Some series are hard to describe…but they are still awesome

Ever read a series and try to describe it to someone and have them look at you like “this sounds nuts?” I have many of those. There is the series that is about assassin nuns in 12th century Brittany who are also daughters of Death (literally). There is the other series about an alternate 1980s where time travel is real and you can actually get yourself into a fictional world with the right skills. And then there is the series I just finished in an alternate supernatural steampunk Victorian England set in a finishing school for lady spies. On one hand, such a description sounds nuts and because of that, people fail to see just how spectacularly awesome this series is.


Cover from the 3rd book in the series (I love the bladed fan!) 

The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger follows the hijinks of a Miss Sophronia Temminnick and her fellow students as they attend Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. A finishing school which has one purpose in mind: to turn its students into lethal intelligencers. It’s also a floating dirigible which just might make it the coolest boarding school outside of Hogwarts. Over the course of four years, Sophronia and her gang manage to save themselves and the realm a number of times before graduating and gallivanting off on their next adventure.  There are also vampires, werewolves, and a notorious secret society called the Picklemen who are usually up to no good (the name alone is insulting to Sophronia, ladies are apparently not welcome).

Sophronia is a fantastic heroine; she reminded me some of my other favorite precocious and lethal leading ladies, Flavia de Luce and Theodosia Throckmorton. You get those three together in a book and fiction won’t know what hit it. She also has a pet robotic dog, a best friend in one of the sooties running the boiler for her school and the sharpest mind to even try to seduce gossip out of poor unsuspecting evil geniuses in training her school has yet seen. She’s the sort of character you wish you could be like but are secretly exhausted by. As her friends basically say to her often, she has no off switch.

It’s a series you can read fast and you should since it is complete now. You don’t have to wait to find out what happens next and Sophronia and her friends will not disappoint. I am excited now to re-visit and finish the other series Ms. Carriger has which is set in the same universe as The Finishing School books just 25 years later. Dashing off now!

Some Fall Cooking

I just sort of decided if the weather wasn’t going to be obliging and turn more fall-like, I would just start cooking like it was getting cool and crisp outside. Of course that means my A/C is working overtime but I don’t much care at this point (well, yes, yes I do but I’ve decided to be irrational about it).

I’ve made three tasty recipes via the crock pot over the last two weeks and they have been quite successful if I do say so myself. I also, in branching out on breakfast recipes, made my first smoothie for breakfast and while tasty, I didn’t find it especially filling. I like something I have to chew I think for my first meal of the day but I will share all!

Skinny Banana Split Protein Smoothie was my first foray into breakfast drinking. It’s delicious and easy to make. I did a few modifications to my version but I recommend if you’d like to try a breakfast smoothie (original recipe).

Makes 1 Serving

1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 Tbsp unsalted almonds
1/4 cup strawberries, hulled and halved (I also was pretty liberal in what 1/4 cup looked like)
1/2 banana, peeled and sliced
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
3 ice cubes

1. Put all ingredients in blender EXCEPT ICE and pulse until smooth
2. Add ice and pulse again until smooth. Serve immediately.

Harvest Apple Pot Roast is next on the list and this may be my favorite of the bunch. It was so tasty! I also loved the thin gravy that is created with recipe (well, it probably could have been thicker; I’m not very good at making gravy I discovered) which I covered my baked potato side with as well. The gravy and meat had a slightly sweet taste to it (I imagine because of the apples) which just made it a different meal to put into rotation. This kept OK for a week but I would suggest eating it faster than that as by the last day, the leftovers were quite dry (and no amount of gravy was helping). (original recipe)

Makes 3-4 servings (depends on the size of the roast you use too!)

1 beef roast (I used one that was about 1 lb and on sale)
2 small to medium yellow onions
1/3 cup chunky applesauce
1 can low sodium beef broth
1 packet Italian dressing mix
Flour for gravy (about 3-4 Tbsp)

1. Put the roast in a slow cooker. Mix the applesauce, beef broth and Italian dressing mix together in a small bowl and pour over the roast. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours.
2. Remove the roast and onions from the crockpot. Turn the heat to high. In a container with a tight-fitting lid, put 3-4 Tbsp of flour and enough water to make the consistency of wallpaper paste. Shake the mixture together (a lot!) and gradually whisk it into the broth in the crockpot to create the gravy.

Italian Smothered Steak is sort of mis-named in my opinion. It’s basically an Italian Steak Stew. I think maybe you could get out the steak pieces in one piece but mine just broke into big chunks of meat so the stew aspect was born. This is hardy folks fare folks but quite good and the leftovers have been keeping quite well. I have this with a salad to start. (original recipe)

Makes 4-6 servings (depends on the amount of steak you use)

1-2 lbs beef boneless round steak (I used about 1.3 lbs of what was on sale that week)
1/2 tsp salted salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 jar (24-26 oz.) traditional pasta sauce
1 package (9 oz.) refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in half and then cut crosswise into slices

1. Cut beef into 6 serving pieces; sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper. Layer beef and onion in slow cooker. Pour pasta sauce over top.
2. Cover and cook on Low for 8-9 hours
3. About 30 minutes before serving, stir in tortellini and zucchini. Increase heat setting to High. Cover and cook 20-30 minutes or until tortellini is tender.

Lastly, I am trying to diversify my breakfast menu (mainly because I am sick of cereal) and so I put out a call on facebook for suggestions and oatmeal came up a lot. I have never liked oatmeal – the texture gives me issues but I thought if I dressed it up enough, I could get past it so I took everyone advice to try it with a recipe for Apple Pie Steel Cut Oatmeal. I smells divine and the fact you put in the crock pot before bed and wake up to your apartment smelling like apple pie is a major bonus. Alas, I still don’t much like oatmeal but I’ll eat this all up over the week as it is quite filling which is something else I was looking for in a breakfast meal, one that actually kept me full until lunch. (original recipe)

Makes 5 servings

1 cup Steel-Cut Oats
4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 medium apples, chopped (I used Gala)
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp maple syrup
Splash of lemon juice

1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker and stir. Put on Low for 8 hours or High for 4 hours.
2. Give a good stir before serving and top with favorite toppings like peanut butter, fresh apple or maple syrup.



I miss you. Like, a lot. I was never one for sun and heat and somehow, I ended up living in a place that often resembled the face of the sun to me. I am tired of the sun. It’s so…unrelenting. I want a crisp, cool morning with grey low-hanging clouds, maybe a bit of a mist in the air and if there could also be just a touch of woodsmoke hanging about, that would be heavenly.

Instead, it is will be 93 today. 91 tomorrow. If I’m lucky, we may get a thunderstorm through which means the sun will be gone for a few minutes but when it moves on, it will somehow be hotter and more humid than before even when I didn’t think that was possible. So I will leave these images here and drink my pumpkin spice latte and pretend for a moment that it’s fall outside my window and not a never ending summer.

Fall (tumblr)Fall (tumblr) Fall (tumblr) Fall (tumblr) Fall (tumblr)

Back on Track…sort of

I am slowly making my way back around to my book challenge for the year. I chose some low hanging fruit (i.e. books I knew I could read in a day) to get myself started up again. I also went through and rearranged my to-read list a bit (some series had escaped me!). I have more left than I thought but I’ll do the best I can!

Low hanging fruit for me meant I could plow through some historical romance novels that were series-based. They are my potato chips of the book world. They are so bad for me and yet delicious and I love them and I can read a ton of them really quickly. So reading through 5 of them in the last two weeks makes me feel like I am getting somewhere!


I like the redesigns of all the covers for the last book; they are dreamy [from Goodreads]

But, I also finished a series! Go me! Anna and the French Kiss I read awhile back but it was the start of a trilogy (of course) so this week I finished up the other two books. Anna remains my favorite but these other two, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After were delightful except well…I am feeling my age. Let me explain. These are essentially chick lit novels for the teenage set. So, they are drama filled. To the max. Where drama doesn’t actually really need to exist. The characters are charming and clever but they’re also 18. And we’re idiots when we’re 18. We make the smallest problems into the biggest nightmares. Rather than talking out a concern with the person we love, we panic, break up with our boyfriend and run off to Paris while melodramatically weeping everywhere and driving our quirky best friend nuts. So in that, the series is quite believable but reading two of the books in quick succession also meant I felt old. However, one of the bonuses of the series, well of the first and last books anyway, is the city of Paris is as much a character as the rest and visiting the City of Lights is, after all, always a good idea.

Next up, more steampunk hijinks from an awesome finishing school on a dirigible and then back to Oz to see if Amy can finally kill Dorothy.

Quotes from Books

I have always been a big collector of quotes. Quotes from books, from movies, and from friends (do the kids still keep track of funny things friends say? We used to hang long pieces of paper on the wall in our dorm rooms and apartments in undergrad…maybe they just use SnapChat now…). Book quotes however are some of my favorites and GoodReads is magical and let’s you keep a running list of your favorites. So, for today’s reading, here are some I adore that you might not have come across yet (i.e. I went with books that aren’t the classics):

“Whenever I saw the sun, I reminded myself that I was looking at a star. One of over a hundred billion in our galaxy. A galaxy that was just one of billions of other galaxies in the observable universe. This helped me keep things in perspective.” – Ready Player One

“Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case.” – The Night Circus

“I didn’t set out to discover a truth. I was actually sent to the Outer Fringes to conduct a chair census and learn some humility. But the truth inevitably found me, as important truths often do, like a lost thought in need of a mind.” – Shades of Grey

“Molly stood up. You made an error! She felt like saying. A bad throw. So what? It’s a baseball game. A game. Who really cares? A bad throw? In the great scheme of things? A bad throw? Of course she didn’t say that. She understood that your own errors always feel tragic.” – The Girl Who Threw Butterflies

“It’s against my principles to buy a book I haven’t read, it’s like buying a dress you haven’t tried on.” – 84, Charing Cross Road

“It’s funny. Dev had always said disposables were different. That what they contained was more special because you couldn’t instantly see inside. You had to wait. You had to invest in the moment and then wait to see what you got. And those moments had to be the right moments. You had to be sure you wanted this moment when you pressed the button, because time was always running out, you were always one click closer to the end. That’s what it felt like here. But that’s what made it exciting. I looked at the tin number at the top of the wheel. 1. Eleven more clicks. What would they be? Who’d be in them? What story would they tell?” – Charlotte Street

“Usually when I enter a bookstore, I feel immediately calm. Bookstores are, for me, what churches are for other people. My breath gets slower and deeper as I peruse the shelves. I believe that books contain messages I am meant to receive. I’m not normally superstitious, but I’ve even had books fall from shelves and land at my feet. Books are my missives from the universe.” – The Family Fortune

“So often, Jackaby said, people think that when we arrive at a crossroads, we can choose only one path, but as I have often and articulately postulated people are stupid. We’re not walking the path. We are the path. We are all of the roads and all of the intersections. Of course you can choose both.” – Beastly Bones

“She would be brave. She would be heroic. She would make her own destiny.” – Winter

The Best Beach (Question of the Month)


North Central Shore, PEI

I am not a beach girl. I love water; would cheerfully live on the water if at all possible (I’m thinking a house boat would be awesome). However, I loathe sand. With everything in me. I hate that it gets everywhere and that no matter how well I rinse my feet off, there will still be sand on them. No matter how much I shake out my towels, there will still be sand on them. For a neat freak like me, it’s sort of the worst thing ever. I also burn to a crisp in the sun pretty easily. I bathe in sunscreen which helps for maybe an hour if I’m lucky before I need to bathe in it again. So, beaches have tended to not be my thing. I live in Florida now and can still count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to a beach in the last four years, including a trip to the red beaches of Prince Edward Island.

So, maybe for me, the best beach is the one of memory. I have very fond memories of my first time spent next to the Atlantic Ocean (or at least the first time I remember). We were staying in Cocoa Beach in Florida for a day or two before catching our first cruise ship. There were shells in the sand, like little treasures to find. I was a big rock collector at the time (growing up along the Great Lakes with their rocky shores, rocks were my shells) so it seems to me that this was the sort of beach I’d only read about in fairy tales and I loved it.

Another beach I remember fondly for a very different reason is Omaha Beach in Normandy. I visited as part of a high school trip my senior year. I still have the little film canister of sand from where I stood on that beach, looking up and marveling at the cliffs. Wondering what on earth had possessed them to think they could make it on D-Day; awed even more by the fact that they did somehow make it work. Later in the same trip I collected a small emptied hotel bottle of sand from the beach at Cannes but I hold the sand of Normandy a bit more dear.

Which brings me back to the red sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island. I should have emptied something to bring some of that glorious sand home with me. I sat and read on that beach and for a moment, lived out a childhood dream of dancing with Anne and Diana on the sand dunes as the sun set over the gulf. It was worth the amount of sand I had to shake out of my jean jacket later.

I will admit to a great fondness for the beaches on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island and I’ll admit even Panama City Beach is slowly growing on me (I went swimming twice last week when I was there for work; I felt like I should alert the media or something). So I am deeply unqualified to really chime in on the best beaches but I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the ones I remember fondly.

The Class I’ll Never Forget


I always meant to write a post about French class here. I have mentioned it in several posts, even shared my college essay inspired by Van Gogh and French class but I’ve never sat down and really explained what that class meant to me. Watching The Little Prince tonight on Netflix, I started to remember.

It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t so much the language I adored. Although beautiful, and when I used it right something that made me feel more accomplished than all my other classes combined, I was never good at it. I would get frustrated with it. I wanted to be able to say what I wanted to say and not trip over myself getting there. I lacked the patience of a true linguist. I would write my essays in English and then translate them back into French, utilizing my dictionary, 501 Verb book and a very early version of Babel Fish when the books failed me. But I loved French class. I loved the stories, the culture, the food. The holidays and history were fascinating; the resulting country even more so. Madame understood this; it’s why she taught the language as she did. How could you understand and appreciate a language if you did not understand the people and the countries who speak it?

I had found French rather boring until 11th grade. My teachers, while very good, had been uninspiring. It was a class that also made me anxious. I lived in dread of the moment the teacher would call on me to speak. It was a combination of tripping over my own tongue and not wanting to butcher a language that had done nothing to me. I also hated to not be right in class; the perfectionist in me didn’t like that the words that came out of my mouth didn’t sound like they did in my head.

I was nervous when I started class with Madame. Her reputation proceeded her. It took me only about a period and half before I adored her and that made French both wonderful and stress-inducing. I didn’t want to fail her or have her think I wasn’t smart enough. I always tried hardest in French of all my classes but I never did get it to sound right coming out in the end. Instead, I learned to love what it gave me outside of the sometimes tongue twisting sentences and headache inducing numbers (math was involved just to count…I didn’t stand a chance. I still have the cheatsheet Madame finally gave me). French gave me Le Petit Prince, the Impressionists, and Amélie. It gave me Normandy, Paris, Carcassonne. It gave me an appreciation for the traditions of a storied country, with all its own fairy tales, myths and legends that was so different from my own.

So as I teared up watching The Little Prince tonight, and everyone should go watch it ASAP and cry with me, I also remembered what else comes along side the story of the little prince who left his rose behind to travel the stars: the classes on verbs and speaking exercises, of listening to bad ’80s French pop songs and writing our own adventures for the little prince. We wrote our own fairy tales, learned the words to La Marseillaise and looked forward to La Bûche de Noël in December. The Little Prince reminded me of why I adored French class and everything it continued to give me since leaving school. All these years later, it is a class I think of all the time and use often. I have chased paintings across oceans because of that class, lectured friends through the Louvre, bought board books of The Little Prince for friends’ children and sacrificed DVD settings on laptops to watch Notre Dame de Paris one more time. It is not so much the language perhaps but the tools the class and the study of French gave me through which I can appreciate, understand and revel in the world around me in a way I would not be able to do so otherwise. Merci.