Connie A Thompson

Review: Me Before You

I read The Girl You Left Behind a few months ago, and I loved the writing and the story. Encouraged by my introduction to Moyes, I finally succumbed and got the audio version of Me Before You. I was not disappointed. I think it helps to listen to a story when the setting is in a country in which you’re not all that familiar with. I know the setting is only short drive from England, but I’m a Southern girl from a small town in the US. Louisa’s world is a bit of a culture shock for me, but yet the human experience is universal. Louisa’s life is full of family drama, fear of the unknown, missed opportunities, and the fact that so many people in general abhor change.

Louisa is forced to look for another job when the small cafe where she works closes. She tries a variety of unsuccessful jobs and is sent on a interview to be a caregiver. Her main demand is that she doesn’t want to have to wipe anyone’s bum, she’ll go back to the horrid chicken processing plant before that. Will is a quadriplegic and his mother is searching for someone to care for him during the day. Louisa has no medical background, but she is chatty and she just might be what Will needs.

Since I listened to this book, I found myself searching for opportunities to tune in: treadmill, cleaning, driving, etc.

I’m looking forward to reading Moyes’ other novels.

Sunday Dinner: Celebrating My Firstborn


Number One Son

At Sunday dinner, we’ll be celebrating the birth of my firstborn, my one and only son. Some women become mothers in those first minutes after their child’s birth. Other women do not experience that moment until later and unfortunately some never experience it. I am one of the fortunate ones. I remember the weight of him in my arms, the overwhelming beauty and depth of those first moments, the miracle that this baby boy with ten figures, ten toes, and a slightly rosy complexion had come through me. This is the most profound moment of my life. I was finally the one thing I knew God had put me on earth to be, a mother. Of course, minutes later the enormity of the task at hand overwhelmed me. My own mother had trained me well, but it is daunting to know that you are responsible for this child in your arms.


My firstborn with his nephew.


12th birthday


Now as I look at my grown son, I’m proud of the man he is, the paths he has taken, and the future he has planned. Of course, there is a secret all mothers of grown children know, hidden beneath the adult they are, they are still that infant in your arms, the toddler that wants to play, the preschooler that loves the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles, the schoolboy that hates to study, and the slightly rebellious teen. These images are like the best home movies in my mind.


With my Mom


Our family of three


Aquarium at the beach


The big brother with his newborn sister


Today, we will have my son’s favorites: cubed steak (chicken fried steak), rice with milk gravy, biscuits, and a strawberry cake.

Review: Someone Else’s Love Story


Shanti is a twenty-one-year old single mother, who was a virgin when her son was born. William looks like Thor and is a geneticist with Asperger’s.

Shanti and her three-year-old son dash into the Circle K for a drink. She notices William standing by the laundry detergent and she understands “he was single. Newly. It all added up: the shaggy hair, the interest in detergent boxes. He was trying to learn how to not be married anymore. Divorced guy meets laundry.”

And this could have just been another moment in a life a moment easily forgotten until a man enters the convenience store brandishing a gun, impacting each of their lives in a way never expected.

Joshilyn Jackson is a master at taking these moments, which seem inconsequential, and revealing their impact, changing lives forever.

Someone Else’s Love Story is more than the love story of Shanti and William. Jackson reveals the present story as well as the separate past histories of Shanti and William. Jackson’s tale is more than boy meets girl. It is about all the different threads that transpire and affect their lives together and separately.

Shanti and William each carry a secret about the past. Can William help Shanti find Natty’s father? Can Shanti help William heal after the loss of his marriage and daughter?

I have read all of Jackson’s novels, and I found her latest, Someone Else’s Love Story to be just as entertaining and thought provoking as its predecessors. The prose is witty. The story envelopes you, and just when you think you know where it is going, Jackson takes a sharp turn down a road you never imagined.

I believe William is one of my all time favorite literary heroes, and I was thrilled when talking with Jackson through a Facebook chat to find that he made his appearance to her about ten years ago. She did not have a story for him at the time, but he’s been sitting in a corner of her mind waiting to take his place on the page.

If you’re looking for a great read, pick up Joshilyn Jackson’s newest, Someone Else’s Love Story.

Once you’ve finished the novel, if you find yourself wanting a little more of Shanti’s story, you can get the short story eBook, “My Own Miraculous.”


Someone Else’s Love Story is the November She Reads Pick. Pop over to their website, where you will find discussions with the author and book giveaways.

Sunday Dinner: Chocolate Coca Cola Cake


Chocolate Coca Cola Cake

We’re celebrating my daughter-in-law, Casey’s birthday this weekend. She and my son first met as kids at the skating rink. She broke his heart, and they lost touch. Years later, they ran into each other. He asked her out, and they’ve been together ever since.

As a mom, you worry about whom your son will marry. You only want the best for your child. My son married an exceptional young woman. They complement one another bringing out the best in each other.

Casey is truly a blessed addition to our family. She is an amazingly beautiful and talented woman. My son is a lucky man.

Casey loves chocolate. She requested a Chocolate Coca Cola Cake for her birthday. It is easy to make from scratch cake and your family will thank you once they taste it.

Chocolate Coca Cola Cake


  • 2 cups unsifted all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3 Tbs. cocoa
  • 1 cup Coca Cola
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows

The marshmallows will rise to the top of the batter


  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 3 Tbs. cocoa
  • 7 Tbs. Coca Cola
  • 1 box confectioner’s sugar (About 3 ½ cups)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts) This is optional. No nuts for my family.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • Mix the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  • Heat butter, cocoa, and the Coca Cola in a saucepan until it boils.
  • Pour hot mixture over the flour and sugar.  Mix well.
  • Add the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, vanilla and marshmallows and mix well.   The marshmallows will rise to the top and the batter will seem thin, but that’s ok. Pour into a 9″x13″ baking pan that has been sprayed with nonstick baking spray. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or just until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make the icing as soon as the cake comes out of the oven.

  • Place the butter in a saucepan on medium heat with the cocoa powder and Coca Cola.  Heat until the butter is melted and it is all well blended.
  • Pour over the box of confectioner’s sugar and mix until it’s smooth. If you are adding nuts, stir them in.
  • Spread the icing over the cake while it is still warm.

Thankful for Sunday Dinner Family Tradition

Many of my friends on Facebook are doing thirty days of thankfulness. Today, I am thankful for Sunday dinners. It is a tradition my grandmother, Laura Rodgers began with her family, and it is a tradition passed down from her mother.


Sunday Dinner August 2000

Every Sunday the family would gather at my grandmother’s house after church. The main entree would change, but every week you could just about always count on mashed potatoes, green beans, pinto beans, macaroni and cheese, corn, biscuits, and cornbread. Depending on the season, there might be additional vegetable dishes.

As I was looking through photo albums for pictures for this post, I was amazed at how many pictures were taken at my grandmother’s house, even more than the home I grew up in.


Connie at Sunday Dinner April 1968

When grandmother passed, at her funeral the preacher spoke of the Sunday dinners she always cooked. He called me out, encouraging me to continue the tradition. For a little while, I took a break. Cooking for more than a dozen people can be quite a chore, but I no longer see it as that. Sunday dinners are a way to keep the family together, spending time with one another. I still serve many of grandmother’s traditional offerings, but sometimes we might just have spaghetti. My husband loves to grill, which he will be doing today.


Grandmother on her porch. Sunday dinner August 2000.

After dinner, the guys may watch a race or a ball game. My grandson, Daniel will run around entertaining everyone. We might play Quirkle or Blokus. My niece, Elizabeth usually wins. We can’t play Scrabble, my brothers and I are too competitive for that and our inner children tend to come out, which isn’t pretty.

In a time where people often lament that families never get together, I’m so happy that mine still does, every Sunday after church.

Sunday Dinner: Celebrating My Hubby’s Birthday

photo-7One of my husband’s favorite desserts is chocolate cake. We celebrated at Outback on Thursday, but he asked me to wait until Sunday dinner to make his birthday cake. I wanted to do something special, something more than a cake from a box. I mentioned it to my friend, Kate and she told me about this recipe she has saying every time she makes it the cake comes out wonderful. She graciously agreed to let me share the recipe with you.


I saw this on FaceBook and thought I would share. Chuck loved it.

In special honor of my wonderful husband, we’ll be adding a little vanilla bean ice cream on the side. I won’t overwhelm him with candles, but I will hang the traditional Happy Birthday sign. It is just from a local party store, very similar to the one my Mom used to have. After years of use, the letters of her sign were coming apart and we finally had to let hers go. I was tickled when I found one to replace it with.

If you’re wondering, Chuck also asked for potroast and fried okra for Sunday dinner. And since those are two family favorites, I’m sure they’ll all be pleased.

Kate’s Chocolate Cake Recipe:
2 c sugar
1-3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c Hersheys cocoa   (regular or dark)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs at room temp
1 c milk
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c boiling water
1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour baking pan.
2.  Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on Medium speed 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour into pan.
3. Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.
***  I use a glass 9×13 baking pan and check it early to make sure it doesn’t get done too soon.
Original Frosting recipe:
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 c Hershey’s cocoa
3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.  Melt butter.  Stir in cocoa.
2.  Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on Medium speed to spreadable consistency.  Add more milk, if needed.  Stir in vanilla.
After Kate sent this to me, she reminded me cocoa should be mixed with the boiling water for the cake and with the melted butter for the frosting.

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind

9780670026616_GirlYouLeftB_JKF.inddTwo  women — two different centuries — and yet, the women are kindred spirits.

Be prepared that once you pick up this book, life as you know it will temporarily cease. Laundry will pile up, dishes will need to be washed, beds will go unmade, and you’ll be reaching for the phone to order pizza rather than cooking because you’ll need to finish this story. You’ll need to know what happens to Sophie and her contemporary counterpart, Liv.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes is the October She Reads selection. Join us there this month for giveaways and chats about the book and with the author.

Sophie has left Paris for home to help her sister run the family business, an inn and a restaurant. Together they work and care for the children while their husbands fight on the front during World War I. Their little town is now occupied by the Germans and the German Kommandant has decided that he and his men will take their meals at the family’s inn.

Liv Halston lives in London, in a distinctive, architectural glass wonder designed and built by her late husband. There is nothing warm and inviting about her home except for the painting of a young woman, vibrant and beautiful. They found the painting on their honeymoon. He bought it off the street as a gift for his bride, who was mesmerized by the image. Liv often wonders who the woman was? What was behind her smile? Now, the woman reminds her of who she used to be.

Although under scrutiny, Sophie manages to take meager portions, which she uses to feed the children. She and the Kommandant begin an unlikely friendship. She sees the man he is beneath the German façade. He sees her as the lovely woman of the painting rather than the war-ravaged person she sees in the mirror. For Sophie, the painting reminds her of when she first fell in love with her beloved husband, who captured her feelings of love for him with his paintbrush.

The town believes Sophie has disgraced herself with her relationship with the German. She is sent away to a concentration camp.

100 years later, Sophie’s painting, The Girl You Left Behind, now adorns Liv’s bedroom wall. Sophie’s great-nephews lay claim to the painting. Ironically, the painting’s location would remain unknown except Paul, Liv’s new love interest knows. He works for a company that specializes in returning art to the original family, especially art that was stolen during war times. Liv proclaims the painting is hers; it is all she feels she truly has left. She can’t let Sophie go. Paul must make a choice, his profession or love?

The dual story lines eventually lead to a fabulous conclusion. Questions are answered and the true images rather than the imagined are revealed.

I love finding new authors and after reading The Girl You Left Behind, I can’t wait to read some of her other novels.

Sunday Dinner: Damascus Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake


Whenever I see pumpkins, I can’t help but think of a little girl named Damascus, who is the antagonist in The River Witch by Kimberly Brock, the 2013 Georgia author of the year. Damascus is a unique and precocious child. Her mother has died and her father is overwhelmed with grief. Damascus decides that she is going to grow one of the largest pumpkins her town has ever seen. She also uses the pumpkin as a raft in the Damascus River. If you’re looking for a book that will touch your heart, make you laugh, make you cry, and make  you cringe (the heroine, Roslyn battles an albino alligator), then read The River Witch. You’ll be glad you did.


In honor of Damascus, October and pumpkins, I’m making Damascus Spice Pound Cake for Sunday dinner. My house smelled so good as it baked. I promise your family will thank you, and trust me, it is so easy to make.


Sunday Dinner: A Halloween Treat

IMG_1099My mother loved to celebrate Halloween. When I was a kid, every October she would pull the witch made from cardboard out of her hiding place in the closet. This witch had a scary face, must like the wicked witch in Oz. Her limbs moved with the opening and closing of the door.

Mom noticed that one of the little boys, Scott had not been asking us to come out to play as he usually did daily. She asked his mother if everything was all right. His mother laughed; Scott was afraid of the witch on the door. When the witch disappeared, Scott reappeared asking us to play.

Mom loved making themed recipes. She had seen the recipe in a magazine and as my mother often did, she changed it up making it her own. Boo Pudding is a family favorite. What’s not to love about chocolate, cookies, and whipped cream?

1 Large Package of Jello Instant Pudding (Make as directed on box except do not place in refrigerator to set).
1 Regular tub of Cool Whip
Oreo Cookies
Chocolate Graham Crackers
Candy Corn
Candy Pumpkins

I found candy Peep Pumpkins, which would have tickled my Mom. She really loved the Peep Chicks that come out at Easter.

To make:

Crush Oreos and divide. Line the bottom of the dish with half the Oreos.

Make Jello Instant Pudding as directed on box except do not place in refrigerator to set. Add Cool Whip and mix together and place over crushed Oreos.

Top with the remaining Oreos.

Line the dish with candy corn. Place graham crackers to look like tombstones. Add pumpkins.

You can use the spray whipped cream to make ghosts by your tombstones.

Sunday Dinner: California Cuisine comes to South Carolina

Vincent Family Chicken and Artichoke Hearts over Rice

Vincent Family Chicken and Artichoke Hearts over Rice

I’m taking the day off from cooking and we’re having Sunday dinner at a restaurant with my family. Funny how most of my family has decided to take the day off and declined our invitation to eat out. They must really love my cooking.

I wanted to share one of my husband’s favorite dishes. When he was growing up this was a family favorite. I don’t think he realized it had mushroom soup though, my man detests mushrooms.

When we married one of the gifts my sweet mother-in-law gave me was a copy of the family cookbook. My husband has been working long hours, they have a special project and a looming deadline. He leaves early and gets home in time to go to bed again. When he does get home, he’s ravenous and what better way to thank him for all of his hard work than with some good comfort food. The man loves chicken and artichoke hearts. I must confess growing up in the South, and artichoke has never made it to our family dinner table until I met a man from California.

The recipe came to my mother-in-law by way of her brother, Bill and sister-in-law, Phyllis.

Chicken and Artichoke Hearts

• 4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves

• 2 Small jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained

• 1 Can cream of mushroom soup (or other creamed soup) I used cream of chicken

• 1 Can cheese soup

• 1/4 Cup of milk

Brown chicken pieces on both sides and place chicken and artichokes in 9 x 13 pan Pyrex dish. Mix milk and soups together, add salt and pepper to taste, and pour over chicken and artichoke hearts.

Bake, covered at 350° for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Can be served over rice.

The smile my man had on his face as he dived into this dish after a long, hard day of work. I’m so thankful to my mother-in-law for blessing me with a copy of the family recipes. What a lovely way to welcome a daughter-in-law into the family.