"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

28 August 2016

2016 Book Review #54: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

 

This is the third book in the Harry Potter series so I now have only 4 to go!  Plus the play that I believe just came out.

I really enjoyed this one better than the 2nd one.

STORY SUMMARY

Harry and his best friends Ron and Hermione are about to start their third year at the Hogwarts School.  However, Harry has been told by headmaster Dumbledore that he cannot leave the grounds to go to the village of Hogsmeade on the weekends like his chums because there is a prisoner on the loose and the professors all believe that this prisoner, known as Sirius Black and a friend of the Dark Lord Voldemort, wants to kill Harry!!

Sirius Black was convicted of killing 13 people!  All with a single curse, and he is said to be the heir apparent to Voldemort.  When he broke out of Azkaban, he left two clues and they both point to him heading towards Harry Potter!

He wants revenge on Harry because Harry defeated Voldemort.  And all of the Azkaban guards had heard Sirius muttering in his sleep "he's at Hogwarts".

Not only isn't Harry really safe at the school as Sirius was actually seen there, but they soon discover that there is a traitor among them!!

Who is it??

What will happen to Harry...Will Sirius Black ever get caught or will he find Harry and kill him??

MY THOUGHTS

Well, I figured since there are 7 of these fantasy books, that Sirius Black would NOT kill Harry and of course these books are all about good conquering evil...and the light vs the dark.

Once again, the author doesn't disappoint.  She does a fantastic job of filling in the reader with some of the backstory of Harry and his friends.  And she introduces yet more characters which can sometimes be difficult to keep track of but she makes it work.  I found my self cheering for the Gryfinndor team during their Quidditch match against the Slytherins, and I found my self upset about events leading up to Hagrid and his pet....I won't go into detail as I don't want to spoil anything.  

The author has an excellent style of keeping you interested and thinking you have figured things out when wham!!  She throws in these plot twists and it really makes the story more exciting at the point when it sometimes seems to drag.  At one point half way through the book I thought I had figured things out and I kept telling my daughters it was starting to get boring...not much was really happening...it read like it was just "fluff" then all of sudden the plot took that twist and I was enchanted all over again.

I loved that she threw in a twist towards the end of the book, too.....something that I didn't see coming at all......and that is what makes these books far from boring or predictable.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 9 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.




26 August 2016

Summer Vacation Faves



I missed you all last week!

I love Susanne's Friday Fave Five writing exercise.  I think it's so important to look back on our days or weeks or months or year and give thanks to God for all the blessings He gives us.  Even difficult things can be a blessing or we can find a blessing of some sort in them.

I was away with my 17 year old daughter last week on vacation to one of our most favorite spots in the state.  This place!!  We rented a small 2 bedroom cottage that had basically everything! We've stayed here in the past although in a different cottage and when all 4 of us were together.  This year, my husband wanted to attend the Science Fiction World Con in Kansas City, MO so that is where he vacationed.  I am so not into science fiction thus the separate vacations.  And my oldest had to work so she stayed behind and managed the house.

It is difficult to just choose 5 photos or blessings so bear with all the photos....I had to post several as they all are faves. 

Here's a glimpse from the past 2 weeks:


  • SOUTHERN ADKS ART TOUR:  Courtney (my oldest) and I took a Saturday before vacation to tour a few galleries and studios that local artists in the Northville, NY area were opening for visitors.  We spent a good deal of time with one, buying several of her cards from oil paintings, and then we spent some time in another gallery browsing before moving on to buying a watercolor from an artist who grew up in the village where my mother was born.  In fact, he signed my ADK 102 Challenge book as did the partner of the other artist.  It was a fun day followed by dinner with one of my cousin's at a local pub before we headed back home to suburbia.  Courtney really enjoyed herself and we needed this day together.


 

watercolor artist is William Mosher of Northville, NY
  • LONG LAKE VACATION!!  I won't write a lot.  This will be photos.....I am very thankful that Claire and I had some special days together in the sun with perfect summer weather (NO HUMIDITY AND NO TEMPS OVER 78!!), swimming, sitting on the dock, playing board games on the porch, browsing in Old Forge one day, touring Long Lake to the north all the way to the High Peaks Region one afternoon on a 2 hour boat tour that took us past Sigourney Weaver's camp (yes, the actress!!)and just relaxing under the pines with books and coffee.  It was a perfect way to end August! (we took a lot of photos..here are just some faves)
                    SCENES FROM AROUND THE COTTAGE :

our own picnic area outside our cottage

right outside our cottage...steps leading down to the beach
Long Lake


What I did every morning and late afternoon
 with my coffee, book and Bible
Shamrock Motel and Cottages
Long Lake, NY
Central ADKS


photo courtesy of Claire
afternoon coffee break





Claire just effortlessly goes into a ballet pose
on the swaying dock.





sunset over Owls Head Mountain
(hiked in 2013)


early evening swim 



early morning mist over Long Lake from the cottage




        LONG LAKE BOAT TOUR WITH CAPTAIN MARTY:
 
there were 8 of us on this 2 hour boat tour
the boat took us north to the end of the lake
The Seward Range and Santonini Wilderness Area
High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks
as seen from the boat
One of the most remote sections of the area
no roads in, no hiking trails, no utilities
lean to's are accessible by boat only
the highest peak in the very background is Algonquin Mt
the 2nd tallest mountain in NYS 







  • BONFIRE NIGHT:  Claire and I wanted a bonfire one night shortly after returning home...the weather has been gorgeous and I know we won't get to do this much once school begins again.  It was a fun evening of chatting, taking photos and eating s'mores. We stayed outdoors until about 10 pm and it was lovely.







  • BIKING AND A LITTLE BOY: This past week I rode my bike over to the home of a little boy, J, who was one of the students I worked with in the kindergarten last school year.  He is 6 years old and is a delight to know!  His mom told me about how she asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up, and he said he just wanted to make people smile.  Well, he already does that!!  So, his mom decided to create smile magnets for him to pass out to people.  He gave me one and Mom let me choose 2 more for my daughters!  (they were thrilled when they got them and both girls keep them on their dressers) I put mine right on my fridge.  The thing that I love about J is that, not only is he one of the happiest children I have met while working at this particular school, but although he has some special needs, he rises to the challenges and works hard.  His parents are wonderful people and I can't go into details, obviously, but let me tell you, he is one amazing little person and I'm guessing he is going to go far in life. (please note: his mom gave me permission to post about this). If you click on the link above (the words "create smile magnets" it will take you to their Facebook page for the project)  Here is a photo of the magnets:


J's smile magnets
Cat for Courtney
Hummingbird for Claire
Rainbow for me


  • RELAXING AFTERNOONS:  I am loving every minute of summer and of this month.  August is my 2nd favorite month and I love that the mornings and evenings are cooler and the days nice and hot with sunny skies.  I like getting my housework done in the mornings and then that leaves me parts of the afternoons to sit on my deck, with iced coffee and a book, enjoying the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.  I am going to miss this routine of mine once I'm back at work and I know I will need to make sure to have some quiet time...at least a few days a week....it's so important for our bodies, minds and souls.


That wraps up a bit of the last 2 weeks.

In one week from today, I will be getting ready for a hiking trip, and then a short trip to my in-laws in MA.

And in two weeks from yesterday, Claire and I will head back to the classrooms.

Enjoy the rest of August and summer vacation!




22 August 2016

2016 Book Review #53: Summer Secrets

I read this book while on vacation last week in the mountains.  It was a good read....actually quite a good story.....read on to find out why I can't give this a 10, though!!

STORY SUMMARY

The story opens up in London, England in 2014. The voice is that of main character Cat Coombs, a single mom of one teenage daughter, Annie. Cat is a journalist and her best friend is a gay guy named Sam.

 The plot line quickly goes back in time to 1998, London, when Cat is 29 years old and finally realizing she is an alcoholic.  She has had many wild and glamorous  evenings out, attending social events in London. But after every evening out, she wakes up with a horrible hangover and sometimes in someone's bed whom she doesn't even know! Also, her mother, newly widowed, confesses to Cat that the man whom Cat has called Father her entire life, is not really her biological dad!!  Her biological dad is in the United States.  She decides, with her boyfriend Jason's blessing, to go to America and meet her dad.  Everything is magical until one night, on the island of Nantucket, when she makes a terrible, tragic mistake.  It is her first time in America and probably her last.  Or so she thinks.

She cannot forgive her self and when she returns to England, she has to confront the reality of her life...she IS an alcoholic and it is time to grow up.  The one thing she doesn't know is if she can ever redeem her self to her extended family members.

The years pass by and now that Cat is in her early 40s, she finds that being a struggling single mom, and trying to cope with a newfound sobriety, is hard work.  However, she is determined to go back to her past and try to make amends with certain family members. 

 Traveling back to Nantucket, this time with her teenage daughter Annie, and her best friend, Sam, she hopes to earn her family's forgiveness.  But this makes the risk of losing everyone she loves, a real possibility.

Will her half sisters forgive her??  Will she stay sober?

MY THOUGHTS

This book deals with alcoholism and has excellent setting descriptions as well as very good character development.  I really liked the mother, Audrey...she was probably my favorite character besides the best friend, Sam.

One thing that really annoyed me though was the use of the "F" word throughout the book.  It was mainly the main character, Cat.  I find it extremely low-class.  This character did NOT have to be portrayed that way.  The author had already done an excellent job of describing Cat and her personality without needing to add such gutter talk. 

This book reads like a good drama but also has some light, funny moments which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Sam has some great lines and her friendship with him shows deep compassion and understanding.

The book shows that the "serenity prayer" really can be present in our lives...no matter what our challenges are.  We can learn to accept the things we can't change, we can find courage to change the things we need to change, and we can have strength to get through the various trials of our lives.

This author was new to me and because I liked the story so much, as well as the themes that support it, I will probably look into taking more of her books out of the library.

The story was a bit predictable in the end but it was sweet without being sappy.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (due to content).

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest I rate this an 8.  It would get a 10 if now for all the F words.  It made a great story a bit low class. (my opinion!!).



14 August 2016

2016 Book Review #52: Somebody I Used to Know

Do you enjoy fast-paced books with suspense, mystery, a little romance, family drama, and strong characters?  Then this is the summer read for you!

STORY SUMMARY

Nick Hanson, a social worker in a small town in Ohio, is just going about his normal day of work and grocery shopping.  He has an ex-wife, Gina, and is like a dad to her son Andrew, age 9.  Life is pretty good as he sometimes has dates with a former college friend Heather, who is also divorced.

But, while at the grocery store, Nick sees a young woman.....college aged...who looks just like his college sweetheart Marissa.  Marissa died in an off campus housing fire along with 3 other college kids. They were in college 20 years ago!  But this girl is the spitting image of Marissa!!

Nick approaches her to ask if she is related to the Minor family, and when he mentions that name, the woman drops her food and runs  right out the door.  Nick has no luck in catching her.

The next morning, as Nick is getting ready for work, the police and a detective friend named Reece, show up at his apartment.  The young woman has been found murdered in her motel room and in her hand lies a piece of paper with Nick's name and address on it!!

Nick is certain there is a connection to this young woman and his college girlfriend and so he enables the help of his good friend Laurel Davidson, also a college friend from 20 years ago.  They both begin to investigate this sudden death of a woman who looks just like Marissa.  They examine all the events leading up to Marissa's death in college as well as the young woman's murder. 

 And what they find out will be shocking!  In fact, Nick needs to learn and separate truth from lies....will he be able to do it??

MY THOUGHTS

I loved the fast pace of this book and the excitement in the main plot line.

The character development by this author is exceptionally well done.  I was completely drawn in because I've read 2 of this other novels...one I really liked and one that was just ok.  This one, so far, was the best.

I loved how quickly the mystery took off.....and at one point about almost to the half way point, I thought I had it figured out only to discover the author did a completely different thing to the plot!  It was downright exciting and I don't want to give anything away.

I love how the themes of marriage and forgiveness play out in Nick and Gina's lives and how he comes to terms with his own past failures.  I also love the way the author ended the book...a complete surprise with hope.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 14 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.



12 August 2016

Faves in Photos

Summer...I'm just loving it.

I love everything about it and even though the last couple of days here in eastern New York have been hot, hazy and humid with some rainy spells...we need the rain as most of July was very dry....and the humidity will break again as it always does...and high temps...well..that's what central air is for!  But for  the most part, this summer has been (in my opinion) perfect, weather-wise.  We've had most days be ones where windows can be open, breezes, full sun and blue skies....perfect for all the things I enjoy but can't do in the winter months. 

I'm sharing FIVE of my FAVE things from the past week and linking up at Susanne's with other bloggers who give thanks. I'm featuring photos this week of the things that blessed me.

  • HIKING IN THE HIGH PEAKS REGION OF THE ADIRONDACKS ON A GORGEOUS BUT HOT AND SOMETIMES RAINY SATURDAY


Owens Pond
with Kilburn Mt in background
Sentinel Range Wilderness Area
High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks
6 August


Copperas Pond, the 2nd pond on the trail
with Whiteface Mt in background



Winch Pond, 1.9 miles in
(along the Owens/Copperas Trail)
Monument Falls on the Ausable River
(roadside waterfalls)
High Peaks Region/Adks
Cheryl and I near Monument Falls



this pond is one of my very fave body of water in the High Peaks Region
It is nestled under Rocky Peak Ridge
in the Giant Mountain Wilderness Region
of the ADKs
we stopped to change out of our hiking clothes and to wade

  •  SUNDAY EVENING DECK DRINKS WITH NEIGHBOR TO CATCH UP ON OUR LIVES


  • GIRLS DAY OUT SHOPPING WITH YOUNGEST SISTER AND HER TWO DAUGHTERS AND MY YOUNGEST in this awesome tax-free place! (NYS has HIGH taxes so we drive to MA only an hour away)
Claire (age 17) and her younger cousins ages 13 & 8
in our front yard all ready to go back to school clothes shopping!
8 August 2016

  • COOL 9 a.m.  WALK ON TUESDAY MORNING IN ONE OF OUR TWO TOWN PARKS (the photos only depict about 1/4 of the park...I only did 2 trails)
"The Ramble" trail
 through the one of the 2
wooded sections
9 August 

near the children's maze

the main pond on the main trail


  • LEISURELY MORNING COFFEE:  yesterday would have been my mother's 82nd birthday so I honored her memory by having my morning coffee in one of her favorite bird mugs.  She loved watching the birds from her little village home with the screened in back porch. I do miss sitting out there with her on visits, chatting and watching those birds.  I was lazy all morning, working on some photo projects, reading, praying.  I guess that isn't lazy but it sure is nice to not to have to be someplace.....like work!  I will miss my leisurely mornings when school begins again.


Those were the highlights of the week.

Next week I will be absent from the FFF due to being on vacation where internet is extremely spotty!

I will be in an area of the Adirondack Mountains that is a bit remote...it's a very small village which doesn't even have a grocery store.... but one of my very fave vacation spots.  

I hope you all will have a wonderful weekend and week ahead!  Embrace every moment of summer...it's going by fast!




09 August 2016

Seeking Him in the Remote Places

I went hiking in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks this past Saturday.

For those of you not from New York State, the High Peaks are any mountain over 4000 foot high.  There are 46 of them in the Adirondacks. I have done one, many years ago and might do at least another before I get much older.

But Saturday, I did a deep woods hike we happened to stumble on, because we got a little lost looking for the mountain I had originally planned to do.

We (a friend and a friend of hers) hiked on a trail called Owens/Copperas/Winch Ponds trail.  Total was 3.8 miles round trip. Perfect for a day that featured weather that kept changing every few minutes. We had sun, high humidity, high temps, low temps, wind, rain and a downpour then sun again.  It was crazy.

The other crazy thing was all the people...families for the most part, hiking this very same trail.  It was very popular.  Which is great...I love to see young people out hiking and miss the times when my daughters would willingly hike with me.

The other crazier thing is that hardly anyone was going to the third pond...and it was only .4 miles from the second one!  Just about everyone was going to go around the 2nd pond to do a loop rather than take the side trail to see the 3rd remote pond.  Which is sad.....because here is the third pond:


Winch Pond
Sentinel Range Wilderness Area
High Peaks Region/Adks
6 August 2016


and as I sat on a rock near the edge, I began to meditate.  And it was in this quietness...this "art gallery" of God's creation, that I realized so many people...hikers, bikers, rock climbers, peak baggers, skiers.......aren't going to see this beauty.  They won't see this remote pond tucked away in the deep woods of the High Peaks/Sentinel Range Wilderness Region.

They won't see it because they won't want to take the extra time for that side trail...even though it's short...it's off the main trail.  Or they might not bother, because they are just checking off "hikes to do" on a list and just want to get back to their car. 

 The trail has roots.  And rocks.  It's not steep but it does have an incline that gets quite wet and slippery and you must use caution.  There are bears in that area so you have to be aware of your surroundings.  It's remote even though the highway is only 1.9 miles back through the woods.  

And as I continued to be silent in that wilderness region, I realized that just like many people won't ever see this remote pond, so too, will people not "see" God....they won't look for a God whom they consider to be remote.

Like the twisting, root-entwined, muddy, rocky trail, some people have lives that are twisting, a heart full of entangled roots, steeped in sin, or anger, bitterness,  falling down broken.

And they won't seek God.  They won't allow their soul to travel to that place where they can find God waiting.........oh how He is waiting for them to come drink at the well of Living Water....God wants us to know eternal life...and to embrace Jesus the Savior so we can live forever in freedom.

They would rather go through life the easy way....just wandering around in a loop that never ends..........and feeling lost, broken, alone.

Some people want to experience life everlasting....they do....but they don't want to do the work required to get there....they don't want to change direction.....we had to change direction to get to this gem of a pond.....it's off the main trail.....

and some people don't want to change.  They don't want to face their inner battles and deal with the root issues.  How did we deal with all the twisted roots in our path??

We stepped up. 

C and L stepping up on to rocks to avoid the twisted roots
Trail past Owens Pond to Copperas Pond
High Peaks Region/Adks


 We stepped onto rocks that were sturdy and in our spiritual walks that is exactly what we must do...we step onto the Rock...........the One who shelters us and is a Refuge. 

"The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer; my God is my Rock in whom I take refuge..."~Psalm 18:1-2~ 



Rock with tree roots growing over it
near the beginning of the traihead

God is our Rock..He can take and hold our twisted, tangled heartstrings...the things that have deep roots...and untangle them.  That tree pictured above??  Its roots are growing up and over that rock.  The rock is helping to hold up that ancient tree. 

 That Rock is like God....a firm foundation to help hold us up on this life journey.

And to do that, we need to find Him, seek Him, and know Him.

Step out......get your self away to a quiet place.....