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The written word has always been a joy for me.  I can not remember a time in my life when I did not have books. Before I was able to read them, my mother read books to me. As soon as I could read independently I was never without a book in my hands or very nearby.  As years passed, writing developed into a passion for me as well. I tried novel writing while home with my two children during their early years and was challenged to focus on the craft.  I never gave up the love even when I had to give up the pursuit.  Now, with grown children and the fact I am sitting on the other side of fifty I can pursue my dream of writing.  I have continued the reading quest but now the writing is attainable as well.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Without You, There Is No Us

        While reading Suki Kim's bestselling novel, Without You, There Is No Us,  I was assuaged with the concept of lying.  So much of Kim's experiences as a teacher of English at the North Korean elite all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), centered around the lies of the country and the lies that the students either told or perpetrated in order to exist in the oppressive government.
         Kim, an accomplished journalist, travels to North Korea.  Then Kim, posing as a missionary, posing as a teacher, begins to investigate the elite students of PUST and the country of North Korea.  Under the scrutiny of the government,  the school personnel, the "minders" (the individuals whose sole purpose is to watch the teachers for any sign of subversiveness) and the students, Kim tries to expose the students to as much western culture and technology as possible. After all, PUST is a school of technology where no technology is apparent. All of this happens under an umbrella of lies.
          The teachers lied about only coming to teach English, in truth they were Christian missionaries.  The students lied about everything! Kim says in one part of her book,  "...I was growing increasingly disturbed by the ease with which they (the students) lied."  The deceit was epidemic because every part of the society in North Korea was built on a foundation of lies.  The government told lies about their great leaders, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jung-un and all the important accomplishments of the leaders and the country.  The school personnel told lies or created lies to show the teachers how wonderful their country of North Korea was.  The excursions arranged by the school centered only on areas allowed to be seen.  Apple orchards that looked prosperous and touted food for all but only were for a few.  Church services that looked to support the instructor's Christian religion at a token church that was actually a farce, an enactment of a service by actors and memorized parts.  What is truly ironic is that everyone knows all is a lie but fervently wants to believe it is real, because the true reality is just so sad.
        Kim creates an unforgettable picture of what an oppressive regime  looks like. The novel is compelling, and heartbreaking.  The fact that it is a memoir and not fiction is what I think disturbed me so much.  In my safe, free world, it is difficult to imagine watching every word said, and lying to protect not only my own safety, but those of my peers and colleagues.
As dour as the content seems, I truly enjoyed the book.  Kim is a talented and inspiring writer.  Her incredible courage in researching the book and writing the story has given a voice to many who could not speak out themselves.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review

Friday, October 16, 2015

What is your special day? Random thoughts on random days....

        Sometimes when I am in a creative drought I like to look at the National Day Calendar.  I guess it just amuses me to see what items can be celebrated each and every day of the year.  I also love to look up people's birthdays and find out what events they share with that special day.
         Take for example my birthday. Three of the events on my special day are, National Bat Appreciation Day, National Haiku Day, and National Cheeseball Day.  I can truly appreciate each one of these days.  I do love bats, especially in the summer when I see them flying about my yard and neighborhood at dusk, eating all the pesky mosquitos that plague our area.  In addition, Stella Luna,  a well known children's book,  is one that I cherish.  Then there is Haiku Poetry day,  also a favorite of mine.  I do relish a good Haiku, no mystery there, words are my faithful friends. Finally, National Cheeseball Day.  One of the yummiest appetizers ever, is a dense, savory cheeseball!  I have a good friend who makes a killer cheeseball, and sometimes gives them at Christmas time, I do value that creamy, culinary delight.
        National days can be more fun that just birthday trivia.  I once worked for a doctor's office where the nurses kept a National Day list calendar, and celebrated each day in some way.  Some were quite obscure and difficult to celebrate. Take today, October 16th. Today is National Dictionary Day and National Feral Cat Day.  Dictionary Day is very doable to observe. Just go to Dictionary.com and look for the word of the day, then use it all day long to amaze your friends and colleagues.  National Feral Cat day is a bit more challenging.  I guess one could sprinkle a bag of "Little Friskies" around the neighborhood and call out kitty, kitty in hopes of luring a feral cat, but the odds of actually drawing a feral cat into one's presence is dicey at best.  Definitely not the easiest day to celebrate.
        However, there are the awesome National Day's that so many enjoy and are part of our cultural experience.  Some are well known,  Christmas or Halloween would be an example of these days. Then there are the more recent yet becoming very popular days. Two of my favorite examples of these days are, Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19th and National Pi Day, March 14th or 3.14. Talk Like a Pirate Day was a "Aye, Aye Matey," filled day at the Doctor's office.  We thoroughly enjoyed talking like pirates all day long.  Pi day we took liberties with for our own enjoyment factor.  There were no spouting of Pi digits, no we used this as an excuse to eat pie.  The actual Pie day is December 1st, yet a second day to insist on eating pie.
        I think what I enjoy the most about special days of the year is that each and every day of the year has at least one special day assigned to the date.  On a deeper level this is a reminder that in fact, each and every day is special and should be celebrated and enjoyed.  A form of carpe diem mentality. Do yourself a favor, check out the National Day calendar and find out what special days are in your future... and celebrate them!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Chili Cookbook

          There is nothing better on a cold winter night than a steaming bowl of Chili. Robb Walsh's new book, The Chili Cookbook, offers the reader a multitude of chili recipes and even a few sides, to compliment the various chilis' bold, riotous flavors.
          Walsh begins the book with a pictorial illustration of a variety of chili peppers, including uses for both whole peppers and powders.  He even includes a recipe for homemade chili powder.
           Walsh shares recipes for traditional chili meals such as, "Pendergrasts grass fed beef chili," as well as many nontraditional chili  recipes such as "Cincinnati spaghetti chili..." All the recipes for various chilis look absolutely delectable. The cookbook's format is as appetizing as it's recipes.  The pictures are vibrant and the reader can almost smell and taste the dishes through the pictures.  The background information on each recipe is equally interesting.  Walsh has included historical information on the dishes' origins in many of the recipes.  One can appreciate the tradition and culture that accompanies the food.
            Walsh divides his cookbook into four parts: Chili's Family Tree, Tex-Mex Traditions, Chili Road Trip, and Modern and Vegetarian Chilis. Each part is well done.  The recipes are complimented with concise lists of ingredients and simple to follow directions.
           Chili, is a dish that is a definite crowd pleaser for both parties and family meals.  Walsh's The Chili Cookbook is a welcome addition to any chili aficionado's book shelf.
FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review