Friday, September 04, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #344

Hi everyone.  Welcome to September's first Friday's Fave Five.  It is definitely feeling fallish here right now.   It is getting colder at night and boy it's darker in the morning when I get up.  I'm already closing curtains around  8:30 as it's getting dark so soon now.  How did that happen so fast?  But there's still good things I can be thankful for even though getting up in the dark is not it.  LOL.  So let's find some of the blessings.  Please join in!  Guidelines are linked in the sidebar.

1.  Meals fresh from the garden.  Okay, not my garden but still fresh from a garden!  Potatoes, beets and beet tops from my friend and neighbor.  Ox heart tomatoes from my mom, roma tomatoes and yellow tomatoes from my plants that are planted at my mom's.  We have so many tomatoes we've enjoyed toasted tomato sandwhiches several times.   I've made pico de galo for the first time.  Can we say yum to the freshness and so easy.  (Recipe coming).   We've literally just been slicing them up to eat as a snack.  And the potatoes!!! What's better than fresh dug potatoes with butter and fresh parsley.  Yum!!  This is the first time ever I've tried beet tops, and though I must admit they weren't to my tastes so much,  they sure made a pretty picture!  LOL.  But I'm gonna love making borsht out of them.

2.  A nice week getting back to fall routine.  While I love summer and the freedom and casualness it gives, I am glad to get back to fall routine.  Especially in dayhome with the kids.  It somehow just anchors the day better.

3.  My library online.  How I love this bonus from our library system.  I can browse, I can put on hold, read and write reviews and rate books.  I can build shelves:  in progress, for later and completed.  There is magazines, e books, and on and on and on.  How did we survive without this little feature of the library even 10 years ago?

4.  Evening walks.  Even though last night was colder, some of evenings have been lovely for taking a nice walk.  Getting up and out into some fresh air, clears my head from the day, and getting moving instead of sitting around makes me feel better.  Hope they continue on into the fall.

5.  Lime body wash.  A real waker upper!  Love that smell!

What have your favourites been this week?

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Life of Pi by Yann Martel ~ Book Review

Well, I'm certainly late to get on the "must read" bandwagon for this book.  In all honesty it's not a book that ever drew my attention when it first came out in spite of seemingly everyone talking about it and it winning a Canadian award.  I couldn't imagine reading a story about a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger that had a time span of 227 days.   But when the movie came out I went with hubby because he loves the 3D and went for that reason alone.   And while the movie was a visual spectacle, I left scratching my head, totally confused with the story.  So jump ahead to today and here I am reading the book for basically 2 reasons...the first being one of the challenges on my Reading List Challenge 2015 is "A book with non-human characters".   This category is not my norm for choosing a book so it definitely challenged me to find one that I would actually be interested in reading, but my 2nd reason was to maybe have it make sense of the movie for me.

So "Life of Pi" it was.  Now most everyone has by now heard the gist of the storyline.  A 16 yr. old boy from Pondicherry, India finds himself the only survivor of a shipwreck somewhere out of Manilla in the Pacific ocean along with a tiger, a zebra, an orangutan, and a hyena.  He survives 227 days out at sea trying to survive on a lifeboat while watching as 3 of the animals die "survival of the fittest" deaths until it is only him and the Bengal tiger left.  He must learn how to survive not only the elements and the tiger but discouragement and lonliness and lack of hope as time goes on.

The first third of the book tells the background story of Pi (the nickname he adopted because of being relentlessly teased for his full name of Piscine) growing up with his family in India.  His father who owned and ran the Pondicherry zoo was an atheist and raised his children to fear and understand the wild nature of the animals in spite of interacting  with them on a daily basis. Richard Parker, the bengal tiger, came to the zoo as a young cub so Pi grew up along with the tiger.   In spite of his father's beliefs, or non-belief as it were, Pi goes on to openly embrace 3 religions to which he is exposed.  In fact, the story opens with a journalist who is being directed to go find Pi because of his incredible story, a story that will make him believe in God.  There is much time spent in discussing the overall view of the 3 major religions in this third of the book and how Pi rationalizes the acceptance of all three in his young boyhood.  I found myself skimming a lot of this as it just didn't hold my interest and didn't make sense to me.  (There was also lots of endlessly run on sentences in this part of the book.)  The three religions are so far apart from each other in their belief systems that I found it far-fetched that a person can live by all three.  One of these  was Christianity which is clear in the fact that "Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to God but through Him"  (John 14:6).  So asking me accept the young Pi justifying and rationalizing living by 3 (Hindu and Islam were the other 2) was hard to compute for me even though it was through the viewpoint of a young boy.  I could understand his interest in all three, as I had an interest in religions as a young kid, but I was also very clear that in their differences one can really only choose one to take to heart and live by.  Accepting all three even from a kid's viewpoint just was not realistic to me, then or now.

The second part of the book deals with Pi's actual survival on the lifeboat.  This is where the story really picked up for me and was hard to put down.  The writing seemed to get much more focused and better.  Gone were the endless sentences.  There are some gruesome detail about the animals and their lack of survival that was hard for me to read, but for the most part the descriptions of Pi's feelings during this part of the story were gripping and real.  His beliefs and zoo background come into play to help him and the choices he has to make to survive did make me think.  His having to face surviving on a daily basis after hope for rescue dwindled was heartbreaking and his ingenuity had me amazed at times and crying at times as he had to face doing what he had to do in order to survive.  I couldn't put this part of the story down.

That is until he comes to the odd floating algae island.  Then this took a hard to make sense of it turn in the story for me.  I'm not good with allegory, I'm more of a face value story kind of person, so trying to figure out what it all meant was exhausting for me and I slugged along through this part.

Though I think most everyone has heard of the story and knows what happens if you haven't then this last part of the review is cautioned with a SPOILER ALERT and you may want to skip the next paragraph.

 The last half of the book deals with Pi finally, after 227 days at sea with a tiger, reaching land.   It's heartbreaking as Pi deals with the loss of the only living, breathing thing that has kept him sane and with some company for seven months.  Then he has to deal with two officials from the Japanese shipping offices who come to ask what he knows of the ship's sinking.  As he tells them the story they are very disbelieving that all this could happen and since there is no Richard Parker around to confirm it they have a hard time.   So he gives them another story, one much more "realistic" though gruesome.  They are then asked, as is the reader, which is the better story.  We are  left to ponder which lens and perspective we view the world through  This third of the book found me skimming a lot too, because of the way it is written.  It is written as an actual transcript of the discussion between Pi and the officials so to me it came off a bit dry.

So this book really had it's highs and it's blah portions for me.  I'm glad I read it, the story is always so much better than the movie for the most part for me.  The time at sea surely was the best portion, but trying to figure out all the allegory was not my cup of tea nor was trying to figure out Pi's closing statement about God after the officials chose which story they thought to be better.  It is definitely a work of story telling.    And it leaves one thinking long after the cover is closed on the book.  It is more than a fantastical story of survival, it is a story that asks to examine one's faith and the lense through which  we view things and whether we are able to believe the amazing things that take faith or whether you look at the world through the absolutes and practicals of what makes sense to your mind.  I think this book would make excellent discussions as a reading group choice.

I gave it a 7.5 out 10

Reading Challenge 2015 goals met:  A book with non-human characters, A book that made me cry, A book that became a movie, A book by an author I've never read before, A book set in a different country,

Monday, August 31, 2015


Haven't done one of these for awhile so I thought I'd try to do one a month.

For Today:  August 31, 2015

Oustside My Window:  It is partially cloudy but the sun is peeking through.  And VERY windy.  I'll take it though because it has cleared out the horrible smoke we've been dealing with from the Washington fires.  It's the first day in a week that we've seen the sky and had a nice bright day.  Also outside my window the leaves are starting to change color on the big boulevard trees!  What??!!  August is not even done yet.  I know, only one more day.  But really...that's just wrong!

I am Listening to:  Max and Ruby on tv.  Only one dayhome kidlet showed up this a.m. and we're trying to figure out what to do for the morning.  Library?  Bus ride?  Different playground?  Operation Christmas Child shopping (all the school supplies are on cheap this week!).  What should we do?

I am Thinking:  I need to change out the summer bedding 'cause I'm cold at night now.

I am Thankful for:  my steady pay cheque.  I know a lot of families in Alberta are going through a rough time with the oil field slump so I'm very grateful.  I need to fill 2 spots in the dayhome because of 2 "graduates" to grade 1 but I know they will come along in the right timing.  I'm thankful for the bit of a break after summer mayhem.

In the Kitchen:  I'm thinking I will do my Crockpot Chicken Ciaccatore today, And later this week:  Grilled Sausages and potato salad, Soft Tacos, Honey Garlic Pork and Wontons,

In the Dayhome:  All things apple.  Probably some apple stamping, apple crisp, counting seeds

I am Reading:  Invisible Ellen by Shari Shattuck to complete my "Author with the same initials as yours" component of my Reading Challenge 2015.  Eighty pages in and it's got my interest so far!  Also trying to finish up Crazy Love by Francis Chan which I've been working on since January.  I am so not a non-fiction reader.

Some favourite things:  A relaxed Sunday with no commitments other than church.

A few plans for this week:  Getting myself and dayhome kids back to more of a routine and intentional learning, Operation Christmas Child shopping, going through my fall clothing to see what stays and what needs to go

A favourite quote or thought:

I am excited about:  an upcoming trip to see my oldest and looking at all her pictures from her Western European trip, getting a delivery from Bookoutlet!

A peek into My Day:  

Yikes...say it isn't so!

Simple Women's Daybook is hosted by Peggy here

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #343

Well I cannot believe it is the last FFF of August, which essentially for me is the last FFF of the summer.  I know that summer technically goes until September 21 but for all intents and purposes the end of August is the end of summer for me.  Everything changes.  Kids go back to school, the easy, laid back days are over and the Dayhome takes on more of a purposeful, organized feeling about it, the nights are already cooler and getting dark so fast.  Activities start to pick up once again.  This is a perfect time to look for the blessings in this last week of summer ease.  Please join us.  Newcomers can link in the sidebar for the guidelines.

1.  Coffee Jelly.  Yes, you read that right.  Who knew there was such a wonderous thing?  My sis surprised me with some for taking care of her fur babies while she was on holidays in the Okanagan.Okanagan  They sure have all sorts of delicious stuff there and this Summerland Sweets company has some really unique flavored jams and jellies and syrups.    I'm thinking this is going to be really yummy in some thimble cookies at Christmas time!

2.  A really great weekend.  You know how sometimes things just all fall perfectly and produce a wonderful end result and you just know it was a blessing from God?  Well, last week was like that.  A perfectly wrapped gift handed to us.  It started with a great workout Saturday morning, then a fun matinee movie, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, with good friends.  Next was a wonderful cup of tea shared with said friends with lots of laughter thrown in.  And while we were at the show, another friend txted and asked us over for appetizers.  Another great couple of hours spent later in the evening with them.  Sunday was a great church service and then we just had to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a long bike ride on Sunday.  Perfect weather for that...sunny yet coolish air.  Ending the weekend visiting with my mom and my sis's family.  Everybody's company and our activities were just a true blessing that weekend and I'm very thankful we don't have to do life alone.

3.  Getting off work a half hour earlier yesterday.  I know this may not seem like much, but it couldn't have happened on a better day!  I had so much to do, including 2 appointments and a library pick up that needed doing, right after work that day.  That measly little 30 minutes gave me some breathing space.

4.  Dwelling on summer memories.  Just looking through our summer pictures and dwelling on memories has brought smiles to me this week.  Though we didn't have an official holiday where we got far away for a week there were many wonderful day trips and family time and date time with hubby that I am so grateful for.  I can close off this summer with a very contented, thankful sigh.

5.  Vacuuming.  Quite a weird thing, but seriously, giving the house a good vacuum makes me feel peaceful.  Sometimes when the carpets are a mess, I get all agitated and I don't even know why.  And then I vacuum getting rid of those bits of everything and it's like a breath of fresh air.  I know weird, but really it does make me happy so it's a fave.  

What have been your favourite blessings this week?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart ~ A Review

Is what we remember and believe to be the truth in a tragic occurrence really truth or how we perceived it and want to believe?

 This is a story of 5 college friends, Adri who is a conservative young woman and her brother, Will, who were raised by their Christian father, Harper who is the wild child of the group, David who is son of very well to do parents who live in a castle-like mansion in town and for whom there is lots of expectations, and Jackson who is rarely mentioned. Adri has become a nurse and has moved to Africa to work with a charity but is called home after the death of the mansion's matriarch has made her an heir. We soon find out that Adri had been engaged to David and had actually fled to Africa following the death of her fiance and the story then starts to backtrack through Adri and Harper's viewpoints to the time of their college days where they met until the present where they both come back to the place they both swore they would never return to. Adri has not seen or talked to Harper since David's death even though they had been the best of friends in college so there is an air of mystery about that and what had actually happened to David. As the story unfolds there are sad and shocking revelations that play on the reader's emotions as and build up to why Adri and Harper no longer have contact. As they are forced to face their past they are also forced to face their guilt in the tragedy that caused them to go their separate ways.

 I usually love Nicole Baart's stories. Her writing is really good but I have to say this is definitely not my favourite of her books. I found I was just making myself finish the book because I usually do like this author's writing and I wanted to see what she would do with the characters not because I was loving the story or the characters involved. There were moments my attention was totally grabbed and then it would back off and I'd chug along until the next moment that it grabbed me. I didn't really engage or connect with either of the main characters unfortunately and I can't really state why. I found the ending did not reward me like I thought it would which is what I was hoping for in my determination not to put the book down. All that said, just because this particular story was not my cup of tea, I would still read the next book by this author.

I gave this book a 7.5/10

 Reading Challenge Goals Met: A book set somewhere I've always wanted to visit (Georgia), A book published this year, a book by a favourite author I haven't read yet, a book by a female author

Linked with Semicolon Saturday Review of Books

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #342

Here's another addition of Friday's Fave Five.  Once again it has crept up on me. I don't know where my weeks are going!  But all the more reason to have a place to intentionally make note of the blessings in life lest they slip by without notice or thankfulness on my part.  Please join in as we take a peek over the week and find what was good.  If you are new the guidelines link in my sidebar.

1.  Homemade spaghetti sauce.  I don't know why I bother with the jar stuff when homemade is so delicious and fairly easy.   It just took a little time to simmer all those wonderful flavors together.  The hardest part was not constantly dipping into the pot to taste.  Add some meat and some cool shaped pasta to catch all that sauce and what a great meal.

2.  Homegrown tomatoes.  A friend gave us tomato plants at the beginning of the season, and the crop is coming in!  Everyday we go out and get a handful of delicious cherry tomatoes off the plant on the deck.  The bigger tomato plants are planted in my Mom's garden and they are starting to get ripe and delicious too!  There is nothing like a homegrown tomato.  Toasted tomato sandwiches, crowning bbq burgers, tossed in salads.  Yum!

3.  Taber corn.  Okay, it totally seems like all I think about is food, but seriously folks, August is corn season here and Taber corn is the best anywhere.  And because it's right in our backyard, we have corn stands popping up everywhere to buy the delicious golden cobs.  We've enjoyed the most tender peaches and cream corn, and this week the sweet golden corn has been knocking our socks off.  It's seriously so good, in reality, it doesn't need butter or salt, but hey, what fun is a cob of corn without being taken to the next level, right?

Photo courtesy of Canadian Badlands

4.  Warm days cooler evenings.  Once again it's been nice  to have nice warm days but the evenings are definitely cooling off which is really nice.  Letting fresh air in to cool off the house is something I prefer to air conditioned cold air.  

5.  Farmer's market trip.  How fun these trips are to pick up some yummy stuff.  There is just so much going on it's fun just to be there.  A quick lunch, Dave at the bbq booth, me at the Ukranian booth, a bag of spices, a couple bottles of gourmet olive oil.  It made for a fun road trip day.  It's really nice to get away a bit and just leave the pressures behind if only for an afternoon.

What were your favorites for the week?

Monday, August 17, 2015

A House Divided by Robert Whitlow ~ Book Tour and Review

Publisher's Description:
A father's mistakes nearly cost his children everything. Now his children must unite to take on the most important case of their respective careers.

Corbin Gage is slowly drinking himself into the grave while running a small law practice in a small Georgia town. The assistant DA in the same community is his son Ray, poised for a professional breakthrough based on a job offer to work for the best law firm in the area. Roxy is Corbin's daughter, a rising star associate in Atlanta for an international law firm that specializes in high stakes, multi-million-dollar litigation. Against the advice of everyone in his life, Corbin Gage takes on a toxic tort case on behalf of two boys who have contracted non-Hodgkin's lymphoma due to an alleged chemical exposure. The defendant, a herbicide/pesticide/fertilizer company, is the largest employer in the area. Because of the lawsuit, Ray's job offer evaporates, forcing him to go to work with his father. Roxy's expertise in complex litigation draws her into the drama. As their investigation uncovers an audacious conspiracy to conceal dangers to their community, Corbin, Ray, and Roxy come to a personal treaty in their pursuit of justice. But they soon discover that burying a problem can have explosive results.

My Thoughts:  For the most part I really enjoyed this legal story that also delves into the issue of alcoholism and it's devastating effects on family.  Corbin is a crusty old lawyer who's law practice is barely treading water.  His relationship with his grown children is tenuous at best and pretty much non-existant at worst.  His son is a little more open to him than his daughter, who really resents his un-involvement in their growing up years due the alcohol and has written him out of her life.  Living in Atlanta she is pursuing partnership in a huge international high stakes litigation firm.  His son, who is also a lawyer, allows Corbin into his life due to the special relationship that Corbin has with his own son, but when Corbin cannot control his drinking even around his grandson, he might lose even that.  As Corbin's decisions start to spin out of control, and once again start to devastate all whom he cares about, he is forced to take a hard look at where his love of alcohol has taken him.  In the midst of all this he has taken on one of the toughest cases of his career and he needs the help of those he is alienating.

I found both the legal case and the personal story very interesting in the book.  This family must face real problems in their lives brought on by the alcoholism of their father and I thought their reactions and behavior rang quite true.  Corbin's journey to facing what his life and decisions had wrought upon his family drew me right in.  The influence of the mother, who was a Christian, on the family was also written well into the story.  Even though her death was a catalyst in the beginning of the story to set Corbin on his journey, her legacy of faith was woven into the lives of her family beautifully.  The only thing I didn't like about this story was the very beginning where there seemed to be quite a bit of  lawyer "language".  Not being exposed to much legal jargon I found it a bit tedious wading through that, but that slowed down as the story went on and then the book really picked up for me and drew me right in.

The book was provided free of charge by Thomas Nelson and the BookLook Bloggers program.  All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.