Book Review: “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants, written by Sara Gruen, is a novel worth reading. It is an intriguing tale of life under the big top and a behind the scenes peek at the inner workings of a traveling circus train during the 1930’s. Whether you have experienced one of these traveling circus trains or have seen a modern day circus, “Water for Elephants” will sweep you right back to those days when you were awed by the lions, monkeys, elephants, clowns and lively music of the circus!


Gruen said in the forward that she did extensive research on the history of the traveling circus and it shows in the novel. Gruen has written a novel so compelling, vivid, and detailed it is hard to put down.

“Water for Elephants” is parlayed by Jacob Jankowski, who knows the workings of the traveling circus inside and out. Why? Because he was there, quite by accident as you will find out, but nevertheless he worked and traveled with the Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show on Earth! Now 90 plus, Jacob is in a nursing facility, grumpy when awake, and reliving his circus days when asleep, thus sharing his memories with us the readers, through his dreams.

Jankowski’s life was a full one with the circus. You will learn about love, marriage, domestic cruelty, animal cruelty, love and respect for animals, camaraderie, trust, work ethic, drinking, carousing, along with faithfulness, enduring love, freaks, midgets, rubes, roustabouts, violence and murder all co-existing. Get ready for a fast and fascinating read.

Two dynamic tales told in one book, one of Jankowski’s existence as an aging nursing home patient and two, his life with the circus. History buffs will appreciate the novel and research done by the author. Gruen truly captures and reveals a lost world, emotional and full of dark secrets.

Characters such as Marlena, Jacob, Big Al, August, Camel, Kinko the midget, and Barbara behind the hooch- cooch tent, you will never forget after reading this novel. You will become entwined in their interesting lives and feel as though you have known them forever before you finish your read.

After you read this book, you will understand why “Water for Elephants” is a bestseller, for sure!


Author: Sara Gruen- “Water for Elephants” the book and soon to be movie

personal opinion…

Continue Reading →

Do More with Eggs

Eggs are delicious to eat and in this economy, you cannot beat the egg’s price. Sure, all food prices have increased drastically and the price of a dozen eggs is no different. Eggs have soared in prices approximately 30 percent since 2007; however, when all is taken into consideration, the price of eggs cost approximately 16 cents each. If two eggs is considered to be a nutritious meal, where else can you possibly get breakfast for a measly 32 cents?


Everyone knows you can cook an egg in hundreds of different ways. You can fry, hard-boil, scramble, and devil eggs; you can cut up different vegetables and meats for an omelet; you can poach, casserole, make an egg salad or eggs benedict.

But did you know that there are several other wonderful uses for the common egg? Here are eight eggstraordinary eggsamples of what I am talking about:

Eggs to treat sunburn: This egg mixture provides immediate soothing relief to anyone who has spent too much time out in the sun and is ailing from the burns caused by the sun’s rays. You will first need to separate the whites from an egg and beat them into a froth mixture. Add two teaspoons of castor oil and two teaspoons of vinegar and stir together. Apply it to your burn and leave on for at least ten minutes. Rinse with warm water afterward. You can continue to apply this mixture daily and your burn will heal quicker.

Eat an egg raw: Raw eggs are loaded with protein and good fats for the body. Athletes and bodybuilders have been eating raw eggs for decades. A raw egg gets delivered to the bloodstream quicker than eating the egg cooked and it gives a swift boost to the immune system. In addition, eating an egg raw, provides several nutrients to the brain, nerves and glands allowing for a nutritionally balanced body overall. You can blend a raw egg with different fruits like bananas and avocado, for a wholesome smoothie or you can simply chug a raw egg seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Organic eggs are a great alternative to regular eggs in an effort to minimize the tainting concerns of eggs and salmonella. For those who are not used to consuming raw eggs on a regular basis, the recommendation is to eat a small portion of a raw egg daily and work up to a whole egg, possibly over the course of a week. After that, it’s smooth sailing.

Eggs used as glue: Junior’s project is due tomorrow and you just located a bottle of Elmer’s glue, completely empty. Don’t fret; no need to run to the craft store just for an adhesive. Use eggs! The whites are efficient enough to stick to paper, food creations, or even used as shellac on homemade oven pretzels or cookies.

Egg as hair conditioner: Put aside your favorite conditioner once a week and go with eggs. Crack open an egg, beat the egg with a fork, add one tablespoon of olive oil, and beat again. You may add one cup of lukewarm water to dilute it or not. If you like, you may also add your favorite scent like almond oil or lavender for a sweet fragrance. In addition, you may add a teaspoon of honey, mayonnaise or lemon juice for more shine. Wash your hair with your regular shampoo and apply the egg conditioner; run your fingertips through your hair so that the mixture can be applied evenly. Leave on for five minutes and then rinse with cool or lukewarm water.

Eggs as a facial mask: Making your own face mask mixed with eggs and a few other household items will leave your skin feeling refreshed and silky smooth in minutes. Create a mask by cracking an egg and beating well with a fork or a wire whisk. For dry skin, add in one teaspoon of honey and olive oil, mix until smooth. For normal/combination skin, add one teaspoon of olive oil and one half cup of cooked instant oatmeal and mix until smooth. For oily skin use the egg white only. Apply to face and leave on for fifteen minutes. Rinse with lukewarm …

Continue Reading →

Fresh Start

The first half of your homeschooling season is now over. How does your report card look? Did you accomplish your goals? Did you even write down any goals? Did your kids learn less than you had hoped? Did your kids learn more than you ever realized they would? Did you keep good records? Did you engage your kids in lively lessons to hold their attention? Did you bury your head in lesson plans every night and stay up late grading papers? Did you include fun learning field trips into your lesson plans? Were your lessons boring and bland or riveting and contagious? Did you skip learning too many days in a row and then have problems getting your kids back into a school routine? Did you push your kids too hard, or were you too lax? No matter what happened last semester, you have a brand new opportunity to start fresh this semester. You can celebrate your past accomplishments and set even higher goals. You can atone for your mistakes and set off on a new homeschooling journey full of promise. Mistakes are simply great learning opportunities. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Start this new semester off by making a written list of your goals. Actually writing your goals down will help go farther in accomplishing them. Think about what your kids did and didn’t master last semester. Think about their learning styles and set new goals to meet those needs. Ask your kids for input about what they would like to learn, places they would like to visit, and activities they enjoy most. Examine your teaching style to see if it matches your kids learning styles. Make adjustments as needed. Take an honest look at your homeschool curriculum. Does it meet the needs of your children? If yes, great, see where you can supplement extra bonus lessons. If no, begin researching new homeschool curriculums. Read homeschool curriculum reviews, join Yahoo groups that discuss and review curriculum choices you are interested in, and talk to other homeschooling families. Dare to make a change. Contact potential companies and ask for samples or a trail membership so you can test drive their product.

Next, take a look at your learning environment. Do your kids benefit from a traditional style learning space, or are they more productive working at the kitchen table, on the couch, or outside? Don’t be afraid to be nontraditional. Even if your children are content with the way you school now, play around with new ideas. You will never know if a simple change can make a huge difference unless you experiment. Sometimes, “leave good enough alone” is not the best answer.

Now, take a close look at your daily schedule. Do you begin lessons too early in the morning, or perhaps too late? Do you try to cram in too many lessons in a row without taking a break? Do you school too many hours a day so that the kids get cranky and you are too tired to cook dinner? Do you forget to leave time for the unexpected learning opportunities that come your way? Remember, YOU are in charge and you have the freedom to teach your child they way you see best. Don’t try to be like the brick and mortar school; dare to be better! You know your kids best, you love your kids the most, and you want only the very best for them. They are not a ticket to more state funding. Learn to be flexible.

Finally, tell your kids that the best is yet to come. Get them excited about this coming semester. Share your enthusiasm with them, after it’s contagious. A fresh start just might be what the doctor ordered.…

Continue Reading →

Why would you need an air humidifier in your house?

During the long and cold winter months and also during the summer days when you put the air conditioning on, you may feel the air in the house dry. Just as humid air can be bad for your health, the dry air may have the same unwanted effects. In this context, it is important to keep the humidity of the house at the right level which is suited for you.

Dry air can be easily solved with a humidifier. These are devices that make water vapors to maintain the humidity on a room. When they are used correctly, they can improve the air in the interior of the house.

What is an air humidifier?

When the air is too humid, it can help the forming of mold, resulting into health problems and damages for your house. When the air is too dry, the ideal environment for respiratory problems such as allergies, asthma or skin problems is created. A humidifier can be successfully used during the winter in areas with warm weather, where the heating systems are used constantly in houses. Dry air can affect not only people, but also the floor if it is made of wood, and the wooden frames of windows.

Types of humidifiers

Mainly, humidifiers classify in two categories

  • Humidifier that forces air through water pulverizing it in the room
  • The atomizer type, which ‘breaks’ water into particles to create a fog

Humidifiers are recommended for people that live in areas where houses must be heated for a long period of the year, and for people living in areas with a dry climate. These devices can help people suffering from throat pains, headaches and coughs. Generally, a humid house is more comfortable as long as humidity is kept in optimal levels.

Things to consider

All the humidifiers need cleaning. Otherwise, they will be contaminated with mold and become dangerous in the long term. Make sure to follow the instructions of the manufacturer to clean it and don’t use it unless you are sure it is maintained properly.

Ideal humidity

Ideal humidity level in a house must be between 30%-55%. It is why you might want to buy a humidifier which can measure this level, so you can adjust it to the one required by your family.

This level is different in office buildings, where the spaces are wider and it has to be adjusted for tens of hundreds of people’s needs. It is why a home humidifier is smaller and cheaper, but you have to check the maximum surface it can cover.

If you want to buy a humidifier for a newborn, make sure to check with his or hers doctor before buying it. Only this way, you can be sure of the ideal humidity required in the room of your new child, so you could buy the right humidifier. In case your child has health problems are requires an exact level, there are devices with adjustable level of humidity and even with a timer that could set it on and off at different times of the day or night.…

Continue Reading →

Book Review: Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Book Review: Story of a Girl

They made us clean our lockers on the last day of sophomore year. I tore down the class schedule I’d taped to the inside of the door at the beginning of the semester and tossed it into the pile of recycling that already included ninety-five percent of the crap I’d busted my ass to do all year. What was the point of all that so-called learning if, in the end, it was going to the trash?

After reading a particularly interesting review at Maw Books Blog, I went to look for a copy of Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl. This is the hard, bittersweet story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Deanna.

Deanna made a mistake when she was thirteen: she had sex with a seventeen-year-old boy, and was discovered by her father. Now that she’s entered high school, she’s still branded as the school slut, and her father can’t look at her in the eye. It doesn’t matter that Deanna hasn’t touched a boy since Tommy: her mistake seems to have defined her forever.

Deanna has a lot to deal with. Things at home aren’t going well for her: her father’s angry and distant, her mother is tired, and her big brother is a young parent living with his girlfriend and their baby girl in his parents’ basement. Deanna also has two best friends, Jason and Lee. Too bad she has a crush on Jason, while he’s dating Lee.

When Deanna gets a job for the summer, she happens to be working at a pizza place with Tommy, the boy she once was with and who still teases and provokes her. Can she manage to leave her past behind and go on with her life?

I really liked this book. The reader’s made to feel for the main character, a girl who once made a mistake and who can’t let this get past her. A girl who’s made remembering her sorry past every single day of her life. Deanna’s only outlet for her feelings is dreaming that one day she will be able to move in with her brother and his girlfriend, and writing stories in her journal.

Deanna’s story is a search for her own identity, a quest to find out that she is who she wants to be, and not what others think that she is. I’d definitely recommend this book, and I can’t wait to try out some other novel by Sara Zarr.…

Continue Reading →

Five Ways to Put an End to Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block is an Occupational Hazard for Authors, but it Can Be Remedied!

Writer’s block occurs when writers are stuck in the middle of their manuscripts or can’t find inspiration to write about new ideas. Writer’s block generates the feeling of being mired in creative quicksand. Writer’s block is one of the biggest crosses that virtually all writers have to endure in varying degrees of fashion at least once during their careers. This condition can be remedied if you will apply the tips I have implemented to navigate myself out of this:

Research Markets: I strive to follow this rule: “If I am not writing, then I need to be researching markets, and if I am not researching markets, then I had better be writing.” Oftentimes, I come across new ideas to write about because I spend some time daily checking the market listings of newsletters and databases. The way editors craft their market listings varies from publication to publication, so you will eventually come upon a market listing that will reignite your creativity. In addition, you may find a new place to submit one of your unpublished or published works to.

Write at a College Library: If you normally write at home, seek out your closest college library to put an end to that writer’s block. There is an ambiance of creativity and intellectual pursuit in these places of higher learning. Most college libraries allow any local resident the opportunity to use many of their facilities for free. And a writer also gets the benefit of being out and about rather than being all cooped up alone. Being in the midst of others can spawn new ideas just by people-watching.

Listen to Your Favorite Music: Get works from your personal collection and crank it up to your desired decibel level. Don’t listen to the radio, unless you have commercial-free type, because with traditional radio flare, you often have to wait for your favorite tunes to come on while being barraged with endless advertisements and the same current hits being played every two hours. A flow of quality music has this special way of bringing deep emotions to the surface. It is when we tap into our feelings that new ideas and our best writing will emerge.

Take Some Time Off from Writing: Give yourself a break from attempting to produce something. Take a day, weekend, or a longer amount of time off. If you can, leave town for awhile. I come back from my journeys ready to write with a new sense of purpose. One’s writing is best when it is done with interest and from the heart. The writing profession should not imitate the role of Inspector #48 on some assembly line. If it gets to that point, ask yourself why you aren’t solely working in a factory, where the paychecks come a lot easier! Furthermore, apply for all the press trips you can which are in your area or beyond. Going to these events will result in more writing ideas, as well as networking opportunities with other scribes who may even help you find some good tonics for treating writer’s block.

Watch Writing-Themed Movies: When I see my profession showcased on the silver screen, I’m able to identify with the characters portraying writers because they are often going through the positive and not-so positive issues onscreen that I go through in reality. Two of my favorite movies about writing are “Reds”, a three hour-plus epic about writers during the time of the Russian Revolution in the early 1900’s. My other favorite movie with a writing theme is called “The Shining”. This movie, if nothing else, will scare you out of your writer’s block! I mean, you’ll realize what real writer’s block is after you witness Wendy Torrance peeking at her husband’s manuscript that chillingly reads “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, typed over and over, page after page!

When you really think about it, writer’s block has some messages for you: It’s to let go of having to have a new idea in every waking moment; to go out and explore the world around you; and to get into touch with your …

Continue Reading →

Five Kid-Friendly Things to Do in Downtown Seattle

If you’re planning to visit Seattle with the kids, you won’t be disappointed as there are numerous things that are sure to keep the entire family entertained no matter what time of year you arrive.

Pike Place Market 

This market is not only one of the most popular attractions in the city; it’s the oldest continually operating farmers’ market in the U.S., founded over 100 years ago in 1907. It’s also one of the most lively markets, with not only the fresh produce, seafood and flowers you might expect, but a wide range of vendors that sell specialty foods, handcrafted and vintage goods, rare comics and collectibles, and all types of entertainment.

It’s always fun to watch the fishmongers toss their fresh catch of the day, but you’ll find many performers throughout the market including talented musicians (along with the not-so-talented), magicians, balloon-makers, and even a colorful and comedic costumed gorilla playing buckets rather skillfully.

The Great Wheel

One of Seattle’s newest attractions can be found by taking the steep steps down to the waterfront. The Seattle Great Wheel is one of the largest Ferris wheels in the country and offers amazing views of the Puget Sound as well as the Olympic Mountains on the other side. If you happen to arrive on a clear day, towering Mount Rainier may even make an appearance.

Seattle Aquarium

Also along the waterfront, the Seattle Aquarium is home to playful sea otters, adorable harbor seals, fur seals, and the always fascinating Giant Pacific Octopus. Kids will love the chance to get their hands wait and even touch some of the creatures that live in the tide pools along the state’s coastline as well as Puget Sound’s inland sea.

Get out on the water

Getting out on the water is a must while you’re here. A variety of cruises are available right from the Seattle waterfront, including sight-seeing tours of the harbor a well as sunset sails to take in breathtaking views of the city skyline. If you’re on a tight budget, just hopping on the Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island is a great way to get some of the same views and maybe even spot a dolphin or whale along the way.

Pacific Science Center 

Just below Seattle’s famed landmark, the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center provides an opportunity to journey back to the days of the dinosaurs or stroll through lush gardens and brilliantly blooming flowers at the Tropical Butterfly House to watch the colorful insects fly and feed. You can even learn about the universe we live in and delve into unsolved mysteries at the Planetarium.…

Continue Reading →

American Idol Mariah Carey Week: Kristy Lee Cook Says Goodbye

The results are in on American Idol and it looks like Kristy Lee Cook is headed back home to Oregon. American Idol producers tried to throw the audience for a loop by making Kristy Lee Cook and Brooke White stand in the same group as David Cook, well known Idol fan favorite. When he was asked to switch places with Syesha is was apparent that Kristy Lee Cook or Brooke White would be headed home this week. Brooke White caught a lucky break as she continues on American Idol. Kristy Lee Cook in the meantime bid a tearful farewell.

American Idol voters have finally gotten it right this week. While I believe that Brooke White’s performance was the worst of the night I am not complaining over the voter’s choice to send Kristy Lee Cook home instead. Kristy Lee Cook has overstayed her welcome on American Idol and she was due to leave the show, as Simon predicted before the final results. Brooke White seemed to know that she wouldn’t go home by her signature “feel sorry for poor innocent me” sad puppy dog face. So just what happened to make Kristy Lee Cook the least voted for American Idol contestant this week?

While Kristy Lee Cook can do a fair enough job singing country she lacks that “wow” factor. Tuesday night on American Idol her performance lacked any character and appeared more like a performance you would expect at a karaoke bar. But, talent isn’t the only thing that did her in. Personality is everything when you are involved with any type of reality show. When Kristy Lee Cook spoke after her performances on American Idol she was often disrespectful towards Simon and she has a weird annoying, well laugh I guess you’d call it, which grated on my nerves and I am sure on other viewers as well.

It’s the end of the road for Kristy Lee Cook as far as American Idol is concerned and it couldn’t have come soon enough. American Idol is a show based on singing talent and personality both of which Kristy Lee ultimately lacked. Be sure to stay tuned next week as Brooke White will likely give her last performance on American Idol.…

Continue Reading →

Writer Gets Seven Million Dollar Windfall!

I Just Got an Email

Don’t expect to see me online for a while since I will be driving my new RV to the home I purchased in California.

Yes, it is true. I have come into quite a bit of money recently. Dr. Sabo Rabo of the Bank of Africa has found several abandoned bank accounts, and one of them is worth $7million. Because we are such good friends, he wants to work with me to get that money. I haven’t waited for his response back to start buying those luxury items, like the mansion in California. I sent him all my bank information and my address and social security number, so I should be all set to go.

What is that you say? You don’t think it is real? But it has to be. He sent me a copy of his employee identification, with his picture on it! It must be real if I have his picture. It’s not like the other ones that I have received where a barrister in England wants to break the law and make me a beneficiary of the massive estate of one of his clients that didn’t have a will. I knew that one couldn’t be true, first there was no picture, but also any good money-sucking attorney would have charged a client for a will while the client was alive. Better yet, he would have put in a trust.

It isn’t like the letter I got about the International lottery where I won, even though I never bought a ticket. I still haven’t figured out how that worked. I wrote and asked, but no one ever sent me anything back.

It really isn’t like the plea for help. I was afraid to help that poor woman out that wanted to sneak her husband’s money from the country. It sounded way too scary to get involved in international affairs. I am after all just a humble writer and do not know Jiu-jitsu, Taekwondo or anything else involving the oriental art of self-defense.

I was certain that the IRS hadn’t really written me about the huge tax refund that I forgot to send for, since I would remember something like that. I haven’t moved in years and daily check out the site to find lost money. (I still have found none. I wonder if they would know what purse I left that $20 in?) I did wonder about that since the word you in the letter was spelled U. I don’t think the IRS gets cutesy about anything.

I felt badly that I couldn’t help that young man out that wanted me to retrieve his money so that his greedy uncles wouldn’t take it. I was going to be busy that week and it seemed like it would take a lot longer than the few minutes I had.

This letter was real. It even had a place for me to click to send my information. So, I’m waiting for the money to be transferred into my checking account as we speak. NOT!

Are you tired of getting the ridiculous, poorly worded and spelled letters about the fortunes that you will receive if you help someone pull off a scam to extract money, have won a lottery you never bought a ticket to, or just are helping a poor widow that somehow got your name and knew she could trust you?

Once I sent something back. I took the last name from the movie, “Meet the Fockers” and used the first name of Modder. After it was sent I decided that perhaps sending my email address back was not a good idea. I have received a multitude of mail since.

There is no one to complain to about the ridiculous emails that we receive. I guess the only thing to do is write an article about it and plan for the luxury item that I will purchase from the sale of the article.…

Continue Reading →

Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

It’s a very basic accounting equation. Take what you have, subtract what you owe and see what’s left. In this human world, where money seems to be so vitally important, my fiscal worth is floating in the negative realm. Basically, I owe more in debt than I can repay with the assets I currently have.

But in the spiritual world, the world that lasts for infinity, it is comforting to know that here; at least, my worth is and will stay on the positive side. This is because of the actions taken by God’s greatest gift, Jesus Christ, when He died on the cross for me.

You see, when we are born in this sin-cursed earth, we are born owing more than we can ever repay. The debt I speak of is sin. Sin enslaved us to a lifetime of begging for forgiveness from our most Holy God. In the time before Christ was born, the people were obligated to provide an animal sacrifice every year to cover the sins that they had surely committed. It had to be an animal sacrifice because only the shedding of innocent and pure blood would cancel sin’s debt.

But when Christ came to this earth and shed His blood on the cross, His blood sacrifice was sufficient to cover the sins of every person on the entire planet from that moment forward. Animal sacrifice was no longer required because God saw to it that we could be free from the indebtedness of sin through His son’s ultimate sacrifice. All we have to do is accept this gift.

When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, believing that He died on the cross for me; Jesus took my sin debts and wrote on them in His shed blood “PAID IN FULL.”

In this world, we will have troubles and pain, the vast majority of which come at our own hand. The fiscal indebtedness that I now have comes from my poor choices early on. Because of these choices, I am forced to work to try to repay a debt that I owe; a debt of my own making. However, this earthly home is temporary and finite. The real debt that matters is the one that will bind us to eternal condemnation. No matter how hard you try, how much work that you do or how good you try to be, this sin debt cannot be paid by human hands.

Christ paid this debt that He did not owe so that you and I could be free. As you ponder balancing your earthly equation, don’t neglect the one that matters most.

Having Christ in your asset column will insure that you always have a positive outcome!…

Continue Reading →