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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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


New Year's Eve is just a few days away and a well planned celebration is just one of the ways to ring in the New Year.  Perhaps trying some alternative liqueurs could bring in the New Year in style.  If this is a goal, then I encourage the reading of AMARO, The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs.  
"Amaro refers to the collective class of Italian-made aromatic, herbal, bittersweet liqueurs traditionally served as a digestif after a meal (Parsons 6).  Brad Parson's book, AMARO, is an informative source to explain the history and enjoyment of all drinks, Amaro.
Living in a rural community, Amaro is not readily available, but that does not mean that the book was not entertaining.  Anyone interested in travel and exotic new experiences will appreciate Parson's research and informative source.  Origins, varieties, recipes, and cocktail offerings are all included in the artful presentation.
I was impressed by the knowledge I gained in reading Parson's book and encourage anyone interested in exotic liqueurs to check it out as well.
FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What my students don't know...

The school fall semester is quickly coming to an end as the Christmas break approaches.  Students are preparing for first term final exams.  Some are embracing the challenge to continue studying, in a quest to improve their grades and finish strong.  Others are not.  Many of my students are among the latter category. I tutor many students in various subjects throughout the day, working with ones that struggle to excel in their school work.

Last night at church I was overcome with emotion as I prayed for my students.  Both the ones at school and the younger ones in my church class. The thought struck me that my students do not realize their impact on my life.

What my students don't know...
I pray for you:
I am aware that I have only so much influence in guiding you in your work, but I have faith that God will lead you in all the ways that I cannot.

When I leave work I don't leave you here: 
I take my concern for you with me wherever I go. Day and night you are on my mind and I am constantly thinking of alternate ways to teach you to help you understand the material more fully. You keep me up many nights.
I want great things for you:
I see your potential and know you are capable of any endeavor you attempt, if you truly put in the hard work to achieve the goal.   

I work twice as hard to try to make things better for you:
Before I attempt to teach material to you, I study it myself.  Then I study the material again with you. Especially when it is a new concept to me.
When I see you give up on yourself, I cry:
I know you can do the work so when you don't try my heart hurts. I know learning about assignments and projects can be overwhelming. Sometimes just beginning the work can seem like a vast hill to climb.  But starting the process is the first step and if you never start, you can not succeed.  Trust me that you have the ability, don't give up on yourself, I won't.
Sometimes the work does not seem relevant:
Yes the work is hard and you may not directly use the information you learned from passing your class. You may never discuss Thoreau's "Walden," again, or be asked to convert an equation from point-slope form to slope intercept  form in your adult everyday life. However, learning to work hard you will use always.

When you fail, I feel like I fail too:
Because you are important to me, I revel in your successes.  I also feel sadness for your failures.   You matter.
When you are rude to me and others:
My feelings get hurt, but I can't show you that. I must always model the adult way to treat others.

So many ask me if what I do is worth it and I say...yes you are

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety

Milton Berle, the well-known comedian once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.” Going into the holiday season and all the “busy-ness” that is involved within the holidays, a laughter vacation will most certainly be appreciated. My suggestion is to obtain a copy of How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety, which I feel is one of the most humorous books that I have read in a very long time. How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety, by the American Association of Patriots, is a satire based on many self-help books. Not only does the book include helpful advice about why an owner should speak to their beloved pet about the hazards of guns and never knowing if one is loaded because there is truth behind the old adage, “curiosity killed the cat.” Also, the book tackles the touchy subjects of abstinence, drugs, Satanism, and other dangers to our feline friends. Many times during my reading, I laughed out loud at the commentary presented in a question, answer based format. Holiday stress can overcome even the calmest individual as parties, family, baking, gift buying and giving and all the other myriad of activities ensue. Give yourself an early Christmas gift and get the book, How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety; you won’t regret educating your cat as well as tickling your funny bone!
FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Classic German Baking

     I must be honest, when I first saw Luisa Weiss's book, Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites from Pfeffernusse to Streuselkuchen,  on the Blogging for Books website I emitted a small exclamation of joy.  Scared my husband, and the dog, but I knew they would forgive me once they tasted all the wonderful creations I would be able to concoct from this beautiful book.
     With a maiden name of Havenstein, German heritage and traditions have always been an interest. Add to this my sister marrying a man who is full blood Austrian,  and subsequently growing up knowing her Austrian mother-in-law, and you get a passion for all things involved in German cuisine.  However, even with the background I have, I have not had the opportunity to explore traditional German baking.
     Thanks to Weiss's incredible book, Classic German Baking, I now have the resource to create many traditional favorites, and I might add that I can't wait to do so.  The book itself is an inspiring piece of art.  The page layouts are appealing and offer easy to read instructions with stunning photos of the various foods.  My first attempt was the time-honored Apple Strudel.  I will admit, I felt a bit of apprehension when I looked at the recipe, three pages of instructions were given, yet as I delved into the process, with the company of my daughter and her dear friend, I found the procedure quite straight forward and easy to understand. The proof was in the strudel, the pastry turned out wonderful: flakey, buttery, sweet, and definitely a new family favorite.
      With Christmas quickly approaching, I hope to try many of the recipes.  Thank you Luisa Weiss for creating a stunning book to create all the German baking of my dreams! I would highly recommend anyone interested in authentic German baking to treat themselves to this gem!

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

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Barons of the Beltway

In the current political atmosphere, there are many emotions and opinions.  Both conservative and liberal voices are rampant with new controversial information everyday.  This is one reason I chose the book, Barons of the Beltway by Michelle Fields.  However, I am a self proclaimed anti-political enthusiast.  I honestly try to stay as far away from any political discussion as humanly possible.  Reading the Barons of the Beltway was a stretch for me, and I have to say I found it to be exactly what I thought it would be.  That being said, I was underwhelmed , but as I said, I am not a political junkie.  The book delivers exactly what it said that it would. Extravagances of today’s political system are compared to the humbleness and conservative spending of our forefathers.  Fields offers accounts of the IRS wasting funds on “goodie bags” for conferences as well as delving into the Clinton email issues and many additional congressional individuals extravagances and problems.  If I was a conservative news junkie, I would probably be raving about the book.  I honestly feel the book is well written and interesting.  However, in all honesty, I feel that Barons of the Beltway is just one more way to make money during the frustrating political climate of 2016. 

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Guide Me Home

The Appalachian mountains have a rich culture that includes a strong sense of family, faith and the land that has brought the people together.

In Kim Vogel Sawyer’s novel, Guide Me Home,  Rebekah Hardin learns the difficult lessons of loss, grief, guilt, and the acceptance of God’s forgiving grace while living in a poor, but strong of faith Appalachian farm family.  Rebekah hires on as an assistant guide for the Mammoth Cave estate, a tourist attraction near the harding farm. She is old enough to marry, yet she chooses to work in the caves  in order to earn enough money to help her parents purchase a headstone for her brother Andy.  Andy was tragically lost in an incident in the Mammoth Cave.  While working at the estate, Rebekah meets Devlin, a cartography student from the university who is focusing his senior project on  mapping the tunnels in Mammoth Cave.  Through working with the cave’s main guide, Tolly, and helping Devlin, Rebekah learns that her love of God and her faith can see her through any dark passage.  As she lives her faith, she also helps to light the love of the Lord in Devlin’s heart.

Once again, Vogel doesn’t disappoint.  Her engaging narrative, well developed characters, and
delightful setting create a story that engages the reader from page one clear through to the end.  Rebekah, is a strong willed, independent, kind young woman that the reader learns to love.  The story moves right along and is a definite page turner. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Vogel’s book, Guide Me. Home and would strongly encourage anyone that enjoys an uplifting faith filled story read it as well.

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Where I'm From

I love the beginning of the school year. Not just because of the shiny new pencils and backpacks, but because after a long summer rest it is wonderful to return to the classroom and school building to interact with my peers and students.

I split my time between English language arts classes and math classes.  Due to this, I am privileged to experience some of the most gifted teachers ply their expertise.  One such instructor teaches high school senior English.  I adore being in his classroom because not only do I get the joy of seeing his students inspired and engaged, but the enthusiasm is infectious.  

One of his first lessons this school year originated from Kentucky’s 2015-16 Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon.  Lyon created the “Where I’m From” poem. http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html  The link will take you to her website and her poem.
The assignment for the seniors was to create their own “Where I’m From” poems.  I couldn’t resist doing the same.  

Where I’m From

I am from the “Little Apple”,
A place of purple pride,
Agricultural learning, and people from
Many cultures who have come to learn but
Decide to stay.

I am from a family of faith,
German Lutherans whose
Knowledge of “this is most certainly true”
Stems from many hours of learning
And teaching Luther’s Small Catechism.

I am from Sunday dinners.
First as a small child sitting in the
Kitchen at my grandparent’s farm table,
Drinking milked down sweet coffee in grandma’s
Depression glass coffee cups. Then later,
At my parent’s house once my siblings and I were grown.

I am from soft fluffy parts in my heart.  
A bed filled with plush animals as a small child,
Melding into a myriad of cats and kittens living outside in the
Country at my childhood home, evolving into two pets residing in my
Home as an adult.

I am from angel food cake with seven minute frosting,
Choosing a favorite meal for my birthday, always mom’s fried chicken,
Homemade vanilla ice cream
so rich and creamy that a sweet film coated my lips
As I savored every last drop on the spoon.

I am from my dad’s strong hands,
Covered in scrapes and cuts
From the car’s sharp metal that he
Straightened and pounded back to perfection.

I am from homemade dresses for Christmas and Easter,
Every pattern, every design matched perfectly,
Lovingly constructed by my mother
Who stayed up all night to complete the garment  
In time to wear for church.

I am from a loving home that began
With my parents and through marriage
And children evolved into my own, and because
Of this...I am from blessed joy.

I encourage you to write your own “Where I’m From” poems.  Search your heart and memories and remember where you are from.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ghosts from our Past Both Literally & Figuratively

When I ordered the book featured in the latest Ghostbusters movie, I really didn't know what to expect.  I am a Ghostbusters fan so I hoped it would be fun; I was not disappointed.  Andrew Shaffer did an admirable job creating a book that is fun to read, and keeps the true flavor of the storyline in the movie.

I thought the humor in the writing was well done.  The fact that the book is the same one used in the movie made the content even more enjoyable to read.  The book is "written" by Erin Gilbert and Abby L. Yates with  Andrew Shaffer.  The comments throughout the book carry the voice of the movie characters and make reading the book a journey back into the world of the movie.

Ghosts from our Past Both Literally & Figuratively upholds the claim on its cover,  the material in the book is literal and figurative.  The literal inserts include ghost accounts from various locations.  The figurative edge deals with the professional information on ghostbusting resources, classifications of Class I through Class IV ghosts, and reports about Gilbert and Yates's childhood experiences that sparked their interest in being Ghostbusters and studying paranormal events.

This book needs a specific audience.  A prior knowledge of the Ghostbuster series is a definite plus to enjoying the book.  I plan to take it to my high school classroom.  I feel many of my reluctant readers may be interested in it simply because they attended the movie.  I would recommend Ghosts from our Past Both Literally & Figuratively, to any Ghostbusters fans looking for an informative and humorous read.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In Memory of Bread

Paul Graham's memoir, In Memory of Bread,  is one of the most entertaining reads I have experienced this summer.  A delightful surprise, Graham's book has taught me a wealth of information about his journey being diagnosed with Celiac disease as an adult and how he eventually learned to live, eat, and bake gluten free.

In choosing this read, I honestly did not expect to be entertained.  My daughter, recently graduated with her dietician and nutrition degrees and acquired her registered dietician licensure.  She helped me to choose this selection to read.  I did so to pass the book on to her after my review.  I expected the book to be a dry account of gluten sensitivity and diet requirements.  Well, I was most whole-heartedly wrong.  Not only was Graham's book full of information about the ideas behind the upsurge of gluten sensitivity in the United States, but his writing was full of humor and voice that I devoured the book with zeal.

I felt sympathy for him when he wrote about missing the hot bread and beers that he loved so in his past. I understood his anger when he tried to bake gluten free breads, make gluten free pastas and the attempts were complete failures that left him throwing a bit of a culinary temper tantrum.  It can happen.   I laughed out loud when he stated another attempt at a gluten free product, crepes, "made me its bitch."  Most of all I learned compassion for his circumstances.

I confess, I did not feel the true struggle someone with gluten sensitivity endures until I read Graham's memoir.  When so many gluten free products flooded the markets during the last couple years, I thought it was a bit of a marketing fad.  Healthy individuals were embracing the gluten free items as if they were a necessary alternative eating regimen.  I thought this was silly.  Now, although I do believe some choose gluten free unnecessarily, I also understand the desperate need for the products for individuals that suffer from gluten sensitivity and full blown celiac disease.  That so many products are now available is a blessing, and I am happy for them.

I certainly enjoyed In Memory of Bread, and recommend this book to anyone living with gluten sensitivity, wanting to learn more about the disease, or those just wanting to read a great piece of writing.  In Memory of Bread is a true joy.

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Punderdome: The Game That is a "Pun of Fun"

I love puns, I love words, so it only makes sense that puns would be a joy for me.  This being said, the idea of a game built on and based on puns was a certain choice for me on the Blogging for Books website.  I laid awake, well not really, but I did check the post everyday waiting for my new box of fun to arrive.  It did and I happily opened it.  First impression, the box is attractive, the instructions were easy to understand and made learning the game easy. The object of the game is to create real groaners, awful puns.  Joy for me!

I must say one of my favorite parts of the game is the cards themselves.  There are two hundred cards and every single one has a pun on it, a pure punner's heaven!

Just a couple puns that I enjoyed right off were:

What is the most psychic type of plant?
 The Palm Tree (Ba dum dum!)
What did they call the bug that didn't talk about his accomplishments?
A "Humble Bee." (GROAN!)

There are also two mystery envelopes that encourage the game players to include prizes for winning the game.

That being said, actually playing the game became a bit of a problem.

There are two colors of cards, white and green.  The game players are told to take turns being the reader and read the two categories on the cards then the other players  make a pun.  The reader is then to judge the puns and choose their favorite.  The favorite one awards the pun writer with the set of cards.  The first player to acquire ten pairs wins the game.

I tried to play this game with two dynamics of players.  One set were not necessarily word aficionados.  Very literate professionals, but not  people who make puns at every opportunity.  Needless to say this group struggled with the game.  In fact, it was a total bust.

Next, I played the game with true game players and word smiths.  Those who carefully play games and strategize for optimum results.  Also word lovers that do make puns quite often.  Sadly, I did not have a much better result in the playability of this game.

This said, I feel this game has potential.  It just needs "more".  I am not certain what kind of "more" it needs, but perhaps  more details to the prompts for making puns, or maybe more parameters in the instructions.

I love the concept of the game, I love puns in general and the fact that there are 200 puns written on the cards, however, I did not love the game.  Yet, I hope the creators look into adding more to the game because I would certainly enjoy playing it with a bit more depth.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Jefferson's America

Julie Fenster's historical novel, Jefferson's American, The President, The Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation, is a gem for lover's of American history.  I have studied and read many historical novels, both non-fiction, and fiction, but Fenster's novel is a rare jewel in the treasure trove of  historical non-fiction.

Fenster covered the expansion of the American west through the efforts of President Thomas Jefferson and the explorers he employed.  Many know the story of Lewis and Clark and the westward expansion, but Fenster writes about many more who were elemental in creating the American expansion into the western part of the continent: teams including William Dunbar, Zebulon Pike, George Hunter, Peter Custis and Thomas Freeman.  Not only did these men brave the perils of surveying and making maps of the westward frontier but they also were charged with reporting  to Jefferson their discoveries as they journeyed across the lands rife with many challenges and foreign adversaries.  There was the Spanish Army, trying to protect their investments, and other obstacles in the way of progress.  Yet the men prevailed to uphold Jefferson's investment in the Louisiana Purchase and the United States expansion into the western areas.

Fenster does a remarkable job of telling the historical narrative in a way that is compelling and informative.  The reader is not only learning about the finesse of Jefferson's America and his time prior and including his presidency, but also the reader enjoys a very readable text that is pure entertainment all by itself.

I heartily encourage anyone who enjoys learning about American history to read Fenster's Jefferson's America.   It is a quite enjoyable and informative read.

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

Friday, May 20, 2016

America's Best Breakfasts

Another cookbook, I know,  but I love them so....I try to read a variety of books for my blog but I do so love cooking!  This installment is a book by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman titled, America's Best Breakfasts.
I love to eat out any meal but I would have to say that breakfast is my ultimate favorite.  In America's Best Breakfasts, Schrager and Sussman visit breakfast eateries throughout the United States to showcase the best offerings available from local recipes coast to coast.
I would like to live vicariously as them for this endeavor, as I would adore eating all those breakfasts in their original locations; however, thanks to their book I can recreate them in my own home.

America being the melting pot that it is, breakfast consists of many various offerings, not just bacon, eggs, and toast or cereal.  In America's Best Breakfasts there are so many options to tempt the morning palate.  A small sample of items are: hubbard squash puree with soft scrambled eggs from the Boulettes Larder in San Francisco, California, breakfast spaghetti with clams and crab  from Little Goat Diner in Chicago, Illinois, biscuits with country ham and redeye gravy from Black Smith in Houston, Texas or even malawach which is a Yemenite fried bread with resek and charif (condiments offered with the malawach) served at the 27 Restaurant in Miami, Florida.

Of the recipes in the book I created a variation of avocado toast with pickled red onions and poached eggs.  I added a few ingredients I had on hand and omitted a few that I did not have in my pantry but essentially came up with a very tasty option that was inspired by the recipe from the Plow restaurant in San Francisco, California.  So not only are the recipes in the book enticing and easy to recreate, they also spark creative ideas for additional breakfast eats.

I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying Schrager and Sussman's book, America's Best Breakfasts, and I encourage everyone to peruse their book, enjoy their adventure as they highlight the foods and locales of some of the finest breakfast eating houses and then recreate the experience in their own kitchen.

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The I Quit Sugar Cookbook:306 Recipes for a Clean, Healthy Life

     Upon first opening Sarah Wilson's book, The I Quit Sugar Cookbook: 306 Recipes for a Clean, Healthy Life, my initial thought was that I would eat any one of the foods that she included in her book.  My second thought happened to be, yep, I'd eat them, but it sure would be nice if someone else prepared them for me.

     Wilson's book is engaging and a certain delight for the reader.  The photos and illustrations are inviting.  The recipe formats are simple to follow, including clear, concise instructions that help to make the preparation of the foods error free.  After trying one recipe, which worked quite amazingly, I am eager to try more of her foods.

   However, I would not necessarily say that her recipes are for a novice cook.  The ingredients are not ones that every kitchen has on hand.  Depending on the area one lives, the ingredients may be more readily stocked, but in my hometown, where there are only three grocery store options, the ingredients were a bit of a stretch.  The preparation time is considerable.  Because she uses all parts of her ingredients, there is considerable chopping, straining, and saving ingredients for future recipes.  This is not a bad thing, but it is time consuming.  For example, I made the NoMato sauce. This sauce is primarily created from beets, carrots, shallots, celery, fresh oregano, garlic, lemon juice and some additional ingredients.  The description in Wilson's book made it sound so good that I was excited to try it out.  The sauce, when completed, looked just like a tomato pasta sauce.  It also tasted very close to tomato marinara sauce.  The sauce was just a little less acidy, more of a smooth palate experience.

My husband and I did enjoy it immensely and because I made a double batch, I have some in the freezer.  The effort to make the sauce was a definite factor.  I had to grate beet roots, carrots, celery, shallots, garlic, and other ingredients, then sauté and cook down the ingredients before blending in a blender or using an immersion blender (which is what I used).

Was the time and effort worth it? Definitely.  Will I make more of the items in the cookbook?  Certainly, I can hardly wait.  Is the cooking easy? Nope, but that's okay if you have the time.

Overall, I like the premise of Wilson's book. She promotes clean living and sustainability.  She is wholeheartedly invested in using all parts of the food and having no waste.  She even confesses to asking for strangers leftovers at restaurants, and taking home fish carcasses from a friend's dinner party to make broth.  More power to her, these things I could or would not do, yet I understand her concern for food waste.

I would suggest anyone looking for a whole foods, sugar-free oriented cookbook, check into
The I Quit Sugar Cookbook: 306 Recipes for a Clean, Healthy Life.  You will be pleased.

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Prime: Ancient Secrets to Heal Your Brain and Gut for Spontaneous Weight Loss

The Ancient science of Ayurveda, a system of preventive medicine and health care that was developed in India more than 5,000 years ago, is the basis for
 Dr. Kulreet Chaudhardy’s book, The Prime.  Dr. Chaudhardy, is a neurologist whose early years were spent with her grandfather, an Ayurveda medicine practitioner in India.  When Dr. Chaudhardy moved to the United States with her parents as a young girl, many of the practices of her culture were abandoned in the embrace of the American culture and food habits.

While in the early years of her practice, she found that she was having health problems, and in her resolve to improve her health, Dr. Chaudhardy reestablished her practice of Ayurveda.  Her health improved and she shared her knowledge with her patients, finding that their health improved also without the use of so much “modern” western medicines.

The book, The Prime, outlines her journey in restoring her Ayurveda practices. The practices are explained to the reader so that one might also try the holistic art of Ayurveda.  Dr. Chaudhardy claims that with the practice of Ayurveda, and the realignment of the gut through use of Indian foods and herbs, excess weight will spontaneously be lost.

I enjoyed the book and the premise.  Dr. Chaudhardy speaks of simple changes that one can do to find a healthier lifestyle.  My one reservation may be the difficulty in obtaining some of the herbs and foods used, as well as accepting the change in cultural ideology, flavors and cooking.  However, in lieu of health concerns, I believe a person should consider the Ayurveda practices as a road to a healthier life style.

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

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Mapmaker's Children: A Novel

I love a good historical fiction and The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy did not disappoint.  The Mapmaker’s Children is the story of the true heroine and artist, Sarah Brown, daughter of famous abolitionist John Brown.  McCoy weaves the story of Sarah Brown and her  involvement with the Underground Railroad alongside a modern day Eden Anderson, a woman looking for her own independence from the stress of trying to have a child with her husband Jack.  
In the novel, Sarah Brown is unable to bear children due to being damaged through a childhood bout of dysentery .  She vows to make her life useful in another way by devoting her life and artistic skills to create picture maps that aid runaway slaves along the route of the Underground Railroad. Sarah meets additional real historical figures throughout the novel.  One of my favorite parts of the story was discovering  the various ways Sarah would paint her maps.
Eden Anderson finds remnants of items left in her historical home, later learning that her house was a stop for passengers on the Underground Railroad.  Throughout her discoveries, she learns that New Charleston, West Virginia is filled with wonderful people who help Eden and her husband Jack create a family of their own, a family of friends.
McCoy does an admirable job of marrying just the right amount of  true facts from Sarah Brown’s life to make the fictional character come to life for the reader.  Growing up in Kansas, I knew of the Underground Railroad, and of the famous John Brown.  However, I did not know anything of his family.  I truly enjoyed reading McCoy’s novel and discovering bits and pieces of Sarah Brown’s life in an engaging read. Now that I have read McCoy’s novel, The Mapmaker’s Children, I can’t wait to read more of her work.
FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ten important truths I've learned from AMC's: The Walking Dead ~ or my silly side unleashed...

     Those who know me are often surprised that I am a fan of the television series on AMC, The Walking Dead.  I'm not certain why.  Perhaps I don't strike many as a zombie enthusiast. I am, however, and have actually learned many things that make my life much more interesting having followed the series.  Allow me to share these revelations with you, dear reader.

     1. Life is a dangerous adventure: From the very beginning of the series we learn that something terrible has gone wrong in the world and existing each day is dangerous. Our ancestors knew this well as they eked out a home, livelihood and government in a new land. Disease, pestilence, and finding or growing enough food for survival was a constant struggle. Over time American society has become complacent  for the most part, not having to watch for dangers around every corner.  The Walking Dead (TWD)  is a reminder that life was at one time a struggle but we are  lucky that for the most part, it is not that way now. However,  it still bodes well to be aware of one's surroundings and watch for dangers, just in case.
     2. Trust must be earned:  The characters meet many people through the seasons of TWD and learn over time to be wary.  Even a good friend can turn against you, or your group (Way to go Shane).  Trust in a group is important for surviving.  Whether you are surviving the daily grind of a career or a hoard of zombies, relying on others is essential.

     3. Expiration dates are suggestions, not absolutes. This revelation is a constant struggle for me.  I see a date on a can or carton and think, well it's the day after the date, it must be rotten now.  Wrong! In a world where food is scarce, food is food.  If it isn't bulging, smelling bad, or looking spoiled, chances are it is just fine.  Cook it well and go ahead.  I watch the show and see the people scavenge for supplies and actually feel really fortunate to have such an abundance.  So, I now just keep tasting the milk in the the carton after the date and if it tastes fine, I assume it is and keep on drinking it instead of pouring it out.  (Take that little Miss Worrywart).

     4. When it seems too good to be true...Be it a credit card offer, a "free" trip or product, or a town named Terminus, it is definitely not a good thing to pursue.  Mark Twain's, "It's too good for true, honey, it's too good for true" (Huckleberry Finn, 1884) pretty much sums up the whole thing, all in one swell quote.  

     5. A woman can be domestic and still strong: Casseroles and cunning = Carol.
Carol is definitely my favorite character in TWD, I think because she is such a round and dynamic character.  Carol began the series as an abused, frightened, and oppressed wife and mother.  She watched her abusive husband die, her daughter was lost, turned into a walker, and then had to be destroyed, and instead of being destroyed herself in her grief she just becomes stronger. She is the definition of resilient.  I don't think she ever loses her fear, but she doesn't let it disable her.  I once heard a saying: "If you weren't afraid what would you do?" Be Carol, that's what I would do.  I think Carol has it all figured out, she can be the domestic that she once was, but she isn't afraid to be strong.  Go Carol!

     6. Chocolate pudding is just plain yummy and sometimes you just need to indulge yourself:  When all the world as you know it has been forever changed, and a big ole' virus has infected everyone so that following death one turns into a body eating monster, a little somethin' somethin' is in order. Ergo, chocolate pudding, or chocolate anything, cause chocolate is just plain yummy!

     7.  Teddy Roosevelt was right: "Speak softly but carry a big stick." Morgan understands this well. Morgan tries to save others, he has lost much, just as Carol has, but he still feels others who are damaged may be saved.  That's the speak softly part.  But sometimes "things" be it people or zombies just need to be taken care of, and a big stick comes in handy.  Not overly threatening, helps on long hikes, yet can be lethal when properly employed.   I tend to be a soft talker.  I don't make waves, more of a adaptable go with the flow sort of gal.  Maybe I need to get a big stick...hmmmm.

     8.  Be prepared: pretty self explanatory that one is. I try to be prepared. Other's I'm sure are more so, but I try.  I know that my sister is much more prepared than I am.  In my basement I have a stale box of Twinkies (in honor of Zombieland), a freezer with some items, and a little wine.  I need to add a radio and some water.  I would not be able to survive a zombie apocalypse for long, but a storm, perhaps.  Maybe I should carry a few more things downstairs.

     9.  Love others well and make each day count, it very well may be your last. I have lost several important people in my life, so TWD did not teach me this concept, but it certainly reinforced the idea home.  Life is precious, whether one is living among zombies or simply just living a life.  So for the love of pete, love well, love completely, and don't waste your time. (No, TWD is not a waste, it simply is an entertainment- thank you very much!)

    10.  Live your faith but don't hide behind it: Father Gabriel has been a wishy-washy character.  He is a priest but has hidden in his church, afraid to go into the new world of the walkers.  When others came into his realm he didn't want the violence, he couldn't deal with his fear.  He hid in his church and behind his faith, he didn't live his faith by going out and ministering to others in need.  This past week Father Gabriel manned up with his fear and his God! Go Gabe! He told his parishioners that they would be believers, but also defend their town.  So, What is the truth I gleaned from this? As a Christian I think sometimes it's easy to hide in the walls of the church, worship and believe but not grow as a Christian.  Taking the faith outside of the walls to serve and take risks is scary, but important for spiritual growth.

So there you go, I'm a fan of TWD, I enjoy all the little and large intricacies within the plot and characters of the series. I look past the walkers, and simply enjoy the show, and learn a little too!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Lucky Rice Cookbook

I have always been a fan of Asian cooking. The flavors and ingredients simply speak to me. When I saw the Lucky Rice Cookbook by Danielle Chang, I simply had to have it! Chang's cookbook is a mix of stories, and recipes from various markets and festivals as well as families. As an Asian cookbook, I think what I liked the most was the approachability of the format.  Some of the ethnic cookbooks, both Asian and other cultures have felt too intimidating to use.  The Lucky Rice Cookbook is the absolute opposite of intimidating.  All the recipes included seem approachable and enticing to any level of cook.

Some recipes included are ABC Beef Broccoli, Macanese African Chicken and Garlicky Smashed Cucumber Pickles. These dishes include ingredients available to anyone at a local grocery store. Other recipes have ingredients that may be more difficult to attain, unless one has access to an Asian market, but a persistent cook could locate the ingredients either at a specialty market or online.

A few of the book's recipes that I particularly loved were the fusion ones.  I am always intrigued with fusion.  The thought of combining Asian concepts with other flavors captures my attention.  One recipe that I will try soon is the Jewish Pastrami Egg Rolls.  I love a good reuben sandwich, and this recipe which has deli pastrami, sauerkraut, spicy mustard, onion and mayonnaise  all rolled up into a egg roll wrapper and fried sounds like a concoction that I would enjoy.

If you enjoy the tastes and flavors of Asian cuisine, I highly recommend The Lucky Rice Cookbook. You will not only enjoy the well-written and easy to follow recipes, but the book itself is a true treat for the recipe aficionado.

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Positivity: Sometimes You've Gotta Stack the Deck

     Spring is around the corner, we are being teased by the proximity of it everyday, but spring's not here yet and that can make this time of year the toughest on keeping a positive outlook.  The  beginning of winter is filled with holiday and family, but mid to late winter is when the "going gets tough..." All the cliques flood my mind at this time of year. One that particularly nags me is,  "Don't sweat the small stuff, and - it's all small stuff," This quote from Dr. Richard Carlson's well known book tells us to just let it go and move on, but sometimes that is not as easy as it sounds.  
     When one is flirting with spring days in February, yet knows that a winter storm could reappear at anytime, and summer is still a season away, the days seem to lengthen and negativity can creep on in.  Now, add in the Lenten season.  This is a time for reflection and self examination of all the sins we are held accountable for and the sacrifice made for our transgressions.  When all these things are put together,  it tends to add up to a battle with keeping  a positive attitude and outlook.  So when life seems to gang up on the psyche, then... cheat and stack the deck.
     How do you cheat a negative attitude? Simple, find ways to motivate yourself and remind  yourself that life isn't so bad, in fact, it's amazingly awesome.  I caught myself recently entering a valley of the doldrums, and decided it was time to find my happy again.       First, I dug through my jewelry box and pulled out a simple elastic bracelet that a friend gave me a few years ago.  On the bracelet is a metal bar that says, "positivity".  I put it on this morning as a reminder that I should choose my attitude and that choice should be a positive one.  Next to it, I put on my John 3:16 bracelet.  It is my lenten reminder that an unfathomable sacrifice was made on my behalf, Jesus died for me, so I'd better put on my big girl panties and put a smile on this face, no matter my feelings, things just aren't that bad.  
     Second, go outside and get some air.  Granted, March winds may be gathering force to blow a bit of a "bitey" breeze in your face, but do it anyway.  Instead of feeling the cold, feel the exhilaration of renewal on the cusp of Spring.
     Next, challenge yourself to try something new.  If your work day seems stagnant, think about what you do each day and devise a plan to improve.  Maybe you can hone a skill you already have, but could increase your productivity in that area.  Perhaps, you might find a way to connect with a co-worker, or begin to study an area to add to your skill set.  Boredom is a choice, and continued learning is one also.  
     Finally, make some plans.  Doesn't really matter what the plans are, just dream a little.  Maybe plan a nice meal for a spouse or partner. Look online to find a new recipe or menu and go outside your comfort zone.  Plan a vacation, even if it is one you'd have to save a long time  to afford.  Find the lodging, the restaurants, tourist attractions, souvenirs you will want to buy, just make it a virtual vacation for the mind, heck, even make your daily itinerary.  Even if it doesn't come to fruition, the activity will brighten your mood for the time being.  
     The act of feeling positive truly is a choice one has to make each and everyday.  Getting sucked into a cycle of negativity is easy, getting back out is necessary. Cheat the feeling by stacking your deck and you will come out a winner.