Monday, August 5, 2013

Turn the Page...Tuesday

She reads books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.
                                 ~ Annie Dillard
500 Acres and No Place to Hide
~Susan McCorkindale

Susan McCorkindale's humorous look at farm life from the eyes of a city girl had me laughing right out loud.  It also broke my heart.  I just about wet my pants over the silly hen on Susan's head and the pansy that killed that hen.  I then cried my eyes out over the cancer that changed their lives.  I would describe this book as a series of short stories instead of an actual novel, but I loved it and wish I would have read the first one, well...first...but never fear, it will find it's way to my shelf someday.

From Goodreads:
It's been four years since Susan's husband dragged her kicking and screaming from their comfortable, big city East Coast life to a farm in Virginia cattle country. Susan's adjusting as best she can, which isn't easy considering she's been known to wear Manolos in manure. She'll never be a real farm girl, but as readers will see from her side- splitting confessions, she's faking it just fine.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
~The countess of Carnarvon

This is a history of Lady Almina and was written quite well. Lady Almina was an heiress, the illegitimate daughter of Alfred deRothchild, who then married the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. During the first World War,Lady Almina found her calling and turned Highclere Castle into a hospital. Fascinating! Do not pick up this book thinking you will be reading a novel. It is history and written as such so gets a bit dry in places. I did really enjoy the history of the castle and the author, (who is the 8th Countess of Carnarvon!), did a good job of bringing the personalities out.

From Goodreads:
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes's Emmy Award-winning PBS show Downton Abbey, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war.
    Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart, Lady Cora Crawley, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home.  Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman.
    This rich tale contrasts the splendor of Edwardian life in a great house against the backdrop of the First World War and offers an inspiring and revealing picture of the woman at the center of the history of Highclere Castle.

I have just started watching the first season of Downton Abbey and am enjoying it. 

From the tbr shelves:
Home Front
~Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah did it again with another book that really touched my heart. Jolene and Micheal have been married for twelve plus years and things are starting to unravel. Micheal is a workaholic attorney who has recently lost his father and is having a hard time coping with Jolene's Pollyana attitude towards life. She is forever spouting platitudes such as "Choose to be happy and you will be". Jolene came from a very broken family and lost both of her alcoholic parents to a car crash when she was seventeen. She choose to be independent and strong and Micheal is resenting her strength. Jolene is a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the National Guard, another thing that Micheal doesn't support. One night, Micheal tells Jolene that he no longer loves her and just a couple of days later she gets the news that her troop is being deployed to Iraq. This is the story of a strong woman, a warrior, having to leave her family and a marriage that is following apart to go off to war. Jolene's heart is broken in a number of ways but she knows where her first duty lies and that is in protecting her country and her troops. 
I loved Jolene and my heart broke for her and all she had to face; not only the breaking marriage but the horrors of war as well. This is a novel of strength, love and horror. I think that all of us, including those of us with family in the military, (we have two sons who are both on their 4th tours of duty in war zones as I type this), should read this well researched novel to get a better understanding of what happens over there and the PTSD that so many of our soldiers come home with. Keep a box of kleenex close.

And now - hurry! - pop on over to Some of a Kind to see what others have been reading and to join in yourself!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fish, I Love You

“Fish," he said, "I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.” 
― Ernest HemingwayThe Old Man and the Sea

Fishing, clam-digging, eating, talking, laughing and a margarita or two.  Doesn't that sound like the perfect weekend?  My friend Debbie and her partner Venessa came up from Cali a couple of weeks ago and that's how we passed the time.  This was the first time Debbie and I had spent together in, what?, 20 years.  Crazy! Needless to say the days went by way to fast!  
A foggy morning was spent on the beach digging for Razor Clams.  
Debbie was the proud digger of the first clam of the day.
Riff trying to show us up.  Alright, maybe he did. Just a little bit.
5:30 loading time came early the next morning but the early bird gets
The Lady Dee was our ride for the day.
We hung out.  We waited.  We puked.  Ok- we really didn't.  Not true.
Then, in true Debbie form, she brought in the first salmon of the day.
Not to be outdone, the rest of us followed suit.

We all had some nice Coho's in the hatch, but...
Debbie just couldn't take it so she had to wrestle in a much bigger Chinook to show off and hang next to our little Coho's.  

We were all a little bit sunburnt, but that's just the sign of an excellent day!

Good friends, good food, good fun.
(and a big thank you to Riff for putting up with us!)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Turn the Page...Tuesday

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” 
― Dr. SeussI Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
Inkspell is the sequel to Inkheart and the book that I chose this month to meet Adrienne's "Read a book and then watch the movie" challenge. 

Here is what Goodreads has to say about it:
"Although a year has passed, not a day goes by without Meggie thinking of INKHEART, the book whose characters became real. But for Dustfinger, the fire-eater brought into being from words, the need to return to the tale has become desperate. When he finds a crooked storyteller with the ability to read him back, Dustfinger leaves behind his young apprentice Farid and plunges into the medieval world of his past. Distraught, Farid goes in search of Meggie, and before long, both are caught inside the book, too. But the story is threatening to evolve in ways neither of them could ever have imagined."

For me, this was the book that would not end!  Don't get me wrong, it was fun and the story was good but it just went on and on...I think 635 pages was way to long and it could have done well with half of that.  I enjoyed Inkheart much more. There has not been a movie made from Inkspell, so I watched Inkheart, which was great fun!

I read a few books in June, but by far, Jeannette Walls Half Broke Horses was my favorite. 
From Goodreads:
“Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did.” So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, Jeannette Walls’s no-nonsense, resourceful, and spectacularly compelling grandmother. By age six, Lily was helping her father break horses. At fifteen, she left home to teach in a frontier town—riding five hundred miles on her pony, alone, to get to her job. She learned to drive a car and fly a plane. And, with her husband, Jim, she ran a vast ranch in Arizona. She raised two children, one who is Jeannette’s memorable mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, unforgettably portrayed in The Glass Castle.

Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds—against women, Native Americans, and anyone else who didn’t fit the mold. Rosemary Smith Walls always told Jeannette that she was like her grandmother, and in this true-life novel, Jeannette Walls channels that kindred spirit. Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere.

My thoughts:
Half Broke Horses is another fantastic read by Jeannette Walls. This one is about the life of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. Lily was raised on ranches in West Texas and New Mexico by a father who was more of a philosopher and dreamer than a rancher, and a mother who was the type to never doing any physical work, but instead stayed inside the house with the vapors. Lily was the one who stepped up and really worked the ranch, even as a young girl, and this set her work ethic for her entire life. She was an exceptionally strong, hard working woman who became a teacher, a rancher, a bootlegger; whatever it took to keep her family afloat in hard times. I would have loved to have known her. If you like stories about strong women, read this book!

Here's my bonus, Just For Fun read this month. 
City Girl, Country Vet by Cathy Woodman

This was a really fun book. Maz is a vet in London who has just been dumped by her boyfriend, (and boss!). Her friend Emma owns a small animal vet practice in the country and really needs a break, so Maz heads out to help her out. We meet all kinds of fun small town characters and their pets, along with the incredibly handsome and well-built Alex who is the local large animal vet. Maybe Maz's heart will begin to heal in the clean, open air!  I enjoyed this one so much that I popped right over to Amazon to add a couple more of Cathy Woodman's books to my wish list. 

What the heck have you been reading??  Pop over to Adrienne's Some of a Kind to join in and to see what has been hanging around in other's book bags lately. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kickin' Central Texas Slaw

Not only is this version of Central Texas Slaw pretty, but it also comes with quite a kick!  The June issue of Southern Living has a fun regional guide for some great slaw's, with the recipe's, so Riff and I decided we're going to give them a go.  (You can find our thoughts on the South Carolina Slaw in the post below.)
The spicy kick of jalapeno earned a bottoms up from Riff and the addition of the cilantro to this slaw is what did it for me.  It was the absolute perfect compliment to our chicken and ribs.  We completely enjoyed the South Carolina Slaw but the Central Texas version is the blue ribbon winner so far.  Try it for yourself!

Central Texas Slaw
Whisk together 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 3 to 4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt -(I used aged balsamic sea salt), 1/2 tsp. ground coriander,  1/4 tsp. ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper, and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper -(I used smoked black pepper)- in a large bowl.
Add 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage;  2 cups thinly sliced white cabbage; 1/2 cup shredded carrot;  1 medium jalapeno pepper (with seeds), thinly sliced; 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced; 1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced.   
Toss to coat. 
Chill 1 hour before serving, tossing occasionally.  
Stir in 1/2 cup (or more!) chopped fresh cilantro just before serving. 
Makes about 4 cups. 

So good but beware - if there is any leftovers, boy does the heat kick up that second day.  Holy fright!

Friday, June 14, 2013

South Carolina Slaw...With a View

Summer time is here, which means deck time and barbecue!  Last weekend was Riff and I's anniversary and we decided that instead of going somewhere and getting each other gifts, we were going to get something for one of our house projects.  

We were hanging out on the deck Saturday morning, having coffee and talking about what a beautiful morning it was.  For a few years now we've been talking about building a bar on to the deck railing and getting a couple of tall bistro chairs, so as we sat there, staring at the railing in our short chairs and sipping our cups of joe, we decided today was the day to do the deed. 

A quick trip to Home Depot for the boards and a stop at Ross for a great score of the bistro chairs and we were all set!
After all that, it's time for a wonderful dinner.  In the latest issue of Southern Living, there is a region-by-region guide, (and recipe's!) for some great slaw's.  Riff and I were looking at them and decided we're going to try them all.  We decided to start with the first one - South Carolina Slaw. 

 We picked up a nice tri-tip and some corn to go with and I put that yummy slaw together.  It was a beautiful thing! Quite delicious, if I do say so myself.
Try some for yourself~
South Carolina Slaw

Place 1/2 head of thinly sliced cabbage (about 1 lb.) and 1 cup of grated carrot in a bowl.  Whisk together 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons dry mustard, 1 teaspoon celery seeds, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, (I used balsamic sea salt instead), and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, (I used smoked black pepper instead), in a saucepan until sugar dissolves;  bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Pour over cabbage and carrots;  toss to coat.

The recipe says serve immediately, but I made mine a couple hours ahead of time and let it chill and get happy.  Yum!
Check back soon for some Central Texas Slaw - spicing it up next time!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Turn the Page...Tuesday

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
by Kim Edwards

This one kept me turning the pages late into the night! Not only was the story intriguing, it was written beautifully as well. One cold winter night, snow falling heavily, Dr. David Henry's wife, Norah, goes into labor. He calls his partner and their nurse and asks them to meet him at the clinic before they head in to the hospital. The roads are slick and when David and Norah arrive at the clinic, he finds that his partner, Dr. Bentley, has slid into a ditch and won't be able to make it. Norah's labor has progressed and there is no time to get to the hospital so David and his nurse Caroline Gill deliver the baby. A healthy boy is born, then much to David's surprise another baby is on the way. When a tiny twin girl with Down Syndrome is born into the world, David is shocked. The year is 1964 and not much is known about Down Syndrome except that the life span of these babies is short. Thinking back to the grief of losing his own sister as a young girl, David makes a split decision and hands the little girl to Caroline, asking her to take the baby to an institution. When Norah awakes, she is told that their baby girl has died. In the days to follow, Norah's grief for the lost baby is immense and, without consulting David, she plans a memorial service and Caroline has disappeared with the baby. David is already regretting his impulse and wants to tell Norah the truth but feels that events are spiraling out of control and that it is too late to reveal his dark secret. As the years go on, the ripples this family secret create effect every aspect of their lives.

All of these characters were very likeable and I had empathy for each and every one of them. David was not at all an evil man, but had given in to his own grief over the loss of his sister and wanted to spare his wife the terrible pain he thought a Down Syndrome baby would cause his family. A split second decision haunted his entire life. Norah greatly grieved the loss of the tiny daughter she never even got to see. Caroline could not leave that sweet baby girl in that terrible place, so disappeared into another city to raise her as her own. So easy to see how a terrible moment like this could result in all the struggles and grief in all of their lives.   I recommend this read.

I really enjoyed the movie as well.  Done quite well and follows the book nicely with a few variations from the novel.

Pop on over to Adrienne's Turn the Page Tuesday to see what others have read this month!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Road Trip Hilarity

And here are a few of the reasons why we love road trips~

Testicle Festival
(photo by Wendi Dunlap on Flickr)
Testicle Festival!  Have yourself a ball! 
Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival in Montana.  
On a little hike to Oucel Falls, Ryan had his two dogs with us.  The Turd Burglar came up the trail and handed us his card.  I'm still snorting water out of my nose because of this one.  Really?  A Turd Burglar??  Hysterical!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happily Ever After

#5 on the What's In a Name Challenge for this year is to read a book with an emotion in the title.  I looked through my shelves and pulled down Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans to meet this category.  

When I picked up Happily Ever After, I thought it would be just a book full of fluff- a fun "beach" type read. In a lot of ways I was right, but there was also more to this one. We start out in London with Eleanor Bee fresh out of college, living on a friends couch and searching for a job in publishing. She finds a position at tiny BlueBird Books that is antiquated and has been around for ages. A perfect place to begin. Elle is young and a mess. She wears too short of skirts, rumpled usually, spills coffee on her boss, loses a prawn sandwich in a file drawer, and many other calamaties. Life has thrown the Bee family a few curves. When Elle and her brother were young pre-teens, their parents who fought constantly divorced. Their mother drinks too much, their father moved on right away, marrying a young lady and quickly having two new children, replacing his older kids. Elle and her brother don't get along, he's kind of a pig, and she rarely see's her father. Her mother has quit drinking and, after all these years, has a boyfriend. Elle's brother doesn't think mom has quit drinking, only that she's hiding it well, and if she has a boyfriend, why has no one ever met him? Fast forward a few years. Elle has taken a job share for a few months to a publisher in New York City. While there, she charms an older writer and quickly becomes a rising star. Her job share turns permanent and she is in love with New York. A wedding brings her back to London to face the old Elle and her old life, with some hard decisions to go along with it. 

I really liked Elle. Even though she didn't know it, she was a strong young woman, especially once she learned to stand up for herself. This was really a good story that I completely enjoyed!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Where Lilacs Still Bloom

Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens
Woodland, Washington

Just a bit east of our little town, along the Columbia River, is a sign I've seen for years that points the way to the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens.  I've often wondered about these gardens but, always in a rush to get here or there, have never taken the time to stop and smell the flowers.
Recently a friend gave me a copy of the Jane Kirkpatrick novel Where Lilacs Still Bloom and I was transported to the 1889 gardens of Mrs. Hulda Klager.
Hulda and her family soon became my friends, so I told Riff that I really wanted to go to the gardens.  Being the wonderful husband that he is, he said, "Great!  Let's go next Saturday!"  And we did.
Hulda came to America with her parents from Germany when she was just 
two years old.  At age thirteen, her family moved to Washington and bought the farm on the banks of the Lewis River at Woodland.  Her daddy built the beautiful farmhouse you see in the pictures here.  
Hulda married dairy farmer, Frank Klager, living and raising their family on a neighboring farm.  Hulda was irritated by the fact the apples from her parents orchard were so small and soft.  It took a huge amount of apples to make just one pie and they were difficult to peel, so with her Dad's help, she begin to graft different varieties onto the tree's in the hopes of producing a bigger, firmer apple.  It took years, but Hulda's hard work finally paid off with
 the apple she was trying for.
Hulda really loved her flowers and after reading about the work of Luther Burbank to improve plants through propagation, she really caught the bug.  Frank supported Hulda's interests and after a long illness, he sold two of his cows to purchase her dream lilac starts, Madame Lemoine, from France.  This was just what Hulda needed, helping her get over her illness.
Her dream was to produce a creamy white lilac, with 12 petals on a sturdier stalk.  Every spring, Hulda would painstakingly pollinate one lilac bush with the pollen of another, marking each plant with tags that told the color, petals, scent and strength of each bush.  
Not only did she work with the white lilac's, but Hulda also strived for a deeper purple, a pink, a red.  By 1910 she had fourteen new varieties of lilacs and in another five years, she had so many varieties that she begin to host Lilac Days during the spring bloom, which is still going on today.  Lilac days runs from mid April to Mother's Day each year.  (This is the only time that lilac's are available for sale, you can tour the farmhouse and the gift shop is open.)
(this is Sensation.  One of my favorites!  I brought a start home!)
Hulda was an incredibly strong woman, re-building her lilac gardens time and again when the Lewis River and the Columbia River would overflow their banks and flood the farm.  Along with her family, she would work tirelessly to pull up her beloved lilac bushes, putting them on rafts to float above the waters until the floods would recede.  
In 1948, the biggest flood ever destroyed the gardens.  Hulda was 83 and tired.  Not only was her beloved Frank gone, but she had lost two daughters as well.  She just didn't think she had it in her to re-build her gardens one more time and so many of her varieties were destroyed.  Then, one by one, neighbors and friends who had purchased Klager lilac's begin to drop off starts at the farm.  Soon word spread and Hulda's lilacs were coming to her from all over the country.  
At the age of 85, in 1950, Hulda had restored her gardens and Lilac Days was held once again.  Amazing!
Today, the gardens are owned and maintained by the Hulda Klager Lilac Society.  They sit on 4 acres of the original homestead and the farmhouse has been restored to it's Victorian origin.  The society does their best to keep the gardens historically authentic.  They are absolutely beautiful!
These gorgeous gardens are well worth the drive if you live anywhere near.  The scent of lilac's just permeates the air.

Don't forget to grab yourself a copy of Where Lilacs Still Bloom!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Turn the Page...Tuesday

Where have you been  on your reading adventures lately?  It's time for Turn the Page...Tuesday hosted by Adrienne at Some of a Kind.  A time to reveal the wonders of your reading world!  Pop over and join us!

This year, Adrienne has challenged us to read books that movie's have been made from and then watch the movie.  I was really surprised to find how many I already had on my to-be-read shelf that fit this criteria.  For April, I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  It had been lingering on my shelf for quite awhile, and I completely enjoyed this book.  What a page-turner!  Full of intrigue, mystery, some really graphic horribleness, and an age old murder to be solved. 

From Goodreads:
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there's always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

I thought they did a fabulous job with the movie.  Followed the book really well for the most part.  If you only like happy, feel good movie's, this is not for you!  

I'm also participating this year in a reading challenge called What's In a Name? I've done this one a couple of times in past years and it's always fun to go through my shelves and pick books that meet the criteria for each category.  Category 4 this year is a book with Fire (or equivalent) in the title, so I chose Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
I love Tracy Chevalier. I can't even imagine the time and effort it takes to research the area's and people of history that she writes about. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and Chevaliers books always take us right inside another time and place, feeling the emotions, hearing the sounds and smelling the air. 

Burning Bright is set in the early 1790's of London, where Thomas Kellaway has recently moved his family to try to outrun the memories of the recent loss of one of their sons. This family is from the Piddle Valley- Thomas and son Jem are chair makers while his wife Anne and daughter Maisie are very skilled Dorset button makers. Enter real-life character Philip Astley of Astley's Circus, who helps set the Kellaways up with a room as well as customers, eventually hiring Thomas and Jem as carpenters for the circus. Jem meets Maggie, a neighbor girl, and the two quickly become fast friends while also befriending the printer and his wife who live next door. This eccentric printer is thought to have loyalty for the French during this time of the French Revolution. He turns out to be none other than the now famous poet and engraver, William Blake. While Mr. Blake and Mr. Astley are the true to life characters of the book, the story is really a coming of age story centered around the fictional characters of Jem, Maggie and Maisie with the sights and sounds of 1700's Lambeth Place as the backdrop. Interspersed with Blake's poetry, this is a fantastic read!

                                  When the painted birds laugh in the air
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread,
Come live & be merry and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of 'Ha, Ha, He.'
~Laughing Song, William Blake