Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: "Fade to Black", by LT Vargus and Tim McBain

Book 1 - Awake in the Dark series
If you enjoy stories with strange, yet interesting, themes that twist a bit here and there, then you should read this one. There is also a lot of characterization in the story, something I truly enjoy! At first I found it a bit hard to figure out where the story might be heading, but I got right into it once I settled down and just let the story unfold. And I enjoyed it right to the last page.

The story centers around a young fellow (Jeff Grobnagger) who began to have epileptic seizures a couple of months before the book begins. Jeff doesn't have friends and he avoids people as much as possible. These seizures have been increasing in occurrence but Jeff won't see a doctor about them. During these seizures he goes into a recurring dream where someone in a hooded cloak is murdering him. The dream changes when he makes an effort to force it to, but he always ends up being killed, which frustrates him to no end. Once he's dead in the dream, he wakes in real life again, usually in a confused state.

Early on in the book Jeff has a seizure in a grocery store and when he wakes up he meets an older man (Glenn Floyd). They become friends and Jeff learns that Glenn is looking for his daughter (Amity), who has disappeared. She was heavily into the occult and has left behind clues, but they don't really make a lot of sense to either man. Glenn wants Jeff to help him, but Jeff is hesitant. He doesn't like being with people all that much and isn't sure about Glenn. Then Jeff has his life threatened in the real world and it becomes rather important that he find out who's out to kill him. He turns to Glenn because he's the only person he feels he can trust. Over the coarse of the story, both men learn that several occult-ish groups could be involved in different aspects of Amity's disappearance as well as Jeff's dreams and real life threats and they work together to try to solve them. Glenn is convinced that Jeff's dream world is somehow connected to his daughter, although Jeff isn't sure of that, but Jeff figures it can't hurt to work with Glenn at any rate. Jeff also has a mysterious woman (Ms. Babinaux) arrive on the scene who warns him of impending danger and tries to protect him somewhat. In the end, however, it's Jeff who must face his own fears and conquer them in both of his worlds in order to move forward in his life.

"Fade to Black" is the first novel in a 5-part series called "Awake in the Dark". There are currently three novels available. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series. And the ones that follow. :) I'd suggest you get this one and get reading!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dominant Intelligence and Loving a Highly Creative Person

I took a test today. You know the kind... a few questions that don't necessarily link together that are supposed to tell you something about yourself. Today's test was supposed to tell me what my "dominant intelligence" is. Of course I had to take it, even though I wasn't sure what "dominant intelligence" means. After I'd finished, I did a search to see what the answer was referring to.

Apparently dominant intelligence, in this instance, is referring to preferred learning style. As most of us are aware of, we all learn in different ways. That's one of the things that makes us each so unique. Some of the types of learning styles are: verbal linguistic, spatial visual, bodily kinesthetic, bodily musical, musical rhythmic, intrapersonal, interpersonal.

I turned out to be an "Intrapersonal Intelligence" and this is what that means, according to the test:
Not to be confused with interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence is being aware of yourself. You have the capacity to be self-aware and in tune with your inner feelings, values, beliefs, and thinking processes. This does not mean you are an introvert, though most people who have a dominant intrapersonal intelligence are. You prefer to work alone and tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. You are very intuitive and independent and enjoy learning new things about yourself. You spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting. Some jobs that fit the intrapersonal intelligence type are: Writer, Philosopher, Psychologist, Spiritual Counselor, Guru, Researcher, Creative writer, Journalist, Self-employed.
I had to laugh at that last one. It doesn't seem to fit at all... unless you call starting your own spiritual movement being self-employed. Now there's a thought...

Having been rather artsy-fartsy all my life, I agree with this analysis for me though. Well, most of it anyway. Although I can be extroverted, I am actually introverted. I'd rather stay home than go out, especially into crowded places... unless I feel the desire to people-watch. Then I'm the one over in the corner taking mental notes on the way people are, clandestinely listening to conversations to learn more about people. These observations later become parts of characters in my novels. However, for the most part, I'm a home-body. I did notice in that list of perfect jobs that several have to do with spirituality. Spiritual councilor, philosopher, guru. Cool! So now I can write... and become a Guru! Content at last. LOL Is there such a thing as a PhD in Guruism? ;)

I also read an article this morning that some of you might be interested in reading, so I've quoted it below. I actually agree with it, for the most part, although lumping all creative people into the same description somehow doesn't sit well with me. It's like lumping any group into one description. It certainly doesn't work for every single person in that group. Some people will fit and others won't. But it is interesting to look at the list and say "yep, that's me, but that sure isn't".

"10 Things to keep in Mind When Loving a Highly Creative Person
Posted On 08 Jul 2015 by Justin Gammill

It has been proven that highly creative people’s brains work quite differently than other brains. That special brain wiring that can create such wonderful art, music, and writing can often lead to strain in a relationship, because of those differences. If you’ve ever loved a highly creative person, you know that it can seem like they live in their own little word at times, and that thought isn’t far from the truth. Here are some things to keep in mind when you are in love with a highly creative person:

1. Their Minds Don’t Slow Down
The highly creative mind is one that is running at full speed all the time. Although it can be a source of crazy, spontaneous fun – it can also be a burden. Highly creative people rarely keep normal sleep cycles, and are often prone to bouncing from one task to another throughout the day. It can be exhausting to try to keep up.

2. They are Cyclical
The flow of creativity is a cycle, full of highs and lows. Some people may consider this “manic” behavior, but in reality, it is just how the creative process works. Keep this in mind as your partner goes through these natural ebbs and flows. The low periods aren’t permanent.

3. They Need Time Alone
Creative minds need air to breathe. Whether it is their own little work space or an escape to somewhere quiet, they need a time and place to be alone with their thoughts. Some people are inclined to think that if nothing is being said that there is something wrong, but with creative people that is not the case. They are just working within their own head.

4. They are Intensely Focused
When a creative person is on task, they are fiercely intense. The change from being scatter-brained to hyper-focused can be difficult to deal with, so just understand that it is how their brains work. Don’t get frustrated.

5. Emotions Run Deeper
Creative people feel everything on a deeper level. What doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, can be crushing to them. It’s that same passion that goes into whatever they create that drives them to love you, so understand that with the good – comes the bad.

6. They Speak in Stories
Creative people often express themselves in experiences, instead of just saying what they want to say. It is a way of sharing themselves that personifies who they are. At times, it can be difficult to figure out what a creative person is saying, so don’t be afraid to read between the lines.

7. They Battle with Themselves
Being creative can be a serious internal struggle. Motivation, enthusiasm, direction, and drive can all be issues for creative people. Some days it is hard for them just to get out of bed, and other days you can’t get them to slow down. Be patient in the lulls, because there is usually a burst of activity right around the corner.

8. Intuition is Important
Creative people, because of their intense emotional tendencies, tend to rely on intuition over logic. They go with their gut. Some people consider this to be more on the “impulsive” end of the spectrum. The creative mind doesn’t rely on logic to make a decision, it relies on experience and passion.

9. They Struggle with Confidence
When people create, especially for a living, they are always struggling with acceptance. That is art. They have to wear their hearts on their sleeves, and so they always question whether or not what they are producing is good enough. Being supportive is the key to loving a creative person.

10. Growing Up is Hard to Do
Creative people are almost always children at heart. That care-free nature can seem immature and impetuous – but it is all part of the deal. Understand that the aspects of their creative brains that you love are the same ones that make them somewhat irresponsible when it comes to being an adult."

Well, there you have it, my learning for today. And I shared. :) Have a great day folks!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Winter's Tale

I just finished watching the movie "Winter's Tale" and I must say, at first I was really confused. 1895. 1916. 2014. The movie skips from one year to the other and, although I don't usually have a difficult time following a storyline, I was a bit confused in the beginning. I even had thoughts of just shutting the thing off and not bothering to watch the rest because I couldn't see how it fit together. But I am very glad that I kept watching "for just a wee bit longer".

After the first bit of the story, we get into a proper storyline that tells the story of a great love. I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, but this isn't one of those mushy, girly movies. She is dying and the hero believes it is his mission or destiny to save her and there is a devil of a being who keeps getting in the way of the couple. There are moments for tears and moments for smiles and moments for just hating what that devil is up to. A good satisfying movie all around. And after it was over, I realized that the beginning wasn't confusing anymore and it actually made sense to do it the way it was done. I enjoy watching the added stuff, and in doing so I found out there is a novel... which the producers say has a much deeper and more involved story. So I just might have to go find that and read it. :)

If you haven't seen Winter's Tale and you enjoy love and feeling good at the end of a movie, then I highly recommend this one. You don't even have to buy it. I borrowed it from my local library.

You may not think of your library as a source for movies... but they are terrific. And you can even go online to order things and have them brought to your local library for you. The town I live near is tiny, yet I have access to all sorts of things through the library there: Television seasons of my favourite shows, movies, novels, books to learn from, audio things... the list has thousands of items on it. And if I want something that isn't available through the local system, I can reach out to the whole province of libraries to get something. You should check yours out. You might just get hooked!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Cozies and Libraries

I enjoy reading "cozies", which are novels, usually in the 100,000 to 150,000 word bracket (smaller books) with a background theme that relates to something such as baking, soapmaking, or some other career of that ilk. They are easy on the brain, generally reasonably fast-paced, and do not have a lot of garbage sex or graphic descriptions of dead bodies. The characters are intelligent and enjoyable as a rule, and there is often a good amount of humour as well. Some have recipes included, others have descriptions of processes of the "craft" in the background, so they are educational in their own way too.

Tim Myers happens to write several of these easy-to-read-and-understand series but there are several other authors to enjoy as well. I have been reading the "Hannah Swensen" series (by Joanne Fluke) for the last several weeks and have grown quite fond of the main character. However, I have almost reached the end of the series, at least the end of the novels that have been written to date. This particular author publishes one or two books a year in this series and the latest one has just been published in March, so it will be a few months before another one comes out. I can't wait that long to read, so I will "test" out a few other authors... and I shall do that through my local library.

I love the library! Through it I can borrow any number of books, DVDs, CDs, and other entertainment items, read or listen to them, and hand them back in when I'm finished. The library allows me to check out new (to me) authors, series, and even types of books. If not for the library, I wouldn't have stumbled upon Hannah Swensen and the whole "cozy mystery" genre. I highly recommend libraries as a great source of entertainment.

It is through the library that I shall begin to read Tim Myers. Tim Myers is the author of several series and stand-alone books, including several "cozy mystery" series, as well as a few children's stories. He writes under aliases as well (Elizabeth Bright, Melissa Glazer, Chris Cavender, Casey Mayes, Jessica Beck, & D. B. Morgan). I haven't read any of his novels, so I have ordered two from different series. I've also ordered a few DVDs of television shows that I enjoy, but that's a whole 'nother topic. At any rate, I'll let you know what I think of Tim Myers as I progress.

I did want to make one comment about authors who write under different names. When reading through comments made by people who have read their books I have often seen negative or quasi-negative comments about who they really are. For instance, there was a person who was upset because the main (male) character in one of Tim Myers' books (Dead Men Don't Lye) was over 30 and still taking his laundry home for his mother to do for him. The comment went like this: " I have assumed that "Tim Myers" is a pen name for a woman- -at least, I hope it is, because I cannot imagine the man who could identify with, let alone create, Ben, the series protagonist." I found this comment quite humourous, although it wasn't meant to be. I mean, all the reader had to do was a little search on Google to find out who Tim Myers is. Would the author of that comment enjoy the book less if he thought a man had written it? I wonder. Personally I've met men like the protagonist who do this, so this character wouldn't be terribly unusual to me. I suppose if you haven't known anyone like this, the character would be.

At any rate, I am off for this time. I've put holds on my books and will pick them up this week. Then I can get to know "Ben" and make my own judgements. Have a wonderful day!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Temperance Brennan Character

We have been in our home a couple of months and we have been progressing slowly with getting things settled. We have furniture in our living room now, however, and that makes it much more comfortable. Instead of a couch and chair, we decided to get four chairs. In our storage we have a huge library of books and will be building bookcases all around the living room to accommodate them, so chairs just make better sense because you can actually set them in front of bookcases without it looking stupid or making it impossible to get at the books. We also bought a nice storage bench for our dogs. That sounds funny, so let me explain. The windows in the house are not at floor level. The dogs enjoy looking out the window. We put the bench in front of the living room window and they can sit on it to see out. The dogs love it... and so do I because there is that nice storage area in it.

And that catches you up with my life a bit. Now, on to my comments on Temperance Brennan...

I am a fan of the television series "Bones". I enjoy the show for its intelligent humour and I really like Temperance. I have been planning on reading the novels by Kathy Reichs since I discovered the television show but haven't had the first book until recently. I don't like to read a series out of order because then the background doesn't make sense. The television series says its based on the novels, so I expected to see references to Brennan's television life in the books. Not so. The only thing that is the same, it seems, is the name of the lead character.

On television, Temperance Brennan has a rather strange and distressing childhood after she turns 15. Her parents, it turns out, are criminals on the run from other criminals. They desert both her brother and her before Christmas of her 15th year, and her brother leaves as well. Temperance then goes into "the system" as a foster child... but she also somehow manages to get enough money to go to university where she earns her doctorate in anthropology (and, it seems, in archeology, since she is off on "archeological digs" around the world). She earns a reputation for being 'the best in the world in her field'. Temperance's name was changed when she was quite young, but she chooses to keep her assumed name after she finds out. She eventually gets working with the Jeffersonian Institute in Washington, DC. Her best friend is Angela. She marries FBI agent Sealy Booth, whom she also works with. Her daughter's name is Christine.

In the novels, Temperance Brennan is older. She has lived through an equally distressing childhood, although it isn't because her father and mother are "bad guys", but rather because her father is an alcoholic. She grew up with her parents in North Carolina. She hasn't had to change her name. She has moved to Montreal, Canada, where she went to school for part of her post-secondary education. She was married to someone named Jeff, whom she split with not long before heading to Canada. Her best friend (since university) is Gabby. Her daughter's name is Katy.

In both series Temperance is intelligent, has a good sense of humour, and knows her specialty extremely well. She is good at investigative work. In the television series she has an expert team of scientists to help her out. In the novels, she doesn't have that, although she does have people in various departments to test those things that she can't.

Each of these series has its merits and I am enjoying them both. When I began to read the novels, I thought there would be connections to the television series. Without those connections, I have decided to read and watch these series as separate entities and ignore the fact that each have a lead character that just happens to have the same name. Otherwise, the "picky" part of me will always be comparing the two, and there really is no comparison.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy

It has been ages since I last posted here and a lot has happened... but the biggest news is that my "other half" and I have moved out of the motorhome and into a house (at last!). That happened on December 31, 2014, late in the afternoon and we were so pleased to be in a house that it didn't matter that we didn't have any furniture to put into it. We cleared out the motorhome over the next couple of days, despite the weather (which really wasn't all that bad considering it was the dead of winter in Alberta), and set up housekeeping as best we could. It took until today to get into our storage and move a load in our GMC Yukon (yes, we even got a new vehicle, although we do still have the old motorhome).

At any rate, that isn't what I wanted to talk about, although it does catch you up a bit with my life. What I really wanted to talk about is in the title of this post. :)

I was reading a book called "The Peach Cobbler Murder" by Joanne Fluke (there are recipes in these stories, folks!) and there is a reference to "Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy" on page ... well never mind what page it's on because your book might be different from mine anyway, so there is no point. At any rate, the song was published in 1945 but the desserts have been around a lot longer than that. Once I couldn't get the words of the song out of my head, I just had to research the desserts and see what they are and where they originated and share it with you... 'Cause that's what I tend to do with useless bits of information. ;)

So, without further ado, here's what I found out...... 

Shoo-fly pie or Shoofly pie is a molasses pie considered tradition among Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonites and Pennsylvania Dutch. Surprisingly, Shoo-fly Pie is not as popular in non-Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonite communities. It is found in Ohio; but in Indiana, if you ask for a piece of Shoo-fly pie in an Amish restaurant, the person who serves it will rather disparagingly tell you 'it’s made only for the tourists'.

The pie supposedly got its name because the sweet molasses odour attracts flies that must be "shooed" away. The Shoo-fly pie's origins likely come from "Treacle tart", with the primary difference being the use of molasses instead of golden syrup. A Montgomery pie is similar to a Shoo-fly pie, except lemon juice is added to the bottom layer and buttermilk to the topping. A Chess pie is also similar, but it's not layered. 

Shoo-fly pie comes in two different versions, "wet bottom" and "dry bottom". The dry bottom version is baked until fully set, which results in a more cake-like consistency throughout. The wet bottom version sets like cake on the top where it has mixed in with the crumbs, but the bottom is a stickier, gooier, custard-like consistency.

Recipe for Shoo-fly Pie

Pastry for a 1-crust 9-inch pie - you can use a prepared crust, boxed mix, or make your own.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 rounded tablespoon cold butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg
1 cup light molasses
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda

1.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the pie pastry and line a 9-inch pie pan; set aside.
2.     In a food processor bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt.
3.      Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. Transfer the rest to a medium mixing bowl.
4.     In a small bowl, beat the egg lightly. Add the molasses and cold water, and blend but do not beat; you don’t want bubbles in the batter. Set aside.
5.     In a small bowl, mix the hot water with the baking soda and blend into the molasses mixture.
6.      Add to the flour mixture and mix well.
7.      Pour into the pie shell and top with the reserved crumbs.
8.      Bake for 35 minutes. The pie will appear quivery but will firm up as it cools.
9.      Transfer to a rack to cool completely before cutting.

So now you know. The "Apple Pan Dowdy" was a bit more involved once I found it. And the recipe I'm adding is actually for Peach Pan Dowdy instead, but you can use pretty much any fruit you want, or a mixture of fruit if you prefer.

Fruit Pan Desserts, including Pan Dowdy 

“Back in the day”, when women had to cook for large groups of people (whether family or thrashing crews), desserts were necessary and expected... and for ease in the kitchen, they were often simple to put together. A pan with fruit and some sort of topping was baked and could then be served directly from the pan, sometimes with cream or ice cream. How are the different fruit pan desserts the same and how are they different? Most of these desserts are baked with fruit under a topping, which can be biscuit-like, crumbled, or drops of dough. Various sweeteners differentiate one from the other in many cases. Here is a brief description of various fruit pan desserts so you know who's who with them. :)

1.     Betty: This baked dessert dates back to Colonial times. The most common Betty is the “Apple Brown Betty”, so named because it is made with brown sugar. A Betty uses buttered bread crumbs.
2.     Buckle: Blueberry Buckle is the most prevalent Buckle recipe found. Buckles are baked and are usually made in one of two ways.
a.      The first way is that the bottom layer is cake-like with the berries mixed in. Then the top layer is crumb-like.
b.     The second way is layered, where the cake layer is on the bottom of the pan, the berries are the next layer and the top is the crumble mixture.
3.     Clafouti: This is a dessert that originated in the French countryside. It is a dessert that the fruit is topped with either a cake or pudding topping. The Clafouti is often considered a baked pudding.
4.     Cobbler: Another baked fruit pan. The fruit filling is put in a deep baking dish and topped with a biscuit dough. The dough may completely cover the fruit or it may just be dropped in handfuls.
5.     Crumble: Similar to a Crisp, the topping is crumbled over the fruit filling in the pan. A Crumble is baked.
6.     Crisp: In this baked dessert, the fruit filling is covered with a crunchy topping which is crumbled over the top.
7.     Grunt: A Grunt is a stewed or baked fruit dish. Biscuit dough is rolled and put on top of the fruit. The name of Grunt may have come from the noise people made while eating it. Grunts are also known as Slumps.
8.     Pan Dowdy or Pandowdy: You'll find both spellings for this baked dish. The dough is on top of the fruit and it is rolled out, yet it ends up being “crumbly” when eaten.

Peach Pan Dowdy

6 cups thickly sliced peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

1.     Preheat the oven to 3750 F (1900 C).
2.     Place the peaches in a medium bowl. Sprinkle lemon juice over them. Mix together 1/2 cup of sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle over the peaches, and stir to coat. Spoon into a 2 to 2 1/2 quart casserole dish.
3.    In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry cutter until it is in fine crumbs. Make a well in the center, and pour in the cream. Stir with a fork until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4.     Roll out dough on a floured surface until it is just big enough to cover the baking dish. Cut a 2 inch cross in the center. Place over the peaches, and tuck in the dough around the sides. Turn back the corners of the cross to reveal the filling.
5.     Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until filling is bubbly, and top is golden brown.

Well, that's it for this time. I do hope you enjoyed this little blurb. Try the recipes and let me know how yours turns out.