Currently..

* Loving: Our windows were open last week, no a/c for a few days which for the Lou in July is kind of a big deal. Productivity at work. I met three new blogger friends last week; in case you haven’t met a blog friend in real life yet, DO IT. It’s the best thing ever.

* Thinking: about how much I miss a more normal routine but also how much I will miss having the munchkins being around when they leave us at the end of the summer. About my mom because some things never change.

* Feeling: Like a roller coaster. We won’t get into my emotions in this post, maybe another one where I actually write things.

* Anticipating: my brother coming to visit in about a month. Taking a day off of work to be with him.

* Inspired by: My other friends who are going through rough times. We’ve managed to band together, we share experiences, we lean on each other, lift each other up. It’s pretty awesome to have them, though I wish they weren’t struggling.

* Watching: Netflix: Scandal; I’m obsessed and can’t wait for Knight to have another evening out of the house so I can binge watch a few more episodes. DVR: Storage Wars. It’s trashy and ridiculous and we love it.

* Sad: That people abuse animals and one another. That some people think it’s ok to be manipulative and use their manipulation to hurt others. That I can’t hug my mom and I could really, really use a mom hug right about now.

* Working: On resuming my exercise routine; I walked a ton on my trip last week but I have struggled to get my butt on the treadmill, track or in front of my workout videos since I got home on Friday. I’m incredibly exhausted lately so that doesn’t help but this week is the week I reclaim it.

* Grateful: For an office that is ok with my flex schedule the last few weeks. Going in early and leaving early to avoid a monstrous babysitter bill has been huge.

* Listening: Zac Brown Band because we are seeing them in concert  in September; Ray LaMontagne because some things never change.

* Wishing: Friday everyday. Teleportation device. That the family photos we took turn out super awesome. For more hours in the day.

I didn’t read many blogs last week so tell me what I missed or what’s going in your life these days? 

Book Blitz: Time of Possession

 

Time of Possession – Week Blitz
By Jami Davenport
Seattle Lumberjacks #5
Contemporary Romance
Date Published: June 30, 2014

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CRUNCH TIME
Supposedly undersized for the NFL, Brett Gunnels went off to do a stint in the US Army right out of high school. Returning damaged yet stronger and more determined than ever to prove himself, he was picked last in the draft. Mr. Irrelevant, they called him. The last few years as a backup quarterback have given him no opportunity to compete for the starting job. That’s why he has a chip on his shoulder the size of Puget Sound.
Estelle Harris is engaged to a man she doesn’t love, working a job she hates, and fooling everyone including herself in the process. Her love of animals is the only thing that gives her purpose—a love she shares the Lumberjacks’ reclusive quarterback. And then their mutual friendship turns a hot, dark, forbidden corner and there’s no going back.
True love is like football. It’s not always how long you have the ball. It’s what you do when you get it.
About the Author: Jami Davenport
 
An advocate of happy endings, Jami Davenport writes sexy romantic comedy, sports hero romances, and equestrian fiction. Jami lives on a small farm near Puget Sound with her Green Beret-turned-plumber husband, a Newfoundland cross with a tennis ball fetish, a prince disguised as an orange tabby cat, and an opinionated Hanoverian mare.
Jami works in IT for her day job and is a former high school business teacher and dressage rider. In her spare time, she maintains her small farm and socializes whenever the opportunity presents itself. An avid boater, Jami has spent countless hours in the San Juan Islands, a common setting in her books. In her opinion, it is the most beautiful place on earth.

    

  
Buy Links

AmazonB&N  | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords

 

 
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Review: The Sweet Spot

The Sweet SpotLast summer I had the honor (yes, honor, I loved the book that much) of reading “Big Girl Panties” by Stephanie Evanovich. When I had the opportunity to read and review her newest book, “The Sweet Spot,” I jumped at the chance.

This book focuses on Chase and Amanda, a couple that we are introduced to in Evanovich’s first book. Their love style is… different, to say the least, though their story is no less intriguing. (If you are uncomfortable with the topic of spanking when it comes to adult relationships, don’t read this book. I also wonder how many random blog hits I’ll get now…)

At any rate, Evanovich is back with a punchy novel full of spice, romance, Amanda who is incredibly independent and Chase who is a star athlete. The book follows their romance from start to of course happy ending.

About the book via Barnes & Noble:

A sizzling story of everyone’s favorite couple from amazing Stephanie Evanovich’s New York Times bestseller Big GirlPanties: hunky professional baseball player Chase Walker and his sassy wife Amanda.

When pro baseball player Chase Walker first meets Amanda at her restaurant, it’s love at first sight. While Amanda can’t help noticing the superstar with the Greek-god-build, he doesn’t have a chance of getting to first—or any other—base with her. A successful entrepreneur who’s built her business from scratch, Amanda doesn’t need a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. And a curvy girl who likes to cook and eat isn’t interested in being around the catty, stick-thin herd of females chasing Chase and his teammates.

But Chase isn’t about to strike out. A man who isn’t interested in playing the field, he’s a monogamist who wants an independent woman like Amanda. His hopes rally when she discovers that squeaky-clean Chase has a few sexy and very secret pre-game rituals that turn the smart, headstrong businesswoman on—and into his number one fan.

Then a tabloid discovers the truth and turns their spanking good fun into a late- night punchline. Is Amanda ready to let loose and swing for the fences? Or will the pressure of Chase’s stardom force them to call it quits?

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and am already anxiously awaiting her next novel; I love that they come out in the summer as they perfectly fun and light reads, without an annoying main character.

Did you read Big Girl Panties?

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I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Love & Treasure

love and treasureMy friends who love a good World War II novel will enjoy Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman.

This book is at once heartbreaking and hopeful, touching and disturbing, full of love, life, family and a fresh perspective on an aspect of WWII that is rarely discussed.

For anyone who has recently lost someone and/or has issues reading about death and cancer, this book may be tough at times. It was tough for me yet at the same time I find that I can relate to those story lines more so now, obviously.

This novel goes back and forth between past and present; the WWII past kept me turning the pages but I admit that the present day pages were a little slower for me. Fortunately I liked Natalie, one of the main characters, and wanted to see her story through to the end.

Thanks to the author and TLC Book Tours, I have one copy of this book to giveaway to one U.S.- based resident! See below on how to enter. 

From Barnes & Noble:

A spellbinding new novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Treasure weaves a tale around the fascinating, true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in the Second World War.

In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

A story of brilliantly drawn characters—a suave and shady art historian, a delusive and infatuated Freudian, a family of singing circus dwarfs fallen into the clutches of Josef Mengele, and desperate lovers facing choices that will tear them apart—Love and Treasure is Ayelet Waldman’s finest novel to date: a sad, funny, richly detailed work that poses hard questions about the value of precious things in a time when life itself has no value, and about the slenderest of chains that can bind us to the griefs and passions of the past.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post by Friday, July 18th at noon. Let me know what your favorite historical era is to read about, your favorite WWII novel to date, or anything else book-ish that you’d like to share! I’ll notify the winner via email over the weekend. 

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I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Thoughts on Travel & Other Musings

* I’m thankful for being randomly approved for TSA Pre-Check on Sunday morning. Not having to remove my million devices from my bag? Super awesome.

* I love, love, love the new rule on planes allowing ereaders to remain powered on during take-off and landing. Saves me from having to pack a regular book and it keeps me distracted during take-off (my least favorite part of flying).

* If possible, you should always have a friendly face greeting you upon arrival. I was fortunate enough to one of my longtime blog idols pick me up yesterday with a giant hug and a smile. Bonus for a great lunch and more time spent chatting over a coffee. Bloggers turned real life friends will be forever one of my favorite things.

* A free cookie when you check in at your hotel? No complaints here.

* I don’t know how I made it through work travel events without awesome workouts from Pinterest. I managed to get in a hardcore cardio 45 minute workout. Best feeling!

* I know that when people are at conferences they have to manage their regular work stuff, but getting up and down no less than 15 times during a two hour span, causing your entire row to have to sit and stand that many times? Annoying. Sit on an aisle if you have to get up that often!

* Also, dudes (or ladies), please hold your gas for the restroom. Letting it go on an escalator or elevator where people are trapped is totally inappropriate.

* And one more piece of conference etiquette: yes, we are all sitting close to one another, yes, I realize you can likely see the email on my screen, but no, you don’t need to comment on what I’m emailing to my co-worker.

* Late night hotel room working sessions require reruns of Friends, comfy pants and sweatshirts, and tea.

* Conference organizers picking a city that is totally walkable? Best. Ever. I’ve managed to get in 2 miles daily just with walking to and from the conference center, not including all the steps in the giant conference center. I feel so… healthy.

Do you have any work travel loves, pet peeves or rituals? 

Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia (Book Spotlight with Giveaway!)

Maria Loggia’s kitchen door is always open. Her home and garden are a gathering place for friends and family, who come to share her easygoing enthusiasm and generosity – and her inspired Italian cuisine. In this, her second book, Loggia celebrates the seasons with 16 sumptuous menus – from a spontaneous al fresco garden party to a slow-simmered midwinter feast and a traditional Sunday family lunch.

Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia is on a spotlight tour from July 14 to 18.

Author & Chef: Maria Loggia

Category: Non-fiction

Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine, 176 pages

Publisher: Cardinal Publishing

Published: Oct 1, 2012

Amazon.ca * Cardinal Publishing * Amazon.com

 

Try One of the Recipes!

 

Petto di Pollo Farcito con Uva e Noci

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Grapes and Walnuts

 

 

Ingredienti

For filling:

1 tbsp (15 ml) unsalted butter

2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

¾ cup (180 ml) walnuts, coarsely chopped

½ cup (125 ml) red seedless grapes, quartered

2 tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped fresh chives

2 tbsp (30 ml) bread crumbs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

7 oz (200 g) soft goat cheese, cut in 6 slices

 

For chicken:

6 tbsp (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

6 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

3 tbsp (45 ml) unsalted butter, softened

1 orange, cut into wedges

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, each cut in half

5 bay leaves

To serve:

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange

Preparazione

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

To prepare filling: Heat butter and oil in a large skillet and sauté shallots until soft, 1 to 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grapes, chives and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly. Leave goat cheese aside for now.

To prepare chicken: Oil a 14-inch (35 cm) round earthenware tiella or roasting pan with 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the olive oil and set aside. On a baking sheet, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Make a lengthwise slit in each chicken breast, being careful not to cut all the way through. (This will form the pocket for the stuffing.) Rub remaining 4 tbsp (60 ml) olive oil into the chicken (including in the pockets). Divide stuffing equally among chicken breasts, stuffing it into the slit in each breast, and top with a slice of goat cheese. Pull the chicken skin over the filling and secure with toothpicks. Smear butter over the skin and season again to taste with salt and pepper.

Gently transfer chicken to prepared tiella. Scatter orange wedges, rosemary and bay leaves around chicken. Roast 35 to 40 minutes, or until juices run clear when the thickest part of the breast is pierced. Then broil 2 to 3 minutes, or until skin is crisp and golden. Drizzle with orange juice and serve warm with pan juices.

Serves 6

Tips from Maria:

Consigli di cucina (kitchen tips)

The chicken breasts can be assembled the day before, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. When ready to serve, bring chicken to room temperature and cook as instructed. Doing it this way allows the flavours time to meld together beautifully.

Che cos’è? (what is it?)

I’m convinced food tastes better when cooked in a shallow, glazed earthenware dish known in Italian as a tiella. I find earthenware dishes distribute heat slowly and evenly as the food cooks. Aromas and flavours are intensified and casseroles never stick or dry out.

To season a tiella: Before using your tiella the first time, immerse the dish in cold water to soak overnight. The next day, empty the tiella and wipe it dry. Rub the inside with olive oil and place in a preheated 300°F (150°C) oven for 1½ hours. Remove seasoned tiella from oven and place on a wooden board or thick tablecloth to cool. (If placed on a surface like granite or a cold stovetop, it will crack.) To clean a tiella, soak it in warm, soapy water, then scrub with a soft sponge.

 

Meet the Author

 

Maria Loggia is one of Montreal’s best-loved Italian cooking teachers. Her Tavola Mia cooking school in the village of Hudson is a warm, inviting place to learn about Italian cuisine. She also appears regularly on television, is featured in newspapers and magazines, and leads culinary tours in Italy.

Maria finds inspiration in her Italian heritage and draws on family recipes that go back generations. She founded Tavola Mia, her at-home cooking school in 1999. Through her study of Italy’s regional cuisines, which has included numerous sojourns back to her native country, she has acquired great expertise in the art of Italian cooking. Her passion, humor and dedication to excellence have made her an inspiring teacher. Using fresh local ingredients, Tavola Mia celebrates the seasons in authentic, irrepressible Italian style.

 

An Interview with Maria Loggia

 

Maria Loggia from Pierre Blais on Vimeo.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/14703373]

Enter the Giveaway!

 

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Thank you for supporting our authors!

 

Friday Blurbolio’s

* We are doing family pictures this evening. Two kids, one dog, one husband and me. I have no idea what to expect or if the girls will cooperate at all, but I sure hope they do. If nothing else, it’s documentation about our wild and crazy little family as it stands today. (And lately? They are very wild and crazy.) We’re doing a garden session with the same lady who did our wedding so I know we’ll have a good time. Fingers crossed we get a few good ones.

* I’ve lost my cool more times than I care to admit this week. Over work stuff. Over parenting stuff. Over missing my mom stuff. Each morning I tell myself the day will be a better day and then it is… until it isn’t.

* I’m in a reading slump. I’ve finished most of the books I have coming up for review and right now I can’t find a book that speaks to me. It’s summer so I’m longing for a summer read but it’s so hard to find a light read that doesn’t annoy me (read: one where I like the main character and don’t want to smack her) and I’m really over reading heavy stuff right now. Every other book I pick up seems to have cancer, death, or illness in it and while I know it’s common and all around us all the time, I’d prefer it to not be in my books right now.

* On Sunday I’m headed to a work conference for several days. I’m probably a tad too excited about staying in a hotel. Alone. For four nights. I’ll be squeezing in some friend visits in between meetings and breakout sessions, maybe some sight seeing and hopefully some self-care, too. I’ll be around next week with a book spotlight for an Italian cookbook (YUM!), and two reviews, and if I know me, some random musings on travel, conference life and how awesome the blogging community is.

* The other day I was listening to the regular, old radio on my way into work and the DJ (do they still call them that, or is it on air personality?) actually knew things about the singer/songwriter and the song. Remember the days when it was their job to have cool tidbits about the history of the artist, why it was written, the song and etc.? It was so refreshing since it seems that all other on air personalities are there to promote new products or read you the latest Buzzfeed article. I’ll definitely be tuning back into that station again, soon.

Any summer books you recommend I read? Are you a radio, satellite radio, iPod or CD listener when you are in the car?

S is for Staycation

Staycation is for….

* Adventuring around our city, exposing the girls to some of our favorite landmarks, spots and restaurants.

* Throwing a giant pool party bash similar to the ones from my days in high school. We’re taking smoked ribs, trail mix, six foot subs, sides galore, splash contests, lots of kids in the pool, laughter, chats, and a movie break for the little ones.

* Leftovers. ‘Nuff said.

* Taking advantage of the free events at the library: a kids’ concert, a movie, and of course the reading program (for both adults and kids)!

* The kids staying up past their bedtime… and adults doing the same!

* Reading an entire book in one week.

* Watching the hubs play in his softball league and remain undefeated.

* Two hour naps, the windows wide open, the dog snoring at your feet and a husband who manages to get the girls to be quiet for those two hours.

* Texts with best friends.

* Getting in a few workouts that hurt so good.

* Quite a few raw moments of grief. There’s no apologizing for it: tears, introspection, needing to get away for a few minutes. Thankful for sunglasses (to hide the tears), a dog to walk when I can’t get my shit together, and a husband and father who give good hugs.

* A festival of pig wings & beer, music and dancing, events for the kids, and glorious weather.

What was your last week full of?

Friday Five: Bonus Momming Edition

 

* I have no clue how full-time moms do it. Much less a mom who has a marriage/relationhip, tries to have adult conversations and time with her husband, time to exercise, any sort of job whether it being an awesome super woman who stays at home, works out of the home, part-time/full-time, any sort of social life that doesn’t pertain to her kids and oh, yeah, a little bit of alone time. I know I have no reason or right to complain as I’m not with the kidlets all year, but holy hell am I exhausted. Between juggling work (hello end of quarter!) which is insanely busy, changing my schedule to do pick-ups from camp and managing the complexities of the baggage that comes along with the divorce situation, I’m spent. I’m enjoying myself, soaking it all in, but I’m also totally fried. Hats off to you, full-time moms out there. You’d kick my ass any day of the week in a mom-off competition.

* The other night the doorbell rang; imagine my surprise when two neighbor boys were at the front door, asking my bonus gals if they wanted to jump  on their trampoline. The instant changes in the girls’ behavior (one almost six, one almost eight) was… impressive. The littlest one has a crush on the oldest boy, of course. I know the parents where they are playing (outside), and I can see them from our house so I let them go, off on their little summer adventure. When I walked over to call the girls home I had a glimpse of what life will be like in 5 to seven years. I think it bothered me more than it does their dad…

* I’ve been saying things more and more like mom lately. “Because I said so.” “If your friends said they were going to jump off a bridge, would you do it as well, just because they are doing it?”‘ “Go ahead, knock each other out.” I love those moments where I sound like her… and then I talk to her out loud or in my head and apologize for all the days and moments where I made her want to pull out her hair and scream at the top of her lungs. It also totally sucks that I can’t text her to tell her the latest mom-ism I just said, to laugh about it, and get some parenting advice from her. Grief sucks, in case you weren’t aware.

* One of my favorite parts about mom-ing: helping them learn how to coordinate outfits. Seriously. If anyone out there who reads this knew me when I was much, much younger you would laugh as I hated to pick out clothes. But now, showing them how to pick out things that coordinate and complement, looking at accessories, making decisions on how to wear their hair: it all makes me feel good. They are enjoying feeling good about themselves and learning how to put on things that match, not just what’s lying next to them.

* Kids say some pretty silly things. Like Belle saying she wants to be an alien so she can eat people, the evil people at which point Jolie says “I think the evil people would be the juiciest.”

What’s on your Friday five this week? 

Summer Tunes: Vol. 2

Now that we are a few days into summer, I think it’s necessary for me to share some of my new summer favorites.

Disclosure: Latch, featuring Sam Smith:You may remember that I shared a song by Sam Smith in my last music-related post. There’s something about this song: the Euro-ish beat, makes me feel like I should be rocking out with glo-sticks in some pop-up bar somewhere.

Magic! with their song, Rude. When I first heard this song I was drawn to the beat. A whole lot of reggae influence here, something I haven’t heard in a long time in a pop song. That and I love the line “why you got to be so rude? Don’t you know I’m human, too?” Something I think a lot of people could stand to remember, no matter the situation.

Calvin Harris with his song, Summer. I have a love/hate with this song. Hate because his voice is kind of annoying but love because the beat is infectious. (Unrelated: I don’t get what the video has to do with the song but I guess if you’re famous and want women in lingerie running around, well, then that’s what you get?)

Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake: Love Never Felt so Good. I don’t know why it shocks me when famous singer/songwriters/rappers come out with a song years after they have passed but this one did surprise me. I love me some JT so this song is fun, with a bit of a 70′s vibe to it, maybe some disco? Either way, I can’t stop myself from dancing around the house when I hear it. Bonus: there’s some amazing dancing in the video, a la M. Jackson’s previous videos.

What’s your favorite song lately? Anything on your summer playlist that I should check out?