Food for book clubs: Orange Marmalade Cake

Well over a year ago, I started my year long reading challenge. But the thing about reading is, there’s alway new and exciting book finds that can distract us. So the end of this challenge as been pushed back farther and I’m actually extremely okay with this fact. The challenge has already encouraged me to expand my reading palate and I’ve even learned more about who I am as a reader. I’ve also learned, despite what years of school taught me, that it’s okay to not finish a book. There are simply too many to read with too little time, so why spend precious reading time on a book you just don’t mesh well with? Life only seems to get busier, which means reading time becomes only more valuable. I’m working on finding my next book for this challenge, as I’ve once again become distracted by too many wonderful reads. In the meantime though, I took the time to take things slow for a couple of days. Or rather, my body made me. The end result was starting a new piece to this blog: food for book clubs. When reading a book, don’t you sometimes long to be there when the description of food just makes your mouth water? Esther’s Orange Marmalade Cake from the Mitford Series certainly fit this scenario. I ate so many cupcakes when I read the first book of the series – I probably gained 5 pounds from the book! Luckily, Jan Karon has a cookbook to go along with her series (thank goodness!), so the dreamy Orange Marmalade cake made the most sense to begin this with. I wanted to originally just start learning how to decorate cakes, but the end result made me think “this would be perfect for a book club”. Can you imagine? Meeting with other readers and entering the world of the book you’ve all read, and having pieces of it actually come to life.

Well, here is a piece of the Mitford magic. Orange Marmalade Cake. You can find the recipe in Jan Karon’s cookbook, and the frosting recipe will be posted at the end. I topped it with orange zest and mandarin oranges. Other than changing out the frosting to something I could pipe easier, the recipe was kept the same. And it is heavenly. Keep this in mind if you plan a book discussion about the Mitford series, although now you may have to have one just so you all can eat some great food together!


Can’t you just imagine being in the town of Mitford?

As books inspire me, I’ll share more food ideas to help inspire you book clubs and discussions. Who says reading has to stay in the imagination?



I did not create either the recipe for the cake or the frosting. However, I’ve shared the original sources for both. For the delicious frosting, follow this link I found for the recipe and directions:


A Book With Non-Human Characters

Hello reader,

It has been a while since my last post. There have been quite a few books since that time. Mostly thrillers over the summer. Fast paced with the heat of a psychological mystery is typically my personal favorite for the searing sun in the summertime. They also tend to move quickly, which means I can get through more during the few months. Summer is never long enough, but inevitably it fades into fall and that is my all time favorite season! Okay, so I likely say that with every season, but what can I say? I LOVE the changing of seasons! I guess that could be why I love changing books as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading each story and I often don’t want the book to be over. If I don’t feel that way, I usually quit reading. The exception to my DNF (did not finish) rule is if there is a mystery being solved.

This fall, I started out by fulfilling a category for the reading challenge: A Book With Non-Human Characters. For this category I originally wanted to read The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, but while listening to the Podcast What Should I Read Next, I heard about a different title that I wanted to dig into ASAP. That title was The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. The elevator pitch for this short book was fascinating and hit close to home. It’s about someone with a mysterious chronic illness that finds comfort and company through a snail. What a strange concept for a book, right? But as someone who has a chronic illness that has its own mysterious aspects and unknown origin, I snatched this one up. Here we have an account, or a piece, of someone’s life at the lowest point. A book that tells you you’re not alone and really, none of us are. But there is something comforting in reading this book written by someone who was bed ridden without the ability to even be upright, and they have achieved writing a book. How amazing is that? I think the moral of this story is to never give up, no matter how slow the progres goes. Each of us move at a different pace, and as long as you keep moving, that is what matters. The snail moved at such a slow pace, but it had such a magnificent purpose. Despite being a small and seemingly insignificant snail, it provided the author with company and a bigger purpose. Illness is something we often view as a weakness. The author decided to write about illness and speak out in a wondrous way. By connecting to a snail and exploring it’s biology, others who have struggled with long term illness could in turn feel as though we are watching and exploring a creature’s existence alongside the author. After finishing this book, I found myself more capable of giving myself permission to not feel well or needing to rest whenever I need to. I also found myself viewing nature, no matter how small, in a whole new light. It’s amazing how each species has its own niche in this world, and we as people also fill our own niches.

Oh, and an interesting thing happened when I was working on finishing the book. I found snails in our own yard when I previously hadn’t noticed them.


I highly recommend this book. Especially if you are or have been ill, bedridden, or chronically ill. Or if you have an interest in learning more about biology and nature. Actually, I think many of us could benefit from reading this book. Perhaps it will help you gain empathy for those around you with a chronic illness, many that seem invisible. Or perhaps, it’ll help you to slow down and appreciate the little things we can overlook too easily in this busy world.

Catching Up Continued: At Home in Mitford

Hi everyone!

It’s about time to do another post to help me get caught up on what I’ve read for the reading challenge. The category fulfilled by reading At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon was “a book that’s your mom’s favorite”. It’s actually the first book of my mom’s favorite series. The book was a wholesome and comforting read. When I was reading it and had to part from the book, whenever I returned it felt like coming back home. The characters came to life and it created a sense of community and of being at home. Having a sense of community is something I think many people crave, but is getting more difficult to obtain. Perhaps that’s a reason these books have had overwhelming success. Another part of why I loved reading this book was the memories I now associate with reading At Home in Mitford. My most vivid memory of reading this book was when I was house sitting. I was curled up in a recliner while rain poured onto the earth outside. Now and then a clap of thunder would occur. The dogs were curled up nearby, with the youngest one laying down and just watching the rain. He reminds me of the dog in the book, and even has the energy to match. But this moment, he was calm and content to lay down and observe the outdoor weather. And even though I wasn’t at home, while I read my book it felt like I was home. Another memory I have of reading this book is needing to grab a cupcake while I read. Her books are known for including a lot of food, and it all sounded so delicious I just had to get something delicious in real life! In my experience, the memories associated with reading a book are an important part of the experience. The words on the page create the story, but your experiences while reading create the ambience and an emotional connection to the story. I can look at my bookshelves and each book has its own memories. One was brought to a California beach, one I found after a move and was able to read while we were still in the settling in phase, and on it goes.
I loved the first book of the Mitford Series because it evokes these same emotional connections. You feel as though you are getting to know the people in the town. I’ll admit though, I didn’t expect to feel as much suspense as I did reading this book. It kept me invested and I had to read until the very end as soon as I could. But problem with reaching the end was that it was over. At least it’s a series! I’ll be reading the rest of the books soon.

I do believe that should catch me up on my posts! Now I’ll be working on fulfilling more categories – as soon as I finish reading my newest “bargain book” I decided to buy on a whim.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you’re reading and keep following along.

Catching up: A Brief Discussion on The Elephant Whisperer, A Tale of Two Cities, All the Light We Cannot See, and The Midnight Watch


I’m going to take a few moments and post about 4 books I’ve read for the challenge. I’ll do a separate post for the others – otherwise it’ll seem like the post that never ends!

First up:

A book with your favorite animal.

The Elephant whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

This book pulled at my heartstrings like no other book has, at least so far. It wasn’t in a way that had me crying, like Marley and Me, but it had me emotionally invested throughout. I actually felt like I was there in the bush in Africa. How is there not a movie based on this book yet? I have no idea, although let’s face it, the book would be better anyways. I don’t want to give anything away in case you haven’t read it yet, but I’ll just say that I was hooked and never knew what was coming. It truly captured what “life” is, except it was a life in another world with a host of problems that are foreign to me. The problems faced in this African nonfiction story involved out-thinking others, protecting nature and NOT meddling, and emerging yourself in a culture to be capable of politically and humanly working together as one species: human. The author is a type of person this world could use more of, and it was amazing the way he and others who worked with him let nature do its thing and tried to interfere as little as possible, becoming one with nature and not causing disruption. I highly recommend this book, and it’s definitely a favorite of mine now. It’s so high up on my list of favorites, that if I had to choose my top 3 life time favorite books, this would be one of them. When I finished this book, I was so sad that it was over and that if I read it again, it wouldn’t be the same. I’m going to read it again though, it’s that good. And the cool thing is I would never have known about it without this reading challenge.


A book with a great first line.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

This read was an audiobook. Audiobooks are such a great way to feed your reading addiction in a fast paced and busy world! Sometimes I listen to audiobooks while cleaning, cooking, or as the weather warms up I may sit outside on the back patio and listen to a story!
Unfortunately, A Tale of Two Cities isn’t the most relaxing story for sitting outside to soak up some rejuvenation. This isn’t one of your “beach reads”. It’s more of a “I’d like to feel like things aren’t so bad because they could be worse” kind of story. It also offers a complex and tragic storyline. Step into this time capsule, and you’ll find the book really puts history into perspective. The French Revolution isn’t something I’ve learned a lot about in the past, but A Tale of Two Cities really underlines this dot on the timeline. The story is often referenced for its famous first line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Whenever I heard that quote, I didn’t fully understand the message. But it really has a lot to do with the nature of a revolution, which is not an easy thing to go through. Starvation, injustice, violence, distrust, these are all seen throughout the tale. On one positive note, I now understand a Gilmore Girls quote referencing Madame Defarge and her knitting skills. But back to the story. It really makes you wonder, how does a society get to the point it pushes for progression? What is the toll it takes on our psychological well being? How does a country ease the burden a revolution can cause?
Attempting not to sound odd, I did enjoy this book. I found it heartfelt, thought provoking, and it had me wanting to look into the French Revolution. The best books get your mind’s gears turning, and this one did just that. I’ll be keeping an eye out for a paper copy to buy and re-read, all the while thinking in the back of my mind, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.



A Historical Fiction book.

All the light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

This book was originally under the category “most recent Pulitzer”, but by the time I read it, it was no longer the most recent. I moved it to my category “historical fiction” and I’m so glad I did. It would be extremely difficult to find a book for this category that blew me away the same as this one. I know it’s probably old news: “it’s such a great book”, “top favorite book”, but seriously… It is that good. Now, I’ll admit I didn’t care for it at first. It just felt slow paced to me, and looking back I think it had to do with the back and forth narratives. I have found that this can make getting into a story a bit of a struggle for me. But as the story progressed, I started to see how it was coming together and it was like seeing the same picture using two different lenses. The result was seeing a completely new picture. The story was tragic (I mean, it’s WW2, so that’s to be expected), but it also brought out a sense of sadness for the German while portraying the blind French girl as an image of strength. The story was well crafted, made you think deeply about history, and in the end I could see how this book won the Pulitzer Prize.



A book that takes place at sea.

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

Ahhhh – A book at sea. Truth be told, I’m terrified of being in open water. That’s a part of the reason I love a book that takes place at sea. Reading a story that’s set somewhere you wouldn’t otherwise experience can be rewarding. All the adventures – non of the actual danger. The other part of the reason I enjoy these types of books is a sentimental one because of reading Moby Dick. I know this isn’t a very popular “favorite book”, but it makes my list. I studied psychology in my undergrad education, and love how psychology can be readily applied to that story. The sea (and the whale) as a psychological metaphor in respect to the captain, his inability to control a desire that ultimately ends terribly (id, ego, and super ego anyone?), among other interesting aspects. I’m veering off track though, because Midnight Watch is the book I’m supposed to be talking about right now. Midnight Watch is a book my mom and I read together. She almost quit early on because the beginning was a bit odd. I started to read it, and I thought how great it was for the author to begin the story in that way. What better character to be the one to try to detangle the story of The Titanic and The Californian? Someone who is probably trying to sort out his own tragic past by giving a PROPER memorial to those who pass away tragically. When reading a book you’re finding yourself questioning why something was included in the story – there’s likely a reason it survived the editing and drafting process. It can be fun to try to figure out why certain fragments of the story made the cut.
Midnight Watch was beautifully composed. The fragments were pieced together in an interesting way and the character development was great. And the captain of The Californian – oh man. Put on your psychology thinking caps. This is another book that really speaks to my undergrad background. I just want to peel away the layers and figure out what happened. Even though I knew what happened because I read it, at the end of the story I questioned what I actually knew. The only fact I actually knew was that lights were seen, but The Californian didn’t show up to find out it was a ship in trouble. I was truly captivated by this book and hope the author returns with another book in the future. The literary structure was wonderful and as I read, I found that I was floating right along (hey, I have to squeeze in some sea metaphors where I can).


This challenge has brought me to some new all time favorite books, and I can’t wait to see what else I come across! Thank you for reading, hope you find some good reads as well!

Updated List For Reading Challenge

Hello fellow readers,

It’s been a while since I’ve updated. A lot has been going on since the last update, but finally I’m getting back to being able to focus on reading again. I did not complete the challenge in 1 year, but that’s okay! I’m still not giving up on it, and in fact I’ve added a couple categories. The challenge has really expanded my “to be read” list (or TBR), as well as some goodreads recommendations and a podcast called “What Should I Read  Next”. As a result of finding so many new books to read, the challenge has been less consistently directing what I’m reading.

However, even with it not always  taking presedence, I’m going to go ahead and post the updated list. Here I unveil a few more categories!

Updated October 6, 2017

•A book at the bottom of your reading list
•A book that was turned into a musical
A book that has been translated from a different language – Crime and Punishment
•A Christmas book
•A book that’s a fantasy novel
•A book that’s set in a place you want to visit
•A cozy mystery
•A thriller
A book with a great first line – Tale of Two Cities
•A self-published book
•A historical fiction book – All the Light We Cannot See
•A book that was a best seller during a decade of your choosing (for example 1920s)
•A Pulitzer Prize winner’s first book
•A book on current best seller list – When Breath Becomes Air
A biography or autobiography – Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
•A book made into a movie
•The most recent Pulitzer Prize winner
•A fairy tale
•A book of short stories
A book that takes place at sea – Midnight Watch
•A book with non-human characters – The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
•A book by an expatriate – This Side of Paradise
•A book a lot of people reference
•A book that has a cover with your favorite color
•A book written by someone under 30
•A book that’s your mom’s favorite – At Home in Mitford
•A memoir
•A book with your favorite animal – Elephant Whisperer
•A book with humor
•A book published the year you were born
•An epic
•A book of poetry
•A book you can read in a day
•A trilogy
•A classic romance
•A satire
•A science fiction
•A book about food

•A book from the Magical Realism genre

•A western



As you can probably tell, I have a few books to post about. 7 books to be exact. Well, a couple of these are currently being read. These will be in later posts once they are read.


In my next post I’ll share my thoughts on “A Tale of Two Cities”, “All the Light We Cannot See”, “Midnight Watch”, “At Home in Mitford”, and “The Elephant Whisperer”.

The next 2 books that’ll be reviewed later on are “When Breath Becomes Air” and “This Side of Paradise”.

Check back soon!




Into book 3 of the challenge

Hello fellow readers,

It’s been a while since my last update. To be completely honest, health problems had taken their toll for a while and only recently have I began to get a better handle on them. In the meantime since my last post, I’ve fulfilled two of my categories and am currently working on the third:


A book that’s been translated from another language – Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

A biography or autobiography – The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

and lastly, the one in progress,

A book about your favorite animal – The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence



So let’s start with the fact that it is extremely tough to narrow down each category to only one book. That’s also the cool thing about a book challenge, though, because you’re forced to explore different categories you may not have before. I had some runner ups in the three previously listed categories that I plan to read later on: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, John Adams by David McCullough, and Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote. There were other books that have also caught my eye, but these were the books that almost were read for this challenge. However, I’m pretty happy with the books I did choose.



Okay, so this book is considered a tough and long read. It was over 500 pages, which really isn’t long compared to some other popular books, but the thing is… It’s a tough read. What do I mean by this?

Well, for one it is Russian literature and in a different time, so there’s a couple aspects that cause it to seem detached.There’s a lot of poverty and poor living conditions, a lot of different social norms, a lot of unhappiness, and oh yeah, a lot of drinking and stumbling around.

Secondly, it was basically a meditation on what crime and punishment mean, with a main character who did not ACTUALLY seem to feel remorse for his actions. Say what?! Yep, it’s true. When I first began the book, the main character (I call him “Ras” because I can’t pronounce his name very well) seemed to be down for the count after his crime. So, I assumed this was due to extreme guilt and remorse. Continue to read, and this is very debatable. A lot of questioning as to his thinking comes into play, especially when you are exposed to an article he wrote. Why did he actually commit this crime and did he feel bad, but just didn’t want to admit it? Or did he honestly just not feel bad? And what is wrong with this dude?

Thirdly, there’s a lot of lulls. During the reading, there will be a time when there is a lot happening at once, and then it is back to a long lull, which is why it came across as more of a meditation meant to evoke your thoughts on this matter. There’s also a lot of cat and mouse in the book. Which kept me wondering what was actually going on and what was going to happen, which helps to get through the lulls.

Honestly, I think this book is meant to be studied in a classroom setting. There is probably a lot of history I was unaware of and there’s so much that could be dissected from this book in a guided classroom discussion. Not to mention the papers one could write in reflection of the material. There are religious aspects, moral aspects, mortality, Russian history, family and friend aspects (not to mention loyalty), psychology, criminal justice… Like I said, there’s a lot you could do with this book in the classroom.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone, that’s for sure. But if it’s something you decide to go ahead and read, be sure you are dedicated to read it until the end. Only then can you get the full effect, as it is with any book. And be prepared to have a lot of thoughts! Mine tended to center around, “what is WRONG with you, Ras?”



Ah, what a nice change of pace! I ended up listening to the audio book of this one (while still getting through Crime and Punishment) because when it gets extra busy in life, you may not always be able to sit down and read, but you have time to listen!

This book evoked so many thoughts. I absolutely LOVED this one and am so glad to have chosen it for this challenge. Benjamin Franklin has such an eloquent and prestigious way of speaking. The words leak the intelligence and communication skills he encompassed. He truly craved improvement and knowledge, not to mention he seemed extremely ahead of his time. An interesting thing though, as ahead of his time and unique as he was in his time, these types of people still exist. Those who are pushing boundaries, ready to listen and change their ideas if needed, alter their diets as they learn the benefits, etc. Read the book and you’ll understand what I mean. Benjamin Franklin seemed to value female education (not a popular opinion back in the day it seems) and pushed the country forward in many ways.

After this read, I have discovered how important biographies and autobiographies are to learning a new dimension of history. I learned things that I never learned in school, and got to know Benjamin Franklin in a more personal way. And goodness, was this guy interesting. Reading this book made me look MORE up about him!

Back to the book, though. How into improvement was this guy? He tracked his own faults so that he could make progress working with them. He was a perfectionist in pretty much everything he did. And he read. A LOT. And he took what he read and applied it to life. How many of us read to that extreme? To where what we read actually morphs us and causes us to change?

This book is one that I’d definitely like to re-read. Which I don’t necessarily decide after every book. I’d strongly recommend giving this one a try. The way of speaking is different from current times, but once you start in, it’s a whole new world. It’s as close to time travel as you’ll get. Books are like that, though. They’re like this time capsule that brings you back in time, sometimes to a different physical place, and provides an in depth look for the reader.


Well folks, until next time! Thank you for reading my post and I hope that you decide to do a book challenge, maybe even this very same one! The next post will be after The Elephant Whisperer. This book has already got me hooked, so I suspect it won’t take long to read!







Book 1 of the Challenge!

Alright, so it’s been a while since my last post so I want to update! The first book from the challenge has been picked, but I have to confess: I haven’t been able to focus on it quite yet. I’m in the middle of reading Gone Girl, and want to finish that up first before beginning the challenge! Unfortunately, life’s been throwing some curve-balls. One of which was mono. While I was at my sickest, I couldn’t really do anything except watch movies and sleep. In the longer term of mono, I was left with terrible brain fog and fatigue. As a result, I didn’t keep up with reading like I would have normally. However, it’s starting to get to where I think I can start reading again and actually remember what I read and not fall asleep after a couple of minutes of starting to read! As soon as Gone Girl is completed, the challenge OFFICIALLY begins.

So here is the first book of the challenge!

  1. A book that’s been translated: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I’ll admit that I’ve got a bit of a head start on this one. I started this book a while back and stopped at page 125. It’s about time I finish reading this book. So far, the main character committed a terrible crime, and I suspect the story will continue to unravel the wrath of his guilt which is at the very least a part of his punishment. But is it really enough of a punishment for such a crime? We’ll see what Fyodor Dostoyevsky has to say about it all.

In my next post, I’ll discuss thoughts and themes of the book and probably some questions. The best writing will provoke both strong emotions as well as questions. It should push the reader to wonder and to imagine. To connect the reader to the mind of the author and to the mind of other readers, and as a result connecting us to our core being: human. So far, this first book is REALLY tough to relate to (because of the extreme crime committed), but guilt is a feeling pretty much everyone can relate to. This book takes this basic human emotion and magnifies it. It puts this emotion under one of the more extreme examples of what can elicit the feeling of guilt. I can’t imagine guilt from such a crime. Guilt over little things can eat a person alive. How much worse is it for the main character? He deserves the guilt, though. He really does.

Anyways, we’ll see how this book goes! It seems to be a must read in the opinion of many. Let’s see what all the fuss is about.