Monday, April 30, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

You may have determined by now that when I review a book I write mostly about how I liked it and why. I will leave the details of themes and plots and other mysteries to those more qualified than I. I write only as a person who loves to read.

I now know where two quotes I've often heard actually come from . . . A Tale of Two Cities. What quotes? See if you recognize them.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--


It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. 

I never read this book in school or any other time. I don't know why. It was always on my to do list and now it is done. 
I read this book in installments through which is a great way to receive novels through your email a bit at a time.  I really enjoyed it. Enjoy isn't really the appropriate word but a better word escapes me right now.

Charles Dickens is a master at blending stories with twists and turns and amazing surprises. There is intrigue, danger and adventure. There is love and romance and trust and family. This book has everything and it is so masterfully written that you are constantly on tenterhooks, wondering what will happen next. The plot is very complex and includes several characters with hidden pasts that come back to haunt them in the shadow of Madame Guillotine during the French Revolution. Dickens also has a habit of commenting on the times in which he was writing and offers many comparisons between the the horror of the Revolution and the peoples involved in Paris with the suffering and intrigues of the people in London England . . . in this way it is truly a tale of two cities.

Don't be nervous. Pick up this classic novel and thrill to the adventures within.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Best Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.

In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs and 1 tsp vanilla.  Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt and baking powder.  Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Do not overcook.

To make frosting:

3 tbsp butter, softened
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Combine 3 tbsp butter, 3 tbsp cocoa, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup confectioners' sugar.  Frost brownies while they are still warm.

This recipe is from

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

It doesn't happen very often.  It is very rare that I don't like a book.  Books are likeable.  My only question is -- did I dislike the book because it was deep and I couldn't understand it or because it was deep and I thought it was silly and over done?  Either way,  I could not force my way through to finish reading this book.  This was the first of Eugenides' books I've tried to read.  I'm going to be a little hesitant to read any others.

If you wish to know what it's about, the short version is that it is about 3 very over-educated college graduates in a love triangle of the weirdest sort with a little story and a lot of back story.  I've read a couple of rave reviews about this book but the reviews were written in the style of the over-educated-and-must-share-it-with-the-world types who think six big words per sentence is appropriate.  I'm not looking up six words in the dictionary just to get on to the next sentence.

If you Love Jeffrey Eugenides and his style, you will probably like this book.  I do not.  Sorry Jeffrey.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

How many times in my life have I read this story?  Or read a similar story?  Or seen one version or another in a television show or movie?  Too many times to count and the reason is clear.  It is a simple, romantic story of a poor young couple who sacrifice for each other.  I will probably read this story in some form or another for the rest of my life for isn't the true nature of love to sacrifice for each other.

Sweet Rosette Treats

I am still finding recipes from my Christmas cookie swap 2 years ago.

In a large bowl, mix:
1/4 cup softened margarine
1 egg
1/3 cup Splenda for baking *
1/3 cup brown sugar

Blend well and then add:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Mix just until flour is mixed in.  Roll dough into small balls and place on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Press a chocolate rosette or Hershey's kiss or mint smoothie into centre (not all the way to the bottom) about 1/2 way.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight (covered if overnight).  Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.  Makes 2 dozen small cookies.


* may substitute 8 packets Equal sweetener.

Book Review: Her Father's House by Belva Plain

I am a huge fan of Belva Plain. I have read so many of her books. They are always filled with so much colour and emotion that they are near impossible to put down. My favourite of all time is Evergreen.

I thought Belva Plain may be slipping because the beginning of Her Father's House has characters that don't seem to be totally real. It turns out they aren't. Life collides with the two main characters, Donald and Lillian Wolfe, and we begin to see who they really are.

When Lillian threatens to take their daughter out of the country, Donald feels he must take action. Donald Wolfe drives out of NYC with baby Tina on a Sunday afternoon, and several days later, Jim Fuller arrives in a small town in Georgia with his young daughter Laura. They build a new life in rural Georgia. Jim refusing to leave the area even for vacations in order to hide their past and protect Laura from her mother's greed, carelessness and control. Jim finally relents so he can go see Laura graduate college and all Jim's carefully placed lies begin to crumble.

This book is totally engaging in true Belva Plain style.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Crazy Night and Crazy Day . . . and its not even Christmas yet . . .

You may think that because I work from home, I have all the time in the world.  You would be wrong.  Somehow every minute of my day is full.  I can't remember the last time I was bored.  December 20th was just such a day.

These first 2 photos were taken just after midnight
at Victoria Hospital in London ON.  I don't even
remember what time we got home.

After a few hours sleep I was at Ladies' Day Out
to celebrate Connie's birthday.
And that evening I was at a basketball game.
On the other hand, working from home means that I can take a friend to the hospital, make it to another friend's birthday and watch my son coach and my grandson play basketball.

I'm grateful for that.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Canadian Pie by Will Ferguson

Canadian Pie by Will Ferguson is a really wonderful read.  Ferguson provides us with some truly funny and interesting stories pulled from his travels across Canada . . . a slice of this, a slice of that.  His style is very conversational and he pays attention to the details to really make his stories pop.  Some of the stories were more interesting than others but I imagine that is a personal thing.  You will probably enjoy different stories than I did.  Definitely pick this up for a good light read this summer.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pink Scrappers Relay for Life Scrapbooking Crop

Did you notice we have a special offer for those of you who can't come to the crop?
For $10.00 we will enter you into all the draws!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: Marching As to War by Pierre Berton

Do you remember that a few days ago I mentioned a book All Hell Let Loose the other day?  I couldn't read it because it was too heavy to hold on to.   768 pages.  Hard cover.

Marching As to War is only 632 pages in paperback.  There is the difference.  While still heavy, I was able to hold on to it.

And Pierre Berton's writing held my interest to the very last page.  I've always been interested in history.  I even took a history of WWI and WWII in university.  I wonder if they would consider swapping out the texts for Marching As to War?

Here's a review of this book:

Pierre Berton was one of Canada’s most popular and prolific authors. From narrative histories and popular culture, to picture and coffee table books to anthologies, to stories for children to readable, historical works for youth, many of his fifty books are now Canadian classics. 

Born in 1920 and raised in the Yukon, Pierre Berton worked in Klondike mining camps during his university years. He spent four years in the army, rising from private to captain/instructor at the Royal Military College in Kingston. He spent his early newspaper career in Vancouver, where at 21 he was the youngest city editor on any Canadian daily. He wrote columns for and was editor of Maclean’s magazine, appeared on CBC’s public affairs program “Close-Up” and was a permanent fixture on “Front Page Challenge” for 39 years. He was a columnist and editor for the Toronto Star and was a writer and host of a series of CBC programs.

Pierre Berton received over 30 literary awards including the Governor-General’s Award for Creative Non-Fiction (three times), the Stephen Leacock Medal of Humour, and the Gabrielle Leger National Heritage Award. He received two Nellies for his work in broadcasting, two National Newspaper awards, and the National History Society’s first award for “distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history.” For his immense contribution to Canadian literature and history, he was awarded more than a dozen honourary degrees, is a member of the Newsman’s Hall of Fame, and is a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Pierre Berton passed away in Toronto on November 30, 2004.

“I have called this period Canada’s Turbulent Years – turbulent not only because of the battles we fought on the African veldt, the ravaged meadows of Flanders, the forbidding spine of Italy, and the conical hills of Korea, but turbulent in other ways. These were Canada’s formative years, when she resembled an adolescent, grappling with the problems of puberty, often at odds with her parents, craving to be treated as an adult, hungry for the acclaim of her peers, and wary of the dominating presence of a more sophisticated neighbour.” – From the Introduction

Canada's twentieth century can be divided roughly into two halves. All the wars and all the unnecessary battles in which Canadian youth was squandered belong to the first — from the autumn of 1899 to the summer of 1953. From the mid-1950s on, Canada has concerned itself not with war but with peace.

The first war of the century, which took Canadian soldiers to South Africa, and the last, which sent them to Korea, bracket the bookends on the shelf of history. They have a good deal in common with, these two minor conflicts, whose chronicles pale when compared to the bloodbaths of the two world wars.

Canada's wartime days are long past, and for many, the scars of war have healed. Vimy has been manicured clean, its pockmarked slopes softened by a green mantle of Canadian pines. Dieppe has reverted to a resort town, its beaches long since washed free of Canadian blood. Nowadays, Canadians are proud of their role as Peacekeepers, from which they have gained a modicum of international acclaim the nation has always craved, with precious little blood wasted in the process.

In this monumental work, Pierre Berton brings Canadian history to life once again, relying on a host of sources, including newspaper accounts and first-hand reports, to tell the story of these four wars through the eyes of the privates in the trenches, the generals at the front, and the politicians and families back home. By profiling the interwar years, Berton traces how one war led to the next, and how the country was changed in the process. Illustrated with maps and line drawings, Marching as to War describes how the experience of war helped to bind Canada together as a nation and chronicles the transformation of Canada's dependence upon Great Britain and its slow emergence as an independent nation caught in a love-hate relationship with the United States.

It seems to happen at every party . . .

. . . the men end up congregating in  one room and the women in another . . . hmmmmmmm . . .

Looking for the Christmas Pickle 2011

Every year friend Deb hides pickle ornaments on her Christmas trees (yes trees) and awards prizes to anyone who finds them.

High Heels

High Heels
3" x 3"
What colour would you like?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coach Greg

Greg discovered basketball in school and it has been a big part of his life ever since.  He enjoys sharing his knowledge and coaches two teams.  These photos were taken at Hoopdome December 10, 2011.

Austin was in a tournament at the Hoopdome in Toronto December 10.  Hal was coming home after a run on the 10th.  Tim actually had a weekend off.  We all met at the Holiday in Express near the Hoopdome.  I'd almost forgotten just how much fun my family is when they are all together.

We talked and laughed, played cribbage, ate all Hal's leftover groceries from his trip, watched TV, drank wine, picked up pizza and had a great time.

C'mon people . . . I'm old . . . I need sleep . . . LOL!!

Tim thinks he's the Hulk!?

I brought the wine and the cribbage board.  Hal brought in all his leftovers.

Cameron sure knows how to tell a story.

Where's Cameron?

Hal lookin' all cool in his jammies and shades . . . 

Krystel and Tim shared a room with us.

Bottling Wine

In December Mom, Debbie, Paula and I decided to make 3 different kinds of wine and then swap with each other.  We chose Green Apple, Strawberry Zinfandel and Blush Zinfandel.  The easy part was paying Mary at The Wine Station to make our wine.  The fun part was bottling our wine a few weeks later.

Cleaning the bottles

Filling the bottles

Corking the bottles

I'm not sure who Paula is yelling at . . . 

This is Mary who made our wine and kept us in line while bottling it.

Debbie feels the need to begin medication.


Picking labels and swapping out.
What a great adventure.  And we definitely enjoyed the wines over Christmas.  I still have a few bottles left.  I know, you are surprised.  We are planning on doing this again this spring.  We need to get ready for summer entertaining.  I wonder which wine I should chose this time . . . hmmmmmm . . .