Friday, May 17, 2013

Girl who Played with Fire #BookReview

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2)The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even better than the original. This second book picks up roughly two years after the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, bringing back Blomkvist and Salandar as the central figures, along with a cast of familiar and new faces.
I really enjoyed reading Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, despite having seen the movie first-- a practice I abhor.  I love this follow up in Girl who Played with Fire, because as a reader, I didn't see every plot twist--I didn't anticipate how it was all going to end from some previewed movie ending.  I love the way Larsson methodically reveals clues and plots as the investigation unfolds.  I have great admiration for Larsson's ability to tell the story from multiple vantage points, which guides the reader through glimpses, but leaves room for the reader to actively piece together the greater picture. For those who love crime and murder  investigations, this is a great read.  Even for those who don't typically go for that sort of thing, like me, this is still a great page turner.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere CastleLady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As the title implies, this is the story of the real family who lived in Highclere Castle.  One can't help but make comparisons to Downton Abbey.  There are definitely some similarities, as well as strong differences. The rich family history makes for a fascinating tale. The historic and somewhat factual tone allows the reader to envision the "characters" as real people, if only at the cost of loosing that personal and emotional bond to the "story." 
A remarkable quantity of personal family research is included, including private family letters and photos, which make the overall story very real. In reading, one gets the sense that the author spent hours scouring through boxes of family archives.  Unfortunately, from an historians stance, the text is overflowing with subjective bias. The author clearly has strong connections to the subject and only wishes to cast them in the best light; given that the author is the current Countess, this should not surprise the reader. Overall, a great read for anyone enthralled by turn of the century English country house lifestyle, not so great for those wishing to read a more conventional history on the subject.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Adventures in the ER

I am not a medical professional.  Please do not take any of my rambling opinions as sound advice.

I hate how I so often second guess whether it is right to take my son to the ER.  In the past, I have felt like I've waited and waited... tried to treat him at home, use home remedies to bring down the fever, put him in a steam filled bathroom to ease his breathing.  Only when it became painfully obvious that my efforts at nursing were failing did I take him in to the hospital, at which point they give you the "why didn't you bring this kid in three hours ago" look.  I'm sure medical professionals aren't nearly that judgemental, but as a mom, it's easy to feel guilty.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Check Out #Looksima

Spring is a great time to do some spring cleaning.  I love cleaning my closets because I feel it make room for the potential for a new, more stylish me.  Nothing makes your day better than receiving a few compliments.  For example, today I paired a new skirt with my styling new glasses and a string of pearls.  For the first time in quite awhile I had multiple compliments from coworkers... really made my day.

So this post is for all of my fashion conscious followers, and all those who aspire to be just a little more fashion forward with their looks.  I've recently discovered Looksima, a great service for those who are looking for their next great look, but don't have the time to browse dozens of magazines and shop all over town.
 Looksima's mission is to make professional stylist services affordable for a wide audience. Your personal online stylist will help you determine your look, then build customized fashions for different occasions. Then, like the latest online magazines, you will be linked directly to partner stores where you can buy the item online.  Oh, and this personalized styling advice is all yours, FREE.
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Monday, April 15, 2013

Hosting #mommyparties featuring #FastMetabolismDiet by @HaileyPomroy

Sometimes I can't believe my luck.  I was blessed with the opportunity to host a mommy party for my friends and family featuring Hailey Pomroy's new book The Fast Metabolism Diet: Eat More Food and Lose More Weight.

The Fast Metabolism Diet promises to help you lose 20 lbs in 28 days,  all while eating an amazing 5 times a day.  The trick here is to control what you eat during prescribed parts of the week. Each week is divided in to three major portions.  During Phase 1 the goal is to calm your metabolism by eating lots of healthy carbs, natural sugars (from fruits) and some lean protein. During phase 2 you "unlock" stored fat and build muscle by eating lots of protein and vegetables (no carbs, low fat).  During phase 3 you "unleash" the burn by eating some healthy fats, moderate cabs, protein, and low sugar fruits.

Each phase is accompanied by recommended exercise styles that will maximize your efforts during that phase.  Phase 1: Cardio, Phase2: Strength training with weights, Phase 3: Stress Reducing: like yoga or massage.  At the party we shared great ideas for different exercises and routines we could do throughout the week.  I recently found a great zumba set at the library--one disc contains typical zumba dance stuff--a fun way to cardio.  The second disc incorporates free weights with lots of reps--I know, maybe more cardio than the rules require, but I think it might be a good place for someone like me who doesn't typically do serious strength training activities.

Naturally, there are some big diet rules.
You must eat five times a day, every 3 hours... which seems like an aweful lot of food compared to the typically diet.  I think the idea is to keep you filled with good foods so you don't feel hungry enough to stray.  This would really be a problem for my schedule, as I only get the one lunch break at 10:30, and can't eat in front of the kids.  I want to try this diet, but won't have any luck with it until school is out for summer.

Next rules, eat within 30 minutes of getting up, stick with it for at least 28 days, follow the prescribed foods religiously and in order (again, probably easier in the summer since I'll have fewer family functions that would throw the diet off). Also, you must drink half your weight in ounces of water... oy! that's a lot of water... I should get working on this one now. 
As a rule, you should eat organic when possible.  I love that the party came with an opportunity to try Applegate Organic meats!  They were super delicious and everyone loved the meats we tried.  Organic can be so costly at the grocery store, so I had been reluctant to give it a try before.  Now that I know it's so good and good for you, we will have to find a way to make better food choices happen for us.

While I may have to wait to start the diet proper, I think the "don'ts" list offers some tips we can incorporate now.  No corn/no wheat.  The logic being that wheat/corn/soy have been genetically modified to withstand pesticides, poor weather, etc. that they are hard for the body to properly digest and gain nutrition from.  Also, no dairy... they are high in sugar and fat.  (don't read yesterday's article on my new obsession with making homemade ice cream).  No caffeine, no alcohol, no dried fruit or fruit juice and no artificial/ fat free or "diet" foods.

While I confess being scared a little by all of the rules, the what you can eat when, of this diet, I love that there is a complete menu for all 28 days, with all of the yummy recipes to go with it.  Before the party, I made a delicious phase I chili with scores of different beans. It was very filling and warming--it has been an unexpectedly cold gloomy and grey weekend.  I made it in the croq pot and and it filled the house with a great smell.
During the party, guest made and sipped phase III Berry Nut Oatmeal Smoothies...  (this was super good and may replace my typical protein shake in the morning).  We also made Phase III Sweet Potato Hummus which was an interesting twist on hummus.  In addition to sampling the Applegate meats, we also sampled Artisana's Cashew butter, which was as delicious as it sounds.

Guests received coupons and samples of Celestial Seasonings Tea to take home along with their own copy of Pomroy's book.

Big Thanks to Mommy Parties, Random House and all of the party sponsors.  We had such a blast and can't wait to start losing weight with the Fast Metabolism Plan.

Disclaimer:  I received books, recipe cards, a $20 Target gift card and other extra coupons and recipes from brand partners Applegate, Artisana, CrockPot and Celestial Seasonings to help put together my party.