Catching up on Books: What I read last year

As we can all tell, I dropped off the band wagon last year. It’s time to pick back up. I imagine we will see a lot more cooking here, more travel this year, and you’ll enjoy lots of books I’ve read and some cultural interviews. I wanted to catch my readers up on last year’s reading, since there were a lot of books, and many of them are worth taking time to read. Some are embedded in Southern culture, but some aren’t. Some focus on race, feminism, history, and some are just good stories. So without further adieu, here is a complete list of what I read last year.

Interview with a Vampire – Anne Rice

Would you believe I’d never read this book? Believe it. Judge me for a moment. And let’s carry on. Ha! I will be very transparent about this book, I didn’t like it in text. I tried many times to read it and I just couldn’t get my head into it. I opted to listen to it on Audible and I loved it so much more. It may be because my original exposure was through the movie, so I was used to a narrated story telling already. Regardless, I really enjoyed the audible version and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to wade into Anne Rice.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – The Original Screenplay

I am an avid Rowling reader. I watched the movie, and I was so excited that there was an option to read the screenplay and delve back into the Wizarding world via words once again. While I wish we had the more immersive taste that a novel gives, I did enjoy reading this. I’ve only read a few screenplays in my lifetime and this was the best of them.

I listened to Lauren Groff’s Florida on Audible and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved listening to someone who understands my state, but I also really just like Lauren’s writing style and her stories. I did a full review of her book which you can read here:

The Cash and Carter Family Cookbook – John Carter Cash

Why yes, I do read cookbooks regularly. I had read a biography of Johnny Cash in 2018 that resonated strongly with me. As a result, I wound up reading a few additional books centered around him and his life, including this cookbook written by his son. The cookbook displays the southern and rural roots of both the Cash and the Carter families. Readers also get a glimpse into life in the Cash family home, and what it was like as a child growing up with Johnny and June as parents. I’ve enjoyed all of the recipes I’ve tried so far.

The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien

This was a re-read for me as a partnered read with a good friend of mine. We tend to pick up little reading goals together a few times a year and we both really enjoy it. I listened to the audio for this round of the book and I liked it. The Audible narrator leans a bit of a feeling of having the story read by Bilbo Baggins in ways, mostly through his tone.

Watership Down – Richard Adams

Watership Down is generally an annual read for me. It is my favorite book ever written, and I believe it is a book that everyone should read at least twice in their lifetime. It changes a bit for me each time I read it. I find new meanings, new lessons, and I relate in new ways. I have a funny story to go with my love of this book. When I was in the fourth grade, my school librarian recommended this book to me. By then I had read Jurassic Park, Contact, The Hobbit and several other too big for me books. I hated Watership Down at that point. I couldn’t get past the first three chapters. Forget it! I picked it back up in high school and I’ve been hooked on it ever since.

Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming and Our Future – Stone Barns Center For Food & Agriculture

This book is a collaboration of letters from various influencers and writers in food and agriculture to the future farmers of our world. There is such a wealth of wisdom and knowledge offered in the pages of this book, not just for future farmers, but for anyone who is interested or concerned about the future of our food systems. We are in a pivotal age where mindful food production is critical to our continuation as a species, but the majority of people are ill educated about our food production systems. This is a great book for starting to gain some understanding both of how food production works, and what concerns are most important to address right away.

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

This was one of the most powerful books I have ever read, and it is so relevant to current events. This is a YA title, but I think it is a book that adults and youth all need to read. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, devastating and it truly changed my perspective in monumental ways. I hope it becomes required school reading across the board.

Eat Feel Fresh – Sahara Rose Ketabi

I began learning about Ayurveda and its healing principals in 2013 and 2014. I have been looking for ways to change my eating habits in ways that will better fuel my body. Ketabi’s cookbook offers not only a great introduction to Ayurvedic health principals, but it also gives a wide range of tasty and easy to make recipes. This book is just what I had been needing to not only make better meals, but help me look for recipes that fit into the eating patterns I need in the future.

Whereas: Poems – Layli Long Solider

Whereas fits into many firsts for me. It is my first book that is written by a Native American. It is the first book of poetry I’ve read by an Indigenous author. Layli Long Soldier has such a beautiful and fluid way of using words to display thoughts. Whether you intend it or not, you begin to see pictures of scenes and emotions in your mind as you read. A few of the poems took multiple reads for me to grasp all of what they were portraying, but many critics will say that is the proper way of reading and understanding poetry. I definitely recommend this collection and I am hoping to explore these poems in an audio version soon.

Whiskey in a Teacup – Reese Witherspoon

First we had Dolly, then we had Reese. I LOVE Reese Witherspoon. I LOVE Dolly Parton. I LOVE all things super southern. This book combines all of them! Reese takes us through recipes, monograms, doing your hair in a hurry, and a talk with Dolly Parton in this enjoyable Southern Belle dedication. This book lives in my kitchen with the Cash and Carter Family Cookbook and Paula Deen. FYI, Reese also has a book club with some fantastic picks!

Ninth Ward – Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ninth Ward is a young adult novel that is first about the disastrous loss of homes and communities in Hurricane Katrina. It is also about the heritage of New Orleans’ African American community. A young girl who sees and feels spirits, her grandmother who is viewed as a healer, elder and likely grew in VooDoo culture, a community of Creole Cajun African American families who face unknown futures in the wake of a hurricane that rocked the United States. This book is heartbreaking, beautiful and it offers a glimpse into a reality that most Americans need to wake up to.

Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Unknown Poems – Edited by Paul Muldoon

Following with the cookbook, I picked up this collection of Johnny Cash’s poems as a continuation from the biography I read in 2018. This was a bit of a quick read, as most of the poems and excerpts were pieces of work, either unfinished or later tied into other work. I enjoyed the further peek into Johnny Cash’s mind and methods though.

The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur

Last year is the first year in a really long time that I read a lot of poetry and took time to absorb it and relate to it. This was my introduction to Rupi, and I loved every page. Rupi’s collections are the page turners of poetry, and I am excited to continue reading. I do think I’d enjoy exploring this one in an audio version as well. I’ll also note that this is one I’d recommend reading with a notebook handy, both for notes and to save your favorite quotes, because I promise, you’ll want to save several.

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences – Camille Pagan

This is a cute little romance / life growth novel. It took me outside of my normal reading comfort zone and into the feel good romance zone, which is not something I often venture towards. While there weren’t any moments where I felt like I needed to whip out a tissue, I would say it is a great little read for the beach or a trip.

Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

I have a love for literature rooted in Asian Culture. I’ve always loved Memoirs of a Geisha and I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan in a day. Pachinko fit right in with my passion for the others. Asian cultures are beautiful, but in ways, they are also full of melancholy and nostalgia. This is especially true when we get glimpses into village life and traditions. Pachinko takes us through the life of a girl grown woman who never quite finds the love she is seeking. It is somewhat sad, but exquisitely written. I did the audible version but plan to read the physical sometime in the next year.

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond

I was a bit overdue in reading this. I did the Audio and I want to go back and take notes in a physical copy. I like seeing an approach to anthropology via environmental science view points. This book touches on regional influence on society, agriculture, means of food procurement, latitude and longitude in relation to land mass arrangement and more. It is definitely a great read for the science minded individual who enjoys a good non fiction.

The Cooking Gene – Michael W. Twitty

I HIGHLY recommend reading this book. Twitty explores the deep roots of Southern cooking that are entwined in African American history and heritage. In doing so, he also expands on the oppressed history of African Americans via slavery, servitude and the continued influence of low income, reduced opportunity and racism. This is another that I think needs a notebook nearby while reading, so you can take notes on the food, on the history, and on your own thoughts as they graduate along with the book. I follow Twitty on Instagram and try to keep up with articles he writes. He is a wealth of cultural knowledge, food knowledge and historical references, and I really enjoy his work.

True West – Sam Shepard and Matthew Dunster

I listened to this Audible drama as a fun short listen. While critics gave it some thumbs down, I actually enjoyed it. It made me laugh and I actually couldn’t tell the actors true voices because they adapted their characters so well. This is a fun one.

In Tuscany – Frances Mayes

I’ve always loved Frances Mayes and her writing. Under the Tuscan Sun inspired a love for Italy that I still hold, though I’ve not been there still. I realized last year that I had not actually read this book, though I’d owned it for many years. I felt it was past due. Mayes’ books are always a beautiful combination of exquisite word use and delicious recipes. In Tuscany was much the same, though enriched by photographs of the Mayes villa and surrounding Italian countryside. The history, beauty and warmth of Italy are all long standing visions I hope to get to experience myself.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is my second Native American authored book, and it is absolutely beautiful. Kimmerer’s approach to human and nature interaction is a view that needs to be embraced and re-adopted for the sake of our planet’s future. Sadly I doubt it will be embraced by enough people. Regardless, this poetic narrative of nature and human interaction, and the wisdom of indigenous cultures is worthy of multiple reads. I did the audible version, which is beautiful in Kimmerer’s voice, but I believe the print version belongs in any and every collection.

The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman

This is a witty little novel about the staff of a newspaper on the eve of widespread internet media. It reads a bit like the shorts of characters in Love Actually, or New York I Love You. We get fleeting glimpses back and forth into the lives of each of the reporters on the newspaper’s staff, as the newspaper itself gradually landslides thanks to an inability to adapt to the times and the gradual move of media to the internet, social websites and blogs. There are sad moments, funny moments and a few moments where you feel rage for the characters. It is also very real, with characters that almost anyone can relate to.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience – William Blake

This is a classic collection of poems. I have an older printing of it that I’d not read. This continued in my poetry trend last year. I read it fairly quickly. The poems are fairly simple, well written and enjoyable for a quiet afternoon.

The Eagle Tree – Ned Hayes

I listened to the Eagle Tree on Audible and I think this is the absolute best way to take this book in. Will Ropp narrates this story perfectly, grasping the speech and thought process of a young autistic boy whose attention focus is trees. As awareness about Autism and how Autistic people function continues to grow, this book opens their world a little more to readers, and invokes empathy. The book also takes us back to environmentalism and the need to protect our planet and its diverse ecological structures. This is categorized as a young adult fiction, but it fits young and adult readers alike.

What You Need – Lorelei James

By far, not my favorite read. I am not a romance fan, I am not a steamy erotica fan. This is a touch of both I suppose. I am sure it is a lot of fun for many who enjoy steamy reads while hanging by the pool. It just isn’t my jive. But I did it!

Blind River – Ben Follows

This actually turned out to be a good thriller/mystery. It took me a hot minute to get into, mostly because I was in a distracted part of my year, but once I did get involved, it became a page turner. I don’t commonly like mysteries as much, but I’m beginning to find some that I enjoy, and this was one of them.

The Stones, The Crows, the Grass, The Moon – Walter Kirn

This is an interesting look at grief and the many ways it can be encountered. I didn’t fully absorb it, and I honestly need a physical re-read vs. the audible, as it became a bit hard for me to follow.

A Solider of the Great War – Mark Helprin

This book is absolutely beautiful! I actually read it as part of a book club read. It is the account of an elderly man’s life as he recalls it to a young man. The language in it is gorgeous and the writing style reminds me a bit of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read two books that mimic his writing style last year, and I love finding authors who have such poetic use of language. It is worth re-reading at least once, maybe twice, or more!

Girls and boys – Dennis Kelly

This play read by Carey Mulligan is beautiful and haunting. It borders on being a bit philosophical. From what I understand this is now a live play, and I’d really love to see it.

Wizard’s First Rule – Terry Goodkind

Terry Goodkind’s novels have long been one of my favorite series in literature. Wizard’s first rule is the first book in his Sword of Truth series, and is gripping. While this is deemed fantasy, Goodkind’s story finds basis in moral values, and have taught me many life lessons. He also embraces a deeply beautiful love story between Richard and Kahlan, the protagonists. There is humor, adventure, horror, war, mystery and suspense. I so wish they would be adapted to proper movies. I am working on re-reading the first books so I can finally finish the entire series.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is completely out of my normal comfort zone for novels, and not one I would have picked up of my own accord. I did so at a friend’s recommendation, and I am so glad I did. It had me completely wrapped up. I loved all of the nerdy references to pop culture, comics, movies, etc. It has a gripping story line that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Sci Fi and future based novels normally don’t keep me so drawn in. This was the exception, and I really thoroughly enjoyed it.

Emma – Jane Austen

This was another Audible listen. I actually very much enjoyed experiencing Austen in a narrated format, vs. reading. I love the detail in her books, but I feel like this offered a new dimension to her writing style. Admittedly, I don’t generally watch the movies that are made of classics, because I find them a bit disappointing. Emma is one of her more frivolous characters, and I found myself not liking her much. I actually had a moment of comparison to the French aristocracy portrayed in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels. Like a twittering bird. Still, she was a fun read.

A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

Listen. I’m late to the game. I tried to pick Game of Thrones up when it was first released, and I won’t lie, I couldn’t follow it. I kept losing the characters. Once I watched the full series, I felt I was a bit more capable of knowing who was who. I think that actually helped me to follow the story immensely, despite differing characters and plot lines. A Game of Thrones follows the first season of the show almost exactly. That also made it hard to make myself read the more droll bits. I am now reading the second book and am much more caught up in it.

Sounder – William H. Armstrong

I’m surprised that I did not read this in elementary or middle school. It is generally required reading. I follow a lot of second hand book sellers on Instagram and this was part of a sale, so I grabbed it up, and I’m glad I did. I feel like stories like Sounder are incredibly important to impress the impact that slavery, indentured servitude and poverty have had on African Americans and their culture here. Sounder of course is partially about a loyal hound, but it is even more about the challenges faced by an African American family whose father/husband has been arrested. It is a sad and desolate story, but one that is important to every generation.

Misery – Stephen King

I’ve been reading between one and four King novels a year for the past three years. It’s funny that his novels are now making revolutions as movies, and doing really well. I think Misery now ranks as one of my top three King Novels. I had watched the movie years ago, but the book is just so much better, as always. King has such a magical way of capturing madness and evil. I know that sounds slightly morbid, but I love horror, and he is very honestly the king of horror. Misery is of course based in psychological horror, but it is just so twisted and so…. GOOD.

Binti – Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is a shorter novel, and falls in with the emerging African based Sci Fi genre that started with Black Panther’s popularity. I love the strength of the female characters that this and other similar novels have featured. I feel also that the audio version of this was really worth the listen. I am excited to listen to more of this series and find out what happens.

The Feather Thief – Kirk Wallace Johnson

I read The Feather Thief as part of my Read Harder Challenge via BookRiot last year. I chose it first as the true crime without violence category filler, but also because I had read a bit about the fashion feather craze when I read Gulf, and found the topic interesting. The Feather Thief follows an exotic feather heist that ended up being a bit of an unsolved case despite knowledge of likely culprits. It is fascinating to me that feathers were and are such a huge black market commodity. I’d love to read more about the topic, since it ties with this and Gulf, and both expound upon the large markets for exotic and often rare bird feathers used for material purposes.

The Carrying – Ada Limon

The instant word that comes to mind to describe the poetry in this book is emotional. The Carrying features a collection of poems that face us with the gripping reality of every day challenges that can strain the threads holding our worlds together. From miscarriage, to illness, to aging, the poems wind and flow through topics that can be hard to discuss, but are beautifully painted in Limon’s words. This is a collection I will definitely be re-reading.

All My Goodbyes – Mariana Dimopulos

I’m not going to lie to you. This book was a bit droll and I had a hard time absorbing it because I kept getting distracted. I plan to try it again in the future to see if I might find it more interesting.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

I l.o.v.e.d. reading The Epic of Gilgamesh. I love finding historical parallels to the bible that reintroduce prior beliefs, and solidify the existence of myths and deities outside of Christianity. I believe there are so many parallels to the bible that bring unity to multiple belief systems, and The Epic of Gilgamesh solidifies that again for me. It also ties in with some of the Viking beliefs, which is really cool to me. I also loved that I got to intrigue a few of my friends who are strongly Christian, and had them interested in reading something that steps outside of the bible.

The BFG – Roald Dahl

This was part of a cumulative Kindergarten read for my son’s class. I had not read it before. As always though, I loved Roald Dahl. The acceptance of those that are different than us rings as the main message of this story, with its silly made up words and fantastical story line. My son loved it as well.

The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This book is another that was stepping outside of my normal zone. It was SO GOOD though! It is a psychological thriller that is based around domestic abuse and the real traumatic effects behind gaslighting and mental abuse. It was a bit overwhelming because there were some things that I could relate to on a personal level. There are some huge twists that you do not expect. The writing is so well done that you don’t realize any of the twists are even coming. I loved the outcome, I loved the writing, and I love the message that ultimately comes from a novel like this.

The Tommyknockers – Stephen King

This was such a bizarre book. I almost couldn’t finish it, because it was just so strange. King has a few novels where he delves a bit into sci-fi and this is one of them, and I really just wish he had taken this to some kind of horror or possession. It felt scary in ways, and I WANTED it to be scary, but it was so strange I wasn’t able to fully feel it. I’m not sure that I’ll re-read it. I DO Think it might make an interesting movie. Maybe?

Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman

This was by far one of my favorite “reads” of the year, and I loved the audible narrated by Gaiman himself. I have slowly been delving more and more into Norse mythology, Vikings and the history surrounding. I loved the show Vikings and it inspired a deep fascination in me. I had read Vikings, which was a detailed history of their conquests, but it didn’t expand on the actual myths and legends surrounding their gods and deities. Gaiman’s book helped expand this for me, which was something I had really been wanting to explore. It is definitely worth reading.

The Holy Wild – Danielle Dulsky

This was a bit of a New Age, inner Goddess read. I am enjoying reading some books that focus on the inner strength of women, and finding the untamed part of ourselves. I think this is important for embracing our own inner strengths and finding the deep rooted parts of ourselves that got tucked away in patriarchy. This is a fairly easy read, and has some great wisdom in it.

A Light Amongst the Shadows – Kelley York and Rowan Altwood

Ghosts, forbidden romance, mysterious staff and hidden secrets. I loved this young adult semi fantasy novel. I enjoy finding books that comfortably and openly discuss gay relationships, picturing them as normal as they should be in every day life. I enjoyed the mystery and suspense that the school shrouds in this novel. It is part of a series, so there are secrets still to discover and I can’t wait to pick up the next installment.

The Greatest American Poetry

This is a collection of various authors’ poetry throughout American History. I wanted a short poetry listen that featured some classics and this fit the bill. I enjoyed hearing some of my favorites vs. just reading them.

Mannish Tongues – Jayy Dodd

This is a deeper collection of poetry, and one that I feel needs a more drawn out time frame to fully absorb the messages lingering in the words that Dodd lays in the pages. It is one that I feel like I need to re-read and take notes, and listen more with my mind.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong

There is a reason that this book has been on best selling lists, and highly recommended by reviewers, publications and celebrities. It is heartbreaking, and staggeringly beautiful. It forces the reader to face realities that are swept so gently under the rug the majority of the time. Race, sexuality, class and differing cultures shadow over the life of a growing young man and his single mother. The relevancy of the topics in this novel makes it a necessity in home libraries today. It is the cry of everyone wanting to be heard, and the whisper of everyone trying to belong.

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez has long been one of my top three authors. After many years, I finally picked One Hundred Years of Solitude back up, both in print and audio at the same time. I don’t normally do this consecutively, but I felt like it gave a lot to me with this book. I always tell people that One Hundred Years of Solitude is the best way to introduce yourself to Garcia Marquez’s writing and his style. I love how the narrative of the families in his books almost leans to the nonsensical. His descriptions are beautiful, and his stories are captivating. Start with this, then read Living to Tell the Tale, his autobiography which explains a lot of his writing, and then follow those with Love in the Time of Cholera. Then re-read at your leisure.

Insomnia – Stephen King

Where Tommyknockers was bizarre to the point of not enjoyable, Insomnia is eerily weird and full of spooky strangeness. The supernatural accents to this story are creepy, and seem to tie back into Doctor Sleep and The Shining in ways. The auras seen in Insomnia make me think of “The Shining” or essence that we see in Doctor Sleep. I keep waiting for this monumental moment in one of his novels where it all makes sense, and everything comes together to explain one great strange horror filled common thread. I’ll keep looking.

Uzumaki – Junji Ito

Uzumaki is a Japanese Graphic Horror Novel in three installments. I had all three parts in one. It is creepy, and would probably make a really cool movie. I have a hard time getting graphic novels to come fully to life for me. They don’t have extensive detail, so I can’t paint the pictures beyond the graphics set before me on the page. That being said, I think this would be cool brought to life.

The Art of Loading Brush – Wendell Berry

I’ve recently become enamored with reading Wendell Berry’s works, which are a combination of poetry, essay and agricultural revolutionary thoughts. I think his thoughts on agriculture are actually very vital to the successful future of food production. The Art of Loading Brush emphasizes a need to return to proper use of our land, with a lot of history of the success of pre-industrial agriculture and why old practices could be key to securing our future. Berry takes a philosophical stance on our food production, which is much needed in our world. He has multiple books, poetry galore and essays that are really important for readers and farmers to explore I think.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon

This was probably my favorite book I read last year. Chabon weaves the tale of two Jewish cousins who make a small fortune writing and drawing comic books in the dawn of comic popularity and an America strapped into World Wars. It is a tale of immigration, a tale of heartbreak, a tale of lost souls and wandering. I found myself laughing, crying, and sitting in suspense of what was to come for Kavalier and his cousin. Definitely going in the permanent collection.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is required reading for any Potter fan. I have plans to re-read The Deathly Hallows this year, so I wanted to go ahead and re-read Beedle the Bard to refresh my mind.

Life – Keith Richards

I listened to this autobiography. It is gritty, full of the traditional Rock and Roll atmosphere, and quite enjoyable. Keith Richards has a really cool mind, and has lived such a raw life. A fun read.


Make Every Day Earth Day: Sustainable Products to Make Lifelong Changes

Today is Earth Day and I would like to take some time to challenge my readers to make changes to help save our planet. We are at a critical point in time for our Planet. Our oceans are severely polluted with human waste. Recently I read an article about a whale who had over 30 pounds of human trash in its stomach at the time of autopsy. I can remember being in elementary and middle school and being shown the wonders of the diversity of rain forests, and now I never see anything about them. Each day, species are dying out. I have to wonder whether my son will ever get to see something as magical as a rain forest. So today, at this important point in our history, I’d like to share some options with you to make lifestyle changes that will benefit our planet. The products below are every day changes that can make significant changes if adopted on a widespread scale. I hope you’ll join me in making changes to save our planet.

Reusable Sandwich Bags
Langsprit Premium Reusable Sandwich & Snack Bags- Eco Friendly Dishwasher Safe Lunch Bags – Set of 3 – (Cactus)

These cute cactus print sandwich bags have a zipper seal. There are actually several other prints available including cats, fish and outer space. They are dishwasher safe. I didn’t even know whether these existed until I looked them up. Think of the overall savings as well, vs. buying boxes upon boxes of Ziploc bags.

Cotton Grocery Totes
Juvale 3-Pack Reusable Cotton Grocery Shopping Tote Bags, 3 Designs, 15 x 16.5 x 3.5 Inches

This three pack of cotton grocery totes is perfect for replacing paper and plastic bags at the grocery store. I like the durability mixed with affordability with these bags and the prints are elegant. Replacing plastic grocery bags is a giant step to reducing our garbage footprint.

Glass Food Storage – 18pc. set
Glass Storage Containers with Lids, 18 Pieces Glass Meal Prep Containers Airtight, Glass Food Storage Containers, Glass Containers for Food Storage with Lids – BPA-Free & FDA Approved & Leak Proof

This set of glass food storage containers is comparable in price to plastic sets, and will last much longer than it’s plastic opponents. I have found the glass containers to be easy to wash and they stain less too. Plus you don’t wind up with warping.

Simple Modern Ascent Water Bottles
Simple Modern 24oz Ascent Water Bottle – Hydro Vacuum Insulated Flask w/Handle Lid – Double Wall Stainless Steel Reusable – Leakproof Ombre: Moonlight

I am in love with these beautiful stainless steel water bottles. The blues remind me of the ocean and I love the wood grain and marble options as well. Switching to reusable water bottles is crucial to reducing our use of plastic in bottled water. Small filters can be purchased for your kitchen sink or refrigerator and water bottles can be refilled throughout the day. I invest in multiples, that way if I have a busy day on the go, I have a few in the car with me filled up.

Hanging Planter

Hanging Herb Garden Clay Planter Kit Includes Soil and 5 Popular Herbs

Planting plants is another easy way to help our planet. Indoor plants can improve your air quality. I love this little hanging planter for herbs in the kitchen, or you could plant trailing creepers!

Non GMO Seeds
15,000 Non GMO Heirloom Vegetable Seeds Survival Garden 32 Variety Pack by Open Seed Vault

This Survival Garden seed pack includes 15,000 seeds. Growing our own foods reduces waste, reduces carbon footprints, reduces plastic used to wrap and store foods, and reduces the amount of processed food in our systems. It also increases pollinator populations as well as providing fresh clean air and food sources for bugs which means food for birds, which means food for other species as well.

I hope that you’ll consider adopting at least one of these items into your daily life. It would be amazing if you did all of them! If you have any sustainable living options that you already use or know about, please share them below!

A Southern Music Roundup

I’ve recently been doing a lot of exploring of music that I haven’t necessarily touched on before, or that I have but I haven’t truly appreciated. We spend a lot of time listening to what’s popular on the radio, or longstanding popular music without exploring outside of our comfort zones. This can lead to a bit of monotony, but it is also such a tragic loss on our parts because there are so many phenomenal artists who are waiting to be discovered. I thought I’d share some of my recent finds that I’ve fallen in love with. I hope you find some that you enjoy as well.

Sturgill Simpson

image: SturgillSimpson

How in the actual world did I miss Sturgill Simpson before now? A little bit of Waylon, a little bit of grit, and a little bit of croon, Simpson brings back a taste of classic country music style. His voice is something that’s been missing from country music for far too long. He joins a resurgence of outlaw style singers such as Chris Stapleton, Cody Jinks, Jason Isbell and Eric Church. What I like the most about Simpson’s music is how real it feels. I’ll be honest with you, I have a playlist on Spotify that is for MY music. It is the music that defines me and flows with my life, that I can’t skip over and can’t see myself without. When I initially started listening to Sturgill’s music, I found myself adding his music to that list one song after another within a short span of time, without feeling the need for multiple listens to decide. That’s rare for me. His music is about all of us, the average people working every day and living a real life. I love that. I mentioned Waylon before. Sturgill Simpson has a very similar tone and lilt in his voice, and the comparison hit me immediately when listening to him. What’s funny is this has apparently become something of a regular comparison. Perhaps a voice reborn.

Sturgill Simpson was born in Kentucky to an Appalachian environment that many people overlook. If you’ve read Hillbilly Elegy then you know the environment that I’m about to mention. Appalachia has a slower middle to low class white culture. By slower, I mean that their professions bring the early 1900’s to mind. Mining, digging, mechanics, vocational skills that are lost to many metropolitan or even mainstream cities. Before the past two years, I didn’t have even the simplest idea of how manual labor in mines worked or continued in the Southeastern United States. Appalachian culture is lost to most of us, overlooked and unnoticed. Its citizens, more often than not, continue in the slow paces of their homes, never exploring much further than where they are born. Simpson stems from this world that we glimpse past. His music reflects this in many ways, with its raw and gritty feeling and the familiar “guy next to you at the bar” lyrics and style to his music.

Simpson’s first Album, High Top Mountain, carries a very classic country feeling in songs like “Railroad of Sin”, “You can have the Crown” and “Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean”. But it is Metamodern Sounds in Country Music that brought the comparison to classic artists to the table for me. “Turtles all the way down” carries that old crooning with easy music that I’ve always relaxed to on cool nights by a fire. “Living the Dream” is one of my favorite songs on this album:

“That old man upstairs, he wears a crooked smile
Staring down at the chaos he created
He said “son if you ain’t having fun just wait a little while
Momma’s gonna wash it all away
And she thinks Mercy’s overrated”

While it’s a little cynical, the song is so incredibly creative and it brings for the stark reality that living the dream isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Life is not always huge goals achieved, and all of us have day to day realities that don’t live up to what our expectations of life were. I can’t actually name one song on this ablum that I don’t really love for one reason or another!

I also have to take a moment to mention A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Simpson took on an entirely new feeling in his music with this album. I tend to keep the song “Breakers Roar” on repeat when I turn it on. It is a soft but defiant song about refusing to succumb to the painful points in life.
It is this defiance that some of us need in life, and the song itself is incredibly peaceful. Violins lift and fall through the song. To me, violins and cellos lend a raw emotional feeling to music, and this is a perfect example. It is this defiance that some of us need in life, and the song itself is incredibly peaceful. I think it is one of his best pieces. The album also includes “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)”, a dedication to Simpson’s newborn son, which of course made me sob and blubber. It is another beautiful, soft spoken song. Simpson’s cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” is another favorite of mine on this one. The twangy guitar, soft violin notes and bits of blues add a whole new feeling to the song. Simpson takes Cobain’s same view, of who are these people I’ve started playing for, and switches it to the Country genre. Who are these people who suddenly appreciate Country artists because now Country is cool? I’ll wrap him up by mentioning that “All Around You,” a soft mixture of Simpson’s crooning country voice and a somewhat Van Morrison instrument style is another soft but defiant compilation that I highly recommend for the tough days.

Leon Bridges

image: Jason Kim

Listen. It is quite fair to say that I am late to the Leon Bridges game, and I should be chastised for it. First of all, can I just talk about how stylish this guy is? Second of all, can I also talk about how much I love looking at images of him striking poses? Third of all, can I talk about how I really had not explored modern Soul and Jazz until I listened to some Leon Bridges? My first song I heard was “Bad Bad News”, which is a groove filled beat that is both jazz chill and beat filled enough to make you want to dance. This lead to an avalanche of exploration of him, followed by a larger avalanche of exploration of a genre that I have been sadly negligent in acknowledging. I love listening to his smooth voice. “Shy” comes to mind as one of the better displays of his range and tones. It is one of my relax and read songs. Let’s not forget to mention it’s a little bit sexy.

Leon Bridges claims Texan status, born in Fort Worth, but he is now a world traveler, playing internationally and boasting Grammy Nominations (his album Coming Home was nominated in the 58th Annual Grammy Awards) and songs that have been featured in TV shows. Worldwide traveler or not, his music sits comfortably with Southern Soul, Jazz and R&B. Further, his mother stems from New Orleans, which I imagine lends a heavy hand to his musical style and smoothly caressing voice.

I have a guilty pleasure confession.”Mrs.” is my absolute favorite Leon Bridges song. It is sexy. It is emotional. It is such a wonderful display of Bridges’ style and voice. Lord have mercy, you have to fan yourself after listening to it, but it is soft enough that it has also joined my playlist for calm reading nights.

Bridges’ first release, “Lisa Sawyer” is actually a dedication to his mother, and has a very 50’s vibe to it. I love the story he tells about his mother’s history, heritage and beautiful. “She had the complexion of, the complexion of a sweet praline,” is such a strongly definitive line.

My other favorite song, and one that has gained a lot of national attention, is “River”, a cry to God to enfold him back in His arms in Baptism or a rebirth. I love the confessional spirit in this song via the lines, “but there’s blood on my hands,/ and my lips aren’t clean.” It is a moment that allows us to relate to the artist, putting ourselves in the song. Who of us has clean hands or lips? And then his cry out to God. “Take me to your river,/ I wanna go.” A cry to take him home to his religion, to God. We don’t really get to experience artists being this straightforward about their religion and beliefs anymore because of the overwhelming level of social disapproval of artists displaying their personal beliefs. Songs like this let me relate to an artist on a more personal level. The insertion of a nearly gospel chorus that joins in the last half of the song brings in some of Bridges’ upbringing and heritage, which I also really love.

Citizen Cope

Photo: Eric Clapton

Roughly eight years ago, I was sitting in my room one night on the computer, adding posts to Pinterest, which I had recently discovered. A song came on that I had never heard before, and it struck me really hard. It struck me so hard that I listened to it several times a night for a few months. When I switched over to Spotify, I lost track of the song, and then again I randomly found it about four months ago. This song was “Let the Drummer Kick” by Citizen Cope. This song is such a poetic rendering of progressive thinking and what society has sort-of become. There is this group of words that encompasses some of the common hardships we see blasted across the media, incarceration, humiliation, non-inclusion, drug infusion, situation. I think that the majority of us can relate with at least one of these words at some point in our life. And they are countered by a group of words representing hope: creation, equation, retaliation, determination, inspiration. The words and feelings that keep us going. And that’s really a bit of what modern society has become. It is a kind of cycle of display of the hardships and this endless pursuit of overcoming and a refusal to give up. This song has stayed with me, and it really resonates with me on a deep level. I tend to play it a lot when I’m doing some deep thinking, when I’m writing and when I’m doing yoga.

Citizen Cope was born in Tennessee, and grew up in Texas and Mississippi. His music has moments of new age vibrations, blues and a kind of grungy mellow rock. His voice has a universal ability to cross over, which really helps listeners to relate to different facets of his music. He has recorded with Dido, Carlos Santana and Richie Havens. He really isn’t seen as much on the mainstream level, which rehashes my point at the beginning of this post, that there are just so many artists who have phenomenal work and really resonate on a deeper level with people when they finally are discovered. He is one of the artists that I have found a greater connection with by simply exploring outside of my normal musical comfort zone.

Citizen Cope recently released his first album in several years, titled Heroin and Helicopters. The first title on the album is “Duck Confit,” is a powerful speaking piece about the superficiality of society and the artificial fronts that people present to each other’s faces when they will just as soon move against the person next to them for the sake of getting ahead. It’s a powerful little poem song. The second song “Justice” is really a cool song to me, because it really speaks of enlightenment and the embrace of love as the true purpose in our lives. I could actually see this redone in collaboration with someone like Ziggy Marley, so Citizen Cope even has a tiny hint of that Raggae feeling in some of his songs, again crossing borders. “On My Love” is another somewhat enlightened little jam that tries to draw us from the focus of love as an answer, and to focus on the things that drive us, and to take personal responsibility for our personal happiness. The other two songs that I really liked on this album are “The River” and “Caribbean Skies” both of which have relaxing instrumentals, but which touch on some heavily controversial topics that are central in debates worldwide today. I’d highly recommend listening to them and finding your takeaway, because it will be a personal one.

St. Paul & the Broken Bones

Photo: David McClister

I found St. Paul & The Broken Bones via bouncing around on Spotify branching from a Garden and Gun playlist several months back, around the time that I discovered Leon Bridges and thus started exploring Soul more. The song that really turned me on with them was “Burning Rome,” a somewhat personal ballad focused on a return to religion. It is also a really strong exploration of Paul Janeway’s vocals, which is something I generally appreciate in artists. Testing the limits always turns me on to a musician. I enjoy the pushing of borders. Sometimes smooth, sometime rich and sometimes high and bold, Janeway’s voice covers all every spectrum.

St. Paul & The Broken Bones hails from Birmingham. I actually enjoy their style a lot. They embrace a combination of the dapper suits and suspenders that I really love currently, a little Blues Brothers black and white, and now and then Paul shows out in capes that have a Gospel Choir feeling, channeling a bit of Andre’ Leon Talley.

The group’s two main albums include Sea of Noise and Young Sick Camellia. Sea of Noise includes the personal ballad I noted above, “Midnight on Earth” which is an upbeat melody that takes me back to the 60’s, “I’ll be your woman,” a rather personal exploration of a struggled affair, “Sanctify,” which is another deeply personal exploration of what kind of life the singer wants to attain, a combination of highs and lows that he brings to life not only through the lyrics, but through the progressive move from soft and lilting to alive and loud with the full use of the band, and an ending mixed with both. To me though, Young Sick Camellia is the more personal of the two albums. The introduction “Cumulus pt. 1” takes us right to the starting point for the group with a beautiful piano introduction followed by a short audio that speaks of Georgia and Alabama in the relaxed and warm accent that makes us Southerners so welcoming to many. “GotitBad” comes to mind with it’s socially loaded lyrics about crime, lack of religion, and the falseness of society. “NASA” is a somewhat convoluted song about letting go (or rather the inability to do so) of.. unrequitted love? A love gone sour? Perhaps it is based on personal translation. The track that I am most intrigued by is “Hurricane,” a song that seems choked in sadness and nostalgia. It is almost a search for lost childhood, or a lost past. It is soft, and again Janeway explores his vocal ranges to wrap us in his words.

Adam Wakefield

Photo: Jeff Fasano

I actually found Adam’s music on a random Spotify playlist and fell in love with him couple of months ago. I just today became aware of his performances on The Voice, and I was going to introduce him to you as someone I’d compare to Chris Stapleton in style. And here he is with a cover of “Tennessee Whiskey” from The Voice which again Echos some of that lilting up and down that Chris Stapleton embraced in his own cover of the song. But let’s not focus on only that feature. Adam Wakefield is his own presence with his higher notes and raspy gruffness hiding under the surface as displayed in the live release of “When You’re Sober,” a quiet but powerful plea that we’ve all experienced in a struggling relationship. There is also the fast tempo rock feel in songs like “Waiting on the Thunder,” which gets me jamming in the morning, though it follows a similar feeling wanting to rebuild a love that seems to be smoldering, but needing to go about it correctly versus falling back into old habits.

Adam is a seasoned Nashville performer with an interesting background. Originally a pianist turned country artist performing on the voice, this guy didn’t start out crooning for us. Yet here he is throwing powerful vocals surrounded by electric guitar, keyboard, violins and banjos that seem to wrap his voice into themselves to blend all elements into these beautifully well written melodies. “Love is Blind” is one of my favorites in his 2017 release titled Adam Wakefield because it displays those powerful vocals on so many levels. When you listen to this and listen to his recordings from The Voice, the two aren’t even in the same league. He has really taken time to develop himself and build on his ranges. The third track on this album “Blame it On Me” is an emotional collapse against fighting that I think rings true to anyone that has been through some of the harder parts of relationships. It is both saddening and relieving in a way, because there are moments that we are all looking for that exit from continuous strain and upset. He really conveys this well in the song, and the guitar accents bring even more emotion to the song.

In 2018 we were graced with Gods & Ghosts, a more extensive and exploratory album that boasts a little old wold Country feeling in songs like “Cheap Whiskey & Bad Cocaine” which took me back to a little Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson feeling with its semi-questionable content, twanging guitar notes and nostalgic vibes. “Gods and Ghosts” itself is a bit of a confessional, a bit of an apology and very personal. The lyrics again remind me a little of Johnny Cash. The song itself actually felt a lot like listening to the softer songs put out by Jimmy Buffet. Think of “A Pirate Looks at Forty”. It has that same ebbing beat with soft instrumentals. The songs are both personal reflections as well, which is a neat way Adam has of tying in various styles. “Dry Day” actually made me think of Genesis’ “That’s All” in beat and melody style. Again, tying back to various influences, which is really cool for me when listening to him. I like seeing the different directions that his music comes from and/or reaches to.

Other songs on the album include “Good Morning Sunday,” another very personal feeling song that touches back to the world of alcoholism, but also on the moments when we remember to come back down to the appreciation of small moments, like the warmth of the sun on our skin. “River Stone” is my other pick for this album. It is a little darker and more lamenting than his other songs. I’ll be interested to see how he continues to develop. I’d like to see a little more of this dark, blues feeling side of him.

Joshua and the Holy Rollers

Photo: Justin Cook – special thanks to Mac Hanson for providing this image

There are those who might argue with me about including these guys in a music roundup on a Southern blog, since their bio notes they were formed in Los Angeles. But bear with me, because you NEED to have Joshua and the Holy Rollers on your playlists. While Mac Hanson bears a last name of noted fame, I cannot even begin to place him in the same categories or levels as his brothers. And when I say that, dare I say it? I might rank him higher on a personal level. Mac has brought his own unique and rebellious style to the table with a grit and rawness that you aren’t going to find on any of his brothers’ albums. He hails from Oklahoma originally, and I think we can all say that any southern birth location means you’ll be exposed to classic southern rock, country and blues just as a simple birthright. Mac and his band members bring these influences right to the front. Band members Logan Baudean, Al Moore and Joey LeRosa hail from New Orleans, Nashville and Indianapolis respectively, and we get tastes of each of these places throughout their new but overwhelmingly game changing songs.

My first exposure to these guys actually came through finding Mac on Instagram, and seeing a post somewhere in the mix about the release of “Humble Pie,” which I promptly listened to. Do you remember me mentioning that my personal playlist is very hard to get added to? “Humble Pie” went straight to my playlist, and has a lifelong seat at the table of my heart. Accompanied by simple guitar acoustics, Mac’s voice and lyrics carry us back home to small town origins and the simplicity of places where time moves just a little bit slower. Every time I listen, I immediately picture the glow of the sun at dusk, peeking through spanish moss laden oak trees on small streets. The song is a longing for those beginnings of simplicity and ease. It crept up on me in a really chaotic point in my life and I really lean on that feeling of wanting the slower pace back.

So “Humble Pie” set this bar for me with Joshua and the Holy Rollers, because here it was, this really beautiful introduction to new artists, would they carry forward with similar quality? What would we see from Mac as a unique musical entity breaking out of his shell? And along comes “Hey Hey.” Joshua and the Holy Rollers’ second release completely switched it up and introduced listeners to the rebel that Mac is. This song is a sultry, seductive exploration of temptation with a classic rock meets blues feeling to it. Mac gives listeners a touch of the gravelly roughness to his voice, which just adds to the sex appeal that this song carries. The song was quickly followed up with the release of Tribulations which is their first and somewhat short album. I say short, but I’m probably just impatient. While I love “Hey Hey,” let me just tell you that the song that ran away with my heart is “Furlough.” “Furlough” gives us a feel of the folk and southern rock influences with it’s softer confessional beginning. The song is one of personal ownership of individual downfalls, and this nomadic nature that can bear burden on relationships and the ability to love in full. The second half of the song slips into an upbeat, southern rock style tempo that really makes you want to cut loose and dance some, and I like the combination of soft and easy to that jam out feeling. “Right in Front of Me” gives a touch of religion to listeners, which again, I really love when we get that personal tie to artists and who they are at their core. The most recent installment from the group is a single release called “Talks Like Alabama.” I immediately thought of Aerosmith when this song came on. It has such a Steve Tyler style, and Mac explores a bit of that loud and bold part of himself with this song. The guitar takes on a real Rock n’ Roll feeling in this song. I’m sitting on my hands trying to be patient for the video that they recently shot for this song, and for the release of Tribulations which is upcoming. I mean it, you NEED to add these guys to your list!

End of March Wish List: A Culinary Focus

I have wanted to try to do two of these and maybe work on themes for them. Today I’m going to focus on cookbooks, sauces, spices and items I think would make great additions to the kitchen! Enjoy!

Acacia Wood Wine Rack

I came across this little gem while browsing Amazon. You guys. I LOVE this! The bark looks so realistic with the moss in between the nooks and crannies! I also love that it has limited spaces. Why? Because I have no self control and I’ll have 8 bottles hanging out waiting to be used. This creates space control. You can find it here:

Artaste 48537 Acacia Wood Countertop Wine Rack with Natrual Bark, 4-Bottles

How cute are these crab claw spreaders? These are perfect for dips, spreads, jellies and jams. I can picture them at Easter at the river house, or on a beach vacation while my family plays cards! The above link is clickable, go grab yours!

Y’all know I love my bourbon. How about in edible form? This gift box includes five spice blends and three bourbon based sauces. I love gift boxes like this because I can try out a variety of items and then pick and choose my favorites for future purchases. This would be great for Father’s Day, especially if he loves to grill! You can get yours here:


Retro kitchen styles are making a huge comeback, and they are so cute in apartment or cottage kitchens. This retro style mint green blender is right up my alley. Don’t like mint? They have blue and pink too!! Get yours here:

Smeg BLF01PGUS 50s Style Blender, Pastel Green

The Queen’s book has a Thirtieth Anniversary Edition out, and we all need it. Actually I’m being quite serious. Edna Lewis is one of the founding mothers of Southern Cuisine Cookbooks, and if you don’t have at least one of her books in the kitchen you need to rectify that. I have two. She is regal, and her recipes are absolutely amazing.

I know you’re probably saying, “hey! This is a Southern blog!” You’re right! It is a Southern blog. The south has always been a blend of the many cultures that have slowly immigrated here through hundreds of years. English, Scots, French, Africans, and Spanish made up the original cores of the migrants that wound up in the southern states, but the Asians also made their way here. Southern food blends many of these cultures, sometimes drawing for multiples into one dish. I think that is what makes our cuisine so appealing to people in call corners of the world. Some of the best steak and fish I’ve made has been using Soy, Teriyaki, Ginger, Miso paste and more! This is a somewhat inexpensive Teriyaki sauce and it is my go to for steaks and chicken! This link takes you to a three pack. I generally have at least two bottles in the pantry. I love to drizzle this over salmon with some fresh grated ginger and turmeric, or I will marinate a steak for two days in the refrigerator in a bowl of this. SO good!

Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki Marinade and Sauce, 21 oz pack of 3

I’m a firm believer in sourcing the best quality products possible to use in the kitchen. Well sourced means you will get better flavor, texture and healthier products. I’m adding this line’s entire list of extracts to my wish list for myself. Their products are Non GMO, Gluten Free and All Natural. The ingredients are simple. I also really appreciate that they use glass jars, which are better for our environment and keep the product stable for longer. Get yours here:

Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract, with gift box, 8 ounces

Look how PRETTY this Nordicware Platinum Series bundt pan is! Listen. I toot Pampered Chef’s horn, I love them, but I have always been in love with Nordicware for cake pans. The lines are so smooth and the designs are always elegant. I can’t wait to get this beautiful pan into my kitchen to make a pound cake y’all!

Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Anniversary Bundt Pan

How beautiful is this Olive wood cutting board? This cutting board is 14 inches and I love the oblong shape and wood grain details. These cutting boards keep much of the natural shape of the piece of wood, so each one is slightly different in shape and tones. This makes them perfect for a very rustic home setup, which is totally my style.

Naturally Med – Olive Wood Cutting Board/Cheese Board – 14 inch

Literary Thursday: What’s on my list this week

I’m taking a bit of a Southern and Agriculture focus in my reading ideas for the next few weeks while also working on BookRiot’s Read Harder Challenge, so this week’s post is based on those thoughts. I wanted to include some new releases for you, as well as some of the Read Harder inspired books and some of my agriculturally geared books. Reading “Letters to a Young Farmer” definitely sparked my agricultural reading vibe into action. So without further ado, here are books we should all consider reading!

Greg Iles is a well known author of southern based novels. Would you believe I’ve not picked up any of his books yet though? I decided maybe this needs to be my start. I actually enjoy finding books with male main characters. It lets me look into the minds of the elusive guys! You can find this book here:

Cemetery Road: A Novel

As I was reading “Letters to a Young Farmer,” I kept seeing people reference Wendell Berry. They’d read Wendell Berry. They’d talked to Wendell Berry. He WAS Wendell Berry writing to the future farmers. So you know I have to read some Wendell Berry now! I downloaded this onto Kindle last week. Anyone care to join in? You can purchase it here:

The Art of Loading Brush: New Agrarian Writings

The Read Harder Challenge includes a goal to read a book about Oceania by someone from Oceania. Not familiar with that term? Neither was I! Oceania encompasses Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Isles. Christina Thompson is a dual citizen of the UK and Australia, and her writings explore Oceania. Sea People caught my eye as one that might help me to learn more about Polynesia itself, and I’m really excited to read it! You can get your copy here:

Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia

Ok. So I’m being slightly humorous here. But this totally wins the internet this week, and Game of Thrones will be back next month. Don’t you want to read Hodor’s story in Hodor’s words, all 98 pages of him? HODOR!

The autobiography of Hodor: My Journey North

The White Tiger is one of Stephen King’s top book recommendations and it looks like a really interesting read! The book follows the driver of a wealthy Indian family. I feel like it will offer a new look into Indian culture for some readers. It is a Man Booker Prize winner which also speaks volumes.

The White Tiger: A Novel

I’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude a couple of times. Let me make a confession. I’ve read all of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s books at least twice. Yep. He is one of my top five authors and I am reading this again for the Read Harder Challenge. His Autobiography is also very profound. Get your copy, join me in reading it, I’ll even help explain his writings! This is another on Stephen King’s list. Need I say more?

One Hundred Years of Solitude (P.S.) (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

Do you want to read some true crime without being scared to go to bed at night? This is the one for you! I’m planning to read this for the Read Harder Nonviolent True Crime category. At some point I promise I’m going to give you a review of Gulf, which I have referenced before. This book once again ties back to topics that stemmed from me reading that book. In Gulf, there is a huge discussion about the giant drops in numbers of coastal birds in the early 1900’s thanks to fashion markets purchasing feathers in droves for ladies’ fashion. The Gulf coast was one of the largest sources of the feathers that designers purchased. The Feather Thief reviews a museum heist that maybe wouldn’t make sense to many. Feathers are something of a fancy commodity in certain circles, and just like ivory and tiger skins, there are black markets for fashion designers, collectors and more. I’m excited to read this and see what the drive actually was behind the thief.

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Semi-agricultural in its exploration in the wisdom that food crops can instill in us, and semi cultural through it’s look at Indigenous beliefs, Braiding Sweetgrass is on my necessary list. I haven’t even read it yet and it is on my necessary list. Native Americans and other Indigenous people historically have been so balanced with Earth and Nature in their living, food production and their persona lifestyles. We are at pivotal points in history when it comes to the preservation of our earth while still producing sufficient food. I think this book will be vital for those interested in agriculture. This book isn’t available via Prime shipping yet, so if you want an immediate read, grab the Kindle version.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Super Easy Cinnamon Breakfast Pull Apart Bread

Picture this. It’s 8:00 A.M. with mist hovering over the backyard, and outside the birds are singing an early morning chorus. You are up before everyone, coffee in hand and suddenly a hungry toddler comes into the kitchen and you’ve been so focused on the birds you didn’t cook the eggs! Ok that might be a bit of a silly scene, but some realistic scenarios include everyone getting up at the same time with everyone starving, a busy day where quick and easy is essential for breakfast, or you need something made ahead so you can grab a slice and run out the door to make it to work on time. Right? So this is a reality for me very frequently, and last year I discovered this really delicious breakfast pull apart bread that is made using a can of biscuits and some melted toppings to make a sweet, filling and quick option for breakfast. You can’t beat this!

I love making this in a bundt pan because the slices stay discernible and I can pull a section off, slap it on a napkin and go. When you originally make it, make sure that some of the sweet melted goodness seeps down between the slices so you have hints of it throughout your bread.

Below is the recipe for my delicious Cinnamon Breakfast Pull Apart Bread.


1 can of your chosen brand of biscuits (I prefer Pillsbury Grands, the extra flaky ones)

5 tbsp of butter melted

1/2 cup maple syrup (I try to use craft brands but any brand you prefer works great)

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tbsp. cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Separate your biscuits and put them into a bundt pan. You can use a loaf pan, I just don’t find the layers as tidy for separating later. Set this aside.

In a small sauce pan, combine the butter, maple syrup and sugar. Melt these down to a good thick liquid. You can add more butter or maple syrup to your liking. Butter is a good option if you like a little more trickle in between your layers, since it is a bit thinner than the maple syrup once it is melted down.

Pour the melted liquid over your biscuits evenly. Make sure to let it sit a minute so the liquid can seep in between your layers a little. Sprinkle your cinnamon on top and pop it in the oven! Cook to the appropriate time listed on your biscuits (temperatures may vary per brand as well). Another variation to this that I love is to add some chocolate chips once it is out of the oven and cooled a tad, but do it while the top is still a little sticky so the chocolate chips stay put.

Voila! This will keep covered or in the fridge for a couple of days, which makes it great as a snack, or breakfast on the go in the mornings. Or you can enjoy it with some bacon on a nice relaxed weekend day.

Literary Thursday: Twain’s Feast

This Literary Thursday I wanted to focus on Andrew Beahrs’ “Twain’s Feast”, which I listened to on Audible and will be reading the print version of in April. This book is a wonderful book for the southern foodie or food historian. Andrew has done a beautiful extensive study on the types of foods Mark Twain enjoyed and experienced in the historical south. While the foods that are shared are not all Southern based, the atmosphere of the book remains that of the Southern Gentleman savoring meals across the U.S.

One of the reasons I really enjoyed the Audible version of this (besides that Nick Offerman reads it) is that we get to hear from the people actually living with the foods day to day, as well as the environmental sounds. My favorite was listening to hounds baying in the coon hunt. I love listening to hounds ya’ll. We get to listen to the raspy words of a farmer, the trickle of the rivers as fishing is discussed, and duck calls. It brought so much feeling to this food anthology and I really appreciated that.

Andrew guides readers through preparations and servings of some of Twain’s favorite dishes, including, yes, coon. Other dishes include lake trout, duck, baked apples with cream, coffee and my personal favorite, sheepshead, which takes a center stage in the book.

In the Audible version, Nick Offerman and company sit down over a meal of Twain’s favorites, discussing the taste, visuals, smells and the history of the dishes. Each dish has a unique story to go with it, including the history of the food, real life harvesting of the foods and interviews with those who make it every day. I’m so excited to see how the in print version reflects this, but I imagine the Audible is hard to beat. It has been hailed in various publications across the U.S. and is worth several listens. I’ve linked both versions below. I hope you’ll join in with me and maybe we can discuss it together, or try the foods!

Rustic Kitchen Decor Ideas

The kitchen is one of my favorite places to spend time, and it is somewhere that many of us spend a lot of time. I’ve always loved a cozy farmhouse feel, and these items create a kitchen farmhouse vibe that I love while remaining subtle to let you add color pops of your own.

Mason Jar Sconce Rustic Wall Sconces, Rustic Home Decor,Wrought Iron Hooks, Silk Hydrangea and LED Strip Lights Design for Home Decoration (Set of 2)

These mason jar wall sconces are some of my favorite decorating items. The silk hydrangeas are a soft color, and the lights give a romantic glow. These would be great over a hutch, or on either side of the kitchen window!

MyGift Rustic Dark Brown Wood Wall Mounted Mail Sorter Key Hook Organizer Rack w/Memo Bulletin Chalkboard Sign

How cute is this mail sorter and key hook?! I love the chalkboard addition. You can write appointments yes, but how about the menu for the day? Or a cute note for your kids!

Chicken Wire Paper Towel Holder

I’m actually probably going to have to own this for myself in the future. I cannot stand when paper towel rolls get loose, or unravel! This offers easy storage of the roll and lends a farmhouse feel with the chicken wire around the outside. Too cute!

MyGift 12-Hook Rustic Wall-Mounted Wood Coffee Mug Holder, Kitchen Storage Rack, Brown

Now y’all all know that us country gals have to have a place for our coffee mugs. Because every morning we are drinking at least one cup of that magic bean juice! This offers a great storage option, as well as a little self control by creating a limited space for mugs. Surely we don’t need more than twelve right? But hey, you can always get two shelves!

FirsTime 10066 Shiplap Wall Clock White

How beautiful is this rustic wall clock? I like this clock particularly because it is a bit bigger than the standard wall clocks at 18″. I’ve been watching for larger wall clocks because I’d eventually like to have a big one for display over my hutch. While this isn’t as big as I’m hunting for, how pretty would this be over a coffee bar or doorway!!

Literary Thursday – Books for March Reading

I want to start introducing a weekly literary focus, so this month I am going to start it with a group of books that I think are amazing options for March reading. Some of these are books I’ve read and feel we should all be reading. Each book has a direct link to Amazon for easy access for you guys! Some of these are books that I myself really want to read! Please add your recommendations in the comments!

How to be a Good Creature is actually a book that I got to read to my son, but I feel it is geared towards any age group. It is one that I hope to read this month and then share with him over the coming months. \

Daisy Jones and the Six is on my list because it is on Reese Witherspoon’s book club list this month and I have yet to be let down by her choices!

Speaking of Reese’s picks. This is a prior pick of hers that I absolutely loved. I could not put this twisty mystery down. It will be great spring reading for your first afternoons outdoors in the sunshine!

If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo yet, where have you been? I watched a few episodes of her Netflix show and now I want to read the book. Her concepts speak to me. The idea of making your items visible so it is easy to track things down is so elementary but it is something that we don’t even think of! With Spring cleaning on our minds, this is the perfect time to snatch her book up for a quick read.

So I have to admit to you guys, I’ve been very slow on the uptake with Chip and Joanna. I really just didn’t know a lot about who they are. I got to flip through a few pages of Magnolia Table the other day and I really want to read the entire thing now.

If you have not read Hillbilly Elegy, I really must impress on you the need to get a copy of this book and read it. It is necessary. Why? Because there is an entire lower income culture tucked away in the Appalachians that people have forgotten. This book is a reminder that there is no one set group of people suffering in this nation, but entire groups who need ways to find futures. This book was beautiful and tragic all at the same time for me.

The Autobiography of Gucci Mane. Wait. What? Yes you read that right. I actually listened to this on Audible last year and was very impressed. I really love getting inside the minds of musicians, and this offered both a look at him as an artist, and a look at him as a musician struggling to climb above the world of gangs, drugs and alcohol. Definitely worth your time!

I cannot express the many various forms of inspiration I’ve gathered from this book as even a home gardener. The contributors have books, articles and essays that I want to read. The letters themselves are a wealth of knowledge as well as a huge source of professional inspiration. Further, this book offers a great introspective look at where agriculture stands today, and the path that lays before society as a whole.

I listened to this on Audible. I will be buying a paper copy of the book and re-reading it. This is another very necessary book. It was captivating and heartbreaking. It is a must read.

If you can spare the time to listen to Twain’s Feast, do it. It is funny, fun, and beautiful. As Nick Offerman and the other narrators and contributors introduce meals and their sourcing, you get to listen to the dogs bay, listen to the sounds of the forest, listen to the rasping voices of farmers and old grandmothers who have cooked for generations. This was such a fun listen for me.

St. Augustine in Photos

In January, my family took a trip to St. Augustine, and I took some time to wander and take photos. I had not finished editing until recently. Here are the results. Enjoy!

Many buildings have been restored, I love the contrast on many of the buildings.
Government House recently restored. My company actually restored this building and the King of Spain visited when it was finished!
How beautiful was this flower? I haven’t been able to identify it, it was actually a tree!
One of my favorites!