Monday, March 31, 2014

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening - Book Review

Carol Wall had finally gotten tired of her overgrown yard. Having never cared for it beyond mowing the grass, she wasn't about to sink her own hands into the soil or start pruning back the bushes. Admiring her neighbor's yard, she approaches Mister Owita, her neighbor's gardener about working for her to fix up her own yard. Thus begins a meaningful relationship between Carol and Mr. Owita.

Mr. Owita is from Kenya and different from all of Carol's other friends. Yet she is drawn to his quiet nature and his wisdom. Over the years, Carol's yard becomes a showplace and Carol learns more than just how to prune and care for the plants in her yard. Mr. Owita and his family become cherished friends of the Walls as the two families overcome the ordeals and trials of life.

I don't often reach for memoirs and yet several of them have inspired me over the years. Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall was one I very much enjoyed. Wall's engaging style and honesty, made this memoir a quick and memorable read. The relationship between Carol Wall and Mister Owita creates a bridge between so many differences yet shows that we are all so much more alike. Carol often blunders during their relationship, making assumptions, yet Mister Owita forgives and reassures her and their friendship continues. They serve each other and offer help when the other is in need. Mister Owita's careful and wise words are lesson to us all on how to treat one another.

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall is graceful and hopeful. It imagines the possibilities if we each treated each other with the respect and dignity deserved by all humanity.

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall was published by Amy Einhorn Books in March 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No additional compensation was received.**


The first ever Ladies Home Tour will be held at Daybreak’s Lake Village.  Visitors will have the opportunity to explore seven lakefront homes in Salt Lake County’s largest master planned community.  The Ladies Home Tour will feature guided tours inside this new collection of homes that take maximum advantage of mountain and lake views along Utah’s growing west bench.  In addition to experiencing the new homes, local eateries, The Sweet Tooth Fairy and the Waffle Love Truck will be providing complimentary refreshments (supplies are limited) and live music will play throughout the evening.  As Daybreak celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, the new Lake Village brings fresh architectural elements and waterfront living to a new level.  The tour is free to the public.

Free activities for kids at Daybreak Academy are also available.   For reservations, guests may call 801.446.9022 or email  Spaces for childcare activities are limited and by reservation only.  Additional details here

A new “beach cruiser” Townie bike, gourmet food basket from Daybreak’s newest SoDa Row tenant, Granato’s Deli, and gift cards to other SoDa Row retailers will be awarded to selected guests.

An Instagram contest will determine the winners of these fun giveaways.  No purchase required.

Saturday, April 5, 2014
The Lake Village at Daybreak
10491 S. Lake Avenue
South Jordan, UT 84095
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, Daybreak is Salt Lake County’s original, large-scale, master planned community.  About one out of every six new homes sold in the Salt Lake Valley is in Daybreak.  Over the past several years, more people have moved to Daybreak in South Jordan than to any other new-home community in Utah.  With businesses, parks, restaurants, schools and energy-efficient homes, set against the backdrop of the Oquirrh mountains and lakes all around, Daybreak and the new Lake Village are redefining community in Utah.  Learn more at

During the Ladies Home Tour, there will be many photo opportunities, including the exterior and interiors of the seven (7) showcase homes, live music, treats from local eateries, and people discovering the gorgeous environs of this new area of custom, lake front homes. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Hungry Family Slow Cooker - Cookbook Review

I could live on cottage cheese and tomatoes. Throw in some chocolate, and I'm good. But for some strange reason my family doesn't think that cuts it. So every night I have to come up with something to feed the family. I don't mind cooking but I hate thinking up menus. And nothing makes me happier than when I remember to throw something in the slow cooker in the morning so that when that crazy busy dinner hour arrives, I've already got something ready to eat.

I was excited to try out The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook by Christina Dymock. Since I'm not really a foodie, I was relieved to see that the recipes were pretty simple and that I could use plenty of ingredients already in my pantry.

The design of the book is very nice. The type is large enough for me to read while I'm in the middle of preparing food and there are lots of pictures included. I'm visual so I really like to see a picture of what I'm preparing. The book is divided into sections such as beef and poultry for ease and even includes an entire section on chili. I'm anxious to try one of the desserts.

We decided to try a few of the recipes for things that we knew we already liked. First, we tried the French Onion Soup recipe. The preparation was simple and it tasted as good as any I've ordered at my favorite restaurants.

Last weekend we tried "Granny's Potatoes". They were much like cheesy potatoes or more commonly known in Utah as "Funeral Potatoes". They cooked up deliciously in the slow cooker.

Today, I've already loaded the slow cooker with chicken and rice to try a recipe for Cajun Chicken and Shrimp Rice. I have high hopes for dinner tonight.

The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook includes basic instructions for using the slow cooker to brown ground beef or baking potatoes. But it also has some unique and interesting recipes to mix it up. I'm excited to try the Lemon Pepper Butternut Squash and the Crab Stew.

The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook by Christina Dymock is published by Cedar Fort in March 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Friday, March 21, 2014

Still Life With Bread Crumbs - Book Review

People fascinate me. I could people watch for hours. Catching an expression on a face or an interesting interaction between two strangers, I can't help but reflect on their stories. Why are they clearly so sad? Why did he react so strongly to that simple comment? What possessed her to get that stanza of music tattoo around her upper arm?

Still Life with Bread Crumbs, the newest novel from Anna Quindlen is Rebecca Winter's story. Rebecca is aging and her bank account is quickly shrinking. Trying to save money, she sublets her apartment in Manhattan to rent a cottage in upstate New York. Soon she is regularly eating scones at the village tea shop and sharing gossip with the locals. She takes a job with the state photographing birds for a much needed $200 and finds herself working in close proximity with the handsome, burly roofer that removed the raccoon from the attic of her cottage.

But Rebecca Winters is a famous photographer, known in the art circles for her iconic photographs of her kitchen counter following a hastily prepared dinner party. With a fancy circle of friends/acquaintances and a high end apartment, Rebecca is being stretched in her new role. Traipsing about the woods, she reinvents herself again and finds comfort in her new life.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs is primarily a character study. With the easy and often witty language that fully immerses the reader in the life of the character, I found myself completely entranced by Rebecca and her life. Seeing the world through Rebecca's eyes was enlightening. She has a wry sense of humor and a thoughtful stillness that made me want to sit beside her at Tea for Two and chat. As she fully accepts and is willing to make healthy and good life changes, I found her story inspiring and hopeful. It is at times terribly emotional and moving. It was the kind of story that I love most and didn't want to end. It's at once a touching love story and a coming-of-age story.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen is a masterpiece. I was previously unfamiliar with her work but will be acquiring her other novels as soon as possible. She is an artist.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindles was published by Random House in January 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of Still Life With Bread Crumbs in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No other compensation was received.**

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lost Lake - Book Review

Wow! I've disappeared from the blog for awhile. But what better time to return then with a review of Sarah Addison Allen's novel Lost Lake? It's beautiful green cover is perfect on this St. Patrick's Day. Lost Lake is also the She Reads book of the month.

A year after the sudden death of her husband, Kate and her eight-year old daughter Devin begin cleaning out the attic in preparation for their move to her mother-in-law's home. They find an old postcard for Lost Lake where Kate's aunt owns a camp and where Kate spent the best summer of her life. Waking up and realizing that her mother-in-law's plans are not best for her family, Kate and Devin head south to visit Lost Lake.

Aunt Eby is making plans to sell Lost Lake. After all these years, the death of her husband George, and the dwindling business at Lost Lake, Eby is arranging to sell the land to a developer and spend her final years traveling in Europe.

But Lost Lake means so much to so many people. Kate and Devin arrive just in time to help the locals and the faithful visitors try to save Lost Lake.

Beginning with a young newly wed couple honeymooning in Paris and a mysterious suicide jumper, the prologue immediately captured my attention. There were all the necessary elements for drama: young love, romantic setting, a mysterious personage and a nutty family in pursuit. As the novel moved into present day and different characters I was initially disappointed. I preferred to stay in Paris with young Eby and George and the mysterious girl. It took a little while for me to embrace the story of Kate and Devin.

However, with Allen's pure writing and ability to stir emotion, I soon fell in love with the story and magic of Lost Lake. Kate and Eby were characters worth rooting for as they attempt to create their own futures and are cheered on by a delightful cast of supporting characters. There is love, mystery, redemption and hope.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen is comfort food. It's the lovely story with the happy ending to share with your best friend when she's feeling down. It's a hug in a book. Inspiring nostalgic memories of those places and people from our childhoods that changed our lives and the desire to go back and hold on to those moments for dear life, Lost Lake is magical.

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen is published by St. Martin's Press in January 2014. Don't forget to check out other reviews from She Reads members.

I just found out that there is a companion story to Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen called Waking Kate. The Kindle version is free. I'm anxious to read it.

**I received a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No other compensation was received**

Saturday, March 1, 2014

MercoBox Give-away Winner

The winner of the MercoBox from MercoLocal is...


Congratulations! Please send your contact information to me as soon as possible so you claim your prize.