Friday, December 19, 2014

Thank You

Usually, around this time of the year, I have already sent out invitations to folks inviting them to be a guest blogger in the upcoming year.  I had a note from someone yesterday wondering if they had missed their invite.  It never dawned on me to send a note to everyone explaining we weren't going to be doing a calendar for guest blogs next year - I apologize!!!
It's been a delightfully long run of pretty awesome guests, but has run its course, I think.
The first Meanderings and Muses post was July 25, 2008.

The first Meanderings and Muses guest blog was January 11, 2009.

And thus began the tradition of guests.  A guest list which has been an impressive line up, if I do say so myself - including:

Avery Aames
Megan Abbott
Patti Abbott
Victoria Abbott
Suzanne Adair
Ellery Adams
Riley Adams
Michael Alatorre
Tasha Alexander
Lou Allin
Beth Anderson
Patty Anderson
Susan Anderson
Donna Andrews
Maggie Barbieri
Donald Barley
Wendy Bartlett
Cara Black
Rachel Brady
Peg Brantley
Duffy Brown
Pat Browning
Brenda Buchanan
Julia Buckley
Robin Burcell
Lucy Burdette
Alafair Burke
Tony Burton
Sarah Byrne
Bill Cameron
Dana Cameron
Chester Campbell
Lillian Stewart Carl
Cathy Lee Carper
Toni McGee Causey
Diane Chamberlain
Joelle Charbonneau
Laura Childs
Jane Cleland
Stacey Cochran
Mark Coggins
Jeff Cohen
P.J. Coldren
Meredith Cole
Reed Farrel Coleman
Alan Cook
Thomas H. Cook
E.J. Copperman
Gary Corby
Shelley Costa
Cleo Coyle
Elizabeth Spann Craig
Bill Crider
Deborah Crombie
Lonnie Cruse
Evelyn David
Hilary Davidson
Krista Davis
Mark De Castrique
Vicki Delany
Deni Dietz
Nan Dillingham
Julie Dolcemaschio
Alice Duncan
Carola Dunn
J.T. Ellison
Hallie Ephron
Linda Fairstein
Nancy Peterson Farina
Robert Fate
Gerrie Ferris Finger
Barbara Fister
Jen Forbus
Barbara Fradkin
Shelly Fredman
Leighton Gage
Kate Gallison
Kaye George
Shane Gericke
Gina Gilmore
Debra Ginsberg
Chris Grabenstein
Andrews Grant
Judith Greber
Beth Groundwater
Carolyn Haines
Tim Hallinan
Denise Hamilton
R.J. Harlick
Rosemary Harris
Libby Fischer Hellman
Sara J. Henry
Sasscer Hill
Beth Hoffman
Judy Hogan
Lesa Holstine
Julie Hyzy
Coco Ihle
Roberta Isleib
Dean James
Nancy Lynn Jarvis
Craig Johnson
Larry Karp
Toni L.P. Kelner
Dana King
Vicki Lane
Bob Levinson
Ken Lewis
N. J. Lindquist
Mary Jane Maffini
Victoria Maffini
Morgan Mandel
Margaret Maron
Nancy Martin
Ashley McConnell
Jenn McKinlay
Marilyn Meredith
Jenny Milchman
Celia Miles
Robin Minnick
Donna Moore
Bobbi Munn
Tim Myers
Patricia Neeley-Dorsey
Radine Trees Nehring
Kris Neri
Scott Nicholson
Doris Ann Norris
Karen Olson
Mike Orenduff
Alan Orloff
Ann Parker
Bronson L. “Bo” Parker
Brad Parks
Sandra Parshall
Louise Penny
Twist Phelan
Dee Phelps
Neil Plakcy
Jonathan Quist
Cornelia Read
Mary Reed
Gillian Roberts
L.J. Roberts
Chris Roerden
Carolyn Rose
S.J. Rozan
Janet Rudolph
Sandra Ruttan
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Karen Schinder
Brandon Seidl
L.J. Sellers
Sarah Shaber
Deborah Sharp
Zoe Sharp
Andi Shechter
Clea Simon
Joanne Campbell Slan
Ben Small
April Smith
Sylvia Dickey Smith
Alexandra Sokoloff
Robin Spano
Earl Staggs
Kelli Stanley
Patricia Stoltey
Niki Strandskov
Pari Noskin Taichert
Marcia Talley
Kathleen Taylor
Pattie Tierny
Elaine Viets
Miranda Phillips Walker
Robert Walker
Kathryn Wall
Mary Welk
Melinda Wells
Jeri Westerson
Molly Weston
Shirley Wetzel
Leslie Wheeler
Sharon Wildwind
Michael Wiley
Simon Wood
Nancy Means Wright
Elizabeth Zelvin

Oh, Lordy - if I have missed anyone or spelled someone's name wrong, blame it on holiday stress (or whatever).  Just let me know, please, so I can fix it!

Not only has Meanderings and Muses had a great list of guest bloggers, I've had some fun and insightful commenters.  Oddly enough, more of the comments have been sent to me directly rather than in the posts, which means I've gotten to know some of you quite well over the years.  You all enrich my life and I thank you.

It was fitting, I think, for Lesa to have been the final guest blogger, as she's one of those who's been here from the beginning.  When I start looking at the names and see how many have come back every year, I'm quite gratified.

When I took a wild chance and sent out that first email inviting guests to come to Meanderings and Muses, I had no idea what I was doing.  

Minutes after hitting "send" I started fretting.  

I mean fretting like you would not believe.

I had gone so far out on a limb inviting some of the people I invited, I have no idea where the nerve came from for me to do that.

How embarrassing it would be for all those people to receive this audacious note and me not receive a single acceptance. 

Instead, within those few minutes, the responses came pouring in.  And next thing I knew I had a year's worth of guests scheduled.

As things go, I ended up going from one guest a month, to a guest a week.  Then it was two guests a week, often with a third squeezed in.

We visited authors' spaces. 

We met authors' pets.

We had conversations with 2 or 3 folks at a time.

We had people open their hearts to share good news, and some bad.

We've cried tears of joy and tears of pain.

And we've slowed down considerable on the guest posts while I've been writing.

But - Meanderings and Muses is still here.  Different, but still here.

You've "listened" while I've ranted, and didn't leave me alone while I cried.  And you've laughed with me. 

You've read what I've written, and allowed me to share my opinions about books, politics, mean people and everything else under the sun.

You've allowed me to share my photography attempts, and stories about my family, my husband and my dog.

You've supported me through publishing two pieces in regional anthologies, a novel and helping Harley write his book.

Hopefully, there will be more of all that in our future.

The guest posts, sadly, are ending with Lesa's.

No more sending out that calendar at the end of the year asking what date(s) guests would like.

It's was a lovely and fun thing, but time to move on, I think.
Some of the guests have mentioned seeing a spike in sale while and immediately following their visits. 
Many are still getting hits for posts they did several years ago.
While most posts have gotten an average of 350 - 400 hits, some have been much, much higher.  The "winner" in the category of highest number of hits is Toni McGee Causey for a piece she did in 2010 - "Positive and Negative Spaces."  It still being discovered and read today and has received close to 4,000 hits.

A lot of you know I have fought with exactly what Meanderings and Muses should be since Day One.  Silly me.  Meanderings and Muses is, always has been, and always will be whatever the day might bring.  It is what it is.  That's what it will continue to be. 

But from now on we'll have no calendar to help us get through the year.  We'll continue taking pictures, reading and talking about books, politics, food, music, the news, and whatever pops into my mind.

It's worked for almost seven years, we'll be here till I run out of things to talk about.

And, truth be told, I think you'll still see a guest here from time to time.

Someone, after all, might have a new book coming out they'll want to tell you about.  We'll see.

In the meantime, I hope you'll continue to drop by.  Some days, I'll be here, some days I won't.  But I'll always be lurking just around the corner, soon to appear once again.

And again,

and again.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kaye's in the Kitchen Whipping Up an Apple Pound Cake

This is one of my favorite "go to" recipes, one I've been baking for years.  It's from one of my favorite cook-books - an oldie but goodie.  

I took this, along with my Country Pâté, to our neighborhood Christmas party - more about that fun little event later.

The cookbook SOMETHIN'S COOKIN' IN THE MOUNTAINS, A Cookbook Guidebook to Northeast Georgia is a delight.

It's one Donald and I picked up on one of our trips to the North Georgia mountains while we were still living in Atlanta, and loved taking weekend get-away trips to the North Georgia mountains.

The executive editors were Cathy and Jay Bucek who owned a wonderful little spot called "Mark of the Potter."  It's a delightful cookbook, and so much more.  It's a terrific guidebook to the N. Georgia mountains and contains several hand drawn maps along with drawings of landmarks and places of interest, like this one of the upside-down bridge. The Mark of the Potter is still there and still lovely, but sadly, Jay is no longer with us.  

The recipes were submitted by local restaurants, businesses and local folk.  Every one I've tried has been a winner.

Here's the Apple Pound Cake recipe from Bruce Mitchell of Nacoochee Mound, a large Indian mound in White County.  Although I no longer follow this recipe as written, I'm including it beneath my photos as Bruce wrote it with notations relating to my changes.  You, of course, should either follow it to the letter, or not.

Apple Pound Cake
2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups of cooking oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup coconut (I do not use the coconut)
3 cups tart apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I do not peel the apples)
1 cup pecans, chopped (I usually do not use the pecans)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the sugar and oil.  Beat with an electric mixer until well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat until fluffy.  Combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to the sugar mixture and blend well.  Beat in the vanilla and coconut.  Fold in the apples and nuts.  Pour into a greased 9-inch tube pan (I usually use a Bundt pan).  Bake for 80 minutes, or until the cake tests done (may not take 80 minutes).  Turn onto a wire rack to cool.  (this recipe does not call for leaving the cake in the pan to cool before turning it out, but I do that.  For about 15 minutes.)
And - - 
ta da!
Here's a picture of the finished product.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

And Now - Here's Lesa!

I am always so proud to have my friend Lesa Holstine here.  

If you don't already follow her blog, and take advantage of her reading suggestions, I urge you to get on over there!  You can find her at Lesa's Book Critiques where she shares her passion for books.  She's also shared that passion in libraries in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and now Indiana, where she's been a library/manager for over 30 years. She was the winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. She is a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, and Author of the "Mystery Fiction" chapter in Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (7th ed.) Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer.  

And she's the owner of the sweetest, most winning smile in the book world.

Say hello to Lesa, everyone.

I always say yes when Kaye asks me a year ahead of time if I’ll write a guest post, and then when the time comes, I have no idea what to talk about. At one time, I thought I’d talk about the romances that drive me crazy in mysteries. My sister and I enjoy the romance, but we tire of the romantic triangles, the women who are indecisive, and the decision-making that goes on and on and on and…. Then, I decided I shouldn’t call out any particular author, so I won’t write that post.

I read an interesting article about your personal brand, but I could talk about Kaye’s better than I could talk about my own. When I think of Kaye, I think of Donald and Harley and gorgeous nature photos, the color red, and passion – her passion for life, for books, for her family and friends, and her passion for justice.

I finally hit on this year’s topic – discovery. As a librarian and blogger, I’m always excited about the discovery of new authors, and the opportunity to share them with others. For a book lover, what’s better than sharing a new book, a new author? Those of you who know my blog, Lesa’s Book Critiques, may know that I emphasize mysteries. So, it might come as a surprise that none of my discoveries this year are mystery authors. But, you might notice some common themes shared in the novels I loved this year. Although some of the authors had written before, I had never read any of their previous books.

Actually, Sarah Jio has written a number of novels, Goodnight June was the first one I read. It’s for all of us who love bookstores, children’s books, and Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. Jio managed to combine all those elements in a love story, and a love story tribute to children’s books and bookstores. She followed that up with a wonderful tribute to love itself, The Look of Love. Jio’s books make me smile and cry.

Gabrielle Zevin had written young adult and children’s books, but The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry won my heart. This story of an eccentric bookseller and owner of a small island bookstore who finds a toddler left in his bookstore. It will change his life, and everyone he knows. It wasn’t until I heard Zevin speak that I discovered she was inspired by George Eliot’s Silas Marner, a book I hated in school. Now, I may have to go back and read it.

Kaye introduced me to A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, a debut juvenile novel that is just “splendiferous”. It’s a story with magnificent characters, and wonderful magic. It’s a celebration of words and books, a book in the best tradition of magical storytellers such as Sarah Addison Allen. And, anyone who loves words and magic and stories should pick this one up.

Linda Francis Lee has written numerous books, but The Glass Kitchen was the one I discovered, drawn to the gorgeous cover. And, then I was drawn to the magical elements of this book, the story of a woman who inherited her grandmother’s gift. She knew what food people “needed”, knew what foods would make them feel better. It’s a story of family, love, and a gift.

Many people discovered Daisy Goodwin with her book The American Heiress. I never read that one, but I raced through her historical novel, The Fortune Hunter. It’s a fascinating story about an heiress, Charlotte Baird, who falls for Bay Middleton, a cavalry captain. Middleton has a reputation as a ladies’ man, and a possible fortune hunter. And, his reputation isn’t helped when Elizabeth, the Empress of Austria, the most beautiful woman of her time, asks Bay Middleton to be her pilot on the hunting courses of England. The story fascinated me so much that I looked up all the people involved to find out how their lives ended.

Martha Woodroof’s debut novel, Small Blessings, goes on my list of favorite books of 2014. It’s the story of the people of a small, insulated college community, and the changes in their lives thanks to the new assistant director at the college bookstore. It’s the story of change in one family. It’s about mental illness, alcoholism, and addiction, but it’s also a story of living people who find joy and hope. It’s an optimistic story by author who speaks the truth.

Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn T. Dingman is also a debut novel. Unfortunately, the cover makes it appear to be a chick lit novel about a runaway bride when it’s actually a mystery about one woman’s  past, and a fascinating search for family secrets. It’s the story of a woman who walks away from her engagement – drives away actually, to search for her mother’s past.  Ignore the cover. Do yourself a favor, and discover this bright new author.

And, I’m ending the book discussion with another debut, Shelly King’s The Moment of Everything. It’s about books, bookstores, and reading. (Do you see a pattern here?) It’s a contemporary story about geeks and gamers, the same people who love and buy used books. Narrated by a thirty-four-year-old bookseller who discovers notes in a copy of a book, notes that lead to a change in her life, and in the life of the bookstore itself. It’s Maggie’s story of disillusionment with life and love. It’s sad, and filled with hope and books, along with beautiful writing and fascinating conversations. Why not end a list of discoveries with The Moment of Everything?

I love Kaye. I appreciate her zest for life, and I love her blog and her other writings. It’s always a challenge to come up with something that will do justice to Kaye and her readers. My passion? Sharing books, so this time, that’s exactly what I’m doing, sharing this year’s discoveries. What authors did you discover in 2014?

(note: please don't be concerned if your comment doesn't show up right away.  I've had to enable the "moderate comments" feature.  I may not get to it right away, but I will - promise!)

FMS Photo a Day Challenge - Day 13

Dec. 13 - "Much Loved"

Friday, December 12, 2014

FMS Photo a Day Challenge - Day 12

Dec. 12 - "Skyline"

The skyline viewed from our house

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cookin' with Kaye - Country Pâté

I have posted this recipe several times, both here and at Jungle Red.

Whenever I mention it elsewhere, like at Facebook, I get requests for it, so here 'tis.

This time with photos.

I found the original recipe in an old Bon Appétit magazine, and it was credited to Joan Hackett. I've guarded the recipe with my life. I've made about a beezillion copies of it in case one (or 20) copies might get lost. It also now resides on my computer (in several places). Then, just to be "for sure, for sure," I bought a copy of an old cookbook which I learned had the recipe in it. THE BEST OF BON APPETIT published in 1979. 1979! See how long I've been guarding this recipe?

I decided to make it this year for our neighborhood Christmas party.

Joan Hackett's Country Pâté
20- 25 servings

    4-6 bay leaves
    6 thin slices bacon

    3 tablespoons butter
    1 cup chopped parsley
    ½ cup chopped green onion
    ½ cup chopped onion
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    2 shallots, minced

    2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
    1 1/4 cups beer
    1 teaspoon fennel seeds

    1 tablespoon butter
    1 pound ground veal

    1 thin slice bacon, chopped
    2 cups crushed herb stuffing mix
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    Salt & freshly ground pepper
    ½ cup shelled pistachio nuts (optional - I rarely use them)

Put bay leaves in single layer in 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  Line length of pan with bacon; set aside.

Half fill a large roasting pan with water and place in oven.  Close oven door and preheat to 350.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add ½ cup parsley, green onion, onion, garlic and shallots and saute about 2 minutes.  

Remove to large bowl.

Place sausage in large skillet; add 1/4 cup beer and cook over medium heat, mashing and turning with spatula, just until sausage starts to lose pink color but is only partially cooked.  Stir in fennel.  Remove from heat and add to parsley-onion mixture.

In same skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter.  Add veal and saute until partially cooked, about 2 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup beer and cook 1 minute more.  Remove from heat and add to bowl. 

Place chopped bacon in same skillet and saute about 2 minutes.  

Add stuffing and blend thoroughly.  Stir in remaining 3/4 cup beer and cook 1 to 2 minutes more.  

Remove from heat and stir into onion-meat mixture.  Add eggs, remaining ½ cup parsley and salt and pepper to taste; blend thoroughly.  Mix in pistachio nuts.

Carefully pack mixture into loaf pan, pressing down firmly.

Wrap entire pan in heavy duty foil (or doubled regular foil) as if wrapping a package.  

Place carefully in roasting pan and bake 1 hour (CAREFUL!  Remember, this is the pan you've had in the oven at 350 while you've been preparing the pâté.  Splashing this hot water onto yourself is going to cause a nasty burn.  

Very carefully remove from roaster and weight pâté for 3 to 4 hours by placing another loaf pan filled with heavy objects (such as books or canned goods) on top of a cookie sheet on top of wrapped pate loaf.

Remove weight and refrigerate pâté several hours or overnight.  To serve, remove foil, loosen completely with knife and unmold onto serving plate.  Pat off excess fat with paper towel.

(Note:  one of the things I've learned over the years.  If the pâté doesn't slide right out, don't force it.  Donald came up with the idea of immersing the pan in some warm water for a little bit, then try unmolding it again).

 Voilà!   -   Enjoy!