Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Review ... 2012

Tomorrow we'll welcome 2013.  This has made me a bit reflective.  It's been quite a year for me, both good and bad.

The good -- I accepted what has turned out to be a good job opportunity.  I attended not one, but two, very good professional conferences, one in Austin, one in Anaheim (which made me a bit nostalgic for the days I lived in central CA).  I got to make one more trip make to tiny town in Illinois, and stay one last time in my father's childhood home, before we sold it.  I'm still a little sad about that and will miss my summer visit there, but it was totally the right thing to do.  Christmas in Louisiana was particularly good this year (especially the food), even if the weather was bit dreary and rainy. 

I'm cooking more, which I'm finding I enjoy.  For a variety of reasons, I've been experimenting with dairy free cooking, which has led to some vegan cooking, and vegetarian cooking and I've found I like it.  I've gotten a couple of cookbooks and found some blogs and have made some changes that have turned out very positive.  I'm trying to blog my adventures in cooking and I'm trying to ramp up my food photography as well, though not always with my anticipated results.

The bad -- well, on some levels, the job hits both lists.  Wonderful opportunity and every day I know why I took it.  However, the organization, not so good.  It could be worse and I'm super grateful I have a job, especially in today's economy, but unfortunately, it's not a job I want to keep till I retire.  And, while I'm getting used to my new town, it isn't where I want to live forever either.  Sometimes you just connect with a city and sometimes you don't.  I've been blessed.  In all of my moves, this is only the second time I haven't really connected with a city.  So, I guess that's a positive of sorts.

The other huge negative is my apartment, which is fixable.  I had only two days to find a place to live (I will never not take a house hunting trip again).  I actually like the apartment itself, however, it's the poorest built place I've ever lived and the noise from above is just something I'm not going to be able to handle long term.  I don't really blame my neighbors -- they are young and they have a puppy and well, the apartment building is not well built.  I hear every bump and thump and they make a lot of bumps and thumps; it's more than just walking - it's not uncommon for the ceiling to shake due to one of their bumps or thumps.  So, I've been looking and have just about decided on a place.  I have a couple of things to ask the property management company and am not sure it will work out.  But, I have seen a few places that would work.  The thought of moving again makes my teeth itch, but the lure of quietness is too much.  Oh, and a solid surface for working out and doing yoga.

All in all, while this has been a somewhat disconnected year for me, I can't say it's been a bad one.  Just one full of learning  about me and what makes me tick.  I'm looking forward to what will come in 2013.

Best wishes to everyone for all good things in the coming year.

I leave you with a picture of kitty enjoying the mild weather:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach KeeperThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fourth book I’ve read by Sarah Addison Allen and it did not disappoint.  I could tell from the description that it was a bit different from her other novels, as magic played less of a role.  It wasn’t as obvious as in other stories, but it was there in the background.

This is a novel of friendship and somewhat of family as well as moving forward with life.  The main character is Willa, but other characters play a prominent role - Paxton, her twin brother Colin, Sebastion, and Willa and Paxton’s grandmothers, Georgie and Agatha.  The house, the Blue Ridge Madam, is also a presence of it’s own in the story.

Willa and Paxton aren’t friends.  They are two different people, each trying to find her spot in life and to move forward.  Paxton is re-doing Willa’s family’s old home, one that hasn’t been in her family for years.  During the renovations, a skeleton is found.  By visiting their grandmothers and digging out old photo albums and a little bit of investigation, Willa and Paxton learn the story of the skeleton and in so doing, they learn about friendship, namely that shared by their grandmothers.   And, they find out they aren’t so different and a friendship of sorts develop.

But, it’s not just about Willa and Paxton.  It’s also about Sebastion and Colin.  It’s about friendships that last a lifetime.  They are all looking for something and in the end, it turns out that what they are looking for might just be right in front of them.

The mystery didn’t take center stage in this story, it was the catalyst for the relationships, both for family and new and old friends.  As with her other books, this one left me wishing for just a bit more.  It’s hard to describe everything.  It isn’t a “deep” book, but it’s a highly enjoyable read.  Definitely recommended.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

InvisibleInvisible by Lorena McCourtney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a free Nook book.  I vacillated between two and three stars, but the mystery was basically good and there  was enough that I liked that I went with three.  This is the first book in the Ivy Malone series and is set in the South -- Alabama if I remember correctly -- which is always a plus for me.  The book starts out with a death, by natural causes and is just kind of sad.  From there we veer into several stories, one of which is the death of Ivy’s friend’s renter, Kendra.

The invisible part comes from Ivy’s observation that Little Old Ladies, whom she refers to as LOLs, are not really noticed by the world at large.  So, she uses this to her advantage.  Sorta.  The LOL part I had to think about every time I read it, because I kept thinking Laugh out Loud from chat speak. (In fairness, I believe this book was written in the early ’90’s before chat).  At any rate, there was some romance for Ivy with two really nice guys and I liked the detective who investigated Kendra’s murder, Dix.  I also liked her neighbor Magnolia.  In fact, I liked most of the characters... except the bad guys, of course.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like.  First, it’s a Christian book.  I have nothing against Christian books, I just wish I’d known up front.  Here, however, it’s almost gratuitous.  With romances, I think there’s a point and maybe there can be with mysteries, but with this book it was almost a side story -- let’s get the good detective to church and make sure we hook him up with a nice, Christian girl.  Othewise, it added nothing to the story other than Ivy goes to church.

The second thing was Ivy’s "Investigating."  In the beginning, while not what I would do, it wasn't reckless, just odd (cemetery stakeouts). I don’t care for detectives that clearly do what they shouldn’t without thinking things through; those who wind up looking like little old meddling ladies and kind of dumb in the process. Granted I didn’t like the detective who took over from Dix, however, Ivy’s investigating just grew tiresome.  At times, it was somewhat funny, but the end was cliche, right out of a detective TV show (think requisite chase scene) and it turns out not quite the end.  I will say that everything did tie up nicely, however, turns out it’s a “to be continued” book.  Alas, I don’t foresee me continuing this series.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten GardenThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I truly enjoyed this book, slightly more so than her first book, The House at Riverton.  Where that book could have been considered a bit dreary with no happy endings, I found this one a bit more on the happy side, for lack of a better way of phrasing it.

It is the story of three women - Eliza, Nell, and Nell’s granddaughter, Cassandra.  It begins with Nell’s journey aboard ship from England to Australia at about age three.  She remembers a lady, but she makes the journey alone.  Once the dockmaster realizes no one is coming for her, he takes her home and he and his wife raise her.  On her 21st birthday, she is told the story of her arrival.  Sadly, it changes her life forever.  I say sadly, because in an ideal world, she would have had enough sense of self to love her adoptive parents while trying to learn who she is.  I think on some level she did, but the impression is given that it gives her a sense of disconnection from her family.  And, it affects how she is a mother.  This changes to some extent when she winds up raising her granddaughter, Cassandra.

After Nell’s death, Cassandra learns about Nell’s arrival from her Aunts and then finds out she’s inherited a house in England.  It turns out it is a cottage, complete with overrun garden, from Nell’s childhood at Blackthurst Manor.  From there the book interweaves between Eliza, Nell, and Cassandra and brings in Rose, Eliza’s cousin. In the end, nothing is as it appears.  There is some sadness in this book even though I still consider it a somewhat uplifting book.  The sadness to me comes from the time period itself - a time when society and it’s rules were all important.  For me, the sadness comes from the end of a true friendship due to Rose’s desires.  In the end, Rose became a person I didn’t want her to become and her fears ultimately led to her end and to Eliza’s end.  It made me look at the nature of friendship and family.  Of course, the time period played a role here, but it shows the shifting nature of people and how wants and desires can change them.  

This book did leave me with unanswered questions; there is the untold story of Georgiana, Eliza’s mother, and her older brother, Linus.  We learn very little of Georgiana other than she is in hiding from a man.  Upon her death, she implores Eliza, still a young girl, to avoid this mystery man at all costs.  Then, there is Linus, who apparently has a disability and maybe has some mental illness, but we just get random notes on this.  We are never given definite answers about Georgiana or Linus, though hints are throughout the novel.  Still, I kind of wish definitive answers had been provided.

In the end, Cassandra learns the whole story, which probably not even Nell knew, and in doing so she is able to move forward with her own life.  This book left me thinking, as did her other book, about people and how our actions affect us and others.

Highly recommended.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Baking and a cookbook review...of sorts...

I haven't baked since I moved back in April.  Which is sad, because not only do I enjoy the results of my labor, I enjoy the process of baking as well.  However, it's always hard to get used to a new kitchen and new appliances and really get a cooking/baking groove in any new place.  My Mom figures it's because in the beginning, it's not "my" kitchen.

But, things happen and in my case I baked out of a little bit of desperation.  I'm having a lot of stomach problems as well as a return on headaches, just plain tiredness, etc.  It finally occurred to me that it could literally be the food I eat.  I mean who thinks they're intolerant to certain things if they've gone their whole life not thinking that?  Well, I'm still researching, but I started by going dairy free (taking a challenge, which is still in the rough start phase).  Do you know how many things have diary in them?  Even my bread had dairy.  This weekend's grocery store trip I got more substitute items (for lack of a better phrase) to better go dairy free (I'll also be following up with a doctor).

So, back to the baking.  This weekend I tried two new recipes - diary free and gluten free - from the cookbook, Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Nardone.  Awesome.

Last night, to satisfy that sweet tooth, was Chocolate Chip cookies.  I have not made her "flour mix," so I subbed Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free mix, but after baking these two recipes (other one below), I will be.  The cookies have a slightly nutty flavor, but I've baked chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour, so this doesn't bother me.  Overall, these cookies are great and were worth my late night baking foray.

The other recipe I baked today.  Cornbread.  I hadn't planned on it, but I've been eating sandwiches at work and the author has a recipe that uses cornbread as the sandwich bread.  What a cool idea.  This cornbread is awesome!  It will be around my house even if it's not the food causing my problems.  I didn't do the sandwich she had in the cookbook, but I did an egg sandwich (with a small amount of dairy free cheese that was quite tasty).  Truly, this cornbread is some of the best I've made.

I'm looking forward to trying other recipes from this cookbook.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review: Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache NovelStill Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first Chief Inspector Gamache novel.  It is set in Quebec, Canada. I enjoyed that the French vs. English dynamic was included, but it was not over the top or a major part of the novel.

The mystery is the hunt for who killed Jane Neal, an older woman and life time resident of the village Three Pines.  She is murdered the day after one of her paintings is accepted in a local art exhibit.  You sort of know that the painting is why, but you don’t find out why that is until the very end.  There are a few red herrings from the attack on a gay couple at the beginning of the book to Jane’s niece to the mystery of her oddly decorated house.  In the end, it all comes together nicely.

I liked Gamache and Jean Guy Beauvoir and the other members of his team as well the residents of Three Pines.  You come to know Three Pines.  I’m not sure I really got to know Gamache, but this was the first book.  The only thing that really puzzled me was the role of Agent Nichol, basically an intern on her first case as an Inspector with Gamache’s team. He’s apparently the go-to guy for training.  She starts out likeable and then in the end she’s persona non-grata.  It appeared she understood nothing of what Gamache was trying to tell her and it was hard for me to believe that she was that dense.  I wasn’t sure of her character’s purpose as she really didn’t add anything to story unless it was to show that Gamache didn’t always excel.

Overall, the mystery was well done as were the characters; a better than average cozy mystery. I will most likely read other books in the series.  

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Review: Gone Away by Hazel Holt

Gone AwayGone Away by Hazel Holt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first in the Mrs. Mallory mystery series.  It was originally titled Mrs. Mallory Investigates.  Overall, this was a good mystery, though I hated the ending.  It was beyond sad and a little depressing, at least to me.  This is the first time I’ve read a cozy mystery where I actually wanted the killer to be someone else.

Having said that, the reason for the murder also didn’t really make sense.  To me, it kind of came out of nowhere.  And, it didn’t really ring as a motive for murder to me.  I might have been okay with the killer if the reason had been a little different, which was what was hinted at until the “reveal.”

I did like Sheila Mallory.  I liked that she was a retired academic.  I liked her pets.  She seemed to have a nice little life going and didn’t really investigate.  She came across information just interacting with people.  Which she didn’t share with the police because she didn’t think it was her place to.  I’m still not sure what I think of that.

While I enjoyed the mystery and liked Mrs. Mallory, I didn’t really feel like I got to know any of the characters or the community.  I did sort of figure out the killer, but not for the reason that I thought (as mentioned earlier, the true reason came out of the blue).  Even though it was a good read, I don’t think I’ll be reading more in this series.

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Book Review: I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

I Still Dream About YouI Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started out not really liking this book, especially Maggie.  The story isn’t what I thought it would be based on the description.  The main character, Maggie Fortenberry, a former Miss Alabama, is feeling like it’s time “to leave” and sets about planning her suicide.  I couldn’t figure out what was so horribly wrong with her life that she felt the need to do this, other than a mega case of the self pities.

The story alternates between the various characters, past and present.  In the beginning, this was a bit disconcerting as the story felt incredibly disjointed.  However, about 150 pages in, I started to get the flow and with Maggie’s listing of a house she adored and the “mystery” of the previous owner (remains were found in a trunk in a sealed room in the attic), the story picked up.  Picked up enough, that I can say in the end, I enjoyed the book and am glad I muddled through those first 150 pages.

This book isn’t just about Maggie.  It’s also about Hazel, Brenda, Ethel, and Edward Crocker.  The mystery part was about what happened to Edward Crocker, the builder of Crestview, a house that Maggie just loved and got the listing for when it was put up for sale.  It’s also about Babs, the arch-rival of everyone (and really, not a very likable person).

I didn’t see any of the endings coming, except perhaps one.  Overall, it’s a good read and one I recommend if you’re looking for something a little different.  Just stick with it through the first 100 or so pages.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book Review: Uneasy Spirits by M. Louisa Locke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I waffled between three and four stars for this review, but finally settled on three.  Basically because the ending didn’t satisfy.

This is the second in this series (the first was Maids of Misfortune) and is a slightly better read.  Set in late 19th century San Francisco, the book focuses on Annie Fuller and her suitor, attorney Nate Dawson.  Annie is a widow who runs a boarding house and has created a second family with those who room there.  Miss Pinehurst, one of her boarders, asks her to investigate a medium she believes is doing harm to her sister, because with Annie’s experience as Madame Sybil, she believes Annie will be able to ferret out the truth.  Thus begins Annie’s attendance at seances led by Arabella Frampton and her husband Simon, with Evie May, a young girl who is able to channel various spirits.

This is the mystery - are the Framptons fake or are they real.  Is Evie May real or is she somehow being controlled by the Framptons?  This isn’t the typical murder mystery, though there is a mysterious death that crops up from the past.  This is Annie using her experiences to determine if the seances are legitimate or not.

She gets help from her maid, Kathleen, as well as Nate.  There is also more of the romance between Nate and Annie, though it is still wobbly.  With this book we get to know more about Kathleen, as she accompanies Annie to most of the seances (but doesn’t participate).  We are also introduced to Biddy, a friend of Kathleen’s, who is working for the Frampton’s.  An enjoyable character.

My major complaint with this book as with is predecessor is that it seems to go on just a tad too long.  It wasn’t quite as drawn out as Maids of Misfortune, but I felt like it could have been wrapped up a bit sooner.  The romance is a side story and for the most part is done well, if not a bit heavy handed at times.  The other thing that bothered me was the resolution.  Not necessarily the answer to the initial “are they fakes” question, but to the resolution with Evie May.  I felt like she was actually a split personality and while I understand that these things in that time had no explanation (and Evie May has a good ending), it was just left hanging.  I would have been happy with an end note by the author at the end of the book.  Maybe in future books it will be addressed.

Having said all of that, I enjoyed this book.  The mystery was well done and I did not figure out the ending.  It has a few flaws, but not enough to detract from the story.  I plan on reading future mysteries and recommend this title to those that enjoy historical mysteries.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Back porch view
I got back a week ago from my trip to tiny village Illinois... where I've been "vacationing" for the past five years.  If all goes as planned, the property will be sold as of this coming Tuesday, making this my last vacation here.  It's bittersweet.  I enjoy going there with my Mom and visiting with our friends there.  It's a place to really disconnect as we don't have TV, internet or anything else really.  We had a stove, a small fridge, and a microwave  in the house and several local little restaurants for when we wanted something a little more grand.  If we needed the internet, we went to McDonald's (which has recently been renovated and is very nice), about seven miles away.  This is where I went to just re-charge my batteries.  The picture here is an interesting tree as viewed from the porch of the house -- the house where my Dad was born and raised.  We figure it's been in the family for about 90 years.  I will miss my yearly visits.

While we had already taken most of the big items that we wanted from the house, there was still a few that we needed to get before it was sold.  They all had to go in the back of my Mom's Escape.  I wasn't sure how it would all go in there, but there wasn't really much in the tiny pile that we wanted to weed out.  I was just going to have to make sure it all got in there. So, I channeled my Dad's packing gene, mapped it out in my head, and lo and behold it all went it there fairly well.  Mission accomplished.  

One of the things I worried about was getting a terrible rental car. I don't like driving big cars, but my last rental, a nice little compact, it felt like my butt was dragging the ground. It's a two hour drive from the airport to tiny village and no one wants a crappy car for a two hour drive. Once again, I lucked out. I wound up with a Chevy Sonic, which I guess is a new model for Chevrolet. I had no idea what it was when the rental agent told me what I was getting. It's a little hatchback and it had quite a bit of pep. It turned out to be a fun drive. We scooted all over in it - from tiny village to various tiny towns. Plus, good gas mileage to boot. Can't beat that. I checked it out online when I got back and found out it's turbo charged; which explains the pep.

I splurged and added a day to this trip (all but wiping out my little bit of vacation), but it was worth it.  After the time off for the move, I sorta thought it was ridiculous to take a vacation. Turns out, it wasn't. Plus, I got to say my good-byes to the house. Not sure where I'll go next year to re-charge my batteries, but I'm sure I'll figure it out.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Try a New Recipe challenge - Couscous & Veggie saute

So, I'm finally trying to get back in cooking mode and started out with what turns out to be a tasty and easy recipe to do -- Couscous and Summer Veggie Saute from the My Recipes website (found via Pinterest).

I'll admit, my past experience with couscous is from a box.  This was better.  I've also not done a lot with zucchini, but found the shredding part easy and I do like it in the couscous.  I think you could do just about any veggie that you liked with this recipe as it is very basic.  Got me cooking again and gives me a good side dish "go to" that's quick and easy to do.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book Review: Murder on Girl's Night Out by Anne George

Murder on a Girls' Night Out (Southern Sisters Mystery, #1)Murder on a Girls' Night Out by Anne George
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book in the Southern Sisters mysteries. It revolves around sisters, Patricia Ann and Mary Alice, who are complete opposites. One is skinny, skinny, while the other is heavy set. One has been married for years to the same man, one has been married three times (all husbands have passed away). Yet, they seem to be friends in addition to being sisters.

Out dancing one night with her boyfriend, Mary Alice decides to buy the country western bar they are dancing at, the Boot ‘N Skoot. She takes Patricia Anne with her the next to meet the current owner, Ed, and look the place over. When they go back the following day, they discover Ed has been killed. The mystery ensues from here.

There are several things I liked about this book. The sisters are older - in their sixties. Yet, they are still going strong (think Mary Alice, the oldest sister, line dancing). They both have grown children and grandchildren, but they still have lives. There is humor as well as the mystery -- the sheriff is almost always looking for aspirin after talking to the two sisters.

I liked Patricia Anne’s husband, Fred as well as many of the other characters: Mary Alice’s daughter, Patricia Anne’s daughter, a former student of Patricia Anne’s, and Bonnie Blue, the African American equivalent of Mary Alice, who works at the Boot ‘N Skoot. Bonnie Blue was one of my favorite characters.

The mystery was well done. I found it hard to keep track of one of the families in the book, a prominent political family that played into the mystery in several ways, but it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the book. In the end, there were a few twist and turns in what is a well done little mystery. I’d recommend this title to anyone who enjoys a good cozy mystery and a little bit of the south (it’s set in Alabama). I’ll probably read other books in this series.

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Book Review: To Dust You Shall Return by Donna Fletcher Crow

To Dust You Shall Return by Donna Fletcher Crow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the third book in the Lord Danvers series, but the first one I’ve read. Reading the first wasn’t necessary to enjoy this title.

Lord Danvers and his wife, Antonia, are visiting his Aunt Elfrida. There is a request for him to be on the architectural committee to restore Canterbury and also a request from one sister to stop the younger sister from dating an artist, who is also on the architectural committee and at odds with Danvers on how the restoration should be done.

To form his own opinion of the artist, he and Antonia head to his studio to sit for a portrait of them. Turns out, maybe he’s not a bad guy. While there, the elderly neighbor lady is murdered and the her maid is also attacked. The mystery begins. And, it rambles around a bit, but not so that it detracted from anything. In fact, I’d guess for the time period, that’s about it went.

The mystery wasn’t front and center. It was mixed in with Danvers role on the committee and then his being nominated to lead a boys choir for a church event. Thrown in is odd behavior by Antonia that not even, we the reader, know what the cause for Antoina’s extreme concern and her worries that Danvers will want to leave. You learn who the murderer is before you learn what Antonia’s problem is.

Parts of the end seemed rushed and the fight scene a bit drawn out as is the revelation of Antonia’s concern. Overall, though, the mystery was well done, even if the ending was unsatisfactory. Turns out, the murder is based on history and the actual outcome. And, really, not every murder or crime is neatly wrapped up or has an outcome that we like.

I did somewhat figure out what Antonia’s probem was, but didn't quite get it all. The revelation was a little of a let down and left me with a few questions. But, let’s say, all’s well that ends well. And, this ended well. Which I like.

While parts of the story were drawn out, I enjoyed it and am giving serious consideration to reading the first book in this series. Recommended if you like historical mysteries.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On the positive side...

My last posts have been fairly negative. With that in mind, I began looking for the positive and found plenty. I'm enjoying having my own washer and dryer. I'm liking that my laundry hamper is in my bathroom (1st time ever). I'm liking the extra drawer space in the kitchen. I have a lovely balcony with a tree right outside. So far, the apartment management is very responsive. This apartment isn't perfect and there are things, as with any home, that I'm not crazy about. But, it has let me learn what it is I like and don't like. It might not be easy to find, but I know what to consider next time and know what works best for me (like one bathroom as opposed to two). I'm filing it all under "live and learn."

And, finally, as of last week, my cat is finally not spending all her time in the spare bedroom or under a bed. At least not at night. She spent all weekend on the couch with me and is getting in my chair at night. She still has her moments, but it's getting better. Plus, I found a really nice cat sitter.

To seal the deal, I finally got a new driver's license. I thought I'd be smart and go first thing last Saturday morning. Me and everyone else. Lesson to this story. Probably better to go an hour before closing as everyone tries to get there early. Getting new tags for the car was a lot easier. There's an office close to me and that was basically walk in and get it done. I put the new tags on the car today.

The best good news for me. I get to make a last trip to IL to say goodbye to my Dad's childhood home. I tried to make it a quick trip, but it was too quick, since I'm flying. So, we delayed it a week and I added a day to the trip and it's the right thing. I'll have three days there and then I'll splurge and take the Monday off after I come back. I won't get back in town until almost 8:00 pm and that's after traveling all day. It wouldn't be my brightest idea to go to work the next day. I'm looking forward to the trip.

I've had a couple of visitors to my patio, including the small frog pictured above. In fact, after a heavy rain, I dumped water from the plant pots only to realize that there was a little frog in the pot. I'm sure it was drawn to the water. I suspect it might have been the same frog, but I don't know. We've had more rain, so I've emptied water from pots again and no frog. I've also had a couple of lizards visit, but wasn't able to get a good picture.

I leave you with a photo of kitty sacked out on the couch.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn ClubThe Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure what I expected when I started this book and at first I didn’t think I was going to like it.  There really isn’t a lot of meat to the story and there is a lot of unnecessary language.  Copious use of the “F” word, a lot of British slang, etc.  Not sure it added to the story, but perhaps that’s how they talk in Britain.  In the end, it didn’t really turn me off from the story.

The book focuses on the life of Jo MacKenzie, who is moving to a seaside community from the city to take over her Grandmother’s yarn shop.  She’s an avid knitter and recent widow.  Her grief is made worse to explain because her marriage was less than stellar and her husband wound up dying before an end could be put to the marriage.

The move turns out to be a good thing.  Her best friend Ellen, a well known reporter, is a frequent visitor from the city.  She meets new friends, including a movie star, which brings her more into community involvement, which helps her move forward after her husband's death.  The movie star part sounds outrageous, but that developing friendship is done very well.

The story is basically Jo and friends muddling through life.  There’s bit of romance and some family drama (Jo’s mother is somewhat of a flake), but it’s all about getting on with life.

I enjoyed the characters in the book, even the dog Trevor.  Have I mentioned that Jo is the mother of two boys?  Well, she is.  And, after reading this book, I’m doubly glad that I have no children and can’t imagine that this would inspire anyone to run out and have them.  I’m guessing, though, this is a fairly accurate portrayal of life with two small boys, no sugar coating.  They weren't little terrors per se, but very active.

Having said, all of this, I very much enjoyed this book and plan on reading the other two books in this series.  And, you don't to have to knit to enjoy it.  I don’t knit and after reading all about Jo’s yarn shop and knitting society, I kind of want to learn.  If you’re looking for a pleasant read, then give this title a try.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: Better Read Than Dead (Psychic Eye Mystery #2) by Victoria Laurie

Better Read Than Dead (Psychic Eye Mystery, #2)Better Read Than Dead by Victoria Laurie
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed the first book in this series (Psychic Eye), however, this book was somewhat of a disappointment.  Abby, the main character, comes across a little too dumb for her own good or just plain flaky.  She agrees to help out a fellow psychic with a wedding gig, only to find out part of the way through that it’s a mob wedding.  So, they bail.  Yes, they just leave the wedding.  Which, of course, brings them to the attention of the mob because, you know, they bailed on a gig for which they’d already been paid.  Or rather, friend had been paid, but he had a dispute with his significant other and headed out of state - with the money.  Through a series of events, Abby is then picked by the mob boss to be his new psychic and help him find his long missing wife and a successor to his fortune.

The side story is the police asking for help to find a rapist, then not listening to her, which of course proves fatal for the next victim.  Seriously, the cop all but begs for her help, then insist she’s wrong and they’re right.

What happens from here on is just a series of events that is just one bad thing after another.  Really, just one horrible thing after another piled onto Abby, who is hell bent on telling no one that the mob is terrorizing her into helping them.  Not only did I find a good part of the book implausible, but I really didn’t think anyone could be as naive (I’m tempted to say stupid, but am going with naive) as to try and handle things as Abby did.

Throw in a badly done romance with Dutch and another small story line that, in my opinion, really added nothing, and you have a book that just seemed to be never ending in it’s misery.

Everything, of course, is resolved and actually it all ties together, though it was a bit sloppy, and after the rest of the book seemed a bit rushed.  Naturally, everyone comes out okay in the end.  I’m not at all sure I’ll read the next book in this series as this one was just a bit over the top.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Muddling through...

Well, it's been a little over a month with the new job. The more I learn about this organization as a whole, the more I know this is not an organization I want to work for long term. So, I'm coming up with a game plan and hope to be outta here after a year or so. When I took this job, I thought I'd done my homework so to speak. So, I'm more than a little disappointed at how bad it's turned out. You think you've learned from your mistakes, then you realize there are plenty of other mistakes to make. In this case, I simply didn't do enough research on the company. So, I add it to the lesson learned list and start making plan B.

To compound the problem, I still don't really care for the city, but I can manage until I can come up with a better place to live. For me, anyway. The city itself isn't bad, it's just not for me. Strangely, I've only ever lived in other place that that I didn't like. At least in the past, something was as least good. If the job was bad, I loved where I lived and if the city wasn't great, well, the job was okay. What I've learned from this move, is that there are things that I'm looking for in a city and a short trip for the interview didn't tell me enough. I'm not even sure a house hunting trip would have made a difference, but I'll definitely check out the future city a lot better.

The apartment has been a challenge on several levels. First, the trains, which some days I'm okay with and others I'm like enough already. So far, Sundays are high volume train days with an average of five trains going through between around 5:00 AM and 11:00 AM and there have been two trains through within a 45 minute period on Sunday mornings. I know because I've been working out and it's a 45 minute workout. Some aren't bad, others sound and feel like they are about to come through the house. Sadly, I didn't take my cat into account with the trains. In fairness, when looking I didn't realize they'd shake the apartment, but they do. So, I've got a kitty that is still spending the majority of time under the bed. I may consider moving to an apartment closer to work and further from the trains, both for her and for me.

Another challenge was the upstairs neighbor. Labor day was particularly bad, not just their stereo but a lot of thumping and banging, which at one point bounced my ceiling. I finally complained to management. Long story short, we wound up calling the police non-emergency number Memorial Day night. A lot of people according to the apartment manager and hosted by someone not on the lease. I hate being the cranky old lady downstairs and have never done anything like that, but it really was more than I could handle. There was no peace in my apartment for almost the entire Memorial Day weekend and my home is my sanctuary.

I have to say, with peace and quiet, I'm enjoying the apartment more. I'm not doing a lot of cooking, but I have done some, though I haven't gotten to where I'm whipping out new recipes. Still feeling my way around this new kitchen. I have found, though, a couple of grocery stores that will work for me. I also stopped by the mall the other night. I've always kind of enjoyed mall walking. Not an every week kind of thing, but I always saved up my errands and then just enjoyed a visit to the mall. Meh, the mall here was okay, but I don't think I'll be visiting it a lot. Just didn't grab me. That may change over time.

In the meantime, I continue to explore a little, mostly on walks at lunch when I'm downtown, but for the most part, I'm finding that there's enough to keep me going, but not truly endear me to my new city. So, while I'll admit I'm not doing change well these days, at least it won't be hard for me to move on from here. I'm putting that in the plus column.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett

A Crafty Killing (A Victoria Square Mystery #1)A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in a new series featuring Katie Bonner. It opens with the murder of Ezra Hilton, owner of Artisans Alley. Thanks to her late husband’s interest in Artisans Alley (he was also an artist), he invested their savings in it to become partners with Ezra. This leaves Katie with controlling interest in Artisan’s Alley upon Ezra’s death.

Sadly, it’s a struggling venture, but it appears that it is also what Katie needs to really begin moving on after her husbands unexpected death. It is not what Katie wanted, as her dream is to run a different type of business, however, this is what she has and in order to sell it, it needs to be turning a profit. So, she jumps in with both feet.

This book offered good characters a plenty in addition to a nice little mystery, with an ending I didn’t see coming, though the clues where there. Katie doesn’t set out to solve Ezra’s murder, but even though she didn’t have a close relationship with him, she feels he deserves to have his killer discovered. But, unlike many other cozy detective stories, she does try to pass on her information to the police. Alas, the detective is a little distant. Turns out he’s dealing with his own problems.

The mystery flowed well and the characters were well defined. This was simply a well done, enjoyable little mystery. I highly recommend it and am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

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Book Review: A Rather Remarkable Homecoming by C.A. Belmond

A Rather Remarkable HomecomingA Rather Remarkable Homecoming by C.A. Belmond
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the fourth book in this series and I really enjoyed it. Penny and Jeremy return from their honeymoon only to find they have a request from Prince Charles himself and it involves Grandmother Beryl’s house.

The house is in danger of being razed and a local historical society, with some pull with HRM, is trying to save it. The house is located in Cornwall, so off Penny and Jeremy head to Cornwall. There they discover the house has secrets as do some of the locals.

While in Cornwall, they rent a cottage from one of the locals and settle in to find out what is going on. And, happily, cousin Rollo, shows up to help them out a bit. The story meanders a bit, but all in all, I found this to be a top notch entry in this series. I look forward to the next one.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Book Review: The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson

The Baker Street LettersThe Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had high hopes for this book. The premise: brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath rent (well Reggie does and Nigel works for him there) 221B Baker Street which comes with the responsibility of replying to the multitude of letters that are still sent to Sherlock Holmes. Usually, by a form letter. How awesome could that be?

Reggie is the responsible brother while Nigel is painted as the somewhat flakey, not quite black sheep, brother. While waiting to hear whether he can continue with his career, he’s working in Reggie’s law office and is responding to the letters. He comes across several letters that aren’t what they seem and tracks down the original. He then harks off to the U.S. to find the letter writer and try to help her.

That’s the last we really see of Nigel. The rest of the book, which is most of it, focuses on Reggie’s search for Nigel and he is the one who ends up working on the case from the letter that he really didn’t want to know about. His girlfriend, Laura, helps him out, but that’s a relationship that’s a little on the weird side at the moment. Reggie and Nigel do cross paths briefly a couple of times, but in the end it’s Reggie, not the brothers together, who works out the solution to the problem. However, he’s left with his own problems for doing this and nothing involving Reggie, Nigel, Laura, or Reggie’s problems are resolved in the end.

Not only do we not get the brothers, but we also get cops, on both sides of the pond, that are written as the typical know it all and “don’t need to hear you side of the story” cops. Obnoxious both of them. We also don’t really get to know the letter writer or her current story, though apparently Nigel does.

Overall, the mystery was okay, but, it didn’t deliver the story one thought it would and in the end it was a bit disappointing. Still debating as to whether or not I’ll read the second book in this series.

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Book Review: The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

The Murder at the VicarageThe Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I first discovered Agatha Christie in high school and read right through all of them. Lately, I’ve been watching various adaptations of the Mrs. Marple mysteries from PBS Mystery! and decided I wanted to see how they compared to the books. I started with the first Mrs. Marple. An enjoyable read. Not anything that left me sitting on the edge of my seat, but a good mystery. It, however, did not focus on Mrs. Marple, she was almost secondary. The mystery is narrated by the vicar, whose home (the vicarage) is where the murdered occurred. I did have a gap in reading this and was able to pick up where I left off, however, there are a lot of characters and sometimes I had to think about who was who (but, this could be due to the gap in reading).

Overall, it’s a good mystery with an unanticipated ending and Mrs. Marple did do the big reveal. And, yes, the PBS Mystery! did stay true to the novel -- at least the movie with Joan Hickson as Mrs. Marple (who, in my opinion, is by far the best Mrs. Marple).

I will be adding another Mrs. Marple to my to-read list just to see if the narration continues to be done by someone other than Mrs. Marple. Really, though, in the end, you can’t go wrong with Agatha Christie.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

On Moving to a new city....

It has been almost two weeks now since I moved to my new city in Georgia.  It has not been an easy move.  Big lesson learned - House Hunt!  If I had of, I probably wouldn't have moved. 

I moved into the apartment a week ago this past Friday.  It wasn't easy to find an apartment and this one does not feel like my home.  I have never felt this disconnected with any place that I have lived in.  It's a nice apartment and I simply don't like it.  I don't really "match" my neighbors as there aren't many professionals here.  Not bad, per se, but I don't feel like I fit in.  I don't care for the drive I'll have to work and I don't really care for the city as a whole. 

If you haven't guessed, this has been hard and I'm pretty sure it's probably one of my more poorly made decisions on a host of fronts.  If I stay here in this city, I'll have to move to another apartment in about 6 months.  People are moving out of this one in droves and I'm not too sure I can learn to ignore the trains.  Yes, trains.  They come through all hours of the day and night and the freight trains shake the apartment.  That's how close I am.  I can't imagine being in one of the apartments that's closer to the tracks.  You can't really see them as the tracks are hidden by trees. I did hear the train when I was looking but didn't realize how often they come through and how bad it would be.  Course, we had two whole days to find something and constant calls from the movers asking if we had an address.  

Add to all of this, the apartment is a cave.  Most that we looked at were.  The living area is nice sized, but I can't arrange my furniture to my liking.  The patio is nice (covered which I'm sure doesn't help with the light), not screened, but none of the screened porches I saw did much for me either.  I still overlook a tree (2nd floor) but I really, really miss all of the natural light I've had in my previous dwellings.

My Mom (who came with) is tired of hearing me lament what I've given up.  I fully accept I made this decision, but that doesn't mean in hindsight it wasn't a bad one.  It also will take me time to truly mourn what I gave up in in my previous city.  Job included, with all the crazy people and the lack of processes and the warts that came with it.  I think I convinced myself I should want this type of opportunity instead of really looking at where I was in life and was I happy/content.  Nothing in this apartment inspires me to do anything, especially cook or bake.  And, it's all electric.  And, since it's hotter here, the A/C is already on and I can't get comfortable.  So, second lesson learned - if you  are happy/content, the rest is window dressing.  Don't try to change what is working.  Think with your heart not with your head or what you think you should be doing.  Do what is right for you.  

Anyway, this is not a happy post and I apologize for that.  I keep hoping that by writing it out and talking about it, I'll find a way to move on.  I think  I have by the evenings, then I wake up in the morning and realize where I am and that it just feels wrong.  I thought I'd taken into account all my lessons learned from moving to back to Texas a few years ago and apparently I didn't.  I know I had it hard when I moved the last time, but I have never experienced anything like I'm experiencing with this move.  

I hoping that after I start work, things will be better.  Though, the longer I'm here, the less I like it.  So, sadly, I've got at least two moves left to go because I can't see living here for any extended period of time.  Never occurred to me I would not like the city I moved to as I've heard nothing but great things about it and everyone I told said, "oh, you'll love it."  I certainly didn't expect this level of dislike, but that's what I've got.  I'm just hoping working makes it a little better until I can somehow either really embrace being here or I can undo what I've done.  

Hopefully, my next post won't be such a downer.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

On getting stuck...

Last week, I attended a conference in Austin, TX.  It was my first time in Austin and I loved it!  I stayed at the conference hotel, which made it easier to get to breakfast (provided by the conference), and go to morning yoga (before breakfast).  Plus, it was within walking distance of a lot of lovely restaurants or in one case, a food truck - The Jalopy.  Had a wonderful hummus sandwich.  Austin has some great food and a lot of it is vegetarian and/or vegan.  I got to try truffle tater tots.  I'm not a total vegetarian, but it was nice to have those options.  However, the picture I've included is not vegetarian.  We had dinner one night at Ranch 616 and I got the fried shrimp tacos.  Yum.  All in all, not a bad food experience in the time I was there.

And, I got an unscheduled extra day to sample food.  Because of the upcoming move to Georgia, I'd decided to come back Wednesday morning, missing the last half day of the conference, but giving me two full days at work my last week.  Yes, this past Friday was my last day of work in my current job.  And, if you haven't guessed, I had to fly back on Thursday rather than Wednesday due to the tornados that hit Dallas.  I was realizing all of this when the American Airlines automated message called to notify me of my new flight at 1:30 AM.  Yes, AM as in the morning.  At first I was all over the place upset.  Then I realized I couldn't do anything about it and decided to just roll with it.  I called and rescheduled the shuttle and called the front desk to make sure I could stay an extra day.  Then, I went back to sleep.  This was about 2:00 in the morning and I was still a bit keyed up.  To add to the excitement, the fire alarms went off not once, but twice, at 4:30 AM.  Followed by a message a little while later that it a false alarm and not to evacuate.  After this, I realized I wouldn't be doing yoga my last day.

I did enjoy the day's sessions and then spent a lovely afternoon walking around Austin with a friend/colleague. We had lunch at the 1886 Cafe and Bakery (some of the best pizza I've ever had) and I got to stop at the lomography camera store I'd seen online.  I knew the store was in Austin, but didn't think I'd get to it on the trip.

While I was upset when I realized I would be staying for an unplanned extra day, it actually turned out to be a great day.  Bumpiest flight in a long time on the way back, but I got back. Made it through my last day at my job (sorta sad) and am now furiously organizing for the movers who will come next Monday to pack.

I leave you with a photo of fried shrimp tacos...
Fried shrimp tacos from Ranch 616

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Review: The Chase by Clive Cussler

The Chase (Isaac Bell, #1)The Chase by Clive Cussler
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed many of the Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler.  Sahara is one of my favorite books.  The premise for this book - private investigator at the turn of the 20th century, new fangled gadgets (for that time), and a bad guy to catch are all good.  And, with Clive Cussler as the author how could it not be good.  Well, it wasn’t.  Good that it is.  It was disappointing and somewhat boring.  Yes, boring.  Not something I’d expect from this author at all.

First off, the name of the bandit, the Butcher Bandit, just never seemed right.  From the start we know who the bad guy is.  Not unusual (Columbo didn’t all the time).  However, the character development wasn’t there.  Basically we’re told the bad guy is well, a bad guy.   We’re told the main character, Isaac Bell, is a handsome dude who comes from money.  He has friendships with other detectives.  But, you never really see it.  The writing is probably sixth grade level at best.  As mentioned by a previous poster, there is too much detail from everything from the typewriter used by a secretary to the cars to the motorcycles to the guns.  Everything is described with a name and/or a brand. There is a scene where Bell is starting one of his cars and it goes on for paragraphs.  Paragraphs.  And, most people won’t have a clue what most of the detail means unless they are super familiar with cars as they were in the early 1900’s.

Have I mentioned the “romance?”  Yeah, there’s also a girl to be got.  Again, not well done.  High school level at best.  He does manage to make you want to root for the couple, but for the most part it just isn’t there.

I made it through half of the book, then skimmed through the earthquake and “the chase” and then read the wrap up at the end.

I gave it two stars because while it was boring, it wasn’t necessarily dreadful.  It should have been better.  In fact, I wondered if Clive Cussler actually wrote this book as I believe future books in this series have a co-author.  Doesn’t really matter as I won’t be reading any other books in this series.  I’d recommend this only to die hard Clive Cussler fans and even then it comes with a warning as this isn’t Dirk Pitt or even close.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Moving... yet, again...

So, yes, I'm moving. To another state. For hopefully the last time. It's exciting and a nerve wracking at the same time. I was contacted about a potential job that is a promotion to department head. I wasn't sure and maybe a little leery about moving again, but after the interview process and seeing the college and meeting the people (who seem just wonderful), I know this is the right move. It's to Georgia and a city that I'm planning on settling down in. Cause, honestly, I'm ready to not move anymore, unless I'm buying a house, and I'm ready to just settle in somewhere. And, this moving around was much easier when I was a few years younger. So, Georgia, here I come. 

I'm moving mid-April. At the beginning of April, I'll head to a conference, where I'm part of a panel. There is a lot do with moving and I'm going a million directions at once it seems, so I gave up a house hunting trip. I've been scrutinizing apartments online and hopefully will be able to pick one within a couple of days of arrival. Honestly, that doesn't really bother me. I'm just hoping they're not all dumps in person. So far, I've been blessed with the apartments I've rented, so I'm hoping that streak continues.

However, this means I'm moving without an address. The solution seemed easy. Get a post office box. You can do it online. Well, not really. You can fill out the application online. You can pay online. What you can't do is prove you are you online and they won't give you a box number until you do. You have to go to your local post office to do that. Easy, right. Not really. I gave that a go tonight. My local post office had no idea what I was talking about. So, I called the Georgia post office where I was going to get the box. They said they couldn't give a box number until they verified my identity. Circles. Both post offices were very friendly and both suggested I just put a hold on my mail. If I put a hold on the mail and I get an apartment within a couple of days, why do I need a PO Box? I cancelled the box.

I'm actually a fan of the USPS. It's processes like this, though, that are hurting them. I would have gotten the box for a year. Not a ton of revenue, but it's still some. As it is, I more than likely will not get one upon arrival. I'm left wondering why they couldn't have assigned the box and then verify identity before giving me the keys. It's not that different and would allow people who are moving to easily get an address in their new city and many will probably do six months to a year for the rental and may keep the box even after that. As it is, I've now been told I can just put a hold on my mail and when I put in the forwarding address it will end the hold. No need for a box and they lose the revenue. While I understand security in this day and age and why they want to verify identity, I'm also puzzled by a process that willing foregoes revenue by an organization that is losing money.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Try a new recipe challenge Round-up

Over the past couple of weeks, I've tried several new recipes, mostly with success.  The one that basically failed, I'm fairly sure was my fault due to substitutions.  I have a rule for no modifications the first time I do a recipe for a reason; too bad I didn't stick to that rule.

At any rate, here's the round up of the new recipes I've tried in the last couple of weeks:

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes
Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes: Another recipe from Joy the Baker. Simply wonderful.  These are probably the fluffiest pancakes I have ever made.  I did halve the recipe and even put half in the refrigerator for use another day and was pleased with how the batter held up (I did bring it to room temperature before cooking).

Vegan Red Beans & Rice for 2
Vegan Red Beans and Rice for 2:  This is a slow cooker recipe from Healthy Slow Cooking.  I'm not really a vegan or a vegetarian, but I eat very little beef and I like beans.  This recipe basically cooks all night and then all day.  I did it in a Rival Crockette, which I don't think they make anymore.  I had kidney beans, so I did boil them for a little over 10 minutes before putting them in the crockette (so as not to poison myself).  I found that I didn't really need 3 cups of water which I think is because they had been boiled.  It turned out tasty and made me want to try it with either true red beans or white beans.

Breakfast patties
Breakfast Patties from the Taste of Home Comfort Food diet Cookbook.  I don't know why making my own never occurred to me before.  Mine don't look like the picture in the cookbook, but they turned out very good and will likely become a staple for my freezer.  No more store bought "sausage" for me.

And, last, but not least Quinoa Pilaf with Spinach, Apples and Walnuts from the Quick-fix vegetarian cookbook by Robin Robertson.   This is only my second recipe using quinoa, so I wasn't really sure.  Turns out, it's quite tasty.  And, it makes a lot.  I'm one person, so I'll definitely halve it when I do it again.  While the recipe says four servings, I used a cup for a serving (which is plenty) and found that I got more like 6 servings.  A "serving" of quinoa is two ounces so if one goes with the four servings that would be three ounces of quinoa plus the additions per serving.  I did calculate calories and it's not what I'd call low calorie, but it's not outrageous.  Of course, some of those calories come from the oil used for the scallions and walnuts and apples.  Still, I'm enjoying the leftovers (as did a friend) and will more than likely cook this recipe again.
Spinach, walnuts & apple
cooked quinoa

Quinoa pilaf with spinach, apples, & walnuts

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book Review: Murder on the Ghost Walk by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the first in the Magnolia Mysteries series and is set in Wilmington, NC.  For those that have noticed the names, the main character, Ashley Wilkes, confesses that she and her sister were indeed named from Gone with the Wind; her mother was a fan of the movie.

Ashley is a recent college graduate specializing in historic preservation and working on her first project since returning to Wilmington, her home town.  Her client is a bit controlling and somewhat over the top.  While trying to deal with schedule changes from said controlling client, two bodies are found in the wall of the house they are restoring.  The mystery goes from there and by itself isn’t too bad.

Interspersed with the mystery is a side story involving her mother and her father, which I didn’t really realize until the end.  There is also an attempt at a romance here, which I’m still can’t decide if it worked or not.  She’s not the first author to try to do a mystery romance.  The romance is okay, but almost comes across as something akin to a high school crush.  Overall, the main character comes across as a little immature and I’m not sure that’s what was intended.   Young doesn’t necessarily equal immature.

While the book itself is okay, it was hard to get past the writing style at times.   There were times when the the leap from one scene to the next seemed to have gaps.  She’s just up in the morning and checking work at the house then suddenly she’s at dinner.  It’s filled in, but the pace seemed a little jerky.  Then, some of the dialog was just bad.  I had to wonder if it was edited, especially when a sentence like this pops up: “That’ll learn you I thought.”  Seriously, that sentence is in the book and no matter how good the potential for the mystery, a sentence like that just overshadows the whole book.  Granted, bad grammar is spoken, however, this is a college graduate who is trying to start her own business.  The assumption is she knows proper grammar.

Even with all the flaws in this book, as mentioned at the beginning, I do think the mystery itself was fairly well done.  I also like the Southern setting and Ashley’s profession of historic preservation.  I feel like a good portion of the book (the sidelines with her mother, her sister, the “romance”) are to set the stage for the series.  I do plan on reading the next book in this series before making a final call.  Recommended if you’re looking for a basic little mystery.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

Grave Sight (Harper Connelly, #1)Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book in this series featuring Harper Connelly and her step-brother, Tolliver Lang.  After being struck by lightening as a teenager, Harper has the ability to find dead bodies and to determine how they die.  She’s sees their last moments, but not who did them in if it’s murder.

The books are told from Harper’s point of view and she comes across as cold and almost non-emotional.  It’s almost as if she’s just existing and not living.  Aside from jogging, everything she details from movies they watch to the books they read or listen to (when driving) there is no excitement; no sense for who Harper is as a person.  We learn even less about Tolliver.  The relationship with Tolliver, as others have mentioned, is just odd.  She almost relies on him too much.  As the book went on, I actually think the dependence is due to their less than ideal childhood.  They relied on each other then and still do.  But, you have to wonder if they should find a way to separate a bit or if Harper should be a bit more independent.  Though, I can’t say I’d recommend she travel around doing what she does alone, so that’s a little catch-22.

The mystery is good and had a twist I didn’t see coming.  However, it is set in the South and it’s almost like the author, who lives in the South, catered to every stereotype that exists for the South and I found that slightly annoying.  This is from the Sheriff to the families involved and in some respects to the resolution.

Given all of that, by the end of the book, I was wanting to know more about Harper and Tolliver.  And, after reading an excerpt from the second book, I think I’ll read and see what I think about where this series is headed.  Basically, recommended.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Recipe Challenge - Whole Wheat & Millet Banana Bread

I a member of a cooking group aimed at cooking for one or two people that has a challenge to try a new recipe three times per month.  I finally realized that this includes all recipes, including baked goods!  While I am trying true meal recipes, I love to bake so am including some of the baked goods recipes I try as part of the challenge.  And, since my surgery, my stomach doesn't appear to be as happy with goodies from various bakeries as it used to be.  Such is life.  So, I hope to explore more recipes for baked goods as well as for meals.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across the Whole Wheat & Millet Banana Bread recipe on Joy the Baker's blog and knew I had to try it.  Maybe it was the pictures or that it used millet seed or maybe it was the fact that it makes two loaves (I'm good at sharing and freezing baked goodies).  At any rate, today I tried this recipe -- with a few modifications.  I used spelt instead of whole wheat, because that's what I had.  I used an organic egg product because, well, it needed to be used, but it did have the benefit of reducing the calories.  And, because I knew I'd be calculating the calories for this recipe, I substituted apple sauce for half of the oil.

I happy to report it tastes as good as it looked on the blog.  Maybe a tad rich. Trying to decide if it's the oil and if maybe I can just replace it all with applesauce the next time, because yes there will be a next time.  Recipe recommended.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Book Review - Never Buried by Edie Clair

Never Buried (Leigh Koslow Mystery, #1)Never Buried by Edie Claire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This mystery starts out with Leigh Koslow finding an embalmed body in the hammock in her cousin Cara’s yard.  It's not a recently deceased person.  This find is followed by several other unsavory events that basically lead to warnings for the girls to get out of the house.

Leigh is staying with her cousin, who is pregnant, while her husband is overseas. While it starts out with somewhat of a bang, it doesn’t carry through.  Leigh comes across as a bit wimpier than her cousin, who she’s constantly trying to reign in because she’s pregnant.  Because of the warnings to get out of the house, Cara is convinced that there is something in the house that someone doesn’t want them to find (apparently she found a ledger of sorts when remodeling the house).

Believing that the body is related to something having to do with the house, Leigh does a little research and comes up with an 50 year old murder.  However, all of this is intertwined between stories of missing mother’s with Alzheimer’s and Cara’s false contractions.

Overall, the mystery was okay, though I felt like the wrap up was quick and the guilty person sorta came out of nowhere, but the clues were there.  Sorta.  I just couldn’t really get a feel for any of the characters.  I liked the relationship between Leigh and Cara until the husband came back and then I felt like he was a bit heavy handed in how he handled things.  Leigh is supposed to be friends going back to college with one of the cops on the local police force, Maura, but it didn’t always come across that way.  I don’t feel like I really got to know any of the characters and at the end it didn’t matter much to me.

I read this on my Nook and it was either free or less than two dollars.  I’ve given it three stars because the mystery was basically good and it moved at a nice pace.  Not sure if I’ll be reading other books in this series.

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Book Review - The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book tells the story of many people - Vida Winter, brother and sister Charlie and Isabelle, twins Adeline and Emmeline, Aurelius, and Margaret.

Vida Winter is a very well known writer who has spent her life keeping others from knowing the story of her life.  As she is dying, she asks Margaret, a twin and someone who seems to live a good portion of her life through books rather than in the “real world,” to write her biography.  Thus begins the story of twins Adeline and Emmeline.  Vida’s story of the past is interspersed with Margaret’s current life and her research to verify what Vida is telling her.  This research brings her to the current day home of the twins and to Aurelius, who it turns out, in the end, is part of the story.  He also becomes a friend to Margaret, which it appears is something she doesn’t have.

This tale has classic elements - big houses and gardens, family secrets with a few twist and turns.  All is not what it seems.   What it doesn't have is romance and not everyone has a happy ending.

To me, this was a story of people who fell through the cracks.  I wondered if someone had intervened on behalf of Charlie and Isabelle, and later for the twins, how different their lives might have been.  I felt like the telling of the story gave Vida Winter closure with her past and in some ways allowed Margaret to make peace with her feelings about being a twin and to actually start living her life.

The end answers some questions, but raises others that can never be answered.  And, maybe they shouldn’t, because life doesn’t always give us answers.  All in all, I enjoyed this book and recommend it.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Last night I wound up watching Selling Spelling Manor on HGTV.  This was a re-run and something I chose not to watch the first time it was aired.  I just didn't see the point.  Well, I'm still not sure I see the point, but I was a little in awe at her downsizing skills, even though I can't really comprehend her downsize.  She went from 56,500 sq. ft. (no kidding) to 16,000 sq. ft. The new digs are the top two floors of a high rise condo.  Something that in CA would quite frankly give me pause.  Then again, I'm a little freaked out at times by heights, let alone being high up during an earthquake, but I'm sure they've figured out how to earthquake proof it.  Nor can I comprehend a downsize to 16,000 sq. ft., but we're all different.

What sorta resonated with me was that I'm also in the process of downsizing, though mine is on a different scale.  I'm only in 890 sq. ft. as it is and that is coming from a mere 1,700 sq. ft.  So, you see, nothing compared to hers.  But, I know I've got stuff I don't need and since I plan on staying in a smaller space even should I again purchase a home or condo, then I need to start getting rid of stuff.

Mrs. Spelling was totally pragmatic.  What she wouldn't have room for, she was either auctioning, donating, or selling online.  I'll donate most of my stuff as the majority is clothes and other odds and ends and I just feel better going with donation.  Some pieces of furniture, I may sell.  The hard part is letting go of some pieces.  I know that I really tend to attach sentimental value to just about anything, but now is the time to start culling it down.  Especially as I have a small storage unit (it will never get bigger) since I no longer have a garage.  In fact, I should have done this when I moved from my first house in 2004.  But, I thought one day I'd have a house again and then it would be the same.  Nothing is ever really the same and what I've learned is some times it's better to just start over.

Mrs. Spelling just stepped up to the plate and did it.  I have a friend who's done something similar.  Now I can only hope that I can buckle down and do the same thing.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review - The Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini (A Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery, #2)Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini by Sue Ann Jaffarian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved this book! It’s really just a fun read. This is the second book in the series and slightly better than the first. The characters are still here. I enjoyed the relationship between Emma and Phil. I especially liked Phil’s belief in Emma and his talking to Granny Apples when she pops in at less than opportune times. Granny was still there as were Milo, the psychic who is somewhat of a teacher to Emma, and Tracy, Emma’s best friend, with the addition of Emma’s assistant from her TV show, Jackie, who is quite the spitfire. I wish there had been more to Milo and Tracy now that they are a couple, but they were somewhat secondary in this story.

The story revolves around trying to figure out who killed Tessa, the ghost in the polka dot bikini; a ghost who doesn’t really realize she’s dead and is waiting for Curtis to come back to her. Till then, she frolics in the waves at Catalina and waits. Helped by the ghost of Sandy, who herself could see ghosts in life, the story hits close to home for Emma as she discovers that her ex father-in-law and several men she knows through him knew Tessa. While the previous book gave you a feel for the town of Julian, CA, this book gave me a feel for the Hollywood of the 60’s. I should have seen the ending, but I didn’t; not really. I knew who had to be involved, but didn’t quite get there.

Highly recommended if you enjoy light mysteries with a ghost or two.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review - Murder on the Eightfold Path by Diana Killian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the third book in this series, but the first that I’ve read.  I don’t normally read out of order as I prefer to read the first book in a series first.  However, this was a free book and it looked good.

The book starts out with bang -- almost literally.  The opening scene involves, AJ, the main character, literally finding a dead body in her mother’s front yard.  Turns out her mother knew the dead man and it kind of goes from there, with some serious and some funny turns along the way.

AJ is on her second career, managing and teaching at the yoga studio she inherited from her Aunt.  The one thing that isn’t smooth sailing is the rocky relationship she has with the other manager, Lily.  It was kind of hard to really grasp the roots of the bad relationship, but I think this is because I haven’t read the first two books.  I was okay with it as I didn’t really care for Lily and liked the relationship AJ had with the other employees of the studio.

I liked this book.  I liked AJ.  I liked her mother, Elysia, though she’s a bit of a flake.  I like the relationship AJ had with her mother, though it’s far from perfect.  I couldn’t get all that much of a feel for the cop boyfriend, Jake, and their relationship, but, it’s a mystery not a romance and I got enough of the relationship to not feel lost.  In fact, there is a side story involving Jake that’s kind of interesting.

But, most of all, I liked that this was a mystery.  Not a genre book with a little mystery thrown in.  Yoga didn’t take center stage, but was simply a part of who the character is; some descriptions of routines, but not paragraphs or chapters devoted to excruciating detail on yoga poses or routines (and I enjoy yoga).  I’ve read a couple of books where it seemed like it was more important to present the hobby and the mystery was a secondary story line.  Not so here.  To me, the mystery was front and center.  The mystery, however, didn’t detract from getting to know the characters, from a little drama on the home front, or from a little humor.  And, I didn’t figure out who done it.

I’m looking forward to going back and starting at the beginning of this series and working my way to the present.