Reading


The Edge of Nowhere, 2nd edition

By C.H. Armstrong

Penner Publishing, 2015 (1st edition)

C.H. Armstrong’s The Edge of Nowhere is set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl days of the “Dirty Thirties.” The protagonist is a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners spitfire named Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene.

Victoria is a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks. Now elderly, she has a tumor on her pancreas. So the novel opens with a letter. It’s penned by Victoria and addressed to her grandchildren. Dated November 12, 1992, the epistle begins:

“I know you refer to me as ‘the meanest woman you’ve ever known.’”

The rest of the book – 261 pages – fills in the blanks. What emerges is the fictionalized story of a woman who refused to be a victim.

Here are 5 Reasons Why The Edge of Nowhere Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat:

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In his novel, A River Runs Through It, author Norman Maclean struggles to make sense of what happened to his family in the early 20th century and why. Set in rural Montana, this hauntingly evocative novel was made into a major motion picture in 1992. It’s directed by Robert Redford.

Lynda Cohen Loigman’s The Wartime Sisters echoes themes from A River Runs Through It. Especially the final scene featuring Tom Skerritt as Norman’s pastor father. The last message we hear Rev. Maclean deliver is called We Can Love Completely:

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Someone has finally come up with an idea I can sink my teeth into! Mom calls it Read Across America Day! Mom is so excited! So I! Am! Excited! Too!

Mom says this special day is a nationwide observance. We’re giving you a little head start. Cuz it coincides with the March 2 birthday of Dr Seuss. You know. That “hat cat” and Grinch guy. (Nobody’s perfect.)

Anyway, Read Across America Day is our kinda day! Yeah, Lassie! One whole day to focus on my favorite two things in the world: reading and books. (Well, okay. Maybe a nice, thick New York steak, too.) So, here are…

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And what better way to ring in the day than with a love story?

Now, I could line the bottom of my bird cage (if I had one) with most of what passes for “romance” stories these days. That’s not what this list is about. You won’t find any cheap dime store boiler plate trash here. This list focuses on timeless love stories that go above and beyond basic romance.

Some of these titles are relatively new. Others have been around for centuries. All reach straight for your heart. Climb in. And settle in to stay. B.Y.O. tissue.

Here are 16 of the most unforgettable love stories of all time, along with memorable quotes. Many have been made into movies. Some might surprise you:

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpiece of love and life among English gentility during the Georgian era. Mr. Bennet is an English gentleman living in Hartfordshire with his overbearing wife, one of the most ridiculous mothers in all literature. Mrs. Bennet’s chief goal in life is to see her five daughters married off and living comfortably. But fate intervenes…

Memorable quote:

“My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”

2. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak

This novel traces the lives and loves of its two tragic protagonists, Yuri Zhivago, a physician and poet, and Larissa Antipova. Pasternak’s epic love story takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and World War II. First published in Italy in 1957.

Memorable quote:

“Oh, what a love it was, utterly free, unique, like nothing else on earth! Their thoughts were like other people’s songs.”

3. A Common Life – Jan Karon

Laughter and wedding bells ring as Father Tim and his artist neighbor, Cynthia, get ready to tie the knot. Finally!

Memorable quote:

“I am not proud, but I am happy; and happiness blinds, I think, more than pride.”

4. Message in a Bottle – Nicholas Sparks

When a woman discovers a tragic love letter in a bottle on a beach, she’s determined to track down its author – and finds much more.

Emotionally intense story of love after loss. Set in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Memorable quote:

“Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul.”

  1. The Princess Bride – William Golding

Six-fingered swordsmen. Murderous princes. Treachery. Gallantry. Sicilians and rodents of unusual size.

Buttercup and Westley’s love story is a classic that not even the Dread Pirate Roberts can sink. Did you know the 1987 movie was based on a book?

Memorable quote:

“As you wish.”

  1. Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls

The powerful, poignant story of the unbreakable bond between a young boy and his two Redbone Hound dogs, ‘Ole Dan and Li’l Ann, reminds us what love really means. Set in the Ozarks during the depths of the Depression.

Once in a lifetime, a story comes along that inspires generations of readers. Where The Red Fern Grows is one of those stories. Bring Kleenex.

Note from Kimber: My personal favorite, friends! Even better than bacon! Mom always wants to snuggle up with this one. I’m a good helper, ya know. But I’m a World Class Snuggler and face-licker!

Memorable quote:

“I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: ‘You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.’”

  1. Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen

Set largely in Kenya, East Africa, this sweeping epic is a story of discovery, loss and love.

Karen Blixen followed her dreams until her dreams became reality. She came to Africa from Denmark to search for something inside herself. There, she discovers a man and a country. And life as she’s never known it.

Blixen published her autobiographical Out of Africa under the nom de plume, Isak Dinesen.

The 1985 movie won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. It stars Meryl Streep as Blixen and Robert Redford as her lover, Dennys Finch-Hatton.

Memorable quote:

“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

  1. The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks

A touching story about what we long for. What we settle for. And who we were meant for. Full of longing and wistfulness. Despair and hope. And unexpected plot twists. Vintage Nicholas Sparks.

“I read to her and she remembers.”

Memorable quote:

“We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has only happened once, and that’s why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I’ll never forget a single moment of it.”

  1. Rome and Juliet – William Shakespeare

Don’t make me explain this.

Memorable quote:

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

10 – 13. The Last Promise, A Perfect Day, The Letter, The Sunflower, – Richard Paul Evans

  1. The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

How a brand new toy becomes Real.

Don’t think this “children’s” classic is a love story? Think again.

Memorable quote:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

  1. Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë

Beloved love story between the plucky orphan and governess Jane Eyre and the dark and brooding Rochester.

Memorable quote:

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

 

16. Bid Time Return – Richard Matheson

A haunting story of the link between a man and a woman that transcends time. The novel upon which Somewhere in Time is based.

My husband rolls his eyes every time I drag out my SIT DVD. I just smile and grab some more chocolate.

This story and the movie that followed starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour prove how little critics know and how even a predictable love story never fails to tug at the heart strings.

An unforgettable John Barry score doesn’t hurt, either.

Memorable quote:

“Come back to me.”

What would you add?

Hello February!

‘Tis the month for love and romance and all things heartfelt. That includes good books and good food! In fact, what better way to kick off Valentine’s month than with pairing some great love stories with great food!

The titles below feature love stories flavored with rich, robust writing. Also links to a culinary idea or two you can savor before, after, or while you’re turning pages.

Some of these titles may be familiar. Some may be new. Some may surprise you. Just don’t get so engrossed in the plot that you neglect to mind the stove, okay?

Ready? Set? Grab your book. Head to the nearest kitchen and Let’s Go!

1. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy – Frances Mayes, 1996.

Chockful of picturesque settings and luscious scenes, this delicious memoir introduces us to Italy via the author’s restoration of an Italian villa, Bramsole. Part autobiography, part history, part travelogue and part cookbook, Mayes treats readers to the sights, sounds, textures, and tastes of the lovely Tuscan countryside and culture on every page, revealing their glory one paragraph at a time. What’s not to love?

Pair With:

Tuscan Style Chicken and White Bean Arugula Salad and crusty bread. For an entire cookbook chockfull of the hearty, rustic fare from central Italy, check out Lori de Mori’s Savoring Tuscany. Que bella! (No movie trailer here. Saw it. Ugh. One of the worst films ever. Don’t waste your time. Read the book instead and savor the author’s love for all things Italian.)

 

  1. The Bridges of Madison County – Robert James Waller, 1992.

I know, I know. Sappy, sappy, sappy. But it’s also one of the best-selling romance novellas of all time.

Set on an Iowa farm in the 1960s, Bridges tells the story of a lonely Italian-American woman (war bride) who meets a traveling photographer while her husband and children are at the state fair for the weekend.

Intense, poignant, and beautifully written, the story became a beloved film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

Call me a sap, but I cried.

 

Pair With:

Grab some tissue and sit down with Robert Kincaid and Francesca Johnson over hearty Iowan fare like tangy Herb Roasted Pork and Fresh Corn Salad or Garlicky Summer Squash & Fresh Corn.

3. Nights in Rodanthe – Nicholas Sparks, 2002.

Abandoned by her husband for a younger woman, 45 year-old Adrienne Willis is struggling to care for her sick father and raise her teenage children alone. She spends the weekend at a North Carolina inn. A storm is brewing. While there, Adrienne meets a divorced father and former surgeon running from his past. Set in Rodanthe, North Carolina.

I’d stock up on tissue ‘fize you.

 

Pair With:

Start with Sparks and end or continue with some favorite North Carolinian fare like Sweet Potato Biscuits and Country Ham or Crook’s Corner Shrimp and Grits. Be sure to save room for some Banana Pudding or Moravian Sugar Cake.

 

  1. Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds – Joy Adamson, 1960.

A profoundly moving story of the remarkable bond between an orphaned lioness, Elsa, and the humans who loved her enough to set her free.

 

Set in Kenya, Born Free is the true story of one of the most heartwarming relationships between humans and animals ever put to print. Beautifully illustrated with evocative photography.

I first read Born Free in 1969. I re-read it again last summer, 50 years later. I still love this story. A true classic.

 

Pair With:

Wind down your Kenyan safari with Elsa and the Adamsons with Kuku Paka (Kenyan Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce) and Githeri (Kenyan Corn & Beans) or Sukuma Wiki (East African Greens Simmered with Tomatoes).

 

  1. Two From Galilee: The Story of Mary and Joseph  – Marjorie Holmes, 1972.

Frightened, alone and in love, a teenage girl and a young carpenter must withstand family conflict and a hostile world in order to carry out a responsibility that will change human history.

A compassionate, evocative tale of divine love for young and old and anyone who finds beauty and wonder in the timeless story of events surrounding the first Christmas. A best-selling classic.

 

Pair With:

Serve up a sumptuous Christmas feast celebrating this book with Dry-Brined Lemon Rosemary Roasted Turkey, Roasted Maple Pears With Cranberries & Thyme, Green Beans With Orange & Almond Gremolata, and Sour Cream Mashed Potaotes and Bacon Crumbs. Or try Pineapple-Glazed Ham.

 

What pairings are your favorite?

 

 

 

Banana pudding image credit: Flickr.

There’s this football thingy going on this Sunday. Apparently it’s a BIG football thingy. Dad’s working on “game day food.” I’m not sure what that means. But if “Game Day” makes the kitchen smell this good, then we should do Game Day every day.

 

Here are five of Dad’s and my favorite snacks and recipes for Super Bowl Sunday. (I don’t really care who’s playing. As long as I get bacon.)

 

 

CRANBERRY COCKTAIL MEATBALLS

(Makes 2 dozen cocktail-sized meatballs)

Flickr

Meatballs

2 lbs. ground beef round

1 cup packed cornflake crumbs

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/3 cup catsup

½ cup finely minced onion

 

Sauce

I can ( 16 oz.) jellied cranberry sauce

1 bottle (12 oz.) chile sauce

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

 

Mix meatball ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into walnut-sized balls. Place in a large square baking pan.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan mix together the sauce ingredients; Stir and simmer until the cranberry sauce melts. Pour over the meatballs and bake, uncovered for 30 minutes.

 

Adapted from Four Midwestern Sisters’ Christmas Book, 1991.

 

 

MOM’S SLOPPY JOES

Flickr

1 lb. ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 lb. frankfurters, sliced

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chili powder

 

In a skillet, lightly cook beef, onion and green pepper.  Drain fat.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Serve open-faced on kaiser or sour dough rolls, or hamburger style.

 

 

CHUNKY CHICKEN CHILI

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup carrot

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup mild salsa

1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce

3 teaspoons chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans

1 green bell pepper, chopped

 

Spray large nonstick saucepan with nonstick cooking spray. Heat over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken, onions, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook and stir until chicken is no longer pink.

 

Stir in salsa, tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin.

 

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in garbanzo beans and bell pepper. Simmer until thoroughly heated.  6 (1.5 cups) servings.

 

Adapted from Classic Pillsbury Cookbooks, Heart Healthy Recipes

 

CREAMY ONION DIP

1.5 cups dairy sour cream

2 Tbsp. dry onion soup mix

½ cup crumbled blue cheese (2 oz.)

Assorted vegetable dippers (celery, carrots, cauliflower or broccoli florets, bell pepper, baby carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes, etc.)

 

In a medium bowl stir together sour cream and dry onion soup mix. Stir in blue cheese. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 48 hours. If desired, sprinkle with snipped parsley just before serving. Serve with veggie dippers. Makes 1.75 cups.

 

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Best Loved Recipes 2006

 

SAUSAGE-CHEESE BALLS

Flickr

1 lb. bulk hot sausage, browned and cooled

1 lb. sharp cheddar, grated

3 cups Bisquick

¾ cup water

 

Combine, shape into 1-inch balls. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, at 350 degrees. Reheats well. Freeze separate, then put into bags. Makes 80 -100.

 

Adapted from Seasoned with Love: A Book of Favorite Recipes compiled by the Joint Heirs Sunday school class of Whittier Hills Baptist Church, April 1984.

 

Mom’s contribution:

Not being a football fan, there’s just one “football book” I can recommend for today: I Am Third, by Gale Sayers.

 

Movies featuring football worth seeing again and again? The Blind Side and Facing the Giants. Two thumbs up for both!

 

What would you add?

 

TTFN!

Mom and Kimber

(And Dad, too)

 

Hello lovers of books and bacon!

Kimber here. I’m taking over for Mom today. Cuz she’s buried in a new book. Again.

But there was this New Year thingy last week. It’s a human thing. Big booms. Silly hats. A nice ham dinner. Bacon. Leftovers…

Wait. Where was I?

Oh yeah. New Year’s.

It seems there’s this Reading Challenge thing around New Year’s. It makes the rounds of the reading world every January. “That’s now,” says Mom. (She’s a genius. Like me.)

Anyway, I’m supposed to ask if you are or will participate in this year’s Reading Challenge? Like, how many books do you plan to read this year?

No Frisbee throwing involved. No special treats. Or bacon. So I’m not really sure what the point is. But I guess some people like to do reading challenging. They like to challenge themselves to read more pages or books than they did last year.

So here are some ideas Mom and I came up with to help you do that. (Well, it was mostly me. Mom helped. A little. She’s read every title recommended. But I did the heavy lifting. You know, snoozing in her lap while she reads. To keep her company. It must work. She read 383 books in 2018. No, really. I was there.)

13 Ways to ROCK Your 2020 Reading Challenge. Read a book:

  1. By a local author

Of course this depends on where you live.

Suggestions (Northwest):

  1. Told from an animal’s POV

Suggestions:

  1. That you can read in one day-ish

Suggestions:

  1. That’s been adapted for the stage, the silver screen, or as a television series

Suggestions:

  1. Set in a place you always wanted to visit or learn more about

Suggestions:

  1. Inspirational/Personal Development

Suggestions:

  1. A cook book (learn some new recipes and enjoy some new food!)

Suggestions:

  1. An award winner

Suggestions:

  1. That was published 50 years ago or more

Suggestions:

  1. An historical novel

Suggestions:

  1. A biography or memoir

Suggestions:

  1. An action/adventure outdoor story or thriller

Suggestions:

  1. Connected to your family heritage or culture

Suggestions:

Whew. Mom wants to keep going. But I think I need a nap. Who’s with me?

Are you doing a 2020 reading challenge?

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