Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book Review: The Secret of Pembrooke Park

A few years ago you couldn't have gotten me to pick up a Julie Klassen book. Having read one of her first novels, "The Apothecaries Daughter" and not enjoyed what I considered to be sentimental silliness I had decided to skip any of her subsequent works. Then last year I end up reviewing her book, "The Tutor's Other Daughter" and my whole opinion was changed! I''m really glad that I got the chance to change my mind back then, and give this author a second chance-  otherwise I might have missed out on snapping up and devouring "The Secrets of Pembrooke Park"!

Cracking the fabulous and richly colored cover of this novel you will find yourself quickly dropped
into almost-spinster Abigail Foster's life.
Reaching an age where all other men have passed her over Abigail doesn't mind terribly because she is comfortable and confident in the intentions of her best friend from childhood Gilbert Scott. Until that is, she is brought to the crushing and disappointing revelation that Gilbert and her younger and prettier sister have been developing their own tender relationship. Adding to Abigail's burdens and falling fast on the heals of her first, personal, disappointment it is learned that catastrophe has struck hard at the whole family and due to some bad investments they have lost the majority of their fortune.
Being the family's pillar and guide Abigail is tasked with downsizing and relocating everyone. When an offer almost too good to be true comes from a mysterious distant relation for the twelvemonth use of an abandoned family property Abigail makes a blind faith-filled leap into the shelter it offers her and her family. While her family remains in town for the season she goes about the restoration of the house- strangely abandoned in the middle of daily life. Hearing whispered secrets she begins to poke about and dig up rumors about the house's previous tenants and the reported treasure that lurks somewhere in the mansion.
Along the way Abigail befriends the family of the estate's crusty caretaker, forming friendships with both his elder and younger daughters, and their handsome brother William, who turns out to be the curate of the little chapel in the Park. As Abigail and William live and work side by side and search out the mysteries- and odd occurrences like anonymous letters and the appearance of a strange hooded figure in the night- she begins to wonder what she's gotten into coming to this strange old house and if the treasure she seeks to restore her family's fortunes is really the treasure she desires to have.

"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" is a regency novel set in the standard issue Jane Austen world of balls and bonnets, stately manor houses and even statelier manners. But beyond the standard issue backdrop is a deeper world of family secrets and mystery and treasure hunting that is rarely seen in this type of book but turns out working really well! I loved mystery novels as a kid and am well versed in them so it was really cool to see a genuine mystery plot running throughout this book and keeping me guessing! One of my favorite things in a book is to have a deep, meaty story- one that takes time to tell and time to read, and I have to say that I really did enjoy the long read as I sat in bed sick over Christmas! I also like a story that has things really hidden and kept over till the reveal at the end and this book really followed through on those things as well. At 460 pages there is definitely a lot of story here with lots of twists and turns, there was also plenty of surprises left over for the end, and a nice wrap up at the end where everyone's due came to them!

Klassen has paid close attention to details in researching her settings and it shows. From the descriptions of the architecture and windows to the people and places all rings true for a regency novel. One thing that bothered me a bit, if I were to get picky, was some of the personal contact that William and Abigail have. One on one time together was really never heard of for a couple of the time period and in the book you will find several occasions of this occurring- be it an innocent 'we were both caught in the rain' or a slightly less innocent 'I was sitting in the dark thinking when you came for a midnight dip in the lake'.  Typically I avoid anachronisms like the plague but here I felt Abigail's honest, steady, self-deprecating character had already been shown and that was reason enough for her to act the was she allows herself to. After all, she is quite grown and is expected by her family to be the one who takes charge of everything- she is used to being left to know her own mind and make decisions accordingly. Both the above mentioned scenes and other scenes in the book where the couple have a romantic moment are simply that, sweet moments where she begins to allow herself the prospect of a future.

Overall I appreciated the heart and the humor, the secrets and surprises, and the really charming step back into Regency England that "Pembrooke" offers. I was pleased to see that Klassen continues to improve by leaps and bounds as a writer as time goes on and I'm quite sure that with writers like her proffering clean romantic novels like this that the Regency novel market- nevermind the Christian literary market will be all the better for it- and you the reader all the more satisfied after finishing this delightful book!

Rating: 5

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.


Book Preview: Behind the Manor

Hello Everyone! Once again I have been selected to be apart of a blogging promo team and to help promote Julie Klassen's newest book "The Secrets of Pembrooke Park"! I'm pretty thrilled and looking forward to giving you some special behind the scenes looks at the book over the next few weeks!

Have you ever wondered what inspired a writer select the places they write about? Or have you ever had a hard time imagining the place the author is describing? Well wonder and ponder no more! First up in my list of things to share is this cool vid that shows off some of the really neat places and spaces that the book was based off of! Enjoy!

Leave me a comment below and let me know what you found most interesting!



P.S.- If you want to find out a little bit more about the book itself check out this link!



Friday, January 16, 2015

Dear Future Me...

I wonder what it wold be like if I could write a letter to me and send it into the future to arrive on my doorstep handed to me by a mysterious trench-coated courier? I would have my very own Marty McFly or Sally Sparrow moment and stand there a bit dumbfounded for a bit before tentatively accepting it I'm sure! It would probably be scrawled across the front in my messy loopy cursive "Do not open until 2055". Forty years. I would be 71 then.

When I was eight, and fifteen, and twenty-six I had my life all figured out. I knew what  I wanted and how I was going to get it. I knew that I would go to culinary school and open a five star restaurant to rival Charlie Trotter's. I knew I would be driving that cool electric blue Mustang and toting around my younger siblings in style. I knew that I would be married by 23- at the latest- because it would really be more like as soon as I turned twenty that the love of my life waltzed in and carried me away (but I wanted to give God some wiggle room there, in case something went wrong). I knew that I wanted to write and be published, to be able to support myself on that by the time I turned thirty so that I didn't burden other people.

And the list goes on and on....

I'm pretty sure that every one of us has had a list like that at some point in our lives. Actually I'd be lying if I pretended if I wasn't still keeping a running one of sorts in my head, jotting notes on each goal card and shuffling them around like the slots on a racehorse standings marquee. Now that I've turned thirty-one though I've felt myself a bit...blank.

After all, what goals come after thirty? By thirty you're supposed to have an awful lot of things crossed off of that list and most of the new ones that you've written down are likely related to the things you've already accomplished like how many more kids you are going to have, when you will have just enough to put the down payment on your first house, and when you are going to have to trade in the Mustang for an SUV.

But I'm not really in any of those situations.

I've thought a lot about what my life might look like in the next five to ten years and I'm happy enough with most of the scenarios that have played out in my mind. The one thing that really concerns me though is my health. Right now I chase after two beautiful nieces and a nephew and I love it- but it has also taught me that my limitations are far closer to me than I would like them to be. I get tired out too quickly. I can't lift and heft kids too much or my back pays for it later. I can't dance like a fool with a child in arms or I'll flare my hip or my knee and spend weeks grinding my teeth as I climb stairs and bend over. So, I have a good idea of what life will be like for me in many ways the next ten years.

But what about in twenty? Thirty? Forty?

I can only guess.

But I wonder if it will scare me as much then as time passes, as it does now when things are practically standing still in terms of life achievements and the progression of my disease?

Right now my family is rehashing the dead horse of convincing my eighty-six-and-counting Gran, my only living grandparent, to move closer and be a five minute drive away instead of a forty-five minute one. Through that process I have heard several things coming out of my mouth.
First,
"Don't you ever think that you are going to cause me this much grief and trouble when you get to be her age!! You are gonna do as you are told is best for you and that's the end of it!"
And second,
"I swear I am never going to be this hard headed and stubborn and unreasonable!!"  
Ahem.
Well, I hope that those things are equally true when ever I reach that point in my life where the come true but here I am, sitting and contemplating it and wondering what I will be like. I understand how difficult is is to uproot yourself from somewhere you call home and move somewhere you don't necessarily want to be. Like really. Like someday-I-really-need-to-write-a-blog-about-that-cause-it's-important-really. The fear of loosing your health is a fear I understand all to readily as well. At the same time, however, I look at it from this side of my youth (haha) and try to figure out what I would want to hear, would need to hear from myself in case I've gotten horribly stubborn and stopped listening to those around me?

If that time-hopping postman came banging down my door with a letter from my past self I think I would want to hear myself say...

"Wow! You got old! Look at you! You're still fabulous you know that right? Look how beautiful that bobbed silver hair is! I always knew you'd never dye it. Your body got old but you're eyes are still young, still full of feeling and mischief. You got old but you know you've still got miles to go- women in our family live into their ninety's remember! You probably use a cane now but that's cool- really- cause you're still walking! Who'da thought that you would be walking on your own at 71?
Do you have people to care for you? I hope you do. I hope that you have at least a child or two who love you and want to see the best for you. I hope they bring the grand babies over and chat. I hope they do your dishes. I know you hate dishes and if there's a perk to being old I hope its that you don't have to do so much housework!
Where do you live? I hope it's close to them so that you can go over and harass them and so that they can come running when your laid up with your ankle replacement (again) and have no one to run for your mail.
I hope that you let your kids in on how you're feeling and your needs. Then again, you've always worn your heart on your sleeve and never been able to hide your emotions very well so they probably already know. When you are in that position, don't feel guilty or sad, take strength in knowing that they are your right arm and your left and they are there to hold you up. You raised them right remember? They take joy in holding you up and in being your support! They love you and they want their actions to show that. Let them. Let them honor you this way. And hey, I know you got old, and that you planned to be that sassy old grandma but give the kids a break ok? That kind of attitude just hurts people who love you. Don't make it hard for them to love you. Their feelings matter as much as yours do, just remember when it was you in their shoes... So do what you have to and do what you must and do what you and the kids think is best for you to do cause you have life that needs to be lived and there is a good bit of it left. Don't live your life in fear of what comes next.
You got old, your body's much more broken down then it used to be, your hair is a different color, you are wrinkly (hopefully it's cute wrinkles- wrinkles from smiling and laughing and enjoying your life), and you can't do everything that you did before when you were thirty-one. When you were thirty-one and didn't know how good you had it, when you were thirty-one and couldn't imagine what was ahead for you. Maybe you didn't reach all those goals and live the life you had planned- but you know what?

You got old.

And that's pretty cool."


Source: pinterest.com/pin/341851427934879665/


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: Tamales: Fast and Delicious Mexican Meals

Well I'm back again with another cookbook review and I couldn't be happier!

Back a million years ago in culinary school we were assigned to make tamales and life was never again the same! Being a lover of Mexican food I have wanted to make tamales again for a long time and to share their rich perfectly creamy, spicy, treasure package selves with the family but something has always prevented me from actually doing it! :) Picking "Tamales: Fast and Delicious Mexican Meals" by Alice Guadalupe Tapp to review was the perfect thing to motivate me to ACTUALLY get to work!

This book is a basic primer on home-making tamale's, the author states form the very beginning that her goal is to make it a dish accessible to every weeknight dinner table and not just something made for special occasions. Her methods in getting from point A to point B may easily labeled un-traditional but in the end get her stated goal across. I made tamales. I made tamales after 10 years of procrastination and excuses. I made tamales and it didn't take all afternoon! That in and of its self is a small miracle for this dish that is known for its labor-intensive process to produce!

My tamale making station!
The book it self is pretty compact and a good size to stash on your counter-top and still have room to work. It has a nice sturdy hardback binding and is wrapped up in really pretty photography of the tamales. There are photos throughout the book, but unfortunately, not one for every recipe which is something I prefer in a cookbook. There are a lot of good tips in the front section of the book on selecting shortcut ingredients, and one on the many ways to wrap the tamales that had very helpful illustrations.

The cooked tamales in the pot.
One beef that I have with the book though is that the one point in tamale making that I had dreaded doing- and screwing up- was making the masa and that was not made any clearer by this book. The page dedicated to explaining the different types of masa is informative- but the opposing page, the one that is a photograph of the kinds of masa is left entirely unlabeled and in that one mistake I feel you loose a huge part of your readership who are using this book to learn about tamale making for the first time and have no idea what they are doing! After reading and using outside research sources (and in the end going with my gut) I figured out what masa recipe I wanted to try based on what I type of masa I thought I had purchased. This deficiency was a big turn off for me in an otherwise solid instructional section.

Overall however, I really liked this book. The recipes look really tasty and range from weird and wonderful, to savory, to sweet and there is sure to be something in this book that makes you get up and say 'Yes! I will make tamales!' In the end that's all it's indented to do. I think that any semi-knowledgeable cook who desire to dazzle and impress without a whole lot of effort will have good success with this book- and a whole lot of fun!  

My finished tamales with a dribble of salsa verde!







Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Playbook

I've been warming my way up to writing this post for a while now. End of the year reflections, beginning of the year hopes. Plan, un-plan. Think, think again. Write, rewrite. Begin again.
It's difficult sometimes to get all my thoughts out onto the page.

It's a strange process this 'changing years' business and this year it's overwhelmed me more than most. Usually I sit here thinking how nice it will be to have a whole year of tomorrows "with no mistakes in them" and rejoice at the prospect of controlled change (my favorite kind). This last year has felt like a year of crisis mode for me. It begin last Christmas and just rolled from one thing into another until it finally came to a screeching halt as I was knocked off my feet mid-December with one of those horrible bugs that are going around- and suddenly it didn't matter what was left undone or was still scheduled- it all just stopped. The year of crises, the 'tyranny of the urgent', stopped.

I can't tell you how relieving it was.

These last three weeks I have been the laziest of lazy bums and just took time to...breathe...and it's
been wonderful! 'Living the dream' however, doesn't make much progress in real life and kingdom realities and tomorrow my holiday will come to an end. I will awaken from the dream world and have the opportunity to start again. This week as I've been jotting the mental notes on that beginning I've really desired to not just start again but start fresh. There are so many things that I messed up last year, that I failed in, that I feel not ready to let go of and want do-overs on but I don't get to do that. None of us get to do that. None of us get to start over and fix the past- but we do get opportunity to let the old go and make a new future.

We get a New Year.

I've been thinking a lot about what I want this year, about what I want to do and accomplish,  about what I want to do differently- because tomorrow when I rise and shine I want to have a goal plan for the year and how I'm both going to move forward and not look back.

The following is my 'resolutions list'- if we must call it that- or 'my playbook' if you'll indulge me... Perhaps there'll be a few things in here that you find useful to yourself too...

The 2015 Playbook


1. Set Aside Immovable Times for Rest

I can't remember a single time from this last year where I had two days put together to rest. The pace of constantly pushing has left me close to breaking and that is good for nobody- not me, and not those I server either. We all need days to rest. As I've been studying Moses in BSF this fall it's been a  great reminder to me that the  time of rest is just as important as all the rest. Even before the 10 Commandments were set down the people were reminded of and commanded to rest! That is one of God's great gifts to us. For me, I will be planning on taking a day a month to work on 'special projects', and will be planning several vacation weeks to  break up the year and be my pressure relief valve. Oh, and that other rest- the one talked about in the Commandments? That rest is the jumping off point for being able to get proper rest in other days and seasons. That rest is just as high on the list and I will not use that day for catch-up.
I will not use that day for catch-up.
I Will Not Use That Day For Catch-Up.
I. Will. Not. Use. That. Day. For. Catch-Up.

2. Don't Make Promises I Can't Keep

I felt like this last year this was one of my biggest failings. With so much rushing to do and so many people to care for I constantly found myself spilling things out of my mouth that I knew would be difficult- or near impossible to complete in the allotted time. I hated that like no other thing. I would cringe every time that another thing was asked for my attention- good, noble, amazing things- and I heard myself saying 'Yeah! I can do that- just give me a couple of days!' It was horrible. And I won't fall into doing it again. I need to put more of Matthew 5:37 into practice and 'let my yes be yes, and my no be no'! Even if in that moment it seems like the world will end if I don't make an affirmative response! Which leads me right into my next goal...

3. Set Realistic Goals

Me and my mum at a wedding this fall.
There are 168 hours in a week. When you take out the time that you are sleeping, eating, and doing the necessities of life, and you begin breaking down the time we spend doing everything else- the time we are spending dwindles as quickly as a shopaholics bank account. Armed with the knowledge that my time is quickly given and even more quickly wasted I come to the knowledge that I need to set realistic goals for what is going to be accomplished in a day, and in a week. Set them and stick to them. In trying to do more than I really can, trying to push the limits of what can be accomplished if I stay up 'just another hour' I hurt the people around me and I let myself down too.

4. Embrace "The Spoon Theory" to the Fullest

Have you ever heard of "The Spoon Theory"? was one of my most asked questions, I think, of 2014. Once I had been introduced to it by a dear friend who also struggles with chronic pain issues I felt I had unlocked the key to the largest treasure, the largest, brightest, lamp in existence- and I told everyone I could about this way of looking at and explaining to others about dealing with my Rheumatoid Arthritis. You can read all about it at the link above but the thing it gave me was the freedom to say 'yes' to taking care of myself and my health. This year I want to do my best to stay on top of that and continue to do everything life requires of me while knowing that it's ok to say 'I'm having a bad spoon day' and rest or to be greedy over my day's resources so I can say to someone I love 'I saved a spoon for you!' and not feel guilty afterwards!

5. Play Well

In my pursuit of 'breaking up the daily routine' this year I think its important to recognize that playing well is a necessity of life. What would be life after all if  I couldn't take the time to let go and play with my niece's and nephew (nibblings), to enjoy their laughter and craziness and cuddles?  A poor sad life indeed methinks! Also, I have recently found and invested in a really cool 'adult coloring book' that is supposed to be for de-stressing your days! Its filled with beautiful black line drawn illustrations of the flora and fauna of the Scottish countryside and even though I'm just beginning to dig my brightly colored pencils into its marvelous pages I'm really looking forward to creating something beautiful!

So when its time to play I'm going to play well and not cut off the benefits of joy with the thoughts of 'but I should be...' Play is a valuable tool in making joy filled weeks in this year of my life.

6. Work Heartily 

Colossians 3:23 reminds us that all work we do must be done for the Lord and not for men. Work done for ourselves or done simply for others isn't enough, and it isn't right. First focus in my work has to be that this is something God has me in and asks me to do- whether scrubbing dishes (ugh!) or preparing for teaching responsibilities. This year last year I found I was slacking off or doing just enough to get by in some areas but that is not how God wants me to act and I need to be accountable for the time I am working so that I give God my best and not my seconds.

7. Express My Worldview

Looking around at what is happening in the world today is a amazing thing. People are so far from God, so far from knowing anything about Him or about Christian beliefs that it's truly scary. Voices in the world are loud. They are deafening, and they are easily believed when no other viewpoint is offered. As that believing Christian I'm seeing again and again how important it is to speak God's truth into peoples lives. One of the best ways I know personally is to keep writing here on this blog. It is vital that beacons of truth shine into peoples lives, so whether that is through writing current event posts and thoughts on spiritual things- or just in providing objective viewpoints on media through my reviews- I can hold the ground, send the light.

8. Capture Moments

Journaling cards from Project Life
Capture Your 365 is a one-a-day photography challenge that I began last year and by March/April had petered out on! Its a really cool way to be constantly seeing the world around you and to be documenting it so this year I'm giving it another go and have begun already with my best foot forward! In order to keep better track of what I'm shooting and prepare it for a 'special project' I'm going to be sharing my pics with you all year from  this page- I hope you will check it out and leave me comments on what you like! It would be really encouraging to me if you did!! By the time the end of the year rolls around I hope to have it all loaded up into a Project Life scrapbook album and ready for display!


9.  Invest with Abandon

One of the first principals of the Bright Lights ministry is to "Freely give as you have been freely given to." It's something that in the last years of working with the BL materials as I teach that has gotten ingrained deep, and this year I just want to continue living in that pattern and even to do it better. It's really mind bending but really incredibly joy filled to be able to have hands out and heart open to give to the needs of others be they physical or emotional or spiritual. There is an incredible joy that comes with it when you say 'Let me give all'!

10. Speak Love, Show Love, Grow Love

If you have been my friend for any length of time you've probably hung up from one of our conversations hearing "Ok, I love you, bye!" Not all my friends I think, are entirely comfortable with that over-pouring of affection and it makes them squeamish and squrilly to hear me express that, but it is not just something I say at the end of a conversation to fill time or waste breath- it is entirely true.
A number of years ago I came to the recognition of the fact that none of us know when our last moments will be, when our last conversation will happen and so I made the decision that expressing love was something I was going to do without fail. How tragic it would be for me not to say those words when I really feel them and mean them. I know sometimes that I don't always say the right things and that sometimes I say the wrong things entirely when dealing with the messy crazy beautiful in's and out's of friendship but I try my best and I hope my best will be what's remembered in the end.
This year I want to try and go beyond just a 'love ya, bye!" acknowledgement. I really want to put those words into actions and into tangible gifts of time and resources to be able to show the people in my life that God placed us together for His own reasons and I'm immensely grateful that he did!

I just hope ya'll can put up with my squishy affectionate self throughout it! :)

11. Pray- Like My Life Depends on It

Prayer has been a huge element in my life this past year. Time and time again I have been hammered on over the issue of prayer and of my participation in it. Through this one thing I have come to the realization that everything I do hinges on- or should hinge on- prayer- and I am clearly not spending enough time doing it. Whether corporately in church, or BSF leaders meeting, or in Bright Lights; or whether personally for people, groups, and events prayer is the work of the ministry not just a lead up to it or the powdered sugar dusting on the top of 'actual work'. My life, and my work, depends on the reality of prayer in my life- and I need to be practicing it constantly.

12. Teach Wisely

Oh Lord, in this new year may the prayer of my heart be constantly worked out in every situation and may my mouth be led by You and my heart be guided in Your paths so that I may effectively minister to those in my charge, both in Bright Lights and in BSF. When I don't know what to say put the words in my mouth. When I do know what to say put the words in my mouth. Whenever life happens put the words in my mouth.

13. Write Inspired

Some of you may not know this but one of my favorite pastimes is writing. I'm no literary giant or anything but I do like to jot down a story here or there or write up my thoughts on life and the universe on this blog and that is important to me. Whether writing fiction or fact, whether blogging or scrapbook journaling- to not put it down would almost be a crime!
So, I've actually been contemplating doing NaNoWrMo this year. For the uninitiated this is National Novel Writers Month and falls in November. Writers are challenged to complete an entire 50,000 word novel over the course of the month! I've been contemplating, and frankly, lusting after completing this challenge since I learned about it a good 10 to 15 years ago- and I think that this year might just be the year to give it a try!

Who wants to be my writing buddy and cheerleading team??!

14. Read Passionately

Ok, so I write a lot about the books I'm reading. It's my job and I love doing it but sometimes I just wanna do something different. Enter the Bethany House 2015 Reading Challenge! This morning I printed off a copy of this little bingo looking chart and added it to my pin board to keep track of and check off as I complete things like reading "One your best friend recommends", or "Is the beginning of a series", or "Is written by an author you've never heard of". I think it's going to be an exciting year of books! Do you have any suggestions on where I should start??

15. Follow the Money

This one should probably be pretty self explanatory. All too quickly the piper must be paid and this last year has often found me between Peter and Paul, crying over my pennies! This year it is my hope to record faithfully what I'm doing with the resources God provides me with-  and to make a real effort to begin setting aside some savings!

16. Gratefulness is Everything

The last two years I have been endeavoring to complete the Thousand Gifts joy/gratefulness dare and name three things every day that I am grateful for. I think that being grateful is one of the most important things we can do as Christians and that it does indeed change our perspectives on everything we set eye or hand to. One of my favorite quotes says:

"Feeling gratitude but not expressing it is like wrapping a present but not giving it." ~William Arthur Ward

That is what I have felt like these past two years as I come close to, but ultimately fail to record all the pent-up gratitude towards the Lord that He is so rightly due from my lips. Since I'm a person that always does better with a set plan and list to guide me, this year I have printed out the month by month guide to help me focus and think of the things that God is doing and blessing my life with. It's gonna be a cool year!


My Year at a Glance
Including: The Secret Garden coloring book and Prismacolor pencils,
CY365 prompts list, book challenge list, new Joni devotional,
the trusty ole iPad where writing gets done, photo journal and
Project Life cards for the 'special project' scrapbook,
gratefulness dare prompts and cute journal,
daily planner where all the crazy gets organized! 
So did you make it to the end of the list? Wow. It's a really long one- longer than I intended it to be but I assure you that in writing it I am solely preaching to myself. Preach, preach again. Write, re-write. Fail, do again. Repeat. Start fresh. I'm beginning to think that its the only way that we get through to ourselves, the only way God gets through to us. Simply a constant tap tap tap of the chisel and scrape scrape scrape of the grinding, finishing, polishing paper of life. Perhaps this year if I stand still against my measure God will get some work done on me and this time next year I'll be a little more ready to adventure out into the oncoming year, a little more ready for the new future ahead!

So where are you personally and spiritually as we enter 2015? Is there things you're looking back on and shouldn't? Things that you are really looking forward to happening this year? Things that you anticipate God doing in and through you? Drop me a note in the comments- I'd love to hear from you and hear your thoughts!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Foodie Friday: Cranberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake

It has been a seriously long time since I posted any thing up here for a 'Foodie Friday' and this week I  thought that the turning of the seasons and all the upcoming Christmas preparations would be the perfect time to change all that!

If cranberries are something that are relegated to your Thanksgiving table then its time to change that too! Bring the Cranberries to the front and center of your holiday dessert table with this delicious Cranberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake!


One of my favorite fruits are cranberries so I was really excited to find and get to try this recipe. I was happy to find this recipe really works- the cake is dense and moist with a tender crumb, the top layer of cranberries is bright and flavorful without being overpowering or soggy, and the cranberry jam that sandwiches in between the layers is sticky and sweet and richly red- the whole thing just begs to be eaten! Top it off with a dollop of freshly whipped ginger cream and you have a sure winner!

This recipe was originally found over on Food52's blog but I thought the instructions were very poorly written and confusing so I will be sharing my rewritten version here instead. I hope you enjoy both the process and the final product as much as me and my family did!


Cranberry Ginger Upside-Down Cake



For the jam filling

1 cup cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 T. fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup raspberry jam or preserves

In a small heavy bottomed saucepan combine all the ingredients
and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir frequently. When mixture boils the berries will begin to pop their skins, and the mixture will gradually thicken. Once the berries are all fairly mashed and the mixture is thick remove from the heat and add the raspberry jam. Stir to combine and set aside in the fridge for later.



For the cake

2 cups AP flour (all-purpose)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

6 T. sugar
6 T. water
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts
3 T. candied ginger, chopped fine

1 cup butter, soft
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla
2/3 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease (with crisco) and flour two 9 inch round baking tins and set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set to the side.

Combine the 6 tablespoons each of sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil stirring constantly. When the mixture boils remove it from the heat and pour it evenly over the bottom of one of the prepared cake pans being careful not to touch the hot mixture and to spread it all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the sugar syrup evenly with the cranberries, then the nuts and ginger and smooth as necessary. Set aside.

In a stand mixer or with a hand beater mix the 1 cup of butter with the brown sugar. Beat this on medium speed for 3 minutes, the mixture will be light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla.
Reduce speed and add 1/2 of the dry ingredients mixing until just combined. Add the milk and beat till combined and then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix till just combined. The batter will be thick.

Spoon about half of the cake batter over the top of the prepared cranberries and nuts pan and half into the second plain cake pan. The pan with the cranberries will take a bit less  batter as it has fruit in it already, just add this to the other pan, they don't have to be exactly even. Smooth the tops with a spatula and then give the pans a firm couple of taps on the counter top to settle the batter down into the pans.


Bake for 40 minutes carefully rotating the pans halfway through so they bake evenly. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, (remember though that the cranberry pan will be wetter so test the plain cake first). When the cakes come out of the oven, use a blunt knife to loosen the sides of both cakes. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. After that time loosen the cakes again and turn out the plain cake onto the cooling rack. Invert the cranberry cake onto a plate and leave the pan in place for another 10 minutes before removing.  Cool both cakes to room temperature.

Assemble the cake by arranging the plain cake on a cake plate. Cover well with the cranberry-raspberry jam pushing it just to the edges (there should be a bit of jam leftover). With both hands, or two large spatulas carefully lift the cranberry cake off of its plate and on to the top of the jam layer with the cranberries facing up.



For the ginger cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger

Combine the cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, and ginger in a mixing bowl and whip for 3-4 minutes until medium peaks form. Taste and check the strength of the ginger- add more to suit your tastes. Serve dollops of cream with slices of the cake.

Enjoy!





Friday, October 17, 2014

The Art of Book Publishing

Hello everyone! It's been a while since I had anything other than book reviews posting up here but rest assured, I have some stuff in the works for the coming weeks and months that I'm eager to share!

In the mean time, I saw this really great posting over on Bethany House Publishers blog that I wanted to quickly share because I thought it was soooo cool!

cr.From BHP's blog!
Have you ever wondered about how a book gets printed? Well I have! In this quick post from one of Bethany's own editors Amy Green (whom I've had the pleasure of corresponding with before), you will get a sneak peak in on that process!

I have to admit that that stack of covers sting there and waiting to be cut and bound is like the coolest thing ever and just gives me tingles all over! Ahhh! Books just give you the best kind of feelings don't they??

I have to admit that I can't wait for that book to hit the shelves (or to show up in my review options!) but in the mean time head over to BHP's blog and check out the full article!