Saturday, September 29, 2012

In Death Series Reading Challenge: September 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.

I still have Salvation in Death on the nightstand bookmarked to page twenty something and haven't picked it up in several weeks. So no review from me this month.. :(

This month's series discussion is extremely self-serving.

How do I get out of this In Death reading slump I'm in? 

I'm stuck and I can't move forward! Help!

If anyone has series discussion suggestions, please drop me an email. I have shiny new social media icons up at the top of my sidebar. Just click on the little mail icon and zip me an email.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bloggiesta: Starting Line

Bloggiesta is officially underway! This is my first time participating in Bloggiesta so I'm pretty excited to make some improvements, learn some new tricks and meet new bloggers in the process. I'm admittedly not so great at time management, so hopefully I'll be able to actually follow through with some of my intentions!

Bloggiesta is group blog event that brings bloggers together for a weekend of blog improvements, mini challenges designed to teach improved productivity and blog management and twitter parties. Of course you can make blog improvements any time you want, but doing it alongside other bloggers turns tackling your to-do list into a party!

Bloggiesta is hosted this year by Suey of It's All About Books and Danielle from There's A Book and takes place Sept. 28-30.

Sign up for Bloggiesta HERE.  More than 200 bloggers are signed up!

Starting line posts are linked HERE.

Mini-Challenges are posted HERE.

Twitter parties! Friday Sept. 28  9-11pm EST
                         Saturday Sept. 29  noon-2pm EST
                         Sunday, Sept. 30  5-7pm EST

Just follow @Bloggiesta and the hash tag #Bloggiesta on twitter for parties and general blogger interaction.

My to-do list is quite ambitious, but I'm listing it all anyway and hoping to accomplish as much as I can.  Honestly, I'll be happy if I'm able to check one or two things off my list by the end of the weekend.

  1. Back up blog! I've never done this before.. 
  2. Add those cute little buttons to my sidebar. RSS feeds, Twitter, goodreads, instagram, email, etc..
  3. Create some pages. About me, On my bookshelf, In the kitchen, In the Garden, Health & Fitness, Travel & Adventures, Arts & Crafts 
  4. Update photos. Remove and or credit photos not my own.
  5. Add creative commons copyright thingy [need to figure this out] 
  6. Consolidate my separate blogs See how she runs... [fitness logs] and The happily ever after... book archives [lists of monthly reads since 2008] into my main blog. Maybe their own page here? 
  7. Start the process of making a unique, artistic header graphic. At least explore some options. My sources of inspiration: Angieville and Lurve A La Mode
  8. Participate in a few of the mini challenges. Quite a few of them are even relevant to my to-do list!
  9. Re-organize and update all the blogs in my feed reader. 
  10. Meet new bloggers through Bloggiesta!!!! I love making new friends, don't you?

Unrelated to Bloggiesta, I've got quite a few other book and blog related things I'd love to get to by the end of the weekend:

  1. Elemental Assassin Read Along discussion 
  2. Read first three chapters of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book for The Graveyard Read Along that starts Monday! 
  3. Finish reading this month's book club pick: Cold Fire by Kate Elliot 
  4. Finish and post book review of The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith 
  5. Weekend Cooking post 
  6. In Death Series Reading Challenge: September 2012 post

I told you my list was ambitious. ;)

Is there anything about my blog that YOU think needs improvement?  Please let me know! I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Where in the World Are You Reading: Waiting

Where in the World Are You Reading? is a fun new monthly themed meme that started over the summer by Trish [Love Laugh Insanity], Lisa [Books Lists Life] and Kelly [The Written World].  This is a book meme that encourages readers to share the places they're reading or getting their books around the world. Visit the links below for more details and follow the #wwread hash tag on twitter for more buzz!

For information about the meme, and how it got started, visit this Intro to Where in the World Are You Reading post.

For this month's link up and see where in the world other readers are reading while they are waiting, visit Lisa's blog HERE.

Where in the World Do I Read While Waiting? Well....

Every once in a while, I read when I'm sitting in the car waiting for my daughters to get out of school, IF I brought a book or magazine along or IF I am reading an ebook at the time. Otherwise I usually just read email or my twitter stream. ; ) 

Same as above when I'm waiting in a doctor's or dentist's office. But not at the DMV because OMG there's no line anymore! Who is the genius that fixed THAT after decades of torture?! 

I read in bed some nights, waiting for my husband to come to bed. 

I read in bed some nights when my husband is already in bed with me except he's fast asleep and I'm waiting to finish one more chapter before I go to sleep, too. 

I never, ever, ever read in the middle of the day, waiting to get motivated to do other things such as laundry, bills, mopping the floors, doing the dishes, etc. Nope. Which is why this photo below doesn't even exist! 

Reading while waiting to do other things.. 
Where in the world do YOU read while waiting? 

Want to join in? Next month's theme is Coffee Shop, Café, etc. and will be hosted by Trish.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Get bitten by 'The Spider' with The Elemental Assassin Series Read Along

The Book Vixen and Smash Attack Reads are hosting a Read Along of The Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep. This urban fantasy series features a kick ass female assassin named Gin Blanco known by her street name "The Spider." I have been wanting to read this series for ages. Just ask nath. She loves this series and every time she posts a review of the next book, all my comments are the same--'I want/need/must read this series!' So I'm  finally going to do it. Thanks to a big ole kick in the butt from The Book Vixen and Smash Attack Reads. What better motivation than to have deadlines and cool book people with whom to chat about the books, right? So if you've always wanted to read this series or if you're simply curious, why not grab the first book and see what you think? I may only be 70something pages in the first book, but already Gin has got my attention and I'm feeling the intensity of this character and her world.

There are currently seven full length novels and several novellas out already. For the read along, we're going to read one novel per month starting with Spider's Bite this month and ending with Deadly Sting [ the 8th book which will be released March 26, 2013] in April.

Visit the announcement post HERE for more information about the read along including links to the books on amazon.

Do you read the Elemental Assassin Series by Jennifer Estep? 

What are your overall impressions of the series? 

Which book is your favorite so far?


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Vegan Basil Pesto

The perfect recipe for harvesting all that basil in your garden at the end of the summer! 

Pesto is one of those foods that every home cook should know how to make. It's quick, easy, tasty, versatile and impressive. Well, at least impressive to your family and friends who don't know how easy it really is to make. Once you know the basic method of making pesto, you can get really creative with the variety of herbs or greens and nuts you use to make different flavors.

This recipe for basil pesto happens to be my personal favorite. It also happens to be vegan, simply because I prefer to make my pestos without Parmesan cheese. The first few times I ever had pesto, I thought it was okay, but kind of strong. Yet I loved the way it smelled and always wanted to love it more. Then one day I tried pesto my friend's homemade pesto and I was won over. Her secret? No Parmesan cheese! I started making my pesto without Parmesan cheese, too, and haven't turned back since. I think I just find the basil and Parmesan are just two very strong flavors and the way the compete with each other in traditional pesto just doesn't appeal to me, although I adore both of these ingredients separately. Anyway, if you normally aren't crazy about pesto maybe give this vegan variation a try and see if it doesn't win you over.
Vegan Basil Pesto
Once you make homemade pesto a few times, you won't need to measure ingredients anymore.. you'll just pull the ingredients together in your food processor, give it a whirl and have perfect pesto every time. 

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves 
2 cups tightly packed fresh parsley leaves 
4 garlic cloves 
1/2 cup pecan pieces 
olive oil [1/3 to 1/2 cup] 
kosher salt [1/2 to 1 teaspoon]

1. Add the basil, parsley, garlic and pecans into the bowl of your food processor and process it until finely chopped. 
Add basil, parsley, garlic and pecans
to food processor bowl
Note: You can do this in steps if you prefer, processing the garlic and pecans first until finely chopped, then adding the basil and parsley and processing a bit more before proceeding with step 2 below. 
Process until finely chopped.
2. While the processor is running, drizzle olive oil through the food chute until the pesto reaches the desired consistency. This can require anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil. 
Add olive oil and process until
 pesto is smooth.
3. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and give the pesto a few more whirls in the food processor. 
4. Use the pesto immediately in your favorite pesto recipe. 
5. Store any left over pesto in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for long term storage. 

Storing Pesto:
For best flavor, store pesto in a clean glass jar with a tightly fitting lid. Drizzle olive oil over the surface of the pesto until it is covered. This will help prevent the basil from oxidizing and turning a darker color. For best flavor, consistency and presentation, pesto should be used within a few days, although I have stored it a bit longer without any problems. It's a good idea to freeze whatever pesto you don't use within a few days.

Freezing Pesto:
This pesto freezes well. Again, store pesto in small, clean glass jars with tightly fitting lids and drizzle olive oil over the top until the surface of the pesto is covered with oil. It's also nice to freeze pesto in ice cube trays and then transfer the pesto cubes to freezer safe bags. Then when you need just need a tablespoon or two of pesto, it's at the ready. For best results use within 6 months, but I have used frozen pesto within 12 months.

How to use pesto:
+use as a sauce for pasta or gnocchi, diluting it a bit with the cooking water used to boil the pasta or gnocchi.
+use in a cream sauce for pasta--especially delicious with seafood.
+as a base on pizza instead of tomato sauce. See HERE.
+as a dip or spread on slices of rustic bread as an appetizer
+add a teaspoon or two to bowls of soup before serving.
+dot on top of tomato halves and roast
+as a spread on your favorite hot or cold sandwich
+drizzle over roasted vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, etc.

Do you like pesto? How do you use it?

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

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. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Library Loot LVII

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at Marg's

Here is my latest library loot. This is from two different visits to two different local libraries--my town library and the library from the next town over which is actually closer to my house! Oh, plus a new release from the latter mentioned library that I asked my friend to get me because they don't allow out of town residents to borrow their new releases. And books are considered new releases for a whole year! Kills me. Thank goodness I have a few friends in that town who don't mind getting on the hold lists for me. ; )

Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter
Pleasure of A Dark Prince by Kresley Cole

I've been on a roll re-reading and catching up with Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark (IAD) series, filling in the gaps of the books I don't already own with trips to the library. Omg this series is like candy! You stick your hand in the jar and you just want more, more, more! You can't stop eating. It's such a fun series. It's FUNNY and fun and lovable and adventurous and the characters go through hell for each other and their loved ones and get so torn up over their promises, their allegiances and their desires. It's oodles of alpha fun mixed with some seriously kick ass modern women who know what they want, or at least have a wild time figuring it all out. Anyway, I read Deep Kiss of Winter last week. LOVED the IAD story of Daniela the half Valkyrie and half Ice Fey Maiden and the vampire Murdoch Wroth. I wasn't crazy about the Gena Showalter short which is from her Alien Huntress series. The characters fell kinda flat for me and it just seemed everyone's motives were all just based on sex and instant desire without a whole heck of a lot of emotion. You can read my review of this book on goodreads HERE.

Next up is Pleasure of A Dark Prince, book NINE (!) in the IAD series. This one is the story of the Valkyrie named Lucia the Huntress [the Archer]--and Garreth MacRieve, Prince of the Lykae [werewolves]. This story is taking place around the same time as the other stories in this series, so in the beginning, Garreth doesn't yet know that his brother and the true King of the Lykae, Lachlain MacRieve still lives and is in fact in hot pursuit of his mate, the darling and timid half vampire, half Valkyrie Emma. That's book two. Anyway, I've already over a hundred pages into this story and really enjoying it. I like Lucia a lot and love the way Garreth is just over the moon for her. They're pretty darned adorable. I put it down, though, to read my September TBR Challenge book which I ended up not finishing in time anyway. Can't wait to get back to Pleasure of A Dark Prince soon!

Dream Lake by Lisa Kleypas 
This is third book in Ms. Kleypas' latest contemporary romance / chick lit Friday Harbor series. I'm looking forward to reading this one. The main character, Sam Nolan has some serious problems that will require a woman with patient and generous heart.

I haven't borrowed graphic novels in a while, so I browsed the shelves hoping to find some that might be fitting for the RIP VII reading event going on now. Here's what I brought home:

The Arrival by Shaun Tan.
Critically acclaimed, this one.

Fables: The Dark Ages 
by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Peter Gross, Andrew Pepoy, 
Michael Allred and David Hahn.
Winner of Twelve Eisner Awards! Saw this one on Marg's blog and I know Kelly reads them, too, so when I saw this one at the library, I grabbed it. I couldn't tell which book it is in the series, but it was the only one of the series my library had. Turns out it's the 12th one! Ho hum. Think I might like to hunt this series down and start with the 1st book.

Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia
by Edgar Allen Poe, Illustrated by Gris Grimly
This is a re-loot. Borrowed it earlier this year and never got around to reading it. Thought it would be a great RIP book. It's actually a picture book for teens! I hope to review it and maybe post some images of the illustrations and text inside.

You just KNOW I had to go check out the new cookbook shelf, too. I do that every visit. Here's what I'm reading in cookbooks right now:


Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
by Marisa McClellan.
Written by a popular food blogger. So many food bloggers are writing their own cookbooks these days. Such an awesome opportunity for the home cook. Really fantastic. Anyway, if you visit my blog regularly, you know I love making food from scratch, including jams and more recently canned tomatoes. Looking forward to finding some inspiration and recipes to try with this one.

Preserve It! by Lynda Brown
This cook was right next to Food in Jars, so I thought it would be a nice complement to my cookbook reading this week.

What are you reading from your library right now?

What was the last cookbook you bought or borrowed from the library?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

REVIEW: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

Operation Use My Ice Cream Maker

Back in July, Trish from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity announced her latest kitchen challenge--Operation Use My Ice Cream Maker. I just looooove ice cream (and other frozen desserts) and already own an ice cream maker so I was very excited to join Trish in this challenge. I posted about Ice Cream Makers and Ice Cream Cookbooks in August and vowed to make some homemade ice cream recipes. I made one. Last Saturday, I finally pulled out the ice cream maker and made the most fabulous homemade ice cream I've ever made in my life! Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. Wow.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home by Jeni Britton Bauer 
If you love ice cream, like to try gourmet flavors and enjoy making something unique from scratch in your own kitchen with wholesome ingredients, you must buy an ice cream maker and the cookbook Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. Trust me. You will not be disappointed.

I bought Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home cookbook earlier this year and spent a lot of time actually reading this book. Not just thumbing through the recipes, but actually reading it cover to cover. I loved reading about Jeni's unique artisan ice creams from the creative flavor combinations to her perfected methodology to her recommended food complements to her recipes. After much internal debate and polling my family members I decided on making Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream. ZOMG. It was incredible. Not too rich, not too sweet, perfect pistachio flavor, wonderful smooth texture. If all of the recipes in this cookbook are as good as this one? I am so doomed.

The method for most of the ice creams is very similar. The steps are a bit more involved than simply mixing milk, cream, sugar and fruit or chocolate or other flavoring AND it involves a few bowls and a pot, but it is so worth it.

There's a really fantastic article on the food website Food 52 written by Jeni herself about how to make Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Base. She outlines some of the advance prep you need to do so that when you go into the kitchen to actually make the ice cream, the process runs smoothly and you're not fumbling around for another bowl, pouring and mixing things while you need to be stirring that, and so on. It's really helpful to have everything measured and bowls ready before you begin. There are useful pictures, too.

The Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream is made with real pistachios that are first gently roasted on a cookie sheet in the oven for a few minutes, then processed in a food processor until you have a smooth pistachio paste or nut butter. The color is a mellow yellow-green and buttery, sweet smell and taste.

The pistachio paste is then whisked with a bit of cream cheese and a pinch of sea salt. Later it is added to a milk, cream and sugar base that's been cooked and thickened with a bit of cornstarch. The mixture is then transferred to a freezer zip-top bag and submerged in a bowl of ice and water to cool. After about 30 minutes, the ice cream mixture is poured into the container of the ice cream maker and churned for about 25 minutes or until a thick soft serve consistency.
Note: I use the Cuisinart 1 1/2 Quart Automatic Ice Cream Maker and am very happy with it. This is also the ice cream maker that the author used to test all of her recipes for the cookbook.

Now you're supposed to quickly transfer the ice cream into a container, cover the surface of the ice cream with parchment paper to protect it from air and then ripen the ice cream in the freezer for at least 4 hours before serving. We ate some first. We couldn't resist!

Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream
{Right out of the ice cream maker--I couldn't wait!}
The next evening we had scoops of Roasted Pistachio Ice Cream for dessert and everyone was blown away by the quality of flavor and texture of this ice cream. It was perfect. And since this was the evening after my big bike event [107 miles, 9110 ft elev, 8hrs, 4670 calories], I didn't even feel guilty about indulging in a second scoop! Sorry I don't have photos of this ice cream perfection after it was firm and scoopable. I was really tired by this time of the evening after riding in the Gran Fondo all day and just forgot!

Since the ice cream recipes use pretty much the same base recipe with different ingredient combinations for the flavors, I'm confident they'll all provide similarly fantastic results. Next I'm going to make the Roasted Pumpkin 5-Spice Ice Cream and Baked Apple Sorbet. I can't wait!

I highly recommend this cookbook. If you already have an ice cream maker, you need to get this cookbook. If you've been thinking about getting an ice cream maker, go ahead and get one, but get this cookbook, too.

I give Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home 5 out of 5 stars on goodreads.


Visit Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at their website and their blog . You can also follow them on twitter @jenisicecreams and on instagram with the same username.

Note: I purchased this cookbook with my own money and have not been compensated in any way for this review which is entirely my own opinion.

Be sure to visit Trish's blog today, too for her Operation Use My Ice Cream Maker post. She was more thorough with her challenge and made several ice creams, frozen yogurts and frozen desserts. Lots of photos, too! Mmmm! 

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

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, September 14, 2012

My July & August Adventures {in books!}

I fell a little behind with my monthly adventure posts over the summer. I think being away the week July turned into August did me in. I am going to keep the adventures brief because I've already highlighted the most important parts anyway with my vacation and cycling posts. I'll focus on what I read over the summer instead--especially since some people complained that I don't blog about books enough anymore. You know who you are .... this post's for you. ; )

In books: 
Total books read: 6

Young Adult ....... 1
 Romance .............. 5

1. The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
2. The Witness by Nora Roberts
3. Danger's Kiss by Sarah McKerrigan
4. Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins
5. Hearts of Fire by Kira Brady [novella]
6. Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady

It seems like ages since I read this books, not two months ago! I really enjoyed reading one of Nora Robert's regular romantic suspense novels as opposed to her crime fiction books she writes under J.D. Robb. The Witness was a perfect blend of romance and suspense, with very realistic and likable characters. In the end, I'd have to say I would have liked a little more depth or elaboration to the romance, but overall I really liked it and would definitely read more of her books. Good thing I've got a mess of them on my shelves!

I'm a big fan of Kristan Higgins' contemporary romances. The stories are chock full of quirky characters, charming characters, humor, misunderstandings, relationship blunders, family drama we can all relate to, and a sweet romance. Somebody to Love features Parker Welles, a young single mom, whose filthy rich father is suddenly broke and in prison, even after having spent Parker's trust money. All she has to her name is a decrepit little house in Maine that she inherited from her aunt. Parker heads up to Maine to turn the house around and get some cash into her banking account and who shows up to help her out but her father's young lawyer and right hand man, James Cahill. Of course they fight their love practically every step of the way, but what fun would it be if they didn't, right? While not my favorite Higgins' book, this one didn't disappoint! Good stuff.

Hearts of Fire, the prequel novella to the new Deadglass trilogy by debut author Kira Brady, and the first full length novel in the series, Hearts of Darkness were the last two books I read in July. Well written, fascinating setting, characters and series premise, Hearts of Darkness is a very creative and suspenseful story. If you like romance or urban fantasy do not miss this one!

Total books read: 9

1. Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb
2. Deeper by Megan Hart
3. Gold by Chris Cleave
4. Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan
5. Before the Moon Rises by Catherine Bybee
6. Embracing the Moon by Catherine Bybee
7. No Rest For the Wicked by Kresley Cole [re-read]
8. Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole [re-read]
9. Dark Needs at Night's Edge by Kresley Cole [re-read]

My favorite part of the day...
relaxing with a great book.
Deeper by Megan Hart
August 2012
It's always a good reading month when you've read a Megan Hart book. Entertaining, sexy and always thought provoking, Hart is always on the top of her game. I read Deeper in August, which was the perfect summer read from Hart's back list because it takes place in a beach town, but really, read it any time of the year.

Gold by Chris Cleave is a newer release book that captured the competitive spirit of Olympic athletes in training with a strong dose of women's fiction as the two main characters are friends, sometimes enemies and always competitors for the podium in women's track cycling. This book was at times uplifting and at other times, very heart breaking and frustrating. Not frustrating in the writing or story telling, but frustrating in that I wanted things to work out just so and they don't. Which is good actually, because you want a realistic story and real characters, flaws, mistakes and maliciousness and all. Because that's what life is like. Anyway, I highly recommend it.

I downloaded a few quick ebook reads that caught my eye on goodreads and twitter and I wasn't disappointed. Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan and two werewolf romances by Catherine Bybee--Before the Moon Rises and Embracing the Moon. Nothing earth shattering awesome or anything, but seriously fun and sexy reads.

Then as you can see, I indulged in a re-read of Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series. I read the first five full length books back in 2007-2008 as the books came out, but then I failed to keep up with new releases after that. Back in April, I decided it was time to catch up, so I picked up where I left off, which was the 7th book--Kiss of a Demon King. I got maybe thirty pages into the story when I realized I could use a refresher. The details about the other characters, the world, and all the little subplots were very fuzzy. I probably could have forged on through and done just fine, but since I really love "getting" all the little inside jokes and nuances between characters who know each other through past books, I knew I'd be a lot happier reading books 7 through 12 if I re-familiarized myself with this series. And what better way to do that than to go back to the beginning and re-read the first six books? So that's what I did. I put Kiss of a Demon King down and went back to the beginning, starting with the prequel novella that I never read, The Warlord Wants Forever, which is Myst the Coveted and Nikolai Wroth's story. I had a lot of fun re-reading these stories and have to say reading them in a row one after the other is very cool because these stories all overlap the same timeline so I'm remembering where people are going and what they're doing in other books as it's all mentioned again in subsequent books. It's been really fun!

Do you read the Immortals After Dark series? 
Which book is your favorite so far?

In photography: 
Butterfly in my garden.
July 2012
I had fun participating in a photo-a-day challenge hosted by the Fat Mum Slim blog, or @fatmumslim on twitter. I kept up for all of June, July and August. The fun daily prompts helped me stay on track taking a picture every day and the best part? I made some new friends on Instagram! I decided not to continue with that particular challenge through the fall and instead go back to just doing my own thing for my daily photo. I'm still determined to complete my Project 365! It's been almost 9 1/2 months now. I think I'm going to make it this time!

As always, you can follow my photography challenges on

In the garden: 
My five tomato plants are doing pretty well considering I planted so late. I've been picking red or yellow cherry tomatoes almost every day in the last several weeks. Finally! I still haven't picked a ripe slicing tomato--they're all still green and growing. To encourage the plants to put their energy to fattening up and ripening their fruit instead of generating new plant growth, maybe two weeks ago I pinched off all the growing ends of the plants and any flowers that had not yet set fruit. I think it helped because now the green tomatoes have gotten bigger and just this week, two of the tomatoes have started turning red. I was beginning to think it wasn't going to happen and I'd be stuck eating nothing but fried green tomatoes from my garden! This is what happens when you wait until the 4th of July to get your tomato plants in the ground! Remind me next year to do it in May..

Thanks for reading about my July & August adventures.

Here's wishing you an stupendous September! Even if it is half over already. ;)

Thursday, September 13, 2012


This year marks the 7th annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril or R.I.P. reading event created and hosted by Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings. I have participated in Carl's springtime Once Upon a Time Challenge in the last three years {although I'm really terrible at writing and linking up reviews..}, but this year will be my first year participating in R.I.P.

The R.I.P. group reading event takes place from September 1 through October 31, 2012.

The purpose of R.I.P., and I quote, is to enjoy books and movies/television that would be classified (by you) as:

Dark Fantasy. 
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

As usual, Carl has established very relaxed and fun rules for this challenge. Basically have fun reading and share your experience with others.

There are several levels of peril to which you can subject yourself. I'm going to do 'em all! Bahahahaha! Evil laughter turns to giggling. The ever ambitious reading challenge person am I.

Peril the First. This peril requires reading FOUR books that fit the loose classifying categories above. I like loose.

Peril the Short Story. Read some short stories that fit the challenge categories. I can do that.

Peril on the Screen. Watch something scary or eerie or dark during the challenge. I used to love watching scary movies up until a few years ago, but not anymore. My husband is always trying to get me to watch something spooky with him and I decline every time. I'm such a chicken. I will indulge him just this once. O_0

Peril of the Group Read. An October group read for The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. This book has been on my TBR list since it was published in 2008. It's about time I read it!

{There's also a September Group Read of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters going on right now!}

Want to join R.I.P. ? You can join and just read ONE book or ONE short story or watch ONE scary thing on the screen. Come on! Let's get spooked! Let's get our hearts racing!

Check it out HERE.

Go ahead. . . I dare you!

I'd love to hear your book or movie recommendations for R.I.P.! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Late Summer Sangria for Two

Or Four. But most likely just two.

My friend Eva came over for lunch today under the pretense of discussing the upcoming year of Cadette girl scouts for our daughters, but really we mostly chatted about our summers, our families and ourselves. :) We had rosemary ham, roasted turkey on little whole wheat rolls, vegetable chips {potato, sweet potato, yucca, parsnip and beet! From Trader Joe's but just like the Terra brand chips. omg SO good!}, a spinach and lettuce salad with shredded cabbage, apples, dried cranberries and pecans. Sounds delicious, right? To bring a little pizzaz to our little lunch on this glorious late summer day, I decided to make us some seasonally inspired sangria. This was my first time making sangria at home and it won't be my last. It's so easy, delicious and a wonderful way to showcase the season's best fruit. I can't wait to make it again!

Special thanks to Mariana for reminding me how much I love sangria. ;)

Late Summer Sangria for Two
Late Summer Sangria for Two 
Keep a pack of juice boxes on hand for this recipe.

1 small apple
1 small plum
1 cup seedless grapes
          {I used red, black and green grapes}
1/2 cup fruity red wine
1 cup ice cubes
1/2 cup natural grape or berry juice
          {I used a berry juice box}

Core apple and cut into thin slices. Cut plum into thin slices, removing the pit. If serving two people, put 1/4 of the apple slices, 1/4 of the plum slices and 1/4 of the grapes into each of two large wine glasses. Save the remaining fruit for round two of sangria OR use it to serve two more lucky people.

Add the wine and ice cubes to a martini shaker and shake vigorously for a minute or so to get wine icy cold and diluted a bit from the ice.

Pour the wine over the fruit in each wine glass until the wine fills the glass halfway. Top with some grape or berry juice.

Store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Sangria tastes best when fruit and wine have had time to meld, anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours to overnight.

Simply add more fruit and wine mixture to your glass for round two. There should be enough fruit and wine mixture to make about four glasses of sangria.


Monday, September 10, 2012

My First Gran Fondo!

Yesterday was the big day--I participated in my very first Gran Fondo and finished with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and a smile on my face. If you're unfamiliar with the term, a Gran Fondo is a mass participation bike event that is typically a century (100 miles) or longer and is also typically held annually. It is not a race, although some Gran Fondos such as this one, have timed sections. In the case of this Fondo, the four toughest climbs were timed. The Fondo I did yesterday was the 2nd annual NJ Gran Fondo and covered 107.4 miles with 9110 ft. of elevation gain throughout the course. That's a lot of climbing!

I had been training for this long ride for months now with my friend and cycling partner. We have been riding rolling hills and climbs since I started biking, and this spring we even ventured out onto the Fondo route to practice some even tougher ones. Prior to yesterday, the longest ride I had done was 70 miles, so you can imagine I had some trepidation about riding 107 miles in the Fondo. But I did it! I want to say it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be... but it was. lol! Yet.. I handled the mental part better than I expected AND in the end, as exhausted as I was and as tired and achy my legs were those last 15 miles or so.. I felt pretty darned good crossing that finish line. :)

Up at 4 am to eat, use the bathroom multiple teams and pack my gear into the car.

What I ate: 1 egg, scrambled
                  1/2 cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese
                  4 oz. orange juice
                  4 oz. vitamin water
                  1/2 a peach

At the 2012 NJ Gran Fondo START
We were on the road by 5:30 am and arrived at the start line by 6:40 am or so ready to ride. I was really nervous in the morning, but after we were all geared up and at the start area, I did calm down a little.

On my bike: Two 24 oz. water bottles, both 2 parts vitamin water and 1 part water

What I ate: 1/3 Apple pie Larabar

After a 15 minute delay the ride finally started at 7:15 am. It was pretty fun riding through the streets of downtown Morristown in a big pack of cyclists. The sound of bikes whizzing through the streets and I was a part of it! After about 5 minutes into the ride, I wasn't nervous at all anymore. Yay!

The route was pretty crowded with cyclists for at least the first 20 miles. Not so crowded that it felt dangerous, but there were always riders around you. A lot different than when Maureen and I ride out there alone in the wee hours of weekend mornings!

I collided with a bee and it stung me right on the face along my jawline! OUCH!!!! I hadn't been stung by a bee in a really long time. It freaking hurts! The stinging lasted at least 30 minutes and it even felt numb after a while. It did subside, but even now it stings a little and itches, too.

I took this photo somewhere between mile 15 and 20 while riding. We had just turned onto this flat road and it was a low key moment. There were quite a few times on the ride after this when I wished I could take a picture, but I was too focused on riding or too tired or plain just didn't want to stop. So here's my one photo of actual biking going on. ;)

On the road.
NJ Gran Fondo, September 9, 2012
MILE 20 Rest Stop. 9:06 am
This first rest stop was really crowded. We made quick work of using the porta potties and grabbed some food.

What I ate: 1/2 peanut butter sandwich
                  2/3 Apple Larabar

MILE 43 Rest Stop. 10:51 am
This rest stop was past the turn off for riders who were doing the shorter versions of the Gran Fondo so from here on all the riders were in for the long haul of 107.4 miles. This rest stop was less crowded, but we still didn't stay long. Grabbed some more food and topped our water bottles with powerade and water. I usually dilute sports drinks while I'm riding to 2 parts sports drink to 1 part water.

What I ate: handful of grapes
                  1/2 a peach
                  3 orange wedges
                  1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich

We were now on parts of the route I have never ridden. In fact, I haven't even been in this area of New Jersey in a car! Beautiful countryside, although I have to admit for the most part I was focused on cycling and not sight seeing. I did get a little bit of a cramp in my side after the above mentioned rest stop, but I think maybe it was too much food or too much acidity with the oranges and the peach. I felt better after mile 50 or so.

MILE 63 Rest Stop. 12:23 pm.
Past the mid mark of the route! Yay! Two timed climbs behind us and two more to go. By now I was getting hot and my back started to feel a little uncomfortable, so I was hoping to find some shade to sit and stretch a little. However, this rest stop was in a huge open area with no shade! A parking lot surrounded by grass with no trees and it was probably the hottest part of the day at this point. We parked our bikes, which means we laid them down in the grass. Some guy next to us was putting on sunscreen and I asked if I could have a squirt. I applied sunscreen at 6:30 am but I didn't bring any along and all of a sudden I knew that was a mistake. This guy gave me his tube of sunscreen! How nice is that. I offered it to other people when I was done but no one wanted it. Honestly, he saved me from a sunburn. I got more color to my skin by the end of this day than I had all summer long. I would have been burned if I hadn't reapplied sunscreen here. Again, we moved on after topping off our water bottles and fueling up.

What I ate: 4 orange wedges
                  2 bites of a banana
                  handful of grapes
                  1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich

MILE 80 Rest Stop: 2:04 pm
Back in familiar territory since mile 70 or so, I can picture the rest of the ride in my mind and it's doable, even though I'm starting to feel pretty tired. This rest stop is low on food but I manage to force myself to eat some more. Nothing is really appealing anymore. I had read that there was going to be gelato at the rest stops and I'm wondering where the heck it is at this point because I want it. Oh and I use the porta potty here and guess what? I got my period! Okay now I'm feeling pretty freaking amazing. I'm at mile 80 of a 107 mile ride and I JUST GOT MY PERIOD. I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR! And whimper a little, but mostly roar. At least it wasn't raining, right? In the meantime, my family texts me the cutest picture ever of the three of them and a 'You can do it!' cheer and I actually get choked up. We ate a little, topped our water bottles, and were off.

What I ate: handful of hot grapes [who leaves grapes out in the sun??]
                  1 anzac cookie.

MILE 93 Rest Stop. 3:28 pm
We debated whether or not we were going to stop at this one or just ride straight through the last 14 miles, but I was in front and signaled to my partner that we were stopping. We pulled into the parking lot and I told her I just wanted to quickly check if they had gelato here. If not we could move on right away. She said she just knew that's what I was after. Hey, I do not deny my love and desire for frozen desserts! Lo and behold they had gelato! Finally!

Blueberry swirl pop at Mile 93 :)

What I ate: 1 fabulous gelato pop.
                  {Blueberry swirl.}
                  1 handful of grapes
                  4 orange wedges
                  1/3 Blueberry muffin Larabar

We set off on the last leg of our ride and now we were really fatigued. At this point, my legs started to ache but knowing we were so close to the end helped me get back on that bike and keep going. Let me tell you they made us work for that finish line, though, because we were still climbing hills up until about a mile before the finish. I'm not kidding.

MILE 107.4 FINISH LINE 4:37 pm

WE DID IT!!!!!! I finished with very tired, achy legs but felt pretty darned thrilled with what I accomplished today. I'm really happy about the whole experience and would definitely do it again.
Self portrait at finish line.
NJ Gran Fondo, September 9, 2012
We biked 107.4 miles in 8:04:25. That's 8 hours, 4 minutes and 25 seconds.
We were out on the course for about 9 hours and 19 minutes, including the time spent at rest stops. That's approximately 15 minutes spent at each rest stop.

I burned approximately 4670 calories.

I and my friend & cycling partner at finish line.
NJ Gran Fondo, September 9, 2012
Ignore the fact that one of my arms is two shades paler than the other!!! Lighting issues. We are standing in dappled sunlight beneath a city tree in the sidewalk. It's true! ;)

Would you believe we actually got back on our bikes and rode through the parking deck to find our car? Uphill in the parking deck, too! I had to laugh at that.

On the way home I finished any food I had on me--which wasn't much!-- and most of my drinks. Interestingly, we weren't that hungry when we were finished.

What I ate: 2/3 Blueberry muffin Larabar

At home, my family came out to the driveway when I pulled in and greeted me with smiles, hugs, kisses and congratulations. They are my best support team! My oldest even baked sugar cookies for me, which I sampled right away. After telling them tales from my ride for a good 20 minutes and a glorious shower, we had Thai take out for dinner and then some homemade pistachio ice cream that I made on Saturday just for after the Fondo. It was amazing!

Thank you all for your support, encouragement and cheers along the way of this journey. If there is one lesson I can pass on to you, it is to not be afraid to try something new, even something difficult that you could never imagine yourself doing. Decide to do it, set some realistic goals and get out there and do it. Because if I can decide to bike 107 miles and get out there and do it . . . so can you. Don't believe me? Just think, less than three years ago I wrote a post titled BIKE IS A FOUR LETTER WORD. Today I wrote a post titled MY FIRST GRAN FONDO!

Believe in yourself. xo

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gran Fondo TODAY!

Me, my bike and 107 miles of road. Let's do this!

I'm going to try to document the day with photos and brief comments on twitter and instagram and maybe facebook. You can follow me on twitter via @ChristineA and on instagram via @thehappilyeverafter. I'll also try to remember to use the hashtag #NJGranFondo.

You can see the NJ Gran Fondo course HERE.

See you at the finish line! :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Signing Up for Bloggiesta

It's Bloggiesta Time!

What is Bloggiesta, you ask?

Bloggiesta is an annual blogging event co-hosted by Suey of Suey's Books and Danielle [1st Daughter] of There's A Book that takes place on the weekend of September 28-30, 2012. Basically everyone who signs up has decided to set aside time that weekend to do some 'home improvements' so to speak on their blogs and interact with each other while they do so.

Examples of things people do for Bloggiesta are change their blog layout, add or delete widgets, catch up on reviews, learn new formatting from other bloggers, anything really related to making changes to your blog. There will also be some mini challenges hosted by fellow bloggers and prizes, too.

Since I have a few ideas of some changes I'd like to make--mostly cleaning up my side bars and reorganizing some things, I decided Bloggiesta would be a great motivator to get some of it done.

Check out the sign up post at Danielle's blog HERE for more information and to sign yourself up. It promises to be a productive and fun blog event.

See you there!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day of School

I can't believe it's another new school year again. Didn't we just have one of those? This first day just snuck up on me! We were prepared with some new school clothes and school supplies and all, but I guess our minds just weren't wrapped around the fact that summer is over and school is ON. Okay, perhaps especially mine because as much as I'm trying not to think too much, that bike ride is sitting front and center on my mind these days.

Here is this year's photo of the girls from this morning:
First Day of School
Sept. 6, 2012
Here are the first day of school photos of the girls from just four years ago:

Big difference, huh? Especially with youngest. My babies are getting so grown up!

My oldest [on left] is now a senior in high school. I cannot believe it. She has a pretty full course load again this year and is also already playing Varsity Volleyball. They've been practicing daily since we came home from vacation and they've even had games before school has even started! She's still doing a lot of photography--recreationally and getting paid for some, too! Portraits, Sweet 16 parties, an upcoming Bar Mitzvah, and so on. She'll be photographing for the school during the year, too.

Youngest [on right] is now an 8th grader, at the top of the middle school food chain. ;) She's taking dance again this year--ballet, jazz and contemporary and she's continuing with girl scouts, as well. She's a Cadette girl scout again this year and the girls will be working on and finishing their Silver Award by spring of next year.

I sometimes like to make some New School Year's Resolutions this time of year. Not necessarily for me personally, but resolutions that will help whip me back into shape as domestic goddess supreme. Bah ha ha. That was a joke. Seriously, though, sometimes I need to little kick in the behind to run a smoother household and these are a few of my ideas:

1. Menu plan dinners Sun-Thurs.
I already do this often, and when I do, it's SO helpful. I need to be more consistent about it. Friday and Saturday are wildcard days for take out and or if someone wants to take me out for a nice dinner. :) Or I'll cook, but it'll be on the fly.

2. Do the dishes | Clean the kitchen every night.
In other words, don't leave it piled in the sink for the morning. I may be tired at 8:30 pm and just want to relax and hang around with my husband, but having to deal with a messy kitchen at 6:45 am when everyone's foraging for breakfast and I'm packing lunches is so much WORSE. Seriously, this should be a no-brainer.

3. Enforce Sunday chores with the girls.
This is all my fault. I can't really blame them for not helping more around the house when I don't ask them to, but they really need to pick up a few more chores. Eldest scoops the cat's litter boxes at night and takes out the garbage. Youngest makes a pathetic attempt at setting the table for dinner and then feeds the cats in the evening. Granted my oldest also helps me out by "babysitting" her grandfather if she's home and I need to go out and do an errand, which is a HUGE help. My youngest has done this for me a couple of times last month, too. I'm glad she's finally mature enough for that responsibility. But still, I'd like them to take on a bit more responsibility with other chores. Mostly, I'd like them to pick up after themselves in our living spaces--family room, dining room, etc. Everyone tends to leave their stuff around and not in their storage places. I'd also like them to clean their bathroom! Sometimes I don't go in there for several days and then when I do, I'm so shocked at what two girls can do to a bathroom! Or should I say, not do. I'm declaring Sunday as Clean-Your-Bathroom Day since it's usually the one day of the week I can be assured they're both home for the most hours of the day. It's usually homework day, too. It's going to be their FAVORITE day of the week! I just know it! :)

If you have school-age children, how is school going for yours? 
I think we are among the very last schools in the nation going back to school!

Do you menu plan for the week in advance? 

What chores did you have to do as a teenager?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Library Loot LVI

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at Marg's

It's been so long since I looted my library. The last time I reported my latest stack of library books was back in July when my 13 year old and I brought home some very exciting YA novels. NONE OF WHICH I ENDED UP READING. I returned them without reading them. Ugh. Don't you hate that? Anna did finish reading Across the Universe and says she would give it a B-. The following is what I've borrowed since then:

Gold by Chris Cleave 

I borrowed this new release from the library in August and since it was only a two week book, I pretty much read it and returned it within a few days. I liked it a lot and actually plan on reviewing it. Which I'd better do before I forget those little thoughts that I want to share.

I always peruse the new non-fiction shelves when I visit my library, usually finding a cookbook or two to bring home. These are the two I brought home recently:

Spilling the Beans 
by Julie Van Rosendaal & Sue Duncan
Published by Whitecap Books, 2011

I love beans and do eat them pretty regularly either in cooked dishes or in salads. I have had them in a Filipino dessert called halo-halo that is SO delicious. Very high in calories but omg so good. I had borrowed another bean cookbook several months ago from which I copied down a few recipes, but honestly, I like this one even more. The cookbook has a wide variety of recipes including beans for breakfast, appetizers & snacks, salads, sandwiches, soups & stews, one dish meals, pastas, sides and even baking with beans. All of the recipes are family friendly and would appeal to kids and even the non-bean lover. Plus there are tons of gorgeous, mouth watering photos. I can't wait to try some of these recipes and I have the feeling this cookbook might end up on my wish list to own.

Vegan a la Mode by Hannah Kaminsky 
Published by Skyhourse Publishing, 2012

What do I love more than any other food? Ice cream. I could eat it every day. This book is loaded with recipes for vegan ice cream. No dairy or eggs in any of these recipes but I don't think you'd miss it. The recipes are simple and call for ingredients most vegans would likely have on hand and if not, they're likely easy enough to find in most major supermarkets or health food stores. Even though I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, I have bookmarked several such as Easy as Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream, Chai Latte Ice Cream, Horchata Ice Cream, White Russian Ice Cream, Pistachio Praline Ice Cream and Pear-Cider Sorbet. Yum don't those flavors sound so good? Note: an ice cream maker is necessary for these recipes.

And that's my latest library loot!

What do you have out from your library right now?

Monday, September 3, 2012

One Gran Fondo, Coming Up!

Almost sounds like a coffee order, doesn't it? ;)

Some of you may recall that I participated in my first sprint triathlon last September? Like I'd let you forget. ;) You may also recall me mentioning that my best event in the tri was the biking. Whereas I placed in the 23rd percentile overall, in the individual events I was slightly above average in the running, a bit below average in the swimming, and I managed to kick butt in the biking placing in the 4th percentile! I was surprised and thrilled with this achievement. I decided very shortly after the tri to focus on my strength and maybe sign up to do a biking event in 2012. One of my friends wanted to do the same thing so we decided back in September 2011 to do the 2nd annual NJ Gran Fondo that takes place in September 2012. A Gran Fondo is an Italian name typically used in the United States to describe a mass-participation cycling event that is usually held annually and usually a century [100 miles or 161 km] or longer. The 2012 NJ Gran Fondo is 107.4 miles [171 km] and 9108 ft [2766 m] of elevation gain. And IT'S NEXT SUNDAY!

Okay so if you've been paying attention to my monthly adventure posts, I've been reporting the miles I and my friend [and cycling partner] have put into training for the upcoming Fondo. We rode all winter long, nearly every Saturday or Sunday as long as there was no rain or snow falling and temperatures were above freezing. Those mornings when the temperature hovered around the freezing mark, we didn't ride more than an hour or two, 20-30 miles maximum. Then as winter gave way to spring, we started riding longer and more frequently. Then we threw in some even longer rides, up to 70 miles [112.7 km] or so. Once the kids were out of school we started riding early on weekday mornings as well. We also rode sections of the actual Fondo course a few times, including the toughest climb which still kicks my butt.

A few weeks ago, while my cycling partner was on vacation, I did a 63 mile ride [The Medio Fondo named Best Ride in New Jersey by Bicycling Magazine!] with three women I had never met before [I found them through an email contact in a local tri women training group from last year]. It took a lot of courage for me to do this. So many unknowns involved--riding with strangers, a route I've never done before, my comparative skill and endurance levels, and so on. But I did it and it was eye-opening and humbling. I struggled on and off to keep up with the pace of the group on this ride, both with speed and endurance. It was not my longest ride to date, but it was certainly the most challenging. It seemed there was always a hill in front of us. The course did have more elevation gain in the 63 miles [5400 ft.] than I had ever done in a single ride before, so at least it gave me a clue why I had such a hard time. But this route was clearly indicative of the entire Fondo and all I could think was, "I am in TROUBLE!" :(

Needless to say, after this ride, I started to doubt my ability to complete the Fondo. My anxiety went through the roof and I admit I even shed a few tears because of it. I can hear my cycling partner in my head as I type this: "No crying in cycling!" She's right! There should never be a reason to cry doing a sport you enjoy. I really need to learn to relax and just go with the flow and not worry. Why do I get so worked up over biking. This is supposed to be fun! Not stressful! I've been working very hard on that in the last two weeks and feel better today than I did two weeks ago after that grueling ride. I really believe our mind is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. That whole mind over matter thing... that having a positive attitude really plays a roll in our success.

My new bike pedals
Oh and getting bike shoes and clipless pedals helped too. Yeah, I'm embarrassing to admit, but for the last three years since I started cycling, I have been using regular sneakers and toe cages [straps and clips] on the pedals. I have been too chicken to get the proper set up on my bike, not to mention the expense. But my sweet husband picked up on my anxiety and that I wanted to get bike shoes and new pedals, but I was scared of the change and scared of falling and is it smart to make this change with less than three weeks to the Fondo, etc., and he bought me new bike shoes and pedals two days later for an anniversary gift! It took me a couple of days to get up my nerve to try it, but after 30 minutes in an empty parking lot and just one fall, I got the hang of it. Now I've been riding around for the last week as if I always had them. :)

So for the next week, the plan is to take it easy exercise wise--nothing strenuous. Maybe just an easy ride or two to keep warmed up so to speak, but not fatigued. Absolutely nothing on Saturday and maybe nothing on Friday, either. Aside from that, the rest of my focus will be to relax mentally. No anxiety, no worries. I'm going to finish the ride. I'm ready. I'm going to feel happy about the whole thing.

As long as it doesn't rain. :|

And I don't get my period next weekend. :/

What kinds of activities cause you stress? How do you manage your anxiety?

Have you ever biked a century or Fondo? What advice can you give a first timer?