Tag Archives: Fall

Weekend Cooking: Season’s End

farmers-market-10-29-2016It’s the last day of the farmers market season and because she isn’t able to pick up her weekly CSA share, my generous coworker has gifted me with her box of produce. She’s done this before and I’m always grateful. I have a pretty strict limit on our family’s food budget these days and this will help stretch that.

I step out of the office and into the kind of bright blue, crisp autumn Friday where the weather almost seems out of sync with the end of the farmers market season. Not quite yet, the day seems to say. Still, the chill is a harbinger of the cold that awaits us; in the gray of a Pittsburgh winter to come, this same mid-50 degree afternoon will be balmy enough to seduce a few hardy students to shed their Pitt and Carnegie Mellon sweats in favor of beach attire to sunbathe on Schenley Plaza.

I exchange a spaghetti squash for two onions, as I decide if our as-yet-to-be-determined weekly menu requires more than the butternut squash, apples, carrots, kale, lettuce, sweet peppers, garlic, and Italian parsley I’m carrying. (It doesn’t.)

I thank the woman behind the stall for a great season.

“Enjoy your winter,” she says, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.

I wish her the same and I leave, savoring the crunch of the leaves as I go.

Winter, you can wait. I’m not ready.

Not quite yet.

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

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sunday salon: october


“…and who, after all these centuries, can describe the fineness of an autumn day? One might pretend never to have seen one before, or, to more purpose, that there would never be another like it. The clear and searching sweep of sun on the lawns was like a climax of the year’s lights.”

~ “The Brigadier and the Golf Widow” by John Cheever

October — now, already. With the turn of the calendar page, we’ve been thrown a bit too quickly into fall, it seems. I broke out the turtlenecks this week and on Friday, a coat was definitely needed in the morning as I set out for work. Yet, yesterday’s rains (remnants of Joaquin, maybe) have yielded to a crisp day that hints at the slightly warmer temperatures to come this week.

California Dreamin’ 
I was resenting last week’s seasonal change a bit more than usual because three months ago, we had booked a trip to San Diego — just me and The Husband. We had talked about the possibility of this trip for awhile. Had this actually occurred, we would have been in California last week – missing the dreary rain and autumn chill that besot Pittsburgh. All the reminders of that trip over the last few days shouldn’t have bummed me out as much as it did — not to mention, made me as cranky — but, dammit, I really wanted to be there and we should have been there. Yeah, yeah, yeah, everything happens for a reason and all that bullshit, I know, and as these things go, such a trip would have been difficult (if not impossible) with all that’s happening on the homefront … but that doesn’t make me any less disappointed.

There are several fun things to look forward to during this month, however, so I’m trying to concentrate on those instead of wallowing in my woulda-coulda-shoulda pity party.  On Thursday evening, Rainbow Rowell will be at the library for a kids and teens event and my girl is beyond excited about this (she loves Rainbow Rowell). I actually haven’t read any of her books, but I know a lot of bloggers rave about her novels.

Then, on October 21, guess who’s coming to the library? Margaret Atwood! I cannot wait for this. Tickets sold out in less than seven hours. I only wish I could find my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale (which I think is one of the best books in the history of the written word). I might have to buy another one for Margaret Atwood to sign. We’re limited to two books per person for the book signing portion, which I understand, but still.  I think we get a signed copy of The Heart Goes Last with our ticket price.

The MiniaturistYesterday I finished The Miniaturist, which I think has one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen.  This debut novel by Jessie Burton is set in Amsterdam, in 1686. Petronella (who goes by Nella) is 18 when she marries a wealthy merchant named Johannes Brandt. After moving into his mansion, Nella quickly learns that this is a household full of secrets. Even more puzzling are the miniatures that are sent to Nella to furnish a dollhouse — an exact replica of their home — that Johannes has given her as a wedding gift. The items are very specific and tend to be messages about future events.

I read this as a selection for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril X (RIP X).  I’ll have more to say on this one in a future post, but suffice it to say that I really liked it. There have been comparisons to Sarah Waters, and I can definitely see that.

Tonight I’m hoping to start Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. I am a huge fan of hers; I’ve read all of her books and love every single one of them — which is not something I can say about many writers (usually there’s a dud or two in the mix). It’s #7 or something on the New York Times bestseller list and my copy is due back to the library on Wednesday with no renews, so I need to read this fast (won’t be a problem, methinks).

Because I’m listening to more podcasts these days, my audiobook consumption has kind of suffered. My solution? Listening to short story collections. That way, if there are several podcasts that have caught my interest and I go a day between listening to a book, I’m not hopelessly lost.

The John Cheever Audio CollectionI spotted The John Cheever Audio Collection at the library and decided to try his stories.  This is where I confess that I’ve never read any John Cheever, which is something I think I should have done by now. Someone who loves short stories as much as I do really should have some familiarity with Cheever.

The narration is key to this collection of 12 stories. Meryl Streep is brilliant on “The Enormous Radio” (how could she not be?) but that doesn’t take away from this being one of the best stories in the bunch. “The Five Thirty Eight” is another great offering. These stories evoke another time — a simpler world — which is why I’m enjoying them. I’ll probably wind up reading some others in print — although I’m not sure if Cheever will wind up on my favorite authors list.  I’m only halfway through this audiobook, so we shall see.

Hope all is well in your world (reading and otherwise) as we begin this new month.

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Burning Bush - 2014


nearing the end

holding on together

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The Sunday Salon: Bookin’ It Through Fall

The Sunday Salon

We’re kickin’ off the first official day of football season, which in this house is akin to a national holiday.  NFL GameDay Morning started us off promptly at 9 a.m., and we’re watching the Steelers-Browns with the sound muted while listening to the Eagles-Jaguars game on SiriusXM. I’m bedecked in my black and yellow; The Husband is in his Eagles’ jersey. Here in the ‘Burgh, it’s a gorgeous Sunday weather-wise and the start of football season also marks, for me, the unofficial beginning of fall. I love this season.

Maybe it’s just me, but fall always seems to herald the best book events – both in-person and reading challenges in in the book blogging world. I swore off challenges almost three years ago now, but every once in awhile I can’t resist joining one or two … or three. Here are just a few bookish events, challenges, and readalongs that I hope you’ll join me in participating in:

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014  shortlist will be announced this Tuesday, September 9 and I’m eagerly anticipating which of the 13 books move forward. I’d love to see History of the Rain by Niall Williams make it to this next round and win the whole thing, because I loved it so much. ‘Course, it’s the only one of the Booker longlist mentions that I’ve read, so that makes it my personal favorite.

Orfeo by Richard Powers is in my TBR pile beside the bed and I’d hoped to have gotten to that – and several others – by this point too, but that hasn’t happened. This longlist looks really good this year.


The Sparrow Readalong
Throughout September, Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting a readalong of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.  I’ve had this on my Goodreads “to-read” list forever and on my actual bookshelf for several years. I’m looking forward to participating in this.

RIP 2014

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX
If it’s September, it’s time for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, one of the best reading challenges in the blogosphere. And I say that as someone who isn’t usually a devotee of the mystery, suspense, horror, thriller, gothic, dark fantasy, supernatural types of reads that R.I.P. focuses on. I love this challenge hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings (his introduction to this annual challenge, now in it’s 9th (!!!) year, is always a fun read in and of itself).



There are several R.I.P. IX levels and I’m planning to participate at Peril the Second (Read two books of any length that you believe fit within the R.I.P. categories) and Peril of the Short Story (which is self-explanatory … to read short stories that fit the categories). 

A More Diverse Universe 2014

A More Diverse Universe
Between September 14-27, Aarti from BookLust is hosting A More Diverse Universe to encourage reading at least one book written by a person of color.  Aarti writes, “None of us lives in a monochromatic world, and yet the fact that terrifying hate crimes still occur makes it clear that we do not fully understand or trust each other.  And maybe part of the reason is because the media we consume does not accurately reflect the diversity of our society.  And books are such a massive part of the media we consume that we should demand and fight for those that do represent minorities and those that do present the world from a different perspective than the one we are used to.  So please – participate.  You may just discover a character or an author or a setting or a story that will completely change your life.”

This is not hard to do. Aarti makes this easy, giving links to book suggestions right on the #Diversiverse introductory sign-up post.

How about you? Are you looking forward to or participating in any of these events this September? If so, what are you reading?




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The Sunday Salon: Closing the Books on Summer Edition

Like most people, I think of Labor Day as being the end of summer – regardless of what the calendar says. Betty and Boo have been back in school for almost a week now. Occasionally, I need to put on a sweatshirt in the morning. I’m planning a vegetarian beef stew for dinner tonight. And, of significant importance in this house, a new football season is upon us. (Go Steegles! Once again, my loyalties are divided somewhere in the vicinity of a bar in State College. I love Pittsburgh, I love the Steelers, but I just can’t abandon my Philly girl roots. I can’t help it.) 
It is time, then, to close the books on the Summer of 2012.
Quite frankly, I’m ready. This was, in my view, The Lost Summer. Completely unmemorable, save for last weekend’s visit to Ohio and a week-long visit in July from the grandparents. It’s going down as the summer of a tough job hunt that’s still in progress (there’s something particularly depressing about filing one’s unemployment claim on Labor Day weekend), a summer camp experience for the kids that could have been better, and the summer where we all realized how much we missed (and therefore craved) our annual vacation at my aunt and uncle’s beach house, which we went without this year. 
My summer escape, then, was found in the usual places: in reading, and in the novel writing. From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, I read 19 books – probably the most summertime reading since I was a teenager lounging around a swim club that’s no longer there.  And this summer, I wrote. Not quite as much as I’d hoped, but there’s more on paper than there was at the beginning of June. 
Among the books I finished the summer with was The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan, which was fantastic. I absolutely loved this memoir. And then (this is where this Internet thing gets all kinds of cool) the very next night after I finished this, Kelly herself discovered my review of her book Lift and posted it to her Facebook page, which I didn’t realize until I noticed all kinds of hits on the blog coming from that post via Facebook. So now, we are Friends. Just like that. Coolest thing ever. I’ll have a review of this one soon. 
When I was in something like the 5th or 6th grade, I was fascinated by the whole saga with Wallis Simpson and Edward giving up the throne for her. I wrote a research paper on it and all. To my tween self (we weren’t called tweens back in the early ’80s, but you know what I mean), abdicating the throne was, in my mind, THE most romantic thing imaginable. I mean, I sure as hell couldn’t picture any of the guys I had a crush on in middle school doing any such thing, hence, the whole deal has always held this sort of romantic Disney-ified mystique in my mind. 
Which is why I was intrigued to read Abdication by Juliet Nicolson. (That, and because I don’t read anywhere near enough historical fiction and I’d like to remedy that.) Just look at that cover; it’s gorgeous, isn’t it?

Alas, I wound up abdicating this book last night, at page 54. Several reviewers on Goodreads mentioned that this is more about several peripheral (fictitious?) people in the lives of Wallis and Edward, rather than Wallis and Edward themselves. I wouldn’t have minded that – I mean, that’s kind of the whole POINT of historical fiction as I understand it, right? – except that these new folks weren’t holding my attention. I just kept waiting for something to happen. And … it didn’t. And the Goodreaders indicated that it wouldn’t, and so … abdication.

And with that … we’re into the autumn season, with two exciting things happening that I wanted to be sure to mention, in case you were unawares.

1. Over at Stainless Steel Droppings, Carl is once again hosting his annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, which is not a reading challenge, per se, but rather “a participatory event wherein we the people spend however little, or much, time we want over the months of September and October imbibing all things ghastly and ghostly.” This is not my typical reading fare, but I cannot resist this. Henceforth, I have two books lined up for this Labor Day weekend that fit the bill quite nicely.

Since I loved Gone Girl (review here), I’m looking forward to reading Gillian Flynn’s second novel, Dark Places. 

My second book for the week is this.

Steampunk: Poe! Here’s the description (could this be any more perfect for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril?) 

If you combined clockwork gears, parasols, and air balloons with Edgar Allan Poe, what would you get? Steampunk: Poe! This is the first collection ever of Poe stories illustrated with the influence of steampunk. Running Press Teens has selected some of the most popular, thrilling, and memorable stories and poems by the classic 19th century American writer whose literary talent continues to open the mind to countless interpretations.

Every Poe story and poems is fully illustrated with steampunk-inspired art—from 1920s aviation gear to elaborate musical instruments—creating a fresh perspective on his work containing bizarre characters of madmen and mystery. Just in time for Halloween, Steampunk: Poe is the perfect classic horror choice with a haunting steampunk twist!

And the second happening …

2. Book Blogger Appreciation Week returns September 10-14 and, after much to-do in recent years about awards or no awards, the structure and activities for 2012 are very much “back to basics”. I think this will be a refreshing change and a great step in bringing the book blogging community closer together. Amy (at My Friend Amy) and those who volunteer to help her with BBAW do a tremendous job in organizing what has always been a tremendous week, so if you’re a book blogger or just looking for some interesting book blogs, you should definitely check out what BBAW is all about. (Even if you’re brand new. Four years ago, Book Blogger Appreciation Week was my introduction to this crazy world of book blogs – and I haven’t looked back since.)

All right. I’ve kept you from your Labor Day weekend long enough. Run along, kids. Go. Enjoy. Soak up what remains of this summer whilest you can. 

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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In Which I Sign Up for R.I.P. (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) VI

Oh, you’re all killing me here with all the posts about the R.I.P. (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) Reading Challenge, currently in its 6th year of being hosted by the wonderful Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.

I had all good intentions of signing up last year. In fact, with some minor modifications, this very post is the very introductory post I wrote EXACTLY A YEAR AGO on September 1, 2010 and which promptly went to die a quick death in Drafts.

Now, it is being exhumed.

Let it be known that I am not normally a horror, mystery, thriller, gothic, whatever kind of reader. Not in the least.  But, you know, there is something about this time of year here in the United States, where the mornings are crisp and cool and the night creeps in ever so earlier, where you can feel autumn in the air. This season just lends itself to a nice mildly spooky story or two. Am I right?  (I am, which is why this annual event is so popular.)

And for someone like me, who doesn’t normally read creepy-crawly books, there’s something kind of intriguing, kind of dangerously naughty, about this genre.  For example, I distinctly recall reading Edgar Allan Poe in middle school and falling in love with the man. 

And then, not having anything to do with him for … well, the next three decades of my life.

(Hey, it happens.)

Yet when I was in Baltimore a year and a half ago for a conference, what did I purchase as my souvenirs? 

Because these have been on my TBR shelves for a year and a half, I thought these would be the perfect choices for Carl’s R.I.P. Challenge.  
And then I thought, since the challenge neatly coincides with September being Read Your Own Books Month (separate post to come on that) what other books on the TBR shelf do I have that might qualify?  Turns out, a few. 
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner.  This was the first book I won in a giveaway (maybe from Iliana at bookgirl’s nightstand?) three years ago.  I was so excited to read this and here it still sits. 
Similarly, I’m embarrassed that I haven’t yet read my blogging friend Karen Harrington’s book, Janeology.  She signed it and everything. At least a year or two ago. So, onto the list it goes.
And finally, The Husband and I have a very good, longtime friend named Ken Goldman who is a horror writer. Back in the day, The Husband and I were privileged to read several of his short stories, pre-publication. I loved every single one (and there’s one that we still talk about to this day, two decades later.) He wrote a novella, which I purchased and downloaded to my Kindle as one of my birthday presents. In April. Ken, your Desiree makes my list for the R.I.P. Challenge.

I’m not making any promises that I will actually read all five of these, which is why I am signing up as a participant at the Peril the Third level. (Requirement is to read one book.)

Some other possibilities:

The Complete Tales of Washington Irving (from my TBR shelf)
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Eric Larson (from my TBR shelf)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Children, by Random Riggs
Just an Ordinary Day: The Uncollected Stories, by Shirley Jackson (from my TBR shelf)
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
The Bad Seed, by William March
The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger  (from my TBR shelf)
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire (from my TBR shelf and as a consolation prize for not seeing the musical yet)
A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness

I’m definitely not committing to reading all of these – just one book fulfills the challenge requirements, so this is definitely doable – so we’ll just have to see where the spirit takes us over the next two months, shall we?

How about you? Are you coming along on this spooky challenge? (Please do. This ‘fraidy cat reader just might need someone to hold her hand.)

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.
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Wordless Wednesday: Fall Sunset and Moonscape

Sunset as seen through our front door/foyer/transom – Monday, November 8, 2010. 

Followed by the thinnest sliver of a Seurat’s dots-like moonscape.

To see more Wordless Wednesday photos, go here.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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