Friday, March 29, 2013

Out in the Wilds

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
It's funny in a way, because my biggest complaint about this book has little to do with the plot, but more to do with the fact it's a YA book. It just felt so short to me! I felt like as soon as I started reading it I was finished. Granted I haven't read a YA book in a while, but it's a little disappointing that a book I was enjoying was over so quickly.

There is a big cliffhanger at the end, which isn't that surprising considering the way the first, Delirium, ended. In fact, I read review after review saying how the ending this time is an even bigger shock, except I hate to sound jaded, but I saw it coming. I really don't see any other way this book could have ended. And it does set the final book, Requiem, up perfectly for things to sort themselves out.

Going back to the fact this read so quickly, I wanted so much more from it. I really enjoyed Lena's time in the wild, and only wish there was more. I wish there was a better bridge between the "then" and "now" chapters, to know exactly what happened to get Lena to the "now" point. And I think if the book was longer a lot of this could have been in there. And I realize this is a YA book, but there are longer YA books, and it's too bad this was one of them.

I do feel like this review is full of rants, but I really did enjoy this. You couldn't help but feel Lena's suffering as she realizes everything she left behind in her previous life. And while those may not have been the books happiest parts, they were some of my favorite moments to read. I do have Requiem already, and while part of me wants to pick it up now, I plan on waiting a bit to draw things out a little longer.


Today I'm linking up with Blonde Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Sponsorship & Giveaways

I'm sure by now you've seen how sponsorship have seemed to take over the blogosphere. It feels so weird especially since a year or so ago, I never saw them. I'm not talking about ads themselves, which have been common for a while. (I even have a few on the blog myself.) But more the sponsorship where a blog is sponsoring another blogger just like themselves.

I'm not completely sure where this craze started, but after a little research it seems to have steamed from the blog Decor8. They actually offer a blogging class that you can pay for to teach you to become a better blogger. And one piece of advice they offer is to open up your blog for sponsorship.

The reason they give this advice is based on the thought that it makes a blog look more legitimate. And as silly as it seems, I agree with that logic. I know I've been to blogs and seen a large number of sponsors and thought, "Wow, they must really successful," except that once I look at the numbers of followers I see it's almost half of my own.

Now in my opinion, sponsors and a large number of followers don't make a popular blog. Instead what I'd rather have is a blog where everyone is interacting. One blog that I think has this, that I'm always a little jealous of, is Lisa's Yarns. No she may not have the flashiest blog full of sponsors, and say may not have thousands of followers, but the followers she does have interact. I think the number of comments she gets on a single post is about what I average in a week. And I realize that so much of this is because of who Lisa is, that she seems to be such great friends with so many people, but I'd love to foster that same friendship and community here.

Unfortunately, while it may be easy to gain followers by having giveaways or sponsorships, they can't necessarily create that community. Instead what they can do is help people find your blog, and hopefully what you're writing is so awesome that once someone stumbles upon it they want to stay and join the discussion.

With that said I'm looking to open the blog for sponsors. And thought it be fun to help out Dara of Not in Jersey, but putting it up as a prize in her 300 followers giveaway. Since I'm still not completely sold on sponsorship as a prize, I'm also giving away a $5 Starbucks card to help anyone's coffee addiction. With that said, I'm turning the rest of this post over to Dara to introduce all the other bloggers participating and all the prizes you could possibly win!

I told myself that when my blog reached 300 followers via GFC I would hold a giveaway. That was obviously before everyone started witching over to following on bloglovin! However, I’ve declared it close enough. Today 14 of my closest blogger friends and helping me celebrate. First, check out what we’re giving away. Then, use the form below to enter!
Good luck to everyone!

Avery / Hot Pink Satchel (Purse) with Gold and Rhinestone Accents from her store, Bloom
Annie / Cookbook: “101 Things to do with Canned Biscuits”

Breanna / 1 month VIP ad space and $5 Starbucks Gift Card
Breenah / Blog header and three blog buttons

Kerry / Large ad space
Kimberly / Biggest of the Big ad space

Kristyn / Large ad space and $25 Etsy Gift Card
Lanaya / Sponsors ad space

Leslie / $10 Amazon e-gift card
Mallory / Blog ad space

Mel / Glitter Washer Pendant
Melissa / Medium ad space

Kera / Handmade headband and set of hair clips
Shoshanah / Blog ad space and $5 Starbucks Gift Card

A bag, a cookbook, ad space on 8 blogs, $25 to Etsy, $10 to Starbucks, $10 to Amazon, a blog header and buttons, a necklace, and a headband and hair clips! Aren’t my blog friends generous? I couldn’t decide what to offer up from me to match their generosity. So you get to choose.

8Dara / $10 gift card to store of your choice or handknit item

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz

Recently I enter and won a giveaway from Erin the Irish Mama. What did I win exactly? Something I knew I would use (that I'm already using anyways) and something I was really excited about. It was two free boxes of k-cups from Cape Java. I gave them my request for a box of Wolfgang Puck's Creme Caramel and Kahlua flavored pods, and they arrived a few days later and even included a free sample of Hawaiian Blend. (I have no idea if the free sample is a standard practice, but if I had to guess it was only because I won a give away.)
One thing I enjoyed about Cape Java was this their selection. I'm used to going to my local grocery store and really only having a handful of k-cups to choose from. But using their website I found cup I had never heard of before. They even had ice tea pods, which I would have loved to have tried, except at the time I placed my order they were out of stock. So instead of choosing my favorite (Apple cider, which I never seem to have in the house since I go through them so quickly), I decided on something that would be new to me.
As for the coffee pods themselves, it's interesting because I didn't taste the creme caramel (in the photo above) and think, "This tastes like caramel!" Or with the kahlua (brewing in the photo below), feel all "liquor-y." Instead it was more of, wow this tastes good! Would I buy this flavors again? Well, obviously not if I'm shopping at my local store since I'd never find them. But I think if I ever try Cafe Java again, I'd want to try something different.
Do you have a Keurig machine? If so, what's your favorite k-cup to buy? Or instead, what's your favorite coffee flavor.

This is not a sponsored post. Instead I was just excited to share my giveaway win with all my readers!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Early Years

The Tale of Lucia Grandi by Susan Speranza
In this book we hear the story of Lucia Grandi, a 110-year-old woman looking back on her life in growing up in the 1950s and 60s. And yes, that is as confusing as it sounds. Supposedly we as a reader are hearing her story now, except she's actually telling her story in the 2050s. Which wouldn't be that bad if this book was published 40 years from now, except unfortunately it wasn't. Also again unfortunately, it also present some of the other issues of this book.

Overall, the book felt confusing. An event would be referred to as if it were actually happening in Lucia's life. Except, several chapters later she would refer to that event again as if it hadn't happened yet. Similarly, a character would be introduced and seemingly forgotten. At least until they were randomly brought up instead several more chapters down the ground. I think one could argue that the confusion is from the fact you're listening to a 110-year-old tell her story. After all, at that age you wouldn't expect to get the sequence of events all lined up. And while that might be a justification of the structure, it still was confusing as a reader.

There were aspects of the book I liked. For one, Lucia was only a few years older than my mom, and while they had radically different childhood, it is interesting to read events that Lucia when through and think of how my mom my have dealt with something similar.

This is a long book, which in my opinion is most often a good thing. Except so much of Lucia's childhood is unhappy and depressing, you couldn't help but feel a like the mood rubbed off on you as a reader, especially reading so many pages with the same thing. That isn't to say I don't enjoy depressing stories. Except most of the time the point of reading such a tale is to see a character triumph over their situation. Instead here, we never really see Lucia triumph since this is only her telling of the early years of her life.

The book does end abruptly, and I'm definitely left curious as to what else happens in Lucia's life. Except while I'm curious, I don't believe I'm curious enough to want to read a sequel.


Disclosure: I was provided this book through TLC Book Tours. All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, March 25, 2013

White House Down

Olympus Has Fallen
I feel like we've been seeing bad action movie after bad action movie lately. No, action movies aren't my favorite, but they are still some I enjoy. But it just feels like the recent crop has been pretty miserable.

Which is why I'm a little unsure how I feel about this one. It wasn't amazing, but compared to those we've seen lately, it was a lot better. There was at least an attempt at a plot here, which I appreciated.

I think my biggest complaint with it was how unrealistic it felt. The way the white house was completely taken over. The way Secret Service men kept walking into gunfire. The way every single person in the white house in the white house except for the hostages was killed. Just not realistic. At least thought it didn't feel fake, which I guess is one small step up.

I definitely wouldn't recommend seeing this in theaters, and think there's a lot better options you could choose. Again it isn't the worst movie, but I think you could do far better than this, even once its released to dvd.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Project 365: Days 75 Through 82

One thing I'm really loving about doing a project 365 is how easily it tracks time. I mean we're already over 80 days into the year. Just how did that happen?!?! But before we go any further, here are my photos from the last 7 days.
Baby Figs Leaves
March 16, 2013 - 75/365: With the start of spring we're approaching my favorite time of the year, fig season! Our fig tree is slowly coming back to life with leaves.
At The Boy's Game
March 17, 2013 - 76/365: Hanging out at the boy's baseball game.
Lunch at Starbucks
March 18, 2013 - 77/365: Cinnamon dolce latte, egg white with spinach and feta wrap, and a salted caramel cake pop while reading The Tale of Lucia Grandi over lunch at Starbucks. (Review to be up on Tuesday!)
Front Yard Flowers
March 19, 2013 - 78/365: Pink flowers blooming in the front yard.
Chips & Craisins for Lunc
March 20, 2013 - 79/365: Pita chips and craisins while reading Pandemonium over lunch. (Review to be up on Friday!)
Steak Tacos
March 21, 2013 - 80/365: The boy made steak tacos for dinner.
Bigger Figs Leaves
March 22, 2013 - 81/365: Look how much larger the fig leaves have gotten in just a few days!

Is your back yard starting to show signs of spring?

I'm linking this post up with Random-osity & Kleinworth & Co. for Project 52!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

From Miss to Mrs: Remembrance to Kiddush

In my last we started off our ceremony, so it seems only fitting to continue. As before the majority of this text has been ispired by Celebrating Interfaith Weddings or The New Jewish Wedding.
Rabbi: There are those close to Shoshanah and The Boy who are not here today, but who would celebrate joyfully if they were. Today they especially remeber Shoshanah's beloved mother, K---. Let us think of her and others in a moment of silence.
At this point our rabbi gave her remarks on our wedding day and relationship. Since she wrote this, I don't quite feel comfortable posting it in full. In comparison, I put together most of the rest of the ceremony and e-mailed it to her. With that said the fact I don't have an actual physical copy of her words, may also be part of the reason you won't find it here.
I will say that the boy made faces throughout this entire bit, which you can see above if you look closely. For example, when she listed "when you addressed invitations and sealed envelopes," as how we worked together to make the wedding happen, he made a face to make it clear he actually had no part in that. On the other hand when it was said that the boy "took an active role in creating this wedding canopy which is symbolic of the home ya'll will create together," his face definitely confirmed that was something he spent his time one.
There's an old wives tale about rain on a wedding day and the luck it brings to the bride and groom. We don't have rain today, but you had an entire hurricane that announced the beginning of your marriage. So we all know, here, today, that this is going to be an especially lucky marriage.
Two thoughts are suggested by this cup of wine. The first is symbolic of the sweetness we wish for your life. There will be times when you drink from other cups as well, bitter ones & sour ones, but life more often offers the opportunity to savor sweetness above all else. The awareness of the possibility of a life filled with true meaning is what we toast to in this moment: the sweetness that is life.
The second thought is that this cup of wine symbolizes the overflowing gratitude Shoshanah and The Boy have for the copious amounts of loving care and teaching from their ancestors, the ties of the heart and memory that link family, and the friendships that fill this cup well beyond the lip of its rim.
Blessed are you, Adonai our G-d, creator of the fruit of the wine.
(At this point both the boy and I, in turn had a sip of wine.)
I did also want to make a small note here, as to why I included the second symbol for the cup of wine. A version of that passage is included in both of the books I used, and both of them credit it to Rabbi Wolli Kaelter, who was the Rabbi Emeritus, at the temple where I grew up. I felt fitting to include something in the ceremony that in a way, brought me back the temple where I went to Hebrew school, where I was bat mitzvah, where I was confirmed back Long Beach, California.

Did you choose to include something in your ceremony that somehow, even minutely, brought you back to where grew up or came from?

All photos in this post courtesy of Sabree Hill Photography.

Miss a Recap Post?
From Miss to Mrs: The Calm Before the Storm
From Miss to Mrs: There's a Hurricane Coming?
From Miss to Mrs: Here Comes Isaac
From Miss to Mrs: Weathering the Cane
From Miss to Mrs: After the Storm
From Miss to Mrs: Trials and Tribulations
From Miss to Mrs: The Last Errands
From Miss to Mrs: A Night on the Town
From Miss to Mrs: The Hangover
From Miss to Mrs: Rehearsing in the Heat
From Miss to Mrs: The Last Single Supper
From Miss to Mrs: Gifting the Girls
From Miss to Mrs: The Last Single Night
From Miss to Mrs: Oh What a Beautiful Morning
From Miss to Mrs: Getting Prettified
From Miss to Mrs: Prepping the Plantation
From Miss to Mrs: Turtle Time
From Miss to Mrs: The Photographer Has Arrived
From Miss to Mrs: Becoming the Bride
From Miss to Mrs: Dress Details
From Miss to Mrs: Ou Est le Groom?
From Miss to Mrs: A Bridge-y First Look
From Miss to Mrs: Couple Time
From Miss to Mrs: Just the Two of Us
From Miss to Mrs: Grouping the Girls
From Miss to Mrs: Ain't No Party Like a Bridal Party
From Miss to Mrs: Fun with Family
From Miss to Mrs: Making it Official
From Miss to Mrs: The Bedeken
From Miss to Mrs: The Final Minutes
From Miss to Mrs: Programming Break
From Miss to Mrs: The Processional
From Miss to Mrs: Walking the Walk
From Miss to Mrs: Circle to Ceremony

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why I'm Using Feedly Over Bloglovin

I think by now we've all heard that google reader will be no more this summer. I know this news has left a lot of us scrambling, trying to figure out just how what we'll be using to read blogs now. And I've seen a lot of people who have been switching over the bloglovin. As it is I've already added a bloglovin button on my sidebar to the right. Except, after hearing about it from Jessica, I instead started using feedly and so far I'm finding it a must better alternative.

The first notable difference, is how they transfer over your data. Once you ask bloglovin to add your reader data, it only gives you a list of all the blogs you follow. (Although I did have some issues with that, for example I previously subscribed to The Pioneer Woman, except it came over as a subscription to The Pioneer Woman Cooks.) If you took the time to order your subscriptions into folders that's lost. (I haven't actually completely done this yet, although it is on my 101 in 1001 list.) If you found a post you loved and had favorited, that's lost. If you had read all of the posts in a given subscription, or instead hadn't read a blogger's posts, that's gone to since it shows every feed with 2-5 posts or so.

Feedly instead has all that. The reason being is that is currently syncs to your google reader. Which means if you mark a post as read on google reader it's automatically read on feedly and visa versa. Of course with google's announcement feedly has had it will move your feeds to a new server so that data isn't lost at that point. But right now, if you start using feedly it will shows your organization, favorites, and read vs. unread posts just as they were in your reader.

Of course, once you have your data transferred, there's now the issue of how your read your data. With bloglovin, the screen looks like a tumblr blog. Each post you see has a picture instead of the wordy display of your reader. Feedly instead lets you customize your view. You can have it show only a text listing, or instead more visibly. And speaking of customization, you have have it show one feed or one of your folders with photos and instead yet another with text only.

Bloglovin makes public all the feeds I'm following, and there's some blogs I follow that I don't necessarily want everyone to know. You do still have an option to make the blogs you follow private, except since there's no select all, you manually have to click the name of every single blog to make private. I do see how as a blog owner you'd want to know whose subscribing to your feed, but I don't think that's something I need to know.

Speaking of which is better as a blog owner, bloglovin does force readers to read the post on your blog itself. Instead feedly is like google reader where you could read it all internally. Except I've always open a given blog in a new window to read posts since I like the overall feeling of getting the entire feel for the blog as your reading.

I may not be correct here, but from what I can tell bloglovin does not give the the ability to show posts you've already read. Nor does it allow you to sort posts to show the older first instead of the most recent. Feedly does give you the ability. Also, bloglovin automatically marks posts as read after 14 days. Instead since feedly is synced to google reader, posts stay unread for 30 days. I don't know what will happen once feedly stores this information on its own server, but I have to imagine it will stay unread for 30 days, and if your anything like me, I have trouble enough reading posts in 30 days, let alone 14!

That isn't to say there aren't any cons with feedly. First feedly doesn't work if you use Internet Explorer, which until recently was me. You also have a download an add-on to use feedly. This really doesn't take a lot of time, except the first few times I tried to use feedly my computer would disable it, and I would have to redownload. Since I've figured out the issue and made sure feedly is enabled, I haven't had issue with it.

When I found out about google reader going away, I definitely had a mild freak out about what I was going to do. And once I figured out there were other options, I wanted to know what was best. Except I didn't have an instead answer and had to figure out which was best for me, by trying these two out. I'm in no ways saying you have to be using feedly over bloglovin, but I would at least look into your options.

Did the closing of google reader freak you out as well? And what are you currently using to keep track of which blog posts to read?

Edited to add: So while I was finishing up this post and taking screen shots I accidentally marked 500 posts or so as read in feedly, and there's no undo button. Granted some of this has to do with not being completely familiar with all the buttons. And there actually was a prombt to have it ask, "Are you Sure?" which I removed because I was sure I wouldn't need it. Basically as happy as I was with feedly, while writing this I'm not nearly as happy now. Feedly does at least have a history which shows posts you've read, so by elimination I can assume which posts I haven't read. But it does mean I've just wasted about an hour, figuring that out. Except, of course, if I was in bloglovin, those posts would have been marked as read initially based on how the data transferred, and again after 14 days, so really which is worse? But I guess the moral is, as happy as you may be with something new, be sure you actually know how to use it!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fun with Lasagna

The last time I made lasagna, I said I used this recipe as inspiration, but didn't say much else. I knew it was a version of lasagna both the boy and I enjoyed, but wasn't quite perfect. But as I work towards perfection, here's my work in progress.
Spinach Lasanga
Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms

1 lb lean ground beef
(I believe this box was around 16 oz?)
1/4 cup water
1 lb frozen spinach, thawed
(Be sure it actually is thawed before you actually start cooking, as I unfortunately learned!)
1 can tomato sauce (I believe it was about 15 oz.)
1 can diced tomatoes (Again, I believe it was about 15 oz. Either way, the cans were both the size of a normal soup can.)
1/2 tsp dried basil (Not pictured)
1/4 tsp salt
Pepper, to taste
Slice of roasted red pepper
(Again, Not pictured)
No-Boil lasagna noodles
Shredded mozzarella
Fresh mozzarella
Shredded parmesan
Crumbled feta
(I didn't actually include this. But did sprinkle it on my leftovers as they were reheating, and it was delicious! I definitely need to make sure it's included next time.)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook ground meat until browned
2. Add mushrooms and water and continue to cook until the meat is cooked through, the water has evaporated, and mushrooms are tender.
3. Squeeze the excess water out of the spinach. Add to the meat and mushrooms. Turn heat to low to keep warm.
4. In a bowl combine tomato sauce, basil, salt, and pepper.
(You could also combine the diced tomatoes here. Except my husband refuses to eat whole tomatoes, so I had to make sure none got on his half. So instead I added the just the diced pieces to my half.)
5. Dice your slice of roasted red pepper and add to sauce.
6. Spread a thin layer of tomatoes & sauce in the bottom of your dish.
(It's pretty easy to see which half is mine here.)
7. Add a single layer of noodles, breaking if necessary to fit.
8. Add a mixture of your cheeses.
(This is the layer I probably would have added feta if I had thought to include it. But from this picture you can also tell the amount of cheese on my half compared to the boy's.)
9. Top with half of sausage mixture.
10. Continue with tomatoes, more cheese, a layer of noodles. Then repeat with another layer of cheese, the remaining sausage, half the remaining tomatoes, and half the remaining cheese.
11. Top with final layer of pasta and the rest of the tomatoes.
12. Cover with foil and bake till bubbling and cooked through, around 60 to 70 minutes.
13. Uncover and top with remaining cheese. Bake until just melted.
(You really don't want to have it in the oven longer than necessary at this point, since otherwise the noodle edges will turn crispy.)

I may be slightly obsessed with lasagna, which means it's pretty hard for me to make it and not love it. But this version also pleased the boy, who isn't nearly as much of a fanatic. He did say it could be a little cheesier, although if you look at the amount of cheese on his half, I'm not sure how.

Do you have a dish you're slightly obsessed with? If so, are you able to make it to your and/or your significant other's liking?