Monday, November 12, 2018

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner ~ Book Review

The Bright family experienced a huge loss of son and brother when their infant Henry passed away.  Pauline struggled to get past the death of her son, so when her husband proposed moving to Philadelphia to get away from the family tobacco plantation so they could have a fresh start, Pauline agreed.  Living with Mr. Bright's uncle in his house/funeral parlor which Mr. Bright will inherit at some point, the family has a chance at a better life.  Pauline finds solace in doing the makeup of the deceased and when her middle child, 13 year old Maggie, insists on learning how to also, Pauline convinces the uncle to let her.  Though they still grieve for Henry, things may be turning around.

Then WWI hits and when Mr. Bright is called away to training, Pauline and the girls are left on their own to help at the funeral home.  Little did they know that not only would WWI start affecting all those they knew, but with it would come the Spanish flu epidemic.  No one is immune and as fear and grief start to grip the city and the bodies start to pile up, the city of Philedelphia and the Bright family will never be the same.

This a a beautifully written story about family and love, grief, and survival.  It explores decisions made in the worst of times and how mistakes and choices affect our lives.  I never really knew anything about the Spanish flu pandemic but this story really brought home the reality of what these kinds of viruses can do.  The author did a tremendous job of the historical aspect of the story.  I thought the perspective of how a funeral home of the time would handle such an influx was very interesting.  The story is written back and forth from the perspectives of Pauline Bright, the mom, and each of her 3 girls.  The Bright family was a very everyday kind of family trying to get past the passing of their baby boy when they went to Philadelphia and I thought their grief and it's effects was well done in their story.  It's also a coming of age story as the girls grow up within the story.  How each of them, with their own personalities and age, reacts to the events surrounding them really drew me.  Even though this story was set in an almost hopeless setting the author still was able to maintain a positiveness in the midst of horror and sorrow.  I loved the characters and was totally drawn into their world.

I gave it a 9.5/10

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thank you to all veterans past and present for your sacrifices.  We will not forget.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Friday's Fave Five #507

Friday is finally here.  It's time to take a pause and look back over the week and find blessings to be grateful for.  What kind of week have you had?  Has it been good...super busy...really tough?  No matter the circumstances of how your week unfolded, we are trying to develop the habit of intentionally taking note of the good things in our lives even if all we can find for the week is that we made it through and it's a fresh start next week.

Won't you join us as we find and acknowledge some goodness?  If you are new or are unsure of the guidelines please go here and then join in. 

1.  Big News!  Saturday morning I found out that I have been accepted to be on a Operation Christmas Child Shoebox distribution to Costa Rica in April.  To say I am beyond excited is an understatement.  This has been a dream for many, many years.  One that I was wondering if would ever happen.  It's a bit scary, definitely a step of faith, but I can't wait! 

2.  Running into former church friends.  Last week through my husband's job, he ran into some people we used to know from many years ago.  They are without a home church at the moment and it just happened to be "Bring Your One" weekend at ours so he invited them.  After a great service, we went to mall food court, their choice, and had a nice lunch and visit.  So nice to reconnect.

3.  Answer to prayer.  As you know, our doggy had surgery last week to have a lump that had all of a sudden grown.  Well this week we got wonderful news, a real answer to prayer and that is that it was not cancer.  What a relief.  He is back to his old self again.  Praise God.  And through it all I think we've found us a great vet.

4.  Feather Duvet out!  Well the evenings are finally turning cold enough that I pulled out the feather duvet.  It was so nice to get it on the bed instead of the layered blankets that end up happening in that transitional weather.  It is so comfortable, light and yet warm.  I always look forward to it each fall.

5.  Massage.  This week has been a rough one at work.  Some behavior issues amongst the kids have made for some super stressful days.  Add into that a weather change and I had a couple days with headaches and tense neck and shoulders.  On one of these I just happened to have my massage and boy it sure was nice to get all those kinks worked out.

What have been your favorite five blessings from your week?  If you are doing a Friday's Fave Five post please feel free to add it to the linky.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Friday's Fave Five #506

Welcome to the first Friday's Fave Five of November 2018.  Goodness, did I just type that?  The days have been flying by.  It seems like I just made the last FFF post and here we are at Friday again.  All the more reason to take that pause and reflect back on the goodness of God in our lives and the blessings both big and small that come into our days.   Sometimes the posts come easily and sometimes not so much but in developing a habit of looking for our blessings it makes our lives fuller.  We are choosing to be grateful.  Please join us!  If you are new or haven't read the guidelines please go here first.

Some housekeeping notes:  A reminder that the Mr. Linky is for those participating in the community of and posting a Friday's Fave Five post only please. If you are not doing a Fave Five post, please don't add yourself to the Mr. Linky. The purpose of the linky is to direct those who have an interest to go and read other posts about Fave Fives. The links that do not lead to FFF posts will be removed.  I am not trying to offend or be mean.  We all have limited blogging time and if people are clicking on the link they are looking for the Fave Fives post to give and receive encouragement in looking for blessings. Let's please honor that.  Thank you for keeping the integrity of the Friday's Fave Five meme as it was intended.

And now on with being grateful for the blessings of the week.

1.  Available vet surgery time.  Our much loved dog had a small lump on his side all of a sudden take a big growth.  The vet we went to was awesome.  Very patient with both dog and distressed dog owners.  She explained what she thought and options we could consider.  Armed with that we went home to discuss whether or not the VERY expensive surgery was the route to go.  But after a few days Todd started to really lick and naw at the spot to the point he was taking the fur off and breaking the skin and we knew we didn't really have a choice.  When we called the vet, there was a surgery time available the very next morning.   Todd is now recuperating fine, lump removed.  Though I must say he does kind of look funny with no fur on a big chunk of his side.  We're very thankful for a vet who was honest and caring.

2.  My regular hair stylist is baaack!  Oh how I have missed her while she was on maternity leave.  Don't get me wrong the girl who took me on was wonderful and she did her very best.  I can't imagine how stressful taking on someone's long term client is.  But I am glad mine is back and I've had a haircut this week from her and feel back to my old self.

3.  Treated to Cirque du Soliel "Corteo".    My daughter,Tamara,  received a pair of tickets as payment for some dog sitting she will be doing in the future and knowing I love Cirque, took me!  I was so excited and it did not disappoint.  It was a wonderful show.  I swear I was holding my breath for half the show.  Thanks Tamara for thinking of your Mama!

4.  Hubby's fave restaurant meal created at home.  Our last trip to the big city farmer's market, I was able to lay my hands on some Mizithra cheese.  Sometimes it's really hard to come by, I can't find it in my city.  It is the key ingredient in Hubby's favorite pasta dish at The Old Spaghetti Factory.   It's definitely a dish that is not something to make all the time as it is rich with browned butter but it sure is wonderful as an occasional treat.  I was able to recreate his favorite and make him happy which in turn made me happy.  And I like the dish too so it was win win.

5.  One wall of cupboards cleaned out.  A big cleaning project getting a good dent made in it always makes me happy.

What have your favorite blessings been this week?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday's Fave Five #505

Welcome to the last Friday's Fave Five for the month of October.  Here we pause to count our blessings, to develop a habit of being grateful and to cultivate an attitude of thanksgiving.  Won't you please join us in this journey?

Just like that that beautiful wall of gold mentioned in last week's FFF overnight all came tumbling down and there is not one leaf left on a tree.  Fall is truly here in every sense of the word in my neck of the woods.  In no particular order here are five of my blessings from last week.

~ warranty still in effect ~  in January of this year we had purchased a new stove when the other one went kaputz.  This new one is the kind that has two ovens, a smaller one on top and the larger one on the bottom.   I always use the smaller one because that is sufficient for our needs, but this last Thanksgiving when I cooked the turkey I noticed that the bottom oven just wasn't coming up to temperature the way it should.  After checking the manual, hubby tried to calibrate it like it instructed but it still wasn't just right.  When we checked, the whole thing is still under warranty, so the repair is going to be no charge.  We have the worst luck with things going just after warranty wears off, or putting it off trying to fix it ourselves and then finding the warranty finished, so I'm really thankful we got on it this time and the warranty is all good.

~ new recipe ~ I tried this quinoa recipe for our meatless meal this week and it was delicious.  Everyone loved it and it's definitely going to go into keeper file.  The only thing I did different was put it into a smaller baking dish, I think a 9x9, as I found the 9x13  the recipe called for would be too big.  With a fresh side salad it made a great meal.

~ online grocery shopping ~ I haven't shopped this way for a while even though I really liked it and was taking advantage of it quite regularly for quite some time.  But this last weekend it was just too busy and late Sunday afternoon, I gave in and ordered the groceries online.  It really helped out this weekend.

~ spur of the moment day trip ~  Saturday Hubby and I jumped in the car and took off for getaway to Calgary for the day.  Even though they were asked with only a half hour to get ready my sister and brother in law joined us and we had a really lovely day.  We introduced them to the farmer's market there and went on a quick mall trip then had a lovely supper together and came home.  It was just the thing all of us needed to destress and unwind a bit.

~ new vet ~ after our  former vet, whom we really liked, started to only do surgeries, we found we couldn't click with the vet who took his place in the clinic.  We tried a couple of other places but there was always just something that didn't quite fit with us, but this week we found a lovely lady who really seemed to care and was patient with both our dog and in explaining things to us.  Keeping our fingers crossed that she works out.  I don't like jumping from here to there and all over the place.

What were your favorite blessings this week?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday's Fave Five #504

Welcome, everyone!  Are you ready to look for your blessings from the past week?  This is what we do at Friday's Fave Five.  We intentionally take time to take note of blessings, whether they be big or small.  Won't you join us?  This week my faves are all things autumn.  I love fall.

~ absolutely gorgeous weather ~  it has been beautifully warm and sunny all this week.  Definitely able to get some natural vitamin D time in.  We've been out morning and afternoon in either light hoodies/sweaters or in today's case, no coats at all.  Enjoying every second of it I can get.  Even Eddie was found catching a few rays in the afternoon warmth.

~ overnight magic ~  the Swedish columnar aspens in the back yard are always the last to turn color.  They've been mostly a light green with the odd reddish or brownish leaf floating down.  But this morning we were greeted with a wall of gold.  And against the blue of the sky it was just stunning.  Pictures don't do it justice.  God truly is an artist.  I'm thankful for eyes to see!

~ and speaking of leaves ~ I love everything about the fall leaves.  I love all the gorgeous colors.  I love when the wind blows and they are all falling off the trees and literally raining leaves.  I love the smell and the crunch of them.  I love the colorful carpet they make all over the lawn.  I love how raking them is so relaxing to me.  And I rake alot.  Sigh.

Ha.  I found this picture in my camera roll.  Must have accidentally taken it but how fortuitous for my post.  :)

~ hours of fun to occupy the kids ~ we have been out morning and afternoon and they can't get enough.  They have spent hours shoveling the leaves into piles, jumping into the piles, driving anything and everything with wheels through the piles, rolling in them and throwing them in the air.  And then I get to do my thing and re-rake them into piles and they all start again.  It's a win/win.

~ and to make my house smell nice ~  if I can't get enough fallish smell outside this is my favorite candle I'm burning inside of the house right now.  Love it.   Bright Red Gala Apple, Juicy Fig, Eucalyptus Leaf and Fir Balsalm.  Nice and fresh.

So there we go, everything fallish.  I love this season.  It's a feast for the senses.  What were your favorites this week?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan ~ Book Tour and Review

Publisher's Description:
In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice. From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis—known as Jack—she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy. In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice—and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had. At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story—a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

My Thoughts:  
I am having a difficult time reviewing this book.  I was excited and very interested in the story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis.  I had watched Shadowlands years and years ago and vaguely remembered some of it so thought this book might be a great way to learn about first their pen pal relationship, then friendship, then love.  Unfortunately, it was everything else surrounding their story that finally made me set aside this book at 3/4 of the way through.  I just didn't care enough to push through to the end.  Because I didn't really know their story, I found it mentally tiring trying to separate the fact from fiction or the fleshing out of the story.   I felt the author did a ton of research into the topic and that she really gave a voice to Davidman who was a gifted author herself, but because of the times and circumstances of her life found herself struggling to find her place.  Joy Davidman did not have an easy life.  I enjoyed reading excerpts of Lewis and Davidman's correspondence and quotes from Lewis.  And the description of how the idea of Narnia and it's characters and story was most interesting.  The descriptions of England and it's countryside and Oxford were lovely and made me really want to visit that country.  That being said the circumstances surrounding their story and the way it was written read very much like a worldly novel to me.   Don't get me wrong, I read all sorts of genres beyond Christian fiction, but when I pick up a Christian fiction book, I have certain expectations.  I think that had the book been a memoir or biography I would have approached it from a different mindset as an actual factual read.  But because it is labeled as fiction and from a Christian publishing company, I found myself mentally tiring  and bogging down trying to sort what might have been actual fact and what was the author fleshing out the story.  Even if it had been a mainstream novel from a mainstream publishing house I would have approached it differently.  I found way too much detail surrounding circumstances that I don't necessarily want in my choice of Christian fiction.  And the amount of alcohol and drinking portrayed in the story not only on the part of Davidman's alcoholic husband but also on the part of Davidman herself was too much for me in a "christian fiction" novel.  Hence, I feel that for me, the story would have been better served as a non-fiction biography.  The reviews by others seem to be divided down the center and leave it as a book you either love or not with not many reviews in the middle, but for me, I'm sorry to say, it was not my cup of tea.  It's one of those books where one would have to read it themselves to make up their own minds about it.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for providing a copy free of charge for my honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own and I was not required to give a positive review.