Sunday, December 23, 2012

THE CHRISTMAS PICKLE




Several years ago I started a new Christmas tradition with my kids. The Christmas Pickle Ornament. To tell you the truth I don’t even remember how I came to hear of it. What I had learned was that you could purchase an ornament that looked like a pickle. On Christmas Eve, you’d hide the pickle on the tree, and come Christmas morning the kids would get up and search for it. The first one to find it would get a gift.

This was all I knew about the Pickle ornament. Nothing else. So I happened to come across the ornament and decided to implement the tradition in my own home. Not knowing who would find the pickle, I’d purchase a gift that would suit everyone. Usually a movie or one of those obnoxious holiday stuffed animals that sing and dance. The kids quickly caught on, having a blast with it.

A few years into someone did the unthinkable…they broke the pickle ornament. Yikes! I thought, what were the odds of ever finding another one. So I had a mission…to search high and low, whatever it took to find another pickle. And search I did, and found I had. I wasn’t about to let that happen again and purchased not one, but several.

Each year I purchase my kids a new ornament for the tree, usual pertaining to something they did that year, like played baseball, karate, started playing an instrument, or things they were really into like Hannah Montana. That sort of stuff. On each one I write their name and the year it was purchased. One day when they marry, they’ll be given to them for their own tree. That's where the extra pickles came in. Why not purchase each of them their very own pickle ornament as well.

My kids have such a blast each year taking out the ornament, remembering specifically each one and why they received it that year. They make sure they get to hang their own ornaments and no one else. They love it so much they insist on taking them down as well.

Each year the kids promptly remind me about the pickle ornament. They so love to search for it. It’s been fun over the years to see how it’s evolved. I have four kids, the age difference between the first two is almost eleven years, and then comes four years and lastly, less then two. For several years my older two would help the younger ones, allowing them to find the pickle. Now that their older, it’s every kid for themselves.

But with this family Christmas tradition, there was the ignorance of how The Christmas Pickle Ornament originated. So with the first pickle being broken, the purchase of the new ones provided us with the story behind it.

THE CHRISTMAS PICKLE ORNAMENT

In Old World Germany, the last decoration placed on the Christmas Tree was always a pickle…carefully hidden deep in the boughs. Ledged has it that the observant child who found it on Christmas Day was blessed with a year of good fortune…and a special gift.

Friday, December 14, 2012

IT'S ALL GOOD


Title: All in Good Time

Author: Maureen Lang
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers (April 1, 2013)
Pages: 400

I’m a huge MAUREEN LANG fan, so it was never in question if I was going to like ALL IN GOOD TIME. I have yet to read one of her novels that didn’t captivate me from the first page to the last.

Dessa Caldwell is on a mission. A mission that not many would believe to be a wise choice, but that hardly mattered to her. God has placed a calling upon her and she means to obey. Only problem is she needs to acquire a loan from Hawkins National Bank. The owner is less than happy to approve her much needed loan for the Pierson House, a refuge for prostitutes.

Henry Hawkins has a secret that has kept him at a distance from others. One he fears will destroy all he’s built over the years. When Dessa Caldwell enters his bank with the intentions of obtaining a loan for a crazy mission she is determined to carry out, Henry is not too pleased when his uncle tricks him into giving her the loan.

I have to say I fell in love with Henry and Dessa, and dare I say for a moment, Mr. Foster. MS. LANG has the most amazing knack for brining to life the characters in her novels that will have you turning the pages, and not wanting to set the book down.

MR. LANG does an amazing job at subtleties. Characters that seep into your heart, and change so gradually and realistically over the course of the book that you feel they are someone you know. Faith is gently sprinkled throughout, never preachy or forced. Just the right amount to get the sense of one’s belief and transformation without feeling as though you just stepped out of a sermon.

The drama and tension is tangible. As a writer, one of the things you are taught is to end your chapters with a hook. MS. LANG certainly has that down. I found it difficult to put the book down, taking me away from my daily duties as I thought, “just one more chapter”.

I loved the unique storyline, and how the ending came together. Once again MS. LANG has produced an amazing story, one that will stay with you for a very long time.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

SAFE HAVEN?



Title: Safe Haven
Author: Nicholas sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (June 26, 2012)
Pages: 432

I’ve only read a few NICHOLAS SPARKS books, and each one was triggered by a movie. Not the typical way I pick out a book to read. The first was A WALK TO REMEMBER. Being one of my all time favorite movies, I just had to read the book to see how it was written. Unfortunately I was disappointed. Not that it wasn’t written well, or a good story, just too different from then the movie.

The next book by MR. SPARKS I read was, DEAR JOHN. I saw the movie trailer, and knew I had to see it. I made the mistake of rushing out to get the book to read beforehand, finishing it the day before I went to see the movie. Once again I was disappointed. They had changed something, in my eyes, something major. I couldn’t get past that. The movie also lacked the emotion the book did (what a surprise). The book was amazing. The movie okay. Perhaps I saw the movie too close to having read the book.

I have THE NOTEBOOK, but have yet to read it. Loved the movie. Have THE LAST SONG, have yet to read it. Loved the movie. I guess you might say I’m a little hesitant to read AND watch something by NICHOLAS SPARKS. If I don’t read a book before watching a movie, the chances of me reading it afterwards is slim. Yet each time I see a great movie like one of MR. SPARKS, I yearn to read the book.

As soon as I saw the trailer for SAFE HAVEN, I knew I’d have to see it. Once again I wrestled with the idea of reading the book first. The writer in me wants to read how a great movie is played out in words. So I did it. I purchased the book and read it. And loved it!

Katie Feldman slips into a small town in North Carolina, hoping to move in unnoticed. All she wants is to live out the rest of her life in peace. Meeting a man is the last thing she has on her mind. She’d doing just fine on her own, and that’s the way she prefers it.

Alex Wheatley is kind hearted and genuine. He’s also a widow and father of two young children. When Katie steps into his quaint family store, he’s immediately intrigued. Not only is she beautiful, she seemed to have a secret. One she isn’t about to let Alex in on.

SAVE HAVEN is definitely going on my list of favorite books. MR. SPARKS is an amazing story teller. I realize number one bestselling authors can get away with just about anything, but as an aspiring fiction author; it kind of annoyed me that he didn’t keep his point-of-views straight. One sentence was one character, and the next another. More than a handful of times I had to go back and reread it to figure out whose point-of-view it was. To the average reader this may not be an issue, but to a writer that has been taught to not head hop/switch POV without indicating doing so with a break, it’s distracting. I have to wonder why such a brilliant storyteller would do so. I admit there are a few times in many story that it might be helpful, but on the whole, it’s not good to do so.

Other then the head hopping, SAFE HAVE is an amazing story. Not a lull in the book, though I could have done without the overly descriptive details at times. I loved both characters, Katie and Alex. I was both surprised and pleased when the story shifted to Katie’s past. The characters were three-dimensional, coming to life off the pages. After seeing the movie trailer, I could only picture the cast from the movie, which wasn’t a bad thing. They fit the profile perfectly … minus their hair color. I really liked how the abusive relationship was played out. It painted a realistic picture of what too many women go through. I have to say, I did feel sorry for Katie’s husband at one point, wondering what happened in his life that caused him to do what he did.

SAVE HAVEN is a fast paced, entraining read that will tug at your heart, and cause your heart to race with a few twists and surprises.

Next on my list from NICHOLAS SPARKS … THE LUCKY ONE. Now on DVD, I’m still deciding whether to read the book before seeing the movie. I guess time will tell.

Monday, December 3, 2012

EVER TRY TO EAT A POMEGRANATE?

I love these…




But I don’t love trying to get out the juicy seeds to eat.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my third child that I discovered Pomegranates. And then it became one of my pregnancy cravings. Ever since I’ve loved them. Up until then I had never even heard of them, naively thinking they were a new creation. So you could imagine my surprise when I was reading my Bible and ran across the word POMEGRANATE! And not just once, but several times. It seems they used them for decorations quite often.

Each year when pomegranates are in season, I pick up one here and there. And each time I kind of regret my purchase.

Why?

Because it’s so much work to eat them! It’s slow and tedious, not to mention a messy process.

The other day while at the store in the produce section, I spotted the largest, shiniest, reddest pomegranate I’ve ever seen. I just had to have it … yet I hesitated. Would it just sit on my counter, calling my name while I dreaded the process to eat it?

Then I saw it! A green plastic contraption. I picked it up and read the label. Right! Sure it will do that. But hey, it was worth a try, so I stuck it in my cart and headed for the cashier, along with the pomegranate made for the Incredible Hulk.

So here it is. Noting fancy, right?



























After a few days of sitting in my kitchen, I finally decided to see if I had wasted my money.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle.

I could hardly believe my eyes.

The process, trim off crown, cut in half, score four or five places around the edge, turn upside down on grate, tap (I used an ice cream scoop), and ta da! All the seeds dropped below to the plate.

There were a few pieces of the flesh that I needed to pick out, but once I did, I dumped all the juicy red seeds into a bowl and dug in, eating them by the spoonful. Something I’d never been able to do before. What a treat.



You can bet I’ll be buying many more pomegranates then ever in the future. Give one a try. You'll be amazed.