Leather Chair Reading! Fun And Thoughtful Summer Books!

Leather Chair Reading!  Fun And Thoughtful Summer Books!

As you scan the big, wide, wonderful world of the internet, it won’t take you long to realize that summer book lists are a dime a dozen.  That being said, I’m a huge proponent of checking out anything that gets us interested in taking a break from social media to actually opening up what we each consider a good “read-worthy” book.  Here’s a few I’ve read lately that I know will have you glad you took the time to curl up in a comfy, secluded corner somewhere to get lost in the entertaining wonders of the written word!

Leather Chair Reading! International Children's Book Day! www.mytributejournal.com

 “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need!”  Tribute Journal

Tribute Journal’s Summer Book List!

Short: by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Short: by Holly Goldberg Sloan

“Unexpected things happen when you are young that change you…or maybe a better way to say this is, unexpected things happen when you are young that shape you.”  Holly Goldberg Sloan

This fun novel was a recent pick for a book club I attend…and boy, did I ever love every entertaining, laugh out-loud moment it provided!  This delightful book was inspired by the author’s own experiences of being the shortest girl in her class throughout her elementary grade school years, as well as her adventures of playing a Munchkin in summer theater production of “The Wizard Of Oz”.

The endearing story of “Short” is told through the matter-of-fact, pre-teen eyes of Julia Marks.  Discouraged about her lack of stature and grieving the loss of her beloved dog, Ramon, Julia isn’t looking forward to her summer.  To make matters worse, her mother signs her and her younger brother up to audition for a semi-professional community theater production of the “Wizard Of Oz” …and what does she get cast as?  That’s right, a munchkin!  During the course of the nearly daily rehearsals, Julia is introduced to the world of theater and the quirky cast of characters who make a lasting impact on her young life.

I grew a lot this summer.  Not on the outside, but on the inside.  And that’s the only place where growing really matters.

Julia Marks in “Short” by Holly Goldberg Sloan   

Aside from the ever charming character of Julia, I loved Julia’s neighbor, Mrs. Chang, a former prima ballerina, who Julia has no trouble convincing to become involved in the theater production as costume designer extraordinaire; she is a kick and even though she’s well into her 70’s, she eventually talks the eccentric director of the play into letting her and Julia be some of the flying monkeys who are strapped into make-shift harnesses as they fly across the stage in what becomes a highlight of the play.  Another subtle, yet wonderful relationship development that takes place in this book, is the new-found respect Julia finds for the tireless efforts of her mother as she starts to realize how much her mom just wants what’s best for her family…any mother can certainly relate to that plot line!!

I smile at mom and tell her something I’ve wanted to say all summer.  “Thanks, mom.  Thanks for making me try out for this play.”  I think I might have made being a mother totally worthwhile for her.  I will never forget the look on her face…mom has tears in her eyes and she’s smiling.  It’s an amazing look.  I have to remember how powerful it can be to say thank you.  Especially to the people you live with.  They probably least expect it.

As an adult, I dearly loved this book, and my two older granddaughters are also enjoying it as we read it together this summer.

The Rent Collector: by Camron Wright

Rent Collector quotes.

“Just when we think we have our own stories figured out, heroes arise in the most unexpected places.”  Camron Wright 

My husband gave me this beautifully written book as a gift this past Christmas.  My sister-in-law, who is an avid reader, suggested it as a “must read” when he inquired about a good book he could give me…and indeed “The Rent Collector” is  a mesmerizing book to read!

Typically, when an amazing story is discovered in a wonderful book and gains public acclaim, it might eventually be made into a movie.  In the case of “The Rent Collector” –it was a documentary film made by the author’s son while he attended film school, that inspired Camron Wright to make the characters come to life on the written page.  (You can read more about the documentary film here.)   

Sang Ly in the book The Rent Collector.

(Sang Ly with her husband and son via “River of Victory”)

The story is set in Cambodia just after the decline of the communist Khmer Rouge regime.  The two main characters, Sang Ly and her husband Ki Lim, live in Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in Cambodia.  Day to day life is hard enough when you have to make a living scavenging through the trash for recyclable, without the extra worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of the medicines that don’t seem to be working.  Although this story line may sound grim, the author’s eloquent message throughout the book is one of hope, determination and redemption.  Sang Li’s quest to save her son’s life takes an unusual turn when she finds out that the ill-tempered woman, Sopeap Sin, who collects their rent, has a secret that could eventually help Sang Li save her son.

As stated on the cover of this book:

The Rent Collector powerfully illustrates how anyone can quite literally “rise from the ashes” so to speak, in the most unlikely of places.

I read about an interview Mr. Wright gave when “The Rent Collector” was first published, where he states that hope is sort of an innate thing that we should all hold on to in our hearts…

Things get terrible and things get bad, but we always look to better times; I think that is how we should always live no matter our circumstances.

I guarantee that this book will have a powerful impact on how you view your own life and how you choose to resolve the challenges you face.

Choices That Change Lives: by Hal Urban

Choices That Change Lives by Hal Urban

“Our lives are the direct result of our choices, and the most important choices we make become our character traits…the ones that lead to fulfillment and peace of mind.”  Hal Urban 

This book is a follow-up to Hal Urban’s best seller and one of my very favorite books, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter Most”.  (You can read my journal entry on that book here.)  Hal Urban’s books are so joyful to read; he has the rare ability to entertain and enlighten without getting preachy.  As a former high school teacher, college professor, and single father who raised three sons, his stories are insightful and the wisdom he’s gained through his own process of self-evolvement can’t help but inspire you to more fully develop your capacity to live a rich and rewarding life.  I keep both these books handy so I can use them as a ready reference for those times when I find myself in need of a little extra “food for the soul” –so to speak!

Hal Urban quote: We live by choice, not by chance."

In the introduction of this book,  Mr. Urban recalls that all too often in his travels, he found that people were intrigued with the concept that he’d mentioned in his previous book…

I recall vividly that while on a media tour for my book, “Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter Most” –all every radio or TV host wanted to talk about was the chapter on making choices…you would have thought that I’d made some startling discovery that was going to dramatically change millions of lives.  But the truth is, choices have been around for as long as mankind.  It’s truly amazing how many people are either unaware, or forget, that they’re making choices all the time–little ones that are fairly unimportant, and big ones that can change our lives for good or for bad.  This book is about some of those big choices.

When I first read this book, I just picked out the chapters with the characteristics and choices I thought I needed to work on the most–I mean who doesn’t need to take a good close look at being more humble, patient, kind and courageous…right?  However, when I picked up the book again and reread it from front to back, it dawned on me that so many choices we make in life are interrelated and applied simultaneously as we strive to live our best lives.

The advice given at the end of the book is one of the key reasons why I love Hal Urban’s observations and astute insights into everyday life.  He says:

While reading this book, you may be thinking the same thing I was thinking while writing it.  What person could possibly practice all these qualities and virtues every day?  I thought of two who probably did–Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa.  The world doesn’t produce a lot of people like these two Nobel Peace Prize winners, but it does produce a lot of regular people like you and me who want to grow, who want to be the best persons we can be, and who want to lead lives of joy.

I hope you are all having the best summer, full of all the things you love–I also hope it includes a good book or two!  My cute dad, who always seemed to have a book in his hand, loved this quote…Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on reading.With this thought in mind, I’d love to know of any good books you’ve read lately or are reading now that have made an impact on your life.

–Here’s to happy summer days and good reading!  Mary 

Happy People!

Happy People!

With the anticipation of all the summer adventures ahead of us, what better time to remind ourselves of all the things that make us happy……and do some of them!!!

Emoji balloons!

“Happiness is not ready made.  It comes of your own actions.” 

Dalai Lama 

If you need a fresh perspective on truly being happy, listen to the lyrics of “Happy People” by the country group, Little Big Town.  The following is one of my favorite lines from the song:

Happy People by Little Big Town.

“Well, life is short and love is rare, and we all deserve to be happy while we’re here…so here’s to whatever puts a smile on your face!”

Here’s To Whatever Puts A Smile On Your Face!

I certainly don’t need to remind you that life isn’t all roses, in fact, it can bring us to our knees (literally) sometimes.  But perhaps we can all do a little better at making a conscious effort at seeing the fun and funny side of life!  So let’s consider a few of the little, everyday things that might make us smile!

1. Setting your alarm to a song that makes you happy to wake up!  I know, that’s a stretch…but I’ve tried it and it works!  I’ll find myself humming or singing some of the words to whatever song I woke up to throughout the day!  The song mentioned above is a good one—and will surely put a smile on your face.

2. A hot breakfast!  Especially if you don’t have to fix it!  On the weekends, my hubby will often make hot oatmeal with blueberries (so good) and wheat toast with fresh jam–eating it out on our patio during the summer months definitely puts a smile on my face!  A weekend brunch after doing some early morning cleaning is a win/win–and sure to have you smiling all day long!

The Park Cafe in Salt Lake City, Utah

A favorite brunch spot of mine is the Park Café!  (If you live close or find yourself visiting Salt Lake City, I highly recommend eating here!) 

3. Being outside when the weather is just right!  After a long winter season and a wet, rainy spring here in Utah, it seems that finally being able to get outside has everyone I meet sporting a happy smile!

Adventuring outside up City Creek Canyon!

A recent hike up gorgeous City Creek Canyon on a perfect summer day with two of my granddaughters had us all smiling! 

4. Laughing!  There’s no better way to put an exclamation on your day than laughter!   There are few things in life that lift my spirits more or put a smile on my face quicker than hearing my son’s deep, full-hearted laugh as he shares funny anecdotes from his experiences of living abroad in Germany, or as a dentist for the US Army.  Life can get hectic–we’d all do well to just smile and laugh at the craziness a little more!

5. Growing something!  I learned to love gardening from my grandmother, and my husband and I have planted a little vegetable garden almost every year.  The accomplishment of tending to something, watching it grow and then harvesting the fruits of our labors is rewarding and indeed smile worthy!

Growing strawberries!

I tried my hand at growing strawberries this year and I have to admit, I had a giddy smile on my face when I saw the first few blossoms turn to strawberries and start to ripen!

6. Encouraging others!  Being genuinely happy for others and offering them support and encouragement as they try hard to live their lives to the best of their ability can’t help but put the most satisfying smiles on our faces!

Being happy for others quote.

My parents were always quick to impress upon me the importance of showing love and appreciation for those who were happy to see me make accomplishments and achieve my dreams, as well. 

7. Being curious!  I’m a firm believer that inquisitive thinking and a passion for exploring will nourish our minds…and that my friends, is something to smile about!

8. Remaining young at heart!  No matter our age, don’t we love to be around those who have chosen to live, laugh and love with the infectious playfulness of a person untainted by the harsh realities of today’s world!  Let’s face it, when we choose happiness, we’re more fun, more childlike, we smile more…and hopefully, those around us will too!!

I love the saying, “Happiness appears where dreams meet preparation.”  It implies, that like most things in life, happiness takes a little work–but living a more fulfilled life is the ultimate reward–that, and a lot of smiles!

Happy looks good on you quote.

Add to the list…I’d love to know some of the little, everyday things you do that help you smile more?

–With love and a big smile, Mary

The Cookbook Challenge! Recipes From Huckleberry!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Recipes From Huckleberry!

Recently, I tried my hand at another epic cookbook challenge from a wonderful cookbook that my husband and I bought, in part, because of the stories the author, Zoe Nathan, shares of her adventures in baking.

The Cookbook Challenge!

There’s nothing that endears you to a cookbook more than reading about the “inside” story, so to speak, of how it came about…after reading about Huckleberry, one of my goals in life is meet the unique and enterprising author of this cookbook!  The recipes are also mostly breakfast and brunch recipes, which are my weakness, so of course, this cookbook is quickly becoming a favorite!

Huckleberry Cookbook by Zoe Nathan

My husband was drawn to this unique cookbook because he remembers picking huckleberries as a young boy by his uncle’s farm in Idaho.

Huckleberry cookbook.

I just knew that a cookbook with polka dot paper edges had to be worth trying!

In her fun writing style, Zoe Nathan tells the reader that there are two ways to use her cookbook:

“If you choose to wake up at 6 A.M. to surprise your family with muffins made by exactly following one of our recipes, I promise you will be successful and get a lot of extra praise and appreciation from your family.  You can also use these recipes to give you guidance, messing around with them, inserting your own ideas, until you get it exactly as you want it.  I will certainly not be offended.  Remember, baking is supposed to be fun, so don’t take yourself too seriously while doing it!”

Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica, California

The Huckleberry cookbook also shares the name of  Zoe Nathan’s bakery and café in Santa Monica, California!  Anybody game for a road trip!!

Besides being a visual feast, Huckleberry cookbook features recipes that are hearty and healthy where basic ingredients are combined in a way that you won’t soon forget the deliciousness–they’ll put a whole new twist to your next upcoming family get-together!

Huckleberry Cookbook Challenge!

Huckleberry bakery and cafe.

Zoe Nathan first met her husband, Joel Loeb, when she was hired to bake pastries at his restaurant, Rustic Canyon.  Their “real life” collaboration was meant to be…together they own and bake for Huckleberry Bakery and Café now! 

Huckleberry Monte Cristo Sandwiches! 

I had my first delectable Monte Cristo sandwich at a local deli and was hooked from the first yummy bite!  That deli has since closed up shop, so when I saw the recipe in Huckleberry for these sandwiches, I knew it would be one of the first things I made from this wonderful cookbook!

Ingredients:  Serves 3

3 tbsp. heavy cream

You can use half and half or milk too–I love the cream.

3 sage leaves  I don’t add this.

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Pinch of fresh ground pepper

3 eggs whisked

1 tsp. sugar

9 slices brioche bread

Brioche bread.

The Huckleberry cookbook has a recipe for Brioche bread, I just bought mine.  Challah bread works great too.

4 tbsp. Dijon mustard

I don’t usually like Dijon, but it’s good in these.

6 tbsp. mayonnaise

12 thin slices of ham

I like Land O’ Frost Bistro Favorites Black Forest ham.

1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese 

Sometimes I substitute Swiss cheese, which is just as good.

Blueberry jam

Huckleberry homemade jam recipe after sandwich instructions.

Powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions:

In a small sauce pan, bring cream to boil with sage, salt and pepper.  Allow to cool completely.  Whisk in eggs and sugar.  Put in refrigerator until needed.

To build the sandwiches, start by laying out all nine slices of bread.  On 3 slices spread mustard; set aside.  On the 6 remaining slices spread mayo, and divide the ham and cheese on these bread slices.  Put mustard-covered bread slices on top of 3 of the ham and cheese slices, then invert those onto the last 3 ham and cheese slices.  This makes 3 triple decker sandwiches with the mustard slices in the middle.  To be honest, I don’t make triple decker sandwiches, but I’m sure I would love every extra yummy bite of bread if I ordered these at Huckleberry!

When you’re ready to cook sandwiches, heat 1 tbsp. of butter in large saucepan over medium heat; dip the sandwiches in egg batter until well coated and cook until the top, bottom and sides of sandwiches are goldeny brown and cheese is melted.  Slice and serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of blueberry jam,  the recipe for Huckleberry homemade blueberry jam is below.

Cooking with a skillet.

I cook these in a cast iron skill because it creates the best golden brown color. 

Blueberry Jam:

4 cups fresh blueberries

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup water

Combine above ingredients in medium stainless-steel saucepan.  simmer until jammy, about 15-20 minutes.  Serve as dip for Monte Cristo sandwiches.  This will keep good for approximately two weeks in your refrigerator. 

Homemade bluberry jam.

This jam is easy to make and used for several recipes throughout the cookbook.

The Cookbook Challenge! Recipes From Huckleberry!

Every Monte Cristo sandwich I’ve ever eaten has always been cut into fourths, making them the perfect triangle size for dipping in the jam.

I have also had Monte Cristo sandwiches served with turkey slices add along with the ham and cheese, with strawberry or raspberry jam.  

Zoe Nathan states in her introduction, that this cookbook came about largely due to the fact that after she had her son, baking became more personal and she loved to make him freshly baked goodies from her own kitchen; it gave her a great sense of satisfaction.  That’s the special feeling she wanted to share with us in her Huckleberry cookbook.

If you try this recipe, let me know how you liked it.  Any new recipes you’ve tried lately and absolutely loved?

Happy baking…..and eating!  Mary