Friday, October 09, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #349

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  This weekend in Canada is Thanksgiving so we already have our minds towards being thankful.  But it's always good to look for things in our everyday to be thankful for whether the calendar date officially tells us to or not.  Please join us as weekly we turn our hearts to look for good blessings in our lives.

1.  Operation Christmas Child kick-off.  Sunday was the official start of Operation Christmas Child   (U.S.A. site) at my church.   Being the one heading this up, I always look forward to this time of year both with excitement and a bit of nervousness.  The announcement went well and lots of boxes went out the door to be prayerfully filled for children in the throes of war, poverty or disease.  Children who have never in their lives received a gift before.  Such a small thing for us who have so much in this country.  I am always amazed when I see the colored map and see only a handful of countries that pack the boxes and pretty much the rest of the world receiving them at some point.  God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing to those who have not and to bring joy and the gospel.  What a privilege to be able to be a part.

And just in case you ever wondered if it really makes kids happy to get one of these boxes this is one of my favourite videos recorded by somebody there, not a put together promotional video.  Here is the pure unadulterated reality:

Makes me smile everytime!
2.  Bio-Freeze.  Last month my massage therapist had given me about 3 sample sizes of Bio-Freeze to try out at home.  It's a professional strength cold (cyro)therapy.    I took it out of my purse, put it on my dresser and promptly forgot about it.  Then this week my sciatic nerve was acting up and giving me major grief.  Anyone who's had a sciatica pain knows how awful and consuming it can be.  I was having to get up in the middle of the night to take more advil.  Then 3 days into it I remembered the Bio-Freeze.  It helped. A lot.  It didn't totally remove the pain but boy oh boy it helped to tone it down a whole lot.  I am so going to buy some of this stuff to have on hand.
3.  A trip to the salon.  It's really amazing how a nice trim and refresh of the highlights perks me right up.  It seems like overnight my hair is too long and won't do what it's supposed to do. And the fresh highlights just brightens it all up.  Yup I am very grateful that as of now I get the chance to have someone do this for me.  There have been times in my life where I had to do my own color and let me tell you, I don't have the knack for getting it really nice.  It's not a I will die without a salon highlight, in reality it really is a 1st world problem,  but it sure is a blessing when I can have them.  
4.  A full dayhome once again.  Back in the spring I knew I would be losing two kids to grade 1, but seeing I was having carpal tunnel surgery in the summer, I didn't work real hard to replace them.  I wanted to give myself time to heal properly.  Well come September, in an unusual occurrence, I didn't get one suitable call.  But now just this week, I've got a couple newcomers that seem to be a really good fit.  I like when the dayhome is full.  It really is easier for me than having it only half filled.   I enjoy the fun and laughter when all are here.
5.  Good Reads.  I've been on a roll with some good reads lately.  I always love that.  Add a cup of  good coffee, some beautiful Indian Summer weather and some uninterrupted time and I'm a happy camper!

What were your blessings this week?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson ~ Book Review

It's 1962 and Kitty Miller is settled and happy in her life as a small book shop owner with her best friend, Frieda.  Though at 38 she is still single she has for the most part come to terms with that and enjoys the control and freedom she has to do what she wants when she wants.  Her and Frieda are close as business partners and best friends and she has a strong relationship with her parents.  Life is good.  But when she starts dreaming of another life, one where she is Katharyn with a perfect husband and adorable children in a lovely home in suburbia she chalks it up to her old life's desires which she thought she let go of .  It is the perfect life she once held out hopes for.  The dreams are so real and she enjoys them at first but when they start to happen consistently and start to reveal layers of imperfections and challenges the lines begin to blur for Kitty and she has to figure out what is reality and what is dream.

This book had a lot of draws for me.  I totally picked it up for it's cover and title and then the 1960's setting drew me in as did the alternate life story of what might have been.  I really enjoyed it but am having a hard time writing a coherent and articulate review as there is so much to the story and I don't want to give anything away.

 Both of Kitty's worlds were interesting and I couldn't help but be fascinated with her confusion each time as she entered into the dream world.  She had to figure things out on the fly which would be totally disconcerting for her and of course her reactions would be  confusing for the dream family.  I really liked how the writing never left me confused as to what reality Kitty/Katharyn was in and that allowed me to really get into the story of the lives of the character(s).  As Katharyn's story developed there were some aspects to it that involved one of the kids that  for me was of great interest because of my education background.  That was a development I didn't know was in there and I enjoyed reading that part of the story as it 's history is something I 've always been interested in. (I can't say more without giving things away so I'll just have to leave it at that.)

The 60's aspect was well written.  The descriptions of everything from lifestyle, to the decor, the clothing, the political climate to the attitudes and thoughts towards different things such as women's roles in life was all historically correct.  It reminded of why I chose the field I did.  The one thing I didn't like about the story was the one explicit scene in it.  I groaned inwardly when it came up wondering if the novel would be over run with them and if I would end up laying it aside.  To me the explicitness was totally unnecessary and the scene could have been told to give me the idea of the character's feelings at the time without describing the whole act to me.  Thankfully that was the one and only occurrence and it ended up being an interesting and unique story,

I gave it an 8.5/10

Reading Challenge Goals Met: A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit (Denver, Colorado), a book with bad reviews (this one had some mixed reviews), a book by an author I've never read, a book published this year, a book by a female author, a book chosen entirely for it's cover

Friday, October 02, 2015

Fridays's Fave Five # 348

Good Morning!  It's Friday today and that means time to look, recognize and be thankful for the good things, the blessings, the things that uplifted us during the week.  Please join us even if you are having a hard week.  This week for me was super busy and a bit stressful and it was easy for me to get bogged down in negativity...but the FFF helps me to get past all that and take note that there was good in the midst of all that!  Please join in!

So in no particular order

1.  Jalepeno Cheese Bagels.  A silly one but seriously one of my favourite treats. And the Costco here and the Tim Horton's both make excellent ones.  Of course, it needs to be toasted and spread with garlic herb cream cheese!  Sometimes for breaky, sometimes for lunch.  Yum.  Better stop talking about it now 'cause I am out of them at the moment.

2.  Last batch of tomatoes from the garden.  This last week we enjoyed the last of the tomato crop from my 3 plants in my mom's garden.  It has been plentiful and so delicious.  It doesn't compare to the sad, unripe, tasteless ones in the store.  I will miss them, for sure.

3.  Movie night out with the ladies bible study.  We skipped out of the study and went and saw War Room on study night instead.  It may not have been in the Hollywood block buster category but it was a good film and provided for  much conversation afterwards.  I love when a movie does that.

4.  A gift from a friend.  Just when I needed some encouragement a friend (from study group) handed me a totally unexpected and most precious gift.  It was a real lifter upper, if there is such word, for me.  I don't know what I would do without good friendships in my life or my study group ladies.  Over and over I'm shown we cannot do this life alone and how important connections with others beyond surface aquaintance-ship is.

5.  Tea in the evening.  As the evenings get cooler, the tea pot calls my name.  I really enjoy a nice hot cup of tea in the evenings.  I've really gotten to love the loose leaf kind and have several varieties to choose from.  Organic Peppermint is a favourite stand by but I've also been enjoying Lemon Meringue and Bluberry Lagoon.  Pina Colada and Creamsicle is next on my list to try.  It's relaxing and fragrant and cozy.

What were your favourite blessings this week?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Inside the O'Briens - a novel by Lisa Genova ~ Book Review

  • Joe O'Brien is a career Boston PD Police Officer hailing from the Irish side of town.  He loves his wife Rosie and his four grown children and his identity is totally wrapped around being a good police officer and a proud husband and father.  In his 40's Joe is working towards his 25th year on the force and eventually the full retirement package in his 50's where he and Rosie can enjoy retirement together.  But when he starts to experience bouts of raging temper, dropping items, some involuntary movements and has difficulty writing out his reports at work Rosie talks the doctor avoiding Joe into getting checked by a doctor.  He finds himself seeing a neurologist and then being handed the horrible diagnosis of Huntington's disease.  As his family grapples with the hereditary significance of the disease Joe also has to face that his mother did not indeed die a drunk in a nursing home as he was told but that she had this horrible disease.  And now all those things that scared him about her he will be going through.  He also must face losing everything that defines, in his eyes, who he is.
After reading Still Alice (reviewed here) and learning so much about Alzheimer's disease, I was eager to read another of this author's novels.  I basically knew nothing about Huntington's disease before reading this book and I knew, again, that I would learn from it because of author's first hand knowledge of neuroscience (she has a degree from Harvard).  Huntington's Disease is a horrible hereditary neurological monster. It is passed on through families and if a parent has the disease, the children have a 50/50 chance of getting it.  Symptoms usually start in the 30's or 40's and progress over the next 10 -20 years until death.  It affects voluntary movements, walking, speech, temper and people not in the know assume the person is drunk.  It eventually makes it so that the victim is bedridden, unable to care for themselves and will affect swallowing and eating.  In the 90's a blood test was developed that reveals whether you have the gene pattern that will have Huntingtons in your future.  If you are tested positive, you will have the disease 100%.  There is no treatment and no cure.

This story really spelled out what the person and family that has Huntington's running in their family line deals with.  It is devastating.  My heart was torn for the O'Brien family as they each come to grips with it and each sibling must decide whether to have the test and know for sure before they start to develop symptoms.  As Joe is stripped of everything that is him...his health, his strength, his badge, his pride and even what him and Rosie have to face to provide for Rosie after his death is shocking and sad.  And then he has to deal with the guilt.  Guilt that he passed this onto his kids unknowingly, guilt of how treated his own mother even though he was mislead in what he was told was wrong with her.   As he fought within himself on how he wanted to deal with the disease and whether he had the courage to live it out before his family, the story really broke my heart.   As each adult child wrestled with whether to take the test and know for sure whether they had the disease, I felt myself  asking what I would do.  Would I be able to dig deep and find the courage to live a life of hope  in the midst of an essentially hopeless diagnosis.  The author really drew me into each and every character within the story as she described what they were battling inwardly.

This author is extremely adept in bringing to light what it is like to be diagnosed and to live with these devastating diseases from both the victim's standpoint and also the family's and to give the reader knowledge and compassion.  Both of the books I have read by her have really done that in my heart.  I recommend her novels for that very reason.  Because they are fiction they teach without the dryness of textbooks and draw out your compassion for what the people with these diseases face in their everyday.  They really knock out a lot of my assumptions.  That being said I must say that this particular story just about didn't get finished by myself.  The proliferation of f-bombs right from the first pages of the book had me wanting to put it aside from about page 5.  They are over the top plentiful as are other swears.  I usually don't bother with a novel that relies on that amount of swearing.  But because I knew I would learn from the story I pressed on.  But in reality by the end of the book I was so done with it because of the language.  It really did make it hard for me to press through.

I give this a 9/10 for writing of the devastation and feelings of facing this disease and the knowledge and compassion it brings out of the reader but took a point away for the crazy amount of f-bombs that I had to struggle through.

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  A book set somewhere I've always wanted to visit (Boston); A book that made me cry; A book published this year; A book by a female author; A book a friend recommended; A book that scares me.

Linked with Saturday Review of Books 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #347

Good morning everyone!  It's an absolutely gorgeous couple of days here!  Today is supposed to reach 28*C, that would be a smokin' 82.4*F! We are right smack dab in the middle of what they call Indian Summer.  We don't quite know how to dress because the mornings are still cold.  The other day when I got up it was in only about 7*C which is about the mid '40's F.  Lots of layering we can peel off I guess is the fashion of Southern Alberta right now.  But on to the recording of our favourite blessings of the week!

1.  Show home tour with my dear friend.  It's our tradition!  Every September we block off the Sunday afternoon, grab a Starbucks and hit up the "Parade of Homes".  We've been doing it for years and both of us loves it. We have so many laughs. We always start with the fancy dancy ones and have lots of fun imagining ourselves in these along with a maid that would clean the huge things.  The great big things that are waaaay beyond us.  There was actually a 4000 sq. foot home this year, here in little ol' Southern Alberta.  But my very favourite was the one that had this in a hall by it's front door!  

Oh my goodness!!  Can you imagine this as a hall between the front and garage/house entry door?  Be still my heart.  But that's not all.  See those little legs dangling in the middle right of the photo?  Well that was by the garage entry and it was this...

Be still my heart!  Its a dog wash!  It must be fate...this home was designed for me!  Now all I need is a job that will support the 900,000 dollar price tag!

2.  Warm days, cool nights.  As mentioned above, it's been a lovely week of weather here.  And we've enjoyed going outside and playing in this lovely warmth.  Last week was windy and colder and rainy but this week was fall perfection.

3.  Fiction books that also teach something in the midst of their stories.  A couple months ago I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova and reviewed it here.   I learned so much about alzheimer's disease.  I'm now reading another by this author and again learning lots.  A review will come soon.

4.  A great massage.  I do not take these for granted.  They really help my tight shoulder blades so it's a "need" type massage rather than just a relax one but I still get the benefits of being relaxed as those darn knots are worked out!  And I am blessed to have a lady who really knows what she's doing!

5.  The weekend coming up is on my fave list because there is more fun stuff going on in the city, it's supposed to be lovely so I feel a bike ride on the list and lots of relaxing and reading time!

Bonus Fave:  We had to make a quick trip to Calgary for business.  We were in a neighborhood called Inglewood.  I'd never explored this neighborhood before.  It's an older section close to downtown that looks like it's becoming a popular place to buy new condos in.  What a cool business area they had with lots of local, cool little shops and wonderful restaurants.  We ate at another on our list of You Gotta Eat Here restaurants.  The Fine Diner was fine, for sure.   A very small intimate little restaurant with friendly staff and great food.   We had a featured item on the show, Spicy Meatball Subs and it was soooo good!  

And a bonus picture just for Willow , Sandra and all you knitters and crocheters out there.  We saw this in front of cute little yarn shop called Stash.

What are your favourites this week?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #346

Hello and Welcome!  So sorry I am up late with the FFF linky.  I am so mixed up on my days this week!  It didn't hit me until I was waking up this morning that today is Friday and not Thursday as I was thinking it was going to be. But with all the time in the world to reflect...or not... it is still a good thing to look for the good things, the blessings in our lives from the past week.  Thanks for being so faithful with me!  I'll give it a start and put up the Linky but will probably have to come back a little later this morning to finish my own post.

1.  A ladies evening out.  My friend and I went to a local decor design store which also carries an awesome little section full of scarves, jewellry, stylin' rubber boots and purses.  They were having a ladies event and had a scarf stylist there to teach how to wear some of the different scarves.  Plaid is really in the thing this fall and winter apparently.  Lots of fun.  I went to get a plaid scarf, love plaid, but ended up with something totally different but lovely all the same.  And the prices were reasonable, not something I was expecting from a design store.  And even though I drooled over several of the purses, you will be so proud of me that I walked out of there with nary a one.  But the blessing was in the time spent with my friend and the chat over tea afterwards.

2.  A last hurrah day trip to Waterton.  The mountains are my happy place as I've mentioned several times before on the blog.  But shock of all shocks, I have never been there in the fall.  I know it's the very beginning of fall right now but there was still some lovely turning of the leaves.  It was a perfect day with perfect weather.  Did some walking of trails we've never tried before though it was a tiny bit nerve wracking because it is bear season where bears are bolder looking for berries to gorge on stocking up for their hibernation.  One path we took, Cameron Lake,  even has a grizzly area sign at the beginning of the path.  We were fairly confident though, that we wouldn't run into one as the path was soooo busy.

Look, Faith, how would you love to kayak here?!
Cameron Lake - Wateron Lakes National Park

I can never get enough of the gorgeous scenery at Waterton Lakes National Park!

3.  Ladies Group kick off.  My ladies bible study group takes a break over the summer so it was really nice to get back with these ladies.  They are so much fun and it's a great privilege getting to lead this group.  We had a potluck dinner which is always delicious.   I'm looking forward to all we'll learn and explore this year out of the Word of God.

4.  Cool nights and sunny days.  This is the way I love it.  The nights cool off, though, it has been quite crisp this last week.  All of Alberta had a frost warning out the other night, but I don't mind.  The days warm right back up.  It's definitely layered dressing time.  Fall is my favourite season.

5.  And speaking of fall season, the fall scents,  are definitely a fave with me.  Everything from the smell of the air, the falling leaves, and of course fall scented candles.  My current fave that I'm burning is Pumpkin Apple from Bath and Body Works.  

What are your favourites from the last week?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman ~ Book Review

  Kelli Huddleston grew up an only child with her father and stepmother. She was very close to her father and so when he and her stepmother died in a car accident she felt the loss deeply. All her growing up years, Kelli's father would never allow her into his home office, it was out of bounds and Kelli knew it. But now that he is gone she has no choice but to go in there and clear it out and wrap up his business files. But what she finds causes her to question who she is and everything she knew about herself and she'll also find she never really knew her beloved father at all. Needing to find the truth about herself and what her dad did and with only a few pictures to go by, she heads back to Tennessee where she'd always been told her mother and 2 siblings had died in a house fire that took everything. What she finds there will further complicate her once seemingly peaceful life and she must make a decision that will affect not only her but the lives of others.

 Well, this was a story that was hard to put down. I, as the reader, got very caught up in what was happening to Kelli. In the midst of opening up a new restaurant with her best friends her father and stepmother die tragically. While dealing with the grief of that and realizing she is alone in the world, she is trying to wrap up his business and files and discovers that she is not who she thought she was and her whole life has been a lie. In shock and drawn by the deep desire to discover who the persons in the hidden photographs are and ultimately who she is and against the advice of her best friend, she goes in search of the unknown persons. But once she finds them, it is hard not to be drawn into their lives and now she is faced with continuing the lie or telling the truth and devastating more lives.

 This story was so believable and I really felt Kelli's pain and confusion. It was easy to understand her choices and reasoning for her decisions. Her character was very well written. I had a hard time putting the book down because I just had to find out what was going to happen. I felt for her as she struggled not only with the death of her dad but at understanding and forgiving his deception and what he had done. And then her inner struggles as she finds herself being caught up and befriended by those in the photograph and the choice of whether to tell them who she really is. It's an emotional story, for sure, and engaged me right through out. I must admit, the character of Beth drove me nuts. She was soooo pushy and just wouldn't take no for an answer. It was at times hard not to really dislike her even though her intentions were written as good.  I also really like the exploration into the topic of  turning from biblical truth and believing lies because that is what you want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:3-5).  A really engrossing read.

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  A book I own but haven't read yet, A book published this year, A book by a female author, a book from author I love

An thoroughly engaging story that I read in a few days I gave it a 9.5/10.

Linked with Saturday Review of Books