Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bon Appetit Desserts: Blueberry Coffee Cake

Wow! It has been a while since I have had any free time, so I thought I would christen this time with a new Bon Appetit recipe. This is a 'one whisk' recipe, it truly is quite easy. If you can tackle the Kugelhopf, then this will be a piece of cake! Enjoy!

Blueberry Coffee Cake

12 servings

2-1/2       cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided

3/4          cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

1             cup sweetened flaked coconut

1/2          cup (packed) golden brown sugar

1             teaspoon ground cinnamon

2-1/2       teaspoons baking powder

1/2          teaspoon salt

1             cup sugar

2             large eggs

1             cup milk

1             12-ounce package frozen blueberries, unthawed, or 2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Combine 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, coconut, brown sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Mix until moist and crumbly. Set topping aside.

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Butter and flour 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Sift remaining 2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt into small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 1/2 cup butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix dry ingredients into batter alternately with milk in 3 additions each. Fold in blueberries.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake cake until tester inserted into center come out clean and topping is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool cake slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

That's all she wrote, folks!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

London Time

I am in the beginning of my second week of Christmas break and I have recently returned from London. It is raining outside, it's quiet, and I have nothing to do, except read (Hooray!!), so, I thought that I would share a bit from my time in London.

My mom and I flew out on 20th December and landed in London on 21st December. The first day seemed long and filled with amazing things and then it was time to go home. Why do vacations pass so quickly?!

We purchased our plane tickets eight months ago, so I had plenty of time to make lists and lists of things that we wanted to see and do. We also purchased tickets for things like afternoon tea, tours, and musical delights!

Our flight was delayed for some reason and then once we were all boarded, we were delayed for about an hour, because a passenger decided that they did not want to fly after all and all of the luggage on the plane had to be taken off so that their 9 bags could be removed. Then everything was re-loaded and we were on our way. I've never heard of someone changing their mind to fly once they are already on the plane! The removal of the luggage was a security issue, so I was totally ok with it. Right after we landed, my mom and I set out on foot, in the dark of the evening, to see what we could find. It just so happens that we stumbled upon the London Eye and the winter market that they hold there, on the Southbank.

Monday- Our first full day: We took a tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. I was extremely excited for this tour, especially the bit in Bath. I am a self proclaimed Jane Austen fan and I was in such a state to be where she once stood and also see sites that she has mentioned in her books 'Persuasion' and 'Northanger Abbey'. So, I was quite disappointed when we barely got to spend and hour here. I was able to see Bath Abbey, but my mom and I had to run through the Roman Baths. I just have to get back there some day and spend a proper amount of time weaving through the streets and seeing all that there is to see... Jane Austen's house for one!

The guards marching up the hill to the castle, for the changing of the guard. They came drumming and fife-ing along.

A street in Bath.

Tuesday- Day two: We were supposed to take a trip to Oxford. I couldn't believe that I was going to be able to eat at the same pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein used to hang out. However, at the last minute, my mom decided that it would be too expensive to travel there, so we walked around London and did a little sight seeing and shopping.

Did I mention that we went to the Twinings tea shop? Established in 1706... still family owned!

The Embankment along the Thames, going toward the Houses of Parliament

Wednesday- Day three- Christmas Eve: We spent our time walking around Piccadilly Circus and we also visited Fortnum and Mason. This is an amazing place. I had researched it ahead of time and I knew that I wanted to buy some tea and a teapot from them. It turns out that they have been the grocer to the Royal family for hundreds of years! If you ever make it to London I really suggest a visit to this location. It has beautiful window displays, especially at Christmas and there are many floors to explore. Although, it can get busy, it is nowhere near at crazy as Harrods! Don't even bother with Harrods, it's a diaster. You can barely move in there. After doing some shopping, we went to the Piccadilly Theatre and saw 'Jersey Boys'. It was pretty good!

We then headed directly to Royal Albert Hall, for my most favorite part of our entire trip. We attended the last performance of the season, of  'Carols by Candlelight'. The orchestra was dressed in Regency clothing, wigs and all! There was Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven, etc. and everyone in attendance sang carols in between pieces that the orchestra played and songs that the choir sang. It was great! What a lovely venue as well. It was a magical night!

Royal Albert Hall

Inside Royal Albert Hall

Thursday- Day four- Christmas Day: We did an all day walking tour of London. We saw many things that we had already discovered on our own, but we were also taken down many side streets and alleys that we never would have found on our own. I wish that more historical information was given throughout the day, but we did have a pretty substantial amount given to us. However, it did seem that many things were glossed over and hardly any time was spent on picture taking. My mom and I met a lot of great people that were in our group and it was an enjoyable experience. If you don't want to put on any weight during the holiday season, may I suggest a 14 mile walking tour??!

A great thing about this tour, is that we started at 6 am and London was practically deserted. So, we had the very great opportunity to take some photos with no one in them!

The Royal Courts of Justice
This reminded me of 'Bridget Jones' Diary'... He's a top barrister!

Friday- Day five- Boxing Day: We went to afternoon tea at the Berkeley. What a hotel! I am pretty sure that I would never be able to afford to stay at this hotel. The tea was 49 pounds per person! I keep telling myself, that the price was well worth the experience that we had. We had the Berkeley Blend tea and the tier of sweets were based off of winter's fashion moguls and their new fashion pieces. It was pretty fun. Our server was great and we had a very nice gal chat us up about our Christmas and she also offered to take our photo. My mom was having a hard time feeling like she should be in such an expensive setting, but I told her that we all paid to be there and we deserve to be there just as much as the next person. I enjoyed our time there!

Inside the Berkeley


Aren't the sweets fun?!

Saturday- Day six: We headed home. Our flight was delayed because there was a problem with one of the pilots and they had to call in a replacement. He had to come from Essex, so our delay time was about an hour and a half. Luckily, they boarded us quickly after he arrived and we were safely on our way. We had a pretty smooth flight and although I miss London, I am happy to be home.

I would love to visit England again and spend more time in Bath, make my way to the Costwolds and Oxford, and also spend a bit of time in Lyme. I hear that the countryside is lovely. I just had a fabulous experience. I highly recommend a trip to London!

I had to bring some tea items home, of course!!
I forgot to mention that I went to the Dickens House Museum. It is in one of Charles Dickens; old homes! It was really neat.

If you are interested in any of the things that I mentioned, you may go to my London, Oxford, Bath board on pinterest! Anything that I found interesting, I posted to this board. 

I hope that you will stick around, because I hope to do a recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding soon! I ate some in England and I just had to have it again!

Happy new year! 2015 already! How did that happen?!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas Cookies: Peppermint Sugar Cookies

I hold a cookie exchange at my mom's house every year. I think that this year marked the fifth year that I have organized this little event. I enjoy it extremely, because sometimes it proves to be the only time in the year that I get to see certain people. There is food, conversation, and cookies!

This year, we had a small turn out, but I think fun was still had.

Here are the rules for my cookie exchange:

1. Cookies only! (no bars, rolls, brownies, etc.)
2. Bake 3 dozen.
3. Make them festive.
5. Send me the recipe or print out copies yourself.
4. Come hungry.


The rules are simple... but there are a few guests that never get it right. Ha ha. They end up bringing two types of cookies, or doughnuts. I was actually happy about the doughnuts, though. Super good! A cookie exchange is a great way to celebrate the season with those that we love. I hope that you get to attend one this year.

I decided to try a new recipe this year, that had two parts. One part was the dough and the other part was the icing. I have always wanted to try out royal icing, but felt a bit intimidated by it and put it off. This year, I decided, 'why not?!' I had some issues, but worked them out in time to have 3 dozen decent looking cookies. I learned that your barrier of icing should be dry before you flood the center with icing. What I like about the royal icing, is that you can dye it any old color that you would like and once you get a steady hand, it seems pretty easy to get cookies that will catch the eye. I suggest that you use gel color, instead of liquid. You do not want to thin out your icing until the 'flood' stage. Life is about taking chances, so if you are a little iffy about the royal icing, like I was... JUST DO IT!

The finished product.

I suggest you make a few extra cookies that you can practice on... unless you also want to channel your inner Salvador Dali, like I did.

Peppermint Sugar Cookies


3          cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2          teaspoon baking powder
1          cup (2 sticks) salted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1          cup sugar
1          egg
3/4       teaspoon pure vanilla
1/2       teaspoon almond extract
1.5 inch round cutter (I used a much bigger cookie cutter)


1/2       cup meringue powder
1          scant cup (almost full) water
2          pounds (32 ounces, or 2 boxes) confectioners sugar
2          teaspoons light corn syrup
1          teaspoon peppermint extract (if desired)
Pink, red or green gel icing color
Small squeeze bottles

Instruction for Cookies

Preheat oven to 350ºF and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and extracts until combined. Add the flour mixture one cup at a time, mixing on low until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. After the last addition, the dough will look thick and crumbly.

Now, you're ready to roll. Line rolling surface with wax paper. Dust surface and coat your rolling pin with four. Roll a portion of the dough on the flour-coated surface and knead it together until smooth. Roll dough 1/4-inch thick. Dip the round cookie cutter in flour and cut as many circles out of the dough as you can. Remove scrap, re-knead and repeat. Make sure to re-flour the work surface as you go.

Place cookies on prepared cookie sheet. (You can easily lift them, as the dough is sturdy.) You can also roll directly on to parchment paper, remove scraps and transfer the parchment paper to the cookie sheet.

Place cookies in freezer for about 10 minutes. Then bake for 9-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking tray. Use the cookie cutter to trim cookies to size, if desired. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Instructions for Icing

Mix royal icing in large bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachment. Mix together meringue powder, peppermint extract (optional), and water until foamy and combined.

Sift in the confectioners sugar, add the corn syrup and mix on low until incorporated.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 5 minutes on medium-low, Increase to medium-high and continue beating until icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. Tint a small portion the the royal icing pink. If you like, add a few drops of white gel color to the remaining white icing.

With a squeeze bottle, pipe and outline the cookies in white. Then thin the icing to create a flood consistency. Add a few drop of water at a time to the white icing until it is the consistency of thick syrup. Repeat with pink icing. Use the squeeze bottle to fill the center of the outlined cookie with white flood icing. Pipe dots of pink around the perimeter and use a toothpick to pull the pink toward the cent of the cookie, to create a peppermint design. Repeat  with the remaining cookies and let dry for 24 hours. (Note: if the pink icing sits on the surface of the white without sinking in, then thin the icings a bit more.) This recipe is from: Bakerella

**I think it is a good idea to put the perimeter on all cookies first and then go in and fill them with the flood icing about 6 at a time... Add the designs and then repeat. Also, the toothpick is very helpful. I recommend that you not only use it to move the flood icing to the perimeter and to design, but also to pop any bubbles in the flood icing.

I hope you enjoy these cookies! They are fun and festive!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Pie

It appears that I am a day late and a dollar short, here. With that being said, I am still sharing this pie recipe, because it is my favorite. I have been making it for the last few years and I will be making it again today, for my Thanksgiving celebration that will take place tomorrow.

This  pie is simple and delicious. I think it has the right balance of tart and sweet and it has proven to be a true delight!

Isn't this floral decoration the best? I saw the concept on a blog and fell in love and made my own!

Cranberry and Wild Blueberry Pie - Bon Appetit

16          ounces frozen organic wild blueberries (do not thaw)
12          ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw; about 3 cups)
1-1/4      cups sugar
3            Tablespoons cornstarch
2            Cinnamon sticks
1            Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2         teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

2            pie crust disks (see my great grandmother's recipe below)
Heavy whipping cream (for brushing)
Freshly grated nutmeg (for sprinkling)

To create a lattice top, roll out the dough, then cut it into strips. Make the lattice by draping half of the strips in one direction across the filling, then draping the other half in the opposite direction, or weave the strips over and under for a classic basket-weave pattern. Master this and you'll end up with a professional-looking dessert that's sure to impress your guests.


Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens an begins to boil, stirring occasionally, 12 to 14 minutes. Continue to boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer berry mixture to class or ceramic dish; cool completely (mixture will thicken). DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover; chill.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 400ºF. Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer crust to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish; trim dough overhang to 1 inch. Remove cinnamon sticks from filling; spoon into crust. Roll out second dough disk to 13x10-inch rectangle. Cut dough lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide strips (11 to 12 strips). Arrange half of dough strips across top of filling, spacing evenly apart. Form lattice by arranging remaining dough strips at right angle to first dough strips and weaving strips, if desired. Trim off excess dough from strips. Bush edges of bottom crust lightly with whipping cream. Press dough strip ends  to adhere to bottom crust edges. Fold edges of bottom crust up over strips, pinching to seal. Crimp edges decoratively. Brush edges and lattice lightly with cream. Sprinkle lattice strips lightly with nutmeg. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bak until crust is golden and filling is bulling thickly, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool pie on rack. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Serve pie at room temperature.

Great Grandma Adcock's Pie Crust

2          cups flour
1          cup vegetable shortening
1          teaspoon salt
1/4       cup ice cold water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until coarse like peas. Add water. Mix with hands. Roll out on floured surface until 1/4-inch thick.

I grew up cutting the fat into my flour, using two knives. Now I use a dough/pastry blender... so useful! It is really important that your water is extremely cold! Also, mix dough by hand until it is no longer a gooey mess.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

30 Books By 30

Last year, on my 29th birthday, I set out to read 30 books by my 30th birthday.  Well, today I am 30!  How did that happen?

I once read somewhere, that you should not allow others to make you feel bad about what you like to read.  I liked reading this because I am a Christian and I sometimes feel bad reading romance novels, because I think that somehow they will make me bad.  It is just really nice to read something mindless, after reading heavy stuff... classics, or emotional books. But, I have realized that I am still the same person and I just love to read, no matter what the book may be about. I think having the ability to read is very important and it should be impressed upon our young people, and if they want to read something that you wouldn't necessarily choose, that is ok, because hey, they are reading (use discernment... obviously it would be highly inappropriate for a 6th grader to read '50 Shades of Grey'.. heck I haven't even read it.)! And, perhaps they will realize that they do not like a specific genre, on their own, rather than being told not to read it by someone else. So, go forth and read what you want!  You will be happier in the end!  Although, I will say that I generally choose books that I find interesting or important via some strange equation in my head.  Ha ha. Sometimes, you just have to read a really dumb book, so that you can get back on track, with the good ones!

Here is the list of books that I read (as you can see, I'll pretty much read anything, as long as I find it to be interesting!):

1.  Q&A (a.k.a. 'Slumdog Millionaire') by Vikas Swarup

I saw this movie when it came out, and I am guessing I purchased the book then, because it has been on my shelf for years.  I liked the book, but it was still just so sad.  I suppose it ended in a good way, but still... sad.  I give this 3 out of 5 stars.  I liked it.

2.  Morgan's Hunter by Cate Beauman

I won the fifth book in this series through, which led me to this book, the first in the series.  I have never really been a romance literature type of person, but the way that Cate Beauman throws in the suspense, they just draw you in.  I guarantee that if you read this book, you will want to read the rest of the series, too.  Morgan is a wildlife biologist and she runs into some trouble and that is where Hunter comes in.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

3.  Falling For Sarah by Cate Beauman

Sarah finds herself in a dangerous situation, when she is stalked by a crazy man.  Good thing Ethan is there for her, or things could have ended off much worse.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.  FYI:  This book has a twisted man and he does horrible things, so beware!

4.  Hailey's Truth  by Cate Beauman

A young babysitter and college student, trying to do things with her life, gets the opportunity to go on a trip to Mexico.  I have a feeling that this trip was more than she bargained for.  Austin is the bodyguard that is along for the ride.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

5.  Forever Alexa  by Cate Beauman

Alexa is the mother of a young daughter and older sister to Abby.  This book in the series deals with Alexa trying to save her sister Abby, after she is kidnapped.  Jackson, a man from the past and father of Alexa's daughter comes back into the picture, in order to help Alexa find her sister.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

6.  The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist

I really enjoyed this book, it was a fun twist to an orphan story.  The author is a friend of a friend and I really liked this book because it was a good read.  I literally read it in one day.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It was amazing! (Amazing is a very strong word, but it was pretty darn good!)

7.  Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Mary Poppins is one of my favorite Disney movies!  I never knew that it was a book until 'Saving Mr. Banks' was about to come out (a great movie by the way).  So, I immediately decided that I needed to read it.  Something you should know, is that the movie and the book are not too much alike.  I give this 3 out of 5 stars.  I liked it.

8.  Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson

Growing up, my Grandma purchased all of these books for my mom and I always wanted to read them.  However, my mom decided to give them all away to the Good will a couple of years ago.  Tear.  Because of this, it has taken me some time to get to them.  Luckily, my mom gave me the first in the series for me birthday last year.  A fun Baker who solves crime.  Food and mystery, does it get better than that?!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

9.  Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

This is the first Agatha Christie book that I have ever read.  I am kind of in the middle of a huge mystery/ suspense spell.  This book hit the spot.  Boy does Christie know how to get you to second guess yourself and the characters in this book!  This is definitely a honeymoon gone wrong!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

10.  Ice Baron by Jennette Green

May I just say that I love Jennette Green!  She writes well and creates fun stories that you cannot put down.  This is another sweet love story... there is anger, there is adventure, and there is love.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

11.  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

A short and sweet tale, with a twinge of sadness.  It struck me in a way that I cannot explain.  I give it 5 out of 5 stars. It was amazing!

12.  Ordeal By Innocence by Agatha Christie

Another great Agatha Christie book.  Everything is in the family, for this one!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

"Someone was guilty- and got away with it.  But the others were innocent- and didn't get away with anything."

13.  Black Boy by Richard Wright

I like this book.  I read it because the kids in the English honors class at my school were reading it.  I found it to be sad.  He fought his way through life.  But he never gave up. (I really tired of reading about Communism in the end.)  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

14.  The Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris

A cute, fun, and quick read.  I wish that there was more to the love story of Luke and Emily.  I feel like the story was building and building and then it just kind of ended.  I give this 3 out of 5 stars.  I liked it.

15.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I don't really know what to say about this book, except that it was lovely and beautiful.  I think I shall remember this story for quite some time.  I am curious to see what the movie is like, now.  I give this 5 out of 5 stars.  It truly was amazing!

16.  Girl With a Peal Earring by Tracy Chevalier

I thought before I started this book, that it might be a little boring and that I wouldn't like it.  But, it wasn't boring and I liked it a lot.  I liked the time period.  I liked the art.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

17.  Tangled by Emma Chase

A very quick and funny read.  It is not everyday that you read a romance novel from the guy's perspective.  This is a true romance, so there is some sex, beware.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

18.  Twisted by Emma Chase

This is the sequel to 'Tangled'.  I hated this book!  I mean, I actually really liked it, but the characters did not communicate and all of their problems could have been avoided, if they spoke with one another! Ugh!  What I gathered from this:  Communication is Key!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

19.  Justice For Abby by Cate Beauman

This is the 6th book in the Bodyguards of L.A. County series.  As you know, I really enjoy Cate Beauman and this series.  I was waiting for this book to come out in February.  I was able to order it in late April and I read it right away.  Abby has been rescued and now she is living a very guarded life.  She is hidden away from cameras and newspapers.  She can't be discovered, for the safety of her and her family.  Jerrod is doing more than keeping her safe, though.  Wowza!  I give this 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

20.  Divergent by Veronica Roth

As a young adult, I was unaware of the genre titled 'Young Adult', when searching for books.  I have always just read what I thought might be interesting.  As an adult, I have become aware of this genre and I quite like it.  Even though I enjoy a good romance novel, there is something so great about the sweet love that is discovered in a young adult novel.  It's cute and though I am an adult, I hope that I can find a sweet love.  This book was fun!  I happened to be reading it at the same time as several of my students and were able to talk about it, which made the reading experience better.  This book reminded a bit of 'The Hunger Games' in the aspect of the population being split into different factions (districts) and the whole fighting for your life scenario.  Other than that, this book stands on its own and  I liked it.  I also liked that the name of each of the factions is truly a real word and the peoples demeanor reflects the definition of that word, though I suppose that was why the author chose those words.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

21.  A Triple Knot by Emma Campion

I loved this book.  It took me the first few chapters to get the characters in order, but after that I couldn't stop reading.  I literally was silent in my car pool, to and from work for a week, because I was reading.  Because it was the end of the school year and I was finished grading everything, I also read during my prep periods.  I am now interested in learning more about Joan of Kent because of this story.  Some complained that the title of the book does not make sense, but I have to disagree... it makes total sense.  What a crazy life Joan lived, in order to be with the man she loved (tossed here and there by her own family).  I knew how the book ended, because the back cover hinted at it, but that didn't keep me from crying at the end. Thomas Holland!  Joan!  Stupid Will!  Thomas Holland! Ned!  Ahhh!!  I highly recommend this book!  It has great flow and is very easy, yet enjoyable to read.  I am now highly interested in reading Emma Campion's other book, 'The King's Mistress'.  It too sounds great!

I won this book from and got to read in it May... two whole months before it came out!  I now feel lead to learn more about Joan of Kent.  I am also Highly interested in reading Emma Campion's other novel, 'The King's Mistress', about Alice Perrers.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

22.  That Night by Chevy Stevens

I won this book off of, through their first reads giveaways.  I had the opportunity to read it at the beginning of May, even though it wasn't released until mid June.  Pretty cool! To be honest,  I read the first ten pages and I got a really bad taste in my mouth for this book.  The writing was choppy and had no flow.  The author's style of writing got on my nerves.  So, I stopped reading it and read 'A Triple Knot' instead.  Once I finished that, I picked this book back up.  I am glad that I did so, because I actually ended up liking this book very much.  I was intrigued my the story line, even before I began reading it, but once I got beyond those first few pages, I became adjusted to the writer's style.  I knew who the real suspect was, but I didn't expect the twist that was revealed as well.  A good story.  I kind of wish that there was a little more.  Boy howdy the main character's mom is really mean!  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

23.  Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

It may be surprising to some, but I have been in love with someone and I identified very well with Kate because of this.  She had the guts to eventually tell the guy she loved, that she loved him... and this is where she and I differ. I will never, ever tell this person.  At times, I wanted to slap Kate and say, "Speak your mind, woman!"  But, then I realized that I often keep things to myself, because I feel that by being honest (and not meanly so), I am going to hurt someone's feelings and that makes me sad, but yet leaves me frustrated with myself.  Tully is very self centered and I kind of wanted to punch her.  Ha ha.  This is a novel about true friendship and how it can go awry after so many years, and somehow it can still be called upon when truly needed.

I cried so much while finishing the last 100 pages of this book, that I got  a headache.  I went into the restroom and saw my reflection... I was a mess, but as I looked closer, I couldn't help but laugh.  Why, you may ask?  Because I had tiny flecks of tissue stuck all over my face!  Ha ha.  Besides my real best friends, books are my best friends and I have learned a lot from them and one thing is for certain (Firefly Lane), nothing matters in life, more than friendship, family, laughter, and love. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked it.

24. Holes by Louis Sachar

Surprise, surprise! This book was beautifully made into a movie.  I mean, I knew that it was a movie.  I own it.  I like it a lot.  However, the book and the movie are like one in the same, other than the fact that Stanley is a bit over weight in the book and in the movie he is not.  As I was reading the book, I kept picturing scenes from the movie.  This is usually why I am disappointed when books are made into a movie, because the director did not make it the way that I saw it in my head.  A good, fun, and light read. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I really liked it.

I own a leather bound book, that holds all of Jane Austen's novels. Unfortunately, I have only read 'Mansfield Park' and 'Sense and Sensibility'. Of course, I loved both. I am certain that even if I had knowledge of 'Pride and Prejudice' before reading 'Pride and Prescience', I still would have greatly enjoyed this book. It was a fun light read and a good mystery. I really enjoyed it! I think I will head back to the library to get the next book in this series. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked it.

26. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This is the leather bound book that I own (not my photo, though). I got it from Barnes and Noble. Though I got it three years ago, they may still carry it. The link is for a cloth bound version which I love equally and may some day purchase because it is lovely.

As before stated, I had read two of Jane Austen's novels previously and I knew that I quite liked her style of writing and story telling. I enjoyed this novel immensely! Elizabeth blinded by prejudice (misguided) and Mr. Darcy, by pride.  Although, as a friend just pointed out it is not one fault per person, but that they both were prideful and held prejudice within their own classes and against another class, in society.  I agree.  They each hold parts of these. It all worked out in the end! Though, if only these characters communicated, their issues would have been resolved at a much speedier pace. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  It was amazing!

27. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

This is a great story and it is also very well illustrated. When I was in my teaching credential program, many moons ago, I was introduced to 'Iggy Peck, Architect', by this very same author. I purchased it right away because it is so fun. This book follows suit and it is a great lesson in perseverance. If you want something bad enough, make it happen, and don't let others stop you! I just had to get this for a very special baby girl that was born in September, to my very dear friend. It is never to early to start a private library! I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

28.  Suspense and Sensibility: Or, First Impressions Revisited by Carrie Bebris

I am really glad that I stumbled upon this series at the library! Fun, funny, and nice little mysteries. I like seeing Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth interact with each other (in my mind). Even though these are not written by Jane Austen, I enjoy seeing this couple live beyond the pages of 'Pride and Prejudice.' Mr. Darcy though, should start believing his wife a little sooner when it comes to the matter of the unnatural, for it seems she is always right. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked it.

29. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

While I enjoyed this book, I did not like it as much as the other Jane Austen novels I have read previously. However, it has sprung in me a desire to read some Gothic novels. I have not done so before and I think I shall find them quite interesting.

Catherine is a silly girl, but quite nice and innocent and is easily led my her imagination. It is sad that her kindness is abused by her friend Isabella. I am happy she found a friend in Miss Tilney and that a true love was found. I give this book 3 out 5 stars.  I liked it.

30. North by Northanger by Carrie Bebris

This was my favorite of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries, thus far. It was all mystery from the beginning! I liked that Elizabeth came to know Mr. Darcy's mother, even though she had been gone some 20 years. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.  It was great!

I finished the above 30 books by June 19, 2014. I can't believe that I reached my goal before half of the year was even over! I really love to read and this was a fun little challenge for me. I don't know if I would have accomplished this task if I did not make it a point to sit down and read.  Life has a way of getting in the way of things that we truly enjoy.  They are often the first things that we kick to the curb when our schedule fills up. So, it was a joy to read and read often.

The following books were read after my challenge was met, but still before my birthday:

31. The Matters at Mansfield: Or, the Crawford Affair by Carrie Bebris

32. Emma by Jane Austen

33. The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout

34. The Intrigue at Highbury: Or, Emma's Match by Carrie Bebris

35. Persuasion by Jane Austen

36. The Deception at Lyme: Or, the Peril of Persuasion by Carrie Bebris

37. Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss

38. The Riddle of the Deplorable Dandy by Patricia Veryan

39. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

40. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Currently reading: A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany by: Sigrid MacRae