Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Hurricane Sisters

I still remember the way I devoured Folly Beach after I picked it up from the used book sale at the library and decided that Dorothea Benton Frank and I needed to get together again.  And so I've now read quite a few of her books set in the Charleston area, including her newest, The Hurricane Sisters.

Ashley Waters is a 23 year old bored artist wasting away working at a gallery in her Charleston hometown.  Her roommate Mary Beth is right there with her subbing occasionally but mostly working for a caterer.  They both have horrible 23 year old taste in men and make some horribly awesome 23 year old choices.

Liz Waters is Ashley's mother and a bit misunderstood by the rest of her family.  She has a very important job working with abused women and children and deals with her adorably obnoxious mother and her jerk self-absorbed husband.

The book bounces between different narrators and sadly I found that they all seemed to sound like the same person.  There really weren't any unique personalities.  They lacked a depth that made you want to root for them.  Possibly Liz was my favorite character but I'm not sure I'd make the same family related choices she did.

We also hear from Liz's mother, her husband Clayton, and a little from her son Ivy.  There are llamas.  A ridiculously state senator and a lot of hilarity.

This book does a wonderful job of weaving minor details in to go back to the first chapter where it's hinted at trouble but I think it was missing something, which made me sad since I do enjoy escaping to her books now and then.  Don't get me wrong, it's still a great beach read but just a tad disappointing.

Have you read any books by Frank? Any books set in Charleston/Lowcountry? It is one of my favorite areas to read about.  I may have a South problem.  And I may have gotten a guilty pleasure show in Southern Charm started.  I may also have a problem..

I got this book from TLC tours but all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spring Break: Day 1

We sadly did not go anywhere warm for our spring break this year but we did travel around the lovely mitten state.  Thanks for Groupons popping up in my emails on a daily basis it gave me the idea to visit Saugatuck.  A few cold weekends later we decided to add a day on to our trip and check out Grand Haven as well.

We left our house early on Saturday morning and it took us just over an hour and a half to get to Perrin Brewing Company.  We meant to check this place out when we were down in the Grand Rapids area last December on our brewery tour but did not make it.  So it was our lunch stop on this trip.

I tried the Razzberry Blonde which I had already tried a few weeks ago at a bar here but it was delicious and I decided to start the day out with lighter stuff as to not fill up too early in our travels.  The husband had some bourbon thing I assume or something that sounded like a gut ache to me. ;)

We split the Black & Blue burger and it was delicious.  You could add on for fries or get homemade chips so we stuck with the chips and they were okay.  Isla got the grilled cheese which came with fries and they were just okay.

After we left Perrin we drove into Grand Haven and headed straight to the shopping/restaurant area.  We visited the Tri-Cities Historical Museum which was free with donations welcome.  We each picked out our own post card from there as a souvenir.  Then we walked around and looked at some of the shops and visited The Blueberry Store which had tons of blueberry products from local blueberries.  Then we decided to go find our hotel and get some beer at the store before we checked in.

We were slightly detoured when we saw a sign for Rays Drive In.  We decided we needed ice cream.  So we each got a small malt and split some onion petals. Yum and super cheap! Definitely recommend it.

Then we picked up some beer and headed back to the hotel.  We got the child down for a nap and we had a beer.  I read and the husband napped.  After nap we checked out the pool.  Oh my lord.  Here is where I am glad we had a groupon and where the cheapness started showing.  It was full of teenage boys being teenage boys.  And it was cold.  So we didn't hang out there long. I did enjoy the hot tub a bit but it was overrun by children as well. 

We headed back to get ready for dinner and we were going to check out Tip a Few Tavern for dinner but it was a Saturday night and the NCAA tourney was on.  It was packed and not a good idea with a 3.5 year old.  So we ended up at Joe's Wooden Nickel.  I had Oberon (yum!) and pork tacos.  Anthony had the brisket sandwich and the child had a chicken and cheese quesadilla.  It was all yummy! Loved the inside of the bar too.  Quick service and good for a quick dinner.

Then we headed back to the hotel where we had a quick tea party with cookies leftover from my birthday and then the child headed to bed while we read/watched basketball a bit and then we passed out too.

It was a great day to explore Grand Haven.  The only downfall was the hotel.  You HEARD everything.  Children were RUNNING in the halls and it was annoying.  And the double beds sucked.  Minus that we liked Grand Haven. ;)

Do you ever explore your state? What's your go to meal when you don't know what to order? Do you use Groupon?

Friday, April 3, 2015

March Workouts

I was motivated by Amber to record my workouts and then I kind of bombed the month, but it's a journey not a race!

Monday, March 2nd -  110 squats, 5 push ups, 10 seconds of punches, 10 bicep curls
2.53 miles on the treadmill
Tuesday, March 3rd - 20 squats, 15 seconds of punches, 15 bicep curls
1 mile express YouTube video
Wednesday. March 4th -  30 squats, 10 push ups, 20 seconds of punches, 20 bicep curls
2.1 miles on the treadmill
 Tuesday, March 10th - 20 squats, 30 bicep curls, 25 punches
1.22 miles
Wednesday, March 11th - 40 bicep curls, 30 second punches
5 minute warm up, 3 x 400 @ 6.0mph, ran 1 minute, walked 1, ran 30 seconds, walked 30 seconds (wasn't feeling well so I adapted what I was going to do..
1.51 miles
Thursday, March 12th - 50 bicep curls, 35 second punches, other arm stuff
2 mile walk away the pounds youtube...  (slightly disappointing because it cuts off about 5 minutes in the middle..)
Monday, March 16th
1.37 family walk (lame I know but it was a Monday ha)
Tuesday, March 17th
1.35 miles on the treadmill and I did strength training and squats but I erased it from my weekly doc before I recorded it)
And in full transparency this is when I stopped working out for the month of March.  I did plan for that next week but things got crazy and I just stopped.  I do have a great kickboxing YouTube video to try out and some other cardio options.  I'm trying to make sure I hit my 10,000 step goal for the rest of Spring Break and hitting the beginning of April strong again.  I'm also going to focus on my eating because I know I can do better there.  I have seen a different in my butt after doing so many squats so I want to continue that and my clothes are fitting better so I know I'm doing better, I just want to see numbers go down on the scale! So frustrating.  I hope that with the foundation I've started will help in the summer and I can get more workouts done in the morning and NOT have to wake up at the ass crack of dawn to do them since I am so not a morning person.
Embarrassing total of miles for March: 10.08 miles
According to my fiitbit I traveled: 127.4 miles. 
Was March a good workout month for you? What kind of salad dressing do you like? What are the recipes to some lunch salads you make? Or dinner sides that are healthy?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Big Little Lies

We read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty for our March Books & Bars pick.  As soon as I started I had a hard time putting it down and even though I had a super busy late night filled weekend I stayed up late on a Sunday to finish!

My favorite part of the book was the input from the parents at the end of each chapter.  They were interviewed and asked bout the events that had occurred and the responses were hilarious.  They were so dead on for those that know suburbia parents! Plus, it gave some insight to the minor characters as they popped up through the book.  I also liked that it didn't include any comments from the 'main players' so to speak so that it gave more of a who is dead? who did it? urgency to finish.

We sadly hardly discussed this book at all at book club, but we have such a small group that when we get together the wine was flowing and our conversations were flying all over the place, which is still awesome for me since I loved the connection I have with those ladies.

Description: Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive

I think my favorite character was Celeste or Stephanie (one of those random parent comments that you never get to know but IS SO DEAD ON).  Madeline was a bit much for me.  Way too attention needy.

Have you read Big Little Lies? Have you read any other books by Liane Moriarty? I'm interested in reading The Husband's Secret. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

World Gone By

I've read a lot of great books recently and World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane is yet another! I devoured Mystic River, and did the same with World Gone By! I read it in just over 12 hours with obvious parenting/cleaning/life breaks.

Description: Dennis Lehane, the New York Times bestselling author of The Given Day and Live by Night, returns with a psychologically and morally complex novel of blood, crime, passion, and vengeance, set in Cuba and Ybor City, Florida, during World War II, in which Joe Coughlin must confront the cost of his criminal past and present.

Ten years have passed since Joe Coughlin’s enemies killed his wife and destroyed his empire, and much has changed. Prohibition is dead, the world is at war again, and Joe’s son, Tom├ís, is growing up. Now, the former crime kingpin works as a consigliore to the Bartolo crime family, traveling between Tampa and Cuba, his wife’s homeland.

A master who moves in and out of the black, white, and Cuban underworlds, Joe effortlessly mixes with Tampa’s social elite, U.S. Naval intelligence, the Lansky-Luciano mob, and the mob-financed government of Fulgencio Batista. He has everything—money, power, a beautiful mistress, and anonymity.

But success cannot protect him from the dark truth of his past—and ultimately, the wages of a lifetime of sin will finally be paid in full.

This was fast paced and the mystery of who would want Joe Coughlin dead made for quite a page turner. 

My only complaint of this book how Lehane had Joe seeing ghosts.  It was just odd to me and took away from everything else.  I mean, in the sense of the book I get it and I get where the book was going, but it wasn't doing it for me.

I loved the different gangsters and the stories of things that had happened.  I loved how people would say or do something and it would make you wonder if they were the one plotting to kill Joe.

This is the third in a series of books about Joe Coughlin, but honestly I hadn't read either and I didn't think it was necessary to read this one.  I know some people complained about how some threads to the plot were just there and how many different people were involved but only one instance did it stand out to me when he ended up at at house and knew everything about the guy in what seemed in the timeline of the book like a day after knowing about him and not having mentioned anything about having someone follow him but then tells the guy that's how he knows things, did it really stand out to me.  For the most part, it's a quick thriller not meant to make you think too much and it's good.

I definitely recommend it if you like thriller fast paced books!

Have you read any books by Dennis Lehane? Watched any of the movies based off his books? Do you like books or movies about the mafia?

I've only read Mystic River and only seen Mystic River.  LOOOOVED the book, hated the movie.  I have a few others of his that are on my shelves that I need to read. I love books/movies about the mafia.

I received this book from TLC Book Tours, all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My 5th Stitch Fix

I got my 5th Stitch Fix today! I always get excited to see what will be in the mail. 

I like how the scarf is the pop of color here!I got a vest, a tshirt, a dolman top, the scarf and another casual shirt.

First thing I did, was pop on the scarf over the shirt I wore today...

Henry Birds on a Branch Infinity Scarf - $28.00

I'm leaning towards yes on this.  It's so soft and I've wanted a new scarf for awhile but haven't found one I love. And I don't own one this color.  Need to decide if it will match enough items in my closet.

Pixley Malynn Aysmmetrical Soft Moto Vest - $58.00

I zipped it and then unzipped it.  Bad photo.  It fits, it's soft and cute but I'm not sure I want to pay $58.00 for it.  Maybe if it was another color since I already bought a vest this winter that is black and for only $14.99.  So, probably not. 


Sawyer Space Dye Dolman Sleeve Knit Top - $58.00

So... I didn't think I'd like this when I saw it  And I didn't much like it much on. I was going to try it on again with some black pants I have and I just don't think I will.  The shirt is too big.  I feel like when they send me a shirt that's stretchy or loose the are always far too big.  Eh...
Loveappella Canon Button Detail Striped Knit Top - $48.00

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this but I really ended up liking it on.  So I'm debating on getting this.  I want to try it on again with a cardigan and what not.  Think about it.
Market & Spruce Sam Hi-Lo Short Sleeve Tee - $44.00

I'm kind of disappointed I got sent this.  I've seen others get it and I had no desire.  It's a tshirt.  And it's an unflattering tshirt at that.  It's also super thin.  I had it on for like 30 seconds and yeah, no way.
I was a little disappointed because I asked for some cardigans or shirts to wear under cardigans and I suppose if I liked the tshirt I could wear it under a cardigan and possibly the Loveappella shirt.  And I'd much have rather gotten a cardigan than the vest.  Oh well. 
So... leaning towards scarf and possibly the loveappella shirt.. Thoughts? What would you keep? I was contemplating the vest until I thought about the fact that I really like my other vest that I got for 14.99 but it was soft.  But yeah...   What do you think?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Shattered by the Wars but Sustained by Love

Last year I participated in a TLC Tour for Blossoms and Bayonets by Jana McBurney-Lin and Hi-Dong Chai.  I really liked that book which was based off of Hi-Dong's family and their experience in South Korea.  After my review, I was contacted by both authors and Hi-Dong offered to send me his memoir Shattered by the Wars but Sustained by Love.

It covers the same content of the first book but not so much that you feel like you've read the same book if you've read both.  This focuses on the youngest son, Hi-Dong, and his personal experiences growing up through the age of 15 in Korea until he leaves for America on the final page.

Like I mentioned when I read the other book, I do not have a lot of information on Korea or on how WWII or the Korean War affected the Korean people.  This book was very informative in that way.  It definitely gives perspective when you think of a 14 year old boy willing to chop and clean fish in order to help feed himself and his friends.  That same boy as a 15 year old, willing to work in a restaurant dish washing/doing hard physical labor in exchange for food for himself and his mother.  Waking up early to continue to learn English to please his mother so that he could go to America and not be conscripted into the military.

Description:I hate war. War kills. War maims. War orphans. And it leaves a deep scar not only on the land, that will take years to heal, but also in the hearts of those who are affected by the war. I am one of those who carry a deep emotional wound to this day, more than sixty years later.

During World War II, under Japan, my father was imprisoned because he was a Christian minister who refused to bow down to the picture of the Japanese emperor. My elder brother volunteered to join the Japanese military in the hope of having his father released from the prison. He left home as a vibrant, fifteen-year-old boy and returned home as a worn-out, injured, eighteen-year-old man after the war; he died a year later. During the Korean War, two North Korean officers came to my house and took my father away because he was a Christian minister. He never returned.

"Shattered by the Wars" is a story of love, sacrifice, faith, and suffering, all wrapped in one package. The heroine in the story is my mother, as seen by her youngest son. Mother prayed without ceasing. Through her unceasing prayers, she was able to walk through the dark tunnel of trials and tribulations and lead us onward with love and grace and absolute faith in God.

This book was definitely a thank you to his obviously strong and loving mother.  She sacrificed so much and never lost her absolute faith that God is good.  She willingly gave what little she had to others who were in need and passed that on to her young son.

And as a teacher this cracked me up...

"I guess your ancestors had plenty time on their hands and were bored," I said  "And they decided to make English complicated for the future generations to sweat and suffer."

After reading both the fiction and memoir based on the same family I would recommend reading Blossom and Bayonets first and then Shattered by the Wars.  However, reading just one or the other would not be a problem either. 

Have you ever read a fiction and non-fiction book based on the same story? Which do you prefer, memoirs or historical fiction? Do you have stories or memories of your mother sacrificing to make your life easier?

Thank you to Hi-Dong Chai for a copy of his book.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Squat Challenge and Feb Recap

January I did the #mileaday challenge and it was a fabulous jump start into 2015.  Then I decided to try the squat challenge for February.  I started off strong and then the month totally fell apart on me. Sunday I thought about continuing on the challenge and finishing it at my slower pace and then Monday when I attempted my 150 squats I needed to accomplish I decided I'm just over squats.  As per usual, too much of one thing turns me off.  A month of squats got me bored.  So while I didn't finish, I can say my bum is a lot firmer!  I also plan on incorporating more squats into my workout.  Maybe at a more manageable number like 30 to 50 in a workout ha.  I know my body is capable but blargh.  I needed to be done with it.  Just like I was over the treadmill by the end of January, February ruined squats for me ha.

Speaking of the treadmill, I did not get on it as much as I did in January.  I did try out different work outs and I found some winners and losers.  It's definitely just easiest for me to hop on the treadmill at home.  I did however like the Leslie Sansone YouTube workout I found and another Butts & Thighs workout I found.  YouTube will be utilized again.

So my very low mileage number for February was 22.94.

The positive on that was that most of the times I got on the treadmill I did at least 2 miles. ;) 

February was a short month but it felt miles long.  I did manage to have an awesome home cooked Valentine's Day dinner with my husband (steak and lobster), met up for drinks with friends, and saw GARTH BROOKS in concert!!! THAT was THE best part of the month.  Amazing.  One of the best concerts I've ever attended!

Books read...
The All Girl Filling Station;s Last Reunion
The Long and Faraway Gone
Necessary Lies

I loved all of them! If you are going on spring break and need books for the beach, all of these would be great!

Not a good full body photo but it's one of my favorite sweaters from my Stitch Fix boxes and I have sunglasses on my head because there was sun!!!!!!

For March my fitness plan is to work on arms.  (Thank you 30 day fitness challenges).  I kinda made one my own and will keep alternating YouTube videos and treadmill workouts.  I didn't make it to a WERQ class this month so hopefully this month!

What was your favorite book you read in February? Best meal?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Necessary Lies

“Sometimes coloring outside the lines can cost you. Only you can figure out if it’s worth it.”  

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlin is the second book that our Books & Bars Group have read by her and I would definitely recommend it! It's a great book to discuss with others as well.

The book is set 50 years ago in the past.  Jane is a newly married, newly employed social worker with Grace County.  Her husband is a pediatrician who barely humors her desire to work because it makes him feel like others will think his practice is not doing well if she 'has' to work.  He's a bit of an ass.

“All the love in the world doesn't put food on the table.”  

Jane's clients are very poor and some are not very smart.  Be that because of lack of resources or IQ.  One family, the Harts, really connects with Jane.  Her superiors want Jane to sterilize 15 year old Ivy, just like they did her older sister.  However, Jane finds out that they did not tell the girl she was being sterilized because she was a minor and her grandmother signed off on it.  Jane really struggles with putting the paperwork together to have Ivy sterilized as well since her grandmother also signed off for her to have the procedure done as well.

The book delves into the Eugenics Program and the forced sterilization of tons of North Carolina girls and women and men.  Many poor and black.  Is it right to sterilize a 17 year old girl without her knowing? Is it okay to sterilize people that are on welfare? Who gets to decide? It also shows the beginning of the change when women started choosing to work instead of automatically staying home.  About putting a career in front of 'just being a wife.'

“They're threatened by you,' she said. 'You chose to do something they'd never have the gumption to choose for themselves. Being their own person.”  

A great fast paced thought provoking read.

Have you read this book? Have you read any others by Diane Chamberlin? Do you think it is okay to sterilize people without their knowledge?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Suitcase Secrets..

Today I am sharing a post from KJ Steele, the author of The Bird Box that comes out today!

When a dead man speaks people listen. There is just something compelling about a voice that reaches out to us from beyond the grave. I’m not referring to spooks here, but rather to mankind’s phenomenal ability to impress ourselves onto the fabric of this world even long after the physical self has departed.

 Music, literature, art, etc., are some of the common daily communications we have with the dead. The emotive essence lingers on. But for one fragment of society their voices came forward in a much humbler way.

When I set out to write my novel The Bird Box I spent some time on the grounds and in the buildings of a former insane asylum. Although the physical location was beautiful it was best described as a melancholy beauty. The memory of the former patients lingered.

I began to wonder about them. Not as patients but as people. Who were they? Before and during their committal’s? What had their lives been like? Their childhoods? Had they flown kites? Liked kittens? Plums? Had they been bold and adventurous or shy and cautious? What had formed their hopes and dreams and secret fears?

I went to the Mental Health Archives in search of answers. I found none. Researching patient files was often heartbreaking. Not so much by what was written there, but by the lack thereof.

After the initial admittance notes there was very little new information. Staff were busy and it was not uncommon to have whole lives –40–50–60– years condensed down to a few brief notes.

The brevity of it haunted me. Not that I blamed the staff. Their hands were more than full with practical matters. But still, it felt inhumane to me that whole lives had been pared down to a few paltry lines. I wanted to know who these people were. Above and beyond the narrow label of psychiatric patient.

 I was soon to find out. Their voices began a torrent of stories into my mind. They demanded a place on my page. They had stories to tell; lives and loves, laughter and tears. They too had experienced great joys and devastating loss. They had suffered deeply as well and yet none of these things fully defined them.

 Synchronistically, as I was writing their stories I was sent a link to Jon Crispin’s stunningly evocative photographs of the Willard Asylum Suitcases. Jon’s photographs visually dovetailed so perfectly with my written efforts to portray the person behind the label of psychiatric patient that I knew immediately I had to travel to the exhibit The Changing Face of What is Normal in San Francisco to further explore his work.

What followed was an astounding opportunity to speak with the dead. Or rather – listen. Displayed alongside some of Jon’s photographs were the original suitcases and their contents. Each suitcase, no matter how carefully or haphazardly it had been packed for that initial trip to the asylum, spoke volumes to me. Each one was a virtual time-capsule illuminating the individuality of its owner. Bibles and poetry books, family pictures, lotions, musical instruments, detailed diaries, loving letters. Objects as seemingly disparate from one another as mending kits and (in one case) a small hand-gun. Items that symbolically spoke of the desperate need to either mend or end the suffering.

Few people in our society’s history have been so reviled and disenfranchised as the mentally ill. Our discomfort and fear of those we could not understand or control led to some less than glorious years.

Those committed to the care of an asylum were in some ways excommunicated from the rest of humanity. They were held in institutions where their sense of autonomy was met with resistance. Their personal mail was opened and relieved of any unsettling or dissenting content. Their objections were routinely overruled. Not only did they become powerless they became voiceless as well.

Obviously it was far easier to silence people back then in an age before today’s instant and ubiquitous technology. Problematic dissenters were easier to erase; sometimes permanently.

And sometimes not so permanently as evidenced with the Willard suitcases. The contents of the suitcases serve to form an intimate choir of ghostly voices. They speak of each person’s individuality. Of their uniqueness. Some of them give evidence of seemingly competent minds while others show an obviously distorted grip on reality. Mental illness can be frightening. Perhaps to no one more so than to the person caught within its shifting shadows.

The people who filled the wards of the former insane asylums were as individual as they were unique. To paint them all the same would be but an erroneous reverse stroke of history. The contents of the suitcases they left behind now speak formidably for these long dead patients.

I have listened to their stories and endeavored to capture the echo of their hearts and minds in my novel The Bird Box. These were people who contributed to the diversity of life. And their lives mattered.

Here is the description of The Bird Box: Society said they were insane, and in 1954, that was enough to put someone away in an asylum and separate them from the world. Even here, though, it was possible for souls to flourish.

Jakie was one such soul. He was all but lost until he met the girl. She is locked away in a cellar room, but he can feel her presence by imagining he is a small bird visiting her through a hole he has made in a stone wall. He spends hours whistling a cardinal's song to her and she learns to whistle it back to him. She doesn't even know that Jakie exists, only the bird, but their communication is changing her. And the overwhelming, protective love that Jakie feels for the girl will compel him to find more of himself than he ever knew there was – and through this, he will alter their worlds profoundly.

A remarkable exploration of the spirit, a sharp indictment of our blindness to what makes us human, and an unforgettable portrait of the power of the will, The Bird Box will move you in ways you never anticipated.

Have you ever visited a former mental institution? Did you ever have older relatives tell stories about people going to them?