From My Carolina Home

Quilting, cooking, reading books, gardening, crafting, sewing, photography and more


Catching up on Books and Movies with a giveaway

It has been a while since I talked about the books I’m reading and movies to recommend.  For those getting my posts via email, you might not know that I link my Goodreads reviews on the sidebar so you can see my latest reviews.  I like to read a variety of books, lately becoming bored with murder mysteries though, so I am reading more general fiction.  I have a giveaway today too, so here we go!  Affiliate links are provided to all the books, just click on the titles.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – A compelling and thought provoking novel about the horror and heartbreak of living in Nazi occupied France during the second world war. Vianne and her sister Isabelle are forced to make one terrible choice after another, taking grave risks as they try to survive, each in her own way. Isabelle joins the resistance, while Vianne is forced to billet German officers in her home. Hunger, poverty and cruelty become the way of life for four years, as Vianne takes one day at a time while Isabelle risks her life to fight back. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would have reacted in their position. Very well researched and written, difficult to put down, The Nightingale is highly recommended.

February Books and Reading at From My Carolina Home

The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio – Interesting easy read with a mystery involving a rare camellia bush and the untimely death of a lady of the manor. It is told in two time periods, one just after the death, and the other years later when the manor is sold. Both women attempt to find out the truth about the lady’s death and the location of the rare camellia. I have enjoyed other works by this author. Her style is easy to read, yet the story is compelling enough to make you want to read more. However, the mystery is ultimately a bit superficial. Still, it is an enjoyable novel, and nice for times when concentration isn’t required.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro – A totally predictable story, no surprises. The writing is ok, and the book is a nice read, but not a groundbreaker.  There was a mystery of sorts, as the protagonist Grace tried to figure out why a total stranger would leave an inheritance to her, but the plot was thin and easily figured out.  The only enjoyable thing was the information on perfumes, and the making of complex fragrances. When I started this book, I thought about doing a post on perfumes, as I like wearing pretty scents and have different ones for different seasons. But, so many people nowadays cannot stand to be around it, that mostly I use perfume very sparingly, mainly for my own enjoyment and DH’s.

February Books and Reading at From My Carolina Home

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – What would you do if your best friends committed a crime, although maybe unintentionally, then told you about it? Then what if one of them threatened to turn in everyone, including you? That is essentially the premise in the story, and it isn’t as cut and dried as you might think. I am still wrestling with how the story progressed and the choices made by the characters, particularly at the end of the more than 500 page novel. In the author’s fashion, the days go by slowly and in excruciating detail, which will annoy many readers. But I find this kind of character study interesting and engrossing. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Never Change by Elizabeth Berg – In some ways this was a difficult book to read, dealing with serious issues about dying and loneliness. A home care nurse in her 50s is assigned to care for her high school crush as he deals with the end of his life from a brain tumor. It is disturbing that a nurse would cross the line between personal and professional, but in a way that was the point. Her personal issues cloud her judgement. Her loneliness makes her reach out for personal attachments in inappropriate ways. Also a nurse, I found some of the ethical medical issues in the book unrealistic. I cannot imagine taking one patient to another patient’s home, especially when the second patient is a drug dealer. However, it is a necessary plot point which becomes clear later. Overall, this was a thought provoking novel, with a lesson on reaching out and making connections.

Now that DH is retired and we can see movies more easily, we are going a bit more.  First, run to the theater to see the award winner “The Post” with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.   It was nominated for six Golden Globe awards, and 2 Academy Awards, along with 73 other nominations from various film critic organizations.  The story is compelling about the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s.  Recent widow and new head of the Washington Post must decide whether or not to challenge the government and support the freedom of the press in publishing classified information about the Vietnam war.  It was astonishing how much of this movie rang true to the problems today with government’s assault on the press.  The scenes of the printing of the newspaper with the typesetters alone are worth the price of admission.  It has great writing, superb acting, and fabulous set design.  I’d like to see it again.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri, also a multi-nominated film, is a strange movie that I am not sure I can recommend.  Frances McDormand has a very strong role as a mother of a murdered girl at odds with the local sheriff over the lack of an arrest in the case after months.  The film was made here in western NC in Sylva and Asheville, so of course I want it to be successful.  You may not know that North Carolina has a significant number of movie productions here every year, notably Hunger Games and Dirty Dancing, among others.  But the amount of F-bombs in this movie made it not so appealing, along with the unresolved nature of the storyline and a weird ending.  It is racking up awards for acting and writing, and is reminiscent of Fargo in the darkness of the story, with spots of genuine humor between grief and raw tragedy.  Still, I think I would have rather spent money on something else for the theater and waited for this one on DVD.

Next movies on my to-see soon list are Phantom Thread and Winchester.  Phantom Thread focuses on the fashion industry in London during the 1950s, is nominated for a number of awards and is supposed to have lavish costuming.  It stars Daniel Day Lewis.  Winchester stars Dame Helen Mirren in the role of the heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester, allegedly haunted by the people killed with those guns.  She builds the Winchester house, the legend saying that she believed that she would live as long as she continued to build on the house.  The Winchester Mystery House is in San Jose, California, and if you are ever in the area, it is a must see attraction, loads of fun whether the legend is true or not.  I saw it many years ago, and the curator organization was in the process of refurnishing many of the rooms on the tour.

I’ve been thinking about trying out Amazon Prime. The Prime Original series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, won two 2018 Golden Globes Awards: Best Comedy Series and Best Television Actress – Comedy, Rachel Brosnahan.  The show is about a woman who had everything and lost it all, then found a talent she didn’t realize she had – doing comedy stand up. Big Little Lies was the another winner of four Golden Globes this year. With a free trial of HBO on Amazon Channels, Prime Members can watch this hit drama, where the apparently perfect lives of three mothers of first graders unravel to the point of murder.  Amazon Prime members can also see other award winning shows like Get Out, and Amazon original movie The Big Sick.  Lots to binge watch with a free trial, plus see more original programming too. Join Amazon Prime – Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime – Start Free Trial Now

For those who have Netflix,  DH and I have been watching episodes of Travelers and Stranger Things, also award winning shows.  Travelers is a sci-fi fantasy, where people from the future inhabit the bodies of people just seconds away from dying and prevent their deaths.  The team is given missions to do, to try to avoid the apocalypse that is their future.  It is a fascinating show, new travelers arrive every week with new missions.  Sometimes, actually saving the future means improvising in the present.  It stars Eric McCormack of Will and Grace fame.  Well written and engrossing, give this one a try if you have Netflix.

Stranger Things stars Wynona Rider, and is about the search for a missing boy, secret experiments, supernatural occurrences, and a very strange little girl in a nod to sci-fi horror movies from the 1980s.  No affiliation, but Netflix also does free 30-day trials.  This is also where you find the series The Crown, about the early years of Elizabeth II, and House of Cards which will make its final season without Kevin Spacey.

And last, but not least, a new collection of five charming short stories about quilters by an author I have recommended in the past, Frances O’Roark Dowell called Margaret Goes Modern.   The stories are engaging and wonderful, and every one of them would have been great developed into full novels.  I devoured this book in just a couple of hours, just couldn’t put it down!
Book Giveaway at From My Carolina Home
Margaret is bored with the traditional quilts in her guild, and when her granddaughter asks for a modern quilt, her world opens up to a brand new inspiration for quilting.  Amanda and Lucy are on the brink of financial ruin, and the solution may be in an unexpected direction, with just a touch of magic in the air.  Lisa is dealing with the death of her best friend, finding an unexpected solace in quilting.  Liz is an imperfect mother with a love of quilting and an irritating, near perfect, somewhat judgemental neighbor who doesn’t quilt.  Melissa believes she has a perfect single life, until it is upended by a 10-year-old charmer, an unexpected man and a quilt that permeates her dreams.  Frances is offering a giveaway on a copy of her short story collection, enter via Rafflecopter using this link –

Rafflecopter Book Giveaway

The giveaway will be open until Friday, and the winner announced Sunday. Please, Frances, keep writing!  With every single story I wanted more!!

What have you read or seen at the movies recently?




Catching up on Books and a Studio Book Sale

Scoring big again at the library sale, I came home with a stack of books.  I swore I was only going to get what was on my list, but naturally found a bit more.  I’ve started working my way through these interesting books and want to share some with you.  Amazon affiliate links are provided for the reviewed books for your convenience, thanks for clicking!

September Thrifting and Shopping at From My Carolina Home

First, though, I needed to finish off the novel I was reading, The House on Tradd Street by Karen White.  This was a fun read, about a real estate agent who specializes in selling old houses inherits one from an unexpected source.  The problem is she sees ghosts, so old houses are something she’d rather sell than live in.  Enter a charming but pushy guy who wants to do some research in the house, and another one with a hidden agenda, both bringing up problems from her past.  There is a mystery to be solved, but Melanie isn’t sure she wants to do that.  The ghosts, however, have plans of their own.  Overall an easy reading, well written novel that won’t require a lot of concentration.  The mystery isn’t that hard to figure out, but it is delightful anyway.  The House on Tradd Street

Book Reviews on From My Carolina Home

Next, The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen, one of my all time favorite writers who sets her novels in North Carolina, with just a touch of magic.  This book starts out with a quirky situation, Josey finds a friend in her closet, and the reason she is there becomes clearer at the end.  Secrets and habits combine to make the life of Josey miserable, and only when she gives herself permission to be herself does she find her true happiness.  In the process, surprising twists and turns in the story add humor.   As in all of Allen’s books, there is just a touch of magic, this time with books that appear to another character, Chloe, when she needs guidance and the books want to be read.  Sometimes the books can be quite persistent, and this added humor in unexpected scenes.  I couldn’t put it down, and finished it in just two mornings of reading. The Sugar Queen

Book Reviews on From My Carolina Home

One of the books I got in the book score at the library sale is Cook’s Country Best Lost Suppers.  I’ve been a fan of Christopher Kimball for a lot of years.  He is the founder of Cook Illustrated, the magazine where they roast 100 chickens to find the one best way to cook it.  For every recipe, they make it dozens of times, refining the recipe every time until it is perfect.  He started America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country shows for PBS.  If you get Netflix, be sure to watch his Fannie’s Last Supper show, a fascinating look at a dinner party from the 1800s, prepared the way Fannie Farmer may have made it before food processors and instant reading digital thermometers.  He also has a new show on PBS called Milk Street, which has a new focus of bringing international recipes and techniques to the modern home kitchen.  But, back to the book at hand, The Best Lost Suppers book is a collection of classic American recipes made better.  They took recipes from readers like Chicken Pot Pie, Baked Beans, Pot Roast, Meatloaf, Chicken Tetrazzini, plus many more, and updated the ingredients and preparation to make the dishes even better.  Each recipe contains notes from the Test Kitchen on method of preparation, use of spices, reduction of fat, and more.  Notes like these are interesting to read, and invaluable to a cook like me that likes to develop my own recipes. Cook’s Country Best Lost Suppers

Book Reviews on From My Carolina Home

Omelette and a Glass of Wine is a collection of essays from Elizabeth David, one of the pioneers of food writing.  I’ve written about her before (here), and I greatly admire her.  This book is one that you can ‘snack read’, a friends description for books that can be read in little five or ten minute sittings.  Most of the articles were written for The Spectator magazine in the 1940s to the 1960s.  Her writing is timeless, however, as good food with quality ingredients will always be welcome.  She writes about recipes, and restaurants, vegetables and cheese, whiskey in the kitchen, and her mentor in food writing from the 1870s among many other topics.  This is one of those books every true foodie should have. An Omelette and a Glass of Wine

The Fat Quarter Shop has some great quilting books on sale right now too, click on Book Sale.  Thank you to everyone that has used my link to make their FQS purchases.  Although I haven’t yet reached the threshold for a payment, I’m making progress.  Thank you for using my links!

And lastly, I have cleaned out my bookshelves and have these books for sale directly from my studio. I have quilting books…

Book Sale at From My Carolina Home

sewing books…

Book Sale at From My Carolina Home

Gooseberry Patch books…

Book Sale at From My Carolina Home

and holiday books with all kinds of subjects from sewn projects to tablescapes and recipes.

Book Sale at From My Carolina Home

Here’s a pdf of the entire list, subject to prior sale, first come first served.  All books $5 each or 5/$20 plus media mail shipping.  To order, send me an email with your choices and your zip code for shipping calculation, full info in the download – Book Sale 2017a

What are you reading now?


Having Fun in Lexington, Kentucky

Last week, DH had to go to Lexington, Kentucky to do some work, so once again I packed a bag and tagged along.  I had a fun time shopping and sight seeing while he was working. Lexington says it is the horse capital of the world, with much in the town being about the horse. There are horse farms, a horse racing track, an entire park dedicated to horses and Man O’ War, and many of the streets are named for race winners or tracks.  I took over 300 pictures, and I promise I will not show them all to you, LOL!!  But today, come with me as I shop and eat, visit quilt shops and bookstores, and have fun in Lexington.


In some places in town, there are horse statues painted by local artists that were apparently part of an art project some time ago.   We do the same thing here with our bears every year. I only found four of these horses, but this one was the most compelling, did you see what was behind it in the picture above?

Painted Horse 10

Oh, yes, a Kentucky institution, Old Kentucky Bourbon Chocolates. Every last bit of this store was chocolate! The aroma of freshly worked chocolate hit you as you walked in, there was no way to leave without having some.

Ky Chocolates 2

A couple of free samples later, I decided on a large box of Bourbon Truffle Chocolates, and two little samplers. One of the samplers was Black Forest Truffles (bourbon, chocolate truffle with chopped cherries), and the other was Chocolate Covered Bourbon Cherries. I am carefully rationing these out, excuse me for a moment while I go nab one, my treat for today.

Chocolates bourbons

This horse was across the street from the chocolate shop. It was beautifully done, and I think was my favorite of the ones I found.

Painted Horse 11

Next on the west side route plan was this shop, Quilter’s Square.

Quilter's Square 1

Beautifully light inside, and huge! Owners Chana and Kayla were so friendly and helpful, I really enjoyed chatting with them.

Quilter's Square 4

They are doing the Row by Row too, and had a darling hot air balloon pattern. Although I can’t show it to you, you can see in these pictures how many projects they have going on, with samples above the fabric. Just stop by and get their kit if you are near the area.

Quilter's Square 3

They had fabric and more fabric!  So much choice!  I could have spent a lot longer just admiring all the displays and quilts.

Quilter's Square 2

While I was on the west side, I had to go to my favorite chain bookstore, Half Price Books. I was delighted to find two stores in Lexington, this was the smaller of the two.

Half Price Books Lexington 1

Yet it was stuffed as is usual for these stores.  The cookbook corner had the same amount of space as this one for crafting, sewing, quilting, gardening and more.  The clearance section was huge too, with lots of books at just $2.

Half Price Books Lexington 3

Dinner that night was at a local eatery called Saul Good, I had a flatbread pizza.

Saul Good pizza

DH had a tuna steak, and shared his asparagus with me.

Saul Good tuna

On the corner of the shopping center, this horse was standing watch.

Painted Horse 5

The next bit of shopping was on the east side, with Sew-A-Lot leading off the afternoon of fun.

Sew-A-Lot 1

I have to say, I had just as much fun chatting with Patti, Thomas and Kim. They were trying to get to their lunch but were willing to chat as long as I was there, and I just couldn’t leave, LOL!! Sorry for delaying your lunches, but I was just enjoying myself too much!!  There were a lot of goodies to see, patterns and fabric galore.

Sew-A-Lot 2

Their Row by Row pattern was inspired by one of their customers who uses a little red wagon to carry all her class supplies. It is a darling pattern, so stop over and get their kit if you are nearby this summer.

Sew-A-Lot 3

The east side’s Half Price Books was next on the list, and wow, what a pretty storefront with the arbor and flowers!!

Half Price Lexington flowers

This large store kept me entertained for over an hour as I perused the fiction for books on my to-get list, and then the non-fiction for what might be fun.

HalfPriceBooks 2

The last horse is the only one of the four with a plaque to show what it was all about, but it wasn’t dated. This one is in front of the TV station and is named Color Bars. It was bought at the art event and donated to the station.

Painted Horse 4

Dinner that evening was at Columbia Steak House. The original restaurant has been there since 1943. We went to one closer to the hotel that has been there for 17 years. It is locally owned, not a chain.

Columbia exterior

I usually look for one of a kind places like this when traveling. We have to resort to chain restaurants often enough on the road, so these are a treat. We started off with a shrimp appetizer as we were both hungry. I had skipped lunch to shop and sight-see.

Columbia shrimp

My dinner was a nicely grilled rib-eye with steamed broccoli.

Columbia steak

DH had a Kentucky staple, a Hot Brown. I was surprised to find out that this is not an open faced roast beef with brown gravy. Quite different!! It is sliced ham and turkey on a piece of bread, covered in a mornay-like sauce, topped with cheese and sliced tomato then broiled to melt and brown the cheese. Then it is topped with crispy bacon. Yum!!

Columbia hot brown

Inside the restaurant was again, all about the horse, with somewhat old fashioned decor and horse pictures on the stucco walls.  It was a bit dark, with stained wood beams on the ceiling and wood floors.

Columbia interior

They had several beautiful stained glass like art on the doors and windows.  Only by getting very close could you see that it was done with paint, still they were nicely done.

Columbia window

So, that was shopping and eating. In future posts, I’ll show you some of the other places I visited, including the Arboretum and Keeneland. We were not able to get to the Kentucky Horse Park where Man O’ War is memorialized as the greatest horse that ever raced. The tickets were $20 each plus $5 to park, and we just didn’t have the whole day to spend there to make that worthwhile. But, DH will have to go back later in the year, so we may try then.

Are you going to do a Row by Row quilt this year? Do you have patterns left over from last year like I do?


Take Me Away!




Chocolate! A Tasting, Recipes and a Book Review

I’ll admit to being a card carrying chocoholic, I love the stuff.  Most of the time I go for the dark varieties, but I won’t turn down milk chocolate if it is offered.  I like it best in its pure form, just chocolate, unadulterated with any other flavor.  Chocolate French Silk Pie is my favorite pie, and I love Chocolate Pot de Creme.  Give me a Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffle first, but I won’t turn down a Milky Way Midnight bar if offered, or any one of a number of other chocolate treats.  So long as it doesn’t have nuts, coconut, or raspberry, I’ll happily accept, and probably have a silly grin in anticipation of the delicacy to be savored.  Today is National Chocolate Day, too, the perfect time to show the Chocolate Tasting we did for a dear friend’s special birthday, also a chocolate lover.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

We gathered six different brands of chocolate, all in the range of 72%  cacao, so the comparison would be more or less equal.  We had to go to different stores to find all these, amazingly enough the best selections were at chain drug stores, although the specialty grocery store here had several.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

We settled on just six trying to get a good mix of expensive to inexpensive for comparison.  Our choices were Hershey’s, Ghiradelli, Fresh Market Store Brand, Lindt, Godiva, and Green & Black.  I wanted to get Valrhona as well, but they no longer sell to retailers and the shipping was too expensive.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Using the gold chargers to serve, the pieces of chocolate were placed in paper cups with any logos or writing face down to preserve the anonymity of the chocolate maker. Each cup was numbered in the bottom.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

There is an art to doing a tasting, beginning with aroma.  Did you know that chocolate contains over 1200 compounds?  What you smell and taste is fully dependent on how it is processed. The chocolates were added to the cups, and water crackers are served as a palate cleanser.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Using the chart to help you describe the aroma, you’ll be amazed at the wide variety of flavors.

Fruit Notes – citrus, berry, tropical, cherry, apricot, peach, fig
Nutty – walnut, almond, hazelnut, peanut
Vegetative – grass, olive, tobacco, tea, hay
Spice – cinnamon, pepper, vanilla, licorice, coffee
Floral – rose, violet, lavender, jasmine
Earthy – musk, mushroom, truffle, soil
Silky – butter, honey, molasses, milk, butterscotch

Next, break a piece and evaluate the ‘snap’.  It is a crisp break or does it bend before breaking.  Higher quality chocolate has a crisp snap.  Look at the break to evaluate the overall texture of the chocolate, smooth to grainy.  Place a small bit on your tongue and let it melt on its own.  Rate the chocolate from bitter to sweet on a scale of 1-10, with very bitter at one, and too sweet at 10.  Now, concentrate on the flavors, what do you taste?  Use the scale above to help identify flavors.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Download a Chocolate Tasting tasting sheet for your party – Chocolate Tasting.  So which did I like? I picked the Lindt in the test, with Green & Black as a close second. Amazingly, the Hershey’s Special Dark scored well with guests, coming in third in my scoring.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

On this subject too, I highly recommend this book. The Emperor’s of Chocolate.  It is without a doubt the most interesting non-fiction book I have ever read! The amount of detail and interesting storylines that are the history of chocolate, chocolate makers and the titans of Hershey and Mars are amazing. It reads so well, it is hard to put down! I learned so much about the industry and the process of making chocolate. The family dynasties of Hershey and Mars started out as friends, with Hershey giving Mars the technology to make the candy coating for M&Ms. The ‘M’s stand for Mars, and the executive at Hershey named William Murrie. But later, they became such rivals that they tried to destroy each other. Secrecy abounds in this industry anyway, but paranoia is present too, so much so that parts of the manufacturing process are divided up, so no one person on the line knows how the whole candy is made. Read this fascinating book, and have some chocolate nearby, you’ll want some!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

In the mood for a treat now?  How about making some Chocolate Covered Oreos?

Chocolate Covered Oreos 17

It’s summer here, so the strawberries are coming in.  Here’s the easy way to do chocolate dipped strawberries. Using the chocolate candy melts, microwave a handful in a glass container for one minute on medium-high setting, then stir until melted and smooth.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Dip the strawberries and lay on wax paper to harden.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Add a chunk of dark chocolate to the remaining melted chocolate and microwave about 30 seconds, then stir until melted.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Using a fork, drizzle the darker chocolate over the strawberries to make a pretty design. Quick and easy!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

After a party, I had some whipped cream left over. Taking it out of the frig, I whipped it by hand a few times to get the soft peaks back. Then melting some candy melts in the microwave, stirring until smooth, I added a bit of the whipped cream to the chocolate to loosen it up.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Then, fold the chocolate into the rest of the whipped cream, and viola, instant chocolate mousse!

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Served in a parfait glass, an easy yet elegant dessert. Yes, whipped topping would work too.

Chocolate Tasting for National Chocolate Day at From My Carolina Home

Are you a chocolate fan?  Milk or dark?


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Three Good Books

Three recently read books have really caught my attention, two fiction with culinary themes, and a non-fiction cookbook.  After doing the sewing/quilting book review series last September, I had a couple of marginal reads to one truly bad read (reviews are on Goodreads) interspersed with quick cozy mystery reads. Then I picked up Delicious by Ruth Reichl, her first fiction novel. I have thoroughly enjoyed her non-fiction books, both her autobiographic accounts Tender at the Bone of her early years, and especially Garlic and Sapphires – a tale of her years as an undercover restaurant reviewer.  I still have Comfort Me With Apples on the To-Be-Read pile.

Delicious is the story of a young woman named Billie, who takes a job at a food magazine. She quickly demonstrates her commitment to the challenges, and folds into the magazine family, only to have the it suddenly shut down. She is offered a position to maintain the hotline for recipe inquiries and complaints wanting the money back guarantee, remaining as the only employee in a deserted mansion in downtown New York. Finding a mystery in the magazines archive, she discovers a hidden room, and the letters of a young girl, Lulu, writing to the legendary James Beard. Through those letters, and an arcane filing system of organizing them, Billie learns about history, the history and challenges of food during the war years. Lulu’s courage battling her own heartache inspires Billie to confront her own tragic past.

Good Books Reviews at From My Carolina Home

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read with a different kind of story, one of the few times I’ll give a novel five stars on Goodreads. Ruth Reichl’s writing is superb, engaging interest quickly and making it difficult to put the book down. Her characters are well rounded and real, with raw emotion just beneath the surface apparent when the source of her main character’s anxiety about cooking is revealed. This is a must read for any fan of Ms, Reichl, any foodie, or anyone looking for a wonderfully different story.

The next book with a culinary theme was suggested by my book reading buddy, Kelly. We meet every couple of months to discuss a book we both read. This time was her turn to choose, and she picked A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White. The story is told from three different viewpoints. It begins with Alice, a young black girl living in 1929 Emancipation Township, North Carolina, subject to the plight of poor people and the persecution of her race. She escapes to New York, becoming the chef at a restaurant called Cafe Andres. Later she writes a cookbook with recipes from her time in the south. The story picks up in the 1981 with Bobby, a young gay man, escaping from his own persecution. He comes to New York, and apprentices at Cafe Andres, after Alice has left. He finds a home with Sebastian, and lives through the horror of AIDS. The third story begins in 1989, with Amelia coming to the city in the aftermath of her husband’s affair and subsequent divorce. She leaves her wealthy comfortable Connecticut home, only to find a connection with Alice that redefines who she really is.

Good Books Reviews at From My Carolina Home

This is a beautifully written novel about three different people with very different backgrounds, escaping their troubled lives to New York City. Throughout the novel there are references to comfort foods and experiments with new culinary ideas. This novel is so well written, with rich imagery and detail in the lives of the characters. The well developed storyline is written in a convergent style, and a twist at the end that I did not see coming.

The non-fiction book is At Elizabeth David’s Table, Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom.  This is so much more than a cookbook. For the non-foodie reader, Elizabeth David is an icon in the culinary world.  Ms. David was a world traveler, living a bit of a wild life for her time in France, Italy and England, and one of the first food writers for magazines.  In 1950, her work A Book of Mediterranean Food was published, followed quickly by French Country Cooking in 1951.  Long before Gordon Ramsay, she became an superstar in England but was, and still is, virtually unknown in America.  At the time Julia Child was working on her book of French cooking in Paris, Elizabeth David had already published five works concentrating on the food of five different regions – the aforementioned Mediterranean and French volumes, along with a second book on French cooking concentrating on the Provincial region, English Summer cooking and an Italian cookbook from her time living in Italy in the early 1950s. Throughout her life, she continued to write for international magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and The Spectator, and published more cookbooks on English cookery.  She won many awards over her lifetime, including the Order of the British Empire, Commander of the Order of British Empire, and Fellow of the Royal Society of literature for her food writing.  All of her cookbooks remain in publication today.

Good Books Reviews at From My Carolina Home

At Elizabeth David’s Table is a collection of selected recipes from all of her published cookbooks, along with some of her writings, musings on food and her life in different countries as she lived.  Every course is included from starters and soups, eggs and pasta, rice and sides, meat, fish, poultry, sauces, sweets and bread.  Reading her articles transports the reader to rustic Italy, a summer day in Britain, the French countryside or the edge of the Mediterranean sea.  The forward to the volume was written by Ruth Reichl, a devotee of Elizabeth David.  It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that the revelations of Ms. David of the rationing and austerity of the war years was an inspiration for the Lulu letters of Delicious.

So, two new fiction books for you, dear readers, and one really special cookbook. If you are local, and would like to join the reading group, let me know. Kelly and I meet for lunch when we can, using the discussion guides online for questions. We would love to have at least two more in our little book club. We’ll take turns choosing books, hopefully to push us out of our normal reading genres.

What are you reading now?



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Designed for Drama – A Biltmore House Event

This week I went with friends to the Biltmore House for their Designed for Drama Event, a collection of costumes worn in movies based on George Vanderbilt’s favorite books.  This is the third time the Biltmore House has done a costume exhibit.  The first one, Dressing Downton Abby was spectacular!  This exhibit is a collection of more than 40 outstanding costumes from 14 recent movies based on books that were George Vanderbilt’s favorite reads.  The amount of handwork and details on the gowns are just amazing.  I took over 200 pictures, making up for lost time as up to now pictures were not allowed at Biltmore House.  They now allow non-flash photography, so I had a field day, and was very happy I took an extra battery for the camera! There is no way I can show you all the wonderful costumes, I just chose a few to highlight. First, this one is a gorgeous gold gown with period correct black sequins. It was worn by Nicole Kidman in “Portrait of a Lady”.  Note the detailed lace at the hem.

Dressed Drama Portrait Lady 9

Just look at the handwork and decorative stitching on the bodice, and the matching gloves.

Dressed Drama Portrait Lady 10

The library is my favorite room at the Biltmore House, and it is spectacular. Bookshelves line the room on all four sides, with a secret passage behind the upper level chimney behind the fireplace.  The ceiling is ornately painted, and the woodwork is awe inspiring.  This room held the simple costumes from “Pride and Prejudice”.

Dressed Drama Pride Prejudice 4

In all the exhibits, the actual volumes from the Vanderbilt library accompanies the exhibit, displayed in clear cases.

Dressed Drama plackard

Additional posters detail the costume’s origin, designer and who wore it. The “Golden Bowl” dress was one of the most spectacular, worn by Uma Thurman.

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 1

Look at the peacock headdress, the jeweled bodice and jeweled girdle around the hips.

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 3

The necklace was a golden collar with large emerald color stones.

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 2

This is the dress worn by Kate Beckinsale in the same movie. Lovely lacework on this gown!

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 7

This dress was a bit simpler, a day dress, but what a hat!

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 8

I’d wear this hat today, I love to wear hats! Of course, it would likely need to be the Kentucky derby to get away with it, LOL!

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 9

Two more costumes from “The Golden Bowl”. There were more costumes from this book than any other, and they were all wonderfully done. I need to read this book!

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 12

The dress features gathering and draping, expertly done, with lovely rose detail.

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 13

The shawl on this dress was made of gossamer fabric with exquisite embroidery in gold.

Dressed Drama Golden Bowl 16

While we were enjoying the costumes, the pipe organ was being played, with ragtime songs from the 1920s. The music could be heard over a large portion of the tour.

Biltmore Pipe Organ

These costumes from “House of Mirth” were arranged with mirrors so you could see the backs of both.  The room here is Mrs Vanderbilt’s bedroom, with gilded portrait frames and mirrors.

Dressed Drama House of Mirth 1

The next room showcased the simpler style of “Jane Eyre”, still beautifully sewn.

Dressed Drama Jane Eyre 1

This rich red gown from “Portrait of a Lady” is right at home with the burgundy papered walls of the bedroom.  Every room at Biltmore House is furnished beautifully, and appointed with sumptuous draperies and beautiful rugs.

Dressed Drama Portrait Lady 1

This lovely gown and dashing tuxedo are from “Sherlock Holmes”, set in the billards room in the Bachelor’s wing.

Dressed Drama Sherlock Holmes 3

Costumes from “Sleepy Hollow” worn by Johnny Depp and Michael Gambon.

Dressed Drama Sleepy Hollow 1

Even the gowns worn by the extras in the film “Sleepy Hollow” had attention to detail.

Dressed Drama Sleepy Hollow 8

Just look at the lace on the bodice, and this was worn by someone in the film’s background.

Dressed Drama Sleepy Hollow 5

Lastly, these two lovely gowns are from “Twelfth Night”.

Dressed Drama Twelfth Night 2

There was a lot more to see, including gowns from “Anna Karenina” and fanciful costumes from “Finding Neverland” and more.

From the Biltmore House website – “Once recognized as ‘one of the best read men in the country’ by New York media, [George] Vanderbilt amassed a library of more than 22,000 volumes at his North Carolina home. A reader from an early age, he began at the age of 12 keeping a record of the books he had read, including the title and author of each work. By his death in 1914, Vanderbilt had logged 3,159 books. He also counted leading authors of the era as personal friends, including Henry James, Paul Leicester Ford, and Edith Wharton—all of whom stayed at Biltmore House as guests of George and Edith Vanderbilt.”

You can read more about the creation of this exhibit in their Designed for Drama Press Release.  More pictures are on the Biltmore House website Photo Gallery.  If you are local, make plans to see this wonderful exhibit.  If you haven’t made your vacation plans for this year, come to Asheville/Hendersonville!  The event runs through July 4, 2017.

Did you enjoy the pictures?  Have you read these classics?



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Sewing Fiction Magic and Ghosts

Supernatural occurrences are abundant in these books with a sewing theme. My favorite of all the writers of ghostly themes is Barbara Michaels. In fact, it was the book Stitches in Time that hooked me on her writing many years ago. Who doesn’t love a good ghost story, especially with Halloween coming up?   The first is Ammie Come Home, originally published in 1968, but you don’t need to read it to follow the story in the second two books.  The author is good about catching you up, and this book is hard to find.  It introduces the house and the family, with Ruth and Patrick.  A  spirit takes over a vulnerable woman, trying to prevent history from repeating itself.  Another more malevolent spirit has other plans.  Shattered Silk is the second book and introduces us to Ruth’s niece Karen and her friend Cheryl, who come together to open a vintage clothing store.   There no ghosts in this story, refreshing in that it isn’t a murder mystery, but I was expecting some supernatural element – it is Barbara Michaels after all! But, the mystery is engaging, difficult to put down, and there are some twists that you won’t see coming. It is fun to read a book written before the internet or cell phones (1986), which would have changed the story in some ways, as characters would not be out of touch – unless there was the story device of a dead battery or out of tower range.  These are the second and third books in the Georgetown trilogy.

Sewing Fiction Barbara Michaels ~ From My Carolina Home

Stitches in Time picks up 10 years later, with both ladies married and dealing with a thriving vintage business.  Karen has changed her name to Kara, to exorcise the memory of her ex-husband.  When a stolen quilt is left at their door, strange things begin to happen to their part time worker Rachael, eerily like something that happened before.  Patrick remembers some of the ghostly incidents (from the first book), and tries to unwind the mystery, but the curse on the quilt isn’t easily set to rest.  The descriptions of the vintage quilt are marvelous, as are descriptions of some of the vintage clothing.  There is a good deal of information on preserving and cleaning old garments and quilts in the book too. I highly recommend this series.

Annette Blair writes a cozy mystery series with magic in the clothes.  First up, A Veiled Deception as Maddie returns home to Mystick Falls, Connecticut to attend her sister’s wedding.  Things go awry when the ex-girlfriend of the groom winds up dead and the bride is the main suspect.  When Maddie begins having visions coming from the wedding dress, things get interesting.  In the second book, Larceny and Lace, Maddie is busy with her vintage clothing store, called Vintage Magic, in a building formerly the morgue.  Again, she gets visions from the clothing that helps point her to clues.  I liked both these books, there is a bit more romance in these than usual, but I can handle a little.  I have the next three yet to read.

Blair books

I have yet another magic series on Mount TBR, the Magical Dressmaking Series by Melissa Bourbon.  Harlow Cassidy, descendant of Butch Cassidy, moves back to her home town in Texas to escape the big city and open a custom dressmaking shop.  Apparently all the women in the family have special gifts, but Harlow believes that she doesn’t have any gifts.  Her mother can make things grow, her grandmother can talk to goats, and her great grandmother Meemaw always got what she wanted.  Meemaw has passed on, but apparently not left the house she left to Harlow in her will.  Ghostly occurrences and communication helps Harlow unravel the mystery, as she discovers that her gift is in the sewing of dresses and clothing to help the wearer feel better, or pretty, or more confident.  All the books have sewing tips in the back. I think I am missing book 2, but will likely just skip it and read the rest of what I already own.

Bourbon Books

So many books, so little time!  What are you reading now?



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