Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review: The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook

The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the BEST bread machine cookbook that I have tried. I wish I had this book when I was first starting out with my bread machine. I struggled with it so much and Hensperger's book would have been an invaluable resource in my kitchen. She takes all the problems and guess work out of bread making - even living in altitude. I really haven't had to tweak her recipes for the altitude either but that she gives tips on how to troubleshoot for it - would have been incredible when I was first starting out with my bread machine.

The book has a great variety if recipes and variations, detailed instructions and interesting information. This is the most comprehensive book for bread machine baking I have seen. This book will give any new bread machine user confidence to succeed. And any seasoned bread maker a variety of recipes to find yourself turning to the book over and over again.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful for...
1. a good week in Denver
2. seeing Michael's family
3. being there - it was important we were there not only for Michael's parents but so Michael could hear things first hand.
4. the coloring book that Michael's Mom gave me - it was a Winnie the Pooh coloring book with instead of Christopher Robbins - it had a girl named Darby in it. Does current Pooh stories have a Darby in them?
5. being home - although we had a good week out of town always nice to be at home too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

100 Things | Stickers

21. I have a huge pile of stickers because I like stickers.

I know I am 41 years old (almost 42) so probably a little old for stickers. But I like them. They make me smile - a fun simple pleasure. I use them on mail love, when I make gift tags, decorate gift boxes and notes for Michael and friends. I have a huge pile of stickers that lay in a basket in my office. All kinds of stickers....silly, pretty, politics, holiday, funky, letters and sparkly.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stuffed Pasta Shells

I had lots of spinach so was wondering what to do with it. And so one meal I made with it was stuffed pasta shells.

1 lb fresh spinach cooked, drained and squeezed or a 10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups ricotta - I used low-fat skim-milk ricotta
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 pound mozzarella, finely chopped or shredded
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried, crumbled
1 large garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

3 to 4 cups tomato sauce or marina sauce - I made a homemade tomato sauce and then added browned ground spicy Italian sausage to it. I covered the bottom of pan with just tomato sauce first though before adding meat.
1 box cooked jumbo pasta shells (about 32 to 36 shells)

If using frozen spinach, thaw and squeeze to get as much water out as you can. If using fresh, cook, covered, for 2-3 minutes in 1/4 cup boiling water; drain and squeeze to get out as much water possible.

Transfer spinach to large bowl. Add ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, basil and garlic to bowl. Season mixture with salt and pepper; blend.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spoon 1/2 cup tomato sauce evenly over bottom of 9"x13" baking dish (or 2 9x9). Fill each pasta shell with spinach mixture. Place shells - filling side up in pan. Spoon remaining sauce over shells. I usually sprinkle with some more Parmesan cheese but forgot this time. Cover loosely with foil and bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve.

You can also freeze this after you spoon remaining sauce over shells. It freezes for up to 4 months. And you can take straight from the freezer to the oven just cooking it for about 2 hours. Or thaw in fridge and then bake 1 to 1 ½ hours.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review: Martha Stewart's Cooking School

Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook by Martha Stewart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
From publisher:
"Imagine having Martha Stewart at your side in the kitchen, teaching you how to hold a chef’s knife, select the very best ingredients, truss a chicken, make a perfect pot roast, prepare every vegetable, bake a flawless pie crust, and much more.

In Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, you get just that: a culinary master class from Martha herself, with lessons for home cooks of all levels.

Never before has Martha written a book quite like this one. Arranged by cooking technique, it’s aimed at teaching you how to cook, not simply what to cook. Delve in and soon you’ll be roasting, broiling, braising, stewing, sautéing, steaming, and poaching with confidence and competence. In addition to the techniques, you’ll find more than 200 sumptuous, all-new recipes that put the lessons to work, along with invaluable step-by-step photographs to take the guesswork out of cooking. You’ll also gain valuable insight into equipment, ingredients, and every other aspect of the kitchen to round out your culinary education."

I say if you don't know how to cook at all - first go to Betty Crocker. But if you are ready to move up and beyond then this is the book for you.

I know a lot of people don't like anything Martha Stewart's does. I know she can be intimidating and scary. But this book is fantastic. First and for most the information is amazing. Next the photography is beautiful and supports the information in a wonderful pairing. This book covers some basics but also takes things a step beyond to help you understand how to cook which will ultimately make you a better cook.

The books covers:

* Equipment lists that tell you everything from a loaf pan to a dutch oven to a spider (which is wide shallow mesh skimmer with a long handle great for removing food from hot oil or boiling water).
* It gives you a run down on knives and what they do and how to care for them.
* Shows how to do basic vegetable cuts and more special cuts like the lozenge which is to cut them into thin slices and then stack the slices and cut into strips. Making cuts on the diagonally to achieve a diamond shape.
* The book covers some basic herbs: how to wash, store, cook and few other tips for them.
* It has a several pages on just onions. Photos of the different kinds, how to peel, slice, cut, chop, saute, caramelize the various kinds.
* Making stock from a basic chicken stock to how to make a consomme or cream soup. It not only tell you how to make them but a glossary of terms and tips.
* Eggs - how to boil, poach, coddle, make a frittata and so on.
* Meat, Fish and Poultry - It has charts to show what each cut of meat and how to buy. It shows how not only how to roast, grill saute, braise, stew and many other things to create the perfect meat dish but also shows how to tie a roast, stuff a turkey, get charcoal ready for a grill, how to carve a duck and many other techniques.
* Vegetables - how to steam, wilt, simmer, saute, grill, make a green salad and many other ways to cook vegetables. It also has a buying guide what to look for, what to avoid, storage and cooking method.
* Pasta - how to make fresh pasta, gnocchi, sauce, baked pasta dishes and several other things.
* Dried Beans and Grains - how to cook and varieties of beans and grains

And finally....

* Dessert - how to cream butter, cut butter into flour, make meringue, a souffle, sorbet and many many other things. It include a chart showing a variety of berries and stone fruits

PLUS all that throughout the whole book there are recipes upon recipes....from gourmet to just basic comfort food

Minestrone Soup
Squash and Goat Cheese Frittata
Chicken Piccata
Pan-Seared Strip Steak with Mustard Cream Sauce
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Creamed Spinach
Herbed Rosti with Wild Mushrooms
Glazed Turnips
Gnocchi with Basil Pesto
Rice Pilaf
Double Crusted Apple Pie
Creme Brulee
Poached Apricots
Yellow Buttercake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

It is a beautiful book with a wealth of information that I think anyone who wants to learn more about cooking and enjoys eating good food should have in their kitchen.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, September 20, 2009

30 Things

This is a list of questions/fill in the blank that was put out by Invisible Illness Week.

1. The illness I live with is: migraines and depression
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: I wasn't diagnosed with migraines until 21 and depression until I was 25.
3. But I had symptoms since: depression since I was a little little girl and migraines since I was 12
4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: That some days I can't do it all
5. Most people assume: That I really don't look sick but that I say I am sick quite a lot.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: usually my migraines are the worse early morning or late night. So early mornings can be hard when I have a migraine.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: none - I don't watch any because I have sympathy pains.
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: microwave - when I have a migraine - I need to be able to cook fast and easy and my indoor grill and the microwave are my best friends for cooking.
9. The hardest part about nights are: When I have a migraine, the pain is so bad I can't sleep. Also I get insomnia with my depression so I have that often so lack of sleep is a hard part of the night.
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. When I have a migraine several Excedrin migraine and one multi-vitamins. Plus then I have 2 other pills I take everyday one for my depression and the other for high blood pressure.
11. Regarding alternative treatments I: tried many
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: neither but I would like one that is taken seriously or had a clear treatment - if I had to have one.
13. Regarding working and career: I often can't hold a regular 40 hour a week job because I have migraines so often.
14. People would be surprised to know: that - the above answer about not being able to not often doing 40 hours a week.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my reality has been: just gauging how much I can do each day
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: find a treatment that works for depression now I just need to find something that works for my migraines.
17. The commercials about my illness: are what they are. I mean they really don't do a lot for me - except at times give me names of a new med to try for my migraines.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: nothing really because I had symptoms long before diagnosed so had to often live gauging things step by step of my day and wondering if I could do the next thing. And I do that now.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: I haven't had to really give up anything - I am not often triggered by foods only if I already have one started then sometimes some foods will make it worse but it isn't a hardship to give it up for those moments. And then some days I can't do everything I want to do so if I wanted to go for a walk or a day trip - I have to say no at times because light will hurt and the movement from walking will increase my heart rate which will spike my migraine more. So again it is all about gauging what I can and can't do for the day or the moment.
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: nothing new
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: I try to just pack more into my day then often gets accomplished now.
22. My illness has taught me: to be more understanding towards those with my illness so that when they have to cancel I understand.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: When they have to tell me to see a doctor or try a med because really do they think I haven't? It doesn't make sense to me. I have lived with migraines since I was 12 so you don't think I have tried many many drugs and seen many doctors over the years. Of course I have so why do you need to tell me to do something I have obviously done. Or that people think both depression and migraines are just in my head.
24. But I love it when people: just accept that I am who I am and I can't at times do everything
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: I cannot change yesterday. I can only make the most of today, and look with hope toward tomorrow.
26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: to not beat up on themselves for not being able to do it all and to not get frustrated when one med doesn't work. Keep trying.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: The not being able to function normally everyday.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: make me dinner, give me an ice pack and tuck me in. Thank goodness for Michael.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I think often these things aren't talked about. We pretend that migraines aren't really an illness. "It is just a headache." And that depression is just being down or being blue instead of a chemical imbalance that makes the blues seems like a walk on a nice spring day. It needs to be talked about and shown that these are illnesses that cause real problems everyday for many people.
30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: makes me sad that anyone has to have an illness - invisible or visible.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sweet November

Yes, I realize it's September .... but the movie has always been profound to me.

I haven't watched it in years - and yet I've been noticing that it's been coming on Cinemax lately.

It's one of those movies that really touches me deeply and profoundly. It forces us to confront our only mortality and ask the question: how we choose to live the rest of our days ultimately defines who we are.

We all work so hard within the confines of our 24 hours a day ... we pay bills, we stress ourselves out over seemingly meaningless things and we continually grow older ... day by day ... hour by hour.

The movie hammers home the importance of living in the moment and to cherish each breath we take because .... life happens.

So - I challenge you.

For a moment in your day today - after you read this:

1.) Go out and tell those people close to you how much you love them.

2.) Go outside for no more than a minute and just stand there - look around you - and marvel at the world we take for granted each and every single day.

3.) Write yourself a silly note on a post-it ... and place it on your monitor, your refrigerator or your TV -- whatever you constantly find yourself near most of the day.

and lastly,

4.) Watch the sunset ... or if you're reading this at night -- set your alarm and make yourself watch a sunrise.

Live a little, just an ounce of effort to slow down the paces of life.

We all have a limited number of Novembers in our lives .... don't waste them.

*hugs -n- loves to my friends and family*

Special loves and hugs to my girl - I'm forever grateful for every November, February and month we are together. I love you very much!

New Moon Trailer

Of course I have been watching the New Moon trailer none stop. You can tell from this trailer that there was a new director. New Moon is going to be even better then Twilight.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful for...
1. tea and cider - we have had colds this week and both have made me feel better.
2. the Outlander series. I am on the 4th book (just about finished) but it is a great series. Just sweeps me up into the story. A new one in the series comes out I think this week so I look forward to reading that one too.
3. making a childhood favorite this week - Special K Bars. I have made them since high school. I had them while at my parents and been thinking about them ever since.
4. airborne - my cold doesn't seem as bad as Michael's. I believe that is beause I have been taking airborne.
5. smell of clean sheets on the bed

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not Responsible = No Health Care

On Facebook a couple weeks ago there was one of those chain-letter-statuses going around: " one should die because they cannot afford health care and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, post this as your status for the rest of the day."

Many of my friends and family posted it. Just take a look at the statement as a statement. If you ask your neighbors and family if they wouldn't want their family to go broke or die because they couldn't afford health care most would say they wouldn't want that to happen. Most of us could probably agree on that or at least I hope others wouldn't want us to go broke or die because we couldn't afford health care.

One of my relatives posted the statement (I did too) but then she had a reply from someone on her friend's list that made me shake my head. I am totally baffled that someone would actually believe it...I am going to paraphrase....but basically he said that "people who can't afford health care should stop driving fancy cars and spending money on other luxury items. And people just need to be responsible."

What? Really?

Where is the compassion? Did we lose that somewhere? Is it okay that 47 million people don't have health insurance? Is it okay that our neighbors and people in our families struggle to pay their health care bills? Has the politics and viral emails worked to create the stereotype that every poor person who can't afford health insurance has fancy cars and other luxury items? How did we get so blinded by the stereotype that removes compassion and replaces it with something unrecognizable?

Michael and I don't lead a luxurious life. We never have. We don't have a fancy TV. We have a car that is functional for our business, but it's hardly a luxury mobile. We might get Chinese take-out once in a blue moon. We scour the weekly sales because we want good deals to make our money last longer. With how the state of the economy has been for us lately we have had to cut out even normal daily things for cheaper brands. I used to wash my hair with Pantene, not the $20 Paul Mitchell stuff, but Pantene. It was the one shampoo I have found that leaves my hair manageable in our dry climate. I now use whatever I can find the cheapest. I used to have a diet coke a day. I now drink one about a week. We cut out many things that were "luxuries" because we have our own business and the economy has sucked.

Yeah, some people make poor decisions but I imagine there is a very limited few that are driving around in their luxury mobiles flashing their bling worrying about how to pay for their health care. And really when you think about how many people try to beat the system it doesn't just go to one economic class.

But I am not trying to beat the system. I am trying to get quality health care at a price that I can afford. I am one of the 47 million people that doesn't have health insurance. I have asthma. It is a pre-existing illness. So when I apply for insurance I am turned down. The ones that will cover me - I can't afford and on top of that they won't cover asthma or I would have to pay outrageous premiums have it covered. I am on a drug that I am lucky to get at a discount - because if I had to pay full price it would be $187 a month. There is no way I could afford that.

Michael hurt his knee 3 years ago and hasn't been able to get any help for it because we can't afford it because he has no insurance also. Again, it's a pre-existing condition. Recently we saw a wonderful Doctor who will work with us on making payments to get Michael's knee fixed, but we still might not be able to afford it because if it comes down to making our house payment or making a surgery bill - the house bill will come first.

Unfortunately this is normal for us. We opt to not go to the doctor because we know we won't be able to afford the drugs or tests they will want.

And really our story isn't even close to the worst or the saddest ones out there. I just read an op-ed the other day that was beyond sad and unfortunately I think this is becoming more the norm every day. So many like us are just in the middle class bracket (or just barely) that can easily go broke paying for healthcare. The person that replied to my relative's post irritated me. The implication that we just weren't being responsible is the unfortunate perception. I often hear opposition against health care reform that is from the people who actually have health insurance. I really don't think they understand how hard it is when you are without it. Even when the President presents his plan - saying that it's not going to change their insurance, it doesn't matter. To them, it's okay that Michael and I along with millions of other families out there go without basic health care. I simply don't get that. Even if I had coverage or insurance - I still would never want to read another story about someone suffering or dying like the ones I've been reading.

Do we really lack compassion to not want to give everyone in the United States the right to health care?

Is this the United States we recognize?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

100 Things | Magazines

20. I have a slight obsession with magazines.

I like reading magazines. Of course I am kind of obsessed about books too but magazines are good while traveling, while water is boiling, when I need a few moments to just take a break - a magazine is a good choice for me. I have a stack next to the bed, a magazine rack in the living room and then one in my studio. Most of the magazines I have subscriptions to are free or very low cost. I know that so much print media isn't great for the environment but I try to repurpose or recycle them.

Right now some of my favorites are: Real Simple(which if you look closely at the picture you can see a ton of flags sticking out it), Better Homes and Garden, Food and Wine and Metropolitan Home. I have little flags sticking out of those ones the most.

Photos if from the basket of magazines I have in my studio.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Doing Not Thinking Challenge

So my goals for this Doing Not Thinking Challenge goals are:
1. Work on art once a month (great if more but I want to at least try for once a month)
2. Create Soul Collage cards (like at least 3 done by the end of challenge)
3. Organizing and decluttering - which I have been working on already but want to continue with these areas
* storage
* Michael’s office
* bedroom closet
* front closet
4. Sew one thing. I haven't sewn in years and picked up a basic sewing book at the library and want to make it a goal just to sew one thing so that I don't keep putting it off.

Progress: As I have said this challenge I am just not accomplishing my goals like I did last challenge. I am trying not to beat myself up about it but of course I am a little bit.

Goals Completed: bedroom closet, Michael's office and front closet

Monday, September 14, 2009

Invisible Illness

Blogging...."To increase awareness of invisible illness; that nearly 1 in 2 people in the US have a chronic illness and about 96% of it is invisible."

I have written about my migraines several times. It isn't always invisible - Michael can look at me and see when I am in pain. But most people looking at me wouldn't know. I usually don't go a week without a migraine. And at times they are cycles where they last from 3 to 10 days. Every thing and every day with a migraine is measured. I wake up and gauge the level of pain and how much I will be able to accomplish.

I also have been diagnosed with clinical depression. And that is even more invisible because people look down on it.

"It is in your head."

"Just suck it up."

"I get down/headaches and get past so you can too."

I hear those things all the time. I have even heard them from doctors. For a very long time when I heard these things and it upset me and usually made my illnesses worse. But the older I get the more I realized I deserve to have a good life. My hope and my pursuit is to live my life the best I can dispite my illnesses. And having someone in my life like Michael gives me hope that everything will be okay as he sees and is very understanding and supportive of me. He gives me hope that I will find something that works for me to give me a better quality of life.

Book Review: The Flavor Bible

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A description from Barnes & Noble's website:

"Great cooking goes beyond following a recipe--it's knowing how to season ingredients to coax the greatest possible flavor from them. Drawing on dozens of leading chefs' combined experience in top restaurants across the country, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg present the definitive guide to creating "deliciousness" in any dish. Thousands of ingredient entries, organized alphabetically and cross-referenced, provide a treasure trove of spectacular flavor combinations. Readers will learn to work more intuitively and effectively with ingredients; experiment with temperature and texture; excite the nose and palate with herbs, spices, and other seasonings; and balance the sensual, emotional, and spiritual elements of an extraordinary meal. Seasoned with tips, anecdotes, and signature dishes from America's most imaginative chefs, THE FLAVOR BIBLEis an essential reference for every kitchen."

I am really really wanting to have this book. Just as I said about the other book by these authors I read - it is AMAZING! It isn't a cookbook but it is an essential reference for the kitchen and every cook. I learned things about seasoning that I would have never thought of if not picking up this book. It will make it easier for anyone to adjust any recipe to fit what you have on hand. I feel it it will help one be more creative and inventive when cooking. It will just make you into a better cooked. I know that there is so much more I would learn from it by having it in the kitchen.

A quote from the first chapter in the book....that I think summed up the book well...

"Flavor is a 'language' that anyone who love pleasures of the palate will find to be well worth mastering. Once you master the language of flavor, you can use it to communicate -- and become a better cook."

The book has 3 sections but really the third section takes up most of the book. The first section is on learning to recognize the language of food. The taste, aroma, how it feels and that x-factor. And then the second sections is maximizing the flavor by communicating the language of food. And then the final section is like the What to Drink with What You Eat book where it is basically lists. It gives lists of herbs, spices, fruit, vegetables, meat, vinegar, oils, alcohols and so on - and then each list has details under it. Such as if you look up artichokes it tells you when they are in season, the weight, the volume and the technique to use with them. (It goes into the weight and volume more also in earlier sections.) And then under it lists every seasoning that goes with artichokes, cuisines that goes them and flavor affinities. Plus with some ingredients there is a little sidebar box that says "Dishes" and it has chefs from around the world tell how a dish they make with that ingredient. Such as the one for artichokes says, "Fettuccine with house-made pancetta, artichokes, lemon and hot chilis -- Mario Batali, Babbo (New York)" and under Skirt Steak there is one that says, "Skirt steak marinated in seville oranges and limes --Maricel Presilla, Zafra (Hoboken, New Jersey)."

I know I won't be able to say enough good things about this book. I just feel it covers so much and gave me such amazing inspiration in the kitchen. And has helped me be a better cook. I checked it out from the library but know I would love to have it in the kitchen all the time!

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A PSA for Equality

As Michael said over on Facebook...Makes one rethink that whole "traditional" marriage bit....

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful for...
1. being done with the majority of the promotional materials for the business
2. pancakes for dinner
3. a really interesting day at the Meeker Sheep Dog Trails
4. a friend that was patient with me tonight as I was tired and not keeping up our conversation very well
5. ibuprofen as I have been having some back pain and that is the only thing that seems to give me a little relief

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Working on Promotional Materials

Our business has taken a different direction then when we first were starting it so it was time for an overhaul. I designed a new logo and then this week my life is all about promotional materials for our business. I am designing 2 postcards, 1 brochure, 1 rack card (which we are inserting into a packet), a business card and letterhead. So far I think things are coming together fairly well. It just is a lot of reworking the copy (the writing on all the materials). Because of this promotional packet we are doing has created a different look for us, I am going to have to re-design the website. So that will be the next thing on my list. I am keeping busy.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I read The Time Traveler’s Wife last year, I really enjoyed it. So when I got the chance to read an advance reader copy of Audrey Niffenegger’s new book: Her Fear Symmetry, I was literally jumping up and down with excitement. (Thank you Regal Literary Agency!) I am very happy to report that I was not disappointed. It also dispelled any thought that The Time Traveler's Wife was just beginners luck. Ms. Niffenegger definitely knows how to write and how to capture her audience.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a gothic ghost story set in modern times. It’s the story of Elspeth Noblin who dies of cancer and ends up bequeathing her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. The girls never had a chance to meet their Aunt Elspeth who is their mother's twin. They are curious why their Mom never kept in contact with her twin when they themselves are inseparable. The girls move to Elspeth's apartment where the come to know the buildings other residents. The twins also get to learn more about the historical Highgate Cemetery that borders the building. Even more startling the girls discover that their aunt can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.

There was something about this was entrancing, sudden, tragic, compelling and hard to pull myself away from it. I want to put it on the shelf and never read it again because I don't want the feeling I feel with the book to change. Just like how you watch a really good movie, but the second time you watch it you start to become more critical and start to see its flaws. But at the same time I want to start the book again because the story was so well written. I wanted to flip the book to the first page right after reading the last sentence.

So the good things for me...
* Her Fearful Symmetry lived up to the anticipation. The Time Traveler's Wife was such a hit that so often the expectations are just too high for a second book. But this book was incredibly creative. The plot kept me at the edge of my seat and I have never read anything close to it before. Ms. Niffenegger could’ve played it safe for her second novel, but she took the same risk as she did with her first book and the end result was amazing.

* I am making this it's own point because I think it just needs to be stated over and over again: Audrey Niffenegger knows how to write. Her words and prose enhances her plot and thought process. From the first few pages of I was sucked in as I was with The Time Traveler’s Wife and didn't want to put it down. I spent two sleepless nights captured with the plight of Julia and Valentina. It’s one of those books you simply don’t want to put down.

* One of the things I loved about The Time Traveler's Wife was how well Niffenegger wrote her characters. That talent carries over in Her Fearful Symmetry too. One of my complaints of The Time Traveler's Wife was that I didn't feel that the secondary characters were complete. They didn't feel like they were fully realized. In Her Fearful Symmetry, that all changed - you could feel that the secondary characters were much more invested in the story. Their part could have almost been their own story as I found that they were just as interesting in themselves.

* Which brings me to Martin....I really enjoyed him as a character. Martin is severely OCD and Niffenegger’s realistic portrayal enhanced the story. The distress of his illness is shown clearly.

* Niffenegger creates an incredible journey throughout London especially Highgate Cemetery. For me, it was also a character in itself in the book. It was beautifully captivating. I have no doubt that many that read this book will be putting it on their list of must see places in London as it is a real place.

* The story has several unexpected moments that I could’ve never anticipated or predicted. Of course there were some moments that I could anticipate what was going to happen, but those unexpected loops kept me from always figuring out what was going to happen next. It made for a very intriguing story.

* One topic of the book (that is even talked about on the book jacket) is the theme of identity and I really enjoyed how it played throughout the book.

* This book is a ghost story. I normally don’t read ghost stories and I liked this one because it wasn't spooky. It was compelling and quiet, not jump out of your shorts – I can’t get to sleep spooky. The whole book has a quietness to it. The Time Traveler's Wife was really emotionally engaging. Every page I turned, I was heavily invested in Henry and Clare. This book as I said captivated me but in a much quieter tone. Perhaps it was like there was this invisible aspect drawing me inside the pages - a ghost?

Okay there weren’t any really bad things about Her Fearful Symmetry, but there were some things I didn't like. These things didn't ruin the book for me, but attempting to do this without spoilers is very hard. I might do some spoilers on because they allow for spoilers to be put behind a link.

* Although the characters to me were fully realized in Her Fearful Symmetry - I must admit that I didn't like them. None of them made me want to know them personally – if they happened to be real. In contrast, in The Time Traveler’s Wife I loved Henry and Clare. I mean I really LOVED them! I was so sad to see them go when I finished the book as I wanted the story to last just a little bit longer. They were the type of characters I wanted know and meet in real life. But in Her Fearful Symmetry while they were all interesting characters they simply weren’t the heart tugging-type characters I was spoiled with in The Time Traveler’s Wife. In fact, they actually even annoyed me at times. Maybe it was meant to be that way. I admit that if they had tugged at my heart then it would have most likely ruined the tone of the book.

* One of the things I didn't enjoy with The Time Traveler's Wife was how it ended. The ending felt rushed to me and unfortunately the same thing happened with Her Fearful Symmetry. I am not going to expand on that because I know it would spoil it for those that haven’t read the book yet.

* There were moments in the book where I felt the characters were rushed or that a part of their story got pushed out of the way so that Niffenegger could get on with other aspects of the book.

Even with these couple of points, the book was completely captivating and none of the negatives ruined my overall enjoyment of the book. I thoroughly enjoy Audrey Niffenegger’s books so far. I love her writing. There are authors who can write well and there are authors that simply have the gift of writing. Audrey Niffenegger falls in the latter category and look forward to reading her future works.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Gratitude Friday

I am thankful for...
1. the library having DVD's to check out. We have been watching some old movies - Dial M for Murder, Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder have been the first few.
2. Coke rewards because I built up quite a few points so now we are getting some gift certificates for Chili's and Subway.
3. Orange juice - been having it almost daily for the last few week and it has been nice
4. Sweet Olathe Corn - we have had corn on the cob a few times. It is so very good! We will be having it for Labor Day also with steak on the grill (marinade: balsamic vinaigrette, Dijon mustard, onion powder, black pepper and minced garlic) and Pioneer Woman's Potato Bundles and a green salad.
5. it being September which means fall will be here soon...or at least soonish. I love autumn.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

This is SO GOOD!

Winner of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Rights Award at the sixth annual "Media that Matters" film festival.