Sunday, May 18

Critical Condition by Richard Mabry (Book Review)

Ten years after losing her high school sweetheart in a tragic shooting, Dr. Shannon Frasier is a respected surgeon, dutiful daughter and sister, and on the verge of becoming engaged to a wonderful, godly pathologist who clearly adores her. Then, overnight, her well balanced life begins to unravel from every direction, leaving her shaken, floundering, and unsure who she can trust.

This book struck me as very similar to Terri Blackstock’s work. The story involves several common themes/tropes including preacher’s kids who’ve grown up to have shaky relationships with God, the dutiful older sister/screw-up younger sister dynamic, and the individual in a wonderful relationship but struggling to commit. Faith in God is clearly a focus throughout.

Good points: The book was solidly written and well edited, and the author’s obvious medical knowledge was put to good use. Two main characters who are doctors speak intelligently about medicine, but it never gets taken to the level of being overbearing or hard to follow.

Not so Good: I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters; they just felt a bit flat. Mark was a bit too patient and perfect, Shannon’s struggle to commit to her new relationship just never quite worked, and I didn’t feel that the explanations at the end quite reconciled many of the character’s behaviors throughout.
It wasn’t bad for a casual read, but I don’t expect to be looking up the other books in the series.

Friday, May 16

A Happy Ending

*Warning: read with caution if wearing mascara*

Months ago already, in the dead of what was a bitterly cold and seemingly endless winter, a story hit the news out of Sprakers, which (relatively speaking) isn't all that far from us. A "breeder" under the business name of Flat Creek was keeping several dozen border collies of all ages outside with only thin plastic water barrels as shelter. Neighbors were calling animal control, begging for something to be done.

As someone who held my own frizz ball of a border collie when he was all of twelve weeks and nine pounds, I was horrified. How could anyone be so heartless toward anything as inherently sweet and loving as a border collie? I couldn't imagine leaving dogs just like mine outside endlessly in the piercing wind and driving snow we had all winter.

Over the "breeder's" protests, animal control did get involved and confiscated nearly all of the dogs. Glen Highland Farm, the wonderful border collie rescue we got Nenya from, took in a large proportion of the 46 dogs ultimately confiscated, and I have been able to follow them on the Farm's website as they were vetted, sheltered, and fostered.

There were so many they had to be distributed over three different rescues! All were desperately underweight, traumatized, and ranged from under-socialized to clearly abused.

I was overjoyed when word came out that the breeder had agreed to relinquish all the dogs to rescue and none would be forced to return to the horrible place they came from. It makes me laugh (and often cry) to stop by the GHF site and check out the updates as the dogs find their places in forever homes or loving foster homes with a pack of other border collies to teach them how life is supposed to be - full of treats and kisses and soft, warm places to sleep.

When I get so completely irritated with the government, clients at work, and stupid people in general that my faith in mankind begins to shrivel, I take a minute to hop over the GHF page and remind myself that there are amazing, patient and loving people in this world. They're the ones who spoke out and got those furry babies rescued. Who vetted them, are fostering them, sponsoring them, and giving good homes to their furry kin.

If you need a reminder this week that people aren't all stupid or ignorant or irritating, may I suggest a hop over to the GHF page? There's nothing quite like sweet, furry faces and a happy ending to renew one's perspective on life! 

** All sweet, furry faces shown on this post are babies rescued by GHF from the horrible Sprakers situation.**

Wednesday, May 14

Recipe Round Up

So, with everything else going on the last couple months, I've largely been relying on old standby recipes - the kind that are quick and easy to throw together without a lot of time or thought.

I've tried to sneak a few new things in here and there, though, and here are the ones that turned out to be keepers:
Chocolate Drizzled Coconut Shortbread Cookie Sticks - These were super easy and low-fuss to make and came out the best of any shortbread recipe I've tried. I made my own ganache to drizzle on top, but otherwise made as directed. Yum!

Homemade Soft Pretzels - Excellent and easy soft pretzel recipe. Serve hot with a little mustard (or straight up with salt) for an indulgent and filling lunch. 

Spaetzle - Homemade spaetzle is either an easy, delectable treat or a debacle of epic proportions. To make sure you get the former and avoid the latter, use this excellent recipe and a real spaetzle maker... it's only $10 and worth it's weight in gold in saved time, mess, and frustration!

Chicken, Broccoli, & Quinoa Casserole - I did not follow the directions on this at all. I tossed everything in my rice steamer and let it cook, then folded it all together with a quick and easy veloute sauce (just like cream sauce, only half milk & half chicken stock) and sprinkled a little cheese on top. Freezes well, tastes amazing = new favorite around here!

Roasted red pepper & goat
cheese alfredo (photo from Sweet
Treats & Healthy Eats Blog)
Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole - I piled all of the yummy goodness called for by this recipe on top of rice to get twice as much out of it, and it was easy and awesome! 

Sausage & Kale Stuffed Shells - A nutrient packed twist on an old favorite, these were highly enjoyable.

Ham, Peas, & Creamy Noodles - Pretty sure I've made this with a different vegetable every time depending on what I had on hand, but it's cheap and delectable and has worked equally well no matter the veggie was. 

Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Alfredo - This was fast (and healthy) to make, but tasted so decadent! It had a rich tang, and was very filling - definitely a keeper!

Monday, May 12

Vast Emptiness

March? I haven't posted since March?
Dear Lord. That's a bit embarrassing.

Sorry for the silence... I didn't mean for this corner of the blogosphere to end us as vast emptiness! Life has gotten a bit away from me. I'll attempt to catch up, but things haven't really slowed down so things might stay a bit sporadic.

In my defense, though, we've been  legitimately busy. Putting up piles of firewood, dealing with unending lunacy at work, and - oh yeah! - taking our first actual vacation in years.

We went to ComiCon! It was three days of non-stop shiny things at every turn. Seriously, it took us two days just to see everything once, and that wasn't even stopping to really check anything out in-depth!

We dressed up (of course) as Mal and Inara from Firefly/Serenity. There's nothing like walking around in floor-length red satin for three days to make a girl feel spoiled! (The incredible mass of curls and sparkly bobby pins didn't hurt.) It was Eric's costume that really got us noticed, though. One of my favorite parts of the whole thing was the dozens of people who walked by us at the Con, immediately recognized Eric, and caught his eye to nod respectfully and said "Cap'n." It was a riot, and had so much fun. We had been worried about not pulling the costumes off sufficiently (Firefly is notoriously hard to cosplay, as everything was made custom for them, and there weren't really any trademarked outfits to make them stand out) but we got stopped for pictures constantly, so I guess we did okay!

The panels we hit were amazing (possibly we're geeks and nerds, because we made it to talks on the Physiology of Zombies, Sword Fighting, Killer Breakfast, and what's next in YA publishing). Turns out no one without a VIP pass stood a chance of getting in to the "star" panels (Nathan Fillion/ Karen Gillen), but that was okay by us.  (Incidentally, if you'd ever like to bawl your eyes out, check out this video of a disabled veteran at ComiCon thanking the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation for getting him through his PTSD. Awesome video, but murder on the mascara...) I think my favorite panel was the Physiology of Zombies. It was hosted by writers, and literally packed to standing room only, but such an incredibly intelligent discussion of the zombie phenomenon and a legitimate place to ask all those random but relevant questions like "why can some zombies run and others only shuffle?"

We got our picture taken with the (original) Delorian from Back to the Future and the TARDIS from Dr. Who, ate like kings (not at ComiCon, but Salt Lake has some great restaurants!), and generally thoroughly enjoyed a break from real life.

... And then we came back. And discovered that nothing had slowed down in our absence!

I will attempt to get a few more posts in soon on all that's happened since we got back, but if you've got a minute, check out this great site for some more awesome pics from the event (see if you spot us!) and one of my new favorite sites (discovered in ComiCon's Artist Alley)  The Zombie Office (hint: it's like Dilbert with zombies!).