Showing posts with label Wednesday Elf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wednesday Elf. Show all posts

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Book Review of Straight – A Horse Racing Mystery

Collage created on Fotojet
by Dick Francis

I have been a fan of the books by Dick Francis since the 1970s. I own them all and now am collecting them for my daughter, who has also become a huge fan. 

The Dick Francis books revolve around horse racing in England.  Most of the books are  stand-alone stories (not continuing), although there are 3 short sets of continuing characters among the Francis collection.  The main character and narrator of each story is somehow associated with horse racing. He may be a jockey, a trainer, a racehorse owner, or someone in another profession somehow linked to racing. 

I love each and every one of the 40+ books Dick Francis wrote and re-read them frequently. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to name a favorite.  

That said, I would like to review for you now one I just finished re-reading that is among those of my top favorites of the Francis collection ~ entitled Straight. As with all of the stories, it deals with crime in the horse racing world. 


Synopsis of Straight


Available on Amazon
Straight, published in 1989, features a steeplechase jockey, Derek Franklin, as the main character and narrator of the story. While recovering from an injury, Derek receives news that his older brother, Greville, has died in an accident. Greville was a successful gemstone importer in London. He did not import diamonds, but recently did so for one specific customer who creates beautiful pieces studded with gems. Therein lies the problem. Derek has no idea where the 100 diamonds are, due to his brother's need for secrecy, and it soon becomes apparent that unscrupulous others are also looking for them. The bank holds a loan of $1.5 million dollars for the diamonds and the gemstone business Derek has inherited and is now trying to run is in jeopardy if the diamonds cannot be found.  Danger suddenly surrounds Derek on all fronts and his only hope of survival is to identify the enemy. 



Derek says: “I inherited my brother's desk, his business, his gadgets, his enemies, his horses and his mistress.  I inherited my brother's life, and it nearly killed me.”


Author Dick Francis


(c) Wednesday Elf
Dick Francis was a pilot with the RAF (Royal Air Force) during World War II and after the war became a highly successful professional jockey. In fact, he was a jockey for The Queen Mother's (Queen Elizabeth) horse, the story of which is outlined in “The Sport of Queens”, an autobiography published in 1957. 

After retiring from racing as a jockey, Francis worked as a racing correspondent for a newspaper, and also began to write his horse racing mystery stories. A nearly unknown fact is that his wife, Mary, was his researcher and a major contributor to his stories. In fact, during the many and varied  subjects she researched, Mary became a pilot (3 novels feature a pilot) and a photographer for a book about a race course photographer. 


Dick Francis with son Felix Francis
Near the end of his writing career, and after Mary's death in 2000, his son, Felix, became his writing partner. 

Dick Francis was born on Halloween in 1910 and died on Valentine's Day in 2010 at age 89. His son, Felix Francis has continued writing the Dick Francis Mysteries ever since. I am delighted that my favorite series of books continues to this day. The subject matter is still about horse racing, mainly in England, and involves a mystery to be solved. Felix's writing style is very similar to that of his dad and just as enjoyable to read. 


Summary



My Dick Francis Book Collection
(c) Wednesday Elf

I highly recommend Straight, or any of the other Dick Francis and Felix Francis horse racing mysteries. You don't even have to like horses or be a fan of racing to enjoy these stories, as the writing is superb, the characters interesting, and the stories fascinating. 















(c) Wednesday Elf - 5/11/2019




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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Two By Two – A Book Review

https://www.amazon.com/Two-Nicholas-Sparks/dp/1455520691/ref=as_li_ss_tl?keywords=two+by+two&qid=1556133987&s=gateway&sr=8-1&linkCode=ll1&tag=reviewthisblog02-20&linkId=4d2f356f9ebd858ccf22761a883e83a6&language=en_US
Two By Two by Nicholas Sparks
by Nicholas Sparks

I have been a fan of the books by Nicholas Sparks for many years. His romantic novels are wonderful.

I think what makes them especially interesting is that they focus on real-life situations.  There is romance and love, but love is not always perfect. Sparks' books describe times of absolute joy, as well as the daily love, disappointment, life journey changes and adjustments we all experience in our own lives. There is also always a touch of sadness just as we all experience from time to time. In other words, his love stories are realistic. Two By Two is no exception. 


Synopsis


Two By Two, published in 2016,  is about an ordinary guy – Russell Green – who has everything a man could want ~ a successful career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife (Vivian) and an adorable six-year-old daughter, London. They live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Russ is living the Dream, or so he thought. Suddenly he finds that the life he took for granted has turned upside down. In just a few months Russ finds himself without a job, his wife leaves him for a new job and exciting life with a real estate billionaire,  and he has become a single dad to daughter London. 

The story takes place over the space of a year which shows Russ struggling to adapt to a baffling new reality.  Trying to launch his own business while coping with the demise of his marriage, his days revolve around his daughter whom he tries to shelter from the consequences of these changes. His close relationship with his wise older sister, Marge and her partner, Liz, and his loving parents help sustain him during the emotional roller-coaster he finds himself on.


Source: Pixabay


“Friendship isn’t about how long you know someone. It’s about who walks into your life, says ‘I’m here for you,’ and then proves it.”
  ~Nicholas Sparks, Two By Two


Throughout the story are short sections of memories of Russ' childhood and his close friendship with his sister, plus memories from collage days when a foolish one-night stand costs him the girl (Emily) he was in love with. 

When a chance encounter with an old flame tempts him to take a second chance on love he finally learns that unconditional love is a treasure to be bestowed, never earned. 


Pillow Cover by pure_soul on Zazzle


“Happiness isn’t something someone can deliver. It comes from within.”
~Nicholas Sparks, Two By Two



Author Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks, Author

Nicholas Sparks is a romance novelist with 20 (to date) novels to his credit and two non-fiction books. He is also a screen writer. Several of his novels have become international best sellers and 11 of these stories have become films.  Probably his best known are “Message in a Bottle” and “The Notebook”. Almost all his stories are placed in a North Carolina setting, many of them along the coastal areas. Nicholas lives in North Carolina. 

His latest book just published in 2018 is Every Breath



Available on Amazon



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(c) Wednesday Elf 4/27/2019




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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Review of the Death On Demand Series by Carolyn Hart

The “Death on Demand” series acquired it's name from the Mystery Book Store [Death on Demand] owned and operated by the series' central character, Anne (Lawrence) Darling. The stories take place on a fictional South Carolina island (Broward's Rock) located off the coast of the mainland and reached only by ferry boat. 

I only recently discovered this mystery series and am currently reading my way through the entire series of 27 (to date) books.  I had seen Carolyn Hart's name in the library mystery section several times, but had never read any of her books until about 2 months ago. After reading the first book, I became 'hooked'. The characters are charming, the plots interesting, the reading 'light' with humor and good taste and downright fun throughout. 

Although there is usually a murder (or two), it is secondary to the stories of the characters who solve the mystery of the crime. By that I mean there are no heavy details (like blood & gore) to wade through about the actual murder. The descriptions center more on the characters, their backgrounds and the uniqueness of life lived on an island. 


South Carolina Low Country


South Carolina Low Country (Source: Pixabay)

The main reason I love the setting is the author frequently mentions island residents going into Beaufort or Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA, all quite easily reached after taking the ferry from Broward's Rock to the mainland. After having spent years camping at Hunting Island State Park just past Beaufort, having visited Charleston several times and having lived in the Savannah, GA area for nearly 20 years, the author's descriptions of these places is so familiar and such fun to re-visit through the pages of the books. If you have never been to any of these places in the 'Low Country' (a geographic and cultural region along South Carolina's coast, including the Sea Islands) you will find the descriptions of the area delightful).  


Death on Demand



Book One in the "Death on Demand" Series
In Book 1, simply titled “Death on Demand”, Anne Lawrence has returned to the South Carolina island of Broward's Rock where she spent many summer vacations as a child to take over her uncle's mystery book store she inherits after his death. The plot begins with a weekly meeting of island mystery writers at her book store during which one of the writers (the most irritating one) is murdered. Anne becomes the primary police suspect, but she and her boyfriend, Max Darling, investigate and solve what appeared to be a classic 'locked-room' mystery. 

As the Death on Demand series continues, Anne Lawrence marries Max Darling and together they seem to become involved in one mystery after another, often solving them with the help of several friends who are regulars at both the bookstore and in their lives. One of them is Max's mother Laurel. Laurel is often joined by two other older ladies, Henny, a former WWII pilot and former teacher and Emma, a mystery book writer who also  lives on Broward's Rock Island. Max and Anne also become good friends with the island's Chief of Police, Billy Cameron, who is a regular character in the series, along with his wife, Mavis and other members of this small island police force. As I read my way through the series, the characters become as familiar as my own family. 


(Source: Pixabay)
By using a mystery bookstore for her background, Hart has given her characters the opportunity to talk freely about other mystery authors and books. If you are a mystery story fan (as I am) you will recognize many of the book titles and authors mentioned throughout the series. 

Cats play a regular role in the stories too, with a black cat named Agatha (after Agatha Christi, Anne's favorite mystery writer) who lives at the Death on Demand bookstore and a white cat named Dorothy L (primarily Max's cat) who lives at Max & Anne's home.



Carolyn Hart



Author Carolyn Hart
Carolyn Hart, a former newspaper reporter born in Oklahoma in 1936, has been writing books since she left journalism upon the birth of her first child. Early on, women writers were not much recognized for writing mysteries, but with the advent of authors such as Sue Grafton and Sara Parentsky, publishers began to recognize American female authors in the field of mystery.

Carolyn Hart also has written two other regular series, the Henrie O mysteries which features a 70-something retired newswoman, Henrie O'Dwyer Collins, as she travels the country and the world, solving crimes that seem to follow her as she travels, and the very humorous Bailey Ruth Raeburn Ghost series about the ghost of a woman killed at sea who returns to earth via the "Rescue Express" to help her fictional hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma while trying not to violate the Precepts for Earthly Visitation and adjusting to her powers on earth. 

In 2015, Hart decided that keeping up with all her series and characters was becoming too much, and decided to end the Anne & Max Darling series to give her more time for her Bailey Ruth series.  Instead, as Hart wrote "Anne and Max looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t even think about it!”, so (thankfully) Anne and Max returned. 

Today Carolyn Hart, author of more than 60 novels and one non-fiction book about Oklahoma,  today resides in Oklahoma. She is a delightful author who specializes in traditional mysteries, also known as cozy* mysteries.


*Wikipedia defines 'cozy' also known as "cozies", as a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.  

I would definitely classify Broward's Rock Island, South Carolina as such a small intimate community and Death on Demand as a very delightful series. 



Source: Pixabay



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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Day of the Mushroom Review

Basket of Picked Mushrooms (Wikipedia)

Mushroom Day, or Day of the Mushroom, is celebrated each year on April 16.  No one appears to know who created Mushroom Day (or why), but it has become quite popular on cooking and recipe websites, 



What is a Mushroom?



Definition per Wikipedia: A mushroom, or toadstool, is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. 

Many kinds of mushrooms are poisonous. The mushrooms most of us care about are the 'edible mushrooms'.  The most common of these are the white mushrooms or button mushrooms many of us use in cooking. A couple other popular edible mushrooms are the Portobello and the shiitake mushrooms. 


(c) Wednesday Elf

We have always been told that the mushroom is a fungi, but to further classify it, the Department of Agriculture considers mushrooms to be vegetables because they provide many of the same nutritional attributes of vegetables. For a complete history of the edible mushroom, click here.

Celebrating Mushroom Day


There are numerous ways to eat mushrooms and dozens of dishes which use mushrooms as an ingredient. To celebrate Day-of-the-Mushroom you probably should fix a favorite mushroom recipe.

I never ate mushrooms as a child, being a very fussy eater who wouldn't 'try' new things. So it wasn't until I was grown, married and a parent that I was introduced to a mushroom treat that changed the way I thought about mushrooms forever more! 


Crab Stuffed Mushrooms by Small Town Woman

We had moved to the Central Coast of California near San Luis Obispo and a new neighbor invited us over.  There were several appetizers prior to the meal, one of which was a plate of Atascadero Stuffed Mushrooms. Now, Atascadero Mushrooms are well known in the central coast area of California. This was our first introduction to these mushrooms. They look like button mushrooms, but are very large.

Our host had fixed them by cutting off the stems, chopping them and mixing them with crabmeat, bread crumbs & seasonings then stuffing them back into the base of the mushroom cap, sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top and popping them in the oven. The taste ~ unbelievably good. I became a mushroom fan immediately. 

If you want to try your own crab-stuffed mushrooms, this recipe on a blog by Small Town Woman for Quick and Creamy Crab Stuffed Mushrooms sounds fabulous and close to the stuffed mushrooms which won me over to being a mushroom lover.

Mushroom Decor and More…


The mushroom has become so popular over the years, that it is enjoyed in more ways than just as food.  Many home décor items are decorated with scenes of mushrooms and mushrooms appear on wearable items such as T-shirts. 



The mushroom has even become a fun toy item. 


Mushroom Garden Interactive Toy

I love this colorful Mushroom Garden educational interactive toddler toy.  It lights up, has music and fun sounds, and teaches colors and numbers. It also has a memory game. Tots have fun and learn at the same time. 



So enjoy the DAY-OF-THE-MUSHROOM on April 16. 



Related Mushroom Dates:


  • Stuffed Mushroom Day – February 4
  • National Mushroom Day – October 14



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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Review of Stouffer's Escalloped Chicken and Noodles


I remember being introduced to Stouffer's Frozen Foods as a teenager in the 1950s when my Uncle Pete went to work for them in Cleveland (the home base of the company).  Frozen foods were fairly new to us at the time and my parents found them to be very handy for quick dinners after working all day.

I found the Stouffer's meals delicious and, as a result, I have been a fan of them ever since. I have tried a large variety of frozen dinners over the years, but none as good as Stouffer's. 


Stouffer's Escalloped Chicken and Noodles


My very favorite is Stouffer's Escalloped Chicken and Noodles, a hearty combination of white meat chicken, egg noodles, mushrooms, celery, carrots and peas in a creamy sauce




Old-Fashioned Home-Cooked Escalloped Chicken Recipe


(c) Elf
An old-fashioned 'from-scratch' recipe for Escalloped Chicken comes from the Garden City Cookbook (Centennial Edition) published in 1979 by The Community Church

My in-laws lived in Garden City, Kansas and this cookbook was compiled by church members to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the first church in Garden City and dedicated to all of the brave pioneers who in 1879 organized the First Congregational Church in town. First published in 1908 and revised and re-published in 1930, this cookbook is the 1979 edition.

The recipes contained in this Garden City Cookbook were favorites of current church members, many of which were passed down from generation to generation. 


Aunt Alta's Escalloped Chicken


INGREDIENTS:

1 can mushrooms
1 (4-5 lb.) stewing hen or large fryer
Salt
Celery Salt
Paprika
2 c. fine cracker crumbs
1 recipe of white sauce

WHITE SAUCE:

4 T. chicken fat or butter or oleo
3 heaping T. flour
Broth from chicken and juice from mushrooms
1 c. milk or cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

Boil and then simmer hen until tender and done.  Take meat from the bone and cut in small pieces about ¾-inch long. 

Make medium white sauce.  Put layer of cracker crumbs in flat pan and then a layer of chicken and mushrooms. Season to taste with salt, red pepper and celery salt. Pour almost half the sauce over this and make another layer of each. Pour remaining sauce over this and sprinkle cracker crumbs on top and a little paprika. Bake 450◦ for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the depth of the pan.

*Author's Note: This 'from-scratch' Escalloped Chicken recipe does not call for noodles, but I imagine noodles could be added or even served on the side or spoon the dish over cooked  noodles.  If you choose to use cream instead of milk, you will find that the dish is very rich. Yum.

Additional Notes:


Source: Pixabay
This long-ago 'from-scratch recipe is a bit amusing to read, especially the parts about the 'chicken fat' and referring to the chicken as a 'stewing hen'. These are terms we don't use much today. Garden City, Kansas, back in the day, was primarily a farm-based small town in western Kansas, so I can imagine many of the 'stewing hens' were raised by the farmers for their own use. If you were to ask today's 'kids' about where chickens come from, they'd no doubt say “the grocery store” (unless they are farm kids). 


Summary


If you want to make your own homemade escalloped chicken, try this old-fashioned recipe in this article.  

Or try the one I found online on the Go, Go, Go Gourmet blog for a homemade recipe that duplicates the Stouffer's dish called Stouffers Copycat Escalloped Chicken and Noodles.

When you want the same as a quick, and delicious, dish, use Stouffer's  Escalloped Chicken and Noodles.

For quick, yet tasty, dishes with a wide variety of choices, give Stouffer's Frozen Meals a try.


Happy Eating












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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Review of Spring Training in Baseball

Source: Pixabay
Spring Training is a period of training and exhibition play beginning in late February and lasting up to Opening Day of Major League Baseball.

For about four weeks, experienced players and rookies alike train and play at small parks in Arizona or Florida, getting ready for the beginning of the baseball season.  It is a unique baseball experience for fans, giving them up-close access to favorite players and a chance to see blossoming prospects who could go on to be the next big star. 

For me, the Baseball Contributor here on Review This and a huge baseball fan, Spring Training is a sign that the long, cold winter is nearing an end and warm weather and the joys of baseball season are about to begin.  I believe in the quote:




Spring Training



Spring Training is nearly as old as baseball itself, although it was not the big business it is today with designated parks just for Spring Training games and winter excursion packages to games in Arizona and Florida for snow-weary fans. 

In bygone days, training games were held locally to save money, training indoors in inclement weather. Later, teams began training in the south, but there were no organized training leagues until after 1910.  Today it is as much a marketable enterprise as the regular baseball season with two distinct leagues, one in Florida and one in Arizona.


Cactus League in Arizona


Source: Pixabay

The Cactus League holds spring training in the desert for teams from both leagues (American and National). These teams are generally located around Phoenix and include:


  • Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  • Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Chicago Cubs 
  • Cincinnati Reds 
  • Cleveland Indians 
  • Colorado Rockies 
  • Chicago White Sox 
  • Kansas City Royals 



Grapefruit League in Florida


Source: Pixabay

The Grapefruit League holds spring training in various parts of Florida, both the Gulf coast and the Atlantic coast. This league includes the following teams: 


  • Atlanta Braves 
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • Boston Red Sox 
  • Houston Astros 
  • Miami Marlins 
  • Minnesota Twins 
  • New York Mets 
  • New York Yankees 
  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Pittsburgh Pirates 
  • St. Louis Cardinals 
  • Tampa Bay Rays 
  • Toronto Blue Jays 
  • Washington Nationals 


Following is a famous quote by Roger Hornsby, the well-known second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals (1915-1919), that definitely says how I feel when there is no baseball.




Summary


Will  you be attending any Spring Training games this year, or have you done so in the past? Leave me a comment telling me where you went and what team you got to see. 



Mary Beth Granger
*Blog Note:  Mary Beth Granger, our own MbgPhoto here on Review This, travels with her husband to Jupiter, Florida each February to attend their beloved St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training games.


For the rest of us, join me in welcoming the beginning of the Major League Baseball season and the fact that this represents an end to winter and the return of the 'Boys of Summer'. 




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Lets Play Ball! 








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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Review of Sherpa Theme Slipper Socks

Sherpa Theme Socks
Having lived in the South for many years, I recently returned to the Midwest, resulting in something I had been pretty much able to avoid in Georgia ~ Winter! Knowing my intense dislike of cold weather, my darling daughter gifted me with a very welcome item – fleece lined slipper socks.

The slipper socks she sent me are the Sherpa Theme Socks, which are fleece lined knit socks that are non-slip, very warm and cozy. They are perfect for lounging on the couch with a book on these cold winter days here in Iowa. Especially after an hour or two of shoveling the snow out of my driveway! Off with the boots ~ on with the fleecy warm Sherpa socks. 


Sherpa Slipper Socks


(c) Wednesday Elf relaxing with toasty warm feet
These Sherpa slipper socks are made of polyester and a bit of Spandex.  The fleece lining is super thick, making them very warm and comfortable.  

They have a non-slip bottom with Silicon rubber grips on the soles of the socks.  Keeps one safe walking around at home on smooth floors.

These unique socks come in different colors and patterns.  Some have cartoon animal designs. Mine are gray with a cute bear holding a coffee cup on one sock and a steaming cup of coffee on the other with snowflakes falling. The fleecy lining is white. There are also Christmas and other winter designs. These socks are sized for women in one size that fits most sock sizes. They also are available for men and for children in a variety of designs and colors. 


Alexa Rose Fuzzy Socks


Alexa Rose Fuzzy Socks

In addition to my Sherpa slipper socks, darling daughter also sent a pack of 3 Alexa Rose fuzzy socks to wear in my boots while outside on winter days. They also feel wonderful on those really cold winter nights to wear to bed. These were really needed during the Polar Vortex that hit Iowa earlier this month bringing record-breaking below zero wind chill temperatures (-49 degrees). What a treat to be able to get out of bed and have one's feet warm while walking to the kitchen to make that needed cup of morning coffee! 

The Alexa Rose fuzzy socks are made of polyester and Spandex and are very soft and warm.


Summary



(c) Wednesday Elf

So, with these Sherpa slipper socks and the Alexa Rose fuzzy socks, I think I shall now be able to last through my first Iowa winter until Spring finally arrives. I have a very thoughtful and sweet daughter to think of the very thing I needed for my return to 'Wintertime' in the Midwest. 


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(c) Review of Sherpa Theme Socks by Wednesday Elf written on 3/2/2019.








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