Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Perfect book for history and horse lovers April 20, 2017

PerfectHorsebookI’ve been addicted to fiction books lately, as it’s sometimes nice to escape to new worlds and other ‘people’s’ stories. But when I was walking through the library the other day, a nonfiction book cover caught my eye and made me pause in the aisle. Many of you know that I’m a major horse lover so when I saw the cover for “The Perfect Horse,” with the beautiful head of a white horse along with military troops, I was intrigued. I’m happy I was!

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If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy the book as it takes place during World War II. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy this book as it tells the story of a daring rescue mission to protect some of the world’s priceless, purebred horses from the Nazis.

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“The Perfect Horse” by Elizabeth Betts is a true story of how Hitler sought to breed the perfect military horse by gathering some of the world’s finest purebreds. The book tells the tale of U.S. Army troops who took huge risks to rescue these horses at the end of the war, before the Russians, refugees or others could slaughter these horses for food or other.

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I found the book fascinating from the start. You learn about the different horse farms in Germany, Poland and Austria that bred Arabians and Lippizzaners. I loved learning about the prestigious and historic Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which has practiced classical equitation for nearly 450 years. The book also shares the history of the U.S. cavalry and their role in military actions.

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As much as I’m a horse lover, it was also horrifying to read how the Nazis looked the other way as millions of people were murdered while horses were treated with kindness and warmth at farms not far from concentration camps. It’s sickening to read how the Germans wanted purebred horses as much as purebred humans and would stop at nothing to accomplish this. I also was fascinated by the loyalty and duty many of the veterinarians, grooms, riders and farm managers felt for these horses, as they considered the horses national treasures. The book chronicles the decisions and challenges the farm directors faced while the war raged around the farms and the Germans began to lose.

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The book shares the stories of the many American troops who played a significant role in rescuing these horses from the Germans and before others could harm or kill the animals. These horses were among the finest purebreds in the world so it ultimately was important to try to rescue them as the war ended. To do this, Americans, Germans, Polish and other countrymen worked together to protect the stallions, mares and foals. Overall, this was a well-told story and interesting book.

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Good books are difficult to put down March 3, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 3:45 pm
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It’s no secret that I love to read. When I need to relax, escape from the real world or decompress, I pick up a book.

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backmanbookI love being part of book clubs because I learn about books that I otherwise might not know about (gasp!). One such author is Fredrik Backman. I recently read two of the Swedish author’s books and loved both. They were funny and touching. I learned about his book, My grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry, from one of my book clubs so was happy that the library had it immediately available.

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My grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry is about a young girl and her grandmother. The young girl, Elsa, is a bit of loner without friends at school, she gets picked on and is smart and sassy. Her grandmother is eccentric, wild and does her own thing. When she dies (not giving it away as it’s part of the summary on the book!), she leaves a series of notes that takes Elsa on adventures. The reader is introduced to many fairy tales and characters, which all fall into place as the book progresses (so don’t stop reading!). This was a book that made me laugh aloud, cry, think about life and love, cheer for certain characters and boo others. I was almost sorry when the book ended.

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As soon as that book ended, I looked up Fredrik’s other books. A Man Called Ove received many great reviews so I added that to my list. As luck would have it, I went to an event with a sorority sister who handed me a copy of the book that she received as a present. I was touched that she thought of me when she finished, knowing how much I love to read. I’ll admit I lost several hours of sleep to this book as I couldn’t put it down at night! The book focuses on Ove, a seemingly cranky man. But of course there’s more to this man than the surface and you soon get glimpses of his kind side as you encounter his neighbors and learn about his life. While I realize this is a fiction book, there were many moments that made me get choked up and believe in true love.

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Both of his books are the type of books that make me pause after reading the last page, enjoying and processing the lessons, characters and emotions. A sign of a great author!

 

Explore museums and more when you check out Michigan Activity Pass May 27, 2016

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Lots of fun destinations!

If you’re looking for some fun, yet inexpensive destinations to explore this summer, get to your local library. You can pick up some books to fuel your summer adventures. And you can check out a pass to hundreds of local destinations…..literally check it out.

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Yes, my fellow Michiganders are lucky – did you know that you can get free or discounted admission to many local cultural attractions, parks and more? It’s so easy! Simply visit your local library to ‘check out’ a Michigan Activity Pass, then get busy exploring parks, museums, cultural destinations and more. There are more than 420 destinations available through the Michigan Activity Pass!

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Cardholders of participating libraries are also able to print a free one-day pass to use at any of Michigan’s 102 state parks or 138 state forest campgrounds. This summer, there are seven National Parks on the pass list. Even more reason to start exploring the outdoors.

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With more than 11 library cooperatives participating in this program, thousands of Michigan residents can enjoy these benefits. I think this is a great program offered to library patrons. In fact, more than $50,000 was saved in 2015 by library patrons using the Michigan Activity Pass to visit hundreds of attractions!

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Here are just a few of the many places to visit:

  • Waterloo Recreation Area, Chelsea
  • Michigan Renaissance Festival, Holly
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising
  • Arts & Scraps, Detroit
  • Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
  • Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills
  • Seven Lakes State Park, Holly
  • Sea Life Michigan Aquarium, Auburn Hills
  • Cobblestone Farm Museum, Ann Arbor
  • Holland Museum, Hollander
  • Belle Isle Park, Detroit
  • Yankee Air Museum, Belleville
  • Michigan Science Center, Detroit
  • Stagecrafters Theater, Royal Oak
  • 2Per the Michigan Activity Pass website, there are a few guidelines to follow:

Per the Michigan Activity Pass website, here are a few guidelines to know:

  • Patrons may check out one Michigan Activity Pass per library card every 7 days.
  • When you print out a pass, you have 7 days from the date it was reserved to use it.
  • Please note that if you choose to print your pass on a library printer, you may be charged the regular fee that is assessed by the library for printing.
  • Photocopies of a Michigan Activity Pass will not be accepted at designated destinations. Only passes printed from the MAP website can be redeemed at participating destinations.
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Be sure to check out the full list of guidelines on their website or at your local library. If you don’t live in Michigan, ask your library if they participate in a similar program in your area.

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So what are you waiting for? Start exploring!

 

Favorite children’s books (chosen by children) March 15, 2016

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March is one of my favorite months. The weather is starting to turn from cold, dreary winter to warming temps (with a few more cold, dreary days. Sigh.). My sister and niece would say that March ranks as one of my favorite months because it’s their birthday month! While all of this is wonderful, March is also National Reading Month! And you all know that reading is one of my favorite past times, hobby, relaxing activity, escape from the world, and all that.

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Last year during National Reading Month I shared some of my favorite childhood books. This year, as I thought about how to recognize this special month, I decided to ask some of the special kids in my life about their favorite books. I love that these kids enjoy reading, or even listening to books (kudos to their parents and other adults in their lives for encouraging that enjoyment). Reading to kids is one of my favorite activities to do with my nieces, nephew, friends’ children and any other child willing to listen (along with dancing and hiking!). It warms my heart to see a child read a book.

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Here are some suggestions from some amazing children who love to read:

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Camireading

So fun reading with friends!

Magic Tree House series (Mary Pope Osbourne), recommended by 7-year-old: This series takes readers along with Jack and Annie, a brother and sister who discover a magical tree house. They travel on adventures throughout the world and even some not in our world!

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A to Z Mysteries (Ron Roy), recommended by an 8-year-old: This series is about three young children who solve crimes and mysteries. There are 26 books, one for each letter of the alphabet.

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Dora & Friends series (various authors), recommended by a 4-year-old: The famous little explorer has many adventures with her friends.

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Elephant and Piggie series (Mo Willems), recommended by a 5-year-old: This comic book style series is for early readers, following an elephant and pig through stories focused on friendship.

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The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein), recommended by a 6-year-old: This popular parable tells the story of giving, loving, taking and friendship.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (Jeff Kinney), recommended by a 9-year-old: The series follows a middle-school student, Greg, through the funny, awkward stages of school, friendship and more.

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The Day the Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt), recommended by a 5-year-old: This cute book illustrates the day that the crayons decided to quit their job of coloring!

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I Survived series (Lauren Tarshis), recommended by a 9-year-old: Each book focuses on a certain real-life disaster, such as tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and even Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, through the eyes of a child who survived.

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Love You Forever (Robert Munsch), recommended by a 5-year-old: This beautiful, touching book follows a newborn baby and his mother as he grows into an adult and focuses on the unconditional bond between mother and child.

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Junie B. Jones series (Barbara Park), recommended by an 8-year-old: This series follows spunky Junie as she begins kindergarten, then progresses into elementary school. Junie has many adventures and, of course, learns many lessons about friendship, family, responsibility, honesty and more. I love this series, especially when my niece tells me all about the book she’s reading!

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Does your child, niece or nephew have a favorite book?

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Don’t forget about borrowing books from your local library! It’s the perfect place to let a child and yourself wander among the shelves of books to find an adventure, romance, mystery or comedy to explore through the pages.

 

The adventures in my favorite childhood books March 25, 2015

BooksI love books. I love the feel and smell of the paper. I love the adventures I can find within the pages, hidden stories waiting to be discovered and new characters to meet. I get overwhelmed at times in libraries and book stores (although some of my favorite places) because there are so many choices, so many pages to flip through. Even now that I own a Kindle, I feel a rush of excitement when I get an email notifying me that my library book is available for download (the free Overdrive app connects me to my local library for lending).

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I was a book nut as a child too. Reading was my favorite escape from the craziness around me – school, teenage drama, boy crushes, family, friends and more. As a very shy child, reading allowed me to slip into other worlds where I could picture myself brave, outgoing and confident. I still find books to be an escape for my adult life at times, which is probably why I enjoy fiction books. I like mysteries, romance, political thrillers, historical fiction, chic lit and more.

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You may be aware that March is National Reading Month, which is a perfect excuse to read as much as you can (if you ever need an excuse, which I don’t!). I was very honored to be asked to be a mystery reader for my nephew’s Kindergarten class last week. I had to provide five clues for the students to guess who the reader was (my nephew said he guessed me after two clues. I guess “I love horses” gave it away!) and bring one of my favorite children’s books to read. I have a lot of favorites but ended up with Curious George goes camping because I do love taking my nieces and nephew hiking in the woods. In honor of National Reading Month, I thought I’d share some of my favorite books from my childhood.

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curiousgeorgeCurious George (Margaret and H.A. Rey) – The world’s most mischievous monkey easily steals the hearts and imaginations of children in this ongoing series. The little monkey has lots of adventures and is usually rescued by his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat. More than 30 million books have been sold throughout the world! The original authors were married, with Margaret the main writer and H.A. the illustrator. I’m glad that the series continues on after their deaths (thankfully the ghost writer keeps the style true to the original), ensuring other generations will know this timeless monkey.

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Berenstain Bears – Another married couple, Stan and Jan  Berenstain, brought this lovable bear family to children. This series is probably one of my absolute favorites. I love reading these books to my nieces and nephew, or any child willing to listen! As a child, I loved the adventures and stories in each book. As an adult, I love the lessons taught in the book and the value of family.

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Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner) – This series focuses on four children, two brothers and two sisters, who lose their parents, find their grandfather and end up in lots of adventures. I read the original 19 books when I was younger, but other authors have added to the series (Gertrude died in 1979). I still remember going to the library, so excited to find the next book in the series on the shelf (and sometimes disappointed if it wasn’t there).

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Sweet Valley High (Francine Pascal) – This series centered around identical twins, Jessica and Elizabeth, and the drama, events, friendships, crushes and more that occur during high school. In all, 152 books were written in the series, although I don’t think I read all of them! There was also a series published, Sweet Valley Twins, which was a prequel focusing on the girls in middle school.

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Baby-sitters Club (Ann M. Martin) – Baby-sitting was steady income for me during middle and high school years so this series appealed to me in middle school. The plots center on a group of young girls who form a business (‘The Baby-Sitters Club”) of baby-sitting. The various books focus on different issues the girls face in life and baby-sitting. The Baby-Sitters Club is one of the best-selling book series in history, selling more than 170 million copies worldwide!

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ohtheplacesyou'llgoDr. Seuss books – I liked the silliness of the subjects and learning fun words and rhymes in each book. My favorite Dr. Seuss book is still Oh, the places you’ll go! This book can apply to so may situations and serves as a great gift for graduates. I received a copy from my oncology team after my final chemotherapy treatment. It fit the situation so well. Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2, is the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association – a day I fully support!

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The Saddle Club (Bonnie Bryant) – It’s probably no surprise this series falls onto my favorite books list since you’ve read about my love of horses in previous posts. I couldn’t put these books down once I started! The series follows the adventures of three young girls who ride at Pine Hollow Stables. Every book has a horse focus, although school, family, friendships and other topics are a focus at times. I actually just discovered there was a television series about these books, which I admit I’ve never seen.

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What were your favorite books during childhood?

 

Activities to keep you busy in metro Detroit (for free!) November 13, 2012

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 12:52 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I have plans for this money!

Now that our wedding is over, our new focus is selling our two houses and finding a new home that comfortably merges two households. That means saving money is a priority so I’ve been pinching pennies and dimes when possible. You know I’m serious about saving when visits to Starbucks are down to once per week or even less (sad sigh).

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Saving money doesn’t mean we sit on the couch at home every night twiddling our thumbs. There are still many great opportunities for fun that don’t have to break the bank.

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If you enjoy cultural attractions, you have plenty of choices. Check out the Museum Adventure Pass for free access to more than 20 participating cultural attractions, including the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and Howell Nature Center to name only a few. You’ll need a valid library card and a date you plan to visit the cultural attraction. Then you simply enter the information online to check availability (each library has limited passes per week) and reserve your pass.

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Thanks to a recent successful millage vote, residents of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties can now visit the Detroit Institute of Arts for free (some special exhibits are a small fee). If you aren’t a resident of these counties, the DIA offers free admission to all visitors on the second Sunday of every month. The DIA stays open until 10pm every Friday for special programs that include live music, guided tours and more.

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After 5pm on the first Fridays of the month, Cranbrook Institute of Science opens its doors for free to the public (the museum is open until 10pm). Visitors are able to explore the new exhibit, EXTREME DEEP: Mission to the Abyss, which shows the mysteries of the ocean through hands-on activities, close up views of deep-sea research submersibles and models of shipwrecks, including Titanic. Another treat is the newly renovated observatory. Three new telescopes, reconfiguration of the viewing space and a new dome complete this wonderful update.

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Check out this library book!

One of my favorite local resources that I frequent often is the city library. I’m an avid reader so would spend tons of money if I bought all the books I read! I love that I can go online to the library’s website to browse for books of interest, then put a hold on them. The library, part of a larger network, emails me when the books are ready for pick up. I also peruse the new book section at the library to see what I may enjoy reading (I admit nothing calms me like wandering through a library or bookstore!). Most libraries also host free education programs, activities for teens and children, and have a decent selection of music, movies and television shows that library card holders can borrow.

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While the weather may be cooling, there are still plenty of pretty days to enjoy the outdoors. Metro Detroit residents are fortunate to have so many local parks with tennis courts, basketball nets and trails. Most of these parks don’t have entrance fees. If you participate in the state park pass on your car’s license plate renewal (a mere $10 for the year), don’t forget that serves as an entrance pass to all state parks.

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Plenty of trails to wander

The ultimate ‘free’ activity that rewards you with a sense of giving back? Volunteer at a local charity. There are many worthwhile charities in metro Detroit that survive on the generosity of volunteers. Check out your local food bank, soup kitchen, animal shelter or hospital (or whatever type of charity interests you).

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These are just a few ideas of the many activities that are no cost fun. So no excuses to sit on your couch being bored! What are some other free activities you participate in?

 

 
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