“And Then There Were None” Book Review

Agatha Christie still sells books after her death. In fact, the only books selling more widely than hers are the works of Shakespeare and The Holy Bible. She’s been called the queen of her genre. And that’s fitting because her stories for the most part are well-told. I’m a fan of the Poirot mysteries, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd being my favorite.

With And Then There Were None, she takes us to Soldier Island to figure out the murders of ten individuals as they ‘disappear’ according to a childhood rhyme. The mystery keeps us guessing and I was surprised at the end. a-christie-cover

However, Christie tends to tie things up in a bow at the end and the device wearies me sometimes. The actual story with the characters dying one after the other kept me going. Then … well, I don’t write spoilers into my reviews. Even though I liked the ending, I’m not so sure I like how she wrote it.

But it is indeed a twist that reminds me of the Ackroyd mystery. Pretty slick.

I wouldn’t keep reading Christie’s mysteries if I didn’t enjoy them. For that matter, neither would millions of other readers. I’m glad I don’t have to review the actual writing, (just the story) because some of it is horrible. Eyes don’t ‘land’ on anything unless they’re falling out of your head. That’s only one example of writing that distracts me; for the sake of the story itself, I chuckle and move on. If I ever as a writer become as prolific as Christie, or if people begin paying me for reviews, then I suppose my ‘learned’ comments on writing will be more welcome.

This particular novel was originally published as Ten Little Indians and has been adapted for the stage and screen. I saw a version of it on television decades ago and enjoyed the story then as well. All in all, it’s a fun read.

 

Foodie, Zucchini and Grace

Playing Hostess

Several years ago, when I was a member of our church’s choir, I invited four of my fellow choir members over for dinner. The main dish was Chicken Breasts Diane; I tried my hand at twice-baked potatoes for the first time; the vegetable was steamed zucchini; and the dessert was a sugar-free, fat-free cream-pie-thing I whipped up.

Everything was going well when my friends began to show up. I’d coordinated the cooking so that the food would be ready to set on the table hot from the oven and stove. The last thing I did was to steam the zucchini so it would still be hot when I placed it on the table with everything else.

You know how steamed veggies seem to get cold fast, right? I didn’t want them to be cold.

Backstory

Rewind to a couple years earlier. I’d been in a near-fatal automobile accident and came out of it with numerous injuries. One of those injuries was a fractured sphenoid sinus. (Say THAT three times fast.) The sinus was supposedly healed, but one residual effect was that I couldn’t smell odors unless I was right on top of them.

It’s caused problems more often than I like to admit.

Dinner, continued

As the zucchini steamed away, so did the water in the bottom of the pan. Carol, who had been watching things progress, said, “Paula, your pan is on fire.”

Yep, it sure was.

The pan had boiled dry and, well, it was time to turn the burner off. “Oh, wow,” I said. (Or something like that.) I took the pan off the stove, put the zucchini in a bowl and set it on the table with the rest of the meal. We sat down, said grace, and began to eat.

Everyone took a little of everything, I guess, including the steamed zucchini. Dinner conversation was a little stilted after a few minutes until I took a bite of my green veggie.

smelly-zucchini-lady“This stuff is burnt!” I said. “Why are you guys eating it?” I scraped it to the side of my plate. I apologized to my friends and, you know what? They were so kind to me. I was so embarrassed. My smeller didn’t catch the scent of burnt zucchini and no one said a word.

Now that’s love in action.

“Foodie Fail”

They sat there eating that scorched zucchini and extended grace to me. Every time I think of this episode in my life––and believe me, with a nose that doesn’t work like it should, there have been many such episodes––I laugh.

In fact, I’ve been laughing out loud the whole time I’ve been writing this blog post.

But I also feel extremely grateful.

We’ve all had our cooking failures. I have some that have nothing to do with not being able to smell.

Since it’s the day after Thanksgiving, I thank Amy, Carol, Brooke and Carol for the gift of grace. You know, of course, grace is unmerited favor. I surely didn’t deserve what they offered, and friends who love like that are worth keeping.

Next time, though, I’m going to nuke the zucchini.

Not Just For a Day, But Always

In the U.S. we take a day to recognize our gratitude for what we have. We call that day ‘Thanksgiving.’ Traditions have been established based on what we believe happened when settlers from Europe first came to the continent. happy-thanksgiving-always-gratefulWe didn’t even have a name for where we were yet. The land belonged to the natives. But we worked with them and showed gratitude for making it through a difficult time.

I don’t know the whole ‘thanksgiving’ story associated with our history. I’m sure my old school lessons had some focus on it. What I do know is every day there is something to be grateful for. Even when I feel frustrated and alone, I know what I see in front of me isn’t the whole story.

My vision is limited.

God has a plan for the days when that ‘abundant life’ seems a little too much. Despite my sometimes grumpy attitude, gratitude in an acknowledement of God prevails.

Take Me Away in My Own Little Space

Recently posted on Bethany House Fiction‘s blog, a quiz to see Which Reading Nook is Perfect for You?

I enjoy taking the occasional quiz on topics I like most. I’m a movie buff and, obviously, enjoy reading. Here’s one in which the results are (somewhat) personalized. Which reading nook will you find yourself in? Click on the link above, take the quiz and tell us in the comments.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in my private library.

traditional-library-study

 

Scout Saturday: Irresistible Bunnies

A friend came over to have dinner with me recently and we enjoyed the company. We also watched my rabbit, Scout, frolic in the apartment while we chatted in the living room. He steals the show. The cameras came out and we caught him chilling out in a couple of his favorite spots.

One is The Library. Scout loves my books. He chews on them if I don’t catch him, but he also just likes to sit among them and run through the shelves.

These photos are especially for my food blogger friend, Genie on Bunny Eats Design. You can check out a few of her Tofu Tuesday posts featuring her mini-lop, Tofu. He’s a cutie and reminds me of Scout. Check out some of her recipes and culinary adventures too. Her recipes often reflect her culture and the culinary adventures, well, they make you a little jealous.

Today officially becomes “Scout Saturday.” Enjoy, and eat hardy.

loves-the-bookcase-10-16scout-sits-quietly

Tactfully Speaking

tact-make-a-point

We may know in our heads that how we say something is as important as what we say. Yet we still get into situations in which it’s difficult to express our ideas and opinions so others feel engaged and appreciated. We sometimes forget that conversation is two-way.

When we speak, what specifically do we want the other person to hear and know? Are we expressing it clearly and with a sense of conviction? If we are, do we express ourselves and extend grace to the other party so they can, as best as possible in that moment,  understand us without feeling attacked?

I ask these questions of myself before I pose them to anyone else. I still get into those situations in which I have a hard time expressing myself. But what a blessing for me that people model healthy communication skills so that I can build bridges instead of bonfires.

Shake it Up, Foodie

As a busy young mother (oh, so many years ago), I took shortcuts in the kitchen if I could. Because it gave baked chicken a flavor my husband liked (and because someone came up with an easy way to add flavor and crispiness to baked chicken), Shake ‘n Bake brand coating mix was a staple in our house.

Not anymore. I prefer to make my own ‘mixes’ when I can from ingredients I have in my cupboards. That way I know what’s in it and avoid additives. The flavors are usually the same and sometimes even better (depending on how I tinker with the concoction) than the so-called original.

Here’s my coating mix recipe for meat––chicken or pork––you can make easily. In fact, if you don’t want to make it up ahead of time and store it, you only need a few minutes to mix it up while you’re preparing dinner. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled.chicken-in-pan

Crispy Coating Baking Mix

  • 1 c. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 2 t. poultry seasoning
  • 1 t. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients (shake ’em up in a plastic bag, if you want!). The recipe as written coats all the pieces of a whole chicken. Obviously, for more or less chicken, use more or less mix. It’s good on pork chops too, but you may want to substitute a combination of basil, oregano and rosemary for the poultry seasoning.

Store in a tightly sealed container or zipper bag. Depending on the humidity, you can store in the cupboard up to 4 months. DO NOT store any mix which has already been used for coating meat. Toss it!

I make my own bread crumbs too. I just chug 3-4 slices of bread around in the blender until they’re finely ground, stopping to stir the larger pieces toward the blades. When I want an Italian flavor as in the commercially prepared Italian crumbs, I add 1 t. Italian seasoning for every 4 slices of bread. Another variation you can try is adding 1 1/2 t. of ranch dressing mix, but that defeats the purpose of avoiding additives. Folks with gluten intolerances: you know how to adapt ingredients.

When baking chicken, just like when you’re frying, coating mix stays on better when you dip it in a mixture of 1/2 c. buttermilk and one beaten egg. It also gives it a Southern-fried flavor.

So there you go. You can shake it and bake it with your own homemade mix. I’m happy to say, “And I helped!”

Eat Hardy!

 

Touching God Through His Bestselling Book

A Book Review

“The TouchPoint: Connecting With God Through the Bible” By Bob Santos; 2016 by Search for Me Ministries, Inc.

However you see the Bible right now–a book of instructions, a book about history, or a book of stories–author Bob Santos wants you to see the bestselling book of all time as a way to create a relationship with God or continue to improve the relationship you now have.

The TouchPoint is meant to answer questions the average person might have about Bible reading and Bible study. Questions like “Why should I read it?” “What will I find?” “What’s the point?”touchpoint

Topics covered in the book include the authority of scripture, an overview of the Bible, the relationship between science and faith, preparing one’s heart for study, and the Bible’s credibility, among others. Throughout, Santos writes clearly and simply, which makes for relatable content. Readers won’t likely feel they’re being talked down to. Perhaps this is because Santos, founder and president of Search for Me Ministries, describes himself as “an average guy” relying on the anything-but-average grace of God. He’s found ways to ‘touch’ God and one way is through scripture.

Even though the book is written in simple language, The TouchPoint offers food for thought you can chew on even after moving to the next chapter. There’s meat in what Santos has to say. Just as Christians are encouraged to graduate from milk to meat, Bible reading and study should create, not only changed behavior but an increased intimacy with God.

According to the author, the Bible is where we learn who God is. That partially answers the “Why should I read it?” question. When we understand who God says He is, we’re better able to develop intimacy, which is Santos’ purpose for writing: to help us discover connections with the Almighty.

In every chapter, Santos reveals more and more of “What will I find?” within the Bible’s pages. He includes scripture to support the explanations he gives. What may be just as important to many readers is his inclusion of personal experience. Since God showed the author how to know Him and create a closer relationship, Santos can pass that information on, knowing God will keep the promise of meeting you right where you are.

In addition to being extremely readable, The TouchPoint exhibits humor. Santos is obviously able to laugh at himself, using phrases like “cranial ability” and “frustrated and disgruntled bandits.” Using such language, he holds the reader in with, again, relatability.

Each chapter held my attention because I’m already convinced that reading and studying the Bible is a good idea. My highlighter hit the page more often than in other chapters when I got to “What About Science?” Here, Santos includes some hefty comparisons. He argues as well as any apologist for how God’s word is believable. This idea is crucial. If the Bible isn’t believable, where can we find hope?

“As the grim reality of scientific naturalism becomes clear, a sense of futility overtakes the human heart. But when people begin to lose hope, their behavior becomes destructive” (page 132)

Bingo. Santos had me at “grim reality.” We all need hope.

Hope, found in a relationship with Jesus Christ, answers the question, “What’s the point?” Read between the lines and you’ll see that Santos is trying to tell us Jesus is always the point.

While Santos may disgruntle a few readers with his views or his seeming lack of formal training in the Bible, it’s good to remember that apostles Peter and John were “unschooled, ordinary men.” The Spirit of God works through whomever He wills. Give yourself permission to be a little disgruntled if you must.

Anyone, Christian or not, will find answers in The TouchPoint to questions about how reading the Bible can change a life. Combining thoughtful content with grace-filled delivery in a highly readable format, The TouchPoint is a book for people hoping to connect with God for the first time or for those looking for reasons to enjoy a deeper relationship with Him than they already have.

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

Hey Foodie, Say “Cheese”

I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like.

It could be that someday a new taste will not set well with me in that dairy category, but so far, cheese has always made me smile. Like Little Miss Muffet, I even like my curds and whey.**

Here in my area of the planet, it’s autumn and getting chillier outside every day. We naturally begin to add comfort foods to the menu which we might not have eaten during the hot summer days.

Like soup. Chicken soup, chili, bean soup, pea soup. Nothing like a steaming bowl of homemade soup or stew.

I’ll keep my pie hole closed for most of this post and give you a couple recipes using cheese. These come right out of my recipe box (stained 3×5 cards and all). First, the soup, featuring two favorite foods.about-cheese

Cheddar and Bacon Soup

  • 6 slices bacon cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2/3 c. chopped onion
  • 2 T. flour
  • 3 c. shredded cheese (I use cheddar)
  • 1 quart milk
  • ¼ t. pepper

In a medium saucepan, fry the bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp. Reduce heat to low. Add onions and sauté about 5 minutes or until onions are tender.

Stir in flour; cook one minute. Stir in milk. Raise heat to medium-high. Add cheese and cook, stirring frequently with a wire whisk until cheese is melted and soup is heated through (about 10 minutes). Do Not Boil! Add the pepper; stir until mixed. Yields about 6 1-cup servings

Now for a quick appetizer for snacking on crackers while you cuddle up in your recliner to watch a good movie. Or “Walking Dead,” if that’s your thing. This spread also tastes good on a sandwich with tomato. Use whole grain bread, an English muffin, croissant, bagel thins or whatever you like. You know me, I throw it together and see what comes out.

Pimiento Cheese Spread

  • 2 7-oz. jars sliced pimientos, drained
  • 3 8 oz. bricks sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 c. mayonnaise

Place the drained pimientos in a blender or food processor and puree them until almost smooth. In a very large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the cheese and pimiento, beating until partially blended. Beat in the mayonnaise.

The spread can be stored, covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Allow the spread to reach room temperature before serving. Yields about 32 servings, 2 T. each.

Don’t forget the family favorite: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Or homemade macaroni and cheese. Loaded baked potatoes. Big old cheeseburgers, and, well you get the idea. In my world, any time is a great time for a dish made with cheese.

Eat hardy!

*Cottage Cheese