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--

and

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 DailyLit.com 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 allrecipes.com

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.

Enjoy.

* 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!!


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

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.




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.

Cheers!


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 . . .

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Very Quick Book Review: All Hell Let Lose by Max Hastings


This sounds like an amazing book, doesn't it?  

I usually curl up in bed with a good book at night.  That hasn't worked with this book.  Its too heavy to hold on to.  So today I parked myself in my favourite chair with a cup of tea, a sandwich and this book.  It was still too heavy to manage.  I'm only 40 pages in after 3 days because every time the book slipped I'd end up adjusting it and then rereading entire sections all over again.  I'm finally giving up.  I think it is going to be a great read when I find it in paperback or as an ebook.

I bet you've never read a review like this before.