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Weekend Review: Pig-a-palooza

Foggy Morning n Michigan

When the seasons change, Michigan mornings become foggy. The drive into work is never fun, but this street lamp that created a halo behind a tree at 6:00 in the morning was worth a few moments of admiration.

Autumn is Here!

And I celebrated by going to a pig roast with the boyfriend (he has a friend that  hosts one every year). The friend sent the invite out about a month ago declaring September 27th was going to be the perfect day for the pig-a-palooza, and boy! was it perfect. The weather was warm for late September– about 80 degrees– and even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky to provide shade, the temperature was actually quite nice (warm but breezy). The location was perfect too. We drove out to a beautiful house in the country and admired the Halloween decorations in the yard, the miniature horses cantering around in the fence behind the barn, and the trees lining the property that were just starting to turn orange, yellow, and red. A wonderful porky and bacon-y aroma wafted from the smoker situated near the barn, and pig-a-palooza goers huddled nearby, waiting for a treat with watering mouths. As the cook started carving the pig (because it really was a whole pig), people sneaked up behind him and pulled tender, juicy meat from the belly and scampered away before they got caught. I waited patiently, and it was worth it. Later, the boyfriend and I headed back in to town, and we watched the sun settle behind a cornfield. (Where must he live if “in town” includes sprawling cornfields?)

batman

Reading Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson (illustrator), and Lynn Varley (illustrator)

Graphic Novels

Even after discussing my reading habits last week, I cracked open yet ANOTHER book– Batman: the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. This is outside of my comfort zone because 1. I don’t often read graphic novels (I read some Sailor Moon manga back in high school, but that was it) and 2. I wasn’t sure if I would like it because I’m not really knowledgeable about the world of superheroes (especially DC). Color me surprised though– I actually enjoyed it! So much so that I snagged the boyfriend’s copy of Final Crises. Thoughts to come soon!

On the Radar

I blame it on Stephen Hawking; I have my eye on these books that tell the stories of young adults turning to physics in order to make sense of the tumultuous world around them.

On My Radar - PhysicsEvidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane ♥ Falling into Place by Amy Zhang ♥ The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna

How is Autumn treating you so far (or if you’re in the Southern hemisphere, Spring)? Do you have any traditions for this time of year?

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Just My Cup of Tea: The Lover’s Tea Cup

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

I tried to channel all of my goofy lovey-dovey feelings for this collection of mugs to sip from while reading The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan (review), but as it turns out caffeine fiends are salty until they down at least two cups of joe. I saw more coffee cups saying things like, “I love you more than coffee, but not always before I’ve had coffee” than a simple “I love you, k?” (or some such variation). Still, the cups I managed to find are quite charming.


 

etsy_piecesofporcelain_heartsmugI’ve featured a coffee mug from Pieces of Porcelain before, and I can’t resist sharing another. I just love the simplicity and the subtlety in this textured heart mug. (from PiecesofPorcelain – etsy)

 

etsy_chocolateboxcottage_heartscoffesetOn the other end of the spectrum is this bold and red coffee set (9 pieces) (chocolateboxcottage – etsy)

 

etsy_heartcozy_valknittingshopIf you can’t decide if you’re feeling loving, why not chose this classy heart-print coffee cozy instead? (valknittingshop – etsy)

 

etsy_secondchanceceramics_lovesucksOr, if you’re totally over love, there is this clever “love sucks” cup. Get it?! It’s a vacuum cleaner, which sucks up dirt. And love sucks. And it’s a pun!  (secondchanceceramics – etsy)

 

 

Which mug is your favorite?

I find myself most drawn to the heart-print cozy. I always thought a cozy for a cup was a bit silly, but I keep seeing them, and I find I’m growing quite partial to them.

7

The Mood Reader

I am a mood reader, but my moods change as quickly as the weather in Michigan. This makes focusing on one book at a time challenging. I’ve mentioned before that I have multiple books going at a time– sometimes I’m switching between five different books! And considering I am a slow and easily distracted reader, it takes me a long time to finish what I start. I don’t generally give this habit much thought, unless another blogger writes about peculiar reading habits, inviting discussion in their comments. But, lately I find myself growing frustrated by it because how do you write about books if you don’t finish any?! I have a feeling it will be a while before I’m ready to write another review, so here are the books I’ve started and the moods I have to be in to read them:

onesummer_small One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson. By now you must know that I’m a big fan of Bill Bryson, but I can’t just read Bryson any ol’ time. Most of the time, his books are best enjoyed while doing a bit of traveling yourself. One Summer, however, is best enjoyed when I’m feeling nostalgic for the good ol’ days. Preferably on a back porch during the dog days of summer with a glass of iced, sweet tea within reach. I think the average temperature this summer was 75 degrees, and while I absolutely appreciated this because I have a low tolerance for anything close to “sweltering”, this season didn’t really feel much like summer, and that’s my excuse for taking so long to read this book.

universeThe Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. Half the time I’m reading whimsical young adult books. The other half, I’m reading non-fiction books. No subject matter is too daunting too me, which is how I ended up with The Universe in a Nutshell. Also, there were illustrations. I’ve actually read a fair amount of this book, but I started on a chapter that I find particularly challenging. It takes everything I know to be true about atoms and throws it into the garbage; apparently there is more to an atom than protons, neutrons, and electrons, like bosons and quarks (and their particular “flavors”, which really just describes how the subatomic particles spin). It’s all very fascinating, but I have to be feeling especially curious and patient because I spend a lot of time doing research to understand the ideas in this book.

sunburnedcountryIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. I must be nuts to read two Billy Bryson books at one time. Actually…yes, I am. I feel like I’ve read a little too much of Bryson recently. I did finish A Walk in the Woods earlier this year. To make matters worse, In A Sunburned Country is probably my least favorite Bryson book. He likes Australia a little too much, so this book isn’t nearly as snarky and funny as his other books. I have to feel nondescript to read this book. It’s the book I pick up when I’m waiting in line…

spoonThe Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean. Phew! In the defense of this book, it’s absolutely fascinating and funny, but I think I have too much non-fiction in my life. I’m frequently switching between this book and the next book on my list depending on whether I’m at home or I’m at work.

exiledThe Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima. The more frustrated I am in the real world, the more I want to immerse myself in the fantastic seven realms. Especially now, since Hans Allister and Princess Raisa are  at Mystwerk House and Wein House (read: BOARDING SCHOOOOOOL!!!) Considering my accounting software has been out of commission for the past three days, which just makes me really, really behind at work, and I’ve dealt with really awful customers lately, all I want to do is bury my nose in this book. I just want to get swept away amongst warriors and mages.

Does your mood influence the types of books you read? Are you good at sticking to one book at a time, or do you switch between different books depending on your mood, like me?

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Creativity FAIL

I am a humble person, so let me share with you a recent failure.

 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Last week I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I really enjoyed this book, but I struggled to write a review for it. I’m still trying to get back into the groove of reviewing, so sometimes the words don’t come as easily. I also made the mistake of reading other reviews of this book on Goodreads, and oh my gosh, all those other reviews were much more eloquently written than the garbage that was spewing forth from my own ink pen. Eventually, every time I thought about writing this review, I started to feel dread, and this is not a good feeling to have when you’re trying to be a better blogger. Nothing fuels a blogging slump more than when a hobby starts feeling like a job.

So…I decided not to write the review. It took some convincing because…well, this is a book blog. What else should I do? Then, the idea came to me– probably when I was really hungry– concoct a delicious snack inspired by the book! And then I thought, ohmygosh! I could totally turn that into a feature!

In Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Bernadette’s gnatty neighbor, Audrey, is annoyed and inconvenienced by the blackberry vines that are growing from Bernadette’s yard and under Audrey’s fence. Audrey demands Bernadette get rid of the vines, and after complying a series of unfortunate but hilarious events follow. Initially I wanted to make a blackberry pie or a blackberry sauce to pour over a simple pound cake. But, then I remembered, one time I ate pound cake swimming in blueberry sauce, and the sauce turned my teeth blue for about four hours…so I decided against that. And then I was stuck. Just as stuck as I was when facing the review I didn’t want to write. But, I sucked it up, I snatched the package of blackberries from the fridge, and I got to creating…something TERRIBLE.

It started with a package of blackberries. Amazing blackberries, actually. I don’t think blackberries are in season, so I was surprised that these berries were so big and so ripe. It took a lot of effort to not just shove fistfuls of them into my mouth– I had a blog to think about!!!

Smashed blackerries

Smashed blackberries

Instead I ruined them by smashing them into a seedy pulp and dumping them into a glass.

Green tea and blackberries

Green tea and blackberries

And then I poured green tea over top because…because…oh, I don’t know! Look, it was just an idea I had. The last time I had the urge to concoct something entirely without the aid of a recipe, I was about 9 years old and I was trying to make homemade chicken noodle soup out of wavy egg noodles and a chicken bouillon cube.

If I had written a review, it would have been as successful as the blackberry green tea.

If I had written a review, it would have been as successful as the blackberry green tea.

This is the finished product. A miserable glass of blackberry goop submerged in green tea. I tried to drink all of it down, but I could not. It was depressing. Luckily, I only wasted 4 blackberries on this. The rest I shoved into my mouth by the fistful.

Despite my cooking flub, I’m not giving up on this idea. I still think it will be a fun and tasty project to work on. In the future, I will probably seek the guidance of a recipe though.

 

What do you do if you don’t feel like writing a review? Do you push yourself to write one anyway, or do you choose not to write one? Have you ever had a super fun and creative idea for your blog that didn’t go according to plan?

 

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Teaview: Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong (not quite #PSL)

Tea aficionados like to turn their noses up at tea from Teavana. And, understandably so. Teavana is notorious for masking otherwise decent tea with sweeteners and artificial flavors and other fruity/nutty/chocolaty additives. I am not a tea aficionado however, and I’ll admit, I’m distracted by flashy packaging, tempting names, and did somebody say chocolate?! But, even my experience with tea from Teavana is hit and miss. If you recall from my last weekend review, I splurged and purchased some Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong tea, and since today was a chilly 48 degrees when I woke up, I decided today would be a perfect day to try out this Autumn-inspired tea.

Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong Tea

Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong Tea

Teavana’s Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong tea has cinnamon, white chocolate pieces, dried pumpkin chunks, chocolate flakes, carob pieces, oolong tea, artificial flavoring, ginger, chicory root, pumpkin seeds, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and coconut blossom sugar. All of this sounds divine, but I was disappointed that oolong tea was number six on the list; it’s not really a priority. I blame myself for not reading the ingredients when I so hungrily added this tea to my cart.

Purple Angle Infuser Mug

Purple Angle Infuser Mug

I’m pretty awful at making tea according to directions, which I know is really, really important. I’m unsure of the temperature of water, but I did only steep for about three minutes. In my handy infuser mug! I like this mug because I can rest the infuser right along the edge of the mug, and the lid, which traps in steam and heat, also doubles as a small plate to rest the infuser on after steeping. Because, I will admit I am definitely a lazy sod, and I do not like walking to the sink after steeping. I’m not a fan of the size though. Bigger isn’t always better. It holds about 12 oz., but I usually only brew between 6-8oz.

The scent of the tea is inviting and cozy– cinnamon and chocolate seem the most predominant. But that’s all the positive things I can say about this tea. I did not care for the Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong tea. It’s sad because I did not taste the oolong tea at all. This isn’t one of those instances where all the additives mask the flavor of the tea, the tea just wasn’t there. I struggled to find the tea leaves amongst all the pumpkin pieces and chocolate chunks.

Teavana did succeed in making this tea taste like pumpkin, though sadly not like a comforting slice of pumpkin pie. You know how pumpkins smell when you are carving them into jack-o-lanterns? That’s the kind of aroma or flavor this tea had. It was…vegetal(?) and sour. I also wasn’t a fan of the sweetness of the Pumpkin Spice Brulee. I rarely add sugar or honey to my tea, so the sweetness of the coconut blossom sugar was really overpowering to me.

Overall, I wasn’t impressed, and at $13 for 2 oz. of “tea”, I won’t be buying any more. I’m not sure it’s entirely Teavana’s fault though. I’ve tried pumpkin spice teas in the past, and I wasn’t impressed then either. To get my fix of Autumn, I guess I’ll be sticking to pumpkin spice lattes.

If you’ve tried Teavana’s Pumpkin Spice Brulee Oolong tea, what did you think of it? Or, do you have a favorite Autumn-inspired drink?

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Feature and Follow: Book Buying Before Blogging

Before book blogging, how would you find out about new books, or did you?

bookfair

Scholastic Book Fair: the day you especially did not want to stay home sick

When I was a youngin’, I learned about new books through the Scholastic Book Fair! As soon as the book catalog was sent home with students, I became antsy with anticipation. I’d spend the evening circling the books I wanted to purchase, and my mom would send me to school with a check to cover the cost. I think this was the only time I ever “discovered” new books. You see, as a kid, I was a bit of a habitual reader. I would discover an author or series, and I would stick with it.

The Time Warp Trio books were some of my faves.

The Time Warp Trio books were some of my faves.

My go-to authors were:

  • Jon Scieszka– the Time Warp TrioThe True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Math Curse
  • Louis Sachar– Sideways Stories from Wayside School and of course, Holes
  • Jack Prelutsky– all his poetry books, but especially A. Nonnymouse Writes Again! and The Dragons are Singing Tonight
  • Robert Munsh– Again everything that came out during my childhood, Paper Bag Princess, Pigs!, Love You Forever, Purple Green and Yellow
  • R. L. Stine– Goosebumps, Give Yourself Goosebumps (which were the choose your own adventure series), and oh gosh, FEAR STREET!!!
  • Shel Silverstein– EVERYTHING! I also had his poems on tape, and I listened to them on repeat, repeat, repeat.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Plant that Ate Dirty Socks (series) by Nancy McArthur
  • The Magic Treehouse (series) by Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Boxcar Children (series) by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • The Bailey School Kids (series) by Marcia T. Jones, Debbie Dadey, and John Steven Gurney

Do you see a theme here? Almost everything I read was a series. I wonder if I burned myself out on them, and this is why I cannot finish a series now.

Angusthongsandfullfrontalsnogging

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging made me laugh until tears streamed down my face

In high school, I was on my own to discover new books. And this is actually pretty strange to me. All of my friends were book nerds too, but we rarely talked about books unless that book was Harry Potter. There was one exception– I turned a friend onto The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson books. These books were hilarious! But…I never finished the series.

Most of the time, I would walk in to Barnes and Noble, armed with $70 of allowance money, and I would spend the entire day roaming the bookshelves. I would pace in front of the young adult section for covers and titles that caught my eye and summaries that kept my attention. People weren’t as avid readers of young adult books back then, so I don’t recall the selection changing too often. Still, I felt like I re-read those summaries and stared critically at those covers every time I went to buy books. Despite the lack of reviews or book chatter, I always seemed to love the books I picked out.

Feature and Follow is a weekly feature hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

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Just My Cup of Tea: unBEARably cute

.

So, I had this clever idea for my Just My Cup of Tea feature– I would present a series of tea cups that fit a theme from the book I reviewed during the week. That fell by the wayside when I went on that unintended hiatus though, and now I’m trying to catch myself up. Have you read A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering American on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (review)? If you have, then you know that Bill Bryson becomes worried by the idea of bears meandering on the trail he’s hiking, and he’s absolutely hilarious about it. I’ve discovered some unbearably cute mugs that would be perfect to sip tea from while reading this book


 

etsy_mugsleys_mamabear-papabearSip tea with your honey dearest from this mama bear/papa bear gift set (from Mugsley – etsy)

 

etsy_oldenglishco_bear-hug

Tea is kind of like a bear hug in a mug anyway, so why not enjoy it from this Bear Hug mug? (Old English Co – etsy)

etsy_kinshipgoods_get-stuff-doneI don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I would be ten times more motivated if I could drink my morning brew from this mug telling me to get stuff done…plus, more bears! (kinship goods – etsy)

etsy_shlos_stacking-animal-cups

If you need  a little more wilderness in your life, check out these stacking wildlife cups! psst! you can even mix-and-match their bodies to make the animals looks like grand mythical beasts (shlos – etsy)

etsy_bearcreekpotter_treemug

Or, if you don’t like bears (what’s wrong with you?!), here is a simple pine tree mug. I’m sure there are plenty of pine trees along the Appalachian Trail (BearCreekPottery – etsy).

 

Which mug is your favorite? Alternately, bears are ferociously cute– do you have a favorite type of bear?

I’m quite partial to pandas!