Return to 1968

Assassination Attempt

My thoughts return to 1968 with the attempted assassination of former president and current candidate Donald Trump. I was quite young that year, a mere kindergartener. Yet I lived on a college campus where the political climate was heightened. So, my memories are memories and not just remembered stories.

1968-A Time of Conflict

For many readers, 1968 is so far in the past, knowledge comes from the history books. For those of us that lived through the year, the significance is key. Assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy during the spring set the tone.

Anti-Vietnam war sentiments stirred and would boil over in the years to follow. Protests began on campuses across the United States and many other countries as well. Living in married student housing with my parents, most of the unrest seemed distant as we played with the other kids in the apartment complex. But I do distinctly remember two key things. Chants of “Hell no, We won’t Go” and much more sobering, the weekly counts of Vietnam deaths recited on the news.

Inequality in 1968

Discrimination based on skin color led to a fear of race wars. My parents were very progressive. As a result, I was somewhat ignorant of these tensions. And as soon as bussing ended desegregation in my school district, I was invited to, and attended, birthday parties regardless of the skin color of the birthday celebrant.

At the time I was oblivious to economics and social inequalities. We lived in campus housing. The furniture had plastic cushions and I shared a small room (think old dorm size) with my younger sibling. One bathroom, an eat-in kitchen with a chipped Formica table and a small living area. My parents did have their own bedroom. The entire place was not much bigger than some of today’s hotel rooms. If I was considered poor, I didn’t realize it.

Social Differences in 2024

I am no longer unaware of the various economic strata found in each country…even those embracing communism. So, I am grateful I live in the United States where the economy is mixed. A mixed economy has tenets of various economic models. The part that is capitalist allows those individuals that create and work hard and yes have luck, to move “upward.” And there is also a downward flow. Many times, a third generation cannot build on what the previous two have built.

Furthermore, mixed economies provide protection for those that cannot work due to extenuating circumstances. We need to face the reality that not all children are born with the same opportunities. In particular, are the many that are born with physical, mental, and environmental challenges.

Uncertainties Then and Now

On the surface a comparison between 1968 and 2024 is easy. But an in-depth look shows stark differences. Key is the age of the candidates. In 1968, the oldest candidate was the Democratic nominee aged 57 with the Republican counterpart 55. The 2024 election, at this time, has a 78-year-old and an 81-year-old. Is it time for a constitutional amendment regulating a maximum age similar to the minimum age?

Another major contrast is the current military is voluntary. There is not an active draft. The final difference is the national debt.

In 1968, the debt was 368 Billion which was 39% of the GDP. Current debt is just under 35 Trillion. And the debt to GDP ratio is 135%. From an economic point, this is unsustainable. Click here for an indepth comparison of debt from 1929 to the present.

Election of 2024

The United States of America holds presidential elections in November every four years and this is one of those years. Just under four months remain until Election Day. Anyone who is not registered to vote, I encourage you to sign up. Our right to vote is a fundamental freedom not found everywhere. It is a valuable right. Furthermore, take your vote seriously. Study the issues and the candidates. Then vote as YOU see best. Try not to let commercials and talking heads make the decision for you. Our balloting system of private voting provides everyone the ability to vote independently. I wish every country could enjoy the same right.

Crow Talk Book Review

All in the Name

Crow Talk by Eileen Garvin is a library check-out published in 2024. To be honest, the author’s surname is the entire reason I picked it out. There are less than 20,000 people living in the United States with the same surname. And ancestors of my kids shared the name. (Our surname is shared by fewer than 2500 to give some perspective. And there are over 2,400,000 Smith’s in the country. But I digress.) Since the novel is outstanding, I am particularly grateful for the shared name.

This positive, uplifting story is built upon the subject of grief. Both heroine’s, Frankie O’Neill and Anne Ryan are dealing with the loss of a loved one. To compound things for Ryan, her son stopped speaking at the age of 3 ½ years. She blames herself for his problems since they manifested after the loss of her closest friend.

Building New Friendships

O’Neill is a loner and estranged from her surviving parent. She has also run afoul of the individual overseeing the completion of her master’s degree. The work revolves around the spotted owl. First, the young boy Aiden is attracted to the gangly outdoorswoman. Then his mother, homesick for Ireland with a marriage teetering on a precipice forges a friendship with O’Neill as well.

A beautiful area in a remote lakeside enclave is the setting. And by remote, the only access is via boat. Nature plays an important role in the bonding of the three characters. At the forefront is the plethora of birds with an injured young crow at the center. But bears and weather and other challenges of the wilderness are brought to life by the wonderful writing.

Crow Talk

Each chapter or section begins with information on birds. Many facts are focused on the crow, including their language-crow talk. O’Neill begins to pull herself together by chronicling the recovery of the injured crow. She is able to finish her paper on the owls only to fail once again. However, the research on the crow takes flight and she progresses on multiple fronts.

Crossroads

Meanwhile, Ryan is also at a crossroads. As her marriage deteriorates over the stress of a special needs child her new friendship provides the support needed to make the decision on what is best for Aiden. Her in-laws want him institutionalized. Both she and her husband Tim face many decisions.

Recommendation for Crow Talk

Eileen Garvin’s Crow Talk is the best book I have read this year. Even though the genres are totally different, this novel and the writer evoke the same feeling of awe that I encountered with Where the Crawdads Sing. The writing is compelling and brings the characters to life. Perhaps Crow Talk will also make it to the movie theatres. The novel certainly deserves many honors. I highly recommend the reading of this book. I plan to give copies as gifts.

Vortex Book Review

FBI Favorites: Sherlock and Savich

My immediate thought after finishing Vortex by Catherine Coulter was power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (My apologies to the descendants of Lord Acton for an inexact quote.) Following that, I began analyzing the writing itself, perhaps due to time spent editing my own writing earlier in the day. My conclusion was surprising.

Coulter is a master writer and Vortex is well written with no editorial problems. The plot is believable and the story flows. Yet, my sense of satisfaction upon completion is missing. And I am not sure why. Perhaps a lack of romance often found in her FBI thrillers. More likely, a feeling of forced involvement of series regulars.

Main Plot

The unsettling topic, a missing woman, is one with closure without hope. The protagonist, Mia Briscoe, is a journalist newly focused on the plight of a close friend, Serena Winters. Pictures discovered by yet another friend yield a clue to the men last seen near Serena before her disappearance.

Not surprisingly, her mission to discover what happened to Serena dovetails with her assignment of interviewing a young charismatic and powerful candidate for the position of New York City mayor. I was ok with this tie-in. But the additional backstory of FBI agent Tommy Maitland as the boyfriend of the missing girl and the subsequent interaction between long-time series heroine Agent Sherlock and Mia felt strained.

Vortex Subplots

Sherlock just happens to be in New York City to lend a hand in a case of a Black Widow and jilted lover-a psychopath murderess. So, she can easily switch her efforts to the main story line as a favor to Maitland. This is a refreshing change from all the subplots tying together.

Furthermore, the unique subplots continue with the storyline created for Sherlock’s husband Dillon Savich. A missing CIA agent and flash drive keep him busy. He aids and protects a co-team member, CIA agent Olivia Hildebrandt. The storylines do not merge even though the series characters bounce back and forth.

Forced Threads in Vortex

In addition to the involvement of Sherlock in multiple storylines, the forced relationships of the main characters troubled me. Does Mia’s boyfriend even need a place in the story? The relationship feels inconsequential as compared to the one between Olivia and the missing Mike.

Recommendation

I enjoyed Vortex and yet I am glad it was a library check-out. While the unique storylines did not bother me, they also did not do much for the overall book. One could even imagine two separate books. Furthermore, Savich and Sherlock working together always works better than when they go their separate ways. Longtime readers will enjoy but newcomers need to start with another book in the series.

June 2024 Wrap-Up

In the Garden

Cherry Tree
30 year-old cherry tree

While June 2024 yielded many positives such as a bumper crop of cherries, the overwhelming takeaway was one of early summer heat. Multiple days of triple digit temperatures. Quite unpleasant when coupled with winds from the southwest, near or above 20 m.p.h. and the heart (and heat) of the summer is still to come. I sure hope we don’t break the all-time high this year.

Naturally, the heat means the salad greens in the garden are bolting. A few heads of lettuce will be left alone in order to produce seed. Then, the saved seed will be collected and saved for next year’s planting. I have great success with saved seeds of salad greens.

The tomatoes are producing many fruits, and the cucumbers are loaded with flowers. Melons are beginning to form. However, the garden is not receiving much rain, so the drip lines are hard at work. And the star of the June 2024 Garden, is the old cherry tree. A bumper crop from the nearly thirty-year old tree was unexpected. The late winter snows provided the perfect amount of moisture.

From Garden to Kitchen Table in June 2024

In addition to having plenty of greens for salads this month, the garden produced two batches of cherry jam, multiple quarts of cherries frozen for future use, a cherry pie and delicious low-sugar zucchini oatmeal muffins. Of course, cherries also topped oatmeal in the mornings and ice cream in the evenings. The best thing about a home garden is the freshness of the food. And the knowledge of no pesticides in our homegrown food.

Travel in June 2024

Weekend trips to Wyoming and the mountains of Colorado provided relief from the heat. Wyoming is a sparsely populated state and has much to offer. It will be interesting to see if the fairly recent discovery of the rare earth minerals needed to make computer chips changes the demographics.

I am torn about the discovery. It is good to not depend on outside sources for these important manufacturing materials. But the mining process is usually in the form of strip mining. Reclamation of the land after mining is difficult. Our reliance on computers is definitely a two-edged sword.

In the Library

The book reviews are approaching a more normal state. In fact, for the first time in a while, multiple reviews are waiting their turn to be published and at least one more remains unwritten. After a stretch of not liking many books, I have found a plethora of novels I find enjoyable as well as moving and motivational. A person’s mind frame definitely impacts happiness and so much more.

Politics in America- June 2024

Back in 2016, Chuck Lorre, one of the brains behind the Big Bang Theory posted one two syllable word on a “vanity” card following the national election. A simple “Uh-Oh.” I wonder what he would post after the recent debate between the current and former Presidents. I have faith in a system that has lasted almost 250 years and yet this election cycle wants to test that faith once again. So, I will continue to read, watch and educate myself about the political issues at hand. And I will vote in November.

Nine Bark

Deer Strolling at Dusk

Deer Strolling at Dusk

Summers at the Saint Book Review

Summer Read

Mary Kay Andrews’ Summers at The Saint is an outstanding whodunnit just in time for summer reading. The veteran writer delivers once again with surprising plot twists, heartwarming characters and unexpected victims. So, if you need a good vacation read, find a copy of this page-turner.

The Saint is a family-owned resort along the Atlantic seaboard. The current general manager, Traci Eddings is the widow of Hoke Eddings. Since she grew up as an “Ain’t” and not a member of the high society social class frequenting The Saint, Eddings faces hostility from other members of the family. Except for her niece Parrish. The two are close allies.

Traci Eddings- Protagonist of Summers at The Saint

Widowed and childless, Traci Eddings is very close to Parrish. The younger Eddings never bonded with her stepmother and her birth mom has been missing from the scene for most of her life. So, the two women teaming up to stave off the red ink of operating the resort makes good business sense.

However, the financial woes stem from malfeasance. Thus, danger lurks for the two women and death strikes at The Saint resort once again. Traci’s memories of a tragic drowning from her first summer at the resort provide backdrop and a parallel story line. And secondary characters link the two plots.

Good vs. Evil in Summers at the Saint

Summers at The Saint presents a story of good versus evil. The many supporting characters are divided along this line in the sand. Furthermore, there are varying degrees of wrongdoing. And when tragedy strikes, characters on both sides of the spectrum suffer.

Since the story is contemporary in nature, drug use is a key factor in the storyline. However, embezzlement is at the core of the disastrous happenings occurring at the resort. Fortunately for Traci Eddings, new hires provide evidence of the misdeeds.

Wicked Good Twist

I truly enjoy a mystery containing an unexpected plot twist. Summers at The Saint is such a book. Perhaps other readers will have guessed how the past and present are linked. But, I did not. Andrews masterfully presents a plausible, yet unforeseen, turn-of-event melding the plot and the actions of the characters.

Furthermore, the character of Traci Eddings moves past death and grasps the hope of the future. A lesson for all seeking happiness. Summers at The Saint may make you cry, but the end is a “feel good” and full of positivity. This is great summer reading.

 

Reduced Sugar Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

Sunday Morning Muffins

This morning’s batch of Reduced Sugar Zucchini Muffins were delicious and more than half the batch was gobbled up. I adapted the recipe from the Nothin’ but Muffins cookbook compiled by Cyndi Duncan and Georgie Patrick. I have used this spiral bound cookbook for decades.

The zucchini bush I planted in the middle of the herb planter is producing already and somehow one got away from me. So, I cut the oversized fruit in half, peeled and grated it, yielding about 1 ½ to 2 cups.

Ever since reading the Case Against Sugar, I have made reducing sugar a priority. But I tweaked the recipe in a couple of other places too. I subbed walnuts for pecans, cut the salt dramatically and used olive oil. Also, my oatmeal was not quick-cooking just regular oats from Heartland Mill in Marienthal, Kansas. In theory these should all be healthy substitutions. However, the muffins did not taste healthy…they were decadent- a word I usually reserve for chocolate.

Equipment for Reduced Sugar Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

Regular size 12 count muffin tin

Miniature size 12 count muffin tin

Large mixing bowl

Small bowl

Grater

Mixing Spoons and Measuring Cups and Spoons

Oven

Recipe for Reduced Sugar Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins

2 ½ Cups Flour

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Walnuts, chopped

½ Cup Oats, uncooked

1 TBS. Baking Powder

¼ Teas. Salt

1 Teas. Cinnamon

4 Eggs, slightly beaten

1 ½ – 2 Cups Shredded Zucchini

¾ Cup Olice Oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400° F. and grease muffin tins. In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, walnuts, oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Break eggs into small bowl and slightly beat then pour over flour mixture. Then add grated zucchini and olive oil. Just stir until all the flour mixture is incorporated. If flour does not mix in, add more zucchini. Batter will be somewhat stiff. Spoon into muffin tins. Bake large tin for fifteen to twenty minutes and small tin for five minutes less. Remove from oven when tops are golden brown. Sinfully delicious when warm-no butter or jam needed. Also great after the Reduced Sugar Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins have cooled. Enjoy!

Reduced Sugar Zucchini Oatmeal Muffins cooling on a wire rack.

Give Fudge a Chance Book Review

Return to Mackinac Island

June is synonymous with blooming bushes and my thoughts turn to Mackinac Island with the reading of Give Fudge a Chance. This 2023 release by Nancy Coco is a delightful cozy mystery with plenty of suspects. Heroine Allie Mc Murphy squeezes time from her busy work schedule to solve the case-since one of the murders takes place at her hotel.

One Busy Lady

Allie Mc Murphy is juggling entries into the county fair, demonstrations of fudge making at the McMurphy, two suiters and two murders. The list does not all tie together by the end, leaving the reader wondering what is in store for the next release in the series.

Ms. McMurphy has gained some common sense from the beginning of the series. She now at least sends a text or leaves a voice mail for boyfriend and cop Rex Manning before heading into trouble. In Give Fudge a Chance, as the title alludes, there are roadblocks between Manning and McMurphy keeping the romance from reaching the next level.

Give Fudge a Chance Plot(s)

The romance/cozy mystery starts with two seemingly unrelated murders as well as a Grand Prize ribbon. By the conclusion the three story lines merge. The pace is quick and the settings in, around, and under Mackinac Island provide added interest. The smuggler’s tunnels are perfect for adding suspense.

The motive in Give Fudge a Chance traces to money and greed. And while one death may have been in the heat of the moment, the other was pre-meditated. And family and love interests cover for the murderer.

Furthermore, the author deftly weaves a current events theme into the book. Allie Mc Murphey’s grand prize fudge is attacked by the loser. Similar to the poor sports in the political arena in the United States, the long-time fair queen claims foul by cheating. Then she promptly divides the island with Team Christine signs popping up everywhere. Fortunately, in Give Fudge a Chance, the cheating claims have a hint of humor.

Recommendation

The Candy-Coated Mystery series is a fun summer read. I checked the paperback copy of Give Love a Chance out of my local library. And I will keep my eyes open for this summer’s release Three Fudges and a Baby. Cozy mysteries combined with a touch of romance are great for escaping the heat. Furthermore, the recipes in the book are great for anyone looking to add fudge to the summer picnic table. Lots to like about this series!

Garden Weeds

Attacking the Weeds

Pulling garden weeds is a priority this week. Recent rains have loosened the soil. So, it is easier to pull. I dislike using chemicals, thus the manual attack on Virginia creeper, bindweed and volunteer trees after each good rain. Plus, many other weeds. Too many to name.

Bindweed

Bindweed overtaking garden bed of chrysanthemums.The creeper and bindweed get top billing and first attack due to their invasiveness. The bindweed is in a few spots in the lot. Unfortunately, it is close to overtaking one of the front beds. My attempts to eradicate it are foiled by the persistence of the weed. Additionally, the bed is difficult to weed because ants have made the area into a home.

I have field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) in my yard. Some years I think I am getting ahead of it. But not this year. My absence from the garden last fall is taking a toll. With the exception of a few vines on the lot, the bindweed has not begun flowering. I hope to wrestle control before the white flowers appear.

Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is favored by some as a plant. But I place it into the garden weeds category. I wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves when I battle this five-leaved vine. Since I am sensitive to the oils in the plant, the covering keeps me from receiving a skin rash. This is one of those garden weeds that can cause allergic reactions and sickness if the berries are eaten. So, even though they provide beautiful color in the fall with the leaves turning orange and crimson, I dislike this particular vine.

Virginia Creeper climbing up an evergreen tree.

Volunteer Trees as Garden Weeds

A side effect of planting many trees years ago is that the trees are now mature enough to produce seeds and thus seedlings. Last year the Chinese elm was the greatest nuisance. This year both red bud and oak trees are popping up everywhere.

Occasionally, a seedling escapes my notice for a year or two. When that occurs, I try to find a new home for the tree. I particularly have luck transplanting the cedars and junipers. If the volunteer is in a good place for a tree, it is protected so growth can naturally occur.

Therefore, a beautiful Shademaster honeylocust is part of the northern boundary of my property. The nursery claimed these trees were seedless. But my trees all produce large brown seed pods. And one new tree about ten foot tall.

My Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) continues to thrive and is determined to drop seedlings when the squirrels miss an acorn or two. Unlike the Gambel Oak (Quercus Gambelii) which are known as scrub oak, the Bur Oak stands as a single specimen. Planted almost thirty years ago, my Bur Oak is taller than my house. I don’t really have a spot for a second one.

Few Garden Weeds in Big Garden

The Raised Row Technique of gardening continues to tamp down on weeds. I highly recommend owning the book by the Competti’s. For the review click here. The mulch also keeps the soil from drying out and makes the weeds easy to pull even without a rain.

Raised Row Vegetable Garden

Winter’s Child Book Review

A Favorite Series

Winter’s Child by Margaret Coel was released in 2016. The author announced upon release that the novel would be the last in the Wind River mystery series. And unlike the recently reviewed Museum of Lost Quilts, Winter’s Child appears to be the finale.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Coel uses the Wind River Indian Reservation as the setting. The protagonist is Father John O’Malley, a recovering alcoholic sent to the wilds of Wyoming for one last chance.

Indian lawyer Vicky Holden also has a starring role in the series and Winter’s Child focuses on the legal adoption of a five-year-old white child by an Arapaho couple that discovered her on their porch when she was a newborn.

Story Line of Winter’s Child

Vicky Holden braves a winter storm to attend a meeting with area lawyers at the request of Clint Hopkins a solo practitioner who specializes in adoptions. A man who keeps most findings in his memory instead of written down, Clint is run down leaving the meeting. And leaving a mystery for Vicky to solve.

Side Story

Running parallel to the main theme is the research of Shannon O’Malley, niece of Father John. Shannon’s visit to Wyoming includes delving into the history of two white children kidnapped by Indians many years ago. One of the girls became an Arapaho through marriage. Shannon hopes to interview descendants while also recovering from a romantic break-up.

Ending a Series with Winter’s Child

Naturally, Coel manages to tie the story lines together. She also tries to wrap-up the longstanding theme of forbidden love. Even though the mystery in Winter’s Child came to a satisfying conclusion, I am not as happy with the novel signaling the end of the series. Too many unanswered questions with respect to the relationship between the lawyer and the priest.

May 2024 Wrap-Up

May Equals Hawaii Weather

May is one of my favorite months here on the High Plains of the United States and May 2024 is par for the course. We often joke that we are experiencing Hawaii weather. Not too hot and not too cold with afternoon rain showers sprinkled in.

Outdoor chores are once again at the forefront of the schedule. Quilting takes a backseat to pulling weeds, planting annuals and watching the veggies’ flower. Reading is often done on the back porch. And travel is somewhat limited because one loves the weather at home.

Birds, Bees and Butterflies

Mystery Bird

Sophie the cat is restricted on how much time she spends outdoors. This is prime nesting for the birds both permanent and passing through. Birders find so many varieties to spot in this migration corridor. The hummingbirds return for a few weeks along with the robins and finches. Meanwhile, the grackles and turkeys tolerate the invaders.

Various types of bees are pollinating perennials, annuals and weeds-oops I mean wildflowers. A few giant bumblebees but mostly small honeybees’ flit around the garden. They are joined by a variety of butterflies, yellow, orange and white. The milkweed will bloom soon, so I hope to see monarchs in the mix. Fortunately, the miller moths have not been bad this year.

Plantings Around the Garden in May 2024

We just added one tree this year. Family members gifted me a linden tree as a remembrance to my father. Other plantings include perennials such as Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris x clandonensis), Sunset Glow Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) and the Daylilly Happy Returns. And plenty of annuals in planters as well as here and there in the beds.

The vegetables planted in late April are thriving. As I discussed in the April 2024 Wrap-Up, I look to my oak tree to know when to plant. Once again, the old bur oak knows when the winter weather is gone. Much more reliable than a calendar!

Each tomato plant has blossoms. As do the melons and cucumbers. And even the potato plants. Perhaps harvest will begin by the Fourth of July. Meanwhile, plenty of fruit is on the cherry trees. I forecast both pies and jam for this year’s harvest.

May 2024 harvest included lettuces, onions and herbs. This is about normal. Lacking a greenhouse, I cannot speed up the harvest any more than I have.

My one disappointment is a lack of peony blooms this year. I am not sure why. So, I will research possibilities and try to take action this fall.

May 2024 In the Library

Reading and reviewing books is picking up again. In addition to binge reading Baldacci and Woods one weekend, I reviewed Willow and The Museum of Lost Quilts. I am about three chapters from finishing Margaret Coel’s Winter’s Child. Somehow, I missed when this final edition to the Wind River series was released. Look for the review next week.

May 2024 Wrap-Up

A trip to Louisville Kentucky commences on the last day of May. Churchill Downs will be much less crowded than the first weekend of the month. But the racing will be just as exciting. Friends and family will join me for a day at the races. Until next month, find happiness each day.

 

Nature at Work

The Museum of Lost Quilts Book Review

Elm Creek Quilters

Recently released, The Museum of Lost Quilts is a surprise addition to the Elm Creek Quilters series. According to author Jennifer Chiaverini in her author’s note at the end of the story, the Elm Creek Quilters had at least one more story to tell. But the timeline set forth in a previous novel, The Wedding Quilt did need some minor adjustments.

As someone who did not read the previous book (somehow I missed it) I had no trouble at all with The Museum of Lost Quilts. Indeed, I had not read a novel by Ms. Chiaverini in a while and I am now going to go back to the library and read what I missed.

Summer Sullivan-Lead Quilter in The Museum of Lost Quilts

Summer is the youngest of the original Elm Creek Quilters. When almost finished with her master’s degree thesis she attends a conference where a presenter showcases an almost identical research synopsis. Summer is not only devastated by the other researchers coup, she also becomes unable to complete her work. Thus, she does not graduate on time.

Seeking refuge at Elm Creek Manor, she receives full support from the other quilters. They assure her she can finish by the end of her extension. Furthermore, she is asked to curate a quilt display at the Union Hall downtown. Members of the quilting group as well as the local historical society are desperate to save the old building.

The Museum of Lost Quilts Theme

Chiaverini is known to weave contemporary messages into her novels. In this story, two messages evolve. First, Summer is seeking her purpose in life. A struggle for many in this world. Secondly, the author touches upon the debate of rewriting history in an unusual manner.

Since the novel is taking place back in the early part of the century, it predates much of the re-naming currently occurring in the country. So, Chiaverini stresses the need to remember the past as accurately as possible even if the historical past reflects poorly on the inhabitants of that time.  I fully concur.

Recommendation

This is a library check-out, but I would not mind owning a copy. The characters are well-rounded and it is easy to commiserate with the trials of finishing a graduate degree.  Plus, the book does a wonderful job at reminding one that life and purpose need not be a drudgery. Happiness in one’s work is very important. I highly recommend The Museum of Lost Quilts.

Many Reasons to Read

From Entertainment to Gaining Knowledge

There are many reasons to read ranging from entertainment to gaining knowledge. And there are many types of books, articles and blogs to choose from. Plus, “reading” can be done via listening. Think of young children listening to stories at bedtime.

One of the icebreakers I used at the start of the fall semester was to ask each student what book they read most recently. Occasionally, a student would not have read a book just for fun in many years. Others were clearly readers for entertainment purposes. I found a strong correlation between students who read for fun and those students who gained much from the texts used in the classroom. (This was before the push to eliminate textbooks.)

My Many Reasons to Read

Regular readers of this blog know one of the key reasons I read is my hope to stave off memory loss. In 2013 I realized my mom was having memory issues because she could not finish any fiction books. So, this spring when I kept returning library books partially read, I became concerned.

Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. After struggling with new releases, I borrowed paperbacks from a family member. Two were by often read author David Baldacci and a third was a Stuart Woods. All three were read in timely fashion. They were fun reads.

Knowledge comes from reading. One is never too old to learn. Although I will admit learning about new technologies is difficult. Wrapping my brain around AI is one example. But the knowledge gained aids in investment decision making. Actually, in any decision making.

Reading Formats

Hardcover books are my preference. Paperbacks tend to have a smaller font. Online reading causes eyestrain for me. Even when reading with the blue light lenses. However, many of my family members prefer to read online. Everything from the newspaper to the latest beach read can be found online.

Of the many reasons to read online, convenience is at the top of the list. The Libby app allows you to check-out books online in less than the time needed to drive to the local library. As a bonus, library fines are non-existent as the app automatically returns the book on the due date.

Converting Non-Readers into Readers

Mastering reading is one of the most important tools for life. However, reading does not come easy for everyone. When working with children, it is important to find a genre that encourages the skill. The same holds true for adults.

Then, once a mastery of reading is complete reading across genres and delivery methods provides everything from entertainment to a gain in knowledge. These many reasons to read develop well-rounded, intelligent and thoughtful members of society. We need more readers in this world to produce the critical thinking that keeps the negatives of history from repeating.

I challenge each of you to read for at least an hour this weekend.

Willow Book Review

Coloring Outside the Lines

Willow, a delightful children’s story is penned by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan and illustrated by Cyd Moore. The book is perfect to read aloud to pre-K and the early grades and will also be a favorite of kids who have mastered reading.

The story brings multiple messages to the audience. Creativity is front and center. But kindness and acceptance are woven in as key elements.

Willow the Main Character

Even free-spirited Willow gets the shivers from dour art teacher Miss Hawthorn from time to time. However, Willow loves art. So, nothing and nobody keeps her from expressing herself. She uses her favorite art history book as her back-up.

Unfortunately, the rest of the kids in the classroom adhere to the strict dictates of their art teacher. Of course this creates a uniformity in the art room. Not what one would like to see in a subject based on creativity.

Kindness and Acceptance

Willow is not only creative; she is also kind. At Christmas time she gifts her beloved art book to Miss Hawthorn. The book is the only present the stern teacher receives. And the gesture of acceptance has a profound affect.

Miss Hawthorne sits in the empty school turning the pages of the well-loved book and a change comes from within. By the time the kids return after the Christmas break a major change has taken place.

Recommendation for Willow

Willow was released in 2008 by Sleeping Bear Press, a favorite publisher. The authors wrote a wonderful story. One that encompasses individuality, acceptance and kindness. Art is a subject that calls for individualism and self-expression. Grapes can be green or purple and apples can be blue.

Cyd Moore divinely illustrates the transformation of Miss Hawthorne. And her classroom. I loved the creativity of the story book pictures. Moore conveys the words of Brennan and Brennan-Nelson with ease and expertise.

This book is a great gift. I highly recommend.

Blowin’ in the Wind

Spring Weather

This time of year, everything is blowin’ in the wind. Dirt and pollen and pollen and dirt. And that’s just the normal wind. Unfortunately, spring weather also brings in tornadic activity. So, now is time to review some emergency preparedness. Here on the high plains one of the greatest dangers is blowing dirt. Farmers, just like other occupations range in abilities. Fortunately, good stewards of the land incorporate practices to keep fields from blowin’ in the wind. For example, farmers can leave stubble and plant cover crops.

No Till Farming

Long ago, leaving stubble in the field was considered lazy. Now the technique is known as no till and actually has many benefits. Edward H. Faulkner posited the theory in his work Plowman’s Folly released in 1943. Thus, the text is a reaction to the Dust Bowl Days of the 1930s. Tillage is thought to be a main contributor to loss of topsoil. And loss of topsoil means dirt flying through the air.

Blowing dirt is extremely dangerous for those travelling through farm country in the spring. Even Interstate and divided highways can be shut down from loss of visibility due to flying dirt. But most dangerous are the two-lane highways used as alternates. Unfortunately, fatal crashes occur.

Blowin’ in the Wind

Gale force winds not only blow dirt, but also bring down tree branches and entire trees. In turn, the trees can bring down power lines or block roadways. Unfortunately, a repercussion of downed power lines is the potential to spark a wildfire.

Now as a precaution, high winds in areas with trees and above ground power lines translates into electric companies turning off power for hours at a time. When these hours stretch into a day or more, businesses and homeowners suffer consequences. About the only thing you can do about power loss is to have a back-up generator.

Tornadic Activity

In my opinion the worst part of the spring season is the tornadoes that epitomize blowin’ in the wind. Entire towns can disappear if the cyclone is wide enough and strong enough. The destruction is incredible. Survivors can be haunted the rest of their lives.

Emergency preparedness measures for tornadoes can be accessed from the FEMA website by clicking here. Keys to preparedness include weather radios, safe rooms, basements and common sense. The funnel cloud I videoed was almost five miles distant and moving away. Any closer and I would not have captured it. If the radio says seek shelter, do it now.

In our county last year, a farm family received a reverse 911 call telling them they were in the bull’s eye of a tornado. They retreated to the basement. After the storm everything was gone. Don’t fool with Mother Nature, seek shelter when you are in the direct path of one of these storms. So, sign up for reverse 911 calls. Even cell phones can receive these messages.

Prepare for More Blowin’ in the Wind

Severe storms go hand in hand with the season. Fortunately, my corner of the world has not revisited the straight line 100 M.P.H. winds from a few years ago…at least so far this year. I am prepared for power outages and debris clean-up from wind damage, are you?

April 2024 Wrap-Up

Here and Gone

April 2024 sneaked by like a bandit on a mission. The month was productive in many ways although writing wasn’t one. Life goes on and efforts will be redoubled re: writing and posting. Fortunately, the gardening and quilting provided balance to the business at hand.

Return Trip to Cañon City

Early on in the month was a return trip to Cañon City, Colorado. This southern mountain town is loaded with charm as highlighted last summer in this post. And while I did spend much of my time indoors and in meetings, I also enjoyed a visit to a new to me winery; Bugling Elk Vinyard and Winery. The owners have quite a story and I encourage any readers passing near Penrose, Colorado to stop by and hear it.

Listening to the Oak Tree

The High Plains is notorious for late freezes and April 2024 was ushered in with temperatures in the teens. But my Bur Oak has leafed out. In almost 30 years, this tree popping forth new leaves means spring is here. And frost is banished for the summer. Perhaps this changing climate will trick both me and the oak, however I am ready to gamble. And once before the oak did leaf out in April.

This past weekend I planted my tomatoes and peppers, as well as cantaloupe and many flowers and herbs. Temperatures range from mid-forties to low sixties as lows for the next ten days. So, after a month of harvesting asparagus, I am turning the calendar on the vegetable garden. Most all the future spears will be left to grow into fern bearing stalks and the bulk of the harvest will be romaine lettuce and the early herbs such as chives and parsley. And don’t forget the mint.

A nice patch of mint at the far end of Row 1 in the Big Garden is ready to mash into the bottom of refreshing mint juleps. Currently the mint is competing with some prickly pear cactus to anchor the base of the garden. Both will be kept in check as spread can take over the rows.

April 2024 in the Quilt Room

Two space themed baby quilts are shaping up nicely. I have mixed flannel with cotton which makes things a little tricky to seam together. At times the fabric slips. Once again straight pins come to the rescue. Look for pictures of the completed tops in May.

April 2024 Wrap-Up

Finally, my dad’s house is under contract. Our family is pleased that another family will soon make a wonderful house their home. We will retain many memories while letting go of the brick and mortar.

Derby Hats, Mint Juleps, Derby Pie and Bourbon Balls: Are You Ready for Derby 150?

A Longstanding Tradition

Derby hats are out of storage, a few sprigs of mint peak above the ground, I am getting ready for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby. On my to do list is to browse through my copy of Racing to the Table and start thinking about my racing picks. Handicapping the Derby is difficult in part due to the expanded field of 20.

Pix Shoes of Louisville

Many of my derby hats are bought at Pix Shoes in downtown Louisville. In addition to an abundance of shoes in widths narrow to wide, this great shop carries a plethora of hats and fascinators. If you are headed to the big race and don’t have a hat yet, make your way to 201 S. Preston Street. A treat for the eyes is inside!

Owners and employees go out of their way to help you match a hat to an outfit. And if you have time to shop for clothes as well, I will let you in on a secret: Buy the derby hat first, and then find an outfit to go with it.

Fascinators for 2024

My choices for this year’s Oaks and Derby Days are fascinators, both bought at Pix. A Kelly-green jacket atop a navy dress will pair perfectly with the navy fascinator highlighted with Kelly-green embellishments. The other fascinator will be perfect headgear for a blush and lace dress. The clothes complement the derby hats.

 

Derby hats hanging on an antique hall tree

Derby Hats

Anyone fortunate to attend the race in person will tell you how ornate the hats can be. And the men can really get into the celebration! I once saw a man wearing a replica of the racetrack complete with the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs. And others wearing horse heads as hats. Personally, I prefer the traditional looks of straw summer hats. No matter your tastes, the entire weekend is a spectacle.

Derby Menu

Those of you watching from home, I highly recommend buying or finding a copy of Racing to the Table. Click here for my review from a few years ago. The food and the beverages are a big part of hosting a party. Sweets top the list for me. I love derby pies and could easily pop a half-dozen or so bourbon balls in my mouth. But make sure to include heartier fare as well.

In addition to mint juleps, consider serving Oaks Lillies. I don’t particularly care for vodka, but the cranberry juice, lime and triple sec mixed in make for a delightfully fresh cocktail. Click here for a Southern Living recipe of this gem.

150 Years of Tradition

An event surviving over a century is remarkable in this age of forgetting history. Furthermore, celebrations are moments in time honoring traditions lucky enough to survive the ebbs and flows of life. I don’t know how many thousands will descend upon Churchill Downs and Louisville, Kentucky next week (weather will play a factor) but I do hope the celebration will be a joyful and responsible one. Enjoy your derby hats, parties and food and for those attending in person- safe travels.

Backseat to Life

Absence of Posts

From time to time my writing takes a backseat to life. This is the case for my recent absence. After four years of searching, we found a mountain retreat. Trying to get things set up in our home away from home takes time. Learning to deal with a different set of wildlife will take even more time.

Other things popped up as well. We were finally able to get my dad’s house on the market after a lengthy probate. We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of his unexpected death. Anyone in the Central Florida region looking for a house with good bones, and with recent improvements of the big-ticket items such as a new roof and just needing a little love to make it your own can click here.

Prioritizing Commitments

One of the biggest time commitments which caused the blogging to take a backseat to life was the planning of a Zonta International Area meeting. The meeting took place in Beautiful Cañon City and featured two wonderful women speaking on inner growth.

Cris Lindsay is known as the Happiness Coach. Her three breakout sessions keyed on the importance of balancing a hectic work-life and making time for yourself. Her interactive sessions provided many stress-reducing techniques.

Dr. Barbara Ann Jacques provided the keynote during the luncheon. The importance of time remained a key theme. She expanded with a self-evaluation using three Vs; vision, value, and vibration. Worksheets guided the participants through the process. The group of professional women were open to exploring the concept of utilizing time for oneself as a means to expand each ones impact on the world around us.

In the Library

Throw in a dislike of a few of the recent books I’ve read, and the situation gets dire. The last two books I read were non-fiction and business related. The first was a guide to developing leaders and it was ok, just dry and made leaders seem self-centered. The second was an economics booked hailed on the back cover as the best theory since John Maynard Keynes tome The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. It was not. My back cover blurb would have read: Utopian at best, veiled socialism/communism at worst.

Gardening takes a Backseat to Life

An even greater problem was a deep freeze of 15 degrees just as the first asparagus popped up. No gardening pictures and few spring blooms. In fact, the mountain retreat has more daffodils in bloom than the homestead on the high plains. Not sure how that happened.

No More Backseat

Fortunately for my writing, running the recent conference for 40 attendees was the finale to my two-year term. My organizational management skills were well used. Now it is time to polish the writing skills.

The Spy Coast Book Review

Retired Spies

As a retiree, the blurb on the back cover of The Spy Coast spoke to me. A gang of former agents in their sixties at least, combine efforts to aid one of their own. Tess Gerritsen’s writing compels the reader to keep turning the pages. The novel is fast paced, and the storyline is intriguing. It took just three days for our household to read through the action-adventure.

Locations Featured in The Spy Coast

The story opens in Paris and covers the world-Southeast Asia, Italy and the coastal part of Maine, U.S.A. are just a few locations. A more exact locale of the spy coast is Purity, Maine, a small village home to lobstermen, farmers, seasonal tourists and spies. Protagonist Maggie Bird moved to the quaint town two years ago and was finally making a home after years on the run following a disastrous operation which cost lives of innocent-including her unwitting husband.

The descriptions of each location make the reader feel as if they are personally experiencing each place. Gerritson has a knack of bringing the background to life. In turn, the realistic settings bring a reality to the fiction.

The Spy Coast Protagonist

Maggie Bird at sixty is the youngest of the retirees. She may have been on the sideline for a while but her skills are not rusty. She easily out-maneuvers Jo Thibodeau a homebred member of the Purity police department who is tenacious toward her duties. Maggie also gets the one-up on her fellow agency retirees when the going gets dangerous. But she faces an unknown and powerful opponent.

Storyline

The agency in Virginia is breached and info about the operation gone wrong is delivered into the hands of one seeking revenge. Maggie, an unwilling field agent in the op in question, is compromised. If she does not find where the threat is coming from she will need to run again. Something she is reluctant to do since finding peace and an opportunity for a new life among former friends and new ones.

As bodies drop all over the place, Maggie’s neighbors and friends are pulled into the mystery. The protagonist is unwilling to share the details of the bitter past. Then, the teenager next door is kidnapped as a bargaining chip. Find a copy to discover what happens next.

Recommendation

Without disclosing too much of the story, The Spy Coast is one of the most satisfying books read in 2024. Good overcomes evil and yes there are many shades of gray. Tess Gerritsen is the best-selling author of the Rizzoli and Isles series and potentially has another series on her agenda. Look for future books featuring the retired spies and their Martini Club. Buy or borrow The Spy Coast if you love a good read. Our family could not put it down.

 

 

The Leprechaun in the Basement Book Review

Holiday Reading for Kids

Artwork from The Leprechaun in the basement showing Michael waking up in bed to new green baseball shoes.Kathy Tucker wrote, and John Sandford illustrated The Leprechaun in the Basement. I checked it out from my local library which always displays holiday themed books just prior to the celebratory day. The book dates back to before the turn of the century but the theme is timeless. A quick search of the Internet yielded prices from three dollars to sixty dollars online. Or you could check your local library.

O’Leary the Leprechaun

O’Leary is an old leprechaun. He lives in a basement and spends his days counting his gold. Once upon a time he had another occupation, but he no longer remembers what job he held. So, sometimes he gets a wee bit bored.

Michael Discovers the Leprechaun

St. Patrick’s Day is not a happy day for the McKeever family. Mr. McKeever is out of work. After hunting for a job all day, he has no energy to play catch with his son Michael. Things are spiraling downhill. Money is tight and reserved for necessities. Michael’s baseball shoes from last year will need to suffice for this season as well.

Performing a chore, Michael happens upon O’Leary singing an Irish tune in honor of the day. He also discovers the pot of gold…gold that could help his family. Cross words are exchanged and Michael stomps upstairs. Both Michael and O’Leary have much to think about.

Fairy Tale Tradition

Much like the fairy tales of old, The Leprechaun in the Basement delivers moral messages. Both Michael and O’Leary learn from their argument. Another missive is given with regards to Michael’s despondent father. All-in-all, the book delivers a meaningful story beneficial to kids and adults.

Recommendation

I enjoyed reading this short tale exploring the real important things in life. Kathy Tucker writes a compelling children’s book, and John Sandford’s illustrations bring the characters to life. The story is appropriate for kids from toddler age to late grade school. Search your library for a copy before the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day.

 

February 2024 Wrap-Up

Leap Year

Another Leap Day is upon us as we wrap-up February 2024. Leap years coincide with United States of America Presidential Elections. Thus, once primaries roll in, one knows to add a day to February. On an added note, Happy Birthday to all those out there celebrating on their day for the first time since 2020. Hopefully 2024 will be a more positive year.

February 2024 In the Garden

Since February is a short month, accomplishments can seem thin. However, in between snows, time was spent in the garden pruning grape vines and prepping beds. The fluctuation in temperatures is difficult to work with and I have heard of some peach trees trying to bud out. Fortunately, mine are behaving. No crocuses yet, but some of the grass is beginning to green. And like a summer rain, after the snow melt the air smells crisp and clean.

February 2024 In the Library

Multiple trips to the public library have yielded good reading and in one case a re-read. Spring cleaning is not that far away so I re-checked out The Home Edit. I am limiting myself to just four check-outs per time in an effort to stay focused.

Wrapping Up an Estate

Much of February 2024 focused on gathering the necessary tax documents in order to file my father’s last tax return. Some sadness weaves into my daily activities as his sudden death made a few things messier than I think he intended. But, of course most of don’t know when our time is up.

So, the remainder of 2024, I am going to try to really organize my affairs. I hope to have multiple decades ahead but life and death happens.

The estate process is quite lengthy even when not much money is involved. My advice is to prepare as much as possible in advance and keep your house in order- both literally and figuratively.

The Edge Book Review

Sequel

Book cover showing man standing at the edge of a cliff looking down,The Edge is David Baldacci’s follow up to The 6:20 Man. Protagonist Travis Devine returns stateside and is deployed to investigate the murder of a CIA operative. Jenny Silkwell was the daughter of a retired Senator from Maine. Thus, Devine and the reader travel to Maine.

As a sequel, The Edge retains the same sense of action-suspense. Devine is a complex character and definitely one of the good guys. Murder and mayhem just happen to follow in his wake. However, the mystery of “whodunit” really wasn’t hard to determine. Fortunately, the mystery was tertiary to the story after the action and the emotional evolvement of the female interest.

The Silkwell Family

Devine’s investigation is complicated by the various personalities of the Silkwell family. The former Senator is at an unresponsive stage in a memory care facility, and his wife has remarried and is estranged from her children. Her input ties to seeing the eldest right before the murder.

The surviving children are a son Dak, and a younger daughter Alex. Dak had received an Other Than Honorable discharge from the Army and Alex is a shell of the girl she once was. The murder of their older sister weighs on both.

Series Development

The Edge certainly acts as a vehicle for developing Devine’s personality. As the second in a series, the book moves beyond introducing the character and his back story. Baldacci uses the wounded Alex Silkwell to demonstrate the caring and compassion of Devine.

Furthermore, the account of the young woman grips the reader as she struggles to remember details of her vicious rape and assault as a teenager. The story line of the talented artist conveys the harsh realities women live with years after an assault occurs. One wonders if she will re-appear in future books given the large role she played in The Edge.

The Edge Recommendation

I enjoyed The Edge even more than The 6:20 Man which I read a year ago. Baldacci is one of those authors that churns out book after book while retaining the reader’s interest. This is a great book to borrow from the library or grab at an airport bookstore. However, a warning for assault victims or their loved ones- Alex Silkwell’s story is very realistic and may be too much for those dealing with their own PTSD.

Survive and Thrive Book Review

Catchy Subtitle

The tag line of Survive and Thrive: How to Prepare for any Disaster Without Ammo, Camo or Eating Your Neighbor caught my attention while perusing the new releases at the library. Bill Fulton and Jeanne Chilton Devon teamed together to write this disaster preparedness how to book. Since spring weather is prone to severe weather and the disasters that accompany it, I checked it out. For the most part the authors stick to their promise. However, there is a small section on ammo and camo. No cannibalism though!

The advice is proactive and non-doomsday. Initial chapters focus on the need to go beyond the government’s three-day preparedness guidelines. And the authors point out that the vast majority of households have at least a week’s worth of food on hand. The first chapters focus on building specific supplies to extend to more than a two-week cache.

Water and Food to Survive and Thrive

A good explanation of the need for uncontaminated water starts the book. Both authors bring an environmentalist approach and prefer larger storage containers to single use bottles. One of the key features is Appendix B which recommends companies and products.

The next two chapters focus on food. First, what types of food to store and how to safely store long-term food. Then a chapter on how to forage for food. Foraging for food is not an everyday event for this blogger as I can count on one hand the times I have come across plants in the wild. (Actually, twice in major cities-Portland, Oregon is rife with blackberries and strawberry plants dot downtown Louisville, Kentucky.)

Farming and micro-gardens finish out this section. A comprehensive look at everything from container gardens to compost piles reminds one of a good gardening book. Like the other chapters, the authors end the chapter with questions to answer and lists to consider.

Organization and the Three S’s

The middle three chapters offer a plethora of tips on organization, shelter, safety and security. This information offers a lot of common-sense tips that are not often followed. And then there is more.

Organizational hints in Survive and Thrive mirror those found in both The Home Edit and Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight. Emphasis is put on organization as a de-stressor during emergencies. No need to hunt for necessary items if evacuating is key.

Knowing how and where to shut off the utilities is very important. Most people can flip an electric breaker. Finding the shut-off valves for water and gas is just as important and may require a special tool. The authors provide multiple tips in this area.

The safety and security section brings a bit of doom and gloom to Survive and Thrive. But the authors are not doomsday in their approach to security issues. Again, common sense and specialized gear are mixed in the advice.

Security issues discussed are applicable for every day life and not just during disasters. However, as pointed out in the book, stressful times can bring out the ugliness of life.

Disasters

The most comprehensive chapter in Survive and Thrive covers a host of disasters, both natural and man-made. Climate change is addressed as well. From blizzards to wildfires and everything in between, Survive and Thrive details the planning and action steps that need to occur. The first step is knowing what types of disaster your home is prone to experiencing.

Even though one plans and prepares, the actual experience of each type of disaster is a learning process. Mistakes will occur. Again, many suggestions and lists to follow. Everyone will benefit from reading this particular chapter. I have lived through blizzards, heat waves, earthquakes, hurricanes and a pandemic and I still found the information very valuable.

Recommendation for Survive and Thrive

Bill Fulton and Jeanne Chilton Devon have penned a thoroughly marvelous how-to book. This reference book is a must read no matter what part of the country you live in. Common sense through out and a very different take than survivalist prepper books. The final chapter on mental wll-being sums up the theme. I highly recommend this book.

Important Things in Life

Top Three

Three items top the list of what I think is important to learn in life. First is reading. Once a child can read the door is open to academia and every day how-to instructions. The second is swimming. Even for those far away from the ocean. Finally, everyone needs to learn how to cook. Did the last two surprise you?

Reading is Most Important

As a parent, I stressed the importance of reading and thus books. Bookshelf wealth is now a thing, but our house has always had a plethora of books. Children’s books, cook books, gardening books, novels and how-to books and many, many text books fill a multitude of bookshelves.

My belief is once reading is mastered, any skill or subject matter could be learned. One can literally become a jack or jill of all trades. Instructional books abound and of course every subject taught in school can be learned if one feels the subject is important.

Swimming

My parents prioritized learning to swim before I even started kindergarten. We lived in Florida and water was everywhere! The Red Cross lessons taught floating and diving in addition to several basic swim strokes. In turn, I also felt swim lessons were important even though my kids lived on the high plains and not a hundred yards or so from the Atlantic Ocean.

My insistence that they learned was based on a tragedy from my junior high years. A classmate lost her youngest brother when the preschooler drowned in a neighbor’s pool. Bodies of water are everywhere. Swimming, floating and treading water are necessary skills for everybody.

Cooking is Important Too

Hopefully times have changed enough that learning to cook is important for all. However, I belong to a generation where many males grill burgers and steaks and not much else. Fortunately, my in-laws taught all their kids to cook, and I am married to a man that could be a master chef if he wanted to change careers.

I do not remember the age my kids were when they first started fixing food for themselves. But they needed chairs to reach the counter or the stove top. It was quite important to supervise them in the early years.

Now my grandchildren are picking up skills in the kitchen. All three have multi-functional furniture called learning towers or kitchen helpers depending on the manufacturer. These cool pieces can act as a chair and table/desk when on the side or serve as a very sturdy stepstool when standing on end. The sides provide extra support when they are helping in the kitchen either cooking or at the sink.

The oldest helps grandpa make scones and grandma make brownies. Cooking skills are important to develop from an early age. We just make sure we also emphasize safety.

Enjoying a snack at the kitchen counter.
Learning Tower is in the background.

Basic Skills

Reading, swimming, and cooking are all basic skills. However, each is critically important for living a full healthy and happy life. At first glance all could be placed toward the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Yet each offers an individual a chance to grow toward the pinnacle of self-actualization. Hence, they are important things for all to master.

We Must Not Think of Ourselves Book Review

Warsaw

A recent trip to the public library yielded We Must Not Think of Ourselves by Lauren Grodstein. Historical fiction, especially any involving World War II interests me. Mostly because I fear a repeat. Those who refuse to learn from history tend to repeat its’ sorrows.

Grodstein’s novel offers a glimpse of life inside the Warsaw Ghetto through the eyes of protagonist Adam Paskow and his journal. He was recruited by Emanuel Ringelblum to participate in the Oneg Shabbat. Both Ringelblum and the Oneg Shabbat existed. For more information on the group, click here.

Protagonist of We Must Not Think of Ourselves

The story unfolds from Paskow’s point of view. Journal entries and flashbacks build the history. Paskow explains what has long been a mystery. Why did so many remain in the year between the German invasion and the relocation to the Ghetto? Why the acquiescence?

Adam Paskow is a teacher and a non-practicing Jew. And a widower. He still visits his wife’s grave and finds comfort in the surroundings they shared. He stays behind in 1938 when the rest of his immediate family relocates to Palestine. Then, it is too late to go.

Paskow is an appealing character even though the detention wears down his morals. He becomes the lover of a woman who shares an apartment with him. Her husband, two children and another family also squeeze into the same small space.

Takeaways

We Must Not Think of Ourselves offers much to the reader. Well researched, the backdrop of the ghetto and its’ inhabitants shares the story of how genocide builds slowly and then happens all at once. The book highlights the importance of documentation. Without historical records, history can be forgotten or even worse-rewritten.

This reader has mixed reactions to the love story. In some ways, the relationship is believable and needed for the ending. However, conducting an affair in such close quarters…this stretches the imagination. Surely there would be more scenes of tension.

Recommendation for We Must Not Think of Ourselves

I found the novel well written and informative. A check-out from your library or an addition to your personal library is highly recommended. Individual cultures and ethnicities are still threatened today. Indeed, the cultural clashes are as responsible for today’s wars and disagreements as the age-old cause of war-land and resources. If world peace is ever to occur, this hatred and fear of those different or merely from different backgrounds must cease.

January 2024 Wrap-Up

Time Flies

January 2024 is at end. Since I am still coping with the aftermath of 2023, the time passed quite quickly. No travel to speak of since I spent every night at home. So, what was accomplished? Lots of reading. Three books reviewed with a fourth review due out in time for the weekend. Many football games watched since a family favorite team is headed to the Super Bowl. Finally, lots of hand quilting.

Snow storms, blizzards and weather in the mid-sixties made for a crazy month and it looks like the erratic pattern will continue in February. Growing up in Florida, there did not seem to be such wild weather. But perhaps I did not notice. Children have other priorities.

Random Thoughts from January 2024

  • If two old men stay healthy, it looks like we will have a re-match of the 2020 Presidential elections. On the Republican side there will be a new V.P, what about on the Democrat side? Most importantly-do costly elections eliminate younger candidates? Furthermore, why do candidates drop out before or after just one primary? Is the money machine that great?
  • Are pro ball games rigged? The Haters seem to think so.
  • After reading Lauren Grodstein’s We Must Not Think of Ourselves, I wonder if Americans would leave the country if taken over by fascists or communists? Actually, would the inhabitants of any modern country?
  • Why is it so hard for a nobody to become published? I’ve certainly read books that were just so-so and yet published, not self-published. In fact, I have read self-published books that were better than those going the traditional route. Perhaps Amazon deserves a thank you after all.

Bloggers

I read a handful of bloggers on a regular basis. Their content is varied but I enjoy what they write and learn many things. What continues to surprise me is how often I am contacted by others to write articles on subjects that are important to them. Even if I share their viewpoint, I do not feel compelled to “speak” for them.

This last week of January 2024, a different request appeared in my mailbox. The young men wanted to write a column on health and wellness. They sent a link to their own website and no, I did not click on it. But I did search and find the blog. It is a credible blog. So, why not just post there? What happened to independent thinking?

Looking Forward

I am successfully growing indoor herbs for the first winter ever. Basil, Rosemary and Thyme have been harvested from their containers throughout this long winter. Even better, the ginger roots brought back from my parents’ house are growing as well. Now the trick will be to repot so they can grow to full size. The blooms have an incredible fragrance.

February will see the first of the seed starts. The forecast for this week is above average in temperature so winter pruning and clean-up can commence. This is a good time to prune the grape vines and cut off the tops of the dead plants in the garden. It may look like lazy farming, but leaving the plants in the ground helps fight against erosion from the wind.

Finally, the blizzard knocked down some fencing and it is time to repair again. Fortunately, the damage was to the deer fencing and not the heavy- duty privacy fencing like in previous years.