Reading Roundup 2018

As we head toward the close of the year, I’m thinking about what I want to read next, likely after Christmas. There’s a shelf and a half of to-read books, and the library. On top of that, I’ve started 3 books in the last year which I’m not sure I want to finish. The most recent one is old and quite dry, and I’m not sure how long it’s going to hold my interest.  I know I’ve read quite a bit the second half of the year, especially in October when I wasn’t writing in preparation for novel writing month. Floral and cookbooks are not included, as they are more instructional.


Fantasy: 18

  • Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr)
  • Fragile Eternity
  • Radiant Shadows
  • Darkest Mercy
  • The Frog Princess, E. D. Baker
  • Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan)
  • The Last Olympian
  • The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Rick Riordan)
  • The Son of Neptune
  • The Mark of Athena
  • The House of Hades
  • The Blood of Olympus
  • The Demigod Files (companion book and short stories)
  • The Throne of Fire (The Kane Chronicles, Rick Riordan)
  • The House with a Clock in Its Walls (John Bellairs)
  • Peter and the Shadow Thieves (Dave Barry)

Fiction: 7

  • Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography
  • Marika, Andrea Cheng
  • Cleopatra’s Daughter, Michelle Moran
  • Madame Tussaud
  • High Rhulian, Brian Jacques
  • Eight Cousins, Louisa May Alcott
  • The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan

Nonfiction: 1

  • My Life in France, Julia Child

Total: 26


Looking at this list, I’m sure for some people–like me before I wrote so much–this isn’t very much. Just two books a month. However, it’s hard to do both. Overall, this is a good year for me in the reading department. I’m happy with both of these two things: (a) my main reading material is still fantasy; (b) these days I read non-fantasy, as well, for a more rounded approach.

For the next read, I’m thinking either the next Kane Chronicles (which I have), or a stand alone book.

What’s your next read?



Egg and Rice Breakfast

Egg and rice 1-pan dish with fruit.


  • eggs
  • rice
  • 2 small red potatoes
  • 1/4 large Spanish onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 handfuls spinach
  • 6 grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 scallions, for finishing
  • Asian spice mix
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • orange olive oil
  • olive oil
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • blackberries
  • 1 clementine

Thanksgiving Menu

We were blessed to have Thanksgiving celebrations at my parents with my side of the family this year. Besides having off Thursday and Friday, I took off Wednesday. This is normal for me, and I get a lot of cooking done ahead for the busy holiday. I also got to arrange flowers, and it turned out rather pleasing. We had a plethora of desserts this year, and several of our family members also brought wine.



  • Turkey: herbed butter rub for crispy skin perfection; cavity filled with orange, onion, herbs, and butter rub.
  • Stuffing: family recipe
  • Green bean casserole: Alton Brown’s recipe (added parsley)
  • Southern-style sweet potatoes: brown sugar mash with pecans and marshmallows
  • Savory sweet potatoes: inspired by this recipe, found on Pinterest
  • Home-made cranberry sauce
  • Green salad with peppers, pickles, and eggs
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Cherry crumb pie from Lipkin’s Bakery: My uncle knows the best food places in Philadelphia
  • Blueberry cheesecake: found on Pinterest; replaced half of cream cheese with fat free ricotta; replaced creme fraiche with sour cream





This year, I have another new story to start National Novel Writing Month with. It came from a dream, as some things do, but one isn’t a Lupa story, nor in set in that world, as far as I can tell. I think it’s going to be a story about the space between people, told in the form of letters/emails, but we’ll see how it turns out. Possibly also inspired by all the YA fiction I’ve been reading (Rick Riordan) if the thinly veiled romance is any indication.

I’ve also decided to work only on canon stories this year–no fanfics–and chosen particular items from each story to focus on. Otherwise, however, I have very few, if any, notes. I should feel under prepared, but I don’t. And we’ll see what happens. I hope to be off to a running start on November 1.

Who else is participating this year? Please let me know in the comments.

Twining Strawberry & Raspberry Tea

Mom brought back a few teas from her trip to England over the summer, including a packet of Twinings Strawberry & Raspberry tea. It doesn’t appear to be available on the US Twinings site, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to try this tea.



The individual packet states “All natural ingredients,” and the web page describes it as “A feel-good summer blend. A harmony of sweet strawberry notes and tangy raspberry aromas.”



I only had one tea bag, and so had it hot as it was cold today. It made a deep brown-red tea in a few minutes of steeping with a scent that easily carries. Became brown-pink later in steeping. It had a sweet, very fruity in flavor, mostly of strawberries at first. Over time became more of a general berry flavor with very small hints of the title fruits.


Nice, but not great, and definitely smells better than it tastes.

Wedding Cookies


Recently, I attended a family wedding. While it was a lovely event at an unusual and interesting venue, all cultures have specific traditions and elements regarding wedding celebrations. However, there was one tradition part of the family uses that I found particularly great: family and friends of the bride and groom bring cookies, and everyone fills a box to take home. This is in addition to the wedding cake (which was delicious: white cake with nutella and an amazingly rich chocolate with raspberry).

We’re not just talking about a few dozen cookies here: there were dozens of kinds of cookies, and thousands of them. Most people took at least 2 boxes home, as well as eating a few, and there were still lots of cookies left over. The venue workers set up two large cookie buffets, and we really enjoyed going through the line and seeing all the different kinds–bar cookies and chocolate chip all the way through macarons and delicately decorated iced cookies.


We really enjoyed seeing and trying them all. It was great to be able to cake them home and talk about them, and compare notes. As a baker and lover of food, I would have loved to do this at our wedding, if only I had known about it!

Does your family or area have any particular wedding traditions that you love? Let us know in the comments.

Chocolate Mint Tea

Chocolate teas aren’t something I was very keen on until more recently, when I tried a chocolate hazelnut tea when I had Tea with Mom back in September. It was delicious, and I immediately put it on my wishlist. Today’s review, though, is for Stash’s Chocolate Mint tea, which was, of all places, on the clearance rack at the grocery store.



The ingredients incclude Wuyi oolong tea, peppermint, natural chocolate flavor, cocoa powder, and carob powder. The packaging is brown with a pleasing light green color and an image of stacked chocolate and mint leaves. It describes the tea as:

“Our Chocolate Mint Oolong is a delectable cup of guiltless dessert, perfect for taming a wile sweet tooth. Made with oolong from the Wuyi Mountains of China, the unbeatable pairing of chocolate and refreshing peppermint makes for a sensational delight.”

This tea has an intense and lush aroma, equal mint and chocolate, as soon as the packet’s open, and it lingers for some time. I love the scent and find it especially pleasing.



Cold Tea

Steeping this tea cold, with or without ice, takes a long time to color and it never gets as deep as the hot tea in color. The flavor starts out subtle, but is very minty and chocolaty, and very refreshing in on a warm day. It’s delicious, and I really love this cold–I could drink it all the time. I had to specifically save a few bags for fall so that I could have it warm.


Hot Tea

I just finally made hot tea with this today, since it’s only now chilly and windy out. Unlike the cold tea, this colored right away, and now it’s a few minutes in and the chocolate scent is clear from about a foot away. Even up close, the scent is more chocolate than mint. The taste is more mint than chocolate, and quite pleasant. No need for sugar here, either.



No matter how you drink it, this tea has a pleasing, smooth flavor with the clear taste of both mint and chocolate. The tea delivers what package describes. I’d go out of my way to get it, and will definitely keep it in my stock of tea. Please let me know what you think if you try it.

A Reading Update

DH and I have seen a lot of changes this year, including a move. The last time we moved was over 13 years ago–the longest DH has stayed in one place. Along with the move, we’re now in a town with a great library, and in the time since we got our library cards, they’ve been well used. While DH’s big thing is movies, I’ve been reading a lot, as well as being able to complete series I was slowly working on one book at a time as I found them.


  • Wicked Lovely (main series), Melissa Marr: Based on reviews, people tend to either love or hate these. I found them addicting but fun summer reads. Major kudos to Marr for the sheer amount of research into Fae.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan: These are quick and interesting, and a fun take on mythology in how it plays out.
  • The Heroes of Olympus (part way through), Rick Riordan: More of the same, but higher stakes.

Single Books

  • Madame Tussaud, Michelle Moran: I generally enjoy Moran’s books (whether or not they’re factual), and this one is quite gripping.
  • Cleopatra’s Daughter, Michelle Moran: Not my favorite of her books. Of the Egyptian ones, this is probably my least favorite.
  • The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan: I enjoy the history and complicated personal stories of most of Tan’s books, and this wasn’t far from the mark.
  • The Demigod Files, Rick Riordan: Short tales and interviews from Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
  • High Rhulain, Brian Jacques: An otter story! Formulaic Redwall with a little more thrown in.
  • Castle in the Air, Diana Wynne Jones: An enjoyable tale, not quite as good as I remember Howl’s Moving Castle to be.

Upcoming Reads

  • The Kane Chronicles, Rick Riordan: I don’t like these quite as much as the Olympian books, but I think it’s due to the narrators, the Kane siblings. This one is Egyptian mythology. I’ve read two so far.
  • A House with a Clock in It’s Walls, John Bellairs: Looked it up upon seeing the movie and suspecting it was a book, and it sounds like exactly my kind of book.

Clearly, there’s a lot of Rick Riordan books in my life right now. After the Kane books, I should try the Norse series, as well, but I’ve got the others to finish first. As well as more books from the to read pile I actually own…

What are you reading lately?

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes, it’s the simple pleasures in life that give life meaning and make things worthwhile during times of upheaval, trauma, or stress. Over the years and dealing with different things, I’ve learned more about myself, and what (certain) little things can make a big difference for me. At times, we all just need a reminder to remember to enjoy those little things in life that we find pleasing.

A short list for the current time includes:

  • sleep/naps/time alone in the bedroom where i can watch youtube videos or write and recharge
  • never underestimate the power of a good hot meal
  • cooking or baking something good
  • only listening to music you love–who has time for what doesn’t move them?
  • being home alone on a sunny Saturday morning
  • a bowl of fresh fruit sitting on the table (favorites are nectarines, pears, and citrus)
  • chocolate buttercream
  • lemon anything
  • snow
  • cool rainy days
  • being barefoot
  • having Tea, especially the sandwiches
  • happy babies
  • flowers
  • when you sit down to write and it unexpectedly just flows out
  • a freshly made bed
  • when the calendar image on your birthday month is, for once, lovely
  • profusions of color
  • purple pens