Long time, no see

Ooops. I’ve been a bit lax on the old posting front over the last couple of weeks. I have a few good reasons though (or at least some pretty good excuses). Ill children, ill me, new business, existing business … blah, blah, blah.


But anyway, here I am with a backlog of posts that I need to write (I may have been too busy to write them, but that doesn’t stop them writing themselves in my head all the while now it’s time to get them down on paper whatever-the-digital-equivalent-is.

I’m also a little behind with reviews. I try hard to space them out and turn down lots of opportunities, because honestly, that’s not what the blog is about. That only works though if the ones I do accept get written on time. Ooops again. So maybe expect a little flood of lovely products and experiences that you might like, and I’ll make up for it with a lot of posts about home education, family, how I’ve taken leave of my senses etc ….

Ready? Stay tuned!

What Am I?

“make a little birdhouse in your soul” … or in my garden. Whatever. That’s what last week’s puzzle was – a birdhouse. Well done to Cathi from Simple Sojourns for being the first with the right answer.

I expect to have lots of right answers to this week’s What Am I?

What Am I?

What Am I?

I had a feeling last week’s would prove to be difficult, but I was wrong. Lots of correct answers, though Ai Sakura was the first with the right answer It was coloured clothes pegs on a washing line.

Maybe you’ll find this one harder …  What Am I?

What Am I?

Book Review: After the Fog

A Nurse’s Obligation
A Town’s Demise
A Mother’s Regret
A Son’s Calling
A Daughter’s Mistake
A Time to Forgive

For every woman who thinks she left her past behind…

Historic, environmental drama wrapped in a love story…

It’s 1948 in the steel town of Donora, Pennsylvania, site of the infamous “killing smog.” Public health nurse, Rose Pavlesic, has risen above her orphaned upbringing and created a life that reflects everything she missed as a child. She’s even managed to keep her painful secrets hidden from her doting husband, loving children, and large extended family.

When a stagnant weather pattern traps poisonous mill gasses in the valley, neighbors grow sicker and Rose’s nursing obligations thrust her into conflict she never could have fathomed. Consequences from her past collide with her present life, making her once clear decisions as gray as the suffocating smog. As pressure mounts, Rose finds she’s not the only one harboring lies. When the deadly fog finally clears, the loss of trust and faith leaves the Pavlesic family—and the whole town—splintered and shocked. With her new perspective, can Rose finally forgive herself and let her family’s healing begin?

***2013 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist***
***Independent Publisher Awards: 2012 Silver, Best Regional Fiction–Mid-Atlantic***
***National Indie Excellence Awards: 2012 WINNER– Literary Fiction***

Buy the book from…….

Amazon.com    Amazon.co.uk    Barnes and Noble


“Shoop masterfully details familial struggles, secrets, and consequences that keep the reader riveted til the end.” – Melissa Foster

“A great and satisfying read. Rose’s triumph over adversity touched me deeply. Ms. Shoop truly knows how to tug the heartstrings. S. K. McClafferty, author of The Ghost and Devlin Muir.” – S. K. McClafferty, author of The Ghost and Devlin Muir

“This is a well-written story set authentically in a historic place and time, around an intricate plot which includes most of the elements that provide for a good “soap opera,” or a book that would be accepted by Oprah Winfrey.” -Historical Novel Society


About the Author

After the Fog is the second novel by bestselling Kindle author Kathleen Shoop.  Her debut novel, The Last Letter, garnered multiple awards in 2011.  A Language Arts Coach with a Ph.D. in Reading Education, Kathleen lives in Oakmont, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

Kathleen has also written award winning Love and Other Subjects and her stories have also appeared in several of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.


Follow the Author:    Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest   Google+   Goodreads


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My Review of After the Fog

After the Fog is a gritty story, set in industrial Donora in Pennsylvania, and plenty of that industrial setting comes through. Reading the first few chapters, in the lead up to the “killing smog” descending, left me with the impression that the inhabitants exist in a kind of hazy twilight, such are the effects of the three mills, their soot and the fog they cause.

The main character of the story is Rose, a community nurse fighting for the funding to continue her vital role, whilst trying to hold together her family against the odds of decades-old secrets, a gambling brother-in-law and a useless sister in law. As if that’s not enough, her teenage children are making plans of their own for their futures, casting aside the future Rose has planned for them. Her husband has his own secrets.

Rose is both likeable and controlling in equal measure. Her husband Henry hits on a raw point, when he points out that she might be treating her patients more favourably that her own family:

“Can’t you be as generous with us as you are with your patients? For once. Cut your own family some slack for fuck sakes.” 

And that sums her up entirely – at once an incredibly generous, hardworking woman, going out of her way to help others and a controlling matriarch.

I’m not going to describe the rest of the story – that would relieve you of the need to read this great book. Suffice it to say that right from the start, you feel that there is more to know about the main characters, secrets to be uncovered and it leaves you wanting to know what happens to these people.

One thing I would say is that whilst this is described as a romance, it’s really not. There are relationships involved, but it’s not a romantic novel in the usual sense.

A good read, highly recommended


Photobucket I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.






  THREE Lucky Winners will each receive a $15 Amazon Giftcard, courtesy of After the Fog author, Kathleen Shoop   Ending on Sunday 9th November at 11.59pm EST Open Worldwide   Enter Below & Good Luck !!   a Rafflecopter giveaway

Peas in a Pod

I have three children who all look very much alike – or at least they have looked very much alike at the stages of their life. On the days they were born they all looked alike. Looking back at photos, Stonelaughter can only tell who is who by what they are wearing!

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Plum and PK have very much the same look, and being quite close in age, it’s more evident than their similarities with Bean. They look alike, laugh alike, speak alike, have the same mannerisms …

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Sometimes though, you get a flash of how alike your children are that comes out of the blue. We recently spent a few days with Stonelaughter’s parents and he snapped some photos of the children as they played in the garden. One of them, of PK, gave us all a rush of nostalgia – an almost identical photo was taken of Bean about 8 years ago (he was slightly younger then that PK is now, but the stance, if not the facial expression, was identical).

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I can’t wait to see how each of their personalities develops as they all get older.

Apprentice Required: Serious Business Women Need Not Apply

The Apprentice is back and I’m already gnashing my teeth at the display put on by the candidates. Once again, we’re “treated” to a team of men who spout cliché after cliché with little to back up their posturing and a group of women who … well time will tell. At the time of writing, only one of the women has got any real airtime in the programme and she managed to take the feminist cause back 50 years or so with her comments. No doubt, before long we will see the behaviour usually associated with women on The Apprentice – bitching, arguing, back-biting …


Are these really the best they can come up with? Is the Beeb seriously trying to suggest that these are best example of business women they can find. Or is it more a case that serious candidates for The Apprentice either do not apply or don’t make it through the selection process, discarded in favour of those believed to make good TV.  Note to editor: watching women bitching and arguing in this manner does not make good TV.

The Apprentice is an odd programme. Ostensibly about finding the a great new business mind, it started life as a programme hunting for an apprentice to Alan Sugar.  Winners, however, did not get to work with Sugar, (one going as far as to sue him, saying there was no job for her at all). And none of the winners went on to achieve very much (maybe because they were stuck seeing out a year-long contract with Sugar’s company, whilst the runners-up made the most of the media frenzy. By the time the winners were unleashed on the world, the next round of candidates were upon us and the media had moved on.

Then the format changed – no longer looking for an “apprentice”, Sugar was now looking for someone with a business idea he could invest in. This seems to have gone better – the winners of this format are doing well, and Sugar still speaks highly of them in the media (which is more than can be said for many of his previous candidates).


One thing that hasn’t changed about The Apprentice is the format of the selection process. Each week, the candidates must complete a task, competing in teams to perform as well as they can; the winning team get pampered in some way or other, the losing team turn on each other, picking off the weak members of the herd.

But why? What does it prove? The tasks concentrate on sales, marketing and organisation, but they are not difficult tasks – sell hot dogs at lunch time, buy and sell on a market (and by they way, they don’t have to source their stock!). These are not tasks that prove a sharp business mind, they are things that thousands of people all over the country do every day.

The candidates often have high-powered job titles, and like to think themselves as pretty invincible in the world of business. They are there to start their own business – more often than not product or service based – and yet very few of them can do the most basic of tasks for this kind of business.

It becomes more and more obvious that they are selected for the programme, not on their suitability for the role, but for the inevitable gaffs they will make and guff they will spout. I’m sick of it. Is it too much to ask that people who know what they are doing are given a spot? That instead of women who think you have to be a bitch or a whore to make it in the business world, those spots are given to some of the very many brilliant female entrepreneurs in this country? I know a lot of women in business. I know a lot of successful women in business. Not one of them behaves like the female candidates on The Apprentice – I’ve never met one that does. So why, every year, does Sugar fill his boardroom with bitches and bimbos? Come on! Ditch the stereotypes. Please.


And whilst you’re at it, ditch the candidates that are just out to get their face on telly. Ditch the ones who think the sun shines out of their bum, and recruit some business people – look for those who are building their business, not claiming to take over the world, but building something sustainable. Good business people are not only found in the multimillion pound international companies; they are also found in the sustainable, grassroots businesses run from spare rooms, shared offices, market stalls …. these are the people who could ace the tasks on The Apprentice every time.

And don’t get me started on Lord Sugar ….