Feb 12, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Melody Lost

I woke up this morning and when the cobwebs cleared out of my head the reality that one of the world's most beautiful voices was silenced came crashing down. Although we don't know what caused this shocking death, speculation is running rampant and most people are assuming the worst. Like many, I've been rooting for Whitney these last years and hoping she could get control of her demons and live a life void of the terrible things that pulled her down.  Even when she was at her worst and her image was severely tainted by what we saw in the media, my heart went out to her. Those were not her finest moments, but I hoped she would make it through.

I was looking forward to watching the Grammy's tonight and now I'm sure the tone of the evening will be much more subdued out of respect for the Queen of Pop.  How ironic that she passed on the eve in which we celebrate the greatest in the music industry. I bought her last CD when it was released in 2009 and I really liked it and found some of the songs so moving. The title track is called I Look To You and its one of the best songs on the CD and one of my favorites.  In it, she has a conversation with God and I thought I'd share it here with you. The video is hauntingly beautiful.  Please take a minute to listen and watch.

In the coming days I'm sure we'll be bombarded with everything Whitney in the media, but I will try to stay focused on what she gave us with her lovely voice and not on anything negative. Its a sad time but there is solace in knowing that her fight with the demons is over and she can finally be at peace. RIP Whitney

Feb 11, 2012

Weekend Cooking: A Soup Craving

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. (Novels about food, non-fiction, cookbook reviews etc.) that is hosted each week by Beth Fish Reads. If you have a food related item you'd like to share, just jump on over there and post your link.

It's been a while since I've participated so I'm really happy to be here today with a new recipe to share with all you foodies.  The recipe I am featuring is one of my own that I kind of just made up as I went along, based on my craving lately for polska kielbasa. I am also a huge lover of soup, especially this time of year so I came up with this hearty soup that is so easy, you can just toss everything into a crockpot and let it do it's thing! Or it can also be done on the stove top in a relatively short time. Now, on to the recipe...



1 lb polska kielbasa, cut in slices, then halved or quartered (depending on how big a bite you want)
1 can kidney beans (light or dark), drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 large onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
4 cans (14.5 oz) chicken broth (58 oz total)
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained


Put all ingredients in crockpot except for tomatoes and cook on low setting for 6-8 hours. Add tomatoes last and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and enjoy!
This recipe is so easy and versatile that you can change it and add whatever kind of bean or veggie that you like. The flavor comes from the kielbasa and the corn gives it just a touch of sweetness. However, if you are on Weight Watchers like me, or you are counting your fat intake, you can use low-fat or fat free turkey kielbasa, sodium-free broth and omit the corn (too much natural sugar).  My mom doesn't care for corn, so if I were making this for her, I'd add some fresh, shredded cabbage shortly before serving instead of the corn.  If your not a big bean person, you could substitute Ditalini pasta for some of the beans. Its a small, round pasta noodle that wouldn't overtake the soup. 

With the weather turning cooler this weekend, this soup will be just the thing to get me through.  I can't wait to dig in with a piece of fresh Italian bread - that I picked up from the bakery! If you do get the chance to try my recipe, I'd love to know if you liked it. Or if you have substitution ideas, please share them! 

Thank you for visiting today and allowing me to share my foodie ideas! Have a wonderful Saturday!

Feb 8, 2012

Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

THE PEACH KEEPER is another delightful example of why I love Sarah Addison Allen's books and the magical themes she puts in them. Here is a brief tidbit about the book, and as always I've left all spoilers out, so don't worry if you have't read it - I'm careful to give nothing away.

In the small town of Walls of Water, North Carolina, Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood live such separate lives, that their paths seldom cross. They've known each other since childhood yet they don't consider each other friends. 

The Jackons and the Osgoods have deep roots in their community and that history is part of the reason these two have a strained relationship. Willa's family used to be very wealthy and help to put Walls of Water on the map with their logging company that employed many of the townsmen back in the day. But as the economy suffered through The Depression, the Jackson's were forced to close the business, therefore leaving most of the employees without an income. The Jackson's themselves lost everything, including their family home known as The Blue Ridge Madam, built by Willa's great-great-grandfather. Willa has few memories of the grand home, but her connection to it tugs at her soul. Paxton's family bought The Madam and has restored it and converted into an elegant inn with a grand opening gala planned. 

Scandal arises when during the landscaping phase of the renovation, skeletal remains are dug up during the removal of an out of place peach tree.  The girls reluctantly team up and approach their grandmothers, who live in the same nursing home for answers, hopefully before the police discover the connection the two older women have to the apparent victim.

My Thoughts -
As usual, Sarah Addison Allen has woven a story rich in southern charm, suspense and that magic she is known for. Right away we get to know Paxton and Willa and realize how different they are and the vulnerabilities they share. There's a lot of self discovery within the pages, not only with Willa and Paxton, but also with Paxton's twin brother Colin and her friend, Sebastian. I really enjoyed those four characters as they grew to know each other better and trusts began to develop. I also enjoyed how each of these characters learned so much about themselves and were able to become more comfortable in their own skin and not be so guarded.

The magical element of the story is subtle but ever-present and gives the book a whimsical feel. Addison-Allen paints a lovely picture of the small town and all it's treasures, including The Madam. I could close my eyes and envision the little town in my mind and almost smell the peaches.  In fact, I did smell peaches while reading this charming book. I'm serious! I was lucky enough to win my copy of The Peach Keeper from Random House on Twitter along with a peach-scented Yankee Candle.  So when the book arrived they were packaged together so that every time I opened the book or turned a page, the scent of peaches found my nose. It was actually quite a clever idea and made the experience of reading the book even more charming!

THE PEACH KEEPER is one of those books that just makes you happier for reading it. I'd like to thank Random House for my copy that I can now add to my Sarah Addison Allen collection. With Spring right around the corner, this would be a fantastic book to read on Spring Break.

Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher: Bantam
Published: January 2012
Pages: 304
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!