Wednesday, April 29, 2020

{ You and Me and Us by Alison Hammer - TLC Book Tour }



• Hardcover: 432 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (April 7, 2020)

“Hammer is an expert at both tugging heartstrings and keeping the reader utterly immersed in a world of hope and heartbreak. A great new voice in women’s fiction.”– Kristin Harmel, #1 international bestselling author of The Winemaker’s Wife


The heartbreaking, yet hopeful, story of a mother and daughter struggling to be a family without the one person who holds them together—a perfect summer read for fans of Jojo Moyes and Marisa de los Santos.

Alexis Gold knows how to put the “work” in working mom. It’s the “mom” part that she’s been struggling with lately. Since opening her own advertising agency three years ago, Alexis has all but given up on finding a good work/life balance. Instead, she’s handed over the household reins to her supportive, loving partner, Tommy. While he’s quick to say they divide and conquer, Alexis knows that Tommy does most of the heavy lifting—especially when it comes to their teenage daughter, CeCe.

Their world changes in an instant when Tommy receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, and Alexis realizes everything she’s worked relentlessly for doesn’t matter without him. So Alexis does what Tommy has done for her almost every day since they were twelve-year-old kids in Destin, Florida—she puts him first. And when the only thing Tommy wants is to spend one last summer together at “their” beach, she puts her career on hold to make it happen…even if it means putting her family within striking distance of Tommy’s ex, an actress CeCe idolizes.

But Alexis and Tommy aren’t the only ones whose lives have been turned inside out. In addition to dealing with the normal ups and downs that come with being a teenager, CeCe is also forced to confront her feelings about Tommy’s illness—and what will happen when the one person who’s always been there for her is gone. When the magic of first love brings a bright spot to her summer, CeCe is determined not to let her mother ruin that for her, too.

As CeCe’s behavior becomes more rebellious, Alexis realizes the only thing harder for her than losing Tommy will be convincing CeCe to give her one more chance.

You and Me and Us is a beautifully written novel that examines the unexpected ways loss teaches us how to love.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Photo by Will Byington

About Alison Hammer

Founder of the Every Damn Day Writers, Alison Hammer has been spinning words to tell stories since she learned how to talk. A graduate of the University of Florida and the Creative Circus in Atlanta, she lived in nine cities before settling down in Chicago, where she works as a VP creative director at an advertising agency. You & Me & Us is her first novel.
Find out more about Alison at her website, and connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.


REVIEW:

 Kudos to Alison Hammer!

The very first novel from this new author is set to skyrocket and no doubt find herself many fans along the way.

You and Me and us tells the story of a family of three.  Tommy the father who has been dealt a huge devastating hand, in the form of terminal cancer.  His wife Alexis is a hard working woman who built her own advertising agency from the ground up.  Day in and day out, she has thrown herself into her work and indirectly unbalanced the home/work relationship.

And then we have CeCe the teenager, close to her father, estranged from her mother and going through all the teenage ups and downs that are so intricate to tackle.

When Tommy's diagnosis comes in, Alexis realizes that the one person who has picked up the slack at home, taken over the house responsibilities and in essence raised their daughter, is slowly slipping away.  All he wants is one last summer with his wife and daughter.  That should be simple to do right?

Wrong.

Alexis has to put aside her company and take over the reigns again from Tommy, but that doesn't come as easily for her, especially when it comes to their daughter, who has since become estranged from her mom, their relationship precariously close to completely falling apart.

Alison Hammer has managed to write a story that is devastatingly sad but beautiful told through the eyes of all parties involved.  As a parent of a 21 year old and a 17 year old, there were so many moments that I related to Alexis and CeCe's issues, but there were also moments where I wanted to shake Alexis and tell her to stop being so selfish, to own up to her responsibility in the destruction of the bond between mother and daughter and to try harder.

CeCe wasn't without fault either, but then she's at that age.

What an absolutely moving story of love, family, bonds, compassion and growing through a devastating tragedy.   I can not wait for another book from this brilliant new author, and I surely hope I don't have to wait very long.

Thank you to TLC Tours and the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

{ Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles - TLC Book Tour }



• Hardcover: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (April 14, 2020)

The critically acclaimed, bestselling author of News of the World and Enemy Women returns to Texas in this atmospheric story, set at the end of the Civil War, about an itinerant fiddle player, a ragtag band of musicians with whom he travels trying to make a living, and the charming young Irish lass who steals his heart.

In March 1865, the long and bitter War between the States is winding down. Till now, twenty-three-year-old Simon Boudlin has evaded military duty thanks to his slight stature, youthful appearance, and utter lack of compunction about bending the truth. But following a barroom brawl in Victoria, Texas, Simon finds himself conscripted, however belatedly, into the Confederate Army. Luckily his talent with a fiddle gets him a comparatively easy position in a regimental band.

Weeks later, on the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are called to play for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There the quick-thinking, audacious fiddler can’t help but notice the lovely Doris Mary Dillon, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel’s daughter.

After the surrender, Simon and Doris go their separate ways. He will travel around Texas seeking fame and fortune as a musician. She must accompany the colonel’s family to finish her three years of service. But Simon cannot forget the fair Irish maiden, and vows that someday he will find her again.
Incandescent in its beauty, told in Paulette Jiles’s trademark spare yet lilting style, Simon the Fiddler is a captivating, bittersweet tale of the chances a devoted man will take, and the lengths he will go to fulfill his heart’s yearning.



Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Jill Gann

About Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World, which was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

Find out more about Paulette at her website.


REVIEW:

 This is my second Paulette Jiles book and I think she is quickly becoming one of my most liked book authors.  Aside from the fact that her books are usually written in a time periods that I absolutely love reading about, she has a wonderful way of writing in that it flows smoothly, from sentence to sentence and page to page.

There's a beautiful fluidity to her writing that I very much appreciate.

So, Simon the Fiddler, again takes us back in time, to 1865 more specifically, and to a time where civil war was very much at the forefront of our country's news.  Simon is a fast talker, a bender of truth if you will, young looking, lover of music who has managed to avoid going to war, for either side. 

His focus is playing the fiddle and he does so beautifully.  But that all changes when a broom inside a bar, sees him forced into service and fighting for the Confederate army.  It's not something Simon wants to do, but luckily for him, once again, his talent in playing the fiddle lands him a position with the Confederate band.

It is during a performance for officers of the both sides, at the end of the Civil War, that Simon lays eyes on Doris, a beautiful indentured servant girl from Ireland.  As much as he wants to make her his, and keep her safe, he has to let her go in order for her to finish off her 3 years of servitude.  He is determined to wait for Doris, and he does.

What we get to witness, is a beautiful story of two people very much in love, who will go through hell on earth and do whatever is needed to be together.

 Thank you to TLC Tours and the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.


Monday, April 27, 2020

{ Happy Homemaker Monday - 04/27/2020 }

Good morning everyone, I hope this Monday finds you doing well.

We are on the very last Happy Homemaker Monday, of April, how crazy to think that another month has quickly zipped by.

We had a very good, quiet weekend, as always, especially nowadays, but it also seemed to go so quickly that I wasn't ready for it to be Monday.  The good thing is that hubby works this morning and then he is actually working from home for the next two weeks, unless they open the base up completely, at which case he will be back at work again.

He is the only instructor who has worked non stop and didn't have any time off during this pandemic, so we are hoping he is able to have at least a few days off, but we shall see.

I hope you all have a fantastic week ahead.   :)


Happy Homemaker Monday


♥♥The Weather♥♥
We are not only in full Spring weather but very much headed into summer temperatures, which means our pool goes up today and I for one can no wait.               

Monday - Partly cloudy and windy, 87
Tuesday - PM Thunderstorms, 88
Wednesday - Sunny, 81
Thursday - Mostly Sunny, 86
Friday - Partly cloudy and windy, 98
Saturday -  Partly cloudy, 101
Sunday - Partly cloudy, 95


♥♥How I am feeling this morning♥♥
Feeling really good, aside from the usual allergies but I think when you have them you get to a point that it's just part of your day so you kind of push through it and ignore it LOL     


♥♥On my mind♥♥
My mind has been going a mile a minute lately, I've been digging really deep into time with God, devotionals, sermons and so forth.  I always find that when I start doing this the quench for wanting to learn more and soak in all of God's word, is like nothing else.  So, with that said, I have tons of thoughts going through my mind, things I want to do, books in the Bible I want to read and bible studies I want to do.  Yes, lots of that going on.                     


♥♥On the breakfast plate♥♥
I've had coffee and nothing else, but I'll probably have some cereal.  I have eaten way too much this weekend.  Curt picked up donuts on Saturday morning and y'all, donuts and I are just a bad bad combination.  I would devour a whole dozen by myself, so I have to force myself to have just one or two.  Though I had 3 on Saturday and then 2 yesterday.  Sigh.  Time to detox LOL     


♥♥On my reading pile♥♥
Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles. 
Bible


♥♥On my tv♥♥
Youtube vlogs
World on Fire
Belgravia
The Chosen
When Calls the Heart


♥♥On the menu this week♥♥
Will be working on a new menu for the next two weeks.  I actually plan on going grocery shopping on Friday.  It's been a month since I've gone out to the commissary myself, but since most of our city has opened up, I am going to take the opportunity and head out.....with a mask of course.

Monday - Grilled Philly Cheesesteak and German Bratwurst, Potato Salad
Tuesday - Gnocchi Bolognese, Garlic Bread Knots
Wednesday - Deep Dish Sausage Pizza
Thursday -  Bean burritos, Spanish rice
Friday - Spaghetti, Salad
Saturday -
Sunday


♥♥From the camera♥♥
My garden is coming alive.  Love all the pops of color against the green backdrop. 



♥♥Looking around the house♥♥
I've just finished opening my curtains, all through the house.  Some windows have been opened too to let in the fresh morning air.  It's a bit cloudy outside so we have a cool breeze coming in and it feels wonderful.  Kids are still asleep, hubby is off to work, so the house is quiet.       


♥♥Chore I'm not looking forward to today, or this week♥♥
I need to clean carpets again and it's not a chore I particularly like doing.  There's just so much carpet in this house and so it's one of those jobs that takes a whole day to do.  


♥♥To relax this week, I will♥♥
Swim in the pool, work on my garden and read.       


♥♥On my prayer list♥♥
* The President and our country.
* My friend Courtney's husband who is battling brain cancer.
* My friend Christina who's mom is in the hospital, back in South Africa.


♥♥Devotional/Bible Verse♥♥
Pastor Furtick has been doing an incredible sermon series on Looking forward to the new normal.    It has been so good, soooooo good, that I urge you to take a look if you can, it will change the way you perceive the situation around us.



Saturday, April 25, 2020

{ Happy 21st Birthday Jasmine }



Well that was a big hard to type up.  21.  My little red head, turned 21 years old today.  I don't know how that is possible because when I look at her all I can see is the tiny baby, that made me a mama way back when.

But here we are.



How quickly time has flown by. Our girl is beautiful, has the biggest heart is driven, funny, quirky and just like her brother, has the sweetest soul.

She is hard working, at times stubborn like all get out, but that's par for the course isnt it?

My wish is that all her dreams come true, that she continues to grow as a woman, that she continues to stay on course and unaffected by the negative influences of today's world and that God blesses her in every thing she does.



Is a 21st birthday, even a birthday without the obligatory "look at me, I'm legal to drink and could drink this whole bottle if I wanted to, even though my parents only gave me one glass".  LOL

I can't wait to see what the future holds for her. The past few years haven't been easy, she has been through a lot, but has also grown substantially from all that has come her way. Everything she has suffered through has ultimately made her the woman she is today.

But the joy of having a blog like this one, is that I've been able to document their life, both Jasmine and her brothers', and it's amazing to sit back and see how they've grown, what they've been through and how they grew through it.  So blessed that God put me on this path many years ago.



Jasmine, we love you so much and we could not imagine life without your craziness around. Have a wonderful birthday baby girl!!!


Thursday, April 23, 2020

{ Thursday - Sun, beautiful flowers and some good TV }

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What an absolutely gorgeous day we had.  High 80's, the brightest of sun shining and deep blue skies.  It made me think of going to the beach, or the lake, of having a picnic or barbecuing or hanging out by the pool.

Ahhhhh summer days.  I am so looking forward to them.

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First thing this morning, I put our pillows on the window to air out.  I love doing it, letting in the fresh morning air, seeing the pillows just sitting there.   It just makes me think of home and cozy.

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After getting my bed made and tidying up here and there, I sat down with my devotional, a cup of coffee and some sourdough bread toast.  By the way the bread I made yesterday using my sourdough starter, was sooooo good.  I'll share the recipe on the blog tomorrow, but if you want to go ahead and make it, it is the King Arthur Flour's Basic Sourdough Bread

I will share the recipe for the sourdough starter I am using, as well.

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I also made some Vanilla Syrup for our coffee.  I hadn't made it in so long, I think the last time was actually when we were still stationed in Arizona, so that will tell you just how long it's been. 

Remember Curt retired in 2013.  Wow!!

I do have a recipe for the syrup already on the blog, though I made it slightly different this time.

Here's how I did this one:

1 cup of water
1 and 1/3 cups of brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Basically just mix the water and the brown sugar on the stove, bring to a boil over medium heat.  I stir until the sugar is dissolved then boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.  Pour into a mason jar and let cool.  Keep in the refrigerator.

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In the afternoon I grabbed my camera and took a quick walk out to the yard.  Our yard is littered with the most beautiful Blue Eyed Grass.  Unfortunately we do need to mow the yards this weekend, but I don't want to lose these beautiful wild flowers, so I'm going to try and transplant as many as I can, and litter them around the house since they are such beautiful ground cover plants.  

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We also have a ton of what I think are meadow salsify or Jack-go-to-bed, though not completely sure, as I'm still learning about flowers and plants.  There are so many different species and some so close looking to each other.

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Being outside, walking around the property and enjoying the fresh air, does wonders for the soul.  I always feel so much better after out, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes.

However, I immediately got chewed up by mosquitoes.  Blech!!!!

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The rest of the day was spent working on schooling with Nick.  Curt also came home early from work, his class had finished all their work and when that is the case, they all go home right away because of the social distancing.

The spare moments that I had, I spent watching The Chosen TV series on Youtube.  If you haven't yet watched it, please go on over and do so.  It is the story of Jesus life told through those who knew Him, and the best part is that it was not made through Hollywood, but by independent backers. 

There are 8 episodes in the first season and all are available on Youtube

It's one of those feel good series that we are sorely missing on our TVs today and makes me wish there were more like these.

So how are you all doing?  Let me know in the comments below how things are going in your State, what you've been working on or doing to pass the time that we are on lock down.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

{ Perspective - Quiet days indoors }

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We have been indoors since March 18th, but it is beginning to feel like it's been the whole year of 2020.  As the world continues to turn outside, as everyone continues to battle this unseen enemy, as we are watching our days turning into weeks of staying home, it is easy to start feeling overwhelmed and smothered.

I'm a homebody, I love being in my home, and I am quite alright being on my own.  Generally.  But even I am starting to feel slightly cabin feverish.

So when I start feeling that way, I take a step back and shift my perspective from feeling as if I'm imprisoned, to feeling like God is showing us all a new normal, a new way of life.   He is at the forefront and center, where faith is our guiding light, and where our old normal is changing into a new much different, but better way of life.

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As mentioned in previous posts, I believe that we are to take this time inside, to better ourselves, to learn a new skill, or perhaps to change our perception and perspectives about life in general.

See perception is a funny thing, we can both be staring at the same thing and be put into the exact same situation, and still come out feeling completely different.

When we change the way we look at things, we start embracing them.  Our stress starts diminishing, our thoughts are no longer clouded by negativity, and we begin experiencing life in a completely different way.

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There are so many things that we can not do at the moment.  Things that would require being outdoors, or visiting certain stores for supplies.  The answer is not to sit in our homes worrying, thinking, watching the news continuously, and replaying in our minds what we used to have and what we were allowed to do before the lockdown began.

We have to accept the things which we can not change or have no control over, and turn them into creative, positive experiences.

Remember that He takes what the enemy meant for evil, and He turns it for good.

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I don't want to look back in a few weeks, and realize that the time I was forced inside was wasted worrying or stressing.  I want to look back and be amazed at what I accomplished even while under certain limitations.

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And so I move about my days with a purpose.  I don't let time dictate my schedule though, after all, there is nowhere to go and no appointments to keep.  In turn, I allow myself to do what I want to do, relearn old skills and research new ones.  Try new things, whether it be a new recipe for sourdough starter, or how to take care of a new to you plant.

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I spend more time looking out my windows and discovering things I never knew.  Like the one species of bird that apparently has been living in my own backyard for years, yet I didn't realize it because I was always so busy running back and forth.

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We lived in a way that pushed us to fill every second of our day with some sort of activity.  Children were enrolled in multiple extra curricular activities after school, and never really got the chance to slow down, to be kids.  I'm not saying that they should be indoors 24/7, but maybe find balance where before it didn't exist.

I used to struggle with being still, with resting, with being quiet or even reading a book.

Society makes you feel that unless you are being productive, or appearing to be productive, every minute of the day, you are a lazy person.  And so sitting down and doing nothing, was never an option, for the guilt of it was sometimes overbearing.

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I've since changed my perspective, there's that word again.  I've taken it slow, I've moved about my days with no rush, doing the tasks that are needed with a slowness to them.  What I have learned is that it has taught me to appreciate everything I have, that much more.

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I'm sipping tea or having an iced coffee, mid afternoon, without keeping an eye on the clock for fear of missing something or needing to be somewhere at a specific time.

I've been nursing my plants, giving them more attention and in turn, they have been growing beautifully as if thanking me for the time I'm giving them.

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We are in a time where we need to embrace the simplicity of living.  I've often talked about living simply, taking an example out of our ancestors pages, and though living in modern times, trying to scale back at home, living within or means, living simply.

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I did a small load of washing and I could have popped in the dryer to get quicker results.  Instead I chose to take it outside where the afternoon sun was brightly shining.  It would take about an hour for the clothes to be dried, but it made me appreciate the sun and the warmer temperatures, and the fact that a simple act of washing laundry could bring me so much joy.

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I feel that we've been forced to take note of the things we had in our lives.  Those same things we saw as essential and very much needed a few weeks ago, are now some of the things we are being forced to live without, and yet we are surviving and some are even thriving in this new found slowness.

Maybe now is the time to think back on the things you surround yourself with, and when the country opens back up and we are back outside, with no restrictions, which of those things are you going to allow back into your space?

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Baking bread, rolls and all sorts of goodies, has become a normal daily activity.  Family favorite recipes, and new to us recipes scoured on the internet and cookbooks.  Learning new techniques, polishing old ones and then sitting back and reaping the rewards.

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I am facing each day as it comes, with no clear plan or routine in place.  I'm allowing myself to do whatever is needed at the moment, to shift some priorities to a later date, to put down that vacuum and play with my dog, or to set aside the pile of laundry to be ironed, for an hour on the bed, reading.

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Our imposed downtime needs to be looked at as a pause.  Our bodies needed the rest, our minds needed refreshing and our souls needed replenishing.

I'm looking at this downtime as a way to be more resourceful.  If I cook a chicken, I make sure to save the broth for future meals.  As we clean up the yards and trim down tree branches, we chop them into firewood for when needed.

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I cook meals that I don't make as often because they're time consuming, but all we have is time now so why not?

Things have been removed from our lives which leave a few with a feeling of not having enough, or doing without.  Again, perception!

It is a time to get creative, to expand our thinking, to use what we have in new ways and to learn to be resourceful.

To take the extra time to put together a meal, or to brew that cup of tea in an actual teapot, set a pretty table setting, and sip it while reading a favorite book.


It is not what we have but what we do with it.

I for one am finding a renewed zest for life.  I start each morning by thanking God for giving me breath and allowing me one more day with my family.  I am kicking out negative feelings the minute they start to creep in.  I'm enjoying that cheeky chocolate while sitting on the couch doing absolutely nothing at all.

I'm listening to my children and in doing so, because we are not rushed, we are learning so much more about each other. 

I watch a storm roll in and see it develop overhead, taking notice of the clouds, the first lightning strike or the cracking boom that seems to shake us to the core. 

I'm taking notice of the birds chirping, watching them building their nests and then snuggling in to provide warmth and safety for their newly laid eggs.

For once in our lives, I am witnessing a quietness outdoors, fresh air that seems to fill our lungs to the max, wildlife happily living without fear.  It is a quietness that is balanced with the quietness in our homes and hearts.

It is balance, and that was very much needed in this world.

Perspective, perception, embrace it and grow through it. 

Very soon all of this will be in our past, but what we learn from it and take forward is what matters the most.

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