Wednesday, March 31, 2010
And, since I'm enjoying myself so much I figured I'd go ahead and join in with the Nest Book Club's Spring Book Challenge. Every quarter they make up a list of tasks and you have to read books to fill them. To finish, you have to read something like three books a week - which, likely isn't going to happen, but I figured I'd give it a go.
You can find the full list of tasks here.
First up on my list are:
- Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop (Read a book about music)
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in audiobook form, since we'll spend so much time in the car this weekend (In honor of Arbor Day, save a tree and listen to an audiobook or read a book online or through an e-reader)
- In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, which I'll be reading along with a buddy (Read a book of your choice, then post a lengthy review on the board and encourage discussion)
- Live to Tell: A Detective D. D. Warren Novel, my latest goodreads first-read win (It is raining out, so read a book while staying dry)
I'm excited to get started tomorrow!
What have you been reading lately? Would you recommend it?
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
We're about a day and a half into our three-day attorney review period (which, apparently, can last longer as the lawyers see fit). I am incredibly nervous because the house was already in attorney review when we made our offer - we sort of stole it... someone else could come along and steal it from us too.
Since we found out Saturday, all of our conversations have centered around room colors (yellow for the office) and what updates and fixes we'd do first (pave the driveway) and what kind of stuff we'd have to buy (lawnmower!). Everyone keeps telling me not to count my chickens before they hatch, but it's so hard not to have my hopes up at this point.
Keep your fingers crossed for us!
Saturday, March 27, 2010
But, I was repeatedly shocked as I watched this.
For anyone who hasn't seen Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution yet, it's a reality show set in Huntington, WV. The basic premise is that Americans, as a whole, eat like crap and Oliver is trying to stage a revolution to get us to eat better. He's trying to work his way into the community through schools, churches and local families to get them to change their habits.
I went in expecting to see bad habits. (Hell, we were chomping down on chocolate covered pretzel bites and gummy strawberries!) We've heard time and time again how much cheaper and easier it is to go for fast food - and when you're on a budget and short on time, how can you really resist? I knew people don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. I knew that school lunches probably weren't the healthiest.
But, still, my jaw was on the floor several times.
Like when he helped the family pile up a week's worth of their meals on the table. Just about everything was deep fried. Is it common to have a deep fryer? And the fact that there was not one fruit or vegetable on that table. Sure, I can go a day or two without one if I try, but they're so much a part of our diet that I couldn't imagine just never having them.
Another thing that absolutely shocked me was when Oliver went into a class (first grade, I think) and the kids honestly didn't know what vegetables looked like. Cauliflower and beets? I could forgive those; I'm not sure I did when I was six. But tomatoes and potatoes? A six-year-old should know what they look like!
And that the kids honestly didn't know how to use knives. Sure, my Mom wasn't handing me a steak knife when I was that little, but we did get butter knives if we needed one.
For a while now, I've wanted to do better with our own eating habits. We really are doing better when it comes to fruit and vegetables, but I want to start making more things from scratch. Watching this was just more motivation.
If you missed the show and are interested in checking it out, the episodes are available on hulu.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
We're going to put an offer in tonight and hope they'll consider it. We're keeping our fingers crossed, but not holding our breath.
I'm officially over this house-hunting game.
We're planning to go back for a second look this weekend and then put an offer in. Please keep your fingers crossed that this one works out for us!
Monday, March 22, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
With Rita's of course! It's Rita's tradition to give out free ice on the first day of spring - and our tradition to make it there at least once during the day to cash in. We both went adventurous this time and tried new flavors - Florida Orange gets a thumbs up and Peeps gets a big thumbs down.
Did you do anything to mark the first day of Spring?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
This is one of the best books I've ever read. Set in the segregated South, Stockett does a great job of humanizing every single character she introduces you to. Though fictionalized, it does give you a great idea of just how tough life was during this time period and her characterization is amazing.
I actually listened to this one - my first audio book. I loved it. It took me a while to finish because I listened exclusively in the car but I looked forward to every trip I took because of it - it was like sitting down with the characters for story time.
This book was kind of billed as in the same vein of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. I was mildly convinced that this was simply because there aren't many travel memoirs by women, but this really did follow a similar format. Saldana's book could be called, "Coffee, Monastery, Love". Despite the similarities, I thought the book was incredibly well-written and could easily stand on it's own. Saldana is a brilliant writer - her words make the streets and people of Syria come alive.
Obviously, I highly recommend both of these if you're looking for a good read. And speaking of good reads, I recently joined the website goodreads where other people are logging their thoughts and discovering new books. It's got several neat features, including first reads giveaways where you can win advanced copies of books. (I actually won The Bread of Angels through it!) I tied my goodreads account to the blog here - if you look at the widget on the left side underneath my twitter updates you'll be able to see a visualization of the books I've read recently. Clicking on them will give you more info about the book and my full review. How neat is that?
If you're a good reads member, feel free to add me as a friend. I love to see what other people are reading. What are you reading right now?
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Okay, so I guess we didn’t technically lose it, but it sure feels that way. Thursday evening Mark and I had a long conversation and decided we were going to put in an offer on that townhouse we loved. We spent the evening and the next morning staring at the pictures online and daydreaming about what it would be like to own a home.
I called the realtor Friday morning and set up an appointment to do the paperwork the next morning – and then promptly clicked back to daydream with the pictures some more… only to find out they were gone. After a few frantic minutes, we found out that the place was under contract. Our realtor had been in continuous contact with the seller’s realtor and specifically asked her on more than one occasion to let her know if there was any interest in the place because we were planning to offer. Of course, she didn’t.
The rest of Friday was pretty rough. We were both pretty down about it because that place would have been really good for us. We’re trying to pick ourselves up and start over though – more house-hunting commences Saturday morning.
The great news: Mark verbally accepted a (technically) new job yesterday.
He’s been rotating through the company for the last two and a half years and yesterday he accepted an offer to permanently stay in the job role he’s currently in. It’s a raise, which is awesome, and a title change. Best of all, it’s the stability that we’ve been looking for. No more wondering which office (or state) he’ll be in come summer is an amazing feeling!
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Why on Earth to I have a basil tree then?
I sent Mark to the store at one point to get fresh basil for a recipe I was making to take to a party. He came back with a whole plant, roots and all. Not wanting it to go to waste, I threw it in the only soil I had available - which, of course, had fertilizer in it. Then, when my mother-in-law was plant-sitting for us last summer, she gave it some plant food. Thus, about a year and a half later I have a whole tree of the stuff.
I've had pesto on my to-make list for months, in hopes that it would put a dent in things but we used Mark's Grandmother's recipe for pesto sauce which was light on the basil. We added some leftover chicken to it and it was delish. It was super simple and a nice, light supper. Mark said he'd add more basil next time, but I don't know - I liked it the way it was! Maybe we'll try a true pesto recipe at some point.
¼ Cup Butter
¼ Cup Olive Oil
¼ Cup Grated Paresan Cheese
½ Cup Finely Chopped Parsley (use ¼ Cup if using dry parsley)
1 TBL Finely Chopped Basil (use 1 tsp if using dry basil)
Pinch Garlic Powder
Mix All ingredients with a whisk over a low flame. Serve over drained pasta.
As I was flipping through the local paper Friday night, I noticed there was going to be a used book sale the next day at one of the local high schools - a fundraiser for their Project Graduation. We had already agreed that we'd be staying in on Saturday because of the nasty storm we were getting.
Did we stay in Saturday? Nope. We ended up running through the pouring rain and wind to get to the booksale and I ended up with another stack of books at fifty-cents a peice. I'm lucky that he indulges me so!
Has anyone read any of these? Good or bad reviews?
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Last year, my office started a partnership with a great community organization that provides services to homeless people in the area. One of the programs the org runs is a free preschool for any families they're currently helping. They bus the kids to and from the shelter, feed them breakfast and lunch, send them home with a dinner bag, make sure they get birthday cake and Christmas gifts and anything else they could possibly need. The staff and volunteers that run this program, especially the lead teacher, are nothing short of amazing. We send volunteers over every Wednesday afternoon.
I go at least once a month. Sometimes I spend my time playing Playdough. Often, we read. Today, we took advantage of the nice weather and played outside. Written down it sounds so simple - in reality it's one of the best things I've ever done.
I've been going for about a year and a half now and I love seeing how much the kids grow. It's great to see new kids come in and acclimate to the group. It's great when they make it out of their pull-ups. It's exciting when they graduate and go onto "big kid school".
So many of these kids are coming from really rough situations - living in the shelter, broken families, etc. But still, I can't help thinking how lucky they are. Lucky that their parents have gotten them into this program. Lucky that they have a stable place to go every day where they know they'll be well loved and well fed. Lucky that the volunteers here are so caring they'll run out at lunchtime and get new sneakers for them when they notice they one's they're wearing are falling apart. Lucky that no matter what's going on at home, when they're there they can just be kids.
And I'm lucky, for getting to share in all of that.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
I re-started my running in the midst of the snow, so I've been running on the street. There is a path that runs through the neighborhood, but it's been too snow-covered to properly navigate. We decided to go for a walk yesterday and see if the warm weather has helped the path condition.
And it has! Aside from a few puddles, the path is clear again. I'm excited be able to do today's run (week 3, day 2 - for the record) through the park!
We also stopped to feed the ducks. These must be the world's most-fed ducks - as soon as you get near the pond they start heading to you, hoping you've brought food!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
In this part of the state, though, they have library sales. We happened upon one our senior year of college and I was instantly hooked. Library supporters collect donated books all year round and then once or twice a year have a big fundraiser sale. And when I mean big, I mean BIG.
Today was the last day of the library sale at one of the local ones. I had gone over to check it out on Thursday evening and was excited to find they still had four rooms of books to sell off. I picked up a couple I couldn't pass up and then today we went back for the stuff-a-bag event.
If you've never been to a stuff-a-bag event, you're missing out. It's like full-contact book shopping. First come, first serve. Two dollars for as many books as you can shove in a shopping bag. And, you don't bring kids to this - they'd get trampled.
We braved the crowd, and this is what we came up with:
Twenty-three books in total (counting the four I picked up on Thursday) - ten of which are cookbooks. I paid three dollars for today's haul; six for that whole pile. And yes, I'm giddy over it.
The thing with stuff-a-bag events is that you can't really think about your choices, you just have to shovel them in. Spend too long debating and no doubt it'll be gone. One fun aspect of this is you don't really realize what treasures you have until you get home and have a chance to go through them.
A bunch of the cookbooks are ones that different groups have sold as fundraisers at one time or another. I firmly believe that these often have some of the best recipes you'll ever try, so I picked up nearly every one I came across. One was even put together by my company while I was in high school - I found some of my co-workers names in it while I was flipping through! Another gem is the 1974 US Department of Agriculture booklet on cooking for two. The nutrition advice is completely dated.
A bunch of the other books are classics - Shakespeare, Kate Chopin and Henry James. There's also a smattering of contemporary fiction, a travel book and a biography. For two dollars a bag, I happily hoarded anything I thought I might want to read someday.
I can't wait to start reading (and cooking!) my way through the piles.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
And these stilt-walker guys. They did a little show and then spent the rest of the time walking through (over?) the crowd. One of them pretended to fall over on me and I about had a heart attack - it was a good laugh for everyone around me!
A lot of the acts from the show came out and did mini-acts during the pre-show. They also gave out clown noses and had dress-up areas with circus costumes for the kids. All of the performers milling about were more than happy to take pictures with you and sign programs. It was a really nice touch and made the whole show feel a lot more personal - and then it was fun to look for the performers you met during the actual show.
Such a fun evening - I guess we're just big kids at heart!