The Sunday Salon: Christmas Countdown

Hello! My vacation started one day earlier than planned due to a surprise campus closure so I have been off since Thursday. Sigh. Which was great because I had to spend half of the day getting a new phone. I work in IT but when it comes to your own phone, you like things a certain way and I needed to spend time on the process which I just did not feel like doing on my vacation. But, I had no choice and finally got it taken care of. I ended up with a Moto X, in case you were wondering.

Small World

It was nice to have that extra day because the very next day, we headed to Disneyland! Disneyland at Christmas is just the most magical thing ever. The lights, the sounds, the food and smells. I love it. The weather was mild and the crowds weren’t bad. We waited fifteen minutes for most rides and that’s amazing since most rides average an hour or more at this time of year. It was an amazing day, but after nearly fourteen hours, The Teen fell ill. He could not wait another second to begin the trip home so we left and he’s been down for two days now with a horrible cough.

Tonight, we are doing our annual Christmas light tour with friends but I don’t think The Teen will be able to make it. He’s still asleep but we’ll see how he is feeling. I am making cookies for the trip and then somewhere along the way we hit the coffee shop for holiday drinks. We drive around, look at the neighborhood lights and listen to holiday tunes. It’s fun. We have been doing it for over fifteen years if you can believe it.

Tomorrow we are hitting the Christmas Eve service (a day early) and then we’ll spend Christmas Eve with my in-laws. Christmas day, we have reservations for Christmas dinner. This restaurant is on an air field so you get to watch the planes take off. It’s fun. The kids love it, as do I. No cooking and no cleaning! My present to myself.

Sunday Salon

What am I reading?

Not a thing at the moment. I might just call it a year with this last book I read.

What am I cooking?

Just cookies today. I am making Snickerdoodles, gigantic Ginger cookies and Coconut Macaroons dipped in dark chocolate. The Snickerdoodle recipe is new but the other two are the BEST cookie recipes ever. They come out just like the picture and everyone always asks for them. Try them!

What am I watching?

We watched Christmas with the Kranks last night, along with the I Love Lucy Christmas Special that aired on CBS last Friday. It was a little strange and creepy to see Lucy in color. I still need to see Frosty, A Family Stone and a host of other shows/movies but I’m getting there.

What are you doing today? What do you have planned next week?

The End of Break, The Otter Pup and the Wind-Up World That Swallowed Me Up

What a week. We took a short road trip and spent a few days in Palm Springs, Ca. It was lovely and all but the drive… Oh! Have you ever traveled with a pet that does not like to travel?

The Otter Pup, who is normally a complete couch potato, is a nervous Nellie when she leaves the house. She works herself up into such a state! It makes all of us crazy. It’s not the first time that we’ve taken her to Palm Springs either. We have relatives there and the last time we went, she seemed to do better in the car. This time though, she was all over the place and so nervous. But on the flip side, once there, she seemed to handle the change in environment better than she did the first time. Needless to say, her routine was off so she never slept which meant that “I” never slept. Plus, I didn’t trust her to be good in the house so I was constantly walking her to avoid any accidents. I mean really, no one wants to clean up poo while on vacation so yeah, I took her for extra walks. In that regard, she did very well.

Otter Pup aka Nervous Nellie

Otter Pup (Chloe) – Me? A nervous Nellie?

However, because I never got to fully relax, I never did hit “vacation mode” which translates to no photos. I think I snapped one photo which turned out to be a dud because some twit stood right behind my family while I was taking the shot. Every time after that I’d position myself to take a photo and then the pup would get to sniffing and then out the door I’d go to ward off disaster. Plus, The Boy is still grounded so I was sort of grouchy. I guess you can tell that from this post, huh? It was still quite nice to get away though. I just wish I had a few more days to really relax. It took the pup the entire four days to be somewhat normal.

In between the pup antics and everything else going on, I was reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for #winditup2013. I actually brought an entire bag of books with me but once you start a Murakami, it’s sort of hard to read other books at the same time. You find yourself totally immersed in his world and that was the case this past week. Of those that have weighed in, nearly everyone has said that it’s a lot easier to read than they thought it would be. The book is broken into three books and so many of you have zipped through book one even though I gave everyone two weeks for each book. That’s okay though. The guidelines I gave are just guidelines. Read at your own pace. Whatever works for you, certainly works for me. Now I sound like Toru. If you want to read some of the comments, just go to Twitter and search for #winditup2013. If you don’t use Twitter and want to say something, add a comment to this post. I read every comment. I will say this, I am enjoying it quite a bit. I’ve loved many of his books but this one seems to really click with me.

Today, I am back at work and the kids are back in school and I am sure the Otter Pup (Chloe) is at home, sleeping the week off.

Vacation Reading: Spring Break Edition

Palm Desert
I think we are the last people in the country to be on Spring Break. It seems as if everyone has had theirs already, or is enjoying it this week but here in my neck of the woods, next week is the real deal and that means that I am taking the week off from work. You’d think that the University would be closed but no… it’s wide open so I am burning some vacation time to take it but it’s all good. I need the break!

Although we have the entire week off, we plan to take some day trips and then spend some time in Palm Desert. We’ve got family there and it’s just a really pretty place to visit. It can be unbearably hot in the summer, but right now…it’s lovely. I can’t wait to see all of that green. And the Otter Pup will be coming with us!

So what will I be reading?

I started an informal read-along of We Need to Talk About Kevin on Facebook. By informal, I did this…”Hey, does anyone want to read Kevin with me and then talk about it afterward?” Some people responded so we will be reading Kevin over the next couple of weeks or however long it takes us to finish it. See? Informal. I don’t do well with formal read-alongs because they seem like work to me but this just seems like fun. If you want to read it too, get yourself a copy and start next week.

I will also be reading The Starboard Sea and Emily Alone. I could add at least three more but realistically, it’s not going to happen. I always take too much and then I end up buying stuff wherever I am so this is what I am bringing with me.

Back in the day, I used to be able to read into the wee hours of the night but now the Otter Pup glares at me if the light is on so I have to go to bed like a good little human. I’ve tried to record her giving me the evil eye but she runs up to the camera and licks it to death. You can’t film a thing with Otter Pup slobber all over the lens and you can’t read a thing if she physically knocks the book and book light right out of your hands. However, if I do get video of her antics I will be sure to share it.

The Sunday Salon: A Birthday for The Boy

Evan at Thirteen

The Boy is thirteen today. THIRTEEN. I cannot believe it. We’ve spent our entire staycation doing little things here and there, so last night we had his birthday dinner at The Smokehouse, a really yummy steak house which is right across from Warner Bros. Today, we plan to hit The Grove. It’s what he wants to do! This photo is from the beach trip we took earlier in the week.

Happy Birthday!! You are such a talented kid. Keep drawing and creating so you can continue to do what you love.

Since we’ve been vacationing, I haven’t been by the computer too much so I haven’t checked my reader. However, so many of you have emailed me or checked in with me on Facebook. So glad for that because I really do miss you guys when I am not near my computer. Having a Smartphone helps.

Overall, our week has been good. Something happened mid-week though which completely freaked me out and threatened to make me crazy. I’m not sure if I will post about it or not. I probably will.

The Sunday Salon

As for today, we will have tacos for dinner, chocolate cake for The Boy and The Hub and a gluten-free version for The Girl and I. I’ve been watching her lately and she doesn’t seem to be doing well with gluten. Her reaction is different from mine, but I’ll be mentioning it at her next doctor’s appointment.

As for reading… I finished The Upright Piano Player and Miss Hildreth Wore Brown. I hope to write the reviews up later today. I am about 25% into Cutting for Stone (Kindle). It’s quite different from I imagined it. In a good way.

Hope you have a great day!

The Sunday Salon: Back to Reality

The Sunday Salon

Well, our little trip to the desert is over and it’s back to reality for us. Forgive me for missing all of the Read-a-Thon action. I was with you in spirit, but we didn’t have access to the Internet while we were away. It was a nice break from my laptop but I missed all of you.

I didn’t get much reading in either. I managed to finished two books while away, but I expected to finish at least one more. We listened to an audio book on the way there, but on the way back, the content became a tad inappropriate for the kids to listen to. I didn’t think they were listening until the reader dropped the “C” word and my daughter wanted to know why they were talking about a rooster. Ahem, if you think about it you’ll get it.

The good news though is that the Otter Pup did great! She loved the long car ride and did great in the other house. She almost got violated on her first visit to the dog park but she handled herself well and came out unscathed. She took turns sleeping with the kids and that went well too. She just seemed happy to be with us. I was really nervous about taking her with us but she did great. I worried for nothing.

I don’t have any pictures to share. I brought the camera and ended up not taking it out at all because the weather was cold, super windy and sand was flying around everywhere. I didn’t want to damage the lens with all that sand action going on.

Okay, I’m off to deal with my inbox. Hope you are well and that you all had a good week.

Review: Vacation

Vacation Book CoverVacation
By Deb Olin Unferth
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
March 2010
240pp

The Short of It:

Beautiful, rhythmic prose that begs to be read aloud. Vacation is a treat for the brain that’s gone soft (mine).

The Rest of It:

You know how you feel after missing the gym for say a month…or maybe even two months? You feel sort of sloggy and wonky and a bit out of sorts? Well, I’ve been feeling that way lately with my reading. Not saying that I didn’t enjoy the books, quite the opposite, but my brain needed a bit of stimulation. Something different to get the brainwaves firing again. Vacation did just that.

Myers and his wife have lived a decent life, but one night, Myers notices that his wife has gone missing. Turns out, that every evening around the same time, she becomes “absent.” She tells Myers that she needs to work late, but what he finds out, is that she spends her evenings following Gray, an old classmate of his.  Myers immediately thinks the worst. In flashbacks we see how it used to be between them:

She had touched his face when he was tired, when he had another bad day at the office. He remembered that, the way she used to do that, the way she expected nothing back, it was gentle. As nice as rain. (31)

Myers, determined to get even, decides to follow Gray as he treks across the world, but has this to say about his wife before he goes:

She had arrived as one thing, and now, as he parted, she was another, some strange folded-up broken thing—and at last he had done nothing to stop it and at the most he had caused it all. (31)

What Myers doesn’t know is that his wife (who goes through the story without a name) has no idea who Gray is, and Gray has no idea who she is. They are complete strangers to one another. Myers decides to find Gray, who has left the country. He sends him friendly emails and the two get to know one another again. They decide to meet on Corn Island, so Myers packs his things and takes a “vacation.”

What Myers doesn’t know is that Gray is suffering from an inoperable brain tumor and has no idea where he is. So as Myers corresponds with Gray via email, the quest to find Gray becomes a bit of a joke. Additionally, Gray’s ex-wife is also looking for him and Gray’s daughter, who is really not his daughter, decides to seek out her true father who happens to be a dolphin un-trainer.

Wild, eh? This book is a roller-coaster of a ride. It takes you from one side of the world to another. There are natural disasters to contend with, dolphin rescues taking place, men struggling to find out who they really are, weird, island folk and cabbies with personality. It’s sounds like an awful lot to contend with, and it is, but it makes for one, satisfying read.

Source: Purchased

What I’ve Been Up To and What I’ve Been Reading

Palm Desert Sunny

Palm Desert when it's sunny!

Out by me, the kids have what is called “fall break” but this year, The Boy’s break was only two days long so we headed to Palm Desert for a weekend getaway. We also went to celebrate The Girl’s 7th birthday which is later this week. Usually this is the perfect time of year to visit. The temps are usually cooler but the skies are still blue and the sunsets are brilliant.

Well…not this time. It started with a flash flood on the way there (no pics of it) and then there was a lot of lightning which made swimming difficult even though it was a warm 95 degrees. We spent a lot of time shopping and eating, which may sound wonderful but it wasn’t the plan. Even with the rain I didn’t really get to spend much time reading. My tote bag was full of books as was my Kindle, but there were only two books that I read from and that was only once the kids crashed. I didn’t make much progress in either one of them.

Oh, and did I mention that there was no Wi-Fi? To be honest, it was nice to take a break from all of the devices that keep me connected during a normal week but I missed you all. I worried about your out-of-state moves, your four-legged friends, your kids, their kids, your health issues, etc. I’m glad to be back so I can re-connect with all of you.

On a reading note, here is what I must read within the next few weeks, and if I left one or two out it’s not surprising as I am going from memory (which is not always good).

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver ( loving it)

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (so, so hard to get through)

Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch (loved his first book, Finn so I am looking forward to this one)

Everything is Going to Be Great by Rachel Shukert (a memoir of Shukert’s grand tour of Europe)

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell (Zombies!! Lots of zombies!)

Sunset Park by Paul Auster (loved Invisible, this one comes out 11/9/10)

The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy (a delicious collection of short stories)

Black Hills by Dan Simmons (love Simmons but having a hard time getting into this one)

In addition to all of this reading, I have to write a paper on the poems from lit class. Yep, the lit class that I missed this week because of my weekend getaway. Don’t you worry. I’ll get it all done. I always do.

Hope your week is going well so far.

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