Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall Run

I just learned a few days ago that my cycling inspiration and friend Maureen, who is a certified instructor at my gym, designed a new exercise class that she is trying to get off the ground called Fall Run. It's basically an outdoor running class to help participants improve their running form and learn new techniques that will hopefully improve skill and endurance. The class meets for 45 minutes two times a week starting today and ends with a 5 Mile Race the day after Thanksgiving that takes place every year in our community.

I'm not really a runner. I do it once in a blue moon when I need to squeeze in a short, productive workout, but I don't really like it so much.

Currently, I can just about run 1.5 to 2 miles without stopping.

A 5 mile race? Maybe she meant a 5K Race.

I googled it. It's a 5 mile race.

When I go for a run, I have to listen to my iPod with the volume high enough to drown out the sound of my own breathing. If I can hear myself panting for breath, I just start thinking about how I'd better stop soon before I can't breathe at all.

So I signed up for the Fall Run class.

LOLOL! Who does that?

I'm seriously having doubts here as the time to meet at the park approaches. Fifteen minutes and counting.

But I'm going to do it and give it my best. I told my family about the class over dinner on Tuesday night and explained what it involves, where and when it meets, how Maureen gently encouraged me and convinced me to try it, and how it ends with participating in the 5 Mile Post-Thanksgiving Race and so on.

My teen daughter finally asked, "So are you doing it?"
I said, "Yeah."
Teen said, "Really?" with a smile growing on her face.
I said, "Yeah. I'm already signed up. The first session is Thursday morning."
Teen said, "Wow!"
Not really sure if she was more shocked and maybe downright flabbergasted that I signed up for a running class of all things, and maybe doubting myself a bit, I said, "What? You don't think I should have?"
Teen said, "No! It's great that your doing it. You're so brave."

Brave. How often does someone tell you they think you're brave? Let me tell you, when your teenager tells you she thinks you're brave, it is pretty powerful.

She's proud of me and thinks me brave for putting myself out there and trying to do something--get better at something, that she knows and I know, I'm not really very good at, but would like to better. It's the exact thing I try to instill in both my daughters every day. But coming from my own daughter? I'm not sure why that struck me so hard, but it was pretty empowering. I'm holding on to that thought . . .

Friday, October 23, 2009

Puppy Love

No, we did NOT get puppies! As much as my girls would be in heaven with a puppy, much less two, we have four cats and that's just four cats too many more than enough for us. I will not be suckered in to adopt a puppy.

Other people, however, are much easier to sucker. Enter my friend.

There's a family in town doing this amazing thing of fostering puppies that have been rescued from puppy mills while they await adoption. Well, would you believe my friend let the foster family convince her to take both of these puppies home for a day or two in order to decide which one she'd keep? LOLOLOL! Are you kidding me? After a mere few hours with both of these creatures, she was in love with both of them. Duh. I could have told her that was going to happen! So here she is the new mommy to these cute things. They're both one of those cool mixed breeds of hypo allergenic dogs. The puppy on the left is a terrier type mix and is named Chestnut and the Shih Tzu mix on the right is named Oreo.

I helped her take them to the vet this morning for some shots and had so much fun snuggling them. Two words: Puppy Love.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another Organic Produce Share

I just picked up today's share from my organic produce co-op and am already planning our next several meals around this gorgeous array of fruits and vegetables!

From left to right, starting at the top:
Swiss chard, arugula, romaine lettuce . . . acorn squash, yellow onions, poblano peppers, tomatillos, an avocado, bananas . . . white mushrooms, Devoe pears, slicing tomatoes, baby asian eggplant . . . black plums, green lipstick peppers, empire apples, and carrots.

click on photo to enlarge

I timed my trip to pick up my share perfectly, because when I got to my friend's house, she had just finished cooking butternut squash soup seasoned with ginger, salt & pepper using the squash from the last order. Of course she offered me a bowl and of course I said yes. It was so delicious, I think I'll be making something similar in the next few days using either the acorn squash or carrots.

I'm also definitely seeing a Mexican meal or two made from the poblano peppers, tomatillos, and the avocado.

What about you? From this week's share shown in the photo above, is there anything in particular you'd like to see a recipe for?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Library Loot VI

Library Loot is a weekly blog event that encourages bloggers to share what books they borrowed from the library that week. To participate, simply make your Library Loot post on your blog and link it using the Mr. Linky link at Marg's blog Reading Adventures or Eva's blog A Striped Armchair. FYI, this week's Mr.Linky is at Marg's.

I truly had no business borrowing books from the library today when I have a nightstand full of other library loot just waiting to be read. Yet there I was, borrowing more.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.

I'm pretty sure I am the last romance reader on the planet to read this book. Lord of Scoundrels just may be the most talked about romance novel ever in the world of romance blogs. So much so that I imagine it would be required reading for Romance Reading 101 if there were such a course, you know? This became evident to me quite some time ago, but I just hadn't gotten around to either buying the book or even looking for it at the library. Then just recently, in honor of the birthday of author Kathleen Winsor (1919-2003) who is possibly considered the "mother" of romance authors so to speak, having written the controversial romance novel, Forever Amber that was published in 1944, Jessica of Racy Romance Reviews and two other romance readers/bloggers, @Mcvane and @Sonomalass, encouraged romance bloggers to post their list of 16 favorite romance novels of all time. Of course, Lord of Scoundrels appeared on umpteen lists once again. That was it! Seeing Lord of Scoundrels mentioned time and time again as an all time favorite romance novel was the last straw on the proverbial camel's back. I decided I no longer wanted to be in the dark and unexposed to this standard of all romance novels. So today, finally!, I borrowed the famed book from the library. Now let's just see if it lives up to these sky high expectations!

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz.
The Spellman Files series, Book 1

I borrowed the second book in this series in my library loot two weeks ago and have been waiting patiently for it to be returned by the patron who should have returned it a week ago already. When I went in to the library today, I checked to see if it was in anyway, hoping there was an oversight and I wasn't called to be told it was in like the librarians usually do when I have a hold on a book, but alas, no. It is still out. BUT! They had the large print edition available, so I snatched it! This series comes recommended by Li of Me and My Books and now also Michelle of the Red Headed Book Child, looks very fun.

the truth about forever by Sarah Dessen.

I actually read this book earlier in the year upon my teen daughter's recommendation. She had borrowed it from a friend and when she was finished reading it, she insisted and begged for me to read it, too. I picked it up one day and couldn't put it down. I truly loved it and have been leaving hints with some of my fellow adult bloggers who read young adult that they should definitely read this, too. While looking for the two other books listed in this weeks loot at the library, I saw a copy of the truth about forever on a mysterious shelf of miscellaneous titles near the large print section. It was a very strange place for a young adult book to be shelved, but also rather serendipitous that I stumbled upon it because I've been wanting to re-read it very badly.

What's your latest library loot?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cinnamon Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This is a great snack to make when you carve your Halloween pumpkin. It's so quick and easy! You can have the seeds toasting in the oven within minutes of scooping out the insides of your pumpkin. It makes the house smell heavenly, too!

Cinnamon Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tblsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 275 F

2. Wash pumpkin seeds by rinsing in a colander until the water runs clear, picking out any remaining pieces of pumpkin. Drain well and spread out on a cookie sheet and pat dry with a paper towel.

3. Pile pumpkin seeds on the cookie sheet and drizzle melted butter over the pile of seeds and sprinkle on the sugar, cinnamon and a pinch or two of kosher salt.

4. Gently toss seeds until evenly coated and spread the seeds out evenly on the cookie sheet.

5. Bake in 275 F oven for approximately 30 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring seeds every 10 minutes and checking for doneness each time.

6. Remove from oven and let the seeds cool for a few minutes.

7. Remove seeds from cookie sheet and serve!

Chances are there won't be any leftovers, but if there are, store seeds in an airtight container for a few days to preserve freshness.

Enjoy! :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Volleyball Pumpkin Party

I mentioned a several weeks ago that my eldest daughter, who is a freshman in high school this year, made the volleyball team. The season is quite short, but no less intense with practices every weekday since late August, a few Saturday practices, and games 2-4 days a week. It's hard to believe the season will be over by this time next weekend.

Today we hosted a little pumpkin party for the team at our house. The team of fifteen girls crowded around the dining room table wearing fake vampire teeth and carved pumpkins.

One of the girls brought a white pumpkin and carved it in the likeness of a volleyball. Isn't it great?

Pumpkin seeds were saved for roasting:

Yummy treats were served, including these very delicious pumpkin cookies made by one of the moms that had both milk chocolate and white chocolate chips in it. Soft and cake-like. Mmmm. I've got to get that recipe!

Despite the fact that it's been rainy and unseasonably cold here for the last several days, the girls headed outside to toss set and bump a volleyball around in the yard after the rain had stopped. So dedicated.

By the end of the afternoon, we had this adorable team of pumpkins:

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Visit From The Book Fairy

I had a visit from my very own personal book fairy two days ago. By no fault of hers, we hadn't seen each other in about a year. That whole "renovation-addition-living in a one bedroom apartment with my family of five-thing" threw me for a loop and I didn't spend so much time visiting with friends over the last year. I did exchange a ton of email, text, IM, and good old fashioned phone calls during that time, though. But finally my book fairy and I got together this week for lunch and cupcakes. I seriously have got to stay far away from that shop downtown. I'm letting three visits in one month slide because it's my birthday month and all, but no more. Cupcakes will not help me beat those hills.

So in exchange for a cupcake and a trip to my local Trader Joe's <--live near one of these and friends will find all kinds of excuses to come visit you, my book fairy gave me a very generous stack of some really awesome books. Check out this stack of books!

click on photo to enlarge

The books in RED are books that I'm so excited to read, but I'm truthfully interested in reading every single one of these!

On the left, from left to right:
Liar* by Justine Larbalestier
Girl In The Arena by Lise Haines
Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
Indiscreet by Carolyn Jewel
With Seduction In Mind by Laura Lee Guhrke
When Seducing A Duke by Kathryn Smith

The stack in the middle, from bottom to top:
Renegade Hunter by Lynsay Sands
Finding The Lost by Shannon K. Butcher
Winter Kiss by Deborah Cooke
Dark Curse by Christine Feehan
Lucan by Susan Kearney
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Seduced by Shadows by Jessa Slade
Demon Forged by Meljean Brook
Skin Game by Ava Gray

On the right, from left to right:
Dark Slayer by Christine Feehan
The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide** by J.R. Ward

*My book fairy's copy of Liar is an ARC version with the original cover art (shown left) before the publisher changed it to a more accurate portrayal of the main character who is a young black girl (shown right), a decision I understand made as a result of readers or other book people upset. Of course, it would have been ideal for Bloomsbury to use cover art of a young black girl from the start, but I still think it's great that Bloomsbury followed through with a correction and changed the art. Considering the controversy over the cover art and its resultant change, the ARC with the original cover art is somewhat of a collector's item, so this one is a loaner and will be returned to my book fairy after I've finished reading it.

**The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide by J.R. Ward is a book that I asked my book fairy to buy for me at the NJ RWA Literacy Signing last year, and she had even got it signed for me by the author.

There are a handful of others she gave me, but I didn't include them in the photo. One was a Sherrilyn Kenyon hardcover of a paperback I already own, and the others were middle grade books that I'll pass on to my 10 year old.

Isn't my book fairy the greatest? Thank you, book fairy!!! *muah!*

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Week's Organic Produce Share

About 10 years ago, I joined an organic produce co-op in my area called Purple Dragon Co-Op that provides its members with a diverse selection of quality, seasonal organic produce purchased directly from local and regional farmers. The founder of the co-op basically acts as the distributor or liaison between local and regional organic farmers and the members by purchasing a selection of produce from the various farms based on what's available and also making sure the biweekly selection offers a wide variety of produce. Produce from more distant farms is purchased when items such as bananas are simply not grown in our region or when our area farms are not in season.

The co-op is made up of numerous groups in communities throughout the area--I believe there are about 60 right now. Each group receives enough produce to be divided into 15 equal shares. Every other week, boxes of fresh produce that were harvested and packed at the farms just a day or two prior are delivered to the groups' pick-up locations-- which in my case, is my co-ordinator's garage. My group's co-ordinator also happens to be a close friend of mine and it's through her that I discovered the co-op many years ago when our first children were just babies. Members of the group then take turns scheduling a delivery date to come to her garage at 9 am to sort the food into the fifteen equal shares for each member and get a monetary credit that day for "working" the co-op.

A few years ago I took a break from the co-op and gave up my spot for a year or more when home life got really hectic and I found I was wasting food that spoiled before I got around to cooking it. Then in the summer of 2008, I helped my friend out by being a sub in her group when members went away on vacation. I realized how much I missed the diverse selection of produce that came in the share and how fresh everything was. Not to mention it made me realize I wasn't buying and therefore eating the same quantity of vegetables on my own than when I was in the co-op. Since the co-op groups are designed for exactly fifteen members, there is often a wait list to get into the group in your area. Lucky for me, by the end of that summer there was an opening, and I was able to rejoin as a regular member again. So with my renewed interest in the co-op and the fact that I have a gorgeous new kitchen that's so much more fun to cook in, I'm more excited than ever to be a part of my organic co-op again.

Here's a photo of the produce that came in last Thursday's share. From left to right, starting at the top: kale, two heads of romaine lettuce, carrots, purple bell peppers, butternut squash, gala apples, bananas, yellow cherry tomatoes, broccoli, edamame, cantaloupe, red thumb potatoes, concord grapes and green cabbage. All produce is from local NY and PA farms except for the cantaloupe, carrots and bananas.

click on image to enlarge

If you brought home this share, which item would appeal to you the most?
Is there anything you haven't tried before?
Which would you like to see a recipe for?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bike is a Four Letter Word: Reflections on my Week of Riding

Note: This post is a bit long and rambling, but it was a great exercise in self reflection for me as I evaluated my progress and goals in biking after a not-so-great day on the road for me over a week ago. Feel free to read on if you're interested in following my newfound passion for road biking and the bumps I'm hitting along the way--both literally and figuratively.

Last week's riding started out with the four letter word Ouch! (and a few others come to mind . . . ) and ended on a more positive note with the four letter word Goal.

It was an interesting week for me that actually taught me a lot. It started out with a fall that bruised my body and my pride, making me carefully evaluate what I want to get out of riding, recognize my limitations and weaknesses and set some goals.

Climbing has been my toughest challenge in road biking since I started riding in late August. I thought nine months of biweekly spin classes would have prepared me for the hills, but spinning at the gym and riding the road are quite different experiences. Both are great workouts, but those real life hills are serious business. I've learned from the start to listen to my body and stop or ride onto a side street that runs parallel to the mountain (if there is one), to allow my heart rate to recover for 1-2 minutes before continuing up the mountain. It's going to take more training and practice to make it up in one charge.

Last week started with a ride that set me back both physically and emotionally, but in the end prompted me to do some constructive self evaluating. It was the Sunday morning before last, and the ride started with me having just gotten my period moments before setting out. A little voice inside my head said, "Maybe a ride this morning isn't good idea. You're not always 'with it' that first day or so." But this other voice--the stronger, optimistic, positive attitude voice that I try to listen to as much as possible said, "Pish posh! Just do it!" So I did.

As I expected, I had to stop on one of climbs to recover, which was fine. Then a detour in our route had us riding on some unfamiliar roads and when we got to a traffic light at the crest of a climb, I admit I was grateful the light was red so I could recover. Then I saw the steep hill before us that disappeared around a bend, and damn it if the sight of that hill didn't make me start to cry. Not exactly the example of a striving athlete, I know, but as much as I tried, I just couldn't help being overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, frustration and maybe even a bit of self pity. My husband, being the sensitive, supportive guy he is, gave me an encouraging hug and kiss and quickly planned out an alternate route. Barely ten minutes later, in a split second of poor judgement, I had a little crash. I was already aware of the limitations of those thin tires on road bike and how crucial it is to avoid riding over obstacles like stones, small tree branches, and curbs(!), but for this novice, a split second err of judgement gave me a painful first hand lesson I won't soon forget. Thankfully I was wearing a helmet and my injuries weren't more than some minor scrapes, bruises and bumps, but it still hurt like heck, bringing me to tears again. Adding insult to injury, I got a flat when we were about halfway home from my fall. Thanks to my husband, we had a spare tube, tools and pump on our bikes and he had the know-how to replace it for me.

In all honesty, I felt rather defeated after this ride. I wasn't giving up on road riding, of course. It's a lot of fun, a great workout and I actually enjoy the challenge. But there is a fine line between being challenged and being overwhelmed. I think I hit that line this particular day and it was difficult and sad for me to admit it that I couldn't physically do something just because I wanted to do it. As much as I knew since I got my bike in late August that I would need to improve my riding strength and endurance, this day forced me to acknowledge that I had far to go and a lot of work ahead of me in order to conquer those $@#% awesome hills.

The next morning, I woke up feeling achy from the fall and debated on whether or not to go to my regular Monday morning cardio interval class at the gym. I got dressed for it, but wavered all morning while getting the kids off to school, but when that inner voice said, "If you're striving to be an athlete, it's not going to happen staying at home," I headed for the gym. I was already running a few minutes late at this point due to my indecision, and I should have thought it a sign when I couldn't find parking. I circled the neighborhood a few more times and finally got a spot. On my way in, I ran into two very fit, energetic women whom I know from classes and they both tell me that the class is so full there's no room to work out in there. This has never happened to me before and I even usually get there with barely a free moment before class starts. I don't know why it was so crowded that day. The thought of using the fitness room--either the elliptical or treadmill--just bored me to death. One of the gym employees suggested we try the fitness room used for personal trainers and private small group sessions, so we went to check it out, but it was being used. Defeated again, I headed home and declared it a mental health day.

One of the trainers that had been in the fitness room that morning was my friend and biking inspiration, Maureen. I have been spinning next to her in class since January and we've become friendly over the months, sharing small talk about biking and our families before and after class. In the winter, I learned that she and her husband have been serious riders for many years, which I wasn't surprised about from observing her in spin class. She always demonstrates great form and endurance and I like spinning next to her because it encourages me to try to 'keep up.' A few times, Maureen suggested that if I was interested in road riding, that she'd be happy to ride with me. It certainly boosted my self confidence that she thought I'd be a worthy riding partner. Especially after I learned that she was not only a certified fitness instructor, but also a personal trainer, and she regularly runs marathons. What would she get out of riding with me? We had plans to ride one day in early September, but she had to cancel so we still hadn't ridden together.

So when I got home from Monday morning's non-workout visit to the gym, I emailed Maureen and told her about my fall the day before and how I was having an 'off' day or two, but was hoping to be back on track the next day. She emailed me back and suggested we ride together on Tuesday afternoon. So after going to Zumba (fun!) at the gym on Tuesday morning, I met Maureen for an 18.5 mile ride in the mountains. She took me on this great route that was both challenging and scenic. Yes, I had to stop a few times, but she was very patient and supportive and even gave me some tips. I was so glad I said yes to the ride. I was so close to saying 'no thank you' because I was afraid of hurting my pride more when I had to tell this strong, fit rider that I had to stop when she could have been high tailing it up the mountain, but in the end, I think the fact that I said yes to joining her on a ride and following through with it made me feel pretty darned proud of myself.

I went to spin class on Thursday prepared to work harder than ever before. I checked my heart rate monitor frequently and pushed whenever necessary to keep my heart rate at the high end of my target heart rate range. I also tried to imagine the road in the mountains when I was spinning, making my spin class simulate the road as much as possible in my head. I have to say, this kind of visualization really helped me stay in the zone, so to speak. It was probably one of my best spin classes ever.

Saturday, my husband and I went road riding, and I took him on the route that I did with Maureen. I still had to stop in the hills, but not often as I did previously. Not because I didn't feel the urge to, mind you, but because my husband is so strong and sweet that he would give me a boost when I was nearing my limit. Don't laugh, but a few times when he sensed I was at my limit, he would pedal up from behind me and put his hand on my back and give me a boost. He did this on steep hills, pedaling for both his own body weight, and some of mine. I know it sounds crazy, and I probably looked ridiculous getting a push from another rider, but I he helped me get up those hills with a few less stops. Okay, don't tell anyone about those boosts. It is a little embarrassing. *blush*

Yesterday, my husband and I decided to mix it up a little and went mountain biking. We drove about 30-40 minutes to a park that has biking trails and spent about an hour riding the trails. I used one of my husband's mountain bikes (he has six bikes) that is now officially mine (now I have three). It was a gorgeous fall day here in New Jersey yesterday and the scenery in the mountains was so beautiful. The trees have started turning colors, the tall grasses were yellow and weeping, and the streams were so pretty. Plus my husband was leading most of the time on trails so the view was even better. It was a nice change from road biking and certainly technically very different. The terrain is obviously unpredictable, but that's part of the appeal of mountain biking, I think. I'm looking forward to hitting the trails again and hopefully taking some pictures of the views next time.

Overall, it was certainly a productive biking week for me. I learned quite a few things about myself both physically and mentally regarding biking and have made some goals:

1. Drop some pounds. This one is really an ever present goal for me anyway, but as far as biking goes, I know it will be easier to get up those hills if I'm not carrying all this extra weight up with me.

2. Increase the resistance on my bike in spin class and not ease up when it gets tough. You can't change the terrain when riding on a road, but in spin class, it's too easy to just ease the resistance when the going gets tough. I'm vowing to myself to not ease up any more in spin class. I'm hoping this will help condition both my legs and my heart for those uphill climbs.

3. Improve my efficiency on uphill climbs by standing up out of the saddle more often and for longer periods of time. I try to do this once in awhile, but my pedaling gets all jerky. Maureen suggested I actually shift to a higher gear when standing to put more resistance under my feet when pedaling and then lowering it again when I sit back in the saddle. It's a skill that I definitely need to work on.

And that's what I'll be working on for a while.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Library Loot V

So much for my new blog direction as I sit here posting about books again.

I actually started composing a very insightful post about perseverance as I struggled emotionally and physically with biking this week, but I had a busy day yesterday and didn't finish writing it. How ironic. *sigh* And now it's Library Loot Day, so here it is . . .

Library Loot is a weekly blog event that encourages bloggers to share what books they borrowed from the library that week. To participate, simply make your Library Loot post on your blog and link it using the Mr. Linky link at Marg's blog Reading Adventures or Eva's blog A Striped Armchair. FYI, this week's Mr.Linky is at Marg's.

I actually picked up two of these books last week, but never got around to posting my Library Loot, and since I still haven't read them, they're counting as today's loot.

So last week I went to the library looking for the second Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich and spotted this brand new release in children's literature that I got ultra excited about.

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo!

If you have any young children in your life or have a love of children's literature, you really need to be reading Kate DiCamillo's works. Because of Winn Dixie is a beloved chapter book of many school age children and is actually used for reading group instruction at my daughters' elementary school. It's a very sweet story with a lot of life lessons that can prompt some great family discussion. DiCamillo also wrote Tiger Rising--which was a curious yet thoughtful novel about a boy and girl and a tiger in Florida and how they learn about trust and friendship. It's probably my least favorite of her works, but still a good read. Then there is The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo which won the Newberry Medal in 2004 and what a delightful read it is. It's fun and adventurous, and again full of some really wonderful life lessons about believing in yourself and finding happiness. Then came The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane in 2006 and it easily became my most favorite children's novel ever. It's a poignant story and does have some very sad parts, but it's also full of hope, friendship, love and perseverance. I can't recommend it enough. The Magician's Elephant is Kate DiCamillo's most recent work having just been released in late September 2009, and I was so thrilled to find it at my library.

Visit author Kate DiCamillo at her website

Next up is Two For The Dough by Janet Evanovich, which is the second book in her very popular Stephanie Plum series. Fun stuff.

Finally, I picked up The Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz. It is the second novel in the Spellman Files series that has come to me recommended by Li at Me and My Books and sounds really fun. The first novel in the series, The Spellman Files, is currently being borrowed by another patron, but as soon as it comes in, I'll check it out and read it before I read The Curse of the Spellmans.

That's my library loot for this week. Hopefully I'll be read one of them this week.

Now that I've gushed over how much I love children's author Kate DiCamillo, I want to know who your favorite children's author is (for ages 9-12), if you have one.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Winner of My Birthday Book Giveaway!

The lucky winner of Can't Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards is . . . .


Congratulations! *confetti*

Thank you all for the lovely birthday wishes and the encouraging words on my decision to include all my other interests here on my blog. Which I know from my posts--or lack thereof over the last few days seems like all talk and no action, but I promise I'll be doing it! LOL

List Randomizer

There were 17 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

I heart book gossip

Timestamp: 2009-10-05 16:44:40 UTC

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Birthday Celebration: Cupcakes, Romance & New Blog Direction

Today is my birthday. Life is good. :)

My Happy Heart.
I usually get up on Thursday mornings at 5:30 am for spin class at my gym with my favorite instructor, and this morning I thought I'd sleeping in to 7:15 am because it's my birthday. But I reconsidered and decided it would be a much better gift to myself to be exercising--better for my body and better for my mind. So I went to spin class and used my new heart rate monitor (one of my birthday gifts from my husband), making sure I stayed in my optimum heart rate range. Which meant I knew when I started to slack off, so I knew when to push a little harder. What a great tool!

I'm now thinking that maybe I can go indulge in a cupcake today without as much guilt. I'm talking a cupcake from that cupcake shop downtown that has those cupcakes that are almost too beautiful, too sinful to eat. Look at these. If you click on the photo, you can see up close.

I took this picture a few months ago when the shop first opened, but I inhaled too many calories just walking into the place so I didn't even try one. It smelled so decadent. A birthday, though, sounds like the right day to make an exception and indulge. I'm going to pick up a few of these for tonight. Yum!

A Birthday Present for one of YOU.
A birthday isn't complete without gifts, so I'm giving away a copy of Can't Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards! It's Louisa Edward's debut novel featuring a chef from a NYC restaurant and a sassy food critic and the first novel in her Recipe for Love series.

You can visit Louisa Edwards at her website at

I haven't read Can't Stand the Heat yet, but I did buy a copy for myself as well. I recently read a review for it at Jessica's blog, Racy Romance Reviews and not only knew right away that I wanted to read it, but I also knew it was the perfect book for me to giveaway on my blog because it would be a great way to introduce a new mission or theme I'm going to implement on my blog any day now. I'm still going to be blogging about books-- especially romance, but I'm also going to start blogging about food and cooking!

A New Blogging Direction.
I've been toying with the idea of starting a cooking blog for quite a while now, but couldn't decide if I should start a separate blog or just mix up cooking with books here. I also knew I wanted to post more about photography and gardening-- I'm really looking forward to revamping my vegetable and flower beds now that construction is (almost) finally finished. So after much deliberation and consulting with a few online friends, I've decided to just lump all of my blogging interests in one place here at the happily ever after. So I'm just letting you all know that the happily ever after may start to look more like a general personal blog than a book blog. I'm very excited about it and hope you end up liking it, too. For those of you who read my blog solely for bookish things, I hope you still stick around and enjoy reading about my other interests as well.

Book Giveaway Rules:
  • To be entered in the drawing for Can't Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards, leave a comment telling me what your favorite dish is. Food dish, that is! ;)
  • For my followers from outside the US, this giveaway is open to you as well.
  • Contest ends on Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST.
  • Winner will be drawn and announced sometime on Monday, October 5, 2009.
  • You must leave your email address in your comment if you do not have one shown on your blogger profile page.

Good luck!

Special thanks to romance author Elisabeth Naughton for inadvertently funding my recent book, magazine, coffee, and cupcake purchases. I won a very generous $100 Visa Gift Card from Elisabeth in her Stolen Heat contest this summer--the Grand Prize! If you haven't yet read her Stolen novels, you should. Fantastic romantic suspense. Plus she has a paranormal romance series titled Marked coming out in March 2010 that sounds great as well.