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Hausfrau is one of those books that is really well written but definitely not to be read when you are looking to be cheered up. Anna is an American house wife living in Switzerland with her Swiss husband Bruno, and their 3 kids. Her life is boring to her and she has never really made friends or even attempted to immerse herself in the Swiss culture. We get to know her through visits to her psychiatrist and her narratives on her own life.

When we meet Anna, upon the advice of her psychiatrist she is taking German lessons. She is hoping that it will help Anna to assimilate into Swiss life. She is having an affair with a classmate but that is nothing new to Anna. She has many affairs. Her affairs and lies spiral out of control eventually leading her to confront her own life.

It's hard to believe this is Essbaum's first novel. It is poetic and beautiful yet somber. I loved getting to know Anna so intimately through her suffering and sadness. Many times I wanted to yell at Anna, tell her to leave Bruno if she was unhappy. But I think Anna would have been miserable no matter who she were with and where she was living.  The end of the book made me cry and I am not even sure that I have the ending right. (When or if you read it you will understand what I mean by that statement.) I'd prefer it had not ended the way it did but was there really any other way for Anna?

I'm not sure I would have picked this up for myself to read but I am certainly glad I won this copy. I definitely recommend it.

 

The Alchemist

When you want something all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.

I picked up The Alchemist while browsing at a small bookstore during a trip to the Lakes Region of NH. I had heard that it was a great story and great writing. I was certainly not disappointed. This book is beautiful in its simplicity. The message like Buddhist teachings - live in the present to rid yourself of suffering, we are all part of the same energy and universe - are spread throughout the tale.

We follow a shepherd named Santiago as he makes a journey across continents in search of treasure. Along the way he meets many people who help him in his journey and others who seem to conspire to end his journey prematurely. He also falls in love with a beautiful girl and plans to return for her when he finds his treasure. His journey takes him through Spain and Africa to find a treasure that he has been dreaming of his whole life. When he reaches the deserts of Africa he meets the Alchemist at an oasis, he learns many lessons during his short time with him. The biggest though is that he realizes that we are all made by the same hand and are all interconnected.

This book is filled with life lessons for all of us, and it makes us reassess our own lives. It is inspirational and beautifully written. I can't wait to pick up another Paulo Coelho novel. It is the reason I read so many books, it can change your perspective and hopefully make you a better person.

Below are some of my favorite quotes –

Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.

He was sure that it made no difference to her on which day he appeared: for her, every day was the same, and when each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.

It’s not what enters men’s mouths that’s evil, said the alchemist. It’s what comes out of their mouths that is.

The boy remembered and old proverb from his country. It said that the darkest hour of the night came just before the dawn.

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

And the best for last –

He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming committed. But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language. Because, when you know that language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun had been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.

 

 

 

 

This year Thanksgiving was a two day celebration at our house. The weather decided to not cooperate and leave us without electricity for over 24 hours. The heavy wet snow started on Wednesday afternoon and continued till early Thanksgiving morning. It left us with about 9 inches that weighed down trees and power lines. In the whole state of NH about 200k people were left without power.

This is what it looked like after only a few inches. You can imagine what it looked like with about 6 more inches of snow.

HeavySnowEd

Luckily my sister who lives in a city area lost power briefly so we were able to head to her house for a great turkey dinner. But we still had a 25 pound fresh turkey to cook. We woke up Friday morning to see flashing numbers on our clocks. So we got up put the turkey in the oven and celebrated Thanksgiving again.

FinishedTurkey

And no Thanksgiving day feast is complete for me unless I have this yummy deliciousness - sweet potato casserole.

SPCasserole

Despite our lack of electricity on the actual day of Thanksgiving it turned out to be a great holiday weekend. I have so much to be thankful for and I am glad I got to spend some quality time with my family.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving celebration.

R

I love music, always have loved it. I always had a radio around even at a young age so I could have music on all the time. My first favorite band was Duran Duran and I remember listening to the radio and waiting for a song to come on so I could tape it. I would wait to hit the record button as soon as the song began to leave out any DJ talk. The quality was awful but I still had a copy of the song to listen to when I wanted.

In high school I even took music classes so I could learn how to read and write music and I began playing guitar. At that point I started to become a music snob. I dated mostly musicians and some of my favorite bands suddenly became uncool to me. The musicianship had to be perfect for me to listen to it. Luckily that period in my life did not last long and I began to branch out again. I listened to what made me happy not what others told me was good.

Whenever someone asked me what kind of music I listen to my answer would be - I listen to a little bit of everything, except country music. I am not sure why I did not give it a chance. I remember hearing it at my aunt's house and not particularly enjoying it. I even had a brief stint in a country cover band and still only the rare song was acceptable to me.

Fast forward to the age of 42 and my seven year old son loves country music. His father like me had never liked it either but he had just started listening to it. Everywhere I would hear it - in the car, at home - I was surrounded. It started with liking a song then two and soon .... well I am not going to say I like it all but then I don't like all rock music either. But I am really glad I gave it a chance because I opened up a whole new world of music to myself. If you are like I was, I say give it a try.

Happy Listening!

R

 

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

 I work for a footwear company and one day I was discussing an issue I was having with one of my accounts with my manager. As we were finishing up our conversation she asked me if I had ever read Delivering Happiness. I told her I had not and she asked if I was interested, of course I was because one of the accounts I manage is Zappos. I had already seen pieces on the company and what a great place it was to work. I didn't know much other than, they put the happiness of their employees and customers first. I never realized what lengths they went to in order to achieve their huge success.

I will say that in dealing with Zappos on a regular basis I have never had a bad experience. The buyers I have contact with are extremely friendly and always kind. They make you feel like you are having a positive impact on their business.

While reading this book I had to wonder - why do not all companies put the happiness of their employees first. The core values they uphold should be looked at by all as the gold standard. I am not saying everyone should copy their values but there is much that can be learned by them.

This book is filled with fun and inspirational stories from Tony's life and the mistakes he has made along the way. He shares all in the hopes that it will prevent others from making the same mistakes. He is open and honest throughout. In the end he touches on the happiness experiment in hopes that we can make the world a happier place all around.

I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants to be inspired to be happy every day and spread it around. One of the last quotes in the book is as follows -

"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." Buddha

Happiness never decreases but I believe it can be increased by making those around you happy.

Happy Reading!

R

Thanksgiving prep for us begins in August. Why? We get our own turkeys every year and grow them nice and big for the big day. We have been doing this for several years now and I wouldn't have it any other way. It takes work especially getting it ready the weekend before but it's worth it. We know exactly where our food was grown and what it was fed.

Now here is the hard part -

NickTurkeys

We see them every day. They seem to love seeing us. Is it just that we supply them with food and water? Maybe. But I get a bit attached to them in the few months we have them. I try my best to keep my distance because when the day comes it is very hard for me.

The great part of it all is I know where my meal came from on that special day. I know what it ate and I know it was treated humanly. I am thankful we are able to provide that for our son, so he appreciates where our food came from and that it doesn't just appear at a grocery store.

I hope it is a lesson he will appreciate when he is older.

R

The Art of Leaving

 

The Art of Leaving by Anna Stothard is one of those books that it took me awhile to read. I liked it despite the slowness of the stories progression. Her writing style is wonderful and beautifully descriptive but the plot was lacking.

In this story we meet Eva, a romance novel editor and daughter of a pilot. As a child she moved from place to place never really putting down roots or developing relationships. When we meet Eva, she is in a relationship with Luke. She has never been with someone as long as she has been with Luke. He refuses to let her leave him despite her attempts. She loves the feeling of leaving someone much more than the thrill of the first kiss.

When Grace comes into the lives of Eva and Luke, Eva assumes she's a random stranger who has taken a liking to her. What Grace does is make Eva realizes how little she really knows about Luke. She feels like she is living with a stranger and can no longer handle being in a relationship with him. Of course she does what she knows best and leaves, taking off to her parents home in Singapore. And that is the way the story ends.

The descriptions of places and events are beautifully written but I found that the story moved slowly and didn't always hold my interest. I think more substance would have held my interest more than the descriptions of places and daydreams.

I give this book a 3 out of 5. It was a good book but not one I would necessarily have read if not for winning it on Goodreads.

Happy Reading.

R

 

My second favorite season is here, autumn. There are so many things I love about this season, the only thing i don't like - it's followed by my least favorite season winter. Before the dreaded time of bare trees and snow, is a most beautiful time of the year. Fall can be warm at first and then turn cool. The trees turn amazing colors of red, oranges and yellows. There is nothing like it in the world. Autumn also has a lot of traditions here in the northeast. It is the season of fairs and apple picking, followed by pumpkins and Halloween. Everywhere you look there is pumpkin and apple flavored items - pumpkin coffee, pumpkin bread, pumpkin donuts, apple pie, apple crisp, apple cider and one of my favorites cider donuts.

Every year, the last weekend in September, our town hosts an agricultural fair. We get excited to take a day and head over to check out all the animals. Plus, fair food!

Our first stop is always to the school building. The students create projects every year and we always look forward to seeing our sons.

FairSchoolProject2

Our son Nick picks the second stop and he always wants to see the giant pumpkins first. This years winner was enormous at over 1400 pounds.

GiantPumpkin

Of course the animals are the best part of the fair -

 

FairBabyCows2

Baby cows are the cutest.

FairGrumpyOx

This ox seemed a little grumpy. He kept showing his teeth. Everyone was amused by him, but I don't think he enjoyed us laughing at him.

FairCows

These two seemed to be chatting. They were making lots of noise at each other.

And to top off the day, Nick loves seeing the tractor pull.

FairTractorPull

And when its over, Nick begins his countdown for next years fair, it's like Christmas for him.

Happy Fall!

R

The first day of school is always exciting. You can see how excited the kids are and can definitely feel it too. Nicholas gets this excited energy that leaves him feeling a little queasy for a bit. He is just like his Mom and Dad. Every year on the first day of school I would have so much nervous energy I would be sick to my stomach. I remember the worst year was first grade. My mother had to take me into the bathroom. Yes, I threw up on my first day of first grade. Of course, as soon as you get to class it all goes away.

This morning I was reminded of those first days of school. One of Nick's classmates was so nervous she would not let go of her Mom. I could even see tears. I remember that she was in Nick's class previously so I talked to her and had Nick say hi to her in hopes she would feel better. I'm not sure if it worked. I asked Nick at the end of the day and he said she was fine after awhile in their new classroom.

Here is my cute little man on his first day of second grade - I would have got more picture at school drop off if my camera had not decided to act up. Looks like it's time for an upgrade.

Nick1stday2ndgradeEd

This is him last year and I can't believe how much he has changed in one year.

Nick1stday1stG_2bl

Happy First Day!

R

I have fallen into a rut lately when it comes to cooking. I seem to make the same things over and over. I am trying to break free and try some new recipes. A friend gave me a great black bean and corn salad recipe which was super easy to make and very yummy. I made it for a BBQ and served it with tortilla chips and it didn't last long. I will be posting the recipe soon.

I often see recipes on my favorite blogs and sometimes print them out or bookmark it. Usually though I forget out about it and they never get made. It is my hope that by writing this it will give me the needed kick to start making them.

I am always looking for side dishes to go with my grilled meats. The Pioneer Woman makes some amazing food. This Mexican Macaroni Salad looks awesome.

Another great food blog is Pinch of Yum - can't wait to try this yummy recipe - Sausage and Sweet Potato Zucchini Lasagna

And check out Simply Scratch as well, so many great recipes - including homemade sauces, dressings and spice mixtures. This Lemon Dijon Grilled Chicken sounds delicious and easy to make and who doesn't like quick recipes.

Hope this helps you find some new recipes to try out. I am always looking and these are 3 of my favorite food blogs.

Happy Cooking.

R