Thursday, June 18, 2015

Paleo Spiralizer Recipes Cookbook Review

Two of the most popular words in the cooking and recipe world these days are “Paleo” and “spiralizer.” This cookbook really caught my eye because it incorporates both of these trends (or call them fads, that's okay, they're good fads) in one book with a rather long title, Spiralizer Cookbook: 45+ Paleo Spiralizer Recipes To Get You Started - Get Creative With Endless Possibilities, by Trisha Eakman. I recently found the book in the Kindle bookstore and wanted to share my review.

Besides the enticing combination mentioned in the title, the next thing that got my attention is that the recipes in this book go far beyond zucchini ribbons. While (as I write this) it's zucchini season, and zucchinis are the reason I originally bought my spiralizer, this book includes recipes that use spiral versions of lots of different foods.

Take carrots, for instance. How do Nutty Carrot Pancakes sound? Or Carrot and Garlic Pasta? Banana and Carrot Muffins? Just wait 'til you read those recipes that use spiralized carrots!

I do love zucchini, though, so I was very pleased to find, as I browsed the table of contents, plenty of recipes that use "zoodles," or zucchini noodles. The Fiery Shrimp and Zucchini Pasta, Greek Salad with Zucchini Noodles (I've already tried this one, see my photo below), even Choco Coco Zucchini Cookies all sound wonderful and are on my list of recipes to try.

This isn't a book meant to educate you on the benefits of eating clean, Paleo, or gluten free. It's a recipe book to encourage you, as the subtitle says, to "Get Creative With Endless Possibilities." The creative recipes inside are easy to follow and the ingredients are relatively easy to find. If you already cook gluten free, you'll probably have most of them on hand.

Paleo recipe from the Spiralizer Cookbook, Greek Salad with Zucchini Noodles
Greek Salad with Zucchini Noodles
from the Spiralizer Cookbook
(Photo by Susan Deppner)
If you follow a gluten free diet or if you're looking for Paleo recipes, I think you'll really enjoy this cookbook. In fact, you'll probably have a hard time choosing which recipe to prepare first. I finally chose Greek Salad with Zucchini Noodles. As you can see from my photo, it turned out great, healthful, beautiful, and delicious!



Like this one? Follow the link for more cookbooks for Kindle.

P.S. Did you know that you don't have to own a Kindle to enjoy Kindle cookbooks? Use one of Amazon's free reading apps to read on your phone or tablet. You'll find more info on the book page.


NOTE: This book is now available only in a paperback edition. The links above have been updated.

Veggetti Pro Spiral Vegetable Cutter
As Seen on TV


UPDATE: Readers have left comments about not being familiar with a spiralizer, so I found a version of the spiral vegetable cutter that I think you'll like.

This tool is called the Veggetti Pro, an "as seen on TV" spiralizer kitchen gadget with great reviews, very easy to use, and it makes both wide and narrow cuts (notice the wider zucchini noodles in the picture).

It's available at a great price, too, in the $25 vicinity as I write this. Great gift idea!



-- Susan Deppner
Read more of my reviews.




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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review of Take Command by Jake Wood

Book review of Take Command by Jake Wood (Reviewed by Coletta Teske)

When chaos rules the day, co-founder of Team Rubicon, Jake Wood, suggests people Take Command to become a first responder in business. Read more in this review.



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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review of Inescapable- The Road to Kingdom

Can We Ever Escape the Past?

Inescapable (Road to Kingdom Book #1) by Nancy Mehl is the story of Lizzie Engel's escape from her past in the Old Order Mennonite Town of Kingdom, to Kansas City to start a new life. She returns with fear again to Kingdom when a new threat emerges in Kansas City. Through most of the book, Lizzie lives under the shadow of Kingdom as it used to be. Gradually she learns that just as she is changing, the town she left is also changing. Though she never escapes her past, she is finally able to embrace the town and escape into a future where her emotional wounds can heal.


Why Did Lizzie Leave Kingdom? Why Does She Want to Return?

Lizzie was born in Kingdom, Kansas, to Old Order Mennonite parents. Her father was an elder of the church and one who could be depended upon to join with those who were the strictest in enforcing the Ordnung -- a set of unwritten rules of behavior the faithful were expected to follow. He had always treated Lizzie harshly. Throughout the book, every time Lizzie does something she feels might be wrong, her father's voice seems to reprove her or call her stupid or wicked. Her mother was more gentle, but was also intimidated by her husband on the rare occasions when she tried to intervene.
Lizzie left Kingdom in disgrace. She was pregnant after being seduced by Clay Troyer, whom she'd gone to school with in Washington. When Troy and his family learned Lizzie was pregnant, they suddenly left the area without even a good-bye. Her mother was sad. Her father was silently condemning. The looks of the other church members were disapproving. So Lizzie took her daughter Charity and fled to Kansas City, where she started a new life. She was determined that Charity would not live under the same shadow of disapproval she herself had always felt.
As this book begins, Lizzie is fleeing again with Charity. Although she had found a happy life in Kansas City and had a good job and friends, she had reason to be afraid again. At all costs she wants to protect Charity. Two things have shaken her world.
The first is that her boss Sylvia at Harbor House, a women's shelter, has suffered her second heart attack and resigned. Sylvia had been her first friend in Kansas City. They had met when Lizzie was a waitress at Betty's Cafe, her first job in the city. Lizzie was almost running it herself by then. Lizzie gave Betty notice, and joined Sylvia at Harbor House.
After Sylvia left, she was replaced by Reba, who got along with no one. After Reba's boyfriend appeared too interested in Lizzie, Reba accuses Lizzie of stealing a thousand dollars that is missing, and the books make it appear that Lizzie is guilty. Lizzie knows she is being framed, but does not know how to prove her innocence. She is afraid charges will be brought against her and they might take Charity away from her.
Around the same time her troubles at work started, Lizzie began to be stalked by a man in a red baseball cap. He would stand across the street and stare at her apartment. Threatening letters began to appear in blue envelopes with no return address. One letter read:" I'm watching you. It's just a matter of time before I get you and your little girl. You'll never get away from me." (From Chapter 2)
Lizzie quits her job and manages to get a last paycheck. After going home and getting the last threatening letter from her mailbox, she sees the man in the red hat, holds the letter in the air, and yells at him, "Why are you doing this? What do you want?" She threatened to call the police. He took a step back and she took a step off the curb. She was struck by a car and everything went black.
Next thing she knew, her landlady was standing over her. Someone had called an ambulance. She didn't feel she needed to be looked at and refused treatment because she didn't have money to pay for it. The man in the red cap was gone. She returns to her apartment in pain, and gets Charity into bed before looking at her bruised hip in the bathroom. As she berates herself for her stupidity, she hears the echo of her father's voice, "How could you be so stupid, Elizabeth? How could a daughter of mine be so ignorant?" She tells herself her father may have been right. Even though her childhood in Kingdom had been painful, she suddenly longed to be there again.
Then Lizzie seemed to hear another voice, a voice that sounded different than her father's. It urged her to go home and assured her everything would be all right. She couldn't imagine how things could turn out all right. She had left an outcast, the fallen daughter of an elder. But she still hears the insistent voice saying, "Go home, Lizzie. Go home."
The only thing Lizzie had left in life that she cared about was Charity, and she was determined to keep her safe. She felt there was only one road left she could take now -- the road back to Kingdom.

Why Kingdom?


Although Lizzie had always been subject to verbal abuse and had often been severely punished by her father, she did believe her mother loved her. Although the Old Order Mennonite Community had been repressive and made Lizzie feel stifled, she still did have friends there. She also felt it was a safe haven.
Kingdom (which is as far as I can tell a fictional town) is in Northern Kansas , about ten miles south of Nebraska. It is a long buggy ride from Washington, where many of Kingdom’s children went to school. It is an isolated community. You’d never find the turn-off from the highway for the road that leads to Kingdom unless you already knew where it is. Lizzie was sure her enemies would not find her in Kingdom.
Another reason Lizzie expected Kingdom to be a safe place was that the Mennonite community protected its own. In this small town of only 300, strangers were obvious. They were usually met by a church elder who intended to determine what their business was in Kingdom. It was not a good place for a stranger to hide. Though Lizzie may have been considered by some a black sheep, she knew the town would do their best to protect her and Charity. A stranger who was determined to be up to no good would be escorted out.
When Lizzie had left, the winds of change were in the air. Some of the younger church members were beginning to believe the rules should not be so strict. Maybe women should be able to wear lighter colors. Maybe farmers should be able to use tractors. Maybe modern plumbing wasn’t immoral. Maybe telephones weren’t sinful.
When Lizzie had left, her father, Matthew had been a very powerful and influential elder. When she returned those of his persuasion were beginning to be less influential. The church was on the verge of a crisis in leadership. The members of the congregation were not as judgmental as they had been when she left. They welcomed her back.
When Lizzie arrived in Kingdom again, she had only planned to stay as long as it took her to be sure her name had been cleared of stealing the money back in Kansas City and she no longer felt threatened by the man in the red hat. But her experience back in Kingdom gave her a reason to stay.

My Review of Inescapable

I have laid the background. You know why Lizzie left Kingdom and why she returned. The rest of the book shows you her new life there. She has relationships to mend, especially with her parents, Matthew and Anna. She gets a job working in a cafe again, and finds a friend in its owner Cara Menlo, who had warmly welcomed her back home. Cara also provided a place to live above the cafe.
Lizzie's old friend Noah sees her in the cafe and welcomes her back. They had done everything together as children. It is obvious to the reader that he has been and is still in love with Lizzie – in spite of the fact her child was conceived by another man when she was in her teens.
Even though the love shines from Noah’s eyes and everyone can see it there, Lizzie insists on believing he couldn’t love her because she thought they had never been more than just friends. I call this kind of misunderstanding, which I’ve seen in book after book I’ve been reading, a contrived obstacle to keep the plot moving. Perhaps Lizzie is just afraid to believe Noah loves her. So I’ll play along to keep the plot moving.
Had she not dismissed and insisted on misinterpreting Noah’s attention to her when they reunited, he would have courted her and they probably would have married soon after. This would not have solved all her problems, but it would have made much of what happened after that in the book unnecessary. It would have removed her sense of danger and given her daughter Charity a father. She would not have felt she needed to flee again, and she would not have been tempted to make another big mistake. But then there would have been no need for the author to write the rest of the book.
That brings up another contrived obstacle that is often used in fiction. That would be the obstacle of a decision made. A character says she will marry someone or take a job and it’s as though she now has no choice but to follow through, no matter what new information might be revealed. After Charity’s father, Clay, tracks Lizzie down and appears on the scene with excuses for leaving and lies about what he intended, he persuades her to marry him and come to Seattle with him where she and Charity will be safe from the danger that follows her. (Another blue envelope has showed up in Kingdom.) He claims to love her.
Lizzie is torn, but wants what’s best for Charity. Noah has not yet declared his love, and Clay has turned on the charm and convinced Lizzie she does still love him. Noah sees the danger of losing Lizzie and finally speaks his piece to her, declaring his love and proposing. She turns him down even though she loves him because she’s already decided it’s best to marry Charity’s father. Noah has warned her that Clay is a bad apple and she would regret marrying him, but Lizzie ignores her heart. She only realizes the truth when Clay’s lies become apparent and she sees his real motivation.
To tell you more would ruin the story. There is still a family to put back together, since Matthew would not permit Lizzie into their home. And Lizzie’s heart also needs to be put back together as she finds that God is not like her earthly father Matthew.
I would recommend this book if you like Christian fiction that deals with troubled relationships, has a bit of romance, and illustrates how God can redeem any situation. Kingdom is a refuge, but danger does arrive, and there is plenty of suspense to keep you reading to the end.



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Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Lifetime of Friendship and All that Ultimately Matters in This Life, Love

Time & Love - Two Things that Never Die 

Words for the Wall - Wall Decal

Starting with a Poem:

You Stayed
A journey from 1979
my journey with you
my friend
you stayed,
Always and forever
you have been by my side,
throughout all this time
you have stood patiently,
During times when my life
pulled me in a hundred directions
you still stayed,
We have survived three decades of changes
from single girls
to married women
to the birth of children
there you stayed,
Through a thousand tears
and a million laughs
you stayed,
We are bonded in a such a way
that the word friend is too casual
we are sisters,
Distance may keep us apart
but sisterhood keeps us together
You can know I'm here
I can know you're there,
This gift of timeless friendship
can never be measured in miles
it's a treasured constant
Others may come and go
but my friend,
We stay
Angel Statue

Inspiration Sometimes Comes from the Most Unexpected Places

Obviously friendship is the inspiration, but the details of what led to this poem were unexpected.
The year was 2007, on Mother's Day. My family, (kids, step-kids, hubby) had our normal get-together here at the house.
It was rather an event filled day. About one hour before everyone arrived I split my head open on the edge of my youngest sons bed. I was so mad at myself! I ended up at the hospital for about 3 hours and six stitches later was back home. My husband and kids pitched in and handled things; everything was under control. 
Anyway, dinner was great, and the night moved along nicely as usual with some watching tv (football I think), one of my other sons playing guitar, the little one playing xBox, and my step-daughter, myself and her hubby in the kitchen chatting it up. The conversation that night was really great. We talked about the Five Stages of Marriage that I had recently heard on the John Tesh radio show. it was quite interesting. My hubby and I are definitely in stage 5. However, my step kids were quite interested in assessing what stage their relationships were in. It was fun and quite comical.
Anyway, the conversation led into my step daughter paying me a nice compliment about why she believed my marriage to her dad was successful. I was grateful for her take on it, but proceeded to tell her, that wasn't the reason. She looked a tad surprised. So I said, "Do you want to know why our marriage is a success?"....you could have heard a pin drop.. both she and her hubby were waiting for me to give the "big secret", "the reason a marriage works", "the answer for all mankind"...lol...ok.not...I proceeded to give her the answer according to me ..."The reason your Dad and I have had a successful marriage of 22 years is that "We Stayed".

Through it all, I stayed. Through it all, he stayed: In sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad. When there may have been reasons for others to think we shouldn't stay together, it didn't matter, we stayed - My own personal experience taught me first hand that love CAN survive most everything.

What Inspired Me, Continued...

So, this leads me to this poem.
Nearly a month later, on the night before I was leaving to go out of town to visit my parents, I sat down in front of my computer and began the night by listening to a beautiful song called Indescribable. No matter your faith or belief system, this song exudes love.
While listening, I began thinking about that conversation with my step-daughter, and about who else in my life have "stayed". That led me to my friend for whom this poem was written.

I started remembering when my friend and I met and what our journey of 29 years included. I started thinking about how many 19 year olds today will have the same close friend 29 years later. I started thinking how rare this must be. 
With my friend's birthday approaching, this poem was my way of showing her my love and appreciation for "her staying"...through it all. 
So with the beautiful song "Indescribable, by Chris Tomlin" playing in the background, I opened up "Notepad" and started to write the short poem featured at the beginning of this article.


Today - UPDATES
Since writing this 8 years have passed. My husband and I are still going strong having recently celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. My friend and I are friends til the end and I'm off to visit her for her birthday in a week. We continue to stay.

By Barbara Tremblay Cipak
Drageda.com 



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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Review of a Baby Einstein Caterpillar


Baby Einstein Teether Toy

The Baby Einstein Caterpillar is part of a wide range of delightful educational and entertaining toys for babies.  My favorite is this Baby Einstein Teether-Pillar Toy. It's a colorful and adorable teething ring that is easy to hold and comforts baby.  Filled with water, it can quickly be refrigerated.


Baby Einstein Company



The Baby Einstein products are a unique combination of music, art, language (English, French and Spanish), shapes and numbers, and the animals found in nature. They are a world of discovery in the early moments of your baby's life.  The Baby Einstein Company was begun about fifteen years ago by a mom who wanted to share her love of the arts, history, the earth and literature with her baby. Today her unique and creative baby products entertain and engage the curiosity of babies.  The company's philosophy is to create toys that satisfy the curiosity of children and the wish of parents to nourish it. 


products are inspired by a simple and universal idea: the curiosity of young children, and the wish of parents everywhere to nourish it. - See more at: http://www.kidsii.com/brands/baby-einstein/#sthash.nCGUP1UF.dpuf
products are inspired by a simple and universal idea: the curiosity of young children, and the wish of parents everywhere to nourish it. - See more at: http://www.kidsii.com/brands/baby-einstein/#sthash.nCGUP1UF.dpuf

Colorful Caterpillar in Crochet


Colorful Caterpillar
Colorful Caterpillar in Crochet
Recently, a mother from Canada contacted me through my Etsy Shop about a plush crocheted caterpillar I had made.  She wondered if I could create the same caterpillar in the Baby Einstein colors of yellow, blue, purple, red and green as her two-year-old daughter was in love with the Baby Einstein caterpillar and wanted a soft toy one. 

The Baby Einstein products were not around when this 'grandma' was raising her children, so I needed to do some research.  As a result, I fell in love with the colorful Baby Einstein Caterpillar and this plush version was the result.

The mom sent me a special note when her daughter received her colorful crocheted caterpillar inspired by the Baby Einstein Caterpillar.  Her daughter said "my very own caperpillar" (how she says it). 

So far caterpillar has gone to bed with her, had lunch with her, jumped on the trampoline with her and played in the basement. It's already had quite an adventure!


Plush Toy Caterpillar
Plush Toy Caterpillar in Handmade Crochet
As a result, I was inspired to create another crocheted colorful caterpillar for my shop, Coastal Crochet Crafts, on Etsy.



Baby Einstein Caterpillar


The Baby Einstein caterpillar products are a wonderful line of infant toys and baby playtime products and I'm grateful to my Canadian mom customer for introducing me to them, especially since my grandson was born.  I can see a few of these unique items as Christmas and birthday presents in my grandsons' future. 


Baby Einstein Review by Wednesday Elf


(c) Article originally written by Wednesday Elf on 6/13/15.  Updated on 12/31/2018






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Friday, June 12, 2015

Review of the Musical & Play "Wicked"

http://reviewthispersonalreviews.blogspot.com/2015/06/review-of-musical-play-wicked.html

A few years back, I had the pleasure to attend the Broadway musical production of Wicked.  As a child, I loved the movie The Wizard of Oz and I will admit, I had never given much thought to what happened before the infamous tornado when we were all hurled into the land of Oz.  I didn't realize that the book, The Wizard of Oz had a prequel until I saw the musical Wicked.

What caught me even more by surprise was that it was funny and extremely entertaining!

This is definitely a production that I could recommend to anyone of any age.  It would be the perfect opportunity to introduce a child to Broadway and to musicals.  Oh, lest I forget to tell you later,  you simply must wear green to the production.  And, fear not, the Wicked musical is definitely child friendly!


 

The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz 



Only a teaser, I will not give away the whole story

Like me, you may wonder what to expect, and like me, you may also be surprised by your reactions.  You will be amazed at how your heart will react to a young Elphaba, a child who has an unusual birth defect.  She was born green.

You will be humored when a very unpopular Elphaba becomes friends with the very popular Glinda when they are forced to be roommates at Shiz University.  You will follow their friendship as it struggles through their opposing personalities and viewpoints.

You will discover how Elphaba becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West, how Glinda becomes the Good Witch of the North and the true identity of the Great Oz.



via Wikimedia

You will even be surprised by who the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow really are and how they were changed.  The best one word description for this musical is "spellbinding."

 


Highlights of Wicked 


The Music 


For this production, the music was perfect!  It was mostly light and entertaining.  Often very humorous.  Apparently very catchy because the little girl sitting behind us during the play, sang along.

The song "Popular" (video featured above) is one of the lighthearted songs and does an excellent job of reflecting and portraying the personalities of the two girls.  Glinda was Popular, but Elphaba defied expectations.  

The song "Defy Gravity" gives you insight into how the two friends reached a crossroads and must make the choices that will forever change their future.




Costumes


via Wikimedia Commons
The costumes and stage effects were outstanding.  Throughout the production, the outfits matched the characters personalities and the scenes.  Even the drab, darker costumes like Elphaba's black "witch" costume, were totally appropriate, and supplied the perfect compliment to her green skin.

All of the costumes were wonderful but my personal favorites were the costumes worn by Madame Morrible, the head mistress of Shiz University.  The brilliant colors and elaborate details of her gowns stood out among the navy, blacks and whites of some of the other costumes.







Madame Morrible Photo by Emily Darline on Pinterest

Conclusion


As I stated in the introduction, I was actually surprised by how much I really enjoyed this musical.  I didn't really expect to be so thoroughly entertained.

While I might not list this as my #1 musical, I would place it at 3rd, just behind Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera.

I would highly recommend this musical to families with children or anyone who is simply looking for a fun night at the theater.

Oh!  Do remember to wear green!


Wicked: The Soundtrack, The Book, and a Great Way to Wear Green to the Musical





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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Photographing on a Rainy Day

If you love to take photographs, a string of rainy days can dampen your spirits.  But have no fear, with a bit of creativity you can get some great shots, even on a rainy day.  The photo above was taken on one of those weeks when the rain just wouldn't quit.  It was shot from my covered front porch using a 70x 300 lens set on aperture priority at 5.6.  I moved around the various sections of leaves on our Japanese Maple tree to capture the raindrops on the leaves and the gentle rain in the background.

Tips for Photography in the Rain

  • Carry a raincoat for your camera ( you can purchase a rain covering for your camera at a camera shop or online)
  • A gallon sized plastic bag...this can work in a pinch, just cut a hole for the lens and put your hand in the back and your camera is safe and dry.
  • Look for porches or awning to stand under and shoot.
  • Shoot from inside your car.  This is a great way to capture scenes when you travel in the rain.
  • Try to get the light behind the raindrops to bring them out.

Objects to Look for on a Rainy Day

  • Food at an outdoor market covered with raindrops
  • Umbrella's as a backdrop
  • Flowers and leaves with raindrops
  • Reflections in puddles
  • Emotions on people...joy on children playing in rain...frustration of commuters hurrying about in the weather
  • Raindrops on interesting objects or parts of objects. 
The photo below shows raindrops on a section of the wind sculpture in our front yard.  I shot several pictures of this wind sculpture first taking the whole item and then just sections of it.  I was trying to capture the raindrops as the gathered on the metal.


So the next times you have a rainy day go grab you camera and see how creative you can get!



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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Country Porch Site Review

Looking For Porch Ideas?

I've been working on decorating my front porch and during that journey I discovered a wonderful resource of ideas and products at Country Porch World.

Many of my first memories are from my Grandmother's front porch where the family gathered every evening after supper and the chores were all finished. That was back in the days before homes had air conditioning, the porch was cooler and just the obvious place for the family to gather. Sometimes neighbors would stop by for a chat to share news (gossip) about the small town we lived in. It was the social meeting place for the family but mostly it was just a comfortable place to be. That is the feeling I want for my front porch. A comfortable gathering space for my family and neighbors.

For Me It Starts With Seating

Grandma always had a couple of rocking chairs on one end of the porch, a swing on the other end and several chairs dispersed in between. I don't have a good space for a swing but I do want at least two rocking chairs on my own porch.  Country Porch World gave me some great ideas on how to place my rockers and a few products to consider in their article: Add a Rocking Chair Vignette. I like the way they explain about using cushions and throws which adds to the comfort in both eye appeal and the physical comfort of the people who will be sitting in the chairs. I, also, absolutely love the Jack Post Knollwood Classic rocker shown in the article. I believe that is where I will begin my decorating venture on my own porch, with two of those rocking chairs. I will probably crochet a couple of throws in colors that coordinate with the cushions that I choose. That will add to the warmth of the country look that I will be going for. 

Suggestions For Design Elements

Country Porch World goes beyond suggesting products for a country style porch with design element ideas, ideas for color schemes and so much more. I found their ideas quite helpful and inspiring. What I am going for on my own porch is an inviting place for people to gather and that can be accomplished with the ideas presented on the website. Adding little things like fabrics to tables, small accent pieces and other interesting things, just makes people want to go out to the porch and sit a spell. Even though Grandma had her porch set up out of necessity she nailed that comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for us all to enjoy and relax after a hard day.

The Sound of Wind Chimes

Example of DIY wind chimes found at pgeveryday.com
I don't know what it is about hearing wind chimes when there is a slight breeze in the air. I find it so appealing and calming. So, I do want at least one set of chimes on the porch. 

There are times when I would rather not hear the chimes, though. When the birds are singing in the trees or when I'm trying to concentrate on reading something; the chimes can be a little distracting. 

Country Porch World has a wonderful suggestion in their article about wind chimes! I would have never thought to do this but it makes so much sense. They suggest that you take an old elastic bracelet to wrap around the chimes when you want them silent. Now, how clever is that? Don't have a bracelet on hand? I think a large rubber band would work or even some twine. Choose something that is easily placed and removed when you want to silence your chimes. 

I have found so many wonderful ideas for decorating my porch at Country Porch World and I think you will enjoy it, too. Not only is it a place to find interesting products to decorate your porch, patio or deck in a country look but the articles about how to accomplish the feel of comfort and relaxation are very helpful. 



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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Murder in Wine Country: A Review of Deadly Vintage by William Relling Jr.


I live in wine country and I love to read mysteries. This mystery takes place in the Santa Ynez wine country that I often drive through on the way to Santa Barbara. So, of course, I had to read it.


Why I Chose to Read This Book


Vineyards, ©B. Radisavljevic
I love reading mysteries, and I love living in wine country, surrounded by vineyards. I even had the opportunity to observe my neighbor's wine making process after harvest. So when I was searching the mystery section at the library for a new book to read, Deadly Vintage by William Relling Jr. immediately caught my eye. As I scanned the dust jacket, I became even more interested. When I actually read the book, all I had learned about the wine industry brought the book to life for me. I'd seen the machines that process the grapes in action (as you will if you follow the link above.) I am personally acquainted with the owners of many local vineyards.



Los Angeles Freeway Traffic, © B. Radisavljevic

Before reading Deadly Vintage, I had just returned from a trip through the Santa Ynez valley, so I was able to visualize all the places mentioned, including those in Southern California, where I was raised and spent a good part of my life. I have driven the same Los Angeles and Orange County freeways and experienced the traffic exactly as Relling, who lived in Los Angeles when writing the book, described it.

A Review of Deadly Vintage



This book is set in the Santa Ynez Valley in the fictional town of San Tomas. If you click that link, it will bring up a map that will show you  the scenery Jack saw during his investigation. The protagonist, Jack Donne, a former Treasury agent, is now a vintner. He works with his father, Raymond Donne, referred to as Dad in this first person narrative, who had been an architect in nearby Santa Barbara, before retiring to make wine. They have one full-time employee, Jesus Fonseca, who was born in Mexico. The other important family member is Uncle Gerry Donne, Dad's brother, a financial lawyer in Santa Barbara who handles the Donne Vineyards account, besides being a partner in the business.

The action begins when Ozzie Cole the son of another wealthy winery owner, Perry Cole, now retired, barges in on Jack unexpectedly and implores him to investigate the possibility that someone is counterfeiting his expensive wine and selling it in Southern California. Jack does not want to get involved. He has never liked Ozzie, though he respects him as a wine maker. Ozzie's two brothers, June (short for Junior) and Grant, are working together and competing with Ozzie, who has his own operation and produces expensive boutique wines. June and Grant make cheaper wines.

Uncle Gerry finally convinces Jack to work for Ozzie by sharing with Jack a possible connection between the person selling the counterfeit wine and a mobster who is well-known to all of them. A couple of days later, Perry Cole, who is living in a nursing home and is assisted by his long-time servant, Zeke Carlin, an ex-boxer, is murdered on Carlin's day off.

Ozzie is arrested for the murder, since Brad Fitch, the Lieutenant investigating the case, thought Ozzie had the knowledge, opportunity, and motive to kill his father, the motive being money. The Perry family lawyer, Daniel Wikert had let it slip to police that Ozzie stood to inherit almost all of Perry's sizable estate. Ozzie had also been trained as a medic in the National Guard, giving him the knowledge it took to kill Perry in the way he had died. Jack had also witnessed Perry leaving his father, still arguing loudly, the night before Perry was murdered.

Jack doesn't like Ozzie much, but he doesn't believe he killed his father. Jack smells a rat in Wikert, and also learns that the sleazy lawyer has connections with the underworld. Jack continues his investigation to not only uncover the counterfeiting operation, but also to find the real murderer.

The characters in this book are developed just enough to make me care about them. The plot moves in such a way that I'm not really surprised by the outcome, since the author dropped just enough clues to enable me to think with him. In fact, I was pretty sure who had killed Perry before Jack seemed to catch on. I don't like it when I've been trying to think with a detective or investigator and then at the end all kinds of new elements appear that change everything that seemed to follow logically before. I'm looking forward to reading the next and only other book in this series. There won't be any more, because the author committed suicide in 2004 when he was only 49.

I have linked to both formats of the book below, should you want to read it.



Understanding How Wine Is Processed


Croad Vineyard owner Martin Croad invited me to tour his winery during harvest day in 2011. He showed me all the machines used to process the wine, and I have included them, along with his explanation of what they do and a demonstration of each. Watching this video will help you to understand the plot of Deadly Vintage better, since the process of wine making, and the machines used, are important in the plot.



Recommendation 

I recommend this book to mystery loving wine aficionados or anyone who enjoys thinking along with investigators to solve murder mysteries. The book is even more fun if you are familiar with the Southern California area and can visualize where the action is happening.


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Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson - Canadian Artist

Path Behind Mowat Lodge Canvas Print by Tom Thomson
Path Behind Mowat Lodge Canvas Print
Available Via Amazon
The Life, Death and Art of Famous Canadian Artist Tom Thomson

Tom Thomson is one of Canada's most famous Artists who died mysteriously, and whose death is still talked about today.
I can't quite put my finger on why I find the lives of famous artists so intriguing. However, I do think it has something to do with an artist's plight to fulfil their calling while their lives are plastered with difficultly. Added to the fact that, in many cases, their work isn't valued or appreciated until after they die - Upsetting and incredibly unfair.
Tom Thomson was absolutely one of those artists. He only lived to the age of 39 and died under mysterious circumstances. To this day the suspicious speculations of his death are still labelled inconclusive.
Northern Light
Tom Thomson:
Born: August 5, 1877, in Claremont, Ontario, Canada
Died: July 8, 1917 (aged 39), Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada

NORTHERN LIGHT - The enduring mystery of Tom Thomson and the woman who loved him - This is VERY Interesting!

The details of Tom Thomson's life story, Authored by Roy MacGregor in "Northern Light", are very intriguing. He speaks about Thomson's life as well as his untimely death and the mystery surrounding it.
If you appreciate the journey of artists you will enjoy listening to this.


Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven
Tom Thomson, The Early Years

At 22 years old he was an Apprentice at an Iron Foundry and was fired because he was always late. He then attempted to join the armed services that same year, but due to a medical condition was denied entry.

In 1901 he was accepted into Business College in Chatham, Ontario but dropped out after eight months to go to the business college his brother operated in Seattle, Washington. While in Seattle, he had a brief romance with Alice Lambert.

He returned to Canada in 1904 and in 1907 he joined a Toronto design firm named Grip Ltd where many of the future "Group of Seven" also worked.

The Group of Seven

The Group of Seven were a famous group of Canadian Landscape Painters in the 1920's. Tom Thomson was never an official member of the Group of Seven, however he is recognized as having greatly influenced them.
The members of the Group of Seven were, Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley.

Heffel's record $2,749,500.00 sale of Tom Thomson ~ Early Spring, Canoe Lake



Tom Thomson's Major Source of Inspiration & Art Career

Tom Thomson was inspired by Ontario's wilderness. His first visit to Algonquin Park was in 1912. That year he began working along side members of the Group of Seven at Rous and Mann Press, but he left later in the year to become his own full time artist.

His first exhibit was with the Ontario Society of Artists in 1913 and he later become a member in 1914. That same year the National Gallery of Canada purchased one of his paintings. His exhibits continued with the Ontario Society of Artists until his mysterious death in 1917.

He eventually moved to Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. He worked as a fire fighter, ranger, and guide in Algonquin Park, but gave that up as he found it didn't give him enough time to paint. From 1914 to 1917 before he died, is when he created his most famous work; The Jack Pine, The West Wind and The Northern River.

Tom Thomson's Art & Artistic Talent

The Death of Tom Thomson
Tom Thomson was another one of those "mostly self taught" artists. He was very young when he began drawing and painting, but didn't pursue it as a career until he was in his thirties. Of course, his untimely death at the age of 39 would cut short the number of paintings he would become famous for.
He did produce hundreds of sketches between 1912 and 1917 (the year he died). Today these sketches are considered part of his portfolio of works and are featured in the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
He transformed from Graphic Designer to Professional Painter, with the help of Dr. James MacCallum between 1914 and 1917.
Many of his famous paintings began as sketches and later evolved into large oil paintings at his "Studio". His studio was an old shack, with a wood stove on the grounds of Studio Building.
With his use of broad brush strokes and his liberal use of paint to capture color, his art resembles post-impressionists, Vincent Van Gogh & Paul Cezanne.
Thomson was provided the same level of respect and prominence as Renoir, Picasso and The Group of Seven in 2002 when the National Gallery of Canada staged a major exhibition of his art.

The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson

On July 8th, 1917 at the age of 39, Tom Thomson disappeared on a canoeing trip on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. His body wasn't discovered until eight days later. Although there were reports that he had his fishing line wrapped around his feet seventeen times, and signs of a head injury, the official cause of death was deemed accidental.
The speculation on the cause of his death continues today. Numerous scenarios have been put forth, including murder and suicide. 



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