Wednesday, December 14, 2016

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR: Italian Spumoni Cookies

Welcome to December 15th of the Advent Tour!   I'm so pleased that spritewrites has decided to host and organize the tour again this year. There is still time to join in and add a Holiday post if you want to share some of your traditions. Even if all the days get picked, more than one post per day is even more fun!

Christmas baking is something I enjoy. Sometimes, if I'm lucky and prepared, I might get a storm day in early December. Prepared in that I've picked up the ingredients, like butter or cherries, that I might need for Christmas baking and lucky in that I get a day to do the baking. Part of Christmas baking is making the ole standbys, which for me is Frying-Pan Cookies, Almond Bark, and Gum-Drop Cake. Maybe a shortbread cookie. Maybe fudge. (My dad would be happy if all I gave him for Christmas was fudge, lol)

But it is also fun to try a new fancy treat, and this year, I found this recipe for Italian Spumoni Cookies, at Pinterest. The original recipe comes from The Gold Lining Girl. I remember having Spumoni ice cream when I was young, and my mother making a Spumoni Baked Alaska. Spumoni seems to be like a neopolitan - with cherry, almond, and pistachio flavours. Theses cookies have all three layers, and turned out quite spectacularly! I like making a cookie that has to chill in the fridge, which stretches out the time factor, but makes two easier days - one to mix, and one to bake. 

I think these will go into the regular Christmas rotation. mmm


Italian Spumoni Cookies:

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. chopped maraschino cherries, drained
2-3 drops red food coloring
1/3 c. chopped pistachio nuts
3 tbsp. pistachio pudding mix
2-3 drops green food coloring

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, egg, and the extracts. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat until well-blended. Divide dough into thirds. Add chopped maraschino cherries and red food coloring to one of the thirds. Mix well by hand. Add pistachio nuts, pistachio pudding mix, and green food coloring to another third of the dough. Mix well by hand. 

Shape each third of dough on separate sheets of lightly floured wax paper into logs approximately 1 1/2 inch in diameter and approximately 16 inches long. Flatten each log into a rectangle approximately 3-4 inches wide. You will have 3 rectangles of 4×16. Layer the dough on a single piece of plastic food wrap by lining up the rectangles and flipping them one on top of the other. Start with pistachio as the bottom layer, flip the plain layer on top of pistachio, and flip the maraschino cherry layer on top of the plain layer. Wrap securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.

Cut the rectangle widthwise with a sharp knife into 1/4 inch slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Cool completely.

Yield: Approximately 30 cookies

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I'm Looking Forward To For The First Half Of 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is Ten Books I'm Looking Forward To For The First Half of 2017

I wonder if this is meant to be about books that are coming out new in 2017. I never am really aware of any of these, except for ongoing series books, and most of those seem to come out in the fall. Instead, I've got old list books I have meant to get to, so these are books that I've been meaning to read for a long time, and hopefully will get to next year.

books in continuing series:
Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear (#12 in Maisie Dobbs)

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen (#8 in Royal Spyness, plus #9, #10)
I'm hoping to get this series caught up in 2017

Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason

books I'm waiting in line for:

A Man Called Ove  by Fredrik Backman (audiobook)

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (audiobook)

backlist books by favourite authors:

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

Slammerkin and/or Landing by Emma Donaghue

How to Start a Fire or The Passenger by Lisa Lutz 

Glass Harmonica by Russell Wangersky

The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perotta

I'm looking forward to everyone elses' lists to see what great new books might be coming out in 2017.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

VIRTUAL ADVENT TOUR: The Lights of My Town

Welcome to December 7th of the Advent Tour, and welcome to PEI! I'm so pleased that spritewrites has decided to host and organize the tour again this year. There is still time to join in and add a Holiday post if you want to share some of your traditions. Even if all the days get picked, more than one post per day is even more fun!

I love driving around and seeing the Christmas lights up and decorating the streets. The pictures do not do justice to how wonderful they look, but I tried!

Downtown Charlottetown has been decorated for a long number of years with large lighted figures. Here is our wonderful Confederation Center of the Arts lit up. Confed Center is home to my library, and also the Anne of Green Gables musical, plus the art gallery and is where we host our high school prom. CCoA is also next door to Province House, the birthplace of Canada. It's a wonderful spot to walk around, inside and out and we are lucky to have such a nationally important structure in our little city. I snapped this picture around 5 pm, and it felt darker outside than this picture suggests.

Next, I took a walk around my neighbourhood. Usually, nearly all the houses are decorated and lit up, but we have already had snow, and it seems like it is sticking around. Some years we don't even have snow for Christmas. The stormy weather has probably put a crimp in the plans of some people. It is still just the first week of December.

It was a lovely night to walk around the block and admire the neighbours' houses. Lots of houses are simply decorated: a wreath, a garland, and nice floodlight to highlight the front.

I am often drawn to houses with a simple white light theme. December gets so dark so early, especially after the time change, so the lights, which come on around 5 or 6 pm, brighten up the dark evenings, giving some hope of brighter days coming.

This is new! I saw two houses on my walk with this overall multi-coloured lighting. The lights are moving which adds an extra dimension. The snowman is a bit droopy, but he picked up his head soon after.

I love this house and how they let the house be the star of the show. Each window, including the side of the house and the garage, have a set of candle-lights. The large Snowman, Carolers, and Santa have been but out for as long as I can remember. Would they have to go around and turn on all the candles individually? Dedicated!

Some houses already have their tree up and lit. These bushes are lit with coloured lights and more window candles. Too much snow for this early in December.

Here is our house! A few bushes, a set of white light branches, and the floodlights.  I think my door is too dark for the pine swag to show up very well.

This is our third Christmas in the house. The first year, my husband got the lights all set up but couldn't figure out how to get them to light up, as the outside front plug/outlet didn't seem to work. It took a while, and my youngest who had investigated all the light switches in the house, to discover the switch in the front closet which controls the outside lights. Genius! We can turn the lights on and off with out going outside.

Thanks for stopping by again this year. Having the Virtual Advent Tour is now a tradition at Christmas for me. Here's my past posts:
In 2015, I shared my Christmas decorations in our new home
In 2014, there was no tour
In 2013, I shared a Christmas series of novellas by Anne Perry that I listened in audio
In 2012, I posted some favourite Christmas mystery  books
In 2011, I posted a 'recipe' for fruitcake that my grandmother had given me.
In 2010, I took a humorous look at some local events on Prince Edward Island.
In 2009, we played 'guess the carol'
In 2008, I played a game of 'guess the movie', and my favorite Christmas picture ever.
In 2007, it was the original 'guess the carol' game, with your vocabulary tested, and my whipped shortbread cookie recipe.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: New to Me Authors I Read for the First Time in 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish each week. This week's topic is Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016. I find it hard to make a list for the year when the year isn't over yet. What if I find my new favourite author in the next few weeks? I guess it is a chance I have to take. I read a good number of new authors this year. (around 45) and it was easy to pick a top ten. These are authors I would definitely read again, and in one case, already read the second book this year.

Kent Haruf 
I read Our Souls at Night, a delightful story of an elderly couple who decide to 'sleep' together to combat the loneliness they experience.

Next up: The Plainsong trilogy, Plainsong, Eventide, Benedition

 Lauren Groff 
I listened to Fates and Furies on audiobook and loved the play on narrative perspective. This is also listed on the  40 New Feminist Classics over at LitHub.

Next Up: The Monsters of Templeton, or Arcadia

Anita Rau Badami  
Badami's book, The Hero's Walk was one of the Canada Reads nominees this year and finished second. I was just getting ready to read it when I heard the author speak at out library and she sold me even before I read it. I ended up loving it, and her take on an ordinary hero.

Next up: Tamarind Mem, Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?, or Tell it to the Trees

Jill Alexander Essbaum  
I listened to Hausfrau and also loved it. The main character is a housewife in Switzerland trying to deal with the numbness she feels in her life. You might have a hard time liking her, but if it was a man who was having this crisis, liking him wouldn't be the focus of discussion.

Next up: wait for a second novel. Essbaum has a few books of poetry if you are interested (I'm not)

Robert Galbraith 
I know I am kind of cheating, as I've read all of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books, but Galbraith is named a different author and this series is very different. Rowling can definitely write mysteries and I already have the next book ready to read before the end of the year. I'm not rushing too much as I understand the third book ends in a cliffhanger...

Next up: The Silkworm, and Career of Evil

Melina Marchetta  
I listened to On the Jellicoe Road and while I liked it, I suspect I would have loved the print version. There were many layers, and narratives going on. Excellent young adult book.

Next up: Finnikin on the Rock, or Saving Francesca

Rainbow Rowell - 
Eleanor & Park is worth the hype. I adored Eleanor and Park as two misfit teenagers who find love. I've already read Fangirl, and would definitely look for another. 

Next up: Attachments or Landline 

Graham Moore 
Last Days of Night is based on a true story of a lawyer who fought against Edison, who was fighting everyone. Nikola Tesla plays a big role, but law types would enjoy this as much as scientists for the restructuring of law offices that develops. 

Next up:  The Sherlockian, or watch The Imitation Game (Moore was the screenwriter)

Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney  
A bunch of nasty, greedy siblings are fighting over  their inheritance, or Nestegg. Everyone has great plans and secrets hinging on The Nest

Next up: since Sweeney is a debut author, guess we are waiting for a new book

Amy Stewart 
First of all, I adore this cover. Second of all, great story! Three sisters try to get by on their own in 1910s upstate New York but they run afoul of a local mob-wannabe. Girl Waits With Gun is the start of a great new series.

Next up: Lady Cop Makes Trouble

Did you read any of these new to me authors? Any reccs based on these authors?