Category Archives: Blog Posts

100 Years of Stories-Agatha Christie

Who doesn’t love a great mystery? This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the “Queen of Mystery’s” first novel, A Mysterious Affair at Styles, which I reviewed last year (see my review here. ) While the bestselling author of all time is no longer with us, her stories survive and even thrive, as reprints, as well as inspirations for movies and televison shows.

Even those who have never read her novels have most likely heard of The Murder on the Orient Express, which was last made into a movie in 2017, and the official author’s website contains a listing of many current and classic productions based on her amazing work.

Born in England in 1890, the daughter of an English mother and an American father, the young Agatha Miller was an avid reader who created imaginary characters and wrote poetry even as a child. By age eighteen she was writing short stories, but did not begin writing detective fiction until World War I, when her husband, Archie Christie, was posted to the War Office in London.

In the 1920s she became a sensational news story for her personal life as she disappeared for several days soon after Archie asked for a divorce. When she was later found, she claimed no knowledge of where she’d been or even her identity for a time. She eventually recovered but that event was never successfully explained, though much has been speculated. That particular time in her life was even made into an episode of the BBC show Dr. Who, which features the author and includes elements form several of her books.

The late authoress was known for writing intriguing characters, including a number of heroic and intelligent female detectives and adventuresses, most notably Miss Marple and Tuppence Beresford.

I myself have read numerous of her books, and have reviewed several of them on my Goodreads site.

A Quick and Easy Summer Dessert

Hello everyone! For the past week we’ve been enjoying summer weather in the Midwest-temperatures soaring into the high eighties and low nineties, interspersed with pop-up showers that go as quickly as they come about!

To combat the heat, I created this really simple dessert recipe, which my daughter liked so much she demanded I write it down, so now I’m sharing it with you. Enjoy!

Amy

Mixed Berry Trifle

Ingredients:

16 oz. frozen pound cake, thawed

3 cups berries, (I use a mixture of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries)

1 4 oz. pkg instant cheesecake flavor pudding

Milk

8 oz. container frozen non-dairy topping, thawed

Directions:

  • Slice thawed pound cake into cubes, layer one third into glass trifle bowl or other large bowl.
  • Spread one third berries over cake. 
  • Beat pudding mix with milk according to package directions, spoon one third over cake and berries.
  •  Repeat layers with rest of cake, fruit, and pudding. 
  • Top with Cool Whip, and chill for at least 30 minutes to one hour before serving. 
  • Refrigerate leftovers.

Happy Memorial Day!

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

This Monday, May 25th, marks the U.S. holiday of Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor our veterans, especially those who have given their lives in service to their country.   This day also marks the “unofficial” start to summer, and gives many an excuse to gather with friends and family, picnic, have a day off from work, and just enjoy the weather and the day.

When I was growing up, much of Memorial weekend was spent travelling to family cemeteries and “decorating” graves with flowers, either plastic, fresh cut, or in pots.  (This weekend also marked the official “proper” date where it was acceptable to begin wearing white pants and shoes, though that little fashion rule has been greatly relaxed since!)

Of course, this year is a little different.  Many of the usual celebrations are cancelled this year, and many of the services honoring veterans; i.e. parades, speeches, ceremonial laying of flowers and flags; are being done as closed, recorded events that will be televised for the public later.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

While we are dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still ways to honor our fallen veterans and have an enjoyable holiday.  We can still visit cemeteries, as long as we follow social distancing.  A number of communities are having virtual events where we can watch and participate.  Naturally, of course, we can still cookout, overeat, and play with sparklers and roast marshmallows in the comfort of our backyards.

My workplace, which has been open without stop during the current crisis, is closed for the day, and I may actually find time to put my feet up while the guys man the smoker.   When I started writing this, I had a berry cobbler in the oven, and spent much of yesterday prepping food, so it will be good to relax.  I’ve already begun pulling patriotic decorations out of their storage bins in the basement, and the house will be festive with red, white, and blue from now until after Independence Day. 

While things are a little different this year, I like to think we’re starting to get back to normal, or at least, the new normal.  While we cautiously wear masks whenever we go out now, at least we can go out and run errands, even visit a restaurant.  And this holiday gives us just a little bit more “normal” to celebrate, and enjoy.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Amy

Living in Dangerous Times

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of The Ring “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

The world is a scary place right now.  Of course, the world has always been a place that contains untold dangers, we are just acutely aware of them right now.

This has become a world where we are all a little more, or a lot more, cautious about our next door neighbors, or the person next to us in line at the grocery store. We are all a little more meticulous about cleaning anything that could have been breathed, sneezed, or coughed on by anyone, family or otherwise.

  I am lucky to still have my job, but there are measures and safeguards that have been put into place that would have been unthinkable only a short time ago.  For instance, everyone, guests and customers, are expected to wear face masks, for their own safety as well as that of everyone else in the building.  Naturally some people do not like this fact; after all, who really wants to wear a mask?  The fact remains, this requirement was put into effect based on guidelines from the CDC.

In Ohio, we are finally going to see the first of regular businesses open next week, though the governor is planning to all things to resume in stages.  All we can do right now is keep going, and hold out hope that a cure is found, that no new cases or deaths are reported, and that things slowly go back to normal.

Still, not everything is all bad.  Perhaps you’ve been able to use this enforced time at home to finish some of the projects on your to-do list or reconnect with your family.  Maybe you’ve re-instituted family game night or family movie night.  We’ve made time for picnics in local parks, and simple activities such as shared conversations while cooking, tending the garden, and venturing out for drive-through.

My husband and I have even found time to binge watch a couple of new shows we’ve haven’t seen before-Westworld, Season3, which is available from HBO or the app and is simply amazing.  It takes the premise of the Michael Crichton book and the 1970s movie but completely reimagines it in a way that questions whether artificial intelligence can be just as real or valid as human life. 

We’re also watching Penny Dreadful on Netflix, a show that originally appeared on Showtime and features a cast of assorted odd characters in Victorian England that reminds me of one of my old favorite movies, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, except this show has the potential to be much darker.

While there are a lot of scary things going on, and unpleasantness surrounding being “encouraged” to stay home, I urge you to  look for the good in the situation.  now is the time to think about our priorities, about what we want to do when life is back to “normal,” whatever that means.

 I hope you find a way to brighten your day, and an early Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there!

Amy

Happy Earth Day!

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of the celebration of International Earth Day, a day devoted to addressing issues that affect this planet we all share.

Earth Day is acknowledged as a time for groups of individuals from diverse nations and cultures join together to protest the actions that cause pollution of air and water, and negatively impact our climate for ourselves and future generations;as well as engage in activities to help cleanup and nurture our environment.

The very first Earth Day celebration in 1970 heralded a movement in the United States that let to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clean Air, Water, and Endangered Species Act. Many other countries adopted similar laws.

While most of us are living in quarantine at the moment, there are still things we can do to support this movement and help make our world just a little bit cleaner, greener, and healthier for us all. We can commit ourselves to recycling; properly disposing of waste products that contains harmful chemicals like batteries, paint, electronics, aerosol cans, and other materials that can harm our environment; and planting trees in our backyard or community. For information about proper disposal see the link here: https://www.consumerreports.org/recycling/recycle-old-batteries/

If you need ideas about how you can celebrate Earth Day at home or want to join the live discussions, the main website for Earth Day is here:

https://www.earthday.org/

For myself, I hope to spend some timeworking in my garden and enjoying nature!

Happy Easter!

I know we have all been living under a dark cloud for a while now, but today gives us a welcome chance not only to put our worries aside, but also to celebrate this season of rebirth and renewal.

HappyEaster!

I hope that wherever you are, you find a way to share this day with loved ones, and enjoy the peace and hope that are inherent to this day, and the season.

From my family to yours, Happy Easter and a blessed Passover.

Amy

A Letter to My Readers

Dear Friends,

I hope you are all well and as safe as possible in this time of anxiety and rampant illlness.  I do not need to tell you about the pandemic we are all experiencing in some way; I am sure you have been bombarded by news reports and seen evidence of the long lines in grocery stores and the numerous closed or limited-operating status of businesses in your area.

Here in Ohio the governor has ordered all unessential businesses to close temporarily.  This includes hair salons, movie theatres, and shopping malls.  Fortunately, my husband’s job is one he can do from home, and my daughter’s job is in security, so she is still working.  My son is in construction so he may soon face a layoff until things settle down. 

As for myself, my day job is in a large warehouse type store that includes both a grocery store and pharmacy, so we are still open for normal hours, though there have been numerous changes made to policy to protect both workers and customers. 

I get to see and experience so many people using various degrees of caution as they brave leaving their homes for necessities.  It is both frightening and heartening to see the response to the new rules.  Most are actually grateful for our precautions.   

I know the constant worry over the threat of the pandemic hangs over all of us like the constant gray skies we seem to be experiencing in this first week of spring, but I urge you to not lose hope.  There are responsible officials and medical personnel making good decisions and searching for treatments. Hopefully, in a few weeks or by summer we will be seeing fewer new cases of the virus and perhaps things will begin returning to normal.

The best thing we can do right now is take advantage of the enforced time together with our families.  Re-discover (if you haven’t already) the joys of cooking a meal together.  Play board games and watch old favorite and new shows on the endless availability of streaming services.  Catch up on sleep, and take care of your health by eating healthy, finding time to exercise, and reading books.  In my area, the library offers a huge selection of e-books available for digital checkout, no trip to the library required.

Above all, I hope you follow the safety recommendations to protect yourselves and your families during this time of crisis.  You will all be in my prayers.

Amy

A New Year and New Chances

Happy New Year!  While elsewhere people are preparing for parties, getting ready to watch the ball drop, I am taking a few moments to regroup and catch my breath.  2019 has been exceptionally busy for me; between work commitments, spending time with loved ones, and even squeezing in a vacation, the year has been very full and passed too quickly!

While today is a good day for reflection, the final day of the year is also a time to look forward.  Many of us make resolutions for the new year, to which unfortunately  we commit only half-heartedly , or that will soon loose our interest.  To me, the concept is still sound-we resolve to be better versions of ourselves, in whatever form we would like to improve.  Often, the motivation to change, to improve, is more important than the end result.  In other words it’s okay to try, and fail; it’s better than not trying at all, or loosing faith in our own potential.

There are a few things I would like to happen this year-I want to meet my Goodreads goals; I want to publish a new story that I’ve had on the back burner for a while; I want to take a vacation somewhere exotic this year, or at least somewhere I’ve never been before; and I want to achieve balance between my personal, day job, and writing lives.  Will I succeed?  I don’t know yet; but I’m going to give it my best shot.

Today is a good day to think about goals-about the people we would like to be this year.  I hope for the most of us, it is a chance to become, as Bill Murray’s character stated in the classic movie, Scrooged“the people we have always wanted to be.”

Happy New Year everyone! I hope yours is a great one!

Happy Holidays!

lighted reindeer decor
Photo by Ignored shots on Pexels.com

To all my friends out there, I wish you the very best for this Holiday Season.  May your fondest wishes come true, and may you experience joy, hope, love, and togetherness in abundance.

However and whatever you celebrate this time of year, please accept my heartfelt greetings for a Joyful Season and a Happy New Year!

Amy

Keeping the “Spirit” of the Holidays

laptop computer macbook apple
Don’t let stress ruin your holidays!  Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Are you enjoying this holiday season, or just going through the motions?  December especially can be so busy; there are always so many things to do and get done, before the holidays and before the end of the year.  Santa is not the only one who makes lists this time of year, and like his, ours sometimes seem unending.

Are you doing the things you need to do-shopping, baking, decorating, or whatever else because you want or choose to do so, or because you feel obligated?  The reason behind your actions can make all the difference in your attitude, and your stress levels, as you go about your day.

I know that though there is snow on the ground, and I’m anticipating my own grown kids gathering in the next week, I have to remember to keep the right mind set as I go about my daily tasks.

Those of us that work in the health industry sometimes especially feel the strain, as patients struggle to use insurance benefits and money in Health Savings Accounts before the end of the year, or while college-age kids are home for the holidays.  The volume of business, the crowds, and the inevitable waiting in line add to everyone’s stress levels and quell the goodwill feelings many struggle to keep.

Personally, I have learned the best way to manage everything is to learn to say “enough,” and sometimes “no.”  Ask yourself if some traditions are not important or meaningful to you at this point in your life.  Are there tasks or duties or events that you can say no to, or simply “let go?”

“Picking and choosing” which traditions you uphold, decorations you use, events you attend, or even the number of people you shop for does not make you a bad person, only a human with limited time, energy, and resources.  Eliminating some less important or more trivial tasks may even make more pleasant to be around, bring more significance to those things you choose to keep on your list, and give you more time to simply be with your loved ones.

When you are not overwhelmed by your chore list, the decrease in stress can really put you in the holiday mood.

I’m sitting and writing this before I get ready to go to work, another busy day in the season.  I am not done with my holiday preparations, but the end is in sight, so I can go about my day with a lightened heart, knowing that everything is okay.  I will get done all the important things.  I will not let the below-freezing temperatures, the traffic, the crowds, or the grumpy over-stressed customers get to me today.

I hope you all find your bliss, your holiday spirit, in the middle of the chaos today, and are able to enjoy the season for all it’s worth.

Happy Holidays,

Amy