Sunday, December 2

crock pot --- healthy potato soup

Potato soup is a huge staple in this household - my husband and I make at least once a month during the chilly months of the year! I am so happy to report that I have found a healthy potato soup recipe! Yes, another crock pot recipe out of The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook :) You'll have to excuse my obsession with this cookbook, it's just that it's the first time I have been able to make delicious and healthy favorites in the crock-pot!

Enjoy!!!

Baked Potato Soup



Ingredients (serves 6):
1 onion, sliced
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cups of water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 cup shredded  sharp Cheddar
3 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
2 strips of turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/3 cup diced green onions

Instructions:
1. Place the onions, potatoes, water, salt, and pepper into a 4-quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours. 

2. Puree using an immersion blender or puree in a blender. Stir in the cheese, sour cream, bacon crumbles, and green onion. 

* My husband and I really like our food spicy, so we added extra white pepper and lots of hot sauce. We also used 3 strips of turkey bacon instead of 2, because, well...we like bacon :)

Per serving: 170 calories, 3.5g fat, 220mg sodium, 28g carbs, 3g fiber, 6g protein

Happy soup eats to you and your family! 
Cheers!

crock pot --- healthy black bean soup

Happy December to you all :) 

I have another FABULOUS crock-pot soup recipe to share with you! Coming to you again from The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook (my new favorite!). This recipe is full of protein, and surprisingly savory/flavorful! Give it a tray :)

Black Bean Soup --- serve with corn bread on the side!




Ingredients (serves 8)
3 slices turkey bacon
1 tsp canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced (I passed on the celery and doubled the carrots, yum!)
30 ounces canned black beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups of chicken stock
(Ingredients for cornbread or a cornbread mix from the grocery store)

Instructions: 
1. Cook the turkey bacon in a nonstick skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towel-lined plates. Crumble the bacon into small pieces. 

2. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. Add the onions, habanero, garlic, celery, and carrot. Saute until the onions are soft, about 2-4 minutes. 

3. Put the beans, onion mixture, and bacon crumbles into a 4-quart slow cooker. Add the broth and stir. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4 hours. 

* This soup is wonderful served with cornbread! I totally recommend it :)

Per Serving: 120 calories, 3.5g fat, 730mg sodium, 24g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 8g protein

Cheers to good and healthy eats!

crock pot --- healthy tortilla soup

Hey blogland! It's been a while - but I thought I would take a second to share this delicious crock pot recipe with you! It comes from The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook, and we tried it out last night. So delicious, hearty, spicy, and perfect for a chilly December 1st evening! Enjoy!


Tortilla Soup

Ingredients (serves 8)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp salt
25 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
14 ounces canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 cups Chicken Stock
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
4 ounces canned diced green chiles, drained
2 habanero peppers, diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels (we used frozen corn that we thawed in the microwave)
2 cups cubed cooked chicken or turkey breast
Tortilla strips on top 
  • To make the tortilla strips: slice 4 corn tortillas in half, then into 1/4" strips. Heat 1/2 tsp canola oil in a shallow skillet. Add the tortilla strips and cook, turning once, until they are crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel-lined plates. Blot dry.

Directions
1. Place the spices, tomatoes, stock, garlic, onions, chiles, and peppers in a 4-quart slow cooker. Cover, and cook on low for 6 hours. 

2. After 6 hours, add the corn and turkey or chicken. Cover and cook for an additional 45-60 minutes. Serve with tortilla strips.

Per serving: 170 calories, 3g fat, 250mg sodium, 21g carbs, 4g fiber, 17g protein

*This is a super healthy/low calorie recipe! If you want to add to it, add sliced avocados, cheese, or sour cream to it once you have dished it up. The sour cream also helps cool it down if it is too spicy for you!

Enjoy and Cheers!

Saturday, September 22

fifty shades of emotions

Hey friends! I know I've been a stranger...back to school will do that! I just wanted to stop by for a little book review! If you can't guess from the title, I finally read Fifty Shades of Grey. Book #11 out of my goal of 12 books in 2012! Yay :) I wanted to read this book, just to know what all the hype and fuss was about, so I read it. 

My first reaction:
  • Why are people calling it "housewife porn" like that's a bad thing? If wives everywhere are reading this sexy book, it's probably increasing married sex rates everywhere, and thus saving marriages everywhere! {Like my logic?} Kudos, E. L. James, you have probably done what therapy couldn't for some couples. 
My second reaction:
  • Whoa. That was INTENSE. 
I went through just about every emotion under the sun with this book. The book follows Anastasia Steele as she is finishing up her undergraduate experience. She fills in for her roommate {Kate}, and interviews the young, strikingly handsome, self-made billionaire Christian Grey for the school newspaper. The effect that Christian has on Ana is immediate, undeniable, and a first for her. As they keep finding reasons to meet again, it becomes clear that the electrical energy dancing between the two of them will quickly lead to something. When it does, it is hot. It is kind of a fantasy novel then, because Christian Grey is just incredibly alluring, even on paper. 

However, as things progress, and Christian's kinky preferences become more apparent, I was a little put off. Not unlike our lead character Ana. I found myself amazed at the way with which the author successfully got me to mirror Ana's emotions throughout the story. My "Fifty Shades of Emotions" response goes as follows:
  • Attraction to Mr. Grey
  • Jaw dropped at his erotic nature
  • Unease about his intensity
  • Creeped out by his possessive/stalkerish tendencies
  • Vehement feeling that Ana should say "no" to Christian's indecent proposals
  • Sadness when Ana is subjected to her first "spanking" by Christian. I can't tell you how strange this whole scene was for me. Christian "punishes" Ana for rolling her eyes at him. And this punishment involves a spanking session that is meant to be erotic, yet stinging. The aftermath is that Ana feels diminished, and as small and valueless as a person can. Then Christian tries to make it okay. And I cried. I cried because I feel like this is what any victim of abuse may go through. The assailant trying to justify his/her actions, and the victim learning to trust the assailant and letting him/her do as he/she pleases out of love for the assailant. It was a very confusing emotional response. And I kind of wrote Mr. Grey off at that point. 
  • Pity for Mr. Grey when you find out more about the childhood that gave him such a tormented soul with an aversion for typical expressions of love
  • Wary intrigue as he opens up his mind and sexual sides to Ana
  • Turned on by the loving side of him that is capable
  • Disgusted by the dominant side of him that is also capable. 
Mr. Grey is like a double-sided coin. The shiniest, most irresistible coin you've ever seen. This book made me think a lot about S&M and the psychology behind it all. Which, I have never done before. And it turns out the psychology of that kind of sexuality is extremely complex. There are 2 consenting adults, right? Well, what if the dominant adult has captivated the submissive adult with his charm and wit and dazzling looks, then is she influenced to do things she doesn't want to do? Does that make it still 100% consenting and okay? She literally goes through the emotions that an abuse victim does, which is anguishing to read.

This novel certainly was interesting. Interesting in content, style, storyline, and themes. It is thought-provoking in ways I never thought possible, and left me with a lot of questions. 

Questions that just may be answered in the sequels...
 
Yes, I am planning on reading the sequels. Such an relationship develops between Ana and Christian, and I need to know what happens. Turned out to be much deeper of a story than I anticipated. 

Also --- Christian Grey is just a fantasy character. I like looking at who the public would like cast as Christian if a movie adaptation were ever made {how would they pull that off??? I mean, it is very pornographic...}

I was picturing Matt Bomer the ENTIRE TIME. A stunning man (also gay I heard).

Intriguing and fantastical. Not the best book I've ever read, but not as shallow as I thought it was going to be. Unique and unexpected --- Cheers to reading :)

Saturday, August 25

DIY melted crayon art

Happy Weekend, Blogland!

I just finished doing my latest art project, and I am so happy with how it turned out, so I wanted to share it with you all :) FINALLY --- a pinterest project I didn't just completely fail!!! I made this for my mom, who is a 1st grade teacher, to hang in her classroom.


Interested in making your own?

Here are the steps!
1. What you need to have on hand: 
  • a 64-crayon box of crayons (crayola brand melts best!) or more
  • a canvas (16 inches x 20 inches is what I used)
  • mod podge (I used gloss finish) --- find at Michael's
  • paintbrush
  • blowdryer
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • stick on letters if you want to have a word at the bottom
2. Decide which order you want your colors to go in, I stuck with the classic rainbow formation because I love rainbows! Line up the crayons at the top of your canvas. I didn't use browns or some other weird greens that I thought might look gross when melted. 

3. Put some hot glue along the top few inches of your canvas, enough to glue on a few crayons at a time. Glue down the crayons with the tips pointing down, it looks extra nice if you line them all up to have the same part of the crayon wrapper showing too. 

4. Once all your crayons are on, plug in your blowdryer and aim it directly at the crayons. WARNING --- some serious crayon wax splashing happens during this craft, so be sure you have enough space and something down on your floor to prevent a big mess. Luckily, I have a drop cloth in my craft space, it turned out looking like this:

5. Once the crayons get melty, you can tilt the canvas to encourage some of the colors to blend together, or you can just keep it straight and watch the wax drip to the bottom! Be sure to leave a little room at the bottom of the canvas if you want to put a word in. 

6. Once you have done all the melting you want to do, let the canvas cool down for a little bit. While it is cooling, you can add whatever word you want to at the bottom of the canvas.

7. Now it's time for Mod Podge! Use a paintbrush, and apply a generous even coat onto the entire project (crayon and the word and all the white space in between). Mod Podge is an excellent finish on this project because if you don't use it, the crayon drips will easily chip off of the canvas. The Mod Podge seals in everything and provides it with a beautiful glossy finish, it makes the melted crayon look really wet and drippy --- which I loved! Don't worry, the Mod Podge paints on white, but dries clear :)



8. Let it dry and paint another layer of Mod Podge if you'd like, then VOILA! Beautiful homemade art!

Have you tried this craft before? Any tips on how to make it even better? It's super easy and a lot of fun! Let me know if you try it out! Good luck :)

CHEERS to COLORS!!!

Sunday, August 19

DIY mixed media paintings

Hello, friends!

Finally, a non book review post ;)   Although, I am working on 50 Shades of Grey and Francesca's Kitchen, so hopefully I will have a few reviews for you soon!

I have enjoyed my summer to the fullest! I have laughed with family, played with babies, filled up on amazing food, caught up on films, become one with nature, worked out my body, had dates with my husband, snuggled with my puppies, found peace at church...

I finally feel whole again

Last year (my first year of grad school) was detrimental to my well-being. While I gained immense knowledge, and am eager to pursue my career as  Physician Assistant, year 1 was no easy task. I spiraled into dark places of despair, sadness, and faithlessness. It wasn't pretty. I am hoping and praying with all of my being that I am able to face this school year more prepared than last year. I have fought to find myself, to remind myself of the critical nature of maintaining a balance between the work we love and the life we live. I never again want to be in that frame of mind. 

One of the important things I did for my sanity and happiness this summer was paint. I love art, have never claimed to be spectacular at it, but it makes me smile to create something unique and beautiful. 

I decided to try my hand at mixed media art this summer, starting with this piece I created for my best friend's nursery. She is having her sweet Baby Girl on September 1st, and the Little One needed a special creation for her bedroom. Here is what I made:

This painting is made from: acrylic paint, glitter in some of the flowers and on the tree (just sprinkle on the wet paint and it sticks!), gem stones outlining the cloud (self-adhesive), an oil paint heart for texture, feathers for owl and bird wings (glued on with rubber cement), printed ribbon to make the green bird (cut in the shape of a bird and glued on with rubber cement), and flower stickers for the 2 small pink flowers (self-adhesive). I am very happy with how this turned out, and I can't wait for Baby Girl to come into this world!

My second piece of art this summer was created for my little sister's new dorm! This was made so that her good dreams can be harnessed and become inspirational to her consciousness upon waking, and that her bad dreams can be trapped and removed from her mind. Here is her Dreamcatcher:


 This piece was made with acrylics, glue/glitter for the central portion of the dreamcatcher (draw the design with regular Elmer's glue, glitter, and let it dry!), and feathers (glued on with rubber cement so it dries clear). It was super fun, reminds me a lot of my sister, and I hope it brightens up her dorm room :)

What inspires you?
What brings you peace?
What makes YOU smile?

Thanks for stopping by --- Cheers :)

Monday, August 13

wicked bossypants

Hi, Strangers!!!
 
I know, it's been a month since the last time I have posted...and I also realize that the last time I posted...it was a book review. And probably the post before that, too. Haha. 

Nonetheless, I am very happy to report to you that I have completed two more books, which brings my 2012 total to 10! [For those of you who don't know, I have a personal goal of reading 12 books this year]

Here are my book reviews :)

Book #9 : Bossypants by Tina Fey
Let me just say that I LOVE TINA FEY. Now that that's out there, I can tell you that, while her book was a lot of fun, it wasn't what I would call a good book. I admire her breaking the comedian mold and brazenly being a comedienne who doesn't give a shit about whether or not people like what she does or says. She has made a name for herself, has one of the most famous impersonations ever (Sarah Palin, dontchaknow), and is the boss of her own TV show (30 Rock, in case you don't pay attention to TV ever). Her book is like an exaggerated Tina Fey history, or her favorite snippets and defining moments throughout life. 

My husband and I actually decided to read this book together, meaning that I read the entire book out loud to us! I read it before bed, in the car, wherever we were with a little time to kill. We both had dozens of LOL moments, because she just uses the most fabulous phrases to describe the numerous awkward situations she has been the star of in her lifetime. 

My only regret is that I am about 15 years too young to understand a lot of the pop culture references she uses throughout the book. We spent a lot of time googling the names of kind of famous people from the 80s. 

Overall, I grade this book a B. No real plotline, just chapters of Tina Fey rambling about this or that. It's funny, and I love Tina Fey (though not 30 Rock). Have you read this book? What did you think?

Book #10 : Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Wicked is not exactly a new book. It was first published in 1996. I first read it in 2006 I think. And I LOVED it when I read it. It wasn't until I saw the play Wicked (which is based on this book) in April, and I didn't recognize the ending, that I realized I never finished the book! Sure enough, when I picked up my copy of Wicked in May, I realized my bookmark was wedged in the pages, about halfway through the book! So, I recently picked it up where I left off in '06.

Wicked is basically the Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West. And I am a HUGE FAN of books based on different perspectives (Room, The Art of Racing in the Rain!!!) The story of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) begins before her birth, as you learn about the history of Munchkinland, Oz, and her parents. She is born green, and, because of this, is feared by all. You can certainly gain some empathy for a little 2-year-old who is hated and feared because of how she was born. The story follows Elphaba as she goes to college and rooms with Glinda (yes, the Good Witch) --- my favorite part! There are political goings on in Oz, propaganda led by the Wizard, and assassin missions throughout the city. Then comes Dorothy Gale. Dorothy doesn't actually arrive into the plot until page 330, but the history of Elphaba all leads up to this encounter with Dorothy over those damned ruby slippers

Wicked is so unique, and is a passionate tale of a girl who grew up in response to how those around her treated her. A victim of circumstance who got a bad rap. I recommend anything by Gregory Maguire, as he does a great job of creating a back-story about individuals typically portrayed as villains (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister).



What's on your nightstand? What's on your Nook? I think I have time for one or two more books this summer! One is going to be Fifty Shades of Gray (just because I'm so damned curious!) and the second isn't decided yet...

Until next time! CHEERS and READ ON :)

Sunday, July 8

readathon

Hey y'all! It's book review time again :) I have MANY goals to accomplish over the summer, and one of my goals I am doing well with is reading as many leisure books as I can. During the school year, I tried to read books that had nothing to do with school, but I didn't have the time or the energy at the end of the day to stay awake for longer than 10 minutes of bedtime reading. I am steadily trucking along towards my goal of reading 12 books in 2012, and I have my latest 3 book reviews for you! 
 
Book #6 : The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham
Madeleine Wickham (pen name is Sophie Kinsella, author of the Confessions of a Shopaholic series) does it again. And by IT, I mean she writes a book that is very typical of her, starring a female protagonist who has a penchant for keeping secrets from her loved ones and enjoys champagne a great deal. So, the vibe is the same as most (all?) of her books I have read. The aforementioned protagonist eventually lands herself in a great deal of trouble by keeping secrets for so many years, and instead of coming clean, she digs herself a great big hole in an effort to keep her secrets hidden. 

It's not that I disliked the book, I just thought that eventually she would be a little more creative with her plots. But I suppose that's why authors develop a fan base --- because the fans repeatedly get what they want. This fan is kind of over it (does that make me a fan at all?) I think that after reading 8 of Wickham/Kinsella's books...I'm calling it quits. Except of course, for when it comes to the continuation of the Shopaholic series. I'll read it. I know it.

Book #7 : Divergent by Veronica Roth
I had been hearing a little buzz about Divergent from a few friends who insisted it was on par with the Hunger Games. So, naturally I had to check it out. Similar writing style for a similar audience (young adult), similar overall theme (futuristic America turned dystopia), with a strong female protagonist and a bit of a love story sprinkled in. All things I love in a story. So overall I did enjoy this book. This book lacked a little of the power of the Hunger Games, you know, the way that book made your heart race throughout its entirety? 

What it lacked in power, this book made up with in the topic of human nature. It made me question a lot of what characteristics of ours are inherent versus learned, come naturally versus difficult to embrace, deep within our soul versus easily discarded under the right circumstances. This story follows a 16-year-old girl as she decides her fate, and what faction she will live with for the rest of her life. Will she choose to stay with her family in the Abnegation faction and be defined by selflessness? Or will she transfer factions and choose Amity (peacefulness), Dauntless (bravery), Candor (honesty), or Erudite (intelligence). Each faction places one human characteristic above all others and strives to be defined by that one characteristic. I would say this is a worthwhile series for you to get into if you like the dystopian theme :)

Book #8: Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Not going to lie, the badass tree logo on the front of this book is rekindling my desire to get a small tree tattoo. I have wanted a tree tattoo since like 2004...and I have been diligently trying to not become a completely tatted up work of art (supposedly it's more difficult to be taken seriously in the professional world...whatever)...but the Amity symbol makes my mind race with redesigns and ways of making it my own. 
Anyway...Insurgent was a great follow up to Divergent. Full of action and furthered my questions about the reality of human nature. Is the world black and white? Can we separate the good and the evil? The brave can be cruel. The peaceful can be naive. What characteristics define you as a person? And are the characteristics that define you what you strive to be on a daily basis, or do you strive to improve upon your weaknesses? 

Lastly --- Really, Ms. Roth? You're leaving me with a massive cliffhanger until November of 2013??? Well played. I will be waiting in line somewhere to read your follow up when it is released! 

What great reads are you working on? I am finally going to read Bossy Pants by Tina Fey --- so excited! Naturally, I'll report back to you with my opinion of it. 

Read on!
Cheers :)

Tuesday, June 19

summertime pizzas --- peach and prosciutto

Hey there!!! Welcome to my blog :)

So these last few weeks our evenings have been filled with delicious and creative make-at-home pizzas. My husband and I are on such a fruit pizza kick right now! Definitely a healthier alternative than a store-bought or ordered pizza! I thought I should share some of our most successful recipes with you! I'll start with a DELICIOUS pizza we made last week ---

Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Pizza:


This pizza was inspired by a recipe I found in my Martha Stewart magazine. But as always, we made some adjustments to make it our own :)

Ingredients:
  • Betty Crocker Pizza Crust mix --- they are about $1 at Safeway and are super easy to make!
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (plain or flavored)
  • 2 ripe peaches, cut into wedges
  • Pam cooking spray
  • 2 cups of shredded (or 1 pound of fresh) of 2% mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package of prosciutto  (about 12 thin slices), cut in half
  • 1/3 cup of fresh basil
Directions:
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees, then make the crust as instructed on the packaging.
  • After the crust is prepared and rolled out, brush it with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle mozzarella cheese generously over the whole crust. 
  • Pop the crust in the oven (on a pizza stone or cookie sheet) for 12 minutes. 
  • While the crust is cooking, heat up a frying pan, spray the pan with cooking spray, and grill the peach wedges, flipping, for about 3 minutes per side. 
  • After the crust has cooked for 12 minutes, remove the pizza from the oven and top with prosciutto slices, peach slices, and the remaining mozzarella cheese. 
  • Return the pizza to the oven and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. 
  • When the pizza is done, add the chopped fresh basil on top, cut the pizza, and ENJOY!!!

 Let me know if you like this recipe and want me to share more summer pizza recipes with you!
Thanks for stopping by :) As always, I love meeting new people and having new readers!

Cheers :)

mountain time = refreshing time

I hope you all had a wonderful Father's Day Weekend! Whether you are a father, have a father, have a son who is a father...we all know a father we'd like to give kudos to once a year :)

I was lucky enough to spend a day with my dad last weekend, hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. I love the mountains --- I am for sure a Colorado girl at heart. There is this beautiful serenity that comes from just being in the mountains. From taking a deep, focused breath in and feeling the sunshine soaking into your skin. A calm takes over me when I am hiking a trail that has a gorgeous green view and the songs of birds playing in my ears. And I love getting a good sweaty workout in --- which is exactly what we accomplished on our uphill hike! [We did most of Bear Lake and Fern Lake]

Here are a few pictures of our beautiful hiking day :)

With my beautiful Mom --- love the backdrop!

Colorado at it's finest!!!

found my happy face sweat band from Peers, 2004 :) decided to rock it for our hike!

into the beautiful green we go :)

the hiking crew

and then it rained for a minute! What better time for a family photo?!?!

 and then it stopped raining and there was sunshine


with my love.

 it felt like we were in a rainforest! so gorgeous.


my adorable parents

el padre

kisses.

I was SO happy to get my first hike of the summer in, and to spend a day with my family in the beautiful mountains! What a blessing!!!

What are your favorite Northern Colorado hikes? I am looking to try some new ones!
CHEERS!!!

reading rainbow

Hey bookworms!

So I am so happy to announce that I have completed my second book of the summer (books #4 and #5 of the year...still trucking along to my goal of 12 non-school-books in 2012!) I will actually be THRILLED if I make it through 12 leisure books this year! 

Book #4: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

I first heard of this book from a friend who recommended it to me, then mentioned that Leonardo DiCaprio is supposed to star in a film adaptation of it at some point in the future. Uhhh if Leo is making a movie of it --- it has to be amazing, right??? When I went to buy the book, I had to purchase it in the US History section. WTF? I have never truly read a historical nonfiction book I don't think. I was skeptical, but the prospect of me reading a book that Leo will later star in won over the skepticism. 
 
I'm pretty sure I started this book in February...and it took me 4 months to read! Not that it is a bad book, it just alternates between entrancing and dull...

The chapters that had me hooked followed H.H. Holmes in the late 1800s. He is a wealthy physician with gorgeous blue eyes that make the ladies melt. He also has a habit of wooing then killing these ladies. Oh and he further dissects his cadavers in the basement of his self-designed mansion, that has a built-in sound-proof vault and a kiln for disposing of the evidence. (Leo is rumored to be playing this character in the film adaptation)

Between the H.H. Holmes chapters is the story of the development of the Chicago World's Fair, which took place in 1893. The architects, the landscape architects, the mayor, the builders...there were hundreds of thousands of people involved in the development of this fair, which included hundreds of buildings that overall covered over a mile of land just outside of Chicago. They faced setback after setback, whether it be another architect dying from cholera, a frigid winter that delays building, or one of many workman's' strikes that occurred during that time period. 

The story of H.H. Holmes and the Chicago World's Fair eventually collide, as Holmes uses the popularity of the fair to find his new victims. 

I actually learned a lot from this book, about Shredded Wheat, Walt Disney, the invention of the Ferris Wheel, and Buffalo Bill. Not the most gripping book, but certainly different from my usual book choices, and I really hope to be able to see Leonardo DiCaprio's interpretation of Holmes on the big screen in the near future! In summary, I recommend it, but grade it a B- .

Book #5: Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham (the author of the Confessions of a Shopaholic series --- aka Sophie Kinsella)

After reading a book as serious and dark as The Devil in the White City, I needed a girly pick-me-up book. I've mentioned to you all in the past how I like to alternate between serious and silly books, it keeps my reading life balanced somehow! 
 
This book follows three lovely London ladies, in the prime of their lives. Best friends, the trio works for an upscale London magazine. Maggie is the magazine's editor, is due any minute to have her first baby, and has absolutely no idea what to expect from motherhood! Roxanne is a sun-kissed freelance writer, whose heart belongs to a married man. And Candice is a perpetual do-gooder, constantly trying to better the world to compensate for the many lives her father ruined when he was alive. The three women each encounter life-changing challenges, and try to manage these challenges without the support of each other. 

A very quick read, it is a sweet story of friendship and loyalty. I recommend it if you need a bubbly pick-me-up and if you enjoy this type of writing style :) Overall grade of B+

Currently: working on The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham, re-reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire, and a few bedside table books. I think I'm going to start Divergent (by Veronica Roth) tonight, too!

On my summer list of books sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read, I have:
- Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo
- Little Bee by Chris Cleave
- Shine by Lauren Myracle
- Francesca's Kitchen by Peter Pezzelli
- Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
- Dog Years by Mark Doty
- Blink by Malcom Gladwell 

That doesn't even include books I don't own that I want to read!
- Bossy Pants
- The Glass Castle
- The Tiger's Wife
- Fifty Shades of Grey
- The Book Thief
- Chelsea Handler books

and I'm sure there are many more in my head!!!
Is there anything you think I should add to the list???
I will be pretty busy with reading but I would LOVE to make it through this whole list!

What are you reading right now? Read anything amazing lately?

CHEERS :)

Tuesday, June 12

national geographic

Hi there errrrybody!

Hope you all are enjoying June :) I know I have. Today I wanted to talk about the weather and nature. The weather has been beautiful here in Colorado. Beautiful and DRY. Which has actually been a terrible thing for our gorgeous state. It has been one fire after another, and the latest gigantic fire is only a few miles west of my hometown, Fort Collins. I am saddened by every news report I read, by every aerial view of the fire I see, by every heart-wrenching post I see on facebook about the fire. It has demolished over 43,000 acres of land, forcing thousands of people and animals to evacuate their homes. At this point is is ZERO percent contained, with over 500 firefighters working on it --- which is terrifying! I have been thinking about it a lot, saying prayers for the safety of people and animals alike, especially for the safety of those trying to contain and fight the fire. It is already tragic, with one life lost, and I am scared to see what continued damage this fire has in store. :(

I went camping near Bailey last weekend, and didn't manage to take any photos while camping. Which I can hardly believe! Usually I am a photo-taking fiend! Especially in the beautiful mountains. It was a weekend of bliss, lounging in my camp chair, enjoying the sounds of birds and the little brook we camped by. Must have been near comatose to forget taking a picture. 

Because I didn't take ANY photos, I decided to go to NationalGeographic.com to look at their astounding photos of nature, and share some beauty and devastation (nature's elements can surely be terrifying...as demonstrated by the recent fires) with you...

Volcano lightning picture: Iceland's Eyjafjallaj√∂kull  
Lightning during the April 2010 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull Volcano. Photograph by Lucas Jackson, Reuters.

Photo: Birds and orange sky at sunset
Birds fill an orange sky over Germany’s Wattenmeer National Park. This coastal wetland, covered by the sea at high tide, is home to some 3,200 different animals and a popular stopover for many migratory birds. Photograph by Norbert Rosing.


 Photo: Giraffe necks in sunset silhouette
Here, three giraffes in Botswana's Okavango Delta stretch their necks above the horizon before a glowing orange sky. Photograph by Chris Johns.


Photo: A tent belonging to the expedition team on the rim of the Nyirangongo volcano
A cooking tent belonging to expedition scientists glows in the twilight on the rim of the Nyiragongo volcano—one of the most active in the world—in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photograph by Carsten Peter, National Geographic.

Photo: Adult leopard seal on the ice
An adult leopard seal scans its surroundings on the Antarctic Peninsula. Photograph by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic. 

Photo: Japanese macaques in a hot spring
Two Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, interact in a hot spring in Jigokudani, Nagano Prefecture, Japan.Photograph by Tim Laman, National Geographic. I HAD to share this picture because the Japanese macaques are one of my favorite segments on Planet Earth --- it's insane how they have created a social status within their groups that determines whether you are allowed to stay warm within the hot springs or not. Unfortunately for the macaques of lower status, they are forced to huddle in groups amidst the ice and snow on land, watching as the more powerful macaques lounge in the hot springs.

Photo: Elephants drinking at a water hole
During the dry season, elephants in Chad’s Zakouma National Park drink at the last remaining water hole. Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic. 

This is the great Japanese maple tree in the Portland Japanese Gardens. Photo by Fred An.

 
Photo by Andrew George. The Aurora Borealis in Iceland. I only hope to see a glimpse of the Northern Lights once in my life --- seems like a fairytale.

Photo: Frog on lily pad
A tiny green frog sits atop a large lily pad in the waters of Atchafalaya Delta. Photograph by James P. Blair. 

  
Man vs Nature Photo by Matthew Titmanis. Perth's Australia Day celebrations. In the battle for awe inspiring sky shows...nature wins.

 
A lion and lioness share some quality time with their cubs in Kenya. Photo by Brandon Harris. 

I hope you have enjoyed these images! Just a sampling of the beauty I found as I perused NationalGeographic.com this morning :)

Cheers ---