Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

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Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg                August 23

I have read a lot of books by Elizabeth Berg and enjoyed them all – this was no exception! First off, I was unaware that while this is read beautifully as a standalone book, it’s actually a continuation of a previous book by Ms Berg called “The Story of Arthur Truluv”. Many of the same characters make appearances here, in a small fictional town in rural Missouri. We meet friends and neighbors of our likable main character, Lucille, who loves to bake and is very proficient at it. Lucille is elderly (80’s) and much of the book is from her perspective. As a slightly “older” person myself, I could sure relate to many of Lucille’s thoughts, opinions, and feelings. I truly enjoyed how this community of quirky characters interacted with one another, both young and old. There is romance, sickness, joviality, tenderness, and love interspersed throughout the pages of this book. It reminded me a lot of a Fannie Flagg novel (another author I adore) – so down to earth and yes, even heartwarming! Definitely recommend for a light, easy read — sort of like comfort food, in book form. 🙂
I was kindly given this book prior to it’s release by Netgalley for my honest review.

As a side note, my favorite book by Ms Berg is one I read quite a few years back – “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted”. If you have ever struggled with “dieting”, you’ll love this one — I sure did!!

 

 

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The Great Alone – one fantastic book!

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Just finished reading this amazing book and decided I needed to do a review on my blog, ASAP!  I waited seven weeks to receive this one from the library, and whoa buddy, this was SO WORTH THE WAIT!  It’s not often I get so engaged with characters in a book, but this one grabbed me from page one, and would not let me go.  Starting in 1974, we follow the lives of Ernt, Cora, and Leni Allbright. Ernt is a Vietnam veteran and spent several years in a POW camp – and no surprise, the camp had big time ill effects.  Ernt can’t hold a job, so as a last ditch effort to find happiness and stability, the family move from Seattle up to Alaska {dubbed “the Great Alone” by poet Robert Service, many years ago} to a remote, sparsely populated village on the Kenai peninsula. As a Northwest native, I thought that all the descriptions of Alaska would be “ho-hum…. been there done that”, but oh my goodness – Kristin Hannah the author brought that state alive!  She made me think how cool it could be to live up there in the wilderness, without all the pressures of daily life in a city. The sights, sounds, smells, and traditions of our beautiful 49th state really come to life in this book – and I’m just guessing here, but I have a hunch there will be an influx of folks heading north in the near future – looking for one heck of an adventure. Anyway, we quickly discover that Ernt Allbright has a serious anger and jealousy problem and becomes very abusive towards his wife, Cora. Cora blames it on the long winters, the POW camp, and also herself. Leni, their daughter, is witness to the violence and is horrified to see her mom harmed…. and as Leni becomes a teenager, she’s horrified that Cora “loves” Ernt too much to leave him.  Now here is where some people say that the story is flawed.  They say that any woman who was being hurt by her husband repeatedly would never stick around and believe the promises that “it’ll never happen again”.  The sad truth is that MANY women do stay, even in today’s world – believing that it was their fault or that he is ‘so very sorry’.  So yes, there were parts of this book that made me mad – REALLY mad.  But what a read.  Oh my goodness, a wonderfully woven tale of love, anger, adventure, resilience, hope, and perseverance. Of raw nature and raw emotion.  I’m happy to say that Ms Hannah weaves this story in a VERY realistic way, without the use of profanity, which is something that I personally admire.  We get the drift of Ernt’s anger and foul moods without having to hear all the cursing that a guy like him would probably spout off.      This book is a definite 5 star read for me.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s raw, realistic, and remarkable. Read it.

Random “book” questions answered

pexels-photo-247644.jpegI’ve recently discovered “Book Tube” – a community of folks who love reading and are on YouTube making videos about their books.  I saw a thing they called “The Book Tag” and thought I’d randomly answer some of the same questions that were going around BookTube last summer.  So, here goes!

  1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?  Not really.  I enjoy reading in bed at night and in the summer, I love to sit out on our back deck with a book.  I also love reading when we are on RV trips, and will even curl up on our couch and read during the daytime.
  2. Bookmark? Or a random piece of paper?  Definitely bookmark.  I collect bookmarks whenever we go to a National Park. I like to stamp the back with the rubber stamp date thing that they have in all the visitor centers – to remember the day we were there.  I also have bookmarks from fun trips and still use the ones I picked up on our wonderful trip to Australia, years ago. My most recent National Park bookmark is from Volcanoes on the big island of Hawaii.
  3. Can you just stop reading or do you need to read a certain number of pages or quit at the end of a chapter?  I like to stop reading at the end of a chapter, but I rarely give myself a certain number of pages to read….although, thinking of it, sometimes when I’ve borrowed a library book and therefore have a deadline to return it, I do sometimes divide up the pages with the number of days I have left.  Usually, I just stop whenever I want to or need to.
  4. Do you eat or drink while reading?  I don’t usually eat while reading, but will often pair a hot mug of tea in the winter or an icy glass of tea in the summer with my book.
  5. Music or TV while reading?  Preferably, no. I love to read in silence. BUT… I do live with a certain someone who has been known to watch soccer for hours on end, and I can tune it out pretty well these days if I’m into a good book.
  6. One book at a time, or several at once?  Often, I’ll have two, sometimes three books going at the same time. One physical book, one e-book, and once in a while, an audio book also.
  7. Do you prefer E-readers or physical books?  I like them both, but honestly, I prefer a physical book. I also love audio books, but only if the narrator/reader is good at what they do. I’ve listened to horrible narrators, and wonderful narrators, and the difference is monstrous. One reason I prefer a “real” book is because it’s nearly impossible to share an ebook with another person. When I find a gem of a book, I love to pass it around.
  8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?  No. That would spoil things!  I have been known to skip over a paragraph or two for various reasons, but not pages.
  9. Do you break the spine of a book, or try to keep it like new?  Just depends on the book. If I feel like I have to keep “prying” it open to read it, I’ll break the spine.  Of course this is not an issue with hardbacks.
  10. Once you start a book, do you force yourself to finish it?  Oh my goodness, NO!  If I can’t get into a book after about 50-60 pages, I will call it quits. Too many good books, too little time!

So there you have it, my answers to “the Book Tag”. I am just about done with my first book of 2018 – one I’d never even heard of before watching some of the BookTube/YouTube videos.  Be watching for my review to appear soon under the tab “Books 2018”.  Time for me to go finish book #1 for the year!  🙂

Reading goals for 2018

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This year, 2017, I set myself a reading goal of finishing 25 books.  I think I’ve completed about 35 books so far, and I’m pleased about that.  Today I watched a vlog from a woman who completed the PopSugar Reading challenge for 2017. I’d never heard of that and was intrigued. So I looked over the categories for both 2017 and 2018, and picked 12 (and added a couple of my own categories) that I thought might not be TOO difficult to complete, yet stretch my normal reading boundaries a bit. Some things I refuse to compromise, however. I simply won’t read a book that is riddled with foul language, or anything in the horror genre. Just isn’t my thing – at all.  I’m also not “into” sci-fi but did read The Hunger Games years ago and liked it, so who knows?  So anyway, here is my list for next year:

    • A True Crime book
    • A book set in a place that I normally do not read about
    • A bestseller from the year I was born
    • A book by an author with different ethnicity than me
    • A childhood classic I’ve never read
    • A bestseller from the year I graduated high school
    • A book that’s been on my TBR pile way too long
    • A book about food (cookbooks don’t count!)
    • A book with a month or day of the week in the title
    • A book from a genre that I don’t normally read
    • A book with more than 500 pages
    • A book by a first time author
    • A Classic novel I’ve never read
    • Re-read one book I once loved, do I still love it?

This shouldn’t be too hard…. I mean, I’m retired and I love to read…. so lets see how it goes!!!  I’ll be reporting back here often. Happy reading everyone!

I’m ready for Fall!

Okay, so it’s obvious I’ve neglected my blog for awhile.  I could probably dream up a long list of “whys”, but I won’t even try.  I think it will suffice to say that I’ve simply been focused elsewhere.  Who knew retirement would be so busy, so fun, so time consuming?! Ha!  I’m really enjoying my life these days and am thankful that I CAN enjoy it.  It’s not like we are busy every moment of every day – going somewhere, doing something, because that is not the case. Sometimes (oft times) the joy for me is in the NOT going and doing. After all, up until my retirement a few years ago, my every moment was pretty much planned out for me. Now *I* make my schedule, and frequently my “schedule” includes things like sitting on the back deck, reading my library book!   I am so happy, so content, and so grateful for both.  Sometimes people get bored as they age and don’t have a job to keep them involved in life so to speak – well, that is not me. A long time ago I used to love a song by James Taylor called “The Secret of Life”.  The first line goes: The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time……  I remember hearing that when I was young, really young, and wondered if I’d enjoy my “older years” as much as I was loving my younger ones.  Yes, life is sure different now, but I’m still enjoying the passing of time. Here’s a link to a video of that song – one of my all time faves.    So here are some of the things that have been happening here this summer…..

  • Since returning home from southern California in early June, we’ve gone camping 4 times and are slated to go again in a week or so.  We love camping and it’s especially fun when we go with our neighbors who also have a motor home. I wish that our kids would also get RV’s so we could plan trips with them as well!!
  • We have had fun with our now 9 1/2 month old kitten, Frankie.  Frankie has been with us since February – he’s made a trip down I-5 all the way to So-Cal and back. He spent 3 months in Palm Springs, and is now an official RV Cat too.  He seems to enjoy camping almost as much as we do.  He’s great on his harness & leash as well. Our late kitty, Jinx, was an indoor/outdoor cat.  He was pretty savvy regarding all the wildlife around here.  Frankie is an outdoor-only-on-a-leash kinda kitty.  BUT, he loves watching out the windows at the birds every day and alerts us the moment a raccoon or deer appear on the back deck!! I’ve only seen Frankie hiss twice, and both times were at large, bold raccoons. We put peanuts out daily for the Blue Jays and squirrels, and have suet hanging for the wild birds as well… so the window is like “cat TV” for little Frankie, who, by the way, is NOT so little anymore! He’s a robust 12 pounds now!
  • I’ve been doing lots of reading lately – check out the tab above, “Books 2017”. In the summer, I love slipping out onto the back deck with my latest read in the afternoon and spending an hour or sometimes two, in another time and place.
  • My nemesis “Mr Diverticulitis” has unfortunately reared his ugly head this summer as well.  Now that I’m over the latest flare-up, I’m trying some different things in the hopes of preventing these attacks from happening.  I’ve added drinking ALOE water to my daily regimen. It’s supposed to be very soothing to the digestive tract. I’m trying to be much better at remembering to take my Vitamin D, Flax Seed Oil, and other supplements. I am now consuming some raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar daily. I actually don’t mind the flavor, mixed in with my aloe water. I’m still culturing kefir also.
  • We went kayaking once so far this summer, and oh my how I love it!!  Hubby just ordered new roof racks called “J-Hooks” to make transporting the kayaks much easier. I’m thinking that we’ll get one or two more kayak expeditions in before the cool, wet weather arrives.
  • Speaking of weather, it has been exceptionally dry this year. I think we’ve had only two or three days of rain since returning in early June!  I hate to say it, but I’m actually getting a little sick of sunshine!  We traveled to Palm Springs in early March and if you count the three months of nothing but sun down there, and now three months of nearly nothing but sun up here, well, I haven’t hardly seen a cloud or raindrop for SIX MONTHS!  I’m ready!  I’m ready for some cool, crisp autumnal weather — the kind that makes you want to light amazing smelling candles and cook soup!

Yes, I’m more than ready for some cool weather – but there is none in our forecast at the moment, that’s for sure.  I always proclaim Sundays as “Soup Sunday” in the autumn and winter, and make some pretty darn delicious meals…. some of our faves are: Split Pea; Lentil-Veggie-Barley; French Onion; Cheesy Potato; Broccoli-Cheddar; Beef, Mushroom, and Barley; Hot & Sour…. oh my I could go on and on.  Chili is one of my personal faves too, both “con Carne” and “vegetarian” chili.  Hubby will eat it, though he doesn’t crave it like I do.     Another reason I love fall is —- FOOTBALL!!!  I truly enjoy watching both our Seattle Seahawks as well as the University of Washington Huskies. It’s in my blood. I’ve been a huge sports fan since I was about 10 years old and my dad started taking me to local high school games.      One more wonderful thing about cooler weather – I can put away my shorts and T-shirts and move into sweats, long sleeves, and jeans!  I’m just ready for a change, I guess.

Some years we have made an October through November trip to the Palm Springs area. This year, that’s not in the plan, and frankly, I’m thrilled.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and I’ve missed it the past few years.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, and let’s face it, the years we have are finite, so I feel as if  I appreciate the gorgeous changing leaves and magnificent colors so much more than I used to. I’ve missed you, Autumn, but this year, we’ll get up close and personal once again!

 

Is it March already?

Oh my goodness, how quick this year is flying by already!  This will be a short post, but I  wanted to explain the new header photo on my blog.  Yes, it’s the group of friends and family who attended my son and daughter in law’s wedding in Hawaii, back in January!!!   I need to do a big blog post about our 10 glorious days in Hawaii, as well as another one dedicated to the newest addition to our immediate family – Frankie the kitten!  So be looking for those two posts to come soon, as well as some (hopefully) awesome adventures in SoCal this Spring!! We’ve got a myriad of fun stuff planned for the near future.  I just need to be better at documenting it all here!!  See you soon!!

Saying goodbye to 2016

ny1I’ve read, or should I say noticed a few memes on Facebook recently saying something to the effect of: “Goodbye 2016, I can’t wait to see you go, you’ve been an awful year”.  I’m sure some of the people that have posted these statements have honestly had a bad year for whatever reason…. although I think that probably the vast majority are protesting political outcomes.  I’m so sick of politics I could scream. So in a way, I echo a slight relief of saying farewell to 2016 and all the crud that went along with the WAY TOO LONG AND DRAWN OUT presidential election.  Oh yes people, I would change the political process if I could. We’d have something like 3 months to get the job done – just like other civilized nations do. But I digress, this blog post is NOT about politics! It’s really my end of the year musings, my look at how I did regarding my 2016 resolutions, and plans for the future.   For me (politics aside), 2016 was a great year, with just one exception. In July we had to say goodbye to our precious kitty and RV buddy, Jinx the cat. I know I’ve talked about this in other posts so I won’t go on and on, but honestly, losing him was hard…. really hard.  We have been pet-free now for about 6 months… but folks, this is about to change!!  Hubby and I know we really want to get another furry companion, so at the end of January we’ll be going to the local shelter and waiting for a special kitty to meow to us in just the right way…. the way that tugs on your heart strings and says “take me”!  Of course I will do a post on that when it happens!! That will be big stuff! 🙂

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Last December I made a post (click here to read) about my new focus for 2016. Number one on the list was decluttering my home.  Whoa baby, did I ever do a good job of that.  I spent months going through closets and cupboards, boxes and bins, getting rid of stuff…. from books to CD’s to clothing and housewares and everything in between. It felt good. It felt really good. I reorganized cupboards, closets, shelves, and our pantry.  My “junk” drawer was in good order…..and now, oh my goodness, it’s bad again.  The junk in the junk drawer is overflowing. The pantry is in near total disarray. My closet is full of too much stuff.  So, it’s going to start all over again in this little house!  The decluttering and organizing will begin anew in January!!  After going through ALL my clothes this past year and getting rid of bags and bags of stuff I didn’t like, want, or need (and I mean big black garbage bags full!), I thought I had it narrowed down to “just the good stuff”.  Now that it’s been nearly a year, I can see with new eyes, the things that I thought I needed/wanted but that I actually never used. If they haven’t been utilized in a year, then it’s probably time to say sayonara . So the decluttering will begin anew!

Number two on my list last year was to eat healthier foods.  Sometimes I’ve been successful at this, and other times not so much.  I am still making and consuming on a regular basis, my homemade cultured Kefir.  This stuff is not only delicious (in my humble opinion) but without a doubt, super-healthy for you.  Kefir contains a greater variety of strains of probiotics and beneficial yeasts than yogurt.  Making your own is easy and SO economical!  I buy a half gallon of milk on sale at the store for 99 cents and that will make me enough kefir for about 2 weeks. Of course, the price would go up if you bought organic milk – and who knows, I may do that at some point. It’s still much cheaper than buying ready-made kefir.        I failed at one of my goals for last year – and that was making my own fermented veggies, but next year will be a success!  I got an awesome Fermentation Crock (click here for details) for Christmas! I’m so excited to finally give this a go!  One thing I want to examine more carefully in 2017 is eating way less in the way of processed foods. No, I don’t want to get all fanatical about it, after all there is NO WAY I’m giving up my Kraft macaroni and cheese every once in a while, but I do want to try and and make things from scratch more. This could even mean making my own breads!  I have a sourdough starter kit from Cultures for Health, the same people who sold me my Kefir making “grains”. I really need to buckle down and give it a try and get that sourdough starter growing!!

Number three last year was to READ MORE and compute less, and in this I was totally successful!  I set a goal of 25 books for the year, and ended up reading 37!  I love to read, so this really wasn’t a difficult or tedious task for me, but I’m still proud of actually exceeding my goal for the year.  I will have the same goal for 2017, 25 books.  I enjoy using GoodReads,com for keeping track of my reading progress.

So, this brings us to next year, 2017. As you can see, my goals from last year still apply for this year – I’ll be reading, decluttering, cleaning & organizing, fermenting, and hopefully more physically active. It’s so dang easy to sit around or just do house work during the day, but I need to get out and take walks much more often.

I’m also looking forward to several things that are upcoming!  In January, we are flying to Hawaii to attend the wedding of my oldest, Aaron. He’s 39 and two years ago he finally found his “soul mate” in Andrea (Andie). We’ll spend a week on the island of Maui with family and friends, and then after the wedding we’ll be going on our own to the Big Island for a few days. Should be fun!  When we return, it’s off to the Humane Society to find the next furry member of our family – can’t wait!  Later on in the spring, we hope to get down to our southern hang out (Palm Springs) and spend some sunny days there – hubby playing golf and me having pool time!  We have RV trips in the works with our delightful neighbors this coming summer also. I hope our new kitty is adaptable – he/she will need to enjoy being at home in the northwest, the sunshine of southern Cal, and on the road in the RV!

Here’s wishing everyone a truly wonderful 2017 ~~ and let’s not wish our years away like the folks who put up the memes I mentioned at the beginning of this post…. after all, we don’t know how many years any of us have left! People (celebrities, anyway) seem to be dropping like flies lately 😦   A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL!!!!

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