Friday, February 28, 2014

the end......

yes, I finished reading all those short classics that I challenged myself to read in February! in fact, I am almost finished with an additional book......that I am enjoying much more than I did some of THESE books!

The Stranger by Albert Camus - this guy was so detached from his own life it was depressing.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka - while everyone sees this as a deep look into how society treats people who are different.......I kept wondering how the heck the dude was so accepting about being turned in to a bug and why he thought everyone was going to be so okay with it.

Silar Marner by George Eliot - this was a shocker! I truly didn't expect the story to be anything like it was and I LOVED IT!!! I wish I had saved it and read it last so I could end on an high note.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson - it must have been a writing gimmic of the times, but I didn't like the manner in which the story was written. it was very confusing. the story was at least 20 pages in before the title character was introduced.

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe - Werther was an idiot. many people talk about what a great love story this was. no, it wasn't. it was the story of a spoiled brat who couldn't handle not getting what he wanted.

so now that is over and I can head back to my ever-increasing stack of books. I am almost finished with Hollow City (the follow up to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children). it is an equally mesmerizing and enjoyable book as the original! Ransom Riggs is one darn creative man!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

moving right along.....short story by short story

I really kinda question whether these are true "short stories." perhaps Huffington just meant they were on the short side?!?!? a couple have been over 200 pages. that is a lot to read in one day.

anyway........this long weekend went a long way in reading short stories!

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather - might be my favorite. a wonderful story of family, hope, and love.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - what a great writer! and what a twisted story! Stephen King has nothing on this guy!

War of the Worlds by HG Wells - totally ahead of his time. truly inventive thinking.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck - with him as the author, I knew it wasn't going to be an easy ending......and it wasn't.

as a random group, I think these four have been the best. each story was well written. none of them got crazy with alliteration. and all of them (with perhaps War of the Worlds as the exception) did a great job of developing the individual characters and making you care about them. I think WotW failed in that area, but I don't think that was his intent anyway. 

that leaves me with 5 to go. of those, I am still waiting on 2 of them from the library. I am first on the hold list but feel like I am running out of time for them to be turned in, sent to my library, with enough time for me to read them. I know I can purchase both of them for my Nook, but wouldn't it be a triumph if I could get through the month without having to purchase any of the books? keep your fingers crossed for me!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

and the shortness continues! (short books.....quit saying I'm short!)

February.....the month of short jokes! since there is so little time to do anything this month, I am reading short books. now we are 15 days in to the month and I have read 12 books! good progress I think!

The Awakening by Kate Chopin - was slow, a little vague, but with a surprising ending. well, maybe not surprising. just odd for assumptions made about the time period it was written in?

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - this book would make a great comic opera! I think if people had spoken plain english to each other and used common sense, the whole thing book could have been avoided!

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - other than bringing up Udolpho for the second book in a row (I went and looked it up finally), this book could have used some plain, direct language. I seem to have a completely different idea about the ending.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton - wow! dude has some crummy luck. that's all I am saying. you know how someone posts a "Downton Abbey if played out on Facebook"? I would love to see someone do that with this book!

have you tackled any of the books on the list?

Monday, February 10, 2014

more shorties & a BONUS read! lol!

yes, February is the month I am reading a bunch of Classic Short Books, courtesy of Huffington Post. well, let's start by saying some of these are a bit longer than I had anticipated. but I am still making good progress.

and like I previously did, here are my short reviews:

Passing by Nella Larsen - you know how things start popping up once you have been introduced to them? the concept of "passing" came up multiple times just after reading this book......which was well written, interesting, educational, and a tad bit startling. 

Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville - if nothing else, this books shows me what a blessed educational career I had. I never had to read this is in school! no wonder the other kids hated English class! dear me! this was wretched reading!

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - sometimes it is difficult to read a story that you have read/seen so many different interpretations of. I spent most of my time trying to exclude those stories from my brain while I enjoyed the original. Shelley's version is so much better than all the souped up versions!

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - I didn't find anything particularly different about this story than the other Sherlock stories I have read. it was odd to read it while hubby was watching the PBS show!

so now I am 10 days into the month with 8 stories down. I think that is a pretty good pace.......especially since I had to finish reading Unbroken in the middle there. THAT book was much more than I thought it would be. more about running (Huh.......I didn't know, really I didn't!), less about the war, and more about humanity than I expected. I wonder how they will frame the movie......there are a lot of options. I expect they will take the view I would least like them to take so I am glad I read the book!

13 books to go (since I have recently read A Christmas Carol and The Great Gatsby) and 18 days left in the month! how is your reading coming?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

short month update!

last week I told you I was going to spend February reading short stories. I figured I might as well give you some short updates of my progress along with some short reviews!

today is the 4th (or it was last night when I wrote this) and I have read 4 books! pretty good progress considering I spent most of Sunday either running or being Super Bowl involved.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - dear me! this one almost ended the entire thing. I got so under water with all the alliteration that I am not sure what the story was really about.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler - nothing short about this. it was a full length book! the period slang cracked me up. I could see becoming a Phillip Marlowe fan.

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - very much like the movie. I could hear Audrey Hepburn the whole time I was reading it. (not that that is a bad thing!)

Animal Farm by George Orwell - what is there to say about this book? so on point and so well written!

I believe Passing is next. the edition of The Metamorphosis I requested from the library showed up as a graphic novel. no thank you!

Monday, January 27, 2014

short month = short stories

you might have noticed.........February is the shortest month of the year.

you might have noticed..........I like to read books. (does that link work??)

well........I have this friend who likes to send me various lists of books to read. actually, I have several friends who send me lists of books to read. based on these lists, I currently have a list of 79 books to addition to the authors I read already and the books I have somehow managed to find all on my own.

one recent list was Huffington Post: These Amazing Classic Books Are So Short You Have No Excuse Not To Read Them. yes, that is seriously the title! and what a challenge! but to really make it a challenge.......I decided I needed to read them all during.......yep, you guessed it.......the shortest month of the year!!

admittedly there are only 23 books on the list and 28 days in the month so there is a bit of cushion for me. which is good since I currently have 10 full sized books and 2 ebooks checked out to read in addition to those 23 oh-so-short books.

why have I mentioned all this to you? case you wanted to play along of course!!!

if you look at the photo above, I have tracked down all 23 books. (well, at least for those of you who live in Sacramento County and have a library card!) Passing can be requested through an interlibrary request. it is the one physical book I am contemplating purchasing and donating after I read it. the library e-books are available through Overdrive, a service to which most library systems subscribe. the ones that are grayed out I was able to download for free on either my Nook or Kindle app (hint! hint!). I have read both The Great Gatsby and A Christmas Carol before......and I will be skipping those. but I believe I was able to find both of them for free as well. and, thanks to a randomly odd education, we are in possession of Frankenstein and The Stranger. that means I only need to worry about getting half of the books I need from the library.

my plan of attack is to request the books I don't own first (and before this blog post goes live). that way I can read ones I own while the others are on their way. worst case, I will buy whatever I can't get in time.

do you think I can do it?  200 pages per day shouldn't be too difficult.....except on Super Bowl Sunday, the day of the Davis Stampede Half Marathon, the two days I am meeting friends to scrapbook.......oh dear!! maybe it will rain and I can get some serious training done......on a treadmill......while I read?

on your mark.........

get set..........


let me know if you are going to get some short reading done in February. I'd love to chat books with you!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

#DineDowntown Southern Style: The Porch

Did you resolve to eat out less often? Eat healthier? Blah, blah, blah........well you can start on January 18th! Why? Well, because it is the most wonderful time of the year! Not only is it MY birthday but it is also Dine Downtown Week! 10 days of awesomeness where several downtown Sacramento restaurants offer special $31 dollar menus to tempt you out into the cold. (the price went up a dollar this year for a good reason and a good cause: California Food Literacy so you can feel GOOD about going out to eat!)

This year I started my celebrating at The Porch Restaurant and Bar, a beautiful appropriately stylish but laid back Southern restaurant filled with mock windows giving the room an airy feel. Please note: the menu originally posted on the Dine Downtown site was wrong, though may have been updated since.
Because hubby and I were dining together, we were able to try almost every dish on the special menu. We did not try the Vegetable Pasta Plate but a gentleman at a nearby table did and seemed to be quite happy with his choice. From my vantage point, I would have been pleased and satisfied with the offering.
So, confession time.......I do not like beets.  Apparently I really liked them as a small child and must have eaten my share then because I tend to avoid them now. Well, The Porch's Fried Beet Salad is proof that everything is better deep fried! Add some Cara Cara oranges, Sierra Nevada Chevre, blueberries, and a citrus vinaigrette and you have a hit, even for beet unenthusiasts! The sweet soft cheese and vinaigrette meld together to make a wonderful sauce.
The Pork Belly Taco offered nice big juicy pieces of pork belly nestled on a little lettuce and tucked in with some fresh avocado and creme fraiche. I thought the crisping of the tortilla might make it a bit difficult to fold and eat, but the crispness was just enough to offer a contrast to the rich creaminess of the avocado and pork belly. And if you happen to have a little bit of tortilla leftover and dredged it through some of that cheesy citrus vinaigrette like my husband did, no one would blame you.........they'd probably be jealous!

For his entree, Hubby had the Compart Duroc Pork Tenderloin. See those little cubes at the bottom of the plate? They are bits of apple from the pecan, apple, onion relish. Pretty simply made with some black and red pepper but all together it becomes a sweet and wonderful accompaniment to the pork. Even with the fruit and the molasses, the dish wasn't sweet like I expected. Jeff said the bacon was his favorite part. It was nice and meaty and he could taste the applewood. Please note: I am not commenting on it......he didn't share! (I did get a bite of the pork.......but I think he saved the bacon for himself!)

Not getting to taste Jeff's bacon wasn't a problem since I had this big ol' plate of flaky buttermilk fried catfish. Oh my gracious The Porch does breading right! The fish meat was thick and juicy and the coating was flaky and crispy and seasoned perfectly! The andouille sausage was nice, but I could have skipped it........see how much catfish I have? But the most surprising part of the meal was the pimiento cheese grits. I took a bite. I took a second bite. Instantly an image of that goofy jar of Kraft cheese spread came to mind.......along with someone scraping every bit out of the jar to swirl into some grits. Yeah, that isn't what they do. Instead, The Porch makes their own pimiento cheese and oh is it worth it! A wonderful creamy taste with a bit of pimiento tang. Heaven!! Add in the pickled corn salsa and it could be a meal on its own.
For dessert, Hubby had the Wildflower Honey Creme Brulee.I thought it was a bit on the small side, but it was more than enough creamy honey goodness to satisfy him. The cream and berries went well to lighten up what could have easily become a heavy dish and provided a sweet ending to his meal.

That left the Red Velvet Float to me. I had never heard of Big Red before but liked the idea of a float......who doesn't? Well, Big Red is a cherry flavored cream soda that I was told is very popular in the South. Together with the buttermilk ice cream, it was a delicious treat. I was too full from the catfish to finish my dessert, but can see daydreaming about this float when the temperature breaks through 100F.

Now, while I don't think any combination of options of the Dine Downtown menu from The Porch will fail to leave you full and happy, if somehow you think you might have a smidge of room available, I would suggest you add an order of their Skillet Cornbread to your meal. Great cornbread and mouth watering homemade jam and jalapeno honey butter........or maybe get it the next time you go back? Because, if you go during Dine Downtown, you will probably go back. And isn't that the best part of the find new tasty places to eat?

Disclosure: Our meal was provided in exchange for this review and blog post. But, you know me......I tell it like it is! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

step two.......aka: another post for another day

a few days ago I mentioned having already made strides towards my single solitary goal for 2014 of completing a triathlon.

in 2013, I completed a total of 5 half marathons. wow! crazy considering I was pushing it walking 2 miles at a time this time last year. I am not at the speed I would like to be at yet but improved my half pace from 16 minutes to a 13:18 pace at the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco........even with all those awesome hills! I guess you could call that the first step towards completing a triathlon? first of three steps?

well........along comes January 4, 2014. and well, step number 2 is completed! (though I guess telling you that is like reading the last page of a book, isn't it?!?!?!)

but, along with a bunch of friends (another gift from the merry months of 2013) at TBF, we had some adventures Saturday morning!! see my beautiful friends?? see our beautiful day glow name stickers that say we are allowed in the transition cool!!!!

as hubby wasn't participating, he wasn't allowed into the transition area. (neener neener neener!) course, then he got roped into volunteering. his job was to make sure a bunch of us didn't crash into each other! (another spoiler: he was successful!) but I am getting off point now.......

anyway, my Saturday excursion into the unseasonably warm weather involved a 4 mile run broken in half by a 6.5 mile bike ride. the running I wasn't much worried about. even with the lessened focus on training in the past few weeks (like 8 of them)......I knew I could survive that. heck, I could walk if I needed to. the biking and transition between the two parts was the big question. beautiful bike, now christened (with multiple mimosas) Broderick, has less than 100 miles on it. I am still get confused shifting.......and oh my gosh trying to get a drink while riding is a scary scary thing......and this is all without the fact that I am in the middle of a race with a bunch of other riders around me who may or may not be more proficient than me.

I still have lots to learn.......I can't tell you how I did for the running versus the biking parts because while I have managed to figure out how to drink while riding without killing myself or anyone else........I am still working on learning my Garmin!

but I did it! see! proof!!! (a friend took this photo........while yelling at me to drink more!) and, I did it all in what I figured was the least possible amount of time I thought it could possibly take me........1 hour and 30 minutes! dang! for me that was awesome!

anyway, now I have completed a duathlon: running and biking! (yeah me!) 2 down, 1 to go........though I am not sure how in the world I am going to add swimming to the mix. good thing I have 51 weeks left of the year to figure it out!

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 - the year without resolution

as my faithful readers know (all 7 of them lol!), 2013 was the Year of 24 filled with goals for weight loss, exercise, Scrapbooking, and blogging. my goal was to focus myself on balance and doing what I needed/wanted to do. and yes, I pretty much surpassed all my goals.

for 2014 I do not have a laundry list of things to accomplish before I will consider the year a success. no magic number I want to see on my scale. no number of books I need to read. nada. nothing. zilch.

I have one single solitary THING that I want to be able to say I have done before we start having to correct our check dates to 2015 (if anyone is still writing checks)...........

I am going to complete a triathlon!!! (duh dun duuuuuu!)

now we aren't talking IronMan here or anything.....more like what are called sprint triathlons like 0.5 mile swim, 20 mile bike, 4 mile run. nothing close to 140.6 miles of exertion thankyouverymuch!! and no, it just isn't just a matter of time. it is more a matter of not having the time!

but, that is pretty much it for 2014. my guess if I work diligently towards not making a fool of myself in a triathlon then I will be eating healthy and exercising regularly. right?? so without some scale or calorie obsessing, I should be in darn good shape by working towards that tri goal.

and........since the year has already started, I will tell you that I have made an awesome step toward my goal. but, that is a post for another day!