Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Related

So, I am totally cheating and this isn't the Top Ten Tuesday from this week, but a Top Ten Tuesday from back in April that I missed. ;) Thanks to Chelsea for hosting and Erin for the questions!

1. When someone asks you for a book recommendation, what is your go-to book?
Usually "The Help," by Kathryn Stockett or series like the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, Women's Murder Club series by James Patterson, Alex Cross series by Patterson and Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen

2. Do you buy your books, or are you a library patron?
I used to buy a TON of books.  I seriously have over a hunderd unread books in my house.  It is bad.  I have gotten better at using the library but then it hurts my reading books I own, that I need to read! I have also gotten better about weeding out books after I read them to make more space in my house!

3. E-readers, yay or nay?
I'm pretty much anti e-reader because I love books.  But I will admit that I have slightly thought about it, since an e-reader would probably be easy to juggle with a newborn and all our breastfeeding adventures.  But, I am also cheap. ;)

4. What was your favorite book as a child?
I loved Amelia Bedelia books, Little Women, Boxcare children books and Sweet Valley Twins books..

5. If you could be any character in a book, who would you be?
I don't know.  I generally want to be a character in every well-written book that I read, so it changes with every book I read!

6. What book would you love to see turned into a movie?
hmm I'm reluctant for my faves to be turned into movies because they usually get ruined!

7. What is your all-time favorite book?
I don't think I am capable of an all-time favorite.  But my standard answer to this question is Little Women even though I haven't read it in years.

8. How many books do you read at once?
Usually one but sometimes I have 2 or 3 going.  Usually this happens when one or more aren't that good but I feel the need to finish them.  Or they are my baby/pregnancy related books and I keep getting side tracked from them!

9. What is your favorite book genre?
umm i'd say probably contemporary fiction.

10. Which Harry Potter book is the best? Or haven’t you read them at all?
I think it is a tie between the 3rd and the 6th. 

What are some books you have on your summer reading list?

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Isla June is here! She was born Wednesday, May 25th at 11:39pm.  She was 7 pounds 15 ounces and 20 inches long. 

We have been home since Friday and it has been crazy.  I barely get a chance to sit down unless I am feeding her, which is not going well and you would think I would have plenty of time because she sleeps all the time.  But not the case.  Anywho, I will try to update a better update later, but I thought I would let you know she is here! We have taken a ton of pics but have been soo tired and busy I will try to share the few we have already on the computers.

Hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day weekend and I will hopefully try to be able to respond to people slowly hahahah.  Oh and if this doesn't make sense, I blame the lack of sleep.

this is her hospital photo when she was less than 12 hours old.. she already looks a ton different! and her marks are all gone..

a quick family photo.. this is also the day after she was born...

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Blue Orchard - Discussion # 4

(Hey all! Welcome back to our last discussion on The Blue Orchard! We will start our first discussion on Something Borrowed on June 3rd! Lisa kindly led the discussion for this last discussion.  I've really liked hearing how everyone has had different feelings on this book.  I liked it, but I like talking to other people who didn't like certain parts or characters because then it lets you think more about the intentions of the book/author and that is one of the reason I like our reading group! Thanks again this month for Kelly and Lisa for their guest posts.  If you ever want to help out, send me a comment/email and we will make it happen.)

Greetings, it’s Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns!  I’ll be discussing the last section of The Blue Orchard.  At the start of this last section, Verna and Dr. Crampton get arrested and the trial takes place.  

Before I get into my questions, I’ll share my general view on the book.  For whatever reason, I never was able to feel much of a sense of empathy towards the characters in this book.  To some extent, I thought that Verna became this spoiled, materialistic person.  She emphasized how much she spent on clothes – even though Dr. Crampton warned her not to flaunt her wealth.  I didn’t feel like she was assisting in these procedures because she felt it was the right thing to do for these women – she did it because it was extremely lucrative for her.  I should also probably mention that my dislike for the book is largely influenced by my stance on abortions.  I don’t want to even get into that whole discussion because I am not a fan of talking about religion or politics, but I felt like it was a disclosure worth making – mostly because I don’t think it would have mattered how likable the characters were, I probably still would have struggled with the book.

Now for the questions!

  1. Were you surprised that Verna didn’t testify at the 2nd trial? 
  2. Were you surprised that, after going through the trial, Dr. Crampton wanted to continue doing those procedures?  Do you think he wanted to continue to do the procedures because he cared about safety and well-being of women seeking that procedure, or because of the money?
  3. Verna really seems to “find God” at the end of the book.  Do you think this plot twist fit in with the book?  Was it believable to you?
Thanks again Lisa!!! Links to the other three discussions 1 , 2 , 3 !  And thanks to all who participate!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What it means to be human?

[ Source ]

When an author creates a character who feels utterly real, it’s like you’re
inside that character’s soul, and every time you have that experience, it makes
your life a little richer. Reading strengthens our sense of what it means to be
human. – Oprah Winfrey (Ironically, the day after she goes off the air.. ha)

What does this mean to you?

I know when I read, if it is a good book, I get WAAAAY overly involved in the character's lives and feel like they should be making certain choices or doing certain things. I weep with them when they hurt and I rejoice with them when something good happens. A good book, is a good friend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Related Pet Peeves

1. Book Snobs -I ONLY read the classics. I ONLY read YA. Chick Lit is horrendous I ONLY read... Yeah, if you have ever uttered any of those statements or anything like that, I don't like you and roll my eyes at you. Do you want a cookie? Should we be impressed that you don't read books of all kinds? Have fun looking down your nose at the rest of us, while we enjoy books by all authors and of all different sorts of genres!

2. Stereotypical Teen Roles in YA - If it sounds like something straight out of an after school special or a movie about teens as opposed to what teens really say? I'm not a fan.

3. Scenes/Typos/things that are impossible - When Character Y is suddenly talking about something that happened where it was established they were not there or were doing something else then, I notice. If you say something that is just not possible and it is a realistic fiction book? I judge. Typos and grammar errors? I notice. These things bug me.

4. Library books that smell like cigarettes - Ughh.. Talk about a sneezy/headachey read!

5. Murder Mysteries that are so implausible I roll my eyes - I mean, I am sure if I was a REAL detective or lawyer or anyone with REAL (non-book, non-tv knowledge) of courtroom/police dramas more things would bother me. But when I, as just a super fan of reading/watching on tv notice situations that are not plausible nor do they make sense like when the nice old lady is really a psycho kid hating lunatic whodunnit, I judge.

6. Books that cost 20 plus dollars - Okay, I'm cheap. I love the written word and I have bought one or more in my time, but I can't justify that price for a book. It sometimes puts me into a position where I don't read author's new stuff for years because I cannot justify the cost. It's ridiculous! Heck, I won't pay more than 10 dollars to see a movie which gives me just about the same amount of time/satisfaction as buying a book does. And I suck at re-reading. I always mean to do it, but there ARE SO MANY books left out there that I haven't read yet!

7. Children/Baby books that don't make sense - I'm sorry but if there is no effin point to the story I am not buying it for my kid. I wouldn't buy an adult book that has no point, why would I do that to a kid? Do you WANT them to be interested in reading? Parents/readers know that if there are too many words on the page we just make up our own for the kids anyway. Please don't skimp on content!

8. When everything is wrapped up neatly and you want to know more - Okay, so we've traveled with the characters through the tumultuous plot line and now everything is neatly made up and BAM nothing. I would like to continue reading about these people. Don't just end because it's wrapped up!!

9. Yawn worthy details - I frankly don't give two shits about how the reflection of the sun is illuminating the sturdy trees that sway gently in the mid afternoon breeze as the red robin tweets around the park while the boy waits for the blond haired blue eyed most beautiful and fantastically popular girl to meet him by the creaking old swingset by the old wooden barn. When this goes on for paragraphs or pages? I skip or put the book down.

10. Book Blogs that only Review the positive - You can't OMG loooove everything you read. There are flaws to books, it's okay to not like things. But then again, when you whore yourself out to receive free things from people I can see where you OMG looooove everything.

11. When People Think Authors Can't Have Opinions - Or that they can ONLY say nice things about other authors/books. No. Please be honest. Just like I don't want to hear gushing OMG I love's it from people who just whore themselves out for free books, I want REAL opinions by people who have experience with books. Does it have to be cruel? No. But honest, I did not care for that would be nice. But then, I wish for a world where ones opinions didn't somehow magically affect their job.

What are some of your book related pet peeves?

Monday, May 23, 2011

June Group Read is...

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin!

From goodreads: Rachel White is the consummate good girl. A hard-working attorney at a large Manhattan law firm and a diligent maid of honor to her charmed best friend Darcy, Rachel has always played by all the rules. Since grade school, she has watched Darcy shine, quietly accepting the sidekick role in their lopsided friendship. But that suddenly changes the night of her thirtieth birthday when Rachel finally confesses her feelings to Darcy's fiance, and is both horrified and thrilled to discover that he feels the same way. As the wedding date draws near, events spiral out of control, and Rachel knows she must make a choice between her heart and conscience. In so doing, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk everything to be true to yourself.

We will be once again be having four different discussions on Friday's.  Anyone and everyone is invited to participate any time they can, and you can always go back and update the old discussions if you fall behind! ;) Also, this recently came out as a movie, so if you want to talk about the differences between the book and the film go at it! If someone does read the book and see the movie and want to do a special guest post on it, let me know and we will work something out. ;)

Discussions will be:
Discussion 1 - June 3rd over Chapters 1-7
Discussion 2 - June 10th over Chapters 8-13
Discussion 3 - June 17th over Chapters 14-19
Discussion 4 - June 20th over Chapters 20-26

The past couple of months, Kelly and Lisa have been awesome and have led discussions for us, which is always much appreciated by me! If you would like to lead one of the discussions, email me or leave a comment and let me know which day would work best for you! I just need to have the discussion by the Wednesday before you sign up so I can have it ready to go by that Friday! Can't wait to see who is planning on joining us this month. 

Leave a comment and let me know if you are planning to join in!

Date a Girl Who Reads..

This quote has been shared quite a few times on different blogs and every time I read it, I smile. It makes me want to grab a cup of coffee, snuggle in and lose myself in the world of books. So, grab a cup of coffee, snuggle in and find yourself in this quote. [Note: I don't condone lying to your significant other, being a book snob or insulting women's intelligence by assuming they don't know what they are talking about. ]

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You'll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She's the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That's the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She's the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she's kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author's making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

[ Source ]

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce's Ulysses she's just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or if she would like to be Alice. (I do have a problem with this paragraph. Nothing like insulting women's intelligence.)

It's easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by God, she's going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world. (Also, not a fan of this part...)

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She'll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she's sick. Over Skype. (Or on a random Thursday while you are getting ready to head out for beer and nachos with friends, as she is dancing half-naked around an apartment... )

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn't burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you're better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

- Rosemary Urquico

Saturday, May 21, 2011

In Big Trouble

So, my library came through for me and through inter-library loans I got to pick up In Big Trouble by Laura Lippman on Thursday night and flew through it, just like the others.

In this book, Tess gets a newspaper clipping with a picture of Crow (her ex boyfriend ) with the words In Big Trouble above his head.  With a little push from Kitty, she calls his mom and ends up headed to Austin, Texas to figure out what the heck is up with Crow.

When she gets to Austin, she can't find Crow but does run into a former band member of Poe White Trash.  With tips from him she ends up stumbling upon a dead body.  This is just the beginning of her new friendship with various Texas police departments and not the only dead body she finds while in Texas.

What Big Trouble is Crow in? Who is this mysterious Yoko Ohno who he is hanging with? You should probably read it and find out!

This one made me giggle a few times with some good one liners.  Definitely recommend and with 4 books into the 11 book series, I am still liking it. ;)

Have you ever been to Texas? How's the Mexican food where you live?

Don't forget to vote on June's Group Read... Will be posting the winner tomorrow!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Blue Orchard - Discussion # 3

(Hello everyone! This week's discussion is hosted by the wonderful Kelly! This is the third section of The Blue Orchard and I hope you are all enjoying it.  By the way, you can always go back and comment on the previous discussions, as I am always checking back and responding.  It's nice to talk about things we read.  I really like what Kelly has to say about forgiveness and how it relates to the book.  Totally, not something I picked up on but reading what she has to say makes me think more about what the book said and different meanings.  To catch up here are links to Discussion 1 and Discussion 2.  Next week, Lisa will finish us up with The Blue Orchard.  Don't forget to vote in the sidebar for June's Group Read!)

Hi, it's Kelly again from She Wears a Red Sox Cap. This time I am leading the discussion of pages 193-290 of The Blue Orchard. I planned to summarize the important events in this section but I'm having trouble keeping everyone and everything straight in this book so it's probably best if I focus mainly on the discussion so as not to confuse anyone! This section got a little political because of the situation with Crampton, and I think it was probably lack of effort/caring that made it hard for me to pay attention here. On a personal level though, Verna decides to stop going out for drinks with Dewey. She also learns from Dora's boyfriend Chet that Dewey has been cheating on her. Dewey also decides to move and become a farmer so they are no longer really living together. Also, Verna's son Sam joins the military after a fight with her and Dewey. On the job front, Verna loses her first patient and is very affected by this. Crampton begins to lose his influence and Verna discovers he has raised his price without telling her or raising what she receives for it. He is also investigated by the IRS for not paying taxes. Finally, at the end of this section Sam sends Verna a long letter about his time in Korea and signs it "Love, Sam." At the end of this section, Verna is arrested.

I feel like I should say that I don't love this book. I love the idea of it, meaning that the author did interviews with his grandmother to tell a true story about her life. I like the historic aspect of it and learning more about that time period and the people who struggled through it. On the other hand I am just not loving Verna as a character. One of the parts of this section that I liked was the overwhelming theme of forgiveness. For example, Sally (Dewey's daughter) actually forgives her father for leaving her at an orphanage after her mother passed away! It seems as though Sam may forgive Verna for leaving him as a child as well, based on his kind letters to his mom. Verna also mentions at one point believing that Crampton forgives white people, even though he still has to eat in his hotel room or stay in different hotels because black and white people are not allowed at the same places.

Verna, on the other hand, doesn't seem like she forgives much at all, or that she's really learned at all from her hardships and experiences. Some quotes that really stuck out to me:

"How dare she be angry? Doesn't she know she's lucky to have me as a customer?" (page 267)

"I'm forty-two years old and suddenly aware that despite my life's hardships, I've enjoyed certain privileges not open to all, not the least of which is the opportunity to feel better than someone whose skin is darker than mine. The shame burns, because I now must recognize how much I resent having my advantage over a Negro questioned."

In the second quote it does seem she is at least recognizing how unfair her thoughts are. However, she still holds a lot of anger towards people in her life. I guess even though I feel a lot of sympathy for people who have had many hardships in their lives. In the end, I want a good success story and I want them to overcome these obstacles. Sure, Verna has become "successful" in that she makes a lot of money, but she is really not a very nice person in the end. Well, by the end... I mean the end of this section! I haven't read past it yet :)

Here are some questions for you guys:

Do you feel that Verna has learned from her negative experiences or have they just made her bitter and/or feel like she deserves more? Does she forgive those responsible for her hardships?

Do you feel Verna is successful because she has accomplished more than her mom?

Do you think Mr. Wertzes tears were the result of regret? Was he asking her forgiveness? Do you imagine his change of attitude was because of his change of position in life?

Do you, as a reader, forgive Verna for her questionable choices? Do you forgive Dewey for his choices? Would you forgive either of them if you were one of their children?

Thanks Kelly! Next, Friday we will be over Book Three Chapter 15 - the end.  Can't wait to hear all of you!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Butcher's Hill

How predictive am I? I find a series and start plowing through.  The sad thing is, my library randomly doesn't have book number 4.  They had 2, 3 and they have 5 and 6 and I haven't ventured further to see what else they have and don't but who doesn't have the 1st book and the 4th??? Seriously.  So, now I am on the wait list for it to come from another library, and am on a Tess Monaghan hiatus. 

Butcher's Hill is the beginning of Tess Monaghan's private investigator business all on her own.  Well, she has a silent partner and Tyner to help, but she is doing it on her own.  Yay, Tess.  Her first customer is the Butcher of Butcher's Hill.  He was recently let out of prison after 5 years for killing a young boy who was a neighborhood hoodlum.  He wants Tess to find the hoodlums friends to see if they need any money and to apologize to them.

Her next client, Mary Browne, wants help finding her lost sister.  Or does she?

The suspense heats up when the kids Tess has been hired to find start ending up dead after someone broke into her office, and Mary Browne is not Mary Browne. 

I really liked this one and have definitely seen that Lippman's writing has improved from the first book.  Looking back the first book was kind of clunky and since they have streamlined into less random details and more focused writing.  Can't wait to read the next one!

The book also had an interesting insight into the welfare/adoptive/foster care system and how much people get paid for help.  Like for a welfare mom she would get say 200 a month, foster care 500 and to adopt people pay like 10,000.  Quite interesting.  How much is a kid worth? Sad.

Any book series I should check out now that I am waiting for the next book?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

40 weeks!!

40 weeks due date... now where is she???? ;)

How far along? 40 weeks
Weight gain/loss: up 17 pounds
Stretch marks? yeah, ew.
Sleep? Last night was probably the worst night of sleep I've had.  I woke up about every hour and never felt like I slept in between.  Now I feel all sleepy and blah today.
Best moment this week? My bff and her family are in town and I was excited that she finally got to see me pregnant and they brought our baby girl some really sweet gifts!
Food cravings: Sweet tea, chicken salad and potato chips ha.
Gender: Girl
Belly button in or out? in.. it's quite cute.
Movement? has definitely slowed down but she gets feisty if you poke her.
What I miss? peeing like a normal person
What I'm looking forward to: meeting my daughter
Milestones: Hit my due date!

Had my appointment today and while I've made a little progress and my cervix is softening it's not looking like her birthday.  So on to trying about every natural way of bringing on labor.  Kind of disappointed about the lack of progress because I was really hoping to be further along today but that's okay she's just not ready.  But she better be ready by next week or she is coming anyhow.  Would prefer if she would do it on her own.  I don't really want to be induced but I also do not want to be pregnant into Memorial Day Weekend/June so it is what it is and I am okay with that.  Just hoping it works out on its own because I would prefer not to have to take pitocin.  But I will go into it knowing that it s MY choice, as it should be.  Not anyone elses.   They may not agree or like it, but whatever, it's my choice and it is not being made lightly.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Charm City

The second book in the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman did not disappoint either! I read this in basically one day.  I stayed up til after midnight to finish. ;)

I never realized the first one was kind of clunky with over info until I read this one and realized it was much better written.  Practice makes perfect.

In this installment, Tess is hired by the Beacon-Light to try to find out who put the un-authorized story on the front page of the paper.  A side drama, also involves her inheriting a greyhound after her Uncle Spike is beaten into a coma during a robbery at his bar. 

I really find Tess to be a likable enjoyable character who is real.  She makes mistakes, she isn't perfect and she gets her heart broken every now and then.  My kind of character. 

If you like Stephanie Plum books you will definitely like the Tess Monaghan series!

What are you reading right now?

(The poll for the June Group Read will be put up later today!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baltimore Blues

I may have a slight obsession with reading series.  I hate when you read a good book and it is over.  No more.  The character you've cried with, laughed with, felt for is no longer a part of your life.  I hate that feeling.  With a series, you keep getting more and more of your favorite people!

I first heard of the Tess Monaghan series probably in November/December of last year when I read my first book by Lippman and decided that I must try out this series.  Now another pet peeve, when the local library has PARTS of a series but not the whole series.  Yeah, they had the second-whatever but not the first book in the series.. Umm what?? So one day I just ordered it off Amazon because dangit, I wanted to start the series!

I finally got around to it, and I must say Baltimore Blues did not disappoint! It was a good mystery, with a bit of humor and introduced likable enjoyable characters.

Tess Monaghan is an out of work reporter who has been an out of work reporter for 2 years, when the newspaper she worked for went under.  Since then she has worked at a bookstore her aunt owns and does some freelance work for her uncle.  Besides that, she rows every morning.  A pretty low key life.  Oh and she randomly sleeps with an ex boyfriend. ;)

When her best rowing buddy, Rock, comes to her with a proposition (30 dollars an hour!!) she of course jumps at it.  Even though, it entails trailing Rock's girlfriend, Ava to see if she is cheating on him.  This starts the beginning of the drama, where she follows Ava to a hotel, catches her shoplifting and ultimately leads to a dead body, with Rock to blame.

Tess is thrown into a new 'career' of private investigator and finds that she really likes it.

I really liked that there were lots of pieces thrown around but all neatly connected to the main mystery and not too over done.  I would say out of the 2 other Lippman books this was my favorite.  I am definitely starting the next in the series, Charm City, after I finish typing this.

Have you ever been to Baltimore? (Another reason I liked this is because of all the details of the Baltimore area.. Lippman worked in Baltimore and it makes me want to visit!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Easy Pasta Recipe

I saw this Creamy Artichoke Recipe on Iowa Girl Eats the other day and decided that I wanted to make something similar for dinner.  It was super easy and tasty!

1 tablespoon butter
EVOO around the pan
2 celery stalks chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
a quarter of a small onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes of your choice
1/2 cup milk
2 handfuls mozzarella cheese

First, cook pasta in salted, boiling water.  Drain and return to the hot pot.

At the same time, melt butter and EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add celery, onions, and basil, then saute until slightly softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute more.  Next time, I would maybe even add carrots or bell peppers if I had them..

Add the tomatoes to the skillet.  (Next time I would probably add red pepper flakes for a kick.)  I let this cook in the skillet for about 7 minutes.  Then add the milk and heat for another minute or 2. 

Dump generous handfuls of cheese on the cooked pasta and then pour in the sauce.  Mix well and eat!!

  I really enjoyed it.  It was quick, easy and enjoyable.  My husband who HAS to have meat with everything warmed up some leftover brats we had and ate it with it.  I would also consider making it with chicken, or Italian sausage.  I would have liked more of a kick, so maybe red pepper flakes or use diced tomatoes that have a kick.  I just used Italian seasoned diced tomatoes.

What's your favorite easy pasta?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Something Inside of Me

Okay, all you dirty pervs who got here because of the title, please kindly exit.  No pervy stuff involved.

Something Inside of Me: How to Hang On To Heaven When You're Going Through Hell is a memoir by Chitoka Webb that I was kindly given an ARC copy to review by JKS Communications.  As always, all thoughts, opinions and what not are clearly my own and unpaid for.

Ms. Webb's memoir shares her struggle with not finishing high school on time, becoming a barber, opening her own barbershop, opening not one but two health care facilities, designing her own barbershop from the ground up, health problems and briefly mentions being molested as a child.

It is a very inspirational story, definitely written for those who are looking for inspiring quotes, life lessons and a positive outlook when life has you down.  This book is FULL of positive quotes and cliches.

However, it really disappointed me.  I strongly believe that you need to catch a reader at the beginning and this book failed to do that.  I honestly would have put it down if I hadn't felt obligated to finish it, since I was graciously given a copy.  There were a few chapters in the middle which described her time in Atlanta and her struggles in beginning her businesses that were really good and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  But I spent a lot of time, skimming and skipping over or not caring about what was being said because it didn't move me.

I enjoy hearing/reading about people overcoming obstacles as much as the next person, but Ms. Webb's remarkable struggle and positive outlook just didn't do it for me, but I am sure there are others out there who would love the inspirational tone of the book. 

Also, I am nit picky and I didn't quite understand how she didn't graduate high school until her mid-twenties and yet the date given in the book says she graduated a year after she was supposed to graduate high school.  I also think her family dynamic needed better explaining, because I find it hard to believe her mother never asked or allowed her obvious lie on why she didn't graduate on time to fly. She also mentioned that she was always 'dffierent' but I never really got a true sense of why she was different.  I think the book was a lot of rambling and needed more of a purpose.  There is a great story in her struggles but I don't think this memoir does it justice.

I will say that reading about a woman barber was fascinating.  I don't think I have actually ever heard of a woman barber nor seen one before.

Something Inside of Me: How to Hang on to Heaven When You're Going Through Hell comes out July 1st, 2011.

What is one of the biggest struggles you have overcome so far in your own life?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Blue Orchard - Discussion # 2

Welcome back to our second discussion on The Blue Orchard by Jackson Taylor.  Any and all are welcome to participate.  This discussion covers from pg. 96 through pg. 192.

When we left off, Verna had just been booted back home but didn't stay there for long.  I am amazed at the amount of jobs she had.  It really seems like it was quite easy to get a job back then, even though it did get harder with the Depression.  I really enjoyed following along on her journey to become a nurse but found that sometimes I couldn't remember a name or place who someone was, when they were just referred to with their first name, and other times I got confused because they referred to someone (like Norm) by their full name and I didn't understand the need.  Oh, well.

"I stare away from him with blank eyes and a sudden dislike because I know that he cannot stop me no matter what ridicule passes his lips." pg. 120

Speaking of Norm, I was getting sooo frustrated with her relationship with him.  She knew he was awful and that she wasn't going to marry him, so WHY DID SHE TAKE FOREVER TO break up with him? Though, she was still young and naive and still had a lot of growing up to do.  The Verna by the end of this section would not have put up with him for long at all.  Yet, she puts up with Dewey who doesn't do anything for his children and appears to be an alcoholic.

It's also a little alarming, knowing what is coming that their business, even though illegal is apparently known to EVERYONE.  Yet, somehow it all remains kosher until it isn't anymore.  And that very angry patient Verna had at the end of this section makes me wonder, how many others wouldn't have turned on them in a New York Minute to save themselves from some kind of trouble.  Yet, Dr. Crampton (he he Cramp) does have friends in high places.

Questions from the Reading Guide (Simon & Schuster's site) and from myself..

1. "There is no substitute for character and you never know where you'll find it.  I weep at how many deaths we all endure before our own takes us." pg. 109 What does this quote mean to you?

2. Do you think Sam has an idea of what his mom's job is? If so, how do you think he feels about it, especially now that he is living with her?

3. Compare Verna's opinion of Dr. Crampton before she meets him to her view of him during their first encounter. How does their relationship change over the years, both on a professional and a personal level?

4. Verna admits to Dewey, "I don't think the world of men. They've always made me suffer" (page 158). Discuss Verna's encounters and relationships with the various men in her life—Mr. Wertz, Murphy, Charles Dennis, Norm, and Dewey. Why does she continue to see Charles Dennis throughout the years despite his deception?

5. What motivates Verna to succeed? Why is she able to rise above her circumstances in a way that her mother was never able to do? How much is Verna impacted by her mother's attitude toward Buckley versus her daughters?

Thanks for participating! I can't wait to hear what you all have to say in the comments! Next week, the discussion will be led by Kelly from She Wears a Red Sox Cap . Our discussion will cover pgs. 193- pg. 290.  Can't wait!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Suggestions for June Group Read!

It's that time of month again! Share your picks for next month's group read! Try to make it something that is easy accessible (ie... library or cheap somewhere!)

Here are books we have already read....
The Blue Orchard
Sammy's Hill
 In the Woods
 Shanghai Girls
The Weight of Water
Water for Elephants
The Color Purple
The One That I Want
The Secret Garden
House Rules
 American Wife
Firefly Lane
The Reader The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Awakening
Pride & Prejudice
 I See You Everywhere

June is the beginning of summer and it makes me think of fun with friends and sun and basically books based by the ocean or that are about trips to the beach.. Perhaps, you might have a book like this you've been dying to read... Suggest it! Or anything for that matter! Expand our minds.. ;)

Suggestions will be open until May 17th when I add the poll to the side bar!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

39 weeks!

39 weeks! that is a normal shirt with a pregnancy tank underneath.. and a stretchy skirt from Old Navy

How far along? 39 weeks
Weight gain/loss: up 13 pounds
Stretch marks? yeahhhhh
Sleep? I go to bed around 10:30 or 11 and get up for good anywhere from 6:30 and 8... I wake up about 4-6 times to pee...
Best moment this week? realizing that we are readdddddddy!
Food cravings: sweet things
Gender: Girl
Belly button in or out? In
Movement? it has definitely slowed down but she gets real active for the spurts when she is moving around.
What I miss? the ease of just peeing when i need to pee and not have to re-adjust because she is pushing on the bladder and making me feel like i have to pee soooo bad but i cant go.. ugh.
What I'm looking forward to: meeting my baby girl!
I am so glad that I have had such an easy pregnancy and still feel fabulous! It's been awesome but I am ready to meet my baby girl, but I know that is going to be bigggggggggggggg change to our lifestyle! But I cannot wait to see her!

And she might have a name.. maybe...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Traveling with Kids

Kelly wrote this post back in March about traveling with kids and the different places in the U.S. that CNN Budget Travel deemed Must See's by Age 15. It got me thinking about how I have only been to 2 of those spots in my 27 years (Disney World at age 16 and Niagara Falls on the Canadian side ate age 20). We love traveling, mostly to warm locations that include a beach and fruity drinks and some Jimmy Buffett, but I also am a history nerd and would love to travel and take our kids to Washington D.C., Philadelphia and other historical landmarks/cities.

As a child, I did most of my traveling within the mid-west. We spent many summers in Northern Michigan staying at Burt Lake, Lake Ann, Spider Lake, Traverse City and the Upper Peninsula. We also visited places in Ohio near my grandparents, Neil Armstrong Museum, Toledo Zoo, Sea World and a really cool re-enactment in Chillicothe about Tecumseh (history nerd, remember?).

Anyhoo, I want our kids to experience different things and go on vacations as a family. And I still want to enjoy vacations with just the hubby. Here are a list of places that I want my kids to experience before they are 15.

Traverse City, MI - I LOOOOOVEEEEEEEEE Traverse City in the summer. There are wineries, beautiful lakes & beaches and tons of houses/resorts/camp grounds to check out.

Florida - A beach vacation is needed. I love Ft. Myers and my parents adore Anna Maria Island. I am not picky. We just need to go at least once to a beach in Florida, preferably on the Gulf Side. ;)

Upper Peninsula of Michigan - I think this is a must for any Michigander in their childhood. There is so much to see and it is so pretty! I would love to take a random camping trip through the U.P. and see as much as we can, including the Beautiful Tahquamenon Falls. I haven't been there since I was 14 and it was gorgeous!

Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn MI - I also think this is a must-see for Michiganders. It has sooo much history and helps explain about our beautiful state.

Washington D.C. - A part of me doesn't really want to take my kids there until middle school or high school. I think that would be the ideal age to appreciate everything. However, if they are as nerdy as us, they will definitely enjoy it!

Comerica Park - They have to experience professional baseball at least once. And what better way than visiting the D and seeing the Tigers. ;)

Ohio Stadium - MOST DEFINITELY. Because of course all our children will pick the correct team and be cheering for the Buckeyes!!! I am so excited to share in my kids first experience at The Shoe. I just hope that I can be in attendance to see their face when the Bucks take the field! Going to have to utilize Grandpa's season tickets. ;)

Local Theatre Productions - This is something that is important to me. Exposing my kids to theater and musicals and plays. We live near two very very good local groups that put on fabulous productions.

So, my list is a bit unconventional and a tad short, but I am trying to be realistic here! There are also other locations that get semi-included under the broad topics I listed. Like the U.P. trip? Totally going to include Mackinaw Island, Soo Locks, ghost towns and more. Traverse City? I also encompass that as in my kids will enjoy time on the Lake Michigan side of Michigan and see some darn good sunsets. ;) Also, we plan on camping a lot and seeing things that way. But I think this list is an achievable/reasonable look at what I hope to accomplish with my kids in the next 15 years!

What do you want to share with your children? Any favorite childhood vacation memories?

Monday, May 9, 2011

All 4 Alabama

As everyone knows, the South was hit pretty hard by tornadoes a few weeks ago on April 27th.  Particularly the state of Alabama.  Some wonderful ladies have organized All 4 Alabama whose goal is to raise money for those affected by these storms. 

They have chosen two areas Phil Campbell and Hackleburg, AL that are small middle of nowhere places whose residents have been devastated by the tornadoes.  These places aren't close to the bigger cities but need just as much, if not more help.  All money raised will go directly to these two towns to give help to those who no longer have homes, jobs, or familiar surroundings.  ENTIRE neighborhoods have been destroyed.  The morning coffee you grab at your local gas station? Their gas station is GONE. NO MORE.

All 4 Alabama will be holding auctions starting tomorrow, May 10th, to raise money.  Or you can donate directly on their site http://all4alabamarelief.blogspot.com/ .  A link to the rules is here http://all4alabamarelief.blogspot.com/p/so-how-will-this-work.html .

 If you are a reader like me, I know that you will be interested to know that they have had contributions from Megan McCafferty, Beth Revis, Kelley Armstrong, Bree Despain, Lindsey Leavitt, Rachel Hawkins, Jennifer Echols, and Irene Latham.  Make sure you check it out!

And, if you could do them a huge favor, would you mind spreading the word? Twitter, facebook, word of mouth, all would be fabulous ways to help raise money for areas in Alabama who are truly hurting.

Another way to help?

Thanks to author Lindsey Leavitt, if you make a purchase at ANY Barnes & Noble or on their website between May 7th - May 14th and use bookfair # 1048605 10 percent of the sales using this code go to United Way's West Alabama Tornado Relief. 

I know I did not do this great idea justice, so for more information check out these awesome blog posts about the All 4 Alabama Auction!

Crystal one of the organizer's of All 4 Alabama

Jessica Writes..

And don't forget to check out the All 4 Alabama site!

Thank you for reading, spreading the word and helping those people who have lost everything.  I cannot even imagine.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Blue Orchard - Discussion #1

Welcome to the first discussion of Jackson Taylor's The Blue Orchard! The Blue Orchard is our May Group Read and any and all are welcome to participate.  Every Friday and May we talk about a different section.  This first discussion covers the Prologue through page 96 or the end of chapter 24.

First off, I am loving it so far! I really wish I could focus more, not be distracted by the Internet because in theory I should already be done with this book, but I keep just grabbing bits of time to read, but every time I read I get sucked in!

Brief recap/ My Random Thoughts: Verna is forced to leave school at 14 to take care of her family, even though she has an older brother who is a big waste of space.  (LAME!) She works for a family on a farm, where the man of the farm is scum and treats her badly.. Again, LAME.  Then she works for a roadside restaurant out of town, moves and works in Reading, works in Harrisburg and then Philadelphia before she is sent home again.  This is all before she is in her mid-twenties! That is crazy.  And that is just talking about her working life. 

She definitely has been unlucky in the male department with not being 19 and having had an abortion because of a married man and a child with a married man.  I feel bad for her, but you'd think with as smart as she is, she'd be a little smarter with men.  But she is very very young and it is a different time.

Quotes that resonated...

"Her dress is spotted with milk and porridge and I know she feels ashamed at not looking washed in front of a schoolteacher." pg. 11 

-Huh. How far our level of respect towards teachers has fallen, no?? I mean have you seen how parents show up for parent teacher conferences or to pick their kids up from school? Or how they TALK to teachers? LAME.

"I could barely believe it when your ma told me that you were in trouble.  You always seemed like a leader in your family.  I guess you discovered the hard way that a girl who's sneaky finds consequences.  One sin leads to another." - Aunt Varnie pgs. 45&46

- WTF dude? I really find it hard to believe that even women (especially in her FAMILY) were naive enough to think that SHE asked for the trouble or was OKAY with her trouble.  Riiiight.  Yeah, let's send a 14 year old girl to work on a farm with a perverted man and see how it turns out. 

Taken from conversations with Jackson Taylor (also from the Simon & Shuster site..)

The Blue Orchard is based on your grandmother's life. Why was it important for you to share Verna's story?
The lives of people we come from are filled with exquisite, concrete clues that can be examined to understand childhood, the world, and ourselves, and to recognize how many ways we resemble the rest of our species. The study of the real record adds perspective to the ways anyone might look at the youth of their parents or grandparents.

During the years of research, the historian's voice in me kept questioning: How? Why? My grandmother wasn't easily impressed by people, so I wanted to know the nature of this man who'd earned so much respect.

How did you make certain to present an honest portrait of Verna, both her good qualities and her flaws? Was there ever a tendency to gloss over certain aspects or incidents?
Verna could be deeply reflective about herself. I tried to weigh out and imagine those personal ruminations. It is also important for any writer to recognize that it is never going to be possible to tell "the" truth. The best we can aspire to is "a" truth, or a version of the truth as we might happen to see it.

How would you describe The Blue Orchard—and Verna—to people who have not yet read it?
It's a novel about a woman who wrestles with adversity amid a particular time and history that is difficult for our country to come to terms with.

Questions (some taken and adapted from Simon&Shuster's Reading Group Guide)

1. In the Prologue, Verna candidly describes herself and the circumstances of her arrest, even admitting some of her flaws. What was your impression of her after reading the Prologue? In what ways did this initial introduction of Verna influence how you viewed her through this first section?

2. Do you think John and Delia will come back into the picture? How do you suppose Verna is going to get into nursing?

3. What do you think is going to happen to Verna now that she has left Philadelphia?

Thanks for participating! Next Friday we will discuss from Chapter 25 (pg.96) through Book Two's Chapter 18 (pg. 192). 

Can't wait to hear from you!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chicken Ranch Pasta Salad!

Last week I was looking around for quick and easy light summer pasta recipes to start a collection to be able to grab from and I came across the Ranch Turkey Pasta Salad and it looked amazing! So I adapted and came up with the Ranch Turkey Pasta Salad!

- 8 ounces of pasta
- onion (1/2 of a small about)
- 1 carrot
- 1 green pepper
- 1 chicken breast
- cheese (as much as you want)
- bacon bits (as much as you want)
- between 1/2 cup to 1 cup ranch

First, I cooked my pasta and then ran it under cold water.  In the mean time I cooked up chicken breast and cut my veggies/cheese.

Here are the veggies.  I would totally add peas or celery or whatever you had at the time.  This is what we had.  I would also think of maybe cutting up tomato and putting it on the individual servings as a topper.

Cheese.. yunmmmm.. this is cheddar... and it reminds me I have more in my fridge to eat !!!

Here is the chicken that I cooked with EVOO, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  I would maybe think of marinating it ahead of time.  But I'm not sure what you would want to use.  Maybe even some EVOO and some chili pepper or cracked pepper for some kick?

After the pasta is cooked and cooled (rinsing under cold water).  Stir in ranch.  I used a full cup and I kind of think that might have been too much (the other recipe called for 2 cups and that would be RIDICULOUS!).  I would start at maybe 1/2 cup and adjust as you add.  Then I added in the chicken, and veggies and cheese and stirred it around really well.  Then topped with bacon bits! I put it in the in fridge for about a half an hour before we ate but even longer would make it better.  It was awesome as leftovers!

Yum!!!! Definitely recommend! It was a nice cold salad!

What is your favorite cold salad to eat in the summer?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

38 weeks!

38 weeks!

How far along? 38 weeks
Weight gain/loss: up 13 pounds

Stretch marks? ::cries::: yes.. under my belly.. hoping they fade after awhile.. sad sad sad
Sleep? it is great when i am doing it.. i wake every 2 hours or 1.5 or 1 hour depending on how much water i drink in the later part of the day..
Best moment this week? hearing that my darling is around 5 or 5 1/2 pounds right now.. and will probably be 7 or 7 1/2 at birth.. i know this is totally a guess but it makes me feel good.. and that it is no where near my husbands 11 pounds 3 ounces.. phew!
Food cravings: Chocolate
Gender: Girl
Belly button in or out? In
Movement? it is definitely slowing down.. but she is pretty active around 9-10 in the morning and then for about 45 minutes or so in the afternoon and then in the evening for another 45 or so and then just before i go to bed she kicks a bit and then sometimes in the middle of the night when i am up she gives me a kick or so.  Oh and apparently she doesn't want to be named Merry.. or so I say because I was reading that name (in my head) and she gave me a really hard painful rib kick.. duly noted child.
What I miss? just normal eating/drinking patterns.
What I'm looking forward to:  meeting my girl!

Monday, May 2, 2011

April At A Glance

Books Read
14. The Keepsake – Tess Gerritsen (April 2nd)
15. Sammy’s Hill – Kristin Gore (April 20th)
16. Ice Cold – Tess Gerritsen (April 22nd)
17. The Baby Name Wizard – Laura Wattenberg (April 23rd)
18. The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book – Grace Hamlin (April 24th)

I think Ice Cold was probably my favorite read this month and Sammy's Hill being the least favorite.  Out of the baby name books, I enjoyed both but probably liked The Penguin Classic Baby Name Book slightly more because of the literary references.  Though the set up of The Baby Name Wizard was good too.  I really like their website and it was like the website, just slightly out of date since I got those two from the library!

Currently Reading: The Blue Orchard by Jackson Taylor (AND LOVING IT!)

Movies Watched:  Informant, The Hangover, Blood Diamond and Wall Street Money Never Sleeps

I can't even remember watching Informant so I am going to guess it was just so-so.  The Hangover was our millionth time re-watching it and I still love it! Blood Diamond was a re-watch and I still like it.  Funny, I like Leo in like every movie but Titanic! And I fell asleep during Wall Street Money Never Sleeps sooo I will go with what my hubby said and just tell you that the original was better.  (He watched that when I went to bed early on Friday).

Favorite Photos:

this is me opening up a knitted hat from one of my husband's aunts at our shower.. not sure if I shared this one or not!

this is one of my favorite outfits from the shower.. cute lil pink and orange monkey outfit.. it comes with an orange top and a white top.. and i may have bought a bow/headband that matches this perfectly the other night!

this is the blanket that my husband's cousin made us on the glider in the nursery!

not a great picture but this is owl decals that we have over the crib!

Favorite Recipes:  I didn't share any recipes on the blog this month but I did make a fabulous Chicken Ranch Pasta Salad that I will share eventually with you all.  It was fabulous!!

What were your highlights of April?