Sunday, September 23, 2007

We Closed On Our House


We closed on our house on Friday. It is our first home buying experience so needless to say it was interesting. We signed a TON of papers and it was very painful handing that check over at the end. However, we are now first time HOMEOWNERS!!!

We move in the 29th which gives us one week to get the older home ready to go. We thought that would be enough time. A little under two days later we are now horrified at how not ready the house will be on move in day. I mean, it is in good shape, nothing needs to be done. These are things we want to be done. We also tried to be optimistic and only wanted to get the living room, dining room and master bedroom ready.

For the past two days we have pulled out six rooms of carpet and padding. Bagged it and got it ready for the trash. I've been scraping off padding that has rotted and stuck to the hardwood. I thought we would be able to get away with buffing the floors but I'm pretty sure they are going to need refinished. We've also been pulling out staples from the hardwood. Really, how many staples do you need to hold down padding? Apparently at least a million.

We have little sample squares of color painted all over the house trying to decided on paint colors. We did finally make our decisions for three rooms and the hallways: Green lame (metallic & will cost us too much $ but oh well), filtered shade grey, and olive tree.

Even though we've been coming home and falling over exhausted we can already tell the house is going to be beautiful when it is finally ready to go.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Vintage Pictures & Collages

I found a really cool website that sells various collages and papers like the ones below. They are reasonably priced. I'm thinking of buying a few for the new house or for my scrapbooking supplies.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


We are finally buying a home. We found a house and signed a contract in 5 days! The closing was set for 30 days later. Moving day is set for the end of this month.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Too Cute

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"In Their Shoes" Reading Challenge

This challenge is being hosted by Vasilly over at 1330V

The rules are real simple: you pick the number of books that you want to read. You also pick the books you read. They just have to be either a memoir, autobiography, or biography. It runs from Jan. 1 2008 - Dec. 31 2008.

Here is the blog In Their Shoes.

Tentative Book List
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo

Hubby and I took our neice to the zoo the other day. Despite hot and humid weather we had a great time. Many of the animals were in the water staying cool and the new polar bear and sea lion exhibit was open.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Book Review: THE RUINS

The Ruins

Author: Scott Smith

Pages: 336

Personal Rating: 3.5/5

From the back cover:

The Ruins follows two American couples, just out of college, enjoying a pleasant, lazy beach holiday together in Mexico as, on an impulse, they go off with newfound friends in search of one of their group—the young German, who, in pursuit of a girl, has headed for the remote Mayan ruins, site of a fabled archeological dig. This is what happens from the moment the searchers—moving into the wild interior—begin to suspect that there is an insidious, horrific “other” among them . . .

I picked up this book by chance from Goodwill when I saw it was published in 2006. I thought I could get a credit for it on paperback swap. I wasn’t expecting much. At home I saw that Stephen King called it “the best suspense novel of the year” and I decided to give it a try.

Four annoying, recently graduated college students follow a newly met friend into the jungle. They are looking for the new friend’s brother, who has been missing for a week. They are searching for Mayan ruins, the last place the brother said he was going. They end up being trapped on top of a hill by vines and group of native villagers. Most of the story revolves around what happens as they are trapped on the hill.

I hated three of the four main characters. I wanted to strangle them. I almost stopped reading the book I found the girls to be so stupid and irritating. The third male character was almost as aggravating. I think Scott did a nice of job of showing how a stressful situation can bring out the worst flaws in some people. The book also has no chapters. It goes on and on, just like their ordeal.

Would I call this book the best suspense novel of the year? No. I would call it good suspense/horror novel that had some interesting aspects and ideas. I think Smith could come up with some real horrifying stories in the future, I see potential.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Plants From My Container Garden 2--WANDERING JEW

Scientific name = Zebrina pendula

This plant is very easy to grow once you “get the hang of it”. It is great for hanging baskets since it will become very full and cascade over the sides.

Problems: I’ve heard it described as having "old man syndrome", where the top of the plant becomes "bald" and growth remains down the sides, just waiting for a "comb over". I found this on Yahoo!Answers. This can be solved be cutting off all the tips. They should be no longer than 5”. Strip off all but 3 or 4 leaves and epot with 2 or 3 in a hole.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Yes, another challenge. I’m still narrowing down my list. The books I’ve put in italics are still tentative.

Booker Prize
1997 The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
2000 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Gold Dagger Award
1993 Cruel and Unusual by Patricia Cornwell

National Book Award
1980 The World According to Garp by John Irving
2003 Three Junes by Julia Glass completed 8.5.07
2006 The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

Pulitzer Prize
2003 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

1988 The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton

Newbery Award
1994 The Giver by Lois Lowry

NBCC Award
1985 The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

Royal Society Prize
1996 Plague’s Progress, Arno Karlen
1998 Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond
2004 A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson

Bram Stoker Award
1992 The Blood of the Lamb by Thomas F. Monteleone
2001 American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Giller Prize
2006 Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam

World Fantasy Award
1989 Koko by Peter Straub


Saturday, July 14, 2007


Women of the Silk

Author—Gail Tsukiyama

Pages: 278

Personal Rating: 5/5

From the back cover:

In Women of the Silk, a West Coast bestseller in its hardcover publication, Gail Tsukiyama takes her readers back to rural China in 1926, where a group of women forge a sisterhood amidst the reeling machines that reverberate and clamor in a vast silk factory from dawn until dusk. Leading the first strike the village has ever seen, the young women use the strength of their ambition, dreams, and friendship to achieve the freedom they could never have hoped for on their own. Tsukiyama's graceful prose weaves the details of "the silk work" and Chinese village life into a story of miraculous courage and strength.

I decided to read Women of the Silk with the hope that I would like it as much as Snow Flower & the Secret Fan and Memoirs of a Geisha. Although distinctly different from them, it still gave me a glimpse into the Chinese culture that I have begun to enjoy.

Women of the Silk revolves around a young girl Pei, who is sent to work in the silk factory to earn money for her family. Her father tells her they are taking a trip and then leaves her as she is taking a “tour” of the building that will become her home. The story follows Pei through the next 20 years of her life. As the events in Pei’s life unfold, it becomes harder and harder to put the book down.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Book Review--Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers

Author—Mary Roach

Pages: 303

Personal Rating: 4/5

From the back cover:

Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

The first three quarters of this book were much more interesting than the last quarter which I ended up skimming. Roach examines the many ways cadavers are used today. Each chapter is devoted to a different use. Some examples; Chapter 1—A Head Is A Terrible Thing To Waste, Chapter 4—Dead Man Driving, Chapter 5—Beyond The Black Box. She has a dry sense of humor that is present throughout the book. You will alternate between laughing and being grossed out. Roach also addresses how much resistance the people who work with cadavers encounter from the public and government.

Even though I did not enjoy the last few chapters of this book I’m rating it a 4 out of 5 for its original idea, sense of humor and disgusting descriptions.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Antique Animal Illustrations

Simia Monkeys. Copper engraved print of different sorts of Simia. Engraved for the Encyclopedia Londinens 1827.

Helminthology, Order of Molluscae or Gelatinous Worms. Copper plate engraving, showing octopus? published as the Act Directs by J.Wilkes, 1808.

Strange as it may seem, these are two prints I would eventually like.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Updated Info for Something About Me Reading Challenge

I’ve decided to read the following books for the challenge:

The Gallery of Regrettable Food—James Lileks (Tiny Little Librarian)
Place Last Seen—Charlotte McGuinn Freeman (Wendy)
A Walk in the Woods—Bill Bryson (Wendy)
The Echo Maker—Richard Powers (3M)
So Many Books, So Little Time—Sara Nelson (Sallygo6, Vasilly)

Books I Would Like To Read
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The World According to Garp by John Irving
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes
The Childless Revolution: What it Means to be Childless Today by Madelyn Cain

Books I’ve Read Before
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
The Iliad by Homer
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Red Tent by Anita Diamante
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
The Stand by Stephen King
Marley and Me by John Grogan
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
The Talisman by Stephen King
Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Sunday, July 8, 2007


The Virgin Suicides

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Pages: 249

Personal Rating: 4/5

From the back cover:

Juxtaposing the most common and most gothic, the humorous and the tragic, Eugenides creates a vivid and compelling portrait of youth and lost innocence. He takes us back to the elm-lined streets of suburbia in the seventies, and introduces us to the men whose lives have forever been changed by their fierce, awkward obsession with five doomed sisters: brainy Therese, fastidious Mary, ascetic Bonnie, libertine Lux, and pale, saintly Cecilia, whose spectacular demise inaugurates 'the year of the suicides.'This is the debut novel that caused a sensation and won immediate acclaim from the critics-a tender, wickedly funny take of love and terror, sex and suicide, memory and imagination.

Virgin Suicides left me with an unsettled feeling in my stomach but I did enjoy it. However much you can enjoy a novel about five teenage girls committing suicide. Eugenide’s descriptions during the novel were compared to the strangest objects and events. The smell of their house was like drilled teeth. The imagery he created was outstanding.

The story is narrated by a man/men. I was never able to determine exactly who it was. I don’t think you were supposed to. It also goes back and forth between the present and the past, sometimes being difficult to tell when it is. Once again, I don’t think you’re supposed to. I did a lot of wondering while I read this book. How could anyone endure as much suffering as those girls? How did their father look the other way? What in the hell was wrong with their mother? It also reminded me of being an teenager and the obsessions and love we so easily develop.

Even though the topic is unpleasant it was a fascinating read.

* I never saw the movie so I have no idea how the two compare.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Plants From My Container Garden 1--ALOE VERA

Scientific name = Aloe vera

Aloe is from the lily family and is related to asparagus, Easter lilies and tulips. It is very easy to grow and I started growing it at school in my classroom. All the biology teachers have aloe plants started from one “mama” plant several years ago. Surprisingly, my students did not know you could cut off the leaves and use the sap for cuts, bug bites and burns.

Other listed uses: asthma, eye & ear drops, wrinkles, dry skin

Biggest mistake with aloe—over watering

**Pictures are not mine. Will be replacing when my camera gets home.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Saturday Review Challenge at Semicolon

I’m going to try another challenge. For me this will make three. Not a lot for others, but a start for me. I’ve never done a challenge before! For this challenge you need to read six of the books that have been linked to reviews at the Saturday Review of Books in the past year. Review them in your blog. Ending date is December 31, 2007.


Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Dai Silje

Eat, Pray, Love
Elizabeth Gilbert (completed 10.9.07)

The Echomaker
Richard Powers (completed 11.26.07)

The Book Thief
Markus Zusak (completed 7. 28.07)

Ella Minnow Pea: a Novel in Letters
Mark Dunn

The Madonna’s of Leningrad
Debra Dean (completed 8.6.07)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Michael Pollan (shelved 8.25.07--finished half)

Three Junes
Julia Glass (completed 8.5.07)

Hosted by Sherry at Saturday Review of Books Reading Challenge

Something About Me Reading Challenge

I came across this challenge while browsing book blogs and thought it would be great to try. You are asked to list five books that say something about you. Starting August 1st you will pick books that other people have posted to learn something about them. This is such an intriguing idea.

It was difficult choosing the five books. There are so many possibilities and ways to represent yourself. I also don’t remember a lot of what I’ve read. I finally decided to list these five books to say something about me.

Island of the Blue Dolphin—Scott O’Dell. When I would play alone outside I would always pretend that I was alone on an island surviving with what skills I had. I would act out scenes from the book over and over. I also checked this book out from the library over and over.

The Talisman—Steven King & Peter Straub. I dreamed about this book several times. The idea of having parallel worlds and being able to “flip” between the two fascinated me. His journey fascinated me. I’ve never dreamed about a books before or since.

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters—Matt Ridley. As a biology teacher I obviously love science. This book is organized into 23 chapters just like our chromosome are organized in 23 pairs. It puts science into your life in a way a person without a science background can understand. This is something I strive to do everyday with my students.

Snow Flower & the Secret Fan—Lisa See. In 2004 I traveled to China for several weeks. My husband & I tried to spend a lot of our time off the beaten trail. Here we were able to interact with people in ways most vacationers never will. I learned to appreciate the Chinese culture with all its differences and was surprised to learn how curious they were about foreigners (especially Americans). Snow Flower gave me another glimpse into their culture.

A Wrinkle In Time—Madeleine L’Engle. Who wouldn’t want to travel through time & space as child? This book sparked my curiosity at a young age. Were tesseracts real? Could this happen? This book reminds me of enjoying “science” at an early age. It also brings back memories like my dad waking me up to watch lunar eclipses.

I’ve decided to read the following books.

  • The Gallery of Regrettable Food—James Lileks
  • Place Last Seen—Charlotte McGuinn Freeman
  • A Walk in the Woods—Bill Bryson
  • The Echo Maker—Richard Powers
  • So Many Books, So Little Time—Sara Nelson
Hosted by Lisa at Something About Me Reading Challenge (Breaking the Fourth Wall)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

They still BAN books!

I just came across a few sites that reminded me that this is STILL happening. It makes me so angry. Why are some people so afraid? Are they afraid their children might hold a belief different from theirs? My mouth really is hanging open slightly. Even though I know this happens, it still shocks me and leaves me in disbelief. Here are three banned books I came across.

Superfudge: Judy Blume
Harriet the Spy
Where the Sidewalk Ends: Shell Silverstein

Whoa…look out. Are you kidding me? Not that any book should be banned, but come on. Each of those books encouraged children to question their parents.

Stephen King must actually be the devil or some type of evil being. I think some people believe this. He had so many books on that list I stopped counting. I wonder how much this bothers him? I loved Stephen King growing up and still enjoy his books now. He writes STORIES. I guess some people don’t make this connection easily.

Do you know who censored my books when I was growing up? My dad. When I was 10/11, that weird age when you couldn’t read kids book but weren’t ready for adult books yet (not too many YA around then), he would check out the back covers. Sometimes I had to put them back and pick something else. Did he check every book? No. But he did check.

I guess what really bothers me is that people allow this to happen. They are just passive. I’m guilty of this too. I’ve allowed this to happen. I came across a banned book challenge on a blog. It’s over now but I’m going to make it a point to read a few banned books. Kite Runner made the list along with Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I’m also going to do a little research into Pittsburgh’s library and see if we ban books around here. There is a quote at the bottom of my blog from Benjamin Franklin dated 1957. It is 2007 and we still have to worry about censorship.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

My Cats--Emmy & Max

Obviously these two are starved for attention.

Easy Bruschetta

Our tomato plants are starting to get big and soon we will have a ton of tomatoes. This is the time of year to start looking around for good recipes. Here is a simple one for bruschetta.

  • Dice tomatoes and remove seeds

  • Cube mozzarella

  • Add Paul Newman’s Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing and dice up some garlic

  • Freshly cut basil

  • Baguette bread--sometimes toasted, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil

I'm also playing around with the blog trying to insert pictures and get them to look good.

What I've Read So Far In 2007

The Queen’s Fool: Philippa Gregory
The Virgin’s Lover: Philippa Gregory
The Town That Forgot How To Breath: Kenneth J. Harvey

The Constant Princess: Philippa Gregory
Franny & Zooey: J. D. Salinger
The Handmaid’s Tale: Margaret Atwood
The Black Dahlia: James Ellroy
Marley & Me: John Grogan

Snow Flower & the Secret Fan—Lisa See
Girl with a Pearl Earring—Tracy Chevalier
Sarah—Scott Olson Card
A Wrinkle In Time—Madeleine L’Engle
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice—Laurie R. King

The Devil in the White City—Erik Larson
In Watermelon Sugar—Richard Brautigan
Cell—Stephen King
The Historian— Elizabeth Kostova

To The Power of Three—Laura Lippman (18)
Water for Elephants—Sara Gruen
The Mephisto Club—Tess Gerritsen
The Boleyn Inheritance—Philippa Gregory

Vanish—Tess Gerritsen
Red Dragon—Thomas Harris
The Book Thief—Markus Zukas

The Virgin Suicides--Jeffrey Eugenides
Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers--Mary Roach
Women of the Silk--Gail Tsukiyama
The Ruins--Scott Smith
A Dog's Life--Peter Mayle
Good In Bed--Jennifer Weiner

Three Junes--Julia Glass
The Madonnas of Leningrad--Debra Dean
A Walk in the Woods--Bill Bryson
Poison Study--Maria Snyder
The Place Last Seen--Charlotte Freeman

Total for 2007 = 35