Archive | January 2022

COVID Diaries: Day 683

I’m ready for winter to be over, but I’m trying to embrace it while it lasts.  The last week or so has been cold and clear, with some blue sky days and some that were foggy.  It was back to rain today.

Cora is fully embracing the winter – lazy days spent snuggling in her puff.  These cats really have the life…

Yesterday a girlfriend and I went to TJ Maxx and to the outlet mall to do a bit of clothes shopping.  I have purchased next to nothing in the way of new clothes over the last two years, what with not traveling, and mostly working from home.  It’s been time to get rid of some things that were getting ratty, with faulty zippers and faded colors.  I was way too successful with sweaters and tops, but I can’t complain, as usually it’s the other way around…

On our way home we still had a bit of daylight left, so we stopped by a newer park about a half hour from home.  We checked out a trail, and the viewpoints at the top of Little Mountain.  This is one we will definitely need to visit again! 

I finished my Minnesota puzzle and started a new one.  The fairly monochromatic pink on the new one is going to be more challenging.  I’m making some progress, but it’s a bit slow.  She’s so pretty though!  The photo is a picture of the box – I haven’t made it very far yet.  It was a Christmas gift from my mom.

Shelley and I walked downtown to steak night mid-week.  It is always so delicious!  I was so hungry though, that I totally missed taking a photo of my steak.  I did manage to snap a pic of the chocolate cake we shared for dessert.

 

I’m looking forward to the day when I’m not going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark.  Sunset is after 5 pm now, so that day is coming!  I feel like I only ever see the sun on my days off and when I can squeeze in a lunch walk, which isn’t everyday.  

I need a vacation! 

 

 

Book Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella

My therapist suggested that I read a humorous book – apparently something didn’t sit well with her when I mentioned I was reading the book about Ted Bundy – so I promised that I would read something fun next.  I picked this one off the shelf, a book that I won in a giveaway a decade or so ago and never got to.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, #1)

Becky is a journalist in the financial sector, writing about retirement funds, bonds, stock splits and all things finance related.  So you would think that she’d know what she was talking about and practice what she preaches.  Except Becky’s own finances are an absolutely mess, and she’s in debt up to her eyeballs due to her inability to stop shopping… 

Becky comes up with all sorts of harebrained schemes to make more money, including marrying a millionaire and winning the lottery, along with other less traditional ideas.  The problem is, she grossly overestimates how much she can earn and underestimates how much she spends. 

It is intended to be a light-hearted story of a young woman learning to survive in the world, and of course there is a happy ending as all of Becky’s dreams come true. 

For me though, ugh, she was annoying.  It really drove me nuts to see how she spent money, with no regard for her ballooning credit card balance.  Doesn’t she dream of an early retirement?  Doesn’t she understand that designer clothes are no better than clothes that cost a fraction of what she paid?  I am my father’s daughter, and overdrawing my account is simply a no go.

Clearly this homework assignment backfired. I’ll have to more carefully consider my next “humorous” book.

2 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Antietam

Day 64, Monday, September 17, 2018
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland

I was due to start heading west to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding and to spend some time with family.  But along the way, of course, I planned to sightsee!

Antietam National Battlefield was on my list.  I had visited back in 2008, but a freak snow storm deposited approximately 1/4 inch of snow that had shut down the Visitor Center (and I thought we were bad about snow in Washington state).  I was determined to return.  Too bad the rain this time was insane!

Antietam (called the Battle of Sharpsburg in the south), was a Civil War Battle that occurred on September 17, 1862, and remains to this day the bloodiest day in American history.  22,717 Union and Confederate solders were killed, wounded or missing that day.  Of course, it also has other historical significance.  Although it was technically a draw, General McClellan and his Union troops were able to stop Confederate General Lee’s advance into Maryland.  That was enough of a victory for President Lincoln, and he used the opportunity to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, which would take effect on January 1, 1863 in Confederate controlled areas.

The battlefield land was established as a park on August 30, 1890 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Approximately 385,000 people visit each year.

I first stopped at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, which was supposed to be open that day.  It was just starting to rain.  The Pry House was General McClellan’s headquarters during the battle and now has Civil War field hospital exhibits inside, so I was very interested in seeing it.  Unfortunately, it was locked up tight – thwarted again!

So I headed over to the Visitor’s Center, and was happy to find it open.  I sat in on a Ranger presentation about the battle; where things happened, and how the battle unfolded.  The Visitor’s Center has a viewing area for these presentations on the second floor, so you get a good view of the layout of the field and can see a visual of what the Ranger is discussing.  It was interesting!

Then I went out on the auto tour.  I stopped by Dunker Church and took a peek inside. 

I drove through Miller’s farm, where the fighting began on the morning of the battle.  I climbed to the top of the Observation Tower.  By this time, it had started to rain really hard, and the wind was kicking up, creating quite a sway at the top of the tower!

By the time I made my way over to the Burnside Bridge, which I REALLY wanted to see, it was a torrential downpour.  I was sad, but ultimately decided to skip it, as I’m not even sure I would have been able to see it if I walked over to it.  Which just means I will have to go back!  One day, I will see Antietam as it should be seen.

Book Review: The Broker

The Broker, by John Grisham

I haven’t read anything by John Grisham, but I have watched a few movies that are based on his books.  This was one of my dad’s audio books, so I popped it in for a quick read on my commute.

The Broker

Joel Backman was a high powered attorney in Washington, D.C., trying to broker a deal between the U.S. Government and three young middle eastern men who have hacked into a satellite system and want to sell the technology to the highest bidder.  In the process, things go wrong and Backman goes to prison.  Fast forward to the beginning of the novel, when he has received a Presidential pardon (that he didn’t ask for) and is set up with a new life in Italy.  Things seem to be looking up!

However, things are not as they seem, and as it turns out, there are multiple people trying to kill Backman.  The problem is, he doesn’t know who…  He does realize that he can’t trust the government operatives who are supposed to be helping him.  So he’s on his own… 

The Broker is a fast-paced thriller with plenty of intrigue and seeing who can outsmart whom. 

3 stars. 

Book Review: The Stranger Beside Me

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, by Ann Rule

I wasn’t even born yet when Ted Bundy started killing women in Western Washington.  I still wasn’t born when he moved on to other states and continued to kill women.  I was only a toddler when he was finally caught for his murders in Florida.  Yet somehow the story of Ted Bundy was frequently told while I was growing up, a cautionary tale told among friends.  It didn’t help that I also grew up in a time when the Green River Killer was murdering south of Seattle, and that Ted Bundy was executed when I was in middle school.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story

Author Ann Rule knew Bundy, spending a few years in the 1970s working with him for, of all places, a Rape Crisis Hotline.  Once a week she worked a volunteer shift with him, answering calls and talking during the quiet hours.  She described him as kind, attentive, sweet, intelligent, and not someone she ever suspected of murdering multiple women in his spare time.  Except there was enough of a nagging doubt that she did turn his name into investigators when eyewitnesses described a young man named “Ted”, who drove a Volkswagen Beetle, talking to one of the murder victims.  She wasn’t the only one who had doubts.

Rule was writing crime stories for a local magazine, and trying to break into writing a book.  So she knew she had her subject when her friend Ted was arrested in Utah for kidnapping and murder, but he swore he was innocent.  She continued to correspond with Bundy while he was awaiting trial, always being honest and letting him know that she would use their correspondence in whatever she wrote.  Of course, he insisted that the book would be clearing his name.

The Stranger Beside me details almost 20 years of history between the author and the murderer, detailing his murders in six different states, his arrests, his escapes, his trials, and ultimately his execution in 1989.  She writes candidly about the conflict of coming to a gradual realization that the man she saw as kind and gentle, was really a sadistic, violent, psychopath.  The book goes into detail on the nature of his crimes, juxtaposed with his assertions of innocence, his frustrations with law enforcement and his public defenders, and a system he believed was unfairly portraying him as a monster.

Now, of course, it is clear that Bundy was a monster.  But as Rule shows, that wasn’t always so indisputable.  Bundy was probably one of the very worst, but unfortunately after reading, you can’t help but realize that there truly is evil walking among us.

4 stars. 

Book Review: C is for Corpse

C is for Corpse, by Sue Grafton

What if you knew that someone had unsuccessfully tried to kill you, but failed?

C is for Corpse (Kinsey Millhone Mystery)

In Sue Grafton’s third private detective story, Bobby Callahan hires private detective Kinsey Millhone to discover who tried to kill him by running his car off the road nine months previously.  Bobby was in physical therapy still trying to heal from his injuries from the crash that also killed his best friend.

Kinsey has to figure out if Bobby really was the victim of attempted murder, and not just some terrible accident.  Things aren’t very clear.  But soon enough the waters are muddied even further, when Bobby is in another car accident.  Was he the victim of another attempt, or is his battered body the cause of the tragedy? 

This novel had a lot of twists and turns, and in the end, Kinsey discovers the truth.  It’s an easy, quick read, but it did make me wonder at times if what she described was even possible.  Take it with a grain of salt…

3 stars. 

COVID Diaries: Day 661

Ugh… So far 2022 isn’t looking any better than 2021 left us.

I gotta say I have winter fatigue.  After three snowstorms, a treacherous commute over black ice, multiple experiences with freezing rain, and then a big rainstorm to wash it all away, I’m really just ready for summer.  The plus side was the snow kept me from having to work from the office a few days, and I just got to stay wrapped up all cozy and working from home.  I managed to avoid any freezing pipes despite the frigid temperatures, so that was a positive.  But my skin is suffering from the dry air…

One evening I walked downtown through the snow to get out of the house and have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.  It was pretty quiet when I got there, and I had a chance to just sit at the bar and read my book while sipping my wine.  The mussels and pork belly poutine hit the spot!

My cousin was going through old photos and texted me this one.  My brother, my dad and me – probably 1978.  I don’t know who got cut out over on the left…  I miss my dad so much still.  It’s been almost three years, and it still feels like yesterday.

New Year’s was quiet, because my friend who was going to come over couldn’t.  But I got treated to three days of her in the last snowstorm this week because I live within walking distance of her work, so she stayed with me to make sure she could get there.  We started a new puzzle.  And we walked to dinner and I got fajitas!  Oh boy, how I love steak fajitas…

 

Now I’m just trying to get motivated to clean the house.  Meh…

In other good news I have a four day work week next week and a four day holiday weekend!  I live for the long weekends!  I have a couple of friends coming up too, so I’m looking forward to that.  Maybe the year will start to turn around!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Alexandria, Virginia

Day 63, Sunday, September 16, 2018
In and around Alexandria, Virginia

My last day in D.C. was a relaxing day with friends.  In the morning, I went horseback riding with a friend of mine in Silver Springs, Maryland.  Alexis rides at a stable there and was able to use two horses for the morning!  Mine was a 16.1 hand mare named Rosie.  She was very sweet and we had a great trail ride. 

Later in the afternoon Alexis, Jason and I went to a place called Vola’s in Alexandria for drinks and appetizers.  The day was warm and the outdoor seating was lovely.  I had a Whiskey drink and it was soooo good!  It was fun just catching up with friends.

On the way home, Jason and I stopped to check out the George Washington Masonic Memorial.  It is such an impressive memorial!  Construction was started in 1922, and it was dedicated in 1932.  However, the interior was not completed until 1970!  It is designed to look like the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt.

It is such a beautiful building!  We were there in the evening, so we didn’t have a chance to go inside, but maybe one day.  The interior is supposed to be pretty interesting, with murals and displays honoring George Washington.  We did get to walk up the stairs, so at least we got some exercise!  It was a nice, relaxing final day in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Book Review: Mayflower

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick

It was my turn to choose a book for book club, and I really wanted us to read some non-fiction. So I brought four choices, and this was the one that won.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Mayflower is aptly named, being the story of the Pilgrims and their journey to America in 1620.  The book covers a time span of over fifty years, beginning with their persecution in England, because they chose to break away from the Church of England, believing that it had moved too far away from the tenets they held.  They sought to find a place where they no longer had to worship in private, and first moved to the Netherlands.  While they found religious freedom there, they found life was difficult because they didn’t have land, so they were forced into menial labor jobs. 

102 Pilgrims departed for American in September of 1620, and set anchor off of Cape Cod on November 21, 1620.  Due to their late start, they stayed on the ship for the winter, and didn’t begin to build their settlement until the spring.  Due to an outbreak of disease, and not having enough food, at the end of the winter, only 53 people remained…  They were assisted by the Native Americans almost from the beginning, along with some stores of corn that they found buried nearby and stole (they did eventually replace the stolen corn). 

The book details the establishment of alliances between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, which held for about 50 years.  Unfortunately, eventually these relationships broke down, due to a lot of suffering, mistrust, and treachery.  The result was King Philip’s War, a war that I had heard about but didn’t know much about.  The book goes heavily in detail about the war, the alliances, and the cruelty effected upon both the Native Americans and the settlers. 

All in all, it was a very interesting book, but it was a more challenging read than Philbrick’s other books.  Perhaps it is because of the large number of characters described, with multiple Pilgrim leaders, as well as a great number of different tribes and sachems.  I was also expecting it to be more about the way that the Pilgrims lived and worshipped, and it ended up being much more about the war. 

A good overview, but you will probably need to read other books if you want a more detailed look into the Pilgrims’ lives.

And, by the way, the book club meets on January 14, so we will see how many of them read it!

3 stars.