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

26 July 2017

2017 Book Review #22: the tiger in the house


The first thing that grabbed my attention at the library with this book was that the author chose to use lower case letters in her title.  The 2nd thing was the art work on the cover....the little girl, although you can't see her face, captured my heart.  She is 5 in this story.

STORY SUMMARY

 It is the end of the summer in Portland, Maine.

Richard and Jen (minor characters who only appear in chapter 1) are out one evening when they discover a little girl at the side of the road.  She is bare foot, wearing only underpants and a tee shirt.  She had been crying...they notice the tear streaks running down her cheeks.  She can only tell them her first name: "Hayley".  They immediately call the police.

Delia Lamont loves her job as a caseworker for the Foster Family Services in Portland, Maine.  But the frustrations that come with this type of social work have left her feeling burned out and exhausted.  She has just given notice that she will be leaving the career she has done ever since college, to join her younger sister Juniper, also known as J Bird, in opening up a cafe/bakery.

But then  she gets the call from her boss, Ira, about a little 5 year old girl named Hayley. Hayley was found on the side of the road near a house that held 3 dead people:  a man of unknown origin, a man named Raymond, and a woman named Emma. Hayley says her mommy is in the "naughty place". 

Hayley does not know her mommy's or daddy's names.  During the investigation and  the placement of Hayley in emergency foster care, Delia and Ira discover that Hayley was with people involved in a major drug ring.  She and her mother had been kidnapped and Hayley's only clue is "bacca barn".

As Delia works on discovering to where and whom Hayley belongs, she is forced to look into her own difficult history.  Delia's parents are both dead from a horrible house fire when Delia was just 19 years old and J Bird was only 13.  Their dad's best friend Ben, the local veterinarian, took them in and has been their 2nd dad ever since.  Delia must face painful truths regarding her dad's schizophrenia and her first love, Tyler.

Meanwhile, J Bird learns about a devastating secret about Ben and Delia meets one of the police detectives on the Hayley case, Mike Moretti.  All of a sudden, renewing her relationship with Tyler, is taking a backseat to forming a friendship with Mike.  

Delia must make some choices about diving into helping Hayley and in finding the mother, along with facing some deep, dark truths of her own life, and examining the dark corners of her own soul.

MY THOUGHTS

This book was excellent.  I had never read anything by this author but I noticed her books were popular so I am going to look for one of her other ones at our library.

The character development is wonderful....rich characters whom you seem to just know and love.  I like that there weren't too many, and I also like that she opened the book with 2 minor character and closed the book with a minor character.  She also incorporates a family pet in to the story which gave the plot a special twist of love and affection. 

The story speaks about drug/heroin addiction, abandonment, grief, loss, sisterly love, romantic love, schizophrenia, familial duty.  The relationship between Delia and J Bird is especially lovely....I like that the author brought out their strengths as well as their weaknesses, making them even more believable.

The underlying theme seems to be family relationships that survive tragedies.

The only thing I did not like were the many editing errors.  I can't blame the author for those!

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 9.  (it would get a 10 if not for all the editing errors.).


21 July 2017

Mid-July Faves




So we have about another week left in July and things around our house have been rather busy with many special moments.

Let's take a break from the busyness and reflect back on FIVE special blessings that top our list of things to be thankful for.  Join in by linking up with Susanne.



  • PRAISE EVENING!  Most of you know that Dave and I belong to a church that is one body of believers but 4 different sites. We go to the Latham site which is our own community/town. 2 of the sites are to the north of us in Halfmoon and Saratoga Springs and one is across the river in East Greenbush.  The Latham site typically sees about 2100 people in one weekend over 3 services.  The other sites see about 350-500 folks on a Sunday (two services).  Last Friday evening, all 4 sites combined to have a praise and worship night at our Latham site.  The place was packed with believers singing praises and praying.  The worship team consisted of all the main worship leaders for each site.  What a special time of refreshment for our souls.  I sat with Dave of course and 2 women who are very dear to our hearts (our friend Lynne who used to mentor our oldest girl, and my good friend Monica). We have been told that these praise and worship nights are going to be held 4 times a year so I'm guessing the next one will be sometime this autumn.  I'm already looking forward to it!
After 1.6. miles, this is the way to go to begin climbing
15 July 2017.
  • HIKING!  So Saturday was supposed to be partly sunny.  And it was, in our town, when my friend Gerri and I left to go northwest to the southwestern Adirondack mountains.  We were hiking a new-to-us trail in this town.  When we got to the trailhead it was partly sunny and rather cool. It is an area with 5 different hikes from the same trailhead and we were going to do the one where you climb to the top of Good Luck Cliffs after turning off the main trail near Good Luck Lake.  Well, we never saw the sign (it was about 12 feet high on a tree, pictured above and we were watching our footing due to major rainstorms the day before).  After hiking along the main trail for a little over 2 miles, I realized the trail was never going up!  In fact, we started to go downhill!  So....we turned around and walked back 1.6 miles and all of a sudden something made me look up and there was the sign.  We also ran into some guys with their children who said we still had another mile to go and it was all climbing and very muddy and wet. Oh boy....can you tell by the following photos how difficult this trail was?  It had started to pour before we realized we were on the wrong trail and so we hiked back towards our starting point in the rain......thanking God we were prepared as both of us had rain jackets in the bottom of our packs.  

Couldn't go through these boulders and the entire trail was very muddy
so we went around them, getting stuck in muck a couple of time.
The summit isn't all that high but the climbing was significant over these large boulders.

Major blow-down along the trail to the summit
we had to climb over some of this!

Making my way through the mud!
photo compliments of Gerri S


The ever changing skies from the summit

the southern Adirondack peaks as seen from the summit of
Good Luck Mt Cliffs
It was from this vantage point that we saw a few eagles soaring!!

  • SALES!  I had to get Claire some items for her dorm.......things like a clothes hamper, drying rack, brita filter, ottoman.  All of these items were either on sale or I could use the coupon code at this favorite place for dorm shopping.  We are almost done with everything she needs and it feels so good to have the check-list shrinking!


  • CENTRAL AIR!  I probably say this every summer but I am very thankful for central air conditioning.  We have it programmed to come on at various temps and times and it is so nice to walk in from work and errands to a cool house.  And sometimes I just find it to hot and humid to grill, like the past several days, so with the central air on, I don't mind the stove/oven.  We have had some high temps with high humidity this week!






  • FARM FRESH VEGGIES:  Of course summer wouldn't be summer with out farm fresh veggies and we have enjoyed many different kinds for dinner this week.  NYS has plenty of farmers markets and even the chain grocery stores feature local produce.  We've enjoyed corn on the cob, a zucchini and summer squash with chopped tomato and basil dish, chopped zucchini in a tuna pasta salad, and fresh, cold sliced tomatoes on cheese and avocado paninis  this week!  I'm very thankful for fresh produce because it gets harder and harder to find at good prices come December.


That wraps up the week......I hope everyone has a very relaxing and fun-filled weekend with family and friends.


For those of you who asked about our Italy photos, Day One is posted and you can find it by clicking here.





16 July 2017

2017 Book Review #21: The Little French Bistro




This was a new-to-me author and this story just drew me right in.  It is a lovely story set in France.

STORY SUMMARY

Marianne is a German woman, married to a German man named Lothar Messamann.  The marriage is loveless, joyless and she is completely controlled by him. They have no children.  After 41 years of being his wife, she has had enough and one evening, while they are visiting Paris, she decides to take some action...her plan is to kill herself by jumping into the Seine.

Someone rescues her and soon her life is changed. 

Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the western coast of France in Brittany.....she ends up in Kedruc which is known as "the end of the world" and is in the most northwestern part of France.  She discovers a tile with a painted scene that seems to lead her to this little village.

She accepts a job at Ar Mor (the sea) restaurant, working alongside the restaurant owner Genevieve; the heartbroken chef named Jean-Remy, Yann, the handsome painter with whom she falls in love with and he with her, and many other colorful French characters.

Marianne soon learns she has a real self....an inner being who is passionate and talented....carefree and powerful and able to manage on her own.   She has forgotten all about her real self and learns that it is time to embrace it.

She settles into life with her new friends, embracing life, love, and adventure.

Until her past catches up with her.

Will Marianne return to all that she knows or will she embrace the future??

MY THOUGHTS

This book really opened up my eyes to my own marriage and some of the struggles we've faced in recent years with changing interests and less time for each other.

The characters are deep and rich.  There is so much personality in each character (and there are many) that you feel like you know these people or that you want to know them.  That always draws me in.

And the setting of course is a place that has been on my bucket list for years and to where I hope to visit one day.  The description is heavenly.

I love the theme of "second chances" and this theme isn't just evident in Marianne's character but in most of them!

There is laughter, sadness, trials, triumphs, romance, mystery, action, thought-provoking statements, a mythic quality, loss, and death, along with new life.

One of my favorite quotes from the story is as follows:

"Happiness is loving what we need, and needing what we love------and obtaining it." (pg. 307, The Little French Bistro by Nina George c.2017)
In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older.

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


14 July 2017

July Faves

Well, I've survived the first week of teaching summer school...first time since 1994...and it was a pretty good week.  We are supposed to have all 10 children this summer, but two have been out all week, making for an easy day.  We have also seen some good progress with a couple of the 4 year olds so that is positive!

Let's take a pause from our summer activities to give thanks for the blessings that God brought into our lives this week.  We do this by linking up with Susanne at the FRIDAY FAVE FIVES.


  • GOOD REPORT!  Friday evening while eating dinner and having a vodka cocktail, my chest started to "feel funny".  Because my husband and mother (who died from a sudden heart attack) both have had heart issues, my sense was to get to the ER even though I didn't really think it was heart related.  Apparently it wasn't, as all the tests and bloods came back normal and the chest pain abated after a couple hours.  The ER doc who was a very patient woman said it most likely was the alcohol irritating the esophagus.  Because I have NEVER had heartburn or acid reflux issues, she wanted me to do a follow up with my primary doc which I did on Tuesday and all went well.  My doc, also a woman, wants me to have a complete cardiac work-up which I will do later this month just to make sure.  Because I had lyme disease which brought on arthritis I have chest achiness often relating to my back/arthritis so it is sometimes difficult to tell if it is something super serious.  Hopefully the cardiac visit will shed a little more light! The blessing is that it was NOT a heart attack and I was in and out within 2 1/2 hours.

Courtney.....24!
11 July 2017
  • BIRTHDAY!  Our oldest gal turned 24 on Tuesday and she was so happy to receive the gift I had picked out for her....she has wanted a panini press for the longest time and I finally saw one on sale at Target.  She had fun going out that evening with several friends who also have July birthdays.  I thank God for my oldest girl and for the person she is becoming.  




  • BERRIES!  We have been blessed with a couple of good farm stands near our suburban home as well as two excellent grocery stores that carry good berries.  This week we have enjoyed strawberries and blueberries and over the weekend I plan on picking up some blackberries.  I especially enjoy blueberries on my steel cut oats in the morning.


Lake George
Eastern Adirondack Mountains
9 July 2017




Claire on the beach at Shepherd's Park
Lake George Village, NY

  • BEACH TIME!  Last Sunday afternoon, my youngest daughter (Claire) and I, along with our neighbor Melissa, enjoyed a super spontaneous beach trip to this lake.  It was our first time this summer and we managed to find a parking spot about a block away.  The beach we went to is the public village beach so the only fee is to put money in the street meters.  We usually avoid the village in the summer months due to all the tourists but since it is only a 45 minute drive north for us,  we decided to go there rather than one of the state parks.  Relaxing for 3 hours on the beach was just what we needed.  Claire was the only one who swam as the lake is DEEP and COLD.  But Melissa and I did stick our feet in and it was very refreshing.  We are planning another trip to a less crowded beach later in the month.

  • SUMMER JOB!  Claire, our 18 year old, accepted a summer position with the City  Mission's Summer Program for Inner City Children ages 5-12.  She is in charge of the Arts and Crafts ministry and each week there is a different Biblical theme.  She loves it!  She leaves the house with Dave in the morning around 7 a.m. to drive him to work, then continues on to her job.  From 3-4:30, she heads to Starbucks or one of the city library branches to work on the next day's plans or to read.  She loves that her paycheck will be deposited directly into her checking account she set up out in NH for when she is in college.  For the last 3 summers she volunteered there in the same program so she is extra happy that now she is getting paid for it with a bit of leadership responsibility as well. 
That wraps up the week.

Some weekend plans include a deep woods hike to a very remote lake in the southeastern Adirondacks, perhaps a kayaking trip, and a bonfire with family.

Whatever you have planned, enjoy and embrace every moment!!




11 July 2017

Italy Trip Day 1

So most of you know that we gave our oldest daughter Courtney a HUGE graduation from high school party the summer of 2011.  I spent a LOT of time and money on that huge bash and although we all had an immensely great time, I was totally exhausted when the whole thing was done.  Fast forward to 2016 to when Claire, our youngest was just starting her senior year of high school.  I gave her a choice:  a huge grad party this summer or a trip.  By trip, I kind of meant like the Grand Canyon which we've never been to, or out to San Francisco to see her Aunt Karen (she has never been there), or to Quebec City or Prince Edward Island.  Heck...even Aruba.....but no...she had to pick Greece!  So, my husband told her to come up with 5 good reasons we should travel to Greece.  She could only think of 2.  So he told her figure out where to go with 5 good reasons and we will try to make it happen.  She chose Rome, Italy.  And thanks to a good Xmas bonus in December and a fantastic travel agent via AAA, we booked our trip for June 24th-July 4th.  Oh my goodness...what a trip!

We started with Montreal the evening of June 24th...we were all exhausted from being up early for the graduation ceremony.

We basically ate dinner in the Adirondacks, got across the border, checked in to the hotel, and crashed.  The next morning we slept in a bit, had breakfast and visited the Botanical Gardens in Montreal where we had a very good lunch.  Later that evening, we boarded our plane for a direct flight to Rome.  We arrived in Rome around their time 10 a.m.  We were wiped as none of us slept very well on the plane.  We dealt with the jet lag by unpacking our bags, getting freshened up, changing our clothes, and getting a light lunch.  We then hit the pavement, walking down to Trevi Fountain (Hoards of people!!) and going to the Spanish Steps where there were even more crowds of people.  We roamed around that entire area, getting a feel for the environment.  It was a HOT (for us) 96 degrees and this city does NOT have iced drinks.  We went through 3 water bottles just that afternoon.  After a dinner at a place that my husband's co-worker had recommended, we walked back to our hotel and went to bed.  The next day our real adventures began.  We got up early to get tour guide tickets for the Colosseum.  To our surprise, we needed cash!!  So I had to take a cash advance out on my VISA card as we didn't have enough euros with us.  It was pricey but it was worth it because we did NOT have to wait in line and our group was only about 15 people.  The tour guide was amazing and so informative and entertaining.  I learned a lot about the Romans and the Colosseum where the gladiators fought and where Roman myths were acted out in drama form.  

Most of you probably know that the Colosseum is the largest amphitheater ever built...the largest in the world.  It is made of sand and concrete.  It was amazing to stand where something was about 2000 years old!


















After we had about an hour break for a quick lunch at a cafe across the road from the Colosseum, we headed back to meet another tour guide who would take us through Palatine Hill and discuss the Forum.  That was an awesome place....the architecture was amazing and of course I loved sitting on some green grass which is very scarce in Rome!  Palatine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of Rome.  The Forum of course is the large rectangular area that was originally the marketplace.  This area also housed many important buildings of government.  Palatine Hill looks down upon the Forum.









Palatine Hill


looking across the Forum to the church where Audrey Hepburn
filmed a scene in one of her movies.


Claire and Dave walk along the Forum



Fountain just outside the Forum/Palatine Hill area


This was an amazing day of tours.  We then walked outside the Forum area to a beautiful fountain near one of the government buildings and found some much needed shade in one of the parks. Sadly, I neglected to take a photo of the park but the litter was everywhere!  And no grass!!!  The shade trees were very nice though. We then walked all the way back towards Trevi Fountain and to our hotel.

Later that evening, after freshening up, we walked to a lovely trattoria for a traditional Italian dinner.  It was ok but honestly, the red wine was excellent and the pasta was just ok.  I had ordered the Ravioli with meat sauce expecting beef (which I don't eat any more but I knew they would NOT have bison).  When it arrived, I discovered that when the menu says "meat sauce" they mean pork.  Ugh...I gave up pork a long time ago so I just kind of picked at my food.  The wine was super awesome though!  We decided to skip dessert that evening and headed back to the hotel for some reading time and bed.


  My favorite part of the day was the tour around Palatine Hill and learning about the myths related to it.



07 July 2017

Catching Up Faves


Well the last time I did a FFF it wasn't even summer yet!

So I have some catching up to do!

Sadly, I could not get any of the videos from Claire's ballet show to upload onto my laptop.  I will keep trying when I have some free moments in the next week as the show was just stunning and oh how I wanted to share them with you all.  She had a senior solo and danced on pointe for the entire show minus the lyrical ballet duet she performed with her  classmate.

For now, I will share what some of my faves were from Graduation Day and the last 2 weeks when I've been on vacation from teaching.

The tassle for all graduates of the high school

Claire with Dave on Graduation Day!
24 June 2017
  • HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE!  Claire graduated with the other 447 members of her high school senior class on Saturday morning 24 June.  She graduated in the top 5% of the class (there were 38 teens in that spot) and because she is in the National Honor Society, her cap displays the gold tassle vs the school colors one.  She also has the National Honor Society pin that she chose not to wear, and the Russian languages pin that she chose not to wear.  Around her neck is the medal for being in the top 5% of the class and the black cord around her neck (hard to see in the pic) is for earning the Bona Fide award for community service outside of the high school.  There were about 20 teens who earned that award.  It was a gorgeous morning and she was very happy to be done with high school!

my fave from the Rose Garden

Rose Garden

Claire standing in the entrance to the Rose Gardens
at
Jardin Botanique
(Botanical Gardens)
Montreal, Canada
25 June 2017



  • MONTREAL!  After graduation, we left for our drive to Montreal. It's only about 3 hours north of us so we stopped for dinner first near Lake Champlain and then got to our hotel and relaxed.  Sunday the 25th we had most of the day before needing to get to the airport for Rome, so we checked out the Botanical Gardens of Montreal and we loved it!  We had lunch at their lovely outdoor cafe and the weather was just perfect. It was great to spend some time outside before getting on a long flight.


at the train station in Florence
29 June 2017

  • ITALY!  We were in Italy from early Monday morning of 26 June until mid-day Monday 3 July.  It was glorious!  Rome is very interesting and I plan on doing a vacation post about the city with many photos.  Here are just 3 of the highlights...faves I enjoyed in the city of Rome.  The photo above was from our day in Florence as we wanted to vacate Rome the day of some huge Catholic holiday (day of Sts Peter and Paul).  I actually preferred Florence over Rome although Rome and all the historic places were just absolutely amazing.  Come back early next week to learn what I did and didn't like about Rome, Italy.  My faves were:  the Coloseo (the Colesseum), Villa Borghese, the Catacombs, Circus Maximus, and the Sistine Chapel. Of course we also went to Bocca della Verita, the Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain (Claire's fave).  We did the Vatican City/Art Museum and St Peter's Basilica but honestly they were not my faves. Maybe because I'm not Catholic!  But it was amazing to be there.  Here are some pics:

the Colesseum from inside

Colosseum from standing just outside it.
We paid for a tour guide and loved the entire experience minus the heat!




David and the sling
Uffizi Gallery
Florence




the Forum




Palatine Hill and the Forum





One of my fave historical sites:
The Circus Maximus
where the Roman Chariot races took place
(more in a different post)



the gardens at Villa Borghese


Claire on the Spanish Steps!
Rome, Italy 2017
please click on the video to see it and make sure your sound is up...it is of the Catacombs and St Paul's Basilica.


video


  • HOME AGAIN!  There is no place like home and by the end of the morning, Tuesday 4 July it was awesome to see this as we left Canada....just in time to celebrate our great country's birthday!



  • WILDFLOWERS!  My wildflowers were up but not blooming when we left on June 24th.  I loved seeing them as we drove in to the driveway.....my oldest daughter took good care of my plants while we were away and I'm very thankful for that!
the wildflowers in the trellis box on deck
Please do come back around Wednesday of next week to see more photos of Rome.  
That wraps up my faves for this week and I hope you all have a wonderful summer weekend!!