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Archive for September 2013

Book Crush #8: Banned Books Week

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Last week was Banned Books Week. You knew about that right? Of course you did.

And, of course, you understand why it's important- that whole First Amendment stuff- so I won't go into that.

But, seriously, if you don't know either of those things, feel free to ask! I love talking about books and I fully support the U.S. Constitution, but be aware that I do not believe in banning books and have zero desire to argue about it or debate it.

Any-whoooo. I found this list from the American Library Association that lists all of the banned or challenged books and it's awesome. Actually, there are several lists on that page and I went through a couple of them (there have been a LOT of banned books) and realized that I've read many of them- admittedly, mostly in school. Yay for challenging teachers, AP English, and college lit classes! In the spirit of full disclosure, there are several I was supposed to read but didn't and just BS'd my way through the test instead... and still passed with A's. I was very good at playing school.

So in honor of these thought-provoking books that scare some people, I thought I'd share my Top Favorites and a few that are going on my Must Read List.

Note: Not all of these have been banned, some have only been challenged and some have been banned and then had their banning revoked. 

The Great Gatsby

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

To Kill a Mockingbird



The Sun Also Rises

A Child Called "It"

The Kite Runner

Water for Elephants

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Ok, ok. It was so hard to narrow down to only 10 favorites and I tried to stick to those books that are outside of my norm. I mean, ALL Harry Potter books have been challenged or banned somewhere. The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman; Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, MargaretA Time to Kill(John Grisham); THE OUTSIDERS?!?! For crying out loud, do you know how big a crush I had on Pony Boy through most of my childhood? And we're talking BEFORE I saw the movie.

But enough of my favorites. Here are a few that I promise to read at some point in the not so distant future:

I chose those five for various reasons. Ender's Game because I know several people who've enjoyed it and it's not something I would normally choose for myself. The Handmaid's Tale because it sounds interesting. The Catcher in the Rye just because it seems like I should have read it. I mean, it's a classic, right? The Agony of Alice because the entire series made the Most Challenged list over the last decade and I'm curious why. (So did the Junie B. Jones series, which is super funny IMHO.) Women in Love, again, it sounded interesting. 

I feel like I should add some Kurt Vonnegut or Aldous Huxley, too, but I've tried reading Vonnegut and found him tedious; I just didn't enjoy it. I'm convinced - without reason, mind you- that I'll feel the same way about Huxley. I'm likely wrong, but that's the great thing about freedom- we're all free to be wrong sometimes. 

I also noticed that I really need to update my Goodreads feed and I have no idea why I didn't do that while adding these books. That would have made too much sense, I suppose. 

It's Fall, y'all!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Or Autumn, depending on where you're from. The Harvest Moon has just passed. The hay is being rolled in. The horses near our village are enjoying the weather- if their romping in the fields is anything to judge by.

This would be a great time for a horseback ride... I'll have to mention that to the mister.

I love fall. Do you? The crispy weather, the leaves changing colors and crunching under your feet. The chilly breezes resulting in pink cheeks. The shoes. The boots. The jackets. The scarves.

I currently have my eye on a G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S emerald green vest that I just think I have to have. The mister disagrees.

The mums decorating my patio. The sunflowers in my window. Pumpkins and gourds and squash everywhere.

So while everyone is getting excited about pumpkin everything- pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup- I'm kind of lamenting the end of summer. Yes, of course I'm excited about fall- this is probably my second favorite time of year and my absolute favorite time to buy clothes, but I'm going to miss fruit. Perhaps I should get excited about apple everything- apple cider, apple crisp, apple pie... what else can I work apples into?

Specifically, I'm going to miss strawberries. I paid over $10 last week for two small pints of fresh strawberries because I realized it was likely the last time I'd be able to get them for a while. I do love strawberries. And watermelon- another summer time goodie. (I was really spoiled in Florida where we could have those things pretty much any time we wanted.)

Vinaigrette-2 green

The problem with buying so many strawberries is that we can't eat them all before they go bad, so I decided to try making a Strawberry Vinaigrette. I've been making our own salad dressings for a while now and I rather enjoy the process and I feel like they must be healthier for us. They are fresher, at least.

And, yes, I store my dressings in used Snapple bottles or sometimes used Coconut Oil jars. I find that either one is the perfect size and I don't have to buy anything new. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, man!


Overall, the process is pretty simple:

  1. Set up the blender
  2. Add Strawberries, chopped up
  3. Add EVOO, Apple Cider Vinegar, a splash of Lemon Juice, and honey if you want
  4. Add herbs, salt, and pepper
  5. Blend to your hearts content
  6. Taste, adjust, blend
  7. Repeat #6 as necessary

If you're a recipe person, here are a couple to try out:

I worked mostly from the recipe from The Gracious Pantry, but I tweaked it a little, adding some tarragon and a dash of fennel seeds. I used a bit more ACV, too, because I like the vinegary bite it adds. And I didn't measure anything as I was going along. I think next time I'm going to try it with balsamic vinegar. I love drizzling it over fresh strawberries and eating them that way - so decadent! - so I'm pretty excited about that.

So I guess my pink days are over for a while and now I'm moving on to orange. I'd like to try a pumpkin soup this year and a butternut squash soup. Mmmm.... soup....

What are your favorite parts of fall? Is it the clothes? The Christmas Shopping? The fact that the kids are back in school? Or do you spend your days savoring the last little bits of sunshine before winter sets in? (Around here winter can be rather gloomy.) And if you have any yummy dressing recipes you like, please share away! I love trying new things!

Book Crush #7

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
I'm sort of obsessed with food culture, but you've probably realized that already, haven't you? This book is just another in a long stream of "what the heck am I putting in my body and why?" reads.

And it's a really good one. It has lots of science talk, so if that's not your thing, maybe skip those parts or just read the summaries. I found it fascinating and it reinforced my desire to remove wheat from my diet as much as possible... without turning into a totally crazy person, of course.

Bonus: I picked it up from the library! Yay for that! I love supporting my local library(ies). It saves me money and I have less "stuff" that I don't truly need.

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble
Cold Days (The Dresden Files, #14)

Have you read the Dresden Files? Fantastic series. This is the latest one, #14 in the series, and Mr. Butcher doesn't appear to be losing steam. It's urban fantasy and utterly engrossing.

If you haven't read the series, start with Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1) and work your way through. There are plots and subplots and twisted plots ... oh, and magic, Fey godmothers, demons and mobsters to keep you hooked. Perfect for chilly autumn nights.

Just in case you're not completely hooked after reading Storm Front, give the series a shot through book 4, Summer Knight. That's the one that got me hook, line, and sinker. I'll now read every single book in this series without question.

Media Mention

I've been hooked on Dharma & Greg this week. Do you remember this show? It ran from 1997-2002 and was one of my favorites. It still is one of my favorites. I wish I could get the whole series on DVD, but I can only find Season 1 available. If you know any hints, tips or tricks there, please share. Until then, I'll have to keep streaming.

Oh! And if you want a sneak peak look into Mike's and my life together, watch this show. Couldn't be closer to the truth if they'd tried! 

Prague Cemeteries

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

And a Cemetery Shoot Off!

.... Just 'cause we're silly like that.

While we were in Prague recently, Mike and I came across a beautiful cemetery. I know, I know. Cemeteries are creepy, right? Well, maybe for some, but they've never creeped me out (much) and some of them are really beautiful- from the ornate all the way down to the super simple country burial grounds.

I think they are interesting. I like poking about and being nosey.

So we found this cemetery, but no dogs were allowed inside. Mike really wanted to go in so I handed him the camera and told him to take some shots to show me what was on the other side of those big stone walls and I'd find a shady spot to chill out with Miss Lola.

I don't know how long he was in there, but when he came back he quickly handed me back the camera and took the dog exclaiming over how I just had to go inside- it was that beautiful. We decided I'd take some pictures, too, and we'd compare later.

It's kind of cool to see what he sees without me around, and vice versa. I thought it would be fun to show you a few of my favorites, too.

Up first, Mike's pictures:

Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike
I love how ethereal she looks with the sun flare. 
Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike
I love this one! It's so creepy to me! Hello, Miss Zombie lady....
Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike
I really love this one, too, and don't remember seeing this anywhere. I missed out.
Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike
Likely my favorite of the bunch.
Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike

Cemetery. Mike

It's an interesting look into what makes my husband stop and observe. He took a lot of pictures of the church spires from all angles, but I only shared one. Partly because it was the best of the lot and partly because I took one almost just like it.

And what I saw:







I love all of the lines in this one.
Almost identical to the one Mike took.
They say patience is a virtue... it's not a virtue I possess. I wish I had waited for that lady to move out of my shot.

Another one almost just like Mike's. I like how his has more green surrounding it and how he got the wall in the background.
I think this might be my favorite that I took. 



Yeah, pretty much the same picture he took. 

And another almost identical shot. 

So Mike likes angels a lot... I have a soft spot for crosses and flowers. We're both drawn to drama and strong architecture. Or that's my spin on it at least. I'll have to ask him what he thinks later.

Wanna see what Lola was up to while we were playing?

Just being her normal dare-devil self:

Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool....

Ok, that picture was actually taken a few minutes before either of us went into the cemetery but it's pretty much what she did all afternoon.

That's her M.O.: Find somewhere cool to sit, look cute, smile at people and make new friends. Seriously, we can't take her anywhere without random strangers stopping us to ask if they can get a picture with her. We should start charging a fee... I mean, we haven't saved a dime for her college education. It's a good thing she's pretty enough to get by on just her looks.