Friday, February 28, 2014

A Summer in Europe ~ Book Club Pick!

Just want to jump in quick and share this bit of fun news: A Summer in Europe is the Women's Fiction Book Club pick for March!! The discussion will be taking place on Goodreads, and it's completely open to the public and free to join. So if you're interested, I hope you'll come along on this virtual European trip with us ;).

About the novel:
On her thirtieth birthday, Gwendolyn Reese receives an unexpected present from her widowed Aunt Bea: a grand tour of Europe in the company of Bea's Sudoku and Mah-jongg Club. The prospect isn't entirely appealing. But when the gift she is expecting -- an engagement ring from her boyfriend -- doesn't materialize, Gwen decides to go. 

At first, Gwen approaches the trip as if it's the math homework she assigns her students, diligently checking monuments off her must-see list. But amid the bougainvillea and stunning vistas of southern Italy, something changes. Gwen begins to live in the moment: skipping down stone staircases in Capri, running her fingers over a glacier in view of the Matterhorn, racing through the Louvre, and taste-testing pastries at a Marseilles cafe. Revelling in every new experience -- especially her attraction to a charismatic British physics professor -- Gwen discovers that the ancient wonders around her are nothing compared to the renaissance unfolding within...

"Brant's newest...distinguishes itself with a charismatic leading man and very funny supporting cast, especially the wonderful elderly characters with their resonant message about living life to the fullest." ~ Publishers Weekly

"Brant's charming and engaging tale will allow readers to immerse themselves in the magic and beauty of Europe along with the characters. Although the descriptions of the scenery are amazing, the development of the characters and their unique personalities are what really make this novel shine. What an enjoyable escape!" ~ Romantic Times

Have a wonderful weekend and a lovely start to March, everyone!!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Short Stories and Sweet Treats

On our new Austen Variations blog and in honor of this heart-filled holiday, several of us (myself included) have Valentine's Day excerpts up from our stories. I also have a free short story available to anyone who'd like it called "A Tale of Two Matchmakers" (featuring the ever-meddlesome Emma Woodhouse, Mr. Knightley, and a fairy name Sylvia, LOL). Hope you'll enjoy both!

And, of course, what would be a romantic holiday without a few sweet treats, right? Well, it turns out that February 5th was "World Nutella Day!" Yes, a celebration devoted to one of my favorite foods... I didn't know about it until this week, but better late than never, right?! Here are a bunch of recipes to make sure you can eat something Nutella laden all day long, if you so desire :). And I've included the one I most want to try below, because I think it's a PERFECT treat for Valentine's Day. Hope you'll enjoy it, too, and that you'll have a wonderful and romantic weekend!!


--- See the step-by-step instructions with pictures on "The Kitchn" Blog HERE ---
Strawberry–Nutella Pop Tarts 
adapted from Macheesmo, makes about 8-10 Pop Tarts
2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 sticks of chilled, unsalted butter, diced
4 tablespoons of ice water
Best quality strawberry jam/preserves and Nutella, for filling
Powdered sugar for dusting
Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse until mixed. Add the butter and pulse until it is roughly the size of peas. Next, add the water, and process until the dough starts to form a ball. Split the dough into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to an hour. Roll out the dough into a rectangle on a lightly-floured surface until it is about a 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into evenly-shaped rectangles using a knife or a pizza cutter. Repeat with the second ball of dough. Line two baking sheets with foil and place the squares of dough down on them, about an inch apart.
Spread the preserves or Nutella (or both) in the center of each rectangle (I used about 1-2 tablespoons).
Top each rectangle with a second sheet of dough and seal the edges by gently pressing dough on the dough with a fork. Work your way around the entire tart with the fork, making sure the edges are sealed.
Prick each pop tart with a fork. Now, freeze the tarts for several hours. Bake them for about about 25-30 minutes, at 375 degrees F. Let the pop tarts cool slightly, before dusting them with powdered sugar. (you can make a glaze, but I like them lightly dusted with sugar).
(part of The Kitchn's "Breakfast with a Blogger" series)
 You definitely want to visit Kasey and Matthew's blog for LOTS of amazing recipes and music to go along with them: Turntable Kitchen

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What Does the Groundhog Say?

Last year, that bizarre but utterly memorable song "What Does the Fox Say?" was all the rage on YouTube. The first time I saw it, I was with a few writing friends and we laughed until we literally had tears streaming down our faces -- it was just so funny and strange! (If you haven't yet seen it, check out the video HERE. :)

I have no idea what the fox might say today, but I have a fairly strong prediction of what the groundhog might say tomorrow. Given the "polar vortex" or whatever benign term meteorologists have been using to try to explain this horrendously cold weather, I'd be shocked if Punxsutawney Phil didn't decide that not only was spring SO NOT coming early, but that we'd better expect it not to start until sometime in late April. At the very soonest.

So, I won't be getting my hopes up for a quick return to umbrellas and windbreakers, or deluding myself into believing that March will "go out like a lamb"... I will, however, be watching one of my favorite romantic comedies -- Bill Murray in "Groundhog's Day" (1993) -- and catching some of the Super Bowl. I'll also be getting ready for my month-long book club with Deb Haupt at The Reading Frenzy! (Check out the interview she posted here!) We start a read/chat of The Road to You on February 3rd and will be having a fun discussion there all month. Of course, EVERYONE of you is welcome to join in at any time (!!) and stay for however long you might like...

How about you? What's been going on? Any special weekend plans or fun events ahead for February?