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!!!!

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!!