Show Us Your Books-December 2021

Bookshelf filled with books with the words So many books... at the top and So little time. at the bottom

This is my first time participating in this linky (see the bottom of the post for the link); I never knew it existed until I ran across an IG post from a blogger I've followed for years. I haven't read much in the past few years; I haven't blogged much in the past few years. With some important life decisions that were made over the past year, I'm gearing up for having some time to write more after the 2022-2023 school year. (Hello, retirement!) But that's a post for another day.

At a meeting in October, a friend & I spent most of the time recommending books to each other. My local library uses Libby by Overdrive; I had no idea I could tag books I wanted to read and create a list! I really need to retire so I can get through all of these good books I now have on that list. After not spending very much time reading, it seems like since Fall Break (the first week of Oct.) all I've been doing in my spare time is read. 

But I digress. By beginning this blog post 2 hours ago, I went down a rabbit hole with Goodreads. I discovered I had 2 different accounts so I researched & imported one list into the other and deleted the old one. WHEW! All of this while having my coffee and before showering!

I read some excellent books in November. I discovered a new favorite author. She intertwines historical events to modern-day. I love it when an author really takes the time to do some heavy research and bring to light historical events that aren't well known. 

This is my new favorite author: Lisa Wingate. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. I borrowed this book from the library 3 times and just couldn't get into the first 2. By the 3rd time, I was enough into it that it was pretty intriguing. The modern-day involved a teacher who just began teaching in a rural high school in Louisiana. She was on a quest for her students to be interested in reading. As she learns more about the area and the people, she fights harder for her students and makes them aware of the history of the area. The past involves a former slave, her "miss", and her miss's half-sister. They are all on a quest to find family: the former slave looking for her mother and siblings, the "miss"  and the half-sister are looking for their father in order to determine wealth. The author includes actual notices in newspapers from former slaves looking for family members after the Civil War. 

 Once I found my interest, I was enthralled with what all of the girls were going through and how it would end. It just took me a couple of tries to be vested in it.  

Another book by Lisa Wingate, I had no difficulty being interested in this one. A big-time editor in NYC finds a partial manuscript on her desk on her first day on a new job. She reads it and it consumes her. There is no reference to who wrote it or where it came from. After coming to the conclusion that it was sent from NC, near her home, she researches until she has a pretty good idea about who the author is. She ends up back in Appalachia, where she grew up. She has to confront her past and her family, as well as the cycle of poverty that is prevalent there. The past includes a Melungeon girl and a wealthy boy from Charleston who is taking the winter to learn the ways of the people of Appalachia. There is a bit of an underlying love story that occurs in both parts of the book which makes it a little cheesy and predictable. This book reminds me so much of so many kids I know. The cycle is there and they have no idea that can break it. 

First let me say: OH.MY. I absolutely could not put this book down. I read it in just a few days (3, I think), every spare minute I had. Based on historical events, Eva is a Jew living in Paris during WWII. She and her mother escape to a mountain village where she is told they can stay until they are able to cross into Switzerland. But to get to the village, she has to forge papers so they can travel. Once in the village, she becomes a forger for the Resistance. Modern-day Eva is a librarian in Florida, her husband has passed away and her grown son is extremely busy with his job. She has never shared her past with him. The book begins with Eva seeing a picture in the local paper of a man in Berlin holding a book. He is in possession of books the Nazis confiscated during the war and, for some reason, did not end up being burned. She recognizes the book right away and knows she has to fly to Berlin to retrieve the book. Spoiler alert: This is the way a book is supposed to end! 😉
I am obsessed with this time period. There were so many ordinary people who did such extraordinary things to save not only themselves but others. It didn't matter if they were Christian or Jew, they were people.  This is just another example of the unsung heroes who saved many people from the clutches of the Nazis. 

Click on the image below to be taken to the linky to add more books to your "need to read" list.

Life According to Steph

A Festive Hodgepodge


Floral wreath in pastel with the words "Wednesday Hodgepodge" and From This Side of the Pond
Joyce hosts most weeks and provides questions for us to ponder and then answer. Check out how others answered the questions at From This Side of the Pond.

1. 'Tis the season to be are you? 
Not yet...but I'm trying to be. There's too much to do between school and church to be jolly just yet.

2. Do you trim a tree this time of year, and if so is yours all done? What's something in your home-closet-life that needs to be trimmed in the new year? 
I don't put up a tree until a week or 2 before Christmas and then leave it up until Jesus' Baptism (Jan. 9 in 2022). FYI: In case you weren't aware, I'm Catholic; we celebrate Christmas until Jesus' Baptism. So if you're all about Christmas, it gives you a reason to enjoy your decorations a little longer! (You're welcome!) I've decided to only do a small tabletop tree this year, along with having another small one somewhere else in the house. There are no grandkids and each of my boys has announced that they don't like Christmas, so I'm not bothering too much with it this year. 

Our basement needs some serious cleaning out. I have a lot of stuff that I saved from the boys' childhood that they don't care about. I need to get down there, sift through everything, throw a lot of it most of it out. 

3. Are you 'dreaming of a white Christmas'? Is that a possibility where you'll be celebrating? According to this site the top ten places in the US you can count on for a white Christmas are- North Pole Alaska, Crater Lake Oregon, Yellowstone National Park, Winthrop Washington, Aspen Colorado, Ketchum Idaho, Mt. Washington New Hampshire, Whitefish Montana, Duluth Minnesota, and the Lake Tahoe town of Truckee California

Of the snowy spots listed which would you most like to visit? 
We had a very rare white Christmas last year. It was just about the most perfect Christmas ever. I even wrote about it!  A Perfect Way to End a Year

Hmmmm...where to visit? We were close to Mt. Washington a few years ago when we stopped by a friend's to visit on our way to Canada; Duluth just sounds too cold.  Okay, I have no idea where I'd like to visit!

4. December 8th is National Brownie Day...will you be celebrating? How do you like your brownies-chewy or cake-like, frosted or plain, nuts or no nuts, a piece from the middle or give me the corner? As a child were you a member of a brownie troop? 
Well, I will be celebrating now that I know it!!! I use the Ghiradelli brand of brownie mix; the dark chocolate is the family fave. I use the cake-like version, plain, no nuts. I'm not real picky about which brownie I get.
I was a Brownie for a short while. In 2nd grade, I wore my uniform to school one day. This was my first year in public school so I didn't really know all of the rules yet. After we were given an ice cream, the teacher told us to stay in our seat. I was through with mine so I just sat there holding my stick. A classmate told me to go throw it away but I told her we couldn't get up. She encouraged me to get up, the teacher wouldn't mind. That earned me my only paddling of my school days. The classmate got one as well (not her first or last!)...and I never wore my uniform to school again. Isn't it funny what we remember from our childhood?

5. Share a favorite line or two from a Christmas carol or holiday tune. 
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on
Our troubles will be out of sight

The song is in both of my all-time favorite movies: The Holiday and Family Stone. I've already watched The Holiday and there will be more viewings between now & Christmas!

Here's something very interesting. These aren't the original words. Apparently, when Judy Garland sang this in Meet Me In St. Louis she objected to the original words, but Hugh Martin was against changing them. He finally gave in and re-wrote it. Then, Frank Sinatra changed "until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" to "hang a shining star upon the highest bough". Want to know what the original words are? I found them on

6. Insert your own random thought here. 
The SLPs (Speech-Language Pathologists) in my district had a combo baby shower/Christmas Party last week. The food decor was just incredible! Here's a peek:

This was purchased from Swiss Colony. Aren't the raccoons just adorable?
And this cheese hedgehog!
The best part? All I had to do was show up! 😉

From My Kitchen: November 2021


Our household has changed a lot over the past year. All of our sons have moved back home during the year (not at the same time), and then a couple moved out. MS, who lived in LA for the past few years, moved home and brought his palate with him. One of the recipes he brought to me is Chicken Pad Thai. 

Chicken Pad Thai in a white bowl
Granted, that isn't the best presentation, but I can tell you that it tastes amazing. I found the recipe on Cooking Classy. While Jaclyn admits this is not the "traditional" Pad Thai, it uses common ingredients found in all grocery stores. The hardest thing to find would be bean sprouts. If you've never bought them, they can be found in the refrigerated section of the produce department. We've made this dish twice and haven't put bean sprouts in them. The first time we forgot we had them and the second time I forgot to put them on my list. No matter; since I don't know what it tastes like with them, they weren't missed. 

I need to note that in the above picture, I didn't use the right kind of rice noodles. I bought the angel hair noodles, but you need thicker noodles. MS also put in some "Slap ya mama" seasoning which added the slightest kick. MS couldn't taste it, but I detected a trace. Word of warning: if you try this seasoning and aren't a fan of spicy, use sparingly.

Chicken Pad Thai is a quick dinner. Chopping the vegetables was the most time-consuming part of the recipe. This is definitely going on our meal rotation.

Blessings Hodgepodge


Well, it's been a while since I've had the chance to blog...or participate in the Hodgepodge. Joyce provides the questions, we provide the answers. To see how others answered, click here

1. It's often said we should be grateful for small blessings. What is one small blessing you are feeling especially grateful for today?
Time. Maybe it's not such a small blessing, though.

2. How do you feel about leftovers, not just on Thanksgiving but after any meal? Favorite thing to make/eat using your Thanksgiving leftovers? 
I love to eat leftovers for my work lunch. There's no need to make anything out of Thanksgiving leftovers; I just like reliving the dinner!

3. Sherwin Williams unveiled it's 2022 Color of the Year-Evergreen Fog. Are you a fan? Would I find this mid-tone gray green shade anywhere in your house? Does your house need painting? Inside or out? What one space is most in need of a paint job? Are you a do-it-yourselfer or do you hire a professional? 
That's green??? We have a similar color in our living room. The inside of our house really needs some paint, especially the living room, hallway, and master bedroom. After painting every single room in our house with several coats before we moved in, I'm all for hiring it out. I painted the regular bedrooms but had someone paint our kitchen and it was well worth the money.

4. What is one aspect of the way you were parented that you are grateful for today? 
Routines. Or schedules. Very consistent routines/schedules, for sure. There are way too many kids who don't have that consistency and they are a mess. 

5. Write an acrostic for the word-thankful
Time with family
Highways are calling
Always a fun time
Napping is required
Kidding around
Football games aplenty
Unending chatter
Lots of love!

6. Insert your own random thought here. 
It's so hard to believe that it's already Thanksgiving! The trees around here have been stunning over the past couple of weeks. This is my favorite fall tree in the park next to my house. It's almost like there's a light shining down right on it!

Oui, Oui...It's the Hodgepodge!


Joyce hosts most weeks and provides questions for us to ponder and then answer. Check out how others answered the questions at From This Side of the Pond.

1. Tell us about one small blessing you have counted in the past week? 

2 weeks post-op and I was able to walk my usual route without any stops!

2. Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14th...have you ever been to France? Any desire to visit there, and if so what would site or city would you most want to see? (pretend for a minute international travel isn't an issue) 

I've never been but I hope to go some time. I'd love to go to several places in France but these would top my list: Liseaux to see the home to St. Therese, Lourdes (where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette and is still the site of miracles) & Nevers (to see St. Bernadette's incorrupt body), Chartres (because of the history), and of course, Normandy.

3. A food associated with France that you love? 

Beignet.  Or a souffle. Or quiche.

4. Something you recently purchased where a coupon was involved? Do you regularly shop with coupons? 

I rarely use coupons because I never remember that I have them. I use digital coupons for my trips to Publix (when I remember ahead of time to save them to my account). I can't remember what I bought last with a coupon.

5. You have to give something away this week...what will it be? about the hurt a parent feels when her "baby" is hurting? 

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Can you believe summer is all but over for me? I feel like I say this every year, but this year I'm not sad to see summer go. I'm ready to get out of the house and stay busy.

Paddling Like Heck Hodgepodge

 I'm back at the Hodgepodge this week. Joyce hosts most weeks and provides questions for us to ponder and then answer. Check out how others answered the questions at From This Side of the Pond.

1. July 5th is National Hawaii Day...have you ever been to Hawaii? Any desire to visit or make a return trip? Pineapple, mango, or guava...what's your pleasure? 

I've never been but would love to go...Pearl Harbor is on my list.
Give me a nice juicy pineapple & I'm a happy girl.

2. Last time you were 'thrown in at the deep end'? Explain. 

It's been a week of paddling like hell under the water after being thrown in the deep end. I just can't explain it. 

3. Sun, sea, sand, salt...your favorite when it comes to summer? 

I say that the ocean is great...except for all of that sand. I'm not a big fan of the sand and as I get older the sun is sinking on my list of faves. And feeling the salt on my skin after taking a dip in the sea?  😝 I do love sitting next to the sea and listening to the waves, especially if there is shade!

4. Bury your head in the sand, the sands of time, draw a line in the sand, pound sand, shifting sands...pick one and tell us how the phrase currently relates to your life in some way.

Shifting sands. We have a lot going on in our household right now. We're trying to find ways to cope with the changes. Let's just leave it at that.

5. On a scale of 1-10 (1 = make your own rules and 10=like a warden), how strict were your parents? If you're a parent where on the scale do you land? 

I'd say my parents were a 7.5. Being the 8th child and the youngest girl, I think my parents were more lenient on me than they were my older siblings. I had friends whose parents were a lot more lenient than mine, but I also had at least one friend whose parents were much stricter than mine.
As a parent, I would say I was about a 6. It's difficult when both parents have different parenting styles and had a different level of strictness with our own parents. I gave in probably more than I should have.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

I know I need to get started on my vacation posts. I haven't even begun to look through my pictures yet. Maybe tomorrow...

Not My Signature Color Hodgepodge

Head over to Joyce's to add your post and see how everyone else answered this week's questions.

1. What's something that reminds you of your grandmother? Tell us why. 

Sadly, I didn't really know either of my grandmothers. I have something very special of my maternal grandma's. Every time I take it out I can feel her fingers on the beads and (even though I don't remember what she sounded like) I can imagine her praying along with me. I touch the worn beads and wonder just how many Rosaries she said using this one:
2. Is your life currently more 'moonlight and roses' or a little more 'every rose has it's thorn'? Elaborate. 

Well, it's summer so right now it's more moonlight and roses.

3. June 23rd is National Pink Day...favorite thing you own in any shade of pink? Favorite thing found in nature in any shade of pink? Your favorite pink food or beverage? Your favorite shade of pink? 

I have a couple of v-neck Lands End t-shirts that are pink. So soft & nice to wear.
Pink in nature: Azaleas. It's just too bad they don't bloom longer.
Pink food or beverage: Shrimp
Favorite shade of pink: I have no idea. Blush or bashful??? Pink is definitely not my signature color!
4. Last thing that had you 'tickled pink'? 

The view from one of our campsites last week:
5. What are two or three words that describe your style. 

I have no style. (oops...that was 4!)

6. Insert your own random thought here.  

CH & I had a wonderful, relaxing camping vacation last week...except for 1 night. We both slept better on our cots in the mountain air than we had in a long time. Look for a post very soon!
Campsite #1

Buggy Hodgepodge

Head over to Joyce's to add your post and see how everyone else answered this week's questions.

1. Something you've seen recently that's 'cuter than a June bug'?
I'm not a cat person, but MS' 2 kittens are cuter than a June bug:
2. Tell us something about where you were and what you were doing in June of 1988? If you weren't born yet, June of 1998. Or if that doesn't work, June of 2008. 

CH & I were living in Dalton, GA. I was in grad school and VERY pregnant. OS was born in October of that year.

3. A place in your home or outdoor space where you feel 'snug as a bug in a rug'? 

I never can seem to keep this straightened up, but this is "my corner". It's my prayer corner, my reading corner, my practicing corner, my corner.
4. June is National Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Month. Do you normally get your 4-5 servings each day? What's a favorite summer dish you make/serve/like to be served-ha! made with one of your favorite summer fruits. A favorite summer dish made with a favorite summer veg? How do you feel about cooking in the summer months? 

I don't usually use recipes with fruit...I usually just eat the fruit as is. In the summer, we like to eat Layered Summer Pasta Salad from Betty Crocker. I add Perdue Short Cut Chicken to the pasta salad and don't put the pasta in with the veggies. That way everyone gets as much pasta as they want and it comes out fairly even.
Cooking in the summer? HA! My slow cooker, electric griddle, and now my air fryer are my best friends since they keep me from turning on the oven.

5. Do you have a summer reading list? If so share a title or two we can add to our own. 

 I don't have a reading list, but I have a boatload (or at least a cubby load) of books I need to read. A summer book club is reading "All the Light We Cannot See" (Anthony Doerr) and I'm trying to finish up "Paul: A Novel" (Walter Wangerin, Jr.). The Paul book is actually quite good. Of course, it's historical fiction because we don't know exactly how St. Paul interacted with some of the apostles and disciples, but it is good.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

 1. CH & I rode over to a mountain bike race last Sunday to cheer on OS' girlfriend. This is her first year racing and she's at the top of the standings for her group. The cicadas are supposed to be crazy this year, but at our house there are virtually none. This is what we heard as we walked along the path:
The cicadas were flying around and one landed on a plant next to where we were walking. 
2. Every year, I look forward to my new planner. I was super excited about this year's because of the added features, namely the hard cover. I'm kind of hard on planners; I tend to just throw it in my bookbag as I'm heading out the door at the end of the day. The new one came on Monday, and it's perfect  for me!
3. YS' girlfriend planted some sunflowers in our backyard. It's been cool to watch them grown, and now they're starting to bloom.

From My Kitchen: April & May 2021

The title of this post says April & May (because I didn't get April's post out), but I actually made this dish at the end of March. I've never made a lot of fish; hardly any except for the frozen kind! This recipe was given to me by a kind seafood employee at my local Publix. I had it on my phone for a couple of years but didn't try it. Hoisin Sauce? What in the world? I decided to pull it out and try it after YS introduced CH to hoisin and he really liked it. 

Cooked salmon with hoisin sauce on a plate

This recipe was so easy to make. Not only that, but I had dinner on the table in no time. (Click on the recipe to print.)

The man said it goes great over a chef salad and suggested sprinkling some charcoal volcano salt over it. I didn't have time to search for the salt so I didn't use it. I wouldn't change a thing about this recipe! It was absolutely delicious!

I did make this in May: Shrimp Tacos with Mango Slaw from Feasting at Home. These tacos had a Caribbean flair. 
2 tortillas with cabbage slaw and shrimp
I stuck to the shrimp recipe, and it turned out great; there isn't anything I would change. I'm not a spicy-lover and these were borderline too spicy for me, but YS & CH really enjoyed it.
Cooked shrimp in a cast iron skillet
In the recipe, Sylvia (from Feasting at Home) added Cuban Black Beans, but keeping with my diet of watching carbs, I opted not to make them. We have a Cuban restaurant in town that has amazing Cuban sandwiches and their black beans & rice are to die for. Needless to say, I haven't had them in about a year (when I started seriously watching my carbs). 
I used the corn/flour tortillas she suggested; I had no idea there was such a thing, but they did hold up much better than regular corn or flour ones. 

The Cabbage Mango Slaw was just amazing. I bought a package of shredded cabbage and a can of mangos ('cause it's so much easier than trying to cut up a mango!). I forgot to add the jalapeno (oops!), so I'm not sure if that would have added anything more to it or not. It definitely didn't need it.

This recipe is definitely a keeper. I used 1 pound of shrimp and was able to feed 4 people without anyone going away hungry.

Do you cook fish? If so, please share your favorite recipes!


Stuck on the Hodgepodge

 Head over to Joyce's to add your post and see how everyone else answered this week's questions.

 1. Besides the flag, tell us about something red, something white and something blue from your weekend. 

My amaryllis is blooming. My Daddy gave me some bulbs & I thought I killed them!
Don't mind the weeds.
White: I'm completely stuck on this one. I wore white pants to Mass on Sunday, but that's the only thing I can think of!
Blue: CH & I took a trip to Lowe's. This picture was from last year, but again this year they had a parking spot with a Memorial Day Observance. I just didn't take a picture of it. 

2. June is here and it's National Give A Bunch of Balloons Month. Who would you give a bunch to if you could? Tell us why. 

My friend Michelle, who is the convention chairperson for our Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (CCW) Convention coming up next week. She envisioned balloons at the hotel & on-site. I think she's able to get some but not as many as she wanted due to the budget.

3. What are three adjectives you associate with the month of June? Something you're looking forward to this month?

Hot, reading, lazy. While CH & I aren't going on the vacation we thought we would, we are going to spend a week camping. We're going to 1 place we've never been, 1 place we've been to (with amazing views!), and we're ending the week at some friends' house.

4. Tell us about a time (besides the obvious Corona answer) when you felt stuck in second gear.

Every Fall with work. I always feel like I'm in second gear that time of year. Somehow, though, things always seem to get done.

5. Sum up your May in fifteen words or less.

Unbelievably anxiety-ridden, but it's over now and I can enjoy the summer.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

For the first time ever, we're having trouble with a pest in our grill. YUCK. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm pretty convinced it's of the mouse persuasion. I cleaned it really well over the weekend and it appeared to be all good until Tuesday. I have a bird feeder next to the porch, so maybe if I move that it will help. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Exploring East Tennessee: Norris Dam

 It's been a while since I've written a post about places in East Tennessee that are "off the beaten path", mostly because we haven't been anywhere. Mid- to late- May is a good time to go camping: it's not too hot & humid yet and the nights are still cool. The problem we have is that we usually decide at the last minute to go, and with COVID, camping sites are hard to come by. I looked at our usual campgrounds but every place was full at the beginning of the week. There was a campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that we hadn't been to but there is no electricity at National Park Campgrounds (at least around here). My next step was to look for state parks around us. I found Norris Dam State Park, which is just north of Knoxville. At the beginning of the week, there were plenty of spots available. So that made me a little nervous. I figured it was either going to be a hidden gem or a really crappy campground. I'm not going to get into our campsite or the campground here. If you're interested, visit Flyin' the Coop.

CH said it is just unbelievable that I grew up about an hour away from this state park and had never been. If I've been, I don't remember it. The State Park itself has some cool history: Norris Dam was the first dam built through FDR's New Deal. It was built by the CCC. 

Parts of the CCC camp are still standing and in use by the Tennessee State Park System. The cabins are available for rent. 

The "Tea Room" is available as a venue for weddings or other events. The day we were there, people were setting up for a wedding reception.

We also visited a grist mill and saw the threshing barn. The mill was a little cool.
The inside of the mill.
There were several millstones in the sidewalk.
Call me crazy, but if you've seen 1 threshing barn, you've seen them all! 
Just up the hill from the mill, there is a small museum. It had some pretty cool things in it.

Can you imagine walking around in these all day? No wonder the ladies in old photographs aren't smiling!

Just around the dam area, there is an "Orchard Trail". I'm not real sure that's what it's called, but there are trails winding through different orchards. There are signs designating what orchard you're in.
But the best part of the day was lunch. Between the dam and the grist mill there is a little microbrewery called Clinch River Brewing. We almost missed it.
The menu is rather small, but with a Louisiana flair. The young lady we spoke with said that a couple owned it, and he was from Louisiana. It's crazy how we unknowingly keep running into people with a LA connection. (Just in case you forgot/didn't know, MS lives in Louisiana.)
The beverage was really tasty, and the food was pretty good:
The atmosphere wasn't bad, either. There were rainbow trout swimming in the pond.
The obligatory selfie:
We thought the area was pretty nice. I don't know if we'll go back (been there, done that), unless it's to go to the Museum of Appalachia, which is just around the corner from the little museum we visited. If you're looking for a little piece of history (and need a little something to eat or drink!) then this is the spot.
Coming to East Tennessee for a visit and looking for some "off the beaten path" places to explore? You'll want to check out the posts in my Exploring East Tennessee series. Oh, and check back from time to time...we'll do more exploring (which means more posts!).

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