Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Weekend Cooking - Book Club discussion of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The obvious choice for this meeting would have been for someone to make Potato Peel Pie, but if you've ever looked at the recipe or read reviews of the dish you would probably veto the option just like we did and stick with our normal choices of baked goods, picky foods, and wine.

I felt like we needed to have something potato related to discuss this book and looked around online and found a number of mashed potato pie recipe ideas.  I picked this one:

Ingredients 

  • instant mashed potatoes 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 2 eggs, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese or 1/2 cup Romano cheese 
  • 1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese ( divided) 
  • paprika 

Directions 

  1. Make mashed potatoes according to package directions for 7-8 servings. 
  2. Stir garlic powder, eggs, Parmesan and one cup of the mozzarella into prepared potatoes. 
  3. Pile mixture into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Sprinkle top with 1/4 cup of mozzarella and a sprinkle of paprika for color. Bake at 350°F until golden on top and puffy about 45 minutes.

I used four cheese instant mashed potatoes and it was delicious! 

This was the perfect comfort food for the rainy (kinda snowy) night we discussed the book.  We all tended to enjoy the book. I liked the format and the story. I did however find the ending kind of abrupt, it felt like it came out of no where. We wondered if the ending was due to the two authors, or if this was how it was supposed to have ended. 

Book Review: The Shape of My Heart by Ann Aguirre

The Shape of My Heart  (2B Trilogy #3)The Shape of My Heart by Ann Aguirre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reviews of I Want it That Way  and As Long As You Love Me.

We go back to apartment 2B in this third book of Ann Aguirre's trilogy. This book runs along side As Long As You Love Me  Nadia makes a reference to Rob and Lauren's break up over Thanksgiving.

When Lauren moved out to go home, Courtney moved in to take over her spot in the apartment.  Courtney and Max were friends before she moved in and their friendship was the support both needed. Max needed her when things were going south with Lauren and Courtney needed Max when things were going horribly wrong with her breakup.

Max has to go home, some place he hasn't been in years and he's not sure of the welcome he'll receive. He doesn't want to go alone and asks Courtney to go with him. In meeting Max's family, Courtney gets a better understanding of Max and an opportunity to see him as something more than just a friend.  The same can be said of Max, the trip opens his eyes up to so much.

Just when things are going well for Max and Courtney, it's Courtney's family and background that spoil the new romance.  Courtney always thought she met her soul mate in high school only to lose him at a young age.  She downward spiraled and how has overly protective parents. (I kept picturing Emily and Richard Gilmore). They want something different from what Courtney wants in her life.

Courtney's breakup with Max is both painful and helpful for her. Courtney had been drifting along with no real goal in mind. It's during this time she finds herself and her way.

The novel wraps up with a look to the future and a vision of where this group of college friends end up years after graduation. I really enjoyed this ending. I always like when series end with this glimpse, a real view of the happy ever after. Reading this so close to Thanksgiving, I really liked the idea of making a family with the friends you find along the way in your life.  My friends are like an extension of my family, no matter how long goes in between seeing each other when we're together its like we just saw each other yesterday. That's the feeling I get with this group, even though they start to spread out, they are still close, they email, call, text and make the effort to keep in touch.

I received an ebook arc from the publisher. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mini-Review: Santa Claus is for Real by Charles Edward Hall

Santa Claus Is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of BelievingSanta Claus Is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing by Charles Edward Hall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really excited to read this book by the Radio City Music Hall Santa, Charles Edward Hall. Charles has played the roll of Santa for over 25 years, he's the Santa many of us grew up with in experiencing the wonder that is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

I was interested in his journey in becoming this roll (if you've had the pleasure of seeing him in this role, you know he becomes this character) from some one who didn't believe in the spirit of Christmas.  What bothered me about this book was his "discussions" with the real Santa. These just didn't work with me and wish they would have found a different avenue for sharing his conversion to a believer.

I also would have liked some more from the show itself and how it's changed over the years and how his role of Santa has changed along with the holiday.

It was an enjoyable read and I do recommend it for anyone who is looking to get into the holiday spirit.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nonfiction November - Diversity

Hosted by I'm Lost In Books this week
This week's prompt:
Diversity and Nonfiction: What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to a book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different countries/cultures do you think of as books of diversity?
What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to a book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? 
There is so much talk right now about the need for diversity in reading. (Search "We Need Diverse Books") The movement is really about the large scale need for diversity on our bookshelves in both libraries and personal collections. I think it's a good movement and an important undertaking to diversify literature/reading.

However, I feel that we can all read diverse books on the small scale. Just pick up a nonfiction book about a person or a place that is different from your own life/home/situation and you have diversified your reading. I will never know what it is like to be a poor black man in Baltimore, MD, so reading The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore introduced me two lives that are greatly different from mine.

What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? 
I can honestly say that I'm limited in this type of reading. Since I'm just really starting to branch out in my NF reading, I'm starting out by testing the waters.  I've enjoyed reading about different paths to success of people of similar or different cultural backgrounds than my own. One that stands out is Sonia Sotomayor's My Beloved World.  While ethnically we have a lot in common, there is very little that we shared in life experiences.

I do like to read about different cultures, but a lot of what I have read relates to how different cultural backgrounds conform to life in the United States.

What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? 
I would love recommendations of cultural books based in their home countries. The parts of I Am Malala that I enjoyed the most are when she described what life was like and the history of her country. It's a great way to learn about other places and people when told from a native instead of reading about it from a Western view point.

What kind of books besides different countries/cultures do you think of as books of diversity?
Books that share different lifestyles. I think we need to expand into reading about people from different religious backgrounds, different sexual orientation, and those who live alternative lifestyles (like those doomsday preppers).

Monday, November 17, 2014

2015 Finish the Series Reading Challenge

Hosted by Socrates' Book Reviews

Here are the rules guidelines.

1) All books that are part of a continuing series qualify (i.e. Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove, Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, James Patterson's Alex Cross, etc. etc.)

2) It doesn't matter if you have 1 or 10 books in a series to complete it, it qualifies (i.e. if you only need to read one more Sookie Stackhouse book to complete the goal, that's fine) The goal is to complete a series from wherever you are up to until the last published book.

3) The qualification period is January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. Books must be read during this time frame to count.

6) Any format of book counts - print, audio, ebook, etc.

7) You should choose the series you want to finish before the challenge begins, but it isn't necessary. It's fine to change series during the year - as long as you complete whichever series it is.

8) Choose a level....

Level 1 (Novice series reader) - Complete 1 series.
Level 2 (Testing the waters) - Complete 2 series.
Level 3 (Experienced) - Complete 3 series.
Level 4 (Expert series reader) - Complete 4 or more series.


I looked at my FictFact page and noticed that there were a few series with 1 book left and some with a lot more. I'm aiming for Level 4 (Expert series reader) and completing more than 4 series.

Full book list and progress through 2015 can be found here - 2015 Finishing the Series Reading Challenge

Writing Prompt 16

Describe a time when you were brave.

I looked up to my destination. It was a long way up to the peak, but the view was worth the climb. I know it was worth the climb because I had made the climb before, but always with help. Today I'd be doing it on my own. No one was around to help me and I wanted to see the view.

I knew I could do it, two steep jumps.  The first onto a wide landing.  Today there was some debris on the landing but there was still enough room for me to make my landing.  Ok here it goes. Jump!

I did it! I stuck my landing.  Now for the second treacherous jump. This jump is a bit more difficult without help.  I'm jumping blind since the peak is behind a curtain. This jump is always easier with help, but I know the peak is back there and I know it's worth the jump.  

The ledge I'm on has a small outcropping that makes the jump easier. I can use it to help push myself through the curtain. I ready myself for the jump, push off the outcropping, and land on the peak. I give myself a shake and find the perfect position to lay down in the sun. 

I made it!

I had wanted to write about myself, but I just couldn't think of anything to write.  It's not that I haven't been brave, but none of it spoke to my creative nature. I couldn't find an interesting way to write any of it up.  We've known for a while that Ellie's eyesight is going and the jump onto the couch and then into the window is a tough one for her.  We normally have to give her A LOT of encouragement to get her up there and even then we need to help her make the jump past the curtain. Every once in awhile she feels daring and does it all on her own. The brave little pug making the jump she knows but yet is unsure of because of her sight. As you can tell from the picture it's a favorite spot for both pugs to sun and watch the world go by. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nonfiction November - Be The Expert

Hosted by Regular Rumination this week
This week's prompt:
Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I'm going to Be The Expert and recommend three great books on Jane Austen and her fandom.

A Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family RecollectionsA Memoir of Jane Austen by James Edward Austen-Leigh

Written by her nephew over 50 years after her death it contains the memories of many of her relatives.  Following in the footsteps of Cassandra, Jane's sister, in the decision to burn many of her letters, the book leaves out a lot of personal information. The book help build readership for Jane's books which before had not been read by many outside of the literary world.

Jane Austen's Letters Jane Austen's Letters

As mentioned above Jane's sister Cassandra burned many of her letters.  What remains are gathered in this collection. Her letters show the same wit and cultural observation present in her novels.


Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe

First, let me be upfront, I know Deborah we are both members of the same JASNA region.* Second, know that I'll take any opportunity to promote this book for her.  However, even if I didn't know Deborah, I would still have picked up this book.  Janeites vary like you couldn't believe but at the core we all adore Jane and her work.   Deborah shows a diverse and entertaining look at the fandom.

*We are members of the Jane Austen Society of North America - Central NJ Region

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Notes on My Thesis

My thesis has been submitted! I have a good solid start on my short story collection of intertwined stories. Here's what my professor had to say about my work:

Hi Amelia, thanks for your hard work this term. I'm really impressed with the way this is coming together. You've really built a world here--and as unf amiliar as it is, it comes alive to me. I'm so impressed with the way you're able to create life out of the long-gone past, people who seem modern and real even if their moment was decades ago. I feel that you've really imagined your way into the characters' lives in these stories, and your imagination and largeness of heart come through.
I'm thrilled! He's also given me some great advice for editing once I finish the first draft of the collection!

Reader's Workouts - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gym

Reader's Workouts is a weekly event which is hosted over at Joy's Book Blog.




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Not really a workout story or an achievement in working out, but I just had to share this story!

I was just getting ready to pull into my friend's neighborhood when I saw a dog. Just a dog, no human. I didn't think anything of it since it was dark, the dog was dark, and he was in an unlit area on the side of the road.

As we were pulling out of her street a minute later, I realized that it WAS just a dog and he was booking it down a busy road towards an even busier intersection. We knew we had to catch this dog!

We followed him down towards the intersection and thankfully he turned the corner instead of running into traffic. He stopped to sniff and we tried to lure him to the car but he took off again running into an apartment complex.  We couldn't get into the complex and drove along side the complex to see if he would run out. When we didn't see him we decided to just turn around and head to the gym.

I made my turn around on a side street and as I came to the stop sign there he was again, dashing up a street.  We followed and caught up to him as he ran up a random porch. I opened my car door, and called for him "here buddy" and he came charging at the car and jumped right in. I was not expecting that!

With the dog in the car we started a methodical drive around the blocks trying to find the owner. Having had a dog get away from the house before I knew that someone would be out looking for him and knew what kinda of car behavior to look for as we drove around.  We made a call to someone at home and they were going to post something about finding the dog to the local dog park page.

About five minutes later I spotted the car! It had made a turn onto the same street we turned onto and then stopped at a really weird spot.  We pulled up along the car and no sooner did my foot hit the break than the owner was jumping out with tears pouring down her face.

I never did get the dog's name, but he is only 3 and this was his first adventure away from home.  They live just across the main street from where I first spotted him and were so thankful that someone like us picked him up.  She said he was super friendly and would have gotten into anyone's car.  Her young daughter was home and extremely upset that they wouldn't find the dog.

We both headed to the gym feeling pretty darn good about ourselves.  Then we both did hill programs on the treadmills and felt like our legs were going to fall off.

It was a good night!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Weekend Cooking - The Chopped Cookbook

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads

I love Chopped. It's one of my favorite shows, but I was a little nervous about the cookbook.  I wondered if it would be a cookbook of weird food combinations. But thankfully it's full of recipes I can't wait to try. 

I have a sensitive stomach, so a key test for me when picking new cookbooks is finding out how adaptable are the recipes.  I went through the book and marked a few that looked good and looked like I could make the slight changes I would need and still have a good meal.





I chose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Parsley Pesto.

The adjustments I made were small and just dealt with the seasonings.  We cut the 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes in half (it was still a little too spicy for me) and did away with the 1 teaspoon lightly crushed fennel seeds.

The sandwich was really easy to make and was really good. The pesto was delicious but was nothing compared to the toasted buns.  The buns are toasted with Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and the fennel seeds. We just put the Parmesan cheese on the rolls and baked them. We enjoyed them so much we made them again the next night to eat with our pasta.


The pasta the next night we used the Quick and Easy Marinara sauce as a base for the sauce we had the next night for dinner.  It was really good and another recipe that tasted great on it's own but stood up to our quick kitchen adjustments.

I can't wait to try more things from this book!

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Writing Exercise #15

Tell your life story in ten lines.

Once upon a time a Princess was born to a King and Queen and there was much joy. Two years later a Prince was born and there was more joy to be had for all except the Princess who was no longer the center of attention. Many years of prosperity passed and the family was happy.  Then the King died too young and there was much sadness. The Queen did her best and raised the Princess and the Prince to be successful and happy adults. The Queen was ready for grandchildren but the Princess was too busy exploring the world of academia. The Prince provided an heir and the Queen rejoiced. The Princess thought she was off the hook, until the Queen started in on the desire for more grandchildren. The Princess buried her nose in a book and mumbled something about working in a female dominated profession. The Queen will not stop until she has more grandchildren, redheaded preferred, and the Princess will keep evading the Queen on this front.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction

Hosted by Sophisticated Dorkiness this week
This week's prompt:
Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? 
I don't know if I can pick one favorite, I looked at my list and there are at least 10 that I really enjoyed so far this year. If I had to pick my top three they would be:

All three of these books really caught my attention and really made me take a look at my life.  I saw how much of a caffeine addict I really am, how lucky I was to be born in the suburbs in New Jersey, and how with hard work and determination I can achieve my dreams.


What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? 
A lot of the nonfiction I read, I listen to on audiobook on my commute to and from work.  I've found a great variety of memoirs with parts read by the authors. I tend to recommend those more than others because the audiobook adds a little something special I think you miss out on when you just read the book.
  • Paris in Love by Eloisa James - read by the author
  • My Brief History by Stephen Hawking - read by Matthew Brenher, but each chapter starts with Stephen speaking before transitioning into the reader's voice
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai - read by Archie Panjabi, however Malala reads the introduction of the book
  • My Beloved World by Sonya Sotomayor - Read by Rita Moreno and Sonya starts off the book
  • Still Foolin' 'Em by Billy Crystal - read by the author

What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? 
I noticed that I haven't been reading a lot of books on history or politics. I'm interested, and I've added books on these topics to my TBR list on Goodreads, but I haven't checked them out yet.  I've been on a big kick with memoirs this year.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
I'd like to get some more ideas of books. Outside of my co-workers I don't know too many people who read nonfiction. I'd love to expand what I'm reading and find new topics to delve into!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Reader's Workout - Biggest Loser Run Walk 5K

Reader's Workouts is a weekly event which is hosted over at Joy's Book Blog.




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A photo posted by Amelia (@litjrzygrl) on


This past weekend I participated in the Biggest Loser Run Walk 5K. I walked the 5K and had a great time despite the cold. It was a chilly blustery day (as you can see from our pictures). This was my second 5K and I felt a lot better when I finished this one than the last one. When I finished the Color Run I could barely muster a smile as I crossed the finish line. At the end of this race I was tired, but still felt good.

I had a goal of doing the walk in under an hour. This is what my tracking said:

A photo posted by Amelia (@litjrzygrl) on


The official time is different and puts me at a minute over an hour, but I still feel good about that time. The results show that I finished 6th for female walkers in my age group (my friend finished 2nd!). I finished 126 (out of 200) overall of 5K walkers. I'm pretty proud of myself.

I'm going to use the winter to really try to up my endurance and next year I'm going to be under an hour on my 5k times!