Wednesday, February 6, 2019

An Open Book: January 2019

I like to track the books I read on GoodReads.  The site hosts a yearly reading challenge in which you determine how many books you want to read.  Last year I set two goals for myself.  The first was to ready forty books.  The second was to read a number of books that I have owned for years but had yet to read.  I far surpassed the first goal and failed miserably on the second.

Throughout the year, I discovered a number of new-to-me authors including Toby Neal, Carolyn Astfalk, Barbara Golder, and Therese Hackenkamp.  I learned that Carolyn writes a blog and hosts a monthly linkup about what you read the previous month.  I'm going to give it a try. learned about The House on Foster Hill by Jamie Jo Wright on one of Carolyn's blog posts about her favorite books of 2018.  Since mystery is my favorite genre, I looked to see what she had listed.  Two of the books I have read already (and actually helped proof one of them) so I got the third one on Kindle.  What an enjoyable read!  This is really two stories in one, the first set in the present and the second a century earlier.  Both stories involve suspicious deaths and by uncovering details about the earlier one, Kaine Prescott, the main character in the present day story uncovers details of her family history.

My husband enjoys mysteries as much as I do, though he generally prefers ones written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Usually I say that I don't like "historical fiction", but when he's sitting there chuckling while reading a book, I had to find out why.  Tim introduced me to the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Trout, written over five decades starting in the mid 1930s.

Nero Wolfe is an eccentric detective whose expensive fees support his reclusive lifestyle, his epicurean tastes, and his twelve hundred orchids.  The stories are well written and full of great and humorous descriptions.

Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout
When the student of a female immigrant fencing instructor accuses her of stealing, her friend enlists Wolfe to help prove her innocence.  When that man and another end up dead, the case becomes much more complicated.  Wolfe's confidential assistant, Archie, narrates the story and is quite candid in his descriptions of others.

God knows she didn’t look anything like Nero Wolfe, but of course a girl that looked like him would be something that you would either pass up entirely or pay a dime to look at in a side show.

Bad case of pernicious inertia. He never goes anywhere anytime for anybody.

Too Many Women  by Rex Stout
Archie, Nero Wolfe's assistant, goes undercover to investigate a murder at a Wall Street firm, where he discovers a fringe benefit: hundreds of women work there. Everyone's alibi is air-tight, so Archie and Wolfe set a trap.

The atmosphere up there was of thick carpets, wood panels and plenty of space, but as for the receptionist, though she was not really miscast she was way past the deadline, having reached the age when it is more blessed to receive than to give. 

His voice matched his appearance. The voice was a thin tenor, and while he was not a pygmy they had been all out of large sizes the day he was outfitted. Also they had been low on pigments. His skin had no color at all, and the only thing that made it reasonable to suppose there was anybody at home inside it was the eyes. They too were without color, but they had a sharp dancing glint that wasn’t just on the surface but came from behind, deep.

I admit I lied to him. I told him that you’re just a front here and the real brains of this business is a skinny old woman with asthma that we keep locked in the basement.

I received Murder in an Irish Churchyard by Carlene O'Connor as part of GoodReads' Giveaway program in order to review it.   Siobhan O'Sullivan recently graduated from school to become a Garda in her small town of Kilbane.  The night before she is to start her new position, the local parish priest comes pounding on her door.  Someone has been shot in the church's graveyard. Macdara Flannery, a former beau, comes from Dublin to lead the search for the killer.  This was an entertaining and engaging story and had me guessing the whole time as to "who done it."

Ambush and Target: Alex Cross by James Patterson are the latest in the Michael Bennet and Alex Cross series, respectively.  Both are easy reads, though Ambush is rather dark with murders seeming to happen in frequent succession.

The following two books were on my last year's list that I never got to.  Sometimes I find non-fiction either intimidating, too dry, or not all that accessible.  I decided to plot out a reading plan for each of these books and read them over the course of the year.  And, as you may have guessed, I'm already behind.

Good Eats: The Middle Years by Alton Brown is a collection of recaps of his Food TV shows.  His show always intrigued me as he spoke more about the method and science of cooking than the actual recipes.  I haven't yet started this, but plan on covering about one chapter a month and trying some of the included recipes.

I bought Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by (Bishop) Robert E. Barron shortly after it was released, but never read it.  Like the book above, I am trying to read one chapter a month.  I am, like the book above, again behind.  More to come next month.

Head on over to Carolyn's for more An Open Book.


Friday, February 1, 2019

First Photo: February 2019

What a difference a couple weeks make!  Not long after I took the January photo we got pounded with a blizzard of epic proportions.  Okay, maybe not epic, but it certainly was a lot of snow - 15+ inches in just over 24 hours.

They warned us, the weather people did, but I didn't believe them.  Why should I?  They kept changing their forecasts. One day they said 8-10 inches, the next 5-8, then back to 8-12.  They were right, finally, but still off.  When I measured it was almost 14 inches and we got several more inches after that.  Since we didn't have to do anywhere, it was kind of fun to watch.  But, please, I don't want that again!

The snow was followed by wickedly cold weather - a couple of days of below zero highs.  Ah!  Winter in Ohio!

The board on the patio is there for the birds.  Tim shoveled out some snow there after the blizzard and put seed and suet there.  They usually make short work of what he spreads out there
 and often wait patiently in the trees for more.

I didn't realize while I was taking the photo above that I had a visitor.  We hang suet on a shepherd's hook off to the right of the waterfalls.  A Downy Woodpecker wasn't at all bothered by my presence.

14" and not done snowing yet


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Funny Foto #23: Paybacks

Matt promised paybacks for the "gifts" he received over Christmas.  He delivered, and then some.  I don't know what started this war of pranks, but I'm working hard to stay out of the line of fire.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Once Around

I did something last month I don't think I've done in more than twenty years.  I went ice skating, if you want to call it that.  

Across the street from where I work is a plaza that in the summer hosts festivals and concerts.  Shortly after the Oktoberfest, an ice skating rink is set up for the holidays.  For the last six years, I have looked at that rink and thought that I should give it a whirl, figuratively speaking.

I used to go ice skating fairly often, though I was never very good at it.  I could skate forward proficiently and even learned to skate backwards and switch from forwards to backwards without falling down.  No Peggy Fleming was I, but I enjoyed it.

So, one day after work, when the office had emptied out early for the weekend, I grabbed my four dollars for skate rental and wandered across the street.  Rental ice skates aren't what I remember them to be.  These were unisex, molded plastic, heavy, terribly fitting things.  The first pair was way too big, so I swapped them for the next size down.  Those were big, too, but I was to embarrassed to ask for yet another pair.  I tied them on and wobbled over to the ice.

It wasn't nearly as easy to do as I remembered it.  I clung to the wall along the side to keep from falling and slowly, ever so slowly, made my way around the rink.  Once.  I managed not to fall, but could barely glide either.  Thankfully, I was the only one there.  No witnesses to this.  

I blame it on the skates.  Not the twenty plus years between skating sessions, or being a bit older, or out of shape, or, or, or . . .

But I haven't had such silly fun and laughed at the absurdity of it all in a long while.  Once around was definitely worth it!

“Do not enjoy yourself. Enjoy dances and theaters and joy-rides and champagne and oysters; enjoy jazz and cocktails and night-clubs if you can enjoy nothing better; enjoy bigamy and burglary and any crime in the calendar, in preference to the other alternative; but never learn to enjoy yourself.” 
– “If I Only Had One Sermon to Preach,” In Defense of Sanity by GK Chesterton


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Funny Foto #22: Welcome Back?

I was just in the office one day last week and did a double take when I walked past a co-worker's office.  I'm not sure what Matt did to deserve this "gift" while he was on vacation, but I may want to find out so I can avoid the same.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

First Photo: January 2019

Happy New Year!

At the start of this new year, I find myself reverting, going back to things I have done previously.  I dug out my old day-timer and have decided to keep my calendar on paper rather than electronically.  I have years worth of paper calendars that I can look back at and see what was happening at any given time.  The years that I kept electronically, not so much.

I am going to try to resurrect my "First Photo" in which I take the same picture from the same spot on the first of every month.  I might just be odd, but I like to see how one thing changes, but it doesn't.

A couple of years after  we moved into our house, we replaced the ugly wall and water fountain that the previous owners had built.  Tim had a vision of what he wanted - a waterfall surrounded by plants.  It came out better than we could have hoped and we have enjoy it throughout all the seasons.

We are lucky today that the falls are running and there's no snow or ice.  I think the birds are enjoying it, too.  Some Woodpeckers and Chickadees have been visiting the suet on the pole at the far right of the falls.  It is always a treat to see the birds this time of year!

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”
- GK Chesterton


Monday, December 31, 2018

Finding Beauty Amid the Messy

This year seemed complicated in many ways.  Relationships felt muddled.  Health was challenging for a number of family members and even our dog.  Work roles have been changing.  We lost an extended family member to a two year battle with cancer.  Even the car had issues.

But, on the other side of that were opportunities to see and appreciate the true and good.  We enjoyed the beauty of our flower gardens and the bounty of the vegetable one.  I had the opportunity to help my brother-in-law and his mother prepare for his father's funeral where I witnessed many people acknowledging a life well lived.  We enjoyed the music of a world class orchestra.  We discovered new authors and read scores of books.

We spent these last three weeks of this year fighting our own illnesses - the flu/cold/sinus infections/pneumonia.  One night was so bad that a call to EMS was required.  We had oh so many plans for the holidays.  We had wanted to go back to Stan Hwyet to see the decorated property.  I wanted to take my niece shopping for gifts for her parents and I planned on sewing matching "dolly and me" pajamas for one of her Christmas presents.  We planned a trip to the market downtown to get fixings for stuffed cabbage for our holiday dinner.  I wanted to write.

None of that happened.  No sewing.  A pared down dinner.  We were lucky if we left the house to make it to Mass, so seeing the lights was bagged.  Even our decorating around the house was a little less.

Friends remarked this past weekend that perhaps it was a good thing.  We had to take Advent and Christmas quietly, slowly.  We had to decide what was really important.  And, when you do that, you see the beauty as well.  Even if it is just a rainbow through the unwashed crystal!


Friday, November 9, 2018

Quick Takes (38): An Adventure or An Inconvenience?

- one -
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered;
an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
– “On Running After Ones Hat,” All Things Considered by GK Chesterton

- two -
I usually end my Quick Takes with a quote from Chesterton, but in order for this post to make sense, I needed to start with it.  This has been long one of my favorite quotes from the prolific writer.  But, after my work trip last week, I'm beginning to question that.

I had to go Las Vegas for a training class on new database technology.  I wasn't terribly excited about the location and the time it would take to get there.  But, thankfully, the class was held at a business about ten miles north of the strip so I wouldn't have to deal all the craziness that is Vegas. 

- three -
I booked my flight on a new-to-me airline because of the timing of their return flight.  I wanted a red-eye and they were the only one who had it.  On Sunday, I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, checked my bag, and then wandered down to the gate.  Maybe five or ten minutes after we were supposed to start boarding, the gate attendant announced that the flight would be leaving late - by three hours.  And the reason?  The plane was still in Florida and hadn't left yet!

I was flying through Denver, so there was no way I was going to make my connecting flight.  There were about fifteen of us on the flight in the same situation.  They told us to line up at the desk and they would get us rebooked on other flights.  After twenty minutes of waiting only two people were taken care of.  So, I did what any self-respecting business traveler would do - I called our corporate travel agency. 

Since it was Sunday, I had to connect to the emergency support.  Mary Ellen pulled off a miracle and got me on the airline I usually fly, and it was only an hour behind my original schedule.

- four -
When I arrived in Vegas, guess where my luggage was?  Back at the original airport.  I spoke with someone at the airline's baggage office and she thought that it should arrive overnight and they would have a service deliver it in the morning.  Sometime after midnight I got a call informing me that the delayed flight had actually been cancelled and my bag would arrive on Tuesday. 

I could wear my travel clothes one day to class, but definitely not two.  A trip to the store was now on the agenda for after class on Monday.

- five -
If the airline issues were the only problems I had on this trip, I would have chalked it up to a rocky start.  My computer, which was needed for the class, gave me the "blue screen of death."  I forgot the power cord and my corporate card was denied when I tried to buy a new one.  A family member became ill and I couldn't find an earlier flight home.  An order at a restaurant was delivered with the wrong food. 

That red-eye flight home, the reason I chose this airline, was less than restful.  The flight attendants decided to catch up on their weekend plans, loudly. And getting a refund from them was a hassle.  They only wanted to refund about a third of the cost of the flight.

Last week felt more Jobian than Chestertonian!

- six -
The trip did, however, have some good points.  I was able to pick up an outfit at Macy's, on sale, at a great outdoor mall.  Oh to have an unlimited budget and more time.  There were some really great stores there, including one of my favorites, Lucky Brand.

On the way to the mall Monday night, the road I took to get to the highway dead-ended at a small mountain.  If you have ever driven out west, the mountains will seem reasonably close, but they aren't.  Usually, for me anyways, they end up being a couple hour drive.  So, during our lunch break on Tuesday I drove back to that mountain and snapped a few pictures.  There was a new neighborhood going in nearby, so I played looky-loo and toured one of the model homes.  The prices were in proportion to the mountains viewed from the homes, big.

- seven -
Class ended early on Wednesday, and I had time to kill before the aforementioned red-eye, so I decided to take a drive.  For all the times I have been to Las Vegas, I didn't realize just how close Red Rock Canyon was.  It was maybe a twenty to thirty minute drive.  I popped into Micky D's to get some beverages and took off.

What a glorious place! I had both the feeling of being insignificant in such a large place and in awe of God's majestic design where absolutely nothing is without meaning and purpose. 

Had I had a bit more time and a traveling companion, I would have driven the thirteen mile scenic loop.  It felt just a little too remote to do by myself.  It's definitely a place to which I would like to return.  I was able to get some beautiful photos while at the visitor's center.

An Adventure or An Inconvenience? How about both!

Don't forget to check out more Quick Takes at This Ain't The Lyceum.
Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Right Sized Celebration

Four years ago today I celebrated a milestone birthday.  I wanted a party and Tim obliged.  He invited our family and friends, some of which I hadn't seen in a number of years.  After dinner, when it was time for cake, I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my then two year old niece on my lap.  Standing, on the other side of the table, were all those people who came to celebrate with me.  It was a beautiful sight and, oh, how I wish I was the one with a camera!  It was everyone I loved and who was important to me.

This year's celebration was much more low-key.  I took the day off from work and we had planned on doing something.  For a bit we thought about taking a drive down to Amish country, but the weather forecast, with almost certainty of rain, nixed that idea.  A visit to the art museum was briefly a possibility, but I just wasn't in the mood for that.  I really wanted to stay closer to home.

So, after voting, we went out to breakfast at a local diner and then stopped in our church's adoration chapel for a "Holy Hi".  It's our version of a Holy Hour, only shorter.  How good it was to sit there in the presence of our Lord.

When we got home, Tim disappeared into the house while I was wandering the yard with the Hairy Beast.  He came out a few minutes later with my niece's kite that she left when she stayed with us a couple of weeks ago.  We had such fun - the two of us flying a Disney Princess kite in the backyard!

Later on we had a glass of wine by a fire.  I read, caught up on some TV shows online, and took the dog for a walk.

It was very different from four years ago and absolutely perfect.  It couldn't have been a better day.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Ten Years

I was browsing through Facebook earlier this evening when I saw a post published from a town nearby.  It showed the decorations and banner a family had put up memorializing their daughter as part of the Turn The Towns Teal campaign for ovarian cancer awareness.

I looked at the date on my computer and it hit me.  Ten years ago, tonight, we sat vigil with my mom as she lost her battle with that cancer.  Usually I am hyper-aware of this approaching date.  I remember most everything about that night - what we ate for dinner, talking with the hospice nurse, sitting quietly with mom, holding her hand.

Somehow, this year, it snuck up on me.  Maybe that is good.  Rather than being focused on when and how she died, after ten years it is more important to remember how Mom lived.

She was kind. Not nice, but kind.  Nice tells people what they want to hear.  Kind tells them what they need to hear, with gentleness and love.  Mom built relationships with people and saw the good in them, even when they couldn't find it themselves.  She wasn't one to be taken advantage of, but was generous with her time and talent.  She showed, through example, how to be a good wife, a good mother, sister and friend.

I love when we think of her, we remember her good traits and forget the bad.  It reminds me to work on those things that are true, good and beautiful so that someday, ten years after my passing, people will smile and do the same.