Saturday, December 31, 2016

What I Read In November & December

 Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? Or will the long, dark winters and pickled herring take their toll?

 A Year of Living Danishly looks at where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.

Helen Russell works as a Scandinavia correspondent for the Guardian and the Independent, as well as writing a column on Denmark for the Telegraph.

I first heard about this book on a podcast for a small independent bookstore in Thomasville, GA (From the Front Porch).  I was intrigued...and it was recommended by Shauna Niequist via Instagram, so how could I resist. 

It is interesting to me how we in America are held up next to these Scandinavian countries and shown lacking in areas like vacation time or family leave...but as I read this book I knew that there is no way in Hades that American's would agree to live under all of those rules. Nor would we agree to that level of taxation. Which made me wonder why those things are never mentioned in the global conversation.  It appears that by limiting your choices you can be happier and healthier.  (Seriously, it would be against the law for me to fly any other flag including my Razorback flag in Denmark...and bicycle lights have to flash exactly 'X' amount of time per minute or they are illegal.)  But are we ready for the loss of choice and the homogenization of our culture to get the things we see in them that we think we want? 

I was just reminded again that everything, even good things, come at a cost.

Only God knew why Jillian Slater agreed to return to New Orleans on the news that her father had finally drunk himself to death. It’s not like they were close. She hadn’t seen him―or her grandmother, the ice queen―in almost 20 years. But when Adella Atwater, the manager of her grandmother’s apartment house, called and said Jillian’s expenses would be paid if she’d fly in for the burial, a free trip to New Orleans was too intriguing to resist.

What Adella didn’t tell her was that the apartment house wasn’t a house at all and, whatever it was, bore the dead weight of a long and painful history. As soon as Jillian meets the odd assortment of renters and realizes that her grandmother had no idea she was coming, she hatches a plan to escape. But the investigation into her father’s death quickly unfolds and Jillian is drawn into the lives of the colorful collection of saints and sinners who pass through Saint Silvanus. She soon discovers there is more at stake than she ever imagined. Who is behind the baffling messages and the strange relics left on the steps? Is it possible that her family is actually cursed? Or is it just this crazy old house that holds them all under its spell?

Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family’s broken history, and despite Adella’s wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus.

I have been waiting for this one to come out.  Beth Moore's first novel!  What else to do but call all of my reading friends and invite them to Book Club.

The story is good.  The characters are rich.  I only wanted to shake Jillian about a hundred times, but I could see why she would respond the way she did.  The location of Saint Silvanus itself became a character in our minds and we spent a lot of time discussing it.  One word of warning...this book is LONG!  We barely finished it before the meeting...but, oh, did we have some great discussions.  It was the perfect novel for my very first Book Club.  Set the table with hurricane lanterns, throw in some seafood gumbo, red beans and rice and a rich bread pudding -- and you've got yourself a nice evening with friends.

It was so much fun we decided to do it again in January!

In October 1843, Charles Dickens ― heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher ― began work on a book to help supplement his family's meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol, has long since become one of the most beloved stories in the English language. As much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe, and evergreen wreaths, this perennial favorite continues to delight new readers and rekindle thoughts of charity and goodwill.

With its characters exhibiting many qualities ― as well as failures ― often ascribed to Dickens himself, the imaginative and entertaining tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge's eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate, and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England's greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

I read A Christmas Carol for the very first time!  It is absolutely lovely! 

I happened to be in Barnes and Noble picking up a gift when I saw a beautiful gift book covered in red satin and I just could not pass it up.  I didn't get to finish it until Christmas Day.  It was very moving and a great reminder of where our hearts and attentions should be during this time of the year.  I had recorded a movie with George C. Scott from 1984 which Jim and I watched that evening. (I honestly don't think I had ever even seen a movie adaptation all the way through!) It was a wonderful way to process this year's Christmas season.  It really should be on my reading list every December.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What I Read In October

October means the beginning of fall (even though temperatures were still well into the 90's most days) and nights curled up with good mysteries.  That was reflective of my reading this month.

A Fatal Grace

Written by Louise Penny
The Second Installment of the Chief Inspector Gamache Series
CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone in the hamlet of Three Pines, right up to the moment she died. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache begins his investigation, it seems like an impossible murder: CC was electrocuted on a frozen lake, in front of the entire town, during the annual curling tournament. With compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find long buried secrets, while his own enemies threaten to bring something even more chilling than the bitter winter winds to Three Pines. Taken from Amazon

I read the first novel in this series a few months ago (Still Life).  I enjoyed being introduced to the people of Three Pines and to the Canadian way of life in a small village.(I can't even imagine all the snow, the toboggans and mittens that are an essential part of their wardrobe -- especially during this Texas heat!)  These characters felt like people I would know -- neighbors, fellow parishioners in a small congregation.  A Fatal Grace returns to Three Pines and several of the characters feature in this novel as well.  However, I didn't love this one.  I have heard it said that the first three books in the series are a bit slippery, as they find their footing for the rest of the series (which is highly acclaimed).  I can see that.  I wasn't as invested in the outcome of this murder investigation...maybe because I figured out half of the plot twist early on...or maybe because I really, REALLY disliked the victim and was just glad that she was out of the picture.  BUT, I will say that my curiosity with the underlying big picture mystery involving the Chief Inspector himself was whetted BIG TIME.  So, I will definitely be reading more of this series.

The Woman In Cabin 10: A Novel

Written by Ruth Ware
Book of the Month: August

From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned. 
Taken from Amazon

Let me just say, Lo drove me crazy!  But that is what she was supposed to do.  I kept wanting to scream at her, "No! Don't do that!" but she just kept going.  It was kind of like watching a scary movie and knowing that the kids shouldn't go into that house...but if they don't go in, there is no movie.  Let's just say, unreliable witness + private cruise ship + mysterious Internet outage = great page turning fun. Was there a woman in Cabin 10?  What happened to her?  What happens to Lo?  You will have to grab this one to find out. 

The Mothers: A Novel

Written by Brit Bennett
Book of the Month: October

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett's mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

"All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we'd taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season."

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother's recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor's son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it's not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a "what if" can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.  
Taken from Amazon

This book!  If you didn't read that second paragraph above, a direct quote from the book, read it now and savor it.  This book is filled with such quotes.  I finally had to grab my post it arrows because there was so much I loved and wanted to go back to.  This is a story of things unsaid, of things said to cover the truth of the heart, of actions taken that changed the course of personal history.  There is heartbreak and strength.  There is reality and the much different appearances - seen through the eyes of a beholder whose vision is clouded.  Then, bringing all the threads together, there are the Mothers, the older women of Upper Room Church where much of this book is set.  Wise. Insightful. Well-meaning. Prayer Warriors.  But also caught up in their own understanding of events, unwilling sometimes to see how they have played into the drama that is unfolding before their very eyes.

This will definitely be one of my favorite books of 2016 -- perhaps of all time.  I am seriously thinking of reading it again because it is that good -- and I wonder what great things I may have missed as I devoured this book in less than 24 hours.  It was a good thing Jim was away on a dove hunt when I picked it up and began reading!

I also finally picked up Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living In A Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman.  I have had this one on my TBR shelf since it came out.  I think I even pre-ordered it because I love Emily so much!  I'm only a chapter into it...but I am looking forward to the read. I think this is one of those books that needed to wait for the right time for me.  I am beginning to think about the need to slow down.  I know it is a combination of things contributing to my sense of rush and hurry...but it is time to take a seat on a bench, like the one on that cover, and have some heart to heart time with the Lord, with my family and with those friends who have earned a place of transparency and intimacy in my life.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What I Did In October

Grandmas Gone Wild 2016

I visited South Padre Island for five days and four nights of making memories with two of my longest and dearest friends.  Not our usual trip but one of us had never visited South Padre before, so it counts!

View from our balcony
At the pool

This is where we spent most of our time!

The Sapphire from the pool

The best place for a morning cuppa is looking out over the water.

CCA Awards

Attended the CCA Awards where one of Jim's fishing buddies won a new boat and trailer for the largest recorded Speckled Trout during the 2016 STAR Tournament.

CCA = Coastal Conservation Association; STAR Tournament =State of Texas Angler's Rodeo
Thad with his plaque.  The boat and trailer were in the parking lot.

Sargent Weekend

Pappaw and Sweet Bailey Rae

Blanket time in the front yard with Bailey and Carter (and Jennifer, too)

This should just say:
"My Happy Place"

Added a little d├ęcor to the porch to make it ours.

"The Strategy of Pairing" (as Gretchen Rubin would say)

Took care of my annual check-up and rewarded myself with dinner and a movie (Storks) with the Ham & Rodgers families.  I did not take a single picture, but we had a blast hanging out at the arcade and then we had the WHOLE THEATRE to ourselves.  We could pick out seats and run around during the movie without bothering a soul.  A good thing since this was Dayton's first trip to a movie theater. 

Abundance: Frisco

This year was Conference Year for our ladies retreat and we decided on a trip to Lifeway's Abundance with speakers like: Angela Thomas-Pharr, Curtis Jones, Lisa Harper, and Lysa Terkeurst.  It is a rather new addition to their conferences and was given a thumbs up by all ten of us!  There was a long road trip, shared cheesecake, honest conversations and ice cream surprises to mix with all the laughter.

Fellowship at Field Store Ladies Retreat 2016

My girl and I

Loved our t-shirts this year!
Thanks for the great design, Peyton!

Teaching a much younger woman (and friend) the glories of Snapchat!
I felt so hip!

Vintage Market

Met up with Robin and Stacy for a fun day at the Market. This was my first visit to the one at the Waller County Fairgrounds.  I feel like Goldilocks in that it wasn't too big or too small, it was just right!  Got some great finds but didn't take pics our adventure. We shopped and shopped, then we drove in to Chappell Hill for lunch at Bevers Kitchen. Yum!
My Vintage Market find of the day:
A box springs tree for the seasons

Brooke's 9th Birthday Brunch: Unicorns

A donut cake for our 9 year old granddaughter

Bailey's 1st Birthday Party: Boho

Bailey and her smash cake

Halloween After Party

They all gathered to go trick or treating about 20 minutes from the house.  Afterwards they came out for dinner, a hay ride through the woods, Halloween Bingo, Pumpkin decorating and Hocus Pocus.
From the back: Kelli (Scarecrow), Bri and Bailey (Twin Pin Up Girls), Meagan (Sugar Skull), Dayton (Half Beard Pirate)
Middle Row: Maddux (Storm Trooper), Brooke (Cleopatra), Davin (Storm Trooper)
Front Row: Ellie (Spider Girl), Delayne (Mermaid) and Weston (Captain America)

AND Lots of Razorback Football: For Better or Worse!

Alcorn State - W
Alabama - L
Ole Miss - W
Auburn - L --- with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an L on her forehead!

The older grands built a fort during one of our football gatherings...complete with fire pit!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

An August Update

Things have been pretty quiet here on the blog lately...but only because we have been so busy that we have not had time to post about all the goings on.

On August 6th the girls and I enjoyed a Girls Night that we have put off for far too long. We had tickets to see Wicked again...and even though this was my third time, it was still great.  I had tears at times because I was so swept up in the story.  The first time we saw it here in Houston I felt that the actress playing Elphaba stole the show.  This performance it was the actress playing Glinda who had me cracking up with her great timing.  This is a show that I saw on Broadway with Rosa years ago and I have to say that the touring version is just as enchanting as the original show.  Again, I have no photo from the night...though I know that one exists on someone's phone -- probably Kelli's.  LOL!

August 9th was Ellie's FOURTH birthday!  Can you believe it?  She and Delayne are growing up so fast.  The party will be in September as the two girls and Weston are going to share a big party instead of having three small ones.  Look for pictures of a Disney Extravaganza!  Elsa, Ariel and Cars all gathered in one place.  It will be a sight, I'm sure.

August 12th was Jim's birthday.  He only wanted a quiet (or as quiet as our family comes) dinner out.  Bri, Josh, Bailey, Meagan, Derrick, Davin, Delayne, Dayton and Will all met us at 'Waller Mexican' (actual name Ceilito Lindo) for dinner and margaritas where we celebrated with lots of laughter and conversation.

On August 13th we surprised Josh with a 30th birthday party at The Barn.  I don't have a single picture of the event but it was something else.  Meagan went out of her way to make it special with lots of black and white and a candy bar filled with all of his favorite things.  I did the cooking for the taco bar with some out of this world pork carnitas that Jim and I had for breakfast before the big party because it was so good!  It was a miserably hot day...but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and we had a great time celebrating Josh with some of his closest family and friends.

And because two birthdays, two days in a row is not enough for me...on Sunday, August 14th I met up with Robin and Kelley for a Girls Night out at the Gwen Stefani concert at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.  It was raining cats and dogs, but we had covered seating and the clouds parted for our walk into and out of the venue.  We had a good time.  Gwen was a good entertainer and the show was good -- except Robin kept hoping that Blake would come out and sing a duet with her.  Unfortunately, Gwen had performed in Dallas the night before and he made his appearance there instead of Houston.

Last Saturday, August 20th, we had our annual Ladies Progressive Dinner at church.  It's been raining for weeks and it was the last weekend before school started...but we had a good turn out.  There were ten of us that visited three different homes for our Pink Flamingo themed party.  The invitations and posters read, "Let's Flamingle," which I thought was adorable.  But one of our hostesses took it even further and made us all 'to go cups' that read, "Keep Calm and Flamingle On!"  Now that is precious!  

We invited all of the kids over for Sunday dinner and a Spades tournament.  Meagan and family, Bri and Bailey, Jim and I enjoyed a traditional pot roast with one of the best corn casseroles I've ever had.  It came from the refrigerated section at Sam's and was worth every penny!  We never made it to Spades, but decided to play Farkle instead so that Davin and Delayne could join in the fun.  After Jim slaughtered us at Farkle, Delayne and I went to watch a movie so that the rest of the family could play Clue with Davin.  It was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon after church.  

This weekend we will be heading down to Sargent for a few days and next weekend Jim and I will be heading to Arkansas to visit Mother and do some work at the deer lease.  Next thing you know the holidays will be upon us and the year will be over!  

Brian has been staying with us for the past week and a half.  He is in the process of moving back to the Houston area and is now working for Custom Fire Protection.  He is learning the design process of the company.  He returns to San Marcos this weekend to pick up his furniture and will be moving in with roommates just minutes from the office.  I know he will glad about that.  He is not a big fan of the hour drive he has from the house right now!  It will be good to have him around more often.  We have missed him while he has been away.  

Anyway, that's what has been going on with us this month.  September brings more birthdays, more parties and a return to Bible study for me.  What are you looking forward to in September?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

For Your 5th Birthday

We miss you everyday!
See you soon.
With all our love,
Nonna & Pappaw

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday #14

October 24, 2015 
Tracy Lawrence 
Redneck Country Club
Ever our event coordinator,
Robin planned a great evening for us at Redneck Country Club

Tracy Lawrence performing

Robin even arranged a Meet and Greet for us girls. Since Kelley or I neither one are real big on Meet and Greets (unless it's Brantley Gilbert for me or George Strait for her) we decided to take our picture with Tracy together.  He really seemed to be a genuine guy who enjoys what he does and appreciates his fans.
His talent is undeniable.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday #13

October 27, 2015
Time to Pay the Piper!

I lost a football bet when Josh's Texas A&M Aggies beat my beloved Arkansas Razorbacks last fall. He took his time in delivering the flag that I was required to fly throughout the remainder of the football season. But boy, did he do it up good for me!
Darth Vader and Texas A&M
It is a fitting slogan though as I was sure that my Razorbacks could pull out the Win!

My office was filled with maroon and white balloons.  I broke out in laughter and hives just walking in...but I left it just like this until the balloons finally fell.

My office after the balloons fell.  You can't even see the chair that sits in front of my desk.  We chased down stray ones for a week!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Wish You Were Here

I woke up this morning feeling:


Today would have been my Daddy's 71st birthday.  

I miss him.
I grieve the loss of him in my life.
I wish that I had done things differently - like call him more often or make a big deal of his birthdays.
I regret that it has been months since I spoke with Donna and Cecily.
I am disappointed in myself.
I feel overwhelmed by all the happenings around me.

But as I sat down with my Bible and prayer journal, I was reminded that:

God is still on His throne.
Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light.
I am forgiven.
God is good...all the time.
The Holy Spirit never leaves me alone.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Throwback Thursday #12

Coastal Conservation Association Concert 
September 26, 2015
Sam Houston Racetrack

Me and My Hero - to get him to a concert is a BIG...I mean H.U.G.E. deal!

My Girlfriends - Robin, Kelley and Stacy
I'm horrible at Selfie's and this was my worst picture -- but my girls sure looked good.

Eddie Money
The Best Show of the Night!

Grand Funk Railroad
Truly, I didn't realize how much of their music I knew by heart.
And the whole reason I went:
Lynyrd Skynyrd
A dream come true for me.

A fur hat, in Houston, in September, at an outdoor theater.
I don't know how he did that!
We also saw Atlanta Rhythm Section & Folk Family Revival.
It was a great night because we were with great friends and they went just because I asked them to.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Some Days Call For A Party Hat

Even if you are just going to dinner at the local Mexican restaurant.

September 25, 2015

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Throwback Thursday #11

Family Vacation Pictorial From August 2015

Last year the kids went together and gave Jim and I our favorite kind of gift -- 
time together with the family.  
Here are our memories in pictures.

There was a giant moon while we were staying at the Sargent house and the way it's light pierced through the clouds onto the water and cast the silhouette of the palm trees on our first night there was eerily beautiful.

I just love this picture of Brian in his pink flamingo shirt.
Such a contrast to that bearded face!

The grands enjoyed long days in the kiddy pool that we set up on the deck.

The house the kids rented was named Pelican Point and the pelicans did not disappoint.
They flew by in groups of three to nearly twenty all day long.

Will and Derrick were Davin's net men for crabbing.
He had two to three crab strings baited with chicken thighs out most of the weekend.
He would run from one to the other yelling, 'net, net, net!'

The sunset over Caney Creek

Brian and Deborah trying a little fishing.

The house had a telescope and this was the best picture that Deborah and I could snap of the moon through it's lens.

Will caught an eel!

Auntie and Dayton enjoying the water

Diva fishing -- and she must be working hard at it.
Look at that tongue.

Maddux, Brooke and Davin as we celebrated Davin's 8th birthday with cake and ice cream.

Our Family

My Hero spent the majority of the trip sitting in this chair with his fishing pole at hand.

The Gang's all here!
Kelli, Matt and the family were only able to make it out for one afternoon and we got family pics while we could!