Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In Death Series Reading Challenge November 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!

It's that time again to share which In Death books we've read this month. I'm in the middle of reading Origin In Death [Book #22] and was so close to finishing it tonight while it was still November, but a girl scout meeting with my youngest and precalc homework with my eldest took priority over reading so that's not happening. How about you? Did you read an In Death book this month?

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.

... not this month.

It's Thanksgiving during the time frame of Origin in Death and Eve and Roarke will be hosting their first "familial" holiday dinner in their home. At the point I'm up to in the book, Eve and Roarke have been fumbling over how to actually carry out such an foreign feat--the guest list, what to serve, etc..  It's actually quite charming how awkward and clumsy they are when they discuss possible plans. So I was imagining guests arriving at their home for Thanksgiving dinner and wondered what people would possibly bring?

What would you bring to Thanksgiving dinner at Eve and Roarke's?

I would bring homemade pumpkin pie with a crust made from real butter and the filling from fresh pumpkin puree, sweetened with pure Canadian maple syrup. I would hope that my gesture of making something from scratch in the age of the AutoChef would show the depth of my thankfulness for being invited to their home and included in their holiday dinner.

Fitness Challenge Report Card: November 2011

Interested in joining the Fitness Challenge? Please visit the Sign Up post for more information, including the challenge rules. You may leave a comment there or on this post if you'd like to join. Be sure to include your fitness miles goal in your comment.

Did you track your fitness challenge miles* in November?

*ONE fitness challenge miles = 1 mile walked or run for fitness OR = 15 minute increments of other exercise for fitness such as aerobic or strength training exercises.

What kinds of exercise have you been doing?

My ongoing goal has been to reach 100 fitness challenge miles* every month and I just squeaked by this month with 100.97 miles. Phew! That was close. You can see what kinds of fitness related things I did this month in my November fitness log.  I ran A LOT this month. In fact, I worked out 27 out of 30 days in November and 11 out of those 27 workouts were spent running. I think it's the weather. There's something unique about chilly fall mornings that makes me want to get outside and run.

Here's a summary of the fitness challenge miles I earned in November:

Running [outdoors] .... 36.97 [36.97 miles]
Cycling [on road]....... 25 [85.9 miles]
Spin class [in gym] ....14
Kickbox class ........... 13
Strength training........ 12

Total ...................... 100.97

I'm shooting for another 100 fitness challenge miles in December. How about you?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Random Bits

This should have been the November round up post for the In Death Reading Challenge, but I haven't finished my book yet, so I'll post that tomorrow. Instead, I have some random bits to share, although since they are all Thanksgiving and Christmas related, I guess they're not so random. Alas.

  • If you haven't already eaten all of Thanksgiving leftovers by now, this is your last chance! The recommended limit for left over roast turkey is about four days if you've handled it properly, i.e., refrigerated left overs promptly after the meal was over and your refrigerator is set to 40 F or below. I roasted a turkey breast for our Thanksgiving dinner and used the whole left over carcass with some meat still on it to make a big pot of homemade turkey broth today. As soon as I post this, I'll be using that broth to make Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice soup.
  • Do you make homemade stock or soup from scratch? Would you like to learn how?
  • No worries about any leftover pie. That always gets gobbled up first! We have one slice each of apple and pumpkin pie left over. And five people in our family... hmm...
  • I shelve my cooking magazines on a shelf with my cookbooks and actually do revisit past issues for recipe ideas. Today I pulled a few December issues off the shelf so I can start to get inspired for some holiday cooking. Hooray for CHRISTMAS COOKIES!
  • Do you bake cookies or other treats for the holidays? What is your favorite to bake or eat?
  • Right now I'm reading Origin In Death by J.D. Robb, Book #22 in the In Death series and it's Thanksgiving in this book! How cool is that?
  • Does anyone know if that means it's Christmas in Memory In Death? I need to know if I need to put the pressure on myself to read it on time.
  • I've read 89 books so far in this year and my goal is to read 100+ books. Am I cutting it close or what? I'm starting to get a little nervous about this... 
  • Did you make a book count goal for 2011? If so, have you met it or are you still working on it? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Still Running

Approximately two years ago I did something completely out of my comfort zone and joined an outdoor running group. I had just started biking a month or two prior, but aside from that my regular workouts for several years consisted of pretty much the same four fitness classes at the gym, four days a week. I was not a runner. I would run once in a blue moon if I had to, but it was definitely not my thing. I decided to give the running class a try anyway, in order to support the instructor [who was also a friend] who was trying to get this new class off the ground.

So I joined this running group.

I admit I was not very good at it.

In the beginning, I could barely run 2 miles [3.2 K] before I'd have to slow down to a walk to catch my breath. But I stuck it out and thanks to the efforts of the instructor, the support and positive encouragement from the small group of awesome women in the class, I slowly improved. Five weeks later, everyone in our group signed up for a local race and I ran in my first ever race on November 28, 2009. It was a 5 Mile Race [8 K] and I finished in 1:01:46. It was a slow 12:21 / mile pace and I recall having to power walk a couple of times to catch my breath, but I did it. I was very proud of myself for putting myself out there doing something new and something that was downright hard.

I decided to run that same race this year so I could see how much my fitness level has improved over the last two years.

On Saturday, November 26, 2011, I ran the same 5 Mile Race [8 K] and finished in 51:17 !!! :)

That's more than 10 minutes faster than my time two years ago! My pace was decent at 10:15 / mile, but this actually placed me in the bottom 20% of the 800+ people who participated in this race. Ugh, that stinks. There are a lot of really fast runners out there, people! But this is about me, not them, so whatever. Besides, I look SUPER FAST and HAPPY in this [blurry] picture, don't I?  

And that's what really counts. Not the super fast part, although that is nice. The HAPPY part. 

Get out there and try something new. Challenge yourself. Work for it. Make yourself healthier and happier. It feels good.  :) 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for the wonderful friendships I've made through blogging over the years and wish every one of you a very, very happy Thanksgiving. This goes for my friends outside the US as well, because I'm thinking of you today, too. ; )  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Library Loot XLIII

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

Today was a surprise library loot day for me. I haven't borrowed books from library since late September because I still had a pile of books out from three different libraries that I've been working through. I vowed not to borrow anything else until I had either read or returned everything. This morning, I finished that last library book, but since I've been pretty busy lately, I didn't even think about when I'd go next. But today I was quite unexpectedly out doing a quick errand during library hours [which is such a rare occurrence since library hours and my hours don't overlap much these days thanks to budget cuts... ] and I realized I was about to drive right past my library! As soon as I realized I was going to pass the library while it was actually open, I had this strong compulsion to go in and grab a book. I knew exactly which one I would grab, too, since I recently checked online if the library had it. So I literally ran in [I had all of three minutes to pull off this unscheduled library visit!] and grabbed it! Of course I couldn't resist bringing it home with a neighbor. And that's how today's surprise library loot came to be:

Let It Snow 
by John Green
    Lauren Myracle 
         and Maureen Johnson
An anthology of young adult romances for the holidays by some cool authors.

Eon by Allison Goodman

I intended to read one of three different books for my 2011 Big Book Challenge, but still haven't gotten to any of them and have sadly lost a lot of interest in those series. I had Eon on the back of my mind as a possible candidate for the challenge [per Mariana's recommendation, I believe], but it always seemed to be checked out of the library when I thought to look for it. I think this time it was finally meant to be, because there it was today, sitting right next to Let It Snow. Maybe I'll complete the 2011 Big Book Challenge after all!  

What are you reading now? 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

{Easy} Homemade Gravy

 From scratch and made from practically nothing!

Are you cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year?
If yes, and you struggle with making homemade gravy, give my method a try. It took me years to learn how to make a decent gravy. Hopefully this recipe will save someone that kind of trouble. ; )

For years, gravy was one of my greatest challenges in the kitchen. Just ask my husband--chances are he'll mention my worst gravy attempt--red gravy. I have no idea what I thinking with that recipe. It really didn't even sound great on paper! I think I was just desperate to find some recipe that would actually show me the way to gravy success.

It used to be my habit to buy a can or jar of commercial gravy to have on hand in case my homemade gravy failed--which it usually did--and then I'd quickly open and heat the canned stuff in the microwave. I finally got the methodology down however, thanks to a few good articles in my favorite cooking magazines and haven't bought commercially prepared gravy in many years.

Now I can make gravy on the spot in about 10 minutes or less with or without the juices from a roast. In a pinch, I can make gravy in a small saucepan with just butter, onion, broth, salt and pepper and my secret ingredient--soy sauce, which is great to do for left overs, swedish meatballs or even sliced turkey or roast beef from the deli. However, gravy is extra special and flavorful if you do use the pan drippings from a roast. And the method is exactly the same for any kind of roast--beef, chicken or turkey. And if I can do it... so can you.

I always start the gravy towards the end of the cooking time for the roast and after my sides are just finished and being kept warm. This way I can focus on finishing the gravy while the roast rests and I can serve everything pipping hot.

For this post, I roasted a cut up chicken, seasoned with salt, pepper and sprinkled with dried sage in a large baking dish at 350F for about an hour or until the juices run clear when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. I usually check the thickest part of the chicken thigh, near but not touching, the bone.

About ten minutes before the roast is expected to be done, start making the gravy. Don't worry if your timing is slightly off as you can stall the gravy after step three and keep it heated at low heat while you wait for the roast to be finished.

Easy Homemade Gravy

Makes 6 servings. Double or triple the recipe for a large roast such as a whole turkey. 

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon butter
1/4 finely chopped onion
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups water or broth
1/2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
drippings from a cooked roast (optional)

1. Heat the canola or other cooking oil and the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts.

2. Add the onion, season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and cook until the onion softens and begins to brown slightly.

3. Add the flour and stir until the flour is absorbed by the butter and oil. Stir continuously for about one minute to cook the flour. Do not let the flour burn, but it is important to cook the flour for a minute or so before adding the liquid.

4. Slowly add the water or broth, stirring gently but with rapid movements to prevent the flour from lumping and until the gravy is slightly thickened. You can add additional water here, if necessary to get the desired thickness, but adding the pan drippings from the roast in a few minutes will thinA whisk works well for this step. I'm usually too lazy to dirty another utensil and just use the spoon.

3. Add the soy sauce and stir until well blended.

If the roast is done, immediately continue with step 4.

If the roast isn't yet done, keep the gravy on low heat until roast is done and removed from oven. Then proceed with step 4.

4. Remove roast from roasting pan and set on cutting board to rest before carving. Using a heat safe spatula or spoon, scrape up the browned bits in the roasting pan to dissolve into the drippings.

5. If you have a gravy separator [hi Santa!], use it to separate the fat from the drippings and pour the drippings into the gravy, leaving the fat behind, and stirring the gravy until well combined.

6. If you don't have a gravy separator [like me], make a disposable one using a quart sized freezer bag like this:
            i. Place an open quart size freezer bag inside a 2 cup measuring cup.

            ii. Carefully pour the drippings into the freezer bag. Let stand a minute or so and the fat will rise to the top, separating from the drippings.

            iii. Seal the top of the bag and while holding bag over your gravy, carefully partially snip the corner of the freezer bag but NOT ALL THE WAY OFF! You're just making an opening for the drippings to pour out and you don't want plastic bag in your gravy. Not appetizing.

            iv. Let the drippings pour into the gravy, stopping when the fat is about to pour out. Quickly flip your bag over so the fat doesn't leak out and you're holding the bag with the snipped corner upright. Discard the fat in the bag.

Look at that icky fat! Throw that away! Ew.
            v. Stir to combine drippings into gravy.

7. Taste your gravy for proper seasoning and add a bit of salt, pepper or a dash of soy sauce, if necessary.

8. Serve hot and enjoy!

Are you a gravy lake maker?

I always made gravy lakes as a kid and every once in a while I still do it... just for old time's sake. : )

Sunday, November 13, 2011

RECIPE: Pasta with Pumpkin Sage Cream Sauce and Prosciutto

My favorite way to eat pumpkin will always be in the form of some sweet treat such as pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake (yum!), pumpkin ice cream (double yum!) and even pumpkin smoothies. Every once in a while, though, it's nice to venture on the savory side with pumpkin, but up until now, I've only ventured that way while dining out--not at home. So after getting a large Long Island pumpkin and a bunch of fresh sage in our organic co-op recently, I decided to try to make a pumpkin cream sauce with sage to serve with pasta.

There are many recipes out there for pumpkin cream sauce, of which the base ingredients are always pumpkin and cream with some variation of additional savory ingredients. I came up with this recipe that I think emphasizes the pumpkin and uses just a bit of half and half to make the sauce creamy. I also added a little bit of crispy prosciutto to each serving, which added more depth of flavor to the dish. It can certainly be omitted for a vegetarian version. I'm happy with the way this recipe turned out and hope you give it a try sometime. I'd love to hear from you if you do!

Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce with Sage and Prosciutto
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
1/4 cup half and half
1 tablespoon butter
fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
salt & pepper

1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into small pieces

1/2 lb. dried pasta, cooked al dente

freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic and four or five thinly sliced sage leaves, cooking until the onion begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes.

Tip: Add the sage sparingly at first, tasting the sauce as it cooks and adding more sage to suit your taste.  

3. Lower the heat to medium low and add the pumpkin puree, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper and cook until hot.

Tip: Fresh pumpkin puree is best for this dish, but if you use canned pumpkin you may need to thin it with some water or broth to get the proper sauce consistency. 

4. While the pumpkin sauce is cooking, heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a small skillet until hot. Add the cut up prosciutto and cook until crispy. Remove from heat and keep warm until serving.

5. Add the half and half and stir until heated through. If the sauce is too thick, it may be thinned with chicken broth or water.

6. When the pasta is ready, remove the pumpkin cream sauce from heat and add the butter, stirring until melted. Add minced fresh sage leaves and check for seasoning.

7. Toss sauce with hot pasta, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese, crispy prosciutto and additional sage leaves, if desired. Best served immediately while hot!


This is my first time participating in the weekly blog event Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Visit Beth's blog for more information.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's a Kiwi Berry?

Kiwi berry variety "Aloha Annas"
from Kiwi Korners 
(click on photo to enlarge)

Have you ever had a kiwi berry before?

I'm willing to bet most of you will say no. Kiwi berries are rare in the US, which is why I thought it would be fun to share some info about these delicious berries. Then maybe the next time you see kiwi berries at your local market, you'll try them. Or ask your grocer to stock them!

We get these delicious little powerhouse fruits in our organic co-op once or twice a year around this time of year [mid autumn] and I look forward to them all year long. I even bought extras from the farm the share prior.

As I sat down to write what I knew about kiwi berries--all of which I learned through my co-op newsletter, I thought I'd better do a little research to make sure I had my facts straight. So I did a google search and read through a few sites. I found one site in particular that was very informative. I went to the fridge and looked for the name of the farm from which my kiwi berries came and guess what? The informative kiwi berry website I was reading is the website of the farm from which my kiwi berries came! My kiwi berries come from Kiwi Korners farm in Pennsylvania where Dave the kiwi berry farmer  tends his kiwi crops. His website is [Hi Dave! Thanks for growing these delicious, nutritious, organic kiwi berries for me and my family! :) ]

Kiwi berries are the perfect size for popping in your mouth!
Kiwi berries are related to the regular kiwi with which most people are already familiar. Kiwi berries are about the size of a large grape, have a thin skin and no fuzz. The flesh of a kiwi berry is similar in taste to a regular kiwi, but perhaps a little bit sweeter and more complex. As far as nutritional value goes, kiwi berries are low calorie and very healthful. In fact, they're considered one of the super fruits--containing a range of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and are a good source of fiber, too! Check out the full nutritional profile of kiwi berries at Even if kiwi berries weren't so incredibly nutritious, I'd still recommend you look for them at your local market and give them a try. They're so delicious!

The variety we got in our co-op today are the Aloha Annas. According to the KiwiBerry website, this variety has the flavor of kiwi, pineapple and a slight hint of mint. Let's see if I can confirm this. .... *pops one in my mouth* ... hmmm... maybe I need another one to be sure. *pop pop pop* *kid pops few* mmm. All gone. ;)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Another NEW romance from Lisa Kleypas!

Did you know Lisa Kleypas has a new book coming out in January 2012?

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know I'm a big fan of Lisa Kleypas, so naturally I'm super excited to hear she has another new book coming out soon!

Rainshadow Road is a contemporary romance and takes place in one of my favorite places--the Pacific Northwest. Isn't that cover just so pretty?

Needless to say, I cannot wait to read Rainshadow Road!

For a sneak peek, you can read an excerpt from Rainshadow Road on Lisa's website following this link:

I'm sure Rainshadow Road will make it to your wish list once you read the excerpt, too!

NOTE: I am one of "Lisa's Divas" - a group of select fans who share info & content related to Lisa's novels and get sneak peeks & swag in return.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Random Bits

My friend Lisa who blogs at Book Lists Life does a Random Friday post most weeks, which I love to read so I thought I'd give it a try, too. Lisa loves to read and craft--she's very talented with the sewing needle! Best of all, Lisa has three adorable little kids who bring all sorts of adventures to her days. Stop by her blog and say hello.
  • My 16 year old (11th grade) now has her driver's learning permit and is asking to drive all the time. It's a little terrifying. Please send me calmness or strength or ... something!  
  • She is also in the very early stages of the whole college process. She recently took the PSATs and is starting to think about college options. She went to her guidance counselor this week to find out her GPA and it's a 3.94! (wow!) She's an honors student, does sports and is involved with a club or two and actively pursues photography recreationally and for the school. We are so proud of her!
  • My 12 year old (7th grade) is driving us crazy half the time with her tween attitude. Thank goodness she's so cute and sweet and fun the other half of the time. ;o) 
  • Right now, I'm in the middle of reading four different books, something I rarely do. I find it extremely distracting and I make no progress reading any of the books. I'm going to focus on just ONE book at a time starting today with the one due back to the library the soonest and that would be The Girl Who Circumvented Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. It's a charming middle grade novel about a girl who does all fun stuff in the title, meeting all sorts of fascinating beings along the way. The writing is whimsical and pretty insightful to this journey of life we're all on. 
  • After much deliberation on my part, I agreed on a 2 hour bike ride with my cycling partner last Saturday morning at 7:30am when it was barely light out [the morning before the time change] and only 34 F (1 C)! Brrr! I don't have all the proper technical clothing for this sort of riding, but I made do with some layers, wool ski socks and a borrowed bacaclava [like this one] from my husband, which helped a lot. I actually wasn't as cold as I thought I'd be on the bike, especially since we climbed three tough hills during the ride to keep warm. ; ) My toes were pretty much cold the entire time, though, so I don't know if I'd want to ride more than 2 hrs. in cold weather and probably only when there's no wind. The wind chill on the bike is cold enough!
  • Yesterday we cleaned up the branches and tree limbs in the yard that fell in last weekend's freak snow storm and I used a chain saw for the first time ever! It was actually kind of fun. Now we have a decent sized wood pile in our backyard. Would be nice if we had a fireplace to go with it... 
  • Halloween was a week ago today and I still haven't had a single piece of Halloween candy, BUT I have had some cookies and ice cream and a piece of coconut layer cake in the past week, though, so I I've essentially lost my bragging rights on this one... : /   
  • Normally I try to pretend not to notice all the Christmas stuff in stores until at least Thanksgiving weekend, but Trader Joe's has put out their holiday cookies and candies and other holiday treats and I admit I investigated. Everything is so tempting... maybe I'll buy something on my next visit. You know... for taste testing purposes so I know what would make a good hostess gift or something like that during the holiday season. 
  • Now that I mentioned Christmas, I may as well ask if anyone started their Christmas [or Hanukkah] shopping yet?  I have a few gift ideas for my family, but that's about as far as I've gotten. 
Your turn. What random bits do you have to share? 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What I Read Last Month

October was a fantastic reading month for me. I read nine books, but two were novellas so as for quantity it was pretty average, but the quality was really noteworthy. I thoroughly enjoyed every book I read which made me remember why I gave up giving ratings or grades for books for a while. How in the world do you delineate between excellent, fantastic and wonderful?

Here's a look at what I read:

Romance ........... 4
Young Adult ...... 2
Mystery ............ 1
Urban fantasy .....1
Graphic Novel .... 1 [non-fiction biography]

Of the romance novels read, two were contemporary and two were historical.

1. The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
Iron Fey, Book #3
I really enjoy this young adult series. It's a contemporary teenage story blended with a classic faerie-style story influenced by Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, mixed together with adventure and romance, all made even more complicated by the advance of modern technology. The story and characters are great, but I've developed a little hang-up over the romance. While I understand the attraction between Meghan and Ash, I feel like I missed the part where their attraction and interest in each other turned to a deep and devoted love. The Iron Queen is a fast paced, exciting romantic adventure.

2. Something About You by Julie James
FBI, Book #1
A contemporary romance that's heavily entwined with a suspenseful murder mystery. The romance is between Cameron Lynde, a confident, successful female Assistant U.S. Attorney and Jack Pallas, FBI Special Agent. These two crossed paths several years before on a case that ended controversially and put a huge professional and personal rift between them, even though they work for the same side of the law. They're once again work together in this book, although very reluctantly, and through the course of the story are able to correct misunderstandings from the past, solve a murder and of course, fall in love.

3. Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
Harper Connelly Mystery, Book #4 
I debated between a four and five star rating for this book, finally deciding on five because it turned out to my favorite book of the series--a series that I started just a few months ago and found myself reading all four books in such a short time, which says a lot about the author's ability to capture my attention and keep me interested in more. This story had all the mystery, drama, sadness that I've come to love from this series and it also provided the kind of closure for Harper and Tolliver that they deserved, however, not before some very shocking revelations that I admit brought tears to my eyes. I honestly hadn't realized how important it became for me as the reader to know what had happened to Harper's sister Cameron who went missing eight years ago. While the ending isn't the sweet kind of happy ever after of 'feel good' or romance novel--it's almost bittersweet, but definitely the kind of realistic, positive ending that should leave most readers content, as it certainly left me.

4. When Beauty Tamed The Beast by Eloisa James
A charming version of a Beauty and the Beast type tale. The dialogue in this novel is very entertaining and really brings the characters to life. In addition, the unique setting adds interest and depth to the story. Most of the story takes place at the Earl of Marchant's castle in Wales which he has set up as a pseudo-hospital where the Earl, his cousin and a small handful of promising doctors-in-training strive to provide alternative health care to patients which is in fact the correct direction medicine needs take during this time period to save lives and prevent infections. This aspect of the story was extremely fascinating and the author effectively tied this to the romance plot as well. There is also a charming secondary romance plot featuring the Earl's mother and father that was a very sweet touch to the book.

I found the dialogue intelligent and witty, but I have to admit there were a few instances toward the beginning of the book when I felt pulled out of the story because a line or two of the dialogue all of a sudden sounded contrived or cliche. Maybe it was just my unfamiliarity with the language of the time period. Also, I expected the Earl to be more beast-like in looks and mannerisms and aside from being extremely direct and rather unorthodox in his medical practices, he was otherwise normal enough and according to Miss Linnet, very attractive.

5. Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography 
by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón
Don't underestimate the power of this book on the merits that it is a graphic novel. While this book will be shelved in the young adult section of most libraries, I highly recommend it to readers of all ages and backgrounds. Many people are familiar with the story of Anne Frank and her family through her world renowned diary, and this graphic novel makes the perfect supplement, expanding on Anne's story with accurate historical facts.

This book delivers a serious historical and emotional punch as it provides detailed insight into the frightening and horrific time for thousands and thousands of innocent people who suffered unnecessary and intolerable injustices and deaths leading up to and including the years of The Holocaust. What an awful, heartbreaking time this was in the history of our world.

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last summer and was profoundly moved as I toured the Secret Annex and learned about the life and plight of Anne Frank and her family. Again, reading this biographical novel added new layers of knowledge and emotion to my trip to Amsterdam that I won't likely ever forget.

6. I Love The Earl by Caroline Linden
The Truth About the Duke, prequel
I Love the Earl is a prequel novella to Ms. Linden's newest historical romance trilogy, The Truth About the Duke, the first book of which is titled One Night In London, just released in September 2011. I Love the Earl takes place several decades before One Night In London and tells the love story of Margaret de Lacey and Rhys Corwen, the Earl of Dowling. Margaret is an untitled spinster of mediocore means who suddenly becomes a worthy catch when her brother suddenly inherits a dukedom and offers a generous dowery on her behalf. She catches the attention of numerous fortune hunters, and in his attempts to win her favor, the desperate Welsh Earl, Rhys Corwen actually falls in love with her.

I really loved this novella. It's greatest shortcoming is that it isn't a full length novel. The premise of the story is simple, but the characters are interesting, their dialogue genuine and entertaining and the romance just charming.

7. Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh
Guild Hunters, Book #2

Review to come...

8. Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
Read my review HERE.

9. Summer's Crossing by Julie Kagawa
Iron Fey, Book #3.5
***CAUTION: Possible spoilers from previous books***
This Iron Fey novella takes place immediately after events of The Iron Queen and before The Iron Knight. Puck and Ash are about to seek out Grimalkin for help getting them into the Iron Realm where Meghan is. Only before they go, Leanansidhe shows up and calls in the favor Ash owes her, sending Ash and Puck into the Summer Court to retrieve an item that was stolen from her. While Puck is not exactly a welcomed sight in the Summer Court since defying King Oberon, he still remains loyal to his homeland. Ash, however, is literally putting his life on the line by entering enemy territory, presenting Puck with the opportunity to eliminate his biggest rival once and for all. Puck's loyalty and renowned prankster skills are truly tested in this story.

Summer's Crossing is told from Puck's point of view and offers a delightful look into his charming, mischievous, warm-hearted and loyal heart. The tension between Puck and Ash and the dynamics of their is pretty high without Meghan around to temper them both, but there's also this subtle vibe between these two that gives the reader hope that they'll one day reconcile to the best friends they used to be long ago. Highly recommended to anyone who reads the series!
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My favorite books this month were Archangels' Kiss by Nalini Singh and Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins. The novella, I Love The Earl by Caroline Linden was very, very good. I'm very optimistic about One Night in London and am looking forward to reading it!

What was the best book you read last month?  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fitness Challenge Report Card: October 2011

Hello November! What a wacky few days we just had around here with that freak snow storm and the damage it caused. The kids were back in school today and things are mostly back to normal, but in some areas here and there it feels like you're in a labyrinth trying to figure out how to get from A to B with some roads still closed due to broken tree limbs and power lines in the streets. As far as our school calendar, it's going to be an interesting year. We already have one day taken away from our spring break in April and no snow days to get us through the winter. Let's hope it's a mild winter and all snow storms take place on the weekends!

Thankfully, our town allowed trick-or-treating on Halloween, because I heard that some other New Jersey towns "cancelled" trick-or-treating because of the safety hazards. My girls were out for a while and came home with several pounds of candy--including at least a dozen Reese's peanut butter cups [my favorite] but only one Twix bar [my other favorite]. And yet I am reporting to you with immense pride and astonishment that I have successfully resisted the evil temptation of Halloween candy for 48 hours! I haven't had a single piece! NOT ONE! This is major, people. I don't think there's EVER been a time in my life when I haven't eaten Halloween candy. We're talking four+ decades! Where this resolve came from, I do not know. Maybe it's because I know exactly how freaking hard I have to work just to burn 100 calories! Speaking of which...

Did you track your fitness challenge miles* in October?

What kinds of exercise have you been getting?

My ongoing goal is to reach 100 fitness challenge miles* every month. I came in at 119.65 for October, exceeding my goal by a nice chunk this time. I only took two days off from working out this month. One day because of those monthly cramps [omg how many YEARS am I going to go through this? For a lovely rant, see my post from 2008 titled Don't Do the Math in which I do the math. Add on a few dozen days for the last three years... ]. The other was the day after the snow storm when the gym had no power and it was just too dangerous out there to exercise under the trees!

Here's a summary of what I did in October to rack up all those miles:

Cycling [on road]....... 31
Strength training........ 25
Running [outdoors].... 28.65
Spin class [in gym].... 16
Kickbox class ........... 14
Cardio Interval class... 4
Swim [indoor pool] ... 1

TOTAL fitness miles ....119.65

I did a lot of cycling in October. My friend Maureen and I are planning to bike in a Gran Fondo, next September [100 mile bike course], so we started training by doing some longish rides together. We spent over 8 hours biking over four weekend days, logging over 118 miles. :)

I ran two 5K races in October, which was pretty fun. The first one was on my birthday in which I ran my new personal best of 30:02! I am very excited about that, but hope to break 30 minutes in my next 5K, which will probably be in January. [5K = 3.1 miles]

Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial
Liberty State Park
Jersey City, NJ
Photo taken on October 16, 2011
NJ Make-A-Wish 5K Run
The second 5K I ran took place in Liberty State Park along the pier where I had views of the New York City skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty for the whole run. There is also a new 9/11 Memorial in the park that was opened just this September called Empty Sky Memorial. If you stand in front of the memorial [as I was when I took the photo on the left], the memorial fills in the skyline where the twin towers once stood. The names of all those who died on 9/11 are engraved along the wall of the memorial. When you get to the other side, you see the skyline as it is today... an empty sky. I like the design of this memorial a lot and think it's a very meaningful and appropriate addition to Liberty State Park. If you're in the area, I recommend you see it for yourself.

I still miss my Friday 5:45 am Bootcamp class. Okay, I don't miss the 5:45 am part, but I DO miss the friends with whom I took the class and I miss how freaking hard it was. At least now I get to sleep in until 6:45 am on Fridays and then I go running with my friend Marie after the girls are off to school. I have to admit it's nice to exercise in the daylight instead of just before sunrise, and Marie and I get to chat the whole time. Plus fall weather is the best for running! Not too warm, not too cold and the foliage is pretty, too.

In November, I'm thinking of running a 5 Mile Race on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This is the same race that I did a few weeks after I first started running back in November 2009. I can't believe that was just two years ago--I've come such a long way since then. Anyway, I ran that 5 Mile race in 1:01:47 and would like to see what kind of time I could get now. Other than that, I'll just aim for 100 fitness miles again this month.

What are your fitness or exercise goals for November?

Interested in joining the Fitness Challenge? Please visit the Sign Up post for more information, including the challenge rules. You may leave a comment there or on this post if you'd like to join. Be sure to include your fitness miles goal in your comment.

*ONE fitness challenge miles = 1 mile walked or run for fitness OR = 15 minute increments of other exercise for fitness such as cardiovascular or strength training exercises.