Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #323

Hi everyone!   I'll be up a little late today with my fave five blessings for the week.  I just am totally mixed up in my days this week.  Here's the link so that you all can get started.  See you in a couple of hours!

Whew, back again.  I don't know what's with me this week but I am totally mixed up in what day it is.  I think it's because I've got way too many plates spinning at the moment.  But that is the perfect time to pause and to take note of the blessings of the week or they might just slip right on by.  Join in with me!

1. Bittersweet party.  I mentioned last week that my dear friend is moving away.  Well this is her last week and the ladies study group had a little pot luck party to celebrate the times we've had with her and the new adventures her and her family will be taking.  It was a sweet couple of hours.  To me it was a real blessing to watch this wonderful group of ladies who have come together from so many varied backgrounds.  On paper, we probably would not be good friends.  But the desire to grow in our walk with the Lord has brought us together and knit our hearts.  The support and love that was shown to the one leaving us was lovely to see.  And do I even need to mention yummy food?

2.  Dinner and movie night at another good friends.  And turkey dinner no less...that was cooked for us!  Delicious!  Fun conversation where we could relax and be ourselves until it was ready topped off with watching a good movie was a fun night on the weekend for us.  I'm thankful for the friends God has brought into our lives at this time.

3.  No cook Sunday.  Above friends don't do leftovers, so the entire turkey dinner leftovers was sent home with us.  Which meant dinner was all ready and just needed to be warmed up after church on Sunday!  I love to cook but sometimes Sundays are such a rush.  We're all starving by the time we get home from church so it was really nice to have it practically on the table when we got home.

4.  Birds singing.  There have been lots of birds vocalizing the coming of spring!  One day my friend and I who both love birds sat mesmerized and watched 2 doves cooing, a family of blue jays squawking and a whole murmuration of starlings visiting my backyard all at the same time. Yes, murmuration is the official name of a flock of starlings. In the 22 years I've lived here I've never witnessed them in my yard all at the same time.   Oh those starlings sing and chatter amongst themselves.  There is tons of them and they make quite the lovely commotion!  We oohed and aahed for a few minutes before it occured to me to get the camera.   Of course, by the time I ran to get the camera the doves had hid in the neighbor's pine trees, the jays were joining them and the starlings were spooked and took off.  I'll just have to satisfied with the memory of the special moment!

5.  Winter clothes gone, spring clothes out.  In the time my1950's home was built, walk in closets were unheard of so I must pack some of the seasonal stuff away.  In a moment of motivation I got all the fall and winter stuff taken out, washed and put away and the spring summer stuff unpacked, freshened and moved forward in closets and drawers.  Big job done!!  That is a blessing!  Spring now has to fully show up...right?

What were your favorite things from this past week?

P.S.  Nicole from GoLightly Place if you happen to come back to visit, I am so sorry but I cannot comment on the format used by your blog and I couldn't find a "contact me" button on your site. Replying to your comment when it came into my email didn't work either, I don't think.   I'm not ignoring your lovely comment from last time, I just couldn't find a way to leave one with you.  :( 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Esther: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt ~ Book Review

Based on the biblical story of Esther. As a young teenage Jewess living in Persia,  Haddasah finds herself a bit torn. She is drawn to the "romantic" notions of being royalty after she has an encounter with Queen Vashti. Her and her young Persian best friend daydream of belonging to the courts and possibly being queen. But it is in direct conflict with the teachings she received from her cousin Mordecai, who raised her. But when Vashti is stripped of her crown and the King of Persia issues a call for the collection of beautiful young women to become part of his harem, Haddasah is forcibly taken and she finds herself thrown into the courts she dreamed of when younger. But it is not as she and her friend have imagined. Changing her name to Esther to protect her heritage, she undergoes months of preparation in the hopes that the king might call upon her. Call her he does, and becomes so smitten with her he makes her queen. But as years pass, the king's attention is taken up with an evil man who's ambitions are second only to his hatred of the Jewish people. When his plans to kill the Jewish people are granted by the king, Esther must gather all her courage and violate a Persian law that could see her dead before she has a chance to put her request to save her people before the king.

I've always loved a good biblical historical novel. And yes, I know that not everything that most authors write in these stories is true and some are indeed quite liberal with their embellishments but it helps me to envision what it would have been like to go through what they did. Angela Hunt has taken the biblical story of Esther and give a wonderful fresh perspective while taking great care in remaining true to historical and biblical fact. According to her author's notes, nearly every event in the novel comes from historical record. The biblical account is loyal and then it is completed with writing from a Greek chronicler named Herodotus to fill in Persian history.

The story is written from two viewpoints: that of Haddasah (Esther) and that of Harbonah, the king's eunich chamberlain. The use of these two viewpoints brought a really wonderful context to the story. Seeing what Harbonah would see from being so close to the king and serving him on a daily basis for many years was a great addition and made for an interesting way of bringing in many aspects of historical fact of the life of King Xerxes and the Persian courts of that time, including the decrowning of Vashti. I loved Hunt's take on Haddasah not being a perfect girl, but with everyday desires and insecurities that didn't necessarily line up with what Mordecai was trying to teach her. That she was torn between her Jewish roots and traditions and yet finding herself being drawn to what life in the palace would be like sounds so much like what a teenager would go through. That Haddasah would have been a teenager when taken had not really sunk into me until I read this story and so the whole relationship between her and the approximately 40 year old king kinda made me squirm. But I loved how she went from being naive to infatuated to love and finally looking beyond her selfish self even if it meant going against her worldly love; going from an immature young teenager to a brave, wise young woman fulfilling the call of God on her life. The way the author put feelings and flesh to the characters of the story of Esther and yet remained true to the biblical and historical account made this book one that I just could not put down and will probably read again! It was so interesting. Can't wait for the next two in this "Dangerous Beauty Series".

 This review will be linked to Semicolon Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #322

Happy Spring everyone!  It makes me so happy to say that!  I know around here spring comes in stops and starts, we are expecting snow this weekend, but it is spring snow and the end of winter is in sight.  I hope my friends down east can find some relief from the crazy winter they have had and start to see the light at the end of a very long wintery tunnel.  But even in the midst of weather woes, there is blessings to be found.  Let's look for them and share 5!

1.  A perfectly relaxed Sunday providing lots of reading time.  I love these Sundays where I don't have a bunch of chores and running around left over to the last of the weekend.  Church in the morning, my mom over for lunch and then putting my feet up with a cup of coffee and a wonderful book.

2.  My dishwasher.  My goodness, this has been a favourite this week.  I don't know what happened this week but between my own family and a dayhome I swear those dirty dishes are multiplying somehow so I am very thankful that I have a dishwasher.  Otherwise I think I'd be standing at that sink for a good part of my day!

3.  Taking extra time with a dear friend who will be moving a province and over a mountain range away.  Oh how I will miss this girl! It absolutely breaks my heart.   We've been having lots of extra coffee time and shopping time and just doing things together time.  I'm very thankful that because I work at home she has been able to pop by, that we've been able to share some time on the weekends. So thankful for the friendship we share.

4.  Date night with my honey.  And he took me to a specific restaurant just so that I could get a favourite meal off of a feature menu.  I sorta suspect he really wanted to go another restaurant that was a wee bit less expensive but he put me first.  I'm very blessed to have a hubby who thinks of me.  Next time he'll definitely get the pick of where he wants to go.

5.  A great quote that really makes me think.  I found this  over at my friend Laura's great blog in this post.  Really made me think!

"Simplifying isn’t just about removing the things in our lives that we don’t love or use,
 it also means removing the things that affect us negatively
 even if those are things we love and use."

And those "things" can be ANYTHING.  In many ways, my life is way less busy and complicated than it used to be. All my children are now young adults and no longer need me driving them around to activities and jobs. That uncomplicates my schedule immensely.  But that being said, I have to intentionally take note of what I commit myself to now as I can tend to be overly involved myself. I think it's because I work at home with preschoolers and it's a stress reliever to get with other adults and away from the house for a while. And my inclination is also to love shopping and "stuff". But all that "stuff" needs cleaning, organizing, and maintenance. Which itself creates it's own kind of stress. Lots to mull over in that quote for me.

 What are your 5 favourite things that brought a blessing to your life this week?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline ~ Book Review

 This book is part of the Rosato and DiNunzio series, but can stand alone.  It focuses on Judy Carrier who is an associate at the all woman firm of Rosato and Associates.  After being handed a damages case where she would have to defend a company Judy is not too happy with her boss.  The case will take an enormous amount of her time and energy.  She can't count on her best friend to go to bat for her with the boss because her friend is now a partner and it would cause issues.  And right at the same time, she receives news that her beloved Aunt has breast cancer, has had chemo and now needs breast removal surgery.  Taking the weekend she immediately goes to see her aunt before her surgery.  When she arrives, however, she discovers her mother already there.  Already on tense footing with her, the stress of the situation amplifies when her mother makes it clear that her Aunt Barb's Mexican friend Iris is not someone her mom approves of.  When Iris turns up dead in her vehicle, Aunt Barb cannot come to grips with it being the heart attack that the police are saying it was.  Suspecting foul play and out of compassion for her distraught aunt, Judy starts to poke around and discovers huge amounts of money in Iris's gardening box in her aunt's garage.  As she starts to try to figure out how that kind of money could come to an illegal immigrant, Judy starts to uncover all manner of mystery about the woman's life and death.  And to top it all off, things aren't going so well back at work or in her relationship with her live in boyfriend.

I love mysteries by Lisa Scottoline but I have to say this wasn't a favourite.  It had it's highs and it's lows for me.  For starters, I don't know if I was sold on the main character of Judy. There was just some things that didn't mesh for me. Just for a few examples without giving away story:  She was desiring to eventually want to make partner in the firm yet was trying everything she could to get out of the work her boss was putting on her to do.  She seemed to not know about some things in the storyline that I thought was odd, for example, for an educated woman she didn't know what surgical drains were, for a lawyer she seemed to have no clue what ICE was which is Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  I thought that was odd.  She may not have specialized in that but as a lawyer you'd think she would know the term.  She put herself in not just extremely dangerous situations, but to me, foolishly dangerous situations... again for an educated woman?     Anyway that could have just been the way I viewed things. Maybe because it involved her precious aunt she lost sight of what was totally and foolishly unsafe in lieu of finding the answers.   There was also the issue of too much.  Between family illness, family relational breakdowns, love relational issues, work issues, and now a big old mystery on her hands, there just seemed to be too much going on in this girl's life all at the same time. I wondered how on earth she got herself up and going with everything happening to her.   I did, however, enjoy the actual mystery.  It was a page turner and I couldn't put it down.  I had to see what was going to happen and how it all played out.  I also liked how through the characters of Iris and her immigrant friends, I learned a bit about the difficulties of illegal immigrants in the U.S.  That was interesting for me.

So in all, this particular one was an average read for me, didn't hate it but I didn't love it either.  But it won't stop me from reading other books from this author.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gathering Shadows by Nancy Mehl ~ Book Review

(Finding Sanctuary Book 1)

Wynter Evans is a reporter with her eye on the anchor seat at a St. Louis television station. But when she sees a picture of a Mennonite teenager she thinks she has spotted her brother who had been abducted at the age of 7, eleven years earlier. At twelve, Wynter felt the deep ache of loss of her brother and was well aware of how it affected her family. The subsequent divorce of her parents devasted her teenage years and it seemed the pain would never go away. But she always felt deep inside that her brother was alive somewhere so when she sees the picture of the Mennonite boy she heads to where the picture was taken, the small town of Santuary. Convincing her station boss to do a story of the interesting things in small towns in Missouri, she is able to arrive in town under the guise of putting together a story. The mayor though is a bit skeptical and very protective of the people in his town. But he agrees to help line up some people Wynter can talk to. But when Wynter and her camera man start to dig too deep and start unearthing secrets, someone wants them either scared off or dead. As they get closer to finding the Mennonite young man, Wynter's estranged father all of a sudden comes into town and the truth may just change everything she thought she knew of her family.

 This is my first book by this author and I thought it was a great suspense story. It is full of intrigue and layers of secrets. Sanctuary is an interesting town and being a place as it's name implies, it is part Mennonite town and part a place where people go who are looking for a place of sanctuary. That made for some interesting characters involved in the story. Being under the romance suspense genre, the story was light on the romance which I thought that was in line with the main gist of the story. Wynter was there on a mission of finding her brother, nothing was more important and I thought the whole thing was woven together nicely with the romance not being foremost and taking over the story.

Reading Goals Met:  Book from a female author; mystery or thriller; new to me author

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #321

Whoa, is it Friday already?  I feel like I didn't just lose an hour with Daylight Saving Time but my week has slipped away too.  On weeks like this is when I doubly appreciate FFF so that I can take a pause and recognize the good things in life that God brings me.  Join on in with me.

1.  Getting Crafty.  I'm not a person who does a whole lot of crafting other than preschool crafts.  I sorta always wish I was but it doesn't happen.   But when I saw this on pinterest, I recruited my good friend, who loves to do wreaths into guiding me through it.  It was a fun way to spend an hour or so (especially because she brought along a Blossoming Peach Tea Latte from Starbucks.  I am seriously getting addicted to that stuff).  I'm soaking in whatever time I have with her as she's moving a province away at the end of the month.   I learned a few things, and what do you know?  It actually worked.  

2.  Crown prep done.  No not the crown that goes on one's head, I wish,  but the kind the dentist does. I was not looking forward to it.  It's a long appointment, an hour and a half of laying back with your jaw open.  But the appointment isn't my favorite, it's the fact that it is over and done with!

3.  Inspirational movie.  The ladies from study and I went to see a great inspirational documentary about a pastor in South Korea who saves abandoned babies.  It's called The Drop Box and it was a beautiful story of recognizing the value of every life and that every life has a purpose given by God.  There was so much to take away from this pastor and his wife's story.

4.  Psalm 31.  Just sorta been camping out in the Psalm a bit.  It is so rich and there is so much to get out of it.

5.  Weekend walks with Hubby and the pooch.  It has been lovely weather here, albiet a bit on the windy side some days, but on the weekend it was perfect for taking a walk outside.  I am so glad that spring is coming upon us.  Taking walks with my hubby and furbaby  is always a favorite with me.

What have been good things in your life this last week?

Friday, March 06, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #320

I know it's not quite spring yet but, my goodness, I am ready to get away from the grey colors of winter so I pulled out the spring button.  C'mon spring!!  Thanks for joining me in Friday's Fave Five once again.  Looking back over the week to notice my blessings just helps get the weekend off on the right foot, so here we go:

1.  The days getting longer.  It is so nice not to have to start work in the dark and end the work day in the dark!  The longer days are just a boost to my spirits.  Though this weekend might mess with that a bit in the mornings seeing as we spring ahead an hour and it will be a bit dark once again.  That won't last long however.

2.  Spring decorations.  The winter decorations are finding the way of the winter button and making way for the fresher lighter colors of spring.  A little here and a little there are making their way out of the box and into the kitchen and living.  I know I'm hurrying it a bit but it's making me feel good. If it's not gonna be spring quite yet outside, it will be inside!

3.  Movie we actually watched through to the end.  I usually try and borrow a couple of movies from the library for the weekend.  Our library has "blockbusters" for rent for 3 days, new releases that did well at the box office and they are free.  Or we rent them off our provider where they are not free.  But the last few weekends we haven't had much luck with them.  We have turned off I don't know how many movies over the last few weekends because they were boring, not our tastes, or filled with too much explicitness, vulgar language or gratuitous violence.  Which isn't so bad when it's the free library ones but a real bummer when it's a paid for one.  This last weekend we happened to hit on one that we actually both were enjoying and watched all the way through.  And was a freebie from the library.  "The Giver" broke our bad run of movie picks.

4.  A new favourite drink to add to my repertoire.  Last week they had a big sign up at the corner Starbucks advertising a Blossoming Peach Tea Latte.  Sounded good so I thought I'd break out of my coffee mold.  Yum, yum.  Earl Grey tea with peach syrup, milk and whipped cream.  Soooo good.  How did I not know of this before?

5.  Tree trim.  We have an indoor plant that for reasons only it knows has been scraggly and thin even though it's in a great window and we baby it.  It's been that way for years and years.  We finally had the guts to go ahead chop it right back, put the tops into another bucket to try and root it, and left one short stem that seemed to be doing okay.  Keeping our fingers crossed that it will not only barely survive but thrive!  Nice not to be looking at the scraggly sickly looking thing in the window anymore.

What were your favourite blessings for the week?