Month: July 2019

July 2019 Wrap-Up

My July 2019 began and ended in Florida. But the whole month was not spent in the Sunshine State. In addition to driving a southern route from the High Plains to the East Coast, I also spent a short time in the State of Indiana. As a result, my writing suffered a tad bit.

In addition to visiting family, I have embarked on a major project. Along with a family member, I am working on bringing a foreclosed property back to life. The house has some problems, but it is structurally sound.

Foreclosures from the Great Recession

The United States is still working through a backlog of distressed property. This particular home has been empty the better part of a decade. As with many of these properties, the house was purchased as is. We did pay for some inspections. We were not allowed to turn on electricity or water. Therefore, we planned on major overhauls of these two functions.

Many homes built on slab during the latter part of the 20th Century have problems with the pipes. Thus, we were not surprised by the need for re-piping. This is achieved by piping through the attic. Another of my Florida relatives had just had this done. Thus, I was familiar with the pricing.

For the most part, the electrical system was in good shape. But, the air conditioning was shot. I can’t imagine a house in the interior of Florida without air conditioning. The replacement is scheduled for later this week.

Much of the remainder is cosmetic. My family member, with a little design help from me, will tackle this. The process has been interesting.

Rehabilitating Foreclosed or Distressed Properties

There are many, many distressed properties. Homeowners for one reason or another fail to maintain their homes. Under the best of circumstances, the houses fall into mild disrepair. But the worst cases result in foreclosures with a loss of equity and the ruin of credit.

It is hard to determine exactly how many properties are falling into disrepair. Not all end up as foreclosures. I thought a neighboring house had also been abandoned due to the evident neglect. However, an elderly couple, (possibly on a fixed income) reside in the home. This is anecdotal. But may happen more often than one would believe.

Unfortunately, a certain stigma is attached to buying such a property. A few contractors have refused to work with us. Perhaps there is a feeling that we are gaining from someone else’s misfortune. Perhaps they do not understand the gratification which comes from making something bad into something good. Currently, I see little if any monetary gain, but that may change.

Other Activities in July 2019

Of course, the summer months mean time in the garden. I am delighted in the continued success of the Raised Row Garden. The cabbages are gorgeous and the beets delicious. I will not be home for the County Fair. So no blue ribbons this year.

I plan to be home in time for some major canning mid-August. In the mean-time the garden is being watered by the man of the house. He reports the eggplants are abundant and tasty in eggplant parmesan.

July 2019 Reading

Unfortunately all the travel and planning have cut into my reading of novels. (I am always reading, just not always for fun.) This month websites and design magazines have stolen the show.  I may need to borrow an idea from my favorite South African blogger and keep posting with Just A Paragraph if life remains hectic. If you like blog reading, visit her website at despatchesfromtimbuktu.

Visiting The Little One

Perhaps the best part of July 2019 was the 24 hour trip to the Front Range. I was able to spend some tummy time with the newest member of the family. She makes such funny faces, I predict she will have an amazing personality.

Thank you to all my loyal readers. I appreciate your bearing with the less than regular posts. But, I wouldn’t trade this experience for much. Life is interesting when it is unpredictable. Bringing a foreclosed home back to life certainly qualifies as making life interesting.

 

Battling the Summer Heat

Battling the Summer Heat

Things are heating up in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer is here and so is the heat. So I thought I would share my tips for battling the summer heat. Most are common sense. But sometimes when we are in the thick of things we forget to utilize our brain sense.

Early Riser

Growing up I was always a night owl. Consequently, I tended to sleep in. But now I am an early riser. The first hours of the day are the coolest. The semi-arid region I live in takes all night to cool down. But around 5:00 A.M. it is almost pleasant. The upper 60s and low 70s (Fahrenheit) are a relief from the 100 plus afternoon temperatures. It also helps to have an early sunrise. We live on the far Eastern edge of the Mountain Time Zone so dawn comes very early.

Hydrate Frequently

A second key to battling the summer heat is to drink plenty of liquids. Most of the time I prefer water. However, there are occasions when you might choose something else to hydrate with instead of water. Extraordinary exertion may indicate a need to supplement water. You know your body best, and if you have any questions consult an expert.

In addition to drinking liquids, don’t forget to eat! I know I have encountered days where it was just TOO hot to eat, but starving oneself is never good. Instead, look at increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Experiment with new recipes. Last week I made chlodnik for the first time. This chilled soup is especially good with beets and cucumbers fresh from the garden.

Fun in the  Summer Heat

Battling the summer heat can be fun. Our city pool has evening open swim hours. This is a great way to cool down. Taking in a movie matinee is another way to escape high temperatures. A bonus occurs if the movie prices are reduced at this time. Other indoor activities to keep one busy include bowling, rambling through museums or art galleries, and a great American past-time, going to the mall.

This summer heat has given me a great appreciation for the countries and cultures that practice siestas. Closing down in the mid to late afternoon makes great sense. But, I don’t see many around my part of the world adopting that habit.

Whatever methods you use battling the summer heat, enjoy the warm nights. Time does not stand still. Winter in the Northern Hemisphere will be here before you know it.

 

 

Alphabet Books Galore

Alphabet books are among my favorites. They are great to read to young children, but alphabet books can be geared to any age. Some are really best appreciated by adults.

The earliest memory of an alphabet book is Dr. Seuss’s ABC. As a six year old, I read this book countless times to a younger cousin on a long car trip. Needless to say she learned the alphabet just shy of turning three. I am not sure how my aunt and uncle withstood the repetition.

Cover of Dr. Seuss's ABC
A well loved book.

But I was absolutely tickled when one of my kids received a copy from my cousin at birth. As you can tell by the condition of the book, it was well read.

Board Books

I love to read board books to the young ones. The pages don’t tear and the books can handle an occasional tooth. Some of the alphabet board books in my library include A To Z by Sandra Boynton and Cyndy Szekeres’ ABC. Boynton’s book uses an animal and a verb to illustrate each letter, ex. Dinosaur dancing. Szekeres has multiple examples and illustrations for each letter.

My all-time favorite is Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert. Maybe it is the gardener in me that holds this book in such high regard. Little tykes love recognizing the different foods they eat. The author includes produce grown in many parts of the world. The names are written in both upper and lower cases. She even found one to represent X.

Variety of Alphabet Books

Once we move past the board books, the types of alphabet books expands. A holiday favorite is B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner and illustrated by Elisa Kleven. Wilner utilizes the alphabet to share this Christian story of Christmas. I love this book.

Two artsy alphabet books are in the collection. The first is I Spy: An Alphabet in Art devised and selected by Lucy Micklethwait. Each letter features a classic artwork. The art is identified on the bottom of the page with the letter. The opposite page has a copy of the art. Not all the objects are easy to spot.

Stephen T. Johnson’s Alphabet City takes a unique approach. Each letter is found in a photo such as the one to the left. It is amazing how shapes in the world around us can resemble letters (and numbers.) Artists like Johnson see the world through a different lens.

Informative Alphabet Books

I have two of Lynne Cheney’s alphabet books. I highly recommend both. First is A is for Abigail: The Almanac of Amazing American Women. This great book covers everything from athletes to the Industrial Revolution to suffragettes to First Ladies. I love the ways she represents the alphabet. The other Cheney alphabet book I have is America: A Patriotic Primer. Similar in style, the book will easily entertain an upper grade schooler.

For younger readers, The Alphabet Atlas by Arthur Yorinks showcases countries around the globe. A fun fact is shared about each country. The text is fairly simple. But the hidden jewel in this book is the artwork. Each letter was designed by Jeanyee Wong. She drew her inspiration from the quilts that serve as the illustration and representation for each letter and corresponding country. Thus Adrienne Yorinks earns my greatest admiration in creating these works of fabric art. This book is truly a must have for quilters.

G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book is written by David M. Schwartz and illustrated by Marissa Moss. It is hard to categorize this book by age or grade. The concepts are late grade school to junior high/ middle school. But the writing is fairly easy to understand. Therefore, students in upper elementary grades should find this easy to read. This should definitely reside in a school library as well as the home.

Wrapping up the Alphabet

Alphabet Books of many styles, for many ages.

As you can see from the photo with the collection of books, I have just touched the surface. So I will close out with a book I look forward to reading often in the coming years. Eve Shaw’s Grandmother’s Alphabet tells the reader that Grandma can be anything from A to Z. Each letter depicts a variety of occupations. This is a book geared toward the early reader but not a beginning reader as it has lots of vocabulary words young kids will need help sounding out.

I love alphabet books, so if you have one to recommend please share!

The Last Second Book Review

Authors Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison writing the Brit in the FBI series have released a good summer read in The Last Second. Even though the plot leads us to the far corners of the world, the story line is easier to accept than that of The Devil’s Triangle also written by the duo. You can read that review by clicking here.

Familiar Characters

FBI agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine (Mike) are on vacation. Shortly after a visit with old friends Grant Thornton and his wife Kitsune, they spring into action.  Drummond and Caine leave their European vacation to go to the rescue of Grant.

Thornton is acting as bodyguard to Jean-Pierre Broussard founder of Galactus Space Industries. Broussard’s hobby is finding treasures lost at sea. He has just found the Holy Grail when he is betrayed. The Holy Grail is stolen and the ship’s passengers are left for dead.

New Villains

Ellison and Coulter believe in equal opportunity. Once again the bad guys are bad gals. Ex-astronaut Navaeh Patel believes she was rescued in space by aliens called Numen. Her henchwoman is Kiera Byrne. A formidable bodyguard with an IRA background.

The two women must be stopped. Not an easy task when one is a brilliant scientist bent on contacting the aliens who saved her life.

The Last Second

This action adventure novel would make a great movie. The twists and turns and subplots keep you turning the pages. Naturally, Drummond and Caine manage to solve each problem they encounter at the last second. Since there are multiple scenes leading to the apex, the duo have plenty of opportunity to display their skills.

There are a few subplots that touch on current events. First is the commercial space race. Second is the concern of an EMP. This type of weapon would send current civilization backward in time. New characters include a terrorist who in reality is an agent deep undercover. Thus, the authors stretch the imagination.

The Last Second is an easy read. The book is a great way to escape on a summer afternoon. The fast paced action dovetails with the two main themes. Saving an innocent life with the Holy Grail and the halting of space junk with the EMP are ideas with multiple layers. Coulter and Ellison give the reader something to ponder after the tale is told.

Disappearing Earth Book Review

The debut novel Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips is both compelling and complex. Her writing captures the nuances of life. The reader is exposed to tragedy and loss, maternal love, stoicism, anguish and hope.

Disappearing Earth begins with the kidnapping of two young girls on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Their disappearance is threaded through the stories told month by month for the following year. To a certain extent each chapter could stand alone. Yet there is a connection. Sometimes obvious, and other times only as the novel unfolds.

Russian Background with Global Insight

While the stories involve women from the Kamchatka Peninsula, a remote area of Russia, the stories are cross cultural. There are male characters, but the driving force for each story is a female. Phillips captures the hopes, dreams and fears women face. Lost love, adjusting to motherhood, missing children and divorce are just a few of the themes covered.

Global insight offers readers a chance to bond with the characters. It is easy to imagine the same stories taking place in your own backyard. Each chapter pulls at the emotions. The women in the novel may be fictional but their dilemmas are real.

Disappearing Earth

An underlying theme is how women cope with adversity. After the kidnapping, one would expect the novel to focus on the mother of the missing girls. However, her story does not appear until the end. Instead, Disappearing Earth focuses on a large number of characters, each coping with difficulties in their lives. The characters overlap just enough to allow the novel to flow.

Julia Phillips has an engaging writing style. Her characters come to life. They are the richness of Disappearing Earth. This is not a mystery per se. The kidnapped girls are a background noise for most of the novel. The true wealth of the book is the global appeal and recognition of how women across the Earth have so much in common.

I highly recommend this first novel by Julia Phillips. If you would like to know more about the author, visit her website by clicking here.