November 2021 Wrap-Up

A Quick Reflection

The November 2021 Wrap-Up marks another month off the calendar. A new variant of Covid-19 is in the news. So is climate change. Fall is winding down, albeit slowly. The holiday season has begun. What started as a slow month of productivity has morphed into one of busy-ness. Thus, time to reflect.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Only one month to go and we have the second year of the pandemic behind us. History alone will give us a clear picture of the depth of Covid-19. Accurate reporting is a challenge for nations trying for validity. Then there are many countries unwilling or unable to report cases and deaths with any precision.

November 2021- A Glimpse of Climate Change

No precipitation, rain or snow, fell on my part of the world in November 2021. Thus, the drought returns. September 20th is the last recorded rainfall in my gauge. Unfortunately, the forecast is calling for more of the same. High temperatures are running fifteen to twenty degrees above average. This would have been a good year to grow crops under a hoop.

The frosty night temperatures do create a problem with irrigation. Hoses need to be disconnected almost every night since few nights remain above 32°F. But watering of certain plants is critical because they have not entered their normal dormancy. It is a tough time to be a gardener.

Thanksgiving 2021

This Thanksgiving was quite enjoyable. We gathered as safely as possible. The age range included one just under a year to the oldest soon to be a nonagenarian. A new recipe developed for a youngster restricted to a vegan diet for health reasons was enjoyed by all. I will share the recipe for Nolan’s Vegan Holiday Rolls next week. These rolls are adapted from the Soft Gluten Free Dinner Roll recipe.

I married into a big family. We cannot fit everyone around one table and meals are always buffet style. This took some getting used too since my family gatherings growing up topped out at eleven. Cousins and all. A tight fit around one table but doable-just not much elbow room. And Southern families tend to have all the dishes in the center of the table to be passed around. As with everything in life, there are pros and cons about each serving style.

In the Library- November 2021

My reading fell off again this month. But I am currently enthralled by Nell Painter’s Old in Art School. Hopefully, I will have a review to publish this Friday. One of my goals for 2022 is to re-establish my posting patterns-if possible. As usual, quite a few books have been bought for gift giving in December. In addition to my Econogal’s Annual Top Book Lists, I am contemplating adding a top gift list. Of course books would be a big part of that list as well.

Craft Time

I have spent many hours in my Hobby Room this month. A thorough re-organization was needed. The room is a good size. However, I need to find room for my paints-at least for the month of December. My painting nook upstairs is perched between a southeast and southwest window. This provides great light. But it is also where the Christmas tree goes.

The bulk of the Hobby Room is devoted to fabric. There is a good size cutting table. And a much smaller sewing table. Book cases hold quilting books and magazines. But they also hold gardening books. I still lack a greenhouse/ garden shed so my seed storage is also in my Hobby Room.

Finally, I have cabinets holding glue guns, glue, beads, pipettes, ribbon, crayons, pencils, papers and more. Photos and scrapbooking materials also have a home in the room. So, organization is key.Felt Stocking pattern

November 2021 Productivity

The month ended up being very productive. I have always found work, especially manual labor, a cure for what ails you. I am on track to finish a Bucilla stocking for the youngest as well as a new quilt. Staying busy in a constructive way is my way of combatting the Blahs.

Thanksgiving 2021

Eclectic Thoughts for Thanksgiving 2021

Thanksgiving 2021 is here. Sharing eclectic thoughts for Thanksgiving week is not new, nor is it a yearly occurrence. However, this year it seems important. Much is happening in the world. And much of what is taking place is concerning.

Violence and crime amid broken down justice systems, the pandemic, the economy and its’ battered supply chain and the divided opinion on what is next are just a few discussions that may pop up at perhaps still small Thanksgiving tables. But at least for me, more than two people will share this year’s feast. Yes, there are always reasons to be thankful.

Broken Down Justice

Is our judicial system broken? I hope not, but some weeks I wonder. This has been one of those weeks. I am willing to accept jury decisions as given, even if I disagree. After all, jurors listen to far more evidence than I ever read about. But, I do disagree with how easy it is to get bail. Furthermore, I think we need to understand there are many causes of recidivism. Thus, there will be individuals that will not be rehabilitated.

Such a case occurred this past weekend. A lifelong criminal plowed a car into a parade. Five people lost their lives and another four dozen were taken to hospitals. The individual accused of the violence had just been released on $1000 bail, even though he still faces multiple trials for previous violent crimes. The most recent an auto attack on the mother of his child.

Less deadly crimes are occurring on the West Coast. Proposition 47 increased the dollar amount to $950 for felony theft. Below that, shoplifting is still a crime but listed as a misdemeanor. The thought was to reduce overcrowding in prisons. But the reality is a huge uptick in looting. Click here for more information.

Covid-19

Divisiveness continues to spring from the ongoing pandemic. The divisions are great. While I believe we are past the virus is a hoax stage, much argument surrounds the vaccines. Especially the ones based on mRNA technology. But other disagreements include masking, vaccine passports, and freedom to choose whether or not to vaccinate. Also, some countries, most recently Austria, are returning to lockdown status.

Much of the blame can be pinned on fear of the unknown. While the United States of America has collectively been thought of as a country of early adopters, that is a generalization. Plenty of Americans prefer a wait and see approach. Many others want proof, and not just those from the Show Me State of Missouri. The country is a large land mass with a population greater than 330 million. We are not going to be all on the same page. And that is ok.

But we do need both tolerance and a sense of responsibility for ourselves and others. This is lacking.

We have an airborne disease wreaking havoc across the globe. Stopping the spread is important. My knowledge of biology is lacking, but I know enough to be cautious. Invisible germs are still germs. Only history will tell us how long and how damaging this novel coronavirus has been, is and will be.

Supply Chain

One of the most frustrating things to me is the continued push for a commercialized Christmas. Since we are experiencing such a problem with supply chain disruption, why is advertising seemingly at all-time highs? What happens when the goods are not able to be delivered in time? Or at all? How will the labor shortage come into play? Lots of stress for retailers, both large and small.

Perhaps 2021 should be a year that emphasizes something other than the latest toy or gadget.

Thanksgiving 2021

Bittersweet is the best way to describe my emotions this Thanksgiving 2021 morning. But at least I am out of the funk that descended upon me at the end of October. I miss the Queen of Halloween as my Mom was often called.

Thankfully, a mid-November weekend visit by the newlyweds lifted my spirits. My house is decorated for Thanksgiving 2021 and my heart is filled with gratitude. A small gathering of four generations will occur. The vast majority vaccinated and the most at risk fortunate enough to have a booster.

Three batches of rolls are about to be baked including an adaptation of the Soft Gluten Free Dinner Rolls. If this recipe is as good as the original, I will share. The only other dish I am responsible for is a family favorite corn casserole with jalapeno peppers. It will be nice not spending all the time cooking as there is a new grandchild to spoil.

I plan to celebrate and be thankful today.Cake decorated to look like a Thanksgiving 2021 turkey.

Stephanie’s Ponytail Book Review

Children’s Story Book

Stephanie's Ponytail Book CoverStephanie’s Ponytail written by Robert Munsch with illustrations by Michael Martchenko is one of my favorite children’s story books. The first time I bought a copy was over twenty years ago. I am sure the artwork hooked me. The harried mother trying to fix unruly hair at the breakfast table struck a chord of recognition. And the story itself is classic hilarity.

Two Ideas from Stephanie’s Ponytail

Like many children’s books, Stephanie’s Ponytail posits key lessons. Young Stephanie wants to be different. But, often non-conformity is looked down upon. Or, as in the case of this delightful book, the individual with flare is copied. Dealing with copycats is frustrating.

There is much debate on whether leaders are made or born. Even though Munsch does not delve into deep philosophy, it is clear Stephanie is both a trendsetter and smart. The thinking skills are clearly lacking in the copycats. Deftly woven into the story are kudos for originality as well as a warning to those who blindly follow the leader.

Fun to Read

The best thing about Stephanie’s Ponytail is that the book is fun to read. And this is a “must” requirement for any who have a little one that wants a book read again, and again. Munsch captures family and group dynamics. So, the story is easy to relate to. Furthermore, the illustrations aptly portray both the home and school settings. Michael Martchenko is the go-to artist for Munsch books. The partnership works well.

Stephanie’s Ponytail

My children grew up owning several of Munsch’s books. Furthermore they read many more at school. Plus they checked his books out from the library. If I polled them, I am sure there would be four different titles listed as favorites. Love You Forever, Thomas’ Snowsuit and I Have to Go, all earned a place in the family library.

Apparently, my oldest granddaughter is on track to be a reader. She wakes up from naps and grabs books. And “reads.” Furthermore, as soon as I walk in the door, she wants me to read to her. I hope Stephanie’s Ponytail will be one of her favorites because I love reading the story.

Robert Munsch

Munsch recently disclosed he has been diagnosed with dementia. Click here for the interview. He believes the memories of his books will stay with him. From my experience with my Mom, I think he is right.  I wish Munsch and his family well.

I am thankful Annick Press is re-releasing his books. And for publishing them in the first place. The small publishing house spotted a gem all those years ago.

If you have kids in the family and are not familiar with Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko, I highly recommend these wonderful stories. Christmas is just around the corner.

Page of text from Stephanie's Ponytail
Illustration from Stephanie's Ponytail

Wholesome Sandwich Bread

Easy Recipe

Loaf of Wholesome Sandwich Bread cooloing on rack
Finished Loaf

This recipe is for a wholesome sandwich bread. The test trials have been mostly consistent. Bakers know how humidity and temperature can adversely affect baked goods. My Wholesome Sandwich Bread is a mix of flours, both whole wheat and all-purpose. Furthermore, the consistency before baking is a bit unique. It is neither a quick bread nor a kneaded dough. Too sticky for either description. But after baking it is so delicious. Most importantly the bread is perfect for making sandwiches. And the texture is perfect for toast. Lots of texture for holding melted butter or jam.

Key Steps for the Wholesome Sandwich Bread

Yeast breads can be time consuming. This one is a little quicker than most but still involves several hours. What I like best is that the time is somewhat flexible due to the first step-the sponge. In baking, a sponge allows the yeast mixture to interact with the flour. In this case the whole wheat flour.

Flours differ in refinement. Whole wheat needs more water and time to incorporate into a recipe. So a sponge is perfect. My Wholesome Sandwich Bread recipe calls for a flexible time period of 1-4 hours for the sponge to bubble. If you are only using all-purpose flour the sponge can be eliminated.

Another key to consider is the age of the dry yeast. If using individual packets, check the expiration date. Those using jars need an additional check, the time period since the jar was opened. In both cases, if the yeast is not fresh, additional sugar, up to a teaspoon needs to be added into the sponge or batter.

Teaspoon of dry yeast
Measure Dry Yeast
Sugar and yeast
Add pinch of sugar
Water poured over yeast and sugar
Pour warm water over yeast
Sponge of yeast bubbling
Sponge with yeast mixture bubbling through whole wheat flour

Equipment Needed

Stand Mixer

Measuring Spoons and Cups

8 ½ by 4 ½ Loaf Pan

Bowl for Sponge

Towel

Ingredients

Yeast- 1 packet or 2 Heaping Teaspoons

Sugar- A pinch up to a Teaspoon

Water- 1 and 1/3 cup DIVIDED

Whole Wheat Flour- 2/3 Cups

All Purpose Flour- 2 Cups

Wholesome Sandwich Bread Directions

Place yeast and sugar in small bowl. Cover with 1/3 cup warm water (105°F-110°F) and let stand at least one hour. When liquid bubbles through, carefully cover wet area with dry flour.

Scrape sponge into mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of all-purpose flour and one cup warm water. Mix at lowest speed with dough hook until dry flour is fully incorporated. Mixture will be sticky. Cover top of bowl with towel and let rest 20 minutes.

Beat at a low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape into greased loaf pan and let rise until even with the top of the pan. The loaf will continue to rise once in oven. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Bake for 45-50 minutes. (Adjust for your personal oven.) Let cool before slicing.

Wholesome Sandwich Bread

October 2021 Wrap-Up

Halloween

The October 2021 Wrap-Up is here and that means it is Halloween. I am still undecided about opening the doors to Trick-or-Treaters. The general populace seems oblivious to the current resurgence of Covid-19. Additionally, the forecast is one of a wintery mix. In lay terms, a cold rain mixed with sleet or snow or both.

On top of that, the October 2021 Wrap-Up includes the quarterly Inflation Check. There is much talk in the media about price hikes. We will see what my personal check list looks like. Have you checked your list yet?

Also included is a look at winter projects. I am ready to focus on the hobby room until the first of the year when the brassica seeds will be started. Since I was not able to build a greenhouse, only a few plants were brought inside. Hopefully, they will thrive.

Man wearing a Fritos Costume
Both the costume and the wearer have aged since 2005 when this was taken but both are present Halloween October 2021.

Inflation Check Challenge

Keeping track of prices has been enlightening. There is definitely some price creep, but no large leaps in the products I am watching. The largest quarterly increase of available goods was 5% for the dry cat food. This was the first increase for this product since the challenge began.

The largest increase from a percentage standpoint was in canning lids. An increase of 17% is quite meaningless when there is no product to buy. I do not check for lids every day, but quite frequently and have not seen any locally since February. Jars are still available as are packages of rings and lids together. Both incur more cost.

Third Quarter Inflation Check Challenge

ItemAmountJanuary 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
April 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
July 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
October 2021 Price
Regular/Sale
Comments
Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk52 Oz.$3.49$3.99$3.99/$2.99$3.99
Small Bag Signature Select Sugar4 lbs.$2.99$2.99/$1.99$2.99$2.99/$2.49The October sale price was a smaller reduction than in April.
Signature Select Cream Style Corn14.75 Oz.$0.69$0.79$0.79$0.79/$0.65Enjoyed the October sale price.
Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast4 Oz.$6.99$6.99$7.19$7.49Another increase in yeast is concerning. Price before the pandemic was several dollars lower.
BananasPer Pound$0.59$0.55$0.59$0.59
Kraft Real Mayo30 0z.$4.99/$3.79$4.99/$3.99$4.99/$3.79$5.29/$3.99Mayo is still on sale. However the jars were either at or past their Best Use date.
Meow Mix6.3 lbs.$7.78$7.78$7.78$8.22First increase in price for this product about 5%.
Morton Salt26 Oz.$1.19/$0.94$1.19/$0.99$1.19/$0.99$1.29/$0.99Increase in regular price.
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste4.6 Oz.$5.99/$4.99$5.49/$3.99$3.99/$3.49$3.99/$2.99The continued price decline makes one think there is a price subsidy at play.
Align Probiotics28 Count$26.58$26.58$26.58$26.58
Tide Botanical Rain Detergent92 Oz$11.97$11.97$11.97$11.97/$11.39Small Discount
Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids12 Count$3.18$2.88$2.88$3.38The big increase this quarter did not keep buyers away. Still completely sold out each time I check.
3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter1 Count$15.88$15.88$15.88$16.38An increase of 2.5%. Stock was low but not sold out.
Dunkin Donut Boston Cream1 Count$0.99$1.09$1.17$1.09Competition brought the price back down. New coffee shop in town.
Regular Unleaded Gasoline1 Gallon $2.36$2.79$2.79$2.79The local Pilot must have bought a year's worth of product- or else selling at a loss. Prices while travelling topped $3.50. We certainly fill up before leaving town.

October 2021 Wrap-Up in the Hobby Room

October is a transitional month. Outside temperatures can vary widely-even day to day. So, I spend some time in the hobby room. Currently, I have multiple projects going on. One quilt has been layered and is in a stand. At least one hour a day is spent hand quilting this Christmas gift.

Another gift is in the cutting/sewing stage. I did not include rotary cutting blades in the Inflation Check Challenge, but they seem to be a bit more expensive. Each new project usually needs a new blade, so I should have included these. Maybe next year.

A new great-nephew is arriving next February. His quilt is currently in the design stage. I am in a bit of a quandary with this one. I have a great backing piece, with one small problem. It is about ½ inch shorter than my design. So, I am working on the math.

My current plan was to have alternating blocks of a finished seven inch size. The center would be comprised of 16 of these blocks. I was planning on a six inch border. But, to incorporate the design into the border, I end up with seven inches per side. Somehow, somewhere, I will need to “cheat” either a seam allowance, or with the binding. The alternative is to use a boring border.

The final project is a cloth book. I bought the kit at the Alamosa Quilt Company travelling through there in August on the way to Santa Fe. I have been searching for kits like this for several years. The grandkids will love these!

Final Thoughts for the October 2021 Wrap-Up

An ongoing pandemic can be quite depressing. Viruses are pesky. Flus and colds appear every year. Severe consequences vary by type. Few people die from a cold, more from a flu. Covid-19 is more deadly than either. (I am really tired of seeing the 99.9% figure surviving Covid-19 on social media. That is far from true.)  But the novel coronavirus is far, far, less deadly than Ebola or the new virus I am watching- H5N6. Click here to read about this viral flu infection that kills about half of those who contract it.

Since I am not a microbiologist, I cannot offer any valid insight. But I can read and discern. And I can alert as I did back in January 2020.

We need to recognize our world is changing in many ways. Detrimental shifts need to be addressed. Beneficial changes celebrated. The future is uncertain. I intend to do what I can to add value to our world. Conservation is a good place to start. I learned when camping as a Girl Scout to leave the land better than before. What a good lesson for all people, places, and things!

 

 

 

 

The Whole Truth

Recent Read

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci is a recent read for me even though the publication occurred over a decade ago. The theme of disinformation is current. And with one exception, the book could have been written in the last year or so. The only tell that the novel is not fresh is the mention that Osama Bin Laden was still on the run.The Whole Truth Book Cover

Evil Billionaire

Nicholas Creel is the villain of the story. Philanthropic with one hand and greedy capitalist with the other. He has made his billions selling much inflated goods to the Pentagon as well as defense units in other nations.

Creel wants more money. Countries have been concentrating on non-military projects. Sales are down. So he needs tensions to increase. He hires a PR firm to spin a story. The conspiracy begins.

Unwilling Avenger

A man with no first name, A. Shaw is an operative for a secret government agency. His work takes him all over the world. The position is dangerous. A few years back he met the love of his’ life, Anna Fischer. Now he is ready to retire. And marry. But his employer has other plans.

Anna Fischer and Shaw are drawn into the tensions of the world through their respective jobs. Both are determined to find the whole truth. Neither knows they are up against Nicholas Creel.

Recovering Alcoholic

Baldacci stirs the pot with the addition of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Katie James. An alcoholic struggling with recovery, James is trying to claw her way back from hitting rock bottom. An unwitting pawn in Creel’s ploy to bring the world to the verge of war, James nonetheless senses a story. She too, seeks to discover the whole truth.

The Whole Truth

The topic of disinformation was eerily prescient given the publication date. Current events do not mirror Baldacci’s plot. But the sheer amount of disinformation surrounding the pandemic help one suspend disbelief while reading The Whole Truth. A fast paced thriller, the novel tugs at the heart strings as well as entertains.

Those of you who favorably read Baldacci’s Atlee Pine series will enjoy The Whole Truth as well. The author paints bleak pictures of a corrupt world. But then laces each story with hope. Much needed hope.

Results in the 2021 Garden

Crop output

Results in the 2021 garden varied by crop. Pretty typical to be honest. Weather varies year to year. So do outcomes. But there were still some surprising results in the 2021 garden. The early spring rains made an impact.

Fall Flowers arranged in a ceramic pumpkin
Flowers from the 2021 Garden

Legumes

I am still having trouble with my pea plants and their output. Plenty of rain this year and an early last frost date in the spring couldn’t alter the production. However, green beans of various kinds more than made up for this. I had plenty to put up and plenty to let mature to dried status.

Those reading in the spring know I had trouble with my peanut starts. The few that were transplanted did well.

Furthermore, peanuts planted straight into the ground had some success as well. I attribute this to a longer growing season than usual here. Since I can’t expect that to happen twice in a row, I hope for better success with the peanut starts next year. Soaking the seed prior to planting in seed pot is a must.

Tomato Results in the 2021 Garden

The tomatoes were a bit of a disappointment. My goal is to raise enough paste tomatoes to keep the family provided with salsa and spaghetti sauce. If I have enough left over, I even make ketchup. The results in the 2021 garden were abysmal. One batch of salsa. A few pots of spaghetti sauce were consumed immediately. Never enough to put up.

The one success was a slicing tomato. The Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomatoes which grew so erratically in 2020 were perfect in 2021. Perhaps the rains played a part. They were plentiful for the first half of the season.

Biggest Successes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes were among the biggest success stories this past summer. Both crops provided enough to store into the early winter. The root crops netted good size specimens without too many weird shapes.

Herbs also brought good results in the 2021 garden. Dill and basil provided enough to use fresh and to dry for the winter months. The lemon balm escaped the freeze in one location and is still being harvested.  One pot of mint is also thriving. The basil in the Big Garden was nipped by temperatures right at the freezing mark a few days before the hard freeze.

The cucumbers were a success when measured by number. However, I planted a new variety that I just wasn’t happy with. The Parisian cucumbers were very spiny and were only conducive to pickling. And pickling whole for the most part.

So next year, I plan to go back to some tried and true.

Biggest Failures

Mother Nature deals out hardships from time to time. Add on top failure by this farmer to act quickly and you have some poor results in the 2021 garden. I am sure glad I don’t depend on what I can grow to be my sole source of food. After this summer, I have an even greater appreciation for modern conveniences such as the local grocery store.

One watermelon, three cantaloupe, three acorn squash, one very small pie pumpkin. Eggplant that never reached normal size. Beets that germinated at about a one in ten rate. The list goes on and on. I am still scratching my head on why I had such uneven production this past year.

My biggest failure was not spotting the squash bugs on the white pumpkins. The two vines were loaded with pumpkins. Squash bugs not only destroyed the vines but also the fruit. I may need to skip growing any squash next year. This devastation occurred when I was gone for a week. Unbelievably quick.

2022 Season

Next year is just around the corner. I have about a third of my garlic planted. Some of the smaller potatoes were put into a container. They have sprouted and I am trying to grow them indoors. Still no greenhouse in sight. I am making some adjustments on when I will start my seed to see if that will change any of the outcomes. There is always hope for next year.

Large single cabbage head in the garden
A cabbage head survived the cabbage worms.
Cantaloupe vine in garden with two fruit
Small yield on the cantaloupe vine.
Puny watermelon with one small melon
One tiny watermelon.

Divisiveness and the Covid-19 Vaccine

An Opinion Piece

The growing divisiveness in the country (perhaps the world) is bothering me. Individuals have taken opposing sides on various key questions; vaccinations and other health issues, spending limits and other economic policies and last but certainly key-climate change and energy policies. Today I am focusing on the Covid-19 vaccine.

Personally, I think it is good to have opposing views. “Yes” men (and women) bother me. I have long been a fan of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. But we need to remember RESPECT. Something in short supply.

Agree to Disagree

Lately, extremists are decrying the principle of agreeing to disagree. This is terrible. On so many levels. This idea of only one right is wrong and possibly dangerous. A good example can be found in the history of calculus. Both Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz developed principles of calculus-independently. The argument in the late 1600s centered on who should have the credit. As a result, British mathematics was hindered for almost a century. Click here for more of the story.

Just as there can be more than one right, more than one wrong can occur. I am sure each of you can relate to this concept. Unfortunately, two wrongs often create great divides in families and friendships.

So, how do we get past this period of divisiveness? Perhaps by reflecting on history and reading, or re-reading literature both current and classic.

Erasing History

A big concern of mine is erasing history. This is a touchy subject. But an important one. We can’t deny history. Nor should we. The Holocaust happened as did slavery and The Civil War. The flags flown by the Confederates and the Nazis are symbolic. When I see them I remember how horrific actions were. But, the reminder makes me want to not repeat the past. The statues across the country of various Southern and Northern military men also remind me of the divisiveness of the Civil War. I choose to remember. I believe if we erase the past and forget, we will repeat our mistakes.

Remembering history, or researching if not known is helpful. There was divisiveness during the Spanish Flu. Masks and isolation were the triggering points. Some towns literally shut themselves off from the world. (Click here for history.)

Vaccines are the current divider. The dissension is great. Neighbors are divided. Co-workers are divided. Political leaders are divided.

Pandemic Divisiveness

We are now edging close to the end of the second year in this pandemic. My guess is we have another year to go. I would like to be wrong-on the short side. We haven’t learned much in the last 100 years. And yet our knowledge has grown greatly.

The fear of the unknown is dividing us. Early adopters versus late adopters, risk takers versus the wait and see type.  The divisions are great. Fear of the unknown. But is there more? Does the education system come into play? What about our communication system? So much information is available via the Internet. Can the information be easily understood? And more importantly vetted! I think pre-prints need closer examination than what is being given by the various disseminators. This includes media on all levels; mainstream and back-channel.

But the media does not bear all the blame. We do as individuals. Where is our commonsense? Why can’t we discern the truth from the fake?

 

Late Adopter

I am a late adopter. I like to see things work. But I also know risks can have rewards. My daughters are proof of that. So, I am educated enough to seek good advice. When the vaccines first came out, I was reluctant to try the new mRNA type. Thus, I talked to my General Practitioner (GP), a doctor I have seen for decades. And I took his advice.

He gave good advice. I had no adverse reactions to either Moderna shot. Crowded places still worry me but I feel very comfortable spending time with family members also fully vaccinated. You only see a first crawl or step once! And I am traveling again.

But the pandemic is pushing our healthcare workers to their limits. It is not just long hours. A lack of respect is my biggest concern. The world needs to wake up to the reality of this pandemic. Mental illness is taking a big toll as well. Conspiracy theories abound regarding the vaccines. In at least one case, a sibling is accused of killing his brother-a health care worker. (Only click here if you need proof.) Over a vaccine. So very sad.

Big Brother

There is great division over mandated vaccines. I am a big believer in gray areas. Some people cannot and should not get vaccinated. Personally, I know two individuals that fall in this category. Their health needs preclude any vaccination.

I don’t believe the government needs to mandate vaccines. If private businesses, including health care facilities want to require certain vaccinations, I am okay with that policy. But non-complying employees need time to consider the ramifications. And to find another place to work.

My personal stance is to encourage vaccines. I think they make a positive difference in this world. For those who are non-risk takers and even later adopters than I am, non mRNA vaccines against Covid-19 are available.

Of course I am biased. Multiple family members died before the vaccines became available. Friends and acquaintances as well. My heart cringes each time a helicopter flies overhead. The hospital landing pad is nearby. This is not new. Flying people out is not something taken lightly. Unfortunately many have Covid-19.

Respect for Health Care Workers and Decision Makers

It is a tough time to be in charge. Decisions of utmost importance are being made on a daily basis. Not everyone is in agreement. Unfortunately, mutual respect is breaking down.

In my little part of the world, the hospital board has decided to mandate Covid-19 vaccines. As a patient from time to time, I respect this decision. This decision is not popular. Almost ten percent of the staff is unvaccinated. I do not know how many asked for exemptions, either medical or religious, but only one was granted. Perhaps this is too low a number.

Our community is divided. There have been letters to the editor and lots of donut shop talk. All is good as long as there is respect. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. I live in a county where the majority of citizens have not been vaccinated. Twelve percent of the population has tested positive for Covid-19. Even if there were no overlapping, we do not have herd immunity. Overlapping occurs.

Divisiveness-The End Result

Unfortunately, I see a long winter ahead for this rural area. One replete with divisiveness. I encourage anyone not vaccinated to talk to their primary health care doctor. If still not convinced to join the vaccinated, please practice other measures. Stay away from crowds. Limit the number of people in your circle of contacts. Wear a protective mask correctly. Protect yourself in the best way possible. This virus is real.

We need to all remember this: We are responsible for our own actions.

References and Reading Recommendations

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7264614/

https://www.denverpost.com/2020/03/29/pandemic-1918-spanish-flu-colorado-coronavirus/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jeffrey-burnham-killed-pharmacist-brother-covid-vaccine-shots-poisoning/

Books of Interest:

Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

1984- George Orwell

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused it– Gina Kolata

The Great Influenza- John M. Barry

Breathtaking: The UK’s Human Story of Covid- Rachel Clarke

Populism: Before and After the Pandemic- Michael Burleigh

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story Book Review

The Premonition

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis is an indictment on America’s response to Covid-19. This non-fiction account is critical of various governmental entities. But the bigger takeaway is the hard work of many individuals. Their attempts to stop the spread were hampered by red tape.

Key Players

The Premonition is like a series of mini-biographies. The opening chapters focus on a school science project. Laura Glass, as a high school student, studied the social spread of pathogens. With the help of her father, Bob, a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, a computer model was developed to predict outcomes. The experiment keyed on social distancing. (Fast forward to the crisis in 2020 and the computer model found a real-life application.)

Carter Mecher is another linchpin in The Pandemic narrative. Mecher’s biography is quite interesting. He was raised in a working class household. Nonetheless, he pursued a medical degree and shined in critical care situations. Eventually, he climbed the ranks of the Veteran’s Affairs as a troubleshooter of the program.

He was in this position in 2005 when then President Bush called for a national pandemic plan. Mecher along with Richard Hatchett became the principle authors of the plan. Furthermore, the two men with diverse personalities, remain close colleagues. We also learn Hatchett’s history.

2005 Pandemic Plan

Hatchett and Mecher discover the computer model developed by Glass. Then they incorporate major pieces of Laura Glass’ project into the plan. Vaccines were only a piece of the puzzle. Pathogens are spread in social settings. Since two of the largest places of socialization are schools and work settings, both were addressed. Next, the plan had to be sold to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) and later to the American public.

Another key author of the national pandemic plan is Lisa Koonin , at the time with the CDC. But, her work on the document took place after hours. In the end, the CDC published its’ own work and the Hatchett and Mecher collaboration was published sans Koonin listed as an author. However, the two men gave direct praise to Koonin.

The Premonition

Charity Dean is the woman with the premonition, or more accurately premonitions. Her biography is the most compelling of the bunch. Lewis spends quite a bit of time detailing  her background. And with good reason. Dean is a force to be reckoned with. As is her devotion to public health.

In The Premonition, the State of California employed Dean. Her career spanned from the county level to the position of Assistant Director of the State Department of Public Health. The Premonition details the roadblocks Dean encountered. It is inferred that the pushback experienced during the early months of 2020 led to her new position in the private sector.

Indictments within The Premonition

Criticism of various governmental groups is a part of The Premonition. Neither political party escapes. Both the Trump White House and the Gavin Newsom California administration failed to recognize the talent and expertise available to them. But the most glaring failure of all belongs to the CDC.

Lewis traces the weakness of the CDC back to the Swine Flu debacle of the late 1970s. This is the point the agency lost its’ independence. Since then, politics has played a big part.

He also portrays the agency as a large bureaucracy unable or unwilling to make decisions. Instead, he suggests the CDC prefers to study and analyze problems. Not solve them.

Lewis is not all negative. His mini-biographies demonstrate that the country has many hard-working and brilliant scientists. He blames the pandemic response, or lack thereof, more on process than on people. I agree to a point.

Recommendation

I found a few things missing.

First of all, the lack of accurate statistics is not really mentioned. Lewis cites the U.S.A. as a country with four percent of the world’s population. But having more than twenty percent of the Covid-19 cases. I use the Johns Hopkins Covid Tracker for my data. These numbers do not match. Furthermore, an open society such as the United States will have a more accurate account (although not perfect) of cases. Numbers from communist countries should be taken with a large grain of salt. This leeriness of the presented data is particularly true considering the calculated death rate of the United States is in line with the world rate.

Secondly, Michael Lewis handled several governmental experts with kid gloves. Most notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Nothing was discussed about Fauci’s admitted lies to the American public concerning the airborne transmission of the virus and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) especially masks. I see this as a failure on the author’s part.

Furthermore, I found the delay in recognizing Covid-19 as a concern. I first wrote about the coronavirus in January 2020. Only Charity Dean’s December 2019 premonition predates me.

Overall, the hours spent reading The Premonition were well spent. The individuals above are only a small representation of those highlighted in the book. All give hope for a better future. If you are not tired of the pandemic, this book provides information of interest.

Jack of Spies Book Review

Jack of Spies by David Downing is not a recent release. But I urge you to find a copy. It is that good. The historical fiction with a bit of romance covers the time period just prior to World War I. The book features the many technological advances of that time.

Book Cover for Jack of Spies

Protagonist

Jack McColl is a full time car salesman and part time British spy at the beginning of Jack of Spies, peddling cars in China. And spying on the Germans a year before the start of The Great War was just one of his assignments.

Right from the start, McColl is attracted to American Caitlyn Hanley, a progressive, independent journalist also travelling vast regions of the world. Throughout the relationship McColl struggles with divided loyalties. Will he choose the love of a lifetime or his dream career?

Jack of Spies Plot

The author weaves a tale of espionage involving diverse nations. In addition to the Germans attempting influence in China and Mexico, much is made on an alliance with Irish rebels both in Ireland and abroad. There is no love lost between the Germans and the British even before hostilities break out.

Anywhere civil unrest is occurring, the Germans are nearby to provide a bit of prodding. McColl’s job is to keep tabs and run interference. Also, he is tasked with cover-ups a time or two. But one of the biggest challenges he faces is in America. Early 20th century workers are easy prey for outside groups socialistic in nature.

Downing does a fantastic job of portraying the conditions leading to the movement toward unionization. He also conveys a time of dissension in various locales. This was the time of the Mexican revolution and the prelude to the Irish War of Independence. But most of all the run up to World War I. The history is well weaved into the plot.

Action vs. Intrigue

There is quite a bit of action throughout the novel with multiple attacks on McColl’s life. But, the novel is more than an action adventure. There is intrigue and political commentary. Furthermore, historical facts are woven in with the fiction. Most of all there is a reluctance toward war among the mature and at the same time a bloodthirst by the young.

Recommendation for Jack of Spies

I absolutely loved Jack of Spies. It was a book picked from a pile of possibilities while on vacation. The time period is what sold me as I have not read much fiction set in the early twentieth century. And I feel so fortunate to discover another new to me author. He has written a number of books and I can’t wait to find the sequel to Jack of Spies.

If you are a fan of either spy novels or historical fiction this is must read. Find a copy today.

Head Wounds Book Review

Head Wounds is a Michael Mc Garrity novel and begins in the border country of New Mexico. Additional settings include the Mescalero Reservation and various locations in the northern regions of Mexico. Characters represent a number of diverse cultures. The main characters each have their own moral code- even the killers.

Head Wounds Book Cover

Characters

Even though the book is billed as a Kevin Kerney novel, in my opinion it is not. Kerney makes cameo appearances which really add nothing to the story. Clayton Istee, Kerney’s son, is the key character at the beginning of Head Wounds. But only at the beginning.

El Jefe is the antagonist to Istee. Also known as Estavio Trevino and by his true name of Wind Stands with Bear Among the Wallows, El Jefe is an assassin. He has his own code of honor and is a fascinating character. There is good at the core of a very violent man.

By the end of Head Wounds, Istee has taken a secondary role to a pair of federal agents. Yet he is brought back in at the conclusion. Perhaps this is an intentional display of governmental hierarchy. However, to a new reader of McGarrity’s work, it was a bit off-putting.

Head Wounds- Action vs. Plot

The action packed novel opens with a triple murder. The two main victims had ties to a crime committed on the Mescalero Reservation. However, a different crime caused a contract to be issued for their deaths. Thus starts a tangled plot line.

Many characters with overlapping ties create complicated stories. Head Wounds is a prime example of this situation. McGarrity throws in surprise elements in character motivation which add various twists to the plot. But the main driver of the story is action. Time lapses are well-explained and do not detract from the plot. Instead, the passages of time add realism.

Recommendation for Head Wounds

If you are a big fan of Michael McGarrity, I have a feeling this novel will be a “can’t miss” for you. I bought the book on my recent trip to Santa Fe off a local authors’ table. Readers not familiar with his work may want to check out a copy from the nearest library. Head Wounds is a quick read and ideal for settings such as a long plane ride or a rainy day. Engaging and distracting, I finished the book in one afternoon.

A caveat- the book contains a lot of violence along with beautiful landscape descriptions. And lines blur between the good guys and the bad guys. Well worth the time spent reading, yet I will not be anxiously awaiting another.

Finding Inner Peace Twenty Years Later- A 9/11 Memorial

Sudden Loss

Finding inner peace after a loss of life is difficult. Even expected death takes time to process. But sudden, unexpected loss of life is a trauma unto itself. Individual loss is hard and permanent. Community loss and national loss take years to process and years to manifest. Thus, this reflection.

September 11, 2001

The immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks was one of national unity. Since then, the United States of America has been anything but united. Were the attacks the catalyst? I do not know. But I miss the unity and detest the divisiveness.

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the unprovoked attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C. and indeed the entire country. Therefore many events marking this collective tragedy are scheduled for today. Parades, assemblies, and memorials-in big cities and small towns. Families will gather and many will spend time reflecting on loved ones lost.

I was half a country away from the East Coast on that fateful day. But I took the attacks personally. I knew people in those buildings. Visits to the twin towers were always an event. The bustling offices full of life. The exquisite dining experience at Windows on the World. For me, the towers represented NYC. And I know how hard the survivors struggle on a daily basis. Twenty Years Later. My hope is those directly affected have found a modicum of inner peace.

The attack on the Pentagon evoked similar feelings. I was fortunate enough to experience a personal tour of this iconic building during my teenage years. The brigadier general guiding us was a friend of the family. Massive, wide hallways filled with purpose and industry fill my memory. This fortress was penetrated but fortunately not destroyed.

Anger and Dismay Precede Inner Peace

After the initial shock wore off my feelings turned dark. I was dismayed by those countries that blamed the United States. One in particular bothered me because of how many American lives were lost in the two World Wars trying to free its’ citizens from tyranny. So, on my one visit to Europe in 2008, the bitterness kept me from visiting this important source of culture.

I was also angry that certain religious leaders condoned the attacks. Perhaps, fringe elements, but still leaders of a mainstream religion. For an individual who believes religion and forgiveness are entwined, this continues to be a personal struggle.

Inner Peace

The passage of time may not heal all wounds. But an inner peace can be reached. At least on a personal level. Water and nature are keys in my family. At home, our fountains provide the sound of moving water. The movement is a subliminal reminder of time. It flows on.

For this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I have retreated to my favorite mountain town. Four generations are gathered adjacent to the gurgling Gore Creek. Windows are open to the mountain air. Thanks to the pandemic, remote work can be done allowing more participants. As the day unfolds, my wish on this day, the anniversary of such an infamous event, is a focus on inner peace and outward harmony.

Fountains at Night

Fire glowing in outdoor fireplace

Gore Creek

View of Mountain Creek

Gore Creek Again

View of Gore Creek

August 2021 Wrap-Up

A Scorcher

August 2021 on the High Plains was a scorcher. But, a couple of afternoon thunderstorms brought some much needed moisture. And relief for a day or two from watering. Travel also provided some respite from the triple digit heat.

August 2021 In The Garden

Unlike last year, the current crop of Roma Tomatoes is struggling with a blight. The fruit is small and the vines are shriveling even before ripening. Fortunately, other crops are producing so I have plenty of options.

Cucumbers and green beans are vying with each other to be king of the garden. There will be plenty of pickles and beans this winter. I have designated one tower of beans to stay on the vine. This way I will enjoy dried beans as well as fresh green beans.

I am also harvesting broccoli, Swiss chard and a few beets. The blue potatoes are almost ready to harvest. Since we are not forecast to go below freezing anytime soon, some of the longer developing crops should do better this year.

August 2021 In the Library

This month marked a return to reading and reviewing on a more regular basis. The ratio of fiction to non-fiction was 3-1, not too bad. The fictional settings were from various parts of the United States. I found them quite enjoyable. And I highly recommended Liquids Till Lunch, the self-help book towards overall wellness.

Special Projects

I have been working on some special projects in the sewing room. They are gifts so no hints or pictures-yet. One was quite difficult because there was not a pattern. I hope to write about this old-fashioned gift next week.

Travel

The Alamosa Quilt Company was on my list of stops while escaping the heat. If you are ever in this high mountain valley town, this store is a great place to shop. The staff is very knowledgeable and the selection is top notch.

There is a back way to Santa Fe from Alamosa. The drive is relaxing until you are almost to the Capitol City of New Mexico. Non-Interstate roads can be quite the treat, but not if you are in a hurry. As I wrote in Summertime In Santa Fe, this road trip is one we take periodically. The food is great and so is the artwork. Santa Fe is truly a can’t miss destination.

A Difficult Point in Time

World events during August 2021 were complex and disturbing. Covid-19 is striking again. Arguments continue on many levels, but in my part of the world the biggest controversies revolve around vaccinations, treatments, and masks.

Here in the United States, repercussions from the changing climate include massive fires and large storms including hurricanes. The destruction is great. Unfortunately, the arguments and finger-pointing rival those surrounding Covid-19.

Last and certainly the most unsettling is the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Words truly fail. Much was sacrificed these past twenty years and to no avail. One hopes September is better.

Liquids Till Lunch Book Review

Mary Ruth’s Liquids Till Lunch

Mary Ruth’s Liquids Till Lunch: 12 Small Habits That Will Change Your Life For Good is an interesting self-help book written by Mary Ruth Ghiyam with Sarah Durand. While the title may hint as a diet book, Liquids Till Lunch encompasses an all-around approach to well-being. Each habit has a designated chapter. Furthermore, the habits fall into a tighter parameter of mental wellness, sleep, nutrition and exercise.

Nutrition

Intermittent fasting is not new. In Liquids Till Lunch there is actually more leeway than other approaches I have read about. Liquids can include juices, smoothies, and limited caffeinated beverages. And of course water. Meals are suggested at noon, three and seven. According to the author this allows your body to both burn more fat and sleep better.

What was new to me was the concept introduced in Chapter 2-Chew Your Food Until It Becomes Liquid. To be honest, I was very skeptical that this was even possible. I was wrong. Furthermore, the author’s key points were right on target. A can’t miss chapter.

Chapters 3-5 offered more nutritional advice from the expert. The tips offered in the “Move Forward Everyday” boxes are great. Advice from using moderation with respect to eating and drinking to canvassing your fridge and pantry on a daily basis are commonsense and useful.

Fifteen Minutes of Sunshine

Chapter six is a bit hard to categorize since it impacts wellness on multiple levels. Natural Vitamin D has been shown to combat Covid-19. Spending time each day in the sun also helps with sleep. This chapter is key.

In addition to the importance of daily sunshine, Liquids Till Lunch addresses the concerns about screen time and blue light. I have invested in blue light blocking glasses and I have my computer settings set to adjust brightness at a certain time of day. Both suggestions from the book. However, I need to incorporate the mindfulness exercises as suggested. Because I still have sleep problems as I discuss here.

Sleep

The chapter on sleep urges all to get seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. As the author emphasizes, good sleep is imperative for mental clarity. Lack of sleep creates poor decision making. New information within this chapter will be tried. I know lack of sleep is an area of concern for me.

Ghiyam stresses that people experiencing insomnia need perseverance. She posits that the regular habit of good sleep will take hard work to achieve. I personally have a task in front of me.

Exercise

Two chapters focus on the benefits of exercise, both calling for daily action. To follow this advice one needs to carve out forty-five minutes a day; fifteen for stretching and thirty of exercise. Difficult, but not impossible.

Stretching and exercising are key components in self-care. In addition to the many tips for working these forty-five minutes into hectic schedules is the health logic behind the need. There are two points offering a differing point of view. The first, stretching is detrimental right before a hard workout and the second is the inclusion of ballistic stretching. I need to ponder these ideas more.

The connection of stretching to mental health is presented. Both stretching and exercise provide mental and physical benefits. As the author presents, life is about choices. Daily stretching and exercise are beneficial choices, ones I hope to continue.

Mental Wellness

The last chapters of the book focus on aspects of mental wellness. Stress Less, Think Positively and Believe in a Universal Force of Goodness are the topics. These self-help chapters are crucial in today’s negative world. The ideas seem simple, yet can be hard to achieve.

In the chapter on stress, Ghiyam discusses the correlation between mental stress and physical illness. Then she offers steps to alleviate the pressures of everyday life. For example, in a Move Forward Everyday box, she suggests packing a lunchbox to alleviate stress caused by hunger (and out of kilter sugar levels), not going to bed angry, and idea I have already adopted, making a to-do list for the following day.

In another box, the author discusses personal relationships. Again, the insights are helpful and positive. As are the many anecdotes and examples throughout. This continues into the following chapter, Think Positively.

To be honest, reading the chapter on positivity kept reminding me of a young blogger I personally know and follow. Madison Dorenkamp posts frequently on staying positive as well as “deleting the negatives.” Click here to read a post on positivity written at the beginning of the pandemic.

Mary Ruth Ghiyam is another positive soul. She is inspirational. Perhaps those individuals that have truly faced hardships are the best role models for facing adversity with a positive outlook. Her thought process shared in the book is one to follow. Stuff happens. The true measure of an individual is how one reacts to the “stuff” of life.

This ties into the final chapter, Believe in a Universal Force of Goodness. This inclusive chapter has a lot to offer the reader. At times, such as this pandemic era, things will be beyond control. Belief can carry an individual past the crisis.

Recommendation for Liquids Till Lunch

I checked this book out of the library. Soon, copies will be purchased. Self-help books are among my favorite gifts. Liquids Till Lunch certainly qualifies for this category. I highly recommend!

Book cover of Liquids Till Lunch

The Heat is On

Triple Digits

Here in my little corner of the world the heat is on. The days of triple digit heat are bearable only by getting outside work done by 9:00 A.M. and staying inside the remainder of the day. Air conditioning is a help.

The critters are also reeling from the heat. Box turtles and garter snakes are seeking refuge on the shade of the porch. The startle effect is great even when you know they dwell in the garden. The toads look forward to the watering cycles and seek hiding spots under the portulaca and cucumbers.

The heat is on high this time of year. Noon lunches no longer happen outside as temperatures edge closer to the triple number. Nor do evening dinners as the cool down often occurs after bedtime.

Indoor Activities

Central air allows me to work in the kitchen after the heat chases me indoors. Canning tomatoes, grape jelly and processing beans for the freezer is doable with the cool air. I am thankful for living in the time of electricity. And sympathize with those across the world without reliable energy. Rolling brown outs would make life difficult. No electricity even more so.

Other activities take place in the basement. The craft room is a combination of sewing space, book shelves and garden planning area. The underground aspect provides a naturally cool place to hang out. I can see why early settlers to this part of the country lived in dugouts.

Ways to Combat Nature when The Heat is On

When we first moved to this small town on the High Plains we lived in a house built shortly after the First World War. Naturally, the house did not have air-conditioning. We were fortunate to have a row of mature evergreen trees on the west side of the lot as well as a towering poplar tree on the southwest side of the house. This experience gave us ideas for when we were finally able to build our present house back in the early ‘90s.

Deciduous trees planted to the south and southwest of a building will provide shade in the summer and at the same time allow the sun to warm the house during the colder months. Porches also provide a relief from the sun.

Windbreaks also help. Trees can act as windbreaks as can hardscape fences. A twenty mile an hour wind can be brutal at extreme temperatures-such as triple digits when the heat is on. Those southwest winds can create an oven effect. Not a pleasant experience and why this time of year is my least favorite.

Back in the days of no air-conditioning, we cooled down in two ways not related to nature. The first was to take the kids to the community pool on nights it was open. The second was to frequent the town’s lone cinema. Both provided relief.

Last but not least is drinking plenty of liquids. Non-caffeinated, sugarless are preferable. And that means a heavy concentration of water. Staying hydrated combats the intense heat.

I am counting down the days until September 22nd, the first official day of fall.

 

Providing Natural Cooling

Trees providing natural shade when the heat is on

The Scorpion’s Tail Book Review

The Scorpion’s Tail Book Review

I picked up The Scorpion’s Tail in a New Mexico bookstore because it was written by one of my favorite writing duos, Preston & Child. No reading of the front cover or checking of the publication date. So, I was in for a surprise and a treat.

The Scorpion’s Tail belongs to the Nora Kelly series but reads as a standalone-for the most part. One character waltzed in toward the end without much introduction and then quickly waltzed out. It was not a major problem for this new reader although I am sure previous readers of the series had a better idea of the relevancy.

Women Driven

The novel has a wide cast of characters. Young FBI Special Agent Corrie Swanson and archaeologist Nora Kelly drive the action. Sometimes their paths meander apart, but the key action brings them together to unravel the mystery of hidden gold. Female leads make the action interesting, although Nora Kelly is backed up by her brother and the young FBI agent seems to get along quite well with an equally young Sheriff Homer Watts.

There is a balance. The authors do have an action thread toward the conclusion driven by the aforementioned Watts and Supervisory Special Agent Hale Morwood. It is quite refreshing to read an action/adventure where neither sex is diminished.

The Scorpion’s Tail Location

It was a treat to read a novel set in New Mexico. Especially, on my return trip from visiting Santa Fe. The descriptive settings matched the terrain we were driving through. Preston & Child capture the vast wilderness without slowing down the action. Picturesque writing to mirror the gorgeous state.

New Mexico

New Mexico Landscape

Plot of The Scorpion’s Tail

Essentially the tale of The Scorpion’s Tail is a treasure hunt. Multiple entities are on the hunt for ancient gold. During the ensuing search, looting and murder bring in the authorities. Special Agent Swanson enlists the aid of Nora Kelly in order to identify a mummied corpse.

There are only a few twists and turns in the plot. The bad guys are fairly easy to identify. Instead, the plot is a race to find the gold. A highly entertaining race!

Recommendation

I highly recommend The Scorpion’s Tail. Everything about the book is topnotch. Even though part of a series, the novel stands on its’ writing. The characters are well-developed and I plan to go back and read Old Bones where both Kelly and Swanson first appear on the page. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have another hit on their hands.

Summertime in Santa Fe

August Get Away

A quick August two day trip gave us a look at summertime in Santa Fe. Mid-Covid-19. New Mexico implemented a hard shut down in 2020. At the present time rules are more relaxed. But evidence of the pandemic remain.

On our approach, highway warning signs proclaimed- Delta variant is here: Cases on the upswing- in blinking lights. So, tourists are forewarned. We took notice an acted accordingly.

Favorite Haunts

Many of our favorite places remain operational. Once again we stayed at The Inn of the Governors. This non-branded hotel offers exceptional service. We noticed quite an increase in price. Since this is our first summertime in Santa Fe trip, it is unknown if the higher prices are normal or a sign of inflation. Before, we visited in the off season.

A few places were no longer around. Our favorite cheese shop closed in 2020. The bike rental place indicated they would not be open in 2021. (We hiked a 10K instead.) But all three of the restaurants discussed in Wintertime Santa Fe were thriving.

For the most part we relaxed and stayed away from crowded areas. We took advantage of the outside dining at Osterio D’Assisi. Coupled with a late dining hour, we felt quite comfortable sitting in the open air. It was nice to chat with the couple at a nearby table, all while maintaining social distance.

Our second night, we ordered takeout from Del Charro and relaxed in a small alcove outside our hotel room. The weekend crowds had built throughout Friday afternoon and that factored into the decision. Tired legs were also an influence. The hanging baskets, replete with hummingbirds provided ambiance.

Hidden Gem of the Summertime in Santa Fe Visit

The highlight of the trip was the discovery of a new place to grab a bite of lunch and escape from the hustle and bustle of life. And we found Ahmyo Wine Garden by chance. Serendipity at play.

Undeterred Friday morning by the inability to rent a bike, we explored the area north of Santa Fe by foot. Fort Marcy Park was the starting point of our trek. We meandered through the neighborhoods for about three miles before connecting to Gonzalez Road for the return to town via a trip down Canyon Road.

Our plan was to stop at The Teahouse on the upper part of Canyon, a street know for art studios and boutiques with just a sprinkling of eateries. Unfortunately, The Teahouse was packed. Tables close together and the wait list an hour long.

So we continued downhill looking for outdoor seating. About half way down I spied a sandwich board advertising the Ahmyo Wine Garden. It was almost lost among the many signs on Canyon Road. After walking through the art gallery, one stumbles upon a true hidden oasis.

We split a sandwich and a cheese board, drank our fill of bottled water, one sparkling and one still. And sampled a local New Mexico wine. The restaurant has been open only a few months with the addition of wine in the last few weeks. Very few people were there- a hidden gem that I doubt will stay unknown for long. But in this time of Covid-19, I was glad to find a place with tables spread out in a peaceful garden. The ambiance made up for a limited menu. Perfection, pure perfection. If you visit Santa Fe, make sure to take a break at the Ahmyo Wine Garden.

Fountain in Ahmyo Wine Garden
Dragonfly sculpture

Signs of the Pandemic

In addition to the aforementioned Delta is Here highway sign, many people donned masks throughout the city. Currently there is not a mandate. Businesses had Covid related messages on their entries. The signs varied by request. I noted many “if you are vaccinated masks not necessary, but mandatory for unvaccinated.” A few asked all to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Compliance was high. But not 100%.

There were people coughing. I will admit this is a bit unsettling. And I wonder how long a simple cough will make me nervous. It truly is a curse to live in interesting times.

Pent-Up Demand

There were many signs of pent-up demand. Summertime in Santa Fe is full of tourists, pop-up art shows, musicians on The Plaza and a back to normal Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. Restaurants are full, as are hotels. Merchants must be relieved to ring up sales again.

Delta is lurking. Two-thirds of adults living in New Mexico are fully vaccinated. Will this be enough to provide protection from the influx of visitors? It is too early to tell.

Striking a balance is key. Enjoy the slideshow.

Summertime in Santa Fe

The Bounty Book Review

The Bounty is a Fox and O’Hare adventure written by Janet Evanovich with Steve Hamilton. The series features mastermind Nick Fox and his FBI handler Kate O’Hare. A series that I started reading with the first release- The Heist. But the series has had a change of co-writers through the years. And I will admit, The Bounty is the first of the series I have read in a while.

Plot of The Bounty

The Bounty is one of those around the world adventures. The opening scene has Fox and O’Hare consulting with the Vatican Security to stop a theft. However, a problem arises and it is a huge conflict of interest for Nick Fox. The successful burglar is none other than Quentin Fox. Nick’s Dad.

For readers, the action scenes at the Vatican provide the hook to keep reading the novel. This remains the case throughout The Bounty. Each time I was tempted to stop reading, the action pushed me forward. From one country to another. All in pursuit of gold-stolen by the Nazis.

In other words the action is quick paced. So the story shouldn’t drag. Yet at times there was drag…something was off.

Writing Duos

I have reviewed many books featuring co-authors. The most recent, the excellent offering by Christina Lauren with The Soulmate Equation. I also enjoy novels by popular duo Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Further, I love the combination of Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison.

Since The Bounty is the first collaboration between Evanovich and Hamilton, I am willing to read a follow-up attempt. I will be looking for more tension between the main characters as well as quick paced action.

I envy prolific writers. There are times when I struggle with each sentence. Furthermore, I respect authors such as Evanovich that can capture the reader with the same character such as Stephanie Plum for decades. So, I was a bit disappointed in the characters of The Bounty. The personal interactions were forced and out of character.

Recommendation for The Bounty

The copy of The Bounty that I read was a large print edition borrowed from the public library. Perfect for reading on a day one needs to stay indoors. My suggestion is to look for a copy at your local library or read an E edition. And if you are not fans of either author, another book choice may be for you.

Meant to Be Book Review

Small Town America

Fictional Mason, Kansas, the setting for Meant to Be, is representative of hundreds of small towns across the Great Plains. And thousands of similar communities all across flyover country. Even though Jude Deveraux paints a less gritty picture than those of author Kent Haruf, the depiction of small town life hits a bull’s eye.

Outsiders to rural America are not immediately accepted. Adapting to places without stoplights and shopping malls can be difficult. Unravelling who is related to whom and how, is even more challenging. Over time individuals either become part of the community. Or move away.

The roadblocks in life are just as taxing for those born and bred in small towns. The yearning to explore the outside world can run strong. The struggle between desire and duty to family is very real. Deveraux captures this conflict in her latest novel.

Meant to Be

Growing up I often heard the phrase “It wasn’t meant to be.” My paternal grandmother used it most often. The words were an effort to console a youngster when she couldn’t have everything she wanted. Deveraux’s use of the phrase takes a slight twist. Sometimes things are meant to be-regardless of what life presents. In this book, true love among the key characters is inevitable. Life delays, but doesn’t erase.

The storyline revolves around the Exton sisters. Close in age, but far apart in dreams. Vera yearns to explore the world while Kelly desires to make the small town of Mason her world. Throw in multiple love interests and you have an intriguing tale of passion and true love.

Generational Themes

Meant to Be begins in the early 1970s and continues to the present day. The sisters age and remain close in heart if not proximity. There are twists and turns as each generation faces consequences stemming from the actions of the initial characters. The author’s writing tugs at the heart strings. Life is messy and world events impact small towns on a grand scale.

I thoroughly enjoyed Meant to Be. Deveraux captures the conflict of the Vietnam War, the complexity of Equal Rights and many other challenges of the past fifty years. Both technological and sociological. She paints a picture of change without preachiness. Or superiority. Instead, her writing reflects the culture. All while weaving a story of love, lost and found.

Book Cover of novel Meant to Be

July 2021 Wrap-Up

After a two month hiatus I am returning to the monthly wrap-ups with the July 2021 edition. This month will include a comparison of prices as well as a summary of events. Even though the book reviews are fewer, the gardening and travel offer plenty to discuss.

Covid-19 and Summer Travel

Without a deep dive into the numbers, it is hard to correlate the media reports of new Covid-19 outbreaks with observation. In the last six weeks I have put 5000 miles on my Subaru Outback crossing the country. Thirteen states in all. People are travelling everywhere. In addition to a few examples of gas shortages, hotel rooms along interstate highways are also in high demand.

I still prefer to pack food along in a cooler. But to be honest this habit developed pre-pandemic. At the end of a long day of travel, often the last thing I want to do is find a restaurant. Picnic lunches at rest areas also hold an attraction over fast food.

July 2021 Travel

The longest trip in July took me all the way to Florida for the Celebrating Life event honoring my Mom. The much needed closure allowed me to see family that I was separated from during the Covid-19 pandemic. I truly hope this pandemic will run its course and does not get repeated in my lifetime.

I took a slight detour through Texas Hill Country on the return trip. It has been more than a decade since my last visit. This is a beautiful part of the country. And worth leaving the Interstate system to visit. Rural areas suddenly turn into small (and not so small cities) and vice versa. Fair warning, the torrential downpours still occur almost daily. Of course that makes for good grazing. I saw plenty of herds on my trip including the infamous longhorns. But no white Cadillacs with the horns on front. Most likely an iconic image of the past.

July 2021 In The Garden

The toughest part of travel in the summer is the neglect to the garden. Fortunately, the Raised Row technique I use keeps the Big Garden relatively free of weeds. However, a few cucumbers grew so big that they became food for my niece’s chickens. I did have enough of the right size to turn into six pints of pickles. The canning season is just getting started.

The first of the potatoes and the last of the garlic have also been harvested. Green beans, eggplant and tomatoes are all starring in the garden. Unfortunately, there have been casualties as well. Neither the artichoke nor the avocado were able to survive the neglect.

We are fortunate the rains continue. The most recent storm dropped over an inch. Plenty to help with the veggies which seem to prefer natural water over human supplied. The rain also helps keep the utility bill in check.

Overgrown Cucumbers

Cucumbers of all sizes
The chickens enjoyed the over ripe ones!

Fair Time

It is county fair time on the High Plains. Last year many of the fairs were cancelled or mere shadows of previous years. This year should be a return to normal. For those of you in major cities, many counties here have been without a case in months while the more populated counties average one every week or ten days. Thus it is hard for inhabitants to want to maintain isolation.

County fairs in this part of the country focus on the 4-H kids. They also offer rodeos and parades. The fairs are community events. Most of the county high schools have all school reunions in election years. That was skipped last year. A lost year. All school reunions are possible because average class sizes hover in the dozens-or fewer.

Price Comparisons in July 2021

My travel in July 2021 allowed me a glimpse at prices across the country. Gasoline has been the most intriguing. While it is $2.79 in my home town, a high of $3.65 was spotted in both Colorado and Tennessee.

I did some grocery shopping in Florida. The comparisons were quite interesting. Twenty pounds of rice in Florida is almost half what I pay. But the beef prices were much, much higher. I chalk that up to transportation costs.

Thus, the timing for the Inflation Check Challenge is perfect. The current quarter price comparison follows.

Inflation Check Challenge

ItemAmountJanuary PriceApril PriceJuly PriceComments
Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk52 Oz$3.49$3.99$2.99July Price on sale Regular price $3.99
Small Bag Signature Select Sugar4 Lbs$2.99$1.99$2.99April Price on Sale Regular Price $2.99
Signature Select Cream Style Corn14.75 Oz$0.69$0.79$0.79
Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast4 Oz$6.99$6.99$7.19July Price Increase of $0.20
Bananas1 Lb.$0.59$0.55$0.59A return to January prices after a April dip.
Kraft Real Mayo30 OZ$3.79/$4.99$3.99/$4.99$3.79/$4.99A return to the January Sale Price
Meow Mix6.3 Lbs$7.78$7.78$7.78
Morton Salt26 Oz$0.94/$1.19$0.99/$$1.19$0.99/$1.19
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste4.6 Oz$4.99/$5.99$3.99/$5.49$3.49/$3.99A continued decline in price
Align Probiotics28 Count$26.58$26.58$26.58
Tide Botanical Rain Detergent92 Oz$11.97$11.97$11.97
Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids12 Count$3.18$2.88$2.28Sold Out in Both April and July
3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter1$15.88$15.88$15.88Sold Out in July
Dunkin Donut-Boston Cream1$0.99$1.09$1.17
Regular Unleaded Gasoline1 Gal$2.36$2.79$2.79In January and April prices were within a few cents. July prices had a twenty cent range in town.
A comparison of prices to keep track of inflation.

The Soulmate Equation Book Review

Dynamic Duo Writes The Soulmate Equation

The writing duo Christina Lauren pen a winning romance in The Soulmate Equation. The novel is a classic example of the genre. And fun to read. As typical for this type of novel, the initial antagonism gives way to mutual attraction. Only to have an event occur to put the couple back at square one. True romance.

 

Big Data

This is the first romance I have read that incorporated the element of Big Data into the equation. Hence the title Soulmate Equation is very apropos. The main characters are both geeky data analysts at their core. A mutual interest in stats paves the way for harmony-once the initial clashing is overcome.

The authors treat the background scenario appropriately. The mathematics adds to the storyline but does not usurp the theme of romance. This is nicely done by the duo.

Single Mom

The main character is Jessica Davis, a thirtyish, never married single Mom. She is supported by grandparents and a best friend in raising her young daughter Juno. As a free-lance statistical analyst, she often works from an independent coffee shop. The perfect setting to observe and reach her own conclusions about “Americano” Dr. River Peña.

Jess is portrayed as a hard-working and always harried single mom. So, juggling a career with school and after school activities leaves no room for romance. Let alone genetically driven dating apps. But she reaches a breaking point after one stressful day and sends in a sample. Then the fun begins.

Soulmate Equation

The authors do a great job of tapping into the idea of the perfect one in The Soulmate Equation. Surely, somewhere, sometime there is that lifetime match for everyone. If only we could know when and more importantly who.

In addition to the theme, the writing flows for the reader. The science is believable as are the characters. Human fallacies and personal doubts are explored all while showcasing personal growth for the characters. Both main and secondary. The Soulmate Equation is a fun read and a perfect romance. Well worth the price to purchase.

Cover of Soulmate Equation
Cover of The Soulmate Equation

Celebrating Life

Mom

A Celebrating Life event as a memorial to my Mom occurred this past weekend, approximately six months after her death. Celebrate is the proper term. She would have loved attending such a send-off. Much laughter, great food, music and dancing, with just a touch of solemnity and maybe a tear or two.

WOTM

Mom enjoyed being a member of the Women of the Moose (WOTM). She contributed regularly to Mooseheart, a very worthwhile program. And she travelled with my Dad to the annual conventions of Moose International. In her later years, as her dementia progressed, I joined her local chapter so I could attend the conventions also. This gave her a couple additional trips to enjoy. I am grateful they allowed us to do this since I live over a thousand miles away in an area without a chapter representing the organization.

The WOTM provided the ceremonious aspect of the day celebrating life. The dignified account of her involvement and their recognition was touching and brought a few tears to eyes. The opening ceremony gave way to a splendid afternoon.

A highlight was the wonderful spread spearheaded by the WOTM. Shrimp, salmon and snow crab were the stars for the seafood lovers. Fresh fruit and berries attracted the young children. Salads, breads, croissant sandwiches competed heavily with a variety of desserts for room on the dinner plates of the attendees.

Music

Our family loves music. All kinds of music. One of the things Mom and I had in common was our love of dancing. The duet hired for the occasion played lots of my Mom’s favorites. Songs from artists like Roy Orbison, Crystal Gayle and the Village People prompted dancers to fill the dance floor. Of course Mom’s favorite, Elvis, was showcased as well.

The performers were acquainted with my parents. This may have helped with the perfect song selection. I am so appreciative of their work. I needed closure and the afternoon provided! If you live in the Orlando area and desire live music, consider contracting Mark Good and/or Jody from Jody and The Trouble Brothers. I am thankful these two teamed up for our celebrating life event.

Celebrating Life with Family and Friends

Looking through old photos, it is common to find family photos at both weddings and funerals. Traditionally, the occasion could be determined by either smiles or somber faces. The Covid-19 pandemic did not allow a funeral to take place immediately following Mom’s death. So the photos taken are full of happy faces.

Identifying family members from old pictures is difficult. We were fortunate to have one of Mom’s cousins in attendance to fill in the gaps. Since one of the “greats” (great grandkids/grandnephews) is of college age maybe decades from now there will be the knowledge of the nature of the event. And someone to fill in future gaps.

Mom loved playing games with the youngsters. She also loved buying individual Christmas ornaments; Many Disney themed. I like to think she will watch over the little ones from the hereafter. Especially the one born shortly after her death. The little one that shares a name.

Six Months

Growing up, I celebrated half-birthdays with my mother’s side of the family. Born in the middle of winter and living half a country away did not lend itself to maternal grandparents celebrating the actual day. My cousins lived close to my grandparents. So they also participated in marking my half-birthday.

Ironically, Mom died the day before my birthday. And we held her celebrating life memorial close to six months later. Those same cousins honored their aunt by making the trip. They are spread across the country now so the journey is not easy. My aunt with whom I share a birthday also attended. I am so grateful for the family support.

Much Needed Closure

Everyone grieves differently. I tend to withdraw. My creativity is also affected. I actually stopped playing the piano after the death of one family member I was particularly close to. Something I regret now. So, I have struggled to continue writing. However, I plan to make every effort to fight the malaise.

Celebrating life in a non-traditional way was a perfect tribute for my mom. She would have loved the event. Surprisingly, I loved it too. Operating out of the comfort zone can be beneficial. I finally feel closure. We did indeed celebrate her life.

Four generations in a family photo

Summer Travel; Random Thoughts

A Few Rambling Remarks

The year 2021 is full of Summer Travel; Random Thoughts follow. Like many Americans, I am hitting the road after a year of little travel. In addition to conferences and work trips, newborn babies and wedding planning call for many trips. Of varying length. So I am throwing out some observations.

Masks

As the summer wears on, I see fewer and fewer masks. The exception is among children and young adults. The children make a lot of sense to me. Under 12 are not eligible for vaccines. Less so the young adults. But perhaps they are taking extra precautions. Now that I am thinking about it, some of the very elderly also have face wear.

Crowds

Groups are beginning to gather again. While I felt quite comfortable at a conference of two hundred, I am still a bit leery of inside gatherings. However, so far so good. Outdoor gatherings make me a little less apprehensive, but I have never been one to enjoy standing cheek to jowl. From the Ohio River Valley to the High Plains of Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming, people are getting out and about.

But some crowds cause concern. Especially in areas where the delta variant is present. Mesa County, Colorado is far, far, away from me. But, the county hosted a country music jam in late June. At the same time, the delta variant was rearing its’ ugly head in that locale. Repercussions are just now coming to light. Numbers are trending up.

Similarly, parts of the Southeast-next on my travel agenda-are experiencing huge upswings. I will be staying with family. All elderly, all vaccinated. So I will travel, but cautiously. Drive through eateries along the road will become the norm on this next journey.

Summer Travel Cross Country Style

Late May and early June trips went without any hiccups for my spouse and me.  The trip to Kansas was quite easy. Traffic is returning, but the roads were not clogged. The same for the Rocky Mountain highways of Colorado and Wyoming. And gas prices were reasonable.

Travelling in late June was another story. This was a much longer trip to the Ohio River Valley on a journey to Cincinnati with tours of Bluegrass Country wrapped around the conference destination. My travelling companion thought I was a tad bit weird, filling up the tank at each stop vs. when on empty. That is until we stopped in Columbia, MO and hit a gas station totally out.

I had been reading about shortages in various locations. Of course press coverage exacerbated the problem to the point small sized cities ran totally out. The explanation is not a shortage of fuel, but a shortage of labor. Not enough people to drive the fuel trucks. Thus, a labor shortage created a fuel supply shortage.

Labor Shortages

Long Haul drivers are not the only labor shortage. Restaurant staff is also in short supply. On the aforementioned Ohio Valley trip, a stop to get some lunch ended in a return to the Interstate. The two restaurants were closed. One had a help wanted sign. Many other places also had help wanted signs.

I think a combination of factors is driving this shortage. Many people are out and about making up for the year of isolation. Some Baby Boomers have decided to go ahead and retire. While the Federal unemployment has ended, some states have continued the unemployment payments. Thus no incentive to work.

Furthermore, the younger generation is looking at things differently. When talking to one of my offspring, I was asked why one would enter a career of long haul truck driving when autonomous trucks are already in the testing stage. What would be the upside?

Other conversations include a chance to move beyond entry level jobs sooner because Baby Boomers are leaving the work force. And a concern about the possible resurgence of the virus due to the inability to reach herd immunity.

Summer Travel Concerns

My summer travel plans are centered mostly on visits to family. A year apart was difficult. Other trips revolve around business interests. Maybe next year I will travel just to travel, in other words take a vacation. My bucket list of places to see hasn’t had much ticked off lately.

But there are some concerns. First and foremost when travelling by car is the availability of fuel. Next of course is the price levels. (Those of you participating in the inflation check challenge, this is the month to re-check.) Of course weather is a constant concern.

This next trip will be solo. Nothing new for me. But I will follow the precautions listed in this post on travelling alone. I am thankful last year’ riots have simmered down. My journey through the southern states is familiar territory. Stomping ground from my youth. I am looking forward to visiting family and driving some familiar roads. The United States of America has many, many beautiful places within.

A Distant Shore Book Review

A Distant Shore Is Christian writer Karen Kingsbury’s latest. This book of faith combines romance and finding faith while spotlighting the seamy underworld of child sex trafficking. The main characters each have their own reasons for doubting their faith.

Tragedy on A Distant Shore

The novel opens up with an American family vacationing on a beach in Belize. As two teenage brothers toss a football back and forth, a very young girl purposely swims too far from shore. Eliza sees the rip current as a way to reunite with her mother and brother who drowned at sea. She believes God will bring them together again. But He has other plans.

Jack, the oldest brother, immediately swims out to the rescue. He warns his younger brother to stay onshore. To no avail.

The young girl is saved. But the brother is lost.

Fast Forward

The story resumes a decade later. Jack is now a top notch FBI agent. Not caring whether you live or die helps. His new assignment is to infiltrate a sex trafficking ring by marrying the daughter of the owner. Unbeknownst to Jack, she is the same girl he saved years ago. Before he lost his faith.

Eliza is turning twenty. She has been “saved” for this day. Her father hopes to expand his business by marriage. Eliza is being sold. The horrors of her life have taken a toll. She no longer prays.

Sex Trafficking

The author creates a heart-wrenching story of a young girl forced to entice other young girls into her father’s brothel. The details of human trafficking are accurate. Victims are often young runaways, but not exclusively. Very young girls do get kidnapped and forced into this life of slavery.

The use of older girls to trick younger ones off the street into a forced life of a sex worker as depicted in the story is well documented. Kingsbury thoroughly researched the topic before weaving this tale of trafficking, faith and romance. Often this mix does not work, but in A Distant Shore the sex trafficking is an integral part of the story.

Finding Faith

A Distant Shore is a faith based story. The characters have lost their belief in God. Once Jack realizes who Eliza is, he re-evaluates his relationship with God. And with her. However, the weaving of faith into the story is not as seamless as it could be.

Struggling with one’s faith after a tragedy is natural. The concept is good.

The execution needs fine tuning. There was only one hiccup in the story line. Eliza’s father discovers Jack’s identity before the denouement, yet the author depicted a smooth rescue. At least to this reader.

Recommendation

I think all who enjoy Christian fiction will like A Distant Shore. Karen Kingsbury does an excellent job with the mix of rediscovering faith and the very ugly story of sex trafficking. My one complaint mentioned above does not negate the writing. Others have tried to mix romance with sex trafficking. (See my review of The Deception.)  Kingsbury strikes the right mix with her approach of romance and finding faith. A Distant Shore is a good addition to this genre. And the book accurately depicts the ugliness of human trafficking. This deserves a read.

Dial A For Aunties Book Review

An Unintended Murder

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto is a chick read and soon to be Netflix chick flick. The book is delightful and I am considering signing up for the streaming service just so I can see how the characters are brought to life. Yes, that good!

The book is a murder without the mystery. Plenty of mayhem surrounds the “accidental” death. Hilarious mayhem. I will try not to give away too much of the story.

Meddelin Chin- Protagonist

Meddy is an American of Asian descent. Specifically Chinese and Indonesian.  The main character introduces the reader to her multi-lingual Asian family with much humor. The males fly the coop and Meddy, the obedient female, stays close to home. But she did have a secret life; during college. And her secret lands her in trouble.

Fortunately for Meddy, her mother and her mom’s three sisters are tight knit. So when the heroine shows up at home with a dead body, the foursome swing into action. Meddy must come into her own in order to keep the Aunties out of trouble. It is refreshing to see her character grow. And heartwarming to witness the family love and loyalty, amongst the bickering.

Additionally, Sutanto includes the right amount of romance. Meddy runs into her former love while trying to juggle a big wedding event with disposing of the body. Her stress levels increase exponentially as wedding drama entwines with the dead body. Fortunately, all is hilarity for the reader.

Dial A For Aunties

Dial A For Aunties is full of good humor, sibling rivalry and family love. The endings are happy in both the main and sub-plots. There are a few twists and surprises. The topics are modern and the language can get a bit “R” rated. Love and acceptance are key themes.

Secondary themes are mother-daughter relationships and the age old story of lost love rediscovered. The author does a nice job of introducing the reader to the Asian culture as they assimilate into urban America. Communication in a multi-generational family of immigrants can be difficult. The United States is behind other parts of the world when it comes to second and third languages.

I highly recommend Dial A For Aunties. Lighthearted reads are so important in breaching cultural differences in this day and age. Sutanto is already working on a sequel and one hopes she has a role in the film adaptation as well. Pick up a copy today!