Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Review of White Witch, Black Curse

I typically love these books, but this one didn't really do it for me. Basically there was a lot of action but nothing got accomplished. If you have a long-running series (this is maybe book 5 or so?), you need to have stuff happen in each book or your readers get bored.

I got bored.

Ivy and Rachel are still on uneasy terms. Ivy still hates being a vampire. Jenks's wife is still dying. Rachel and Trent are still not speaking. Rachel still doesn't have a love interest. Rachel is still being blacklisted for supposedly dealing with demons (in this installment the community literally shuns her). It all felt like setup for future novels, in which hopefully things will actually happen.

So, I'm not entirely done with the series, but I wasn't impressed, either. And, as you all know, I have pretty low standards. ;-)

Review of Magic Bites and Magic Burns

I read these books in a couple of hours apiece! They were not the most challenging reads, but they were fun, and they kept me entertained. I liked the first one slightly better than the second.

The premise is that the main character, Kate, my usual badass heroine, is a mercenary living in Atlanta...but some alternate Atlanta where magic and technology trade off in waves. Either the tech is up or the magic is. It's hard to explain, but is interesting to read about. Actually one of the things I liked about these books was the "show, don't tell" approach...there wasn't a lot of spoon feeding about the world's background, just enough to keep things from being totally confusing.

Kate is not only skilled with her sword but is also adept at magic...and she keeps hinting at her paternity (the hints were so forceful in the second book you'd have to be really dense not to guess who her dad is...that was a little disappointing). In Magic Bites, Kate takes an assignment to find out who killed her guardian and ends up working with vampires, shapeshifters, and all sorts of other (typical urban fantasy) creatures. The vampires in these novels are interesting--they are mindless undead, sort of like zombies, who have to be piloted by another person. In the second book, Kate starts by looking for a young girl's missing mother and ends up uncovering a coven of witches who have inadvertently let something really nasty loose.

I'm looking forward to reading the third in the series as soon as it's available at the library--these books are fun. Hopefully the third is as good as the first was.

OMW Week 17, WW Week 7

I was a little worried about what the scale would say after my gluttonous weekend, but I'm down another 1.5 pounds for a total of 9 pounds! Hooray!

I'm hoping that my weight is soon decreased so much that I have to go clothes shopping. Mr. T and I have seriously considered having our honeymoon just be an enormous shopping spree--that's how sick we are of our clothes. Being uber-frugal has its drawbacks.

I increased the weight on the chest press and pull-up machines. My ultimate goal is to do a pull-up using just my arm muscles...no help from any machine. That would be awesome. I don't think it's as common for women to be able to do an unassisted pull-up. I am envious when I watch Mr. T do them at home.

It felt good to get back in the gym today after 5 whole days off! I was stiff and was happy to get moving again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

OMW Week 16, WW Week 6, and Weekend Progress

Another 2 pounds lost! That makes 7.5 total so far. I was thankful not to be chastised by the WW tracker again this time.

I would've gotten to the gym earlier today, but we discovered that ants had found the cat food overnight. So we built a moat out of a cookie tin (thanks to Heather and Erik for the idea). The cats were super freaked out by it, especially Dobby, but hopefully they get used to it. I hate ants. Anyway, I didn't do my full workout today, but I only had to cut a few things.

Regardless, it was a good workout this morning. Warm weather makes for loose muscles! Friday's workout was really good too. mmmmwarmth. The older I get, the more cat-like I become. The cats and I basked in the weather this weekend. Ahhh.

This weekend was relaxed but we also got some wedding stuff done. First, we walked all around the UC Berkeley campus looking for likely wedding photo sites. This was inspired by Offbeat Bride's recent ad for Lilia Photography. I looked at Lilia's site, and found these lovelies:

Not only is UCB my alma mater and a nostalgic location for me, OMG dinosaur bones!! Or a casting of them, at least. How cool would that be for a Hallowedding photo shoot? Mr. T likes the idea too, so Saturday we went in search of fossils! It took some tramping around...apparently I never had a reason to be in the life sciences building when I went to school there? We eventually found it. Unfortunately the campus was having some sort of open house that day and it was packed. We can only hope Halloween is a little calmer. The campus is lovely and would provide a number of good locations, not the least of which would be the top of Sather Tower (seen in the first picture).

Feeling virtuous not only about getting wedding stuff done but also all that walking, I persuaded Mr. T to take me out to dinner at one of our candidates for the rehearsal dinner, a seafood restaurant in Berkeley (and no, not Spenger's). Sadly, although the restaurant was beautiful and my margarita kicked ass (had to use some extra WW points on that one!), my halibut was dry and overcooked. And for a seafood restaurant, that was just sad. Mr. T liked his crab cakes, but the halibut was a deal-breaker for me. As my day-of-coordinator might say...they had one job. And they blew it. Disappointing.

Sunday I worked on doing data entry into our spreadsheet; I entered in all the addresses I have and tried to track down some of the ones I don't. We still haven't sent out save the date emails but I feel closer to doing that now that I have a list of email addresses (with some gaps).

I had been waivering on whether to invite my mother's whole side of the family, because we're not super close, but I felt that politeness dictated it since I took a trip out to visit all of them (mostly my grandma, but we ended up seeing everyone) last Fall. I decided to just go ahead and add them to the list and stop stressing out about it, which means adding more money for food and cupcakes, etc., etc., but it's not all that much more, and plus now we have time to save up for it (since we were almost done saving money for the wedding anyway). So, if they come, we're covered, and if they don't, we have some extra, and I'm relieved to have just decided.

We are almost at the 6-month mark, and need to really tackle some of the bigger things like registering, invitation design, Mr. T's suit, etc.!! I'm feeling anxious about it.

This weekend we're attending Mr. T's cousin's wedding. His cousin's fiancee has trusted me to create the wedding bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres! That's a lot of trust, and I hope I don't let her down. Granted, it's an intimate family wedding, but still, it's hugely important. I'm thankful to have a chance to practice my workshop skills! It already feels like that was so long ago.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Flower Porn

I like both of these bouquets. And I love the look of the black ribbon on "handle" of the top one. That may have made up my mind about ribbon color!

This boutonniere is cute. I keep forgetting we need one for the ring bearer. I like that this one is small.

And finally, a color scheme that I adore but am not using. A girl can look, can't she?? MMmmpeacock.

A Way to Cut Down on Dress Costs

I found this one courtesy of the tacky weddings blog. Sheesh, those girls have balls.

Review of Bone-Crossed

Yes, yes, another badass supernatural heroine book. I do have a type. However, some of these urban fantasy authors are better than others, and Patricia Briggs knows how to write them! I read this one very quickly...devoured it, really.

Mercy Thompson is just your everyday mechanic/shapeshifter (she can turn into a coyote) who talks to ghosts and is friends with werewolves, vampires, and fae. In this latest installment, Mercy is still recovering from being attacked by a lunatic (from the end of the last book in the series) and has also just consented to be the mate of the Alpha of the local werewolf pack. While dealing with all of that, she learns that the local vampire seethe (which is really such a cool term for a gang of vampires) is out to kill her. And finally, Mercy hears from an old friend with a ghost problem; her investigation of that problem of course lands Mercy into deeper waters.

I loved it. It was a very fun, fast read, and you know how I like the bad girls. ;-). Recommended for urban fantasy fans. I'm actually considering introducing Mr. T to this series, the books are that good.

OMW Week 15, WW Week 5

It's hard to believe the numbers in the post title. 15 and 5 weeks, really?

Anyway, I was thrilled that the scale had a different story to tell me on Monday. I lost 3 pounds! That makes 5 total. Of course WW had something to say about that too, telling me I was losing weight too fast, blah, blah. WW has far too many opinions for my tastes.

The interesting thing is that now that I've gotten to the 5 pound mark, my allotment of points was decreased by one. Huh. If that keeps up, I'll be starving by the time I've lost 30 pounds.

The other interesting thing is managing expectations. I figured, between the gym and WW, I would just drop the recommended 2 pounds per week (that would have put me at 8 pounds lost on Monday, not 5). I don't know if I can claim that I've gained muscle mass, but perhaps that's the cause. I'm just happy to wear some old pairs of jeans that had been languishing in my drawer. I'm trying to focus on the small victories rather than "OMG why isn't this going faster?!" That little voice is very hard to stifle, but I'm working on it.

Mr. T and I haven't been very successful at doing 4 workouts a week. We've at least been doing 3, and combined with all the walking and other exercise we do, I don't feel like we're doing too shabby, but 4 days would be nice. Life keeps interfering, somehow, and I think it's just better to be flexible--it probably keeps us happier. Still, it's a goal for someday--4 workout days per week. I started doing some of my crunches on an exercise ball after reading an article about how the added instability of the ball really helped build core strength in a way that floor crunches can't. After the first day I tried it, my abs were totally sore! I guess the article was right.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Second Bachelorette Party of 2009

Saturday I attended my second bachelorette party of the year! It was a little quieter than the first one, but no less fun. We went out for Mediterranean tapas and then out to a club for 80's night. The food was super yummy (I blame it for my half-pound weight gain) and I loved going dancing...I haven't been dancing for ages. It felt like coming home! We adorned the bride-to-be (Mr. T's cousin's fiancee) in a blinking tiara complete with veil, a blinking huge fake diamond ring, body crystal stickers (hers said "sexy") and a bride to be sash. We all got huge fake non-blinking rings and crystal stickers that were hearts, or said love, etc. Also, we all had 80's gloves (mesh or lace) and glow bracelets and necklaces. It was awesome! Halfway through the night the bride-to-be turned to my MOH and asked her to get this pink boa from a guy who was wearing it...and so the MOH did! She traded him for a glow necklace. We ended up trading back later, but it was funny and sweet. It was also funny that the bride-to-be knew that the MOH would be up for it. I told her that her reputation must have preceded her. Anyway, super fun. I definitely want to go out dancing for my bachelorette party.

OMW Week 14, WW Week 4

I was bummed to step on the scale on Tuesday and discover I'd gained half a pound. Not only did I not lose, but I gained! The WW website was totally snarky about it too, I have to say. The quote was something like, "So you gained weight. Were you planning to do this?" Excuse me? Like the weight gain itself didn't make me feel bad enough, now I need a guilt trip from my food tracker?

Anyway, it's also been really hard to get up for OMW this week. I didn't get up on Monday, and I didn't get up today. That makes only two workouts this week! I need to go tomorrow if it kills me. Aside from cupcakes, I've been very good about food this week, so that scale better have a different story next Monday, or it's going out the window. ;-)

The good news about this week is that I can now do two sets of 12 (assisted) pull-ups. It might be time to increase my weight on that machine, which I am excited about. I love that machine. I can feel that my arms have a slightly different shape than they used to. Hee!

Cupcake Tasting #5

OMG, yum. We had our fifth cupcake tasting on Tuesday night. Fifth!! Believe it or not, I think Mr. T and I are done. We have at least two more vendors on our list to try, including one vegan baker that comes highly recommended, but Mr. T and I don't think we can do anymore. We need a cupcake break! Luckily, we have some good options to choose from.

We tasted carrot with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, chocolate with vanilla buttercream, lemon, and 2 red velvets, one with extra rich cream cheese frosting and one with vanilla buttercream. Unlike the other bakers we've tried, we did not have to pay for the tasting, and we also got to choose our flavors! I appreciated both of those things.
The carrot was super tasty but we liked the killer carrot from one of the other bakers better. However, the other cupcakes were also great, unlike the other baker--we couldn't think of another flavor of hers that we really enjoyed! This baker's chocolate cake was moist (all of them were moist), not too rich, and the vanilla buttercream was so tasty. I loved it, and usually I'm so-so about buttercream. The lemon was nice and tangy but not too tart. The red velvet was great, and again I liked the buttercream even more than the cream cheese frosting (Mr. T liked the cream cheese). We liked that none of them were uber-sweet, also--we didn't feel sick or jittery afterwards.

Before the appointment Mr. T said, "Unless we love this place, let's just go with the other baker," (the killer carrot baker) and I agreed. After we left, we had changed our minds. We haven't officially decided, but I think we've found our cupcakery. Exciting!

Prices in comparison to the other place are about the same. The baker from Tuesday does decorations for free, while the other place charges 50 cents per cupcake for them. The big difference is the delivery and setup fee, which is a steep and unbelievable $250 from the baker we're now thinking of going with. Mr. T asked me, "Aren't cupcakes supposed to be the cheaper option?" I think what we're going to do is have a friend pick them up and set them up for us, which means we'd save that money. It's a lot to ask of a friend, but folks have offered to help, so I guess it's time to test that!

I get an official proposal from this baker next week, and then we'll decide. Hooray! Check that off the list, which is growing exponentially every day...

So, while I'm on the cupcake discussion, I found this photo on some bridal blog and thought it would be perfect for us. It's not Halloween-related, but Mr. T is a drummer, and his drumset is currently sitting unused in our front hallway. And hey, we'd save on cupcake tiers!

Review of Fool

I heard about this one from a number of sources, but I think the first was the library newsletter, so I put myself on the reservation list and waited. It finally came in!

Mr. T and I are both fans of Christopher Moore. I read Lamb for my bookclub and I was hooked. I loaned that one to my dad and he said, "That book was actually funny!" Which says a lot about what my dad thinks of my tastes. Sigh. ;-)

So anyway, Fool. It turns out this one is very loosely based on Shakespeare's King Lear, which I surprisingly never read, although all English majors at my university were forced to spend a semester studying Shakespeare. I mean, I like his stuff and all, but it's not exactly light reading, you know? Still, after reading Fool, I'm very curious about the original. I bet there are no mentions of "dog's bollocks", "wankers", the "fucking French", or "shagging," for example. Moore takes all of the bawdiness of Shakespeare and updates it so that Fool is very definitely NOT PG-rated.

Also, I doubt that King Lear was a comedy. Actually, one of the characters notes this, asking the main character (Pocket, the fool in question), "Wait, aren't I supposed to be in a tragedy?" and Pocket confirms that they are in fact in a black comedy. I enjoyed the breaking of the fourth wall (or whatever it's called). I also liked all of the Shakespeare references and quotes sprinkled throughout, not just from King Lear but the whole Shakespeare catalog.

I would recommend this one. Christopher Moore is interesting in that his sense of humor is distinguishable in each book, but you never feel that he is writing the same novel again and again. Refreshing.

Good news and bad news

...but mostly good, I think.

So, our spreadsheet has been acting funny since we switched to a Mac and I've been having to fix the formulas. I finally figured out the formula for "money left to save" last night, which had said $5,000, but that didn't seem right when I did the mental math (although, with my math skills, it could've been. You're talking about the bride who added an extra "zero" onto the postage and put tax in twice as a line item). So anyway, the newly corrected Excel document now says we have a mere $2,000 left to go! That's really exciting.

The bad news is, many things are costing us more than I budgeted. For example, when I budgeted for cupcakes, I didn't budget for tier rental, decoration, or setup/delivery. Also, we budgeted for 8 hours of photography, but thinking about how that day will go, I believe it will be more like 12 hours, so we'll have to add more there. Things like that. So I don't think it's really just $2K that we need to save...I'd rather just keep throwing money in the account and figure out what to do with any leftover money later (such as...a honeymoon?).

However, even though it's a bummer that I underestimated, we do still have seven months (OMG only 7 months!!!!!!!!Yikes!!!) to save up, so I feel good about it. And I feel very good about the thought of not going into debt for our wedding. Hooray!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Postage Thoughts

Postage is going up again on 5/11/09, so unless Mr. T and I want to invest in the ugly "Forever" stamps before then, it means we're paying an extra two cents per invitation. The man is totally trying to keep us down.

The good news is that because of this I was browsing usps.gov for stamp options and discovered this beauty, perfect for our Hallowedding:

That's right, it's Mr. Poe himself! The site says:

On January 16, 2009, in Richmond, Virginia, the Postal Service™ issued a 42–cent, Edgar Allan Poe commemorative stamp, designed by Carl T. Herrman, Carlsbad, California.

In 2009, the U.S. Postal Service® commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, one of America’s most extraordinary poets and fiction writers. For more than a century and a half, Poe and his works have been praised by admirers around the world.

I think it strikes just the right note: spooky, without being gory, plus I like the added literary connotation. I hope they offer them in the 44-cent stamp, but with my luck, I'll end up with hearts and flowers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Review of Bones of the Dragon

I also heard about this one courtesy of the library's newsletter. As teenagers, my brother and I were obsessed with the Dragonlance series. Those characters loomed larger than life in our imaginations. Raistlin was just so scary and complex and cool, Sturm was so noble, Kitiara such a bad girl, Tanis so tortured. Anyway, I've read this author team's other books, but haven't loved them in quite the same way. Still, I thought I'd give this one a try.

I actually thought it might be set in the same world as the Dragonlance series, but I was glad to find out it's in a new world altogether. The people seem to be some sort of Native American/Viking hybrid (heavy on the Viking). It has an interesting premise for a fantasy novel with pretty conventional themes in general: The gods are battling with a new set of gods, and the old gods are losing. This throws the worshippers of the old gods into some disarray, as you might imagine. Other than that, as mentioned, the themes are pretty typical: young warrior, brawny and handsome but not so into thinking before he acts, meaning his brash actions get him into a lot of trouble. His best friend, the smart one, who tempers some of the dumb stuff. The love interest, who has no interest in the warrior but instead prefers the smart one. The two keep their mouths shut because they don't want to hurt their friend, but of course it comes out in the end.

And of course there is a quest: to retrieve a sacred torque from the ogres, who are worshippers of the new set of gods. We don't get to the end of that quest in this book (clearly this is meant to be at least a trilogy), but some interesting stuff does happen along the way.

While not entirely original, the writing is decent, and it kept me interested (I actually finished it in just a few days, which is always a good sign...it means I wanted to keep reading!). So, I'll probably check out the sequels too. Still, no match for Dragonlance, which is probably better in my mind than it is in reality...but some things make a big impact when you're a teen!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Review of The Tale of Hill Top Farm

I found out about this book from the library's newsletter. I love the library!

This book is a fictional account of Beatrix Potter's life right after she purchased Hill Top Farm. It's also a mini-mystery, covering the missing School Roof Fund, the missing parish register, and why poor Miss Tolliver passed away so suddenly.

This book reminded me a bit of Anne of Green Gables. Not in content, but in feel--nothing uber-dramatic happens, but there are little mysteries to be solved, and it's set in a small village, so you "see" a lot of town gossip throughout.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to folks who like sweet, quaint English books. I'm going to check the rest of the series out once I get through more of my current stack!