Monday, May 28, 2012

Happiness is...a road trip!

I had a wild notion to go camping. It's been years since I've gone actual tent camping and I convinced my roommates and a few others to join me.  We decided on Ohiopyle, a state park in Pennsylvania. The planning fell through on several stages, we lost participants along the way and nothing seemed to go as we'd hoped.  All in all a typical camping trip!

In the end it was just the roommates. We drove up in two shifts Friday, one group setting up camp, the rest of us getting there just late enough to crash into our sleeping bags. Saturday we started our excursion at Falling Water, Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpiece. 

We followed that up with some lunch at a local grill and some fabulous hikes around the area. The weather was perfect, the company was fabulous, the food was amazing. It was a lovely day!

 The next day was a bit more adventurous. We lost one who went home early and then the rest of us set off to explore some of the waterfalls and trails. There were near death experiences (yes, that was plural), moments of absolute serenity, a lot of sweat and sun, gorgeous scenery, loads of laughter and the kinds of conversations that only come about after minimal sleep and hours of silence. It was fabulous!
We made it back to camp thoroughly exhausted and ready for our delicious campfire dinner. But the weather had other plans. It all started with thunder that shook us to our bones. I've never heard anything so loud! And then came the lightning, followed by, you guessed it, the rain. We spent an hour or so trying to keep the fire from dying and eventually seeking shelter in the car, abandoning camp for pizza in town. The rain stopped and we assessed the damage, finally deciding that things were far too wet to be comfortable. So, rather than staying til Monday afternoon as planned we did the best we could to dry things off and pack them up. We left about 11 and drove the 3 1/2 hours back home, chasing one storm and being followed by another.

The lightning storms lit up the sky all around us, sometimes coming down in sheets throwing reflections off the clouds other times reaching out great electric fingers along the horizon or down to the ground.  We had an incredible show for nearly two hours of our drive.  It was quite distracting! (But also helped keep me, the unprepared driver, awake.)

It didn't all turn out as we had planned or hoped but it was a terrific trip nonetheless. It's always nice to have a chance to commune with nature and get away from it all. Now, where should we go next?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Happiness is...some distance and perspective.

I am one who has always been a fan of details, the minutae and nitty gritty of things.  But more and more I'm learning that sometimes the details leave you confused.  Often clarity and understanding only come when one is able to step back and see the bigger picture, the scope and panorama rather than the intricacies of a situation.

I had a conversation with someone recently about the ins and outs of love and the only thing we could safely conclude is that there is no logic behind it. None. Whatsoever. Again, the details don't seem to make sense, but when viewed on the whole somehow the pieces tend to fall into a cohesive pattern like a tapestry or a mosaic and you're left with something seemingly illogical but beautiful nonetheless.

There was a saying floating around in the not-so distant past that a single woman of a certain age was more likely to be killed by terrorists than to find Mr. Right. Now that the threat of terrorism is real I haven’t heard a substitute ‘fate worse than death’ phrase. But some days that’s exactly how it feels. You move in and out of flirtations and crushes and endless first dates (or no dates at all) and you feel as if all the odds are stacked against you. When you like someone they don’t like you and vice versa or your levels of ‘like’ are nowhere near equal and you find that the thing you hoped would take off is never going to leave the ground.  It can leave you feeling rather hopeless and discouraged. And yet it happens all the time (usually to other people!) :)

I’ve dated a fair bit in the past and I’ve grown to love each person I’ve had relationships with but it isn’t often that I can claim to actually having been in love. Yet, even the less serious relationships have lead to growth and learning and understanding and emotion on a level far beyond anything experienced in a 'normal' day-to-day relationship. And sometimes saying goodbye to someone you love can be just as painful as saying goodbye to someone you're in love with. The problem is, when you bare your soul to someone, even if it's not completely but just the teeny tiniest part, you open yourself up to the possibility of unbelievable pain. Because "none of us is delicate enough to touch anyone else without hurting them a little bit." *

And unfortunately it's the gift that just keeps on giving. You brace yourself for the inevitable discomfort of breaking things off or expect the anguish that comes from being dumped, and once the initial misery passes you assure yourself you're in the clear. One moment you're walking along, whistling, the sun is shining, you're minding your own business and then it happens. Wham! It sneaks up behind you when you're not looking and knocks your feet out from under you and you're lying on your back, the world spinning around you, knocked completely breathless and disoriented.

Or there are those occasions when you feel brave and strong enough to face it all head on and it sucker punches you right in the gut, the pain so intense and sudden that the tears come automatically and you're gasping for air and wishing you'd just die already but knowing that no matter how much you wish it it just isn't going to happen.  Eventually the shock will wear off and you'll breathe again, still living with the pain, like a bruise under the surface, invisible to everyone's eye but your own, knowing that someday when you least expect it you'll get punched again...and again...and again. Gradually you'll become a bit more immune, the punches hurting a bit less, the breath coming back a bit quicker, you'll maybe even have the power and forethought to block the punch before it hits, but always the threat lingers, a possibility of pain as a balance to all the joy and happiness life was before.

And the funny thing is, while you're going through it (both the love and the pain) you tend to believe that you are the only one who has ever felt that way before; light, elated, invincible, depressed, dejected, devastated. But a myriad of poets and songwriters prove otherwise. Love and the heartache that come with it are eternal and universal themes.

My most recent relationship taught me many things.  I recognized that there are things that are important to me in a partner that I hadn't been aware of before and things that aren't as important as I'd previously thought. I learned some vital communication skills and remembered how to trust and give bits of my heart and self to another person and how to accept bits of them in return. But it also taught me that no matter how much happiness and thrill I may feel at times if it’s not complete it’s not worth it.

So, against all logic and at the risk of suffering more pain (or of possibly first meeting my demise by terrorists) I am determined to hold out for true love, for that person who I can share books and music and laughter with, someone who appreciates and even encourages my quirks, someone who has similar goals for the future, someone who will want nothing more than to spend the rest of forever and beyond getting to know all of me inside-out and back again, asking only that I do the same for him in return. It’s a tall order I realize and yet I’ve had tiny tastes of the glorious possibilities through each previous relationship I've experienced. And I’ve seen the fairy tale come true for people around me.  But it’s not a Disney fairy tale with magic wands and a godmother who makes everything fall into place and the elusively bland 'happily ever after.' The magic is in finding the right person at the right time who is willing to work as hard as you are for something bigger and better than either of you could be or do on your own (though I do believe there will be a certain amount of pixie dust and miracles along the way!) It can happen and it will.  I know you’re out there somewhere and I will find you (Yep, that’s both a threat and a promise!) and I guarantee our lives will never be the same.

That is my treatise on love, at least for today.  Ask me again in a week and I'll probably have something else to add! But for now I'll leave you with a few appropriate tunes, the evolution of my life in song, because someone always says it better:

Disclaimer-My real life does not include this many Michael Buble appearances, or bad early 90s country hairdos...just so's ya know. ;)

*from The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happiness is...singing!

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to join a small group to record bits of a musical allegory, The Garden.

Here's a brief description:
A group of objects in a garden struggle with various trials and difficulties (a seedling who cannot grow, a tree that bears no fruit, a millstone who wishes to be something more valuable like a statue, and a ram caught in a thicket.) Their garden is run down and neglected until a man comes along (representative of either missionaries or religious leaders) to tend it. They begin to find hope in their existences but the landlord (Satan or the natural man) returns to the garden and confronts the man, telling him he has no business being there on property that doesn't belong to him. The two leave but soon another man comes and the objects watch as he prays and suffers. The marvel at his love and perserverence and gain insight into their own trials by observing him. This is the Savior, suffering the Atonement for the sins of the world, the Garden representing (among other things) the Garden of Gethsemane.  It's a beautiful portrayal of that sacred event as well as a synopsis of our earthly existence in general.

I'd first performed it years ago with a large choir group but last night there were only 10 of us. There's a small cast of soloists as well as various choral accompaniments. The soloists had all performed the program for audiences recently and wanted to have a recorded copy of their efforts so myself and a few others were invited to step in to add our voices to fleshing out the choral pieces. I haven't had to sing that intensely since college and I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed it! I was defnitely the least talented of the bunch but it was so enjoyable to work with such amazing people, blending our voices together over and over for both fun and worship.

I was up way too late (not helpful to my still iffy sleeping schedule I'm afraid) and this morning my voice was hashed, but it was worth it!  I may have to look into finding a group to sing with or taking a music class in the near future.

Here's a clip of my favorite song, such a beautiful testimony of the Savior and His love for us.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happiness is...a musical challenge.

I was perusing NPR the other day and came across a fun segment on All Songs Considered.  Throughout the course of the summer they are going to be posting several albums each week that readers/listeners can vote on in an effort to find the top 10 universal albums of all time; albums that cross audience lines, that most everyone can appreciate and agree on. It is an interesting idea and one that has kept me thinking, what (and we'll simplify it to maybe songs or artists) do I listen to that is generally accepted by the masses?  I have some strangely eclectic tastes and when I roadtrip and it's my turn to put on the ipod invariably I'm the one with the weird stuff that tends to get fast forwarded through. On the other hand, I cover so many genres and eras that I can always find something for each person, even if it's just one song.

I love going to concerts because you can literally see who shares your tastes and interests.  A few I've gone to have illustrated this idea well with people old enough to be my grandparents, my parents, or young enough to be my kids. And within my own age range there have been various high school stereotype groups represented...the skaters, the preps, the rockers, the stoners, all inexplicably singing along to the same music.  James Taylor was like this, as was Simon and Garfunkel and Billy Joel, even the Avett Brothers the other day had a good mix of old and young, surviving hippies and buttoned-up accountants all jamming with the band.

Another gauge I use is my mom.  I love to make mix tapes for her, trying to expose her to new things because you never know what she's going to latch on to.  She's primarily a fan of mellow stuff (Josh Groban, The Carpenters), things from her youth (The Beatles, The Monkees) but mostly jazz (Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme), standards (Michael Buble, Tony Bennett), and classical. My sister and I have inundated her with a variety of things that she has patiently endured but never listened to again. I know if I can find something she'll choose to listen to when neither of us are there, and even sing along with, that I've found a winner.  Some surprises have included Thriller, Queen, Barenaked Ladies, Diamond Rio, Garth Brooks and even a few bluegrass tunes!

So, I put the question out to you, my faithfully devoted readers (I know there's a few of you out there!)  What songs, albums, artists would get your vote? What are the quintessential 'everyman' songs, the ones that come on and the whole room starts tapping their feet or singing along to?  Leave suggestions in the comments and let's see if we can give NPR a run for it's money! ;)

Here are a few of my votes to get you started.

Agree? Disagree? Well, go forth and hit me with your best shot.  Consider the gauntlet thrown!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happiness is...a list of randoms.

Some things that are making me happy at the moment:

  • volcanic Mexican meals
  • catching up with old friends
  • buying tickets to this concert (and I'm far more excited about it than I probably should be!)
  • the rain! (go me!...I'm sooo not a runner)
  • getting sucked into this extremely cheesy series (a little part of my heart belongs to Nathan Fillion)
  • buying books written by people I know 
  • focusing on writing again (one day it'll be me on Amazon!)
  • thunder and lightning storms
  • a clean closet
  • setting new goals
    •  I've decided I need to balance my time spent pinning things on Pinterest with actually doing some of the things I pin.  I've done a decent job making up some of the recipes but I'm going to chronicle at least one project/accomplishment a week on the blog, so look forward to that! (I know, you're so excited you just don't know what you'll do until then...don't deny it!)            
  • keeping up on old goals
    •  the illness has taken a toll on a lot of the goals I've set for this year so I've had to do some adjusting and starting over, but I've done pretty good on a couple of them
      • I finally got enough energy up to start running, now I just need to find a 5K to register for
      • I've tried a new restaurant/food experience each month
      • participated in a local event/new tourist attraction each month
      • read 1 classic each month
        • my definition of 'classic' is pretty fluid (and I could really use some suggestions if you've got any!! there haven't been too many winners) but so far I've read:
          • Little Women
          • The Stranger
          • Slaughterhouse 5
          • Girl of the Limberlost
      •  live performances each month 
        • most of these have been musical (no complaints on that score) but I've made 2 each month so far             
      • now I just need to find a photography class, a writing class, work on going on at least 1 date each month, experiment with some new hairstyles and outfits, and find some time to play the piano...easy as pie!

So, what is it that's kept you busy lately?  Anything I should add to my list?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happiness is...having an amazing mom.

I've tried to come up with something cutesy and quirky to post about my mom on this celebratory mom's day but my brain is just not cooperating.  Instead I'm going to have to go with the drab and prosaic praise...I have the best mom in the world.  Now, some of you may think that your mom is the best, but I'll have to argue with you.  You're wrong. Because mine is truly the best.

Not only did she (literally) risk her life giving birth to myself and various and sundry siblings she has continued to put it on the line in different ways for each of us since then. She has faced down angry teachers and bullies, gotten in cars driven by us before we were licensed and aware of what we were actually doing, sat through countless recitals, performances and awards programs, eaten our cooking, attempted to teach us how to scrub toilets and bathtubs, kissed our boo-boos, listened to our heartaches and dramas and dealt with all of our teen angst (which some of us have never grown out of!)

Most importantly, she's stepped back and let us make our own mistakes. She's been there to help pick us up when we fall and guide us back to where we needed to be without condemning or judging, just loving and nurturing and teaching each step of the way. And when we make the same mistakes again and again she has had infinite patience and continues to do so day after day, answering with prayers and encouragement and a shoulder to cry on.

She has taught by example how to serve others and put the Lord first and I am eternally grateful for her models of sacrifice and faith. I'm not much, but all the good things that I am I can trace directly back to her.  I love you mom!

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention all the mother figures I've had in my life, and I've had many.  Aunts, grandmothers, teachers, neighbors, youth leaders and more have all stepped in at moments when they've been most needed and offered love, support, and examples that have shaped my soul. I'm grateful for friends and contemporaries who are now mothers themselves, raising up children who give me faith and hope in the future of our world. Thanks to you we are in good hands!

Hopefully you've taken a moment today to voice your appreciation for the women who act as mothers in your life. If not, there's still time. Call them, thank them, and do something to show them how much you care.

A few closing thoughts, much more eloquently and beautifully stated than I could hope to attempt:

Motherhood is near to divinity.  It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.
~Howard W. Hunter

A mother has far greater influence on her children than anyone else, and she must realize that every word she speaks, every act, every response, her attitude, even her appearance and manner of dress affect the lives of her children and the whole family. It is while the child is in the home that he gains from his mother the attitudes, hopes, and beliefs that will determine the kind of life he will live and the contribution he will make to society.
~N. Eldon Tanner

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.
~Abraham Lincoln

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happiness is...everything Avett!

I spent a few glorious hours basking in the sounds of the Avett Brothers tonight. What a fabulous way to spend an evening!  Ah~Maz~Ing!*

Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • floor seats
  • bass that rattles your rib cage
  • a banjo that tingles you to your bones
  • harmonies and blends that are so close and sweet they can only be achieved by people who are related to each other
  • people watching (the old couple that clapped wildly but never on beat, the guy near the stage who jumped up and down and writhed orgasmic-ly the entire!)
  • words and tunes that seep into your soul
  • voices that are at once raw, gritty, smooth and sultry
  • a little bit of crazy dancing
  • a touch of gospel, bluegrass, country, folk and rock
  • not to mention the harmonica, the cello, the various guitars, the drums and the whistling
  • 2 solid hours of musical bliss

And for your listening pleasure...
You're welcome!  Hope your dreams tonight are as sweet as mine are going to be.  'Night all!

*Miss K, you were greatly missed

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Happiness is...reliving history.

Today's Google Doodle made me smile.

I've spent too many hours to count poring over Egyptian museum exhibits and reading books about Egypt (both historical and mythical) and falling in love with this unique part of the world.

I know I've posted on this before so I won't rehash it all again but I did enjoy reliving a bit of my own history and remembering the amazing trip I took to Egypt with my mom and sister a few years ago. It was almost like stepping back in time. The language, the people, the food, the smells, the bustling market places, the camels and carts and calls to prayer are all timeless. And then there are the pyramids, the sphinx, the great Nile, the hieroglyphs, the monuments that speak from centuries past.  There's no place like it.

Howard Carter's a slightly controversial figure but there's no doubt he played an important role in bringing much of what we know about Egyptian history to light and generating new interest in the subject. Happy 138th birthday to the man!

Happiness is...a spot of color.

We've had a few relatively gray and gloomy days lately but each morning on my way to work I pass this flowerbed full of deep vibrant colors that stand out against their dull surroundings.

Aren't they lovely?

They inspired me to throw a bit of color around in other places as well.   So, last night I pulled out the pillows and throw to accent my usually black and white bed set.

And then I decided I needed a mani-pedi so I added a touch of color to my toes and even my fingers which I never do (it chips and looks crappy much too quickly.)

And even pulled out the polka-dotty bra (that's right, I just blogged about my underwear).  It's amazing how much a little color (even hidden) can brighten your day!

Now I'm going to cozy up in my newly brightened bed and read this book while I listen to the rain hitting my window and the wind blowing through the trees, safe in the knowledge that there will be more color adventures awaiting me tomorrow (and hopefully a bit of sunshine to boot!)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happiness is...a new look.

It was more than past time for a change and some housekeeping.

So, what do you think of the new digs?

I think I'll keep them around for a bit!

Here's to mixing things up and shaking the dust off. Now it's time to do that in a few other areas of my life...

Happiness is...a good book.

It's been a while since I did a real book review.  I've discussed several books in passing that have caught my eye and were worthy of attention but figured it was about time for something a bit more official.  Here are a few I've read in the past month or so that rated most highly in my estimation.

The Serpent’s Shadow
Author: Rick Riordan
Pages: 406
Age Range: 9+
Published: 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: *****
Rating: PG

This is the final installment of the Kane Chronicles series. Orphaned siblings Sadie and Carter Kane enlist the help of their new magical trainees and various surviving magicians (along with a few sympathetic gods and goddesses) as they face off against Apophis, the god of Chaos, who is intent on bringing about the destruction of the world. In his signature fashion Riordan mixes modern day drama (burgeoning romantic relationships, school stresses, clashes with authority) with ancient mythology and a healthy dose of humor and sarcasm. Things are wrapped up rather nicely in the end though there are some hints of ‘rival magic’ and ‘other gods’ in the kids’ future. I predict a crossover series with Percy Jackson and the Greek gods teaming up with the Kanes and their Egyptian counterparts; only Riordan could pull that off! Great fun, highly recommended.

A Short History of Nearly Everything
Author: Bill Bryson
Pages: 544
Age Range: Adult
Published: 2003
Genre: Non-fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: *****
Rating: PG

With his trademark wit and humor Bryson walks the average reader through life on our planet. He covers a vast array of topics including the big bang, evolution, and other moments of creation as well as basic physics, geology, biology, chemistry, and more. You'll wish your school text books had been this straightforward and easy to understand! I love Bryson’s voice. It’s very conversational without being simplistic, punctuated with snarky asides and entertaining footnotes. A great read for anyone, particularly those (like me) lacking a scientific aptitude, wanting a better grasp of the wonders of the universe.

*Apparently there was an updated/illustrated version published in 2010...wish I'd had that one!

Sadie and Ratz
Author: Sonya Hartnett
Illustrator: Ann James
Pages: 59
Age Range: 6+
Published: 2012
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G

A little girl has named her two hands Sadie and Ratz. They have personalities and lives of their own keeping her entertained and often getting her into trouble. But her little brother soon picks up a trick and Sadie and Ratz are now being blamed for things they haven't done. The little girl tries to think of ways to solve this problem and eventually comes up with a solution just as her parents figure out who is really causing all of the problems. This is a cute story of imagination, problem solving and growing up, perfect for a really early reader. The charcoal-y illustrations are fabulous, bringing her imaginative world to life while at the same time helping the reader keep reality and fiction separate.

Never Fall Down
Author: Patricia McCormick
Pages: 222
Age Range: 13+
Published: 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biography
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: *****
Rating: PG-13/R

13-year-old Arn is busy living his life dancing to rock ‘n roll, selling ice cream with his brother, and staying out of trouble, when the Khmer Rouge arrive, marching his entire village into the countryside. Now his days are filled with the horrors of labor camps and he learns that the best way to survive is to never fall down. He finds refuge and solace in playing an instrument for the revolutionary band which leads to a series of lucky draws that provide him with ways to help himself and others in his camp until he is forced to serve as a soldier, fighting alongside the revolutionaries who have held him captive. He eventually escapes and arrives in an orphanage where he has new adjustments to make, dealing with a new life in America. This is an amazing tale of survival, endurance and hope based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, now a man of peace working for Amnesty International. Gritty but not overtly graphic, it is full of violence, some swearing, sex and abuse but it’s all handled as tastefully and appropriately as possible (though is definitely more appropriate for older readers.)

This wasn’t a subject I was very familiar with, having just a vague notion of the Killing Fields and the conflict in Cambodia. I was completely caught up in Arn’s story, amazed that anyone could survive the awful things he witnessed and participated in and emerge on the other side a productive member of society. McCormick writes it in a childlike voice with truncated English and grammar that works beautifully to bring authenticity to the telling. Highly recommended!

Robot Zombie Frankenstein
Author and Illustrator: Annette Simon
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4+
Published: 2012
Genre: Science Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G

Two robots try to one up each other with their disguises and abilities to mutate ending in the impossible combination of robot zombie Frankenstein pirate superhero-in-disguise outerspace invader chef!! Finally a pie and fork win them over and they declare a truce, sharing the pie as friends. This is utter silliness that boys especially will love. The bright graphic illustrations are the perfect complement. I can see this being used for writing and/or art prompts in classrooms everywhere. What would your robot morph into? What would he look like?

Silly Doggy
Author and Illustrator: Adam Stower
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3+
Published: 2012
Genre: Fiction
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G

Lilly looks out the window one morning to see a 'doggy' (really a bear) sitting in the garden. She's always wanted one so she adopts it and takes it with her everywhere. But he's rather silly; he doesn't like to eat his food or play fetch or anything and yet Lilly loves him anyway. When her mom makes her write up a 'lost' poster she secretly hopes that no one will claim him, but they do (the park ranger shows up at the door.) She's sad and misses him even though she knows he's happier in his home but what does she see in her garden the next morning? Kitty! (Really a tiger.) This is just pure fun with darling illustrations. Kids will love being wiser than Lilly and get a kick out of her obliviousness.

Author: I.C. Springman
Illustrator: Brian Lies
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2+
Published: 2012
Genre: Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G

This is a deceptively simple story of a magpie who gathers trinkets for his nest with the help of a little mouse. The text consists of just one or two word descriptors as they add to their collection; more, some, enough, too much etc. Eventually his branch breaks and the mice help take away most of the things (this time the descriptors are words like less, and fewer) until they are left with just the right amount. Not only do are kids introduced to quantitative words but addition/subtraction concepts, and the idea that more isn’t always better. The illustrations are rich and realistic, balancing the simplistic words with the perfect amount of detailed opulence. Beautiful!

The Winter Sea
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Pages: 536
Age Range: Adult
Published: 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: *****
Rating: PG

Carrie is off to Scottland for her editor's baby’s christening and to do some research for the historical fiction book she is writing. When she gets there she finds she is drawn to the countryside and the ruined castle of Slains. She leaves her storyline and rented flat in France to settle in the coastal village. The ghosts of her characters are seeking her out, inspiring her to write as she's never written before uncovering truths of the Jacobite invasion of 1708 that sought to put the exiled James Stewart back on the throne. And then there are the two handsome sons of her new landlord both vying for her attention and the thought that maybe her made up character Sophia isn't really made up at all. This is my favorite kind of story; a perfect blend of history, romance, action and intrigue after the manner of Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMarier and others. It was a wonderful way to lose myself for a few hours (and feel as if I was learning a bit of history at the same time!)

I've got another of her books in my TBR pile at the moment and if it's half as good/fun as this was Kearsley may quickly make herself one of my new favorite authors!

What have you been reading lately?