Aug 242016
 
Alistair's Birth

At 2:17 this morning, I became a grandma for the second time!

Alistair Michael was 8 pounds 2 ounces and so quiet, unlike his opera singer big brother, Zander.

Welcome to the world Alistair!

Ok, now I’m officially old?  😛

Alistairs-Birth

Aug 082016
 
The-Handmaids-Tale

A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

Like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant.

Summary from Amazon.com

There are several things about Atwood’s writing style that I don’t care for. For instance, when she’s writing about the past and people are speaking, she doesn’t put quotes around the speech. This makes it less clear what is spoken and what isn’t. While a quick reread clears things up, it pulls me out of the narrative.

There are also several instances when she changes from present to past in the same paragraph. The instance that most stands out, a person in the present lights a cigarette, then in the next sentence she says “we climbed into the car” (not exact wording). It wasn’t until a few sentences later that I realized she was talking about herself and people from her past climbing into the car. I don’t understand why the person in the present lighting a cigarette was tied to that paragraph. Maybe the short-lived confusion was part of the point, but I was always under the impression that anything that pulled the reader out of the story was baaaaaaad.

It would have been easy to make a story with this subject matter more of a horror story or an “all men are evil” story with terrible and fantastical things happening around and to the main character, but the author went with a more realistic approach which made it chilling in a different way. It was easy to step into the main character’s shoes and see how something like this could really happen. I could feel the paranoia, dread and the overall sense that while things were bad, they could be worse, so let’s just follow along.

I heard recently that they’re going to be making The Handmaid’s Tale into a movie. There’s so much happening inside the main character’s head that I wonder how they’re going to explore everything, but that’s a pretty common problem with turning a book into a movie. It’s also why some movies based on books are just flat awful. I’m anxious to see it. I’m always curious to see how they tackle these types of issues and it’s part of the reason I like to read the book before watching the movie.

Aug 012016
 
The-Unchangeable-Spots-of-L

My husband saw the cover of this book and decided that I had to have it. I don’t know if he read the back cover or not before deciding that I must own it, but I understand why he would buy it based on the cover alone. I love big cats, leopards especially, and a leopard with a typewriter head? Nice!

I’m finding the book charming so far and I’m enjoying Jansma’s writing style. My hubby did well even if he picked the book for the cover alone. I don’t read a lot of literary fiction. I’m learning that I need to pick up a few more. I should read more than genre fiction.

Truth and lies. I wonder how it’s all going to end…

Back to reading!

“F. Scott Fitzgerald meets Wes Anderson” (The Village Voice) in this inventive and witty debut about a young man’s quest to become a writer and the misadventures in life and love that take him around the globe

From as early as he can remember, the hopelessly unreliable—yet hopelessly earnest—narrator of this ambitious debut novel has wanted to become a writer.

From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kristopher Jansma’s irresistible narrator will be inspired and haunted by the success of his greatest friend and rival in writing, the eccentric and brilliantly talented Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Julian’s enchanting friend, Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. After the trio has a disastrous falling out, desperate to tell the truth in his writing and to figure out who he really is, Jansma’s narrator finds himself caught in a never-ending web of lies.

As much a story about a young man and his friends trying to make their way in the world as a profoundly affecting exploration of the nature of truth and storytelling, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards will appeal to readers of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists and Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize–winning A Visit from the Goon Squad with its elegantly constructed exploration of the stories we tell to find out who we really are.

Summary from Amazon.com


Jul 152016
 
Spicy Creamy Smoked Sausage Bake

Creamy alfredo sauce, spicy and smoky? We’d have this all the time if it was healthy, too!

We do eat it with kale on the side. That helps, right? If I put the kale in it would that make it better? No? That’s okay.

We really don’t eat like this all the time, but once in awhile, a rich and creamy, smoky and spicy dish really hits the spot. Paired with garlic bread and kale lightly fried in olive oil… yum!

Spicy Creamy Smoked Sausage Bake
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Ingredients
  1. 16 ounces dry Rotini pasta
  2. 12 ounces cooked smoked sausage
  3. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 Tablespoons Clear Gel, Flour or corn starch
  5. 1 cup chicken broth
  6. 2 cups half and half
  7. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  8. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  9. 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  10. 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  11. 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  12. 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  13. 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook Rotini al dente according to package directions and drain.
  3. In large skillet, fry sausage over medium heat until browned on both sides.
  4. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add Clear Gel, flour or corn starch.
  5. Add chicken broth and stir or whisk until smooth. Add half and half. Stir and heat until thickened.
  6. Add pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, Parmesan cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Stir until cheese melts.
  7. Add parsley.
  8. In 9x13 pan, add noddles and pour sausage mixture over pasta. Top with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese on top is fully melted and as brown (or not) as you like it.
Kryson's Kreations http://krysonskreations.com/

Spicy Creamy Smoked Sausage Bake

Jul 122016
 
Pandemic

I started listening to Scott Sigler’s podcast back in 2005 when he was podcasting his novel Earth Core. At the time, I was working nights doing tedious, boring data entry and Scott, along with several other podcasting authors and personalities, saved my sanity.

I enjoyed both the tales Sigler spun and the personality behind the mic. He was a blast to listen to but caused me to disrupt others on occasion. Sometimes, I couldn’t stifle my reactions and would audibly laugh or gasp. Glares from those around me burned holes in the back of my head in the otherwise silent room. Silent save the click-clacking of keys on ancient keyboards.

I listened to the first two books in the series via his podcast and I enjoyed them so much I bought them. Infected and Contagious hold an honored place on my bookshelf.

Scott Sigler’s Infected shocked readers with a visceral, up-close account of physical metamorphosis and one man’s desperate fight for sanity and survival, as “Scary” Perry Dawsey suffered the impact of an alien pathogen’s early attempts at mass extinction. In the sequel Contagious, Sigler pulled back the camera and let the reader experience the frantic national response to this growing cataclysm.

And now in Pandemic, the entire human race balances on the razor’s edge of annihilation, beset by an enemy that turns our own bodies against us, that changes normal people into psychopaths or transforms them into nightmares.

To some, Doctor Margaret Montoya is a hero—a brilliant scientist who saved the human race from an alien intelligence determined to exterminate all of humanity. To others, she’s a monster—a mass murderer single-handedly responsible for the worst atrocity ever to take place on American soil.

All Margaret knows is that she’s broken. The blood of a million deaths is on her hands. Guilt and nightmares have turned her into a shut-in, too mired in self-hatred even to salvage her marriage, let alone be the warrior she once was.

But she is about to be called into action again. Because before the murderous intelligence was destroyed, it launched one last payload — a soda can–sized container filled with deadly microorganisms that make humans feed upon their own kind.

That harmless-looking container has languished a thousand feet below the surface of Lake Michigan, undisturbed and impotent . . . until now.

Part Cthulhu epic, part zombie apocalypse and part blockbuster alien-invasion tale, Pandemic completes the Infected trilogy and sets a new high-water mark in the world of horror fiction.

Summary from Amazon.com

Jul 112016
 
Purple Fantasy Flat Spiral Bracelet

The flat spiral is the first bracelet I learned how to make, thanks to a friend taking the time to teach me, and what started my jewelry making hobby. Over the years, I’ve posted many pictures of the flat spiral bracelets I’ve made, still my favorite design for a quick and easy gift, but I’ve never posted a tutorial.

Like I said in my last craft post, I’ve toyed with making my own tutorials, but there are already so many out there with better production quality than I could manage. Maybe if I come up with more of my own designs I’ll have something new to add. Until then, Beading4perfectionists has a great tutorial for the flat spiral.

I still have several flat spiral bracelets left if anyone is looking for a quick gift. If you’d like to buy one, use the contact page and let me know.

I have other designs as well. If you’re local, let me know if you’d like to drop by and take a look.

Jul 082016
 
Slow Cooker Ranchers Pork Chops

Another great recipe for small slow cookers. I’ve found that since I’m only cooking for two now, the small slow cookers are wonderful for training myself to stop cooking for an army. I still love loading up my 6-quart slow cooker and having tons of leftovers for future meals and to freeze, but sometimes it’s nice to just have a small meal with less cleanup.

On occasion, I’ve started to make this recipe only to find that my ketchup has disappeared. Honest, I never remember using the last of it. Undaunted, I replace the ketchup and brown sugar with 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce and it’s just as good.

If you don’t like peppers, you can replace them with any vegetable you think would taste good with ketchup and brown sugar. I’ve tried zucchini and squash, both were pretty good. Fresh, thick sliced tomatoes were wonderful. Green beans and potatoes were my favorite substitutions. If you decide to use potatoes, I suggest sticking them on the bottom with the onions on top of the pork chops.

Slow Cooker Rancher's Pork Chops
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Cook Time
8 hr
Cook Time
8 hr
Ingredients
  1. 2 slices bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
  2. 2 pork chops
  3. 1 small onion, sliced
  4. 2 green bell peppers, sliced
  5. 1/4 cup ketchup
  6. 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in skillet until crispy. Allow to cool, crumble and refrigerate for later.
  2. Brown pork chops in bacon grease for about a minute on each side.
  3. Place onion slices in bottom of 1.5 quart crock. Might fit in a 1 quart. Works well in a 2 quart. Place pork chops on top of onions then peppers on top of pork chops.
  4. Mix together ketchup and brown sugar, pour over peppers in crock.
  5. Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low.
  6. Add crumbled bacon before serving.
Notes
  1. Don't like peppers? Omit or replace!
Kryson's Kreations http://krysonskreations.com/
Slow Cooker Ranchers Pork Chops

Jul 062016
 
22-lessons-from-stephen-king-on-how-to-be-a-great-writer

On Writing by Stephen King is not just a book about writing, but also a memoir about the craft and the life of King. I agreed with him wholeheartedly at points, grudgingly at others, but King’s advice is still a source of inspiration for me. I’ve read it numerous times and I’m sure I’ll read it again.

If you don’t own the book, the article below has a few helpful bits of advice from the book. I’m still struggling with a few of the bits listed. #3 and #4 (Don’t waste time trying to please people and Write primarily for yourself) go together for me. It’s not that I have a hard time writing for myself, it’s the blasted editing that gets me. I’m hoping some day that others will read my work. I want them to be pleased, but the truth of the matter is, I write because I love it. I write what I want to write, not what I think others will want to read. It’s during the editing phase that I start worrying about pleasing people.

And remember, as King says “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” I’m still working on that one, too.

Check out the article, but if you get the chance, even if you’re not a writer, read the whole book. King has so much more to say about writing. And his memoir is an interesting and entertaining read.

Timeless advice from bestselling author Stephen King on how to be an excellent writer.

Source: Stephen King on how to write – Business Insider


Jul 042016
 
happy-4th

It has been some time since I set off fireworks on the 4th. Most of the time I sit outside and watch the fireworks the neighbors set off. I can look in any direction and see brilliant light shows I would have missed if I was setting off my own. My neighbors explode the good stuff.

Hopefully, when my grandson gets older, we’ll set off our own again. I remember the 4th when I was a kid and how much I enjoyed setting off fireworks and I remember how much my daughter loved it when she was young.

Until then, I’ll keep watching my neighbor’s celebration efforts and cringe when I hear something hit the roof.

happy-4th

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