Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Friday...Before a Looooong, Holiday Weekend!

I hope the anticipation of a long, holiday weekend has made it that much easier to make it through this week.

Today, I was cleaning house and this was totally me.

Specifically P!nk.  For some reason I've been obsessed with her music this week, playing all of her stuff on my iPod...on repeat.  David told me the other night, "Ugh, I can't get away from the P!nk!!"  Haha!

Here's one of my was hard for me to share just one.  And yes, I know the radio is playing this song into the ground.  But, I still love it.

By the way, you know what tomorrow is?

Also, because this is a nice, long, holiday weekend I thought I'd give anyone who might be interested a coupon code for my Etsy shop. 

In case there's anything you've had your eye on, here's a code for 20% off anything in my shop: happylaborday.  This code is valid through Monday.

See you next week!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nicholas and Alexandra

It took me a solid 1.5 months to slog through this behemoth of a book.  With that being said, Nicholas and Alexandra is not a boring or slow book, by any means.  However, when you're reading non-fiction and there's a super dense amount of information packed away in the's just a lot to take in.  And this wasn't a book I was going to rush myself to finish quickly.  This subject has always fascinated me. 

I suppose it all started when, in school, we went to view the Faberge eggs that were on tour (visiting Kansas City) back when I was in...ummm, I think it was middle school?  Regardless, they were/are gorgeous and the story of the Romanovs is enthralling...and tragic, of course.

Another thing that sparked this interest was this movie.  Anyone else remember it?

I think I actually owned this movie (and maybe the soundtrack too?) at some point.  I'm sure it was on VHS and who knows where that might be. 

Of course, after reading this book I've discovered that virtually everything in this movie was/is false.  Anastasia couldn't have survived.  And by the way, Rasputin died before all the Romanovs.  So, why was he lurking around as the bad guy in this movie?  Weirdo.

But, back to the book...sorry, got a little off topic there for a second...this is truly the story of the last generation of the Romanovs.  Nicholas and Alexandra just happened to be at the forefront and they were the ones that affected the majority of the Romanovs' fate at that time, hence the title. 

I didn't know who, what, when, when, where and how the fall of the Romanov dynasty played out until reading this book.  The fact that the tsarevich, the heir apparent, had hemophilia had a major role in the course of events.  Massie makes it clear that if Alexis, Nicholas and Alexandra's only son, hadn't had hemophilia, then they wouldn't have met the manipulative Rasputin.  And therefore, with no Rasputin there would have been no Lenin. 

One of the main excerpts from this book that really got me was when Rasputin was finally murdered.  It took numerous attempts, in different ways, all in one sitting, to kill this man.  He, literally, WOULD NOT DIE.  The whole scene was totally creeptacular. 

There were good, fantastic really, parts of this book too.  Nicholas and Alexandra were madly in love.  This was apparent, through onlookers and their correspondence, that the two truly adored each other and rarely squabbled.  In fact, in the beginning you learn that the two were fond of each other from a very young age.

I really enjoyed learning about the Romanov family, their history and, sadly, their last days.  If you're interested at all in this subject, I would highly recommend this book.  However, I know that 500+ page, non-fiction, about a dead dynasty doesn't intrigue everyone.  Therefore, I wouldn't recommend this book for just anyone.  However, for me this was a solid four star (out of five) read.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Hathaway Series

OK, I promise after this post it'll be a while before another Lisa Kleypas (or any other smutty "literature") makes it's way onto this blog.  I was reading yet another intense, non-fiction behemoth (review coming tomorrow) and needed something light to spice things up and the Hathaway series fit the bill perfectly.

As many of Lisa Kleypas' books, these are all part of a familial series.  This particular grouping is an historical fiction set that focuses on the five sibling family of the Hathaways, set in 19th century England.  I loved each of the siblings and their love interests, particularly the gyspy factor that was going on in the first couple books.  Though, I will say the titles and covers of these books kinda cracked me up.  But, those are truly my only negative comments regarding these books.  Thanks Lindsay, for bringing these to book club!

If you've read either the Travis family series or the wallflower series by Kleypas (and liked/loved them) then you'd definitely like this set.  If you're not into "this kind of reading," that's OK too; just pass these right on by.  I won't judge either way!

However, and I know I've shared this before, but after reading any "romance" novel I always come back to reality in this way.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cookies, Cookies and More Cookies!

Within the past week, I joined the committee in our church that is in charge of planning potlucks, showers, etc.  And within days of saying I'd join, I was requested to help with a funeral.  Just to provide cookies and help set-up and whatnot.  Hello, cookies?  That's right up my alley!  So, I made a couple of new recipes that I'd been dying to try.  Both turned out delish, though I will say that my preference (of these two) is the lemon.

First up...

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from...ummm, I'm not sure.  I think I got this from a Food Network Magazine around 2009ish.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 quick oats
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cups dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.  Beat in flour.  Stir in oats, flax seed meal, wheat germ, chocolate and cranberries (dough will be crumbly).

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons two inches apart on ungreased (or Silpat covered) cookie sheets. 

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned.  Let cookies cool on cookie sheet for one minute, then transfer to wire rack to cool fully.

Makes approximately 30 cookies.

I just wanna say, this is the first time I've ever used flax seed meal and wheat germ.  In case you're wondering, they don't taste weird or health-nutty.  Just good, yummy, delicious cookies.  I thought the chocolate chips and cranberries might not mesh well...I was wrong.  Try these!


Lemon-on-Lemon Iced Cookies
adapted from Taste of Home Magazine, September 2012 issue

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1 cup cold butter, cubed (plus more if necessary)

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
4-6 tsp lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and lemon peel.  Cut in the butter until crumbly.  Transfer to a clean work surface; knead gently until mixture forms a smooth dough, about 2 minutes.  I had to add extra butter at this point because the dough was too crumbly. 

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out and begin cutting cookies using cookie cutter of your choice.  Obviously, I chose stars.

Bake at 325 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly browned.  You can remove to wire racks to cool completely, but I left mine on the sheets so I could simply clean up my Silpat pads after icing the cookies.

In a small bowl, mix confectioners' sugar, lemon peel and enough lemon juice to achieve desired consistency.  Drizzle over cookies, let stand until set.

Nom, nom, these were fantastic!  And they were, definitely, the more popular of the two types of cookies.  They taste like an iced shortbread cookie with a nice lemony kick.

Now, David does not like cranberries or lemon.  So, when he had complained enough (it didn't take much), I made him a batch of good, ol' fashioned, chocolate chip cookies.  I simply used the recipe on the back of my Hershey's chocolate chips bag.  You can see that recipe here.  If you follow me on Instagram you might already know, but on the second night after I made these cookies...on a lark, I decided to make myself a homemade ice cream sandwich.  Wise choice...delicious! 

There is, seriously, an unreal amount of cookies in my house right now.  What number do I call for the Cookie Monster to make a house call?  Speaking of which, has anyone else seen this Family Guy episode where Cookie Monster goes to rehab?  David was crying with laughter when he first saw it, rewinding it and then re-watching it several times.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Funday

I thought I'd round out this week with two things that made me smile.

One, we finally got the long arm assembled!!  Woohoo!!

In case you're lost as to what a long arm is, it's a huuuge machine that's basically just a larger sewing machine placed on a frame to sew quilts together.  When you get to the point where you've finished a quilt top, you place that, some batting and a backing together and sew a pretty design all over it and ta-da, you're 95% done with your quilt (the last 5% is attaching a binding). 

Here it 'tis!  I've been playing on this thing off and on all week.  It's hard and easy at the same time.  I just need practice, practice, practice!

Next, David planted some miniature pumpkins and gourds this year.  I love to decorate with them during the fall and because of that we decided to give them a go in the garden.  Aren't they the cutest?!

Happy Friday ya'll; have a super, fantastic weekend!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Me Before You

Me Before You appears to be the "it" book of the summer this year.  I've seen it everywhere.  On Barnes and Noble emails and stands, at my local used book store, on others' to-read lists on Goodreads, recommended via other's everywhere!  So, I took this at book club, and being only the third person to have read it, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I had high hopes.

Some might call this book a love story.  And others might call it a beautiful story about self-discovery and learning your true limits.  I can see that, but I tend to think it's more of a political statement about self euthanasia.  Let me give you a little background about the book to explain to why I think this...

Lou Clark is one of the main characters in this book.  In fact, I'd venture to say she's THE main character.  At the beginning of the novel she's rather unassuming, having relegated herself to being the "lesser" child in her family.  She's the eldest, but her sister is smarter, prettier...better at everything.  And both sisters, in their mid-twenties, live at home with their parents and ailing grandfather.  Lou isn't highly skilled or educated, but she enjoys working at the local coffee/pastry shop.  And in her spare time she likes to be with her exercise-obsessed boyfriend...whom she's not quite sure she truly loves. 

Rather early on, Lou loses her job because the shop closes.  When she goes down to the job center, she quickly realizes that the economy and her limited skill set are going to make finding a new job rather tricky.  After a couple of trial runs, things are not looking good.  Then, all of a sudden, an opening for care-giver becomes available.  Lou doesn't think this is the job for her and explains to the job adviser about her ailing grandfather at home and how she couldn't possibly do the things her mothers does to assist him.  Reluctantly, Lou goes on the interview and gets the job after interviewing with the mother of the "invalid." 

Young and gorgeous Will Traynor has done it all and been everywhere.  Made his way to the top of his company?  Check.  Vacations that include skiing, bungee-jumping and other death-defying acts?  Check, check and check.  So, one rainy day when Will was run over by a motorcycle and left a quadriplegic, he thought his world had come to an end.  He was sure of it.  And he makes sure to let everyone around him know how unhappy he is in his current state.  Yelling, grumbling, and rather making a spectacle of himself, Will is effectively shutting everyone out of his life. 

Lou's job is simply to take care of Will's basic (emotional) needs.  A special care nurse comes in regularly, so she doesn't need to take care of most bodily needs.  Rather, Will's mother hopes that Lou will provide him with companionship and tone down his vehement hatred of what is now his life.

The rest of this book involves the relationship that Lou and Will harbor and develop.  It's beautiful and sweet and a joy to read.  But, the book also tackles the touchy subject of self euthanasia, which obviously is brought up by Will throughout the book. 

I loved this book and thought it was extremely well written.  All the hype measures up for this one.  However, I will say that if this is a subject you're not sure about...depending upon which side of the fence you're might be careful in deciding whether or not to pick this one up.  Regardless, I highly recommend this book...and I also recommend having a box of tissues nearby while you're reading it. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Latest Crochet Creation: Another Baby Blanket

Recently, I decided to give this adorable pattern a go.  And this blanket made up beautifully as a gift for one of my long-time friends and his wife.  They're expecting in November!

In fact, this pattern turned out so well that I'm in the processing of making yet another (in different colors) for another lucky couple we know (or one of us may be related to). 

Also, if you like this pattern (or think someone you know might), I've added a custom order listing for this blanket in my Etsy shop!  You can click your way into my shop via the sidebar.

Happy Hump Day!

Monday, August 19, 2013

War and Peace

We had book club on Friday and I have to say, most of the time that's my favorite day of the month.  Seriously.  You could not meet a better group of girls. 

And we're girls who are serious about books!  I've heard a lot of book clubs gather simply so that the group can talk and eat/drink for one night per month.  No husbands or babies allowed (though we do allow babies in ours from time to time, heehee!).

We do plenty of that too, but when it's time to talk books...we're serious and listen to each and every person go through their bag of books. (I've mentioned before that we don't all read the same book every month, rather each person gets to talk about every book they read and offer to rotate it through the club if there's any interest.)

Well, about halfway through book club this time, my friend Kelsie took a pic of some of our rotation.  We're definitely an eclectic bunch!

Today I wanted to talk about the book in this pile that's mine, the third from the top.  War and Peace.  You remember how I mentioned last week that I had a super intense book that required some fluffy, palate-cleansing side reading?  Yea, this one was it.

War and Peace is one of those books that works it's way into everyday conversation simply because eeeeveryone has heard of it.  In fact, David and I were watching an old Seinfeld rerun the other day and Elaine was talking about it (War, what's it good for?).

In case you're unaware and curious as to the plot, War and Peace is the story of five interconnected families in Russia spanning the French invasion of Russian as well as the Napoleonic era and the peaceful times surrounding those.  It's extremely intense and fact, War and Peace is almost unanimously certified as the longest novel ever written.

I really enjoyed the story, but I will say that I was super glad to finish it simply because of the length.  I actually listened to it via audiobook (through my library app) and kept the character log open at all times.  And if you want to try this, I would definitely recommend having a fantastic character log.  My particular copy (the one pictured) had a wonderfully detailed one and I don't know what I would have done without it.  Plus, having to check this book out with the library, I only had two weeks with it.  That pushed me to finish it quickly, unlike when I read on Anna Karenina for approximately six months.  This was a much better experience.

Needless to say, War and Peace is fantastic and I highly recommend it.  But, you do need to be prepared to dedicate a certain amount of time to reading it and also on being an active reader (constantly checking the character log throughout).  There's no "zoning out" on this one.  Let me know if you decide to give this one a go!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Friday Harbor Series

I know you must be thinking, "Man, this girl really likes Lisa Kleypas!"  Well, you'd be right...along with about half of my book club.  We've actually started using a term to describe her books, a "Kleypas cleanser."  I've referred to this many times about how I need a palate cleanser between reading serious or intense literature (...regarding my most recent intense book that sparked the reading of this series, I'll give you a review of it later this week).  With Kleypas, you always know what's going to happen: the couple is going to get together in the end.  But, it's almost always an enjoyable experience to read your way through, hence a nice palate-cleansing read. 

This series, Friday Harbor, is Kleypas' most recent and her second contemporary series.  It also throws in a smidge of witch craft and ghosts (only in books 2-4).  While this series is still worth the read, I didn't think it was quite up to Kleypas' usual standards.  There's supposed to be a fifth book coming out soon, and I'll definitely read it too.  But, if I were to give Lisa Kleypas some advice, I'd tell her to stay with her historical fiction niche.  That's her forte and where I really enjoy her writing style.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Silver Screen Chick Lit

A certain percentage of the huge stack o' books that I got from my great-great aunt's house were those that had been converted from chick lit into chick flicks.  Recently, I've plowed through a few of them...all of them being quick and easy reads.  Each of these was like reconnecting with an old friend that you haven't talked to in a long, long time. 

First up, Where the Heart Is.  I love this movie...and I think it might have been Natalie Portman's first big movie.  I might hold it in a little extra regard simply because the vast majority of it takes place in Oklahoma too.  This one is excellently adapted from book to movie, with the book having a few extra details throughout.  No major parts were altered, so if you enjoyed the movie, then you'd also enjoy the book.

Next, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. This is actually the middle book in a trilogy and I went ahead and read the first (Little Altars Everywhere) and the last (Ya-Ya's in Bloom) books as well.  The verdict?  Just read Divine Secrets...the other two don't give you any extra backing for the story and I didn't particularly enjoy them.  There are a few major points that are different in Divine Secrets the book, but the main basis/theme of the story is the same in movie and book.

Third...The Notebook.  How, oh how, have I never read this?  I'm not sure.  But, this book is truly a joy to read.  I know that Nicholas Sparks is a supremely sappy author and you always feel manipulated into tears by the end.  However, I knew that going in...I've seen the movie many times...and it was a real joy to read this one.  There are certain scenes in the book that aren't as gritty as they are in the movie, which I appreciated.  A while back I also read The Wedding, which is a semi-sequel to this one...for my review of that book too, click here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake

This past week has been a bit hectic.  But, this past weekend was fun and we got to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday.  Of course, my first question was what dessert to make...duh.  Both David and his sister informed me that their dad's favorite was chocolate cake with chocolate icing or frosting.  What's the difference between icing and frosting?  I don't think there is one.  Regardless, doesn't this cake look scrumptious?

This recipe is verrrry rich, almost like a dark chocolate because there's so much cocoa in it.  You'll need a big glass of milk (or a dollop of vanilla ice cream) to wash it down.

Here's the recipe!

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I always use canola)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.  Stir in boiling water. (Batter will be thin.)  Pour into two 9" round greased and floured pans. (I never flour mine, just spray the heck out of 'em.)

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Cool ten minutes.  Remove from pans to wire rack. 

Cool completely.



1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter. 

Stir in cocoa.

Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency.  Add more milk if needed.  Add vanilla.

I will definitely be utilizing this recipe again!  This was such a big hit that, as of lunch today, this is all that's left.  Anyone else raid their mother's kitchen for awesome 70's era Tupperware?  Oh...just me?  I guess I'm just cool like that.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women is a historical fiction novel that's made it's way around my book club.  The premise is actually quite interesting because it takes an extremely obscure piece of history and plays that old game of "what if?" 

Supposedly, in the late 1800s, a Cheyenne chief approached the president requesting one thousand white women to assimilate into their tribes.  This chief knew the importance of the Indians adjusting their communities to work well with white men.  So, he came up with this fantastic idea.  And the president essentially laughed in his face, in real life. 

This book explores the "what if" of one thousand white women going to live with the Indians and helping them learn and adjust to the white man's ways.  The book is written like a journal by one of the women who would have taken this journey, May Dodd. 

This was a well written story, but I just never really connected with the main character.  Sometimes I find it hard to connect with a female lead character that is written by a man.  There were some instances in this book that I thought May Dodd's reactions to were a bit...unrealistic.  However, I still enjoyed the book and gave it three out of five stars.  Now, would I recommend this one?  I'm on the fence about's OK, but I'm not going to be running out and singing it's praises.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Happy Friday

On this beautiful Friday I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts on this and that (including a couple book review updates).

First off, I saw this picture of the "Infinity of Knowledge," located in the Prague Municipal Library, on Pinterest this morning and...oh-em-gee, love!

Speaking of Prague.  I recently finished this book, which happens to center around a teenage girl from Prague.

Days of Blood and Starlight is the second book from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, with the third book coming out sometime in 2014.  If you'd like to read my review of the first book, you can click here.  I feel about the same way for this book that I did the first...a little hyped up, but still good.  I'm glad that Karou finally discovers what her role in the war between angels and chimaera is.  This is not shaping up to be my favorite trilogy, but it's still worth the time to read and enjoy.  Just don't expect it to wow you like Twilight, Hunger Games, etc.

Speaking of mystical fictional YA reading, I finally read Beautiful Creatures as well.

This is another one that's been built up and up and up...and I thought it was just OK.  I will definitely continue reading this series, in fact I'm wait-listed on my library app for the second book.  However, this is another series that I would suggest not going into with high expectations.  It's good, but not the best.

Another another note, I also watched the movie.  I was forewarned that the movie is verrrry different from the book.  And I'm glad I was told that going in...because it is.  I'm not sure what their reasoning was in changing things up so much, but I'm hoping to be enlightened with the second book, perhaps?  I remember that the Swedish version of the Millennium series (aka the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series) had some things occur in the first movie that were actually from the second book.  Luckily, I'd read them all the way through when watching those movies, so it didn't bother me. 

Random subject change: who wants to buy me this t-shirt?  Because it's soooo me!

Seriously though, I'll probably be adding this to my cart here pretty soon.  I don't care if summer is already over half over.

In other news, our tomato plants have been stinking it up this year.  I mean, we've gotten one lousy tomato and the two plants are ginormous with tons of blooms.  Thoughts?  Suggestions?  But, that one tomato really wasn't fact, it was delicious and red alllll the way though.  I enjoyed it so, so, very much.

Also, Molly totally face planted in her bed last night.  It always cracks us up when she does that.  What's even funnier is when she's lying like this and her right ear is sticking straight up because of the way she's lying on it.  Ahhh, pets.  They're more than just companionship, they're also comedic relief.

Happy Friday all, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lone Survivor

I received a very exciting text message from one of my favorite people, Nicole, this morning.  My absolute favorite auto-biography has been made into a movie and will be coming out in January!

If you've ever looked at my favorite books tab, you've seen Lone Survivor listed under my favorite non-fiction books...for, like, a long time.

Oddly enough, this book actually came to me from my husband, David, who is a pacifist.  Marcus Luttrell came to give a talk at David's previous employer and gave each employee a copy of his book.  David came home that night, after watching this guy speak, and said, "You've got to read this.  This guy's story is amazing." 

Amazing doesn't even begin to describe it.

I loved this book and, literally, cannot wait to see this grace the silver screen.  Though, I know I'll be balling like a baby in the end.  I cried for the last 50-100 pages and if you intend to read it (or watch it in January), be sure to grab some tissue.  I'll just say this once, there's a reason why the title is lone survivor.


Related Posts with Thumbnails