The One Good Thing – Best Book Club Yet

 

The One Good Thing by Kevin Alan Milne got passionate mixed reviews from the ladies of book club. However, I’m ranking it as the best book club read so far. This is based on the number of book clubbers who actually read it and the lively discussion this book elicited.

I absolutely love that some readers really liked the positive messaging of The One Good Thing, while other vehemently hated it. Yes, the word hate was used. Differing opinions on what we read is exactly what makes book club so much fun!

If you’ve never heard of The One Good Thing (I hadn’t), here’s a little bit about it.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

For as long as Halley Steen has known her husband Nathan, he has carried a handful of stones in his pocket. Each day he uses those stones to remind him to follow the Golden Rule, moving a stone from one pocket to the other with each act of kindness. So it’s not unusual that Nathan stops to help a stranger on the side of the highway while on his way to his son’s football game one Friday evening. But that one act will change all of their lives forever, when a car hydroplanes off the road, killing Nathan instantly.

As Halley and her children Ty and Alice struggle with their grief, Nathan’s spiritual legacy lives on. A Facebook page appears, where countless stories about Nathan’s selfless acts are shared. But among them is one that stands out, from a woman who says that Nathan saved her life. Neither Halley nor her children have ever heard of Madeline Zuckerman. But soon Halley discovers years of e-mails from this woman to her husband on his computer that refer to “our little girl.” How could her husband have kept the secret of this other child for their entire marriage? Why had he lied to her? Was he not the man she thought he was?

Only thirteen-year-old Alice maintains unwavering faith in her father. She knows there’s an explanation. When she sets out to find Madeline and learn the truth, she will start to unravel the complex story of The One Good Thing Nathan Steen did that had the greatest impact of all. 

Review

The range of reviews for this book was indeed wide. Some enjoyed the feel-good concept of acts of kindness. Others thought the story was predictable, trite and even poorly written. I agree on the predictability – I knew the twist would straighten itself out from the very beginning. The fact that this very nice man was tragically killed at the onset of the book was also a bit of a bummer. But, I liked that the author presented the mystery early on and enjoyed the ease of the read. The “do good” lesson also spoke to me in a positive way. Add to that, one of our thoughtful book club members gifted each of us with a bag of little stones and I call that a win. Thank you Kelly!

 

 

Our lovely hostess also served the sweetest handmade chocolates in the form of a little book – adorable and yummy too. Thank you Margaret!

 

 

I passed my copy of The One Good Thing to my mother. Mom, have you read it yet? What did you think?

Next Up

Educated by Tara Westover has come highly recommended and will be book club’s next read. I am looking forward to it.

 

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A Movie Marathon and a Sad Trend


If the weather didn’t get me down this weekend, the three movies in my unexpected movie marathon sure did. You may already know that when it comes to my viewing pleasures, I’m much more a TV show kind a gal over a movie buff. However, three movies had piqued my interest for some time so, to escape the rain and cold, I hunkered in for the weekend and watched my heart out.

Bingeworthy Sidenote

I also managed to catch an episode or two of the new Netflix series starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini called Dead to Me. Folks, this is a good one – really good. Applegate is doing some of her best work. Dead to Me has the same level of drama and intrigue as Big Little Lies. Let’s just hope that it gets a season two as well. It’s being called a dark comedy. I’m not sure I find it all that funny, but it’s well done! Definitely worth a watch.

Ok, back to my movie marathon…

So, I took in three films that had been on my radar for a while. I liked each one of them, but found the sad, underlying theme of addiction in each storyline to be a shocking reminder of how tragic this epidemic truly is. The first movie I watched was Beautiful Boy starring Steve Carrell.

Beautiful Boy

Based on two best-selling books by father and son, David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy tells the story of Nic Sheff’s nearly lifelong battle with hardcore drug addiction and his father David’s desperate fight to pull him out of it. The story was heart wrenching, but well told. After having watched, I learned that the movie actually softened the severity of Nic’s darkest days. Hard to imagine, because it appeared pretty rough.

The next show in my movie marathon line-up was the Netflix movie The Dirt, which threw back to the good old days of Motley Crue.

The Dirt

I loved it and learned more than I ever wanted to know about the debauchery of 1980s hair bands. I knew these guys were bad, but oh boy! They were worse than I could’ve imagined. I did enjoy learning the pivotal role Nikki Sixx played in forming the band and almost causing its demise as a result of, yet again, a nearly fatal drug habit.

Finally, I watched A Star is Born. Ridiculous that it took me this long, but as they say – better late than never.

A Star is Born

As you might imagine, I thought the movie was great. Gaga and Bradley Cooper were everything everyone had said they would be and, in the end, I was heartbroken that addiction and mental illness took center stage over the amazing talents of the two beautifully portrayed characters. The Grammy’s scene was really hard to watch and I wanted a different ending, plain and simple.

In the End

Three good movies with three eye-opening stories of devastating addiction. Had I not watched them all at once, I don’t think the overwhelming weight of the addiction crisis would have hit me quite as hard as it did. To make matters worse, I topped off the melancholy by watching Adam Sandler’s emotional SNL tribute to Chris Farley – another loss at the hands of drugs and alcohol.

The issues addressed in each of these films are big and scary and, most of all, sad. I’m not sure what else to say other than, I hope it gets better.


Book News

 

Stock up on copies of Musing Mediterranean! Amazon is running a special. Purchase Musing Mediterranean for just $4.57! Order now! 

 

 


 

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Lemon Blueberry Cake as seen on Facebook by Delish

blueberry lemon cake

Man, the past few weeks have been nuts. Between April break, an anniversary celebration, a fun writing assignment, back-to-back Easters (American and Greek), a memorial event and Ally’s confirmation, I have lost complete track of my usual day-to-day routine.

Despite having felt a bit overwhelmed, so many good things came out of the chaos. One of which was this new recipe for a really good lemon blueberry cake. Typically, I’m not a baker but this cake kept popping up on my Facebook feed and it looked so good, I had to try it. Have you seen it? Celebrating Ally’s confirmation seemed the perfect occasion to give this fresh and spring-like sweet a try.

A Funny Faux-Pas

I followed the directions explicitly. Right down to the parchment paper liner for each layer. But, oops! Nowhere in the directions does it say to remove the parchment after baking. I totally forgot this step and served 3 layers of lined cake to all of my guests. Guess what? It didn’t matter one bit. Everyone liked the cake so much, they ate it anyway after pulling out the paper. Guests even went back for seconds. Not my finest moment, but the cake was a huge success and I would gladly try it again – parchment free, of course!!

The original recipe for this Lemon Blueberry Cake, as seen on Facebook, can be found at delish.com –Lemon Blueberry Cake.

Here’s everything you need to know…

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box vanilla cake, plus ingredients called for on box
  • Juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemons, divided, plus more zest for garnish
  • 1 3/4 c. fresh blueberries, divided (I read that some folks used frozen blueberries and the end result was just as good)
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Thin lemon slices, for topping (I bought candy lemon wedges from Market Basket and used those instead – yummy and cute!)

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat oven to 350º and grease three 9″ cake pans with cooking spray (I bought 3 disposable pans). Line with parchment. Prepare cake mix according to package directions, then stir in juice and zest of 1 lemon.
  • In a small bowl, toss 1 cup blueberries and flour until completely coated (to keep the berries from sinking). Gently fold blueberries into the batter.
  • Divide cake batter evenly among prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
  • Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
  • Make frosting: In a large bowl using a hand mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat butter and 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar. Add remaining lemon juice and zest and heavy cream and beat until combined, then beat in vanilla and salt. (Add remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar as desired for texture and flavor.)
  • Place a dab of frosting on cake plate (to keep cake in place) and place parchment strips on each side of the cake plate. Place down first cake and top with frosting, then top with second cake and frost. Repeat with third cake and frost sides.
  • Garnish with remaining blueberries, lemon slices, and zest and serve.

Buon appetito!

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Organizing a Fundraiser? Soul Warming Soups!

The weather may be warming, but a nice bowl of soup still makes a filling and nutritious meal. Recently, I and a fellow basketball mom (thanks Bethany) were charged with organizing a fundraiser for our daughters’ basketball team. I was introduced to Andrea Gallagher and Soul Warming Fundraising by a friend who was also organizing a fundraiser (thanks Jen!).

I quickly realized that team fundraisers are not only an important part of supporting our kids and youth sports, but a great opportunity to give back to our communities. In the past, I’ve purchased magazine subscriptions, pricey wrapping paper, coupon booklets that sat in a drawer and $10 candy bars. All for a good cause, of course, but no other fundraiser felt as worthwhile to me as this one with Soul Warming Fundraising.

Donate A Bag

The concept is simple. Rally your team, or group, to sell delicious 2 pound frozen bags of soup in a wide variety of gourmet flavors.

Soul Warming Fundraising also has a generous matching program for groups that reach their DonateABAG.org donation goals.

flyer for organizing a fundraiser

Looking for Something Even Easier?

You can also opt to only donate soup vs. selling direct to family and friends. This is the option the girls’ basketball program chose and we could not have been happier with the outcome. All donations were secured online. Participants were thrilled with the ease of it and satisfaction knowing that with every bag donated, we were helping a local family in need.

One mom told me that this was the best fundraiser any of her three children had ever been involved in.

Our fundraiser did so well, we were able to cover all of our team’s expenses for the year. In the end, members of the basketball and ski teams volunteered to help deliver the soup to Lazarus House Ministries. It was a great feeling for everyone involved.

Organizing a fundraiser can be a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be when you Donate a Bag with Soul Warming Fundraising.

Are You Organizing a Fundraiser?

Contact Andrea Gallagher at 401-212-0211 or andrea@soulwarmingfundraising.com

“My heart is in it all year round. In spring and summer, food pantry or food bank shelves are traditionally low with food.  Many parent groups, classes and sports teams are still in need of funds. It could be an easy, heartfelt way to raise dollars.” Andrea Gallagher Owner & Fundraising Consultant.

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Walking Tall – Walking as Exercise with Rachael Attard

walking as exercise Pixabay image

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I like to try new things, especially when it comes to health and fitness. I’ve shared my thoughts on “healthy eating,”spinning, kickboxing, Pilates, stretching and Whole 30. I’m a self-proclaimed gym hopper and if you hear me singing the praises of any one activity, you can be nearly sure I’ll drop that activity in about six months.

That said, I think mixing up workouts is important. It relieves boredom and helps aging bodies figure out what now works, when what used to no longer does.

Walking as Exercise

Recently, I discovered the benefit of walking as exercise. It happened when I Googled how to get lean legs. I felt like everything I was doing at the time was making my legs larger not smaller. I stumbled on this specific blog post by Rachael Attard and honestly felt like it was speaking directly to me. She said, “Are you wondering how to get skinny legs?” I thought, why yes, yes I am. She said, “whenever a client would tell a trainer they wanted thinner legs, the trainer would tell them it shouldn’t be their goal.” I’ve heard that many times or it’s not in your genetics. That one always made me want to scream. She said, “when someone complains about getting bulky, the trainer says women don’t have enough testosterone to get bulky.” Yup, I heard that too, but certain things did make me feel bulky, no matter what anyone said. Jeans don’t lie! And then Rachael said what really spoke to me, “who are you to tell a woman she is wrong – her body and her idea of “bulky” may be different than yours.”

With so many of Rachael’s points striking a chord, I decided to take her suggestions from the post. I didn’t purchase a thing and I simply began walking as exercise. Every day.

Body Type Determines The Best Exercise for You

Rachael’s post includes a LOT more information than I’m sharing here. She explained that different body types require different types of exercise. Most importantly she helped me realize that a lot of what I was doing wasn’t helping me achieve what I wanted.

She suggested that walking as exercise would slim my legs sooner than would running. She confirmed what I’d always suspected that activities like running, spinning, elliptical, Stairmaster and even walking on an incline may contribute to muscle-building right where I don’t want it.

And so, I walked and I walked and I walked and guess what? I lost an inch on my thighs and I’m kind of loving the simplicity of it all. I hop on a treadmill and I walk as quickly as I comfortably can for as long as I can. No incline, no painful running, no up and down pace setting. Just one, steady-as-she-goes, walk and I’m done. This, along with a bit of yoga, Barre and Pilates, is feeling pretty good right now.

The Pros

I love that I’m finally seeing change in the right direction and that I can do this every day and not feel sore or broken. I love that if I don’t have a treadmill nearby, I can walk outside.

The Cons

I don’t like that walking often feels long, boring and time-consuming. TV helps!

Just Something to Think About

Now, is this for everyone? No, of course not. Am I kind of loving it right now and just thought I’d share as an interesting alternative to higher impact activities? Yes!

I’ve mentioned it to a few people who have similar body types and, interestingly, they are finding similar success.

I’ll check back in six months when I’m sure to be onto something new. Meanwhile, I’ll see you later, I’m going for a walk!

 

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