Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #448

Hello and welcome to the first FFF of fall.  So hard to believe another season has come and gone this year.  I don't know why but it seems like this year has flown by and yet in some aspects it seems like it's been barely chugging along.  But no matter which way it feels, it's always a good time to intentionally be grateful for blessings and good things in our lives.  Join us as we share the top 5 of the week.

In no particular order:

Trying new foods.  I love trying new foods as long as it's not too off the wall (she says as she's watching poor Vanessa Hudgens having to eat rattlesnake on the show Running Wild with Bear Grylls).  I love to try new recipes too and the last little while I've found a few that have been delicious and I will make again.

Zucchini Boats were a huge hit with everyone.  I think I sorta mashed a couple of recipes together to make a buffalo chicken zucchini boat and now I can't remember what I did.  But I don't think you can go wrong with these.  You can do chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian with basically unlimited flavor combinations.  It comes together quickly and looks pretty.  If you use yellow and green zucchini it's so colorful.  Just search zucchini boats on pinterest and you are on your way.

Another dish was this Slow Cooker Creamy Southwest Chicken .  This was definitely a keeper.  So delicious.  As usual I tweaked it a touch by using what I had:  ancho chili powder for the chili powder, and 1 tsp. regular paprika and 1 tsp smoked paprika for the 2 tsps of paprika the recipe called for.  Yum.  I served it with rice ( apparently a huge amount of rice according to the picture.  But my husband is a rice fiend and this was his plate of food.  Ha!).  We ate the leftovers a few days later over egg noodles and it was just as delicious if not better having sat marrying all those good flavors.

I also tried a batch of my homemade spaghetti sauce I've been making with that fantastic tomato harvest from this year over spaghetti squash instead of pasta.  Oh my goodness, who knew this would be so good.   Didn't miss the pasta at all!  And I forgot to get a picture of that though.

So thankful for all the delicious food that is so available to us here.

Lovely flowers on my porch.  My son and youngest daughter had bought me the cute little bike flower pot display for Christmas and I just love it.  The flowers have grown and filled in over the summer and it just makes me happy to drive up and see these on my porch.  Hopefully they will last a little longer now that our night's have cool off a lot.

Finale show of America's Got Talent.  My daughter and I have been watching this show together this year and the finale show where the top 10 competed was especially great.  Such great talent they had on the show this year.  It was so hard to guess who would win because they were all so good.  But the blessing was not only such a great finale but watching the season with my girl.

Fall duvets.  The nights have cooled off enough around here that last week I took off all the lighter summer bedding and put on the fall duvet.  It is so much more comfortable than the summer bedding I was quite excited to be able to put it on.

Church small group kickoff.  Wednesday was our church's night to kick off the start of small groups with a fun night where all the small groups attended together.  There was lots of good visiting, good laughs and good snacks.  It was nice to see some new faces and see all the different groups that are running this year.  It's good to be connected to a smaller group where one can feel supported, accountable and loved.

What were your favorite blessings this week?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix ~ Book Tour and Review

Publisher's Description:
"There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned."

 When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered. “Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

 During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

 “I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

 Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand. Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

My Thoughts:
When I first got this book for review, it wasn't really a book or author I had heard of before.  The description vaguely intrigued me so I ordered it.  At first taste I thought maybe I would have a hard time getting into it.  There are some french words and places in Paris mentioned.  Never having been fond of reading or trying to sound out the French language this made me think I might have chosen something that wasn't quite for me.  But boy, once the story got going I could not put this book down.  I didn't know a lot about the Paris Bataclan attacks of 2015.  For some reason I didn't really pay attention to the news at that time.  I think I might not have wanted to know as that was the year my daughter had travelled to Paris and I just didn't want to be consumed with thoughts of "it could have been her had she gone a few months later".  I don't know.  Anyway, this story really opened my eyes to the horror of what those attacks were.

  I've always shied away from reading about matyrs and Christian persecution as it deposited fear into me.  In a way, it was a step of faith for me to read this story.   I had never heard of the Huguenots of France before but after reading this I have come to realize that their story and that of any story of persecuted Christian faith is important to tell and when told well it can leave a deposit of encouragement and faith and resilience.  I found this story hard to put down.

By interweaving the ancient story of the Huguenot persecution and the more recent Bataclan attack, this new to me author explored the questions:  "Can someone who witnesses unthinkable evil and survives the unbearable, who loses everything, can they not only survive but find happiness in life again?"   "Can one live beyond the fear to realize their story is not over and find the courage to continue their story and fight for their ending?"    For me, the story of these two women, modern and ancient, and how they answered these questions for themselves was an important one to explore.   The story also looks at dealing with grief, PTSD, the importance and blessing of friendship, dealing with guilt, faith and belief in the midst of evil and taking steps forward.

Though the pacing of discoveries by Jessica and Grant was quite quick in this story for story telling's sake, I thought the author did a great job in helping us not to forget this history and told a wonderful story of courage, resilience and faith.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for providing this book free of charge for my honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are mine and I was not required to give a good review.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #447

Welcome to Friday and our place to take a pause and reflect over our blessings and good things of life from the last week.  Please join us in sharing 5 of them in a post.  

Miracles in the midst of heartbreak.  With all the horrific storms that happened last week in the U.S. and all the fires in Montana, and B.C. us here in Southern Alberta watched in heartbreak as our beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park braced for a fire that was making it's way towards it.  All thanks to a lightning strike, tinder dry conditions we have here now,  and hot temperatures, the Kenow fire was moving along towards the historic park.  Well Monday bad turned to worse as the winds picked up and changed the direction and the fire very, very quickly went out of control.  Firefighters from all over Alberta were there to fight and fight they did.  Though a lot of the park was devastatingly affected in the wilder area, the actual town was saved, the historic Prince of Wales hotel was saved as was other buildings along trails and at different other points.  The only thing that was lost was the visitor center which was outside of the town.  No one was lost or injured.  Unfortunately because of the wind, it raged past the the point they imagined and jumped the highway and tore through ranches and farms.  People had to be instantly evacuated from their homes with little to no warning.  Five ranch homes were lost but no lives lost.  People have come together from all over Southern Alberta to help out for everything from helping food for pets, offering camping sites for those displaced and evacuated, to all sorts of practical help.  There is miracles when hard things happen and it's amazing to watch how good rises out hurt and heartache.  The hands and heart of Jesus being extended to those in need.

Batch 2 of fresh tomato spaghetti sauce in the freezer.  It's been amazing how many tomatoes we have gotten off our plants.  After sharing some more with my neighbor and some dayhome parents, another batch of yummy sauce is ready for a day when I need something quick and delicious. I've been having fun experimenting with different flavors for the different batches of sauces.  And the house smells delicious.  I'll also have enough to freeze a few batches of diced tomatoes for my stews, soups and chili's coming up as the weather gets colder.

Back together again.  After taking the summer off our ladies bible study group is raring to go.  We kicked off the season with dinner out together.  It was so nice catching up with everyone and finding out what fun stuff happened in their summer.  Then we decided what study we want to do and we're all excited.  And of course, the food was yummy.  I had Bangkok Lettuce Wraps and they were delicious!

Weather cool down.  I know there is a week of summer left, but never before have I been so happy for a cool down.  This summer has been so hot and dry.   The cool down was very welcome.  It even helped with the fire situation.  Now we just need more rain.  Had a little drizzle today so we're hoping overnight there is a good soaking rain.  Everywhere in Southern Alberta needs it so badly.  I'm looking forward to cooking the good ol' comfort foods again too.

Renewing my library card.  I am so thankful for my library.  It is with pleasure that I renew it each fall.  I get so much from my library and don't take for granted that we, in this country, have such available access to books, movies and all sorts of other stuff.

What were your favorite blessings this week?

Friday, September 08, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #446

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  I'm so thankful you are here.  Please join in as we purposefully develop hearts of gratitude by looking for the blessings of the last week whether it was a good week or a harder week.  

Surprise weekend visit by my son.  He was actually down for a friend's birthday but he neglected to tell me so it was a surprise.  It was nice to see him again though we'd just seen him a few weeks before.  I'll take all the visits I can get from my adult kids.

Watching my family play together.  It's been so hot again lately that on the Saturday my boy was down we packed up the lawn chairs, water bottles, frisbees, baseball and gloves, and of course a book for me, and headed to the lake.  It was so nice to just sit and watch the family playing catch together and enjoy God's gift of beautiful nature.

The first batch of  homemade spaghetti sauce from that crazy tomato harvest that's starting to come in.  This one was mushroom with a bit of a kick.  There is something so satisfying taking an afternoon and just making something slowly and totally from scratch and have it simmering a few hours and making the house smell so delicious.  Yum!

Beautiful gift from a leaving dayhome family.  I mentioned last Friday it was gonna be a tough day as I was losing a darling of a little girl to grade 1 who had been in my dayhome since she was one years old.  When her parents picked me up they had a beautiful gift basket of lovely and delicious things that they had hand picked with stuff they thought I would enjoy.  But the blessing wasn't so much the things that made up the gift but the heart behind it and the message they wrote in the card.  Both mom and dad came to say goodbye and leave the gift.  It was very emotional, happy and sad all mixing and bunching together.

Precious picture sent to me of aforementioned little darling of her first day of school.  She held a little sign that is so popular right now with the grade, her age, her school, etc.  Down in the corner was "What I want to be when I grow up"  and her precious answer was "a dayhome lady".  Oh how my heart melted.  How grateful I was that God had brought her and family into my life for the time I had.  And how happy it made me to know I must have done something right to make her love her time at my home.

This has been such a difficult week for so many.  So many people are hurting, afraid and displaced having lost everything they had.   From the flooding in Houston to Hurricane Irma decimating islands to the horrendous fires in Montana, Washington, and British Columbia.  My beloved Glacier National Park has dangerous fires burning all over and has evacuation orders and even my happy place, Wateron National Park in Alberta, is under voluntary evacuation with possible evacuation order within an hour of issue hanging over it.  It breaks my heart to think these gorgeous places are burning up.  I pray for all the firefighters, first responders, rescue workers and ordinary citizens stepping up and helping wherever they can.  I pray for the people affected physically, emotionally, financially by the disasters.  I also pray for the town of Clovis, New Mexico where they had a horrible shooting tragedy.  I just don't even have words but I lift you up daily before the throne of God.  I pray in the midst of what you are going through you see glimpses of miracles and love and hope.  I pray you see Jesus in action through the helping hands and compassion of neighbors, strangers, fellow human beings.  

"God will give us peace in trouble.
 When there is a storm without, He will make peace within. 
The world can create trouble in peace, but God can create peace in trouble."
Thomas Watson

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova ~ Book Review

Olivia is on Nantucket by herself.  No husband and no son with her.  She is there trying to make some sense of her son Anthony's short 8 years.  Anthony had been diagnosed with Autism at the age of 3.  It had been a hard 5 years, ones in which Anthony didn't speak to her, he didn't look at her and he hated being touched by her.  And it was hard on her marriage.  So hard that she and her husband were not together anymore.  But there was also happiness in the midst of the hard, but now Anthony was gone, her husband was gone and life didn't make sense.

While in Nantucket Olivia meets Beth who is going through her own life issues.  Beth is writing a book and what she writes will reopen Olivia's hurting and grieving heart.

This was a wonderful story by Lisa Genova.  The author of "Sill Alice" uses her knowledge as a nueroscientist to once again bring us into a story that brings compassion and understanding into a hard to understand area.  I was trained in working with disabled individuals and used to work in the school district with autistic children and this book brought me into places of knowledge, perception and sympathy that I didn't know I was lacking, not only for the autistic individual for their families.

The only reason I gave this a 9 out 10 instead of a 10 was the story line of Beth.  I felt distracted from Olivia and Anthony's story with Beth's issues of an unfaithful husband and was bouncing back and forth in my emotions between the two.  I wanted to concentrate on more on Olivia's story but Beth's life kept yanking on my emotions too.  Both story lines were intense emotionally and I felt a bit torn between the two.  I wanted my focus to be more on Olivia and Anthony's story as I thought the book was more about that.  Don't know if that makes sense but it's how I felt during the story.

That being said, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about autism and it's effects on the individual and the family.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #445

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  The last one for the month of August.  So hard to believe I just typed that.  In my mind, this first day of September officially closes the books on summer and we are in fall.  Today is going to a tough one for me.  After having a little princess since she was 1 years old, I will be saying goodbye to her as she heads off to new adventures in elementary school.  But the was lots of good things this week just waiting to be acknowledged.  Join us as we look for blessings in this last week of August.

1.  Avon Orange Honeysuckle Bubble Bath.   And oddly enough I haven't yet used it in the bath once.  But I love to clean with Avon bubble bath.  I think I've mentioned that before.  This was a new scent for me and I love it's freshness.  Makes the whole kitchen smell lovely and leaves everything sparkly clean. 

2.  A Massage Therapist who really knows their stuff.  I've had an aching knee and leg for almost 2 weeks.  It's messed with my days and my sleep.  It's caused me to avoid any leg exercises at the gym and I haven't even been able to wear my new heals, darn.  LOL.  But seriously it has been a royal pain.  As I knew she would, my massage lady, figured out what was the cause and after a good massage on the offending area she gave me stretches to do and my knee feels back to normal!  Who knew that knotted muscles in one area could cause the muscles around the knee to pull on the knee pulling on it and cause one's gait to be wrong?

3.  Surprise lunch from my hubby.  A nice little treat that just lifts the day.  It's always fun to to receive a surprise lunch on a busy day.  It lets me know he's thinking about me.

4.  The right person in the right place at the right time.  Yesterday, while cutting an apple for snack, I gave myself a pretty nasty cut.  I was debating with myself whether I should call someone to take the dayhome while I ran to emergency to see if I needed stitches.   But then it dawned on me that my next parent was coming within the next 10 minutes or so and she happened to be a nurse and could take a look at it and let me know what she thought.  Now this parent usually doesn't do the morning drop off, her hubby does a few hours earlier than this time, so it was a real blessing that on this particular day she just happened to be coming at that particular time.  She determined that though the cut was bad she didn't think I needed to go get stitches.  She patched me up and saved me possibly hours sitting in emergency for something that was not needed!

5.  Today is the start of a long weekend here in Canada.  August always seems a bit long as there is less routine to work and there's always some kids missing with holidays which for me kinda makes the days seem longer.  I am looking forward to this long weekend to relax and rejuvinate before we get back to more of a regular schedule.  I plan on lots of reading, maybe a walk or a bike ride, maybe trying a new recipe and just going with the flow.

What were your favorite blessings of the week?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Truth Teller by Angela Hunt

Lara Godfrey's beloved husband died unexpectedly from a horrible bone cancer not long after they were married.  They had very much wanted children so they took steps when he became ill to make sure that that could happen in case all the cancer treatments interfered with their ability to conceive.  But now Michael is dead and Lara, after thinking long and hard and praying about it decides to go ahead with the procedure that would allow her to get pregnant by Michael's child.  She wants nothing more than to have his baby and have a part of him still with her.  And as it turns out Lara works as a physician assistant at a woman's clinic and the husband of the doctor she works for and is friends with is a genetic scientist.  So Lara asks him to check if Michael's cancer genes would be passed on to any offspring.  Assuring her that he eradicated those genes, the doctor goes ahead with the procedure and Lara finds herself pregnant.  When a local celebrity millionaire in her area, a proclaimed bachelor, announces that he is expecting his first child through a surrogate, he is the talk of the coffee room at Lara's clinic.  But when he starts showing up at the clinic, some start to get a little suspicious and suspect Lara to be that surrogate.  When Lara starts to notice some odd discrepancies in her files, she starts to dig further and makes discoveries that put her and her unborn baby's life in danger.  As she deals with the fact she has been deceived by someone she trusted but she is being used as the surrogate for some experimental child that has consequences not only for her and the baby but possibly for the human race.  At first repulsed, now Lara will do anything to protect the child from the evil that waits to befall him.  Living in hiding, and growing and flourishing under his loving mother's fierce protection, the boy starts to show an unusual gift of sensing when other's are not telling the truth.  Now they are again on the run from those who would silence that gift.

This book was very unique.  It was edge of your seat, fascinating, thought provoking and suspenseful.  It explores very important issues of genetic manipulation, medical ethics and morals and their clash with science and research, the love of a mother, the value of life and children no matter their parentage and how far a mother would go to protect her children.  The book was first published in 1999 and it's messages are still important today, in fact, so much so that the publisher reintroduced in 2006.  What I loved about this story was that though it was based in scientific stuff it never bogged down, and kept it's pace from beginning to end.  It made me more aware about topics I never thought too much about before but it sure got me thinking now.  And of course, with Angela Hunt you get lots of twists and turns keeping you up way past one's bedtime to see what happens.  There is some good discussion questions for reading groups in the back.

I rated this 9.5/10