Two more book reviews

HenriettaLacks

Last month I finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, an amazing non-fiction book about how the cells from one woman’s malignant tumor went on to be used in a thousand (if not more) labs across the world, helping discover treatments for many diseases, including cancer.  The author meticulously researched this book and portrayed what I believe to be an honest account of Henrietta herself, as well as the family that survived her. You do need to have some interest I think, in medicine or science to truly enjoy this book.  I thought it was fascinating and would most definitely recommend it to others who share my interest in science/medicine.  There was some banter about the movie rights to this book being purchased by Oprah.  So far, I haven’t heard about a movie in the works. Yet.

reluctant midwife

This month I read The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman. Wow. This was a book that I hated to see end!  Ms Harman is a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) with many years of practice under her belt… this is important to me because, after spending 35 years myself “in the baby business” (NICU) and attending hundreds (and very possibly more than hundreds) of deliveries, I’m going to close any book that doesn’t keep it real.  I liken it to my friend Lue Shetler, who cringes when she reads some of the “Amish” novels that are out there these days.  Lue was Amish and lived the life well into adulthood, so she recognizes a poorly written, fake “Amish” story in a heartbeat.  By the way, she’s working on a book of her own – and you know when it comes out, it will be true to the real Amish lifestyle. Okay, I digress…. this book was more about general nursing, not very much in the way of midwifery, but it was all totally believable and SO SO good.  Set during the depression in the mid 1930’s West Virginia, Nurse Becky returns to Hope River, looking for work. This is the second in the “Hope River” novels and I sure hope there are plenty more to follow.  Great book. Period.

Yummy Breakfast Scramble

This morning I decided to try to use up some stuff in the fridge by making a breakfast scramble.  Sometimes I make omelettes (Greek omelette with Feta is one of my favorites), but I wanted to try something different today.  It turned out SO doggone delicious that I snapped a photo of what little was left on my plate and decided it was worthy of a blog post!

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So, here’s how I put it together.  I had some onion and green pepper in the fridge that I wanted to use, so I chopped those up fairly fine.  I sauteed them in a little olive oil – because raw onion and green pepper are simply not too tasty in a breakfast egg dish!  When they were softened, I threw in half a chopped up tomato – not to cook it, basically just to warm it up.  While that was happening, I whisked together three eggs and about a tablespoon of milk. In my large non-stick skillet, I melted half a tablespoon (or as they might say in England, a “knob”) of butter. When the butter was melted, I sprinkled on half a bag of organic baby spinach – I’m guessing it was about two cups or so. I waited a minute or so until the spinach was starting to wilt, and then I threw the sauteed onion, green pepper, and tomato on top of it.  On top of all that, I poured the eggs.  It didn’t take long for the eggs to begin to set up a bit, and I used a silicone scraper to move the eggs around in the pan gently. When they were nearly done all the way through, I dropped on the MAGIC ingredient – some cubes of cut up Brie cheese (minus the rinds!).  I distributed the Brie bits on top of the eggy-veggie-goodness and at a low temp, allowed the Brie to melt.  OH MY WORD was this ever delicious! Normally I use cheddar cheese in my omelettes or egg dishes, but this Brie…. – holy moly – the Brie gave the whole thing such a lovely texture and flavor!!!!  I seasoned it with S & P, and hubby did what he always does, gobbled his down with plenty of salsa on the side.  It was served with a side of sourdough toast, and thoroughly enjoyed by us both! :)

The Silver Star

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I recently finished reading The Silver Star written by one of my favorite authors, Jeannette Walls. Ms Walls had a very “quirky” (to say the least!) childhood and it really shows in her fabulous writing.  First off, I think her best book is still The Glass Castle, which was not a novel, but more of an autobiography.  I highly recommend reading it, if you haven’t! This book was fiction, but there were clearly traces of her rather bizarre childhood that came through in the story.  It is set in the 1960’s and shows the struggle for two young girls to live and grow with a rather non-functioning mother.  I really enjoyed this book, as I have all of her books.  It kept my attention as the girls faced many trials and difficulties that may have been typical for that era.  It was an easy read, not exactly compelling reading, but very good nonetheless.  Can’t wait to see what’s next from this author!

I wanted to add that I borrowed this book from my local library’s Kindle book “anytime” library. I may be 1200 miles from home, but I can still “check out” books electronically.  I do love so much of today’s technology!

Book: Fire by Night

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I recently finished reading this historical novel by Christian author, Lynn Austin.  This one was set during the American Civil War, and is book number two in her “Refiner’s Fire” series.  I really enjoyed this novel and even learned some new facts about the Civil War in the process.  It follows the stories of two young women – both doing what they can to help the war effort.  One ignores her “society” upbringing in Pennsylvania and becomes a nurse, one follows what she knows she can do best, and joins the Union Army disguised as a man.  One might think this premise sounds a little “corny”, but trust me, it’s not.  Lynn Austin is my favorite Christian author for a reason.  Her novels are not sugarcoated and shallow.  This was a very interesting and realistic book that entirely kept my attention. If you like historical fiction, with a twist of Christianity (not shoved down your throat, but brought up at appropriate, thoughtful times), then I guarantee you’ll enjoy this book.  I also very much enjoyed book one in this series, Candle in the Darkness.  At some point, I’ll have to read book three,  A Light to my Path. 

Guilty Pleasures Tag

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There’s a thing going around on YouTube called a “Guilty Pleasures” tag. Now, I do NOT make YouTube videos (I couldn’t handle all the criticism!) but I did think it might be a fun subject for a blog post… so what the heck, here goes…..

1. What TV show do you love, but should not confess to?  I am one of those crazy people who just LOVE “The Bachelor/ette”. I have watched each and every season, each and every episode.  It’s just fun (for me) to watch.  The other “bad” show I occasionally watch is “Millionaire Matchmaker”. Oh good grief it’s silly, but sometimes I can’t tear myself away.

2.  Food — You eat what???!!!!   Of course I think I eat mostly normal things, but yeah, I can think of one thing that I grew up eating – and loving – since I was a kid that may fit into the category of “odd”.  I really, really like cottage cheese piled up on top of cooked elbow macaroni.  They go together like a hand and glove :-)  Ha!  Hubby looks at me like I’m batty every time he sees me eat this.  But then, he likes weird stuff too, like beans on toast and eggs on chips (fries), – oddball British “treats”.

3.  Music I love, but others just cringe at –  Well, this one is easy.  I LOVE Frank Sinatra music!  LOVE.  I pretty much love anything from the Big Band Era, and I’ve been known to turn the TV music channel to Classical for an entire day.  Cringeworthy?  Nah :)

4.  My guilty online habit:  Okay…. well, some folks would say “shopping” and yes, I have been known to do a little shopping online… but I really don’t do that much.  I guess my guiltiest online habit is watching YouTube videos.  I particularly enjoy watching people who review products that I might want to use or purchase.  I also have been known to spend ENTIRELY too much time on Facebook, playing games.  Sigh.

5. I love to wear ______, but I shouldn’t.  This one is easy.  Just ask the hubs. He HATES it when I wear my old purple sweatpants that are threadbare and have rips along the bottom of both legs.  Folks, I realize I am no beauty queen when I wear those things, but I LOVE THEM and have no intention of EVER getting rid of them!  Yep, I’ll keep wearing those sweatpants till they literally FALL apart!

6.  Movie you should not love so much – but you do.   This was kinda hard…. but I guess I’ll say most old black and white movies.  I love them SO MUCH even though the acting is iffy at times, and the sets/special effects are pathetic when compared to today’s standards.  “Mrs Miniver” is probably my ALL TIME FAVE black & white movie. I could watch it over and over and over. And have.

7.  Funny habit people comment on.  This one is easy.  I squeal at my husband while he is driving!  EVERBODY who has ever ridden with us has noticed and commented.  “John! John! He’s braking — he’s BRAKING!!!!!!” I can’t help myself. Clearly, hubby needs a little help when it comes to automobile operation!  (many would agree with that last statement!)

8.  Makeup look that you love that is Sooooo wrong –   Hmmmmmm…. first off – I really do love fiddling around with makeup. It’s fun! But a look that I love that is so wrong?  Well, I LOVE false eyelashes, but look like an idiot when I try to wear them.  I also love winged eyeliner on most anyone, but NOT ME.

Okay, there you have it – my list of eight “guilty pleasures”.  If you write a blog, consider yourself “tagged” to to this as well!  If you don’t have a blog, but just want to do it anyway – email me your own answers to “guilty pleasures” or leave them in a comment below.   :-)

Two book reviews

Since I finished reading two books within a week or so of each other, I thought I’d review them both in one post.  So here goes….

First up –

becareful

I saw this paperback at Costco, and knew it was going to jump into my cart, so I did nothing to try and stop it!  This is the fourth installment of “The Clifton Chronicles” and yes, I’ve read them all.  This one was, to me, more of a mystery novel than the previous three.  As you may (or may not) know, I’m not usually into mysteries at all… I normally leave those to the hubby, who eats them up like good Cadbury chocolate :)  However the story started out three books ago, as more of a family saga type book.  From Archer’s website: This series is a thrilling episodic saga of love, loss, betrayal, and ambition from the #1 worldwide bestselling author and master storyteller, Jeffrey Archer.  I enjoyed catching up with the Clifton and Barrington families, but I still do not feel a strong propensity for mysteries.  I’m pretty sure the fifth in the series Mightier Than The Sword (which came out in hardback at the end of Feb) will again lean towards the mystery side, and I probably won’t be purchasing it.  I might try and nab it from the library, though. I’ve read other books by Jeffrey Archer and have honestly enjoyed them all – the man can certainly weave a tale!

Next up –

shipbrides

I saw this book on the news stand at the Palm Springs airport recently. I picked it up and looked it over thoroughly before reluctantly putting it back on the shelf. I think it was $14 and I knew I wasn’t going to spend that much on a book I didn’t “need”.  Lucky for me, I was able to check this out from our local library, right on to my kindle!  Yay!  I have read several of JoJo Moyes’ novels and so far have loved them all.  This one was so good and so entertaining and beautifully written.  Set in the summer of 1946, we follow four of the 650 Australian brides that were placed on a British aircraft carrier and taken to their English husbands.  Oh how I love a good piece of historical fiction that is based on fact!!!  You might think that the real story would commence after the ship of brides arrived and began their lives anew in a foreign land…. but no.  This book encompasses only the journey, which took 6 weeks from Sydney Australia to Plymouth England.  The four brides we follow most closely come from completely different walks of life. They were thrown together as bunk mates, and it was quite an adjustment. While I know this book is fiction, I believe it probably holds very true to the conditions on board, as well as the strained (in some cases) interpersonal relationships, and the fears of the unknown that lay ahead of them.  Highly recommend this one if you like historical fiction, particularly set in the 1940’s like I do.  I also highly recommend JoJo Moyes as an author! She wrote another book I absolutely loved, Me Before You.  Without a doubt I’ll be reading more by this talented English author!

Polo in the afternoon…..

It’s been SO warm here in the desert southwest, unseasonably warm!  Under a heat advisory, we decided to try to take in the last polo match of the year.  Next week, the polo club will be taken over by three weeks of music festivals (Coachella and Stagecoach).  Anyway, we slathered on the sunscreen, gathered our hats, our water bottles, the big Tommy Bahama umbrella, a cooler full of snacks, and our friends Phil & Phyllis – jumped in the SUV, and drove to the Empire Polo Club to tailgate right next to the polo field.  We finally found a spot to “set up camp” at the south end of the field.

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Above is our little group, hovering under the shade of the umbrella, and enjoying a drop of champagne before the match.  Next are a few photos taken during the game between “Evergreen” (in yellow) and “Empire” (in red). This was the semi-final match of the year. Apparently the winning team took home $20,000!  Remember to click on any photo to enlarge it.  Note that all the horses’ tails are wrapped. This is to keep them from getting tangled up in the mallets and/or reins.

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Okay, I will fully admit that even though I am a BIG sports fan in general, I know NOTHING about Polo.  It was still great fun, watching all that goes on at a match…. how often they switch out the horses, and learning a few of the rules.

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In the photo above, you can see the score at “halftime”. That’s my word for it – I truly have no idea what it’s called. BUT, I learned that the “periods” are called “chukkers” and there are 6 chukkers in a game.

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At halftime, people dash out onto the field for the “Divot Stomp”!  I guess you are supposed to find divots created by the horses and replace the chunks of grass.

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A nice Canadian gal offered to take a photo of the four of us.  Looks like we may have refilled those champagne glasses. :-)  We also had sandwiches (cucumber and cream cheese – very British and civilized!!), wraps (roast beef with tomato and tzatziki), cheese & crackers, and some light and tasty lemon cookies (or should I say biscuits?) from Trader Joe’s.

After the match, we were all SO HOT and ready for a dip in the pool. Phil and Phyllis brought over the mixin’s for their famous “perfect Margarita”. The results can be seen below… with Suz and Phyllis doing our version of synchronized swimming with a margarita in hand!!!

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All in all it was a marvelous day – a first for us (P & P had been to the polo club before) with good friends and good fun!

Next is a photo of my gorgeous Hibiscus plant. It’s a rare day when she comes forth with 4 stunning blooms on the same day. I had to get a photo of it for sure!!  Did you know that hibiscus blooms last two days, max? It’s so sad to see them in all their glory one day…. and the next – withering on the vine.

hibiscus

Just for fun, I put together a little video (about one minute) of some of the footage I took while at the polo match. Just click on the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdDBFD291J8    You can hear the announcer in part of it, and in other parts you can hear John and Phil commenting on the play.   Tally HO!!!!