Saturday, July 31, 2010

In Death Challenge Post: July 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 seventh month of the In Death Reading Challenge.

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 in August.

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Judgment In Death by J.D. Robb
In Death series, Book 12

Judgment In Death begins with Lieutenant Eve Dallas moments after arriving at the scene of a violent murder in a high class strip club called Purgatory. A bartender of the club, the victim had remained alone at the club after hours to close up and meet someone he knew when he was bludgeoned to death and left behind the bar in a pool of blood and broken glass. To complicate things, the club is owned by none other than her husband Roarke and the victim is a cop. A good cop who worked hard at his job, had a clean record and was liked by everyone. As Eve proceeds with her investigation, more cops are found dead--all from the same precinct. The further she investigates, the sticker the situation becomes as fellow cops are under question and the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB) appears to be involved in some way as well. Not to mention a mysterious connection to an elusive criminal and ex-business associate of Roarke's from 10 years past, Max Ricker. Roarke and Ricker parted on extremely unfriendly terms years ago and now both Eve and Roarke's lives are in danger. Sounds like just another day in NYPSD for Lieutenant Eve Dallas, but this case really ramps up the tension for our fearless cop and quite frankly, had me on the edge of my seat as well.

Judgment in Death is fast paced, action packed and emotionally packed as well. Eve's professional and personal lives are intricately meshed together in this story. The murder investigation becomes personal by its inherent nature simply because it directly involves her own people, and when Ricker's involvement starts to come to light, it becomes even more personal due to his ties with Roarke. On the personal level, this case creates a lot of tension between Eve and Roarke. They fight--and make up-- throughout the book, usually over control issues. They're both such strong individuals with strong instincts to protect each other. Which creates a crazy conflict because both of them are risk takers and neither of them are willing to let the other take risks. Their love sees them through, they communicate, they compromise and they come out better for it all every time.

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I know it's not very nice to find enjoyment out of watching someone face their worst fears, but I have to say, I get a kick out of Eve's extreme fear of heights. Or rather, I get a kick out of Roarke pushing the limits of Eve's fear of heights! In Judgement in Death, Eve needs a really fast ride somewhere and Roarke takes her in one of his hybrid two-seated flying car things. She tries to be brave, but it's still so funny when she's not. I get such a kick out of scenes like this one and as the series progresses, I'm finding more and more of these minor character traits that pop up throughout the stories that really add depth and personality to the characters. I think it does wonders to keep the characters very real.

What other character traits have you picked up on throughout the series that you think adds to a character's personality?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Back from Vacation

I've recently returned home from a busy and fun-filled Pacific Northwest road trip vacation with my family. We had incredibly perfect weather--warm, sunny days with NO humidity and cool nights. Either we struck it lucky or someone has been making up all those rumors about the Pacific Northwest being perpetually damp.

I came home with a lot of great photos of our trip and of course, wonderful memories of quality time spent with my family. Unfortunately, I also came home with an icky head cold. I had a couple of posts planned for the end of the month that I still hope to get to such as a post about our trip including photos, my annual Christmas in July giveaway, and of course, the July In Death Challenge post, which I'll post tomorrow.

I hope you've all been well and I look forward to catching up with you on your blogs this week! :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Is there a sign on my back?

If so, I think I know EXACTLY what it says:

"If you see me working my butt off,
biking up some really steep hill,
working within 90-95% of my maximum HR,
out of my comfort zone,
not able to talk,
focusing on the road and my cadence ....

p.s. Don't think anything of interrupting and basically screwing up the most challenging and best part of my ride, so make sure I'm at the steepest part of the climb so that I have to stop and lose my focus and momentum."

What is UP with that? Could they not see that I was in the middle of something that was requiring a lot of mental focus and physical effort?

Today wasn't the first time this happened to me, either. I just don't get why this has happened to me once, let alone twice. I'm telling you, I have NEVER seen a motorist stop a cyclist while they were biking to ask them for directions. EVER. Think about it... have you ever witnessed such a thing? Am I wrong in thinking this is absurd? It's like flagging down a car coming in the opposite direction to ask for directions. You just don't do that. Unless you're in the middle of nowhere, I suppose. But this is New Jersey people. It's jam packed with people. OTHER people besides the cyclist in her zone. Go ask someone else.

So why has this happened to me TWICE in the last month or so? Is it because I don't wear an "official" bike jersey with all the blocks of color and writing on them? I'm wearing athletic clothing and definitely conveyed that I was in serious ride mode. I was clearly not on a leisurely ride.

I thought the first time a motorist stopped me for directions earlier this summer was a fluke. I remember coming home and complaining about it to my husband, thinking "Can you believe that motorist stopped me on the climb for directions? Who does that?"

So today, when I saw this car coming towards me in oncoming lane and start to slow down, I thought, "No way. Not again. You are NOT going to stop me and ask for directions." So I focused even more so on just me and the road. I figured if I acted like they're not stopping, they wouldn't. They stopped.

The motorist called out, "Excuse me? Miss?" and for a few seconds, I kept going even though it was clear this motorist was stopping to ask for directions. I came so close to saying, "Sorry, I can't stop, I'm in the middle of training." Okay, so I'm not training per se, but I mean, I'm climbing a mountain on a bike. There's no way what I was doing looked easy. One would think one wouldn't want to interrupt me.

The only thing I could think of was that there must be a sign on my back.

Apparently on my front, too. :S

Moral of the story: DON'T INTERRUPT ME WHEN I'M IN THE ZONE. Thank you.

Otherwise, I'm usually nice to strangers and helpful with giving directions if asked. Really. :D

The last week has been busy and a tad stressful, hence the desire to rant about something, I suppose. Nothing too major, just busy with a lot of goings on with the husband, kids, father-in-law and pets. Vacation is coming soon, though, so I'm looking forward to some quality time with my husband and daughters, exploring someplace new and recharging my batteries. :)

How are you?

I really do want to know! Got any rants of your own this week?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Library Loot XXII

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.

I can't believe it's time for library loot again. I didn't plan on borrowing more books this week, but you know how it is when you love books...

In fiction:

Tomorrow River by Lesley Kagen

I need to read a book with the name of a body of water in the title for the What's In a Name? Reading Challenge that I'm participating in and while I had a book tentatively chosen from my TBR shelves, I was kind of keeping my eyes out for a different selection. I just happened to see Tomorrow River displayed on a table near the main desk at my library, the cover having captured my attention. When I read the title I thought "Hey, I could read this for the Name challenge!" Then I read the inside flap and decided the story was something I'd like to read and voila! I checked it out.

Tomorrow River takes place in a small community in West Virginia during the summer of 1969. It is the story about an 12 year old girl named Shen Carmody who sets out to discover some answers about her troubled home life. Shen's mother disappeared a year ago and her twin sister Woody hasn't spoken a word since their mom has been gone and their father spends most of his nights drunk and mean. Shen decides it's time for her to find out what exactly happened to their mother.

It sounds kind of heart wrenching, but I'm also counting on it being an uplifting coming of age kind of story for these two young sisters.

In non fiction:

Jams & Chutneys:
Preserving the Harvest by Thane Prince

Yet another book on jams and preserving. There's just something so appealing to me about preserving fresh fruit or vegetables from the garden or farm. Making your own jam from scratch is such a rewarding experience. I think it tastes so much better when it's homemade because it's made with love and every bite is filled with memories of the summer.

A Homemade Life:
Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg

This book has been on my list of books to borrow from the library for a while now. Molly Wizenberg is the author of the popular and successful food blog Orangette and now this book. A Homemade Life is a culinary memoir of sorts as Molly shares stories from her life and the recipes that accompany them. It's really a joy to read.

What is your favorite food to prepare from scratch?

Right now, I'm into making homemade jams. I also love making homemade ice cream and fresh salsas in the summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Life is a bowl of cherries

Of course once you've eaten all the cherries I guess you could say life is the pits.

LOLOL! ^_^

In the kitchen:
I'm going to try to make time tomorrow to make Cherry Jam using Tracy's recipe at the Sugarcrafter blog. I already washed, pitted, and sliced the four cups of cherries I need for the jam. The cherries in the photo are the cherries I have left over. I made some white chocolate dipped cherries last week and I only tasted one before I gave them away to a friend, but it was so delicious. I really want make more. I also saw a recipe for rum soaked cherries at Rebecca's Foodie with Family blog that I'm dying to make, so I don't know what to do. I could go out and buy more cherries and make both, but (a) I don't have too much time to invest in the kitchen this week and (b) I still have all those blueberries to bake, freeze, and eat! Decisions, decisions!

In books:
I haven't read much in the last several weeks, which has been so frustrating. I have plenty of books to read... plenty that I'm even interested in reading, but I'm just not finding the time to read during the day and at night I start falling asleep as soon as I open a book or my laptop. Needless to say, I'm falling behind very quickly in my monthly reading goals in order to meet my 100+ Books in 2010 Reading Challenge. Well, the last thing I want to do is make reading feel like homework, so I'm just going to roll with it and see how it goes from here.

Right now I'm reading Provocative In Pearls by Madeline Hunter. It's the second book in her newest Rarest Blooms Quartet and I'm enjoying it very much. I've also got a stack of really fun non fiction books that I'm reading here and there as well.

In sports:
I guess you all know by now that The World Cup is over--congratulations to Spain! I have to admit that I had so much fun keeping up with this year's World Cup. My husband has been a football fan since he was a kid {many World Cups ago}, but this was the first year I followed it so closely. I was watching games, looking up results on the FIFA app on my iPhone and keeping tabs on my bracket in the pool I joined with my husband and his football buddies. I didn't win the pool, but ended somewhere in the middle so at least I didn't embarrass myself too badly. ;)

As far as my sports go, I haven't been running much since May because I've been trying to do all low or no impact workouts in order the heel planter fasciitis in my right foot that has been ailing me for some time now. It is healing, but it's taking a long time. One day last week, though, I went for a run anyway. I had overslept my alarm and didn't have a lot of time to devote to working out that day, so a 2 mile run seemed like just the power workout I needed. It was pretty hot and humid, so I took it easy, but was super thrilled to discover that I can now run a 10 minute mile! When I checked my pace at the 1 mile mark, I was surprised at my pace because I didn't feel like I was pushing so hard and yet I ran the first mile in 10:03. I finished the second mile at 20:00! As I ran the second mile, I thought to myself how many textbooks I would need to put in a backpack to simulate the 25 pounds I've lost since April. Then I envisioned wearing that backpack and running two miles. Um, no way. I'm never going to do that again! I wonder how fast I'll be when I get to my goal weight!

I've been cycling a lot over the last several weeks, and I'm happy to report that that mountain is feeling smaller every time. The down side is that I got a three flat tires in the last two weeks and it is not like the Tour de France where your team car follows you along and hands you a new bike when you get a flat. Nope. You have to stop and change it yourself using a handy dandy tire changing kit that you keep stowed in a pouch under your seat. Quite a few tears later, at least now I can do it by myself. :)

That about sums up my bowl of cherries this week, what about yours?

What seasonal food are you enjoying right now?

What are you reading?

What activities are you doing outdoors?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blueberry Picking

It's that time of year again when local blueberries are in season and ripe for picking. This is the third year in a row that I've posted about our annual visit to this local farm to pick blueberries. I guess it doesn't come as a surprise, then, how fond I am of this simple tradition in our family.

It's been very hot and humid here for the last several days with temperatures hovering around 100 F, so we waited for a break in the heat and chose today to go because temperatures were only in the low 80s at midmorning. Turns out it didn't really make too much of a difference, because according to the forecast, with the heat index it felt more like 98 F anyway! I guess that explains our flushed faces and damp clothing after less than an hour in the blueberry field. For once I was ready to go as soon as the first "I'm hot," complaint came along.

I don't think I could ever resist the lure of 'pick your own' on a farm.

Rows of zinnias and I think, ageratum (the brilliant blue flowers on the right).

My youngest daughter picking 'star berries' as she insisted calling the blueberries today. Did you know that 'star berries' is one of the original names for what we call blueberries today? They were called 'star berries' because of the star shape on blossom end of the blueberry.

This is a photo of me that my youngest daughter took with my camera. She wanted to capture the blueberries falling from my hand into the basket and she got the shot! Yet another photographer in the house!

My eldest daughter has taken an avid interest in photography over the last several months and is showing signs of a natural talent for composition and artistry already. She's taking photography as an elective next year in school. I can't wait to see where it takes her and I hope she'll have the patience to teach me whatever she learns...

I took this photo below of her taking photos of the blueberries from the other end of the row. Since my youngest and I had the basket with us, at first we figured she was just taking pictures and not picking berries.

I underestimated her resourcefulness. She had both pockets of her dress filled with blueberries.

"C'mon, Mom. It's hot. Let's go."

We spent less time picking than we usually do because it was just too hot. However, we did manage to come home with almost 5 lbs. of blueberries. I'm going to make some kind of blueberry treat this weekend. I'm just not sure what it will be yet...

What is your favorite way to eat blueberries?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Library Loot XXI

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.

In non fiction:

Getting The Pretty Back
Friendship, Family and Finding the Perfect Lipstick by Molly Ringwald

I don't generally read memoirs, but when I saw this one come into the library, I thought it might be a fun one to read. I was a teenager myself during the time actress Molly Ringwald was at the height of her teenage stardom on the big screen, so I'm familiar with her teenage image as well as familiar with her stage in life now-- wife, mother, friend and simply a woman of her 40s.

Getting The Pretty Back is more like a fun spirited woman's guide to being over 40 and all the great things being this age brings. There are anecdotes from Molly's life and experiences layered within the book, but mostly she writes about insights and tips to both the fun things in life and some of the challenges as well. Topics include friendships, dating, marriage, family issues, parenting, travel, cooking, diet, exercise, makeup and fashion. Most importantly that pretty is a state of mind. So true!!!

In music:

To The Sea by Jack Johnson

To The Sea is singer songwriter Jack Johnson's most recent release and his fifth studio album. The album is produced by Jack Johnson's record label, Brushfire Records for Universal Studios and is a shining example of environmental responsibility. The album was recorded in solar powered studios in Hawaii and LA, printed on 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper, and carrying the 1% For The Planet promise and logo. He and his crew don't stop there. They promote green living while on tour, too, taking all kinds of awesome steps toward reducing their carbon footprint from eliminating their use of single use plastic bottles on tour and backstage, drinking filtered tap water, aiming toward zero waste through recycling, composting whenever possible, and working with local farms and markets while on tour to source locally grown food all whenever possible.

Want to learn more? Visit and or, Jack Johnson's social action network established to educate and engage individuals to take action in creating a positive global change for our communities and environment. I joined All At Once to learn more about local events and opportunities to volunteer to make a difference. Why not join and find out what you can do in your area too? :)

As for the music on To The Sea --don't think I forgot about that part!!! --all songs are of Jack Johnson's signature style of soft acoustic rock with a mellow, soulful sound and simple but thoughtful lyrics. To learn more about To The Sea go HERE to read more and sample the songs. :)

Do you have any library loot this week?

What are you currently reading?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

Image below courtesy

Wishing my fellow Americans a happy and safe 4th of July as you celebrate our countries independence and freedom. To everyone else, I hope you, too, have cause to celebrate your freedom wherever you live.

What kind of celebrations do you have planned for today?

Our 4th of July is going to be a rather low key one this year. My husband is in the Netherlands right now as a spectator for the Tour de France, so the girls and I (and the father-in-law) are feeling a little incomplete without him home with us, but we'll have our traditional 4th of July food for dinner and then walk down to the park to see the fireworks when it gets dark.

4th of July Picnic Dinner
Serves Four

Hamburgers & Hot Dogs
Herbed Potato Salad
Marinated Three Bean Salad
Corn on the Cob

Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream

What are some of your family's traditional 4th of July foods?

I'm actually more likely to serve cut up strawberries and blueberries with vanilla ice cream on the 4th of July... showcasing the red white and blue, but this year I'm more in the mood for apple pie.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Backyard S'mores

One of my favorite things about summer is backyard campfires. Actually, I love campfires any time of the year, but especially in the summer.

Every night this week, I offered to light a fire in the chiminea on our patio out back to make s'mores had have been turned down every time by my daughters.

Until tonight!

I gathered the matches, graham crackers, chocolate bars and of course, the marshmallows and headed outside with one daughter in tow. I got the fire lit with just one match... a personal challenge of mine. In a matter of seconds, the fire was roaring away. Well, as much as a fire in a backyard chiminea on the patio could roar, anyway.

It was only a matter of minutes before we had some nice hot coals to toast some marshmallows over.

A toasted marshmallow on the end of a stick is such a happy thing, don't you think?

The flames subdued rather quickly and the coals were glowing hot and beautiful. I love how you can literally see the heat move in waves within the coals.

I ate two perfectly toasted marshmallows.

My 11 year old daughter ate one perfect s'more. She ate it in about 60 seconds and promptly announced she was done and went inside. Poof! The fastest campfire in the east.

Just in case you don't already know how to make s'mores...
And if you don't know, where have you been??

1 piece of chocolate
1 graham cracker
1 marshmallow

+Break graham cracker along dotted line to make two squares.
+Put piece of chocolate on one of the graham cracker squares.
+Toast marshmallow on a stick over a fire until golden on the outside and soft on the inside.
+Place marshmallow, still on stick, on top of chocolate.
+Pick up the other square of graham cracker and place it on top of the toasted marshmallow that is on top of the chocolate that is on top of the graham cracker.
+Apply slight gentle pressure on the top graham cracker and slide stick out, leaving marshmallow in the s'more.

Serves 1

{~152 calories per s'more.}

Make another one if you want s'more. ^_^

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lose It! Update

Exactly three months ago today made a post titled New Beginnings in which I made a commitment to myself to cut calories from my diet to finally get the weight loss I've wanted for so long that exercise alone just wasn't giving me. I started using the Lose It! app on my iPhone on April 1 as the tool to track my daily calories and stick to a calorie budget and hopefully lose some weight. In my post back on April 1, I also said I wasn't going to do any diet or weight loss talk on my blog here but on my fitness blog See how she runs... Well, I changed my mind. I have had fantastic results with this tool so far and hope to motivate or inspire someone else to do the same.

Since April 1, I have lost a total 26.5 lbs. (12kg)!!

I have done this by exercising nearly every day and by using the Lose It! app to help me stick to a daily calorie budget. I am not an expert on weight loss, but I have learned a lot in the last three months that may help you do the same.

Sometimes it's just a matter of hearing or seeing someone else succeed at something and you deciding you want that, too. So you go for it and you just do it. That's what I hope to inspire by posting my success so far.

I have come up with a list of, I don't know what to call it-- advice? words of wisdom? --that might help you achieve a weight loss goal, too.

You have to want to lose weight. You have to want to be healthy, live healthy, feel and look good. Do you want it? If you do, you can do it.

You have to live with yourself every day as long as you live. Make a commitment to yourself to make yourself better in the things you can change. There are a lot of things about ourselves and our lives that we have no control over and cannot change. Your body weight? You can change that. You can do it.

3-Educate yourself
Do a little research online, read a book, download the Lose It! app and find out how many calories you need to consume every day in order to lose weight at a safe rate. There is no one magic number since your current weight and activity level is a contributing factor to your calorie budget. It's always a good idea to consult with your doctor first.

4-Will power
I'm not going to lie. The first ten days were brutal. I was hungry pretty much all the time, even when I was sleeping. I just kept thinking how badly I wanted a healthier body. I figure I wasn't suffering when I ate what I wanted and enjoyed all that food that led to weight gain. I could suffer for nine months to lose it. I would do it because I really wanted it, and I found the will power. You have to find the will power and you can do it, too. If you're feeling weak resolve, enlist someone to help you (see last point below).

5-Exercise every day
The truth is that you have to work very hard to burn a good number of calories through exercise. A 150 lb. woman walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes burns about 90 calories. That's barely an apple.

The best way to determine how many calories you burn during exercise is with a heart rate monitor because it bases your caloric burn directly from your heart rate that's tied to oxygen consumption. And we know to burn fuel (from food you just ate or stored fat), you need oxygen. But a heart rate monitor is not practical for everyone as it is an investment of upwards of $100 or more. There are some great websites out there that have online calculators for various activities. The one I like to use is at

Note: I think the calories burned for exercises in the Lose It! App are a bit inflated.

6-Count everything and make everything count.
Count every bite of food you take and every beverage you drink. It all adds up very quickly. Also, choose foods that are healthy for you and you'll feel fuller longer. One small cookie isn't going to make you feel as satisfied as one large apple. Plus the apple has health benefits, the cookie doesn't.

7-Measure your foods.
Measure foods by volume (measuring cups) or weight (using a kitchen scale) based on the serving size for that particular food. I found I had to re-educate myself on serving sizes and the approximate number of calories in a lot of basic foods.

8-The achievement factor
Know that if you stick it out for a week or two, you will get results and then you can feed off your own achievement. In other words, your own success will motivate you to keep going. It's all on you, but you can do it.

Kind of for fun, but really very true for me:

9-Don't read any cooking magazines, flip through cookbooks or visit any cooking blogs or forums when you are hungry or if you think it will make you hungry or just want to eat food even if you're not hungry.

I basically read my cooking magazines while I'm actually eating breakfast or lunch and that's it. Any other time it makes me want to eat. But it's getting better. My body is adapting to fewer calories and is happy this way. :)

10-Have a support person or team in place.
It helps if you have at least one person who is in on your personal mission and is supportive. My husband and daughters have listened to me talk diet and exercise day in and day out and I am very grateful for their patience. And also for their support when I announce my latest total pounds lost... or when I put a moratorium on their favorite restaurant because I can't get anything remotely healthy to eat there. And for their encouragement when I tell them how much more I have to go and they think I can do it before my target date.

In conclusion, I'll just add that if I can do this, you can too. I literally decided on April 1 that that was it. That was the day I was going to do it. And gosh darn it, I'm doing it!

If you want it, then decide to do it.

Decide it, then do it.

I know you can. :)