Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Checking IN

Hello everyone! Just checking in from Sharm al-Sheik. We found an internet cafe in the Old Market for five Egytian pounds. People are insanely friendly here. We are learning to say "no thank you" a lot.

I'll try and check in later, hopefully with a picture or two.

TLC Book Tour - The Green Beauty Guide and Giveaway

I was honored to be asked to review The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel as part of the TLC Book Tour. Honestly though, I saw this was an upcoming book and I really wanted to read it so I asked. I have to say that this is one of the best books I have read in a while. It's really a must-read, I think, for any person who wears make-up, cares about their hair and skin condition, and/or just wants to make healthier decisions. So really it's a must-read for everyone.

The Green Beauty Guide isn't a "going good to feel good" kind of book. Julie Gabriel has definitely done her research. She's a registered nutrition specialist and has been a writer and editor of beauty and fashion. She knows her stuff. She also has a skincare line called Petite Marie Organics. But this book isn't a promotional piece for her line.

The first two chapters are fascinating:The Nature of Skin and Beauty and the Toxic Beast. Realizing how skin, our largest organ, works is key to understanding how to take care of it. And it's amazing how chemicalized we've become. The next chapter Become an Ingredients List Expert clues you in to how many chemicals common lotions and make-up contain.

But my favorite part, of course is the do-it yourself beauty recipes. She has a chapter devoted to each common product: cleansers, toners, facials, moisturizers, sun protection, hair care, baby care, etc. And she makes it easy by providing a hand grocery shopping list for common products used in the recipes. She also provides good tips for commerical products that are better for your health.

I'm still amazed by the wealth of information contained in this book. And it's fairly cheap: $16.95 US dollars.

I was sent two copies so I'll be giving away the second copy. Honestly, I was going to give it to my sister instead but I'm just going to be buying a copy. So leave a comment for a chance to win the book. For an extra entry, go to The Green Beauty Guide website and tell me something interesting that you found out. The contest runs until November 30th.

For other reviews of The Green Beauty Guide and more, check out TLC Book Tours.

Julie Gabriel’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 17th: Allie’s Answers

Tuesday, November 18th: Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker

Wednesday, November 19th: Nature Moms Blog

Thursday, November 20th: Books and Cooks

Monday, November 24th: Green Phone Booth and Going Green

Tuesday, November 25th: The Good Human

Wednesday, November 26th: OrganicBeautySource.com

Friday, November 28th: Crunchy Chicken

Monday, December 1st: Surely You Nest

Tuesday, December 2nd: Greenstylemom

Wednesday, December 3rd: Rawdorable

Thursday, December 4th: She is Too Fond of Books

Friday, December 5th: Presenting Lenore

Monday, December 8th: Red Lady’s Reading Room

Tuesday, December 9th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Wednesday, December 10th: Bookopolis (will also be posted asa Guest Review at Books on the Brain)

Thursday, December 11th: B & B ex libris

Sunday, November 16, 2008

We're Off!

We are off to Egypt for our belated honeymoon! I will be back at the end of the month. But come back on November 18th for a book review and giveaway. I also might pop in for an update. I'll be back with lots of photos!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Random NYC Photo

I love when people come visit NYC and I can play tourist. My friend from this post will be coming in December to visit. Yippee!! So for now, here's a couple photos my brother took one day last December. It was absolutely freezing that day.

We were loving the color accent thingy on the camera which picked up the red in my scarf among other things:

Hmmm...this building might be a bit less festive this year:
Stone Street Tavern. Haven't been in there but I love that the sign is backwards. According to their website it's been around since 1656. There must be a pretty interesting reason:

Yep, that's me somewhere in Chinatown trying to figure out where my husband was:

Ok. Must stop procrastinating and do homework. Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Random NYC Photo

I took this a few weeks after I moved to the city. My husband's company party was on a boat that sailed around the island. Obviously I was a happy camper and snapping photos.

Good Friends

We are wrapping up things here lately to head off to our Egyptian belated honeymoon trip. We are insanely excited. And while I was making lists, buying extra memory cards for my camera, etc. my good friend sent me her wide-angle lens to use with my camera.

Good thing to note: all Canon lenses are compatible with any Canon body. Too cool.

So this Saturday while I'm running errands I am going to try some practice shots with the new lens. After this trip I KNOW I'm going to be saving up for one of my own.

So here's a BIG thank you to my friend. I've known her for 13 years now. She is my road-trip buddy and was one of the people who helped develop my love of photography.

I don't have very many photos on my work computer but here's just a few from our road tripping days.

I'm not sure what National Park this one is from (fairly sure it's Glacier):
This is one of my favorites from Glacier National Park.
And her trusty truck which has taken us everywhere from Alaska to the Grand Canyon:

*Note: We are WAY overdue for our next road trip. We are thinking Maine's Arcadia National Park or Iceland. Where would you go?

Harlem River at Night

A while back after I bought my new camera, I snapped some photos at night in our park while walking the pups. I don't have a tripod yet so I had to be very still while shooting at night with no flash.

Just a little note: Manhattan Island is obviously surrounded by water. To the East is the East River (clever name really), the West is the Hudson River, and the north where our neigborhood is has the Harlem River. The Harlem River connects the East River to the Hudson River.

We are also really close to the Henry Hudson Bridge which connects Manhattan Island to the Bronx. Actually, it spans what used to be the Spuyten Duyvil Creek. There's a small portion of land across the river called Marble Hill that used to be connected to Manhattan Island. They diverted the creek for shipping purposes and Marble Hill is now part of the Bronx. Here's a fun little map from Wikipedia:When we walk to the Bronx from our neighborhood (there's a Target, a Starbucks, an Applebee's, and other stores) we walk along the Broadway Bridge. Broadway, yes THE Broadway runs a long long way in New York State. In fact it runs all the way up to the state capital, Albany.

So here's the Henry Hudson Bridge. The lights underneath are the Spuyten Duyvil train stop for the Metro North Line:

And here's some a view of the Bronx to the right. The bright lights underneath the building are the Marble Hill train stop of the Metro North Line. The bubble area to the right is part of Columbia University. Their two stadiums are behind these buildings. I'm not sure what sport goes on in the bubble building which only appears when it gets cold. The building you can see is the Columbia University's rowing house. Sometimes while I am walking the dogs in the morning, the rowing teams are out practicing.
For some more of my posts on this area, check here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Seriously Love It

I usually don't miss Alaska. The cold. The dark. The starting the car 20 minutes before you drive because it's 40 below. Did I mention the dark?

But then sometimes I come across something like this blog post about voting in Alaska...and well I kind of miss it. The sod roofs. The mush dog trucks with a dozen puppy heads hanging out the window loving life. The northern lights.

And I'm glad I still have some family in Alaska I can come visit.

Empire State Building - Lights

I can't believe how dark it gets here at night now. I'm still at work for another hour and a half and it's already dark. Sigh. I'm actually lucky though because for some of my day I have a view of Mid-Town East about thirty floors up. I like looking down on the chaos a lot.

So I'm sitting here and from different angles I can see the Empire State Building AND the Chrysler Building. (My favorite is still the Chrysler Building). And I notice that the Empire State Building is lit up, not with the usual green and red, but with purple. Hmm. Weird.

So of course I Google it. Apparently the purple and white is in honor of the March of Dimes.

I didn't see the building at night yesterday, but apparently it was red, white and blue in honor of Vetran's Day and the Intrepid Museum Re-Opening. My brother will like to know that. Last year when he came to visit, he walked all the way down to the pier where the Intrepid is supposed to be...and it was gone. It's been MIA for renovations.

Tomorrow until November 25th, the Empire State Building's lights will be all white.

Here's our secret place we go for drinks and a view of the building.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What to do

Obviously I am procrastinating. I have a TON of homework to do and since I've been under the weather my brain has turned to mush. I just re-read the text book lines over and over and over.

So while I try to understand the six phases of the Database Life Cycle (DBLC), head on over to Old Red Barn Co. and try and win one of three quilts. For FIFTY extra entries you can do a YouTube video for it. I would LOVE to make people do something like that.

Also head over to The Handmade Quilt for a chance to win another quilt. This one is for a good cause.

By the way, how does Old Red Barn Co. get such nice photographs...where does she live and what kind of backyard is this:
Seriously, if we had a backyard, it would have dead grass, dead trees, and a dog or two tugging on the quilt. Sigh...

O wait...we used to have a backyard (in Las Vegas). Let's see how it looked:
Hmmm. Dead grass, check. Dead tree, check. Dog or two (Charlie and his little buddy Koa), check. Hmmm...maybe I shouldn't win a quilt.

1001 Update - Miss Lonelyhearts

For a while now I've been trying to remember the name of this novel. I read it back in 2003 when I was studying abroad in Wales. I took some great classes there and one I took for fun was a class called "Crisis of the American Self". No kidding. Did you know they have "American Studies" majors? I mean, it makes sense. But it still boggles my mind.

Anyway, along with The Catcher in the Rye, A Farewell to Arms, etc. we had to read Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West. I really loved this novel and was surprised I hadn't heard about it before. Have you?

It was published in 1933 and is set in New York City during the Great Depression. The protagonist of the story is a guy who writes an advice column for the newspaper, known as Miss Lonelyhearts. He is basically a big joke for the newspaper. Obviously after reading so many letters for advice he becomes very depressed and alcoholic. Obviously he gets into brawls and all that stuff. But at the same time it's pretty funny. It reminded me of a black and white movie...the one where the detective is sitting and smoking and the gorgeous lady asks for help. Picture that only the detective is a newspaperman pretending to be a lady writing an advice column. Definitely a black black comedy if you like that sort of humor.

I remember reading this and wondering why I hadn't heard of it before. It wasn't until I was perusing the 1001 To Read List that it popped out and rang a bell. I am definitely going to re-read it.

Oh, and I just love some of these covers. I don't remember which one I read (I think the duel novel one) but I'd love to own an old version:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Run - Ann Patchett

I found a hard cover copy of Run by Ann Patchett at the 96th Street Library Branch. It was missing it's jacket so I assume this is the cover it had. I don't think the cover says much about the book. I always thought it was bubbles or water (it's snow...I think). I wanted to read this after reading Bel Canto this year. Oops, just realized I never reviewed that one either.

I was a little nervous because Bel Canto was pretty sad. And I didn't really know what Run was about. So I just gave it a go.

I honestly liked Run. It wasn't what I was expecting. But I can also see why people might lose interest in the book.

My synopsis:
Bernadette Doyle has always wanted a large family. Coming from an Irish family, that's just what she was used to. So after having a son and finding it impossible to have more children, the Doyles adopt a child. He's African American and shortly after his adoption, the birth mother decides her two children should be together and her older fourteen month old son lives with the Doyles as well.

The two boys, Tip and Teddy grow up as the Doyle's children and never look back or wonder about their birth mother. Bernadette died when the children were younger and they pay homage to the memory of the mother they knew, not the one they didn't. One winter night, worlds collide when a car accident brings together the Doyle family and the family Tip and Teddy never knew.

While this story is sometimes slow, I thought it was very moving. I really liked the characters and the struggles they went through. While it touches on religion, race, politics, and family I honestly thought the family aspect was what made the book. And I thought her writing was very visual. I could imagine the scenes as if they were in a movie. And while there are sad aspects in the book, I never felt like it was a sad book. It's one of those books when you finish the last paragraph and smile because it all worked out ok.

But I could see that the slowness of the book might be a turn off. And it's about character development, not so much as action. So if the characters or writing didn't draw you in you might be tempted to quit.

I thought this cover was more telling about what the story was about:And while a little girl plays a huge part in the story, it's set in the winter so this is a pretty poor choice for a book cover:Also Reviewed By:
She is Too Fond of Books
Medieval Book Worm
Under the Dresser
Fizzy Thoughts
Book Club Girl
A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore

Friday, November 7, 2008

Allergy Help

I mentioned in this post that I've been a little under the weather due to some extreme allergies. I recently had a blood test done and these are the foods my doctor said I should try and stay away from for a month:

Cow's Milk
Green Bean

Does anyone have any cookbooks or resources they know of for cooking/eating without using cow's milk, corn, oat, and wheat?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where I Find Books

Remember back when I held this contest, I threatened that if no one wants my books they will be stuck on my apartment basement's bookshelves. Well here's the dungeon:We are lucky Manhattan-ites who have in their building A) an elevator and B) a laundry room. I was so excited to find a bookshelf in the laundry room...although I've NEVER seen anyone just sitting around waiting for their laundry. Our building has great people and we are all pretty trusting.
And here's just up from the laundry room. Yet ANOTHER bookshelf.
Aren't the decorations great! I love that our building makes an effort. I've found quite a few little gems in these two bookshelves. And of course I've left a few books.Just another place I find my books.

Random Park Scene

Here's a random photo from the lake/salt marsh in the park near our apartment. It's just a little lake that is part of where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers meet. So the tide comes in and out of our lake which is pretty cool. During the end of summer and in fall we've been seeing some cranes picking at fish. I snapped a photo of this one:

Bald eagles have been reintroduced in the last few years. I think I've seen one. And we've seen a few big (hawks?) which are pretty cool. So even though we are on Manhattan Island, I sometimes don't feel like it.

Away - Amy Bloom

I picked up a hard cover copy of Amy Bloom's novel Away at the Housing Work's Book Fair. I remember a while back when this book first came out and I was intrigued. First...I think the book cover is gorgeous. And second, the historical-fiction aspect intrigued me. I opened the book and found a neat little map charting the course of the main character's journey from New York, through the United States, and up through Alaska. Since I've lived in both New York, Alaska, and other states I thought this would be a perfect book.

This book isn't at all what I thought it was going to be. At first I was so disappointed. But I stuck through with it and by the end I thought it was ok. It's my fault though for having different expectations, but here it goes.

The time is the mid 1920s New York City. Think Prohibition. Think "Roaring Twenties". Lillian Leyb, a Russian Jew, is newly immigrated to the USA and is starting to make a new life. She lost her husband, daughter, and family in Russia during a pogrom -- i.e. mass murder.

I mentioned that she's starting a new life in America, but it feels more like a dead woman walking. She always feels very distracted from her life. Good or bad things can and do happen to her and it feels very distant. There is a lot of debauchery - audultry, theft, red light districts, etc in this book. But when a relative shows up in New York saying that she thinks Lilian's daughter is alive and living with neighbors in, Lilian decides to chuck it all and travel West to Siberia to find her daughter.

The ending of the book made it worth while to me. But the rest of the book had a lot of uncomfortable situations in it for me. And it would have been fine if I felt close to Lilian. I mean I felt sorry and bad for her but she felt so distant to me that it was hard to get close to her character. It felt like she was just in such a base survivial mode that morals, decisions right or wrong didn't affect her. She just went along with anything.

I'm glad it was a fairly short book because I'm not sure I would have finished it had it been longer.

I had not seen any other book covers so I Google'd it. I have to say that the other covers, while less appealing to me, are more relevant to the storyline than the pretty bowl of fruit.

Book Wins

Last week I had two books arrive in the mail which I won from the great blog site Favorite PASTimes which has reviews of a lot of historical fiction and tons of great giveaways. I haven't read them yet but I am excited to. And weird how they both have the word "shadow" in the titles...what's the odds?

"I am the first writer, The Scribe. My books lie open before the Throne, and someday will be the only witness of your people and their time in this world." So begins the narration of one such angel in this sweeping historical tale set during the reign of England's Henry VIII. It is the story of two women, their guardian angels, and a mysterious, subversive book . . . a book that outrages some, inspires others, and launches the Protestant Reformation.The devout Anne Boleyn catches the eye of a powerful king and uses her influence to champion an English translation of the Bible. Meanwhile, Rose, a broken, suicidal woman of the streets, is moved to seek God when she witnesses Thomas More's public displays of Christian charity, ignorant of his secret life spent eradicating the same book, persecuting anyone who dares read it. Historic figures come alive in this thrilling story of heroes and villains, saints and sinners, angels and mortals . . . and the sacred book that will inspire you anew.

In a world enslaved by money and power, one woman dares to be free. Will an explosive secret enslave her again? The place is the island of Rhodes; the time, 227 BC. In the ten years that Tessa of Delos has been in bondage as a hetaeira, a high-priced Greek courtesan to a wealthy politician, she has learned to abandon all desire for freedom and love. But when her owner meets a violent death, Tessa is given the chance to be free—if she can hide the truth of his death and maintain a masquerade until escape is possible. Now Tessa must battle for her own freedom and for those she is beginning to love, as forces collide that will shatter the island’s peace and bring even its mighty Colossus to its knees. Here is a powerful story showing how the love of God can transform even the most hardened person and bring back to life a soul jaded by sin and grief.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Ice Queen - Alice Hoffman

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman is the second novel of hers I have read and and I have to say that I am really enjoying her writing. I picked up a hard cover copy at the Housing Works Book Fair for a buck. What a lucky find!

Alice Hoffman's novels tend to have a dab of magic and the impossible in them. But it's not absurd. It's not awkward. She makes it seem plausible...which I love.

The ice queen of the title is a small town librarian who's let her heart grow cold because of the guilt of a fateful wish she made as a child which causes someone she loves to die. She grows up to be a nice but distant person who does not open up to anyone. Again, she makes another spiteful wish come true and is struck by lightning hindering among other things her ability to see the color red. Thus, her world truly becomes icy without the ability to see such a vibrant hue.

After joining a "survivors" group of other lightning strike victims, she goes on a search to find the almost mythical survivor, Lazarus Jones, who supposedly defied death and survived not one but two strikes. Since she is a wisher of death, she wants to find the one person who can defy death.

I loved this book. Not as much as The River King, but still it was such a good, short novel. It wasn't so much the plot itself but in her writing. The way she described blood-red oranges devoid of color. How color affects the senses, mood, and alters perspective. And I loved the side characters of Ned, her brother and his wife. It's not so much a coming-of-age story as a life finally blossoming.

Here are some other covers of The Ice Queen. I'll leave you to read the story to find out the symbolism of the butterfly:And of the tree in these:

Also Reviewed By:

Schenectady Stroll

The weekend before Halloween, my husband and I went to Schenectady, New York for my husband's FE exam. We thought it would be nice to get out of the city and to take the pups. Unfortunately it rained almost ALL of Saturday. But that's ok. I still took the pups on a nice long walk through a nearby park, Vail Park. I was thoroughly creeped out, as you will see, so I had to bring my husband back on Sunday. While the photos were taken on a nice sunny day, imagine walking this in the rain and fog...oooo....

Welcome to Vail Park:Seriously...I've only seen gates likes these in movies. The ones where you enter and are safe from witches, mummy's, and all things that go bump in the night. Hallowed ground sort of stuff.

After walking past a nice gazebo and a children's playground, I entered the forest:Beautiful right? Until I came upon this alongside the trail:
Hmmm. "Who were the Potters?" I wondered? (Obviously not "Hairy" as someone wrote/defaced).

Then I came upon more:
Does anyone know what the symbolism is behind the draped vases?

Or why some of the plots are in a circle? Maybe all one family?:
I love some of the beautiful crosses and stonework.
But it was still a bit creepy:
I kind of felt like Dracula was going to pop up at any moment:
Especially when I saw this:Doesn't it remind you of the movie Sleepy Hollow where the horse comes out of the tree?

And the trail finally ended at a much larger, more maintained cemetary:
I know those are just leaf piles...but still...

Even though I didn't get around to this post until after Halloween, I still hope you enjoyed the walk through Schenectady's Vail Park!