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Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life by Diana Raab

Source: the author
ebook, 238 pgs.
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Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life by Diana Raab is so much more than a book about writing and motivation, it’s about looking inside yourself to find what makes you happy and make it your center. Raab uses her plethora of writing experience and combines it with her knowledge of psychology and meditation to help writers create their own seven-step plan for writing not only about their own lives but other artistic projects too.  This is not a book about writing and selling your art, but about tapping into natural creativity and emotion to improve the whole body and psyche.

“Setting an intention involves focusing your thoughts in the particular direction of what you want to bring about or manifest in your life. … One thing to remember is that, even before you set an intention, you need to make sure you believe in it, .. ” (pg. 51 ARC)

Setting goals often is the easiest part for writers and others, it is the intention and believing in those goals that will ensure you reach them. Raab has fantastic advice about maintaining balance, how to find happiness and maintain it, and how this all falls in line with a writing life. However, those who are not in a place to commit will find it hard to begin, let alone sustain big changes. Raab’s advice is sound and writers who follow it are bound to reach the goals they set for themselves, especially after they have created a space where writing will be done (inside their own heads and in a physical space).

Meditation is a big part of her process, and while many may find this too “new-age” or “hokey”, it serves as a marker — a reminder to slow down and make time to think and reflect.  It does not have to be the standard meditation. It could simply be a walk that clears the mind of clutter or a few moments listening to classic music to relax.  It is about stepping away from the busyness of life to move forward with personal goals.

Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life by Diana Raab will help writers and others focus their energy on their own happiness and show them the way toward fulfillment.  Writers often suffer from writer’s block, and there are a number of options in this book to help you break through.  For those who want to write about the past or the future or their emotional trauma, this guide will surely help them toward healing and toward embracing the truth of their lives. Too often we are busy with other things, but Raab reminds us that to be healthy and happy, we need to be busy with our own bliss.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Diana Raab, MFA, PhD, is a memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, thought leader, and award-winning author of nine books and more than 1,000 articles and poems. She holds a PhD in psychology—with a concentration in transpersonal psychology—and her research focus is on the healing and transformative powers of personal writing. Her educational background also encompasses health administration, nursing, and creative writing.

During her 40-year career, Dr. Raab has published thousands of articles and poems and is the editor of two anthologies: Writers and Their Notebooks and Writers on the Edge. Her two memoirs are Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey. She has also written four collections of poetry, her latest collection is called, Lust. As an advocate of personal writing, Dr. Raab facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment, focusing on journaling, poetry, and memoir writing. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self. Dr. Raab serves on the board of Poets & Writers (Magazine Committee), and Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Santa Monica, California. She is also a Trustee at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Visit her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Mom & Me: An Art Journal to Share, Create and Connect, Side by Side by Lacy Mucklow and Bethany Robertson

Source: QuartoKnows
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Mom & Me: An Art Journal to Share, Create and Connect, Side by Side by Lacy Mucklow and Bethany Robertson is a way to foster greater communication with young children, especially those who are just learning how to cope with their feelings and address issues in their school lives or at home.  For a mother and daughter or even a father and son, this journal could be a jumping off point for deeper conversations about what may be causing a child to act out or cause trouble. However, parents should be careful in using it and make sure that it remains a stress-free and fun activity and not something the child feels pressured to do.

Each 2-page section includes a prompt for both the parent and child to draw or even write how they feel on their own page, and when they are done, they can share those pages aloud or in silence with a few questions to clarify. Parents also will need to remember this is a journal to foster greater communication and that the quality of the art inside created by themselves or their child is irrelevant to its purpose.  If you both become better doodlers, all the better.

From drawing out our feelings to creating a coat of arms for the family and depicting yourself with the best animal qualities, these activities will have parents and their children laughing together and sharing quality time, as well as communicating. One of the best activities in the book is drawing your inside self and drawing your outside self, which can not only be enlightening for the child, but also the parent when they contemplate how they view themselves.

Mom & Me: An Art Journal to Share, Create and Connect, Side by Side by Lacy Mucklow and Bethany Robertson includes activities to reflect on the past, on emotions of the moment, self-image, qualities we want to have and do have, and much more. Once this journal is filled, it could give way to more activities together and greater communication as well as the creation of your own personalized journals that you can share together.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Lacy Mucklow (MA, ATR-BC, LPAT, LCPAT) is a registered, board certified, and licensed art therapist who has been practicing art therapy in the Washington, DC area since 1999. She has experience working with a variety of mental health populations and settings, including schools, home-based counseling, and hospitals with adolescents, families, and adults. Lacy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Studio Art from Oklahoma State University, and a Master of Arts degree in Art Therapy from The George Washington University.

Scratch and Create: Enchanted Forest: 20 Original Art Postcards by Kailey Whitman

Source: QuartoKnows
Postcards, 20
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Scratch and Create: Enchanted Forest: 20 Original Art Postcards by Kailey Whitman comes with its own tool for scratching off the metallic coating, and it has its own plastic storage space attached to the book.  Kids may want to be careful with the plastic storage case, as it could easily be ripped off or damaged when trying to access the tool.  Others shouldn’t have a problem at all.

My daughter hasn’t had a chance to use these yet, but I’m sure that she will soon.  I, on the other hand, have had a stressful few weeks and was looking for something mindless to do and relieve stress.  This seemed to provide some relief, especially as I’ve had very little time to do anything outside of work and other life projects. I’m going to send my first one out this week.  I hope that my cousin will be able to take a picture because I want to see how well it arrives to her. I’ll keep you posted on that.

You will want to place even pressure on the tool to scrap away the metallic coating and not too much pressure because it will tear away the coloring underneath if you are not careful.  You’ll see the little bit of color that I tore away on my near the bottom of the bird on the left-hand side at the bottom of the postcard. I was a little bummed, but learned how to add just enough pressure to make the image appear. You can also use a coin if you’d rather do that. I tested it out and it works just as well.

Scratch and Create: Enchanted Forest: 20 Original Art Postcards by Kailey Whitman is a good way to send art in the mail and keep in touch with family or friends.  It’s as fun as a scratch ticket from the convenience store, but with much better results.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Illustrator:

Kailey Whitman is a Philadelphia based illustrator and designer. She is a graduate of the University of the Arts illustration program and when she’s not drawing, she is thinking about drawing.

Her work has been recognized by the society of illustrators 2016 student competition and she was the recipient of the Roger T. hane award. Her work has been featured on behance, brown paper bag, and she was named one of Adobe Creative Cloud’s Artists to watch.

clients include the new york times | the village voice | The Phoenix New Times |grid magazine |Main Line Today | Cincinnati Magazine | Delicious Living Magazine | middlebury college magazine | At Buffalo Magazine | Parragon | Quarto | wASHINGTON SQUARE WEST CIVIC ASSOCIATION |eastern state penitentiary.

The Art of Drawing Dangles: Creating Decorative Letters and Art with Charms by Olivia A. Kneibler

Source: QuartoKnows
Paperback, 144 pgs.
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The Art of Drawing Dangles: Creating Decorative Letters and Art with Charms by Olivia A. Kneibler has a colorful cover and it is clear from the drawings that your lettering will never be plain Jane again.  When kids doodle adding things to their letters or words, they are often told to write the letters as they should be written.  But this book allows their imaginations to run free, adding all sorts of designs to the dangles hanging from their letters.  There are chapters in the book to guide them through the process of drawing them, and there is no limit to how many dangles or what types of items can be made into dangles.

The introduction explains what dangles are and how different strings on which the charms hang can determine the mood of the lettering — evoking different emotions and reactions from the reader.  This type of lettering is great for stationary, artwork, and other creations.  Create wedding invitations with dangles, create monogrammed stationary, and use a variety of materials and styles.  There is a recommended list of materials in the beginning, including watercolor paints, colored pencils, markers, and more.  This is the perfect companion for Hand Lettering A to Z, which would enable you to create even more elaborate designs.

I loved that there are faint outlines for kids to practice creating some of the designs they see in the book. The Art of Drawing Dangles: Creating Decorative Letters and Art with Charms by Olivia A. Kneibler can help kids slow down and be creative, while providing parents with some quiet time. It also can help parents recharge by having them step away from their day-to-day stresses to create art with their children.

RATING: Quatrain

Find out more about the Author:

“Art has been my bliss since I was a very young girl, so much so that I majored in fine art in college with a minor in psychology. I have been producing and selling my art for many years using mostly watercolor as my main medium. When I began focusing solely on art as my career I freelanced for various companies and continued on that path for years creating illustrations for greeting cards, invitations, promotional materials, fabric, figurines and plush teddy bears. Some of the companies I freelanced for were pcCrafter, Bradford Exchange, Gibson Greetings, Paper Magic Group, Annette Funicello Collectible Bear Company (exclusive artist), Leisure Arts, Gooseberry Patch, Walter Drake and more. I was the in house Senior Designer at DecoArt and worked in all aspects of the creative department and extensively on the Liquid Rainbow product, completing four books and numerous projects. After years of working with different companies I decided I would start working for myself so I opened my site, Olivia and Company.”

Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 52 pgs.
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Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster is similar to the Suzy Ultman book of stitching with its templates and fun designs.  Many of these are animals, which my daughter loves. You need the same materials for this: embroidery thread, embroidery needles, and a needle threader.  This one also has step-by-step instructions for cross-stitching.  We haven’t gotten to that step yet, but I’m sure we will.  There are other stitches as well, including seed stitching and back stitching.

This one includes bookmarks, which I’m hoping she’ll make me one.  Some of these designs also can be colored by the artist before they do the stitching.  This has so many possibilities for little artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching with Jane Foster by Jane Foster is another great project book for kids as young as age 6.  She has a great time picking out her templates and matching the colors.  She creates her own designs with simple stitches.  Since her and nana started, she can’t seem to stop making them.  Right now, she’s working on a frameable one and it is only 9 a.m.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Jane Foster is an illustrator and screen printer living and working in south Devon. Her work, which is strongly influenced by Scandinavian and British design from the 1950s and 60s, has been featured in many publications including Vogue, Homes & Antiques, and Mollie Makes. She is a designer for Clothkits and has done commissions for Ikea. Jane’s products are stocked throughout the world.

She’s recently been working with the company Make International who are using her designs on ceramics, glasses and kitchen textiles. These are sold globally.  Jane is the author of Creative Craft With Kids (9781909397439) and Fun with Fabric (9781908449900), published by Pavilion. Jane’s recent two books (May 2015) are for pre-school children – 123 and ABC, published by Templar.  Follow her on Twitter. Visit her Website and check out her Instagram.

Fun with Stitchables by Suzy Ultman

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 36 pgs.
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Fun with Stitchables! by Suzy Ultman is a simple way to get kids interested in creating things through sewing. My daughter and I had to grab some essentials for this book, such as embroidery needles and embroidery thread.  It took me a while to grab these materials, but once we got them, she was off to the races.  She even learned how to use a needle threader when her nana was here visiting.  She already learned how to make knots at summer camp with the Girl Scouts, so she had that part down.

It was good to see her enthusiastic about these designs and learning to use different colors in the designs.  The book includes step-by-step instructions on how to thread the needle, how to tie the knot, and some stitching basics, as well as knotting the end.  The book includes frameable prints, ornaments, embellishments for greeting cards, and so much more.

Fun with Stitchables! by Suzy Ultman is a fun activity for kids to learn about sewing and coordinating colors and creating patterns.  My daughter and her nana had a fun time creating together, and I’m sitting here next to her while she does another one.  She must love it if she keeps going back for more.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Suzy Ultman was born in Pennsylvania, but colorful and vibrant Amsterdam also plays a large part in her work. She has lived on three different continents and embraced the culture and communities of each, allowing them to influence her visual aesthetic. Suzy’s style of illustration is influenced by her childhood, love of nature, and travel experiences. She enjoys being in beautiful habitats among nature’s playful palette of forms, textures, and colors. Suzy explores the worlds within our world, the little details that make us smile, and the connections that make us all part of the global community.

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy

Source: QuartoKnows
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy offers new letter artists a great deal of advice from what tools they can use to different types of fonts they can experiment with. I’ve never really considered creating new letters an art form, but as a teen, I used to do different kinds of bubble letters in notes to friends (yes, I’m dating myself). It was fun to make these notes visually interesting. I considered it a way to doodle when bored in class. In today’s high-tech world, it’s clear that lettering will be considered more of an art, rather than a way of writing.

Book Trailer:

Tools range from different types of paper and different types of pens and markers, but did you also know that you should have a good light source, a compass to ensure your lettering is on target, and clips. Carrying a sketchbook around can also be helpful when you have time to work on your lettering techniques, which reminds me of the small notebook I carry around for writing poems. Users will learn the technical terms for certain aspects of letters, such as those swashes or flourishes that are applied to certain fonts. There are techniques for slanting the letters and applying watercolors, among other things.

Hand Lettering A to Z: A World of Creative Ideas for Drawing and Designing Alphabets by Abbey Sy can help you improve your lettering or just be a great way to relax and enjoy creating something new and colorful. Kids will love this as they learn their letters, allowing them to explore their alphabet in a new way and letting their creativity bloom.

RATING: Quatrain

Peek inside the book:

About the Author:

Passionate about both art and travel, Abbey is best known for her hand-lettering work and travel illustrations. She is also Founder and Creative Director of ABC Magazine, a magazine for artists, crafters, and makers. She has written best-selling books on hand lettering and journaling, and continues to explore ways to make art and share stories through her own eyes.

Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 192 pgs.
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Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont from National Geographic Kids is probably best suited to ages 8-12 and contains numerous weird facts about our nation’s presidents.  In addition to facts about the presidents, there are some fun facts about the White House, including information about what renovations were made by several presidents — one of the first being an indoor bathroom.  The White House also has a chocolate shop, a florist shop, and a dentist within its walls, and the fact that the White House was built on a swamp is actually a myth.  There’s a list of powers for each branch of government, but lest you think this book is boring, you just have to keep reading on.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, organized a contest to design the White House, and historians secretly think he entered and lost the competition.  James Monroe, our 5th president, once defended himself in an argument with his treasury secretary with a pair of fire tongs — talk about a heated argument.  Another interesting tidbit is that Andrew Jackson, our 7th president, fought more than 100 duels in his lifetime.  That’s a lot of disagreements.  And you can thank William Howard Taft, the 27th president, for that tradition of the president throwing out the first pitch in baseball.  One of my favorites, John F. Kennedy, apparently penned his own spy thriller and talked about how to deal with Cuba with Ian Fleming — yes, that Fleming.

Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont is really enjoyable for younger readers and adults.  I think it would be a great book to take on a trip and quiz each other about presidential facts.  Pick up a copy and start having fun on your next road trip.

RATING: Cinquain

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming

Source: Quarto Books
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming is a unique collection of stickers and tools for doodling and creating your own stickers.  My daughter hasn’t created her own yet, but she’s had a great time coloring the pre-made stickers and sharing them with her parents — putting them on our phone cases and laptops.  I’m just happy they are not all over the house.  What’s great about this collection is that it is for young and old alike, as some of these stickers are for adults to deal with their own stresses through coloring and creating their own snarky comments and pictures.  Some recommended tools for creating colorful stickers include felt-tip pens, colored pencils, water color paints, and brush pens, among others.

There are techniques for adults and kids to use to create visually enticing lettering for logos and sayings on their stickers, as well as ways to enhance those statements with accompanying doodles.  There are even pages that break down images into simple steps to make them easier for kids to replicate in the blank sticker spaces.

Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming is an excellent creative outlet for young and old.  Let your imagination soar with these stickers.

RATING: Quatrain

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words by K.M. Kostyal

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
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Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends by K.M. Kostyal offers kids a selection of 50 pieces of advice and anecdotes about one our nation’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Some of these wide phrases were adapted from other sources that inspired Franklin. They range from how to act in public to how to make real friends. These phrases are translated for more modern audiences, and they are accompanied by colorful and funny illustrations. The back even includes information on some of his inventions.

These phrases aim to promote self-improvement, mindfulness, and diligent work. In the introduction, readers will learn that Ben Franklin only went to school until age 10, but he invented a number of devices, ran his own newspaper, and became one of the founding fathers of America. One of the best pieces of advice is that you should always do what is right even when it is hard to do the right thing. He also advised that we cram every day with good things, good discussions, good work, and good times with friends. Something I’m always telling my daughter is to do what she says she’s going to do so that people know she can be counted on.

My daughter listened while I read some of these out loud, but much of her attention and questions were about the illustrations. Lest you think she missed the point, even though these illustrations are fun and colorful, they do illustrate the points in Franklin’s advice. I really love the reminder that you should pay attention to who and what is before you, rather than looking at your phone or checking messages, or playing video games. Attentiveness is important.

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends by K.M. Kostyal is a fun book to offer Franklin’s advice to kids.

RATING: Cinquain

Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 210 pgs.
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Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the perfect workbook for budding memoirists because it provides not only writing exercises but enough room to write inspirations down.  Users can even staple additional pages in the book if they need more room.

What I love about the workbook, other than that it is written by Beth Kephart, is that the illustrations could jog the brain into writing and the exercises vary from writing about a first memory to writing a poem about an event.  Born from her Juncture workshops, Kephart uses those experiences to offer writers exercises that will leave them inspired to tackle that memoir or other writing project they’ve been thinking about.  For example, in the writing about your first lie exercise, there are tips about finding the bigger story in the lie, as well as suggestions to think about the details to make them alluring and to think about who you were before the lie was told and who you were after it was told.

The workbook is broken down in to finding your voice, finding the true you, hunting for memory, navigating your world, using photographs to job memory or inspire, and many other topics.  I love how the exercises help you tease out details for your writing, and by the end of the workbook, you should be prepared to tackle that memoir or other work you’re looking to finish.  Always remember that the truth matters and that your memoir is not just about you!  Very sage advice.

If you’re looking for a workbook full of exercises to get you thinking outside the box, Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the one, especially if you’re writing a memoir.  Using your imagination, you could also adapt the exercises to suit your fiction writing needs or just get writing in general, if you’re a little rusty.  Kephart has done it again.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart’s most recent book—This Is the Story of You—was published by Chronicle and is a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection, on the 2017 TAYSHAS list, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a Top Ten New Jersey Book.

Kephart will release two middle grade books with Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country.

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews

Source: Tandem Literary
Hardcover, 224 pgs.
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The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews has the best tagline ever: “easy, breezy recipes with a southern accent.”  This cookbook includes all of Andrews charm and humor with some fantastic recipes that can make you feel like you live at the beach. Whether looking for some fruit-flavored drinks for an evening of conversation and board games or looking to make a dessert that will have the neighbors talking, Andrews has the right recipe for your summer gatherings and beyond.

For book club weekend, I made pig candy, which due to some work in the kitchen at the same time ended up being burnt!  The parts that weren’t, however, were delicious!  You knew they would be — bacon and brown sugar — and that kick of cayenne pepper.  Perfect little treat.

My drink of choice was the Prosecco Sippers with strawberries (I love strawberries), which was delicious.  Think summery, slightly sweet and bubbly white wine with ice.  Delicious for the summer months.  It was super easy to make and delicious.  I also made marinated shrimp, which can be served cold with greens or as an appetizer with toothpicks.  I served it in a dish from which everyone could sample some and it seemed to be a big hit with everyone who tried it.  I even enjoyed it and I don’t like shrimp much.

The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews has a wonderful collection of recipes for every occasion and has stories to accompany her recipes.  I love that she included family photos and more with these easy to follow recipes.  This is definitely a cookbook that I will use again; there are some yummy desserts I can’t wait to try.  Perfect way to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Mary Kay Andrews graduated from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree in 1976.  She worked as a reporter at a number of papers, and spent 11 years as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before leaving to write fiction full-time in 1991.  She published ten mystery novels under her own name between 1992 and 2000, and since 2002, she has authored a number of best-selling books as Mary Kay Andrews.