Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Delicious

Hi readers!

I'm sorry to have neglected you for so long! It's unintentional, I promise. This was a bit of a rough week, but I'm recovering well and today is a new day. My right eye was really inflamed and it hurt really bad. This prevented me from reading for more than three minutes and also made it miserable to look at a computer screen (which I already do 7 hours a week at work). In addition to my eye issues, I got sick! Again! This time it wasn't the flu, but a sore throat, stuffy nose, and a light fever. Colleges are one of the germiest places in existence, and the germs have all chosen to attack me. Not fair. And then, to make things worse, my reading light stopped working! AAAGGGGHHH what a week! But, things got better. I'll share them with you here.

Anyway, you're probably curious what I've been up to. Or maybe you aren't. But I'm going to share anyway!  On Monday I completed reading One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell. I've read all of her other works and was only disappointed with one (Sex and the City--BOOORRRRING!). This was another pick off my bookshelf. I had purchased it last spring after a job interview in Walla Walla, WA. I got it from Hastings, one of my favorite bookstore chains (yay for having used books!) Although this book wasn't used, it was two years old and already bargain priced at $3.99 for the trade paperback edition. Score!

This novel is about a building (located at One Fifth Avenue, hence the title) and the inhabitants. The first hundred pages or so were extremely slow for me and I contemplated putting the book down and not picking it up again, but I will say now that I'm so glad I continued reading it! The storyline itself is perhaps a little dry and slow moving, but Bushnell is an artist when it comes to observing the different generations. She gives almost side-by-side comparisons of how different generations react to different events (example: a 60-year-old gossip columnist vs a 22-year-old gossip blogger). I found several of here generational observations to be right-on and highly intriguing. Bushnell blends an unusual mix of characters and stories in this novel, and I consider it to be very well-written. I recommend it to those of you fascinated by the lives of New York socialites, generational observations, or just looking for a good read.
Here's my reading goal information for the novel:
One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
Rating: 3/5
Pages: 433
2011 Reading Goal: 986/12,500

Yesterday (Saturday), I completed another book found on my bookshelf. It has been sitting there for at least three years that I can recall. I picked it up thrift shopping (at those local chain stores I had mentioned in a previous blog), back before I had even heard of James Patterson. I was feeling in the mood for a James Patterson novel, and was pleasantly surprised by what I got.

The book is called Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson. It is a love story (THAT was the surprise!), where Jennifer's grandmother, Sam, goes into a coma. Jennifer arrives at her grandmother's place to find a stack of unopened envelopes on her bed, all addressed to her. They tell the story of her grandmother's relationship with her grandfather and reveals to Jennifer her deepest secret. Meanwhile, Jennifer, traumatized by the death of her late husband and child, meets an old childhood friend and begins to develop feelings for him. I'm going to stop there because I don't want to give away the book, since it's so good! I recommend it to people who love Nicholas Sparks novels (because it's just as well written as one) or anyone looking for a happy-ending romance.
Here's my reading goal information for this novel:
Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson
Rating: 4/5
2011 Reading Goal: 1,249/12,500

 I went to the local library yesterday for the first time. Shameful, I know. I got a library card and looked around. It's a very nice facility with a surprising number of fiction novels, so I'm pretty happy with it. To me, libraries can make or break a town. My hometown has a 3-story library with a very wide selection of books and serves a population of around 90,000 people. When I went to college, the local library was so small and they only had one copy of new releases, and no website. It was tragic. The facility was nice, but there were too many bare shelves, which was depressing. It just felt like there was no life to the facility. They served a population of about 12,000. My local library now serves a population of about 17,000. They don't have a website (it was actually REALLY hard to track them down), which is a negative, but I was still pretty impressed with their book selection. Maybe I can survive this year only purchasing six books.
Yum yum!

Last night I decided to make something from The Essential Pasta Cookbook, which my best friend, Jessie Mae, got me for Christmas! I made Pomodoro sauce, and it was DELICIOUS!!! As you can see, I paired it with some garlic bread, green beans, and a glass of Raging Bull wine. The wine is a red zinfandel intended to be paired with barbecue or spicy foods, but it still tasted great with my red pasta sauce.The wine hails from Modesto, CA, and I was able to purchase it at Target. I often pick too dry of red wines, but this one was perfect. I definitely recommend it for you wine lovers out there :)

So, readers, I hope this blog has confirmed for you that I am, indeed, alive. I'm already working my way through another book and have fixed my reading light, so you'll likely be hearing from me again soon!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Burning Vinegar

This is my new project:

I'm working on the robe, pattern "A". I haven't sewn in a while, but I need a new robe and new sewing project. The last project I worked on was two years ago, when I sewed my own bridesmaid dress for a friend's wedding. This project will be much, much simpler.

Although I love sewing with all my heart, it is a constant reminder that I have absolutely NO common sense. Today, I discovered that the soleplate on my iron was gunky with remnants of an accidental burning. I tried to use common sense, I really did. I unplugged the iron (still a little hot) and grabbed the white vinegar to clean it. I rationed that it would clean best if the iron was hot, because the gunk would be hot.

That was a stupid idea.

What ended up happening is that I burned vinegar. Ladies, please learn from my mistake: never put vinegar on a hot surface. It leads to the worst smell in the world! It lingered in my apartment all night. Fortunately, it was pretty warm weather outside yesterday (22 degrees ABOVE zero!!!), so I was able to open a window and let everything air out.

While cutting the fabric, I realized that the 8 cups of coffee I had that morning was slightly impractical, since my hands were shaking like crazy. However, I was still able to cut and iron all my tissue and fabric yesterday. All I need to do today is fuse some interfacing to some strips of fabric, and I will be ready to start sewing!

This has not replaced reading, I promise. I'm working on a novel currently, but am having some issues with my eyesight at the moment, so it's taking longer than anticipated to complete the novel.

Shameful secret (well, I guess it isn't a secret if I'm blogging it for the whole world to hear): I recently discovered I have over 60 unread books on my bookshelf. I'm so disappointed in myself. I'm not even sure that I will be buying books at all this year. I will contemplate this and discuss it with you all at a later date.

Today's agenda:

Today will be a relaxing day indeed!
  • bubble bath
  • lots of coffee (but maybe not 8 cups...)
  • reading
  • pedicure
  • doing dishes
  • fusing robe's interfacing
  • sewing a bit
  • vacuuming apartment
I love the holidays :D

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Into the Wild with Velociraptors

I love the holidays, don't get me wrong, but it is soooo nice to get back into a routine and spend a little time alone. Yesterday after work I made myself a Montana Meal (you know, steak, potatoes, and a veggie--yum yum!). I spent the rest of the night finishing up a novel and then, later, crocheting a blanket while watching tv. I slept really well and feel energized this morning (not because of coffee, either! I've only had 1/4 cup so far!).

The novel I completed was Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild. Yes, it has been made into a movie. Unfortunately, I watched the movie first, since I wasn't aware it was a book. I really need to look that stuff up. But I did love the movie, and wanted to see how I would enjoy the book.

The book is about a 24-year-old college graduate from a wealthy family who abandons all possessions to hitchhike across the country. He wants to ultimately get up to Alaska and live off the land. Jon Krakauer wrote an article about Chris McCandless for Outdoor Magazine. The story received so much interest that Krakauer decided to research McCandless's whole two-year expedition through the nation.

This was the Alaska I saw in December. Beautiful, indeed.
But would I attempt to survive on the land in this? Absolutely not.
I'm going to spoil the story (if you haven't seen the movie), but the biggest difference is the starting and the ending. The movie begins with his adventures and ends in Chris McCandless's death, where the book begins with McCandless's death and works its way back to how he got there.

The book went really quickly for me. It was highly engaging. But--I will warn you-- Jon Krakauer writes like a journalist, so it's common for him to get a little carried away with the details. The only other negative I have about it was Krakauer's 30-page interruption to tell his story of one of his own expeditions. He had a terrible transition into his story and it wasn't as relevant to the reader as I suppose it was from his perspective. I definitely recommend this read for anyone who's ever wanted to venture out into the great unknown. It's a well-told tale of adventure and risk-taking.

Here are my stats for the book:
Rating: 4/5
Pages: 203
2011 Reading Goal: 553/12,500

I should explain that I've decided to switch from my 10-point rating system to a five-point rating system. I believe that the 5-point rating system will better fit with my definitions. Here's what the points mean:

1: Don't bother picking this book up. Seriously. Not worth your time.

Please, heed my warning.
2: I got through it, but it's certainly not one I'd recommend.

3: It was ok, but not at the top of my recommendation list.

4: If you have time or this interests you, please put it on your list of TBR (to be read). Definitely worth the read.

5: Must read!!!!! Velociraptors will eat you in your sleep if you don't!

I hope this helps to clarify what my ratings for various books mean.

For more information on the dangers of velociraptors, please visit this blog:

Have a lovely Saturday!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Flu Season

I am sick. With the flu. That's right--stuffy nose, hot forehead, blurry vision, you name it, I've got it. I'm still going to work, but have been cutting my days a little short. For the first time in two days, I'm eating. Soup! For whatever reason, the Campbell's condensed chicken noodle soup can be beat by nothing when you're sick. I'm just hoping I'll be able to keep it down.

As you can imagine, I haven't been reading much since I've been sick, so I apologize for the lack of blogs. I just thought I should post so you all know I'm not dead, I just feeling like I'm dying.

I did read Who Moved My Cheese?on Monday, shortly after my book review of Stealing Buddha's Dinner. I haven't quite decided how I feel about it yet, except that it is a HUGE ripoff to charge $23.00 for a 100-page 14-point font with 3 inch margins novelette. Good thing I purchased it from a thrift store. Anyway, for those of my readers out there who have read Who Moved My Cheese?, what did you think?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Stealing Buddha's Dinner


I hope 2011 is off to a productive and pleasant start for you all! I was able to make it home yesterday evening, after racing the sunset (the sunset won, but only by an hour). I had purchased a lot of goods in my hometown (helllll-ooooo Costco!) and it took me forever to haul all of that PLUS my gigantic, heavy suitcases from my trip into my apartment. I unpacked everything, only to realize how messy my apartment is. I even left dishes in the sink. Yes, I had rinsed them, but still--gross. I cleaned my apartment for three hours last night, and six hours today. Still, I feel as though I've gotten nowhere. I think that's because I've been unable to complete any tasks. I received four pounds of coffee for Christmas, so I've been very ADD all day.

To wind down for the evening and drink some hot chocolate, I decided to finish reading a book I had started in the Anchorage airport a few days ago: Stealing Buddha's Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen. Before I tell you a bit about the book, I want to give some background on how I found it. My hometown has a chain of thrift stores, kind of like a Goodwill. Of course, there are different items at each of the three stores. This summer, I had been to the one closest to my house, looking for books. I found nothing. In chatting with my best friend, Jessie Mae (who I think has resolved to start buying all her books from this chain of thrift stores, because they're such awesome deals), she suggested I try the one closer to her side of town. It's her belief that they have lower prices and a larger selection. The prices are low anyway--hardcovers typically run anywhere from $2.29-$4.00; trade paperbacks are from $1.29-$3.50; and mass market paperbacks are $2.00 or less. ANYWAY, I found six books on that trip! This book was one of them. It was a hardcover in excellent condition (I'm pretty sure unread, too) and had a pricetag of only $1.29. Score! It was tucked away in the 'romance' section, although it is definitely not a romance novel. The point of this story: get your butt to your local thrift store, because you may find some hidden treasures :)
Back to the novel: this is a memoir about a Vietnamese girl growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the late 1970's and the 1980's. The author, Bich Minh Nguyen, reflects on her desire to fit in with a community of blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Dutch-Americans. Nguyen describes her lust for American food--from Shepherd's Pie to Pringles to ice cream-- as well as the American lifestyle. In the novel, her father marries a penny-pinching second generation Mexican-American, who does not care about name brands or being a stay-at-home mother. Nguyen lives in a two-story house with her Vietnamese grandmother, two Vietnamese uncles, her father, her Mexican-American stepmother, an older stepsister, her older sister, and a Vietnamese-Mexican younger brother. She explains how her lifestyle and family ostracized her from a community she so strongly desired to fit into. This novel was a pretty quick read for me and was intriguing the whole time. The only complaint I have about it is that Nguyen skipped over her teenage years, which I think would have only enriched the novel. If you've ever felt like you just didn't fit in while growing up, this is definitely a story you can relate to.
 Here's my reading goal info:
Rating: 8/10
Pages: 256
2011 Reading Goal: 256/12,500

Also, I just discovered a program on Amazon called Amazon Vine. Has anyone ever heard of it? Apparently, Amazon selects customers who have the most helpful reviews to review products before they come out, like those bloggers I was talking about! I'm thinking I'll be writing more reviews on Amazon now...

UPDATE: I apologize for the randomness of this blog. I think I need to realize that just because I now have more than four pounds of coffee, that does not mean I need to drink it all today.