Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weeks 16 and 17: Project 365, the 2015 Edition

You might want to get a cup of coffee or tea and maybe a snack, because this could take a while. Besides having two weeks worth of photos, I share our bathroom door drama and include a bonus at the end.

Wednesday, April 15

Since we're having gorgeous, sunny weather Ivan has spent almost every siesta scraping, sanding, cleaning or painting. Here's a shot of him painting the rejas (bars) on the kitchen window:

Thursday, April 16

Windows, window frames and rejas all done! Here's a shot of each window from the outside:
(left: kitchen; right: bedroom)

We're going to paint the exterior of the casita a soft gray (Sherwin Williams Gray Screen #7071), but the cement "frame" around each window will be painted the same bright white as the windows and rejas.

Friday, April 17

Just because the windows are done doesn't mean Ivan's finished with the aberturas -- he still has the door, door frame and screen door to do. Ivan needed to replace the rusty screen that was on the used door, anyway, and this made it a lot easier to paint the frame:

Saturday, April 18

Ivan went to a men's retreat this weekend while I participated in the virtual retreat I talked about in my last post. I also decided to paint the bathroom door and frame. We bought the bathroom and bedroom doors at a salvage place, and they were in pretty rough condition. We cleaned them up but they seriously needed a paint job. But until recently, we haven't had space in the garage to work on projects like this. Early Saturday morning Ivan took the door off the hinges and carried it to the garage for me before he left. Then I sanded, cleaned and taped off the door frame:
Like I said, very rough condition.

Sunday, April 19

Ivan and the three guys who went with him to the retreat had a wonderful time. I borrowed a few photos from the camp's Facebook page to create a little collage. Top right photo, the three on the far left are the ones who went with Ivan: Sebastian is in the maroon shirt, and sitting on the short wall next to him are Charlie and Joaquin. Lower right photo is a shot of just Charlie and Joaquin. The organizers asked Ivan to say a few words at the beginning of the retreat.
Some of you may remember Charlie from years past. He was Ivan's right-hand-man when we started working on the property and there were a number of photos of him in my P365 posts that year (2012).

Wednesday, April 22

So we've had a bit of bathroom door drama the past few days, and I didn't remember to take photos until the door was back on its hinges.

As soon as I applied the first coat of paint to the door frame on Saturday morning, I knew it wasn't going to work. We painted the interior of our casita bright white, to try and visually expand our very small space (395 square feet total), and this paint was not a true white so it looked very dirty and dingy next to our bright white walls. I decided to apply one coat to everything and then wait until Monday when we could get some bright white for the second coat.

Ran into another problem, though. After he carried the door to the garage, Ivan had quickly filled in on the bottom of one side of the door where several chunks of veneer had come off. He'd instructed me to let it dry, then sand it before painting. Only it never dried! Not the whole weekend. It was still soft and kind of tacky on Monday morning. So I left that side alone and applied one coat to the other side.

Which is fine because, in the end, Ivan ended up scraping the paint off both sides of the door. And peeling off the filler he'd used.

The paint that was on the doors when we bought them did not pass the "scratch test" -- which test Ivan had not thought to do before he left for the retreat, since I decided to paint the door sort of last minute and he was in a bit of a hurry. We also discovered that, in the rush on Saturday morning, Ivan had inadvertently mixed an oil-based paint with a water-based paint for me to use. So really, all in all, it's a good thing I had not done much painting.

Once he'd scraped all the paint off, peeled off the weird-filler-that-never-dried and re-did it with another filler and sanded that down, it was my turn to show the door some bright white love. It required three coats, so between coats and drying time, it took all of Tuesday and part of Wednesday.

It's impossible to get a photo of the whole door, from either side, because the space is just too tight, so here's the best I can do:
This was taken from the corner of the hallway so you see the top of my washer. And it's before Ivan put the hardware back on the door.

Friday, April 24

On our walk today we noticed this house had gotten a new paint job:
Took this with Ivan's phone so you can't see it very well, but that bush in front of the fence has bright orange flowers the exact same shade as the paint. And they have a bunch of these bushes all over the yard. Can't you just imagine the owner taking a flower to the paint store to color match it?

Saturday, April 25

Skyped briefly with Tina this afternoon, and asked her which of the quilt designs she liked best so far. I'm not sure how many I've sent her altogether; maybe 5-6? About a week ago I'd revisited one of my earlier designs, doing two different color versions (the design I shared on P365, April 2nd):
She said she really liked the color-blocked version (on the right) where I used green as the main color for the rectangles, coral for the circles and aqua for the triangles, with lots of grays and whites mixed in. I hope to get started on the quilt soon. I plan to do each shape section separately and then join them. That will let me try to balance the middle, circular section the best.

Sunday, April 26

During church we decided to see if Charlie and Joaquin wanted to come over for lunch. Since it wasn't a planned thing, I had to quickly come up with a menu. As soon as I got home, I made dessert (chocolate pudding) so it could be chilling while I fixed the rest of lunch. I let it sit on the counter to cool down for a bit, then put it in the fridge. After we ate lunch, the guys went out to the garage and I decided I'd put the puddings in the freezer to cool even quicker. But when I went to open the fridge, I shrieked and pulled my hand back quickly...
Y'all, this was on the handle on my refrigerator -- one very big spider! You'd better believe I waited until Ivan came in to take care of it. I. Do. Not. Like. Spiders. At. All.

Tuesday, April 28

The scraping, sanding, cleaning and painting during almost every siesta continues. Ivan finished the front door last night, but it was too dark to get a decent photo. Here's from outside:

And here's from inside:
Love the soft butter yellow color. (Also seriously love having a screen door!) Ivan's going to build me  some kitchen cabinets with a long counter top, and I plan to paint the cabinets the same butter yellow.


While trying to get a photo of the door, I thought now would be a good time to take photos of the rest of my kitchen. I'm pretty sure I haven't shared any photos since right after we first moved in 2-1/2 years ago. I'm going to share six photos, starting at my front door and moving around so you can get an idea of the space. It's tiny and we've packed a lot into it! This serves as our kitchen, dining room, and it's also where I come to sit and read late at night or early in the morning when I can't sleep.
I'm standing at my front door looking kitty-corner across the room in this first photo. My father-in-law built the hutch many years ago, and we 'borrowed' it from the house in Sta. Rosa. I have a very colorful mix of canisters, as you can see. Not by choice; it's what I've managed to cobble together. The few canisters I've picked up here have ill-fitting lids and are not airtight, so I'm constantly on the lookout for tried-and-true Tupperware whenever we go to the states. You'll also see the bottled water set-up next to it. Our water has a weird taste, plus I've been nervous about drinking water from the tap ever since our first year when I ended up with parasites and was so sick.
Now I'm standing in front of the window looking straight ahead. The kitchen is 9 feet wide, which was just enough to fit the stove, sink and fridge on that far wall. Do you see the small bit of countertop space I have on either side of the sink? Now you know why I'm excited about the cabinets-with-long-countertop that Ivan is going to build me! Oh, and I'll repaint this cabinet butter yellow, too, to match the ones Ivan's building. You can just see the big basket I keep on the floor, in front of my 'pantry'. Inside one end of the basket is a large ceramic container and I've stuck my most frequently used, long-handled utensils in that. On the other end of the basket I've shoved in rolls of aluminum foil, wax paper, etc.
Now I'm by the bookshelf facing the corner with the stove, instant hot water heater mounted above, and apron hanging on the wall. I am messy in the kitchen, so that apron gets a lot of use. The bookshelf is my 'pantry', and next to it is the dresser-I-pretend-is-a-buffet. I keep tablecloths, the hand crank meat grinder, spices and a bunch of other stuff crammed in the drawers. The KitchenAid stand mixer and crock pot sit on top, under fabric covers I made, the coffee grinder which gets used every morning, and that's also where I keep my oils and vinegars. Ivan built the shelf unit above when we lived on Canning Street, to house our toaster oven and the transformer (that I need for my American-made-for-110 appliances). This is the wall where we'll put the new cabinets Ivan's going to make. It will replace the 'pantry' and the 'buffet' as well as the hutch (which we'll take back out to Sta. Rosa).
Standing in front of the fridge, facing the front door. Wondering what that thing with the valve is on the shelf next to the toaster oven? It's a CO2 canister that Ivan uses to turn plain water into soda water. We have quite a collection of recycled soda bottles that we can use over and over. We like agua con gas, so we were pretty excited when Ivan found the valve necessary to 'gas' our own bottles.
Standing in front of the sink looking across at the window. The chair below has a tablecloth covering it now, but I plan to reupholster it. One of the many things on my "to do" list. I wish we'd hung a longer curtain rod to completely cover the window when it's open, but we moved in during winter and didn't even think about how it would look when the window was open. I do want to switch out the curtains so maybe that would be a good time install a longer curtain rod, too.
And finally, standing in front of the stove, looking kitty corner at the lone bookshelf. I have to use one shelf for some bowls and my steamer, but otherwise, the bookshelf serves its primary purpose, which is to hold books and magazines. All our other bookshelves are in Sta. Rosa, as are most of our books (I'm constantly rotating books from there to here, and back again).

So there you have it, my 9' x 15' kitchen/dining room. There's not a lot of space around the table and chairs but once we take the hutch back to Sta. Rosa, we'll scoot the table and chairs against that wall and I anticipate the room will feel downright spacious at that point. (By the way, this is a folding table from Sam's Club that measures just under 2' x 4'.) The bookshelf stays. I have to have at least one bookshelf!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Release Retreat

I went to a retreat this weekend -- right in my own home. An online community of overseas workers held a virtual retreat, with almost 700 from 92 countries participating. Mostly we flew solo, although some gathered in small groups to watch the videos together and then separated to work on their journals and pray. The team who put this together also suggested including other activities (music, doing something creative, a little pampering maybe) and while my intentions were good, I didn't actually pull any of that off. But I did hear of one group who got together and hired a masseuse to come in and give them all massages. Sounds wonderful! Even without the extras, though, I thoroughly enjoyed the retreat.

I wasn't able to print the journal they provided, but I saved it as a PDF and kept it open on my desktop, then took notes in my every day journal. Keeping in mind I'm an avid note taker, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I have 21 full pages of notes. I plan to type them up (and tidy up while I'm at it) so I can easily refer back to them, long after I've finished up the journal and packed it away.

I love how God orchestrated the timing, which couldn't have been better! It just so happened Ivan went to a men's retreat this weekend and I had the house to myself, allowing me to fully focus on the retreat experience.

I have a lot to share, but there was just so much it will take time to process. And then I have to decide how much to put out there. I've had a mental block for a long time when it came to blogging. I struggled with what to share, how much to share, when to share. Even before the retreat (just last week in fact) I read a wonderful post that articulated so well why we need to be careful on this very public forum: We have to go beyond deciding if it's our story to tell, we also have to determine whose story is it to hear? That encapsulates so well the thoughts that have been rattling around in my head.

But as I sort it all out, both what I've learned and what's okay to share publicly, I'll be posting my thoughts. I'd like to end with one of the passages of Scripture included in the journal for the retreat. I appreciate the way the intent is expressed in The Message. I hope it encourages you, as it did me.

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of the Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me -- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:27-30 (emphasis mine)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Weeks 14 and 15: Project 365, the 2015 Edition

Wednesday, April 1

We are harvesting the last of our vegetables. Ivan was disappointed with the yield from his container garden this year, but I've enjoyed every tomato, pepper, lettuce leaf as well as the dill, basil, mint and other herbs.
It was a very rainy year, and our theory is that it was just too much for a container-style garden. Oh well, there's always next year!

Thursday, April 2

The sketching of various quilt designs continues; this is the first one that I kind of liked.

Saturday, April 4

Ivan spent the day helping a friend paint their new apartment and while he was gone, I decided it was as good a time as any to start the online photography class I'd signed up for through Craftsy. The teacher uses a Nikon so the first thing I had to do was download the user's manual for my Canon Rebel Xsi. It took me a couple of hours to get through a 25 minute lesson, since I had to keep stopping to look things up in the manual. I realize I have a LOT to learn, and this was only the first lesson, so I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. But seriously? My photography skills are saaaaad.
Rain kept me inside, so my options for practicing with different types of light were limited. These are just a few of the many photos I took of my glass of water. Hopefully when I get done with the course, I'll be able to look back and see how far I've come!

Sunday, April 5

Easter Sunday!
We went to church early for a devotional followed by breakfast before the regular morning service. In Argentina, breakfast means bread. Everyone brought a variety of breads, mostly sweet. My contribution included a few leftover GF lemon and raisin scones from Friday and a fresh batch of GF cheesy biscuits.
(Disclosure: This is a borrowed photo since I forgot my camera and my photos with the iPhone were less than stellar.)

A number of people brought coffee, and there were a few mat├ęs being passed around too (the herbal tea so prevalent here).

Monday, April 6

We had to make a trip into Cordoba, and decided to go a little early so I could check out a fabric store. Took a while to find one -- it's been a few years since I'd been to the really big one and we never did find it, but did find a smaller one. Then we got lost going back to the car. Ivan stopped to see if he could figure out where it was on his phone's GPS...
...but our cellular service is worthless. You'd think it would work better in the capital of the province than anywhere, wouldn't you? We'd stopped in front of a barbershop so when it became apparent the phone wasn't going to work, I went inside and asked the barber and he was able to head us in the right direction. I knew the parking lot was near the corner of Rivadavia and Lima but had been confused about which street the parking structure faced.

Tuesday, April 7

The trip to the fabric store confirmed my suspicions that finding good quality quilting cotton here is not an option. Getting 100% cotton fabric in any form is difficult. So this morning I went through all the boxes of fabric stored in the garage, as well as the dresser out there where I keep a good assortment. Thankfully I found enough for my project.

Wednesday, April 8

A few days before we'd gone to the one and only vegetable store that occasionally has cilantro. It's always packed with people; besides having a greater variety than most places, they are also centrally located in the heart of old downtown. Anyway, Ivan bought some cilantro -- or so he thought. When I went to make salsa today, we discovered it was in fact parsley, not cilantro. So instead of me making salsa, Ivan made chimichurri! Ivan's is the best in my opinion; he uses the perfect ratio of parsley to garlic to oil and vinegar.
Normally he chops everything by hand but he decided to try making it in the blender this time.

Thursday, April 9

We started out the morning with a nice walk along the river. Someone is grazing their horses in the public areas. Makes a pretty picture, doesn't it?
But it does mean you have to be very careful where you walk.

Late morning we went to visit Magdalena, whose husband died last month. She went to Cordoba with us when we bought foam a few weeks ago and she'd asked Ivan to come over and cut it for her. Did you know the best thing to use for cutting foam is an electric knife? I found one at a garage sale a few years back while we were in the U.S. and it has come in handy on several occasions. We ended up staying for lunch and a nice long visit.

Back at home, we received a message from our friend Jennie that her husband, John, had died peacefully in his sleep. I've known John and Jennie since I was 16. He was the pastor who led me to Jesus almost forty years ago. Some of you may have already read my tribute to him here on the blog. We're so thankful for his life and legacy. This is a photo from their 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

Friday, April 10

I shared this photo (from a few years ago) on Facebook today in honor of National Siblings Day.
My sister and I have so many shared memories that it only takes a word or phrase to have us both rolling on the floor laughing like hyenas.

Sunday, April 12

Still sketching...
This time I used colored pencils, but with no gray I had to use black to shade in the gray blocks. So picture the background with soft grays and whites, 'kay? And should I decide to use this design, the actual quilt will look only vaguely like this. I just wanted an idea of what it would look like to do pieced circles on a pieced background.

And the coral border might end up being blue instead. Sort of depends on if it's a boy or girl. Yes, you read that right. We're going to be grandparents again! Kyle and Tina are expecting in November, about a month before Simon turns two. Woot!

Monday, April 13

Ivan's been working on the exterior of the casita for a couple of months; a few hours here, a few hours there. He had to clean and sand the front portion that had previously been painted, then lightly sand the section we had freshly plastered a couple years ago. He also applied two coats of sealer and patched all the wall cracks. So the front and one side are ready to paint, but first he wants to get the windows done. That requires cleaning and sanding the frames and bars so the paint will adhere.
I took this photo early in the morning. He did get the other window (in the bedroom) painted by the end of the day, but of course I forgot to take a picture of that. It's one of those jobs that's a lot more tedious and time consuming than you think it will be. So he still has to do the kitchen window frame and bars as well as the screen door. Poco a poco.

Tuesday, April 14

We harvested the last of the cabbage leaves today.
I fried up a mess of potatoes, onions and cabbage for lunch, to go along with the black beans I cooked overnight in the crockpot and a fresh pone of cornbread.
Not the best picture, but Yum!

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Spiritual Legacy

The man who led me to Jesus is now with Him. His wife Jennie, my 'nother mother as I call her, sent me a message yesterday afternoon letting me know.
Sometimes it's really hard to be so far away from friends and family. I'd so dearly love to be able to wrap my arms around my sweet friend and hug her tight. I'd also like to be able to sit and swap stories and laugh and cry with the family and their large circle of friends. John had such an impact in so many lives, and leaves a strong spiritual legacy. Each of us has our "John stories", some so funny you can't help but hoot with laughter and others so tender they bring tears to your eyes.

I met John Sholly almost 40 years ago, when I was selling things for some club or another at school and he bought a bunch of stuff. He always did; all the kids knew he was a soft touch and he was usually the first stop when you had candy or knickknacks or whatever to sell.

At the time John was pastoring two churches in Southeastern Kentucky, one at the mouth of Hell-Fer-Certain Creek and the other up Sheol. Here's an old photo of John at Sheol. He needed that big red truck to get to the church. There wasn't much of a road, and at one point (at least) you had to go through the river bed. I remember some nail-biting trips, especially one time when John was sick and I went with Jennie. The river was running high and I wasn't sure we'd get through. But that woman can drive. We made it to the church -- and on time!
John and Jennie poured themselves into the youth in the area, opening their home for all manner of activities and meals. They put together a choir with kids from up and down the Confluence area and "took the show on the road", traveling to churches and camps in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland. We often made the local newspaper with our various trips and activities at the church.
I was part of the Brethren Bunch for two years, despite the fact that I can't carry a tune in a bucket. The group was more about opportunity and grace, and less about talent. John and Jennie went way beyond forming a choir. During every trip they tried to include something special, whether it was visiting a synagogue to learn about the Jewish faith or stopping to see the battlefield at Antietam.
(Can you find me? Hint: I'm the one wearing a brace.)

Without a doubt, the trip most of us remember best is the one to Washington, D.C. where we swarmed the downtown streets, fascinated that we were outnumbered by foreigners in our own national capital. We visited the Smithsonian and Washington Monument, toured the White House and sang on the Capitol steps. What an amazing experience for kids fresh from the mountains of Appalachia!

We never knew what John would throw into the mix. We were aware that we could be called on at any moment to quote a chapter of scripture from memory. Some were much better at this than others (ahem). But we might also be asked to state our address -- not an easy thing to do when we didn't have street names or numbers but rather hollers and creeks. And John could be very creative in how he introduced us. None of us will ever forget the time we became "Harry Nostril and the Nine Nasty Nose Pickers" at a camp in Ohio.

John and Jennie were instrumental in my going to Grace College, when they paid the registration fee and took me to visit the school. They also came to visit during my first year away from home.
Less than a year later John was one of three pastors who officiated at our wedding, and Jennie played special music for the ceremony. They also bailed us out of a tight spot by donating a Plymouth Satellite to use on our honeymoon after Ivan's little VW Bug died a sudden and painful death (the engine seized) the week before we got married.

It wasn't the first time John had provided a vehicle for me; it was actually the third! But we won't talk about how I managed to total a beautiful Chrysler New Yorker within the first eight days and a second vehicle within four months. (Yes, this is how I came by the nickname "Crash", but we won't talk about that either.)

John and Jennie continued to be a part of our family and our life, making regular visits and calls back and forth from wherever we were living as both families bounced around. There we were in Indiana while they were in Iowa, now they've moved to Michigan while we head to Florida...

They drove down to Florida to see us shortly after Tina was born. She was too little to do more than coo at her "Uncle" John and "Aunt" Jennie but our son Jon, who is named after John, thoroughly enjoyed all the attention they gave him. We have lots of sweet memories from that visit, including Key lime pie and walks on the beach, and a trunk load of grapefruit that caused the car to drag from all the weight.

Then it was our turn to visit them in Michigan. You know that saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" This is a perfect example.
Looks like a couple guys playing instruments while our kids look on. But there's so much more to it! Yes, there's the element of music and reminds us of all the music-making going on in the Sholly household. That cabinet serves as a lovely backdrop but what the casual observer wouldn't know is that the lower cabinet is the same one our daughter crawled into with the cookie jar, stuffing her face with so many cookies she couldn't even talk when we finally found her (and where she picked up the nickname Cookie). The uninitiated would not realize this was taken in the home where John and Jennie were houseparents to boys with multiple impairments, or that this visit would propel us into a similar position with the same organization a year later.

This organization had a main campus and four group homes. Which meant four sets of houseparents, and by the grace of God, we were all believers. The men worked together to provide activities for the boys in our care. Camping trips, days out on the boat, games of pick-up basketball... It would not have been possible to stick with that job as long as we did (nine years) had we not viewed it as a ministry -- because John and Jennie viewed it as a ministry and set the example.

The guys also shared their hobbies and skills and enjoyed spending time together. Before long three of the four men had British MG sports cars. They were always helping one another with construction projects at the group homes. It was a community-within-a-community. We were there for one another when things got tough. After John had ear surgery, Ivan was taking him home when they passed an MG parked along side the road. John suggested that could be Ivan's next project, to which Ivan replied he didn't need any more projects. About ten miles down the road, John turns to Ivan and asks, "What's a garage egg?" hahahaha  That's what he heard instead of project, and the phrase has stuck.
(One of the other houseparents created this fun magnet.)

Despite the fact that we moved six thousand miles away, we've continued to stay in touch, via email, Facebook and an occasional Skype chat as well as visits whenever we are stateside. John and Jennie also remained a part of our kids' lives. When Tina graduated from college and friends gave an open house for her in Jonesville, John and Jennie shared in the celebration.

It was a joy during a recent furlough to attend their 50th wedding anniversary celebration. What a blessing it has been to know them for most of that time and see how God has worked in and through them.

The last time we saw them, we stopped in to say goodbye and ended up in the garage where John was working on another 'garage egg'. This time a sign for their church. This is a good example of how John liked to use his talents to help and benefit others.

That was last Spring. We knew they'd both been struggling with various health issues, and John's had heart problems for years. So the news of his passing isn't altogether a surprise, and yet we are never ready for the death of a loved one. My prayer is that those who gather for the funeral will remember the way John loved to make people laugh, the way he could light up a room by just walking in, and the way he always, ALWAYS brought the conversation around to what God was doing. We have many special, wonderful memories but for me the most important one is the 40-year-old memory of John making clear the way of life through faith in the Lord Jesus. I remember him pounding the steering wheel as we traveled to Grace College, 8 hours there and 8 hours back. I was a captive audience and John made sure that I understood the Gospel before that trip was over. It was because of his life and testimony that I came to know Jesus as Savior.

I'm only one of many whose lives He touched. I'm sure in the coming days, there will be a lot of love flowing in person and through social media for the family. Lots of photos and memories will be shared. I'm going to close with a photo I borrowed from their daughter's Facebook page. They took a serious family shot at Christmas, but I like this one so much better. It truly captures a wonderful, fun, typical moment in the life of our friend.

We rejoice and grieve. I know that John is rejoicing! He's with Jesus and he's been reunited with Arjay, his son who died 30 years ago. I can only imagine how sweet both reunions were, and how much John is enjoying heaven right now. At the same time, we will miss him. Miss his booming laugh and quirky smile. Miss his prayers and encouragement. Miss his friendship and love. We will miss him.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

My reading has been wildly sporadic the past month and a half. There were a lot of busy days where I was doing good just to read a blog post or two that's delivered right to my email. We also had a couple short trips to Sta. Rosa when I had more time to read and devoured whole books in a day.

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay 
3/5  This is the only book I completed from my waiting list. (I've started one of the others but am having a hard time getting into it.) Decent writing, formulaic plot, mostly sympathetic characters. Lizzy is a chef who's lost her edge. Jane is her sister who is battling cancer. The two have been estranged since their mother died. Lizzy goes to help for a few days and ends up staying much longer. The most interesting premise of the book -- Lizzy developing food that tastes good to those whose taste buds have been altered by chemotherapy -- is never fully developed, which is why I rated this a 3 rather than 4.

Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay
4/5  I liked "Lizzy and Jane" enough to see what else Reay had written, and have to say I liked "Dear Mr. Knightly" better. It didn't get a 5 because I felt the ending was expected and rushed. Samantha is a graduate student who receives a full scholarship with some interesting strings attached: She must write regularly to her mysterious benefactor. I liked the way the letters were used to move the story along.

The Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook
4/5  I read this mainly because it was touted as a good book club choice. Noreen, Tess and Rosie are about as different as you can get, but they're neighbors and end up forming a walking club. The book follows the three as they work toward a goal of walking a certain amount and then treating themselves to a trip (a lavender festival in Washington state). I enjoyed the stories-with-the-story, and the secondary characters (Noreen's mom, Rosie's dad, some random teacher whose classroom Tess has decided to "adopt"). What I didn't enjoy as much was Noreen's romantic thread, which I thought was seriously overworked (a pet peeve I have with most chick lit). My favorite thing about the book was just seeing how these women support one another, even when they're out of sorts and cranky. I've kind of got a 'bee in my bonnet' about how women treat one another (which you already know if you're my friend on Facebook ;)

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
4/5  I don't think I'll ever want to stop reading kiddie lit! No matter the intended target age, a good book is a good book. I wasn't even aware that John Grisham wrote for kids until this one was offered as a Kindle daily deal. I got a kick of how Theo has become the de facto 'lawyer' for the kids at school. This book does a great job of setting up Theo to be the star in a continuing series (four so far and a fifth coming out in May).

Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford
3/5  I'm a sucker for any book that's food related. Rachel Goldman is using her recent divorce settlement to take a year off. She's never learned to cook and decides now is as good a time as any to learn and, while she's at it, she'll blog about the experience. The book moves between her blog posts and her life, and I found the food parts immensely more interesting than the rest. Have I mentioned I'm not normally a fan of chick lit? There's a sameness to these books that I don't appreciate: namely the 'romance' piece that seems too easy and just plain cheap. The only redeeming feature is that in the end Rachel reconciles with her ex-husband. Call me a prude, but I like to see marriage portrayed as a commitment and a covenant, not something you can slip on and off as easily as a pair of shoes...

The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle
5/5  ...Which is why I enjoyed this book so much. Like the blurb says, "Welcome to the story of a real marriage. Marriage is simultaneously the biggest blessing and the greatest challenge two people can ever take on. It is the joy of knowing there is someone to share in your joys and sorrows, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it's a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall." I admit I laughed out loud (actually, hooted is a more accurate term for what I did) as I read this book. Melanie accurately portrays the crazy that ensues when two cultures collide in this thing we call marriage. I've also read Melanie's first book, "Sparkly Green Earrings", where she takes on the topic of motherhood. It was good but "The Antelope" is even better. Her newest book, "Nobody's Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship" is on my wish list.

Love at the Speed of Email by Lisa McKay
4/5  Back in March I read a post by Lisa on "A Life Overseas", saw that she'd written a couple of books and ended up reading this memoir, which I found stranger and more interesting than most fictional love stories. Well written, funny, sensitive and at times heart-wrenching, Lisa writes honestly about growing up a global nomad and how that has affected her. I'm enjoying her blog, too, where she's currently describing their new life in Vanuatu, recently hit by Cyclone Pam.

Claudia Must Die by T. B. Markinson
3/5  This was a freebie and I pushed through to the end, but feel kind of blah about it. Claudia is an abused wife on the run who sees someone who looks just like her, and decides to set that person up to be killed by her crazy gangster husband. The wrong person gets killed and the story keeps taking weird twists and turns right up until the strangely satisfying conclusion.


Expectations and Burnout by Robynn Bliss and Sue Eeingenburg
4/5  I read this last September and knew even then I wanted to read it again, more slowly, in the future. It's the current book club selection for a missionary blog and they're covering one to two chapters a week. This time around I'm taking notes. The only reason this doesn't get a 5 is because at times it becomes bogged down by the research. But overall I found this book to be on target and extremely helpful as it tackles the connection between expectations and burnout on the mission field.

Davita's Harp by Chaim Potok
5/5  Chaim Potok has been one of my favorite authors since I read "The Chosen" about 20 years ago. "Davita's Harp" is my favorite of his works and I've probably read it a dozen times. We enter Davita's life when she is about four or five and follow until her graduation from 8th grade. Her parents are Communists and active members of the Party during the 1930s in New York City. Her mom is a Polish Jew who survived a pogrom. Her father is the son of wealthy Episcopalian New England parents who want nothing to do with him because of his politics, but his sister (a missionary nurse) is a recurring character. So is her mother's Jewish cousin who keeps coming to their rescue as they are routinely turned out of apartment after apartment. This is the story of Davita's gradual journey to the Jewish faith her mother had abandoned.

The only problem with reading Potok is that afterward it's hard to read anything else. When I finished reading "Davita's Harp" this time I found myself starting and deleting book after book on my Kindle; most writers just don't come close to the spare and beautiful prose of Chaim Potok.


I finally gave up on "Frozen Assets"; I was probably 3/5 of the way in but just couldn't force myself to finish it. I haven't finished the other books ("The Gathering Storm" and "The Path Between the Seas") either, but I haven't given up on those. I just wasn't in the mood for such serious material. (I'm sure I'm not the only one who reads according to their mood.) I've had enough serious stuff happening in real life, that I just wanted to read books for fun.

I have a long list of books I want to read, but who knows what I'll have time for, or what I'll feel like reading in the weeks to come. You'll just have to come back in a month or so to find out.