Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat!

I love Halloween. The costumes, the pumpkins, the decorations, the delicious seasonal foods, the fun tricks and treats, and the candy! This Halloween, however, pretty much snuck up on me without warning since I've been so preoccupied with the house, so I feel lacked its usual fanfare that I love, but it was a fun one in the end. I managed to at least decorate the front porch a bit last weekend, and get costumes together for my girls. My 9 year old was asked to be one of the Seven Dwarfs with a bunch of her friends. [She was Bashful, of course. Didn't even have to pose shyly for costume judging or photos--she fits the mold perfectly as is. ;) ] One of the moms did a lot of legwork to get matching details for each girl, so I just had to get the pants and shirt together. Kinda lame on my part, but the efforts of the organizing mom were well rewarded when the eight girls dressed as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs won first place last Sunday in our town's Halloween Costume Contest and Parade in the group category. Yay! Little effort on my part and a first place trophy? Win win, if you ask me!

At the town Halloween Costume Contest and Parade. Happy is at a soccer game. 

My Bashful.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the school parade today.

The school librarian dressed as Mother Goose. 

So after school today, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, along with one mom dressed as Queen Maleficent, had plans to trick or treat together for an hour or so at the shops downtown before going their separate ways to be with other friends or families in their own neighborhoods. Well, my little Dwarf came home from school with tears in her eyes over who knows what, proclaiming that she didn't want to trick or treat downtown or anywhere else with the other dwarfs or Snow White. She doesn't even want to be a dwarf. What's a mom to do? Part of me wanted to pressure her to join her group for even just half an hour because they were counting on her to complete the ensemble. But the other part of me just wanted to say forget it. She did the town Costume Contest and Parade and she played the part all day at school. Halloween is supposed to be fun and happy, not stressful or tearful. If she really doesn't want to go, I won't make her. Needless to say, the second voice was the one I listened to and agreed that she didn't have to go with the group. I took it one step further and suggested she trick or treat on her own as something different. Of course, her first reaction was, "But I don't have another costume." Hellllooooo??!!?! Years of dance costumes and a basket of assorted dress up accessories on the shelf of her closet and she doesn't have another costume? I could have pulled together maybe a dozen or more last minute costumes. We found bunny ears, she wore a white t-shirt, white tights and a white corduroy skirt and voila! An Easter Bunny. Only she used a pumpkin head instead of an Easter basket for her candy bucket. 

My little bunny. The ex Dwarf.
Looking much happier.

This year my 13 year old finally used one of her past year's dance recital costumes for a Halloween costume. Finally! It's frightening to say, but we probably have a few thousands of dollars worth of dance costumes after the 14 cumulative years of dancing between both of my girls. And finally my oldest decides to use one. She basically took a gorgeous ballet costume and cut the lace off the tutu, shortened it a bit, wore fishnet stockings, Converse sneakers, and lots of blue and black makeup to be a goth ballerina. Okaaaay. Welcome to the teens.

My goth ballerina. 
In the 'pair of scissors $72 vintage 2007 ballet recital costume.'

Goth ballerina meets ex Dwarf Easter Bunny. 

I dropped my teen off at a friends house to go trick or treating with a group. Thank goodness for cell phones, I can keep easy tabs on her throughout the afternoon and evening. 

My bunny and I called on a friend of hers who was thankfully free to trick or treat with us for a while. The girls had a really great time together and I could tell by my bunny's relaxed and carefree demeanor that I made the right call in allowing her to change her costume and her plans at the last minute.

Look at that happy face. :) 

This house had the best treats ever: coffee for weary parents! 
What a wonderful idea, don't you think? 

I just couldn't resist posting a few honorable mentions, i.e., other people's kids. 

This is a little friend of mine (I met his mom just before she got pregnant with him). He's dressed up as Michael Phelps, of course. So incredibly cute! 

Another young man whose mother I've known since before he was in her womb. He gave his very artistic and talented mother very detailed specifications on how to make his 'Candy Robot' costume. So cute. So creative. So smart! 

My bunny and her friend had a great time trick or treating together, but after two and a half hours, we started to get cold and hungry and called it a night around 6 pm. Fine by me! :)

My teen, however, has been out since 3:30 pm this afternoon. Trick or treating with this group, pizza at this one's house, then more trick or treating before I picked four of them up only to deliver them to a party at a boys house! Eeep! I'm showing up a few minutes early to pick her up because the mom promised to give me the inside scoop on some of the boys I'm not so familiar with. In fact . . . it's time to go!

Happy Halloween! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

COLDPLAY Concert Review

IZOD Center, Rutherford, NJ
October 27, 2008

I didn't really plan on writing a review for last night's concert, but when I started to type a response to the comments in the post I made yesterday, I realized I had a lot to say! So here's my first concert review. Okay, it's more of a recap than a review. Ha! Enjoy. ;)

I've only been a fan of Coldplay for about two years now and until I recently purchased their latest album Viva La Vida (EMI Records Ltd., 2008), I've only had about a dozen or so of their biggest hits on my iPod. After seeing Coldplay's outstanding performance last night, I'm an even bigger fan now. They were amazing.

The opening act was Duffy, the 24 year old Welsh singer-songwriter who debuted at number one on the UK Album charts with her recent album Rockferry. Her musical style is a neo-soulful blend of pop, soul and rock'n'roll along the lines of artists Kylie Minogue and Amy Winehouse, and while I think she and her band are very talented--based on what I've sampled at her website, anyway-- I didn't think her performance last night was that impressive. Duffy looked amazing in her tiny black lace dress, but she failed to capture the audience's attention as she barely moved across the stage and her voice and lyrics seemed lost to the sound of the band. Only two songs stood out to me, "Serious" and the popular hit "Mercy." Still, Duffy is clearly a talented young artist with a lot of potential and I think the pop charts will be seeing a lot of her in the future.

The concert. First, I'd like to make a disclaimer about my concert reviewing skills. I haven't been to a rock concert in ages, and even then I haven't been to many. I saw U2 in 1987 for their Joshua Tree Tour and then a year or so later I saw Sting. I think that was in 1988, maybe. I know I also went to an INXS Kick concert and saw The Psychedelic Furs around that time, too, but I barely remember that. Basically, my point is that maybe I'm a little out of touch about what makes an amazing concert, but regardless of my concert going experiences or lack thereof, I have to say that last night's performance by Coldplay was fantastic. The song list was a perfect blend of past hits and new tracks from their current album Viva La Vida and lead singer Chris Martin made the concert feel intimate with his natural ability to connect with his audience. Really a fantastic show.

I'm totally kicking myself in the behind today. I didn't bring a camera to the concert. I know! I know! Idiot. And I got this great little purse sized digital camera for my birthday, too. Having floor seats, I could have had some really great shots. Ah, live and learn. So I made due with my iPhone camera, which actually takes decent photos for a camera phone, but alas, no zoom capabilities, so the photos aren't that great. I swear we had better views of the band in person than these pictures suggest. Honest. Anyway, here they are:

Coldplay opened with the instrumental track, "Life in Technicolor" playing behind a sheer curtain, then the curtain lifted as they played their first vocal track, "Violet Hill."

I thought the lighting and technical effects during the concert were great. Granted it's been a while since I've been to a rock concert, but I really enjoyed the artistry in this performance. The effects weren't anything cutting edge, per se, but they complimented the music and the artists perfectly. There were these orbs suspended above the stage, and one much larger orb above the audience, and they either had varying colors and patterns swirling within them, or they were used to project live images of the band throughout the performance. Again, the orbs brought a perfect compliment to the tone of the show.

At one point, Chris Martin, while playing solo on the piano, sang "The Hardest Part" (X&Y, EMI Records Ltd., 2005) dedicated to singer, model, actress Jennifer Hudson as she grieves for the death of three family members. In case you haven't heard about the tragedy that has struck Jennifer Hudson and her family, last weekend her mother and brother were shot dead in their home and her 7 year old nephew had gone missing, only to be found dead in an abandoned car yesterday, October 27, 2008. The suspect is a family member, the estranged husband of Jennifer's sister, the father of the deceased young boy (Source: Chicago Tribune, My heart goes out to Jennifer Hudson and her loved ones. Very sad.

Later in the concert, band members jogged off the stage and headed into the midlevel seating where they stood among the audience and played a few songs so that other fans could feel what it's like to have front row seats. One of the songs they played here is one of my favorites, "The Scientist." When he announced the song, Chris Martin playfully poked fun of the Jonas Brothers, saying it was their hit. Even my 13 year old, who saw the Jonas Brothers in concert over the summer, laughed at the humor. Chris Martin has a wonderful way about him that he can poke fun playfully without coming across insulting. That's a wonderful skill, I think.

Images of Japanese history and culture were displayed on the large screen behind the band while they performed the song "Lovers in Japan / Reign on Love" and millions of tissue paper butterflies were dropped over the floor area. I have to admit I was so happy to have had floor seats for this part. It was so beautiful.

This photo was taken during their last song and would have made a great shot if only I had a real camera. ::sigh:: I forgot what song they were playing in this photo. Maybe it was Lost.

The crowd gets Coldplay to come back out for an encore.

Which, I think, is standard and expected. I was certainly pleased, because there was one more favorite song that the band hadn't yet played . . . "Yellow."

All in all, Coldplay delivered an amazing performance last night. I'm so thrilled I was able to go, it was a wonderful, memorable night with my daughter that I'll never forget. I can't wait to see them again on their next tour.

Monday, October 27, 2008

COLDPLAY concert tonight!!!

I had been planning on attending the Literacy Signing at the NJ RWA Conference this past Saturday since at least May or June, but instead had the really fantastic opportunity to take the girls to see the 2008 Tour of Gymnastics Superstars show at the IZOD Center. It was a really great afternoon, and the excitement and joy on both of my daughter's faces the whole day weekend was priceless. The show is a choreographed performance of freestyle-type gymnastics routines featuring members of the men's and women's olympic teams as well as about a dozen other very talented performers. My youngest has been a fan of Nastia Liukin since before the Olympics, so we were so thrilled to see her perform.

So while we were at the IZOD Center, I had an impulsive moment of inspiration and decided to find out if there were any tickets available to see the alternative Rock band Coldplay in concert either Sunday or Monday night (tonight). It turns out Sunday's show was sold out but there were a handful of tickets available for Monday night's performance, so I bought two tickets for tonight's show! Since my husband isn't crazy about the band, I'm taking my thirteen year old daughter to her first ever rock concert (Sorry, I don't count the Jonas Brothers) and we're both super super excited. My husband was surprised that I was willing to take her to a concert on a school night, but she's a straight A student in honors classes and helps out with her sister and or my father-in-law without too much complaining, so I say 'why not?'--it's a great mom and daughter night out while she still doesn't mind being with me. Besides, I really want to go!!!

I told her I'd try to act and long young so she didn't feel too awkward. I asked her what she thought I should wear to look younger and she said, "A push-up bra." Niiiiiice. She said she was kidding, but I don't know. I don't think something like that would fly so fast out of her mouth if there wasn't some grain of truth to that. I told her they're the way they are because they nourished her for all those months and months when I breastfed her. And months. Embarrassment and guilt are a few of the best weapons of revenge against a teenager. Heh.

Last night my husband said he thinks I'm going to regret taking her to the Coldplay concert tonight--that she's too young and will be exposed to inappropriate behavior of audience members. Maybe I'm naive, but I'm thinking it won't be so bad. And maybe it's a good thing that I'm taking her to her first real concert, so we both find out what it's like these days before she starts wanting to go on her own with friends. I don't know, I haven't been to a grown up concert in ages. I think the last concert I went to was to see Sting on his Dream of the Blue Turtles tour in 1985. Could it be that long ago? Oh wait. I went to see jazz musician Pat Metheny in 1992 maybe. Oy! I've got to get out more.

So what was the last concert you've been to? And who would you want to see in concert if you had the opportunity?

We have floor seats FLOOR SEATS! at tonight's Coldplay concert. Nothing like diving right back into the concert scene full force, eh? Here's a video of Coldplay performing the single "Lost" from their current best selling ablum Viva La Vida.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Construction Zone: Attic Treasures

Aside from a bit of twittering and a scant blog comment here and there, I've barely been online this past week, and it's been very disconcerting. I really miss blog hopping and reading what all of you have to say--whether it be book reviews, book discussions, author news, as well as those fun insights into your personal lives. As of right now, I see I've got 230+ unread blog posts waiting for me and am already suffering from blog withdrawal. 

So what have I been up to? Well, mostly the construction project at home has me so busy, you'd think I was building it myself! The guys are making great progress. on the addition. The first floor is framed and the framing of the second floor starts tomorrow morning. By the end of the week, they will be ripping off my old roof and joining the two rooflines together as one roof. I imagine this week will be very noisy and very messy, but it will be neat to see the new shape of the house when the roof is finished.  

This is the view from the driveway where there will be steps to a small covered porch. The door will be the opening to the left, adjacent to the existing dining room windows. 

Here's a view of the back of the house, with the first floor framed. The large opening to the left is for the set of french glider doors that will have a full length sidelight windows on other side. The opening to the right of that is for the window of my father-in-law's future room.

So that's what the workers have been doing--what about me? Well, with the upcoming roofing job, we were faced with the gruesome act of completely emptying our attic. Ugh. We had one of those on site pod storage units delivered last Monday, and I started packing up clothes and books. My husband then took a day off and we completely emptied everything from the attic into the pod. Fortunately, when we had central air installed about six years ago, I combed through our things and donated or threw away a lot of items, and I was very good about only putting things in the attic that we wanted to keep. That's not to say that it wasn't a lot of stuff, but at least it was fairly organized. Most things like clothes and holiday decorations were stored in those plastic containers, but there was also luggage, some cherished children's books and toys I can't yet part with (like Goodnight Moon, Corduroy, and the toy kitchen and barbies that got played with daily for six or seven years straight), the girls' bassinet (awww!), craft supplies, college textbooks (Electromagnetic Fields and Solid State Circuits? Please. Like I'll ever read those textbooks again?) and assorted other items like a milk crate of old LPs circa 1975 to 1986. (I think I need to download The Lexicon of Love by ABC, circa 1982, onto my iPod this week. I love that album.) Fun stuff! ;) 

We also started moving furniture and belongings from our bedroom and the dining room into the pod as well, since as soon as the roof is done and the addition space is weather tight, the construction will break through into our current living space and those spaces need to be empty. Of course, the house is a mess right now because we couldn't get it all done in one day, and our weekend was busy with outside activities, so I haven't done any more packing since Friday. From my kitchen, I've only packed up my cookbooks, so I'll have a lot to pack there, too. I'm hoping to do that job at the very last minute, because I plan on cooking until the night before the kitchen is scheduled to be gutted. 

Needless to say, I still have major work cut out for myself tomorrow and the weeks to come. I hope to catch up with all of you during the week! :) 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

REVIEW: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The following is a non-spoiler review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. For a detailed discussion of the novel that includes spoilers, I have teamed up with the insightful and articulate Thea of The Book Smugglers blog for a joint discussion and book review. Please visit The Book Smugglers blog HERE. There is also a great book club discussion at Dear Author HERE.

The Hunger Games is a young adult novel by author Suzanne Collins that takes place in a future country called Panem in which the government strongly controls the industry in each of its thirteen districts and in essence also controls the prosperity of its people. In order to deter its citizens from rebelling, the government, also known as the Capitol orchestrates The Hunger Games every year in which a teenage boy and girl from each of the currently existing twelve Districts are drafted by lottery to fight to the death until there is a sole survivor in a nationally televised performance. The Hunger Games is a game of survival in the most brutal form as supplies are minimal and the arena is a vast, yet enclosed and controlled environment designed to challenge the players survival skills and force battles to the death between the players, or tributes as they are called. The winner of The Hunger Games is awarded an easy life at home, including ample food for his or her entire District for a full year.

The Hunger Games is told from the first person point of view of Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl from one of the poorest districts in Panem--District 12, the coal miners. Katniss' father was killed in a mining explosion several years prior, leaving Katniss, her sister Prim, and their mother to fend for themselves. At the time of her father's death, Katniss' mother fell into a serious depression, and Katniss was the one who took care of them, saving them from near starvation. She took to sneaking out of boundaries to hunt, gather roots, berries, leaves and other edible plant foods where she met a boy named Gale. Now they hunt together and sell or trade their catches in the market to support their families. Not only are the hunting partners, but they are also best friends who border on something more.

When officials come to District 12 to conduct the lottery for the Hunger Game tributes, Katniss' twelve year old sister Prim gets selected. Without hesitation, Katniss volunteers to take her place--an event so rare as being a tribute, especially one from the poorest district, means almost certain death. Katniss is then whisked away to the Hunger Games Arena in an undisclosed area in the Capitol along with fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark. The Hunger Games are a brutal and disturbing example of government control and the heroine Katniss is forced to not only rely on her survival skills, but also her wit, intuition and morals as she is faced with the constant question of friend or foe, fight or flee.

The Hunger Games is a powerful story about government control, desperation, and survival. It also exemplifies how individuals have the power to demonstrate their disdain for government controls or force of hand. However, there are a few conditions that could have been better explained, such as why the districts had rebelled against the Capitol years ago that lead the the Hunger Games in the first place. Also, how is it exactly that nationally televising a fight to the death of twenty four teens from around Panem would keep the masses in control and in fear of rebelling against the government? I imagine the politics of Panem will be explored in more depth in the sequels, but I felt a bit of elaboration in this novel would have better supported the value of the Hunger Games as a true deterrent to rebellion.

The Hunger Games is an intense and often violent, yet thought provoking story that shouldn't be missed. The plot is not terribly complex, yet is imaginative and keeps the reader completely engaged in Katniss' fight to survive from the very first page to the very last. Katniss is a strong heroine who knows how to survive under the most difficult situations, she follows her intuition, and she's resourceful. While she still makes mistakes, she is determined to not go down without a fight at least for her sister's sake.

The Hunger Games is a heart racing, blood pumping kind of story that makes the reader think about government, war, and even the equal distribution of basics such as food and medicine for all.

Grade: A

Other reviews:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Exciting Series Updates from author Lara Adrian

Lara Adrian, NYT Best Selling author of the vampire romance series called the Midnight Breed series, has just announced two exciting new updates about her upcoming books. One is a book video for Veil of Midnight, the fifth book of the Midnight Breed series featuring the Breed Warrior Nikolai and his mate, Renata.

I love the music and imagery used in this trailer! I love that both Nikolai and Renata are fighters in the truest sense that they are both masters of weapons. I anticipate an exciting and intense story for the hero and heroine in this novel.

Veil of Midnight is scheduled for release on December 30, 2008. For more information about the book, including an excerpt, visit Lara Adrian's website HERE.

The second exciting series update is the unveiling of the gorgeous book cover for the sixth Midnight Breed story, Ashes of Midnight, expected for release in May 2009. This novel will be Andreas Reichen's story. His story should be very interesting, since although he comes across as a gentleman and a romantic, I can't quite picture Andreas Reichen in love and at the mercy of his mate. I can't wait!

For more information about Lara Adrian and her Midnight Breed series, visit her website HERE.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Construction Zone

I thought I'd do an info dump regarding the big project going on at my house these days, because I have the feeling that I'll be posting more about construction than about books in the coming months. Of course, I won't be able to NOT read during this chaotic and dusty time, but honestly, I'm thinking I may only read one or two books a month for a while. Well, not that I've been writing a ton of reviews, anyway, but that's a different story. ;p  This is kind of a long post, but if you're nosey curious about my little world, read on. Otherwise just skip down to the pictures --you'll get the idea. ;) 

A bit of background regarding our current living arrangements. On December 6, 2006, at age seventy-six, my mother-in-law passed away fairly unexpectedly, the day before she and my father-in-law would have celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. Almost exactly a month prior, she had had open heart surgery to repair a valve, and a double bypass. She recovered very well at first, but then her recovery sort of plateaued. She was complaining about feeling weak, so was being seen by her infectious disease doctor again, who ordered blood work and other tests. Sadly, the following day she collapsed in her home and died in the hospital later that day due to sepsis. She was survived by her husband and her only child--my husband.

My father-in-law was 81 years old at the time of his wife's death and had previously suffered a massive stroke in 2000 that left him fraile and with some permanent memory loss. In addition he has extremely poor vision that started when he was in his late teens and stepped on a land mine in the Philippines while hiding from the Japanese in the mountains with his family during World War II. Since then his vision has been deteriorating significantly over the years, leaving him legally blind throughout his adult life. Essentially, he cannot take care of himself without assistance on account of his deteriorated health as a result of the stroke, his lifetime of near blindness, and his general old age, so we decided to have him come live with us. I just could not, for the life of me, after living eighty-one years, put him in a nursing home to spend his remaining years. A nursing home just wouldn't be a good fit for him. He's a friendly person and is always upbeat, but he's not very social. I think that it's due in part to his poor vision and hearing that he has difficulty interacting with others and also in part to the fact that he just enjoys his own company. So we decided to welcome into our home. Into our small, three bedroom, one bathroom, one living room, one dining room, one non-eat-in kitchen 80+ year old home. I just realized our house is practically the same age as my father-in-law! :)

This is a photograph of my father-in-law on his 83rd birthday this past summer. 

Our house is a great little starter house in a wonderful suburban community with great schools and lots of parks. Perfect for a young family, but the kids are growing up, getting bigger, needing more space and privacy, and when my father-in-law moved in, the house went from cute starter house to an ack!-this-is-so-cramped-help!-I-need-breathing-space house! On the second floor, we have three small bedrooms, each about 10 ft. x 10 ft. and one bathroom about 8 ft. x 10 ft. Thank goodness the bathroom is a decent size, so at least two people can easily be getting ready for bed or school at the same time. But yeah. One toilet. Not counting the new Johnny On The Spot, of course! :) My oldest gave up her room for her grandfather and the girls --ages 9 and 13-- have been sharing a small 10 ft. x 10 ft. room together for almost two years now. In their room is two twin beds with barely three feet between them, one nightstand, one armoire on a wall and one tall chest of drawers in the closet. They're so cramped, but they have been such great sports about it. Our bedroom is called the 'master' bedroom because I think it is closer to 10 ft. x 12 ft. Ha! We have a queen size bed, two small nightstands and one long dresser. I also have a narrow bookshelf behind the door --the best part after the bed. ;) There is about 18 inches clearance around one side and the foot of the bed and maybe four feet between the other side of the bed and our dresser. Very cramped cozy.

So what are we doing to our house? Well, we currently have a total of 1170 sq. ft. of living space and we are adding a whopping 996 sq. ft. to that along with some renovations to our existing space. We are renovating our 1970s kitchen, rebuilding our garage, and off the back of the house, we are adding a family room, a bedroom for my father-in-law, and a full bathroom (handicap accessible... just thinking ahead). I think this will make a world of difference for us not just in terms of space, but in lifestyle as well. Since my father-in-law cannot go up or down the stairs alone or find/prepare/heat up his own food, our freedom to be spontaneous and or to be out of the house for long periods of time is extremely difficult. As it is now, during the day when my husband is at work and the girls are at school, I have these little windows of opportunity to go out on errands, to the gym or what not, when I know my father-in-law won't need to go up or down the stairs. Fortunately for me, he enjoys keeping a consistent daily schedule of naps, meals, walks outside, and reading at his electronic magnifier, so I've been able to predict when he'll need my help and I just go out when I know he'll stay put in one place or another. When he has his own room and bathroom on the first floor, the danger of the stairs will be non-existent, and I'm hoping we can leave a thermos of coffee and lunch on the table for him, and he'll be able to be on his own for longer periods of time during the day. Even if I need to hire someone to come in to take care of him now and then, I'll feel like there will space for the aid to do their thing without being right on top of me, too!

Originally we were only planning on doing this first floor expansion, but everyone kept telling us that we should consider expanding the second floor over this new space. We were afraid a second floor expansion would put us in over our heads financially, but apparently the biggest expense and effort is putting in the new foundation and first floor, and that adding another floor and three more walls above it before you put the roof on is more cost effective at that point. So we looked into it and decided to go for it. Of course, this was nine months ago, and I now wonder if we would still have decided this as confidently given the state of the economy today, but oh well. We'd lose money and sanity if we backtracked now. Thankfully, my father-in-law is generously funding a significant portion of this project with his retirement money, so I think we'll be okay. Better he invest his money into the equity of his son's home than paying for nursing home care, right?

On the second floor, the existing bathroom will be made about a foot or so narrower, which still leaves it a generous 7 ft. x 10 ft., and the extra foot along with two feet or so from our existing master bedroom will be made into a hallway leading to the second floor addition which will be all master bedroom! The remaining space in the existing master bedroom will be made into a narrower bedroom that will gain a bit of length --maybe 2 ft.-- into the new space. The new master bathroom will be an amazing space for me and my husband. We'll have our own bathroom and a big walk in closet with a window in it! That seems so surreal to me after having had a bedroom only a bit bigger than that for the last 12 years. The room will be about 25 ft. x 12 ft. and it will also have an additional 4 ft. x 6 ft. nook that will be a perfect reading corner. I'm already thinking about what kind of bookshelves to get and the chaise lounge I want to put next to the window there. I feel a little guilty about having such a decadent master bedroom like this, but at the same time, I think my husband and I really need it. Taking care of an elderly parent full time is very demanding and challenging, that I think having this little oasis will give us the respite we need to recharge and rejuvenate ourselves, and in turn allow us to be better care givers.

The design phase took a while, as did waiting for the township to approve of our application for the addition and renovation, but now things are finally taking off around here, which is both exciting and scary. I'm so excited I think I decided on the siding, trim, and roofing colors today. Three decisions down, five thousand eight hundred twenty-seven to go!

The project is anticipated to take six or seven months to complete, and for the majority of that time, my husband and I won't have a bedroom (we'll be roughing it in the living room), and I think if my estimations are correct, we won't have a kitchen for Thanksgiving or Christmas!? omgwtf! Think of me as I'll be grilling turkey tenderloins for Thanksgiving and baking Christmas cookies in an EasyBake Oven.

Ready for some pictures? I started a separate blog to document the progress of the construction in pictures, but decided to do it using a different profile than I use for this blog because the purpose of the construction blog is to share our project with a few close friends and my husband's relatives who don't live close by and if I used my happily ever after blog for it, (a) some of them are so NOT computer savvy and they'd just get lost trying to find the actual construction posts here, and (b) I'd have no place to complain about them! LOL! Just kidding! I'll probably post the link to my construction blog here soon as well, but in order to protect the innocent, I first need to photoshop a few of the photographs I posted to blur license plate numbers, our house number, the contractor's name and number, etc. I'll try to do that soon, but in the meantime, I have a few pictures I can share here.

Note: You can click on the photos to view them enlarged.

Before shots of the back of the house, taken in August 2008:
I let my vegetable garden become a haven for beneficial insects this year.  In this picture you can see how the goldenrod pretty much took over. There are also three different kinds of mint, lemon balm, lamb's ears and alpine strawberries in there somewhere. It was pretty, but I'm looking forward to growing vegetables again next summer. 

This is after the demolition, when the foundation is being built:

The cement is being poured into the crawl space foundation. We opted to save ten grand by NOT digging out a full basement:

The new garage is on the left and the living space is on the right where the floor joists are shown. This picture was just taken today.

And that's it so far. On Monday, I think they are laying the plywood for the rough floor and I'm going to do a little walk through with my contractor and the plans to make any last minute adjustments on door and window placement. We're also getting one of those on site Pod storage things delivered on Monday, because we need to empty our attic and basement this week, and probably the master bedroom and kitchen soon, too. So much work, but I'm so very lucky to be able to be doing this addition in the first place, and it's going to be so, so, so worth it in the end. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Showin' Some Blog Lurve

I've been awarded the I Love Your Blog Award by a handful of my most favorite bloggers: Ana & Thea of The Book Smugglers, whom I completely adore and idolize. Ana and Thea read an amazing number and variety of novels and write the most phenomenal reviews. They're smart, articulate, thorough, insightful and honest. Carolyn Jean of The Thrillionth Page. I love Carolyn Jean's posts. She has this talent for conveying her thoughts on books in such clever and fun ways. She's so incredibly creative and articulate, it's really no wonder she's got a two book deal with Bantam. WoOt! Sarai of Thoughts of an Aspiring Writer. Sarai is an aspiring author and an avid reader. Well, lately, life has disrupted her momentum a bit, but her blog is always full of enthusiasm and devotion to the art of reading and writing romance, and her attitude toward life is amazing. And hot off the presses, Jill D. of Romance Rookie has also nominated me for this award! Which I just discovered upon clicking to her blog for her url because I'm nominating her as well! See below. ;)

Thank you Ana, Thea, Carolyn Jean, Sarai and Jill D. for awarding me the I Love Your Blog Award. I'm so flattered and it is a great honor that you consider my blog one of your favorites.

The rules for this award are that you need to:
1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

My nominees are:
1. Ciara of Ciara Stewart
An aspiring writer, Ciara posts almost daily about all kinds of book related topics such as reviews, conference details, author interviews, and other tidbits about the world of romance or urban fantasy novels. Her posts are informative and always enthusiastic and upbeat.

2. Kmont of Lurve a la Mode
Kmont writes comprehensive, thoughtful and honest book reviews of romance, urban fantasy, and some sci fi novels, and I love the way her personality shines through everything she writes. She also discusses the latest episodes of her favorite tv shows.

3. Amy C. of Romance Book Wrym
Amy and I have a lot of favorite books and authors in common, but she still manages to introduce me to something new all the time. Amy is also a romance writer and published her first novel with Red Rose Publishing earlier this year. Amy has since decided, howver, that the publishing world wasn't a good fit for her right now, so instead, Amy is sharing her stories every Monday on her blog one chapter at a time. Right now you can read her latest work, Spirits Unveiled. Check it out HERE.

4. Tracy of Tracy's Place.
Tracy is one of my favorite reading machines. Seriously she typically reads in one week what I barely manage to read in one month! My favorite post at her blog is titled "What I've been reading this week." I love the diversity of novels she reads, and I love that she's adamant about happily ever after endings.

6. Taja of Books and Games.
Taja's blog is always a pleasure to visit. She writes thoughtful reviews and is really good at picking up on the little details in novels that can either make or break the story. She also posts reviews or comments on a wide variety of video games. Very cool.

7. Jill D. of Romance Rookie.
Unlike me, Jill is so good about writing timely reviews for books she reads. Her reviews are consistent and she reads from a wide variety of romance sub genres, always giving me ideas for my wish list. I also love that Jill includes links to other reviews in her posts. She makes it so easy to quickly hop around and see what others are saying about the same book.
Note: I had already composed this post when I discovered Jill nominated me for this award, too! Thanks, Jill! And I had to laugh that both of us poked fun at my procrastination at writing reviews. LOL Okay, not really funny. Damn pathetic is more like it. :P

8. DarlingDiva of The Things In Live That Make Me Happy.
DarlingDiva and I met on JR Ward's message boards and then became close real life friends when we finally met in person in the Summer of 2007. We have remarkably similar (identical?) tastes in books, including our fondness for YA fiction and she is undeniably my fellow Twilight Addict. In fact, she might just be more obsessed than me! DarlingDiva posts lots of random tidbits about all things Twilight on her blog, other books, movies, music, tv shows, . . . Anything that makes her happy! :)

9. The girls at Book Binge.
One of my favorite go to sites for book reviews, author interviews, interesting discussion and lots of newsworthy information regarding the romance novel industry.

And last, but not least . . .
10. Kristie(j) and Katiebabs of Ramblings on Romance, Etc.
What can I say? These two are the dynamic duo of romance blogging. There's always something new and fun popping up on Ramblings whether it be the excellent and entertaining AIM book reviews, today's hottest or most 'interesting' book covers, or simply the announcement of a new Crusader. No matter the topic, friendly discussion is sure to follow.

Is there any rule against nominating everyone in your blog roll? Does anyone know? 
Because I've got a lot of Blog Lurve to give here.  

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Page 56: A Book Meme

I got tagged by Kmont from Lurv à la Mode.

The Rules:
Grab the nearest book. Open the book to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal/blog along with these instructions.

Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the closest. Tag five other people to do the same.

I grabbed my current read, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan.

This morning my life seemed so clear. Turn down Brown, check. Go into the city to see the band Caroline likes rather than suffer through an evening with Mom and Dad entertaining the dreaded hip-hop people at the house, check. This night was supposed to end like any other night out with Caroline--watch her hook up with a guy, then get her home safely. Check. I'm not that girl who randomly meets a guy one night and has her life change.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is a young adult novel about two college bound teens, Nick and Norah during one night in New York City. Nick O'Leary, bass player in a rock band, meets Norah Silverberg in a club after his band's gig and asks her to be his girlfriend for five minutes in order to avoid his ex. The novel was published in 2006 and has recently been made to a movie that was released in theaters nationwide last weekend. My daughter read the book a few weeks ago, and now I'm reading it before we go see the movie together.

I tag:

As always, if you don't want to respond, that's quite all right. No pressure. All fun. :) 

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Demonica Compendium

Cover by Valerie Tibbs.
Larissa Ione, author of the new Demonica dark paranormal romance series has just revealed the cover to a compendium she is writing for the series. Demonica: A Demon Compendium will be available as a free ebook download in January 2009. The book will include in depth information on demon species, deleted scenes, and a short story about the brothers Eidolon, Shade and Wraith. If you loved Pleasure Unbound, as much as I did, you, too, are probably intensely craving more from this world. Demonica: The Demon Compendium should help satiate us a bit until the next full length Demonica novel. Visit Larissa Ione's website HERE for more details. 

If you haven't yet read the Pleasure Unbound, the first novel in the Demonica series, I highly recommend you do. It's a dark, edgy and sinfully sexy novel that will redefine all that you love about paranormal romance. Larissa Ione writes her characters and their stories in such a way that the lines between good and evil are blurred and everything in the world is rich shades of gray. 

The next two novels in this series, Desire Unchained and Passion Unleashed will be available in March 2009 and April 2009 respectively. 

Monday, October 6, 2008

Someone is "Riding Wild"!!!

We have a winner for my birthday present giveaway. I entered everyone's name from the comments into list generator and the lucky winner is . . . . . . 

Jill D.!!! 

Congratulations! Please email me your mailing address so I can send you Riding Wild by Jaci Burton!!!

Thank you to everyone who entered! 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Surprise Birthday Celebration

So many of you already know it was my birthday last week (Thanks for the love!) and it was great! My husband and daughters spoiled me with some special little gifts and some sweet little acts of love. My father-in-law gave me a generous monetary gift, which I'm contemplating spending completely on books, coffee and gas. The doorbell rang a few times, too, when the UPS guy, my mailman and the local florist delivered some very thoughtful and heartwarming gifts from some special friends. Later in the evening, my dear friend and neighbor surprised me with a gorgeous bracelet and a nice bottle of wine. And I can't forget all the warm birthday wishes I received from so many friends here on my blog and on myspace. I had a really wonderful birthday, and I thank everyone for making my birthday so special!

Since my birthday fell midweek this year, both girls had homework to do and my teen even dance class on Wednesday night, so we decided to go out for my birthday dinner on Saturday night instead.  I made plans to spend all day Saturday making progress in some of my selections for the new construction we're doing. I spent a couple of hours with my kitchen guy and finalized the kitchen layout and cabinet selection. With a cabinet sample in hand, I headed home for a quick lunch break only to find my best friend from childhood (see PITSTOP! post) at my house, gift in hand (Another gorgeous sterling silver bracelet. Do my friends know me, or what?), ready to take me out for lunch and help me shop for tiles and fixtures. What a fantastic surprise! She lives over two hours away and left her husband home alone with the 4 year old and twin 2 year olds all day and evening, so I think I ought to send him a thank you card as much as I need to send my girlfriend one, don't you think? Anyway, we spent the rest of the day shopping for tile for my new bathrooms and kitchen, then headed home to go out to dinner with my husband and kids.

I had been telling my husband all week long that I wanted Thai or Mexican, but my husband kept suggesting we go to the local Bar & Grill because it had more variety and he had a discount promise from the manager in compensation for poor service the last time we were there and he didn't want the dude to forget about it. I'm thinking, "But it's my birthday and I want Thai or Mexican." He pleads with me because he doesn't want to waste his discount, and my girlfriend suggests I relent and just go to the other restaurant next time when maybe he and I can get out alone. So I concede. Well, it's a good thing, because there was a surprise party waiting for me at the Bar & Grill! No kidding! I never suspected a thing and was completely surprised to see almost a dozen of my friends (and their kids) waiting to celebrate my birthday.

The surprise:

You just can't fake this look. I think it is complete and utter surprise mixed with joy. :) 

I think the little guests felt very important being on the secret keeping side of the surprise. 

Wow. I still can't believe my husband threw me this party! 

He even sneaked onto my laptop one night to get Kate's email address so he could invite her. Isn't that sweet? What's even sweeter is that she came! And so brave to hang out with all these old married folks with kids. Thanks Kate! You're a great friend and awesome sport! xoxo

Kate and me. 

My girlfriend's two month old baby boy, Aiden. I think he loves me. 

After dinner, we came back to our house for cake and coffee and a slideshow of some family pictures. I have to say it was a wonderful way to kick off this new decade. :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Give me a 'J' . . .

I saw this meme at Stacy's Place on Earth, and decided to play along. Before I play my version of the meme, here are the rules:

1. Comment on this blog and ask for a letter.
2. I will give you one.
3. Think of 5 fictional characters whose name begins with that letter, and post their names and your comments on that character on your blog.

Stacy assigned me the letter 'J.'  I chose all romance heroes whose first name starts with the lettter 'J.' 

1. Jack Travis, hero of the upcoming Lisa Kleypas contemporary romance, Smooth Talking Stranger. So far, readers had a brief glimpse of Jack Travis in Sugar Daddy, and then a more prominent one as the brother of the heroine Haven Travis in Blue Eyed Devil. Jack Travis and Gage Travis were both protective of their sister Haven, and I admired the way Jack still gave Haven the space she needed to figure out her own way. He's obviously a ladies man, i.e., he has many, frequent lovers, but I get the impression that he's always a gentleman. Well, at least I think he is. LOL Even though he hasn't yet had is own story, with Lisa Kleypas writing his story, I'm confident he'll be a hero I'll love. Smooth Talking Stranger is scheduled for release in March 2009 and you can read my post about it HERE.

2. Judd Lauren, hero of Caressed by Ice, Book 3 in the Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh. Judd is a defected Arrow or soldier of the Psy Council who is renowned for his cold silence and control. He falls in love with Brenna Kincaid, the sensual Snow Dancer wolf who has just been rescued from having had been abducted, abused and experimented on by a sociopathic killer. Judd's struggle with finding a balance between the cold, unfeeling nature of his psy being and the desire to be emotionally and physically intimate with Brenna just melted my heart.

3. Jacob Black from the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer. Jacob Black is best friends with the heroine Bella Swan, their love often teetering on the edge of friendship and lovers throughout much of the series. While it is undeniable that Bella Swan and Edward Cullen are soulmates, the intensity and wholesomeness of the love shared between Bella and Jacob cannot be denied. On more than one occasion, Jacob demonstrates what it means to be a hero and by the end of the series, he is my favorite Twilight character. For even more explanation of why I love Jacob, read this awesome post HERE by Ciara on her blog.

4. Julian Sinclair, the hero from The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran. I don't normally gravitate to historical romance, but do pick up one up now and then if highly recommended by readers, this being one of them and I loved it! The story was poignant and romantic, the hero and heroine flawed and misunderstood, but oh so right for each other. The author's story telling voice was beautiful and poetic and I'm truly looking forward to her upcoming novels.

5. John Matthew, a.k.a. JM, a.k.a. Terrhor from J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. JM's story has been sloooowly developing over this series, ever since the very first book when the Scribe Virgin gave the deceased vampire, Darius, who was Beth's father and Tohr's best friend, the gift of returning to Earth as the young pretrans John Matthew. It's been a fun, albeit a rather drawn out, journey as readers have watched JM transition from a scared, abused young orphan to the lethal vampire he was in the more recent novels. His role was especially interesting in Lover Enshrined, and I'm looking forward to his own story. And please, J.R., make someone figure out that he is Darius soon. His apparent mysterious identity is getting old.

Anyone want to play?