Saturday, October 30, 2010

In Death Challenge Post: October 2010

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time. See the sign up post HERE.

Welcome to the 10th monthly round up post of the In Death Reading Challenge!

How did you do this month? 


If you made a post on your blog whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can easily find each other's latest In Death posts.

If you're just keeping a running list of the books as you read them, grab the link to your list post and enter in the Mr. Linky so we can recognize your success this month.

If you're reading or rereading without documenting it on your blog, let me know in the comments which book(s) you read in this month. This will also help me keep track of who's eligible for the challenge giveaway in December.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Purity In Death by J.D. Robb
Book 17

I guess the In Death reading bug that I caught last month was short lived because I didn't read this month's book! I'm on page 20 of Purity In Death tonight but there's no way I'll finish it by tomorrow night. Hopefully I'll finish it in a few days and come back and post a few comments on it here.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I recently read a post titled "A Piece of String" by orannia on her blog Walkabout in which she reflects on whether or not she should be reluctant to start a series that is already composed of several books published and an open ended or undecided number of books to the series. She asked her readers if the length of series--whether it be one that is finished or ongoing-- should matter in your decision to start reading it. I imagine the answer for most of us participating in this In Death series would obviously be "no" since nearly all of us started reading this series at book one within the last year or so and there are now ... well, almost now ... thirty-eight In Death stories published and so far no suggestion of the series ending soon. By the way, the 38th story, Indulgence In Death, releases this Tuesday, November 2 2010.

In general, I think I prefer trilogies and pentalogies to really long, open ended series so I think I tend to actually try not to get interested in an established on going series.  I already have so many books that I want to read that I already own or want to buy or borrow from the library, so I'd rather not add more to the list of books that I can't read fast enough anyway. This probably makes sense to a lot of other voracious readers, but is really kind of ridiculous if you think about it. Why miss out on some really great reading just because there's already several books available? Wouldn't that be a good thing? Thankfully, I'm not so naive to make any rules about not starting any long series. Especially since I know I could be easily swayed to read just about anything by some strong recommendations. Feel free to take that as an invitation ...

What about you? Were you previously hesitant to read the In Death series because it had so many books to it already? If so, what made you change your mind?

Have you hesitated to read other long series? If so, which one(s)? 

Thanks for participating!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Love your breasts... get a mammogram

I had a mammogram today ... have you had yours? 

If you're 40 years old or older and haven't had a mammogram yet ... it's time. 

If you have a mother, daughter, sister or grandmother who had breast cancer, it is recommended that you start regular mammograms five years before you reach the age of their diagnosis, or by age 35. 

For more information about breast cancer and mammograms, visit The National Breast Cancer Foundation website at and also the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website at

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a mammogram and breast health pdf booklet that you can view at Mammograms & Breast Health. This booklet is not copyrighted and can be freely duplicated and distributed.

Don't wait to get your mammogram. Early detection could save your life. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Library Loot XXVII

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at Claire's.

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
The Iron Fey series, Book 3

I originally thought this week's library loot was going to be short and sweet with once again, just one book to report-- The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa. It is the second full length novel in Ms. Kagawa's Iron Fey series, the first of which is The Iron King. I read The Iron King a month or so ago and enjoyed it tremendously. The ebook novella Winter's Passage is the second book in the series, followed by The Iron Daughter. The series is an artful blend of contemporary teenage life and dark fairy tale, a little bit of romance and perhaps a subtle touch of steampunk. The whole Iron Kingdom thing... pretty cool.

That was the extent of my library loot until last night, that is, when I stopped by the library very briefly to return Room, which was very good, by the way, and not nearly as depressing or tearful as I expected. But really... who's kidding who? Although I have done it on occasion, let's just face facts and admit that it is nearly impossible to go to the library just to return a book without borrowing another. Or two. Or three. Or ... you get the idea. On my way over to browse the shelf of new books in my library, this cover caught my eye from the young adult section:

Raven Speak by Diane Lee Wilson

Isn't that stunning? Raven Speak is a young adult novel about the daughter of a Viking chief who is desperate to save her dying clan yet equally desperate to save her horse Raven from becoming a sacrifice to the gods and food to her people.

Then in a matter of three minutes, I had the following young adult books in my arms as well. I don't know what came over me.

Stringz by Michael Wenberg
A story of a teenage boy named Jace Adams who has great talent and passion for the Cello, but has a hard time fitting in anywhere namely because he's always the new kid. His mom is always changing jobs, always searching for a better life, moving every couple of months. The only constant in Jace's life seems to be his cello. Maybe this move to Seattle things will be different.

The Day of the Pelican
 by Katherine Paterson

A story about an Albanian family who struggle for safety and survival in a refugee camp in Kosovo in 1998 and who ultimately immigrate to the United States.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Because Angie liked it. Enough said. Seriously, though, I keep coming across very passionate reviews for this book, so I must see for myself. Another novel about a teenager who is passionate about music and playing an instrument. In this story, Lennie Walker has always lived safely and happily in the shadow of her vibrant older sister, but when her sister dies suddenly, Lennie struggles with her grief and with suddenly taking center stage in her own life.

No Such Thing as the Real World by An Na, M.T. Anderson, K.L. Going, Beth Kephart, Chris Lynch and Jacqueline Woodson

An anthology of short stories about teenagers who find themselves dealing with "real world" issues for the first time in their lives.

I checked out this armful of books and promptly left. I'm quite sure I was inside the library for all of eight minutes. Amazing how many books you can loot in such a short time. Now if only I can find the time to actually read all these books! ;)

Are you a quick, impulsive library looter who typically comes home with more books than you intended? 

Or do you go to your library with at least a mental list of what you want and come home with exactly that? 

I'm more of the latter type-- looking up the books I'd like to read on the library's online catalog and either reserving them that way or expecting to check out the book on my next trip. I occasionally pick up other books that I see at the library while browsing the shelves, but not nearly as impulsive as I was last night with this collection of young adult books.

Monday, October 25, 2010

REVIEW: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas

Note: This review is based on the reading of an ARC of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor that was passed on to me from a friend.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is the first book in a new contemporary romance series by author Lisa Kleypas set in the Pacific Northwest, each book to feature the romantic tale of one of three brothers--Mark, Sam and Alex Nolan, as they find their happily ever afters. Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is the story of the eldest of the brothers, Mark Nolan.

Six months ago, the Nolan brothers' sister Victoria died in a tragic car accident. A single mother, Mark became the legal guardian of her young daughter Holly upon her death. Not exactly prepared for parenthood, Mark accepts his responsibility as Holly's guardian and is determined to do his best by her. He convinces his younger brother Sam to help him out and Mark and Holly move into Sam's big, old Victorian house for a while. The agreement is that Mark will help Sam with the restoration of the house while Sam helps Mark out with taking care of Holly. Alex has always been rather distant and closed, but has been even more so in his recent unhappy and troubled marriage.

Traumatized by her loss, Holly hasn't spoken a word since her mother's death, despite being under the loving care of her Uncle Mark. Now the brothers find Holly's letter to Santa asking for one thing for Christmas... a mom. Mark recognizes Holly's need for a mother figure in her life and thinks he can and should provide her with that. And why not? His girlfriend Shelby is very nice. He and Shelby have a very comfortable relationship and she would do just fine. Yet there's something warm, comforting and magical about the interesting and insightful woman from the toy store, Maggie Collins. Will Holly get her Christmas wish? Better yet, will Mark Nolan know the magic of love when he feels it?

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is an adorable little story about opening your eyes to the magic of imagination and love discovered in unexpected places and the willingness to take a chance at finding happiness. There aren't any huge misunderstandings or major conflicts in the story. It's a simple feel good story about family, hope and love.

The Nolan brothers didn't grow up under the example of a healthy marriage between their parents nor did they have particularly warm or close relationships within their family. Yet the love of a six year old little girl can melt hearts and soften the most determined of bachelors. And maybe even draw the crankiest of uncles around for the holidays.

Maggie Collins learns a little something about love, hope and family in this story, too. Unlike the Nolan brothers, Maggie comes from a big family full of love and laughter so she already knows about that part and appreciates it very much, too. But Maggie is a widow who lost her husband to a difficult battle with cancer, so she also knows what's a stake when you open yourself up to the hope of a future life filled with love and happily ever after. She doesn't want to have to ever have to go through that again so is content to let her big family be her comfort and leave romantic love out of the picture for good. The magic of love, however, is stronger than Maggie's resolve to not fall for Mark Nolan.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor is a very sweet and heart warming holiday romance. It's a quick, light read, nowhere near as much plot or character substance as Ms. Kleypas' previous contemporary novels, but enjoyable nonetheless. I can't imagine anyone reading this novel and not enjoying the hours spent in Friday Harbor with these characters, watching the Nolan brothers come together out of love for this little girl, hoping Maggie finds the strength to love again, and seeing Mark and Maggie falling in love along the way. It's impossible not to feel good about this little story.

As soon as you're finished reading Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor, you're going to want to read the stories of the other two brothers, Sam and Alex Nolan. I'd say ask Santa for the next book in the Friday Harbor series, but I'm afraid we're going to have to wait for next Christmas for that wish to come true.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor releases in hardcover and ebook tomorrow, October 26, 2010.

Visit author Lisa Kleypas at her website

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Triathlon Training Begins

It's official. I'll be competing in my first triathlon next September! Registration opened this morning for a popular woman's triathlon that is held every year in New Jersey and I'm in!

The triathlon is a sprint event, so the distances for each part of the tri are short with a 1/2 mile swim [0.8 km], 12 mile bike [19.3 km] and 5 K run [3.1 mile].

I'm really excited about this, but also a little nervous. I'm doing the triathlon solely to challenge myself, do my best and feel great, but I still get a little nervous if I think about race day. A little fear of the unknown, a little fear of being disappointed in my performance, and I admit it, a little fear of all those other women trying to pass me! I guess that's all normal. I'll have to work on those mental issues so that I can be calm on race day. 

Of the three components to the tri, the swimming is currently my biggest weakness. I'm definitely going to have to work on this component from the bottom up, starting with my stroke technique and building up to swimming a full 1/2 mile without stopping. A half mile is 16 laps or 32 lengths in an Olympic sized pool. Oh shit.

The biking is definitely going to be my strongest event since I already regularly ride 12-20 miles with hills at a decent pace and the race is only 12 miles on a flat course. I'll work on my speed and endurance so that I can maintain an average speed of 17-19 mph for 12 miles.

The running doesn't worry me too much either since I started running last fall. I now run at a 10 minute mile pace and my typical runs are between 2 and 4 miles, so running the 3.1 miles for the tri should be a comfortable distance for me. The fact that the running is the last event of the tri, however, means I'll need to work on maintaining a good pace when fatigued from the other events.

I already have a great support network set up for training and race day. My husband and daughters, as always, are great at listening to my near daily reports of my workouts, set backs and accomplishments constantly giving me encouragement. They're going to be so proud of me for doing this, I just know it. Then I have a small group of four friends from the gym with whom I already work out and who also signed up this morning for the triathlon. I'm sure we'll compare training strategies and even do some training workouts together as the race gets closer.

The triathlon is a long 11 months away, so for now my training will be to simply continue my regular cross training workouts, start doing laps in the pool one day a week and maybe bribe my friend Sharon to give me some free swim lessons so I can learn proper freestyle stroke technique.

Wish me luck!

Have you ever participated in a triathlon? 

Do you have any tips or strategies  to share?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Putting By

Fall is here. The days are short and cool now and the growing season is definitely winding down in this zone 6 region of New Jersey. The farm down the street still has some fall vegetables in the ground including some lettuces and plenty of hardy fall greens such as collards and beets, but tender vegetables such as tomato plants won't survive a frost, which could occur any day now. My surprise late blooming cherry tomato plant has several clusters of tiny green tomatoes, and I'm starting to doubt they're going to make it to maturity. I'll try to encourage it to hang in there a few extra weeks by covering the plant with a sheet at night to keep it warm. Don't laugh! All the garden experts say to do this!

If you're unfamiliar with the term, 'putting by' refers to the process of preserving or saving an abundant supply of a crop for future use. For someone who didn't even tend a vegetable garden this season, I had quite a productive season of preserving summer's bounty. I visited three different 'U pick' farms throughout the season to pick strawberries, blueberries, and two different varieties of raspberries. I also ordered extra basil and red peppers through the co-op for preserving for the winter.

Here's a look at what I preserved this season:

Strawberry Jam 
{this photo is from my strawberry jam post back in June}

This is a photo of the strawberry jam I have left... 

Rum Soaked Preserved Cherries

Don't these jars of cherries look gorgeous? I came across this recipe for rum soaked preserved cherries and boozy cherry molasses (not pictured but oh so good!) from Rebecca of the Foodie with Family blog while on the Tasty Kitchen forum. I love the way these jars of cherries look and thought they'd be a fun, novel treat to use to make martinis or even serve over ice cream. They're really, really delicious and were incredibly easy to make.

Red Raspberry Jam

Golden Raspberry Jam 

Spicy Peach Preserves with Jalapenos
I made these spicy preserves to serve as a snack with cream cheese and crackers, but I also tried it blended with some dijon mustard as a glaze for pork roast and it was delicious. 

I spent weeks researching the food chemistry of preserves for this recipe that I created and fretted about the proper ratios of acid, sugar and pectin since all three of these play an important role in not just the flavor and consistency of the jam, but also in preserving the fruit against spoilage. Hopefully my recipe is safe for consumption. ;p

Cinnamon Applesauce
Homemade applesauce is SO EASY to make and tastes a gazillion times better than any kind you can buy at the store.

Basil Pesto 
I was never a huge fan of pesto until I tried my friend's pesto several years ago. I asked her what was in her pesto that made it taste so good and was surprised to learn that it wasn't what she added, but what she didn't add that made her pesto so good. The secret was not adding Parmesan or other cheese to the pesto. I learned that although I happen to really like Parmesan cheese... I just don't like it my pesto. I spent the rest of the summer experimenting with blending basil, garlic, olive oil, nuts and sometimes parsley, until I came up with my signature recipe. Now every summer I make sure I make several jars of pesto for the freezer to get me through the winter. A little bit goes a long way, so hopefully these three jars, plus one that made it to the freezer earlier in the summer, will be enough to last us until next season.

Roasted Red Peppers

Roasting red peppers is an easy way to preserve a bumper crop of red peppers for the winter. Delicious on a grilled turkey panini with some pesto.

Antipasto Stuffed Hot Cherry Peppers
These hot cherry peppers came from that box of red peppers I special ordered from my organic co-op back in September. I had asked for sweet red bell peppers, but discovered about two dozen hot peppers thrown in the mix, so decided on making a gourmet appetizer out of them. This recipe for stuffed hot peppers is made by wrapping cubes of provolone cheese with prosciutto, stuffing them into hollowed out hot cherry peppers and marinating in olive oil, vinegar with minced garlic and dried oregano. I used a combination of white balsamic and red wine vinegars for the marinade.

I also prepared about four half quart freezer bags of frozen blueberries and frozen sliced red peppers to use throughout the year. The blueberries I use in pancakes, muffins and other baked treats, in smoothies and sprinkled frozen right on my cereal or plain yogurt for breakfast. The red peppers I'll use in stir fries, fajitas and in stews. Once their frozen, you don't really want to eat them raw because the texture isn't so appealing as they defrost, but you could if you really wanted to, I guess.

It was my intention to make dozens of jars of jams to give as Christmas and Hanukkah gifts and still have enough for my own family to enjoy throughout the year as well. I made the mistake, however, of leaving the jars out on the kitchen counter or dining room table for a few weeks. Why was this a mistake? Because every time a friend came by and spied them, she not so delicately hinted that she wanted one right then and there and didn't want to wait for Christmas. Now my gift giving stash has been dramatically reduced and I may have to make a few more jars of something between now and December. I'm thinking of cranberry sauce, apple chutney or maybe even a citrus marmalade. Any ideas?

What foods do you preserve? 
{canning, freezing, or other preservation method...}  

Which would you rather receive at Christmas or Hanukkah:
cranberry sauce, apple chutney or orange marmalade

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Today's Organic Goodness

I picked up this week's share this morning and am looking for some recipe ideas! I get an email on Tuesdays from the group listing what's going to be in our share that Thursday, so I usually start thinking ahead of time which items are most perishable so I use those items first, and then I plan our meals around that "most likely to spoil first" order. It doesn't always work, though, because sometimes ... my creativity and enthusiasm for cooking is at a lull and I just can't think of anything to make for dinner. Or I get this idea based on one item in the share, but am missing some other crucial ingredient. For example, this week we got a beautiful bunch of leeks and right away I wanted to make potato leek soup. But I don't have any potatoes! I suppose I could go buy some potatoes, but I kind of don't want to because right now I have SO many other vegetables we need to eat over the next two weeks! Just look at this colorful array of fruits and veggies:

click to enlarge
From top to bottom, left to right:
green cabbage, butter lettuce, mustard greens, leeks
acorn squash, asian eggplant, carrots
cilantro, heirloom tomatoes, golden delicious apples, broccoli
bananas, green peppers, black plums, bartlett pears

Is it terrible to say I'm glad the bunch of mustard greens is really small? Definitely on my list of "un-favorite" vegetables. But I know how good they are for me, so I keep eating them. All the while hiding my shudders from my kids.

Glad we finally got some broccoli. We haven't had broccoli in the share in a long time--maybe since May?--and we love broccoli in our house. We should be getting broccoli in almost every share now through the spring. I seriously wish we got two bunches with every order. Even three wouldn't be too many!

Every time we get leeks--which is only once or twice a year, I always seem to think, "OOo yay! We got Leeks!" thinking they're so gourmet, when in truth they're probably among the humblest of vegetables. I'm looking for a go-to recipe for leeks and I'm wide open for suggestions--even if it is potato leek soup.

I'd also love a recipe suggestion for carrots that calls for A LOT of carrots. I have a backup of carrots in the vegetable bin from the last couple several orders that I really need to use before they turn into a pile of orange goo in the bottom of my fridge. Carrot soup maybe?

Thanks in advance for the recipe suggestions! No pressure.

No, wait! ... YES pressure! I need your recipe ideas!

Five hours until I start dinner prep...

I'm counting on you... ;o)

Even if you don't have a recipe suggestion for leeks or carrots, I want to hear from you.

What's your favorite fall vegetable and how do you like to eat it? 

And don't be a smart ass and say "with my mouth." :P

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Library Loot XXVI

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at Marg's.

This week's library loot is an easy one to post, because I only borrowed one book from the library. The book, however, is going to be a tough one to read. I got myself on the holds list for the book as soon as I saw my library was getting it in (from Wowbrary) because I heard some very good, albeit very general, buzz about it. Since then, I've learned more on what the book is about and I started to second guess whether I really wanted to read it.

Room by Emma Donaghue

I was going to post the book summary from the inside flap of the book, but then I saw this short, insightful synopsis from reviewer Lynette Mong on Amazon.

"In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. Despite its profoundly disturbing premise, Emma Donoghue's Room is rife with moments of hope and beauty, and the dogged determination to live, even in the most desolate circumstances. A stunning and original novel of survival in captivity, readers who enter Room will leave staggered, as though, like Jack, they are seeing the world for the very first time. " --Lynette Mong

What do you think? Sounds harrowing, doesn't it? I think Room is going to be one of those extremely moving books that I can't help but love, even though I may cry thoughout the whole thing. I'd say that the promise of a happily ever after will get me through it, but I'm not even 100% sure that's even the case. I'm avoiding reviews because I want my experience with this book to be entirely, uniquely my own.

Do you like books that move you to tears? 

What was the last book you read that strongly affected you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ketchup Chips

And other yummy treats from Canada!

Did you know that there are Ketchup flavored potato chips? Lay's makes them but you have be in Canada to buy them. What's up with that? Isn't ketchup a classic American condiment? Then why is it that you can only buy these chips in Canada?

Last Saturday, I had the very special opportunity to spend the afternoon and evening with my fellow New Jersey book blogger, Hilcia and nath who came down for the weekend from Canada with sister, Emilie. Nath and her sister came to celebrate Emilie's birthday with a weekend full of shopping in NYC and in some outlets here in New Jersey. I think poor Hils is still recovering from power shopping with those two. LOL!

I joined the shopping spree when it came time for the book shopping part. But get this.. I DIDN'T BUY A SINGLE BOOK! What the heck? I KNOW! And we went to both Barnes & Noble and Borders.

What is up with that?

It's because I have the iPad now. What's the point of buying paper books if I'm now fully equipped to go ebooking, right? I have to admit there is something very elemental and comforting about holding a paper book... but I am trying to be realistic here. I LOVE the iPad... therefore I should USE the iPad. And right now I am proud to say that I'm not building up a TBR on my iPad, unless the book is free, of course. Otherwise, I plan to only buy a book on my iPad when I know I am going to read it right away. I don't know why that same rule didn't apply to paper books when they were released, but for some reason I'm able to hold back from buying on my iPad just to have the book at the ready. Go figure.

Want to see what books nath and Hilcia bought and traded?

Nath's weekend post is HERE and Hilcia's is HERE.

So nath, being the kind and generous soul that she is, comes bearing gifts! And I .... went to see her... empty handed. Shitake mushrooms! Don't you hate when that happens?

Oh wait! I did have a book for her, but I gave it to her on loan only. *blushes* So embarrassing. I would have given it to her at that point to save face but the book was signed by the author and addressed to me by name, so that would have been really awkward. More awkward than it already was.

Nath gave me these three books from her shelves at home for keeps:

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
I have one of Kinsale's recent books, Lessons In French on my shelf, but I've heard so many readers name this one as their favorite Kinsale romance.

Turbulent Sea by Christine Feehan

I was missing this installment in the Drake Sisters series when I bequeathed that treasure trove of books from Mariana.

Her Vampire Husband by Michelle Hauf

I'm pretty tapped out on the vampire stories, but I remembered reading a couple of rave reviews for this one. Has anyone else read it?

While nath assured me she wasn't trying to sabotage my diet, she presented me with some really delicious treats from Canada.

The ketchup flavored chips which I've been eating with lunch this week. The chips are a surprising shade of maroon and taste surprisingly delicious! The flavor starts out sour like salt & vinegar flavored chips and then pow! you get the tang of tomato ketchup!

A box of premium and uniquely flavored chocolates. My favorites were the Chai tea, habanero pepper and saffron flavored chocolates. Mmm... And yes, you read that correctly ... were is not a typo. We like our chocolate in this house.

A can of 100% pure Canadian maple syrup. How did nath know I am a major maple syrup snob? None of that fake corn syrup crap. Sorry, Aunt Jemima. You suck.

Delicate chocolate filled orange meringuettes, which I tasted a few minutes ago just so I could tell you they taste as delicate and melt-in-your-mouth sweet as they sound.

Nath! You spoil me!! Thank you so, so, so much for everything. Just keep in mind that revenge is sweet. I will get back at you for all of this kindness and generosity... xo

It was so great hanging out with you and your sister. I had such a nice time. :) Next time we hit that UBS!

Hilcia, can't wait to see you again soon! xo

Have you ever tried Ketchup potato chips? Did you like them?

What's your favorite kind of chip?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Kiss My Face Giveaway WINNERS!

Thank you all for the birthday wishes last week, whether you greeted me here or on facebook, twitter, email or other means. I appreciate all the warm wishes-- you helped make my day extra special!

The three winners of the Kiss My Face Mini Facial Kits have been selected using the list randomizer at and the winners are.....

Congratulations, ladies!

Please email me at krauscakes [at] verizon [dot] net with your mailing address and I'll get your gift out to you asap.

List Randomizer

There were 15 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

Timestamp: 2010-10-09 16:41:53 UTC

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thank you, Book Fairy!

I have the most awesome book fairy ever, which makes me one very lucky and very grateful girl! I met my book fairy on JR Ward's message boards years ago and have been friends ever since. Publishers, review sites and authors send her dozens of books every month that she reads like mad and then passes on to me! She came to visit me the other day bearing a big orange bag filled to the brim with books!

Check out the second book from the top on the far right. Score! It's an ARC of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas!!!

Thank you, Book Fairy! You're the BEST!

click on image to enlarge

The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros
One Wicked Mistake by Emma Wildes
Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
Duchess of Sin by Laurel McKee
Barely a Lady by Eileen Dreyer
Seducing a Duchess by Ashely March
When Marrying a Scoundrel by Kathryn Smith
Wicked Delights of a Bridal Bed by Tracy Anne Warren

Killbox by Ann Aguirre
Sin Undone by Larissa Ione
Burning Up anthology by Angela Knight, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook and Virginia Kantra
Tracking the Tempest by Nicole Peeler
A Wild Light by Marjorie M. Liu
Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost
Wait for Dusk by Jocelynn Drake
Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan
Heaven's Spite by Lilith Saintcrow

Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Meet Me in Manhattan by Judith Arnold
Heart Journey by Robin D. Owens
Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy
Demon Blood by Meljean Brook
Devil at Midnight by Emma Holly
Soundrel in my Dreams by Celeste Bradley
Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb
Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas

The books highlighted in RED are those that were already on my wish list, but all of these books look good. I actually picked up The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros right away and finished it already. I loved it and had a hard time putting it down.

Which book or books do you recommend from this list?

Thanks, again, Book Fairy!!! I'm forever grateful! xo

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A NEW contemporary romance from Lisa Kleypas!

I swear sometimes I feel like I am THE last person in the world to know about goings on in the romance reading world. I just found out late last week that Lisa Kleypas, widely known and much loved author of historical and contemporary romances, has a new contemporary romance coming out and its release date is only three weeks away! How did I not know this?! I feel even more like I fumbled with this because there is a photo of me with Lisa Kleypas on her website under the contemporary section (squee!) so I feel I ought to be an active spokesperson for her contemporaries in some way. Sort of a way to earn my keep there, you know?  ; )  It is really special to me to be in a photo with Lisa on her website not only because she is one of my favorite authors, but also because one of her contemporary romances in particular--Blue-Eyed Devil, really touched me and in fact gave me a new perspective of some difficult things I went through growing up, which was really helpful to me.

So, in case YOU are actually the last person to know about Lisa's upcoming novel, here's the scoop:

Lisa Kleypas' NEW contemporary romance novel titled Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor releases on October 26, 2010!

One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…

The story sounds a little heartbreaking, yet full of hope and there just has to be a sweet happily ever after in there, too! 

Isn't that a really pretty cover, too? The twinkling lights on the stays of the sailboats and on the houses across the harbor, the snow covered mountains in the background ... all just enough sparkle to invoke a holiday feeling. Very pretty.

I'm pretty excited about the upcoming release of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor. I will always have a special affection for Lisa's Travis Family contemporaries... Sugar Daddy, Blue-Eyed Devil and Smooth Talking Stranger, and how I would love to be able to name a fourth book for Joe Travis, but alas, at this point I don't think that's in the works. Now I'm excited to discover some more favorites in this upcoming contemporary series by Lisa Kleypas.

Do you read Lisa Kleypas?

What's your favorite Kleypas historical romance? Contemporary romance?

Read an excerpt of Christmas at Friday Harbor HERE.

Visit author Lisa Kleypas at her website

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Smuggling* just became a piece of {birthday} cake!

*Book smuggling per the definition of my neighborhood book smugglers, Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers and Carolyn Crane of The Thrillionth Page as witnessed in this video HERE.

It was my birthday last Friday {see my birthday post for a chance to win a Kiss My Face mini facial kit!}, the evening of which I spent celebrating with my husband and daughters. We ate Thai food for dinner and splurged on birthday cake for dessert. My husband also came home with two movies from redbox for a family movie night that never quite happened. There was a gift wrapped birthday present on the dining room table all day long on Friday, and I waited patiently for the everyone to be home so I could open it. I only picked it up and gently shook it once. ;)

After dinner, I finally got to open my birthday present and was incredibly surprised, practically speechless, and very, very excited about this gift . . . it's an iPad!!!!

Wow, what an amazing gift. I think I'm still reveling in the shock and thrill of it. :) 

Now I can use iBooks on my iPad which is so much easier to read than on my iPhone, plus I can do a million other really cool things, too! Typing a lot of text--for example, an email more than a few sentences long, isn't the easiest thing to do on the iPad, but maybe it's just a matter of getting used to. I find it very easy to type paragraphs on my iPhone, so hopefully it will get be just as easy on the iPad the more I do it. Anyway, this is one cool gift. My husband still knows how to wow me after all these years. xo

Screen shot of my iBooks shelf 
on my iPad:
A week or so ago, I read the short novella, The Taming of Mei Lin by Jeannie Lin using iBooks on my iPhone. I really like the way the books are displayed in color on my iBooks bookshelf and how easy it is to buy books through iTunes. Turning pages, leaving bookmarks, making notes, and looking words up online are extremely easy in iBooks. I can see myself using iBooks exclusively to read ebooks, but I'm then limited to what iTunes sells.

I have several other ereader apps on my iPad that I've had on my iPhone for awhile, although I admit never having used them other than to poke around in the main menus now and then. The other ebook reader apps I have are the Amazon Kindle, B&N ereader, Borders ebooks and Stanza. I plan on trying each one, but at this point, I want YOUR opinion on these different platforms. 

What ebook reader device(s) or iPhone-iTouch-iPad app(s) do you use?

If you use more than one, which is your favorite and why?

Which bookstore has the best prices for ebooks? I'm guessing Amazon has the monopoly on cheap?

I'm looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations, AND I'm looking forward to reading shelves and shelves of books on my iPad!

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's a Happy Birthday today...

Mine! Didn't I just celebrate one of these last year? Before you know it, the next one's upon you! I can't complain, though. I'm really happy where I am right now in my life and I have a lot worth celebrating.

Sure, I've got a few gray hairs, but I try to look on the bright side. They're highlights! 

And then there are the small wrinkle lines by my eyes and mouth, but they're evidence that I've been laughing and smiling, right?

I can't really think of anything on bright side when it comes to sagging breasts, but I suppose that's where our friend Victoria and her secrets come in. *coughpushupbracough*

But if that's all I have to complain about in my midlife years, I'll take it! 

Right now, I'm probably the healthiest I've been in at least two decades. I've been working really hard at taking good care of my body in the last year ... eating healthier than ever before and I've even lost 34 lbs.[15 kg] in the last six months, and I exercise hard nearly every day and have a lot of fun doing it. I even had a physical recently and got an excellent report from the doctor. I'm so grateful for my good health.

As for emotional well being, I have a wonderfully attentive and sexy husband who makes me very happy and two beautiful children who add such joy to our lives. When they're not driving us crazy, that is! I have an amazing group of friends who are not only fun to be with, but they're compassionate, supportive and also generous with their time and attention. Some of those friends are people like YOU who I've met online.

As part of my happy birthday celebration, and maintaining my tradition of previous years, I'm giving away a small token gift to three people here on my blog-- Kiss My Face Facial Mini Kits! It's a really cute little kit that comes with a sample size of the Kiss My Face Soy Soft Facial Cleansing Bar, revitalizing Facial Toner and Cell Mate-15 moisturizer and sunblock. When I say "little kit," I mean little, but it'll be a fun, natural treat for your skin and a great way to try out these three products. Click here to find out more about the products in the kit.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below telling me what's so fabulous about being in your 40s. And if you're younger than that ... make something up! ^_^

Giveaway ends on Friday, October 8, 2010.

Three randomly selected winners will be chosen and announced in a separate post. Winners will have three days to claim their prize before I'll give it away to someone else.

Please include your email address if it is not easily found on your profile.

Open to everyone.