Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate ~ Book Review

In Tennesse in 1939 Rill Foss is the oldest of 5 siblings living aboard a shanty boat on the river with her parents.  Theirs is happy family life albiet a poor life.  When her mom, whom they all call Queenie,  goes into labor and comes up against major complications, the midwife insists her father, Briny, take her to the hospital.  But the hospital is across the river.  A family friend, another river dweller in the chaos and panic, offers to take them but Rill, who is only 12, is left behind and given the responsibility to care for the younger ones until Briny can come back.  While her parents are gone, strangers come who identify themselves as police and under duress remove the kids, telling them they have to stay in an orphanage until they can be returned to their parents.  Having a deep sense that they must stay together, Rill goes along with it, knowing she can't fight the adults anyway.

In present day South Carolina, Avery Stafford is being groomed to possibly take her Dad's political position.  When she returns home to help him out during a health scare, she comes across a lady in a senior's home who mistakes her for someone else.  But the encounter compels Avery to start a search into her family's history but what she finds can ruin her well off, upstanding political Southern family.

I saw this book on a Christian book reader's page on facebook and it came very highly recommended.  This was a new author for me and it sounded very interesting so I put it on hold right away.  Good thing because it had tons of holds.  It is based on a true story about Georgia Tann, who from about 1925 - 1950 when they finally shut her down, kidnapped and stole children from poor families and through her Tennessee Children's Home Society sold them to wealthy families, including the notorious actress Joan Crawford, whose adopted daughter from this orphanage wrote "Mommy Dearest", about the abuse she experienced at the hands of her adopted mother. Google Georgia Tann, you will be shocked!   The author wrote from the perspective of the children and though the family in it is fictional, all the goings on were from testimonies of survivors of this horrendous fake orphanage and adoption agency.  I was stunned that this could actually happen and that so many people, from police to judges to politicians were bought off and allowed this to continue for so long.  Some of the siblings that went through these orphanages spent years trying to find and reunite their families when they became adults.  The records were so contorted or "lost" that some never did.   It is a sad piece of American history that needs to be told so that it brings awareness to child trafficking and how it hides under the radar.

I loved the character of Rill.  Only 12 years old, but as is the nature of the oldest child, she has a strong sense of responsibility and of family and doing what she has to do to try and keep them all together and she deeply feels the burden of that.  She is strong and courageous for her young age and what she is going through and is determined to find a way to get back to her parents and home.  And I also loved the character of Avery, who dug and strived to find the truth even though it could have tough consequences for those she loved.

I, in turn, cannot recommend this read enough!  I rated it a 9.5/10

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chaberlain ~ Book Review

18 year old Maggie Lockwood has just been released from prison for her actions which led to a fire at a church that claimed a life and horrified the small town she is from.   Going elsewhere is not an option so she must learn to live in a town of people who's feelings toward her range from anger to horror to hate.  But no one hates her more than Keith Weston who's last year has been one filled with pain and suffering due to the fire.  Keith and Maggie grew up together and used to be friends but the fire burned him horribly and with the pain of the last year, he must now face life badly disfigured.  The only person who helps him to get through his days is his mom Sara.  But Sara left the house to go somewhere, no one seems to know where, and has not come home.  As hours turn into days and days turn into weeks, Keith must deal with her not returning and all the questions and feelings that raise.  Maggie's parents have offered to let Keith stay at their home but there is no way he's going to do and be so near to the person he hates.   Then Keith meets a girl who looks beyond the disfigurement to who he really is and he starts to think he just might be able to get through this.

The premise of this story sounded so good.  How the author explored how a young person who makes a horrible decision must face the ongoing consequences of that decision and what follows was really good.  Also how the people most affected by what happened and everything they also were feeling and struggling with as Maggie was released and back in town was really good.  And the mystery involving the disappearance of Sara drew me in.    Where the story derailed for me was the constant gravitation toward teenage sexual encounters.  I understood the need to develop Keith's relationship with the girl, and being a secular story, I didn't expect it to line up with Christian moral guidelines, but the constant encounters I thought really distracted from the more important elements of what this story was about.  I thought it could have risen above that so much better.  There also was a huge element of the story involving sin in church leadership that was sad and disheartening that the blurb on the back totally didn't let the possible reader in on so the story ended up being about more than just what was happening with Maggie and the fire and it's consequences.

I struggled with a star rating on this because part of it was good but part of it wasn't for me but finally gave it 6/10

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday's Fave Five #443

Welcome to Friday's Fave Fives.  It's mid August already.  My vacation time is done, the nights are already turning cooler and we are gearing up for the start of school in a couple of weeks.  But there is always time to pause and look for the blessings over the past week and share 5 of them.  Please join in with us.

1.  Medieval Fair Fun.  Saturday we joined my sis and brother in law and took my son and his friend to the Medieval Fair.   Neither had been to anything like this and it was kinda fun to watch them experience it.   Knights in shining armor, jousting tournaments, midieval  villages, working blacksmith shop and other spectacles to watch and enjoy.

2.  Bountiful tomatoes.  At the beginning of summer we were given a half dozen or so tomato plants.  Seeing I don't have a garden and I haven't had a whole lot of luck growing tomatoes on the deck in a planter, my Mom said I could put them in her garden.  When I went to check on them the other day I was stunned to see all the tomatoes.  My mom says she has never seen the likes of the size and bounty on the stems since she's had gardens in Canada.  And that's something 'cause she's been here since 1956!  They are so heavy with tomatoes she's having a heck of a time. keeping them from breaking.  It must be the crazy heat we've had this summer.  At any rate, I see some toasted tomato sandwiches, broiled parmesan tomatoes and homemade spaghetti sauce in my future.

3.  Cooler evenings.  Southern Alberta has moved into cooler evenings and after the heat waves of June and July it really is a welcome relief.  We are back to a bit more of the kind of weather that is normal for this year around here which still means some hot days but the nights are nice and cool.  Open windows overnight letting in cool air is so much nicer than ac in my humble opinion.

4.   Vaseline.  A simple little thing like Vaseline makes my FFF list because it worked.  I think I sunburned my lips.  They were so dry they hurt.  And the lip balms I usually use just weren't helping.  Then I remembered a girl I used to know who swore by vaseline for her lips and used nothing else.  I thought what have I got to lose?  Within two days the extreme dryness and soreness were gone.  I think I'll be exchanging my lip balms for a tube of vaseline.

5.  This quote by Max Lucado that came through my facebook feed.  It really speaks to me especially in context with FFF and why I've continued it for so long.  Developing an attitude of gratitude and looking for the good things in my life intentionally and consistently really keeps my perspective in the right place.

"Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread.  It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up."        
                                                                                                                             -Max Lucado

What were the things you were grateful for this week?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hungarian Lecso

Lecso (there is supposed to be a little tick leaning to the right over the "o" but I don't know how to do that)  is a Hungarian peasant dish that I grew up with.  My parents came from Hungary and come August when the sweet yellow Hungarian or banana peppers start coming this dish was on the stove.  It is quick and easy:  30 minutes tops.  Flavorful and quite versatile as different ingredients can be switched up.  For example, it can be vegetarian or with sausage.  Traditionally the Hungarian sweet banana peppers are used but I have made it mixed with other sweet peppers too, such as purple, yellow bell or red bell.  We like it with HOT banana peppers added but that can switched with cayenne pepper if you don't have access to those or if you don't like heat just skip that altogether.  You can use whatever sausage you want.  I grew up with my mom using a ring of Ukrainian sausage but when I made it for my son the other week I used what I had:  smokies!  And it was delicious.   My mom always served it over rice, but noodles would work too, or it can be used as a topping for pork chops or as a vegetable side.  Our family traditionally used the egg but that makes some Hungarians twitch, depending on the region of Hungary they originally came from.  LOL.  So many options.

Now the secret to Lesco is not making a stew out of it.  The way you do this is to stir fry the peppers just until they collapse and add the tomato at the very end and cook down just enough to take the raw tomato taste away and produce a small amount of sauce, a minute at most.  You don't want it too liquid (which is what happens when you cook the tomatoes down too much) and you don't want the peppers boiling and stewing in the tomatoes making them bitter.   A bit of liquid in the bottom of the pan is what you are going for, you don't want the peppers swimming in it.  Add the salt in the end so that it doesn't draw more liquid from the peppers.  It may sound too complicated & intimidating but it really isn't.  Once you get down to making it you realize just how easy it is.


-1 kg (2 lbs) sweet banana peppers (or combination of sweet peppers)
-1 or 2 hot banana peppers OR   1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
-3 Tbsp cooking oil
-1 large onion, diced
-1 ring of sausage of choice or equal amount of smokies (approx. 450 gr or 1/2 lb.), sliced**
-2 tsp. paprika
-2 large ripe beefsteak or other tomato, cut in chunks
-1/2 - 1 tsp. salt (to taste)
-1 egg, beaten (optional)**

Wash the peppers and dry them well.  Slice the stem off and dig out the seeds and membrane.  Slice into rings or long slices.  (I prefer the long slices).    **Note:  if you are using the hot banana peppers wash hands immediately and do not rub your eyes or near your nose!  Also wash your cutting board.

Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat and add onion.   Also add sausage if using.  Cook until onion is transluscent and sausage has a bit of brown on it.  Add paprika (and cayenne if using) and peppers.  Stir fry just until the peppers collapse.  If too much liquid is being released, turn up the heat a little bit.  You are wanting to basically stir fry, not stew.

Once peppers collapse, add cut up tomato and salt (and beaten egg if using).  Stir gently until tomato heats through and turns mushy and egg thickens the sauce... about a minute.

Serve over or beside hot rice, noodles or even toast.

**If using as a topping over pork chops (or are wanting a vegetarian or vegan dish) omit the egg and sausage.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

These two are just too adorable and make me grin like a fool every time they are on.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fridays Fave Five #442

Good morning everyone!  Sorry this is late going up.  Unexpected company last night made it so I couldn't get to my computer.  I don't know when today I'll be able to make my own Friday's Fave Five but don't let that stop you!  I'll put up the Linky and you go right ahead and I'll jump on board whenever I can.  Happy Friday to all!

And we're finally back...

Whew, it's been a crazy day with everything so far but I'm finally able to catch a minute to see if I can get 5 favorite blessings from the week posted.

1.  Visit from my son.  My son was able to get some well deserved down time and come home for a few days.  So very nice to have him here.  His friend came along with him and we've been having a good visit.  I love whenever my kids can get home.  I really miss them.

2.  Day trip to Calgary.  This is always fun and we always have our favorite places to visit there.  This time we took a trip to the Calgary Farmer's Market and the Chinook Mall.  The Farmer's Market is always a treat with lots of delicious food and fun products.  There is almost always buskers playing and singing and providing entertainment.  It's just such a fun, busy environment.  I even found a Christmas present already.  Just hope I remember I bought it come December.  :/

3.  First lesco of the year.  Come August when the peppers start making an appearance we start getting a craving for a wonderful Hungarian peasant dish called lesco.  Growing up in a Hungarian household my Mom made the best but I give it a good shot each year.  It's usually made with sweet banana peppers or sweet yellow Hungarian peppers, but this time at the farmer's market I was able to score some wonderful purple peppers too.   Big bonus is it takes only about 1/2 hour at the most from stove to table and is super easy.   And seeing my son loves this dish, I made a batch while he was here.  I'll post the lecso recipe this week.  It was fun to get his friend, who is from China, to try this dish as had brought us all sorts of Chinese treats to try.  I can now officially say I have tried Chinese snack foods such as Shredded dried Squied, Spicy Bean Curd, Spicy rice crackers, and something like a cereal square but chewier rather than crispy, and a meat appetizer that was cooked with all sorts of traditional Chinese spices such as cinammon and cardomon.  

4.  Chocolate Cherry Bread Pudding.  I have not baked in a long, long, long time.  My hubby no longer eats sugar, and I have cut way, way back.  If I have a sweet it's at dinner at someone else's house or a restaurant and it's rare.  If I have it around I know I will just eat it until it's gone.  But seeing the guys were home AND I had stale hamburger buns and some frozen cherries that needed eating I made this yummy bread pudding.  I used half the sugar and it still was so delicious.  It was a hit with everyone and again so easy.  I'll post that recipe next week too.

5.  Mini at home holiday.  Wrapping up our staycation week last weekend Hubby and I took some bike rides, river bottom walks and actually ate pizza at a restaurant.  I love holidays and going places but I also like staycations too.  I find they are a bit more relaxed.  On holidays we tend to be on the go so much, taking in sights and events and shopping of the place we are visiting.  But at home it's totally down time and we go with the flow.  Sleeping in, chilling with me reading and him doing his music stuff on the computer, not having to be anywhere or do anything.  We had pizza at a pub where hubby has does business with the owner and it was amazing.  We'll be getting that again.   I could have used another week, it seems I just get the stress of work and day to day shaken off and get totally relaxing and the week is over, but I am thankful for that week!

Whew, so there were my favorite blessings from the week.  Thanks for joining in! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J.Watson ~ Book Review

Christine is a woman who wakes up each morning in a panic not knowing who the man next to her in the bed is.  And she doesn't recognize the middle aged woman staring back at her in the bathroom mirror.  And each morning the man patiently explains that he is Ben, her husband of over 20 years, and that she had a horrific accident 20 years ago that wipes her memory everytime she goes to sleep.   Each day she also gets a phone call from a man who tells her he is a Dr. Nash who is working with her without her husband's knowledge to try to bring some memory back.  Each day she writes in a journal what happened that day and hides it in her closet and each day Dr. Nash tells her where to look for it.  As the entries start to add up, and as she rereads them each, Christine starts to have some questions and some things are not lining up and making sense.  But who does she trust and believe?  Her husband? Dr. Nash? herself?  She can't even remember yesterday!

This was one tense, page turning, can't put it down psychological thriller.   Christine is totally dependent upon her husband, Ben, each and every day to fill in the facts of her existence.  But as she journals her days something in her tells her not to let her husband in on what she is doing just yet.  And the more she journals and rereads her days, while answering some questions it also raises so many more.  The tension in this book runs through each page  and doesn't let up.   The pacing is really good and keeps you riveted and turning the pages to find out what is going on.  Your emotions are really engaged with the main character as it is so hard to imagine this happening to anyone and the utter confusion they would live under on a daily basis yet the book is inspired in part by the lives of several amnesiac patients whom the author mentions in the author's note at the back of the book.  You really are rooting for Christine to get her memory back or at least to get the questions answered.

I gave this a 9/10