Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Hey everyone! I hope you had a really safe, happy and fun Halloween today!

I made this Halloween banner tonight using a really fun, easy and FREE photo editing website called using a photo I took four Halloween's ago when we hosted a Halloween party for the high school volleyball team. That post is one of my most popular hits on my blog. I think because of the pumpkin carved like a volleyball. :)

Hurricane Sandy pretty much put a damper on Halloween this year in our area. Schools are closed for the rest of the week because of power losses everywhere and the dangerous conditions with fallen trees and power lines all over the place. Trick-or-treating has been rescheduled for Monday, November 5th. Kind of anti-climactic, but hopefully the kids will get into it.

In the meantime, since we're among the fortunate to still have power, we've opened our home to friends who need a warm place to visit, a hot meal, outlets to charge their cell phones, ice for their freezers, a washer and dryer and most of all the cheerful company of friends.

Hope you're having a spooktacular week! xo

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After the Hurricane

Hi everyone! Thank you to those of you who checked in with me to see that we were okay as Hurricane Sandy barreled through our area. It's so nice to know you were thinking of us!

Snuggling as we watched
Stephen King's CARRIE
during the storm!
Thankfully, we made it through the storm safe and sound. We amazingly never lost power, although the electricity flickered a lot last night. The winds were incredibly fierce--it was VERY scary!

We braided hair before our
hurricane sleepover in
the family room
We erred on the side of caution and all slept in the first floor family room together where we'd be safest in the house from falling trees, heaven forbid. I admit it was also kind of nice having a family bonding night, which doesn't happen often with two teenagers!

Please keep others who haven't fared as well as us in your thoughts. There's extensive damage to property due to downed trees and power lines and the damage from the tidal storm surges along the NJ coastline and the NYC Metro area is just devastating. So many people have a long road to recovery ahead of them.
We had a candlelight dinner tonight
even though we are fortunate to have power.

Hope you and your loved ones are safe as well. xo

Monday, October 29, 2012

In Death Series Reading Challenge: October 2012

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE and join the fun!

Did you read any In Death series books this month?

It's been several months since I read an In Death book so I'm particularly happy that I finally managed one this month. I had a couple of false starts with Salvation in Death, having started it in August, but once I read passed the first 50 pages, I became more invested in the story and I was able to stick with it. I'm so glad I did--I feel a renewed interest in the series again! Let's see if I can catch up to Nora over the next couple of months. I think I might be gaining on her!

CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS: Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. If you made a post on your blog, whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and leave it in the comment section below so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily. You can also just use the link to your goodreads or other virtual bookshelf as well.


Salvation In Death by J.D. Robb
Book #27

I thought this story had a slow start, but maybe that's just me. There's not a lot of action in this one, but there's definitely a lot of details to work out in order to get to the bottom of this crime. Eve is called to St. Cristobal's Catholic Church in Spanish Harlem when the well-loved Father Miguel Flores collapses and dies in the middle of conducting a funeral mass for one of the community's most prominent families and business owners. It's quickly deduced that Father Flores was poisoned, but why would a priest be the target of murder? The victim has very few possessions, but upon searching his room, a religious medal is found hidden in his room with an unusual inscription on the back and to complicate things more, the autopsy reveals that Father Flores had a gang tattoo removed from his arm a few years ago. Eve and Peabody try learn more about this priest and his past in hopes that it would help them identify his killer, but all it does is complicate things even more.

The murder of Father Flores ends up being a really interesting case with many layers of people and secret pasts. I enjoyed watching Eve and her team unravel the mysteries in this one, more so than I expected given I thought the first 50-100 pages were pretty slow. It's always fun watching Eve stumble through situations in which she's not comfortable, and in this case it was her knowledge of and comfort level with religion and religious figures. Likewise with Roarke! There was a second murder investigation mixed in with that of Father Flores that I wasn't very interesting and frankly didn't add anything to the story, but perhaps Robb needed to bump up her page count. Overall, another great installment to this series.

I give Salvation in Death 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads.


"Ritual in Death" by J.D. Robb
Book #27.5

This novella can be found in the Suite 606 anthology. The last short story I read was a disappointment for me, but I really enjoyed this one. Readers who skip this story don't miss anything vital to the series arc or the character development, but it was a fun one, nonetheless.

Eve and Roarke are at a formal party in a hotel ballroom when a naked, bloody and delirious man stumbles into the party with a knife in his hand. Eve disarms him and once the situation is secure, she follows the bloody trail back to Suite 606 where a woman is found murdered in what looks like a Satanic ritual sacrifice. Unfortunately the only suspect is one who is severely overdosed on a deadly mix of drugs and he can't even remember his own name. There's evidence at the scene of the crime that indicates additional suspects, but Eve and her team have to be very clever, persistent and perhaps rely on psychological instincts, so to speak, to pinpoint the killer or killers.

This police procedural rolled at a quick pace and unfolded pretty logically. I liked the way Eve had to rely a little on the undeniable psychological power she felt pouring off one particular suspect. It's good to see her put a little faith into things that can't be seen or touched.

I give Ritual in Death 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads.


One of the things I admire most about Eve is that she steadfastly stands up for the dead even when the victim is a far cry from being a model citizen or even has a crime sheet of their own. She acknowledges her role in solving the crimes and bringing in the perpetrators so that the system metes out justice. This isn't always easy on her conscience, but she's nothing if not consistent in her role as homicide detective. Part of her role as homicide detective is questioning suspects and sometimes Eve resorts to some pretty bad ass tactics to "break" her suspects into confessing. It's pretty entertaining to the reader when Eve gets her prime suspect into interrogation, but sometimes she can be excessively harsh.

What do you think of Eve's interrogation tactics? Do you ever think she goes overboard and is perhaps out of line?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Homemade Pear Butter The Lazy Girl's Way

Most of my happiest times in the kitchen are when I'm making something completely from scratch. I love experiencing the farm to table connection--knowing where my food comes from and taking a few simple, whole food ingredients and transforming them into a dish that is as impressive as it is simple with my own hands right in my own kitchen. It's incredibly satisfying to me.

One farm to table connection that I enjoy tremendously is belonging to an organic co-op from which I receive a box of organic produce every other week. I recently accumulated quite a generous supply of pears since we've been getting either Barlett or Bosc pears in every box lately and no one in my family has been eating them. I don't know why that is--we like pears! Not our favorite, but we still like them. Anyway, faced with about a dozen overripe and slightly bruised pears in my refrigerator bin, I decided to make some pear butter with them. I found the perfect recipe at a wonderful new-to-me cooking, gardening and farming blog called Farmgirl Fare. I love this site and will be sure to visit it often. I encourage you to check it out, too--especially if you like growing and eating your own fruits and vegetables.

If you ever find yourself interested in making pear butter, I cannot recommend enough that you try Farmgirl Fare's method that she outlines in detail in her post Recipe: How To Make Really Easy Low Sugar Pear Butter in the Oven (with step-by-step photos). This is the best pear butter recipe EVER. It's so incredibly easy and wow does it taste amazing, too! The only caveat is that you have to have a food mill for this method. I don't have one, but borrowed my friend's. I think I'm going to ask Santa for one for myself.
Jars of Homemade Spiced Pear Butter
Here's my version of Farmgirl Fare's recipe and photos from my day spent making pear butter yesterday:

Pear Butter 
5 lbs. really ripe organic pears (I had Bartlett and Bosc) 
1/2 cup sugar 
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
2 cinnamon sticks (or 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon) 
1 teaspoon whole cloves (or 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves).

Cut the pears into chunks. Don't even peel or core the pears. Perfect for lazy girls and boys.

Run pears through the food mill over a big bowl. Okay so you can't be lazy here. It's a bit of an arm workout, but honestly not so bad.

All that remains after running 5 lbs. of pears
through the food mill. 

5 lbs ripe pears yields approximately
8 cups of pear purée
Run pear purée through the food mill again for a smoother purée, if desired. I did this right over the baking dish in which I'm going to bake the pears.
Running the pear purée through the food mill again
to ensure a smooth pear butter.
Add sugar and lemon juice to pear purée and stir well.

Pour the pear mixture into a 13x9 glass or ceramic baking dish. Add cinnamon and cloves to the pear mixture.
Cinnamon sticks and whole cloves
added to pear mixture... ready for the oven.
Bake in a 300 F oven for 3-6 hours or until the pear mixture thickens to the consistency you like, stirring once in a while. You can be lazy that whole time if you want to!

The longer you bake the pear butter, the thicker and richer the flavor. I like mine thick like softened butter. The flavor is more intense and it spreads on bread just like butter, but so much healthier for you!
Finished pear butter.
Remove pear butter from oven and you're done!

You have a few different options for storing your pear butter:
1. Transfer the pear butter into clean glass jars with lids and store in your refrigerator for several weeks.

2. Transfer some of the pear butter into a clean glass jar to store in your refrigerator for several weeks and freeze the rest! I like to freeze foods in glass jars, but I know a lot of people are not comfortable freezing glass jars because of the potential for breakage if the jar falls out of the freezer. In that case, you can also use plastic containers or those plastic zip-top bags.

3. Spoon your pear butter into 4 oz. or half pint canning jars, leaving 1/4" head space at the top and processing in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Be sure to run a knife through the pear butter when you've spooned it into the jars to get rid of any air pockets before you process them in the water bath. This is the method I chose to do so that I could gift some pear butter to friends for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

And that's it! Sounds pretty easy, right? I hope you give it a try the next time you have some overripe pears on hand. Or maybe you'll let some pears get overripe just to make this delicious, low sugar pear butter. If you do, dont' forget to read through Farmgirl Fare's entire post on How To Make Really Easy Low Sugar Pear Butter in the Oven (with step-by-step photos).

Some serving suggestions for pear butter:
+spoon onto your morning oatmeal
+spread on bread or toast
+stir into plain yogurt
+spread on a cheese, ham or turkey sandwich
+spread on a cracker topped with a bit of brie or other favorite cheese
+any other suggestions? 

Do you like fruit butter? What's your favorite kind?

Do you ever can fruit or vegetables at home?

Other posts I've written on canning and home preserving:
Home Canning Tomatoes
Grape Plum Jam (refrigerator jam)
Putting By
{Super Easy} Golden Raspberry Jam 
Jam Session  (Soft Strawberry Jam)

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Library Loot LVIII

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! 

I am way overdue for a library loot post--some of these books I borrowed a couple of weeks ago already. Also, I don't know why I'm adding more books to my reading stack! I'm about to start reading Toltsoy's Anna Karenina on a schedule! I must be crazy. Please join me! I'm co-hosting an Anna Karenina Read-Along with Fay from Blog A Book, Etc.. Check it out here.

As for my library loot:


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Home Improvement: Undead Addition anthology, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner.

I borrowed all of the above with the R.I.P. VII reading event in mind. I've already read The Graveyard Book for the Read-Along and wrote a review. I plan to read A Monster Calls over the weekend. It, too, is a middle grade book so hopefully I can finish it in a day or two. Not that I'm rushing, but I do want to complete the R.I.P. challenges I signed up for. Which is where the Home Improvement anthology fits in with the Short Story requirement. Even if I read just a few stories, just in time for Halloween, I'll be happy.

Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas
This is a re-loot because I ended up having to return it unread when I had it out a few weeks ago. I just ran out of time and there was a wait list so no renewals. I'm looking forward to it. After reading lots of dark, spooky stories this month, this one should lighten and brighten things up for me. I'll save it for after Halloween.

Of course I had to browse the new release cookbook shelves while I was there. I recall seeing a great Soup cookbook the last time I was at the library.. published by Williams-Sonoma, I think. Alas it must be out with another patron, because I couldn't find it. Instead, I brought home these two lovely cookbooks:

The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila.

The Homemade Pantry is another re-loot. I loved reading this last spring when it first came out, so when I spied it on the shelf, I figured I'd borrow it again. Sometimes going through a cookbook in a new season provides a new perspective on the recipes.

The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland.

And then there is The Newlywed Cookbook. While I am long past the time of being considered a newlywed--19 years and counting, baby!--this cookbook is still a treasure trove of wonderful recipes for the seasoned spouse. I mean, cook. So far, I've just thumbed through it, but from what I've seen, I think I'm really going to love this one. Gorgeous photos and lots of recipes I'll want to try. I believe the aim of the book is to get husband and wife cooking in the kitchen together. Maybe I can get my husband to cook with me. But honestly? Even at this stage of the game, I'd rather be cooking things up with him in the bedroom! Wait, did I just say that out loud?

There's my latest library loot, folks.

What are YOU reading from your library [or bookshelves] right now?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Where In The World Are You Reading? Café Style

Where in the World Are You Reading? is a monthly themed meme that started over the summer by Trish [Love Laugh Insanity], Lisa [Books Lists Life] and Kelly [The Written World].  This is a book meme that encourages readers to share the places they're reading or getting their books around the world. Visit the blogs above for more details and follow the #wwread hash tag on twitter for more buzz!

This month's theme for the Where In the World Are You Reading? monthly blog meme is Cafés & Coffee Shops. My favorite kind of place right after libraries and bookstores! Especially if they're serving desserts. With ice cream. Yep, that's heaven to me right there.

Truthfully, I don't often read in cafés or coffee shops because I rarely go to those places alone where I can sit and stick my nose in a book for a while. I have a favorite local coffeehouse that I frequent, but again, not alone. I'm usually with friends taking an hour or two to step away from the blissful craziness of home and responsibilities to sit over a cup of coffee and a slice of cake for some much needed girl talk. In fact, I just met with some friends one evening earlier this month for that very thing!

I was hoping I'd see someone in the coffee shop reading so I could get a photo for this meme, and sure enough I saw not one, but two people in the coffee shop reading! One was reading on a kindle and the other was reading on her laptop. The latter may or may not have been reading a book, but she must have been reading something, right?

Reading in my local coffeehouse.
I should have snapped a photo of the counter with all the desserts in the glass case. To die for!

Do you ever sit and read in a café or coffee shop?

To see where in the world others are reading in cafes and coffee shops, visit this month's links at Trish's blog, Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity. Go check it out!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Anna Karenina Read-Along

Are you intimidated by reading the "classics"?  I am. Most classics are really long books, so I worry about ever finishing them. I worry that they're difficult to read and understand. What if I don't 'get' them? What if I think they're boring?

I recently watched the movie trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Anna Karenina by Leo Toltoy [Thanks for the heads up, Brie!] and knew straight away that I wanted to see this film when it hits theaters in November. I was instantly swept away by the scenery, costumes and of course, the romantic drama. I had no idea! I admit I don't know very much about the time and place in which this story takes place, but I'm willing to learn!

Like any good bibliophile, however, I know I ought to read the book before seeing the film adaptation. I tweeted that I was considering reading Anna Karenina before the movie comes out and chatted with a few people about it. One of these people was Fay who blogs at Blog A Book Etc... Fay was having the same thoughts about Anna Karenina, so right away we thought of reading it together. We figure we can't be the only two readers interested in reading Anna Karenina but hesitant to dive in for one reason or another, so voilá! We're co-hosting an Anna Karenina Read-Along! Talk about commitment, right? [Fay is wonderfully enthusiastic.. ]

We would love it if you would join us as we read and chat about Anna Karenina between now and Dec. 22, 2012. The movie adaptation releases in theaters throughout the US on November 9, 2012. Not quite enough time to finish a read-along of the book before then, but let's get started and see how it goes.

Our suggested reading schedule below is based on the eight sections of the book, about 100 pages each. Of course, you are free to read at your own pace and join in on the discussion when you can, but if you do read ahead, we ask that you refrain from discussing anything in the book beyond what the schedule dictates in each weekly discussion post. It wouldn't be cool to spoil the reading experience for everyone else.

Part I     Oct 28-Nov 3
Part II    Nov 4-Nov 10
Part III   Nov 11 - Nov 17
Part IV   Nov 18 - Nov 24
Part V    Nov 25 - Dec 1
Part VI   Dec 2 - Dec 8
Part VII  Dec 8 - Dec 15
Part VIII Dec 16 - Dec 22

If you have a blog, it would be great if you could make an announcement post on your blog to help spread the word. Otherwise, feel free to join in by leaving a comment below and include any links to where we can find you--goodreads, twitter, etc.

Feel free to grab one of the Read-Along buttons Faye and I have created [we used] to post on your blog. We're still working out how we're going to host the weekly discussion posts, but we'll likely alternate weeks on our respective blogs.

AND.. .for those of you on goodreads, we have an Anna-Karenina Read-Along Group there, open to anyone. Did I mention Fay is enthusiastic? ;)

We hope you'll join us!

Follow along with us on twitter using the hashtag #AnnaKareninaRA

Have you read Anna Karenina?

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The code doesn't work for the buttons below. I'm working on fixing them. Please come back to grab them. Thanks!
The book cover button:

The movie tie-in button:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

REVIEW: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I offer this review of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book for any readers of my blog who have been avoiding my read-along discussion posts in order to avoid spoilers.

The Graveyard Book is a middle grade book about a little boy whose family was brutally murdered in their home by a man named Jack. This little boy narrowly escaped the same fate as he toddled out of his house that night and into the graveyard that would become his sanctuary. The dead in the graveyard hide and protect the little boy from the murderer and decide to raise him within the safety of the graveyard. The ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Owens adopt the little boy and name him Nobody Owens, Bod for short. A mysterious man named Silas, who is neither living nor dead, becomes Bod's guardian, for he can leave the graveyard for the food, books and other necessities for Bod. Each chapter of book is a short tale of its own, showing important experiences in Bod's life. He gets into all sorts of trouble and manages to dig himself out by his own wits or with the help of his friends from the graveyard.

Despite The Graveyard Book's rather grim beginning involving the gruesome murders of an innocent family, the story is actually a very lovely, albeit bittersweet, coming of age story of young Nobody Owens. Bod has spent his young life treading the line between the worlds of the living and the dead--a life very different from that of a typical human boy, yet still, Bod has grown up to be a thoughtful, brave and generous soul.

The Graveyard Book is a bit dark, but loaded with wonderful little life lessons guaranteed to captivate children and adult audiences alike. Every chapter is a different adventure for Bod, and it's rewarding to see each new experience shape him into a brave, resourceful and kind young man. I would have liked to know more about why Bod and his family were targeted by the man named Jack. I think that was an important question in this book that, to my disappointment, was never fully addressed. Despite this little hole of knowledge, however, The Graveyard Book is still a wonderful, unique tale that shouldn't be missed.

There are some wonderful passages in the last few pages of The Graveyard Book. These are quotes I so desperately want to post here, but they are best discovered on your own. So take my advice and read this book yourself!

I gave The Graveyard Book 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads.


The Graveyard Book Read-Along: PART III

This is the final discussion post of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book [2008] Read-Along hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings as part of the fall R.I.P. VII reading event.

The Graveyard Book is a middle grade book about a young boy named Nobody 'Bod' Owens who is being raised by the ghosts who live in a graveyard after his parents and sister were brutally murdered in their home. The loving Mr. and Mrs. Owens are Bod's adoptive ghost parents and Silas, who is neither living nor dead, is Bod's guardian. Each chapter of book is a short tale of its own, showing important experiences in Bod's life that shape him into the young man he is becoming.

CAUTION: This is a read-along discussion, so expect some spoilers in the post and comments. Please read at your own risk!

Chapter Seven: Every Man Jack 
As suggested by the title of this chapter, this is the part of the story when Nobody Owens and the man named Jack finally come face to face after all these years since Jack murdered Bod's first family.

Bod's guardian Silas has been away for several weeks, much longer than he's ever been gone before which has everyone in the graveyard both concerned and annoyed. Bod is asking questions about the man who killed his family and it's clear he is angry and resentful towards this man who not only murdered his family but whose very existence has essentially imprisoned Bod to a life in the graveyard. As content that Bod is to live among his family of ghosts in the graveyard, he's getting restless being confined to the graveyard and longs to go out among the living.

The young girl named Scarlett whom Jack befriended years ago in the graveyard has moved back to the area. One day she takes the wrong bus home and finds herself at the gates of Bod's graveyard. Now young teens, Scarlett and Jack rekindle their friendship and are soon embroiled in a deceptive and nefarious plot involving the man named Jack. Fueled by his bitter anger at the men named Jack and through his fierce determination, bravery and resourcefulness, Bod overcomes his enemies once and for all. This battle against the Jacks has not come without a price, however, and the ending is a little bittersweet.

Chapter Eight: Leavings and Partings
In this final chapter, Bod prepares to leave the graveyard to live in the world of living. There are little telling signs indicating that Bod has outgrown his life in the graveyard, such as not being able to see as well in the dark anymore. Clearly the time has come for Nobody Owens to move on. He reminisces with his spirit friends about his life in the graveyard and has also learns more information regarding the Honour Guard and the group of men known as the Jacks of all Trades from Silas. Silas doesn't reveal too much, but it is enough for Bod for he knows he is safe in the world and that he may just see Silas again in the future. Bod says his final goodbyes and leaves the graveyard and starts his new life.

Despite The Graveyard Book's rather grim beginning involving the gruesome murders of an innocent family, the story is in actuality a lovely, albeit bittersweet, coming of age story of the smart and kind, young Nobody Owens. Bod has spent his young life treading the line between the worlds of the living and the dead. A life very different from that of a typical human boy, yet Bod has grown up to be a thoughtful, brave and generous soul who will most definitely live a good life among the living.

Thanks to Carl for hosting yet another great read-along! I can't wait to do another one.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

COOKBOOK REVIEW: Autumn by Susan Branch

Published 2004 by Little, Brown and Company
No longer available in print.

I apologize for writing such a rave review for a cookbook that's no longer in print. I honestly had no idea it was out of print until I wrote this post up and went in search of some links to book sellers. You can buy the cookbook through used book sellers on amazon and I'm sure at other sites as well, but it's very expensive. Of course, you can always try looking for it at your local library. :)

I have had this lovely cookbook on my shelves for so many years now and while I often pull it off the shelf to read it, I have never actually prepared any of the recipes. Until now. Inspired by the Cookbook Challenge hosted by Cynni who blogs at She Likes Bento, I pledged to cook 5 or more recipes from cookbooks I own but rarely, if ever, use and Autumn by Susan Branch was one of them.

First things first, this cookbook--like all of Susan Branch's work--is a piece of art in itself. The cookbook is 100% hand drawn. Every single word and image--it's beautiful. Inside, you will find not only mouthwatering recipes that showcase the foods of autumn, but gorgeous drawings of food, nature, and home that will ignite your love for this beautiful season. Scattered throughout nearly every page are also fun, thought provoking and heart warming quotes. The author even includes entertaining, gardening, home decorating, craft and gift ideas. There's creative inspiration on every page!

Once I decided to cook from this cookbook, I bookmarked some recipes I wanted to try and let me tell you there were a lot! I decided my first recipe should be a simple one for which I already had the ingredients on hand. I chose Butternut Shotglass Soup. I realize butternut squash soup recipes are a dime a dozen, and this one is a pretty basic one at that. But it is oh so good. It's made with a butternut squash, an onion, a couple of carrots and potatoes that are simmered in some chicken or vegetable broth. The vegetables are then spiced with curry powder, a dash of ginger and nutmeg and seasoned with salt & pepper before being pureed to a velvety texture. The flavor is wonderful and the presentation is extra-special. Imagine serving shot glasses of this warm, comforting soup to your family and friends at the table, around a cozy fire or in front of the tv on a chilly evening. Really cute.
Butternut Shotglass Soup
from Autumn by Susan Branch
I'm so happy that I finally cooked something from this cookbook that I've treasured reading for so many years. Other recipes from this cookbook that are on my list to try are Red Pear, Black Grape, Spiced Pecan Salad, Pear Salsa, Tomato Soup, Iowa Corn Bread, Chicken in Cream Sauce over Happy Rice, Orange Spiced Harvest Stew, Pear Tatin, Indian Pudding and Pumpkin Latte. In fact, I'm going to go make that Pumpkin Latte right now!

For a peak at the inside of this cookbook, visit the cookbook's amazon page HERE.

I give Autumn by Susan Branch 5 out of 5 stars. 


Do you have any cookbooks on your shelf from which you've never cooked? 

What's your favorite soup? 

Friday, October 19, 2012

My September Adventures

I haven't been very good with posting my monthly adventures in a timely fashion and I've lost a little interest in doing this kind of monthly recap, so I'm probably not going to continue with this feature in the new year. I might go back to just doing a monthly recap of the books I read each month. I haven't decided. What do you think?

So September is already a bit of a blur to me. Really there are two main events of September. One is that the girls started school shortly after Labor Day--Anna is in 8th grade and Maria is a senior in high school. The second is that I rode in the NJ 2012 Gran Fondo [Woohoo! GO, ME!] on Sept. 9. This was my first organized bike event and won't be my last. I had so much fun--taking in the beautiful New Jersey scenery, riding with so many friendly, enthusiastic riders and most of all accomplishing something for which I've trained so hard. What a great feeling. 

The girls had quite a few days off from school in September for Jewish holidays and teacher in-service days, so we took advantage of a freebie Monday off from school and went to the beach on a Sunday which is normally a big homework day, especially for my high school senior. We had a picnic lunch on the beach, read a book and just relaxed. It was nice to have some girl time like that. 

Last beach day of the season.
September 16, 2012
NYC Skyline from Sandy Hook Beach, NJ
September 16, 2012
See the tallest building toward the left of the skyline in the photo above? That's One World Trade Center. 
Surfer dudes at Sandy Hook Beach, NJ
September 16, 2012
What? You didn't know you could surf in the Atlantic ocean? In New Jersey? We're full of surprises. ;)

In books: 
September was a decent reading month for me. I read eight books! I've read 78 books so far in 2012, which includes the handful of books that I've re-read. I'm a few books behind schedule to meet my goal of reading 101 books this year, but I'm confident I'll catch up in the coming weeks when it gets too cold and dark to play [a.k.a. bike and garden] outside.

Total books read: 8
Romance................. 5
    [4 paranormal, 1 contemporary]
Urban Fantasy......... 1
Fantasy...................  1
Graphic Novel......... 1

She caught a spider!
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
1. Dark Desires After Dark by Kresley Cole
2. Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole
3. Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox
4. Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole & Gena Showalter
5. The Rift Walker by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith
6. Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole
7. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
8. Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep 

My favorite reads of this month are probably Kresley Cole's short story "Untouchable" in Deep Kiss of Winter and Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole. Yeah, I'm digging that series that much. I guess you can say I'm on a paranormal kick! October has a new flavor, though, thanks largely to the fact that I joined R.I.P. VII this year. A lot more spooky and mysterious reads! 

I'm hanging in there with the Project 365 I started on Instagram on Jan. 1--haven't missed a day in a long time now! Of course, I probably just jinxed myself saying that. The photos in this post are from my September instagram pics. 

In the garden:
Cleome or "spider flower"
in my garden
September brought in a lot of cherry tomatoes from my garden. I had one yellow and one red cherry tomato plant in my garden and both produced delicious little fruits. The yellow was particularly prolific and I was picking a handful of cherry tomatoes every day up until just recently. By the end of the month I picked the first ripe slicing tomato and only one or two followed. There are still several green tomatoes on the vines, but I don't think the days are warm or long enough for them to ripen so I'll probably pick them soon. 

I'm happy I finally got that patch of garden going this year, but I vow not to wait until the 4th of July to put plants in the ground. There just wasn't enough time for the plants to really do their thing in the warmer months and grow lots of tomatoes in the peak of summer. And plant more basil! Nothing beats bunches and bunches of fresh basil growing right outside your door. I swear I'd put it in everything I ate in the summer if I had enough of it! 

Those are my September adventures in a nutshell. Thanks for reading and I hope you're having an outstanding October! 

What kind of adventures did YOU have in September?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Red Lights [2012]

I'm not a fan of horror movies anymore, yet decided to participate in the Peril on the Screen component of the R.I.P. VII event hosted by Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings. After scrolling through countless horror and thriller movies on Netflix recently, my husband and I agreed on Red Lights, a 2012 psychological thriller directed by Rodrigo Cortéz starring Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy and Robert De Niro. Neither of us were familiar with this film prior to spotting it on Netflix, but we figured it had to be decent in light of the casting, right? Eh. Not so much.

Dr. Margaret Matheson [Sigourney Weaver] is a research psychologist who along with her assistant physicist Tom Buckley [Cillian Murphy], work to debunk fraudulent psychic phenomena, revealing the science behind the tricks that frauds use to deceive the public. Thirty years ago, world renowned psychic Simon Silver [Robert De Niro] went into reclusive "retirement" after his biggest critic died at one of his shows. Now Silver has come out of retirement and is once again luring crowds of believers to his shows, tons of media attention as well as the attention of psychic researchers. Matheson, who is normally aggressive in her quest to discredit the biggest fakes including Silver, wants nothing to do with Silver and is determined to stay away from him. Her assistant Tom Buckley feels otherwise and is determined to reveal Silver as a fraud, which quickly becomes a dangerous and deadly task.

There were moments of tension, suspense and unexplained phenomenon in this film, but I kept expecting a build up of something big and mysterious that just never quite got there. The ending was seriously anticlimactic. Not only was the resolution of the conflict very flimsy, but the denouement wasn't even exciting. No special effects or dramatic music to even help it along some. A single episode of the X-Files is more engaging than this film.

I give Red Lights 2 out of 5 stars.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

REVIEW: Demon From the Dark by Kresley Cole

TBR Challenge Review
Published August 2010

The theme of this month's TBR Challenge, hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian, is romantic suspense or paranormal romance. I've had this book on my TBR pile since it was released in 2010--I believe I won it in a book giveaway from a book blogger who is sadly no longer blogging. I've been catching up on this series in the last couple of months and really loving every book. They're SO fun!

Demon From the Dark is the 10th book in the paranormal romance Immortals After Dark series--a series in which immortal beings long thought to be mythical secretly exist alongside humans in modern time. There are numerous factions of immortal beings who collectively call themselves the Lore, including vampires, demons, valkyries, witches, furies, shifters, fey and many more. Every five hundred years, all of these factions of the Lore fight for dominance of their world in a series of events called the Accession, which is culminating during this series.

What a thrilling and nerve-wracking adventure! Demon From the Dark is the story of the witch Carrow Graie and Malkom Slaine, a demon who was transformed against his will by an evil vampire centuries ago and has since been out casted and tormented by his very existence. Carrow is a witch with strengths in three houses--enchantress, spell bounder and warrior who draws her power from the joy and happiness of others. Because of this, she has a party girl reputation but the truth is that she's pretty sad and unhappy on the inside. Malkom is extremely tormented from always being betrayed by the few people he has loved in his life and judged as an abomination by all because of his demon-vampire duality. Yet he has fiercely protective, loyal and caring tendencies.

Carrow is forced to go to the hell-like demon realm called Oblivion to find and capture Malkom in order to save both her own life and that of Ruby, the newly orphaned child-witch in her coven whom she loves like her own child. As soon as Carrow comes to Oblivion, Malkom recognizes her as his fated mate and will stop at nothing to protect her. Carrow accepts his protection as a means to lure him to a portal to their captors, but in the week that she is stuck with him, they of course come to love each other. But with all romances between immortals of the Lore, there are serious complications and obstacles that seem impossible to conquer. The fierce determination that these beings have to be with their mate is thankfully even more invincible.

I've been sweeping through this series over the last couple of months after doing a re-read of the first several books and every book that I read is just as good as the last--they're SO much fun! The stories are action packed, chock full of humor and often a little heartbreaking at the same time. The romances are seriously sexy and oh so sweet, too. Carrow and Malkom's story is no exception. She is desperate to save Ruby and will do whatever she must to keep the girl safe. I found her maternal instinct very heartwarming and Ruby's character utterly adorable. She adds such a great familial layer to this story that only children can do, which we haven't seen yet in this series. I really liked that. Malkom is such a tortured soul and works so hard at overcoming his past, which is nearly impossible given his circumstances. His efforts to do that while being so protective of and honorable to Carrow in the face of all the adversity thrown his way really mark him as noble and heroic. A lot of characters from past stories pop up in this book as the events Accession start to escalate, and some new characters are introduced as well. Demon From the Dark is a fantastic installment to this series and I cannot wait to read more as the series builds towards the denouement of the Accession business!

I give Demon From the Dark 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Visit author Kresley Cole at her website

You can read my reviews of earlier books in this series on my goodreads page at

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Graveyard Book Read-Along: PART II

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 
Chapters 4-6

This is the second discussion post and link up for the Read-Along of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book [2008] as part of the RIP VII reading event hosted by Carl at his blog Stainless Steel Droppings.

The Graveyard Book is a book about a young boy named Nobody 'Bod' Owens whose family was brutally murdered in their home, a fate that Nobody himself escaped as he toddled out of his house that night and into the Graveyard that would become his sanctuary. Nobody is being raised by the spirits of the dead who live in the cemetery--Mr. and Mrs. Owens are his adoptive parents and the many others are his friends, protectors and teachers. A mysterious being named Silas who is neither dead nor alive also lives in the Graveyard and is Bod's guardian. Being of firm body, Silas is able to go out into the world to retrieve food, clothing, books and other necessities for Bod. Each chapter tells a new tale from Bod's young life.

CAUTION: This is a read-along discussion, so expect some spoilers in the post and comments! Read at your own risk!

Chapter Four: The Witch's Headstone 
In this chapter, Bod learns about the graves just beyond the graveyard proper in Potter's Field where the suicides and witches are buried on unconsecrated grounds. Of course, Bod is driven to this area of the graveyard out of curiosity and meets the spirit of a young witch, Elizabeth 'Liza' Hempstock. She's rather sad that she has no headstone for her grave and even though he barely knows her, Bod sets out to try to get her one. He sneaks into town to sell a graveyard treasure in a pawn shop so he can have money to buy Liza a headstone, but he gets into some serious trouble with some men who know the man named Jack who murdered his first family.

This reading reveals a lot about Bod's character. He has grown to be compassionate boy who cares about people's feelings and feels strongly about doing what's right. Even though he's been warned about those who reside in Potter's Field, Bod looks at Eliza as a young girl who died and was buried there and deserves to be remembered and cared for, even if it is in death. I also admire Bod's determination and resourcefulness to get some money to buy Liza a headstone, but his limited knowledge of the real world outside the Graveyard is worrisome. I realize the Owneses and Silas saved Bod's life and have done right by him keeping him safe, provided for and educated to a degree as well. On the other hand, how long can they keep Bod from the real world? Is that the right thing to do? How and when are they expecting to let him go into the world of the living? It's really a tricky situation and I'm curious to know what Bod's future will entail.

Chapter Five: Danse Macabre 
This chapter opens with a tone of anticipation and excitement shrouded in mystery as the spirits in the Graveyard are busy going about their daily business singing about the dance of the Macabray, but no one is willing to tell Bod what's going on. One evening, Bod is lured into town by strange, enthralling music where the living have congregated, swaying and dancing to the music. At midnight, the spirits from the Graveyard come into town where the living and the dead dance together. Everyone is dancing except for Silas who is watching from the shadows. The next day the living have forgotten everything but the dead remember. They just refuse to talk about it.

It is in this chapter, I think, that Bod really starts to realize that he's very different from his friends and family in the Graveyard and that perhaps he belongs in the world of the living. He's naturally drawn to the world of living, but he also appreciates and recognizes the Graveyard as his home. I think he's torn about where he belongs. It would be nice if he could have the best of both worlds, but I have the feeling that's not going to be an option.

Interestingly, Bod also empathizes with Silas being in a similar position of belonging neither here nor there. When Bod realizes this, he wanted to hug Silas to comfort him and let him know he'd always be there for him. Yet he refrains.

"He could no more hug Silas than he could hold a moonbeam, not because his guardian was insubstantial, but because it would be wrong. There were people you could hug, and then there was Silas."


Interlude: The Convocation
This is a very short section of the book in which we get a glimpse of some men at a private function--most likely priests, where a conversation between two men in particular takes place. A very disturbing conversation because one of the men is the man named Jack and we become very aware that he was supposed to kill Bod years ago and that he still must finish the job. The story behind the murder of Bod's family has just gotten more complicated than I had suspected. Is Bod really going to be able to find safety from these evil men anywhere?

Chapter Six: Nobody Owens' School Days 
Bod's parents and guardian are finally acknowledging that Bod wants and needs to go to school to not only be among his kind but also to learn the so many things that the spirits in the Graveyard are simply not capable of teaching. Bod goes to school where he is easily blends into the background so to speak. His teachers know him when he is in front of them, but can't seem to remember him any other time. The other students mostly ignore him. Until Bod does something to attract attention--he stands up to some bullies. He uses his Fading skills and his ability to instill Fear, but the bullies are set on revenge and set him up for some serious trouble with the police that may not dissipate this time.

This section was interesting for sure. Bod is really starting to assert himself--wanting to go to school, standing up to bullies, protecting the victims of the bullying and most heart-wrenching, revealing to Silas how important he really is to Bod. Silas is not just a guardian to Bod. He's a father figure and one whom Bod has grown to love. And if you ask me, the feeling is mutual. Bod and Silas are growing and learning through their relationship and it's quite touching. I'm starting to think that together they will find a way for Bod to live a full, safe and happy life.

I'm looking forward to finishing The Graveyard Book this week. I'm dying to know what the story is behind the man named Jack and his job to kill Bod. I also hope to find some answers about Silas and his role in the Graveyard. We learned Silas is a member of the Honour Guard--what is that? Of course of most importance, I want a happy ending to this book for Bod. Well, perhaps more like a new beginning.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Graveyard Book Read-Along Part I

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 
Chapters 1-3

I am finally reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, thanks to the Read-Along hosted by Carl who blogs over at Stainless Steel Droppings during the R.I.P. VII reading event. I have had this book on my list for years. I remember Neil Gaiman was in NYC doing a public reading of The Graveyard Book on the day it was released and I wanted to attend, but just couldn't juggle it on a weekday evening. So much for regret, though, because I never even picked up the book after missing that event. I just never got around to it. Until now!

The Graveyard Book is a middle grade level book that, like all of Gaiman's work, can be enjoyed by readers of any age. Except maybe the very young--it is a bit morbid and frightening for the wee ones. The book is written in chapters, each chapter appears to be a little story of it's own, an episode in the life of a young boy named Nobody Owens whose family was brutally murdered in their home, a fate Nobody escaped as he toddled out of his house that night and into the Graveyard that would be his sanctuary.

CAUTION: This is a read-along discussion so expect some spoilers in the post and comments! Read at your own risk.

There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.

This is the first sentence of The Graveyard Book and it basically sets the tone for the first chapter. Grim--if not frightful and morbid! A bit shockingly so for what takes place on the very first pages of a middle grade book. I had to remind myself that many children easily identify fiction as just that--fiction and imaginary and are therefore not as bothered by something so alarming as the murder of an entire family save a young toddler as many adults may be. This is not to say that other children reading this story would not be traumatized, but hopefully that's not the case.

Chapter One: How Nobody Came to the Graveyard 
As the title implies, this chapter reveals how a little boy named Nobody came to the Graveyard. One night, while the little boy slept in his crib, he awoke to noises downstairs in his home. He climbs out of his crib, bumps down the stairs and when he notices the front door ajar, he slips out into the night just as any toddler would do given the chance to wander. Little does he know that the noises he heard was a man named Jack murdering his father, mother and sister.

The little boy is toddles up the hill and into the Graveyard near his home where he meets the very lovely and very dead Mrs. Owens and her husband Mr. Owens. They are smitten with the little boy and anticipate his family coming to find him, but when they realize the man named Jack is seeking the little boy with nefarious intentions, the Owens hide and protect the little boy. With the consent of all of the other dead living in the Graveyard, the Owens adopt the little boy whom they name Nobody Owens, or Bod for short. A curious man named Silas, who also lives in the Graveyard, agrees to be Bod's guardian. Silas is unique in that he neither dead nor alive, but he can leave the Graveyard and bring back food, clothing, books and other necessities for Nobody. And this is how Nobody's new life begins, a life restricted to safety of the Graveyard grounds.

I have to admit I was somewhat taken aback by the tragedy that unfolded in this first chapter of a middle grade chapter book. However, I have no qualms letting my middle school child read this book--or even the Hunger Games, so I'm not really sure why murder in a middle grade book surprised me. Perhaps because it was presented in such a nonchalant manner, but then again, that is one of Gaiman's strengths and his style. Gaiman can write even the most tragic, morbid scenarios into something that sort of feels natural and with an edge of dark humor. It's as if the narrator is completely neutral about the story being told and it's up to the reader to get upset, scared, angry or even find humor in the story. How does Gaiman do that? Anyway, I felt sad for Bod in this first chapter, but he seemed quite content with his new home and caregivers. He's too young and naive at this point to realize the tragedy that's become of his family and he just goes with the flow. That alleviates a lot of worry from any distraught readers, I think.

Chapter Two: The New Friend 
In this chapter, Bod befriends a young girl around his age named Scarlett who visits the Graveyard on a regular basis with her mother [the graveyard has also become a nature reserve over the years, so people do occasionally visit to walk the paths and sit on the benches.]. Bod and Scarlett become friends very easily, talking and exploring the Graveyard. At one point their curiosity gets the better of them and they end up getting into a bit of trouble exploring a particular crypt, and very sadly, their visits end. Scarlett says some very kind and meaningful things to Bod--things that I am glad someone said to him.

It was, perhaps, the first time Bod begins to think he's missing out on something not living in the world outside the Graveyard and again, I felt sad for Bod thinking he is longing for something out there, even if he doesn't quit know what it is. Perhaps this is merely a lesson of the proverbial "the grass is greener on the other side," and Bod has what he needs in the Graveyard as good as what any other child his age has, but I can't help but think Bod really needs human love and companionship. That's not to say his caregivers in the Graveyard don't truly care about him and even love him, but is it enough? Should he have more? I'm not sure.

Chapter Three: The Hounds of God 
Silas leaves the Graveyard for a while to take care of some important matters and his acquaintance Miss Lupescu has agreed to come to the Graveyard every day to keep an eye on Bod, bring him healthy meals and even tutor him. Bod hates it and feels lonely, dejected and even kind of angry that Silas left him.

One evening Bod is feeling particularly disgruntled and recklessly agrees to join a group of rambunctious spirits on an adventure outside the Graveyard. What Bod thought would be a fun time very quickly turns into an awful and dangerous nightmare. He relies on some important skills Miss Lupescu taught him which end up saving his life!

This was quite a thrilling chapter. The trouble Bod gets into is quite severe and Gaiman sure paints a horrid, detailed picture of what it might be like on the other side of a ghoul-gate. Bod learns quite a few valuable lessons in this chapter that hopefully young readers pick up on, too. Lessons such as do not talk to strangers; do not get into a car (or go through a ghoul-gate) with strangers; do your homework; eat your vegetables. Things like that.

I'm really enjoying The Graveyard Book and look forward to reading the next chapters. I'm curious to see what other lessons Bod learns, how he continues to handle living within the sanctuary of the Graveyard, does he yearn for human companionship? And really I want to know more about Silas. What kind of being is he? Where did he go and what did he learn when he left the Graveyard in Chapter three?

Did you like to read scary stories or watch scary movies when you were a kid? 

How about now that you're an adult?

I read some Stephen King novels as a teen and even watched my share of horror movies. My first scary movie was Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds that I watched by accident when on regular TV when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. Maybe it was an ABC Saturday Afternoon Movie [are you old enough to remember that feature?] or something but I remember being really scared and upset afterwards for a long time. That didn't stop me from watching more scary movies, though, and I did so for many years. However, I no longer like scary movies--definitely no horror and not even most thrillers. I will sometimes watch a psychological thriller at home on the sofa with my husband. Definitely not alone. I think it's because I've worry enough about real life nightmares happening in the world that I don't need to add fictional ones to my head!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Make Your Own Ice Cream Cake!

I made a homemade ice cream cake for my birthday celebration earlier this week and am so excited to share the recipe with you. I suppose it's more semi-homemade than truly homemade. I didn't make the ice cream from scratch this time, but the cake is made at home, so that kind of counts as homemade, right? By the way, I have a birthday giveaway going on right now that I think will definitely appeal to any weekend cooking people, so please head on over to My Happy Birthday Giveaway post to check it out. 

Before I get into the instructions, I feel compelled to tell you that my husband was quite beside himself that I made my own birthday cake. He did not approve of this, but reluctantly relented when I insisted that not only was this the cake I wanted and he couldn't buy it anywhere, but also that I was having fun making it and that the whole thing simply made me happy? The icing on the cake to this scenario (pun intended), is that now I have photos and how-to instructions to share with all of YOU!

Wait until you see how easy this is. The instructions look lengthy, but don't be intimidated. It's not at all complicated and really... how badly can you mess up a cake assembled with store-bought ice cream and toppings, right?

These instructions are for making a small ice cream cake in a loaf pan that serves 6-8 people. Once you make an ice cream cake in this size pan once or twice, you can move on to making larger cakes in other shaped pans, such as a round 1.5 quart round casserole dish or a springform pan. It's just as easy to layer the ingredients, but a little more challenging to line with plastic wrap and unmold. Because of it's size and shape, I'd probably gently press crushed nuts or cookies to the sides of the unmolded cake for a nicer presentation. That's going to be my next ice cream cake project.

Vanilla Bean, Pumpkin Spice & Toasted Almond Ice Cream Cake
homemade ice cream cake
Homemade Vanilla, Pumpkin Spice
& Toasted Almond Ice Cream Cake
What you need: 
8.5 x 4" loaf pan 
plastic wrap 
cooking spray {or a tiny bit of butter on a paper towel} 
2 or 3 pints of ice cream, frozen yogurt or sherbet of desired flavors
topping ingredients, optional 

Some suggested topping ingredients:
chocolate sauce
caramel sauce
chopped nuts
whole or crushed cookies
shredded coconut
fruit preserves

I used three different flavors of ice cream to make my cake, but you can use just two if you like. Just skip steps 8 and 9. You can also make the cake without any toppings between the ice cream layers. It's totally up to you how you want to customize your cake.

What you do: 

  1. Take ice creams out of freezer and let stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to soften a bit. You can also put ice cream containers in microwave for 10-20 seconds at a time until ice cream begins to soften. 
  2. While ice cream is softening, spray the inside of the loaf pan very, very lightly with cooking spray. Or use a tiny bit of butter on a paper towel and lightly grease the inside of the loaf pan. This will allow the ice cream cake to be removed from the pan more easily later without having to melt the ice cream to get it out. 
  3. Line the inside of the loaf pan with plastic wrap, making sure there is excess plastic wrap that extends past the sides of the pan. Try to make the plastic wrap fit snuggly into the pan without too many bumps or large creases. This will give your cake a nicer appearance when serving. 
  4. Decide which flavor will be the top layer of the cake when it's removed from the pan. This isn't really important for any reasons other than for presentation purposes. A light colored ice cream, such as vanilla, will look nice with colored sprinkles or shaved chocolate on top. A dark colored ice cream such as chocolate would look nice with shredded coconut or chopped nuts on top. 
  5. Scoop the ice cream into the loaf pan and then carefully spread the ice cream along the bottom of the loaf pan with a spatula or the back of a spoon until the layer is even and smooth. This is going to be a mess if your ice cream is too firm, so make sure it is soft enough to spread, but not too soft that it's melted. If the ice cream is too soft, the ice cream is likely to get a little icy when it's refrozen, which isn't so nice. I used vanilla bean ice cream as my first layer. 
  6. If using topping ingredients between ice cream layers, add a this now. Chocolate sauce is very nice, as is a layer of crushed cookies. Or try both! In my cake pictured here, I used generous drizzle of chocolate sauce spread evenly with the back of a spoon and sprinkled crushed graham crackers on top. Note: If you use whole cookies, make sure the cake sets in the freezer longer than just a few hours so that the cookies absorb some moisture and are easier to cut through. If the cookie is too hard, you won't be able to make nice, clean cuts through the center of the cake. 
  7. Scoop the next layer of ice cream on top of the special topping ingredients. Carefully spread this layer of ice cream until it is smooth and even, being careful not to get the topping ingredients all mixed into the ice cream. You want them to be separate layers. I used pumpkin spice ice cream in the middle of my cake. 
  8. If using topping ingredients between ice cream layers, add the next layer now. I used shredded coconut and more crushed graham crackers. 
  9. Scoop the third layer of ice cream on top of the topping ingredients. This will be the bottom layer of your cake when it's removed from the mold. Again, carefully spread this layer of ice cream until smooth and even, being careful not to get the topping ingredients all mixed into the ice cream. I used toasted almond ice cream. 
  10. Cover the surface of the ice cream with plastic wrap and put the pan into the coldest part of your freezer, making sure the pan is level. If it's tilted, your layers might tilt in the pan as well and then freeze in uneven layers. 
  11. Freeze until firm, which may take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. Overnight is even better to really firm up the ice cream and especially helpful if you are serving this cake for a summer birthday. 
  12. To unmold the cake for serving, remove the plastic wrap from the surface of the ice cream. Turn the loaf pan upside down on a large plate or platter. Gently tug on the pieces of plastic wrap that extend past the top of the ice cream until the cake pulls free from the pan. Remove the plastic wrap from the surface of the ice cream. 
  13. If desired, garnish the top of the ice cream cake with your choice of topping ingredients.
  14. To serve, have a glass of hot water nearby and dip a knife into the water before slicing each piece of cake. This not only helps the knife cut easily and smoothly into the ice cream, but it also keeps the knife clean between slices so each slice of cake is as pretty as the first.

A slice of  ice cream cake. 

Go crazy and customize the ice cream flavors and layer ingredients with your favorites. The sky's the limit!

One time I made a Vanilla & Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake with whole chocolate wafer cookies layered in the middle for my daughter's birthday. It was a big hit!

I think Vanilla Ice Cream & Orange Sherbet would be a delicious combination. 
A Creamsicle Cake! 
Or Vanilla & Strawberry or Blackberry Ice Cream with graham crackers in the middle? 
Or how about a Coffee & Chocolate Ice Cream?

Did you ever think making a homemade ice cream cake could be this easy?

What flavors would you choose for YOUR personal ice cream cake?