Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: The Marriage Pact


The Marriage Pact (Hqn)

About the Book:
The women of Bliss County are ready to meet the men of their dreams! See how it all begins in this enthralling new series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller 

Ten years ago, Hadleigh Stevens was eighteen and this close to saying "I do," when Tripp Galloway interrupted her walk down the aisle. Now that she's recovered from her youthful mistake and Tripp's interference, Hadleigh and her single friends form a marriage pact. She doesn't expect Tripp to meddle with her new plan to find Mr. Right—or to discover that she's more attracted to him than ever! 

Divorced and eager to reconnect with his cowboy roots, Tripp returns to Bliss County to save his ailing father's ranch. He's not looking for another wife—certainly not his best friend's little sister. But he's never been able to forget Hadleigh. And this time, if she ends up in his arms, he won't be walking away!

My Comments:
Hero:  Handsome cowboy who looks great in jeans and loves his family.  Check
Heroine:  Beautiful independent woman who for some reason has never found Mr. Right.  Check
Setting:  Out West, on a ranch near a small town where everyone knows your name. Check
Action:  Includes at least one steamy bedroom scene.  Check.
Ending:  (I don't need to spell it out do I?)  Check. 
Supporting characters:  Lifelong friends, loyal dogs and horses that love their owners.  Check.  

Yes, it is a Linda Lael Miller book.  Yes, it is like all the rest of them.  If you like them,  you should like this one.  Grade:  B-

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival


Hello, and welcome to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. In it, discuss and link to your posts for the week--whether they deal with theology, Catholic living or cute Catholic kids. I'm mostly a book blogger so my posts are generally book reviews, some Catholic, some not. Make sure that post links back here. Once you publish it, come back here and leave a link below.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post. Click here to sign up.

Question of the week:  Were there any religious sisters in your parish when you were growing up?  Are there any now?  Which community (ies)?

I'm in my early 50's.  The parish in which I grew up had a school staffed by the Daughters of Charity.  They pulled out quite some time ago, though that parish has managed to keep sisters of one sort or another on staff.  I don't even think the ones they have now all belong to the same community.  My parish doesn't have any Sisters.  The school used to be staffed by the Daughters of Divine Providence but they left in the early 1980s.

Three posts this week:  Getting Our Financial House in Order,  a review of a restaurant review book, and a review of a book about a woman who finds herself while learning about her mother's past.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Getting Our Financial House in Order

At different times in your life you start to look at different things. With my Dad passing away and with me having to wind down his financial affairs, I've taken a look at our finances and done some reading on financial planning, retirement planning and the like. Since my blog is called This That and the Other Thing, not RAnn's Book Reviews, I'm going to write about some of my thoughts and findings. I'll also admit that this series of articles is a shameless attempt to get search engine attention and attract readers to my blog.
Used with permission:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/that_chrysler_guy/8418926757/
There is a lot out there that didn't exist a few years ago.
I used to really keep up with the financial world.  I read Money magazine, books on personal finance and the like.  I kept up with how our investments were doing, compared them to the funds Money was recommending,  and made changes when necessary.  Then life (and three kids) got in the way.  In the last few weeks I have realized that I don't know what an EFT is, much less why they are a very popular product today.  I had never heard of peer-to-peer lending, much less invested money in it.   While I track our portfolio on AOL, I didn't realize how many websites would analyze that portfolio and tell me what was wrong with it.  I didn't know there was a place that you could buy portfolios of stocks related to a theme, even if your theme is "I like them", and basically create your own mutual fund, paying only one commission for the whole "Motif", not one per stock.  

We really aren't going that badly.
I've run a variety of retirement planning calculators across the web and most show us on track to meet our retirement goals, but not way ahead of them.  That's a good thing because unlike many of our peers, we are not spending the last decade or two of our working life as empty-nesters.  My husband will be seventy when my baby graduates from college, and our financial goals include Catholic high school for her (probably about $10,000/year for five years---high school starts in eighth grade here) as well as college.
Photo used with permission:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/120360673@N04/13291209304/











We are on the downhill slide toward retirement, really.
I remember when I started my current job.  I had an eighteen month old baby.  That baby is now twenty-two and over six feet tall.  By the time I started this job, I was no longer the youngest person in the office; not by a long shot.  Still, I was part of the young crowd.  Now the young secretaries, and even some of the young lawyers call me "Miss R___".  At some point I realized I wasn't part of the young crowd and now I know I'm one of the older women.  When we used to look at retirement planning we were in the "long term" investor group, the one that had time to recoup losses.  Now we are in the "Approaching Retirement" group, even if I am still chaperoning fifth grade trips.  The day I leave the office for the last time will be here before I know it.

We decided, at least for now, to get professional help.
I believe there are two reasons to hire someone to do a job for you:  1) you need it done and you don't want to do it more than you want the money it will cost you to pay someone to do it for you or 2) the person you are hiring can do a job better than you can and it is something you need done.  I'm not sure which reason applies here, but we have decided to get professional help.

I generally do our taxes.  I don't particularly like the chore, but the reality is that my husband and I are both employees who get W-2s at the end of the year from our employers.  Our investments are in mutual funds that send us tax forms yearly.  Our house is paid for, so itemizing deductions just doesn't work for us anymore.  In other words,  I don't need anyone to do our taxes, usually.  However, over the last  year we've spent a good bit of money on my autistic son and reading what I could, I thought maybe we could deduct that, but I wasn't sure.  Time to call in a pro.  We have a friend who is a CPA and he used to do our taxes when my husband owned a business.  Since I don't believe in asking for professional advice without paying for it (and I doubt my friend would offer such advice) I had him do our taxes this year, and like any good businessman, he tried to sell me other services, in this case financial planning.  I had been thinking about looking for someone so I was receptive.  I did some research and found that his rates were competitive (a percent of our portfolio) so we decided to give it a whirl.  After a year, if we aren't happy, we'll make a change, but at this point in our lives, I think it would be useful to get someone to take a look at what we have and where we want to go, and make sure we are on track to get there.

This is the first in a series of posts.  In  upcoming weeks I'll be writing about my experiences with a new type of investment, what I thought about our financial planning session, and whether we really are on track.  I'll also muse about the "now" vs. "later" spending conflicts, and look at our budget (or lack thereof) and whether using one can help us direct our finances to better meet our goals, both long term and short.

I'd love to talk retirement with you, my readers.  Do you have investments beyond your 401K and garden variety mutual funds?  How did you pick them, and why?  Do you use a financial planner (or have you been burned by one)?  Do you think you are on track for retirement?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Roadfood


Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 900 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More, now in its 9th edition

About the Book:
First published in 1977, the original Roadfood became an instant classic. James Beard said, "This is a book that you should carry with you, no matter where you are going in these United States. It's a treasure house of information."

Now this indispensable guide is back, in an even bigger and better edition, covering 500 of the country's best local eateries from Maine to California. With more than 250 completely new listings and thorough updates of old favorites, the new Roadfood offers an extended tour of the most affordable, most enjoyable dining options along America's highways and back roads.

Filled with enticing alternatives for chain-weary-travelers, Roadfood provides descriptions of and directions to (complete with regional maps) the best lobster shacks on the East Coast; the ultimate barbecue joints down South; the most indulgent steak houses in the Midwest; and dozens of top-notch diners, hotdog stands, ice-cream parlors, and uniquely regional finds in between. Each entry delves into the folkways of a restaurant's locale as well as the dining experience itself, and each is written in the Sterns' entertaining and colorful style. A cornucopia for road warriors and armchair epicures alike, Roadfood is a road map to some of the tastiest treasures in the United States.

My Comments:
There are basically two aspects to this book.  First, it lists what the authors consider to be "900 of the best barbecue joints, lobster shacks, ice cream parlors, highway diners and much, much more".  Second, it reviews those restaurants so that potential patrons know what to expect.  In coming up with this review, I looked at the listed restaurants in the New Orleans area to see if I thought the ones listed belonged on such a list. Of the fifteen restaurants in the New Orleans area, all are places I've heard of, though there was one (Domalise's Po-Boys) that I only know of because my husband mentioned selling to them.   I've patronized nine of them.  For those in the know, they range for Galatoire's to Rocky and Carlos and from Morning Call to Hansen's SnoBliz.  In general the places I know of are good, though honestly many wouldn't make any "best of" list  for me.  They are good neighborhood places that aren't, in my opinion, unlike many others in the area.  Of course everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion but I think Galatoire's is highly overrated.  It is the place to see and be seen but it is a high-end restaurant that is noisy and crowded, not elegant and understated.  If I'm going to spend that kind of money, I want elegance and interesting food, not old standards and crowded noisy rooms.  

Next, I polled a bunch of people I knew from all over the country about the listed restaurants in their areas.  I asked if they had heard of them, if they had eaten there and if they liked it.  In general, people had heard of the places mentioned, and generally said they were good.  They also gave me some comments:  

Ruth Ann (St. Louis Missouri):  Our parish gets their fried chicken from Hodak's for our picnics, Everybody loves Ted Drews ice cream, it is THE place to treat out of towners. so so to me.  My husband says Crown Candy Kitchen is a very good place often with lines outside waiting to eat, but Goody Goody Diner is a place to stay away from.

Janette (used to travel a lot)  Cattlemen's in Oklahoma City is  pricey. It is also one of the best steaks I have ever had.  Garrett's popcorn in Chicago- Love it. I NEVER pay for any popcorn except theirs.  

Toni (Brooklyn NY): Katz' deli in the city is on it...omg....I love that place!  Best Reuben sandwich ever! 

Christie (moved a lot):  WI - Kopps Custard is legendary. Delicious and a must visit if in the area.  PA - Center City Pretzel Co. is good. I would agree if you like that style of pretzel. I like them but don't love them. Genos - Philly - Legendary and worth the trip for cheesesteak. Pat's King of Steaks - Philly - Lengendary. Worth the trip. It is a huge rivalry between Pat's and Geno's as to who has the better cheesesteak

Aimee:   Okay, I didn't see any on the CT list that I haven't liked.

Linda (Jackson MS)  I could write a novel about the Elite! My best friend and I were pregnant at the same time and we ate enough off their famous rolls one day at lunch that they finally quit bringing them to us! I've had enchiladas with the governor there and a multitude of meals in between. It's a great place!

Kym (MS)  The Elite in Jackson is an old school, upscale, soul food kind of place.

Kym (Oklahoma) I will say, based on the Tulsa restaurants, that the book limits it stops to eateries ON the road trip routes. Just about every Tulsa restaurant on the list is right along Route 66. That's a shame because if you veer off of 66 for just a three or four minute drive, you can find some amazing places to eat. Ike's Chili is DEFINITELY my favorite on this list. Ike's on 11th (Route 66) has a definite diner feel, and the chili is amazing. Ike's is real chili (no beans), but you can add beans. Put it over spaghetti, and have a "three way." The menu also includes burgers and a number of dishes that highlight their chili (Frito Pie, Coney Dog with Chili, Chili Mac). The atmosphere is fun, with lots of historic photos of Tulsa and the original chili pot on display. It's also budget friendly and draws a varied clientele.

Carrie:  I've heard of Wintzell's.[Mobile AL]  Everyone has. Most people tell me it's really overrated.

Sheila:  I've been to Dew Drop and Wintzells. I haven't been to Dew Drop in a few years. I've actually stopped going to Wintzells because the food quality went down.

The book also has a website so you can check out places in your neighborhood, and leave opinions about places you have eaten. Their focus is on local food served in places frequented by locals.  I've enjoyed reading the book and discussing the restaurants with people all over the country.  Now I'm ready to hit the road and try some.  Grade:  A.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via their Blogging for Books program.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cancel the Wedding: My Review


Cancel the Wedding: A Novel (P. S.)

About the Book:
A heartfelt fiction debut that will appeal to fans of Emily Giffin’s Southern charm and Jennifer Weiner’s compelling, emotionally resonant novels about the frustrations of blood ties, Cancel the Wedding follows one woman’s journey to discover the secrets of her mother’s hidden past—and confront her own uncertain future.

On the surface, Olivia has it all: a high-powered career, a loving family, and a handsome fiancĂ©. She even seems to be coming to terms with her mother Jane’s premature death from cancer. But when Jane’s final wish is revealed, Olivia and her elder sister Georgia are mystified. Their mother rarely spoke of her rural Southern hometown, and never went back to visit—so why does she want them to return to Huntley, Georgia, to scatter her ashes?

Jane’s request offers Olivia a temporary escape from the reality she’s long been denying: she hates her “dream” job, and she’s not really sure she wants to marry her groom-to-be. With her 14-year-old niece, Logan, riding shotgun, she heads South on a summer road trip looking for answers about her mother.

As Olivia gets to know the town’s inhabitants, she begins to peel back the secrets of her mother’s early life—truths that force her to finally question her own future. But when Olivia is confronted with a tragedy and finds an opportunity to right a terrible wrong, will it give her the courage to accept her mother’s past—and say yes to her own desire to start over?

My Comments:
I loved this one and I'm giving it an A.  Here is a favorite quote (realizing that I had a digital ARC and the final version may have changed, but I hope not too much) "I was realizing more and more that I was just letting life happen to me.  Letting it flow downstream and take me with it.  I wasn't participating in its course correction anymore."  

The story is told in the first person by Olivia as she travels to her mother's hometown, learns her mother's secrets and slowly starts to correct the course of her life. She realizes that by not making choices she is making choices, choices that are  not making her happy.  The research into her mother's past introduces Olivia to people who knew her mother and to a man who is very different from her fiancee.  The setting in a lake town in rural Georgia is symbolic.  The lake is man-made and it covers what used to be her mother's hometown.  What secrets does the water cover?  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via Edelweiss.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival


Hello, and welcome to Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share our best posts with each other. To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. In it, discuss and link to your posts for the week--whether they deal with theology, Catholic living or cute Catholic kids. I'm mostly a book blogger so my posts are generally book reviews, some Catholic, some not. Make sure that post links back here. Once you publish it, come back here and leave a link below.

We also have a yahoogroup; signing up for it will get you one weekly reminder to post. Click here to sign up.

Question of the Week:  Any nun (sister) stories to tell?  

My Answer:  One sister I will never forget is Sr. Cephas, D.C.  She was living in my parish in her early retirement years, helping out with the school and whatever else struck her fancy.  Sometimes I think she caused more work than she did but....  anyway, whenever she'd see a baby girl she'd coo over her and then say "She'd make a really cute sister".  

This week I only had one post, a review of a clean romance novel, Swan Point.

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