Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I avoided reading this book for a long time mainly because I thought the title was really dumb and sounded cheesy. But eventually I gave in because it had such good reviews. I really should have gone with my gut on this one because I really didn't care for this much at all.

I actually tried to like this book but it was really just so-so. In fact the only reason I finished it was because I didn't have any other audiobook to switch to during my commute. The first half of the book was almost unbearably boring. I admit, the second half of the book was much better, but still nothing Earth-shattering. My main problem was I didn't care for the main character Juliet at all. I found her to be annoying, one dimensional, and dull. The other characters are the ones that made the book tolerable, but seeing as how most of the back and forth letter writing was between Juliet and these characters, there was a lot of drivel to wade through. I think the author should have taken her own book writing advice and written a story about Elizabeth and left out the boring parts about Juliet and her dating life. How many more books do we need about past-their-prime women and their "happily ever after" romances that they never thought would happen? It's tired and predictable.

One thing I did like about this audio version were the voices of the characters. It was well done. And I especially liked that one of the women's voices sounded just like my great grandma.

Overall I'd say this is a book that could easily be skipped. There are better written, more original ideas out there to be found.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Opening a Can of Worms

This year Seth has really gotten into politics. Because of this, I have been exposed to and learned much more about this topic than I ever have. Together we've watched all but one of the Republican debates and we watch Meet the Press every Sunday. I must be getting old because it's not nearly as intolerable as it used to be.

Now, I'm not the most dedicated person ever when it comes to voting, but I try to at least participate in major elections. I don't like to peg myself as being part of one party or another and have registered as an Independent. I tend to follow a moderate Democratic way of thinking, but I think it's good to keep your options open and look at both sides to see who better fits your ideals and ways of thinking. I don't think it's possible to side with just one party on every single issue and each party's stance seems to evolve over the years.

In 2008 I proudly voted for Obama. I liked what he stood for and I liked his charisma and I just plain liked him. He was an intelligent speaker,  genuine, and down to Earth without being simple-minded. Those things count for a lot in my book. I think Obama has done a pretty good job over the last several years. I believe he's tried to keep his promises and done his best with the crappy situation he inherited. I don't know that I agree with everything he's done, but I think he's used the best resources and people available to make well informed decisions. It's hard to predict the outcome of every plan all the time so it's reasonable to think that any leader will have some failures. I don't think Obama is the anti-Christ or a diabolical genius with secret plans to bring down the United States. That's just craziness. And ignorant comments made to encourage these opinions make my blood boil (where's the 'loathe' button on Facebook?). I think most of the presidents we've had really do what they can to succeed, Republican or Democrat, although some are definitely not as intelligent as others *cough* Bush *cough.*

Which brings me to the current election. I've tried going into this election season with an open mind. Yes I still really like Obama. I can't help it. He's a smart, decent guy. I've listened to all the candidates and my opinions of them have evolved over the last few months.

I was sad to see Jon Huntsman's short-lived, lack-luster candidacy and hope that he has plans to return in 2016. I really liked him as Utah governor. Yes he was Mormon, but he was also reasonable and didn't try to force his religious beliefs on the entire community. Sure he was a little awkward in the debates, but he held up pretty well. Would I have voted for him this time around? I'm not sure. He didn't get far enough to show me what he was about and whether he'd be better than Obama.

Up until recently I didn't mind Rick Santorum. I was giving him a slight chance of success. He seemed intelligent and genuine. But, he went and ruined his chances by being a right-wing religious nut-job. When you start to impose your specific hard-core religious beliefs and act like it's different than the other side pushing their agenda, we're going to have problems. I don't handle hypocrisy well. Why is it so hard to give people the freedom to choose whether they want to adhere to the rules of their religion? We're adults. We don't need government rules to make sure our religious morality stays in tact.

Then we have Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Quite frankly I just don't like Gingrich. The fact that a lot of the people who have worked with him over the years don't back him gives me good reason to think I wouldn't like him either. Plus his wife looks like a fembot. Creepy. Next we have Ron Paul. What a cute little old man. Makes me want to give him a hug, sit him down in the kitchen with a piece of pie, and listen to his crazy stories. I really think that he's got some great ideas and theories. The Libertarian party has really good insights to some of our crappiest problems. Problem is, Ron Paul is just a little too crazy. I'm not completely ruling him out though. I think our government system of checks and balances would keep him from doing anything too insane. And to be honest I'd be kind of curious to see what he could do. Do I think he has any chance of actually becoming president? Hell no. But I'm not against throwing my vote away on him if I don't like any of the other options. That way I could complain about whoever won!

Finally we come to Mitt Romney. Yes, I know he saved the 2002 Winter Olympics. Yes, he's very successful and smart. Yes, I think he'd probably do an ok job as president. I don't care that he's Mormon... that doesn't affect my opinion of him either way. In fact I don't think religious beliefs should ever factor into the presidential elections unless like Santorum, they're trying to force their beliefs on the entire country. You keep your beliefs to yourself and you can believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all I care. Thing is, I don't think I could stomach voting for him. I just can't. To me Romney comes off as a slimy douche bag and I don't like him. I don't trust him. I don't think I could listen to his patronizing tone for 4+ years. His only saving grace (maybe) would be to have a killer running mate. But I just don't see that happening.

With all that said, I'm about 95% sure I'm voting for Obama again unless something amazing happens during the final debates to change my mind. I want to see him let loose and aggressively go after the things he really wants to do in a second term where he doesn't have to worry about re-election. Plus it would make a lot of people mad. HA! So? What do you think? Have you been following all this stuff? Which candidate do you like? Do you think I'm insane? Don't be shy... let it loose!

Week 17: Onion

Well here we are in week 17 and I'm still feeling pretty good. I have noticed all through the pregnancy that I've had short bursts of heartburn every now and then which I never get otherwise. And I know it sounds crazy, but most of the time the trigger is.... WATER. Not the super spicey Mexican food I get every Thursday for lunch or the bowl of icecream after dinner or a couple slices of garlicy pizza. WATER. I swear that stupid water is going to be the end of me. Can't live with it and can't live without it. Wish I could just drink Gatorade or diet coke all day.

I had another doctor appointment this week. Everything is going great and baby's heart rate is currently at 154 bpm. We finally got to make the appointment for the ultrasound where we'll find out if we're having a girl or a boy. March 19th is the big day! I can't wait!

So we were at a baby blessing this weekend and Seth's cousin mentioned how there are a lot of baby things people will try and guilt you into buying but aren't really necessary. Then today I was looking at all the different kinds of strollers and such and just getting overwhelmed at all the choices. So here's where you all get to help me. What were your favorite baby items? What did you end up not using? Are there absolute must-have items and/or things that were a total waste of money? Did certain styles of things like strollers and carriers work better for you than others? I don't know what I'm doing over here!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the AmazonThe Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is about an explorer named Percy Fawcett who disappeared in the 1920s while trying to find the lost city of Z in the Amazon.

I had mixed emotions about this book. While I did like to hear details about Fawcett's several expeditions into the Amazon, it became somewhat repetitive. Kind of the same story over and over... he gets restless living normal civilian life so he gets a group together and they trek through the Amazon looking for Z. They are immediately hounded by millions of insects and most of the men in the group get sick, hungry, and/or infections of varying degrees after which a few of them die. After finding nothing or running out of supplies, the group goes back. Repeat. The only difference is, on one of these expeditions (sadly the one where Fawcett brings his teenage son along), the group disappears, never to be heard from again.

After the Fawcett's group disappears, the book begins to repeat itself... again. Hundreds of people go into the Amazon on rescue missions, trying to find Fawcett and/or discover what happened to him. A lot of these people die either from starvation, sickness, or being killed by Amazonian natives.

Like I said, I liked this book... there were a lot of interesting details about the expeditions and such, but I thought a lot of it could have been cut out without negatively affecting the story. I listened to this on audio and probably would have stopped listening to it half-way through if I'd had another book to switch to. Not because I didn't like the book, but because it just kept telling the same story. A side note relating to the audio version: I didn't particularly care for the narrator. He wasn't horrible... just sounded a little robot-like. If you're old like me you'll remember the old film-strip movies you used to watch in school. The narrator reminded me of the voice-over dude who told about the digestive system or Pompeii.

This book did one thing for me though and that was to cure any desire I might have had to go to the Amazon. While it may be beautiful, it sounds like a wretched place to spend any amount of time. Think I'll stick to the National Geographic coverage on the t.v.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Week 16: Avocado

Geez time is going by fast! Week 16 already! I've gotten a little behind on the baby tracking, but it was sort of on purpose because not much has changed here in the last couple weeks. I've been in the sweet spot of no nausea and no other real ailments to speak of really. My back is pretty much the only thing that gives me any sort of problem and that's typically only after I've been sleeping for a while or if I've been sitting at my desk all day.

I notice that laying on my stomach is getting to be increasingly more uncomfortable and is it possible that I'm waddling? I swear I'm not that big yet but I feel like I've got a slight waddle to my walk these days.
I think the one thing that has greatly improved my quality of life over the last couple weeks is some new maternity clothes! The Walmart maternity jeans I ordered online fit great! Good thing they came when they did because this belly of mine was getting huger by the day. AND if that wasn't enough, my wonderful saint of a mother took me up to Park City to the Motherhood Maternity outlet store to find some new comfy clothes. After the horribly disappointing and frustrating shopping fiasco I had a week or so before, I was a little skeptical as to whether I'd be able to find anything. Imagine my delight and surprise when from my first steps into the store I was inundated with hoards of super cute clothes! JEANS! And t-shirts!! So many options! I had to try hard not to go overboard with my selections because they had so many things I liked that fit so well. It was worth the 50 minute drive to find one store that had everything I wanted. Plus the girl working there was so helpful. Really one of the best shopping experiences I've ever had. That's not to mention how much better I feel actually wearing all these new clothes. I feel so comfy AND stylish, not like some chunky, lumpy stuffed sausage waddling around. I swear my mood alone has improved at least 10 notches! I may just wear these clothes forever.

Other than that, we're slowly but surely getting the nursery put together. I still haven't decided on colors, but this weekend we finally moved the computer and most of the office things downstairs. Now I just need to put together that IKEA dresser we bought several weeks ago. I've also had the realization that having a baby is a lot like buying a house. You know there are going to be a lot of things you'll have to buy and things you have to prepare for, but I'm finding out just how huge of a task this is going to be. So many little furniture items and baby clothes and knick knacks. As soon as I decide on one item, I remember some other item I completely forgot about. "Oh yeah, guess we'll need to get a car seat to actually bring this kid home" or "Huh... probably should get a changing pad so we don't get poop on the carpet." It does make me feel better to know that I'll have a couple extra months to buy some of this stuff after the baby is born (because I'm sure I'll have LOADS of extra time). Things like high chairs and play pens and the like can take a backseat to other pressing items like a crib and onesies.

Well, we've got probably about 3-4 more weeks to go until we find out if this avocado is a boy or a girl. I have my next doctor appointment this coming Monday so I'm hoping we'll get to schedule the ultrasound then. So exciting!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book Review: The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Blue Castle is about a 29 year old girl, Valancy, who lives at home with her controlling family. She has never so much as had a boyfriend and is teased about being an old maid. After finding out that she's going to die from a heart defect within a year, Valancy decides to live for herself instead of trying to make everyone happy.

So I had mixed feelings about this book. It really took quite a while for me to get into it. The first half of the book seemed like it was just Valancy complaining and whining about how horrible her life was. I know that there needed to be some background about her and the character needed to be developed, I just thought it dragged on for too long. I found myself starting to get annoyed by her, especially because it seemed as if the only way she would be happy is if she got married.

About mid-way through the book after she gets her diagnosis is where I started to get into it. It really picked up steam after that and I found it to be quite enjoyable. It did bother me that Valancy never gets over the idea that marriage is the only thing that brings happiness. She's supposed to be this strong female character that's doing whatever she wants but still has this notion that if she can't be married she might as well have a boring, horrible life. But I guess those are the old-fashioned views from back in the day (it was written in 1926).

Overall I thought this was a worthy read and I'm not typically one to read romantic fiction. I'd give the first half of the book 2 stars, and the 2nd half 4 stars... thus the 3 star review.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review: Bossypants

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First of all I have to say that I love Tina Fey. She's my favorite. Probably because I see a lot of myself in her... a food loving ugly duckling-type who's also extremely witty, funny, and successful. Ok I may have exaggerated a bit there at the end, but you get the basic idea.

I had mixed feelings about this. I really loved that she read the audiobook and for the most part it was very entertaining. There were parts however where it seemed like she was trying too hard to be funny. I wanted to say, "Relax, Tina. You're doing just fine."

I also wish she would have gone deeper into her story. I didn't feel like I got to know her as well as I'd have liked. Sort of like she was still playing a character instead of being really real. The book was too short and too shallow for someone like me who admires her and really wants to know who she is.

Normally I would have given this 3 stars, but I have to bump it up a notch just because she's Tina Fey. It was definitely entertaining if nothing else.

Friday, February 3, 2012

I Can Vouch for That

I realized I haven't done product reviews for a while, so I thought I'd give you an update on some of my new favorite things:

Secret Clinical Strength Waterproof Antiperspirant/Deodorant
(All-day Fresh Scent)

So I'd been using the same Mitchum unscented antiperspirant for a long time because I just couldn't find anything else that I really liked. Problem was, even though that stuff was unscented, it still had a slight scent and I came to associate it with BO smell. I could never wear my shirts more than once because I thought they smelled weird. It also stained the armpits yellow in  my white shirts. Plus it just seemed like it wasn't working that great anymore. Thus began my search for a new deodorant.

Lucky for me I just happened to find this awesome deodorant on my first venture out into the new deodorant world. I had previously snubbed Secret brand because I hated their scents. This goes with most of the other woman deodorant brands as well. But, I saw this new clinical strength stuff that had a higher aluminum content than most other women's antiperspirants, so that immediately intrigued me. After smelling the very mild "fresh scent" that was neither fruity, flowery, or baby-powderesque, I knew I had a winner.

Now, I'm not sure why this stuff works so well, but it seems to work much better than the Mitchum, even though it has less aluminum. I swear my pits never get so much as damp. When I smell the pits on my shirts at the end of the day, I can smell the very mild "fresh scent" but it's not overwhelming or laced with BO. I can wear my shirts more than once! Plus this doesn't stain my clothes. Compared to other brands this is a little on the pricey side, but I'd say it's well worth it. It keeps my pits dry, keeps me & my clothes smelling great, and it's easy to find! Winner!

Grocery iQ App

So I have a few apps I use on my Galaxy S Android phone, but this is by far my favorite. I know it sounds boring, but this thing saves me so much time. It's basically a grocery/shopping list maker, but it takes it to a whole new level.

I use this as mainly my grocery shopping list, though you can create lists for different stores, so I also have lists for the hardware store and Target. For each store you can add or remove isles AND put them in the order they are in that particular store. This alone saves me a ton of time. When adding items to your list you can either type them in or scan the bar code of the item to enter it. This comes in handy as I can just scan the empty box of an item I've just run out of and immediately put it onto my shopping list on my phone (since I always have my phone with me!). It is generally pretty easy to find items listed in the app's memory where they are already categorized by item type, but it's also simple to add your own item if it isn't listed. You can change the isle the item is located in and note anything special about it such as size, quantity, type, etc. You can also put in a price so you know how much it typically costs, thus avoiding paying too much on future trips. This app also makes it really convenient to add items you buy all the time. Just mark the item as a Favorite, then go down your favorites list and check all the things you want to buy such as milk, eggs, cheese, etc. and it will quickly add them all to the list.

Not only does this app make it easy to make a list, it also makes it so easy to shop. Since each item is classified by category and isle, you can go from one end of the store to the other without missing anything. And it's hard to miss an item because as soon as you put the item in your cart, you check the item off and it moves it to the bottom of the list to your "shopping cart." This means your list shrinks as you shop and doesn't get all cluttered with scribbles and lined out items. 

I can't say that I like grocery shopping these days, but it is a heck of a lot easier, faster, and "fun" using this app.  Best of all, if you've got a smartphone, it's FREE!!

The Library

I hate to think of all the years I wasted not going to the library. All that money spent on books that would never get picked up again. Books that just took up space and made moving more difficult. Now I don't hate books mind you, I just think that unless it's something you'll be using or reading more than once, it's a waste of money to buy it when you can get it for free!
Now because I didn't visit the library for so many years, I had no idea of all the technological advancements made in the book checking out process. When I finally went back I was astounded at just how easy it is to find and read the books I want! Luckily the library has adopted the use of the Internets. I can now search online for books & other media I want, put a hold on them, and renew books I haven't quite finished. Even better, I get e-mail notifications when books I've put on hold are available and when books I've checked out are almost due. No late fees! No guessing! No phone calls or needless trips! So if you haven't utilized your local library for a while "check it out!" HA!

L'Oreal Everpure Sulfate-Free Moisture Shampoo & Conditioner

My hair and scalp are always at odds with me, especially during the winter. My hair tends to get super staticky no matter how much product I put in and my scalp always itches like crazy. I always tried to solve the itchiness problem by using a dry scalp shampoo and it never seemed to help and usually made the problem worse. As far as the staticky hair goes, I tried everything from hair serums, to lotion, to dryer sheets (which actually works pretty well, by the way) but nothing ever seemed to last more than a couple hours. Finally one day I decided to go the opposite direction of what I'd always done. Having oily, fine hair I'd always been told to stay away from moisturizing shampoos as they tend to weigh the hair down. But, I figured there was nothing to lose and gave this shampoo/conditioner duo a shot.

Immediately I noticed a reduction in how itchy my scalp was. I think the combination of having a sulfate-free shampoo along with the intense moisturizing properties of it worked wonders for my hair and scalp. I no longer have an itchy scalp and this is the first winter in a long time when I haven't had the constant problem of staticky fly-away hair. I really think the shampoo is this duo is the real magic maker, but I really love the smell of both products and they work well together moisturizing my hair just enough without making it feel heavy and limp. Anytime I use a different shampoo I can tell the difference. My hair doesn't feel as smooth and the itchiness returns. These aren't the cheapest products around, but so far, they're the only thing I've found that'll work with my crazy hair. I'm typically a shampoo/conditioner fanatic and have a hard time sticking with just one kind. Ever since I started using these my wander-lust has disappeared. I think I'm converted for life.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review: Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So you kind of pick up the gist of what this book is about by the title, but ultimately this is about the creation and execution of the first World's Fair in Chicago in the 1890s and H. H. Holmes, a murderer who used it as a cover-up/aid to his schemes.

First of all, it was kind of hard for me to rate this book. I actually didn't care for the narrator in the audiobook version which may have affected my rating. So, I would definitely recommend reading it yourself. Aside from that, as far as being a history-type book, this was quite interesting. Before reading this I didn't know anything about the World's Fair and how it came to be. It was an amazing feat of engineering and even more impressive that they were able to pull it together as fast as they did.

While the building and history of the World's Fair was interesting in and of itself, I thought the parts about H. H. Holmes and his escapades were fascinating. He was basically a psychopath who lured women to their demise using his charm, wit, flattery, and "stunning" blue eyes. Of course he used his charms on many others including business partners, creditors, and law enforcement officials. It was amazing to see how long he was able to get away with his crimes just by using his personality to get people to trust him. It really is a scary thought to know that there are people out there like him.

I thought this book was definitely worth reading and I feel like I learned a lot about a great time in our nation's history.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Believe We Are Now Considered "Elite"

So a few weeks ago I may have commissioned a painting of our cat, Gracie. I know it sounds weird. Probably because it is. But you know, I've been seeing all these bloggers receive paintings of their pets by various artists and I thought they looked cool. And I wanted one. But the problem is, most of them are really expensive. So I did what any budgeting, frugal member of society does: I kept my eyes open for a good deal! And you know what? I found one!

Now in case you're wondering, Seth approved of this purchase. So he's just as crazy as me. What's that? You want to see the painting? Well ok then. Here it is!

Isn't it beautiful? If we actually had a mantel I'm sure it would be hung there. But, since we don't, looks like some serious planning will have to be done. Because surely it will look fabulous wherever it might hang.

Are you as crazy as I am and want a painting of your pet? Check this girl out. I'm sure she could also paint your favorite rosebush if that's more your thing.

Week 13: Peach

Well I've officially made it to my 2nd trimester! I can definitely tell already. I'd heard that nausea usually dissipates around this time and almost like clockwork, it did! Even my evening bouts haven't been around the last few nights. It's about time!

Luckily both the symptoms I mentioned last week... the tooth sensitivity and leg itchiness, have both gone away. So crazy. While most of the more severe symptoms have gone away, I've still got a couple lingering. One is a never-ending thirstiness. I'm so damn thirsty all the time. There's no quenching it. The other is backpain. I've had backpain since the earliest weeks. During the day I'm usually fine, it's sleeping that brings it on. After about 6 hours or so my lower back is killing me and I just toss and turn. I've tried sleeping with a body pillow or with a pillow between my knees but I can't stand sleeping like that and it also makes me really hot. Oh that's another thing... I get so hot at night! I always wake up just sweating! So if you've got tips for me I'm all ears. On a more positive note, at least it helps me wake up on time in the morning. No more sleeping in for me!

So these last couple weeks I've really noticed my belly start to pop (maybe one of these days I'll actually take some pictures!). Which means my pants are really snug. My generous sister Annie gave me a bunch of her maternity clothes to wear but unfortunately most of the jeans are either too short or I'm not big enough for them to stay up yet. I did try to go out and buy some maternity jeans but it proved to be a hugely frustrating experience. Mainly I couldn't find stores that carried maternity clothes, and those that did either didn't have jeans or were out of my size. I did end up buying one of those baby bands that you can wear over your unbuttoned regular jeans to hold them up. It worked well enough and I've worn it a couple times, but it feels sort of weird to me. Like I'm this crazy pervert lady walking around with my pants undone. I know nobody can see, but it still FEELS like my pants are undone. I did end up going online and purchased some maternity pants from Walmart that had good reviews. I'm really hoping they work out. If you've got any insider tips on some comfy, cheap, cute maternity jeans, please share!

I had another routine doctor appointment this week. Pretty much the same as last time: checking chemicals, my vitals (weight, blood pressure, heart rate), baby's heart rate, etc. Looks like the baby's heart rate hit its peak last time at 172 and is now back down to 154.
We've already starting planning out the nursery and getting things rearranged in the house. Our office is going to move downstairs to an extra bedroom so the baby can be right next to our room. We bought a dresser from IKEA and I'm hoping to get it put together as soon as we move the computer and other furniture out. I'm thinking about doing a gender neutral room... grays & browns with some other color mixed in, though not sure which. Maybe turquoise, yellow, or coral. You'd think I'd be more obsessed with finding a crib, but not so much. Cribs are easy. My focus right now is on finding a glider chair. I really want to get an upholstered glider/rocker and it's proving hard to find one that's reasonably priced AND the type of print I want. Surprise surprise, more rockers are either a solid color or have too cutesy patterns. I'm really loving the accent chairs that are popular these days and was hoping to apply that same concept to a glider. We'll see though... I may have to compromise a little.