Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Review - Thunderhead

I really enjoyed Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child! I didn't get through it as quickly as I would have liked, but I did enjoy the journey. I found the setting, characters and plot of this book all very refreshing and well done.

This is my first Preston/Child adventure, and I have to say that I will indeed be back for more fun. Although, I supose that the word "fun" may not be quite correct, as the setting for this mystery is a bit darker than the lighter mysteries I had been reading. This book is set mostly in the "redrock canyon country of southwestern Utah" and deals with the darker side of the local Native American life, like death and witchcraft. It is the setting, which is so wonderfullly done though that first sets the standard for this fascinating page turner.

I also found the depth of character development so well done in for such a short book with so many interesting characters. There are several secondary characters whose personalities are just so strong that the reader feels drawn into their struggles and can easily understand their struggles and triumphs. There are several heros and a few villians and the reader is lead to identify with each of them in interesting ways. I really enjoyed the journey through to understanding each character and what made them tick.

I believe it is the mix of mystery and adventure, teamed with spirituality and culture that make this book such an interesting read. I was really drawn in by the mystery at first, but then I got wind of the adventure that was forming, only to be further sucked in by the culture and sprirituality of the Anasazi people. I just can't overstate here how entertaining this book was. In fact, I am now adding the rest of the books written by these authors to my "Must Read" list.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Weekend Update

What a weekend! We had beautiful weather here in the Chicago area, so we got a lot of outside work done. This means we ought to be able to have lots of motorcycle road trips in the weekends to come! Next on my list of things to do is to plot out some trips that can be accomplished in a day or two for the weekends to come.

Here is a picture of DD's new flower bed. We finally decided on a blue hydrangea and some other plants that she thought would look nice. We mostly planted perennials, but I added some Gerber Daisies because they are just too pretty. DD also got a beautiful orange rose plant that we will keep in a container on the front porch to spruce that up a bit.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cafe Thursday - 5 Somewhat Healthy Snacks

My DD and I are trying very hard to adopt a new healthy way of eating and snacking. After years of unhealthy habits, it is hard, but there are a few really delicious snacks that help us stay on track. I thought I would share them here, some are healthier than others, so eat at your own risk. . .

1. Veggies with Ranch or Veggie Dip - I know, the dip is a bit questionable, but come on, as long as we all are getting more veggies in us. . .let them have the white goo.

2. Chips and Salsa - Meijers has an organic blue corn chip with sesame seeds that are soooooo good, and relatively good for you. Put some salsa in a bowl with some diced alvacado and you have a healthy snack with lots of antioxidents.

3. Fruit - All the kids I know have at least one favorite fruit, so go ahead and fill up a bowl of their favorites and set it right in the middle of your table.

4. Smoothies - Now that summer is here, it is so easy to find fresh, ripe fruit that a sweet smoothie is super easy. I use 100% juice, yogurt (regular or soy), a banana and whatever fruit I have handy. If you add some whey protein to this it can even be a healthy meal replacement.

5. Nuts & Raisins - When I was growing up my Mom would mix peanuts and candy corn together for my dad and I love that snack. Now that I am older, I try to stay away from candy and don't let my kids have it much either. But I have found that adding raisins to any healthy nut is a great snack that fills me up when I am out and about.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy Hump Day Shopping - I LOVE Zappos

These are my new motorcycle boots. Yes, yes, I know, they aren't motorcycle boots as much as they are cowboy boots. Each member of my family already made it quite clear that these are not motorcycle boots, mostly because they are pink. They are cute though, and they fit my personality more than any other shoes I own. These are also already some of the most comfotable shoes I own. What I am looking for in a motorcycle boot is actually the traction on the bottom, but comfort is always important and these have both. I just love these new boots.

I also LOVE Zappos. I finally got the courage to order these boots Monday night after talking to a girlfriend. Now, I have ordered from Zappos before so I know that you often will get next day turn-around, but since it was already 4:30 Chicago time I figured it would be Wednesday before I saw the new boots. I was wrong. My new boots arrived yesterday, before noon! So not only were my boots seriously reduced in price, but they were shippped next day for free. Seriously, you can't beat that!

Graduation and Wedding Season Gift Giving

I have to admit, this time of year brings out the worst in me. A girlfriend just asked me how much money she should send to her nephew who is graduating high school. This put me through the roof and now I am on a bit of a tirade.

My friend says that she heard on the radio that she should give between $50-100. Who says I have to give the grocery money for this week to a distant relative? Or worse, an aquaintance? Are we all nuts? Where does this come from? Is this really what is expected? And furthermore, I have a couple of friends who recently suggested to me that when I attend a wedding it is expected that I will give at least as much money as I think my meals cost the bride and groom. Again. . .I tend to start to get hot under the collar at this point and ready to go to war.

So this morning, I started looking around the internet to see what was really expected, and do you know what I found? I found MANY etiquette sites stating that not only is there no expected amount for weddings or graduations, but that it is completely inappropriate for the graduate or bride and groom to expect gifts. Certainly they should not expect guests to pay for or help defer party costs. Wow. . .was my friend ever wrong. Here is a quote from Emily Post:
There is no rule, so it is entirely up to you. Let your affection for the bride and groom and your budget be your guide.

So it seems we have invented these expectations of one another. Each site I visit says that gifts should not be expected (although we should take something). What do you think?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Y-ME Walk In the Rain and a Quick Ironman Review

We did it! We did the Y-Me Walk for Breast Cancer yesterday and here is a picture (yes, I am the shorter of the two, and no, I am not standing in a sink-hole). It was very rainy on Chicago's lakefront, but spirits were high and DD and I and our friends had a nice walk. If you get a chance to participate in one of these events I highly recommend it. The event was well done from beginning to end and everyone involved was a pleasure to work with.

I also got to celebrate Mother's Day with my favorite activity, seeing a movie in the theater. After much debate we decided on Ironman and we were not disappointed. I have to agree with the reviews that I read that said this was a smart movie. I thought everything about this movie was well done, and I had no idea that Jeff Bridges could play such an awesome villian! If you get a chance to see this one on the giant screen with surround sound, do it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Book Review - The Hamptons Diet

I read this diet book in just two sittings, which is a new record for me. For while I can devour fiction books, especially mysteries, it usually takes me months to finish most non-fiction literature. I really wanted to get to the recipes in the back of this book, but found much of the medical information very informative.

I am not new to the whole low-carb diet craze. About 5 years ago I lost 45 pounds and have kept most of it off by doing the Atkins Diet Plan. The thing about the Atkins plan though that has always bothered me was the huge emphasis on fatty meat and dairy. I also found that many of the meal replacements were my only option for times when I was away from home and these foods are loaded with additives and preservatives and all things man made.

I am finding that as I get older, I desire a more natural diet. I will no longer tolerate fake sugar of any kind, high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. I think I liked this book so much because it agreed with me on the status of these foods and explained why they are so bad for us. I like trying to find new ways to add vegetables into my diet and this book has some nice recipes to help do that.

There is no magic pill, diet or surgery. The key to weight loss over the long haul really does seem to be a balanced approach; cut down on caloric intake and increase the excercise. This book is no miracle cure, but if you are on the road to a healthier you, it is worth a peek if only for the recipes.