Foodie Friday

Foodie Friday
Foodie Friday

Thursday, December 2, 2021

FOODIE FRIDAY- Baking for the Holidays: 50 + Treats For a Festive Season by Sarah Kieffer - Feature and Review


A charming holiday baking cookbook brimming with delicious, indulgent recipes, cozy winter photography, and lots of holiday cheer from Sarah Kieffer.

Here's a festive holiday baking book to celebrate this very special time of year. Sarah Kieffer, author of 100 Cookies, beloved baker behind The Vanilla Bean Blog, and creator of the "bang-the-pan" method offers more than 50 delicious recipes for seasonal brunches, cookie swaps, and all those Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year's Eve parties.

Delight family and friends with edible gifts and whip up some delicious baked goods to treat yourself through the long winter months after the holidays have ended. Recipes include: Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Meyer Lemon-White Chocolate Scones, Pear-Almond Danish Bread, Hot Chocolate Cake, and Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pepita Streusel.

With cozy holiday imagery, a lovely, clean aesthetic, and easy yet innovative recipes, this is a go-to cookbook for baking enthusiasts, anyone who loves the holiday season, and, of course, fans of Sarah Kieffer and her hugely popular cookie book, 100 Cookies.

GREAT GIFT OPPORTUNITY: With happy, festive photography and anyone-can-do-it recipes, this is a perfect holiday gift alongside a cute apron or baking product. It's sure to please anyone in your life who loves to while away the winter months in their warm and cozy kitchen.

BELOVED, ACCOMPLISHED BLOGGER AND AUTHOR: Sarah Kieffer is the beloved blogger behind The Vanilla Bean Baking Blog, which won the SAVEUR Reader's Choice Best Baking & Desserts Blog in 2014. Her pan-banging cookie technique went viral on the New York Times website. She has written two cookbooks and been featured by Food52, The Today Show, Mashable, The Kitchn, America's Test Kitchen, Huffington Post, and more.

Perfect for:

• Bakers of all ages
• Holiday bakers
• Fans of Sarah's bang-the-pan cookies, 100 Cookies, and The Vanilla Bean Blog
• Holiday gift givers



Baking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive SeasonBaking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive Season by Sarah Kieffer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Baking for the Holidays- 50+ Treats for a Festive Season by Sarah Kieffer is a 2021 Chronicle Books publication.

Often times, when it comes to holiday baking, though I’m more in my element than with cooking turkeys or hams, or other holiday meal items, I start to stress thinking of the exacting measurements, temperatures, and cooking times, the often-complicated steps and time consumption to pull off an appealing presentation for guests- which is why I normally stick to the tried and true recipes- claiming it’s tradition, when it fact, I’m just too nervous to try something new.

This year, though, I’m in a much different mood. I’m ready to shake things up a little! When I saw this book on Edelweiss, I was hoping to find some new ideas that weren’t terribly expensive or overly complicated.

I was quite pleased by what I saw. As the title states, the book has as a set number of recipes- but there are variations on many of these recipes.

The author begins by giving us a very small glimpse into her background and holiday memories, before moving on to instruct the reader how to perform a few tasks, such as making egg wash and tempering chocolate.
There is even a very thoughtful list of the ingredients used, and the suggested brands one should have on hand, as well as tools- mostly basics, like kitchen scissors, thermometers, etc., but there were a few things one might need to consider buying for certain recipes- all easily found on the internet.

The recipes ranged from pastries, breads, holiday desserts, candies, cookies, cakes- and a section for after Christmas treats. All the recipes include color photographs, and the pastry section had detailed instructions on some of the more complicated procedures such as breading dough.

Most recipes were easy to moderate- but there were a few that were fairly involved and might be more time consuming. Many of these recipes can be served anytime- not just during the holidays. I thought the lovely confetti cake would make a nice birthday cake! It was so colorful!
There was a small section at the end for ‘extras’ where I found a homemade marshmallow recipe- the mint version, which was paired with hot tea, sounds so yummy!! I can’t wait to try it!

Overall, if you are looking for a very helpful recipes book devoted to baking- holiday or otherwise, this is one I think you should check out!!



Sarah Kieffer is a baker, cookbook author, and food blogger. Her work has appeared in and on The New York Times, Food 52, The Kitchn, and Good Morning America, among others. Her cookie book, 100 Cookies, will be out October 2020 with a third book on holiday baking to follow in 2021. She has been pan-banging since 1993.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Turnout by Megan Abbott- Feature and Review


Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott's revelatory, mesmerizing, and game-changing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio, and an interloper who arrives to bring down the carefully crafted Eden-like facade.

Ballet flows through their veins. Dara and Marie Durant were dancers since birth, with their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, homeschooled and trained by their mother. Decades later the Durant School of Dance is theirs. The two sisters, together with Charlie, Dara's husband and once their mother's prize student, inherited the school after their parents died in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago. Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, back broken after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around each other, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school's annual performance of The Nutcracker, a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration, an interloper arrives and threatens the delicate balance of everything they've worked for.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.



The TurnoutThe Turnout by Megan Abbott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Turnout by Megan Abbott is 2021 G.P. Putnam’s Sons publication.

Strange, Twisted, Hypnotic…

Dara and Marie run the Durant School of Dance, which they inherited from their mother- a famous ballerina. Dara's husband, Charlie, who has been with the family since he was a boy, runs the business end of things, as he can no longer dance.

Just as the casting for “The Nutcracker”, the most important performance of the year, is set to begin; a fire causes severe damage to the school.

Enter Derek, the man Charlie hires to repair the damage. Derek is a dark catalyst that exposes the deep differences between the sisters, and who seems privy to all their dark secrets, as he studiously begins to seduce Marie, drawing her out, giving her a boldness, she was never prone to before….

Okay, I confess, some reviewers gave me cold feet about this one. I have loved the other books I’ve read by this author and was a little worried about coming across one that turned me off.

I somehow managed to approach it with an open mind-despite my concerns.

Well, as much as I have mellowed over the years, I’m still able to tolerate, and even appreciate uncomfortable stories that make me squirm in my seat.

This book is very odd, no doubt, but almost has a 'noir' quality about it. It is centered around the exclusive and elusive world of ballet, chronicling unhealthy relationships that go beyond the pale.

Obsession, control, and manipulation are certainly common themes in novels, but creating an atmosphere that utilizes these devices in a way that makes one feel as though the suspense is nearly unbearable, is rare.

It creates a struggle in the reader- a desperation to put the book down and look away- but it also keeps one so entranced they can’t stop reading, despite the heavy dread of what twisted revelation awaits with the turn of each page.

Abbott is very good at exploring the underbelly of sports- cheerleading and gymnastics- for example. This book examines dancing, specifically ballet- to provide the backdrop of the story.

This is yet another extracurricular activity that young people- often girls- participate in as children, but on this occasion the group is more diverse, as male dancers are heavily featured as well.

Often these specialized groups are a tight knit enclave that outsiders can’t penetrate or understand. Giving readers an inside peek behind the closed door, allows us to divulge, guiltlessly, in a little voyeurism.

What we learn will normally strip away the glamorous veneer, and this book does do that, but, in my opinion, this story is more about the characters coping with a stringent lifestyle, carrying a heavy weight of guilt and shame, and the longing that comes with that kind of isolation… which could, and did leave them vulnerable.

The crimes are not original, by any means, but they are perhaps a catalyst that sends our characters to a reckoning of sorts, forcibly, maybe- but through the pain there is a promise of hope and long-awaited freedom from the demons of the past.

This is not a pretty story, any way you slice it. Ballet is beautiful, but we know by now there is a dark side to such beauty. I suppose some of us are just twisted enough to want to see what’s behind the curtain, what goes on behind the scenes, risking disillusionment, in the process.

I can't begin to guess what goes on in Megan Abbott's mind- but I doubt she’s intentionally trying to offend, I just think she’s a writer who explores the dark and hidden depths of humanity- and sometimes this reveals truths we might not want to know.

Anyway, I liked this book, despite the controversy and the mixed reviews. I don't know what that says about me- except maybe I haven't lost my penchant for dark crime fiction, just yet.

Overall, this one is not quite on par with the other books I've read by Megan Abbott, but still a mind tripping story that kept me riveted to the pages.



Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English Literature and went on to receive her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She lives in Queens, New York

Monday, November 29, 2021

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing- Feature and Review


Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn't be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It's really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.



For Your Own GoodFor Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing is a 2021 Berkley publication.

Wickedly Good!

The prestigious Belmont Academy takes a shocking downward turn when a student, Courtney Ross, is accused of killing her overbearing mother.
Enter Teddy Crutcher, the newest recipient of the ‘Teacher of the Year’ award, a man harboring some deep resentments towards his successful and affluent students- and Zach Ward, Courtney’s best friend.

Zach and Teddy have butted heads in the past, but each of them is determined to help Courtney, which triggers a domino effect… and bodies just keep piling up… which garners the school its own hashtag-

#Homicide High

If you like dark humor and smart, twisty psychological thrillers, you will love this book!

Downing examines the dark side of teaching, private school politics, parental involvement, and the way students become pawns, at the mercy of those who hold their futures in their hands..

For their own good...

I love Downing’s writing style and how seamlessly she can switch between first-person narratives, giving the reader the viewpoint of both the teachers and the students. I found myself gasping out loud one minute and laughing out loud, the next.

Overall, a thoroughly entertaining psychological thriller from the first page to the last!!



Samantha Downing is the author of the bestselling My Lovely Wife, nominated for Edgar, ITW, Macavity, and CWA awards. Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman's Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel. Her second book, He Started It, was released in 2020 and became an instant international bestseller.

For Your Own Good was released on July 20, 2021. It has been optioned by Robert Downey Jr. and Greg Berlanti for HBO Max.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere- Feature and Review



From Donna VanLiere, the New York Times bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series comes another heartwarming, inspirational story for the holidays, The Christmas Table.

In June 1972, John Creighton determines to build his wife Joan a kitchen table. His largest project to date had been picture frames but he promises to have the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspired to put something delicious on the table, Joan turns to her mother's recipes she had given to Joan when she and John married.

In June 2012, Lauren Mabrey discovers she's pregnant. Gloria, Miriam, and the rest of her friends at Glory's Place begin to pitch in, helping Lauren prepare their home for the baby. On a visit to the local furniture builder, Lauren finds a table that he bought at a garage sale but has recently refinished. Once home, a drawer is discovered under the table which contains a stack of recipe cards. Growing up in one foster home after another, Lauren never learned to cook and is fascinated as she reads through the cards. Personal notes have been written on each one from the mother to her daughter and time and again Lauren wonders where they lived, when they lived, and in a strange way, she feels connected to this mother and her daughter and wants to make the mother proud.

The story continues to from 1972 to 2012 as Joan battles breast cancer and Lauren learns to cook, preparing for the baby's arrival. As Christmas nears, can Lauren unlock the mystery of the table, and find the peace she's always longed for?



The Christmas Table (Christmas Hope, #10)The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere is a 2020 St. Martin’s Press publication.


Lauren and Travis learn they are about to become parents. Lauren’s friends from Glory House pitch in to help her prepare for the pending arrival. Visiting a local shop, Lauren buys a used table and discovers, by chance, a stack of old recipes. Not knowing how to cook, Lauren decides to try out these recipes. As a result, she realizes how special these memories must be for someone and hopes to find the table’s previous owner.


John Creighton is trying to build a table for his wife, Joan, hoping to have it done by Thanksgiving. While John struggles with his project, Joan, who is battling breast cancer, begins work on the Thanksgiving meal- determined to make it more special than ever. For inspiration, she turns to her mother’s recipes…

In all the years I’ve been reading Christmas/holiday books, I have never read one of Donna VanLiere’s books!! I do have several of them on my Kindle- but… well, you know the score by now…

I’m thankful I made time to look through my TBR pile for older holiday stories before diving into some of the newer ones I’ve added this year. This is such a lovely story! The power of prayer and faith is woven throughout the story, as does the various stages in life and the challenges and wonders they present.

Overall, though, it’s an inspirational story that will warm your heart and leave you with a full heart and a smile on your face!!



..a mom, a wife, an animal lover, and a closet comedian at home. She's passionate about cooking (...and eating), reading, movies and teaching, inspiring, challenging and encouraging dreamers! She doesn’t like watching sports on TV but is a huge fan of athletes under five feet tall who call her Mom. Donna also loves to write books. As a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author, her 14 titles include The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Blessing -

Friday, November 26, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Miracle Road by Emily March- Feature and Review


Perfect for fans of Robyn Carr and Debbie Macomber, New York Times bestselling author Emily March’s seventh book in the Eternity Springs series is a heartwarming story that celebrates the miracle and joy of love during the holidays.
After tragedy strikes his team, college basketball coach Lucca Romano arrives in the haven of Eternity Springs to reassess his life. Even a winning record and big offers can’t dent the wall of guilt that Lucca has built around himself. Nothing can—except maybe a vibrant new neighbor who won’t give up on him.
Schoolteacher Hope Montgomery believes in miracles. She has to believe—because giving up would mean crumbling under the greatest loss a parent can endure. Hope understands Lucca’s suffering; she lives it herself every day. However, the high school team needs his coaching expertise, so she sets out to draw him from his cold, solitary shell and into the warmth of life in their small Rocky Mountain town. But when a weak moment leads to consequences that shake Hope’s faith, it’s up to Lucca to put aside his heartache and show the teacher that here in Eternity Springs broken hearts can heal—just in time for Christmas.




Miracle Road (Eternity Springs, #7)Miracle Road by Emily March
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miracle Road by Emily March is 2013 Random House publication. 

Hope is a kindergarten teacher starting over after her daughter, Holly, was kidnapped and she went through a divorce.

Lucca turned his back on his life and refused to ever coach or drive a van or bus again. He doing manual labor and trying not to think about the past.
When Hope and Lucca find they are neighbors the two them slowly form a friendship. Each of them believed they were not able to maintain a relationship with anyone because of thier troubled past.
But, with the help of some good friends and reaching into their own past and experiences they are able to their troubled pasts.
But, Hope also has to deal with an angry and bitter ex-husband who blames her for the kidnapping of their daughter. Even though Hope had allowed herself to open up to Lucca just a little and think that maybe she could start living her life again, a chain of events throws her into a tailspin causing her to let her fears, guilt and pain rule over her heart and head. Will Lucca be able to help Hope believe in herself again- and in Lucca?

The whole Ramono family is on hand to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas and for Hope- a very Happy New Year!

There are a lot of life lessons in this book about dealing with tragedy and letting go of guilt and giving yourself permission to be happy again. While Hope and Lucca were the focus of the story, the secondary characters, especially Lucca's mom and sister Gabi also had stories out in the forefront. Ga

Overall, tbis one gets 5 stars



Emily March is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series. Publishers Weekly calls March a "master of delightful banter," and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romance Writers of America. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeƱo relish has made her a tailgating legend.

Emily invites you visit her website at

Thursday, November 25, 2021




Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Forever Young by Hayley Mills- Feature and Review


Iconic actress Hayley Mills shares personal memories from her storied childhood, growing up in a famous acting family and becoming a Disney child star, trying to grow up in a world that wanted her to stay forever young.
The daughter of acclaimed British actor Sir John Mills was still a preteen when she began her acting career and was quickly thrust into the spotlight. Under the wing of Walt Disney himself, Hayley Mills was transformed into one of the biggest child starlets of the 1960s through her iconic roles in PollyannaThe Parent Trap, and many more. She became one of only twelve actors in history to be bestowed with the Academy Juvenile Award, presented at the Oscars by its first recipient, Shirley Temple, and went on to win a number of awards including a Golden Globe, multiple BAFTAs, and a Disney Legacy Award.

Now, in her charming and forthright memoir, she provides a unique window into when Hollywood was still 'Tinseltown' and the great Walt Disney was at his zenith, ruling over what was (at least in his own head) still a family business. This behind-the-scenes look at the drama of having a sky-rocketing career as a young teen in an esteemed acting family will offer both her childhood impressions of the wild and glamorous world she was swept into, and the wisdom and broader knowledge that time has given her. Hayley will delve intimately into her relationship with Walt Disney, as well as the emotional challenges of being bound to a wholesome, youthful public image as she grew into her later teen years, and how that impacted her and her choices--including marrying a producer over 30 years her senior when she was 20! With her regrets, her joys, her difficulties, and her triumphs, this is a compelling read for any fan of classic Disney films and an inside look at a piece of real Hollywood history.



Forever YoungForever Young by Hayley Mills
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Forever Young by Hayley Mills is a 2021 Grand Central Publication.

Hayley Mills came from a family of actors and grew up, rubbing elbows with her parent’s friends and colleagues- like Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, for example.

While her older sister did some stage acting, when Hayley was growing up, acting never really crossed her mind. In fact, she was pretty much a normal kid, doing normal kid things- and was a bit of a tomboy. In what was more a fluke, than anything else, she was cast in one movie, but that appeared to be a one-off thing, which was fine with her, until she caught the eye of Walt Disney… and the rest- as they say is history.

I was a huge fan of "Pollyanna". The cast was stellar and of course Hayley personified that role. I’m hazy on some of the other movies she did for Disney, except for “The Parent Trap” and her last one- ‘That Darn Cat’.

I hate to admit this, but once I had outgrown Disney movies, I never thought about Hayley again until I had children of my own, and I found myself re-watching some of her Disney films.

There is only one post- Disney movie that sticks in my mind now- “The Trouble with Angels”.

I didn’t know one thing about her personally, except her father was in ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ and I’d seen a few of her sister’s movies over the years.

In some ways, Hayley appeared to live a charmed life while growing up, but of course, there were issues. Still, she approaches the darker side of fame and her tough experiences candidly, without sounding embittered, excepting some resentful sounding passages about her alcoholic mother.

Many of Hayley’s experiences sound so typical of Hollywood and the pressure that is placed on young performers, which takes its toll on their health.

Hayley stayed in line a lot longer than most before finally going a little wild. A chance at playing 'Lolita', a controversial marriage to a much older man, and a religious epiphany, are among some of the surprises in the book, I knew nothing about. Her juxtapositions about losing that role, feeling pigeonholed as a Disney star, with Sue Lyons- who got the part - was interesting… and true.

The book trails off when Hayley is pregnant with her first child- which might have been by design as the book’s intent was to focus on her life up until she is firmly cemented into adulthood- a plateau she struggled to obtain after her childhood was immortalized on film for many generations.
Hayley’s life has encompassed so much more than what is etched in our childhood memories of her, but she is for many of us, despite all her efforts to be otherwise…

Forever young.



Hayley Mills is an English Actress, the daughter of Sir John Mills and Mary Hayley Bell, and younger sister of actress, Juliet Mills. She won the Academy Juvenile Award for Disney's Pollyanna. For her success with Disney, she recieved the Disney Legend Award. She published her memoirs, Forever Young in 2021