Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Salon: The search for happiness

 Good morning all!  The Nawrot family is now officially all back in Florida.  Vacation over.  It is always good to get back to your own bed and your cats, but you know there are always things you face that aren't so great.  A yard overgrown with vines (all it takes is two weeks down here), a problematic pool, a smashed wall that still isn't fixed and an insurance company that is being uncooperative, awful neighbors that won't leave me alone, kids getting ready for school and all the drama that goes with it, a dirty house, a cat with a urinary tract infection...on and on it goes.  My eyelid is twitching again.

I'm also deeply troubled by the sudden eruption of total chaos all over the world.  Normally you hear the news and keep moving, but it is hard to ignore two passenger planes going down, gunfire between Israel and Palestine, explosions in Libya causing evacuations of all Americans, and freaking Putin with a God complex and an arsenal.  It's really scary.  If I were traveling ANYWHERE overseas right now, I would not go.

So for that reason, I thought Michele Jacobsen (Reader's Respite) had a wonderful idea on Facebook the other day.  She is paying it forward, offering to do something nice for five people sometime over the next year.  Could be an encouraging note, a ticket, a book, something homegrown, sent unannounced.  In return, those five people do the same thing to five other people.  Like a chain letter of happiness.  We can all use a little more of that.

So I don't want to be all doom and gloom.  We had book club this week and that is always nice.  We discussed "We Were Liars" this time around with mixed emotions.  Some loved it (me included) and some were not impressed.  But there was wine, food and desert and that is good.  Next month we are reading "The Three" by Sarah Lotz.

I'm back to working out at Andre's, and the hubby and I played a (very sweaty) round of golf yesterday.

Reading always brings happiness too, right?  When you have time for it.  In print I finished "The Strain" by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro (review coming sometime today on Goodreads), and I enjoyed it.  Leave it to Mr. del Toro to come up with some nasty version of a vampire...that man is DARK.  It is fun to watch the book come to life with the series on FX.  Now I am plunging into a little graphic novel fun today with "Saga" and "Snowpiercer".

On audio I finished "Sinful Folk" by Ned Hayes, complements of the author and TLC Book Tours.  I said this on Facebook, and I'll say it here...this is one awesome historical fiction book.  It takes place in Medieval England and is narrated by an ex-nun who is hiding incognito as a man.  Five boys have been burned to death and a group of the villagers (including the nun/man) take their dead children on a journey to the king for justice.  There are secrets, including who killed the boys, including the history of the nun, that are slowly revealed.  Highly recommended...Goodreads review coming soon.  I'm now four discs into "The Silkworm"!!! WOOT!

Hope your Sunday is filled with reading and happiness!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Salon: Vacation lazies

 Good morning, I mean afternoon!  I'm moving really slow today, as my last few days of vacation roll out in front of me.  We return to hot Florida on Tuesday, where I can look forward to a variety of enjoyable tasks.  In the 95 degree heat and 95% humidity.

The week has been very laid-back, in comparison to our normal pace.  I don't think I've been up before 7:30 or 8:00am, which is not normally how I roll.  But I have walked every morning, and the weather here has been GORGEOUS.  Usually when we are here, they have record-breaking heat so we are loving this.
We have watched a couple of movies this week.  "Lone Survivor", which I really enjoyed, and "The Monuments Men", which I did not.  That was a huge waste of premise and talent.  Also watched the first installment of "The Strain" on FX which was pretty cool.

My daughter, husband and I took a very in-depth tour of Purdue University, one of her potentials.  (It is only about 20 minutes from my parents' house in West Lafayette.) We took a general tour, and had meetings with the departments of Engineering, Chemistry and Pharmacy.  Pharmacy seems to be what interests her the most, and this is only the beginning of the search process.  It is pretty exciting.

My daughter and I "helped" my mom go to the animal shelter here in town and find a kitty to adopt.  My parents have outside cats, but they are (sort of) willing to try an indoor one, assuming it doesn't have any fatal flaws like peeing all over everything.  We chose Mimi, a 3 year old who is a little...curvy.  But very sweet and calm.  My daughter and I love her, and hope it works out.

Mimi, airing out her belly

I had my 30 year high school reunion last night (OMG I am old) and had a good time.  It was a small group, and most of them I've stayed in touch with and have seen over the last year or two.  We were all cracking ourselves up over our conversations (the pros and cons of menopause, aching bones, and who were the hot grandmas, LOL), and all felt we were still 25 in our hearts.

Reading has been slow.  I always have such expectations when I go on vacation, but realistically when I am here, I am busy doing other things.  On my walks, I usually have a kid with me, so very little audio progress.  I started "Sinful Folk" for TLC, a historic murder mystery type of thing set in the 1300's, and is great so far.  I will definitely breeze through this once I'm home.  I'm itching to start "The Silkworm"!

In print, I finished "The Three" by Sarah Lotz for my book club.  It was pretty creepy in the best way, and clever.  What I liked was that the whole plot didn't fizzle like many apocalyptic stories do, and Lotz leaves some things unexplained and open for interpretation.  I really look forward to what the other book club members think.  I am now about 75 pages into "The Strain"...I know, a little late since the series has started, but I'm hoping to get caught up.  Like "The Three", this one starts out with trauma on an airplane also.  Haha!

We are looking forward to visiting the local county fair today to see the animals and ride the suspiciously rickety carnival rides.  That is probably all we will manage to do, at the pace we are keeping.  I will leave you all with a picture I took one morning (before going back to sleep) out the back door overlooking the pond.   

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Salon: The Smell of Corn

 Today I'm joining you on a rainy morning in Indiana.  The kids and I flew up Tuesday...our annual pilgrimage...and will be here two weeks.  The second I stepped outside at the Indianapolis airport, I took a deep breath and appreciated that smell.  It's the smell of corn, and it is intoxicating to me.  You don't get smells like that in Florida.  (Down there you get the stench of plant decay and sweaty bodies!)  Ahhhh!

The weather has been absolutely heavenly all week.  I've been waking up to low 60's...that is winter temps in Florida!  It begs for long walks, which is exactly what I've been doing.

Just as soon as we got up here, my dad had to have a procedure to remove some blockage in his heart.  He came out of that feeling pretty good, and I'm thankful.  You never know, those things are scary.

This weekend was "girls weekend", something that I do with a couple of my high school friends each year.  Only one of them got sick and couldn't come, so it was just two of us.  But we were not going to be denied.  I look forward to this every year.  We get a hotel room in Lafayette and we eat and shop and act stupid.  This time around of course we hit the Barnes & Noble (like I need more books), hit our favorite restaurants, saw "22 Jump Street" which was hilarious, and got together with other high school friends on each night for dinner.  Fun stuff.

So I finished "Devil's Knot" in print, and WOW.  Incredible story, and really some of the best true crime I've ever read.  What makes it even more immersive is that HBO did three documentaries on this case called "Paradise Lost" that makes it all the more real, to the point where it is creeping into my dreams.  Seriously, even if you don't read the book, look up these documentaries if you have access to HBO on demand.  You won't be able to tear yourself away from them.

I'm now about halfway through "The Three" by Sara Lotz, which I'm reading for book club on the Kindle.  So far I'm really liking it, but am holding out on opinions until I can see how they wrap this up (but it's a trilogy isn't it?).  Just for grins I started reading it on my flight up here, to see if I could freak myself out with all the plane crash stuff.  Ironically, I also brought along "The Strain" in print for those minutes when you have to turn off your electronics.  This book is going to be a TV series on FX soon, and I've been wanting to get to it.  Anyway, it is apocalyptic as well and the story begins on an airplane.  Synchronicity!

On audio I just finished up "The Farm" by Tom Rob Smith (haven't written it up yet on Goodreads, but I will do that today).  It was...good.  Intriguing.  A little sad and twisted.  Way way different than anything else he has written.  Not mind-blowing but definitely worth reading I think, and the narration was solid.  I'm about to start "Sinful Folk" for a TLC tour on audio today.

Today back at my parents' house, we will be having a big party with a bunch of German food to celebrate the final World Cup game.  We have really had a good time with this World Cup.  Crazy good games, so much drama (Brazil - WTF?).

Hope everyone has a great Sunday.  Let me know if you have big plans, or if you are reading something that I need to know about!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Salon: Dead White and Blue

 I'm a little fuzzy here.  I woke up at 4am to use the bathroom (a sign that I'm old I think) and figured why not just stay up and write my post.  We will undoubtedly go to early church, and have a list of things to do today, so no time like the present.  Who needs sleep anyway?

That has been the theme for the 4th of July weekend for sure.  AMC has been running a "Dead White and Blue" Walking Dead marathon since 9am Friday morning.  All seasons back to back.  My daughter has been obsessing over this for weeks, even though she has seen every episode at least twice.  We've not watched every second, but we have watched A LOT.  The binge ends tonight with a Talking Dead that sneak peeks the next season, which is over 3 months away.  An eternity.

And of course we've hopped over and watched the World Cup games as well.  Even though the US is out of the running (we never really had a chance, let's face it) it is still fun to follow.

This is why I get nothing read.

The week was filled with getting multiple estimates for tree trimming, doctor appointments, workouts with Andre, and some long walks with my husband.  My son arrived home from the beach (and proceeded to hole up in his room - typical).  The first hurricane of the season developed and headed north, giving us some rain but of course all the news stations lose their shit.  And the kids and I are preparing to head to Indiana on Tuesday for our annual two week vacation up there.

I always have such aspirations for "summer reading" but there is no such thing.  Even audio is slow-going, since the kids are almost always in the car with me, and I rarely take walks by myself.  I did finish up Michael Koryta's "Those Who Wish Me Dead" which was good...a nail-biter with lots of action, but a fairly predictable plot and resolution.  I've now started "The Farm", the new one by Tom Rob Smith.  No opinions yet, I'm too early into it.  But I'm intrigued, and have no idea where it's going.  I'm anxious to get through it though, as I just received "The Silkworm" on audio from the library.  VERY excited about that one!

In print I'm still reading "Devil's Knot", a true crime story that is enough to chill your blood.  It just defies imagination that in this country, in recent history, three kids could be sentenced to life in prison and/or death with no evidence against them except that they wear black t-shirts and listen to Metallica.  That the police and judge could be THAT crooked.  That a jury's judgement could be THAT clouded.  I hope to have this one finished before I leave on Tuesday.  Next up will be "The Three" by Sarah Lotz, for book club and to make my flight to Indiana more exciting.

Today I hope to see "Snowpiercer", an apocalyptic sci-fi movie based on a graphic novel.  Also planning on taking in some more Walking Dead, and getting things wrapped up here (pool maintenance, cat maintenance, bills, etc.) for my two week absence.  So here's to an end to a great three-day weekend.  Anyone have exciting plans?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Salon: Ode to the Audio

 Good morning everyone!  Before I started writing my post this morning, I was scanning through my reader and saw that Rhapsody Jill was chatting about audiobooks.  June is officially Audiobook Month so I thought I'd brazenly steal her idea and talk a little bit about this mode of reading that has changed my life.  But first...

A few words about my week.  It was fairly low-key.  My son was invited down to Fort Myers Beach with a friend for a week and my BFF went on vacation so my daughter and I have been hanging.  A little time at Andre's, a little time at an adoption event, a little time bingeing on the TV series "Fargo" (finished it and now have convinced my hubby to watch it), a little time at the mall spending a gift card or two.  I went to the Ritz Carlton Spa for the entire day on Friday, using a gift card from my husband to get a massage and lay by the spa pool all day with my book.  OMG!  So freaking awesome.

I also took my daughter to our hairdresser for a cut and a highlight.  When we got there, she turned to me and said "I think I need to REALLY get a cut.  My hair is driving me crazy".  Lo and behold, we figured out that she had a solid 10-12 inches that could go, so off it went and was quickly bundled and shipped to Locks of Love.  Plus I think she looks awesome.

So on the topic of audiobooks.  Not telling you anything that you haven't heard before.  But with the exception of my recent obsession with TV series, I almost never sit down.  I'm driving my kids around, running errands, cleaning the house, messing with the pool, doing yard work, or cooking.  Back in the day, I might read 3 printed books a month.  Enter the library audio and the 160 gig iPod my husband bought me.   Once I learned how to load the discs (not a simple feat, that) I went on a rampage.  Now I could "read" those 600 page books!  I went through five of the Outlander books (before I burned out).  Stephen King came back into my life!  I actually wanted to go on long walks.  I didn't mind cleaning the house.  This worked.

With it came trials and errors.  Earbuds were an issue...I learned that I needed the ones that hook over my ears.  I had to learn how to listen and absorb info.  I had to get over the fact that you couldn't take notes (easily anyway) and that I didn't have the luxury of paging back and reminding myself of the character names, dates and such.  I quickly became opinionated on which narrators I liked and which I didn't, and who did a terrible job at figuring out pronunciations.  I learned that I preferred the blurb at the end of each disc telling me which disc came next (if the discs aren't digitally labelled it was easy for me to forget where I was).  I didn't like too many sound effects.  I like multiple narrators.  I discovered audios don't work well on vacations.

Here are my favorite audios that I've listened to this year, all five stars:

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage - Ann Patchett
We Are Water - Wally Lamb
Five Days at Memorial - Sheri Fink
Native Son - Richard Wright
Every Day - David Levithan
Wild - Cheryl Strayed
The Martian - Andy Weir
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell
Someone Else's Love Story - Joshilyn Jackson

So what was I listening to this week?  I finished up Ann Patchett's "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage" which was phenomenal.  I could see reading this more than once.  Just insightful, emotional, even frame-worthy thoughts on writing, the freedom of choosing what you want to read, finding love, dogs and grandmothers, book tours, etc. and all narrated by the author.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!  I am now about halfway through Michael Koryta's latest "Those Who Wish Me Dead", which is a very tense, action-packed plot.

In print I finished Karen White's "Strangers on Montague Street", the third in that series and probably my favorite of the three.  I'm still hoping that the adorable Ms. White will pull this story together.  Not sure how much longer I can deal with this love story that is rife with self-flagellation, self-deprivation and misunderstandings!  I'm now nearly half-way through Mara Leveritt's flabbergasting account of a farcical murder case in West Memphis, "Devil's Knot" (the book was a birthday gift from my son).  Stories like this make you scared to live in America.

So, wow.  Long post.  Are you still here?  LOL.  Hope you all have a lovely Sunday, filled with World Cup, a book, family and relaxation! 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Salon: Celebrating another year of life

Good morning friends!  I'm slightly groggy this morning after celebrating another year of life yesterday.  We spent the weekend over at New Smyrna Beach, where friends have a condo.  We come over here a couple times a year (usually once around my birthday) and it just confirms the fact that we need to move over here for good once the kids head off to college.  What a great little town.  Anyway, on "my" day yesterday, I went for a long walk with my audiobook in the morning, I sat on the beach and read, watched a little World Cup, then went out with our friends.  Being over here is good for the soul.  Living in Florida doesn't always suck.

Fishbowl gin & tonic at Spanish River Grill

My view this morning

Besides the beach, though, it was a relatively uneventful week.  My daughter and I have been going to Andre's for his morning women's class and my son has been going to a later class with the hard core group.  My daughter has started her morning cross country runs.  I very bravely made a trip to the outlets with my daughter for various shopping needs (a horrid thing, but good deals).  And a week wouldn't be complete with one or two doctor appointments.

I can't believe we are heading into the late part of June already.

On audio I finished up Ben Winters' "Countdown City", the second of three installments that combine a police procedural with the impending apocalypse.  It's really good fun, which sounds twisted, but whatever.  I have faith that the asteroid will not hit earth and end our days.  We will find out for sure in the third installment "World of Trouble" which comes out mid-July.  I'm now about halfway through Ann Patchett's "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage", a collection of essays that she has written over the years for various magazines.  It is really wonderful.  She covers it all...marriage, divorce, writing, dog ownership, aging.  She narrates it herself, and does a great job.  It reminds me so much of "Too Many Candles, Plenty of Cake" by Anna Quindlen (and I always get these two confused).

In print I finished Uncle Stevie's "Mr. Mercedes", and I thoroughly enjoyed it, giving it four stars on Goodreads (if I could have I would have given it 4.5 stars).  Ti asked me why not five stars?  I guess my benchmark for Stephen King novels is "11/22/63".  Blew my mind, it was clever, it was heartfelt, it just made my brain buzz.  "Mr. Mercedes" did not.  The ending was a little too perfect.  But it entertained me, made my heart pound, and made me love the characters.  I'm pretty jacked that it is a trilogy, so I'll see those characters again.  Then I moved on to Karen White's "The Strangers on Montagu Street", which is the third installment of the Melanie Middleton series.  I do find these books a little predictable and silly, but I do like them.  And so far I think this one is my favorite.

Today I'm planning on another long walk, some beach time, and some fit-throwing and belligerence when my husband insists on going back home.  I don't want this to end yet!  Hope everyone has a great Sunday!    

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Salon: Celebrating Dads

 Hey there!  Remember me?  Been a couple weeks since I've been around.  Summer is in full swing, and I've lost all control over my time.  I'm just riding the crazy river at this point.

So before I start talking about stuff, I want to honor all the dad's out there, particularly my husband (who is half-crazy from my kids but is such a dedicated father) and my own.  My dad has worked hard all his life - still does - and I believe has given me a sense of work ethic and tenacity.  He also has a huge heart and makes friends wherever he goes.  Today is all about them.  We are going to go to church and a brunch for my hubby, and then we will see what he wants to do.  He may want to golf, but then again he may want to watch World Cup!  Today he gets his way.

Last week my son and I drove the crappy drive up to Atlanta so he could compete in the National History Bee.  He and two other kids in his class qualified individually at the Regionals, and then they also formed a team for the team competition.  And hey, it was a good experience.  They really didn't do much to prepare...they are just kids that have an interest and learn things on their own.  I'm a little amazed at what my son actually knows.  Up there we saw a whole different breed of kid.  Ones that have been preparing for the last year, with crazy, wild-eyed, intense parents.  Ones that were cramming on AP books in between rounds, while our kids played their Game Boys.  Ha!  Anyway, the hotel charged $20 a day for Internet, which is very annoying, so this is why I didn't post last Sunday.

For that reason, I also wasn't able to immediately dive right in and start watching Orange is the New Black Season 2.  Drove me half insane!  I made up for it once I got home, and finished the season a couple of days ago.  Man I LOVE that series!  That last episode was incredible.  I can't even cope with the idea that I have to wait, what?  Another year for Season 3?  Gah!  Also season finale coming up for Game of Thrones tonight.  I've read this is going to be a humdinger.  After that I guess I have to wait until October for The Walking Dead?  I suppose I will fill my time watching Bates Motel, but it isn't as compelling as these other shows.

So!  Stephen King just released "Mr. Mercedes", which I grabbed on the day it came out, and I'm close to 300 pages in.  (I got temporarily diverted by the trip to Atlanta and OITNB but now I'm back on the case.)  I'm really enjoying it.  Nobody can tell a story quite like Uncle Stevie.  But I hear that this is the first of a trilogy!  I had no idea.  Trilogies annoy the hell out of me, primarily because it is such a money-grabbing trend.  But I can forgive Stevie because this is not his normal move.

I've also been working on "The Last Policeman" and "Countdown City" by Ben Winters on audio.  This is the TRILOGY about a cop solving crimes while the world goes to hell because an asteroid is scheduled to hit Earth in the near future.  Interesting premise.  Not the absolute best stuff around but I find the world-building fascinating.  Plus you just have to know if the thing really hits and what happens!

I've been gearing up for my birthday, which is next weekend.  We went out this past Friday night with friends (the BFF's birthday was June 2), and I'm hoping to get some beach time soon.  Hey, I don't mind getting older.  I'm going to celebrate every year I'm here.

Wishing everyone a great Father's Day and a great Sunday.  Happy World Cup watching, Game of Thrones watching, book reading, and relaxing.