cynthia’s banana bread

My grandmother is a reader, and I remember raiding her shelves during long summer afternoons at the lake house.  I also remember (and still experience!) her generosity with her reading: there were/are book-shaped packages at every birthday, Christmas, and sometimes in between.  But I think my greatest discovery was a book my Nana brought as her plane read on one visit sometime in the mid 1990s.  It was the first in Jan Karon’s Mitford series, At Home in Mitford.  I gobbled it up in a day or two and begged for more.  I adored that series (through book 5, at least)!  Looking back I must have been quite the picture: gawky teenager with terrible haircut reads voraciously about an overweight, 60-something priest in small town Carolina.  Those stories made me happy, though.


I hadn’t thought about Father Tim in years, but when I mailed myself all of the books that were under my parents’ stairs, I found a paperback set of the Mitford novels.  They’re on my shelf now, and up for discussion.  I wondered aloud at a recent party if a Mitford cookbook existed, because all I really remember at this remove are fantastic descriptions of food.  And upon checking the interwebs, my book club friends assured me that there was one.  I put it on hold, and dutifully picked it up at the library.  To be honest, I didn’t like the cookbook itself – it was badly organized.  HOWEVER.  This delicious banana bread recipe made the whole exercise worth it.  Oh my word, it’s good!  And in the land of funny coincidences, my Nana’s name is Cynthia.  So!  It’s Cynthia’s recipe, two times over.

Cynthia’s Banana Bread (modified slightly from Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader)

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (2%)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 large, ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
2 tablespoons lemon zest (see note)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped


DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9” loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Place the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the yogurt, lemon juice, bananas and lemon zest and beat well.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture in two batches, and stir until just blended.  Add the walnuts and mix again until just incorporated.


Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out fairly clean.  Don’t over bake!  Cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then invert onto the rack to cool completely.

Note: The Mitford Cookbook introduced instructions for zesting a lemon unlike any that I have ever tried.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel the colored part of the peel and leave the bitter white pith alone.  Once you have a small pile of lemon peels, mince and measure.  There’s your zest! Two tablespoons ended up being the zest of one large lemon when done in this manner.

This. Banana bread.  Happy Easter to ME!  I don’t ever recall wanting to eat banana bread batter by the spoonful before… but this recipe did it.  I won’t ever switch back to anything else, because, YEAH.  Holy yum.


Recommended for: everyone.  It’s delicious.

Interested in other food-related posts?  Check out Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking!

ask me

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | | 0 comments
I’m on a bit of a reading streak when it comes to young adult fantasy that incorporates elements of Greek mythology (Promise of Shadows, Antigoddess, Cruel Beauty).  And that’s awesome, because mythology has always been a particular favorite of mine, along with fairy tale retellings.  I feel the need to interject here: DON’T STOP READING IF MYTHOLOGY ISN’T YOUR JAM! Kimberly Pauley’s latest release Ask Me is much more than that.  It’s a contemporary fantasy that is part thriller, part mystery, part first brush with romance, and wholly absorbing.

ask me by kimberly pauley book cover
Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

Aria Morse can’t help but answer every question she hears with the truth, even if it is sometimes obscured or deeply offensive.  She doesn’t have control over what she says, and the deep truths physically drain her.  Her ‘condition’ has marked her life ever since age twelve: Aria has lost friends and family, and her prophecies have driven her from Michigan to small-town Florida, where she lives in a small shack with her grandparents.  When tragedy strikes her high school, Aria can’t avoid questions, or her truths.  Someone is capable of murder, and Aria may be the only one who can tell who, where, and why.

Two word reaction to this book?  So good!  It’s compulsive reading about a strange girl in a tiny Florida community (that is described to a T, by the way).  Aria has come up with coping mechanisms so that her everyday life isn’t constant torture, or at least she’s tried to.  The arrival of real danger means Aria must decide who to trust: the town’s golden boy Will, an outsider-turned-popular-jock named Alex, or one of the girls who has always kept her on the outside, Delilah.  One question might mean the difference between death and life, and that’s a heavy burden to bear, especially for a teen who can’t interact on any social level, forget normal.

So much of Aria’s life is consumed with avoiding people and their questions that she doesn’t really know how to live – she lets life tow her along and waits for the day when she won’t have the compulsion to spew prophecy any longer.  This means that friends and boys are forbidden – until Aria begins to ask her own questions and question her responsibility for her community.  This change comes through beautifully in her thoughts, her knee-jerk reactions, the way she responds to crises (both her own and others’).  Pauley has written a believable, flawed heroine who can tell anyone else their future but not her own.  It’s quite an accomplishment.

My favorite bits in the book were Aria’s interactions with her grandparents (sweet and tart at the same time), her complicated relationship with her ‘gift,’ and the descriptions of Florida life.  Of course the prophecies were interesting too, along with the slow unraveling of what they meant, and the ratcheting up of danger and tension as a result.  This is no cotton-candy story – there’s violence hidden in Lake Mariah.  The only ‘con’ I can think of is that I figured out the mystery before Aria did, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all.

In other words, Ask Me is wonderful entertainment.  It’s also skillfully constructed, and there’s feeling, tension and mystery in the writing.  As I said, so good!

Recommended for: fans of contemporary fantasy and thrillers, those who appreciate a story well-told, and anyone who likes the work of Sarah Rees Brennan, Holly Black, or Rick Yancey.

Fine print: I received an ARC of Ask Me for honest review from the publisher.  I received no compensation for this post.

ask me blog tour - kimberly pauley guest post

Author Kimberly Pauley is here today at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia with a guest post.  Her new YA fantasy Ask Me stars Aria Morse, a girl who must answer every question truthfully.  Ask Me was released by Soho Teen on April 8, 2014.  

ask me by kimberly pauley blog tour banner

kimberly pauley
Kimberly Pauley wanted to grow up to be Douglas Adams, Robert Heinlein, or Edgar Allen Poe, but has since settled for being herself and writing her own brand of quirky. Born in California, she has lived everywhere from Florida to Chicago and has now gone international to live in London with her husband (a numbers man) and the cutest little boy in the world (The Max).

Her first book was Sucks to Be Me and it made her very happy that it made the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list as she firmly believes reluctant readers are just people who haven’t found the right book yet. Her second book, Still Sucks to Be Me, was a VOYA best sci-fi/fantasy pick. She wrote Cat Girl’s Day Off because she wanted to share what cats really think with the world and also because she likes to read about kick-butt half-Asian girls with funky hair. In Ask Me, she goes to the dark side and questions the nature of truth.  You can learn more about Kimberly at her website, on Twitter, or at her Facebook page.

Welcome Kimberly! 

I have (of course) been reading the early reviews of ASK ME with interest (heh, show me an author who says they don’t read any reviews and I’ll show you someone in denial – though, that said, I do tend to stay away from Goodreads for mental health purposes). I’ve seen more than one person mention a love triangle in ASK ME. Some hate that. Some love that. Some demean it as a standard YA trope. Some are all, like, yay, hot guys!

And it’s okay that people are seeing a love triangle in the book.

But I didn’t actually write one.

Wait, you say, there’s these two guys in the book! And they both talk to Aria and stuff!

Yes, that’s totally true. And Aria is definitely interested in one of the boys in a romantic sort of way (I’m trying not to name names too much here or things like that because I’m trying very hard not to be spoil-ery). And one of the boys is definitely interested in her in a much more than friends type of way. But Aria never indicates any romantic interest in the one guy and he never indicates any romantic interest in her either.

I can see some of you who have read it going Waitasecondhere and reaching for the book to thumb through the pages. Go on, go ahead and take a look. I think you’ll see what I mean.

I can completely and totally see why some readers read it as a love triangle because it is a rather common thing in YA books (and yes, I’ve written one before…) and because, perhaps, it’s a human tendency to read between the lines and see things that may or may not be there. There’re these two hot dudes and a girl main character, yadda yadda, badda-boom, etc. but, when I wrote the book I wasn’t writing it as a love triangle. A triangle, sure (or a square, really), but definitely not a love triangle.

That said, once you’ve written something and released it into the world, people are going to read it through the filter of their own experiences and colored by all the other things they’ve read and watched. So it really is okay if you read the book and you see a love triangle. Even though I wrote it and know what I intended, that doesn’t make it necessarily the way the book has to be read.

And once you have read it, I’d love to hear what you think. Seriously.

----

Thank you for sharing, Kimberly!  I look forward to diving into Aria's world, and discovering this not-a-love-triangle business for myself. *grin*

ask me by kimberly pauley book cover
Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

Fine print: I received no compensation for this post.

five discoveries in five years

Five years ago today I started blogging. The blog began as a promise to myself to begin 'something good' in the midst of one of the toughest years of my life. And for a while I didn't have a defined blogging identity. In those first few months I brought up books only rarely. Interests (like blood) will out! I found myself reading book blogs, and thinking, "I could do that. I could talk about books." By July 2009 most of my posts were book-related.

One of the wonderful side effects of jumping into this world has been new book and new-to-me author discovery. I feel incredibly lucky to have found new standby authors. I trust their stories: for entertainment, wisdom, emotion, and always, always beautiful writing. So on this fifth anniversary of my blog, I'm highlighting five authors blogging has introduced me to.  Many thanks to Charlotte and Liviania for the idea!

Patrick NessThe Knife of Never Letting Go was one of the first dystopian novels I read back when that trend was just beginning. I believe it was on a list at Rhiannon Hart's blog along with The Hunger Games (which I ugly-cried in public over). That was enough to get me to try it. And then a little later I read A Monster Calls and realized that making me cry and cringe and FEEL was going to be Ness' M.O. He writes powerful fiction and incredible voices. I think I will always look forward to his next project.

Meljean Brook – Velvet at vvb32reads was one of the early cheerleaders for steampunk, and I took part in several challenges and events that she put on, including the Iron Seas challenge, which featured Meljean Brook's books. ZOMG, these are *amazing* and worth a read even if you usually stay away from romance as a genre. Brook writes seriously wonderful characters, who are surrounded by amazing world-building, and you get a guaranteed happy ending. What could be better?! I count down the months to every single new release.

Sherman AlexieI was introduced to Sherman Alexie in my first year of blogging by Leila of bookshelves of doom and Steph Bowe.  And I’ll be forever grateful to those two, because Alexie is one of the greats of our time.  You can’t go wrong, whether you choose his YA classic The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or a short story collection like War Dances.  Alexie’s insightful writing is commentary as much as entertainment, and important as well as beautiful.

Catherynne M. Valente – I discovered Catherynne M. Valente by following a link on Neil Gaiman’s blog (I'm pretty sure that's where I found it?!).  My love for Gaiman’s fiction preceded blogging, so I was already in the habit of reading his updates.  And then one day he mentioned Valente, who wrote The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making as a serial novel/desperate call for help.  Valente’s struggles spoke to me, but the book even more so.  The story is such a lovely, bizarre, fantastical tale of Fairyland that I made a place for it in my heart, for always.  I’ve since read several other Valente titles, and I always feel a sort of reverence or wonder for her way with words and her imagination at large. 

Sharon Shinn – I can’t remember who introduced me to Sharon Shinn.  I would say Angie of Angieville (she’s a huge Shinn fan), but according to my review of Archangel, my first taste of Shinn was Angelica, and I don’t believe Angie reviewed that one.  ANYWAY.  Blogging not only introduced me to Shinn’s sci-fi series featuring angels, but to her writing as a whole.  Which is always delightful and thoughtful, as well as wrought with feeling and romance.  I pick up Shinn novels like clockwork now whenever I feel the need for speculative fiction that will turn me inside out and make me swoon.

Those are my five author discoveries.  Do you have any go-to favorite authors that you discovered via blogging?
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