The Night Janitor, by T. F. Allen

Here’s another Great Weekend Read, from the same author as my February one! This is unprecedented, but once I get started, I can’t put this guy’s books down.

The summary, from Goodreads:

Annamaria Gabor can kill with a whisper and a touch. Her victims never realize she’s given them a deadly disease. The cops will never arrest her. No jury will ever convict her. And no one can stop her—no one except her brother.

Luke Johnson can heal by touch. He works as a night janitor in hospitals and nursing homes, healing patients as discreetly as he can. Once people notice his work, he moves on to the next city—before the hired assassins arrive.

Luke is a hunted man. His sister wants him dead because he knows her deepest secret. And she has big plans for her future only he can destroy.

Why I Love It:

Allen grabbed my interest from Page One and never let go. This story proved to be as much of a suspenseful ride as his first novel, “The Keeper.”

I actually enjoyed this second novel even more than the first, thanks to a larger (but not too large) cast that included several truly likable characters. The little boy that Luke loves and the sassy nurse come to mind. Even the Super Evil Villain Who Must Be Stopped At Any Cost has a sympathetic human side, twisted though it may be.

Allen threw in enough plot twists to wow me and, once again, landed on a perfect ending full of possibilities.

The book releases on May 2. (I didn’t cheat… I received an Advance Reader Copy for review.) Click here to find it. You can preorder the Ebook now.

Meanwhile, you can visit Allen at his website, https://toddallenauthor.com/

Thanks for letting me share!
Happy reading,
Jan

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“Putting Down Roots” — Two Years Later

A bonus Encore edition of a previous post, just in time for Easter.
This post first appeared on this blog February 22, 2017.

One downside of moving to a new house, no matter how much you like it, is Starting Over With Your Landscaping. In our old backyard we left a mature Chinese tallow tree, taller than the house. It looks like this in the fall:chinese-tallow-fall
tallow-treeLast spring we saved a few of the tallow tree’s seedlings. Here’s the current specimen, with the Pomeranian mutt for scale:

Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t see the tree. Its branches make Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree look downright ample, and not a leaf in sight.

Besides, there’s a really cute dog in the picture.

I’ve always saved extra seeds from our bluebonnets. So I planted some of those at the new place, hoping they’d germinate. I’m happy to report that now we’ve got sprouts.bluebonnet-sprout

UPDATE: Here’s how those bluebonnets
are doing in 2019!

Ditto with the cilantro: cilantro-sprout
Some things I decided not to move, like the June-bearing strawberries. Instead I bought a couple of Everbearing plants. Maybe this year we’ll get two berries from each plant more than once! I see a ladybug has already made itself at home here.strawberry-w-ladybug
The scariest move for me was the apricot-colored daylily bulbs that had grown in my flower bed since 2008. One of my professors at UT Arlington gave them to me, so I really, really hoped they would survive. I dug into the new flower beds and poked the lumpy brown things into the holes, leaving only wilted leaves above the mulch.

It sure didn’t look very promising in November… the leaves simply lay down on the ground and turned grey. But lookie what I found last week, right in the middle of those grey ribbon-like leaves:daylily

See, once more life springs from death. Didn’t Jesus say something about that?

I’m thankful for roots and new life.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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Eroica California: Déjà vu in the USA

Last fall, we went to Italy and spent a week in Tuscany with the touring company Ciclismo Classico. The pinnacle of the tour was “L’Eroica,” a two-wheeled nostalgiafest featuring pre-1985 bikes or replicas, wool jerseys, miles of gravel road, a relaxed pace (wine at the check-in/rest stops… really!), and lots of ’70s hairstyles and mustaches.

We both fell in love with Italy’s natural beauty, friendly people, and atmosphere, but Brent really got the bug. He got hooked on cappuccinos (never liked coffee before) and even this soda called “Chinotto” that I only tried once, upon which I wailed that it was “like licking a telephone pole.”

He not only tackled and survived the 80-mile gravel ride, but turned around and registered for the same event in California, to be held this month.

So here I am….
I got it made in the shade.

Ciclismo Classico owner Lauren wanted to have a booth at the California event, but couldn’t squeeze the weekend into her packed schedule. “Well, we’re going, and I’m not doing the ride….” So I volunteered to man the booth and hand out brochures and generally tell people how wonderful and fun our Italy tour had been. They sent the materials out and, just like that, I had something to do while waiting for Brent to grind over all that gravel.

We flew in to San Luis Obispo and got Brent’s bike from Foothill Cyclery, where he’d sent it to be put together. They were displaying the first event poster we saw…

And now I’ll let Brent share the photos he took on the tour.

First, a run down the coast to the first check-in.

Some of the roads were really nice!

Santa Rita Road summit. So green…

Then the death-defying downhill on rough road, complete with hairpin turns.
Brent was walking. The guy on two wheels must be a local.

Here he is at the finish, tired but triumphant.

Where did they get this old “Support Vehicle??”

Meanwhile, there was a contest between some of the antique bikes. Here’s a 1948 Raleigh being judged.

Well, that’s just a taste of our weekend. I hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading!
Tailwinds,
Jan

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When the Inn is Even Better Than the Event

Y’all… we just got back from “Eroica California,” a historic cycling event in Cambria, California. And did we EVER pick the best place to stay!

We’ve participated in big cycling rallies before, and Problem One is always parking. A little research turned up a B&B with its own off-street parking, maybe 400 yards from the rally’s start point and expo. Going the other direction, the main business district is about the same distance. We would pretty much never have to move the car.

Not gonna lie, that’s the biggest reason we chose Olallieberry Inn.

Yeah, but then we actually arrived. We found the house was built in 1865 and the front yard features a sequoia tree that’s probably a zillion years old (give or take).

A friendly staff member welcomed us and showed us to our room, which had its own window seat and gas fireplace. Travel stress started melting away on the spot.

After a comfortable night’s sleep, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast–a different one each of the four mornings we were there. The food was delicious, made with expert care by the cheerful staff.

Coffee, hot water for tea and cocoa, and fresh cookies seem to be on duty at all times. Then there’s the Happy Hour every afternoon. We sat out on the deck nibbling appetizers and sipping wine, and got acquainted with other cyclists who were in town for the event. Need a local’s recommendation for a dinner place afterward? You got it.

In the evening, we’d stroll in through the back, pausing to enjoy an impromptu chorus of tree frogs down by the creek and watch the birds stuffing themselves at two birdbaths generously filled with seeds.

Hm, those birds may have reminded me of myself at breakfast.

But never mind that… I think I’ve found my new happy place!

Next time I’ll tell you about the cycling event itself. Meanwhile, for more photos and information, click here to check out the Olallieberry Inn website.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

Posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories), Thoughts on Two Wheels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Walking with Henry, by Rachel Anne Ridge

If you liked Flash: the Donkey, you will adore Walking with Henry. In this lovely book, Rachel Anne Ridge candidly tells her own story of the tragedy, struggles and questions she’s dealt with.

Rachel and Tom thought Flash needed a companion donkey, so they (sort of) jumped on the opportunity to adopt a rescued miniature donkey. Rachel watched and learned from Flash, “Henry” (the new kid), and their slow-growing friendship. Somehow, as she slowed down and gave her own heart some breathing space, these poky-but-gentle creatures helped her see her doubts and questions in a new light. Meanwhile, she discovered guidance in other unexpected places, until her bruised faith kindled again into a warm flame.

This is one of the most encouraging books I’ve read in a long time. No doubt Rachel’s transparency and delightfully engaging voice get much of the credit. Although I’m flagging Walking With Henry as a Great Weekend Read, I actually recommend reading just a chapter or two at a time. Then let each “settle” a while.

Tyndale, the publisher, sent me an Advance Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks for letting me share!
Happy Reading,
Jan

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Ingredient-Free Baking

Since I’m trying to dial back the starch and sugar in my diet, and have a bunch of family members with restrictions, I often prowl for recipes. I found one especially promising dessert online. No sugar or grain? Why, that would work for everyone except the vegans! And it sounded really delicious. I give you…

Sugar-Free Pumpkin Brownies (Click here for the recipe!)

Photo credit: SugarFreeLondoner.com
Check out her website for this and more sugar-free goodness!

I made a few practice batches, adjusting to taste (interpretation: used more cocoa and stevia, what else?) after each try. These are seriously good–moist and chocolaty, especially after my tweaks!

Some of our church friends were to have a potluck at our house. Our group includes a grain-free couple, so I signed myself up for the Pumpkin Brownies along with the main dish.

Since there’d be a dozen of us, I decided to increase the small-pan recipe by 50%. I’m quite confident in my ability to do this, as you’ll know if you read my Banana-Bread Math story.

I rushed around the kitchen, adapting the amount of each ingredient in my head… on the fly… including some odd amounts, like 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

The only way to accurately increase 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons by half is to convert the measurement into teaspoons, add half the number of teaspoons, and convert the resulting (large) number back into cups or fractions thereof.

I was on that math like burnt sugar on a pie pan.

Took me FOR. EVER.

At long last, I popped the brownie pan into the oven and hustled the main dish together. The brownies looked slightly flat when I removed them from the oven, but I chalked it up to the different size pan. Maybe 50% was a little short. Whatever.

Everyone arrived, we ate dinner, then it was time for dessert.

I opened the fridge to grab the whipped topping and there, on the same shelf, was a partial can of pumpkin. The pumpkin I was going to finish off before I opened the new can.

For the brownies.

Uh-ohhhh… (Checks pantry. New can has been put back.)“AAAAH! I left out the Pumpkin!

They weren’t terrible, but they lacked a certain something. Like the main ingredient.

Later, I reminded Brent about the newlywed Tuna-Noodle Casserole (no tuna) that I’d been trying to live down since 1979.

That reminded me of the Chicken Pot Pie with my freehand chicken cutout in the top crust instead of the usual three slits. You guessed it–I forgot the chicken. Ha, that was in 1999.

“Now it’s 2019. So, every twenty years….”

Brent: “That’s creepy. And did you notice the missing ingredient is always in the name?”

I can hardly wait to see what I come up with for 2039.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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