Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Twenty-four: The Yada Yada Prayer Group

Another start of a series I took with me on vacation two weeks ago. It was good, but a little slow. I'll probably finish out the series, but I hope that it picks up momentum. I found myself getting really agitated with the protagonist in this novel, which is a good thing, I think. I'll weigh in more when I've read more of the series. I may just wait until I've finished the whole series and weigh in on all of them together.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Twenty-three: Fame

This book was the first in a series by Kingsbury that follows the Baxter family and others (in this case, the firstborn son of the Baxter family that no one knew existed). It was just as sweet at the series I read earlier this year. I so enjoyed this book, and stayed up entirely too late one night on vacation to read it...and paid for the next day in Washington, D.C. This book focuses on some of the same characters from the original series (Ashley Baxter), but also on others in the community. I loved this sweet book, and I can't wait to finish out this series and the next.

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go

I have a packing problem.  It’s called I’m a scatter-brained packer and I always forget importannt things.

Socks.  Toothbrushes.  Clothes.  All sorts of things.  On my most recent vacation, I was asked on more than one occasion what exactly I had remembered.  The answer was not much.  This time, though, I tried to get an early start.  An early start on the packing, so I could sort through and make sure I had everything.  It kind of helped that I had ordered a lot of new clothes right beforehand, so I had a lot of the stuff right on-hand to stick into the suitcase.  Here’s a sampling of what went into my bags:

More clothes, swimsuits, shoes, etc….and a pile of books.

Andy needed pretty much everything.  Working a full time job had cut down on his summer wardrobe.  He had broken most of his shorts, and was wearing t-shirts from his old and new jobs (we’ll discuss that later…I have much to say)  Luckily, Old Navy was having a HUGE men’s sale and Kohls had some great deals too, so he got an entire new wardrobe for very little money.  A sampling of Andy’s bag:

I’ll spare you what he had to say about the plaid on these sandals, just know it was mildly offensive

Three (I think) different colors of this short (they were under 10 dollars!)

These swim trunks in green and brown (under 10!)

And many more shirts….mostly plain t-shirts and polos.  I have no idea what else is in his bag.  Some crossword puzzles and Sudoku books.  Deodorant.  Things like that.  But we are off!  We leave on our jet plane tomorrow, and won’t be back again for a whole week.  I think I have another book review scheduled, but I don’t remember.  So you may see that :) 

Who does that?

Later today a post will appear about packing for our trip.  That post was written two days ago, before the bulk of the packing occurred.

That was before the issues that ensued this morning. 

I was pulling out clothes and preparing to pack, when I was informed that I could not pack the clothes in their current state.  The issue?  Nearly everything Andy is taking (ie, I am packing for him) is new, because he has literally no summer clothes.  Apparently, Andy doesn’t believe in wearing new clothes before they’ve been washed and waited until the DAY WE LEAVE to tell me that.  The day when I have VBS all morning, lunch plans, need to mop and clean the kitchen floor, run to the library, pack, and make his dad’s monthly food gift (his Christmas gift), and make one last run to the pits of Hades (you might call it Wal-Mart) to pick up some last minute sunscreen, a furnace filter (someone never replaced it all this winter and discovered that maybe it was in bad shape) and magazines for the road, oh, and pack.

And there’s the part where I fell and twisted my ankle and jammed my shoulder yesterday, so I am fourteen shades of sore and cranky.

You don’t even know how badly I want to stick all of those new, unwashed clothes in the bag and let him figure it out once we are out of the country. 

Who washes new clothes?

I have NEVER done that.  They are always so perfectly pressed and neat when they are new.  Why mess with a good thing?  I can’t even wrap my mind around it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Twenty-Two: The Debutante Divorcee

This was the book I had in my bag the weekend of Lauren's wedding, which just felt wrong. I did not have it my bag because I needed something to do at school that day. I also did not read this book in my classroom on the last day of school.

I had read Sykes' first novel Bergdorf Blondes last year some time. Of course, I had to reread the last chapter in the library to remember what it was about. I remember enjoying it, but nothing of the plot. This isn't totally uncommon. I read a lot of things, and unless I really like it, I don't tend to remember much about it. It happens with student papers sometimes, which can be an issue.

The main character of The Debutante Divorcee is not actually the divorcee, but a newlywed who is friends with the divorcee. It follows their social season in NYC and the area, and is charming. There is nothing totally remarkable about it, but it was cute and an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Twenty-One: Size Twelve Is Not Fat

My second book that is "just for fun." And fun it was. This book was a murder mystery. The protagonist is Heather Wells, a former teen pop star (ala Jessica or Brittney), who has left her label and experienced pop star angst. She is all grown up now (like 24ish) and working in a resident hall where girls start mysteriously "elevator surfing" and dying. She is the only one who suspects that these girls wouldn't be doing dangerous stunts and takes it upon herself to figure out who is killing these college freshmen. The whole book was charming, and again, another great one-night read.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Twenty: Shopaholic and Sister

I made an important decision early in the summer. I wasn't going to read anything that could be considered "literature." I'm only reading books. Books for fun. This is a big decision for me. I spend a lot of my reading time in the classics or in the great tomes that are being touted for their highly appealing storylines. Or in non-fiction. But for the next few weeks, I am only reading fiction, and only for fun. It's my summer vacation, and I need the break. It won't last long...just a few weeks, because I have some things to read for school, but it will be nice while it lasts. The other upside? I can polish off a book llike this in a day, no problem, so I'll get a lot read.

My first "fun" book was Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella. I had read the original Shopaholic and The Undomestic Goddess last year, during a similar period of "light" reading. I loved both of them, and quickly forgot them. This proved the same. It was highly entertaining, but hardly sticks with you once you're finished. Becky Bloomwood's shopping habits make me feel better about my own. And meeting her sister, her polar opposite was a look at frugality at its worst. All in all, and enjoying evening of reading. I would love to read the other books in the series, but our library doesn't carry them and I am on a book buying fast indefinitely. So I may request it from another library, if I can get over the embarrassment of requesting such a shallow book.

Under the Boardwalk

I meant to do this over the weekend.  But I got lazy over the weekend and accomplished nothing but a sunburn and possibly a bit of  sun poisoning. 

Now it’s back to vacation (I plan to finish this in time to leave for the next on Friday).  Last Saturday, 6/13, we were up early again, this time backing up our suite in Jersey City, and heading to Atlantic City.  What should have been a two hour drive lasted three because of construction.  I don’t remember much about this drive, because I thought it best for the sanity of all if I read my book and didn’t pay attention.  I do know that this is the morning my contact lens tore, because I had to pull out my glasses at a gas station and wear them.  My glasses from my freshman year of college.  I think it’s time for some replacements.

We eventually arrived in Atlantic City, eventually found what we were looking for, and parked.  We grabbed a sandwich out of the car, and through a misunderstanding, my mom grabbed mine out of my hand and ate it in one bite, leaving me lunchless and cranky.  So I had french fries at the beach to make up for it..only they were gross too.

Atlantic City, as it turns out, isn’t really a nice place.  We were down by the Trump Taj Mahal (the exact hotel/casino where Nick and Jessica stayed on their first anniversary and took part in the Oktoberfest celebration and saw an old man trying to use his Sears card in the ATM….the only moment that day that I was sad I didn’t bring my camera from the car).  And basically, by the Trump Taj Mahal, there is the old steel pier with carnival rides, a few food stands like at a fair, and a narrow strip of beach.  Then, on the other side, a  Cash for Gold place, and some rundown neighborhoods.  And that was all I saw of Atlantic City.  It was not what we expected, for sure.  Here are a few of Shannon’s pictures from the day:

After spending well under three hours in Atlantic City, we decided to head on.  We started towards Shannon’s apartment in Newark, Delaware.  Partway through the trip, we were approaching a city skyline, and my mama shouted, “Okay girls, say good-bye to New York City.” 

Someone’s geography was a little off.  See, we had started the day by New York City, then had traveled all the way down the New Jersey coast.  Then we had gone maybe an hour or so west…..leaving us nowhere near New York City, and instead, approaching Philadelphia.  Here’s a map to help you out.


A is where we started…B is our second point, and C is where we ended up.  There is no New York City between points B and C.  All right, I’m finished making fun of my mom now :)

That night, we stayed at the Embassy Suites in Newark.  I have a newfound love for the Embassy Suites—they serve you a drink and snacks in the evening and have one of the best free breakfasts I have seen anywhere.  Also, the beds were comfortable.  I booked a night at the Embassy in Miami for this Saturday, because we have a HUGE layover there.

We had our dinner at Shannon and Brian’s that night—Brian made us a turkey, cucumber salad, and the cutest fruit salad (inside of a cored pineapple).  It was WONDERFUL.  Then we toured their apartment, went for gelato, walked around their town, and came back.  After awhile, we headed back to our hotel to go to the hot tub.  First, my mom volunteered me to read a Finnish woman’s speech and proofread it.  So I did.  It was strange.  Not the speech, just proofing a total stranger’s work.  She was speaking to a Finnish American group the next morning, and it was her first international speech.  Then we went to the hot tub and called it a night.  The next morning we were up and at ‘em and on our way to the nation’s capital.

Friday, June 19, 2009

New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town

I have officially found a new love.  And its name is New York City. 

I had never been to New York before, because my dad is fundamentally opposed to the city and all that it entails, so he never took us.  Andy had been in 1999 and stayed in the World Trade Center, so he had been telling me about his experiences, but his stories did nothing to convey to me the sheer joy it is to visit the city.  I’ll be going back.  Soon, I hope.  I’ve been talking Andy’s ear off with my plans for future travel (of course, he’ll only have five vacation days left for the next year after next week, so we’ll have to account for that).

Okay, now back to this trip.

We left our hotel and found our way to the PATH station.  The night before, Felix, our new friend at the hotel (he gave us our cookies and our directions, and I pledged my undying affection to him….okay, not really) had told us how to get into the city.  He, in fact, told us, “Just do not get on the train to Hoboken.”  Simple, right? 


We got our tickets, headed down to the stop, and pushed people out of the way to get onto the first train that came in to stop.

Where do you think it was going?

Really, do I have to tell you?

We went to Hoboken.

It’s okay, though.  It just turned around in Hoboken and came back and we caught the train we really needed.  We made it into the city, and headed off.  We crossed one street, realized we were backwards and needed to go the other way, turned around mid-sidewalk and headed the correct way.  But not before attracting the attention of the construction workers standing six inches away.  One was busy checking Shannon out, but the others asked if we needed help.  Someone’s mom respond ed, “Nope, we’re just getting started.” 

Which, I must say, tickled me….because it was pretty much how the whole trip went.  We’d start out, realize we were going the wrong way, and correct.

We started walking, trying to find the visitor’s center for the Grayline bus tour.  We passed Bryant Park (which is a lot smaller than I thought it would be….I don’t know how they get all of the tents up during fashion week) and I was hoping to see Tim Gunn, but he wasn’t out.

We got close, and were stopped by a representative for the Grayline.  Turns out, you can buy your tickets for the bus right on the street.  As we were talking to him (and letting a man on the street swipe our credit cards—that just felt wrong), Shannon made me look up to see where we were

We were in Times Square, and we had no idea!  Also, it started out as a really drizzly, foggy morning.

The nice man with the Grayline tour took us to our stop so we could get on the Downtown Tour.  The Grayline is a double decker bus tour (because at this point, we stuck out as tourists, so we may as well have sat at the top of a bus and proclaimed it for all the world to see).  It really ended up being the best thing for this trip, because we wanted to see as much as possible in a one day period.  We bought a combination package that gave us a tour of Uptown Manhattan, Downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, a Night Tour, entrance to the Observatory of the Empire State Building, and our ferry ticket out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  And it was all for 88 dollars.  And it was actually a 48 hour pass, so if we had been staying in the city the next day, we could have spread it out some.

We started on the Downtown Tour, which began in Times Square.  We saw a sign for my birthday show (known as such because it was my 21st birthday gift from Andy")

And my favorite store

Here’s my mama with one of the seventeen ponchos (maybe it was just six) she stole, and yes, I did decide to give up any semblance of class and dignity that day and embrace my role as a tacky tourist.  I felt like I was selling my soul, and probably won’t be able to recreate such an event in the future.

A foggy Empire State Building

I just like this picture

Our first hop-off, St. Paul’s Chapel, the church across from Ground Zero where a lot of the relief effort was centered.  This was an incredible experience.

The badges from the different firefighters involved in the relief effort

A uniform, on the pews where the firefighters came to pray and to rest

A picture inside chapel, showing what it looked like as the relief effort was ongoing

The construction process at the new One World Trade Center

After leaving Ground Zero, we hopped on the bus to go to the next stop—Battery Park.

And we ate our lunch (why yes, that is a smashed peanut butter sandwich sitting on a stolen poncho)

And Mom had a lunch date

Finally, we were ready to move on

Please pay no attention to my hair in any picture.  In New York, it got rained on, then it got warm and humid, so I was having some serious hair ISH-AHS.

And my mom decided to take up pole dancing.  She may disown me for this.

Once back on dry land, we hopped on our bus and made our way through more of the city.  We saw the South Street Market, the Brooklyn Bridge, the UN, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  I have pictures, but I’m going to take a little picture break.  This is what I got to see of Central Park

We used the restrooms at Trump Plaza, and I got some cranberry-orange sorbet (I was getting a headache from lack of food).  Then we went on our Uptown Tour.  We saw the Plaza Hotel, FAO Schwarz, and the museum mile (I so want to go back to the museums).  We saw the museum where Night at the Museum took place.  And we dipped into Harlem and saw the Apollo Theater.

Eventually, we finished our tour and went to eat some dinner

After dinner, we caught a night tour.

You can see the whole Empire State Building now


Brooklyn Bridge

And we ended our very late night in New York City in the Empire State Building (where we saw a sweet couple who had just gotten engaged meeting both sets of parents up at the top to celebrate)


Then we headed back to our hotel (getting on the correct train this time) and crashed into our beds, exhausted.

I can’t wait for my next trip to New York.  Next time, I want to go into some of the museums, go into Central Park, see Rockefeller Plaza, go to a show, and just relax a bit.  I would also like to see the South Street Market, because it looked cool from the bus.  And have a frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity.  Tomorrow, we will visit Atlantic City and Newark, DE via Shannon’s pictures, because I left my camera in the car.  It will be MUCH shorter.