Reading


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?

Selection criteria for an annual “best of” list is kinda squishy, especially when it comes to books. We all have our fave authors, genres and styles, right? If a book made it onto my “best of” list, it had to include:

1. Rich, robust writing that’s a cut above.

2. A creative, clever plot that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go until The End. The story had to be powerful, poignant, or unusually memorable. Even better: all of the above.

3. Three dimensional characters that are lively, intriguing, and powerful. The type you don’t forget after you close the book.

4. Bonus points for a fresh approach on an old topic, a unique perspective, or inspiration as sound as sterling.

So here’s my totally unscientific, 100% subjective list of Best Reads of 2019. (Not every title on this list was published in 2019. It’s just the year I read it, okay?)

In no particular order, here are my top reads of 2019, by category:

MOST INSPIRING :

Bòrn Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds, Joy Adamson

My Pride and Joy: An Autobiography, George Adamson

The Winter Pony, Iain Lawrence

Tuesdays With Morrie, Mitch Ablom

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris

Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight

MOST CREATIVE & ORIGINAL:

One of Our Thursdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde

Flame in the Mist, Renee Adieh

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of 4 Sisters, 2 Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy – Jeanne Birdsall

Out of my Mind, Sharon Draper

Maze Runner, James Dashner

The Prey, Andrew Fukuda

I Am Still Alive, Kate Alice Marshall

A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean. I’ve read this before, but I appreciated it more the second time through.

BEST HISTORICAL FICTION:

Sky in the Deep, Adrienne Young

At the Mountain’s Edge, Genevieve Graham

Making Bombs for Hitler, Stolen Girl, and The War Below, Marsha Skrypuch

BEST NARRATIVE NONFICTION:

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All, Various

Spencer’s Mountain, Earl Hamner (A novel, but with a strong narrative voice)

‘NEW’ AUTHORS OF NOTE (In no particular order. List not exhaustive)

Will Hobbs

James Dashner

Genevieve Graham

Lauren Tarsis

BEST NON-FICTION

The Case Against Socialism, Rand Paul

The Library Book, Susan Orlean

No Safe Spaces – Dennis Prager, et.al.

FAITHFUL FAVES:

Max Lucado, Scott O’Dell, Gary Paulsen and Sarah Sund. Also Ingrid Paulson and Richard Paul Evans. Karen Kingsbury. Debbie Macomber. And I don’t think I’ve ever met a book I didn’t like by C.W. Anderson, Walt Morey, or Maurice Sendak.

I’m working on a TBR list for 2020. What do you recommend? Holler in the Comments!

Reposting from 2018 in honor of Derby Day and the 145th Run for the Roses!

***

“Inevitable.” Isn’t that a great word? Learned it from Mom the other day. As in, the 144st annual Run for the Roses is coming up on May 5. So debates about who was the Greatest Thoroughbred of All Time are… inevitable.

Or so I’m told.

A few other things I learned:

The “Run for the Roses” is also known as The Kentucky Derby. The Derby is always run on the first Saturday in May. It’s the first jewel in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Why do I care about Thoroughbred racing? Well, I don’t. Not really. But Mom does!

She’s been reading a Walter Farley book about one of the greatest champions to ever set hooves on a race track: Man O’War. Along with legendary Triple Crown winner Secretariat, Man O’War is a top contender for Greatest Thoroughbred of All Time honors.

Back to the Farley book.

Man O’War’s remarkable life unfolds through the eyes of fictional stable boy Danny Ryan. Mom says the story is nearly as powerful and compelling as the great Thoroughbred himself. I’m not sure what the means. But it sounds good.

Here’s Mom’s review of Farley’s Man O’ War.

So when Kentucky Derby time rolls around each May, the comparisons between Man O’ War and another great champion, Triple Crown Winner (1973) Secretariat, are inevitable. At least according to Mom. Which horse gets the nod for Horse of the Century? Depends on who you ask. And what day it is.

Both possessed blinding speed. Both ran challengers off their feet. Both broke records. Both have great stories.

So whether your vote for The Greatest goes to Secretariat or Man O-War, a few things are for sure:

1) May is the perfect month for awesome horse stories!

2) Any story by Walter Farley is a great story. Inevitably.

3) Churchill Downs promises another great Run for the Roses this Saturday. (“Run for the noses”? I always kinda thought that was when Mom calls me in for dinner. But I may be wrong about that.)

4) One of the finest athletes to ever set hooves on a race track, Man O’War remains a Champion for the Ages. Just like Walter Farley.

Is it dinner time yet?

Update – May 5: Congratulations to the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner, Justify!

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