Month: September 2017

it’s always the husband Book Review

front cover
it’s always the husband
I debated with myself on whether to review it’s always the husband or not. Some of the content is R-rated and I try to keep this a G-rated site. So consider this fair warning. I believe this is a first novel for Michele Campbell. Her background, which can be found on her website, is as a prosecutor with much experience in narcotics. This may explain the heavy theme of drugs and alcohol in the book. The setting is a small New England campus, and while my alma mater is located in a neighboring state, we did not have nearly the drug use. Or perhaps I was oblivious.

The plot centers on three freshman roommates. However, Campbell hooks you right from the beginning with a potential murder of one of the roommates as a now pregnant 40-year-old. Some people have trouble with a now/then approach to writing but I think the set-up works for it’s always the husband.

Campbell does a wonderful job of creating both believable characters and a realistic story line. The backgrounds of the three freshmen run the gamut from the very rich to poverty level. While upbringings are disparate, similarities exist. Two of the characters share the pain of a parental death. Long-lasting bonds are created by shared experience of that first year at college.

Love-hate relationships naturally form. The age-old theme of boyfriend jealousy along with a rift over the drug and alcohol abuse is heightened by the theme of powerful money. Events come to a head at the end of the spring semester.

Railroad Bridge

An old railroad trestle serves as the background for death, twice. The first casualty, one of the boyfriends, dies under unusual circumstances. The death finalizes the past and ushers in the current mysterious death. A few new characters are introduced. All three roommates are now married. Thus the possibility of it’s always the husband could be true. Additionally, the current chief of police is from out-of-town.

Chief Owen Rizzo is a key figure in the story. He immediately suspects the husband. The situation appears open and shut. But it is not.

Campbell does an incredible job of casting suspicion in various directions. Old wounds are revisited and opened up. The characters are deep and compelling. I kept suspecting one individual and then another. Since I am not an end reader, I had no foresight into the identity of the murderer.

I strongly recommend it’s always the husband. Michele Campbell has created believable characters. A ring of truth strikes the reader throughout. We all know people in real life who remind us of each of the characters. But the best part of the book for me was not figuring out the killer before the author revealed what happened at the bridge.

Collecting Seed from the Home Garden

Fall is both officially and unofficially here. I still have some tomatoes and peppers producing well but signs of nature slowing down is evident in the number of plants starting to set seed. Time for collecting seed from the Garden is here.

In the past I have saved potato, squash and herb seed. In addition to those, this year I collected seed from Scarlet pole beans, early peas and carrots. Some of my garlic has been set aside to use as seed. I hope to save some tomato seeds as well.

This year’s dismal potato crop has a silver lining. Many of the potatoes are the perfect size to save as potato seeds. Small potatoes with multiple eyes are how I start my potato plants. Both the purple and white potato plants can be grown from these “seeds.”

Maturing on the Vine/Stalk

The annual herbs actually started producing seed last month. I allowed the parsley to flower and the seed head to dry on the plant before collecting seed. As you can see in the pictures the seeds are quite small. Once I cut the stems I allowed the head to dry even more before harvesting the seed.

Coin compaison
Parsley seeds tiny next to a dime.

Carrot seeds process the same way. I allow one carrot plant to go to seed. Just one plant provides all the seed you will need. Nature allows the carrot seed to easily travel. If you look at the close-up photos, the carrot seeds have small hooks which can easily attach to animals passing by.

burs on carrot
Close-up of carrot seed.

The early peas are easy to dry in a similar fashion. One vine is left alone. The peas saved will go into the ground early in the spring. If you love peas and have a lot of space, you will want to let several plants go to seed.

Collecting Seed when Ripe

Pole beans were a new crop for me this year. Several varieties yielded good results. The bright red flower of the Scarlet Runner is a cheery addition to the garden.

Flowering Scarlet Bean

The Cherokee Trail of Tears beans produce beautiful purple-green pods. Ripe beans were gathered and then allowed to dry on the back porch. The seeds inside provide a secondary use in the winter as additions to soups or stews.

Pole bean
Purple-green beans

Different crops necessitate differing manners of collecting seed. The techniques discussed above are relatively easy. Collecting seed through a fermentation process is a challenge to discuss another day.

Brain Health

Book Review of Complete Guide To Brain Health: How to Stay Sharp, Improve Memory, and Boost Creativity

National Geographic’s release Complete Guide to Brain Health is a comprehensive study of the brain. The book is also the catalyst for this blog. As I shared in my first post, An Original, brain disease is well established on my mother’s side of the family. I bought this book out of curiosity and read it cover to cover.

Complete Guide to Brain Health is divided into three sections. In the first section, author Michael S. Sweeney concentrates on the anatomy of the brain. He posits that brains can be changed. Further he draws a direct correlation between healthy brains and longevity. Anecdotes of individuals are given as examples. An additional writer, Cynthia R. Green pens “Brain Boosters” throughout the book.

Various scientific studies are discussed in laymen’s terms. Then, each is used as an example of how brains function. The study on the Nuns of Mankato had a great impact on me. In this multi-decade research, scientists studied individuals in the cloister and then examined their brains upon death. The autopsies provided a comparison diagnosis from the physical appearance of the brain. Most of the time there was a match. However, sometimes an individual who showed no signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s prior to death did have the physical signs present in the autopsy. This gives me hope.

Practical guide to Brain Health

While the first part of the book explains how the brain works, the second section is more of a how to guide. Defining Brain Health, Chapter six, gets you started planning a course to change brain health. A Brain Booster entitled Brain Healthy in Ten Steps provides guidance. Some of the steps are easy for me, yet one or two have been elusive.

The second section includes many tips. Some are mental, such as games you might find on Lumosity, and others are related to overall health. Sweeney stresses throughout the book how closely mental health is tied to overall physical health.

The chapter The Art of Remembering is excellent. Both Brain Boosters and Brain Insights are intertwined in a chapter full of information on how your brain remembers things. Different types of dementia are also outlined here. The author is realistic and indicates that limitations exist.

Finally, the last section focuses on the future. The use of chemicals and electricity to alter the brain is discussed in successive chapters. Robotics and artificial intelligence are also briefly covered.

The importance of creativity is the greatest take away for me. Econogal, the website is great for my brain health. It is a nice addition to my other activities since it is stimulating the language portion of my brain.

I strongly suggest buying a copy of this book to anyone concerned about their brain health. The text is informative and well written with plenty of graphics for visual stimulation.



National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month. When I think preparedness several things come to mind. The first is Girl Scouts. I was a scout for many years and the Girl Scout motto Be Prepared is ingrained in my psyche.

The second group to pop into my mind are my Mormon friends. I have quite a few friends that belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am amazed at just how prepared they are for just about anything.

The last thing I think of are the reality TV shows. They seem to be all over the place. To be honest, the only show I have actually watched is on The Weather Channel and takes place in Alaska. But I could not tell you the title of the show.

Preparedness is important because we cannot predict what will happen with the weather. This year’s hurricane season is a good example. Both Harvey and Irma have already created havoc in the United States and as of this writing Hurricane Maria is a Category 5 and aiming straight for the Caribbean.

Growing up I experienced both Tropical Storms and ice storms. Since moving out west, we had one tornado miss us by just a mile. Multiple blizzards have shut travel down for days. Additionally, we have had a few minor earthquakes. But we have never been forced to leave our home.

However, one family member did evacuate due to a fast approaching fire. It is instances like this that make National Preparedness Month important. Are you ready to respond if you receive an order to evacuate? In the past I wasn’t but now I am.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Due to the hurricanes, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been in the news lately. FEMA has great information online about preparedness. Just two of the sites include National Preparedness Month and America’s PrepareAthon. Both sites provide great information. But it was a bit disconcerting that the latter site had a non-natural disaster listed first.

As schoolchildren we learn sayings such as “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” and “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” The first came in handy when one of my offspring experienced the Carolina floods two years ago. Hopefully no one I know ever needs to put out a fire on their person.

Planning is an important part of preparedness. After our one family member needed to evacuate, we started to seriously think about getting prepared. I found the main FEMA website invaluable. An already created emergency form is on the site. All you have to do is print it out and fill it in. The website can take time to navigate so you can access the form by clicking here.

In addition to making sure our important papers and contact information is recorded, we made Go-bags. Extra backpacks left behind when the kids left home were put to use. FEMA suggests contents of the bag should keep you prepared for 72 hours. Ours do and then some. Now if a knock comes on the door telling us to evacuate we are ready.

LogoThe official logo for National Preparedness Month 2017. [High Resolution JPG]



Day After Disaster Book Review

Day After Disaster

My reading level dropped off a bit this week due to concerns over Hurricane Irma, but I did manage to squeeze in an online book, Day After Disaster, by Sara F. Hathaway. In the old days the genre this novel represents would have been called futuristic. But the book world is constantly evolving so I would categorize it as survivalist, a genre I do not have much experience with.

Day After Disaster also falls into the self-published category. My previous experience with books produced in this manner has been through a personal connection with the author. This is not the case with Sara F. Hathaway. Not only did I not know her, but I had not even heard of her before reading Day After Disaster.


A natural disaster which triggers an environmental disaster opens the book. Hathaway tackles the tough approach of a single character present for the early chapters. The lead character, Erika is trapped in a wine cellar for an undetermined length of time. As with many authors new to me, I had a tough time absorbing the writing style at first. However, I kept reading and I started bonding with the character by Chapter 5 when other characters physically appear in the story.

The plot is well paced to the point where I could see Day After Disaster as an action adventure movie. Erika is determined to reach home and family. She encounters friend and foe on the journey. The book does tilt in favor of those who not only support themselves but add value to the Earth. For example, the first humans she has contact with after the disaster are a farm family. They are supportive.

Throughout the story, the good vs. evil theme is evident. Hathaway does a good job introducing gray areas into that age-old conflict. The characters are forced to make life or death decisions on a different level than we find in our current society.
The social dynamics presented in this book are appealing. Families make up quite a few of the characters and their interactions add to the story. Stewardship of land and people underscore the theme.


As I stated earlier Day After Disaster is a self-published novel. This means an author pays a company to print the book. I am not very familiar with this process so I did a bit of research. Hathaway originally used Tate Publishing to produce her product. Another company is Dog Ear. Amazon also has a self-publish company, Kindle Direct Publishing. The company does not charge to load manuscripts onto Kindle.

Self-publishing can range from a simple service fee where the company just prints the book, to full service including editing. The books can be sold online through Amazon as well as traditional bookstores such as Barnes and Noble. E-books sometimes are utilized to get the author public at no or a low-cost to the reader. Often the authors have their own website which also sells the books. You can reach Sara F. Hathaway’s site by clicking here.

Thus, modern technology allows individuals the ability to create and sell many products including stories without large start-up costs. Today’s technology allows us to accomplish much, but at what cost? Unfortunately, we do not know what the ramifications will be. Authors such as Hathaway make us pause and think. Will our use (and misuse) of the land lead to a scenario such as the one presented in Day After Disaster.

Hurricane Irma


When I wrote about Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief just a few weeks ago, I did not expect to write another hurricane story this fall. Mother Nature had other ideas. A second Category 4 storm made landfall. Hurricane Irma left a different destruction than Harvey. But the pictures are devastating nonetheless.

I am sharing some photos and video taken in suburban Orlando locations. This is the interior of the Florida peninsula but a best guess is that wind gusts reached close to 90 MPH. Hurricane Irma set many records during the assault on Florida.


The biggest impact I noticed from Hurricane Irma was the inability to easily reach my loved ones in the path of the storm. In this day and age we expect instant communication. During and immediately after the storm, cell phone coverage was spotty at best. The landline number I called connected to an all circuits are busy recording. Thus, Hurricane Irma served as a reminder that our modern technology can fail.

In Florida, some of my connections were unable to get information about area conditions. Cable television was knocked out. Additional methods of communication are needed in these situations. Some individuals reverted to radio as the primary source of communications. Others struggled with the poor coverage on smart phones to utilize social media. Alternative methods are necessary to keep open lines of communication. The time to line up the back-up resources is before an emergency occurs.

Hurricane Irma Photos

The photos and video that accompany this post arrived via text. The audio on the video gives you a sense of how strong the wind gusts were. Most of the damage is a direct result of wind. Clean up will take some time.

The video shot during the storm captured the view from a screened porch. Photos show images after the storm moved through the area. I cannot imagine the number of trees damaged or lost. Since my next trip to Florida is scheduled  I will soon assess the damage.

Clean up begins
Potential danger
Streets now paths
Nature swims by
Empty intersections

Purple Potato Grow Bag Experiment

Two soilsLast year I planted purple potatoes for the first time. I love them and they are very nutritious. They thrived in the sandy soil. This year I decided to experiment with growing potatoes in a bag.

I bought two bags and planted one in mid-March with purple potato saved from last year’s crop. The seed potatoes were kept cool all winter. I use a mini fridge in the basement to store seeds.

I harvested the bag last week. The yield was disappointing. Only one pound of potatoes tumbled out when I emptied the bag.

However, the soil in the bag is completely different from what I started with. I used sandy unenriched soil from the lot. When the first leaves appeared I placed some leaves from last fall on top. As leaves kept emerging, I added other layers. Sometimes it was grass clippings. Occasionally another scoop of sand.

As you can see from the pictures the soil from the bag turned into a rich compost material. The crop was a failure, but all was not lost. My question is what created the change in the soil? The experiment did not succeed as intended. But I have already used the enriched material to mulch the garden. Sometimes you have to adjust.

The second bag is not ready to harvest. The white potato seeds used were bought this spring so we have too many variables for a true experiment. However, I am anxious to see if the yield is better.

The seeds were planted later. The rule of thumb in my part of the country is to plant potatoes on or before St. Patrick’s Day. However, the white potatoes started in April. I will harvest the second bag in a few weeks.

I have mixed feelings about using the grow bags. They eliminated the need to weed which is a plus. But the yield was not worth the effort. If the white potatoes do not produce, I will not repeat the experiment.


Grow Bags

Potato Bags
Bags used in experiment

Purple Potatoes and Medium

Purple grow bag
Potatoes from Bag

Growing Medium

close up
Close up of Medium
Harvested potatoes

The Seed Garden

The Seed Garden

The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving

I realize we still have over three months until Christmas. But, if you have a serious gardener in the family I have the perfect gift. The Seed Garden is the perfect book for anyone devoted to growing their own edible garden. The text is edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel and published by Seed Savers Exchange.

This comprehensive book is divided into two sections. Seven chapters make up the first section. Each chapter has beautiful illustrations. The photos emphasize the points made in the writing and aid the reader in grasping the information.

The largest portion of the book falls in the second section. Here the reader finds profiles of over one hundred edible plants. However, they are listed alphabetically by their Latin name. Fortunately, the editors provide a directory listing both the common and scientific names. Beautiful photos accompany this section as well.

In the first section, the reader may revisit knowledge studied in either a biology or agriculture class. Since I took both a long time ago, a review was helpful. Even though the book does not cover everything you would learn in a semester long class, your knowledge of seeds will expand. Saving seed is truly an art.

Basic biology covering the reproductive system of plants is an early focus of The Seed Garden. The book discusses the taxonomy of the plants. Apparently the genetic differences dictate how the seeds are pollinated.

Prior to buying The Seed Garden, my experiments in saving  seed met with mixed results. My yellow squash seeds produced fruit that were half green. They still tasted like squash even though the second generation altered in looks. The book explains why this happens and how to correct for the problem.

Another thing I learned from The Seed Garden is the need to ferment tomato seeds. The process, which is necessary to rid the seeds of natural germination inhibitors is wonderfully documented with step by step instructions. Once again, the editors use beautiful photos to enhance the writing.

I plan to try this process on a volunteer tomato plant. One of the local nurseries decided not to reopen this spring and I was unable to find a long-time favorite heirloom variety anywhere else. Luckily this year ma volunteer appeared. Next year’s planting won’t be left to chance.

Illustrated Instructions

The Seed Garden is a welcome addition to my garden library. The writing is in-depth, so I would recommend it for those truly interested in gardening. This is not a beginning how-to book, but instead is written at a master level. In addition to being an excellent gift idea, this book should appear in the reference section of public and school libraries.

Herb Infused Spaghetti Sauce

Herb Infused Spaghetti Sauce
One of the perks of summer time on the high plains is the preponderance of farmers markets. This past weekend we stopped at one to pick up some melons, and came away with a box of Roma tomatoes for $15.00. I couldn’t pass up such a good buy so I decided to put up some spaghetti sauce.
The following recipe for Herb Infused Spaghetti Sauce is great to make if you grow herbs. The main ingredients are Roma tomatoes, basil, oregano, and Italian parsley. You can cut the recipe in half if you only have one stockpot. I usually make big batches of salsa and spaghetti sauce because we use so much. Therefore, if you follow this recipe you will need two large pots to cook in.
I use quart sized jars but you can also use pint sizes jars. Make sure you adjust the amount of lemon juice in Step 4. Jars, lids and bands should be prepared for canning while spaghetti sauce is simmering. This recipe yields 8 quarts.
24 pounds Roma tomatoes
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ Teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 cups fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
16 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice
Step 1
Peel tomatoes by boiling small amounts for 2 minutes, then place in an ice bath. Once cool, the skins should easily slip off. Save the skins for your compost pile. Use a food processor to chop the tomatoes. Divide the contents between two stock pots.
Step 2
Take the next four ingredients and divide equally between the two pots of processed tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 90 minutes. The longer the sauce simmers, the more it reduces. For thicker sauces simmer longer or reduce time for a more liquid spaghetti sauce.
Step 3
Chop fresh herbs, but wait until the last 5 minutes to add to the spaghetti sauce.
Step 4
Place 2 Tablespoons of bottled lemon juice in the bottom of each quart jar. Ladle spaghetti sauce into jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Wipe tops and attach lids and bands. Place in water bath for 35 minutes. Be sure to adjust the bath time if you live at higher altitudes. The spaghetti sauce can also be frozen using the appropriate containers.

Roma Tomatoes
Basil, Oregano, and Italian Parsley
Boil for 2 minutes
Ice Bath
Compost the Peels

Herb Infused Spaghetti Sauce Recipe Card

Makes 8 Quarts
24 pounds Roma tomatoes                             2 cups fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
6 Tablespoons brown sugar                            1 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons salt                                            1 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar                    16 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice
½ Teaspoon fresh ground pepper
You will need 2 large stockpots for cooking spaghetti sauce. Also, a small pot of boiling water to prepare tomatoes for peeling. First, boil tomatoes for 2 minutes then plunge into ice bowl. Next, peel tomatoes and then chop using a food processor or blender. Add next four ingredients and then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 90 minutes. Add herbs in the last 5 minutes of cooking. After reaching desired consistency, place lemon juice in bottom of each quart jar. Finally, ladle sauce into each jar and process in water bath for 35 minutes.

Escape Room-Trapped OKC Experience


Trapped OKC

Recently, I participated in an escape room. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it is a thinking man’s entertainment. If you know some intellectual or just downright nerdy individuals, find an escape room near you and take them. If you are in Oklahoma City, try Trapped OKC.

Some of our group fit the brainy description, the rest went along for the ride. We all had an interesting experience.
This concept is a no brainer. Why didn't I come up with it? For a business venture, the overhead isn’t great. Some locks and other props and rental space in a building with good parking are the main costs from the owner’s standpoint.

From the customers view you need a good price point. Fortunately we had a Groupon coupon for Trapped OKC, so the price in my opinion was a good value. However, others might think this type of entertainment pricey compared to a movie for example.

Creativity is essential. The Trapped OKC employees were very polite and provided the background for the challenge. My understanding is the rooms were designed by the employees. We were in the escape room Ms. Morris of Moscow. I think from a business standpoint, the scenarios would need to change often in order to have repeat customers.

As I have discussed before, many things have a learning curve. Our group chose an expert level escape room. The individuals in our group ranged from late 20’s to early 60’s. Some of the younger participants were veterans at escape rooms while others were definitely novices. As a novice, I was glad to follow the lead in the beginning, because even though I had watched the Big Bang Theory episode featuring a game room, I was clueless. Groups need veterans to enhance the experience.

Engagement came quickly. Three combination locks kept hidden clues to the solution. Additionally, we received three lifeline clues via a monitor. The clues on the monitor were quite helpful, but the first disappeared as soon as we requested the second. Once that happened, a member of the group adjusted by making note of the following clues.

While the younger generation definitely led the way, each individual aided in the quest. Some common sense is also needed and in our situation the elders of the group provided that component. We did chase some wild geese, but we succeeded in many ways even though the final lock eluded us.

I can see how this could be a good exercise for a training group. We were fortunate that tempers didn’t erupt as I can imagine sometimes happens. Instead, I exited the room with a feeling of camaraderie. And I want to go again.

Low cost Start-up potential
Escape room
2% success rate for escape

The Woman in Cabin 10

Book Review
As I stated in my original post, my favorite genre is the murder mystery. I loved Agatha Christie books as a teenager. So, the last time I was in a Barnes and Noble perusing the inside jacket covers, I naturally kept Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 in the buy pile. The claim of being in Christie’s style was not hyperbole. This book is gripping.

The Woman in Cabin 10 sets the suspense beautifully. However, this is not a book where the murder occurs page two. In fact, I think the splash comes about chapter 10. The delay allows for character development. Ware sets the stage well.

Lo Blackwood is a journalist who has not made it very far up the ladder. She is unsure about where her life is taking her. Blackwood has a long term boyfriend who wants to take things a step further and she is dragging her feet. Additionally, she has a few problems. She takes a prescription for anxiety and has started to drink a bit too much.

Ruth Ware opens The Woman in Cabin 10 on dry land. Her protagonist, Blackwood is drunk, at home alone, during a break-in. Even though this is an indirect tie-in to the main plot, it is important for giving the reader a glimpse of Blackwood’s background. Therefore, the scenario creates questions of the character’s stability.

The plot thickens when Blackwood boards a small cruise liner for an assignment. She only has the opportunity due to a pregnancy complication of her boss. Blackwood does not want to blow her chance to advance career wise. Ware uses this added stress factor to plant questions about the mental health of Blackwood.

Mental stability is truly the key to the story. Blackwood thinks she hears someone going overboard. However, no one is missing. She not only fails at convincing anyone on board of a problem, she starts doubting herself.

I don’t want to spoil the ending. Ruth Ware does a wonderful job. The complexity of the plot is aided by small sections showing individuals on land losing contact with the main character shortly after the ship sails. The Woman in Cabin 10 is suspenseful, makes a great read, and could be a great movie. If you have someone in the family who likes mysteries, this story fits the bill.