Thursday, June 30, 2011

Folly Beach

Just an example of how rock star I am? I read this book over two days while walking my daughter to summer school, while taking Jackson to the park, while doing laundry and during commercial breaks of Mob Wives.

Folly Beach- Dorothea Benton Frank
Folly Beach: A Lowcountry Tale (Lowcountry Tales)

A woman returns to the past to find her future in this enchanting new tale of loss, acceptance, family, and love. With its sandy beaches and bohemian charms, surfers and suits alike consider Folly Beach to be one of South Carolina’s most historic and romantic spots. It is also the land of Cate Cooper’s childhood, the place where all the ghosts of her past roam freely. Cate never thought she’d wind up in this tiny cottage named the Porgy House on this breathtakingly lovely strip of coast. But circumstances have changed, thanks to her newly dead husband whose financial—and emotional—bull and mendacity have left Cate homeless, broke, and unmoored.

Yet Folly Beach holds more than just memories. Once upon a time another woman found unexpected bliss and comfort within its welcoming arms. An artist, writer, and colleague of the revered George Gershwin, Dorothy Heyward enjoyed the greatest moments of her life at Folly with her beloved husband, DuBose. And though the Heywards are long gone, their passion and spirit lingers in every mango sunset and gentle ocean breeze. And for Cate, Folly, too, holds the promise of unexpected fulfillment when she is forced to look at her life and the zany characters that are her family anew. To her surprise, she will discover that you can go home again. Folly Beach doesn’t just hold the girl she once was . . . it also holds the promise of the woman she’s always wanted—and is finally ready—to become.

Let me tell you right off that I loved this book. Dorothea Benton Frank has such a great wit and sense of humor and it completely comes across through her writing. I love how this book reads as if you were having a phone conversation with your best friend. The also interesting thing is that it's two stories in one, specifically, it's a play within a story. Which I didn't think I would care for but actually enjoyed it a lot.

The *best* part of this book is seriously, the aftermath of Cate's husband's suicide. Seriously- you could just imagine one really bad thing after another coming down and you want to feel bad but find yourself laughing. Mostly because it's all so very bad and most people would be at a loss for what to do, but Cate is spunky and just gets on with it. Which I can relate to because I've had a really bad summer with my husband where literally, one thing after another, kept coming at me and I just kept going. You don't have a choice when others depend on  you.

I have lots of comments on this book I really want to share.. but it would kill the story for you I think. But I do suggest this as a good read because the writing is superb, the play within a story is different but interesting, and overall- it's a good lesson in life. Oh! I will say- the play within a story? Well I liked it because she completely changes her writing voice. You wouldn't get that it was written by the same person and I was really impressed with her ability to change like that.

So- as usual, don't take just my word. Check out what other bloggers had to say about it HERE, see her webpage, or her Facebook page!

Friday, June 24, 2011

You Are Not Your Brain (and GIVEAWAY)

The title of this book kind of reminds me of that movie "Dinner For Schmucks" where it was mind power versus brain power. I don't know.. maybe that's just me.

You Are Not Your Brain- Jeffrey Schwartz, M.d and Rebecca Gladding, M.D.
You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life
Two neuroscience experts explain how their 4-Step Method can help break destructive thoughts and actions and change bad habits for good.

A leading neuroplasticity researcher and the coauthor of the groundbreaking books Brain Lock and The Mind and the Brain, Jeffrey M. Schwartz has spent his career studying the structure and neuronal firing patterns of the human brain. He pioneered the first mindfulness-based treatment program for people suffering from OCD, teaching patients how to achieve long-term relief from their compulsions.

I will tell you that the reason I picked this book to review is because I have a very unhealthy way of thinking when it comes to diet and exercise. I am extremely good at talking myself out of good behaviors and convincing myself that the bad behaviors are not only more fun and awesome, but will be better for me later on. Despite the fact thunder thighs are not my friend.

Basically everything in the book comes down to four steps:

Step 1: Relabel: Identify your deceptive brain messages and the uncomfortable sensations; call them what they really are.

Step 2: Reframe: Change your perception of the importance of the deceptive brain messages; say why these thoughts, urges, and impulses keep bothering you: they are false brain messages.

Step 3: Refocus: Direct your attention toward an activity or mental process that is wholesome and productive -- even while the deceptive brain messages are still bothering you.

Step 4: Revalue: Clearly see the thoughts, images, and impulses for what they are -- simply sensations caused by deceptive brain messages that aren't true and have little to no value.

Without going into a whole lot of detail about it (which is all explained really well and there are worksheets in the book for you to work through on your own) I will say I found them very helpful. At first the book started slow with me with a lot of precursor explainations that I didn't find relevant to me, but once it started talking about these four steps I was really interested. One of my favorite parts of this book is when it talks about biology is not your destiny. I find that people are so quick to rely on their biology to dictate their life versus trying to change themselves for the better. It's harder to change yourself but it's more rewarding.

The other part of the book I found really helpful is the discussion of positive versus destructive anxiety. I am a high anxiety person and I often have to talk myself into things I know I'll enjoy because my brain is constantly telling me negatives. It's a problem to say the least. But I really felt like I had a better grip as to why I have that inner struggle so often.

Overall, I found this book to be extremely helpful. If you are at all interested in learning about the brain, how to make changes in your life or both- this book is for you.

AND... maybe you could win it. That's right- I'm giving away ONE copy of this book to one of my readers (US/Canada only... sorry). All you have to do is leave a comment with your email address and I'll draw a winner on Monday!

If you want to hear what other tour stops had to say, go HERE.

South of Superior

Unknowingly, when I picked this book to review I didn't even think about the setting of the story. And how completely cool it was that my Michigan trip was in the same area. So add that to another reason I loved this book. And I have to say it- I kind of love the cover of this book.

South of Superior - Ellen Airgood
South of Superior
When Madeline Stone walks away from Chicago and moves five hundred miles north to the coast of Lake Superior, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she isn’t prepared for how much her life will change.

Charged with caring for an aging family friend, Madeline finds herself in the middle of beautiful nowhere with Gladys and Arbutus, two octogenarian sisters-one sharp and stubborn, the other sweeter than sunshine. As Madeline begins to experience the ways of the small, tight-knit town, she is drawn into the lives and dramas of its residents. It’s a place where times are tough and debts run deep, but friendship, community, and compassion run deeper. As the story hurtles along-featuring a lost child, a dashed love, a car accident, a wedding, a fire, and a romantic reunion-Gladys, Arbutus, and the rest of the town teach Madeline more about life, love, and goodwill than she’s learned in a lifetime.

I have to say right off the bat, this author did an amazing job at pegging people's personalities. Not just those who are from a large city (which is easy) but those who are from smaller towns and rural communities. Not every author can really get them all to be so different and accurate to what real life is like so for that reason alone, this is a fascinating read.

But the story is just really great. I really liked Madeline's character because she's very much like someone I know and love because of her really irritating quality of seeing everything in one perspective. She wants to hold a grudge against her grandfather, who in her eyes, abandoned her when she was a child. What she doesn't know or see is that he had a lot of other commitments and challenges that took precedent over a child who would likely have a better life somewhere else. So in his eyes, he made the right decision even if he doubted himself. To Madeline though, it was an unforgivable act. I think lots of people are like that though, aren't they? They don't always take in all of the different reasoning's a person did what they did, they only look at how it affected them.

What I also really liked was how this author really showed the importance of community. I think, especially now, we've moved far away from the mentality that we're a community and we help each other out, regardless of how someone got to be less fortunate. Whether they are just down on their luck or a town drunk, they still need to eat and feel a sense of belonging. And think about your own life- when was the last time you brought a dinner to a neighbor just because? Probably never. Why not? Because they would be suspicious and think you've lost it? That's sad. It's sad that society has moved from that when it really seems we'd all be better off to go backwards in some sense.

So I have to say- I really enjoyed this book. A lot. It was really a good story that made me think about changing a few things in my own life and just being more selfless towards others. I like to think I am already but there is always room for improvement. I might not have a lot but I have more than some and I could (and should) be doing more for others. So I'm making it a priority. But nonetheless, I highly recommend this book and I don't think you'll regret it.

Check out what other tour stops had to say HERE, check out the author's webpage (which is pretty interesting) HERE, and her Facebook HERE.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Anthropology of an American Girl and GIVEAWAY

Time for another book review and I'm going to be straight up honest. This book isn't for everyone. Clocking in at 597 pages it isn't for the faint of heart and probably not a person with dyslexia either.

Anthropology of an American Girl- Hilary Thayer Hamann
Anthropology of an American Girl: A Novel
This ambitious work explores the sexual and intellectual awakening of a young American woman struggling to remain true to herself as she encounters love, passion, and death amid the challenges and heartbreaks of growing up. Newly edited and revised, Hilary Thayer Hamann’s Anthropology of an American Girl is an extraordinary piece of writing, original in its vision and thrilling in its execution.

Self-published in 2003, the book touched a nerve among readers, who identified with the sexual and intellectual awakening of its heroine, a young woman on the brink of adulthood. A moving depiction of the transformative power of first love, Hamann’s first novel follows Eveline Auerbach from her high school years in East Hampton, New York, in the 1970s through her early adulthood in the moneyed, high-pressured Manhattan of the 1980s.

Centering on Evie’s fragile relationship with her family and her thwarted love affair with Harrison Rourke, a professional boxer, the novel is both a love story and an exploration of the difficulty of finding one’s place in the world. As Evie surrenders to the dazzling emotional highs of love and the crippling loneliness of heartbreak, she strives to reconcile her identity with the constraints that all relationships—whether those familial or romantic, uplifting to the spirit or quietly detrimental—inherently place on us. Though she stumbles and strains against social conventions, Evie remains a strong yet sensitive observer of the world around her, often finding beauty and meaning in unexpected places.

OK. I'm nothing if not 100% honest with my readers about everything I write about and my book reviews are no different. I did not finish this book. For me to say that is a huge deal because I finished two books I absolutely hated, including Wuthering Heights and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. But the difference with those books were that I really felt like it'd come around and I'd eventually get it. I didn't, but throughout both books I really felt like it'd come around.

And I've really thought about what it was about this book that couldn't draw me in. And you know what it was? The overuse of adjectives. Basically the entire writing style. For this being a debut novel it's really heavy. I found myself having re-read passages because I might just be stupid, but I didn't get it. The entire story is meant to be written from the point of view of a woman who is recalling her first love and the ones that came after yet... reading this I'm thinking, "I know high school wasn't like this and I didn't speak like this at all." It never felt authentic and it never felt like something that would logically be happening. Here's an example:

"Jack's body had not yet moved. He was like a jetty rock, obstinate and motionless against the savage force of the sea. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do or say so I waited, passing time by thinking of things I knew. I knew that he loved me desperately, never more so than at that moment. I knew that he was ready, aroused for once by the honorableness of his emotions, and yet the anger that moved him had no means of expression. How betrayed he must have felt by his belligerent pacifism, by the ambivalence he'd constantly displayed. He was thinking that the attack had not been arbitrary, that it had happened to me for a reason. He was thinking the reason was him."

Ok. Now, what did that even mean?? Because I'm not sure. Part of me is sad that I'll never know what happened between Jack and Evie but on the other hand, who cares? After getting half way through the book I can't even tell you what it was even really about, what the story was. There was nothing in any of the pages I read that made me want to turn another page and keep going. For me, reading is an escape and it should be fun. I don't like having to think a whole lot about what I'm reading to process it. I like being able to relate to a book within my own life or back story and even though I've been a teenage girl working through the weird phases and first loves and all of that... I could not relate. In the end, I feel like the author has tried too hard to write a book that would be a classic, or something that would end up on a must read list somewhere.

See what other bloggers had to say about this book HERE and check out the book page HERE. Now, although this wasn't the kind of book meant for me, it might be for you. And I am never one to discourage a person from reading a book. I really think that someone with an interest in literature, writing, or books around this theme would really enjoy it. Of all of the reviews I've read it seems pretty divided as far as you really like it or you don't. But I say try it.  

In fact, I would like one of you to read it and tell me what you thought about it. The publisher is offering one of my readers their very own copy of this book (US/Canada only, no PO boxes). All you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address and I will draw a winner on Wednesday, so enter now!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Seven Year Bitch. (... and there is a GIVEAWAY!)

Oh man. I can't even tell you how much I relate to this book and I have an entire post coming about it... very soon. But in the mean time, if you are married, divorced, or think you ever want to be married... this book is for you. Man or woman it does not matter because I think we can all relate to it.

The Seven Year Bitch - Jennifer Belle

What’s a fabulously fun New York City girl to do when she finds herself in a matrimonial rut — disillusioned, sex life with her husband on the wane, and quickly turning into a big-time nag? No, she hasn’t gotten the seven-year itch — taking care of the kids and her husband and rarely feeling that her needs come first has turned her into a seven-year bitch. That’s New York author Jennifer Belle’s deliciously provocative phrase for the boredom, anger, and hurt that can creep into even the best of marriages — and affect even the calmest of wives. In The Seven Year Bitch, Belle delivers a dead-on, raw, and hilarious account of motherhood and marriage, and discovers that the life you have is exactly the one you wanted.

If you are married and have not quite made the seven year mark I will tell you it's real and it's scary. A good friend of mine told me once that if you can weather the seven year itch you can take on the world. Maybe not the case with me since Matt and I aren't the best team ever, but I do feel like we've hit a milestone of sorts and already being a few days beyond our seven year wedding anniversary... it feels different.

What I absolutely loved about this book is that I could absolutely relate. Isolde is a busy mom and you can tell she loves her husband and her son. A lot. But she also knows that part of her is missing and maybe it's the new found stay at home mom status (been there) or maybe it's the lack of intimacy (done that) or the uncertainty of wanting to have more kids (still working on it) that makes her so relate able. Everything in this book is like talking to your girlfriend about your marriage. It feels like a letter you get in the mail from your best friend who's living it and you find yourself nodding your head in agreement.

"...frankly sex seemed just a little bit pointless. Now that I knew what it was like to make love and get a baby in the end, doing it just for the sake of doing it sometimes didn't seem worth giving up the sleep for.."

Jennifer Belle so completely hit the nail of marriage on the head because this entire book is so completely accurate to what married life is really like that it could be a memoir. For so many women, in particular, marriage and a family IS what they had always wanted.. and once you achieve that there is this overwhelming "and now what?" feeling that comes over you. And nobody tells you about that. Like so many things in life people tell you that it's going to be great and fun and wonderful and it just isn't. And this book highlights the ups and downs of what a real marriage is like.

The only part of the story that I didn't like what the entire nanny storyline. Her nanny has a hard time getting pregnant so Isolde forks over thousands of dollars to help her get pregnant through various methods. In the end I felt like the nanny basically used Isolde because it constantly felt like there was some ulterior motive happening with the nanny. In fact, that entire character and story line could be removed and this book would be even better.

I do recommend this book because it was a quick read, I think you'll relate to it and honestly? It was entertaining. What more could you want?
And... it's your lucky day because I have TWO copies of this book to giveaway (only US/Canada peeps... sorry!). If you want this book you need to:

1. Be a follower of this blog- you know you want to be a lambwhore.
2. Leave me a comment (with your email address).

The winners will be announced on Wednesday, June 23.

In the meantime, check out what other bloggers had to say HERE, Jennifer's website HERE, or Jennifer's Facebook HERE.

The Art of Saying Goodbye

I'm not really one for novels that tell you about the power of friendship, mostly because I think it's corny and the public library is full of these already. I was excited about the book but once I got it, I'm going to be honest, I was wondering what the frack I was thinking. But luckily, it was a good book so I'm happy to tell you about it.

The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache
The Art of Saying Goodbye: A Novel
She was the thread that wove their tapestry together.

With a group of women as diverse as the ladies from Brightwood Trace, you might not think them to be close. There’s Julianne, a nurse with an unsettling psychic ability that allows her to literally feel what her patients feel, Andrea, a strong fortress sheltering a faltering core, Ginger, a mother torn between being a stay-at-home mom or following her career aspirations, and Iona, the oldest, whose feisty, no-nonsense attitude disarms even toughest of the tough. Not exactly the ingredients for the most cohesive cocktail . . . Until you add Paisely, the liveliest and friendliest of the clan, who breathed life into them all. But when their glowing leader falls ill with cancer, it’s up to these women to do what Paisely has done for them since the beginning: lift her up. Overcoming and accepting the inevitability of loss, the women draw closer than ever; finding together the strength to embrace and cherish their lives with acceptance, gratitude and most importantly, love. Finally living with the vigor that Paisely has shown them from the start, they are able to see their lives in a new light, while learning to say goodbye to the brightest star they’ve ever known. Over the course of just three months, these four women will undergo a magnificent transformation that leaves nobody unchanged.

I will start by telling you that this is another one of those books where the readers voice changes between characters. Each woman is friens with Paisley is different ways and not necessarily with each other. Some characters I felt were stronger than others and some are the kind that you just get annoyed with because you know someone like them in real life. Mostly, they are the kind of people who aren't able to move on in a positive direction from anything. Everything in their life after a particular event somehow reflects that event and not in a great way. Does that make sense?

But what I really liked about this book versus other books where a character has cancer... is that it's clear she's going to die. You know that almost completely from the beginning. So it's refreshing that you don't have to go through tedious storyline about treatments and if they will pull through. No. She's going to die and it's like the beginning of a grieving process for everyone. I will say that this book really reminded me of Friday Night Knitting Club so if you didn't like that book you probably aren't going to enjoy this one. I also appreciated that this book kind of centered on the fact that people are essentially scared of death. They don't know what to say, they don't know what they should do, and they fear for themselves. As if your dying friend is going to rub off on you and bring you to an early demise. I think that's just human nature but I liked how even in the face of death Paisley knows this and it seems like she accepts it, despite all she has done for others. And it makes you ask yourself... what would you do if you were the friend? Or what if you were Paisley?

Check out what other tour hosts had to say about this book HERE, check out Ellyn's website for more information about this book and her other novels HERE, or you can check out her Facebook page HERE.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vampires, Birds or Mosquitos? Hard to tell.

So tonight is all about Tahquamenon Falls and how we almost died of blood loss. 'Tis true friends.

On Friday evening we ended up driving to the lower Tahquamenon Falls because there is some driving distance between lower/upper and yeah. It just made sense. It was kind of drizzling but not bad and I told the group that if it was raining, I was OK with running to get my picture and running back to the vehicle. I wasn't about to make people get pneumonia and shit.

So while the rain wasn't an issue the mother effer mosquitoes were. Seriously. They were after us. Mostly Jon though. But they were sucking us dry, they were big enough that you could see the stripes on their ass and they made whizzing noises by your ear.  Seriously. They were out of control.

 Lower Falls... pretty, huh? You'll notice Matt and I here are hoods up. We snapped and we hustled. Those mosquitoes were no joke folks.
 On Saturday we woke up to pouring rain and even colder temperatures. BUT we braved it. This time we all remembered to bring our bug spray. And we all suckered up and bought ponchos which looked exactly like white Hefty bags, yall. So here's the upper falls:
 Matt and I modeling the Spring 2011 Hefty collection. I sprayed us down, then the freaking bags down with bug spray. I also inhaled/ate some bug spray. I don't suggest it... it tastes terrible.
 Some super nice hard core hiker guys (who didn't have ponchos on) took out group picture. You'll notice that Jennifer and I had our hands into our sweatshirts.
 It was also fun because there was a sign that said "94 Steps to Brink". Um, no joke yo. Again, it was only 94 steps one way and by the time I got back to the top I felt like I did enough stairs for awhile. But it was worth it.
These falls are absolutely beautiful. I have such a love of waterfalls. Some day I'd like to swim under one. That seams like that would be kind of awesome, right?
So I've crossed yet another thing off my 30/30 list. Woo! I am really glad that I drove the distance to see these because they were beautiful. Plus I would really like to take up hiking with legit gear and stuff. It would have been fun to go into the woods but yeah. We weren't prepared for the bug overload.

Tomorrow is Dear Sara-- send your questions to: sarastrand9438(at)hotmail(dot)com bitches! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Boats and Bears

So here's part two of my Michigan trip from last weekend.

Saturday we headed out to the falls again (that will be it's own post) and then afterwards we went to Whitefish Point, which ended up being the same thing as the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum because the road ended there. But the museum sounded cool because one thing the Great Lakes are known for is the unpredictable weather, which makes guiding a boat through there fairly treacherous.

The place had so much to really take in but I can say I learned a lot. One cool thing was in one of the boat houses they had a Coast Guard boat that they would paddle out into the lake to help stranded ship men. The boat was gorgeous, but trying to put into perspective how difficult it would be to get that boat out there in inclement weather was kind of awesome. Then if they couldn't get out to sea, they had this thing they'd pull/push on the beach as close as they could. Then they'd use a canon ball to shoot out this wooden paddle with instructions (one side in English, one in French) on how to secure the rope to yourself so they could pull you in. It was pretty amazing.

Anyways. We convinced the boys to pay an extra $4 per person so we could climb up into this lighthouse and see the view. I feel like it was worth it just for the work out factor. The lady told us it was 54 steps. First off, it was 57 steps, only after the 20 to to get up to the base of the lighthouse. Also? That didn't count having to come back down. Also? It didn't take into consideration how incredibly narrow and steep these stairs were. Going up was only mildly awkward because your face was directly behind some one's ass. Mine was behind Matt which wasn't a super thing because he was having some issues from  his BK Angry Burger the day before. Have I mentioned this is only stale air in there? Well the view at the top was gorgeous. Tight fit but it was really pretty.

Coming back down was a different story. You can kind of see how steep the stairs are in this picture. But they are steep. I can't mention this enough. The stairs are obviously a spiral stair case, so you have to go backwards for awhile and then turn yourself around. Plus, it was raining so the stairs were slippery. So I pretty much felt like I was going to slip and fall the entire time.

 But here's us at the top. And there's a big raindrop on the lens.. oh well.
 Also you could tour the Lightkeeper's House which they've restored and the entire place was full of antiques and information. It was also full of completely creepy wax people. Seriously. I can't stress how creepy and life like they were. But in the kitchen Jennifer wanted me to give Grandma some love. Which I could do as soon as the old people (who smelled like they shit their pants, I'm not even kidding) left. So over the barrier I went, quick boob grab (it was firm) and back out I went.
Then we went into the shipwreck artifact building. SUPER interesting. They had information and recovered artifacts from several Great Lakes shipwrecks and really- it was so interesting to hear how some ships went down. A lot of boats run into each other apparently.
 Isn't this gorgeous? It's a light that would go inside of a lighthouse. It's pretty stunning in person. And huge.
 After the museum Jennifer and I talked the guys into taking us to the Oswalds Bear Ranch. Basically we wanted to have our picture taken with baby bears like in the brochure. So we drive (really far out of our way- so thanks for being a trooper, Jon!) and end up there by mid afternoon. We find out it costs $15 per vehicle, so no big. Then we see this sign:
 So again, Jon being awesome forks over $5. And I make a new friend.
 Matt kept telling us that they were going to smell and be rough and no. He's a fucking liar. They smelled like mud but hello- they have a mud bottom home. But they weren't rough, they were kind of soft. So then he backtracks and says it's adult bears. Yeah. Well, that's yet to be determined. But this bear was super friendly and he likes suckers and Fruit Loops. Seriously. He could absolutely live with me and fit in with my kids.

The fun part was when we got there, the guy who apparently runs the place was going to just let Jennifer and I in. Well out of NOWHERE this punk asshole kid comes up and is like "Five bucks and a camera". Like a god damn Bear Nazi. Seriously. But whatever. We were already in so we were doing it.

Afterwards we walked around to see the adult bears (male and females were separated). This was me feeding a yearling some flowers. They like eating flowers too. They also have large tongues.
 Then Matt posed for a picture with Jennifer. I couldn't get anything out of him yet he will do it for her. Nice.
Overall... it was a fun day. I was pretty tired by the time we got back for sure. :)

Tomorrow... I'm going to post about the waterfalls for you. Then Friday will be Dear Sara (send questions to sarastrand9438(at)hotmail(dot)com!!), and then Saturday I'm going to do my final post on Michigan. Next week though.. we're talking about the contest that will be happening and we're going to talk about marriage. Because I got a bit of a post request I guess I could call it? So stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Open road, boats, bad food = Day One, Michigan

Most of you who pay attention to my blog entries know that this previous weekend Matt and I went to Michigan as a 7 year anniversary/meet blogger friend/cross some shit off of Sara's 30/30 list. And some of you might ask, "Hey Sar- is Matt sick of your list?" Why, yes. Yes he is.

But he troops through it because I'm large and in charge. Well, I think we're probably the same weight, he's taller, but I do dictate what we do. Mostly because if it were up to him, we'd never leave the couch because we'd be watching a continuous loop of Antiques Roadshow. So you can see what my role in this family is.

Anyways. So for the last year or so I've been making friends with Jennifer from Just Hides The Dishes In The Dryer and one day.. we decided to meet up. Having gone on a few blogger meetups before I felt OK with meeting someone. Even though I'd be staying in the same hotel with them in the middle of nowhere. I felt pretty OK that her and her husband wouldn't kidnap me and sacrifice my body. Mostly because we were staying in Paradise, Michigan and who wants to fuck up a town like that when their name is Paradise? Anyways.

So on Friday morning Matt and I left Superior at like 4:30 in the morning. I'm not even kidding. I didn't fall asleep until after midnight because I was busy getting stuff done so we could just get up and go. Our first destination was actually Sault Ste. Marie where we would all meet up and then get on a boat tour of the Soo Locks. If you don't know what the Soo Locks are (which is OK because Jennifer and I still don't really get it), they are pretty much like gates between the different Great Lakes. This one is specifically the gate between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The "locks" is like a tunnel in which incoming/outgoing boats sit in while they raise or lower the water to match whatever water level the lake they are trying to enter into. The cool thing about this is that we would actually be entering into Canada once we went through the locks so officially--- "travel internationally" is off my list. I was completely in Canada. Canadians waved at me- it's official.

Anyways. So here is Matt and I on the boat:
 This is the world's largest horizontal hydro plant? I believe that's what they said. But it was built by Italians who were first to develop the area. What we liked about the building is that Italians are apparently really great at masonry, and so all along this massive building are lighthouses made of brick. It was really a pretty building.
Here is me and Matt in Canada. I swear that is a Canadian flag in the background. Despite the fact it was windy, it refused to cooperate.

 Jennifer and I before entering into the locks. She is as awesome and fun and spunky as she is on her blog. I had no doubt we'd get along but I was pleasantly surprised. I told Matt at the end of the trip it felt like her and Jon were old friends. I love these people.
 OK, so here is the lock. Well, the Canada entry one. Notice how low the water is right now? And you see the line on the red gates towards the top? That's how high the water has to be in order for us to get into Lake Superior.
Consequently, when we came back into the locks, they had to drain the water back to this level so we could get into Lake Michigan. It's about a 15 minute process each way and it's kind of a cool thing to be on the boat while the water goes up and down.

After our Soo Lock tour, we headed back to Paradise to check into our hotel. Across the parking lot of our hotel was the Red Flannel Saloon or some shit. Um, this place is kind of hick? I mean, it's pretty... well let's just say the health department probably didn't get to those parts much and the owners really like baskets. Like, baskets were everywhere. The service was spotty, the food wasn't great, but the best part?

Your drink came in a mason jar. Honestly- I thought this was just a southern thing? And while I've drank out of a mason jar before it was just bizarre to be doing so in the U.P. of Michigan. Can I also say that our food was really expensive? My burger tasted weird, I highly doubt that was cow I was eating.

After paying for our food we headed up to the lower Tahquamenon Falls. Which is the "see a new waterfall" portion of my 30/30 list. I'll do an entire post on just the falls because I have too many pictures of it and I think you'll like my little post of that. ;)

But tomorrow.. I'll tell you about the rest of our trip. AND... stay tuned because I have a contest in the works. It's going to be gloriously disgusting yet awesome. And so me.

In the mean time, send me your questions for Dear Sara Friday to sarastrand9438(at)hotmail(dot)com. Remember, no questions = no post. Get them to me by Thursday evening to be included.

And as a final note, check out my blog post for The Note Project HERE. I hope you like that, I'm excited as hell to be included in it, and I hope you participate in your own note of appreciation.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chelsea Wasn't All That.

I know I told you that I was going to see Chelsea Handler in Minneapolis this past Saturday and I did. And before I get into this review I want to make sure you know I'm not biased. I was a huge fan of Chelsea's show, her books and overall thought she was really hilarious.

So before the show Amy found out that Chelsea sings books after her shows. After hearing this we decided we'd both stop off at a Target and get a copy of the book so we could have it signed. Her and I met up in Roseville for some light shopping and dinner before the show. The traffic is always kind of crazy down by the Target Center so we barely made it before it started. Like, I usually don't get worried about traffic too much but I was literally having a mini freak out as we sat through two entire light changes without moving. BUT we totally got there and it wasn't like we had to run to our seats or anything so that was nice.

Pet peeve number one: if you say a show starts at 8pm, start the fucking show at 8pm. I have never been to a concert that has ever started late (thankfully) but as I read reviews online after this show I'm finding that seeing a comedian almost guarantees they will start late. As far as I'm concerned doing these shows are a part of your job. If you don't happen to like the hours of your job, find a new one. Because let me tell you what- if I was regularly late for my job? My ass would be fired.

Probably one of the funnier moments is when "Born This Way" played as Brad's opening song. I guess they all get to pick their opening song except him. Chelsea told him that had to be his song. Which is kind of hilarious if you have seen the show and kind of know a little bit about Brad. And his bit was just ok for me. I think the funniest part of his whole thing was when he was talking about how he's married and how no girl ever grows up thinking THAT is what their future husband will look like. Which, true story. And then when he talked about how awful condoms are in general, but particularly if you aren't an attractive person because there is that window of time while he's putting it on that the woman can back out. So... those are the two things from his skit that I remember.
And then Heather came on. I have to say... I kind of can't stand Heather. Not only do I think she isn't funny but she looks weird. Is she having plastic surgery? Because her cheekbones are getting more and more pronounced and she's bordering on the edge of looking like a chipmunk. Actually, she fell off that cliff awhile ago. But her deal is this weird singing. Her impersonations are really good but the singing has got to stop.
And Josh. *swoon* I am a big fan of Josh not only because he's really quite adorable and delicious but because he's funny. His bit was probably the most genuine and by far the funniest for me. Plus, watching him swagger across the stage helped. Is it wrong that I wanted him to go topless like he did for the topless roundtable on Chelsea Lately? Because that would have probably made the night for me.
 Pet peeve number two: If you are going to show up late to work, try to be sober. I totally get how some people maybe get some stage nerves and like to have a drink or two before going on. And that's ok. But let's not come practically stumbling out looking like you've just finished throwing up in a moving vehicle. Because let's just look at Chelsea:
 I know at some point I asked Amy if that was a wig because her hair was jacked up. Like, brush it. Wash it. Do something with it so you at least look a little more put together. Basically her set was really lame. Not only did most of the jokes not make any sense but some of them she slurred through it. The only highlight of her set were her jokes about her relationship with 50 cent. But aside from that, it was all rather lame. It didn't seem like she put any time into it at all and just kind of fumbled her way through the entire set. Probably one of the more awkward moments was some joke about having sex with babies? Neither Amy nor I really understood it but the crowd didn't really get it as a whole either. Oh- it was also weird because she started laughing while trying to tell the joke... well before the punch line.
Pet peeve number three: if you insist on getting drunk at any kind of show, please wear flat fucking shoes so you don't stumble all over the place and spill your beer every where.

Overall the show was a waste of money. I'm glad I got to spend time with Amy again because I always have a good time with her though. The real downer was after the show I started looking at other reviews to see if our show was just a fluke but no. It apparently isn't. Most of her shows get low star ratings and some guy who saw her LAST tour listed some of the jokes (which were the same from the tour before THAT) that we heard. So basically, she's doing the same set every year. Which makes me wonder if her show is funny because she happens to have great writers. And if that's the case, Chelsea you better just stick with the E! network because you can't do better than what you're doing there. Sorry.

The real pisser though? Is the book signing. In order to have your book signed you have to have a red wristband. You can only get that wristband if you buy the book at her merch table at the venue. Which is a higher price than you'll pay at a store because most stores offer a discount on new releases for about the first month of so. And frankly? I said to Amy that Chelsea was so drunk she'd never sign all of the books anyways and it wasn't worth it.
So save your money lambwhores and just watch her show on E!. It's much funnier than her live show and your purse won't get soaked in beer. Hopefully.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Don't Breathe A Word

Oh man. If you like freaky books with awesome endings and a story line that you keep guessing but are always wrong... you need to read this book.

Don't Breathe a Word: A Novel
On a soft summer night in Vermont, twelve-year-old Lisa went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother, Sam, about a door that led to a magical place where she would meet the King of the Fairies and become his queen. Fifteen years later, Phoebe is in love with Sam, a practical, sensible man who doesn’t fear the dark and doesn’t have bad dreams—who, in fact, helps Phoebe ignore her own. But suddenly the couple is faced with a series of eerie, unexplained occurrences that challenge Sam’s hardheaded, realistic view of the world. As they question their reality, a terrible promise Sam made years ago is revealed—a promise that could destroy them all.

Now... I know if you aren't into the paranormal thing that you might put this book down thinking it's too weird and you wouldn't like it. But I'm here to tell you that you are not only wrong but that this book is amazing. I've read and reviewed other books (here and here) by Jennifer McMahon and I seriously cannot get enough. The cover art of her books is creepy and the story lines are always full of dramatic twists and turns and nothing is ever as it seems. Jennifer captures the mind of a crazy person so effectively you wonder if she herself is maybe a little crazy.

I will say that I've read other books that had story lines involving fairies and humans so I was glad that it followed what I already "know" about them. I always struggle when I read something that could be classified as paranormal and the being is so different from every other book, it looses a little credibility. But I really enjoyed this story mostly because you could sympathize with all of the characters and in the end I looked at it like a family tragedy far worse than it started out with. It kind of highlights that what other people see from the outside is so far different from what is really true on the inside. If that makes sense?
I had a hard time putting this book down and the last few pages had me yelling at Sam to listen to Phoebe. But the way the ending is done... is just fantastic. You read and read and are confident that the book will end one way but at the very last minute... Jennifer changes the entire story and ends it differently than you expect. It's perfect, it's haunting, and it makes you want to pick up another book of hers. And I have. I cannot get enough of her, she has such a perfect way of telling a story that sucks you right in.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you start looking her up and devouring what you find of hers. Her books are probably some of my favorite reads of this year hands down. You can go HERE to see what other tour hosts had to say and check out her website HERE.