Showing posts with label Mary Beth Granger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mary Beth Granger. Show all posts

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Mistress of the Ritz-Book Review

 


This book was introduced to me by a friend who read it for her book club.  She said it was a book all the club enjoyed.  After reading it, I can see why.  It has everything I like in a story: history, romance, secrets and true to life characters.  The story is inspired by the true life story of Claude and Blanchette Auzello.  Claude was the French director of the Ritz and Blanche was his American wife.


The Story Line

This compelling novel takes us to the glamor of the Ritz and introduces us to all the wonderful characters who enter its doors.  We see bits with Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many more memorable characters from the 1940's.

The story begins in the 1920's when Claude Auzello meets Blanche, an American who has come to Paris in the hopes of becoming an actress.  Claude sweeps Blanche off her feet and they settle into life at the Ritz, where Claude becomes the director.  Life at the Ritz is glamorous and the guests are pampered by Claude and his staff.  Blanche enjoys meeting all of the memorable characters in the Ritz bar.

Life goes along at the Ritz with the glamor of the place and the work of Claude putting a tamper on their marriage.  Blanche and Claude get along but sometimes their differences also draw them apart with each of them living their own lives and keeping secrets.  Everything changes in June 1940 when the Nazi's invade Paris and take over the Ritz as their headquarters.  The Ritz staff is kept but moved to the back of the building and now must cater to the Nazi's every wish, all the while being afraid of every move they make.  

I don't want to spoil more of the plot but the French Resistance plays a big part in the rest of the book and secrets are kept, even from those they are closest to.

The Book on Amazon



My Thoughts on the Book

I really enjoyed the book.  It is the first book I had read by Melanie Benjamin, and I will certainly check out more of her books.  I highly recommend this compelling book.



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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Thursday, May 12, 2022

Wish You Were Here-Book Review

 


Jodi Picoult's books are known for being thought provoking about current and past events and this book does not disappoint.  I was hooked from the very beginning when the novel starts in a March 2020 time frame.


                                       

The Story

In this book Jodi Picoult says she is exploring "the resilience of the human spirit in a moment of crisis".

In the first pages we are introduced to Diana O'Toole and her boyfriend Dr. Finn Colson.  They are a young couple very much in love and planning on taking the trip of their dreams to the Galapagos Islands.  They are all packed and set to take their trip when Finn comes home and announces that he cannot get away to take the trip.  He is a surgical resident in New York City, and it is the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Finn convinces Diana that she should take the trip without him since they have already paid their nonrefundable down payments.  Dianna reluctantly agrees to go.

When Diana reaches the Galapagos, she takes the ferry over to the island where they are staying only to discover that due to the pandemic it is the last ferry to the island and the island is now shut down due to the pandemic.  When she arrives, there is no transportation available, so she decides to walk to their hotel only to discover that it has been shut down.  Diana is beginning to panic when a worker from the hotel is leaving and stops to talk to Diana.  She offers a place for Diana to stay in a cottage she owns.  She is very kind to Diana and offers her food and advice.

The next chapters find Diana exploring the island, meeting people along the way, and dealing with communication problems.  She tries to contact Finn, but communication is very limited, and she finally is able to get someone to let her into the hotel to use their server.  

In the meantime, Finn, is working day and night at the hospital to deal with the spreading pandemic.  When he gets a moment to send Diana an email, he never knows if she is getting them.  In one email, he lets Diana know that her mother who is in a nursing home is gravely ill and the nursing home is quarantined by the pandemic.

There is so much more to the story, but I don't want to spoil it for you by telling you about all the twists and turns.  I will tell you it is a very compelling story made even more interesting by the fact that we are currently living in the pandemic.  I highly recommend this book.

More Books I Have Enjoyed by Jodi Picoult

I have read many of Jodi Picoult's books.  Here are some that I particularly enjoyed.

The Book of Two Ways explores Egyptology and I found very intriguing. Here is a review that Diana wrote on this book. Book of Two Ways

                                     
Leaving Time is a book that explores the relationships between humans and animals.  The elephants in this story were delightful and I would recommend this book.

                                   
My Sister's Keeper is the heart wrenching story of a young girl who was conceived in order to provide bone marrow for her dying sister.  It is considered by many as their favorite Picoult novel.

                                     
Enjoy your Reading!  Books are a wonderful escape from daily life.



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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Review of Spring Flower Photography

 

There is nothing like the beautiful colors of spring flowers to get me past the dull days of winter.  The brilliant yellow of the daffodil photograph above is a case in point.  I took it while on an excursion to the Missouri Extension Center.  On this page I will share with you the photographs I have taken this spring.

Flowers in my Neighborhood

I try to take a daily walk and as winter turns to spring, I look forward to seeing the new flowers poking out of the ground. This year I have a new dog that walks with me so rather than trying to take my camera, most of the photos I take on my walks are taken with my iPhone. I live in Missouri, and we usually see the first signs of spring in late February or early March.  The first flowers in my neighborhood are the crocus.  One house up the street from mine has a flower bed in the front yard that is full of all different shades of purple crocus.  I love seeing the green peaking up out of the soil and I always anticipate these lovely flowers.  With these tiny flowers I like to get in real close when I take the photos and take them from different angles.  Here are three of my favorites.










The next flowers to bloom in my neighborhood are the daffodils.  I have a few of these in my own yard and I enjoy looking at the bright yellow blossoms as I look out my window.

The last of the spring flowers that I photographed during my spring walks were the tulips.  I love these colorful flowers and find them in a whole rainbow of colors in the various neighbors' yards.  

As you will see in the photos below, I like to take the flowers in various ways.
  • Up very close
  • From above
  • From the side
  • Just a section of the petals







Springtime Flowers at Missouri Extension Center

One beautiful spring Sunday, my neighbor and I drove to the Missouri Extension Center gardens.  Here master gardeners learn their skills and hone them with other gardeners.  The grounds are open for anyone to come and visit.  We had the place to ourselves for most of our visit and were able to take our time and photograph lots of spring flowers.  I particularly liked the daffodils.  They were so many more varieties than I realized even existed.  Here is a collage photo I put together of the daffodils.  I used the Print panel in Lightroom to put together the collage.

Flowering Trees and Bushes

Springtime also brings beautiful flowering trees and bushes.  Here are a few I photographed on my neighborhood walks.
Redbud Tree and Forsythia Bush

Lilac Branch after the Rain

My Neighbors Beautiful Pink Tree

Capturing Bird by Flowering Bush

I particularly like it when I am able to photograph a bird by a flowering bush.  Here is a photo I took Easter Sunday of a Cardinal by my Lilac bush.

Zazzle Cards from my Photos

I love turning my photos into cards.  Here are a couple cards with spring flowers.




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Thursday, April 14, 2022

Visit Missouri - First Capitol

 

Missouri's First Capitol

The first Missouri capitol was in St. Charles.  Although we have lived very near for nearly 20 years, I had never been on a tour of this first capitol until recently. I was on an outing with a group that I serve as a photography mentor and our outing included a tour of the first capitol.  The outside of the building does  not look very exciting so I wasn't sure what to expect and I was very pleasantly surprised.

History of First Capitol


Missouri was granted statehood on August 10, 1821.  Before that time various locations in St. Louis had served as the place where decisions were made for the territory.  Once it looked like statehood would become a reality a search went on to find a permanent seat of government.  A location was picked in the center of the state overlooking the Missouri river.  This new location was called "The City of Jefferson" and today we call it Jefferson City.

While construction of the new capitol was taking place the first legislator needed a place to meet.  Nine different cities were competing for the honor.  One of these cities, St. Charles, pledged free meeting space for the temporary capitol.  St. Charles was located on the Missouri river and had great access to areas throughout the state by either the river or the Boonslick Road.  The first Govenor Alexander McNair signed a bill making St. Charles the first capitol of Missouri.  The legislator met in St. Charles for the first time in June of 1821.   At that time the heated discussions of the legislature centered around slavery and state's rights.

House of Representatives

Senate

Tour of First Capitol


The first legislator met on the second floor of the two newly constructed adjoining buildings.  The first floor was occupied by a general store and a carpentry shop. In the photos above you can see what the senate and the house of representatives looked like.

Our tour guide gave us some fascinating insight into what the meetings would have been like back in the early 1800's.   In the photos above you see what each of the meeting rooms looked like. The senators each had tables they could use but the representatives sat on benches.  Our tour guide showed us the "Laptops" like what they would have used to in order to take their notes.  Here is a photo I took of the laptop.



It would have been like a mini desk, with compartments to hold the writing instrument, the ink and other essentials.  They could hold it on their laps to use instead of a desk.

After seeing the legislators we went to the next room upstairs which was the govenors office.
Here is a photo of that office.

Govenor's Office


Four Missouri govenors were in office during the time the capitol was in St. Charles.  The new capitol was ready in 1826.

Downstairs Stores and Home


The tour also included a look at a reconstructed Dry Goods store.  It included items that would have been in that type of store during the early 1800's.  Here is a photo I took in the store.



Sources for this Review


My sources for this review are the information provided for us by our docent, Mike.  He was an excellent tour guide and provided some very interesting information on what life was like during the early years of Missouri statehood.

I also used information I read on a pamphlet I picked up during the tour.  The information was published by Missouri Department of Natural Resources.  Their website is www.mostateparks.com.



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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Book Review Smoke on the Whiteadder

 

This thrilling historical novel takes place in Scotland in the 1500's.  It is very well researched and in addition to following the  tale of the Cowan family you will learn about historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scotts, Queen Elizabeth, King James I, Sir Walter Raleigh, and many more memorable people from this time period.  

The Plot Line

     The story follows the lives of the Cowan family who live in Chirnside, Berwickshire, Scotland in the estate called Edington.  They are tenants of Sir Lauder.  Sir Lauder lives in the castle on the  manor and his tenants live on his property in meager housing.  They tend the land around their homes and pay a portion of their income as rent to Sir Lauder.  Sir Lauder has great control over his tenants including what they plant and what animals they have.
      In this book we are first introduced to Paul Cowan, as he is meeting with Sir Lauder for his report of his crops.  In the book we follow the joys and sorrows of the family through three generations.  We rejoice in the marriages and births and are sad when death, famine and home burnings are way too prevalent through the years.  The book shows how the political and religious turmoil of the times effects the family and their lifestyle.

The Book on Amazon

Here is a link to the book which can be purchased through Amazon both as a paperback and in electronic form.  Smoke on the Whiteadder

The Author's Notes

The author's notes are of course at the end of the book, so I didn't realize that the Cowans were a real family until I got to that point.  For me, this made the story even more interesting,  Here is a quote from the author's notes.
     "This family saga is based on the genealogial journey of my maternal ancestors, the Cowans.  It necessarily includes mention of related families as they encoountered the Cowans.  Consequently, you will be introduced to people with many other surnames.
     I like to put my stories in context with the broader social picture, especially as it describes the conditions that resulted in particular actions on the part of the story's charcters.  For this reason, the book includes vignettes about people like Henry VIII, Mary I, known as Bloody Mary, Elizabeth I, Sir Walter Raleigh and many more."

My Recommendation

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I found  it very compelling and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.  I am looking forward to the next book by the author where he continues on with the story of the Cowans.




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Thursday, March 10, 2022

Review of Classic Movie Night


 A classic movie night is a great way to share an evening with friends, good food, and watch some great old movies.

Starting Our Classic Movie Night

    In early 2006 several of our friends and us decided to get together for a night of entertainment.  There were three couples involved and we decided we would enjoy having dinner together and then watching a classic movie.  When we started we decided to take turns hosting the evening and the host would provide the meal and the movie choice. 
      Over the years the evening has evolved and  now our monthly evenings ended up being about 4-6 times a year. We also now all contribute to the meal with one person bringing the entree, one the side dish and a third the dessert.  Over the years we have had breaks due to health issues and Covid but we always get back to all wanting to have our evenings together.  Everytime we meet we have a great time and say we must do this more often.  But then, life happens and it ends up being several months before we get together again.
   Back in 2006, the first movie we saw was Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  We felt it was the perfect movie to start our "Classic Movie Nights"
 Here is a link to Casablanca on Amazon.  You might want to choose it for your first "Classic Movie Night"                 

Casablanca

The first year we got together we would sometimes see two movies when we got together. We have since decided that we would rather just watch one movie, leaving plenty of time for a discussion on the movie and other conversation.

Keeping Track of Our Movies

    One of the things I started right from the beginning is keeping a list of all the movies we watched.  My daughter gave me a great little book.  This little journal book gives you a page for each movie you see.  I list the title, director, stars and date we watched it.  There is also places for ratings and comments.  Over the years we have referred back to this book whenever we are looking for another movie to watch.  When someone says we already saw that one as a group, we just pull out the book and check.  Our memories can sure play tricks on us.  Here is a link to this movie journal on Amazon.



Choosing the Movies to Watch

    Choosing the movies to watch can be a fun part of the night too.  We all see each other at other times in the month so we will have discussions on what to watch.  We all prefer different types of movies so we try to alternate who makes the final decision and we have each been enriched by watching movies we might not of watched if we weren't in the group.
     One discussion we have had over the years is to determine what is and isn't a classic movie.  We have checked lots of lists online for ideas but basically it comes down to an old movie that we really would like to see.  Usually we try for something at least 50 years old.

One of our favorite movies we have watched is 12 Angry Men. This  movie stars Henry Fonda, Lee J Cobb, Ed Begley, EG Marshall and Jack Warden.  When we talk about good movies we have watched over the years 12 Angry Men always enters the discussion.  It was the movie we saw the second time we got together. 

Here is a list of some of our other favorites over the years.  There are many more and I would say that in the 40 plus movies we have viewed we only found a couple that none of us liked.
  • Breakfast at Tiffanys
  • Stagecoach
  • Fortune Cookie
  • Double Indemnity
  • Some Like it Hot
  • Manchurian Candidate
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Pride of the Yankees
  • African Queen
  • Birdcage
  • On the Waterfront
  • Citizen Kane
  • Sabrina
  • Key Largo
  • True Lies
  • The Quiet Man

Theme Nights

Sometimes we have theme nights.  Recently for a night near Valentines Day we watched a romantic comedy. When Harry Met Sally.   During the political elections we watched a comedy My Fellow  Americans with Dan Akroyd, James Garner and Jack Lemmon.
    In December we try to watch a Christmas classic.  Among others we have watched Going My way and The Bishop's Wife.  Here is a review fellow reviewer Cynthia did on The Bishop's Wife.


Future Choices

We are always looking for good movies to watch.  If you have a favorite please list it in the comment section so we can consider it for a future "Classic Movie Night".  




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Thursday, February 24, 2022

Reviewing a Veterans Museum

 

Scenes from Front of Museum

 
In early February of 2022, I had the privilege of visiting the St. Charles County Veterans Museum with a group of people from the Willows Way photography club where I am a photography mentor.  This museum is just over two years old and I had never visited before. I was in for a wonderful surprise.  The museum was a delight with lots of memorabilia and stories of veterans from World War I through the present day.  

The volunteers who worked at the museum were wonderful and really made our whole experience very inspirational.  They gave us time to explore on our own, but were always available to answer questions and tell the stories of the veterans that were featured at the museum.

On this post I will share with you some of the photos I took in the museum and also give your more information about the museum which I gathered from their website St. Charles County Veterans Museum

World War I Era Uniforms



After you enter the museum the first display you see is from World War I.  Here are some of the uniforms from the display.

Mission of the Museum

Plans for a museum that honored all of the veterans from the area was a dream of Ralph Barrale (1924-2018) a veteran of World War II.  He was able to get the location secured and the dream was becoming a reality when he passed on in 2018.  Unfortunately he was unable to see the actual opening in 2019.

Here is the stated mission of the museum. 
" Inspiring, informing and engaging the residents
of St. Charles County to honor the memories of County Veterans who served the United State of America with patriotic valor."

Korean War


There was a section of memorabila from the Korean War and several stories of county residents who had served there.  One of this heroes was a volunteer on the day that we visited and was very knowledgable about that era.

Telling the Veterans Stories

The museum is in the process of developing a program where high school students interview veterans to find out their stories.  The program is called "Interview our Heroes- Our Military Veterans."  The goal of the program is to unite generations and tell the stories of veterans.  The interviews will be on video and will be put on the museum's website along with being sent to the Library of Congress in Washington D. C..  This sounds like a wonderful program and I am looking forward to seeing these interviews on the website and on future visits to the museum.

Vietnam Era Memorabilia

Several stories have been collected  from Vietnam veterans.  Here is some of the memorabilia that is in the museum from that era.

World War II

There is an entire room devoted to the World War II veterans.  It includes uniforms, models, and a tent from the era.  Here are some of the photos I took in that room.







Paintings

There were some beautifully done paintings hanging in the museum.  This one was done by a local artist and depicts women in the military.

Wall Honoring Residents who Gave the Ultimate Sacrifice


In closing I would like to encourage you to visit a Veterans Museum.  It is a very moving experience.  If you are in the St. Louis/St. Charles area or traveling through please stop at the St. Charles County Veterans Museum.  It is located at 410 E Elm St in O'Fallon, Mo.

If this location does not work for you, I encourage you to look for a veterans museum near you to visit.






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Thursday, February 10, 2022

How to Speak Dog Book Review

Dixie 

 Last April we adopted a wonderful 2-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Dixie.  We are really enjoying Dixie and when our grandkids came to visit, they fell in love with her.  She is very sweet, but sometimes I wonder what she is trying to tell me.  For Christmas this year my daughter gave me a book called How to Speak Dog.  This little book is full of ways to give you ideas of what your dog is trying to relate to you by their actions and body language.  

In the book you meet, Dr. Gary, a veterinarian and dog expert.  Dr. Gary gives you all kinds of training tips and vet and care advice.  The book is also full of fun facts, quizzes, hands-on-activities, resources to get more information and dog photos.



I love the way the dog on the front cover looks just like our dog, Dixie.  The book is listed for children ages 8-12 and in fact has won the Children's Book Award from the Animal Behavior Society.  I feel that the book is actually great for dog lovers of all ages.  I know I have learned a lot from the book.

On the rest of this post, I will have my dog Dixie show you through her pictures some of the different areas of the book.  This is only a sampling of the wonderful material in the book.

Body Talk


Dixie- Belly Up


Dixie loves to roll over and lay belly up when I talk to her.  She loves to get her belly rubbed.  In the book, Dr. Gary says the real meaning of this dog position is submission and trust.  She is saying that you are in charge and she's okay with that.  In this section Dr.  Gary gives a tip that massage feels as good to animals as it does to humans and if they are nervous a good way to calm them down is a back rub.

The chapter on "Body Talk" also contains several other topics such as paw on your knee, full body shake, wiggles away from you and one paw raised.  Each section tells what that usually means and gives you some tips.  Each topic is two page long.

Read my Face


Expressive Ears


The section on " Read my Face" has topics like the begging stare, ears erect, and teeth barred, pricked ears, licking your face and yawning. 

In the photo above you see Dixie's expressive ears.  Whenever she is interested in something her ears go up.  In the photo above she had been laying on the bed when something outside the window caught her attention.  Dr. Gary said that dogs will prick up their ears to hear better.  One of the tips on the page says, " Dogs can hear noises that are up to four times farther away than those humans can hear".  No wonder Dixie jumps to attention or barks when we don't hear anything.

Telling Tails


There is another chapter in the book just on tails.  It contains things like a showy tail, stiff high tail, crooked tail, scared wag, straight tail, tucked tail, and happy wag.  Dixie's tail is constantly going.  If we say her name, her tail wags even if she had been sleeping.  I can really see the "Happy Wag" on her.  Dr. Gary says " A wagging tail is a truth-ometer.  Dogs can't control when or how wagging happens.  The tail is like an electric line connected directly to the brain that transmits how a dog is feeling."

Wagging tail at squirrels.

This is just a sampling of the delightful material in this book.  If you love dogs, I know you will enjoy the book.   In closing I'll leave you with a few more photos of Dixie.








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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Reviewing The Joy of Bird Feeding

 

Eastern Bluebird


My husband and I enjoy watching the birds in our backyard.  We can sit at our kitchen table and watch the view through our sliding glass doors.  We were very excited when we received a Christmas gift from a friend to give us lots of great ideas for attracting and feeding our feathered friends. This gift was a book entitled The Joy of Bird Feeding. In this post I will give you a preview of the tips found in each chapter of this book.  I will also share some of the photographs that I have taken of birds in our backyard.




Chapter 1: The Five Steps to Bird Feeding Mastery

The first chapter gives a thorough plan on setting up your backyard to attract the biggest variety of birds.  It helps you to set up a plan to decide what foods to serve and when to serve them.
Downy feasting on Suet Pellets


Chapter 2: Thoughtful Bird Feeding Stations Elements in Detail

Details of the elements needed for feeding birds are described in this chapter.  One of the items suggested is year-round water.  In the photo below you see a group of bluebirds enjoying fresh water from the heated dog bowl I have placed on our deck on a cold winter's day.


Chapter 3: The Birds

This chapter gives us some interesting information on the birds that are found in our backyards.  The introduction talks about year-round birds, seasonal residents and migrant birds. It is also talks about how the birds find feeders.  The chapter then goes into photos of various birds and identifying information.  It is quite comprehensive.  Here is a Carolina Wren that is a frequent visitor to my backyard.
Carolina Wren

Chapter 4: The Foods

Great detail is given on the various foods that are available for birds. There is also a section on foods from your kitchen that are good for birds and a section on fun food shapes.  Here is a bird on a Penguin feeder that we received for Christmas.
House Finch on Fun Feeder


Chapter 5: The Feeders

Are you undecided about what types of feeders to purchase?  This chapter goes into detail on each type of feeder and tells you the pros and cons of each.  I like to have a variety of feeders in my backyard. Here is a photo of some Cardinals and a finch on one of my feeders.
Cardinals and Finch


Chapter 6: Poles and Hangers

Here we find some great ideas for poles and hangers including a nifty pole system.  I will need to look into that.

Chapter 7: Critter Solutions

Unwanted critters can play havoc with your feeding stations.  This chapter gives you ideas on how to mitigate the critter issues.  We have lots of squirrels in our yard and I have some squirrel proof feeders and others that the squirrels love to visit.  We enjoy seeing their antics too.  Here is a squirrel at one of our feeders.

Chapter 8: Situations and Solutions

Have you wondered why the birds aren't coming to your feeders or what you can do about the messy deck?  The answers to these and other issues can be found in this chapter.

Chapter 9: Buying and Storing Bird Food

Here you will find lots of tips for buying the best foods and storing solutions for your bird food.

Chapter 10: Common-sense Bird Feeding Hygiene

Here I find a lot of tips for making your bird feeding stations safe for the birds.  Some I have done, but there are certainly a lot of areas where I can improve.  

Chapter 11- Fun Bird Feeding Activities

This chapter is full of some great bird feeding activities including things like hand feeding birds and watching birds when you are not at home.  The activity that most interests me is photographing birds.  I love to set up my backyard to make some good backgrounds for taking bird photos and this book had lots of tips. 
 Here is a favorite photo I caught of some bluebirds turning their backs to the camera.  I thought it made a good ending for this review.





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