The Visit: The Origin of “The Night Before Christmas” by Mark Kimball Moulton is the poetic story of the origins of the most beloved holiday poem. Told through verse and traditionally styled illustrations, the tale revolves around the great-great-grandchildren of Clement C. Moore as they learn about the origins of “The Night Before Christmas” from their grandfather.
This book is charming and endearing beautifully blending history and Christmas tradition. It is sure to become a favorite book in your own holiday routine for years to come!
The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon is a masterful blend of fairy tales and tells the full story of Rapunzel. The golden-haired beauty was rescued from neglectful parents by Mathena, a witch (or healer as she prefers to be called), growing up in an abandoned palace tower in the forest. Raised to understand the power of herbs and potions, Rapunzel doesn’t realize her own magic until a young man wanders into the forest near the tower; smitten almost immediately, it is not long before she realizes that she has fallen for the prince of the nearby kingdom. After Mathena forbids Rapunzel to attend a palace party, the prince sneaks back to the tower, climbs up Rapunzel’s hair, and has a magical moment. Quickly, however, Rapunzel realizes through her magical hair that despite the prince’s affection for her, he has been promised to a princess from another kingdom because she will ensure peace between the kingdoms.
Over the years, Rapunzel tries to forget about the prince as he marries, becomes king, and has a beautiful daughter named Snow White. One night when one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting comes to the tower, though, her feelings for the now king are renewed, and when Mathena makes a toxic tea for the queen, Rapunzel doesn’t protest. Soon after the queen’s death, the king comes back to the tower to ask for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage. While Rapunzel is thrilled, she is ill prepared for the gossip, the resentment, and the secrets of the palace. Rapunzel grows to love Snow White and adores the king, but realizes that she has few friends in the palace. After failing to provide the king with a male heir, Rapunzel grows miserable, a feeling which is compounded as other secrets unfold.
This intriguing story tells the full tale of one of the most highly revered fairy-tale princesses, but it is not always easy to love Rapunzel. She is vain and jealous, but it is easy to understand why given her situation. The Fairest of Them All is a thrilling journey through fairy-tale royalty and is a wonderfully indulgent read.
While there are quick frozen meat alternatives, this one is easy, fresh, vegan and gluten-free. You can top your tacos with anything that you like and the combination of tasty veggies in the filling will be simply wonderful.
Mushroom Veggie Tacos
4 cups crimini mushrooms, washed, stems removed, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons salt-free taco seasoning
2 heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 cup grated vegan cheese
1/2 cup fresh guacamole
1 package corn taco shells
1. In a food processor, combine 1 cup of mushrooms with 1/4 of the walnuts. Pulse until a coarsely textured mixture forms. Spoon into a medium bowl, mixing with taco seasoning, and repeat the process with the remaining mushrooms and walnuts.
2. Add oil to a skillet and bring to medium heat. Heat mushroom-walnut mixture, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the mushroom mixture is dry and crumbly.
3. Spoon mixture into taco shells, sprinkle with non-dairy cheese and top with cheese, tomatoes, and guacamole. Serve while warm.
If Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding wrote a book about the beauty industry, The Beauty Game would be it. Zoe, a young, naive advertising genius is thrilled to be recognized for her work on her latest commercial pitch. After rejecting her boss’ advances, however, Zoe finds that she is forced into the foreign world of beauty marketing. Nothing can prepare her for the vicious, deceitful, and corrupt practices she encounters on the Visage D’Or campaign (an advertising plan for the latest and greatest beauty cream that works wonders); she is equally unprepared for the beautiful people that she meets, least of whom is a dashing beauty exec who catches Zoe by surprise. With hints of the workplace pressure of The Devil Wears Prada and the innocent British gals of Kinsella and Fielding’s work, you cannot help but get sucked into The Beauty Game and cheer Zoe on as she navigates through her first love and her first sense of the ugliness of the beauty industry.
With gripping writing and a hint of scandal, Michaela Day crafts a powerful story based on her own experiences in the industry. All the while readers are rooting for Zoe, hoping that she won’t be swallowed up by the giant beauty industry and will escape the talons of her boorish boss and an all-too-perfectly evil Bellini who coordinates the Visage D’Or campaign. This is the perfect beach or cabin read when you have a little extra time on holiday.
Nicole Hunn of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring blog fame, has a brand new cookbook for all gluten-free followers: Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread. All followers of gluten-free diets will appreciate Hunn’s clever and creative recipes, and this new book highlights all the joy that can be had while still avoiding gluten.
As many gluten-free eaters know, gluten-free bread can be tough to make, literally. Often, the bread is crumbly, dry, or flavorless. Hunn’s recipes, however, are deliciously flavorful and moist and cover all the basis from pizza dough and sandwich bread to boules and bagels. Recipes like Lean Crusty White Sandwich Bread, Potato Bread, English Muffin Bread, and Sourdough Soft Pretzels will make eating bread fun again. Options like Ciabatta Bread, Garlic Knots, Pita Bread, Basic Baguettes, and Flour Tortillas will feel downright indulgent and taste decadently delicious!
Hunn has a simple (and inexpensive) gluten-free flour mix that will make baking gluten-free bread easy and reasonable. While not every recipe is vegan, many are, and the others allow for substitutions that can transform these delicious recipes into vegan masterpieces (for example, instead of butter, use vegan butter like Earth Balance).
Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread will make eating bread enjoyable again. These recipes are tantalizing and diverse. This book is a must for any gluten-free eater – feel free to crank up the oven and prepare for the scent of freshly baked bread to fill the house!
“We do not know the exact date of the celebration we now call the First Thanksgiving, but it was probably in late September or early October, soon after their crop of corn, squash, beans, barley, and peas had been harvested...The term Thanksgiving, first applied in the nineteenth century, was not used by the Pilgrims themselves. For the Pilgrims a thanksgiving was a time of spiritual devotion. Since just about everything the Pilgrims did had religious overtones, there was certainly much about the gathering in the fall of 1621 that would have made it a proper Puritan thanksgiving.”
-Nathaniel Philbrick in The Mayflower
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Yuletide Blessings: Christmas Stories that Warm the Heart is a little treasure which will brighten up the holiday season and keep the focus on the true meaning of the holiday. Nan Corbitt Allen has done a remarkable job of collecting short stories, Bible verses, poems, and other vignettes, all to make the holiday season a bit more special.
With stories focusing on the holy family to Christmas legends and the stories behind some of the most popular holiday songs, Yuletide Blessings is an engaging and beautifully written book that explores all aspects of the holiday season. Song lyrics, the story behind the Christmas tree, and the origins of Christmas cards fill these pages, making it the perfect blend of history, legend, and interesting trivia. My favorite entry in Yuletide Blessings, however, would have to be the story behind the “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol and the powerful message of the lyrics.
While this book does have a Biblical basis, it is beautifully composed and offers insight into some Christmas film classics, carol lyrics, and interesting holiday history. Yuletide Blessings makes the perfect holiday gift or addition to any family Christmas!
What happens when a simple childhood decision impacts the rest of your life?
As a child William Bellman shoots a rook down from a tree; immediately he is racked with guilt caused by the understanding that he has taken away a precious life. Over the years, he begins working at his uncle’s mill where he develops the reputation for having an excellent eye for detail and a creative approach to business. In England’s industrial age, Bellman is determined to maximize every opportunity, and while he is publicly successful, there are hints that he is still haunted by the act of childhood impulsiveness.
After marrying and having four beautiful children, Bellman’s world is turned upside down when a fever strikes down many of those closest to him. Consumed by death, Bellman wanders in the cemetery one night only to be visited by a mysterious man in black who has been popping up at various funerals throughout town. In a haze, Bellman awakes the next morning lying on the dirty cemetery lawn, vaguely recalling an agreement with this mysterious man.
The agreement is to begin a new business venture – one which will bring Bellman to the world of death and reveal more mysteries and unexpected turns than the man could have ever imagined. The writing is intriguing, and even though it may be a bit plodding and slow at times and there are a number of distracting details about rooks and ravens, the story is unique and original. Bellman & Black is an intriguing tale exploring what really haunts us through our lives.
Quinoa. Maca. Kiwicha. These sound like exotic vacation destinations, but are simply powerful, antioxidant-laden ingredients that are the superstars of Peruvian Power Foods byManuel Villacorta and Jamie Shaw. This beautifully photographed book is a true treasure as it is highlights ingredients both exotic and familiar that are nutritional powerhouses, and transforms them into delicious dishes. Each ingredient is given the spotlight to emphasize benefits, nutritional value, and preparation approaches taking this Peruvian Power Foods from a basic cookbook to a treasure trove of information.
While some of the ingredients may be a bit hard to find, others are readily available and awaiting the superstar touch provided in this book. Despite the fact that not every one of the recipes is vegan, with options like Drunken Cacao Truffles, Pichuberry Marmalade, Triple Berry Camu Shake, Purple Corn Pudding, Zesty Sacha Inchi Cilantro Dressing, Veggie Causa, and Orange Lucama Smoothie, you can make vegan dishes that are packed with nutritional value. Peruvian Style Canary Beans, Fava Pesto, White Bean Stuffed Portobellos, Tri-Colored Scalloped Potatoes, Tropical Smoothie, and Pico de Quinoa round out a dazzling selection of healthy recipes.
Not only is this book visually stunning and tantalizing in its offerings, but it finally affords me an opportunity to use up the maca powder I impulsively purchased at the health foods store – Maca smoothies anyone?
Pears always remind me that autumn is coming and are such a delicious way to celebrate this season. I decided to try to put pears into my pancakes to make them a bit more seasonal, and this recipe turned out wonderfully. It is lightly spiced and is delicious with a touch of maple syrup. I hope that these help make your next cold morning a bit cozier.
Spiced Pear Pancakes
1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
1 ripe but firm pear (any kind), thinly sliced lengthwise
1. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mix the coconut oil and non-dairy milk. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Whisk well.
2. Using a ladle, spoon about 1/4 cup of the batter onto a preheated (375) electric griddle or frying pan (oil if needed). Place 1 slice of the pear on the top of the batter. Allow edges of pancake to bubble up and firm up (one to two minutes). Flip and allow to cook through, approximately two more minutes. Serve while warm, topped with maple syrup and cinnamon if desired.