Monday, May 29, 2017

It's Monday! Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day folks.

It's going to be a quiet Memorial Day for me.  I'm not in the best physical shape to go out in public.

In other words, I'm covered in poison ivy rashes.

Yup, I've got the dreaded poison ivy.  Last week I took down the vines that were infiltrating my tree and my flowerbeds.  I thought I was being careful with my long-sleeved flannel and my gloves (which I also washed btw, and I took a shower afterwards), but I was wearing shorts and I also got touched behind the ear by some over-hanging vines.

I thought I was in the clear when a rash didn't show up over the next couple of days.  I thought that I either did everything right or I wasn't allergic to it anymore.

.....Guess I was wrong.

This past Thursday night, I started developing what at first looked like itchy bug bites.  The next morning the "bites" got bigger and spread out into an itchy rash, especially behind my ear.  Apparently a rash can indeed break out a week later after contact with poison ivy.  I tried a couple anti-itch creams that sorta-kinda helped, but I figured I was seeing the worst of it.


Saturday morning, I woke with some nasty boils on my wrists and legs, surrounded by even bigger rashes, and my left ear and jaw line was swollen.  At that point I decided a visit to a walk-in clinic would be in order.  They didn't believe me when I said the rash developed a week late (I swear that's what happened though), but they gave me steroid and anti-itch medication, along with some good advice on some home remedies that I could try.

So now I'm sitting around covered in calamine lotion and trying not to scratch my arms and legs.  The rash looks blotchy but the boils are down and the itch is feeling a little better.  I think I've perfected the technique for reducing the itch:

1) take an oatmeal bath (I used Aveeno's prepared packets)
2) scrub down with a Fels Naptha soap bar (it's in the laundry aisle at grocery stores)
3) once fully dry, cover the rash(es) with calamine lotion (I used the CVS brand that's in a pink bottle)
4) use a cold compress periodically throughout the day to help out

So, good news is that I destroyed this year's poison ivy invasion in my yard.  Bad news is that I am indeed allergic and I need to use a haz-mat suit next time.  What's funny is that when I tell my dance students that I have poison ivy, they all say "welcome to home-ownership".  Apparently this happens to a lot of homeowners so I'm not alone.  Thank God!

What's also nice is that because I can't move around too much, I've been able to spend some more time reading.  Yay!  I'm making good progress on a couple of books, and I finished an audiobook this past week.  Here it is:

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire #1), by Naomi Novik

This was a re-read because I was in the mood to read about dragons. It passed the re-read test and is now officially a favorite! I really loved the historical fiction aspect of this fantasy, and I loved how Naomi Novik created this "what-if" situation. The book was both interesting and exciting, and the characters are ones you can fall in love with easily. Plus, there are a few strong female characters, something I really appreciate.

Aaaand here are the books I'm reading now:

Throne Of Jade (Temeraire #2), by Naomi Novik

This is my audiobook read. Figured I'd go through this series again for the fun of it. So far I'm making slow progress because I haven't been driving as much.

Nobody's Fool, by Richard Russo

I really enjoyed his memoir about his mother, and because my book club really praised his work, I decided to try another one of his books. So far, this I'm enjoying it.

Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Yup. Still working on it. It's a difficult read because of the content, but I'm determined to finish it, especially since it's for the family book club. I'm hoping to finish 2 chapters today.

Well, that's enough blogging for me.  I think I'm going to take another bath.  Happy Memorial Day everyone.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Tuesday Rant Dedicated To The Children Who Lost Their Lives In Manchester

Have you ever thought about the things that led to you being born?

When you really think about it, it's incredible that we each exist.  It takes meeting the right person, at the exact right time, to create the birth of you.  And that meeting of the right person at the right time is the result of making the right choice at the exact right time, which is the result of another correct choice at the right goes on and on.  My parents are from opposite sides of North American.  It took a thousand right choices, at a thousand right moments, for a Texan and a Canadian to create one person, me.

We are all miracles of life.  Our personalities, our identities, our souls, are all part of a wondrous coincidence.  Whether we have children or not, our decisions and choices, the things we say and do, the things we like and hate, they all shape the world's events that lead to the birth of another life, another soul.

Look around you.  You have the power to shape the world you live in.  It might not be a major event.  Heck, you will not even realize what you are doing most of the time.  Just know this: our life is miraculous, and we can change things and people with one decision at a time, knowing all the while that the things we do are going to create and bring a new miracle into this world, whether it's our child or someone else's.

We also have the power to choose to create love out of hate.  Go out there today and do something positive for someone else.  Show the world out there that it won't be hate and fear that will win, but love and kindness.  We are not helpless in this horrible situation, when a terrorist chooses to destroy 22 miracles in a single moment; we can choose do something about it.  All lives are special, created from a thousand coincidences.  Go and create one now by being kinder than necessary and loving the life you live.  It will make a world of difference.  Literally.

Book Review: Cybele's Secret (Wildwood #2), by Juliet Marillier

Genre: Young adult fantasy
Date Published: November 2007
Publisher: Knopf Books
# Of Pages/Listening Time: 432 pages/13 hours 51 minutes

Goodreads | Audible

Synopsis: For Paula, accompanying her merchant father on a trading voyage to Istanbul is a dream come true. They have come to this city of trade on a special mission to purchase a most rare artifact—a gift from the ancient goddess, Cybele, to her followers. It’s the only remnant of a lost, pagan cult.

But no sooner have they arrived when it becomes clear they may be playing at a dangerous game. A colleague and friend of Paula’s father is found murdered. There are rumors of Cybele’s cult reviving within the very walls of Istanbul. And most telling of all, signs have begun to appear to Paula, urging her to unlock Cybele’s secret.

Meanwhile, Paula doesn’t know who she can trust in Istanbul, and finds herself drawn to two very different men. As time begins to run out, Paula realizes they may all be tied up in the destiny of Cybele’s Gift, and she must solve the puzzle before unknown but deadly enemies catch up to her. . . .

My Rating:
 ★★ 1/2
.....For being an enjoyable listen

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Review: Someone, by Alice McDermott

Genre: Historical Fiction
Date Published: September 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
# Of Pages: 232 pgs


Synopsis: An ordinary life--its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion--lived by an ordinary, but unforgettable woman: This is the subject of Someone, Alice McDermott's extraordinary seventh novel.
We first glimpse Marie Commeford as a child: a girl in thick glasses observing her pre-Depression world from a Brooklyn stoop. Through her first heartbreak and eventual marriage; her delicate brother's brief stint as a Catholic priest and his emotional breakdown; her career as a funeral director's "consoling angel"; the deaths of her parents and the births of her children--we follow Marie through the changing world of the twentieth century and her Irish-American enclave. Rendered with remarkable empathy and insight,
Someone is a novel that speaks of life as it is daily lived, with passion and heartbreak, a crowning achievement of one of the finest American writers at work today.

My Rating:
.....For surprising me with it's depth.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy Monday! A Recap Of What's Happened All Month Long

Well, it's been a while.  Happy Monday everyone!

So, a little catch-up is in order.  I've been rather busy since the last time I posted.

First, I went on a little vacation to California (April 19-25)
Orfila Vineyard Wine-tasting

What a fun trip this was!  I've never been to California before, so Dave and I were excited to go to a town near San Diego to watch two dear friends of ours get married!

Ballast Point Brewery

San Diego Zoo

Because it was a destination wedding, the couple planned some activities for everyone to do, such as a wine tasting, a nature walk, and a beach day.  Dave and I were staying at an AirBnB house with three other friends of ours, and we found a whole bunch of stuff to do just the five of us, like visit a whole bunch of breweries with unique beers, visit the San Diego Zoo, and explore Little Italy and the Gas Lamp District of the city.  We had a blast!
Nature Walk

Oh, and the wedding was beautiful too.  Of course.  It took place in a backyard patio area of a brewery and it suited this couple to a tee.  High quality beer for the groom, gorgeous outdoor scenery for the bride, it was perfect.

The Wedding at Stone Brewery

Suffice it to say, we were sad to leave the beautiful hills of California.

Next, I had to host a major dance event (April 29)
So when I got back from my trip, I was in full planning mode.  My brother and I were going to host our very own dance social.  We opened up the parking lot area for outdoor grilling and a game of ladderball.  A couple of my students did a little performance.  I baked a cake, we had a raffle, there was was a good time!  We also had a decent crowd, and made a reasonable profit, soooo....yay!

Then I had to catch up on all the bills...(April 30-May 5)
This was the bummer part.  I got to see exactly how much I spent during our trip, and I had to pay all the usual bills, and watch all my money go away (*sob*).  Yeesh, California was expensive, and it didn't help that we drank all that beer!

Then I had to get used to my husband's new work schedule (May 8-12)
So my husband finally quit his old job.  Yay!  This past week he started his new job at Middlesex Hospital, which had a rather major schedule change.  In his last job, his hours were Monday thru Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m..  Now, he's got Monday off, Tuesday and Wednesday he works 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursday and Friday he works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m..
This new schedule took some getting used to.  For one thing I now have to wake up at 6 a.m., which is a little tricky.  For another thing, our daily habits have to change; morning gym visits will have to be re-adapted, and we can't chill out in the morning anymore.  Ah well.  We'll get used to it.

Now it's Monday the 15th and I feel like I can finally catch up on blogging and other book-related stuff! Yay!

I did read a few books over the past month, not as many as I would have liked, but I did get a few.  Here they are (click on the cover for more info):

Genre: Memoir
Date Read: April 19th
My Rating: ★★★ 1/2
My Thoughts: This was for a book club, but I didn't finish this in time for the meeting. I ended up finishing this on the plane on the way over to San Diego.
I don't usually read memoirs, but I'm really glad I read this one. Richard Russo is a talented writer, and he told his story of his relationship with his mother incredibly well. The writing style is what really defines this book; it makes an average tale an extraordinary tale. Try a Russo book if you haven't already!

Genre: Urban fantasy
Date Read: April 28th
My Rating: ★★★★
My Thoughts: Yet another fun installment in the Dresden Files! It had all the usual qualities that this series has, with an additional "Ocean's Eleven"/"Italian Job" feel to it. Looking forward to the next installment!

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Short Stories
Date Read: April 28th
My Rating: ★★★★
My Thoughts: When Harry Dresden of the Dresden files mentions a guy named River Shoulders, your first thought is "who the heck is River Shoulders?!" This short story compilation answers that question! A nice little add-on to the Dresden Files, we get three short stories involving the Bigfoot known as River Shoulders. A very quick read and totally worth it!

Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling
Date Read: May 9th
My Rating: ★★★ 1/2
My Thoughts: This book is exactly what you expect it to be; it's the Disney film, but with a key plot change that affects how the rest of the story plays out. It was entertaining and fast, a very easy read. I can't say it was amazing, but it was definitely fun.

So now, I've got some catching up to do.  I'm two books behind schedule on my 80-book reading goal, and I have two BOTM's to finish.  I have no goals right now except to finish the books I'm currently reading in a timely manner.

Here are my current books (click on the cover for more):

This is for a library book club that I need to finish by tomorrow at 1 p.m.  So far, I've got about 60 pages left, and I'm liking the book.  I'm looking forward to the discussion on this one, because I feel like I missed a couple of things.

Yes I'm still working on this one.  This is for a family book club, comprised of my grandmother, my mother, and myself.  It seemed like a good idea at the time to read this book, but man!  This book is depressing!  We're all barely a 100 pages in, and we hate reading all the horrible stuff that's happening.  Mom and I ended up switching to an annotated edition because the footnotes are making the story a little easier to swallow.  We'll have the book club meeting once we all finish this story, although at this rate it'll be a month from now.

This is the non-BOTM read.  I needed something to listen to on audiobook, since apparently listening to an audiolecture on famous Romans wasn't doing it for me.  I didn't realize it was a sequel (whoops!) but so far it isn't spoiling much from the other story.

Okay, now I have to get ready to meet with a landscaper, who's coming over to check out our yard.  I have decided that I have absolutely no clue what I'm supposed to do with the garden, so we hired a landscaper to take a look and advise on what to do next.  See ya!