Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Grade: A
Profanity: A little, including a few scattered F-bombs
Graphic content (sex, murder,etc.): A few sexual innuendos, but nothing graphic

This was October's Book Club pick. I am a bit fascinated with the 20's/ 30's era, so I figured I'd enjoy this book... And it didn't disappoint. : )  Here is my back cover summary:

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel her on a yearlong journey toward the upper echelons of New York society -- where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.

While other members of my Book Club complained that it was hard to get "into" the story in the beginning, I enjoyed it from start to finish. That may be because of my inner "wish-I-had-moved-to-New-York-and-lived-a-glamorous-city-life-when-I-was-younger" self though. Katey's life, while filled with it's fair share of drama and sadness, is never a dull one. I really enjoyed her character and the way she interacted with everyone else in the book.

While I wouldn't call the ending "happily-ever-after" per se, I was fairly pleased with it. There are several twists and turns in the book that I didn't see coming, so Towles did a great job in keeping me interested. I think it flowed well, and I chuckled often... mostly at Katey's wittiness. There are a few sad moments, but nothing that brought tears to my eyes. And there are a couple semi-scandalous moments, but nothing that made me blush. ; )

I really enjoyed reading Rules of Civility and do recommend it, especially if you're a Great Gatsby fan. (SO excited for the movie!!!) I think it had a slight hint of The Bell Jar too... Have you read it? What did you think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Foodie Penpals

The Lean Green Bean

It's that time again... Reveal day for Foodie Penpals. And I remembered to post with time for you to join for next month! Aren't you proud!? ; )

This month I received a wonderful package from Laurie, who is not a blogger. But I'd like to send a big Thank You to her in case she checks out this post! Laurie sent me a box full of goodies to please my sweet tooth, so I was very happy. : )  Here's what was included:

Isn't the Micky Halloween card adorable? : )  The first of my tasty treats are a bag of Raspberry Milano cookies and some Muddy Buddies Chex Mix. Drooling already...

Next we have a cute box of M&M's and a little pack of nutella with breadsticks. I've actually never had nutella, so I'm excited to try it. : )

Here we have a bag of Planters Snack Mix, some French Vanilla instant coffee mix, and a delicious-smelling Warm Apple Pie candle. It's currently sitting on my desk at work and making my office smell like Autumn.

Last, but certainly not least, we have a pack of Grandma's Peanut Butter cookies, a box of Cracker Jack's (classic!), and a yummy bag of Sour Patch Watermelons. So as you can see, I'm definitely good on the sweets for a while. : )  Thanks again, Laurie!

And here is the info if you'd like to join next month's Foodie Penpals Swap:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.

-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!

-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)

-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

If you’re interested in participating for November, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.
You must submit your information by November 4th as pairings will be emailed on November 5th!

*If you’re from somewhere besides the US, Canada or Europe and want to participate, send Lindsay an email at and she'll see if there is enough interest this month!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another Lovely Mail Day

Good morning, everyone! I hope you all are having a great week so far. I had a headache all day Sunday, but I'm feeling better now... It's probably this crazy weather. It's beginning to cool down now, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because the days have been beautiful lately, and it's bad because I'm stuck in an office all day and can't enjoy them! ; )

But on to the mail... Here are some of my latest outgoing:

I sent this PC in a "Free/Ad card" swap on swap-bot. It came in one of my thelittlefox orders.

This was sent for another swap-bot swap

As was this pretty magnolia

It was a little early for Halloween went I sent this one out, but my swap partner loved vintage Halloween items so I didn't think she'd mind...

I made this bookmark for a "handmade bookmark" swap. I used watercolor, glitter glue, and a sharpie for the words. She was a big A Knight's Tale movie fan and loved that quote.

I had two partners for the "handmade bookmark" swap. This one loved flowers, so I painted her some pansies. I'm not that familiar with watercolor, so I'm a little worried that the paint will rub off onto the pages of their books... Anyone know how to fix that?

This was a seasonal PC swap where there had to be a tree pictured

I made this Ernie the Envie PC for an "I Love Swap-bot" swap. He is the mascot, in case you're not familiar...

I sent this cutie in another "Free/Ad card" swap

And finally, I drew/colored this envie for a "favorite season" mail art swap : )
Here are some of my wonderful incoming missives of late:

I took advantage of a thelittlefox sale and stocked up on her cute PC's

A pretty PC I received in a swap

Another swap PC

This was from an "Etsy Faves" swap. They chose some of my favorite stationery from La Papierre

A homemade Olympic PC

Another "Etsy Faves" swap. This person chose some address labels from La Papierre

I received this cutie for a "Penpal Delights" swap. I love the air mail envie and all the pretty stamps... especially the owl!

This PC was for one of the "Free/ Ad card" swaps

A pretty Ohio PC I got from a lovely pen pal : )

Yet another La Papierre order I received from an "Etsy Faves" swap

A pretty PC

This is one of the pretty homemade bookmarks I received from that swap

My other partner sent me these beautiful feather creations. Aren't they awesome!?

This lovely envie was for the "Favorite Season" Mail Art swap. She definitely put mine to shame!

And the back of that gorgeous envie

Finally, something that made me giddy like a little school girl... It just so happened that my partner for the "I Love Swap-bot" swap was none other than the co-founder of the website herself, Rachel Johnson!!! So I got an "official" Ernie the Envie PC from her. : )

Is it just me, or is that pretty cool!? ; )    And that's all for this installment. I really need to catch up on all my 101 in 1001 entries, so I'll start working on getting those finished. Until then, I hope you all are doing well!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel 
Grade: A
Profanity: Very little
Graphic content (sex, murder,etc.): A little gore but not too graphic

This was our September Book Club pick. And I really enjoyed it. But, for those of you who have not read the book, I will put a WARNING at some point in this review, and you MUST NOT READ PAST IT UNTIL AFTER YOU READ THE BOOK!!!!!!!! Hmmm... maybe I should put more emphasis on that. No? Okay... But seriously, don't read past the warning. Here is the synopsis on the back of my copy:
A boy of many faiths. A 450-pound Bengal tiger. A shipwreck. A lifeboat. The Pacific Ocean.
With more than six million copies in print, Life of Pi has become a modern classic, combining grand storytelling with a profound exploration of ageless themes: faith and truth, fact and fiction, man versus nature, and innocence and experience.
Ok, so that wasn't much of a summary... Basically, it's the story of a young Indian boy who gets stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger. It's very lovely at times, and has both comical and sad moments. And I thought it was very eloquently written. Martel did an excellent job of painting images in my mind, which I love in a book.
The novel sometimes delves into different aspects of religion, and while it's not the kind of book to make you question your own religious beliefs, it does perhaps shine light on how some religions are more closely related than you might think.
On a personal note, during the time I was reading this book, Matt and I went to see some movie. One of the previews happened to be for the Life of Pi movie, and when I realized what it was (during a loud part of the preview) I yelled over to Matt, "That's Life of Pi!!!" Well, it just so happened that the preview went silent right at the moment I yelled... So yeah, that was a bit embarrassing. : )  Matt (and a few other patrons) laughed at me, and, of course, I laughed at myself. I do that quite often. (Ha, ha.) (See?!)
Ultimately, I do recommend reading this book if you haven't done so. I'm anxious to see the movie when it comes out now, but I will tell you that you should definitely read the book before you see the movie. I'm not sure what all they will change from the novel, but no matter what, I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU READ THE BOOK BEFORE YOU WATCH THE MOVIE IF YOU PLAN ON READING THE BOOK!!!




Okay, now for the real discussion... The ending. Which story did you think was the real one? Being the happily-ever-after optimist that I am, I of course choose to believe that the "with animals" tale is what really happened. I did some research and found a great interview Martel did with ABC News that I think helps back up my theory as well (click here for the full interview). Here are two of his responses that most influenced my choice:

"... I leave it to the reader to choose which is the better story. It can go both ways. Pi survived with Richard Parker and then, confronted with the skepticism of the Japanese, and wanting his suffering to be validated, to be accepted, he creates another story, the story without animals. That's one reading. Or Pi and his mother and the French cook and a Taiwanese sailor survive, it turns into a butchery and Pi invents the story with animals presumably to pass the time and to make acceptable the unacceptable, that is, the murder of his mother by the Frenchman and Pi's killing of the Frenchman. Both stories are offered, one is on the outer edges of the barely believable, the other is nearly unbearable in its violence, neither explains the sinking of the ship, in both Pi suffers and loses his family, in both he is the only human survivor to reach the coast of Mexico. The investigators must choose and the reader must choose. When the investigators choose the story with animals, Pi answers "And so it goes with God." In other words, Pi makes a parallel between the two stories and religion. His argument (and mine) is that a vision of life that has a transcendental element is better than one that is purely secular and materialist. A story with God ("God" defined in the broadest sense) is the better story, I argue, just as I think the story with animals is the better story. But you choose."

"... The most frequently asked question: What does the island mean? It means what you choose to see in it. My narrative strategy in writing this book was to write a story that was progressively harder to believe. Will you believe that a boy could survive with a tiger? Yes? Good. Will you believe that the boy could go blind, the tiger could go blind and they could meet another blind man in another lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific? Yes? Great. Now will you believe in this crazy carnivorous island? I figure most readers will not believe it. Their suspension of disbelief will break down and readers will start making excuses for Pi: He's starving and hallucinating. In other words, reason will kick in. That's fine with me. But I hope that when readers get to Part Three of the novel and read the other story, the one without animals, that their revulsion at that story will be such that they, like the investigators, will choose the first story as the BETTER story. But I wanted that better story to have something unbelievable about it. I wanted it to get beyond the reasonable and the plausible. BECAUSE every great thing in life — be it religion, love, any ideal — has an element of the unreasonable to it. We are not computers. We need the pull of the unreasonable to get us through life. The island represents that unreasonable element in the first story."

What do you make of those responses from the author? Did it change your opinion at all? Personally, I think the "with animals" story is the more believable. If you choose to believe the "without animals" story, you probably think Pi imagined both the encounter with the Frenchman and the algae island. But then, how did the meerkat bones get in the lifeboat? Or do you think Pi's insistence that the bones (which the two investigators admitted were there) be checked to verify that they were in fact meerkat bones was just a bluff because he didn't think they'd actually have them examined?

I suppose there are different ways you can interpret the story that are arguable... I normally am not a fan of novels who leave the ending up to the reader. I always go with the more positive interpretation, which often is the opposite of what everyone else in my Book Club chooses. They usually laugh at what they consider my naivety, but I happen to hold it in high regard. What's wrong with choosing to stay on the positive side of things? : )

I'd love to hear what you think about the novel and which version you choose to be the real story. But please shoot me an email instead of leaving it in the comments, just in case someone who hasn't read the book peruses them. ; ) My addy is

Thursday, October 4, 2012

September Foodie Penpals

The Lean Green Bean
So, I'm a little late once again posting this... Sorry! I'm such a slacker. : (
But anyway, I once again got a wonderful package in the mail from my Foodie Penpal for this month. It came from the wonderful Teresa at Farm Share Stories. Thanks Teresa! Here's a pic of what came in the mail:
I was excited right away when I saw the leopard tape : )
And here's what I found when I opened it up:

My box full of goodies

The cutest little card : )

A cool book on eating locally grown food. It's got some great recipes in it too!
 Teresa thought that Asian cuisine would be a good match for me since I'm lactose intolerant, so she took a trip to Boston's Chinatown to grab some foodie treats for me. They included:

Ginger candy and green tea pumpkin seeds
 These two were interesting, but not my favorites... The ginger candy (which, by the way, says it's good for digestion) was surprisingly spicy, and I'm a wuss when it comes to spicy. I love pumpkin seeds, but I'm not a big fan of green tea... They weren't bad though. I gave these to my father-in-law, and he loved them! : )

Sauces for cooking my own black pepper chicken and sweet & sour pork
I haven't tried these yet, but I'm really looking forward to it!

Pretty chopsticks and rice vermicelli noodles
 I LOVE these chopsticks!!! They're so pretty in person. They make me want to eat sushi. : ) And I'm going to try and use the rice noodles to make a soup to go with the chicken and pork dishes.

Red bean mochi and peach gummy candy

The peach gummy candies are yummy! I took them to work to have around when my sweet tooth attacks. ; ) As for the red bean mochi... I had no idea what those were! Or how to eat them. There weren't any directions in English on the back, so I assumed you didn't have to cook them. I was under the impression that they were some sort of dumpling since it was rice and red beans, but I googled it, and it's a dessert! I'm sure I would have figured that out when I opened the box, since they were each sitting in a cute little green cupcake liner. They weren't bad... The red bean center wasn't sweetened, but the outer rice part was. I thought that worked really well. The rice part was a weird consistency... like a soft, gummy kind of. It's hard to explain. But I kind of liked them. I'll have to save them for dessert with my soup and chicken/pork dinner. : )
And that's my Foodie Penpal package for September! Thanks again, Teresa! It was a very fun package. : )  I'm sorry again for not being on the ball... I'll try to post this earlier enough next month for you to have time to sign up for the next one!
Hope you have a great weekend! : )

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What do you mean I can't have milkshakes?!

So, I think it's  official... I have developed a lactose intolerance. No doctor has told me this, but they've pretty much ruled everything else out. I had several tests done to rule out any bacterial infections. They checked me for gluten allergies... negative. They even checked me for hepatitis, which I thought was kind of weird. But all the tests showed nothing.

I was finally sent to a "specialist" to see if he could figure out what was causing all my stomach issues. On the day of my gastroenterologist visit, I told him I thought I had developed a lactose intolerance and would like to be tested for that. He then informed me that not many doctors administer those tests, and the best way to check for lactose intolerance was to refrain from ingesting lactose... Really, Doc!? How much did that cost me??

He checked over some of the results from all the testing my primary doctor performed, and something he found made him suggest I get a colonoscopy... So I did. Not fun at all. : (   The actual procedure was fine, besides the waiting 4 hours for it to begin. I had to be sedated, but I wasn't leery about that or anything. The part that super-sucked was the 48-hour liquid diet beforehand. My appointment was set for Thursday morning, so my instructions were as follows:

- Monday night: Have vegetable soup for dinner.

- Tuesday: Only clear liquids all day, which can include chicken broth, 7-Up, Citrus Gatorade, ginger ale, and water.

My chicken broth lunch

- Wednesday: Only clear liquids all day, but no broth. No eating/drinking after midnight.

I looked online for other "clear liquid" options and was happy to see green jello listed : )

- Thursday: Check in at 6 am. Sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes. Then lay on a stretcher for 4 hours waiting to be taken back.

Matt tucked me in like a burrito

Oh, I forgot to mention the best part... Wednesday at 3 pm and 10 pm, I had to drink the nastiest stuff I've ever had in my life. It tasted like Robitussin times 10, and it's sole purpose was to have me spend the rest of the night on the toilet. That was seriously the worst part... I'd take on a whole week of a clear liquid diet before having to drink one bottle of that stuff again. : (  Bleh!

So, the procedure itself lasted around 30 minutes. Then they rolled me out, woke me up, and told me that everything looked fine. So I asked the Dr. what he thought the issue was, and he told me to start taking Pepcid AC twice a day and come back in 2 weeks if I still had issues. I asked him why I should take Pepcid AC if I had neither heartburn nor ulcers, and he didn't really have an answer for me. Needless to say, I wasn't very impressed with my gastroenterologist.

Afterwards, Matt took me to Chick-fil-A so I could finally eat something, and I was back to square one. I did online research, and I called all around trying to find someone who administered lactose intolerance tests. And then I figured, what the heck... I'm pretty sure that's what it is, so I'll just be 100% diligent in not taking in lactose and see where that takes me.

The only problem with that is that DAIRY IS IN EVERYTHING!!! Cheese, chocolate, MILKSHAKES!!! But they do make a lot of lactose-free options nowadays. I was able to find lactose-free ice cream and some cheeses, so it wasn't totally unbearable. But then I found something that turned my milkshake-mustache-less frown upside down...

They make a lactase enzyme pill for people with lactose intolerance to take so they can eat normal foods without the nasty consequences!!! As you can see, I tried it out with my favorite meal... crab linguine alfredo from Red Lobster. I figured if it didn't work, the meal should at least be worth it! ; )  But IT DID WORK!!! Hooray! A few days later I decided to give it the ultimate test:

I was totally bummed that I wasn't going to get to enjoy the peach milkshake this year because of my new "issue," but I took a lactase enzyme pill and drank half the shake... and nothing! No stomach pains, no gas, no... okay, I'll leave it at that. ; )  I was ecstatic! And still am... I keep these lovely, individually-wrapped pills with me everywhere I go. : )

I'm still trying to get an actual lactose intolerance test performed, but I think it's safe to say that's what it is. I still try to refrain from dairy products, although I love having the option of indulging with the help of my magic pills, as I like to call them. But I think the fact that I haven't had any more stomach problems since I started using the lactase enzyme pills backs up my theory...

Here's hoping my magic pills don't fail me anytime soon. And I hope you have a great week!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Another Lovely Mail Day

Time for my latest installment of mail goodies! I am still really behind on my pen pal replies, but I'm hoping to get caught up this month... Please bear with me if I owe you a letter!!!

Here are the things I have sent out lately:

Owl-themed Swap on swap-bot

Homemade envie swap

Private swap on

Oversized PC swap

Another oversized PC swap

For my 3rd oversized PC swap partner

Another private Postcrossing swap

She couldn't choose between these two cards, so I sent them both to her : )

And here are some of the wonderful missives I've received in the past several weeks:

Owl-themed swap

I believe this was a new pen pal letter swap

I love seeing different countries' stamps : )

AIRMAIL! ; )  Great stamps on this package too

An Australian PC I got in a swap

Pretty PC I received

The great stamps included

Love air mail envies! And those fashion stamps are fabulous!!

Oversized PC swap

Beautiful artwork PC
 Isn't mail the greatest!? It always brightens my day. : ) Hopefully sharing all of my mail helped brighten your day as well!