What Did Lucy Read? The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn- Review

Have you ever read a Kate Quinn book? She writes some of the best historical fiction books ever. I just finished “The Alice Network” by her. Not only do I jump on all her books as soon as they’re out- but as well, this one came highly recommended by Reese Witherspoon for her book club. Reese raved about it. I love Quinn’s books, so here I am to rave about this one myself.

Set about a few years after 1945, The Alice Network (the renowned network of women spies who helped fight the Germans and end WW1), is brought to us through the retelling of Eve’s own life as a spy in that First World War. Eve, somewhere in her late 50’s when she meets the young and pregnant Charlie ( Charlotte) while the latter is on the search for her lost cousin- who is presumed to have died in WW2 ( Charlie is on a mission to prove she isn’t).

The book portrays Eve as a bitter and angry woman for all the danger, abuse and horrors she suffered as a spy. Could the retelling of the history and incidents in her life help Charlie solve the puzzle to find her cousin? There’s much that Charlie learns- about herself, life, the baby she is not sure whether she will keep…she may even find love…enter the Scottish rake, Finn;) And, finally, I can’t omit another pivotal character, the horrible and retched Rene Bordelon.

Running the lives, thoughts and experiences of both these women, by switching back and forth between characters and eras, is Kate Quinn’s specialty. This adds so much tension and need to read more. Quinn sails us through their lives from past to present while we relive both wars and the twists of fate and danger; Let’s just say it makes for an incredibly exciting read. I was totally hooked.

But what grabbed me the most though, was that network of spies that Eve was a part of. Women who dedicated their lives, their being and self for true patriotic commitment to their country; Especially the ring leader who is the focus of The Alice Network. A commemorated and glorified heroin, Louise de Bettignies, a real historical figure, is highlighted by Quinn throughout the book. In fact, most of the characters in The Alice Network are based on true historical figures. Most of the scenes that help tell the story are also factual; taking you back to the times, making you feel like all of it really did happen.

I became obsessed with this book, which led me to doing my own researching afterwards. It fascinates me when I think about the power and strength that can grow within a network of women committed for a truly good and heroic cause. Dismissed as frail and feeble minded, they trudged on and fooled everyone by becoming the greatest spy network ever -still talked about today.

A quick and fast-paced read- You gotta get this book.

#confessionoftheday: snuck downstairs in the middle of the night to finish those last twenty pages.

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What’s My Fave-Quick-Fix-Getaway?

Where can I get a sunny beach, great food and lots of shopping a few plane hours away from home? Beautiful Florida whispers sweet callings in my ear… It’s my little haven of peace with a good dose of all of the above.

I realise that dream getaways involve a lot of downtime and peace away from the mad race of the city. However, it’s nice to also find all of the commodities you’re used to back home. I thought this especially true when we travelled with young children. It was important to be able to find the same stuff (especially pharmacy products)- and food they were used to (picky eaters!).

So we got all that in Florida plus the huge bonus of it being a short flight from Montreal and of course- the beach!! Imagine that while everyone flies during the winter months, our favourite time to go was in the summer. NO waiting lines at restaurants, assured good weather, quiet beaches and the list goes on. My kids’ best memories were shaped in Florida.

Today, I enjoy Florida at a much more relaxed pace when travelling just the two of us; hubs and me. It’s a lot less stressful and we’re off the clock, doing our own thing. This time around, without even planning it, we were in Florida for American Thanksgiving and Black Friday! We had such a great time that we will be planning the same time next year.

We ate at our usual favourite Greek restaurant, Greek Isles. This place has the best authentic Greek dishes- it also feels like you are eating somewhere in Greece; beach, sun and all. It’s a family-run business and they keep it as Greek as it gets. DELICIOUS. We also went to another close-by Greek restaurant, Thassos- this was again very authentic food, with a slightly more upscale atmosphere- less traditional looking than Greek Isles, but nonetheless exquisite as well.

Greek food is not all we ate. We went for some traditional Floridian burgers- have you tried Jack’s on Federal Highway 1? You gotta go if you want a mean, lean, all natural beef burger with all the American trims. For ribs and pulled pork, or prime rib- and you’re in a hurry- you’ll get your fix at Bones.

As far as the shopping goes, Black Friday did not disappoint. We were super excited to find out that it all began on Thanksgiving Thursday at 4:00 pm to 1:00 am…WHAT?!! We Canadians are not used to that! Yes, we have Black Friday- but I’ve been in the retail business long enough, and I can honestly say, that this was a real sale -that doesn’t run out of stock!!! We were at the Colonades in Sawgrass- WOW!; Designer stuff galore! Oh and if you you need to refuel on food, you can go to the PF Chang right there. I personally love the Mongolian beef and sweet and sour soup.

It definitely was a quick one week vacay, but when it’s just the two of us, the time felt just right. This wasn’t your all-inclusive dream island getaway, but for me it still and always will feel like a bit of paradise not so far away from home. If you’re Canadian, I know you get what I mean. Especially when you’re bundling up at -27 deg C.

#confessionoftheday: sun-worshipping is a hard habit to quit…It’s a 70’s thing

Big Dogs Get a Bad Rap: Lifestyle over 50

Getting a dog during your middle years is an important decision. Often, we get a puppy when our kids are young- and we have the energy to potty train…and the rest that goes along with a new pup in the house. There may be even more to consider as we’re getting older.

So many people I talk to give me their opinion on the advantages of caring for a small dog. Here are some of the advantages: Easier to travel with; better for condos; don’t need to walk them as much; they can use a pipi pad; less expensive on food, grooming… you get the picture. All these reasons are undeniable. AND- before I get into the Big dog/ bad rap thing, I should tell you though, that I ADORE little dogs. It’s that carry around and cuddle thing that gets me (along with the other good reasons listed above- don’t get me wrong).

Our family has always had dogs, sizes ranging from 2 lbs to 65lbs. This year, we moved to a new house, two of my daughters got married- things finally settled and so we thought it was time to bring in a dog for this new time in our life. We got a Goldendoodle; despite everyone telling us we should get a small dog (again, for all the aforementioned reasons). Charlie is now eight months, 55 lbs so far, and a big goofy bundle of joy.

How’s life with a big dog? Let’s talk about the potty training. He was crate trained- and never peed once inside that crate. He’s now out of it and the accidents have been minor (at least I see where he’s going- not like my tiny pooches who left me surprises in the last place I’d think of! Not only when they were puppies…they did this for years!). Plus he can hold it forever.

Sure we have to walk him- but finally this gives me an excuse to get out there and get my own exercise! Something we really need as we get older.  The walks can be so much longer, and less dangerous than for a smaller dog when it comes to them being closer to the ground and perhaps ingesting or sniffing something potentially dangerous.  They also can get cold faster than big dogs (winter alert).  It’s also a lot easier to run with a big dog.  The list goes on and on when it comes to the exercising benefits.

When it comes to the chew thing, we’ve always given Charlie plenty of chew toys- so no disasters in my house. Is he excitable? When somebody shows up with their dog- Absolutely! But we are working on it. Has he ever darted out- yes- but he’s way easier to catch than my tiny ones were- and that doesn’t break my back! As for nipping, yeah he’s got a bigger mouth…but here again, you’ve got to train your pup! Mine used to do that and it was corrected- (except for my daughter’s boyfriend, who actually plays with him this way- He allows it). But that’s where it stops.

What about manners? Let’s be clear here: A bad mannered dog is a bad mannered dog- no matter its size. I can understand that the damage could be greater coming from a large dog. But does that mean that bad behaviour gets a pass when it comes from a cute tiny dog? The problem lies with the owner. Are you getting a smaller dog because you have no desire to train a dog properly, therefore you think by getting a small breed you are scot free? Think about that.

And the barking (for those of you considering the benefits in a condo)- big dogs are generally not yappers. As for the couch and lap situation- I could not get my small dogs from running back and forth off the couches; or wanting lap attention as soon as anyone sat down. My big dogs were told No, and that was it. How do I get my cuddle fix? Well, there’s so much more dog to love, cuddle and pet with a large breed! Then there’s the begging at the table. My dog doesn’t lick counters or put his face on the table for food. I’ve seen way too many little dogs actually picked up at the dinner table (letting them sniff off plates or even eat from them…whaaat?)

Big dogs get a bad rap. When they greet you they can come right up to your face (again, if you allow this). Little dogs are not necessarily more behaved- they can do the same! Except they only can stretch up to your knees! Big dogs look scarier because of their size- but that makes it easier for us to predict their behaviour. And there is an advantage to them looking scarier (even if they’re often scared of their own shadow- or tail between their legs around a bossy Yorkie!)- I actually feel safer walking him at night.

There are true benefits to owning a big dog. More exercise for us; that much more doggy to love; easier to contain; larger bladders so less pipi accidents; Easier to potty train (don’t want to gross you out but I have to say, even the poops are easier to find in the grass- says she who’s stepped on Yorkie treasure trails way too often!); There’s the added safety and protection around you; and so much more fluff to keep you warm.

Like I said before- I get those real good reasons for wanting a small dog. But as I get older, every day I notice the benefits my big goofy Charlie brings to me. Small or big- our pets need our love and care- that’s all they ask for. After all, they have no idea how big or small they are. So please, don’t judge a dog by its size!

Moussa…Who? MOUSSAKA: the Reigning King of Satisfaction!

So some time ago someone decided they wanted a succulent, hearty meal that satisfies not only your appetite but sends explosions of taste throughout your mouth all the while transporting your senses- making you smile, relax and enjoy life…Leave it to the Greeks to invent such a dish! (Is that any surprise?) Presenting: Moussaka!

Beware though, Moussaka is not for the faint of heart! A small portion, accompanied by a salad or Horta, goes a long way. This is, in every sense a real-deal, hearty-meal. I prepare mine with a meat sauce (lamb is more typical, but any ground meat will do). Of course eggplant rules here, along with potatoes and a mouthwatering, creamy bechamel sauce tweaked with eggs. This happens to be my husband’s favourite meal- so I prepared this one for his birthday! To keep it a surprise, this time I cooked in my basement kitchen- I love that I can switch it up like that;)

Here’s the way I make my Moussaka:

Ingredients:

  • Meat sauce (prepared in advance)
  • Sliced Potatoes (enough to fill two layers of a baking pan-of your choice)
  • Eggplant (enough to abundantly fill one layer of a baking pan of your choice)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 tbl sp of butter
  • Milk as needed
  • 3 eggs  (Some people put upto 5- let’s keep it light at 3;)
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 tbl sp of grated Graviera cheese (or Parmesan)
  • Pam or olive oil to coat your pan

Let’s begin!

(To save time, make sure you’ve prepared a meat sauce in advance).

Slice your potatoes, salt and bake on light broil till golden – turn over and broil again (no oil- just Pam on the baking sheet).

Once broiled, layer in a baking pan. Next, cover potatoes with your meat sauce.

Slice your eggplant, salt and proceed as you did with potatoes.

Once broiled, layer over the meat sauce. (Then, again, cover these with more meat sauce).

Add a last layer of broiled potatoes over the meat sauce.

Now, for the Bechamel!

In a large pot, mix butter and flour until they amalgamate.

When it starts to sizzle slightly, add milk. Continue to stir as it thickens (you don’t want it to stick to bottom of pan and burn!) AND keep adding milk.  Add a bit of salt as well.  Continue to do this until you get a nice thick sauce. Sprinkle about a table spoon of grated Graviera cheese-or- Parmesan cheese (only if you’d like!) I did;)

Once the bechamel is ready, wait a few minutes off the burner- Then place pot in fridge to speed up the cooling process.

On the same token, place eggs in warm water to heat them up a bit (so there’s no clash of temperature between the two. Otherwise,this could cause the eggs to scramble when mixing them in sauce later).

Once the two are cool – or about the same temperature, fold the eggs into the bechamel sauce. Mix it up well.

Pour the whole mixture onto that last layer of potatoes.

Bake at 350 for about an hour or so…until the Moussaka is a nice golden color. (it should also rise a bit).

And there you go! Roll out the red carpet! Kali Orexi!

#confessionoftheday : It was impossible for me to resist temptation…I had more than one piece!

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