Friday, April 30, 2010

REVIEW: My Unfair Lady by Kathryne Kennedy

My Unfair Lady is fun and romantic version of the play Pygmalion that takes place in Victorian England featuring a young American heiress named Summer Wine Lee and Byron, the Duke of Monchester.

Summer Wine Lee was raised in the wild west of Arizona where her father dedicated himself to mining in hopes of making a fortune. During this time, Summer lived free, befriending an Apache Indian, learning skills such as stealth, hunting, caring for animals, and how to defend herself. Free from the restraints and expectations of gender and social class, Summer is somewhat of a free spirit. She is kindhearted and respectful, but definitely a free spirit and pretty much oblivious of how a lady is expected to behave.

Summer's father achieves his fortune and they move to New York City where Summer meets a young man named Monte with whom she falls in love. His family, however, determines she is not good enough for Monte and forbids their betrothal. Determined to be accepted by Monte's family so they can marry, Summer goes to London with her best friend, Maria to learn how to be a proper lady and with hopes of being presented to the Queen herself.

Once in London, Summer hires the impoverished Duke of Monchester, Byron, to be her sponsor and mold her to the perfect lady and also hopefully present her to the Queen. The duke is a cold and rude man who maintains his place in society through his friendship with Prince Albert. He also happens to detest American heiresses who think they can come to England and essentially buy titles from his countrymen. Yet he accepts Summer's offer in part because she is not seeking a British title as she has already promised herself to a man back in New York, and also because she will provide the duke with many entertaining anecdotes for him to share with the Prince.

Byron proceeds to attempt to teach Summer the ways of a proper lady. He accompanies her on many outings including dress shopping, balls, horse races, and even a trip to the summer home of the Prince where they partake in a foxhunt and hunting for birds. Just as her name suggests, Summer slowly warms the cold duke's heart with her honesty, humor, kindheartedness and curiosity. She amuses him to no end and he soon finds himself falling in love with her and not wanting to change a single thing about her. Of course, she is falling for him as well, yet refuses to break her vow to Monte in America and besides, the duke is adamant about never marrying at all, let alone an American!

As the story unfolds, both Summer and Byron learn so much about themselves, each other and their families that make them rethink the simplicity and importance of just being yourself and loving yourself just the way you are.

My Unfair Lady is a sweet, fun romance. Summer is a charming blend of innocence and independence and always acts out of the goodness of her heart. She is free spirited by way of her openness and honesty, and comes across quite wild by the way she always carries a knife strapped to her calf and her affinity for wild animals, but is more genuine and kindhearted than any other titled lady in the book. Byron is cold and rude, but that's just a front he's learned to maintain in order to live up to his title and what society expects of him. I loved the way Summer so naturally and unintentionally brought out the best in him, making him laugh and care about things he'd long neglected or forgotten. In turn, Byron taught Summer that she is worthy of love and acceptance by just being herself and she should never try to change for anyone. And isn't that a lesson worth learning and living by for everyone who wishes to live happily ever after?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In Death Challenge Post: April 2010

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

This is the round up post for the fourth month of the In Death Reading Challenge. Congratulations to everyone who has kept up with the challenge and has read at leasts one In Death book per month since January! I, for one, am quite proud of myself for keeping up with the challenge. Let me say that it's not so easy to pick up a book from the same series every month that was published over a decade ago when there are so many new releases calling your name! Of course it helps that this series is so entertaining to read--wonderfully developed characters, realistic and varied relationships between the primary and secondary characters, and a decent murder mystery, all set in a futuristic New York City and other locations on and off planet.

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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 April 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.

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As promised, I am going to do a little giveaway for the participants in this challenge. Since real coffee is so rare and coveted in the year 2058 and it happens to be Eve's favorite vice--and mine, too-- I thought it would be apropos to give away coffee. The easiest way for me to do that is via gift card, so I'm giving away a $5 gift card to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts to one randomly selected challenge participant. Don't worry--if you don't drink coffee, there are plenty of other vices to indulge yourself in at either of those shops. If you live in an area or country that doesn't have either of those shops near you, we'll work something out.

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 January 1, 2010 and April 30, 2010. Actually, let's make that by May 7, 2010 to allow any stragglers to catch up.

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. You read four In Death books, leave me proof, and voila! You're in the drawing.

I'll select a winner on May 8, 2010.

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Conspiracy In Death by J.D. Robb
Book 9

Conspiracy In Death starts out with Eve investigating the death of a homeless man on the streets of futuristic New York City in the middle of winter. The man's death is unusual because he was found dead in his own crib with his heart carefully and expertly removed in a surgical manner. While on the scene, Eve has a heated confrontation with one of the first officers on the scene, a female cop named Ellen Bowers who creates all kinds of trouble for Eve, including filing official interdepartmental complaints about Eve.

Soon another body is discovered, this time a licensed companion (legal prostitute) who is perhaps past her prime, is found with one of her vital organs also surgically removed. With the help of Eve's investigative team, other victims in other cities around the world are discovered and possible scenarios and leads are being explored. In the meantime, Eve and officer Bowers continue to cross paths with horrendous results, putting Eve's badge on the line and interfering with Eve's ability to capture the serial murderer.

I can see why Conspiracy In Death is a favorite by many fans of the series. Eve is under tremendous pressure in this murder investigation and exposes her vulnerabilities more than any other story so far. The murderer is most likely one of the world's best surgeons who most likely has the support of some powerful politicians. Making matters worse is this screw up of a cop Ellen Bowers whose goal is to make Eve's job and her life as miserable as possible--and she damn well near succeeds. It was fascinating to watch Eve deal with this pressure and these tremendous injustices that took a stab at the very core of what makes Eve who she is-- a survivor, a fighter, and a deliverer of justice for the dead. Not to mention how far she'd go to deliver that justice and solve these crimes. I was surprised about some of that, actually.

So far, each story offers a solid murder mystery--some a bit more transparent than others, but basically they've all been interesting and well paced, and each offering some new slant to futuristic crime. It's also simply so much fun to observe the various relationships developing between all of the characters. As their relationships get more established, their personalities are becoming more evident and Eve struggles with accepting that she now has a circle of friends who care about her... and for whom she cares as well.

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I hope you've been having as much fun as I have with this reading challenge and continue to forge ahead through your In Death reading list.

Have you noticed that nearly everyone who comes into Eve's office--whether it be her home office or her office at Cop Central-- takes advantage of the fact that her AutoChef is always stocked with real coffee.

If you had an AutoChef, what would yours offer in never ending supply?

NOTE: Please mark your comment with ***SPOILER*** if you are going to mention something about the characters, series or plot that may be revealing. There are some participants who are reading the first couple of books. Thanks! :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Clowning Around with 2 Kids and a Dog + Giveaway

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to a new-to-me blogger and YouTuber named Alexia through Kwana of Kwana Writes. I then spent the better part of an hour watching Alexia's videos and literally laughing out loud. I think you would too!

Here's a little background. Alexia is an American woman who lives in Rome with her Italian Sicilian husband and their two kids and a dog.

Alexia and her family make fun, quirky family calendars every year for their family and friends and recently decided to entertain the world with behind the scene videos of their escapades in capturing the perfect family photo. So much fun!

Please meet Alexia:

And for some clowning around :o)
... and teamwork O_o

I won a 2 Kids and a Dog Calendar from Alexia over at Kwana's blog --it's VERY cute, by the way-- and would now like to pay the fun forward and giveaway a calendar to TWO of you. I know, I know ... you probably already have your 2010 calendar by now, but you gotta see this fun and quirky calendar for yourself. Hang it by the water cooler at the office and stimulate some fun conversation.

Just leave a comment and I'll select TWO winners at random next Friday, April 30.

Giveaway open to everyone. :o)

2 Kids and A Dog blog

2 Kids and A Dog YouTube channel

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's Earth Day... time to get dirty!

Welcome to my very first gardening post! My love to garden is probably only second to my love to read and tied with cooking. In fact, one of my greatest cooking pleasures is cooking something using ingredients I have grown in my own garden or picked myself at a farm. I've been wanting to blog more about gardening, so why not christen my blog with dirt on Earth Day!

A garden grows from the ground up, so today I'm talking about one of the best things you can do to enrich your garden soil, and that's making your own compost, or what organic gardeners sometimes call black gold. I'm going to share how I compost in my suburban back yard. I'm also starting an experiment in my compost pile today, in honor of Earth Day and in honor of the world's very first compostable chip bag made by SunChips. More on that further down in the post.

In the meantime, this is my compost pile:

I started composting about a decade or so ago. It's so easy and so green. Well, actually, it starts out green and brown all mixed together and ends up black. ;)

By having a compost pile in your yard, you make your own organic, nutrient rich hummus to use in your vegetable, flower and herb gardens, around trees and shrubs, even in your lawn. Not only that, but you're reducing the amount of household trash you produce.

There are many ways to compost in your backyard with bins and barrels, but I never got around to making or buying one, so I just do it the easy way.

All year long, I keep a stainless steel bucket under my kitchen sink and I fill it with all kinds of vegetative waste from the kitchen such as vegetable and fruit peels and scraps, used coffee grounds, egg shells, stuff like that.

In the fall, I make a huge pile of dry, fallen leaves in the corner of my yard where my compost pile is. To speed things up and make things more manageable, I usually use my mower over the piles of raked leaves to mulch them up to smaller pieces. I often use some of the mulched leaves to cover bare soil in the garden beds for the winter as well.

All year long, in all kinds of weather except rain {I get too wet and muddy those days}, when my compost bucket under the sink is full, I trudge out to the compost pile and mix it all into the pile of leaves with a pitch fork.

I also add garden materials from my yard such as more leaves, plant clippings, spent pine needles from the holidays or from my neighbor's yard, grass clippings if there aren't too many weeds flowering in my lawn at the time, and I even toss in the little piles of manure the deer like to leave for me in the grass throughout the year.

Things that take forever to decompose in the compost pile are avocado pits, mango pits and corn cobs. I actually don't put corn cobs in the compost anymore because the nighttime critters like raccoons love to take them out of the pile even though there's no more corn on them and leave them somewhere in the lawn after they've done what with them, which my lawnmower DOES NOT like.

So I keep adding and turning and mixing and eventually I get some nice black compost to spread in my garden along with hundreds of earthworms who have lived in my pile for the last few months having the time of their life. And that's all there is to making fertilizer for my garden the way nature intended. :)

Now onto my composting experiment. Have you seen the latest ads for SunChips? I think I may have seen this first one while watching this year's winter Olympics, but I'm not sure. Take a look, it's only 30 seconds long:

Isn't that great? A chip bag that's made from plants that will decompose in 14 weeks! What an awesome accomplishment. To show my support of the SunChips company and all the efforts and and advances they are making to make the world a better place, I have decided to compost one of their new bags in my compost pile. I want to see how long it will take in a backyard compost pile.

The SunChips people actually photographed the chip bag in the video every 15 minutes for 14 weeks. I'm going to do my best to photograph every 24 hours or so for as long as it takes to decompose. I'm expecting my bag to decompose a little bit longer than 14 weeks, though, because I suspect my backyard pile might be smaller and therefore not reach temperatures as high as the test compost bin used by SunChips. Let's see how long it takes.

Day 1 Earth Day, April 22, 2010

Empty SunChips bag:

Laying on top of the pile:

It's in there!

In addition to the introduction of the compostable chip bag, SunChips has also incorporated the use of Solar Power to operate their plant in Modesto, CA.

Visit SunChips at They even have a page dedicated to Composting 101 so you can learn more about the benefits of home composting and how to do it!

One last video from SunChips that I love.

What changes will you make for a brighter tomorrow?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Library Loot XVI

Not to sound like a broken record, but I can't believe it's been a week again since my last post! I have a list of things I want to blog about: an exercise update, a couple of recipes, my first gardening post, a few book reviews, a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, and a really funny blogger with a YouTube channel whom I want to introduce you to. All coming up over the next week. If everything goes according to plan. :)

In the meantime, here's this week's library loot:

Library Loot is a weekly blog event that encourages bloggers to share what books they borrowed from the library that week. To participate, simply make your Library Loot post on your blog and link it using the Mr. Linky link at Marg's blog Reading Adventures or Eva's blog A Striped Armchair. This week's link up is at Eva's.

This week, I only borrowed one new book from the library, but it's one that I wanted so dearly and waited for ever so patiently on the hold list at another town's library. Residents have holds list priority in that town, so if a resident came along and wanted to borrow the book before it was my turn, they'd bump my turn down and squeeze in the spot before me, even though I was on the list first. It makes sense since their taxes paid for that library book, not mine, but it's difficult to be so understanding when you're waiting for the latest release from one of your most beloved series!

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

This is the fifth installment in the urban fantasy Mercy Thompson series by author Patricia Briggs. I've been reading some very positive, if not stellar reviews for Silver Borne around the book blogging world. Now it's my turn to enjoy and savor the story for myself. :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Library Loot XV

Where did the last week go? I can't believe my last post was nearly a week ago. I thought I had a lot of things to blog about, but I just never sat myself down to type anything out and now I don't even remember what it was that I even thought was worth sharing! Let me see if I can jog my brain---oh! That's it! I had some running woes last Thursday! Argh. And I had another list to post last week and I never did. Between my running woes, finally doing our taxes over the weekend, having a rather hormonal a couple of days, and my eldest daughter's birthday (omgshe'sfifteenhowtheheckisthatpossible?), I guess I just didn't have the verve to post.

Have no fear because here I am sharing this week's library loot with verve! :)

Library Loot is a weekly blog event that encourages bloggers to share what books they borrowed from the library that week. To participate, simply make your Library Loot post on your blog and link it using the Mr. Linky link at Marg's blog Reading Adventures or Eva's blog A Striped Armchair. This week's link up is at Marg's.

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

I have read Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen and loved both books. If you haven't tried this author's books before, I suggest you do. Her stories are contemporary woman's fiction that fall somewhere between a coming of age story and a romance and have a touch of magical realism to them that make the stories just this side of every day. The Girl Who Chased The Moon is Ms. Addison-Allen's most recent release and I'm looking forward to it very much.

The Accidental Vegan by Devra Gartenstein

I'm not vegan or even vegetarian, but I do regularly prepare vegetarian main or side dishes for my family and my vegetarian friends. I flipped through this book at the library and immediately saw so many dishes that appealed to me. Soups, salads, grains, vegetable side dishes, tofu dishes, noodle dishes, stir fries, sauces and marinades. Yum. All healthful and made with only a few ingredients. I can't wait to try some of these. I think the Pad Thai will be first. Yum. Did I say that already?

Well Preserved: small batch preserving for the new cook by Mary Anne Dragan
Third edition

I love making homemade jam with fresh picked summer fruit, so when I spotted this cookbook at my library I thought it would be fun to thumb through it for some inspiration for this year's jam session. After about three minutes of reading this book, I've decided that I love this cookbook! So much so that I'm seriously considering buying my own copy. It is chock full of basic recipes and recipes for some very unique flavor combinations. Plus the recipes are not limited to jams. There are also plenty of recipes for other foods you can preserve such as pickled fruits and vegetables, relishes, salsa, chutneys, vinegars, and ketchups. It even has a section devoted to recipes for using your preserved foods! I'm probably going to start with something like the Strawberry Mint Jam. Or the Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. I haven't decided yet. :)

Have you ever made homemade jam before?

How about pickles?

Any other foods?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Treasure Trove of Books

My 'List Mania' week continues. This is list number three this week.

Nearly two weeks ago {my how time does fly}, I had the pleasure of getting together with three very lovely, fellow book bloggers-- Natalie from Reading 2 Learn, Hilcia of Impressions of a Reader, and Mariana of Hips Like Mine. Missing from our get together was Katiebabs of Babbling on Books, and More, but she has promised to join us the next time.

We decided to meet up at a diner where we knew the food would be good and we could take over a booth and sit and talk for as long as we wanted and the coffee would keep coming. I think if New Jersey should ever change from being known as The Garden State, I think The Diner State should be given serious consideration.

Anyway, as one would expect between book bloggers, we offered each other to borrow or even keep some books from our own collections. Actually, even though Natalie and I met online when she joined the In Death Reading Challenge, we eventually figured out that we live about six miles from each other, so I had already lent her a few YA novels, the first Sirantha Jax book by Ann Aguirre and of course, I had to see how much she could handle and gave her the first book of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward, Dark Lover. Got her addicted, I did. LOL.

Hilcia and I exchanged a few books as well. I couldn't quite permanently part with mine, so I lent her The Stolen trilogy by Elisabeth Naughton, and she so graciously gave me the following books from her collection:

Something About You by Julie James
My Unfair Lady by Kathryne Kennedy
Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James
A Little Light Magic by Joy Nash
Heaven Eyes by David Almond

I can honestly say I'm looking forward to reading each one of those books! Thank you, Hilcia! xo

Then Mariana gave me some books. Mariana, the woman with the private romance library under her bed. And in her closets. And in traveling trunks. I feel like I stole an entire treasure chest of romance and fantasy novels from her! In fact, when I came home with the books, I left them in my car for a couple of days before I got up enough nerve to go through them and admit to myself how much I took from her. The thing is, Mariana has been reading romance since she was in high school and has accrued a TON of books. Over the last couple of years, Mariana has become an ebook reader, slowly replacing her paper books with digital versions, solving all of her book storage issues at home. Sooooooo.... Mariana told us, "Come to my house. Take my old books. Pleeeeaaaasse, take my books!"

So I did, and did I ever! I came home with a whopping 101 books!!! Here's the list of them:

A Rose In Winter by Shana Abe
The Truelove Bride by Shana Abe

Raintree: Sanctuary by Beverly Barton
Raintree: Haunted by Linda Winstead Jones

Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer
Anges and The Hitman by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer
Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie
Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie
Strange Bedpersons by Jennifer Crusie
Charlie All Night by Jennifer Crusie
Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie
Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie
Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie
Faking It by Jennifer Crusie
What the Lady Wants by Jennifer Crusie
Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie

{I read Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie, but Mariana had the nicest little hardcover of this novel, so I had to have it. Despite the fact that I now have this fantastic collection of Jennifer Crusie novels, I'm still on the hunt for her novel titled Bet Me. I was on the hold list it at my library for the longest time until it was finally declared missing and they have no plans of replacing it. I found it a strange coincidence that Mariana didn't have it in her collection either!}

Dangerous Tides by Christine Feehan
Safe Harbor by Christine Feehan
The Wicked and The Wonderous Christine Feehan
Mind Game by Christine Feehan
Conspiracy Game by Christine Feehan
Predatory Game by Christine Feehan
Shadow Game by Christine Feehan
Deadly Game by Christine Feehan

Saving Grace by Julie Garwood

See Jane Score Rachel Gibson
True Confessions Rachel Gibson
Truly Madly Yours Rachel Gibson

The Demon's Daughter by Emma Holly

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Drop Dead Gorgeous by Linda Howard
To Die For by Linda Howard

Solar Heat by Susan Kearney

Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon (paperback)

{I read the hardcover when it first came out, but still couldn't resist having a copy in paperback, too.}

Harmony's Way by Lora Leigh
Dawn's Awakening by Lora Leigh
Megan's Mark by Lora Leigh
Tanner's Scheme by Lora Leigh
Dangerous Games by Lora Leigh
Killer Secrets by Lora Leigh
Hidden Agendas by Lora Leigh

Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu
The Wild Road by Marjorie M. Liu
The Red Heart of Jade by Marjorie M. Liu
Soul Song by Marjorie M. Liu
Eye of Heaven by Marjorie M. Liu
The Last Twilight by Marjorie M. Liu
Shadow Touch by Marjorie M. Liu

Knight of Darkness by Kinley MacGregor
Sword of Darkness by Kinley MacGregor

Heart Thief by Robin D. Owens
Heart Choice by Robin D. Owens
Heart Quest by Robin D. Owens
Heart Duel by Robin D. Owens
Heart Mate by Robin D. Owens
Heart Dance by Robin D. Owens

Kiss An Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Ain't She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Fancy Pants by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Match Me if You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Lady Be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

{I have never read a Susan Elizabeth Philips novel before. Now I'll have no exuse.}

Pandora by Anne Rice
Violin by Anne Rice

{Several years ago, I found a whole bunch of Anne Rice's hardcover Vampire Chronicle novels at a used book sale for cheap--I want to say $1 each, and I thought they looked so pretty lined up so I bought them. I still have never read them, but I do like how they look. Now I have two more to add to my collection.}

Sweet Revenge by Nora Roberts
Key of Light by Nora Roberts
The Gift by Nora Roberts
Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts
Dance of the Gods by Nora Roberts
Valley of Silence by Nora Roberts

{The last three Nora Roberts novels make up the Circle Trilogy, which I've already read. I was planning on giving my copies to a friend, but now I'll send her these.}

Craving Beauty by Nalini Singh
Awaken the Senses by Nalini Singh
Awaken to Pleasure by Nalini Singh
Dessert Warrior by Nalini Singh
Secrets in the Marriage Bed by Nalini Singh

{Nalini Singh is one of my favorite authors. I love her Psy-Changeling series and the first book in her Guild Hunter series. I have the second one on my TBR, which I can't wait to get to. I couldn't resist this collection of Nalini's Silhouette novels so I could sample her story voice in a different romance subgenre to her other work.}

Cold As Ice by Anne Stuart
Ice Blue by Anne Stuart
Black Ice by Anne Stuart
Ice Storm by Anne Stuart

Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughn
Warsworn by Elizabeth Vaughn
Warlord by Elizabeth Vaughn
Dagger-Star by Elizabeth Vaughn

Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks
Night Season by Eileen Wilks
Blood Lines by Eileen Wilks
Mortal Danger by Eileen Wilks

King of Sword and Sky by C.L. Wilson
Queen of Song and Souls by C.L. Wilson

Beyond the Dark Anthology by Anglea Knight, Emma Holly, Lora Leigh and Diane Whiteside

Shifter Anthology by Angela Knight, Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day and Virginia Kantra

Holidays Are Hell Anthology by Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Marjorie Liu, and Vicki Pettersson

And that's all. :)

Thank you so much for your generosity, Mariana! I will enjoy every minute spent with these books or at least knowing I have them in my midst, as I think it will take me a few years to actually read them all. xoxo :)

Do you see any favorites of yours on my list?

I'd love to hear which ones you recommend!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Library Loot XIV

I told you this week is my own personal 'List Mania' week on The happily ever after!

Today's list is the list of books I have out from my library this week. This doesn't count the ones that I already had out from my last library visit that I haven't yet read. I have to say, there's a lot of library books floating around here lately.

Library Loot is a weekly blog event that encourages bloggers to share what books they borrowed from the library that week. To participate, simply make your Library Loot post on your blog and link it using the Mr. Linky link at Marg's blog Reading Adventures or Eva's blog A Striped Armchair. This week's link up is at Eva's.

In fiction:

High Five by Janet Evanovich
I'm moving along with the Stephanie Plum series, but I honestly don't know if I have it in me to keep going to the end, which right now is book fifteen, I think. I'm still deciding.

Gods in Alabama by Joshlyn Jackson
When I met up with fellow book blogger Hilcia a couple of weekends ago, she in the midst of rereading it and shared how much she enjoys this novel. She even recited the first line to us as it's one of her favorite first lines of a book:

My curiosity was piqued and sure enough once Hilcia posted her review of the book this week, I went to the library and checked it out.

Beastly by Alex Finn
This book comes recommended from one of my favorite book pimps, Angie of Angieville. She recently posted a trailer for the book to movie adaptation of the book, so I decided to read this one sooner than later.

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
My 11 year old has read most of the Ramona books over the last couple of years and after seeing the adorable trailer for the upcoming movie titled Ramona and Beezus due out in theaters this summer, we decided to borrow the book from the library and read it together. Although I think the movie will have components from all of the Ramona books, not just the one we're reading. Anyway, we're reading this book aloud every couple of nights at bedtime. We're not doing it every night because the weirdest thing happens to me when I read aloud these days. I start yawning right in the middle of sentences, at least once every page! Then I get all sleepy and can't hold my head up any longer. Maybe I need to do some breathing exercises before our next reading time.

In nonfiction:

Digital SLR Cameras and Photography for Dummies, 3rd edition, by David D. Busch
I've been using a Canon Rebel XT for the last year and a half or so and have gotten so much better at photography during that time. Partly due to my husband's photography and camera tutorials and partly due to plain old experience. Practice, experiment, practice, consult husband, practice, practice, practice! And then do some post photo processing. :D

Anyway, I saw this book in the new nonfiction section and thought it could only teach me something new. And not confuse or overwhelm me. You'd think, anyway. It does say for Dummies. ;p

The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook by John Barricelli

This cookbook is a collection of recipes from John Baricelli, the owner and baker of the SoNo Baking Company & Cafe in South Norwalk, Connecticut. The recipes range from classic muffins and cookies to unique recipes such as those little raspberry pistachio treats on the cover. Mouthwatering. Not for calorie counting cooks. It goes back asap. ;)

What books are you reading this week?

Monday, April 5, 2010

10 Things I Love About Where I Live

I'm informally and unofficially declaring this week 'List Mania' on the happily ever after because I have a few posts in mind for this week that all happen to involve lists. I got tagged to play a game of "10 Things I love about where I live" by Hilda of The Dip-Files, so that'll be my first list of the week. Before I do that, though, I'd like to tell you a little bit about Hilda.

Hilda is a book blogger that I befriended last year through our mutual adoration of Larissa Ione's Demonica series. Let me just say that Hilda loves her vampires and all things paranormal romance. She is a young student from Venezuela who is now living in Shanghai. She blogs about herself, her life in China, and about books! Did I mention she loves paranormal romance? In addition to speaking her native language of Spanish, Hilda also speaks English and Portuguese. She's also been learning to speak Mandarin Chinese and Swedish! But wait! There's more! Hilda has also been picking up bits of Korean from her friends! Isn't her multilingualism so incredibly impressive?!

After a long haitus from blogging due to the internet constraints imposed by the Chinese government, Hilda is finally back online with her blog. She's been working hard to get her blogging mojo back and gain more followers to her blog. We all know how much more fun blogging is when we know we have an audience, right? So to help Hilda get her blog groove back, head on over to her blog, poke around, and follow her. If she gets 50 followers by the end of April, she's going to do a giveaway! So head on over to The Dip-Files and visit my friend Hilda! Just to warn you, though, Hilda has music that automatically plays at her blog, so if you're at work or if you have a sleeping baby nearby, turn down the volume on your computer first! :)

Now for my list. Which was way harder to do than I thought it would be.

10 Things I Love About Where I Live
Suburbia, New Jersey, USA.

1. I'm 45 minutes from NYC.

2. I'm 45 minutes from rolling hills and countrysides of New Jersey.

3. I'm 45 minutes from the beaches of the New Jersey shoreline. Although my love for this is debatable. I much prefer quieter, less populated beaches.

4. I'm 10 minutes from a wildlife reservation with acres and acres of woodlands with hiking trails, a lake and streams to explore. And roads that make some kick-my-butt bike rides!

5. I can walk or ride my bike to shops, post office, library, the train station, restaurants, the movie theater ... too bad I usually drive because I'm always short on time. I should try to be more green.

6. The distinct change of seasons with snow in the winter and hot and humid days in the summer. Although I could do without the 90+% humidity.

7. I live within five miles of at least 6 libraries and 2 major bookstores.

8. I live less than two miles from a Trader Joe's store, so my out of town friends always love to visit me.

9. I live close to a major international airport which makes traveling all over the world a piece of cake. Too bad I don't actually do that. :/

10. I could probably buy just about anything you could think of within a 30 mile radius from my house. I guess that's one of the benefits of living close to one of the world's biggest cities and busiest container ports. Then again, this point is rather moot considering the ease, speed and convenience of online shopping!

That was way harder than I thought. I'm thinking it would have been easier to make a list of 10 Things that I don't love about living around here.

Anyway, go say hi to Hilda. Tell her I sent you. :)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter . . .

. . . to all my favorite peeps!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New Beginnings

I love the first day of a month. I don't know why, but it always seems like a fresh day to start something new, like a clean slate. Today I made a new beginning and added something new and important to my health and fitness routine. I am counting calories. It sounds easy, but I've decided it's about time I be more mindful of my actual daily caloric intake. I have been pretty diligent about working out 4-5 days a week for the last couple of years, and figured out a long while ago that burning calories through these workouts wasn't enough of a change for me to get to an ideal weight and the older I get, the harder it's getting. I do know that I am in better cardiovascular shape today than I was six years ago, but it's still not enough. Over the last couple of months, I have made efforts to increase my fitness levels even more by adding the running and aiming for 5-7 workouts per week, but it has been challenging getting those few extra workouts scheduled in each week. So the bottom line is that I really need to eliminate more calories from my diet to make the healthy changes that I want. It's not a new revelation for me, but a simple lack of discipline to just do it. Well today is the day I pulled some determination from somewhere within and decided to put myself to task.

Today I started using the Lose It! app on the iPhone that I downloaded months and months ago to create a diet program. I know I've only used it for one day, but I'm pretty excited about this app. It was so easy to set up and start using right away. By entering my current and goal weights and the number of pounds per week I want to lose, the program came up with a daily caloric limit for me. Then I log whatever I eat that day and the app tracks the calories for me. There's a huge database of foods available to choose from or you can customize your foods and enter the nutritional information yourself. So many foods are already in the database though, it's pretty neat. For example, the Lemon Zest Luna bar I ate this morning for breakfast was right there in the Lose It! database and all I had to do was click on it and the basic nutritional information was added to my daily log. Pretty easy!

In addition to logging calories you consume, you can also enter your workouts for that day and those calories burned are subtracted from your daily calories. Just like the food, there are activities already available to choose from, but you can also customize your own workouts and the calories you burn for those activities yourself. Using a heart rate monitor that calculates this during your workout is a great way to get that information.

If nothing else, Lose It! is going to keep me honest with myself about whatever I eat and make me think twice about "cheating." I did have a mid morning and mid afternoon snack today, but I really thought about the quality and quantity of what I was grabbing knowing I was going to have to record it.

If you have an iPhone and want to keep tabs on your calories in and calories burned, check out Lose It! You've got nothing to lose but unwanted pounds! Ha ha. So clever.

For more information about Lose It!, visit iTunes or check out the Lose It! website at The site has a lot of different screenshots of the app there that showcase its usefulness. Oh, and did I mention the app is FREE?

As much as you all know by now that I love to talk about running and biking here on my blog, after this post, any diet talk will be over on my little fitness blog that I've been silently maintaining since January. It's called See how she runs... Stop by and visit me there if you're looking for some motivation or inspiration to exercise or if you see me slacking, please get on my case, okay?

If all goes according to plan, and the Lose It! app is as effective as I hope it as at keeping me on task, I will have reached my target weight by December 23, 2010. Wouldn't that be the best Christmas gift I could give myself? :)