Thursday, December 08, 2011

Feed by M. T. Anderson

This book was the October selection for my bookclub.  I was a month behind in reading it because our library had a flood after Tropical Storm Irene and a lot of the youth books were displaced.  I can say that this selection was definitely out of my normal genre, but it was good to step outside the box.  It reminded me a lot of the books like 1984, Animal Farm, and Lord of the Flies from my highschool era only modernized for today's techno saavy high school students.  I will say that it did seem to start off slowly, but picked up as the story line progressed.  If you want to read a "thinker" this book is a good one.  I think out of five stars I would only give it two, just because I'm not a huge fan of books like this.  It is of no fault to the author, though, just my personal preference.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Vacation Part 2: Bermuda!

I know this post is horribly delayed considering I did Part 1 months ago and we traveled way back in August, but at long last here it is:

Day 1: We visited Horseshoe Bay Beach which we heard had an excellent cove for kids to swim in.  Boy were they right!  This beach is heaven and it was so tempting to just ignore the rest of the island the whole trip and just be beach bums all three days.  This beach was postcard perfect, clear blue water, perfect pink sand, to die for beautiful.  The cove was perfect to take M in swimming as the huge rocks blocked the waves, so it was calm and the water was the perfect temperature.  We had lunch at the small cafe they had on the beach and built M's first sand castles in between swims.  I will say that getting from the dock to the beach was no small feat (and probably part of why we didn't go back).  We opted to not do any cruise tours on our trip this time since we had 3 days to figure out the island and explore it on our own.  I looked up the public transit system and popular sites beforehand.  We bought 3-day bus/ferry passes (you can also buy 2 and 1 day passes or take a cab, but cabs are uber expensive) for our stay.  I must say that during the week, the buses were jam packed (commuters, students, and tourists) with no A/C and it was at least a 20 minute ride each way from boat to beach.  Taking a ferry was also an option with the passes as well.  The beach was at the bottom of a HUGE hill so getting there was easy, but getting out again = exhausting while lugging all beach gear and baby.  You could pay a small fortune for a cab ride from the bottom of the hill to the bus stop at the top, though (ya, no thanks!).  The beach had a great bathroom with showers and changing rooms as well.  I highly recommend you make a stop here if you go to Bermuda.

Don't let me go, Papi!!  She was scared at 1st, but loved it after a few minutes
The cove we swam in
The main beach
Day 2: On our second day in Bermuda we teamed up with the rest of the family we were traveling with for our first adventure of the day and went to the Crystal Caves.  After a ferry ride and yet another adventurous bus ride there, we arrived.  There were two caves you could tour, but we only did one of them.  I kind of started to freak out as we began our decent into the cave (I watch too many scary movies about caves), but my fears were uncalled for.  I felt safe the whole time we were down there and the rock formations were beautiful.  You would think it would be super cool in the cave and while it was colder than the land above sea level, the air in the cave was super thick and sticky.  We came out sweaty afterwards!  At one point during the tour, the guide turned off all the lights in the cave.  FREAKY!  I wouldn't have wanted to be the small boys that discovered it in that pitch black darkness. Eek!  After the cave tours, we had lunch at their little outdoor cafe and then our group split up.  Some of my in-laws went back into town to do some shopping and the rest of us went to the Bermuda Zoo and Aquarium.  Mariela LOVED the aquarium and especially the walruses they had there that she could get super close to (she could touch the glass they were leaning against).  The zoo was small, but undergoing a lot of construction and we still enjoyed it.  It was definitely walkable with a small toddler.  After our Zoo/Aquarium adventure we had to wait forever for a bus with enough room to take us back into town to take the ferry home. We JUST made it in time to catch the last ferry before we'd have to wait an additional hour for it.  PHEW!!  Once we got back to the dock, we boarded the ship and got ready for dinner.  I will say that it was so humid in Bermuda (not sure if it was from the Tropical Storm passing by out to sea) you got drenched everytime you walked outside even without making any physical effort.

Streets of Hamilton
Giant lobster
love this pic of M with her Abo & Abuela

Day 3: Our final day docked in Bermuda and we decided to take a cab tour of the island with my parents-in-law while my other in-laws went to the beach (see Day 1).  We figured we'd have the cab drop us off at the beach and we could meet up with them.  The first small feat of the day was negotiating with the cab driver the length and fare for the tour.  It was actually pretty easy and saved us tons of money vs each of us buying a separate ticket to take the tour the cruiseline offered.  We never once felt unsafe.  Our cab driver/tour guide was phenomenal!  He showed us everything we had hoped to see about the island and more.  We stopped at Gibb's Lighthouse, Fort Scaur, a rich person's home worth a cool $2-3 million on the inside (because he knew the guest that was staying there!), Somerset Bridge (world's smallest draw bridge), a church that used to be someone's home with just two rooms, the rich neighborhoods where the stars lived, and beautiful spots to take photos along the road.  During our tour he also told us everything we wanted to know about Bermuda, it's history, their culture, government (they are British owned), cost of living, cost of housing, and then some.  I found it very interesting that all of the houses on the island have roofs designed to collect rain water.  The roofs are designed with special grooves in them and there are pipes that run from the roof to a storage tank underground where they can use the water in their homes for cooking, cleaning, toilets, showers, etc.  They have these pipes and storage tanks instead of the gutters we have.  It makes sense since unsalinated water is a hot commidity on an island and they don't have the pollution we deal with here in the states!  After our tour we were pretty tired/hot/hungry, so we skipped the beach and did a little shopping outside the pier for some gifts and souvenirs and then boarded the ship for a cool shower and late buffet lunch. (Gotta love the food on a cruise ship available 24/7!)

My in-laws and I with our tour guide :)

Gibbs Lighthouse

World's smallest draw bridge
Fort Scaur

They hold weddings under these arches in Bermuda. :)
So, that was our trip in a nutshell!  We had a wonderful time and a family vacation wasn't that bad as the ship was big enough we had some separation and didn't feel the need to do everything together.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

As some of you ever observant readers have noticed on our Christmas card this year.  A.R. and I have a little something extra to be thankful for this year.  We found out the day before A.R.'s 31st birthday (on September 28th to be exact!) that M is going to be a big sister!!  Our little Beetle Bug (a reference to Jungle Junction for those of you that watch Playhouse Disney) is due to arrive on or around June 10th, 2012 and I would totally be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to having maternity leave over the prime summer months in Connecticut.  We're very excited to be expanding our family although I do have moments of sheer terror as I wonder how I'll handle the terrible twos with a newborn, but I figure if my mom can survive two babies 15 months apart, I'll do great with babes that are 27 months apart. :)

This pregnancy has been easy on me ::knocks on wood:: so far with no morning sickness, an aversion to chicken, and just the typical first trimester fatigue that comes with pregnancy and chasing a toddler around.  I have "popped" a LOT earlier this time and about two weeks ago it started to get tricky to hide my swelling belly at work.  The rumors were flying, so after hearing the baby's heartbeat last Wednesday for the first time via Doppler through my belly (it was a beautiful 160bpm), I told my team in our weekly meeting on Monday that I was expecting a baby.  Most of them said it was about time I said something!  I kind of liked having my own, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", policy and making them wonder and whisper.  I REALLY wanted to have someone ask me and just act appalled and stomp off.  That would've been quite amusing, but I'm too nice for that. HA!

Having no morning sickness has made me worry quite a bit that this little Beetle Bug is doing okay in there, but I felt the first movements at 10w3d on a Thursday afternoon at work.  It's just brief flutters now (and YES, I'm sure it wasn't gas!) and not everyday.  I've felt it a few times since then and it's more reassuring each time.  Keep in mind this is my third pregnancy, so I'm not surprised I'd feel this little one sooner.  I really didn't think it was possible this early as I didn't feel M until 13 1/2 weeks, but I'll take it!  I've spoken with several other moms of 3+ and they've confirmed similar experiences so I don't feel like a total nutcase at least.
How I told A.R.:  I tested the day before his birthday and tried my hardest to keep it a secret to give him the ultimate birthday gift.  I failed.  We don't keep secrets and this was one I found impossible to keep.  I did manage to go the day without telling him, though.  That evening he was cooking us dinner and was in and out of the fridge a lot.  A fellow March 2010 mom friend had suggested I use our letter/number magnets on the fridge and arrange them to read that we were having a baby.  I thought it was an awesome idea, but forgot that men are clueless.  I arranged the letters right IN FRONT of A.R. literally while he was standing next to me and he never noticed them even going in and out of the fridge a few times.  He took a break from cooking to hug me hello and he rubbed my belly and said, "You know there could be a baby in there.  When are you going to test?"  I smiled up at him and he knew. 

His response: "OMG, you already tested??  You're pregnant aren't you. You're pregnant?!  Really?!"
Me: "Have you read the fridge?"
Him:  "Due in June 2012?? OMG, you ARE pregnant!!  Really?!"

And then came the tears.  No lie, my husband cried (and of course so did I- silly hormones).  He didn't cry when we found out M was on the way and he says it was because he didn't know what to expect.  Now he truly realizes what we have with our little M and what we'd be missing without her (more tears from me).  He said he flashed forward to the birth and what it'll be like and couldn't keep the tears in (and yet even more tears).  We hugged and for some reason M doesn't like when we hug too long, so she came in and pushed us apart and we had a group hug.  Then, the three of us went upstairs and I showed them the evidence (test sticks).  We sat in M's room and talked about when to tell family, decided which room would be M's big girl room (we're recycling our nursery for the new baby- it's gender neutral for that reason), and daydreamed about what it'll be like to have the pitter patter of four little feet in our home (LOVE the sound of toddler feet on our floors!).
Shirt reads: "No one consulted me about this new baby thing"
We told our families after our first appointment and dating ultrasound using two different shirts- one in Spanish for A.R.'s family and an English one for mine.  A.R.'s family was clueless (except Titi Marisol!) and A.R. actually had to point it out for his mom to read before anyone left our gathering!  My family got it right away because I basically just texted them a picture of M in the shirt since they all live out of state.
So long story short:  This Thanksgiving I'm so very thankful for my family.  From the little baby the size of a lime growing in my belly, to M and her sweet smile and stubborn streak, to my amazing husband who I don't know what I'd do without, to my family- parents, brothers, sister, Grammie, and for my wonderful in-laws to whom I'll share this Thanksgiving with and to whom I'm ever greatful that they've welcomed me so well as a part of their lives. 
Taken 11-13-11
Oh and P.S. we're going Team Green this time!  As in we won't be finding out the baby's sex. :)  You have to do it the old fashioned way at least once.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

One of my bookclubs read this book for October and I had to wait forever for it on hold as Tropical Storm Irene flooded our library's youth section and the copies they had were put in storage (Pack Rat containers) while the clean-up took place.  I didn't realize that it was a "teen" novel when my club first selected it.  It was a quick read for me and also quite obvious what happened from the beginning (although I don't think the author was trying to hide it per say).  I felt myself ache for the girl in the novel and I wondered why she couldn't "speak".  I got angry at her in portions for not just saying something.  It definitely did a good job of depicting the tough years that can be high school for most teens and pre-teens when you just don't quite fit in with any particular clique in addition the underlying reason why Melinda was silent.  I definitely wouldn't have chosen to read this on my own, but I'm glad to step outside my little box every now and then.  I'm sure my daughter will probably read it one day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Photo Card


Monogram Snowman Holiday
Create photo holiday cards this Christmas season.
View the entire collection of cards.

I know, I I appear out of the wood work after being a horrible blogger and promising to get back on track.  I hope to get better at blogging in the coming weeks and I have lots to share with all of you including more delicious recipes, my adventures in cloth diapering, and some other projects shall we say I've been working on. :)  For now, enjoy our Christmas card that I just created today.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  It felt the emotions along with the characters and I ached for the animals, Walter, and Camel.  I look forward to watching the movie and comparing it to the book, although I cringe at the prospect of some of the scenes the movie might portray from the book.  I had the joy of reading most of this book by flashlight after Winter Storm Alfred knocked our power out for a whole week (torture!).  Once I read the first chapter, I couldn't put it down so maybe it's a good thing the power went out?! 

This book was very well written and worth the 2 month wait at the library for it.  It's historical fiction and depicts life in the traveling circus by train.  The author captures your attention from the very first chapter and keeps your attention throughout.  You can relate to the characters and what they are going through.  I empathized with them, got angry, sad, and elated with them.  This is the type of novel that I love.  I don't want to give too much away, but I really hope you'll read it BEFORE you see the movie. :)

P.S. I know I've been an MIA netbook is uber slow these days and I'm now blocked at work from blogging on my lunchbreak.  BAH-humbug IT controls!!  I'll try to be a better blogger, though. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kitchen Upgrades!

At long last we started painting another room downstairs in our home (okay, it was really done two months ago...) and doing a bit more decorating.  We had picked out a paint color long ago, but never gotten off our arses to actually buy it and paint.  Of course it doesn't help that I've been banned from picking up a paint brush in our home- I'm horrible at painting, I get more on me than the wall- so the most I can do is tape and clean up afterwards leaving a majority of the work to A.R.  Hey, I offered to help with the roller at least!

Right before our cruise in August, A.R. took a few extra days off and tackled the job of painting our kitchen, eat-in dining room, and solarium.  We chose a pale yellow from the Behr Premium Ultra line called pale honey and I LOVE the results.  It took A.R. a whole day to paint the area due to all the edging that was required.  Thankfully he didn't have to do another whole coat and was able to just do touch-ups where needed.  We've also decided to put in a back splash and found one at Lowe's that we are in love with after visiting 4 different stores including 2 that specialize in tiling.  Hopefully, it won't take us as long to put the tile up as it did to finally paint!! 

We've also already purchased the curtain rods for the solarium and I've cut five panels out of a sheer fabric in an off-white to use under some curtains.  I'm going to sew the sheers myself, but I admit that my time is limited, so I'll probably buy the actual curtains.  We finally found a design we love at Home Depot as part of the Martha Stewart collection.  They are a red with a black and gold design.  The red ties with our couch in the adjacent family room with our open floor plan and the gold will tie in the pale honey paint color in the kitchen.  I think our neighbors will hug us when we finally hang curtains in these windows!!

More pictures to come.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Angel Hair with Zucchini and Tomatoes

This is another summery Skinny Taste recipe that we loved over the summer.  A huge bonus was that it was also quick and easy to make and most ingredients are typically staples in your pantry and veggie drawer.  In liu of angel hair pasta, I used fettucini as it is easier for little toddler hands to pick up to self feed with.  I also added slicked up grilled chicken to add a little meat to the dish.

Click this link for the recipe: Angel Hair Pasta with Zucchini & Tomatoes

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

I'm super late in posting this recipe as I made it month's ago in the heat of summer, but better late than never.  Right?!
I found this recipe on Skinny Taste's blog and had to try it out.  I like that they were delicious even without frosting.

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Despite the grim time in French history that this book was depicting, I thought it was well-written and hard to put down.  It was written in two voices- that of Sarah and that of Julia.  I did think that part of the plot was pretty predictable in how the author intertwined Sarah and Julia's lives, but it is still worth reading.  I had no idea to what extent the French were involved in the war and the Holocaust.  Yes, this book is fiction, but it was a lesson in history for me as well.

I would recommend this book to others and I look forward to seeing the movie even though I'm usually disappointed when I compare book to movie.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Squashed 2011!

Squashed.  My garden that is.  Completely and utterly squashed by the ugly little insects known as squash bugs.  So much for my great experiment in planting by the phases of the moon using the Farmer's Almanac!  Planting by the moon didn't help our garden out (even before the squash bug invasion) at all.  The transfer from seedling pots to the garden was too late to get a decent harvest for us.  The almanac said that we could transfer in June, but from now on we will transplant no later than Memorial Day Weekend.  Planting in the ground in June just didn't give the plants enough time to weatherize/establish their roots/and become sturdy before the real heat of summer arrived in full swing.  Combine the late planting with a massive squash bug infestation and our garden was a major bust this year.
These little bugs "squashed" my garden. :(
We did get some things from it, but none of the tomatoes, squash (butternut, yellow, zucchini), watermelon, pumpkin, or cantaloupe that I dreamed of in the Spring.  We harvested all of 5 cucumbers before the squash bugs moved on to kill those plants before I realized what was going on and it was too late.  Our tomatoes grew, but the fruits didn't ripen in time due to being planted too late and the deluge of rain we had toward the end of the summer (Tropical Storms Irene and Lee).  They rotted on the vines still mostly green.  I planted a few potato plants to see how our land did with them and was pleasantly surprised we got a decent harvest of them!  They were delicious, too!  We also got one ear of corn before Tropical Storm Irene hit and demolished all of our corn stalks and A.R. just harvested our carrots yesterday.  We had to harvest them to save them from the bunnies!  So far, the harvest looks pretty decent.

Okay, as I type this and am reading about what we did harvest from our garden, maybe it wasn't a total bust.  We just didn't have anything of the squash variety and we have a dozen gorgeous giant sunflowers to look at right now just like this one:

Next year, we'll buy our tomato plants already started as we have had no luck in getting ripe tomatoes from seeds I start myself.  Also, we'll be tilling and fertilizing this fall in addition to adding some Sevin to the soil to kill the squash bugs.  I had hoped to stay organic and not have to use pesticides, but I feel okay doing one treatment in the fall, burning the plants we do have that have the squash bug eggs on them, and then not planting any squash type plants in the spring for one season.  I've read tons on how to get rid of an infestation and it can be rather difficult, so this is the route we'll take.  I'm going to ask my in-law's if I can plant a few squash plants at their house next year in exchange for garden space at our house, so we'll hopefully get some cukes, squash, and pumpkins.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

I didn't read the synopsis of this book before I picked it up at the library for my bookclub and had I done that, I doubt I would've read it.  Adoption hits a little too close to home for me.  I can only imagine what my parents would have gone through had they been in the same position as Ellen Gleeson in the novel.  My two younger siblings were adopted and my sister wasn't officially "ours" until a full year after her adoption took place because her father was unknown or what they called a John Doe on her adoption paperwork.  We very well could have lost her, had her birth father come forward and I know that while my mother did not give birth to her, it would've tormented her to have to give her up again. 

I can also empathize on Ellen's need for closure and to have to follow through on her discovery even if it meant the worst for her in the end.  It is possible for an adoptive parent to love as much as a biological one and it IS possible for them to feel that mother's intuition.  This book was emotional for me.  Having placed a child of my own for adoption, I have felt what it's like to love and lose.  To give birth and then he is no more.  Yes, he's alive and thriving and the decision I made was my own and the best for my son, but it doesn't make it an easy one.  I grieved for many years just like a mother who lost a child does.  In this story, Ellen was really a true mother.  I don't want to say too much without giving the storyline away, but if you read this book have some tissues nearby.  I know I needed them!  It was well-written and an easy read...just a little extra emotional for me.