Monday, April 30, 2012

In Death Series Reading Challenge April 2012

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!

Did you read any In Death series books 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.

I didn't make it in time this month. I'm in the middle of reading Creation in Death right now and will probably finish it tomorrow. This one started out a little slow for me, but once Eve and her team got hot on the trail of the killer, the pace picked up and now I don't want to put it down.

Last week I spied a pristine hard cover copy of the recently released Celebrity in Death on the used book sale shelf at my library for only $5, but alas I had no cash on me! I toyed with asking the librarians to hold it for me until the morning, but ended up not doing anything. I didn't even go back the next day with $5. If it's there the next time I go, I'll buy it. If not, I figure by the time I'm ready to read that one it will be out in paperback anyway and maybe I'll even find a used copy somewhere just as cheap or cheaper. Most of my In Death collection are used books.

This got me wondering what format of In Death books do you read?

Do you own the whole series? 

Does your collection consist of paperbacks? Hardcover? E-book? A mixture?

Do you borrow the books from the library?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Library Loot LI

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.

In fiction:

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I have had this book on my to-read list for ages. Thanks to an upcoming read along as part of the Once Upon a Time V Challenge hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings, I am finally going to read it!

In nonfiction:

The Pioneer Woman Cooks:  Food From My Frontier 
by Ree Drummond
This is the second cookbook written by Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman from her popular website I might review this cookbook for an upcoming Weekend Cooking post.


Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
Am I THE last person to read this little handbook?
I went looking for the illustrated version with artwork by Maira Kalman, but it was checked out to another patron, so I took the plain, unillustrated version instead.

Forks over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health 
Edited by Gene Stone 
This is the how-to companion to the feature documentary Forks over Knives. It has several essays as well as 125 recipes. We've had the documentary sitting in our Netflix queue for a while now and will hopefully watch it soon. Have you seen it?

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Glycemic Index Weight Loss
by Lucy Beale and Joan Clark-Warner, M.S., R.D., C.D.E 
I've learned a lot about the role of a food's glycemic index has on our bodies and I'm hoping that if I study up on it a bit more, it might just be the key to my success in leaping off the proverbial weight loss plateau and losing those last stubborn pounds. Hopefully this book will give me the right tools to do that.

In music:

Making Mirrors by Gotye 
I love the song "Somebody That I Used To Know" and so I jumped at the chance to borrow this CD from the library when I saw it show up in my library's Wowbrary newsletter. I'm actually listening to it while I type this!

What are YOU reading? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

REVIEW: The Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi [Books 1-4]

Published by Graphix an imprint of Scholastic Books. 

The first graphic novel I ever read was Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper in February 2011. Although the premise is not completely original, the artwork and storyline easily captured my attention and drew me in. The artwork is wonderfully detailed and evokes the tone of each scene very well. At the time, I was impressed by the quality of the story and artwork, but since it was my first foray into the genre, I had nothing to compare it to, and was therefore hesitant to declare my newfound fandom of the Amulet series.

Over the next fourteen months I would read nearly two dozen more graphic novels ranging from fantasy stories like this one, contemporary stories, classics such as Frankenstein, Jane Eyre and even some Shakespeare, as well as a few nonfiction memoir type graphic novels. Now a bit more seasoned in the genre, I think back to my first impressions of The Stonekeeper and I'm delighted to know that it wasn't just an overzealous first impression that led me to adore the Amulet series, but a genuine appreciation for a really great fantasy adventure series for middle school aged kids and their parents. Okay, okay! I confess! My middle schooler read the first three around the time I did, but it turns out I'm continuing the series on my own. Hey, don't knock it! If you like the fantasy animated films by Hayao Miyazaki you'd probably get a kick out of the Amulet series. The Amulet series isn't nearly as deep with social and moral implications as Miyazaki's films, but it will certainly entertain you for a couple of hours with your kid. Or by yourself. I won't tell. ;)

I recently read the latest book in the series, Book Four: The Last Council and decided it would be nice to write a little series review so far on this gem of fantasy series.

Book One: The Stonekeeper [2008]
The story begins with a family tragedy that literally brought me to tears within the first few dozen panels of the book. I admit I'm a sap to begin with, but this event sets the tone for the sadness that consumes the family there on in. Circumstances drive the family to move into a distant relative's old home in a remote town, where Emily, the oldest child, finds an amulet that later starts to reveal some special powers.

On their first night in the house, the power goes out and later they hear a noise coming from the basement. The mom goes down to the basement to investigate and you guessed it! She gets abducted by a strange creature into the depths below the house. Now it's up to Emily and her younger brother Navin to rescue her as they travel into an alternate world below their great grandpa Silas' house with nothing but their courage and resolve to get their mother back.. plus the amulet, of course!

And so begins Emily and Navin's fantasy adventure into a world that is as exciting as it is scary and beautiful as it is frightful. Emily and Navin become aware of an evil elf who is stalking them and they meet some robotic friends--Miskit, Cogsley, Morrie, and others who help them out. Strong family elements help keep Emily and Navin on course, and thanks for that because but it's not always clear if the power of the amulet will help or hurt them on their quest.
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CAUTION: Spoilers from Book One!

Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse [2009]
Emily and Navin have rescued their mother, but she has been poisoned by the creature who abducted her. They venture to the City of Kalanis with their new friends in search of a cure for their mom. Once in Kalanis, they make some new allies with members of a resistance who are trying to stop the Elf King from taking over the kingdom of Alledia. The leader of the resistance, Leon Redbeard, tells Emily that they have been waiting for her to join their fight. The Elf King's son, Trellis, is the elf who has been stalking Emily since she and Navin entered this world and he's still hot on their trail, only now he is joined by Luger, the Elf King's ruthless second in command. Interestingly, Trellis' motives for stalking Emily become more complicated as his story is elaborated upon, which adds an interesting twist to the evil component of the series.

In the meantime, Emily continues to struggle with understanding and controlling the powers the amulet give her. Not only that, but now she is faced with the pressure of being 'the one' the resistance has been waiting for, when all she wants to do is cure her mom and go home.

This story is possibly more adventurous than the first book and definitely maintains a high level of suspense that will keep readers flipping the pages to find out what happens next. The path Emily is on is not an easy one and she's forced to make a lot of tough decisions in a world she barely understands and where others have put a lot of pressure on her to help their cause.
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CAUTION: Spoilers from Book Two!

Book Three: The Cloud Searchers [2010]
The adventures of Emily and Navin continue in this book when they set off with the resistance leader Leon Redbeard and two pilots--Enzo and Rico, in search of the lost city of Cielis which some believe is on an island hidden in the clouds. It is in Cielis where they hope to find help from the powerful Stonekeepers who make up the Guardian Council so that they can stop the Elf King.

Trellis and Luger have been somewhat humbled since the events at the end of the previous book and they appear to be allies to Emily and the resistance now. Their trust is still somewhat tenuous, which adds some much welcomed complexity in the relationships between the characters. Added to the mix are some new enemies to contend with--some blatantly obvious and others a bit more elusive, as well as a new ally with an interesting past.

The adventure and danger runs high yet again in this installment as Emily's quest takes her to new places in this world, all the while challenging her courage and discipline to do the right thing and not let the amulet control her. There are some fun, sweet moments as well, so do not be alarmed that it's all doom and gloom if you are reading this with young children.

The artwork continues to be amazing, carefully portraying full ranges of emotions of characters and the magnitude and majesty of this fantastical world.
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CAUTION: Spoilers from Book Three!

Book Four: The Last Council [2011]
After barely surviving the culminating events of the last book, Emily and her friends finally arrive in Cielis where the Guardian Council resides. They have high hopes of finding the help they need to defeat the Elf King, but they soon find out that the city of Cielis and the Council are not at all like they expected. Emily, Navin and their mom are separated from their resistance friends and escorted into the Academy where Emily is taken from her room and forced to compete for her spot on the Council with other young Stonekeepers. It is there that she begins to learn the dark truths about the state of affairs among the Stonekeepers and it does not bode well for the resistance or any of the people in the kingdom of Alledia.

In the meantime, Emily's resistance friends are also learning firsthand how wrong things are in Cielis. Trellis and Luger are imprisoned and Leon, Enzo and Rico are in the streets where they soon discover the people are practically living in hiding, in fear of the Council. Miskit and Cogsley have been missing since the previous book, but they are rescued by a new ally with a very interesting past, giving the resistance some hope. If they can make their way to Cielis in time to help, that is.

Once again this series continues to captivate me with its wonderfully rich and detailed artwork, ever expanding plot, continued character growth and overall suspense and intrigue. We learn more about the history of Alledia and the Guardian Council in this book, which helps set the stage for what promises to be the precipice of great change in this world. This book ends with some unfortunate losses, but also leaves the reader with hope that Emily and her friends can work together for the greater good of Alledia.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

REVIEW: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell with Sandy Gluck

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook is written by "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell. The boys are the stars of the highly rated Planet Green tv show of the same name. Maybe some of you are familiar with the show? I don't watch tv so much, so I'm afraid I've never heard of these boys or their show before. They also have a website brimming with content related to their homestead and tv show. See

So how did The Beekman 1802 cookbook find its way to my hands? I borrowed it from the library when it caught my eye on the nonfiction new release shelf! [see my post Library Loot L] When I read the title and then saw the cover, I immediately albeit erringly, presumed the cookbook was for The Beekman Arms Inn and Tavern in Rhinebeck, New York, of which I am slightly familiar as it is near to the home of a very dear friend of mine. I'd driven past The Beekman Arms several times on visits with my friend, who joyfully points it out and reminisces about the meals she has enjoyed there on special occasions with her husband. Excited by my small personal connection to the cookbook, I enthusiastically checked this cookbook out from the library, anxious to explore it thoroughly. I already classified the cookbook as the perfect gift for my friend--a gift that I could test drive for free! Later that evening, as I sat in my favorite reading chair with this cookbook open on my lap, I came to realize with great disappointment that this cookbook is from an altogether different Beekman. Still in upstate New York, just not in Rhinebeck and not my friend's Beekman. Despite this initial set back in my enthusiasm for this cookbook, I continued to read it and enjoyed it very much.

I'd like to first clarify the title a bit. The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook is so named because 'The Beekman' homestead and farm was established in 1802 and the 'Heirloom' part of the title represents many of the heirloom recipes that the authors have collected and created are based on recipes that have been passed on to them from family and friends over the years and generations. I think it's important to be upfront that the recipes themselves are not necessarily indicative of the turn of the 19th century, although one can rightfully imagine many of the seasonal ingredients called for in the cookbook are grown at The Beekman and other local, organic farms and backyard gardens throughout the country by the same, traditional growing methods that were used in 1802. I'd like to think so, anyway.

The cookbook is organized in my very favorite way--by season. It's the way I cook at home, based on the seasonal organic produce that comes in my co-op every other week, which utilizes local produce as much as possible. The recipes showcase the best of seasonal produce in rural upstate New York, which is a little location specific but I think the items are still fruits and vegetables that can be found fresh in many farmer's markets during their peak season throughout the continental US. If not, you may be inspired to grow some yourself!

Most of the recipes are rather common, classic American fare--such as roasted vegetables, roasted meats, salads, vegetable side dishes, pies and crumbles. These are likely recipes that I have made on my own without recipes or from recipes that are very similar in other cookbooks or even current cooking magazines. Not that there's anything objectionable about that! However, if you are a fairly experienced home cook, chances are you already have a reliable version of those recipes in your repertoire. If you are a relative new comer to the world of home cooking, have recently joined a CSA or co-op, or you have your own vegetable garden, these recipes will likely appeal to you.

If unique and inspirational recipes are more your preference, don't be too discouraged. Dispersed among the many basic recipes are a few gems that stand out as unique and special that still showcase seasonal ingredients. Recipes that I copied down try over the seasons are:

Mint Lemon Cooler

Homemade Lemonade with Lavender and Vanilla
Corn Chowder Salad
Quick Bread-and-Butter Pickles

Butternut Squash-Filled Lasagna Rolls
Harvest Beef Chili with Pumpkin and Beans
Roast Pork Loin with Gingerbread Stuffing

Orange Gingerbread

Overall I think The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook is a very nice basic seasonal cookbook that emphasizes fresh, seasonal produce, cheeses and meats that many readers and home cooks would enjoy.

You can visit The Beekman Boys at their website

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Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event 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. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

REVIEW: A Dangerous Beauty by Sophia Nash

Widows Club, Book One

TBR Challenge April 2012

Four months in a row meeting this challenge. I'm floored. The theme for this month's TBR Challenge [hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian HERE] is to read a book that's been languishing in your TBR pile by a 'new-to-you' author--an author whose works you haven't read yet. I sort of had it in my mind to read The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley, but decided to look through my box of unread historical romances just to see what other books I had on hand that were written by authors I haven't yet read. I came upon A Dangerous Beauty by Sophia Nash and had one of those "oh yeah.. I remember getting this" moments. I bought A Dangerous Beauty at the NJ RWA literacy signing back in 2007, before I even started blogging! I met Sophia Nash that day and so my copy is even author signed! I flipped open the book and read what Ms. Nash wrote to me:
"To beautiful Christine - I hope you enjoy the first in the series! Best, Sophia Nash" 
How nice is that? Of course I new right away that THIS was the book I ought to read for this month's challenge. I'm so glad I did! It was great fun.

Rosamunde Baird grew up the apple of her father's eye and adored by her older brothers and her younger sister Sylvia. Raised by her father the Earl with the manners of a proper lady, Rosamunde's spontaneous sense of adventure lands her in great scandal when she is seen unchaperoned on a private stretch of beach giving the heir apparent Duke Henry a kiss. She refuses his marriage proposal because he admits he loves someone else and Rosamunde is then cast out by her family and banished from the parish by the local vicar, only to charge heedlessly into a marriage of convenience to a Scottish squire who is nothing but cruel to her. She's eventually widowed and forced to flee her home yet again in fear of her husband's brother and heir to the estate. Rosamunde and her ever loyal sister Sylvia are now without a home and practically penniless and have no choice but to accept the unusual invitation from the now deceased Duke's grandmother, the Dowager Duchess Merceditas 'Ata' St. Aubyn to join her secret Widow's Club.

Luc St. Aubyn is the mysterious grandson of the dowager duchess and current Duke of Helston, also known as Lord Fire & Ice for "exuding blistering passion at night and frost the morning after." He supports his grandmother's endeavor with her secret Widow's Club to help young widows find happiness again either through placement as a companion or governess or by introducing the young women to potential new husbands. The Duke normally avoids the widows altogether, but there's something special about Rosamunde that captures his attention--perhaps it's that she meets his sarcasm and wit with some of her own or perhaps he senses the dim spark that used to dance in her now sad eyes. Whatever it is, he's mesmerized by this young woman and finds himself wanting to re-ignite her verve for life.

Rosamunde's spirit has been stamped out by the betrayal, loss and abuse she has experienced from her father and then her late husband. She's lost a lot of the confidence she used to have, but she's still very courageous. She does her best to hold her head up high, which is challenging given the bleak time in her life.

Luc keeps to himself and minds his own business, which supports his mysteriousness, but part of his secrecy is also that he's writing a book under a pen name. Like Rosamunde, he's also harboring guilt over some family secrets of his own. Luc has a fantastic and intelligent sense of humor laced heavily with wit and sarcasm and a big heart, although he tries to hide the latter. He shares his sense of humor with his grandmother who is equally charming. The relationship between the duke and his grandmother is based on obvious love and respect for one another and is a wonderful bonus in this story. In fact, the dowager herself is a great character who truly added much needed kindness and compassion to Rosamunde's and the other widows' lives.

It was a joy to watch Luc rekindle Rosamunde's sense of adventure and bring a spark to her eyes again as it was likewise really nice to see Luc opening up and actually talking to someone about the sadness in his family. Luc gives Rosamunde the wonderful gift of passion and confidence--things she never thought she'd feel again in her lifetime. In return, Rosamunde shows Luc joy and wonder that depth of friendship and love can bring into one's life because for the first time in his life, he craves the company of one woman beyond just one night.

A Dangerous Beauty is a sweet story of courage and love written with an unusual but winsome combination of heartbreak and humor. The dialogue is witty, the passion sweet and sexy and the characters very likable.

A Dangerous Beauty is well written and gets 3.5 out of 5 stars from me as it could have benefitted from a bit more depth into the Helston family problems--Luc's past, Ata's past, Luc's financial problems and his need to marry an heiress. I definitely plan on reading more from Sophia Nash and in fact, Book One in her most recent The Royal Entourage series titled Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea sounds very appealing.. You can read a passage from Chapter One on the author's website that will leave you dangling--literally--for more!


Visit author Sophia Nash at her website

Friday, April 13, 2012


Happy 17th Birthday! xo

Seventeen years ago today I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. What a wonderful young woman she is now!

Happy 17th Birthday to my beautiful, smart, caring daughter.

I love you. xo

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Women Read

I've got a guest post up tonight at What Women Read, which is my friend Shannon's blog. Shannon and I met online a few years ago through our mutual love of reading romance and book blogging and after being on a blogging hiatus for nearly two years, she's back! My post tonight is my contribution to Shannon's weekly column featuring women readers discussing about what women read. Come on over and say hello!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Library Loot L

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 50th Library Loot post!  Do you know what that means? Absolutely nothing except maybe that I can successfully write the roman numerals 1-50! Ha ha! I think, anyway..  Anyone who finds an error in my roman numerals wins a free library card! Oh wait. Y'all better have one of those already. ;) 

I have a lot of really fantastic books out from the library right now. In my last library loot post, I mentioned that I was trying to read all the books I had out already before borrowing more because I had three new releases on holds and I was worried about them all coming in at the same time? And the loan period is only two weeks when there's a wait list? Well, you guessed it! They all came in around the same time and they all have other patrons waiting on them so two weeks it is. Fortunately, I'm making good headway and it doesn't look like I'll be rushed to finish before due dates. In fact, I already finished Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas. It was a quick, sweet read. And I'm nearly half way through with Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward already. So far so good, by the way for all you crack heads a.k.a. BDB addicts out there. 

Dead of Night anthology by J.D. Robb et. al. 
I borrowed this one solely for the In Death novella, "Eternity in Death" when I realized I was missing this book in my collection! Yikes. I had to hunt it down at a library a few towns over. When I got there, I couldn't find it on the shelves, even with a librarian's help and they ended up declaring the book 'lost' in their system. So sad. I ended up finding it at another library in a different town, right down the street from my daughter's dance school, so yay! Another library to add to my hit list. A library that seems to shelve a lot of romance, too. Double yay!

The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis
Lucky Harbor, Book #2
Found this one while scouring the shelves for the J.D. Robb anthology above. Sweet little find since I read the first book last year, adored it and hadn't gotten around to picking up the next one yet. Now I can read Tara and Ford's story. I'm dying to know more about their history together all those years ago.

Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas
Friday Harbor, #2 
I've been building the hype for this book on my blog over the last couple of months and then oddly found release day rolling around and I just never got the chance to order it. So when I saw it come in at my library, I snagged it. I read it in just over 24 hours and really enjoyed it. It's not terribly deep, but it was definitely a sweet and satisfying romance. 

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa 
Iron Fey Series, Book #4 
The final book in the Iron Fey series, told from Ash's perspective. I'd rate this young adult series as a whole with a solid B so far and am curious to see how this last book ties everything up. I'm looking forward to Ash's perspective, too. Hoping it puts a nice spin on the end to this tale. 

Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward 
Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book #10
Book ten in this whirlwind saga of a band of warrior vampires fighting a war against evil forces to protect their race and the human race. Readers have been literally waiting years for this one as Tohrment finally gets a happy story after suffering the devastating loss of his mate in Book #2. (Or later?.. )

The Trail of the Spellmans
Document #5 
The latest document in the quirky Spellman Family series. A dysfunctional but loving family of private investigators trying to keep the family business afloat while simultaneously messing with each others lives. Sometimes accidentally and sometimes intentionally. Depends on the day. 

The Good Neighbors, Books One, Two and Three 
by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
I read the first book last year, but borrowed and read it again after seeing all three books on the shelf at the library. It's a very good urban fantasy series in graphic novel format for teens --or grown ups!-- who like dark fey stories. 

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook 
by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell 
with Sandy Gluck
I got excited when I saw this book among the nonfiction new releases at my library because I thought it was a cookbook for The Beekman Arms Inn and Tavern in Rhinebeck, New York, which is near the home of a very close friend of mine. As I was reading the cookbook this morning, I started to question if this cookbook was for the same homestead and after a few minutes research online, I discovered that it's not! The Beekman 1802 is a farm in Sharon Spring, New York. For a few moments I was a little disappointed over losing what I thought was a personal connection to the cookbook, but the book is so enjoyable that I was able to recover from my disappointment quickly! Apparently these guys Brent and Josh have their own tv show, "The Fabulous Beekman Boys." Anyone familiar with them? 
I'll possibly review this cookbook for an upcoming weekend cooking post. Don't hold your breath. 

Have you read any of these books? Any of these books catch your eye? 

What are you reading right now?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter & Joyous Passover

I really like when the major holidays of my friends land on the same days, like Easter and Passover this year. I find it comforting to know we're all celebrating with our loved ones at the same time.

So whether you're celebrating Easter or Passover at this time, I wish you a wonderful holiday with your families! :)

And if you're not celebrating either of these holidays, I hope you had a great weekend. Last week was super busy for me so aside from two nice long bike rides this weekend [43 miles Saturday and 26 miles Sunday!], I've been having a relaxing, low key weekend reading, napping and just hanging out with my family. I hope to catch up with all of you during the week! xo

Monday, April 2, 2012

My March Adventures

Time sure does fly, doesn't it? March was a good month, busy as usual, but aren't we all? The biggest adventure around here last month was having my baby turn 13 years old! A teenager! Now husband and I are the parents of two teenage girls. Wow. Talk about adventures! :D

In health & fitness: 
Have you noticed the Crazy Sexy Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live Like You Mean It! Diet book by Kris Carr on my sidebar that I've been reading for the last couple of weeks? I read most of it last month and just finished this morning. It's a fabulously inspirational and instructional book on revamping your lifestyle choices for optimal health, happiness and overall vitality.  I have to admit that my focus on healthy eating has slipped in the past several weeks after having completed that WholeLiving action plan back in February. Crazy Sexy Diet has helped (re-)inspire me to get back on track. Today I did a 24 green juice fast as prescribed by Kris Carr in her book and starting tomorrow I am back to 'Crazy Sexy - Whole Living' eating. I'm not doing the 21 Adventure Day Cleanse in Kris' book. I'm just not ready for another cleanse after having done the WholeLiving one in January. But I am going to use it as a guide to keep myself in check. I know I've said this often, but this time I mean it. :o)

March was a good workout month for me. I stepped up the running quite a bit and was kept extra motivated by my husband who has been joining me once or twice a week. We came up with a 5 km loop from our house, so that's the minimum distance we do now. I'm still biking and can't believe that I biked all winter long. I'm looking forward to the earlier sunrises so we can get out on the road nice and early on the weekends, ride 40-50 miles [64-80 km] and be home by lunchtime. Here's a rundown of what I did in March to keep my body moving:

Bike 80.78 miles | 22 fitness miles | 5.5 hours
Run 30.57 miles | 30.57 fitness miles | ~5.5 hours
Kickbox . . . . . . . . 14 fitness miles | 3.5 hours
Spin . . . . . . . . . . .  16 fitness miles | 4 hours
Powercuts . . . . . . . 16 fitness miles | 4 hours
Cardio Interval . . . . 4 fitness miles | 1 hour

Total fitness challenge 'miles'* = 102.57 miles

Which is approximately 23.5 hours of biking running kicking spinning lifting and cardio blasting. Yeah, baby!

*[My monthly goal is 100 miles where 1 fitness challenge mile = 15 min of cardio or strength training = 1 mile run.]

What did you do in March to keep moving?

In reading adventures: 
I read 13 books in March! Hooray! This puts me on schedule to reach my goal of 101 books this year. Assuming I keep this pace, of course. And the year is young, so really.. it doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. Of the 13 books, 3 were novellas and 4 were graphic novels.. but the other 6 books were full length novels, including the 500+ page book Eona by Alison Goodman which is the second book I vowed to read for this year's Big Book Challenge. Which means... ta da!!! I completed my 2012 Big Book Challenge! One down ... um.. a lot more to go?

Here's a look at which books I read last month:

1. Capturing the Silken Thief by Jeannie Lin  
2. Eona by Alison Goodman
3. Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione
4. Eternity Embraced by Larissa Ione
5. Sin Undone by Larissa Ione 
6. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
7. A Lot Like Love by Julie James
8. Where She Went by Gayle Forman 
9. Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones 
10. The Good Neighbors Book One: Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
11. The Good Neighbors Book Two: Kith by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
12. The Good Neighbors Book Three: Kind by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
13. Eternity in Death by J.D. Robb

My favorite books this month are: Eona by Alison Goodman, Sin Undone by Larissa Ione, Where She Went by Gayle Forman and Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.

I couldn't narrow down to just one! Interestingly, they're all SO different. I like that.

What great books did you read in March? 

Other projects and adventures: 

Behind the lens:
I'm still plugging along with my iPhone instagram Project 366. Well sort of. I had a Project 366 fail when I forgot to take a photo on March 16. Ugh. I'm really bummed about this. I decided to give myself a get out of jail free card just this once because it's leap year. Lame excuse, I know, but if I still take a picture every day until the end of the year I will have completed a Project 365. I know it's not the same as going 365 days STRAIGHT but it is what it is. :/ The following is my favorite photo from March..
The view at the park on one of my March runs.
Camera: iPhone 4S
In the garden: 
I'm still hoping to finally re-establish a vegetable garden this year before it's too late. I had a backyard vegetable garden for years but our home addition a few years ago took over where the garden was. I don't really get enough sunlight anywhere else in the yard except my flower garden between the house and the driveway, which is kind of a weird place for a vegetable garden since it would be visible from the street. I think I can still make it pretty. Well, until I have to put netting around it all to keep the deer out. Hopefully I'll carve some time this week and next to start transplanting the flowers to other areas of the yard to make room for neat rows of vegetables. I can't wait! :)

Do you have a vegetable garden?

So that's about it for my March adventures. Thanks for reading all about it and I wish you an Amazing April! xo

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy Birthday, Izzy Spellman!

If you read The Spellman Family mystery series by Lisa Lutz, you're already well acquainted with Izzy Spellman. And while you may laugh to know Izzy's birthday is on April Fool's Day, it should also come as no surprise! It's such a fitting birthday for this offbeat young sleuth.

Document 5
(latest release)
I started reading the Spellman Family mystery series in the fall of 2009 and quickly became enamored by the female protagonist Isabel Spellman. She's quirky and at times immature and impulsive, often making poor decisions. But her heart is in the right place and she's really doing the best with what she's got and that's an equally quirky family. The Spellman family is a tad dysfunctional, but hey--whose family isn't, right? Theirs perhaps just lingers more on the edge of wacky than most. But who am I to judge? In fact, I suggest you read the series and find out for yourself. It is for the most part a lighthearted, amusing series with many laugh-out-loud moments about a family of private detectives, but don't be fooled by the alleged comic factor--there's a dose of seriousness to the stories as well, especially for the cast of core characters. Document 4--The Curse of the Spellmans even made me cry! --but take that with a grain of salt. I am a crier.

I posted about the first book in the Spellman Family series on my blog WITH THIS POST which pretty much links to a buddy review of The Spellman Files, Document 1 that I did with nath on the blog Breezing Through that you can read HERE.

The Spellman Files
Document 1
If we don't convince you to give the series a try, maybe this will: For a limited time [NOW through April 6 ONLY], the ebook version of the first Spellman Family novel-- The Spellman Files is only 99 cents! Grab it while it's hot or at least dirt cheap! Check your local independent bookstore or anywhere books are sold.. Amazon, B&N, iTunes, etc. You know the drill.

The FREE E-Sampler!
ALSO, there's a series E-Sampler available FOR FREE. The E-Sampler includes a charming letter from the author, a guide to reading footnotes on e-readers [these books have lots of very fun footnotes..], chapter excerpts from all 5 Spellman Documents, reading group guides and special bonus material including dossiers on the Spellman family members and a list of Izzy's ex-boyfriends. No, seriously. Did I mention it's FREE? You've got nothing to lose. Go forth and sample.

Document 5 in the series, The Trail of the Spellmans was released on February 28, 2012 [omgosh more than a month ago, already?! Gotta get my butt in gear!]. I can't wait to read it and see what kind of trouble Izzy is up to! Or uh... I mean, what kind of cases she's solving.

Visit Lisa Lutz at her website

Do you read The Spellman Family documents? 

If not, and you decide to pick it up, come back and let me know what you think! :o) 

Chocolate-Peanut Meringue Kisses from Everyday Food Magazine

Everyday Food Magazine
a.k.a. happiness in my mailbox :)
One thing that can brighten my day is when the mailman delivers the latest issue of a favorite magazine right to my mailbox. About three weeks ago, I posted a good mail day photo of the April 2012 issue of Everyday Food Magazine on instagram [I'm attempting a Project 365 this year and find myself taking the most random photos..] to which Lisa H. replied that she just got hers, too! How fun to learn that we get the same magazine! We thought it would be fun to each pick a recipe to prepare and then share together on our respective Weekend Cooking posts. Lisa emailed me earlier this week and told me she was preparing a pasta dish, so I decided on dessert. Kind of like a potluck meal between friends. So what if there's 1500+ miles [2400 km] between us, right? It's possible Lisa may not get her weekend cooking post up this weekend. If that's the case, I may have to consider making another dessert recipe from the magazine for next weekend [Oh the hardship!] because these meringues won't last until dinner next weekend. ;-)

The recipe I chose to make is for Chocolate-Peanut Meringue Kisses.
Why did I choose this recipe?

1. My daughters and I love meringues. My husband is probably so-so about them but since these had chocolate and nuts in them, I knew he'd love 'em.
2. I've never made meringues before, so welcomed the opportunity to try something new.
3. I had all the ingredients on hand.
4. They're a low calorie treat that I can fit into my day without too much guilt.

Below is the recipe from the April 2012 issue of Everyday Food Magazine. The photos are my own and I the text in green are my personal contributions to the instructions.
Chocolate-Peanut Meringue Kisses
Chocolate-Peanut Meringue Kisses
TIP: For Passover, swap 3/4 cup superfine sugar and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice for confectioners' sugar. Bake 5 minutes more. 

2 large egg whites
1 cup confectioners' sugar
fine salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces roasted salted peanuts, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips
ingredients for chocolate-peanut meringue kisses
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Note that oven temperatures vary. Halfway through the first batch, I lowered my oven to 300 F because I thought the meringues were browning too quickly at 350 F. The second batch yielded better results. 

For lovers of fun kitchen gadgets, this is the time to put that cute little egg separator to use. Hang it on the side of a medium heatproof bowl and crack the eggs into the separator. The whites slide into the bowl and the yolk stays in the separator. Gently pour the yolk into a clean jar or small bowl to save for a different use. I cover the yolks with water and store in the refrigerator for day or two. 

egg separator
 yolk separated from white

 2. In a medium heatproof bowl, combine egg whites, confectioners' sugar and a pinch of salt. Set bowl over (not in) a pot of barely simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is warm and frothy and the sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes.
whisk over heat until mixture is frothy
3. Remove bowl from heat and, using an electric mixer, beat mixture on high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes. This took closer to 5 minutes for me. 
beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form
4. Beat in vanilla, then fold in peanuts and chocolate.

add finely chopped peanuts and
mini chocolate chips to meringue
gently fold nuts and chocolate
chips until evenly distributed

5. Transfer mixture to a quart-size zip-top bag; with scissors, cut a 3/4-inch hole in one corner.

6. Pipe 30 mounds (1 inch tall and 1 1/2 inches wide), 1-inch apart, on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet.
pipe mounds of 1" x 1.5" mounds of meringue 1" apart
on parchment lined baking sheets
7. Bake, using the handle of a wooden spoon to keep oven door slightly ajar, until dry to the touch, about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.

8. Let cool completely on sheet on a wire rack before peeling off parchment. Store in a single layer in airtight containers, up to 2 days).

a chocolate-peanut meringue kiss  xoxo
Makes 30 kisses

Nutritional information for 3 kisses:  74 cal; 3 g fat (1.5 g sat fat); 1.7 g protein; 11 g carb; 0.7 g fiber.

Do you like meringues? What's your favorite flavor? 

Have you ever made homemade meringues? Any additional tips for making meringues at home?

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Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event 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. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post.