Monday, January 16, 2017

Happy "New " Year

The month is half over, and I haven’t even posted on the blog yet this year.

Here’s what’s been going on:


1. My oldest son got married last month. It was wonderful. Our family is thrilled.
Here's a photo of my husband and me at the wedding.




2. My third child graduated from university. He’s now an electrical engineer. I’d post a photo, but he’s camera shy.
 




3. I had a significant birthday.

One of my gifts was a ten step puzzle box. Beautifully inlaid and wonderfully intricate.


4. A beloved family member who lives thousands of miles away came to visit,  and we had a murder mystery dinner. This is my youngest son--normally he's a college junior majoring in biochem and not a drug-dealing biker. We love getting into character.
5. And last, but not least, I have a deadline approaching quickly. So I’ve got a new tea cup to make sure I finish in time. It holds at least five times the tea of a "normal" cup. So five times the double bergamot earl grey. Yum!


Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Pandora Device, Book Review

Joyce McPherson’s debut middle grade novel, The Pandora Device, is a delight and the perfect read for fans of the Percy Jackson series and The Mysterious Benedict Society books!

As the story begins, Stella discovers that her deceased parents attended Camp Hawthorne when they were young. Eager to know more about them, she applies and is accepted to what she thinks is an ordinary summer camp. But it’s not.

When Stella arrives, she discovers that the camp is for students with paranormal gifts. And when the camp comes under mysterious attack from within and without, it needs all the students’ gifts, especially Stella’s, to survive.


The plot is tightly crafted, the writing is very clean, and the characters are multi-faceted and sympathetic. A truly enjoyable, five-star story!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Flight Before Dawn, book review


Because my mother lived in occupied Holland and because my grandfather was part of the Dutch Resistance, novels about World War II and the resisters have always been a favorite of mine. So I was eager to read Ms. Easley-Walsh’s debut novel, Flight Before Dawn.

Flight Before Dawn The novel tells the story of several members of the French Resistance through the darkest days of the war until their liberation and does a lovely job of evoking the French countryside, the ’40s ethos and the tension of living in an occupied country.


In the midst of a complex plot, filled with spies, lies, and a double agent, the author deals with the nuances of the war and those involved in it, exploring what it means to be ready to sacrifice your life for your country and strength to do so. The novel is a poignant reminder that freedom has a tremendous cost.

Monday, October 31, 2016

A New Watercolor

If you're a reader of my blog, you know my husband Calvin is an artist. Here is his latest work.



Here is the painting in process. He paints from photographs. This photo was taken by our soon-to-be daughter-in-law Lydia in the Great Smokey Mountains.
Here are Calvin's palettes. He prefers to use fine china because the water blends better and clings to the china finish.




Here is the final painting. (Sorry, I don't have the best camera.) But it gives you a sense of his work. Click on the photo if you want to see it enlarged.

If you'd like to see a few of his other paintings, click here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Wolf Road, book review



Imagine for a moment, you are among the treetops in a dystopian wilderness, hiding from the foster father you loved, who saved your life. But he’s also the devil who corrupted your soul and is out for revenge. Now imagine you have a knife in your hand, and you can throw it very well.

In The Wolf Road, debut novel of Beth Lewis, the main character Elka finds herself in exactly this situation. After this heart-rending opening scene, the novel traces how Elka ended up as both the hunter and the hunted. It’s dangerous for an author to give the reader a glimpse of the climax at the beginning of a novel. Often, it steals from the impact of the ending, or it slows the action and lessens the tension when the story goes back to an earlier time in the life of the characters. Thankfully, Lewis avoids this by writing a tightly paced novel with well-developed characters.

I loved the growth of Elka from a frightened child to a mature woman who comes to terms not only with the horrors committed against her, but the ones she has committed. Ultimately, this makes the novel a story of redemption. But its ending is not without pain and suffering, and I couldn’t help but imagine the characters’ haunted lives long after the pages of the novel had ceased. The fact that I was so invested in the characters is the main reason I’m giving this novel 4.5 stars out of 5.


One caveat, this is a novel for adults. The story has violence and adult situations, though the author handles them well and avoids wallowing in graphic detail.

I received this novel from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Cummins Falls!

My husband and I love hiking. So we're game to go anywhere and try anything.

And when I mentioned a place called Cummins Falls, my husband was eager, even though it was a two-hour drive, each way, down back roads with no names. And even though it was in the 80s and we had to take the vehicle affectionately known as the "sweat mobile." (It has no air conditioning.)

But Cummins Falls was worth it!

To the left, is a photo I took from the top of the gorge before we hiked down.


It was a long way down. Thankfully, there were steps on some steep sections. Because of foreshortening, you can't tell how steep this is--the rises between the steps were often well over 18 inches. I felt like I was on the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. Especially on the return when everything was uphill.



On our way hiking up the gorge to the falls.
Here is my husband putting his boots back on. We had to ford the river a couple of times.







 Once we reached the gorge, we climbed up part of the waterfalls. And an another adventurous climber took our photo.




Even though we are in the midst of a severe drought in Eastern Tennessee, the falls were gorgeous.
The water was freezing cold. I had the shivers despite the heat.
My husband swimming in one of the top swimming holes in Tennessee.


Couldn't close the post without a shot of my hiking boots. These shoes have given me more than twenty years of hiking pleasure. And have seen their share of bears and stepped on more than one rattlesnake--though those are other stories.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Pumpkin Nirvana

As mentioned in the last blog post, I like to eat wonderful food. Three years ago, to celebrate our 25th anniversary, my husband Calvin took me to Paris. It was an indulgence in art, architecture, and food. 

Les Papilles was one of the restaurants we visited. And a few years ago, I found a recipe that they'd posted online. It was for cream of pumpkin soup. Not something I’d normally be interested in. But I had cream of squash soup in their restaurant. I hate squash, but the soup was gastronomic bliss. I printed the pumpkin recipe.

 After all three years, I finally made the soup.

My husband is on sabbatical, so I had a sous chef/dishwasher available. Very handy, because whenever I make anything “weird,” my sons need an “alternative food opportunity.” Tonight, it was andouille sausage.

The recipe called for garnishes that included: crumbled bacon,
chives, shaved almonds, bits of fresh pumpkin, croutons, and
a sprinkle of cocoa.
What I didn’t notice three years ago is that Google had put the recipe through Google translate. I could have cooked from the French recipe. The "Franglais" recipe—that was harder.

For example, I’m not sure what “have harmoniously” was supposed to mean. And then there were the words that were neither French nor English...

In the end, the soup was pumpkin nirvana. Instead of andouille sausages, my sons had second helpings of cream of pumpkin soup.