Thursday, August 30, 2012

In Death Series Reading Challenge August 2012

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE and join the fun!

Did you read any In Death series books this month?

Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. If you made a post on your blog, whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the comments below along with your name so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily. You can also just use the link to your goodreads or other virtual bookshelf as well.

Strangers In Death by J.D. Robb
Book #26

I finished this one early in the month and gave it four stars on goodreads. Yet when I sat down just now to write up a short synopsis and review, I practically forgot everything about it! I had to pull the book out to refresh my memory. Not a good sign, but I guess after a while, it's difficult to remember all the crimes and their book titles in this series.

In case your memory needs refreshing, in this book, Eve and her team are investigating the murder of a rich, successful, happy and very well liked businessman, Thomas Anders, who is found naked and tied to his bed with velvet cords and murdered without any signs of a struggle. The public and Anders' family and friends are shocked at the nature of the crime, but as always, Eve doesn't let "what it looks like" interfere with her quest for the truth. She thoroughly investigates every possible angle until she solves the crime and brings down the murderer.

Overall this is another solid installment in the series. There were actually a few things that happened in the personal subplots with some of the secondary characters that I just LOVED. For fear of spoiling it for anyone who hasn't gotten this far yet, I'm not going to mention it, but I will admit I got teary eyed in a few scenes. Even if I thought the case was drawn out and boring at times, these little pockets of awesomeness among the characters pulls the rating up to "very good." I can't help it! These characters are like friends at this point.


I'm slowly but surely plugging along in this series. I had hoped to finish reading Salvation in Death this week, but I was overcome with the impulse to catch up with Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series and decided to first go back to the beginning to re-read the first five books that I read back in 2007-08! Who does that?! Anyway, it got me thinking that I should get just as determined to catch up with the In Death series once and for all. No more slacking! One book per month at a minimum until I'm caught up.

This month's series discussion is very easy: I want to know where you are in the series.

All caught up? Or still plugging along like me?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Home Canning Tomatoes

Today was tomato canning day as I joined two of my friends and their families in their annual tomato canning project. We ordered 12 bushels of plum tomatoes from a local farm and washed, cooked, crushed, cooked again and canned them all into 180 quart jars of homemade tomato sauce! My friends have been doing this every August for at least the last decade, so they have the process down pat by now, but wow--what an impressive project. I kept my phone in my pocket so I could snap a few pics along the way.
This is about half of the tomatoes...
washed and ready to be cooked.
Tomato day started bright and early at 7am in my friend's backyard with five adults and two helpful teenagers. We were set up on her driveway, patio and a bit of her lawn area with the different stations--cleaning tomatoes, cooking tomatoes, processing tomatoes, and cooking and canning the sauce.
The first cooking process.
Giving the tomatoes a stir.
While the burners for cooking the tomatoes were being set up by my friend's husband, the rest of us started washing the tomatoes in tubs of water and cutting away any damaged or moldy parts, of which there was very little. Out of 12 bushels of plum tomatoes--which is upwards of 636 lbs of tomatoes, we may have had only 1 or 2 lbs of tomato waste when we were done washing.

Tomato cooking well under way.
Once the three burners were set up and lit, tomatoes were put in the huge stock pots with a bit of water to prevent burning and they were cooked until they started to break down. In the meantime, we kept washing more tomatoes and several bunches of fresh basil.
Fresh basil for the tomato sauce

Cooked tomatoes waiting to go through the tomato mill
Once the tomatoes were turning into stewed tomatoes, they were spooned into a mill made especially for processing tomatoes. The tomatoes are essentially crushed and skin and seeds of the tomatoes are separated from the sauce. The skins and seeds go into a bucket and the sauce goes down a little chute into another big huge stock pot.
Processing the cooked tomatoes into sauce.
Below is another view of the tomato mill. You can see the skins and seeds going into the bucket on the left and the sauce goes down the chute into the pot on the right.

Another view of the tomato mill
The huge stock pot of sauce now gets put onto another burner where it cooks down some more, this time with handfuls of fresh basil and kosher salt.
Tomato sauce with basil
simmering away,  almost ready to be ladled into jars.
When the sauce gets a little thickened, it gets ladled into quart-size canning jars. One person ladled the sauce into the jars using a funnel and two others put the lids and bands on, wiping the rims as needed. The sauce is so hot that a proper seal was created as the sauce started to cool without having to process them in water. I've always processed jam in water, so I had a little trouble trusting this process without the water, but soon we heard all the lids popping sealed, so it worked! An hour or two later I checked all the jars I brought home and they were all sealed.
Gorgeous jars of homemade tomato sauce.
By the time the last of the jars were filled, clean up was well under way. Pots were scrubbed, the mill was cleaned and all supplies were put away. By 2 o'clock in the afternoon, you'd never know tomato day had taken place. Unless, of course, you visited the basements of these three families. There you'd find dozens of jars of homemade tomato sauce just waiting to be cooked into spectacular meals for our families over the next year. :)

I've canned homemade fruit jams many times in the past, but have never canned tomato sauce before. Nor have I been a part of such a big production as this was today, but thanks to the years of experience and fine tuning, the work was efficient and the day went very smoothly. I'm curious to see how long my 30 jars of tomato sauce last me. February? April? Will I make it to the next tomato canning day in August 2013? We shall see.

Have you ever canned your own tomato sauce? Jam? Pickles? Anything else? 

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

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Our Iceland-UK-Olympics Vacation PART II

Here it is, finally. My Part II recap of our Iceland-UK-Olympic vacation. I blogged about our Olympic Games experience a week or so ago in a Vacation PART I. Now I'm going to try to cram in everything else we did on our trip in one post because I if I don't get this up all at once, I'll never get around to finishing it. [Like what I did for our Europe trip last summer :( ].

We did A LOT of sightseeing on our Iceland-UK trip. We tend to cram in as much as possible, which is good because we see a lot, but not so good because we sometimes don't have enough time at places we end up really liking. And we are constantly on the go from 7am until 10-11pm, which is exhausting. One of these days we'll go on a relaxing vacation and just stay in one place and do nothing. The kids won't know what hit 'em.

I apologize to those of you who follow me on twitter and or instagram as I include a lot of those photos you've seen already in this post. What can I say? I love using my iphone camera. It's so convenient, light and takes pretty decent pics. I took 472 photos with my iPhone and only 267 with my regular camera.

Iceland July 26-27, 2012 
When we learned that the airfare price was the same to the London with a stopover in Reykjavik no matter how long you stayed in Iceland, we knew we wanted to spend a couple of days in Iceland before making it all the way across the pond. Unfortunately, my husband made a mistake in our reservations that we didn't notice until weeks after, our two day jaunt in Iceland was reduced to barely 24 hours. Disappointing, but it is what it is and we enjoyed what little time we had there anyway. Good thing they get LOTS of daylight there.

Landing in Iceland
Sunset skies at 10:30pm
By the time we took the shuttle bus from the Keflavik airport to Reykjavik it was very late. Of course our stop was the last one. Of course. So now it's after midnight and we get to our room, which was an apartment right out of the coziest pages of an IKEA catalog. Seriously. So nice. We were famished, so headed out for some food. Pizza just because it was close to our apartment and the place was open at 1 am. Showers and then off to bed and it still wasn't fully dark outside. In the morning we walked around the city like tourists and then sadly headed back to the airport for our flight to London. The drive was nice, though, and we got some beautiful views of the Icelandic shores.

On the road from Reykijvak to the airport.
Iceland countryside

Iceland countryside
Such a unique and stunning landscape and overall a fascinating place. I can't wait to go back and explore the island. Hopefully in the winter so we can see the aurora borealis.

London July 27-28, 2012 
We arrived in London late Friday night, which was the night of the Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics. We caught some of it on the television in our hotel room, went out to get some dinner, and then watched the rest when we got back. It was pretty neat hearing booms of the fireworks from our hotel while seeing it on television. It was a surefire reminder that we were really in London during the Olympic Games! Except the next morning we hopped a train for Scotland. But we'd be back to London in just a few days.

Scotland July 28-30, 2012
We arrived in Glasgow, Scotland after a very pleasant and scenic train ride. I spent half the time looking out the window at the pastures and towns and the other half of the time reading an ARC of Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady. I was very happy. :)

Here's a photo of the British countryside between London and Glasgow. Look! We even saw Dementors!!!! Okay, okay, so it's grime on the train window. ; )
Countryside view from train
between London and Glasgow.

Our first evening in Glasgow we walked around the city for a bit and dined at an Italian restaurant called Pesto for dinner. If you are ever in Glasgow, you have to go there for dinner. It was excellent!

The next day we went on a fabulous day tour of the Scottish Highlands. We used Rabbie's personalized small group tours in Glasgow and highly recommend them. Our tour guide, John, was fantastic. He knew so much about the history and culture of Scotland from a thousand years ago until today. When he wasn't telling us about Scotland, he played a wide variety of Scottish music old and new. He also taught us everything he knew about Scottish whiskey. Which was a lot. Ha!
Loch Lomond, Scotland
Bagpiper playing at a rest stop
near Glencoe, Scotland
The Scottish Highlands are absolutely gorgeous and in no way do my photos do this land justice. The colors and textures and magnificence of the hills that go on and on and the little houses tucked into the valleys and the way the clouds just hover over the lands. Just so beautiful and serene. Between you and me, I felt like I was on the set of a Julie Garwood novel the whole time. :)
Glencoe, Scotland
Glencoe, Scotland
Later that day, we did our best to spot Nessie the Loch Ness Monster as we toured the shores of Loch Ness.
On a boat looking for the Loch Ness Monster!
Loch Ness, Scotland
Click on this one for more detail:
Castle Urquhart
Loch Ness, Scotland
I was sitting on the wrong side of the bus to capture a good shot, but here's what I got of the double rainbow we saw on the ride from Loch Ness back to Glasgow.
On plus side of the frequent rain showers in the UK?
So many rainbows! :)
Dinner in a Scottish pub that night. I had a traditional steak and ale pie. I wanted to be brave and have haggis but I just couldn't do it. Next time!

The following day we took a taxi to Celtic Park, home of the Celtic football club--my husband's favorite team. We kind of got there between a sold out tour and the next one, which would be a couple of hours later, so we opted not to do it. Instead we walked around the outside a bit and then bought my husband some clothing from the shop. He was pretty happy, which made us girls happy. :)

After that, we found our way back to the train station and hopped a train for Edinburgh for the day. By the time we arrived in Edinburgh it was probably after noon. Without a clear cut plan as to what to do, we meandered the streets of the Royal Mile--a landmark area of Edinburgh with a lot of history, culture, shopping and things to do. We knew we wanted to see Edinburgh castle, so we casually headed that way, enjoying the sights as we went along. We got taken in by a fun museum called Camera Obscura and ended up spending way more time there than we intended. So much so that by the time we walked to Edinburgh castle, the attendants literally closed the gate in our faces saying they were closed for the day an no one else could enter. I was stunned. I mean, it was totally our fault for not checking the time of the last entry and totally our fault for losing track of time, but ... but.. we were devastated. It still makes me really sad, and quite frankly mad at myself for letting this happen. So stupid! Argh! :( So now we have to go back to Scotland, too. Not a terrible thing, but with a whole big world to explore, I have to be honest with myself and think am I really going to go back there someday? I just don't know. Anyway, we wallowed our disappointment with an elaborate Thai dinner.

A view of Edinburgh, Scotland
The girls walking the Royal Mile
Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland
After dinner we walked the perimeter of the Edinburgh Castle and more of the city streets, where the girls bought some pretty sterling Celtic rings they liked at a street booth. We headed back to Glasgow that evening, checked out of our hotel and headed back to the train station where we hopped a sleeper train from Glasgow back to London. We had taken a sleeper train in Europe last summer in Germany from Berlin to Munich, which was not the most comfortable or enjoyable experience [I felt SO claustrophobic!] so I wasn't so keen on another sleeper train, BUT it was much better this time. The cabins were just a tiny bit bigger, but that little bit of extra space made a world of difference.

London July 31-August 6, 2012 
Back in London early this Tuesday morning we checked into our hotel in Putney Bridge and then headed back into London to meet up with our friends for some sight seeing. [Our close friends from home joined us for part of our stay in London. This is the same family whom we visited for our January getaway to Florida]. We met at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre where we toured the theater and then went through the museum, learning all kinds of fascinating things about Shakespeare, his plays and the theatre itself.

Click on photo to enlarge for more detail:
Inside Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
London, England
We grabbed lunch then headed towards Buckingham Palace. First we "shopped" in Harrods [omg! sO cRaZy!] and then took a tour of Buckingham Palace. As you can imagine, the palace is a pretty fascinating place. Ultra fancy. Everything seemed to be silk, velvet, marble, gilded, etc. A bit much for my tastes, so I guess it's a good thing I'm not royalty! Ha! :o)
Buckingham Palace, London, England
London Monument
London, England
We were super lucky to have scored tickets to a women's football match that night--Great Britain vs. Brazil, which my husband and 17 year old went to see while our 13 year old and I went out for a nice, quiet dinner. They had a fantastic time watching the football--it was quite an exciting game and the crowds were wild, of course because Team GB won 1-0!

The following day we met our friends at London Monument which is a stone tower that commemorates the great fire of 1666 and celebrates the rebuilding of London. You get a certificate of achievement for walking all the way up the 311 stone steps of the spire and back down again. It's true.

That afternoon, we were Olympic spectators for women's court volleyball. We had front row seats! How lucky is that? You can read more about the Olympic stuff and see pictures on my previous vacation post HERE.

After the volleyball, we went with our friends on a London sight seeing boat tour on the Thames. The guide on the boat was very funny and we learned a lot about the history of London, mostly about the buildings and bridges along the river. My favorite part was seeing Tower Bridge up close from the water with the Olympic Rings on display there. After dinner that evening, we went up the London Eye, which is the largest Ferris wheel type thing in the world. I have to admit, it was pretty cool. My favorite part was being able to see inside the stadium where Beach Volleyball was taking place from the top of the London Eye. This is the same area where you can see Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

Here's a picture of London Bridge. It's the one in the foreground. Yes. That very very very plain one. Is London Bridge. Surprised? I know I was. Tower Bridge is the fancy one most people associate with London. You learn something new everyday.

London Bridge in foreground
Tower Bridge in background
Tower Bridge 
The London Eye at night
The next day we took a whirlwind bus tour outside London with our friends to Bath, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. Like I said, it was a whirlwind tour. Lots of time on the bus and too short a time at the sites. I don't think we had more than 2 hours at any of the stops. It was kind of crazy, but I'm still glad we got to see what we did. Honestly, you don't need more than an hour or two at Stonehenge, but it would have been nice to spend a whole day each in Bath and Windsor.

At the Roman Baths
Bath, England

The girls at the Great Bath
Roman Baths, Bath, England

Stonehenge, England
Walking up to Windsor Castle
Windsor, England
Moat gardens at Windsor Castle
Windsor, England
Changing of the guard
Windsor Castle, Windsor, England
After the tour, we had dinner at an Indian restaurant right near our friends' hotel. It was a buffet and I ate way too much. Buffets are dangerous.. especially when it comes to some of your favorite foods. Ugh. This was our friends' last night in London so we said our goodbyes and headed back to our hotel for some much needed rest. Sightseeing all day and night is tiring!

The next day we toured Westminster Abbey and Westminster Palace, which is where Parliament is held. I learned so much about the British government on the tour of the Parliament. Very interesting and educational. I hope the girls got something out of it, too. I felt a little ignorant learning all this in my 40s and not in my teens or 20s. Anyway, the building is quite stunning on the inside as well as on the outside. Speaking of the outside, did you know that Big Ben is not the official name of the clock tower? Big Ben is only the name of the bell inside the tower. The tower is actually called Westminster Tower but is going to be renamed Queen Elizabeth Tower in the not so distant future. 

Westminster Tower [aka Big Ben]
London Eye in the background
After Parliament, we walked up to Trafalgar Square where we grabbed dinner. When it started to get dark, we took the tube to Tower Bridge for some nighttime photo ops of the bridge and the Olympic Rings. What an exciting time to be visiting London!
Tower Bridge at night
The following morning we caught the end of the women's triathlon in Hyde Park, which you can read in my earlier Olympics post HERE. I was very excited about this, especially since I did my first sprint triathlon last summer. Obviously no where NEAR the level of this kind of event or this caliber athlete, but at least I know what it's like to do an event like this, even in it's most simplest and easiest forms.

After the triathlon, we ventured on with our sightseeing. First we went to London Tower, which was a very interesting place. So much history there, I really had no idea. It has been used as a prison, an artillery, and as a vault of sorts for the Crown Jewels, which we got to see! All I can say is WoW! So sparkly. Absolutely gorgeous. You look at those jewels and think, "Really? That's REAL?" It's so beautiful that I swear your mind starts to rationalize that nothing real can be that beautiful so it must be fake. Does that make sense? Maybe it's just me. lol.

A view from within Tower of London
From London Tower we went to Tower Bridge, which is practically a stone's throw from London Tower. We went INTO the bridge and walked across the enclosed walkway at the tippy top of the bridge. We learned about the construction and operation of the bridge. They also had displays here on the history of the Olympic games which was pretty neat. At this point in our vacation, I think we all started to lose some steam and found ourselves resting on benches any chance we could get.

Resting inside the pedestrian walkway
at the top of Tower Bridge
On our last full day in London, the girls slept in late [myself included!] while my husband went football stadium hopping. He's a big football fan and was excited to be able to go to all these stadiums that he sees on television all year long. :)

After he got back we had a late breakfast and then headed for a special little spot in London. Can you guess where based on this picture?

Abbey Road
Okay, even if you're not a Beatles fan, you probably recognized it anyway, right? Abbey Road studios where the Beatles recorded their albums. This was a pretty fun little excursion.

We then spent the afternoon in The British Museum which was phenomenal. You could spend days there and still not see everything, so we prioritized a few of their most popular items on exhibit and tried to fit it all in before closing time. The girls really petered out here so they plopped on a bench for a bit while Gabe and I zoomed around and tried to see the last few items on our list. We didn't quite get to it all, but did see most of the things on our list.

My guy inside the British Museum
Holding a Sumerian cuneiform
from 2700+ years ago! WOW! 
Hands on exhibit where we got to hold a piece of Sumerian cuneiform from 2700+ years ago! We also got to see the Rosetta Stone, sections of the Parthenon [a lot of controversy having this taken from Greece and placed in this British Museum.], the Lewis Chessman, a stunning collection of jade mosaic masks and sculptures from the Aztecs, and many other collections.

I knew we were all starting to fade because this was the first night we were back to our hotel before 7pm! I really wanted to eat dinner at this charming pub right around the corner from our hotel that we passed by every single day walking to the tube, but my youngest is a picky eater and didn't like anything on the menu and I was just too tired to be adamant about it, so we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. The food was good, but the pub would have been so much more British, you know?

The following day we packed up and headed to Heathrow for our flight home.

We had a brief stopover in Iceland again, but this time it was only an hour or so in the airport with extremely expensive food and souvenirs. We arrived in JFK airport in New York City at sundown and basically drove off into the sunset towards home in New Jersey. After being awake traveling for nearly 24 hours, it was pretty darned nice to sleep in my own bed. Even if jet lag did have me wide awake at 4 am for a few days straight. Yikes.

Arrived home to a beautiful Manhattan sunset
Home Sweet Home

First morning home, catching up on some emails...
Me and Peekaboo. 
I think she missed me. :)

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my vacation recap and look at my photos. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

REVIEW: Deeper by Megan Hart

Published July 1, 2009 by Spice Books 
TBR Challenge Review: August

The theme for August's TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy The Super Librarian was "steamy reads." Without any hesitation, I knew I would chose a book from my TBR pile by author Megan Hart. I've read several of Hart's novels in the past, have a few on my TBR bookshelf and yet more on my wish list. Obviously I'm a fan of her work.

Megan Hart writes erotic fiction--but really unlike anything you'd imagine a book of this genre would be like. Although there are romantic elements to her books, and they are love stories at their core, the books are not what most readers would classify as a romance novel. The endings are not always happily ever after type endings, but they do end with a satisfactory level of closure. The stories simultaneously revolve around the lives and love stories of two or more characters. Hart's stories are a unique form of women's fiction. Women's fiction with honest, natural eroticism that shows the multitude of ways people are bound together by sex and love.

Deeper is not my first book by Megan Hart and it certainly won't be my last. Despite the fact that her stories often tend to leave me a little broken hearted, I still go back for more. Her stories are not easy on your heart and will likely challenge your personal moral compass. They're emotionally complicated and the conflict resolution is never easy or obvious. The stories sometimes make you uncomfortable, but they make you think, empathize and learn about human nature. And because of that, the characters and their stories are unforgettable. I end up thinking about them for a very long time after I've read the book. Weeks, months and even years.

Deeper is the story of Bess Walsh and Nick Hamilton through alternating glimpses into their lives at different time periods--Then and Now. Then is the summer Bess and Nick met when she was 20 and he was 21 at Bethany Beach. Bess was the college girl, working a summer job in the beach town while living at her grandparents beach house. Nick was the local bad boy. Bess' relationship with her long time boyfriend at home was falling apart and what she thought was love was nothing compared to the depth of passion and longing that she felt with Nick. They were undeniably drawn to each other in ways neither one of them had ever felt before. An attraction so deep that they'd be forever etched on each other's souls. Sadly, their love for each other was limited by how far they could break through their insecurities and vulnerabilities and they never saw each other again after that summer.

Until twenty years later, that is. Bess' marriage has failed and she finds herself back at her grandparent's beach house once again, still grieving for the lover she never got over--Nick. Standing at the ocean's edge with nothing but love and longing on her mind and in her heart, she cries for him and his name falls from her lips. Suddenly his mouth is on hers and his hands are on her body. A gift or a curse, neither one is sure, but a second chance is what they've been given and a second chance is what they're going to take.

One of the most compelling aspects of Hart's characters is that they are so very real and flawed. They have real problems, make life altering decisions, make real mistakes and have to deal with the consequences. The mistakes they make aren't easy to fix and sometimes they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. There are several crucial secondary characters who contribute to Bess and Nick's story, such as Bess' husband, her two teenage sons, and her friend Eddie from that summer long ago who is now a business owner in Bethany Beach, but what goes on between Bess and Nick--and their personal issues-- is what's at the heart of Deeper.

Nick is the charming, sexy, aloof bad boy. He has the reputation of being a player and not sticking around. He admits he's an asshole and absolutely doesn't talk about he feels. He has issues trusting others--even those who promise to be there for him. Deep down, he's pretty insecure when it comes to emotional relationships. Not when it comes to sex, though. He's definitely uninhibited there. But when it comes to expressing how he feels, what he wants or any emotional intimacy--that's a tremendous obstacle for him and he just closes up. Eventually he drops hints of how he feels about Bess here and there, but because of HER issues with self doubt, it never really sinks in with her and what little does sink in, she doesn't believe him.

Then there's Bess. Every man she's ever loved has never been fully open and honest with her. He's either been a cheater or has the reputation of being a cheater or a player. Naturally this makes her even more susceptible to self doubt than she already is by her very nature. The men she is drawn to only fuel her self doubt and it's no wonder she feels unworthy of a faithful, long time lover. All of this inhibits her from being honest with herself and from speaking up for herself, her needs and wants in her relationships. As the story progresses, though, she starts to learn to be honest and upfront with how she feels in her relationships and to make healthy decisions in her life.

Deeper is one of those books that's just so darned hard to review. There's so many facets to this story to discuss, but near impossible to tell about in a review because it's the readers journey that's just as important as the character's journey. The reader gets jumbled up and tossed about as easily as the characters. It's so much better to experience it yourself than through another reader's eyes. So go read it.

I give Deeper 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads, but if I could give half stars, I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Why not 5 stars? Something about the supernatural aspects of this story just pull me out of the story. It's not quite paranormal and definitely not realistic, but somewhere in between, a place I have trouble with. While I feel this book is mostly Bess' story, it is also Nick's, yet it was difficult to find his personal growth in the Now. I'm not sure what he learned from his second chance. [I think you should read the book so we can discuss this]. Overall, though, this was a wonderful, unforgettable read that will stay in my thoughts for a long time.


Other books I've read and loved by Megan Hart:

This Is What I Want
Taking Care of Business [co-written with Lauren Dane]
Everything Changes

I also have Broken and Dirty by Megan Hart on my shelf, but haven't them read yet.

Have you read any of Megan Hart's books yet? Which ones? 

And if not, what are you waiting for?!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Our Iceland-UK-Olympics Vacation PART I

The 2012 London Olympic Games

I know I said I was going to tell you about our recent Iceland-UK vacation in one post, but I'm sitting here watching the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony on TV right now and am feeling inspired to at least tell you about the Olympic games part of our trip!

Many years ago we decided that we wanted to visit England one day. Then when London was announced as the host to the 2012 Summer Olympics, we decided that's when we should go. So this vacation has been part of our plans for a long time. Over a year ago, we bid on tickets to several Olympic events and ended up with tickets only to women's court volleyball. Our entire trip was then planned around these tickets for Olympic volleyball on August 2, 2012.

We left the USA for Iceland on July 26, 2012, visited Reykjavik for a day, arrived in London late July 27, 2012, took a train to Scotland for several days, returned back to London where we spent the rest of our trip, save for one day when we left the city for a whirlwind tour of Bath, England, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle. I'll tell you all about the rest of our trip in another post. For now, here are some photos from the Olympic games we attended.

In the afternoon of Tuesday, July 31, 2012 we met a family from Canada who had extra tickets for women's football [soccer] that night so my husband and eldest daughter were very lucky to be able to go to that game. They saw Great Britain vs. Brazil! So fantastic to see these two teams play each other. Let me tell you that any Olympic game is just AWESOME to see in person. But when the host team is playing? The crowds go WILD! It's like nothing else. You can imagine what it's like to be there in person when you're watching the games on TV and you see and hear the spectators cheering, but when you're there it's SO much louder, more thrilling and you cannot help but feel so lucky and so happy to be a part of something so spectacular. Great Britain won that game, by the way. GBR vs BRA 1-0.

Earl's Court Venue for Court Volleyball
2012 Summer Olympics, London
Two days later, on the afternoon of August 2, 2012 we headed to Earl's Court for women's court volleyball. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you probably saw most of these photos already. We had only picked up our tickets that morning in London, but when we got to the stadium we noticed that our seats were split up! Not good. I guess this happens often enough because we were directed to the ticket reconciliation counter to see if we could switch our seats. I was worried that we'd get worse seats, but no! They were even better! We were in the FIRST ROW! Yay! How's that for luck?

We saw two matches that afternoon. First was Turkey vs. Serbia, in which Turkey won in three sets. SRB vs TUR 0-3 and then Great Britain vs. Italy in which Italy won in three sets GBR vs ITA 0-3. We had a fantastic time. We were all smiles and kept on the edge of our seats watching these fantastic athletes compete against each other. Here are some photos from women's Olympic court volleyball:

Women's Volleyball
TUR vs SRB 3-0
2012 Summer Olympics, London 

Team GB Women's Volleyball
GBR vs. ITA 0-3
2012 Summer Olympics, London

The court sweepers for women's volleyball.
2012 Summer Olympics, London
Whenever we were in our hotel room we had the BBC coverage of the Olympics on the television. On Saturday morning, August 4, 2012 we caught the women's triathlon on television and I remembered that I made a note to myself WEEKS ago that I wanted to try to see some of this event! You know, since I became a triathlete myself last year and all. ;) So I did some super quick research on the triathlon course and where would be the best place for spectators without tickets to go for viewing this event. We booked out of our hotel, hopped on the Tube and raced over to Hyde Park where we were able to catch the last few laps of the running component of the triathlon. Even though it was really crowded and we had a limited view of the course, it was still SO thrilling or me to be able to catch part of this event in person. I was quite happy. Here are a few shots of the athletes in women's triathlon:

Women's Triathlon
2012 Summer Olympics
Hyde Park, London
Women's Triathlon
2012 Summer Olympics
Hyde Park, London
And that my friends, is how we were spectators in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Truly an experience of a lifetime. And if I could do it again, I would. In a heartbeat.

A view of Beach Volleyball
as seen from the top of The London Eye

Now I want to go to Sochi in 2014. :)