You guys. I seriously love you for your enthusiastic response to In My Book Bag. Awkward introvert hugs for everyone.
I’ve made dozens and dozens of her recipes (this chicken and cream cheese orzo is one of our all-time family favorites) and only ever had ONE that didn’t turn out, and that was my own dang fault because I was in a hurry and cranked up the stove like crazy and then burned them to death. Obviously, we had company over that night. She is seriously fool-proof. Desserts, main dishes, breads, and snacks – she does them all and they are all amazing.
Plus, she has five kids (four boys and a girl), so her recipes are very family-friendly and don’t require hours and hours of hands-on time. Also, she’s good about avoiding highly-processed foods and making things from scratch, but she also lives kind of in the middle of nowhere, so you won’t be trying to hunt down some obscure ingredient only available to 1% of the population.
And as if her recipes weren’t reason enough to read her blog, she’s so hilarious, I like just READING her posts. From yesterday’s, while talking about some Cinnamon and Sugar Breadstick Twists, she said, “Brian nearly did a cartwheel in delight (until I reminded him his 36-year old hamstrings might not appreciate that). The boys gladly cartwheeled in his behalf.”
Plus, she’s just a super nice person. I’ve been turned off to many a recipe blog by the unpleasant way the blogger responds in the comments to people who have had trouble with a recipe or make suggestions, and Mel is never anything but delightful, gracious, and low-key.
Almost every time I read her blog, I think, “WHY are we not neighbors?” (Probably because I’d invite myself over to dinner every single night and for snacks at least four times a week). I’m guessing many of you already read her blog, but if there are even two of you who don’t and now are off to discover her (may I recommend this banana bread which is to-die for good?), I’ll consider my job here done.
I was that classic, anti-social, nerdy girl growing up (we’re talking from age 5 to age…uh, 35) who would rather read than socialize. Family reunions? I was in a corner with my nose stuck in a book. Bedtime growing up? Under the cover with a flashlight. Weekend high school parties? At home reading. I was such a ball of fun to be around, can’t you tell?
For years, especially as a teenager and in my early 20’s, I only read books that I felt certain I would like (kind of fluffy, clean romance, totally girlie books) and didn’t branch out much. But now, I’ve thrown away specific genres and read books based on the author’s ability to draw me in – it’s all about the writing style, although I still tend toward literature that isn’t overly heavy and doesn’t require me to grab a dictionary to understand what I’m reading. I’m learning as I’ve filtered through lots of crummy books that an author who can truly tell a story that holds me in its grip (and leaves me in complete joy followed by a depressive funk when I’m done reading the book) is a treasure.
My personal reading time, which doesn’t happen as often as I would like and does not include reading Curious George over and over to my kids, is precious and I’m always on the hunt for the book that is worth staying up all night to read.
Childhood Favorite: As a child, I devoured Nancy Drews and Babysitter Clubs and snuck in a few Sweet Valley Highs when my mom wasn’t looking because they weren’t allowed. In my teen years, I couldn’t get enough of Dorothy Keddington and Madeline Brent and Patricia Veryan (I told you I was into girlie romances). I have probably read all of their books dozens and dozens of times (although not for many years). One standout of Patricia Veryan’s is Poor, Splendid Wings. I reread it a year or so ago and still loved it. Bawled like a baby at the end..
Currently Reading: Parenting with Love: Making a Difference in a Day (the only parenting book I read with consistency; I keep it on my nightstand and it’s only 80 pages – bonus!). Sorry, nothing too exciting here.
Comfort Reading: Anything by Juliet Marillier (but mostly the Sevenwaters Trilogy). Her books are like the ultimate comfort reading to me and I can reread them over and over and still devour the stories. I always swore I was not and never would be a fantasy fan but she changed me. I’ve never read an author that can weave a story like she can.
A Book Everyone Else Seemed to Love, But I Don’t Like: I’m almost scared to admit this since it has an almost cult-like following: Edenbrooke. Just couldn’t get through it. I love clean, witty romances but this was just too much cheeseball and twirling for me. (Oh, and the Twilight series, too, but I may regret admitting that when my house gets egged by Twilight-loving mobs.)
A Book on My To-Read List: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand (not that I’m overly interested in horses but I loved Unbroken so, so much and I want to give it a try). Also The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
The Book I’m Most Likely to Recommend to Someone Else: Winter Sea or The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley. She is such a fabulous storyteller and I love the slight paranormal twists (I stopped recommending J. Marillier because so many people are convinced they don’t like fantasy and I wasn’t sure I could still be friends with people if they read her books and didn’t like them. Kidding. Kind of.). Also, it’s an oldie and kind of long and you have to really love reading history/romance type books but Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald (Ernest Hemingway’s daughter) is just wonderful.
Thanks, Mel. I laughed aloud about the forbidden Sweet Valley High books – same at my house!