Friday, December 4, 2015

5 in 5 for Every Season - Michael Symon

I enjoy watching Michael Symon on various cooking shows.  I like the fact he doesn't take himself or cooking seriously, so I was excited to see this book.  

There is one big 'issue' I have with the book and it is more personal.  Well, two actually.  First, there are more than five ingredients in each dish.  And many of them are outside the norm for this good ol' Southern gal.  But he does give a basic pantry set-up list at the front of the book and this is a chance to expand my palette.  That said, others in the household aren't as willing to 'expand' as Savvy and I are.  And some of the ingredients are a little hard to find in Helena, Montana.

That said, there is plenty I like about the book.

  • Lovely pictures of the recipes throughout the book.
  • The recipes are quick and relatively easy to prepare.
  • Divided by season (which I like for trying to find things at the Farmer's Market)
  • Some of the food combinations are a little unusual, which makes it interesting
While this will probably not become my 'go-to' cookbook for dinner ideas, I will slip one or two a month into the menu rotation.  

Note: "I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Friday, November 27, 2015

After Alice - Gregory Maguire

I picked up this book at work for a couple of reasons.  First, I love Lewis Carroll and the Alice stories.  And secondly, because I am a fan of Wicked by Maguire.  So how could I go wrong?

According to the blurb on the book, this is the premise of the book...

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?
In this brilliant work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself.
Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is “After Alice.”

The book follows the adventures of a friend of Alice, Ada, one afternoon.  Not only is the book "after Alice", but Ada is also after Alice, as in trying to find her.  Running from her nanny, Ada tumbles down the rabbit hole also and soon is experiencing many of the same characters Alice does.

In reading the book I felt I was reading Carroll.  In fact, this is a book I want to get on audio to hear the flow of words rather than read them.  And if a musical should be made from this book....I'm ok with it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Better Than Before - Gretchen Rubin

I picked this book, Better than Before, up off the check-in cart at work, mainly because I had read Rubin's first two books about The Happiness Project.  And it languished on my 'to-read' shelf until it was almost time to go back to the library.  Then it was a race to read and absorb and, several pages of notes later, I finished.

"I should monitor whatever is essential to me. 
In that way, I ensure that my life reflects my values."

The first section deals with setting up yourself to succeed at the habits you are trying to establish.  Rubin recommends (1) Monitor, (2) Foundation, (3) Scheduling and (4) Accountability.

"How we schedule our days
is how we spend our lives." 

So much of what was in this first section dovetailed with what I am trying to set up for 2016 and really, my life.  She then goes into when would be the best time to begin a new habit.  Some of her suggestions are - 
  • First steps - one step of a project at a time (yes!)
  • Lightening Bolt - 'something' triggers you - big or small
  • Convenience - good habit/make it easier, bad habit/make it harder
  • "If/Then" strategy - "If I want X, then I need to do Y."
Then she goes into the 'exceptions' we tell ourselves we need to make which derails us from our purpose.

"A planned exception works best when it's made
for something memorable...A good test of a planned
exception is "How will I feel about the exception later."

Other 'loopholes' to our goals of a new habit are:
  • Moral - permission to do something 'bad' because we have been 'good'
  • Tomorrow - doing something 'bad' because tomorrow we will be 'good'
  • False Choice - can't do X because you are doing Y
  • Lack of Control - too hot or too cold, for example
  • Arranging to Fail - "...we make a change of seemingly harmless decisions that allow us covertly to engineer the very circumstances that we'll find irresistible."  For example, this doesn't count, I'm on vacation.
  • Questionable Assumptions - ie - going to work shortly, so I can't do X.
  • Concern for Others
  • Fake Self-Actualization - life is too short not to live a little
  • One-Coin - I haven't done project in so long-what's the point?  What's one more spoonful of sugar.
  • Strategy of Distraction - looking at Facebook rather than reading a book 
One of the most interesting things she says in the book is about 'Rewards or Finishing' and how they might actually be bad things.

"...striving toward a finish line, not building a habit."

"By finding my reward within the habit itself, with a reward that
takes me deeper into the habit."

"The reward for a good habit is the habit itself."

And I thought about my goal of losing weight.  So I lose weight.  But if I haven't changed my eating habits, then the weight will come right back.  I have to make my goal to eat better, more healthy and combine with exercise.  Then I have a good habit and the offshoot is weight loss and once I hit the weight I want, the habit continues, it doesn't stop because I've reached my goal.

Rubin also talks about 'rewards' in that "...a treat is a small pleasure or indulgence that we give to ourselves just because we want it."  We shouldn't be rewarding ourselves for 'doing' the habit or goal we are attempting to establish.

Some of the tips she gives to setting yourself up for success have been on my radar already.
  • Pairing - "...couple two activities, one that I need or want to do, and one that I don't particularly want to do, to get myself to accomplish them both."
I use this strategy already to a certain extent.  I will allow myself to work for a certain amount of time on a project I want, then I switch to something like doing the dishes, or another load of clothes, or cleaning a room.  Once the housework is done, then I can return to my 'play' for another amount of time.
  • Clarity - "The clearer I am about what I value, and what action I expect from myself - not what other people value, or expect from me - the more likely I am to stick to my habits."
This is my project in December, to see where I want to go and do.  To get 'my head on straight', so to speak.
  • Identity - Does the habit add to or take away from our identity.  "Our habits reflect our identity."
  • Other People - we pick up others' habits - good and bad.  So associate with those whose habits and values reflect my own.

"Those habits wouldn't make everyone happy,
but they make me very happy."

This is a book I wish I had lingered over a bit longer and will probably go back and reread a couple of times.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Pantry - Alice Waters

I fell in love with Alice Waters many years ago.  I own 2-3 of her earlier books and couldn't wait to get my hands on her latest book which includes illustrations by Fanny Singer (her daughter).

One thing about every book by Waters I pick up, I always feel very virtuous and compelled to make a trip to my local farmer's market.  Unfortunately, now that I'm in Montana, I don't have the extensive market which was available to me in North Carolina.  So I start haunting the local natural food store (where I have already ordered my Thanksgiving turkey from).  For the next few weeks, I will be eating better a'la Alice Waters.

This is a quick read as opposed to some of her earlier books.  I really enjoy the 'stories' behind the recipes which she includes, a very similar treatment as her other books.

My Pantry is just that, recipes for items she has in her pantry and which are staples for Waters.  While I am now considering sea salt/spice combinations to mix up and have on hand to make me use more spices in my cooking, I don't know that I will be making 10 liters of red wine vinegar.  Mainly because I don't drink enough wine and when I do, there's nothing left over!  But the chapter on making my own cheeses is interesting and might be used, as will be the Raspberry Syrup and Brandied Cherries.

At 144 pages, not a lot of really 'go-to' recipes, but a quick and interesting read none the less.

Note: "I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Q & A a Day for Creatives

Once again I was drawn to the fact this book is a journal and it's labeled 'for creatives'.  I'm creative, right? And I journal, too.  Ok, so far, so good.

So four years of daily sketches should be a fun idea.  And it is.

By Potter Style, Q&A a Day For Creatives is a fun book.  Each page is divided into four quadrants and a quick prompt or question is listed to the side.  There is a tiny "20__" in each quadrant so you can list the year you are drawing.  

Most of the prompts are fun.  For example, March 13 is "Compose an abstract drawing that depicts your bank account's current status." 

Some of the things I like about the book are the fact the dates are already listed for you.  All I have to do is fill in the year.  The block you have to draw in each day is about 3.5 X 3.5 inches.  Not too small and not too large to be intimidating or time consuming to fill.

Couple of things I would change.  The paper is not ink friendly.  If you use anything other than pen (ball point) or pencil, there is a definite chance of bleed through.  Also, the book could use a ribbon to help mark your stop on the current day.

I have been using the journal in the mornings to get the old 'creative juices' flowing for the day.  It's fun and at this point, the bleed through on the pages is a bit of an irritant, but not a deal breaker.  We will see down the road.  In fact, I will probably be doing a bit of mixed media, mini-collages in it as time goes by.

This is definitely a book I would purchase to give to another 'creative journal.'

Note: "I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Instant Happy Journal - Karen Salmansohn

There were three things in the title which attracted me to this book.  First, 'journal'.  I love to journal and love journals of all kinds.  Second, 'instant'.  As in instant gratification.  And third, 'happy'.  Who doesn't want to be happy?  

I can add a couple of other things which are attractive about this book.  It's small.  Only about 5.5"X6.5" and about an inch thick.  Just the right size to keep on the bedside table or throw in your bag and carry with you.  And it has a solid feel to it.  It doesn't feel like it would fall apart after a few uses. Secondly, the dates are blank.  So you can start anywhere in the book, writing down your responses to the questions or skip around.  Each day has a prompt in the form of a quote or question for you to think about and respond to.  All the pages are sturdy, so most pens will not bleed through to the other side.  Each page has an attractive colored graphic border of some sort around it.

Now for the downside.  It's too happy!  The outside, with the red, orange and yellow, I know is suppose to be energetic and, well, happy.  But it reminds me of McDonalds and just too happy for me.  I think I might have to make a cover for it as I have it on my bedside table.  I am using it at night before I go to bed.  Or at least that is my plan at the moment.

Another 'unhappy' thought about the book some of the prompts are really not prompts at all.  For example, how am I to respond to "Love the Heck out of Life"?  Or, in such a small space, how am I suppose to write a letter to myself or the first chapter or two of my life story?

Since I have it beside my bed and I would like to use the book, I will probably collage on some of the pages and put in other words or phrases over the prompts in the book and make it more my own.

I think this is a book you would give someone who you know loves 'page a day' books, but overall I probably would not buy this for myself or a serious journal writer.  

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Review - Dessert & Booze Hacks

After my last review of the coloring book from Blogging for Books, I allowed Texter to pick out the next book to review.  Needless to say, this immediately caught her attention.  What drew my attention was I am sort of familiar with Buzzfeed and was interested in what Peggy Wang.

First, the book is what we call at the library, a board book.  It's a sturdy book, well suited to handle rough handling with ease.  The colors and pictures are simple and bright.  The type, easy to read.  A delightful 'feel' to the book, especially for the topic.

So Monday, since everyone was home, I decided to make some of the desserts.  I couldn't do any of the booze hacks without going to the store, so I passed on those.  Plus, we all had to go to work or school the next day.  But believe me, there are several booze hacks noted for future use.

The first recipe I tried was the "Easy Thin Mints".  I microwaved the Andes Mints and dipped the ritz crackers.  In order to cover the entire cracker, I dipped half, threw them in the freezer and then dipped the other half.  With a little more care, they would be really pretty.  But regardless, they are tasty and are similar to the actual thin mints.  I had some melted chocolate left over (I used one and a half packages of mints), I threw in some 'O' cereal and cashews and made some munchies out of them.

Once again, just emptying out things I had on hand, I made the Chocolate Chip Stuffed Raspberries, Bite Sized Caramel Grapes, Salted Chocolate Cuties and a couple of different versions of Autumnal Dessert Nachos.

Needless to say, once I called in the troops, the snacks disappeared in a flash.

What I have to say about the book - 
  • The recipes are simple and easy.  Well suited for even children to help with.
  • Most of the ingredients you already have in your kitchen.
  • They are quick to make.  No hours spent slaving away.
  • They're fun.
  • This would be a great stocking stuffer or present for a young adult in college or their first apartment.
  • Fairly inexpensive to make (until you get to the booze aspect of it).
Already, even though I have only had the book about a week, it's been well thumbed through.  It will find a place of honor on the bookshelf and will be referred to often, I can tell.  I would give it two thumbs up, but I'm too busy eating.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Time Garden - Adult Coloring Book

Another blogger I respect and follow (Paperback Writer), recently mentioned Blogging for Books.  My thought was 'free books' and 'blog about them'...this is a win-win situation.  So for my first book I selected an adult coloring book.

First off, I have to say coloring as an adult is far from new for me.  I spent the early 70's in my bedroom, going through scores of flair pens, coloring away on the huge art posters to color.  Back then there was no teenage angst, you dealt - quietly.  After 9/11, I would often bring coloring books from the dollar store into work.  I was ahead of the curve and knew about zentangling before it became the thing to do. So the whole craze these days about color books for adults - old hat.

I requested The Time Garden by Daria Song as my first book.  Before I get to my review, let me tell you about the journey the book arrival took.  Apparently it is suppose to arrive sooner than I was thinking it should.  And I get this email about how they thought it had been sent out, but there was actually a backlog at the warehouse and it didn't get sent out on time.  So they sent me a second book as an apology.  Also a coloring book - completely different from The Time Garden.


About this book.  I LOVE IT!

First off, it seems almost a sacrilege to color in it.  The illustrations are delightful and there is a story behind the pictures.  The cover, which is also an illustration in the book, is embossed with metallic paint on the leaves.  Everyone I have shown the book to before I started coloring in is were all 'ah's' over it.

Daria Song is Korean and the pictures are delicate and detailed.  This is not a book for your crayons.  You could use crayons, but I think they would be too 'bulky' feeling for this book. I was a little worried about possible bleed-through on the pages even though the paper has a good feel to it.  I decided to try different coloring implements on the pages.

When I got out my markers, watercolors and colored pencils it drew an assistant like flies to sweets.  The story behind the drawings is a little girl, who couldn't sleep, getting drawn into a magical cuckoo clock which transports her to this garden.  Very simple story, detailed drawings.

There is NO way these little hands are touching this book.  In fact, I am even pouting a bit about letting my 22 year old daughter color in it and she's an artist.

One page caught my attention immediately.  It's a picture of blossoms and I knew I wanted to try a watercolor wash on it.

I was a little hesitant because I didn't know how the paper would react with the water.  I did very well.

The pink and green wasn't enough for me, so I had to add sky to the page.

I am pleased with how the paper held up to the watercolors.  No bleeding on the top or bleed through on the back.  Little, if any, wrinkling of the paper due to water.

This page I tried out flair pens, colored pencils and Stadler markers.  All worked well and didn't show on the other side.

Overall, I have to give the book a major thumbs up.  Not only is the story and drawings fantastic without any additional coloring, but the quality of the paper makes it a joy to use.  This book is one which would make a great gift to someone special.

Note:  I received the book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and true review.  All opinions I have given above are mine.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret

I am a fan of Downton Abbey.  It's great fun to see how the 'other half' lives, or did live, in the early 1900's.  I am also a fan of family letters, documents and journals.  So when I came across this book by Catherine Bailey, The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess and a Family Secret, I had to snatch it up.  Actually, I listened to it as a audio book on my walks.

Bailey had traveled to Belvoir Castle (pronounced Beaver in the audio book) to do research on soldiers in the early days of World War I.  The Dukes of Rutland, who owned the castle, had for centuries, collected and preserved thousands of letters and documents over the centuries.  Well cataloged and filed, she felt this would be a great source of material as to how soldiers felt about the war and how they fared.  But entering Belvoir Castle, she entered a mystery.

The Ninth Duke of Rutland, who had been alive during WWI, died in 1940, in rooms in the castle which were cold, dark and in the servants quarters.  His son had the rooms sealed for decades.  In starting her research, Bailey found three periods in the Duke's life where all correspondence and documents had been eliminated.  But why? Though painstaking research across England, Bailey pieces together a life which was based on fabrications and lies.  And offers a glimpse into a life of privilege we can only marvel at.

With a very manipulative mother, the death of an older brother, and the backdrop of World War I, this was a fascinating listen.  Rank does have privilege and The Duchess of Rutland was not afraid to use her influence and connections to their fullest.  

Bailey fills in the gaps missing from the papers of the Rutland's and shows a look at a family whose outward face painted a very different picture than the inner workings of the Rutland Dukedom.

What fascinated me was the fact these letters, telegrams and correspondence were actually saved to the extent they were.  Most of us would read a letter and trash it, but everything was saved.  And the value of journals, faithfully kept by the Ninth Duke, in piecing together this mystery was priceless.  While I journal, I don't think I am covering up any great secrets.

The narrator of the audio book was male, which threw me a bit since the author is female.  I think I would have preferred a feminine voice reading the book since it was written by a female.  The Secret Rooms, is a modern day, real-life mystery definitely worth the time reading or listening to.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bug In A Vacuum - Melanie Watt

Much to my surprise a couple of days ago, the nice UPS man dropped off a package with my name on it.  Inside was a book I had not realized I had 'won' off the Goodreads giveaway page.  Opening the package, I was delighted to see a picture book for Lady K.

And Lady K was equally excited to get her hands on it.  By Melanie Watt, Bug in a Vacuum, is the story of a bug which, in his travels, flies into a vacuum cleaner.  The results is his experiences in trying to get out of the vacuum cleaner.

First, let me say, the illustrations are lovely.  The bug is a generic fly-like bug with big, beautiful eyes.  The dog, which features in the story, also has great eyes.  And since I love the color green, the tones in the book are very soothing and right up my alley.  (And it's sad, I remember those old vacuum cleaners.)

I was enjoying the pictures and the story until I got to "Stage One" in the story and then I was puzzled.  It seems, and I didn't realize it until an adult explained it to me, was the story is about the five stages of grief.  Okay....

While a young child would probably like the pictures and looking at the bug trying to get out of the vacuum cleaner, this is a book which would need to be read by an adult to the child and the issues discussed.  I am not sure exactly how I feel about the book, so I am turning it over to our children's librarian for her thoughts on the book.  She is familiar with Melanie Watt and her Scaredy Squirrel series and interested in seeing her latest book.

It's sad when a children's book is over my head!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Witch of Painted Sorrows

In searching for an audio book to listen to while doing all my moving activities, I came across this one by M. J. Rose.  It was one my to-read list and I thought I would give it a try.

Sandrine Salome flees her abusive husband in 1895 to return to Paris and her grandmother. Her grandmother is a courtesan, one of several generations of courtesans. And a very successful one.   Hoping to build a new life away from the man she feels is responsible for her father committing suicide, Sandrine discovers more in Paris than a refuge.  "La Lune", the first in the line of family courtesans, was also a painter.  Now she is a spirit who seems to have taken over Sandrine and will stop and nothing to live again.

Sandrine soon starts painting, something she has only dabbled in up to this point.  But is it Sandrine behind the easel or La Lune?  As others begin to see the changes in Sandrine, events begin to spiral out of control.

When I first started listening to the book, I was a bit annoyed because Sandrine seemed to be standing around, wringing her hands and being 'woe is me'.  I really disliked her pathetic self.  However, I hung in there and as the story picked up and the changes, both good and bad, started happening, the story and character became more interesting. Told from Sandrine's point of view, the story slowly builds momentum as La Lune sinks her claws deeper and deeper into the present. While I enjoyed seeing Sandrine 'grow a backbone', you have to wonder is it her or the witch.  And what will become of Sandrine?  Will she lose La Lune and revert to her old self or will she keep the lessons learned and grow as a woman?

Turn of the century Paris, forbidden passions, art, witchcraft...what more could you want?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Court of Thorns and Roses

I am a major sucker for any retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  But it does have to be good.  Just because it's the storyline, doesn't mean it can be half-assed.  Despite the move I'm in the middle of, and my priorities should have been a little different, I started and finished the latest from Sarah Maas, The Court of Thorns and Roses.

It's decades after the Faerie/Human War and the treaty has been signed and the wall in place.  Feyre, the middle daughter, is taking care of her father and two sisters, hopefully keeping them from starving to death.  A reversal of her father's fortune has left them with nothing and only Feyre's ability to hunt is keeping them alive.  Without meat for several days, she comes across a deer.  Unfortunately, so has a wolf.  A wolf which is obviously fae.  She kills the wolf which has killed the deer and now has meat and two pelts to sell to tide the family over.  However, someone demands payment for killing a faerie and she is taken to the Court of Spring by the High Lord himself.

Tamlin, the High Lord, deposits her in his realm and treats her as a guest.  Little by little Feyre discovers more and more about the faerie world she has only heard about in tales.  She also learns about the blight which is taking over the land and might soon come to the land of humans.

There are some twists and turns in the book, which make for delightful reading.  Feyre is no fainting damsel in distress and Tamlin is not the beast she first encounters.  This is the first in a new series and now I am tapping my foot impatiently.  This is a book I will get my own copy of so I can reread it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness

I will be honest for a moment.  You will NEVER find me with a pristine home, everything in it's place, passing any kind of white glove test.  Ain't happening.

However, I do like to think I can get reasonably close.  Part of the problem is (1) there are other people in the house, (2) there are animals in the house, and (3) I love crafting and books.  So clutter and mess are a way of life.  But I do despair at times that I can't walk from the front of the house to the back without killing myself.

So when this little book (it's only 3.5 x 5.5 inches) popped up at the library, I had to sit down with it.

How could I not like it, it's a cute little thing.  Fits nicely into your purse or the palm of your hand.  And it's filled with tons of little one-liner advice/tips on how to same your sanity declutter and clean.  

There really isn't anything all that new or earth-shattering in the book by Donna Smallin.  Most of it I have read before, but it did point out those things I need to bring back to the front of my head to save myself from going postal over the condition of the house.  

Now in all honesty, I am currently in a tiny 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment which is maybe 900 square feet (maybe).  There are 4 adults, 1 toddler, 2 large dogs, 3 cats and 2 tanks of fish in the house.  We breathe and create clutter, dirty dishes and laundry.  What I was mainly reading this book for was focus to start in the new house on the right foot so people could actually drop in without major cleaning needed before they come.

A few of the tidbits gleaned from the book:

"Take five minutes every night to pick up and put away items, fluff pillows and generally tidy up."

This is especially true of the kitchen.  I HAVE to get dirty dishes in the dishwasher so when I fix my coffee first thing in the morning, I'm not seeing a kitchen full of dirty dishes.  And to be able to walk from my bedroom (where the dogs sleep with me) to the door to let them out to go pee without killing myself on toys and shoes.  Nothing like starting the day pissed off just because 'things' are in your way in the morning.

"Start acting more organized and you will become more organized."

Which is funny because I hit up Christine for a 'planning session' for our goals for the next few months.  Hopefully, we can get together this week and do some planning and organizing.  But I have found if my calendar is up to date and I know "what's for dinner", and I have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish in the next day/week/month, I relax more and get more accomplished.  The major reason I need to feel organized in my mind is I am dealing with 3 people working, 1 person who will be in school full time, projects I want to get done, meals needing to be planned to make food shopping easier (and cheaper), and housework that needs to get done.

We are moving in two weeks, but there is painting that needs to be done at the new place first.  Then in about 4 weeks Texter starts school full time.  Meaning I will be the baby sitter one full day while she is on campus all day.  Plus watching Lady K so she can study.  Texter is in a competitive field of study at this school, so high grades will definitely make a difference to her acceptance into the program.  So having a 'plan' makes all the difference to me.  Tuesday will be my day with Lady K from about 8am to 6pm.  So it will be cleaning day.  I can get things cleaned and still be able to interact and play with her.  

In line with the whole planning and organizing I have up my sleeve, was a couple of little gems of advise from Donna Smallin - 

"Every Sunday night, pick one project or area to the be focus of your cleaning efforts in the coming week."

"Don't overwhelm yourself by thinking about all the work you have to do.  Focus more on what you have accomplished rather than what remains undone."

Sunday is my 'week in review' day anyway, where I look back over the past week and see what I accomplished.  And in my mind I am looking forward on what projects I want to work on in the coming week.  So I am in a way already doing these two things, but now I want to get more concrete about those plans.

One of the biggest things to come out of this tiny book for me was the inspiration and the other ideas which formed.  For example, she talks about rewarding yourself when you accomplish a big task.  We have a move coming up in mid-August.  Because of other vacations at work, I'm not actually taking off any time until the first week in September.  We should be in the house and starting to get 'settled'.  It is also right before my birthday.  I think a nice hour-long massage will be in order that week.

Another idea I have with the new house concerns laundry.  The house has a basement, where the washer/dryer is housed.  Then there are two floors above it.  Savvy and CJ will have the top floor and Texter, Lady K and I will be on the main floor.  I don't relish all the up and down necessary for doing laundry and want to make it as efficient as possible.  We also have a lot of room in the basement to use.  Therefore, I want everyone to have 2 baskets (labeled with their name).  One basket for clean, one basket for dirty laundry.  That way I can take the dirty laundry down on Monday night/Tuesday morning and do laundry, taking from the dirty basket and returning to the clean basket.  Then everyone can come get their basket and take it back upstairs at the end of the day.  Sounds like a reasonable plan to me.

Another plan I have is since there are two bathrooms on two floors, to have specific colors for each bathroom.  This way I can pile the towels which go upstairs on the stairs for CJ and Savvy to take to their bathroom and Texter can take the ones for our bathroom and put them up.

So I have plans and have been inspired by this tiny book. (Of course, I still subscribe to the Erma Bombeck method - spray cleaner around so it will smell like you have been cleaning!)  Read it with a pen and paper in hand so you can make notes.  It's well worth the couple of hours of reading you will have to do.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Red Notebook

The title alone intrigued me, given I keep a journal.  So I was curious to see what this book was about.  It came into my hands yesterday and I finished it last night and am throughly enchanted with it.

By Antoine Laurain, and translated from French, this slim, 159 page novel, makes for a quick read.  And a very enjoyable read because you want to see what happens when Laurent and Laure finally meet.  It all starts with a stolen purse...

Laure is mugged for her purse and winds up in the hospital.  Laurent discovers the bag and tries to find the owner.  As with most stolen items, there is no billfold with ID, nothing with an address, only bits and pieces of her life and the red moleskin notebook.  Laurent slowly pieces the bits together to find out who this woman is and to get her purse back to her.  Any more, and there would be major spoilers involved.

I now have to get a red moleskin journal.  I have had black ones in the past, but now I want a red one.  And to write in it in Paris.  Sipping a drink at a sidewalk cafe.  I think it's only right.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Black Blade Blues

One of the things I really enjoyed about attending Miscon 29 was discovering 'new' authors.  That is, new to me.  Even though I have books by Terry Brooks to finish up, Savvy picked up the first book in the series at my urging and after I read a few pages, I picked up book two.

Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts is the tale of Sarah Beauhall, a black smith, who reforges an ancient sword broken on a movie set she is working on.  If Sarah doesn't have enough issues in her life already, like being a smith and gay, both which alienated her from her fundamentalist family, her girlfriend used the "L" word.  And then it turns out the sword she just reforged is actually an ancient relic, one desired by dragons.

Yep, ancient relics, dragons, trolls, orges, giants and a screwed up love life and things are destined to go to hell in a hand basket.  

J. A. Pitts has crafted a fantastic character in Sarah and I agonized along with her, both over the sword and Katie, her girlfriend (maybe).  The battle scene, along with her friends in the SCA, is tiring.  I was exhausted after making it through the fight.  Oh, the SCA group she is with, already know about the dragons and such being real.  She's a little late to the party there.

From her Doc Martens up, Sarah is a fun person to read about and I can't wait to start on book two. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thursday Prompt

Still riding high on my convention buzz, this week's prompt is about 'cons'.


Convention Police

Hildy slid back a bit further in the corner to avoid the crowd milling around in the large foyer.  She already had her badge allowing her entrance into the convention and was waiting with a bit more patience than those around it.  For her, this was old hat and getting to be a bit boring.  But as a member of the fey police, it was her job to monitor fantasy conventions to be sure other fey didn’t take too much advantage of the situation and expose themselves, consequently the rest of the fey, to too much notice.

Conventions were the perfect place for her kind to shine.  Their pointed ears, colored hair and wings were taken as part of the costume and they were complimented on how real they looked.  Compliments were something the fey enjoyed and a chance to show off was just too big of a lure to ignore.  

Sometimes humans got a bit too close trying to figure out how they made the look work and that angered some of her kind.  Luckily, most conventions if they allowed weapons at all, required them to be peace tied.  However, something as flimsy as a zip tie was nothing for an angry fairy to overcome and out came centuries old steel aching for the taste of blood.  Hildy’s job was to stop trouble before it escalated and serious magic was required to erase the incident from the minds of the humans involved.  Magic had costs and the fey didn’t have that kind of bank account any more.

Scanning the gathering crowd, Hildy could pick out several of her kind already, cloaks hiding their wings from the crowd.  Once the doors opened and they had more room to maneuver, the cloaks came off and the wings flexed.  That’s sometimes where the problems started.  Flexing wings had people coming up to see how they did it.  If she was lucky, the fey involved just answered, “It’s a secret” and continued on.  Unfortunately, some people were a bit more pushy and wanted to do in order to either make a set for themselves or to cash in on a sure-fire money maker.

There was also a recent rumor going around the fey were really fey.  She didn’t know where it started, but it was getting stronger and louder at each con she attended.  The rumor was loud enough even the High Court was concerned and assigned additional forces to patrol the conventions.  Like herself, most of the fey police used glamour to project a non-fairy costume.  The last thing they needed was attention on them while they were trying to police other fairies.

“Well, shiver me timbers” squawked the ‘stuffed’ parrot on her shoulder.

Hildy had dressed for this convention as a pirate and the parrot on her shoulder was actually a demi-fey, glamoured to look like a parrot.  She had people wanting to pet her bird at times, but that was better than trying to keep Cass invisible throughout the day.  Another set of eyes and ears came in handy at times.

Glancing at the small fairy, Hildy followed his line of sight and focused on what had so excited the pint-sized fey.  Groaning to herself, Hildy wondered what she had done so wrong she was being punished by the fates this way.  There, in a cluster, were four princes of the court and a body guard.  Alone, they would have garnered a second glance.  All together, people were stopping to ask for pictures.  And dressed, or rather undressed, in loin clothes, bracers and boots, they already had the crowd, both male and female, drooling.  This was not going to be a good day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day Shift

Right before Miscon started and I was absorbed with new authors (more coming about that) and having books signed by Terry Brooks, I managed to slide this one in and finish it.  And I wasn't disappointed with the effort.

Manfred is at it again with the lovely, but odd, inhabitants of Midnight, Texas.  When a reading goes dead wrong, he needs the whole town to help him out of the mess he's in. We get more on Olivia and her backstory, which is pretty interesting and I want it go do more in depth in a future book.  

There is also a bit more mention of Sookie in this book.  A character from one of the Steakhouse books makes an appearance in this book.  Now I have to go reread what happened in Dallas.  Mainly because while this old brain vaguely remembers, it's been awhile and I need to be 'refreshed'.

Definitely a good continuation of the Midnight, Texas story.  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday - Just - Write - Prompt

At the request of my writing group, the Queen City Creatives, I posted a prompt for the members to write about today.  So before life (and Lady K) got in the way, I wrote my response to the prompt.

Today's Prompt - You are an animal.  No, you ARE an animal.  Select an animal and write about a day in the life of the animal.

While I didn't get a whole day in, I did get about 1000 words written.  And while I didn't have a picture I had taken of my animal, I did select and play with a picture which went along with the story.

The pale morning light barely reached into the back of the cave, but it was enough to let me know it was morning.  This was the first year in many I was not awakened by hungry mouths to feed.  This year it was just me I had to worry about.  Lifting my large head I took a quick sniff of the cool air.  When I didn’t smell anything which shouldn’t be there, stretched first my hind legs and then my front legs, savoring the pull of strong muscles.  Rolling over from my back, I heaved myself up onto all four legs.  Lowering my head, I gave my large body, covered in thick fur, a shake.
Massive paws carried me to the entrance of the small cave. Blinking in the morning sunlight, I stopped and listened.  All around me, birds were staking their territory for the breeding season, their voices telling me there was nothing I should worry about in the area.  Raising my nose again, I took a deep breath, reaching with my scent glands for anything which shouldn’t be here.  A second breathe let me know, at least in my immediate area, there was nothing I should be concerned about.  My main worry would have been if there had been a male in the area I needed to discourage from being here. 
Padding forward, I walked quietly through the woods surrounding my cave.  Despite my size, I can move very quietly through the brambles and undergrowth.  Reaching a large pine tree I stopped.  Already there were gouges on the tree from my claws, letting others know this was my land and to stay away.  Raising up on my back legs, I stretched high over my head and dug my long, black, thick claws into the tree and pulled down.  Another set of grooves were etched into the wood of the tree.  Turning around, I squatted and relieved myself, leaving a second warning to those who should not be in my forest.
Now that my morning rituals had been completed, it was time to start looking for something to eat. While I had started replacing weight I had lost over the winter, I was still far from being full and ready for another winter.  It was too early for berries which dotted the hillside just at the edge of the woods.  Ambling down a narrow path I headed for the small branch of the river which would have a selection of trout for my breakfast.  They were a fairly easy way to start the day of foraging for food at this time of the year.
After a quick sniff to check the air, I left the protection of the woods, heading across the rock strewn hillside to the water. I could hear rushing in the distance as the early spring run off of melting snows from higher up the mountain sped down the mountain.  Swinging my large, grizzled brown head side to side as I walked, I made my way to a favorite spot on the river.  Here the water pooled and swirled before continuing down.  Here also was where large trout rested and made for an easy morning repast.
Stepping carefully into the rushing water, I made my way across to the pool.  The cold spring runoff barely penetrated my thick fur.  Rocks on the bottom of the river were smooth and firm beneath my feet.  Reaching the edge of the pool, there was less of a tug on my body by the river trying to carry me along on it’s race downhill.  Giving a slight wiggle to my back feet, making sure they were planted firmly, I rose up on my hind legs and looked down into the pool for my breakfast.  Sure enough, several trout of various sizes were swimming around in the water which was quieter than the main channel. 
Focusing in on one fish in particular, I lunged, sinking my head beneath the water, mouth open, snapping thick teeth together.  This morning I was lucky and had my teeth in a large trout on the first try. Keeping my jaws tight on the struggling fish, I pulled my head out of the water and turned back to the bank to eat my breakfast.
Reaching the side of the river, I pulled myself up onto the grasses edging the bank. Dropping the fish onto the ground, I placed one large paw over the fish.  It had stopped wiggling, but I wanted to make sure it didn’t flop back into the cold water.  Lifting my nose into the air, I checked to be sure I would be eating this meal undisturbed.  Satisfied I was still alone and wouldn’t have to be defending my meal, I sank my large, yellowed teeth into the cool, firm flesh of the trout.  Pulling a mouthful away, I slowly chewed and gulped down the mouthful.  A few mouthfuls later, my breakfast was done, leaving only a few drops of blood on the ground to show where I had been.
The one fish was not enough to satisfy the morning hunger pangs.  Turning back to the river, I repeated my early attempt at catching a fish.  This time, the fish were a little more wary and it took several tries to land another fish.  After finishing off three trout, my exercise of catching and consuming breakfast had taken it’s toll.  By this time the sun was up and shining warmly in the spring coolness on my fur.
Turning, I made my way up the hillside to a large outcropping of rocks, already warming in the sun.  Pulling myself up on the rocks, I sat down on my hind side, sniffing the air, checking for other bears in the area.  Still alone, I stretched out on the rocks, the sun warm on my thick fur.  Closing my eyes, I dozed in the sun for a bit before heading out to look for more to eat.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Seven Letter From Paris

There are days (and this week has been one of those days) when just upping and moving to another country sounds just like the right thing to do.  But only if I could take this book along...

I was checking this book in at the library and laid it aside to read.  And I am so glad I did. An easy read and one I didn't want to put down, I felt like I was having a drink with Samantha Verant and hearing her story in person.  And one that I loved.

Nearing her 40th birthday, Samantha goes through a series of events like many of us do.  Her 13 year marriage is over, all except the paperwork. Heavily in debt, her job was eliminated and she finds herself moving from Chicago to California to live with her parents while she gets her life back in order.  A chance mention by a friend of an encounter 20 years earlier while they were in France has her searching for the letters written by a young man she met in Paris and only knew for a few hours.

Samantha locates the letters in a bin of stuff she has been holding onto for years. She never originally answered the letters, but decided to give it a try 20 years later.  And it works. What happens is a fairy tale come true.  It makes me glad I love to write letters!

The course of true love never runs smoothly, but after being separated all these years, she and Jean-Luc make every effort to make it work.  Both have marriages which ended in divorce.  He has two young children, she has none.  She's in California, he's in France.  But with the aid of the internet, emails and phone calls, they quickly come together again.

READ THIS BOOK!  Preferably with a glass of wine in hand.