Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Have Yourself a Memey Little Christmas....

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Ella's Bookshelf - Cassie's Life

It's been really difficult to set aside how this book impacted me emotionally and to move to the intellectual approach required to write a purposeful review.  It is no exaggeration when I say that when I reached the climax and just after in Cassie's Life, I was literally crying so hard that my husband rushed into the room to see what had happened.  I blubbered through a confusing explanation of the amazing show of love between Cassie and Tom while wiping my nose on the sleeve of my pajamas.  Once he was sure I was just being an idiot, he kissed me and went back to his cop show.

Title:  Cassie's Life

Author:  PK Corey

Number of Pages:  243

Themes:  the Circle of Family, Growth, Time, Forgiveness

Main Characters:

Cassie -  While Cassie truly tries to be the lady that Tom expects and loves, the plot of each of the books in the Cassie series centers around the how, when, why, and where of Cassie forgetting all about being ladylike and sensible.  For all that, she is a loving and exuberant woman. 

Reviewer's Note - While some might refer to Cassie as "mature," I would not.  To me mature suggests careful planning and wise decisions, and that is not Cassie at all.

Tom -  the love of Cassie's life for just over 4 decades.  He dotes on Cassie still, even though he worries and watches over her constantly.  Tom is funny, generous, wise, and firm.  He expects her to obey him, and when she doesn't, she usually ends up over his knee.  In this book we learn that this lifestyle they have lived for so many years is so much a part of who they are, that Cassie cannot move past a mistake until Tom spanks her.  

        A wise woman I know calls this change in their relationship 
                                  "ttwa" - this thing we Are.

Sue and Annie -  Cassie's best friends for many years.  Sue is usually Cassie's outspoken partner in crime.  Annie is the more sensible one.  Both are loving and loyal in their own ways.

Allie and Jenny - Allie is Cassie's daughter-in-law and married to her adopted son, Ryan.  Jenny is Sheriff Cal's young wife.  This is the first time in the series I see these two as young women and not girls.  Cassie says she sees some of Annie in Allie, and I agree.  Allie has become practical and careful.  The reader gets to know Jenny better in this book.  Cassie is surprised to see herself in Jenny - jumping in with both feet before thinking.

Lily - She is technically the "hired help" to the friends along the river, but it isn't long before she is just part of the family.  She takes on the task of fussing over Cassie and Sue with love.  In this book, Lily's life takes a joyous step forward.

Cooter -  a minor character from a previous book, Cassie met him and liked him when she started shooting at the range.  In this book, she becomes part of a frightening hostage situation with Cooter drunk and waving a gun around.  Since I do shoot, my take on this is that, damn straight, I would not be shooting at any range where Cooter Duncan had access!

Charles Warren -  a man with a dark secret from Cassie's past.  In this book, he is a mysterious antagonist, and Cassie is shaken to her core.

Setting:  Tom and Cassie's home along the river and the nearby homes of their "family" of friends.  For me, the river becomes much more than just a setting in Cassie's Life.

For a reviewer, it is always a challenge to tell enough about a book to interest a potential reader without giving the story away.  It is like if I told you that Cinderella ends up marrying the Prince, you would miss out on reading about the wicked stepsisters, the pumpkin coach, and the glass slipper.  It's always a dilemma.

I am going to start by actually talking about the cover of the book and what I thought was a pervading theme in Cassie's Life.  The cover is the best ever, and I know the author felt the same way.  It captures the simple affection between a couple that have loved each other for many years.  Seeing them sitting on the dock together, you can feel the peace of the rippling water, and the glow of the sunset.  It suggests to me the golden years of Tom and Cassie's marriage.  The flow of the river represents time passing and the changes that brings to the family of friends who live beside it.

Early in the book, Cassie ends up diffusing a scary situation with a drunk Cooter Duncan and a loaded gun while she waits for a friend at a local restaurant.  Her gutsy actions made me think of the phrase, "For fools rush in where angels fear to tread."  When she decides to step in, Cassie turns on her southern charm.  "Cooter Duncan, gracious honey.  I haven't seen you all summer.  How you been keepin'?" and she offers to buy him a beer.  The scene at the bar is just hilarious.  Sheriff Cal doesn't think so.

When Cal tells Tom, "Do whatever you have to do to get her to understand she has to listen to some authority," Cassie expected a spanking to follow post haste.  She and the reader are both surprised when Tom makes love to her instead.  That's something about Tom that I find interesting.  Sometimes when I am not sure if Tom will spank or make love to Cassie, I realize that in some ways it doesn't matter.  He reclaims her as his; he possesses her and reestablishes their roles.  They reconnect both physically and mentally.

However, when Cassie gets mouthy while defying Cal, Tom reaches his limit and says, "Enough!"  Out comes the leather paddle, and Tom goes to work on Cassie's bottom.  "....I have to do what I have to do to keep you safe."  That quote really sums up Tom to a tee.''

Much of the rising action in this tenth book involves the circle of family with Cassie at its center.  Over the course of this series, the circle grows to include so many new and adopted members.  One beautiful sub plot in Cassie's Life has Lily as the happy star of her own love story.  I just smiled a mile wide when both Cassie and Sue came to the conclusion, "...she's the mother we both have longed for all our lives."

This affection for Lily leads both women to fear that Lily is leaving them soon.  It seems odd that tears came to my eyes as Cassie and Sue tried to drown their sorrows in several pitchers of martinis, but I just couldn't help it.  In my head, the words, "She's leaving us," took on a whole new meaning.  I realized that the Cassie series is coming to a close, but it will break my heart when it finally happens.  So when I read those words, I applied them to how I will feel when Cassie leaves us and there is not another book to look forward to.  Probably won't drink martinis, but I might just cry in my beer.

The climax in this book is both gripping and well written.  When Cassie gets a call from a man in her past, she is scared that even Tom will not be able to love her any longer.  Even though she tries to face the crisis on her own, the girls, including Allie and Jenny, galvanize to help her through.  It is a ringing tribute to friendship.

The French call the falling action that follows the climax of a story the "denouement."  Although I have had many professors who used the word in book discussions, I often felt that some were being a bit pretentious.  I've got to admit, in this instance, it perfectly fits.  The word means "to unravel the knots."  It was very surprising that the denouement of this book was more powerful to me than the climax itself.  The love and trust Cassie shows to Tom and the love and trust he shows to her are both truly amazing.  An exhilarating ride on the river symbolizes Tom and Cassie riding away from their past and finally returning home to embrace the present and their future together.

PK Corey has given us a real treasure in this story.  Although it is 10th in the series of Cassie tales, it stands alone, too.  So if someone asked me, 

       "Do you, Ella, take this book as your favorite Cassie story?" 

                          I would have to honestly say, "I do."

                     When you finish this truly wonderful book, 
          you will understand why that vow has so much meaning.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Great Online Cookie Exchange - Jimmy's Biscochitos

Many years ago when our boys were quite young, we went to visit Grandma and Grandpa in New Mexico for Christmas.  Didn't miss the Chicago weather one bit that year.  It was a wonderful holiday filled with tumbleweed snowmen, luminarias and snow on the mountains.  Lots of parties, presents, and good food.

My mother simply did not bake -  not when I was a kid and not for her grandchildren either.  She did give the gift of love and laughter, though.  There were plenty of sweets thanks to me and so many visitors.  One friend of my parents walked in with a huge tray of a cookie named "Biscochitos."  He was a lovely man and a veteran, too!  I discovered that Jimmy was of Hispanic heritage and quite the baker.  With coffee I just couldn't stop eating those cookies.  The flavor was so unique and positively melted in your mouth.  The kids had hot chocolate with theirs.

While I was indulging, Jimmy told me about these traditional New Mexican cookies.  They are quite famous and were made by the early Spanish colonists who came to explore and settle.  They are a delicious crispy butter cookie flavored with anise seed and cinnamon.  The texture is similar to shortbread.

Since we took that trip long ago, I have been told that biscochitos were made the first ever official "State Cookie."  In New Mexico it is a traditional Christmas treat.  We have enjoyed them every Christmas since then and hope you will, too.  Below is Jimmy's recipe, although he spells the name of the cookie with a "z."  I have copied it here in exactly his words.  You will giggle when you get to the part of what to use as a cookie cutter.


1 cup sugar
2 cups lard

2 eggs
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
Anise seed to taste (start with 1 tablespoon & add to taste)
Sugar & Cinnamon mixture ( 1 t cinnamon & 1/2 cup sugar)

Cream lard with a mixer thoroughly.  Add sugar and anise seed.  Beat eggs and add to lard mixture.  Add water and knead.  Roll dough 1/4 inch thick and cut cookies using a shot glass.  Place cut
This is the brand Jimmy uses.
cookies on a cookie sheet next to each other.  Bake in oven at 425° until the cookies are slightly brown.  (Approximately 20 minutes.)  Keep an eye on the cookies because they can burn quite quickly.  In a separate bowl, create a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.  When the cookies come right out of the oven, gently mix the warm cookies in this mixture.  Makes a lot of cookies.

I did a little research for this post and found that they have other names or spellings.  They are also called bizcochos, polvorones, and mantecados.  They can be cut in diamonds or crescent moons and covered with powdered sugar as well.  This cookie can be served at baptisms, religious holidays, weddings, and quincenieras, too.  I found a quote from an elderly Hispanic lady who said,

"You must have the hands (manos) to make a delicious biscocho that will melt in your mouth.  It's working the dough just right and making sure that love is added to each one.  You have to love making them because anyone who has made them will tell you that it is hard work.  That is the secret to making a good biscocho."

              Also, if you open the tin and find one that is broken, 
                             it is good luck to eat that one first. 

Bogey and Bacall
Mrs. Fever
Ms Dixie Wrecked
selkie (recipe here)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

"It's a Masterpiece"

Several weeks ago I got really upset about how I was forgetting things more than usual.  I know everyone forgets occasionally, and I know we all joke about "Where the hell did I leave my short term memory!"  We all walk into a room and forget why we came in there in the first place.  Damn!  That is so frustrating!  But for me, the strokes I experienced have always made me more sensitive and afraid that I am losing more of my memory than I already have.


I make myself keep careful notes and lists so that I have a reminder handy.  You know me; I love lists anyway.  I tell Sam where I put things so that someone else will know.  That helps a bit.  He and the boys make light of it.  "No big deal," they say.  Oldest son will even tease me about my memory.  "I think it's funny, Mom.  I can tell you the same joke I told you last week because you will never remember the punch line."  He figures if he can make me smile, it will make me realize that it just doesn't make that much difference.

But I get very down on myself.  How can I remember anything when I can't even remember where I put the lists?!  When I do stupid things like that, I can even feel like crying - just like after the strokes.

When Sam came home for lunch that day, I was mad at myself and stomping around looking for some important notes I had lost.  I whined to Sam, and he said not to worry.  They would turn up eventually.  That little platitude just pissed me off, but I dutifully gave him a kiss before he returned to work, and he gave me a big, bear hug and a smile.

I did not spend the entire afternoon searching, but between errands and miscellaneous tasks, I would wrack my brain and look again in all the places I had already looked.  They had to be somewhere!  Talk about a dog with a bone.  I just could not let it go.

Sam walked in before 5:00 pm, and I always meet him at the door if I am at home.  It was a long and lovely kiss, but very soon I was whining again.  My frustration was such that there were even tears welling up.  Sam smiled and reassured me with big hugs, but I kept whining even to the point of talking over him.  That was when I crossed the line.

My pants were down in a flash, and I was bent over the kitchen counter.  He did not reach for a wooden spoon, but OMG his hand is enough when he wants it to be!  The spanking would not have
lasted nearly as long if I would have just shut up.  Instead, as he tried to give me a talking to, I would interrupt with, "But, Sam..."
He finally told me he could whack me until morning if that was what I wanted.  Eventually, I ran out of gas, there were a few tears, and I shut up and listened to him.  Seems there is a new rule around here from now on.  I am to be "Kind to Myself."  Before he pulled me up, he rubbed my pink bottom and declared with a laugh,

                                       It's a masterpiece!"

         I think he wanted to be complimented on his study in red. 


                        I would tell you where I finally found 
                              my stack of notes and papers, 
                                     but I can't remember. 



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gobble, Gobble

At this time of year, I am already in full swing with my Christmas shopping.  It needs to be done by December 1st unless it is coming from Amazon.  I refuse to go near the mall after Thanksgiving.  Besides, Sam and I have lots of family and friends out of state, and those gifts need to be shipped in good time so they reach their destination before Dec. 24th.

Once Thanksgiving is over, my goal for the long weekend is to
have all the gifts that are going in the post ready to go by the
Monday following.  I think most call that day Cyber Monday, but I call it "Post Office Monday."  Actually Sam does the post office run since he doesn't do any of the shopping, wrapping, or packaging.  The job  can be a heavy one, too!

For some on our faraway gift list, we send gifts of food.  Easy.  Our absolutely favorite yummy treat comes from a little town in the great state of Texas.  Greenberg Turkeys are delicious smoked birds that are delivered fully cooked to anywhere in the contiguous United States.  You can choose any size turkey between 6 and 16 pounds.  It is easy to order and you can pick the delivery date to suit the recipient's wishes.  It is a good idea to order these early because it is a small company, and they do run out.

Sam and I had discussed who should receive a turkey this year, but Sam kept forgetting to pull up the website to get it done.  One early morning after visiting all of you out in blogland, I left Sam a big yellow virtual "Post It" note on the monitor using a very cool app.  Clever little idea that will actually pop up the next time you boot up the computer.  It would be the first thing Sam would see when he sat down with his  coffee. 

I really wanted it to catch his attention with no nagging, so he would get this task done.  Hmmm?  Then it came to me!

                                               I wrote,

                             One Day Only!

                     Order 2 Greenberg Turkeys
                               and get a free
                                  Blow Job!

                             I thought it would make him laugh.

    It worked!  The turkeys were ordered lickety split that morning.

One to family and one to dear friends, both in Florida.  Love to check things off the Christmas list.  Done and done!  

I got busy in the kitchen doing something for a little while when suddenly I heard Sam behind me.

                              "Ahem," was the noise he made.

When I turned to see what he wanted, he smiled and told me he had come to redeem his coupon.  I started to giggle and still wasn't sure whether he was just kidding.

                                             He Wasn't.

He pointed to the floor to indicate he wanted me to kneel in front of him.  I stopped giggling and just smiled at him.  Sam held my hands and helped me to my knees.  I always love looking up a him as I unzip his jeans.  No talking, just licking my lips.

Thanksgiving soon and Christmas on the way - makes me think of presents.  I love to give presents.  As I got busy paying up on Sam's coupon, I thought of the turkeys that had been ordered.  Mmmm....  My mouth was quite full at the time, and I just couldn't help myself.

                                    All I could think of was...... 

                                           Gobble, Gobble -