Friday, December 31, 2010

My Life According to the Books I Read in 2010

I did this fun little book meme last year on New Year's Eve and had so much fun doing it that I decided to do it again this year. In fact, I intend to do this meme every year on New Year's Eve as long as I'm reading and blogging.

I hope you give this one a try, too. Leave a comment and let me know if you post this one so I can be sure to come by and check out your life according to the books you read in 2010!

Using only titles of books that you read this year (2010), complete the prompts below. Try not to repeat any book titles.

Describe yourself:
Ravishing In Red by Madeline Hunter

How do you feel:
All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins

Describe where you currently live:
Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Looking for Alaska by John Green

Your favorite form of transportation:
Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen

Your best friend is:
Lover Mine by J.R. Ward

You and your friends are:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

What's the weather like:
"Winter's Passage" by Julie Kagawa

Favorite time of day:
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

What is life to you:
The Gift by Nora Roberts

Your fear:
Betrayal in Death by J.D. Robb

What is the best advice you have to give:
Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

Thought for the day:
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

How I would like to die:
Purity In Death by J.D. Robb

My soul's present condition:
Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My 3rd Blogoversary!

I started this blog three years ago today as a place to share my thoughts on bookish things, and while that intention has remained largely true, my blog has inevitably transformed itself from a book blog to a personal one. These days my posts now include a variety of topics that interest me such as adventures with my family, personal goals and achievements in health and fitness, an original recipe now and then and whatever else comes to mind.

I'm thankful for everyone who takes the time to read my blog whether you have been with me since the beginning or if you have just recently found me. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to leave a comment--blogging is so much more fun and rewarding when I can interact with my audience-- yet I'm also thankful for my regular visitors who rarely or never leave a comment. I'm forever flattered that all of you are interested in what I have to say. Especially since I find I talk about myself a lot. :)  

Cheers! :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Death Challenge Post: December 2010

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!

This is the 12th monthly round up post of the In Death Reading Challenge! Can you believe we've been reading and discussing this series for a whole year already? Some of us--myself included-- aren't even halfway through the series yet, either! It seems I'll never catch up to Nora! If we keep up this pace, though, we'll get there eventually and finally be among the readers who wait for the release of the next In Death book, pre-ordering our own copy or stalking our library new release shelf! In the meantime, let's keep the fun rolling and continue reading and discussing the In Death series into 2011. Are you all still game for 2011? Any newcomers?


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.

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

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

NOTE: In order to be eligible for the challenge giveaway in December 2010, you must have read four In Death books between September 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010 and have documented that you have either on your own blog or on my blog within the comments of the monthly In Death Reading Challenge posts.


Imitation In Death by J.D. Robb
Book 19

I planned on reading this book this week, but realized I have several books out from the library that are overdue or due next week with no renewals and I really want to read them first. So I may or may not finish Imitation In Death by the end of the month. I don't feel too disappointed about it, because I read a total of 14 In Death books this year, which is two more than my goal, so that's a plus. :)



As promised, I am going to do a little giveaway for the participants in this challenge. One randomly selected winner will receive their choice of a US $5 gift card to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Amazon, B&N or the purchase of a US $5 book from The Book Depository. To qualify for the giveaway, you must do or have done the following:

1. Be signed up for the In Death Reading Challenge in this post HERE either with Mr.Linky or in the comments if you do not have your own blog.
2. Have read FOUR In Death novels between September, 2010 and December 31, 2010.
3. Have documented the In Death novels you have read for the challenge by:

Maintaining a running list somewhere on your blog
Posting reviews or commentary on your blog
Having notified me which book(s) you read in comments on any of the In Death Challenge posts
Any combination of the above.

Pretty simple. Read four In Death books between September and December, 2010, leave me proof, and voila! You're in the drawing.

I'll select a winner in the first week of January 2011.  .... 2011! Gah!

Thank you all for all the great In Death series discussions this year and I'm looking forward to more in 2011! :) 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

May your Christmas be joyous and bright! 

The following stop motion video was created by my fifteen year old daughter using iMovie and approximately 150 still photos that she took with her Canon Rebel XT. Her camera was set on a tripod, and with the camera remote in her hand, she snapped photos every couple of minutes while we decorated our Christmas tree. She captured plenty of smiles, a few funny faces, a lot of hugs and even a few kisses. Enjoy! :) 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar Eclipse Photos

Happy Winter Solstice!  :)

Did you get to see the lunar eclipse early this morning? I hope you did, because this particular lunar eclipse event is a pretty rare event... the last Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse was 456 years ago!!!

We were very fortunate to have very clear skies last night in the New York Metro area, so we were able to view the entire eclipse. It was really quite a show.

The eclipse took place in our EST time zone from around 1:30 am to I think 5 am, so my husband and I got out of bed at 1:30 am, bundled up and set up outside to watch and photograph the eclipse. We tried to wake up our daughters a couple of times, both of whom were quite determined as of a few hours prior to stay up for the entire eclipse, but in the end, were near impossible to rouse from sleep! I tried waking up our 11 year old three times, even just to look at moon out her window, but I couldn't even get her to open her eyes. The teen at least sat up to look out her window twice, followed by a "maybe I'll come out in a few minutes..." So instead of it being a family affair, viewing the eclipse last night very early this morning turned into a romantic star gazing rendez-vous for two! :)

My husband and I set up our tripods side by side in the yard and took pictures every several minutes--apart for nearly two hours. It was pretty darned cold outside in the mid 20s (-4 C), so we were going into the house every so often to thaw and once for a bowl of cereal and milk. :) Why is it that cereal tastes so much better in the middle of the night than it does in the morning for breakfast?

Anyway, thanks to my husband's expertise and assistance with adjusting and tweaking the manual settings on my camera (you should see his pictures!), I was able to get some neat pictures of the eclipse. These are a few of my favorites:

1:55 am EST
December 21, 2010

2:00 am EST
December 21, 2010

2:12 am EST
December 21, 2010

2:19 am EST
December 21, 2010

2:22 am EST
December 21, 2010

2:34 am EST
December 21, 2010

2:44 am EST
December 21, 2010

At this point, the earth's shadow was now blocking most of the moon's brightness so I needed to do a quick adjustment to allow more light to reach the lens. Now I was able to capture the red glow of the eclipsed moon in the photos. We were already able to see the reddish hue of the eclipsed portion of the moon with our naked eye for the last 20 minutes or so, but I couldn't capture it with the camera when there was still a sliver of the moon so brightly lit by the sun.

2:44 am EST
December 21, 2010

2:54 am EST
December 21, 2010

3:09 am EST
December 21, 2010

3:19 am EST
December 21, 2010

I took my last photo at 3:29 am and called it a night. I was too cold and too tired to stick it out for the second half of the event when the earth's shadow moved off the moon.

Did you get to see the lunar eclipse where you live?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Library Loot XXIX

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.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

I forgot to list this book in my library loot post last week. I just love the cover art to this one with the city buildings in the background, the street signs, the snow, and the heart in the pedestrian crossing light--so cute.

I first heard of Dash & Lily's Book of Dares from Mel who blogs at He Followed Me Home........ Can I Keep Him? several weeks ago. Not only did Mel give the book a very positive review, but once I picked up on the fact that this story takes place in New York City at Christmastime, I just knew it would appeal to me. The premise sounds really fun, too. The main characters are two teens who are as opposite as can be with their sentiments towards Christmas. Dash is to the Grinch as Lily is to Cindy Loo Who and yet they develop a relationship by writing back and forth to each other in a notebook that Lily shelves in the bookstore The Strand (a real, live NYC bookstore, too!) and Dash finds. I was sold. Again. Plus it is co-written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan who also co-wrote Nick and Nora's Infinite Play List, which I read and enjoyed some time ago. Both authors have extensive titles published individually as well.

I plan on reading Dash & Lily's Book of Dares next week along with another Christmas themed novel--The Gift by Nora Roberts. This time last year, I read the historical romance anthology, The Heart of Christmas by Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick & Courtney Milan and discovered that I really enjoyed reading holiday themed stories in the days before Christmas, adding a little extra boost to my Christmas spirit in a similar way as watching Christmas movies. :)

Do you like to read Christmas themed books during the holiday season?

What have been some of your favorites?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

O Christmas Tree

All dressed up. :)

The gray cat in both last night's and tonight's Christmas tree photos is our cat Noël, whom we rescue-adopted on Christmas Day in 2000.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tied Up and Naked

I'm talking about the recent state of our Christmas tree!!!
Ha ha, gotcha! ;)
What exactly is the cat looking for up there in the tree?

LoOk! I spy a present under the tree already! 
And it's for me! :)

The tree is no longer tied up, but still naked. We'll decorate it together tomorrow night.

As far as other Christmas preparations go, I have yet to start my shopping, although I do have two online shopping carts ready for check out and I've organized the remainder of my list by stores to streamline my store hopping once I finally get out there. I also have a few gifts I'm making, but I need to hit the craft store for some packaging type items. Hopefully I'll be able finish all my shopping in just one or two outings. Then all I need to do is wrap the gifts, get our Christmas cards mailed and then I'll have all next week to bake cookies!

It's only ten days until Christmas, but we're getting there.

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Is it starting to feel a bit like Christmas to you? I hope so.  :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas in New York City

There's nothing quite like Christmas in New York City. It really is just as festive, sparkling and dynamic as it looks in all those holiday movies that feature Christmas time in New York City-- if not more so.

Last Monday, my eldest daughter and I skipped out of town for a few hours and drove into New York for the evening. With my new car that I had only had for less than 48 hours. I'm so brave.

A few years ago, my eldest daughter befriended another teenage girl in Austria while doing some creative writing with a Twilight role playing group on myspace, essentially becoming modern day 'pen pals' of sorts. They would instant message each other--under parental supervision, of course, and then eventually maintained their friendship via facebook and occasionally video chatting when they could align their respective free time with each other, all around the time difference between them. So her friend was recently visiting New York City for a few days and Monday was the only day she was free. So of course, being the awesome mom that I am, I took her into the city to meet her 'pen pal' in person for the first time. This couldn't have worked out with my husband being the awesome dad he is, having come home early from work that day to mind the others in the castle (his dad and our youngest daughter).

Seeing the girls meet for the first time was like something right out of a movie. Her friend was waiting by the fountain outside the famous toy store, FAO Schwarz searching the faces of the passersby for my daughter. My daughter spotted her right away and could barely wait for the light to turn in our favor so she could cross the street to her friend. Just as she gets to her, she calls out her name. Her friend turns around, their faces light up with smiles, eyes glassy with tears of joy and they hug each other as if they were long lost friends who haven't seen each other in ages. It was very, very sweet. Here is a photo I took of them within minutes of having met in person for the first time:
Vicky and Maria

Aren't they adorable? After a few moments of "Wow, you're here!" and more hugs and laughter, the girls proceeded to go shop and I was to meet them outside The Plaza hotel in two and a half hours. I don't think I would have had the strength to let them go off on their own like that if it weren't for cell phones and GPS tracking. And the fact that they promised to stay on 5th Avenue between FAO Schwarz and Rockefeller Center... which is pretty much where I was going to be, one or two blocks behind them. LOL. Well, not exactly, but pretty much.

So how did I spend those two and a half hours on my own? First I spent an hour or so with Dru Ann who blogs at notes from me. I knew Dru Ann worked in the city, so I sent her an email earlier in the day hoping she had the time to meet me for a little bit and sure enough, it worked out perfectly. Dru Ann and I strolled along 5th Avenue, chatting about all kinds of things like New York things, our mutual friend Brandy and how much we would have loved to have her there with us, too, a little about family, and whatever else came to mind. All the while, we savored the amazing lights and creative sights of the windows of Saks and other stores. She even brought me into Tiffany & Co. where we stood in awe of the Tiffany Diamond. That's 128.54 carats. Whoa baby.

The Tiffany Diamond

I wasn't such the photographer this evening as I didn't even bring my camera! I don't know what I was thinking... or not thinking. So these first few are taken with my iPhone.

Dru Ann and I 

I had such a nice time meeting Dru Ann and walking around with her. She is truly a lovely person. Thanks for making time in your day for me, Dru Ann! :)

Soon it was time for Dru Ann to head home and I was on my own for a while. After walking around the city for two and a half hours in the freezing cold (literally), I decided I needed to go sit someplace warm until it was time to meet my daughter again. I headed to the Time Warner building at Columbus Circle where I knew there was a Borders. I figured I'd sit and flip through some Christmas cookie magazines. Well, I forgot there was a Williams-Sonoma store on the first level, so I hit there first. What a smart idea, let me tell you. I wasn't even inside Williams-Sonoma for two seconds and I was being offered a sample of hot mulled cider. I'm sure I looked like I needed it, too! I started to thaw while admiring really expensive French skillets. I wandered some more and came across some candy samples and tried a champagne gum drop. Yum. I wandered further into the store where a salesperson was serving brownies with peppermint bark baked on top. Right next to the test kitchen was the section of Williams-Sonoma signature dish soaps and hand moisturizers where I sampled the "Winter Forest" lotion and my dry, chapped hands were very happy and it smelled just lovely, too. Now that I had some drink, food and spa treatment-- boy, do they know how to treat their costumers, or what? Thanks Williams-Sonoma!-- I headed upstairs to Borders where I flipped through some magazines before finally meeting daughter.

At this time, I met up with my daughter, her friend and her family and friends with whom she was traveling outside The Plaza Hotel. We then found a local pub and had some dinner. All too soon, I had to give my daughter the sad news that we needed to head home. I felt badly about having to make the girls say good bye after only four hours together, but it was already after 8 pm on a Monday night and we needed to call it a night.

My daughter and I started heading back to the car, but took a few minutes to admire the window displays at Bergdorf Goodman. Wow. I thought the displays at Saks were impressive--these were even more amazing! Interestingly, I found both the displays at Saks and at Bergdorf Goodman to have some "steampunk" elements to them.

One of the window displays at Bergdorf Goodman. 

I recommend you click on it and zoom in to see some of the detail of this display. The photo really doesn't do it justice.

This is a sample of one little detail at the floor of the display. Or rather, not so little. Get a load of the size of the stone on that ring!

Of course, we paused at Rockefeller Center for a few quick photos.
I and my daughter

We noticed a band playing there, and much to my teen's excitement, it was My Chemical Romance. We were actually along the street that went behind the stage, but we were so close, nonetheless. To their backs, anyway. LOL. She was patient, though, and eventually got a few pictures of the band with the lead singer dude actually facing us. Ah, the things that rock a 15 year old's world...

I hope you enjoyed my little glimpse of 5th Avenue decked out for Christmas! :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Library Loot XXVIII

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.

Welcome to my 30th Library Loot post! 

I feel like I haven't done a library loot post in ages. Six weeks ago to be exact. I have hold requests on several books, three of which finally came in yesterday. It's funny how you can be waiting weeks and weeks for books and then they all come in at once. Let's take a look at what I got.

In fiction: 

Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Chronicles of Nick, Book 1

I actually borrowed this book a few weeks ago, read it and returned it already. Sherrilyn Kenyon writes several adult romance series, one of which is called the Dark Hunter series, which is a paranormal romance series based on Greek mythology. Infinity is Kenyon's first young adult novel and is a prequel series of sorts that documents the life of Nick Gautier as a teenager, who is a prominent adult character in the Dark Hunter series. Infinity was a quick, fun read and I enjoyed learning about Nick's roots and his life before he learned of the existence of anything paranormal. At the same time, the writing didn't overly impress me either and I don't think I would have enjoyed the book nearly as much if I hadn't already been interested in the character(s) from the Dark Hunter series. I'm glad I read it, though.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I recently read a review for this book at Rowena's young adult book blog, The Book Scoop, Mollie's blog, Book Fare Delights that convinced me to read it. It's essentially a book about a teenage girl who survives a deadly car crash and I think she's deciding if she wants to stay ... or live... while in a coma. She reflects on her life and her family and is aware of the people coming in to see her and talk to her while she's lying in the hospital bed. I think. Should be an interesting and probably teary read. I think there's also a movie based on the book in the works. A lot of "thinks" with this book!

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

I've seen this young adult novel reviewed here and there and noted that reviews were favorable. But when Michelle who blogs at red headed book child reviewed it here, I just knew I had to read it for myself. The blend of contemporary young adult themes with accurate historical components and I think some time travel, really appealed to me. I'm looking forward to this one.

In the Woods by Tana French

Another book that comes highly recommended from Michelle from red headed book child. I have been second on the holds list for this book since the first week of September and it's finally my turn. It is a psychological suspense novel that takes place in Dublin.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In Non-fiction:

The Family Dinner by Laurie David

I first heard of this book in the recent e-newsletter from to which I subscribe, and the organization of which Laurie David is the founder. The focus of this cookbook is on the family dinner table and ideas for making dinner nutritious for the body, mind and soul of everyone in your family and the planet, too! Connecting with your kids one meal at a time. Pretty simple, but somehow often difficult in today's world. I've been reading The Family Dinner over the last couple of weeks and think it's really fantastic. We already incorporate a lot of the ideas in our family, but it's always great to be reminded of the importance of having dinner together as a family and how to make the most of the hour together. Okay, thirty minutes.

To learn more about this cookbook--that's really way more than just a cookbook-- visit .

To keep informed on issues regarding global warming and what you can do to help, because every little bit helps, visit .

200 Christmas Recipes by Hamlyn all color (UK)
I spotted this little gem of a cookbook on the non fiction "new books" shelf at my library and am I ever glad I snatched it! I absolutely adore this cookbook. All 200 recipes are accompanied by a gorgeous, glossy photo and the recipes are clear and concise and I'm pretty sure I want to make about 197 of the recipes! Maybe even 198! Oh heck, I'd try them all! There are five chapters from Christmas fare {main dishes and sides} to centerpiece cakes to small cakes & cookies to edible gifts to leftover turkey ideas. Everything looks and sounds so delicious. I can't wait to try some of these recipes. If only I could decide which to try first...

What do you do to get your family to eat dinner together?

Is there a specific meal that draws everyone to the table?

Do you have a specific ritual of having everyone share something about their day?

Speaking of which ... it's time for me to start cooking dinner. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

New Wheels!

Sorry I haven't posted much lately. I've been off on too many adventures. I haven't even picked up a book in five days, which is totally crazy.

One of my recent adventures was getting me some new wheels and I'm so excited about it, so I just had to share. We tend to keep our cars for a long time--I drove my minivan for the last 11 years! --so this is big news!
My Toyota Prius! :) 
I have officially retired from my minivan-mom days {Hallelujah!} and am now driving a fun and stylish, fully loaded Toyota Prius! It's a hybrid, so I'm saying hello to burning less fossil fuel and an economical gas mileage! I've only had the car since Saturday night, and so far I'm getting more than double the gas mileage I was averaging with my minivan. Plus it has a ton of safety features and it's fun to drive! :)

Now I just need to sit in the driveway for an hour or two with the owner's manual and figure out how to use all the fancy audio and navigation toys. Um. Tools.

Here's to many safe and happy miles on the road! 

I had a really fun adventure yesterday involving a trip into NYC with my teen that I'll share soon. I promise it's way more interesting than this one.

Do people even say wheels anymore??

Monday, November 29, 2010

In Death Challenge Post: November 2010

Interested in joining the In Death Series Reading 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.

This is the 11th monthly round up post of the In Death Reading Challenge. Hopefully that means you've read at least 11 In Death books since January. If not, hopefully you've read at least one?

Link up any In Death posts you made this month at the bottom of this post. 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.

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

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

NOTE: In order to be eligible for the challenge giveaway in December 2010, you must have read four In Death books between September 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010 and have documented that you have either on your own blog or on my blog within the comments of the monthly In Death Reading Challenge posts.

Portrait In Death by J.D. Robb
Book 18

It's August 2059 and the sweltering heat and humidity in New York City is making everyone edgy and short tempered. Lieutenant Eve Dallas, the NYPSD's lead homicide detective, discovers the body of a young woman who was killed and stuffed into a dumpster in an alley downtown after Dallas' friend and TV news reporter Nadine Furst received an anonymous tip and a set of portraits of the victim. The young woman was a pretty, wholesome college student with a solid family life and a bright future ahead of her. Soon a second young life is taken in a similar fashion, this one also tipped to Nadine Furst and also accompanied by a set of portraits. Eve and her investigative team race to solve the crime before more young lives are taken, which proves to be difficult as the victims had only their youth and vitality in common, their occasional visits to data clubs frequented by college students, and that they were both recently photographed professionally.

On the personal level, Roarke meets the head crisis counselor at Douchas which is the center recently established for battered women, funded by Roarke and Eve under the direction of their trusted friend Dr. Louise Dimatto, and this counselor shares some startling information with Roarke about his past. At first, Roarke denies the plausibility of these allegations, but he cannot ignore the possibility that they may be true, so he investigates them on his own, the results of which turn his world upside down. Speaking of upside down, Summerset takes a serious fall on the stairs of their home hours before he is to leave for a three week vacation. He's hospitalized and then released to recover at home with a full time nurse attending him. Needless to say, everyone's world falling apart, and ironically, it's Eve who keeps "their family" from falling apart in all this mess.

The crime fiction and personal components were very well balanced in this installment. I was also rather glad that Eve and her team handled this investigation almost entirely without Roarke posing as their civilian consultant. Portrait in Death also pleasantly surprised me with it's emotional impact The murder mystery was decent on its own merit, but I think it was improved upon by the way it tied so well with the personal issues going on in Eve and Roarke's world in this story. Also, the denouement of the actual capture of the murderer was one of the more exciting ones. The new revelations about Roarke's past and how it threw Roarke for a loop, nearly pushed he and Eve apart, but in turn brought them together in such a beautiful way, was definitely a highlight of this novel. There was plenty of emotional punch with these discoveries and consequently some very emotional and sweet moments between Eve and Roarke. It was especially striking to see Roarke so vulnerable and off his mark and Eve the one grounding him. There was also a tender albeit stark scene in which Eve has to tell someone she knows that their loved one has been murdered and brings him to the morgue to identify the victim. Very heart wrenching and made me admire and love Eve all the more.

On the lighter side of things, Portrait in Death had some one liners and small scenes that made me smile and giggle out loud--often right in the middle of a scene that already had me shedding some tears over a serious emotional moment. I love when a book does that to me. For example, in one scene, Roarke, who is in Ireland at the time, calls home to check in with Eve and he is piss drunk-- a tremendous rarity for the man who is always in control. Eve has never seen Roarke foolishly drunk and gets a little worried for his safety.

Eve says,

"Don't go anywhere tonight. Promise me you'll stay in Brian's flat. Drink yourself unconscious but don't go anywhere."
"Not going anywhere till tomorrow. Heading west tomorrow."
"West?" She got an image of cattle ranches and mountains and long, empty fields. "Where? What, Montana?"
He laughed until she'd thought he'd burst. "Christ, is it any wonder I'm besotted with you? West in Ireland, my darling, darling Eve. [...] "

To someone who doesn't read this series, maybe this scene isn't very amusing, but if you know Eve, you know how easily she is freaked out by anything to do with nature and countrysides--heck anything outside of a city. And then there's Roarke who never gets sloppy drunk and off his game. Even though he's the one being a bit foolish, she's the one who panics about the countryside and thinks Montana when he's in Ireland saying he's going west in the morning. LOL!

A moment or two later in their conversation, Eve hears a loud crash in the background and asks Roarke what it was.

"Ah, Brian's down, and appears to have taken a table and lamp with him. Passed out flat on his face, poor sod. I'd best go try to haul his ass up and into bed. I'll ring you up tomorrow. See that you take care of my cop. I can't live without her."
"Take care of my drunk Irishman. I can't live without him either."
He blinked those blurry eyes in confusion. "What, Brian?"
"No, you idiot. You."
"Oh." He grinned at her again, so foolishly her throat burned. "That's good then. Makes us even. 'Night now."
"Good night." She stared at the blank screen, wishing she could just reach through it and haul him back to where he belonged.

I love that scene. It's all sweet and romantic and they make me laugh. :)


Eve is a smart, complex woman who continues to delight me in every installment. She makes think when she's on a case, she makes me laugh and she makes me cry. I enjoy watching her evolve as she grows as a detective, a friend, a colleague, a wife and as an individual. Sometimes gracefully and at other times rather clumsily, but she always owns it and I admire her for that.

I love how Eve is naive about a lot of things in history from the early 21st century, anything to do with babies, nature, or anything outside of city life. How she doesn't know about so many things she ought to have learned as a child like games, treats, movies, literature, etc. It's heartbreaking to know Eve missed out on childhood entirely, but at the same time often very funny when Roarke makes reference to something and she's clueless. Like when he teasingly suggests they play Cribbage to pass the time alone together and she gets suspicious that it's some sexual game. Of course, it's even more amusing when Roarke laughs at her and doesn't bother to correct her. At least not straight away.

What are some of your favorite things about Eve?

Is there a particular scene that you find amusing on Eve's behalf?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

At Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Happy Thanksgiving! :)

We woke up this morning at the crack of dawn... not to put the turkey in the oven, but to drive into New York City for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!!! Yay!

Wearing hats, scarves and gloves, we packed our cameras, a thermos of hot chocolate and a step ladder, then headed into the city. This is the second time we've gone to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade in person. Several years ago we went with friends of ours who go every year and at that time, we arrived to our viewing spot along Central Park West over an hour before the parade started. We had stood about in the cold for awhile that time, but we were practically right at the curb with a fantastic view of everything. This year, we got into the city closer to 9 am, which is when the parade starts, so we had a difficult time getting close to curb of the parade route due to the crowds. We ended up on 59th St. near the parade route along 7th Ave. and it was packed with people. This is where the step ladder came in. We propped the step ladder on the sidewalk and had the girls take turns standing on it so they could see over the crowd for a better view of the parade. We could still see the balloons when standing on the sidewalk, but from the step ladder, the girls could see the marching bands and floats, too.

My husband with our girls standing on the step ladder..
A head above the rest!
Oldest on step ladder--see how high she is?
 I and youngest in front of her.

Hello Kitty! ^_^
Mickey Mouse 

Kung Fu Panda
Horton from "Horton Hears a Who" by Dr. Seuss
Me and my youngest 

My husband and me
What a fun time! If you ever have the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving in the New York area, I highly recommend that you make the effort to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person. There's something so special about it from the sounds of the marching bands and the occasional siren in the background, the smells of roasting nuts and pretzels from food carts and of course the amazing sights of the parade itself. Watching those over sized balloons float down the city streets between skyscrapers is truly a sight to behold. The traffic afterwards not so much. But hey... more family time, right? ;)

When we got home we had som pie. Before our Thanksgiving dinner! That was fun.

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What kind of pie are you?

You Are Apple Pie

You're the perfect combo of comforting and traditional.
You prefer things the way you've always known them.
You'll admit that you're old fashioned, and you don't see anything wrong with that.
Your tastes and preferences are classic. And classic never goes out of style.

Those who like you crave security.
People can rely on you to be true to yourself - and true to them.
You're loyal, trustworthy, and comfortable in your own skin.
And because of these qualities, you've definitely earned a lot of respect.

I did this quiz over and over again about seven times, altering two or three of the questions to my second choices and all the variations thereof, but no matter what I did, I always came up Apple Pie. I was trying to make it come up with Pumpkin Pie which I love and so imagined was more 'me', but it didn't work. Not that Apple Pie isn't great. Those qualities of Apple Pie are very admirable. I should be happy. But... but ... why am I not Pumpkin Pie? : /

I had hoped to post a book review today--it's one that has been in the works for almost a week already, but I keep getting distracted by other things and still haven't finished it. I don't know about you, but even after blogging for nearly three years, balancing the whole reading-blogging-bloghopping cycle is challenging for me, especially when I get pulled into a book or series that I just cannot put down, which happened to me last week. I re-read Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning and got so caught up in it that I promptly picked up and read the second book in the Fever series, Bloodfever. Now I've decided to read her Highlander series before I continue with the next Fever book and am currently finishing up Beyond the Highland Mist. I figure now is as good a time as any to finally read the Highlander series, especially since I understand there is a bit of a cross over in the mythology between the two series and even couple of characters. So that's where I spent my time in the reading-blogging-bloghopping cycle last week, which kept me from the blogging-bloghopping parts. Maybe this week will be more balanced between the three. In between baking pies and raking leaves, that is.

For the benefit of my non-American visitors, and in case you didn't know, this Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. This morning I went to the grocery store at 8:30 am for a few basic things plus the turkey, and could not believe what a ZOO it was! I'm so glad I don't have to go back there until Saturday or Sunday.

Our Thanksgiving celebration is just going to be our little family of five this year, but I'm still preparing a fairly elaborate meal, just in smaller portions. As much as I love this meal-- it's truly one of my absolute favorite meals of the whole year, I don't love eating it for days on end. Just one fabulous meal and one day of leftovers, that's it. Except the desserts. Those I could eat for days on end, no problem. This year, I'm baking a pumpkin pie, coconut cream pie and a cinnamon apple cake.

Black Friday is the name given for the day after Thanksgiving Day that marks the official start to the Holiday shopping season. Retail stores open insanely early on Black Friday with special sales and big discounts to draw in shoppers. I personally avoid shopping this day altogether. For one, I barely have my Christmas list started at this point and two, the aggravation of dealing with rude crowds and aggressive drivers just isn't worth saving a few bucks. Instead, I'll workout early in the morning as penance for eating too much pie, then spend the rest of the day home and sip coffee, eat more pie, watch a movie, play some Rock Band, plan my Christmas cookie list and maybe even do some online window shopping.

What are your Thanksgiving plans this year?

Do you shop on Black Friday? Have you started your holiday shopping?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grape Plum Jam

Or how to make jam out of the fruit in your fridge that is past its prime. ;)

I know I keep saying it and I know you still don't believe me, but it really is very easy to make your own jam! The jam that I made developing this recipe makes a small batch that you prepare and then store in a clean jar in your refrigerator. I created this recipe using fruit that I had on hand in my refrigerator that is a bit past its prime. I used grapes and plums, but you could also use fruit such as berries, peaches, apricots, and even the juice from a pomegranate or citrus. Fruit can be wrinkly and a little soft, cutting away any bruised spots, and do not use fruit that has mold on it.

For this recipe, I had a bunch of very fragrant and flavorful Niagara grapes that had been sitting several days too long in the fridge. They were very sweet and flavorful, but I admit that I was lazy about eating them because they take a bit of work to eat. That sounds really lame, but the thing is these grapes have thick, tart skins and three or four seeds inside each tiny globe, so after popping one in your mouth, you have to work the sweet pulp from the skin and the seeds, and then you spit out the skin and seeds and swallow the pulp. Like I said, a lot of work for a little bit of grape. The skin and seeds of these little grapes are edible, but the skin is tough and I don't particularly like biting the seeds. I also had three plums that were a little wrinkly and mushy in spots. So I decided a grape plum jam would be a great way to use these two fruits.

Grape Plum Jam
Use flavorful grapes such as Niagara or Concord grapes and black or red plums for the best jam color.

1 small bunch of Niagara or Concord grapes (about 1/2 lb.)
3 plums
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Wash the grapes and remove from stems. Put the grapes in a medium sauce pan and add a cup of water. Bring grapes to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer, stirring frequently and breaking the grapes up with a spoon as they soften. Simmer for 10 minutes or so, adding additional water if necessary so the grape mixture has the consistency of pureed soup.

Strain the grape mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl. Press the grape mixture with the back of a spoon to extract as much grape juice and pulp as possible. Discard skins and seeds and return strained grape mixture to the saucepan on medium-low heat.

Coarsely chop the plums, skin and pits removed. Add sugar and additional water if necessary until the fruit mixture the consistency of a thin soup. Bring the fruit mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat so the jam cooks at a very gentle boil. Cook the jam for 15-20 minutes or until it is thickened to jam consistency. Remove jam from heat and ladle into a clean jar.

Store in the refrigerator for one month, in the freezer for longer storage.

This jam tastes delicious on warm crusty bread or even over ice cream.

Enjoy. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Young Adult Reading Challenge COMPLETE!

Completed on October 29, 2010

I posted a review of Stringz by Michael Wenberg two days ago and turns out it was the twelfth young adult novel I read in 2010, completing the Young Adult reading challenge I joined back in January. I've read two more young adult books since finishing Stringz and am even reading a third now and may even read one or two more before the end of the year. Perhaps reading twelve young adult novels in a year isn't as much of a challenge as I thought it would be. ;)

Here's a list of what I read for this challenge:

1. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
2. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
3. Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart
4. Beastly by Alex Flinn
5. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
6. My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent
7. Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
8. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
9. Looking for Alaska by John Green
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
11. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
12. Stringz by Michael Wenberg
13. No Such Thing as the Real World anthology by An Na, M.T. Anderson, K.L. Going, Beth Kephart, Chris Lynch and Jacqueline Woodson
14. "Winter's Passage" novella by Julie Kagawa

All great books that I highly recommend. What a blanket statement, huh?

Okay, okay, I highlighted my favorites in blue.  Oops. That's most of them. ^_^

Have you read any of these books?

What's your favorite young adult novel for 2010 (so far)?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

REVIEW: Stringz by Michael Wenberg

Stringz is a contemporary young adult novel about a teenage boy who finally finds a sense of belonging and direction in his life after spending years adrift without any constants in his life aside from his passion for playing the cello.

Jace Adams is a mixed race teenage boy being raised by his single black mother who constantly moves them from city to city in search of a better life, or at least a life away from whatever boyfriend she just broke up with. Jace's white father is completely out of the picture and his older brother, Derrick, who was Jace's role model, landed himself a jail sentence a while ago and since then Jace hasn't heard from him. Now Jace and his mom are living with Jace's Aunt Bernice who is rather mean and harsh to Jace from the get go. Clearly lacking any constants in his life, Jace sees this current move to Seattle from L.A. no different than the other dozens of moves and expects to be uprooted again in a few months. Obviously, he's reluctant to make any attachments to people or places, yet it's pretty clear that like any typical teenager, Jace wants to fit in somewhere once and for all and find a little happiness.

On his first day of school, Jace witnesses some bullies picking on a scrawny kid. He knows better than to interfere, but when he sees the bullies about to bash the kid's violin to smithereens, Jace intervenes, saving the violin and the kid. Now Jace has the school bullies out to get him and a friend he doesn't want in the kid with the violin, Elvis Goldberg.

Jace spends his time just going through the motions at school, halfheartedly trying to prove his skill with the cello to the racist orchestra instructor and trying to avoid being friends with Elvis and Marcy Gordon, the first string cellist in the school orchestra. Jace spends his time outside of school playing the cello on the streets of Seattle to earn cash that he's saving for when he turns 18 and can take off on his own.

Eventually Jace starts to find some comforts and constants in his life in unexpected places, starting with Elvis and Marcy, a homeless man in downtown Seattle, an esteemed private cello instructor and even in his Aunt Bernice.

Stringz sounds like a straightforward, if not predictable story with the somewhat common basic premise of the loner-type teen with a dysfunctional family who just wants to belong somewhere, who finally makes friends and finds their niche. Right? Well, that is true about this book, but what really makes this book shine is how many valuable lessons are layered within this fairly straightforward story. Some of these lessons are very subtle and others are blatant, but each is important and relevant to teens today. There's bullying, racism, issues of abandonment, dysfunctional family issues, friendships, sharing mutual respect for others whether one is an esteemed master musician or a homeless person on the streets, being accepted for who you are and what you do ... not for your color of skin or your socio-economic status ... having an adult have confidence in you and help you be all you can be today in this very moment ... and in your future.

Stringz is a wonderful story of teen triumph and hope with uplifting messages for teens of any age and background. I loved Jace's passion for the cello and music as a whole and how it was both his solace and his celebration. I loved how Stringz accurately portrayed the challenges teens face every day at school and at home and that with a little help from a few good friends and a supportive adult or two, teens can overcome anything. I loved how Jace learned to be confident in himself and put his best foot forward. Not always so easy for teens, or adults for that matter, but what a difference it makes.

You can visit author Michael Wenberg at his website at

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Catch the Fever!

Join the Fever Series Read Along hosted by Smexy Books and Fiction Vixen Book Reviews!

The Fever series is an urban fantasy pentalogy (is that a word?) by author Karen Marie Moning.

The highly anticipated fifth and final book, Shadowfever comes out in January, 2011, so to get psyched up for this book's release and to share and spread the enthusiasm for the series, Mandi and Tori from Smexy Books and Sophia from Fiction Vixen Book Reviews are hosting a Fever Series Read Along in the weeks preceding Shadowfever's release. This is a great opportunity to start this series if you haven't already but have always wanted to, or if you're like me and have read one or two of the books and this is just the inspiration you need to get back into it... and into the thrill of anticipating the final installment. I read Darkfever years ago when it first came out in paperback, but if I have time, I'm going to reread it for the first discussion date. I believe I have both Bloodfever and Faefever somewhere around here...

Visit Smexybooks or FictionVixen Book Reviews to find out more about the read along.

Here is the book discussion schedule:

Darkfever Discussion - November 18th
Bloodfever Discussion - December 9th
Faefever Discussion - December 23rd
Dreamfever Discussion - January 13th

So who else is in? You know you want in on the fever!

Do you read the Fever Series? Tell me why I should definitely be read it. 

... besides the fact that I have three of the books on my shelf already. ;)