8/28/12

Book Talk Tuesday: At Every Turn

I loved Anne Mateer’s first book, Wings of A Dream, so I could hardly wait to get my hands on her second novel, At Every Turn.

Alyce Benson is the pampered only daughter of the richest man in Langston, Indiana in 1916. She loves Jesus, her family, and running around the countryside in her Packard Runabout. Driving and driving fast invigorates her. One Sunday morning, after hearing from a missionary couple about their work in Africa, she rashly pledges $3000 to them and challenges the rest of the congregation to match her donation. Alyce is quite surprised when her father refuses to give her the money. But she determines she’ll earn the money herself. Except every time she makes a few dollars, she sees a need and ends up giving away all her savings.

Finally, she gives the money to a friend for safekeeping and also decides she can make more money faster by driving the racecar her father is sponsoring in several races. With the help of her friend, Webster, who is also her father’s mechanic, she disguises herself and enters the speedway.

Alyce’s life is further complicated by the attentions of Mr. Trotter, her father’s bookkeeper and her growing feelings for Webster. The two men dislike one another and she’s not sure who to believe. Until her money is stolen and her honor assaulted.

This book is well-written. I could feel the track under the tires as Alyce raced around the Chicago Motor Speedway. I felt the steering wheel vibrate in her grip.

My only criticism is that I felt Alyce was too quick to jump to conclusions about her missing money. Given what I knew about her and what she knew about the men involved, I think she would have asked more questions and presumed less. But that’s a small quibble for a book I enjoyed. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Anne Mateer and her trips through history.

I received a copy of At Every Turn from Bethany House Publishers in return for an honest review. We both kept our end of the bargain.

8/24/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Nathan agrees to be on the show. SarahJane will take April home and return to the show. Austin tells Nathan to be sure and make no promises to the women and to remember that the cameras are there to create drama and conflict.

 

The Bandbox Hat

Chapter Thirty-Four

April chattered away for the first half hour before nodding off and curling up on the seat beside me with her head on my lap. I stroked her hair, smoothing the blond strands away from her cheek. She smelled like sun screen and sand and little girl sweat.

What had I been thinking, leaving Rosedale like that? With no explanation or anything from me, no wonder she’d pestered her parents to let her come see me with her own ideas. So soon after Opa’s death, she must have been bewildered.

The sound of tires on pavement soon lulled me sleep too.

The SUV’s motion slowed and my head bobbed forward. I pulled my eyes open and peered into the twilight. We were pulling into the ranch driveway. Uh oh. I’d meant to call to let Anna and Jake know we were on our way. Not that I had a cell phone, but presumably Justin did and he would have called or let me make the call.

Stop it, SarahJane, I lectured myself. You’re here now.

Lights flickered through the lace curtains as the Suburban’s headlights swept across them. Someone was still up watching television.

Sure enough, the front door screen swung open and Jake’s head appeared in the opening. Justin pulled open my door and I waved. “Shhh!” I called. “April’s asleep.”

Jake clattered down the porch steps and scooped his sleeping daughter from me. “I knew someone would be here. I just didn’t know if it would be Nathan or you or the CHP to tell me everyone was dead.” Though his words could be accusatory, his tone was gentle. I think that meant he was kidding. Mostly.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s been a long day. I meant to call but I fell asleep.”

“Where’s Nathan?”

“He’s …” I wasn’t sure what to say. Or what I could say. I flashed a look at Justin but he seemed to be staring at the sky. Or what was visible of it through the surrounding orchard. Stars were beginning to be visible. It wasn’t full dark yet, but we’d definitely have some spectacular night sky views on our return trip. I finally spoke. “He stayed in LA. I have to go back, too.”

Jake shifted April to his shoulder. “What’s going on, SarahJane? You leave without saying good bye to anyone. You hardly call. I’ve heard from Rachael more in the last couple of months than I have from you.”

That stilled me. “Rachael? You’ve talked to Rachael?”

He nodded. “She called after Dad’s service. Even came by for a short visit. We’ve been talking, emailing. You know, communicating.”

I opened my mouth to say something along the lines of it was about time she remembered how to dial a phone but the front door opened again and this time Anna stood on the porch.

“Jake? Is that SarahJane? And April?”

“I’ll be right there,” he said in a loud whisper. “Go on back in.”

Anna turned and disappeared. I stared after her.

“Since when does Anna just go back in the house and miss a chance to give me holy heck? I’ve kept April out past her bedtime. I let her play on the beach with a bunch of girls in thongs and—”

“She agreed to let me handle the situation between you and April. I said Nathan could bring her to see you.”

That made more sense than anything else did all day. I nodded. “Well, I have to go back.” I kissed April’s cheek, then Jake’s. He didn’t argue or even ask why.

Justin pulled the door open again and I climbed in.

Jake watched us turn around. I twisted in the back seat to see him still standing in the driveway, his daughter in his arms, as we turned back onto the main highway.

I was right. Within a few minutes, dusk gave way to night. Stars gleamed.

I cried all the way over the Grapevine.

8/22/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday

It’s been a busy summer and it doesn’t look like we’ll be slowing down come fall either.

I enter each season with lofty goals. Clean up my office. Organize my photos. Organize my closets. Clean out my cupboards. Organize my recipes.

I’m making progress on the recipes. I’ve been typing and searching online and I’m within a few hours of being done. I’ve moved all my recipes into Microsoft OneNote. I have sections for Beef & Pork, Chicken & Fish, Pasta, Breakfast, Desserts, Vegetables, Appetizers & Beverages.

It’s been a huge job, much more than I anticipated. Actually, that’s not true. It’s been better than I anticipated because of the resources online. Many recipes I can find on websites, copy and paste them into my files. Others must be typed by hand.

Some are so old, that after retyping it, throwing it away feels like throwing away an old friend. I have 4 of these typed pages on colored paper.

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When we were newly married, our church had four or five Chinese Christian families who were members. The women were asked to share some recipes and they did an amazing day of cooking demos. We’ve made their fried rice and stir-fried beef so often that now they’re memorized. Here’s a picture of the Stir Fried Beef with Onions or Celery or Green Vegetables. Mrs. Kwok and Mrs. Young and Mrs. ….? hmmm, her name escapes me … anyway, you can tell the ladies took great time to write out their exact process. The oil splatters on our copy proves we followed it. And greatly enjoyed the product.

We moved away. Others did too. We lost touch with people. (Thanks to Facebook and other social media, some of them we found again. I’m now Facebook friends with one of Mrs. Kwok’s sons). I’m conflicted about throwing away this old stained page. It’s a connection to the past that will be severed forever. But it’s a thing. Things have no value. It’s the people that matter.

I think I needed to be reminded of that. People matter. I matter. You matter. We matter. Let the other stuff go. Even if I get to the closets and clean them out, they’ll soon be stuffed full again.

I think I’ll go spend some time with someone I care about.

Woe! It’s Wednesday

I’ve been working at moving my recipes into a computer program. Many of them are now online and I do a quick search for the name of the dish. If I find it, I copy and paste it into my OneNote file.

Some though are quite old and are “hand-me-downs” of the best kind and have to typed in by hand. I thought it would be drudgery, but I’m actually enjoying remembering when and where I got the recipe, and especially from whom.

Some recipes are old. I have Patty’s Lemon Cheesecake squares. Patty passed away several years ago, but her lemon bars never fail to get compliments. Of course, Patty lives on in her children, but I also like the thought of her in my recipe box.

Some recipes are new. I have Abbie’s Perfect Chocolate cake that is so incredibly rich and moist, it will literally slide right off the plate.

Some recipes are passed along from others. I have John’s chili recipe. I retyped his notes from the original about how he had to pull over on the side of 10 freeway in West Covina to write down the recipe he heard on the radio.

Some are family favorites. I have Mom’s easy and quick peach cobbler. Well, I have several of Mom’s, but the peach cobbler is written in her own handwriting. She’s good at copying or printing out recipes for me, so the handwritten one is special. (I did manage to part with it though, after I copied it).

A few recipes are in my daughters’ handwriting; for dishes they loved at a friend’s house and brought me home the directions to replicate it. I have Dawn’s French Toast Casserole and a recipe for Snickerdoodles. I didn’t tell that daughter that I already had a Snickerdoodles recipe, I just hadn’t made them in a long while.

I had a diagram for making a Christmas train out of candy. Rollo pieces were the smokestack, licorice ropes were the tracks. I searched on Pinterest until I found something similar and pinned those to my Holiday Ideas board.

I’ve been working at this project off and on for months, but I’ve decided that this week is the week to get it done. My eyes are tired, my back hurts, and my fingers are calloused, but I’m making real progress while I enjoy my memories of good food shared with family and friends.

8/21/12

Book Talk Tuesday: The Frog Prince

I’ve been on a reading frenzy but I’m still behind. I’m suffering from a plethora of goodness. I have books to review, books to learn from and books that have been recommended as “must read”s, not to mention the books I know I’ll enjoy and just plain want to read.

    The Frog Prince was a recommendation so I requested it at the library. Actually, the author was highly recommended so I decided to start with one of her first (or maybe it is the first) of her romantic comedy contemporaries. I guess she’s been writing Harlequin romance for a while. Anyway, I chose it because the protagonist is from Fresno, so I figured I might as well start local.

Holly Bishop should still be a newlywed. Instead she’s almost divorced. She moved to San Francisco for a fresh start. Instead she’s depressed and conflicted and missing her husband who doesn’t love her anymore.

I’m not quite done with the book, but I’m enjoying it a lot. There’s some humor but a lot of heart. It’s in first person present tense, which I don’t mind, but I know a lot of readers are over that.

I’ll read another Jane Porter, so I can recommend this one with a clear conscience. There’s a little bit of language, but (so far) no sex, just some stiff kisses. Stiff because Holly is still repressed and depressed, but definitely coming out of it. I expect her to meet the prince any page now. Or maybe she already has and is about to see him for the wonderful guy he is.

8/17/12

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Nathan says he won’t be on the show. At first, SarahJane doesn’t want him to intrude on her experience, but she realizes she’s missed him and she does want him to stay. She talks him into it by reminding him of the free publicity he’ll get for the farm and the new organic acreage of peaches.

 

The Bandbox Hat

Chapter Thirty-Three

“How will April get home?” Nathan asked.

Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner!

The RV door banged open and Liam emerged. I waved him over and repeated Nathan’s question.

“I’ll have a driver take her back.” He tapped on his tablet.

Nathan and I exchanged a glance. “Not in a million years. Her mother would skin us alive if April showed up with a stranger who hadn’t been investigated and vetted by Anna herself,” I said.

“I’ll take her back,” Nathan said. “And pick up some clothes.”

Liam shook his head and I knew he was afraid if he let Nathan go, he’d never come back. I sighed. “I’ll go.”

Liam paused his tapping to look at me.

“I’ve signed something. He hasn’t. I’m contractually obligated to be here so it’ll be a turnaround.”

“All right. It’s—” he glanced at his watch “—almost three. So you’ll be back at …what, seven?”

Since I’d become one of them, I’d noticed that some LA people don’t know that they live in a long and narrow state and they’re near the bottom of it. They persist in believing LA is the center of the state and nothing is more than a couple of hours away.

“It’ll be closer to eleven,” I said. “Or midnight.”

“I’ll have to send someone with you.”

“I’m not going to run away.”

“It’s for your safety and my peace of mind.”

I capitulated and turned to call April. She came running, tugging Austin’s hand to tow him along. “We have to go, Punkin.”

Her face fell. “I just started having fun.”

Austin scooped her up and tossed her over his shoulder and took a half step away. “I’ll save you, Princess Starshine.”

April giggled and I had to laugh, too. Nathan just looked irritated. Liam made waving signs to the nearest camera guy.

“I know you came a long way, but guess what?” I asked. “I’m going to take you home so we’ll have the whole drive to talk and catch up.”

She squirmed in Austin’s arms to face me. “Really?”

I nodded. “Go get your stuff and say goodbye to Uncle Nathan.”

She wiggled and Austin let her slide to the sand before she ran to her pile of clothes. “You’re leaving? he asked. “I thought we were getting along. I was looking forward to getting to know you better. My mom really likes you.”

A glow started from inside my chest and I felt it reflected in my smile. “I’ll be back.”

He grinned and I swear his gaze pierced me to the soles of my feet. “Good.”

Nathan cleared his throat and Austin’s eyes moved to him before he stuck out his hand. “I hear we’re going to shake things up and take this show’s ratings into the stratosphere.”

Nathan shook his hand while shrugging. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”

Austin leaned close and spoke in a low voice. “Just don’t make any promises and keep an open mind. Remember the point of the cameras is to create drama and conflict.”

I took a step back. “That’s right. It’s all about drama.”

Nathan cut me a glance. “I’ll remember.”

April hurried up just then, her belongings bundled in her arms and her flip-flops leaving sand trails in her wake.

One of the drivers slogged through the sand. “I’m Justin, I’ll be driving. Are you ready, Miss Richter?”

I nodded. “Hug Uncle Nathan, April.”

“I don’t want to.” She glared at me. “Why does he get to stay with you if I can’t? It was my idea to come visit.”

“And I’m so glad you did.” I grasped her hand and steered her toward the parking lot.

Justin followed and sidestepped around us to guide us to a black Suburban. We climbed inside and April burst into tears.

8/15/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday

We had a lovely weekend of celebrations.

 

Many clich├ęs came to mind during our various activities.

Life is short.   We journeyed north to take part in celebrating the life of a wonderful man. We toasted to him, shared a few stories and a tear or three, and enjoyed the company of friends and family.

 

The best things in life are free.   We arrived home late Saturday night to a full house. Our daughter and her boyfriend and our other daughter’s two children had arrived to spend the night. We shuffled sleeping children from bed to crib and chair and pulled out the inflatable before falling into our own bed.

There’s no place like home. Our son-in-law arrived home on Thursday after a two month sea duty aboard an aircraft carrier. Our daughter planned a welcome home party for him Sunday. Cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends gathered at our home to hug him, listen to his stories and let him know he’d been missed.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness. It would have been lovely to be able to sleep in Monday morning and take our time with re-entry to the “real” world, but alas, I’d scheduled a carpet cleaner to arrive at 9 A.M. So, we rolled out of bed, sucked down some coffee and started hauling furniture.

But after all, Home is Where the Heart Is.

8/14/12

Book Talk Tuesday: Age Before Beauty

Age Before Beauty by Virginia Smith is a refreshing and fun read.   Allie Herrod has a new baby and doesn’t want to go back to work. But she and her husband share the bills and she feels she has to contribute. So she signs up with a direct sales party company and dives into her new business. Unfortunately, she’s out so many evenings for parties that she rarely sees her husband and when she is home, he’s wrapped up in the game on television. Life is complicated by her mother-in-law’s unannounced visit and her sister’s growing dependency on God and talking about God and Jesus.

Age Before Beauty is Book 2 in the Sister-to-Sister trilogy about the Sanderson sisters. Allie is the oldest; middle child Joan’s story was first in Stuck in the Middle. The youngest sister, Tori’s, book is Third Time’s A Charm. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’s a great conclusion to this series. The books are probably best if read in order, but each could be a standalone as well.

I recommend all three!

8/7/12

Book Talk Tuesday: Knit With Love

Knit With Love: Stories to Warm a Knitter’s Heart delivers exactly what it promises.

Knit with Love by Lisa Bogart

Lisa Bogart is an avid knitter and lover of people and both passions show in her words and stories. Her newest book is full of heartwarming ideas and stories. You don’t have to be a knitter to appreciate her wisdom though.

Each chapter begins with a knitting definition and Lisa carries that theme to show how knitting is more than a hobby. It forges relationships. It warms the cold. Comforts the hurting. Relaxes the stressed.

I met Lisa three years ago at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference in California. We were strangers assigned to room together. It was the year I had a broken ankle. Lisa was an angel. She was exactly what I needed in a roommate. She helped when I needed help. She was quiet and non-hovering when I needed to sulk in my pain. She was chatty and full of fun when I needed my spirits lifted. (Mt. Hermon is a hilly campus and not easy to navigate on a knee scooter.)

When I got to our room, Lisa had already checked in but wasn’t in the room. She had left some yarn and needles on her bed. I hadn’t knit in probably twenty years, but I knew she was someone I’d get along with. I was right.

I picked up my needles again after meeting Lisa. It’s like riding a bike. I picked it up like it had been a weeks instead of decades.

This book will inspire and encourage you, no matter your hobby. You’ll wonder how you can use your pastime to edify and encourage others. It’s full of resources and ideas. It’s not just for knitters.

By the way, the following year Lisa was the one on a knee scooter and in an ankle cast. Although we weren’t roommates again, I knew very well how to offer help and how to pray for both Lisa and her roomie. Because in life, like in knitting and love, what goes around, comes around.

8/1/12

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Coffee Cup Wisdom

 

Some of the greatest moments in life are unscripted and complete surprises.

 

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We were in Napa with good friends Wally and Debbie. We visited the Jack London State park. After a picnic lunch, we wandered the grounds. Wally was in front, Deb and I in the middle and Dave in the rear. Wally walked over to a barn that had old farming equipment in it. Deb and I heard a rattle. Wally jumped backward and squawked. The three of us made a wide path around the barn. Dave grabbed a stick and hurried to poke the snake. Deb and Wally gave us the mug above to commemorate the occasion.

It’s our granddaughter Evelyn’s very favorite mug. She loves to serve Grampy hot chocolate then giggle when he’s surprised.

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Life is like a coffee mug. Full of surprises.