Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday's Fave Five #534

Happy Friday to everyone!  We're here intentionally looking for and recognizing the blessings in our lives.  Learning to look for the blessings when things are good help us to develop a habit, and this habit will help us when times are choppy and rough. Having a thankful attitude that looks for the blessings is good for our mental health and helps us to recognize that God is at work and cares about us no matter what we are facing in life.  Please join us as we put this into practice.

1.  Long weekend.  This past Monday was Victoria Day here in Canada which meant a long weekend for me.  Hubby and I decided to make a trip to Edmonton to give our son a visit.  He comes down here on a regular basis but we wanted to give him a visit on his turf.  It was a lovely couple of days spent laughing, visiting, eating good food and doing a little shopping.  I think my son appreciated that we took the time and effort to go there even if he was just here the week before.  It was a really nice get away for Hubby and I, one I think both of us really needed.

2. Muttart Conservatory visit.  While in Edmonton, Hubby wanted to go and visit this landmark attraction.  You can't miss it when looking at the pictures of downtown Edmonton.  Situated along the river, it stands out because it's 3 tall glass pyramid buildings.  It's a spectacular display of over 700 species of plants including the infamous Corpse plant which unfortunately, or possibly fortunately, was not in bloom during our visit.  Each pyramid has a different climate and features plants of that climate...temperate, tropical and arid and then a feature biome which they change up on a regular basis.  They also feature lots of artwork which was really cool.  It was a lovey way to pass a couple of hours.

Can you guess which picture is from which room?

3.  Great hotel room.  We tried a new hotel this time around because our son had moved so we wanted something closer to where he lived.  We like to get a room that has an actual bedroom because Hubby is an early bird and I'm a night owl and this assures we both get the rest we are craving when we get away.  I found an awesome hotel that had an absolutely beautiful room that met our needs for pretty much the same price as we would have paid for a normal room.  It had a great kitchenette and a huge bathroom and the bed was super comfortable.  Always a blessing when we can find what we want within our budget.

4.  Dishwashers.  As I was loading my umpteenth load this week into the dishwasher, I remembered to say a prayer of thankfulness for this appliance.  With a dayhome, sometimes there are lots of dishes and I am very grateful for this hardworking "maid".

5.  Blueberry treat.  Costco has had some amazing organic blueberries of late.  I'm once again trying to cut back on sugar in my diet but was craving something dessert-y.  I put some in a bowl with cinnamon and poured a touch of half and half over top.  It perfectly fit the craving without a drop of sugar.  Yummy!

What were your favorite blessings this week?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

I was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon ~ Book Review

In 1918, after surrendering his throne, Tsar Nicholas and his family are under house arrest in their palace.   Then they are forced to travel many miles by train to a house in Ekaterinburg where they are kept in even stricter conditions for another year.  When they Bolshevik's take over the gov't the imperial family, which included 4 daughters and 1 son, along with a couple of their caretakers, are taken into a basement where they are met with a firing squad.  No one survived the massacre.  That is what all the executioners say and want everyone to believe.

In 1920 a young woman with horrific scars on her body is pulled from a canal in Berlin.  People watched her jump over the railing but she refuses to say who she is or why she jumped.  Suicide being illegal at the time, she is questioned by the police and sent to a mental institution.  Finally she reveals that she is Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.  But now she calls herself Anna Anderson and she sets herself on a course to prove in the courts that she is the Grand Duchess so she can finally lay claim to the inheritance that her father, Tsar Nicholas, set up in a bank in England before the revolution in Russia.

I found this book so interesting.  I've always been interested in this time of Russian history and the fall of the aristocracy in Russia.  Most people know of Tsar Nicholas and though they may not know everything that happened around the revolution they do know the whole family was massacred in Northern Russia by firing squad at the hands of the Bolsheviks.  Because the body of Anastasia Romanov was not recovered immediately, the survival of Anastasia was always a question and mystery of the time.  Anna Anderson spent years trying to prove she was Anastasia.  This book takes their stories and weaves them together in a clever way.  Young Anastasia's story is told in first person and moves in a forward timeline.  It is heartbreaking.   Anna's story is told in third person and moves backwards.  The backwards telling is done in a unique way, giving a date and then moving back in jumps of hours or days or weeks, sometimes several in one chapter.  It was a bit confusing at first but once I got the hang of the style, and making sure I read the time post at the tops of the chapters, it was most interesting to me and kept me turning the pages.  I was fascinated as this was a piece of the Romanov history I hadn't yet read about.  I've read lots of books on the Imperial family but never any about Anna Anderson.   I loved the way the author told this piece of history.  Even if one knows the outcome of this side of the story, I still found myself turning the pages to see how it all unraveled.  I love how she presented the family, letting you in on how they might have felt during their captivity, putting a human face to their tragic story that the non-fiction books struggle to do.  Anna Anderson, was a very interesting part of this story and an enigma that puzzled police, lawyers and doctors for years.  I love how this author presented her story and kept you guessing even though I already knew the answer.   

I gave it a 10/10 because I found it riveting and unique.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright ~ Book Review

Two years after Kaine Prescott's husband died in a car accident she is still trying to get them to investigate the crash further.  Her deep belief that his death was suspicious yet again fails to convince anyone.  And now she is being stalked by someone leaving daffodils for her but trying to convince the police is a huge undertaking and they are starting to look at her as a trouble maker.  On a whim, to give herself a fresh start, Kaine purchases a house in her grandfather's hometown from an online site without actually going to see it first.  But when she arrives to move in she finds way more than she bargained for.  It is totally rundown and abandoned, and as she starts to learn about the house's dark history she wonders what she has got herself into.  The when the flower has found her yet again, Ivy wonders if it isn't her lot in life to have death follow her.

Ivy Thorpe's father is the coroner in the same town a hundred years before.  Ivy is her father's right hand person and death does not bother her.  In fact, she is driven to honor the dead and record their stories.  The townspeople think she is strange.  When a young woman is found murdered on the property of the house, Ivy's search for her identity leads her into dangerous territory that she doesn't understand.

This is the author's first book and she has done a wonderful job in building her story.  I was caught up right from the beginning and the more you read the more you want to know what on earth is going on with this house.  The contemporary part of the story was interesting and moved along at a good pace and the historical part of the story had a real gothic flavor to it.  I loved how the author tied the two together and had me guessing to the end.  I found a few parts of the romance sections of the story typical but because the other parts of the story had me so engrossed it was easy to gloss over those.  A great first novel for this author.

I rated it a 9/10

Friday's Fave Five #533

Hello everyone.  Today is Friday and that means it's time to take a moment or two and think about our week and find some blessings.  Intentionally taking note and being thankful for what we have.

1.  First bike ride of the year.  Last weekend was incredibly beautiful weather so hubby got the bikes out, checked the tires, gave them a quick dusting and off we rode for our first bike ride of the year.  We chose our favorite street and had an enjoyable hour of being together in the beautiful sunshine.

2.  Clean deck.  Because it was so nice outside hubby got out the power washer, turned on the outside water and gave the deck a good cleaning.  Always so pleasant out there when everything is hosed down and the winter's grime is washed away.

3.  Coffee, book and sunshine on said clean deck.  After the deck was so nice and clean the sunshine and blue skies were calling my name and I took my coffee and book outside to enjoy.  It was so nice just relaxing and listening to the birds singing while I finished my mystery book.

4.  Mother's Day.  A lovely day spent enjoying family and good food and relaxation.  We had Mom over and Hubby fired up the grill and cooked some delicious hamburgers.  After Mom tired out and went home is when I enjoyed the above mentioned coffee, book and sunshine.  It was the perfect day.

5.  Celebrating my Dad's birthday.  My Dad turned 88 this year.  He had a horrible year health wise last year but this year has been better relatively speaking.  We were able to have him over my sis's place and we cooked him up a nice bar-b-que dinner which he really enjoyed.

What were your favorite blessings this week?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Friday's Fave Five #532

Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.   A place where we look for the blessings in our week and intentionally take note of them and are grateful for them.  Please join us.

1.  Reuse Rendevous ~  Our communities twice a year event.  It's a weekend where we can put things out onto the curb with a free sign and anyone can come by, take a look and take what they want for free.  It's a great way to recycle.  I've gotten disillusioned with trying to sell on marketplaces due to no shows and I'm not nuts about giving out my address anymore.  This is a nice way to still keep things out of the landfill, bless somebody else and avoid the pain of the buy and sells and I got another bunch of stuff out of the house that has been sitting around.

2.  "Annie" ~ Canadian Netflix is playing the 1982 version with Carol Burnett and Aileen Quinn at the moment and on a whim I watched it one night this week.  I haven't seen this version for many, many years.  When my kids were little the Kathy Bates and Victor Garber TV version is the one we used to watch.  I enjoyed a couple of hours of relaxation and nostalgia.

3.  Coffee ~ The last of the Costa Rican coffee I brought home is in the grinder and I've been enjoying every cup full.   Yummy coffee with great memories attached .

4.  Got my tub/shower back ~  Right before I went to Costa Rica the taps in our bathroom shower broke.  In order the replace them the whole tub surround had to be ripped out because we couldn't just purchase one panel relegating us to one tub/shower.  That was interesting when all the kids were here for Easter.  Apparently they don't make beige/bone/biscuit color anymore.  Sigh.  It was a huge job for my hubby and I am sure glad he tackled it and pushed through the frustration until it was done.

5.  Spring seems to be here ~ This week was pretty nice weather wise.  There was some nice spring rain and some sunshine.  I got some reading time in the sunshine outside.  Some of my spring perennials are flowering.  Hopefully spring has finally sprung here.

And of special note:  Happy Mother's Day to all the Mom's out there and any of you who take care of or pour into the lives of children in any way (teacher's, child care workers, sunday school workers etc).  You deserve to be pampered and made to feel special!

What have been your favorites this week?

Friday, May 03, 2019

Friday's Fave Five #531

Good morning everyone!  Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  Let's intentionally look for the blessings in our lives!  Being thankful is a developed habit and shapes our attitudes and perspectives.  Join us as we practice looking for the good blessings no matter where we are or what life is throwing at us at the moment.

1.  presentation:  My church had asked me to give a 10 minute presentation of the mission trip.  It was so nerve wracking trying to put something together.  How does one condense everything we saw and heard, and choose a couple dozen pictures out of the almost 1400?  What focus to take when there was so much that God was doing and we experienced?  Finally, I decided I would take them on a journey with the shoebox gifts once it leaves their hands, goes to the warehouse, onto planes, trains or boats and makes it to the country where it sits and waits to be given to the most special children.  Very prayerfully I put it together and prayed I would make sense and represent Jesus and Operation Christmas Child well.  After the presentation I got lots of nice feedback and everyone seemed excited to get to packing their shoeboxes this years with new understanding of the incredible impact they really have.

2.  help when needed:  In my lack of knowledge how things are done nowadays, I thought I just had to hand the overhead people a memory stick of the pictures I chose, but lo and behold everything has to be on powerpoint now.  Well this gal has no idea how to do powerpoint and when I found that out my young adult kids had already left from visiting on Easter.  I am so thankful the precious church administration secretary offered to do it for me.  I would have been really scrambling.  I know it put a whole bunch more work load on her and I am so thankful for the help.

3.  washer:  Last week my washer broke down.  I have now been without a clothes washer for a week and half.  In my household, I'm used to throwing a load in whenever it builds up to a load.  As our laundry baskets starts to overflow awaiting the parts to come in, I am reminded how blessed I am to have a washer in the house to use whenever I want.  That I don't have to drag my laundry somewhere to have it done.  That I don't have to stand at the machine feeding a wringer.  And that I don't have to scrub items on washboards.  It is such a gift to have these machines in our homes.

4.  books:  I am so thankful to have such easy access to reading materials and books.  My to be read piles are overflowing, and my library card is well used.   After my trip I am well aware that not everyone in this world is so blessed to have such easy access to books.

5.  prayer:  this week I am reminded to be thankful for prayer.  As I watch the app where our missions team is still communicating, it is so neat to watch others feel the freedom to  ask for prayer and then to have the privilege to prayer for others needs and requests.

I love this quote I found this week.  A good reminder about what the FFF is all about.  Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Offering by Angela Hunt ~ Book Review

Amanda Lisandra and her soldier husband want a big family.  They have one young daughter but have decided to wait to have more children until Gideon retires from the military.  Serving on a special forces unit that comes and goes randomly as needed around the world, they want to have Gideon home and safe permanently before growing their family. And right now they can't afford to have more children.   Meanwhile, Amanda works in Gideon's family's Cuban grocery store.  When Amanda runs into another military wife who is pregnant it sets off a plan to help her raise funds so that they can purchase a home of their own more quickly.  But first she must sell the plan to her husband, and then to his conservative family.

Once Gideon is okay with the idea of Mandy becoming a gestational carrier for a childless couple, Mandy quickly sets the ball in motion.  She chooses a couple from France who are well to do and who desire a child to be heir to their generational vineyards.  Mandy's pregnancy with the couple's child is pretty routine and normal other than a day or so of spotting which she also had with her own daughter.  Happy and dreaming of the soon to be new life her own family can start, Mandy is happy and feels fulfilled to be able to help another couple have a child.  She has no problem with attachment issues to the baby and fully thinks she has a handle on understanding that this is not her child and that the pregnancy is her "job".

Then tragedy strikes and Mandy dreams are devastated.  In shock, Mandy has no time to grieve.  When the baby makes it's appearance early, she surrenders the him to his parents as quickly as possible and tries to get past what seems to be continuous loss and on with her life.  But the depression and continuous nightmares won't let go.  Two years later when she finally gets a card from the French family with a photograph Mandy is overcome with feelings that she may have given away her own biological child fathered by her late husband.  She sets herself on the path to find the truth and if her instincts are correct, retrieve her child no matter the cost.

This story really made me think.  I told no spoilers in the description as that is all on the back of the book description also.  It delves into all the issues of being a gestational carrier, the emotions, the legalities and what happens if there might be a mistake made in spite of all the contingencies put in place that that wouldn't happen.  It's a story of untold grief, a mother's instincts, a person's past affecting their future, and doing what's right and best for another person.  Though the story at times ran a little slow for me during Mandy's pregnancy, I would say it definitely was a page turner because of the anticipation of what you kinda of knew was coming.  I had to find out what happened and if Mandy's instinct was correct and what would happen either way.  I love Angela Hunt's contemporary stories.  They deal with real issues and she writes the emotions that would be involved so well.  She does her research into the topic and I as the reader always learn something.

I gave this a 7.5/ 10

Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday's Fave Five #530

Hi everyone!  Welcome to Friday's Fave Five.  This is our time to take a look back over the week and take note of the blessings that came our way sharing 5 of them.  They can be big  or small, found in good or hard times.  It is an intentional exercise to help us to be thankful and to notice those good gifts that God gives, things that make this life of ours good or things that lift us when it's been tough.  Please join us!

1.  Family home for Easter!  That everyone made it home for Easter was such a blessing. It was a quick visit but so glad that they all came anyway.  We had a lovely ham dinner and just enjoyed each other's company throughout the weekend.  The only thing that was not good is that I did not get one picture of everyone around the table or everyone together.   Oh well.  We'll just have to get together again.

2.  A good laugh.  

Switched Up

I may not have got a picture of everyone together but I did have my wits about me to get a picture of how my son totally pranked me this time around.  I've mentioned in previous posts how every time he comes he switches some picture around and waits for me to notice.  This was Thanksgiving's switch up   and this was June of last year to name a few.  Well he really upped his game this time.  He switched my couch and love seat around.  And darned if it took me a good hour to notice that something wasn't right but in the chaos of cooking and company coming, I just never even noticed.  And then when I did see soemthing off, I thought the love seat was just not put back properly after he vacuumed.  So I asked his girlfriend to stand up while I pushed and pulled and re-positioned that couch for a couple minutes wondering why on earth the silly thing was not looking right or fitting right before it dawned on me that it had 3 cushions rather than 2 and that I was trying to fit a couch into the love seat spot.  And that girl did not say a word and kept her face straight the whole time.  Stinker.  LOL.  He got me good.  These two are not as innocent as they look.  Ha.

3.  Group chat app.  Our Operation Christmas Child Costa Rica Team created a group with the WhatsApp so that we could share pictures.  What a blessing this has been.  Not only did we share all our pictures with each other  but it has become a place for prayer requests, praise reports and staying in touch.  Our hearts were really knit together as a team which was so surprising to me.  After all we were a team of 27 from all over Canada with different backgrounds and different lives.  Yet God just really formed us into a great team that really cared for each other and it's so nice to be able to keep connecting in this way.

4.  Costa Rican chocolate.  When at the airport to come home in Liberia, Costa Rica, they had samples of some of these chocolates out.  I found a variety pack of 100 small treat packages so I bought that with the thought of giving these out for Easter to the family.  Oh my goodness, they are so good.  Orange, pineapple, coconut, guava, passionfruit, and coffee bean were the varieties and they were all so yummy.  The packs were small with just 2 or 3 little bites so it was nice to be able to try all the flavors.  Kinda wish I would have bought more.

5.  Costa Rican coffee.  One can't go to Costa Rica and not get some coffee straight from some growers, right?  I bought some from a small grower and gave a couple bags as gifts and kept one for myself.  When I opened it up it was quite a light roast, much lighter than what we like.  But I remembered how some women from Africa had shown me how they roast their coffee beans so I poured it into my cast iron fry pan and just roasted them over medium heat on the stove, stirring constantly until it turned to a nice darker medium roast.  It was some of the best coffee I've ever had.  So smooth and a lovely flavor, not at all bitter.  And it made the whole house smell fragrant.   Again wish I would have bought more had I known but it was a real nice treat while it lasted.

What were your favorite blessings from the past week?

On a side note, I know I mentioned that I would do some Operation Christmas Child trip posts this week but with the Easter weekend and company and then trying to get together a presentation for church this weekend it just didn't happen.  I will try my best to start them next week.