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04 Oct, 2018

The Ravenmaster

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Ravenmaster The Ravenmaster: Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife
on October 2, 2018
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: England

The first behind-the-scenes account of life with the legendary ravens at the world’s eeriest monument

The ravens at the Tower of London are of mighty importance: rumor has it that if a raven from the Tower should ever leave, the city will fall.

The title of Ravenmaster, therefore, is a serious title indeed, and after decades of serving the Queen, Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife took on the added responsibility of caring for the infamous ravens. In Ravenmaster, he lets us in on his life as he feeds his birds raw meat and biscuits soaked in blood, buys their food at Smithfield Market, and ensures that these unusual, misunderstood, and utterly brilliant corvids are healthy, happy, and ready to captivate the four million tourists who flock to the Tower every year.

A rewarding, intimate, and inspiring partnership has developed between the ravens and their charismatic and charming human, the Ravenmaster, who shares the folklore, history, and superstitions surrounding the ravens and the Tower. Shining a light on the behavior of the birds, their pecking order and social structure, and the tricks they play on us, Skaife shows who the Tower’s true guardians really are―and the result is a compelling and irreverent narrative that will surprise and enchant.


I’ve been following the author on Twitter for a while so I was familiar with his job and what it entails.  Despite that, this is still a fascinating look at the care of the ravens at the Tower of London.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, there is a legend (which the author casts doubts on) that if the ravens leave the Tower of London, then England will fall.  There are seven ravens who live in the Tower.  They are free during the day to mingle with the tourists, steal food from the tourists, and observe the general hub bub.  At night they have an enclosure to help protect them from the foxes who also live in the tower.  

“In the past the Ravenmasters preferred to put the food out around the Tower, but the problem was that a seagull might take a nice juicy piece of ox liver, say, that was intended for a raven, have a little nibble on it and then casually drop it on a visitor from a great height.”


The ravens aren’t pets.  They aren’t tame.  They don’t work on your schedule.  They don’t sit nicely on the bench when David Attenborough wants to film with them.  They are prone to killing and eating pigeons (not always in that order) in front of the tourists.  Most of the Ravenmaster’s time seems to be taken up with getting them where they are supposed to be and getting them out of places where they shouldn’t be. 

“[m]ore than once I’ve seen a raven chasing the Tower’s many resident cats and dogs.” 


Readers of this book will find out not only lots about ravens but about what it takes to be a Yeoman Warder.  He discusses The Story – the official tour group talk that takes people about 6 months to learn perfectly before they can start to change it by adding in their own embellishments.  The Story is standardized so any Yeoman Warder can step in and take over a tour if the original guide has to step away to help someone (like if they faint after watching ravens murder other birds.)  

The book is written in short chapters in a very conversational style which makes it a very quick and entertaining read.  I enjoyed this more since I have been to the Tower and could visualize most of the places that he is discussing.  If you haven’t been there, looking at a map of the grounds would be helpful to understanding the story. 

There are several stories of the deaths of some of the ravens from illness, accidents, and old age.  They made me a little teary as did this last line of the acknowledgements about Munin, who hated him from day 1. 

“A very special thank-you to Munin. During the publication of this book, sadly, Raven Munin passed away due to complications of old age. Her presence at the Tower will be greatly missed by her partner, Jubilee; by Team Raven; and by all staff at Historic Royal Palaces.”


02 Oct, 2018

We Fed an Island

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading We Fed an Island We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés
on September 11th 2018
Pages: 288
Length: 10:35
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Anthony Bourdain/Ecco
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Setting: Puerto Rico


The true story of how a group of chefs fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Americans after Hurricane Maria and touched the hearts of many more

Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island. The economy was destroyed and for most people there was no clean water, no food, no power, no gas, and no way to communicate with the outside world.

Andrés addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. From serving sancocho with his friend José Enrique at Enrique’s ravaged restaurant in San Juan to eventually cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island, Andrés and his team fed hundreds of thousands of people, including with massive paellas made to serve thousands of people alone.. At the same time, they also confronted a crisis with deep roots, as well as the broken and wasteful system that helps keep some of the biggest charities and NGOs in business.

Based on Andrés’s insider’s take as well as on meetings, messages, and conversations he had while in Puerto Rico, We Fed an Island movingly describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change and tells an extraordinary story of hope in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future. 

Beyond that, a portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of World Central Kitchen for efforts in Puerto Rico and beyond.


Chef Jose Andres has developed his theories on food relief first by working with a homeless shelter who used restaurant left overs to feed people and then expanding their process after the earthquake in Haiti.  The biggest test so far of his small non-profit came after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

His ideas are simple:

  1. Find a working commercial kitchen and chefs.  He started in a friend’s restaurant in San Juan.
  2. Source the ingredients locally to avoid delays and to let businesses in the supply chain start to rebuild.  In Puerto Rico he used the normal suppliers that restaurants would use. 
  3. Make a few simple dishes that can be made in huge quantities.  They started with a stew, pans of chicken and rice, and thousands of ham and cheese sandwiches. 
  4. Use local food trucks to deliver food to the hardest hit areas.  Also partner with whatever group is going into areas and have them deliver food.  Among his best delivery teams in Puerto Rico was Homeland Security.
  5. Open other commercial kitchens in strategic areas around the disaster area and repeat.  Throughout his time in Puerto Rico they used a convention center, school kitchens, culinary school kitchens, and a church. 

One of his major complaints about the food situation in Puerto Rico was that the groups who normally handle this in disasters on the mainland decided that it was too hard to get food to the island so they didn’t.  The Red Cross for example, didn’t bring in the Southern Baptists and their mobile kitchens to cook like they normally do so they didn’t have any food to deliver.  (I had no idea the Southern Baptists have a whole relief cooking operation despite going to a Southern Baptist church for four years.  Never heard of it.)  Food and water distribution was not listed as a priority for most groups.

When food was getting distributed it was MREs.  These are prepared military food packets and they can get you through a few days but you don’t want them long term.  He was also angry that water was being given in bottles only.  He campaigned for tanker trucks of water to be taken to towns and let people fill their own containers instead of adding all the plastic waste to the environment.  That idea didn’t get taken up.

A lot of this book is about his fight with FEMA.  He wanted a government contract to pay for his supplies.  He had started ordering food and supplies on a handshake with the distributor with no idea how he was going to pay for it.  At their peak they were spending over $50,000 a day on food.  Government contracting is a slow business that is doubly hard in a disaster.  He talks about contracts that were given to people who never delivered food.  The husband was a government contract person (not with FEMA).  He listened to some of this part and talked about the other side.  After disasters, FEMA contractors are apparently reviewed and taken to task for working too quickly, for not getting bids even if there is only one supplier in the area, etc.  Careers get ruined because people were trying to do the right or fastest thing in an emergency and now there is a lot of trouble trying to get anyone to do those jobs and those who remain aren’t likely to take risks.  Things are just going to get worse. 

This is a good review of what happened in the disaster from the point of view of an outsider to the government.  His ideas are definitely worth listening to and I’m interested to see where his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, goes from here.


01 Oct, 2018

October 2018 Foodies Read

/ posted in: Reading

Welcome to October 2018 Foodies Read

 We had 18 links in September.  Thank you to everyone who linked up.  The winner of the drawing is Hardly A Goddess for her Simple Vegetarian Cookbook review.

She won:

  1. A $10 Amazon gift card if in the U.S.
  2. A book of their choice (up to $10) from Book Depository if international


Foodie Reads News

Fall 2018 Announcements: Cooking & Food

Fall 2018 Notable Cookbooks

Link up your reviews of books about food – fiction, nonfiction, or cookbooks!

30 Sep, 2018

September 2018 Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

This is a month where I’ve been reading a lot of big nonfiction books in little chunks at a time so I haven’t finished any of them.  

Here’s what I did finish.


The books were:

  • 3 nonfiction
  •  2 audio books
  • Set in England, Spain, and the U.S.

The authors were:

  • 7 unique white women, 1 African-American man, 1 African-American woman, and 1 Spanish man

Which ones would I totally recommend?

What books have I been nibbling at?

Jefferson’s Daughters was an audiobook that got auto-returned to the library on me.  Caesar’s Footprints and Avignon are background for an upcoming trip.  Fear is just … about Trump…. so it can only be handled in small doses.  One Man and a Mule is so me but I put it down and forgot about it until the husband picked it up and now I have to share.  

Reading All Around the World challenge from Howling Frog Books

  • Read a nonfiction book about the country – or
  • Read fiction written by a native of the country or someone living for a long time in the country.

Costa del Churros is written by a British person who has lived in Spain for a long time so it counts but I’m reserving the right to replace it with something by a Spanish person.  We Fed An Island is written by a Spanish person but doesn’t take place in Spain.  




28 Sep, 2018

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

Fear: Trump in the White HouseFear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

  • I actually had put this one aside for several reasons but Wendy wanted to hear more about it so I’m going to read some more.
  • It is very detailed.  He’s getting deep into the minutia of what has happened so it gets a bit boring to read actually.
  • I don’t think that you are going to learn a whole lot that is new here if you’ve been paying attention to the administration.  Maybe that’s cynical of me.  I always just assumed that Trump was such a toddler that people managed him like one so none of those stories seem the least bit surprising to me.


I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for WhitenessI’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

  • I heard of a bunch of books in a long article about former evangelical Christians trying to find their way back to a kinder, gentler Christianity.  This is the first of them I was able to get.  I’m not interested in moving back to Christianity but I would like to read other people’s perspectives.
  • Austin Channing Brown is a black woman.  Her parents named her to sound like a white man so she would be able to get job interviews.  It is messed up that that needs to happen.


  • Excommunication is my favorite scam. The whole concept proves that any religion that believes in it is full of crap.
  • A man (and it is always a man) can say that you are no longer part of the religion and that is fine. But if you truly believe that this man’s word is going to cause your god to abandon you for eternity, what kind of wimpy god are you worshipping? You’d be better off worshipping the man who can boss around the god.



  • He has a lot of good ideas for how to do disaster relief as a private charity. The problem is that doesn’t mesh well with a government that moves very slowly and with a lot of oversight and covering yourself when large amounts of money are being discussed.
  • I’ll be doing a full review of this one next week.
25 Sep, 2018

Costa del Churros

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Costa del Churros Costa del Churros by Isabella May
on September 18, 2018
Genres: Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Spain

The rain in Spain doesn't mainly fall on the plain…
Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.
Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town's flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers? 
One thing's for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again


This book tells the story of British people behaving badly in Spain.

  • Belinda is on the run with her husband Jez.  They are living on the yacht that is all they have left after their business collapsed in England, probably because of her husband’s shady dealings.
  • Julia lives with her husband and daughter.  She’s the type of ex-pat who refers to all other foreigners as immigrants and is angry that people in Spain want her to speak something other than English.
  • Laura lives in a super wealthy English enclave with her husband and mother and children.  She spends her time lunching with other wives and is bored out of her mind.
  • Georgina has been dumped in Spain after a bad breakup and an even worse rebound fling.  She’s working in a bar and has just learned that she is about to be kicked out of her housing.

These four end up joining an unorthodox flamenco class in a small town. The first lessons involve learning to step out of your comfort zone.  A lot of this happens around eating churros.  Most of these women are horrified at the idea of eating anything with so many fried carbs covered in chocolate sauce.  But each little act of rebellion against the lives that they are living leads to larger steps until their lives are changed forever.

There is an element of magical realism in this story.  The flamenco teacher Carmen is able to determine exactly what push each of them needs.  She’s a mysterious figure.  You never learn much about her.  She never even teaches them to dance.  They can just magically do it perfectly Costa del Churros Full Tour Banner .  This fits into the stereotype of the “exotic” person who teaches white people to fix themselves and then disappears, presumably to go help others.

I never really warmed up to the characters, except for Laura.  She realizes that she is living in Spain and not some English colony.  She starts to want to get out more and learn some Spanish and interact with the real country.  She moves away from the overwhelming fakeness of her life.  I wanted to back away slowly from the other characters.  Even as the story progresses and you are supposed to start to feel for them I couldn’t get over the horribleness of how they are first described.



Giveaway – Win a signed copy of The Cocktail Bar (Open Internationally) Giveaway Prize - The Cocktail Bar
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
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Author Bio –
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.

Social Media Links –
Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks
Facebook –
Instagram – @isabella_may_author

21 Sep, 2018

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

I’ve got all new books this week.


  •  This is my new audio book from the library.
  • It is narrated by the author who talks fast enough that I had to slow it down to 1x playback speed for a while to be able to understand.
  • They made mass quantities of chicken and rice, ham and cheese sandwiches,  and stew to feed people.
  • His plans for food relief include buying the food locally to get businesses operating again quickly.
  • He talks about making food for relief efforts in Haiti and having to have the humility to adapt to local culture. He made Spanish style beans and not Haitian style as he was told by some local ladies.
  • Why have I never heard of the Southern Baptists’ relief efforts?  They cook all the food for the Red Cross. I went to a Southern Baptist church for 4 years and it was never mentioned.




I pre-ordered this book. It came on Tuesday. I decided that I would wait until my day off on Thursday to read it all at once and savor it.  I’m a huge fan of this series. (I’ve watched an illegal upload of The Discovery of Witches TV pilot 5 times this week.)

  • Of course, I started this on Tuesday. I don’t know who I thought I was fooling with that waiting until Thursday nonsense.
  • I’m…not loving it…. It hurt to say that. Of course, not loving it is relative because I’m comparing it to the original trilogy that I read at least once a year.
  • I think the problem is that this is Marcus’ story. You know how he ends up from reading the other books. This is giving you back story so there isn’t a whole lot of suspense.
  • Stuff in the present is focused a lot on Matthew and Diana’s twin toddlers. I’m a person who thinks a story is ruined once you bring kids into it. Not interested in them at all.
  • I finished it. The present storyline grew on me a bit. It is good but it isn’t one I see myself rereading regularly.
20 Sep, 2018


/ posted in: Reading

I’m not a big pre-orderer of books.  Mostly that’s because I don’t pay enough attention to know what is coming out in the future.  Also, a lot of my auto-buy authors have been fairly quiet lately.

Here’s what I am looking forward to enough to have put some money down.

Releasing October 2, 2018

The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of LondonThe Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife

“The ravens at the Tower of London are of mighty importance: rumor has it that if a raven from the Tower should ever leave, the city will fall.

The title of Ravenmaster, therefore, is a serious title indeed, and after decades of serving the Queen, Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife took on the added responsibility of caring for the infamous ravens. In The Ravenmaster, he lets us in on his life as he feeds his birds raw meat and biscuits soaked in blood, buys their food at Smithfield Market, and ensures that these unusual, misunderstood, and utterly brilliant corvids are healthy, happy, and ready to captivate the four million tourists who flock to the Tower every year.

A rewarding, intimate, and inspiring partnership has developed between the ravens and their charismatic and charming human, the Ravenmaster, who shares the folklore, history, and superstitions surrounding the ravens and the Tower. Shining a light on the behavior of the birds, their pecking order and social structure, and the tricks they play on us, Skaife shows who the Tower’s true guardians really are―and the result is a compelling and irreverent narrative that will surprise and enchant.

I follow him on Twitter so of course I need to read his book.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A SortabiographyAlways Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

“We know him best for his unforgettable roles on Monty Python–from the Flying Circus to The Meaning of Life. Now, Eric Idle reflects on the meaning of his own life in this entertaining memoir that takes us on an unforgettable journey from his childhood in an austere boarding school through his successful career in comedy, television, theater, and film. Coming of age as a writer and comedian during the Sixties and Seventies, Eric stumbled into the crossroads of the cultural revolution and found himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of George Harrison, David Bowie, and Robin Williams, all of whom became dear lifelong friends. With anecdotes sprinkled throughout involving other close friends and luminaries such as Mike Nichols, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, Paul Simon, Lorne Michaels, and many more, as well as the Pythons themselves, Eric captures a time of tremendous creative output with equal parts hilarity and heart. In Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, named for the song he wrote for Life of Brian (the film which he originally gave the irreverent title Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory) and that has since become the number one song played at funerals in the UK, he shares the highlights of his life and career with the kind of offbeat humor that has delighted audiences for five decades. The year 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Pythons, and Eric is marking the occasion with this hilarious memoir chock full of behind-the-scenes stories from a high-flying life featuring everyone from Princess Leia to Queen Elizabeth.”

He’s always been my favorite.  This comes out on the same day but I ordered this from Audible so that fine.

Releasing November 15, 2018

A Duke in Disguise (Regency Imposters, #2)A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian

“It’s the story of a publisher who wants nothing more than to print her scandalous novels and maybe keep her seditionist pamphleteer brother out of prison. She accidentally winds up falling in love with a handsome illustrator who is extremely cranky to discover he’s the heir to a dukedom. Yes, this is an actual m/f romance.”

I love Cat Sebastian books so I automatically order the next in the series

Releasing February 19, 2019

The Haunting of Tram Car 015The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djèlí Clark

“The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark’s short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Onsi the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed.”

Tor is the only publisher that I pay attention to. It seems like whenever a book sounds really original it comes from them. I loved this description.

Releasing March 19, 2019


InternmentInternment by Samira Ahmed


“Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.”

I feel like this will be a big-news book but I just heard of it now in the same tweet thread as the last book. My pre-ordering brain was already on so I got this one too.

14 Sep, 2018

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

  • Who’s shocked that out of all his books there is no record of Jefferson ever owning the best seller, Vindication of the Rights of Women?
  • Martha Jefferson gets so frustrated with her little sister Maria that she wonders if she sustained brain damage during some illness. I’m with you there, girl. She’s a hot mess.
  • I’m sad for Martha because she would have been a brilliant politician but she got married off in backwoods Virginia because she was woman.
  • I can’t stand Maria because of her emotional manipulations and her distain for all the opportunities that she had to see the world and learn things.  All she wanted was to be a wife in Virginia so I guess why should she have wasted to childhood learning things? Both women ended up in the same place no matter what their education and desires were.
  • I was just getting to the part about his enslaved daughter when the audiobook was returned to the library automatically!  I’m going to have to get back to this one later….






Wilde in Love (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, #1)Wilde in Love by Eloisa James

  •  Ugh, I so hate the whole alpha-male schtick.
  • Can we get rid of “You’re mine!” from the vocabulary of men in romance books?  Likewise with him having to have her or possess her.
  • No means no, jackass.  If she says “Don’t touch me”, your immediate response shouldn’t be to touch her again.
  • I read Eloisa James’ nonfiction before I knew she was a romance writer.  I liked that better.
  • It is a shame because I’m interested in where the story goes with other characters because she makes up good characters but if they are all icky like this one, I don’t want to read them.

Avignon of the Popes: City of ExilesAvignon of the Popes: City of Exiles by Edwin Mullins

  • I love reading ecclesiastical history but it infuriates me.  How anyone can know this stuff and still go to a church is beyond me. It is just corruption on top of corruption from the beginning.



The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes and Racism in America's Law Enforcement and the Search for ChangeThe Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes and Racism in America’s Law Enforcement and the Search for Change by Matthew Horace

  • My new audiobook since Jefferson’s Daughters ran away on me. 
  • Written by a veteran African-American police officer who interviewed cops and victims all over the country
  • Very good discussions about what leads to riots
  • Talks about his own treatment at the hands of cops who don’t know he is also a cop

Fear: Trump in the White HouseFear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

  • Why do I do this to myself?
13 Sep, 2018

The Gin Shack on the Beach

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Gin Shack on the Beach The Gin Shack on the Beach by Catherine Miller
on June 5th 2017
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: England

When octogenarian Olive Turner is persuaded by her son to move into a retirement home, she congratulates herself on finding the secret to an easy life: no washing up, cooking or cleaning. But Olive isn’t one for mindless bingo with her fellow residents, and before the first day is over she's already hatching a plan to escape back to her beloved beach hut and indulge in her secret passion for a very good gin & tonic.

Before long Olive’s secret is out and turning into something wonderful and new. Only a select few are invited, but word spreads quickly about the weekly meetings of The Gin Shack Club. Soon everybody on the beach wants to become a gin connoisseur and join Olive on her journey to never being forced to grow older than you feel.


I picked up this book because it is precisely a genre that I don’t think we can ever have enough of – old lady chick lit!

Give me stories of older women in charge of their own lives; finding new passions; doing whatever they want!  I’ll read them all.  Give me more old ladies defying their fussy children and skinny dipping at the beach. 

This book also made me really, really want a beach hut even though I don’t live by the beach and even if I did, they aren’t a thing here. 

Olive moves into a home where everyone cares about safety to the point of not allowing the residents to live.  This is actually a huge problem for older people.  If you can’t do anything other than what is super-safe, you don’t get to do anything fun.

I was intrigued by the gin combinations that are discussed here.  I wish there were some recipes for the cocktails discussed.  I don’t drink so I have no idea if I like gin or not but this book made me want to try some.  I feel like I wouldn’t like a gin and tonic at all but the gin with violet syrup that tasted like candied violets sounded interesting.  I’m not sure if the rhubarb one sounded good or not but they were fans of it in the book. 

I didn’t care much for the bit of mystery in the book.  I was just here for the characters and their adventures!

11 Sep, 2018

Fitness Update

/ posted in: Fitness

I have been doing Facebook fitness challenge groups.  I’m in my second month.  The idea is that you have a group of people who post three things every day:

  1. A post-workout selfie
  2. A picture of a healthy meal they ate that day
  3. Check in at night about how the day went

Then once a week we have to record a video about a non-scale victory. 

I didn’t win last time.  My partner was apparently not as super competitive as I am.  She didn’t do her posts every day.  This partner isn’t either.  I am sad but having to post every day is helpful for me.  I makes me eat at least one healthy meal if I’m accountable for it.

I’ve gotten a subscription to Beach Body on Demand.  It gives me access to all kinds of workouts at home.  I just finished Liift4 which is a 4 day a week mixture of weight lifting and high intensity interval training.  I liked it.  I finished it exactly on time which meant that I didn’t procrastinate any workouts to the next day. 

I didn’t lose any weight but my body definitely changed during the 8 weeks of the program.  It focuses on upper body weight lifting and my arms are much tighter.  I’ve lifted a lot heavier in the past but this was all about consistency.  Unfortunately, I come from a long line of peasant stock so I have my family’s flabby underarms covering up some of the muscle.  I need to keep working on it so I can get these muscles to show! 

In the challenge last month, I lost 3.5 inches overall.  1.5 inches of that was in my waist.  My arms and thighs went down a little. The difference is noticeable even though the scale didn’t move.

I just restarted Liift4 at the beginning to keep working on my upper body.  I’m not really a fan of the lower body day each week so I think I may mix in other workouts on those days to keep from getting bored.  I’m used to lifting super heavy in deadlifts and squats so doing those moves with dumb bells just isn’t challenging my muscles.  There are also a lot of hiit moves in those days that my knees have protested.  They must be getting old! 

Working out at home is working for me though.  I have a scheduled time on each day when I know I’m going to be working out.  I don’t have to go the gym even though it is close.  The equipment I need is always available. 

07 Sep, 2018

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

These are my actual feelings and reactions while I’ve been reading books this week.  It isn’t as formal as a review but a little more structured than live tweeting.


  • Whenever the narrator says, “The Jeffersons” I picture George and Weezy, not Thomas and Martha.


  • Ooh, Abigail Adams is not amused that Jefferson didn’t come to London to meet 9 year old Maria on her trip from Virginia.  She also thought Sally Hemmings should be sent back to Virginia because a teenager wasn’t a suitable companion for a 9 year old and what purpose could she serve in the Jefferson household in France.  Well, Abigail, unfortunately he’ll find a use for her.
  • No, girl. Don’t do it. Stay in France, Sally. You’re a free woman there.
  • At least she negotiated her terms before she went back to the U.S. Her kids wouldn’t be farm laborers and they wouldn’t work before age 14. They would be freed at 21. No way she could enforce that though.
  • This book is really sympathetic to Maria Jefferson as a child.  I think she is a horrible spoiled brat who manipulates adults through emotional blackmail.  She’s the type of child who makes me really happy that I never had kids.


Caesar's Footprints: A Cultural Excursion to Ancient France - Journeys Through Roman GaulCaesar’s Footprints: A Cultural Excursion to Ancient France – Journeys Through Roman Gaul by Bijan Omrani


  • I bought this to get a sense of the history of the area of France that we will be going to this fall.  The husband read it and loved, loved, loved this book.  I’m struggling.
  • I dedicated an hour to reading it between a really hard workout and having to go to work.  I kept dozing off and dropping the book on my face.  I mean, I was dozing off and catching the book every 10-15 seconds at times.  I have mad book and face saving skills.
  • This book is all accounts of battles and conquest and I just don’t care.  The husband was an Army fellow so I’m sure that why he was fascinated.
  • This talks about the defeat of Vercingetorix, the Gaul leader.  I read a series about him a long time ago.  After that I’m still heartbroken about his loss.  I just looked it up.  I think it is the Druids series by Morgan Llywelyn.  I didn’t drop that book on my face over and over.  Soon after reading that the TV show ROME came out.  One of the first episodes had Vercingetorix in a cage in Caesar’s triumph parade.  I was horrified.  In my mind he was still the hero of a series of book with a tragic ending.  I wasn’t ready to see him portrayed as a horrible savage.  #TeamVercingetorix







06 Sep, 2018

Matrimonial Advertisements

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Matrimonial Advertisements The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews
on September 4, 2018
Series: Parish Orphans of Devon #1
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

She Wanted Sanctuary...

Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar's Abbey isn't the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill--though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome--is anything but a romantic hero.

He Needed Redemption...

Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household--and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.

Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena's past threatens, will Justin's burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?


I have pretty strict rules about the historical romances that I will read. Generally they need to be recommended by some trusted sources on Twitter.  When I pick them myself I tend to get horrible books that I DNF.  That’s why I’m so excited about this book.  I chose this one from the description on the book tour and I absolutely loved it!

Helena is on the run but she isn’t flighty or impetuous.  Her escape from her family has been well planned.  She needs to get married in order to wrest control of her inheritance from her relatives.  She is unable to control it herself because she is a woman so she is in desperate need of a husband.

Justin returned from being a prisoner of war in India and in an act of pure spite, managed to seize control of the largest house from its impoverished gentleman owner.  Now he is hated by the community and just wants to be left alone.  His secretary and a lawyer friend though have advertised for a bride for him.  He’s ignored them up to now when his friend in London sent him a woman who is obviously in trouble.

I loved that these were both sensible, no-nonsense people.  There was a real threat that Helena was running from based on newspaper accounts of the time.  This was a great way to get actual historical issues into the story. 

This book felt comfortable from the opening pages.  I was pulled directly into the story.  This is the type of historical romance that I love and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series. 


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of The Matrimonial Advertisement! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Matrimonial Advertisement

04_The Matrimonial Advertisement_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

04 Sep, 2018

A Tale of Two Kitties

/ posted in: Pets

The husband said a mouse was in the garage.  He wanted to make a live trap. I was horrified.  “We have cats!”

Him – “My way leaves the mouse alive. Aren’t you a vegetarian?”

“The cats aren’t.”

We looked at each other in the silent acknowledgement of the pros and cons of this plan. “Ok, well try the cats first and then get a trap,” he decided.




  • The mightiest hunter who ever did live. I’ve seen her chilling in the yard and then jump up and snag a bird flying 5 feet over her head. A lot of yelling about how we don’t eat birds followed while she ate her bird.  She doesn’t play with prey. She kills in seconds and gets on with her life.


  • She’s 15 years old and very frail now. Her mass murdering days are behind her. But maybe she has one more hunt in her.
  • Did I mention how frail she is? A good sized mouse might win that fight.




  • He’s in the prime of his life. No weakness here.
  • He loves to hunt things. He hunts his toys, bugs, lint, and Powder despite being repeatedly told to leave old ladies alone. It is time to show him what he has been practicing for.


  • He was born in a shelter and has been an indoor cat all his life. “Mouse” is just a shape toys come in
  • He’s afraid of the garage since he heard the garage door opener up close.


I took Powder to the garage and told her the mission.  She immediately started a perimeter patrol.  I went to get Paul. He panicked when he saw he was headed to the garage and put 4 puncture wounds and 1 laceration on my left bicep.  Eventually we were all in the garage. Powder had finished her first circuit and walked up to me. Paul started screaming and crying and pawing at the door to the house.

Powder looked at him with total disgust. “Back in my day cats didn’t have to be taught how to cat.  Kittens these days are too soft!”

I let him back in the house before he had a heart attack.  Powder stomped off on perimeter patrol number 2.

I went upstairs. Paul stayed by the door to the garage crying piteously because we had abandoned Powder to certain death in the horrible GARAGE.

1 hour later Paul was done crying (probably because he had given up all hope of ever seeing Powder again).  The husband went downstairs. Powder hadn’t found a mouse but she was mighty proud of herself and did not want to come in.  I checked an hour later with a nervous Paul peering around the door to see if she was still alive.  She reported the situation as under control from her station on the mat. She supposed she could come in. She slowly sauntered in with a superior glance at her fraidy cat housemate. Hopefully, she left enough scent to let everyone know that apex predators live here (Well, one apex predator at least) and prey should stay out.

She was very full of herself all night. She had a strut to her stride that I hadn’t seen in a while.  Give an old lady a job and she gets all her self esteem back.

No mice have been seen.  Either they ran away from Paul’s horrible screeching or they died laughing. 

03 Sep, 2018

Mistress of Pennington’s

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Mistress of Pennington’s The Mistress of Pennington's by Rachel Brimble
on July 1, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath's premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.

Determined to break from her father's iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington's into a new decade, embracing woman's equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.


This book takes place in 1910 in Bath.  I read a lot of historical fiction but I don’t see many books set in this time period.  I was interested to read about a woman who is trying to take over her family business at a time when this was not an acceptable thing to do.  This is also a time of great changes in retail.  Ready to wear clothing is becoming more popular.  Being able to touch the merchandise without a clerk helping you is a new idea.

I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book.  In the beginning the writing was a bit clunky.  There was a whole lot more description of what people were thinking than showing their actions on the page.  I set the book aside for a while because of this.  I don’t know if I would have picked it back up if it wasn’t a review book for me and if I wasn’t really interested in the premise.

I’m not sure if the writing improved as I got into the story or if I just accepted it as I went along but it didn’t bother me as much as I got deeper into the book.  There are several conflicts here:

  1. The heroine who wants to run the store versus her father who wants her to marry and live the life of a rich housewife.
  2. The hero who wants to expand from a small family store to selling their merchandise in department stores over his father’s objections.
  3. There was conflict between the heroine and hero’s families in the past.
  4. Should department stores continue to cater to the wealthy or should they bring in lower price clothing for the new middle class customers?  Would the wealthy continue to shop there if you let lower classes in the same stores?


It was interesting to see the ideas that were considered so progressive (and potentially alarming) that are commonplace now. The anti-woman rhetoric was as expected. Women aren’t smart enough to be in business. Suffragettes are just rabble-rousers causing the downfall of society.

This is a good book for anyone who loves historical fiction where you learn a lot about a topic.

The Mistress of Penningtons Full Banner

01 Sep, 2018

September 2018 Foodies Read

/ posted in: Reading

Welcome to September 2018 Foodies Read

 We had 30 links in August.  That’s amazing!  The winner of the drawing is Claudia for Big Lou’s Butteries.

She won:

  1. A $10 Amazon gift card if in the U.S.
  2. A book of their choice (up to $10) from Book Depository if international


Foodie Reads News

The 5 Best Foodie Books of 2018 – so far – Agree or disagree?

Link up your reviews of books about food – fiction, nonfiction, and cookbooks are welcome. 

31 Aug, 2018

August 2018 Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

Still not reading a whole lot compared to what I was used to.  Maybe this is a new normal for me?


The books were:

  • 3 nonfiction
  •  2 audio books
  • Set in England, Scotland, outer space, and the U.S.

The authors were:

  • 7 unique white women, 2 white men, 2 black women, and one I’m not sure of

Which ones would I totally recommend?

Reading All Around the World challenge from Howling Frog Books

  • Read a nonfiction book about the country – or
  • Read fiction written by a native of the country or someone living for a long time in the country.

Nothing new.  Sad face.




30 Aug, 2018

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

These are my actual feelings and reactions while I’ve been reading books this week.  It isn’t as formal as a review but a little more structured than live tweeting.  Also these are real thoughts so it gets mouthy.

  • Warren Harding is a dirtbag.  He has multiple mistresses.  The Republican National Committee had to send one mistress and her husband on an extended vacation because they were blackmailing him about the affair.  That’s the plot of Hamilton.
  • I had the husband listening to this with me on a road trip.  It made him nutty.  He said it was worse than listening to baseball because the book is so detailed.  He just wanted them to vote and get it over with.
  • He entertained himself by cheering whenever the anti-suffrage people made a point.
  • Some anti-suffrage person stood up with a straight face and claimed that nowhere on Earth did the races get along as well as they always had in Tennessee.  I’m assuming “always” includes all that time you kept slaves?
  • I got a little teary when it finally passed and really teary when they talked about visiting Susan B Anthony’s grave on Election Day 2016.
  • There was a good section at the end about people who didn’t get the right to vote and the violence mostly in Florida when black women tried.









Daughter of the Blood (The Black Jewels #1)Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

  • I wanted to read this because I loved her later series.
  • I have absolutely no patience right now for fistfuls of made up people names and place names.  Why do names in fantasy novels have to be so complex?  There was one paragraph where about every third word was a complex name.  
  • Leaving this one for now.




Sad Desk SaladSad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose

  • I had this on my TBR for so long that it finally got purged.  Then I got a copy.  
  • Sometimes snarky chick lit is the only thing that hits the spot.


Jefferson's Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young AmericaJefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America by Catherine Kerrison


  • This book already made me look up the Articles of Confederation because I couldn’t remember exactly who was in charge between the end of the Revolution and George Washington’s first term.  Answer – pretty much no one.
  • I also didn’t know that Jefferson was Governor of Virginia during the Revolution.  Why didn’t I remember that? 
  • All I actually remembered was the lyrics of Cabinet Battle 1 from Hamilton, “And another thing, Mr. Age of Enlightenment, Don’t lecture me about the war, you didn’t fight in it”.  Not exactly fair.  He did spend a lot of time running from the British who were trying to capture him.  

The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon #1)The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews


  • It is amazing to me how you can tell in the first few pages if a book is going to be a good fit. A good historical romance feels like sinking into a warm and cozy bed.
29 Aug, 2018

The Pineapple Quilt

/ posted in: Quilting

About a month ago one of my coworkers asked me out of the blue if I had finished any quilts lately.  I was offended.  She knows better.  She knows I only start quilts and then they live half-done forever in my basement.

I was also a bit concerned because actually I was applying myself diligently to finishing a quilt for her for her rapidly upcoming wedding.


Yes, I hope ya’ll are sitting down, I finished a quilt project!


I’ve always wanted to do a pineapple quilt block quilt but that’s a lot of work. I had only seen them paper pieced. I found a handy dandy ruler that made it a whole lot easier to do.


I made the whole thing mostly with scraps from my magical scrap bin. No matter how many times I dug in there I always found more jewel tones to work with, even if I was sure I had emptied it of useable stuff the time before. I only messed up once and used the same dark fabric in the same block.

I also decided in midstream to make this quilt as you go.


I sewed together each row of 4 blocks and then layered and quilted them. I used the fussiest way possible to join them together but you can’t tell I did anything unusual from the front. There is just a folded under edge of the backing where each row is joined together on the back.


I added borders the same way. I had a different plan for the borders but hated it once I started piecing it. I got the husband’s opinion. He got all nervous and told me that supported me in everything I do. I told him that I was hating what I was doing so critique away. I might have created a monster. He had unsolicited opinions about binding colors and fabric selection after the one day when I asked for his thoughts.

It is at its new home now. I finished with 2 days to spare. I didn’t know how to act with that much wiggle room.


24 Aug, 2018

Thoughts While Reading.

/ posted in: Reading

These are my actual feelings and reactions while I’ve been reading books this week.  It isn’t as formal as a review but a little more structured than live tweeting.  Also these are real thoughts so it gets mouthy.

  • I know we win in the end but this is a super stressful book.
  • I want to go back in time and hug all the suffragettes who didn’t live to see the amendment pass.  It was 80 years from the beginning of the fight until ratification.
  • I have a life philosophy that you will always be on the right side of history if you just oppose the conservative American Christian church.  Works in 1919 and it works now.
  • The arguments that the anti-suffrage women used are the exact ones that I see conservative women still making.  You could put any of these biddies on FauxNews and they’d fit right in.
  • I’m going to give Eleanor Roosevelt a pass for being anti-suffrage at this point in her life because eventually her husband will piss her off enough to push her to the feminist side.
  • Edith Wilson does not get a pass.  This bitch is the de facto President of the United States after her husband’s stroke at the same time that she mouthing off about how women can’t handle politics.
  • Also, the lady that campaigned to start Barnard College when she couldn’t enroll at Columbia was anti-suffrage.
  • There were so many female full time political activists campaigning against suffrage on the grounds that women can’t be lowered to get into politics.  Do they even hear themselves talk?
  • Miriam Leslie – I want to read a book about her.  She became a publishing mogul and left all her money to the suffrage effort. 







  • I’m sort of scared to read this book.  Michael Pollan turned everyone who read Omnivore’s Dilemma into raging foodies.  Am I going to start craving psychedelics?
  • The husband says I can’t do everything that Michael Pollan tells me to do.  Well, he’s not the boss of me!  Apparently Michael Pollan is.
  • There is a report on using mushrooms with terminal cancer patients to get them past a fear of death.  A coworker was discussing her fear of death the other day.  Maybe she needs more magic mushrooms in her life?
  • I told her she needs mushrooms.  She said she will take it under advisement.  Good deed for the week – done. 









Ok now, this hero is a world class jerk.

Seriously, I would have DNFed this one already if it wasn’t an author that the Twitter hive mind recommends. That’s the only thing keeping me reading.

Now this fool actually is carrying on about how her body belongs only to him even though he hasn’t seen her in years.  Nope.  I hope an anvil falls on his head.

So much of this plot would be resolved by an honest conversation between characters.  I hate that.  

The plot is that they were courting but his family disapproved.  He went to the Army and was reported killed.  She married.  Now years later he is home and she is widowed.  He keeps showing up and making snide comments about her being a slut.  She slept with you, you dumbass.  That seems to be very poor judgement, I grant, but you have no room to talk.

Ew, in the middle of threatening her his interior monologue is all, “Why won’t she do what I want?  I’m such a nice guy.”

This dude is a majorly entitled asshole.  He doesn’t care who tells him no.  He ignores them, jumps to some erroneous conclusion, gets all offended on his own injured behalf, and then does whatever he wants.

In case you can’t tell, I’ve totally moved into hate-reading now.

She couldn’t have loved her late husband, he has decided.  After all her husband wasn’t him.  Jerk.

Oh!  If she’ll just admit she has regrets about her life he’ll forgive her.  FORGIVE HER!  She needs to stab this fool.

Oh bloody hell, he magnamously told her he’d forgive her and is pouty that she’s not overjoyed.  Kick him!

This man never heard of No Means No. He’s trampling all over her refusal of him and when she is finally able to get away from him, he decides she must be hysterical.

He thinks all this asshole behavior isn’t wrong. It makes him a man.

Now he broke into her bedroom and he gets it into his head that there’s another man there and wants to beat him up.

I never stopped hating him. He didn’t get an anvil dropped on his head. I am sad.