Friday, February 26, 2010

Girl Scout Cookies

On my way to the outside eating area at the union, I was stopped by a little girl, wearing a "I Love Thin Mints" shirt. She asked if I wanted to buy Girl Scout cookies and even though I gave up spending money on food outside of the grocery store, I gave in. She was so cute and I just couldn't say no. I'm sure she didn't need my help since there are more than enough people on this campus willing to buy cookies. My rationale is that I really did limit myself to eating out at fast food places or restaurants and it's not like I wouldn't have spent $4 on cookies at the grocery store....Actually, no, I take that back. Anyone who knows me knows I would nvr spend that much on a single food item. But Girl Scout cookies only come around once a year and they're so delicious.

I bought a box of Do-Si-Dos, which are the peanut butter sandwich cookies. I also like Samoas, with all their caramel and coconut goodness and Tagalongs, because I love the combo of peanut butter and chocolate. It's too bad they cost so much :(

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What an Animal Reading Challenge - Completed

I've decided to do another reading challenge for two reasons: It goes from March 1, 2010 - February 28, 2011 and it classifies vampires as animals. For the What an Animal Reading Challenge, I have to read six books that meet at least one of the following criteria:

-have an animal in the title
-have an animal on the cover
-an animal plays a major role, or
-the main character is/turns into an animal

1. The Fury - LJ Smith (vampires, who can also change into animals) - finished March 25
2. Dark Reunion - LJ Smith (vampires) - finished March 29
3. The Dark Divine - Bree Despain (werewolves) - finished April 12
4. Blue Bloods - Melissa de la Cruz (vampires) - finished May 11
5. Masquerade - Melissa de la Cruz (vampires) -  finished September 10
6. Revelations - Melissa de la Cruz (vampires) - finished September 30

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Young Adult Reading Challenge - Completed

I love YA books and I never get around to reading them as much as I'd like because I'm too busy reading mysteries. This challenge will give me the excuse to fit them in. I'm doing Level 1 - The Mini YA challenge and reading 12 books.

1. The Awakening - LJ Smith - finished February 15
2. Princess on the Brink - Meg Cabot - finished February 18
3. The Struggle - LJ Smith - finished February 23
4. Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott - finished March 22
5. The Fury - LJ Smith - finished March 25
6. Dark Reunion - LJ Smith - finished March 29
7. The Dark Divine - Bree Despain - finished April 12
8. Daughters of Eve - Lois Duncan - finished May 1
9. Blue Bloods - Melissa de la Cruz - finished May 11
10. Pretty Little Liars - Sara Shepard - finished June 11
11. Princess Mia - Meg Cabot - finished June 30
12. Masquerade - Melissa de la Cruz -  finished September 10

13. Revelations - Melissa de la Cruz -  finished Sept 30

Vampire Series Challenge - Completed

I've decided to finally start reading some of the vampire books on my TBR list thanks to this challenge. I'm going to read six books, which is Level 3 - Vampire Enthusiast.

1. The Awakening - LJ Smith - finished February 15
2. The Struggle - LJ Smith - finished February 23
3. The Fury - LJ Smith - finished March 25
4. Dark Reunion - LJ Smith - finished March 29
5. Blue Bloods - Melissa de la Cruz - finished May 11
6. Masquerade - Melissa de la Cruz  finished September 10

7. Revelations - Melissa de la Cruz -  finished Sept 30

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Mardi Gras!

Since today is Fat Tuesday, I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch since I will be giving up paying for food outside of the grocery store. This is not only for my wallet, but to get myself back on track with somewhat healthy eating. I also want to get back into the gym, starting next week.

I went to Engrained, which prides itself on being sustainable. They use organic and locally grown produce, fair trade coffee, free range chickens and eggs, etc. The menu changes every two weeks so every visit is a new experience.

I decided to have the Engrained trio so that I could sample three of their dishes and a Philly roll. I wanted to try the Andouille sausage, ricotta cheese, eggplant, and arugula lasagna, but they were out so I had the vegetarian option instead, gratin acorn squash with pine nut ratatouille. The squash was resting in a pesto sauce, which really added to the flavor. The combination of the sweet squash, eggplant and yellow squash ratatouille topped with crushed pine nuts, and the pesto was excellent.

It also came with spinach crispy shallot salad, which was dressed perfectly with a balsamic vinegarette. The shallots had a great flavor and added crunch, but I wish there had been more. For dessert was poached pear d'anjou. In the middle of the pear slice was a mousse filled with candied pecans covered with just enough chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth.

The Philly roll was good, but nothing to rave about. The rice was a little stiffer than what I'm used to, but the cream cheese and salmon were fresh. This visit to Engrained was much better than the last time when a fire alarm went off right as I received my food. I had time to take it all to go, but it just wasn't the same. I will visit Engrained again the next time I feel like something fancier than Papa Johns or Burger King.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! Today marks the start of the Year of the Tiger.

Tiger (1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010)
Strong, noble, aggressive, independent and courageous. Also tend to be selfish and short tempered.

Metal Tiger (1950, 2010)
Energetic, difficult to express their own opinion, ambitious and not a good diplomat. Relaxing and enjoying life will bring more enjoyment.

Tigers are most compatible with Horse, Dragon, and Dog.

When I was younger, my mom's coworkers would give my brother and I lai see (red envelopes) containing "lucky money." Red symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. I found some recently that I had saved and found crisp one dollar bills still inside.

Another memory I have is going to my grandmother's house for dinner and having traditional New Years dishes. My favorite is a noodle dish called Buddha's Delight. It contains tofu, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and other vegetables.

I also remember my dad taking us into the city to see the parade. It is the biggest one outside of China. Dancing dragons and lions, the Fortune Gods, and firecrackers are all big parts of the parade. They are meant to ward off evil spirits and welcome prosperity and good luck into the new year.

One of these days I will get myself back there for Chinese New Year. Until then, wishing you one filled with good luck.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

North Carolina Snow

I woke up to a text of this picture, the aftermath of a snow storm that had fallen on North Carolina last night. In this part of the state, there are reports of up to 8.5 inches of snow. I am somewhat jealous because I wouldn't mind playing in it, but one day is all I could probably handle. At least I would get some use out of the winter coat I bought on sale a couple of years ago. I've probably worn it twice.

I checked the Weather Channel just now and it's supposed to be 75 today and high 70s for the rest of the week. I'm super excited because I get to wear shorts again. I'm so tired of wearing jeans every day. But of course, that means the temperature will keep rising every month until we make it into the 100s and I'll be begging for cooler weather. If it was 70s-80s year round like in Hawaii, I'd be happy.

from my trip to Hawaii, August 2008

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I have to read how many?

Since I'm doing so many different challenges, I thought it would be a good idea to figure out if I can actually fit all of them in this year.

My goal is to read 50 books from the public library. The specifics:
-6 vampire series books
-6 non-fiction books
-10 published in 2010 books
-12 YA books (at least 6 vampire books)
-12 author birthday books

Since there are so many vampire series written for teens, I'm going to overlap my vampire book challenge with the YA challenge. That brings my total to 40 books that have to fit into categories and 10 that I can choose on my own. Since the non-fiction challenge ends at the end of February 2011, I'll save 2 for next year, which leaves 4. I already read one book for the 2010 challenge and one for the birthday challenge, so I'll subtract another 2 from the total, which leaves me with 36.

Thirty six books doesn't seem too bad. I've already read 3 "free" books so that leaves 11. I have a lot more than that in my TBR pile so I guess some of those will have to wait until next year.

2010 Pub Challenge - Completed

The Pub Challenge should be a breeze. Read 10 books published in 2010. I already have a list :)

1. The Lock Artist - Steve Hamilton (published January 5) - finished February 10
2. Worst Case - James Patterson (published February 1) - finished March 4
3. Think Twice - Lisa Scottoline (published March 16) - finished April 2
4. Deception - Jonathan Kellerman (published March 30) - finished April 17
5. Never Look Away - Linwood Barclay (published March 9) - finished April 23
6. The 9th Judgement - James Patterson (published April 26) - finished May 17
7. The Burning Wire - Jeffery Deaver (published June 1) - finished June 24
8. Sizzling Sixteen - Janet Evanovich (published June 22) - finished July 3
9. Broken - Karin Slaughter (published June 22) - finished July 6
10. Private - James Patterson (published June 28) - finished July 10

11. Ice Cold - Tess Gerritsen (published June 29) - finished July 14
12. WAR - Sebastian Junger (published May 11) - finished July 20
13. Live to Tell - Lisa Gardner (published July 13) - finished July 27
14.  Caught - Harlan Coben (published March 23) - finished August 2
15. Damaged - Alex Kava (published July 13) - finished Aug 7
16. The Postcard Killers - James Patterson (published Aug 16) - finished Aug 31
17. Don't Blink - James Patterson (published September 27) - finished October 8
18. Wicked Appetite - Janet Evanovich (published September 14) - finished October 16

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Celebrate the Author Challenge - Completed

The challenge: Read a book by an author born in each month. I was going to read them in the month the author was born, but according to the rules, I don't have to. As long as I read 12 books for every month of the year, it's good.

1. Deeper Than the Dead - Tami Hoag (born January 20) - finished January 11
2. Princess on the Brink - Meg Cabot (born February 1) - finished February 18
3. Worst Case - James Patterson (born March 22) - finished March 4
4. Deception - Jonathan Kellerman (born August 9) - finished April 17
5. Daughters of Eve - Lois Duncan (born April 28) - finished May 1
6. Exquisite Corpse - Poppy Z Brite (born May 25) - finished June 5
7. Ice Cold - Tess Gerritsen (born June 12) - finished July 14
8. Lost Light - Michael Connelly (born July 21) - finished Aug 27
9. Too Late to Say Goodbye - Ann Rule (born October 22) - finished Sept 27
10. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (born September 24) -  finished Dec 15
11. Pussyfoot - Carole Nelson Douglas (born November 5) -  finished Dec 19
12. Where Are the Children? - Marry Higgins Clark (born December 24) -  finished Dec 25

Support Your Local Library/A Buck a Book/Reading for a Cure Challenges - Completed

For the Support Your Local Library Challenge, I picked the second level, Just My Size, which is to check out and read 50 books.

I am also including the A Buck a Book and Reading for a Cure challenges in this post since there are no specific rules except to save $1 per book read and to donate a certain amount to finding a cure for pediatric cancer.

Here is my list so far (January doesn't have any finish dates because I wasn't keeping track until now):

1. Deeper than the Dead - Tami Hoag (intriguing mystery about four children who stumble across a serial killer's victim buried in a park, takes place in the 80s before profiling and all those crime databases) - finished January 11
2. Zombie - Joyce Carol Oates (slightly disturbing & not for the faint of heart)
3. Sugar & Spite - G.A. McKevett (cozy mystery staring Southern born ex-policewoman, Savannah Reid, 5th in the series)
4. Tough Cookie - Diane Mott Davidson (culinary mystery featuring caterer, Goldy (Baer) Schulz, 9th in the series)

5. The Lock Artist - Steve Hamilton (told from the POV of a teenage safecracker, alternates between two important parts of his life over a course of a year) - finished February 10
6. The Awakening - LJ Smith (excellent start to the Vampire Diaries series, much different than the tv show) - finished February 15
7. Princess on the Brink - Meg Cabot (what's a princess to do when her boyfriend is about to leave for Japan for a year, eighth in the Princess Diaries series) - finished February 18
8. The Struggle - LJ Smith (What's a girl to do when she's torn between two brothers, 2nd in the Vampire Diaries series) - finished February 23

9. Worst Case - James Patterson (someone is kidnapping the children of New York's wealthiest families, but he's not asking for ransom .. what is going on?) - finished March 4
10. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer - Nathaniel Fick (a Marine's journey through OCS/TBS, a deployment to Afghanistan right after 9/11 and a deployment to Iraq as one of the first troops in) - finished March 18
11. Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott - finished March 22
12. The Fury - LJ Smith (Evil lurks in Fell's Creek, but it's not what you'd expect, 3rd in the Vampire Diaries series - finished March 25
13. Dark Reunion - LJ Smith (Who is holding Elena captive?, 4th and final book in the Vampire Diaries series - finished March 29

14. Think Twice - Lisa Scottoline (Bennie Rosato's twin sister, Alice Connolly, is back in her life and up to no good) - finished April 2
15. The Dark Divine - Bree Despain (Daniel Kalbi disappeared the night Grace's brother came home covered in his own blood. Now he's come back, but what's his secret?) - finished April 12
16. Deception - Jonathan Kellerman - finished April 17
17. Never Look Away - Linwood Barclay - finished April 23

18. Daughters of Eve - Lois Duncan - finished May 1
19. Blue Bloods - Melissa de la Cruz - finished May 11
20. The 9th Judgement - James Patterson - finished May 17

21. Exquisite Corpse - Poppy Z Brite - finished June 5
22. Pretty Little Liars - Sara Shepard - finished June 11
23. The Burning Wire - Jeffery Deaver - finished June 24
24. Princess Mia - Meg Cabot - finished June 30

25. Sizzling Sixteen - Janet Evanovich - finished July 3
26. Broken - Karin Slaughter - finished July 6
27. Private - James Patterson - finished July 10
28. Ice Cold - Tess Gerritsen - finished July 14
29. WAR - Sebastian Junger - finished July 20
30. Live to Tell - Lisa Gardner - finished July 27

31. Caught - Harlan Coben - finished August 2
32. Damaged - Alex Kava - finished Aug 7
33. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa - E.B. Sledge - finished Aug 18
34. Lost Light - Michael Connelly - finished Aug 27
35. The Postcard Killers - James Patterson - finished Aug 31

36. Masquerade - Melissa de la Cruz  finished September 10
37. Too Late to Say Goodbye - Ann Rule - finished Sept 27
38. Revelations - Melissa de la Cruz -  finished Sept 30

39. Don't Blink - James Patterson - finished October 8
40. Wicked Appetite - Janet Evanovich - finished October 16
41. unSweetined - Jodie Sweetin - finished October 26

42. Fallen - Lauren Kate - finished Nov 14
43. Edge - Jeffery Deaver - finished Nov 23

44. Cross Fire - James Patterson - finished Dec 4
45. The Narrows - Michael Connelly - finished Dec 12
46. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald - finished Dec 15
47. Pussyfoot - Carole Nelson Douglas - finished Dec 19
48. Flawless - Sara Shepard - finished Dec 24
49. Where Are the Children? - Mary Higgins Clark - finished Dec 25
50. The Van Alen Legacy - Melissa de la Cruz - finished Dec 31

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reading Challenges

Seeing as how I read a lot anyway, I thought I would join a few reading challenges and see how many books I can read in each. Since this is my first time doing it, I'm starting with ones that overlap each other. I also don't want to limit myself to book choices either so I'm doing ones that don't have too much of a theme. I guess that totally defeats the purpose of actually doing a reading challenge, but eh ... I'll try again next year :)

First Challenge: The Young Adult Reading Challenge. I love reading teen books because they're sometimes shorter than your average adult novel, but just as good or even better. I'm an avid mystery reader and tend to stick to that genre, but YA books give me that chance to branch out since I don't really like to read regular adult novels. I'm going to start small with this challenge and pick the lowest level, the Mini YA Reading Challenge and read at least 12 books.

Second Challenge: The Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge. I get all my books from the library so this one's not a problem.

For this challenge, I'm going with the second level, Just My Size, and read 50 books. I average about one book a week and with 52 weeks in a year, I should definitely meet this goal. We're going into the second week of February and I'll finish my sixth fifth book so I'm almost on track

Third Challenge: Truth is Stranger than Fiction. This one goes until February 28, 2011 so I have a little more time to fit in the non-fiction books. Lately I've been interested in books about Marines and their experiences in OIF and OEF. The two I read last year, Joker One and Generation Kill, were excellent.

For this challenge, I think I'm going to aim a little high and go with the third level, The Whole Story, and read six non-fiction books.

Fourth Challenge: A Buck a Book Challenge. For every book you read, you're supposed to put away a dollar and at the end of the year, spend it on something fun for yourself. I could buy myself a new video game or a new outfit or maybe even a massage. I'd really like a Blu-Ray player, but could I really wait another 10.5 months for it?

Fifth Challenge: 2010 Pub Challenge. The rules are read at least 10 books published in 2010. I already have a list of 10 books being published this year and am currently reading one so this is definitely one challenge I will finish.

Sixth Challenge: Vampire Series Challenge. Yes, I have become somewhat interested in all the vampire series that are gaining popularity. No, I am not ever going to read Twilight. So far I'm interested in reading the following series: Sookie Stackhouse, Vampire Academy, Vampire Diaries (love love this show), and Blue Bloods. I'm going with Level 3 for this challenge, to read six vampire books.

Seventh Challenge: Celebrate the Author. Each month, read a book by an author who was born in that month. Even though I'm starting late, I just happened to read a book by an author with a January birthday in January. I hope some of my favorite authors have birthdays in each of the 11 remaining months or I'll have to find some new ones.

Eighth and final Challenge: Reading for a Cure. This challenge is about raising money and awareness to find a cure for childhood cancer. I really wanted to do ten challenges and donate $1 for every one I completed, with the hope that I would be able to give $10. With only eight, I will still donate $1 for every challenge completed and $10 if I finish them all. This is definitely an incentive to finish strong since anything to do with cancer means a lot to me. The blog hosting this challenge is donating to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, but I have decided to give to St Jude Children's Research Hospital. Since there's no specific challenge for this one, I'm moving it to the finish column and there's already $1 waiting to be donated.

Wish me luck as I try to tackle these challenges!