Giving Thanks

binocular-bkgdA Thanksgiving recipe has been floating around facebook and it caught my attention. It looked so good! I knew I had to try it. I call it a “Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash Medley” (with cranberries and pecans). Tonight was the night.

I followed the recipe. Well, almost. I measured nothing, but “eyeballed” the amounts of all the ingredients, per my usual style. I drizzled this and guesstimated that. Amazingly mine came out looking exactly like the photo that accompanied the recipe on facebook.

It was delicious!

The recipe can be found here:

Brussels Sprouts / Butternut Squash Medley recipe

I will definitely be making this again, and soon. And I will be roasting my Brussels sprouts forevermore! Roasted Brussels sprouts are amazing!

Thank you, facebook.


BOOK REVIEW: Necessary Lies


Necessary Lies

by Diane Chamberlain



Time:  1960.

Place:  A small tobacco farm in rural North Carolina.

It is another chapter of American history that fortunately we have moved past.

necessarylies_zpsqgonhp7mIvy Hart is 15 years old. Taking care of her aging diabetic grandmother, her mentally challenged sister, and her sister’s 2-year-old baby, Ivy also must deal with her own epilepsy as well as the stresses of poverty in a rural setting.

Along comes social services. Jane Forester is 22 years old and at the threshold of life. Newly married to a physician and adjusting to his lifestyle, Jane is also starting her own career as a social worker. There are conflicts aplenty.

Three worlds collide. The poor rural tenant farmers (Ivy and her family), the well-to-do country club set (Dr. Forester and his friends and colleagues), and [plain] Jane with her youth, compassion, and idealism. Jane’s first task is to know and understand North Carolina’s eugenics program –  sterilization of the poor and/or mentally or medically challenged – and the way it is carried out. Ivy, at 15, is slated to be sterilized.

As we walk through life, we carry with us lies. Decisions we often call them, hidden truths, and deceptions. Some are so small we pay them no notice, some so big they tear us apart. Jane is enmeshed in secrets, some by choice, others not. Living with secrets has consequences, and Jane, as well as the reader, feels the conflict deeply while Ivy becomes the poster child for a failed social services system.

You won’t put this book down.




BOOK REVIEW: The Luckiest Girl Alive

The Luckiest Girl Alive

by Jessica Knoll


TiffAni FaNelli. The world begins and ends with TiffAni FaNelli. The spelling of her name alone should have warned me to stay away. It is all about TiffAni, her desire for social status, wealth, and fame, her plan for social climbing, her total obsession with all things snobby.

I am a casual kind of person. Jeans and sneakers serve me well. Neither needs a label, a brand name, or a trendy style. The jeans and sneakers must be comfortable, that’s all. So all the snobbery, all the fashion consciousness, all the perfect words and actions and movements are, for me, all pure gag material.

Yet there was just a hint of something that kept me interested. I felt the story had to be taking me somewhere. So I read on. Somehow I even read right through to the end.

TiffAni, who later called herself Ani in a vain attempt to elevate her image, had everything – good job, the right contacts, the perfect fiancé. Not too shabby for someone who devoted her teen years to social climbing only to find herself an outcast after her world fell apart.

More than halfway through the book, the actual plot started to take shape – the high school antics, the clash of the snob brigade, the gloom and doom – events, major events, that actually capture the reader’s attention. By book’s end, however, it is clear there is not even one likeable character to be found anywhere between the covers of this book.

Page after page, and chapter after chapter, I asked myself why I continued to read this book. In the end, I still have no answer to that

The Next Step

With decluttering just about complete, we have moved on to cleaning. Hiring cleaning help seemed the appropriate next step, help that would come on a routine basis to keep our small 800-square-foot condo always ready. So we turned to Angie’s List.

Nina did a thorough walkthrough, passing her finger along tops of door moldings and across window blinds, peeking into closets, and inspecting the kitchen and bathroom. She talked quickly and repetitively about how each thing would be cleaned. When she finally took a breath, I told her I wanted 1-1/2 to 2 hours of cleaning every other week. She agreed that was reasonable but said the first time needs extra time and she requested 2-1/2 hours. Yesterday was our day.

Nina spent an hour and a half just in the bathroom, grunting and groaning, banging things and slamming things all the while.

When she eventually turned her attention to the living room, we could hear our vacuum cleaner being knocked around, thumped, and bumped and the motor sounded much louder than normal. After several minutes of this, she announced the vacuum cleaner was not picking anything up and she went to her car to get her own vacuum cleaner.

Four and a half hours later she was done. The bed had not been touched. The bathroom was rearranged, the toilet seat left up. Paper towels were strewn about, including one left inside the microwave, another on the kitchen counter, another on the living room floor. Three plants on a shelf were moved and not replaced, and the surface beneath them had not been cleaned. The cat’s very heavy cat climber was moved several feet and not moved back. Pictures on the walls were askew. In short, the place looked more like it had been ransacked than cleaned.

Overall, Nina was disorganized and extremely sloppy. She had cleaning products, plastic bags full of who-knows-what, and mops strewn across the hallway outside our apartment so that people could not walk past safely, not to mention the eyesore she created for the long afternoon. She required a maid (me) to tidy up after her. She extended her cleaning time to twice what we had agreed on and charged accordingly. And the clincher: she broke our vacuum cleaner! 

Is the place cleaner? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely not!

Big Bad Bed

The bed is gone! Our huge chestbed was bought by a family in Washington. Mom and Dad arrived today with younger son in tow. It took about 2 hours for them to dismantle the chestbed and weave it piece by piece through narrow passageways, in small elevators, and out into their vehicle. Later they would reverse the process.

It was a lot of work. We had to hold a door open for them from time to time, buzz them back into the building after each trip to their truck, and answer the incessant questions of their garrulous son as he, at the same time, tried to play with our two cats. Bert and Ernie were much more interested in being in the way, however.

So now we sleep on a futon where once a giant bed had been. For how long? Only time will tell.

BOOK REVIEW: Every Fifteen Minutes

Every Fifteen Minutes

By Lisa Scottoline

The sociopath did it, but who is the sociopath? As the story moves along, the reader is swayed to believe that the sociopath is him. Or her. No, him! There are twists and turns. The final twist does not disappoint.

My experience with many of the bestselling novels written in the last decade or two indicates to me that certain words show up with more regularity in the more popular novels. I have noticed an abundant, perhaps superfluous use of the word thrumming, a word I do not remember ever coming across in novels written before 2000. There might be an exception here or there, but I think probably not. Another apparently required word for popular novels is riffling. No character can simply look through a bunch of papers but must instead search with such fervor that they can only be riffling. Thirdly appears the doppelganger, another word I had never come across until the more current literature. Every Fifteen Minutes stands apart, however. None of these words was used, which probably accounts for this being less than a 4- or 5-star book. Rather, Ms. Scottoline strays and instead employs use of the word reflexively. Reflexively was used three times in this novel, and each time it gave me pause, making me acutely aware of its repeated use. Reflexively, meaning without conscious thought, like a knee jerk reaction, just never seemed to be the right word as it was used, and each time the flow of my reading was reflexively interrupted.

Speaking of words, I had a problem with the title. The title is significant to one of the characters. Thus, it leads the reader to believe early on that the sociopath is indeed the character associated with those words. Would it be a spoiler to tell you that is not the case? I thought the title was designed to be misleading and really did not envelop the book as a whole.

Besides language, I was not comfortable with the disclosure of the modus operandi of the sociopath. It seemed that the sociopath controlled all the characters, like strings of a marionettes troupe. Too many people were under the spell of the sociopath who so cleverly and flawlessly manipulated their thoughts and deeds.

After a journey to hell and back, some of the characters emerged incredibly whole in this psychological thriller. Overall, however, Every Fifteen Minutes held my attention. Other than a few hiccups, I enjoyed the book.