Saturday, November 28, 2009

Muppet Rhapsody

I'm sure many of you have already seen this, but the Muppets do a killer cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Kudos to Miss Piggy, as always, for reminding us of what's really important.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have a lot to be thankful for this year since it has been full of milestones. The following are in calendar order.
  • I'm thankful for my beautiful home (we closed 2 days before Thanksgiving last year and ate dinner in our old place surrounded by boxes).
  • I'm thankful for my crazy goofy gorgeous dog (who as I write this is almost fully recovered from his surgery and just ran upstairs to terrorize the Dude).
  • I'm thankful for my wonderful family and amazing friends (who came together from across the globe for my wedding and completely overwhelmed me with their love as I started down the aisle with my father).
  • I'm thankful for my parents (even though I am not with them today, I'll be on the phone with mom at noon ET to sing along to Alice's Restaurant. You should try it sometime.)
  • I'm thankful for the Dude, who is now my husband, and who makes me laugh and treats me like a queen.
We're cooking our first turkey today (and by "we" I mean "him") and having friends over for dinner tonight. It's going to be a good time. I hope all of you are surrounded by joy and stuffed by turkey today! Happy Thanksgiving!

PS Copying from Erin, leave your best turkey impressions in the comments!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday Reading

The first book on this list was one I finished before the holidays but the rest were the result of lovely downtime during the holidays (much of which was provided by a huge thunderstorm, Southwest and the TSA, but that's a different story). I hope you enjoyed your vacation reading as much as I did!

Isaac's Storm, Erik Larson
Following the trail of the Johnstown Flood, the next book on my list was Isaac's Storm. Again, it is nonfiction but Larson tells the story so well that it flows like a novel. His descriptions of the storm are absolutely favorite is "he heard the susurrus of curtains luffed by the breeze." The storm is actually a character in the story. Not to worry for those rational minded readers; the book is packed with facts and data. I was struck by the parallel of the attitudes of Americans in this time to those of the British who built the Titanic (I highly recommend Walter Lord's A Night to Remember if you're interested in learning more about that). Isaac's Storm is an insightful look not only at one of the worst natural disasters in American history, but at the people and attitudes that shaped the time.

Olive Kitteredge, Elizabeth Strout
I had read a number of good reviews about this but somehow missed the fact that it is a collection of intertwined short stories (think Spoon River Anthology). I am generally not a short story person but I really enjoyed this collection of tales revolving around a teacher in Crosby, Maine. Although the collection is named after Olive she is an incidental character in many of the stories. Each one made me care about the characters with remarkable swiftness. The tales have a dry humor but are poignant as well. The book had the added benefit of getting me excited for a cold wintry Christmas as I flew toward Philadelphia!

The Madonnas of Leningrad, Debra Dean
I found this on the sale shelf at the bookstore and enjoyed a second story about the siege of Leningrad from another perspective. This book follows Marina, an elderly woman falling into dementia. When she leaves the present she finds herself back in Leningrad where she worked at the Hermitage, a huge art museum. As the war came to Leningrad the employees packed away all the art and Marina memorized the entire museum. We learn about her past as her family does. I was completely enthralled by the story, both past and present.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
This was the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and as such I had read numerous reviews. Wolf Hall tells the story of Oliver Cromwell, a man who rose from unknown origins to become one of the most powerful advisors to Henry VIII. Most books I have read about this time period are either from the perspective of one of the royals or take a broader historical perspective so I enjoyed this different look. My only criticism is that Cromwell is always referred to simply as "he", which is extremely confusing when there are many men talking and which led me to reread many exchanges. Overall though I definitely recommend it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nerd Alert: Science Jokes Ahead

So, this video probably isn't for everyone but for all my dorky readers out there (and that's most of you) this is great!

It starts out slow but gets good around 1:00 and gets funnier the whole way!

(courtesy of Boing Boing)

Latest Reads Take 2

I posted my latest books, but because I was a good lil blogger and planned ahead (aka wrote each review after I read the book), blogger doesn't want that post to be at the top. So here it is!

Latest Reads

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Overheard at Work: The Bacon Craze Has Gone Too Far

Engineer #1: A turd would taste good if you wrapped it in bacon.
Engineer #2: Yeah man. Especially if you dip it in some garlic butter.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Road to Recovery

Lots of you have been asking how Max's recovery is going, which I really appreciate! It's been two weeks since the surgery and he's doing great. He has started putting weight on his leg again and is in high spirits. His fur is starting to grow back but he still looks pretty ridiculous. Here are some pictures of our favorite doofus!

Don't be fooled...he's not a delicate flower.

This is more like what I see every day.

"Hey guys, what's up?"

What I'm Reading

Re-posted, because for some reason blogger didn't put it at the top.

Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
This is the third Lisa See novel I've read and definitely up to her standards. The first two novels, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love, were set centuries ago. Shanghai Girls is a departure from See's earlier works as it is more contemporary, beginning in the 1930s in Shanghai and following the lives of sisters May and Pearl. Their lives are turned upside down when they learn their family is bankrupt and they are being sold into marriage. This is the first time Pearl and May learn that things are not as they seem, a theme which is repeated throughout the novel. Watching Pearl and May grow and create new lives is by turns fascinating, frustrating, and compelling.

The Johnstown Flood, David McCullough
I've been interested in the Johnstown flood ever since I read a novel about it for a fifth grade class. In 1889, a huge storm overwhelmed a dam in western Pennsylvania, leading to one of the worst natural disasters the US had seen at the time. The town of Johnstown was completely destroyed and thousands died. David McCullough is a well known historical writer who manages to deliver tons of data without being dry. This was no exception; at one point I stepped outside and was surprised to see that it was sunny instead of gray and raining. The book is especially interesting for anyone from Pennsylvania or Penn Staters as it was not far from where we were. A word of warning: probably best not to read this during a rain storm for those of you in low lying areas!

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory
I've been a fan of Philippa Gregory ever since The Other Boleyn Girl came out (the book, not the movie). In The White Queen, Gregory goes back further than the Tudors to the War of the Roses. It's a period I'm much less familiar with and in her author's note she admits that this book has more fiction as there is simply not as much material available. Despite this, the book is enthralling and her ability to allow a little bit of the mystic is well woven in without feeling contrived. I've read so many books about the Tudors (including some excellent biographies by Alison Weir for those who are looking for nonfiction), and it's nice to start learning about another period of history. I see that Weir has written a biography of the Princes in the Tower and that will be added to my reading list. As for The White Queen, it's apparently the first in a series Gregory is writing about this period and I look forward to reading the rest.

Earning My Stripes stripes that is!

This weekend was Cory's birthday and his sports-themed party had a costume contest. Thanks to suggestions from a number of people I decided to be a NASCAR driver. The Dude and I set to work on Friday night and $19.06 later ($17 of which was for a Dale Earnhardt shirt), we were done!

Now, I know what you're thinking: that is without a doubt the best costume I have ever seen! But you would be wrong. Tragically, I came in second in the costume contest to a late entrant. However, this turned out to be a plus since the prize for second place was infinitely better than that for first place. Check me out...I call this picture "bedroom eyes."

The best part is, these wind up and the mustache and eyebrows wiggle! Awesome!

What are some of your favorite costumes? Pictures are encouraged!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I have an iphone and I absolutely love it. I use the integrated calendar, maps, and weather. I also check my email and keep lists on Evernote. But I know there's a lot more I can do. Help me out by giving me some fun tips, or share your favorite app! I'm sure we all have tricks to share.

My recommendation for all of you is to get the ESPN scorecenter app if you don't already have it. It's free and you can set it up to show you the scores for all your favorite teams in lots of sports. I use it all the time! Now, I want to hear what you can't live without. Comment below!

Honeymoon in Paradise

After the wedding, the Dude and I headed to El Dorado Maroma for a week to relax and enjoy being married. We loved this resort because it was all-inclusive but still small. The food was truly gourmet, the service was outstanding, and the beach was beautiful. We hope to go back soon!

Since the Dude likes his privacy, Sid the sloth offered to be a stand in for picture purposes. Enjoy the slideshow below (with captions) to see what a great time we had!

War and Peace

I have read a few books about World Wars I and II lately, so I thought I'd put them all together in one big review. Enjoy!

Gifts of War, Mackenzie Ford
This book begins with the Christmas truce of 1914. A German officer and a British officer exchange gifts, and the German officer reveals that he has a girlfriend who he left behind in Britain. He asks the British officer to find her and let her know he's alive. When the British officer finds her, he falls in love and so begins his deception. The plot alone is interesting, but I enjoyed the look at British life during the war and the insight into how the Brits related to the Germans. There are also subplots into the birth of modern psychology and medicine. It's an excellent and nuanced read.

The Bronze Horseman, Paullina Simmons
This is the tale of an unlikely romance in Leningrad during World War II. Tatiana, a young Russian girl, meets Alexander, a soldier in the Red Army, and they fall in love immediately. Their relationship is complicated by Tatiana's family, Alexander's secrets, and the world crumbling around them. I haven't read much about the siege of Leningrad and I learned a lot. Tatiana and Alexander are well written; at times I would be annoyed with them because they were so human and had faults. The Bronze Horseman is a long book that wraps you in its world and releases you only reluctantly at its close.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This was the first book chosen for my new book club and it was a great choice. The book is told all in letters written between the characters, a device I enjoyed as a child in Daddy Long Legs and more recently in Ella Minnow Pea. The novel is set on the island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands between Britain and France which was occupied by the Germans for five years. The Literary Society begins as an excuse for breaking curfew but grows to become an important part of the social fabric of the island, bringing together residents who would otherwise never have been friends. Although the book as a whole is upbeat, it does have sadder plots woven in. Erin is borrowing it next but feel free to get in line!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our Little Gimp

A few months ago we noticed that Max would occasionally pull up his right hind leg and he began to favor it more and more. We took him to the doctor and it turns out he needed surgery. He had the operation yesterday and came home today. He is definitely tired but he is doing ok and actually was able to hop around more than expected. The biggest challenge is going to be keeping him from running around for the next six weeks. Get well soon Max!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fair Weather Fans

One of my pet peeves is the fair weather fan. This person ignores a team all season long until they are close to a record, or a championship, then runs out to buy a jersey and tell everyone how his cousin's hairdresser's husband knew that one player in high school and beat him in mini golf.

I'm not the only one who feels this way; Penn State has had lackluster student attendance at football games this year. It's easy to see why (Akron, Temple, Syracuse, and Eastern Illinois all started at noon) but some people think that's no excuse. I was lucky enough to have season tickets for all four of my years at PSU and took advantage of them, even though I had to walk 10 miles in the snow uphill both ways and stand on flaming coals to watch the team have 3 losing seasons in 4 years.*

Which is why I am just that much more embarrassed to admit what I have been doing most nights for the past week: watching the Phillies in the World Series. I can count how many regular season games I watched on one hand and now I'm glued to the tv. But hey, it's my inalienable right as an American to be a hypocrite. So let's go Phils!

*Only one of those qualifiers is true; I'll let you guess which.