Margaret’s Literary Resolution:

This week in our Literary Resolutions blog series, we hear from Blair’s Margaret Couch about how her reading group helped her stay on track.

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I rarely make New Year’s resolutions, but I realized when I was asked to write a blog about book resolutions that I actually had already made one for 2014.

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Margaret’s father, Paul Couch.

Over the last few months, I’ve been going through papers and books at my parents’ place. Among my discoveries were my father’s C.  S. Lewis books. Growing up, we read some of Lewis’s fantasy books at the dinner table, and they were favorites. However, I don’t recall ever reading any of his nonfiction books. Instead of putting the books I was going through into the giveaway box, I brought most of them home, thinking I would get around to reading one or more sometime in the future.Covers

One Lewis book in particular that I had always wanted to read was Mere Christianity. I remember my father recommending that one, and I was happy to have his copy in my possession. But as is my habit, once the book was in my house, I never picked it up to read. I prefer fiction and always have a stack of books either on the bedside table or on my list to read. CoverI realized I would probably never read any of C. S. Lewis’s theologically based books unless I made myself accountable to a group. It was then that I thought about starting a book club at my church. In talking with members there, I found others who wanted to join me in reading and discussing issues presented in books such as Mere Christianity. Our group started meeting in January, and I have, as I anticipated, kept myself on track and read each section of the book in preparation for our weekly meetings. I give my thanks to the group for unknowingly getting me off to a good start on keeping my resolution.

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Check back in next week for more in our Literary Resolutions blog series. Happy Reading!

Artie’s Literary Resolution: Taking Advantage of Hidden Gems

This week in our Literary Resolutions blog series, Blair’s office manager Artie Sparrow  resolves one resolution by sharing about another.

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Nestled in the avalanche of emails when I returned to work after being away for two weeks was an announcement that Blair’s next blog series was about resolutions. At that point, I resolved to stop procrastinating and finish things I started, especially the following blog post that I began composing four months ago:

CivilWarBlundersI’m not much of a Civil War buff, but I do enjoy reading about mistakes made by other people. When I started working at Blair, I eagerly devoured Clint Johnson’s Civil War Blunders. As the title implies, it’s accounts of big mistakes made during the Civil War, some of which are rather amusing, despite the underlying subject matter. My favorite blunder is the Union’s first attempt to capture Fort Fisher. It featured an earth-shattering kaboom, but no one got hurt.

Made of sand and dirt, Fort Fisher was located at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and protected Wilmington. In December 1864, Union forces were desperate to capture or destroy it, since Wilmington was the last Confederate port that remained open. oceanThe Union plan was simple in its genius and stupidity: it loaded a ship with gunpowder, ran it aground near the fort, and blew it up. The goal was to destroy the fort, but all the attack succeeded in doing was setting off a giant explosion that did little damage. The Confederates easily repulsed the first Union attempt to take the fort. Union troops had to return later using more conventional means to capture it.

Last year when my wife and I went to Southport for vacation, I finally got my chance to see where the giant kaboom took place. In the middle of the week, we took the ferry across the river to Fort Fisher. A helpful staff member at the visitor center told me how to get to the approximate spot where the Union ship blew up. One of my quirks is that I love looking out into the ocean at places where extraordinary things happened, even if the water fortfisherthere looks just like any other stretch of ocean. That didn’t take long, so afterward we took ourselves on a self-guided tour of the remains of Fort Fisher. The walls facing the Atlantic Ocean have mostly washed away, but those that went across the island to the river have been preserved. Thanks to Clint Johnson’s Touring the Carolinas’ Civil War Sites, we were able to understand what we were looking at and what happened there. We found out that the Armstrong gun is a replica of a cannon that could fire 150-pound shells a distance of five miles. We learned that Shepherd’s Battery was the scene of fierce hand-to-hand fighting when the Union finally succeeded in storming the fort.blunders

I’m still not much of a Civil War buff, and there’s no danger that I’ll start reenacting. However, I will spend more time reading Clint Johnson’s books and other Blair backlist titles. Maybe I’ll find some more hidden gems for my travels.

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Check back next week for another post in our Literary Resolutions blog series. Happy reading!

Win a Free Copy of B.O.Q.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

B.O.Q. by N.P. Simpson

B.O.Q.

by N.P. Simpson

Giveaway ends January 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Enter now to win one of 25 free advance reader’s copies of B.O.Q.: An NCIS Special Agent Fran Setliff Novel by N.P. Simpson.

In B.O.Q., Simpson conveys the special energy and purpose of a military base. When Ann Buckhalter, the wife of a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, is found dead in the river just downstream from Camp Lejeune’s Bachelor Officers’ Quarters (B.O.Q.), NCIS Special Agent Fran Setliff is called in to investigate her murder

But things heat up when Fran discovers that more than one person’s life has been simplified by the victim’s death. Uncovering the truth about Ann Buckhalter’s death also means uncovering all the unsavory things going on behind the camouflage curtain-racial and gender discrimination, unethical medical practices, sexual indiscretions. Solving the crime means Fran must navigate the murky waters of the military base and the colorful individuals who fill the ranks.

Enter now and find out what really happened at the B.O.Q.!

5 Ways to Liven Up Your Holiday Break with Blair Books

It’s that magical time of year when most businesses shut down and workers are treated to some, often mandatory, time off. While traditional celebrations are fun, cabin fever can set in for those of us used to being in the office all week. To help avoid any vacation frustration, we present 5 Ways to Liven Up Your Holiday Break with Blair Books:

1. Revisit the Ghosts of Christmases Past

AmericanChristmasesThink your family has some crazy Christmas traditions? Read about what used to pass as appropriate holiday fare in American Christmases: Firsthand Accounts of Holiday Happenings from Early Days to Modern Times by Joanne Martell. The entries range from how the Christmas tree has evolved through history, to how Santa got too close to the candles in 1890, to how firecrackers were once a cherished and much-anticipated stocking stuffer, to Pete the Christmas goose, who laid an egg and was renamed Petrice in time to be wreathed in parsley on a platter. The stories, both heart-wrenching and heartwarming, allow one to reflect on personal memories and long to relive them. (as shared by Debbie Hampton)

2. Start a Sports Debate

ACCBasketballBookFameIs yelling at the TV during ACC basketball games a holiday tradition? Do you have ideas about who should be in the ultimate hall of fame? Dan Collins presents his system and the 78 players in his The ACC Basketball Book of Fame. Compare your own and your family’s rankings and let the discussion begin.

 

3. Bake Something Unexpected and Delicious

WellShutMyMouthNothing against Christmas hams and fruitcake, but they get a bit tiresome after the 3rd or 4th day of repetitious leftovers. Try out a different style of cooking with Tasia Malakasis and Stephanie L. Tyson. Malakasis’ Tasia’s Table (NewSouth Books) offers up creative ways to use goat cheese in a range of delectable dishes while Tyson’s Well, Shut My Mouth!: The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook brings some soul to the table.

Give your family a treat with dishes like the Easiest Devil’s Food Cake in the World and introduce some new culinary traditions to your holidays.

4. Hike the Battlefields

SoGettysburgAt first glance a Civil War battlefield may seem just like a regular field with some scattered monuments, but James and Suzanne Gindlesperger bring these historical sites to life in So You Think You Know Gettysburg? and So You Think You Know Antietam? The Gindelspergers return some humanity to the soldiers who lived and died in the war by providing the reasoning behind each statue’s curios oddities.

Gettysburg National Military Park and Antietam National Military Park are both open throughout the holidays, excluding Christmas Day and New Years Day.

5. Laugh at Yourself…and Others

SWAGDo you feel the urge to bake a pound cake after reading the obituaries? Have you had professional photographs made of your children barefoot and dressed in their Sunday clothes? Are you socially conditioned to believe that tanned fat looks better than white fat?

Then you might be a SWAG (Southern Woman Aging Gracefully), and Melinda Rainey Thompson can relate. Ranging from swimsuit shopping to squirrel battling, from magnolia theft to cemetery etiquette, Thompson’s delightful essays and clever lists in SWAG: Southern Women Aging Gracefully and The SWAG Life reflect the everyday peculiarities of life in the South. Whether you can see yourself or others in her hilarious anecdotes, Thompson will have you doubled over in knowing laughter.

We hope that these suggestions help you make the most of your holidays. Happy Holidays from Blair!

Don’t Forget Those Holiday Tips!

The holidays are a good opportunity to show people in your life that you appreciate them. Whether with gifts, baked goods, kind gestures, or generous tips.

The Boston Evening Post printed the following poem in 1764 to urge subscribers to tip their newsboys at Christmas:

The Boy Weekly Pads the Streets,
With all the freshest News he meets,
His Mistresses and Masters greet,
Christmas and New Year, Days of Joy,
The Harvest of your Carrier Boy,
He hopes you’ll not his Hopes destroy….
His generous patrons may inspire,
By filling up his pockets higher!

AmericanChristmasesThis poem is featured in American Christmases: Firsthand Accounts of Holiday Happenings From Early Days to Modern Times by Joanne Martell, a great book which offers insight into the history of Christmas in America.

So don’t forget all the people who make your life easier and deserve some recognition this holiday season. And always remember…

Blair’s Holiday Celebration

Blair celebrated the holidays today with some delicious desserts and our annual used book exchange.

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Some of Blair’s treats!

Are you ready for all of your upcoming holiday celebrations? Find some quick and easy gifts for everyone in Blair’s Holiday Gift Guide.

WellShutMyMouthWe’ve also got you covered on the baking side with a collection of cookbooks featuring recipes for bakers of all skill levels. For a chocolate fix, try out Stephanie Tyson’s “Easiest Devil’s Food Cake in the World with Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing” from Well, Shut My Mouth: The Sweet Potatoes Restaurant Cookbook.

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Easiest Devil’s Food Cake in the World with Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing
Makes one 9-inch layer cake

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix on low until combined, then increase the speed to medium for another 2 to 3 minutes. Pour mixture into 2 greased, floured 9-inch cake pans and back for 1/2 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

3 ounces softened cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons milk

In a mixer on medium, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Melt the chocolate chips with the butter and allow to cool slightly before adding to the cream cheese mixture. Mix on low until smooth. Add the vanilla extract. Thin to a spreading consistency with milk.

To assemble, place a cooled cake top side down on a cake plate. Spread 1/3 of the icing on the cake, top with the other layer top side up, and coat with the remaining frosting.

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Give your sweet tooth something to celebrate this holiday season!

Celebrate Small Business Saturday with Blair’s Big Book Sale

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As part of Small Business Saturday Blair will be holding a book sale on November 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Stop by the Blair offices at 1406 Plaza Drive, Winston-Salem, NC, for 30% off all titles, including the perfect gifts for everyone on your holiday checklist.

Christmas_Website Holiday Gift Guide

greatescape
We are also excited to announce that The Great Escape Food Truck will be joining us from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

Buy local and get 30% off all books. We look forward to seeing you!