September’s Cheep Trills

Chirped by Tina and Cass

It’s that time of the month again! And we’re ready with another list of ten things that we’re happy about from the last thirty days or so. It’s a good exercise, when you’re stressed (or even when you’re not), to take time to be grateful for the good stuff!

Just as a side note: We don’t get any kickbacks from any of the links we provide in our blog, and we try to spread the love between various booksellers or retailers while still giving you an easy way to check out stuff we’re posting about. That is not to say we would mind having “affiliates” at some point if we were big fans – but we’re not there yet. We’ll let you know if we ever are! We just don’t want anyone to think our motivations are anything but pure when we chirp about a book, local restaurant, craft source or whatever! Cheers to the good stuff!  – Tina & Cass

Books-of-the-Month-2

Favorite Books of the Month (Tina)

For September, our two book recommendations are Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng (author of Everything I Never Told You) and The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen. Little Fires is about a nice, quiet, planned community where everyone is expected to behave a certain way and scandals are scarce. Then single mother and artist Mia and her daughter Pearl rent the Richardson family’s priced-to-do-good duplex and shake up their orderly little world. There’s a lot to like about the book, but I’m always particularly drawn by discussions about custody battles and how to do the most right by all parties involved, when there’s rarely a straightforward best solution. But to quote the dust jacket, the book also “explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood — and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.”

The Wife Between Us has a Girl on the Train / Gone Girl kind of vibe, both of which I really enjoyed in a sick and twisted, nail-biter kind of way. So many complex turns and loop backs to navigate! I wouldn’t necessarily recommend listening to this one as an audio book, which is how I started out, having had several long road trips last month to endure. I say that because you get to certain points in the story and have to shake your head and rethink large sections of what you already read, and I was desperate to have pages to turn back and reconsider while I was driving! Ah well. Some might say it goes a step too far to connect all the pieces, but I was engrossed by this tale of a desperate ex-wife stalking her ex-husband and his new love.

Sex-in-a-PanRecipe Trill (Cass)

If you need a mouth watering dessert that has a little sweet, smooth, salty, crunchy, and chocolaty all rolled into one pan….. this one is for you! It’s a little like Sex in a Pan, hence the title of the dish. We’ve also seen it called “The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford”, which dates it a bit. Layers of chocolate and vanilla pudding, whipped cream, cream cheese and shaved chocolate, all on top of a pecan crust. Yum! (Upon hearing that Tina had had Sex in a Pan, Tina’s sister requested that the pan in question be labeled with a sticker, so she’d know which one to avoid next time she visits… (-; )

Fall Festivals – with Upcycling!! (Tina)

The local borough held their Fall Festival last weekend and I volunteered at the Scarecrow-Making station. “Sharing (My) Gifts” (straight from my Vision Board!), I helped a bunch of families assemble scarecrows for the afternoon contest. You know how I love upcycling unwanted stuff into something new? Well some tree hugger scarves and leftover t-shirt yarn from the Yarn Bloom and about 200 pounds of pay-by-weight thrift store clothing all got a new lease on life, decorating around 60 scarecrows! Plus, as the supplies ran low later in the day, we got to get really creative with old sweaters and pant legs substituting for the pillowcase “heads” of the morning scarecrows. Fun!

Nature’s Architects (Cass and Tina)

Mother Nature keeps wowing us with beautiful arrays of her latest artwork in places we least expect them. In this case, check out these wasp(?) nests. Tina and I both found stunning examples of waspy homemaking on or near our properties this September. We love how the first one just dangles by a twig, and has incorporated the still-green leaves into its design. And the second looks so darn cozy nestled under the pergola… but how did we miss the construction phases of such large sculptures? Apparently PennDoT could use some efficiency pointers from these little buggers…   

2018-2019 Book Selections (Cass)

Every fall our mutual book club gets together for dinner and each member proposes a book for the coming year.  It’s always interesting to see the variety of book choices that come in from the group.  Sometimes we have a number of murder mysteries, other years it’s an array of World War II stories.  This year was a good mix across the board of genre and interest. Below is a summary of the books we chose, (with insanely condensed descriptions of the topic/genre!) in case you want to add them to your reading lists. Whether they make the cut for future “Favorite Book(s) of the Month” chirps remains to be seen…

October You by Caroline Kepnes (creepy stalker novel for Halloween festiveness)

November The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (historical fiction, miracle or hoax?)

December –  The Foundling by Paul Joseph Fronczak (true, DNA-based mystery)

January The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (fortune-teller predicts death dates)

February Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan (summer romance for divorcée)

March Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (plane crash thriller with backstories)

April Not that I Could Tell by Jessica Strauser (neighborhood mom goes missing)

May Circe by Madeline Miller (gods v. mortals, nature v. nurture)

– Norse Mythology by Neil Gaimon (gods, dwarfs, giants – Gaimon-style!)

June Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (trial, black nurse vs. white supremacists)

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (girlfriend’s intro to the Asian JetSet society)

July The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah (family in crisis surviving in Alaska)

Next Year in Havanna by Chanel Cleeton (1958 v. 2017 family secrets in Cuba)

August 1984 by George Orwell (classic dystopian “future”, Big Bro v. individual)

– The Rent Collector by Camron Wright (truth-based: life in Cambodian dump)

Clean Doggies (Cass & Tina)

September also seems to brings more deer through our backyards, and along with the deer come their droppings and musky scents… Guess who love to roll in that nasty stuff? We’ve had to bathe the pooches a number of times to make them smell better. I think the dogs may disagree on which aroma is preferable, but lavender-scented doggies are much better to snuggle up with on the couch than musky stank-smelling ones!

Long-Awaited Home Repairs! (Tina)

Having grown up in a family of obsessive compulsive personalities, “finishing” is sometimes referred to as the f-word. There’s always something not quite right, or slightly off-putting about the final steps that somehow permits us to postpone them until some future date when we have the energy or motivation to return to the project and do it properly. “Starting” isn’t much easier, though it happens more frequently than actually finishing! A few months ago a vinyl railing bracket on our deck finally broke under the strain of years of abuse. Being as that railing hangs over a 12 foot drop, we promptly bungee-corded it together until I could find the right replacement part. That turned out to be a much bigger project than expected, but I made some calls and persevered and eventually found and ordered basically the right pieces. Those pieces, however, were what I’ve heard referred to as “after market” replacement parts, meaning they aren’t actually the parts you want, but a poor substitute that you can probably make do with. So now the holes weren’t in quite the right place, the railing had sprung apart far enough that we were going to need a ratcheting band to jack it back together again, I wondered whether the screws through the vinyl would even be able to handle the strain once it was pulled back into place, and in general it was too darn hot in Pennsylvania to be out there sweating and swearing over a project that might not even work… So we let the procrastinating begin! Finally, a couple of weekends ago, my hubbie and I were both home, it was comfortably cool outside, I’d had all the tools piled up waiting to go for months, and we got to work. About an hour later, our railing was (almost) as good as new. And if you have a similar problem with a 13 year old railing, let me know in the comments section – I can probably save you a lot of time on the learning curve!! (-;

Oh the Places You’ll Go! (Cass)

We headed to Arizona this month for Parent’s Weekend at the University with the boy. One gorgeous morning was spent roaming around the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, about 10 minutes from the airport.  It’s a beautiful complex of several trails offering breathtaking views of the Sonoran Desert and an introduction to the plants and people that live there.  It opens early at 8am and has some evening hours as well.

Sunsets are for Sharing (Tina)

Lake-SunsetWho doesn’t love a great sunset? But from recent experience, they’re best when you have someone to share them with. Found myself on a lake with this view, all by my lonesome! At least I got some decent pictures to fire off to my hubbie and kids (and you all!), not in a “trying to make you jealous” way, but a sincere “wish I had someone to marvel at this glorious sky with me!” kind of way…

 

Friday Nights Out with Friends (Tina)

I never turn my nose up at not having to cook on the weekend (or any day ending in Y), and my hubby and I particularly love going out on Fridays. It makes the weekend seem longer when you’ve already done something fun and social and it’s only Saturday morning! We had three (count ’em!) opportunities to extend our weekend last month, the first with Cass and her husband at a new restaurant called Northbound. Northbound took the place of what had been our favorite BYOB farm-to-table restaurant just up the street from the always awesome Montgomery Theater. To get around not having a liquor license, Northbound finagled a local distillery license, which means they can serve alcohol, but only if it was made in Pennsylvania. Hmmm… That works ok for some spirits, not as well for others. The company, however, was terrific, the food was really good, and despite not taking reservations and it being their first Friday of being open, we were able to get a table since we showed up at 5:30. (We’ve both tried to go again since then and been told it was an hour or more wait.) It’s located in an old railway station building (with a semi-active train track right next to it), and got a little loud at the bar for us old fogies by the end of the meal, but we’d give it another go if they start taking reservations!

Next up was dinner and a show (Mary’s Wedding) at Montgomery Theater with friends from our old neighborhood. Couldn’t get into Northbound, so we went to Caruso’s. We’re not huge Italian food fans, but they have great brick oven pizzas, a selection of desserts to die for, and we brought our own wine. This is the same restaurant my second book club used to meet at, so I know my way around the menu. (-; We thought the show was emotional and really well done, but our friends were jet-lagged and over-worked and fell asleep, so… mixed reviews!

Our third and final social Friday was spent with the couple we’ll be heading to Napa with this fall (to check “Giant Redwoods” off my bucket list! (-: ). We chose the Washington House restaurant, which is consistently delicious American cuisine, if not always cutting edge on the creativity side. Right next door is the Sellersville Theater 1894 – a great venue for seeing former music and comedy headliners (think Paula Cole, Sha Na Na, Robert Klein) as well as tribute bands and a wide mix of lesser known artists. We didn’t see a show this time around but were reminded that we really should when we saw the list of coming attractions!

Not a bad list to kick off another academic year of empty nesting! Hope you all find lots of little things worth chirping about this fall!

Book Club in a Basket, Revisited…

Chirped by Tina and Cass

Book-Club-in-Basket-PIN-v2I know what you’re thinking – they haven’t even been blogging for a year and they’re already recycling their posts?? Fair point. But most worthwhile causes need support more than once a year, and this one’s raising money for pediatric brain cancer research through the Christopher Court Foundation. We know the founders, whose own son was taken by a brain tumor, and who make sure every penny goes directly to the research. Our book club’s previous basket (featuring My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry) amassed a lot of raffle tickets at the last fundraising event. (How many? We don’t know, and we would like that data! If it was less than 150 dollar’s worth, maybe we should have just donated the money instead!) Besides, as book club members ourselves, who get a lot of enjoyment out of that camaraderie and mental stimulation, how could we not want to share the tools of the trade with others not as blessed as we are whenever we have the chance? So here it is: our second Book Club in a Basket, this time for Tracy Chevalier’s At the Edge of the Orchard!

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August’s Cheep Trills

Chirped by Tina and Cass

Unexpected Treasures

Sometimes Nature just plops a drop of sunshine in your path to brighten your day. I photographed a variety of perfect little mushrooms while hiking with my sister a couple of weeks ago. And I’ve never seen a feather like this – I’m guessing it’s from one of those purplish finches that love to nest behind our shutters. Since it was unaccompanied by ants, gore, or signs of struggle, I choose to think of it as a little present left on my doorstep. The cobweb was wafting in the breeze one dewy morning as my son left for his Continue reading