in.   While the twins, Richenda and Philippa (born in The Lark on the Wing), are at boarding school at Heryot and brainy Mary at the local grammar school, Laura and her younger brother Christopher attend the village school with Kate Whittacker, whose mother runs the tea shop.   The move takes place in late summer and spring is eventful, with the grammar school examination for Laura and Kate, a local drama production in which Laura gets a significant part, and a growing friendship with Peter Bellamy, haunted by the death of his parents in an auto accident. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: From Stasiland to The Parent Trap

The award-winning Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder is this month’s starting point for Six Degrees of Separation, which is organized by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.   The idea is to start with the same title, add six books, and see where you wind up. Kate's blog has links to other chains.

Stasiland is nonfiction by an Australian author which sounds interesting but the libraries that own copies locally are closed so it will have to wait.  I see the book is taught in the history department of Dean College which is part of my library network.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Lark on the Wing by Elfrida Vipont

Title: The Lark on the Wing (Haverard Family #2)
Author: Elfrida Vipont
Publication: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1970 (original UK publication 1950)
Genre: Middle-grade fiction/series
US cover

Plot: When Kit Haverard finishes school, she finally knows that she wants to study singing professionally but her overbearing cousin Laura insists she take a secretarial course instead so Kit can eventually help her father with his history books (query: who has been doing this all these years?  Laura?  Is Professor Haverard paying a secretary?).  Eventually, Kit does escape to London where she obtains a secretarial job at Quaker headquarters and an apartment (a fourth-floor walk-up but it’s in the very nice Marylebone neighborhood which I visited on my last trip to London - good luck affording it these days) which she shares with childhood friends Helen and Pony.  Next door are Bob, a colleague of Miles and his younger brother Felix, who also sings.   Kit arranges lessons with her mother’s old music teacher, Papa Andreas, who is retired but still works with a few favorite students (he also seems to have quite the ménage living at his little house near Kensington Palace: his cousin Tante Anna; Lotte, the mysterious cook/housekeeper; and Miss Fishwick, who taught Kit piano at Heryot, and is an accomplished pianist).  Kit’s friend Terry Chauntesinger has become a highly regarded singer: