A Little Time Away

At the beginning of July we decided to take a mini vacay and spend three nights in a geodesic dome overlooking the north shore of Buffalo Pound Lake in southern Saskatchewan. It’s easy to sense of history that echoes along the shores of the lake, across the water, and into the valley where First Nation peoples have resided for millennia. Today the valley is home to First Nations, small towns, farmers and ranchers, and cottagers.

It’s so peaceful and relaxing here. The sunsets are amazing. We call Saskatchewan the Land of Living Skies for a reason. They are spectacular.

The domes have a lovely rustic feel. There is a small kitchenette, minus a stove as cooking isn’t allowed inside the dome, but there is a fridge, sink, and countertop area. It comes with dishes and cutlery, other cooking necessities, as well as a gas barbecue. There is a bistro table and chair set and, most importantly, a bathroom with a shower. We stayed in one of the family domes which include a king bed and two double mattress in the loft area. The bed, with its Endy mattress and luxury linens, was SOOOOO comfy! And the view from it is amazing.

As comfortable and cozy as the domes are on the inside, the outside area is still in need of some landscaping. Aside from the view, which was wonderful, the ground was rocky and uneven and there is no shade and little privacy. But the area is under development and I hope some of these issues will be addressed in the coming seasons. In fact, a couple of very comfy Adirondack chairs where delivered to each of the family domes while we were there.

Of course, I read a great book! Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. I loved this book and a Sunday Book Talk review will show up some up in the next while!

**Buffalo Pound Lake is found on Treaty Four land, the traditional territories of the  nêhiyawak (nay-hi-yuh-wuk, Cree), Anihšināpēk (uh-nish-i-naa-payk, Saulteaux), Dakota, Lakota, Nakoda, and the homeland of the Métis/Michif Nation. **

Until next time…

Do you have any vacation plans for the summer? Staycation plans?

Book Talk Sunday: An Image in the Lake by Gail Bowen

Sundays seem like a good time to talk about the books I’ve read! I don’t give ratings, or stars, or gold crowns. Just offering a few of my thoughts. This week I’m taking An Image in the Lake by Gail Bowen, which is an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy).

An Image in the Lake: A Joanne Kilbourn Mystery by Gail Bowen

Published:  ECW Press, September 7, 2021

Length: 350 pages

Categories: Mystery / Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths / Canadian Setting

Blurb:

A dark secret threatens the future of the Shreve family

It’s August 24 and Joanne Shreve and her husband, Zack, are savoring the last lazy days of summer and looking forward to the birth of a new grandchild; involvement in the campaign of Ali Janvier, a gifted politician with a solid chance of becoming the province’s next premier; and the debut of Sisters and Strangers, the six-part series Joanne co-wrote that focuses on her early life. The series is the flagship of a new slate of programming, and MediaNation is counting on a big return. Joanne and Zack’s stake in the series’s success is personal. Their daughter, Taylor, is in a relationship with one of the show’s stars, and Vale Frazier is already like family to them.

It seems the “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” will be a bountiful one for the Shreves. But when a charismatic young woman wearing a grief amulet that contains a lock of her dead brother’s hair and a dark secret becomes part of their lives, the success of Sisters and Strangers and the future of Taylor and Vale’s relationship are jeopardized, and only Joanne and Zack can put an end to the threat.

My Thoughts:

Joanne Shreve and her husband Zack are enjoying the last days of summer, determined to spend more time together and less time at work. But strange things are happening at MediaNation. They are about to air the line-up of fall programs which includes Sisters and Strangers, a six-part series co-written by Joanne about her early life. Then people start to disappear. Joanne and Zack are drawn into the search for answers when information comes to light about a group of four young people who are prepared to break the law in their quest to get to the top.

An Image in the Lake is classic Gail Bowen. Plenty of colourful and familiar faces show up, and we catch up with Joanne’s children and grandchildren. The meandering twists and turns that make Bowen one of Canada’s best mystery writers lead us on a slow but dark and entertaining path to the truth. Joanne (Kilbourn) Shreve is one of my favourite fictional characters. There is a calmness and a self-assuredness about her that is immensely appealing. After reading this book, I can tell you she is a lot for forgiving then I am. She’s also a wonderful example of a woman in her fifties who lives life to the fullest. Her life is never perfect but it’s always compelling.

I really enjoyed this book. And always love a Canadian setting. We need more of those. I would definitely recommend it.

An Image in the Lake is set in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada! My home city. I love reading books set in Regina. Regina is also a great city to visit with lots of fun activities and opportunities to offer visitors!

Check out Must Do Canada for other traveling Canada inspiration!

Until next time…

Have you read any great mysteries lately? Or any of Gail Bowen’s other books in her Joanne Kilbourn series?

The Sweet Promise of June

June with its tentative greens and cool mornings. I love June mornings. With my tea in hand, I take a tour of the yard taking note of how my plants are doing, listening to the birds chatter. We’ve having a heatwave right now, with heat warnings and everything. Which is weird for Saskatchewan this time of year. It’s more the ten degrees above the normal temperature. I sense there is wild weather on the horizon.

Lilacs are another of my favourite things about June. This sweet Sensation Lilac is a new addition to our yard. But as the days stretch longer and longer, other delights are making their presence known. Chicks and hen, sedum (another favourite of mine), and my ornamental alliums. All hardy, zone 3 perennials. Great for prairie gardening.

“The smell of moist earth and lilacs hung in the air like wisps of the past and hints of the future.”

Margaret Millar

June feels like it should be a season of its own and last a little longer before we springboard into summer. Where we rush trying to fit it all in before the seasons turn again.

Reading:

An Image In the Lake by Gail Bowen – ARC (Advance Reader Copy) – ebook. Early impressions: Just happy to be catching up with Joanne and the gang again, and waiting to see who dies. LOL Will follow up later with a review.

Hellion by Bertrice Small – audiobook. Early impressions: or more accurately – middle book of the book (I think). Also known as the point where this book swerves sideways into What The Hell is going on territory. This is my first Bertrice Small book, and…I just don’t know…

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron – Print book. Early Impressions: So far, interesting. I’ll be working through the suggestions and exploring the idea for a new series as I read it.

Podcasts:

Fated Mates: A Romance Novel Podcast For romance novel enthusiasts!

What Should I Read Next?: A Book Recommendation Podcast For those looking for reading suggestions!

The Medievalist Podcast: Where The Middle Ages Begin For those, like me, who love nerdy facts about the Middle Ages.

Until next time…

What are you reading to? Or share some of your favourite things to grow? I’m always on the lookout for recommendations!

Love Audiobooks

Escaping our daily worries can be a challenge, especially these days, and it is no secret that reading can be a powerful tool in balancing our mental health. So, don’t let anyone tell you it’s not reading. Listening to audiobooks provides the same benefits as reading print or ebooks. Each of them is a different experience, but each are valuable. Audiobooks are simply a different way to consume content. They offer us an opportunity to fit books into our day in a new way.

Ways I Listen to Audiobooks and Some Suggestions:

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of listening to the latest hit single on the radio for the 100th time, so instead I might listen to something like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, narrated by Rosamund Pike. Hopefully we’ll be out in our yards and gardens soon. This is one of my favourite times to listen to audiobooks. What better way to pass the time pulling weeds, then listening to something by Nora Roberts, like Northern Lights, narrated by Gary Littman. I’m also clumsy. But I can walk and listen without the fear of getting a concussion. Maybe try a Susanna Kearsley book, like her latest The Winter Sea, narrated by Rosalind Landor. And, these days, when keeping our distance is essential, why not try listening to Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, narrated by Adjoa Andoh, while shopping for groceries and take the boring out of picking out fruit.

The popularity of audiobooks show there is a real thirst for audio content. And as much as audiobooks are for those of us who love reading, they are also popular who people who don’t love books. Not everyone consumes content in the same way. As much as they are a boon to those of us who can’t read enough, they are essential to people who can’t read print or ebooks.

The video below has some great tips on how to get started with audiobooks!

I’m always about romance novel recommendations! Check out Audiofile Magazine’s Listen To These Five Scandalous Romances. “Judge for yourself if these couples are outrageous, skirting propriety, or simply falling in love on their own terms.” With audiobooks by Mary Balogh, Olivia Dade, Rosie Danan, Carly Phillips, and Hadley Beckett.

My romantic suspense series, Aspen Lake (Backlash, Exposed, and Gone), is available in audiobook. So is my romantic suspense, Off The Grid.

I read all three types of books: print, ebook, and audiobook. I don’t have a preference. I just love reading!

Until next time…

Do you enjoy audiobooks? Do you have a favourite narrator? When do you listen to audiobooks? Or drop a recommendation in the comments!

Costume Changes

When it comes to creating a character’s personal style it’s not only fun but necessary to use imagery to emphasize personality. Style is a very visual representation of a character’s personality. Just as a character’s style can change to enhance the advancement of their character arc. Like us humans out in the real world, characters have their good days and their bad ones, often in extremes. How they dress or put themselves together can help reflect their state of mind.

Besides the obvious fact of characters having to wear clothes and having those clothes be appropriate to the story and setting, there is something to be learned from costume designers who provide that imagery in movies and on television. There are incredible examples of costuming in television right now and I have a couple of absolute favourites.

Did anyone else binge watch Bridgerton on Netflix as soon as possible? It’s so lavish and decadent and the costuming is an incredible example of what it takes to build a swoon-worthy period drama for television. Lord have mercy, this show!

Bridgerton features approximately 7,500 costume pieces!

The Netflix series Bridgerton costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick, explained to Vogue that “each family and character tells a story through their clothes. Given the sheer number of people on camera, the Bridgerton costume department had to create elaborate outfits complete with headpieces and gloves. Quickly numbering in the thousands, the show had an entire warehouse dedicated to wardrobe and 238 people in the costume department.” 

She also explained why we didn’t see bonnets and the linen dresses authentic to the time period and why the costumes are a contemporary nod to the regency era. I love the fresh approach, the diversity, and the entertaining and witty nod to women in positions of power in an era that worked hard to restrict the advancement of women.

My second favourite is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. When is the next season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel coming? We need you Midge!

It’s funny, it’s profane, the clothes in this show. Are. The. Best. And how can we not love Midge as she pursues her passion in spite of overwhelming odds.

“Why do women have to pretend to be something that they’re not? Why do we have to pretend to be stupid when we’re not stupid? Why do we have to pretend to be helpless when we’re not helpless? Why do we have to pretend to be sorry when we have nothing to be sorry about? Why do we have to pretend we’re not hungry when we’re hungry?” – Midge Maisel

Donna Zakowska, costumer designer for The Marvelous Mrs. Masiel who’s stunning way with colour says, “These sort of elements really assert the character’s personality. In a way, Midge is a character that never gives in, even if something terrible is going on. It’s always about putting your best foot forward and an optimism that runs in the character.”

I love Midge’s undaunted spirit and her need to speak her mind, to be heard, and stubborn when confronted with a world that means to keep her inside the box it designated for her. And her clothes tell that story. The colour she wears as she goes about her daily life and the black dresses and pearls she wears on stage when she performs her stream of consciousness comedy act. It is, indeed, marvelous.

The following quote is taken from The Secret Lives of Costumes. It’s a great look into the world of costume design.

“I take my cues from the characters and their surroundings as written in the play, as well as from the stylistic choices of the production. In the same way that an actor builds upon the framework of traits and actions of his or her character in the story, I read what the character does and says for clues about what they might wear. I also need to think about how best to reflect a character’s evolution through the development of the story. Sometimes the character is best served by creating contrast between how a character behaves and what he or she looks like.”  Judith Bowden, Canadian Designer

It’s something to think about when creating characters and that it can be much more than adding in interesting bits and quirks. We need to think about style in terms of character development. We all know Eliza Doolittle undergoes a transformation in My Fair Lady. Usually a character’s evolution is not that obvious in terms of wardrobe. Nor is usually as lavish as in Bridgerton or as bold as in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. But using subtle changes can make an impact, too.

Do you love a certain TV character’s style? Have a favorite costume from a movie? Use wardrobe changes as a tool in your own writing?

A Summer Tea Party

Doing summer during a pandemic takes some creative ingenuity. But trust my daughter to come up with a fun activity. A tea party, which proved to be an excellent stay-at-home activity.

Everyone should have tea parties. They are a blast. Hats, ties, special treats, china cups and laughter. That’s a win in a time of anxious uncertainty.

And what a way to engage the imagination. We got very adventurous and made pavlova nests we filled with a lemon curd. I would definitely make these delightful little nests again using the right type of piping bag and decorating tip. Kudos to my sister for doing an amazing job despite the improvised tools. Also, I baked them a smidge too long and they weren’t a nice crisp white. But they tasted delicious. And practice makes better!

Menu decided, we dressed up, donned hats and ties, and sipped from china cups my mom donated for the occasion. We gave ourselves fancy names and thought of as many British words as we could manage.

Until next time…

Who else has had to think outside the box for activities this summer?

Photo of the Week: Summertime

I took a beginners photography class this spring – part in person and part online – because of the Covid. I love taking pictures. I can’t wait to get out there with a camera and take more pictures as I’ve got a black and white project in mind for a very blank wall that needs some creative touches. Also, photography is one of the ways I recharge my creative batteries. And in these uncertain times, that is a must.

This photo won’t be used in any art project, but it is a glimpse of our new backyard patio area where we love spending time. This space used to be a no-man land’s of wasted side/front yard that never saw any use. We’ve reclaimed it as part of our backyard and we couldn’t be happier with the results. And, again, in this new normal we’re adjusting to, this space has seen a lot of use because we simply aren’t out and about as much.

What I’m reading: Child of Mine by Jana Richards

Favourite Podcast of the Moment: Fated Mates: A Romance Novel Podcast with Sarah MacLean and Jen Prokop

Until next time…

Have you created any new spaces for yourself? Or found any safe, new spots to spend time in this summe?

Hello July! And Summer!

I’m a day late because Wednesday was Canada Day, which means Wednesday I thought it was Friday and Thursday I thought it was Monday. Now I have no idea what the actual day is. Welcome to summer!

Back to Canada Day. All I have to say about the 1st of July is I’ve yet to appreciate the whole and very complicated history of my beloved country. I’m listening and learning and reading and I like to think I’m more knowledgable today then I was yesterday.

I live, work, and love on traditional lands referred to as Treaty 4 Territory, which is the traditional lands of the Cree, Ojibwe (OJIB-WE), Saulteaux (SO-TO), Dakota, Nakota, Lakota, and on the homeland of the Metis Nation.

The first day of July was a beautiful summer day. The perfect kind. With sunshine and birdsong and dips in the pool. There was also food. There’s always food. My husband smoked ribs and I made a rhubarb/strawberry/nectarine galette. It all turned out mighty fine.

The only thing missing was ice cream, which I forgot to buy, but we did have whipped cream and that was delicious too. Also, I may have baked it too long as I wasn’t sure how to tell if it was done and the last thing I wanted was to dig in and find a soggy crust at the bottom. But I’ve learned baking takes practice and that practice makes better. Just like writing.

One of my favourite recipe books for desserts is All The Sweet Things by Rene Kohlman who is a Saskatoon chef and food blogger. She’s busy working on a vegetable cookbook. Follow her blog or on Instagram as Sweet Sugar Bean.

12 Canadian First Nations Recipes: an across the country sample of recipes from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people. The list was put together by Sharon Bond-Hogg and it makes me think I need to take a trip to Kelowna, British Columbia and the Kekuli Cafe! If you’re in the area this summer make sure and check it out.

Until next time…

Have a favourite summer dessert recipe? I’d love it if you’d share!

Summer Fun on the Prairies

I’m thinking of trying something new for July and August. A weekly glimpse of what a Saskatchewan summer looks like in short bursts with photos, book reviews, easy recipe links, and a look at some of my favourite things. A new normal means we will be keeping a little closer to home and that means a little more time to land her and check how things are going. I promise there will be colour and fun and creativity.

And so it begins…

My Mom knows what a bird nerd her granddaughter is, so she dropped off this tea cup set with the idea we’d turn it into a bird feeder. It was very simple. Some silicone, a tea cup and saucer, some string and you have yourself a bird feeder.

We have a lot of sparrows that come to our yard. A few squirrels. Robins, grackles, and the usual backyard visitors. But this year we also have a pair of friendly nuthatches and a pair of house finches that have the prettiest song. It fills the whole yard and I always wonder how such a small bird can manage to produce such strong notes.

It’s going to be a lovely day on the prairies, the sky is blue, it’s already 27 degrees Celsius, and the backyard is calling.

What I’m Reading:

Until next time…

What’s everyone up to this weekend?

Seven Ways To Celebrate Books

Reading books is good for our health. We know this. But these uncertain times also make it hard to focus. It takes a concentrated effort to read a book. Maybe that’s why I picked up an old favourite of mine, Sea Swept by Nora Roberts. Rereading a book doesn’t require the same level of concentration and I don’t have to worry I won’t like it. Or that what I’m reading will trigger even more feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. That’s important to me at the moment. I’m all about the happy endings, especially these days.

Seven Ways To Celebrate Books

Read Them! Obvious, right? Except for the fact that libraries and bookstores are closed at the moment. Not much of a hardship if you have a stack of unread books always at the ready. But some don’t. Luckily, ebooks are easily accessible online. But if you prefer print books, now might be the time to do what I’m doing and reread a favourite you already own.

Recommend A Favourite Book To A Friend. If there’s one thing I love to talk about above all else, it’s books. If you’ve read a great book recently talk it up to a friend, or mention it on social media. Talking about books is a great way to make new friends and connect with your old ones. We’re all seeking safe and meaningful connections right now.

Write Reviews of the Books You Read. Word of mouth is still the best way to sell books. Write a review on Goodreads, Litsy, or on a bookseller’s website. As I mentioned above, you can also leave your impressions on social media. Your review doesn’t need to be complicated, a couple of lines and a rating are a perfect way to spread the word about a great book.

Read the Book Watch The Movie Night. While we’re self-isolating, why not have a night where you watch the movie of a book you’ve already read. Make some snacks and get ready to critique the movie and why it wasn’t as good the book. Because it never is, right?

Do a Read-a-thon with a Friend. These pop up on Litsy all the time but I’ve never participated. But while we’re all staying home to flatten the curve why not ask a friend or friends that love to read to join in on a weekend read-a-thon. Have Zoom or Skype breaks to chat about the different books you’re reading over tea and cookies or wine and a tasty appetizer.

Listen to an Audio Book. If you’re finding it hard to read print or ebooks these days, you might want to give listening to audiobooks a try, if you haven’t yet. It’s a different and interesting way to read a book.

Listen to a Book-Related Podcast. I’m really beginning to enjoy listening to podcasts. Two of my favourite book podcasts are What Should I Read Next by The Modern Mrs. Darcy and Fated Mates (A Romance Novel) Podcast by Sarah MacLean and Jen Prokop.

Order a Book from an Independent Bookseller. No one champions books like independent booksellers. They need our help right now. So do authors! This is not a comprehensive list but there are some great bookstores listed in the article below. In my province of Saskatchewan there is also McNally Robinson in Saskatoon. A new bookstore called Penny University was set to open its doors at the end of April in Regina when COVID 19 hit. The opening has been postponed by you can order a book subscription online.

11 Of The Dreamiest Bookstores To Get Lost In Across Canada

I’d love to hear other ways to celebrate books. We need all the celebrating we can manage in these trying times. Or let me know what book you’re reading?

Until next time…