Saturday, January 21, 2017

Black Ice by Linda Hall

Lenore Featherjohn is the owner of a local bread and breakfast in the town of Fog Point. It's the middle of winter and the town is experiencing a phenomenon that hasn't happened in a long, long time where the water is so frozen that it is breaking and forming statues. As such, she is busy in her B&B what with all the news people here to report on the event. Then one day she finds a young teenager whom no knows dead by her back door. The very back door that leads downstairs where her grown sons live. As she has done all their lives, in an effort to protect them from being accused, Lenore moves the body to a snowbank on the side of the driveway and put the hands in a prayer position. But now the "Snow Angel" is causing a whole slew of other problems as people come to pray and hope that the spot will heal them of their ills. May and Jake, the town's private detectives, get involved when May's name and phone number turn up in the dead girl's pocket. As tensions rise clues seem to point to the local minister's daughter knowing more than she is letting on.

 I picked this up in a used book store not realizing it was part of a series, even though it said series right on the cover. Oh well. But I recognized the name of the author and thought I had read some of her books before at some time. It is an older story story being published in 2007.  I thought I'd read it now because we were in the midst of our own winter, icy time and the mood just seemed perfect. It is a mystery that is filled with lots of suspense which is what kept the pages turning for me but not quite to the point where I was staying up late because I just couldn't put it down. There was a few story lines happening and sometimes it was just difficult to sort out and remember who everybody was. (I think maybe if I'd read the 1st book first that would have helped?) I found the aspect of people flooding to the spot the girl had died to get healed a little too far of a stretch for me. But the actual mystery and how it tied into the epilogue was very interesting. She also delved into the topic of loss of faith through the character of Amy. Amy grew up in a good Christian home, went to Christian schools and university, married a minister, did all the right things but somewhere along the way she had a loss of faith, or maybe she never really did have any but now in the midst of everything happening with her daughter, husband and the mystery girl she is coming face to face with her own crisis. Maybe because this is a series and will further be dealt with in another book, I thought this story line didn't wrap up for me. I'll have to check out the others in the series. I really thought the author did a wonderful job in exploring how some behaviors in people actually are hiding a deep hurt that they themselves don't even know how to define.  An interesting detail is that some of the story is set in a little town here in central Alberta called Barrhead.  I don't think I've come across a book that had an Albertan town as a setting.  Bonus for that!  All said it was an enjoyable read but not one that blew me away.

I gave it a solid 7.5/10

Linking with Saturday Review of Books    

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #414

Welcome!  It's week's end and time for Friday's Fave Five.  Please join in as we look for blessings through out our last week and share 5 of them.

1.  Outside time.  It has been brutal weather since Christmas.  None of us have been outside much and we were all starting to get a bad case of cabin fever.  Well this week we had some warmer weather come through with a chinook and there has been some outside time each day with the dayhome kids.  It is a major mess out there with slush and water because all that snow is melting very quickly but I'll take it.  Fresh air always makes me feel better.  And NO SHOVELING!

2.  Teachable moments.  You might be thinking I mean teachable moments I may have with the kids.  But this time I actually mean myself.  In my personal study book I thought I was getting what the first chapter was trying to tell me, I thought I knew the lesson.  But a situation happened and in the moment I didn't even realize the significance until I came home and there on the coffee table lay the book.  As soon as I layed eyes on it I knew immediately what had occurred.   And I knew that God was trying to teach me something.  Love when that happens.  Though sometimes the lesson is tough, I am aware of God's love in these situations, in that He wants me to grow and learn and makes ways for me to understand.

3.  Chai Tea.  In the winter I am drawn to hot soothing teas in the evenings and this week I've been enjoying spicy chai tea.  The spicier the better.  Mixed with frothed milk and just a dab of honey.  So calming to me enjoyed with a favorite tv show or my book of the day.

4.  Helpful people.  I am quite techie challenged when it comes to something new.   My study group is doing a study that is accessed through apple tv at the church.  I had no idea how to work the thing and was so grateful that someone who knew how took the time after church to give me a lesson on it.  Then when study night was actually on and I turned on the tv someone had totally set it up so it went directly to where I needed it to go.  No fooling around for me.  So grateful both those individuals took time and effort to make something easier for me.

5.  Pockets of breathing time through out the day.  And don't actually mean real breathing but just little moments to catch my breath.  Working with infants to preschoolers sometimes means I hit the floor running and barely have time in a day to even race to the bathroom.  Just being real here.  But I've been noticing that lately that there are times that I can slow down, sit down, relax, recoup.  It's wonderful and I'll take it however it presents itself.

What were your favorite blessings of the week?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Crockpot Greek Meatballs

It's been about 6 months since I discovered the handy dandy bag of frozen meatballs from Costco.  It was served as an appetizer with tzatziki dipping sauce at our family reunion last fall.  I watched as the hostess just poured them straight out of the thawed bag  into the serving dish.  How easy was that?  I was amazed at how good they were.  I knew I was onto to something.  It has now become my go to for when I just didn't get supper going and I need something quick.  Not only have I done the traditional spaghetti and meatballs (can't be simpler with jarred sauce), we've also enjoyed meatball subs, meatball soup and  meatballs in cream sauce.

Yesterday I took them a bit to a higher level by making a sauce from scratch.  It was still super simple, took no time whatsoever and used ingredients I had on hand.  The sauce is started in a skillet but continues to cook and marry all the delicious flavors in the crockpot.  This was a delicious change up from the usual pasta sauce.  It has cinnamon in it!  Yes cinnamon!  I never would have thought to put cinnamon in a pasta sauce had I not come across this recipe.   Hubby commented that the sauce tasted like something we would get in one of our favorite restaurants here in town.  Score!  I knew I had to share it with you.

I adapted the recipe from this one here.  Because we don't drink the only thing I didn't have on hand was the red wine so I made adaptations for that.  Super simple, super delicious.  Had I have known how delicious and that I would share it with you I would have taken a picture but alas you'll just have to trust me and make it for yourself to see how it looks.  😇


-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
-1 Tbsp flour

-1 28 oz. can (796 ml) diced tomatoes
-1/4 cup apple juice
-1/4 cup chicken broth (or skip the apple juice and use all chicken broth)
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley (about a tbsp dried but fresh is so much better)
-2 tsp  paprika
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp oregano
-salt and pepper to taste

-28 oz. of frozen meatballs (comes to about 30-34 of the Kirkland brand meatballs from costco)

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large saute skillet.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Continue cooking and stirring until bubbly and browning.   Add remaining ingredients except the meatballs.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken the sauce.  If it gets too thick you can add more broth.

Puree with an immersion blender to reduce the tomato chunks.  It can also be done in a blender but I like the sauce a bit chunkier.  The blender would make it smoother.  If doing in the blender make sure to take out the center cup out of the lid and cover with a kitchen towel.  This lets the hot steam out and stops any hot liquid from blowing out and burning you.

Use a little olive oil to grease the sides of the crockpot.  Place meatballs into crockpot and cover with sauce.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  Again if the sauce is reducing too much you can add more broth.

I served it with orzo and a Greek salad on the side.  It can also be served with rice or mashed potatoes.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #413

Welcome everyone.  Friday is our time to look for the blessings which touched our lives in the past week and share 5 of them.  Sometimes it's super easy to see them and sometimes we need to reach deep within as they are not quite so obvious for varied reasons.  But that is when establishing this discipline comes into play.  Please join us.

1.  Free Books!   We had taken a bunch stuff to Thrift Village that we were no longer using and in exchange they gave us coupons for 3 free books.  Now that's a reward if I do say so myself.  The only thing was I could only use 1 coupon per day.  Good thing they are only about 6 blocks away.  But mostly, do you know how hard that was?!  It was torture.  When looking the first day I found all 3 that I wanted.  Now I had a dilemma.  Which one to take for sure and which 2 to risk not being there the next couple of days.  I ended up with 2 Kate Morton books (The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours) and also The Other Story by Tatiana De Rosnay.  All hard cover and all in excellent condition.  Score!!  I hope they are good.

2.  Unexpected treat of a lunch out.  Since Christmas day we have had a ton of snow since Christmas Eve.  Hubby has been driving to my mom's, sometimes several times a week to shovel for her as the guy she usually has do it hurt his back.  In appreciation she took us all out for a Chinese food lunch after church.  It was a nice surprise.  The food was excellent and is a favorite of hubby's so he was pretty happy.

3.  Massage.  Very grateful for my massage therapist this week.  Last Friday while shoveling I felt muscle seize in my lower back.  Ouch!  A few back pills later and taking it really easy on the weekend and lots of stretches later, I couldn't wait to get to my appointment that I already had.  She really worked hard on it and it feels good as new now.

4.  New Recipe.  I noticed in the grocery store that they had butternut squash, cubed and frozen.  I've been wanting to try more squashes, so I nabbed a bag then got on Pinterest to look for  recipes.  Found this one, tweaked it a bit by adding a couple of cubed potatoes in the last 20 minutes and then adding a bit of cornstarch slurry to thicken it just a bit.  It was delicious.  Yum.  And using the bag of frozen squash was so easy.  Just threw it in in the last five minutes.

5.  Fresh squeezed orange juice.  Nothing compares.  Yum!  And especially goes down good when kids are bringing all sorts of coughs and colds to dayhome with them.

What have been your favorite blessings from the past week?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron ~ Book Review

This is the story of two women who's lives were changed by the Ringling Brothers Circus of the 1920's.  Both had to find the courage to take a step of faith to make their dreams come to life.  Mabel was a young woman who left the comfort and familiarity of the farm she was raised on to head to the big city.  Taking a cigar box filled with clippings of her dreams she is working towards those  when a stranger comes into the restaurant she is working at and talks her boss into allowing her to escort him around the Chicago World's Fair.  Mabel at first has no idea who he is but later learns he was none other than John Ringling.  Meeting again in another city they eventually marry.  Mable is popular amongst the circus crew and performers for her quiet kindness and strength.

Rosamund Easling is a young lady who is raised in the wealthy parlors of her English Earl father.  He beloved brother lost his life in WWI and Rosamund misses him dearly.  She finds solace in barebacking riding with the precious horse her brother had given her.  But when her parents are forcing her into a marriage to another wealthy man and selling the horse to a man who is buying it for the Ringling circus in America, Rose is heartbroken.  When Colin sees her riding Ingenue he sees her potential as a performer and invites her to America with the horse.  Rosamund agrees and sneaks off with Colin on a boat to America leaving her parents a note.  Intending on returning eventually, Rose's life is changed when she encounters not only the fame and bright lights of the circus world but also the life of a type of nomad during show season and the harsh competitive nature of it.

I enjoyed this historical fiction novel that highlights the early life of the circus.  The story is told from the viewpoints of the two women and goes back and forth between them.  Though of both women's stories are centered in the 1920's Mable's starts of a bit earlier on the timeline.  There was a small issue for me in that a couple of times as the two women's stories started to intertwine that the timeline jumps got a little confusing and I did have to backtrack to the the beginnings of chapters to find out what year I was in.

Mable was the real life wife of John Ringling.  She was known for her wisdom and kindness and her and John built an amazing estate in Florida where they wintered in the off season but also had amazing parties whose invitations were coveted by both performers and the public. Rosamund and Colin are fictional characters added to the real life story of Mable and it makes for a good read.  It was interesting how Mable came from humble farming beginnings and rose up to be wealthy and Roseamund started very wealthy and chose to leave it and start from the bottom in the circus.  I thought the author did a wonderful job of conveying what the circus culture of the time would have been like.  How hard they all worked together and were like family and yet there was a competitive dynamic in some of the relationships.  A good clean read, I gave it an 8.5/10

Friday, January 06, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #412

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to Friday's Fave Five!  I'm sorry I was a no show last week which was a bummer, it being the last friday and Fave Five of 2016 but it just couldn't be helped.  Real life interrupted and I just had to go with the flow.  Our daughter and son in law drove up from Saskatchewan and about an hour out from here they had a breakdown.  So it was parents to the rescue and by the time we got home it was late and we were all exhausted and hungry .   My time for writing the post just disappeared in a poof.   Then Friday was my birthday and my family had plans and I wasn't about to put that on hold while I got on the computer.   So here we are in 2017 and looking at the first week to look for blessings and be thankful.  Please join us!

1.  Family together.   This last holiday I am more thankful  than ever to have family together at holidays.  I gained a whole new appreciation of the effort it takes for those who have to travel to get here.  Taking time off from work, making pet arrangements,through snow storms, bitter cold, and sometimes downright scary roads my brood worked to get home.  Though we were actually all 6 together at the same time only about 3 days out of the week and a half it was all treasured.  Son was in and out as he was working ambulance shifts.  Oldest daughter and hubby couldn't make it till the 29th but it was wonderful to have them no matter when they could come.  Our youngest, working in retail, had to work a lot but it was nice when she was able to hang out and nice that she had New Years off to celebrate with us.  

2.  Travelling mercies.  Our son works ambulance about 45 minutes from here and towards to the mountains.  During the couple weeks he was home and driving to work for his shifts he had some of the scariest driving conditions.  Quite a few days it was crazy windy and he drives through an area that is notorious when the wind howls.  There were several overturned semi trucks on some of the days and one day he even felt his car being pushed towards the ditch.  We had a white Christmas which saw a crazy amount of snow over 3 days and he had treacherous roads while that was happening to contend with too.  In fact, sadly, the shift before his had to deal with a horrible fatal highway accident.  So getting the texts saying he had arrived safely and seeing him walk in the door after his shifts found this mama very, very thankful!

3.  Lovely birthday dinner cooked by my oldest girl.  Long story short, because of the car breakdown my birthday dinner was postponed for a few days so we could all be together for it, but my girl wanted me to still have a night off of cooking so she spur of the moment cooked up an absolutely delicious chicken fajita dinner for me.  Mexican is one of my favorites meals and so this was a lovely unexpected birthday gift from her.

4.   Game time.  All my kids are board game fans so when they come you know there is going to be some noisy shenanigans going on.  This year we bypassed the familiar and tried some new games.  We played a wildly crazy and hilarious game that totally messes with your head called Ghost Blitz.  It's listed on amazon for kids but it was all adults playing it here and it was fun.  Then on New Year's the young adults played an insane game called Bean Boozled.  A gift from my son to his cousin, this game is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.  It's basically a Russian Roulette of Jelly Belly jelly beans where you spin the dial and for each color of bean you can land on you will either get a yummy flavor or a horrendous one.  And you don't know till you start chewing.  Defintely a fear factor vibe to the game.  You can make your own rules so our rules were you had to actually swallow the bean to get the point.  If you spit it out no score.  My brave sis and her hubby played the game at Christmas but "politely" opted out at New Years stating that one game was plenty for them.  I totally jammed out but gamely tried the lime/ grass clippings which was the tamest of the "yuck" flavors.  Gotta hand it to them they played about a dozen rounds.  No way I woulda/coulda done that.

I believe this was the reaction to the Buttered Popcorn/ Rotten Egg.  Guess which she got.

And this was the dead fish/strawberry banana smoothie color.  The bucket being good- naturedly offered by his wife while his the rest of us were having a good laugh tells you which flavor my son in law got.   Happy to say nobody actually used the bucket.

And this is definitely the spoiled milk, her biggest disliked flavor at anytime.  Unfortunately she never did get the alternate flavor of coconut.

And another game was played, Time Stories. but it was way too involved and long for me but it was nice to hear the young people around the table playing for hours.

5.  A really blessed birthday.  From the beautifully thoughtful gifts my family gave me, to those who were here during the actual day indulging me in some boxing week shopping, to the fajita meal and finally to the dinner out when were all together I have to say I felt truly blessed and truly thankful for every moment.  

I'd like to take this moment to wish you all a very blessed 2017.  May you have many moments that lift you, that bring you joy and laughter, and may you find those blessings daily.  Thank you for sticking with me on this little space on the internet, the highs and the lows, the prolific times and the writing slumps.  Thank you for the encouragement and friendship.  It means more than you will ever know.

So now it's your turn.  What are your blessings from the first week of 2017?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Sorry Friday's Fave Five today, for me anyway, not that I don't have much to list to be thankful for but we've had some unexpected things that need our immediate attention and I don't have the time to do a post.  I will put up Mr. Linky anyway and you guys can all join in.