Friday, September 30, 2011

In Death Series Reading Challenge: September 2011

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE
and join the fun!


Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. 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 find each other's latest In Death posts easily. You can also just use the link to your goodreads or other virtual bookshelf as well.

Survivor In Death by J.D. Robb
In Death series, Book 20
Published 2005

Survivor In Death is one of the most intense and terrifying installment in the series thus far. In this book, nine year old Nixie Swisher is the sole survivor in death after her mother, father, brother, her best friend and the family domesticate are murdered in their beds while they sleep, practically right before her eyes. The only reason Nixie was spared is because she snuck out of bed in the middle of night for a soda and then hid when she figured out there were intruders in her home. The murders are carried out swiftly and silently with military precision and speed, leaving no evidence behind as they attempted to erase this loving family. Lieutenant Eve Dallas spares nothing at keeping Nixie safe, knowing whoever is responsible for these horrendous murders isn't going to stop until Nixie is found and killed. Nixie is clearly left quite traumatized not only by her incredible grief and loss, but also by the horrific scene of blood and gruesome deaths right before her eyes. Although the circumstances are a bit different, Eve and Roarke are reminded of their own childhood traumas through what Nixie is experiencing now. So while Eve and her team do whatever it takes to hunt these murderers down, she and Roarke are also doing whatever it takes to help Nixie and each other as they revisit their own childhoods that still haunt them.

Survivor In Death starts out with an intense murder scene and doesn't let go of that intensity until the very end. The sadness and grief, and consequently the compassion between characters, are as intense as the suspense and terror in this book, making it one of the most exceptional books in this series so far. The murderers are cold, calculating and brutal in the abuse, terror and death they inflict on their victims. While the crimes in this story are horrific, and the grief and confusion of this poor child are heart wrenching, the amount of sensitivity, love and compassion that is shared among the characters are what hold this story--and the survivors-- together.


Eve and Roarke do a lot of personal reflection in this book as they watch over Nixie. They see themselves in her as they reflect on their own childhood losses and all the blood, the death, the abandonment and loneliness they felt as children and what they still deal with as adults. They reflect on the love, comfort and closeness that makes up a healthy, loving family and they wonder in their own ways if that's something they could or would ever experience.

My discussion question is whether you think Eve and Roarke will ever start a family of their own and have a baby.

Readers of this series have told me that they have heard that Nora Roberts has said [talk about here say!] that the day Eve is pregnant or has a baby the series is over. I don't know about you, but if this series ever comes to an end--and it has to some day, right?-- I couldn't think of a better way to end it than with Eve and Roarke having a baby of their own. Yeah, yeah, Eve flips out over anything having to do with pregnant women, babies or children, but I could totally see Eve and Roarke figuring out parenthood together.


Looks like I completely forgot to draw a winner for last month's challenge giveaway. Any participants who kept up with the challenge and read four books from April 1 through August 31, 2011 were eligible for my little prize giveaway. Picking the winner was a total no-brainer this time because there was only ONE person eligible.

Congrats, ELENEA! You're the lucky winner!

Contact me at my email address in my blog profile and let me know your prize of choice. US $5 gift card to Starbucks, dunkin donuts, amazon, B&N or another online bookstore that allows electronic gift cards.

Since participation has been kind of low lately for the challenge, I'm going to discontinue the giveaways.  But keep reading those In Death books! Last one to catch up with Nora is a rotten egg!  Haha! j/k

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A New Look!

I sat down today to write a blog post, but instead I changed the whole look of my blog! I don't know where it came from, but I now have a new template, new background and new colors. It looks really different. Some of the things in the sidebar need to be moved around, adjusted for size and I think I might even delete some stuff just to make the layout less cluttered. I also updated my blog for mobile settings so everything looks nice and is easy to read on your mobile phone.

So what do you think of the new look?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Library Loot XLII

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.

I didn't expect to borrow more books from the library so soon after coming home with a decent stash just last week, but my daughter was reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle in her free reading period on Fridays at school and came home last Friday about to bust at the seams because she just had to keep reading it but couldn't bring the teacher's copy home with her. I could completely understand the trauma this would cause to have to wait until the following Friday to pick up where she left off, so of course we zipped to the library to borrow a copy for home. I thought we had our own copy, but couldn't find it. While we were there, I picked up a book that was on hold for me:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Cathreynne M. Valente.

It's a middle grade or young adult book that captured a ton of buzz earlier this year. I read the first few pages and found it quite endearing. I'm looking forward to reading more, but I need to prioritize my pile of library books and read in the order they are due back, so this one will have to wait a bit. Maybe I can get my daughter to read this one, too.

I also couldn't resist and borrowed two cookbooks:


Weekend Baking by Sarah Randell and Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts. 

I always seem to catch the baking bug when autumn rolls around, although it's still been pretty warm and humid around here all September. I think the temperatures are finally supposed to dip into the 60s F this weekend, which will hopefully inspire me to try a recipe or two from these gorgeous cookbooks.

I think we were home all of an hour or so from the library with these books, when my daughter announced that she finished A Wrinkle in Time and asked about a sequel. I really should have just borrowed the whole series when we were at the library. I know better. So the next day we took a trip to another library [my town's library is closed on Sunday's] and borrowed A Wind in the Door, which she is reading right now. This particular library is also the only one in my area who has a copy of September's book for the Women of Fantasy Book Club, so I picked it up while we were there.

Firebird by Mercedes Lackey.

I'm not going to read it in time for this month's discussion, which coincidentally was the same situation for the other three books I actually read from the book club list. Which explains why I unfortunately never participated in any of this book club's discussion posts. At least I still plan on reading it and I'm okay with that because my biggest motive for joining this book club was to be inspired to read more fantasy fiction, which I'm doing.

Finally, I browsed the fiction section under the 'I' authors. Not my usual method for searching for books at the library, but I am considering taking over hosting the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club since Paula, who is the founder and original hostess of the book club needed to give up some of her blogging commitments because she just has a ton of other things on her plate right now ---like her  daughter's wedding! So exciting! :) In the meantime, I picked up a book that I think I'm going to use for reviving the book club. More on that later. i.e., I'm going to try to rope you into joining the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club in an upcoming post. ha! :P

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go was first published in 2005 and was a Man Booker Prize finalist the same year. It is a dystopian novel "that subtly reimagines our world and time in a haunting story of friendship and love."  [Partial quote from goodreads.]

That's it from me this week. Now my stack of library books is really tall, so I'm going to do my best to refrain from going back for more until I finish these. 

What are you reading now? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

REVIEW: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Riders of the Apocalypse, Book One
Published 2010

Hunger is a modern story about a teenage girl struggling with anorexia and ties her story to the biblical mythology of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Seventeen year old Lisabeth is anorexic and while she thinks she's in control of it all, she's really spiraling further into trouble. No one seems to understand her anymore--not her parents, her best friend or even her boyfriend, and she feels as if everyone is sabotaging her road to happiness. The only one who doesn't feel like a threat to Lisa is her friend Tammy, but maybe that's only because Tammy has her own secrets about eating.

In a moment of despair, Lisabeth considers suicide but is interrupted by a messenger who hands her an ancient set of scales, telling her she is Famine, the Black Rider and to "go thee out unto the world." Of course, she thinks she hallucinated the whole thing, but sure enough, the scales are there in the morning and not only that, but there's a huge black horse in her yard who looks upon her intently with anticipation as if he expects her to ride him.

Once this strange new reality sinks in, Lisabeth reluctantly accepts her assigned role as Famine and begins her nightly rides upon her black horse, traveling to exotic places around the world where hunger, starvation and death are all too familiar to the people who live there. During the day, she continues to struggle with anorexia and the powerful Thin Voice within her while her relationships with the people who care about her the most begin to crumble. Being the harbinger of Famine gives Lisabeth a lot to think about as she witnesses unimaginable atrocities of hunger and fumbles with her new found power. The question is, though, is Lisa strong enough to control her power? And if so, what is she going to do with it?

Hunger is a stark and graphic look at teenage eating disorders through the characters of Lisabeth and Tammy--both of whom could be anyone from your friend, sister, daughter or even you. The author very creatively uses the biblical mythology of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to demonstrate the power of choice and how much inner strength, determination and hope someone has to have in order to fight anorexia or bulimia. Hunger is a very thought provoking, truthful and deeply profound book that twisted my gut, broke my heart, but also gave me hope for Lisabeth and anyone who struggles with an eating disorder.


Please, if you think there is any remote possibility that you might have an eating disorder... know you are strong enough to conquer it. Choose to live. Reach out for help. You can do it!

All proceeds from Hunger are donated to National Eating Disorders Association.

Visit young adult author Jackie Morse Kessler at her website at

The next book in the Riders of the Apocalypse is Rage [April 2011] and addresses the delicate teenage issue of cutting or self induced injury. This book is the story of the Horseman of War. All proceeds from Rage are donated to the organization To Write Love On Her Arms.

The author's future release in this series will be Loss [March 2012] and is the story of the Horseman of Pestilence. This book will address bullying and I believe a villain with a disintegrating mind. All proceeds of Loss will be donated to the Alzheimer's Association.

There will be a fourth book for the final Horseman, Death, but no details about that book yet.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What I Read in July AND August

This is the first year I've posting a monthly column summarizing what I read the previous month--sort of a way to get some thoughts out there on the books I'm reading since I'm not very consistent about posting reviews. You'd think it would be easy enough to get up a post listing the books you read with a few lines of commentary, but it's even easier to fall behind in even this so simple of a task. Sheesh! Without further ado... before September is another month in the past... my monthly reads from July and August.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
July 2011

Total books read: 9

Crime fiction ..... 1
Mystery ............ 1
General fiction ... 1
Memoir ............. 1
Romance .......... 5

Of the romance novels read, two were paranormal and three were historical.

Here's a list of what I read way back in July and some brief thoughts.

1. Three Wishes by Goldberg, Jones and Ferdinand [2010]
This book was chosen for the letter G for the Authors by the Alphabet online book club for June. You can read my review and find links other reviews and the book club discussion in my post HERE. Three Wishes is a memoir about three single friends and their quest to have a child by sperm donor. GRADE: B

2. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon [2011]
This is one book for which I wished I wrote a review. It is a realistic, eye opening and at times difficult and heart wrenching story to read, but it was such a great story. I cried several times reading this story--most times because my heart was aching. But by the last chapter, I cried tears of joy and closed the book with such satisfaction of having read such an amazing story with such beautiful, beautiful ending. I highly recommend it. GRADE: A+

3. Taken by Midnight by Lara Adrian [2010]
Midnight Breed, Book 8

4. Deeper Than Midnight by Lara Adrian [2011]
Midnight Breed, Book 9
I hadn't read this series in a year or two and am so glad I got back on track and caught up. I was worried the series was starting to lose some of its spark with books 5 and 6, so I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed the last three books. Threads from all the past story arcs are coming together cohesively and the series arc denouement is starting to take shape. I'm anxiously waiting for the next book!

5. A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran [2011]
This is the latest release from one of my favorite historical romance authors, Meredith Duran. I thoroughly enjoy her intelligent writing, unique plots and interesting characters. This one is a sort of missing heiress story that was such a joy to read. GRADE: A-

6. Divided In Death by J.D. Robb [2004]
In Death series, Book 18
What can I possibly say about the In Death books that haven't been said already? The crime fiction is consistent as is the character development. This book brought some new stress to Eve and Roarke's relationship when some startling information about Eve's tragic and abusive childhood is brought to their attention. Eve wants to let things be and keep it to herself, whereas of course Roarke wants to make those responsible pay for what was done to Eve. The crime plot in this one is also personally stressful for Eve and Roarke because it is Roarke's employee--and his secretary's daughter who is under suspicion for a double murder. GRADE: B

7. Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris [2005]
Harper Connelly Mystery, Book 1
This was the July book for the letter H for the Authors by the Alphabet online book club and my choice. I was pleased with the book and so were the other members of the club. Everyone is continuing with the rest of the series! You can read my review of Grave Sight HERE and our book club discussion for the book HERE. GRADE: B

8. The Bride by Julie Garwood [1996]

9. The Wedding by Julie Garwood [1997]
I read these two medieval romances back to back per the recommendation of Hilcia and Mariana--one of whom gave me the books. I think it was Mariana? Thank you both, in any case because these were such fun books to read. Although the plots were very similar, I couldn't help but adore the couples and the amusing and sweet and romantic and sometimes very serious conversations and situations they got into.

My favorite read of this month definitely goes to The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon followed by tie for second between A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran and The Bride by Julie Garwood.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

August 2011

I read seven books in August--six full length novels and one novella, which I'm actually pretty happy about since August was so busy with a two week vacation, triathlon training and a very disruptive hurricane.

Crime fiction ...1
Mystery ......... 1
Contemporary fiction ... 1
Romance ....... 4
[2 historical, 1 contemporary and 1 paranormal]

1. Silk is For Seduction by Loretta Chase [2011]
The Dressmakers, Book 1
Shortly before leaving for vacation to Europe, I read at least two stellar reviews for this new release--one from Hilcia and one from Karen Knows Best. Seeing that it had French influences and even partially took place in Paris, I decided it would be an great choice for downloading to my iPad and reading while I was in Paris. It couldn't have been a better choice! I adored the characters--particularly the female lead, Marcelline and her dressmaker livlihood; and the story line was just so much fun. GRADE: A

2. Visions In Death by J.D. Robb [2004]
In Death series, Book 19
This was the second book I read on my vacation, which I read while in Amsterdam, Berlin and Munich. The In Death books are great to bring along on trips because you can read it at your own pace and the story never loses momentum. In this installment, Eve and her team are investigating a serial murderer who is targeting women of a specific profile, removing the victims' eyes and displaying her naked with a red ribbon tied to her. Eve stretches the limits of her detective comfort zone and accepts assistance from a psychic. This was an interesting case with a surprise twist that I didn't foresee. It's good to know I can get surprised by the author at book twenty something in the series. GRADE: B+

3. A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare [2011]
Spindle Cove, Book 1
While packing for vacation, I grabbed this book at the last minute and tucked it into a pocket of my suitcase, an ARC of A Night to Surrender that Ms. Dare so graciously gave me at RWA. I read this book in Geneva, flying over the Atlantic Ocean and for a few hours here in the US. A Night to Surrender is a well written, fun and very sweet historical romance about a village of misfit women who get mixed up with a troupe of soldiers intent on re-establishing their importance in the war by demonstrating their competence to the Royal Crown by establishing a formidable militia in Spindle's Cove. Everyone in the village gets way more than they bargained for-- Susanna Finch and Lt. Bramwell most of all as they fall in love.

I enjoyed this book without a doubt. It was fun, sweet and romantic but since I was head over heels for Ms. Dare's first trilogy, I have to confess that A Night to Surrender didn't quite hold the same sweeping, dramatic, poetic and romantic feel for me as her previous books. Yet, I'm certainly interested in reading the next book in the Spindle Cove series, which I hope is the Bram's nephew's story, because seeing him fall helplessly in love with one woman is entertaining in idea alone. I can only imagine how adventurous the whole story put in motion would be! GRADE: B+

4. Everything Changes by Megan Hart [2010]
This novella is essentially Alex Kennedy's point of view of what happened in Hart's earlier full length novel, Tempted, in which Alex Kennedy had an intense affair so to speak with his lifelong best friend James Kinney and James' wife Anne. That's a very simplistic explanation of what happened between Alex, James and Anne as any story written by Megan Hart is far from simple. I highly recommend you read Tempted, but if you don't and want to read Naked, you should read Everything Changes for a good background to Alex's story. GRADE: B

5. Naked by Megan Hart [2010]
Megan Hart doesn't just write romance-- she writes love stories. And some of the most complicated and compelling modern love stories at that.

Told from the first person point of view of Olivia Mackey, Naked is about Oliva's search to figure out who she truly is as well as the love story of Olivia and Alex Kennedy. The book portrays realistic personal drama of and between characters in areas of which most of us can identify in one way or another whether it be personal struggles with our religion, race, adoption stories, dysfunctional families, identity crisis, sexual orientation and so on. That's a lot of topics, right? If anyone can touch on all of these subjects in a single story, Megan Hart can. In fact, she unabashedly addresses the complexity of all of these issues in ways we can all relate to and with which we can easily empathize. I adored both Olivia and Alex and was glued to their story until the very last page, completely satisfied with the outcome. Absolutely loved this book--it was well worth the wait, which has been over three years since having read Tempted by Megan Hart in early 2008 in which Alex Kennedy is first introduced. GRADE: A+

6. Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison [2011]
The Elder Races, Book 1
Such a fun, sassy and sexy paranormal romance. A great heroine, super fun plot lines and interesting secondary characters. Of course, a sweet romance, too! I gave this five stars on goodreads. GRADE: A-

7. Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris [2006]
Harper Connelly Mystery, Book 2
My instinct was right about who the killer was in this one, but it was still enjoyable to watch it all come together in the story. Sometimes I felt there were too many secondary characters and their inter relationships to keep track of--namely the families who were caught up in the murder mystery plot, but it ended up being okay in the end.

I really like Harper Connelly. She's straightforward and unapologetic about who she is, where she came from and what she does. I empathize with her sad childhood, her current lonely lifestyle and the way she longs for simply normalcy like having a humble home to tend to. I hope she finds the happiness and contentment she deserves.

August was a great reading month for me. I liked every book I read immensely, so choosing a favorite isn't so easy. However, two books truly stand out. Naked by Megan Hart and Silk is For Seduction by Loretta Chase.

Phew! Until next month...  happy reading!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Library Loot XLI

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.

This is my first library loot post since June (!),  but I promise you I have been to the library in between. Mostly to borrow and return books for my youngest and I did some browsing, but I didn't borrow many books for myself over the summer. Instead, I actually read books from my own shelf!

Aside from Grave Sight, which I borrowed, read and returned in July, here is what I have out from the library right now:

Grave Sight
Grave Surprise
An Ice Cold Grave
Grave Secret

These are the books from the Harper Connelly mystery series by Charlaine Harris. Grave Sight was the book selection for the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club for the month of July. I enjoyed the book--and Harper's character in particular, that I decided to continue with the series. I've already finished reading the second book, Grave Surprise and am reading An Ice Cold Grave right now.

Murder on the Eiffel Tower by Claude Izner

This one caught my eye when I was browsing the mystery aisle of the library just days after returning from a vacation in Europe that started in Paris. I read the first couple of pages and wasn't feeling it, but I'll try again.

Anne Frank:
The Anne Frank House authorized Graphic Biography
by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón

I came across this while browsing the graphic novel shelves and of course wanted to read it since I had just visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last month.

Beowolf adapted and illustrated by Gareth Hinds

Would you believe I am not familiar with the story of Beowolf at all? I've discovered graphic novels are a great short cut education to some classics and with beautiful artwork to boot. I read Hinds' adaptation of The Odyssey earlier this year and thought the illustrations were so detailed, rich and expressive. I'm looking forward to reading Beowolf.

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

My Soul to Steal by Rachel Vincent
The Soul Screamers series, Book 4

I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for one of my local libraries to get these two books in. I've been sitting on a cliff hanger in both of these series for months and months. Now I can finally find out what happens next!

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

I spotted this one on the shelf next to Kagawa's book and remember seeing a review for it on the Book Smuggler's site. It's an urban fantasy story about an anorexic seventeen year old who is named Famine--one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I'm not sure what to expect. I forgot what Ana or Thea said in their review. O_o

So many books I can't wait to read!

Any thoughts on these? 

What are you reading right now? 

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Day of School ... finally!

Another summer has flown by and it's time to go back to school. Today was finally the first day of school for my girls. They were originally scheduled to start last week, but due to the extensive damage to homes and schools in our community due to hurricane Irene, we had a delayed opening until today.

Here's this year's first day of school photo:

My youngest [pictured on the left] is now in 7th grade and my eldest [pictured on the right] is in 11th --a junior in high school! I can barely believe how grown up they are already.

This school year will be another busy one for us, just as it is for most families these days. My youngest is taking dance, continuing with girl scouts and maybe picking up art classes again, too. My eldest is on the high school volleyball team again this year and plans to join swim team in the winter season again, too. She's also doing a lot of photography for the school newspaper and yearbook, which she loves. When she's not studying, doing sports or photography--she's either asleep or with her boyfriend and or friends. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but only slight. She sometimes eats at home, too.

I usually like make some new "school year" resolutions for myself around now because it just feels like a good time for new beginnings. Except this August was such a whirlwind between vacation, the hurricane and the triathlon that I haven't even had the chance to think about it! I might just skip that tradition this year.

Here's wishing everyone in your world a great school year! : )

What's your favorite part of the 'back to school' time of year?

My favorite part is having all new school supplies--especially a plentiful stash of pens so I don't have to always hunt for one and for fun, a new box of colored pencils! :) 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My First Triathlon

Today was the big day when after nearly a year of mental and physical preparations, I competed in my first ever sprint triathlon! I'm also super happy to report that it was such a great experience and I met my goal of completing the spring triathlon in 1:30:00. In fact, I beat my goal by a little over a minute! Hey--every second counts! ; )

Here is my time card from today's race that includes all my stats. Times for the swim, bike, run and transitions as well as rankings for each event, my age division and overall rank. I am especially proud of my bike time and rank....  55 out of 1600 racers!!! Woooo! omg how did I DO that?

I signed up for this triathlon back in October 2010 after being inspired and encouraged by my small group of workout friends at the gym. At that time, I had been biking for a little over two years and running for almost one year. I was not a swimmer. In fact, I only learned how to swim freestyle after taking lessons just this year in February. Seven months later--today!--I completed a sprint triathlon. I swam a 1/2 mile open water swim, ranked in the top 4% of the entire race in the cycling, and ran a competitive 10:17 minute mile pace for the 5K... finishing with a total race time of 1:28:44. My final rank is 367 out of 1600 athletes, which places me in the top 23% overall. Woooo!!!! I almost can't believe it! ... but I DID IT!!!!
My friend Marie and I
I and my gym friends--missing the one taking the picture. 

Thank you all for taking the time to read my training posts and always leaving such kind words of support and encouragement all those times I write all about ME. I appreciate your presence throughout my journey--sharing this journey on my blog has been such a great outlet for expressing my doubts, concerns, plans for improvement and for rejoicing in my accomplishments both big and small.

I hope you to find something new and challenging to do in your life like I have with this triathlon. If I can do it, so can you. It'll be a journey you'll never likely forget. : )

A Moment to Remember 9/11

While for the most part today is going to be a happy and exciting day for me as I compete in my very first triathlon, there is a part of my heart that remains solemn as I reflect on the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 that forever changed the face of my community, my country and the world.

On this day, I will remember...

The people who died in the attack at the World Trade Center in New York City ...

The people who died in the attack at the Pentagon in Washington DC ...

The people who died on Flight 93 in Pennsylvania ...

The people who survived the attacks and will forever carry the physical and emotional scars of their horrific experience ...

The surviving loved ones of all the people who perished on this tragic day ...

The citizens of the United States and the citizens of the world who will never forget ...

Today The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero in New York City opens for the first time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Triathlon Check List

The triathlon is tomorrow! Finally!!! I've been planning and training and practicing for almost a year. Now it's time to pull it all together, "tri" my best and have a blast! I'll let you know all about it sometime tomorrow or Monday.

Thanks for all your support--you've been great cheerleaders!

 Clothing Items: [what I'll be wearing]
 •tri shorts
 •compression tank
 •ankle chip strap
 •sports watch
 •sweatshirt [remove just before swim]
 •flip flops [remove just before swim]

 Swim Items: 
 •swim cap
 •open water goggles
 •spare goggles

 Bike Items: 
•bike [race# attached]
•helmet [race# attached]
•running shoes
•running socks
 •spare running socks
•race number belt [race# attached]
•water bottle
•flat tire kit
 •floor pump

 Run Items: 

 Misc Transition Items: 
•headlamp [to see what we're doing at set up at 5 am]
•garbage bag [in case of rain to keep stuff dry]
•towel for transition area
•baby powder [to get sand off feet before putting on running shoes]
•vitamin water
•luna bars
•peanut butter & banana sandwich
•bug spray
•antiseptic wipes
•band aids
•lip balm
•cell phone

Thursday, September 8, 2011

In Amsterdam

August 8-9

On the morning of August 8th, we left Paris by train bound for Amsterdam. I spent the train ride reading, dozing and taking in the pleasant country-side scenery of the France, Belgium and the Netherlands. We arrived at Amsterdam Centraal several hours later and headed for our hotel.

While in Amsterdam, we stayed at the Boutique Hotel View, which I think was my favorite hotel of our trip. Excellent, personal hospitality.... Located in an old canal house on a quiet street with views of the canal, the hotel is a very short walking distance to shopping, dining and entertainment, as well as to numerous museums such as the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museums. Our room was surprisingly spacious and the decor is chic, stylish and comfortable. I'd stay there again. : )

By the time we checked in and freshened up, it was mid to late afternoon so we went out for an early dinner. We then walked around the shops and debated on buying long pants and jackets for me and the girls because we were so cold and hadn't packed enough warm clothing for our trip! It turns out Amsterdam [and France and Germany] had an unusually cold summer this year. We went back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit while my husband went online and purchased advance tickets to the Anne Frank House for the following morning. We went back out for dessert and when we were about a block from our hotel it started pouring! We had umbrellas, but were still pretty soaked by the time we found a little Italian restaurant for tiramisu and chocolate cake. It was the perfect night for some comforting desserts, that's for sure!
View of the canal from the Anne Frank House

The following morning we walked from our hotel to the Anne Frank House, which was one of my favorite places we visited on our trip. This was the house in which Anne Frank hid from the Nazis for over two years with her family and four others. I knew the basic facts of the Anne Frank story, but I learned so much more visiting the museum. Not only that, but learning more about the Anne Frank story in the exact house in which they hid made this educational experience so much more profound and emotional. This visit will stay with my for a very long time.

Unfortunately, photography is prohibited in the museum, so I don't have any photos of the inside of the Anne Frank House. I don't even have a good photo of the outside! There are plenty of great photos at the museum website, though.

For more information about Anne Frank and the Anne Frank House museum, visit This website is phenomenal. It hosts an amazing amount of information and detail about the Anne Frank story and the German Invasion in general as well as information about the museum and other inspiring and interactive pages. If you're ever in Amsterdam, I highly recommend you visit the Anne Frank House and Museum. Stay at the Boutique Hotel View when you do.

We would have loved to have had more time to explore Amsterdam, but this was all we had time to do this time as we had reservations on a train for Berlin that afternoon--and we decided we had to take an hour to buy those warmer clothes which we definitely needed that afternoon and in the days to come in Germany. At least now I know what to do first the next time we visit Amsterdam--starting with taking time to walk or bike along the canals and visit the other museums including the Van Gogh Museum.

Some little things I liked about Amsterdam:
•The canals.
•Bicycles everywhere!
•There's a parking deck at Amsterdam Centraal [major train station] just for bicycles!
•There was a sweet dog living at the hotel who greeted us in the lobby as well as two sweet kittens in the back room. Daughters abducted one of the kittens to our room for about 10 minutes at one point. Lots of cooing and giggling going on. ; )

Coming up next... Berlin, Germany!

Friday, September 2, 2011

À Paris

August 4-7, 2011

Finally as promised, pictures from our recent vacation to Europe. I took several hundred photos in the three days we were in Paris, narrowed those down to 68 favorites and then narrowed those down to the following 22 photos. It was not an easy task!

I studied French from 7th grade through senior year in high school with a teacher who included a lot of information about the geography, history and culture of France, including the major landmarks in Paris. Needless to say, Paris has been romanticized for me since then as a place that I always dreamed of visiting. So to have finally visited Paris this past August was a lot like a dream come true for me. And to be there with my husband and daughters made the dream all the more sweeter.

Without further adieu... Paris!

Our hotel in Paris, The New Orient Hotel. Isn't it so charming?

On the first day we went to the Montmartre district where we walked around enjoying the architecture and scenery and then later that evening we took the metro to Centre Georges Pompidou which showcases high-tech architecture and is the home of a public library, a center for music research and the largest modern art museum in Europe.

This is a view of the Eiffel Tower from Montmartre:

Sacré-Coeur Basilica. One of the most famous basilicas in Paris:

Centre Georges Pompidou:

On day two in Paris, we went to the Louvre which is one of the world's most largest and the most visited art museum. The Louvre was established in 1793 and is also an historical monument. Honestly, the museum itself is an intricate and beautiful work of art and so immense.

Musée du Louvre . . .

Daughters in the courtyard of the Louvre. There is an entrance through the pyramid!

It's really big inside! Just look at the hallways and staircases: 

Mona Lisa:

The museum is so big, that sometimes you're the only one around:

And you can take the time to make all sorts of fun poses for the camera. ;)

You literally walk for miles inside the museum . . .

From left to right: eldest daughter (who took the photo), me and youngest daughter. The other two people are strangers.

. . . and benches are welcomed by the weary:

Venus de Milo:

The museum itself on exhibit. This is the base of a turret, part of the original construction of the Louvre.

The painting below is Projet d'aménagement de la Grande Galerie du Louvre [1796] by French artist Robert Hubert [1733-1808]. It is an imaginary painting of artists painting paintings of the paintings in the Louvre which can be found in the Louvre. Including this painting. :) Later, Hubert's ideas for lighting decor as seen in his paintings like this one were actually used by architects in renovations to the museum.

After returning to the hotel to recharge our batteries--both literally and metaphorically, we went back out later that evening to see the Eiffel Tower. My husband planned it at just the right time of day so that we would be able to see the Eiffel Tower in both the daylight and night. He also purchased tickets for us to go to the top of the tower several months in advance, so we didn't have to wait in any lines. It was fantastic!
La Tour Eiffel dans le journée:

La Tour Eiffel le soir:

On day three, we went to the major business district called La Défense where the architecture is modern and wherein many of the city's tallest buildings lie. The main attraction here was definitely the monument and building called La Grande Arche de la Défense. The building was completed in 1989 and completes the historic axis of Paris called Axe historique. The Axe historique is the line of monuments, buildings and thoroughfares that extend from the Lourve, through Tuileries, La Place de la Concorde to the Champs Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and finally to La Grande Arche. It's similar in concept to The Mall in Washington, D.C.
La Grande Arche:

We headed along the Axe historique to L'Arc de Triomphe. This monument is massive--way more so than I think I expected. Once again, my husband's foresight in purchasing a city museum pass upon our arrival in Paris and we avoided the lines and walked right in L'Arc de Triomphe and climbed the stairs to the top of the monument where the 360° views of the city were spectacular.

L'Arc de Triomphe:

Making our way along the Axe historique, we took the metro to La Place de La Concorde and had lunch in a nearby restaurant before walking through the Jardins des Tuileries, which is the public gardens between Place de la Concorde and the Lourve. It was established in 1564 as the garden of the Tuileries Palace and later became a public garden in 1667.

The Ferris Wheel in the Jardins des Tuileries. I'm pretty sure this is the famous ferris wheel known as La Grande Roue:

Children were racing sailboats in one of the ponds not too far from the Ferris wheel. These toys were old fashioned model boats made of wood, string and cloth sails. No motorized boats here. Children would push the boat out into the pond with a wooden stick, the sails would catch the wind and sail across the pond, children racing to the other side to give it a push again. You can see a child holding the stick used to push the boats in the upper right hand corner of the photo below. 

We traveled the entire length of the Axe historique and sat for a few moments on the lawn outside the Louvre.

Finally, we took the metro from the Louvre to Notre Dame, which is just a few stops away.

This was our last day in Paris. The following morning we packed our bags and boarded the train for the Netherlands.

The little things I loved about being in Paris:
• Pastries for breakfast.
• Café au lait.
• The metro. Once you have a map and figure out the color coding, it's SO easy to get around!
• Finally putting five years of high school French to use after 25 years. :)

Stay tuned for vacation stories and photos from Amsterdam!