Showing posts with label BarbRad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BarbRad. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review

Sculpterra Winery is Family Friendly


Having children along need not keep parents from wine tasting. Paso Robles has a few family friendly wineries that have plenty to keep children happy and occupied as parents do the tasting. My personal favorite of these is Sculpterra.

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review

Photo©Barbara Radisavljevic

Sculpterra Owner Dr. Warren Frankel Cares about Families


He showed how much he cared for his own when he moved his medical practice from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County to Templeton in 1970. In 1979 he bought a 90-acre ranch in Paso Robles on which to raise his children. Trust me,  There couldn't be a more beautiful place to raise children than the location Dr. Frankel chose. He and his wife Kathy also have room to keep the horses they like to ride and plenty of room to ride them through the vineyards and orchards.

But Dr. Frankel cares about more than his own family. He and some other doctors got together to found His Healing Hands, a medical ministry that sends medical missionaries on short term missions to almost every corner of the world to bring medical care to the poorest of the poor. They are often on the scene after a major disaster like Hurricane Katrina. I personally know people who have participated in these short term missions with Dr. Frankel, and I've met Dr. Frankel himself at Sculpterra. When you buy wine at Sculpterra, part of the profits go to support His Healing Hands. Read more about Dr. Frankel here.

Dr. Frankel loves his country and the people of Paso Robles. He is a concerned and active citizen. I often hear him express his views about local issues on our local radio stations "Morning Exchange" and "Sound Off" programs. Every year he also hosts an Independence Day party at the winery for the community. In the past he has treated those who attend to free hot dogs, popcorn, pizza, apple pie, bottled water, and wine. Read more about these parties on my blog post, Independence Day at Sculpterra Winery.

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review

Photo©Barbara Radisavljevic

What Does Sculpterra Have to Offer Kids?

Sculpterra's sculpture garden is full of renowned sculptor John Jagger's gigantic sculptures in bronze and granite. (Miniature versions of many of them are for sale in the tasting room.) If you are anywhere near the tasting room you probably will be able to see at least one large sculpture near you. There is also usually a place within view of the sculptures where parents can sit and drink their wine as children explore the paths that lead to the sculptures.

This sculpture by John Jaggers is my favorite of all of them.

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review
"Sweet Dreams" by John Jagger at Sculpterra

I can imagine "Gentle Giant" wowing the younger generation. It, like the other sculptures, is huge. They make even adults looking at them feel small.

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review
"Gentle Giant," by John Jagger at Sculpterra Winery, Photo © Barbara Radisavljevic

The Work of Resident Artist Dale Evers 


I've always loved what our local artist Dale Evers did with an old car door. I first saw the dog in this door outside Dale's Paso Robles studio. You couldn't miss it as you walked by.

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review


Then one day when I was at Sculpterra after almost a year's absence, I saw this right between the parking lot and the path to the tasting room entrance. Look familiar?

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review

Of course, that's only one piece of Dale's work on display at Sculpterra. Every time I visit Sculpterra I find more of it. He works in metal and much of his work is very delicate. So it is with the butterfly chimes below. I was really surprised to find them at Sculpterra because they used to live nextdoor to our Templeton house at ZinAlley winery. Here's how they looked there.

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review


Now they live at Sculpterra in Central Park West.

Central Park West


Here are the chimes in their new home.

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review


Central Park West has all kinds of activities for children and adults who like to play games. Of course, everyone likes to push the chimes to hear them ring. There are also two stone chess tables, a bocce ball court (on the other side of the picnic tables), a cement foosball table, and a custom made table tennis table. Parents can sit in the comfortable chairs to drink their wine. The very top photo in this post gives you another look at the game tables from a different perspective. Equipment for the games can be checked out in the tasting room.

Sculpterra Mural, "Legacy of California Wine in Art" 


Another part of Central Park West I hope people will show their children is the "Legacy of California Wine in Art." (See above.) Artists Bob Bentley and Steve Kalar collaborated to present this mural of the history of wine in California.

Art is Everywhere at Sculpterra


Besides the sculptures and art panels scattered around the area near the tasting room, there is plenty of wall art by local artists for sale inside the tasting room. One art wall is reserved for each month's featured artist. I was last there in December 2018, and the Artist of the Month was Drew Davis. I had actually found him painting in front of the tasting room that day and we talked for a bit. You never know what or who you will find on a visit to Sculpterra.

Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review
Artist of the Month Wall Featuring the Work of Drew Davis, ©Barbara Radisavljevic



Sculpterra: The Family Friendly Winery in Paso Robles: A Review
Drew Davis, Photo ©Barbara Radisavljevic

A Visit to Sculpterra Is Educational


Look at the mural shown above and talk with your children about California's history as you look at the individual pictures on it. It begins with the missions and so far ends with the arrival of the railroad.

As you walk through the sculpture garden, talk about the artists and their work. Talk about sculpture as an art form. Do a bit of research before you go and learn enough to teach your children. Help your children notice the characteristics of the sculptures. Ask how the sculptures make them feel or how they think the artists may have felt about their subjects. Note the expressions on the animal faces.

Like most wineries I visit, Sculpterra grows herbs in the gardens surrounding the the tasting room. See if your children can identify them. Point out the various birds and beneficial insects the garden attracts.

If you're really lucky, you may even get to watch an artist work. And on Sunday afternoons there are usually free concerts outside.

Find out when harvest will occur in the fall and plan to observe it. On some of my visits to Sculpterra I have watched Dr. Frankel's son Paul, the winemaker, at work and he doesn't mind answering questions. In this video he explains how they handpick the grapes at Sculpterra. This short video is one of a series that may be good preparation for your family to watch before they visit Sculpterra.




Everyone in Your Family Will Find Something to Enjoy

For personal reasons related to family history, I don't drink anything alcoholic, so I can't comment on tasting Sculpterra's award-winning wines. I do have many friends who have joined their wine club. It's a shame to live in wine country and not drink wine. But I can always find something new to see and enjoy at Sculpterra when I'm the designated driver. If I had children at home, I would certainly not hesitate to take them with me on my visits. I know they would come away enriched by the experience. And for sure, there's enough to see and do here to keep designated drivers and those too young to drink from getting bored. 

Next time you are in Paso Robles California, make a point of stopping by Sculpterra. You will be glad you did. Learn more about Sculpterra and other wineries on the California Central Coast in this beautifully illustrated book.



See more Sculpterra photos here: Sculpterra is a Great Place to Find Unique Gifts from Local Artists
See also my article on HubPages: Sculpterra Winery: Where Art, Wine, and Music Mix for more about Sculpterra and links to the videos I made there on my first visit.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

My Visit to Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: A Photo Review

Up the Long Road to the Reagan Library at the Top

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
When we visited in June 2011, the library grounds were full of flowers. 


We visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, as part of our 47th Wedding Anniversary celebration.  The library is easy to access, since it's in a part of California that so far does not have the traffic problems of larger cities. You can find library hours and directions here. The driveway was long and curvy as it climbed to the library buildings at the top. This is what we saw when we got there.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review

The view below shows the other side of the entrance.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review

On the way up we passed this picnic area just before we got to the buildings. If you look toward the back of the photo below you will see part of the enormous parking lot. Parking is free, but some spaces require a long walk up to the building.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Picnic Area at Reagan Library


The Library Entrance through the Courtyard


This is the way to enter the courtyard that leads to the main entrance. You pass through the shadow into the light, where you see the fountain in the courtyard.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Through the Shadows and into the Bright Courtyard


Here is a better look at the fountain. You can pick up this view at Zazzle as a postcard, a puzzle, blank greeting card, magnet, or beverage coaster set.  I show it here as a puzzle. You can click the image if you want to purchase it or see the other products.

As you approach the door, this statue of Ronald Reagan himself greets you.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Ronald Reagan Statue


Once inside the door, you can pay for your admission and proceed to the exhibits. There is an order to it. I went accidentally the wrong way, so I didn't see the displays in the order I should have. But it was still a  wonderful walk through Reagan's life - personal, professional, and political. (Note: The docents were wonderfully helpful at getting me back to where I took the wrong turn.)

Ronald Reagan's Early Years


The library's archives reveal that Ronald Reagan grew up in a poor family. He just didn't realize it at the time. His father was a shoe salesman and the family didn't own a home. When young Ronald was 14 he got his first job - digging ditches. Later he worked as a lifeguard during the summers. He saved his money toward tuition to supplement his college scholarship for Eureka College.

Reagan was raised in Dixon, Illinois, and his mother was a devout Christian and a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) His father was Catholic. Nelle Reagan was known in her church as a prayer warrior. She maintained her ties to the Dixon church even after she moved to California. Her Bible is on display at the Reagan Library, along with many family photos and other family possessions in the exhibit on Reagan's early life.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Nelle Reagan's Bible


The Air Force One Pavilion

I think the most impressive exhibit was the Air Force One Pavilion. I was overwhelmed by the spaciousness of it when I walked in. Whereas most of the exhibits were enclosed by walls on both sides as you walked the path between them, the Pavilion displaying all the means of presidential transport was wide open and multistoried. Its glass outside walls allowed one to survey the surrounding valley as far as the eye could see. As you look at the photos of Air Force and Marine One, and gauge their size, you realize just how big this pavilion is to house it all. The library makes some space in the Pavilion available for public events. 

Maine One

The photo below of Marine One shows you how large it is in comparison to the tables you see in the background that are often used at events. 

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Marine One


Below is a closer view of the front of the Marine One helicopter. 


Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Another View of Marine One


Air Force One

Those of us who have only taken to the air in commercial planes can easily be impressed when we board Air Force One and see what those fly on private or special government planes are treated to. Air Force One is a flying office, command center, and a place to entertain guests and the press corps. Library visitors not only tour Air Force One, but they can also get their pictures taken as they exit. One cannot take pictures aboard the plane legally without official permission. The exterior is impressive enough!

Here's the front of Air Force One

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Front of Air Force One


Below is the tail section of the jet that carried President Reagan and all who traveled with him. I took the photos from the second level of the Pavilion. At the back on the lower level you can see the mural depicting all the air transportation presidents have used. 

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Tail of Air Force One


I have included this official video  from the library to give you a better view of the Pavilion. It takes a video to do it justice, but you really can't take it all in unless you actually visit. Honestly, it is truly awesome. 



The Motorcade

The Pavilion also houses the land vehicles the President and those that protected him rode in.  You will find President Reagan's 1984 Cadillac limousine and a "follow-up" or "chase" vehicle -- a 1986 Chevrolet Suburban. That vehicle handles on-site communications and transport for the agents protecting the President. I had not realized that when the Presidents travel outside the country, these secure vehicles are transported by air to wherever the President will be .  Both vehicles are in the photo below. Please click to see a larger view.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Part of the Presidential Motorcade


I just had to add this photo with the limo's Gipper license plate. They sure keep the limousine shiny. It might as well be a mirror.

The "Gipper" License Plate



The Berlin Wall


Perhaps some best remember Ronald Reagan for his appeal in a speech: "Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall."  As we know, the wall finally did come down. One of the displays that really hit me was the reconstruction of part of the Berlin Wall. Here is one view of it. The hole is there for children to crawl through to explore.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Berlin Wall Exhibit


Here's a genuine piece of the wall that is displayed outside of the buildings so you can see both sides.

This is the drab side that would have faced inside the wall.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Genuine Berlin Wall Fragment


This is the other side, facing outside, where people drew pictures and wrote messages. I believe this part is particularly beautiful.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
The More Artistic Side of the Berlin Wall Fragment


 I made of two different views of this Berlin Wall panel as postcards . They are for sale in my Zazzle store, Barb's California Card and Gift Gallery.



Here is Reagan's famous "Tear down this wall" speech.




Last Photos


These photos didn't fit under the headings above. One exhibit reflects Reagan's love for horses. I'm not sure if it depicts his favorite horse, El Alamein, or not. I read that El Alamein was buried on Reagan's Santa Barbara Ranch. On the wall around this exhibit there is a life-size photo of Reagan riding his horse. That is not visible in this photo.

Visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library with Me: A Photo Review
Reagan loved his horses. 


A fitting image to complete this post is the final resting place of Ronald Wilson Reagan, who died on June 5, 2004. The lettering on the monument is too light to read in the photo, but this is what it says:

"I know in my heart that man is good
That what is right will always eventually triumph
And there is purpose and worth to each and every life"
The poster below and a postcard with the same image are in my Zazzle store.

 I hope you have enjoyed this mini-tour of the Ronald Reagan Library. If you ever get the chance, I hope you will go see it. Some of the exhibits I didn't have room to mention here are very moving. There is a video of the attempted assassination, and other videos reveal how much Nancy and the President loved each other. The final one left me in tears. I hadn't thought to bring tissues, but a docent was handing them out after I finished watching that video.

Many exhibits deal with Reagan's relationships with the leaders of other nations. You will also see a full-size replica of the Oval Office with Reagan's desk. You can even get your picture taken behind Reagan's podium with his seal. Do you recognize those who who are listening?



If you visit the Reagan Presidential Library, be sure to leave enough time to enjoy it all. You should be able to get through all the exhibits in three to four hours. If you are hungry, there are two dining options available -- a cafe and a pub. You don't need to pay admission to visit the cafe, but the pub doesn't have an outside entrance for the public. You will also probably want to leave some time to walk the grounds.

SEE ALL TRAVEL TIPS & DESTINATIONS REVIEWED

All photos and text are © B. Radisavljevic





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review

The Best Weed Field Guide for the West I've Seen


I just discovered the best field guide I've ever seen for identifying weeds here in California. I'll finally be able to properly name all those I find and photograph while out walking and on my own property. The book was sitting on the shelf at my local public library. At almost an inch and a half thick, Weeds of the West includes almost every weed I've seen in my area. It's published by the Western Society of Weed Science. Its seven authors all have advanced degrees and specialize in weeds. I'm reviewing the 5th Edition published in 1996, but there are later editions I haven't yet seen.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Wild Cucumber with Grasses and Mustard, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


What I Love about This Reference Book


It's more like what's not to love? The picture quality is excellent. The arrangement of listings is logical. The descriptions provide all the information farmers, campers, gardeners, or hikers need to identify the weeds they encounter. Finally, the pages at the back make everything easier to find and understand.

The Photographs

Poison Hemlock

There are three photographs for each plant listed. Let's look first at the poison hemlock plant listed on pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West. It's a weed found almost everywhere in San Luis Obispo County that's not cultivated. Each listing has three images like this.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review. This book has all one needs to identify weeds growing in the Western United States.
My scan of pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
First we see the overview of the plant in bloom in its habitat. We can compare its height to the other weeds near it. The opposite page shows a close-up portion of the stem, covered with the purple spots that help one distinguish poison hemlock from similar looking plants. We also get a close-up of the leaf. It's a much more detailed look that one would get from the overview shot.

In Roadside Plants of California, Thomas Belzer has given poison hemlock a playing-card size color photo of the top of one flowering stem. It has a good shot of the flowers and a couple of leaves, but the descriptive paragraph doesn't even mention the purple spots. It does mention that Wild Celery is a near look-alike that is not poisonous. Weeds of the West does not mention that.

The Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver's photos of  poison hemlock are so small they are almost useless. You get an overall idea of what one section of leaves and flowers looks like, but no view of the entire plant or its surroundings. You have to rely on the written description of the purple spots because the inset photo is only an oval of 1" x 1½."  It's a good book as far as it goes, but it's purpose is more to help gardeners identify the weeds so they can manage them.

The large full-page photo in Weeds of the West shows as much of an overview as possible, and if a plant is too tall for a photo to hold it all, you will see as much of it as possible for identifying its form. The two smaller photos on the opposite page under the description zero in on the two most important plant characteristics for identifying it. For poison hemlock you see the purple stem and a leaf. For western waterhemlock the smaller photos are a branch with leaves and a split distinctive root, its most poisonous part.

Matt Ritter in California Plants and Plants of San Luis Obispo County has photos with the same high quality, but the book lacks the overview shot. The book also has fewer plants included than Weeds of the West, since it's more specialized. See Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter for a more thorough review of his field guides.

Jointed Goatgrass

When I work in my garden, it seems the weeds that bother me the most are the grassy weeds. So far I've had only the Ritter books and the Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver to help me identify these pests, and they haven't helped as much as I'd hoped. But Weeds of the West identifies at least twice as many of these grassy weeds as the other books. I'll admit it covers more than just California, and that may be part of the reason why.

My scan of pages 408-409 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
Look at the right page of the photo above. The top photo on that page shows the part of the plant where the leaf joins the stem -- something people like me might not even notice. (I do now.) This leaf juncture often provides key identifying information, but many books only show the grass blades or spikes and the flowering part of the plant (inflorescence) or seeds with or without a pod. I like that the photos in this book show a close-up of this juncture when important. The text also points it out so I know what I should look for.

The Arrangement of the Listings


Weeds of the West entries are arranged by plant families. Many other books are arranged by habitat. Both arrangements are useful, but I find the arrangement by family helps me see that plants I never would have suspected are related to each other. Since related plants don't always need the same growing conditions or share a habitat, having them together in a book section make the relationships more obvious. 

If you look at the tops of my scanned pages above, you will see the left page has the common name for the weed in boldface at the top. Under it is the scientific name in italics. On the page on the right we see the common name again followed by the plant family's scientific name. Under that is the common name for the plant family. I'm not surprised that poison hemlock is related to wild carrot and wild caraway. I am surprised that the bull thistle is related to the sunflower. I'm amazed at all the cousins the sunflower has.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
This photo I took in my yard features the wild cucumber (also called manroot.) Weeds of the West will help me  identify the wild grassy weeds that surround it. Photo © B. Radisavljevic


The Text Descriptions


The text that accompanies the photographs in Weeds of the West provides any other information it takes to identify the plant. It points out where to look for what in the photos. It tells you where the plant is native, its size, and its growth habit -- tall and erect  or prostrate and sprawling. Words describe the color and the odor of each plant part if it's a factor in identifying it..

Leaf descriptions include whether they are dull or shiny, how their edges look (smooth or sawtoothed), whether they are divided and if so how many times, how they are arranged on the stem (opposite or alternating), and anything special about how they are attached. Flowers and seeds are also thoroughly described.

The last paragraph explains where you are likely to find the plant (habitat.) It also mentions any other important  information you may need to know. Is the plant poisonous to humans or animals? If it's poisonous, does it resemble closely a plant that is safe?

Handy Helps in the Back of the Book


Many listings use terms laymen may not understand. So there is a Glossary at the beginning of the back matter. Next is an  easy-to-use "Key to the Families in Weeds of the West." It describes what the plant families have in common and what distinguishes them from one another. The final  aid to readers is an index that includes both common and scientific names.

Used editions of this book vary in price.

Should You Buy This Book?


If you live in the American West and garden or spend a lot of time outdoors where wild plants grow, I think you would find this book a helpful addition to your home library. I take a lot of photo walks in parks and I also garden. I like to be able to identify what I photograph, and most books don't supply the information I need. This book is more complete than any of the others I have seen or have on my shelf. The print is large enough for even me to read easily, and the publisher did not skimp on the photos.

 There are bound to be a few mistakes in a book this large -- 630 pages. I don't have the scientific background to judge the facts, but the authors certainly have academic credentials that indicate they know these plants well. I did find one omission quite by chance. I wanted to see if Queen Anne's Lace was listed in the book, since I hadn't seen it with others in the parsley family. It was in the index, but the name of the plant on the page I was directed to only said  "Wild carrot" with Daucus carota L. under it. Nothing in the page for Wild carrot mentioned that Queen Anne's Lace was another common name for it. I had to find that out on the internet.

As soon as I can afford it I will probably buy this book. I'm interested in nature and especially in wild plants, so for me it would be worth it. I like the convenience of a handy reference book when I have a question.



Buyers should be aware that this is not exactly a field guide. It's too large and heavy to take hiking. It does, though, draw attention to parts of plants you should remember to photograph to identify at home later. I have never realized how important it is to observe how the leaves are attached to the stem, for example. If you have found other books for identifying wild plants too limited, I believe you will find this book is different. I believe it's worth buying for the presentation and completeness of the information.




As I was finishing this review I saw another book that may be even more complete. If you're interested in California weeds, you may also like Weeds of California and Other Western States (in two volumes.) I used the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to check it out and it, too, looks like a book I'd like to own.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Photo © B. Radisavljevic

More I've Written about Common California Weeds


Poison Hemlock: Lovely and Lethal: a photo essay with original photos from my property and my nature walks.

Milk Thistle and  Hemlock: The Prickly and the Poisonous: A Photo essay that shows both these common western weeds at all stages of growth so you can easily identify them.

Oak and Poison Oak in Photos: Can You Tell the Difference?: This will help you recognize poison oak  during all stages of growth and in any season. Our local police department asked to use parts of this to help train their search and rescue teams.

Weeds I Love to Hate: Photos of my worst weed enemies and why I hate them

Vetch Runs Wild: Short post from my gardening blog with many photos of vetch I took while hiking

The California  Weeds You Need to Pull Now! If you get them while they are young they won't cause as much trouble later.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Review of The Steadfast Series by Nancy Moser

Not Your Typical Christian Fiction


When I was much younger, it was hard to find good Christian fiction. Grace Livingston Hill ( who wrote between 1877 and 1947) almost owned the Christian romance genre. Her books are still popular today, but many in younger generations find her books too old-fashioned. Today's Christian readers, however, have far more choices. Many excellent books now exist in the genres of Christian contemporary romance and Christian historical fiction. We also have Randy Singer's Christian legal thrillers to compete with John Grisham. And we have Nancy Moser's contemporary Christian fiction.




Amazon classifies The Steadfast Series as religious and inspirational, as well as mystery and suspense. In my opinion it lives up to both labels. I couldn't put the books down. After reading The Seat Beside Me I had to download the other two books in the series immediately. Warning: When I finish a book in this series, the end leaves me hanging. I always feel the book is not quite complete. But isn't real life also like that? We don't always know what's next.

The Theme of The Steadfast Series


The books in The Steadfast Series emphasize the importance of individual choices. God deals each of us a hand, but we choose how we play that hand. We humans make decisions that have consequences. Each chapter of the three books in this series is introduced by a short related portion of Scripture.


The Seat Beside Me


When you fly alone, do you wonder who will be sitting beside you on your trip? I do. So do the characters in The Seat Beside Me. They have made conscious choices leading up to their presence on Flight 1382 to Phoenix. We watch many of their choices as they board and discover their seatmates. We get to know six passengers very well. Sonja is a schemer who tricks her way onto Flight 1382. She wants to be one of the three from her company to attend a corporate conference in Phoenix and hopes her attendance will help her get a promotion. She uses information she overheard to betray her colleague who was supposed to go so that she could take her place. The seat next to her is filled by a handsome black man in a suit, Roscoe Moore, who immediately engages her in conversation.

Henry's job requires him to fly, but flying scares him. He is a Christian and you see him struggle with his fear as he takes his seat. He's not afraid to die, but hates the feeling of being completely out of control of his life while in the air. He sits in the aisle seat on one side of George (below).

George lost his beloved wife seven months ago. He is grieving and is going to Phoenix to commit suicide. He has one daughter. He has left money, a note, and important documents so that she can't miss them after he is gone. George is sitting between a widow in the window seat who won't leave him alone and Henry, who rescues him from her.

Merry has a husband and son. She is going to Phoenix to meet a single girlfriend and escape her family and responsibilities for a few days. Although she loves Lou and Justin and they love her, she is a discontented housewife and her marriage is going through a rough phase. Merry is not at all happy when Lou and Justin surprise her by boarding the plane, and joining her for the trip. No escape.

Anthony is an egotistical plastic surgeon. He is rude to everyone he meets as he prepares to board. He's a man with no real friends and the reader can easily see the reason why. The person who (in his opinion) overfills the seat next to him is an unattractive woman he immediately labels as "white trash." Even her substandard English offends him. She calls him a "rich la-di-da" and lets him know she hates doctors.

Tina is a high school English teacher who hates her job and doesn't like her students much, either. She is also a Christian. She is not happy to be seated next to a teenage girl who reminds her way too much of her students, but as she converses with Gayla she actually begins to like her.

Dora is a reporter who did not want to go to Phoenix. Then her mother called and begged her to come because she needed surgery and didn't want to be alone. So Dora got ready to make the trip. At the last minute her mother called and Dora didn't have to go after all because the doctor said her mother no longer needed the surgery. She is delighted to stay home.


The Weather

Book Review of The Steadfast Series Suspense Novels by Nancy Moser
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay


Although the passengers are ready to go, a blizzard has closed the airport and delayed all flights in or out. Even after boarding, the plane is delayed on the tarmac for several hours because of snow and icy conditions. This delay gave the passengers a lot of time to get acquainted with their seatmates. The extra time of quiet and boredom made passengers more willing to open up with each other and have conversations that touched on important issues. As we listen in we learn what choices Tina, Sonja, George, Henry, Merry, and Anthony are contemplating. We also discern a lot about their problems and characters.

Finally the pilot tells the passengers that they will be taking off. The author does a good job of foreshadowing what will happen. Readers know the plane will crash.

The Crash

We watch the passengers reactions as they begin to realize the plane is about to crash. Those who survive impact fight for their lives as the plane falls apart and they await rescue. We see the actions of the most selfless and the most selfish. None of the survivors will ever forget their experience in the icy water and the hospital. The memory of the horror and fear while waiting for the rescue helicopter stays with them. We watch  as the crash experience changes all of them. None can go back to exactly the lives they had before.

The crash, important as it is in the plot, is not the main focus of the book. It is the characters' catalyst for change. The focus is on the decisions the characters make after the crash and how those decisions affect their new lives and relationships. You will meet some of the characters in other books by Nancy Moser. One of them is the main character of the next book in the series.  

A Steadfast Surrender


In this second book in the series, crash survivor Merry, who lost her husband and son in the crash, tries to start over in the small town of Steadfast. Orphaned teen Sim runs away from her aunt and uncle guardians. Claire Adams, a famous mosaic artist, is challenged by a speaker at church to give away all her possessions in complete surrender to Christ. All three end up in the small town of Steadfast, Kansas. It is there they meet and begin to influence each other as their lives change. All three need to choose a future direction for their lives.

Much of this book is set in the public library where Merry is the librarian. I loved watching the antics of the regular library patrons and the library "ghost." Most of the characters in this book continue on to the next book in the series. In this book most of the focus is on Merry, Sim, and Claire.

The Ultimatum

This third book in the series has the most suspense. The main characters are restaurant owners, their employees, and their families. Readers will have met most of them before in A Steadfast Surrender. This book zeroes in on 
  • Annie McFay, waitress at the Plentiful Café, her husband Cal McFay, handyman, and their ten-year-old-daughter Avi  
  • Bailey, owner of Bon Vivant. the one upscale gourmet restaurant in town, and Jered (teen son) Manson
  • Merry Cavanaugh (town librarian) and Police Chief boyfriend, Kent Kendell
  • Sim, a teen runaway in previous book, now living legally with Susan
  • Susan, a nurse at the hospital emergency room
  • Claire Adams, a famous mosaic artist who now resides in Steadfast
  • Jinko, owner of Palamba Bar and Grill in Eldora, a town twenty minutes from Steadfast. 
  • Vasylko (aka Vasy), the cook at Palamba Bar and Grill

 

The Action


As the book opens, Jered is running for his life. He has been on the streets for  three months. He had argued with his dad Bailey and Bailey had collapsed with a heart attack. Jered, afraid he might have killed his dad, grabbed a few clothes and fled in his truck. First he'd gone to Kansas City, but he found it too big and dangerous, so he drove to Eldora, which was much closer to home.

He had run out of money and was eating from the garbage. As he raids a dumpster in front of the Palamba Bar and Grill, Jinko, the owner, discovers him, offers him a job and gives him money to clean himself up and return to work for him. Jered accepts and Jinko offers him a place to live. He starts by washing dishes. He is eager for Jinko's acceptance. I won't say more about this because I don't want to spoil it. 

Bailey is plotting to swindle Cal. Annie suspects it. But the marriage is in trouble because Annie recently became a Christian and Cal not only wants nothing to do with Jesus, but also resents Annie following Him. Annie has to be careful what she says. 

Much of the plot revolves around the relationships of people and how they are trying to get ahead any way they can, escape or face their problems, and make important life choices.  Jered's dream is to be a musician but his father mocks that choice and wants Jered to work at Bon Vivant and take it over some day. Jered longs to feel important to his father and know his dad loves him. Annie wants Cal to become a Christian, but Cal wants to pull Annie away from Christ. Jinko wants to control and use Jered. Claire, Sim, Merry, and Susan play supporting roles in this drama as they help, encourage, and pray for others. 

It takes a life and death situation to truly reveal the character of Cal, Annie, Jered, and Jinko. Personal choices brought each of them to play their part in this scene where it appears someone will die. Each reveals his character or lack of it in this scene. And each must endure the consequences of his own choices and those of the others.

The Challenge

What is the purpose of life? Where can we find the significance we humans crave? The characters in these books are looking for those answers. What does God really want from us? How do we follow him in today's world? What does it mean to be a Christian? Why do bad things happen to even good people? This book helps people think through the answers to these questions as they make their own choices.

Review of The Steadfast Series by Nancy Moser: Three Christian Suspense Novels
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay


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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review

The Best Way to Learn German or Any Language


The best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in it and use it daily. Language is definitely a case of  "Use it or lose it." That's why my two years of college German had almost completely disappeared in the 45 years I didn't have any occasion to use it. A few years after graduation special circumstances compelled me to teach a bit of German to some select elementary students, but then I stopped teaching and started selling books and blogging. Spare time was scarce. I simply wasn't motivated to study when I'd rather be using my leisure time to read. But now I'm motivated since I discovered these two apps for my new Galaxy Note 9 phone.

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drops and DuoLingo

Small Doses of Language Work Best for Me


Both of the apps I use, Drops and DuoLingo, have very short daily lessons. Both have positive reinforcement built into their programs. You know immediately whether your answers are right or wrong. I have been using both of these for about two weeks now. I got tired of the ads so I bought the paid versions after trying them out. Both programs encourage you by keeping track of what you've accomplished.

In the image above are two images from Drops. The first, in purple, is my page at the end of a session. It shows me how many words I've learned so far and how long my session lasted. It also shows which level I've achieved in my current topic. Underneath the time is a brief review of the words I've learned and reviewed during this session. This is really handy, since some words need more practice than others. Sometimes I haven't quite gotten the pronunciation down. If I click on an image in this section, I will see the English meaning and hear the German pronunciation again. If I still didn't catch it, I can tap again and I will hear the word again --  more slowly. I use this feature a lot.

The second Drops image shows the current topic I'm working on. The yellow lines show how much progress I've made. The yellow stars on the red row of squares underneath indicates that I've mastered the words in those topics.

How Drops Works

I have the premium plan and no longer see ads. I also can choose the length of each session. I think the session length begins at five minutes. I am now doing fifteen minutes a session and often I do two or more sessions a day if I have time. It's fun. It keeps my brain exercising. At the beginning of each session you receive a word drop. It looks like a large water drop and it brings you a new word you haven't yet seen. You also see a picture that represents it and the English meaning as you hear the the pronunciation of the German word. If you don't want to practice that word because you already know it, you swipe it up. If you want to learn or review it, you swipe it down. 

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review


The next screen shows you the word again and two pictures (far left of image.) It lets you choose the one picture it matches. You hear the German word again. After that you may have any of the other exercises pictured drop down. The rust-colored exercise helps you look more closely at the word and put the parts of the word into the blank spaces below. If you hesitate, they give you a hint of where to start by wiggling one of the ovals. If you've worked with the word a couple of times before they may add another group of letters that isn't a correct part of the word just to make it more challenging.

The blue screen shows one of my least favorite exercises. It's a word search. You get the first letter and have to tap the others in order to spell the word correctly. I've learned how to cheat when I don't know the correct article form and there's a choice. I find the blank oval and tap to get to it because I know it comes right after the article. It's tricky, though. Even if you know how to spell the word (which I often don't) you may have the same correct letter in two different positions you can choose. You have to look ahead to see which leads to spelling the rest of the word. If you guess wrong, the program will correct you until you make the right choice.

There's another spelling game I didn't show you. It has the picture and you have to keep picking letters from a group of a few letters on the bottom until you spell the word. When you pick a letter, another moves into its place, so you don't see all the choices at the beginning.

My favorite game is the last one -- the matching game. I don't have to spell anything for this one. I just tap the pairs that match. No matter which game, once you make the correct choice, you will hear the word that is the correct answer repeated again. Approaching the word in so many different ways -- as a whole, as an image, letter by letter, section by section, and as sound -- helps your brain cement it in your memory. Words you studied at the beginning keep reappearing in later lessons so that you don't get a chance to forget them. You can probably tell I really like this app. You can use it easily on a phone or a computer.




What I Don't Like So Much about Drops


Overall, I enjoy using Drops, but there are a couple of things I don't like. Part of the reason is in the program itself and part of it is my own lack of knowledge. I have a problem with the artwork. Now I definitely could not do better myself, but I have trouble figuring out what some pictures are supposed to be. Here are some examples in the screenshot below.

Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drop and DuoLingo
Screenshot from the Drops App. Get more information here.

I had no problem with the words and pictures on the left side of this screenshot from the review at the end of the session. But I had a tough time figuring out just what that man on the right top corner was doing. I thought maybe he was doing some sort of dance. I had to check the English translation, which was "I like." Yes, his thumbs are up. But when I hear the words, this is the image with which I associate it. Verbs are hard to illustrate.

My other problem was probably one I inherited from my mother who used to keep a novel inside her geography book during class. I'm not very good at identifying countries other than my own by their map shapes and/or flags. So it's only the German word that helped me recognize Greece (lower right corner of image.) When we learn the words for nationalities instead of the countries, we keep the flag and instead of the map there is a common object or a building often associated with the country. I had no trouble figuring out that bagpipes were Scottish, but many buildings in Eastern European countries seemed similar to each other. So I had to learn flags, country shapes, and architecture along with the language. I suppose that's good, but it confused me. That's why I started to pull out the old German books from college and the children's illustrated German dictionary  I used to sell. Those books  were great supplements to the apps.

Visual dictionaries for children are very good even for adults beginning the study of a foreign language. Here are two of the best available now. Mine are out of print.



DuoLingo or Drops?


I find DuoLingo boring. There is little color as far as I've gotten. It's more like doing textbook exercises on the computer. I understand the logic behind it, but maybe I should be at a more advanced level than I chose. It seems the several short sessions I completed never got past various ways of mixing these words (in German and English, in and out of sentences) : man, woman, men, women, boy, boys, girl, girls, is, are, he, she, it, you, they, the, a, and that. They were used in questions and statements. I realize this is establishing basic sentence patterns and teaching forms of the verb "to be" and singular and plural nouns, pronouns and articles. It's still boring. More color and variety in activities would go a long way to making this more fun.  Below is the screenshot of a scorecard after a brief review exercise. These are the instructions and the right answers. 


Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review of Drops and DuoLingo

Below is a screenshot of the correction screen for one of the exercises above. This is about as visually exciting as it's gotten so far. I'll let you guess which app I use most often. 



In all fairness, I have not explored all the options in this app yet, even though I have paid for the premium version. I have not joined a club  to practice with other people. I can't find one in my community, and now I'm beginning to wonder if I misunderstood that. 

I did check out the stories -- one reason I got this version. They aren't very exciting.  More like the dialogues in beginning textbooks. Bilingual children's books are much more interesting and colorful. Check out the wide variety on Amazon. Many of them are available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited. That's how I've been able to read so many of them this week. Some with very familiar stories are only in German. I will need to improve my skills before I'm ready to read those, but they are on my wish list.

In my opinion Duolingo is like a textbook put on a computer. You hear or read German and write what you see or hear in English. Or you do the opposite. I can only use this program on the computer because I can't seem to switch to a German keyboard on my phone. To be able to hear and speak comfortably I need to be on my MAC because my headsets for speaking and listening on my PC are somewhat uncomfortable for a complete session.

I probably would not buy the paid Plus version of DuoLingo if I had it to do over. It does give me a kind of practice Drops doesn't have, but it is more academic than I wanted in an app. Drops is much more fun and I seem to learn better with that kind of practice. I have a stack of German texts if I want to study the subject academically. 


Apps to Help You Learn German in Small Doses: A Review
My College Texts and German References with Other Books I've Picked up Since Then
© B. Radisavljevic



My Current Plan for Studying German


My daily routine includes at least one session of using the Drops app a day, and I do it first thing in the morning on my phone before I get out of bed. That's the only way to make sure I get it done. I  also keep the Beginner's German Dictionary close to me in case I want to use it for visual review. It's a picture dictionary I used to sell. It's now out of print. For visual learning it's hard to beat Usborne books, but you can only get most of them used now. I don't think one book in my stack above is still in print, since I've had most of these for over fifty years.

Books in my stack are good for reference and review, but I need to update the dictionary. Many words have been added to the language since 1964. Here's my wish list to supplement my references. I didn't really see an adult dictionary I want yet. I will stick to the one I have until I find a more useful one. The DK Visual Dictionary (below) will have some of the more modern words in it. It will serve my purpose since it is intended for adults.

I also will keep downloading German or bilingual picture books I can read for free on Kindle Unlimited.  There are also many books there on how to learn German that I have downloaded to evaluate. When I have a bit more vocabulary, I will get the story book below. I need more experience with using the language. I hope to find my German Christmas carol book I got in college and start singing the carols again. I have some on CD's and can also listen to German music free as part of my Amazon Prime Membership. I've already found some great children's songs in German.


The most recent thing I've done is start following people on Instagram who speak German . This allows me to see how Germans actually speak informally to each other and I can read the German memes and jokes they post. I have found some real goodies so far. One of the most helpful accounts I follow is German for Mummies. Every day it posts a cute cartoon drawing with labeled thematic photos. Most of the posts include simple sentences using words in the drawing. Here's one of my favorite posts from the feed: a frog in a pond.

 I hope if you want to learn German, too, some of my ideas, reviews, and recommended materials may help you. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or talk to me on Instagram or Twitter. And don't forget to follow this blog, Review
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