Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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Books I Hope Santa Brings (sort of)

Pssst! Kimber here. I’m makin’ a list. Checkin’ it twice. For Her Momness. Cuz today’s Top Ten Tuesday is Books I Hope Santa Brings.

The things I do for Mom. Sheesh!

You probably already guessed that Mom’s Book Wish List is a mile long. I tried paring it down. It’s still the list equivalent of War and Peace. (You know Mom!)

So I decided to focus on authors instead. Pretty much anything by these authors is gonna be a winner in our house. I’ll probably get extra bacon. So here goes. Any author on this list ranks high on our Wish List:

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11 Ways to Bless Others This Christmas

Turning a corner today to do a little Christmas contemplatin’. It won’t take long. Promise. So pour yourself a hot cuppa and grab up a chair. Put your feet up. And give a listen for a min or two. Ready? Good. Here goes:

Christmas is a time for joy! For family and friends! It’s a time for Child-like wonder and merry-making. But shadows can also hover over the season, intensifying feelings of loneliness or loss.

But…

For those whose family relationships are strained or difficult, the obligatory annual Christmas gathering can feel like getting a root canal. And may be just as dreaded.

For those who’ve lost loved ones, the holidays may accentuate those absences.

Singer/songwriter Matthew West understands this. West came out with a song awhile back that captures both the joy and the sense of loss that can accompany the season: “The Heart of Christmas.”

The Heart of Christmas

It’s a perennial favorite. Give it a listen to see why:

“Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas.”

“Come on and open up your eyes!”

So. While you’re celebrating and making merry this season, can you slow down and remember those who may be struggling?

Here are 11 Ways To Bless Others This Christmas:

🎄Donate to your local food bank
🎄Befriend an elderly neighbor. Just starting a conversation can have a positive impact. You can also offer to help with practical tasks like shopping or dog-walking or getting them to medical appointments safely.
🎄Invite international students over for dinner
🎄Give a generous tip to a friendly customer service worker like a waiter or barista
🎄Buy a homeless person a sandwich and a hot drink
🎄Help someone who’s struggling with their luggage on public transport and/or give up your seat for same
🎄Buy your friend chocolate or another favorite treat when they’re feeling down. Listen more than you talk if they need to vent
🎄Treat a friend to on an outing or a trip to a Christmas tree farm. Serve hot cocoa and cookies afterwards.
🎄Be extra patient with retail workers, many of whom are stressed and harried this time of year. Don’t forget to thank them and say “Merry Christmas”!
🎄Bake and deliver homemade goodies to your local police and/or fire departments with a note of thanks
🎄Forgive.

What would you add?

 

 

This post was originally published here in 2019. We thought it deserved it encore.


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17 Books To Cozy Up With This Winter

Mom is at the window, looking outside. Temperatures are dropping. Not low enough for Snowmaggedon. Here on the Olympic Peninsula, we have mostly rain. And rain. And more rain. Think Noah.

Weather like this, Mom insists on dragging out The Dreaded Orange Raincoat. Why does she do this? Is she averse to getting soaked to the collar, crashing through every puddle in sight, or galumphing around town up to her nose in rain water?

Me, I’m fine with all of the above. (I am part Lab, you know. As in water dog.)

Anyway, Mom says, “When the weather outside is frightful, the fire is even more delightful when it’s paired with a good book!” I don’t know what that means. But if it gets me out of wearing The Dreaded Orange Raincoat, I’m good!

What?

 

For today’s Top Ten Tuesday, here are 17 Books To Cozy Up With This Winter. Each title has something to say about Christmas, snow, winter adventures or settings, or all of the above. (As long as we lose the raincoat, okay?)

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Who’s #1 & A New Reading RECORD!

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!

Kimber here. Her Momness  – aka: ‘Ole Bleary Eyes – would send Christmas greetings herself. But she’s just settled her brains for a long winter’s nap.

“Why is Mom napping during The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?!” you ask.

Good question.

25 in 8

Short answer: Mom just bested her own book reading record.  The new trophy reads: 25 Books in 8 Days.

#1, Baby!!

I’m not makin’ this up.  In fact, she wears the crown for Top Reviewer at Reedsy/Discovery this month. And I don’t mean in the top ten. Nope. Mom is THE Top Reviewer. As in, #1.

See:

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Friday 56: Morton & Evans

Hey, hey! It Friday!

That means it’s time for another Book Beginnings and the Friday 56!

Book Beginnings is a meme where readers share the first sentence (or couple of sentences) from their current read. It’s hosted by Rose City Reader every Friday.

The Friday 56 is hosted by Frida’s Voice. Share a sentence or two from page 56 or 56% in to your current read. Ready? Set? Let’s go!

We’re featuring two books this week. Our Book Beginning is from Kate Morton’s Downton Abbey-ish The House at Riverton (Washington Square Press, 2006). Our Friday 56 is from The Road Home by Richard Paul Evans (Simon & Schuster, 2019).

Beginning:

From The House at Riverton:

“Last November I had a nightmare.

It was 1924 and I was at Riverton again. All the doors hung wide open, silk billowing in the summer breeze. An orchestra perched high on the hill beneath the ancient maple, violins lilting lazily in the warmth. The air rang with pealing laughter and crystal, and the sky was the kind of blue we’d all thought the war had destroyed forever.”

***

The House at Riverton is the latest clunker to land on my DNF list. It’s showing up in Book Beginnings so you don’t have to bother with this slow-as-molasses-in-summer skunker. Stilted, silly characters with a stultified story. Kept hoping it’d get better. It doesn’t. Bailed at around page 250.

And to think I could’ve watched paint peel instead. Zzzzzzz.

***

Friday 56

The Road Home By Richard Paul EvansFrom The Road Home:

There were too many quote-worthy portions of this novel to limit it to one or two lines from a single page. Here’s a brief sampling:

“There’s a reason you didn’t die on that plane.” …

For too long I’ve bought expensive clothing, hoping it would cover up a second-rate soul….

“How can I make your day better?”

… to lose your life is to find it. That’s it. The greatest self-interest is, simply, an interest in others.

About The Road Home:

Chicago celebrity and pitchman Charles James is supposed to be dead. Everyone believes he was killed in a fiery plane crash, a flight he narrowly missed. But thanks to that remarkable twist of fate, he’s very much alive and ready for a second chance at life and love.

The Road Home is the dramatic conclusion in the Broken Road trilogy—a powerful story of redemption and “finding happiness on a pilgrimage across iconic Route 66.” 

 For more from this master storyteller, see: Richard Paul Evans: ‘King of Christmas Fiction.’

What’s your current read?


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TTT: 10 Tastes of the Season!

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday Topic is a “freebie.” Like a BYO topic.  

Well. Between skipping around the house belting out Santa Clause is Coming to Town, stringing enough lights to give Clark Griswold a run for his moola, and decking every hall in sight, Mom’s also cooking up a storm.

So she says today’s Top Ten is gonna be Tastes of the Season! From our kitchen to yours. (Some of these recipes have been in the fam since Mom was a young’un. Like, shortly after the discovery of fire. Don’t tell Mom I said that, okay?)

What?

Mom Tested, Kimber Approved

These are all Mom Tested and Kimber Approved. Or maybe it’s the other way around? Anyway, now if I can just figure out where Mom stashed that beef brisket…

1. Incredible Edibles

CC0 Public Domain

3/4 cup melted butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 jar (12-ounce size) chunky peanut butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 package (12-ounce size) chocolate chips (melted)

Combine butter and graham cracker crumbs. Beat in peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar and spread over bottom of 9-by-13-inch pan. Frost with melted chocolate. Chill to harden frosting. Before frosting is set, cut into bars.

2. Berry Relish

1 16-oz. bag cranberries

2 green apples, cored

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup orange marmalade

1 tsp. orange juice

1 -2 baskets fresh raspberries (or frozen without sugar)

Chop cranberries and apples in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and mix. Refrigerate. Keeps for one month.

3. Christmas Morning Coffee Cake

2 Recipes Blogspot

Grease and flour two loaf pans. Combine batter ingredients, mix well.  Sprinkle part of the sugar mix on bottom of each pan before putting batter in pans.  Put rest of sugar mix on top and swirl into the cake mixture.

Sugar Mix:

½ cup sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup pecans (optional)

Batter:

1 box yellow cake mix

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 box instant vanilla pudding

½ cup pecans (optional)

¾ vegetable oil

¾ cup water

½ tsp. vanilla

4 eggs

½ tsp. butter (or vanilla) extract

Bake batter 50 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees.  While the cake is warm, dribble over the top a mixture of 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 Tbsp. milk, and 1/8 tsp. butter (or vanilla) extract.  Cool entirely in pan.  Serve. 

4. Pumpkin Bread

1 ½ cup flour

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1cup sugar

1cup pumpkin

1/4 cup cooking oil

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts are really good)

Mix the sugar, pumpkin, oil, and egg together.  In another bowl mix all the others but the nuts together and add the liquid.  Mix well.  Add nuts. Put in greased bread pan. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes. 

Note: this recipe may use zucchini in place of pumpkin.

5. Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

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1 (12 oz.) package chocolate chips

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed mile (NOT evaporated)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup peanut butter

In heavy sauce pan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips with condensed milk and vanilla, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter. Stir just to distribute throughout mixture.

Spread evenly into an 8-inch square pan lined with aluminum foil. Chill for 2 hours or until firm. Turn fudge onto a cutting board. Peel off the foil and cut into squares.

6. Rum Balls

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2 cups finely ground vanilla wafers

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 Tbsp. cocoa

2 Tbsp. white corn syrup

½ cup rum

Mix all ingredients together well. Roll into balls and dip in powdered sugar.

7. Easy Spritz Cookies

1 pouch Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix

½ cup butter, melted

½ cup Gold Medal all-purpose flour

1 tsp. almond extract

1 egg

Colored sugars, candy sprinkles, coarse white sugar

Heat oven to 375’F.  In large bowl, stir cookie mix, melted butter, flour, almond extract and egg until soft dough forms.  Fit cookie press with desired template.  Fill cookie press with cookie dough.  Onto greased cookie sheet, press cookies.  Decorate with remaining ingredients as desired. 

Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until set.  Cool 1 minute.  Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

8. Pumpkin Crumble

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Public domain

1 28-oz. can plain pumpkin

1 12-oz. can evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

4 tsp. pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice)

1 tsp. salt (optional)

1 box yellow cake mix

1 cube melted butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Combine first six ingredients. Pour into 9 x 13″ pan. Sprinkle with cake mix. Pour melted butter over top. Bake at 350 degrees about 50 minutes or until set. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Serves 12.

9. Spicy Cocoa Mocha Mix

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4 cups non-fat dry milk powder

1 cup non-dairy coffee creamer

2-1/2 cups instant pre-sweetened cocoa mix

1/2 cup instant coffee

1-1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. allspice

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Store mixture in an airtight container.  Make 6 cups.

To make cocoa drink: Pour 1/2 cup of mixture in a mug and fill with boiling water.  Stir.

…. And for Kimmi:

10. Soda Pop Brisket

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1 pkg. dry onion soup mix

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 beef brisket, 1 to 2 lbs., or pot roast beef

1 tsp. paprika

1 can diet Pepsi

4 medium red potatoes, cubed

Sprinkle soup mix, paprika and garlic powder on both sides of brisket. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place meat in large roasting pan with lid. Pour soda over seasoned meat. Cover and cook in over about 2 to 3 hours. Uncover. Add potatoes (peeled or not) and more soda if needed.

Turn oven to 300 degrees and roast until potatoes are browned and meat is tender, approx. 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Make gravy with the drippings and pour over potatoes and meat.

It sounds like a strange combination, but it’s delicious! Can be adjusted for crock pot use.

+++

Oh boy, oh boy! Is my tummy ever rumbling now! You gonna eat that? “Askin’ for a friend.” 🙂

***

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish,
Now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl 


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Richard Paul Evans: ‘King of Christmas Fiction’

 

Kimber here. I’m gonna do that stretchy-yawny thing this morning just for you. Cuz Christmas is coming and Mom loves Christmas! No idea what that means. But if Mom loves Christmas, then I do too!

So today I’m waking up just in time to introduce – or remind – you to/about one of Mom’s favorite authors: Richard Paul Evans. Aka: The “King of Christmas Fiction.” Cuz sure as Santa’s makin’ his list and checkin’ it twice, Richard Paul Evans releases a new Christmas-ish novel every year about now.

Brimming with inspiration and hope while neatly sidestepping sappy, Richard’s gentle, uplifting stories are a great choice for curl-up-near-the-fireplace seasonal reading! And I oughtta know! But I’ll let Mom fill ya in. Take it away, Mom!

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Book Beginnings & The Friday 56

“Kimmi, we’re in a rut,” spake Her Momness the other day. “We need some new ideas. Fresh content. Blooms and buds. Can you get on that asap, please?”

No idea what she’s talking about. But I’m quick. Think super-sonic. So I dug around and found two barkworthy new ideas: Book Beginnings and The Friday 56. Like this:

Book Beginnings is a theme where readers share the first sentence (or couple of sentences) from your current read. It’s hosted by Rose City Reader every Friday.

The Friday 56 is hosted by Frida’s Voice. Share a sentence or two from page 56 or 56% in to your current read. Sound good? Perfect! Cuz here we go:

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TTT: Bookish Memories & Coming Home

Have a nice nap, Kimber!

Hello Friends and Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Tuesday!

Today’s topic is Bookish Memories and sharing stories of your reading life. I’m headin off to nap time right now. So I’m gonna let Mom tell you about “bookish memories” and this guy named “Uncle Norman.” Her dad’s big bro. It goes like this:

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