Monday, December 30, 2013

end of the year and all that

Since getting a job back in April, all my plans/ideas/personal life kind of went haywire. It took a long time for me to acclimate, as it generally does when something is new. Seems like I'm on track now, though, and I'm definitely enjoying what I do. (Mostly because I have a few very good friends there now. That's always helpful. And fun!) Of course the holiday season tends to throw a wrench into everything because though it's the most wonderful time of the year, it's also the busiest and craziest. Plus, it's not over yet -- New Year's and Epiphany are yet to come. I hope to do something small to celebrate Epiphany.

Anywho -- it is nearly a new year. What a crazy thought. I have a hard time believing 2013 has mere hours left to live. That's not a bad thing. A new year always prompts resolutions/goals/long lists, whatever you call them. And those lists are always a good thing. Following through on them is a different story. I am long guilty of writing resolutions and then not following through on any of them. Sound familiar?

Well, I turned 25 a month ago, and it's long past time for me to progress on some of my resolutions and goals further than a few steps. Getting started is the easy part; staying on the path is way more difficult. Besides, there is so much that life has to offer, and (as I have said before), I thrive on new experiences. It's hard not to, honestly.

I'm not going to post any of my goals and resolutions just yet -- that gives me a topic for another blog post. Okay, just kidding, I already mentioned one...blogging regularly. I can't let things get in the way anymore. I'm a writer, darn it! And I can't always be writing in private, though there is nothing wrong with that. But seriously, how am I going to get the courage to even attempt publishing a novel if I can't keep up with writing a blog??

So, creativity is definitely coming into play in 2014, that much I will tell you.
And please, my dear readers, keep me accountable.
Let me know that you do in fact enjoy my posts, and want to see more. :)


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

friends

the song says "you find out who your friends are" and really, that's true. people drift apart as they grow. sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad. untruths and lies are spewed from wagging tongues. but if there's anything we all would do well to remember, it's that people change, and not always for the better. but God places people in our lives for a reason, and when they leave, there's often someone else already there. and beyond all human relationships, both real and fake, there is the greatest friendship of all, the one we have with our Saviour, Jesus Christ. the Lord is not our lover, but He is our friend. He will always be there for us, forgive us, and protect us.

this world is cruel, and we're all woefully sinful.
perhaps more people would do well to remember that.
perfection in a friend is unattainable.
perfection in this life is unattainable.
but we are perfect and whole in the grace of Jesus Christ.
He's the greatest friend any of us will ever, ever have.



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

wordless wednesday



I have so many photos I could share of these two adorable cats. I know I say it all the time, but they are clearly sisters. And I love how sometimes it's like they are actually posing for the camera!

Victoria is the one with more white on her and Wilhelmina (otherwise known as Mina) is more brown.
























Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ten plans for summer

Apologies for not writing. I've been working really weird hours the last couple weeks, and it's definitely not helping me get anything done. I so badly want to blog, but I'm not very good at making time for it. Today's Top Ten list is going to be a little different than the first one because I"m going to list ten things I'd like to do/accomplish this summer. Who knows if they'll all happen, but I like lists!

1. Learn to play tennis. This shouldn't be too hard, but you never know, haha. We already bought tennis rackets and balls, now it's just a matter of time to actually play. The closer you live to somewhere (in this case, tennis courts), the less likely you are to get there? Seems legit, haha.

2. Visit Wollersheim Winery. We received vouchers for a free tour of the winery when we purchased a couple bottles of their wine recently. I've never actually been to a winery, and I don't think Nate has either, so it would be a fantastic experience. The only problem is this one is out past Madison.

3. Go camping up by Lake Superior. Given that it takes roughly four hours to get up to the lake, this one is a bit far-fetched for the way this year is going. But we both love Superior, and it's been far too long since we've been there.

4. Have a shore lunch. I'm not the biggest fan of eating fish, but fishing is a fun pastime, and one of these days I hope to be able to actually cook the fish I catch. Of course I need to start catching fish first...

5. Make ice cream in our ice cream maker. I actually had every intention of doing this last weekend, but since nothing ever goes as planned, it didn't happen. But at some point, I need to try the darn thing out!

6. Go strawberry picking. Not sure if there is anywhere nearby to go pick strawberries, but this would be tons of fun to do on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. And then I can make ice cream, jam, pie, tarts, more jam, more ice cream...mmmmmmm. Sorry, I just love strawberries.

7. Kayak on the Sheboygan River. One of our friends mentioned this idea last week and I think it would be a grand adventure. Especially since Nate and I already know how to kayak!

8. Use the bike trail in the Kettle Moraine. I see this trail all the time, and I know it's kind of long, but we would both like to bike at least part of it!

9. Go see fireworks somewhere for Independence Day. Considering the fact that Independence Day is next week, I guess I've run out of ideas. Though I still have one number left. Anyway. Fireworks are fun, and we did manage to go last year (even though most places didn't even hold fireworks because of the drought), so hopefully we manage it this year, too!

10. Watch the sunrise from the shore of Lake Michigan at least twice. We've tried to make this happen, but we always end up staying up way too late the night before! I hate that, honestly. Staying out late with friends is fun, yes, but when that's what we do every weekend...well, variety is the spice of life, and on that spice, I thrive. But I digress, because really, I do love our friends. And now that sunrise comes so crazy-early, this might be something we accomplish when summer is at its end.


There you have it, our ten summer plans. Of course there will be more, but it's always nice to make a list of the top ideas. Now if only Nate can get some days off and I can know with enough time to ask for days off...we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess. And in the meantime, we'll have a few small adventures here and there!

Do you have any plans for the summer? Grand plans? Or just small ones?

Friday, June 14, 2013

five things friday

It's the weekend! And it really is for me, because I'm going with a couple of good friends to visit my family and go to a Regency Ball! I really can't wait, because it's been quite a few years since I've been to the annual Playford Ball, and to make things even more exciting, I get to wear my wedding dress again! Sadly, Nate won't be coming along because he does have to work...but I'll make sure to have some pictures. :)

And now for my five things:

1. I completely forgot to do my second Top Ten post on Tuesday, but that's because I worked all day and was exhausted. Sometimes people are so rude and that's, well, exhausting. Anyone who says that part-time jobs can't be stressful probably hasn't worked customer service in a grocery store (or anywhere else, since people can be just as rude and demanding elsewhere...).
2. I still haven't used my juicer...sadface.
3. My yoga mat gets much more use when it's nice outside. There's just something awesome about practicing yoga outside in the sunshine.
4. Granola and yogurt are delicious together, but if you eat it too slowly the granola gets soggy and I hate that. But I eat it anyway. Because it still tastes good.
5. I finally bought myself a glass water bottle from Lifefactory (though I purchased it through Amazon because I have free two-day shipping), and it's definitely one of the best investments I've ever made. No more nasty plastic that never truly gets clean!! And while my stainless steel one was nice, it had definitely seen better days. Plus, now I have a cap that I can actually drink out of while walking or driving and not pour all the water down the front of me. And it's bright pink!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

{gratuitous photography post}

I like landscape photos. I like nature photos in general. I also like architecture photos, especially of old places. I don't honestly like photos of people, or at least I don't like taking photos of people. I get some good ones once in a while, but eh. Anyway, the photos I do have of people from the last month aren't really that great, plus I wanted to showcase our awesome field of dandelions from a few weeks ago (they're all gone now...), and the weird clouds last Saturday. So, enjoy!









Friday, June 7, 2013

five things friday

Hey, it cooled down this week! But it rained like everyday. I'm beginning to wonder if we'll have an English summer: wet and cool. I'm certainly okay with it being cool, but not too enthused about it being wet all the time. The hiking trails will always be muddy, which is generally not fun.
I had a few other posts planned for this week, but I've worked a few very long days. Well, eight hours. Which is long when you have to be standing for all of that. Thankfully, my feet and back are getting used to it, though my lower back still spasms kind of a lot. Ah well. As long as I can walk around at least every ten minutes, I think I'm okay. And man does it feel great to sit down at the end of the day. But the downside of working long shifts is that I don't get anything done at home and then the weekend comes and I'm upset that the house is a mess. Eventually there will be balance...I think...though with as slowly as I adjust to things, that might not come until I'm ready to leave my job. Sigh. Well, here are my five things for this Friday.

1. I did purchase a juicer this week, but haven't had time to even take it out of the box. Stay tuned!
2. One of my fitness plans is to begin a Couch to 5K program (I even have one on my iPod already!), since I'd love to be a runner and one of my friends has been bugging me to participate in runs with him. So we'll see how that goes...if it ever stops raining when I have free time...
3. I'm always biting my tongue while at work because I want to tell people what kind of crap they are buying to put into their bodies. Quite frankly, it's appalling. Especially when someone on food stamps buys a cartload of soda, packaged snack cakes, and candy. I mean, what? I wanted to gag when I saw what these people were buying and then they pulled out their EBT card and it was all I could do not to say something...Lord, help me keep holding my tongue...
4. Totally just realised that yes, I have a camera now and I keep forgetting about it. Hmm.
5. Sourdough bread is now my favourite. Wish I had the time to make some...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top Ten Favourite Television Shows

I like writing lists, obviously. They are a good way to get one's thoughts out. So here is another weekly feature that I am introducing on the blog: Tuesday Top Ten. I've seen many other blogs do this, and I've participated in a few themed ones. Mine isn't going to be themed overall, it'll just be random lists. And since I've been listening to music from Game of Thrones all morning, I've decided that the inaugural list for this feature will be my top ten television shows to watch. First of all, I don't even watch that much tv, at least not regularly. Second, I'm not counting shows that aren't running anymore, because then the list would be longer. Maybe that'll be a different list. So here goes.

1. Doctor Who -- This is the best show ever, it really is. Time travel is my favourite topic ever, so yeah.

2. Downton Abbey -- 'nuff said.

3. Bones -- I think this murder-solving show just finished its eighth season, and I'm still as hooked as ever. It's not even something I would have normally started watching, but my sister did, so I watched with her.

4. Orphan Black -- This thriller only finished its first season last weekend, and I honestly can't wait until next season. Many of you may not have heard of it, since it's only on BBC America. But the actress playing the main character is playing a host of other characters on the show, since the premise is that she discovers she is a clone. Tatiana Maslany is a fantastic actress for being able to play so many different personalities. WARNING: very violent and graphic at times.

5. Once Upon a Time -- I almost forgot about this show, and I'm probably about five episodes behind, but I enjoy the premise and though it's not the best written show ever, it's definitely fun to watch.

6. New Girl -- Zooey Deschanel is just too cute, okay?

7. Game of Thrones -- I almost feel like this shouldn't be so far down on the list, but eh. It's the most violent and graphic show I've ever watched, which makes me squirm and not ever want to watch it with anyone else, but I also know that tons of people watch this. I'm a season behind because I don't actually have HBO, but I'm reading the books before watching the seasons anyway, so it's all good. But this whole story is heartwrenching, it really is. Once I get over all the graphic sex and weird violence, the heart of the story is painful and sometimes beautiful.

8. The Big Bang Theory -- I can't get enough of the antics of Sheldon and crew. And the nerd references are just awesome. Always makes me proud of being a nerd.

9. Top Gear -- This probably should be higher on the list. Cars, three British men who aren't afraid to admit (most of) their mistakes on television, and awesome landscapes? Not to mention all the hilarity that comes from them trying lots of weird and hilarious things... I never manage to watch an episode without laughing.

10. The Nerdist -- Last, but certainly not least. This is a BBC America talk show, on Saturday nights. As the title implies, it's a talk show for nerds. They do some hilarious things and there's literally always at least one reference to Doctor Who. Yes, excellent show for keeping up with what's happening in the nerd culture.

Friday, May 31, 2013

five things friday

Well, at the very least you'll always get a Friday post from me. :P
This week was crazy for me, since I worked 6-8 hours everyday Tuesday through Friday. Yeah, I had Monday off, but man it was a long week. Though apparently I'm a good employee, because I'm already going to be "promoted" to CSR, Customer Service Rep!! I was asked if I wanted to be trained for the position yesterday, and I wasn't sure at first, but then I realised that I was really happy to have been asked after only working at Pick 'n Save for a month!! I don't intend to be there forever, but I was thankful to get some super positive feedback on my job skills. The manager who hired me told me that I am so good with people of all age groups, and that's important, along with a host of other things. :D
And here are my five things for this week:

1. Nate and I will have been married for a year and a half on June 3rd. Hard to believe it's only been that long and already been that long, if that makes any sense.
2. It's already too hot outside for me on most days.
3. I'm excited for our friends' wedding tomorrow! It should be a wonderful day.
4. I hope to purchase a juicer in the next week or so; perhaps I'll share some juicing recipes on here.
5. I've been trying to read Cloud Atlas for almost a month now...I hardly have time to read anymore...

Saturday, May 25, 2013

sleepy saturday musings

I feel quite blessed to have gotten almost the entire weekend off of work. I was only scheduled for three hours yesterday and three hours today, plus I don't work tomorrow or Monday. Goodness, that was a nice surprise! I'm not entirely sure what will happen with the rest of the weekend; Nate and I are planning to fry brats tomorrow afternoon once he's done working, but beyond that who knows. Hopefully I'll finish planting my little garden, since I won't have much time the rest of the week.

Lately, I've been slowly feeling more inspired. This has been difficult, of course, because now I am working and my hours aren't the same from week to week. But a routine for home time will come back eventually, of that I am certain. My meal planning has suffered greatly, which bothers me more than a little bit, so I am working on that being the first thing I get back into doing. There will always have to be some room to move, though.

I am more a creature of habit than may be obvious at first glance. When I finally settle into a routine and something changes, I am very inwardly upset and shaken, and then I get irritable and utterly unsociable at times. At any rate, as I continue to get used to working outside the home, I'm also hoping I can meet a few personal goals, one being regular blogging. I sometimes have something to say everyday, but then all of a sudden there is nothing for weeks at a time. I hate that, and it is unfair to my readers.

Writing is truly one of my biggest joys, and I want to share that joy. I have also begun work on a novel, actually. As of right now, it is a Victorian steampunk tale, so we'll see where that goes. Honestly, it hasn't come far on paper, but there's loads of ideas whirling around my brain.

I do have homemaking goals for the month of June, along with a few other goals, that I will share in a later post, so stay tuned. And if you have any advice, I will gladly listen!

Friday, May 24, 2013

five things friday

Only in Wisconsin can it be 80 degrees one day and 40 degrees with a frost advisory the next. Sigh. Actually, that's most of the upper Midwest, I suppose. But anyway. It's going to be a chilly Memorial Day weekend! Traditionally (or should I say typically), Memorial Day itself is one of the hottest days of the year thus far, but I have a feeling that might not happen this year. At any rate, I hope I don't have to work, at least not in the evening. And without further ado, here are my five things, observations, facts, whatever-they-are for this Friday, May 24th.


  1. I got 12 blissful hours of sleep last night, thanks to going to bed early. I haven't felt so rested in a long time, but that'll probably change by the time I go to bed tonight.
  2. We got most of our vegetable garden planted on Tuesday evening! At some point I'll post a list of what we're attempting to cultivate.
  3. A good friend of mine (who was both a roommate and bridesmaid) is getting married on June 1st, and I'm excited to be in her wedding!
  4. I actually do like my job at Pick 'n Save; talking to people and being on my feet for hours at a time is mentally and physically exhausting, but my co-workers are awesome for the most part, and the atmosphere of the store is really good.
  5. The month of June is going to be super busy...I sort of just realised that. Ah well, welcome to summer activities!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

weekend roundup

Starting with going to Sweeney Todd on Friday night, Nate and I had a very good weekend. Perhaps I shouldn't say a good weekend so much as a relaxing and fun-filled weekend. This doesn't happen all the time. We always do something with a few friends, which usually involves a couple of beers and some excellent conversation, but we don't always actually get out.

This past weekend, however, was quite nice. And I'm not talking about the weather, even though that was definitely nice! On Friday evening, before we went to Sheboygan to see Sweeney Todd, we were attempting to find a place to get a fish fry that wasn't super busy since we only had an hour and a half. I had worked until 4, the play was at 7:30, and it took some time to get ready. Only to be expected, of course! Anyway, our usual Friday night haunt, Lynn's Creekside, was most likely busy and was the opposite direction of where we were headed, so that was clearly out. Our second usual haunt when Creekside is packed, Benson's Hideaway, was also the opposite direction, though it wouldn't have been as busy. So basically, we started driving towards Sheboygan in the hopes that we discovered some new place and wouldn't have to stop at Subway! (It's the only fast food I'll eat.) This was probably the best thing we could have done, because we came across a little place called Twisted Root just outside of Sheboygan Falls. It didn't look too busy, so we decided to at least stop for a drink and find out if we'd be able to order and eat right away. The waitstaff were wonderful and did rush us through, which only worked because it looked like we got there right before the evening influx of people. The food was superb, and so was my beer. As usual, I tried something new; this time it was New Glarus Black Top, which was a very dark beer, very full-bodied, and it went excellently with my fish and chips. Nate had his usual, an Old-Fashioned, but at Twisted Root, some of the bartenders know how to make them from scratch, which always makes for a better drink. All in all, we've decided it's a neat place and we'll have to go back. As for the musical, it was also excellent. See my previous post for a review.

Saturday was a typical Saturday; Nate hauled milk in the morning while I did housework. We went to a flea market/farmer's market and brat fry on Saturday afternoon, and hung out with a friend at Creekside for a while, and made it an early evening because Nate had to start work at 2 am. That worked out nicely because he stopped back home around 5:30 for breakfast. I made scrambled eggs and sausage. The eggs were farm fresh (I had bought them at the farmer's market), and man were they delicious. Then he went back to working and I went to church, which was an all morning affair because choir sang at 8:00, then I went to Bible class, and the confirmation service was at 10:30. It being Pentecost, I certainly didn't mind being in church twice! Not that I ever mind being in church twice, haha.

That afternoon we attended a confirmation party, where I was able to see a dear friend of mine who was in town since her sister was being confirmed. (I actually sat with them at the late service.) Jaimie, Nate, and I all sat in the sun and chatted for a little over an hour, during which time I tried yet another craft beer (this past weekend was a good one for trying new drinks!) from Furthermore Beer that was brewed with cracked black pepper. It was weird, but actually really good.

And on Sunday evening, we went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was stunning and intense and I loved it. Perhaps I'll write a separate review, we shall see. But I'm definitely loving this reboot of the classic series. It's beautiful and quite heart-wrenching at times.

That was a long post to basically say that we had a great weekend, and I guess that's the start of our summer. :)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (a review)

Last night my hubby and I went to see a stage production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I had wanted to see this since we received the season schedule last September, but then of course forgot all about it as is my habit. On Thursday morning, I was reading one of the local newspapers and it was advertised for this weekend. So basically I begged (only a little) Nate to take me to see it. We both had Friday night off, it was inexpensive, and I knew he'd enjoy it.

Yes, this is Johnny Depp.
This was the first time I went to a production by the Sheboygan Theatre Company, and I must say that I was impressed by the production as a whole. The high school auditorium they used must have been built with a small professional company in mind. The sound system was incredible; this is particularly of note to me as I do have a hearing loss which causes me to be unable to fully understand what people are saying/singing when recorded. (It's why I use subtitles or captions when I watch television.) The set that was made for Sweeney Todd was well made and versatile; never did scenes take long to change because no piece ever had to be moved off the stage.

The actors and actresses in this production were incredible. I have to admit that my first exposure to Sweeney Todd was through the film by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter, so blood and an air of all things gruesome took center stage. (Yes, I like the movie; I happen to own it.) A friend and I did watch a DVD of the original Broadway musical with Angela Lansbury, which had a slightly more comedic feeling at some parts. I think what we experienced last night was somewhere in between the movie and the original. Definitely not as bloody (I mean how do you even do that on stage?), but not quite as comedic as I recall the original being.

******************************************
Many people that I know just squirm when I tell them that this is one of my favourite musicals, and with good reason. If you've only been exposed to the Burton film, and you're not at all into Gothic horror, then you'll just be grossed out and bewildered. Fair enough, really. But the stage musical is superb. Musically speaking, it's actually very difficult. Stephen Sondheim writes technically challenging music. Wicked, anyone?

And then there's the story. First of all, the character of Sweeney Todd has been around for kind of a while. He first appeared in a penny dreadful in the Victorian Era. The original tale is available on Amazon for the Kindle here if you're interested. I have a paperback edition that I think has a few other penny dreadfuls in it. But I digress. The point of the story, or at least what I take away from it now (it was simply a Gothic horror tale at first), is that age old question on revenge: when have you gone too far? In the end, Sweeney's obsession with revenge, and Mrs. Lovett's almost fanatical love for Sweeney, get them both killed. Oh yeah, spoiler alert.

I could easily go more in depth with this story and analyse the entire thing, but I won't. If you get a chance, you should see it on stage, especially if the film bothers you. That, and you actually get so much more of the story when you see it on stage, since there are ensemble songs cut out of the film.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

a simple introduction

Most folks who are acquainted with me in real life understand that I have this compulsive need to organize anything. Unfortunately, this also ended up translating into my online life, meaning I ended up with not one, but four separate blogs. At first I was okay with this, but I slowly began to realise that perhaps it was not the best way to accomplish establishing an online identity. (Beyond the usual Facebook, of course.) I now have a personal blog, a book blog, a lifestyle blog, and a poetry blog. Whew. I don't really need all of those, do I? While I will most likely keep the lifestyle blog going, the others will no longer be updated; posts that would have been published in their various places will now be published here.

I will keep links to my other blogs as an archive of sorts, because I am proud of what I have written, and I'd rather not see those posts disappear into the internet past. But now is the time to consolidate. My life has become hectic and thus if I want to be able to record anything on the internet, it simply needs to be in one place.

Thus I give to you my new and improved (not really!) blogging happy place. Though I'm certain it won't always be a happy place, because since when was life completely happy? I mean, come on, we all have our ups and downs.

I hope you will join me on this new and hopefully not confusing journey. Though with a name like Alice in Faerieland, you can surely expect confusion!

Sincerely,
Elisabeth

Friday, April 26, 2013

friday loves (in which I prove what a nerd I really am)

As I listen to Rush Limbaugh and bask in the warm air coming in my windows, I realised I have quite the collection of links to share with you. This is a wishlist kind of post, so yeah.

I'm looking for a swimsuit for the summer, and while I love most of the swimsuits on ModCloth, I found these two adorable swimsuits from Black Milk Clothing. Since I can't seem to get nicely proportioned photos on here, one of them is R2-D2 and the other is Alice in Wonderland. I've been sort of in love with the Star Wars one for a few years now, but the Alice one is so neat, too! I'll probably end up going with one from ModCloth since I can't decide...

This Book of Sith I also would love to have, because Star Wars, duh. And I have The Jedi Path already. Maybe this will be a lightning deal on May the 4th like the Jedi one was last year. I'll be watching!



I haven't had a new funky beach towel in probably ten years. We do have some very nice ones, but I need a geeky one just because. And what would be better than a TARDIS towel??? That's right, nothing. Well, except the real TARDIS with the Tenth Doctor inside.

Have a fantastic weekend, and allons-y!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

fresh homemade pasta

I have been intending to make homemade fresh pasta for some time now. Unfortunately, I do not have a pasta machine, which is the main reason I have been putting it off. Today, though, I was thumbing through The Silver Spoon: Pasta, an Italian cookbook given to us as a wedding gift, and decided tonight was the night. The original recipe I was going to use from the book called for two kinds of flour that I don't have, so I abandoned that track and went in search of a simple "how to" online. What I found was a tutorial on a blog that will probably now be one of my absolute favourites, mostly because I adore Italian cooking.

The Italian Dish has a great post about making fresh pasta, along with a short video. The nice thing about making pasta is that it's not quite an exact recipe, which makes it perfect for me. Basically, it's a ratio of flour and eggs, plus a little water if needed. And there is the possibility of adding other flavours, like tomato or spinach. I decided to make the tomato-flavoured pasta because I had leftover tomato paste from the other day.
See, flour and eggs. And a food processor because that was less messy than mixing by hand.

I'm rather proud of my dough.

Look at the ickle noodles!

    
YUM.

As you can probably see from the photos, the noodles aren't uniform and are rather thick. As a result, they had the texture of over-cooked pasta, but they still tasted excellent with the sauteed veggies (green and red bell pepper and shallots) and homemade meatballs. This meal went really well with a glass of red wine.

addicted to life

Hi, my name is Beth and I am addicted to life.
And books, Doctor Who, and geek/nerd culture...)

But seriously.

New experiences.
I eat them up.
Sometimes quite literally, as new experiences often come in the form of food.

This week I have been in the process of creating a goal list for my life. There are so many skills I wish to learn, so many places I wish to see (i.e. the entire world), so many foods I wish to taste and/or make. And when there are only 24 hours in a day, at least a few of which I ought to spend sleeping, I become easily frustrated with myself.

But then I remember that I can always begin my goal list closer to home. I have a kitchen; cooking new foods isn't an unattainable goal! Actually, I cook new foods with regularity, interspersed with old favourites to keep Nate happy. Though he has liked everything I make. (I think that's a win for my cooking skills as a wife. ^_^)

Plus, there is so much to explore in this corner of Wisconsin. Granted, at this point in time, it's difficult and occasionally impossible to make plans for us. Nate works a lot and his schedule is erratic at best. All a part of the job. And now that I have gotten a part-time position at one of the local grocery stores, our schedules may conflict. I'm praying hard that this doesn't happen since we see little enough of each other as it is.

Anyway, I digress.

Life. I've heard it said that life is what we make it. And I suppose that rings true.

In the meantime, I shall continue to write my goal list and dream.
And, you know, clean the house so that it's not in shambles when I start work next week.

blessings amidst the clutter

Ah, blogging.
It's fantastic and sometimes not.
It can generate jealous and envy quicker than you can snap a finger.
(Pinterest has a way of doing that, too!)

Not that I am super prone to feelings of envy, but they can sneak up on me.
All of a sudden I look around my tiny and always cluttered home and sigh.
Why don't I have a beautiful kitchen?
Why can't the walls be free of scratches from previous owners?
Why this?
Why that?

But really, it's not such a big deal. Yeah, it may take me almost the whole week to clean up after our friends visit on the weekends (just in time for them to show up again, haha), but we spent that time with our friends. It's not our things that matter.

Obviously, I take pride in a clean house and yard and stuff.
But if when I wake up in the morning I give thanks to the Lord for all I have been given, clutter included, then I remember I am blessed.

Though you're still not seeing photos of the house on here when it's a wreck.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peaches for Father Francis

Also published as Peaches for Monsieur le Cure

 Yet another book that was not on my planned reading list but that called my name quite insistently when I saw it at the library...sigh. But in my defense, this is the third book in a trilogy (possibly series?) by Joanne Harris that I absolutely adore. The first two, Chocolat and The Girl With No Shadow (also published as The Lollipop Shoes), I didn't blog about on here, but I fell in love with Harris' lyrical style of writing. Until last summer when I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I had not seen such beautiful writing, at least not that I can remember. (No, Lord of the Rings doesn't count. That's in a class all its own.)

And before anyone gets upset that I love these books so much, since the main character identifies as a sort of witch, these are magical realism. They aren't real. Yes, set in the real world, alongside Christianity and (in this third book) Islam, but the point in this story isn't the religion. There.

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First, a little background on the main character, Vianne Rocher. She is a woman who moves with the wind, never staying in one place for very long. Her mother never had a husband, so Vianne doesn't either. She does, however, have a child. Anouk is a small eight year old girl when she and her mother first blow into the tiny town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes in the south of France. Her particular magic is making chocolates, and knowing everyone's favourites. Of course, she blows into the tiny conservative town as Lent begins. So, the priest is at odds with her for the entirety of Chocolat. Also in Chocolat Vianne finally allows herself to fall in love, with a river-gypsy with long red hair named Roux (played by Johnny Depp in the movie...mmm.). She does leave the town at the end of the book, with Anouk in tow. In the second book, they find themselves in Paris, with another tiny child, Rosette. The second book has Vianne facing off against a rather wicked foe, a woman who has no shadow, and who is entirely too charming to be true. Turns out she is the stealer of hearts. Roux returns in The Girl With No Shadow as well, which creates another dynamic when he realizes Rosette is his child. (At least if I recall correctly!) Now, as Peaches for Father Francis begins, Vianne has received a letter from Lansquenet, a letter that was written by a dear friend who died when she was there last, eight years ago. The old woman seemed to know that someday, the town would be in trouble and Vianne would be needed again.

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This time, the priest, Father Francis Reynaud, is in trouble. And when he sees Vianne, he is surprised, but eventually he accepts her help. The tiny church has been taken over by a hip, new priest, who thinks PowerPoint, guitar, and plastic seating are what the church needs. (UGH.) On the other side of the river, in the area known as Les Marauds, there is yet another problem: a community of Muslims has been growing exponentially, even to the point of building a small mosque. The people were peaceful, and mingled with the townspeople, until a man named Karim Bencharki showed up. Then, the people became hostile and closed up. The women and girls began wearing their headscarves, which they never had before. Father Francis, afraid for his community, and the suspected starter of a fire at Vianne's old chocolaterie that had been turned into a Muslim girls' school, is pretty much at his wits' end. Even the townspeople have mostly turned against him.

So, clearly, much has happened since Vianne Rocher closed up her chocolaterie and left Lansquenet. But, in typical Vianne fashion, she quickly gets to know a few of the people of Les Marauds, though of course she doesn't offer them chocolates right away, since they are in the midst of Ramadan. She does discover that Father Francis is not guilty, and that there is something much deeper going on in the Muslim community that has nothing to do with Lansquenet, but everything to do with their own religion.

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My favourite part about these books is that Harris writes about food so well. She can write about something I've never tasted nor even seen and I feel like I can smell it and my mouth waters. Her being French might have something to do with it! These books are also responsible for my new-found obsession with making excellent chocolates (which I haven't gotten around to yet...). And like I said earlier, these books are magical realism, but they really focus more on the people. I know true Islam is not peaceful, and I'm not sure if Harris intended to illustrate that, but she does, in a way, at least in its treatment of women. And though Father Francis is a pretty good example of the Catholic Church's works-centered theology, there's a small bit of truth shining through. And yes, Vianne is a witch, but you know what? She is a helper of the downtrodden, and she exposes things that are best not left in the dark. Does that make sense? Generally, I don't like people, but when you have a tiny community tearing itself apart in the name of religion, well, it makes for an excellent, feel-good story. And if all you take away from the book (or this review) is that small acts of kindness can have a huge impact, then my job is done. :)

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Just read the books. Yes, from a Christian point of view, there are many problematic situations, but gosh, it's a book. And quite frankly, these are more decently and modestly written than most other adult novels I've read.


five things friday no. 4

1. Apparently it's been a month since I wrote a Friday post. Oops.

2. My favourite television show is Doctor Who, hands down. My emotions are always extreme when there's anything Doctor-related around. It's a bit insane, but oh well.

3. We've been getting so much rain this week. I'm a little nervous about my tulips.

4. My superhero film collection is sadly lacking. It's basically...The Avengers. And maybe a couple others that I can't remember at the moment.

5. I'm the youngest in my workout group at the gym, but the other ladies are awesome and the workouts are tough but actually kind of enjoyable. Never thought I'd say that.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

curry is my favourite

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the taste of curry. At least since I was about seven or eight years old. I seem to recall eating it for the first time as a leftover because we were in a hurry to get to church on Christmas Eve for the children's service. I could be completely wrong about that and have two memories mixed up in my head, but at any rate, curry is my favourite. My mom makes an excellent chicken curry that I have made a few times, but never without her supervision. It's just one of those things I can't separate from my family. One of these days, I will make it here for Nate and me.

Tonight, though, I decided to try another chicken curry recipe I came across in the Taste of Home Cookbook. I don't use this cookbook much, but there are a few gems in it. One of them being the recipe I am about to share with you; it is super easy and can easily be made in 30 minutes if you have all your ingredients right at hand. This recipe calls for canned coconut milk and spinach, two things I thought I might never get Nate to consume. Not that I'm a huge fan of coconut milk either, but I do love spinach.

This curry is kind of incredible. Or at least I thought so. And Nate ate two full plates! With rice! Yeah, I was more than a little excited about that. Like I said, curry is my favourite. I don't know what I would do if he didn't like it, too.

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curry chicken (adapted from the Taste of Home Cookbook) 

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup chopped tomato

Sprinkle chicken with curry, salt, and pepper. In a large skillet, saute chicken and onion in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Stir coconut milk and tomato paste into the chicken mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until thickened. Add spinach and tomato; cook 2-3 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted.
Serve with white rice.

Notes: The original recipe called for canola oil, but since I don't use that, I substituted olive oil. I also didn't really measure my spices, but that's obviously up to you! And I added one extra spice into the sauce; Berbere Seasoning from Penzeys Spices, which is super spicy but with only 1 tsp it added the perfect kick.


apple-almond teacakes with vanilla cream

Other than Monday, this week has been rain. I don't have another word for it. Water, water everywhere. So anyway. All this rain put me in a baking mood, but I didn't get around to actually baking until today. And then of course when I decided I wanted to bake something, I was out of eggs, so had to run to the store, etc.

What to bake, though? Cupcakes were what I was most craving. So I planned to make a recipe out of this book (which is a totally different cover than mine...hmm):

 

When the subtitle says infinite, it's not kidding. This book is so cool and I can't believe this is the first time I've actually baked any cupcakes from it. The issue was usually that I didn't have the right type of sugar, but I fixed that last week while grocery shopping, so....

I knew I wanted apple and almond flavors together, which was convenient because there is a recipe in this book for just that! So I started mixing the batter and went in search of a muffin pan (already had the cupcake liners out). Somehow I don't own a muffin pan. Well, that was frustrating. But I did unearth my heart-shaped doughnut pan. Ah well, better than nothing. So I made baked doughnuts which actually turned into little cakes with a heart-shaped depression in the center because I filled the pan too high. But I didn't care because once topped with oodles of freshly whipped cream with vanilla and sugar, the cakes were delicious. Oh, and they totally didn't look like hearts anymore....

Yeah, I already ate three of them.
And finished the leftover cream.


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Apple-almond cupcakes (adapted from 10,000 Cupcakes by Susanna Tee)

1 apple
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 extra large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners. Peel, core, and finely chop the apple. Combine butter, sugar, and almond extract in a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs carefully and whisk well. Sift in the flour and baking powder; fold in. Stir in the apple. (Don't use an electric mixer for the apple!!) Spoon into the liners and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla cream

2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp superfine sugar

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk together until the cream is thick and holds its shape. Use to cover 12 cupcakes, either with a pastry bag and tip or just using a knife.
 

Monday, April 15, 2013

has spring arrived at last?

Happy Monday! And Tax Day!

On second thought, that's not very happy for most people. And even though I don't work outside the home right now, I hate Mondays as much as everyone else. Partly as a leftover feeling from my college days.

But this morning I took my coffee outside on the deck and almost started crying because it feels so beautiful outside. It even smells like spring. At last. The sun is shining, the river is flowing, and my tulips are poking out of the ground. I noticed my tulips last week and got so excited, but now I'm ecstatic because the weather is lovely. I'm crossing my fingers that it stays that way.

This is a short post to welcome spring officially (I hope!), and to let you all know that I now have a camera!! One of my dearest friends was so kind to sell her old one to me at a discount price. It's not new, but it works perfectly, and besides it is new to me! I haven't taken many photos yet, and the ones I have taken are of my cats and my feet, but perhaps I'll have some photos of the yard to share in the near future. :)

Now, rather than going to the gym to workout this morning, I am going to put on my gardening hat and muck boots and get some yardwork done!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Salt: A World History



You know, it's really frustrating when the internet decides not to work pretty much all week. Especially when I'm knocked out with a terrible cold and don't feel well enough to do much. Oh well. At least I finally got a chance to sit down and finish Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It took me a long time to read this 450 page book, though it was fascinating and always held my interest. I guess one can only read so much about salt in one sitting, no matter how engrossing.

I've discovered that my favorite type of nonfiction is about food. I may have said this before, can't remember. But anyway. I had been intending to read this book about salt pretty much since it was published. Actually, that's a lie, because it was published in 2002, which was around the time that I wouldn't even look at a nonfiction book. I think I discovered this book about four years ago, though being in college at the time deterred me from picking up any extra reading. To make a long story short, I came across it earlier this year on the shelf at my library and decided to check it out. I believe I had to return it once, but I checked it out again and finally cracked it open. I'm quite glad I did.

You'd think the history of salt would be pretty mundane. But no. Salt was crucial to preserving food for so long that it became a central part of civilizations and wars. The Chinese were mining/making salt long before the rest of the world. Though, didn't they do almost everything before the rest of the world? The Chinese are a fascinating culture, not least because they've lasted for so long. But I digress.

This book takes you on a journey from sea to underground mine and back again. You see, there are two basic kinds of salt, sea salt and rock salt. Of course, from those two basic kinds you get many types. I sort of wish Kurlansky had included a master list of all types of salt from the various saltmaking regions of the world, but that's just me; I'm a list fanatic. The fact remains that people fought wars over salt, various salted fish, and the best salt-producing locations. You see, as recently as two hundred years ago, salting was one of the foremost methods of preserving food, whether by pickling or by packing in barrels of salt. It was absolutely necessary.

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Kurlansky does a wonderful job of telling the history of the world through the eyes of salt. He doesn't have a great organizing system in regards to his writing, though. Yes, each chapter trots through history in a chronological manner, but he repeated himself a lot and jumped from culture to culture rather quickly. But aside from that, this book is fantastic and will give you a brand new appreciation for the only rock we eat. Four stars, and I hope to read his other books, which include Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and The Basque History of the World.

google +

On this rainy (what?? it's not snowing? I think this is a miracle...) morning, I finally gave in and joined Google +. I figured this made sense, since the Google Reader is apparently shutting down in July or thereabouts. So I've been enjoying myself and exploring the various communities. It's cool, finding so many people who are interested in some of the same things that I am.

I apologize for the lack of posts on all my blogs. I'm sort of trying to consolidate them into one blog, which could get interesting. And this week our internet has been cutting out a lot during the day. Makes it really hard to keep up with my social media!! But I got a lot of other things done, despite having a horrid cold.

Easter was wonderful, as always. Nate actually had the entire weekend off, which never happens. We both were at all four of the Easter services at our church, since I'm in choir and he played his trombone. We were exhausted by the end of it, but what a glorious celebration of the resurrection of our Savior!

This week I joined a "boot camp" at the gym, which was probably the worst week for me to join, since I got a cold and then my body was uber weak...yeah, not a good recipe for intense workouts. Ah well, it's actually kinda fun. I like challenging myself! I've always kept my mind in shape, but not really my body, so now's the time to do that. Besides, warmer weather is coming, and hiking days are just around the corner! I hope....

Umm, what else...nothing really has been happening in my life. I applied for a job at Target, so we'll see how that turns out! Since I prefer shopping there to shopping at Wal-Mart (honestly, who doesn't?), it'd be nice to have a discount.

So I guess I didn't win the camera in the giveaway that I entered. Sadly. I usually have good luck with giveaways, but not this time. :( But that's okay. Sort of.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Classics Club Meme



The last monthly meme I did for The Classics Club was back in December. I'll try to remember to participate in these each month, because it's fun and it's a way to meet other book bloggers. Especially those who love the classics!

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Do you love Jane Austen or want to “dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone”? (Phrase borrowed from Mark Twain).
  1. Why? (for either answer)?
  2. Favorite and/or least favorite Austen novel? 
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As cliche as it may sound, Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. The only novel of hers that I have not read is Mansfield Park. I seriously adore her witty writing; she had a particular way of gazing upon society that even resonates today.

I think my favorite Austen novel is Persuasion, closely followed by Northanger Abbey. I just can't, in good conscience, say that Pride & Prejudice is my favorite, because it isn't. Absolutely wonderful, yes. Absolute favorite, no. I don't have a least favorite, really, though judging from the film adaptations I've seen of Mansfield Park, that could very well be my least favorite. But I cannot judge that in good conscience either, because I have not yet read it.

Top Ten Books I HAD To Buy...But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly list meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I've been reading others' posts for this meme for awhile, but this is the first time I've joined in. Hopefully I can keep up with it.

This week's list is all about those books that you just had to have but still haven't read them. Perfect for me, because I shouldn't be allowed in any kind of bookstore with any form of money. *evil grin*

Really, though, I think we all do this at one time or another. For me, I'm usually buying classics or kids' books that I've already read, but there are more than enough books on my shelf to write this list, so here goes.

1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy (I even pick it up once in awhile!)

2. Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray (To be fair, I read most of this on my Kindle, but an e-reader is not in any way conducive to reading a super long and rather convoluted book. The two paper copies I own have been gathering dust for over a year now. Oops.)

3. The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

4. P.S. I Love You, by Cecelia Ahern (Yes, I love the film. I bought the book at a secondhand shop and it's been sitting on my shelf ever since. I just don't read contemporary romantic fiction that much....)

5. The German Genius, by Peter Watson (I include this because though I started it, that was over a year ago and I haven't picked it up since. It's a really long book! And I'm not much of a non-fiction reader, though I'm challenging myself to change that this year.)

6. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling (Erm, so, this one I'm about halfway through, so maybe it doesn't really count. But it has been sitting on my shelf with a bookmark in it almost since I bought it. Just something about it wasn't working for me...but I still want to read it!)

7. Anthony Adverse, by Hervey Allen (Watched the film on TCM late one night and tracked down an old copy of the novel soon after, but there it sits.)

8. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke (I even carried this one around in my bag for awhile after I bought it three years ago. Hmm.)

9. The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe (What Jane Austen fan doesn't want to read this???)

10. The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun, by J.R.R. Tolkien (Bought when it first came out, which was kind of a long time ago. Oops.)


There you have it; my list. In no particular order, mind you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

five things friday no. 3

1. I have no idea why I number these posts.

2. Bailey's Irish Cream is delicious over ice. And also with coffee.

3. I drove one of the milk trucks today. It was only forward a few feet, but kinda scary.

4. It's still snowing; at this rate we'll have a blizzard on Easter morning!!

5. I am currently reading a book about the history of salt. It's fascinating.

Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian



 Let me just say that finishing a series that I've invested so much in, both emotionally and time-wise, always comes as a shock. Some people call this feeling of being drained after reading a book a book hangover. Well, that book hangover is infinitely worse when it's an entire series.

When I read the final page of Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian yesterday evening, I closed the book and didn't really know what to do with myself. For a little more than a month now, I'd just close one book and begin the next. Granted, this experience is different than reading, oh, Harry Potter, because I was with that series from the beginning, so I had long waits between books. (Agonizing waits....) But even though I didn't have long to wait for any of the Artemis Fowl books, having gotten lucky at the library when almost the entire series was in at one time, I still don't really know what to do.

This series is not on the emotional level of Harry Potter, nor even quite as high as The Hunger Games. But I invested a lot of feeling in the characters. After the shaky start with the first two books, I was thrown headlong into the world of Artemis and the fairy people, and I really didn't think I could look back. Artemis, Holly, Butler, Foaly, and even Mulch became my friends. There are other characters, too, whom I came to know.

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I don't even think I should share much of the storyline of The Last Guardian, because almost anything I share would be giving too much away. Suffice it to say that Artemis' arch nemesis, Opal Koboi, is back, and has an elaborate plan to infuse herself with enough dark magic to take over the world. And, of course, ground zero is the Fowl Estate in the countryside of Ireland.

Ten thousand years ago, where the Fowl Estate now stands, fairy warriors were buried at the Berserker Gate, their souls trapped by an immensely powerful enchantment until such time as someone opens the gate and floods the world with the power of Danu to rid the earth of all humans. At least, this is what Opal plans to do. And it's up to Artemis and friends to stop her.

Only this time, it truly may be the end for the small band.

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Knowing the end of this book already (thanks to Maggie, which was totally okay) really didn't change how I felt while I was reading it. No, I didn't feel like my heart was ripped out or anything; it wasn't quite that powerful. But it was heart-wrenching all the same. When an author is able to write in a sacrifice correctly, I always applaud them. And in this case, Eoin Colfer did it well.

I do applaud you, Eoin Colfer, I really do. Your series was excellent, poignant, funny, and all too human. Do I think your books will ever reach the modern classic status of a few other children/teen series I've read? No. But that's okay. I think I like it better when the fandom is low key because then not everybody jumps on the bandwagon. So if no films are ever made, I'll be just fine with that. In fact, with the way Hollywood screws up books these days, we're all a lot better off without the adaptations.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

an in-between time

The snow still covers the ground, which is fine with me, but I also would like to get outside without having to wear winter boots. That would be nice. The air is slowly warming up, and it did rain over the weekend. But it snowed again yesterday. Ah well. Such is Wisconsin!

My blog is suffering in this in-between time, as we transition from winter to spring. Not having a camera really doesn't help. I seriously hate posting without pictures, especially because many of my post ideas need pictures. I entered a giveaway over at Mommypotamus for the Canon T3i, which is the camera that I've been drooling over for a long time now. The giveaway ends at the end of the month, I think. Crossing my fingers and hoping hard! In the meantime, we have some spare cash, so maybe I'll just bite the bullet and buy an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera. Or go for the all-weather one from Nikon since that'd be apropos for our lifestyle. Hmm. Decisions.

At this point, I'm planning out the vegetable garden, ordering seeds, basking in every little bit of sunshine there is (speaking of which, be right back!), mourning the melting snow (yes, I really do like to hang onto winter; besides, melting snow makes me sad), and mentally planning the camping trips that we'll never get to take.

So, back to my cup of organic coffee and my seed catalogs.

Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex



Nearly done with the Artemis Fowl series. Not sure how I feel about that, actually. It's been a good series, despite how I felt about the choppy writing in the first two books.

The Atlantis Complex is the seventh book in Eoin Colfer's series. It has a rather different tone from the previous books, but I found it just as funny and poignant. I think it is different because Artemis is trapped inside his own head for part of the story, causing an alternate personality to come to the surface. More on that in a moment.

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The late Commander Julius Root's twisted and villainous brother, Turnball Root, is planning a break out of The Deeps, the maximum security prison in Atlantis. Of course, no one but his guard knows this, and that's because he's got a rune spell on him. Meanwhile, Artemis is slowly descending into madness, becoming obsessive about numbers (the number five is good and the number four is bad), and trying desperately to leave his criminal past behind. He has this plan to save the ice caps, dubbed The Project. He calls his friends to Iceland so he can show them his plan. Captain Holly Short, Commander Vinyaya, and Foaly all show up. Unfortunately, things go very badly wrong. A Mars probe that Foaly himself designed has come hurtling towards Iceland. As they scramble to save themselves, Artemis' Project, and figure out what is going on, the probe crashes, killing Vinyaya and injuring the other three. Holly has to shoot (well, more like stun) Artemis to knock him out so that he doesn't do anything stupid, but that causes another problem when he awakes.

Artemis Fowl II is gone, replace by Orion Fowl, a very romantic hero-type alter ego that insists on professing his most ardent love to Captain Holly Short. To her credit, Holly takes it rather gracefully. Or at least without punching him too many times. Many reviewers on GoodReads said that this book sucked and Orion was one of the reasons why, but honestly I thought he was hilarious. And when we get to see Artemis trapped in his own mind rolling his eyes over what his alter ego is saying, it's just great.

So, the probe crashed through the ice and it headed deep into the Atlantic Ocean straight for the city of Atlantis. Turnball Root had this all planned out, of course. He even distracted Butler and his sister Juliet. But there, Mulch Diggums saves the day.

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A rather convoluted plot, yes, and certainly not the best in the series. But hilarious and enjoyable, nonetheless. I gave it four stars. I'm sad to see the series at its end. I'm in the middle of The Last Guardian right now, which I know I'm going to love and hate since I know what happens. Oh dear.

I don't know what to read next!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey



 With the unprecedented success of ITV's drama Downton Abbey, the great English country house Highclere Castle was put back on the map. Not that it was ever truly off the map to begin with, as the current Countess of Carnarvon chronicles in her excellent micro history Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. First of all, the Carnarvons were one of England's foremost families among the landed gentry. They rubbed elbows with the royals quite regularly. And of course they would, being at the level of Earl.

As Lady Fiona Carnarvon writes her tale, one begins to realize that Highclere may well have toppled at the end of the 19th century. What changed is that the 5th Earl, George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, married Miss Almina Victoria Marie Alexandra Wombwell on June 26th, 1895. Lord George had been in debt for a long time, and Miss Almina had quite the fortune to her name, despite her not-so-delightful social standing. (She was the daughter of Alfred de Rothschild and Marie Wombwell; they were never married.)

Lady Almina Carnarvon was now the Countess, and she went to work on Highclere with a passion. Electricity was installed, as well as plumbed hot and cold water. She quickly became used to managing the household, and throwing extravagant parties was her forte. Each year she also accompanied her husband to Egypt, where he and his friend Howard Carter were embroiled in excavations.

When the Great War began, Almina realized that her passion and true forte lay in nursing. She set up Highclere as a small and incredibly competent hospital. With her father's never-ending money, she was able to afford the best nurses, doctors, and everything else she could have desired. Eventually, the hospital moved to London, but the care remained the same. Many, many soldiers who recovered at Almina's hospital wrote to express their thanks. And the families of those who didn't survive also expressed their gratitude. The hospital did close with the close of the war, though Almina was constantly looking for the opportunity to open one again. (She eventually did.)

And of course, the Carnarvons were a part of the greatest archaeological discovery to date: the finding of the sealed and untouched tomb of King Tutankhamen. The drama surrounding that event is severe. First, Lord Carnarvon was going to withdraw from the excavations that he and Carter had been undertaking for years. The reason was money. In 1922, he prepared to have a conversation that he wished he didn't have to have. Howard Carter was desperate (and at this point, who wouldn't be?), so he decided to pay for one last season of excavation with his own money. This would bankrupt him, as both Carnarvon and Carter knew, and Carnarvon finally agreed to finance one more season.

It was to be one of the best decisions ever, in my opinion. On the 6th of November in 1922, Carnarvon received a cable from his friend that said the following: "At last have made most wonderful discovery in the Valley. A magnificent tomb with seals intact. Recovered same for your arrival. Congratulations." Carter even recovered the entrance to the tomb, as stated in the cable, so that both men could experience it together.


The tomb they had been searching for had at last been found. Sadly, Lord Carnarvon didn't live to see the sarcophagus opened, dying of blood poisoning from a mosquito bite. The newspapers made much of this, calling it the "Curse of the Pharaohs" and so on. But the fact remained that he had been a part of such an amazing discovery, and that legacy still lives on.

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I've only mentioned a few of the happenings chronicled in this lovely book. I don't want to rewrite everything; you just need to read it. I had to mention the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb, though, because as a child I was obsessed with everything Egyptian, and that was one of my favorite stories. Yet I never remembered the name of Howard Carter's friend and companion who died. I doubt I'll forget it now. It's pretty awesome that he lived in the house that is the setting for one of my favorite television shows of all time. What a fantastic connection.

I hope to visit Highclere someday, and not only because it is the real-life Downton Abbey.
It is a legacy in its own right.

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox

Not really a fan of this new cover.

Let me just state right now that this was my favorite of the Artemis Fowl books. At least so far. Generally the last book in a series is my absolute favorite, but since this one was all about time travel, it's at the top of the list. Because time travel is one of my favorite things.

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So, in the present, Artemis' mother is deathly ill. And somehow, it appears that she has a magical illness, Spelltropy. Artemis fears that he has given it to her in his attempt to heal her with the magic that he appropriated while in the time stream in the last book. Of course, he also completely drains himself of his magic in his attempt.

When Holly and Foaly realize Angeline Fowl has contracted Spelltropy, they think the case is hopeless because the cure is long gone. Artemis thinks all is lost when he realizes that the cure was from a creature that he caused to go extinct when he was just 10 years old. Ouch. Talk about a blow to the ego.

Artemis is not about to just let his mother die. The only option is to go back in time, which generally never turns out well. But Artemis won't back down. He accuses Holly of giving his mother the illness, which is a blatant lie, but Holly believes it. She feels obligated to help. They get the help of the demon warlock N.1 to open the time stream, and back they go.

Once back in time, Holly and Artemis notice a few changes to their appearances -- Holly is an adolescent fairy again, and Artemis is probably around 17 instead of 14. (You can see where this is going, haha.) And, as is typical, nothing goes right from the moment they get moving.

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In this particular book, spoilers would be a bad idea, and it's pointless to try and explain some of the events. After all, the entire tale revolves around a time paradox of such huge proportions, there's only one villain in the world of Artemis Fowl who could dream up such a thing. Take a wild guess. But I won't state the name here.

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This book was simply excellent. Eoin Colfer gets the paradox right, even if it doesn't seem like it upon first reading. I did have to reread a few sections, just to make sure I knew what was going on. But the beauty of writing about time travel is that you are allowed to miss a few things, because not even the characters themselves would know everything. Five stars.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony



 I finished the fifth Artemis Fowl book a week ago, but of course I didn't write the review immediately. It's been an interesting week. Anyway.

Ten thousand years ago, when the People lost their last battle with the Mud Men (humans), they all retreated underground. All, except for the 8th Family, the demons. The demon warlocks transported their island habitat of Hybras into Limbo, in hopes that they could eventually bring it back to earth. In the process, the demon warlock circle was broken and as a result, Hybras was stuck out of Time.

Fast forward to present day. Young master Artemis has made all the necessary calculations about the demons and has concluded that the time spell is unraveling. This, typically, will be a problem. And who ends up taking care of it?

The dream team of Artemis, Holly Short, Butler, and Foaly, obviously. But things don't exactly as planned(they never do!), since it turns out there is another group of humans who know about the demons. It gets extremely hairy.

Obviously, the world is saved, because that's the way these stories work. But not without a price. Everything that happens on Hybras when it's still in Limbo takes place really fast (relatively speaking, since there wasn't exactly any passage of time, haha), but when they eventually bring the island back, it's been three years on earth. Which wouldn't have been a huge problem except that Artemis didn't age, plus he and Holly swapped one eyeball in the time stream. Talk about a mess.

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I enjoyed this book immensely. The whole Limbo, Time, etc. thing was just awesome. Any stories about time travel I generally eat right up. Plus, we got some hilarious new characters, like N*1 (or No.1, not sure), a demon who thinks he might be a warlock.

These books really do just get better and better. Five stars.

Monday, February 25, 2013

whoo, I watched the Oscars

They weren't that great. Well, the show itself was, because host whatshisname was pretty amusing most of the time. And I loved the James Bond tribute. And though I haven't seen Silver Linings Playbook, I thought Jennifer Lawrence was so incredibly sweet when she won and she probably did deserve the award, but some of the winners I didn't think were right. But I also haven't actually seen all the films nominated, so yeah. I could definitely have done without Michelle Obama's appearance, though. It was totally wrong for her to be the one reading who won Best Picture. I mean, seriously. Just, no. Go away. PLEASE.

Beyond that, the weekend wasn't too exciting. Other than flinging myself off my snowmobile on Saturday afternoon because I hit a huge patch of ice at the top of a hill and went sliding sideways so fast that it probably would have rolled over if I hadn't bailed. The ice didn't feel very good, let me tell you that much. But five minutes later, I was fine (after I cleaned all the snow out of my helmet!! It's a miracle my glasses didn't break again...), and I don't even have a bruise, nor does it hurt. Weird. The rest of me hurts, but that's normal aches and pains from a night of riding. The trails kind of sucked, but hey, the end of the season is near. Though now there's more snow in the forecast. Eesh.

Spring could come, one of these days. Now that the snowmobile trails are almost all ice, they're treacherous and not much fun, so I'm not against all the snow melting. And since it is almost March, I want to see some green.

In other news, I hope this week is better than the last two. I am (finally) getting new glasses this week, which is exciting. Thinking about getting some hipster frames. ^_~ I'm also getting contacts, because I just can't stand wearing my glasses snowmobiling anymore. Plus if I get hipster frames, they'll be too big for my helmet...haha.

Geez, I wish I had a camera.

Friday, February 22, 2013

five things friday no. 2



  1. Try this new coffee creamer; it's real milk and cream and it tastes so good.
  2. I found this Stevie Nicks cd for 3 bucks last weekend. So happy.
  3. I would like some oil pastels because they would be perfect for my March decorations.
  4. It's National Margarita Day and if I had any of the supplies, I'd be making this one from Smitten Kitchen with blood orange juice. Alas, I don't have anything for a margarita.
  5. I'd give almost anything to be exploring the British Isles. Just look at this castle in Scotland.

http://www.whichcastle.com/castle-images/scottish-highlands/eileandonancastle1.jpg

Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception




Well, that was intense.
Seriously.
First of all, despite yesterday's post where I longed to curl up and read War and Peace, I honestly can't stop reading Artemis Fowl.
I guess it's the fact that I managed to grab the first six books from the library at one time and when I begin a series I like, it's nearly impossible for me to put them down.
So yeah.

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The adventures of Artemis and his fairy friends are becoming more dangerous and definitely more life-threatening. The Opal Deception is no exception. Opal Koboi, the pixie behind the goblin rebellion in The Arctic Incident, is back, though no body knows how at first because she's supposed to be in a coma under heavy guard at the hospital. Supposed to be. But when it appears that Captain Holly Short has shot and killed her own commander and then taken off for the surface, the LEP (Lower Elements Police -- forgot to cover that) clearly could have looked elsewhere than Holly.

In fact, Opal has killed Commander Julius Root and was after Artemis Fowl and his bodyguard Butler, as well. Holly had only a short time before they were vaporised by a bio-bomb. Of course, they are saved, but Artemis and Butler don't have any memories of the fairies. They were, after all, mind-wiped at the end of the last book. Look how that turned out. Not well.

Holly brings them up to speed, Mulch Diggums joins the crew, Artemis and Butler get their memories back, and the chase is on. Unfortunately, Holly and Artemis are captured before Artemis even has his memories back. They are nearly killed by trolls, which certainly doesn't help anybody.

With the LEP completely hoodwinked into not even considering Opal's deception (see what I did there?), this book is jam-packed with crazy happenings. I don't want to go any further into the storyline because there's a few spoilers already. But it all happens so quickly at the beginning of the book anyway.

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If the books get progressively better like this, I can't imagine what the final book in the series will be like. Unfortunately, I do know a few major spoilers for the end, but I can pretend I don't. And I will give this book 4 stars. Not 5, but 4. I was sufficiently shocked and sad and happy by turns with all the events in this book. I was incredibly sad that Commander Root was murdered, to the point that when Maggie called me last night (to talk about Doctor Who mostly, what else?), what I said to her by way of hello was "Is Commander Root really dead????" Yeah.

If you ever tried to get into the Artemis Fowl series and couldn't get past the first couple of books, please, keep going. They get better. I promise. And you just might find yourself attached to more than a few characters.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

bookish thoughts

Keeping up with more than one blog is not easy. I sort of wish I had kept to one and just made multiple sections, etc. Perhaps that will happen in the future, though it's not likely. I have to organize and categorize things. It's the librarian in me.

Seriously, all the books in my house are (loosely) catalogued in Dewey Decimal. I spent about a month last autumn doing that, much to my husband's dismay. Half the books are his, though, so he shouldn't complain. And now it's super easy for me to find a book! (Doesn't mean we have enough bookshelves, of course....) I did have my own system beforehand, but Dewey makes everything simpler. It's too bad Dewey can't really be used with kitchen cabinets.

I'm almost halfway through the Artemis Fowl series, which is excellent. I have the third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but I kind of want to finish Artemis Fowl first. But this snow is making me want to curl up with a big ol' classic tome. Like War and Peace or something Russian. The problem with that is the books already mentioned are library books. Oy vey.

I haven't read a classic in a couple of months, and it's starting to wear on me. Classics are my comfort novels, kind of like PG Tips with a jigger of whiskey is my comfort drink, and any version of Alice in Wonderland is my comfort film. (Or old black and white films. LOVE.)

Do you have a comfort novel?

Anyway. It's tempting to put down Artemis Fowl and pick up War and Peace. It really is. But I did make a promise to my youngest sister that I would finish Eoin Colfer's series. I don't really know what the point of this post is. Just a reader's ramblings, I suppose.

Also, do you like my new background?

colour my world/a Lenten musing




The first three photos were taken in summer of 2011 (I think) at my family's home in Illinois. Currently,  I miss colour. The world is white and brown, which is beautiful of course, since we all know I adore snow. But February is nearing its end now; I find myself longing to see green buds on the trees and hear birds singing in those trees. We have another snowstorm coming; exciting as always. But as I page through my Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog and pick what I will grow this year, I wish I could open the windows and feel a warm breeze. Spring breezes have a certain scent to them. I don't mean the ones that smell of manure and farms! I mean the other ones, those that smell warm.

Lent is also upon us. We sang the hymn in that last picture both on Ash Wednesday and last Sunday. When Lent comes so early, it's a bit of a shock; we think of Easter as being in the springtime. And it will be -- it comes on the last day of March. Easter, that is. So perhaps Lent being so early isn't a bad thing. As winter holds on and spring struggles to break through, we can be reminded of our Lord and Savior's struggle with Satan and death and how He won, just like spring overcomes winter each and every year.

Yes, I love winter. I kind of hate summer. Autumn is awesome. But spring is a good time to be contemplative, and that's something I look forward to as the weather warms up.