Saturday, October 31, 2015

This and That About...Debbie's Stylin' Weekend Casual!

Casual Saturday Attire

Happy Saturday, everyone! I'm feeling like enjoying the outdoors today wearing some casual Fall attire. As you can see, the leaves have reached their peak of color and are gracing our lawn and surrounding woods. The Fall colors make a perfect backdrop for my second "Debbie's Stylin" post. 

I love the comfort of jeans. These are Gloria Vanderbilt Signature jeans that I purchased at Stein Mart. These jeans are super comfortable and give a little extra stretch which is great for this over 50's gal! The brown quilted jacket is also a Stein Mart purchase. The orange top I've had awhile and don't remember where I purchased it. 

I like the look of these boots with the boot cut style of these jeans. The boot cut along with the heels on the boots give a long leg look which is nice since I'm only 5'4".  In all honesty, though, if I were going to be walking a lot, I would choose a flatter shoe or boot. It's hard for me to walk long distances anymore in heels! The boots were a birthday gift from my sister and I love them!

Here is a closeup of the gold earrings and chunky bracelet I am wearing to accessorize. It's hard to see them in the photos.

I plan to keep enjoying the Fall colors as long as possible! All too soon, I know, the temps will get much cooler and those little white snowflakes will be falling! I can't believe tomorrow is November! Hope your weekend is filled with fun and beauty and until next time...keep on stylin'!

I'm linking this post with Elegantly Dressed and Stylish. Please visit this site at:

Also linking with Not Dressed As A Lamb

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

This and That...About My Favorite Author Part 3!

Hello, dear readers! Hope your week is going well. I was away this past weekend and couldn't complete my three part series about my favorite authors until today. I want you to know this was a really tough choice. As I said before, I have so many favorite books and authors that I dearly love...these posts could really go on and on! But, I'm sticking to my promise of a three part series and so today, I am sharing my love for the "Cat Who" series by Lilian Jackson Braun!

As I have shared previously on this blog, I love cats. So you know I just have to love a series that combines mysteries with two smart Siamese named Koko and Yum Yum! They help their owner Jim Qwilleran solve untold numbers of mysteries in the town of Pickax located in Moose County. We never learn the actual location of Moose County. The author simply says it is, "400 miles north of everywhere." Over the course of the series, which contains around 30 books, we find that Qwill is a recovering alcoholic who used to write for newspapers "down below" before coming to Moose County because of having inherited millions. He is required to stay in Moose County for at least five years in order to claim the inheritance and ends up staying there. He writes a weekly column for the local newspaper called "The Qwill Pen" using his knack for being able to write 1,000 words on just about any subject. Along the way, memorable characters add to the story lines. There is Arch Riker, the editor of The Moose County Something, who used to work with Qwill down below before divorcing and moving to Moose County. Arch marries Mildred, a former teacher and excellent cook who contributes food articles to the paper. Although Qwill has several lady friends over the course of the series, the main love of his life is Polly, the librarian, whose voice is both soothing and scintillating to Qwill. Other characters also have recurring roles in the books such as Hixie Rice,  Fran Brody, Junior Goodwinter and Celia Robinson to name a few. 

I have to admit that The Cat Who series holds a lot of sentimental ties for me. My mother introduced me to the series many years ago and up until her passing we shared a love of reading and discussing these books. When she was in the hospital during one of her last stays, I would read aloud to her from the latest book in the series. I always felt that she could hear me. I gave many copies to her as gifts over the years. I now own those books and love seeing the inscriptions I would write inside the covers to her. Writing a short note inside the book is a tradition in my family when we give a book as a gift. 

Lilian Jackson Braun actually wrote the first book in this series in 1966 and after writing two more, took an 18 year break from the series, returning to write more in the 1980's and continuing until her death in 2011. The earlier books have Qwill living and working for newspapers "down below." The later books are his life in Moose County. Just like the Miss Read "Fairacre" books and Jan Karon's "Mitford" books, I feel that The Cat Who series are slice of life books. There is a mystery to be solved, but there is also the day to day life of characters who are interesting and lead lives that I enjoy reading about. 

So, that's it for my series on my top three favorite authors. I hope that you might give these books a try if you are not familiar with them. Perhaps, like me, you will find some new "friends" to spend time with in these rich and engrossing stories! And until next time, as Cool Koko the bibliocat might do....enjoy some white grape juice and kabibbles!

Siamese cat 2

Sunday, October 18, 2015

This and That.....About My Favorite Authors Part 2!

Jan Karon

The Mitford Series

Happy Saturday everyone! It's very Fall-like and windy in my part of the world today. The perfect day to "cozy up" with a warm cup of tea, your feet up on the couch and all wrapped up in a throw. It's also the perfect day for me to continue my series on my top three favorite authors. I'm really excited to share this author with you because her books have really touched my life and have given me many, many happy moments of reading! 

As you can see from the photo above, I'm talking about Jan Karon, who is the author of the "Mitford Series" and the "Father Tim Series" of books as well as several other stand alone books. I will focus today on the Mitford Series which is where I first fell in love with Jan Karon's writing. I still remember reading an excerpt of her first book, "At Home in Mitford", in a magazine article years ago. I can remember thinking at the time that I would like to read more about Mitford and Father Tim. I was so happy to find that I could, when Jan Karon's first book was published! From that moment on, I was hooked on Mitford! (And luckily, Jan Karon has just released a new Mitford book, so fans can continue reading in the series!)

I know that many bloggers out there are already fans of the Mitford Series, because I read about it on your blogs! But, for those who may not be familiar with the series, I'll give a little detail. The story lines in Mitford all revolve around the central figure of Father Tim, who at the beginning of the series is an unmarried Episcopal priest in his sixties. He lives his faith in loving and practical ways, such as visiting with his parishioners Miss Sadie and her dear friend Louella, or cooking a meatloaf or ham to share at a church pot luck supper. He puts up with his annoying church secretary, Emma Newland, and joins in with his doctor, Hoppy Harper, who himself struggles with faith after the loss of his wife, in praying for patients. Everything Father Tim does is blanketed with prayer. We find as the series continues, that Father Tim has hurts and questions from his past that he must come to terms with and these hurts and questions make us realize that even men (and women) pastors of the faith are human just like the rest of us. 

There are so many characters in Mitford to love and to laugh with that I know I won't be able to do them justice in a blog post. Who couldn't love Dooley, the little boy abandoned by his mother, that Father Tim takes in to raise? His first meeting with Father Tim was punctuated by his telling the Father that he needed, "to take a dump!" And then there is Cynthia, the neighbor who moves into the house next door. We come to know Cynthia as an artist with a painful past who finds redemption in God's love and in the love of a certain priest. (Spoiler Alert!!) But, oh the story of how this love blossoms! Only Jan Karon can weave such a story! Or how about the characters of Percy and Velma,  owners of the The Mainstreet Grill. The books tell us that if you eat there, you'll be regular! And then there are Mule Skinner and J.C. Hogan, friends of Father Tim who meet with him regularly at The Mitford Grill to eat lunch. And we can't forget the Marmalade cake made by Esther Bolik. My mouth waters just thinking about these cakes that were given to people as gifts at Christmas time or just to give comfort when needed. Of course, one of these cakes was almost Father Tim's undoing....but, you have to read the books to figure that one out!

I could go on and on about the series and the characters that are found in these books. Suffice it to say, that these stories are rich in the joys of human warmth, some suffering and lots of day to day living. But, the stories are always presented in a way that brings hope and the sure knowledge that in the end all will be well, because God's love is surely present in all things. Faith is the capstone (in my opinion) of Jan Karon's books. 

I mentioned in my last blog post that the next author I would be sharing about also enjoyed Miss Read books. It's funny because the first time I read a Mitford book I felt like there was a similarity to Miss Read. I just experienced that same small village down home comfort in reading about Mitford that I had experienced while reading about Fairacre and Thrush Green. Imagine my delight when I saw this at the top of one of my Miss Read books!

Jan Karon had read Miss Read books and loved them just like me! This knowledge has only added to my delight in reading the Mitford Series. Knowing that my top two favorite authors have a connection is amazing!

Because of my great love for this series, my husband gifted me with several Mitford village pieces for one of our wedding anniversaries years ago. I enjoy these pieces so much. Since they are the winter series, I usually display them at Christmas.

Another friend and I also led a book discussion with a group of women from my church when the first Mitford book was published. The group loved the book so much that we decided to make a pilgrimage to Blowing Rock, NC which is where Jan Karon was living at the time. Blowing Rock was also believed to be the "Mitford" on which Jan Karon based her books. The ladies and I had such a great time touring Mitford....oops, I mean Blowing Rock together. We saw the church which looked surprisingly like Lord's Chapel and saw the sprawling white house which reminded me of Miss Sadie's house. How could we not try to find Jan Karon's cottage? I'm kind of ashamed to admit this, but we had been given a few "hints" from town folks about the location of her cottage. So, we drove in that direction. Her cottage had been featured in a recent magazine article of the time, so we had a general idea of what it looked like. And, yes, we did find the cottage. And ....although I am red faced with shame to admit this.... some of us might have gone up on the porch and rung her doorbell! We just LOVED her books so much and we were SO overcome with seeing the buildings come alive in Blowing Rock, we just wanted a quick hello. A very lovely and kind young woman answered the doorbell and after listening to us gush about how much we loved Jan Karon and her writing and just wanted to tell her that, the young woman thanked us and told us the author wasn't at home. So we quickly got in our cars and drove away. Like I said, I am ashamed to admit that we bothered the poor woman in her home. I know she eventually moved to a farm in Virginia where fans like us couldn't come up on her front porch! But, I share this to let you know the affect the Mitford Series can have on you! These books leave you wanting more....more friends like Father Tim, more warmth from the people you live and work with, and most of all, more faith in God. The faith that Father Tim conveys in all he does. Really....what more could an author ask for than fans that love her books so much?!

So, that's it for today's post. I'll finish up my series of favorite authors next time. This will be tough because I have LOTS of books and authors I love. Whom will I choose for this third post....hmmm....

How about you?  I would love to hear some comments about my author's post or my blog in general or your favorite authors....leave a comment and we'll talk! Until next time, hope your day is cozy and you have a great book to read!

Love from my Mitford to yours,

Sunday, October 11, 2015

This And That About....My Favorite Authors Part I

Books I Adore..And The Author Who Wrote Them

I promised in my last post that I would be writing a three part series about my three top favorite authors. Well, here we go with the first post in the series. I am so excited to share about this author with you because her books have been a huge part of my life for many years now. So, without further ado, I want to introduce you to Dora Jessie Saint AKA "Miss Read."

Dora Saint Dies at 98; Wrote of English Village Life - The New York Times:
(Image from NY Times)

I discovered my first "Miss Read" book about 32 years ago, soon after I married and moved from West Virginia to our present home state. The library I went to at that time was a tiny branch library located in a corner of a strip mall. There was barely room to turn around between book shelves but I found the space unique and cozy, and while browsing one day a colorful book cover caught my eye. It was a book that described the life of a school teacher living and working in a rural village in England. Being a teacher myself, I've always enjoyed reading any books that feature teachers and I also love anything about England. So you know this book was right up my alley! I checked it out and took it home and immediately fell in love with Miss Read and all of the quirky villagers of Fairacre! How could I not love the long suffering Miss Read (we never learn her first name) who put up with the antics of village children who attend the two room village school, the nosy and difficult school cleaner with a "combustible leg" Mrs. Pringle, the kindly Vicar and the handy man and general fixer of all things in the village, Mr. Willet. Miss Read also has a good friend, Amy, who regularly tries in vain to play matchmaker for Miss Read even though her own marriage to James has its rocky moments.

                                  (Image used in "Summer at Fairacre" by Miss Read. Illustrations done by J.S. Goodall)

Dora Saint, who chose the pseudonym of Miss Read because it was her mother's maiden name, actually wrote two separate series with a few other miscellaneous books in the mix as well. One series focused on Miss Read and life in the fictional village of Fairacre and the other series focused on life in the fictional village of Thrush Green. I have read and own books from both series, but I have to admit that the Fairacre series is my overall favorite. Dora Saint was a teacher herself in rural villages of England and was also married to a teacher. So, many of the story lines in her book are, I believe, actually based on her knowledge of what those villages and schools in rural England were actually like. Her books were published over a long period of years starting in 1955 and progressing to the mid 1990's. However, Miss Read and her students age very little in the books although the final two books in the Fairacre Series chronicle her decision to retire (Farewell to Fairacre) and her post retirement life (A Peaceful Retirement). 

The Thrush Green series has similar quirky characters that interact, gossip and share life together in Thrush Green. This series has two school teachers, Agnes Fogerty and Dorothy Watson, Charles and Dimity Henstock who are the vicar and his wife, and Dimity's best friend Ella Bembridge.  Then there are the humorous characters of Dotty Harmer and Albert Piggot. Dotty is known for making strange health concoctions which villagers warn each other to avoid or they may get a case of "Dotty's Collywobles." Albert Piggot is the lazy church sexton who would rather drink pints at the local pub than attend to his work duties. Both series have numerous other colorful characters that add humor, warmth and empathy to the books.

                           (Image used in "At Home in Thrush Green" by Miss Read. Illustrations by J.S. Goodall)

I have always been a fan of books that are part of a series. I enjoy being able to "visit" with familiar characters that reappear in book after book. There is a comfort to knowing the personality of characters and experiencing the familiar settings of places mentioned in books that are part of a series. The Fairacre and Thrush Green books fit these requirements perfectly and that is why they are my top pick to share with you.

I was saddened to learn that Dora Saint had passed away back in 2012. She was just shy of her 99th birthday when she died! You can read the New York Times article about her life here. I'm so grateful, though, that she wrote these series which I return to time and time again to experience life in these lovely villages where most problems can be solved over a soothing cup of tea.

Summer Tea Party
                                                    (Public Domain Image of Cup of Tea)

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my number one pick for favorite author as much as I have enjoyed writing about it. If you would like to try a Miss Read book you can find them at your local library or at the usual big name bookstores and online book sellers. In my next post, I will be featuring another favorite author who, by the way, also loves reading Miss Read! Until then, I hope you find joy in the small moments and as Miss Read's dear friend, Dolly Clare, would say..."Love to Fairacre."

                                             3d Heart
                                                                     (Public Domain Image of heart)

Friday, October 9, 2015

This and That....About A Tasty Friday Night Skillet Meal!

I know, I know....I had promised in my last post that I would be starting a series on my favorite authors in my next post. And, I promise that is coming soon. But, I got inspired with dinner tonight and decided to do a quick post on this delicious, filling and super simple skillet meal that I prepared for Mr.thisandthat and myself. Tender chicken and delicious veggies mixed with whole wheat couscous make for yummy Friday Night Fare!

I began by boiling 2/3 cups of water and adding 1/2 cup of whole wheat couscous. This whole process took about five minutes! I don't add salt to anything due to health reasons, so for flavoring I added onion powder, a few shakes of bottled "no salt" Italian seasoning and a dash of black pepper. I added these spices to the water before bringing it to a boil. That added flavor to the couscous once it was added to the boiling water. If you've never made couscous before, you will enjoy how quick the whole process is. The water boils quickly and you remove the pan from the heat after adding the couscous. Wait a few minutes and fluff. 

I began the skillet portion of the meal by chopping 1/2 of a sweet onion and browning it in the skillet in a small amount of olive oil. I then added about 12 halved grape tomatoes, 1 small can of chicken (drained and rinsed to remove sodium) and 1 small can of no sodium whole kernel corn. After all the veggies were softened, I added the couscous and voila...dinner was ready!

Of course, if you don't have issues with sodium you will probably want to add some salt and/or use regular canned corn and chicken. However, the spices, onion and tomato add great flavor to this dish without the salt in my opinion. 

So that's it for my simple but tasty Friday night skillet meal. It's pretty on the plate and filling and yummy for your tummy! I hope your weekend is off to a great start....and I promise favorite authors is coming soon!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

This and That....About Autumn Styling!

Foyer Update

It's nothing but rain, rain and more rain in my part of the world today. So, it's a perfect time to do some Autumn styling throughout the house. Join me as I share an update to the foyer table as well as some pretty Fall flower arranging. The rain may be dreary, but it's all about Autumn warmth at my house!

For those of you who have been following my posts, you know that I enjoy changing the foyer table with the various seasons. If you missed any of my previous posts about the foyer table you can catch up here and here.  In my last foyer styling, I went with a "School Theme." Now that we are into October, I feel like it's time to bring out the pumpkins!

I love the cute scarecrows with the hanging legs that dangle off the table. The smaller orange pumpkin is one of my favorites that I display each year. The white pumpkin is a new purchase. I like the white color in contrast to the usual orange. I also will be able to get more use out of the white pumpkin for upcoming Holidays, using it not only for Autumn but for Thanksgiving and even Christmas!

The Autumn wreath has moved from the wreath hanger to the front door. 

And a wooden wreath is now hanging on the wreath hanger. It echoes the sentiment, "Welcome Friends!" The foyer is now ready for Autumn! But, I'm not done with Autumn styling yet!

Fall Flower Arranging

I was happy to find a "Manager's Special" on Fall Bouquets the other day at my local grocery store. I happily purchased a bouquet to bring home and arrange.

The bouquet was so large, I actually was able to make two different arrangement from it.

I used a quart jar for one arrangement, and used a pretty glass creamer for the other arrangement. Quart jars for flowers are so popular right now and I enjoy using unique vases I have on hand. I thought my use of the creamer was unique!

I tied some burlap around the quart jar to add a finishing touch. Now, where to display these beauties? Although they would look lovely on our dining table, a certain cat named Annie would never leave them alone! So, I decided to put them in a safe place on our living room mantel.

I love the layered look of all the things I love on the mantel. Some may think it's too busy, but I think it looks perfect! The flowers add a pretty touch and hopefully little Miss Annie Cat can't get to them!

A cute Autumn throw pillow adds the final touch to a living room chair. I think my Autumn styling is complete! I hope you have enjoyed seeing some styling for Fall at my house. Join me next time, when I will begin a series on three of my favorite authors. Until then, enjoy the beauty of your surroundings!