30 December 2011

2011 Goal Review

Back in January I gave myself a list of goals for the year and while I looked at it at mid-year, I seem to have forgotten to monitor during the Fall (oops!). Let's see how well things held up on my goals for 2011:

Books:

Read 100 books: Done! I hit 105 books for the year, and already have some bookmarked for 2012. I wonder if I shall hold steady, or should I challenge myself to more?

Review at least 2x a month: I had a bit of a slump this fall. Writing became difficult, and I was not driven the way I wanted. I averaged at least 2x a month, but was not consistent. Also, I started another blog, which has slumped a little at year's end too. Am I spreading myself too thin?

Try Audiobooks: Yup, just the one. Time to pick up some titles again. As I discovered, it is a lot easier for me to get into non-fiction audio than fiction. I think that has to do with the imagery my brain creates while reading fiction - which is not always the best to do while driving.

Yarn:

Finish Four Projects: Two! Better than none, but not to my goal. I get ambitious, then lazy about my knitting. I think smaller projects are key for me, along with understanding my knitting habits better.

Sort my Stash: Much of this has been unpacked in the upstairs room, but still sorting through a couple bins. I know there is yarn I haven't seen in years. Maybe it is time to start purging it?

Get It All on Ravelry: Well, this was not accomplished. I think it is still a good idea, however. Ravelry is a wonderful resource for knitters (you should see my pattern queue).

Ink:

Get Tattoo: Done! I was happy to get the start of what will become a larger arm piece this fall. I really hope to add to this in the next few months.

Other Pursuits:

Grow My Garden: This was another so-so year for growth. I did get a soil sample out before the ground froze too much, and that is on its way to UMASS for testing. Hopefully this will give me a start on what I need to do to make the beds better for what I want to grow.

Preserve More: Ketchup, tomato sauce and applesauce were done. Unfortunately the October storm knocked out power for a week at the house, and I lost the quarts of strawberries I had in the chest freezer. That will definitely go on my list for next summer, as I am out of jam. I also discovered that the kind of apples used make a difference. I had a bag of Macs among my Empires, and they were so watery I only ended up with a half-dozen pints of sauce. That won't last the winter.

Take Space: The Ferry Beach conference was wonderful and I am definitely headed back next year. In fact,  this next year I am one of the conference coordinators! I feel honored to have been asked to participate in such a direct way, and look forward to seeing my spirit sisters again next August. I am also blessed to have a family willing to take on my children during occasional vacation times, and now their father lives in the same state, which benefits everyone.

I am already pondering the goals I will have for next year. Some are close to my heart and not ready for reveal, but others will definitely be listed. This was a terrific experiment for me in intention and manifesting when dealing with Life goals. I want to continue this process, and will definitely have a new list of goals for the coming year on the blog.

Do you already have some goals, resolutions or Life changes decided? 

28 December 2011

Review: Shadow Heir by Richelle Mead (Plus Dark Swan Giveaway Winner!)

The Book:

Eugenie Markham will do everything she can to protect her unborn children, but knows that it is getting harder and harder to avert the forces striving to make sure the Storm King's prophecy goes unfulfilled. As she struggles to make sure that both the mortal realm and the Otherworld lands stay safe, she faces the ultimate challenge when a blight strikes her Thorn Land and many more in the Otherworld. Eugenie realizes that only she will have the courage to find the way to protect all those she loves, whatever the cost.



The Yarn:

It was so hard to believe this is the last of the Dark Swan series. Eugenie has faced a long road becoming Queen of the Thorn and Rowan Lands, yet stay connected to her shamanic heritage in the mortal realm. As she works to protect the children that many are trying to destroy, another force brings a horrible blight upon her lands. In usual Eugenie headstrong fashion, she heads off to the place where the trouble originates, not knowing that this will be only one stop along a trail of trouble.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series since the beginning. Many difficult topics are faced during these books, especially revolving around the prophecy of the Storm King's first grandson. Eugenie is headstrong as always but still vulnerable, having to fight against many who would either kill or use her not-yet-born child. Her relationships with both Dorian and Kiyo are addressed on different levels, as Eugenie must make decisions that not only affect her and her children, but those who live on both sides of the Gate between the two worlds.

Eugenie has had to face a lot of tough challenges through the series (no spoilers this time!), and faced disagreement with those she loved because of them. I will say there was disagreement in this reader with some of the choices she has made, however there has not been one that I did not respect, even if I did not agree. I believe that this actually made this fantasy more "real", as you can see definite parallels with choices that Eugenie makes with those faced by others during life. To me, that makes a believable protagonist in a story. When I start thinking "Would I have done what she did?", then I know that I not only empathize with the character, but I have been pulled wholeheartedly into the story. I can see that some of the sequences may not please every reader, and I felt a lot of "But what is going to happen now?" at the end of Shadow Heir.

Mead did not skimp on the emotional turmoil of her protagonist, but it is these feelings that connected me to Eugenie through all of the books. Mead has successfully built an intricate world with the Otherlands, and I will definitely miss it.

The Ink:

Title: Shadow Heir (Dark Swan, #4)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Zebra
Date: December 27, 2011
Read: ARC Provided by Publisher

DARK SWAN GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Congratulations go out to SKYLA11377. Skyla11377, you have won the first three books of the Dark Swan series (Storm Born, Thorn Queen, Iron Crowned)! I will send you an email shortly to verify your information, then send that on to the publisher to mail your books out. Thanks again to Kensington Books for supporting this giveaway.

Happy Reading!

22 December 2011

Celebrate

Our Christmas Tree This Year
This time of year is a time for celebration - at least that is what everyone keeps saying. Sometimes it is really hard to celebrate a year that has had a lot of ups and downs, and if you have more downs than ups, maybe you are celebrating that the year is finally OVER. January 1 always seems like a time to reboot, give yourself a fresh slate to start scribbling on.

However, right now is the clash of secular holidays that can make any sane person's head spin (so, you can imagine what it is doing to me!). I was raised in a traditional household, traditional as in I was baptized a Lutheran at the age of six, we went to church on a semi-regular basis when I was younger, attended Sunday School, was jealous of all the kids that got off the bus on Tuesdays after school at the church (did not really understand CCD at that time, now all I can say is Whew!) and fell out of religion pretty much all together in high school and college. I was drawn to Wicca, but never really felt in tune with any sort of solo practice with it, too self-inhibited to try to meet others who may have shown more of a light on those Paths.

I rediscovered church through my last spouse, this time Unitarian Universalism. We were living out in Wichita at the time, and the space where this church was so....different. People came from all sorts of backgrounds, religions, all just wanting a space to be themselves and believe that what they believed was okay. Folding chairs, curved wooden walls, children's art behind the front space, and people were KNITTING IN CHURCH.

I knew I had found my place.

But of course I left there, and it took a while to find the right church that resonated with me, and now am ever so grateful that I have. I know my Path is littered with remnants of Christianity, Goddesses, moon gazing, mythology, tree-hugging, and a big bunch of knowing that the Universe in my Mind's Eye is a woman in overalls with a big 2x4 over her shoulder. She always smiles when she whacks me upside the head with that board. And I love Her for that.

So, now of course with my family and my children, I do celebrate the Christmas holiday in all of its glorious tradition of giving gifts. I feel no real shame in that, I know that others find a more religious experience in that day. For me, it is one for family and loved ones. This is a time to share bounty both physically and emotionally, if you can.

My Solstice Candle
Personally, I celebrate the Solstice. As once again the Wheel Turns, and light begins to overtake the darkness that has been ever-present since the summertime waning. I light the candle and smell the scent of evergreen in my house, and once again remember that what I believe may be as much the same, or as different, as every other person on this planet.

So, Happy Holidays, everyone.

20 December 2011

Dark Swan Giveaway

Richelle Mead's Dark Swan series will come to a close with the release of Shadow Heir on December 27th. To celebrate the release, Kensington Books has graciously offered copies of the first three books - Storm Born, Thorn Queen, and Iron Crowned - as a giveaway to my readers!



Storm Born

Eugenie Markham is a powerful shaman who does a brisk trade banishing spirits and fey who cross into the mortal world. Mercenary, yes, but a girl's got to eat. Her most recent case, however, is enough to ruin her appetite. Hired to find a teenager who has been taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie comes face to face with a startling prophecy--one that uncovers dark secrets about her past and claims that Eugenie's first-born will threaten the future of the world as she knows it.




Thorn Queen

Eugenie Markham is a shaman for hire, paid to bind and banish creatures from the Otherworld. But after her last battle, she’s also become queen of the Thorn Land. It’s hardly an envious life, not with her kingdom in tatters, her love life in chaos, and Eugenie eager to avoid the prophecy about her firstborn destroying mankind. And now young girls are disappearing from the Otherworld, and no one—except Eugenie—seems willing to find out why.




Iron Crowned

Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham is the best at banishing entities trespassing in the mortal realm. But as the Thorn Land’s queen, she’s fast running out of ways to end the brutal war devastating her kingdom. Her only hope: the Iron Crown, a legendary object even the most powerful gentry fear…





(All synopses from author's website)

To enter, just fill out the Google Docs form below. One winner will be chosen at random from all entries to receive the first three books of the Dark Swan series. Only US & Canada entries please, books will be shipped directly from the publisher. Deadline to enter is December 27th at 9 PM, winner will be announced December 28th with the review of Shadow Heir.

Good luck!

  

14 December 2011

Review (and Giveaway Winner!): Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep

The Book:


After battling Reapers of Chaos, mythological creatures and all-around evil classmates, Gwen Frost just wants to survive the rest of her semester at Mythos Academy. Learning how to use weapons seems like a good start, even if that means being taught by her unrequited crush, Logan. Maybe Daphne's suggestion of attending the Winter Carnival will turn things around and let her move forward? However, there is more than snow, boys and fun awaiting Gwen and her friends at the ski resort; Gwen will have to face the past once again and fight for her life.

The Yarn:

Kiss of Frost opens not long after Touch of Frost. Gwen works on improving her fighting skills after her fight with the Reaper Jasmine. Against the Spartans, Amazons and others at Mythos Academy, she seems at a serious disadvantage. However, her Gypsy gift of psychometry once again shows Gwen is not as limited in power and skill as she may seem, and Gwen discovers more about her role as Nike's Champion, maybe more than she bargained for! Even with this power and goddess-given mantle, Gwen is still dealing with her own sadness from her mom's death and Logan's rebuff of her feelings. While you definitely know you are dealing with teens, powers and battles aside, the emotions of the characters stay true to age and you can see true growth in them without belief-suspending leaps.

I have really enjoyed Jennifer Estep's adult Elemental Assassin series, and Mythos Academy brings a lot of the same elements: a strong female lead; family interactions and issues; developing powers - all leading to a delightful book that makes me anxiously await the next in the series. Gwen is finding answers to some of the questions that were asked in Touch of Frost, good and bad, that will definitely push the storyline forward. There were some definite moments that were revealed far too early, but Estep countered those with some surprises towards the end. I believe some of the best parts of these books are the secondary characters: Daphne and Carson are back in the thick of things, and the introductions of Oliver and Kenzie, along with Morgan hints at some intricate relationships for Gwen and the future.

Estep gives the "teen outcast" storyline a fresh twist with the Mythos Academy series. I will be waiting for the next book, Dark Frost, when it appears on shelves in June 2012.

The Ink:

Title: Kiss of Frost (Mythos Academy, #2)
Author: Jennifer Estep
Publisher: Kensington
Date: November 2011
Read: Purchased Nookbook

KISS OF FROST GIVEAWAY WINNER!

Congratulations goes out to JenniferK for winning a copy of Kiss of Frost!  Jennifer, I will be sending you an email to confirm details. Many thanks to Kensington Books for supplying the book to the winner.

And stay tuned, as I will be announcing another giveaway next week!


10 December 2011

I Am Blessed

My "baby girl" is 15 today.

I find it to be such an incredible age. For her, it is the first year of high school. With all of its aches and pains and OMGs I have homework AGAIN days, school has come around another bend to its ending. She will be done in three years, then off on another adventure.

And don't get me started about being able to drive in one year - I am not sure my heart could handle it.

Life is beautiful with her, and challenging. The old saying is that little girls are made of "sugar and spice and everything nice". That obviously does not apply to teenage girls. Someone threw hot sauce in that mix for sure.

But it is that extra zing that makes my daughter her own person. I keep her school photo in a frame on my desk. Behind that picture is a succession of school and holiday pictures, going back to her toddler days. It is amazing to lay those down, one after another, and see her change before my eyes. As she has done these last fifteen years.

The Universe is blessed to have her in it. I am too.

Happy Birthday sweetheart.

07 December 2011

Review: Highland Bride by Hannah Howell

The Book:

Gillyanne Murray holds her own lands, and decides it is time to visit them before she begins courting. Unfortunately upon her arrival Gillyanne finds not one, not two, but three lairds (with adjoining property) waiting to lay claim to it - and her. To prevent a battle, she chooses Sir Conor MacEnroy, a knight as handsome and bold of action as he is quiet of words. Gillyanne is not one to flee from a challenge, however, and as she fights to find a place in her husband's keep, she hopes to also find one in Conor's heart.

The Yarn:

How can you not enjoy a romance in the Scottish Highlands? Hannah Howell brings us another of The Murrays with Highland Bride. While the typical plot of first-comes-marriage, then-comes-love is in play, Gillyanne is a strong, spirited young woman who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, facing off against the suitors. She is also willing to give in to protect what is hers, as she marries Conor to stop the battle that would destroy the peace the land so needed to keep. She needs all of that strength to try to keep up with a husband who really does not know how to woo the wife he needs to keep.

Humorous and poignant, Howell delivers a sweet Highland romance that will please her readers.

The Ink:

Title: Highland Bride (The Murrays, #6)
Author: Hannah Howell
Publisher: Zebra Books/Kensington
Date: August 2011 (First Printing: October 2002)
Read: Mass Market Provided by Publisher

30 November 2011

Giveaway: Kiss of Frost by Jennifer Estep

If you are a fan of Jennifer Estep (like me), then you have been anxiously awaiting the publication of Kiss of Frost, the next book in the Mythos Academy series!

From Goodreads:
Logan Quinn was try­ing to kill me. My Spar­tan class­mate relent­lessly pur­sued me, swing­ing his sword at me over and over again, the shin­ing sil­ver blade inch­ing closer to my throat every time. A smile tugged up his lips, and his ice-blue eyes prac­ti­cally glowed with the thrill of battle...

I’m Gwen Frost, a second-year warrior-in-training at Mythos Acad­emy, and I have no idea how I’m going to sur­vive the rest of the semes­ter. One day, I’m get­ting schooled in sword­play by the guy who broke my heart—the drop-dead gor­geous Logan who slays me every time. Then, an invis­i­ble archer in the Library of Antiq­ui­ties decides to use me for tar­get prac­tice. And now, I find out that some­one at the acad­emy is really a Reaper bad guy who wants me dead. I’m afraid if I don’t learn how to live by the sword—with Logan’s help—I just might die by the sword...
The first book, Touch of Frost, was an exciting start to the series and I reviewed it back in September.  Gwen is an amazing young woman on the way to discovering her path among the powerful teens at Mythos Academy.

There is also a prequel novella in ebook format, First Frost, which is available now for FREE from Barnes and Noble, which you can find here. UPDATE: The e-novella is also now available free for Kobo (here) and Kindle (here). Don't wait - it will only be free until December 5th.

Plus, if you haven't picked up your copy of Kiss of Frost yet, then you are in luck. Thanks to Kensington Publishing, I am happy to be hosting a giveaway of one copy of Kiss of Frost for my readers.  Just fill out the GoogleDocs form below with the information. The winner will receive the book directly from Kensington Publishing, open to residents of US and Canada only. Giveaway will close at 9 PM on December 13th; on the 14th will be my review and announcement of the winner. Good luck!


 

16 November 2011

"Mistress" Mini Reviews

A mistress is a fine thing - especially in the times of Regency England. Scandal and passion and love all meld together. Here is a look at two delightful titles.


A whirlwind courtship can be every romantic couple's dream, but when reality sets in, Baron Edward Christie knew his marriage to Caroline Parker was a mistake. Beautiful and scandalous, not even her banishment to the notorious Jane Street diminished her. Caroline and Edward meet for one night each year, on their anniversary, to give into the painful, glorious passion they have for each other. Yet both know that it is only a matter of time before they must admit it is time for divorce. So why is it so hard to finish what should never have been started?

Romances where the couple is already married are such a treat, even when the story is about falling in love all over again. Edward and Caroline clash with their opposing ways: she is brash and forthright, he is composed and stiff. Neither feels they have to change for the other, nor are they willing to admit the other may be right. A twisting tale of rediscovering love and assumed betrayal, Robinson brings two engaging characters to life with strong wit and dialogue.

Title: Mistress by Marriage (Courtesan Court, #3)
Author: Maggie Robinson
Publisher: Kensington
Date: September 2011
Read: Trade paperback supplied by publisher


Lady Veronica Smithson has been a widow for the last three years, and a very happy one at that. She knows that she would love to feel the touch of a man once more, but also realizes her independent nature abhors the thought of getting married again, even to the handsome explorer Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater. Sebastian needs to prove himself worthy of his inheritance, and a wife would do just that if Veronica was not so stubborn. Veronica has no qualms about becoming his mistress, now if only Sebastian didn't have other plans...

This book engaged me from the start. Veronica knows exactly what she wants (or so she thinks), and Sebastian is bowled over that a woman would not be desiring to tie herself to a man such as him. While obviously ego starts the walk down the path to love, both Sebastian and Veronica are willing to play the game the other sets up. The hilarity increases when Sebastian's family shows up for the holidays. If you enjoy the Christmas romances, definitely take a look at this one.

Title: His Mistress By Christmas (Sinful Family Secrets, #1)
Author: Victoria Alexander
Publisher: Kensington
Date: October 2011
Read: ARC provided by publisher






04 November 2011

Alive and Well

Well, sorta...

I am sure that many of you heard and/or experienced the snowstorm that came through last weekend. I am still feeling the effects as we had a branch fall on the lines to the house, so no power yet.

I get to watch the warm glow from all my neighbors' windows though.

However, the niblets and I are safe and well, and many thanks go to my friends and loved ones for assistance and offers to put us up. I hope that everything will be back in order be the end of the weekend! To those who may still be suffering the lingering effects, my thoughts go to you and yours.



19 October 2011

Free Fall

I have sat down in front of my computer at least once a day for the last couple of weeks, trying to get my brain to jump start enough to get the creative blood flow going and write a post. I have even gotten a paragraph or two into a topic before it..just...falls.....off......

I know that it isn't uncommon. That fall into the abyss of not being able to write, whether termed "writer's block" or "loss of inspiration" (or "in need of nap"), is one that I have hit before and been able to struggle out of the pit. It's just been more difficult lately. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself. A girl has goals, y'know. I have work to do: at my job, at my home, at my church. I am redesigning two websites, co-coordinating a women's conference for next summer (which means planning starts NOW), working on a chapter for publication, reviewing for multiple outlets now. Trying to keep up not only on the important professional issues in libraries dealing with funding, ebooks, and technology, but my personal goals with the chicken ordinance in my city, my home life, my gardens, my knitting, my health. Top this off with being a solo parent of two children with their own needs (typical and special), and at times I just feel that cliff crumble out beneath me.

CC Image courtesy of epSos.de on Flickr
 I know that I cannot do it all with the hours in the day that I have (Who came up with that arbitrary 24 hours anyway?), nor does anyone really expect me to. Except me. But I do know that this feeling of free fall comes when I have hit my mental limit. I have to step back and evaluate what I have, what I don't, and what of those things I truly need.

So, things may seem a little quiet here for a bit, but I know this is just the ebb and flow of Life. Thanks for watching the waves with me.

05 October 2011

Review: It's Always Been You by Victoria Dahl

The Book:

Aidan York has spent the last ten years running away from the past. The love of his life was lost to him, first by an argument then by her death. While his life has been filled with business deals and women, nothing will stop the emptiness in his heart occupied by his Kate. But when he steps into that coffee shop only to be faced with Kate - as alive as can be - will Aidan's heart heal, or will Kate's secrets destroy whatever is left?

02 October 2011

In My Mailbox (21)

Welcome to In My Mailbox! Hosted by The Story Siren, it is a way to showcase books received for review or won, picked up at the library, or purchased. Titles link to Goodreads.

I have been used to the "drought" weeks. Being so busy I haven't had as much time to get to the library or dig into review titles, however the last couple of weeks has brought a bounty of books!

Won:


Heart of Darkness by Lauren Dane. Won from Goodreads, and I am looking forward to this one. I really enjoy her on Twitter, but this will be my first time reading her work.

Cheat the Grave by Vicki Pettersson. Won from Bitten By Books. If you like fantasy titles of all shapes, you will love this blog and the contests, interviews and books covered. I really loved this series and not only got the book but two of the special poker chips based on the last book's cover (series is based in Las Vegas).

For Review:


Switched by Amanda Hocking. Sent by St. Martin's Press (Sent to work, even. I never get titles at work!). Books that were self-published ebooks by Hocking, who went on to get a great publisher's deal. 

The Real Werewives of Vampire County by Alexandra Ivy, Angie Fox, Jess Haines and Tami Dane. The title certainly gives me a giggle, and I hope this collection is as crazy as the tv series that inspired it.

Borrowed:


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Girlfriend came through for me again (plus I read faster than she does :). I was led to this by the terrific review on Stacked. Computer games and 80s references - count me in!


Divergent by Veronica Roth.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.
Awakened: A House of Night Novel by P.C. and Kristin Cast.
I Came Out For This? by Lisa Gitlin.
Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs.

I was able to get to the library right when it opened last Saturday morning and hit the jackpot in the YA section display. I had been hoping to get hold of most of these titles. Plus a lesbian and favorite mystery series title on top of it.



These two titles were picked up to help with a chapter proposal I am writing for publication. I was fortunate to work with a couple colleagues and co-authored a chapter two years ago, and have been interested in continuing to write again. I need to get to work!

Happy Reading!

30 September 2011

Review: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

Note: References to plot from previous books.

The Book:

October Daye is settling in to her new role as a countess in Faerie, she is dating again, and all seems relatively calm. So of course it is time for things to go wrong.

The children of the regent of Saltmist have been kidnapped and the Queen of the Mists stands accused. In three days the Fae of land and sea will go to war, unless Toby can find the missing boys. While there are those who will stand in the way of Toby, there are others who will always stand with her.

But in a time of war, not everyone survives.

28 September 2011

Review:Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

The Book:

Welcome to Mythos Academy, where teenagers are being prepared for the world not only with a first-class education, but with the skills for battle and magic. When a student is murdered and a magical relic stolen, Gwen Frost is determined to find out who is behind the deeds. Especially since she was supposed to be the victim.

21 September 2011

Review: Pay Me In Flesh by K. Bennett

The Book: 


Mallory Caine just wants to live her life quietly, at least as quiet as a lawyer in L.A. can. Being hit on by lascivious judges, pursued by an ex-boyfriend and having a killer roaming the streets is not helping in that department.

But then, neither is being a zombie.



18 September 2011

In My Mailbox (20)

Welcome to In My Mailbox! Hosted by The Story Siren, it is a way to showcase books received for review or won, picked up at the library, or purchased in the last week. Or four. Titles link to Goodreads.

I am thrilled that I received two boxes from Kensington Publishers now. I have lots to review and share with you all!


Pay Me In Flesh by K. Bennett. Lawyers don't have souls - especially if they are zombies.
Highland Bride by Hannah Howell. Gillyanne Murphy knows that men will battle for her Scottish lands, so she quickly chooses one, but the battle continues for her knight's heart.
It's Always Been You by Victoria Dahl. Aidan York mourned the woman he loved and lost ten years ago, but what happens when he discovers her alive and well? What is she hiding?
Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep. Gwen Frost does not have the same heritage as the rest of the mythic-born students and Mythos Academy, but she is determined to find out the truth behind the murder of one of her classmates.

Let me also add I just picked up two of Estep's Elemental Assassin series, Web of Lies and Venom (#2 & #3, holding to my tradition of not quite reading things in order!) from the library this weekend. Kick-ass character and world-building.



Mistress By Marriage by Maggie Robinson. A whirlwind marriage leads to the brink of divorce. Yet if Caroline was no good as his wife, does Christie expect any better with her as his mistress?

Frozen Stiff by Annelise Ryan. Mattie knows they don't find many murders in her small Wisconsin town, but the beautiful woman found dead is known to at least one person - her love interest, Steve Hurley. As is the weapon that killed her.

Happy Reading!

17 September 2011

Beauty Marks

If you haven't guessed from my blog title by now, or haven't been around the last couple of years, I have a few tattoos.

Not a huge amount, but each one has a mental picture, a moment, a memory behind it. Each one etches a piece of history -- my history -- onto my skin.

After getting my first color tattoo a couple years ago one of my goals this year was to get a new one. I knew that I wanted to start on my other arm, and that it would be color, and have something to do with nature. That was about all I had for a while. However, inspiration struck in the form of a story about leaves in fall, and with my autumn lady gracing my left shoulder, falling leaves certainly seemed appropriate for the the right.

I found a sketch image online of aspen leaves on a branch, but knew I just wanted the leaves themselves. So with that in hand I headed back to the place that did my other tattoo, and while the previous artist was not available, another was the next day. So back I went on a Sunday afternoon. The artist remembered my sessions from a few years ago, and we discussed what I wanted. I decided to start with three leaves - as three is my life number and one that keeps its Rule upon me. It will definitely be added to later on.

As gorgeously green as they can be through the spring, it is the fall that makes me smile, so I knew that those would be the colors I would have. He laid out a range from bright gold to burgundy, along with the tools of the trade. With a whir of the motor, the needles began to trace my skin. An hour and a half later, I was done.


Another marker along my Path.

12 September 2011

In The Land of Tomatoes

I wonder if I will ever grow enough tomatoes to satisfy my canning urges this time of year? Probably not.

The last couple of weekends were spent canning tomatoes in various forms. Last year I made a successful, if watery, batch of ketchup, and I knew that this year I wanted more. So, I was able to get hold of a canning flat (these are tomatoes that the farm will not sell as individuals having marks, bruises, etc.) and launched into ketchup mode.



This time I decided to skin the tomatoes by dunking in boiling water, then in ice water. This was pretty successful. It was also pretty time-consuming. Next came the slicing. I took out some of the juice and seeds so that it would not be quite as watery, but I knew that I would be cooking it for a lot longer than the directions say. Once the tomatoes cooked down some, I added the vinegar and spice bag, and kept it cooking until it reached a stage I considered acceptable. Then into jars and a water bath. I made a few small one-cup jars to hand out to friends, and another four half-pints to keep at home. It is good, although I think the cloves make a stronger statement than last year. There is almost a "holiday" taste to the ketchup. Some people may get turned off by the seeds, however you really do not even notice them.

Labor Day weekend was tomato sauce. My girlfriend was nice enough to get tomatoes from her locale. I was also introduced to using a pressure canner for the first time.

One of two batches of tomatoes washed for processing.

First was a hunt for accessories. I have a KitchenAid mixer, which I adore. I also have several attachments for it, including the meat/vegetable grinder. The one thing I do not have is the strainer, which is necessary to get the seeds out completely. A run to different stores came up empty, so we decided to do a two step approach: chop the tomatoes and run it through the grinder, then put that through my food mill (which I used for my sauce last year).
This was my job most of the evening. 

The mill got the seeds out.

I totally approve of this process, since we already had the equipment and it really went faster with the food grinder doing a lot of the work. However, I was really glad to have two bodies in the kitchen, because processing 30 lbs. of tomatoes this way still takes up a large chunk of time. Besides cooking, of course.

Reduced after about eight hours. 

Our 30 lbs. of tomatoes garnered us 8 half-pint and 9 pint jars of sauce. Sadly, one jar did not fit in the canner during our two sessions, so I ended up freezing that jar.

My new pressure canner

A lot more sauce than we were expecting.

Cooling - you could hear the pops as the seals took.
The next big job will be applesauce, which I will try both canning and freezing this year.

07 September 2011

Review: Firestorm by Radclyffe

Note: An abridged review is also available at The Lesbrary.


The Book:

Things can get hot when you are a smokejumper. Mallory James leads a crew of men and women who risk their lives to face out-of-control forest fires and rescue climbs. When rookie Jac Russo, a woman with a reputation larger than the Montana mountains, joins the training unannounced, the two women are immediately up in arms around each other. Yet Mallory soon discovers that while she may be known as "Ice" to her crew, her desire for Jac can make anything burn.

04 September 2011

Reality Bites (of the snippet sort)

Craziness has abounded the last couple of weeks after my August vacation. There was my wonderful break, then oodles of work and meetings and catalog design and web pages and on and on. Then the niblets arrived back and school was put underway. I feel like I am just sitting down at the computer for the first time and actually have something to say. Before now, I have started and stopped a couple reviews and blog posts, but I am here, once again, to fill your feed!

I spent a lovely week in Maine once again at the In The Company of Women Conference at Ferry Beach in Saco. Ferry Beach is a Unitarian Universalist camp and conference center. This was my second year attending, this time as a co-facilitator for my Women Loving Women track. It was an amazing week of sharing and songs, dancing and games. It touched my spirit, kept a smile on my face, and located my heart once again. I am honored that next year, not only will I be going back again, but I will be one of the coordinators for the ITCW Conference. The trust, love and faith these women place in me fills my soul.

Back to work with our impending migration to the Evergreen system and my duties as President of the Digital Commonwealth this year. I have been spending time assisting with training and creating promotional materials for our libraries. Next week I will be doing short demo videos for staff. Of course I have to get back to my other blog, The Plugged-In Librarian, not only for CPD23 but also for all the ebook news that seems to be coming down the pipe. Look for some catch-up posts there also.

Of course it is school time once again! Both of my children entered new schools this year, one into high school. The way it is working this year actually has both of them out of the house before 7:30, which means I get home just after 4. I get to be home when my son's bus arrives. My daughter has been walking home from soccer tryouts, which I am so proud to say that she made it on the team. This was her goal for the last year, after seeing their setup at the fall open house, and it is wonderful to see her reach for what she wants.

There has been homesteading around the house too! I just made some laundry soap, canned ketchup last week and plan to do tomato sauce tomorrow.

Of course we cannot forget the books and yarn (and there was some ink too!) I am looking forward to sharing the details these coming weeks.

12 August 2011

Down Time

It seems my schedule has gotten crazy over the last couple of weeks. I am due to go on vacation back to Ferry Beach next week, but  it is actually a Women's Conference where I am leading a track, so how much "vacation" is in that I am unsure.



However, there will be a beach. And ice cream. And massages.

But the issues of getting ready for that and finagling all the details of niblets and work, I have decided to take a break from blogging for the next couple weeks. I promise that I will be back with reviews, gardens, yarn and more as soon as I can. Enjoy!

10 August 2011

Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

The Book:

In her late twenties, Christine suffered an accident that caused amnesia of a sort that wipes away her daily life. Over two decades later Christine awakens not knowing where she is. Each morning she has to be reminded of her home, her husband, Ben, her past, her present. While working with her doctor, Christine discovers that she has started a journal about her daily discoveries. What she cannot remember is why the first page has the words "Don't Trust Ben"? How can Christine discover the truth if she cannot remember it the next day?

03 August 2011

Review: The Deadliest Bite by Jennifer Rardin

The Book:

All Jaz and Vayl wanted to do was take a few days off before getting back to unlocking the secret of the Rocenz. With Brude in her head (a constant pain in so many ways) Jaz has only a short time left before she loses her soul, unless she can carve his name into the gates of Hell. An assassination attempt on Vayl at their doorstep was the least they expected - as was the person behind it. Gathering the group together for a trip to Romania, and Vayl's roots, the team takes the fight to the source: Hell itself.

01 August 2011

In My Mailbox (19)

Welcome to In My Mailbox! Hosted by The Story Siren, it is a way to showcase books received for review or won, picked up at the library, or purchased in the last week. Titles link to Goodreads.

I skipped last week because of being on vacation and oh, did my books stack up for this post! Let's get started:

For Review:


His Mistress By Christmas by Victoria Alexander. Kensington Books put out a call for reviewers on their Facebook page, and I was happy to get this historical romance from them! It came with a signed card from the author also.


Won:


Dead Iron by Devon Monk. I really love this author and was thrilled to have received this from Book Faery! Many thanks to Tori and ROC/Penguin for providing this title.

Borrowed:


Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson. An ARC my girlfriend was able to pass on to me. I am finding I am liking these apocalyptic tales, whether involving zombies, robots, or maybe eventually robot zombies?

Library:


The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

These were sitting on my library's "Free" cart out front. Normally I tend to walk by as it gets picked over pretty regularly, however I decided to browse through it on a day that had a lot of books. Weeding must have happened! 

Bought:

Oh yes, I found more used bookstores. Raven Books has opened up in Greenfield (and is really nice!) and we made it up to Brattleboro VT to take a look around. 


You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail. I have always borrowed this from the library and was so excited to see it on the shelf.



I think I have said enough about my adoration for Pierce's books.

A Small Sacrifice by Ellen Hart.
Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle.
Oolong Dead by Laura Childs.

I cannot resist adding to my mystery collection.

Happy Reading!

27 July 2011

Review: Jukebox by Gina Noelle Daggett

Note: This review was originally published on The Lesbrary in June.


The Book:

Harper Alessi is the little rich girl being raised by her grandparents in Arizona; Grace Dunlop is the precocious English-born debutante. Fast friends from age eleven, Grace and Harper grow even closer as they get older. What's love got to do with it? Everything.

21 July 2011

The Man in My Life

...is eleven today.

At this year's dance recital.

I told his birth story two years ago. He is one of the most exciting challenging happy things in my life (along with his sister).

Happy Birthday, sweetie. I haven't even started embarrassing you. Too much.

20 July 2011

Review: The Devil in Disguise by Stefanie Sloane

The Book:

Lady Lucinda Grey is an intelligent woman, and readily acknowledges that makes finding a match this season...well, difficult. Lord William Randall is definitely not the man to court her, for his reputation as a rake is known to be well-deserved. Yet she is tempted, not knowing that she is the target of a kidnapping plot or that William is in fact a covert spy for the elite Young Corinthians. William is brilliant at his work, and at seduction, but what will he do when he is seduced by the brilliant Lucinda?

17 July 2011

In My Mailbox (18)

Welcome to In My Mailbox! Hosted by The Story Siren, it is a way to showcase books received for review or won, picked up at the library, or purchased in the last week. Titles link to Goodreads.

Won:


Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. I won this from Lisa at Bluestalking a couple weeks ago and am pretty thrilled to read it. Reviews have been up and down, however I read the earlier books in the series and never like to leave one unfinished.

Love Letters from a Duke by Elizabeth Boyle. This came from a giveaway that Avon had on Facebook. It is an older historical romance, but still one of those Regencies I adore.

Many thanks to Avon and Lisa for these giveaways!

Gifted:



Wolf-Speaker and Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce.

More gifts from my girlfriend, who knows I will not turn down a Pierce book!

Bought:



This was recommended by Nici Cline at Dig This Chick. Nici is a crafter, gardener, artist, mom and all-around wonderful woman. Do I know her personally? No - but she inspires me all the time.

Happy Reading!

15 July 2011

Review:The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking by Kate Payne

The Book:

Everyone wants a comfortable clean home, but with limited time and budgets, it seems there is really no way to do it. Or, maybe you are off to a good start but looking for a little more inspiration? In The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking, take a tour through some great ideas to create the home you want in a fun and frugal way.