Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From my Garden [Wordless Wednesday]

Another weekly blog meme I've been wanting to do for so long. But.. but..  WORDLESS Wednesday? That's going to be soooo hard not to type anything. See? I've messed up already. ;)

photo taken on iphone 4S

For more wordless wednesday posts, visit here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday, everyone!

I've been thinking about participating in some weekly blog memes in hopes of sparking some blogging consistency on my part and this meme is one of them. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, the goal of which is for readers to share what they're reading, spark conversation and maybe expand our reading lists. There's usually a link up at Sheila's blog every Monday, but of course the first day I decide to join there isn't one. ;)

Sheila has been busy hosting a Reading to Beat the Band book event for Banned Book Week last week, so go check that out.

Now for the the books I'm reading this week. Normally I am a one book at a time kind of girl. Maybe two if one is a graphic novel and the other is a regular full length novel. But right now I find myself pages deep into not one, not two, not even three books but SIX! Who does that? Okay it's really more like five because I shouldn't be counting Anna Karenina if I haven't cracked it open in a few months already. Still, five is just ridiculous, but I couldn't seem to avoid it. I want to read all of these books yesterday.

1. Demon Forged by Meljean Brook (p.148) 
Guardians series, #5
The concluding book of this series that I LOVE so much came out in August so I am playing series catch up and LOVING it. I started reading Demon Forged within hours of finishing the previous book and I just can't put it down. So much is going on in this book's plot and the overall series arc, it's fantastic. Every single page is gripping! I have to tell you, it's going to take ALL of my resolve to read all the other books I've started reading already before reading the next book in the series. I don't know if I'll be able to do it!

2. A Study in Scarlet by Ian Edginton (p.11) 
This is a graphic novel adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes novel of the same title, of course. I've been on a graphic novel kick lately (I've recently read some really awesome ones, by the way..) and I picked this one up over the weekend. Would you believe I've never read a Sherlock Holmes story before? Have you?

3. Lady Susan by Jane Austen (maybe 10%?) 
I started reading this book in late August for the Austen in August book event hosted by Adam who blogs at Roof Beam Reader. I chose Lady Susan out of all of Jane Austen's books because it was the shortest in the collection I own, which I thought would increase my odds of reading an Austen book in Auguts, but alas, I still haven't finished it. Truthfully, I find it a little boring. Is that terrible? I'm determined to finish it though. Austen in September, perhaps?

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (p.67) 
I started reading this beloved classic (yes, for the first time!) in August while on vacation for the July read along hosted again by Adam at Roof Beam Reader. My high school freshman daughter is reading it right now in her English class so OF COURSE this would be the ideal time to finish it!

5. The Fault of Our Stars by John Green (p.1) 
This book topped my 'The Ones That Got Away' 2012 list which consisted of a handful of books published in 2012 that I really, REALLY wanted to read when they came out, but never did. It was my suggestion for September's book club pick and it is the one we are reading. Yay! So I MUST read this before the end of the month! Which uh... is any day now. Yikes! I have to read this book NOW. (I haven't really started this one yet..)

6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (p.252) 
Okay, okay, I guess I'm not really reading this NOW if I haven't picked it up in months.. but my bookmark still sits at p.252, so I'll list it here once but won't re-list it again in future What Am I Reading? memes unless I am ACTUALLY reading it at the time. Fair?

So What are YOU reading right now?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Library Loot LXXII

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! 

Hello friends, how is everyone?
Things have been busy around here.. when are they not, right? Anna's in her second week of high school now and we are already counting the days down to summer! Oh yes, we are having that much fun. It's actually not that bad.. I think overall she's just not one of those kids who likes school and so far she says she's not crazy about any of her teachers and she barely has friends in any of her classes. She only has time go to her locker at the beginning of the day, at lunch time and at the end of the day, so she has to carry a lot of her books and notebooks around all day and up and down flights of stairs. Hey, at least it's exercise, right? Tonight is back-to-school night for parents, so husband and I will walk through her schedule and meet all her teachers. Maybe leave a little mommy & daddy love note in her locker.

In other news, Maria came home last weekend! Yay! Those two weeks were the longest we've ever been apart since she was born (since I was pregnant with her?) but frankly she was more traumatized by the three weeks she had been apart from her boyfriend for the first time in 3.5 years. Oh how their love-priorities change so quickly yet a momma's love never does.. sigh. Her boyfriend, Nick came home this weekend, too (he goes to school in NYC), so we had to share her with him, but we'll take what we can get! Actually, Nick wanted to come hang out at our house so he could visit with us, too, which was very sweet.

I picked up a pretty neat mix of books at the library in the last week or so, including an art how-to book, some cookbooks, a health and nutrition book, several graphic novels, and one novel.
a stack of library books

nigellissima by Nigella Lawson
VB6 by Mark Bittman
One Zentangle A Day by Beckah Krahula

graphic novels: 
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle adapted by Peter B. Gillis
The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adapted by Ian Edginton
Amulet: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi
The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson
One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The last one is a re-loot from last year. Planning to read it for R.I.P. VIII along with The Sandman graphic novel.

I also picked up (on a separate trip) three other books:


Another cookbook and graphic novel:
What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davis (not pictured - this is a re-loot)
What's For Dinner by Curtis Stone
A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel adapted by Hope Larson

See anything interesting in my stack?

I've skimmed through all of the nonfiction already and read a couple of the graphic novels. If you have any questions about any of them, please ask!

What are you reading from your library right now?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

REVIEW: At Home in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller

Published in 2009 by Silhouette Books.

This is my September selection for the #TBRChallenge hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian. This month's theme is 'Western' and well.. I thought this was a western based on the title and cowboy hat on the cover, but it's actually a contemporary romance with no cowboys or even a ranch really. Well, the main character's brother runs a ranch but the story doesn't have anything to do with the ranch or ranch life at all.

Ashley O'Ballivan is one of the only single women left in Stone Creek. She's had two pretty serious flings with Jack McCall but he's up and left her and Stone Creek without a word to anyone not once, but twice! Lonely and pretty much broken hearted, Ashley is trying to find some happiness in a simple life by cooking, quilting and taking care of guests in her bed and breakfast. Well, maybe she's not getting many guests, but that better change soon if she's ever going to repay her brother's generous business loan.

After a very long dry spell of no customers, someone finally shows up to rent a room from Ashley ... and it's none other than Jack McCall. Jack actually arrives at her door in an ambulance after having been injected by a lethal toxin on a dangerous and secret assignment, but determined to recover in Stone Creek where he knew he'd find Ashley. Jack remains pretty secretive about his job and why he's walked out on Ashely in the past, but he keeps no secrets about how he loves her, 'always have, always will.' Ashely, in turn, has a soft spot for Jack and takes him into her bed and breakfast and into her bed without any hesitation. Her protective siblings want her to be happy, but no one seems to be thrilled with Jack showing up again, and rightly so if you ask me.

Jack's work quickly gets in the way of any progress between Jack and Ashley, and complicating things for everyone. Eventually these two get together and get their happily ever after but it sure did take a lot of let downs, heartaches and half baked excuses before they got there.

The premise of this story is very appealing--I really wanted to see Ashley and Jack solidify their love for each other and plan for a future together, but I felt none of that happened even though they did get their happily ever after by the end of the book. I understand the Silhouette line produces relatively shorter stories, so there's only so much page time for the characters, but still, I felt everything in Ashely and Jack's story was rushed. The worst part, I think, is that they never really discussed how hurtful it was every time Jack left Ashley for months and years at a time without warning, explanations or even an 'I love you' note. After being treated that way twice over several years, Ashley takes Jack back into her bed and into her heart so easily that she comes across reckless and even desperate. Although as I write this I wonder that perhaps Ashley takes Jack back into her heart and bed so quickly because she wants to experience something--anything close to a happy, loving life before someone else decides otherwise on her behalf! Why not forgive Jack for walking out on her twice before and take what she can from him while she can when her siblings and even Jack himself seem to make all the decisions in this book, know 'what's best for Ashley' and leave her practically a puppet in her own love story.

Overall this story is cute, but both Jack and Ashely's family were way too controlling over Ashley's life and way too quick to make decisions for her. Neither party really ever gave her the chance to express how she felt or what she wanted. On the other hand, Ashley was too soft hearted and forgiving when it came Jack and she really deserved better from him even right to the end. So a few too many disappointments in this one for me to strongly recommend it to other readers, unless you are a fan of the Stone Creek series.

It was okay, so 2 out of 3 stars on goodreads.


Do you read western romances? 
I have very, very few western romances on my shelves. If you had to recommend just one book to me, what would it be? 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My 2nd NJ Gran Fondo

Hello everyone! Do you remember my super duper 107 mile Gran Fondo last year? Well I did the same event again this year last Sunday, September 8, 2013, but a shorter course. My friend and I decided over the winter that we'd do the Medio course this year instead so we wouldn't have to kill ourselves with all the training we'd need to do for the grueling full length Gran course. It turned out to be a really smart decision for us for a bunch of reasons, but most importantly because we really didn't have the opportunity to train much at all beyond our regular 20-40 mile rides once or twice a week. We each also put in solo 50 mile rides while the other was away on vacation, but that was pretty much it. We still did well, though!
At the start line, ready to roll!
The Medio course in the NJ Gran Fondo event was named one of "The 50 Best Rides in America" by Bicyling Magazine in 2012, so even though it was just under 63 miles [99 km], it's a pretty intense course with over 5200 ft. elevation gain-- a lot of climbing!

Speaking of climbing, the best part of the day for me, which was also the most difficult, was the first category 4 climb that always kicks my butt. The climb is about 2.4 miles long, but it's the last mile of the climb that's killer. It ranges from from 8% to 13% elevation for the entire last mile. Oh man, it's tough. The good part about this climb on Sunday was 1 - feeling so good mentally that I actually DID IT and 2 - the ego boost I got from passing the men who were walking their bikes up the hill! Oh I wanted to stop... but I didn't! Yay for me!!!

That climb is at the 24 mile mark of the course and by the time we got to the 45 mile mark or so, our legs were getting pretty tired from all the hills. But we were rock stars and finished strong with a total cycle time of 4:43:27.

My friend (and cycling partner) and I
at the finish line.
My lovely friend Mari, who is a fellow NJ blogger and athlete (go visit her blog.. she's got a Fondo post up, too!), saw my the photo to the left that I posted on instagram after picking up my race packet the Friday before and was inspired to join the Fondo at practically the last minute! She pulled her hybrid bike out of the garage (not a road bike), got it tuned up, bought herself a helmet and rode the entire Medio course on her own! Talk about inspiring, right? She's AMAZING! We were texting over the weekend and she found me at the start line where we had this cute photo of us snapped before we headed out onto the course. I took the liberty to spiff it up with some fun graphics to play tribute to her sense of adventure. ;)
Mari and I at start line!

What about you.. what kind of fitness adventures have you been on lately?

I'm linking this post up over at Joy Weese Moll's blog where she hosts a weekly blog meme for Readers' Workouts. Head on over and check it out.. it's a great way to stay connected, inspired and motivated with other bloggers (most of who happen to also love books and reading) who are working out for pleasure and health. All fitness levels are welcome!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We will never forget..

Union County September 11 Memorial (NJ)
I rode my bike this morning to my county's September 11 Memorial which serves as a tribute to the 60 men and women from out county who perished in the tragic events of 9/11. Seeing these steel girders up close and being able to touch them and read the names of the people who perished never fails to move me to tears.

Close up of a steel girder from ground zero
at Union County September 11 Memorial (NJ)
Twelve years later, my heart still aches for the families who were shattered by this horrific event.

But they are not alone.. our entire nation and millions of people around the world stand with them and share their grief.

We will never forget.

United we stand.

Monday, September 9, 2013

First Day of School

Anna's first day of high school. :)
Finally the first day of school for my youngest, who started high school today! This is the first 'First Day of School' photo in which Anna poses alone. She has had her sister starting school on same day with her for the last nine years! On one hand I think Anna's pretty psyched to have the bathroom to herself.. but on the other hand, I think she misses her sister.

I can't believe I've got one off to college and now my baby is in high school! All these wonderful milestones for my girls which are really super fantastic, yet at the same time kind of suck for mom and dad. I'm not gonna lie.. I cried after dropping Anna off at school today. I know it will get easier with time and probably sooner than later, but in the meantime, I'm trying not think so much about how grown up and independent my girls are getting every day. Even though I know that's really a good thing.

If you've got kids back in school, how's it going for you?

For everyone, whether you have kids at all or not, what's your favorite school or office supply?

I love those little post it tabs. I sometimes use them to mark favorite quotes or passages in books I'm reading or recipes in magazines or cookbooks. So handy.

And have you seen the new white-out pens? They're not so new.. I bought one last year and they are the BEST! Not that anyone writes on paper a whole lot anymore.

Friday, September 6, 2013


This year marks the 8th annual R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril or R.I.P. reading event created and hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. This year will be my 2nd year participating.

The purpose of R.I.P. is to enjoy books, movies or television shows that could be considered mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural, etc. and to share your experience with others. Um. Like maybe reviews? I'll try.. ;)

R.I.P. VIII takes place from September 1, 2013 through October 31, 2013 and includes a read along of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I actually have this book on my shelves, but I'm not really in the frame of mind to tackle it just now (752 pages!) even though a read along would be a great motivator for this one! Instead I'm going to attempt to tackle this list of books that I've been wanting to read for sometime now, although I'll probably really get going on them in October when I'm more in the mood to read spooky stuff.

I'm aiming to read (and review!) at least four of these books and anything else that might grab me:

The Rose of Fire by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Joyland by Stephen King
Darkhouse by Karina Halle
The Devil's Metal by Karina Halle
Unnatural Creatures by Neil Gaiman

What do you think? Have you read any of these?

Want to join R.I.P.? You can even read just ONE book!

Sign up for the R.I.P. VIII event HERE on Carl's blog.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

REVIEW: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

first published in 1943
I first read Le Petit Prince in high school French class several decades ago and recall enjoying it very much. While my recollection of the story itself got very fuzzy over the years, the way it made me feel has always stuck with me... charmed, sentimental, sad, hopeful. I recently read a contemporary novel in which the female protagonist's favorite book was The Little Prince. She painted quotes from the book along the borders of her dining room walls and the book became a topic of conversation several times in the story, most significantly with her lover during which he speculated with whom she identified herself most--the fox or the rose. Of course, this promptly compelled me to re-read The Little Prince. I had no excuse not to revisit this French classic when I had a copy of the book in English on my bookshelf. So yesterday I read The Little Prince for the second time in my life, the first time in English.

If you haven't yet read The Little Prince, I urge you to do so. It's a classic story loved by readers all over the world, and because it's a short book under 100 pages, there really is no excuse not to read it and decide for yourself if it's worthy of its accolades. I adored the The Little Prince and love that it appeals to so many readers. There are important messages about love, relationships, give and take and not taking your family, friends and lovers for granted. The book is often considered a children's book and comes across as such in its whimsical way, but ultimately, I believe adults are its intended audience and its ultimate message is to remind adults not to get so lost in the material and superficial matters of consequence where we ultimately lose sight of what's really important in life.. matters of the heart. To quote the wise fox,
"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
My sentimental heart gives The Little Prince a five star rating, but I wonder if a large part of its charm comes from the affection I have for this book having read it in French as a young teen at a time when I probably enjoyed a book for the first time for its philosophical overtures in a foreign language, no less, and not because I truly think today that this book is perfect or near so. Still, the life lessons learned by both the Little Prince and the narrator in this book, and hopefully by readers as well, are truly timeless and invaluable, which maintain that The Little Prince is a true universal classic.

A sentimental 5 out of 5 stars.

On a side note, if you read up a bit on the life of the author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, you will see why Le Petit Prince is often considered an spiritual autobiography. I found it quite interesting.

Have you read The Little Prince?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My oldest has left for college!

Can you believe it's September 1st?! Aside from the jet lag after our trip to Asia that sort of put us in a sleepy slow motion for a week or so there, the rest of August was a complete blur! From Japan to home, an evening in NYC with some book club friends, a couple of beach days, some bike rides, our 20th wedding anniversary, a weekend getaway for two to Boston, and getting Maria ready for college, it was one awesome month! Well.. the part about Maria going away to college is awesome for her..... not so much for mom and dad. I mean it is.. but you know. Our baby has flown out of the nest.

We helped Maria move into her college dorm yesterday. What a milestone! I'm so proud of her for so many reasons and excited for her as she stands at the cusp of this new life experience that will further shape her into the person she is meant to be. Then there's this other part of me that's crying NOOOoooooo! DON'T GO! Mostly I keep that one to myself, knowing that the time is right for her to go out on her own (more or less) and discover herself and the world around her. I just can't figure out how we got to this chapter in our story so darn fast and I'm trying to not to think that my job is more or less done. I know she'll still need us for quite some time .. both financially and for guidance and emotional support.. but it's kind of different now, you know?

Anyway, here's a fun video I made using the iphone app Flipagram that pretty much shows what August looked like through my eyes, squeezed into one minute and two seconds. Don't blink!

Hope you liked it. : )

How was your August? Any changes in your life this September?