A Memory of Violets

violets

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor.  As if I needed another book, (NOT!) I couldn’t resist picking this one up at Costco a short time back. I had not heard of this author, but sometimes a book just screams at me and I’m powerless to resist it.  Everyone knows I’m a huge fan of historical novels and this one was set in two time periods, 1870’s and 1912.  As the subtitle says, it’s a “novel of London’s flower sellers”. Now I’d never heard about London’s flower sellers, or about the the kind man who created an orphanage for the little girls who barely existed on London’s streets, trying to sell flowers and watercress.  Give me a well written and impeccably researched historical that is based on fact, and I’m usually a very happy reader!  This one followed the stories of 3 young girls, one from the past and two in the present (the “present” being 1912). Of course the author expertly weaves the past with the present in a very readable manner. I truly enjoyed this book, and thankfully the ending did not fizzle, but kept my attention the full way through!  If you are a bit of an Anglophile, or if you just enjoy a darn good historical book, then this one is for you!  I will most definitely look for this author’s other book, The Girl Who Came Home.

10 Favorites from the Dollar Store

I’ll admit it, I love the Dollar store!!  Where we are, there are four “dollar stores” to choose from. Sometimes, having the word “dollar” in the name does NOT mean that everything inside is just one dollar.  My favorite is Dollar Tree, where everything is truly one dollar or sometimes less.  I also like the “99 Cent Only” store where most items are indeed 99 cents.  Then there is Family Dollar and Dollar General – where you really have to search to find items that only cost a dollar.   All the items I am going to mention and show are from Dollar Tree.

Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order…

1. Solar Dancing Flowers (and figures)

solar flower

I realize these are cheap and cheesy (don’t judge me :) ) but I can’t help myself, I like them. I have the scarecrow, several flowers, the pumpkin head, a snowman, a couple hula girls, and a few others. They are just cute and make me smile. :-)

2. Cotton Rounds

cotton

You get 80 of these pure cotton rounds for a dollar. Mostly I use them with my Equate eye makeup remover, but they could have a myriad of uses!  Similar bags of cotton rounds go for 2-3 times as much at your local Rite Aid or Walgreens. I’m pretty sure they are NOT 2-3 times better than these!

3.  Nail file-buffer-shine thing

nail buffer

When I first got this little 4-sided item, I thought, “there is no way this little thing is going to work”.  I figured I would only be out a buck to give it a try. One side says “file” one says “smooth” one says “buff” and one says “shine”. I’m here to tell you that this thing WORKS!  It really evened out the ridges in my nails nicely!  If I don’t plan to wear nail polish, I can buff and shine my natural nails and they look quite nice!  Give this little miracle worker a try!

4. Nail Polish Remover

nail polish

Yes, you can buy nail polish remover anywhere, but this works great and is a normal (full) size and is only a dollar. I’m pretty sure they have the “gentle” type – which I think means non-acetone, or the “regular” which I think means acetone. Give me the full-blown acetone anyday. It works SO much faster, and if you are worried about it drying out your nails, you can always rub a little cuticle oil, coconut oil, etc into your nails when you’re done.

5. Mechanical Pencils

pencils

Dollar Tree usually has several different types of mechanical pencils you can choose from.  I normally get the 8-pack as shown above. We do a lot of crossword puzzles, so we need pencils AND erasers handy.  I do still have a pencil sharpener (or two) around the house, but for the most part, we use these.

6. Greeting Cards

greeting cards

Gotta love the selection of greeting cards at Dollar Tree!! Many (as shown in the photo above) are 2 for $1 !!  They do have a section of slightly fancier cards that are $1 each.  They have every occasion AND holiday you can think of, as well as packs of thank you notes and invitations too.

7. Teeth Whitening stuff

teeth pen

teeth kit

Don’t laugh, but I have used both of these items successfully. I first got the idea to try these products from a YouTube channel (one of my favorite people on YouTube, by the way) Elle Is For Living  (click on the link for her Teeth Whitening video!).  I realize that the bleach that is used with these is probably not as strong as the bleach you would get at the dentist’s office or possibly not even as strong as the Crest Whitestrips.  However, sometimes gentler (in the way of bleach) is better! If I used them consistently, I’m sure my teeth would look better – I need to get back at it! My thought is – give either/or/both a try! If they work for you, they’re only ONE dollar! :)

8. Reading Glasses

reading glasses

Honestly, you can’t get a better deal at Dollar Tree than the reading glasses!  Yes, they  are $1 !  At that price you can have a pair in every room!  I have one beside my bed, one in the car, one next to my computer, etc etc!  Hubby has quite a collection of them also.  Most are quite sturdy and come in all different strengths. If you happen to sit on them and they break, heck, you’re only out a buck.  I just wish they had SUNglasses at Dollar Tree!  I looked the other day and they didn’t, however, who knows what might come in when they start getting the spring/summer stuff?  The other thing about sunglasses is, you really should get those that have UV protection, and if that isn’t mentioned, then even for a dollar, it may not be a great deal.

9. Incense

cone incense

There was a time when people who burned incense were thought to be weird. Hmmmm, maybe that stereotype is still out there, I don’t really know. What I do know is that I love the smell of their Vanilla incense. You get 40 cones (as shown above) or sticks for a dollar. There are several scents to choose from, but I like the vanilla best. Usually I burn them outside. The sticks are particularly nice when you are camping – we light several which we stick into the ground in a sort of perimeter, to help keep the flying bugs away. I’m quite sure it works at least as good as a citronella candle and smells a heck of a lot better!

10. Kitchen scrubbies

kitchen scrubbies

I love having these on hand!!!  You get 6 for a dollar, can’t beat it!!  Personally, when I’m done scrubbing out a really cruddy baking pan, it’s impossible to clean the scrubber. It looks disgusting and it IS disgusting. So into the garbage or recycling bin it goes.  For less than 20 cents per scrubber, I can afford to toss it and get a clean one.

So, there you have it, 10 of my favorite, well used, and often purchased items from the Dollar store!!  If you have any favorites, please share in the comments!!

January Jumble

rainToday was one of those rare wet days here in the California desert. Silly me, I got out my camera and took a few still pics as well as a video of RAIN. WHY? Maybe I was missing the normally very soggy Seattle weather? Anyway, it was strangely comforting to have a cloudy, damp day here at our “Desert Oasis”.

We’ve been here for about three weeks, for the first time living the “snowbird” lifestyle.  Hubby has been golfing, fixing this and that around the house, and I’ve been reading, shopping (a little), and cooking.  All good things :)  So here’s a synopsis of some of the stuff we have been up to of late…..   (Please remember to click on the photos to enlarge them)

lamb1

This, my friends, is my VERY FIRST attempt at a “rack of lamb”.  I was so crazy proud of it, I had to take a photo. Used to be, I wouldn’t touch a bite of lamb, and then one day… we were invited to dinner at friends Phil and Phyllis’ home.  Wouldn’t you know it, they were serving the dreaded lamb.  I LOVED IT!!!  I’m now what you might call a “lamb-fan”! HA!  Anyway, we bought this little beauty at Costco and I used my new “SkinnyTaste” cookbook to season it. Then hubby took over the cooking on the BBQ.. and yes, it was SO good.  Here’s a pic (sort of) of the recipe from my new book:

lamb2

I even made the mint-yogurt sauce to go with it.  Simply delicious.  So, if you are a bit “lamb wary” as I was, give it a try! It’s not the gamey icky tasting stuff your mother used to make for Sunday dinner anymore!  Ours was labeled as “bred, born, and raised in Australia”.  Thanks Costco!  Oh, by the way, my mother (RIP mom) used to try and fool me into thinking lamb was beef.  I never fell for it.

lamb3

Last week my dear hubby spent two days re-staining the concrete around the pool.  He did the paths first and then the raised edges encircling the spa and walls of the pool.  I love the darker color we chose. The sunshine is so strong here most of the year, it was not a surprise the color had faded quite a bit in the past 2+ years.

lamb4

A little bit of horticulture now.  Above is our Pink Powderpuff plant.  We have never been here in January, so this is the first year I have been able to personally witness the beauty of this thing in bloom.  Here is a close up of one of the “powder puffs”:

lamb5

I don’t have a fancy SLR camera, so I really struggled to get a clear shot of the bloom. If you click on the pic, it will enlarge and hopefully you can see that each of the little red bits has a teeny tiny black dot on the end.  Uniquely beautiful, in my humble opinion.

lamb6

The above picture shows the three stages… far left – it’s still a bud in red.  Top right – in full bloom.  At the bottom, fading away.  Note how the white prongs still remain, after the red ones wither.  Such a shame that the blooms only last about two days.

lamb7You may need to click on the above photo to see properly, but I just had to zoom in on the Goodyear Blimp as it flew by late Sunday afternoon.  The PGA had just finished playing “The Humana” golf tournament at a course not far from here.  Looks like the blimp was making a beeline towards Phoenix — maybe for the Phoenix open next weekend… or maybe for the Super Bowl – also being played in the greater Phoenix area next weekend.  Okay, I simply cannot help myself —–   My team is in the Superbowl again this year!! GO SEAHAWKS!!!

Seahawks-Logo

Okay, where was I???  Oh yes….

lamb8

If you are not a cat lover, please feel free to skip over the next three pics.  Here is our beloved old man kitty, Jinx the cat, lounging beside the spa/hot tub.  Sometimes we let him outside without his walking “jacket” and leash, and Sunday was one of those days.  The time of day was after 4 pm, so the pump was off, and the spillway, still.

lamb10

At age 11, he is still a cute kitty, just waaaaaaay too thin and we can’t seem to fix that.

lamb11

For the first time ever, Jinx ventured across the top of the spillway… drinking sips of the salt water along the way. We have tried to convince him that salt water is not very tasty, but he always takes a tiny sample.

lamb12

I happened to be near the hummingbird feeder when one stopped by for a snack.  Shortly after arriving here, I filled up the old hummingbird feeder and again, it was literally SWARMED by bees.  I wanted to continue feeding the birds, but NOT the bees.  So I went onto Amazon and found this great little feeder, which claimed to keep the bees away, while still making the nectar accessible for the birds.  Shockingly, it works!  If you too have this problem, look into the Hummzinger Ultra bird feeder!  It’s mahvelous, simply mahvelous!

sprouts

What do we have here???  Ahhhh all you 70’s hippies will know what it is!  I’m once again growing my own sprouts!  I love alfalfa sprouts (and lentil sprouts too) on sandwiches and in salads, and I can’t seem to find them at the store anymore.  Problem solved.  Grow your own.  I got the organic alfalfa seed off Ebay.  It’s fun, easy, nutritious, and cheap!

Suz

Thought I’d throw in a recent selfie – clearly taken on a sunny day :-)

sunset2

I know, I know…. I always seem to throw in a sunset photo.  I can’t help it. I never, EVER get tired of admiring God’s handiwork. I took this about a week ago.

I’ll leave you with my little one-minute “rain” video.  Till next time……………………….  GO SEAHAWKS!!!

By the way, the little white bowl on the table is NOT, I repeat NOT an ashtray! I burn little “cone” vanilla incense in there that I get from the Dollar Tree :)  The little hula girl on the table is also a Dollar Tree find, courtesy of my neighbors, Paul & Brian. Since she’s solar powered, I was surprised she was still hula-ing in the rain!

A Long and Lonely Road

katie flynn

I recently finished another WWII tale set in and around Liverpool, England.  It’s the first book I’ve read by this author and I was honestly quite impressed!  I’ve found, over the years, that some of these English authors can really tell a heck of a story – and what’s nice about it is that while you get a great story – you also get a dose of history. Personally, I love learning what it was like to live in those years, what it may have been like a a young child to be evacuated to the country without your parents, and how women on the homefront coped.  Holy smoke, did they ever have a LOT to deal with. Shortages, rationing, husbands in harm’s way, jobs outside the home (something new to many in those days), and the ever present fear of being bombed. Anyway, Katie Flynn wrote a great novel about a young mother of two and how she dealt with all of the above.  I really enjoyed it, and will read more by this author for sure!  I never seem to tire of reading about this era~ however, I will leave England and the 1940’s for my next book. The next one is set in the 1860’s during the US Civil War.  And no, I pretty much NEVER tire of reading all things historical! :)

The Invention of Wings

inventionofwings

I recently finished the book, “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd.  Quite some time ago, I read her well known book “The Secret Life of Bees” and really enjoyed it.  Then she came out with another interesting sounding novel, “The Mermaid Chair”.  Holy smoke.  The difference between those two books was amazing.  One was interesting and readable, the other was NOT.  Needless to say, after reading “The Mermaid Chair”, I had reluctance regarding EVER reading another book by this author.  Then “The Invention of Wings” came out, and was getting rave reviews, so I decided to take it on.  It was SO good!  Really, really liked this book, set in the early part of the 19th century, both in the deep south as well as a bit in Philadelphia.  By now, everyone knows I love history… and a good historical novel based on fact makes me very, very happy!  This book ticked all the boxes.  I particularly loved that it was not set DURING the Civil War (as SO many books in this setting are), but instead, well before the war started, so we could get a more real feel of how life really was.  It’s a book about the interaction between slaves and slave owners, and the beginnings of the abolitionist movement.  I really enjoyed it and definitely recommend it!  My faith is restored in Ms Monk-Kidd!  :)

A family Christmas

1As I write this, I’m still reveling in the joys of a family Christmas.  Last year we weren’t home at Christmastime… we were in southern California, mentally preparing for the big cross-country motor home trip that would commence on December 31st.  I’ll admit, I really missed everyone during the seven months we were gone, but I felt it most keenly at Christmas.  I was determined that “next year” would be different….. and it was – much different in the best sort of way. We had an entire week of “Christmasing” with all of our kids and grandkids.  Who could ask for anything more? :)   I’m so happy and feel truly blessed that we were able to spend time with nearly everyone.

For the fun of it, I decided to try to use my “movie maker” software, already loaded onto my laptop, and put some video as well as still photos together into a “movie” of sorts.  It was an experiment, but I had fun figuring out a few of the ins and outs of compiling photos and video. No, it’s not a masterpiece by any means, but will be a nice keepsake of our awesome time spent with family.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UpNurLRbw0

Here’s hoping everyone had a peaceful, blessed, merry, and bright holiday…. and now we begin to look forward to the New Year -2015!

Another “Irish Country Doctor” book

Believe it or not, I just finished reading book number TEN in the Irish Country Doctor series by Patrick Taylor.  It is no secret that I adore these books, and the newest one was no exception.

Irish doctor peace

This time the book was set (as is often the case) in two eras – the 1940’s and the 1960’s.  We vacillated back and forth between Dr O’Reilly’s time spent in the Royal Navy during WWII, and the “present day” – which for the fictional town of Ballybucklebo, is about 1966.  Since I enjoy all sorts of WWII history, I was equally enthralled with both sides of the story.  As always, I feel like I know the folks in that little town, and am always eager to find out what happens next!  I got this book from my local library.  This is the first time I have ever actually read one of these novels.  All the others were “read” by me in the form of audio books.  I have to admit that I really missed the fabulous narration by John Keating – who does the voices of all the townsfolk in total perfection!!!!  At the end of this volume, the author promises that there will indeed be more to come – YAY!  I predict I’ll make an effort to get my paws on the audio version for the next one.  Interesting tidbit: This Irish born author now lives not too far away from here, on Saltspring Island, British Columbia.