Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Chosen

I had been meaning to read this book for a long time. I'm not sure why it intrigued me. I didn't even know what it was about. I listened to it on audible last week in the car and finished it up while painting today.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok was published in 1967 but takes place in Brooklyn, New York in the 1940s. Two boys (Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders), both Jewish, meet when Danny hits a baseball at Reuven during a game between their two high school teams.

Danny is a Hasidic Jew, the son of the community's rabbi, and he is expected to take the place of his seemingly cold and distant father after he graduates from college.

Reuven is a modern, Orthodox Jew who has a very loving and close relationship with his father and has the freedom to choose any profession he likes.

The book has many themes: friendship, father-son relationships, faith, duty, intellect and freedom.

Historical events that take place during the book are the end of World War II, President Roosevelt's death, the horror of the Holocaust, Zionism, and the birth of the state of Israel.

I learned a lot from this book, and I loved the complicated relationships between Danny and Reuven as well as with their fathers. Let me just say...I cried at the end. Highly recommend this. The audio narrator was great too.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Stroll

On the way to church this morning, Don asked me if I wanted to do something fun this afternoon. I'm always up for something fun. So we agreed to take Riley for a walk in downtown Chagrin Falls together.

Riley had never been on a walk in downtown Chagrin Falls, and I have had trouble with him being aggressive toward other dogs in close quarters on leashes, so I was a little nervous.

Don held the leash most of the time, and I was pleasantly surprised that Riley was very nice to the five or six dogs we passed. It must have been because he wasn't familiar with the territory. Or maybe because Don had the leash.

Riley wanted to go into every single door we passed. He especially liked Starbucks, Jeni's Ice Cream and The Fresh Start Diner.

I think we will take Riley to Chagrin Falls again. Maybe when the temperatures climb above 40!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Yellow Crocus

This very emotional novel takes place in Virginia and Ohio in the years just prior to the Civil War.

It is about slavery and the relationship between a plantation owner's child and the slave woman who was chosen to care for her.

The day Lisbeth is born, Mattie is taken from the slave quarters and her own three month old son to be the wet nurse for the infant in the big house.

Over the years, Lisbeth becomes attached to her nurse Mattie, and she comes to see the brutality of slavery that blinds her parents and most of the people in her community.

I really enjoyed this book. I highly recommend it!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rice and Peas

This is how Don and I knew we were meant for each other: neither one of us liked peas, Lima beans or mushrooms when we met.

I went for years without eating these three foods. But, over time, my palate changed, and now I can tolerate peas and mushrooms. Lima beans will forever be banned.

I can't eat peas by the spoonful, but mixed into casseroles or sprinkled on other dishes, they are just fine.

I want to share a recipe I found on Food Network to use as a side dish. It was very good, and it had just the right amount of peas.

White Rice with Green Peas

3 T. vegetable oil
1 cup raw basmati rice
1 t. salt
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 cups water
1 cup frozen baby peas

Heat oil in medium heavy saucepan over low heat. Add rice and salt and cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and continue to cook until onion softens slightly. Add water, stir, cover, and cook over lowest possible heat for 20-25 minutes until rice is almost done. Stir in peas. Turn off heat, and let sit covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Carolyn and I had this conversation today about losing weight. It was a sad conversation. We keep telling ourselves we need to lose weight, but we can't seem to muster up the right motivation.

I don't want to go to the doctor and get the results of my blood work. I don't want to get on the scale. I don't even want to look in the mirror. I need help.

Carolyn has been going to TOPS meetings once a week for as long as I can remember. TOPS stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly. She loves going to TOPS because there are lots of old ladies there who love her and she loves them.

When I say there are old ladies there, I don't mean middle-aged women. These women are in their 80's and 90's. I want to know why any woman over 80 would care about taking off pounds, even if it is in the sensible way. When I'm 80, I am eating whatever I want.

I've never been to a TOPS meeting, but I imagine it is sort of like Weight Watchers. You arrive, you weigh in, you commiserate with your 80-year old friends that you are up half a pound. You promise to take it off and more by next week. You talk about strategies and motivational methods. You go home.

As our conversation about motivation continued, Carolyn told me she had to lose weight by next week. When I asked her why, she said a 90-year old woman whose name I can't remember was going to bring a paddle and spank her if she didn't take off some weight. She was dead serious. I can't think of better motivation than that!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

One-Sentence Journal

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and the just released Better Than Before, had a great idea. I heard it on a podcast this week.

She suggests keeping a one-sentence journal. By writing down just one sentence a day, you can capture the essence of each day and create a time capsule for the year. Here's what my week looked like:

Sunday - Cheered for Laura and Rachel at the Brown-Aveda scholarship contest.
Monday - Said good-bye to my life-long friend Paul.
Tuesday - Began online classes with Moody Bible Institute.
Wednesday - Discussed Big Little Lies at book group.
Thursday - Began painting Daniel's upstairs bathroom.
Friday - Finished painting Daniel's upstairs bathroom.
Saturday - Had fun bidding on silent auction items at CVCA fundraiser.

You can buy Gretchen Rubin's One-Sentence Journal, or even better, you can use a  journal or spiral notebook of your own.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

About Alice

About Alice by Calvin Trillin is a short book remembering his wife who passed away on September 11, 2001. She did not die in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. She died in a hospital emergency room awaiting a heart transplant.

Alice's heart would have been just fine, but she had undergone radiation for lung cancer 25 years earlier, and irreparable damage was done to her heart. Alice was one of the 15% of people who get lung cancer without ever having smoked a cigarette.

Calvin Trillin has published more than 300 pieces for The New Yorker as well as 18 books. His writings are sometime serious, but mostly humorous pieces.

I listened to this book using the Audible APP on my phone yesterday while painting Daniel's upstairs bathroom. There is no mistaking the fact that Calvin Trillin loved his wife. This book includes many stories about life with her and his two daughters. I laughed and I cried. This little book is a treasure.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What's So Funny?

Cousin Carol recommended this book to me (thanks, Carol).

I really enjoyed reading about Tim Conway's life, especially his childhood while growing up in Chagrin Falls. He was the only child of Irish and Hungarian parents.

His dad was a fox hunting"whip" in Ireland, which was a  man whose job was to keep the hound dogs from getting distracted from the chase. When he moved to America, he got a job at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club.

Tim's childhood provided him with abundant material for his later comedic career, but it wasn't until after college at Bowling Green and serving in the Navy that he figured out what he wanted to do with his life.

In his early years, he was great friends with Ernie Anderson who played the fictional character Ghoulardi (my brother Mike loved that show). He played Ensign Parker on McHale's Navy with Ernest Borgnine. Then he was discovered by Carol Burnett. He became a regular on her show and their friendship remains to this day.

Tim Conway is just a really great, down-to-earth, funny guy. This book was a walk down memory lane for me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


This is Paul when he was one of my very best friends in junior high and high school.

He passed away in his apartment last Monday from an apparent heart attack.

Losing him made me think back to those days when we rode our bikes to Hamlin Field to watch little league baseball games. Or when he entertained us with his excellent impression of Richard Nixon.

Paul was one of those people I could talk to for hours on the phone. He always had the best advice for dealing with a 14 year-old's problems.

Paul never got married. Never had kids. He spent his time working in the record industry then going on to make documentary films. He was a perpetual student, earning his Ph.D at the age of 55.

The last time I saw Paul was at the showing of his film, "A Tree Grows in Washington: The John Seiberling Story" two years ago. Paul won several Telly awards and an Emmy for his film, "Final Edition: Journalism According to Jack and Jim Knight."

He was just beginning his career as a journalism professor when sadly, his life was cut short. Paul was funny, creative, generous and loyal. I'm so glad to have been able to call him my friend.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Back to School

Today was the first day of school for me. I didn't have to worry about what I was going to wear because my class is completely online. I applied and was accepted to Moody Bible Institute, and I am hoping to complete a certificate in biblical studies within a couple of years. The program consists of seven 8-week classes. I doubt if I will ever take more than one class at a time because now that I've found out how much reading and work is involved, it will overwhelm me.

So how does an online class work? I am finding that out as I go. 

We have a "classroom" called "Blackboard" where the students in my class have been introducing themselves. The age range of students in the class is from 18 to about my age. So far there are 11 of us from all over the U.S.  Our professor lives in the Pacific Northwest.

The professor posted our requirements for the entire 8-week course on Blackboard. This is nice because I can work ahead if I have the chance. Our grade consists of reading, doing assignments and interacting with other students by posting our thoughts on questions the professor gives us.

The first class I'm taking is called New Testament II. We cover all the books of the New Testament except the four gospels and Acts. I'll have to pick up New Testament I next session. I signed up halfway through the semester.

I'm very excited to dig deep into the Scriptures with these fellow students and our professor. When I'm finished with my certificate requirements, I hope to be better prepared to lead Bible studies at church and with anyone else who wants to learn more about the Bible.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Way to Go Laura!

I'm so proud of my niece Laura. She competed today in the Brown Aveda Scholarship contest for new students who are interested in becoming an Esthetician.

She chose her sister Rachel as her model. The judges took a before picture of Rachel, then Laura had about three hours to do her make-up.

Rachel was the first model to walk the runway. She did a fantastic job presenting Laura's work.

The title of Rachel's look was "Emerald Evening"

Even though Laura did not win the full scholarship to Brown Aveda Institute, she was awarded $500 toward her tuition.

I was very happy to be there to support Laura and Rachel!

Friday, March 13, 2015


I have not seen one deer in my backyard this whole winter. But I know they have been here. Our bushes are destroyed!

And they couldn't even hold it until they pranced away into the woods? Those aren't berries on the ground.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Same Sky

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward really opened my eyes to the other side of U. S. Border Patrol.

Carla is 11 years old when her mother illegally crosses the border from Honduras to Austin, leaving Carla and her two 6 year-old brothers with their grandmother. She sends money from her job at a fast-food chicken restaurant so they can barely survive.

The money is not enough, and when her grandmother dies, Carla sees no other solution than to find a way to her mother in the U.S. Her journey is treacherous, and among other things, she is raped along the way.

Alice and her husband Jake own a famous BBQ restaurant in Austin, Texas. Unable to have children of their own, they entered the adoption process. They eventually have the opportunity to adopt a baby boy, but the birth mother changed her mind after 24 hours, and they had to give him back to her.

The text goes back and forth between Carla's story and Alice's story until their paths cross in an unexpected way. Carla's story brought me to tears several times.

Amanda Ward spent the last year visiting shelters in Texas and California, meeting immigrant children and recording their stories. This novel is inspired by them.

Highly recommend this one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chicken Lazone

Here is another super easy chicken dinner. I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Plain Chicken website. We had this Monday night for dinner and Tuesday for lunch.

Chicken Lazone

1 t. salt
1 t. chili powder
1 1/2 t. onion powder
2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 lb. chicken tenders
1/4 cup butter, divided
2 cups heavy cream
1 box thin spaghetti

Combine salt, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.
Sprinkle over both sides of chicken tenders.

Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta.

In a large saute pan, melt half the butter over medium-high heat. Cook chicken four minutes each side.

Remove chicken from pan onto cutting board. Add pasta to boiling water and cook 6 minutes.

Pour cream and remaining butter into skillet. Lower heat and simmer until the sauce thickens. Meanwhile, cut chicken tenders into bite size pieces.

When sauce has thickened, add chicken back to pan and stir to warm through.

Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lessons from San Quentin

About five years ago, I received a phone call from a man who had stayed at our Beaver Creek condo. He had taken a book from the bookshelf there and wanted to let me know he had it, and he wanted to send me a new copy.

He liked the book so much he wanted to buy a copy for all of the managers in his company. I hadn't read the book yet.

He did send me a new copy, and it had been sitting on my shelf here at home for about five years. I finally read it!

Bill Dallas was a very successful real estate broker in California in the early 90's. He and his partner made a lot of money investing other people's money. Then, in 1993, they were convicted of grand-theft embezzlement - a felony.

San Quentin was built in 1852 and sits near the San Francisco Bay. It holds inmates requiring minimum to maximum security. This is where the hard-core criminals go to stay. Bill and his buddy were sent there for prison orientation and to be trained for fire camp (a prison for white collar crimes where they would fight California fires).

But because of a mistake made by Bill's girlfriend, he was marked as a flight risk and was not allowed to go to fire camp with his partner. He was made to stay at San Quentin for the remainder of his five year sentence.

For the first few months, Bill did nothing but curl up in a ball on the prison yard floor. All hope had left him. Then one day, another inmate made him get up and marched him to the closed circuit TV station in the prison and helped him get a job sweeping floors.

Once Bill came back to life, he slowly made friends with a group of prisoners who were in for life. They shared the love and hope of Christ with him, and Bill was totally transformed. This book is about the lessons he learned from watching those men who were sentenced to life in prison.

I can see why that man stole the book. It is a great motivating resource.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Another Snowy Winter

Peter asked me awhile ago if we had ever had this much snow in a winter. He didn't remember the pile in our driveway ever being so tall. I told him that we had a winter not too long ago that was just as snowy. I have pictures to prove it. These photos were taken March 8, 2008. Exactly seven years ago. Peter was 12 years old.

Back then, we still had Stoli, our third Siberian Husky. He was in his last days. 

Peter climbed up to the top of the snow pile.

He looks like he just climbed Kilimanjaro.

He shoveled the front walk, then sat down to take a break.

This is when he would still let me take cute pictures of him.

And he would take cute pictures of me.

Friday, March 6, 2015


We had a little rain last night, and when I woke up this morning, a spiderweb appeared to be hanging in mid-air over the golf course.

I had to take the photo through a screen, so it is not as sharp as I would want it to be. You can still see the spider who owns the web.

This is another spiderweb in the same tree just off our porch.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ducks and Pelicans

There is a mother duck nesting under the staircase to our condo in Naples. She has laid about ten eggs. We are hoping they hatch before we leave.

Several pelicans have been dive bombing the fish in the lake. So far I haven't been able to catch an actual dive bomb, but I caught this one before he dove into the water.

And I caught him again as he emerged with his fish.

After he catches a fish, he always lands on the golf course shore and spreads his wings to dry.

This duck kept getting a little too close to my ankles when I was shooting photos of the pelicans. I think she thought I was going to feed her.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is the March pick for my book group.

The story takes place in an Australian suburb where the school year begins in January. The story focuses on the lives of three kindergarten moms.

Celeste is wealthy and beautiful and is raising twin sons. Her husband travels many weeks of the year. Madeline is 40 years old, remarried, and living in the same community as her ex-husband and his new wife. And Jane is a 24-year old single mom who moved into the school district just after orientation.

The first chapter lets you know that someone has been killed at the school trivia night fundraiser. From that point on, you wonder who got killed and who did the killing.

I loved how Madeline took Jane under her wing, how Jane came out of her shell, and how Celeste began to find the courage to get out of her life of domestic violence. This book kept me guessing and it was a page turner from beginning to end. Good thing I was on vacation.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Dog at My Feet

I received this book from Becky as a birthday gift. The title of the book describes Riley, so she thought it was perfect for me.

On the flight to Florida on Saturday, I read the whole book. It was only 178 pages containing 28 individual stories of owners and their dogs.

I was disappointed there were no Sheltie stories, but there were two Collie stories, and one of those was a favorite of mine: Kindred Spirits.

Fiona was a sable collie who looked just like Lassie. She loved M & M's and she stuck by her owner, Bernadine. As Fiona grew older and Bernadine was to the point of carrying her upstairs to bed, Fiona's husband told her there was a young collie at the shelter he wanted her to look at. Apparently, a year earlier, he had told the owner to keep an eye out for a nice collie.

At first Bernadine didn't want anything to do with a new collie, but after awhile, she decided to go see her. Once she met Maggie at the shelter, Bernadine had to bring her home. She was a miniature, younger version of Fiona. Then, two weeks later, Fiona seemed to know it was alright to leave them. She had a stroke and died.

I think this is how it will have to be when Riley gets old. I won't be able to bear it. I will need a mini-Riley to take his place as soon as possible.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hot Cross Buns

Early on in our marriage, Don's mom would stop by our house once a week and deliver pastries. I guess she had been doing this for Don when he was single and she couldn't get herself to stop. One time near Easter, she delivered hot cross buns.

Don was delighted to have hot cross buns. I had never heard of them. I tried one, and to tell you the truth, I didn't like them. Don ate them all.

Now, I pick up a container of them once a year for Don during Lent. He still loves them.

When Katherine was into nursery rhymes, we especially liked the one about hot cross buns. It went like this:

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny. Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons.
One a penny, two a penny. Hot cross buns!