Wednesday, October 19, 2016

GOOD TASTE by Jane Green

From the back cover:
For New York Times bestselling author Jane Green, food is enjoyable because of the people surrounding it and the pleasures of hosting and nourishing those she cares about, body and soul. In her first cookbook, Good Taste, Jane shares tips on entertaining, ideas for making any gathering a cozy yet classy affair, and some of her favorite dishes, ranging from tempting hors d'oeuvres like Sweet Corn and Chili Soup, to mouthwatering one-pot mains like Slow-Braised Onion Chicken, to sinfully satisfying desserts like Warm Chocolate and Banana Cake.

This book is Jane's perfect recipe for making a wonderful life complete friends, loving family, and moments filled with good food, good times, and, of course, Good Taste.

Not only is Jane Green a New York Times bestselling author of eighteen novels, she is also a classically trained chef. So I jumped at the opportunity to read and review her beautiful new cookbook. I was not disappointed. Each recipe is accompanied by a story about its origin and a sumptuous photograph. It is conversational in style and great reading apart from being a great additional to my cookbook library. The day it arrived, I read it from cover to cover and decided to try this recipe first: Ginger and Honey Chicken with Soy.

Admittedly, my chicken looks nothing like the photograph in Good Taste. Those chicken breasts were garnished with sesame seeds and cilantro (not mentioned in the recipe), and there was no evidence of the "large onion, sliced." But our chicken, served up with generous portions of white rice and roasted broccoli, was tender, juicy and delicious; this recipe is definitely going into the monthly rotation. What next? Perhaps the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies...

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.                                                                           

Friday, September 16, 2016



J.T. Baxter is having a very bad year. As if adjusting to widower status and caring for two sons, weren’t enough, he has a landscaping business to keep afloat with a loan coming due. The last thing he needs is the town princess waltzing into his life with a business proposal he can’t afford to refuse.

Cassandra Bing feels adrift after her father’s death, a nasty broken engagement and enduring a job she loathes. She’s searching for her niche, something that would’ve made her dad proud and will bring her fulfillment. But gardening is a hot, dirty business, and soon she’s wishing she’d made a different sort of proposition to the sexy dad.

As attraction escalates between J.T. and Cass, tensions grow in a house where secrets fester. Can her presence begin to heal the Baxter household, or will their tender feelings become a casualty of the impending emotional storm?

If you are a fan of sexy romances against a backdrop of family and community, you will love His Small Town Princess, the third in the Sweetwater Springs series of stand-alone books by author Carol Burnside. This is a truly satisfying read, touching on the issues of infidelity, grief, combining families, caring for aging parents, and abusive relationships. Hero and heroine J.T. and Cass, along with all the supporting characters, are sympathetic and believable. Almost instantly swept up in the story, I read the entire book in one setting. Available TODAY on Amazon (click here). Five stars! Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book for FREE in exchange for a written review. There was no expectation that this review be either positive or negative, and I was not given any financial compensation to read the book or write the review. This information is disclosed in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 [...] Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cleaning Out My Closet

In polite society always dress for the life you desire; fate often follows fashion. 
~ Violet Grey

I finally did it. I cleaned out my closet and dresser drawers and purged them of every item I haven't worn in the past year or longer. I was ruthless. Here are my discards.

Six large garbage bags stuffed to the gills.
Mostly, these six bags contain garments I haven't been able to wear since circa 2007, when menopause reared its ugly head. Suddenly, I was no longer able to wear all the beautiful size zero and size two garments I had collected. Ever since, I have been hoping against hope to get back into all those teeny tiny dresses, skirts, pants and tops. Finally, I have admitted defeat.

So many memories. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars spent. A couple of the lovely dresses I got rid of still had price tags hanging from them. But that was almost ten years ago - ten years! - and it is time to let go. Styles have changed. My body has changed.

I have changed.

Now I am a woman "of a certain age" and I am ready to dress the part. No more mini skirts, skinny jeans, or low-cut necklines. No more sweaters with pills or sale items that seemed like a good idea at the time.

All that said, I still haven't given up on the notion of losing ten or fifteen pounds. Although my weight is considered "normal", at least according to the BMI charts - and my doctors have no problem with it - I know I would look and feel better if I weighed a few pounds less. Meanwhile, I am going to buy myself some nice clothes that fit my body now, including a new winter coat and a beautiful pair of leather boots. Obviously, I need to do some shopping.

For the time being, this is what my closet looks like.

Dresses and shoes all lined up in a row. I have yet to deal with the clutter on the upper shelf. 
Two denim jackets, a lightweight vest and jacket, and a few tops and bottoms.
In the process of sorting through my wardrobe I dealt with a few regrets and shed a few tears. But now I am ready to move on. On to the next chapter of my life. With the intention of dressing as well as I can while I travel.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Piano Teacher

Twenty years ago, my life was very different. I was married and a home schooling mom to my three children. I took care of our home, ground wheat berries and baked all our bread from scratch, sewed clothes, made quilts, and dabbled in various crafts. I was an active member of my local home schooling support group, wrote articles about home schooling, and gave seminars to encourage other home school teachers. One article I wrote, along with a picture of my sweet family, even appeared in the column A Day in the Life in Mary Pride's Homeschooling Today magazine.

Now I am divorced and my children are grown. Although I still have my wheat grinder and heavy duty mixer, I don't remember the last time I used them. But I am still making things, teaching, writing articles about the work I do, and giving seminars to encourage others. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. So here is A Day in the Life of a Piano Teacher, an account of my activities on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.

8:30-8:50 - Wake up, catch up on social media via iPhone
8:50-9:00 - Get up, start coffee, take out dog
9:00-9:30 - Write morning pages
9:30-9:40 - Scramble two eggs, top with sriracha, call it breakfast
9:40-10:55 - Make four pairs of earrings, take pictures, post on social media
10:55-11:00 - Change from pajamas into exercise wear
11:00-12:00 - Walk three miles
12:00-12:15 - Cool down, add three pairs of earrings to listings in Etsy shop
12:15-12:30 -  Listen to son (aka RockStar) practice a speech for his Public Speaking class at UNG (due tomorrow)
12:30-1:00 - Shower, dress, heat up a turkey burrito leftover from last week, call it lunch
1:00-2:30 - Practice piano, read through some more music by the composer Zdenek Fibich, about whose life and music I am preparing a presentation
2:30-2:45 - Take out dog, bring in mail, fill water bottle
2:45 - 5:45 - Teach piano lessons
5:45-5:46 - Restroom break
5:46-9:00 - Teach piano lessons
9:00 - 9:15 - Take out dog, order pizza
9:15 - 9:45 - Listen to son practice revised speech for his Public Speaking class
9:45 - 10:45 - Eat pizza, drink a glass of wine wine, catch up on our days
10:45-11:00 - Run to Kroger, buy more wine
11:00-12:00 - Drink more wine, write blog post about day

I guess I like keeping busy! But I firmly believe that I am doing what I was put on this earth to do and I wouldn't trade lives with anyone. I am satisfied with everything I accomplished today and look forward to all that Wednesday will bring!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fish Taco Friday

I know, I know: shrimp aren't fish. They are arthropods, and have no backbone. They are more similar to spiders and grasshoppers and crabs than they are to fish. But they are seafood. Therefore, I hereby declare that I might talk about any taco made with seafood on Fish Taco Friday.

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

But I digress. Last weekend I tried a new menu item at my local Del Rio Restaurant. Sriracha Shrimp Tacos. I love sriracha. I love shrimp. I figured this was a sure winner.

I figured right.

They were taco perfection, tender shrimp smothered in a simple honey sriracha glaze with just the right balance of hot and sweet, stuffed in grilled flour tortilla shells with just the tiniest bit of crunch, topped with sweet onions and a generous helping of fresh cilantra. On the side, there was a cup of rice and a generous portion of chipotle mayonnaise - delicious but completely unnecessary. 

I stole the grilled jalapeno pepper from the plate of my dinner companion. We also shared a pitcher of Dos Equis Amber, served in tall frosted glasses. And of course there was chips and both red and brown salsa for starters. 

It was an altogether delightful dining experience. 

Now I just might have to find a recipe so I can try making these at home. On the other hand, it is hard to compete with perfection. Instead, I just might have to plan another visit to Del Rio very soon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

88 Keys, 88 Days: Piano Practice Journal

I have maintained a journal of my music practice for several years, using simple composition notebooks in which I keep a list of pieces practiced with a few notes here and there - metronome markings, sections memorized, and such. But as I have been recording assignments the past couple of weeks in the beautiful practice notebooks I made for my students, it occurred to me that it would be lovely to have something a bit more aesthetically pleasing to use myself. So I set to work.

Here is the results: 88 Keys, 88 Weeks: Piano Practice Journal. Adapted from the pages I created for my students, each journal page in this notebook is designed to record a week's worth of practice, with an inspirational quote at the bottom for encouragement. In the back, there are pages for keeping track of new music terms encountered and a list of repertoire memorized. The very last page is a bibliography in which I share my all-time favorite books about practice and performance.

After receiving several queries from several colleagues, I have decided to make these available for purchase, with additional color choices available for the front and back covers. To order, click HERE.

Happy practicing!

Monday, August 22, 2016

America: A Tribute to the Patriots of 9/11

Many people don't know that I play the clarinet in addition to the piano. I joined the school band in the fourth grade and played all the way through my senior year in college. When I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I resigned from the University Wind Ensemble so that I could pour all my energy into my master's program. Years went by. I thought I would probably never play the clarinet seriously again.

Then last fall Dr. Thomas Martin Wubbenhorst, the former director of bands at Georgia State University from 1991-2000, returned to Atlanta to conduct the Gwinnett Symphony Wind Orchestra (GSWO). This unique ensemble draws literature from the symphonic band, wind ensemble and military band traditions and varies in size accordingly. Membership is by audition with the conductor or by invitation. 

Well, I'm in, and I play both the clarinet and the piano in the GSWO. We performed three successful concerts last year and have four in the works for this year. In our first performance, which will take place at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Georgia on Sunday, September 11, 2016, we will join forces with the Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra (Robert Trocina, director), the Gwinnett Symphony Chorus (Rick Smith, director), and the Gwinnett Symphony Jazz Orchestra (Jose Manuel Garcia, director) in a program called "America: A Tribute to the Patriots of 9/11". The program will include Barber's Adagio, Copland's A Lincoln Portrait, and Clausen's Memorial. The GSWO's contribution will be Maslanka's Fourth Symphony. I have fallen head over heels in love with this powerful music and have been working hard preparing the challenging piano part to play with the ensemble. To whet your appetite, here is a recording of the United States Navy Band performing the work.

If you live within driving distance of Atlanta we would love to have you come to our performance. To purchase tickets for the concert (and for the 20th Anniversary Gala to follow, supporting Care for Cops, the Georgia Fallen Firefighters Foundation and Operation Homefront), click HERE. Hope to see you there!