Home      About Me      Contact      My Family       Travels       The Kitchen       The Bar

Monday, September 23, 2013

What I've Been Reading - Late September 2013

In an effort to make blogging faster I'm going to streamline my posts.  I loved formatting and adding more to my What I've Been Reading posts, but I just don't have the time these days.  So - I'm going to still tell you what I'm reading, but just do it in a simpler way!

And of course, for those of you on Goodreads and Facebook, this is probably old news!  But I love to hear about good books, so I'd like to share my recommendations too.  You can see all of my comments and lists at goodreads.

My Favorites over the Last Month

Loved the writing, pace, and characters.
Goodreads description - After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Recommended by friends whose opinions I trust, but I hadn't heard about this book anywhere else.
I couldn't put it down.  Not at all what I was expecting.  Young adult, but for much older teens or adults.
Goodreads description:  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.

This was such a great Young Adult series, for tweens and teens.  I loved the world of the Gallagher Academy.  Girl power, strong role models and friendships.  A great series, and I enjoyed this final 6th book.
Goodreads description - Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet.

I read all of Dan Brown's books, but some keep me far more engaged than others.  This one I flew through, and I more than ever want to travel to Italy!
Goodreads description - In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno.
Others I'd Like to Recommend
Goodreads Description - Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees. This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

Goodreads Description - Art history is more than just a collection of dates and foreign-sounding names, obscure movements and arcane isms. Every age, for the last 50,000 years has left its unique imprint on the world, and from the first cave paintings to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, from the Byzantine mosaics of the Hagia Sophia, to the graffiti-inspired paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, art history tells the story of our evolving notions of who and what we are and our place in the universe.Whether you're an art enthusiast who'd like to know more about the history behind your favorite works and artists, or somebody who couldn't tell a Titian and a De Kooning--but would like to--"Art History For Dummies" is for you.

Goodreads Description - With unflagging suspense and pitch-perfect period detail, The Bone Garden deftly interweaves the thrilling narratives of its nineteenth- and twenty-first century protagonists, tracing the dark mystery at its heart across time and place to a finale as ingeniously conceived as it is shocking. Bold, bloody, and brilliant, this is Tess Gerritsen’s finest achievement to date.

These Were OK
Goodreads Description - Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man-perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined.

*Didn't Finish* 
Goodreads Description - When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

(Trying to) Catch Up

Hi everyone!  It has been quite awhile since I've blogged.  I lost my cooking blog domain name (y'all come eat) so it was out of commission for almost two months.  I've now got to re-pin all of my recipes with the new blog name.  Frustrating.  Not a Google problem it turns out, but it involved tons of time connecting with Google.  I knew they had a help desk because I saw the Google movie (The Internship) earlier this summer!  But, they don't make it easy.
Anyway, it has been a super busy month, but really good.  I have 2 volunteer activities too many I think :)  I volunteer anywhere from 10-30 hours/week, not including computer time.  That's a ton.  The boys are doing well and David enjoyed a trip to D.C. last week.  We're looking at 3 trips in the next few weeks.  I'm ready for Fall Break!
Here are a few photos of our last month or so.
We have a new winery with outdoor seating.  I've been there quite a few times since they opened.  Here's Brennan enjoying the cheese plate.  The boys love going out to eat.
David and I went one night together.  Here is what I usually get with my glass of Riesling - hummus, vegetables, and pita chips.  It's delicious.
And David got this brie and apple appetizer with warm bread.  Soooo good.

Watching MSU football.  That's a lot of legs in one chair.

Thomas and I went to see The Mortal Instruments movie - we've both read the series.

Brennan loves to chill in the pool!

We're letting Thomas learn to driver in the driveway.  Here he is first time out pulling the car back into the driveway after I put the mower away.  Look at his hands on 10 and 2 like a good boy!  Today I taught him how to use the riding mower!

The children sang in church a couple of weeks ago and Brennan had a song leader role and a speaking part.  He did really well!  Here he is starting off the introit.


Big brother helping Little brother with a homework assignment.
I walked in to this and was so thankful that Thomas offered and Brennan accepted the offer, even though it turned out Brennan really didn't need any help.

If you're on facebook you've no doubt seen a bunch of running photos of Thomas this fall.  Our friend Dr. Porter takes great photos at each meet and posts them.  Thomas is doing beautifully in cross country this year.  His 3K PR (record) is 14:04 minutes.  That's a 7:30 pace.  His goal was to break 9 minutes which he certainly did!
One Saturday we were running errands and he asked me to drop him off about 2 miles from the library and let him run there and meet me.  I was very unsure about it because he would have to cross a couple of busy roads, run through a residential area that he didn't know, and he wasn't quite sure how to get to the library from point A.  But, given that he runs in some of these areas when he runs after school with his team, I finally agreed.  Then followed him, and circled back.  He did beautifully!

Brennan at an early Saturday meet.  It was chilly that day, but it's still pretty warm here.

And Thomas after the meet.
I was soooo excited to see Michael Buble in concert last weekend with girlfriends!!!
We were celebrating Maribel's birthday.
I haven't been to a concert in forever.  It was awesome.

Ammie, Maribel, me, Lupita

We were far, far away, but Lupita got some awesome photos
The concert was fantastic.  He has a knack for making a cavernous arena feel intimate.  On the last song, "This Song for You", he took the earpiece out and put the microphone away and sang it acapella at the end.  I couldn't believe everyone could hear him and it was absolutely beautiful.  Great show!

 Bright and early the next morning I had to be at our Youth Leadership scholarship program.
What a great program.  Thankfully I wasn't on this committee, but wanted to attend and work at the event itself.  The students start the process as juniors, going through quite a bit of leadership work to get to this point.  There were 191 seniors participating.   

The speakers at the day-long event were terrific too.
The parents joined after lunch for a speaker and the scholarship presentations.
We hosted a baby shower for our friends Matt and Megan last weekend.  I realize now these photos are all terribly out of order.  Oh well.
When Miss Mary saw Brennan she realized he had achieved it - the right to be photographed having passed his first adult in height!
Megan is in the middle below.  Their friends from Michigan and St. Louis were able to join us as well.  It was a wonderful afternoon/evening.


Megan and Matt are due in February, but this shower was for the adoption that takes place in October!
They are adopting two little girls from New Mexico!
Megan is an early education specialist so these girls are coming to the perfect family.
We were so happy to share this special day with Matt and Megan.

 I'm PTO President at Brennan's elementary school.  Our annual fundraiser, the Walk-a-thon, kicked off last week.  Here we are at the convocation.  This is Brennan's class (this is their 3rd year together as a class), and a couple of other kids from 6th grade.  They are really a great group.  Brennan's on the far left.  He thought I was taking a photo just of him.
After a(nother) trip to the library we headed out for a quick bite since Dad had a church meeting.  To my left, Thomas was reading a Calvin and Hobbes.  And across Brennan's reading Wired magazine.  Somebody needs to talk to Mom!
And that's it for the last couple of weeks.  I hope you're all enjoying the First Day of Fall!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New Screens on the Porch

David did a great job upgrading the screens on our screened-in porch this weekend.
This porch has looked like this for the 9 years that we've lived here.
This photo was taken a couple of years ago.
It's usually where the kids eat when we have a big group over.
We haven't done much to it.

This spring the porch was painted, and the floor was cleaned and stained.  We also got rid of some random outdoor furniture that we weren't using and just kept the swing, table and chairs.
David decided to replace the screens and did an awesome job.
They're hard to get a good photo of, but here's my attempt.
This is the before - 30 year old screens that were coated in pollen and we were unable to clean them.

You can see where the trim was holding the screens in this photo.  They were a dark, dirty mess.

I think this screen was kicked by toddlers over the years.
The porch door to the backyard also had torn screens on it, and the door dragged on the porch floor.  David fixed it all!

Here's part way through.  The new screen on the right is so clean that you can hardly tell there's a screen there!

And here's the after.  Much, much better!

Interior view of the after.  We're considering updating the furniture and lighting in the porch area.  I think we'd use it more if it was updated.

And, here are a few photos that Leslee took before we moved in 9 years ago.

Before and after from this weekend.
I can't tell you how much better it looks!
Thank you, David!