Wizard’s Daughter Book Review

Wizard’s Daughter combines magic with witches, wizards, ghosts and unearthly realms with Regency England. Catherine Coulter is a masterful writer regardless of which genre she chooses. Her tales are part romance and part adventure.

Sherbrooke Series

Even though Coulter is one of my favorite authors and the Sherbrooke Series is also much loved, Wizard’s Daughter escaped my attention when it was released over ten years ago. However, a positive side to the pandemic is discovering many books I previously missed upon publication. Wizard’s Daughter is quite the mystical escape. Perfect for a lazy afternoon.

Nicholas Vail

The young Lord Mountjoy has returned to England after learning of his father’s death. He is the oldest and inherits what is tied up through primogeniture…and nothing else. All monies were passed onto three half-brothers.

But that is not the only thing that draws him back from foreign shores. He knows it is time to find the girl who has haunted his dreams since he was a small boy. She is now a grown woman, and a ward to Ryder Sherbrooke.

Wizard’s Daughter

Found near death as a small urchin Rosalind has no memory before her rescue. Not even of her identity. Yet, as soon as she spies Nicholas across the room at a ball she knows he is the one for her.

Their whirlwind romance takes on an unearthly mystery. Clues to the hidden secret swirling around Nicholas and Rosalind appear through coded passages in a book and strange visions to both Nicholas, Rosalind, and Richard, the oldest half-brother.

Paying a Debt

Behind the many secrets surrounding the young couple is a generational debt to be paid. Both must travel beyond the pale to rescue a young boy from an evil witch. Along the way they must navigate along a path filled with flying dragons, wizards and mythical beasts.

The many visions delivered in England come to pass. And yet the outcome is twisted. For in the realm beyond the pale things are not as they seem.

Catherine Coulter

Ms. Coulter is a prolific writer. Earlier reviews include Paradox, The Last Second and The Devil’s Triangle. She covers many genres and each story is a treat to behold. Wizard’s Daughter is an excellent example. Coulter combines regency romance with mysticism and the end result is an entertaining tale for fans of both genres. I enjoyed both the romance of Rosalind and Nicholas along with their adventure in a mythical realm.

After the Disaster-What happens then?

Responding After the Disaster

 

After the Disaster response is a topic not seen much in National Preparedness Month releases. Most of the time people talk about preparedness in terms of how to prepare for natural disasters. But, little is out there with information on what to do after the disaster occurs. What happens then? What are typical problems that arise?

Personal Safety and Wellness

The first thing to assess after the disaster occurs is personal safety and wellness. This will vary depending on the type of event. Currently in the United States, residents on the West Coast are dealing with fires while the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic seaboard are in the midst of hurricane season. Both situations have short and long term impacts. Immediate concerns revolve around human life. Long term repercussions are numerous and include clean-up, mitigation of loss and adjustment to new circumstances.

Wildfires

Fires produce a multitude of problems. In addition to the burn damage is the impact on air quality. Evacuation is essential if you live in the path of the fire. But many individuals may have underlying conditions that make smoke filled air difficult to breathe. Anyone in this category needs a supply of N-95 masks at the very least. Unfortunately, demand is high due to the concurring pandemic in 2020.

If you are not in the direct path of the fire, the air quality is still a problem. Air filters are needed for home, office and transportation. Instead of changing these filters after so many months, check often to ensure replacement occurs when needed.

Keep windows and doors closed tight. If you have an attached garage, after exiting the car, close the garage door before entering the house. Consolidate trips to reduce exposure.

Once the fire sweeps through an area, wait for the okay to return home. Why? Because hot pockets may exist. Also, routes in and out of an area may be compromised and firefighters need priority.

Clean up-After the Disaster of Fire

Ironically, a home that is not burned to the ground can cause more problems than one which is a total loss. A partially burned home is dangerous to inhabit if there is heavy smoke damage. Soot is a byproduct of fire and causes problems with both the respiratory and circulatory systems. In the long run, soot may contribute to cancer.

Therefore, cleaning indoor surface areas is one of the first things that need to happen after the disaster of a nearby fire. Ideally a professional company specializing in fire clean-up could be hired. But, if cost is prohibitive or demand too great and a company is not available, the clean-up can be done by the home owner. But I would not recommend this.

If you do choose to clean-up the fire damage on your own, please research the methods needed. There is more to cleaning soot than wiping away the grime while wearing a mask. Proper masking, good ventilation, and knowing the correct cleaning agents is essential.

Outside cleaning is also difficult. Embers may be present beneath charred wood or brush. Wildfires displace wild animals, so that is also a concern. Instinct drives animals to safety, but often that safe place is far from the original habitat. In cases of total destruction, the wildlife has to find new habitat. The current fires are pushing birds thousands of miles away.

Furthermore, burn scars can lead to future flooding. So long after the fire is put out, danger remains. The National Weather Service has excellent advice for those living near burn scars which you can access by clicking here.

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are not just wind events. Flooding from tidal surge as well as from rain can do much damage. After the storm passes there are precautions to take while cleaning debris. Good work boots and heavy gloves are a must.

Wild animals are a key problem after a major flood producing storm. Rising waters push various animals out of their habitat. So, not only will mice, rats and other small animals seek shelter on dry land around homes, so will their predators. Snakes are a particular danger as they can blend in with the debris found along the outer edges of the high water marks. Gators have been found swimming in backyard pools. Seek help to relocate predatory animals.

In addition to the aforementioned boots and gloves, flood clean-up tools for outside the home include rakes and chain saws. The rakes can serve two purposes. First, they can pile the small branches and flood debris. Second, they serve as a distance tool for any snakes or other small creatures which may cause disease-especially those that succumb to the flooding.

Tree after hurricane cut up with chainsaw
Chainsaw was needed after the disaster of a hurricane.

The wind is not the only factor in trees falling. Waterlogged roots create instability. The combination can be deadly. Chain saws can make quick work of downed trees. This heavy equipment needs to be used by an experienced person. The chain saw itself can cause harm if used improperly.

Generators are also useful for after the disaster. Electrical outages are common after a major storm. While whole house generators which are wired directly into the home are ideal, they are also expensive. Portable generators are more cost effective but have several limitations. They are harder to use and proper storage of fuel as well as high fuel quantities needed create problems.

After the Disaster-Finances Needed

The best thing a person can do to prepare for the financial after effects of a natural disaster is to have a rainy day fund. While home and auto insurance is important, few policies cover all expenses after a disaster. Personal savings are a must. In a large event, Go Fund Me Pages will not be the solution. Individuals and families will need self-reliance.

A rainy day fund is not the same as investments in the stock market or real estate. Cash is king for emergencies. In my opinion, six months of expenses needs to be tucked away in a low interest savings, checking or money market account. Additionally, a limited amount of cash in small denominations along with some coin need to be carried with the person or in the home. By limited, maybe a week’s worth of expenses.

Electronic payments via credit or debit card will not work when the electricity goes out. Store clerks will often only do business with cash carrying customers. And there will be places not willing to open shop at all.

Building a rainy day fund will be the topic of next week’s post.

About A Rogue Book Review

About a Rogue by Caroline Linden is one of the most satisfying regency romances I have read in a very long time. Even though the novel is not a sweet romance, and the spice is red hot, the characters are heartwarming. The romance is real. Those who prefer chaste passages of lovemaking should skip those passages, but not the book.

All About a Rogue

The story centers on a rogue. A distant heir to the dukedom of Carlyle, Max St. James seizes his chance to turn his lifelong misfortune into fortune. A small stipend offered in exchange for cleaning up his act allows him to search for a long lost and hidden relative and to create a better future for himself.

Max is all business as he pursues his fortune through a partnership in Tate & Sons. Since the last of the Tate’s only has two daughters, Max’s offer as a business partner and as a son-in-law is accepted. Sort of.

An Exchange of Sisters

Max offers marriage to the oldest daughter. Unbeknownst to him she is already in love with the vicar. She elopes and he is presented with the younger daughter. He gambles and he wins. But not without a lot of patience and fortitude. The willingness to earn his bride’s love by waiting for a wedding night is refreshing to a reader in this modern time of instant gratification.

Bianca Tate is married to the business. She works developing glazes for the pottery. And she does not want the handsome rogue taking any part of the business away from her. Vowing to hate the scoundrel for eternity, she too acquiesces to the marriage. But, she is willing to sacrifice to keep control of the family industry.

Patience Outlasts Disdain

Both characters are quite like-able and the attraction between them is not forced. Linden’s writing flows as does the plot. The rogue is truly one of the good guys and Bianca is a strong, intelligent woman. And very forgiving.

Readers who love regency romances will fancy About a Rogue. This is the first of Caroline Linden’s books I have read. But it will not be the last. I just hope Libby has more available by Caroline Linden.

From Summer to Winter-Changing Seasons on the High Plains

Two days ago it was 105 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40 degrees Celsius and now the chill feels cooler than the 41 degree Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) and we have gone from Summer to Winter in 48 hours. This temperature swing is not unusual for the High Plains. But the timing is a bit earlier than usual. Since I moved to this part of the world, the earliest snow, a mere dusting, occurred back in 1995 the third week in September. The latest seasonal switch occurred about a half dozen years later on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Two days ago the forecast was calling for snow and a frost. So many, many hours were spent in the garden harvesting everything ripe, or close. Now the forecast has backed off a wee bit. A slight chance of sleet but the temperatures should stay above freezing. The work is not wasted, and the delay-if it happens- will allow the melons to ripen.

The harvest was focused on tender plants. Those that freeze as soon as the thermometer registers 32. So a plethora of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers were plucked from the garden. Batches of salsa, spaghetti sauce and Lemon Basil Eggplant Caponata filled the house. Jars cluttered the counter tops. And the smell reminded me of all the Sunday Italian meals I enjoyed during college.

Summer to Winter Chores

Not all the crops were harvested. The melons are a risk, but they need another three weeks to ripen. The sweet potatoes are still growing like gangbusters and also benefit if the temperatures remain above freezing. Likewise with the potatoes and the peanuts.

The beans are at a variety of stages. A small amount were picked from the bush beans ahead of this summer to winter action. But the pole beans I left unpicked. Both the Cherokee Purple and the Blue Lake Pole are heirlooms. They are setting seed now. This year’s Cherokee Purple plants were grown from seed saved off last year’s plants. They are a mainstay in my garden.

I mounded straw around the artichoke, just to be on the safe side. Plus, that area of the garden is slated to have the frost hoop. Hopefully, the double coverage will protect a few key plants from this first wild summer to winter swing. While the Rosemary can handle temperatures down into the teens, the basil will not last the night if the temperature wobbles around the freezing point.

These next two nights are critical for the garden. I am hoping for a near miss. But if the freeze happens I will begin getting the garden cleaned up for the colder months.Harvested Peppers Summer into Winter

 

 

August 2020 Wrap-Up

Wrap-Ups can be hard posts to put together and the August 2020 piece is no exception. In addition to the bucolic happenings in my rural part of the world, many events of note are occurring elsewhere. Unfortunately, the news from outside my hamlet is both disturbing and distressing.

Civil Unrest

Most significant from my point of view is the continuation of violence in American cities. Perhaps readers living outside of the United States see the civil unrest as more of the same. But my perception is different.

Some of my earliest memories arise from the year 1968. A year in American history marked by assassinations and protests. The issue of civil rights for African Americans played a significant part of the unrest in 1968 and is a key component to 2020 protests. Additionally, young people in 1968 as in 2020, formed the heart of the disruption. The Vietnam War also played an important part in the history of 1968. The prevailing uncertainty of 2020 is the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both years also share the aspect of a Presidential election.

However, in my mind the unrest is different in this year of perfect hindsight. The divisiveness is uncivil. Finger pointing and name calling have given way to bricks, Molotov cocktails and most upsetting, bullets. It seems to be Blue Lives Matter versus Black Lives Matter. And God help you if you try to insert All Lives Matter. Those three words are akin to the kiss of death. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

Political pundits and others claim outside influences. Multiple countries have been stipulated. This concept dates back to the cold war. Author Helen MacInnis posited this type of psy-ops in many of her books. This is a theory bandied about but to date no solid proof.

Covid-19

The pandemic continues. Much like an ocean tide its’ intensity ebbs and flows across the globe. An area or country is thought to be past the danger when new infections pop up. As of yesterday there are 8 confirmed cases of re-infection. I fear we are far from the end of this virus.

Covid-19 has also caused conflict, and not just here in the United States of America. Mask or no mask, closed borders, restricted travel, herd immunity or flattening the curve, each approach finds opposition among the populace. Each individual must weigh the risks because collectively most nations have failed to balance the health danger with economic collapse. The end result is a failure of both.

Furthermore, the rush to find a cure is problematic. First is the shortened time period and reduced number of trial participants in order to put a vaccine on the market. This leads to the second problem of public skepticism.

In authoritarian run countries, the citizens will not have a choice. The vaccine will be required. In places where individual freedoms are core to the culture, the government(s) must convince the public that the vaccine is safe. This will not be an easy task in countries such as the U.S.A. where the response has been ambiguous at best and disastrous in some states and localities.

Financial Crisis

A distant third in the list of national and global concerns is the financial crisis. The debt levels in the United States are spiraling upward as can be seen in the debt clock by clicking here.

Perhaps more concerning to those with an economic background is the changing role of the Federal Reserve. In the past, the primary role of the Federal Reserve has been addressing inflation and unemployment through monetary policy. This is no longer the case.

Perhaps due to the political climate in Washington, D.C. the role of the Federal Reserve is evolving. An excellent discussion of this change is in the latest newsletter from Allison Schrager. Click here to access her website and sign up for her newsletters. Or click here to read my review of An Economist Walks into a Brothel.

August 2020 for Econogal

August 2020 contained many days of triple digit temperatures. Yet the garden kept producing vegetables. I was able to read quite a few books, scientific papers and blogs. In addition to working on quilts, masks were made as it seems we will be wearing them for a bit longer.

August 2020 In the Garden

The garden continues to produce much of our fresh produce. Green beans, eggplant, Swiss chard, cucumbers, beets, onions and tomatoes made regular appearances at the dinner table. On occasion, enough ripened simultaneously to preserve.

The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving is a life saver for a home gardener. I do not have space for multiple rows of tomatoes or cucumbers, for example, and it is nice to put a small amount up at a time. This winter we will enjoy opening the garden bounty as well as sharing s Christmas gifts.

I spent a few hours picking grapes at the home of a relative. My own grapes are not yet ripe due to a late freeze. I love grape jelly. However, it has been a bit difficult finding the low sugar pectin. So the full sugar recipe was also utilized.

Visitors to the garden were beneficial insects, bees and spiders. So far, no orb spiders with their distinctive web. But spiders are welcome additions to the garden. I just need to remember where the webs are.

I also had human visitors to the garden. Three family youngsters brought me honey and sand hill plum jelly. I sent them home with enough Swiss chard to make Swiss chard with Raisins and Almonds. As they left, air hugs were exchanged. Such is life during a pandemic.

August 2020 In the Library

I read a variety of novels this month and reviewed the best of them. This month I concentrated on books that were either uplifting or offered escape. Sometimes you need a mental break from the difficulties of life. A balance of entertainment keeps one grounded and ready to face life’s tasks.

Non-fiction continues to be a struggle. Perhaps the scientific and business articles I am reading need an offset of light hearted fiction. Plus, my reading is predominantly from Libby or Kindle. I have yet to make an appointment to browse at my library. A requirement now that Covid-19 is making the rounds of our small community. Nor have I had the pleasure of wandering around a book store. Usually these two places are my sources for non-fiction.

August 2020 In the Kitchen

We continue to create new dishes in the kitchen using fresh produce from the garden. However, I am glad Econogal is eclectic versus solely based on food. I either forget to take pictures, or take pictures and forget to write down the recipe. So you can guess what will feature in next year’s resolutions.

Hobbies

I am so glad I learned to sew many years ago. The quilting offers inspiration. I love working with colors.

But the ability to make my own masks is wonderful. I do not like the elastic around my ears. Nor could I find any until just recently. So my masks have ties. Plus, I can color co-ordinate masks to my outfits. Many sacrifices need to be made with regards to the pandemic, but fashion doesn’t need to be one!

Sisters by Choice Book Review

Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery is the perfect book to chase away the blahs brought on by this pandemic. Mallory combines relatable characters with realistic story lines and satisfactory conclusions. The themes of finding oneself and inner peace are just what one needs to counter these stressful times.

Cousins are Sisters by Choice

A trio of cousins are the heart of the novel Sisters by Choice. The reader quickly learns how closely tied the relationships are. Sophie, the driven CEO reaches out to Kristine when her business literally goes up in smoke. The latter is on the next plane rushing in for support.

The remainder of the novel focuses on individual growth for the two cousins along with that of their “niece” Heather, daughter of the third cousin-Amber. If one were playing which one is not like the other, Amber would be the answer. An unlikeable character, yet she is pivotal to the third story line.

Romantic but not a Romance

The main thread revolves around Sophie. Mallery’s choice of an ambitious, forceful female executive for a protagonist is by design. The author’s goal is to develop her main character beyond the stereotypical hard-nosed, autocrat characterized by many when describing a successful woman. She succeeds on many levels.

Sophie develops a relationship with yoga instructor Dugan. The initial attraction is physical, but Dugan’s insight into the business world forces Sophie to evolve as a manager and as a person. There is just a touch of romance in the story line, but the focus remains on personal development.

Amber and Heather

The mother-daughter relationship between Amber and Heather is ripe for psychoanalysis. Amber, the oldest of the three cousins, is an unappealing character. Perhaps this is intentional. Her flaws remain throughout the story and serve as a backdrop. By contrast, twenty year old Heather is a charming foil character.

Heather is torn between loyalty to family and her own ambitions. Furthermore, her friends are on two differing paths of growth. But she feels stuck as in a time warp. Her story line has a satisfactory conclusion.

No more Stay-at-home Mom

Kristine is on year sixteen of being a stay-at-home Mom. But she wants more. She has a dream of owning a bakery. Now that she has a chance of chasing that dream she encounters push back from male family members. Especially, husband Jaxsen.

I quite enjoyed this thread. Kristine is a strong woman. Her goals threaten her marriage and her comfort zone. But what I like most about this plot is the support she receives from her mother-in-law. No stereotype from Mallery!

Additionally, character development is seen in Jaxsen. Unlike the other two threads, he is not portrayed as the omnipotent male. Jaxsen has his faults and his vulnerabilities. He truly does not understand his wife’s need to call something her own.

Categorizing Sisters by Choice

Sisters by Choice is hard to characterize by genre. Romantic relationships are present, but it does not belong to the romance genre. Since Heather is the only character on the cusp of adulthood, the book doesn’t quite fit the coming of age category.

Yet most of the characters show personal and emotional growth.

Susan Mallery

Even though Susan Mallery has written one hundred fifty books and counting, this is the first novel I have read from her pen. (Or perhaps word processor/laptop. Time is fleeting.)  It won’t be the last. Stories with warmth and positivity are a great antidote to these troubling times. If you are unfamiliar with Mallery, click here for her website. Put this author on your TBR list as well. Life is a roller coaster. Outstanding fiction enhances the ride.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Girls of Paris Book Review

Pam Jenoff masterfully blends history and fiction with The Lost Girls of Paris. Background for the story is the recruitment of young British women as agents for Special Operations Executive (SOE) during World War II. Jenoff’s characters are all fictional as is the plot. The story is spellbinding.

Two Protagonists

The storyline alternates between Marie Roux and Grace Healey. As does the time period. Marie’s story takes place during World War II. The plot revolving around Grace occurs  shortly after the war is over.

Marie is a single mom, half-French, recruited by the SOE. Much of The Lost Girls of Paris revolves around her recruitment and service during the war. She is a compelling character. Fluent in French, she is perfect to place as a radio transmitter into Occupied France. But she is not a natural spy.

On the other hand, Grace is hiding from her family in New York City. A “war” widow she is trying to come to terms with life and its’ cruel twists.

Eleanor Trigg

The only connection between the two is Eleanor Trigg. She recruited Marie and ran the section in SOE that oversaw the female recruits. Trigg is killed in an auto accident in NYC and Grace stumbles upon her belongings. There are twelve photos, including one of Marie, of the SOE agents that went missing during the war. These pictures of the Lost Girls of Paris, act as a catalyst. They motivate Grace to seek out the story of both Eleanor and the lost agents.

The Lost Girls of Paris

The thread involving Marie was captivating from the start. On the other hand, it was harder to engage with Grace’s story at first. This most likely arises from the intrigue and danger faced by the operatives. In comparison, the background story of Grace is sad, but not extraordinary.

Yet, Grace clearly grows the most. She is determined to discover the mystery behind the disappearance of the Lost Girls. And Grace finds herself in the process. Even though a romance is hinted at, she opts for independence.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Lost Girls of Paris. Pam Jenoff creates a wonderful piece of historical fiction. Buy a copy or find one at your local library. I checked mine out on Libby. This novel would be a great gift for those interested in World War II or with a likeness for this genre.

 

 

The Quiche and the Dead Book Review

Kirsten Weiss is the author of multiple series, including the Pie Town mysteries of which The Quiche and the Dead is the first publication. Valentine (Val) Harris is the owner of Pie Town. She is a recent transplant to San Nicholas. She followed her fiancé to the small town; only to be jilted once her life savings were invested.

Val is barely making ends meet and sleeping in a closet at the restaurant when tragedy strikes. One of her best customers, Joe, owner of the nearby comic store drops dead after eating a breakfast quiche. An interesting cast of characters, including employees Charlene and Petronella, along with a handful of leading citizens, among them Val’s ex-fiancé, make solving the death tricky.

Quiche and the Dead Flouting the Law

As is often the case with cozy mysteries, Val and her cohort Charlene don’t necessarily operate within the legal boundaries. The two do a little “entering” of Joe’s house seeking clues. Joe himself was a bit of an armchair Sherlock Holmes. So the two believe his sudden death is linked with one of his cases.

Their madcap antics solve Joe’s “cases” one by one. Along the way they have more than one run-in with local authorities Officer Carmichael and Detective Shaw. Weiss has developed her characters well. I will be interested to see how relationships develop in subsequent books from this cozy mystery series.

Kirsten Weiss

Weiss is a prolific writer. She has numerous books across several genres. Additionally, she is a blogger with a user friendly website.

Her writing encompasses mystery, magic, and both urban and historical fantasy. Individuals may wish to become members of the Raven(ous) Society via her website and receive free content. She also has courses in various types of witchcraft (including kitchen) which you must be 18 to access. Click here for Ms. Weiss’ website.

Ms. Weiss’ The Quiche and the Dead is my first experience with the writer. Since I like cozy mysteries I will look for successive stories in the Pie Town series. I checked this book out on Libby.

 

 

Eggplant-This Week’s Meal of the Week Star

This week, eggplant was the main ingredient of our star meal of the week. Pre-Covid-19 we only ate out once or twice a week so the Stay-at-Home aspect did not really impact our meal time. However we have kicked things up a notch to paraphrase a favorite chef. The Big Garden is beginning to produce more than just greens and we are really enjoying the fresh produce,

Eggplant-This Week’s Meal of the Week Star

The Big Garden has only two eggplant plants, reducing our supply from last year. So as of this week I have yet to can any. But we are reaping enough eggplant to want to mix up the preparation a bit.

Today I looked up eggplant recipes online. Easily catching my eye was a Bon Appetit article citing 57 recipes.

So I found one that I could make without a trip to the grocery store. Most of the ingredients came straight from the garden. I did make a few tweaks. A key component in the original recipe is Labneh- which is a strained yogurt/cheese concoction. I only had ½ cup yogurt so I blended that with sour cream and added some Savory Spice Mt. Olympus Greek Style Seasoning and called it good.

Econogal Fails as a Cooking Blogger (Again)

Of course this dish was so good there were no leftovers. And no pictures. But I am sharing my version of the recipe anyway. The pictures would be similar to those in the above website. We did make a few adjustments. The older I get, the less I worry about making recipes exactly as called for. (The exceptions are all related to baking.)

Need a Name

This dish really needs a good name. Even Bon Appetit just used a description to name the dish. Maybe a reader can help. Naming kids and animals is tough, naming meals is nigh impossible. The key ingredient is the eggplant but the grilled lemon just about stole the show. For now I will just name it No Leftover Eggplant! We ate every last morsel.

No Leftover Eggplant

2-3 Eggplants- Cut into ½ inch slices

Small Red Onion- thinly sliced

Whole Lemon-sliced approx. 1/4 inch thickness

1 Cup Mint-chopped

1 TBS White wine vinegar

2-3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tsp  Savory Spice Mt. Olympus Greek Style Seasoning

1 Small garlic clove minced

½ Cup yogurt

½ Cup sour cream

 

 

Directions:

Lightly oil grill. Coat eggplant and lemon with Exra Virgin Olive Oil, grill eggplant for 5-8 minutes and lemon for 3-5 minutes. While the eggplant is grilling, thinly slice the red onion, chop the mint and combine with one tablespoon each of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and white wine vinegar. Add the Savory Spice Mt. Olympus Greek Style Seasoning and the minced garlic.

 

Mix yogurt, sour cream and arrange on plate. Layer the  eggplant on the yogurt mixture. Cut the lemon slices in half and stir into onion and mint topping, tossing well. Pour atop the eggplant. This served two hungry adults as a main dish. Enjoy!

 

 

Girl Out of Water Book Review

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman is a YA (Young Adult) with some depth. Anise Sawyer is a seventeen year old surfer girl looking View of Pacific Ocean from atop a cliff.forward to a summer on the waves before starting her last year of high school. Life is good—or at least as much as it can be for a teenager with a Mom who floats in an out of life with years between visits.

But Anise arrives home after a wonder filled day of possible summer love and friendship to news that her last summer of high school will be spent in land locked Nebraska. Her Aunt Jackie-her mother’s sister- has been severely injured. Both Anise and her Dad fly out to help with the three cousins.

Coming of Age

Girl Out of Water is definitely a coming of age story. Anise changes from a carefree teenager to one with responsibilities. She must face her own disappointments while caring for her young cousins, twin boys and their sister who is embarking on the teen years herself.

But author Laura Silverman throws extra wave curls at Anise. As her young protagonist becomes more involved in her cousin’s lives, Silverman introduces a solid thread of diversity to the story. Anise meets single-armed adoptee Lincoln. And starts to lose touch with her surfer buddies back home.

Girl Out of Water Themes

There are several themes running through Girl Out of Water. First is one of non-traditional families. Anise has a mom who floats in and out of life. So, Anise hopes to find some understanding while staying at the home her mom grew up in. Her cousins, having a father who had passed away, now worry about losing their Mom. Finally, Lincoln is an adoptee who has moved many times in his young life. His roots are not tied to a geographical location.

Another theme is meeting new challenges. Surfer girl endeavors to learn skateboarding. This is a greater challenge than Anise first thought, but she wants to best Lincoln. Yet in the end Anise falls for Lincoln even though he is always eager to find new places. Her complete opposite. Of course Anise just yearns for the ocean.

Lastly, Silverman writes of introspection. Anise realizes at the end of summer that she did not keep in touch with her surfer friends back home. She becomes fearful that she may be her mother’s child after all.

Recommended Readers

While Girl Out of Water would fit the definition of a sweet romance-no sexual scenes, I still hesitate recommending for very young teens. There are scenes involving heavy drinking and allusions to drug use.

But, Silverman does a nice job of illustrating the strength of diversity. Furthermore, her message on the importance of family and not necessarily the traditional family unit is solid. These messages are a positive. So, I believe Girl Out of Water is appropriate for mid-teens and up.

However, I found a few circumstances hard to believe. As a parent, I would not readily allow a seventeen year old daughter travel by car from Nebraska to California with an eighteen year old male. Sex talk or not.

Nor did I understand the self-doubt of Anise. But perhaps it has been too many years since I was a teenager. Friends are important. But as so wonderfully illustrated by the character of Lincoln, self-worth is key.

July 2020 Wrap-Up

July 2020 Wrap-Up

In these pandemic times each month stretches into a year and July 2020 is no exception. Our little corner of the world tripled in virus cases this month. Yet we have only had one new case in the last ten days. This is a good example of how the disease spreads- in fits and starts.

I struggled with my emotions a bit in July 2020. I live in a rural area and many still feel like the virus is unreal, even a hoax to an extent. So, I isolated as much as possible. And I kept my spread sheet current. I am tracking daily new cases in counties of interest to me. My hope is the numbers will help me evaluate the risk of certain actions.

Travel

The only travel outside of my county in months was the quick trip to Vail Valley over the weekend of the 4th of July. Click here to read how we mitigated our risk. It has been almost a month since our risky celebration. No ill effects so far.

As those who follow me know, I like to travel. So, this pandemic is really curbing my style! It has been interesting to hear from others that also are afflicted with wanderlust. Cautionary tales of planning as well as the willingness to call an audible are emerging. In the end it boils down to risk averseness. Each individual needs to understand the risk/benefit ratio.

Staying away from hot spots and following health protocols diminish the risk, but the danger from Covid-19 remains. Thus I am still aiming to strike a balance.

Weather Anomalies At Work

For decades the weather pattern in my part of the world has been one of rains in April, May and June. The 4th of July usually marked the end of the moisture and the beginning of triple digit heat and winds close to tropical force levels. But July 2020 is following the pattern seen more recently.

The wind and heat were abundant in June with a much lower rainfall mount than “average” but this last week in July 2020 has brought monsoon type rains and pleasant temperatures. Last night we enjoyed our backyard fountains and fireplace. No wind and cool, but not cold temperatures. The forecast for the next ten days is similar.

I hope these daily temperatures continue. The garden thrived on the over two inches of rain this week. My tomatoes struggle with triple digit temperatures too. So the respite is welcome.

My canning chores have begun. Beets and cucumbers have been pickled and a batch of mixed fruit jam made. Grape harvest is not much more than a week out. Plenty to keep me busy as we begin the last full month of summer.

The homegrown veggies are a staple of our evening meals. Eggplant and Swiss chard comprise a major part of the current menu. The peas are about done but the beans are starting to take their place. If you don’t currently have a garden, consider planning one for the next growing season. Now is a good time to finalize the fall crops. Kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are among the crops I have begun for a fall garden.

July 2020 Reading

I continue to borrow books from Libby, the library app. We have also bought some to read through Kindle. I have a backlog of reviews. My feedback from loyal readers is that two posts a week with an occasional third is just about right. So my blog has been a little off in the timing this month with some reviews posted on days other than Friday.

I did read a children’s book explaining the coronavirus published back in April. So much has been learned since then. I also continue to read research papers from across the world. I truly appreciate Google translate, this tool allows me to read in my native language.

Looking Forward

August will be spent working in the garden, quilting, reading and enjoying my corner of the world. I have two places to keep track of for possible trips in September. Striking a balance remains important. I do not envy the local elective officials and their task to decide the best way to keep educating our young.

Enjoy the pictures and stay safe from this virus everyone!

Volunteer Garlic Bunch
Volunteer Garlic-Hardneck Variety
Flower among a Planting of tomato
A gladiola growing alongside a tomato.
Tray of drying basil
Drying Basil
Fire glowing in outdoor fireplace
Our back patio retreat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acrylic painting landscape view from car window
An acrylic painting titled Getting an Early Start

Rainy Day on the Plains

Today it is a rainy day on the plains. The weather has been gray with off and on showers. Some rain is a light pitter-patter mixed with occasional down pours more like the coastal rains of my childhood. We have had so few days of total rain. So I am soaking up the rain figuratively while my gardens are enjoying the literal aspect.

Inside Activities

The rainy day calls for inside activities. Household chores are ever at the ready as is catching up on reading and quilting. About the only thing not on the table is baking. The humidity tends to throw off my baking whether it is bread or sweets such as brownies or a cake. Many times an August rain will disrupt the bakers competing at the county fairs.

But to be truthful, I have spent a bit of time out on the porches-or during the down pours-tucked inside watching and enjoying this rainy day. This occurs when you grow up in an area with  a 50 inch rainfall and move to a locale that averages only 15 inches a year. You miss the rain.

Hand quilting is a good activity for a rainy day. One can look up from the tiny stitches from time to time without missing out or making a critical error. The cool air blowing in from the porch windows is mitigated by the quilt layers.

Rainy Day Benefits

One of the best benefits is not needing to water for a day or two. Or even three if it rains all day. Conservation of water is critical in this part of the world. Every bit of rain helps.

The moisture also helps with the weeding. Even the big garden that has few weeds will sprout one or two now. But they will be easy to pull since the ground will not be hard packed from the drought.

Best of all, this rainy day on the plains will help the farmers. The wheat has been harvested so the rain is falling at an advantageous time. Corn, milo, and sorghum will shoot up overnight. And this deep soaking rain will help prepare the soil for the next winter wheat crop.

Falling rain on a garden and driveway

The Girl He Left Behind Book Review

I have been looking for a true romance for several months and The Girl He Left Behind fits the bill. Beatrice MacNeil writes a heart tugging story of love lost and once again found. Far from being formulaic, the story is complex yet enjoyable and rewarding in the end.

Willow Alexander

The protagonist is only child Willow Alexander. Willow is sharp. And she is loyal. She also carries her burdens internally with nary a word to others. The book reveals the story line through her flashbacks.

Marjorie MacInnis and Graham Currie are her closest friends from kindergarten forward. The three grow up along the coast. One moneyed and doted upon.  Another surrounded by familial love. The third finds solace in the other two. Many of the flashbacks focus on pivotal events as they reach maturity.

Over time, Willow and Graham grow beyond friends. They become betrothed lovers. Then the day of their wedding, Graham fails to show up. Life then takes a turn for the worse for Willow. First, she suffers an irreplaceable loss. Then her father dies, followed by her mother.

But life goes on. Since this is a tale woven around the past, the protagonist is shown in a different phase of life. She has endured many losses. Willow is a solid citizen. Yet she doubts her own innocence.

The Girl He Left Behind Timeline

The beginning of the novel starts with yet another tragedy for Willow. She thinks she has accidently poisoned her employer and his invalid wife. And she is ready to face the consequences. From this point on is the rewind of Willow’s life. Her positive childhood becomes full of woe once left standing at the altar. The question for the readers is one of absolution and reclamation.

Did she poison the couple? Can she remain in the same small hamlet with the return of Graham? Can she find love again?

True Romance

The Girl He Left Behind is a rich romance. The machinations of others tear the young lovers apart. Denied true love they make their way in the world.

MacNeil tugs the heart strings as her heroine faces one tragedy after another and the years roll by. Now forty, Willow is faced with the return of Graham to their small hamlet. He too has suffered over the years. Their reunion is not smooth.

This reader appreciated the elements of forgiveness and empathy weaved into the story. The Girl He Left Behind is very fulfilling. I highly recommend this novel for all lovers of romance. The Girl He Left Behind is a recent release, so it may not be in your local library yet. This book is a keeper and well worth buying. Find a copy and enjoy!

 

 

Seed Saving Tips and Tricks

I began seed saving just a few years ago and I still have a lot to learn. But I have had quite a few successes and thought I would share some tips and tricks. If you have additional information feel free to comment below.

Why Save Seed?

While some may practice seed saving to cut down on expenses, my primary reason is the fact seed producers like fashion designers change-up their production lines. While I like trying new varieties (or buying new shoes) I don’t always want to let go of my favorites.

Both my Five Star Lettuce and my Genuine Heirloom Marriage Tomatoes fall into this category. Locally, the plants are no longer sold. In fact, I can no longer find the seed for the tomatoes available on line. So seed saving allows me to keep planting and eating my favorite produce.

Seed Saving Experimentation

For me, a key to success in sowing saved seeds comes from experimentation. The Peanut Experiment from this past spring is one example. Peanut seeds do not need to be soaked prior to planting. In fact, my findings showed they germinated better when they were not soaked.

I have made a note of this in my gardening log just in case I forget this fact over the winter. Other experimentation with seed saving is also remembered and used. My Potato Experiment using a bag to grow the spuds was a bust. The potatoes do much better in the ground or in large boxes.

Self-seeding Crops

Of course, I also have areas of the garden where annuals are allowed to self-sow. The most notable is the Italian parsley patch. In addition to the plants dropping seed at the end of the season, I occasionally give the parsley and similar plants such as marigolds a hand by dragging my hand along the seed head and sprinkling the seed in the bed.

Tips and Tricks

  1. Make sure seed is ready to be picked and saved. The seeds need to have progressed beyond the green stage. Letting the seed dry on the plant is best.
  2. Store the seed in a cool, dry, dark place. Do your research. While a refrigerator drawer may seem ideal, better places exist. Seed Potatoes should not be stored below 50 degrees F., so this eliminates the fridge.
  3. Make sure the seed is clean. This does NOT mean washing. But brush extra dirt off and remove excess vegetation.
  4. Label your seeds.
  5. Do not keep damaged seed.
  6. If keeping garlic cloves for seeding, choose the biggest cloves.
  7. Store small seeds in envelopes.
  8. Larger seed can be stored in burlap or in the case of beans, plastic containers with room for air flow.

Pictures

I am still learning about saving seed. This means taking chances. For example, beet seed and Swiss chard seed can easily cross. Commercial growers do not have their production close. I have saved seed from two types of beets, Chioggia and Detroit Red. I also saved red and white stemmed Swiss chard. We will see what happens with my saved seed from these family crops next spring.

Enjoy the pictures.

Seed heads of lettuce
This dandelion effect on the lettuce indicates the seed is ready to harvest. The small black seeds are at the base of the puff bloom.
Close up of lettuce seed
The black seeds are easy to spot at the base of the puff ball.
Lettuce seed and seed head
Leaf lettuce. The seeds form at the base of the flower. The chaff can be separated much like wheat or it can stay mixed with the seed until planting.
Two types of beets
The differing beet varieties are easy to spot by contrasting colors. But the seed looks identical.
Beet stalks with seed.
Beet seeds, Chioggia on left and Detroit Red in the middle. A beet wintered over, hence the ability to save seed.
Beet root
A look at the beet root. I did not try to eat this wintered over beet.
Green beet seed
This beet seed is still green and not ready to harvest.
Immature seed heads
These seed heads are still green. No seed can be collected at this stage.

Vail Valley Escape

Last week we escaped the triple digit heat with a retreat into Vail Valley of the Colorado Mountains. We did as much as we could to mitigate the chances of catching Covid-19. Only time will tell if we were successful. But it was a much needed break from the past few months.

Vail Valley House Rental

There were several pieces to our mitigation strategy. First, we rented a house from Gore Creek Properties. This actually turned out to be an economical decision as well. Because we had four generations, we would have needed three motel rooms. Our rental price was about half of the motel cost.

Perhaps the owners had the three story home backing onto Gore Creek priced at a discount since the Vail Valley area had just re-opened days before. Or, the cost was lower because the location was in East Vail. Whatever the reason, we benefited.

The house itself dated to about the 1980s. Since there were three levels, the generations each had their own floor. (The fourth generation having recently reached the ripe old age of one, had to share with her parents!) I believe this spacing along with the multiple outdoor spaces offered many beneficial health benefits: Both physical and mental.

Packing In and Out

A second piece of our strategy was packing in our food. Four coolers of food sustained us through the stay. It helped to have both a spacious kitchen and an outdoor grill. Of course cultural differences popped up. As “Westerners” our bar-b-que night consisted of burgers, grilled sliced herb potatoes, and hot dogs. The lone Southerner was surprised. In the southern part of the United States, bar-b-que means pulled pork and brisket along with slaw and potato salad. We muddled through.

We did have to pack out a few items as a result of one of two trips into the town of Vail. Our first outing was a Sunday morning Farmer’s Market. Even though we went early, we did encounter some crowded situations. However, in Vail Valley the majority of individuals wore masks.

Our best buy at the market in terms of taste was a delicious, if pricey, blueberry pie. One of the best I have ever tasted. Sometimes you do need to pay up for quality.

Most of the pictures in the slide show come from this foray into town. The second visit to the more populated part of Vail Valley was a trip to the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Again, a majority, but not all, had masks on. Even the kids.

Mountain Air

There is something to be said for the pureness of air at elevation. The altitude is in the 8000 foot range. Fortunately, everyone from the toddler to the octogenarian fared well. The adults enjoyed biking, hiking and running while the youngster ruled from her stroller. I have fond memories of the area from the Extreme Hike fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis a few falls ago.

While I do not plan to participate this year, the fundraiser is ongoing. You may click here for more information. Hopefully, important organizations like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will be able to survive Covid-19.

Taking Risks in Everyday Life

Granted, taking this trip to Vail Valley was a risk. We did our best to limit the danger. As I discussed in May in the blog post ‘Striking A Balance’, individuals need to be responsible; Every day and especially during this pandemic.

We wear masks in public. As individuals, we practice social distancing. And we strive to keep healthy with an appropriate level of exercise.  Most importantly, we are striking a balance between total isolation and ignorance of how quickly this virus can spread. Family gatherings can be dangerous.

In our case, three of the attendees had recent negative tests for Covid-19. Two live in an area where testing is limited. But they actively practice social distancing and good hygiene.

I hope those who don’t believe in this virus change their minds. Currently, we just have one family member fighting the disease. She picked up the virus working as a camp counselor at a summer camp for kids. Others we have known with the virus have recovered. Unfortunately, one did not.

Apparently we are too early in this pandemic for everyone to know someone who has either survived or died from Covid-19. I still am questioned on whether I “actually” know someone who has caught the virus. I tell them I not only know individuals who have it, I know someone who died from it.

Rest in peace April.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Book Review

Kim Michele Richardson brings the proud and impoverished inhabitants of Eastern Kentucky to life in her latest work, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Even though a few liberties are taken with historical events, Richardson accurately portrays the bigotry towards the Blue people of Kentucky.

The Book Woman

Cussy Mary is the Book Woman. She has blue skin due to the genetics of methemoglobinemia. As part of the plot, her condition is discovered by researchers in Lexington and is tied to similar findings among Alaskan and American Natives. However, the reader needs to overlook the fact that the book has the scientific research done during the Great Depression. In actuality the work was not completed until the 1960s.

A nickname for Cussy Mary is Bluet. Her employer is the WPA as a Kentucky Pack Horse librarian. She faces danger in her work from both man and nature. The patrons along her route receive nourishment for their minds even as they face starvation. Cussy Mary is devoted to her work.

Racism and Poverty

Two key themes in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek are racism and poverty. The term coloreds in 1930s Kentucky lumped African-Americans and the Blues of Eastern Kentucky together. In the story. Cussy Mary and fellow book woman Queenie, who is African-American, look out for each other. Both characters manage to overcome the burden of racism. And both women also escape the abject poverty of the times.

Poverty is color blind. The fate of the Appalachian families during The Great Depression is sobering. Richardson is a master at pulling the heart strings while describing the starvation of the times. But she also has the reader cheering as her characters unite against the immoral legalities of the time.

A key outcome has the townspeople acting against injustice through the ballot box.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was released in May of 2019. Before the protests turned riots of 2020. Yet, the timeliness is incredible. I hope those that have protested lawfully read this book. Kim Michele Richardson speaks to social injustice eloquently. A cross section of society supports Cussy Mary. Furthermore, justice is meted through the ballot box. Something to keep in mind this election year.

So, I highly recommend The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. The writing is excellent. And the characters are compelling. This is a book worth reading and giving.

 

June 2020 Wrap-Up

Writing was a bit thin for Econogal during June 2020. Instead, I read, gardened and quilted. I also kept track of Covid-19 in various United States counties. Unfortunately, I also witnessed via television a lot of civil unrest in my country. All components added to a lack of writing.

Beastly Weather in June 2020

I love my adopted home of the High Plains except for a few weeks in late July-early August when the wind blows and the temperatures are in the triple digits. Unfortunately, those weeks came during June this year. We have low humidity, but the winds are often tropical storm strength. This creates a very unpleasant atmosphere.

We were fortunate enough to receive a bit of rain. Twice we had rainfall of one half inch and the third rain was three tenths of an inch. While the amount was about half of average it was welcomed as the measured precipitation in May was measured in one hundredths. The next two months are our rainiest, with approximately 2.5 inches expected each month. As you can see from the photo, our neighborhood is praying for rain.

Decprated sign saying Pray for Rain
Pray For Rain

Quilt Room

I spent a lot of time in the quilt room during the month of June 2020. Two quilts have been sandwiched together and are in the process of hand quilting. A third is still in the piecing process. My quilt room is in the basement which helps provide a cool location to hang out.

Piecing is time intensive. Even though I use a machine in the piecing, the work can take weeks depending on how many pieces are involved. Some quilt designs have over a thousand pieces. The one I am working on now is just in the hundreds. Five of the blocks are called The Courthouse Square and the other four are a variation on the Rail Fence.

In the Garden

June is the first month of harvesting nearly every day. Herbs are gathered just before blooming and dried. In addition to the cooking herbs of sage, thyme and oregano, I also cut lavender. It smells wonderful and I can use it dried in teas next winter.

I lost my battle with the flea beetles this year. They devastated the brassicas. However, my lettuce crop was outstanding. Even though the early triple digits brought on early bolting in the big garden, the side garden is still producing delicious greens of many varieties.

The first of the beets were picked. I used one of my favorite recipes from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving. We love opening our pickled beets on cold winter days. For some reason, the beets struggled at first but now they are growing quickly.

Cherry Harvest

While the old cherry tree was loaded with cherries, harvest was just so-so. Usually the birds split their feastings between the cherry trees and the mulberry trees. This year a frost nipped the mulberries so naturally I had intense competition for my cherries. I did make one batch of jam and enjoyed cherry pie and cherry smoothies.

The younger cherry tree just had a handful of fruit. This is just the second summer since planting. The goal is for it to reach a good harvest before the old one stops producing. I would love more fruit trees but am grateful for the two cherry and two peach trees.

Covid-19

June started with six million Covid-19 cases worldwide and ends with over ten million cases and half a million deaths. I fear we are only at the beginning. At least in the United States.

Draining is probably the best way to describe the feeling I have with respect to the virus. I am being careful. Yet I even hate to type that. Here in America the virus has become political. I am dismayed. A pandemic should not be viewed politically. Especially one so far reaching.

So I have not posted much June 2020. Instead I have read and researched about the virus. Regretfully, biology is not my strong suit. Microbiology seems alien. The only microbiologist I personally knew died years ago, at a far too young age.

I fear we will start to see more and more cases and even deaths among our younger population. The protesters and rioters are not immune to this virus. Covid-19 is truly non-discriminatory. June 2020 was just the start to a long, long summer.

 

The Blue Moon Book Review

If you like good old fashioned mysteries without the mayhem of murder, you will love The Blue Moon by Lorena McCourtney. This entertaining tale revolves around the mystery of a necklace which may or may not be known as the Blue Moon.

The Blue Moon Plot

The novel opens with the discovery of a beautiful necklace by protagonist Abby Stanton. Apparently, the jewelry had been taped to the underneath of a desk drawer. Thus, the mystery begins. Abby wants to track down the rightful owner.

This proves difficult. Multiple people step forward once a value is attached to the necklace. Apparently, an appraisal of three million brings out many. Even rumors of a curse do not slow the number of presumptive owners.

Among the many claimants are a couple of dangerous types. They are not working together, but as rivals. One even dognaps Mary Stanton’s service dog.

Characters in The Blue Moon

Abby and her sister Mary figure prominently as independent women. Both also have a romantic interest featured in the story. But as this is a work of Christian fiction, the relationships are earnest not steamy.

The two sisters face danger head on. Finnegan the service dog aids in his own rescue. But the theme is one of intellectual feats versus action packed adventure.

Pacific Northwest

The setting for the novel is the Pacific Northwest. Travel is just as likely by boat as by car. This factors into the story line on several fronts. McCourtney brings the area to life through her descriptions of the climate and topography.

Christian Fiction

The Blue Moon is a bit more scriptural than other books by Lorena McCourtney. As this is the first book featuring the Stanton sisters’ that I have read, I do not know if this is the norm. Passages of scripture are weaved throughout the novel in addition to the lead characters’ upstanding moral characteristics.

Overall, The Blue Moon reminded me a bit of the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries I read as a child. The two men who died prior to the start of the story were NOT murdered. Truly, the plot revolves around the mysterious appearance of the Blue Moon necklace and its ownership.

Christian fiction may not be for everyone, but it has been soothing to my soul during these stressful times of uncertainty and unrest. I read this book through the Libby App. The book is enjoyable and an easy read.

 

Under Currents Book Review

Under Currents by Nora Roberts is a romance with a heavy theme of surviving abuse. Both spousal abuse and parental abuse as well as bullying are covered by the author. The first quarter of the book is quite brutal. So this book will not be for everyone.

The hero of the story, Zane, and his younger sister Britt, suffer years of emotional and physical abuse and neglect from their parents. Like many children trapped in this situation, Zane counts the days until he can escape by going to college. He also records everything.

Eventually the two kids fight their way out of the abusive home and the story fast forwards until they are adults. Britt has remained in their home town and is happily married with a child of her own. Zane is returning to the small town he grew up in, hoping to bury the bad memories.

Love Under Currents

Darby sweeps into town hoping she can start life anew. She recently lost her mother, her anchor in life. The two had worked together as landscape designers, a career Darby can transplant if the right circumstances are available. She rents a lakeside cabin for a month intending to investigate for at least two weeks before moving on to the second possibility on her list.

Darby and Zane connect instantly. On the surface they have many similar interests. Underneath they have even more similarities. Because Darby is also a survivor of domestic abuse. In her case, a former husband. Both possess the ability to defend themselves and both want a relationship without violence.

Threats from the Past

Before Zane and Darby can unite for the long term, they must deal with their pasts. Both emotionally and physically. Nora Roberts throws several dangers at the young couple and they meet each head on. This gives the author a chance to show victims can survive and even thrive after overcoming an abusive relationship. Even though the plot is straightforward to the reader, the twists thrown at the protagonists are plausible. Plus, the tension puts the reader on edge.

Under Currents is well written. This is a very good book and I recommend it with a caveat. I think there are many who will have a hard time reading Under Currents. The first chapters are especially brutal in the description of the child abuse. So, I would not recommend this novel as a gift. As Roberts so deftly portrays, many families have under currents of abuse. Many remain hidden from view.

 

The River Book Review

The River is reminiscent of the Jack London books I read growing up. The author, Peter Heller weaves a spellbinding story of the harshness of nature and of life. Best friends Jack and Wynn set off paddling north towards the Hudson Bay. They face danger from Nature and Man.

Adventure on the River

The plot seems simple enough. Two young men out for adventure. Skipping the first quarter at Dartmouth to paddle north. Dreaming of days spent communing with nature. Fishing to supplement their packed provisions. And gorging off the ripe berries found everywhere along the river bank.

But then nature intervenes in the form of a far off wildfire. Albeit a giant one. So, as they come across two drunk Texans they warn them. Further down river they hear a couple arguing and paddle past. Only to turn back to warn them of the impending fire. No one is around.

Complex Personalities

Heller brilliantly unravels his characters’ personalities as he spins the prose. Both Jack and Wynn are able-bodied young men. Yet they also are kindred spirits with a shared love of words. Books of all kinds, poetry, and western ballads. However, their life experiences prove the difference.

Wynn sees the good in all. He is optimistic and altruistic. He wants to go back and warn the couple of the approaching fire. Jack is the opposite. He has first-hand knowledge of nature’s cruelty in general and specifically with regards to out of control fires. Furthermore, Jack is resigned to his belief that nature and mankind can be cruel. But Wynn is his best friend and he is persuaded.

Masterful Writing from Peter Heller

The River is classic literature in so many ways. Heller’s writing brings the sights, sounds and smells of the river into the reader’s brain. His foreshadowing keeps the reader on edge worried about the characters. Wondering about the race to safety.

I recommend this novel for high school and above because of the intense drama. Any contemporary literature class would benefit by including The River. Symbolism, foreshadowing and character depth are ripe for discovery. Book clubs will also find the novel excellent material for discussion.

 

Big Lies in a Small Town Book Review

Diane Chamberlain’s Big Lies in a Small Town should be on every one’s to be read list for two reasons. First and foremost it is a beautiful story. Actually, two stories in one. Big Lies in a Small Town reverts between a story line in 1940 and one in 2018. Both feature young women struggling with the reality of making their way in the world.

Secondly, the story will remind all of us angered and frustrated by the events unfolding in the United States that progress has been made in society. Injustice still occurs. But progress with respect to racism and race relations has been made. We just need to keep moving forward.

Anna Dale

The protagonist for the 1940s half of the story is Anna Dale. She is an artist of 22 and has just won the task of designing and painting a 12 foot by 6 foot mural. Instead of working in her home state of New Jersey, she is commissioned to create the work for the Edenton, North Carolina post office.

Anna faces many obstacles in Edenton. Mostly from the white male movers and shakers of the small town. But she also inspires two youths. Both are high school students. One is white and the other black. The two are loyal to Anna and to each other.

The story follows the efforts of Anna as she works to complete this major commission. But then an incident occurs and she becomes unhinged. This is reflected in the mural.

Morgan Christopher

In the contemporary plot of Big Lies in a Small Town, Morgan Christopher is the center character. Unlike Anna who had close ties to her mother, Morgan is all alone after a tragic accident alters her life. A good part of the novel is Morgan accepting her past while working as a restorer on a huge and badly damaged Anna Dale mural. The challenging restoration serves as a catharsis.

Timeliness of Big Lies in a Small Town

Chamberlain’s writing is moving and uplifting. Yes, there is ugliness in both stories. Cruelty and injustice leave marks on both women. However, the two move on with their lives. The message is one of looking forward.

I read Big Lies in a Small Town on Libby. Somehow the book came available to me weeks ahead of schedule. Definitely a higher being at work. The riots occurring across the country will affect people in different ways. Personally, I saw hopelessness. Now I again have hope.

Diane Chamberlain reminded me of the progress that has been made. The world is not perfect. Utopia cannot exist. But, each generation can improve on the last. Each person has the ability to hold themselves accountable. This message rings loudly through Chamberlain’s writing. Yet the loudest missive of all from Big Lies in a Small Town is the capacity of individuals to tear down racial divide. Peacefully.

 

 

 

Econogal versus The Flea Beetles

Battle of the Flea Beetles

I am losing the ongoing battle with the flea beetles. They conquered my broccoli patch overnight. Their march through both the big garden and the side garden is disturbing. I can see why commercial farms use non-organic solutions. But I still prefer organic grown produce.

Home-Made Deterrents

I had switched to a garlic based solution instead of the oil base mixture I wrote about here. The garlic solution is a good deterrent but not a natural pesticide. Yet, it worked on the first army of flea beetles encountered last month. Or at least I thought it did.

This second invasion has been particularly large. I think many tiny eggs must have been laid by the first group. I did not see them and I looked. However, the larvae can live underground. The small off-white colored worm-like babies can eat seeds and roots before maturing into the beetle stage. The life cycle is less than a month.

Prime conditions for the flea beetles exist. The days are quite warm and no rain of any significance. My big garden is quite vulnerable because it is watered by a drip system. Yet hosing off the plants in the side garden and then spraying with the garlic mixture apparently needed to occur twice a day.

Surrendering to the Flea Beetle

At this point I plan to surrender to the flea beetle. I have pulled the broccoli, disturbed the ground to remove or expose the larvae, and planted a different crop. My plan is too start new brassicas at the end of this month. Then I will plant them in August for a fall crop. The small hoop covering that allowed the Swiss Chard to winter over should allow a fall or early winter harvest.

Crop rotation did not work this spring. The side garden was not a previous home to any brassicas. So I think my strategy going forward will be two-fold. First, I will optimize companion planting. I had a lot of luck last year with the garlic and cabbage combination. Research will be needed to find out what plants have a natural protection from flea beetles.

Second, I will start using the brassicas as a fall crop instead of a spring crop. The flea beetles disappear around the 4th of July. Life cycles are key to this plan. If you can nip things in the bud, infestations are lessened.

Further Information on The Flea Beetle

For sources on the flea beetle, I found this article on the internet helpful:  https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/garden-pests/flea-beetle-control/

I also consulted several books in my garden library. These include the Ortho publication Controlling Lawn and Garden Insects, Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Also, Andy Tomolonis wrote Organic Hobby Farming which I highly recommend.

If you have additional ideas to help me in futures battles with the flea beetles, please leave a comment. Growing seedlings only to lose them to an invading army of insects is disheartening. The pictures below show the damage from as well as the size of the flea beetles.

Broccoli plant damaged by flea beetles
Decimated Broccoli

May 2020 Wrap-Up

In this roller coaster year the month ending on May 31, 2020 is no exception. Near 100 degree temperatures today are a reflection of the violence and debate rippling through the United States of America and spilling into other locales. Many compare this month to the late 1960s. Even that comparison fails to achieve unity with camps divided on which moment in time is awarded top spot. A misnomer, since I think both belong in the pits.

Civil Unrest

In actuality, the violence marking the end of May 2020 has been festering under the surface for a while. There are protests throughout the world today. While a few are in support of the racial injustice in America, the Hong Kong protests have a spark of their own. The most recent spawn from an announcement May 21 of a planned new national security law. Click here to read more.

Both the Hong Kong and the U.S. of A. protests come on the heels of an extended lock down due to Covid-19. Additionally, skyrocketing layoffs and terminations from permanent business closures add to the angst. Thus the pandemic coupled with economic threats created a tinder box waiting to ignite.

The above May 21 announcement was the catalyst overseas. But the incendiary in America was yet another death of an African American at the hands of a white cop. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. Many will remember Colin Kaepernick gained infamy and lost a starting job as a NFL quarterback trying to address this decades, nay centuries, old problem of racism and bigotry.

I have no answers to why peaceful protests in America turned so ugly. Part of me wants to say it is an attempt to divide and conquer much like many Helen MacInnes plots. Part of me wants to blame the idle restlessness caused by the isolationism of the pandemic. I fear a breakdown of society is untenable.

May 2020 Closer to Home

Since I live in a very rural setting, the riots both in this country and abroad seem remote. Other than concern for family members living in major cities across the country, life continues as normal. Quite the juxtaposition.

My May 2020 was spent primarily in the garden and in the quilt room. The triple digit heat will force the lettuces into bolting but will be welcomed by the plants that prefer warm days and nights. And the hot afternoons were spent in the cool of the basement designing baby quilts left and right.

People, Place, Time, and Space

I was blessed with another great nephew this last week of May 2020 and was thrilled to don mask and gloves for a peek at him that could be measured in seconds. A Web M.D. doctor was interviewed on television and threw out the four guidelines above (although not in the nice rhyming order.)

People refers to limiting the size of the group you are in.

Place is location. Outside is better than inside.

Time needs to be minimized. Don’t give Covid-19 the time to transfer.

Space is distance from one another. The U.S guidelines are six feet.

So an example of a relatively safe gathering would be less than ten people outdoors for thirty minutes sitting at least six feet apart. A quick visit, perhaps enough time to eat. But certainly not foolproof.

Goodbye and Good Riddance to May 2020

If one lives long enough, one experiences difficult periods in life. As I touched upon in my post, Successes and Failures, early in 2020, work is a good cure. However, many have lost jobs. But one can still stay productive. Volunteer or create. Either is better than the actions of mob mentality. Certainly for me these last days of May 2020, staying productive eased the pain of societal disintegration.

I hope calmer heads prevail in the coming months. This does not mean I think the problems need to be swept under the rug. Freedoms are being usurped across the globe. The sins of our forefathers continue to regenerate here in America. The issues need to be addressed. The violence is but a symptom. The underlying cancer goes deep. Societal change will be difficult and fraught with danger.

2020 is indeed a pivotal year.

What Rose Forgot Book Review

Books in a book case

Nevada Barr has serious skills. Many may know her writing from the Anna Pigeon/National Park series. The stand-alone novel, What Rose Forgot enjoys the same excellent writing. Yet, the tone is new and fresh. This ability to excel outside of the writer’s and loyal readers’ comfort zone is rare.

Even though there is mystery and mayhem from beginning to end. There is also humor. The laugh out loud kind. I love the characters as well as the commentary. Rose Dennis escapes from a lock-down facility for severe dementia sufferers. And yet returns again and again. Each time more comedic. Much like Lucille Ball.

Plot and Characters of What Rose Forgot

A simplistic and straight-forward plot of drugging, committing and then killing the patients is wholly entertaining due to the scenes that move the plot along. The setting is suburban Charlotte, North Carolina. Think large back yards backing onto a Greenbelt. And Teepees and playhouses holding fort and providing sanctuary.

As Rose pushes past the drug-induced fog, her mind begins to follow the money trail. She is aided by a couple of young teenagers, attached to cell phones and their ubiquitous apps. How did we survive without Uber and Lyft?

Through a series of slapstick terrors, Rose survives various attempts on her life. Then she convinces the flunkies to turn on the money and work with her, not off her. Of course her plotting goes awry.

Karma

Perhaps what I liked best about the character of Rose Dennis is her concern about Karma. She truly embodies the philosophy. Rose tries to mitigate the wrong she is committing. Sometimes she succeeds.

Karma occurs throughout What Rose Forgot. Good intentions can mitigate bad deeds. But malevolence is punished to the fullest. What goes around comes around. So be kind to others.

What Rose Forgot

In this humorous and sometimes scary novel, the murder victims are only names in the pages. Rose is quirky but the dementia is drug-induced. She uncovers the nefarious scheme only because she is a victim. Obviously Rose did not forget enough in What Rose Forgot.

I have read many if not all of Barr’s Anna Pigeon books as well as one or two of the others. Truly I enjoyed this one the most. Maybe it was the humor. Maybe the suspense was good without sending me over the edge. Definitely, it was the character of Rose. I would love to see more. Perhaps Rose can really hook up with Lyft driver Brian….

The waiting list to check out What Rose Forgot on Libby is over six months long. Fortunately I had picked up a copy at the Barnes and Noble on my last trip to the nearest city before the lockdown. This book is a keeper and the money well spent. Buy a copy soon!

 

 

Review of Herb Books

Three Herb Books Reviewed

I love cooking with herbs. But I do not own a single culinary herb book. Most of my gardening books have a section on herbs or information on individual herbs. Additionally, I have four herb books mostly based on medicinal uses. They are all quite interesting to read but I have yet to fully utilize their information. I am going to talk about three of the herb books today.

Ortho’s All About Herbs

Maggie Oster is the author of Ortho’s All About Herbs. I own the 1999 edition and find it a compact reference guide. Even though it is condensed, only six pages devoted to culinary use of herbs and a similar number for medicinal use, the guide is chalk full of information. Not much white space is left on the page.

What I like best about this herb book is the table of Common Herbs and Their Uses on pages 8-11. A close second is the detailed index. Since it is a how-to book there are plenty of pages devoted to educating a novice. About half the book is devoted to individual plants. While Basil earns an entire page, most of the described herbs share space. Much like in a garden.

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants was co-authored by Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. and David Kiefer, M.D. This book is impressive. Gorgeous photography and beautiful illustrations accompany eight chapters of herbal information.

Since this herb book focuses on medicinal use, the plants are grouped by which part of the body they aid. For example, Chapter Four covers herbs useful for digestive ailments. However, each herb is only covered under one section. But the authors do indicate alternative therapeutic uses.

Readers may find it interesting to discover the inclusion of plants not considered herbs. Perhaps the inclusion of edibles such as tomatoes and various berries is the reasoning behind the long title. Whether herb or non-herb, the information contained is extensive.

Medicinal Plants At Home

The third book I want to share comes to us via Spain. Marìa Trànsito Lòpez Luengo and Carlota Màñez Arisò are the co-authors of the informative herb book Medicinal Plants at Home. I like how the authors organized the book.

First, there is an overall introduction. Then, the herbs are broken into groupings for subgroups of individuals, travelers, children, the elderly, etc. There is a short section on using herbs throughout the house and then the herbs are typed by how they affect the body. The authors discuss if the herbs are used for relaxation, anti-inflammatory purposes or as an immuno-stimulant.

Each herb is discussed and photographed. The authors indicate uses and include precautions and if/when the herb is contraindicated. Further, the plant is described and natural habitat disclosed. A recipe for each is included under the remedies section.

Herb Books for the Herb Garden

I am still expanding my herb garden. Currently, my herbs have more culinary applications than medicinal. While I have added both rose hips and lavender to my bath water, I have yet to make any teas or poultices. My horehound is a wonderful ground cover but I do not know how to turn it into a cough drop.

A fourth herb book is quite different and I am still reading it. Therefore The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies will be reviewed at a later date.

Modern medicine has replaced herbal medicine at the household level. I truly do not personally know anyone who mixes their own concoctions. My comfort level at this point in time is quite low with respect to preparing my own medicinal therapies. But, I am interested in adding herbal teas to my repertoire.

Enjoy the slide show.