Monday, December 31, 2012

December 2012 Book Recap

What I read and started in December 2012

Books read to date: 37/40
I missed by goal by 3.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Monthly savings: $2.17
Year-to-date savings: $355.85


Monday, December 17, 2012

37/40: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The HobbitThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to wait to review this book and the movie together, but I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to see the movie before Christmas holidays begin. I imagine the movie will be awesome. Peter Jackson is a fabulous director and I can't wait to see how all these scenes play out. I read a lot of the key parts thinking "This is going to look unreal on screen". Don't disappoint me Jackson!

The story was a wonderful adventure. This is definitely one of those books that you have to just sit and read and enjoy the ride. For every situation they got into, they got out and into another one right away. It was never ending trouble and relief throughout this entire book. I loved how Bilbo figured out how to help in every situation. Reluctantly. He showed that friendship, wit and settling things with words was the best option and when words wouldn't do, he stepped up and was a brave hobbit. He showed that courage comes in many forms and is not always about being the hero.
The story was heartwarming and fun, illustrated that sometimes enemies can be friends and grudges can be set aside to fight for the common good. Loved it.

All around it was wonderful and I can't wait to see the movie now that I've read the book. J.R.R. Tolkien was an amazing story teller.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Traditions - Boxing Day

We do not go Boxing Day shopping. Never have and I can't say we ever will. We both despise crowds to the point where we do most of our Christmas shopping online. Besides that, Boxing Day is special on my side of the family. It's my nieces birthday!!

This year she will be 5 years old. 5! I can't believe it. I can still remember being woken up at 3:00 am by my sister telling us she was going to the hospital because her water broke. I was so out of it and confused why she was coming down the stairs to

We celebrate her birthday in it's entirety. Birthday wrapping on the gifts, birthday cake, birthday decorations. Yes there may still be a Christmas tree up but it's her birthday, not Christmas anymore. (at least for the day) I imagine this year we will be going, weather permitting, sledding and skating.

Other than the evening spent celebrating her birthday, we usually end up sleeping in, having a good breakfast and never missing the World Junior Hockey game. (GO CANADA GO!!)


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Traditions - Christmas Day

Christmas morning is utter chaos and I love it. There is nothing better than waking up to someone squealing "SANTA CAME! SANTA CAME!!". I could do without the dogs and kids jumping on us to get up quick, but you can't help but smile and the wonder.

Christmas Day Traditions: 
Stockings are opened as soon as we all get up. When we get up is all dependent on kids.
Santa gifts come next.
Breakfast is always a full meal. Not sure what we will be making this year, but bacon is a must.
After breakfast we open up the rest of our gifts.
The last 2 years we have tried to save money around the holidays and my family has since decided that we would draw names for Secret Santa. Each adult in the family draws one name. That person gets roughly a $100 gift for the their SS. Rather than buying a bunch of $25 - $30 gifts for every person, we go all out for one. It's fun and has worked well. The children all get a gift from us, since Christmas is more about them now.
We are still working on his side of the family to get them to agree to this as well. Sadly, there are a few that don't want to buy gifts for those that aren't there. I get that. This year it seems to have worked out that way.
We have purchased gifts for his parents and his nephews and niece.
Christmas Dinner is always classic turkey dinner with all the trimmings. We have wine, music and end up playing with all the fun toys or board games that we get.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Traditions - Decorations

Time to get in the Christmas spirit. Do you decorate inside the house and out?
I love Christmas. Especially a white Christmas. The joy of living in Alberta means we have snow for Christmas. I can only remember one year being a brown Christmas.
I have yet to take pictures of the lights on our house outside, but the inside is so much warmer

The Tree

The Bookshelf

The Wreath

Center Piece
Fire place


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Traditions - Christmas Eve

Some people celebrate their big gift giving Christmas Eve, others Christmas Day. My side of the family has always celebrated Christmas morning. Since this year is on my side, these are the traditions we will be observing. Frenchie's side does things slightly different.

Christmas Eve Traditions:
We have a tradition of doing Chinese food on Christmas Eve. Why this became a tradition, I can't remember. I believe we all ordered in once when there were small babies and cooking seemed like too much work at that time. We used to get take out until Frenchie and I hosted and made our own. Now we make our own every year to carry on the tradition.

When I was a kid, we always got to open one gift from our Nanna (not our grandma, but she was as close). Every year she would give us a piano book and a hand made flannel nightgown. As we got older, it was chocolate and a piano book. My sisters have carried on this tradition a little. Each child gets one gift to open and they are always new pajamas. For the last couple years us older girls all got pj's too.

We also have the Milk and Cookie tradition. The kids help one of us make cookies and they take them to the fireplace and set them out for Santa. They disappear after they all go to bed leaving a few crumbs for the next morning. My dad always says Santa would prefer Rum & Coke or a Hot Rum Toddy.

I love seeing traditions from when I was a kid seeping into the next generation. It's nice to know that traditions stay as traditions should. Knowing that we get to teach our nieces/nephew and future children how Christmas was for us means a lot.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Traditions - December

Since December can feel like a long month at the same time Christmas arrives quickly, I want to do a series of traditions posts.

Christmas is about traditions. As a couple, Frenchie and I are still figuring ours out.
For the past 6 years we have been together, we have either been separate for Christmas, or did both families during the holidays. This got to be too much so we started to say one family got Dec 24, 25, 26 and the other got either before or after those dates depending on when they fell during the week.
Now we have decided it's time to alternate years completely. With out of town family saying they will be coming for Christmas in 2013 on his side, we have opted for my side this year. Works out perfect since it's in our city and we will be able to stay at our house! First time we'll wake up in our own home together!!
We have decided we will open our gifts and stockings to each other. Give Beta her gifts, have some coffee, go for a walk and then head over to my sisters where Christmas is being hosted. Hopefully we time it perfectly to arrive for breakfast.

Let's start with these.
December Traditions:
Setting up the tree (around) December 1.
Christmas lights go on (around) December 1.
Christmas music!! Much to Frenchie's dismay, I LOVE Christmas music. I start playing them on the piano and have a continuous stream going on the weekends. Favorite is by far Michael Buble. He has such an amazing voice.
Christmas Movie: Love Actually. We watch it every year.
The Nutcracker. I love the cartoon and watch it once every year. I used to go to the Alberta Ballet performance of it but haven't for a lot of years. This year I will be going with the girls in my family to a college performance instead.
Zoo Lights. This was Frenchie and my first date and we have since (only missed 2 years) gone on our dating anniversary or as close to. The Calgary zoo decorates with lights and they offer music, hot chocolate and bonfires while you walk around and enjoy the lights. They are stunning!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Recap - November 2012

What I read and started in November 2012

Books read to date: 36/40
Finally on target!

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Monthly savings: $50.03
Year-to-date savings: $353.68


Saturday, December 1, 2012

36/40: Easy by Tammara Webber

EasyEasy by Tammara Webber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she's single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex's frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night--but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.

When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he's hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

Lucas... Oh that boy is almost perfect. I definitely did a few big sighs with dreamy thoughts.

I picked up this book on recommendation from my sister who wouldn't stop gushing over Lucas. I procrastinated reading it until my other sister also started gushing. Ok ok! I'll read it! Glad I did. I had no idea what it was about other than the main male character was yummy. (isn't that enough sometimes?)

Quick read, very enjoyable. I was actually surprised by the content on the assault. Webber does a great job portraying just how quick and horrific that situation could be and the consequences after. Not physically, but the mental toll it can take on the victim. She didn't sugarcoat anything, got to the point and had a strong female character triumph. I loved it. Not knowing that the story was about that topic, I was a little shocked when the scene took place.

I love this sort of romance book because they don't go into massive detail during the sex scenes. It's all about  the love, burning looks, fingers brushing lightly on skin and hands smoothing out hair lovingly. It's romantic and leaves the rest to the imagination.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

35/40: Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward

Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #9)Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Payne, twin sister of Vishous, is cut from the same dark, warrior cloth as her brother: A fighter by nature, and a maverick when it comes to the traditional role of Chosen females, there is no place for her on the Far Side… and no role for her on the front lines of the war, either. 

When she suffers a paralyzing injury, human surgeon Dr. Manuel Manello is called in to treat her as only he can- and he soon gets sucked into her dangerous, secret world. Although he never before believed in things that go bump in the night- like vampires- he finds himself more than willing to be seduced by the powerful female who marks both his body and his soul.

As the two find so much more than an erotic connection, the human and vampire worlds collide … just as a centuries old score catches up with Payne and puts both her love and her life in deadly jeopardy

Another book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood book down. This is #9 in the series.
With the long list of characters, it feels like it will never end. There are always new characters arriving and everyone has a story. I will say that it's nice each book is focused on a certain character and their life.

Payne is a strong female character and I liked her. Not a big fan of Manny, I'm still not sure other than his surgical skills how he really fits in, but I'm sure that will be expanded on in the next book. As always, they see each other and fall in love immediately. They can't live without each other, but they try and it goes all wrong. Reunite and happily ever after. This is the same plot as all the books so you know what you're getting yourself into. As much as I'd like to quit this series, I can't. I'll eventually pick up the next one and speed through it as well.

It was refreshing to read a book of someone who wasn't a Brother. I was a little disappointed that there was a lot of focus on V again. He got an entire book to himself! I also felt the scenes with Xcor were a little anti-climatic. I'm a little sad Ward is adding in what appears to be another "brotherhood". As if the Black Dagger Brotherhood didn't have enough to worry about with an expanding family and the Lessening Society growing in numbers. Maybe the change will be good?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

34/40: The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy

The Soldier's WifeThe Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: As World War II draws closer and closer to Guernsey, Vivienne de la Mare knows that there will be sacrifices to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and for her mother-in-law, for whom she cares while her husband is away fighting. What she does not expect is that she will fall in love with one of the enigmatic German soldiers who take up residence in the house next door to her home. As their relationship intensifies, so do the pressures on Vivienne. Food and resources grow scant, and the restrictions placed upon the residents of the island grow with each passing week. Though Vivienne knows the perils of her love affair with Gunther, she believes that she can keep their relationship and her family safe. But when she becomes aware of the full brutality of the Occupation, she must decide if she is willing to risk her personal happiness for the life of a stranger.

Good story. I was expecting a great story, but I'll settle for good.

I enjoyed The Soldier's Wife. It had a good story, didn't sugarcoat the way life was on Guernsey and had an element of tension throughout.The people of Guernsey were sheltered from the main onslaught of the war. They did not remain unscathed. How historically accurate it was having work camps on the island, I'm not sure. It would definitely be something to look into. When we're taught about WW2 in school, you usually hear about the large camps, rarely about them being everywhere the Germans were.

I kept waiting for something to happen that was truly horrific for the De Le Mare's. There was certainly some tension spots and some horrible things that happened, but they remained for the most part, safe. Things could have gone significantly worse than they did.

I did find the story a little choppy in parts There seemed to be a disconnect between what Vivienne felt for the Captain and what was conveyed to the reader. I didn't feel the love they had for each as deeply as I believe they did for each other. It seemed to be an overview of the life rather than in depth. In all fairness, it did span the entire length of WW2. It seems as though there was months missed and that the bulk of their love affair happened there.

I will say the ending surprised me. It also seemed rushed.
I do think I will read another book by Leroy. She has good writing.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Going Gluten Free for health

Last week I told you all that I had some blood work done and was going for the results. I went. And the news is a little shocking to me.
I have an iron deficiency. I’m anemic. The level wasn't even close to being on the "low" side of the normal range.
I have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Not super low, but lower than she would like to see in me.
I have a vitamin D deficiency. This wasn't a surprise, since it's winter and most Canadians don't get enough sun being bundled up in parkas.

With all of that, and a positive Anti-nuclear antibody test, my Naturopath has said I’m likely developing Celiac Disease. As in, I don’t have it, but if I continue to eat the way that I do, it’s more than likely I will develop it. Having a gluten sensitivity, or Celiac disease would make sense for me with my vitamin deficiencies. We could do a biopsy test to confirm, but I'd rather skip that part and try going on a gluten free diet and see if symptoms improve.

What does that mean for me? Along with my (now 5) supplements I’m taking until everything starts to balance out, I’m to try and limit gluten out of my diet. Three or four years ago, this would have been THE END OF THE WORLD for me, but I've since learned to try new food and be a less picky eater. (I’m the kid that ate the same thing EVERY day for lunch and didn't want anything else)

The Dr. gave me a list of safe/unsafe foods to watch for. It's no where near complete but I think that would be over whelming. So far I'm becoming a label reader and finding a lot of what we eat is safe. Sadly, a lot of my favorites are unsafe. (Huge pasta eaters in my house) The good part is the opportunity to experiment with new food and how to modify favorite recipes. We went grocery shopping yesterday and got a whole bunch of new foods to experiment with. I'm wishing Pinterest wasn't blocked at work, but on the other hand, that's probably a good thing. I'm also resisting going and buying a cookbook today.

My family has been incredibly supportive of the change. My sister is hosting Christmas this year and we'll be doing up a menu plan that will satisfy everyone and not cause me any digestive pain. Frenchie is a little unlucky that he also gets to be gluten free for the most part. He can easily eat gluten if he wants, but if I'm cooking dinner, there will not be two meals. As a guy who will eat almost anything, he is happy to help me make new exciting dishes.

If you have an products you love or recipes, please share them! I'm being thrown into a whole new cooking world.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Health Update

I went for a massage in October and was recommended to see a chiropractor at one particular clinic. Turns out the clinic is 5 minutes from my house. My massage therapist that I had by chance gone to, told me this chiropractor would be able to help me. So I went. I swear he is the first chiropractor to really listen to me and understand where I'm coming from. I have been going to him every Saturday for the past 6 weeks. We've now moved to a bi-weekly basis and adding a massage treatment in between.

I’m in total shock that this guy was able to have 2 sessions with me and make a difference to my arm/wrist pain. I have a large amount of scar tissue in my shoulder, lats and forearm that he’s working diligently on breaking up. He’s also said that my pain is pinched nerves, coming from my shoulder, armpit and pecs. He’s been able to recreate the pain easily from those three areas that it’s hard to deny that’s where it comes from. 

I’m still skeptical that someday down the road I’ll be pain free, but for now, having little to no pain every week and going in for treatments is the best possible situation I could be in. The fact that treatments are every two weeks with chiro and every two weeks with massage is a step in the right direction. It makes me incredibly thankful my husband and I have health benefits we can rely on.

Being able to play piano for more than 15 minutes at a time is wonderful. I feel like I can play for enjoyment and keep going through songs with little to know worry about suffering pain later. I’m not cleared to start strength training yet. My body is itching to do something, but I know I have to wait. For the mean time, I can do cardio, legs and abs.

As for the mental side of things, I feel lighter. I feel like something is lifted, but not entirely gone. Like a veil has been removed and I am standing in sunshine, rather than in the shadow. The supplements my Naturopath has me on are making a world of difference. I’m happier, I feel more equipped to deal with things that otherwise would have me in an anxious heap. There is still something hiding deep within, some residing fear that it won't last. That maybe this will all disappear some day and I’ll be that anxious mess again, but for now, I’m enjoying every minute of this light feeling.

I had blood tests last week and will go in this week to get my results. We’ll see what the Dr. says and if I need to adjust my supplements or start taking more. Feeling healthy is a wonderful feeling. Feeling like you’re awake and seeing life in a new light is refreshing. 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

33/40: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maggie Stiefvater is an incredible author. Raven Boys is unique and well written. It took me a while to get into the characters and see how they all played out together. I've been thinking about the book for the past week so that definitely shows it was a good one. I should know better than to start a book when the series isn't complete. It's so painful to wait!

Gansey is an interesting character. He's flawed and naive and incredibly focused. The amount of care he has for his friends isn't misplaced and in a very, very sweet. He has no idea that his money and offering to take care of people isn't taken well. His eloquent words are daggers to those that did not grow up in his world. I love that he has a little Indiana Jones in him. Treasure hunting has become an interesting obsession for him. A safe place to use his money where it doesn’t offend anyone. He was able to be himself and not the character he had to play because of who he is on the outside. There’s another side to Gansey that we only see when he’s in his element.

Blue, to me, is not the main character of this book like I expected her to be. She is a side character that works well with the boys. I also enjoyed this book because there was very little teen love in it. She wasn’t the kind of girl that went gaga over a boy and lost her head. Refreshing!

The shifting perspectives of each chapter were refreshing and gave me a chance to get to know every character individually. Each character was completely unique and had a different background. I liked that Stiefvater let us see into each characters background and life the other characters may not have seen.

I’ve never read a book that had to do with time-space or psychics so this was a great one. I'm excited for the next book in the series!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Anxiety Treatment

There is something to be said about getting second opinions, and trying new health professionals.

About 3 years ago I was going to a Naturopath for prolotherapy for my wrist pain. It helped, for a while. At the same time I was suffering from brutal panic attacks and anxiety. The Dr recommended Rescue Remedy as a way to help me cope and it worked, most of the time.

Over the past month my anxiety has come back. It’s been draining, and with winter setting in, will be harder to combat. A lack of vitamin D is a problem and Seasonal Affective Disorder is something a lot of Canadians go through, even if they don’t realize it.

I decided that going to my medical doctor likely wouldn't do much for me since there is no medical test for anxiety and I don’t really want to be on anything resembling anti-depressants. I don’t believe I’m there and would like to deal with this naturally versus pumping more medication into my body. The closer we get to maybe starting a family, the more I’m pushing for getting off all the medication I've been put on for various problems. Most of them are “safe” for fertility and baking a baby, but I’d prefer to not have the risk if it can be avoided.

I went to a different naturopathic doctor this time and after a 1.5 hour consultation, she has made a small difference. We talked about my past, present and future plans. She told me that although my environment maybe giving me symptoms of anxiety and causing stress, it’s not the underlying problem. Rescue Remedy may help the symptoms, but it’s not the solution. “You can’t change your environment, you can adjust your perspective and how you deal with it”.

She has determined that my body is a little backwards. It’s low on serotonin, which also means it’s low on melatonin production. Cortisol is high based on my stress levels which could be pulling progesterone from my body, leading to other womanly issues. I have a lot of trouble sleeping because of the first two chemicals being imbalanced. I have incredibly horrible periods where I’m more likely to take a day off work than come in dealing with the pain, nausea and heaviness because of the second hormone being less than it should be.

Her first course of action is to help me sleep. More sleep = better coping function = less anxiety = happier me. I’m taking one 5-htp capsule in the morning to help produce serotonin which in turn helps my body naturally create melatonin. It will also help even out my mood throughout the day. An hour before bed I’m to take 2 Phosphatidylserine capsules. This will stop my body from using cortisol at night, keeping me awake and my brain doing circles. Allowing my body to use the melatonin it created all day.

It’s been 4 days and I've slept well 3 out of 4 nights. I feel lighter mentally. It’s still too soon to say that everything is “normal” but I definitely feel like it’s tipping the scales that way. Still a long way to go, but every day is getting brighter.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

32/40: Wild: From Lost to Found on the PCT by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wouldn't ever recommend this book. If it wasn't for book club, I wouldn't have picked this one up. I'm having a hard time writing a review for this book because I didn't really like it.

If this book was fiction, I may have had an easier time getting through it. I lost respect for the author in the way she coped with her loss. Not everyone deals with loss the same way, and I get that. Some people channel positive ways and some negative. It was just hard to read the negative things she did and never really explained her reasons. It seems like hiking the Pacific Coast Trail was the positive route, but a little extreme in my opinion. I am glad the book focused on that part instead of the negatives.

It took me 2 months to get through this. I started reading every word. Then I got frustrated with her coping mechanisms and only read the parts where she was describing her journey on the trail. Then it got to be boring and the same after a while. He journey was long, and she had great luck not having terrible things happen to her as a young woman hiking alone. There were certainly times when things could have gone far worse than they did.

I do have a great respect for the brutal environment she put herself through in order to try and find herself. I could never do that. I hate hiking. The fact that she got through the PCT is truly an accomplishment.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

October 2012 Book Recap

What I read and started in October 2012

Books read to date: 31/40
I am 2 books behind my goal.

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Still Reading
 by Cheryl Strayed – this book just won’t end

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - far too slow to get going
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice (audiobook) – lost interest. I may come back to it later. I liked the story a lot, just not the right time to listen to a book.

Monthly savings: $35.94
Year-to-date savings: $303.65


Monday, October 29, 2012

France: Troglodyte Dwelling

Have you ever stayed in a Troglodyte home? Me either. But I will be!

We have started booking accommodations for France. It’s still about 8 months away, but definitely something to do early. Several of the apartments we were looking at have already been booked. Seems like a lot of people have the same idea. The difference between booking a B&B or apartment from a hotel is the lack of rooms. On average there are about 1 – 5 rooms at a B&B and only one apartment. When there are limited fantastic ones you fall in love with, you book them as soon as you can.

We have booked in the Loire Valley. We wanted to do a B&B in this area and stay outside the city of Tours. We will have a car and will drive to the chateaus rather than do tours. This will give us a little more flexibility  We will be staying in a troglodyte B&B, Les Sentinières. What exactly does that mean? It’s a cave. A really, really nice cave. We booked a suite and it’s stunning! The webpage has a ton of pictures so check them out.

picture from

My hope is that by November we will have all our accommodations booked. Then we focus on Christmas, and brother-in-laws wedding. Other than the accommodations we can’t book much else until around 3 months out. That doesn't mean there isn't research to do and plans to form.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

31/40: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. 

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

From the first page I was hooked. I felt like I was reading an episode of Supernatural which is definitely my favorite TV show. Cas sounded exactly like Dean Winchester, only 18. He was witty, sarcastic, had a way with getting information from girls. Saw people as a means to killing a ghost, getting the job done and then leaving. No ties. No friends.
I liked the candid monologue he would have in his head. I liked the idea of him wanting to avenge his father, but knowing that to do so he must hunt and gain his experience before he knew he was ready. The fact that he was training himself in preparation for killing the thing that took his father showed a lot of restraint and smarts for an 18 year old.

Anna was a creepy ghost. I liked her story as hard as her past was to read about. Her inner struggle was interesting. What would it be like to know you're dead? She went through hell and was more powerful than anything Cas had ever come up against in the past. She was something more than a ghost.

The rest of the characters were good. Fitting perfect stereotypes that made the story feel like a teen horror movie. Carmel, Chase, Mike and Will were your typical popular girl in school and jocks. Thomas was the awkward, yet comes into his own and is a force to reckon with. I actually had to put the book down near the end knowing I wouldn't be able to sleep. Had to save the end to read during the day. Not many books freak me out and make me love it.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Conversation with God

The past 1.5 years has been a blessing and hard at the same time. A lot of happiness and a lot of struggle. A lot has happened in the last year and half.
  • We got married.
  • Both Frenchie and I started new jobs.
  • I started teaching piano.
  • My wrist hit another all time high (or low depending on how you look at it)
  • I lost a close aunt that was also my mom’s identical twin to cancer.
  • I started a home business selling Epicure.
  • A niece was born on Frenchies side of the family.
  • I did The Husband Project and The Marriage Project.
  • Julie and I did a bible study together.
  • Been on and off again with this fitness program or that.

But through it all, the one thing that makes it a hard year is my lack of faith. Before we got married I was in the RCIA program and was very rooted in our church. I may not have had a lot of friends, but I looked forward to going every weekend and seeing those people who were converting with me. We had our own group and it was great. After the wedding, I lost touch with most of them, and then when my aunt passed, I lost my faith a little. I was angry at God for answering my prayers. I prayed she would not suffer for long, but she did for 4 months. She passed while Frenchie and I were on our honeymoon. And I wish more than anything we could have been there for my mom and family. I regret not being there still. I was angry at God because he took such a wonderful person is such a hard way. I was angry because my aunt was also my Godmother and I never cherished that relationship until it was too late.

This has kept me up for a lot of nights crying silent tears. It has kept me from going to church and praying for her safe passage to Heaven. We went a couple times in between the wedding and now and I could never make it through communion without breaking down into tears and crying in the pew. While you’re in church and people are generally good to you, you will always be judged by those sitting around you. It’s one thing to seek comfort, but quite another to have someone look at you when you’re clearly in grief and make you feel like you should leave, like you are interrupting their experience. And granted I probably was.

Last night I had a long chat with God about my aunt and about my faith. The reason I cry during communion is because of its reminder to me of her. The last time I saw her she said she kept thinking of one phrase from church and it helped her be at peace. “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the words and I shall be healed”. Those words are powerful by themselves, but add an emotional tie and they take on a whole new meaning. While in conversation (or prayer if you want) I came to the realization that although it’s terribly sad to hear those words and think of what they meant to her, I need to think of the experience completely different. It will still be sad, but it’s also an opportunity for me to feel closer to her; for me to remember her. To think of it as a constant reminder she is with Him and at peace and watching over us.
I woke up this morning and made a vow to attend church this weekend. It’s time I come back to the flock and forgive Him and forgive myself for feeling so guilty about lacking faith for the past while. To go and realize that it’s a blessing to be so emotional and to know that I need to get through it and finally have closure. It’s time.

During my coffee run this morning I ran into a fellow parishioner and it felt so good to talk to him. I told him some of my lame excuses for not attending Mass. Things like Frenchie not coming with me, not wanting to sit alone, etc. He told me I can always sit with him and his wife. They go to a mass time that would work for me and they’d be happy to be there with me. They don't know about the great loss I need healing from, but if they asked I would gladly share.

It's amazing when He just lays it all out when you open your heart and accept. 


Monday, October 22, 2012

30/40: The Virgin Cure by Amy McKay

The Virgin CureThe Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: "I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."

The Virgin Cure begins in the tenements of lower Manhattan in the year 1871. A series of betrayals lead Moth, at only twelve years old, to the wild, murky world of the Bowery, where eventually she meets Miss Everett, the owner of a brothel simply known as "The Infant School." Miss Everett caters to gentlemen who pay dearly for companions who are "willing and clean," and the most desirable of them all are young virgins like Moth.

While Moth's housemates risk falling prey to the myth of the "virgin cure"--the belief that deflowering a girl can heal the incurable and tainted--her new friend Dr. Sadie warns Moth to question and observe the world around her so she won't share the same fate. Still, Moth dreams of answering to no one but herself. There's a high price for such independence, though, and no one knows that better than a girl from Chrystie Street

I really enjoyed this one. The only thing I would want different is for it to be longer! Around the last 90 pages I kept thinking that there HAS to be more to the story.

Moth was a good character. Innocent, trying not to be. Trying to survive. As much as she tries to be ruthless or heartless and make herself out to be older than she is, she is still a young girl at heart needing someone to love her. Dr. Sadie was such a sweet woman and I love how her story ended. She had such a good heart and I really hoped that what she did for a living made a difference. Which for Moth, it certainly made life more bearable.

The personalities of Rose, Mae and Alice was fantastic. McKay covered all the bases for girls who would be in a brothel and played their characters just right in the story. It was a struggle to get through some parts and I found myself disgusted with the behavior of the men, but that was the point of the story.

I loved the setting and how well McKay described everything. I could almost feel the grit and dirt Moth lived in. She went into enough detail to disturb you, but left a lot to the imagination. The path that took Moth to Miss Fenwick - one of Miss Everett's girls was a bumpy one, a hard one and ended up being rewarding.

Highly recommend this one for anyone who is a historical novel fan.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

29/40: Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

Fathomless (Fairytale Retellings, #3)Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant -- until Celia meets Lo.

Lo doesn't know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea -- a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid -- all terms too pretty for the soulless monster she knows she's becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she's tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude's affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there's only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her . . . and steal his soul

Basically I just didn't get this book. Sisters Red made sense to me. Sweetly, sort of.  This one was not what I expected out of the Little Mermaid.

While I love the writing style Pearce gives, the story line for this one was not something I could get on board with. I hate giving spoilers in reviews on my blog, so please go to Goodreads to see why. I just didn't see the connection between what Lo was and what the man was. There was no connection for me throughout the story that explained it. Yes it's fantasy, or paranormal or whatever genre, but it should make a little sense as to why there is one "monster" and then a different kind. With absolutely no explanation the story lost it's meaning to me. I really wanted to love this one. I love The Little Mermaid and thought this was an awesome idea to retell it. Sadly, it just didn't live up to my expectations. Going off the synopsis I really expected more about Lo trying to steal back her soul and there being a struggle between Celia and her for Jude's affection.

I also felt nothing for the characters. There didn't seem to be enough for me to feel that each character really loved who they loved. They all seemed pretty flat. The best character by far was Lo and her inner struggle. That part I totally understood. And Molly was great as a supporting character.

I really wanted to love it. Writing style was great as always. I still plan to read more of Jackson Pearce in the future because I think she's a wonderful writer. Just didn't love this particular book. The other Fairy Tale retellings were far better.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Let the planning begin! FRANCE

It’s time to start planning for THE VACATION. This is THE VACATION that we’ve been talking about for a while (2 years??). We have finally nailed down dates and I’M SO EXCITED!!!

Frenchie and I are finally going to France. I cannot wait! 2.5 weeks of blissful travelling through France. Yes it’s not going to be all awesome and happy and stress-free. I’ve travelled enough to know that those things never happen. At least not when you’re traveling with me. I can find the stress points in anything and everything. The great thing is we have plenty of time to reduce the amount of pain points as much as we can.

First pain point is always flights. I hate having to change airlines, change planes, go through customs in two different countries, you name it. While I enjoy people watching in airports, there is ultimately never enough time in between flights to do so unless you have a LONG lay over and then it sucks for other reasons. We’ve fixed that: Direct flights from our wonderful city to Paris. Now let’s pick one point of stress that could occur here. It’s a 9.5 hour flight. :O That is a long time to be on a plane! I will most definitely be bringing several books with me, the iPad, iPod and chargers for both. Thankfully, the flight there is over night and we’ve paid a little extra to get a “comfort kit” which includes a pillow, blanket, eye mask and various other things (like wine) to help make the trip that much more enjoyable. (Let’s be honest, am I really going to sleep on the way to France? Excitement will likely get the better of me.)

In our planning prior to booking flights, we have several places nailed down that we want to visit for sure. The places have changed a little since we first started talking about going to this beautiful county, but there are several that have remained unchanged. Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Paris. Those are our Big Three that will not be missed.

We’ve gone from thinking we could do Nice, Lyon, Marseille, Normandy, the Big Three, maybe Lorraine. Then we looked at how far things were, the train/drive time and the fact we’d get a day at most in each place. Now we’ve decided that we’d much rather enjoy our time in fewer places and get to know the areas better. Still have the Big Three in the itinerary, but have added Normandy and Carcassonne and Marseille.


Monday, October 1, 2012

September 2012 Book Recap

What I read and started in September 2012

Books read to date: 28/40
I am 2 books behind my goal.


The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice (audiobook)

Still Reading
Monthly savings: $51.72
Year-to-date savings: $267.71


28/40: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

I've never read The Great Gatsby and I'm very glad I have now. While I did find the language/writing difficult to understand in some parts and had to repeat reading some pages, I loved the story. I think this is definitely one of those books that gets better and better the more often you read it. For a book that was only 191 pages, that could be easily accomplished.

I started reading this book because of the movie coming out next year. Sad really. I'm reading a classic because of the movie. I know a lot of people read this when they were in grade school. I think reading it then and reading it now would be different. However, having to analyze the book for a class would have really got me more involved in it. When I started the book I was under the impression the story was going to be told from Gatsby's point of view. I was a little surprised when it wasn't. It gave it a very different feel.

Gatsby was an interesting character. I liked him, but have to question his level of crazy. I get that people will do anything for love, but I think he went a little overboard. There was such an air of mystery around him until his deepest desires are revealed and then he becomes a simple man, loving a woman from afar, for a long time. He seems like this incredibly secretive fellow, and really he's not. It's interesting to see the change.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

27/40: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Interview with the VampireInterview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force–a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.

I listened to this one on audio. I have watched the movie several times and wanted to "read" the book to see what was missed. I'm impressed with the book to movie adaptation. A lot of times the parts that make you feel for a certain character are skipped, or a secondary character isn't included at all. I felt more for Armand listening to the book than I ever did in the movie. I think now I may have to watch it again and really pay attention to his character over Claudia or Louis. 

I gave it 3 stars because I found it very long and a lot of it was very drawn out. While I loved the writing and the characters, it was just really long. That said, when I came to the conclusion of this one and the narrator said "the end", I immediately hit play on The Vampire Lestat. That in itself speaks to Anne Rice and her ability to suck a reader in and make them crave more. I've also been told by a number of readers that The Vampire Lestat is their favorite book in the series. 

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

26/40: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . . 

I've never read a Neil Gaiman and heard a lot of friends love him. This was one that popped up a lot in recommendations. It was ok. Probably more like 2.5 stars than 3.

The writing was good, so I can understand why people love Gaiman. He has a great way with words and creating this interesting setting. He's creative. Who would have thought to create a story of a human boy who grows up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts? As interesting as the story sounds, it was so-so. I'm not sure if this was just the wrong Gaiman book for me or what, but it wasn't enough to sell me on him being an amazing author. I will likely read another one by him in the future if it was a book club book, but after all the gushing, I just don't see it.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Organization Project #2: Pantry

The pantry is something we use every day. Since I've been selling Epicure Selections, we've needed to make room for the amazing mixes and goodies I buy. This wasn't a part of the house that was disorganized, it just didn't flow right and I was constantly moving things around. I'm sure this isn't the last iteration of organization for it, but it will work for a while.
Once we use up the large containers of spices, it will be better. Still a lot to use up.


Spice Rack on back of door
Left side - dishes
Right side - food


Spice Rack - after
Only the middle shelf changed
Matching containers for dry goods
Very little food on the floor
Left Side - Bit more room
Plastic containers organized better