Saturday, February 28, 2015

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder ~ Book Review

Little House in the Big Woods is the first in this classic children's literature series of homesteading and early prairie life by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have not read this book since I was a kid. None of my own children had interest in the series, much to my disappointment, so I thought I would jump on board with Barbara at Stray Thoughts and her Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge which happens in February.

 It was fun to revisit the story, but one thing I was struck by rereading as an adult was how "elementary" the writing was. Of course, I didn't remember something like that from reading it as a child.

 Laura's story in this book scans about a year of her life from the age of 4. There were a few things that stood out to me reading it this time around. Even though I watched the Little House on the Prairie series, again as a young person, and had a somewhat visual  in my mind, I was still struck by how difficult and filled with hard work the pioneer life really was. Just a few of the things from the book that jumped out was how disciplined the children in the story were (for the most part, with some exceptions) and how hard they actually helped out with different aspects around the house that was really hard work at such a young age. I think of kids nowadays at that age and how easy their lives are now in North America. I really enjoyed the descriptions of how they had to prepare foods for the winter. We take so much for granted with grocery stores having all our foods readily available without the hard work. The simpleness of their existence in terms of things they had was also something that really stood out. We have so much stuff nowadays that we think are so essential to our survival, when it's really for our comfort and overt luxury. The sheer isolation of life on the prairies back then boggled my mind. That's something I never really thought about before. Being a bit more of an extrovert than introvert I wonder how I would take to something like that. All I can say about the homesteading life of that time is that I'm sure glad that God knew what He was doing and put me into this time as I don't know how I would have survived all that the prairie life required.

 Reading Challenge Goals Met: A book from my childhood, a popular author's first book, a book based on or turned into a tv show

Will also be linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #319

It's Friday, one of my favourite days for many reasons, one of which is joining in with all of you to look back over the week and notice our 5 favourite blessings for the week.  Sometimes it's super easy to find five and sometimes it's darn hard but there is always some to be found.  Sometimes it's all in the perspective.  Thank you to all you faithful participants and welcome to any new or returning!  I'm so grateful you take the time to join in with me.  Guidelines are linked in the sidebar for anyone new.

1.  Fresh paint.  Hubby has been working hard for a couple of weeks now, whenever he can, to freshen up the living room.  Off have come the old chair rails, and a fresh lighter color is going on.  I found a lovely "greige" in Benjamin Moore's "Inukshuk" and we just love it.  We wanted to move away from the yellowy-green toned beige we had and this is a lovely change.  Still trying to decide on the dark colored wall, though.  I'm soooo indecisive when it comes to paint color.  

2.  A new recipe win that will go into the family favourites file.  I love when I try a new recipe and it actually turns out really delicious and I have a new family favourite.  This recipe that I shared at the beginning of the week did just that.  This may just motivate me to start working my way through the scads of recipes to try that I have filed on my computer.

3.  Chores done = free weekend.  Laundry is done, vacuuming done, groceries done.  Wow, what will I do with my weekend?  I feel a book or two calling my name!

4.  Purring furball.  I love the late evenings when my sweet old kitty crawls up next to me on the couch for some cuddling and purring.  It's such a lovely, relaxing way to end the day.

5.  Wonderberry Chocolate Truffle  tea.  When my youngest and I went to the Women's Conference in October we stopped at the mall in Calgary.  We went into a tea store and they had all sorts of lovely teas to try including a Christmas flavor:  Wonderberry Chocolate Truffle .  It was delicious.  But we walked away because it was ridiculously expensive.  When hubby took me to the Mall last weekend we stopped into the same tea store and lo and behold the very same tea was 70% off.  Score.  And I got the last can! It was like it was just patiently sitting waiting for me to come back on Valentine's day so that it could go home with who it was intended for.  LOL.   Sorta makes you wonder how they can justify the huge price hike though, doesn't it?  But at any rate, the tea tastes extra rich and delicious now that I got it at that great deal!

What were your favourite blessings, whether big or small, during your last week?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble - A Hope Beach Novel

Elin Summerall has had a lot on her plate in the last while. After catching a virus that ruined her heart she was lucky to have received a heart transplant and a second chance at life. A young widow and mother she was also caring for her mom who was dealing with early dementia in her 50's. But ever since Elin received her new heart she has been having dreams of being strangled that wake her up in a cold sweat. Knowing that her heart donor had been murdered these dreams are leaving her very unsettled and with unwanted attention from the press and from the donor's murderer. With the police skeptical of any connection between her dreams and the events she is now experiencing, she moves her family to a quiet remote location in Seagrass Pier where she hopes the dreams will stop, her family can be safe and she can finish healing physically in peace. But the dreams and the strange occurrences follow her. And now she must work with Marc Everton, an FBI agent, a man from her past whom she had never wanted to run into again.

 I really enjoyed this story though am finding it hard to write a review because there was a lot going on it. There were sub-plots running that connected back to other stories and characters as this was the 3rd in a series. I had read the second one, Rosemary Cottage reviewed here, and really enjoyed it but it was a while ago and I didn't quite remember the characters. But this book was great as a stand alone read without having to know the details from the first stories.

 The cell memory aspect of the story, where Elin has memories of the donor's murder was interesting. It certainly would be totally unsettling and weird. Though that was the main plot, there were also several story lines revealed throughout the story. A  historical connection with a former owner of the house brings it's own mystery as well as Elin's troubles.  It made for many twists and turns in the plot and caused it to be a real page turner. You just never knew what was going to be revealed next and I never guessed the ending. The love story was clean and sweet which is always a plus in my books.  I did find a bit of how Elin insists and throws herself into the investigation by the FBI agent a little bit unrealistic. I can understand working with him, but him allowing her into some of the dangerous situations rang a little untrue for me, even if he was off-duty and not acting in an official capacity. Without wanting to give away anything in the story, I won't go into more detail than that. Everything was tied together well in the end without anything that left me scratching my head. I really enjoy Colleen Coble's books and this one didn't disappoint in the suspense/romance genre.

Reading Challenge Goals Met:  a book by a female author; a mystery or thriller

Will also be linked to Semicolon Saturday Review of Books

Monday, February 23, 2015

Brussels Sprouts a delicious new way

When at Costco the other day we picked up a beautiful bag of fresh brussels sprouts.  And yes, the correct spelling and pronunciation is Brussels Sprouts with the "s".  Who knew?  Brussels sprouts are not something I grew up eating but I loved them from the first time I ever ate them in my husband's favourite dinner recipe.  I tried to find a post of mine with the recipe but apparently it is nowhere to be found on my blog though I have mentioned it several times.  I have got to get around to posting that thing.  It is delicious.  Anyway, today is for a different Brussels sprout recipe that I found either through Pinterest or Foodgawker, not sure which.

It is definitely a different way of preparing the brussels sprouts than I have ever done.  I've always just boiled them whole and served with butter and salt and pepper on them.  And I've never served them cooled off.  This recipe definitely takes a bit more work than just throwing the sprouts into a pot of water, but boy oh boy, is it ever worth the effort!  Everyone raved over these and every bite was eaten!  It got gobbled up before I could even think to take a picture though they did look pretty and appealing in the salad bowl and on the plate.   The recipe is written as a single serving appetizer.  I used it as a side.  In fact, I'll have to keep note that the recipe served 3 of us adults who all had seconds of it, so I'll have to double it if I have more people.  I did do a bit of adapting and I've noted that in the recipe.  I also presented it differently than she did so you might just want to link over and see how she originally did it.   I'll definitely be making this again.

Recipe adapted from Recipris (You can click on over to see a picture)

-20 fresh brussels sprouts

-1 1/2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

-1/2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar  **the recipe called for red wine vinegar but I've never liked it and so      didn't have it on hand, so I used seasoned rice wine vinegar**

-1 Tbsp. capers, drained   **I used a little less and I gave them a quick chopping**

-2 Tbsp. sliced almonds

-1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped

-salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

-a pinch of red chili flakes, to taste

Preheat oven to 350*F.   Place foil over a baking tray and spray with olive oil.  Set to the side.

Wash and dry the brussels sprouts.  Cut off the ends.  Pull off leaves until you reach the core.  I had to make small slits at the base of the leaves as I went along for them to come off easily.  Place the leaves into a mixing bowl as you go.  Add 1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss well and place on the baking tray.  Place on middle rack of oven and bake for 10 - 12 minutes.  You may now snack on the cores as you continue cooking.  ;)

Place almonds in a small fry pan and over medium heat, watching carefully not to burn, toast the almonds.  You can also do them in the oven along with the brussels sprouts, but they must be watched.

Cool both the sprout leaves and the almonds.  Meanwhile in a salad bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, vinegar, capers, salt, fresh ground pepper, parsley and chili flakes.  Add brussels sprout leaves and almonds and toss.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Laura Ingalls Wilder Country... by William Anderson

"The People and Place Behind Laura Ingalls Wilder's LIfe and Books"

I picked this book up for Stray Thoughts Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge. I really enjoyed this "real life" peak and tour into Laura's life. Filled with historical photos and drawings of Laura and her family, family artifacts and pictures of the prairies and homes or replicas thereof where they lived and an engaging commentary. You saw the creek, the farms and landscapes of Laura's life. There were lots of little tidbits that I had never known before that made for a very interesting read. I also found the U.S. map co-ordinated with the different locations of major events of Laura and her families lives very interesting. It really opened my eyes to how much she really did move over her lifetime. Perfect for anyone who has read Laura's books or even watched the tv series to see a real life perspective in photos.

If you'd like to join in on the reading challenge skip on over to Stray Thoughts and join in!

Will also be linked to Semicolon Saturday Review of Books

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday's Fave Five #318

Oh my good gravy.  I just realized that it is Friday.  Sheesh.  Between a four day head ache and a long weekend last weekend and extra children this week because of reading week in the schools, I"m just a bit kafuffled.  Please forgive me.  I'll put up the link and join in when I can seeing as the kids are already here looking at me to start their day.
Whew, grabbing a minute here to reflect and look back over the week.  Even though it's been a bit on the crazy side that is the perfect opportunity to take a moment and take notice of the blessings otherwise they might just escape me.

1.  Valentine's Day.  My hubby set out to make it extra special this year.  First he gifted me with my favourite chocolates, which I've mentioned several times.  Then he whisked me off to Calgary for some big city fun.  We went to our favourite haunt, the Calgary Farmer's Market, where they had a strolling barbershop harmony group, a couple of reeeeally young buskers who were quite good, and all that food!!  I even splurged and got a piece of my favorite dessert, a vanilla slice.  It was delicious.  Then it was off to the Cross Iron Mill Mall where one can get lost for hours.  He didn't even rush me in my favourite stores.  We shopped for an extra special gift for my daughter's birthday, she turns 25 this week.  (I can't believe I even typed that!!).  And then he had yet another surprise in store for me.  He let me pick out a purse at the Coach Outlet store.  Well if you know me and purses, let's just say he knows his way to this girl's heart.  A little dinner at his favourite pasta restaurant and our valentine's day was complete.   We rarely celebrate valentine's this extravagantly but I guess Cupid's arrow must have got him this year.  Yay for me!

2.  Just Breathe Wax Melt by Scentsy.  With my plugged up sinuses and headaches this week, this scent was awesome in helping to unclog and relax me this week.  I needed all the help I could get.

3.  Friendship.  When my friend, who is not working at the moment, heard I wasn't feeling that great, she showed up with a Starbucks and a helping hand.  Such an appreciated gift!

4.  Down Alternative duvet.  Our comforter was really getting bunched and old so after humming and hawwing for months on what kind of blanket to get for our bed we chose a down alternative. Being of European descent,  I had originally wanted an actual down filled one but in my researching and reading they recommended not laying on top of it as it would crush the down and lose it's loft.  Well with Sunday afternoon snoozes by hubby and escape lounging and reading by me and the dog who thinks he's a human sleeping on top we sorta came to the conclusion that a down fill was just not for us.  Then we found this one that can be washed and dried and has a 5 year warranty to keep it's loft at basically 1/3 of the price so we gave it a go.  And it. is. wonderful!!  The only drawback?  It's tough getting out of bed in the morning the thing is so comfy!

5.  Easy peasy evenings.  Again with the week that it was, it was nice not to have be running around with things to do in the evenings.  I spent them quietly chilling watching tv or reading.  I so appreciated that!

What were your favourite blessings this week?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"The Hundred Foot Journey" by Richard C. Morais ~ Book Review

Young Hassan Haji grew up learning about the love of food and cooking from his mother. Surrounded by spicy Indian foods cooked in their restaurant and the food markets of Mumbai his mother passed on her love of trying new foods and gourmet outings on to her son. But when tragedy strikes the family, their father takes the family on a journey out of India, all across Europe and finally settles in England. But when again circumstances dictate a move the family unwittingly ends up in a small picturesque village in France called Lumiere. When purchasing the mansion across the street from a very high class inn and restaurant, the family opens up their own Indian cuisine restaurant, Madame Mallory, the Michelin award winning chef,  must face her own issues of fear, mistrust and entitlement. As they wage culinary wars against each other, young Hassan is still drawn to the French way of cooking and Madame Mallory realizes that he is a truly gifted chef. When yet another tragedy strikes, Madame Mallory at last gives in to what she knows she must do, and that is to train Hassan in the art of French cuisine knowing he will make his mark in the world with his gift. Hassan leaves his family and crosses the hundred feet across the road to become a student of Miss Mallory leaving his Indian way of life and cooking behind.

 First off, I must qualify that I saw and fell in love with this movie before I read the book. The movie, to me was wonderful with incredible scenery and food photography. It gave you a real sense of the love and beauty of "real" food and the wonder of preparing it, both French and Indian. I loved the love story line, the friendship story line, the story of overcoming prejudice and fear. I loved how Hassan, his father and Madame Mallory changed and grew in the movie.

 Now the book. In a very rare case for me, I did not like the book as much as the movie. This is the second time this has happened to me in a story that featured cooking and food, the first being Julie and Julia reviewed here #27. While I guess this story was an ok read, it covered a much longer time period in Hassan's life than did the movie, which is only natural. But the thing that I found so different, and it took me a long time of thinking about it and to pin-point it, was that the book was missing the sweetness, the charm and the humor that the movie had. The movie story veered off the book in a lot of places and I found that I liked the changes and liberties that Steven Knight, the movie screenplay writer, had taken. While the movie brought out the beauty of food, I found the book actually grossed me out in a lot places. The father was written as a man of less than charming characteristics who didn't seem to change a whole lot like he did in the movie. There was descriptions of some things about him that really were useless to the story, in my opinion, but left a yuck image to me, the reader. Madame Mallory was a much more unlikeable character than even the movie portrayed and I found I mistrusted her true motives at the end even though she did take young Hassan under her wing. The book got into some of France's ins and outs of owning restaurants that may or may not have interested me so much. And I didn't like the character of Hassan in the book as much as I liked him in the movie, he didn't have that air of innocence that the movie gave him. So in this case, I hate to say, but I know I will re-watch the movie over and over but I will take a pass at reading the book again, though I guess it was good to read it to find out the original way the author intended the story to be.

Book Challenge Goals Met:  A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit; a new to you author; a book that became a movie; a book with a number in the title; a book set in a different country

Will also be linked to Semicolon Saturday Review of Books