Friday, March 22, 2019

Literary Friday: The City Baker's Guide to Country Living

Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I want to share with you a book I read back in February.  I'm sort of behind on my book reviews, so I might write a post with a few mini reviews in it in a couple of weeks.  But The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller deserves its own post and to be featured on Literary Friday.  I first read about it on Mary's lovely post HERE, and it's taking me way to long to finally read it.  Better late than never!

According to Goodreads:

"Mix in one part Diane Mott -Davidson's delightful culinary adventures with several tablespoons of Jan Karon's country living and quirky characters, bake at 350 degrees for one rich and warm romance." --Library Journal 

A full-hearted novel about a big-city baker who discovers the true meaning of home--and that sometimes the best things are found when you didn't even know you were looking

When Olivia Rawlings--pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club--sets not just her flambeed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of--the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country's longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn's property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired--to help Margaret reclaim the inn's blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.

But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee--or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected--it could be even better.

My Review:

This is one of the best romances I've ever read.  Hallmark need to take notice because it could be adapted into the BEST movie for the channel.   It has all the elements:  small town, fall festival, sleigh rides, cozy inn, quirky, creative name it, and this book has it in spades!

First of all, I love that in spite of the *perfect* setting, Livvie and Martin have their faults and baggage; however, I still love them both!  Livvie is such an interesting character: She made a few bad decisions in her past before visiting her best friend Hannah in Guthrie.  Yet I forgive her because she has made a life for herself against all odds, and she made a great choice in moving to Guthrie to become the pastry chef at the Sugar Maple Inn.  I love Livvie's passion for baking, her creative spirit, and the fact that she can tear-up a banjo.  The girl has mad skills!  Plus she's a dog lover: Salty's personality is as large as he is.  Martin is the son who escaped to the other side of the country, yet he comes back home to help care for his ailing father.  He is also a very talented musician, and he and Livvie play in the same contra dancing band.  His life is complicated to say the least, and I so badly want him to see how awesome Livvie is because they are the perfect match for each other.  Men can be so dense sometimes in real life as in fiction.

A big part of the plot is Margaret Hurley's determination to regain her status as the best pie baker in Vermont.  Livvie and Margaret spend endless hours perfecting apple pie recipes by changing the type of apples, spices, and pie crust combinations.  The romantic side of me loves that Livvie can create what she loves most (pastries) in an idyllic small town and still earn a living.  If we could all be so lucky!  If Guthrie were real and south of the Mason-Dixon line, I'd beg my family to move there!  Louise Miller is also a pastry chef, and she includes her best apple pie recipe in the back of the book.  I had intended to try the recipe myself and feature it on Pi Day (3.14, not "pie") but life got in the way of fun plans.  I will try it in the near future, and I'll report back on our thoughts about the recipe.

If you enjoy sweet romances about very complicated, well-drawn lovers; cozy hometown settings with a cast of quirky characters; a plot full of family drama and frenemies; and a main character you will truly root for throughout the book, then I highly recommend The City Baker's Guide to Country Living.  I can't wait to read her next one, The Late Bloomers' Club, which is also set in Guthrie.  Expect to read my review for it next month.

Just a reminder:  Our Book Club discussion of Anne of Green Gables will be next Friday, March 29th.  

Below are affiliate links for purchasing Louise Miller's books via IndieBound.

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"The waltz held the feeling you get when you finish a well-loved book. It left me longing for something I couldn't name." 
— Louise Miller (The City Baker's Guide to Country Living)

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Field Trip to America's Hometown: Laurel, Mississippi

One of two shops owned by Ben and Erin Napier in Laurel, Mississippi

Happy Tuesday, My Lovelies!  A few weeks ago I went on a field trip to Laurel, Mississippi: America's Hometown.  Laurel is featured in Ben and Erin Napier's HGTV show, Home Town.  On the day I visited, it was overcast, and it eventually stormed before I left.  I'd like to share the highlights of my trip with y'all.

First of all, Laurel is not far from Interstate 59.  Laurel is about 150 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and about 142 miles northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana.  It's a fun day trip if you live in Alabama or Louisiana, and I plan on returning at some point this year.

My first stop was the Laurel Mercantile.  The shop isn't large, but it is very well curated.  There were several people shopping on the Saturday I visited in spite of the inclement weather.  

I liked the selection of milk glass in the shop as well as the vintage-looking glassware.

The Mercantile sells toweling by the yard (i'd love to think of a creative way to use it) and I also loved the cheerful artwork.

If you need anything for your kitchen, you can find it in the shop.

The Mercantile also has a lovely selection of Farmhouse Pottery.  I have a few pieces of their pottery and love it!  The shop sells pieces from the Laurel collection like the crock, above.

The pillows with the iconic Scotsman truck on them are so cute.  I regret not buying one!

I did purchase Ben and Erin's book.  

The book has a handy map in it showing the area where the homes are located that Ben and Erin have renovated for the show.  

After I left the Laurel Mercantile, I went to lunch at the famous Pearl's Diner.  It was crowded, but I didn't have to wait long for a delicious lunch of fried chicken and vegetables.  Pearl's is famous for fried chicken.  I did not take any photos because there were too many people, and by this time it had started raining.

The next stop:  The Scotsman General Store and Woodshop.

Ben and Erin were still filming this season, but as the light was off in the General Store, I didn't get to see Ben filming in his workshop *sadface*

The General Store sells lots of candy, and other food stuffs.  Ben runs on caffeine, apparently.  I also bought some Camellia red beans because they're hard to find in Alabama.

Big Ben's Blend is very strong, but excellent.  I also bought a mug and a Scotsman t-shirt for trip.

After I visited the Scotsman General Store I used the handy-dandy map from Ben and Erin's book and drove around and looked at all the beautiful homes in Laurel that have been featured on the show.  I also saw Ben and Erin's adorable craftsman-style cottage.  By this time it was raining hard, so again I didn't take any photos.  This is why I want to visit again, maybe during the week, when the weather is pretty.

One final note....Today is Mr. Sketchy Reader and my anniversary!  :D  We've been married 31 years today.  Miracles DO happen!  ;P

Do you watch Home TownI love Ben and Erin's designs, and I also enjoy their show!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill

Monday, March 18, 2019

Mid-March Update

Finlay is sharing his St. Patrick's Day spirit!

Happy Monday, My Lovelies!

I hope y'all had a very Happy St. Patrick's Day!  We had a nice, restful day, and we ate some wonderful, authentic Irish food.

I barely got the house decorated for St. Patrick's Day on Friday, so we won't get to enjoy it for long, but that's okay!

I went with vintage MacKenzie-Childs in pinks and green for our St. Patrick's Day table.  I cooked traditional Irish soda bread and corned beef stew.

I'm sorry I've been MIA the past couple of weeks.  I had to help Shanley Belle in Baton Rouge because she had a scheduled minor surgery that led to an ER visit for sepsis.  A few days later, I contracted a nasty upper respiratory illness I more than likely caught in the ER.  I'm just now getting over it,  but I'm not 100% yet.

There are several things I want to share with y'all as we finish out March.  Here are a few posts to expect in the near future:

I took a field trip to America's Hometown, Laurel Mississippi

Because I've been sick, I haven't read much, but I did read The City Baker's Guide to Country Living in February.  I'll be sharing it with you this Friday.

I just received The Library of Lost and Found in the mail, and I will share this on Thursday, March 28th.  I love Phaedra Patrick.  She's one of my favorite writers!

I planted these pansies in October.  Our pansies have never wintered as well!  It's a shame that it's almost time to pull them all up!  I'm planning our spring container gardens this week.  I have a fun Pinterest board for container gardens!

I'm also considering a few spring home decor projects.  I love how Rachel Ashwell has wallpaper on her cabinet.  The colors are so pretty!  If you don't follow Rachel on Pinterest, you should  Click on THIS LINK to follow her inspiring pins and boards!

Last but not least, I have been savoring my library's annotated Anne of Green Gables.  I'm also immersing myself in all things Anne with an "e."  I will put together a post or two about the above books before our Book Club Discussion on Anne of Green Gables Friday, March 29th.

Today is my grandmother's 99th birthday.  Because I've been sick I'm not going to visit her today because I do have a bit of a cough (still).  I definitely do not want her to catch what I have!  Hopefully I can visit her in April when the weather is warmer and I'm hopefully better!  

That's about all for now!  What have you been up to lately?  Tell me in comments!

Until next time...

Ricki Jill