Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Influenza Interruptus

More than 15 people throughout my family, including me, have contracted a nasty flu bug just in time for the holidays! I will be back to regular blogging as soon as I can. In the meantime, STAY HEALTHY!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all the best this joyous holiday! I'll be back some time next week. Hope Santa was good to you! :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Finery

Early last week I got a bug in my craw that I needed to sew a skirt to wear on Christmas day. I don't know why I impose seemingly impossible deadlines on myself when it comes to crafting. John gets leery of the ambition in my eye as I explain my newest and greatest crafting feat. Again, I was inspired by Disney over at Ruffles and Stuff. I wish she would blog all day everyday; she's got the best ideas. This is my take on her Murphy ruffled layer skirt. This is the tutorial I followed. In addition to crafting my own Christmas outfit, I thought I could also certainly up-cycle a skirt and then it wouldn't cost me a red cent. (John liked this part)

Here is the skirt I started with. I got it for Christmas many years ago. It's an ankle length, a-line, red and black wool plaid skirt.....that was about 2 sizes too big for me. While I liked it, it was no longer flattering and destined for the Goodwill pile, from whence I rescued it. How is it that Sadie always finds herself in my pictures? She's so cute.

This was not an easy project. Number one, despite the length of the skirt, I didn't really have as much fabric as I needed. Ruffles need LOTS of fabric, yo! Number two, my normal tight tension-long stitch ruffling technique did not work at all for me. I don't know if it was the material or the crappy thread I was using but I had to gather every layer by hand, multiple times. And thirdly, said crappy thread was CRAP! I am not sure what was going on there. My bobbin thread broke every single time I started sewing. It was a big test on my patience. There were times when it was touch and go and I wasn't sure I'd finish. But.....

Ta-daaaaa!!! Unfortunately, the ruffles don't photograph very well. I'll try to take a better picture on Christmas when everyone is marveling at my handiwork. I have another full body shot but the sweater makes me look lumpy and my hair is crazy. I have since decided to just wear a thin shirt on top instead of this bulky nonsense. Black leggings, check. Handmade super cute ruffly skirt, check. Awesome Christmas day outfit...CHECK CHECK CHECK!

Anyway, I'm pleased as punch with the results. Well, I'm pleased as punch now. When I first finished it, I was a little disappointed. I thought it would flare out a lot more. The straightness made me think totally 80's. But, after a few outside opinions and trying it on a week later, NOW I'm pleased as punch. Even though I have to put it on over my head. Oops. It's way comfortable though. Success!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

This past summer, I had a fantastic idea. I was going to knit everyone on my gift list a pair of socks. And I was going to start well in advance. Brilliant. Never mind the fact that I had never knit any socks before and knowing full well that they can be quite tricky, especially turning the heel. Also knowing that I have a lot of trouble knitting in the round. No matter. Piece of cake. I found some great variegated yarn and a relatively easy to follow pattern and then I got busy. I worked night after night, cursing my double pointed needles that I thought might help me knit in the round. I was wrong. Dropping stitches, losing count, pulling out my hair. How did I do?

Yep, that's my first....and last sock. I didn't even get one inch of the cuff finished. It was so hard! I needed a knitting coach. I needed more gumption. Despite my June start date, I needed more time. So, maybe I ought to revisit this endeavor in January. That means I have just over a week to steel my reserve and bolster my knitting spirits. We shall see........

Monday, December 20, 2010

Early Christmas Chez G

I can't believe I forgot to tell you about this. There has been so much going on since we got back from our Texas Thanksgiving trip that I plum forgot! This one is a doozy. I have wanted a treadmill of my own, honest injun, all my life. Even before I was really a runner, I knew that having a treadmill mere steps away from being lazy on the couch would make a huge difference in my fitness life. Well, guess what......?

Santa (AKA: my parents) came early! I love this thing so much. I know that it's totally going to revolutionize my winter workouts. John and I could not stop smiling on our first runs on this baby. He's on it right now as I type this. My turn is next. This also means no more sharing a 2 lane track at the rec center with old people walking side by side in dress shoes. Huzzah!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'm in love

Isn't this the cutest headband you've ever seen? Sorry for the weird angle. John said I looked like a present. How appropriate! Guess what. I MADE IT! I followed this tutorial at Ruffles & Stuff. I skipped the gluing and just stitched all the pieces by hand. This was okay except it's pretty difficult to sew through 6 layers of vinyl but, I didn't have the heavy duty glue she recommended. I bought the vinyl at JoAnn's for, get this. 83 cents!! And I bet I could easily get 8 more headbands out of that one cut of fabric. I had the elastic at home already. 10 cents for a headband. Who could beat that?!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ape House

Ape House is the latest offering from Sara Gruen. If you're unfamiliar with her name, you might be familiar with the title, Water for Elephants, which she also wrote, was wildly popular, and is being made into a movie. Ape House, obviously, also deals with animals. It is the story of bonobo apes in a facility on a university campus in Kansas. Isabel Duncan is the scientist charged with teaching her family of bonobos to communicate through sign language and getting them to understand spoken language. John Thigpen, a journalist, is sent to do a story on the apes' amazing accomplishments.

After John goes home, a bomb goes off in the ape facility. The apes are kidnapped (ape-napped?) and Isabel is left clinging to life. John returns to continue following the story, helping to figure out who is behind these horrible events and who is forcing the apes to take part in a reality TV show, Ape House.

I enjoyed this one. It was an interesting story and Gruen did a great job with the ape parts of it and humanizing their characteristics. It was brief, just about 300 pages, and a very fast read. But, it kept my attention. I did remember liking Water for Elephants better but this one is worth reading too.

Here's the good news. This was, in my rough calculations, my 48th read. YEA! But, I still have close to 900 pages left in my current book and then one more to read after that to hit 50 in just about 2 1/2 weeks. I hope I didn't miscount.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We have lights!

Did you know it's very difficult to photograph Christmas lights? We even have a special setting on our camera for just such an occasion. Apparently, it's not a very exact setting. The day after our lighting debacle, John took the bull by the horns. I asked if he wanted help and he waved me off. In case you can't tell, that's a little tree on the left. The lights on its trunk were my main contribution but John said he re-wrapped them. :( The 4 shrubs have some garland lights across the front. It looks okay in the picture and when the bushes have snow on them but when they're bare, it looks a little strange. (Shhh, don't tell). I wrapped the lighted garland around our light post. That's the best part, in my opinion.

I'm glad they're up but even John said, as soon as he finished them, "Well, next year we're going to......" And then he rambled on about all of his grand plans for our 2011 lights display. We'll see.

Speaking of outside decor, John discovered that some birds are using my gorgeous front door wreath as a home/toilet. I am disgusted and dismayed. There is poo perched on the poinsettias! As well as all over our welcome mat. I don't want to take the wreath down now because the damage is already done but next year, I'll have to find something else to hang. This wreath will hit the trash can on December 26th. Blasted birds.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Massage Mess up

This past Saturday, I got a massage. I love massages but hadn't had one in more than 2 years. Back in September, there was a Groupon for a $20 60 minute massage. I snapped that baby right up! Then, I called to try to schedule an appointment. I never reached an actual person any time I tried. Finally, I e-mailed instead. She responded, but it took awhile. Oh, and one time she returned a voicemail to me on a Saturday night at 8:30pm. I didn't answer.

Finally. FINALLY, I was able to schedule a Saturday appointment.......3 months away. She was so busy from the Groupons that there were no other openings. But, I took the appointment thinking that even though it wasn't until December, I would probably really need a massage in the middle of all the Christmas stress. Certainly my back would need some relief after spending hours carrying shopping bags around the mall.

I drive to the building, which is next to a creepy bar called The Phone Booth. The building, equally as creepy, only has 1 car in the parking lot. I go inside and find the office on the directory, up 4 stairs and try to open the door. Locked. I knock. Nothing. Okay, I'm early. I'll just wait. And wait, and wait. And find a strange bathroom downstairs. And hear masseurs greet each other in another office. And wait. 4 minutes after my appointment should have already begun, I call her. "I'm just around the corner. I couldn't get out of my house this morning." Well....okay, I'll just keep waiting.

This woman looks like a homeless person. Her hair is all over the place. Her sweatpants are 3 sizes to big for her, and she's wearing a Superman t-shirt. And I'm about to let her rub me down. She tells me she uses a pretty deep technique and to tell her if anything hurts. In the course of an hour, I wanted to scream out in pain a good 25 times. She caused pain in areas I never knew could hurt so badly. Not once did I ask her to lighten up. A massage is supposed to be relaxaing, that's true. But, I feel if she's causing me great discomfort by digging knife-like fingers into a specific knot, well, that knot needed to be reckoned with. It wasn't all bad. I'd say about 50-50 between pain and relief.

She was very nice. Just a little off. For $20, I guess you get what you pay for. If I had paid her full amount, I would not have been a happy camper.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dead as a Doornail

Dead as a Doornail is the fifth book in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. The problem with working my way through this series now, albeit slowly, is that True Blood really only bases one season off a single book. I’m already way ahead of myself and what will happen on the show since it doesn’t come back until next summer. I’ll never remember what happened in the book and what they changed for the series. Anyway………

In this adventure, Sookie is still single, having dumped Bill in a previous book. She is asked by her werewolf friend Alcide Herveaux to attend the funeral of his pack master mainly because his father is nominating himself for replacement pack master and needs the support. Additionally, someone is shooting random weres and shifters, including Sam. Needing help at bar at Merlotte’s due to Sam’s injury, Sookie enlists Eric’s assistance who provides vampire Charles Twining, a pirate of sorts, to fill in. In the meantime, Sookie’s brother Jason, having been bitten by a were in the last book, has just recently undergone his first “change” with the new moon. Oh, and Sookie’s friend Tara has taken up with a new creepy vamp named, Mickey. Got all of that?

It takes Sookie and all her friends to figure out who is shooting everyone, who set fire to Sookie’s house, what Mickey and Charles’ deals are, and all the while avoid the private investigators hired to figure out who shot Debbie (Alcide’s ex) in the last book. (Psst….it was Sookie).

This one was just okay for me as far as this series goes. I like when Sookie is with someone and not single, preferably Eric or Alcide. Bill is not my favorite. And I don’t really care for the shifter community in Hot Shot (a nearby town) that was the focus of a decent part of the book. But, it had been awhile since I’d read the last one so it was nice to revisit the characters. Plus, I needed a fast read to break up the giant one I’m slogging through for going on 3 weeks now.

Obviously, don’t start with this one if you’ve never read the others. That would be silly. But, if you’ve come this far in the series, why stop now? There are plenty more to read and who knows what predicament Sookie will find herself in next!

Monday, December 6, 2010

In which the lights are still not on

Picture this:

A couple in their late 20's awake on a Saturday morning, the Saturday in which they promised each other the outside Christmas lights would go up, to snow. One family member suffering in the midst of a sinus infection has no gloves. The other chastises like a child who needs idiot mittens. (Note to self: Make John idiot mittens) They begin at 7:45 am before the snow becomes to heavy to put up said lights.

The woman wraps the small tree's trunk in a strand of white lights. The man comes out and says the wrong end is at the top. The male end of the plug needs to go at the bottom. The woman has to think about which end is male and which is female every.single.time the man mentions this. Every.Time. And often still gets it wrong. The man finds it impossibly difficult to unravel the net lights for the four small bushes. The woman fixes this, as usual.

Man: Did you mean to buy green?
Woman: Well the net itself is green so it blends in.....oh, the lights are green! No, I most certainly did not mean to buy green.
Man: The box says green on it.
Woman: I thought that meant green like earth-friendly. (Not my finest moment)
Man: Well, it'll just be an OU house.
Woman: OK, we'll go with that.

Net untangled. The dimensions on the box that stated 72" by 48" do not seem true. The net barely covers one bush. The woman, determined not to cry, nixes the net. We'll just have the white lights on the tree and the lighted garland on the lamp post, she says, that'll still look nice. The man complains that his hands are cold. The woman bites her tongue so as not to mention the idiot mittens again. The man starts winding the last strand of lights on the tree branches. It doesn't even go around once. Defeat admitted, the net is returned to the store that has, in 12 hours, sold out of all remaining lights.

At the end of this 30 minutes debacle, lighted garland needs an extension cord and is completely snow covered as it snowed ALL DAY. Only the tree trunk is wrapped in lights.

Stay tuned......

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sew sad

Guys, I am missing my sewing machine something fierce these days. I always see all these great projects online to make and I have nary an extra minute to make them! When we moved to the house, I knew we'd be busy but now, we're just busy with Christmas stuff and all things house-related have been put on hold. Thankfully, I had a very productive shopping weekend so onto the baking and wrapping I go. Anyway, I want to sew something sew badly (ha!) but I don't have time. Sad face.

One of the things John ceded to me when house hunting was the inclusion of a craft room. Well, with a finished basement that's not yet being used for its video gaming/exercising purposes, you can imagine the amount of crafting that could be happening, if I only had the time. Le sigh. I have so much fabric in my stash right now too. My sister keeps sending me links of projects with a less inquisitive and more demanding, "You can make this, right?" Yes, I CAN make it but I also have 4 pillow covers and miles of sewing to go before I sleep.

I don't mean this to be a complaint-riddled post. I'm thrilled with the holiday progress we made this weekend and I've got an exciting week and upcoming weekend to look forward to. I just miss sewing. One of these Sundays, I'm just going to hole up in the basement and create until my heart is content.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Really, calendar?

Is it honestly December already? I know that I just had a big turkey dinner which usually means December is right around the corner but what happened to January through November? By December 1st, my holiday panic mode typically sets in. This year, I've decided to attempt a thwarting of said panic. I took stock of where I stand holiday-wise and I'm actually feeling pretty good.

-Christmas cards: all written, need to buy stamps and mail
-Decorating: about half done.....except outside. And there will be lights on the new house, oh yes, there will be lights
-Shopping: more than half done. Pretty proud of this. And the remaining purchases are mostly easy. I think there are only a couple people I'm stumped on.
-Outfit for Christmas day: check!
-Baking: this is where I fall short. Well, sort of. While it's still 25 days from Christmas, I will be freezing a lot of cookies so they don't go stale and I'm not doing all my baking last minute. However, I wanted to try a few new recipes this year and haven't had a chance to look for them.
-Wrapping: this is where I'm also falling short. Nothing is wrapped yet. But, I'm not worried. I'm a pretty fast wrapper.

Is that everything? That doesn't seem like much except I only have 2 weekends in which to accomplish it all. I think I can do it. What's not going so well is my 50 book count. More on that another day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dear Santa

Please? I have been so good this year.
I'm sure Rudolph wouldn't mind taking a detour to Tiffany's.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back Again

We made it back to Ohio safe and sound yesterday, although our approach into Cincinnati was a windy one and quite bumpy. Sadie flew like a champ, even if she does cost us a small fortune to do so. I'm a little scared to check my credit card balance. Texas was great and our first real baby experience was eye opening. For now, I think it's safe to say that the only child in our lives will be our nephew, Baby Ben. As cute as he is, we are not ready for kids at this juncture. That's okay. We really already knew that.

Onto calorie news.......much like the above mentioned fear of my credit card bill, I'm also terrified of the scale today. I'm not weighing myself until I get at least a week or normal workouts and regular eating. I'm feeling really flabby because of all the food I ate in the last week (not to mention Thanksgiving) and I only worked out 3 times. Not.Good. John and I typically only eat out one meal a week. It's kind of a big deal for us. In the last 7 days we ate out for at least 9 meals. NINE!! I am so ashamed. Sometimes I made good food decisions; most times I did not. But, we must not dwell on the calories already consumed. Better just to focus on trying to keep December in check.

Regarding Christmas shopping, I'm in panic mode slightly. I did manage to get quite a bit done on Black Friday and when we got back to Ohio yesterday. I'm probably in better shape than I think but I only have 2 weekends left to shop. That's not many, folks. Maybe Cyber Monday can help ease that stress a bit.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, you turkeys! That's what my mom says anyway. Hope you all enjoy your holiday of gluttony today with all the fixins! We are making 3 pies for 4 adults. Is that too many?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Perfect Pillow

Guys, I am busting with excitement over this new sewing trick. Busting! Well, it's likely not new nor a trick but it is new to me and I can't believe I never learned how to do it until now! I followed this tutorial/video from House on Hill Road. I love the new bedding I bought for the master bedroom at the house. It's Martha Stewart's Poppy Collection from Macy's. LOVE.IT. But, it needed a throw pillow, screamed for one, really. Martha sells 3 accent pillows to match......for $80. No, thank you, Martha.

Instead, I purchased 1/2 a yard of this lovely lime-y green velvet. Did you know chartreuse is really hard to match? Trust me on that one. Nothing says luxury like velvet. I chose a 14" x 28" pillow form from Joann's and got to work. I am rather accustomed to an envelope flap pillow cover but for this, I wanted something more tailored without having to hand sew the last seam.

Observe: a normal looking pillow seam, yes?

NO! It's a zipper seam. A ZIPPERED PILLOW COVER!!! Ta- Da!

And.....the piece de resistance (I don't know how to make the accents on here)

Love. Love the pillow. Love the bedding. LOVE my gray bedroom. It still needs some artwork on the walls but it's the room that's closest to being totally done in the house.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Eyes of Texas are Upon You

Well, the eyes of Texas may not be upon you but, starting at 6:00 pm today and for the next week or so, they will be upon John, Sadie and me! That's right. The G's are packing up and shipping off to Austin for the holidays. In the last 8 years, I think I've only spent one Thanksgiving in Ohio. I just prefer to travel over that period of time. Sure, the airports are a mess and the tickets are crazy expensive but I prefer it nevertheless.

We will be seeing some sights, eating a LOT and most importantly, I get to hold my nephew, Baby Ben for the very first time! He's 3 months old already. I can't wait. I have zero baby experience. This ought to be fun. I politely declined when my sister asked if we wanted to watch him one day while they're at work and he goes to daycare. 8 hours with a baby and no idea what to do with him? Pass. Anyway.....off we go!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spoken from the Heart

I thought it was time for an autobiography of a more serious nature. I am about the farthest away from enjoying anything political that you can get. This is of great consternation to John who loves to talk politics till the cows come home. When he starts on one of his tears, my eyes glaze over much the same way that they do when we walk into Lowe's. Anyway, I chose Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush because I thought it would be interesting to read her insight on being a First Lady and how her path lead from Texas to the White House and back again.

Mrs. Bush begins, relatively long-windedly, with her childhood in Texas. She discusses the events that molded who she is and how important her family was to her. She recants the tale of a horrific car accident that left one of her friends dead while she was behind the wheel. We learn about her college life and her early years as a teacher in some not so affluent school districts of Texas. And of course, she talks about the beginnings of her relationship with George, his coming from a political family and their fertility issues that eventually resulted in twins.

The most fascinating portions were, of course, the tales of her time in the White House. We learn just how difficult it is living your life under constant scrutiny, the stress of constant travel and events, and the reward of guiding the country. Well, being married to the man who is guiding the country, that is. And finally, she talks about getting back to normal life after her husband's term ended.

I found Spoken From the Heart captivating. The beginning was a bit slow but as soon as we got out of childhood and family history it was easy going. Laura Bush is a very interesting woman and a decent writer to boot. I guess she'd better be, being a librarian and all. I found her so likeable throughout the whole memoir. Of course, she's rather likeable in the news to most too so this was not a surprise. If you're looking for a memoir, give this one a try for a compelling read.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's easy being green!

Guys, I love recycling! At the condo, there were no recycle bins. I don't know how 2 people and 1 small dog created so much trash but we did, and do. Our house is in a different city than the condo and the city provides recycle bins...FOR FREE!! Our 96 gallon green and gold beauty was delivered a couple weeks ago. If you are not an avid recycler, you would not believe how much waste this saves! We were astounded that in the first week of recycling alone, we only used 1 trash bag. ONE! Everything else we were able to recycle. That is amazing! I told John we ought to start composting too. He told me to stop taking crazy pills.

I realize something as pedestrian as recycling may not be of great excitement to most of you but for me it's awesome. For a very long time (read: 5+ years), the main trash can in my home was a small blue can that I purchased for my dorm room. It fit under the kitchen sink; that tells you how small it is. So small, in fact, that my garbage bags were plastic grocery bags because that's all that fit. You can imagine how many and how quickly we filled them in a week. That mini can was a source of constant ridicule among my house guests. John especially hates that trash can. For years, he begged me to get a larger can, one that we wouldn't have to empty multiple times a day. Last year, I finally ceded on the Trash Can Tussle (a battle enduring many years) and we asked for and received a large can for Christmas, complete with foot pedal! He loves that thing. I could take it or leave it. I have yet to give up my trash can under the sink although it hardly sees any trash these days. The main reason I was holding out on a large trash can was the purchasing of trash bags. Why pay for something when what you had been using previously was free? Not only that. John likes the expensive trash bags that don't rip. Of course he does. Just pour salt into my trash bag purchasing wound. Anyway, I do have a point.

The point is, this recycle bin has turned my frown upside down when it comes to the trash in Maison de G. Because so much of our waste gets recycled now and we only use one bag a week, or thereabouts, we buy trash bags much less often. This is a fantastic turn of events! Yea hooray, happy day! Marriage saved!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A gift for my nephew

Guys. This time next week, I will be in Texas holding my nephew (now 3 months old) for the first time. Can. Not. WAIT! This project was a request of my sister's. Because I can't sew all the dresses I was planning to sew had she birthed a daughter, I was happy to oblige. It's a car-seat cover. I used a tutorial on Cluck Cluck Sew here. I also purchased this Urban Circus fabric that she showed in a quilt. I had to have it! Even if it was more expensive than I wanted. My nephew is worth it.

It doesn't look like much without a car-seat and baby to model it but here it is anyway.

The turquoise rectangles are actually velcro tubes. That's what you attach to the handle of the car seat. I was pretty excited that I already had that turquoise fabric because it matched perfectly. The elephants are backed in a bright orange broadcloth.

Isn't this fabric the BEST?! I bought it from Fabricworm on Etsy. Sorry I didn't rotate the picture. It just looks like the pachyderms are marching up, that's all.

Anyway, I hope Baby Ben enjoys it and that it protects him from that Texas hail.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere

The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson, is the story of Lennie Walker, a teenage girl whose sister Bailey has recently, and unexpectedly, passed away. Lennie and Bailey were extremely close and now Lennie is left feeling completely alone at a tough time in her life. Lennie’s mother left the girls to be raised by their grandmother and uncle when they were very young. When Lennie returns to school after a month of grieving, she meets Joe Fontaine, a talented musician, in band class and develops an immediate crush on him. While she struggles with her sister’s absence, she finds comfort with Toby, Bailey’s boyfriend, who is also devastated just as much as Lennie is. Eventually, Lennie finds herself in a twisted love triangle with Joe and Toby. She is in also in constant turmoil about trying to be happy while her sister no longer can be.

That wasn’t the best synopsis but this read was just okay for me. It certainly wasn’t absolutely amazing like many people on a book board had claimed it to be. The Sky is Everywhere falls into the Young Adult category which I’m finding is really hit or miss. Some YA lit should stay with the YA’s whereas others can still be completely relatable and enjoyed by OA’s (older adults). Nelson has a beautiful prose and there were a couple unpredictable twists, which were welcome. Anyway, even though it was a fast read, you can probably skip this one, unless you're trying to up your book count.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It has begun.

I bought my first Christmas gift of the season this past weekend. Yea!!! I really try to get all my shopping done super early on. While I love shopping, I do not love the malls in the week leading up to Christmas. No, thank you. So, even though it's a little later than normal, I was pleased as punch to start crossing things off my list. I'm also getting oddly excited at the prospect of putting up outside lights on the house! I wanted to put lights on all the trim. John says, "Who's going to crawl up on the roof to do that?" I told him I would but I don't think he believed me. No matter. Even if the lights just go on the small tree and bush in the front yard, I'm fine with that. We'll see what we come up with. I'm back and forth on white lights and colored lights. I'm thinking the white will win out. I'd like to put wreaths up outside and there's not much better than a classically decorated exterior in December.

The other Christmas task I've begun is searching for the perfect outfits to wear during multiple Christmas celebrations. I hate when I look at pictures from Christmases past and I'm wearing the same red or green sweater in all of them. I'm sure this happens to you too. It seems like every year I face this task and every year still I'm at the mall on December 22nd purchasing whatever sparkly top is still available. Not. This. Year. I've already spotted a sweater at Macy's that I like and should just go ahead and purchase. Bonus: It's silver and could pull double duty on New Year's too!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Whoopie Pies

I will admit I have quite a sweet tooth. I enjoy many kinds of desserts, candy, etc. Fortunately, or unfortunately, John's sweet tooth rivals mine. It's because of these sweet teeth that I'm always looking for low fat, low calorie, low sugar dessert options. These let us indulge without all the guilt. When I found this recipe for Whoopie Pies on Eat Better America, I knew I had to try it. They only have 100 calories per whoopie! We had guests in town this past weekend and I'm trying to become a better baker so this was the perfect opportunity to make them.

The pie parts baked up nicely. I was quite pleased with myself. The filling, however, was not homemade. As per the recipe, I used Jet-puffed Marshmallow fluff. I love that stuff. The only thing I don't love about it is the sticky factor. Man, was it messy! And, much to my consternation, after filling all 14 pies and putting them in tupperware and putting them over night in the fridge, the filling all oozed out!!! They were no longer cute little whoopies but slip slidey whoopies instead! I guess because they tasted good I get an A for baking, and an F for presentation.

See? Pretty messy. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

So many books.......

I just finished up my 42nd book for the year. I didn’t even know it was book #42 until I counted them all up. Honestly, I had no idea where I stood. At the beginning of the year, I told myself that I wouldn’t be so focused on a number in 2010. I was looking for more quality, not quantity. Sure, there were a handful of reads this year that were certainly in the quantity category but I made a concerted effort to beef up the quality side. I think I succeeded. A number of them were more than 1,000 pages. That’s no small potatoes.

Upon the realization that I needed 8 reads in 8 weeks to match last year’s goal, something within me sparked. I love a good challenge. Most especially a challenge of the literary kind. Could I possibly? It’s not as though reading a book a week is unheard of for me. Plus, I have a week-long vacation coming up that might assist in reaching my goal. However, at least two of my next slated books are more than 1,000 pages. That’s a lot of page turning in not a lot of time. But, I think I’m up for the challenge. I’m certainly going to try anyway. Can I do it? Will I kill myself trying? By the end will I be selecting short, fluff pieces just to up my total? STAY TUNED!

P.S. I have yet to get a card at my new closer library. I just haven’t had time. But, it’s becoming increasingly difficult (read: annoying) to make the weekly 15 minute (one way!) drive to my favorite library so, soon, my friends. Very soon I shall have an update on what this new library beholds on its shelves for me.

P.P.S. I’m trying to decide if I would like a Kindle. For now, I’m leaning toward the no column for the sheer fact that you have to buy books to put on your Kindle. I’ve only purchased 5 out of 42 of my reads this year. I think the Kindle would cost me more than it’s worth. Plus, Kindles don’t look as nice on bookshelves. Do you have a Kindle that you love or hate? Do tell!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender was recommended on one of the book boards I read. Naturally, when I saw multiple copies on the Express shelf, I snapped one up to read despite having any idea of the plot. I’ve found that I don’t necessarily care about plots when choosing what to read next anymore. If it comes recommended, I’ll give anything a shot. It usually pays off in the end.

This story begins with Rose Edelstein as a 9 year old girl living in California. One day, she realizes as she’s eating a lemon cake her mother baked for her birthday, that she can taste the emotion within the cake. She tastes sadness and loneliness that has come from her mother. Disconcerting as this is, Rose embarks on a journey to find the source of her strange affliction. It's not isolated to her mother, however. Whoever made the food she eats is who she can taste the emotion from. Eventually, because she can’t stand eating the way her mother feels, she seeks out processed foods from vending machines as tasting factory is better than tasting sorrow. Rose’s older brother Joseph finds her annoying but his friend, George, tries to help her with her problem. As the book goes on, Rose grows up and deals with these edible emotions as best she can. Her family is not without problems and they play out on her plate nightly. A twist near the end pulls everything together in kind of a “whoa” moment.

I enjoyed this one. While somewhat fantastical, it provided a nice departure from some of my other recent reads. Bender’s descriptive writing is dead on and really helped bring out the characters and feelings throughout. If you’re looking for something slightly sad, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is worth reading. Or, even if you’re not looking for something sad, though be warned, Rose is full of heartbreak.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Well just pull the rug out from under me

I'm having trouble coming to terms with something. I thought I knew how expensive owning a home was. I was wrong. I'm not talking about major repairs which, knock on wood, we haven't had to deal with yet. Mainly, I'm talking about outfitting a home so that it feels like a home. I've already complained ad nauseum about the price of cabinet knobs. Let's just put that behind us, shall we? My latest obsession is underfoot, literally. I've been searching high and low for a rug to unfurl beneath our dining table. Let me tell you, folks, rugs are expensive. Sure, I could put some boring, low pile, remnant piece of junk under there and call it a day. But, something tells me I wouldn't be happy with that. The rug in question is 5x7. It has become quickly apparent that $100 is too unreasonable of a budget. If I want something nice, I'm going to have to up the ante.

If you know me, you know I love to shop. However, I also love a good bargain. I'm no longer having fun shopping for a rug because I've learned, the bargain rugs aren't worth it. Bargains are no fun when you've bargained yourself into a regrettable purchase. I am forever pining away for this Fieldcrest Jacobean Luxury Wool Rug from Target. It is super vibrant and really goes well with my Reynard walls.

Oh, Target, you say, that must be cheap. But you would be wrong. As far as rugs go, it's not terribly priced. It's just terribly priced for my budget.

Can we also talk about curtains for a second? Praise be that I found what I was mostly looking for on Overstock for a decent price. I have no picture for you yet. Je suis desolee. My next curtain quandary came in the living room. I need 6 panels. SIX, I said. What I really wanted was smoky blue velvet grommet panels. What I got (read: could afford) was blue, not necessarily smoky, brushed taffeta. At least I got 96" panels. I love a pooling curtain. More pictures whenever I hang them.

Oh, house. You just may be the death of me. At this rate, I'll never be able to have a housewarming party.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

I love David Sedaris. He is absolutely my favorite satirist. I was super excited to pick up his newest offering, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. I got it from the library without even knowing what it was about. It's a picture book! No, not really, although there are some great illustrations. It's actually a series of little vignettes that take place between many types of animals. Sedaris gives the animals great voice throughout the pieces, hilarious as always. Despite their being animals, each one could easily be seen and heard as a human. They convey funny tales, tales of woe and tales of warning. I can't really give you much more plot than that.....sorry.

Though I enjoyed Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, it wasn't my favorite of his work. Sedaris can do no wrong in my eyes but this one read so quickly that it left me wanting more. If you've never read anything by him, start elsewhere and come back to this one. It's worth reading though, if you're already a fan.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Just say NO to ugly knobs

I am way excited about the most recent upgrade in our new home. One glaringly obvious thing in the house that needed to be changed was the knobs in the kitchen. They were just plain white ceramic. BORING! The oak cabinets aren’t my favorite either but that is a much more expensive upgrade and I thought maybe changing the knobs would make them more tolerable.

For weeks, I scoured stores and the internet for reasonably priced cabinet knobs. Cabinet knobs are stupidly expensive. They’re just dumb knobs. Why are some of them upwards of $5, $6+ PER KNOB? This is ridiculous. I’m in the wrong business. Because I needed 25 knobs, I really wanted to keep it under $2.00/knob. I also really wanted square knobs. I had to abandon that dream as the ones I fell in love with were way out of my price range. As good as I knew the kitchen could look with them, I just felt like forking over $150 on cabinet knobs was not prudent. Yes, we’d use them every single day but still. There are many house things on our ‘to be purchased’ list, items where you do need to spend a little more than normal. Knobs are not those items.

I came across these Amerock knobs on hardwareaccents.com in the sale section and perked up my attitude. They were only $1.32 a knob. A STEAL for Amerock. They weren’t square but they did have some visual interest to them. For some reason, John took a serious dislike to many of the knobs I sent him as possibilities. All of a sudden he’s a knob expert. But, I try to take all family member’s opinions into account …. sometimes. Fighting over knobs was not worth the battle. When John okayed the Allison model, I snapped them right up.

I was so excited when they arrived that I ripped open the box immediately. Now let me tell you, in their picture online, the top part looks concave. In person, they are very much convex. There’s a significant bump on the top. I think they look like nipples. John gets angry when I call them nipple knobs. I didn’t have the drive in me to return them, pay the restocking fee, and keep looking, so on they went. I did most of them myself because I love using power tools. We only have one power tool but I’m very handy with it. The nipple-ness is not as noticeable (alliteration!) when they’re on the cabinets, I don’t think. See what you think.

Maybe you wouldn’t have noticed that at all. Regardless, I think they really finish off the cabinets nicely. So much better than those white pieces of junk. Anyone need 25 white ceramic knobs?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I recently read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford solely based on the title. I thought it was so clever. This is the story of Henry Lee. A Chinese-American growing up in Seattle during World War II, Henry has no friends, parents who refuse to let him speak Chinese to them even though they cannot speak English, and is the repeat target of bullying by his classmates. He is enrolled in a "white" school and works in the cafeteria to earn his scholarship. One day, Keiko Okabe also comes to work in the cafeteria. She is Japanese and on scholarship as well. Henry and Keiko become fast friends even though, because of his father's hatred for the Japanese, their friendship is forbidden. As their friendship and relationship blossoms, so does the hatred for all things Japanese by many Americans, including families of Japanese descent but who were all born in America, as in the Okabes case. Keiko and her family are soon taken away to an internment camp, much to Henry's horror and dismay.

The story is told by both Henry in the 1940's and Henry as a grown widower in the 1980's. His wife passed away from cancer and his son is in college. Henry has never spoken of Keiko to Marty, his son, but current events regarding the Panama Hotel that houses belongings from the Japanese families sent away so long ago open up a world Henry thought no longer existed to him. As the tale unravels, Henry embarks on a journey to find the missing piece to complete the puzzle of Keiko and her whereabouts.

I really enjoyed this one. I thought the subject matter was interesting, though not technically historical fiction. The back and forth between young Henry and old flowed nicely. It was a pretty fast read but it kept my attention well.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

No, I didn't go trick or treating or to a costume party. I wore this poodle skirt to zumba class on Thursday, hence the tennis shoes. Anyone that wore a costume was entered in a drawing for a t-shirt. I didn't win but I looked pretty cute, right? It almost made me want to wear it to work on Friday. Almost. Hope you all have a very scary Halloween Sunday!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Piewiches

Man, oh man do I love fall! I think one of my favorite things about fall is pumpkin. Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pasta and just plain old pumpkin. I stumbled across this recipe while looking for a low fat pumpkin-rific dessert. They are Pumpkin Piewiches! You can find it here on Spark Recipes. I did take one of the commenters recommendations and added a 4 oz. box of fat free/sugar free cheesecake pudding mix (dry).

Yum, yum! The recipe says it only yields 12 but I got 24. Maybe I didn't add enough filling? Anyway, it's pumpkin, cool whip, seasonings generally found in pumpkin pie, the pudding mix all sandwiched between 2 graham crackers and freeze them. That's it! Simple and delicious, and healthy-ish to boot!

Monday, October 25, 2010

We're IN!

I promise to post pictures of paint colors and furniture and all rooms just as soon as I load them on the ol' laptop from my camera. But for now I will tell you, being a homeowner is awesome! I didn't think I would be as into it as I am; John feels the same way. Slowly but surely, things are coming together a la maison de G. Sure, curtains still need to be hung (and purchased), rugs unfurled, more artwork put up (a little to the left, no back to the right, left again) but it's feeling more like home everyday. And it's all ours.

Sadie's adjustment to the house has been quick. So fast in fact that she staged her first jailbreak from the yard on the very first day. She's currently being taunted by ghosts blowing in the wind as they hang on the porch of a house across the street (how many prepositional phrases can a girl pack into one sentence?). Ever watchful, she also did not care for a backyard neighbor painting his fence the other day. She has many more duties in the house than in the condo. There are more places to explore and much more distance between me watching TV in the living room and John playing Xbox upstairs. At least she no longer barks at hall noise.

Yesterday, I went on my first run in probably a month. It felt awesome! There are paved trails all around our development. And no more flat sidewalks for my flat butt. Inclines baby, everywhere you turn. I hope it stays warm enough for me to run outside for at least a little while longer. Or, maybe I should toughen up and learn to run in cold weather. I'd have to buy more running gear......hmmm. Here's a funny running story from the move.

We hired movers for the first time instead of moving ourselves. Knowing how heavy our bedroom furniture is and knowing what moving up and down 3 flights of stairs means, it was $300 well spent. On moving day, I was in charge of meeting the movers and overseeing progress. In order to be comfortable on what proved to be a long day of sweaty manual labor and so that I didn't have to keep hiking up my loose jeans, I was wearing yoga pants. As I lead the movers up the stairs I thought, "I wonder if these old guys are staring at my butt." No, I'm not conceited. It's just that they were right on my heels up those stairs so at some point I'm certain my posterior was right in their faces. Later on:

Mover: Are you a runner?
Ashley: Yes, why?
Mover: Oh, you just look like a runner. I can tell when someone runs.
Ashley: *nervous chuckle* Oh.

........a little later.......

Mover: I didn't offend you did I, asking if you ran?
Ashley: No, it's just funny because I never used to run or enjoy running and I don't really think of myself as a runner so when other people say it, it's strange.
Mover: I used to run before I got too old and fat.
Ashley: *nervous chuckle again* Oh well, you'll have that.

The whole interaction was a little creepy but also somewhat flattering. If someone notices your muscle tone, that's a compliment, right? I'm going to chalk it up to the yoga pants that leave no imagination about what my quad muscles look like. I guess I shouldn't underestimate their power on my ass either though. And again, I really don't often think of myself as a runner but, I guess I am one. Thanks, mover man. I think.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Orange is the New Black

I forget where Orange is the New Black was recommended to me as a good read but, they were right. I was looking for some compelling non-fiction and I found it. Piper Kerman committed a drug related crime in her twenties. After getting caught up with the wrong people, she began couriering (that’s a word) money for drugs around many countries. As a willing accomplice to these crimes, Kerman knew what she was doing was wrong and eventually got away from her then girlfriend/drug lady to set her life down the right path. Some ten years later she was convicted of her crime and sentenced to a prison term of 15 months.

Orange is the New Black is a fascinating view of life in a womens’ prison by someone who probably shouldn’t have been there, though she was guilty of the crime she committed. Kerman recounts the daily toil of prison life. She delves into the relationships between prisoners, both good and bad. We also learn a bit more about what life is like trying to hold together a relationship with a fiancĂ© on the outside. Her account was truly captivating.

If you’re looking for an absorbing piece of non-fiction, give this one a try. It was a great inside look at prison life. Kerman has a wonderful way of painting the lives of her fellow prisoners so the reader begins empathizing with them, despite their criminal backgrounds.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moving moving

Spoiler Alert: We are in the house now! I wrote this before our move but forgot to post it.

Living your life in the upheaval of moving is not very fun. I made the mistake of packing up my cookbooks weeks ago. Ever since then, I’ve been making very unimaginative meals. Last week, I finally broke down and busted a couple of them out of the box in which they’ve been trapped. On Sunday, I reminded myself that I wanted to make muffins for moving weekend. Then, I remembered that the muffin pan got packed already. I have been dutifully packing all my worldly possessions that I thought I might not need for the time being. I forgot about the muffins as yet to be baked.

Packing everything also included all of my sewing and crafting supplies. I haven’t been able to sew anything for months! First, we were too busy. Now, we’re too busy and they’re packed. In fact, I think my sewing machine has already made it to the house to scope things out for the rest of his crafty friends. I’m sure they’re all very excited to have a designated craft space in which they can be left out instead of being packed up at the end of, or in the middle of, each project. I have many projects lined up for when I have totally unpacked but who knows when that will be?

You may or may not know that I am a big time planner. I research the heck out of vacations and purchases, no matter how small they seem. I’m constantly trying to find new events to attend. How did people find out about all this stuff before the internet? Unheard of! One step of my planning process is the agonizing. Decisions that seem mundane and unimportant are a cause of great concern for me. I am finding this doubly true as a home owner. I scoured countless websites and stores for a new bedding set for the master bedroom. It took me weeks to settle on one and when I finally found it, it was back-ordered until November. I ordered it anyway and, as luck would have it, the bedding arrived earlier this week, ready to be pressed into action on our first night in the house.

Currently on my list of agony: kitchen drawer pulls and knobs, rug for under the dining table, bathroom light fixtures, bathroom mirrors, curtain fabric for multiple rooms, living room artwork and ultimately, new living room furniture. I think the only thing that’s really saving me is that I can’t and shouldn’t purchase all of these items at one time. That would be a lot of money to spend right before vacation and Christmas. So, time is on my side. Or is it? Wouldn’t it be easier if I could just pick the right knobs and make my curtains and call it a day? Time only equals more agonizing. I want to make the correct choices that suit our needs and make our home a homey place to live. Someday, these decisions will all be made. How long that takes me is another matter.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max was recommended on a book board I read. I had to wait longer than I felt necessary before making it to the top of the hold list for this one. If you’re unfamiliar, Tucker Max is a player. There are many other words to describe him but we’ll just keep it PG here for now. Apparently, he has some sort of website in which he solicits girls for dates or something and then writes about these trysts. I don’t know; I didn’t actually go to the site. This book is all about his various conquests. These are alcohol-laden tales where the whole goal is hooking up with girls he may or may not remember the names of (usually not). Admittedly, some of the stories were funny but then they started to get pretty old, really fast. How many times do you need to read about how he had sex with these girls and the steps he took to lure them into bed? His writing style is very conversational and thus laced with profanity. But, he is very frank. Refreshing? I don’t know. This memoir was only mildly amusing to me, and a very fast read that wasn't particularly well-written. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who is easily offended by stories regarding: drinking, sex, debauchery, people having broken moral compasses, etc. and so forth.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Hard Day's Work

I am not cut out for manual labor. After the first day of painting I thought, “This is nice, working with my hands.” Then, my back starting hurting in ways I never thought possible. My hands were cramping from holding the paint roller for hours on end. I have callouses, callouses I tell you! While I love seeing all the color on the walls of the house, I’m so glad that our painting (for now) is coming to a close. After 2 full weekends and a few weeknights, I finally learned how not to get paint in my hair and I don’t back into wet walls anymore.

Such physical work really takes it out of you. It will somehow allow you to manage to drop a giant glob of butter down the front of your shorts while making corn casserole. You will smash the butter between the front of your thigh and the cabinet so that it doesn’t plop on the floor presenting Sadie with a butter smorgasbord. You will laugh uncontrollably in a fit of hysterics while your husband shakes his head. He shakes his head even more pathetically when you ask if you can still use this butter in the recipe since it didn’t touch the ground. He is equally as exhausted but prepared his portion of the meal, barbecue chicken, with no such trouble.

You are so tired that even though it’s an unseasonable 86 degree October day, you won’t be able to walk your poor dog who has been neglected all weekend because of said painting. She is no longer allowed at the house during painting owing to an unfortunate incident last week where she ended up with orange paint on her butt. All you can do is lounge on the couch. At night, you are beyond fatigued but cannot sleep because you keep thinking about how good your walls look from all your hard work.

We finally move in on Friday and I know it will all be worth it. Maybe then the scale will rebound. Even though hour after hour of painting and cleaning seems like it would burn a ton of calories, I don’t think it’s making up for the amount of times we’ve eaten out in the last two weeks and the lack of cardio in my normal routine. Come October 17th, it’s back to being homeowners, living the dream, and working the daily healthy grind.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Drums of Autumn

SPOILERS – Do not read if you’re planning on reading this series and definitely don’t read if you haven’t read this one or are in the middle of one of the earlier books.

Drums of Autumn is the 4th book in Diana Gabaldon’s acclaimed Outlander series. I can’t wait until they start making these movies. I don’t think they’ve even been cast yet though. Anyway, I had to buy Drums of Autumn straight away so I could start reading it right after Voyager. I didn’t think I would get into these books as much as I am.

This one focuses a lot on Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna. Her relationship with Roger Wakefield has grown stronger despite the distance between them. We also find that Claire and Jamie have made it to America. After much searching with Roger to find out if her mother indeed made it back safely and what became of her and Jamie, Brianna decides that she too must go back in time as well. She wants to reunite with her mother and also meet her biological father, Jamie. After Roger realizes what she’s done, he too goes through the stones of Craigh na Dun, back in time in search and rescue of Brianna. Both, separately, obtain passage to America to find Claire and Jamie. And a world of trouble!

I think that’s as far as I’ll really go in my brief summary. I didn’t know Brianna was going to go back too so I was pretty excited when I got to that part in the book. Then, I realized if I had read the back jacket cover, it would have told me that plot point. Good thing I was surprised! I liked Drums of Autumn, though not as much as Voyager. I liked getting to know Brianna more and seeing her interactions with Jamie and Roger. And more than one time I gasped out loud while reading, which John thinks is hilarious. Anyway, if you’re reading and enjoying the series, Drums of Autumn will not disappoint.

And thankfully, I fixed my ‘what to read next’ dilemma. Drums did not finish with a cliffhanger so I feel safe in setting aside the series for a bit. I have 2 books lined up already and I’m dangerously close to the top of the hold list for the new David Sedaris. YEA!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Library Conundrum

It’s paint city over here in Newhouseville. Being a new homeowner means there’s lot and lots of work to be done. Lots and lots of work to be done means hardly any extra time for reading. This is a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because, well duh, I can’t read as much! But, it’s a blessing because I still can’t figure out what to do about my library situation. I absolutely adore my library, the Washington-Centerville Public Library. They have an awesome selection of books and media. It’s unmatched! I most especially like the Express Book and DVD sections. These have allowed me to check out the newest acquisitions without having to wait on the hold list for them. Very convenient. Also convenient is the ability to request books online. While I once roamed the stacks looking for titles that caught my eye and desperately trying to remember which books I had heard were good to read, I can now just search for a book right then and there. If it’s ready, then it’ll just be waiting for me at the counter! If I have to wait, it notifies me when the book is available. I LOVE this feature. Huge time saver. I’m going to attribute a large part of my high book counts to this. What an aid in hitting my 50 books a year goal. I could go on and on about my library worshipping. I have been with this library more than 5 years. I first discovered the Woodbourne branch at my very first apartment upon moving to Dayton. As I moved to a nicer neighbor, I found a second branch of this same library family. What luck!

Alas, I am at a crossroads. Whereas, it used to take me approximately 7 minutes to get to the library, from the house it will now take me 15 entire minutes, and that’s without any traffic. If I were to head over there say around 5:00pm on a weekday, forget it! 20+ minutes easily. There is a closer library in my new city but I am afraid of it. I am scared it won’t live up to my library standards. I have been on their website and they don’t have my beloved Express section. Perhaps what they do have is a Suggestion Box. Probably the only thing to do is get a card at the new library and test it out for myself. Maybe I will love it even more than my precious WCPL. Just maybe….. In the meantime! As I feverishly work my way through the Outlander series, books I have broken my rule on not purchasing books to buy, no less, I don’t have to decide what to do about my library quandary just yet. I’m safe for a little while at least. Plus, I’m waiting for a few books at my (soon to be old?) library, so I’ll certainly borrow those from there. Since I’m already more than halfway up the list and all. It would be silly to cancel those requests.

Is it considered library cheating to change to a new library when my old library is technically within driving distance but not at all convenient to me? Do you belong to more than one library? Is it awful to play library favorites? That’s quite like playing favorites among your children, no? In the literary world, however, one certainly has a favorite book or even many favorite books. I suppose books are more akin to children in this scenario anyway. Can one have multiple favorite libraries? Ah me, what’s a literarian (made up word?) to do?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Things I Will Not Miss About Renting

1) Shared walls
2) Having to pick up after Sadie each and every time she goes to the bathroom for fear of being turned into the COA
3) Living on the third floor
4) Not having a garage
5) Dealing with colors on walls that you would never in a million years have chosen
6) Saying hi to your rude neighbor even though she never returns said 'hello'
7) Answering to a landlord
8) A communal hallway that smells like smoke
9) My leaky fridge

.......there are many more but, in short, I'm so glad to report that we closed on our first home on Friday!! It's been a long weekend of painting and there are many more to come but, it's ours! Sorry if my posts are super sporadic the next couple weeks. I know I'll be extremely busy but eventually, I'll be here again regularly. Since you'll miss me, I'll try not to stay away too long!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Voyager is the 3rd installment in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I started this at the end of the cruise and had to read a book in the middle of it but eventually, I made my way through all 1,000+ pages. This series is a mixture of historical fiction, romance and time travel. If you are planning on reading this series, don’t read my review. It won’t really have spoilers but, there are probably some that would spoil the first two books.

We start out with Claire Randall in present day (1968). She has brought her daughter Brianna to Scotland to try and find out if Jamie survived the battle at Culloden in 1745 and if he’s still living in 1768. Brianna is now grown and Claire plans to attempt traveling back in time to meet up with Jamie, 20 years after she left him, she thought, to perish. She finds out that he somehow managed to survive Culloden and where he is currently (then) living. Claire makes it back through the rocks at Craigh na Dun and finds Jamie.

Upon reuniting, they learn about each other’s lives for the past 20 years and Claire reacquaints herself both with Jamie and 18th century living. They end up traveling all over creation (hence the title) for various reasons. We get to revisit old characters and meet new ones and delve deeper into Claire and Jamie’s romance throughout Voyager.

Sorry for the lame review. If you’ve read it, you’ll know that doesn’t really tell you anything at all about Voyager. But, there’s too much to tell! This was my favorite one so far. I couldn’t put it down once it really got going. I had to go out and buy the fourth one so I could start on it right away after finishing Voyager. I thought I was tired of Jamie and Claire and their story after it took me so long to get through Dragonfly in Amber but I’m not! I’m just more involved than ever. I will have to interrupt the fourth one for a library book that I can’t renew but I’ll be back at it in no time. Also, these books are long and slowing down my reading pace but, that’s okay. Quality, not quantity, right?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Second Port: Cozumel

Our second of two ports was Cozumel, Mexico. Last cruise, we sailed Eastern Caribbean so I was pretty excited about the Western Caribbean itinerary. We were lucky that no hurricanes bothered us. The seas were pretty smooth the whole trip. We had the pleasure of docking next to Oasis of the Seas here. MASSIVE! The biggest ship of any cruise line currently in service. We think our next cruise will be on her. We felt like little peons with the Oasis passengers staring down from their 17 decks to our measly 11 decks. We docked facing them and man, are there a lot of cabins on that ship. It carries something like 6,000 passengers so I guess they have to sleep somewhere. I liked that the Oasis balconies are all glass. Ours were steel and just had an opening on the top half. We’ll get a balcony when we sail on her or her sister Allure, I’m sure of it.

Taken from our balcony in port. Look at all those rooms on the Oasis!

Anyway, I had booked the Segway and Snorkel Adventure excursion through Royal Caribbean in this port. We were supposed to meet an excursion representative on the dock to take the tour. This took us a long time. Well, it felt like a really long time. Dude wasn’t holding up his sign. We were early but we started to worry that we’d missed them. Finally we found someone but still had about 25 minutes to kill. It was a blazing hot Mexico kind of day. We wandered around the duty free and drug stores for a bit. Their drug stores are crazy down there! Any drug that you would certainly need a prescription for in the States, is just readily available over the counter down there. Nuts! Don’t worry. We didn’t buy any drugs, prescription or otherwise. Actually, we didn’t buy any souvenirs here either. Unheard of!

Just in case you need a sandwich with your estrogens

Finally, we met our guy, Felix. He looked like a drug lord. No joke. He had a scary beard and sunglasses. He ended up being really nice though, drugs or not….I didn’t get to ask. The tour only had 6 people on it including us, which was great! First, we took an open air bus to a stark building with a TV and DVD player where we watched a frightening safety film about how to use a Segway. People on segways make it look super easy. The truth is after 5-10 minutes or so, it IS easy. This video leads you to believe otherwise. The cartoon guy in the video was constantly falling off his Segway and hitting his head. This went on for a good 15 minutes. He needed Felix to give him lessons like we got. Felix was a good teacher.

We donned our sweet helmets (I didn’t get to take any pictures.) and mounted up. There was a small paved track behind the building for us to practice on. Once we all had the hang of it, we set off. First riding down a sidewalk and then on a secondary road for probably 20 minutes or so to a nearby resort, Fiesta Americana. I think it’s all inclusive but I’m not sure. Anyway, here Felix took us snorkeling. The currents were crazy strong and while we did see fish, coral and even a stingray, it was also pretty strenuous swimming for a long time. When we were finished and I asked how long we’d been in the water, he said 40 minutes. Damn! This was the only physical activity I subjected myself to all week but boy was it ever tough! I earned my pina coladas that day.

After snorkeling, we were able to use the resort’s facilities for about 45 minutes. John and I split a delicious hot dog and margarita. Tequila and I don’t really get along but when in Mexico, get a margarita! It was fine. I only had one because we still had to Segway back to the building. No tipsy Segwaying allowed, says Felix. The resort had a massage tent but we didn’t have time for that. DRAT! Next Cruise FOR SURE. They did have these big beach beds though that were super comfortable. I could have laid there all day. After we declined to buy the 8x10 photos of us on the Segway and the one of us snorkeling where John looks terrified for some reason, we rolled on back to the building. We were all much more confident Segwayers by this point and were moving pretty quickly. Felix said this tour sometimes has up to 30 people on it. I couldn’t even imagine! We were riding in a line. I was behind him in the front but he had to keep checking back to make sure the 6 of us were still there. Thirty people must be a nightmare. He said we made his job very easy that day. You’re welcome, Felix! Back on the open air bus and to the dock after that. John and I enjoyed a couple Dos Equis at the port and headed back to the ship. Probably for more pool time and lunch (we’d only split a hot dog and done all that swimming, remember?)

That night we went to the Crown & Anchor party for returning cruisers, also recommended by our friends. The drinks were flowing here too! And they had really good appetizers as well. We went to dinner and somewhere in there we saw a comedian who was pretty funny. Oh and there was the Royal Caribbean Quest game show but I forget if that was this night or the night before. I told you, it’s tough to keep track. I think it had been the previous night. We were bummed that our buddy Jon Li had the night off from tickling the ivories. Oh and one of these nights there was a midnight buffet. We weren’t hungry but we ate a little anyway. When on a cruise ship, it’s difficult to say no to delicious Mexican buffets. It’s difficult to say no to delicious Mexican buffets on land too.

Oh yeah! Remember the jewelry I made earlier in the week? Well, the instructor had said there would be a necklace workshop too for a matching set. Wheee! Unfortunately, it was at the same time as our Segway tour. Poor planning.

Here are the Oasis and the baby Grandeur docked together

Next Up: Last day at sea and getting sadder by the minute that the trip is coming to an end.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

First port: Grand Cayman

Our first port was Grand Cayman. I did not schedule an excursion for us here because we were hoping for a beach day. This was our first experience with tendering too. Luckily, the weather was good, though overcast. Even still, the tender was rocking over the waves and I could see how, if it had been raining or windy, that short ride could become very unpleasant. Right at the dock are the typical souvenir shops and jewelry stores that are so popular in the Caribbean. Most of the shopping, I heard, was a short cab ride away. Much as I would have liked some new jewelry, I knew we had paint to buy at home. We toyed with the idea of taking an island tour with one of the guides holding up their signs on the dock. John is always worried about these people though, convinced we’ll be kidnapped and our fingers cut off to send back to our families. Ultimately, we just took a cab to the Royal Palms area on Seven Mile Beach. Here, there was the Reef Grill, where we had a delicious grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich and tried a Caybrew, the local beer of Grand Cayman.

The water was perfectly turquoise and as we walked a ways down the beach to try and find a good spot. There was no one around just steps from the beach club at the Reef Grill. It was gorgeous. John and I got in the water for a bit but then, realizing that I wouldn’t be finding my massage on the beach any further down, decided we’d head back to where the chairs and amenities were. I was bummed about the massage but for $24 we rented 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella. Life is good.

The drinks and food at the Reef Grill were kind of pricey for beach fare. Plus the exchange rate wasn’t great. A few chairs down we noticed a couple mixing their own drinks with some rum and coke they bought at the port. We were kicking ourselves and wondering why we hadn’t thought of that. Brilliant! Next time, I guess. We didn’t realize until we were leaving that there was a small store behind the Reef Grill that sold liquor. Duh.

After a few hours (it was a short day in port), we changed out of our suits in their facilities. The ladies room was nice; John said the mens’ was atrocious. Poor John. Took a cab back to port and tendered back to the ship. We didn’t buy anything in Grand Cayman at all. Not even a Tortuga Rum Cake. I used to buy souvenirs everywhere I went. I guess I’m changing my ways.

Back on board, we hung out by the pool and had second lunch. We split the lunch on the island so I guess this was actually 1 ½ lunch. I don’t remember what else we did before dinner. Probably napped. LOVE pre-dinner naps. But, this night after dinner, we discovered a great piano player in the Schooner Bar. His name was Jon Li and he could play anything! People just requested songs and he sang and played. He was great. I should have bought his CD. Maybe I’ll see him on a ship in the future. I can’t remember if we saw a show this night. I should have written these thing down. Or, if I knew where I put my Cruise Compasses, I’d just consult them. Anyway….another great day of vacation!

Was I right about that water or what?

Next stop: Cozumel

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weekend Re-cap....last weekend that is

What a great weekend we had recently! I have so much to report and only so many days in a week to blog. We are relishing these last couple weekends in September. As soon as we finally close on the house, there will be no more free time. All time will be wholly devoted to painting, cleaning and moving for the foreseeable future. This is sort of a shame because there are lots of upcoming area events I would like to attend but I know we won’t have time, or will be too tired by the time Saturday night rolls around. So, in the meantime, we’re keeping busy!

This past weekend we went to 2 such fun events and had a great (though fatty) date night. On Saturday, my local library (Ashley’s fave hangout) was having Barktoberfest! This was an event for dogs and it was great fun. On the front lawn, many pet vendors were set up at tables and in tents. There were lots of dogs in attendance and of course, we brought Sadie. We got free samples of dog treats (for Sadie, not us) and coupons and I donated to 2 great groups, the library (YEA!) and SICSA (an animal shelter). John and I even indulged in some custard. It was delicious. Sadie thought so too!

Here is Sadie with her snout stuck in a custard cup

In the evening, we went out to dinner. I ate way too much. This reduced calorie lifestyle has shrunk my stomach. I realize that’s the point but when I want a burger and fries, like I ordered for dinner, I don’t want to feel like a heifer for the rest of the night. Let that be a lesson to me, I guess. After dinner, we saw The Town. It was good. I like a good heist movie and it had been ages since we went to the theatre together. There always seem to be movies that we think look interesting and we never quite make it to them.

On Sunday, we took a nice drive on country roads to Hidden Valley Fruit Farm’s Apple Daze. This is a great place. There are hayrides we’ve never been on and apple picking that we’ve never participated in but, you can go to just buy their apples too! That was why we were there. It was a sunny day and though not very fall-like, we sampled our first apple cider of the season. It was delicious. So cold and crisp! We bought some freshly picked apples, split a BBQ pork sandwich and ambled back home in an apple daze. Get it?

I also tried 3 new recipes which were all winners! That rarely happens. There was plenty of football to watch, of course – not the highlight of the weekend for me.

This is Hungry Girl's guacamole. I was skeptical because it uses peas and corn in addition to avocado and tomato but it was great! And low cal. Plus I made those tortilla chips. So easy!

We’ve got another busy but fun weekend coming up before the hectic life of new homeowners begins for us. I’ll relax while I can!