Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"The Cuckoo's Child" by Margaret Thompson

Livvy Alvarsson has not had an easy go of the adult life.  In her forties, she has faced the devastating and debilitating disappearance of her 4 year old son eleven years earlier.  There was never any clues and the police finally had to call off the search with Daniel never being found.  Eleven years later Livvy still feels the profound loss.  And now she's facing another loss.  That of her beloved younger brother to cancer.  Hoping she can be his bone marrow donor she is shaken to the core to find out that there is no way that she can.  Now she no longer even knows who she is and with only a clue of a gas mask with a partial name and a life changing secret revealed she sets off from her community in British Columbia, Canada to a search in England.

I don't know what originally drew me to this book, the cover, the title, the description or the fact that the author is Canadian.  Maybe all of the above.  But I really was captured by this story.  It's a story of profound loss and grief, but also one of love and family, restoration and acceptance.  It gripped me from the very beginning as Livvy starts her story in the form of "conversation" with her beloved brother, holding his hand as he lays unconscious dying from cancer.  As she talks to him and unburdens her heart,  her story starts to unfold and it is absorbing in the way she speaks and the way she puts it together.  The writing is beautiful.  You go through her life with her, the joys and excitements and then the deep despair of trying to find the lost child.  Livvy bears the full brunt of feeling guilty as Daniel was with her and you go with her through the difficulties and the search and then the effects on her marriage and trying to move on with life.  When the horrific secret that is revealed when her brother becomes ill you wonder how she will hold up under the news.  Her search for family history brings into her life a handful of interesting characters, some that bring some lightness to the story so even though the story was very sad in parts it was lifted by these moments of wonderful characters, but also a character that makes you determined never to become like that.   It shows the devastating effects of unforgiveness and hard heartedness and religion gone to merciless extremes.     The story and the style and the prose was so engaging I could not put it down.  Amidst the heaviness, the author beautifully weaves in through Livvy's voice the joys of life and family, the strength of a committed marriage, and finding hope to go on until the story comes full circle.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday's Fave Five #295

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  Already it is the middle of August.  Already!!  Where oh where has the summer gone.  And because it's just whipping by I feel doubly glad that I have FFF to help me take a moment to slow down and take note of the blessings in my life.  To take note of special moments or things that I am grateful for, big or small.  Please join in!  Details here

1.  This amazing post that gets a standing ovation from me.  It's so easy to start telling ourselves that what we have is not good enough, or that we need more or different or newer or better or what ever else it is that we convince ourselves with.  I'd loved this woman's word:  "perspectacles".   And how much did I love the answer her child gave to the question "What do we do in a kitchen!"  Lots and lots, that's how much!  I like to think that maybe, just maybe, doing this fave five each and every week helps point us a bit towards having our perspectacles on.

2.  Movie out with a friend.  Two months late but I was finally able to treat my friend to a show for her birthday.  Her birthday was back in June.  I know, I know...my bad.  But the movie we wanted to see then left before we both had a free night and there wasn't another that both of us wanted to go to... that is until "The Hundred Foot Journey" came.  We both loved it.  The photography of the French countryside and the preparation of the food was just beautiful and it was a nice story and surprisingly had the theatre laughing out loud throughout.  I didn't realize it would have some comedy to it.  That was a nice surprise.  And it was fun to get out and celebrate with a good friend.

3.  Passports quickly in.   Hubby and I stopped at the passport office on our little getaway last week and finally bit the bullet and applied for ours.  Amazingly we only had about a 5 minute wait before we were able to get to the counter.  The gentleman told us we were very lucky.  Usually on Fridays, which is the day we were there, the lineup filled the waiting area and went out the door and around the building. All. day. long.   And in just 9 working days we had our passports.  Now I'm excited about the possibilities looming before us.

4.  Cool nights.  It has been hot around here...well relatively speaking.  I'm sure I have a few bloggy friends who would laugh at my definition of hot.  It's been in the 80's during the day but blessedly cooling off at night most of the time.  We do have air conditioning but hubby and I prefer to turn it off at night unless it's unbearable hot and open the window and let "real" air in.  So nice to have a coolness from outside and not a frigid kind of cold like air conditioners deliver.  And an added blessing, this year the magpies have not been fighting on our front lawn at the crack of dawn like they had been in past summers, and waking me up with that window open.  So thankful they've worked out their issues or at the least moved it away from my bedroom window.

5.  Reading, reading, reading.  I've had wonderful times during the last week where I've been able to sneak in a little extra reading time which is always a bonus in my world.  Even though it's been a busy and stressful week, there were still pockets of time that I could eek out and read my book.  Reading is crucial to me.  I can't go a day without so I'm especially thankful for these moments.

What were your favorites this week?

Friday, August 08, 2014

Friday's Fave Five #294

Hi everyone!  Well I must apologize I totally schlepped out on FFF last week.  I had such a busy maintenance week and then hubby and I took a little weekend holiday together and I just couldn't get the post together.  But I'm back on track this week and ready to go.  Please join in to look for five favorite moments that blessed us this week.

I hardly know where to start for this Friday's Fave Five.  It's just been a wonderful couple of weeks.  I just might have to throw in a couple of extras or combine a few.  But to kick it off I think because I missed last week I'll start with...

1.  My favorite day trip...Waterton Park.  I love the mountains and we are very blessed to have a beautiful part of the Canadian Rockies within reach with a day trip.  Waterton National Park is my favorite day trip around here and I've been going there since I was little.  It is a stunning area with all sorts of hiking trails that caters to all levels of hiker or walker.  Beautiful mountains, rivers, creeks, canyons and lakes.  There is no shortage of the lovely handiwork of God to take in.  This time we took a nice easy trail to Blakiston falls.  Perfect weather and the perfect company of my beloved and my furball.  One of my favorite moments is watching that crazy hound swim after a stick over and over and over again.  He loves the water of Waterton Lake so much.

Blackiston Falls

  Red Rock Canyon

Happy trails to me

2.  Fresh paint job in the playroom.  Over maintenance week my main goal was to give the playroom a fresh coat of paint with a different color.  The last time I painted, in a moment that I lost my head, I picked a color that ended up looking like a dirty peachy color.  This time I went out of my comfort zone and picked a light grey and a light sky blue.  Two walls of each color.  What a difference.  It's light and bright and very lovely to be in.  So glad I got that job done!

3.  A weekend away with my hubby.  It was a long weekend here in Canada last weekend and hubby and I took the opportunity to take a little mini vacation.  We are blessed to have a great getaway city that we enjoy.  We booked into a favorite hotel.  New and modern, the rooms are huge and all have little kitchens and the service is wonderful.  Booking with hotels.com got me a great room for over a hundred dollars off!  Score!!  We had a wonderful time such as ...

...eating our way through the farmer's market.  Montreal smoked meat, lemon tarts, the best gelato I've ever had.  I chose two kinds blood orange and chocolate. Oh my goodness, soooo good.

4.  An item off hubby's bucket list...to ride on a Segway!

And how fun this was!!  They have a tour of the Lindsay Park area and our guide and instructor was awesome.  After watching a hair raising video that had me questioning our sanity in wanting to do this he gave us a lesson that brought it back to just a little bit of nervousness and off we went.  They are quite the machines and I think we really ought to be in some kind of futuristic movie!

5.  Trying out a new restaurant.  An avid fan of the Canadian Food Network's "You Gotta Eat Here", I've been faithfully taking note of all the Alberta restaurants featured on the show.  (An exciting side note...they were just in my city a couple weeks ago featuring my favorite pizza restaurant!)  Anyway, we chose Boxwood Cafe because the fact that they served rotisserie was appealing to us.  Well what an absolutely pleasant surprise this little place was.  Situated in downtown Calgary, in beautiful Memorial park, they have a huge patio area where we sat and enjoyed the gorgeous day.  They are a farm to table restaurant and everything, including filtering and sparkling their own water, is done by them and if it can't be it is locally and seasonally sourced so their menu changes seasonally.  They have their own little garden and they fresh pick for your meal.  Some of the best food we've had.  We felt absolutely food drunk when we left.  Good thing it was our only meal of the day.


lemon lentil soup with spinach                                                                                           cold wild rice salad with pickled                                                                                                                                   onions and carrots, corriander and                                                                                                                                    tamarind glazed almonds 

                                                             my meal:  rotisserie chicken with veg
                                                                   and garnishes from their garden
                                                                hubby's:  slow roasted pork roast that
                                                                 melted on the tongue with roast apples                                                                                                                              potatoes and arugula salad on top

We finished by sharing our desserts of raspberry bread pudding with creme anglais and jonagold apple crisp with salted caramel gelato.  My mouth waters as I think about it.  We'll be going back there again sometime for sure!

bonus fave:  came from my sweet younger girl who surprised me with a bouquet of rainbow roses simply because.  Love that girl and love the flowers and sentiment that came with them.

What were your favorites this week?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers ~ Book Review

Lena Scott is a rising star in Hollywood during the 1950's.  With an ambitious agent she is on her way up.  Everything should be perfect for her.  But Lena is weary.  Not just physically but in her heart.  She's tired of playing a part even in her off screen life.  Though her real name is Abra Freeman, no one knows her as such, even her husband/agent refuses to call her anything but Lena and she must play the part of the starlet 24/7.  No one knows of her humble background as a young girl raised in a small town with Christian roots.  Found under a bridge as an infant by the local pastor and taken home she was nurtured by a loving family.  Until tragedy struck and she found herself given to another family who adopted her and tried to love her.  But now Abra had deep scars of rejection to deal with and that built over the years to the point where she couldn't see the love that was right in front of her.  Bitter and disenchanted, bored with what she perceives is her dull life , she easily falls prey to the attentions of  the dashing and older young man who rides into town with a fast car and slick words.  Knowing Abra is vulnerable he charms her with promises of a more exciting life.  But the life he leads her to causes her to leave everything behind and too late she realizes the price she has had to pay for the attention and love she feels she must have.  She's left her past behind but now all she wants is to go home with no way to get there.  Too late she realizes the life she shunned.

Pastor Ezekiel has never given up hope for Abra and prays for her continuously.  His son Joshua has loved Abra since childhood but being drafted to war has separated them in more than distance.  When he comes home from war, amidst having to deal with his own heart wounds,  he finds an Abra who is closed off and rebellious and he finds he has no influence to what Abra thinks she wants.  After she leaves he has tried to find Abra but all the looking he has done has led him nowhere.  In frustration he finally does what his father advises him to do and that is to let Abra go and to let God in His time work on her.  But his heart is having a hard time letting her go.  No one is more shocked than he when he hears she is a movie star in Hollywood.  Now what does he do?

I finished this book quite a while ago but it's sat waiting for me to review.  Notes from the author in the back tells us that the story is based on the scripture from Ezekiel 16 *"where God speaks of His chosen people as an unwanted newborn whom He cared for, watched over and eventually chose as His bride despite their rejection of Him".  She relates it to her own life of going her own way and the consequences and regrets until finally being brought to her knees and surrendering back to the Lord.  It is worth the read of the Author notes to know how she felt about the main characters in her book.

The author brought the lifestyle of the 1950's small town and Hollywood to life in her descriptions.  I found the story very heartbreaking and I could see myself a lot in the character of Abra, not necessarily in the circumstances but in the heart attitude.  I think the story in that sense if very relatable to all.  Although it is a story that is long in length I could not put it down.   Some have criticized  some of the actions of the pastor in the book in that he didn't discuss things with the 5 year old Abra when she overhears him and his wife talking about the hardship on the wife's health that the taking in of Abra was.  They feel that didn't jive.  And then again when the pastor gives Abra to another family.  It was criticized that the church family would have rallied around and helped him.  But to me it rang true to the decade setting of the book.  It was the 1950's after all, not 2014.  Children were seen and not heard and were treated as children not as little adults.  The actions and decisions of adults were not discussed with children.  They were made and the children's opinions were not sought out.  Anyway, that was a little point I found odd in other critiques.  When reading a novel we should keep in mind the culture and mindset of the time and not hold it up to how things are done today.

Anyway, the reason I found it so hard to review this story was not because of the story itself, that was wonderful, but because of some instances of graphic content.  It is not going to be every Christian's cup of tea even though it is in the Christian fiction genre.  Some of the imtimate scenes were much more described than one usually finds in this genre.  In the context of the story I can see what the author was trying to show, however.  That said, I do feel I have to make mention of it to my book review readers as I feel some would want to be aware of that within the story.

All said I did find it a great prodigal son type of read, a story of hurt and stubborness, of mercy, grace and unconditional love.  I've always loved this author for the emotions she is able to draw out of me throughout the story, how she involves my heart and draws me right in from the beginning and how she is able to parallel a biblical story to a more modern time.

*quote from Notes from the Author, pg 481, Bridge to Haven.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday's Fave Five

Sorry Ladies.  Totally forgot what day it was.  It's my maintenance week and I'm sooo busy with a time crunch so I'll just put this up and let you guys play along and I'll try to get a post up later today.  If not have a wonderful FFF and a great weekend!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday's Fave Five #293

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  I'm so very thankful you have joined with me this week to take a look back over the week and find, recognize and be thankful for those things that were a blessing.

1.  Love a good quote that hits me right between the eyes, so to speak.

We desire lasting significance and influence and impact, but spend most of our time chasing temporal possessions.    -   Joshua Becker from this post 

2.  Love this idea.

I've heard of places in England, I believe, where they have taken old phone booths or boxed type of containers on streets and filled them with free books with the policy of help yourself to one and add one if you can.  I've often wanted to place something cute on the boulevard in front of my house for something like that.

3.  Incredible nature...in the form of a fantastic lightening show Wednesday night.  The skies around here were lit up for at least an hour of both sheet lightening and cloud to ground lightening.  Natures fireworks at its finest.  I turned off the lights and tv and just sat on the couch watching the awesome display.

4.  New blender...great deal.  Our blender sat forever and a day in the cupboard not being used.  That is until my daughter introduced me to delicious smoothies.  We very quickly blew through that inexpensive blender and  then purchased another cheaper one and in short order blew through that one too.  We tried making smoothies in the food processor but it just wasn't the same.  I just didn't want to spend or necessarily have the money right at this moment for a better blender that was made for being able to smooth those ice cubes or frozen fruit.  But as the weeks went by I was missing that smoothie for breakfast.  When we were visiting our daughter K. a few weeks ago, we did our usual trip to Homesense (we don't have one in our city), and lo and behold there was a KitchenAid blender there for $75.  Somehow that seemed like a good price to me so we splurged and bought it.  No one was more surprised than me when I came home and looked it up online and saw the regular price was $150 or more depending on the store.  SCORE!  We are now enjoying delicious smoothies once again made even tastier knowing I got a good blender for half price!!

5.  Week off starts tonight at 4:45 p.m. Mountain time!  Yipee.  It's my maintenance week to work on those things I can't do when the kids are there but still it's the thought of not having to be up so early, not having to hit the floor running, an easier pace and opportunities for bike rides, reading and coffee!

What are your favorite blessings this week?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Meme Come Back

Sandra from Diary of a Stay at Home Mom has resurrected good old fashioned blogging in the way of a meme.  Something that was very popular when we first started blogging way back when.  I miss those days of "friendship" blogging.  Memes were fun and nice way to get to know other bloggers and it "introduced" bloggers to each other as they got tagged and answered.  Bring the meme, I say.

I'll tag Barbara at Stray Thoughts, Karen at Over the Backyard Fence, Anne at Nikkipolani and Faith at Gold in the Clouds and anybody else who wants to join in.  Just let me know in the comments you've done it so I can come and take a peek at your answers.  Here's Sandra's housekeeping meme:

Aprons - Y/N If Y what does your favorite look like?
I do like aprons mainly because I tend to always get my shirts splattered with something as I cook.  My favorites are the bib kind.  This question reminds me of a funny thing that happened in dayhome.  One of the dayhome kids said I wore my "bathing" suit all the time.   Mortified at what he might be telling his parents, I thought what on earth?  I don't even wear my bathing suit when I'm working in the summer and we take the pool out.  Upon further questioning and examination, I realized one little word was lost in translation.  Here I present to you my "baking" suit (circa 2008)...

Baking - Favorite thing to bake?
I am so not a baker!  But I have to say my two favorite things to bake is Apple Crisp (I know that's a bit of a cheat) and Double Brownies (dark on bottom, blonde on top).  I know I can't go wrong with those two.

Clothesline - Y/N
I grew up with my mom hanging everything out on the clothesline and it is a smell that has stayed with me even to this day.  Love it.  I used to have a clothesline and used it for certain items but we finally took it down when it became a hazard for the dayhome kids.  In this business, everything is looked at as a potential for an accident and the line ran too close to my swingset/climber and there was no where else either one could go so down it came.  

Donuts - Have you ever made them?

Everyday - One homemaking thing you do everyday?
Is cooking a homemaking thing?  Then I say cooking and along with cooking....dishes and kitchen cleaning!

Freezer - Do you have a separate deep freeze?
Yes!  Don't know how I'd be without one now that I've had one most of my whole married life.

Garbage Disposal - Y/N
Yes, love it.

Handbook - What is your favorite homemaking resource?
the good old internet

Ironing - Love it or hate it?
Hate with a capital H

Junk drawer- Y/N - Where is it?
Oh the junk drawer.  I have a stationary type junk drawer in the kitchen and a regular junk drawer also in the kitchen

Kitchen - Color and decorating scheme?
My walls are a bit of a boring beige but I had to find a color that went with my darker cupboards that have sort of a reddish background tone and I don't like grey so I was a bit limited.  But color comes in on my valences and patio door blinds with a color called nutmeg which is actually a bit like a burnt orange.  Love it.

Love - What is your favorite part of homemaking?
My favorite part of homemaking is definitely the cooking.  Love cooking for my family and seeing and hearing them enjoying something new I've tried or their pleasure at having a favorite placed before them at dinner.  I find it very satisfying and uplifting.

Mop - Y/N
I go between a mop, a refillable Swiffer type of mop and just getting right down on my hands and knees.  Depending on my time and how dirty the kitchen floor might be.

Nylons - Wash by hand or in washing machine?
I don't wear a whole lot of dresses anymore but I do wear nylons in the winter when I do and then it's handwash.

Oven - Do you use the window to check on things or do you open the door?
Definitely a door opener.

Pizza - What do you put on yours?
I don't make homemade pizza but I enjoy pizzas that have green peppers, black olives, feta cheese added to them and then after they are cooked, sliced fresh tomatoes and just letting the heat of the pizza warm the tomatoes through.  I also like adding hot banana peppers to a Hawaiian pizza.  But in all truth, I love just about any kind of pizza without anchovies or Italian sausage that has caraway.

Quiet - What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
There's quiet moments in the day?  Not usually with running a dayhome.  But we do have a supposed quiet time where I do like to grab a hot cup of coffee and read a little bit.

Recipe Card Box - Y/N
No.  I don't like them.  The cards are too small.  

Style of house
My house is a bunalow on a basement on a bit of a higher basement though I'm assuming Sandra means decorating style.  Is mish mash a style?  I always struggle with this because I like too many things.  But in general  I'm a bit eclectic (because of said liking too many styles) with definitely a cozy look.  I love woods and tend to more of a traditional, not modern, style.

Tablecloth and napkins - Y/N
I would love a tablecloth and use them for special occasions but for the most part hubby hates having a tablecloth on the table so I only pull them out when I'm having a big dinner with company.

Under the kitchen sink - Organized or toxic wasteland?
Definitely more on the organized side.  I have to be because of having a dayhome. Cannot have any cleaners or such under there.

Vacuum -  How many times per week? 
At least a couple times a week, sometimes more depending on how much we're in the living room with the dayhome.  The kitchen gets a daily sweeping if the vacuum doesn't come out.

Wash - How many loads per week?
I don't even know.  I just shove a load in when  (a)  I have enough for a load or (b) I'm running out of whatever it is I need to wear.  The kids do their own laundry now so it has considerably lessened my laundry load.

X's - Do you make a daily to do list and check it off as you do things?
I'm the to do list queen.  I love seeing chores getting crossed off and have been known to add a chore I just did that didn't happen to be written down just so I can see that item crossed off.  Gotta validate all that hidden work somehow.

Yard - Y/N - Who does what?
Hubby does the majority of outside work but the flower beds are my responsibility.

Zzz's - What is the last homemaking task you do for the day before you go to bed?
Sometimes hand-washing the plastics so that we don't have to wake up to a sink filled with them, but mostly I do a really quick straightening of living room pillows, folding blankets that might have been used, tidying the coffee table.