I’m sure most of you are aware of the intense cold snap that hit the United States this month, and Boston was certainly no exception. There were a few nights where, even with our heat cranked all the way up, it still wasn’t exactly what you’d call warm inside our apartment. The few times it did warm up, we got snow. In fact, the month rolled in with quite the blizzard. I got to get some exercise in shoveling out our steps and portion of the sidewalk, not to mention my boyfriend’s car (obviously, this was a joint venture). With it being so cold and me having a 30 minute walk as part of my evening commute home from work, I’ve had to get creative in how I bundle up. My dad had bought me some fleece-lined tights, and those have become my base layer. So cozy! Like wearing your jammies under your work clothes (but looks professional). However, when I tried to get more, I couldn’t find any for less than $20 plus shipping, so I’m stuck washing them a lot. Thankfully, today was our first warm day in weeks (43 degrees F!!) Yayyyy
Since it’s been so cold, and also since my dad gave us a Kitchen Aid for Christmas, I’ve been doing a lot more baking. Basically anything that will let me run our oven for justifiable reasons, since that heats up our studio apartment. I’d been struggling with getting my bread to come out right, so when we visited my dad back at Thanksgiving, he went over the process with me and caught two errors. First, I wasn’t letting the yeast grow enough before adding the flour (I’m an impatient person), and second, I wasn’t kneading it long enough. Well, the second problem was easily addressed with the Kitchen Aid. The first was addressed by setting a timer with a set amount of time to wait before adding the flour. My first loaf done with these tweaks and the Kitchen Aid came out perfect! I was very excited. Another recipe I finally perfected this month was vegetarian Thai red curry. I read a tip that combining soy sauce with seaweed replicates the flavor of fish sauce better. I also started using full fat instead of low fat coconut milk. It came out much more authentic.
Coming up on the blog this month, I’m hoping to read another one of my 2014 review copies and offer up another giveaway (enter the one currently running if you haven’t had the chance yet). I’m also hoping to read another book for the MIA Reading Challenge. I’m glad I already got one read for the challenge and enjoyed it! I’m also hoping to make an announcement this month of another project I’m working on, but I need to finish up some behind-the-scenes work first.
Hello my lovely readers, and a happy 2014 to all!
Everyone’s always busy around the holidays, and I certainly was no exception. I cross-stitched six presents and made homemade fudge for a bunch of folks as well, in addition to everything else that comes with this time of year. My partner got us a lovely tree that we got to decorate with both of our ornaments for the first time. We had an early Christmas together, because the week of Christmas, we went out to Michigan to see his family. The drive from Boston to Michigan took us 13 hours, and the drive back took about 12. We had a lovely vacation with his family, and I was made to feel 100% welcome and part of the family. It was truly a lovely Christmas.
I’d never been to the midwest, so while we were out there, my bf made sure I got to do a bit of sightseeing. My favorite excursion was to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Henry Ford invented the assembly line, in addition to starting to the famous Ford car company. The museum featured displays of cars through time, the history of racing, the history of airplanes, the history of trains, and the history of manufacturing in America. It also had a display on the history of Civil Rights in the US, as well as a display showing key items from the different decades of the 20th century. The museum also has the Dymaxion House. A model house made in the 1960s as a fully automated house of the future. Only two were ever made. In addition to all of these, there was also a special display of Presidential limousines, including the one JFK was shot in. There was so much amazing US history. We spent five hours in the museum and still didn’t see it all.
We got back to Boston and spent some time just relaxing at home, and then we got ready for New Year’s. We decided to go out to see the First Night activities and the early fireworks. Boston has one set of fireworks at 7 and the other at midnight to allow for folks who want to be inside earlier to still see a display. First Night featured a lot of interactive art this year in the Common, as well as a parade, ice skating performances, and the typical ice sculptures. The fireworks display was actually better than the 4th of July ones I’ve seen the last couple of years. Then we went home and had a quiet dinner in just the two of us. I’d spent the day making gnocchi from scratch, plus homemade sauce and cheesey garlic bread. I loved the combination of seeing the festivities and getting to celebrate inside in the warmth just the two of us.
Coming up on the blog this month, I’ve got three books from 2013 that I still need to write reviews for. I’ll also be announcing what 12 review copy submissions I decided to accept for 2014, and I’ll be doing my reading stats 2013 post, as well as a round-up of the best reads of 2013. I also have five more cross-stitches to show off to you guys. It should be a busy month here.
Hello my lovely readers!
Sorry for the delay in November’s post. I was away for the last week of November on vacation, and I knew it would be the best part of the month to talk about, so I didn’t want to preschedule a post.
My partner and I both had the last week of November off. He usually gets the entire week off for the holiday, and I took an extra three days off on top of the normal Thanksgiving days (day of and day after Thanksgiving). We split our vacation between a trip to Portland, Maine and a trip to vacation to see my dad and brother and his wife and kids.
For those of you who are not from the US and don’t know, November in Maine is *cold*. It’s officially the off-season. This meant we got to go on the cheap but it also meant it was cold We’re both from northern climates though (Vermont and Michigan), so we dealt well. Portland, Maine is a happening, hip small city. It holds 1/3 of the entire population of Maine. We stayed on an island off the coast of Portland, which meant we had to take the ferry in and out of the city each day. Originally our intention was to rent bicycles and bike around the island one day, but it was too cold one of the days and there was snow the other (and the bike rental place didn’t have snow-friendly bikes), so we went into Portland both days. The cabin we stayed in had a hot tub, fire place, and one of those showers that takes up the entire bathroom. So we got to hot tub in the snow, which was an entirely new experience to me, and I clearly loved!
While in Portland, we went to the International Cryptozoology Museum, which is a delightful museum run by the world expert on Bigfoot. I’m more of a sea monster girl myself, but we still got our picture with Bigfoot. We also hit up the Shipyard Brewing Company and got lots of free samples and got to see the bottling and brewing process. I was surprised to learn that Shipyard was started by an immigrant to the US from the UK. We also went to an official Cabot store. Cabot is an American cooperative of New York and New England dairy farms. They have amazing dairy products.
For food, we visited the original Otto Pizza. The pizza at the original branch is approximately 100% more delicious than the pizza at the new branches down here in Boston. They also had Magic Hat on tap, which floored me! We also did something special for each of our dietary preferences (I’m veg and my partner is omni). We went to Duck Fat for my partner to get poutine made in duck fat. I couldn’t eat anything at the restaurant because literally everything was friend in duck fat, but I did have a delicious locally brewed beer. For me, we went to the Green Elephant, a vegetarian Thai restaurant that was positively reviewed in VegNews magazine. Their bathrooms were literal saunas, and I for once got to have satay for an app! (Made from seitan). But our favorite place in Portland was an Irish pub named Ri Ra on the waterfront. Their menu catered perfectly to both of our dietary needs, with a house-made white bean veggie burger for me and a perfectly cooked medium burger for my partner. We liked them so much we went twice. (The second night I had mac and cheese made with Irish cheddar and my bf had Maine steamers). Incredibly reasonably priced with fireplaces and a wonderful staff, I wish it was closer to us!
After Maine, we drove up to New Hampshire to visit my family for Thanksgiving. The day of Thanksgiving was just my dad, his dog, and my partner and I, since my brother and sister-in-law were hosting her parents for the holiday. My bf made the turkey (under the direction of my dad), my dad made veggie stuffing and gravy, and I made 3 bean chili (for my main course and their sides). We had untraditional alcoholic smoothies for dessert. It was delicious! The next day, we visited my brother and his family and gave my nephews and niece their Christmas presents. They range in age from 2 to 6, so that was obviously a delight.
The vacation was amazing and just what we needed! And when we got back, we immediately got our tree and set it up, because in only three weeks we’re off on a cross-country trek to visit my partner’s family for the holidays.
Happy holidays all!
Hello my lovely readers! Happy Halloween!
We had a rather oddly warm October here in New England right up until this week. Which was ok by me because a) cheaper heating bills and b) more motorcycle rides and outdoor activities. A particularly nasty cold has been going around the city, and unfortunately both myself and my partner caught it. I wound up having cold symptoms for two weeks. Since I started focusing on health a few years ago, it has become rare for me to have a cold for more than a few days to a week. This one knocked out pretty much everyone who got it. I am pleased to say it is finally gone, but it definitely put a damper on some of our activities this month.
In spite of the doom cold, I still managed to get out and enjoy fall! My partner and I took a motorcycle ride out to Western Mass to go to an apple orchard. Since we were on the bike, we didn’t buy bunches of apples (also, we get lots from our CSA anyway), but we did drink cider, eat cider donuts, take a hay ride, and do some old-fashioned film photography. My bf bought me a sardine can film camera recently, and I am enjoying starting to get into this photography thing. The orchard was the perfect place to try out my first roll. :-) The hay ride was also fun, as were the apples we picked to eat on our walk.
I also go to go for an old-fashioned hike on some state land with my bf and a friend. It was so so much fun to scramble up rocks again and be out in the fall colors up close. We had a lovely picnic with curry egg sandwiches and the salad I made that I mentioned in yesterday’s review. Then when we got off the trail, I warmed up with a salted caramel latte. Yummm
I hope you all have a lovely Halloween tonight! My plan is to go to the gym then have dinner and a scary movie at home with the bf. The perfect Halloween celebration for this introvert.
Hello my lovely readers!
September just flew right by, didn’t it? I managed to sneak in two mini weekend getaways this month. One to watch my man race at the track, and the other to ride through the stunning Vermont and New Hampshire fall colors up to visit my dad (very briefly, we arrived and left in less than 24 hours). I love how much more often I’m able to get out of the city now, thanks to my bf’s willingness to drive and/or motorcycle. The track was just as much fun as last time, albeit colder! We really had to layer up in our tent, but at least we had body heat. :-) My bf placed third in one of his competitions, and I was really happy to get to see it! Our first long 2up ride (when you have two people on one motorcycle) was just as much fun, although I wound up much sorer than from simply observing a race! We rode 281 miles in under 24 hours (3 hours the first day, 4 hours the second). I loved going on the long ride together, although my hands did turn blue from the cold (in spite of wearing gloves). But that just makes the story more awesome!
September also heralds a LOT of birthdays. I had three birthday parties to attend! I love how varied they were. One involved watching an indie superhero movie while eating Mexican food. Another involved froyo cake and geeky conversation. The third included spinning vinyl, drinking cider, and playing Cards Against Humanity. One of the birthday folks was my bf, and he requested a birthday pie instead of cake. His favorite pie, naturally, is lemon meringue (aka one of the harder pies to make). It took me 5 hours, but I think I succeeded pretty well!
In writing news, I’m still plugging away at the new cyberpunk scifi world I’m hoping to set the next novel in. I’m pleased to report a new review of Waiting For Daybreak came in over at Zephyr Book Reviews. For the complete listing of reviews, check out Waiting For Daybreak‘s publicity page.
In blog news, alas, I only managed to write three reviews this month, although I read four books and had one (and my first ever) did not finish (DNF). I don’t intend to review DNF on the blog, but you can check out my DNF shelf at GoodReads if you like, where I briefly explain why I gave up on the book in question.
In more exciting blog news, I’ve decided on a new Review Policy. The short of it is, I have decided to annually open up for review requests every November/December. I will then select the books I will accept and commit to reading and reviewing them within the next year. So books accepted at the end of this November/December will be read and reviewed by the end of December 2014. Please check out my Review Policies/Contact page for the full policies. I have also updated what genres and formats I accept. Please note that I am very open to requests from indie authors/publishers. And mark your calendars to start submitting to me in November!
I hope you all had lovely Septembers!
Friday Fun! (August: First Anniversary! Beaches! Ok, ok, and also orientations and tooth extractions)
Hello my lovely readers!
August is always a bit of a tough month for me, because it’s when the students arrive back at my university. I wind up teaching a lot of orientation classes and also just flat-out am much busier doing one-on-one orientations to the library. While I truly enjoy teaching, I’m also an introvert and, thus, interactions with people drain me of energy, so I come home and collapse in exhaustion at the end of these days. A friend who also works in academia joked that everyone in academia runs around for the month of August yelling, “The students are coming! The students are coming!” in a Paul Revere voice. Very true.
I also, unfortunately, had to have a medical procedure this month. My dentist deemed it necessary for my wisdom teeth to come out as soon as possible, so I managed to find the one slow week at work and booked the appointment to get them ripped out. I only had three wisdom teeth, the fourth never developed (yay for being 25% more evolved woooo). They were all fully erupted, though (fully came in, not impacted). The procedure, thus, was quick and simple, although it still was bloody and painful, and I had to convalesce for a few days. The worst part, by far, was having to eat soft foods for a minimum of 3 days. I work out a lot and am a hungry panda and frankly I just like crunching things. I was very happy to be back to eating! My partner took great care of me, and I laid around watching old movies and playing Harvest Moon while I was recuperating.
This month wasn’t all difficulty and stress, though. It was also mine and my boyfriend’s first anniversary! We went away for an evening to an inn in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Our room had a two-person hot tub and was truly divine. Plus, the inn had 5 star dining, and my partner called ahead and told them I’m vegetarian, so the chef prepared a full 4 courses of vegetarian options for me, which was the first time I ever got to actually have 5 star food. He’s so thoughtful. :-) It was so wonderful to get to actually get away to celebrate our first anniversary. I’m glad we were able to get out of the city, even for one night, but I’m even more grateful to have found my partner.
We also finally got a chance to go to the beach. We went to America’s first public beach, Revere. We took the motorcycle there, and stripping out of motorcycle gear down to a bikini underneath was hilariously awesome. I was really impressed at how nice Revere Beach is!! It has a lovely boardwalk and plenty of room for how popular it is. Everyone was nice and polite, and it was wonderfully relaxing. We’re going to have to plan more 2up beach trips in the future
As for the blog, I managed to mostly catch up in book reviews. I now am only one review behind! Woohoo!
As for my writerly pursuits, I’ve figured out a method to work more writing into my day, and I’m really glad to be back in the saddle. It helps, of course, that my partner and I are now living together. It’s so much easier to plan for things when you’re taking care of one house instead of two.
How was everyone else’s Augusts? What was your biggest stress and your best relaxer?
Friday Fun! (July: Omg I Brought My Bf Home to Meet My Family and We Moved In Together and Oh and Also I Am Now Officially in My Late 20s)
Hello my lovely readers!
Someday, some archivist will look back at this blog and go “Why is it called Friday Fun when it’s never on a Friday?!” I will leave that mystery up to you, future archivist, to discover on your own.
So! On July 2nd I turned 27 and suddenly I had to start ticking off late 20s on everything. I joke about being upset about it, but I’m really not. My late 20s are turning out much much better than the rest of them *knock on wood*, so I really can’t complain. Also I honestly like myself a lot better at 27 than I did at any age prior, and who can complain about that? It is fun to joke around with bf about me being old since he’s still in his mid-20s though.
Speaking of, I brought him home to meet my family, and it’s the first time that’s ever happened, so you should kind of be able to imply what a big deal that is. My family was awesome and very welcoming, and everyone got along just fine, and it was lovely! My dad even taught us how to make doughnuts from scratch while we were home. It was just that awesome. Also, also we celebrated the 4th with them, and my uncle got fireworks to set off in the backyard. I’ve been in the city for so long, I hadn’t had a chance to do that in forever, and I really enjoyed it.
So as soon as we got back from that adventure, we had to start working on moving. With the way the rental market is in Boston right now, we decided to have him move into what was my place (what is now our place) with me and rent a garage nearby for his motorcycles (there are 5). He gave notice and had to be out by July 31st, but really we had to do it quicker than that since he was going away on a mini-vacation with his dad at the end of the month, so we wound up doing it all in 2 weeks, and honestly it was incredibly stressful, mostly because we had to spend so much time apart sorting shit in our own apartments. I had to morph everything I own down into half the apartment, and he had to do the usual sorting that happens when you move. Honestly, most of the choices we had to make were surprisingly easy. We have a lot in common, and we stressed out far more over worrying about making the other person comfortable than over the actual choices when it came down to it. As of today, we’re officially living together, and honestly it’s the best feeling ever. I get to come home to my person and my kitty every day, and it’s just wow. That’s what home is supposed to feel like, y’know?
I’m pretty proud of myself, given all of these goings-on, that I managed to finish 4 books this month. Two of them were audiobooks, and that makes total sense. I could listen while I sorted and packed. Three of them have yet to be reviewed here, so hopefully I’ll get those reviews up soon.
I’m incredibly happy it’s finally August!! Although it will still be a bit eventful. I’m meeting my bf’s mother and one of his sisters, it’s the busiest month in the calendar at my job, and I’m getting my wisdom teeth out. Phew!
How was everyone else’s July? Did you have more time for the beach than me?
Hello my lovely readers!
Well, July just snuck right up on me. I even accidentally tried to use my old monthly pass on the T. June was so busy, it just flew right by!
The most exciting thing I got to do this month was I got to take an extra long weekend and go see my boyfriend race in the 90th annual Loudon Classic at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway! Of course, I got to see all the other races too, but the best part was finally getting to see him race and be his umbrella girl and pit crew. :-) The racers generally camp at the track, and when we got there, they let me in as family of a racer, which made all of my insides squee, since that was the first time we were called family. I helped him set up the camp and met his racer friends. It’s incredible. Everyone is so competitive on the track but the direct opposite in the camp. Our neighbors gave us coffee every morning, and we shot the shit around the campfire every night. When our neighbor had a crash (very common in motorcycle racing), my bf immediately gave him tools and various other things to help fix it, and I knew that everyone would do the same for him.
So what did I do as pit crew? Mostly I helped him put the tire warmers on the motorcycle and helped him get the bike on and off the stand. Also I was the pep talk and cheerleader, obviously. Tire warmers are these blanket like things that you put on the wheels of the motorcycle to keep the rubber warm. Warmer rubber makes for better traction. You have to pull them off right before going to the pit to grid up. (Frankly, I thought they looked like wheel condoms. Yeah, I said it). Also, track bikes don’t have kickstands, so you have to put the bike on this lever-like stand separate from it (see one here), and it’s much easier for the racer to be on the bike already and have someone else release it from the stand. Someone else would have helped him if I wasn’t there, but it was fun to get to do it for him. I also got to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams and be his umbrella girl. When the bikes are waiting in the pit to enter the track, it can be really hot, since they are in full gear in direct sun. So some racers have “umbrella girls” (who can be either gender, actually) to hold an umbrella over them to keep them cool until it’s time to enter the track. So I got to meet up with him in the pit grid and do that, and it was really fun to be that close to the actual track and talk to him right before his race.
Since this was the 90th annual Loudon Classic, there were a couple of special events. There were sidecar racers, mini cars that ran on motorcycle engines, and a motard race. The sidecar race is incredible. In order to go at track speeds with a sidecar, the person in the sidecar, called a monkey, has to throw their body weight around from left to right to help with the corners. It is incredibly difficult to explain, so just watch this video if you want to understand why it’s so badass. Motards are dirt bikes outfitted with street tires. The motard racers got to go off the track onto the grass, through the trees, and use a jump. You can see one of the racers burning out in the photo above. A lot of racers will do tricks during the cool-down lap at the portions of the track where there are spectators.
I learned so much by going to the track. I learned that crashes on the track are usually not that big of a deal because the racers are wearing full gear. Our neighbor was in two crashes, one was a 5-bike pile-up, and all he had wrong with him was a cut on his pinky and a pulled shoulder. I also learned that racing isn’t the crazy, testosterone-filled sport it’s thought to be. It’s a fun, low-key, supportive environment. Although, that doesn’t take away from its sexiness. If anything the camaraderie of the racers makes the whole thing sexier. It’s all the sexiness of motorcycles mixed with some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Kind of the direct opposite of your typical Harley crew.
Oh, I also learned that partners of racers are called “racer chasers,” and I am deeply amused by the fact that you can now call me that. Amanda. Writer. Blogger. Racer Chaser.
Also, I’ve officially told my bf that I want to learn to sidecar race, and we’re planning on building a mock practice sidecar to practice on this winter in the garage. So hopefully one day you can add sidecar monkey to that list.
Hello my lovely readers!
As previously promised, Friday Fun has now become a monthly check-in on the last Friday on the month to touch base with you guys and help you get to know (or stay in the know on) the blogger behind the reviews (and the novels/novellas/short stories of course).
May was a busy month for me. I attended a conference for medical librarians, which invaded this blog a bit, as I summarized what I learned for both myself and for other librarians. Thanks to that conference, I worked 12 days in a row, so I took off a few days the week after to give myself a nice long weekend. On that long weekend, I did some spring cleaning and got started on sorting through and getting rid of stuff. I usually do this in the spring, but I’m doing it with more vigor this year as my boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together when my lease is up. I’m of course incredibly happy to be moving in with my partner but also nervous! To that end, if any of you want to check out my ebay store, there’s mostly lp’s/records, clothes, and of course, books! This is also why I’ve been reading so many books for my Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge. Most of my print books are for that challenge, and I’m trying to clear off my shelves.
My vacation also consisted of a lot of cooking. Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies, and I hadn’t had much of a chance to make more complex recipes since I was so busy and exhausted. I made: 4 hour lasagna (I call it that since it takes me…4 hours to make), twice-baked rutabagas, and pumpkin monkey bread muffins. You can see all of the recipes over on my Pinterest Pinned It And Did It board.
This month also brought back the real motorcycle riding season. My boyfriend got me an awesome vegan jacket (for safety) and a helmet (obviously, for safety), and we’ve been going on some nice evening rides together. I’m looking forward to some longer ones out into western Mass later in the season. I also got to dig my bicycle out of winter retirement and go on my first ride of the season. I’m pleased to say my legs stayed in much better shape over this winter season than previous ones, although my seat bones weren’t so happy with the first ride. Ow.
In related work-out news, my gym’s 60 day challenge completed last week. I had signed up for the body composition challenge, which was about body fat percent rather than body weight. Over the course of the two months my body fat percent went down by 1.2%, and I gained 2 pounds of muscle! I was totally shocked by those results, as I mostly just kept on doing my regular fitness routine, where I focus in on being healthy and acquiring more personal bests in weights/cardio/etc… I mostly wanted to see what impact my routine really has on my body, and it clearly is helping me build muscle. I’m very excited about that.
I’m also pleased to report that writing is progressing on the sequel to Ecstatic Evil! I’m really in a paranormal frame of mind right now, and I’m having fun with it. I hope to give the Tova fans the sequel as soon as possible.
In reading news, this month I read 7 books, which is the most I’ve read so far this year in a month. I’m not even going to try to guess as to what made it go up, but I’m glad that it did! I read a wide variety including scifi, urban fantasy, historical fiction, thriller/mystery, and horror, and I read across all reading platforms (ebook, print, and audio). I have yet to write up reviews for 4 of these books, so rest assured, more reviews are coming! For June I intend to continue my focus on predominantly choosing books that appeal to me most in that moment, although I would like to knock out at least one from my Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge that is unappealing. Additionally, I got an arc for the next book in Madeline Ashby’s artificial intelligence series that is releasing next month, as well as the final book in Jackie Morse Kessler’s series that is also releasing in June, and I’d like to read/review both of those around their release dates.
How were your Mays? What was your favorite read of the month?