Creating Delicious Memories

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When I think back to spending time with either of my grandmothers, the memories usually involve food. Nena (my mother’s mother), used to make these melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls that were, quite figuratively, heaven. But, even more than I remember how delicious they were, I remember getting to assist her while making them. My job was usually to spray (yes, spray) “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” on the dough. I thought it was fantastic.

This summer, I decided to combine two things I love: family photos and food. I poured through countless recipes from both sides of the family (as well as some I “created”), trying to pick out ones that evoked fond memories. I placed my favorites in two piles. In one pile were the recipes that I thought I could cook or bake ALMOST as well as the original (they will never really be as good). In the second pile I placed the recipes that I knew I couldn’t recreate. The latter pile was left out of the book. And, after whittling my list down to 19 recipes, I turned to the good people of May Designs.

I was introduced to May Designs several years ago, and I am absolutely addicted to their notebooks and agendas. They are small enough to fit in almost any purse, have enough personalization options to make yours unique (but not so many that you feel overwhelmed) and are sturdy enough to withstand living with a toddler. Plus, they are a Texas-based company, so I’m basically shopping local, right?!

Last year, they introduced photo books in two sizes, a 7.5″ square and 5.5″ square. They sport the same sleek, hand-sewn design as the notebooks and are again full of personalization options.

May Designs makes it so incredibly easy to design the cover and inside pages of your photo book. And, the layout choices are plentiful. But, at 40 pages, it is not so cumbersome that it becomes just another well-intentioned project (I have several unfinished scrapbooks).

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The outcome was fantastic! And, we even tested it out over 4th of July weekend. I can’t wait to create more of these wonderful books and to reminisce with loved ones around the dinner table.

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What are some of your favorite meal-time memories?

The Mask: A Book Worth Your Precious Downtime

It is no secret that my dream house includes a comfortably large library with a porch. It should also be no surprise that I spend the few down-time hours that I have reading, perusing book stores, and attending library events.   

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen the author Taylor Stevens speak at the Fort Worth Library. Haven’t heard of her? It’s okay, neither had I. She unassumingly took the stage and began unfolding her life story. And, like a modern day bard, she captivated the audience. I’m not even sure anyone glanced down to check Facebook on their phones for a good 45 minutes.

At this event, I won an advanced copy of her fifth book in the Vanessa Michael Monroe series, The Mask, which hits shelves (and Amazon) on June 30th. And, if I’m speaking honestly, the only reason I opened the book was because of her amazing storytelling skills and because she personalized the book in the most awesome way possible.

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But, it has easily become my favorite book of 2015, and that is why I feel compelled to share (also, I need people to read it so I can discuss it with someone ;)).

The series is a high-octane thriller, which is so far removed from my love of 19th Century literature that it is laughable. But, my goodness!! Her storytelling prowess had me on the edge of my seat by page 5 and kept me there until the very last sentence.

Vanessa Michael Monroe is not someone an enemy you want to have. She is an information seeker, paid by individuals, companies and governments, to seek out and obtain information that no one else can, and she is very, very good at her job. In The Mask, she is set on hanging up her hat and settling in to a quasi-normal life for a bit with her boyfriend, Miles Bradford.

And, as you might imagine, that doesn’t go exactly as planned. After Bradford is set up for murder, it is up to her to save him, even if the cost is their relationship. She performs her role as heroine as wonderfully as any knight-in-shining armor. And, by the end of the book, she will have you zipping a leather jacket and riding on a winding road on a Japanese motorcycle, if only in your imagination.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is how it is organized into small segments instead of chapters, allowing you can slink back and forth between reality and imagination faster than Clark Kent can take off his glasses and become Superman.

Because I don’t typically read high-octane thrillers, I can’t tell you whether or not her work is groundbreaking in genre. But, I can tell you that it is pretty fantastic addition to my world, and I plan on backtracking and reading all the books in the series.

So, go ahead, kick your feet up with that nice cold cup of coffee (or glass of nightcap wine), and dive head first into adventure. The Cheerios on the floor, dishes in the sink, and clothes to fold will still be waiting for you when you return.

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And, if you are an aspiring writer, you should sign up for her newsletter or check out her Facebook page. You won’t be sorry.