Kickstands and Nightstands-What I’m Reading

The basket of books near my nightstand contains a mix of inspirational titles and books by Southern authors. Well, mostly Mississippi writers. John Grisham mysteries and Willie Morris memoirs. The marvelous stories of Eudora Welty. The more recent fiction of Mark Childress and Kathryn Stockett.

My husband, who reads more than anyone I know, once suggested that I broaden my literary horizons.

I did.

I tried an author from Alabama.

I picked up Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’. Beautifully written, it is a story of his relationship with his mother — from her taking in ironing to feed the family to her trip with Bragg to New York City to accept the Pulitzer Prize. it became one of my all-time favorite books. I’ve read his other family stories — Ava’s Man and The Prince of Frogtown. When my Southern Living comes every month, I flip to the last page and read his essay first before perusing the rest of the magazine.

Speaking of Southern Living, the December 2016 issue has some good reading material–not the home decor and food articles but Christmas memoirs from the likes of Fannie Flagg, another great Alabama author.

It is what it is. I live in the South and like to read about the South.

I do enjoy books about journeys – real or imaginary. I like books by Bill Bryson. Born in Iowa, he writes about adapting to life spent in England and Australia and then adjusting upon his return to the States. My favorite: The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America.

I’ve always been fascinated by people bicycling across the United States  and like to read their stories.Two recent ones I’ve read: Two are Better, the story of a couple, who married for the first time in their early 50s and honeymooned on a coast-to-coast trip; and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, how author Donald Miller edited his life by pushing himself out of a post-book (Blue Like Jazz) writing funk and into challenging, life-transforming events including a bicycle trip across America.

Lately, I’ve mostly been listening to audiobooks, not just when I’m riding in the car but also before I go to bed. This fall I finished two that I highly recommend: Hillbilly Ellegy, a memoir written by a Yale grad who analyzes the decline of the white working class culture he grew up in,  and The Nightingale, historical fiction exploring the different paths taken by  sisters resisting the Nazis in France during World War II.  I will say The Nightingale was the best book that I read in 2016.

Audiobooks are great for traveling, and I associate certain books with where I’ve been. (It was the subject of writer friend Judy Christie’s book column in the Shreveport Times a while back.) I also like to read books set in a place I recently visited.  After my first ever trip to the Pacific Northwest this fall, I started reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette,  set in Seattle and full of Pacific Northwest references. It’s not my favorite. While my daughter and I were touring around the Olympic Peninsula in the rental car, we listened to Twilight set in Forks the peninsula.

Early morning is reserved for Bible reading usually followed by a devotional. It really helps me start the day focused and with purpose.  My current devotional book is  Shauna Niequist’s Savor.  Shauna’s  a very powerful writer and speaker especially on the topic of ministry and fellowship around the dinner table.

I have never read the Bible entirely through and am currently doing so  with Psalms and Ezekiel to go. I can’t keep up with the pace suggested in most “read-the-Bible-through-in-a-year” plans, so I do a chapter or two a day followed by a devotional book.

I’m nearly 60, and the clock is ticking. I wouldn’t want to stand before God, with all the blessings He has given me and try to explain why I had not taken the time to read his Word.

Do you have any book recommendations to put on my reading list for 2017?

Kickstands and Bundt Pans-Pound Cakes for Christmas

I used to think pound cakes were for old people, in the category with congealed salads. Or in another of my labeling systems, a  layer cake with icing was like watermelon. A pound cake was like cantaloupe.

You had to be about 50 to prefer them. I figured now that I am pushing 60, it’s time to get out the Bundt pan.

Growing up, pound cake was something I ate when the other Christmas goodies were gone. (Well, before the fruit cake.) It was great for Christmas breakfast.

However, since my mother died in 2011, pound cakes are among what I miss at Christmas.  They were always moist and sometimes indulgent, even though I don’t remember her putting a glaze on one. Coconut pound cake. German chocolate pound cake. Sour cream pound cake. Those would always be on the holiday rotation.

My mother wasn’t a big Christmas person and often complained when she thought people were overdecorating for the holidays,  but she enjoyed baking. Not only would she make pound cakes and banana nut bread, chess squares and magic cookie bars–and all types of balls–bourbon balls, sausage balls, orange coconut balls.

But today I’m remembering pound cakes, which are making a comeback. A good part of it is the growth of Nothing Bundt Cakes, which has 175 locations in the United States and Canada. Nothing Bundt Cakes has elevated the pound cake with generous frosting, a variety of sizes and flavors such as “pecan praline” and “white white chocolate.”

And since I’m mixing food with business stories, let’s explore the Bundt pan. The pan was developed by Minnesota-based Nordic Ware during the 1950s. It really didn’t sell well and Nordic Ware considered discontinuing it. Then, in 1966, a woman used the pan to make the Tunnel of Fudge cake, which won second (not first) place in the Pillsbury Cook-Off.

Sales exploded. Nordic Ware trademarked the Bundt pan. Now there are castle and vaulted cathedral Bundt pans and dozens of variations on the classic fluted shape with the hole in the center.

I don’t remember my mother ever making a “Tunnel of Fudge” cake as she was a scratch cook and didn’t use cake mixes. But she did use her Bundt pan,

Some large pound cakes call for a tube pan (straight edges rather than fluted but still with the hole in the center). If you want some tips on whether or not to use a Bundt or a tube pan, check this website.

Call it growing older or refusing the extravagance of those  over-the-top multi-layer cakes gracing these covers of December food magazines, I’m craving the simple goodness of a moist slice of pound cake this Christmas.

Here’s a link to a recipe my mother used for German chocolate pound cake. I believe it originally was on the package of Baker’s chocolate. I particularly like it because it calls for three items I don’t typically stock in my pantry–shortening, baking chocolate and Swan’s Down cake flour (recipe doesn’t specify the latter, but I always use on the rare occasions that I bake cakes).

ingredients-1266-x-804

Going to the store to get them  brings back warm memories of my mother’s baking.

Here’s the sour cream pound cake my mother also liked to make.