12 in 2014: A Year in Pictures

So, I’m linking up with Dwija at House Unseen, Life Unscripted  and posting one picture for each month of 2014.  I did this last year, but this year it seemed much harder to choose.  I’ve taken an insane amount of pictures this year, for one thing.  And then I had to think about what I was trying to present:  My best pictures? The ones that were most representative of each month? I went for a mixture, as you will see!

JANUARY

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January’s picture was taken at the Knoxville Depot, which nowadays is a reception venue.  The little kids and I were looking at the old trains outside after our parish’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Brunch.  I took a lot of pictures, and was just really pleased with the way the one above turned out.

FEBRUARY


We got some snow in Knoxville last winter, y’all!  I really love the way Mary looks in the snow, in the green tint from the porch light which we never changed back after Christmas.

MARCH

downtown 10
I don’t think I ever blogged about the walk Emily and I took downtown in the early spring–our first of many, many walks this year!  I love this shot of Church Street United Methodist Church and the forsythia in bloom.

APRIL

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The annual Easter egg hunt!  I caught Lorelei in mid-leap.

MAY

Lorelei wading
This was taken at Melton Hill Park on Mother’s Day.  I like to get Kentucky Fried Chicken and have a picnic on that day.

JUNE

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Lorelei getting wet at River Mountain Park at Volunteer Landing in downtown Knoxville.  We had all kinds of fun summer plans.  Oh well, at least we started off well!

JULY

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Taken from our front porch on the 4th of July.

AUGUST

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A veritable bounty of tomatoes given to us by our landlady, and beautifully complementing my red kitchen.

SEPTEMBER

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A mountain bike ramp on one of the trails at Anderson School, part of the 40-mile Urban Wilderness trail system Emily and I hiked from May through November.

OCTOBER

William's garden
I could have posted so many beautiful photos for October, but decided to share this friend we found in “William’s Garden,” the patch of pokeweed, morning glories, and other assorted wild things growing on the side of our house around the air conditioning equipment.

NOVEMBER

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I’m not exactly a fan of graffiti, but this touched me when I saw it downtown one day.

DECEMBER

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On the outside looking in at our Christmas tree.  I love the weird effect produced by the outdoor lights.  I promise our windows are not painted electric blue!
And there you have it!  Thank you for following along this year, and be sure to check out the other posts in the linkup.

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

Good Sunday evening and welcome to Sunday Snippets, a weekly linkup hosted by RAnn in which Catholic bloggers answer a weekly question and share their posts.  Y’all, if you haven’t been reading me for long I promise I really do qualify as a “Catholic blogger.”  For one thing, I’m a Catholic, first and foremost, which informs EVERYTHING I do, including blogging. 🙂  But also, even though lately my posts tend more towards health and exercise, if you look back you’ll find plenty of religious content.
Question of the Week:  Tell us what you like best about your parish.
My parish is Immaculate Conception, the oldest parish in East Tennessee.  The parish is 159 years old and we celebrated the 125th anniversary of the current church building just a few years back.
Picture of IC that looks like a painting
My family has been part of this parish for almost 70 years.  My parents were married here, as we were; I was baptized here, as were four of our five children; and all our children celebrated their First Communions here.  So what I like best would be my historical connection to the parish, and next would just be the way I feel when I am there:  Nowhere else do I feel as comfortable and at home.
Now for this week’s post.  Yes, once again, only one!
This week I reviewed The Relationship Project in my capacity as an Off-the-Shelf blogger for Beacon Hill Press.  I have a lot of extra commitments this week, but I also have a number of post ideas, so we’ll see what happens!
Check out more prolific bloggers at the linkup here.
 

Five Favorite Cities

It’s time again for Five Favorites, which is now a traveling linkup, hosted this week by Mary at Atelier.
five favorites
Today I’m going to write about five of my favorite cities.  Now I’m no world traveler or anything, so don’t expect anything obscure or unusual!
1.  Mobile, Alabama
I’ve been hearing stories about Mobile since I was a little girl, in which it was presented to me as akin to an ancestral homeland.   That’s because not only was my grandmother’s mother born there, but we could trace our roots there back to this guy:

My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.
My ggggrandfather Confederate General James D. Hagan, who was born in Ireland.

My mother visited cousins there often as a child, and told us stories of swimming in the Mobile Bay.  My grandmother, too, spent summers there as a child, and well into her elder years used to drive down there occasionally to see family and bring home crab for gumbo.  I vaguely recall two visits there when I was a child.
When Emily decided to go to college there we were absolutely thrilled, and I know Mima would have been too.  What with dropping her off and picking her up for various breaks, and attending Family Weekend at Spring Hill each year, we had ample time to visit and explore Mobile, which offers streets lined with restored historical properties, a nearby beach, and delectable seafood.  We miss our frequent visits and are considering going down for a weekend just for the food.  Seriously.
USS Alabama

Detail from Felix’s Fish Camp, one of Mobile’s many restaurants

2.  Charleston, South Carolina
I’ve been to Charleston twice.  The first time marked the last vacation I ever took with my parents and sisters; the second was a Spring Break trip with my roommate and then-boyfriend-now-husband my junior year at Georgetown.  I’ve been wanting to get back there ever since.  Through the nostalgic lens of the past the place has taken on a mythical significance, probably helped by my devotion to Pat Conroy’s writings.
This is the only picture I have handy from either trip:
John in Charleston, not doing a very good job at simulated hopping, March 1988
So that doesn’t exactly demonstrate why I loved the place.  Things I remember include the architecture, the near-deserted beach at Wild Dunes (the resort where my family stayed), the terrifying bridge (now, I believed, replaced), and The Trawler, an incredible restaurant at which I ordered a seafood platter that had absolutely everything on it and remains the standard by which I judge such things 30 years later.  (It’s closed now, but I suspect there are still a few good seafood places in Charleston!)  John and the big boys visited Charleston for a Cub Scout outing that included a night spent on a battleship, but that was ten years ago, so I think it’s time we got back down there!
3.  Savannah, Georgia
Our whole family fell in love with Savannah when we visited a few summers ago.  There is something for everyone in or near Savannah:  architecture, history, beaches, shopping, and FOOD! (You are probably seeing by now what is really important to us in picking a vacation destination.)
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4.  Washington, D.C.
It’s an obvious choice, I know, but even after living in D.C. for four years and just outside it for another, I never get tired of visiting.  So many people make the mistake of thinking they can “do” D.C. in five days, but it just isn’t possible.
Everyone knows about the Smithsonians, of course, and that they are free, but in your rush to the Air and Space Museum, don’t forget the Botanical Gardens, or the Holocaust Museum, or the National Archives.  A person could spend days in any one of the museums.  As for the monuments, touring them at night is the best.  As for food, D.C. is an international city with every kind of cuisine you could want or imagine.  I recommend 1789 in Georgetown for an unforgettable French dinner (if you can afford it–we’ve done this exactly once!).
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5.  Knoxville, Tennessee
I bet y’all knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?  You can read just a few of the reasons here.  Other than that, I’ll just let some of these images do that talking for me.
Storm over Knoxvillemarket square
Downtown Knoxville from the River
What about you?  What are your favorite cities?  And for more favorites of various kinds, you can visit the linkup here.
 

Five Favorite Saints

Five Favorite Saints
So for my Five Favorites today, I would like to share five of my favorite saints!
1.  Saint Peter

Saint Peter by Paul Rubens

Peter is absolutely my favorite saint.  He’s so endearing.  I find myself shaking my head and smiling when listening to his exploits at Mass.  So enthusiastic.  So clueless!  So like us.  Peter blathered about building booths for Jesus and company at the Transfiguration, leading the Gospel writer to opine, “He did not really know what he was saying.”  Peter denied Jesus.  Peter tried to walk on water and sank instead.  But Peter also was the first to name Jesus as Messiah, and he was the rock on which Jesus chose to build His Church.  How inspiring for all of us that Jesus chose this imperfect soul to be the first Pope, demonstrating that faith and love, not education and ability, are what count most.
2.  Saint Monica
Saint Monica by John Nava

St. Monica’s feast was last week and it was then that I suddenly realized I should be praying to her!  My kids are nowhere near as wayward as St. Augustine was in his wild younger days, but all mothers pray for their children and who better to be our patron than this mother whose prayers were answered in such  a spectacular fashion?
3.  Saint Bernadette
Saint Bernadette

I chose her as my Confirmation saint after reading (and re-reading and re-reading) The Song of Bernadette.  My visit to Lourdes as a teenager remains a highlight of my life. An uneducated peasant girl who never sought out sainthood and who was unexceptional in every way before her visions, she is a reminder to all of us that God can use anyone and that anyone who accepts a mission from God will be given the grace to carry it out.  I’ve written more about her here.
4.  Saint Patrick
saint patrick
Even if you aren’t Catholic, you probably know all about St. Patrick; he’s that popular.  But aside from the fun of St. Patrick’s Day, I feel a special debt to him which you can read about here.
5.  Saint Theodore the Written Upon
Saint Theodore

If you went to Catholic school you probably recall being made to dress up like your patron saint for All Saints Day.  Coming up with costumes for these occasions for my kids has always been a challenge since I am not what you would call crafty, but I was very pleased one year to send Teddy off to school wrapped in a sheet and with the first few lines of the inscription that was carved into the head of this poor martyr written on his forehead in red ink.
Who are your favorite saints?  You can tell me in the comments below.  And check out Mama Knows, Honeychild for more favorites!
five favorites

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

Hello and welcome to Sunday Snippets, hosted by RAnn, in which a gathering of Catholic bloggers answer a weekly question and share the week’s posts.  It’s a great way for you to find new blogs to read, and also to catch up on what I’ve posted this week if you missed anything.
This week RAnn requested that we provide links to several oldie-but-goodie posts, which I am doing right here:
Things I Know:  Raising Teenagers
Letting Go
She’ll Be Gone
Lifelong Marriage:  Not for the Faint of Heart
Dear Mom in the Pew
Why Stop at Two
On Growing up and Letting Go
What’s a Catholic Voter to Do?
Why Catholics Contracept and What Can the Church Do about It
And now, for the current week’s posts:
I started off with Answer Me This, sadly for the last time, as the hostess has decided not to do it any more.  I am going to have to find another good way to jumpstart my blogging week.
I followed that with Tennessee Volunteers.  While the title may be a nod to the start of football season (Go Vols!), this is one of my periodic gardening posts.
Next up was another linkup I do regularly, Five Favorites.  This week my offering had a red theme, although I didn’t realize it until I finished writing!
Finally, I shared Forty Years of Yo-Yo Dieting, as a prelude to writing next week about what I am doing NOW instead of doing that!
I hope you enjoy this week’s posts, and maybe learn a little bit more about me and some of the things I like to write about by reading the old ones!

Five Random Favorites

This is a pretty random list of favorite things that are on my mind this morning, so that I can link up with Mama Knows, Honeychild!
five favorites
 
1.  This popcorn popper

So we have lots of people in this house who are popcorn-crazy (also just crazy, but we won’t post about that) as you could tell if you came to see me because of all the popcorn in the couch cushions (and everywhere else too if we don’t clean up before you come).  And so we had been buying and eating lots of microwave popcorn, which as we all know is one of the unhealthiest things in the whole world.  Then I found a stove-top crank-operated popper we inherited from Grandma, but that thing was labor intensive, and heating oil on the stove to high temperatures is always a little scary.  And it was a pain to clean, so it was always sitting around in the way because I could re-use it without taking it apart and washing it but I couldn’t put it away like that!  Plus I was afraid to let the kids use it, so anytime anyone wanted popcorn (all the time) it was all on me.  So I looked on Amazon, ordered this, and my life was changed.  It requires no oil, and the little kids have already learned to use it themselves.  And old-fashioned popcorn is cheaper, so there’s that.
Which leads me to another favorite . . .
2.  These popcorn bowls

photo credit: sharsuniquefinds via ebay

Now, I would never in a million years have bought these, as darling as they are, because I don’t believe in buying single-use things that then have to be stashed away somewhere taking up valuable space and like as not getting ignored in favor of something more convenient most of the time.  But these came with the house–the prior renters left them, unused and still in the box, in the garage.  And we have a cabinet right over the stove that is too high and inconvenient to store things we want to use all the time in, but still accessible enough to get to.  So we use these every day, and the big one conveniently fits right under the opening of the air popper, and holds exactly the amount that 1/2 cup of kernels pops into.
Of course we put real butter on our popcorn, which leads me to another favorite . . .
3.  My butter dish
butter dish
I like to leave my butter sitting out on the counter.  Before you start worrying that it will spoil, please understand that between cinnamon toast, popcorn, and using it for cooking, we use about a stick each day.  And hard butter won’t spread, which is such a nuisance.  So I used to just leave it sitting out on a small plate.  But the cat would lick it whenever he got a chance.  I’ve seen the other things he’s had in his mouth, so there was no salvaging that butter!  Now the lid keeps the butter safe.
4.  My new coffee cup
red coffee cup
Emily bought this for me at Wal-Mart the other day, just to be nice.  That’s enough of a reason for me to like it, but I also like the way it looks sitting on the counter waiting for the next cup of coffee.  It makes me happy.
And now I am seeing that this post really does have a theme after all, so I will add one final favorite . . .
5.  My red kitchen

food tomatoes
You can read more about it and see more pictures here.
That’s it for this week!  Please visit the linkup for more favorites!

Answer Me This #18

It’s Sunday so it must be time for . . .
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1. What is your favorite picture book?
Oh, what a hard question!   I don’t really have one favorite, so I will just name the first favorite to come to mind:  The Runaway Bunny, which I like even better than Goodnight Moon, a more famous book by the same author.  This way of showing a mother’s love is SO much more appealing to me than sappy things like I’ll Love You Forever and its ilk.  I wrote about other favorite kids’ books here.

2. Are you a boycotter?
Not on a grand scale.  I avoid Nestle products as much as possible due to their flouting of the WHO code regarding advertising of formula in Third World countries.  It’s not making any difference; I know that–it’s about me, not them.

3. How do you feel about cheese?
I love it and am so happy that low carb eating allows it after I have spent my life avoiding it and feeling guilty about the fat content.

Lunch one day this week, including feta cheese
Lunch one day this week, including feta cheese

4. How many pairs of sunglasses do you own?
Three, which were purchased for me by my son Teddy a couple of years ago, I think for my birthday.  Before that, the last pair I had were blue and I purchased them at Cracker Barrel in 1986.  I had them till the house burned down.

5. How long has it been since you went to the dentist?
I’m not really sure but the embarrassing truth is probably 14 years.  I know it was before William was born.  We don’t have dental insurance, and I don’t get cavities, so it hasn’t seemed like a priority, especially since I brush obsessively several times a day and even in the middle of the night.  I plan to add a dental plan next year now that we are used to paying a monthly health insurance premium.
6. If you could visit any religious site in the world, where would you go?
First choice, Vatican City.  Second, Lourdes, where I have already been with my grandmother when I was 17.
For more fun answers, check out the linkup at Catholic All Year!
 

Answer Me This #16

It’s Answer Me This time again!

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1. What do you still want to do this summer?

With school starting tomorrow here (yes, I know that is ridiculous), summer is effectively over for us.  Before the end of summer by the actual calendar, I’d like to take the kids to Dollywood, at least.

Lorelei at Dollywood last Fall
Lorelei at Dollywood last Fall

2. What’s your favorite kind of pie?

I don’t know how to begin to answer that!  First thing you need to know about me is that I am known for my pies.  Although we haven’t done it in years, we used to have a yearly Harvest Party at which we served pie, pie, and more pie, all made from scratch, crust and all, by me.  I made 30 or more and we invited everyone we knew.  I would make pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan, apple, and combination pies.  Oh, and did I mention that the pumpkin pies were made from ACTUAL PUMPKINS, not the canned stuff?  I must have been stark raving mad.

Anyway, I love all those pies.  But I also love lemon meringue pie, and key lime pie, and the chocolate pie my mother makes, and various berry pies.  I don’t think I can name a favorite, honestly.

Pumpkin pies from last Thanksgiving
Pumpkin pies from last Thanksgiving

3. How much sleep do you need each day? How much do you get?

This summer, I’ve set my alarm for 8:30, which means I’ve gotten at least seven hours a night and sometimes more.  During the school year I typically get six.  I haven’t needed to nap this summer, so I’d say I should be shooting for at least seven every night.

4. Do you prefer to swim in a pool, lake, river, or ocean?

I’ve never really swum (Is that right?  It looks so wrong.) in a lake or a river.  I enjoy the ocean occasionally but I don’t like sand and also I’m scared of the ocean.  So I prefer the pool.

Lorelei's first swim of the summer
Lorelei’s first swim of the summer

5. Do you know any poems by heart?

I’m an English major, so yes.  🙂  And I’ve blogged about this topic before, which you can see here.

6. Do you use the public library?

Every summer I go to the library the first week or so, and invariably at some point, despite the VERY BEST of intentions (hello, Road to Hell) I don’t turn them in on time and end up with so many fines that I can’t use my card (or Lorelei’s, or William’s) until I either pay them down or (what I actually do) wait until I can clear them by bringing cans of food for the hungry or school supplies for underprivileged kids.  It’s terrible, because I really do love the library.  We used to live within walking distance of one, and we walked there weekly in the summer for story time, summer reading, and playing in the park out front.

For more fun, check out the rest of the linkup at Catholic All Year.

Five Favorites: Books That Change Lives

I’m a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short, to Five Favorites, hosted by Mama Knows, Honeychild.
five favorites
Let’s talk books today.  I don’t know how I would go about making a list of my five favorite books ever, so instead I will call this Five Favorite Books that have changed my life.  And if that sounds like an exaggeration, it’s really not.
1.  Humanae Vitae

If you are Catholic, this book should need no explanation.  It SHOULDN’T.  But sadly it probably does.
This is the papal encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI which confirmed the Church’s condemnation of artificial birth control.  But it doesn’t just condemn; it also explains, and does so beautifully.
Of course I grew up knowing that the Church was against contraception.  But in spite of 12 years of Catholic school, no one ever once explained WHY.  I went into college thinking that this was just some sort of old-fashioned and unimportant idea that I should feel free to ignore.
Then I took a Christian marriage class at Georgetown and read this book, and my life was changed.  And the change went deeper than just my understanding of this one issue; it also affected my relationship to the Church.  Because it was in reading this that I realized that Church teachings have explanations, that they aren’t just pronouncements from on high.  I decided right then that before ever disagreeing with the Church, even in matters of conscience, we must first read and reflect on its teachings.
2.  Let’s Have Healthy Children

When I found out I was pregnant with Emily, the first thing I did was go to the library and look for books to check out.  This was in the first batch, but I soon bought my own copy and annotated it heavily.  Adelle Davis’s findings remain a topic for debate today, but I remain convinced that the regimen of vitamins that I took while pregnant and breastfeeding are responsible for my children’s vibrant good health.
When my kids were babies I introduced foods to them the way Davis suggested too.  I have continued to believe that nutrition is the key to good health even when I didn’t always follow Davis’s guidelines.  The effect of the dietary changes I have recently made on my health confirms this belief!
3.  Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing
breastfeeding and natural childspacing

Besides the practical advice Sheila Kippley provides on breastfeeding, her stance on mother/baby togetherness formed the way I parented my children.  I didn’t know then what attachment parenting was, but Kippley told me that babies should be fed on demand, that nursing wasn’t just about food, that extended nursing was normal, and that mothers and babies shouldn’t be separated.
Before I read this book I thought of breastfeeding as something you did to give a baby a good start before weaning to the bottle at six months or so.  I would never have imagined myself nursing children until three or four years of age, and I wouldn’t have understood the parenting aspects of breastfeeding that go far beyond nutrition and shaped my mothering as well as my children.
This book also changed my life because it turned me into a breastfeeding advocate, which led me to develop online friendships with like-minded people that endure to this day, after our breastfeeding days are done.
4.  Childbirth without Fear

I never did have the all-natural childbirth I dreamed of when I first read this book, although I got closer each time.  Still, this book changed my life by influencing the way I viewed childbirth, by encouraging me to be skeptical of all interventions into this natural process, by leading me to read further (Painless Childbirth; Thank You, Dr. Lamaze; The Experience of Childbirth; Open Season), to take Bradley and Lamaze classes, and to become an advocate for myself in this area.  This book set me along the road that led to two successful VBACs after three C-sections.  It led me to connect with others who felt the same way who were a support for me and taught me so much.  And it contributed to my attitude toward medical intervention in general, because it became clear to me that doctors can be life-savers but that we have a responsibility to learn about our own health and advocate for ourselves, not just blindly follow medical advice “because doctor said so.”
5.  Kids Are Worth It!
kids are worth it

If you’ve read this book, and you know me, you’re probably thinking, “What’s she talking about?  She doesn’t parent her kids anything like what this book says!”  And you’d be correct.  But we all need something to aspire to, right?  I know that this is the best parenting book I’ve ever read because I keep coming back to it and quoting from it.  I don’t disagree with one word in it and I only wish I’d read it before I had so many kids and was already overwhelmed and making every possible mistake!
Still, even when I don’t follow the principles of this book, I can see where I’ve gone wrong and why, and that’s something, isn’t it?  There’s always hope.  And especially as my kids have gotten older I take comfort and advice from this: “Is it life-threatening? Is it morally threatening? Is it unhealthy?”  That’s helped me pick my battles.  Now that William is 13 I probably should re-read the teenage section of this book and see how I can improve this time around. 🙂
That’s it for this week.  If there are any books that have changed YOUR life, I wish you’d tell me about them in the comments!

What We're Reading Wednesday: The What-I-SHOULD-Be-Reading Edition

what we're reading
Participating in What We’re Reading Wednesday has shown me how boring I am.  Every week the other contributors post reviews of intellectual or inspirational reads, and I just keep on reading the same old stuff.  Which is why I skipped last week, because I figured y’all were tired of hearing about Patricia Cornwell.
So to spice things up a bit, this week I will tell you what I SHOULD be reading, and if all goes according to plan in a few weeks I should be able to tell you a little more about the books below.
the panther

OK, y’all, I have zero interest in reading this book.  But Nelson DeMille is a favorite of my next-door-neighbor, who runs the book club, so this is what we are reading for Monday.  It’s about a million pages long, and I haven’t started it yet.  But that doesn’t matter because this is a cool book club and if I don’t read it I’ll look it up in Wikipedia or something so I can throw out a few intelligent-sounding comments before I drink too many glasses of wine.  Seriously, we’ve already read one of his books, and I didn’t hate it; it’s just not my cup of tea.  But no one liked the one book I’ve had us read so far, so I will just be good and quiet and do what I am told.

I just got this one in the mail from Beacon Hill Press.  I’m an official Off-the-Shelf blogger for them, which means I get free books to write reviews about.  I have 90 days to read and write, but will probably try to do it this week.  I’m excited about this one!


I’m really excited to read and review this one, since I have three adult children in various stages of launching.  This is another Beacon Hill Press offering.
paleo.jpg

Everybody has been talking about this Paleo thing for awhile now.  So I’m excited to read this and to see how its advice conforms with the changes I’ve already made to my diet.  I’m getting my copy of this through Blogging for Books, a new venture for me.
Patricia_Cornwell_-_Black_Notice

Finally, here is what I am ACTUALLY reading. 🙂  I continue to make my way through Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series, in chronological order.  Having read them all and knowing what comes later adds another layer to the experience.  Without giving anything away, this one in particular, which largely focuses on Kay’s grief over the gruesome murder of her lover, Benton Wesley, is hard to see in the same light now that I know the eventual resolution of this story arc.
Reading about Scarpetta always puts me in the mood for good food, since she is an Italian gourmet cook.  I had meant to check out the following for awhile, and had one of those late-night Amazon moments, found they were cheap, and now they are on their way to me.


I’m not a huge cookbook person–I cook mostly out of my head–but I’m going to enjoy these because the first weaves in a story about the characters and the second showcases recipes that are actually mentioned in the books.
For more of what people are reading, check out the linkup at Housewife Spice!
[UPDATE:  I never did read some of these.]