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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Afternoon in the hospital

While I'm feeling great healthwise, I seem to have some troubles... My sugar levels are going crazy and since three weeks ago, I feel a lump in my throat.

This afternoon I had an appointment in the hospital. First of all, they made a bone scan of my body. I also had to give some blood and urine. Next I got to see one of the specialists, who took an echo of my throat. The conclusion of all this is... they still don't know. The lump is quite big and can be caused by anything (the worst thing being cancer) - so I have to get a punction one of the coming days. The sugar is also something special and a bit a-typical. Also need to find a reason for this. For the coming weeks, I am going to check my sugar level on a daily basis and wait for my appointment for the punction.

So people, wish me luck. I try to remain positive and hope for the best.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday dinner: Brussels fricassee

During the asparagus season, we seek all kinds of recipes to use this delicious vegetable as often as possible. So for tonight's dinner we made a fricassee of chicken, asparagus, mushroom and cream. You can eat it with pommes croquettes, rice, pasta or mashed potatoes.



How to prepare? Well, first clean you chicken breasts. Then fill a big pot with enough water and put the chicken in it. Keep it just under the boiling point, so the chicken remains juicy. Then add two cubes of bouillon (chicken) and the peeled asparagus (each one cut into two-three pieces). After that, you bake the mushrooms in a pan and later on add them to the big pot. The last thing you add is the cream and the spices.

Depending on what you like to eat with it, fry your croquettes, or boil the rice or pasta, or boil potatoes and mash them.

Needless to say, this tastes even better with a glass of white wine...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Half-Built Houses

Good morning! I'd like to introduce Eric Keller, one of my fellow-authors at Rogue Phoenix Press, who's launching his book Half-Built Houses. This is a mystery, with all the taught intrigue and compelling personalities of a classic, courtroom thriller combined with the twists and turns of an engrossing murder mystery in a Canadian setting.

Eric will be giving away an ebook copy of one of his books to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour, which runs from April 17th to April 21st.

Blurb

Charley Ewanuschuk has been mistreated all his life and now survives by moving through society as unnoticed as possible. However, when a murder occurs behind the half-built house he is squatting in society takes notice of the introverted homeless man as he becomes the prime murder suspect. Brian Cox managed to charm his way into a good job in a national law firm but, when the recession hit, he learned that charm is a disposable commodity. Fired by the firm and forced to take on Legal Aid files to pay the bills, Charley's murder trial becomes Brian's first major case. However, this will be no straightforward case. As the trial progresses it becomes apparent forces are working behind the scenes to ensure the homeless man takes the fall for a crime. Told from the points of view of the accused, the lawyer, the detective and the manipulator, Half-Built Houses provides all the thrilling intrigue, clever ingenuity and interesting individuals readers have come to expect form classic courtroom dramas.



Excerpt

After the car had been towed away, Charley had gone back to the basement, but he heard sirens and had to flee before he could collect his belongings. Knowing he would stand out as an oddity wandering about in a rich residential area as people started leaving their homes for work, he headed back across the river to the downtown core where the homeless merely blended into the cement. There he numbly walked the icy streets before settling into an ATM kiosk to warm up and rest.
Sitting on the wet floor, he did a quick inventory. He still had his good coat, two cheeseburgers, four dollars, and shoes, but no socks, gloves, or hat. It was thirty below and he had nowhere to go, and he could already feel the dirty slush on the floor soaking through his jeans. Over all the years he had been in Calgary, Charley had been in some extremely difficult spots, but this was one of the worst situations he had faced.
As he pulled one of the slightly squashed cheeseburgers out of his pocket, the key to the cheap padlock he had put on the basement door fell onto the floor. He picked it up. Despite being twenty-five years old, this was the only key he had ever owned. He remembered the joy he felt when he closed the lock for the first time. It was more than simply having a place of his own; it was a sense of survivor's pride because he could look past making it through each day and ponder a future for himself. Now he realized he could not be found carrying the key, so he slipped it into the slot in the bank machine, the slot where people threw away their receipts showing how much money they had in their account.
He was only able to stay in the kiosk for an hour before a security guard found him. The guard clearly did not want to send the pathetic man out into the exceptionally harsh cold, but he sheepishly said that the bank employees would be showing up soon, and they would give him grief if they found someone sleeping next to the bank machine. Charley left without a word.
Having nowhere else to go, he instinctively walked to the day labourer corner. Because the weather was so bad and he was there so early, he got picked up right away to shovel snow. Charley had worked for the boss before, and the man took pity on him, giving him a good pair of gloves and a toque.

~ * ~

Jenkins was checking missing person reports when Wilson strutted into the office and dropped an enlarged printout of a library card on his desk. The picture on the card was of a thin, unsmiling young man with thick glasses and messy hair. It matched the description the neighbour at the crime scene had given them. Wilson sat down and said, "Our basement squatter has a name. Charley Ewanuschuk. The address and phone number he gave are fakes though."
"Did anyone at the library know him?"
"Sort of. One of the librarians said the guy's been coming in about once a week for years, but she doesn't think he's ever said a word to anybody. She did say he was cleaner than the other homeless people and never had a late book, so he has that going for him."

"A name and a picture. We've found people with less." Jenkins, now feeling hopeful this would be a quicker case than he had anticipated, stood up and grabbed his coat. "Let's go check the usual spots."

~ * ~

Even though he had been extremely tired and his feet had screamed with cold, Charley had been content to push a shovel all day as the mundane, physical work was relaxing and allowed him to ponder his situation. By the end of the day, he had forced himself to conclude it was not hopeless. He could not go back to the house he had been using, but that did not mean he could not find another abandoned construction site to use. It would take some time, but he had time; he had little else, but he had time. When the work was done, he was driven back to the corner, given sixty dollars, and told to keep the gloves and the hat. It was enough money to get a room at the hostel for the night. Life would continue to be hard, but it would not be impossible.
As he started walking away, a truck pulled up, unloading another crew of day labourers, and one of the workers called out to him, "Hey, you. Guy who never talks."
He recognized the man as a regular at the corner whom he had worked with a few times. He pointed at himself questioningly.
"Yeah, you. Just thought you should know that the cops were out here this morning showing your picture around. You may want to lay low for a few days."

The man knew Charley well enough not to expect a response, so he turned to jog after his friends, leaving Charley alone on the frozen sidewalk. Renewed panic struck at him, easily pushing away the optimism he had gained throughout the day. He had not even considered the police would look for him. He had always seen himself as a mere visitor moving about beneath the notice of the real inhabitants of the city, so the thought that someone would look for him never occurred to him. Charley had never been to jail, but he had overheard much about the place from day labourers, and being locked up was one of his greatest fears among an impressive list of fears. It was not actually being deprived of his freedom so much as being constantly surrounded by people with no privacy or reprieve that he knew would be an unimaginable hell for him. He could not go to jail.

Review

The city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada is the backdrop for Eric Keller’s intense and gripping legal thriller Half Built Houses.

Charley Ewanuschuk is a homeless man who found comfort in being mostly invisible to the world around him. But the events on a stormy winter night in Calgary plunge him head first into a murder where the almost mute Charley becomes the main suspect instead of the hero. Charley’s quiet distinctiveness doesn’t just draw the reader into his narrative but makes him a target for the other less desirable characters. Charley’s lawyer, Brain Cox, who has his own set backs, is determined to free his client from the murder charge. Brian has a strong character and determination that balances out Charley’s introverted personality.  


Eric Keller exposes the reader to not only the grittiness of the legal system but also the vicious realities of prison life. Half Built Houses is filled to the brim with raw emotions and conflicts. Every time the reader thinks they have it figured out Keller throws in another twist that sends the reader in a new direction. One of the unique aspects of the book is the perspective of the book shifts between several of the characters. This gives the reader a full understanding of the vested interested each character has in the murder. Keller’s novel exposes how life is never black or white and happy endings are better saved for fairy tales.

(Tamara White, 4 1/2 stars)


Author bio and links

Eric Keller is a lawyer living in Calgary, Alberta. His email is: kellepc@hotmail.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rik's

Today my guest is dhtreichler, who's doing a book blast tour for his international thriller Rik's. The author will be awarding a $30 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use this link to place your comment:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2244



Blurb

The entire affair began with sheep brains and falafel -- Saddam Hussein's favorite dish.

It is 1990 and in Baghdad two lovers are separated by the impending First Gulf War. CIA operative Rik Bogart is desperately seeking television correspondent Ingrid Johannson -- but is instead picked up by  Saddam’s Secret Police and thrown into Abu Graib -- the Prison of the Dead. Ten years later, he must make a fateful decision after finally reuniting with her -- one that may keep them apart forever. How far would YOU go for your true love?

This iheart-pounding thriller is written by a former international defense contractor who brings incredible realism and thrilling insights into the days leading up to Saddam’s brutal regime downfall and provides a chilling account of life inside the infamous Prison of the Dead.

"It's as much a love story as it is a runaway thriller." Midwest Book Review 



Excerpt

Rik In Abu Graib, the Prison of the Dead -- after 19 months



I fell to my knees and touched the water that beaded up in the dirt of the floor. I set the glass down, carefully and respectfully. I made sure the glass was protected so I wouldn’t spill more accidentally. I then bent down to the water-beaded cup and put my tongue into it. As I broke the tension on the top, real water covered my tongue. I could actually taste the water. It was real! It didn’t taste like mud. It didn’t have the grittiness I’d become accustomed to. How strange such a simple thing could almost overwhelm me.

I heard a voice down the hall. The smiling guard smiled no more. He glanced back at me on the floor. He nodded to me, but the eyes weren’t smiling. I could see the tension around his mouth. My first thought was, he’d just served my last supper.

Maybe Tariq would come tomorrow with the loaded gun to end my days. But the more I thought, the more I realized Tariq wouldn’t waste a perfectly good glass of water. He may have been generous with himself, as evidenced by his favorite charity; but to give someone like me a glass of clean water would have been a total waste of state resources. But like I said, I’d become an expert at analyzing everything from every direction. So, since he wouldn’t waste the water on me, why would he give me clean water but withhold my maggots?

Author bio and links

As a defense contractor, award-winning screenwriter and novelist, dhtreichler has wandered the world, visiting garden spots and more.  Having lived and worked with our intelligence agents and soldiers, witnessing the conflicts and the turmoil of recent decades, he paints vivid backdrops for his stories. Like him, the men and women he portrays attempt to make sense of our fast-changing world. He has held a lifelong interest in the profound influence of rapidly changing technology on our lives and relationships. Exploring that power (what has changed and what might come) forms an insightful theme of his novels. His stories also reflect the universal desires and fears of real people everywhere.


Buy link for the book:
https://www.amazon.com/Riks-dh-treichler-ebook/dp/B01CQB45K6
His website and links are:
http://dhtreichler.com
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14299861.dhtreichler
https://twitter.com/dhtreichler
https://www.facebook.com/dhtreichlerofficial

https://www.amazon.com/dhtreichler/e/B01CQB45K6/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It helps to complain

On the return flight from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt, last week, I was sipping my coffee after dinner. An airhostess passed by and bumped against my chair, which caused the cup of coffee to jump out of my hand and emptying the drink on my breast and lap...

Of course I notified the hostess of what she'd done. She hastened to make excuses bringing me wet towels to wipe away the stains. When I mentioned we had a connecting flight to Brussels and I'd have to wear those stained clothes until then, she provided me with a pull and trousers. All new, right out of the package. Also I received a 25€ coupon which I could use in the flight shop. Nice gesture, especially when you know coffee doesn't really make stains....

So right now I'm dressed by Lufthansa (I wear the outfit inside the house). It's quite comfortable and good quality of material.

But if I hadn't opened my mouth, I would have got nothing. So it pays to speak up. My motto is: always complain when you suffer damage. You start out with nothing, but can end up with something.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

I'd like to wish everyone who reads this blog a Happy Easter!

Here in Belgium, kids are right now waiting for the clocks to return from Rome and bring them chocolate easter eggs.



I remember it was always a treat that you came home after Mass and then went into the garden (when the sun was out, otherwise you had to search the house) to look for hidden eggs, left by the Easter clocks.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Back from Argentina

As you might have guessed, Chris and I have been away. This time the trip went to Argentina. We stayed in Buenos Aires and had a great time there. Best thing, the weather was a lot better than in Belgium!!

We flew by Lufthansa (which was the cheapest). Must say though, economy class is not the best when you have to sit down for over 13 hours. We'll consider travelling in business class for further (far away) trips. It's more expensive, but I think it's worth the money. No complaints about Lufthansa however. Friendly crew, they offered us a lot to eat and drink (even brandy after dinner!). And rather punctual (which you expect from Germans).

We arrived in Buenos Aires in mid-morning and were already in our hotel by 11 a.m. We immediately got a room (probably helped that I mailed them about our early arrival), freshened up and went out to make our first acquaintance with the city. Our hotel was in San Telmo, the oldest of the neighborhoods in BA. On leaving the hotel, you were right at the Plaza Dorrego, where on Sundays an antique market takes place and when the weather's fine a milonga at night. Btw, a milonga is a tango event.

We took a guided city tour the next day, to learn more about the different parts of the city. The sky was azure blue and it was quite warm (28° Celsius). Wonderful! And the same evening, we discovered how good Argentinian meat tastes. Really, the taste of steak is nothing like what we eat in Belgium.

On Thursday, there was a national strike so we couldn't do a lot. We tried to avoid the protesters (who became rather violent, according to what we saw in the news). Also a lot of restaurants and shops were closed that day.

The following day, Friday, we made a trip to San Antonio de Arreca, with our guide Guillermo from Camino Pampa. San Antonio is a very nice village, where everything remains like it was a century ago. Children are taught to respect the traditions of their elders and goods are produced in the old way. Of course we couldn't resists buying something (nice earrrings from a silversmith whose father worked for the Vatican). Afterwards, we drove to a ranch (estancia), where we could ride the horses and were treated to a barbecue (asado). Be aware: when in Argentina, don't always order two portions. Most steaks can be shared as they are really huge.

We also made a trip to the Tigre and the delta of the Rio Plata. We went on a boat there, which took us to the many bayou-like waterways. Lots of people live there on the islands, including our guide. He showed us his farm he has on one of them.

And of course, there's the tango. We dared to take a tango class, which was fun, and later on we went to some milonga's. Normally, there should have been one near our hotel (on the square) but because of the heavy rain (thunderstorm) it could not take place.

The trip home was uneventful and this is our first morning back in our home. We don't have a problem with the jetlag. As I mentioned in my previous blog, it's in the mind. We slept well on the plane, and likewise last night.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

How to avoid jetlag

When making long trips, you can't always avoid a difference in time. That can sometimes be a problem.

Over the years I have learned it helps when you try to adjust to the new situation.

When we take a long flight, we now try to sleep through most of the flight time and then we arrive fresh at our destination.

Also, you need to convince yourself it's a couple of hours earlier or later than at the place you came from.

I can assure you, this really helps!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Annie's Recipe

My guest today is Lisa Jones Baker, who's doing a virtual book tour for her publication Annie's Recipe.


You can win a $50 Amazon or Barnes&Noble GC if you place a comment. Lisa will be awarding this price to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter. Here's the link:

Blurb

Annie Mast and Levi Miller were childhood best friends until his father was shunned. Now, 10 years later, Levi returns to Arthur, Il, and he and Annie discover their bond is as strong as ever. Soon they begin imagining a future together, but that's unlikely to happen. Levi is part of the English world, and Annie is Amish. But together, with love on their side, they may just find their way to an answered prayer.



Excerpt

Levi considered Annie’s honesty. As he watched her, listened to her sincerity, his heart warmed. For long moments he gazed into her eyes. He was fully aware that she expected a reply, but he couldn’t get out the words. It was as if the beautiful girl in front of him had grabbed hold of his heart and wouldn’t let go. He knew how hard it was going be to go back home without her. He was feeling emotional again, and now he felt something he’d never experienced before, in a way that made him more vulnerable than he’d ever been in his life.

“Levi? Are you okay?”

He forced a smile. “I was…just…thinking.” He squared his shoulders and raised his chin. “What I miss about the Amish life? I think I have an answer.”

She waited patiently.

“I miss the quiet.”

“Jah?”

“When we changed churches, I had a difficult time adjusting to the noise. You know, all the electronics. The television. The radio and such. I really miss the quiet.”

“I think I would miss that, too.”

“But Annie, that’s not what I miss most about the Amish life.” He wondered how to put his thoughts into words. “There’s something about the Amish life I miss more than anything in the world. And I don’t know how I can go through life without it.”

Her voice was so soft, he could barely hear her. “Tell me what it is.”

“It’s you.”    

Author bio and links

Lisa Jones Baker is a multi-published author with Kensington Books.  Her debut book of THE HOPE CHEST OF DREAMS series, REBECCA’S BOUQUET, won a Publishers Weekly starred review.  A former teacher with a BA degree in French education, Lisa has been on 5 out of 7 continents, is a dog lover, enjoys positive thinkers, volunteering in her church’s food pantry, and strong female characters.     



You can find her on
Website: http://www.lisajonesbaker.com
http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/author.aspx/31739
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009288891265
Buy Link:
https://www.amazon.com/Annies-Recipe-Hope-Chest-Dreams-ebook/dp/B01GBAG58S