Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Friday, May 25, 2018

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

At the Edge of the Orchard  begins in the mid-1800s with a family struggling to survive in the black swamp area of Ohio. Although the family is fictional, Tracy Chevalier surrounds them with history of that time period. To stake a claim of 100 acres, a family was required to grow 50 apple trees and 20 peach tress within three years. John Chapman (also known as Johnny Appleseed) sold seeds and saplings to the settlers, travelling by boat to the Ohio swamp areas. Seeds were plentiful from cider makers who discarded them and were sold fairly inexpensively, but saplings were more costly for the settlers, making it difficult for them to establish trees in the required time. Along with fighting the bogs to make the ground arable, families also had to contend with sickness that came with the damp areas and mostly carried by mosquitoes.
After a tragedy, the story follows the eldest son, Robert, to the Gold Rush of California where he meets Cornishman William Lobb a plant collector (I'd heard about William Lobb and his brother sometime ago and also mentioned them in Gwinnel Gardens, part of the Lowenna series)  They had carried many plants and seeds from across the world to be established in English gardens. Preparing and shipping plants from America was no easy task as they had to be taken from the ship's hold out to sunlight every other day and watered for several months. Some of the plants were contained in a Wardian case providing a small greenhouse to protect the plants. William Lobb collected and shipped both Redwoods and Giant Sequoias to England.

We sometimes forget how difficult it was for American pioneers, trying to survive and protect their children from ailments for which there was no cure. Travelling across the country was difficult and many chose instead to travel by boat down the east coast of the Americas, around the southern tip, Cape Horn, and then north along the west coast to get to California.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Clotted Cream Recipe

There are lots of English parties planned to celebrate Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding tomorrow and no English tea party is complete without clotted cream. Below is a recipe I've used for years that is similar to the taste and consistency of clotted cream and works great with berries or scones. By the way there are two views on whether to put the jam or the cream on a scone first. If you are in Devon, it's cream first - in Cornwall the strawberry jam is spread first and then the cream.

Mock Clotted Cream
3 oz cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Mix first three ingredients together, add cream.
Beat until stiff (peaks stand up)

Note: it works out at approx. 25 calories per tablespoon.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Reading People by Anne Bogel is a look at different personality types and how to use the information to understand people around you.

One of the comments she made that resonated with me was "I'm in introvert in an extrovert church." For years I've struggled with church. Not the service. If I could find a quiet corner to sit and listen I'd be happy, but they want you to participate, even stopping the service so that people can meet and greet others. For an introvert that's a terrifying moment. Adam McHugh even wrote a book about it Introverts in Church. 

Introverts need regular time for quiet and alone time. They use the sympathetic side of the brain more - their brains are wired differently from extroverts and take a longer path to rest and digest information. Men are slightly more likely to be introvert.

Extroverts think faster and process information quicker, using the fight or flight side of the brain. They take bigger risks and crave stimulation, needing lots of social interaction.

Although we can be both, we are primarily one way or another.

Some personality traits are hereditary: outgoing, reserved, energetic, subdued
Character traits (which I believe are learned): kindness, generosity, honesty, patience.

There are several places to discover personality types:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator - Devised during WWII to help women entering the workforce for the first time to pair them with the type of work according to their type (still used in the work place)
Note: She warns against taking the test without an expert to guide you. There is a simple test, however, at 16 Personalities

David Keirsey defines four personality types.
You can take David Keirsey's test here
Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey

The Clifton Strength Finder focuses on strengths

The Essential Enneagram  test by David Daniels helps to better understand ourselves based on and pinpoints motivations based on nine types

  1. The Reformer - need to be perfect
  2. The Helper - need to be needed
  3. The Achiever - need to succeed
  4. The Individualist - need to be special
  5. The Investigator - need to perceive
  6. The Loyalist - need for security
  7. The Enthusiast - need to avoid pain
  8. The Challenger - need to be against
  9. The Peacemaker - need to avoid
Note: The test cost is $10 or you can purchase The Essential Enneagram to take the test.

Hop on over to Anne Bogel's  blog Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

I've loved all the books I've read by Rhys Bowen and The Tuscan Child is no exception. It begins in Tuscany during WWII in December 1944 and takes the reader to an English manor house in 1973 and then back to Tuscany in the same period while interspersing with the struggles a downed WWII British Air Force pilot has in the Italian hills, trying to avoid the retreating German army. Some of it is a bit reminiscent of the Captain Corelli's Mandolin storyline. The only disappointment I had was that Rhys Bowen didn't include the delicious Italian recipes talked about and prepared in the novel.

Be warned though, you may want to book a flight to Tuscany after reading The Tuscan Child.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner is about two couples whose lives become intertwined. It follows their marriages, friendships and tragedies, travelling between Vermont and Wisconsin. But that's just a brief summary, the story is so much more with Wallace Stegner's beautiful prose and descriptions that fill all the senses. His love for nature and fight for conservation shows through.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman

Sharon Kay Penman is a word artist and adeptly weaves her words around historical figures. Lionheart is the story of the 12th Century English court and the royal family intrigue at the time. This is the first historical novel I've read by Sharon Kay Penman, but I plan to read many more.

From the Cover:
They were called "The Devil's Brood," though never to their faces. They were the four surviving sons of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. With two such extraordinary parents, much was expected of them. But the eldest son, Hal - charming and mercurial and his embittered brother Geoffrey would die young, and it was Richard who would be crowned King of England. Almost immediately after his investiture, he set off for the Holy Land.
A figure of heroic proportions in his own time, Richard today is shrouded in mystery and seeming contradictions, yet the chroniclers in both the Christian and Saracen camps admired him, seeing even his more abrasive qualities as part and parcel of a warrior king. By their accounts Richard the Lionheart was utterly fearless.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy St. George's Day

Saint George, the patron saint of England, never actually set foot in England, but nevertheless his heroism and martyrdom is celebrated in England on April 23rd each year.

Another celebration on April 23rd is the birth of William Shakespeare (Shakespeare is also believed to have died on April 23, 1616).