From My Carolina Home

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Book Review – The Violets of March

This is a wonderful story, with an interesting premise.  Emily’s marriage is over.  Joel is moving on with someone new, so she decides to visit her aunt on Bainbridge Island in Washington state.  It is the perfect getaway, putting an entire country between Emily and New York to begin healing her broken heart.  The descriptions of the sea and the beach makes the you want to take off your shoes and wiggle your toes in the sand.  While there, she finds a diary that tells an intriguing story.

Violets of March 4

I thought I’d show a small part of my violet ceramics collection while we talk about this intriguing novel.

Violets of March 3

In some ways, Emily finds the diary’s story a parallel to her own troubles, but it begins to give her more questions than answers.  She realizes the story is written by a relative, and when the diary entries end abruptly, she decides to see if research can provide a clue to what happened.  She is able to work out the identity of one of the characters in the diary, but everyone is determined to keep her from discovering the truth, including her own mother.

Violets of March 1

The writing was believable, and enjoyable.   It is a fairly easy reading, plot driven novel with well developed characters.  The mystery was different, not the usual, and had a historical view that was interesting. I liked this book, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story.



A Cozy Valentine

February is the time our thoughts turn to chocolate, well for some of us. Others like a little romance. But for those that like a little mystery in our lives, cozy mysteries give us a little of both, and sometimes some chocolate too.  This would be a great time for Chocolate Covered Oreos!  Oreo molds with little hearts would be pretty special at Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate Covered Oreos 17

These three sweet cozy mysteries are set in February with a Valentine theme and tasty extra features – recipes with chocolate.

chocolatecupidThe Chocolate Cupid Killings by JoAnna Carl

Valentine’s Day is approaching and the TenHuis Chocolade shop is busy with preparations. When a detective, aptly named Derrick Valentine comes to town with a mission, one that will involve the owner Nettie and her niece Lee. When the detective is murdered, Nettie becomes the prime suspect, and Lee has to solve the mystery without revealing the secret they are so determined to keep. Like all of the books in this series, this book contains tasty tidbits about chocolate, including how handmade chocolates are done.

cateredvalentineA Catered Valentine’s Day by Isis Crawford

Bernie and Libby are sisters that own a bakery called A Little Taste of Heaven, and it is deep into preparations for a Valentine’s Day fundraiser they are holding with the owners of the local chocolate shop. Starting out by attending the wrong funeral, they are soon caught up in another problem. One of the owners of the chocolate shop has been found in someone else’s grave when he supposedly died in a fiery car crash weeks earlier.   Bernie and Libby agree to help the investigation all while trying to deal with an overload of work, prepping for the fundraiser with the other owner of the chocolate shop (who is the widow of the dead man), a building inspector not happy with their new oven, and a host of other things going wrong at the bakery. Several tasty recipes are included with this novel, including Chocolate Orange Poppyseed Cake, Fudge Brownies, and Chocolate Mocha Sour Cream Cake.

buttercreamButtercream Bump Off by Jenn McKinlay

Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura own Fairy Tale Cupcakes and Valentine’s day is just around the corner. With their competition dressing up as a giant cupcake parading on the street they need to get busy on their own Kiss Me Cupcakes. Plans go awry when Mel’s mother Joyce has a date, and he ends up dead. With Joyce as a suspect, Mel and Angie have to find time to bake as well as clear her name. The book includes recipes for Kiss Me Cupcakes (mint chocolate chip with mint frosting and a chocolate kiss on top), Orange Dreamsicle Cupcakes, Cupid’s Bliss Cupcakes (made with fresh raspberries and white chocolate cream cheese frosting) and Moonlight Madness Cupcakes which Mel bakes when she has insomnia.

Enjoy these mysteries, and have some chocolate!

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Weekend in the Garden

It was a nice weekend, and time to get some clean up done.  I pick up my torenias next week, and I plan to get some plants for both the garden and the veranda pots.  The azaleas are coming into bloom!  These white ones are my favorite, and are in the front of the house.  Lots of buds yet to bloom, so these will go on for at least two weeks.

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These pink ones are also in the front along the circle.

pinkazalea2 pinkazalea

These coral ones are in the back.  The last freeze got some of the buds, so they are a bit sparse this year.

azaleas2 azaleas1

Last evening, the setting sunlight was quite lovely in the trees, and the meadow where the fox likes to sun himself.

sideyard meadow

This dogwood stretches over the driveway, difficult to get a picture of the later bloomer.


Yesterday the iris was just a bud, today it burst into bloom.



And believe it or not, that little johnny jump-up in the driveway is still blooming its head off.



I cleaned up all the pots on the veranda, and my strawberries are greening up now.  I never actually get any fruit, the squirrels always get to them first.  I set out seeds for squash, and some flowers.

strawberrypottop strawberrypotside

Friday was the big Friends of the Library book sale, and I worked a double shift volunteering at the check out.   I did get to shop.  Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!


I got several novels on my Goodreads want to read list, five gardening books (one on North Carolina gardening), a bunch of paperbacks, five DVDs, four books on cd and a half dozen music cds.  The one and only Christmas with Southern Living they had just happened to be the year I needed!!  Plus I got a First American Edition of Larousse Gastronomique, published in 1961 for $6!  I have been looking for that one for a long time.   Look for more book reviews this year.


Reading and gardening, quilting and cooking.  More later!!




The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

“A stone path led beneath an arbor of ancient roses with arthritic joints. The temperature cooled as they crossed the garden’s threshold. The overall impression was one of darkness and gloom. And quiet, an odd, still quiet. Even the noise of the irrepressible sea seemed dulled in here. It was as if the grounds within the stone wall were asleep. Waiting for something, or someone, to wake them.”  Page 220.

I love that passage.  It is a place I’d like to explore.  So often the cool evenings on our front veranda are like this – quiet, peaceful, restful.  Like this time of year when there is an expectancy in the air, of the emergence of new life, new leaves, new flowers, but not quite ready yet.   When Spring is here, but Winter has yet to completely release its hold.   It is a good time to enjoy some fresh air and a good book.


This book isn’t a page turner mystery, although there is a mystery to be solved. This book is more of a character study, slowly pulling the pieces of their lives together. There is not just one story, but three, interwoven and intertwined like the overgrown garden of the title. We go on a journey of self-discovery with Nell, as she tries to trace her true identity.   We see the hard life of Eliza as she is thrown from one bad situation into another. We take up the search for the secret with Cassandra as she tries to reveal the final clue that her grandmother could not find. All three stories are told by switching back and forth through time. Interspersed within the stories are the folk tales of The Authoress. Reading like Grimm’s fairy tales, they are interesting bits and asides.

I highly recommend this book, a real keeper to be read again, wonderfully complex, with richly drawn characters. I’ll be giving my paperback to a friend to read and buying a hardback for the library shelf.

quotethursday  Booklinky

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Snow Day!

Pretty, isn’t it?  This is my driveway this afternoon.  When the snow started coming down harder mid-morning, we thought we might be going home early.  Sure enough, cancellations started coming in, snow came down harder, and we decided to close up.  If only we had made that decision a little sooner!!


Coming home, roads were a little slick in some spots, but I was hoping that the driveway would be passable.  Alas, not to be.  Part way up the hill to my house, the tires lost traction, and I slid backwards about 30 feet.


In slow motion.


Without breathing.


When the car did get stopped, thankfully not in either the drainage ditch or the ravine, I pulled out my cell and called the house, heart pounding.  Hubby was home for a change.  Between him, and two neighbors, we got the car backed slowly down the twisting road and parked in a neighbor’s driveway.  That meant walking, or should I say hiking, up the mountain to the warmth and security of home.

After a change of clothes, there was still a little time left to enjoy a good book next to the fireplace.  Here is a suggestion from one of my favorite writers, Sarah Addison Allen.  It is set in North Carolina.

The Peach Keeper


Willa Jackson is an organic sporting goods store owner in the small North Carolina town of Walls of Water.  She is a descendent of the town’s founders, who were wealthy landowners and builders of the Blue Ridge Madam, a wonderful old mansion.  The loss of the logging industry to national parks caused the financial ruin of Willa’s grandparents and the loss of the old home.   Recently, the home was purchased by high school classmate Paxton Osgood and is being restored to its former glory for use as an inn.   Willa can’t help but follow the progress.

When Paxton’s brother comes to town to finish the landscaping, he sets to work removing a peach tree that has no business on the property as peach trees cannot set fruit in the mountains.   Desiring the property to be true to mountain ecology, he plans to replace the peach tree with a huge live oak transplanted from elsewhere.  When the peach tree is dug up, more than the roots are exposed.  A number of personal items are found beside a skeleton.  It doesn’t take long to identify who it is, the question is why was he murdered, and who did it?

Willa and Paxton form an uneasy alliance as they dredge up the past between their two grandmothers and uncover an uncomfortable truth.  But they also learn that ties of true friendship and love can transcend time.

The book is sprinkled with small strange occurrences, but it really is not a book of paranormal activity.  It is foremost a story of people and their relationships, of friendship both long term and newly formed, of loyalty and support over a lifetime.  The story is an easy read, and I recommend it.

Update –

Two hours later, and the snow is now about an inch deep and still coming down.  Luckily, I don’t have to work tomorrow.

SnowJan2014-2  SnowCardNuthatch2014Jan

The cardinal and the nuthatch are pigging out.  Stay warm!

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Stacks: The Art of Vertical Food – Review

For beginners and experienced cooks, this book shows you how to wow your company and your family with little effort.  These are familiar ingredients and recipes, just a different way of presenting the dish.   The recipes cover salads, starters, seafood, savory and sweet.  No special equipment is necessary, although the stacks will be easier to make in some of the recipes if you own a set of stacking cylinders.  These can be purchased, or for the truly frugal, save your soup cans to use (the book tells you how).  A couple of the recipes show how to use other things for shaping the stack, like a pyramid mold.  Many recipes are ‘freeform’, just layering the ingredients without using a mold at all.

So much of a meal is in the presentation, and I always get rave reviews when I start the dinner party with a stacked salad course.  My favorite is to use heirloom tomatoes in yellow and purple-red, layered with goat cheese and fresh basil leaves, dressed with a little balsamic vinaigrette.   The idea came from the charts in the beginning chapter that give you a mix of ideas, simple as choosing one ingredient from each column that best suits your taste or what you have on hand.

My favorite recipe for a brunch from Stacks is the Grilled Salmon and Corn Pancake Stack.  The pancakes can be made an hour ahead, so you just have to assemble the stacks right before serving.  Place a little Crème Fraiche to hold the layers together with some watercress for crunch, and you have a winner.

The Enchilada Stacks are yummy, and I made them with full size tortillas and didn’t use the stacking cylinders.  Tortillas are layered with meat mixture and cheeses, baked briefly and garnished with lettuce, tomato, avocado, scallions and sour cream.    Just cut the stack into quarters for serving.

The Seafood Risotto Stacks are elegant and tasty, and not that hard to do using the shortcut method at the end of the recipe.

The recipes lend themselves easily to substitutions.  The Raspberry Lemon Meringue Stacks were wonderful made with in-season blueberries instead.   Some of the recipes give suggestions for substitutions, like putting grilled chicken in the recipe for the corn pancake stacks instead of salmon.

Stacks: The Art of Vertical Food has neat ideas, and lovely full color photographs of most of the recipes.  Each recipe gives tips to plan ahead and most have shortcuts too.   Next up for me to try will be the Death By Chocolate dessert stack, yum!!

Stacks: The Art of Vertical Food by Deborah Fabricant  ISBN # 9781580080620stacks