Thursday, December 31, 2009

Book Review - The Talented Mr. Ripley

I love to read about the arrogant, wild, free-spirited writers and authors of the past. Although I had heard (but not seen) of the movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley, I had not heard of the original book's author Patricia Highsmith until browsing B& N for new books to read. Ms. Highsmith's biography caught my eye and defiantly caught my attention - she was just the type of Fitzgerald-era character (Mr. Gatsby, anyone?)I love to read about. I decided I had better read one or two of her books before I tackled her biography and naturally chose The Talented Mr. Ripley, simply because it was familiar to me. I did try to track down a copy of the movie but the library did not have it. Instead I found the book, which turns out to be a trilogy about Mr. Tom Ripley.

Let me tell you, if you like suspense – there is none better than this title. My stomach was literally in knots from page 100 on. I stayed up until 2am to finish the first book and had to take a sleeping pill to calm myself down from the suspense of it all! I couldn’t wait to post about this book, even as I am reading on through the second book now. Who knows what Ms. Highsmith’s biography will bring after I complete the Ripley stories – I cannot wait!
Here’s a short summary of the first of the Ripley stories – The Talented Mr. Ripley.

The story begins with Tom, a non-descript character who dabbles in small time forgery crimes for fun. He find himself being tailed by a gentleman, who turns out not to be a detective, but the distraught father of one of Tom’s friends. The father tells Tom that his son has run off to Europe and will not return home, even with his mother in failing health. Sensing an opportunity, Tom worms his way into an expense paid trip to Europe to bring the son, Dickie, home.

Dreaming of a new life abroad, Tom quickly becomes friends with Dickie and his lady friend, Marge. They spend the summer together, making plans to winter traveling Europe. The friendship seems queer to Marge and she convinces Dickie to severe the friendship. The men take one final trip together and Tom sees his bright future slipping away. In a fit, he kills Dickie and assumes his identity. Dodging Marge and moving to Paris, Tom totally transforms himself in to Dickie, even forging his bank cheque and living off the dead boy’s money.

In a fluke, a mutual friend finds Tom at “Dickie’s” Paris apartment. Quickly figuring out that something is amiss; the friend starts to question Tom. Tom kills the friend and dumps the body, making the murder look like a robbery. This begins a suspenseful cat and mouse game between Tom and the police. Tom is only one small step ahead at any given moment and is eventually confronted.

I won’t spoil anymore for you, as it’s obvious he gets away this time for there would not be two more Ripley books if he didn’t. I guarantee you will be on you toes and holding your breath the entire way. Just remember to breathe every now and then!

Enjoy, The Talented Mr. Ripley as I am off for a long night of reading, Ripley Under Ground!

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Thinking Thursdays - What to do with your holiday cards

RECEIVED HOLIDAY CARDS - Chances are, with this year's economy, you didn't receive as many holiday cards as usual - but what do you do with the ones you did get? St. Jude's Children Ranch accepts used cards until Feb. 28th. The children participate in making the new recycled cards by removing the front and attaching a new back made with recycled paper. The new card is a beautiful, “green” card made by the children and volunteers. The benefits are two-fold: customers receive "green" holiday cards for use and the children receive payment for their work and learn the benefits and importance of "going green".

I like to host Creative Days and after the holidays I ask all the ladies to bring in their cards. We box them up and send them to the kids. What a great and easy way to "give back."

Send your cards to:
St. Jude's Ranch for Children

100 St. Jude's Street
Boulder City, NV 89005-1681

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Check Out Our Guest Blog Post on EADFL!

Thanks to Jamie over at Engineer A Debt Free Life for allowing me to "guest blog." Click over to read my first published article on How To Make Money While Being Green!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Wedding Tasting

Where have I been the last 2 days? Getting ready for a pre-wedding menu tasting with a potential couple and her mother - lots of preperations!

Today I had the lovely couple over for a "tasting" of their wedding menu. They were such a nice couple and we had a great time...cross your fingers for me!

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Wishing You a Merry Christmas

Christmas Through The Years.....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thinking Thursday - Final Notes on the Simple Party Series

Growing up, my grandmothers were magnificent ladies. Every Sunday we had white tablecloths and china plates. Every day we used linen napkins and sat down to dinner. I wrote hundreds of thank you cards and signed hundreds more Christmas cards. I hated to hear my name called from the “living room” because I knew it was time to polish the silver! As I got older, I came to appreciate my upbringing and as a mother now, well – let’s just say the polishing of silver has been passed to them! Not many families teach their children the difference in forks, the way to tie a tie or how to behave at a party – but I do. I strive to keep that spirit alive – even if it’s only in my own children. By pulling out all the stops when I entertain, it is my way of not only letting my friends and family know they are worth the effort, but also my way of passing along a dying tradition of entertaining. I challenge you to put that little something extra into your own entertaining. As we’ve learned today –it can be done simply, elegantly and cost efficiently – although a little silver polish doesn’t hurt.

Many Blessings,

Kendal Spinks Hall

To learn more about me, please visit my website at and click the “About Me” page.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Testing...Testing Part II How To Create Your Own Custom Signature

Better? Yes, I think so!

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Want your own? Click on over to for her quick and super easy tutorial.

Testing, Testing....

So I'm testing the new blog signature today...can you see it? Whatcha think? A little too big huh?

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My New Blog Button - Wanna Swap?!

Did you see my new blog button? Not very fancy, but better than nothing, right? I'm excited to finally be able to share my button and swap it out with other bloggers.

I want to thank Carrie over at  oikology101 for her great tutorial on creating your own Blogger Button. It's actually quite easy. I had to download Picassa and Photbucket, but I had been needing to do that anyway. I hope to learn how to create a new header next.  

Need a blog button yourself? Check her post

Book Review - Come Back by Claire and Mia Fontaine

I chose this particular story for my first book review because it is such a powerful, REAL story - and it hits close to home as I am currently dealing with a similar situation with my own daughter. I scoured the book shelves to find every bit of information I could about teen runaways and this book left a deep impression in my heart. If you are struggling with a child that has runaway, is using drugs or is having serious behavior issues – this is the book that will help you discover there is hope.

BOOK REVIEW: Come Back by Claire and Mia Fontaine

How does a mother react to the sudden realization that her once normal daughter is actually a drug abusing teenager? What happens when the daughter runs away and cannot be found? What is the daughter’s view on her self-destruction behavior? How do both the mother and daughter find help and journey back to normal life? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg in a page-turning chronicle. Both mother and daughter write their own version of events in alternating chapters. The uniqueness of the books is that you read how the daughter feels going through withdrawals, being in confinement and her treatment firsthand and at the same time, you get all the raw emotions of the mother and her struggles with her own side of the treatment process. Come Back is the dual memoir of a mother and daughter as they journey, in their own words, “through Hell and back.” Vividly emotional and striped clear of any “sugar-coating,” this is a powerful account of a daughter, a mother and the struggle to ‘come back” to each other.

Claire and Mia are currently working on a follow-up memoir. Please visit their website for more information on their amazing journal. Resources for parents and teens are also available on their website.

*This book review is covered under my Review Disclaimer. If you have a book or product you would like me to review on this blog, please contact me.

Review Disclaimer and Request for Products

I've just been introduced to the wonderful world of Blog Reviewing! I've been doing this on and off myself for awhile, but just recently found the nuts and bolts of how it works. If you have a book or product you would like for me to review on my blog, please contact me. I am new to the process but ready and willing to learn. Of course, I must cover my "you-know-what" so here's the legal mumbo-jumbo:



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Yes, I'm Sappy......

So, even though my children roll their eyes at me, I like traditions....does that make me sappy? Check out what I put my children through each Christmas and you tell me. I like:

Gaudy Trees that are TOO BIG for our house, with matching presents (of course):

Breakfast with Santa the weekend before Christmas:

One on One Time with Santa at our friends, The Parkers:

Mandatory Reading of "The Night Before Christmas" each Christmas Eve (and yes, everyone takes a turn reading):

Cookies and Milk for Santa:

What family traditions do you hold on to each holiday season?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Mornings are like Sunshine

Guest Blogger: Grace Hall, age 6 (goin' on 7, she says)

Presenting: Grace's photo journal of last week's lovely Sunday......

We started out with Grace's singing at church (she's on the top row, next to last in line) followed by a good sermon...

Moved on to lunch at the Waffle House (Grace's favorite Sunday treat)

Sitting with daddy....

Moved on to get the tree.....

Then bath time....

and a hug before bed...

Grace is inquiring, "What did YOU do last Sunday?"
Yes, the rocking chair IS sitting on the couch - don't ask, it's Jeff's office...enough said

Friday, December 18, 2009

Don't peak if you are my friend.....

You peaked! It's okay. I just didn't want you to get a glimpse of your beautiful present I wrapped today...

Actually, this is a gift that Grace and I made for her friend's birthday - BUT, you may still have one like it with your name waiting under my tree.....

So you guessed it - I finally got my own Cricut machine and I have been putting it to good use this holiday season. It cuts the beautiful letters, to my specifications, perfectly! If you haven't seen one of these suckers - head over to and check it out!

Overflowing with Chritsmas Cards

Such a simple use for all those photo holiday cards you get year after year….

Although every January I donate all my Christmas cards to St. Jude’s Children Ranch, I keep the ones that have my friends and family’s photos on them. I have several years’ worth of each family’s Christmas photos in a bowl on my living room coffee table. It is such a wonderful thing to look through a see how the children have grown, pets that people have include and all the wonderful friends that share their family with us. My bowl is almost full and I plan to place all of these in a scrapbook in the next few years, but for now, I just love “visiting” with my friends every time I pass the table.

I do the same thing at Halloween with the girls in their trick-or-treat costumes….

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Counting Down the Days Kid's Craft

Last week my neice and her son came over so we could make our Christmas cards. Being the teacher that she is, she brought along a craft for the kids to complete while we were working.

Kids at work - yes my OCD was kicking in......

Meg at work:

Kids finished product:

My finished products:

To make your own "countodown to Christmas" ring chain you will need:

1" strips of green and red construction paper (we had 6 of each color b/c there were 12 days left)
One piece of yellow construction paper (to cut out a large bell shape for the top)
Glue or staples

The kids deocrated the "bell" with stickers, then created a chain by stapling the rings together to form a chain. Every night before bed, we take off one ring to represent how many days are left until Christmas.

To make you own cards (like mine) you will need:
Card stock paper in multiple colors. I used kraft color, light blue and red on mine.
Holiday stamps and stamp pads
"pop-it"  - found at Hobby Lobby. These are mini pillowed squared that give a 3-D effect
Glue pen

Starting with a standard sheet of card stock, cut it in half and fold in half to creat a note card.
I cut out a swirl "snow" and glues to the bottom of the page. I then stamped a plain tree on the front and used glitter to "draw on" the ornaments and stars. I used the pop-its to create a layered 3D effect on the front.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Plaster Boy In The Manger

My favorite holiday decoration, next to my Holiday ABC book, is this lovely little manger scene of hand-painted plaster figures.

Why do I love this so? When I was little and money was tight, my mother went out and bought this do-it-yourself manger scene. She lovingly painted each figurine and put them out for my brother and me. I don’t remember that first year, but I do remember the years that followed that it was set out for us to enjoy. Times got better and the little scene was eventually replaced with finer things. Years later, I married and had two beautiful little ones of my own. We were young, money was tight and somehow I found that little manger scene. Just like my mother before me, I put it out for my little ones.

Those two little ones are almost grown now, but I have a new little one who gets to enjoy now. The little figures are aged, chipped and flaking, but Grace loves to play with them (I was never allowed to even touch them!) I’ve changed out the original wooden manger but the figurines will never be replaced.

It just goes to show that love goes a long way. No matter what something costs. No matter what you have or don’t have – the love will come through in the end. Give your children those kinds of gifts and they will cherish them – just as I cherish my little plaster baby in the manger…..