Monday, October 31, 2016

It's October-Time to Jump Into a Kids Classic

I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics Challenge.
Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this brilliant idea to encourage all ages to read children's classics. So far I've enjoyed
March "Little Prince"
April "Wind in the Willows"
May:James and the Giant Peach" 

June "Adventures of Tom Sawyer"

took a summer break and in 
September enjoyed rereading "Anne of Green Gables"

This month I jumped on board with "Little Women"a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832–March 6, 1888), which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. 
My inspiration for this book choice was finding the book at a used book sale for only $3.00 copyright 1947.
For me it was a literary bargain. 
Of course the book has had numerous book covers since its first publication. Here is one example. 
The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March—detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood, and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters. It falls into the genre of coming of age.

"Little Women" was an immediate commercial and critical success, and readers wanted to know more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume, entitled Good Wives. It was also successful. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single work entitled Little Women. Alcott also wrote two sequels to her popular work, both of which also featured the March sisters: Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys (1886). Although "Little Women" was a novel for girls, it differed notably from the current writings for children, especially girls. The novel addressed three major themes: domesticity, work, and true love, all of them interdependent and each necessary to the achievement of its heroine's individual identity.

For her books, Alcott was often inspired by familiar elements. The characters in Little Women are recognizably drawn from family members and friends.
However, Alcott's portrayal, even if inspired by her family, is an idealized one. For instance, Mr. March is portrayed as a hero of the American Civil War, a gainfully employed chaplain and, presumably, a source of inspiration to the women of the family. He is absent for most of the novel.

In contrast, Bronson Alcott was very present in his family's household, due in part to his inability to find steady work. While he espoused many of the educational principles touted by the March family, he was loud and dictatorial. His lack of financial independence was a source of humiliation to his wife and daughters. As was common at the time, Louisa had little formal education. She was taught mainly by her father using his unconventional ideas about education. She read from the library of neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson and learned botany from Henry David Thoreau.
Louisa early on realized that her father's flighty educational and philosophical ventures could not adequately support the family so she sought ways to provide financial stability. She wrote short stories for magazines and published a collection of fables she'd originally written as tutor for Ellen Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson's daughter.

The March family is portrayed living in genteel penury, but the Alcott family, dependent on an improvident, impractical father, suffered real poverty and occasional hunger. In addition to her own childhood and that of her sisters, scholars who have come across the diaries of Louisa Alcott's mother, have surmised that Little Women was also heavily inspired by Abigail Alcott's own early life.

Of course, as a ten year old, I was enraptured by the everyday life of the March family. I just assumed Alcott was writing her own life story. Even today after rereading the book I am still mesmerized by Jo's adventurous spirit, how resilient the family members were facing poverty, their devotion to one another and the imaginative ways they were able to entertain themselves with very little.

This image is the Orchard House where Louisa Alcott penned her novel. "Little Women", located in Concord, MA.
Amos Bronson Alcott originally purchased two houses set upon twelve acres of land on the Lexington Road in 1857. The grounds contained an orchard of forty apple trees, which greatly appealed to Mr. Alcott, who considered apples the most perfect food. It is not surprising, then, that he should name his home "Orchard House."

After moving twenty-two times in nearly thirty years, the Alcotts finally found their most permanent home at Orchard House, where they lived from 1858 to 1877. The house is most noted for being where Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her beloved classic, "Little Women', in 1868 at a "shelf desk" her father built especially for her.

Two years ago I was on a New England bus tour. Unfortunately we only did a drive by of the house. Needles to say I was quite disappointed. It would have been like being on hallowed ground visiting the property and touring the inside of the house. An extra bonus is Nathaniel Hawthorne's house, Wayfair is located next door to Orchard House and also open to the public. 

The Internet is a good source for finding literary pilgrimages. Start with this site for inspiration on a driving trip through the New England area to explore the homes  of literary giants.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Weekend Round-Up

Best weekend poem

The Raven, by American poet Edgar Allan Poe, was written in 1845. It is one of Poe's most famous and best-recognized works. It is the story of a mysterious talking raven who visits a young man who misses the woman he loves (Lenore) who has died.

Read the entire poem at
Something to think about in this poem...The unnamed narrator appears in a typically Gothic setting with a lonely apartment, a dying fire, and a "bleak December" night while wearily studying his books in an attempt to distract himself from his troubles. He thinks occasionally of Lenore but is generally able to control his emotions, although the effort required to do so tires him and makes his words equally slow and outwardly pacified. However, over the course of the narrative, the protagonist becomes more and more agitated both in mind and in action, a progression that he demonstrates through his rationalizations and eventually through his increasingly exclamation-ridden monologue. In every stanza near the end, however, his exclamations are punctuated by the calm desolation of the sentence "Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore,'" reflecting the despair of his soul.

Best links for using up leftover Halloween candy 
Cook's notes: Maybe your kids have scared up way too much candy. Make the leftovers vanish with these sweet, creative treats.
Kit Kat Bars
Tiramusi Dessert (uses 5 Heath Bars)
Consider donating your left over Halloween candy to some organization such as

Friday, October 28, 2016

Gingered Pumpkin Bisque and a DIY Last Minute Halloween Idea

Cook's notes: Savor the flavors of Fall with a creamy Gingered Bisque Soup.  This bisque has so many delicious, interesting flavors that meld together perfectly. Add a drizzle of sherry at the end for piece de resistance. The recipe was adapted from Taste of Home and serves 2-3 in small bowls. 
The bisque was paired with Orange Cranberry Poundcake.  The tart taste of cranberries with a touch of orange sweetness complimented the Gingered Pumpkin Bisque. Orange Cranberry Poundcake recipe was previously posted on Ever Ready
The recipe was baked in 3 mini loaf pans.  
Bisque is a smooth, creamy, highly seasoned soup of French origin, classically based on a strained broth. It can be made from lobster, crab, shrimp or crayfish. Also, creamy soups made from roasted and puréed fruits, vegetables, or fungi are sometimes called bisques.
Recipe makes 2 small bowls and adapted from BHG.

  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh gingerroot
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 3 TB. all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or juice
  • 1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix and I recommend Libby's brand)
  • 2 TB. pure maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half cream
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Optional fresh thyme sprigs, sherry and cornbread croutons
  • In a small saucepan, saute the shallots, onion and ginger in oil until tender. Stir in flour until blended; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown. 
  • Add onion mixture to a saucepan gradually stirring in broth and cider. Bring to a boil; then lower heat cook and stir for 4 minutes or until thickened.
  • Stir in the pumpkin, syrup and seasonings. Return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer on low for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; cool slightly.
  • In a blender, process soup in 2 batches until smooth. Return soup to saucepan. Stir in cream and vanilla; heat through (do not boil). If desired, add a drizzle of sherry to each individual serving, topped with cornbread croutons. 
DIY Halloween Idea

Creepy Candy Corn Jar

I love the friendliness of candy corn juxtaposed with creepy skeletons!!!
All you need to get started are
  • a jar from the Dollar Store
  • bags of candy corn
  • several creepy looking Halloween items e.g. skeletons, bats, spiders
Starting at the bottom of jar place candy and a few Halloween items 
continue adding layers until the jar is full.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Hannah Rials’s trilogy “Ascension” is a stunning debut novel for this young author. She started writing the book when she was  twelve years old. The book is intended for a YA audience but adults will enjoy this paranormal romance novel as well. The story is plot driven with rich and deeply complex characters and relationships. Rials skillfully navigates between the life of the human and Deuxsang, a hybrid of human and vampire.

This novel begins the coming-of-age story of Cheyenne Lane. According to Cheyenne, the Ascension ceremony is only the single most important thing that ever happens to a Deuzsang. Life is supposed to be perfect after her Ascension ceremony, but it turns out awakening her vampire half only complicates things, especially knowing no matter what a Deuzsang can never expose their true identity to humans.  Burdened with a patronizing family and constant surveillance by the Vampire Council, Cheyenne welcomes a chance to spend her summer vacation in New Orleans with her sister and husband. But Cheyenne quickly realizes that she can't escape her problems, no matter where she goes.  Her world is turned upside down when she falls for a witch named Eli. The confliction of her romantic choice plagues Cheyenne throughout the story realizing the dangerous consequences that lie ahead. Her life is further complicated when she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy devised by those she trusted and loved.  

One of Rials’s strength lies in the characters she has created that are young half-vampires and witches who are transitioning between childhood and adulthood. They need to discover both how to live in the world as who they are but remain cognizant of the complicated politics of their peoples and consequences of the choices. As the story line develops readers will become attached to the characters and want to follow them though to the next two books.

Another strength by the author is her ability to tap into the vampire culture popularity with her audience. The notion of eternal youth and beauty is a compelling thought to teenagers as after age eighteen, a Deuxsang aging process slows down. In addition to the element of superpowers, forbidden relationships and desire for true love add to making this an alluring story.

Rials did not overlook the need for lighter moments throughout the story. She skillfully interjects a touch of humor in several scenes which depict a Deuzsang's constant need to consume fresh blood. Cheyenne is quoted as saying "The Council Vampires don’t trust us at all, so they deliver four gallons of blood per person per month. They come after we’re all asleep, and when we wake up each morning, there’s a box of fresh blood waiting for us. It’s like Santa Claus, only creepier."

“Ascension" is a page turner. I guarantee along the way you will become Cheyenne’s cheerleader as she faces many obstacles hoping to find true happiness in both worlds. 
A Maryville,TN native and current college student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Hannah began writing her first novel at age twelve. Eight years later, the result is her new YA novel Ascension, a modern day teenage romance filled with “double-blooded” vampires and revenge-seeking witches. When not spending time with her family and playing with her beloved Corgis, Buddy and Noel, Hannah leads a creative group, crafts and cultivates her writing skills. Connect with Hannah on Facebook, Twitter and via her website

If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.
William Arthur Ward

Congratulations Hannah on the success of your first novel.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies 
Recipe adapted from
Pumpkin flavor pairs perfectly with this molasses spiced cookie for a great Fall treat. The pumpkin keeps the gingersnaps extra soft and moist. The texture of these cookies is slightly crisp on the edges with a soft and chewy center that is full of flavor. I rolled the cookie dough balls in cinnamon sugar before baking, which adds a hint of sweetness and makes for a pretty cookie top.
  • ½ cup of butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling the cookies
  • ½ cup of pure pumpkin (highly recommend using Libby's canned pumpkin)
  • ¼ cup of molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. ground Saigon cinnamon
  • 2-3 tsp. ground ginger (depends on how spicy you like your ginger cookies)
  • 2 tsp.pumpkin pie spice mix 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup of sugar mixed with 1/2 tsp of cinnamon for rolling  dough balls. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It's all About the Pumpkin

Several years ago my fall prize was this pumpkin that went full term. I nurtured it along checking several times a day making sure it wasn't a feast for the deer.  When the time came to trim it I was definitely attached to this baby and quite reluctant to give up my mommy duties. But in the end it was repurposed for Halloween decor 
and later into pumpkin puree. There's something about the season of Fall that brings out a sleuth of pumpkin recipes for cooking and baking.  Ever Ready has jumped on the pumpkin bandwagon with some all time favorites that were previously posted.
Roasted Pumpkin Soup 
Remember back in 2o13 when I did the pumpkin showdown to copycat Starbuck's prized pumpkin bread ? Well I came pretty close to the real thing with this recipe.  
Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Bread
Toffee Pumpkin Bars with Gingersnap Cookie Crust
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Frosting
Cranberry Pumpkin Nut Bread
Upcoming Ever Ready postings: New Pumpkin Fall Favorites:
  • Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies
  • Spiced Pumpkin Bisque 
  • Roasted Pumpkin, Arugula and Dried Cherry Salad
  • Gluten Free Pumpkin-Parmesan Risotto

Monday, October 24, 2016

Weekend Round-Up

It's a new day so shine on
And so I am having recently embraced The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
I was intrigued by the book's concept perhaps because we often can get pulled into negativity with the news and chaos of world happenings that we overlook the positive things happening. I will be up front and say this book chronicles Rubin's life over a twelve month period and it's her approach to change her life for the better. But I did find the book an engaging read, with relatable experiences and enjoyed the author's humorous touch.

Gretchen Rubin is a successful writer living in New York City. She reflects one day that she had many things to be happy about in her life, but wasn’t always feeling happy. So she concludes that she wanted to change how she felt, without making changes to her life. Or, as she puts it “I wanted to change my life without changing my life.” To achieve this, she embarked on a one-year Happiness Project. Spanning one year, she tracks her progress against monthly resolutions designed to increase her feelings of happiness in her life. asking for more help when needed, finding more fun and keeping a gratitude notebook. Some of Rubin's resolutions included increasing energy by going to sleep earlier, challenging herself by launching a blog and writing a novel just for the fun of it. Over the course of months she found that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference—ranging from the practical to the profound. Rubin shares with the reader her experiences, opening up her life to readers so that we might be inspired to make some changes too.
One piece I took away from this project was the gratitude one sentence journal. 
The journal is a five year record (with hopes I can keep track of this journal for 5 years) of a one sentence thought written each day. October 24th quote at the top of the page We expect heroic virtue to look flashy, but ordinary life is full of opportunities for worthy, if inconspicuous virtue.  
I spent most of my weekend cooking, staging and photographing for a magazine. I was asked to do a food article with pictures of holiday appetizers and holiday desserts. My theme Small Bites-Big Flavors.  But I found it necessary to bring in the troops (neighbors) afterwards  to help out with the eating part. After Halloween I will post the eight recipes. But here is a sneak peek at the appetizer table.  
The following photos were taken by husband. I call it Curtain Closing on Fall's Last Act 

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Toast to Autumn

Image result for a toast to autumn
Here's to Autumn's scenic landscapes all decked out in colorful hues.
Raise your glass or mug-cheers to the best the Fall season has to offer. 

Summer may be known as berry season, but this sweet cranberry cocktail makes pure berry bliss achievable on chilly autumn nights, too. 
Get the recipe at Gimme Some Oven.
Cranberry Margarita

Pear Mimosas

Cinnamon Toast

Ghostly Hot Cocoa Recipe
Ghostly Hot Chocolate and 24 other Non-Alcoholic Drinks from Taste of Home

Halloween Smoothies

Compelled by the dazzling color palette of her native New England landscape, Emily Dickinson resolves to be fashionable by adding an ornament to her fall ensemble. This photo was taken in New Hampshire mid October 2014. 

'III. NATURE XXVIII. AUTUMN' by Emily Dickinson
The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Halloween Treats Part Two

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Cookie Crust 
Cook's notes: This recipe was a great find. It was made with only 2 packages of cream cheese so it did not seem so rich and heavy. The flavor of the gingersnap cookie crust was a nice contrast to the filling adding in fall flavors.
Recipe adapted from a Philadelphia Cream Cheese ad and serves 12.

Gingersnap Crust:

  • 25 gingersnap store-bought cookies (hard not soft) crushed about 1-1/2 cups
  • ½ cups chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 TB. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese softened
  • ¾ cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 can of pure pumpkin puree 14.5 oz. (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 TB. flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice mix

Gingersnap Crust

  • In a food processor break cookies in half and finely pulse to crumbs. Place crumbs in a large bowl and add in pecans, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter.  
  • Mix well and pat into bottom of a spring form pan. 
  • Beat softened cream cheese and brown sugar.
  • Add eggs in one at a time beating on low speed after each addition. Add in pumpkin, flour, vanilla and spices. Beat until smooth and pour into crust
  • Bake @ 350 for 45-50 minutes or until knife comes out clean from the center of cheesecake 
  • Turn off oven and let sit 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and run a knife around inside rim to loosen cheesecake. Cool in pan on a wire rack
  • Remove outside part of the spring form pan. Cover cheesecake lightly with foil
  • Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Add ½ tsp. Saigon cinnamon to whip cream to garnish cheesecake.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes 
Cook's notes: These moist cupcakes have hints of spice, apples and caramel. They are the perfect treat for your autumn weekend. The caramel sauce may need warming in the microwave so it's easier to pour. 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice can be substituted for nutmeg, allspice and ginger.
Recipe adapted from Tide and Thyme and makes 18
Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 2-3/4 cups flour
  • 1 TB. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp.salt
  • 1 cup butter or 1 stick margarine and 1 stick butter (room temperature)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 TB.vanilla
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped (2 cups) 
  • 1/4 cup caramel sauce from a jar (room temperature)
Cupcake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
  • Whisk in a bowl flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In another bowl cream sugar, butter and margarine. Beat for 4 minutes until fluffy.
  • Mix in eggs one at a time and beat well.
  • Mix buttermilk and vanilla in a measuring cup and add to butter/margarine mixture. Blend well. 
  • On low speed alternate dry ingredients with wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated. 
  • With a wooden spoon add in apples, caramel sauce and mix until incorporated.
  • Divide the batter evenly filling each cupcake liner filling 3/4 full.
  • Bake 18 minutes. 
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup caramel sauce 
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 2 TB. softened butter
  • 1 tsp.vanilla
  • fat free half and half
Frosting Directions:
  • Beat all ingredients until frosting is smooth using only as much half and half as needed to achieve needed frosting consistency.

Meet Minnesota Author Barbara Saefke

NAC 2020 AUTHOR VIRTUAL TOUR MEET MINNESOTA AUTHOR BARBARA SAEFKE Barbara E. Saefke author Mystery and Romance Barbara...